Disclaimer: Faramir, etc. are not mine.
Written for my beloved Muse, Mariel, for Christmas.
- - -
It was with a heavy heart that Faramir had returned to the Citadel for his uncle's visit to Minas Tirith. Normally he enjoyed seeing Imrahil, for the Prince's trips from Dol Amroth were becoming fewer and fewer as the years passed on. But this time, he was dreading Imrahil's visit because he had done something terrible, and he knew that Imrahil would be furious with him: he had broken his uncle's sword.
It wasn't just any sword. Imrahil had gifted it to him especially when he had been made Captain of the Ithilien Rangers three years ago. A family heirloom, it had belonged to Imrahil's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and Faramir had been greatly touched that Imrahil would choose to pass the sword on to him rather than any of his own sons. Even beyond its sentimental value, the weapon was richly crafted and inlaid with gold, and was almost perfectly balanced. There was no finer sword in Dol Amroth, certainly, and arguably even in Minas Tirith. It had even rivaled the massive sword that Denethor had gifted to Boromir. Faramir had been so proud when Imrahil presented it to him.
That memory was now bittersweet. Imrahil had warned him to take good care of the sword, and Faramir swore to Imrahil that he would look after it properly, knowing how much that sword meant to his uncle. He had failed miserably in keeping his word.
The death of Imrahil's sword was hardly his fault, either, and somehow that made it worse instead of better. If he had done something to ruin the sword, then he could accept that. But he could hardly tell Imrahil that there had to have been some flaw in that flawless sword that caused it to break. For he had been in Ithilien, leading his men in a small skirmish, when he used the sword to parry an Orc's attack. The blade shattered under the force of the impact. What could he have done to prevent that? As he had promised, he carefully tended the weapon at all times, oiling it, cleaning it, using a whetstone to remove dents. What could he say? "I'm sorry, Uncle, but there was something wrong with your beloved sword and it broke." That was hardly the way to tell Imrahil that Faramir had destroyed one of his most cherished possessions.
For a few moments he had even contemplated not telling his uncle about the incident at all, but that would have been dishonest. He knew he would have to face up to the consequences, and there was no way around it. Surprisingly, he wasn't afraid of Imrahil's anger, for he received enough of his father's anger in his life that he was accustomed to it by now. What he mourned most of all was the loss of Imrahil's respect and trust, and possibly even love. Faramir loved Imrahil dearly but knew that their relationship could never be as warm as it had been in the past. Imrahil would certainly not trust his nephew with any more than a wooden bowl in the future.
So now here he sat at the dinner table, listening silently to the conversation between Imrahil, Boromir, and Denethor. Or at least pretending to listen. His mind was anywhere but there, as he tried unsuccessfully to think of the best way of breaking the news to Imrahil.
Suddenly Imrahil spoke to him, but he had been so deep in thought that he had not heard him. Flustered, he asked his uncle to repeat himself, cursing himself for the rudeness that was now compounding his carelessness.
"I asked you if were all right." Imrahil smiled kindly at him. Faramir shuddered, thinking of the angry snarl that would soon replace that familiar expression.
"No. Yes. I mean – I'm fine, thank you Uncle," he stammered. As fine as I could possibly be, knowing that you will hate me in a few hours, he added to himself. Nervous fingers gripped the now useless hilt still belted to his waist.
The conversation continued after dinner, as did Faramir's silence. He was beginning to sweat now, and butterflies flew in his stomach. The right thing to do was to tell Imrahil after Boromir and Denethor retired for the evening. Doubtless Imrahil would complain to them of his carelessness later, but Faramir wanted to at least tell Imrahil in private before the entire Citadel knew what an idiot he was.
To Faramir's surprise, it was Imrahil who sought his rest first, saying that the long journey had worn him out more than usual. This was unexpected. He cried out "No!" as he jumped up from his seat suddenly. His entire family looked at him like he was a madman.
Imrahil raised an eyebrow at him. "Why not?"
Faramir took in a deep breath. "I… need to talk to you. In private." Denethor looked at him disapprovingly, but he tried to ignore his father.
"Of course, Faramir. You can walk me to my rooms." Faramir nodded unhappily, then bowed to his father and wished Denethor and Boromir a good night.
Once out of the others' earshot, Imrahil smiled at Faramir, who was practically shaking by this point. "So what is it that you need to talk to me about so desperately?"
Faramir tried to remember all those phrases he had planned, but his mind suddenly went blank. Before he even knew what he was saying, Faramir blurted, "I broke your sword!" Imrahil went pale. "It was an accident, I swear," he babbled. "There was an Orc with a sword, and then I blocked his attack, but the entire blade shattered into pieces and… and…" He hung his head in shame, unable to meet Imrahil's eyes. "I'm so sorry, Uncle."
To his surprise, Imrahil sounded quite calm as he asked, "Were you hurt?"
"No. I was knocked to the ground, but I just picked up another sword and killed the Orc."
"Faramir," Imrahil said gently. "Faramir, look at me." Somehow he managed to muster enough courage to meet his uncle's eyes, and was shocked to find no anger in them. "All that matters is that you are unharmed."
"Faramir, I know you well enough to know that you cared for the sword to the best of your ability. It was an old sword. Obviously it should have been retired years ago. I never thought that the blade had been weakened by long usage – I would never have given it to you if had suspected that. I am sorry to have put you in danger."
"But you didn't, Uncle… it was my own fault for using it in such a manner."
Imrahil sighed. "A sword is meant to be used, Faramir, not looked at. I gave the sword to you expecting that it would be used in battle. I thought it would serve you well." A smile appeared on his lips. "I was clearly wrong."
"It did, though. I really loved it."
"As did I." Imrahil placed a hand on Faramir's shoulder. "But that does not mean you need to feel guilty. Accidents happen. I will not say that I am not upset, for that would be untrue, but you are far more valuable to me than any sword."
Faramir blushed and could not hold his uncle's gaze. "I collected and saved the shards, though. I thought you would want to have them back." He unfastened the sheath from his belt and gave it to Imrahil.
His uncle ran a hand over the familiar hilt. "Thank you, Faramir. I appreciate that." He smiled once more, and then bid Faramir good night and entered his sleeping quarters. Faramir could have passed out from the sudden relief. Exhaustion born of his fear overcame him, and Faramir went to sleep easily that night.
- - -
Imrahil had now left four months ago. With him had gone the shards of his old sword. In the meantime, Faramir had been using a standard issue sword, which was far heavier than what he was used to. It made his muscles sore and gave him even more of an appreciation for Boromir's nearly superhuman strength.
Messages always arrived from Dol Amroth regularly, but this time there was a package for Faramir among the missives dealing with politics and war. He took it to his room to open it in privacy without his father staring over his shoulder. Not that he was expecting anything inappropriate, but he would rather be safe than sorry.
Faramir read the attached note first: "Use it well. Love, Imrahil." Curious, he untied the ropes holding the wooden box together, and then opened it. To his amazement, inside was a brand new sword, nearly identical to his old one but with a few slight improvements. He simply stared at the gift for a few moments, and then finally ran his hand along its smooth, sharp edge. It was a fine sword. He knew without even examining it that it too would have nearly perfect balance and the same light, comfortable feel.
More than a fine sword, it was expensive. His uncle's generosity stunned him. He hardly knew what to do with it at first but just stare at it. But one glance over at Imrahil's note told him what to do with it. Smiling, he replaced his temporary sword with Imrahil's gift.