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On The Way To Something New

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“You’re a dummy,” Faramir announced from the doorway.

Boromir paused in her exercise — third position, fifth position, parry, block, second position — but did not lower the practice sword. Faramir’s insults weren’t usually anything very serious. “Am I?” she asked instead.

“If Papa catches us he’ll be angry,” Faramir explained. “And you don’t have your door closed, so he will catch you. And then be angry.”

“He won’t be angry.” Boromir didn’t need to explain why. Even at seven years of age, Faramir was well aware of what Boromir could do that she could not. “But I can tell him that you advised against it.”

Faramir marched into her room and plopped herself down on the bed. “He would only be angry at me for some other reason.”

“Faramir,” Boromir said as patiently as she could, “We’ve already decided—“

“You decided that my vote only counts as a half because I’m shorter than you,” Faramir argued.

“Well that’s just democracy,” she reasoned. “Besides, we decided that Father could no longer tyrannicalize us and we must make our escape to Dol Amroth to beg asylum from our grandfather.”

He’s probably going to be angry at us, too,” Faramir said glumly.

Since this was true, and since nothing Boromir could do in this or any other realm of existence would change it, she resumed her exercise. She’d been watching the guards’ training for almost two months, memorising their every move. She would become a great swordswoman and become a vagabond knight-errant, with Faramir as her faithful companion, and they would never clap eyes on the White Tower ever again.

Faramir had tumbled off the bed and wandered over to Boromir’s bookshelves, where she always ended up when she came into her sister’s room. “You’ll only be able to bring two or three books when we run away,” Boromir warned her.

“I’m strong,” Faramir protested immediately. “I can take more than that.”

“We’ll be running all over the land performing great feats of derring-do,” Boromir explained. “You can have four books.”

“But what if we’re trapped in the middle of an island on a lake and we’ve got nothing to do for days and days and days? I’ll die if I don’t have anything to read.”

“Four or five books, but that’s all,” said Boromir, firm.

“But—“

The argument was interrupted by the sound of a throat clearing. “It entirely depends on what books you intend on taking,” said Thorongil, very solemn the way she always was. “If you take a book on plants and how best to eat them, and a book on dangerous animals and how to avoid them, and a few more on all the things you might need to know about the forest — well, before you know it you’ve got a dozen books or more.”

Please don’t give her any ideas, Lady Thorongil,” Boromir begged, before realizing that she really ought to be begging her not to tell their father of their plans. But Thorongil was not like the other people in Denethor’s court; she came and went as she pleased, and when her father laid down his decrees she did not rush to assure him of his good judgement. Boromir had heard once from a squire that Thorongil had served her grandfather, when Denethor was still a lad no older than she was now; but Thorongil still looked as young as a new sapling, strong and graceful. Not an elf, not quite — but not altogether human.

“As a matter of fact,” Thorongil said, “I’ve come to ask if I might join you in your quest to escape the city. I have walked the road between Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth and could be a valuable companion.”

“Oh would you?” gasped Faramir, just a hair too quickly for Boromir’s “What are you talking about?” to be very convincing.

“It would be my honour,” said Thorongil. “And perhaps we can work on your footwork, Boromir.”

*

Their escape under cover of darkness was rather anticlimactic; Boromir pulled on her cloak and her pack and slipped through the halls to her sister’s room. She had seven books, so Boromir spent a few minutes scolding her as they crept down the back stairway. Thorongil was waiting for them by the gate, as agreed. The guards were not even looking at her, bored and distracted by their games of dice; Minas Tirith was only ever worried about keeping people out, and so Boromir and Faramir put up their hoods and passed through the gates unchallenged. It was nearing midnight as they set foot on the road.

Almost immediately Faramir said, “I’m tired.”

“Yes,” replied Thorongil, which was such a startling reply that both of them stared at her. She blinked back at them. “You’ll be tired and cold and hungry, too, when out on the road. Afraid and with good reason to be; sore and injured at times, uncomfortable most times. These are facts of traveling.”

“Did Father send you to trick us into turning back?” Boromir asked. She wouldn’t have thought her father had the imagination for it.

That made Thorongil laugh for some reason. “I’m no one’s sworn vassal but yours. But I have been traveling all my life across the face of Middle Earth. I know the truth, and I will not lie to you.”

“Are you saying,” demanded Faramir, “That I’m going to be more tired than this?”

*

Boromir spent most of the first few days dragging Faramir off the road whenever she heard hoofbeats coming from the north, or waking up at every odd noise when they set up camp. Thorongil didn’t say anything, only continued walking ahead a short ways or clearing her throat while on night watch, silent as a courser set to guard.

Faramir talked enough for all three of them, at any rate; about the books she’d brought with her (and read in the first three days) or about how col (or hot) it was or about how much longer until they got to Dol Amroth. Boromir refused to be embarrassed; Faramir was only seven, and even if she were seven-and-twenty Boromir would still love her more than anyone else in the world. Still, Thorongil worried her.

“Do you think she really is spying for Father?” Faramir asked, when Boromir broached the subject. They were gathering kindling for the night’s fire; they had been on the road a week and had not encountered any signs of pursuit. It was almost suspicious.

Boromir shushed her and picked up another twig. “I’m simply wondering why she chose to accompany us.”

“Maybe she likes us,” Faramir said, optimistic.

“Spying is more likely,” Boromir concluded glumly.

Still, it was educational to have her along. They learned about what berries made for good eating (and which ones would kill you in moments), how to tell North from the direction of the wind, and any number of useful things to keep them alive and safe. She even taught them how to use a sword, as well as a dagger and even their fists. “It would not be wise to let anyone close enough that you must kill them with your bare hands,” she advised, “For that means they are close enough to kill you.” Nevertheless Boromir learned how to snap a man’s neck (at least, in theory) and Faramir was given instruction on gouging someone’s eyes out with her thumbs.

“I like her,” Faramir protested. “Even if she is a spy.”

Boromir liked her too, but a good knight-errant must be ever-vigilant.

*

“Why did you come with us?” Boromir asked her one day. They had been almost a month on the road, and no one they met had even spoken of the missing princesses of Minas Tirith. It was a bit insulting, but Boromir was determined to be grateful for their good luck. If they could get to Dol Amroth before Denethor noticed they were missing — and it seemed possible — then perhaps he’d simply let them stay there for good.

Thorongil replied, “Because I wanted to know why you ran away. And unless I accompanied you, I feared I’d be left in suspense.”

“How did you know we were going to run away?”

“Because I too ran away, when I was about your age.” She smiled at Boromir’s surprise. “Yes, I was once your age, and even Faramir’s age, as strange as it seems. I did not last so long as you did on my own, however.”

“Boromir’s very clever,” Faramir explained.

“That she is,” agreed Thorongil. “But to answer your question, I can see the signs when someone intends to flee. So I decided it would be better to join you and help you. If I had not, then no doubt your father would have compelled me to hunt you down and return you to him. Which rather misses the whole point of running away.”

Faramir, as ever quicker than her sister, said, “Then you told Father you were going with us? Is that why no one has been chasing us?”

“Very good,” Thorongil said, approving.

Boromir stopped dead in the road. “So you are a spy!”

“I prefer to think of myself as a double agent,” Thorongil said, not in the least perturbed by Boromir’s outrage. “But your goal is Dol Amroth, and I have no intention of dissuading you from it.”

“You’re not going to drag us back to Minas Tirith?” Boromir pressed, still suspicious.

“No, nor take you back there by any other means. But I would like to know why you left in the first place.”

“I know,” Faramir pipped up. “It’s because Father hates me.”

Thorongil did not say anything for long moments. “How long have you known that?”

Boromir resumed walking, taking her sister’s hand. “I thought you would tell us we were wrong.”

Thorongil, with her long strider’s legs, caught up to them easily. “I did promise not to lie to you.”

Boromir glanced over at her sister. What must it be, to know the person that is supposed to love you more than life is sickened by the very sight of you? Boromir had always felt suffocated by her father’s love; was his hatred any different?

“When Mother died, I found the letters she got from her family,” Boromir said. “Our grandfather said that we would grow up to be fine women and strong, good rulers, and he wished he could meet us. I thought that he might—“

“I am sure he will,” Thorongil said softly.

*

They arrived at Dol Amroth almost two weeks later, and for the first time Thorongil seemed at a loss. “How will you gain entry into the palace?” she asked, readjusting her pack as they walked amongst the throng of people streaming into the city. It was noisier here, more shouting and laughter; the streets were dirt-packed, not stone, and so the echoes were not so dizzying as they were at home. For all that each building was painted a different shade of brown or green, it seemed a brighter city than Minas Tirith.

“I have my mother’s locket, and a few of my grandfather’s letters,” Boromir said. “Besides, Mother always said a princess can be seen at a distance.”

“You can certainly be smelled at a distance,” Faramir said, scowling when Boromir yanked on her plait.

Thorongil looked impressed. “Usually I have to enter a tourney and defeat seven warriors in combat before I can come to the attention of a noble,” she said.

“Well,” Boromir allowed, “You’re a commoner.”

*

Prince Adrahil gave his beloved granddaughters an entire wing of his palace and announced their arrival with a parade through the square. “Your father will have a great deal to answer for before he gets you back,” he promised, and whisked Faramir off to see the library. The rest of the family made much of them both, and Faramir laughed and smiled more than she ever had before. Their aunt gave them horses and their uncle gave them fine clothes; all things Boromir was given back home, but now there is affection and not simply duty attached to each gift. It is another world for Boromir — another universe entirely for Faramir.

It was perfect, until Thorongil announced that she was leaving.

“Where will you go?” Boromir demanded. 

“Into the wild,” Thorongil replied. She was readying her own horse, a gift from Boromir’s grandmother as a reward for accompanying the two little princesses through dangers unknown. “I’ve kin in the north that I have not seen for many years. I have missed them greatly.”

“Will you go past Minas Tirith?”

It made Thorongil pause. “Do you miss it?”

The answer was so tangled that Boromir could only say, “If you go past, let our father know that we are well.”

“I will do so.” Thorongil mounted in one quick motion. “You will have to return one day,” she said. “Whether it be next season or in ten years.”

“Will Faramir?” Boromir asked.

“Faramir is not meant to be the next Steward of Gondor,” Thorongil said. “Her destiny is not so unyielding as ours. She may yet find another path.”

It was a comforting thought. Boromir put her hand out. “Thank you for your spywork,” she said. “And thank you for the truth.”

“I look forward to our next meeting,” said Thorongil, clasping her hand. “Though not for a while yet. I’ll be gone from here for many years.”

“Perhaps we can make another journey, then,” Boromir said, and stepped back. Thorongil spurred her horse and cantered away, down the road and into the forest, out of sight.

“Did Thorongil say when she would come back?” Faramir asked that night after supper. She did not seem upset, merely curious.

Boromir shook her head, reaching out to tug at the braids along Faramir’s part — already she was wearing her hair in the Arnothian style. It suited her. “But I am sure we will see her again.”