This story is rated «NC-17», and carries the warnings «Incest (obviously), non-consensual sex, some violence, major angst, canonical character deaths.».
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01 December 2008 | 3122 words | Work in Progress
It had been a beautiful, sun-filled winter’s day, and now the moon was a full white circle set among the stars that glistened high above Minas Tirith.
Faramir stepped out on to the balcony of his chamber and tried to force a smile onto his face. He knew that everyone would expect him to be happy on this night, his eighteenth birthday, but it was not to be. The son of the Steward felt no joy, only loneliness.
There would be two hundred guests at the feast – various ministers of his father’s, prominent members of the city’s political world, and officers in Gondor’s army. Denethor had even invited a dozen young ladies from fine families; no doubt he was angling for a match that would satisfy political aims more than romantic ones.
Faramir would be expected to act gentlemanly to the young ladies, take an interest in the dry talk of military strategy, and nod politely at people for whom he had open disdain. Yes, this was a night to dread. Worst of all, Boromir would not be there. He had been away for three months on his first assignment as a Captain, and while Faramir was immensely proud of his older brother, he also longed for the other man’s presence.
Ever since the death of his mother, Boromir had been more than a sibling – he had been a caregiver and a devoted friend. It had been Boromir who taught Faramir to ride a horse, to wield a sword, to sneak sweets out of the cupboard when their nursemaids were not looking. And it had been Boromir whose love and support took away some of the sting of Denethor’s constant belittlement of his younger son.
Without Boromir to shield him from their father’s sharp words, Faramir felt alone and defenseless. He could only hope that Denethor would hold his tongue at the feast, as the Steward had little compunction about humiliating Faramir in front of others. But surely his father would not be so cruel as to insult Faramir at his own coming of age party!
There was a sudden knock at the door and a young page stepped into the chamber. “My Lord?” he called out to the balcony. “Your father awaits.”
“Thank you,” Faramir sighed. Could it already be seven o’clock? He gasped as he saw the clock on his mantelpiece: it was ten past the hour. His father would be furious!
He straightened his shoulders and walked quickly to the great banquet hall within the Steward’s residence. He practiced his smile a few more times as he walked, but knew that any expression of happiness would still look forced.
Denethor was indeed waiting for him just outside the hall’s entrance, his thin lips pressed together in a familiar expression of displeasure. “I gather you lost track of time.”
Faramir grimaced. “My apologies, Father. I was—”
“Buried in a book, no doubt,” the Steward interrupted. “Or perhaps simply daydreaming. In any case, I do not care to hear your excuses.”
Faramir said nothing to this. He knew that he would not be able to parry his father’s verbal blows. He simply waited until his father finished speaking.
“There are two hundred people waiting inside,” Denethor continued. “At least you remembered to wear a clean pair of boots after you went tramping in the countryside this morning. Now come, there are guests who have come here to celebrate.” Here to celebrate? It was more accurate to say they were here to self-promote and have a rich meal without paying for it.
The hall was filled with Gondorians in their most elegant garb who all bowed their heads out of deference when the two men entered. Faramir kept his head held high and looked over the crowd, hoping in vain to see a friendly face. All he could see were his father’s ministers and army leaders and sycophantic supporters, as well as a select group of beautiful young ladies from the city’s finest families.
Faramir was seated at a high table between Denethor and one of his longtime ministers, an elderly man whose chilly disposition was perfectly suited for that of the Steward’s. The conversation that flowed around him was frankly dull, focusing on matters such as grain stipends and currency inflation. Compelling topics such as the last successful foray against the Haradrim was not touched on during the meal, as it was considered unseemly to discuss violence in the presence of ladies.
At least Faramir could take comfort in the food and ale. And after his second mug of the strong brew, he was beginning to find the evening tolerable, if not enjoyable. As the meal ended, Faramir took his leave of the banquet table and began circling the hall to thank various dignitaries for attending
There was a small crowd—including Denethor—gathered in one corner, listening to five of Gondor’s top army leaders hold forth on the need to shore up Osgiliath’s defenses. Faramir held back, not at all intending to partake in the conversation, but his father had other ideas.
“Pardon me, Hadgar,” Denethor interrupted one of the army captains, “but I see that my son has joined us and I wish to hear his thoughts on this matter.”
Faramir froze. “M-my thoughts? I… I believe Osgiliath is a vital part of our city’s defense,” he said, trying to sound as if he truly understood the various military discussions he had been privy to. “Its position on the river is of key importance and—”
“But what strategy do you think we should employ to beat back the Orc incursions?” Denethor asked, a queer smile playing on his face. “We are all aware of Osgiliath’s significance, both to our current defenses and throughout Gondor’s history. If you were a captain, what would you order your men to do?” The military men all looked at Faramir expectantly.
“I would… I… I would send out patrols along the banks of the Anduin to… ensure that…” He was floundering, and he knew it was obvious.
“To ensure what?” Denethor goaded.
“To ensure that I-that is, my soldiers, we would send scouts to identify Orc encampments—”
“So would any first-year guard with half a brain,” Denethor sneered. “I can see that you are still not comfortable developing military strategy. Mere prowess with a bow and arrow are not enough to earn you a position leading an army unit. You still have much work to do until you are able to attain the high status that your brother has achieved.”
He turned back to the captains. “I apologize on behalf of my son. I was under the mistaken impression that he was as learned in the ways of war as Boromir. Perhaps we should ask one of the women here for military advice – they may be more knowledgeable than my young son!” The captains laughed uneasily, but Denethor’s smile was genuine.
Shame and rage seeped together as they rose up in Faramir’s chest, and he thought for a brief moment that he would be physically ill. He managed to stand his ground, not wanting to show any weakness in the face of his father’s taunting. “I know I have much to learn,” he said to the men. “I hope that in the coming months I can spend time talking about such matters with you in order to better understand the strategies our army might undertake to combat the peril of Mordor.”
This was a lie; Faramir would much rather spend his time studying lore and poetry. But such pursuits were not seen as fitting for the son of a Steward. Even if Boromir was the heir to the Stewardship, Faramir was still expected to become a strong warrior who could inspire the people of his realm.
It was at times like these that he almost wished he had been born to a lowly innkeeper near Amon Din or to a gardener in Ithilien. A young man in that life might not have access to great luxury or leisure, but nor would he be thrust into a world of combat and public pageantry that held no appeal—and there would be no prospects of such things as arranged marriages.
Faramir glanced at the passel of young ladies sharing court gossip at the other end of the hall, and he felt a twinge of sorrow. How stifled they must be! The only objective of their lives was to make a desirable match in marriage that had nothing to do with romantic love. He wondered if his father already had one of them in mind to marry into the house of the Stewards.
He knew that, on rare occasions, these political marriages could result in enduring love, but they often generated nothing more than deep respect and friendship. That was not what Faramir wanted. He wanted something more and something radically different. Indeed, he could barely admit to himself what it was that he wanted.
There were no laws forbidding men to lie with one another, and it was a practice that was known to occur among soldiers in the field, away from the comfort of women. Yet it was not something that was to be spoken of, let alone sanctioned by allowing open couplings. Quick, furtive, heated encounters were the most that two men could hope for. Even soldiers were expected to abandon those desires upon their return home, forfeiting any physical bond with other men in favor of feminine embraces.
But the thought of sharing his bed with a woman left Faramir cold. His dreams involved men, although they were vague, faceless men and he had not the slightest idea what sharing his bed with a man would actually involve. The notion of lying with a man was shrouded in the unknown—whom could he ask about this? Such things were not to be discussed.
After several hours of the party, Faramir was all too ready to have the night come to an end. He had danced with six of the ‘eligible ladies’ who had attended, listened to an interminable debate on the value of a sugar tax, and partaken of several more mugs of ale than perhaps was advisable. He was ready to curse whomever had created the custom of celebrating birthdays.
His father—along with most everyone else—was paying him no mind, and so Faramir slipped out of the hall and stalked back to his chamber. He was not expecting what he found.
“Boromir!” he yelped.
His brother sat on Faramir’s lounge chair with a satisfied smile on his face. “Happy birthday, little brother.”
Faramir bounded across the room and wrapped Boromir in a crushing embrace. “But how? When… I thought you were fighting the Southron and…”
“The Southron will be there when I get back. I could not afford to miss your birthday. You only come of age once!”
“Father will be furious.” For some reason—probably the ale—this struck Faramir as particularly funny and he started to giggle.
“You’re drunk, little brother,” Boromir said. His voice held affection rather than reproach.
“At the very most, I am half-drunk,” Faramir protested.
“Then I will have to wait until you are sober to give your gift. You are in no condition to receive it now.”
This intrigued Faramir. “Gift? What is it?”
“Come now, you know I will not tell you! ‘Tis a surprise, and I suppose I will give it to you tomorrow night.” Boromir hauled Faramir’s lean but muscled frame over to the bed. “You need to get some sleep. In the morning, make sure to go down to the kitchen and have Marda make you her special tea. It’s the best cure for the ache that will be in your head!”
“You always look after me, Boromir,” Faramir said with a sleepy smile. His hands were braced on Boromir’s arms, and he marveled at how strong they seemed.
“Yes, well that’s what older brothers do.”
“Ah, and what do younger brothers do?”
“At the moment, my younger brother needs to sleep.”
“Sleep… yes…” Faramir agreed readily with that advice, his eyes fluttering drowsily.
Boromir chuckled and placed a palm on his brother’s cheek. “Sleep, Faramir.” He sat there for a long while with a smile on his face before retreating to his own chamber. His journey had been long and his body was weary from the ride, but he did not mind. All that registered in his mind as he climbed into bed was the smile he had seen on his brother’s face, a smile that was worth making any journey in Middle-earth.
Faramir’s surprise would have to wait until the next night, and Boromir hoped that the gift would elicit another one of those smiles. He knew how lonely his dear brother was, but perhaps tomorrow night would change that…
To be continued
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