On the morning of King Elessar's coronation, Boromir awoke, still inebriated, nauseous, head pounding, and with such a pain in his knees that he could not walk but for a hobbling limp. The day was cloudy, and he felt it in his knees and shoulder, all of the old wounds tightening, as if the tendons had drawn together, stringing achingly taut over the bone. As if the fading alcohol was tensing his entire body – his sinews growing rigid, painful. He knew the old technique of easing the after-drink’s effects was to have a quick morning drink, he knew that would relieve him enough from this morning pain, and so he found his old flask, drank from it, even though it disgusted him to do so, and tucked it into his pocket for later.
Attendants. They bustled in, surrounded him, dressed him, cut his hair, trimmed his beard, nearly cleaned his ears until he barked at them to leave him be. The most ceremonial of attire was laid out - all black with fine silver embroidery, heavy cloak, polished black leather boots. The Steward's emblem – is it even needed anymore? – the suffocatingly stiff collar. Boromir endured it all until he felt the walls closing in on him, and then he roared an order to be gone, scattering the entourage.
An hour later, someone arrived from the Houses of Healing. Ioreth. The elderly woman bustled in at mid-morning, for Boromir had snarled at an attendant to find him some balm for his knees, and she had come as a result of this request, bearing a bitter draught.
"Something to smooth the day's edges," she said rather vaguely.
"Just give me something so that I may kneel when the time comes."
The draught worked quickly. It dulled his mind to a half-drowsy, half-giddy state; just enough for him to feel the pain as a throb, and not a sting, just enough for him to half-smile when King Elessar had been crowned. He passed the rest of the day - with all the Citadel cleaned and polished and fashioned in high celebration; and all the attendants trailing each figure, Boromir, Faramir, Aragorn, the halflings; and the swelling crowd amassed in the Citadel courtyards and beyond, further down, spilling out into the sixth circle and further; the entire ceremony, with its pomp and blazing silver trumpets - all of this Boromir had passed in a semi-drugged, residually intoxicated state, his mind clouded, his vision blurred. Barad-dûr had been silenced.
Yet, as day became night, and the celebration moved to the Great Hall of Feasts where a great revelry would take place, Boromir found his knees alive with pain, his stomach festering, and, once again, the stale torment of Barad-dûr itching at his every scar. As the draught faded, he grew more and more troubled, scowling so obviously that Pippin had jested with him when they took their seats, thinking Boromir was listening to their conversation. Ah, I’m sure they won’t bother you, Boromir. I can tell them everything they need to know – and then think, the Song of Pippin! Ha! I’d like to hear it!
The Great Hall of Feasts. They all sat now, all the Fellowship, as King Elessar had wished it, at the long wooden table, front and center. The King sat in the center, with Gandalf to his right, followed by Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir at the end. On his left, Frodo, then Sam, followed by Pippin and Merry. The other tables, filled to the brim with laughing, talking, excited courtiers and courtesans, nobles, governors, soldiers, elves, everyone, they were all arranged around the room, with a space left in the center for bards.
The feast. Venison, pork, quail, pheasant, fish. Bread and mead and the finest wine, aged to perfection. Vegetables of every sort - even the most exotic, coming from as far as Umbar. Spices and fruits and sweetmeats, everything. Each table was loaded with food, and there was much talking, laughing, singing.
“Have I yet told you of Helm’s Deep?”
“…and the ships, black sails, I cried, for knowing not…”
“Nay, Gandalf, unfair! You cannot stop there!”
Boromir could not eat. He could barely tolerate the stuffy Hall now that the draught had left him. Left him free to wander in his dark thoughts, left him free to grit his teeth at the pain. He prayed they did not ask him to rise and make a toast, for his knees blazed acute, the ache crawling through his legs, into every other old wound. He began to wonder how he would stand at all, and if they would have to drag him out.
“To the King! To Elessar Telcontar!”
“And to the Nine Walkers, to the Fellowship!”
“Ha ha! Oh, sit down, you old fool!”
“…wait, of what was I speaking? I have forgotten.”
“Surely that is fiction! I cannot believe it!”
And with each cheer, with each toast, with each song, Boromir felt the panic grow - the walls, the walls, the fire and the walls and so close, so close, all closing in, the mask, I cannot breathe - until he felt he would never be able to resist this night if he did not drink himself into numb docility. Yet he could not do that either, for tonight was as much political orchestration as revelry. And so he drank sparingly, ignoring his food, slouching low to relieve the pain in his legs.
“To Frodo of the Nine Fingers!”
“…nay, nay, they used a curved blade, such as the Haradrim prefer…”
“What wine is this? I could swear it be of the year 3015…”
At the end of the table, he had few to speak with. Gimli spent much of his time bantering with Legolas and Aragorn, or recounting, for the seemingly thousandth time, his adventures in Rohan or on the Pelennor. At the nearest table, perpendicular to his own, Boromir saw Imrahil, Faramir, Éowyn, Éomer and a slew of others. Occasionally, Faramir would turn his head and smile warmly at him, but the younger brother spent most of his time speaking with Éowyn. Looking further on, he saw Beregond, Iorlas and Amlaith seated with all the soldiery. Iorlas caught Boromir’s eye, raised his goblet and made a humorous, disgusted face.
“Right ho, Pip! But tell them of the…”
“Ha! Perhaps they will, I know not, but in Umbar they have ever…”
“…three score, I swear, and the sun beating down…”
And so Boromir drank, slouching low, scowling, with nothing to tear his thoughts from the usual, empty void - that black place, where all was screaming dripping tearing thrusting dying and dying and dying again. Once seeing that he was, indeed, not needed for any toasts or conversations - Imrahil is right, I have already been replaced - Boromir allowed himself another goblet, another swallow of the only draught at hand, the only medicine to numb his pains. The noise of the Hall grew loud as the night wore on and tongues were loosened.
“Ha ha ha! I will tell you this one, but, my lady, close your ears, if you will…”
“A song! A song! Let the periann sing!”
“…aye, and what would an elf princeling know of that?”
The bards arrived. Songs. Songs for every Fellowship member, even himself, Boromir recognized dully, though by this time he was becoming too inebriated to follow the lyrics. But he saw others listening, smiling, cheering, nodding their heads in his direction, and so he guessed whatever the bard sang, it was a lie. Harps, lutes, the four-stringed guitar.
“…and all who cried, voices, all did cry,
Nay, not dead, villains speak but a lie – a lie – a lie,
Through smoke and fire
Our fair prince wanders
With shining sword and shining eyes
And shining smile burns bright the skies
Crying ‘GONDOR! GONDOR!’…”
“Oh, that’s enough, Sam, I should say…”
“…here’s a better one, if you do heed, this one will make even Prince Imrahil blush…”
“…three elves lost and gone,
Spreading ‘round their weary song,
‘Exiles we are! Exiles free!
Free to roam and wander, ever free!’…”
“Are you going to eat that?”
“…it has been an Age since I have traveled through those lands.”
Blurs. Disarray. Confusion. Smoke choking the room. Yells. A dance. Boromir leaned forward, feeling his limbs suddenly loose and unwieldy, placed his goblet somewhat heavily on the table. A serving-maid arrived. She poured, she nodded. He smiled, he drank. The knees were silenced. Barad-dûr screams were softened. He drank again.
Suddenly, Faramir was before him. Boromir had not seen him stand from his table and walk over, but when he blinked blearily his brother was abruptly there, smiling red-faced.
"Ah, elder brother..." Was Faramir drunk as well? "How do you enjoy the feasting?"
"Well enough," Boromir shrugged. He felt a vague pull at his weak shoulder, but all was numb now, numb and silent and dull and tolerable.
"You sit apart."
Boromir blinked, looked around. Indeed, there was a crowd at the far end of his table, where the hobbits were. Gimli and Legolas had left their seats, and all the others were leaning over, talking, laughing, cheering. He could not see, but there was some sort of contest going on. The rest of the Hall was a mess of bards, acrobats, singers, people mingling and smoking and drinking. It was dizzying to behold, and Boromir could make little sense of it.
"I did not realize."
Faramir straightened, surveyed the scene. As Boromir's vision focused, he saw his brother's hair was somewhat damp near the temples and neck. Sweat. A face flushed with drink. Yes, Faramir was a little drunk. Yet he stood straight and tall, and so was in better condition than Boromir, at least.
"Come," Faramir said suddenly. "Let us out of this stifling Hall." He looked at Boromir with serious expression. "I wish to speak with you."
Boromir nodded his assent, struggled to stand. His knees nearly gave out in the exertion, but soon enough, with the help of the table and armrest, he was up, if somewhat unsteadily. And so they left the Hall, quickly, inconspicuously, Boromir limping diagonally and Faramir striding loosely.
The Courtyards. The moon waxed large, illuminating everything blue. Once outside, with the cool breeze and the clear air and the silence, Faramir slowed his pace, loosened his collar. Boromir too unbuttoned some of his doublet, feeling finally less constricted. And so they walked at a leisurely pace, passing the White Tree as it hung mournfully dry, passing the guards on duty, approaching one of the walls. And there they found a private spot, leaned against the parapet, peered down into the sleeping city.
They watched Minas Tirith below them for some time, until Faramir spoke:
"'Twas becoming intolerable. I thought I should swoon if I did not suffocate first."
"The Lady Éowyn did leave some time ago, and I too would have left had not the good Éomer snared me into a ring of questions and talk and tales." Faramir sighed. "It is good to be outside."
Boromir remained silent.
“You have been quiet this evening.”
Boromir looked over his brother's shoulder. "Is there a bench nearby? I would sit ere my legs lose all their strength."
Faramir laughed. "Ah! Too much wine? That is the brother I knew. Come, there is one a ways down."
Yet Boromir, who limped and clenched his teeth and half-grinned, shook his head and said, "'Tis not only the drink." They arrived to the bench, where Boromir unceremoniously collapsed, adjusting himself so that he could stretch his legs. “'Tis these wretched knees.” He grunted. “They have ached since morning.”
Faramir eased himself beside him. "When did you injure them so?"
"You will laugh if I tell you."
"All the more reason to tell."
"I fell in a well."
"A well?" Faramir sputtered. He chuckled. "How – ?"
"'Twas during a light skirmish with an Easterling band. We came on them, in surprise, and, in the midst of the fighting, I was knocked in."
"This was during your time with the adraefan?"
Boromir's expression darkened, losing any trace of mirth. He nodded, muttered stiffly, "Aye..."
"You ne'er speak of them."
"I do not wish to."
Boromir did not respond. Instead, he changed the subject, "What did you wish to speak of?"
At this, Faramir’s expression fell. He became stony-faced. He looked away, sighed, crossed his arms, shifted his weight. Boromir immediately understood - for these were Faramir's typical gestures when he had poor news to deliver. It seemed every member of the Citadel had some wicked tale to tell him since returning home. Boromir waited.
Finally, Faramir looked down, picked a lint from his breeches, swallowed visibly. "Brother... what have they told you of our father?"
"That he died upon the walls of the city, during the Siege."
"That is all I know."
"There is more to it."
...akrum, glu-bûb. Krank kul-matûrz, matûrz , matûrz sha ghaash...
Boromir shifted in his seat. Trickling, trickling, trickling. Barad-dûr trickling, like the drip drip drip in his cell. It was spilling in again. His vision swam back and forth, but he saw Faramir clenching and unclenching his hands, in obvious discomfort. And Boromir suddenly desired to stop Faramir, to tell him that he did not want to know, not now, for the black memories were spilling in, and soon he would be debilitated, soon he would be again - again - again - do not think of it.
"As you know..." Faramir began, his voice tight with emotion, “our father did slip easily into despair. More and more as the Shadow grew, he…”
Short breaths. Barad-dûr whispers. Boromir could not still the pounding in his heart. As Faramir spoke, Boromir began to search within his doublet. He shoved his hand in, searched, searched, finally found the cool, calming metal of the flask. This he pulled out, began to unscrew, only half-listening to what Faramir was saying. Nay, there was no need to listen. Boromir already knew, already understood, could already guess. And he did not want to listen, no, no, no. Could not his brother leave this to another day? Another moment? An easier moment?
…nar rad, flogr-ufum garmadh…
Faramir did not seem to notice the movement, he was entirely preoccupied, entirely focused, his brow knit in painful remembrance, his voice strained.
“…two arrows, so I knew nothing of this until Prince Imrahil told me. No one desired to tell me the truth of it. ‘Tis an evil tale, aye, and – and I…”
Boromir drank from his flask, feeling the warm liquor burn through his throat, burn away some of the Mordor whispers, burn away some of the pain in his knees and prickling in his stomach. His vision swam, back and forth, back and forth, swaying, so that it nauseated him to focus on Faramir and listen to his brother’s murmurs. And the gibbering tongue, that gibbering whisper, fading in and out, pounding in his chest, his heart, blackening, and he could hear only – Krank kul-matûrz, matûrz , matûrz sha ghaash!
Yet, while Boromir’s discomfort grew, so did Faramir’s. For he was telling the tale now, telling the tale’s vile core, stumbling over his words, choking on certain memories, staring at his boots. Leaning forward, elbows on knees, face turned away.
“…burned himself alive…”
Boromir could not listen, not now. He would hear of it later. Now, panic. Now, short breath. Now, heart pounding. Now, now, now. Now was not a good time. He felt the sudden, childish urge to find the Guardsmen – to find his friends in the Guard who never spoke of such things. And as he held the flask, it began to shake and shiver and tremble in his wavering hands. Finally, Faramir noticed, for he looked up, tears in his eyes, and saw Boromir’s hands. And Faramir, poor Faramir, misread this reaction, and placed a comforting hand on his brother’s weak shoulder.
“I am sorry, brother,” Faramir whispered.
Boromir stood suddenly, the pain igniting in his knees, the flask falling from his grip, clattering against the ground. He pulled his arm away, stood, stumbled a step or two.
“Enough, Faramir, enough!” he barked. “I will hear no more.”
Faramir blinked. He still held his hand forward, where Boromir had been.
“Why do you harass me with this talk?”
Faramir wiped his eyes, stood slowly. “What mean you?”
“Do not think you will yoke any pity from me!”
A distant part of Boromir’s mind registered vaguely that this was wrong. A distant part urged him to stop, to end this senseless ranting. This was his brother. And his father? What was it? Burned alive? A distant part of his mind was screaming.
Faramir’s face flushed. “Pity?”
“Aye, ‘tis always been the same with you! E’er dwelling on whatever minor insult has injured you! Can you not see that perhaps I care not to hear these wild tales?”
Stop. Stop. This is madness.
“Wild tales?” Faramir’s stood, aghast. “Brother, it is the truth!”
“Well, I will hear none of it! You are only hear to torment me, and what have I done to you? Nothing! Is this the respect you - ”
“Boromir, are you mad? ‘Tis our fath – ”
And in a sudden flash, a burst forward, an enraged roar, Boromir grabbed Faramir’s collar, twisting it viciously, strangling him, so that Faramir’s hands instinctively flew up. They slammed back against a wall, Faramir writhing away, Boromir pushing forward.
“Aye, perhaps I am mad, perhaps!” Boromir barked, pushed further. Faramir choked something, pulled at his fingers. “Perhaps, perhaps. For I hear screaming and now you tell me our father is dead by his own hand… Aye, perhaps we are all mad, and I… I…”
Father matûrz dead glu-bûb by own hand sha gaash and and and…
And Boromir suddenly released his brutal grip on Faramir’s collar, stumbled away, feeling sick. And all the grief and horror and pain flooded his mind, relentless, pushing forward with the bile in his throat. Faramir watched him, holding his neck, gasping for air.
And in that moment, a group of laughing, drunken Men approached, coming from the Hall, crossing the Courtyard towards them. Boromir and Faramir both turned. And they saw Éomer and Elfhelm of Rohan, Hirlaeg the Tall of Pinnath Gelin, and Ingold of the Rammas Echor Guard. When Éomer spotted the brothers, he raised his arm from Elfhelm’s shoulder.
“Ho! The brothers! The heroes! Left so early, eh?”
The stumbling group approached, and Éomer pulled Faramir into a sudden, crushing embrace. The other Man had little time to react, and so he simply wheezed as the air was slammed out. And without further deliberation, Éomer released him, grabbed Boromir and performed a similar embrace. Boromir was too stunned to do anything, and before he knew what was happening, he was shaking hands with Elfelm and Ingold and Hirlaeg was slamming his back. And they were speaking, the words slurring, loud, so that Boromir, in his own inebriation, could not understand.
“…Fellowship adventures, I say! Incredible!”
“Tell us of the mines, my lord!”
As he was jostled and encouraged and goaded, and the nausea pitched forward, sickening, Boromir saw, over their shoulders, his brother staring at him. And with such an expression, such an expression, Boromir’s heart nearly burst for it. Weary eyes, and a reddened neck, and a pained scowl. Yet before Boromir could disentangle himself, before he could say anything, Faramir turned and left, walking quickly away. Boromir watched, watched his brother walk across the Courtyard, disappear back into the Citadel.
And once Faramir was out of sight, Boromir threw up his hands, harshly, ripped himself away from the group.
Without a word, he fled them. Walking as quickly as his knees permitted. Walking away, away, another balcony, anywhere. Almost encouraging the pain as it shot up through his legs and into his stomach and everywhere, while, behind him, he could hear the voices calling:
“My lord Boromir?”
“Ho! Boromir? What’s this?”
“Sir, what offense?”