Sunday, June 01, 2014


Earlier story on Boromir here.

I miss Boromir. I keep expecting to see him turn the corner, to hear him call out when I go home at night. But home is so quiet now.

I push myself harder every day, trying to keep the enemy out of our walls, trying to regain lost ground, trying hopelessly to gain my father's trust. I see the men looking at me and wonder whether they too, wish my brother were here instead of me. I know my father does.

I will never be as good as you, brother, I say in my head. Who will now keep our people safe?

I know what he would say. You have skills I don't. You have diplomacy and wisdom. You are calm in a fight.

I know what he would say because he did say it.

Your greatest fault, he told me one day, is that you try too hard to please others. Especially our father. Do what you would, Faramir, and he will come around. Don't circumscribe your life for him.

But Boromir is gone now, and there is no one to comfort me, no one to praise me. No one to intercede between me and my father. I think of living in that long hall for the rest of my father's years, in uncompanionable silence punctuated by muttered reproofs, with resentment hanging over the walls. It's not just my father who wishes I had gone in my brother's stead, that he had lived and I had died. I do too.

But I don't die. Despite leading my men in an impossible mission, here I am, back home. When it came to it, I couldn't stay and wait for death -- I would have stayed willingly for mine, but I couldn't wait for death to come and claim my men. We retreated, and now my father treats me with even more contempt, if that were possible.

The enemy is at the door, and I have no time for my sadness. I push it aside and go out to fight.

I fall in the battlefield. I feel no pain. I know not what happens next -- even now, my friends refuse to tell me the whole, and I am afraid to know. I wake up in a fire.

It feels like the world is burning. But no, someone’s pulling me to safety. Is it my father? I hear his cries.

I sleep again. The pain wakes me up sometimes, I don't know if it's hours or days since the last time. The bed feels unfamiliar, and there is no window in the room. I suppose I am in the hospital. Where is my father, I wonder. Is he so disgusted at my coming back alive and wounded that he has disowned me? Is it disloyal of me to even think so?

My moments of lucidity grew longer. I don't ask questions of my nurses, who come in from time to time, but I get some news from people talking outside my door -- and sometimes even inside it. I have good hearing, and I often have my eyes closed, partly out of exhaustion and partly because I have no desire to talk to anyone. The battle is still on, and we are doing badly. My father is dead.

My father and brother, both dead. No one lives whom I love. Why am I spared? Why had they dragged me off the flames?


My body is healing; I can't pretend to be asleep anymore. Besides, they need my bed; they have no spare time to nurse me when so many wounded are pouring in. I don't have the heart to move back home or the strength to join the fight. I stay in the hospital, helping to tend to the wounded.

I had heard of her, of course. Word had reached Gondor when her brother and she, young children, had lost their parents and were received by King Theoden as his own. We heard tales later, of how beautiful a young woman she had grown up to be, and how wise a ruler, as she did her best to rule while her uncle grew distant and her brother and her cousin were off riding and fighting battles.

She grew up in that dark palace with no mother, no aunt, no friends except her brother and her cousin. She was interested in fighting, we heard, and good with a sword. But she was a lady, and she had to stay in the palace while her brother and her cousin rode the countryside, tending to an old man who grew ever more sick and strange.

She must have been so much lonelier than I, so unhappy in her luxurious prison.

Yet this time, she refused to be left behind. She rode to battle with no man’s approval, with no man’s knowledge. She stood up to the Nazgul, the most powerful and evil of Sauron’s soldiers, and she killed him, since no man could.

The first time I see her, utterly still on her bed as I walk in quietly with her medicine and her soup, I see how small she is. She is barely a lump under the bedclothes. One hand peeks out, so small and bony. And I wonder -- not how she had the strength to pick up a sword, or the will to drive it into a Nazgul -- but how had she the courage to defy her uncle and lord and do what she wanted?

I place the soup and the medicines by her bed and call her -- 'my lady', 'princess' -- until she wakes up. She sits up by herself, though she is obviously in pain. As soon as she swallows her medicine, I hurry out of her room and go about my duties. But all that long, weary day, I wonder. How did she find her bravery?


She heals fast, and the other nurses like her for being such a quiet, easy patient. But I have been through this myself so lately, I recognise that her quiet ways are due to sadness. She is gentle with all, even when she is in pain, and she does not cry. But I wonder if she is grieving for the uncle whose life she had failed to save.

I find myself talking to her. I bring her news from outside, and we sit and wonder together whether our friends would survive the last battle. She is most worried about Merry and her brother, and about Aragorn. I wish for all my men to survive, for Pippin and Gandalf and Aragorn to come back alive. Yet I hardly expect it. The world has grown so dark; so much has changed. I barely know what to hope for.

And in the midst of that fear and pain, she makes me her friend.

She can walk slowly, and I take her to the palace and show her the view from my room. She tells me about her home, about how cool and quiet it is inside. About the fields with tall grass where she went riding. About her favourite mare who died in the battle.

A page comes running to us, calling to me before he enters the room. “Captain, it is over. The battle has ended! Mordor is defeated. The Dark Lord is gone!”

I hold her before she can sink to her knees, and we cling to each other and cried tears of joy. We eagerly, falteringly ask the page more questions. Does he know if the Ring was destroyed? Yes, Gandalf has sent word. He is bringing two guests over on giant Eagles and would be here directly. I can guess who the guests were, and Eowyn says it before I do. I bid the page go and make preparations to receive all our guests and soldiers, especially the wounded.

When I turn back to Eowyn, her smile is bright enough to blind. All our friends will be home, she says. Merry, Gandalf, Eomer, Aragorn.

How convenient for Aragorn, I think, that both Boromir and our father are dead, and I, who have no wish to sit on the throne, live and will stand beside him.

But I shake those thoughts away. We have all been through much, and it is time to be friends and allies, to rebuild our cities, to learn to live in peace. I standd by Eowyn on my balcony and we wait for our friends to come home.

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