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Harsh Words by Linaewen

Author: Linaewen
Title: Harsh Words
Rating: G
Theme: March of Power
Elements: March 11 -- Denethor sends Faramir to Osgiliath.
Author's Notes: This story is originally a portion of a longer chapter by the same title in my WIP Lords of Gondor.
Summary: As Faramir prepares to depart for Osgiliath, he finds himself regretting the harsh words that have passed between himself and his father.
Word Count: 1,412

Harsh Words

Imrahil watched silently as the other captains filed out of the council chamber.  They went without a sound, each one taken up with thoughts of duties to be performed, orders to be given, final arrangements to be reviewed with the men under their command.  Time was of the essence, for soon there would be no more opportunity for such preparations.  Imrahil's own knights awaited his report of what had passed in council, and there were plans to be put into motion concerning what part Dol Amroth would play in the defense of the City.  It had been judged by the captains that their numbers were too few to make an effective strike against Mordor; too much strength had been drawn away towards the threat of the Corsairs in the south.  If Rohan came, there might be force enough for a stroke of war, but for now, the only thing to be done was to man the walls and wait.

He watched as Denethor gave crisp orders to the young Halfling who had attended the door, and the look of relief on the small one's face told Imrahil that he was to be allowed some respite after the performance of whatever task the Steward had just given him.  The Prince smiled at that, and wished fleetingly that he could set aside his concerns as easily, if only for a short time.  But his smile fell away as he caught sight of the stern expression on Denethor's face, and he sighed heavily.

Denethor looked up, his glance sharp and knowing.  "You think me harsh, do you not, Imrahil?  You believe I have sent Faramir off on a fool's errand, to perhaps waste his life and the lives of his men in a vain defense of the Rammas and the River passage against overmatching forces."

An echo of Faramir's voice urging restraint sounded in Imrahil's mind:  "Today we may make the Enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage and yet rue the exchange.  For he can afford to lose a host better than we to lose a company.  And the retreat of those that we put out far afield will be perilous, if he wins across in force."

"I did not say so," replied Imrahil quietly.

"Spoken words are not necessary with you, my brother," answered Denethor.  "Your thoughts are written clearly upon your face."

Imrahil smiled ruefully.  "If that is so, my brother, then perhaps you also see written upon my face a fear that there is some barrier between you and Faramir."

"Yes, I see that, also."

"Why is that, then?  What has happened to make you so stern and cold towards your son?"

Denethor was silent for a long moment, and Imrahil feared he said too much.  But at last, Denethor stirred and nodded grimly.

"What has happened is that Faramir chose to disobey me in a matter of great importance, thinking he knew better than I what course of action to take.  What will come of his choice and how it will affect our safety remains to be seen.  Today, at least, he has chosen otherwise, and does not oppose my will.  Whatever his own opinion of my policy, I trust he will now be obedient to my commands."

"I do not oppose your will, sire," came the echo once more of Faramir's voice in Imrahil's ear. "Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead –- if you command it."

Whatever the outcome! Imrahil thought, suppressing another sigh.  He inclined his head to Denethor and hid his disquiet behind a smile.

"I thank you for your answer, brother," he said softly.  "It encourages me that you are willing to speak of it to me, even a little -- though my heart is heavy to learn that such trouble has come between you."

"I trust your allegiance to me will not waver because of it?"

"It will not!" exclaimed Imrahil stoutly.

Denethor nodded, content with his answer.  "I thank you, brother.  But you have some question still to ask me, do you not?"

"Yes," Imrahil said thoughtfully.  "It is true that Faramir goes obediently to defend the crossing at Osgiliath, but what he said about that defense is also true -- there is great danger that it will be overcome and that the retreat will be in peril.  We must take thought for that...."

"I have done so," interrupted Denethor.  "A sortie shall be prepared and you shall lead it...."

***

Though time was pressing, Faramir did not hurry as he checked over his horse's barding, shifting the pad under the saddle for maximum comfort, and adjusting girth and bridle.  Such adjustments were hardly necessary, for the grooms in the stables of Minas Tirith knew their office well and no horse went from their hands into battle improperly equipped.  But Faramir found comfort in the familiar routine, and no groom begrudged the captain his ritual.

Boromir had taught him to take advantage of such quiet moments before battle to settle the mind and heart, to put aside all the discussion and disagreement that had gone before in planning and councils of strategy, in order to have before him only the final plan for the battle ahead.  Boromir knew as well as anyone that fighting with a divided mind was begging disaster, and so he had developed this discipline of checking harness and tack as a way to steady himself.

Faramir had great need of such a steadying discipline.  He leaned his head against the neck of his steed and sighed, as he recalled the final words which had passed between himself and his father.

"I do not oppose your will, sire.  Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead -- if you command it."

"I do so."

"Then farewell!  But if I should return, think better of me!"

"That depends upon the manner of your return...."


What makes us speak so to one another, when it is all too likely these will be our last words together? Faramir thought despairingly.  Why, I was as irritable as he, and spoke just as proudly!  Yes, he treated me as one of his underlings whom he little trusts -- yet I called him 'sire' rather than father, and indicated my obedience required a command from him.  I should have been more gentle, and not let his cold manner sting me into putting even more distance between us.  He grieves for Boromir, and he hides the keenness of his loss behind his anger, that is why he is so harsh, perhaps.  Yet, I am grieving, also!  Surely he must know that.  Why must he be so stern with me?  Why must I go out to an uncertain fate with cold words in place of a smile and a blessing....

"Do not let bitterness take root in your heart, Faramir."

Gandalf had come quietly into the stable and now stood beside Faramir.  He laid a comforting hand upon Faramir's shoulder, and gripped it as if to accentuate his words.

"Do not go out in bitterness," Gandalf repeated.  "Do not throw away your life rashly, thinking you are forsaken.  You are needed here, and not simply for matters of war.  Your father loves you, and he shall remember it ere the end."

Faramir sighed heavily.

"I know he loves me, Mithrandir, though it seems often enough that he has forgotten it!  I do know it well, and I am not bitter -- or, at least, I am striving to put bitterness and regret aside..."

"Regret?"

"Regret for his manner and my own proud words as we parted.  A father deserves better from his son, no matter what argument lies between them."

"You are a good son to him," replied Gandalf confidently.  "One who gives him nothing but good, and he knows it.  Think not that he compares you to Boromir in his sorrow and finds you wanting.  It is not so!"

Faramir smiled ruefully at Gandalf's words.

"That thought is one to which I must not attend, not even in my darkest hours, lest I fall into despair from which there is no return!  You do well to remind me that it is not so.  Boromir would say the same, and no doubt more forcefully than you!"

"Fare you well, then, Faramir," said Gandalf.  "May the Valar attend your going and your return."

"May the Valar attend me!" agreed Faramir fervently.  "Take you good care of my father in my stead, Mithrandir, as much as he will allow.  And tell my uncle, Imrahil, to do the same.  Farewell!"

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Jan. 27th, 2014 01:24 pm (UTC)
Take you good care of my father in my stead, Mithrandir, as much as he will allow.

What a loving wish, from a good heart. Very nicely written.
dreamflower02
Jan. 27th, 2014 02:33 pm (UTC)
Aw, this is so sad, knowing what's to come. Poor Denethor and poor Faramir. Yet I really liked your characterization of Imrahil--at least Faramir had an advocate in his uncle, and Denethor had someone to talk to.
rhymer23
Jan. 27th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
A lovely poignant gapfiller. Poor, noble Faramir! And poor Denethor, too, because his harshness comes from his grief, as Faramir understands. I like Imrahil in this, too.
blslarner
Jan. 30th, 2014 05:02 am (UTC)
Finally--a moment in which to finish the stories posted!

An excellent look at both father and son in those moments after the harsh words were said. I rejoice that both accepted they were too stern, and that Faramir appears to have accepted Gandalf's attempts at comfort and reconciliation. Thank you for this one.
lindahoyland
Feb. 1st, 2014 05:23 am (UTC)
This is just so heartrending. How blind and foolish Denethor is to throw away the life of his remaining son.
mrowe
Feb. 19th, 2014 04:46 pm (UTC)
An excellent look at both Faramir and Denethor
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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