Author's Note: this story was written as a fun present for my very good friend Cressida, who never fails to provide me with inspiration! My objective in it was to write a non-angsty Faramir who can, for once, enjoy life (winks). I hope other readers will like it too!
On the Way Home
Faramir's horse had gone lame when he and his five companions were a little more than a mile away from the White City.
Notwithstanding the Rangers' protests, he had refused to take one of their mounts and had decided to walk the remaining distance, enjoying the warm afternoon of the late spring. The horse followed him faithfully a pace or two behind.
As he was passing what looked to him like a rich farmer's household surrounded by a small orchard, a child popped onto the road right before him.
'Oh, sir!' exclaimed the child with plain relief. 'Please, please come with me!'
Faramir could not keep from giving a small start. He had been stopped by a lad of about seven years, skinny, but quite muscular for his age. The lad was dressed in plain but well-made clothes, which made Faramir assume he was the child of the household nearby.
Something must be badly amiss, he thought, taking in the lad's pale face and wide-open eyes.
He checked the torrent of incoherent words and exclamations by taking the lad firmly by the shoulder and asking, 'What has happened? Did you hurt yourself, or did someone else?'
Instead of responding, the child pulled Faramir toward the tall pear trees. As they approached, the young Ranger Captain saw two more children under one of them, all looking up with a most concerned air. They both sighed with relief upon seeing him.
'There,' the smallest one of all, a girl, said in a tragic whisper, pointing her finger upwards.
Faramir looked up and nearly laughed. Indeed, with children, one never knew how grave the trouble was; one just knew it was there! Up in the rich crown of the tree was a plump kitten, white with black spots, and it was mewing piteously, obviously very scared. The lower branches of the tree grew too high for any of the children to attempt the rescue.
Faramir smiled, feeling very relieved.
'We shall have your little friend down in no time,' he said and winked at the children.
It took him only a minute to climb up the tree and take hold of the kitten, which was too scared to protest and even started to purr by the time Faramir's feet touched the ground again. He could not keep from stroking its soft fur before returning it to its little masters. The kitten purred even more loudly and rubbed its head against Faramir's hand, whether as an expression of gratitude or a parting gesture, he could not say, he thought with a smile.
Having listened to profuse expressions of gratitude from all the three children, and accepted a cup of milk and a slice of fresh white bread with a thick layer of honey ('Mother says soldiers never get good food!'), he bade farewell to them and returned to the road. The horse had also been fed and didn't even seem to mind the sore foot anymore.
The oldest lad followed him, casting quick glances at him when he thought Faramir was not looking. Finally, he managed a question: 'Sir, are you…are you a Ranger?'
Faramir stopped, looking at the child with curiosity.
'I am,' he answered. 'What makes you ask that?'
'Only Rangers can climb trees like that!' the lad exclaimed with obvious awe. 'When I stopped you, I didn't really look…but now I see that you have a bow over there, and you're wearing green and brown…'
Faramir smiled. 'You must have seen many a Ranger passing here. We often use this road.'
The child seemed to be thinking hard for while; then he suddenly looked Faramir straight into the face and said, 'Of course, sir, I have seen Rangers…but I have never seen one rescue a kitten…'
Faramir laughed and ruffled the lad's hair.
'There is always a first time,' he said.
And for Rangers as well, he chuckled to himself, striding forward towards the white walls of Minas Tirith, by now golden in the soft late-afternoon sunlight.