Journeys in High Places
Disclaimer: Tolkien's. Not mine.
Notes: Many thanks to Cressida, Lilan, Rohwyn, and the Inklettes for their advice and support. This story originally appeared in the Brothers of Gondor 'zine.
For Gondorians, mountains loomed large. Dark and fearsome mountains to the east, the majestic heights of the White Mountains in the north, and many smaller peaks scattered across the land so that nearly anywhere one stood in Gondor, mountains teased the edges of the horizon. Mountains loomed large in the tales told to children: rumors of Meneltarma still standing from the sea above Atalantë, or a ghost of a legend of the tall peak Taniquetil in Valinor. The mountains of Gondor were strong, deep-rooted, and fair. To live in their shadow was to have joy at the sight.
But mountains, however lovely to look upon, are not the kindest of companions…
Arrayed around the table sat half a dozen men, and all eyes were focused on the old Ranger captain who stood at its head. Even in the garb of city folk, he had a strange, weather-beaten quality to his appearance. It suited his task; he spoke at length of the season of training and instruction before these men, all of whom had been named by Lord Denethor as captains of exceeding quality, capable of leading a company of Rangers.
Faramir listened attentively as the man described what they would be taught; the tactics used by the Ranger companies and the skills of secrecy in the wilderness. Faramir already had studied as much of these as he could; accounts of old skirmishes that detailed Ranger methods were abundant in the libraries of Minas Tirith, and he had read them voraciously. Just as much enthusiasm had he put into his practice with the bow, principal weapon of the Rangers. He wasn't sure when the idea of gaining a captaincy among the Rangers had come to him, but as soon as it had, he had known for certain that it was there that his skills could be put to their best use. Denethor had given his grudging acceptance when Faramir asked him to be named as one of those chosen that season to complete the training. The Steward knew quite well his younger son's competence in his current command, and worried only for the inconvenience of having Faramir argue with his decisions via messenger from Ithilien, rather than face-to-face; he had secretly grown fond of their verbal sparring matches.
After a week of instruction and practice maneuvers on the empty fields west of the Pelennor, the prospective Ranger captains were allowed a day and a night in the City to prepare for the next part of their training—a fortnight in Ithilien to learn all they could of this land that had lain empty, a place of clash and fray, since before any of these men reached their father's knees. They had all studied maps, but there were things and places no map would show.
Faramir had decided to put the day to good use, indulging in the home comforts that he would miss during the rest of the training, so consequently he was dozing in his chamber with a full belly by late afternoon. Thus he also missed seeing his brother's company returning home, and he was taken by surprise when he was roused by a tap at the door. Without waiting for a reply, the door swung open and Boromir strode through. Faramir's eyes flew open, and within a moment he was jumping up to embrace his brother.
"Boromir! I didn't know you would be coming!" Faramir was delighted to be able to see his brother before he left. Since both had become captains they weren't often both in the city at once, and hardly ever for very long.
"Well, my company wasn't due any leave for a few more weeks, but when I heard the news, I pushed it forward a bit." Boromir said with a shrug.
"News?" Faramir said, momentarily confused.
"That you are to become a captain of the Rangers! Father mentioned it in his last message to me."
"So you came to wish me well?"
"Aye, though I'm sure you'll do fine. But more than that, I will be going with you."
Faramir was surprised… no, he was shocked. "Why? Surely you have no desire to captain a Ranger company? You will be Captain-General soon enough, whenever old Orodreth decides to step down. We both know you will be, even at your age!"
"All the more reason. The Captain-General should be familiar with every portion of Gondor's armies. I've been meaning to do this for a while, and what better time than now, when I can do so with you? I can think of no better companion, particularly on the last portion of the training."
"I know your excuses by now. You must simply have realized that here is a feat of strength and fortitude for which you are not yet renowned in Gondor. How could you have not thought of it before?" Faramir laughed.
"You misjudge me; in truth I fear that if I do not accompany you, I will lose my little brother to Ranger methods. The next thing you know, you would be telling me that any tactics but ambush and secrecy are poorly thought-out and reckless, ai!" Boromir chuckled, answering the jibe in kind; the brothers often argued over tactics as it was. After a contemplative moment, Boromir leaned close to his brother and said, grinning solicitously, "What I would like to know is what mountains have to do with the Rangers of Ithilien."
Faramir answered, "I suppose it is that it is difficult. Those who can cross the mountains have skill and strength of mind enough, what can they not do?"
"Perhaps true," Boromir said, sitting down beside his brother on the bed. "So, now, you will fill me in on what I've missed in training thus far?"