Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of J. R. R. Tolkien, nor any of the various dramatic incarnations thereof. No profit is being made from this work.

Foreword

Greetings! Welcome to this story. It's a little different from the others I've written, as it is more a series of separate short stories rather than a unit tale. Each story is a look at an event in the life of the First Family of Gondor. Originally, this was going to be a story just about Faramir and Denethor, but Boromir, protective big brother that he is, would have none of that and demanded that his voice be heard as well.

As for Denethor, I believe that there are people in this world who are born to be parents and that Denethor is not one of them. I don't think he is an evil man; he has issues, certainly, but he's hardly a villain on a Dickensian scale. Professionally, he is a great leader of Men. In his personal life, he commits one of the greatest crimes a parent can commit by favoring one child over another. This is his tragedy, not proof of his utter moral turpitude. He is no more a villain than is King Lear. In fact, he does Lear one better by turning out two basically honorable and decent children.

That's all for now. I suspect I will have plenty more to say at the end. Enjoy the story!

1. Second Son

"Good morning, Papa! There is porridge for breakfast today!"

Denethor smiled at his five-year-old son, sitting at the breakfast table in the nursery. "That is because the first frost came last night, Boromir," he said. "Winter is coming, and your Mama will want her big boy to have a good hot breakfast."

Boromir grinned proudly. His papa had been calling him a big boy for several months, ever since his mama's lap had grown too small to sit on. His mama had told him that he would have a new little brother or sister soon, and that he would have to share her lap. Boromir was not pleased by that announcement. His mama's lap had grown small enough as it was, and there was barely any room left for one, never mind a new baby. But then his papa had taken him aside and explained that the arrival of the new baby meant good news as well; Boromir would be a big brother. Boromir had given the matter some thought and had decided that he would enjoy being someone's big brother. He slurped happily at a big spoonful of porridge, dribbling a little down the front of his sleeping shirt.

Denethor reached for a napkin with one hand and wiped Boromir's face affectionately. "Do you know what else there is for your breakfast, big boy?" he asked.

"What?"

Denethor brought forth the glass he had been concealing behind his back with his other hand.

"Orange juice!" Boromir squealed as he reached for the treat. Denethor smiled. Oranges from Harad were expensive, but today Boromir would be given several such luxuries. The thought reminded him of the last thing he had to tell his son.

"You must finish your breakfast quickly today," he said. Boromir paused and looked at him quizzically over the rim of the half-finished glass of orange juice.

"Why?"

Denethor knelt down in front of him. "Your Uncle Imrahil is coming to visit," he said. "He is riding all the way from Dol Amroth, and you will be spending the day with him."

Boromir's eyes grew round with excitement. He liked his Uncle Imrahil, who always brought him seashells when he visited. He sucked down the rest of the orange juice and took another big spoonful of porridge. "I finished breakfast!" he announced.

Denethor eyed the considerable amount of porridge still remaining in the bowl. "I think not," he said. "You must eat . . . let me see . . . five more bites. Today is an important day, and my big boy must have a good breakfast inside of him."

Boromir obediently ate another spoonful of porridge. "Why is it an important day?"

"Because," Denethor said, "today the new baby will come."

"My little brother or sister?"

"Yes. And if you wish to be a big, strong brother, you must eat your porridge. Four more bites to help the baby come."

Boromir ate two spoonfuls very quickly. "Will it be a baby brother or a sister?" he asked.

"I do not know," Denethor said. "Two more bites. Which do you want, a brother or a sister?"

"I want a baby brother," Boromir said happily. "We can play swords together." He waved a spoonful of porridge around alarmingly, causing Denethor a slight moment of panic before the spoon landed in the little mouth.

"It will be some time before the baby is big enough to play with," Denethor cautioned.

"What do you want?" Boromir asked. "A boy or a girl?"

Denethor gave the matter a moment's thought. "Well," he said, "Now that I have my big boy, I think that I would like to have a little girl."

"Silly," Boromir said. "Girls have cooties."

Denethor smiled. Boromir had recently learned about cooties, having acquired a case of head lice from the children of Ecthelion's personal secretary. It had taken two washes with strong vinegar and many combings to rid him of the vermin. "Not all girls have cooties," Denethor told him.

"Girls are no fun anyway," Boromir declared stubbornly.

"Wait ten years," Denethor chuckled. "One more bite, big boy."

Boromir sighed, and jammed an enormous scoop of porridge into his mouth. Denethor winced as the porridge dribbled and smeared around Boromir's face and into his lap, but it seemed that some had actually gotten inside. Boromir grinned at him, and Denethor began to mop at his face with the napkin.

"Five bites," Boromir pointed out.

"Indeed. Now you may go wash and dress yourself. I am going to stay with your Mama for a while. Uncle Imrahil will arrive soon, and there will be a new family member tonight."

Boromir wiggled and threw his arms around his father. Denethor decided it was a promising, if messy, start to the day.

When Denethor looked in on Finduilas, she was walking in circles around the Heir's Suite, aided by Dirnilas the midwife and her young assistant Ioreth. She greeted him happily, and the midwives assured him that her labor was progressing swiftly. "Indeed," said Ioreth, "though the travail is often lessened for the second child, this babe is making a remarkably easy entrance into the world."

"Thus far," Dirnilas cautioned her. "The lady's labor is still in its early stages, and there will yet be time enough for groans and curses. And do not forget that labor always seems easier to those who are not themselves giving birth!"

Ioreth blushed, but Finduilas laughed. "You see that I am in good hands, my love," she told Denethor. "Do not fear for me."

Denethor smiled and stopped Finduilas in her walking long enough to plant a kiss on her lips. "You appear to have things well under control, my wife," he said. "I will not fear; rather, I will wait happily and dream of our daughter."

"Are you so sure that the child will be a girl?" Finduilas asked.

"I'll wager it is a girl," Ioreth put in. "None but a lovely girl-babe would make so polite an entrance as this one seems to be making."

"Do you especially wish for a daughter, my lord?" Dirnilas asked.

"I do," Denethor answered, moving to the window seat. Watching Finduilas circulate around the room was beginning to make him dizzy. "I have a bright little son and heir who has just eaten a very good breakfast and is out with his Uncle Imrahil. He will grow strong and inherit the chair from me when I am old. Now I wish for a daughter whose beauty will echo that of her mother."

"And what will your beautiful daughter do for you?" Finduilas challenged.

"She will make a royal marriage, of course."

Finduilas laughed again. "She is not yet born and already you have chosen her husband!" Her face contorted for a minute as a contraction rippled across her belly. When it was over, she looked again at her husband. "Who is the lucky bridegroom, then?"

"Théoden of Rohan has a boy about Boromir's age," Denethor said. "I believe his name is Théodred. I saw him once last year. He seemed a sturdy lad, and a marriage between the ruling houses of Gondor and Rohan would be a great joy."

"You are husband to a Princess, and you wish to be father to a Queen," Finduilas shot back. "That is indeed the mind of Denethor at work. It is good to see that no bogey monster has carried you off and sent a changeling in your stead."

"There is no bogey monster that could defeat me," Denethor said. "And if you do not believe me, you may ask Boromir, and he will tell you all about my epic battles with the monsters which dwell beneath his bed."

Finduilas laughed. "I shall be sure to do just that. But now, I must turn my attention to this second child, or it will never be born, whether future Queen or no."

With that, Dirnilas moved to shoo Denethor out of the room. He left with a promise to check in on Finduilas at a later moment and set off for the Steward's office, whistling tunelessly. Ecthelion had granted him a full day's release from his administrative duties on the day of Boromir's birth, but for the arrival of his second child, Denethor planned to request only half a day. Ecthelion had aged rapidly in the five years since Boromir's arrival and would need the extra assistance. Even in the late middle years of his life, Denethor still felt himself to be the Steward's dutiful son. He would perform his tasks as long as he was able. The new child would not be born until the evening, and there was plenty of time until then to do his work. In addition, Denethor told himself, the distraction from the waiting would be most welcome.

Imrahil forced himself to keep his long strides steady as his little nephew tugged at his hand and tried to skip ahead through the courtyards of the Citadel. In spite of all the exciting things they had done that day -- visiting the market, the army training fields and going for a long ride out on the Pelennor -- Boromir was still jumpy and full of energy. "Are we going to see the new baby now, Uncle Imrahil?" he asked.

"Not yet," Imrahil said. "The sun is still in the sky, do you see?" He pointed at the glorious red and gold sunset. "The baby will not be here before the sun sets completely. There is still time for you to eat your dinner and have your bath."

"Babies take a long time," Boromir said.

"That they do," Imrahil replied, remembering the long hours he and Denethor had spent pacing the halls during Finduilas's first labor, husband and brother each trying to calm the other's frayed nerves and failing miserably. But Boromir had been born in the end, and this second child would arrive in its own time as well.

"Do you want it to be a boy or a girl?" Boromir asked.

"I will be happy with either a boy or a girl," Imrahil assured him. "What do you want?"

"I want a boy," Boromir said, "but Papa wants a girl, and he mostly always gets his way. I'm going to be a big brother, but I want a little brother, not a little sister."

"Sisters are not such bad things," Imrahil said. "Your mama is my sister, after all."

That was true. Boromir had not considered it before. He scowled up at Imrahil. "But you couldn't play swords with her," he said.

"No," Imrahil said, kneeling down conspiratorially. He leaned in close to Boromir and said, "But I could pull her ribbons and muss her curls."

Boromir giggled, amused that his grown-up, responsible uncle could ever have been so naughty. "Did that make Mama mad?" he asked.

"Very mad," Imrahil said seriously. "So mad that she used to chase me all around our chambers, and we would have the most glorious pillow fights. So you see, sisters can be lots of fun if you know how to play with them right."

"I still want a little brother," Boromir insisted.

"The choice is not yours," Imrahil reminded him. "Let us go back inside now. I am sure your nurse has a nice dinner waiting for you, and then you will have a bath."

"Can I play with my seashells in the bath?"

"Of course. What else are seashells for?"

It was late in the evening when the second child of Denethor and Finduilas was finally born. Denethor, Imrahil and Ecthelion had been waiting outside his bedchamber for several hours when the door opened, and Ioreth emerged. She dropped a low curtsey before him. "My lords," she said formally, "the Lady Finduilas has just now been delivered of a fine, healthy son."

The three men sat back and looked at each other. Denethor saw the joy shining in the eyes of his father and brother-in-law and tried to swallow his disappointment.

"Thank you, Ioreth," Ecthelion said. "We will be in momentarily." Ioreth nodded and disappeared back inside the bedchamber.

"Congratulations, Denethor," Imrahil said. "Two fine little boys to your credit."

"And I have lived to see another grandson," Ecthelion said happily.

"A son?" Denethor said. "What will I do with a second son?"

Ecthelion looked him straight in the eye. "Love him," he said.

Denethor nodded slowly. He turned to a page and asked that Boromir be woken up and brought to see his new brother. Then the three Lords rose and went in to see Finduilas and the second son.

"Is the new baby here? Can I see it?" The door to the bedchamber swung open a second time, and Boromir's nurse led the sleepy, newly minted big brother inside.

"Speak softly, Boromir," she said. "Your mama is still very tired, and so is the baby."

"Is it a little brother?" Boromir asked.

Denethor, sitting on the bed beside Finduilas and the baby, could not bring himself to speak. But Ecthelion held his arms out to Boromir.

"It is indeed," he said. "Do not be shy, Boromir. Come and give your mama a kiss and meet your new baby brother."

Boromir needed no second invitation. He hurried over, and Denethor lifted him up onto the high bed. Remembering his nurse's warnings, Boromir gave Finduilas a very gentle hug and kiss, and then turned his attention to the bundle she held in her arms.

"Is that my brother?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, pulling the blankets aside to reveal a little red face. "This is Faramir."

"Oooh," Boromir said, peering at Faramir. "He's so little. Was I ever that little?"

Denethor opened his mouth, but Finduilas shot him a warning glance. "Yes you were," she said. "You were just that little once."

"But now you are a big boy," Denethor reminded him. In truth, he thought that Boromir had been a larger, more robust baby than this little wrinkled mite, but he did not mention it to the child. It would not have made any impression. Boromir was utterly entranced, reaching into the blankets until he found Faramir's hand and pulled it out to examine it. The tiny fingers promptly curled around his own, and Boromir laughed.

"Faramir likes me!" he cried. "Can I hold him?"

"No," Dirnilas said. "He is much too little for you to hold."

"I think not," his nurse said. She lifted Boromir into a chair and piled pillows under his elbows until he was firmly wedged in, his arms raised and supported. Then she picked Faramir up with her experienced hands and laid him gently in Boromir's lap.

"Hello, little baby brother," Boromir said. "I am Boromir, and I am your big brother. I want you to hurry up and grow big and strong like me so that we can play swords together." Faramir yawned, eliciting another giggle from Boromir.

"He is a beautiful baby," Ecthelion said to Finduilas. "Congratulations, my dear. You have done yourself proud."

"And how happy Boromir looks," Imrahil added.

Finduilas smiled wearily at her husband. "They will be perfect playmates for each other," she said. "There is still time to have a little girl as well, and then she will have not one, but two big brothers to dote on her."

Denethor smiled at his wife. A man could do worse than to have two big, healthy sons, he decided. They could try for a daughter later. And his big boy's eyes were shining with love for the baby brother he had so eagerly awaited.