It is so ungodly hot in Boromir’s chambers that Faramir has stripped down to her petticoats, is sprawled in shirtsleeves and bare feet across her sister’s bed. She was hoping, when she made her way here from her own rooms across the castle, that perhaps their father had gifted Boromir with… she didn’t know what. A man, perhaps, whose sole duty was to fan Boromir until she reached the temperature of her liking. A block of ice, magicked into sentience by one of the great wizards of old, that would follow her sister around at just the right distance to cool her without giving her a chill. Some sort of large insect that could, once installed on the wall, flap its wings quickly enough to create a cool breeze.
Since Boromir was not here upon her arrival and has not since appeared, Faramir can only conclude that their father has forgone all those formalities and simply shipped her off to cooler climes. Perhaps he even chased after her carriage, calling things like, “I hope you will be comfortable on your journey, Boromir, my favorite and most beautiful daughter!” and “I hope that by the time you’ve returned your sister, whatever her name is, shall have sweated herself to death without my ever having to countenance her again!”
It is possible that the heat has brought out some bitterness in Faramir. It would not be the first time.
She has no time to consider this further, however, as before she can draw her next breath a cloth, soaking wet, is dropped across the whole of her face. For a moment Faramir struggles against it, gasping wetly and drawing fabric into her mouth, before the immense cooling sensation registers itself and she sighs deeply, relaxing into the pillows.
“Sister,” Boromir says, a little mischief in her voice. “I must have taken a wrong turning — I could have sworn I was headed for my own rooms, and yet, here you are.”
Beneath the cloth, Faramir can’t help but grin. “And here I thought you were the future steward of Gondor. Is it not said that it is becoming of royalty to share one’s good fortune, whether that good fortune comes in form of riches, glory, or softness of bed?”
“Too right,” Boromir says, and plucks the cloth off Faramir’s face. When Faramir makes a dismayed noise, Boromir winks, says, “You are to be royalty too, you know.”
Faramir makes a face, and Boromir’s responding scowl is representative on a conversation they’ve had for time without end — there is little point in having it again. Boromir is brave and good and honest, but for all that she is rarely given to seeing the truths of the people she loves. She is set upon the idea that she shall be steward and Faramir shall rule just beside her — well, beside and slightly below — no matter how many times Faramir tells her that she would sooner die than spend the whole of her life within the walls of this castle. She will stay long enough to see Boromir take the crown, long enough to ensure that their plan, all the little ways they’ve been working to undercut their father’s increasingly mad decisions, does not go awry, and then she will depart, and good riddance to the entire place.
Well. Not to Boromir. Nor, now that she thinks on it, to several of the horses, the kitchen staff, the stable hands, or any of the citizenry, whose fault it certainly isn’t that this castle holds mostly miserable memories for its youngest daughter. The rest of them, though, she will not be sorry to see the back of.
“You are brooding,” Boromir says, not incorrectly.
“What is it to you if I am?”
Boromir seems to consider this for a moment, and then, with a bit too much cheer to be very convincing, says, “I believe, as the eldest, it is I who is meant to brood.” And then, with considerably less aplomb, “Shove over.”
Faramir does, and they lay there in silence for a time, passing the cloth back and forth between them until it is no longer cool, and placing it against their foreheads does nothing. Then, with an uncomfortable clearing of her throat, Boromir says, “Faramir?”
Her tone is weighted enough that Faramir knows what’s coming already, but — more out of kindness than any sense of duty — she says, “Yes, Boromir?”
“You know I care for you,” Boromir says, her voice a hush in the overheated still of the room. “And I worry — we leave at sunrise tomorrow for Rivendell and I — we have agreed not to dwell upon it, and I think we were right to, but the time is at hand and I — ah, well. I know it is too much to ask that you promise me you will be all right until I return.”
But you will ask it anyway, Faramir thinks wryly, and does not say. It would only sour Boromir’s temper, and for all her brooding she wishes their last hours together to be light, fond, to remind her of childhood summers shrieking in laughter as they chased one another across the grounds. That is why, after all, she made Boromir promise not to speak of it after the plans for the journey were first set in place, three days past. It is why she has been laying here, sulking on her sister’s bed, for the better part of an the afternoon — in truth she was afraid to go seeking Boromir’s tense shoulders and warm laughter, for fear she’d find they were already gone.
She says, “A promise for a promise, then?”
Boromir tilts towards her, dark hair spilling across her pillow, one visible eye wary but interested just the same. “What do you propose, sister?”
“I shall promise to remain here, and be all right,” says Faramir slowly, “if you shall promise to return here, and be all right.”
“It is so sworn,” says Boromir gravely, and Faramir repeats the sentiment in kind. She gropes blindly for her sister’s hand, and they lay there, breathing shallow and hearts heavy, until they are called for dinner.
My dearest sister,
I know we agreed not to write, as I am terrible with correspondence and you insisted that to wait for its arrival would drive you mad, but I could not resist. There is so much that I wish you could see! The journey, of course, is arduous, and I regret that I cannot tell you more of the circumstances that necessitate it in this writing. I swear to you that when next I see you I shall tell you the whole of it — and what a tale it is! Battle! Adventure! And perhaps even great glory for Gondor, which, as you know, is my fondest dream.
I have met some creatures in my travels — hobbits, they are called — which remind me greatly of you, sister dear. They are strong of heart and have a mild nature, and wear no shoes at all, preferring as you do to run about with their feet bare for all to see. I confess, every time I see one of their hairy appendages I recall that winter when we were young, when you found that poultice in father’s study that you thought was a soap, and hair grew all down your feet and hands. I have taken to gaming with them in our spare moments, though I suspect they do not appreciate my good humor as much as you did when we were girls. Certainly the merriment I make with them, enjoyable though it may be, does not compare to that I made once with you.
Though there is much here to command my attention, I must confess that I miss you terribly, and await with eagerness the day I can return to Gondor with glory (and perhaps even one of my new hobbit friends!) yoked upon my shoulders. I hope that you are well, and that our father has in my absence taken to doting upon you as he once doted upon me, as you could use some new dresses, and are far more deserving of affection besides.
For days and days after she is awoken, Faramir’s fingers tremble despite her best efforts to still them. This, she feels, is unfair; her mind knows well enough that Denethor did not succeed in burning her alive, and it feels like the highest injustice that her body cannot seem to understand the same. Surely she has suffered worse than this — why, when the news of Boromir’s death —
— ah. Best not to think on that, Faramir remembers, as the rest of her body begins to tremble along with her hands. Too much rememberance leads, invariably, to weeping, and Faramir will never be allowed out of the Houses of Healing to aid in the rebuilding of Gondor if she cannot keep such displays at bay. It is what Boromir would want, for Faramir to sink her hands into the earth her sister was so hell-bent upon protecting and guiding and bringing to glory. She is the last of their line, and however deep the canyon in her heart where she once stored her love for her father, her love for Boromir will not flag. She will be all right, because she promised, once, to be so, however dismally Boromir failed in her own half of that bargain. She will be all right, because if the situation were reversed, she would not settle for anything else.
Still, her fingers tremble. Her fingers tremble and she is hot all over, has been hot since she was pulled at the last moment from the flames, and cannot seem to find it in herself to be cooled.
As if in response to this very thought, a damp cloth settles over her forehead, and for a mad second Faramir feels joy leap to life within her, heart sticking and staying in her throat. But, of course, it is not Boromir, does not even look like her when Faramir opens her eyes — there is, where she prayed her sister would be standing, a woman with fair hair and fine features instead.
She is lovely, Faramir thinks, for all she isn’t who she was hoping for, and tries to swallow the disappointment she knows must show in her eyes.
“Eowyn,” says the woman, a response to the question Faramir hadn’t found the words to ask. Though her voice is even Faramir can’t help glancing to her hands; they, like Faramir’s, are riddled with minuscule tremors, the trembling legacy of recent loss. She works despite this, applying salve to the worst of Faramir’s burns and scowling stubbornly when she sees Faramir looking, and a warm sort of recognition begins to kindle in the base of her spine, a fondness the likes of which she thought she had forgotten.
“Faramir,” she offers, and — for the first time since the pyre — forces herself to sit upright.