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Borne Upon a Dark Wind (NC-17) Print

Written by Ithiliana

18 December 2005 | 25334 words | Work in Progress

TITLE: Borne Upon a Dark Wind
BY: Ithiliana
RATING: Adult
WARNINGS: AU, Dark elements, Rape.
PAIRINGS: Faramir/Aragorn, Faramir/Rhisiart (OMC)
FEEDBACK: Always Appreciated! Some explanation of what that means to me is here if you wish to see it
DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to the Tolkien estate. This AU is written for love not money and has no intention of infringing upon copyright.
AN: The history of Númenor as well as Gondor shows that no race is immune to the lure of evil. In The Return of the King, we are told that the Mouth of Sauron was said to be “of the race of those that are named the Black Númenoreans; for they established their dwellings in Middle-earth during the years of Sauron’s domination, and they worshipped him, being enamoured of evil knowledge.” This fic’s AU premise is that during their long exile, Aragorn’s line and many of the Dúnedain joined the Black Númenoreans in worship of Sauron. The date is 3008. Faramir, 25, has been newly appointed Captain in Ithilien.


Borne Upon a Dark Wind

The small plant was nearly perfect. A straight stem branched into three green leaves veined with silver. The leaves, shaped like arrowheads, cradled a single white bloom. Growing in the shade of the large tree, the plant was still wet with dew.

The morning had been misty as was often the case in Ithilien during Víressë. Warm moist winds from the South would meet the cooler airs from the mountains to make mist-shrouded mornings clearing to glorious afternoons.

This white bloom was stained with red.

“Come on.”

Faramir gasped then clenched his teeth as Rhisiart pulled him to his feet, the pain of the movement cutting through him.

Rhisiart shrugged under Faramir’s arm, gripping his wrist, then sliding an arm around Faramir’s waist to half carry him.

The ambush had come without warning, perfectly planned, the whisper of sound heard just before the arrows hit. Half his men had fallen in the first moments.

The image of the arrow in Anborn’s throat burned in Faramir’s mind. Long and fletched with grey feathers, it was no Orc arrow.

Branches whipped across Faramir’s face. He bent his head, forced his legs to move. The cut on his thigh had been hastily bound. Shallow but bloody, it hampered his movement as they half ran, half slid down the steep slope, taking cover in a dense thicket.

His foot catching on an exposed root, Faramir fell, heavily, pulling his companion down.

The leaves and earth beneath him were damp, moisture soaking through the heavy leggings, the smell of decay and rot catching in the back of his throat. Head spinning, Faramir convulsed, vomited, half-choking.

After the spasms stopped, he wiped his mouth, opening his eyes to see Rhisiart kneeling beside him.

“Leave me.”

“Don’t be a fool.” Rhisiart pushed dark gold hair back, scanning their back trail.

“You sent the others on. You should go too.”

Shaking his head, Rhisiart offered Faramir a water-bottle. He took a scant mouthful to rinse his mouth, spat and drank.

Rhisiart had led a small group of men out of the fight, pulling Faramir along, half stunned from a blow to the head. As soon as they’d won free, he’d told the others to split up, going as many ways as possible, all to try to get the news of this new force back to Minas Tirith — some going toward Cair Andros, others Osgiliath, by hidden ways. He had stayed with Faramir despite his protests.

“You’re the Steward’s son.”

Faramir nearly said that meant nothing in the face of his failure but managed to bite back the words in time. He did not know Rhisiart well, having met him only when taking command in Ithilien last autumn.

The man was older than most of the Rangers but his skills and strength had made him stand out nearly as much as his light hair and green eyes. He talked little, even when they were safe in the cave or another of Gondor’s secret camps, spending the time betweeen daymeal and sleep sitting quietly, working at small tasks.

Rhisiart looked down at him, frowning. Faramir tried to rise, despite the dizziness.

“No, stay down a moment.” Rhisiart laid a hand on Faramir’s shoulder, drew a long-bladed knife. “Let’s get rid of that.”

“What?”

Tapping the White Tree blazoned on Faramir’s jerkin, Rhisiart said, “This. And anything else that shows your rank.”

Faramir managed to sit. Rhisiart slit the jerkin’s laces and pulled it off, shoving it under a low-growing juniper. Faramir felt chilled, his shirt and tunic damp with sweat, the cold ground hard under him. He ignored it.

“Anything else?”

“Nothing. I lost my sword,” Faramir said. His clothing was no finer than the others wore, his only other mark of rank the jerkin which Boromir had given him last year.

Nodding, Rhisiart sheathed his knife “Let’s go.”

“Where?”

Faramir held out his arm and managed to stand with Rhisiart’s help but was glad for his support as they began to move. And for his warmth.

“Henneth Annûn.”


As the sun was westering, they came to a small river. They had traveled slowly and by no straight way. Faramir was numb. He kept his eyes on the stony path, not daring to look up and to the west where he knew Anduin lay and, beyond the River, his father’s city.

Slowly, they made their way up the gorge.

When the green-cloaked figures appeared in front of them, Faramir took them for his own sentries and smiled a greeting, unprepared for the glint of weapons and the sudden violence.

With a choked curse, Rhisiart pushed Faramir behind him. Stumbling, Faramir felt himself falling, light-headed, into blackness.


Blinking, Faramir strained to see. He was lying on his back. Fumbling around in the dark, he realized a blanket covered him. He was not bound. When he tried to sit, the pain in his head froze him, groaning.

“Faramir?”

Lying as still as he could, Faramir waited for the pain to subside. Finally, he could speak. “Yes. Where are we?”

“Where we were going. Henneth Annûn. I’m tied. We’re in one of the back storage caves.”

Shock drowning memory of pain, Faramir managed to sit, panting. The secret of the Window on the West had been held for generations by the Rangers. No enemy could know its location. They had been betrayed.

“Did they follow us?”

“No. They had time to take the caves, kill our men, and start making their daymeal before we walked right into their arms.” Rhisiart’s voice was level, but Faramir heard the anger.

Swallowing the bitter fluid that rose in his throat when he moved, Faramir began to crawl in the direction of Rhisiart’s voice. They wouldn’t be in one of the caves that held weapons which meant it had to be one of the smaller ones, and soon his reaching hand brushed against cloth. He extended a hand, trying to orient himself by feel.

“Lower down, to your left,” Rhisiart sounded amused. “My knees and ankles are tied. And wrists.”

Flushing, Faramir moved left, feeling heavy cloth then the harsh strands of rope, tightly knotted. He had barely found the first knot when he heard the scrape of wood over stone.

Two men entered, bearing weapons and torches which they set in holders

Faramir squinted in the light, anger rising when he saw they were wearing the greens and browns of the Ithilien company. He did not recognize them, or the third man who followed them. He held no torch, and his sword was sheathed. Tall and dark haired, he wore dark leathers and cloth. Blue eyes and the green gem on a large silver ring he wore were the only touches of colour.

He did not speak, crossing to haul Faramir to his feet, using one hand as if he was a child.

Pulling away, Faramir felt the chill stone at his back, was trapped when the man stepped in front of him, still gripping his arm.

Half a head taller than any other in the room, broad-shouldered, the stranger’s physical authority could be felt. Reminded of his father, Faramir straightened, standing straight, ignoring his wounds, pushing aside the teasing sense of familiarity. He was not a child. There was no true resemblance.

“What is your name?” The man’s voice was low but clear, bore no trace of outlander speech.

“Bergond.”

One of the other men snorted.

Moving closer, until their bodies nearly touched, the man smiled, tilted his head slightly. “You are lying, Faramir, son of Denethor. My kinsman has been in your City. He knows your face. Had he not been here, you would be dead.”

“Who are you?” Faramir braced himself against the stone wall, welcoming the cold that seeped through his clothing. The man was so close to him that Faramir could feel warm breath on his face, smell leather and smoke over the salt of sweat. He tried to pull away, gasped in pain as the grip around his upper arm tightened.

“You can still die, if you’re no use to us.”

“How did you learn of this place?”

Faramir was surprised to see the sudden smile, almost a wide grin, that lightened the man’s expression.

“I once served Gondor.”

The grip on Faramir’s arm loosened. Perhaps this was his chance. “And now? Whom do you serve?”

“Lord Sauron.”

Throwing his free arm around the man, Faramir half fell, half flung himself forward. The fall was jarring, their combined weight coming full on Faramir’s arm a moment before the hard body under him twisted, trying to roll, but Faramir’s other arm was free. Amidst shouting that echoed in the cave, Faramir ignored the blows to wrap one hand around his enemy’s throat. He felt the pulse of blood against his skin, heard the harsh breathing falter, tried to pull his other hand free but hard hands gripped him, pulled him away.

He fought knowing he had no real chance, but they easily forced him to his knees.

Rolling easily to his feet, rubbing his throat, the third man stood over Faramir. “What will your father will give for your safe return?”

Faramir stared at the high leather boots, worn but well-cared for, and refused to answer.

A hand gripped his chin, hard, forcing his face up. He stared into the blue eyes, shook his head.

“Bring him. Kill the other.”

The man turned away, releasing Faramir. One of the men behind him also moved.

“No!”

Looking back, the man gestured, a wave of his hand.

Straining, Faramir tried to see Rhisiart. Because of the flickering torches, shadows and the bodies of the men standing around him, he could see little.

“Will you answer my question then?”

“I do not know what my father would do,” Faramir said. “I do not think the Steward will give anything to Gondor’s enemy.”

“Not even to buy your life?”

Faramir shrugged. “Men die in war. And he has another son.”

Silence, save for the drip of water. Faramir waited, feeling the beating of his heart in his throat, conscious of every breath he took. Even the pain in his head and thigh reminded him he lived. For now.

Shaking his head, the man turned back. “Stand,” he said.

Awkward, scrambling, Faramir shifted his weight, managed to stand, hampered by the man behind him who would not release his shoulders.

“You are too eager to die, Captain.” As the man in front of him spoke, he placed a hand at the base of Faramir’s neck.

Faramir breathed shallowly, feeling no pressure yet from the warm hand but aware of the threat.

“You asked. I answered. I will not be of any use to you.” He felt the grip on his throat tighten, leaned forward.

“You haven’t asked if I would be.”

Rhisiart’s voice cut through the silence, jolting both Faramir and his enemy.

Releasing Faramir, the man spoke without turning away.

“Would you?”

“I might be.”

“How?”

“What do you need?”

Faramir concentrated on breathing steadily, aware of being watched. He was sure Rhisiart was lying.

“Bind his hands,” the man ordered. “And bring them both out.” He turned and left, moving swiftly and silently.

Faramir stood as his hands were tied behind his back. He was turned, then shoved forward, toward the open door. He could finally see Rhisiart, sitting against the wall, as the other man knelt, cutting the ropes from his legs.

Walking through the door, Faramir turned toward the main cave without being prompted. The narrow passage was short. When they came through the narrow door into the main chamber, he stopped, fighting the feeling that he was lost in a bad dream. All seemed as it had this morning, early, before they had left to investigate reports of Southrons marching to Mordor. Torches flickered on the walls, and green clad men sat around, eating and drinking. The roar of the water falling sounded a familiar song.

Across the way, near a recess cut into the back wall, partly screened by a curtain, the man who commanded here stood talking to one even taller than he.

The man behind Faramir pushed him forward.

As they came closer, the two men looked at them. The taller one, black-haired and black-eyed, smiled. “So you think they’ll be of some use?”

“Perhaps. Wait till the last scouts come in and find out what they have to report.”

The black-haired man nodded and left.

“In here.”

A torch burned in a holder. A chair and two stools were there.

Wary, Faramir entered, then Rhisiart. The man waved their guards away and entered, letting the curtain fall behind him.

“Sit.”

Faramir thought about refusing, but hunger and thirst as well as his injury made even the stool look appealing. So he sat.

Rhisiart leaned against the wall, head tilted.

“Your name?” The man dropped into the chair, sighing, his legs stretched in front of him.

“Rhisiart.”

“Of?”

“Morthond Vale. And yours?”

“Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Of Arnor.”

“That cannot be,” Faramir said. “Arnor was destroyed.”

Aragorn looked at him, expressionless. “The kingdom was divided. Petty wars sapped its strength until Angmar overthrew Fornost, but the line of Kings did not die.”

“You are of that line? And serve Gondor’s greatest enemy?”

“Gondor has fallen into decay.”

Rhisiart shifted, the rasp of cloth against stone loud in the quiet. “So you’re moving against Gondor. What do you need from me?”

“Information.”

“You said you served Gondor. You knew this place.”

“I served under Ecthelion, more than thirty years ago. I need recent information. But why should I trust you?”

“I’d prefer to live.”

“Not die by the side of your lord?” Aragorn sat, pulling his legs in and leaning forward, arms on his knees.

Faramir felt heat rise in his face at the mocking tone and bit back hasty words.

“If I’d saved him and gotten him back to his father, I’m sure I’d have been rewarded.”

“Ah.” Rising, Aragorn stood in front of Rhisiart who did not move, slouching gracefully against the wall.

After some moments, Aragorn nodded. “You’ll meet with Halbarad when he returns—my kinsman, the one I was speaking to earlier—and tell him everything you know. I’ll have men watching you. If what you tell us is useful, you may join us. Turn.” Drawing a long-bladed knife, Aragorn cut through the ropes on Rhisiart’s wrists, letting the cut pieces fall to the floor. “Come.”

Faramir watched as the curtain fell back after the two left, hearing the rumble of voices, not paying attention to words. Rhisiart had seemed to change as he spoke to Aragorn. Or was this a truth Faramir had never seen? Morthond, the Blackroot Vale, lay far to the west, in the far reaches of the White Mountains. The Vale held the haunted Stone of Erech. The folk who lived there came seldom to Gondor. The Rangers of Ithilien were drawn mostly from those whose families had once lived in the land.

The curtain opened and Aragorn entered. Alone.

Faramir stood, unwilling to meet what would come sitting.

Standing a moment, smiling slightly, Aragorn watched Faramir. “I’ll send a message to your father tomorrow.”

Aragorn stepped closer, hands out. His dark clothing pulled the light from the room.

Faramir backed away as far as he could, coming up hard against the wall. He could feel his breath coming faster.

“You need Healing.” Light seemed to gather around Aragorn’s hands. “Come to me.”

Mouth too dry to speak, Faramir shook his head.

But he could not escape Aragorn’s touch.

The large hands slid through his hair, gripping his head, Aragorn’s body pressing his against hard stone. Almost delicately, fingers moved over his head to touch the lump on the back. He gasped as the touch sent pain slicing through him and shut his eyes. Warm breath brushed against Faramir’s face as the pain ebbed.

He breathed out but could not relax, still feeling the lean strength pressed against him, unmoving.

One hand moved down around his throat then Aragorn stepped back, his other hand sliding down over shoulder, chest, and belly, to rest on the bandage stiffened with blood wrapped around Faramir’s thigh. The sword cut had been high on his leg, on the outside of his right thigh.

“Another injury?”

“Just a cut.” Faramir was dizzy, hunger and exhaustion making him more sensitive to sound and touch. He tried to step sideways, but the hand around his neck tightened slightly in warning.
He halted.

“You should lie down for me to tend it.”

Faramir jerked in revulsion, grinding his shoulder blades against the stone, hearing the rasp of cloth or his breathing. He could not speak for a moment. “No.”

“Then stand. Do not move.”

Feeling the hands lift off him, Faramir opened his eyes. Aragorn had moved to speak to someone in the main room, leaning through the cloth that masked the opening. After a moment, he turned back, holding a shallow pan and several lengths of cloth which he set on a stool.

He stood a moment, in front of Faramir, eyes intent. Defiant, Faramir stared back, doing his best to ignore the deft hands that undid his sword belt, tugging it free and letting it drop on the floor, then slid up under his tunic to untie his leggings, letting them sag down.

“This will hurt,” Aragorn said softly, smiling, and knelt to pick at the knotted bandage.

Faramir thought about kicking but even a slight shift of weight made his head spin.

The stiff bandage pulled free, stinging. “Now,” Aragorn said and reached to grasp the loose cloth at Faramir’s hips, yanking the leggings down, ripping free the heavy cloth that was glued to skin and wound. Pain blazed, and Faramir felt blood trickling down the side of his leg as he jerked, head jarring against rock.

“Now will you sit, or lie?”

Shaking his head, Faramir braced himself again. Cold air twined around thighs and body. The twisted cloth of the filthy leggings around his ankles hobbled him.

Soaking a cloth in the pan of water, Aragorn washed dried blood away, rinsed the cloth, then folded and lifted it to press against Faramir’s wound. Hard.

When Faramir grunted, Aragorn looked up, the smile on his face freezing Faramir. He refused to beg him to stop, looked away, pretending not to have seen the look of satisfaction.

The damp cloth lifted away and air on wet skin chilled Faramir. He swallowed, feeling damp fingers stroke up the side of his thigh, was half prepared for the pain that stitched up and down the wound at Aragorn’s touch, but not for what happened next. Aragorn set a hand on each of Faramir’s thighs, palms flat against him, fingers splayed across his skin.

Aragorn gripped hard with both hands, fingers sinking into flesh. The pain was greater than when the sword had sliced him, cutting through both legs, forcing agonized sound from Faramir’s throat as his legs gave out and he slid down the wall. Trapped in his own clothing, he ended up half kneeling, half sprawled to the side, leaning against Aragorn.

“I told you,” Aragorn said. “Healing can be difficult.” He leaned back, releasing Faramir, and stood, stepping back.

Bracing himself the best he could, feeling sweat cold on his back and face, Faramir looked down to see a scarred ridge where there had been an open wound. He forgot his half-nakedness in his shock.

Aragorn bent to him, sliding hands under his arms, pulling him up and over to sit on the stool, then stripped his boots and leggings from him. Aragorn left, carrying Faramir’s clothing and boots.

Biting back a protest, Faramir leaned against the wall, pulling his arms apart, trying to twist the ropes which bound his wrists. He had a time while he was unobserved. If what had happened was truly a Healing, then perhaps he could act. He ignored the cold and his hunger and thirst, focusing on repeating the movements.

But Aragorn was gone only a short time, returning with a steaming bowl and a jug. The rich smell of stewed meat and roots seemed to fill the small room, and Faramir swallowed hard. He no longer worked on the ropes, telling himself he felt some small slack for his efforts, and tried to sit as if at ease in his father’s hall.

It might have been easier if he could remember being at ease around Lord Denethor.

“Hungry?” Aragorn set the food and jug on the other stool and pulled the chair across the floor to sit at Faramir’s side.

He nodded, then watched in disbelief as Aragorn picked the bowl up and dipped a spoonful out, holding it out.

“Untie my hands,” Faramir said.

Shaking his head, Aragorn pushed the spoon against Faramir’s mouth.

Faramir turned his head away but could hear Aragorn chew and swallow, the chink of the spoon against the bowl.

“It’s good. Halbarad tells me it was on the fire when my men arrived.”

Trying to breathe evenly, to give nothing away, Faramir did not move.

After a few moments of silence, Aragorn spoke again. “Water?”

Faramir could not help turning back to Aragorn, mouth and throat so dry that thirst was a torment. He had drunk nothing since the few sips of water in the thicket hours ago.

He licked his lips, feeling dizzy.

Aragorn was holding the plain metal jug, full to the brim, close to Faramir’s face. The one torch that lit the room reflected off the side, the flickering light seeming almost too bright. Faramir squinted, seeing only the water before him. He could smell it, taste it, taken from the unceasing fall of water outside the cave, so cold year round it froze the mouth, so fresh it soothed any thirst.

The voice was quiet, soothing. “Lean forward, just a bit.”

Shutting his eyes, lips opening, Faramir leaned forward, was rewarded with coolness, the lip of the jug pressing against his, water spilling into his mouth, over his skin. He sucked, greedy, wanting more, lurched forward when it was pulled away.

“Go slowly,” Aragorn said. “Or you’ll be ill.”

Flushing, Faramir pushed himself back, stiff, angry at his weakness.

“You can have more soon. Now will you eat?” Aragorn picked up the food, tilted his head when Faramir shook his.

“I can call Halbarad in, some others, to hold you, while I feed you. Or you can choose to eat.”

“Why not untie me?”

“I don’t trust you.” Aragorn smiled again.

“You can call them in, untie me, and they can guard me while I eat. Or lock me in one of the rooms with the food,” Faramir said. The water soothed him, grounded him, and he felt more alert than he had since waking in the dark.

“I could. But I won’t.”

“Why?” None of what had happened since Rhisiart left made any sense.

Aragorn relaxed, cradling the bowl in his hands, leaning back, one leg extended, brushing against Faramir’s. “I knew your father, before. I think you are right, that he will not give any ground, will not concede anything, to save you.”

“Then you may as well kill me.”

“Not if you wish it,” Aragorn said. “I’ll keep you here, a while. See what comes. And while you’re here, you’ll obey me.” He scooped up the stew, leaning forward. “So, will you eat, or shall I call the others?”

Hesitating, Faramir weighed giving in to the demand, or forcing Aragorn to act. Finally, he opened his mouth and allowed Aragorn to feed him like a child too young to be trusted at the table. The cooling stew was still savoury, and Faramir tried not to think of what must have happened to the man who had made it. After the bowl was empty, Aragorn allowed him more water.

Aragorn nodded at him when he finished, rose and collected the dishes.

As Aragorn left, Faramir began pulling on the rope again. He had more time than before and could feel soreness as skin abraded on his wrists before Aragorn returned, holding the curtain aside, to let Halbarad enter, carrying a hammer and chains. Aragorn dropped two bedrools on the floor and stood just inside the entrance.

Halbarad looked at Faramir, grinning, and shook his head at Aragorn. “Amusing yourself again, are you?”

Aragorn gestured across the room. “There.”

Faramir watched as Halbarad knelt, dropping the chains beside him with a clatter, and picked something up. He ran his hands over walls and floor, then grunted and began to work. His body hid what he was doing, but the ringing blows of the hammer were loud. When he stood and moved several feet to begin again, Faramir could see the bolt, with a chain attached, cuffs at the end.

He knew Gondor kept no such gear in the caves. After the second bolt was installed, Halbarad stood, hammer dangling from one large hand.

“Want me to chain him for you?”

“You can help.”

Halbarad grinned at Faramir, moved across the room to set the hammer outside.

Feeling cold within, Faramir pushed himself to his feet, kicking the stool aside. He watched as Aragorn picked up one of the bedrolls, shook it out, and spread the thin pallet and blankets on the floor between the bolts, against the wall.

“Lie down.”

As Halabarad turned back, Faramir waited until he stepped forward, leaving a clear path to the entrance, and then ran. He had no clear sense of what he would do, just knew he wanted out of the small room which reeked of danger.

He stumbled into the main cave, which was dimly lit, seeing the shapes of men sleeping, smelling the mingled scents of cooking, leather, sweat and blood, before he was knocked to the floor from behind. Pinned, lying on his belly, stunned at the quickness of it all, Faramir tried to fight as hard hands flipped him over, grasped his shoulders and ankles, and picked him up. He writhed, kicked, feeling the impact of flesh and hearing a gasp of pain. He was dropped, then hauled roughly back into the small room, rock scraping bare skin.

Halbarad pushed him over and pinned him. Faramir felt the tug and the cut rope fall away. Arms numb, he could not prevent them chaining his wrists and ankles.

He lay, panting, feeling the metal cuffs chill against his skin.

“Need any more help?”

Faramir tried to pull away from the hand that gripped his hair, hearing the note in Halbarad’s voice.

“No.” Aragorn’s voice was cold. “Except you can take the chair and stools out with you.”

Halbarad released Faramir who blinked, turning his head, seeing Halbarad move in and out of the room, shifting the wooden furniture. Slowly, Faramir realized he was lying on the pallet, Aragorn sitting cross-legged next to him.

Aragorn drew a long-bladed knife. Shutting his eyes, Faramir waited, body tightening as he anticipated the first cut. He gasped out when he felt pressure around his neck and chest, realizing his tunic was being held and cut as he heard the small sound of a sharp blade cutting cloth. He felt the cloth fall around him, the chill as his damp shirt was exposed, the further pressure as the blade moved to cut through the tunic at sleeve and shoulder seams.

Pushing himself up onto his hands, head down, Faramir froze as he felt the blade rest lightly on the back of his neck.

“Lie. Down.” Aragorn’s voice was no louder than it had been but carried a clear promise.

Faramir lowered himself, silently cursing his cowardice, resting his head on folded arms.

His body was tense with the desire for flight as Aragorn’s hand stroked down his back, as Aragorn moved over him, sitting on his thighs, sliding the shirt up Faramir’s body.

Calloused hands stroked and gripped his buttocks, kneading, hard enough to bruise. Faramir felt his body clench as the weight on top of him shifted, as slick hardness pressed against him. He had barely enough time to bite on the flesh of his arm before pain split him. He would not cry out, would not respond.

Hunching his back and shoulders, Faramir endured as Aragorn slowly pushed into him, body flexing above, a hand tangling in his hair, the other sliding under his arm and chest. The hum of satisfaction as he sank deeper in Faramir was more felt than heard as Aragorn sank down, chest against back, their skins slick. Moving faster, harder, grunting, Aragorn took his pleasure.

Faramir counted his heartbeats, thought of the blood-stained flower in the grass of Ithilien, until finally, with a last shudder and surge of wetness, Aragorn collapsed, forcing the breath from Faramir.

He lay still, the taste of blood in his mouth, refusing to move, refusing to acknowledge the hand that stroked his head. Finally, sliding out and away, Aragorn left him. Faramir shifted, turning his head away, hearing the small sounds of movement, the rustling of cloth. He jumped as blankets fell over him.

A hand gripped his shoulder, shook him.

“You will obey me,” Aragorn said.

Aching, Faramir turned stiffly onto his side, looked up. Aragorn stood beside him, wearing only a loose shirt as Faramir did, dark hair loose on his shoulders. The torch, burning low behind him, outlined him in light, touching glints off hair and cloth and skin.

“No,” Faramir said, voice hoarse.

“Then you’ll be punished.” Aragorn turned to where the other pallet had been unrolled, well out of reach Faramir realized with regret, and slid under the blankets. After watching him a few moments, Faramir lay down again. Remembering what Boromir had once told him, after his first injury in battle, Faramir concentrated on trying to contain the pain in his body, on building a wall beween him and it, on making the wall high and thick.


Faramir woke slowly, hearing the familiar sounds of morning around him. He felt tired, reluctant to open his eyes. When he stretched, he froze at hearing the clank of chains. The memories of yesterday flooded back, and he opened his eyes, cautious, peering through his lashes. He was stiff and his body ached, but neither of his injuries pained him.

A new torch burned in a holder on the wall. The small room was empty, a bedroll tied and neat against the far wall. Small noises from outside were familiar, men talking, the rasp of a whetstone against a blade, all underlaid by the noise of falling water.

Glad he was alone, Faramir opened his eyes, pushing himself up on one arm, trying to ignore the weight of the cuffs and chains. At the foot of his bedroll were two buckets. Next to them sat several oatcakes and apples.

Wincing at the soreness in his back and legs, Faramir sat, pushing the wool blanket behind him and trying to see how much of range of movement he had. He could sit, and with care, pivot and move close enough to reach the food and buckets. One was empty, the other full of water and heavy. Pulling it closer, he used his cupped hands to drink, over and over. The water was cool, tasting faintly of wood, but seemed the best he’d ever had. When he was done, he moved the water bucket to the head of his bedroll and picked up the food.

The oatcakes were still warm, the apples the last of the winter store, wrinkled but still firm. His mouth watered. Now that his thirst was quenched, he felt hollow, starving. He checked his first impulse, and set aside one of the cakes and an apple for later and made himself eat slowly, not bolting the food. He chewed deliberately, eating two oatcakes first, then an apple, until there was little more left than the seeds.

He sat, listening, but could hear little other than an occasional joke, comments about the food and weather. He did not think many men were in the cave.

He used the empty bucket, pushing it away after, and shrugged half out of the torn, stained shirt that was all he wore. He tipped the water bucket to dampen the cleanest portion of the cloth and washed. He cleaned himself as well as he could, awkward, shifting and tugging against his bonds. Afterwards, he hesitated. He did not want to be naked when Aragorn returned, but the shirt reeked, hung nearly in strips.

Shrugging, he pulled it back over his shoulders, stretched out under the blanket, and closed his eyes. He could think of nothing to do. Seeking some escape, even temporary, he thought of years ago, his mother’s insistence that he and his brother rest during the day before one of the banquets to honor a visiting noble.

Faramir would not have minded spending time in the room he shared with Boromir, imagining himself in long-ago Númenor, sailing with Elendil and his sons, but Boromir was too restless for such a thing. He had tugged Faramir after him, into one hiding place, then another. They had ended up in the stables, finally, where curled up next to each other, burrowed deep in the straw of one of the stalls, they had fallen asleep.

Their father’s laughter had woken them as he tugged them to their feet, straw tangled in their hair, Boromir’s red tunic and Faramir’s green one sprinkled with dust and chaff, and marched them back to their mother. The baths that night had been particularly stringent. Faramir could still remember feeling as if his skin was scrubbed raw.

Faramir felt himself drifting off to sleep as he tried to remember the last time he had heard his father laugh, rich and joyous.


Jerking awake, Faramir felt hard hands on him, one shaking his shoulder, one over his mouth, and tried to strike.

“Hsst. It’s me.”

Rhisiart!

Faramir blinked, pushing hair out of his eyes, and saw the large man kneeling next to him. When he opened his mouth, Rhisiart’s hand pressed against his lips, and he shook his head.

Hope rising, Faramir nodded. The large hand lifted away, and Rhisiart bent until his face was next to Faramir’s, speaking low.

“Thought you’d be tied. Ropes.”

Shrugging, Faramir shook his head, turned to reply, leaning close, darkgold hair tickling his face. “You escaping?”

“I was, but—”

“Go,” Faramir breathed. “Get to Boromir. Tell him.”

“But—”

“Do it. You can’t help me here.” Faramir pushed against Rhisiart, smelling smoke and sap over a rich dark scent, desperate to convince him. The hand on his shoulder slid along his back, rubbing. Faramir felt the rasp of cloth against his arm, was suddenly cold when Rhisiart moved away, rising to one knee. Looking around, Rhisiart drew his knife.

Confused, Faramir pulled back, then relaxed as Rhisiart slid the knife under the bedroll, green eyes watching until Faramir nodded his understanding.

Rhisiart stood. He had turned to leave, was within arm’s reach of the entrance, when the cloth was pulled back.

Faramir saw Rhisiart move, flinging his arms around somebody, swinging round, grunts loud in the quiet of the room. It was Halbarad, Faramir saw, as the two big men struggled, muscles straining, teeth gleaming.

Rhisiart was hampered by the need for silence, to keep one hand muffling Halbarad’s mouth. Kicking back, he nearly pulled free. Faramir lunged to grab an ankle, one hand slipping off heavy leather, the grip still enough to throw Halbarad off balance. The two men crashed to the ground, still fighting.

Sliding over, Faramir pinned Halbarad’s legs, ignoring the solid kick to his own ribs, until Rhisiart thumped the dark head against the stone floor.

Faramir lay over the still legs as Rhisiart unwound himself, sat heavily next to the stunned body, and panted. Listening, Faramir could hear nothing from the cave beyond. He sat, pulled the blanket around him, to watch as Rhisiart stood, rubbing his mouth. Blood smearing his face, he looked around, frowning, then tugged the limp body across to the opposite side. Untying the bedroll, Rhisiart pushed Halbarad over onto his side to lash ankles and wrists together.

Wincing to see the strain of the position, Faramir was glad the man was facing away from him.

Pulling out another knife, Rhisiart cut strips from the blanket to gag and blindfold the unconscious man. A few moments later, standing, Rhisiart turned back to grip Faramir’s shoulder and smile at him before sliding through the cloth to the cave beyond.

Holding his breath until his ears rang, Faramir heard nothing. He pulled his knees up, resting his head on them, feeling his heart pounding so fast it hurt. He tried to breathe evenly, forcing himself to calm. He did not know what hour it was, how long before Aragorn was likely to return, or someone to come looking for Halbarad. However long it was, whoever came, Faramir knew that his punishment would be great.

He slid a hand cautiously over the thin pad, the hard shape of hilt and blade reassuring him, and set himself to wait.

The torch had burned out some time ago. Sitting in the cool darkness, Faramir had eaten the food he’d saved, listening to Halbarad’s heavy breathing, almost snoring, the only sound beyond the falling water. He had grunted loudly once, and Faramir guessed from the sounds that he was aware and trying to free himself, then realized the futility.

Now, half-dozing, leaning back against the cold wall, Faramir was shocked awake by the sounds of men returning, in a good mood by the sound of their laughter.

He blinked in the light as the cloth was pulled back, seeing first the torch, then Aragorn, head turned to praise someone for their kill. He was wearing dark leggings, a loose red shirt, no gear of war. When he stepped into the room, raising the torch, he was smiling. When he saw Halbarad, he stopped smiling, turned to see Faramir, sitting against the stone.

Lifting his chin, Faramir sat, refusing to look away, defiant. Blue eyes burned into him as Aragorn considered him in a long moment of silence. Then, tossing the stump of the dead torch away, Aragorn slotted the fresh one into the holder, knelt by Halbarad’s side. Faramir watched the broad back, caught the glint of a drawn knife.

“What happened?” Aragorn pulled Halbarad over.

Coughing, Halbarad said nothing a moment, moving his legs and arms. Finally, “Rhisiart,” Halbarad said.

Aragorn stood as Halbard sat, rubbing his arms. “How long?”

“Just after noon. We were the gorge and I saw him slip away, followed him back. Good thing you used the chains.”

“How much did he know?”

Stretching, Halbarad winced, then began rubbing his leg. “Nothing. I warned everybody.”

Reaching down a hand, Aragorn waited for Halbarad to grasp it, then pulled him to his feet. “Good. Send men out. I don’t want him making it across the River.”

“You already sent your messages. They’ll know in the City late tonight, early tomorrow. What does it matter if one more Ranger stumbles in late with news of their defeat?”

Aragorn pushed him toward the entrance. “He was among us, knows our numbers, the locations. None of the others did, and we killed many who escaped from the ambush. Go.”

As Halbarad left, Aragorn turned back to Faramir, smiling, stepped to his side, hand out. Faramir did not try to avoid the hand which slid through his hair, gripping hard, pulling his head back.

“All was well today,” Aragorn said softly. “Until now. You will pay, my Captain, in the coin I choose.”

Bending, Aragorn tore Faramir’s shirt off him. Faramir forced himself to remain still, feeling Aragorn’s leg pressing against his arm, struggled to show no expression as he often had to with his father. Letting his gaze drift away from Aragorn’s, unfocused, Faramir did not fight. Not yet. He wanted Aragorn distracted.

Aragorn knelt easily beside him, one hand tangled in his hair, the other pressing against his throat.

One stroke, finger tips only, trailed down Faramir’s chest to his belly, stopping just short of the blanket edge. The caress, skin warm and rough, could have been a lover’s, but Faramir felt muscles clench, forced his hands to remain still beside him, feeling the pressure of the cuffs.

Another stroke, still delicate, but Faramir jerked back, feeling as if he was cut deep within by a razor-sharp blade. The cold stone behind him prevented escape. Hand flat against Faramir’s belly, Aragorn waited, breath hot and fast against Faramir’s face.

Red pain seized him, rending; convulsing, Faramir screamed, flung himself into sideways, fell into darkness.

Drenched in sweat, huddled around himself, Faramir blinked, feeling hot tears in his eyes. His vision blurred, he could see little beyond the grey blanket under him, the hair that fell over his face. He realized dully he was lying on his side. His gut throbbed, and he felt he would vomit if he moved. He breathed, shallowly, through his mouth until the pain dulled, and he could swallow, lick dry lips.

“Water?” Aragorn appeared in front of him, smoothing back his hair.

Faramir flinched back, hitting his head against the wall. He moaned, closing his eyes as pain flared again.

When he could stand to do so, he opened his eyes to see that Aragorn was sitting close, the metal jug near his leg. He was naked, dark hair on chest and belly and legs accenting pale skin. He was smiling slightly, face slightly flushed, as he watched Faramir.

Silent, Faramir nodded, once. He pushed himself up on one arm, shaking. He could not reach the jug, given how he was lying, the chains twisted around him, but Aragorn held it for him. He sipped, then drank deeply.

When Faramir finished, Aragorn set the jug down, reached out to grasp him by the arms, tug him up, chains clinking, until he knelt, knee to knee, in front of Aragorn. He realized the blanket that had covered him was gone but could not care. The illusions were all stripped away. There was no protection.

Teeth clenched, Faramir waited for pain, but there was nothing beyond the firm grip.

“Why?” Faramir finally asked, voice hoarse. He’d expected to be questioned about Rhisiart’s escape, even about the Rangers in Ithilien, but there had been nothing. Only torment.

“Because I can,” Aragorn said, releasing Faramir’s arms, hands settling on his thighs. “Because it gives me pleasure.”

Faramir could see clearly how much pleasure Aragorn felt as his warm hands moved in circles, rubbing, kneading, inching up Faramir’s legs.

“Lie down,” Aragorn said.

Faramir hesitated, then bowed his head, turning to set his hands on the bedroll, rolling over and up, slowly, feeling for the knife under the pallet. When he felt it under his palm, he moved forward, then settled into a crouch, resting his weight on his forearms. He forced himself to arch his back and spread his legs as much as the chains would allow, was rewarded by an indrawn breath, and felt Aragorn settle between his legs, hands busy.

Wait, Faramir commanded himself, and did, focusing all his attention on the weapon beneath him, feeling the hard shape press against his arm. As he had learned to do during the times when his father’s anger spilled over him like a black wave, Faramir turned within, imagining himself walking deep in the vales of Ithilien, lost in a wilderness of tree and bush and leaf, hearing the wind in the trees, water falling, imagining the great sea from whence blew the wind and water.

He let the hands move him as they would, tugging his hips up and pulling him back slightly, no longer able to feel the knife but knowing where it was. He endured the slow thrusts, the grunts and slick slide of wet skin against him, the arm around his waist as he let one arm slide to and off the edge of the bedroll, pushed by the force behind him, until he felt stone under his palm.

Breathing faster, Faramir slid his hand under the thin pad until his fingers brushed cold metal. He gripped the knife, waiting out the final spasm, feeling the weight on him, hearing the harsh panting then feeling it against his neck.

Drawing a deep breath, Faramir let himself fall forward, one arm sliding ahead of him, pulling the knife out with the other and striking behind him, turning as he struck to see the blade slice along Aragorn’s ribs, drawing red from the pale skin, exulting to see shock.

Pushing up, bucking against Aragorn’s weight, Faramir struck again, for his throat, but was pulled up short by the chains and could not avoid the blow that knocked him back against the wall.

Minas Tirith, 3 days later

‘You’re wrong! I will not support your folly!’

The angry words rang in Boromir’s ears, drowning out the cheerful voices in the streets. His anger burned so hot within that he had left the Hall and passed through three Gates before realizing he’d left cloak and weapons behind.

Pausing near one of the wells that served all the families who lived near the large courtyard, Boromir wiped his face. Warm weather had come suddenly to the City, and he did not need the heavy lined cloak. And if the day came when the Steward’s son had to be armed to walk through Minas Tirith, Boromir did not want to see it.

Ithilien would be coming into her spring loveliness now. The thought made him curse under his breath, startling the children who were waiting in line, chattering, to draw water. They looked at him with big eyes, and he forced himself to smile at them, nod, and wish them a good day before leaving. They knew nothing of the news that had come.

Days of councils since the first news came that Ithilien was taken. Osgiliath was under attack, Cair Andros had fought back one force. And the Steward did nothing!

Borormir walked slowly, not sure where he would go, knowing only he could not return to the Citadel, could not face the man sitting in the black chair, unmoving, refusing to see the threat to Gondor that must be answered. Refusing, moreover, to admit that Faramir lived. The second message, the one that had so angered his father, had said as much. Denethor claimed that it was a lie, a deception of the Nameless Enemy, and had burned it.

“My lord, please, I bring news of your brother!”

The words as well as the desparation in the deep voice caught Boromir’s attention even before he saw the green and brown cloth. He did not recognize the man standing before him, hair lank and clothes filthy, a dirty cloth wound around one arm, but he was a Ranger.

“What?”

“He lives, but is taken captive.”

The man swayed, and Boromir caught his good arm. He looked around, saw the tavern sign, gold on blue, across the way. He walked the man the short way, held the door, and got him inside, on one of the benches, as quickly as possible.

“Ale,” Boromir ordered hastily and, after a look at the drawn face, “and food, whatever’s fastest.”

Drawing up a chair, Boromir sat. He forced himself to wait until they were served and the man had wolfed down bread and meat.

“What’s your name?”

The man sat back, wiping his mouth, swallowing a mouthful of ale. “Rhisiart of Morthond. I know what’s happened in Ithilien, but Faramir told me to come to you.”

Boromir nodded grimly. He looked around. The tavern was nearly empty at this time of day, save for the fat man behind the bar talking in a low voice to two oldsters who sat close to each other. It was safe enough, Boromir thought, safer than the Citadel at any rate.

He tugged his chair closer, speaking in a low voice. “Tell me what’s happened.”

Rhisiart drained the tankard and set it down on the bench beside him. The clank of pot metal hitting wood was loud in the silence. The two oldsters had left earlier and the fat man was in the cellar. Gold dust floated in bars of sunlight from the window and open door.

Leaning forward, arms on his knees, looking down at his clasped hands, Rhisiart continued. “I left him a knife, my lord. I could not free him, barely made it out myself.”

Boromir felt his anger chill, harden, as molten metal cools to a blade. The scattered men who had made it back to Minas Tirith from the Ithilien ambush could say little beyond the news that men who were not Easterlings or Southron fought against Gondor. That had been shocking enough. Later messengers from Cair Andros and Osgiliath had told of Orcs, great and small, fighting side by side with these unknown men. Two of the men who came back had seen Faramir fall and reported him dead.

What Rhisiart had brought was a great gift, not only the size and identity of the forces and the leaders—northern Dunedain in alliance with Mordor!—but even more than hope would have allowed, news that Faramir lived.

Pushing aside his shock at learning who led the forces, Boromir realized he was relucant to share this news directly with the Steward of Gondor.

He did not trust his father. Putting that thought aside to consider later, he stood.

“You did well, more than well,” he said. “We had heard none of this before.” Hesitating, he asked, “What will you—,” and found himself stumbling over words, caught in a cool green gaze. There should be no question of what they did next. He should take Rhisiart directly to the Citadel. There should be a council. Another council.

The tall man stood, eyes level with Boromir’s. “Captain Faramir told me to come to you,” he said. “Not the Steward. When Aragorn questioned him, he made it clear he did not think his father would act. I assume you will. My Lord.”

Boromir thought absently he should be angry at the way this man’s tone and stance managed to undercut the words he used, making his doubt of those in authority absolutely clear. But since as Faramir’s brother, he felt much the same, he could not in justice punish Rhisiart.

“I will,” he said. “But not in too much haste. Come with me.”

Boromir left the tavern, turning to lead Rhisiart through back ways to the Houses of Healing. As they left the main street, the creaking of the sign drew Boromir’s gaze. The Five Armies. He wondered what had inspired the name as they moved through narrow and winding ways.

Rhisiart followed in silence until they had drawn near to the Houses. The gates stood open, but Rhisiart paused before entering to touch Boromir’s arm.

“My lord, I fear for your brother.”

“Aragorn’s message spoke of an exchange. He will keep Faramir alive, surely.”

“I do not fear for his death.”

“What do you fear?”

Rhisiart’s face coloured and his eyes shifted away. His voice was so low Boromir had to step closer to hear.

“When I saw him last, he had been stripped. And when I was with the men, they spoke, joked, of Aragorn’s pleasure in—torment. I think there is need of haste.”

Boromir heard a hollow roaring in his ears, felt his face burn, but kept a firm rein on himself. This man deserved nothing but thanks of him, and he could not lose control in front of the commanders or his father. Promising himself that he would kill Aragorn, Boromir pulled more coins from his purse.

“Go in, find a Healer. When they are done with you,” Boromir gave the coins to Rhisiart, “go back to that tavern, can you find it again?”

Rhisiart nodded, pocketing the money.

“Take a room. I want to speak to some of the commanders. And to my father. I’ll send a message to you when I can.” After a moment, Boromir clasped Rhisiart’s shoulder. “My thanks,” he said softly. “For everything.”

Watching Rhisiart pass through the gate, Boromir decided he would go to Dol Amroth first. Imrahil would be the one most likely to agree with him on what should be done, not only to relieve Osgiliath but to rescue Faramir.


Faramir woke.

He lay still, blinking, trying to clear the mist of dark dreams from his mind.

Slowly, he realized he was no longer in the small cave. He was lying on his back, on a softer surface. The grey stone overhead and to the side was the same. He turned his head, realizing that he was tied to one of the low beds they kept for those who were injured, naked but warm under soft blankets. He tugged, then pulled, but the cloth that bound wrists and ankles to the frame was firmly knotted, did not give.

Frustrated he tried to lift his head. Lamps burned in several niches and on a low table. He could see two men in beds on the other side of the cave, muffled under bedding, and one, standing.

The bed creaked as he moved, and the standing man turned, coming across to him. He was tall, black hair and beard flecked with grey, his face lined. He wore robes, green and black, and smiled. His accent seemed strange to Faramir.

“You’re awake. Good.”

Kneeling by the bed, the man placed his hands on Faramir’s head. He tensed, expecting pain. The man’s eyes half-closed, and he did not move for several moments. Opening his eyes and smiling again, he released Faramir.

“I believe you’re recovering.”

“From what?” Faramir was bewildered, wondered what had happened. “How long?”

“This is the third day since Lord Aragorn brought you to me. Head injury.” The man sat back on his heels, shaking his head. “I thought you would die, but his skills are great.”

“He healed me?” Faramir heard his voice rise.

The man nodded. “Are you hungry?”

“Yes, but—

The man stood and left his side before Faramir could ask to be untied. Craning his neck, Faramir tried to see where he’d gone, but the entry must be behind him. After some time, he heard voices behind him.

“Here we—Lord Aragorn!”

“I’ll take that.”

Faramir stiffened, straining uselessly at his bonds.

Aragorn appeared beside his bed, holding a bowl. He was back in the dark clothing he’d worn the first night, armed, wearing one of the green and brown cloaks the Ithilien company wore to pass unnoticed in the woods. He tugged the blankets down to Faramir’s waist, then turned and sat.

As Aragorn pushed his cloak back over his shoulders, water dripped on Faramir’s face and chest. He could smell the wet wool and the scents of Ithilien. Making himself comfortable, Aragorn slid closer to Faramir, thigh and knee pressing against his side, laying a hand on Faramir’s chest. The silver ring gleamed, the green stone seeming to watch him.

Panting, Faramir watched, wary. Aragorn said nothing. Finally, Faramir could bear the silence no longer.

“He said you healed me.”

Aragorn nodded. “I did.”

“But, you were the one—”

“I struck harder than I meant to, that night, and your head hit the wall. I do not mean for you to die.”

Faramir remembered the feel of the knife in his hand, the blood staining Aragorn’s skin. Obviously the injury had been slight, but, “I tried to kill you.”

“Tried and failed.” Aragorn’s hand stroked across Faramir’s chest. “You are,” he thought a moment, smiling as Faramir tried to pull away, pressing down, “a prize, little Captain, not one I would willingly lose.”

Dizzy and sweating, vision blurred, Faramir subsided under Aragorn’s hand.

“You’re still weak. You need to eat.” Aragorn spooned some of the liquid from the bowl and offered it to Faramir who turned his head away.

He heard the hiss of breath, the clink of the spoon, felt the warm weight against him shift away, then back. He was expecting the hand which stroked down his throat, did not move.

“I thought you had learned your lesson. You can eat from my hand. Or I can call others to force you then leave you tied to this bed until you die in your own filth.”

The calloused hand slid up to grip Faramir’s chin, force his head back around, to see Aragorn bending over him.

“Your choice, son of Denethor.”

Faramir thought of Rhisiart. If he’d made it to Boromir, if he knew Faramir was alive, he would act. Which meant Faramir needed to stay alive. Boromir was too wise in the ways of war to challenge Aragorn alone or with the Rangers, however many survived. That meant moving Gondor’s forces into Ithilien. If Rhisiart had passed the River safely. Remembering the man who’d half-carried him from the battlefield, Faramir felt sure he had.

Time. Boromir would come, Faramir knew, but it could not be soon.

He opened his mouth. He swallowed the gruel which Aragorn fed him, trying not to see the triumphant smile, knowing the bitter taste was not in the food.

When the bowl was empty, Aragorn set the bowl on the floor. Still smiling, he tugged the blankets further down, sliding his hand between Faramir’s legs, grasping his member.

Shaking, Faramir waited for the pain, the memory of it sharp. He gasped when slow warmth began to build, pleasure catching him off guard, sweet as honey in the mouth on a winter day when summer seems long dead. Gentle fingers teased him, silk strokes twining round. Helpless, he moaned, rocking, felt the slide of fingers down, around, pressing against him, pulling pleasure out and feeding it back for an endless moment. He spasmed as he spent into Aragorn’s hand.

Aragorn wiped his hand on the bedding, pulled the blanket over Faramir and patted his cheek.

“You need more time to recover, and I need to go to Osgiliath. They will care for you here, but know that if you escape or harm any, I will punish them. And you. Wait for me, little Captain.”

Lying with his eyes closed, hot and humiliated, Faramir heard him speak to the others, calling them by name, and then giving orders to the Healer. Then there was silence.


A week later.

Boromir made sure the hood of his cloak was tugged down before opening the door of The Five Armies. The night was warm but wet, the fragrant spring rain giving him more than enough excuse to cover his face. He had borrowed a pair of ragged leggings and a tunic from Beregond, who had clearly thought a woman was involved, and had covered them with an old grey cloak of his own. With rumours running through the City of war and capture, he did not wish any talk of The Lord Boromir meeting with Ithilien Rangers in a tavern to get back to the Citadel.

The tavern was warm from the press of bodies and the heat of the roaring fire. As Boromir slid through the crowd, slowly making his way toward the back stair which led to a few rooms, one of which Rhisiart had rented, he heard strains of at least five different songs. One of the singers, turning suddenly, spilled his ale down Boromir’s front. The look of affront disappeared as Boromir smiled and slid coins into his hand for an apology, then ducked around him.

The scent of the ale, dark and sharp, whetted Boromir’s thirst. He’d discovered that the owner, Butterbur, had some of the best ale Boromir had ever tasted. Moving quickly up the stairs and down the dark hall, Boromir tapped on Rhisiart’s door.

It swung open a crack. Boromir did not recognize the man inside who peered out, nodded, and stepped back, opening the door wide. Boromir stepped inside, pushing his cloak back. The smaller room was cooler than downstairs, but nearly as packed. Boromir counted at least a dozen men although it was hard to tell in the dim light. There was the hum of quiet talk.

Rhisiart stood to welcome him, handing him a mug of ale, then withdrew across the room to sit on a bench in front of the empty hearth. Nodding, Boromir drank, the ale as good as he remembered.

“It’s settled,” he said. The room was quiet, their attention focusing on him.

“We’ll be leaving for Osgiliath the day after tomorrow. We’ll relieve the men there, and start to move into Ithilien. Another force will march to Cair Andros. The plan is to try to push the enemy out of Ithilien using both forces.”

A buzz of satisfaction greeted his words.

Boromir drank again, hiding his grimace behind the mug. The memory of the councils, what had been needed to persuade his father, was bitter. Not only had it taken time, too much time, given what Rhisiart had told him, but he had fought with his father. By luck or chance, it had been in private, but Denethor’s anger had been plain the following days.

Denethor had rejected the idea that an anonymous Ranger’s account of Faramir’s escape from the ambush could be true. The report had been anonymous because Boromir had not wished to risk Rhisiart being known to the Steward. It had taken Boromir’s open threat to leave the City, to deprive Denethor of an heir, as well as Imrahil’s more subtle work during days of meetings, to force Denethor to approve this strategy.

“What do you want from us?” Rhisiart spoke over the others in the room, standing to face Boromir, arms folded across his chest. They were the only two standing in the room.

Boromir set the mug down on a rickety chair that had been shoved into the corner, most of the men no doubt realizing it would collapse under their weight.

“I want your help,” Boromir said carefully, feeling his way, trying to get a sense of what these men felt.

“Your father doesn’t.”

This time Boromir did not try to hide his frown. It was true. Denethor had decreed that the survivors of Ithilien would not fight in this battle.

“I know,” Boromir said. “And I tried to change his mind, more than once.”

A few nods, mutters of agreement. While some men served in Ithilien only, others had served in the City and then Ithilien. They had their ways of learning what was discussed in the Citadel.

“He’s wrong. But his error can be turned to Faramir’s benefit.”

“How?”

“You know what this Aragorn looks like.”

Rhisiart nodded, uncrossing his arms, body relaxing.

“I want you, and all the other Rangers who are willing, to start for Ithilien tomorrow. I’ve given orders for you to be given horses. I want you to spy out the enemy, see if Aragorn is with the forces besieging Osgiliath. And if you get a chance, take him captive. If he’s not there yet, I believe our attack will draw him out, there or at Cair Andros. I don’t know what he’s asking for Faramir’s return, but I would wager his men will trade Faramir for their leader.”

Boromir told himself not to smile as he saw Rhisiart’s jaw drop. Picking up his mug, Boromir saluted Rhisiart with it and drank. By the time he’d finished the ale, Rhisiart was nodding, half smiling.

The noise in the room rose, not that any would hear it downstairs, and Boromir smiled as he moved around the room, talking to the men, getting names of those he did not know, asking after others he remembered from his days in Ithilien. When he moved to Rhisiart’s side at the end, before leaving, they stood side by side a moment in silence.

“What will happen to you when the Steward learns what you’ve done?”

Rhisiart’s voice was low enough not to be heard by any of the men around them.

Boromir shrugged. “If this ruse suceeds, he will not care what I’ve done. Victory is its own justification. If it does not—” Boromir paused, thinking a moment, then looked at Rhisiart. “If it does not, then I care not what he thinks.”

Rhisiart nodded once.

Boromir made sure that his cloak shadowed his face before leaving the room, and the tavern.

As he walked up the winding streets and came into the Courtyard, he felt the wind against his face. The rain had stopped. Looking up, Boromir saw that the clouds were drawing back. The stars shone more brightly, as if cleansed. Feeling comforted, Boromir went in to sleep. He could do no more tonight.


A week later

Faramir followed the man to whom he was chained over the crest of the hill. After two days of travel, he was able to keep pace within the limits of the chain which was wrapped around their waists. The days spent in the cave had left him starved for sunlight and the breath of wind on his skin, and despite their destination, he had been happy to be outside as the small group traveled through the woods and vales of Ithilien. That respite was now over.

The men stopped, clustered, commenting on what lay before them.

Osgiliath. Under siege.

Faramir could see black smoke rising, hear the sounds of battle dulled by distance. As they started down the twisting path, Faramir could see the forces massed around the ruined city. He strained to see all he could, knowing that any information he gained might be useful. He was shocked to see orcs side by side with men. As they entered a camp, Faramir looked up and across the River. The white flag of Gondor was set high on one of the broken buildings. Gold flashed in the light from the westering sun.

Faramir was sure Boromir was in Osgiliath.


“Inside,” Halbarad ordered, holding the canvas flap open. The men holding Faramir’s arms hauled him inside and forced him down, chaining his hands behind his back and around the central pole that braced the large tent. He was left sitting, back against the tentpole, legs stretched before him, as they left, speculating on what would be for daymeal.

Shifting, Faramir tried to make himself comfortable for what he expected to be a lengthy wait. He was sitting on thick rugs, plush and woven of many colors. To one side he could see a bed, low but wide, piled with bedding of deep blues and greens. A frame holding armour and racks laden with weapons were on the other side. The tent was dim as the sun slid behind mountains and warm with the scents of crushed grasses and sweet herbs mingling with hot metal and leather. Straining, he could see the dull gleam of metal behind him. A brazier perhaps.

What had seemed to be an incursion into Ithilien by a small force had clearly become an invasion. Faramir wondered if Aragorn planned to move against Minas Tirith, and when. It had been at least two weeks since Aragorn had left Henneth Annûn although Faramir had lost track of the days he had spent in the Healer’s care. The man had a long, tongue-twisting name, which Faramir could never pronounce correctly, finally settling on Varthandra. He refused to say where he was from or how he had come to be with Aragorn and the Dunedain, but he would speak to Faramir unlike the rest of Aragorn’s men who ignored him.

Faramir rested his head against the hard wood, stretching his legs, trying to relax. As he had began to recover, he felt more and more as if he was a spirit, unable to speak or be spoken to, touch or be touched. Even when they brought him food or, most recently, chained him and marched him to Osgiliath, it was as if Faramir was at best an animal. He had at first expected blows or other punishments. At first relieved at their absence, he soon came to believe that such isolation was its own torment, leaving him vulnerable in unfamiliar ways. Even when he had tried to provoke some response, he had failed.

He did not know why he had been brought to Osgiliath. He did not wish to imagine what reasons Aragorn had.

After some uncounted time, Faramir heard voices, Aragorn’s laugh rising over them. Feeling his heart beating faster, Faramir wondered how he could recognize that voice among all the others. As the canvas flap was opened, he could see light from flickering torches touching colour from rich fabrics before Aragorn ducked inside.

He was wearing a long tunic of rich cloth, green with gold embroidery, over dark leggings and boots. He stood, holding a lamp, smiling at Faramir. Swallowing, his throat dry, Faramir felt his heart racing, realized he was tensing, expecting an immediate attack. He clenched his hands and stared at Aragorn.

“You’ve recovered.” Aragorn moved behind him.

Faramir heard small noises, strained to make sense of them, turning his head as much as he could. Metal against wood, metal against metal. The splash of liquid being poured.

When Aragorn came back into view, he was holding a silver cup that looked small in his hand. He knelt by Faramir’s side, laying a hand on his head.

“Why am I here?” Faramir’s voice sounded strange in his own ears after so long in silence. Her jerked his head sideways as Aragorn stroked him from brow to jaw.

“I’ll be meeting with the commander of Gondor’s forces tomorrow,” Aragorn said, hand settling on Faramir’s throat.

The touch was light, unsettling. Faramir tried to ignore it. He would not ask. It had to be Boromir.

“Ithilien will be mine.”

“No!”

“You are mine.”

Turning to look as directly into the blue eyes as he could, Faramir shook his head. “I am Gondor’s. Living or dead.”

“Gondor has abandoned Ithilien, withdrawing across the River, leaving some of her fairest land to be plundered and despoiled by Orcs.”

“Orcs are your allies,” Faramir said bitterly. “Do you think your rule will be any different?”

Aragorn shrugged one shoulder, draining his cup and setting it aside. “We shall see.”

Moving so quickly Faramir could not respond, Aragorn shifted, settling over Faramir’s legs, settling his full weight on him, pinning Faramir despite his belated attempt to resist. Straining and twisting, Faramir struggled, bruising himself against wood, finally subsiding, panting, feeling sweat soaking through his clothes.

Aragorn leaned forward and unlaced Faramir’s shirt, pulling it open.

“We have all night,” he said. “And tomorrow, I will have either undisputed lordship of Ithilien. Or of you. And perhaps of both.”

“No.”

Aragorn tugged the too-large shirt off Faramir’s shoulders, down as far as his elbows, to bare his upper body. Despite the warmth of the air, Faramir could not help shivering.

“We shall see,” Aragorn said and slowly bushed the tips of his fingers across Faramir’s chest, trailing from the base of his throat out and down, across his nipples.

The sensation shocked Faramir, a light brush followed by not pain, but the tingling warning of pain, as Aragorn’s touch moved down. Feeling the hardening nubs, Faramir breathed out, cautious, as Aragorn stroked his chest and sides. As chill rain on the face wakes a sleeper, cold knifed across his ribs.

Trying not to breathe out, Faramir pressed back against wood, watching Aragorn’s eyes shift from face down to body as his hands slid around Faramir’s waist. As palms pressed against him, Faramir could feel cold striking deep. He forced himself to relax under Aragorn’s weight, head tilting back. He shut his eyes, trying to let the cold slide off him as he’d learned to do during winter watches.

Cramps seized him as Aragorn’s fingers pressed deep into soft flesh, and Faramir arched, crying out.

The agony subsided as he looked at Aragorn. Feeling tremors within, Faramir waited, watching Aragorn’s eyes gleaming blue through half-shut lids.

“You’re very responsive,” Aragorn said softly, shifting forward. “But don’t do that again. Watch me.”

“Or what? You’ll punish me?” Faramir almost laughed.

Head tilting, Aragorn smiled. “It’s not punishment,” he said as he slid his hands up and over Faramir’s shoulders, flexing against him. “You’ll learn.”

As Aragorn moved forward, shifting his weight onto his knees, Faramir pulled his up sharply, bracing his feet and thrusting up, throwing Aragorn off balance, toppling him over. Recovering, Aragorn rolled easily to his feet, avoiding Faramir’s kick, and gripped his neck, pressing. Light and dark swirled in front of Faramir’s eyes as he gasped for breath.

“You force me to teach you what punishment is.”

Aragorn’s voice followed Faramir down into darkness.


Arms and legs aching, Faramir woke fully when he tried to move and could not. He blinked, realizing he was chained, stretched out across Aragorn’s bed. He strained and lifted his head enough to see he was naked.

“Is it ready?” Aragorn’s voice came from behind.

“Almost. You want to do it?” Halbarad.

“No.”

Appearing by the side of the low bed, Aragorn saw that Faramir was awake and nodded. He slid onto to bed, lying over Faramir, the rich nap of fabric sliding over skin, hands resting against his sides.

“This is your punishment,” Aragorn said. “Since you resist me, I have to mark you.”

Faramir shook his head, confused, but said nothing.

A moment later, Halbard appeared, a rod in his gloved hand. The end, a complicated figure, glowed red.

Pain cut through wrists and ankles as Faramir pulled, but between the chains and Aragorn’s weight, no movement was possible.

Smiling, Halbarad stood over him. “Where?”

Eyes wide, Faramir held his breath as Aragorn considered him, then touched his chest on the left, just below his collarbone on his shoulder.

“There.”

Before Faramir could respond, could even think, glowing iron struck his skin. The sizzling reek of burned hair and flesh drowned all thought even as pain greater than any he had known seized him.

Drenched in sweat, Faramir swallowed blood, realizing it was over as he opened his eyes to see Halbarad’s back moving away. The pain retreated to his shoulder, throbbing, as Aragorn leaned closer, eyes half shut, smiling. His hands moved across Faramir’s chest.

Metal sounded against metal then Halbarad spoke. “Is that all?”

“For now,” Aragorn said. “My thanks.”

Faramir lay, focusing on the sounds as Halbarad left the tent, the voices outside, as Aragorn stroked him, then rose. Watching through half-closed eyes, Faramir saw Aragorn strip, dousing the one lamp, then pull bedding up over Faramir, sliding in next to him.

Aragorn slid one arm under Faramir, shifting him until he was lying half on his side and half against the strong body behind him, the other arm over him. Their bodies touching, wet skin sliding against skin, a hand slid slowly down and along Faramir’s belly. He could not move without touching Aragorn in some way, without feeling him respond to the touch.

Clinging to the pain in his shoulder, the only defense he had against responding to the warmth of the hand that moved slower, to the closeness, Faramir tried to endure. There was no penetration, no further forcing, just the sly caresses, stroking that both calmed and excited, pulling a moan from Faramir.

Wetness spread across his skin as Aragorn whispered, almost too low to be heard, “You will learn.”

No. With every breath, every beat of his heart, every pulse of hot pain, Faramir refused.

He did not know when the darkness behind his eyes became the darkness of sleep.


The sun warmed him as he was marched across the camp and the battlefield near the river but the ground under his feet was cold. Faramir refused to look at any of the dark figures around him, ignored the jests and laughter, kept his eyes on the white stone of the ruined city over which still flew Gondor’s banner.

He had been shaken awake earlier, unchained, given a cup of water and a stale oatcake. The men had not spoken to him but had let him piss and pull on leggings and shirt before chaining his arms behind his back and tugging him out of the tent.

He was stiff and sore, the skin on his chest and shoulder burning. The unlaced shirt hung open nearly to his waist, and the smell of the ragged clothing seemed stronger than before.

Faramir realized they were approaching a large tent set in open ground surrounded by armoured men, some of Gondor.

He moved more quickly, almost tugging free of the man on his left, as they entered the tent. The hum of talk within silenced as Faramir was pulled forward, stumbling, to stand beside Aragorn who was one of half a dozen seated around the large table.

Imrahil leaped to his feet, face reddening, his hand on his sword. “By the Valar!” His voice was loud, breaking the silence.

Halbarad stood in turn, facing Imrahil.

Faramir paid him little attention and hardly looked at the others who shifted, cursing under their breath, or who started to their feet. He could see only Boromir who sat opposite Aragorn, unmoving, one hand resting on the dark wood of the table, the other on the arm of the large chair.

Sitting so still that the light from the candles did not flicker on shining mail, Boromir watched Faramir. Seeing the green eyes move, then narrow, just slightly, Faramir relaxed, lifting his head.

The men who had brought him to this council released him, leaving with no word.

“I told you he lived,” Aragorn said, his voice mild, leaning back in his chair.

“You did,” Boromir said. “Yet I had no reason to believe you.”

Aragorn nodded, clasping his hands in front of him. “I do not lie.” He had not looked at Faramir, keeping his eyes on Boromir.

“Then speak your terms.”

“The rabble of Gondor shall withdraw beyond Anduin, taking oaths never to attack Lord Sauron again. All these lands east of the River shall be Sauron’s forever. West of the Anduin as far as the Misty Mountains shall pay tribute to Mordor. Saruman shall rule from Isengard, and I from Ithilien.”

Faramir opened his mouth but checked when he saw Boromir shake his head. When Boromir spoke, his voice was level. “That is much to demand for the return of one man, so much that otherwise you and your Master must fight many a war to gain.”

“These are the terms. Take them or leave them.” Aragorn stood easily, placing his hand on Faramir’s shoulder.

Ignoring the pain caused by pressure, Faramir spoke. “We reject your terms utterly. Ithilien is Gondor’s.”

“The Captain of Ithilien speaks for Gondor,” Boromir said. “We will not give up lands to one who is faithless and accursed.”

“Then I shall plan on keeping your brother by my side, day and night,” Aragorn tugged Faramir back a step. “He shall never be released until maybe when he is broken, tamed to my will, when I may send him back to you to see what you have done.”

The last thing Faramir saw as Aragorn pushed him toward Halbard with a muttered order was Boromir rising to his feet, face twisted with anger. As Halbarad dragged Faramir out of the tent, he heard Boromir shouting.

Halbarad dragged Faramir after him, half-running, half stumbling, across the open field and back to the camp. There, he gave orders for horses and men, cursing when only half a dozen animals could be found.

“Forget the horses, then,” Halbard ordered. “Take him back to the caves. Lord Aragorn will be following in a day or two, but he doesn’t want him in the camp in case they send in men to rescue him.”

Numb with despair at the thought of returning to the darkness of the caves, Faramir stood, shoulders slumped, as the men gathered supplies and rations, muttering among themselves. As they gathered together and began the march, he kept his head down.

As they climbed the hill, a flicker of hope grew. They had not chained him to one of them, as had been done earlier. Perhaps he would be able to escape somewhere in the woods of Ithilien.

Their shadows grew as the sun fell behind them. They were moving north and east, traveling quickly along one of the old roads that ran from the grasslands near the River up into the wooded hills. The road led into a gorge. Ahead Faramir could see the beginning of the woods.

The whisper of sound brought his head up, mouth dry. The man marching next to him dropped to the ground, an arrow buried in his throat.

“Down!”

Rhisiart’s voice.

Faramir dropped as the men around him began to react, reaching for weapons, moving for cover, shouting. But they were caught in the open, as Faramir’s men had been, and died quickly under the deadly rain. The reek of blood wiped out the green smell of grass and woods as Faramir lay pressed to the ground, half expecting a blow.

The hard hands that pulled him up off the ground belonged to a Ranger of Ithilien. Faramir hardly had time to see the bodies that sprawled around him before he was pulled away, running as fast as he could toward the woods, ducking his head as branches whipped his face.

Angry at how weak he was, Faramir forced himself on until they broke into a clearing where Rhisiart and others stood, two holding the reins of half a dozen horses.

Panting, pain stitching through his side and feet, Faramir could not speak, could only stand, swaying but upright.

Rhisiart nodded at him, then looked at the man by his side. “His hands?”

“Chained.”

“Get him on a horse.” Rhisiart unclasped his cloak pin, pulled the cloak off. “And put this on him.”

Another man came to help, and, half-pushing, half-pulling, they got Faramir on one of the horses then swung the cloak around his shoulders, pulling the hood low over his face. Rhisiart swung up behind him, gathering the reins in one hand, an arm around Faramir.

“All of you, scatter and get across the River. Tell the others.”

Mounted men closed around them as Rhisiart urged the horse into a trot. Faramir wondered if the pace was safe over such rough ground but said nothing until they had gone some way.

He felt hollow inside, unable to believe what had happened, wondering if this was some dream.

“How?”

He felt Rhisiart’s chuckle against his back. “Boromir. He ordered horses for us, sent us ahead, when your father refused to allow the Rangers from Ithilien to march to Osgiliath. We were supposed to take Aragorn to exchange for you.”

The flush of anger made Faramir forget his pain. “Refused to allow you to fight?”

“Because we lost Ithilien.”

Faramir bit back the words he wanted to say. His father was the Steward.

“I just hope Lord Boromir will understand,” Rhisiart said, voice shifting in a way Faramir did not comprehend at first..

“Understand?”

“Our failure to take Aragorn.” The mock solemnity of Rhisiart’s voice surprised Faramir who could not help laughing, feeling his anger wash away.

“I think my brother will forgive you,” he said.

“Good.”

They rode more slowly now, making a wide circuit first to the north then coming about to ride west. The half dozen riders spoke little as dusk shadowed the fair glades of Ithilien. Faramir was content to sit, wrapped in the warmth of cloak and arm which seemed to keep weariness and hunger at bay.

He could see the first stars as they came out of the woods onto grasslands. Rhisiart kneed the horse to a canter, and Faramir did his best to relax into the motion. He was almost asleep when he realized they’d stopped and were talking in low voices. Shocked, Faramir blinked, sat up, forced himself to listen.

“We still hold the bridges,” Rhisiart said. “And the peace was set for a day and night.”

“But will we be able to pass? The enemy is on this side of the River.”

“Stay close together, ride slowly,” Rhisiart said. “Until we’re to the bridges, then gallop. It’s dark.”

“They’ll fire on us.”

“Better them than the enemy. If we live, they’ll let us live. Stop as soon as you can and surrender.”

Faramir tensed as they began to move down the hill, at a walk, going diagonally toward one of the bridges that still stood, linking Osgiliath to Ithilien. Aragorn’s forces were spread out on ground and hills of the east bank of Anduin. Faramir looked away from the camp where he had been held, forcing the memory of last night away, searching for the bridge that crossed the River.

More torches flared, marking the bridge. Peering out from under the hood that still shadowed his face, Faramir could see armed men on the bank and on the bridge. It was close, so close.

“Keep down,” Rhisiart said briefly, and Faramir bent forward as much as he could, feeling Rhisiart’s weight over him in the moment before he kicked the horse into a gallop. The jolting run awoke all Faramir’s injuries. He set his teeth and endured, not trying to see what was happening around them.

He could hear though, shouts, screams, the clang of metal.

Behind him, Rhisiart cursed, then shouted, “For Gondor! Faramir for Gondor!”

Hooves clattered against stone, and the horse danced about as Rhisiart pulled back on the reins.

Farmir strained to make sense of the jumble of movement around them. As his vision cleared, he could see a circle of men around some with bows ready, others with swords. Torchlight flickered on grim faces.

Rhisiart pulled the hood of his cloak, yanking Faramir upright. He could hear his name being muttered, then shouts for more light came on the heels of orders to fetch the commanders

Held upright only by Rhisiart’s arm, Faramir waited. Finally he heard Boromir’s voice.

Holding a torch, Boromir shouldered through the men. He was wearing a red tunic and chain mail, not the full armour of earlier, under a black cloak. The moment he saw Faramir, he smiled, tossed the torch to another, and ordered the armed men back, striding forward.

“Rhisiart! You’ve suceeded better than I dared hope!”

“Call a blacksmith,” Rhisiart said briefly, steadying Faramir as he swung a leg up and over to slide off the horse into his brother’s arms.

Knees buckling, Faramir leaned against Boroimr, feeling the metal of mail and buckles through the thin cloth he wore, held easily upright, smelling the mingled scents of soap, wine, and Boromir’s own fragrance as Boromir hugged him, then swung around, starting to walk Faramir away.

“Get Healers too.”

Some note in Rhisiart’s voice brought Faramir back around to see the large man sliding off the horse in turn, back to them, holding onto the saddle. He did not move, and Faramir frowned, not understanding, until he saw the blood glistening on his leg.

Rhisiart turned to face Boromir and took one step forward before collapsing. Without thinking, Faramir tugged free of his brother’s hands, forgetting his own hands were chained, leaping forward to catch the falling body but falling into darkness under Rhisiart’s weight.

Darkness.

Faramir’s shoulder burned.

Weight pressed on arms and legs.

He twisted, sweating, and strained against the hands holding him down. He was caught, could not move, could not see, could not hear.

You will learn.

He tried to speak but his voice was strangled in his throat.

Burning.


Faramir twisted, voice suddenly free, shouting wordless denial, thrashing against the hands that held him down.

“Let him go, fool!”

“But he’ll hurt himself.”

“Worse if you hold him down.”

Suddenly free, Faramir rolled onto his stomach, panting. He lifted a hand to rub his eyes, sore and swollen, and blinked.

White stone walls. He was lying in a narrow bed. Cautious, he turned his head to see Rhisiart gripping a Healer by the shoulder.

“What? Where?” Faramir tried to push himself up but gave up when the room seemed to spin around him.

Releasing the Healer who stepped back, rubbing his shoulder, Rhisiart said, “We’re in Osgiliath.”

“Osgiliath.”

Faramir rested his head on his arms, shutting his eyes against tears. The darkness this time was safe, welcoming.


When he woke again, he remembered where he was and what had happened.

He opened his eyes to dimness. The small room was lit with one lamp, ceiling low, no window in any wall. An open arch lacked a door, and the floor was cracked, worn. A low bed was shoved against the wall across the room, empty.

Rhisiart sat slumped in a chair by Faramir’s bed, legs stretched out, wearing green leggings and a stained shirt, gaping at the throat. Faramir could see the bulk of bandages that wrapped around one leg. A sword was propped against the wall beside him, within arm’s reach.

Feeling stronger, Faramir sat, swallowing dryness in his throat.

At the sound of his movement, Rhisiart woke, reaching for the sword, then relaxed as he saw Faramir and nodded. “You’re awake. Do you remember where we are?”

“Osgiliath.” Faramir realized he was naked except for bandages wrapped around his shoulder and leg, pulled the bedding around him. “How long?”

“Two nights since we rode in. Are you hungry?”

Faramir nodded, lying back as Rhisiart rose and went to the door. He limped as he walked, and Faramir pulled the bedding higher. He could think of nothing to say when Rhisiart returned, lowering himself into the chair slowly, sighing. He did not seem concerned at the silence, sitting until the Healer entered. It was another man, younger than the first, carrying a bowl.

Pulling a stool next to the bed with one foot, the Healer sat down. He smiled at Faramir, scooped the thin liquid into a spoon, and held it out.

Faramir shook his head, pulling away. “No,” he said, his voice harsh in his ears.

“You need to eat.”

“I can feed myself.”

Shaking, Faramir pushed himself up, not caring that the bedding slipped down, and held out his hand.

“Let me help, you’re weak.”

Clenching his fist, Faramir struggled not to strike the smirking face. He could feel anger hot within, the pounding of his heart echoing in his body.

“Let him do it himself.”

The anger drained away at the sound of Rhisiart’s voice, cool in the dim room.

“But—”

“Give him the bowl.”

The Healer held it out, frowning, and Faramir grasped it in both hands. He knew he was shaking, but gripped firmly, dipping the spoon and raising it slowly to his mouth. The bland warmth was soothing, and he concentrated on emptying the bowl without spilling, then held it out to the Healer.

“My thanks,” he said, trying to smile.

The Healer ducked his head, took the bowl, and left.

Faramir lay back, suddenly weary.

Leaning over, Rhisiart picked up a goblet from the floor which he offered Faramir. He took it, sipping then drinking the cool water greedily. Rhisiart took it from his hand when he was done.

“Better?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

“You were hurt that night?”

Rhisiart shrugged, rubbing his leg. “A cut. They put me in here because I can still use a sword.”

“Why does that matter?” Faramir yawned, feeling sleepy and warm.

“Because your brother thinks Aragorn will try to get you back. So do I.”

Chilled, Faramir shifted under the bedding. It made a terrible kind of sense.

“In fact, we fought.” Rhisiart set the goblet down on the floor.

“About what?”

“He wanted to send you back to Minas Tirith that night, as soon as the Healers looked you over. I told him he’d be making the same mistake Aragorn did.”

Even through his fear, Faramir wondered what Boromir’s response to that had been.

“The moment the peace was over, they attacked again, stronger than ever. We’ve thrown them back, for now.”

“For now.”

Rhisiart nodded. He watched Faramir who was stuggling to control his breathing for a moment, then stood, limping over to his bed. He reached under the pillow, then turned, coming to stand next to Faramir.

“Here. Don’t tell the Healers.” He was holding out a small flask.

Confused, Faramir took it, uncorked it, sniffed. The smell was sweet, so he shrugged, lifted it to his lips and tilted his head back, swallowing. The thick liquid ran gold down his throat.

Faramir licked his lips and gave the flask back to Rhisiart who took and corked it.

“What is it?” Sweet warmth seemed to spread through Faramir who relaxed.

“Apples, mostly. It’s a drink we brew at home. There’s only one Inn that sells it in Minas Tirith.”

Faramir felt his eyes closing. The last thing he saw before sleep took him was Rhisiart settling back into the chair, sword at hand.


Faramir walked as slowly as he dared, looking down at the white flagstones over which he walked, avoiding the faces on either side of him. He was unable to shut out the sound of whispers, laughter. When he came to the flight of stairs that led to the throne, he stopped. He forced himself to look up.

In dark velvets, Aragorn sat at his ease, one leg extended, hands at rest on the carved arms of Gondor’s throne. He smiled at Faramir.

Unable to stop himself, Faramir unlaced his tunic, pulled it over his head, dropping it to the floor. He had to stand first on one foot, then the other, awkward, to pull off his boots. The sound as each hit the floor was loud, echoing in the hushed silence. Hands shaking, feeling the heat of his shame even in the cool air of the Hall, Faramir fumbled at the ties of his leggings.

He tried to pull free of the compulsion and failed. He could not resist.

Pushing his leggings down, he stepped out of them, moving forward to kneel, head bowed.

“What do you wish, son of Denethor?”

“To be yours, lord.”

Horrified at the words he heard himself saying, Faramir bit down, tasting blood. No!

Faramir heard the echo of his shout, flinched as hard hands closed on his shoulders, struck wildly. His hand hit leather and slid off. He was too weak.

“Faramir!”

Boromir’s voice.

Gasping, Faramir blinked, eyes watering in the candlelight.

Boromir was sitting on the bed next to him, hands resting on Faramir’s shoulders. He relaxed, feeling the smooth bedding under him, and managed to smile.

“You were dreaming,” Boromir stood, looking for the chair, then pulling it forward to sit. He was armed and attired for battle, a leather jerkin and rich red tunic over his mail shirt.

Faramir nodded, pushing himself up, leaning back against the pillows.

Boromir watched him, legs spread, resting his arms on his thighs, eyes intent.

The silence in the room grew.

Rubbing his shoulder, Faramir looked away. The brand ached less, but it itched. He tried to scratch, but the bandages frustrated his efforts and the itching seemed to spread under his skin.

“What happened to your shoulder?”

Faramir pulled his hand away. “A burn,” he said. He forced himself to look back at Boromir.

“How did it happen?”

“Aragorn.”

Faramir was relieved when Boromir nodded, sitting back in the chair, asking no further questions.

“Rhisiart said that Aragorn was attacking again, stronger than before.”

“He’s gotten more forces from Minas Morgul. That’s what we think happened, that they were massing there for some time where none of the scouts dared go. The first force came down from the north, then were joined by orcs and Southrons. We’re holding them, for now.” Boromir paused, then went on. “I want you to stay out of sight in case he sends a force here to search for you.”

“Here?”

“Rhisiart made it clear they had access to the stores at Henneth Annûn. The northern Rangers could pass as men of Gondor. We cast down the last bridge, but they have boats.”

A voice from outside broke the silence. “Lord Boromir! They’re attacking again!”

Boromir stood, adjusting his sword, smiled the smile he wore into battle. “Rhisiart thought the danger was greater in open country, that you were more likely to be re-taken if I sent you back to Minas Tirith. If he’s wrong, he’ll be dead. So keep your head down.”

Mouth dry, Faramir nodded.

Before he turned and left, Boromir said, “Send for me at any time if you wish to talk.”

Faramir slid down, pulling the covers higher, nodding at Rhisiart who came back into the room, showing no sign he had heard what Boromir had said.

Eyes closed, not sleeping for fear of another dream, Faramir tried not to think of what Boromir might say or do if told all that Aragorn had done.


Three weeks later

Boromir made himself walk slowly through the streets and courtyards of Osgiliath. He knew many eyes watched him, that many rumours were flying. Denethor had come this morning.

They had fought within the first hour. Boromir had lost.

This defeat after the last weeks of stalemate burned within Boromir, but he dared not show his anger to his men.

Turning from the wide street into a narrow alley, choked with fallen stones and slippery with moss that grew in shadowed corners, Boromir walked carefully into the courtyard outside the half-ruined building where Faramir and Rhisiart stayed.

Through the archway, Boromir heard laughter and his heart lightened. It had been too long since Faramir had laughed, and his smile when Boromir visited him had been clearly forced. And he had not spoken of what he’d endured while Aragorn’s prisoner, no matter what encouragement Boromir had given.

Even the Healer had refused to give Boromir any details. It would be easier to admit that in Aragorn he may have met his equal as a warleader if Boromir’s own family did not also oppose him. Pushing that thought from his mind, Boromir ducked inside.

Rhisiart rose to his feet, sword gleaming in his hand, then relaxed when he saw who it was. His movement had scattered the pieces in front of him, but Boromir recognized the game. A children’s one, easily played with a a handful of stones.

Faramir smiled up, sitting cross-legged on the floor, and gestured at the interrupted game. “You come at a good time, brother, to save me from defeat!”

Boromir nodded at Rhisiart who sheathed his blade and left the room.

Faramir looked pale but stronger, his smile familiar again. Boromir wished he had better news.

He dropped the bundle he carried on the bed.

“Our father is here.”

Smile fading, Faramir scrambled to his feet, moving easily.

“Why?”

“Aragorn sent heralds to him, with an offer of peace, and Denethor has come to meet with him.”

Faramir frowned. “The same offer he made before?”

“No. He’s given up on demanding tribute, asking only that we cede Ithilien to him and withdraw from Osgiliath.”

“Only! Has father agreed?”

“Not yet.” Here, with Faramir, Boromir allowed himself the luxury of a frown, rubbed his head where the ache that had begun earlier was growing. “But he insists on meeting with him.”

“And?”

Boromir sighed. “And he wants us both with him.”

“Ah.” Faramir turned, fumbling at the bundle. When he opened it, rich cloth, dark blue with silver stars, spilled across the grey blankets. He picked up the tunic, shaking it free of the fine-woven leggings.

“When?”

“Soon. You need to dress. We’re to meet him at the River.”

A silence, then Faramir said, “I’ll join you outside as soon as I’m ready.” His voice was even, cool, and Boromir could only nod and leave.

Rhisiart was leaning against the wall to the right of the door, only a few paces away.

“You heard?”

Rhisiart folded his arms. He said nothing, but the quirk of his lips, a lifted brow, was eloquent.

“Will you wait here, until we return?” Boromir wasn’t sure why he asked and refused to admit his relief when Rhisiart nodded, once.

They waited in silence until Faramir stepped out, the westering sun bright on his hair and the embroidered stars of his tunic. He bore no weapon, and Boromir cursed, having forgotten to bring one.

“Here.” Rhisiart unbuckled the leather sword belt and held the weapon out to Faramir who took it, nodding his thanks, and buckled it on.


Boromir walked beside Denethor, Faramir on his other side, across the uneven ground which was torn from the weeks of fighting. Gondor’s banner, white and gold, flew high over the tent, matched by Aragorn’s silver tree and seven stars flashing against blackness. As before, half the guards were Boromir’s men, half Aragorn’s. The men stared ahead, ignoring each other, as one of each company held the flaps open for the Steward of Gondor to enter followed by his sons.

Inside, the air was warm and still, spiced with the scents of candles and wine. Aragorn, flanked by two others, was standing at one end of the table. He looked up as they entered, eyes moving past Denethor, tall and lordly in black trimmed with rich fur, over Boromir, to linger on Faramir who was standing still, back to the entrance.

Boromir mistrusted the look in Faramir’s eyes and moved to stand in front of him, shielding him from view, standing close enough to the table to accept a goblet of wine from the man across him with a nod of thanks. After a moment of stillness, Aragorn moved in turn, nodding to Denethor, coming to sit across the table from him.

Sitting at Denethor’s right hand, pretending to sip, Boromir left the chair furthest away from Aragorn for Faramir. Knowing what Aragorn was going to say, Boromir focused on his father.

Or rather, on the Steward who had been so angry when Boromir had fought to keep Faramir away from this meeting that he had not told the commander of Gondor’s army what reply he would make to Aragorn.

Denethor leaned back, dark eyes on Aragorn, and spoke. “You have sent messages that you and your master will cease fighting if granted undisputed rule over Ithilien and the withdrawal of Gondor’s forces from Osgiliath. Is that all?”

Aragorn nodded.

“Earlier, you asked for much more. Why this sudden change?”

“My lord had hopes of achieving much more,” Aragorn spoke easily. “He did not expect the failing might of Gondor to stand against the forces brought under his banner.” He raised his goblet to Boromir. “He miscalculated. I have told him that we cannot win this war.”

Denethor snorted, folding his hands on the polished wood. “The forces of Mordor are vast. Do you expect me to believe he could not bring another army against us?”

“Perhaps he could, but his forces have many duties. I have no desire to spend months sitting on the bank of Anduin and know that you have not yet lit the beacons to call Rohan.”

Boromir stopped listening as they continued to speak. He felt their words were empty. After an uncounted time, as the tent darkened, Denethor pushed his empty goblet away.

“If I accept your offer, what surety can you make that the next season will not bring another attack against my City?”

Aragorn smiled, teeth gleaming against the short dark beard. “My blood kin,” he said. He laid a hand on the arm of the dark-haired man sitting on his right. “Halbarad. My cousin. He will return with you to Minas Tirith. And you, my lord, may choose one of your blood who will be my guest as well. That way, if either of us breaks our word, we do so knowing our kinsman will be the first to die.”

The jaws of the trap were closing. “No.” Boromir stood.

In the silence of the pause, the only sound Boromir could hear was the rasp of Faramir’s breath.

“Such a thing is not uncommon,” Denethor said mildly. He stood as well, nodding to Aragorn, grasping Boromir’s arm. “I will take one night to consider your offer and will send a herald to you at the third hour after sunrise with my answer.”

Aragorn stood in turn, gesturing to the entrance of the tent, nodding. “I will await your messenger, my lord Steward.”

Boromir tried to pull free and was surprised at the strength of his father’s grip as he left. Unwilling to actually fight his father in front of the enemy, Boromir followed as slowly as he could. Halbarad fell in behind them, and it was not until they were a dozen paces or more from the tent that Boromir realized Faramir did not follow.

“Such a thing is not uncommon,” Denethor said. “I will take one night to consider your offer and will send a herald to you at the third hour after sunrise with my answer.”

“I will await your messenger, my lord Steward.”

Faramir tried to stand when the others did, but he was shaking so hard he could not. He closed his eyes, tried to breathe. Cold sweat ran down his back and sides, but he gripped the solid wood of the table, pushing himself back and up. He made it onto his feet and turned to go.

Aragorn was standing there, within arm’s reach. Behind him was the only way out.

Faramir stumbled back, trapped against the hard wood of the table. Only his grip on the edge kept him standing.

“Are you ill, Captain?”

Shaking his head, Faramir could see no way to reach the entrance without passing close enough for Aragorn to touch him. Even now, he could smell the familiar scent, leather and salt and smoke, that seemed to wind through every fiber of Faramir’s body. He recognized the rich green tunic, remembered the rasp of it over his skin.

“I regret my failure then.”

Faramir swallowed, hard, before he could speak. “Your failure?”

“I must have failed in courtesy else you would not be so fearful to be my guest.”

“I recall no courtesy. And I was a prisoner, not a guest.”

Aragorn stepped closer. Faramir leaned back but could not elude the hand that settled on his shoulder. The brand blazed, pain striking through his body, heat burning down his spine.

Dizzy, Faramir shut his eyes.

“You are mine, captain. You bear my mark. It will never leave you.” Aragorn’s voice was soft, breath brushing against Faramir’s skin. He could feel the stroke down his throat, the grip on the back of his neck.

“And it will bring you back to me.”

“No.”

Even as Faramir tried to shout his denial, his voice failed. Aragorn slid forward, mouth settling on Faramir’s, tongue sliding through his open lips. The hard wood cut into Faramir’s thighs, and he felt himself leaning back further. Aragorn’s body moved against his, hardness pressing against his leg, and to his horror Faramir felt his own body respond.

“Faramir!”

Boromir’s voice cut through the thick air like a sharp blade through smoke.

Gasping, Faramir found himself standing next to the table, hands clenched at his sides. He opened his eyes to see Aragorn standing several paces away, smiling.

The tent flaps were pulled back to reveal Boromir, frowning.

“What are you doing?”

Aragorn turned, hands spread wide. “I was speaking to your brother, my lord. About those beauties hidden in Ithilen which he knows well and which he might show me whilst he is my guest.”

Hand curling around his sword hilt, Boromir stared at Aragorn a long moment in silence, then turned back to Faramir.

“The boat is waiting.”

Numb, Faramir walked forward, not believing he would be allowed to go, not even as he walked beside Boromir down to the River where their father waited, dark robes fading into the darkening night.

“Rhisiart!”

Boromir’s voice was loud as they entered the courtyard.

Faramir followed Boromir into the windowless room where Rhisiart had built a fire and lit several candles which spread a pool of golden light around the low table.

He was lying on his bed and rose to sit as they entered.

“Get to as many of the Rangers as you can,” Boromir ordered. “Tell them to meet you on the west bank as soon as possible, but to cross the River alone.”

Rhisiart stood, shaking his hair back. “Where are we going?”

“Dol Amroth.”

“For how long?”

“I don’t know. I’ll write an order for supplies, and for horses. Come back here for it.”

Boromir turned, gripping Faramir’s shoulders, shaking him slightly.

“What happened back there?”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t move, at first, and then—” Faramir shuddered at the memory of his body’s betrayal.

“You’re leaving. Now.”

“Leaving?” How?”

“You’ll ride with the Rangers, go north, then along the Great West Road. I don’t think any will expect you to go that way. You can turn south later, through the mountain passes, then south and west to Dol Amroth.”

“What will father say?”

“I don’t care.”

Boromir frowned, then his hands dropped, unbuckling Rhisiart’s sword belt, setting it by the table.

Faramir flinched as Boromir pulled a knife and cut his tunic laces, yanked hard. Faramir heard the fabric rip.

“Stand still!” After sheathing his knife, Boromir tugged the ripped tunic over Faramir’s head and dropped it on the floor, then turned and kicked the chair over. He picked up a jug from the table and dropped it. The crash jolted Faramir, and he stepped back, but Boromir gripped his arm and pulled him forward, toward the pool of candlelight.

After days of itching and oozing fluids, the brand had scabbed over. When the healing was advanced enough to leave off the bandage, Faramir had taken care never to undress in front of his brother or Rhisiart.

As Boromir peered at his shoulder, Faramir tried to pull away, but Boromir gripped his other arm, pulling him around.

“You told me it was a burn.”

Boromir’s voice was even, but Faramir could see the muscles in jaw and neck tensing, feel the strength in the hands which held him still.

The red brand, double A runes, shone against Faramir’s skin. He could feel it pulse, despite the numbness of the raised scar.

“What else haven’t you told me?”

Faramir flushed, brought his hands up to strike Boromir’s wrists sharply, loosening his grip, twisting away.

“I will not tell you all that happened,” Faramir said. “It matters to none but me.”

He bent to pick up the ripped tunic, gripping it in his right hand.

“If we had more time, I would convince you otherwise. But there is no time. I want you hours gone by the time Denethor sends his message, and I want to confuse the trail.”

“How?”

“Thus,” Boromir gripped Faramir’s left wrist and drew his knife across it, the sharp blade cutting so cleanly there was little pain at first.

Confused, Faramir watched blood well up.

Boromir tugged the tunic free, dropped it again, and held Faramir’s arm over it, watching the blood fall onto tunic.

“If I come tomorrow just before the third hour and find this room empty and signs of a struggle, what am I to think? That Aragorn’s men, not knowing of the recent meeting, or not trusting Gondor will agree, have taken you by force.”

Watching the blood soak into the blue cloth, darkening it, Faramir said, “So you think he will agree to Aragorn’s demand?”

“Don’t you?”

Faramir nodded. Denethor had long limited the men assigned to Ithilien, not enough to fight, just enough to keep watch, moving the forces ever closer to Minas Tirith, keeping many in the City itself. Gondor’s boundaries had shrunk in recent years.

If his father had not immediately rejected Aragorn’s demand for surety, then Faramir knew, the knowledge cold in his stomach, that the morning’s herald would take Denethor’s agreement across the River.

Probably with Faramir as well.

Releasing Faramir’s arm, Boromir searched through the clutter on the table until he found the salve the Healer had given Faramir to use on the brand, smeared some over the cut, and wrapped a bandage around his arm, knotting it.

“Even if he rejects this demand, there will be others. And eventually, Denethor will agree. The further away you are, the better.”

Remembering what Aragorn had said, Faramir nodded.

“Here.” Boromir shrugged out of his tunic, red and gold, and tossed it to Faramir. “Wear this. I don’t want you taking anything from this room. Leave everything.”

Clumsy from exhaustion as the shock left him, Faramir tugged the tunic on, slightly too large and still warm from Boromir’s body.

Boromir looked around the room again, thinking, then handed his signet ring to Faramir. “Take this as well. Don’t identify yourself to anyone on the road. You’ll simply be carrying messages for me from Imrahil to his home.”

The ring slid easily onto Faramir’s hand.

“Be sure to get the horses kept for the errand-riders. They’re the best, the fastest. And when you get there, write, but send the message under cover to the Five Armies. They’ll hold it for me there.”

Faramir stood, trying to listen as Boromir paced, laying out his plans. The room seemed to darken as Faramir waited for Rhisiart to return, wondering if Dol Amroth was far enough away from Aragorn. And the dreams.


The first three nights were the worst. They rode steadily, alternating between trotting and walking to save the horses’ strength, through the dark hours. During the day, they stopped, grooming and hobbling the horses, pouring grain onto the ground and letting them graze during the day while the men rolled themselves in cloaks and slept. Meals had been cold travel rations at dawn and dusk.

The past weeks of imprisonment and healing had left Faramir unused to the demands flight made of him. Only pain kept him from falling asleep in the saddle the third night, and he greeted that dawn with relief.

He slid off the horse and stood leaning against the animal’s side, breathing in warm scents of sweat and dust. When they had first left Osgiliath, the fear of Aragorn, of being dragged back to him, had pushed Faramir beyond pain or weariness.

Now they were well along the Great West Road and none of the Rangers had reported any sign of pursuit, so the group seemed to relax. Around him, a dozen men were joking about the night’s ride under the waxing moon, but he felt as if he had been beaten. Even if Aragorn was standing next to him, Faramir thought distantly, it would make no difference. He couldn’t move.

Faramir jumped as a hand touched his shoulder. He turned to see Rhisiart behind him.

“Rest. I’ll tend to the horses.”

Faramir shook his head, but Rhisiart said, “Sit down before you fall down.”

Tugging the reins out of Faramir’s slack hand, Rhisiart moved off, the horse following obediently.

Moving stiffly, determined not to groan, Faramir walked slowly to the dell where one man was building a fire. They were within a grove of trees, near a stream, that ran from the White Mountains onto the plains. The air was cold but would become warmer as the sun rose.

The first flames crackled on tinder, pale in morning light, smoke sharp in the crisp air. Faramir lowered himself onto a deadfall, sighing. The carefully tended fire grew, slow flames licking over tinder and branches, feeding, growing, heat glowing. Stretching his legs, Faramir sat, savoring the morning. He felt light, free in a way he could not remember feeling for years.


No! Faramir struggled to rise, bare feet slipping on flagstones, to find himself gripped by the arms, pulled to his feet by Aragorn. Heavy scent surrounded Faramir, and his head swam.

“Prove your loyalty to me, here, Captain.”

Faramir shook his head, voice trapped in his throat. He was not loyal, not to this man. His arms and legs would not answer his will, and he strained, sweating, but could not resist when Aragorn turned, tugging him forward, to climb the steps. Above, the throne of Gondor shone in the Hall.

“Kneel.”

Straining until his voice broke, Faramir finally managed to speak. “No.”

Calloused hands slid over damp skin, stroking sides and belly. The hands stilled at juncture of legs and body, fingers sliding apart, resting gently on flesh.

“Why do you still defy me?”

Skin flayed and peeled away as flame sank into him. Faramir shrieked, falling.

A hard hand slapped over his mouth. “Quiet!”

Faramir twisted, hands sliding over cloth, gripping hard flesh, fighting.

“You’re dreaming.”

It was Rhisiart.

Heart beating so hard he was shaking, Faramir relaxed. The hands lifted away, and he blinked, straining to see. The coals in the stone circle shone like blood. Rhisiart knelt over him.

He could feel the sweat cold on his body despite the blankets. Around him, men were stirring, grumbling, rising and moving around in the dusk.

“Are you ill?”

“It’s Aragorn.” The despair bit so deep that Faramir no longer cared what he said. “The dreams, I don’t know how, but it’s him.”

Sitting back on his heels, Rhisisart ran a hand through his hair.

“May be,” he said. “But this is the first one you’ve had since we left, right?”

Faramir nodded, pushing himself up.

Rising to his feet, Rhisiart continued. “The dreams came every night in Osgiliath. So maybe the further away we get, the harder it will be for him. Come and eat.”


The miles fell away behind them, the plains unrolling before them as they journeyed south and west. The snowy peaks of the White Mountains rose behind them. After nights of riding, Rhisiart had decided it was safer to travel during the day through the mountains for fear of orcs or other attackers. Wild men lived in the forests and hills.

As day followed day, and the air warmed around them, Faramir realized that Rhisiart could well be right. No dreams came to him and he slept well during the night, under the waxing moon and stars. He was regaining his strength and could enjoy the journey through lands that were flowering in the first bloom of summer.

Their journey was peaceful, and as they moved through Lamedon they came to more settled lands where they found inns and the occasional farmer willing to give them bed and food for a small price and news of the City and the war.

Sitting one night in the smoky common room of an unnamed inn, Faramir sipped dark ale. He was wearing a grey wool tunic, one Rhisiart had pulled out of his saddlebag and tossed to him early in the journey, ordering him out of the red velvet. Faramir had rolled the tunic up and pushed it down in his own saddlebag.

He sat among men who were clad in a motley of colors. They looked nothing like the farmers or peddlars they had met on the road, but there was nothing to mark them as coming from the White Tower. As the men around him began a song, a song about Nimrodel who was lost as she journeyed to the Sea, he joined in, blending his voice among many.


Boromir rose at sunrise after an uneasy night broken by dreams he could not clearly recall. He washed and ate while hearing reports from the night commander. The night watches had been quiet. By the first hour after sunrise, Boromir was dressed and armed. He went to his father’s room and knocked.

“Enter.”

Denethor was sitting in a large chair, still in his nightrobes. A table pushed to one side held a clutter of dishes piled with food, maps, and jugs. A fire burned low, light glinting on some rounded surface half hidden beneath a dull cloth on the table. Nodding to Boromir, Denethor gestured to another chair.

Boromir adjusted his sword, sat.

“What have you decided?”

Shrugging, Denethor drank, then hold the goblet in both hands, turning it.

“Can you defeat Aragorn’s forces?”

Flushing, Boromir shook his head. “Not as things now stand.” Not wanting to anger his father, he left unsaid that he had pushed for assembling a larger force, even without the Rohirrim whose tactics were not suited to this kind of battle.

“Then I think we should agree to the terms. We withdrew from Ithlien over a century ago, doing little more than watching the Nameless Enemy build his strength in Mordor since. The build-up of this force at Minas Morgul proves we could not even watch effectively.”

Boromir clasped his hands, gripping hard enough to cause pain, shifting to sit forward. His father had not been in Ithilien in decades, did not know of the dark powers that hung over the pass of Cirith Ungol, clouding the mind the closer one came to the Mountains of Ash. He breathed deeply, staring at the floor, veined with green moss and stained with water, and forced himself to speak mildly.

“I do not think we dare send Faramir back to Aragorn. Not after what happened.”

The ringing sound of metal on wood seemed loud.

“What do you mean? He was held prisoner briefly, then was rescued.”

Finding words to express his fears was hard, had been hard, but he had to try one last time. Boromir was not sure why he wished his father to reject Aragorn’s offer, why it felt as if so much was riding on this decision.

“Faramir refuses to speak of it, but I think Aragorn tormented him while holding him. Rhisiart, the Ranger who brought me news from Ithilien, heard the men joking about his…joy in causing pain.”

The silence grew heavy, hot.

“You did not tell me this.” Denethor’s voice was quiet.

“I was not sure, not until yesterday, when I saw Aragorn’s brand on him.”

Denethor stood, the heavy chair falling behind him.

“Leave me a moment,” he said. “I want to dress, then I want to talk to your brother.”

Standing, Boromir nodded and left the room, leaving the door ajar behind him. He paced the hall until Denethor came out, wearing the black robes from yesterday. They walked together out of the building into the street, guards falling in behind them.

It was a misty morning, the still air heavy with moisture. Boromir wondered if it would rain later. As they drew near to the building the Healers had claimed as the best for their work, Denethor spoke quietly.

“Even if what you say is true, Faramir was a prisoner then, taken in war. As a guest with Aragorn, his cousin held as surety by us, surely he would be safe from such treatment.”

Entering the tent, impatient, Boromir stopped, seeing his brother trapped against the table, Aragorn standing so close, turning, smiling, the voice smooth and rich as wine. “I was speaking to your brother, my lord. About those beauties hidden in Ithilien which he knows well and which he might show me whilst he is my guest.”

“You speak as if Aragorn is bound by rule and courtesy,” Boromir said. “Rather you should think of him as an Orc.”

Denethor said nothing in reply as they walked down narrow halls to Faramir’s room.

Boromir slowed, letting Denethor pass through the arch ahead of him. The room was empty, dimly lit with light from the passage. The two narrow beds were neatly made, but the center of the room was in disarray. One chair was lying on its side, surrounded by the shards of broken pottery. On the table, candles had burned out, drowning in melted wax. On the floor, a dark blue tunic was crumpled, dark stains speaking to the violence that had been done.

Breath hissing through his teeth, Denethor stood in the middle of the room, then stooped to raise the tunic. He ran it through his hands, then dropped it back onto the floor.

He turned to Boromir and spoke. “Send a herald to Aragorn. He has broken the terms of our peace and we will no longer waste words in treating with one so accursed. Then call a council for the next hour.” Striding past Boromir, Denethor called his guards to him and left.

Standing alone in the room, Boromir breathed deeply, relaxing a moment, before turning to send the messengers


The small cot lay in a fold of ground, its thatched roof nearly the same colour as the grasses that covered ground and hills behind it. Beside it, old nets were draped over poles and a boat rested on blocks. From the door, a path ran down to a cove, the green ground shifting to white of sand and blue of water.

The building was so humble most would pass it without a second glance, without even realizing it was there. It had no windows, was built low to the ground to allow storms to pass over, yet all around shone a glory of blues and greens and whites, the sea and sky and land mingling in a tapestry woven by the winds.

Faramir stood, breathing deep of salt and green, then walked down the path to the beach.

This cottage was one of a number making up a small fishing village on a headland south of Dol Amroth, so small it was not on any map Faramir had ever seen. There was one lane and a scatter of cottages built close to the ground. A chance to earn hard coin was welcomed by the people who were able to find room for the Rangers. Rhisiart wanted them close but not in a single spot.

When they had brought Boromir’s letter to the castle at Dol Amroth and the Lady had read it, she had told them of this place, sending them off with supplies and silver. The village was two day’s ride south along a narrow road which wound down from the high hill over Cobas Haven and then ran straight along the coast. They rode easily, feeling the wind tug their clothes, hearing the shrill cries of seabirds floating high above them.

Trees were sparse, small and twisted, bent from the constant winds. On their left, grassy plains ran into hills. On their right, the waters, blue and silver during the day, spread out to the Bay of Belfalas. The music of the water accompanied them day and night.

They passed few others on the road. Faramir had regained his strength and was content to ride among the others following Rhisiart. He could not remember the last time he had spent so much time away from duties, luxuriated in not having to be responsible.

Now, he stood on the edge of the world, watching the sun sink. Gold spread from the horizon up and around the sky, seeming to grow as the sun disappeared, deepening into a darker and richer colour tinged with red. Faramir thought that he could step onto the path that spread before him, walk into the west.

“Faramir!”

He started, hearing Rhisiart’s voice, realizing that the water had crept up and around his feet. He turned, sliding on the wet sand, to climb the path back to the cot.

Cold. Darkness.

Faramir curled tighter, unable to control his shaking, feeling cold stone under him, behind him.

The only warmth was in the hand that lay against his face, the voice. “You force me always to do more than I would choose. Why?”

He could barely move but had to speak. “You do what you choose. Do not blame me.” Forcing his eyes open, Faramir saw Aragorn sitting beside him and beyond Aragorn the Hall, empty and quiet in dimming light.

Closing his eyes, Faramir turned within, utterly refusing to acknowledge Aragorn’s voice.


Each night, Faramir went to his bed slowly, half-fearing what might come in his sleep, but the dream where he had rejected Aragorn seemed to mark the end. The days followed each other, drenched in sunlight and water, broken only by sudden showers from the west that left the air sweeter than before. Slowly, Faramir grew stronger, able to sleep through the night, waking each morning to the music of wind and water.

He did not try to count the days, did not think of what lay behind them after he had sent his message to Boromir. No news had come from Boromir, and Faramir did not worry. Had Aragorn gained victory, Faramir felt he would know it, would feel that change.

He and Rhisiart spoke little, sharing the necessary work in a companionable silence, spending two or three nights a week at the small Inn where they could also have baking done and speak to the Rangers.

The cot was small, one room holding the narrow beds built into the walls, a fireplace with hooks and a spit for cooking, a rickety table, and a shelf or two which held their supplies. The floor was pounded earth and at night, above his head, the rustles hinted of small lives moving through the old thatch. The only other sound inside the thick walls was the regular sound of Rhisiart’s breathing.

But the door opened to the sea and sky, and Faramir could spend the afternoons sitting alone on the slope of the hill that led down to the water. Long grass cushioned him as he rested against one of the small trees, losing himself in the quiet perfection of each day. He would not have traded the cramped cottage for his rooms back at the Citadel.


One afternoon, the growing heat of the day leaving him hot and parched, Faramir left his tree and walked back to the cottage. He heard the blows of an axe as he climbed the hill. Ducking inside the room, he found the water bucket empty. He picked it up, going back outside and around the back of the cot to the well.

He turned the corner, moving from shadow to light, and blinked, seeing Rhisiart chopping wood. In the heat of the day, he had pulled off tunic and shirt. He was standing with his back to Faramir, lifting the axe high above his head, then pulling it down, splitting the heavy chunks of wood in one smooth motion, the quiet cut by the sound of metal against wood.

What stopped Faramir’s breath was seeing the welts on the broad back. Old and faded, the twisted scars stood out against the white skin, covering both shoulder blades.

The crash of the bucket hitting the ground brought Rhisiart around, axe held ready, until he saw Faramir and relaxed. “Anything wrong?”

Faramir shook his head, swallowed the dryness in his throat. “What happened?” he asked, voice hoarse.

Rhisiart knelt to toss the split wood away from the chopping block onto the growing pile of firewood. “What?”

Taking the few steps necessary to cross the space between them, Faramir laid a hand on Rhisiart’s back, feeling the ridged slickness of the scars against his palm, the heat of the skin.

“That.”

Faramir could feel muscles tense under his hand and stood in silence for a long moment before Rhisiart moved. As he stood, shaking his hair back, Faramir’s hand slid down and off him. Rhisiart set the axe down and turned to face Faramir. Skin gleaming with sweat, he seemed to glow in the light of the westering sun. Faramir wanted to feel that heat again, thought dizzily of setting his hands on the narrow waist, sliding fingers beneath the tight cloth, and down.

“It’s an old story,” Rhisiart said.

Faramir blinked, and the world returned to normal.

He turned, shaking, and retrieved the bucket. Going to the well, he attached the bucket to a rope and let the harsh line slide through his hands. When he heard the splash and felt the change in weight, he pulled the full bucket up and onto the stone coping. Water splashed down his front, cool and clear.

He turned back to Rhisiart, the bucket heavy in his hand.

“Will you tell me?”

Rhisiart rubbed a hand across his mouth, green eyes steady. “Why do you want to know?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who’s asking? The Captain of Ithilien or Faramir?”

Faramir had felt this ground change under him long ago. Faramir had been Captain in Ithilien. But the ambush, what happened with Aragorn, what Rhisiart had done, in Ithilien and Osgiliath, had changed things. He’d come to understand just how much, and how little had changed, as he’d sat on the hills above the sea. He wondered if that precarious understanding had come only in time for yet another change.

He hefted the bucket, feeling the metal handle bite into his skin. “There is no longer a Captain in Ithilien.” A pause. “But Faramir is still the son of The Steward.”

Rhisiart nodded. “I’m nearly done. Go in and make some tea and we’ll talk.” He turned away, picking up the axe.

Faramir returned to the cot. He stirred banked coals to life, laying on more kindling, then, when flames rose, firewood. He hooked out the rod which held a fire-blackened pot, filled the pot with water, then swung it back over the fire.

Sitting cross-legged, he watched the fire. Sunlight laid a bright path from the doorway across the earth floor. A shadow on the path became Rhisiart, entering. He carried his shirt in one hand, tossed it onto his bed. He scooped water from the half-full bucket on the table with both hands, drinking and rubbing his face, slicking his hair back.

The water bubbled, and Faramir stood. He swung the pot out of the fireplace and dumped a handful of tea leaves into the boiling water. He set two battered mugs on the hearth and they waited in silence until he could dip tea for each of them.

Rhisiart sat on his bed, and Faramir handed one of the mugs to him then took his own to sit on the hearth. He took a mouthful of the strong, bitter drink, wincing at the bite of the hot liquid.

Cradling his mug in his hands, Rhisiart stared into the depths a while, then drained it, setting the empty mug down.

“The Vale has an evil name in Gondor,” he started, straightening, squaring his shoulders.

Faramir nodded but said nothing. He had heard the stories all his life.

“Many folk live there, in scattered villages. The Blackroot River that rises from the Haunted Mountain gives the Vale its name. The farmland are rich, but in the center lies the Stone of Erech. Few go there and the land is dead. There are stories of pale shades that gather around the Stone at times, whispering. I paid little attention to the stories. One summer, my seventeenth, there were rumours of orcs coming down from the mountains, at dusk. I was the strongest in my village. I’d been working our land since my father died when I was ten. I didn’t pay any attention to the latest stories. I’d never seen the ghosts. I didn’t believe in the orcs.”

Rhisiart stopped, gazing down at his hands which he clasped in front of him.

“When the time came to take the herds up to the mountain pastures, I said I’d go. There were a handful of us. We had the dogs. The first tenday or so was quiet. Then one night, I heard the dogs barking. We went out. I thought it was wolves. We had sticks, knives. One of us had a sling. He’d killed a wolf with it the year before. The noise—we found orcs, they’d slaughtered a sheep and were eating it raw.”

Faramir swallowed, sickened not so much by the image but by what he could imagine would come next.

“We didn’t try to fight. But they saw us, came after us. We scattered and ran. Most escaped. We knew the land better. But the orcs had arrows. One boy died. I was hit. Leg wound. I remember trying to drag myself away, but they stood around me. Laughing. I thought the worst they could do was kill me.” Rhisiart looked at Faramir. “I was wrong.”

Heart pounding at the back of his throat, Faramir nodded, mute. He felt numb, dizzy.

“They wanted to kill me. Better than sheep, they said. But the leader stopped them. Killed one of them over it, too. I was almost grateful for a while. He cut the arrow out of my leg, smeared on salve, bandaged it with my shirt. They camped for the night. That’s when I found out that he liked whipping.”

Rhisiart stood, skin pale even in the dimness of the cottage. He crossed to the hearth, dipped his cup into the pot. He stood near Faramir, drinking. Not looking at him, Rhisiart continued.

“He liked it even better with a white-skin he said. We were softer, bled more easily than orcs. I don’t know how long he had me. After a few days of nightly beatings, lack of food, and the orc-filth, I was ill, unconscious, when a company from Dol Amroth attacked and killed the orcs. They’d been moving down into the Vale and through the land. I never found out why. They took me back to the city with them.”

Faramir gripped the mug so hard he could feel the soft metal give way. He was shaking so much that the cooling liquid splashed onto his hand.

“I never went home,” Rhisiart said, setting his empty cup down beside Faramir. “After I recovered I came to Minas Tirith and joined the guard. I wanted to fight Sauron. And his orcs.” After a pause, he went on, voice softer. “I didn’t want to tell anyone what happened. That’s why I left Dol Amroth. I was ashamed.”

The silence grew around them, inviting Faramir to speak.

“He said I was responsive, that I made him do what he did.” Faramir was shocked to hear the words that dragged out of his throat, harsh and hurting.

“He lied.”

Faramir shook his head, and Rhisiart gripped his shoulder.

“He took what he wanted, took his pleasure, it had nothing to do with you.”

Rhisiart’s warmth seemed to soak into Faramir’s body, easing the racking chill. “I blamed myself for years. If I’d run faster. If I’d fought harder. If I’d done something else, anything. It took seeing a lot of death and surviving a lot of battles to understand that death and pain can come to anyone, at any time. And you did one thing right, or at least I think so.”

“What?”

“Saved my life.”

Faramir blinked, confused.

Rhisiart shook him, gently. “In the caves, when Aragorn gave the order to kill me. That’s the reason I offered to join his men. If I hadn’t, he’d have kept using me against you.”

Faramir looked away, feeling the heat rise in him, remembering what had happened in the cave.

Rhisiart released him, turning away.

“Do you want to cook tonight or go to the Inn?”

Faramir watched as Rhisiart bent, retrieving his shirt and pulling it over his head, tugging it down.

Shifting against the hard stone, Faramir said, “The Inn.” He stood, feeling a lightness in his limbs. But he was also hungry, craving something he could not yet name.

“Come on!” Faramir pulled Rhisiart to his feet, shrugged under one arm and gripped his wrist, slid an arm around Rhisiart’s waist. He sagged against Faramir, warm and smelling of ale and smoke.

“Nother drink?”

“No.” Faramir struggled through the night, feet slipping on grass damp from the sea air.

The Inn had been full, not only the locals but most of the Rangers crowded into the common room to eat fish stew. There was singing. Faramir had been glad to sit on a small bench built into the darkest corner, furthest from the fire, but Rhisiart had been in the center of it all. He’d burned brighter than the fire, topping every joke, leading the songs.

And drinking.

“‘S early!” Rhisiart wrenched away, turning, stumbling and pulling Faramir down on top of him. They rolled, a slow journey back to the cot becoming a tumble down a grassy hill.

Breathless and dizzy, Faramir found himself pinned under Rhisiart. They lay a moment, damp soaking into Faramir’s clothing, before he sighed, pushed Rhisiart off, and started the whole process over again.

He thought it would be dawn before they made it home, but the moon was still high when he kicked open the door and tugged Rhisiart inside.

They stood swaying as Faramir debated what to do next. He finally decided the moon gave enough light that he need not bother with the lamp, and walked Rhisiart to his bed. Holding him up with one arm, tugging the wool blankets back with his free hand, Faramir released Rhisiart, expecting him to fall back onto the narrow bed.

Instead Rhisiart wrapped his arms around Faramir’s shoulders, leaning until their foreheads touched. Shocked, Faramir set his hands on Rhisiart’s waist, fearing that he might fall.

“Why didn’t you drink with me?” Rhisiart’s voice was low, not a whisper, charged with some feeling Faramir did not understand.

“What?”

“T’night. Drinking. You said no.”

Rhisiart had tried to challenge him to some drinking game early in the evening, but Faramir had refused. The challenge had moved on, with laughter and much spilling of good ale, and Faramir had nearly forgotten.

“Why?”

The dark note in Rhisiart’s voice pulsed inside Faramir, his heart beating faster.

“I, I, I’m afraid to drink too much.” Afraid that such loosening of mind and will would allow Aragorn entrance. Faramir’s dreams had left him after the first night here, but he did not know why, only hoped that it was for good.

A huff of laughter, Rhisiart’s arms tightening around Faramir. “Drinking helps dull the pain. It’s good. Should try it.”

“I’ve never seen you drink like you did tonight.” Faramir felt the tremor that took Rhisiart.

“Din’t need to before.” Swallowing loudly, Rhisiart straightened, releasing Faramir. “Before today. Thought it was over. Till today.”

Silence. Faramir’s hands fell away, but as he began to step back, Rhisiart surged forward to grab Faramir, pushing him against the wall that held the shelf-beds, stones pressing painfully into his back. The hard body pinned him, hands gripping his arms, and Faramir stiffened, breath catching in his throat a raw moment.

“I wanted to save you that pain.”

Moonlight picked out gold hair, and the deep voice next to Faramir’s ear reassured him. He was safe. They were safe.

“You did.” He breathed out, sliding arms around Rhisiart

“Not soon enough.”

Lips chapped from wind and sun moved across Faramir’s neck. He tilted his head back, pushing hips forward to rub against hardness.

“Better, ah, late than..” Faramir knew he was babbling as Rhisiart pulled him away, backing the few steps to fall on his bed, pulling Faramir down into the same sort of tumble as earlier, ending again with Faramir beneath the hard body. But this time, Rhisiart curled around him, holding him, until a hand stroked roughly down his belly. Legs tangled with bedding, fully dressed, the smell of smoke strong in his throat as Rhisiart’s hair tangled in his mouth, Faramir spread his legs, rocking against the sure hand working through heavy cloth.

Pleasure curling through his belly tightened his body in a spasm until Faramir cried out, a surge soaking his leggings.

Sweat stinging his eyes and slicking his skin, Faramir tried to understand what had just happened. They lay in silence a while, Rhisiart’s breathing loud in the silence. Faramir’s sweat dried, chilling on him, as his heart slowed.

Next to him, bulking large in the narrow bed, pressing against Faramir, Rhisiart was still. When Faramir’s legs began to go numb, he shifted away, trying to gain the courage to speak. Rhisiart flailed, turning on his back, muttering something, then began to snore.

Loudly.

Faramir rubbed his head, hair sticky from sweat and damp. He’d had only one ale and for a moment wished he’d had more. Rhisiart was right. It might have helped.

After a few moments, Faramir slid off the small space of the bed, standing, stamping to relieve the numbness in his legs. He thought a moment, listening to the echoes in the small stone cottage, then bent and pulled Rhisiart’s boots off, setting them aside, and picked the wool blankets from the floor. He shook them out over Rhisiart.

He took a few moments to strip and wash. Pulling on the only other clothes he had, he gathered his own blankets and left the cot, shutting the door behind him. Faramir thought he would sleep more soundly under his tree tonight.

The moon lit his way over the hill to where the small trees grew, shaped by the constant wind, and spread a silver path over the water below. He spread one blanket on the ground, wrapping himself in the other, and lay down, cushioned by the soft grass. The air was cool against his face, tasting of salt and some other scent, spicy, unknown. The moon and stars shone clearly here, not lost in the web of branches as they were in Ithilien. Breathing deeply, feeling the ease spreading throughout his body, Faramir lay wrapped in warmth and light until he slept.

“Faramir!”

Cold and stiff, Faramir opened his eyes. Why was he sleeping outside? He levered himself, groaning, off the tree root that seemed to have ground its way into his back, to blink up at Rhisiart.

“What?”

“I woke up. You were gone.” Rhisiart sat carefully, holding a steaming mug. He offered it to Faramir. “What’s wrong?”

The sight of the strong hand wrapped around the mug brought the memory of what had happened in the dark flooding back. Faramir pulled heavy wool closer and reached to take the mug, feeling his member twitch at Rhisiart’s touch.

Sipping, the hot bitter taste clearing his mouth and head, Faramir finally spoke. “Nothing. You were snoring.”

Rhisiart snorted, leaning back on his elbows, body relaxing as he stretched out. He was wearing only a shirt, thin from many washings and open at the neck, over his leggings. His hair was wet, curling on his neck.

“I was drunk.”

”I noticed.” Faramir drank again, then held the half-empty mug out

Rhisiart took it, drained it. The mist was heavy, the air still and cold. It was early, Faramir realized, and wondered if it was worth trying to go back to the cot and sleep. He shifted again, telling himself that he could not feel the warmth rising from Rhisiart’s skin, that the musky scent surrounding him was from some plant wet with morning dew.

What had happened last night was drowned in ale, would never be mentioned between them, had not happened.

Yawning, Rhisiart slid down, lying flat, casually balancing the empty mug on his belly, one arm tucked beneath his head. “It won’t happen again.”

Shifting off the gnarled root that seemed to have grown underneath him overnight, Faramir tossed the blanket aside, preparing to rise. When he finally trusted himself to say something, he turned back to see that, Rhisiart had fallen asleep, breathing soft and regular, long legs sprawling.

Faramir shook his head. It was too early for this. He picked up the empty mug and set it aside, then pulled the blanket back over them both. The ground wasn’t that much harder than the beds inside, as along as he could avoid the tree root. He shifted closer to Rhisiart, lying curled on one side, the warmth at his back solid as the earth under him.

Faramir was warm, utterly relaxed, when he woke a second time. He did not want to open his eyes but could feel the mist had lifted, burned away by the rising sun that had also freed the wind to carry the smells of salt and spice to land.

An arm was draped over Faramir, and he could feel the body pressed against him. Even breathing stroked the damp skin of his neck. Rhisiart’s chest was solid against Faramir’s back, his body tucked into the curve behind him, the heavy wool sheltering them both.

No tree root, but slowly Faramir realized just what was pressing against his back. He twitched, and the arm around him tightened, hand sliding up his chest.

Words half muffled against the back of Faramir’s neck, Rhisiart spoke softly. “’m not snoring.”

“Uh,” Faramir said vaguely as Rhisiart rocked against him.

His member hardened, trapped in the tightness of his leggings. If they’d been inside, in bed, he’d have been naked. For some weeks, they had stripped casually at night, slept only a few feet apart, and dressed in morning light, easy in their skin as only men who had served in the caves of Ithilien could be. The slow burning curling through his belly made Faramir wonder why they had wasted so much time. He arched his back, moving his hips in rhythm with Rhisiart’s, feeling the deep pulse within.

The arm over him curled around his waist, tugging him up enough so Rhisiart’s other arm could slide under him, between his legs, shocking in its familiarity, the sure hand curling around him, pleasure sparking through him greater than before.

Faramir lay in the circle of Rhisiart’s arms until his breath steadied enough to speak. “Let me go.”

The arms immediately pulled apart. “Are you all right?”

“Yes.” Faramir turned to face Rhisiart, surprising a look he’d never seen, tucking it away to think of later, pushing against the broad chest. “Lie back.”

Hesitating, Rhisiart frowned. Faramir shook his head, smiled, and said more loudly. “Lie back.”

Rhisiart lay back, closing his eyes, as Faramir bent over him. Feeling the heart beating against his hands, Faramir said, “Last night…”

“I was drunk.” Rhisiart smiled, one corner of his mouth opening more than the other, teeth gleaming. “It won’t happen again.”

“Good.”

Faramir tugged the thin shirt up, running his hands over the arch of ribs, down the muscled belly. The leggings were sloppily knotted, the ties easily tugging open. Faramir exulted feeling muscles tense under his seeking hand as Rhisiart thrust up. Stiff curls tickled Faramir’s palms as he freed the hard member, skin velvet soft, fingers stroking, pulling a soft moan from Rhisiart. Hands slid up Faramir’s arms, gripping.

Tugging the heavy cloth down, Faramir bent to tongue, then suck, the solid length, lips and tongue moving in a rhythm he had learned at Rhisiart’s hands.

Rhisiart grunted, sounds deep in his throat marking each of Faramir’s movements, hips jerking, blunt hardness thrusting into Faramir’s mouth. The hands gripping his arms spasmed as Faramir sucked hard, one last time, bitter fluid flooding his mouth tasting of salt and earth.

They lay, Faramir’s head pillowed on Rhisiart’s belly as the light strengthened around them.

To Be Continued

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1 Comment(s)

Thank you dear for posting the story at the Faramir fiction archive!
I loved this story, “Borne upon a dark wind”, and i hope you plan to continue writing this story, or as you mentioned, write sequel of this story at some point. I really want to see how dark Aragorn will go, and how his power will grow over Faramir. Can Faramir stand a chance to overpower Aragorn’s dark control?
Thanks!
dream

dream.in.a.jar    Monday 2 April 2007, 13:54    #

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