Disclaimer: no creatures or beings were hurt in the making of this story, be it Men nor Elvenkind. Not even Dwarves or Hobbits! The Tolkien estate owns all characters, and no profit is being collected from this. Like the bard here, I only seek to tell a tale.
"...He leads now in all perilous ventures. But his life is charmed, or fate spares him for some other end." Mablung, The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
"Fair, surpassingly fair of face. Hair that flows like waterfalls down their backs, silken soft. Rich in colours not seen in those of mankind."
The bard ignored the indulgent smiles of the nobles around him. These nobles were, after all, his patrons for this visit.
It was the children, the younglings, gathered at his feet that he sought to capture and hold.
"Hair gold as the leaves touched by the first frost. Brown as rich as the soil tilled under the plough in your fair land. Russet as rich as a fox kit's pelt. Black to rival any raven's wing. And as they go, they sing. 'Tis a haunting thing to hear, lords and ladies, listening to the songs echo through the woodland. Voices rivaling the sweet purity of a nightengale."
"Is it true they glow?" The child leaned forward, elbows on his knees, eager to hear more. Dark hair, almost black, fell in waves. A swathe of it swung forward, covering one eye, and he impatiently pushed it behind his ear.
Beside him, his brother made a scoffing noise. "Like fireflies we catch in the summer?"
"No, young lord." The bard smiled as the children giggled. "The elves do not glow like any other being on Arda."
"More like glow worms then," snickered another boy. He ignored the quelling look from his sister, pushing his hair back to pull at his ears. "Faramir wants to be an Elf. A light-footed, fairy boy!"
The group of children laughed, even as Faramir's face heated. Dropping his head, he muttered, "I only wish to know more about what we have all read and heard."
Boromir turned to scowl at the one taunting, and suddenly silence fell over the group again.
"Have you ever...," began the bard, drawing the attention back upon himself. Waiting until he was sure he had their attention, he gazed serenely at the loudest lad. "Have you ever been out in the woods at night, young lord?"
"Of course!" The boy made a scoffing noise, mouth twisting in an arrogant smile. "My father owns land in Ithilien. I've gone with him many times to see how the crofters fare."
"Ah...good." Leaning forward, the bard rested his forearms on his thighs. "Then you have seen how a lantern, once dowsed, will continue to glow for a bit. Until it cools."
"Yes." The boy shrugged.
"Now." Gathering the group with his gaze, the bard quieted his voice. "A lantern casts a golden glow, even as it cools. Instead of that, imagine the silver blue of the moon."
Faramir looked up again, grey eyes sharpening in interest.
"That is how the glow of the Elves appears to us. It is a soft, silver-blue light, almost like a mist, that radiates from their very being."
"Can they control it?" Faramir hadn't meant to say that thought aloud, and ducked his head again, sensing his father's gaze upon him. "I only meant that...it would make it surpassingly difficult to sneak up on any game they were hunting."
"I do not know, young lord." The bard's smile was kindly. "But it is said that if a wood-Elf does not wish to be seen, you could pass right next to one and never see it hiding in the limbs of a tree."
"I would not miss it!" Boromir, the Steward's eldest son boasted, offering an engaging grin. Grey eyes glinted as he looked around, challenging any to dispute him. "For already there are few who can best me."
The other boys nodded, for it was true. Their companion was already a gifted fighter, possessing an almost uncanny ability to anticipate an opponent's next move. He was tall, and already putting on muscle, promising to be a handsome man when he reached his full growth.
As an adult, he would be a formidable opponent.
Smiling, hands spread in a conciliatory fashion, the bard bowed his head. " I do not doubt it, young lord." Straightening, he reached beside his stool, and pulled a lute into his lap. Strumming the strings, adjusting a few of the tones, he smiled again, gaze going to the lad nearest his feet. "Mayhaps someday you will see the Elves for yourself."
The boys laughed, Boromir loudest of all. "They are all gone from these lands, Master Bard!" Pushing dark hair from his face, he slung an arm around his younger brother's shoulders. "'Tis only my brother, and folk like yourself, who keep the Fair Folke alive here." He ruffled Faramir's hair and the younger boy frowned, trying to pull away.
"Sing us a tale of truth then, Bard." Denethor stood, shaking his head at his sons. "Be done with this nonsense, filling their heads with tales of foolishness. These lads will be Gondor's finest warriors, mighty among men! Sing to them something worthy of such an inheritance."
The threat was clear; sing thus or be gone.
Bowing, the bard recalled a tale of bravery popular in many of the homes of Minas Tirith's nobility. A tale of a brave warrior and the founding of the white city.
As he sang, he met the lad, Faramir's gaze. A smile and a wink gained him a tentative smile from the boy before he looked down again.
Faramir wanted to ask more questions, but he also desired to see his father smile at him the way he did Boromir - with clear approval. His questions would gain him naught but scorn and possibly a cuff to the head.
Fixing a smile on his face, he joined his brother in singing the chorus.
Gone by the next fortnight, the bard left to go to Dol Amroth, looking forward to entertaining what was typically a far more cheery group of nobles in the seaside city.
Faramir rolled his shoulders, rubbing the muscles of his neck as he walked slowly back to his room. Pummeled yet again by the others. Sword work was still something he had yet to master, though he could beat the others nine out of ten shots in archery. It was sword work that caught his father's eye, and the sword master always shook his head when asked about the younger son.
Pointing the boy, time again, to his brother as an example to follow.
Truly Faramir did love and admire his brother, but he grew weary of having Borormir's abilities thrown in his face.
Thankfully, Boromir stood up for him. He didn't understand his sibling, his quiet, reflective nature confused him at times, but they were brothers and that was enough. No one taunted Faramir with Boromir within listening range.
They had but each other against Denethor's stern, watchful gaze. Only each other to encourage and comfort.
Opening the door to his chambers, Faramir entered, closing it behind him. Stripping his sweaty tunic off, dropping it in a corner, he walked towards the wash basin. The others teased him mercilessly for his lean frame, calling him 'girly' for the lack of bulky muscle.
If was far simpler to come back here to wash up.
He paused, head cocking to one side as his gaze fell on an object on his desk. He was certain he had placed his books back on their shelves that morning before leaving for sword practice. His father detested disorderliness. It was far simpler to do things Denethor's way.
So why was there a book on his desk?
Walking over, frown growing, Faramir touched the leather-bound surface. One thing was certain; this was not a book he had ever seen, much less owned.
The leather was a deep forest green, tooled with letters he could not read, but knew had to be Elvish. A flowing border of interlaced knots, and a woodland scene graced the cover.
Biting his lip, knowing he should not, Faramir opened the book. To his relief, it was in Westron, easily readable. A piece of parchment fell from the book, and he bent to pick it up, shaking his head at the unfamiliar flowing script.My Lord Faramir,
I hope you will forgive a humble Bard his boldness. This volume was gifted to me many years ago by a great elven Lord. It is the telling of two of their greatest folk, though one was human, much like you and I. Beren and Luthien. It may seem a strange passing tale to give to you, milord, but I pray you will read it and take heart from what it has to tell. Not all the Fair Folke are gone from this world. Not yet, and I pray not for many years to come, for then, indeed, the magic will have gone from fair Arda. Best to thee, Faramir. May the stars shine upon you.
Forgetting that he stunk of sweat and horses, Faramir fell upon his bed, rolling to his stomach to eagerly read the first pages and see what manner of book an elf lord would give a bard.
His imagination fired at the words. A mortal man, winning and wooing the hand of an Elven princess. Going through trials any man would be hard-pressed to master and winning her, only to die. Then brought back by that same lady's bravery and love.
Maybe they weren't so different then, despite what his father said.
Faramir hid the book, hiding his dreams as well.
The magic was not yet gone from the world...not while there were those, like himself, willing to keep it alive.