März 25., 21:38
Technique: Pencil, Watercolours
Character: Faramir/Gandalf, pictorial appearance of Boromir
Rating: Story: K, Pictures: PG-13 (because of the Boromir one)
Gandalf´s POV, about 1.900 words
Movie-verse since the scene does not occur in the book (which does not mean you cannot insert book-Faramir here. ;) ). After Faramir has left the city to reclaim Osgiliath Gandalf remembers the boy he used to know.
The gift of foresight has been taken from me.
Or so it seems, in these dark hours while the clouds are gathering, even though an early spring sun warms the bench in the kitchen garden, a hidden patch of green in the backstairs area of the citadel. There is no sound coming from the nearby street, usually buzzing with life. The White City has fallen silent.
Although my skills of foreboding could not match those of the Eldar, my heart was never in doubt which path to choose. It was not until the Eastern Gate opened to reveal the lightning-seared smoulder looming heavily above the range of Ephel Dúath that I found it wavering.
So it will be in Minas Tirith, where the die is to be cast, here at the turning of the tides. So much at stake, so many lives to save or lose. And yet there is one fate that stands out, one that grieves me more than all others.
I watched you riding out at the head of your men, calm and stalwart as they need their leader to be in this grave hour. If your shoulders were slumped under the burden that had been laid upon you, the armour covered it; and if your features were a mask of frozen anguish, you turned it away from curious looks and towards the evil glow of the lidless eye. I saw the gaze of the crowd following you with anxiety and sincere compassion, a muted echo of the calls that welcomed your arrival only days before: Faramir, Faramir. So often you had taken my advice in times of confusion and misery; yet this time I failed. "Where does my allegiance lie if not here?" That was the question you left me with, and I had no answer to comfort you.
I remember the first time you set your eyes on me. Indeed, it was you who noticed me first, and if it had not been for that I might have missed your acquaintance. It was the time when the first rumours rose in the East. The weapon of the enemy has been found they said; the shadow over Gondor is lengthening. And so once more my steps led me to the White City, where years ago I had spent many hours in the company of Ecthélion, Steward and builder of the White Tower. Alas, times had changed. His son, Denethor, turned out less generous than his father had been and it cost me various efforts until he finally gave me permission to enter the copious archives of the citadel. Days I passed in the dusty gloom, surrounded by tomes and ancient parchments, seeking for an urgently needed hint.
Yet what I finally found was a child.
I am afraid it was not my person that attracted you. It was your concern for well-beloved friends that made you raise your voice towards a stranger you had never seen before. The old librarian saw no reason to object to a huge candle holder lit up amidst tons of dry paper but you were a much better custodian. Shy you were, and desperate to behave suitably in the presence of a person to be respected (who you obviously thought I was); nevertheless you chided me for bringing the threat of an open flame to this very sanctuary of book-lore. It was important and it had to be done, so you went straight to your aim, regardless to the consequences. Even back then, at the age of eight, you handled your issues like this.
It did not take me long to discover what lay beneath the timidity: kindness, a genuine desire for knowledge, and a prudence one would not expect from a boy of that age. Once you were sure I would not bring complaint to the lord of the city about his insubordinate son, you stayed; and when you left it was only to return the next day, this time with your favourite book and – if I remember that correctly – a pocket full of cake that would not be missed in the kitchen, as you reassured me.
You were eager to learn and eager to please and after a while I adjusted to you as much as you did to me. I found out that you had an aversion to loud noises. Screaming and yelling in particular, be it in anger or pain, made you twitch in discomfort. So I strove to diminish my sudden bursts of anger when things did not go the way I wished, and you rewarded me by becoming more and more at ease in my presence. You still harbour this distaste; the years only taught you to cover it better.
Despite being a lonely child you were never an unfriendly one, and the servants of the court loved you. It is said that no act of kindness, as small as it may be, will ever be forgotten and truer words have hardly been spoken. I recall your twelfth birthday, a merry but awkward date, since it happened to be the same day your brother was taking part in his first mission. I had promised to come but severe business consumed me and the delay was inevitable. When I arrived late at night I feared the worst. On my way to your room I passed a maiden who threw me a glance that could have curdled milk. "No need to hurry now, Master Wizard," she uttered pettily, which made me only hasten more. I opened your door, convinced to find a disappointed child alone in the dark. But the room I entered was warm and golden illuminated by dozens of candles, and I was happily greeted by an excited little boy who straightforwardly began to explain his new toy to me, a mechanical plaything one of the valets had bought from a dwarven merchant.
They had been there, all of them: servants, maidens, stableboys, children of soldiers and craftsmen, even the bookseller who used to appear with his cart once a week. Everybody had brought something they had tinkered or bought or prepared in their kitchen. For a fortnight there was no child on the seventh level owning more sweets (though I am sure you gave away most of them).
As honestly relieved as I was, I also felt foolish. Years of dealing with lords and noblemen had made me blind for what the mightiest ruler should not underestimate: the love of simple people. Luckily they had not been that oblivious. Knowing your day would be overlaid by your elder brother´s triumph, they had woven a sheltering cocoon of tender care around you. They may have admired Boromir and nobody would have ever spoken up against Lord Denethor, but it was to you whom their hearts belonged. That, as well, has not changed up to this day.
The years brought changes, and each of them took you closer to manhood. I saw you and your beloved brother drift apart when Boromir was trained to be a soldier while you were still a child and later come together again, reaching a new and unexpected level of closeness. To my great horror (and your slight amusement, I wager) I found myself with the task of giving you one or two of the talks a young boy ought not get from an old man, particularly not a wizard of questionable reputation.
It was also the time you started to oppose your father. Your objections were free of the rebellious attitude of youth and since they proved both wise and filled with true concern for the city, they were heard and considered. It was not long before you became a well-respected member of the council, though not by your father´s approval. Even in days of idle peace Denethor had been a stern man, but years of growing threat had made him masterful and bitter. His councilmen began to doubt his decisions and watching their trust falter filled him with wrath and fear.
You were far over twenty and again I had arrived at night. Your welcome was as cordial as always and if you looked tired I blamed the late hour and the various duties of a young nobleman. The frontiers of Gondor had become more and more unsafe and when I noticed a certain awkwardness in your movements I first thought of a battle wound or a misled blow during a fighting lesson. It was your unusual reticence that alerted me and out of sheer apprehension I pressed you harder to reveal yourself than an old friend should probably do. Nevertheless it was rather in the recongnition of that friendship than due to my half-hearted vigour that eventually you removed your tunic; and then I learnt how honest advice was now repaid in the White City.
I did not raid the steward´s private rooms with thunderbolt and fire that night, nor did I ever mention the issue towards him. It was not your pleading that held me back but the agonized look in your eyes, as if your humiliation was still ongoing. During the past years I had seen it with increased regularity: the look of a child ashamed of his father.
The gate has closed behind the small division of the forlorn, all knowing that likely none of them will ever pass it again. I envy them; leastwise their soldierly duty allows them to ride near to their captain and protect his life by raising a shield or fending off a hostile scimitar. Whereas it is my purpose to stay, left behind like the old man I now feel I am.
Did I do right when I taught you to trust your own judgement even against lordly decree? Was it not presumptuous to introduce you to ideas that would unavoidably put you into trouble? If Denethor had seen a son seeking for his love rather than a wizard´s pupil, would he still have sent you away to face either death or torment? For one of these two it will be, I´m afraid.
Your fate is veiled to me now.
The king to come is still far from here and no one could say whether his path will lead him hither in time. The city you love lies exposed to the grasp of a merciless foe; her walls, once mighty and powerful, will not keep her from being mauled by iron teeth. The Captain of Gondor is off to pay the debts of an old wizard who used a little boy to flatter his own vanity, and no armour will spare him blades and claws. So many times I gave hope to those struggling with what was imposed on them; and yet, regardless of faith and wisdom, all I know is one simple, mortal truth: you should not face this. At least not like that, all alone and without hope. No, you should face it not at all.
The light is fading even though it is barely midday. The hammer is coming down to smite flesh and bone. Shall I wish for you to find a quick death? In this very instant, is that what you are wishing for?
There is one task left for me to fulfill: holding your city if her ruler´s strength will fail. The White Rider may not be by your side, but still trembling hearts will find courage and quivering hands will steady at his appearance. As long as the White Tree stands, withered or in blossom, Ecthélion´s descendant will have a home to return to. And if you do, I will gratefully face what I feared for many a long year: the day you will learn that pity made me conceal which sacrifice would be required of you to prevent the realm of Gondor from doom.
That I have foreseen this all the time.