If I Could
This is a not for profit work of fan fiction based upon the works of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien
Boromir hated to be invalided out of action. It made him feel helpless, out of control, and in order to put his world back upon its axis, he would over-compensate, and as a consequence, ruffle feathers. So it was this morning, as he was being conveyed from the Houses of Healing, to the Steward's apartments, seated in a wheeled chair, being pushed by Faramir who was having altogether too much fun at his brother's expense.
"Mind my leg, you callous little knave!" Boromir growled as the chair brushed past a solid granite column at an alarming speed, just shaving off the merest splinter of wood from the chair's frame as contact was established.
"Oh, enjoy the ride, you shall be slug-a-bed soon enough, you great twerp!" Faramir replied gleefully.
"That will be Your Twerp-ship to you, maggot," said Boromir.
"Maggot is it? I am taking the Audience again today, given there are no other Hurins fit for purpose," Faramir snickered in his brother's ear, not wishing to announce to any wagging ear that their father was still seriously indisposed.
"Oh, and what have I done lately, to exclude me from the Steward's Chair; guzzled a lethal lobster? Did I perhaps plunge headlong down the steps of the Healing Houses in my wittle wheeled chair?"
"Do not pout; it makes your eyes piggy," said Faramir.
"Oh, perish the thought. Though, you may have something there. I could always claim to have been knocked to the ground by some panicked hog, escaping the Shambles, and broken my other leg as a consequence," Boromir said acidly.
"Or, and I favour this version, personally," said Faramir, "I could let go of your wittle wheeled chair as we pass the Embrasure, and we could count how many 'oliphants' it takes before you strike the Main Gates!"
"You would too, you power-drunk little weasel," Boromir huffed, and shifted in the chair, miffed that no-one took him seriously anymore. Bad enough to be demented by an incurable itch, but worse still to be side-lined like some ancient relative fallen into dotage.
Past the Fountain of the Tree they rumbled, Boromir saluting from force of habit, the guards utterly non-responsive behind their black silk masks, a constant reminder they were not to engage in any conversation whilst on duty guarding the White Tree. A custom dating back to the time of Elendil himself, for they even wore his livery, including their mithril helms with their seagull wings.
"I could do that," said Boromir.
"Look ridiculous, do you mean?" Faramir snickered, "you need not worry on that account, for you look quite ridiculous as it is."
"Oh, and you do not, one supposes, in your ranger rags, and peek-a-boo mask?" Boromir rose to the bait, as always, regular army versus special services, it was always good for a brotherly spat.
"Shall I have Dee fetch your knitting needles?" Faramir asked loudly as they approached their father's apartments, sending the sentries into a silent round of shoulder -shaking sniggering.
"My needle," Boromir shouted, "needle, singular, just like you are giving me, the needle!"
"A man needs a hobby, so why not a productive one, we rangers are always in dire need of socks," said Faramir.
"You are in dire need of a socking!" Boromir opined.
"Oh, is your poor leg paining you again? Or is it your wittle chair, we could always find a nice soft cushion?" Faramir pushed this for all it was worth, it was a tonic to him, if to no one else, to rag Boromir like this.
"I shall not be confined to this chair forever, bear that in mind, squab." Boromir warned.
"It hardly is my fault you have a broken leg. If you will guzzle oysters…!" Faramir tsk-ed, and shook his head in despair.
"Here he is, father, your first-born, come to lighten your load, and to brighten your day," said Faramir.
"Ha…!" Denethor chuckled, raising his hand in greeting; he was propped upon a pile of goose-feather pillows, moulded to his body, to support him as he re-gained his strength.
"Send him away, sire, somewhere without benefit of communication! Udun's pits shall serve; the left one!" Boromir pleaded.
"Bick…bicker…bicker…!" Denethor chided, but his eyes were shining with love for his sons, not from anger. He looked oddly benign lying there, and it was hard to believe he was the driving power behind Gondor, but it would be an innocent, or a fool, to forget just how powerful this man was, even incapacitated, for he could still convey his wishes by writing with his un-affected hand, and his mind was clear as crystal, and which thought brought to mind a topic Boromir must broach here, and now.
"Run along, little brother, you have a duty to discharge, and father and I have some catching up to do," said Boromir.
"Ah, yes, I do have to robe before I…discharge…my duty, and so I bid you good day, father, an esquire shall convey this one back to his holding pen soon as he is ready, or when you have had enough of his company," Faramir said with a grin.
"Or," said another from behind a carven lebethron wood screen, "when I determine one of them has had enough excitement for one day."
"As you say, Master Caranthir, it is entirely within your discretion," said Faramir as he bowed to his uncle, his father, and brother, and then he grinned cheekily and departed.
"He is enjoying this far too much, entirely," Boromir pouted.
"Oh, he is overcome by the novelty, it soon shall wane, Thor, your medication," said Caranthir as he held out the small silver dosing cup and his brother pulled a face.
"Open wide, you would not like the alternative, trust me," Caranthir threatened.
"You w…would…t…too!" Denethor muttered.
"How well you know me," Caranthir grinned toothily, but the medicine was now ingested, and, to Denethor's surprise, it was not in the least unpleasant.
"Cherry brandy, it overlays the bitterness of the brew, you shall be eager for the next dose, I should not wonder," Caranthir now predicted as he passed the small cup to his Apprentice Master, and dismissed the lesser-ranked healer with a practiced signal. The doors were heard to snick closed beyond the study, out onto the corridor where the sentries were stationed. Caranthir now took Denethor's wrist and told Boromir he was to ignore his presence, that he was bound by his oath to repeat nothing heard by the bedside. He did not mention to Boromir that the dosage he had just fed down the Steward had to be very carefully regulated, for any error could make the difference between a good healing sleep, and a permanent one. It was therefore imperative that the Master remain for a few minutes to ensure no overdose had been accidentally administered. Boromir was unconcerned over the Warden of the Healing Houses being present, the man was, after all, Thangail-Dinen, a member of Gondor's Secret Service, less active, perhaps, no longer in the field, true, but just as deadly now as when he had been young, virile, and utterly deadly.
"Father, you have been engaging with the Anor Stone," said Boromir. No point in beating about the bushes, it was an established fact, after all.
"Had no…op…op…gah!" Denethor's frustration boiled over and he slammed his one good arm down upon the coverlet in despair.
"There is always an option, sire. This one option is no option! You did nothing wrong, I understand, you are to all intents and purposes 'his' regent; you are in place of the king, and by his own choice, one assumes. But, we are too dilute to take such an artefact from the mists of time and to use it. We are too frail, sire, not at all of the same stature as Anarion or his kin. You are lucky to be alive, dear one!"
"L…luck…luck-y…?" Denethor broke down, and shook his head in negation.
"Then we are lucky, those of us who love you, and would not lose you, and certainly not in the service of some…absentee…from another's House entirely! If you ask me what price I place upon your life, then it is simple, sire. Gondor may be worthy of much, of our service, our loyalty, our very lives, but that is Gondor. But you shall not save our beloved Queen of the South by using the dark crystal. You cannot, father, and so nothing is worth its employment, and certainly not your poor sanity, or your pain. If we cannot defeat the dark one by military means, then 'The One' must come to our aid, or suffer good to fall before evil. Not some object, some throwback, to another age, sire. Not the Seeing Stone. No more, for if you do return to it, I shall see it taken to Dol Amroth, and consigned into the Bay of Belfalas. Do you understand me, sire?"
"More importantly, do you believe me, sire?" Boromir demanded.
"Then be at peace, father of Gondor, and allow your sons to bear some of the burden, especially the little one, for he is most capable, and most willing. I am here to guide him, for he has not been nurtured to take the White Rod as I have, but at need he could do so with competence," said Boromir.
"N…no…! N…no…!" Denethor became extremely agitated at this statement, and Boromir was about to stand his ground, and outline Faramir's sterling qualities, when Caranthir squeezed Boromir's shoulder.
"He does not mean to disrespect your brother; he is terrified Faramir shall succeed him through your death! Take his hand, console him, and then permit the drug to do its work, nephew."
"Father, I am here, and I am not going to leave you, now, rest, there is a good lord, for the medicine shall aid you in your recovery," said Boromir.
"For…forgive…bir…" Denethor struggled to form the work in his head, for the drug was a powerful one, "…birth…right!"
"I would not forego being your son for any other title, not even the one which is unclaimed, and which we uphold so selflessly. Have no fear. I know my place, and my duty. The House of Hurin yet serves the Sable Standard. Long live the King's majesty!"
"Where-ere the wretch may be," Caranthir added sotto voce, not quite so concerned with honour; or the constraints of Stewardship at this precise moment in time.
"Ye…yes…! Al…always…our duty…!" Denethor approved, and now his eyelids lowered, and he drifted into sleep.
"Until my lord release me, or death take me," Boromir repeated the vow he had also taken, and now he gazed up into calm, grey, eyes, and he confided in his uncle: "I spoke those same words, to this lord, and I shall never speak them again to another. The twenty and sixth Steward shall be Gondor's last. If she falls into the abyss, she shall not have need of a twenty and seventh. If her King should find his way to her, he may rule without aid from our House."
"I see no reason to argue with you over your choices, nephew!" Caranthir said conspiratorially. "But keep your own counsel, for your father would serve the heir of Isildur, to retain his honour, if for no other reason."
"And shall his honour even be rewarded?" Boromir asked. "Or his dedication, to a cause he does not even support. He is the Steward of the House of Anarion, but he will endure the bearer of Narsil to be restored to the White Throne, because it is the honourable thing to do. I am not half the man my father is, for I would choke upon the words of the declaration!"
"Who among us could blame you? You witness your father fighting for to regain his mobility, and your brother taking on a role he never was trained for, and you yourself are injured answering a call from Eru knows where, for I am convinced your sire was drawn by some malevolent force to summons you both from Osgiliath that black day. It is a miracle you both were not slaughtered upon the Pelennor!"
"Not on this occasion," Boromir said softly, and Caranthir shuddered.
The Hall of Kings
The Audience was coming to its conclusion, Faramir was eager to be away from this place, and to be with his brother and their sire, for the chances to share any time together were few and far between. Damrod was standing off to one side, waiting for his lord, and he was bored; it showed plainly in his handsome face. Or perhaps it was only obvious to Faramir, who knew his bodyguard so well? Tallis called an end to the business, and it was a pleasant surprise not to hear the Chamberlain's voice piping in with some final request or petition.
"Where is he Tallis; the Slug, Halbeer…?" Faramir asked in an aside, and the blond scribe grinned.
"Apparently a stray oyster found its way into his pie that night in the Merethrond and he has been discommoded ever since," said Tallis.
"Is that so? How strange, that he alone was the recipient of a random oyster, given they were condemned by Master Caranthir, and removed from the menus," said Faramir.
"Some would say it was a tragedy. Others would cheer, and drink a toast to absent oysters, my lord!" Tallis bowed to the Office, not the representative, and turned aside with a grin still dancing upon his lips.
"What has so amused the pen-pusher, then?" Damrod enquired as he stood by Faramir at the dais, one booted foot upon the top step, the other upon the lower. He was as supple as an eel on heat, was Dee.
"He was informing me the Chamberlain has become indisposed of an oyster," said Faramir.
"What a tragedy," Damrod said strait-faced, "I hope that no charges shall follow; for causing cruelty to dumb shellfish?"
"No shellfish were hurt in the telling of this tale, they were imaginary to begin with, and the one that claimed Halbeer came from the recess within Caranthir's ring. I hate to think what mayhem that healer could wreak with a pestle and mortar!" Faramir said drolly.
"I could think of a use for the objects, and they would fetch Halbeer's excretions to a halt into the bargain!" Damrod chuckled.
"You are so without ruth," Faramir stated.
"Utterly ruthless, that is me," Damrod agreed.
"Come you, let us track my brother, he no doubt is free-wheeling about the Citadel even as we speak," Faramir grinned at the pictures forming up inside his head.
"Scaring the horses," Damrod nodded.
"Running over some dowager's dress train," Faramir snickered.
"Clattering along the corridors," said the dark-haired ranger.
"Tipping headlong off the embrasure…hurry," Faramir said with urgency, for there was no end to the damage which Boromir, upon brakeless wheels, could achieve!
In the gardens of the Houses of Healing, Boromir was reaching to break off a single flower, a cream rose, and when he finally broke it free, he presented it shyly to his companion.
"Why, thank you, kind sir," said the equally embarrassed Gilmith. She tucked it into her bodice, wishing to be rid of it before a thorn tore her fingers. Her corduroy riding habit was proof against most weaponry, not in the first stare of fashion, true, but the skirts split cunningly into breeches, and once clear of the city she would exchange her side-saddle for a regular one for the long ride back to Lossarnach.
"I almost wish I could come with you," Boromir sighed.
"Well, how may a lady fail to be flattered with such an ardent declaration," she snorted.
"I meant…if I were hale and hearty I would be obliged to return to Osgiliath, that is all," Boromir backtracked like a crab from a cauldron.
"Ancir is there," she reminded her companion. "He is quite content, he has a plodding nature, much like you, perhaps that is what attracts me to you, no challenge in shaping your character," she teased.
"I beg your pardon," he asked indignantly.
"Not in matters of war, but in matters of the heart, you are a slow learner," said Gilly.
"No, not slow, I am minded to spare you the fate of so many women in these dread times," Boromir said earnestly.
"Well, I would sooner die a widow, than die chaste. I am not young in terms of bearing a child, yet given our Numenorean longevity, I should like to experience motherhood, also, before I experience death. I have shocked you. I make no apology for that. If we go on as we have these many years, you shall have no heir, and I shall have no husband. Would it be such a trial?" Her eyes engaged with his, and they were sea grey, and her hair was raven, the bloodlines of Numenor were flowing in her veins, and yet he cared not a jot for her pedigree, he simply loved her for herself.
"When father is more…when the Steward is available…I shall request his permission for us to be wed!" Boromir vowed.
"Shall we seal our pledge with a kiss?" she whispered, leaning upon the arms of the wheeled chair, the better to access his lips, given he was seated, and as they explored the wonder of kissing, she shifted her weight a little farther to the front, and the chair took off at a great rate, and Gilmith watched in utter horror as her beloved crashed into the lily pond!
What was she to do? Other than wade in and make sure he did not actually drown? She could do little more than support his head above the water, so wrecked with laughter at his predicament! Boromir was so embarrassed at this turn of events he utterly lost the urge to woo, and regained the instinct to remain a bachelor!
"I would not wed you if the Steward ordered me, you are a heartless wench, and you are making mock of me!" He declared.
"Forget that we spoke! I have no feelings for you other than pity!" It was a lie, and she knew it was, but it was out in the air, and she was bereft.
"Then…drown! See if I care!" she retorted and waded out of the pond, and lifting her sodden skirts she ran from the garden, weeping, and distraught.
"Come back, I did not mean it, Gilly…! I do love you; I just do not know how to admit it!" Boromir said miserably.
Somehow he dragged himself out of the pond, and away from danger, he was spattered with weed and debris, and shivering from the deep, cold, water. Lying by the side of the pond he wept, thinking his tears to be disguised amongst the other water saturating him from head to toe. But Faramir, sent running by Gilmith, saw instantly that there was something amiss with his elder brother. So much so, that he refrained utterly from teasing Boromir.
"It is nothing, the chair toppled, Gilmith went to fetch aid, she was soaked as she tried to aid me, and I am unhurt, brother!" Boromir insisted.
"Not physically, perhaps, but…!" Faramir sought his brother's eyes for a clue as to what had occurred.
"But what…? We are speaking of Gilly, are we not? I have no interest in her ladyship other than in a brotherly way! Goose…!" Boromir laughed, but the laughter did not reach his eyes, and Faramir would come to recall this conversation down the way, when life had changed for poor Gilmith, and her brother, Ancir, had passed from Arda, and all because of a future clandestine meeting betwixt the brothers' Hurin at Cair Andros, and all compounded by the loss of a small token in the shape of a 'Moon Hare'.
Thanks to all who have read and reviewed, and the tale is picked up, as most of you already know, in 'The Moon Hare', which shall be continued very soon.