Author: Isabeau of Greenlea PM
The sequel to Discretion. The end of the relationship. Or, what politics do to strange bedfellows. Chapter Two now rewritten and updated.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Boromir & Faramir - Chapters: 2 - Words: 16,148 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 11 - Published: 12-10-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1635719
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Boromir reluctantly parted company with Andrahar very early the next morning, then spent the remainder of that morning in the Houses of Healing, checking upon the progress of his wounded men who had survived to be transported there. There he found Faramir doing the same thing. Upon the completion of their rounds, the two brothers had lunch together, then continued the afternoon in each other's company as well, chatting comfortably while doing the endless paperwork of their respective commands upon the same table in the library of the Steward's House.
Interspersed with more serious conversation about strategy and the progress of the war were humorous anecdotes from their companies. Faramir also spoke of the conversation he'd had with Imrahil during their chess game. The Prince had been more forthcoming over the game board than he had been at the dinner table, but that was of no surprise to Boromir. Imrahil had been wanting the dinner to be a pleasant affair, he had always been closest to Faramir, and he knew that he could rely upon his younger nephew to recount anything of true significance to Boromir quite faithfully.
"'Tis rumored that the Corsairs plan a great attack upon the coastal fiefs some time in the near future," Faramir said. "'Chiron and Elph are trying to find out something more definite for us." He was referring to their cousins, the Princes Erchirion and Elphir of Dol Amroth. Despite his relative youth, Erchirion was a notable sea commander, and along with being his father's heir and second-in-command, Elphir also ran an extensive spy network.
"It is good to know we have them watching our backs down there, even if Father doesn't appreciate it," Boromir replied.
"Indeed," Faramir agreed; then, soft as if he feared being overheard, asked, "Did you have a good time last night?"
"I am glad. I was worried for you."
"There was no need. We were careful. Please don't start trying to dissuade me, Faramir. Your acceptance of my...situation…has been a great comfort to me."
"I shall try not to, Boromir. But it is difficult. Things are so unsettled of late. We have trouble enough without inviting it." The Steward's heir smiled reassuringly at his brother.
"You are simply rattled because of that wretched dream. You probably haven't had a decent night's sleep since the battle. I will take you out tonight and get you drunk. Get you a woman too, while we're about it. That should relax you."
The Ranger Captain glared at him in exasperation. "Honestly, Boromir! If I wish for a woman, I am perfectly capable of finding one myself."
"That is true enough. And you don't even have to look that far. How is your little recruit from Anorien coming along?" Faramir frowned.
"Hethlin is perfectly well, and I'll thank you to keep those suggestions to yourself. She is one of my soldiers, not my wench, and you know that she is not the sort who should be troubled with such things." Boromir chuckled.
"If you will not sleep with her, then when are you going to promote her? You really should do one or the other. I'll sign off on a lieutenancy. She's got the ability for it. Smart, good instincts, cool under fire, cares about the men."
Faramir's expression was equal parts amazement, chagrin and regret. "No matter how good she is, I cannot do that, brother! For one thing, it would only encourage her to remain in this life, and I still have hopes of persuading her to leave the Rangers. There is no future for her in the army. For another thing, were she an officer, she would come that much more under Father's eye. For her own sake, and for mine, Hethlin must remain just another Ranger."
"I think that you are making a mistake, Faramir, but I'll not press you on the issue," Boromir said with a shrug. "Though I will insist that it is long past time you made Mablung a captain."
"'Tis not I who is holding Mablung's career back," the Ranger Captain said somewhat bitterly. "I've asked several times, and Father always answers that there were no commissions available, though I have noticed he has them to pass out to the sons of those whose support he requires."
Boromir grimaced. "Yes, I've had to deal with one or two of those. Fortunately, they tend not to last long. Unfortunately, they also tend to take better men down with them."
Faramir grimaced as well in agreement, then gave him a dour look. "The last time I broached the subject, Father said Mablung has no need of higher rank to carry out his duties, as the Ithilien company is so small. He refused to listen to my argument that Mablung's years of faithful and excellent service should be rewarded regardless."
"Well! I simply cannot let this injustice go on any longer!" Boromir declared. "I've got commissions available after Osgiliath." The two brothers looked sadly at each other for a moment, remembering the reason that so much upward mobility was suddenly possible. "I will simply not replace one of my captains. That way you won't have to go through Father, and Mablung can have his commission with my blessing ." That statement won the Captain-General one of his brother's lovely, somber smiles.
"Truly, Boromir? That would be marvelous! But I won't have you shortchanging yourself."
"Oh, I will muddle on. One more or less won't make a lot of difference. And if it proves to be a problem, I'll simply ask Father for another captain a little further down the road. Tell him I'm reorganizing my command structure or something. He'll do it for me."
Faramir nodded, then took a deep breath, obviously deciding to seize an opportunity. "Since you seemed eager to pass out lieutenancies a while ago, could I have one for Damrod--and possibly another for Anborn? They are both worthy men." The Captain-General gave his brother an aggrieved look of disbelief until Faramir blushed in embarrassment at his own opportunism, then relented, grinning and waving a hand casually.
"If you like. I have no objection, though I do wonder how Anborn will be able to command men if he will not willingly utter a word more than the bare minimum required to communicate."
"Oh, Anborn gets along well enough," Faramir said, recovering swiftly. "When he does bother to speak, you can be sure the men listen, because they know it must be very important." Boromir pondered that statement for a moment.
"Hmmmmmm. That actually makes a fair amount of sense. Which means," he said, signing one last form and shuffling his papers into an untidy pile, "that I have obviously been looking at paperwork for much too long! Come brother, express your gratitude and get debauched with me! We can finish this on the morrow. It will be a couple of days before we must return to duty." Faramir sighed in resignation, but his older brother could see the smile lurking at the corners of his mouth, and the muted twinkle in his eye, and grinned himself. It promised to be an entertaining night.
The blinding light of a bright summer day drove home to Boromir the next morning the reminder that indulgences always had their price. The aged manservant drawing back the curtain was more sympathetic than the Steward's Heir felt he deserved, asking if his lordship were able to eat breakfast, or did he wish to have his bathwater drawn first? The bathing option was selected, and sometime later, Boromir seated himself, clean and combed, at an otherwise unoccupied dining room table to attempt to wrest his head and stomach back into order. His father had long since gone to work, and he suspected that his brother had not drunk as much as he had the night before, and had probably also risen earlier. A late breakfast was brought, and he had just finished calming his digestion with some porridge, and was starting on some eggs, when one of his father's clerks was announced.
"My lord Boromir, the Steward requires your presence in his office as soon as you are able to attend him, and asks that if you are too unwell to do so, that he be informed," the man said with an expression that conveyed he was all too aware of the Captain-General's debilitated condition, and the reasons for it.
"Tell my father I will attend upon him in a few minutes," Boromir said with uncharacteristic iciness. He thought the man's attitude unforgivably cheeky. Only his father was allowed to criticize his behavior, and he made note of the clerk's face, determined to tell Denethor of his displeasure. The man departed, and Boromir decided to forego the rest of the eggs. After a quick washing-up, he strode over to the Citadel at a brisker pace than he truly cared for, determined that his father should not see him at any disadvantage. Unlike Faramir, he actually possessed Denethor's favor, but he still knew better than to display any weakness before him.
Opening the door to the Steward's office, he stepped inside and froze. The clerk who had summoned him there was standing at his father's side, and seated in chairs before the desk were his uncle and Andrahar.
"You know what I need," Denethor said to the clerk, and the man bowed, and brushed past Boromir as he exited, his face expressionless this time.
The Steward's heir looked swiftly to his lover. Andrahar was sitting back in his chair, his posture relaxed, but his dark eyes had the same watchful look in them as when he was fighting and trying to anticipate the next place the blade would fall. Those eyes flickered a warning to Boromir, who suddenly realized that he was almost gaping, and made an attempt to master himself, seating himself in a third empty chair on the other side of his uncle.
"Good morning, Father. Uncle. Master Andrahar," he said in what he hoped was a reasonably steady tone of voice.
Imrahil responded cheerfully enough at first. "Good morning, Boromir!" Then, ever sensitive to people's moods, he looked more closely at his nephew, and some of his good humor dissipated. Leaning back in his own chair, elbows on the arms, he steepled his fingers together under his chin as was his habit, and looked quizzically at the Steward.
"Perhaps, my lord Steward, you should tell us what the purpose of this meeting is. I will own I was surprised to receive your summons today--I had thought that we had covered every aspect of the news from the coast in Council the day before yesterday."
"We did." Denethor shuffled some papers into a neat pile, and laid them to the side of his desk, folding his arms upon it. His face would have seemed impassive to those who did not know him well, but Boromir could see all too clearly the signs of storm clouds gathering, and quailed inwardly. "This concerns another matter entirely."
"Which is?" Imrahil prompted politely, a bit of wariness in his own manner now. Denethor looked him straight in the eye.
"The night before last, your Armsmaster met my eldest son in an inn on the fourth circle and committed unlawful acts with him. As you are my late wife's brother, I am doing you the courtesy of informing you privately why I am arresting Master Andrahar for treason and sodomy, rather than letting you hear about it from the arresting party in a public and embarrassing manner." There was a clatter of booted feet outside the door, and a jangle of chain mail. Soldiers of some kind were taking up position outside the door. Boromir wondered if they were Tower Guard, or those select, trusted soldiers Denethor kept to do some of his less savory work. Andrahar had to have heard them, but his expression never changed, though his air of alert watchfulness increased.
On the other hand, Imrahil's genial air vanished suddenly, and was replaced with the impassive face he wore at the negotiating table, though Boromir could tell that his uncle was displeased by the way his mouth tightened. While the soldiers were not there to arrest him specifically, they did impede his egress, and the fact that Denethor was willing to insult his premier nobleman in such a manner spoke volumes about the seriousness of the situation. Imrahil turned his head to look at his sworn blood-brother, who returned his gaze levelly.
"Andrahar, is what the Steward says true?"
"Yes, my lord prince."
"You and my nephew are lovers?"
"Yes, my lord prince."
"And exactly how long has this been going on?"
"Approximately twelve years, my lord prince." That surprised Imrahil, and when Boromir risked a glance at his father, he saw a startled look cross his face for just a moment as well.
"Hardly a casual relationship then," murmured the Prince. He turned back to look at his brother-in-law. "My lord Steward, I am well aware of the laws against unnatural acts which are enshrined in the statutes of Gondor. But there are at least three men I know of at court, and I know you know of them as well, who are lovers of men. One of them even sits on your Council. Is it your intention to begin enforcing this law? Will you arrest your Council member? For that matter, will you arrest your son? Sodomy is a crime with two
perpetrators." Imrahil paused, leaning forward as his voice took on a flat tone. "You and I both know that they have very rarely been enforced, and then it was usually for political advantage rather than because of some genuine moral outrage."
Boromir flinched at his uncle's implication, but Denethor seemed unmoved.
"Ah yes. Now we come to it," Denethor replied in a curiously mild voice, and the Steward's felt his mouth go dry hearing it. There had been a time when he had heard that tone all too often, and he knew what it meant. But he could think of nothing to say, and so only watched and listened, as his father continued in that same mild, almost wry manner, "Think you, Imrahil, that this is just another gambit in your ongoing game of chess with the Steward of Gondor? What excuse will you give me--that 'tis no great evil? That I have another son after all and there is little difference between them; let the one breed if the other, having fallen into the hands and bed of your perverted Haradric pet, will not? Think you that the corruption of the Heir to the House of Mardil into an impotent catamite is no cause for 'genuine moral outrage'?"
"Father!" Boromir interjected hastily, fearful for his lover. "Andrahar did not seduce me! I went to him, and asked him to lie with me!"
"I will tell you when you have leave to speak!" the Steward said coldly to his firstborn,
but his eyes never left the Prince. Boromir subsided for the moment. Imrahil's attention was equally fixed upon the Steward, grey eyes meeting grey like a clash of swords.
"Whatever else may or may not be the truth, you do have two sons, Denethor," he said softly. "Faramir can give you grandchildren."
"That is true, but while I have no doubt that you would prefer that Faramir's children succeed me, Imrahil, it is not my choice that they do so. Boromir has ever been less apt to your hand, he is my heir, and I intend to take steps to see that he remains so."
"'Steps?'" the Prince inquired carefully.
"We will speak more of that in time. For now, I would know what you knew of this matter."
"Denethor, I had no more knowledge of this than you had!" Imrahil protested. "Less, for I have just now discovered it." The Steward folded his arms upon the desk and raised his eyebrows.
"Do you honestly mean to tell me that this sworn 'brother' of yours, who is one of the people closest to your councils, could bugger my son, your nephew, for twelve years without you having some knowledge of it, my lord prince? Make what protestations you will, Imrahil, but they ring hollow to me. You have ever been a player--I have seen you negotiate as if you stood firm upon rock, when in reality the ground beneath your feet was quicksand."
The Prince sat back in his chair. "I can but swear to you that I knew naught of this. If you chose to disbelieve my sworn word, then there is nothing else that can be done." Imrahil's distress at having his honor questioned was palpable And that distress increased in the next moment.
"Then of course, there is Faramir, and his role in all of this," the Steward remarked, still calm.
"Faramir had no part in this, Father!" Boromir exclaimed, his life-long habit of protecting his younger brother overriding his father's orders. Denethor turned a chill and pointed stare upon his son.
"If you speak once more without my leave, Boromir, I will have you removed. I know all too well that you and your brother have your little secrets together which you fondly imagine are hidden from me. Never fear, I will be questioning Faramir myself about this business, and what he does and does not know."
"You cannot seriously be considering charging Andrahar with sodomy publicly," Imrahil said suddenly, as if a thought had come to him. Perhaps it had, and perhaps he was deflecting Denethor's attention from Faramir--Boromir could not tell which it was. His uncle was a consummate actor when he chose to be. "If Boromir's involvement were to become known, you would have to prosecute him as well. The people would not be willing to accept him as the Heir after that."
"It would indeed be damaging to the realm to have your captain's relationship with my son become public knowledge, so a charge of sodomy is probably not actionable; you are correct in that, my lord prince," Denethor admitted, unperturbed. "But treason….treason is a more amorphous charge, flexible enough to fit many situations."
"What basis have you for a charge of treason, my lord Steward? I know of none," the Prince declared firmly.
"This is where you will speak, Boromir," the Steward said, turning to his son. "Did you ever, in the aftermath of your unnatural lust, speak of our plans to this person?"
"It is true that I have discussed things from time to time with Andrahar, Father," Boromir said cautiously. "He is, after all, a commander with many years experience, and I have found his advice to be good."
"Whether Boromir spoke to my Armsmaster of our plans is not pertinent to this discussion, Denethor," the Prince interjected before Denethor could respond. "I speak to him of them myself, as he is the Captain of my Swan Knights! He has been privy to the innermost secrets of our coastal defense for decades. The only thing that matters is whether Andrahar gave information to our enemies. If you have any evidence of such collusion, which I seriously doubt, then present it now! Otherwise, I will hear no further talk of treason!"
Denethor's face darkened, and his voice grew dangerously quiet. "You will hear whatever I chose to speak of, my lord prince, and if you are wise, you will pay attention! You forget yourself! You are in Minas Tirith, not your own demesne, and even were you in Dol Amroth, I am still the Steward of Gondor, and have the final say upon what constitutes treason in my realm! Besides, you miss the point. Even if there were no collusion, it is easy enough to make people think that there was. We all of us in this room know that I could have Master Andrahar arrested for treason, and subsequently executed without any explanation whatsoever, and outside of Dol Amroth, hardly an eyebrow would be raised. It is known that he is Haradric, and the only question being asked would be why the Prince of Dol Amroth had been so gullible as to let this man into his confidence." Imrahil closed his eyes for a moment, as if in pain, and Boromir saw a flicker of satisfaction cross his father's face before the Steward continued. Andrahar's face was impassive, but his eyes hooded as he too noticed.
"My lord Steward," he asked mildly, "Have I your permission to speak?" All three men turned to stare at him in surprise, having almost forgotten that he was there. Though he was the person who should have felt most threatened by the proceedings, he actually seemed the most relaxed of them all. After a moment, to Boromir's astonishment, Denethor gave him a curt nod.
"I was the bastard son of a noble father, my lord, and he favored me above my station. He died when I was twelve years old, and my legitimate brothers immediately sold me into slavery. I eventually escaped my captivity, and fended for myself upon the streets of Umbar, until Prince Imrahil saved my life. I swore blood-oath to him, left Harad and never looked back. I have had no communication with anyone in Harad since then, and being base-born, there is no future for me there. My loyalty is to the Prince, and through him to Gondor, for which I have fought and bled for nearly fifty years. I wonder what it is I could do, short of dying in battle for her, that would make you believe this?"
"Keeping your perverted hands off of my son would have done for a start!" Denethor snapped, with more ire than Boromir had seen him exhibit thus far, but the Armsmaster merely chuckled.
"Long before you knew that I was involved with Boromir, you were having me shadowed. You have people in Dol Amroth reporting to you about my doings, and every time I set foot out of my lord's townhouse here in Minas Tirith, I am followed. For decades you have hounded me, and for decades you have been unable to come up with any proof that I am a Haradric agent, for I am not one. And you may make all the claims of moral outrage you like, my lord, but I suspect that if Boromir had indeed wedded and produced heirs, you would not be overmuch concerned if he were sleeping with a man on the side, so long as he was discrete." He turned to his lover, and smiled ruefully. "And that, Boromir, is the reason that I have always told you you should wed, since you are capable of being with a woman."
"That is true, Father," Boromir said, trying to be both persuasive and conciliatory at once. "Andrahar has always encouraged me to wed, saying that I had a responsibility to my House. I was the one who did not wish to. It seemed to me dishonest to bind a woman to me in matrimony when my…interests… lay elsewhere. And whether you like it or not, he did not seduce me! 'Twas I who initiated our relationship, and if anyone is to be punished, it should be me."
Denethor sat back in his chair, the fingers of his right hand toying with the Steward's ring that glinted upon his left. "It is fascinating, how the lot of you seem to feel that you know what I would do, or approve of, and how you think you can dictate to me how justice in my realm should be administered." He turned his gaze upon Andrahar. "I am not a naïve man, Armsmaster. I know that your particular vice is more common, or at least more openly tolerated, in the South. But I deplore it! I think it is depravity, an unnatural thing that is caused by the Enemy's influence, and I am outraged, whether you believe it or not." His voice had risen slightly, but he seemed not overmuch angered--until you looked into his eyes. Boromir did so, and shuddered, and the action drew his father's attention.
"As for you, Boromir," he said, "your position provides you with both privilege and protection. In this instance, the necessity of keeping the peoples' trust in the House of Mardil excuses you from punishment for a crime that a lesser man would be judged harshly for. You say that you initiated this relationship. Well, let this be a reminder of a lesson you have apparently forgotten--that your least action may have severe consequences for the people around you."
"The 'lesser man' in this instance being Andrahar?" the Prince murmured, leaning forward in his chair. "The 'harsh judgment' being an unproven charge of treason, which carries a death sentence, levied in place of the proven charge of sodomy, which does not? If you do this, my lord, I will question, and publicly, the manner in which justice is being administered in your realm!" His face had gone pale as old bone, and it took a moment for Boromir to recognize that what he was seeing was not fear, but rather pure fury, held hard in check. The memory of a tale from his uncle's youth popped into his head incongruously, of how Imrahil had run his ship up against a Corsair vessel twice its size and had taken the enemy ship through sheer bloody-minded persistence and ferocity. He was so accustomed to seeing his uncle as the suave diplomat and genial advisor that he forgot from time to time that the Prince was a warrior as well.
Denethor, however, was undaunted, and spoke matter-of-factly. "Have a care, Imrahil, lest you step over the bounds of treason yourself. Your own motives in this do not stand up well to close scrutiny." Boromir heard his uncle suck in a quick, angry breath, and waited for the worst to happen, but it was forestalled by Andrahar, who stood up and drew his blade, then moved swiftly over to kneel before Imrahil. Denethor, who had started a bit when the sword was drawn, and had almost called out a command to the troops out in the hall, relaxed when he saw that he was not the target.
"This has gone far enough, my lord," the Armsmaster said, offering his sword to the Prince in both hands. "If the Steward had intended to truly arrest me outright, he would have already done so. I suspect that he will instead try to wring concessions from you in return for my continued existence, and that is not acceptable to me. I have always been prepared to die for Dol Amroth--the manner in which it happens is not important. And I would much prefer to die by your hand than his. Slay me, and he cannot question your loyalty further."
"No, Andra!" Boromir exclaimed, horrified, and saw his father look at him sharply.
Imrahil took Andrahar's sword, and laid it before him across the arms of his chair. The anger drained out of his face like water out of a cracked bowl, until only sadness was left.
"I do not believe I could bring myself to do that, Andra."
"For Dol Amroth's sake you should, Imri."
"Then I fear that, for just this one time, I will have to be remiss in my duty." He reached out his hand, slender for a man's hand, and took up Andrahar's broader, browner one, twining their fingers together, pressing palm to palm. "Blood oath binds both ways, Andra. You will simply have to allow me to do what I can to protect you."
Boromir's breath caught. To display such affection, expose such a vulnerability before his father took more courage than he knew he possessed. But then, his uncle had always been fearless where matters of the heart were concerned. He watched as Imrahil gave Andrahar his sword back, and gestured to him to take his seat once more. The Prince's face was pale but composed as he turned his attention back to the Steward.
"What is it you want, Denethor? Name your terms." It was capitulation, and the Captain-General could tell that his father was very pleased, though he showed no outward sign of it other than to stop twisting his ring and fold his hands flat upon the desk before him.
"I am not an unreasonable man, Imrahil." Andrahar gave Boromir an ironic look at that. He was quite calm, not at all like a man who had just offered up his life moments before, and was having that life bargained over now. "And out of courtesy to my late wife's family, for I know that Finduilas was attached to this man as well, I am willing to spare his life. But there will be conditions laid upon both you and my son for that clemency."
"And those are?"
"Firstly, from you--I need money to equip those new companies that have been recruited. What can you spare? And don't be stingy, Imrahil, or I shall think that you do not value him despite the touching display." A faint flush of color rose into the Prince's cheeks, but he remained calm. Bowing his head, he seemed to be taking some sort of mental inventory for a few moments. Then he looked up and met Denethor's eyes squarely.
"I think that I could raise a sum the equivalent of five times Dol Amroth's annual tax levy, if that would suffice." Something moved behind the Steward's dark gaze, and Boromir knew that it did not only suffice, it was more than he had expected.
"That will suffice. But there are further conditions."
"Further conditions?" Imrahil's surprise was perhaps understandable, as he had just offered the equivalent of a king's ransom.
"Yes. Some time ago, we discussed what force the Outlands would bring to Minas Tirith in the event that the Enemy attacked. At that time, you promised half your total complement of Swan Knights. That is no longer enough. When you are called, Imrahil, I will expect you to bring every horseman you have." Andrahar shifted in his chair at that, though he did nothing more.
"That will leave Dol Amroth without any horse troops whatsoever, Denethor," the Prince protested. The Steward was unmoved.
"That is true. But you will still have sufficient men-at-arms, and your Navy to rely upon for mobility. I know the size of your standing army, Imrahil. It is almost…excessive. You can do as I require, and still leave Dol Amroth well-defended." The Prince nodded.
"Very well then. All of the Swan Knights to Minas Tirith when the time comes." The Steward acknowledged this with a graceful inclination of his head, and spoke again.
"And one more thing. You will send to Prince Elphir, and bid him come to Minas Tirith. He will remain here until I say otherwise."
Imrahil stiffened. "You require a hostage of me?" and anger sang clearly through his tone. Andrahar stiffened as well, his face suddenly imperturbable, his hand upon the hilt of his sword, and Boromir looked upon his father in shock.
Undaunted by the sudden display of animosity, Denethor continued. "Hardly a hostage! Say rather that I fear his viewpoint might become too insular if he spends all of his time in Dol Amroth. Say rather that I simply wish for you to trust your heir to me as I did mine to you, time and time again. What harm could there possibly be in it? He has already produced a child."
That was driving the dagger home with a vengeance, and Boromir, watching his uncle, knew that Imrahil would never forgive or forget what had been wrought here this day. But the Prince had little choice, and the Steward's heir watched as he accepted the conditions laid upon him with resigned dignity. "May we leave now, my lord Steward?"
"Not just yet. Bear with me but a moment longer, Imrahil. Boromir's punishment still remains." He turned his gaze upon his son and heir, and his eyes glittered darkly as he spoke.
"There are two things I require of you, Boromir. The first is that you will give up the unlawful relationship you have with this man, and swear to never meet privately with him again. As he is part of your uncle's family, I know that it is unreasonable to think that you can avoid him completely. I do not object to public meetings when others are present, but I will tell you now that I do not consider a meeting where the Prince or your brother are the only other people present to be a public meeting." Burning inwardly in rage and shame at the implication that the three of them were in collusion, Boromir bent his head.
"Furthermore, there will be no more of this foolishness, this reluctance. You will wed the woman of my choice, and bed her, as soon as it may be arranged. Do you swear that you will do these two things?"
Boromir looked at his uncle, who was gazing back at him with sympathy, and at Andrahar, whose brow was furrowed, but who was also looking at him in a way that Boromir knew denoted acceptance of whatever course of action he should take.
"I swear it, Father," he said at last, in a very quiet voice that thankfully held firm.
"It is enough then," Denethor conceded. Rising, he crossed to the door, opened it, and spoke to the men outside, dismissing them. He then turned back to the Prince.
"You are free to go, my lord prince, Armsmaster." Imrahil rose, inclined his head to Denethor with chilly civility and nodding to his nephew, stalked out the door without another word. His manner put Boromir in mind of some great, noble predator of the plain or forest, ignoring the yapping of the small scavengers at his heels.
Andrahar, ever the Prince's shadow, followed, but he paused for a moment as he passed the desk, and caught and held the Steward's eyes for the space of a few heartbeats. Then, with a last loving glance at Boromir, he was gone.
Boromir sighed, sagging into his chair as they departed. Denethor looked meaningfully at his son; then, seeing that he had no intention of leaving, closed the door once more.
"Is there something else you wish to say, Boromir? Because if not, I have business to attend to."
"That was ill done, Father. Uncle will never forgive you." Denethor moved to his desk and seated himself once more.
"'Twas not ill done in the least. We needed the money and those horsemen for Minas Tirith. And Imrahil can afford it--it may tighten his budget for a time, but 'twas no true hardship." He pulled a pile of documents over to him, and began flicking through them. "Whatever else may be said about the Princes of Dol Amroth, they are good husbandmen and money managers. They've tended Belfalas as if it were their personal garden patch for generations. And they've thrived."
"You might have simply asked him."
"Ah, but that would not have solved my other little problem, would it? And I doubt he would have given anywhere near so much voluntarily."
Boromir got to his feet, and crossed to the window, open to admit the rare, midmorning summer breeze. He drew a breath thankfully. The air without seemed somehow cleaner than what he'd been breathing in his father's office since he entered.
"I have had my reasons for not marrying you know," he said quietly. "It was not simply to thwart you, or even because of Andrahar. I do not see how we can win this war, and I did not wish to bring children into this world only to have them spitted upon orc spears."
"We certainly shall not win if everyone subscribes to that belief," the Steward remarked acerbically, never raising his eyes from his work.
"I did not mean that I would not continue to strive to my utmost!" Boromir protested. "I just think that, unless something changes, our chances are grim. If my men will not face this creature of the Enemy for fear of him, how am I to wage war at all? For that reason, I wish to seek this Imladris, and see if this Elrond has some solution to our dilemma."
"You cannot be spared," the Steward said automatically. The Captain-General snorted.
"Of course I can be spared! No man is indispensable. And if I am, then there is something wrong with your arrangement of the command structure of the army." That got Denethor's attention, as Boromir had expected. He looked up from his papers.
"I must say, I admire your nerve, Boromir. To go from erring criminal to arrogant petitioner in but a few moments' time-it speaks of a boldness, and a flexibility, that I did not know you possessed."
"What it should speak of is how seriously I regard this matter." The Steward bent his head over his work once more.
"Twas Faramir had the dream," he murmured. "Therefore, it seems fitting that he should be the one appointed to go."
"I have had it as well."
"When was this?"
"The night before last. In between illicit acts." Up came the Steward's head once more, and his ringed hand brushed the pile of papers away, back to their original position at the side of the desk. His son now had his undivided attention, a daunting prospect.
"Boromir, are you trying to provoke me? I would have thought today's events would have taught you the folly of that."
"What today's events have done, Father, is put me in a position where I have nothing left to lose! With nothing but duty remaining to me, it behooves me to accomplish that duty in the best way I know how. I am the Captain-General, and if Imladris has an answer to our problems, it is my duty to acquire it. Besides, I am the stronger than Faramir, and better equipped than he to negotiate with these elvish folk--I do not revere them as he does. And as a further incentive to you--Faramir wants the errand very badly. Deny him, and you punish him for his collusion with me."
Denethor's eyebrow arched. "I thought you said that Faramir had nothing to do with your relationship with Andrahar." He ignored completely the inference that he enjoyed persecuting his younger son.
Boromir cocked a hip up on the windowsill and shrugged. "He knew of it, that is all. He did nothing to hide it from you, nor did he aide me in meeting Andra. And he was not happy about the matter, either--he told me that I should give Andra up and marry as you wished."
"Wise advice. You should have followed it." The Steward sighed, and leaned his chin on his hand, regarding his son thoughtfully. "You make some valid arguments, Boromir, and I might almost be convinced, did I not think that the desire to make this journey was your way of postponing the marriage I have forced upon you."
"There is some truth to that," the Captain-General admitted, leaning back against the casement, his arms folded.
"Babies spitted on orc spears again?" his father asked rather acidly. Boromir's reply was simply stated.
"No. More of a reluctance to do to another woman what you did to Mother." The Steward grew very still of a sudden, and laid his hands together back upon the desk.
"What are you speaking of?"
"Do you know, to this day, Father, I do not believe that Faramir really understands what was going on? He was only five at the time. But I, on the other hand…I was ten. And ten understands a great deal more than five, though not enough, to my sorrow. I saw the bruises, and I blamed her for them. I even told her that if she would not make you angry, you would not hit her, Valar forgive me!" Boromir's arm dropped, and a finger traced idle patterns upon the windowsill as he continued.
"It was not so bad when I was younger. I think the novelty of the experience was enough then. But later on…well, you know most everything I do, or so you claim. Surely you knew that I could be rough with my whores? I never actually struck one, but it was a close thing a couple of times. I would come from the battlefield, or an argument with you, and look for a reason to be provoked, some small failing I could find fault with that would justify my lashing out. Even as you used to do with Mother. Though it took me some time to realize that I was just doing what I had been taught."
The Steward rose, and stepped out from behind his desk. He paced to the opposite side of the room from his son and turned.
"You were too young to understand everything, Boromir. Your mother and I, we were better together than you remember." He seemed uncomfortable all of a sudden.
"I know that she loved you. And that you loved her, and hit her. I remembered the bruises. I remembered enough that when I became a young man I had questions which I wanted the answers to. Answers that I knew would not be coming from you. And then we had that little talk."
"What little talk was that?" Denethor looked puzzled and a bit uneasy, his usual composure ruffled.
"The one we had when I was younger, about twenty or so. The discussion about statecraft. You told me then that the wise ruler always has something, some secret he can hold close to control everyone in his inner circle. Even those he loves the most. Especially those he loves the most. Because those he loves the most can cause him the most harm." Boromir had turned to look out the window, and was speaking softly and reflectively.
"I took those words to heart, for I have always striven to learn well the lessons you set me to. And I did as you suggested. When we got word that Thaeryl, mother's former maid, lay dying in Lossarnach, I saw my opportunity. Do you remember? You were going to send some money along, for a healer, or barring that, a funeral. You were going to send it with one of your men. I was on leave, and took the errand instead." He threw a sideways glance at his father and found the Steward intently watching him, perhaps a shade paler than he'd been a moment before. Boromir smiled then, and it was not a pretty thing to see.
"There, in Lossarnach, I found the answers I was looking for. I took down Thaeryl's account of the events of my mother's last days, for she was too weak to write of them herself, but she did sign it for me. Then, even as you taught me, I tucked it away someplace safe, hidden against the day I would need a weapon against you, my beloved parent. So I ask you now--what do you suppose the Prince of Dol Amroth would do, were he to learn that his beloved sister, my mother, did not die of an illness as he had been told? That she died instead from taking overmuch of a sleeping draught, driven to despair by your abuse of her?"
"That is difficult to say," Denethor said, maintaining his control with an effort, though Boromir could see the shock in his eyes. "Despite what I implied today, I do believe that Imrahil is loyal to Gondor. And given the gravity of the current crisis, I do not believe he would break with us. But he might threaten to make the information public, which would make it impossible for me to rule. He might accept my abdication in your favor, or he might just call me out and skewer me--the man is still very formidable with a blade. I think I would prefer not to find out which course of action he would take. And I do think it would be better not to have the Stewardship of Gondor change hands at such a perilous moment." He gave his son a penetrating look, and ironically, echoed his earlier opponent's words.
"What is it you want, Boromir? Is this about your paramour? Can you not see that your lust for this man makes you forget your duty and imperils the realm? Would you have me give you leave to see him again?"
"No," Boromir said simply. "This is not about Andra, at least not in that way. I swore an oath to you, and I will hold to it. But there are things that I do wish to have happen."
"First of all, I wish to be the one to seek Imladris."
The Steward said neither yea nor nay, but asked instead, "And what of your marriage?" His son shrugged.
"It will take you some time to finalize the arrangements for that in any event. You can do it while I'm gone. And it will take place upon my return, providing my other conditions are met."
"And those are?"
"That you take no further action against Andra or Uncle. If, when I come home, I find that harm has befallen Andra, then Uncle and I will be having a little talk. And if, by chance, something has happened to Uncle, then the cousins and I will be having that talk."
"Is there anything else?" Boromir thought for a moment, then nodded.
"Yes. Yes, there is. You will tell Uncle that you have reconsidered, and do not find Elphir's presence in Minas Tirith to be necessary after all. I know that you need the horsemen and the money to defend Minas Tirith, Father. But you do not need Elphir--that was purely spite on your part. And if you relent in that one matter, it may make Uncle better disposed towards you. You almost pushed him too far today."
"And if I do not do these things, Boromir?"
"Then there may very well be a new Steward in Gondor. Please do not make the mistake of thinking I would not carry through on a threat--you taught me too well for that."
"It would be churlish of me to complain that you have learned your lessons too well," Denethor murmured. "I suppose that, when all is said and done, we deserve each other." He looked thoughtful for a long moment, then admitted his defeat. "Very well, Boromir, it shall be as you have asked."
"Thank you, Father," the Captain-General said, moving towards the door. He was weary with the emotional stresses of the last hour, disconsolate at losing his lover, and desired nothing more at the moment than some solitude and some beer. Or perhaps his brother's company and some beer. Faramir could be very soothing and understanding when he wished to be, and he deserved a warning about what had happened this day.
"For the sake of your grandchildren, sir, find me a woman of intelligence," Boromir requested as he opened the door. "Perhaps someone like Aunt Nimrien--not wealthy, but of good family, who might find being wed to me honor enough to put up with me." His expression grew rueful. "I swore, of course, to marry whomsoever you chose. But awful as my crimes are, I do not think that I deserve to be shackled to Jerulas of Belfalas. I'd have to have been tupping sheep to warrant that."
His father's rare, barking laugh sounded behind him as the door closed.
As dusk fell, Andrahar found his liege lord upon the ramparts above his garden, looking into the West. A gentle evening breeze lifted his hair, which was just now beginning to silver in places.
"My lord?" Imrahil turned to find him upon his knees once more, sword offered up in both hands to his prince as before. "I have brought sorrow and disgrace upon your house, and stand ready to recompense you with my blood." There was a long moment's silence, then a sigh.
"And you call me the dramatic one," the Prince murmured. Then, more briskly--"For Valar's sake, Andra, is this to become a habitual thing with you? I certainly hope not. We both know your knees aren't what they used to be." Andrahar stubbornly remained where he was.
"I have caused you great injury by my actions, my lord. If you slay me, then the Steward may take back the penalties he has set upon you. Otherwise, so long as I live, he will use me to control you."
"Be that as it may, I did not agree to pay Denethor Dol Amroth's taxes times five to save you from him so that I might slay you myself! And how do you think that would make Boromir feel? Get up." With one hand, Imrahil took the hilt of the sword; with the other, he grasped Andrahar's arm and hauled him to his feet, returning the blade to him once he was firm upon them. The Armsmaster sheathed it expertly, then folded his arms and frowned at his sworn brother.
"I apologize, Imri, that I have failed you so."
Imrahil waved a hand dismissively. "And how, exactly, did you fail me? You violated none of the conditions I had laid upon you. Boromir was of age, not an esquire, and I know that you were both as discrete as it was possible to be. That you were discovered was no fault of yours, I am sure." Andrahar frowned, frustrated.
"Indeed, I know that I was not followed that night! I suppose there could have been an agent in the inn, or that Boromir has someone in his staff who reports to his father. I will have to look into that." For a moment, Andrahar's grim face promised trouble to whoever had betrayed his lover. Then he gave Imrahil a remorseful look.
"Can you afford the fine?"
Imrahil leaned on his elbows upon the top of the merlon and nodded. "Yes. I'll not deny it will hurt, but I can afford it. I used to think that the Steward did not know the true extent of my family's holdings, but now I am not so sure, and I dared not make the amount too small. But 'tis the business with Elphir that smarts the most." He threw a sidelong glance at his friend. "If you wish to make amends, then you will stay here with Elphir when he comes, and watch him as you would watch me." Though he did not ever enjoy leaving Imrahil's side, Andrahar nodded.
"As you wish, Imri. It is fitting that I should do so."
Imrahil chuckled. "'Tis not so onerous a duty as all that!" The setting sun was bright upon his face as he asked softly, "Do you love him, Andra?"
"Yes, my lord."
"And was there joy?" Andrahar, remembering, smiled.
"Oh yes, my lord."
Imrahil, his own countenance thoughtful, observed this and smiled a little as well. "Then I do not begrudge the cost." There was a long silence, then he murmured, "I am sorry, Andra, that it could never be." The Armsmaster was not certain whether the Prince was referring to his relationship with Boromir, or their own aborted relationship, or both. And perhaps it did not truly matter. What was certain was that the Prince knew all too well what it was to love someone and lose them. He joined his lord in leaning against the warm stone, and they stared out into the gathering night, shoulder to shoulder, in companionable silence.
July 4, 3018--Like water, the Swan Knights formed, broke and reformed in blue and silver swirls upon the green fields of the Pelennor. Boromir reined in, leaning upon his pommel and watching them in admiration. He and Faramir had both had cavalry training during their visits to their uncle's home, and the Prince had always seen that they had the finest mounts money could provide. The stout gelding he backed now was of Dol Amroth breeding--not a war horse, but of unflappable temperament, great endurance and smooth gait, suitable for a long journey. Imrahil had presented it to him the day after the Council meeting where his journey to Imladris was announced.
He had gone into the interview with his uncle dreading what Imrahil would say, but had found that his fears were groundless. The Prince had expressed nothing but concern for Boromir, and sympathy for his plight. There was no resentment over the heavy fine, no jealousy that he had become involved with Andrahar to such an extent. He had come away greatly comforted. Andrahar had been conspicuously absent, but Imrahil had assured Boromir that it was merely compliance with the Steward's wishes, and not anger that kept him away. The Captain-General had said his good-byes to his father and brother in the City, but he had not laid eyes upon his lover since the day of the disastrous interview with the Steward, and he was hoping now to say good-bye to him.
He had started towards the troop when he noticed two horsemen breaking away from them and cantering towards him. One was Andrahar, the other Esteven, one of the captains. Esteven's presence was explained when they drew rein before him, and Andrahar dismounted.
"Take this lout off over there," he instructed the other Swan Knight, and Boromir suddenly understood. Andrahar's stallion was an older, made war-horse whose foul disposition was legend. There would have been no uninterrupted conversation possible while he was mounted on the stud. But Esteven seemed equal to the challenge, seizing the reins and moving off out of earshot. His foot shot out and clipped the stallion in the muzzle without compunction when the stud tried to bite his own mount.
Boromir dismounted as Andrahar approached, and simply watched him. The Armsmaster's stride was quick and sure as ever, his manner brisk and business-like as usual. But when he stood before the Steward's son and removed his helm, Boromir thought that his face looked tired and worn.
"Boromir! How are you, lad?" Boromir grimaced.
"Still calling me lad? Will this never end?" He reached out an arm and drew Andrahar into a tight embrace, speaking next to his ear. "Are you well, Andra? He did not do aught else to you, did he?" The Armsmaster shook his head, his badger-striped hair tickling Boromir's nose. Boromir breathed in the smell of him--steel, leather and the faintest hint of the spice-scented soap he liked to use--and a pang of loss smote him. He dropped his forehead onto Andrahar's shoulder for a moment, and took a deep breath, blinking hard.
"What about you, Boromir? Are you all right?" Straightening up, the Captain-General fought to compose himself.
"I am well enough." Andrahar gestured at the horse, and his travel garments.
"Was this journey your idea? Or does he want you out of the way for a bit?"
"No, it is my idea. Seeing things for myself, as we had discussed." The Armsmaster nodded, seemingly relieved, and Boromir sighed. "Andra, I am sorry. I thought that I was careful, but I must have been followed."
Andrahar frowned. "I am not so sure of that, Boromir. I did some investigating, and as far as I can tell, your precautions were good. In truth, I do not know how your father found out about us. Do not berate yourself for it, for it matters little now." He looked down at the ground for a moment, then met his lover's eyes once more. "We are neither of us women, to weep over what cannot be."
Boromir nodded. "Indeed."
Andrahar's eyes traveled over him, from head to toe, as if memorizing, then suddenly he frowned, his hand shot out, and before Boromir could stop him, he held Boromir's knife in his hand. It was a recent purchase, finely wrought, with a blade that was a good foot and a half long.
"What is this? This is new." Boromir felt his cheeks flush like a boy under the Armsmaster's pointed scrutiny.
"Well…you said my knife-work was no good, so I thought that maybe a longer blade would help…" Andrahar snorted.
"How many times do I have to tell you? It is not the length of the blade, it is how you wield it that matters!" The two men stared at each other for a moment, then burst out laughing together. If there was a bitter tinge to it, it was still laughter regardless, and seemed to comfort them both.
"Has your father told you whom you are to wed yet?" the Armsmaster asked, returning the blade to him when their mirth had subsided. Boromir shook his head.
"He says that she will be waiting upon my return. He has not told me her name."
"He also relented about having Elphir here as a hostage, did you know?" Boromir played with his reins.
"I had heard." He could feel the weight of Andrahar's stare.
"Do you have any idea why he would do that?"
"I….convinced him that it was a bad idea to push Uncle so far."
"You convinced him?"
"Boromir, you did not have to promise him anything else, did you?" The concern in Andrahar's voice almost undid Boromir's composure. He turned away to check his girth.
"No, Andra, I did not have to promise him anything. I was merely very persuasive." Andrahar, hearing the pain in his voice, changed the subject to something more neutral.
"You don't have a pack horse."
"I don't need one yet. I'll pick one up in Rohan. And say hello to Theodred while I'm there."
The Armsmaster nodded. "I suppose you had best be getting on then."
"Indeed." The Captain-General cast a glance in Esteven's direction, and found the Swan Knight pointedly sitting with his back to them, very obviously occupied in keeping Andrahar's mount from endeavoring to eat his own. Seizing his gelding's bridle, Boromir pulled it around until the bulk of the horse was between them and the maneuvering Swan Knights, then drew Andrahar to him with his free arm and kissed him fiercely. For once, there was no protest, no warning about indiscretion was uttered. The Armsmaster's response was instantaneous, his arms gripping the younger man so hard that it was almost painful. For a long moment, they stood locked together, as if breathing each other's souls in, then Andrahar broke the kiss off, putting him at arms length. When the Armsmaster spoke again, his voice was suspiciously gruff.
"Watch your back. Keep your shield. And get rid of that pig-sticker before you hurt yourself!"
"But I like the pig-sticker!" Boromir protested with a grin, then he sobered once more. "Valar guard and guide, Andra."
"Valar guard and guide you as well, Boromir," Andrahar responded, kissing him gently once more on the brow. The Steward's heir gave him a curious look.
"You don't believe in the Valar, Andra."
"No, and I rather doubt they believe in me, chancy elvish wights that they are. But I'll invoke them in the hope they will look after you." He took the reins from Boromir, and indicated that he should mount. "When will we see you again?"
Boromir swung into his saddle, and took the reins back from him. "Not before spring, I should think. If Imladris is as far north as they say it is, and if I can even find it in the first place. If I've not found so much as a rumor by the end of the year, then I will return."
"I don't know whether to hope you find it or not. I'd as soon you were here."
"Myself as well. But if this Master Elrond has some answer to this Morgul-fear, some weapon we can use to defeat the Enemy, you had better hope I find him." He reached down and gripped Andrahar's forearm, the warrior's clasp of greeting and farewell that had always had to do double duty for them. One hard squeeze and he was gone, spurring the gelding forward while looking back and waving. Andrahar raised his arm in return, and watched him dwindle into the distance, headed north on the Anorien road.
As he watched, the Armsmaster thought back to the recent day when the two people he loved the most had been both been harmed by the Steward of Gondor. When he had left the room in Imrahil's wake, he had met the Steward's eyes, and held them for the space of several heartbeats, dark on dark. Denethor had no doubt dismissed it as defiance, or bravado, and nothing else. But the man who had once been a youth scavenging in the slums of Umbar, where every street had its charms merchant selling amulets to defend against the Evil Eye, knew better. You could not set a curse upon someone without looking them full in the eye. And if he could invoke the powers of his adopted country to protect his adopted family, then it was only fitting that he invoke the dark and vengeful powers of his long-ago youth to punish his enemy.
So it was that he whispered softly, as Esteven brought his horse back, "May your Valar keep you safe, love. And may the Fire take your father."