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The Passing of Years

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Boromir woke him with a kiss. Beyond the windows, the sky was still dark, with only the faintest shimmer beginning to fade the stars. "Good morning, Faramir," his brother murmured. "Come, quickly, before our tutors are awake."

Leading Faramir through the courtyard and down to the stables, where they mounted their horses, Boromir was silent; silent, too, as they ride through the gates of the still-waking city and across the fields.

The copse of trees was very old, yet Faramir had never ridden into them before, and strangely he had never thought to ask why they remained, surrounded by open meadows. In the midst of the thicket lay a ruined statue, legs and arms shattered, though the features were intact.

For a long while Faramir stood staring at the face, forgetting his brother's presence. The statue, he was certain, must have been the image of a king, though it bore no crown. Stone eyes gazed back, unseeing, and Faramir felt suddenly that he was in the presence of the familiar. "Who are you?" he asked, and was startled by the surprised laugh behind him.

"One of the ancient lords of this land, I think, though no man alive can say which," Boromir replied. "I knew that you would want to see. Long have I wondered what these trees concealed; I do not think that even Father knows, and the men do not come here, out of some long-held dread of the secret."

Faramir looked once more into the ageless face of the nameless man, unable to escape the sense that he knew him -- or would know him. In the eyes he thought he saw an image he had known before...his grandfather perhaps, or the likeness of one of the kings of old from one of the books in the library. But the light beyond the trees was beginning to fill the sky, and his dreamlike wonder faded with the dawn.

"What made you think to bring me here?" he demanded.

"A dream," his brother replied brusquely. "I saw the fields, and the copse, and when I rode in, I saw this man in life, with you by his side. I do not know what it means."

"Nor do I." Faramir reached to touch the stone, surprised to find it warm beneath his fingers. "But I thank you. I feel as if I have known him."

Then, smiling, Boromir pulled a blanket from his pack and spread it on the ground, beckoning Faramir. He had fruit and a flask among his things, biscuits stolen from the kitchen...and a bottle of sweet oil hidden in a pocket.

"Would he not take offense?" asked Faramir, slightly shocked, nodding at the statue. "Perhaps this grove is sacred."

"Yet if he loves this land, then he must also love you," Boromir whispered with certainty. "I do not think that he will mind. Happy birthday, my brother."

~~~~

Aragorn wakes him with a kiss. Beyond the windows, the sky is still dark, with only the faintest shimmer beginning to fade the stars. "Good morning, Faramir," his king murmurs. "Come, quickly, before our families are awake."

Leading Faramir through the courtyard and down to the stables, where they mount their horses, Aragorn is silent; silent, too, as they ride through the gates of the still-waking city and across the fields.

The copse of trees has stood here all his life, yet Faramir has ridden into only once before, and he has still never asked why they remain, surrounded by open meadows. In the midst of the thicket he finds the ruined statue, untouched by the armies of Mordor, its features unchanged since he was little more than a youth.

For a long while Faramir stands staring at the face, forgetting his lord's presence. The statue, he still believes, must be the image of a king, though it bears no crown. Stone eyes gaze back, and Faramir knows suddenly that he is in the presence of the familiar. "Who are you?" he asks again, and is unsurprised by the laugh behind him.

"One of our common ancestors, I think, though perhaps not even an elf could say which," Aragorn replies. "The men do not come here, out of some long-held dread of the secret, but I wanted to see it with you."

Faramir looks once more into the ageless face of the nameless man and knows him, even if he has no name to put to the statue. In the eyes he thinks he sees images of those he has known before...his brother, his father, the first Steward, the last King, the line stretching back to Numenor. He looks at Aragorn and it is much the same: the history of their people contained in one man. But the light beyond the trees is beginning to fill the sky, and his dreamlike certainty fades with the dawn.

"How did you know to bring me here?" he demands.

"Boromir told me," the King replies simply. "He spoke of the fields, and the copse, and the statue. He said that he had dreamed of seeing this man in life, with you by his side, but I do not know what it means."

"I do." Faramir reaches to touch the stone, but it feels cold beneath his fingers. Turning, he reaches for Aragorn's hand instead, swallowing his tears. "And I thank you. You have brought my brother back to me, and my father as he was, and all the Stewards and Kings before him."

Then, smiling, Aragorn pulls a blanket from his pack and spreads it on the ground, beckoning Faramir. He has berries and a flagon among his things, sweets stolen from the kitchen...and a bottle of sweet oil hidden in a pocket.

"You would celebrate here?" asks Faramir, nodding at the statue. "I have always believed that this grove must be sacred."

"Yet if he loves Gondor, then he must also love you," Aragorn whispers without hesitation. "I think he would wish his blessing upon you. Happy birthday, my Steward."