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Naval Training (NC-17) Print

Written by Nerey Camille

18 October 2013 | 8901 words | Work in Progress

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“I don’t think that was a very good idea, my friend,” said Éomer ruefully, as soon as Nargorn was out of earshot.

“Nonsense. Who’s ever heard of a man being whipped for making a mistake?” Faramir’s voice was throbbing with indignation. “You cannot let this happen, Éomer. It’s unfair.”

“We both know it is. So what? He can do as he pleases. I won’t be whipped thirty or forty or fifty times just for the right of saying out loud that I don’t agree.”

“If we do not stop him, it will get worse and worse. Today it’s twenty strokes. Tomorrow he might give you a hundred and kill you.”

“He won’t dare,” said Éomer, but Faramir saw him pale. “I am nephew to the King of Rohan.”

Faramir tried a different approach.

“Even if he doesn’t, you’ll be so miserable you are likely to hang yourself. You know it is difficult enough as it is.”

“And what are you going to do about it? Ask him nicely to leave me alone? We cannot overrule him.”

“There is one who can. I’m going to speak to the captain.”

If a boatswain had a king’s authority over his men, a ship’s captain in Gondor’s navy was considered to be like the Valar themselves. “The master after Manwë”, he was often called. Éomer did not like at all the idea of Faramir disturbing such a fearsome creature, and was more than half convinced that all that would come out of it was a dozen more strokes on his back and as many on Faramir’s. But his friend had a point: he had seen murder in Nargorn’s eyes that morning, and if the boatswain made it any worse for him he just didn’t think he would be able to face it. At least the captain had no reason to hate him. And if he decided that Éomer didn’t belong in the Gilgondor… well, better to be expelled and sent back to Rohan as a hopeless sailor than as a coward or a weakling.

Faramir lost no time. Éomer’s flogging would take place at noon, as all public punishments did, and the sun was already high. Captain Aerandir was in his cabin, and listened patiently enough to the young man’s explanation of what had happened.

“And when I told him it was undeserved, he said Éomer would receive another ten strokes for trying to influence me into pampering him!”

The captain looked hard at Faramir.

“Why have you come here?”

“To ask you to reverse this judgement.”

“That is hardly an answer. I haven’t asked you what you came here for, but why.”

Faramir hesitated.

“Because I think it is not fair.”

The captain’s eyes bore into his.

“And because he is my friend.”

“Indeed. Do you mean to say that if all this had happened to another of your fellow crew members, you would not have come to me?”

Faramir didn’t miss the reproach behind the captain’s words. Nor could he deny its justice.

“Perhaps not, my lord,” he agreed, red with embarrassment.

“You are an honest lad, that much cannot be doubted,” said the captain thoughtfully. “Nonetheless, I will not quash Nargorn’s punishment. Do not look at me like that. You think I’m being unreasonable, don’t you? Say it.”

Faramir looked at his hands.

“I do not understand, sir,” he said hesitantly. “Éomer is terrified of the boatswain. He was also afraid of facing his first storm. Instead of overseeing the manoeuver, as he usually does, he was ordered to do a job he’s not familiar with. No one could be expected to react correctly to a gust without previous experience. He was given a task beyond his abilities, and he failed. How can it be fair for him to be punished so harshly for failing? And what purpose can it serve?”

He had a hard time keeping the accusation out of his voice. It was Nargorn’s fault that the sail was torn, his fault that Boron had been injured. He had put the ship at risk for an opportunity to vent his own feelings. That thought angered Faramir more than the notion of Éomer being flogged. And if the captain sided with Nargorn – well, he was responsible for his faults as well.

Captain Aerandir seemed to guess most of what was passing through Faramir’s mind.

“You are a fool. But you are young, so you still have a chance to learn. Here’s a lesson. What do you think would happen if I lifted the punishment and declared Nargorn to be in the wrong?”

“Every time someone disagreed with Nargorn, they would come to you,” said Faramir, with a sinking feeling.

“Precisely. You are complaining that your friend has been subjected to an unfair punishment. Tell me, is it fair when an arrow kills you instead of the man next to you?”

“No, sir.”

“Is it fair that Boron was struck down today?”

“No, sir.”

“But he’s not complaining. Nor will he. Do you know why, Faramir son of Denethor?”

“No, sir.”

“Because there is something more important than justice in the matter, and that is unity. A ship, and especially a warship, is so vulnerable, Faramir. It is a feeble contraption of wood and fabric set against the sea, the storms of the sky and the fire of our enemies. The only way to live through is to stand united. Each of us has faults, as we know: that doesn’t affect unity. We are not here to like each other. And while we are at it, I never want to hear you say again that you do something because he’s your friend. And I am not telling you to lie. They are all your shipmates, and that takes precedence over personal feelings.”

“I understand, sir…”


“But then why treat Éomer in such a way?” Faramir plunged ahead, ignoring his growing feeling that he was tempting his luck way too much. “If we are supposed to support each other, why not try and make his training easier?”

The captain looked at him as if he was mad, and Faramir realized what he had just said.

“I apologize, sir. I suppose no good training can be easy.”

The captain looked at him for a long time in silence.

“That’s right,” he said at length. “The boy has no idea what he is in for, and he’d better stop complaining now. Nargorn is teaching him a lesson. If he can’t learn it, he’s as good as dead. He ought to wear his scars with pride. Perhaps I wouldn’t do it the same way… but the lesson needs to be learned. Now, out.”

Their first skirmish came sooner than they had expected. One night, as the Gilgondor patrolled the Anduin river, news reached her that something nasty was preparing nearby.

It was Faramir who first saw the signals. He was standing watch on the deck in the small hours of the night, when a glimmer on the eastern shore caught his attention. He moved over to the starboard bow to look at it more closely and soon recognized that these were signals made with a lamp that someone was hiding and unveiling at irregular, but precise intervals. He quickly went for the book where all the code signals for the year were listed, found the pages for that particular week and looked up the translation into words of the flashes that were being sent at him. They said “Danger. Messenger. Request permission to come on board. Urgent. Rangers.” The last word indicated which unit was issuing the communication. Faramir lighted the signal lamp, gave the acknowledgement signal and then went in search of his superior. Captain Aerandir had been sleeping soundly, but was awake instantly when Faramir roused him.

“Send the rowboat to pick up the messenger,” he said, “and call Nargorn and Éomer. I’ll be on deck presently, as soon as I am dressed. Oh, and ask the cook to heat some wine, it’s a chilly night.”

This was one of these situations where an apparently simple order involved easily half an hour of hard work. Faramir rushed to the deck. The first thing was to hold the Gilgondor steady, so that the rowboat could be lowered into the Anduin and had time to go to the shore, pick up the messenger and come back. The message had said “Danger”: that meant the captain wouldn’t want to drop the anchor, in case they needed to move swiftly. It also meant they should avoid lights. In navigation, there were only the faintest lights on the deck, so that the watchmen wouldn’t be dazed and could pierce the darkness around the ship. Now, they needed to be more cautious than ever.

So, they had to manoeuvre in the dark and keep the ship in the same position for as long as possible, so that the boat could find her again without the guidance of the lights. Now, that was more easily said than done in the Anduin. At sea, one might just leave the sails slatting; here, the ship would have quickly drifted down the river if left to herself. The Gilgondor had been sailing up the Anduin; she ought to keep sailing at just the right speed to counterbalance the current, which was strong here. Faramir took his bearings on the shore, estimated the speed of the ship, the strength of the current, and ordered to ease up the sails in what he thought the appropriate proportion. He waited anxiously for a few moments, then, judging that the ship was stabilized in her position, he ordered to lower the boat and chose two seasoned sailors to row it to the shore.

The boat was halfway to the shore before Faramir remembered he had to signal its coming to the messenger waiting on land. It was always like this in the navy: hours and days of little, routine activity then a lot of things to think of at once. He turned quickly the pages of the book of signals and sent the series of flashes that meant “Boat coming for you.” A short ray of light indicated that his message had been seen. Then Faramir sighed with relief and thought he could now send someone to call his fellow officers and the cook. They would have plenty of time to prepare before the messenger arrived on board.

Meanwhile Aerandir had appeared on the deck. He approved of Faramir’s handling of the ship with a short nod (at which the young man felt distinctly more relaxed) and gave his instructions to the helm man:

“Keep her right here until the rowboat comes back. As soon as the messenger is on board, you will haul up the rowboat and resume our previous course up the river. Now come, Faramir.”

The two officers went down to the captain’s cabin, where they were soon joined by Nargorn, Éomer and the wine. A few minutes later, a sailor knocked on the captain’s door and introduced a tall man, dressed in browns and greens, armed with bow and sword, and wearing a hood and a mask he had just lowered to reveal his face.

Faramir had seen Rangers before, but it felt completely different and somehow much more real and warlike to see one here, aboard their ship. As for Éomer, he looked at the stranger with obvious excitement. But the man lost no time in making an impression he couldn’t care less about. Identifying Aerandir as the captain as he was the one sitting at the end of the table, he addressed him urgently.

“Captain Aerandir, sir? My name is Targon, Ranger of Ithilien. I have urgent news for you.”

“Be welcome, Targon. This is Nargorn, my boatswain, and these are Faramir son of the Lord Denethor and Éomer son of Éomund of Rohan, midshipmen. Now you must have travelled far, and it is hardly a warm night. So have a chair and a sip of hot wine first, man, and then you can tell us everything about it.”

The Ranger fell gratefully on a chair and drained a full goblet of spiced wine before resuming his tale.

“A few days ago we captured a Haradrim messenger bound for Mordor. Among the things we learned from him, there was an attack planned on the Gilgondor, so I was sent to you with the news.”

Aerandir leaned forward, his brow furrowing.

“What kind of attack?”

“They have set up a base on the river Poros, and are building several dozens of small boats to use as fire ships. They want to sink the Gilgondor. As she is the only military ship guarding the river, that would leave all the western shores unprotected from Pelargir to the mouths of the Anduin.”

Fire ships, as one might guess from their name, were boats set aflame and allowed to drift on the water in the middle of enemy ships. They were dreadful weapons. A ship that caught fire couldn’t fight any more: her crew would be too busy trying to extinguish the flames, and she stood more than a good chance to end up at the bottom of the ocean. Moreover the sparks from a burning ship were likely to set in flames any other units that came nearby. On the Anduin fire ships could be even more dangerous, for if sent both up and down the river they could easily trap a ship like the Gilgondor between two deadly barriers of fire. There was a moment of silence as the four officers thought of the anguishing prospect of their ship caught in a blazing inferno. Then Nargorn spoke.

“Why haven’t you destroyed the base? The Poros is the southern limit of your scouting territory. You surely have enough men.”

“We have the men,” agreed the Ranger. “But the base is on the southern shore. That is Haradrim territory. We are not at war with them. The base looks like a fishing village, not military at all. There are only these dozens of wooden boats and a few weapons, but the base is guarded by more than a hundred men, and if our source told us true, they are all fighters. We would need a large force of Rangers to attack them. They have watchmen, of course, and there are few trees on the lands north of the river. No large force can move there without being seen. There is no way we could carry out the mission unnoticed. If we destroyed the base, they would say we invaded their territory and we slaughtered defenceless fishermen for no reason. We cannot do it. Yet the base must be destroyed – it must.”

“A clever plot,” said Aerandir, thoughtfully. “Too clever for my taste. Why would they go to all this trouble to sink the Gilgondor? We are not attacking them, just keeping a watch on them. There must be something, something dreadful they are planning to do. And they need us out of the way.”

“That is what we thought, too. But we have no idea what it may be. If an invasion was preparing, we would have learned about it. No, it’s something far less obvious, something that needs secrecy. Something that even the messenger we captured did not know about.”

“Let us have a look at the Gondor map, Faramir.”

The young midshipman brought a great roll and spread it on the table. All of Gondor was there, drawn in delicate, brown strokes. Aerandir and the others leaned forward to study the line that marked the western shore of the Anduin, from Pelargir to the sea. There were some crops and a few small fishing villages, but nothing that seemed worth all this plotting to attack.

“Could it be Pelargir?” said Nargorn, unconvinced.

“Nonsense. Pelargir is well protected, and we are not often there. Even without us, they would have a hard job attacking it from the river, and it could not pass unnoticed. Neither could a deep incursion into the land. Even if they managed to do some harm, they would be defeated eventually and then all chance of surprising us would be gone.”

“So it’s on the coast. And yet, there is nothing here but fishing villages. Do they wish to deprive us of fish?” Nargorn’s face, that had been sneering as he said these words, turned suddenly white. “Of course. Of course… How clever. Nindamos.”

He pointed to a small name on the chart, right on the river front, facing the mouth of the Poros. Aerandir looked at Nargorn in puzzlement then paled, too.

“Ropes.” He turned to the two young midshipmen and the Ranger. “The village of Nindamos makes the best ropes in Gondor, from a plant that grows near the shores of that part of the Anduin. They make all the rope for our fleet, both military and merchant. The Haradrim must have found that out. If they sent a small group of men and burned the village at night, no one could prove that the fire wasn’t spontaneous. We couldn’t possibly retaliate, and yet, the damage would be enormous. The rope-makers would be killed and their craft lost for ever, the fields where the plant grows would be burnt down to ash. The rope production would be halted for months, and it would be years before it attained again the same level of quality and quantity. And who knows what havoc they could wreak in between, while our fleet was weakened and unable to react?”

“Such a small thing, and it would endanger all our military situation,” agreed the Ranger. “Even us, now you say it, use rope from Nindamos for our bows. You must be right. That is their objective.”

“And of course they need us out of the way. They could never cross the river unseen, that’s what we are here for. One boat caught would be enough to tell us the truth. They cannot risk it. They didn’t even tell the messenger you captured about their plans, for fear he would be taken; that shows how desperate they are for secrecy. But those crossing the river would know. We and Gondor owe you a great debt, Targon.”

“Better save your thanks, captain. We haven’t destroyed the base yet.”

“Well, we have thirty men on this ship, and you tell us the base has a hundred fighters. It certainly looks like it is going to be an interesting mission. Do you have any idea when they plan to attack?”

“The prisoner could tell us nothing on that point. But I have reconnoitred the base before I came here, and there are already enough boats to burn an entire fleet of warships. They must know they have to succeed the first time.”

“Then we can’t afford to lose more time. We can be at the mouth of the Poros tomorrow. How far up the river is the base?”

“Only a few miles,” and the Ranger pointed to the location with his finger.

“Excellent. Then, men, this is what we will do…”

It was one of those times when Faramir thought he understood why Aerandir was a famous captain, and felt privileged to be one of his officers. The courteous host had gone without a trace, leaving place to the man of action. As Aerandir spoke in a low, enthusiastic voice, no one seemed to mind the fact that it would be difficult to attack a hundred fighters in their own lair with thirty men more used to fight on water than on land – or to enter unknown territory with any chance of secrecy. The base had to be destroyed immediately, and, as the captain was fond of saying, “Intelligence must beat the odds.” In spite of the dreadful odds and the high stakes on this mission, or perhaps because of them, the plans were soon laid out.

The Gilgondor sailed up the river the whole following day, brazenly crossing before the mouth of the Poros as if it had nothing to do with her, and then sailing further up. The whole day was spent in preparations for the attack, and a good deal of it was devoted to fighting practice and arms care. Nargorn was an excellent swordsman, and as such he was in charge of the instruction on the Gilgondor. As was his wont, he was particularly hard on Éomer, but the young boy didn’t mind it this time: he was allowed to retaliate, and fighting was an area in which he could hold his own well. He was strong and muscular for his age, valiant beyond reason and energetic; and he was skilled with weapons. His swordplay was highly effective, if not very elaborate: after sword-dancing with Éomer for about twenty minutes, Nargorn had only managed to touch the youth three times, in nonvital points, and he was panting. Then he was a fraction of a second too slow in the parry, and Éomer’s sword landed painfully on his left shoulder, where it would have cut him in two had Éomer not turned the blade so that only the flat would touch the leather protection worn by his opponent. After that, Nargorn called an end to the training and dismissed Éomer without comment. The lad was exulting.

“Did you see it, Faramir?” he whispered the moment the boatswain was out of sight. “I beat him, and he didn’t even make one of his boorish remarks!”

“So I saw,” said Faramir, smiling. “He obviously could find nothing to blame you for. Come, let us go down and prepare for the expedition!”

Sunset was at hand. The Gilgondor was still sailing slowly up the river, while her crew had a quick supper in prevision of the long night ahead. When Faramir and Éomer came back on deck, having checked on everything they were to take care of, the first stars were appearing above them. The captain gave the order to tack. The ship turned her bow towards the mouth of the Anduin and, cloaked in the gathering darkness, started sailing down the river. Éomer, who was not on watch, knew that he had better use the time to rest, but he knew equally well that he would be unable to sleep. Although he had seen some small skirmishes in Rohan, this was the first one the two young midshipmen would share together, and the prospect excited and scared him at the same time. So he stayed with Faramir, watching the black water slowly flowing past the sides of the ship, with barely a sound.

One hour later they reached the mouth of the Poros and anchored. Faramir and Éomer had made ready the two auxiliary boats: the launch and the rowboat. They now lowered them into the water and the whole crew of the Gilgondor, except for the healer, the cook, and two men left to stand guard over the ship, took place in the boats with their weapons. The operation was executed noiselessly and quickly despite the absolute dark. The rowboat separated from the ship and made for the southern bank, where Targon went ashore in order to scout the area ahead of them. Then Nargorn took the helm of the launch, and Aerandir that of the rowboat. Slowly and silently, the two tenders started to advance up the river Poros.

Faramir and Éomer were not together: aboard the Gilgondor, they shared watches with Aerandir and Nargorn respectively, but right now their usual places had been reversed. Faramir was in the launch with Nargorn, prepared to take command of it if his superior fell, while the smaller rowboat had been entrusted to Éomer. Faramir suspected that this mission was too important and full of risks to allow the well-known dislike between Nargorn and Éomer to jeopardize it; at any rate, he had always got along well with the boatswain, and Éomer was very happy to be with the captain for a change.

So up the river they went, their senses sharpened by fear and anticipation. Every once in a while, a bird cry on their right would indicate that Targon was still ahead and had caught no sign of danger. After two hours, finally came a different cry: it told them that they were drawing near.

The two boats rowed closer to the bank and finally stopped, hidden by a small thicket of trees. The men stepped out. Here came the part that Faramir and especially Éomer most disliked. They were to remain in the boats, ready to take down the river whatever men would survive the expedition. Faramir didn’t enjoy fighting, but he loathed being kept behind without news of the mission, wondering and worrying himself sick. As for Éomer, he was positively outraged. But captain Aerandir had left them no choice.

“All good leaders must learn to stay behind,” he had said. “This mission is very dangerous. You are less experienced than the rest of the crew and coming with us would put you at a dreadful risk without serving any purpose.”

“We are hardly prepared to handle the ship on our own,” said Faramir. “If the mission is so dangerous, doubtlessly you, sir, should remain aboard the Gilgondor in the interest of all?”

If it had been any one else questioning the captain’s decisions, Aerandir would have put him sharply in his place. But Faramir had a way of remaining respectful even when asking awkward questions, that made it difficult for anyone to consider his remarks as out of place. Aerandir fixed his grey gaze on the young man, but his tone wasn’t harsh.

“As you know full well, Lord Faramir, leaders are needed for this mission. Your life and that of the Lord Éomer are more valuable than this whole ship and her crew, including myself, therefore I shall not expose them any more than necessary. Do not worry, there will be plenty of risk already in the journey up the Poros. As for your other remark, let us hope that enough men return for you to man the ship, for otherwise the matter of who sails it will be of no importance. But I reckon, Faramir, that you both are far better prepared to handle the Gilgondor and far less prepared to handle this mission than you think you are.”

It was the first time ever that Faramir and Éomer’s rank had been taken into account on board the Gilgondor. But that the captain should think so highly of their nautical preparation left the two young men momentarily stunned into silence. Therefore here they were now, waiting in the night, while twenty-four sailors and two naval officers, led by one Ranger, attempted to attack and destroy a base manned by more than a hundred fighters.

Faramir would never forget that night, nor would Éomer. The two young men spoke little, straining their ears for any sound of a fight. Finally, a few cries and the clang of swords reached them faintly. Then there was an awful silence, and they knew not if their side had conquered or succumbed. Anxiously, they waited for survivors, ready to bolt if the enemy came instead. It must have been a few minutes, but it felt like centuries, when they saw a reddish light in the distance. It became larger and brighter, until they could see the flames licking the skies and the smoke clouding the stars, and they could breathe the smell of ash and of burnt wood. They jumped ashore and embraced each other, in silent exultation. Such a great fire could only mean one thing: the enemy base was being destroyed.

It all happened very quickly then. All of a sudden, a man came out of the trees and plunged forward, a stained blade in his hand. Faramir saw him and his heart skipped a beat, as he realized that neither he nor Éomer had their blades in hand. He would not even have time to utter a cry before the stranger drove his sword into Éomer, who was standing with his back to him. All these thoughts came into his mind in the tenth of a second. He tried to move away from Éomer and reach for his sword, but he tripped and fell. As in slow motion, he saw the man close in on Éomer from behind.

The young Rohir turned and his fist hit his attacker square in the face. With his other hand he seized the sword the Haradrim was grasping and drove it through his chest. The man died before Faramir reached the ground and before Éomer had consciously realized that they were being attacked. The two young men looked at each other aghast.

“You were incredible,” said Faramir, still not believing his eyes. “How in Númenor did you do it?”

“I have no idea,” said Éomer, who was shaking now. “It was all instinct. I believe I heard a sound behind me, and I certainly felt you going rigid, and I knew something was amiss. And somehow I just knew where he was and in what direction he was moving…”

“Good Valar… it’s a good thing he didn’t have a bow. Better search the thicket, what do you think? There may be others.”

But no arrow was directed at them, nor could they find any evidence that more attackers were lurking nearby. And a little while later, there came back the men of the Gilgondor, with Aerandir and Nargorn at their head. Targon came behind with the rear guard. There had been no losses, but several men were wounded. The captain’s face became grave when he was told of the escaped fighter.

“So, in the end it did seem that keeping watch over the tenders was as dangerous a job as you could both have hoped for. It is lucky that young Éomer has good reflexes. Let this be a reminder to you that relaxing your watchfulness, even for a second, can have fatal consequences. Indeed, I thought that none of them could have slipped off.”

“What happened?” asked Faramir, unable to contain himself.

“We won,” answered Aerandir simply. “We managed to silence all the watchers and take them by surprise. We had slain more than half of them before the others woke up; they were half asleep and unarmed for the most part. Some of them managed to stand together and resisted fiercely –hence the few wounded–, but they were too few for us by then. We made sure, or we thought we did, that everyone was dead before setting fire to the whole base. Thus the evidence of a fight is removed, and what they intended to do in Nindamos is precisely what has befallen them. I do hope not one of them has escaped alive to bear the tale.”

“If young Éomer had thought of capturing this man, instead of killing him, we might have been able to interrogate him and ascertain how he eluded us and if there were others who also did,” put in Nargorn. “But of course, he didn’t have time to think.”

“Well, well, we can’t expect everything to be perfect in any attack, and this one has gone more than well,” said the captain. “Let us go back to the Gilgondor.”

It was difficult to accommodate the wounded men in the overcrowded boats, but the current helped them down the Poros and they soon were aboard the ship. There Faramir and Éomer were ordered to help the healer, not because he needed it, but because they were expected to acquire the stomach to look on wounded men and the skill to treat them if there was no healer at hand. It was the first opportunity they had to look on real war wounds on the Gilgondor. None of the men was in danger of dying, but some injuries were ugly to behold. They had to sow skin, put bones back into place and extract alien objects from some wounds. When such a delicate operation was performed, the man upon whom it was carried would try to contain himself and not yell in pain before his young officers, perhaps out of pride, perhaps out of regard for their feelings. But more often than not, a cry would escape his lips, in spite of all his efforts. Éomer, though it was obvious he didn’t find the work an enjoyable one, bore it well; his hand was steady and he found the strength to smile at the sailors and jest with them about their wounds and his terrible healing skills. A grimace passed over his face whenever a particularly unpleasant sight or a very shrill cry offended his senses, and that was all.

But Faramir hated it. The smell, the sight of blood, the cries of the men made him sick, and the ideas of death and mutilation scared him. He found the jesting especially revolting, even if he understood the need for reassurance that underlay it: he was a man of serious disposition, inclined to take grave matters seriously. The gruesome mess that was the infirmary after a fight provoked nothing in him but anguish, pity and disgust. He found himself thinking that wars never ought to be. And it took all his willpower to conceal the nausea, to keep his voice and hand steady and perform his work in a calm, reassuring manner.

The reactions of his two young charges had not escaped Findegil, the healer. He examined all the bandages they had made and nodded in approval.

“You have done good work, both of you. I am glad to see that you take your healing duties seriously. The ability to tend to your wounded can make the difference between victory and defeat sometimes, you know. Very good. Éomer, you may go. Faramir, since you are on watch… do you have anything to do on deck right now? No? In that case, would you mind giving me some further assistance? The cupboards need tidying. We will soon go to Pelargir, I want to ascertain which supplies need to be replenished.”

There was nothing else Faramir had to do, and he liked working with the healer. Findegil was a kind, quiet sort of man, with a character much like Faramir’s. Checking the contents of pots and bags and relabelling those that needed it was easy work, and very relaxing after the excitement of the night.

“So, how are you getting on with young Éomer? You look much happier since he arrived on board.”

“Oh, yes,” said Faramir eagerly, before realizing that this might sound a bit ungrateful. “Sorry, sir, I do not mean to say that I was miserable before he arrived. It is a great honour to be in the navy, only…”

“Faramir,” interrupted Findegil kindly, “I am not the captain. As long as we are alone, there’s no need for you to be careful with what you say or how you say it. You were about to say that much as you didn’t feel miserable without a friend of your own age and station, it is great to have found one. Weren’t you?”

“Well, yes. And Éomer is such a great friend. He is so spirited and gay! Brave and fierce as a wild horse… he just laughs at danger. He’s strong, loyal, a natural leader…”

“You certainly have a very high opinion of him,” laughed Findegil.

“I do.” Faramir’s answer was resolute. Findegil looked at him and saw that the young man’s face had, for some reason, become grave. He wondered how to approach the matter he wanted to discuss with him.

“I am sure he deserves your praise, Faramir,” he said quietly. “He looks a decent kind of chap to me. Tell me, how is he getting along with the training? I hear he’s hard-working, although clumsy.”

Once again, Faramir wondered whether to speak frankly and was convinced to do so by the kindness in the healer’s grey eyes.

“He is not happy, sir. He is finding it difficult to adapt to life on a ship, and…”


“I don’t know why, but Nargorn keeps being very hard with him. If I didn’t know him for a just man, I would say he had some strong reason to dislike Éomer. I would believe that… he was making his life difficult on purpose.”

He was half expecting a reproof, but Findegil let pass the barely veiled accusation without comment.

“You mean that young Éomer is unhappy because of Nargorn?”

“Well, you know it’s not easy to be happy on a ship when your officer isn’t happy with you.”

“That is so,” said Findegil, thoughtfully. And he said no more, but his eyes glittered. Faramir sensed he was holding something.

“Sir, is there something you know about this that you haven’t told me?” he whispered urgently.

Findegil gave him a long, steady gaze.

“Do you know how Nargorn came to be in the navy?” he asked eventually.

“No, sir,” said Faramir, noticing for the first time that it was passing strange that someone who wasn’t a nobleman would rise to an officer position.

“Well, it is not for me to tell you his story. But I can tell you a story. There was a man who grew up in a farm. He loved a girl nearby and hoped to marry her, for her father had agreed and she was not averse to him. But then one day, an embassy came from Rohan to Gondor, and they stopped at the village; for this village was not far from the border. They were all tall men on beautiful horses, proud and golden-haired. The maiden looked at them wide-eyed, and her eyes met those of one of the first men after the leader. She offered him water, and he drank, and their eyes never left each other. The man of our story could see in that single moment that he had lost her. And so it was: the embassy went on to Minas Tirith, but came back a few days later, and when it did the maiden ran away with the rider. The father, impressed by his noble bearing, had given his consent and went with them. Their land went to our man’s family and they became much wealthier, but nothing could console the rejected suitor. There was nothing for him on land any more and he would not hear of grass, or horses. He enlisted to serve in the only place he felt sure he would never meet a Rohir again: on a ship of Gondor’s navy. He served faithfully, and his zeal and courage made him rise quickly above his origins. Now don’t go repeating that story, young man. A man’s history is his own.”

Faramir stood open-mouthed. So Nargorn had lost his beloved to a man who was Rohir, handsome and of noble birth. How could he not hate Éomer?

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About the Author

Nerey Camille

Welcome everybody!

Two things. First, all I have published here is at your disposal to enjoy, share, copy or modify freely. Just make sure to state where you took it from, and let me know you’re using it, because I’ll be thrilled to learn my work was worth your attention. Should you ever want to use it commercially or in some way not stated here, you’ll need specific permission.

And secondly, I do not write solely about Faramir, so if you’d like to see something else you’re welcome to visit my blog. There you’ll find some short stories, poems and quite a few more things, some of them in English, some in French or Spanish.

I hope you enjoy yourself reading and, as always, comments are very much appreciated.