ON THE CUSP
The Prince exhaled a frustrated sigh, again, and wondered just where to find the patience that was eluding him. He was an experienced parent used to dealing with the mischief of youngsters but he was beginning to wonder what he had done to deserve the constant headaches that had plagued him since the arrival of his young relative two weeks earlier.More puzzling and frustrating was that the behaviour that was causing him such aggravation was so out of character for his normally quiet and thoughtful nephew. His own three boys were all boisterous and each blessed with a streak of recklessness that had often led them into strife with their parents and tutors. His older nephew was of much the same nature as a boy, though with the death of his mother, Boromir's sense of duty and responsibility had suppressed the worst excesses of youthful exuberance leaving him with a maturity that belied his age. Faramir on the other hand had always been of a gentler and more serious manner, studious and shy, though devoted to his brother and always keen to seek his approbation, to the point that Prince Imrahil had often commented to his dear wife that the younger boy had his brother posted high upon a pedestal.
The yearly trips to spend a few weeks of the summer in Dol Amroth had begun when Boromir was just a baby and had continued to be an eagerly awaited treat for both the boys. For little boys trapped and constrained by the walls of stone and by the rigid protocols of the Citadel these were blessed windows of freedom when they could forget duty and decorum and enjoy the normal pursuits of childhood; riding, swimming and exploring the shore for treasures with their cousins, simple pleasures, perhaps, but enjoyed and savoured all the more for their novelty. Prince Imrahil and his household tried very hard to make sure that the little Lords of Gondor enjoyed their few weeks of freedom and deliberately relaxed the running of the household to enhance the boy's experience. That is not to say that all the rules were abandoned; the Prince still insisted upon good manners and consideration for others and conscious of the safety of his wards had strict rules about them leaving the confines of the palace without an escort. He endeavoured to make this last edict more palatable by assigning escort duties to the younger of the Swan Knights who could watch the boys and join in their games.
A door slamming within the family suite caused the Prince to draw a sharp intake of breath and count slowly in his head. By the time his slow count had reached twenty he was no closer to calmness.
"My love, you cannot allow this to go on any longer. The boy is clearly crying out for attention and seems incapable of moderating his behaviour." His wife's gently spoken admonishment was accepted with grace and understanding.
"I know, my dear. I just do not understand what has got into him. I have never known him to be so unruly," Imrahil replied sadly. "And it is not just that he is behaving badly here, Captain Cardolan reported that his behaviour on the journey here from Gondor 'left a lot to be desired' and if Cardolan had problems with him serious enough comment upon then it must have been serious!" Imrahil explained.
"Poor Faramir, he is clearly very unhappy. Has he not said anything to you about what is troubling him?"
"No. I have tried talking to him but he claims he is fine."
"Perhaps he didn't want to come here this summer. Perhaps now that he is enrolled in the academy he no longer wishes to visit with us or maybe there is something happening in Minas Tirith that he didn't want to miss," his lady suggested.
"Or someone!" Imrahil suggested thoughtfully. "I know he was disappointed that Boromir couldn't be here for the whole summer."
"But Boromir is due here in a few days. Why would Faramir risk indulging in behaviour that he knows would cause his brother distress?"
"Oh, I don't think he is thinking at all. Remember Elphir at that age? All emotions and confusion! I am sure it is just a phase and I have no doubt that Faramir is really upset with himself. . .he hates conflict and he would be mortified to think that Boromir was aware of his recent behaviour."
"So what are you going to do?" she asked, already knowing that her husband had his own way of dealing with recalcitrant children. . . "Another discussion about acceptable behaviour?"
"Oh, no, we are way past the point of discussion. I placed him on final warning yesterday after the incident with the geese."
"I fear, my dear, you have already given him too many chances. Our boys know that had they caused such a ruckus that they would be eating their supper, and probably their break of fast, standing up. You do Faramir no favours by allowing him such leeway," his good lady counselled.
"I know but I really wanted to avoid more drastic measures with the boy. I have never had to discipline Faramir in such a manner before," the Prince explained.
"No. He has always been well behaved. The worst he has ever received from me is a swat and for that he was mortified. . .from his reaction you would have thought him convicted of some heinous crime. . .he is ever his own harshest critic."
"So what has caused this latest upset?"
"Faramir asked permission to join Elphir at his archery lesson. He was not impressed when I explained that he was still on restrictions for yesterdays mischief and that he was not to leave the palace without my express permission," Imrahil explained with a wry grimace at his wife's look of comprehension.
"And I suppose he tried to wheedle his way back into your good graces?"
"He did and when that failed he claimed that I was, and I quote 'a mean tyrant who had clearly been taking instruction from his father!'" Imrahil explained.
"My dear, you are nothing like Denethor and Faramir loves you dearly. He would never compare you to his father if he were thinking clearly."
"I know. I saw his reaction when he realised what he had said. He was clearly torn between remorse and anger. . .unfortunately his anger took the upper hand. . .hence the slammed door!"
"What will you do now?"
"Allow him time to calm down and consider his recent actions and then go and discuss his behaviour with him."
"I take it you are planning more than a 'vocal' discussion?"
"Unfortunately, yes. The time for talking is long past. . .he is too lost to himself now to find his way back without a more proactive response from me."
"It will be a hard lesson for him. . .you will need to tread lightly. Denethor's emotional neglect of that poor boy has left an indelible legacy of hurt."
"Forgive me, my love, but in this matter I believe you may have underestimated the lad. I think his father's attitude has strengthened the boy in ways that are not always apparent. Faramir will never have Boromir's physical strength but he has a core of steel running through him that is tempered with each and every demonstration of Denethor's disdain or neglect. He has learned to live without his father's love; he relies on Boromir for that strength and support."
"And on you, my dear. He relies on your approbation too."
"I know and that is why I cannot fail him now. He needs to understand that I love him enough not to let his recent behaviour pass unchallenged !" Imrahil steeled himself for the upcoming confrontation with his nephew . . .but his plans were thwarted.
Faramir had stormed off to his room in a fury of swirling emotions. He really hadn't intended to argue with his uncle again, indeed, he couldn't explain even to himself where the maelstrom of hurt and confusion were coming from. He loved and respected his uncle, trusting him second only to Boromir to keep him safe. He hated to be at odds with his uncle and cousins and yet every time he opened his mouth he caused more upset. He was disgusted with his own behaviour and yet seemed unable to summon any restraint or self control. Every night he wept bitter tears of self-recrimination and promised himself to do better on the morrow, and yet each day brought only another failure.
He didn't blame his uncle for confining him to the castle nor could he condemn his cousins for shunning his company; he had behaved appallingly. It didn't help his guilty conscience that he recognised that back home such behaviour would have seen him soundly thrashed. In Dol Amroth things were done differently, his uncle never resorted to the cane no matter how bad the provocation. Faramir was unsure just how he had avoided his uncle's disciplinary hand given his behaviour. . .his cousins seemed equally bemused and resentful of the fact. Equally appalling to Faramir was the realisation that when Boromir arrived he would be devastated to learn of his little brother's behaviour.
Unable to bear the condemnation of his own conscience a moment longer, Faramir snatched a satchel from the closet and stuffed in a change of clothes, two books and the pocket knife and flintlock that Boromir had gifted him on his last birthday. He took a blanket from the bed and rolled it tightly before buckling it to the top of the bag. He clasped his cloak about his shoulders and slipped from his room.
Making only one detour, the young fugitive made his way across the stable yard and through the open gateway into the outer ward. He moved quickly and with purpose, hoping that any staff going about their business would be too occupied to take especial notice of him. Once in the outer ward he ducked into an alcove and waited for the guard on the upper wall to turn and begin the return patrol back to the guardhouse. Avoiding the pathway atop the causeway, Faramir scrambled down to a lesser used pathway and edged his way carefully towards the end of the promontory. He didn't attempt to enter the old watchtower, instead he found himself a sheltered place to hide amongst the craggy rocks below the tower and settled in to await nightfall.
The old watchtower was still technically within the palace environs. It sat at the end of a small rocky promontory, accessible only from the outer ward of the castle. In ages past it had been a lighthouse until the new harbour was built and a bigger lighthouse had been constructed at the entrance to the harbour. No longer having an official use the tower had been adopted by the Prince Adrahil's offspring as their playground; over many summers it had stood duty as castle, dungeon, dragon's lair or refuge, depending on the whim and imagination of the knights, damsels or adventurers utilising it. This summer however the tower was abandoned. A late spring storm had finally toppled the shingle roof at the top of the tower and had blown out many of the windows on the seaward side. Deemed unsafe for the youngster's games, the Prince had declared the tower off limits.
Whilst a search of the palace and the castle grounds was underway, Prince Imrahil questioned his sons about Faramir's disappearance but none had seen their wayward cousin. Questioning the staff elicited two pieces of information; an undercook revealed that Faramir had appeared at the kitchen requesting a picnic lunch for himself and his cousins, and a young stable lad thought he had seen the young lord crossing the yard, though he couldn't be certain that it was Faramir he had seen, not being familiar with the visiting youngster. Although certain that Faramir would not have left the safety of the castle, Prince Imrahil sent word to the harbour and to all of the watch commanders of the city gates to be on alert for the runaway.
Just before dusk, Faramir heard footfalls on the causeway and from his hiding place saw his uncle and two guardsmen approach the tower. He heard them calling his name and as they drew closer he pulled his cloak over his head and crouched down into his hiding place, his heart beating so fast and loud that he feared that the searchers would hear it over the breaking of the waves against the rocks below him. Under the cover of his cloak he screwed his eyes shut and covered his ears with his hands to block out the temptation to give in to his conscience and reveal himself. He lost track of how long he huddled there but eventually had to move to relieve the cramping in his muscles. When he emerged from his hiding place it was full dark and the causeway was deserted.
Cold, stiff and hungry, he fought back tears of frustration upon discovering that the tower door was locked and bolted. His whole strategy had been based on a tactic he had read about in his book 'The Ranger's Guide to Evasion and Survival Techniques'; he knew the tower would be searched and thought to hide there once it had been eliminated as his hiding place. Now he was locked out and he had nothing with which to pick the lock. Leaving his packs by the door he scouted around for other options and discovered a small round shuttered window overlooking the sea. He forced open the wooden shutter and found that the window glass was long gone and that the casement was powdery and rotten from long exposure to the elements. Leaving the shutters intact, he attacked the remaining frame with a rock leaving an opening just large enough for him to wriggle his shoulders through. He pushed his cloak through the opening and was just about to heave himself through when he remembered his packs and had to wriggle back out to go and retrieve them.
That was his undoing, though he didn't realise the fact. From a high watch point on the castle wall a young guard spotted movement in the moonlight and trained his spyglass towards the abandoned watchtower. Without the concealment of his cloak, Faramir's light coloured tunic gave away his position. As Faramir slipped around towards his open window the guard sent a message to the prince.
It was chill and damp in the tower but the main chamber was at least weather tight. Faramir pulled the shutters closed after him and blundered around in the dark until his questing fingers found a small wall lantern. It took considerable energy and exasperation before he finally mastered his flint and got the lamp alight. Faramir knew from old games that there should be a sleeping pallet on the upper floor but he had neither the heart nor the energy to go exploring further; he was tired and miserable and hungry, too tired to eat more than an apple from the picnic he had acquired from the kitchens. His water skin was already half empty, so he took only a small swallow before curling up on a pile of discarded drapes left over from a previous adventure, his blanket and cloak tucked around him to keep out the chill. He had just got settled when he realised the lantern was still burning and not knowing how much lamp oil remained decided to extinguish it before yet again trying to get comfortable. But sleep would not come and he wept bitter tears.
It was not an easy decision for the prince to leave his nephew to deal with the consequences of his actions. He reasoned that the boy was safe and sheltered and that he had enough food for a day or two. He decided to allow Faramir some time to think through his recent behaviour and to come to his own
decision about how to bring the situation to a conclusion Now that they knew where to look, the guards could see the feint light seeping around the shutters in the tower and reported to the Prince when the light was extinguished. Several hours later Imrahil and two young Swan Knights silently approached the tower. Finding the door still bolted from the outside, they soon spied the loose shutter. The round aperture was too small for any of the men to enter but large enough to allow them to lower through it a small covered water pail. It took two attempts to set it down safely. At one point they heard Faramir turn restlessly on his makeshift pallet but thankfully the exhausted boy quickly settled and the men finished their task. Prince Imrahil returned to the castle but the two Knights remained close by to keep watch on the runaway.
Come daybreak, Faramir took stock of his situation. He carefully pushed open the shutter and in the dim light examined his new abode. The room was circular and stone steps curved up around the outer wall to the wooden ceiling where a trapdoor gave access to the upper floor. Half way up the steps was another window set in the thick walls, this one facing along the shoreline. Judging that this window would not be visible from the castle he broke the glass and forced the shutters open to allow a little more light into the room.
Light was not a problem on the upper floor. All of the shutters on this level were missing and many of the windows were broken. Sea birds had taken up residence in this sheltered eyrie and the evidence of their occupation made the room and its contents unusable. The observation post at the top of the tower was reached by a sturdy ladder and another trapdoor. The open platform was surrounded by a waist high wall. The four posts that had once held up the shingle roof were still intact but the roof itself had long been toppled by the elements. Faramir peeked over the wall towards the castle but hastily ducked back when he spied the guards atop the battlements. It was only later in the day when he discovered the water pail, he wondered how he had not tripped over it when he had first crawled through into the tower. It did not occur to him that it had been left for his use; he couldn't conceive of the notion that his bolthole was known and that he was being allowed the freedom to remain in hiding.
His days, if not his thoughts, were tranquil. He rationed his food and water carefully and spent long hours reading and re-reading his two precious books and watching the sea. He had no means to wash except by dampening a piece of cloth in his drinking water . The one thing he had in excess was time to think and he wished that he didn't. His head was still a jumble of anxiety and confusion. Away from the distractions of his family his behaviour made even less sense to him. He was frightened by the strength of his anger and scared to feel so out of control. He desperately wanted someone to help him to understand what was happening to him and yet he had rejected every opportunity his uncle had given him. He wished with all his heart that he could take back the hurtful accusations that had spewed forth from him. He wanted. . .he just wanted. . .wanted it all to stop.
And now he had dug himself into a hole so deep that he could see no way out. Unable to bear his own vicious company or the confines of the tower a moment longer he crawled out onto the top of the
watchtower. Sinking down against the parapet he curled up in the sun and wept bitterly until exhaustion pushed him over into sleep.
Faramir woke slowly, stiff and miserable yet afraid to stand and stretch out his cramped muscles for fear of being spied by the guards atop the castle walls. As he crawled towards the trapdoor he noticed something out of place; a full water skin had been placed next to the trapdoor. Conscious of his thirst he cautiously tested the fluid and then drank deeply of the cool, fresh untainted offering. Only when his thirst was quenched did he realise the significance of the gift. . .someone had discovered his hiding place.
He crept down the ladder, half expecting to be accosted as he descended but only the sea gulls were disturbed by his presence. Climbing down through the second trapdoor he stopped to listen for signs of intruders but his bolt-hole was deserted and seemingly undisturbed. . .except . .except that the door was ajar. Faramir pushed the door open enough that he could look out and as he did so a young Swan Knight standing two paces beyond the threshold turned and came to attention, saluting smartly and holding out a letter to Faramir. With shaking hands Faramir took the letter and stepped back into the safety of the tower to read it. The note was brief but in an achingly familiar hand.
Playtime is over. Your presence is requested at Uncle's table at 6th bell to dine with the family.
His first reaction was one of relief. Boromir was here and would look after him, would help him extricate himself from the mess of trouble he was mired in. Only after that first rush of relief did he also realise that he had run out of time. The letter was so typically Boromir. It offered neither condemnation nor sanction, it stated fact and proposed action and all while leaving the decisions to Faramir. It was not Boromir's way to dictate terms; he offered Faramir the autonomy to make his own decisions but always on the understanding that while his little brother would be expected to except the consequences, that he would always have his support.
When Faramir stepped out of the tower he did so with his head held high. The young Swan Knight at the door was joined by a second guard who stepped out from the shadow of a large bolder; Faramir at once realised that these secret sentries had been guarding his safety whilst he his within the tower. The escorted him back in silence right up to the door of his own chamber. As the door closed behind him Faramir was disappointed but not surprised that Boromir was not waiting for him within. When he checked the door it was not locked but one of his escort stood guard on the threshold and Faramir understood he should remain within his rooms until sent for.
After he had bathed and dressed in the more formal attire required for a family dinner he tried to clear his mind and push away his worries over how the evening would play out. Boromir was here and that fact alone was enough allow him a small degree of reassurance. Boromir was here and soon enough he would help guide his little brother back onto the path to understanding. A tap at the door broke Faramir's reverie and as the door opened Boromir swept in like a swirl of fresh air.
"Well, Little Brother, have you no greeting for me?"
Faramir wanted to be brave and grown up and make his brother proud but one look at his brother's gentle smile and dignity was abandoned. He threw himself into the comfort and safety of his Brother's arms. He clung onto Boromir with a strength and desperation that surprised his brother but he encouraged the embrace to continue until he felt some of the tension bleed away.
"Well, Little Brother?"
"Oh, Boromir," Faramir all but wailed, "I'm in such big trouble."
Boromir took his sibling's chin in his hand and gently raised it until Faramir reluctantly met his gaze. "I know, Faramir, and there will be an accounting. . .but remember one thing above all other, Uncle loves you dearly and whatever misdemeanours you have managed to accumulate, and I understand there are many, nothing will alter that fact. Uncle's love does not depend on good manners or perfect behaviour for its continuance; He loves you and will continue to love you before, during and after he has held you to account for your recent aberrant behaviour," Boromir affirmed with a smile.
"He will not let me off with a warning this time, will he?" Faramir whispered hopefully.
"No, Faramir. From what I hear he has offered you many warnings and ultimatums. . .none of which were effective!"
"What will he do, Boromir? Will he thrash me. . .I know I deserve it."
NO! No, Uncle has a far more effective way of holding naughty boys to account for their mischief. From personal experience I can assure you that Uncle is quite capable of getting the message across with just the flat of his hand."
"He did that to you!"
"Yes, Faramir, more times than I care to remember. . .just the memory of it makes my backside tingle," Boromir assured him with a unconscious shudder.
"Boromir. . .I'm scared. . .I don't think I want to go down to dinner."
"I'm afraid you must. Be brave, Little Brother. We will go down together and you will apologise to everyone for the disruption your behaviour has caused and then we will all dine together. After dinner, Uncle will see to your discipline.
"Can't he do it before? I will not be able to eat with that threat hanging over me."
"Nor would you want to sit at table to eat after he has seen to you, believe me. . .and I am sure that after several days of stale picnic food your appetite will override any other considerations. Come, I hear the dinner bell. Let us go and get this over with." Without giving Faramir any longer to think, Boromir led him down to where their relations awaited them. All chatter ceased when the brothers entered. Boromir gently pushed Faramir forward before taking his own seat to the left of his uncle.
"Aunt, Uncle, Cousins, please accept my most sincere apologies for my recent behaviour and for all the worry and upset I have caused. I have let you and my family down with my behaviour and I am truly sorry," Faramir swallowed hard, "Please forgive me."
His Aunt was the first to respond, getting gracefully to her feet and hugging him fondly. "Peace, child, of course we forgive you. We are very happy to have you back with us, safe and sound." She held him until a soft cough alerted her to another who wished to demonstrate his affection.
"Oh, Uncle. I'm so sorry."
"I know, Lad. Let it go for now and let us enjoy the fact that we are all together again. We will deal with the other matter in due course."
The meal was delicious and Boromir's prediction was correct, Faramir did find his appetite despite the lingering worry over what was to come. Boromir kept the conversation lively as he recounted his recent exploits on his first tour of duty since graduation from the Academy. Faramir was content to listen, savouring the company of his brother.
But all too soon the last dishes were cleared away and the prince signalled to the youngsters that it was time to retire. After his own children had said their goodnights Prince Imrahil beckoned his young nephew to follow him. Faramir was so apprehensive about the upcoming interview that it was only when his uncle stepped out onto the ramparts that he registered that he had not been taken to his uncle's study or his own chambers. The Prince waved away the sentry and the knight retreated to the far end of his route, out of earshot.
Imrahil seemed in no hurry to talk, indeed he settled himself against the parapet wall to gaze out over the moonlit ocean.
"Uncle?" Faramir asked hesitantly when the silence finally became too intense.
"I've always found this a good place to empty my head when I have alot on my mind. It has also been a good place to talk things over," Imrahil explained, drawing his fearful nephew to his side.
"I thought this was about sp. .dealing with my bad behaviour."
"All in good time, Lad."
"But I want it over with, Uncle," Faramir pleaded.
"I know. . .but my roasting your deserving backside will only go so far in helping you to move past your recent behaviour.
"I don't understand, Sir. Don't I deserve to be punished?"
"Punishment without understanding what led you to this point would not help you in the future. If you do not understand and deal with the underlying problem, then this situation will likely happen again. . .and the consequences could be much more serious," Imrahil explained.
"But I don't know what the problem is. . .I don't know what is happening!"
"Then allow me to help you work it out."
"I'm scared. . .I don't think you'll like what is in my head."
"Faramir, we will unravel whatever has got your head in such a muddle, sort it out and move on," Imrahil assured him. "Did you have a falling-out with your father before you left?" he began.
"No, Sir. I barely saw him. We were dismissed from the Academy the day before I sailed for Dol Amroth. I joined my father for dinner in the Merethrond but he went from there straight into a meeting."
"So he never saw you off?"
"No. He sent a message from his scribe wishing me a good vacation and urging me not to let my training lapse while I was away."
"Boromir was still away. . .his patrol was delayed."
"Is that why you were so upset when you left?"
"No," Faramir shrugged
"Faramir you are not making this easy," Imrahil chided, seeing the dejected slump of his nephews shoulders. "Was there a problem at the Academy before you left?. . .are you being bullied?"
"No more than any other new cadet. . .we get pushed around by the older boys sometimes."
"And your instructors?" Imrahil enquired.
"Not especially. I think things are generally better than they used to be. Commander Dariel is a good man and has made a lot of changes; I hear that the food and accommodation have improved and. . .and there is more order,"
"Is strict but fair. . .and being the son of the Steward earns me no favours. . .they are quite happy to thrash me if I step out of line."
"And did you?"
"Yes. . .just once. I was caught brawling with one of the other cadets. Some of my classmates thought they could gain influence by befriending me. . .when they realised that wouldn't work they thought to gain kudos by intimidating me. . .well, Boromir taught me to stand up for myself. One thrashing was worth it to get the bullies off my back. Now they leave me alone," Faramir explained.
"So there are no problems at the Academy?" Imrahil pushed, sensing his nephew's uncharacteristic anger. He thought Faramir was going to ignore the question but emotion got the better of him.
"My only problem at the Academy is that I am not Boromir!" Faramir spat out before he had a chance to filter his words. He ground his clenched fists into the stonework in a gesture of angry frustration. Imrahil captured his hands before he could injure himself. Faramir struggled against the restraint but his uncle did not release his hold. It upset Imrahil to see the evidence of Faramir's distress but still he did not relent.
"So now we get to it," Imrahil sighed. "Tell me, Faramir, let it out."
"Why won't they let me be? Why am I never ever good enough? Everyday I hear them comparing me to Boromir and I am never ever good enough. I'm not as strong, not as skilled, not as sociable. . .I expect it from Father, now I get it from everyone else. They have no time for intellect or initiative. . .I'm just Boromir's clumsy, weakling little brother who will never make the grade!" Faramir shouted angrily.
"Oh, my boy! You are young still and will grow into your strengths. . .I suspect you are one of the youngest in your year, yes?"
"Yes, and the others are all stronger and taller than me. . .even the training blades they use for drill practice are too heavy for me. . .they make me use a wooden blade."
"It is early days yet but perhaps you are not destined to be a swordsman. I think you are trying too hard to follow in your brother's footsteps. You do not have to follow Boromir's path; he has his destiny and you have yours. Stop focussing on what you cannot yet do and work on your strengths. Elphir tells me you have a good arm with a bow. . .maybe that is where your talents lay." Imrahil released one of Faramir's hands and gently teased his clenched his open, placing his palm to Faramir's he continued, "Next time you are with Boromir, compare your hand to his. . .compare his broad, square hands and strong wrists with your slighter more supple ones. . .it is not only scholars who need such supple dexterity." Imrahil hugged his nephew until Faramir managed to raise just the barest hint of a smile but it quickly faded and Imrahil sighed.
"Faramir, you are only just on the path to manhood, you have much growing and developing to do but be kind to yourself and allow nature to take its course. Change happens to us all and it is not always an easy nor a comfortable path."
"But why must things change and why do I feel so confused and so. . .so angry!"
"Who are you angry with, Faramir?" Imrahil asked gently.
"Everything is not a 'who' Faramir. Tell me who you are angry with?" Imrahil demanded. Faramir again tried to pull away but again he found himself pinned in place. "Tell me, Faramir. Who are you angry with?"
"I just wanted everything to be the same to be . . .to be comfortable and easy. . .To come here for the summer and to have everything as it used to be. . .how it should be!"
"Who are you angry with?" Imrahil repeated.
"Everyone!" Faramir finally yelled. "Everyone. Everyone. Boromir, for not being here when I needed him and Father for not caring and. . .and you for not seeing. . .and most especially at me. . .for childishly wanting summers here to always be the same," Faramir wept.
"I'm sorry, my boy, for not seeing and understanding your distress earlier. I wish it were in my power to keep things here for you unchanged but that is beyond even my vast experience," he teased gently.
"I'm sorry I ran away, uncle."
"You're a good boy, even in that you couldn't really break the rules could you? I'm not sure it can be classed as running away when you never left the castle bounds."
"You knew I was there all the time?" Faramir queried.
"From the first evening. You were spotted at the tower doorway. . .you forgot your lessons on camouflage, Little Ranger, a light tunic fair glows in the moonlight!"
"Oh, indeed. Now I believe that you and I have some business to attend to. I think it time to adjourn to your room and see this business concluded so that we may all enjoy the remainder of your time here with Boromir."
"Yes, Sir. Uncle, I am really sorry.. .for everything!"
"And will be more so before I am done with you, young one. And tomorrow we begin with a clean slate.
From his own chamber next to his brother's, Boromir could not help but hear the sounds of his little brother's chastisement in progress. The sound of hand impacting on a bare backside were unmistakable as were the increasingly loud wails as Imrahil impressed upon Faramir the error of his recent behaviour. Boromir winced as Faramir's cries reached a particularly fevered pitch but he had no fears for his little brother; he had complete confidence in his Uncle to care for his errant sibling. Only when the chastisement was ended and the sounds of distress lessen did Boromir put down his goblet of wine and go to attend his brother. He met his Uncle at the threshold of Faramir's room.
"Is all well?" Boromir asked with a rueful smile.
Imrahil patted his shoulder and pushed open the door to allow Boromir a glance of the view within. "He is fine. . .or will be when his rear stops glowing!" Faramir was already in bed, lying on his front; only the occasional hitched breath an indication of his earlier distress.
"Thank you, Uncle."
"He is growing up and finding the process both confusing and distressing. He misses you."
"I do my best, Sir, but I have my own duties now that take me away from his side. I want to be there for him."
"I know you do your best, Boromir. In normal circumstances he should be able to look to your father for support but we both know that that avenue is not open to him. We will both need to be there for him as often as we can," Imrahil commented sadly, waving Boromir into the room and closing the door to leave the two boys alone.
"Well, little brother, you survived uncle's fearsome ministrations," Boromir teased his sleepy brother.
"'M alright. . .but I never want to endure that again!" Faramir huffed indignantly, grabbing Boromir's hand and squeezing it tight.
"Then you had best be on your best behaviour, Little Brother," Boromir chided. " What are you doing?" he asked as Faramir released his hand and placed their two palms together.
"Just testing a theory," Faramir yawned and settled down onto the pillow with a sleepy smile.
"Love you, Bor'mir,"
"I love you too, Little Rebel," Boromir whispered fondly as he dowsed the light.