Summary: When Boromir is ordered to Ithilien to support Faramir and the Rangers, tension flies between the brothers. An answer to the A'mael Taren's February Challenge, "Portray the relationship of Boromir and Faramir in a negative manner." Don't worry – the brothers may have a nasty fight in this story, but of course they make up in the end! :)
Thanks, Clairon, for your helpful beta-reads on these chapters. Everyone, go read her wonderful Faramir stories. :)
*******Chapter One – Disenchantment
The late morning air was wonderfully crisp and cold, telling of autumn's early arrival to Minas Tirith. The waters of the Anduin had yet to settle into the sudden change in temperature, and it steamed in the distance, covering the Pelennor with a fine mist. I breathed deeply of the icy air and smiled for the first time in weeks. Intent on enjoying the fine day—the first day I had away from my duties in Osgiliath for some time—I walked beside my horse quite leisurely through the lower levels of the City. For more reasons than one, I was in no hurry to see my father. I found I was more than content walking amongst my people, meeting their eyes one by one, reminding myself who I was constantly at war for.
My breath froze before my watering eyes as I gazed upwards towards the Citadel. Immediately, my heart caught painfully in my throat when I saw the white flag waving proudly over the City. Minas Tirith shone gloriously in the morning sun, a sight far removed from the ruins of Osgiliath, which I had been obliged to look at for far too long. The river garrison was unthreatened for the moment, and as a result, I found myself in the City to give a routine report to my father. The unpleasantness of that aside, I was overjoyed to leave Osgiliath for a short while.
It was a shame Faramir was not present to share the walk with me. He would have enjoyed it, for we had taken many walks like it in the past. I gazed with fondness at a few familiar doorways and with great sorrow at others. A sudden longing for my brother's company seized me, and my stomach felt heavy with guilt. My last parting with Faramir was filled with anything but brotherly love and kindness. Moreover, there was no hope of reconciliation between us for the present, for he was in Ithilien with his company of Rangers. Six months had passed since our last discussion, which was less than pleasant. I shivered and pulled my cloak closer about me, wondering where he was and if all was well with him.
Before I could delve much further into unpleasant recollections, I was stirred from my thoughts when a painfully young guard rushed up to me and bowed. "The Lord Denethor requests an immediate audience with you, Captain-general. He says it is most urgent."
Nodding wordlessly to show my understanding, I pushed past the guard and grimly set towards the Citadel at a much quicker pace, agonizingly over whatever my father was to say. His mood was anything but cordial these days, and I was not particularly looking forward to his company. But he was my father, and despite his wretched mood, I loved him dearly. I would go without complaint.
I found him in the great hall, seated in the Steward's Chair. A single Ranger stood before him, his muddy clothes in a state unbefitting the company of the Steward. It would seem the Ranger had been most desperate to report immediately to my father; for his sake, I hoped he had good reason. Denethor's face was carefully set in a familiar expression of indifferent grimness. He smiled dryly at me but to my surprise, did not move to embrace me as he habitually did.
I bowed to my father and turned to see who was also before him. "Mablung!" I gasped in alarm when I recognized the scout's terribly bruised face. "What brings you to the City? Where is your Captain?"
Mablung looked expectantly at Denethor, who waved a hand and ordered, "You will tell him what you have told me."
It might have been my imagination, but the Ranger seemed to stand up straighter before his Captain-general than he did before his Steward. I prayed for Mablung's sake that Denethor did not take notice of that fact. It was obvious from the bruises and his paleness that Mablung was badly wounded, a fact that did not sit well with me. I listened attentively to what he had to say.
"A unit of Southron warriors have been tracking the Rangers for nine days," he began breathlessly. "We vanquished a similar unit not three weeks ago. Captain Faramir believes this second unit was sent to ensure the Road would be safe for their usage in the future. Our numbers were far too few to take them on directly, so we remained hidden. Two days ago, they attacked during the night. How they discovered our whereabouts, I cannot begin to imagine, for we were well hidden. Their trackers are keen. We managed to overcome the enemy and drive them away, but we suffered great losses. Enemies who were not killed retreated; they will no doubt return. I have been sent to call for aid."
"And your Captain?" I prompted impatiently. "Where is Faramir?"
"Captain Faramir stayed behind in Ithilien. There were many wounded, and he would not leave them."
I swore underneath my breath. "And was he wounded himself?"
"He assured me he was not." Mablung visibly hesitated, and his gaze fell momentarily to the ground. "If I may speak freely, Lord Steward?"
Denethor tightened his lips. "You may."
"I do not wish to imply that Captain Faramir is not an honest man," he said carefully, "but I believe the Captain might have been . . . underestimating the state his well-being."
"What do you mean?" I demanded.
"To my eyes, it seemed as if the Captain was suffering from some sort of blow to his side. He held his hand to his waist as if he was in pain or attempting to slow bleeding," Mablung said, demonstrating with his right hand. "I cannot say for certain, for he ordered me to the City at once."
Denethor scowled distastefully. "You are dismissed, Mablung. The Warden of the Houses of Healing will attend your wounds. Remain in his care until you are sent for."
"Yes, my lord," Mablung said as he bowed respectfully and turned to leave.
Denethor waited until the heavy doors of the great hall closed before he turned grave eyes upon me. "What do you suggest?"
"Immediate aid sent to those remaining in Ithilien, of course," I said without hesitation, leaning forward eagerly. "They could be killed or captured if the enemy returns with reinforcements. There is no urgent threat to our garrison at Osgiliath. We can spare the men for a short while."
Denethor nodded solemnly. "Make it so. I suppose you desire to go yourself?"
I tensed, sensing his disapproval. "I do."
The Steward's lips thinned, and he sat back thoughtfully in his tall chair. "You have only just arrived in the City, Boromir. I have barely had the opportunity to look upon you, and now you wish to leave."
It did not seem wise to respond, so I bowed my head and allowed him to debate the matter in silence. His face suddenly seemed painfully old as he contemplated, as if weighed down by some heavy burden. At length, the old man turned his grave gaze upon me. "You may go. See that someone competent is left in charge at Osgiliath, and see that your men are mounted for the ride to Ithilien for haste will be needed. Take whatever healers can be spared; take Mablung as well, if his wounds are not serious. He will be valuable as a guide, for he knows where the enemy is."
I did not attempt to conceal my sigh of relief. "Of course, my lord. With your leave, I will go at once."
He nodded wordlessly. Again, I expected him to rise and embrace me, but he did not. Denethor merely watched with mixed emotions as I bowed low. Before I could turn to depart, he said, "Boromir?" He waited until he had my full attention before he spoke again with grave severity. "You will bring my son back to me."
His words were quietly spoken, but they seemed to echo through the great hall as if they had been shouted. Never in my life had I received an order with such asceticism.
I swallowed with difficulty, my eyes fortifying with determination. "Yes, father."
To be continued.
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Author's Note: A few arguments have been voiced to me concerning Mablung's intentions regarding his disclosure of Faramir's injury. My intent was to show that Faramir's concern fell to his men rather than to himself. Mablung was acting out of love and not out of the desire to undermine his Captain. You can find all my reasons for this and the opposing side of the argument in my Live Journal entry for this chapter.