The Houses of Healing
Chapter 5 – Meriadoc Brandybuck
by Siberia

I hope you don't mind, but there's a little less introspection here and more dialogue than usual. I just wanted Merry to have a more prominent role, since I never had a chance to write about him. Also, I think it's important to know what he contributed to Faramir and Éowyn's romance.

The Warden, followed by a nervous Merry, halted in front of the entrance that belonged to the Steward of Gondor. The old man knocked against the hard wood, and a muffled voice emerged from behind the barrier.

"Who is it?" Faramir asked.

"I have brought the Halfling, as you have requested, my Lord," the Master answered.

"Bring him in."

The Warden then reached out for the doorknob, pushed it forward, and beckoned Merry to enter. The Hobbit then stepped cautiously into the chamber, not knowing what he should expect on the other side. He at once jumped, startled by the sound of the door when it shut abruptly behind him. Merry, feeling somewhat embarrassed by his shaky demeanor, at once turned to face the Steward.

Merry immediately gasped in astonishment at the man sitting by the windowsill. For an instant, he believed that Boromir had miraculously come back to life. The Lord Faramir was tall with black hair and grey eyes, and at first glance, he appeared to be much like his older brother. However, as Merry continued to observe the man more closely, he began to notice subtle differences. Faramir was clearly younger in age, and not nearly as broad or muscular as Boromir. He also possessed an elegant air about him, almost Elven-like in its quality.

The young man did not need his Dúnedain gifts to read the plain anxiety that spread across the face of his guest. He rose from his chair, and paced towards the Hobbit until he stood at an arm's length away from him.

"I am the Lord Faramir, the Steward of Gondor and the Captain of the White Tower," he said politely. "What is your name?"

Merry had to bend his neck upwards meet the Steward's gaze. "I am Meriadoc Brandybuck of the Shire, and Holdwine of the Mark."

Faramir raised an eyebrow at the Halfling's last remark. He had already seen the Perian named Peregrin who had assisted his father, and was amused to learn that another of his kind was helping the King of Rohan.

"You served the Lord Théoden before his death?" the Captain demanded, his voice revealing his avid curiosity on the matter.

"Yes," Merry replied, nodding his head. "And since King Éomer has rode off to war, I am now in the service of the Lady Éowyn."

Hearing her name being uttered out loud made Faramir's heart soar with excitement, but he did not permit for any of his emotions to appear on his stern features. He had no doubt that the Halfling would report everything they had conversed about to the Rohirrim princess, and he wished to ensure that Meriadoc did not suspect his true motive for talking to him. Faramir thought it was best to inquire about the recent activities of his guest.

"How did you become a Holdwine of the Mark, if you do not mind my asking?"

Merry shuffled his hairy feet against the smooth floor, slightly uncomfortable with the Steward's sudden interest in his past. "I do not feel that I can adequately answer your question, my Lord, for 'tis a very long story."

Faramir could see the Halfling's discomfort, and he swiftly adopted a different approach. "That is alright," he assured his guest. "You do not have to tell me about it if you do not wish to. I am curious, though. Are you a friend of Frodo, Samwise, and Peregrin?"

"Yes, they are my companions," Merry answered, his tone showing the deep concern he felt for them. "How do you know of them?"

The Captain smiled; he had finally found a subject that Meriadoc would open his thoughts to. "I encountered Frodo and Samwise in Ithilien while my men and I were scouting the area," Faramir explained. "And as for Peregrin, he served my late father as his bondsman."

As predicted, the Hobbit's face lit up, eager to hear of any news concerning the Ringbearer. "You met Frodo and Sam? How were they? It has been so long since I have seen them!"

"They were well when I left them, but they travel a dangerous road to Mordor," Faramir responded gravely. "I fear for them greatly, as you do."

The young Steward at once recalled his meeting with Frodo and Sam at the sanctuary of Henneth Annûn. Twelve nights ere he had brought them to the Window on the Sunset, while Faramir and his Rangers patrolled the borders of the Moon-land, he had received a horrific dream foreshadowing Boromir's death. Four days later, his suspicions were confirmed when he found his sibling's cloven horn and witnessed the passing of his funeral boat near the falls of Rauros. Faramir was heart-broken, blaming himself for his Elven visions and his inability to prevent Boromir from embarking on what should have been his quest. When the Captain had encountered the two Halflings, he was disappointed that they could tell him nothing of his brother's untimely demise.

Perhaps this Perian can answer my questions. After a brief pause, Faramir asked his guest, "You were part of the fellowship, am I correct?"

Merry nodded his head. "Yes, my Lord."

Faramir tried to hold back his tears, ignoring the pain of his brother's death. With the threat of Mordor so close to his homeland, he had no time to mourn and digest his loss, and he found it difficult to conceal his sorrow. "Then, you traveled with Boromir," he stated flatly.

"Of course. You are… Boromir's brother, are you not?" the Hobbit inquired hesitantly.

The young man grinned slightly at Meriadoc, amused by his observation. "Is it so obvious?"

"Well, there is a very strong family resemblance."

Faramir chuckled, though sadness still strained his voice. "I have heard that many times before."

Merry then lowered his eyes to the ground, preparing himself to inform the Steward what he felt the man deserved to know of his sibling's passing. "Since you are his brother, I feel that I should tell you, Boromir was the bravest man I have ever met. He died in battle trying to save me and Pippin from a swarm of Orcs."

Faramir sighed. At least Boromir died honourably. He would not have his life end in any other fashion. A few tense moments passed between them before the Captain broke their silence. "I know these memories must be painful for you," he uttered compassionately, "but I have been left in the dark about this matter. I hoped that you could tell me everything you can about my brother's last days. It would mean so much to me."

"It will take an incredibly long time to recount, my Lord!" the Halfling exclaimed, baffled at the young man's request.

"Meriadoc, I assure you that I have all the time in the world."

And so Merry spent long hours telling the Steward of Gondor of his adventures since his departure from Rivendell. In the late afternoon, they strolled in the gardens together, still deep in speech. As they conversed, Faramir absorbed every single word that the Hobbit recounted to him, especially of the time he spent in Rohan and his journey to Gondor in the presence of the Lady Éowyn. Merry had become so immersed in his storytelling that he had forgotten completely that the Lord of the City had inquired only of Boromir, and continued to speak of every event that happened to him until Pippin had carried his injured body to the Houses of Healing. Faramir learned much of the fair maiden's plight, more so than the Perian would have thought possible to gather from such fragmented pieces of information.

When Meriadoc had finally completed his tale, he begged for the Steward's leave, for he needed to keep a prior engagement. Faramir promptly dismissed him, and continued his walk amongst the trees and the flowers. Throughout their talk, the young man would occasionally glance at the entrance of the gardens, hoping Éowyn would appear to greet them. But as the sky grew dark, he soon begun to realize that she would not be seeking his company for the rest of the evening. Feeling somewhat hurt, Faramir then sat on one on the stone benches, hoping to purge his melancholic thoughts. His grey eyes instinctively sought the comfort of the heavens, gazing silently at the twinkling stars for hours on end.

I'm sorry that this chapter isn't complete yet, but I thought you guys would still like to read what I had so far. Éowyn and Merry are coming up in the next part. I'll understand if you don't feel like reviewing, since you can only review each section once, and I think it's better to wait until I finish it.