Mount Mindolluin stood tall against a bright sky, green-clad about its feet, its lofty crown distant and blue against the heights. Westward behind it marched the snow-capped peaks of the Ered Nimrais; eastward lay one solitary spur of stone -- the Hill of Guard -- upon which stood the Tower of the Guard, Minas Tirith of the white walls and the shining Tower.
Two brothers walked upon the heights of Mindolluin, following an ancient path now little used, but still faintly visible. The way was steep and difficult and the going was slow, but Boromir was undaunted, for he knew this path well and led the way with confidence. Faramir followed his brother and did not hesitate, though he had never before walked this path. He knew only that it led to a place very special to Boromir; for that reason alone, he was eager to see it.
"No lagging, now," called Boromir over his shoulder, as he clambered up a steep incline to the top of a ridge.
"Always so impatient!" retorted Faramir, who was not far behind. The was laughter in his voice belied the rebuke. "Stop treating me like a child! I am a captain in my own right and should be given proper respect!"
Boromir halted his upward climb and turned to his brother. "Forgive me, Captain Faramir!" he said, bowing low. "I forget myself. Yet, when I look upon you, I cannot help but see a small boy still, instead of a tall captain -- a boy who used to trail after me everywhere I went. You are well-grown now, and a captain worthy of honor, but you still cannot keep the pace!"
Boromir stretched out his hand, and Faramir clasped it, allowing himself to be hauled up beside his brother.
"Thank you," Faramir said with a smile. "Though, of course, I did not need a hand up. I could have reached the ridge easily on my own -- and without lagging!"
"I know that," replied Boromir seriously. "I offered you my hand because it is my brotherly privilege and joy to serve you by aiding you at every opportunity." He bowed to his brother once more, then spoiled the solemn moment with a wink. "Now, no more lagging, or we shall never get there."
Faramir grinned and his laughter echoed from the hills. "Agreed, Brother; no more lagging." Faramir looked beyond Boromir to the rocky slope that stretched up towards the fields of snow above them. "Is it much further?"
"No, not so much further. But the way is very steep at the end, before we reach the high meadow."
"Steeper than this?" exclaimed Faramir, raising his eyebrows. Boromir flashed a grin at him and clapped a hand to his shoulder.
"What I have to show you when we reach the top will be well worth the climb, I assure you!"
"Lead on, then, my brother. I am done with lagging, and eager to see what it is you have to show me."
When at last they reached the plateau, they could go no further, for the mountain to the west reared up suddenly like a wall, and the wide field that stretched before them ended in a precipice that curved north, south, and east. They stood upon the brink of the world with the sun at their backs, gazing out over the wide valley of the Anduin, silent and in awe of the scene spread out before their eyes.
All of Gondor seemed to be laid out before them, from horizon to horizon. Below, the White City lay small yet impressive, her towers gleaming above the shadow which thrust forward from Mindolluin as the sun moved behind the hills. Beyond the Hill of Guard, they looked out eastward across the valley: past Anduin glinting brightly, past Osgiliath, hidden in mist and smoke, to the Mountains of Shadow, dark against the sky. For once, the Fire behind those Mountains was veiled by bright clouds that caught the sun.
Turning to the left, they could see afar off on the northern skyline the grey smudge of the Emyn Muil; for a moment the rays of the sun caught a gleam of light that might have been sunlight on mist and water -- the falls of Rauros upon the utmost edge of sight. Turning right, they saw the River winding away across the valley like a shining road, to Pelargir and beyond; the Sea was little more than a suggestion of brightness upon the southern horizon.
Faramir stood rapt and reverent, unable to speak. When at last he found his voice, he spoke quietly, so that Boromir had to lean forward to hear his words. "Well worth the climb indeed, my brother," breathed Faramir softly. "This is Gondor as I have never seen her before."
"Yes, this is Gondor," said Boromir solemnly, and his voice was rough with suppressed emotion. "I come here as often as I am able, to remind myself of my charge. Gondor! It is for this that we fight -- for this land, this City, this people...."
Boromir put his arm about his brother's shoulders, and they stood thus for many moments, silent together, drinking in the sight of their kingdom laid out before them. At last, Faramir sighed a deep, long sigh, but he did not speak. Boromir glanced at him keenly; he thought he knew what his brother might be thinking.
"War must be, Faramir," he said, "for we defend our very lives against a great Evil that threatens to devour us all." Boromir shifted his arm where it lay upon Faramir's shoulders, and turned him so that they were facing one another. "I know you are a man who loves peace," he continued, "and I regret that you must now put that aside to fight the long battle. But I would have no one else there where you are, in Ithilien with your Rangers. Father seems to doubt you at times -- but I do not! You are a strong leader, and I am content, knowing I can rely upon you. More than that, I can trust you in all things, for you care for this City and this kingdom as I do."
Faramir nodded but still spoke no word.
"Are you happy there in Ithilien, Faramir?" Boromir asked.
"You know I am."
"Yes; I know you have always loved that land. But I meant, are you happy to be there as a captain of men? As a warrior?"
Faramir gazed at his brother's face for a long moment before answering. "You know me well, my brother," he said with a fond smile. "Yes, I know that war must be while he who wishes to devour us still threatens, and I know that I must do my part in the battle. But I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend; my City -- our City!** I love you as well, my brother and Captain! I am with you in this, as in all things."
Faramir looked out once more at the shining towers of his City and the Mountains of Shadow, dark against the eastern sky.
"You are right to remind me of the reason we fight," he went on solemly. "And I am content that it should be so -- for now! But remember this, my brother; though fight we must, there is still room for gentleness and the way of peace. I yearn for this for our people, and I will seek it where I can, even as I fight! Because of our need, I shall learn the ways of the warrior from you; may you learn the ways of peace from me, so that all our actions in defense of our people may be bring us to that goal we most desire -- release from peril and rest from war. May the Valar grant that one day soon we may lay down our swords and our bows, because the Evil which threatens is defeated."
Boromir's eyes shone proudly as he gave his brother a sudden hard embrace. "All is well, then," he said happily. "With two such captains to defend her, Gondor will win through, one day. Come! Our City awaits."
Denethor straightened slowly, and gazed silently at the sphere of black crystal before him, now dark and at rest. He had learned much this session, for he had not been burdened with his usual struggle for control of the palantír with the Master of the Ithil-stone.
Sauron's thoughts are elsewhere today, thought Denethor, and he smiled grimly as he covered the palantír with a silk cloth. He left the room at the top of the Tower, locking behind him the door to the hidden chamber and tucking the key away in the folds of his robe. As he descended to the Hall below, he pondered what he had seen, and what he should do with the knowledge he had gained.
A chamberlain approached him respectfully as the Steward entered the Tower Hall.
"Send for my son," said Denethor with a wave of his hand. "Send for Boromir to come to me at once. We have grave matters to discuss."
"Yes, lord, at once." The chamberlain bowed. "And Faramir, lord?"
"Yes, yes, of course; I have need of both my sons today. No doubt when you find Boromir, you will find Faramir as well. Go quickly now, and bring them to me."
The chamberlain hurried from the Hall, and Denethor watched him go. When he heard the great door close behind the chamberlain, the Steward turned and paced slowly down the long Hall to his seat at the foot of the High Throne. As he walked, he spoke aloud to the echoing emptiness.
"Come quickly, Boromir, my son! An old enemy threatens from an unexpected quarter, but there is yet time to deal with the situation -- and, in doing so, strike a blow against the Dark Lord. This will be an opportunity for Gondor to show her strength, and a chance for Faramir to learn from you the ways of war. He has done well in Ithilien, and his leadership ability grows. But he is too careful... too gentle! Gentleness will not serve our need in these days... it will not serve...."
Denethor settled himself in his stone chair, without even a glance at the High Throne. He rested his hands in his lap and resigned himself to await the coming of his sons.
**Faramir's speech about war is borrowed from his talk with Frodo in "Window on the West" (TTT) -- I like to think that perhaps he and Boromir discussed such things together, and Faramir later might have recalled such a conversation when speaking with Frodo. The view from Mount Mindolluin was one that I have long envisioned and hoped existed in Boromir's world; thankful I was to discover it described, much as I had imagined it myself, in "The Steward and the King" (ROTK).