A/N: This was written for the Halloween fic challenge at A'mael Taren.
I''m using "Faron" as Boromir's nickname for his brother here; one of the possible meanings for Faramir's name is "jewelled hunter," and "Faron" is "hunter" in Sindarin.
This is still a bit of a WIP, so feedback is more than welcome. :)
Lost at Sea
Boromir ran down the sandy path leading down to the beach as fast as he could, desperately hoping that he would find his brother there. It wasn't surprising that he'd had no luck thus far; since their mother had passed on during the previous autumn, Faramir had developed a rather disturbing tendency to disappear for long periods of time. Boromir had gotten pretty good at finding his brother's favorite hiding spots in Minas Tirith, and was usually able to find him before their father noticed he was missing. But they were staying in Dol Amroth for a fortnight now, visiting their mother's kin. And Boromir was really starting to get worried now—night was rapidly falling, and although he had searched all over his uncle's house, he hadn't found a trace of Faramir.
He wove his way down through the dunes and scrambled over the rocky outcropping that served as a natural barrier to the sea. Much to his relief, he could see a small, silhouetted figure standing still near the edge of the water, looking down the shore. "Faron!" Boromir called out. The boy didn't seem to hear him, so he called his name out again as he moved closer. Still, Faramir didn't even turn his head. When he was standing almost right behind him and Faramir still didn't respond, Boromir finally reached out and laid a hand on his brother's shoulder.
Faramir jumped and whirled around, his face pale in the growing twilight and his grey-blue eyes wide. "Sorry if I startled you, little brother," Boromir said, grinning. "I did try to warn you. Why didn't you turn around?"
"Sorry..." Faramir looked back over his shoulder, as if expecting to see something there, then his shoulders slumped.
"What are you looking for?" Boromir asked.
"She's gone," Faramir said, looking upset and a little confused.
"What are you talking about, Faron? I didn't see anyone except for you when I was coming down here," Boromir answered.
"But she was there! I saw her!" Faramir looked back again.
"Who was there?" Boromir asked, beginning to feel impatient. It could be so difficult to get a straight answer out of his brother sometimes... Faramir looked like he was going to answer, but then thought better of it and fell into a sullen silence, looking down at his feet. "Come on, Faramir, you can tell me," Boromir prodded.
Finally Faramir looked up. "I saw Mama," he said in a near-whisper.
Boromir could do nothing but stare at him for a moment, too stunned to even think of how to respond. Then he frowned. "You're too old to be telling stories like that," he replied.
"But it's true!" Faramir insisted, his eyes wide. "She was walking by the water, and she was humming that song she always used to sing when she put me to bed. But she didn't have her blue cloak because we kept that."
Boromir sighed and took his brother by the hand to lead him back up to his uncle's house. "You were probably just daydreaming again, Faramir."
Faramir pulled his hand out of Boromir's and crossed his arms stubbornly. "I was not."
I'll deal with this later, Boromir quickly decided. If the look in his brother's eyes was any indication, nothing Boromir could say would change his mind anytime soon. "We should go back; everyone's been looking for you. You've got to stop running off like this, Faron."
Faramir frowned, but took Boromir's hand more willingly this time, and the two brothers began the lengthy walk back up to their uncle's palace.
Two more days passed, and twice more, Boromir had to make the journey down to the shoreline to find his brother as night was falling. Though he kept pressing Faramir for reasons why he kept leaving, or even how he had managed to sneak past the guards, he stubbornly refused to explain his actions any further until the second night, when they had nearly reached the palace.
"So did you see anything?" Boromir asked, leading Faramir past the guards with one hand and pulling his cloak a little closer with the other; the autumn nights were growing much colder.
Faramir scowled, pushing his raven hair away from his eyes. "Stop making fun of me, Boromir."
"I'm not making fun of you, Faron," Boromir answered. "Did you see anything tonight or last night?"
"Not last night," Faramir said.
"And tonight?" Boromir pressed.
Faramir nodded after a moment. "She was singing again. And I think she might have seen me, because she smiled!"
Boromir fell silent, deep in thought. It wasn't like Faramir to make up stories, but what other explanation could there be? He suddenly realized that Faramir had stopped in the middle of the courtyard, and looked down at him. "What is it, Faramir?"
"You don't believe me." Faramir's gaze was piercing, his eyes flickering in the torchlight; the boy was too perceptive for his own good sometimes.
"What do you expect?" Boromir snapped, his temper flaring before he could stop it. "It's completely absurd! I know you miss her, but no amount of wishful thinking is going to bring her back. Not now, not ever."
"You sound like Father," Faramir said, his voice soft and a little sad.
"Perhaps he's right," Boromir said bluntly. "You just need to accept it and move on."
Faramir just stared up at him for a moment, tears in his eyes. Then he turned and rushed into the palace. Boromir sighed, then followed his brother.
He stopped in front of Faramir's door and knocked, but there was no answer. "Faron?" Boromir called out, then opened the door. Faramir was lying curled up on his bed, his back to the door, clutching at the blue mantle that Boromir had carefully hidden for him when their mother's things had been taken away. Faramir didn't even turn to look at him as he sat down on the bed. "Faramir?" he tried again, resting a hand on his brother's shoulder.
Faramir abruptly jerked away, but still did not speak. Boromir could see that Faramir's eyes were still filled with tears, though he seemed to be trying hard to get them under control. Boromir moved back on the bed so he could lean his back against the wall. "I miss her too," he said softly.
"I know," Faramir replied, pushing himself into a sitting position. Boromir put his arm around his brother, trying to offer him some comfort as Faramir quietly cried. Eventually, Faramir fell completely silent, and Boromir looked down to see that he had dozed off, his head leaning against Boromir's shoulder. Boromir didn't have the heart to leave him yet, so he rested the back of his head against the wall, looking up at the ceiling and trying to decide what to do. I'll talk to Uncle Imrahil, he finally decided. He would know what to do. At least, Boromir really hoped so.
Boromir didn't have an opportunity to speak with Imrahil until the next afternoon, as his uncle was down at the harbor all morning. After the noontime meal, he left Faramir playing in the courtyard with their young cousin Elphir, while their aunt, Ancalimë, sat with her embroidery and watched them.
After several minutes of searching, he found his uncle sitting at the desk in his study, scrutinizing the first document on top of a pile of paperwork. "Uncle?" he asked tentatively. "Are you busy?"
Imrahil looked up and smiled. "Good afternoon, Boromir," he said. "And this can wait. Is something troubling you?"
"It's Faramir. I'm worried about him," Boromir blurted out. "I thought he'd be doing better since you invited us here, because he's always loved the sea. But now he's saying that he sees Mother on the beach at night, and...and I don't know what to do!"
Imrahil's brow furrowed as he nodded slowly. "I see. How long has this been going on?"
"It started four days ago. He's upset because I don't believe him. But how could I? It's completely ridiculous!"
"What has he said, exactly?" Imrahil asked. Boromir told him everything, and Imrahil stood there for a time, a thoughtful look in his sky-blue eyes. "We both know your brother has a vivid imagination," he finally said, "but we both also know he's not one to tell falsehoods. Have you considered the possibility that he truly does believe he's seeing these things?"
"But that's impossible!" Boromir exclaimed. Then a worried frown crossed his face. "He's not going mad, is he?"
His uncle laughed. "I doubt that." His face grew more serious as he added, "But he is still grieving. Your mother's death was a difficult blow for all of us, but especially for one as young as Faramir."
"So perhaps he wishes to see her so badly that he really does think he sees her?" Boromir asked.
"Perhaps." Imrahil looked thoughtful, and finally added, "Would you like me to talk to him?"
"Could you?" Boromir asked hopefully.
"I'll see what I can do," he replied, rising from his seat.
Boromir dutifully followed his uncle down to the courtyard. Imrahil greeted his wife with a kiss on top of her head, then walked over to the fountain, where Faramir was attempting to retrieve Elphir's toy boat from the water. His fingertips kept pushing the boat just out of reach, however. "Perhaps you might allow me to assist?" Imrahil asked him, an amused twinkle in his eye.
"Good afternoon, Uncle," Faramir said politely as he moved out of the way.
As Imrahil scooped the small wooden boat out of the fountain, he looked down solemnly at Faramir. "Faramir, might I speak with you for a moment?" he asked, as he handed the toy back to Elphir.
Faramir's eyes shot over to Boromir; Boromir couldn't help noticing the betrayed look in his brother's eyes. "Am I in trouble?" he asked, turning his gaze up towards his uncle.
"Not at all," Imrahil replied. "Let's go to the balcony, so we can watch the sea." Faramir glanced over at Boromir one more time, then nodded and followed Imrahil out of the courtyard. Boromir silently debated for awhile whether he should follow, but decided that Faramir probably would be even more unhappy with him if he was caught eavesdropping. He would just have to wait.
Faramir was even more subdued than usual during supper that night, and quickly asked to be excused from the table once they had finished eating, saying he was tired. His aunt excused herself shortly after to start getting Elphir ready for bed, and so Boromir was left alone with his uncle. "What happened?" he asked.
"He wouldn't speak much about it," Imrahil replied. "He's agreed that he will come to me if he wishes to talk about it, but for now I think it may be best to wait and see what happens."
"I've done nothing but wait!" Boromir grumbled. "I hate waiting."
"I know," Imrahil said. "But until Faramir's ready to talk, there's really not much else we can do."
Boromir reluctantly nodded. "I'm going to try to talk to him again," he said. "Good night, Uncle."
"Good night," Imrahil said as Boromir left the table.
As Boromir reached the top of the stairs opening up into the hallway where his and Faramir's rooms were, he caught a glimpse of a small, cloaked figure moving down the hall in the opposite direction. Boromir was about to call out to him, then decided maybe it would be better to see how Faramir was managing to sneak out so easily, and followed him instead.
It was a decision easier said than done. Faramir was very good at staying out of sight, and so it was all Boromir could do to keep up and still stay far enough behind that Faramir wouldn't notice him. By the time Faramir reached the city walls, Boromir was getting very irritated with the entire situation; it was only curiosity as to how he'd get out of the city that stopped him from calling out to his brother and ending this.
Boromir shivered as he waited in the shadows; the wind from the sea had a cold edge to it, and in his haste to keep up with Faramir, he hadn't even thought to grab his cloak. High overhead, he could see the full moon shining brightly through a thin veil of cloud, and hoped the clouds would scatter enough for him to see where he was going. He could faintly see Faramir in the shadows closer to the wall. It was a lower section of the wall with trees growing nearby, and he watched as Faramir climbed up one of the trees until he was able to drop down on the other side of the wall.
As he began awkwardly attempting to climb the tree himself, Boromir silently promised himself that for the remainder of their time in Dol Amroth, he would be sure to tie his brother to his bed as soon as supper was over. He had never particularly enjoyed climbing trees, and the branches that had merely shuddered under the weight of a six-year-old creaked dangerously as Boromir eased himself over enough that he could pull himself onto the top of the wall. He sat there for a moment, looking down warily, before finally taking a deep breath and jumping down. Fortunately, the drop wasn't terribly far, and the sandy ground offered a slightly softer landing than he expected. But Faramir was already out of sight by the time he had reached the ground.
All he could do was head for the sea once more. He picked his way carefully down the darkened path until he was close enough to the shore that the ground smoothed out. Boromir broke into a run, calling Faramir's name as he ran. "Faramir? Fara—aah!" He couldn't help crying out a bit as his foot caught on a stone and he fell face-first into the cool sand.
As he lifted his head, shaking it in disgust as he tried to get the sand out of his mouth, a dark figure dropped down next to him. Boromir gasped, completely startled, and he quickly scrambled to get his feet under him in case he needed to defend himself. Then his eyes narrowed as he realized who it was. "Faramir!" he exclaimed, not sure whether to be relieved or angry. "You shouldn't sneak up on people like that. I could have hit you before I saw you!"
"Sorry, Boromir," Faramir said, looking sufficiently chastised for Boromir's glare to soften. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"I wasn't scared," Boromir said defensively as he moved into a sitting position. "You just startled me, that's all. Why did you come back here, anyway? You shouldn't be out wandering alone, especially after dark."
"I knew you'd follow," Faramir answered, as if it should have been obvious.
"That's not the point," Boromir argued. "Come on, we're going..." his voice trailed off as he caught a glimpse of a figure walking by the shoreline. The pale moonlight that filtered through the clouds overhead reflected off her pale skin, and her dark hair and skirts blew around her in the wind. "Faramir?" he asked uncertainly.
Faramir turned his head to look towards the sea. "That's her!" he exclaimed.
Boromir could see how Faramir might think the woman was their mother; from where he sat, the likeness was uncanny. Ignoring the nagging thought that there was something strange about this in favor of being glad there was a reasonable explanation, he said, "Come on, let's get a closer look."
Faramir's eyes widened, and he looked a little afraid. "But..." he protested.
"It's all right, I'll look out for you," Boromir said confidently. "There's nothing to be afraid of." Faramir finally nodded, and the two of them crept closer to the shore. Once they reached the rock outcropping that separated the dunes from the beach, Boromir could begin to make out the faint sound of singing, quickly recognizing it as the same song that his mother used to sing to him at bedtime when he was younger, the same song he had overheard many times when she sang it to Faramir. It was strange, he reasoned, but other women of Dol Amroth would probably know the song. Faramir, on the other hand, was completely wide-eyed. "It's probably just a woman from the city out for a walk," Boromir whispered.
Faramir shook his head stubbornly. "It's Mama. I know it's her." Boromir sighed as he climbed up on top of the rocks, going slowly as they were quite slippery from the combination of the damp night and the sea-spray. Then he reached down to help Faramir up. Faramir quickly scrambled down to the sand on the other side, looking down the beach towards the woman. His brow furrowed thoughtfully.
"What is it, Faron?" Boromir asked.
"There's no footprints," Faramir answered, pointing down the sand.
Boromir looked down the beach. Sure enough, the moonlit shore was completely smooth. He couldn't even see even the faintest imprint to indicate that someone had just walked by there moments ago. "The waves could have erased them," he said doubtfully.
"But it's too smooth," Faramir argued. "And she wasn't that close to the waves."
As Boromir considered this, he began to wonder if perhaps Faramir was closer to the truth than he thought after all. "Maybe," he finally said. "Come on, let's go then!" Faramir slipped his hand trustingly into his brother's, and the two of them began walking down the beach towards the woman.
She was standing still now, watching the waves lap against the shore. As the two boys drew closer, even Boromir couldn't deny that she looked very much like their mother. He paused, trying to come up with a more reasonable explanation, while Faramir stepped forward a little more. "Mama?" he asked softly.
She turned towards them, her skin seeming to glow as if the moonlight rested on her, though the moon had gone behind a cloud. A gentle smile crossed her face, framed by raven waves of hair, though her eyes, the same blue-grey as his brother's, held a touch of sadness.
Boromir could do nothing but stare. "It is her," he whispered.
Faramir just glanced up at him silently, then back towards her. "Mama, why did you have to go?" he asked.
"Boromir! Faramir!" Boromir could hear his uncle's voice drifting down the beach, and turned to look.
"Faramir, Uncle Imrahil's coming," he said, motioning down the beach. "We're over here, Uncle!" he called out.
Faramir cried out, "Wait, Mama, don't go!" When Boromir turned back, she was gone. Faramir looked completely bewildered. "She just disappeared!" he said, obviously upset. "Why did she have to go again? Doesn't she love us?"
Boromir knelt down so that he was eye level with his brother. "I don't know why she had to go, Faron. I don't understand any of this," he said, gesturing down the beach. "But she did love us. Never doubt that."
Faramir slowly nodded after a moment, though he didn't smile. The moon re-emerged from behind the clouds, and Boromir could now clearly see Imrahil walking towards them. "I think we'll need to have a talk about coming here alone after dark," he said sternly.
Faramir glanced up at Boromir, looking nervous, then he blurted out, "It's my fault, Uncle. Boromir just followed me. So don't punish him, please?"
Imrahil's face softened. "I'm not going to punish either of you, Faramir. But I do want you to promise you won't come here on your own after dark again. Do we have an agreement?" Faramir nodded solemnly, then glanced back down the beach again, a wistful expression on his face. Boromir followed his gaze; the beach was empty, except for a single seagull running across the sand near the foam, its wings a luminescent white as the moonlight hit them. For a moment, the bird cocked its head and looked at them, then spread its wings and flew out over the water as they silently watched.
"There's an old story among the people of Dol Amroth," Imrahil softly said after a moment. "According to the legend, when a sailor is lost at sea, his spirit returns to shore as a gull, so he can watch over his loved ones and still be close to the sea that he loved."
Faramir looked up at him hopefully. "Really?" he asked.
Imrahil smiled at him. "Perhaps. Every legend has some truth behind it." Faramir's expression grew thoughtful as his uncle added, "Come; it's past time for both of you to return."
Boromir nodded, following his uncle back up through the dunes with his brother close behind. As they walked, they fell behind slightly. "Boromir?" Faramir whispered.
"Do you think..."
"Maybe..." Boromir answered, still feeling a little bewildered by the night's events. "She always loved the sea."
For a moment, the brothers stopped, turning back to look at the moonlit waves. "We won't see her again," Faramir said softly.
"How do you know?" Boromir asked.
"I just know," Faramir replied. "I think she just wanted to know we were all right." He paused, then added, "Do you think she's watching us now?"
Boromir smiled. "I know she is, little brother." As they turned back towards the city, he could hear the cry of a gull echoing across the water as if in reply.