A tribute to Boromir.
Swish, swish, inhale, splash. Swish, swish, inhale, splash. Swish, swish, inhale—
Faramir spluttered and gulped for air as an unexpectedly large ripple of water pushed him back into the depths, interrupting his steady rhythm. He didn't panic, but pushed with his feet and paddled forward with cupped hands until he reached the surface once more.
Never panic: that had been both Boromir's and Uncle Imrahil's first piece of advice for him when they had taken him swimming.
It had been Boromir's own instruction for Faramir when he had become a Captain of Gondor as well: never panic. The men will see the fear in your eyes and all will be lost, he had explained in a gentle voice, the same voice that rang across the battlefield, curdling the blood of Gondor's enemies.
Boromir. As Faramir retreated to the bank of the river, he found himself humming one of his brother's favorite songs.
The grief was still raw, but he found that by this stream of Rohan, far away from both battlefields and cold stone walls that housed bitter, blood-stained memories, he could think more tenderly and less painfully of his lost brother. And with the joy of his trothplighting of yesterday afternoon, the swiftly moving stream put him in a reflective frame of mind, rather than a grieved one that it might have otherwise placed him in— so clearly the stream reminded him of Boromir's funeral barge, floating on the river...
He lay on the bank, breathing heavily but still humming to himself, and he was suddenly seized by a memory the warsong presented…
Boromir was immensely proud. He had finally managed to teach his little four-year old brother a song he had heard some of the Citadel guards singing, of which he knew only one part. He snatched up his wooden sword—he wasn't allowed to carry a real one around yet—jammed Faramir's into his little fist as well, and together they marched about the seventh citadel, the older at the front of an imagined conquering army, the younger valiantly making up the rear and the bulk. They both sang with great gusto, and Faramir felt grown-up indeed as he waved the sword and chanted with his brother.
"I march, I march, I march to the beat,
I ride, I ride, I to defeat…"
His father was smiling and laughing, looking proud of his two sons, and Faramir felt a surge of happiness at this. Why, even the Citadel guards were looking highly amused. He lifted his chin higher, singing louder without truly understanding the words.
"I plot, I plot, I plot to ensnare,
I sing, I sing, I sing of despair."
A white face caught his eye. Raising his gaze, he espied his mother seated at her balcony—she was rarely strong enough to stand up for very long, now. He expected to find pride on her face as well, but was surprised to see, instead, a great sadness. He watched as a jewel-like tear slid down her cheek, and almost decided to stop singing, as it seemed to upset her so.
He looked at his adored older brother once more, who had happened to turn at the exact moment Faramir looked away from their mother, to whisper with shining eyes, "Isn't this wonderful, Faramir? We will be real soldiers really singing this song someday!"
Faramir nodded, and, with a last doubtful look at his mother, continued to sing.
Faramir permitted himself a sad smile, thinking of his beautiful mother who had died less than a year after that. His family… Boromir with the Fellowship, his father most gruesomely and recently—he had lost them all, one by one.
But even as he thought of his lost family, he remembered his new one, and his smile became almost beatific as he tenderly recalled his golden-haired shieldmaiden and her burning, spirited eyes that had once seemed so lifeless. And Imrahil, his uncle, had applauded his trothplighting heartily, and even Lothíriel had kissed him her congratulations yesterday afternoon, glowing. Faramir's eyes twinkled in wry amusement. Éomer, who had been embracing his sister, had eyed Lothíriel over Éowyn's shoulder most appreciatively.
They would be a good match. Lothíriel's gentleness complemented Éomer's famous fierceness, and they were both of high-ranking nobility. And love—with his farsightedness, Faramir could almost wager that love for those two was just around the corner.
Love… He realized he was still humming the warsong, and became lost in another memory…
Boromir was seventeen years old. He was going off on his first skirmish, and was moving about the armory, polishing his shield, carefully inspecting his arrows, giving his sword the most importance. Faramir was perched on a huge metal shield and watching him as his brother sang under his breath, running a hand across the flat side of his blade.
"And yet, as I glance back at home,
I think upon my love unknown…"
Faramir listened as, instead of singing the pounding chorus, Boromir sang the softer, sweeter verses Faramir had always found strange, yet oddly fitting for the warsong.
"Unknown by all, save only I
Who rode and left his love behind…"
"Boromir," he tried to say. His brother continued to sing, unmindful of his brother.
"Boromir," he said, louder. Boromir looked up from his work with a ready smile on his face.
"Why do you keep on singing those verses?"
Boromir shrugged and continued with his work, resuming his singing.
"But though I left my love behind,
And shed sweet tears for what is mine…"
Faramir watched him carefully, and then finally spoke again. "You," he accused, "are in love with someone."
Boromir looked up from his work, and shook his head. "No, I'm not."
"Why else would you sing the same verses over and over, for hours on end, before your first skirmish? And so passionately, Boromir…"
Boromir chewed on his lip meditatively, not as if he was pondering his answer, but as if he was pondering on whether to give his answer to his brother or not. "You may not understand."
Boromir seemed lost in thought, and then looked resolute, as if he had come to a decision. "I am leaving my love behind, Faramir," he said seriously. "Women are beautiful, but my first and only love will be Minas Tirith, the embodiment of Gondor. Perhaps," he laughed, "I am but the victim of an inexperienced soldier's ideals, but when I fight, I fight for my love."
Faramir was silent. In the end, he only said, "Fight well, my brother."
Boromir's eyes gleamed. "I intend to."
And as if nothing had happened, he went back to examining his sword, singing once more.
"I cry in defiance of my foe
For I fight for her, and her alone."
Faramir left his eyes closed, remembering the wisdom of his brother's words. Even when Boromir began to fight for glory just as much as love, Faramir always kept Boromir's devotion in his mind, and loved him all the better for it. When he had spoken to the Halflings in Henneth Annûn about his dream—of seeing Minas Anor rebuilt as of old, of peace and love and hope—he had been reminded of his brother. The memory had been painful at the time.
An unseen bird trilled sweetly, and he nearly laughed to hear how its song complemented his own so well. He was quietly humming the last part of the warsong, his favorite. He sang it out loud, his voice echoing across the clearing, causing the songbird to abruptly end her song in surprised indignity.
Faramir had almost expected this last memory, and willingly allowed himself to be embraced by it, swept away from the peaceful clearing and gently murmuring river…
The night was dark, but it was rent with the foul screams of servants of the Enemy, and cries of horror from their men. Fire burned behind him, lighting the night with a sickly glow—but all he could feel was the water pressing in on him, as he sought to swim towards the bank.
So deep, so dark… The Anduin, merry in destruction, seemed raptly engaged in pulling him into its depths, and only by repeating the advice he had been given so long ago—never panic, never panic, never panic—like a drum throbbing in the background—did he manage to keep kicking. But the water repeatedly pulled him back even as he managed to break the surface, gasping for air, like it was playing a ruthless game of tug-of-war.
Where was the bank? He was lost. Even if he managed to break free of the water's insistent embrace, he was hopelessly bewildered as to where the bank now was. He was too dizzy, too short of air to think properly… Better to just die now than endure this…
"Faramir!" A fierce cry tore through his befuddled mind, his name pulling him back to consciousness.
He recognized the voice. "Boro—" it ended in a gurgle as he was plunged into the water once more.
But his brother seemed to have heard enough. "Faramir, swim! The bank is near!"
But he was so tired, so lightheaded… the world was spinning. He barely registered the splash that resounded above the roaring of the river.
"Faramir, swim to me! Follow the sound of my voice!" But now Boromir's words seemed to be choked by water as well.
"I sing of war and tales untold!" Boromir yelled, and Faramir instantly recognized the warsong. Had they not sung it just that afternoon? He kicked as furiously as he could towards the sound.
"I sing of glory, of warriors bold!" The voice was louder, though spoken rather gurglingly. Was Boromir in the water?
"But well I know, as soldiers should," Faramir managed to rasp between gasps. He heard an elated cry nearby.
"The heart of all that sings of good," Boromir's voice was so near, so near… And suddenly, there was an arm pulling him with irresistible force, and someone panting nearby. Faramir allowed himself to be dragged, and then he was at the riverbank, kneeling and coughing out water.
When he had finally recovered, he glanced up weakly at his brother. Boromir's eyes were red—from the Anduin's spray, perhaps?
Boromir pulled Faramir into an embrace and said quietly, "But well I know, as soldiers should," his voice sounded weak with relief, "The heart of all that sings of good—"
Faramir completed the song for him. "Is the binding love of brotherhood."
"I had no idea you could sing so well."
Faramir was startled out of his memory, his eyes flying open. Éomer leaned casually against a tree, arms crossed, face lit by a friendly grin.
Faramir sat up, put his arms on his knees, and shook his head. "The song I was singing has always been special to me," he said. He didn't offer any other explanation.
Éomer uncrossed his arms and came to sit beside him. "It is a warsong, is it not?"
"Yes, it is."
"And it sings of brotherhood and love as well?"
The corners of Faramir's mouth pulled up a little. "War has everything to do with both."
Éomer nodded, looking thoughtful. "I can see my sister has chosen a wise man to marry," he said slowly.
Faramir said nothing, watching Éomer warily. They had never spoken lengthily on the matter of Éowyn.
Éomer was silent too, for a long time, before finally clapping Faramir on the shoulder. "I wish you every happiness, my brother."
Faramir found himself smiling. It was exactly what Boromir would have said.