A Story of One Flood
Author's Note: I'm really grateful to all those whose invaluable suggestions made this story what it is. Special thanks to Cressida for her tremendous support when it stopped going smoothly. I'm not sure I would have finished it without her!
'…But what if you poured water into the dragon's mouth?'
Faramir rolled over onto his belly.
'You could. Then the dragon couldn't breathe fire…just steam, I think.'
Boromir looked genuinely confused. 'How does one pour water into a dragon's mouth? They fly rather high!'
'What if you use a pump and make something like a fountain?'
'Hmm…can you make a fountain high enough?'
'I don't know,' Faramir admitted and sighed.
Boromir echoed his brother's sigh and slid off the bed, going to the window.
'There is going to be a storm again,' he groaned, looking at the darkening sky. 'You know, I wish we were at home!'
Faramir looked at his brother with sympathy. Spending a whole day indoors was more than enough to make Boromir cranky, and since the very beginning of their visit to Dol Amroth, it had been rainy, windy, and cold. The Prince and their uncle both seemed to be occupied all the time – there had been some trouble with the dam, and they feared it might burst, not able to stand the rush of yet another storm, and the farmlands would be flooded and people killed…
Finally, their grandsire had left to oversee some works at the dam and had later sent word that he would stay there as long as he was needed. The women of the household were busy preparing various supplies in case it came to the worst, so in the end, the brothers were largely left to themselves. Which would not be all that bad if the weather were better…
Faramir did not mind it all that much. He could easily occupy himself with some quiet indoor play, or a book. But he did feel for his poor older brother… Boromir certainly liked to read too, as well as play with wooden soldiers and tell dragon tales. Doing it for eight days, however…
Boromir dragged a chair to the window and climbed onto it, putting his chin on the windowsill and heaving another miserable sigh.
'I wish I were there!' he said. 'I could help too. I could…well, drive carts with people's things…you know I could, don't you? Or run errands?' He looked anxiously at Faramir.
The younger boy eyed him critically. 'Yes, I suppose so.'
Privately, he thought that Boromir had to be bored indeed to offer anything of the kind.
'Only, it would probably be too dangerous at the beginning,' he added upon some reflection. 'Those draught horses are different from rides. You would need some time to master them.'
He also thought Boromir was most certainly not strong enough, being only twelve years of age, and could well be trampled down by all the busy grown men, but knew better than to say it.
Casting another sympathetic glance at Boromir, he immersed himself in the book about dragons again, half his mind working hard on the construction of that fountain…
Suddenly, there was a noise in the hallway: the sound of hurried footfalls and male voices speaking agitatedly all at once. The brothers exchanged startled glances and, in an instant, were both out of their chamber.
Once in the broad hallway, they were in a crowd of tall, wet, panting people. Faramir recognised two or three faces of their uncle's courtiers, usually very friendly with them both; today, however, they just gave the lads a cursory glance.
Boromir ran up to one and started to ask a question, but was rudely shoved aside.
'For goodness' sake, lad!' the man growled. 'Take yourself to your chamber and play there!'
Boromir went white with rage, then deep red, then white again. Faramir thought it best not to wait for yet another change of colour and dragged his brother away from the crowd.
Fortunately, the latter was too stunned with wrath to offer much resistance.
Back in the chamber, Boromir finally found his voice.
'How dare he!!!' he thundered. 'I shall tell Grandfather when he comes, and Uncle, and then Father, and they will have him punished for it! Maybe even flogged, out in the city!'
'I doubt that any of them would order such a thing,' Faramir said.
Boromir stomped his foot. 'But did you hear what…'
'I think something really bad has just happened, that's why he was so angry,' came the calm answer.
'Well…I think you are right,' said Boromir, already calming down. 'But he could have told us what it was! I wonder where Uncle is…'
Barely had he uttered that when the door opened and in came Imrahil, just as wet and unkempt as the rest of those men they had seen.
'Uncle!' Faramir rushed to him first. 'What happened?'
Imrahil ruffled the lad's hair, sighing.
'Nothing too good, Faramir,' he said.
'What?' two voices cried.
In the midst of all his worries, Imrahil found himself being very close to chuckling. The two pairs of grey eyes bored into him as both his nephews stood very close to him, Faramir tugging at his belt and Boromir having taken a firm hold of his right hand. They looked like two over-enthusiastic young pups jumping around their master…indeed, he had an impression they might start bouncing at any moment!
'The dam burst,' he finally said.
There was a collective gasp from the brothers.
'So this is why everyone is so agitated,' Boromir murmured, feeling a tiny bit guilty. He glanced at Faramir and was relieved to see no 'I told you' look upon his face.
'Busy, too,' Imrahil said. 'We need every hand we can get…a village has been flooded, and most people are still on the roofs, some with their livestock, waiting for rescue.'
'How are you going to do that?' Faramir asked, frowning.
'Boats,' their uncle answered. 'We are taking them to a safe place by boats.'
They fell silent. Imrahil sighed and patted both their heads.
'I have come here to you for a reason…' he started. Boromir brightened immediately.
'What?' Now he started to bounce indeed. 'You want us to help, don't you? I can row very well, remember you taught me last summer? And Faramir…'
He faltered for a moment, realising that Faramir probably could not do that as well as he, but not wanting to hurt his little brother…surely he wanted to be out there too!
'Faramir can help with the beasts, he's so good at that!'
To his surprise, Faramir did not express any joy or enthusiasm. He seemed to know their uncle's next words before they were spoken…
'No, Boromir, that was not why I wanted to talk with you,' he sighed, the look in his eyes making Boromir's protests die on his lips. 'Neither of you is old enough to help, and I know your father would not look upon this favourably either. But I do want to ask something of you.'
Boromir, who had looked crushed by the response, brightened a little. Meanwhile, Imrahil continued, 'We shall need the servants too, so I should ask you to take your supper from the kitchens by yourselves, and then go to bed. I trust that you, big and smart lads as you are, will behave reasonably and will not give anyone any trouble. Agreed?'
Faramir simply nodded. 'Yes, Uncle,' he said.
'Y-yes…' Boromir whispered.
Imrahil looked relieved.
'Very well then,' he said and kissed the tops of their heads. 'I shall see you on the morrow.'
With that, he turned and was gone, leaving poor Boromir standing in the middle of the chamber, looking as miserable as never before…
Faramir patted his shoulder hesitantly.
'Leave me be!' Boromir snapped, jerking away. 'You…you are just like Uncle!'
'But it wasn't my fault that he said no,' Faramir objected, feeling a little hurt. Boromir did not speak.
'I shall bring the supper,' Faramir sighed.
When he returned, balancing a loaded tray in his hands, Boromir was sitting on a rug in front of the fire. He seemed not to notice his brother's entrance, staring at the little flames that were dancing merrily, oblivious to his misery.
Faramir came closer and carefully placed the tray onto the rug, casting a wary glance at him. Boromir's eyes were gleaming with tears that he stubbornly refused to let fall: he was already twelve, after all!
Faramir sighed again and put his arms around Boromir.
'Don't be so sad,' he said. 'Let's eat…'
'It isn't fair…' he moaned. 'We should be there too! Maybe we could rescue someone, and then Father would know about it and be so proud, and Uncle, too, and we could be real heroes who save people from certain death…'
He reached for the bowl of cherries. Faramir took a piece of cheese.
Suddenly, Boromir burst into a fit of coughing. Faramir put down his cheese and thumped him between the shoulders. A cherry stone shot out of Boromir's mouth and into the fire.
'You have just thought of something,' Faramir observed.
'How do you know?'
'You always think of something new when you eat and make this "aaahh" sound and choke when you do,' came the answer.
Boromir waved his hands impatiently.
'Listen, but…aren't they all going to be out there? Grandfather, Uncle, and their men, and even the servants?' he whispered, eyes wide with excitement.
'I suppose so,' Faramir said. 'Are you thinking of…of sneaking out?'
'Certainly!' Boromir exclaimed. 'And then Uncle will see that I am not a little child anymore!!'
Something in Faramir's expression made him lose a little share of his enthusiasm.
Faramir sighed and said, 'I don't think you should do that.'
Boromir's eyes flashed angrily.
'Well, if you think this is not right, you can stay here like a little girl,' he said. 'I can go without you, if you are afraid!'
A minute of silence followed, and Boromir had not the slightest idea of the struggle going on in his brother's mind. Faramir's natural reluctance to do a thing which was needlessly dangerous and clearly wrong conflicted with his unfaltering devotion to Boromir, the person whose authority could be only contested by that of their father. He had a strong suspicion Father would disapprove of Boromir's enterprise. However…someone had to keep an eye on Boromir. Faramir was certain that his big brother would land in something bad if he himself were not around…Boromir was so easily distracted, and he still could not keep his balance in the boat very well, despite all his bragging.
Faramir sighed and shook his head slowly.
'No, I am going with you,' he said, pointedly ignoring the "little girl" comment.
'…I wonder why they didn't take your boat, Boromir.'
'It's probably too small…here, hold the oars. Oooh...!'
The wide lowland that had been a little farming village just days before appeared a sea before the eyes of two scrawny boys dressed in plain and rather shabby clothes, their faces so grimy no one would recognise the Steward's sons. The grime idea had come to Faramir; he thought their chances of remaining unrecognised were better that way.
Boromir held his breath, trembling with the excitement. Never before had he seen houses with little more than their roofs above the water…and on the surface were floating bits of broken chairs, wooden kitchenware, toys, some other things he could not discern…
However, his agitation soon gave way to disappointment. The rescue teams had clearly left the place, taking even house cats with them. Some distance away, he could make out their boats through a thick veil of rain.
'They are gone,' Faramir sighed.
Boromir pressed his lips together stubbornly and resumed his rowing.
'Boromir, there is no one to rescue there,' his brother pointed out.
Boromir half-turned his head back.
'All the same, let us go and look,' he said stubbornly, though Faramir could hear a distinct quiver of hurt in his voice. 'They could have left someone behind…hey, remember that book Grandmother read to us? About a baby left in a burning house, and how a man saved it? What if there is a sleeping baby in that house over there, and it might drown if no one thinks of looking inside?'
Faramir thought that the chances of that were rather slim; he had not even believed that book. What kind of parents would leave their child behind? Even if they were as busy as their father, they would surely try to save it! He was sure their father would, and their uncle and aunt, too. However, upon a little consideration, he decided to humour Boromir, who was starting to look rather unhappy.
'Here, let me help you,' he said, reaching for one of the oars.
Boromir sighed with relief. It was good to have Faramir along. Faramir could be just a little bit like Father and Uncle when he wanted, and that made Boromir both uneasy and annoyed at times…but today, they were together, and Boromir was glad of that. Even though they were both quite wet already.
They approached a house, and Boromir moored the boat to one of the beams sticking out of the water.
'Tie it fast,' Faramir said, placing the oars in the middle.
'I know, I know!' Boromir snapped. 'This isn't my first time in a boat!'
'Yes, but you have lost it once, and the fishermen brought it back from the sea, remember?' Faramir said.
The older boy merely snorted and straightened up, reaching for the edge of the roof and then suddenly pulling himself up. Faramir nodded with approval; his big brother was strong indeed! He himself had to rely on Boromir's strength to get on top of the house.
Once up, they got to the comb of the roof and looked around.
There was nothing but other flooded houses around them. The boats with the men were not visible any more through the rain, which had thickened; the wind that had not bothered them much before was blowing rather strongly now, and there were waves on the water.
Boromir sighed; it had occurred to him already that any unlucky forgotten baby would be dead by now in a house full of water. Still, he suddenly felt the excitement mount in him again. Was it not wonderful…standing on top of the house, as if on a ship's deck…
He turned so that the wind was blowing into his face, putting his hands on Faramir's shoulders and turning the younger lad with him. Faramir sniffed the air current like a dog and smiled.
'Like the Sea-Kings of old…' Boromir whispered, shifting his feet to stand more comfortably.
And suddenly the shabby roof broke under their feet, and the two little Sea Kings fell into the house with a frightened yelp.