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19 December 2010 | 65301 words
Title: Family Games
With: Boromir, Unknown
Summary: Trials, surprises and more than a little temptation await the twenty-year-old Faramir as he embarks on his first military assignment, namely to assume command over the Ithilien Rangers. Was it merely an old man’s eccentricity that led the Steward to suddenly assign his youngest this venerable position, especially in a time when a strange new beast is rumoured to roam the woods?
Disclaimer: The author claims no ownership whatsoever over the characters and settings of this story.
In case you are unsettled by the ambiguous unknown pairing, rest assured this work features no bestiality, no parental incest, no wizard sex, and no intimate relations with characters of my own invention.
Many thanks go to:
The one who provided this request. I found the idea both nutritious for my imagination and in a good way challenging, and hope the outcome is to your liking.
Anastasija – our long conversations have greatly inspired parts of this story.
Alcardilmë – for language advice.
All feedback is highly appreciated!
Written for the 2010 Midwinter Swap.
Request by Nerey Camille: A young Faramir is sent by Denethor to command the Rangers and he finds his reputation (as worthless second son who could never hold a candle to marvellous Boromir) has preceded him. The men distrust him and resent being captained by someone so young, but then Faramir earns their respect and love, either through some spectacular action or by his personal qualities (kindness, justice, etc). Bonus points if you include a ship in the story. I’d like it bookverse regarding Faramir’s looks and personality, and please no romance between him and any of the men.
‘Do you really think … that it is weakness that yields to temptation?
I tell you that there are terrible temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to.’
Chapter 1. Long Time No See
Boromir strode into the Tower Hall.
The noon meal was in progress, and at the far end of the long room he saw his father sitting at the middle of a large black-wood table, exactly where the warrior had anticipated to find him.
The young captain’s and his companions’ footfalls echoed sharply off the alcoved dark walls and the high vaulted ceiling, where gloom lurked around the ornate chapiters of the tall polished pillars. It never ceased to amaze the man how coming to this indisputably grand and majestic place not once failed to oppress him and make him feel small and lacking. Besides, on such occasions he preferred to be wearing his official black-and-silver uniform – together with the fur-trimmed cloak and winged helmet – one that best matched the solemn grandeur of the settings. Instead he, as well as the two soldiers he had brought with him, were all sporting their Ranger gear, which, given it was winter, did not spot a single colour that could not be defined as either grey, brown, or taupe. Much as it was extremely practical during the forays, this attire inexplicably made Boromir feel bucolic and laughable whenever he entered his father’s main hall.
He would have changed, of course, had his business been any less urgent. And he knew that today, of all days, the way he looked was not the only thing to render him laughable…
Now, it was not rare that Boromir had to bring unpleasant tidings from Ithilien: after all, this was effectively their border-land with Mordor, so it was only natural for it to receive the lion’s share of the enemy’s activity, including numerous spying expeditions and inroads. Yet it was seldom that Boromir had to speak of the failure of his own troops in their struggle against the dark forces, and that was something he could hardly do without having his pride hurt, or his worth doubted.
The young man was too preoccupied with his cheerless thoughts to pay proper attention to Denethor’s company – and thus it was that only when he came close enough to salute his father and lord, he looked up and noticed the Steward was neither alone, which was the usual case, nor accompanied by any of his elderly counselors.
A young man sat on his immediate right, and that in itself struck Boromir as so odd that he momentarily forgot about his chief concern and almost stammered on his greetings. This seat had ever been reserved only for him, and even when, like today, Boromir was not supposed to be present, he knew it would be kept empty.
This was where the Steward’s son sat, and it defied all logic that some stranger should have been given this place of honour. Admittedly, said stranger looked unmistakably noble, and just as unmistakably rich, judging by his elegant although sober and undemonstrative attire – but that was no excuse. And so young, too, practically a youth, not likely to have passed the mark of twenty.
Boromir did not even try to feign courtesy as he frowned at his father’s guest in questioning puzzlement, trying to comprehend the reason for the special treatment he was receiving.
The first term that came to mind when looking at him, even despite Boromir’s rising displeasure, was ‘fine’. A fine gem he was, pleasant in all senses, fair in a classic style.
The way his glossy raven hair was neatly shorn just above the shoulders and modestly tucked behind his ears, his upright collected pose, the flawless creamy paleness of his skin and the perfect proportions of his regular features would have created a detached and temperate impression, were it not for the sensuality clearly written in the shape of his lips, and the keen attentive intelligence of his clear gaze. And Boromir saw this was an interesting character indeed, for although his dignity seemed so unaggressive and unassuming as to belie excessive gentility, the sharp lines of his straight nose, as well as his strong well-defined jaw suggested quite a bit of will to reside behind the comely façade.
Boromir became so absorbed studying the young man, he did not immediately register the other was looking squarely back at him.
The stranger did not seem in any way intimidated or even bothered to have the tall imposing warrior stare down at him unkindly, and he endured it calmly and patiently, without as much as shifting in his seat, although a bright spark came to twinkle in his clear eyes. But then the corners of his mouth quavered, as though he were fighting down a grin – and in another moment he gave into it, and beamed widely.
And all of a sudden he was altogether transformed.
His smile seemed broader than his face, so full of joy and mirth, so brilliant and sincere. His grey eyes lit up, and his whole face was as though illuminated. And in that one moment he went from fair to strikingly handsome, and appeared older and more mature than Boromir had first taken him to be – and Boromir saw that indeed there was in him not merely gentleness and dignified bearing, but also substance, and energy, and considerable strength.
Although somewhat taken aback by this rather unusual reaction, for the first time in years Gondor’s heir was forced to allow the possibility that he had finally laid eyes upon one who could make him reconsider his up-to-now immutable resolution to –
It was in that one second that it all came back, the past and present charging to clash together with a roar, a deafening confluence of two powerful rivers. Everything suddenly made complete and perfect sense, and Boromir’s breath caught as waves rolled over him, washing heat and colour to his face and neck.
For a moment his voice failed him, then he cried out, “Faramir! Little Faramir!”
And already he was rushing around the table to him, driven by the unthinking animal need to embrace him, to hold him as close and tight as only he could.
“Brother!” Faramir replied in kind, rising to his feet vigorously, and laughed happily.
It astounded Boromir to hear his voice – clear and strong, but much deeper than both his looks and age suggested, far more suitable for a man than a youth. What more, its particular tune happened to have miraculously remained unchanged since Faramir’s childhood – this warm, upward note caught at Boromir, and made his heart contract.
He too laughed out, disbelieving his blessed fortune.
But an instant before he could reach his younger brother, their Father was standing as a wall between them, casting Faramir into shadow. The Steward raised his hand and touched Boromir lightly on the chest, stopping the man.
“You are come early. We have not been expecting you for another week,” Denethor observed with a faint curve of his graying brow.
Boromir blinked at him in confusion bordering on bewilderment.
“Aye, I have news I need your counsel on,” the young captain said a little vacantly, and made to step around the lord to resume his interrupted reunion with Faramir, who now stood motionless, his vibrant enthusiasm having wilted like spring flowers struck dead by an unforeseen frost.
The Steward did not move either, and only his eyes flashed dangerously at Boromir.
“Then why don’t you and your men partake in the meal, and share your tidings?” he asked in an unusually pleasant tone, although his gaze bore into his firstborn to the point of making him physically uncomfortable, so that once again the man became acutely aware of the pesterous discrepancy between his rustic apparel and the refined surroundings.
Boromir’s lips parted as though in confusion, then a look of dismay and great annoyance fleeted across his comely face. Yet he quickly reined his emotions in, and, with no more than a curt ironic grin to himself, bowed to his father and stepped back to take the seat swiftly prepared for him – one directly opposite the Steward.
The captain had not eaten since before daybreak, but his appetite had all but vanished. Yet he knew that if he did not touch the food, neither could the two Rangers at his side – and under no circumstances did Boromir forget about those in his care, even when it came to seemingly little things. So he cut a small piece of the juicy headily fragrant roast, and washed it down with a generous swig of the limpid sourish wine…
Slowly the young heir recounted his news to his father and lord, but as he did, his eyes went ever to Faramir. And the more he looked, the more he marvelled at having failed to recognise him the moment their eyes met. Of course, Boromir had not been prepared for this turn of events, had had no reason to hope to see his younger brother that day – to hope to ever see him, perhaps…
And to think how much time had passed, how much Faramir had changed. Yet at the same time he had not, and the proof was there, in his very eyes. Here it was – that light, that purity, that fundamental goodness of his, somehow coming through even when he did nothing at all. It was this rare quality that made this man seem utterly, physiologically incapable of harshness or scorn, of pettiness or vindictiveness, of hypocrisy or deceit – of any sort of malevolence or dishonesty. And it was this rare quality that had always made him one of the exceptionally few, if not the only person, to whom Boromir would wish to open himself up.
And Boromir saw that Faramir was not so much listening to what he was saying as rather watching him talk. To one who did not know him, Denethor’s youngest would have appeared composed and unperturbed, paying all his attention to his brother’s narration. But Boromir knew well how to read this beloved face, and he caught in Faramir’s gaze signs of the gladness and affection he had so eagerly shown when greeting Boromir, yet now there was also weighty sadness, and longing, and thoughtfulness, and it was clear to the older man that many notions and conclusions passed through Faramir’s quick mind as he sat there still and silent.
Nothing more Boromir would have desired in that moment but to take him by the hand, and lead him away from the burthen of their father’s hard disapproving gaze, from the Rangers’ perplexed glances, and be at ease with him, and talk, and learn what sort of man he had grown into.
But even if that was allowed to happen sooner or later, which Boromir strongly doubted, it would not be until he had profoundly humiliated himself in front of his little brother…
Even more disgracing was that he could not bring himself to actually get to the bloody point of the problem…
He spoke at great length of each encounter his company had recently had with the Orcs, turning to his men to get them to provide yet more details. His whole account, however, came down to one single point: the Orcs had been going as though mad in the past two months, reckless and furious as never before, displaying such rage and determination as though driven by an adamant conviction in their own invincibility. Even though so far the Rangers had managed to fight off all the attacks, and had not suffered any considerable losses at that, the situation was beginning to try their endurance.
At last Boromir fell silent, and a deep troubled frown creased his brow.
“There is little news to me in your words, son,” the Steward pushed away his plate and took his artfully wrought silver goblet to sip on the wine ponderously. “Pray speak of that outstanding occurrence that drove you to end your term prematurely and come here seeking my judgement, even though you ever prefer to manage by your own efforts.”
“Aye, Father,” Boromir admitted sulkily, and after that point would no longer look at Faramir as he spoke to the Steward, “and so we have been trying to manage, for quite some time now, yet, alas, to no avail. I do believe, however, that we can now explain our opponents’ unprecedented confidence. They seem to have a powerful and most unusual ally.”
Denethor leant forth in his seat, his dark eyes lighting up. “What exactly are you saying, Boromir?”
“There is a strange beast in the woods.” The heir sensed his men grow uneasy now that their main predicament was brought up, yet he himself actually felt relieved to finally be getting to the heart of the matter.
Denethor raised his brows, leaning forward just a notch more. “What kind of beast, to be precise?”
“Well,” Boromir stretched out the word, “we are not exactly sure. We… haven’t had a proper sight of it yet. We, actually, haven’t had any sight of it.”
“Oh?” Denethor raised his brows even higher. “That is strange indeed. Then how do you know it is a beast, and is harmful, and is aiding the Uruks? I have had no tidings of your men perishing or suffering any unusual wounds…”
Boromir nodded. “Indeed, no one has been hurt directly – so far, that is. For this… this thing surely is capable of doing any sorts of mischief, should it wish to. We know it walks among us, sneaking about all the time. It must be a spy of the Enemy, and because of it we have had to camp out in the woods and stay clear of Henneth Annûn, lest we betray its location… Although, like I said, we have not yet seen the beast,” he sighed and did his best not to shift nervously in his seat as he added the last bit. “And, in point of fact, we have not heard it make any distinct sound either, so only the Valar know what sort of creature it is.”
“Apparently, it is only they who know whether it actually exists,” Denethor observed drily.
“Oh, we have no doubt it is real,” Boromir said heatedly. But in reply to the Steward’s inquiring look he only frowned yet again and pursed his lips. “Things disappear from camp,” he added reluctantly in way of explanation.
Denethor put his goblet down with a thud. “Boromir, what is it with you today? Why do I have to extract the answers out of you word by word? What sort of things?”
Boromir shrugged. “Some gear: blankets, utensils, sometimes food, too. But not much – mostly it takes arrows.”
The Steward regarded his eldest for a long tense moment, then asked very quietly, “And where is it your men keep their arrows that this thing manages to get possession of them?”
“In the quivers, Father,” Boromir replied as quietly, although going noticeably crimson in the face. “It takes them right out of the quivers at night. And as I said, we have not managed as much as to get one proper look at it. It walks unseen among us, and there is naught we can do. We keep the grounds lit at night, there is a constant watch around the perimeter. All is clear, but come morning,” he sighed and spread his hands in defeat, “we discover a fresh loss. We have made ambushes, set traps, tried to espy it – nothing works.”
Denethor lifted his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I gather none of those stolen arrows have been shot back at you…?”
Boromir licked his lips and took a long deep breath.
“No…” he replied at last. “Not as of yet that is, like I said before. Mayhap it is not there to attack us in the first place, and it pockets our belongings with the sole aim of entertaining its wicked self. I truly do not know what to expect of it, but I would hardly be shocked if it turns out to be a specimen of some hideous new invention of the Enemy that he is testing out for future evil deeds. And the fact that we are so powerless to stop it renders us inexcusably vulnerable. It could cut the throats of half my men in their sleep if it so wished.”
Denethor inclined his head, then took up his wine again. “Yes, that notion is certainly quite unsettling.”
Boromir leant forth, putting his elbows on the table, and spoke passionately. “Father, I am fully aware our case comes in a farcical package, but this is serious! There are no tracks, no marks, nothing. A couple of times we have caught a glimpse of movement, but, given how strung-up everyone is, it could have been merely wind swaying the branches. I do have a surmise, though, that it climbs trees, like a cat would – or else it must have wings. How else would it get past our guard? It is utterly uncanny, and it creeps the men out. Besides, we cannot even be certain that there is only one of it.”
Still the captain refused to meet his brother’s gaze, which he felt with such sharpness it made his skin tingle. He knew he would find reassurance and sympathy if he were to look – but he did not want sympathy, and he did not want pity. What he wanted was a solution.
“My humble opinion, Boromir,” the Steward began in the voice which he had once used for giving his children lectures on how a proper lord should behave himself, “is that what you are dealing with is naught but a thief. A skillful and cunning thief, but no more. Were this indeed some unprecedented progeny of the darkness, it would have given you far more trouble than it has. Much as the Enemy has unfailing confidence in his supremacy, even he would not be wasting such a widely applicable weapon on merely taunting my men by stealing a dart or two from them while they snore away. Don’t you reckon?”
Boromir pursed his lips and straightened up in his chair. “Who am I to argue with you, Father? My only concern is what to do about this matter, and if you would advise –”
“In that case, you need worry no longer. Faramir here were to leave for a placement in the White Mountains later this afternoon, but –”
“Father!” Boromir cried out in shock. “Later this afternoon?! But I was not scheduled to return to the City for the next week! If it were not for these unforeseen circumstances bringing me back today, we would have not even met before his departure…! We have not seen each other for nearly ten years, certainly we deserve –”
“Ah, I see you’ve been counting,” Denethor replied in an exceptionally amiable manner. “Well, duty calls, my son: first things first. We have little time for lush family reunions. Now, if you would kindly let me continue, I was saying I had initially appointed your brother to partake in a mission up in the Mountains, where we have been enjoying some uninvited visits from what seems to be a pair of voracious disgruntled trolls. However, seeing you indeed are back earlier than expected, I would change the arrangement around. You, Boromir, may go and deal with this issue up in Ered Nimrais, for certainly it would benefit from the involvement of an accomplished captain as yourself. And for the meantime, Faramir here shall go serve in your stead and attend to this bother concerning your thief.” At this the Steward turned to his younger son. “You should get to preparing for your departure, you leave first thing on the morrow. You may have my leave.”
“Yes, Father,” Faramir bowed his dark head, and got up at once.
“But –!” Boromir nearly jumped up in his outrage.
Denethor stayed the man with his eyes, and Boromir, fuming, settled back in his seat. But Faramir had stopped in his tracks, and was looking at his brother questioningly, and his gaze enheartened the former Captain of Ithilien.
“But Father,” the man ventured again, “with all due respect to your wisdom, it is too dangerous for him! He does not know the landscape, for starters. This whole situation is such a mess, even we cannot manage, and –” he trailed off, seeing Faramir wince at his last words, and also perceived the men at his side – the men who were now under his brother’s command – grow stiff with tension. “Oh, I… I am sorry, I did not mean it to come out this way. I am sure our grandfather and uncle had done a fine job training you all these years, it is merely I –”
“I understand your concern, brother,” Faramir replied softly, and there was kind sadness in his eyes as he spoke. “I may not have been to real battle yet, but I assure you, I shall do all in my power to prove worthy of the responsibility bestowed upon me, and live to deserve the trust our Father put in my abilities.”
“‘Tis not a matter of trust, Faramir, and I trow you know it well,” Denethor remarked coolly, but as he spoke his eyes were on his other son. “I would ask you to forgive me, but even the most loving father cannot keep his child out of harm’s way forever, for some things a young man must learn he can only learn through first-hand experience,” the Steward paused, narrowing his eyes. “Someday you might understand.” Another pause. “Now, as I said, you may go.”
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