He moves slowly towards me, his eyes narrowed and his demeanor cold. I stand and wait the oncoming wrath that will shortly fall upon me, squaring my shoulders and looking down. It strikes me, all of a sudden, how long I have been doing this---waiting for my father's anger and rebukes.
As I glance up to see that he is really quite close now, I am struck with a vision of myself when I was quite young, about seven, I should say. My father refused to tell me my crime, yet he berated me endlessly about it. All my life I have known nothing but distaste and scorn from this man whom I really know nothing about.
Other men and boys are not like this, I know. Why, I can see that merely by looking at Boromir and my father. Between them their is a kinship, a love that I have never felt. To me all Denethor has ever meant is bruises---whether physical of mental.
My father has stopped, and I risk a glance upwards, only to see disdain gnawing at his features and his cold eyes. We stand, like this, for some time, no one speaking. The guards shift uneasily, but I do not move. It will come soon enough.
"Why am I given such a worthless son?" hisses my father, at last. I still do not move. "Other men are blessed with obedient, faithful, competent sons who strive to do their every will. Yes, that is the reward of fatherhood, to have a good son. Yet I, Steward of Gondor, have an idiot in place of offspring!"
How long can I bear this? I look up, decided. "Tell me my crime, father," I say softly, "So I can repair it."
I am unprepared for his reaction. With a swift motion he brings his hand down upon my face, his silver ring slicing my cheek. My hand flies up to my face; my eyes turn down.
"Not only that, but an impudent one as well!" Denethor cries, shaking.
I bring my hand down from my cheek slowly, noting the trail of blood on it. "I did not mean to be so, father," I whisper, cursing myself for my lack of courage. On the battle-field, contrary to my father's opinion of me, I feel no fear. But here, facing the wrath of my lord that I do not believe I fully merit, I feel myself somewhat lacking.
"Look at me, Faramir!" Denethor snaps, and I glance quickly up. He utters my name as if it were a curse, a name that he hates and yet he must say out of need. He stares into my eyes (which I know must be clouded over with grief and confusion) with his own cold, bright ones. "At least the Valar have chosen to grace me with one strong son, one that will carry on my name-sake with honor. Why are you not like Boromir?"
Can he really expect me to answer that question? Does he not know the sting of his own words? This man does not understand that saying things like that makes his slaps nothing compared to them. I stare at him levelly for a minute, and then, knowing he is waiting for an answer, say slowly, "Do you wish that I had never been born and made your life miserable, my lord? For I know that is what I wish."
His slap lands on my other cheek, and this time I keep my gaze fixed on the floor.
"My lord?" asks a voice, and I look up swiftly to see Boromir standing betwixt the guards at the door. He is bristling with anger, I notice, yet his voice is calm. "Would you strike your own son?"
Denethor smiles at his eldest son, and I realize that nothing could ever hurt so much as this quick change of moods in my father when he sees his favorite son in the room. But there is a tiny bit of warning in his voice as he replies, "Faramir is learning his lesson, Boromir." Again, I notice the change. He says my name as a curse, just as he did before, but my brother's name he utters with love.
Boromir takes a step into the room. I know my brother well enough that he is searching his mind for an excuse. "My lord, Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth awaits you," he manages, glancing at my drawn face. "Will you go to him?"
The Steward glances at me too. "Yes, I will go," he sneers, and then he quickly departs from the room. Boromir walks over, laying a finger on my cheek. "Come," he says softly, placing his arm around my shoulders, "Let's find you a bandage."
I shrug him off, shaking my head. "I'm fine, Boromir." I usually let my brother baby me, but now is not the time. He looks at me in silence for a minute, then nods. With a sigh, he says, "Alright. Come on, little brother."
I follow him out the door, but as soon as we are outside of the hall the sun suddenly grows dark, and I hear the call of a dreaded Nazgul interrupt the City murmur. All over people shriek and hide, and Boromir and I cover our ears as well. I see a lone figure walking toward me, and suddenly everyone else fades away, even my beloved older brother. It is my father approaching, once more, and he begins to scream over the shrieks of the Nazgul. He raises his hand, the ring glistening, and suddenly everything is covered in flame, and I am sweating, and he is withering before my eyes. "Ash!" someone is crying.
"Faramir!" a voice breaks through the fire and the ever-present shrieking, and I feel a kiss on my cheek. "Wake up!"
I open my eyes, but all I can see is the fire, filling the room. A ringed hand is placed on my cheek, and I jerk away, raising my own hand to shield myself from it.
"Faramir?" There is a tremble in the voice now, and slowly things begin to fade from the fiery hue to the pale light of dawn. I am lying on a bed, panting. The same hand is pressed on my arm, and I stare down at it, bewildered for a minute before realizing it is a woman's hand, and I am in my room in Ithilien with my wife.
"Eowyn?" I ask, lowering my hand, and I see her staring at me.
"Why do you shield yourself from me?" she asks, her brow knit. "You were dreaming, my love."
I take a shaky breath and wipe the sweat from my brow. Eowyn takes my hand in between hers. "Your hands are cold," she murmurs.
"I'm sorry," I say, closing my eyes. Eowyn comes closer.
"What happened?" she asks.
I swallow. "I dreamed I was with my father, and he was reprimanding me again. He...he struck me, with his hand. The one with the ring on it," I say as explanation. Eowyn stares at me, then presses her cheek against mine.
"Oh Faramir," she whispers, and I realize that she did not say it as if it were a curse, but rather as if it were sweet to the tongue. I clutch her to me, breathing in her hair and perfume.
"I'm sorry Eowyn," I say slowly. She stirs.
"You are sorry? Oh my beloved husband..." she kisses me softly, then wraps her arms around my trembling form. "Forget him, my love," she whispers. "He is gone. You need only think about us."
I nod, staring out the window into the pale light that is growing. It is true. He is gone, and I have a new life now. As I lean against the bedstead, my wife in my arms, I realize that I need never fear him again. And with that realization, a weight slips from my shoulders, and I drift slowly back to sleep, content.