In lowly pomp ride on to die
The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, no will be made from this story.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die! – Henry H. Milman
With grateful thanks to Raksha for all her help with this chapter
Faramir awoke from a few hours of uneasy sleep. His back throbbed painfully and it took considerable strength of will to drag himself from his bed. When he tried to dress, he found the dried blood had caused his nightshirt to stick to his back.
He struggled into his robe and called for the servants to fill the bathtub in his room with hot soapy water. It was an unusual request for him to make at this hour, but was obeyed unquestioningly. Faramir had always been a favourite with the Citadel's many retainers, who liked him for his modest and kindly manner. Now they treated him with a new respect, which had previously been reserved for his brother.
Faramir soaked in the tub until the water started to cool. The soap-filled water eased his back, at least enough for him to move with little pain. Then he dressed. Breakfast, brought for him while he had bathed, held little allure; but he forced himself to eat some of the fresh-baked bread and sausage. The coming day, whatever it brought, would demand all his strength, and a wise soldier, whether guardsman or Captain, knew to take food when it was offered. A servant informed Faramir that the Steward had summoned all the captains to a council.
The morning dawned like a brown dusk and Faramir's heart was heavy as he made his way to the Council Chamber.
"We should not lightly abandon the outer defences," said Denethor, "It is at Osgiliath that the Enemy will put his weight, as before when Boromir denied him the passage.'
'That was but a trial," said Faramir. "Today we may make the Enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage and yet rue the exchange."
"And what of Cair Andros?" said Prince Imrahil. ''That, too, must be held, if Osgiliath is defended."
"Much must be risked in war,' said Denethor. 'Cair Andros is manned and no more can be sent so far. But I will not yield the River and the Pelennor unfought - not if there is a captain here who has still the courage to do his lord's will." He looked at Faramir as he spoke, his eyes issuing challenging him.
All fell silent at the Steward's words. The captains were brave men, but they believed that they would better employ their men on the City's impregnable walls than in so risky a mission.
Faramir saw that this challenge was his alone. There was choice but to take it; as the Steward's sworn man, he could not disobey him over a difference in the disposition of troops. Neither choice offered much hope; and if he refused, Faramir would not only forfeit his honour, but Denethor would merely appoint another captain to lead the men in his place. And in truth, Faramir yearned to prove to his father, though it might be for the last time, that he was indeed as bold as his lost brother. Finally, he made his reply: "I do not oppose your will, sire. Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead - if you command it."
"I do so," said Denethor.
'Then farewell!' said Faramir. "But if I should return, think better of me!"
'That depends on the manner of your return,' said Denethor coldly. "You are dismissed!"
Faramir walked from the room, hoping none would notice the slight stiffness with which he moved. Angry mutterings broke out amongst the assembly, only to be quelled by Denethor's cold glance.
"Is it wise to send Captain Faramir forth into such peril, my lord?" Imrahil questioned. "He is now after all, your sole heir and Gondor has need of him."
"He should expect no special treatment," Denethor said curtly. "The Council is dismissed."
Faramir tried not wince as his manservant helped him don his armour.
"Are you well, my lord?" the young man enquired.
"The darkness lies heavily upon us all," said Faramir. He forced himself to smile. "Should I not return, Narmacil, I thank you for all your years of service to me."
The servant fell silent, too overcome for further conversation.
On his way to join his men, Faramir espied his Uncle together with his cousin Elphir. He noted wistfully how father and son smiled at each other, how Imrahil gazed fondly at Elphir and put his arm around his son's shoulders, before parting with a kiss of blessing. Imrahil was overseeing the Outer Defences while Elphir remained within Minas Tirith.
Faramir's heart ached as much as his back. His father had sent him forth with blows rather than blessings.
Faramir slowly made his way to the stable yard where his company were preparing to depart. In a loud voice he cried "We ride to defend Osgiliath, but I would not take any man unwilling. Let those who prefer to remain to guard the City, do so!"
Only a handful of men turned aside, so great was their love for their Captain.
Gandalf it was that last spoke to Faramir ere he rode east "Do not throw your life away rashly or in bitterness,' he said, as if reading the young man's mind. "You will be needed here, for other things than war. Your father loves you, Faramir, and will remember it ere the end. Farewell!"
Faramir could only wish that he shared the Grey Pilgrim's conviction that his father cared for him. After last night, it was hard to believe.
Those remaining in the City watched Faramir ride out and muttered amongst themselves. "They give him no rest," some murmured. "'The Lord drives his son too hard, and now he must do the duty of two, for himself and for the one that will not return."
Faramir wondered sadly how he could ever fill his brother's place. He could only try to lead with Boromir's valour. Faramir was painfully aware that even should he triumph against all odds, his mission would still not suffice to raise his worth in Denethor's eyes. How clearly obvious his father's disapproval must be, if even the folk in the streets murmured of it. This battle was his chance to acquit himself with honour, even if it ultimately cost him his life. If he could hold the enemy in Osgiliath even a day, the delay might provide enough time for the Rohirrim to come and save the City. Perhaps his father would at least remember him in death with some of the approval he had withheld in life.
Two days later, Faramir and his men found themselves fighting for their very lives, as the ordered retreat that he had shepherded from the Forts splintered under the screams of the Nazgûl.
Bravely they battled Haradrim hordes, fierce Orcs and worse of all, the Nazgûl, whose very presence made the blood run cold in all who beheld him and drained all hope from the hearts of Men. Swords clashed and arrows flew. Bravely the Men of Gondor fought. Outnumbered ten to one their cause was a hopeless one.
Faramir gave the order to retreat and started back towards the City. Somehow he kept those of his men who were left together.
Intent on fighting a Haradrian horse soldier, the Captain failed to notice the Southron arrow aimed at his heart until it was too late. Faramir gave a low cry and fell senseless to the ground.
Imrahil had ridden forth with his men to cover the retreat. Dismayed, he saw his kinsman fall. Heedless of his own safety he urged his horse forward to the aid of his stricken nephew snatching him just in time from the Southron swords, which sought to hew him to pieces. Placing Faramir in front of him, he urged his horse to gallop back to the City.
Fury blazed within the Prince's heart. How could Denethor have risked his surviving son like this? Faramir was no common soldier, but the heir on whom all Gondor's hopes now rested. This young man had a rare gift of inspiring hope within Men's hearts. Where Denethor had been feared, Faramir was admired and loved. Whenever he saw Faramir, Imrahil could glimpse his long-dead sister in her son's eyes. His poor sister had been as much a sacrifice for Gondor as both her sons now seemed fated to be.
Men wept in the streets as Imrahil bore his stricken nephew in his arms and the people cried out Faramir's name.
The Prince Imrahil brought Faramir to the White Tower, where he said to the Steward: Your son has returned, lord, after great deeds. But Denethor rose and looked on the face of his son with ashen eyes and no words. At last he bade them make a bed in the chamber and lay Faramir upon it and depart. Denethor turned from the still form of his son, then suddenly left the chamber.
Imrahil was surprised that no healer had been summoned for the Steward's heir. He could only assume that they were all otherwise occupied in tending the many wounded. Imrahil, who had received some training in the Healing Arts, decided they could not afford to wait. The longer the arrow remained in Faramir's body, the greater the chance that a fatal infection could arise.
With the help of a servant, Imrahil divested Faramir of his armour and cut away the clothing surrounding the wound. He then called for hot water, salves and bandages to be brought. Heating a knife in the fire, he deftly cut the arrowhead from Faramir's flesh. To Imrahil's great relief, the wound was neither deep nor vital, the arrow having embedded itself in the muscles of his nephew's shoulder. Neither the injury nor the arrow that had dealt it seemed to be poisoned. Yet Faramir did not awaken, to Imrahil's concern, even after the arrow was extracted. And Faramir's skin felt feverishly warm and clammy.
Imrahil cleaned and bandaged the wound; and was just about to search for further hurts, when Denethor returned and dismissed him. The Steward's face was grey and haggard. He looked even more ill than his son.
Imrahil had no choice but to reluctantly leave Faramir alone in his father's hands, and return to the defence of the City.
A/N I fear I am not good at writing battle scenes and could not have written this chapter without Raksha's help.
This chapter is dedicated to everyone who requested my version of Faramir at Osgiliath.
Some dialogue is taken directly from Tolkien's "The Return of the King."
A very grateful thank you to everyone who reviewed. Each and every comment is greatly appreciated.