A/N: This is my first attempt at an LOTR fic so all comments/suggetions would be greatly appreciated!
Chapter One: A Heavy Heart
Faramir, Son of Denethor, grimaced as he opened a missive sent from his father, the ruling Steward of Gondor. He leaned heavily upon the windowsill of his chambers, looking out over the White City with a sigh that seemed to come from the depths of his weary soul. He knew what this summons concerned; he had lost the river and Osgiliath, the once prized city belonging to Gondor's realm, to the orc hordes of Mordor.
"Foul, pernicious beasts," he muttered vehemently as he pushed away from the window with reluctance. He did not want to face his father's wrath, had only just returned from that dreadful mission a few scant days previous and he was struggling to keep his emotions in check…
…So many deaths…what do I tell their families…?
His footsteps were steady but slow as they echoed off the stone walls of the Citadel where Denethor awaited his son with a grim scowl from upon his chair. A council had been called to discuss strategies and to make plans with the aid of other Captains. Faramir smiled, a small though genuine one that lit up his grey eyes with a warmth that became him well; his uncle, The Prince of Dol Amroth was a welcome presence in the corner.
"What have you to say for your conduct?" Denethor asked quietly, eyes surveying his son's slightly tired appearance with distaste.
Faramir pursed his lips a moment, dark eyes flashing in brief outrage at the insinuating tone of his father's words. He had nothing to atone for, had done his best to keep the bridge over the river and would have wasted precious lives fighting longer than he had.
"My conduct was as you asked, My Lord: I did as I saw best but we were too greatly outnumbered and more fighting would have been in vain." Faramir answered honestly.
Denethor's thin grey lips pulled back into something half akin to a snarl, half a sneer, as he continued, "And in regards to the City we have lost? The ground you so willingly gift to the Enemy?" He glowered menacingly at his youngest son, contempt clear upon his craggy face.
"Willingly?" Faramir echoed in surprise and confusion, "Nay, Lord, not willingly but I would willingly do so again if it would save the lives of the many men who would otherwise die needless deaths."
A low murmur broke out at Faramir's obvious rebellion toward his father, some exclaiming surprise and others pride. The voices soon quieted and the Hall returned to a stifled hush as Denethor sat straighter in his chair, eyes turning to ice as they sought to penetrate the dim shadows hiding those speakers who dared comment upon his meeting with his son.
"Your brother would not have given in to such weakness, such gentleness may be repaid with death," he spat, ignoring the flinch of his youngest save for a momentary glee that lit up his eyes.
"So be it," the young ranger intoned softly, Is nothing I do ever enough?
"So be it?! But not only your death, the death of your people and your father, whom it is your part to protect now that Boromir is gone…Boromir would not have failed me; he would not have failed Gondor! Woe that he is gone…my poor, brave son…" was the savage reply.
Faramir bowed his head for a moment to compose himself, his raven locks falling over his wounded eyes to hide his turmoil and upset.
"Boromir would have kept the bridge and the city…we cannot give them up!"
Faramir tried to ignore the ramblings of his outraged Lord but his dejected mind could only clearly see one agonising truth, "You wish now that our places had been exchanged - that I had died and Boromir had lived."
"Yes, I wish that." Denethor breathed.
No whispers met this revelation as shock was writ plainly on all faces in the hall. Everyone present knew of the father's dislike of his youngest son, his maltreatment, but none would have thought him to give such an admission. Faramir for once could not stop the tears in his eyes forming, aware as he was that Denethor would see them as yet another weakness. They pooled from the depths of his shimmering grey eyes and as they fell the dim light of hope in his eyes faded and was extinguished. He could not get his throat to form words, did not even know what to say to such a rebuke so merely listened dutifully as his Steward continued, impassioned.
"You were foolish to give up Osgiliath, such ground cannot be lost! Bah! Is there no Captain here loyal enough to do his Lord's will? To reclaim our City for our own? If only Borormir were alive, he would please me…"
Knowing that he was being bated into a suicide mission yet that it was the only way to please his father, Faramir stopped his tears with an effort and took a step forward to kneel before the seated older man.
"Then since you are robbed of your son, I shall go in his stead," His soft voice was strong and surprisingly clear as he spoke yet void of its usual warmth as if his father's rash, evil words had bled his already wounded soul beyond its limit, "But if I should return, think better of me father."
Denethor growled as his son rose to his feet with a last small favour asked and turned away with a scathing response.
"That would depend on the manner of your return."
He felt numb as he allowed his feet to carry him mechanically away from the Steward's chair. Sea grey eyes remained fastened steadily onto the marble flagstones beneath him as Faramir took the long walk down the great hall, aware of the eyes, those benevolent and pitying, as well as those triumphant and derogatory, following his slow progress.
The dim echo of his boots on the hard floor kept a rhythm that beat in time with Faramir's aching heart.
Refusing to appear as crushed as he felt the young ranger of Ithilian straightened his shoulders with a pride he did not feel and lifted his eyes from the floor to instead focus on the large, ornately decorated doors ahead of him. With a sigh he reached them and stepped out into the blazing sunshine, so unlike the dim chambered hall which he had left behind.
Faramir closed himself up within his chambers once more after a brief walk through the city and relished in the cool solitude which his small abode offered. His rooms were very humble for a son of the Steward, unlike those of his elder brother which were decorated with all the trophies and awards given to the braver son. Faramir, the smaller, more scholarly of the pair, had taken no joy in their training as children, preferring instead to sit with his books than to practice with swords for there was no glory to be had in slaying in his eyes, and he would never win renown with a blade for his skill lacked as he had not the strength of warriors as great as his brother. Boromir, for his part, always helped his younger brother and as such Faramir's skill surpassed those of most all men even if he could not see such. But the younger brother had a skill with the bow that the older lacked, having not the patience for it, and so one award rested on his desk amidst the scrolls and books littered across it; first place in an archery competition, a feat that had allowed him his wish to be stationed in the land of Ithilian as Captain. His one pride.
A tender smile passed over his face as Faramir recalled the day he had been gifted the award: Boromir had wrapped him up in a hug fierce enough to snap weaker men's bones, jovially saying, "I knew you could do it, brother. Well done!" Even his father had looked pleased with him as he had shyly presented the small trophy and had bestowed such a genuine smile of pleasure and pride on his son that tear's formed anew in Faramir's eyes at the memory.
He dashed them away fiercely with the back of his long-fingered hand.
You wish now that our places had been exchanged, that I had died and Boromir had lived…Yes, I wish that…
Once more grief marred his handsome face before Faramir locked it deep inside of himself to go about his tasks without feeling. He swiftly packed a few provisions into his small saddle bag and dressed for battle. He glanced at himself in the looking glass set upon the back of his wardrobe door and he did not know the grim- faced man that stared back at him.
"What have I become?" he muttered, then banished such thoughts with a shake of his head as a knock sounded.
"Come," he called out, and even to his own ears his voice sounded hollow. "Mithrandir," he acknowledged his guest with a dip of the head, not at all surprised to see his mentor standing before him with a frown. He turned back to survey himself to avoid the wizard's intent stare, "I cannot bear such judgment from you Gandalf. What do you want of me?"
"I want you not to throw your life away in rashness Faramir!" the wizard replied, taking the young man by his shoulders to give him a shake, yet still the sad eyes would not meet his own fiery gaze. "I want nothing of you save that you go knowing that your father's grief over Boromir does not mean he does not love you, Faramir, know your own worth."
An embittered laugh escaped Faramir's full lips as he turned desolate eyes towards Gandalf.
"Gandalf, friend…such falsities I would not expect from you. But do not fear! I know my worth ... Yes, Gandalf, I will meet this end knowing I am helping to save the city which I love and hold dear, knowing that Boromir would be proud of me."
Gandalf's wise eyes darkened at his young friend's words, truly his mind had been poisoned by Denethor for too long. It seemed he wanted to die. "There are those who care and love you Faramir, do not let your father's words blind you to that!" he cried, white hair flying out behind him as he gesticulated passionately.
A softening of the hardened face which Faramir had assumed was his reward as the young ranger stooped to pick up his sword and girt it to his middle, "Goodbye my friend, may you fare well in these dark days and come out once again to the light!"
"And you also," Gandalf said gravely as the dark haired man walked past him, head held high and of noble bearing as he went to meet his doom. He worried for Faramir, had never before seen him so lugubrious of spirit, and gave a prayer for his return to safety.