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Tales of the Wizard's Apprentice (G) Print

Written by Susana

20 November 2010 | 12086 words | Work in Progress

Author: Susana
Rating: G
Warning: Allusion to spanking
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien,
Summary: Mithrandir meets a young Faramir for the first time.
Beta: Thanks to KC for looking over several drafts. The remaining excessive commas are entirely my own fault.
A/N: In this story, Faramir is a child prodigy. Finduilas is a scholar who sees bits of the future and the past and sometimes ghosts, and Faramir inherited some of those talents. The series and its sequels will quickly become somewhat AU, although nothing happens to alter the actual plot line in a major way until several years after the end of ROTK.

Part 1A – The Wizard’s Unlooked for Apprentice

Gandalf’s perspective

Gandalf the Gray, Wizard of the immortal Istari, returned to the White City during a rainy autumn, once again searching for the One Ring. The forces of Sauron were growing bolder and his manipulations more pernicious. Gandalf sensed that the long-awaited time of crisis was approaching. A conversation he had with his fellow Wizard Radagast the Brown had led Gandalf to think of the Library and archives of ancient Minas Tirith. The wizard hoped to find clues to Isildur’s fate, and to the path of the dread ring, amongst the books and scrolls of the White City.

Minas Tirith stood nearest of all the human realms to Mordor. In the handful of years since the Gray Wizard had last visited, the city seemed to have grown grayer itself, more despairing. Its archives, however, were as cheerful and filled with absent-minded scholars as ever, to the Wizard’s simultaneous joy and frustration.

Gandalf suppressed an oath upon realizing how many records from the time of Isildur there were in the library of Gondor. Too much was better than too little, but going through it all would take far too long without competent help. At this rate, he would never be able to leave Gondor and travel to Rivendell before the snows set in.

“Mithrandir!” A soft, sweet voice called out from nearby, disturbing only the old Wizard at the table nearest from the window. Gandalf, called Mithrandir by the humans of Gondor, looked up to the welcome sight of the Lady Finduilas, the wife of the Steward of Gondor. The Lady was ever a favorite visitor to the library and archives. He also noted the less-than-welcome presence of a small child at her side. Gandalf was very interested in making the acquaintance of Finduilas’ offspring, and was fond of human children (in fact, all children) in general. However, the Wizard was quite certain this one was far too young to handle the manuscripts he was reviewing with the care they deserved.

Beginning to gather up his research to keep it safe from small and possibly sticky fingers, Gandalf greeted “Lady Finduilas, always a pleasure. And this must be your younger son – Faramir, is it not?”

Finduilas ushered the young boy forward. “Aye, it is. Faramir, give Mithrandir your greetings. ‘Twas he who first introduced me to your father, when he visited Dol Amroth, long ago.”

Gandalf found his eyes captured by a remarkably solemn and piercing gaze. “You are looking for ways to stop the men from Mordor.” The gray eyed child observed. “May I help?”

Quite taken aback, the Wizard murmured, “hmm,” to buy time, looking to the child’s mother for guidance.

Finduilas gave her old mentor a half-smile, one he remembered well as portending mischief. Here he thought it probably expressed mere enjoyment of his shock at her child’s strangely mature manner. “Well, Fara, Mithrandir is working with very sensitive old documents, and you must needs gain even greater dexterity ‘ere you can help with them.”

The boy sighed in disappointment, perking up as his mother offered an alternative.

“But I see Gandalf has a set of newer books here – copies of older documents. Maybe you can look through those for certain words?”

“I’m good at that.” the young Gondorian Lord offered, meeting Gandalf’s eyes with sincere desire to help.

“Hmm.” The gray wizard said again, considering. “Oh, very well. It isn’t often I find such enthusiastic help. Here – look for this name – Isildur.”

“I-sil-dur” the boy pronounced, looking carefully at the word as the Wizard had written it. “Is it only in this tongue, or should I look for it in Sindarin and Quenya as well?”

“Can you spell it in those languages?” Gandalf asked in growing surprise.

“I think so,” the child frowned as he wrote in a hesitant hand the name Isildur in Quenya and Sindarin.

“Very good, kit.” Observed Finduilas, “but you forgot the accent here, and that the I should be an E here.”

“Only in the standard dialect though, right Mama?” The boy asked, writing the words again with those corrections.

“Yes, some of the texts of Quenya I remember from my girlhood in Dol Amroth did not have that variation.” Finduilas confirmed.
“Here, Fara, you begin with these books, and I shall help Mithrandir with the scrolls, until your Father’s meeting adjourns.”

The boy didn’t need a second invitation. He was soon engrossed in scanning pages for the words he’d been asked to look for, intent on his task.

Turning to Gandalf, Finduilas offered. “Now how may I help you, dear one?”

Smiling at the offer of real help at last, Gandalf explained how the object he was looking for disappeared not long after the Last Alliance of men and elves, when it had been in the possession of Isildur. Finduilas frowned in concentration, clarifying “So I am looking for anything about a belonging of Isildur’s, such as a battle fought over one, or a theft, or perhaps a law suit?”

“Yes, my dear.” The wizard confirmed. “Anything like that.” Gandalf smiled as Finduilas took a goodly portion of the old manuscripts he had gathered, and proceeded to peruse them with delicate skill. Were it not for the fine lines on the lady’s face, it could have been twenty years ago, the teenaged Finduilas offering to help Gandalf search the archives of Dol Amroth in exchange for hearing her favorite stories once again.

The three continued in their tasks, the boy and his mother occasionally calling the Wizard’s attention to one mention of Isildur or another in the books and scrolls, a few of which the Wizard noted for further research later. As the afternoon wore on, Gandalf found his attention straying from his search in the old manuscripts, to the fey Lady and her grave younger child.

Finduilas, the daughter of Prince Adrahil of Dol Amroth, had kept her fragile, near-ethereal beauty, despite years of marriage and the birth of two children, as well as a prolonged bout with ill health. She was pale, nearly as pale as an elf, with beautiful red-gold hair bound back with a circlet, and caught with a bronze clasp at the nape of her neck for ease of completing daily tasks. She was dressed in a light green dress that brought out the deeper green of her eyes. A handsome woman, and a clever one. Gandalf sincerely hoped that the rumors of her health further deteriorating were untrue. From her own Númenorian descent, she should have many years left. Still, Sauron’s forces breathed at the very door of Minas Tirith, and if there were any in Gondor he would choose to eliminate, it would be the wife and mother of the last surviving Hurins. Gandalf would miss Finduilas for her own sake, for he had allowed himself to care for the girl as he did few humans, but he would mourn her even more for the loss of her moderating influence on her hot-headed, stubborn husband, Denethor, the Lord Steward of Gondor. Although a skilled and perceptive leader of men, Denethor had become cynical and rather an absolutist as he grew older, and anyone who did not hold Gondor’s cause above all else in Middle Earth was highly suspect in his eyes.

Adrahil’s children all possessed certain traits that could have come almost directly from their Númenorian and elven ancestors, but Finduilas more obviously so then her siblings. Dol Amroth’s was one of the first princely lines to mix that heritage, and it gave their line the Númenorians’ talent of looking into the hearts of men, and the wood elves’ way with beasts and nature. Gandalf had carefully arranged the marriage of Finduilas to Denethor (so as to bring that bloodline back to Gondor). The Wizard would have tried to marry her to Aragorn instead, had Isildur’s heir not already fallen deeply in love with Arwen, Lord Elrond’s daughter. He had tried to arrange Finduilas’ sister Inviriel’s marriage to the previous King of Rohan, but Adrahil had been disinclined to see a daughter move so far beyond the reach of the Swan Knights protection.

Finduilas, noticing his regard, looked up with a smile. “It is so pleasant to see you again, and to be able to introduce you to Faramir. I had feared I would not have the opportunity.” The lady spoke softly, so as not to disturb her son from his work.

“I would not have you wear yourself out.” Gandalf observed gently. “I am very happy to have the assistance of such a capable researcher, but not at the cost of your health, my dear.”

The lady sighed. “I am just weary, Mithrandir. I long for the sea and my childhood home, for green and growing things, but my husband needs my help here, and I worry.” At this, the lady’s eyes moved to her son.

“Worry over him?” Gandalf observed the boy more closely. The wizard had already noticed over the past few hours that Faramir seemed a very quiet child, and a hard worker with a goodly attention span for his age. He had inherited his mother’s gold-red hair, perhaps a shade or so darker. He had the gray eyes which were so common amongst the Númenoreans, and, unless Finduilas had already told the boy about his research, he had also inherited his father’s ability to look into men’s eyes and know the truth. “He does not seem a difficult child, my lady. Were I you, I would be more likely to worry over Boromir, whose enthusiasm for the war-like arts exceeds his current skills.”

“Boromir will be a great warrior.” Finduilas said “I have seen it – and Faramir shall be as well, though it is not what he would aspire to, in less dark times.” Looking at her more closely, and recalling that Finduilas bore strongly the foresight that sometimes came with Númenorean blood, Gandalf carefully asked “Then what is your concern?”

Meeting his eyes sorrowfully, Finduilas explained “I know I will die ‘ere my boys become men. It was the price for bearing another child, and I accepted it knowingly, for I believe you are right – a time of crisis is coming to Middle Earth, and Gondor needs as many warriors to face it as possible. But Denethor has never forgiven Faramir for being the innocent cause of my delicate health, nor has he forgiven me for conceiving him, knowing the likely cost.”

Looking again at the child, still reading diligently, Gandalf asked “You can’t be worried he will mistreat the boy? Denethor shares your far sight, my lady. He too knows he needs his sons. As I recall, he positively dotes on Boromir.”

For the first time this day, Finduilas began to resemble a long-time invalid. “Forgive me for burdening you thusly, Mithrandir. I should not have brought these family issues up, they are not your concern.”

“Not at all, my lady. Please let me know how I may help. Your assistance, and the boy’s, have saved me many days work, and you have been one of my more astute research assistants over the years.” Gandalf explained.

Finduilas looked at her son again, then back to the Wizard. “You will likely visit here again as the years go by, renewing your searches in the archives. I would have you look up Faramir when you do, and encourage him in his scholar’s pursuits, for I fear my husband will discourage him, if he can.”

Gandalf looked again at the quiet boy. “I will, when I can. I don’t know how often I will be here over the years, but I will make a point of talking to the boy.”

“My husband may try to keep you away from him.” Finduilas related, a darker concern in her eyes than that which she had spoken.

Gandalf chuckled to hide his unease. “The day I can’t get around Denethor is the day I turn in my wizard’s staff. I convinced Adrahil to let you come to Gondor to marry him, didn’t I?”

Finduilas smiled her thanks, as the boy looked up and piped. “Mama, council will be over soon. You should go and rest, so that you may have dinner with us tonight.”

Finduilas nodded. “Aye, I should. Will you stay here with Mithrandir, and do as he tells you?”

The boy turned his attention to Gandalf and nodded solemnly.

“Very well, I shall take my leave. Good hunting, gentlemen.” The Lady nodded her gold-red head, and went to her rest. Had Gandalf known it was the last time he would see her, he surely would have embraced her. As it was, he merely nodded politely back, and then snorted at how neatly he had been manipulated into babysitting a child younger than he generally cared to watch in a library. Lord Faramir, fortunately, continued his angelic behavior even away from his mother’s supervision. The wizard and the boy continued their research, until a loud voice interrupted, one undoubtedly heard by all of the scholars in the library, and possibly also by the bookbinders’ a street away.

“What are you doing with my son, Wizard?” Denethor, Steward of Gondor, demanded in a tone bordering on the impolite, before looking at Faramir and scolding “Your mother will surely be searching for you rather than resting, for you were supposed to spend the day with her.”

Turning to Gandalf, the Steward said “As for you, I will keep the promise I made to my father that you can do your research here, old man, but you will not draw my wife into it anymore! She is not well.”

Raising an eyebrow at this excessively hostile greeting, Gandalf had yet to speak before Faramir said “Mother came to the library to fetch a book to read when we encountered Mithrandir. Mithrandir offered to watch me so that Mother might rest.”

“Oh.” Denethor sighed, and his anger mostly left his face. “Very well then. See that you return to your rooms in time for bed.”

“Yes, Father.” the boy agreed, dropping his gaze back down to his book as his father left the library.

“Faramir,” the wizard reprimanded, suppressing his amusement at seeing Denethor so neatly outfoxed by his five year old son, in favor of maintaining a serious expression. “While that was very diplomatic, it is not appropriate to lie to one’s Father, even for good reasons.”

The boy met the Wizard’s eyes, reassured by their twinkle. “It wasn’t a lie, Mithrandir. You did agree to watch me, and Mother has gone to rest. If Father had found out Mother had been helping you, he would have yelled at her, and that would have been very unrestful.” he explained.

“What about your Mother’s health?” The wizard pressed. “Shouldn’t your father know she has been neglecting it to help me with this research, so that he can ask her to rest?”

The boy looked somewhat guilty, and a little torn, but continued to defend his actions. “Mother is happier on the days she spends some time in the library, or with her friends. Sometimes the soul needs different things than the body.”

That didn’t sound like something a five year old would come up with on his own, even this odd five year old. “Where did you hear that?” Gandalf inquired.

“Mother’s healers.” Faramir explained. “They told that to my Father when he overruled them about letting her spend more time in the library. Father doesn’t always understand about what the soul needs, that’s what the Warden of the House of Healing says.”

“Hmm.” Gandalf considered. “While I can appreciate that you had good intentions, misleading one’s Father is not much different from lying to him, young Faramir. You should endeavor, in the future, to avoid both.”

The boy shook his head “Even when telling the whole truth will result in more trouble for those who haven’t earned it? Mother didn’t ask to be sick, and Father always feels bad after he yells at her.”

Gandalf leaned forward, engaged, and at the same time wondering at the oddity of being drawn into a discussion of comparative ethics with a five year old. “I suppose, young man, that one must weigh the trouble that will be caused with the harm of the lie. In this instance, I judge you were perhaps in the right. Still, it is a fine line, and one that will trip you quite readily should you continue to tread it.”

The boys face furrowed in concentration, a look the Wizard had seen many times on his mother’s face as she struggled to understand something. “Boromir says that, too. Or what he says is I’m going to get spanked for being naughty, because I’m making decisions that grown-ups should make for me.”

“Boromir says that, does he?” The wizard pondered aloud, thinking it was perhaps time to reassess the other son of Denethor as well.

As if summoned by their discussion, the older, blonder, son of Denethor entered the library, less quietly than his mother and brother, but with less volume than his father. He moved directly to their table without having to scan the room, as if drawn to his younger brother’s presence.

“Brom!” The younger boy greeted happily, but at a low volume, being careful not to draw the attention of the other scholars.

“Fara.” The elder greeted, smiling with exasperated tolerance at his sibling. “Hello, Mithrandir.” Boromir greeted the Wizard politely enough, but in a reserved way that made Gandalf regret that Boromir already seemed to have taken on his father’s wary attitude toward the wizard.

Pinning his younger sibling with a firm look, the ten year old explained “Mother’s going to be too tired to come down to dinner. Ada says she’s just having a bad day, but she was here helping Mithrandir, wasn’t she?”

Faramir looked a little ashamed. “Aye, but she was so happy while she was here! You should have seen her – she didn’t look sick at all!”

Boromir sighed. “I understand why you didn’t tell Ada, but you probably should have.” The older boy seemed sympathetic despite his scolding, but followed up with a “request” that made it clear he did not intend to let his clever brother entirely get away with his deception. “Why don’t you come help me with my chores, Fara?” Boromir asked archly. It was clear to Gandalf, and to Faramir, that the latter was more of a command than a request.

The younger brother’s stance turned stubborn, and he shook his head. “Nay, I shall continue to help Mithrandir, as Mother bade me.”

Gandalf chuckled at Faramir’s clever re-construing of Lady Finduilas’ instructions. “I think, young Lord of Gondor, you should help your brother with his chores, in payment for his silence over your transgressions. I’d also like to point out, for your consideration, that I’ve only known you for one afternoon, and twice I’ve seen you mislead those with authority over you as to the true state of affairs. It would behoove you to be aware that being clever won’t always get you the outcome you desire.”

Boromir looked uncertain as to whether he should thank the Wizard for his support, or reprimand his brother. Faramir, taking advantage of this momentary uncertainty, turned his best innocent expression – and it was very good – to the Wizard and made his case again. “But I want to help you, and you could use help, otherwise you will be late. I never get a chance to help Gondor.”

Boromir rolled his eyes, muttering “You’re a child, Fara. You’re to help Gondor by listening to your elders.” The Wizard chuckled again, sensing this was a discussion the brothers had engaged in before.

Turning to Faramir, the Wizard consoled. “You will have many chances to help Gondor, young one. In fact, I will welcome your help again tomorrow, but for now you must go atone for your misdeeds.”

Faramir sighed, and laid a bookmark in the book he had been reviewing. “Aye, Mithrandir.” He accepted, turning to his brother with a no-hard-feelings-smile. “Lead on, Brom. What are we doing today?”

“You’re going to scrub pots clean whilst I try to beg some food from the Cook.” The older brother said, chivvying the younger out of the room.

“Brom, I hate scrubbing pots!” the younger one whined softly in protest.

“Should’ve thought about that before you sassed the Wizard, huh, pest?” his older brother said, mussing Faramir’s hair affectionately as the pair disappeared from view.

Well after midnight, Gandalf the Gray woke to an odd sound in his bedroom chamber. It sounded almost like a bare foot on stone. Seizing his staff, he gave a silent command for light as he looked around for the intruder.

The intruder was a very small boy holding a very large book. It was Faramir, who, while appearing momentarily startled by the unexpected light, and the Wizard’s fierce expression on being disturbed, immediately rallied with “Good, I don’t have to wake you up. I think I found what you were looking for – it was in a book that wasn’t in your pile.”

Flabbergasted, the Wizard stared at the Steward of Gondor’s younger son, bare foot and clad only in a thin night shirt, apparently wandering the halls of Minas Tirith after midnight at will.

Taking the Wizard’s shock as a request to please continue, Faramir held the book out, and flipped to a marked page, showing Gandalf a passage that nearly made the Wizard forget completely the time of night and the tender age of this research assistant.

“Here, this is a copy of a passage in an old letter written by a Lord of Gondor whose manor was near Gladden fields. It says that Easendor, a great man of Gondor, came to his end in an orc ambush, and that he was brought by his retainers’ to the Lord’s manor, but it was too late to heal him. Before he died, the great lord spoke of his family, but mostly of his precious jewel, lost in the ambush. The Lord wrote to his cousin in Minas Tirith that it was sad irony the great lord had survived the siege of Barad-dur, only to fall before a party of orcs.” Faramir, every inch his scholarly mother’s son, looked up at Gandalf, explaining earnestly “Easendor is close to Isildur – adjust for the accent near Gladden fields, and give the scribe who copied this letter into the book a spelling problem, and you’re there.”

Gandalf nodded absently in agreement, further noting “great man is a reasonable translation of King, particularly given the likelihood the original letter was written in some form of Sindarin. And there were few great lords of any stripe who survived the siege at Barad-dur.”

Faramir nodded. “And he lost something precious to him. In the river that runs along these fields, probably.”

“Why would you say that, son of Finduilas?” The Wizard asked intently.

“When the passage speaks of trying to heal him, it talks of water in his lungs. Unless he had caught pneumonia, it is likely he fell into the river during the ambush.” Faramir pointed out.

“A likely conjecture.” The Wizard agreed, putting on his overrobe and swiftly copying the relevant passage. “I must travel to this area with all haste, perhaps something can still be learned. It is not that far from the Mirkwood – perhaps King Thranduil’s scouts can be of assistance.”

“King Thranduil is a wood-elf.” Faramir observed, seeming impressed. “Do you know many elves, Mithrandir?”

“Hmm? Oh yes. Lovely beings, elves.” Gandalf commented absently, collecting his travel bags.

“I shall leave the book here with a note for the staff to return it to the archives.” Lord Faramir explained, noticing that the Wizard seemed not to be aware of such little details.

“Why not take it back yourself?” The Wizard asked, still not recalling, in his excitement at making progress in his search, that Lord Denethor’s son was probably supposed to be in bed, rather than wandering the castle.

“You have used my water-proof bag to pack your parchment in.” The boy observed. “I would need it to take the book back to the archives without damaging it.”

“Hmm.” The Wizard agreed absently, noting the rain outside, before stopping abruptly. “This book came from the archives?”

The boy nodded, beginning to look worried. Mithrandir hadn’t seemed much like an ordinary adult, but Faramir knew that most adults, even the eccentric ones, disapproved of his leaving the castle by himself, particularly at night. Even Boromir disapproved of such activities at night, however Faramir had felt the Wizard’s mission was urgent enough to justify the haste.

“The archives are on the seventh level of the city.” The Wizard pointed out, sighing. “Dare I hope that you wore a warm cloak and boots?”

“Of course.” Faramir seemed insulted. “I couldn’t properly sneak…I mean go…from the castle to the seventh level without being seen if I hadn’t been properly attired.”

“Of course not.” The Wizard agreed with tired good humor. “What was I thinking? That a child who wanders several miles away from home, in the dark and the rain, by himself after an old book not even one I had thought of…incidentally, Faramir, what did make you think of this book?”

The boy blushed. “Mama reads it to fall asleep, sometimes. It is mostly a very boring collection of letters from Lords of Gondor to their families, and mostly from the time of Isildur’s grandchildren, but I remembered reading this passage a few weeks ago, and the name Easendor, and I thought it might be important.”

“It might be.” The Wizard agreed. “And you are correct that my mission here is indeed urgent, we may not fully understand how urgent yet. But still, you are a child with a duty to obey the rules set by your parents for your safety, which probably do not permit solo midnight forays to the archives.”

Faramir looked at the Wizard as if he might not be entirely sane. “Mithrandir, I am Finduilas’ son. I knew ‘ere I left that I would come to no harm, and that if I gave you this book, you would leave tonight.”

“Foreknowledge is not perfect.” The Wizard scolded. “Surely your mother has taught you that.”

The boy’s chin rose stubbornly. “She has. She also taught me that sometimes you have to break the rules in order to make sure that important things get done.”

“As I am sure Finduilas also mentioned, it is important to meet the consequences of breaking those rules.” The Wizard pointed out gently. “Come, I will take you to your nurse, and perhaps my thanks for your assistance will in some part make up for your transgressions.”
“Don’t take me to my nurse.” The boy said firmly. “She’ll wake father, who will wake mother, and a large fuss shall ensue. You’ll not be away swiftly, and everyone will be upset.” Faramir then fixed Gandalf with a very hard look, for his age and state. “This was a good day for Mama. She hardly ever makes a formal dinner anymore. If you take me to my nurse, Mama will be upset and have a couple of bad days. Its just how it is.”

“What would you suggest, child? An eccentric Wizard I may be, but I cannot leave the five year old son of my host to find his own way home.” Gandalf pointed out, impatient to be away, but mindful of his duties.

The boy looked as if he rather didn’t understand why. But instead of arguing that he had found his own way here and could find his own way back, he offered, “Take me to Boromir. He will punish me for wandering around the city alone at night, but it is better than the alternatives for everyone.”

Gandalf would normally not have left the care and discipline of a five year old child to his ten year old brother, but he recalled the strained dinner he had attended in the great hall that evening. The Steward had not mentioned his younger son once, despite Gandalf praising the lad’s scholarship. Talking to the young Lord Sendar and the old Captain Tyrel, Gandalf had learned that Denethor never mentioned his younger son if he could help it, despite praising the elder near constantly.

Captain Tyrel had explained “the younger boy seems likely enough – well formed, quick, polite. When he is with his brother, he does all the things one would expect of a boy of five. He’s already riding and shooting a small bow that Boromir had his guards buy for his brother. But the Lord Steward prefers not to see Faramir, so mostly he is not mentioned.”

Boromir, for his part, had been well-behaved during the formal dinner, far from the boisterous child Gandalf remembered from his previous visits. And Boromir had very quietly asked the server to pack up a second serving of the dessert, for his younger brother. Recalling that, and how well the ten year old had dealt with Faramir’s earlier transgressions, the Wizard agreed. Gandalf was unsurprised when Faramir quietly guided them through hallways, pausing to enter hidden tunnels once or twice to evade guards.

Boromir woke near instantly to his brother’s quiet, hesitant knock at the door to his outer chamber in the Lord Steward’s suite. The tall ten year old immediately swept his younger brother into the room with a sigh, wrapping Faramir in his own dressing gown. “Thank you for bringing him.” Boromir said to the Wizard, looking as if it pained him to owe a man his father so disapproved of anything.

“Your brother saved me a great deal of time tonight.” The Wizard supplied, “but he probably ought not leave his room and journey to the archives by himself.”

“Fara…” Boromir scolded, frustrated but not furious. “I told you, books can always wait til tomorrow!”

Faramir huffed, and Gandalf pointed out, “Possibly not, in this case. But it was still not wise.”

“I will deal with him.” Boromir promised. To the wizard’s surprise, the younger child did not object.

“Don’t tell Mama or Father, Brom.” Faramir said, sighing.

“I won’t, kit.” Boromir promised, still frustrated but affectionate “Now go get in my bed – we’ll tell them you sleepwalked here again, should they ask, and we’ll deal with the rest in the morning.”

Faramir nodded and turned to obey, pausing at the door to Boromir’s bedchamber to ask, sounding truly like a child for possibly the first time that day, “Mithrandir, if we meet again, and you can spare the time, will you tell Brom and I stories of the elves?”

Gandalf nodded. “It will be my honor, Faramir.” The boy grinned tiredly at him, and disappeared through the door.

Gandalf felt more and more the pressure to be away, but love for Finduilas, and growing admiration for her children, made him stay. “It is unfair for a child your age to have to assume such a responsibility for a child your brother’s age.” The Wizard told Denethor’s older son.

Boromir looked at him derisively, but no hint of his derision showed in his voice, which was level and respectful, if barely so. “Its not fair that Ada looks at Fara, and can’t see beyond our mother becoming sick after she bore him. I’ll take care of him, like he helps me with my lessons. We both do what we have to, Fara and I, to keep our family as whole and happy as possible.” Boromir closed his door, and the Wizard was left to marvel at the strong friendship between the two brothers, particularly given their father’s clear preference for the elder.

As Gandalf rode swiftly away from Minas Tirith toward the site where Isildur may have lost the ring, the Gray Wizard decided that he should indeed make a point of returning to the White City on a regular basis. A scholarly spirit such as Faramir’s did indeed deserve to be nurtured, and it was unlikely that Denethor would see the value in such pursuits, standing as he did at Mordor’s gate. It would be worthwhile keeping an eye on Boromir as well – any young child who was so protective and caring of a younger sibling at such a tender age would likely also grow into a remarkable man.

Part 1B – Wise Child

Finduilas’ Perspective

I am Finduilas of Gondor, born a Princess of Dol Amroth by the Sea. Daughter of the old Sea Fox Adrahil, and a distant daughter of Númenor and the elves who did not sail.

I do not see the world as others do. I see things that were, and things that may someday be, and things that are, but no one will talk about them, all overlaid on what is actually happening during any given moment. Sometimes it is hard for me to tell the difference between what is now, what was, and what may someday be. I have been this way for as long as I can remember.

My family accepted me, for they bear the same gift and curse, if most to a lesser extent. They helped me learned what was safe to say, and when to say it.

The day that Mithrandir first met me, and realized how strongly my ancestors’ blood manifested in me, I saw my future change.
Gandalf the Gray, called Mithrandir, helped me learn what I would need to wed a Lord of the White City, for he wanted to bring greater elven strength to the blood line of the Stewards of Gondor. Mithrandir also trained me to assist him in his research, because I was smart and funny, and because he understood what it was to be overwhelmed by visions one cannot share.

Mithrandir called me “Anelis come again,” the first time he saw me. Anelis the Wise was my great-great-aunt, my grandfather Angelimar’s father’s younger sister, who died in a vision at the age of 70. She had no children and never married, for her visions were so strong and frequent that she found it exhaustively difficult to remember what was real, and what was not. Mithrandir, with my great-great-grandfather’s permission, had asked Anelis to try to see into one of the seeing stones, to grasp what Sauron might be plotting. The strain was too much, and she died.

But before she died, Anelis warned Mithrandir that one day, a short friend of his would ask for help going out his door, to fetch a child. Mithrandir would want to say no, for he would be in a hurry, and loathe to spend the winter in a hole. But Mithrandir must say yes, or something of immeasurable value would be lost forever.

That is what Mithrandir thought of, the first time he met me. That, and two halflings, a middle-aged one and a very young one, of whom he later told me he was quite fond.

I could have been Finduilas the Wise, unwed seer. But that path, while it would have been my wish in a less desperate time, was not the one I chose to walk. It ended only in darkness, darkness everywhere, darkness without end, and slavery for all beings on Middle Earth. Learning to live in the world, and marrying Denethor, mostly ended in the same darkness, but sometimes there was a light at the end, a light, and two small men walking, the one sometimes supporting the other.

When I met Denethor, I did not yet love him, but I knew I would bear his children, and come to love him. The first day I met him, I saw the shadows of my sons playing together as children.

Still, leaving Dol Amroth for Gondor was a difficult change for me. I love the ocean, and the forests, and I find it difficult to live in a city of stone, no matter how beautiful its gardens. Still, Denethor was very kind to me, and so too were his father, Ecthelion, and his best friend, Thorongil. I made friends amongst many of the ladies of Gondor as well, though some never warmed to me, foreign and odd as I am.

When I went to Gondor, I realized how young and relatively care free was Dol Amroth, for Gondor had endured a thousand years. Thicker than its walls are its ghosts, omnipresent its sad tragedies, but strong is its hope- for Gondor and its ghosts believe the White City may yet flourish again, if Middle Earth is very brave, and very lucky.

When I came to love Gondor, and Denethor, I loved them completely. And our generation – including most especially the Captains Denethor and Thorongil – were the brightest light Minas Tirith had seen in many ages, brilliant and bold, shining against the encroaching dark. Like hope in the night of despair.

My father Adrahil knew both Denethor and Thorongil well. Sitting in the sea wind, after the men of Gondor and the Swan Knights had won a great victory together, I recall my father telling me that Thorongil had “the commander’s gleam,” that something extra that some leaders of men have, that makes serving them a joy. I remember he said that Denethor lacked this gleam, but cautioned me that this was not a criticism, for leaders of men should first be wise, brave and caring, and if they are so, as my Denethor was, their men will fight just as tirelessly, for they know that where their leader goes, they can go as well. I knew that my first son, bonny and bright, would gleam, and my second son, endurance personified, would lead.

Still, although our generation handed Mordor and its allies some of its worst defeats in many a century, Sauron’s influence nonetheless cost us dearly. A young Prince of Rohan was killed in a drunken brawl, putting paid to talk of a possible alliance. The man who killed him was said to have Haradrim features, but he disappeared, never to be found. One of Thorongils’ most trusted lieutenants vanished on a mission requested by Denethor, and the Gondorian lieutenant who was supposed to have relieved him was found in an alley with his throat cut. Most devastating of all for our family, all of the Healers and midwives skilled in the birth of overlarge babes to first-time mothers were dead or vanished from Gondor when the time came for me to birth Boromir, and all did not go well.

The best foresight cannot predict all the ways in which the human body can fail. When I gave birth to Boromir, something inside of me was hurt, badly. For want of a good midwife, my other child may never have been. The shadows of my second son became thinner, and the future more often seemed to end in darkness. Sometimes, I only saw Boromir in the future, lonelier and less kind and thoughtful having grown up without his brother, but still sometimes enough to help off set the darkness. But not as often. I had a choice to make. And the darkness was growing in those days, as the rift between Denethor and Thorongil grew, and the other sons and nephews of the House of Húrin fell, one by one, fighting the darkness.

I chose to betray Denethor, and Thorongil as well, in order to fight the darkness. I love both my sons, for all Faramir is a daily reminder of my greatest betrayal. My beloved husband Denethor is a great man and a strong one, but sometimes his foresight fails him. I could not get him to see, nor could Ecthelion, that Gondor needed another son of Denethor, despite the possible cost to my health.

Denethor never knew of my betrayal. Ecthelion saw to that, giving his son twice the normal amount of shahel (an herb from Dol Amroth with intoxicating and aphrodisiac properties) one night, from which he woke angered at his father, and believing he had betrayed his vow not to risk my life by getting me with child, when in truth, even drugged, he would not empty his seed into me.

And then there was Thorongil, my husband’s former best friend and now greatest rival. But more, for Ecthelion’s purposes, and Eru forgive me, my own – Thorongil looked very much like my husband. He too, could look into the hearts of men, if not so clearly as my husband. Thorongil, with his Dunedain strong reaction to the Dol Amroth herb shahel. We knew of it, because my husband’s men once gave him some, and would have laughed as he went to a state of unconsciousness where he called for a lost love. But my husband had scolded them and sent them away, and sat up watching his best friend until Thorongil returned from the trance many hours later. Thorongil, his dream of lying with his love Arwen, and my great betrayal. Ecthelion says it was not a betrayal, for Gondor’s need was too great. I know he was wrong, a betrayal it was, no matter how good the reasons. I committed it aware of the cost to my own honor and the loyalty I owed my husband, but more afraid of the cost of not betraying, should the absence of one pale boy-child make the darkness never-ending more inevitable.

When I was pregnant with Faramir, and sick again, I sat many hours with Ecthelion, talking over how Gondor might better resist Mordor’s encroachment. Sometimes Denethor joined in those conversations, despite his anger with his Father, and to a lesser degree, myself. When Denethor was absent, Thorongil sometimes joined us, discussing the Dunedain manners of fighting the enemy. On one of those days he wished us farewell, and told us that he must return to his own people. I told him he would return again, to be Gondor’s hope in a dark hour. Then I went and planted King’s foil in the Steward’s garden, and in the King’s abandoned, weed-choked garden, where the herb flourished ‘neath the dormant white tree.

In due time, I gave birth to a second son. The birth nearly killed me. My five year old son and my husband sat by my side for day upon day, and slowly, their love, and that of this new babe, helped me overcome the pain and return to this world for the few years I have left. Children are remarkable, even very young. Remarkable in their ability to love, in the clarity of their vision and in their courage to act upon their convictions. Brom loved Fara, from the very first. He worshiped his Father, yet he chose not to follow Denethor in shutting out the young babe Faramir, chose to love his brother, for all it would cost him some of his own childhood, and his carefree comradeship with his father.

With Ecthelion’s encouragement, while I was pregnant with Faramir, I began to delve deeply into our archives, into forgotten stories and tales passed down, from family to family. My goal was to develop a body of knowledge to help Gondor resist the encroaching darkness of Mordor. I learned how the dark lord nearly won the first time. Then I taught my sons and anyone who would listen Sauron’s preferred strategies and tactics, that they might be forewarned. Families who had stayed in Ithilien for generations taught me how they had evaded the orcs and other minions of darkness, and I listened, and recorded, and thought about how their techniques might be adopted by our soldiers and people. This became my research project, and despite my husband’s disapproval of my working due to my delicate health, I know I lasted longer because of it. I did not expect that Faramir would become my apprentice, that he would be the one who would inherit my research. I did not expect to live long enough. But Faramir surprised me.

I did not notice my baby had learned to read, until 8 year old Boromir explained to me that his tutors had been much happier with him, since his toddler brother started assisting him with his homework. My husband laughed at Boromir’s funny joke, but I knew he was serious. Lying beside me on my sick bed for hours and days at a time, my littlest one learned to read and write before he trusted his voice to speak. At five, he is so beyond where he should be in his lessons – by the time he was four, he was helping me every day. There is a conspiracy of silence between me and my boys, and the librarians, and those servants of Ecthelion’s who remain. We know the work I do is important, though my husband does not fully appreciate it, nor would he be glad to know that our second son is unnaturally intelligent.

Faramir and I were in the library today continuing this research. I am so glad that we were, for Mithrandir clearly needed some help, and one has so few opportunities to surprise a wizard of his age. But Faramir astonished him, much to my amusement. I was also grateful, for as much as I would like to ask Mithrandir what he thinks of my research, and share it with him, Denethor has demanded that he remain ignorant. My husband does not trust Mithrandir, which may, someday, be Gondor’s undoing.

The next day, I was not surprised to learn that Mithrandir had left during the middle of the night. Denethor complained of the poor manners of Wizards, but I knew that Mithrandir’s quest had been urgent, and that it had been Faramir who had helped him. I know, for my poor younger son was squirming uncomfortably in his seat. My husband, noticing this, asked Boromir what Faramir had done now.

Boromir explained, “It wasn’t really Fara’s fault, Ada. He was sleep-walking from my room to his, and tripped ‘oer the basket of council dolls that Lord Sendar had made for us, breaking Lord Sendar in half. Still, Nurse had to birch him, for he must learn not to sleep walk, or break things.”

Faramir looked down, pretending to be ashamed. Boromir’s eyes widened, as he does when he lies.

My husband, who thought dolls of council figures were ridiculous, and who does not like Lord Sendar, laughed loudly. He actually comforted Faramir, telling him that he would out-grow sleep-walking. Then Denethor offered to take both his sons to the river to swim, should the weather clear.

I know, as my much-loved husband does not, that Boromir would never raise a hand to Faramir, nor let anyone else do so, merely for sleep walking. I also know that Faramir is almost preternaturally graceful, and never breaks things even when he does sleep-walk. More, I know that Faramir’s nurse has never birched him, for he is entirely too clever and fey for her to be able to deal with. My poor dear Faramir, tempted into mischief to help Mithrandir. His poor older brother, who hates to cause him pain.

Still, it was needed. Now Mithrandir knows that Faramir can help. He will not forget, and he will help mold Faramir, as he molded me. Faramir will know when the time is right to share with Mithrandir the fruits of my research, which he will continue.

I would that I could take these burdens from my boys. I wish I could be there everyday with them, like a normal mother, the touchstone and mainstay of their lives. I long to heal the rift between my husband and my younger son, that I fear my death will only widen. But I have learned through painful experience that mourning for the time I lose being sick, and the mother I cannot be, only poisons the time I have left. I will do my best to give my boys good memories of me, and of my love for them, to which they can hold on throughout the long years to come.

Title: Language Lessons
Series: Tales of the Wizard’s Apprentice Part 2
Author: Susana
Feedback: please use form below
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU. Spanking. Some torture of orcs (not graphic), oblique mention of torture of Haradrim. Mention of what is abusive treatment of Faramir by members of Denethor’s staff. Overall, this fic is dark, because a lot of Faramir’s childhood was bleak in the DH AU. Please don’t read if that doesn’t appeal.
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Faramir, age seven, learns how to speak orc, Haradrim, and deceit.
Beta: None. Written quickly when the idea struck, so there may well be mistakes.
A/N: This is not a light-hearted story. This is the Faramir who learns to keep his own counsel, who learns how to hide things even from those who love him, because he knows no one can help. Gandalf doesn’t show up in this one, though it was his idea that motivated Faramir to write the essay that brought Denethor’s attention to Faramir.

Part 2: Language Lessons

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

The orc screamed again, then shouted a string of syllables that made the scribe beside him shrug, bored.

“Nothing to report to your father in that, Lad. I don’t know why the torturers bother – can’t get any sense out of these creatures.” Faramir was quiet; he disagreed with the torture, and the orc’s curses wouldn’t make it end any faster.

Another burning brand held to the creature, and the orc screamed and cursed again. Faramir remained silent, stone-faced. This was his second month being required by his father the Steward to watch the “interrogators” at their work, prompted by the Lord Denethor’s disgust with a recent essay of Faramir’s, suggesting possible ways to tempt the Haradrim away from their alliance with Sauron. The ideas expressed in the essay had been partially Mithrandir’s, who had asked Faramir to put them to Denethor somehow, as Denethor would not listen to Mithrandir. Faramir had worked very hard on the essay, producing such a fine product that he knew his tutor would show it to his father. Faramir’s plan worked. It had been the first time Denethor had taken any note of his younger son in the past two years, and Faramir was now resolved to avoid such attention in the future.

“Hey, soldier.” Called his father’s scribe. “Can’t you move on to the humans you captured with this bunch? You’ve been at this for an hour and I’ve nothing to report to Lord Denethor.”

“Hold your horses, Master Scribe.” The most experienced of the torturers lectured. “Hearing these tough creatures scream weakens the will of the Haradrim and other outlaw scum.”

“Try to speed it up, at least.” The scribe asked.

The next time the heated metal touched the orc’s skin, the creature cried out an explanation.

“More gabbledy-gook.” The Scribe complained.

“He just said that he accepted the southron’s money to attack the men on the road because he was hungry.” Faramir disagreed. “Its been a long winter and his clan had no food.”

The torturers put down their implements, and the scribe dropped his quill. “Lord Faramir,” the Scribe gasped, “Can you understand these creatures?”

Faramir had already weighed all the pros and cons of revealing that he’d learned the orcs’ tongue over the past few months before translating the orcs’s last pained cry. “Aye, I can. I am good with languages. You may confirm that with any of my tutors.”

The scribe’s look turned calculating. “Do you also speak the southron tongue, my Lord?”

Faramir, suppressing his first response of “much better than you, you lazy misbegotten excuse for a scribe,” instead answered ingenuously “Aye, Master Scribe. I’ve been studying it and have mostly translated the southron captives’ statements much as you have, these past few days. But I know I am but a student, much younger and less knowledgeable than you, and have not wanted to waste your time with my foolishness.”

The scribe straightened, taking Faramir’s humility for true feeling rather than flattery. “That’s right, Lord Faramir. I am very important, and my time is valuable. I have other important duties to attend to.”

Faramir nodded, keeping his eyes wide and innocent, and concealing his inner comment “like spending a few hours with your mistress.”

“Perhaps, since you also understand what these enemies of Gondor are saying, I can leave writing down their statements to you, while I engage in other important duties.” The scribe continued officiously.

Since this was the outcome he wanted, Faramir would agree, but he knew he must not seem too eager. “Oh, I would be happy to help, honored Scribe, but I am not sure if I can do it quite as well as you.”

“I’m sure your best effort will be fine.” The Scribe said haughtily, eager to use his now free afternoon to visit the young lady at the inn on the second level of the city whom he so admired. “I will check your work over before I hand it to your father, so he need not know you have taken so much upon yourself.”

The scribe departed, leaving Faramir with the bemused torturers and their unhappy subject. “Interrogators,” Faramir reminded himself, “Interrogators. If I slip and call them torturers again in the Lord Steward’s hearing, he will order me punished by his Treasurer again. I’ve no desire to feel the man’s belt again. I must be careful, circumspect.”

One of the more clever of the guards pointed out, “Good riddance to that whinging scribe. But you should know, Lad, yon scribe’s too lazy to rewrite your notes in his own hand, and your Lord father’s no fool. He’ll know you’ve been writing the accounts, and question the scribe as to why. You’re not to be unaccompanied, and it could land you in trouble.”

Faramir shook his head and explained politely. “I can write in the scribe’s hand writing instead of my own. My father has never…noted the discrepancy, before.”

The guard shrugged and went back to his unpleasant work, dragging out the next orc for questioning.

The interrogations proceeded quickly that afternoon. Faramir now spoke much better Haradrim than the scribe, and the soldier in charge of the intelligence gathering was a decent enough sort, only requiring the captured enemies to repeat their statements once or twice before believing that they were, indeed, telling the truth. Faramir himself could tell when the men were lying, it was in their eyes. Faramir didn’t want to be in this dungeon, witness to these men’s and creatures’ pain, at all. But he had no choice, and he would not demean their suffering by turning his head from it. More, he had a responsibility, hateful as it was, to make sure the blood that was being spilt in this room was not shed in vain. Some of the information these enemies had, was truly needed by Gondor’s military. Other captives were merely unfortunates, caught in the wrong place at the wrong moment.

In time, the interrogators would grow to trust their young, unwilling witness, and would cease trying to wring more information from their subjects when Faramir reported that they had the whole truth. But these soldiers of Gondor did not yet know Faramir well enough to accept his sworn word, so Faramir would not yet speak up. He would bide his time until he might be heeded, slowly dropping hints that he could read the truth in the eyes of others’, as could his father.

Since the torturer’s work was done in half the time it normally took, Faramir had several hours of free time. Time when none of his tutors or his new, brutal arms-masters would be looking for him. After delivering the promised information to the scribe’s in-box, Faramir went up to his chamber. First thing, as he always did after watching the interrogators at their work, the boy threw up. Then he laid an essay in progress on his desk, and arranged his bed to look as if he had decided on a quick nap before dinner instead of finishing his homework.

Nodding at the completion of his preparations, the young Lord of Gondor then hopped nimbly onto his window ledge, and jumped to the ledge of the next closest window a level down, which he knew looked in on an unoccupied room. Using a lockpick to disengage the window lock, the seven year old boy crept in, and then opened a hidden tunnel which led to a lookout point on the side of the mountain. Faramir free-form climbed down the side of the mountain, which put him outside the city. Faramir took a deep breath of the fresh air, and grinned, trotting toward the field on the Pelennor where he knew his brother would be this day, practicing jousting with his fellow students from the academy.

On the way to his destination, the boy stopped to wipe some dirt on his face, disarrange his hair, and turn his tunic (which bore the arms of the House of Hurin, differenced by the label of a second son) inside out. For good measure, he rolled down a hill. When Faramir arrived at the field where the academy students were jousting, he blended in perfectly with the other children of city-folk who had come to watch the spectacle. Faramir’s light hair would have made him stand out, save that it was quite dirty, and that there were a fair number of other light-haired children among Minas Tirith’s population. Faramir’s light hair was the legacy of Prince Adrahil’s wife, his long-dead grandmother. That of the other children was probably from Rohirric heritage, judging by their knowledgeable commentary on the horses ridden by the cadets.

When the cadets were riding back toward the city, Faramir joined the other children in cheering them through the gates, thereby entering the city unquestioned. He then parted ways from the group of children, who were going to a nearby park, and headed for an alley that ran beside the dormitory of the cadets in his brother’s year. Climbing up a gutter, Faramir jumped along the window ledges until he reached the window into the room of Boromir and his friends. Tapping on the window first, Faramir then opened it, calling in without looking, “Its me. Is everyone decent?”

A few swears – one his brother’s – and several softer cries of greeting met Faramir’s ears. Taking that as a “come on in,” the slender seven year old jumped down from the window ledge.

Boromir, bathed and half-dressed, gave his younger brother an exasperated grin. “Did you see me unhorse the trainer?” He asked Faramir proudly.

Faramir grinned hugely, happier than he had been since the last time he’d managed to sneak down to see his brother a month ago, and enthused “I sure did! It was a neat bit of jousting, and he sure was shocked! I hope I’m as good a rider and jouster as you are, someday.” Faramir finished, a bit wistfully.

His brother’s best friend Gendarion laughed. “I don’t know about that, Faramir, but I think you might already be a better archer than our “Golden boy,” Gendarion cuffed Boromir gently o’er the head, and returned to dressing for their last class before dinner.

“What are you doing down here, anyway, Fara?’ Boromir asked with some concern. “I thought you said Ada changed your lesson schedule around.”

“He did. It was that one scribe I told you about tutoring me today – he left me translating some Haradrim work I’ve done before while he went to see his mistress, so I’ve a few free hours.” Faramir explained.

Boromir shook his head. He wasn’t sure if it was possible to get Faramir to stop sneaking down to visit him, and he enjoyed seeing the boy anyway. “Don’t get caught.” He warned his younger brother.

Faramir grinned confidently. “I won’t. Sneaking in here is MUCH easier than sneaking into the House of Healing, and I did that for years without getting caught. Well, at least by anyone who might object.”

Boromir nodded, as that was true enough. “How about helping us finish our essays for history, since you’re here anyway, and we’re not yet finished.” He cajoled his oddly intelligent younger brother.

Faramir sighed. “Isn’t that class in less than an hour? Do any of you ever finish an assignment before the last possible moment?”

Boromir’s friend and roommate Tavasond laughed gaily. “Mine is done. But Boromir and Gendan were occupied last night sneaking out to drink.”

Faramir rolled his eyes at his brother’s wild streak, but gamely enough assisted Gendan and Brom to finish their essays, and even reviewed Tavas’s, making a few suggested changes and corrections. “You’re lucky I studied this topic at Yuletide,” Faramir scolded his brother, “‘else I wouldn’t be able to help you this much.”

“Lucky, nothing.” Boromir retorted. “I chose the topic for our essays, kit, remembering a fair amount of what you babbled about the Kinstrife o’er the holidays.”

“My cousin Dev was in those lessons too.” Gendarion added. “Are you and that little pipsqueak still being taught by some of the same tutors, Faramir?”

“We are. And Dev’s not that bad, Gendan. I keep telling you that.” Faramir protested.

“He’s a little weasel, telling on you for being late to Ada, even when you help him with his lessons. Ungrateful wretch.” Boromir complained.

“I think his father makes him tell on me.” Faramir observed softly. “He always apologizes, after.”

Changing the subject, Gendan asked “What did Umbar get out of sheltering Casimir and his followers, again, Faramir?”

“Nasty bugger, that Casimir.” Tavas interrupted. “If you ask me, all of Harad should be put to the sword. Women, babies, they’re nothing but scum and the breeders of scum.”

Faramir couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He knew that Tavasond’s father Lord Tarston was a prejudiced man, but he’d never heard Boromir’s friend say anything so horrible. Unfortunately, Tavas continued on his tirade against the Haradrim, and Faramir couldn’t stop thinking about the one man from Umbar who had been accidentally tortured to death in front of him a few weeks ago. The trader from Umbar had only been in Gondor to attend his cousin’s wedding, and had accidentally made a joke about Gondorians in front of the wrong guardsman. That, and it had taken the scribe forever to correctly translate what he was saying. Faramir had watched him die with tears in his eyes. When Tavas’s insults grew more and more creative at the urging of the other boys, Faramir felt a noise in his ears like the hum of hundreds of bees. The next thing the Faramir knew, he was attacking his brother’s friend. Normally, a tiny seven year old against a big thirteen year old would be no contest, but Faramir had been trained how to fight at an early age by his brother, who couldn’t always be there when younger bullies taunted his recently motherless baby brother.

Boromir, shocked at this behavior from his normally peace-loving younger brother, was a bit too slow to respond, letting Faramir get a few good hits in before Tavas managed to heave the younger boy off of him. Tavas was also, Boromir noted appreciatively, hampered by the fact that he was trying not to hurt Faramir, even though not hurting Tavas didn’t seem to be Faramir’s concern at the moment.

“Fara!” Boromir reprimanded as he grabbed his brother, who looked ready to attack the pained Tavas again. “What are you doing?”

“They’re not all scum.” Faramir glared at Tavas. “They’re just people.”

Tavas raised his hands in a gesture of peace. He was really annoyed that Boromir’s younger brother had hit him and kicked him just for calling a bunch of foreigners some nasty names, but he was fond of the kid otherwise, and he didn’t want the younger boy to hold a grudge. “Sorry, Faramir.” Tavasond offered. “I forgot that you still don’t like to hear even orcs insulted. You’ll outgrow that when you start having to fight them, I’ll warrant. ‘Til then, I’ll try not to offend your delicate sensibilities.”

Faramir had nodded when Tavas begun his apology. “I’m not going to out-grow it, even though I know I will have to kill orcs. Just because someone is my enemy, doesn’t mean I should have to demean them.” The boy said softly. “I am sorry I lost my temper and hurt you, though.”

Gendarion, trying to lighten the mood, chuckled and stated, “Its a good thing the other cadets are used to hearing thumps from our room, ‘else we’d have someone in to see what is going on.”

Boromir sighed. “True.” Lord Denethor’s older son agreed, then added “You lot go on down to class. I need to have a word with my idiot brother. Tavas, you’re not hurt, are you?”

“Nay, Brom.” The dark-haired boy denied, asking “Don’t be too hard on the kit, eh? I shouldn’t have been using those words around him, anyway.”

Boromir nodded as his friends filed out, both pausing to say farewell to Faramir. When they had left, Boromir turned his brother around to face him. “First off, idiot, are you hurt?”

“No.” Faramir answered softly.

“Very well then.” His older brother said, taking a seat on his bed. “You know what comes next, kit. Don’t make this anymore difficult than it already is.”

Faramir sighed and lowered his leggings, bending unhappily over his brother’s lap. “Don’t you have to finish your essay?” He asked Boromir plaintively.

“It’s done enough, and your attitude is in more need of my attention.” Boromir lectured, bringing his hand down first on one of his brother’s small, white, cheeks, and then the other. “I can’t believe you attacked a friend of mine for no good reason! If this is how you behave at home, no wonder Ada is always complaining that you are sullen and resentful!” Boromir continued, as he continued to bring his hand down sharply on his younger brother’s too-thin backside.

Faramir rigidly held back tears as his brother firmly spanked him. Boromir’s spankings were painful, but never left him bruised or cut, like the punishments he’d received of late from his father’s treasurer. But there was no point in complaining of that to Boromir. No point in complaining that he was only sullen and resentful because he had reason to be. Boromir would probably be on his side if he knew all of what was going on, but Boromir couldn’t do anything to help him. Denethor ruled in Minas Tirith and Gondor, and Denethor had decided that his Treasurer would punish Faramir, because his tutors and his older brother were too soft on him. Denethor had decided that Faramir was old enough to learn to fight with bladed weapons, and that he was not learning fast enough because his old arms-masters were too soft. Gone were the old arms-masters, in were the new ones who didn’t mind leaving cuts or bruises on their pupil, so long as he learned. And he learned. Faramir had learned he was a survivor. He didn’t necessarily like that about himself; but he knew sometimes you had to embrace even the parts of yourself you didn’t like, to accomplish certain objectives.

Boromir, for his part, was growing frustrated. Faramir was showing no signs of remorse, and he had to end this spanking soon, as he would not risk hurting his small, slender brother. “Kit,” Boromir asked, spanking the undercurve of his brother’s backside particularly hard, “are you even listening to me?”

“Aye, I’ve disgraced you and you hate me, and your friends don’t ever want me to come back.” Faramir said, letting his tears free at last. This he could feel guilty for, this attacking of Tavas. It had been an inappropriate reaction, a poor way to treat a friend of Boromir’s who was, after all, probably just repeating word-for-word one of his own father’s tirades. Faramir personally thought the world might be better off without fathers, though at least Gendan seemed to have a nice one. Captain the Lord Tyorvond often brought candies with him to help him stay awake during council meetings, and he always gave one to Faramir and his nephew Dervorin, even though Tyvond, as he was called, was not on speaking terms with his brother, Dervorin’s father, the Lord Morvirin, who was also Denethor’s Treasurer.

Boromir ended the spanking as soon as his brother spoke, setting Faramir gently on his feet and helping him right his clothing. Boromir then lifted his brother carefully onto his lap, cuddling him gently. Faramir relaxed into the embrace. Surely Boromir wouldn’t hold him and soothe him if he hated him?

“I don’t hate you at all, stupid.” Boromir said aloud. “I just want you to act like the well-behaved child you normally are in in front of my friends, ok?”

Faramir sniffled. “Ok.” He agreed.

“And I like when you visit, Fara. I just worry that you’re going to get in trouble for doing so.” Boromir explained. “So have a care, alright?”

“Alright.” His younger brother agreed. “Brom, you’ll be late to class, and me to dinner, if we don’t hurry.”

Boromir chuckled “True. Next time don’t behave like a warg, and I won’t have to waste valuable time spanking you, eh? “

“Ok.” Faramir agreed again, biting down on his argument that if he were a warg, he would’ve bitten Tavas. Faramir turned around to hug his brother, and as he did so Boromir saw clearly a bandage wrapped around his brother’s upper torso, snug by his neck. It had been concealed until now by his tunic and undershirt, but looked like the wrapping for an injury like a pulled muscle in the shoulder.

“What’s this, Fara?’ Boromir asked sternly, touching the bandage gently.

“I fell off of my horse in riding lessons yesterday,” Faramir lied fluently, as the truth would do no one any good. Faramir could just imagine the response if he said, “I didn’t do well enough in my sword lesson yesterday, so my new arms-master held me up by one arm over the battlement, threatening to drop me if my efforts didn’t improve.” Yeah. That would make Boromir angry, and he would tell Denethor, who would mildly ask the arms-master to keep his reprimands of Faramir constructive rather than punitive. “No thanks.” Faramir thought to himself. He had learned to lie as fluently as he could speak Haradrim; he already knew his brother could no longer tell when he lied, not when he went to the quiet place inside his mind before he spoke. And it took less and less effort to reach that place.

“I’m sorry, kit.” Boromir soothed, believing the lie. “You’ll get better, don’t fret. And I’ll sneak you out the door, so you don’t have to worry about climbing down. Take the tunnel from the fourth level directly up to our chambers today, hey? No more climbing with a sore shoulder.”

“Ok, Brom.” Faramir agreed easily, glad that someone still cared about him, and desperate not to loose his brother’s love by telling him that he had lost his temper with Tavas, because he’d had to learn to watch torture without breaking.

The brothers parted at a backdoor to the academy complex, whispered greetings passing between them, and Faramir’s sincere promise to his brother to take care. Faramir would take care; but life had, since Denethor took note of him, become much more filled with things to have a care of. “Fathers,” thought Faramir, “were best left in the dark as to one’s true abilities and intentions. If only I could go back in time, and get someone else to give Mithrandir’s ideas to my father!”

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2 Comment(s)

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Oh my God, Faramir is so cute! He’s so adorable, I want a son exactly like him someday.

— Anna    7 October 2010, 21:00    #

Oooh, and the second chapter is even better! (I should have waited to comment, but just couldn’t help myself.)
I love how cunning you’ve made Finduilas—that whole thing with Thorongil, I can’t wait to see how that turns out.
Awesome story!

— Anna    7 October 2010, 21:14    #

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