Written for the 2017 Yule Exchange for Linaewen (lin4gondor) with the theme of "brothers" and the elements "childhood adventure, snow."
“You have seen snowfall?”
Faramir waved his arms excitedly and Boromir rescued his sibling's cup before he could decorate Gandalf's robes with hot chocolate. Tthe stains would probably go unnoticed on the tattered grey fabric but courtesy required they show some respect to the elderly . . . wizard or not. Boromir was not sure that this Gandalf fellow was a wizard for he had performed no magic that he had noticed.
Gandalf only chuckled good humouredly. “Many times. There is a valley to the north which is snowed in for most winters.”
Faramir's brows drew into a frown. “What does 'snowed in' mean?”
At the grand old age of fifteen Boromir was eager to prove his maturity. “To be 'snowed in' means to be surrounded by snow so deep that one cannot pass. It means that you are trapped.”
“Trapped is too strong a word when applied to Rivendell. To consider oneself trapped is to imply that one is somewhere one does not wish to be.” Gandalf winked. “Whereas I can think of nowhere I would rather be than in Elrond's house during the Yule festivities.”
Boromir drew himself up to his full height and sniffed, an action reminiscent of his sire if still requiring a few inches for full effect. “This Elrond is an elf and father says elves are not to be trusted,” he pronounced sagely.
Gandalf fixed him with a gimlet gaze. “Of late your father seems to consider a great many people untrustworthy. Rivendell is a place of welcome to folk of all races.”
Pinned by those keen eyes, Boromir shifted uneasily but Gandalf did not pursue the matter, being distracted by ten year old Faramir's gentle tug at his sleeve. “But have you been outdoors during a snow storm? I have only seen snow from my window.”
Gandalf smiled down indulgently. “I have. Snow brings with it a soft silence and the flakes float, as light as thistledown. Sometimes they are single flakes that look as though all the stars in the heavens are falling whilst at other times they form clumps like wet down. They settle, filling the hollows and blowing into drifts so that even places that you know well, become unrecognisable.” Gandalf tapped Faramir's pert nose with a finger. “It is easy to become lost in a snow storm if one does not keep ones wits, young master, and some have even died.”
“More fool them for travelling in such weather,” Boromir pronounced.
“Few in Middle earth can control the weather, even were it wise to do so, so we must all take what weather we have, when and where it arrives. Even wizards and certainly stewards and their sons.” Gandalf glanced out of the window before collecting his staff from its place by the door. “I suggest that you stay indoors tomorrow. The weather looks to turn inclement.”
After the door closed Boromir snorted. “Very clever.”
Faramir clambered to his feet. “Why clever?”
His older brother helped him climb into bed. “Because it is the season for rain and he saw clouds on the horizon. He reads the weather as could any man, but because he calls himself a wizard, less intelligent folk assume he uses magic to predict the future.”
“Oh.” Faramir sounded disappointed as his brother tucked him in. “I would rather believe he uses magic. Do you think it may snow?”
Boromir ruffled his brother's hair. “Silly goose. Even when it snows on the mountain it never snows in the city. You said so yourself. Now go to sleep.” He bent to kiss his brother's brow and Faramir reached up to hug him briefly.
The younger boy settled down amongst his pillows. “I shall dream of snow anyway,” he announced.
He awoke next morning to a once familiar voice. “Tis past time you were up Master Faramir. This place is all at sixes and sevens today. A few flakes of snow and the whole city is brought low.”
Used to being awoken by a page nowadays, Faramir was surprised to hear his old nurse but it was her words that had him leaping out of bed and running for the window, hopping from foot to unshod foot on the icy floor. Beyond the glass Minas Tirith wore a fine gown of white snow.
“Master Faramir, your father would have my hide if you caught a chill.” The iron haired lady chivvied him back to the bed, dropping to her knees to cram his feet into fur lined slippers. Faramir suffered her attentions until the lady hoisted herself upright with a grunt.
“Well. Your up so they can't complain.” Winifred rubbed her knees absently. “I can't cope with these marble floors nowadays. Why Lord Denethor won't allow you a rug I'll never know.”
“Father says that as soldiers we will have no luxuries so we must get used to it now. Boromir will be starting proper training in the spring.” The youngster climbed into a large cushioned chair by the fire, tucking his feet beneath him.
Winifred sighed. “I doubt your lady mother would have agreed but tis not my place to form opinions on such things. Your pages are running late but will bring your breakfast and bath soon. Good morning to you Master Faramir.”
Faramir smiled. “Good day, Nurse Wini. and thank you for waking me.” His smile grew a little wistful. “I miss you.”
Winifred's eyes were a little misty. “I miss you, too, Faramine.”
Boromir arrived with the pages and once ablutions had been completed they sat before the fire sharing breakfast.
“The snow looks deep from up here,” Faramir commented as he chewed determinedly upon a piece of bacon, washing it down with a gulp of milk
Boromir leaned across the table to dab away a milk moustache before replying. “It is not half an inch deep but the whole city is in a spin. Even the citadel guard has been sent to clear the steeper parts of the public way because carts were slipping.” He helped himself to more scrambled eggs. He preferred them fried but his younger brother liked his eggs scrambled. Said brother now threw himself back in his chair with a dejected sigh.
“Winifred insisted I bathe and dress before taking a look and then came breakfast. All the snow will be gone before I am allowed outside.”
His elder glanced out of the window, to where the peak of white Mindolluin glistened in the sun. Faramir was right. Soon the city would be cleared and there would be no fun left for a young boy, or a teenage one for that matter.
Since their mother's death five years ago Denethor had become increasingly unpredictable. Neither boy saw him for days at a time so they had been thrown into each other's arms for comfort. Soon even that companionship would be gone. On rare occasion Boromir was summoned to his father's presence but talk was all of defence strategies and training in arms and now Denethor had decreed that his eldest was of an age to begin military training in earnest. Come spring Boromir would be removing to barracks on the lower level. It was time for him to set aside childish things.
Boromir took a deep breath and made his decision. Perhaps not quite time. The two brothers would have one last great adventure together, before duty swallowed both. Boromir leaned across the table to whisper conspiratorially. “Can you gather some things without your pages knowing?”
Faramir's eyes widened. “What things? Why?”
His older brother grinned. “We are going on an adventure. How would you like to climb Mindolluin and see real snowfall?”
Faramir bounced in his chair, voice rising. “Just we two?” Boromir moved nearer. “Shush! This is our secret.”
Not trusting his voice, Faramir only nodded eagerly.
“That's better. You will need a stout pair of boots. Old ones will do. Your new riding boots are too stiff. Do you have a back pack?”
“Yes. I'm sure I can find it.” Faramir would have run off to look but his brother restrained him.
“It will be colder on the mountain.” Boromir searched his memory for lessons from military tutors. “Wear warm clothes but in layers. Several thin layers are warmer than one thick one. Also put a blanket and spare jerkin in your backpack in case you get wet.”
Faramir nodded, his agile mind absorbing all this new information and already cataloguing the garments required. Boromir continued planning aloud.
“I shall arrange food supplies. I know the cooks. Be ready within the hour with your backpack under your cloak and ensure it is not so bulky that your pages will notice.”
“How will we get away? There are always pages and guards watching.” Faramir looked to his sibling, trusting that if anyone could find a way it would be his clever and resourceful brother.
In truth, Boromir had not considered this point. Now inspiration struck. “Do you know how to reach the door to Mama's garden?”
“The one father locked? Yes.”
“I know where he keeps the key. Meet me there in one hour.”
“I can do that, but won't my pages try to stop us? They may even call the guards.”
Boromir grinned. “Not if they are occupied elsewhere. Do you remember the old potting shed at the other end of the garden? The one father said was to be knocked down?”
Faramir nodded wistfully. “We used to hide in there until he forbade us. He says the roof is unsafe.”
Boromir grinned the grin that had got them into trouble many times over the years. “We shall give a helping hand with the demolition. The wood is old and dry so it will catch fire quickly.”
Even at his tender age Faramir had learned to be wary of that grin. “But what if it gets out of control. Could we burn down the Citadel? We don't want to hurt anyone.”
His older brother rolled his eyes. “It will not get out of control if I call all the guards and pages to help put it out. The pond is close by so the fire will be out in no time which means we must move quickly, little brother.”
Now it was Faramir's turn to grin. “Will it really work?”
Boromir clapped him on the back. “There is only one way to find out.”
“Run!” Boromir pocketted the key to the relocked door before grabbing his little brother's hand and leading the way through mother's frosted and overgrown garden.
Faramir tried to keep pace on his shorter legs only stopping when a branch released by his brother smacked him in the face. Boromir paused to examine the small scratch on Faramir's chin. “I am sorry.” He glanced back at the wooden door, surprised to note how far they had come already, and pointed to the cloud of brown smoke rising above the wall. “We can slow down. It will be some time before they discover that we are gone.”
Faramir hitched his pack higher as they continued. “Will father will be very cross with us?”
Boromir grinned that grin again. “Oh yes. He will probably ground us both for a week.”
Faramir's grin broke through. “Or longer.”
They pushed through another door, this one unlocked, and found themselves facing a narrow track running beside an orchard. The trees were bare and here the snow was a little thicker atop the wall.
Boromir chuckled. “You may have to take extra history lessons for a while.”
“Yuck. I like learning about elves and the kings of Numenor but the battles are boring.”
“Hah! The battles are the interesting bits and all you need to know about elves is that they care nothing for men and hide within their borders, denying us their aid.”
“But they used to help us,” Faramir pointed out. “Why don't they now?”
“Who knows the workings of the elven mind? Come on . . . I'll race you to the end of this path. You can have a head start.”
The next two hours were spent in conversation and with each step the snow grew deeper until they had to push their way through some of the drifts. Soon Boromir introduced his brother to the joys of snowball fighting. Despite the disparity in their sizes Faramir proved to have a strong and sure right arm so by the time Boromir called a halt both were giggling and white from head to toe.
“Let us sit out of the wind behind this wall and have something to eat.”
Faramir needed no convincing and, once both had brushed the snow from clothing and the ground beneath them, they huddled beneath their cloaks to share a luncheon of cold pigeon pie, apples and cider.
As they ate they talked, mainly about Boromir's impending departure for the barracks on the outer level. Suddenly Faramir looked up at the sky. “What time is it? It's getting awfully dark.”
It happened so slowly that Boromir had not noticed and now he looked up in some trepidation. “I heard the noonday bell as we sat down. The weather is turning. We had best start back.”
Faramir helped him pack away the remains of their repast and suffered Boromir to fasten his cloak. “Is it going to rain?” He was growing concerned at his brother's sudden haste.
“No. It is going to snow,” Boromir replied baldly before softening his tone by adding, “And falling snow is always best observed from the other side of a window.”
Faramir now protested his older brother's chivvying. “But I've never been outside when it's snowing. Can't we stay and see it? I want to catch snowflakes.”
Although still quite young himself, Boromir had received enough basic training in survival to know that they were in danger of becoming trapped if the snow fell too quickly. His stomach turned a queazy somersault as he considered how he would feel should Faramir take hurt from their expedition. With that thought the first snowflakes fell.
They were small at first and Faramir paused occasionally to examine those that landed upon his cloak, his face lighting up as he watched the tiny stars melt away almost before he had time to admire their beauty. Boromir had to keep grabbing his hand to drag him along.
Within minutes individual flakes became huge soft clumps that hid their footprints and flew in their faces. Now Faramir needed no more chivvying. He struggled to keep his older brother in sight through the blizzard until Boromir stopped long enough to pull a scarf from his pack and tie their wrists together.
Faramir began to grasp the seriousness of their plight. “Will they look for us in this?”
“They will search until they find us. Of that we can be sure.” Boromir kept to himself the addendum that, as nobody knew that they had come this way, rescue may arrive too late. He decided that whatever dreadful punishment their father allocated him for this escapade would be well deserved.
For some minutes Boromir had been searching for the orchard wall but he could hardly see beyond his nose and their footprints were long covered. Then, as he took his next step, their already poor luck took another turn for the worse. The middle slopes of Mindolluin had many grassy banks perfect for the digging of rabbit warrens and, having unwittingly strayed far from the path, Boromir had no idea where he was.
Putting down his foot on what appeared to be a smooth slope he yelped as it suddenly disappeared and he pitched forward, the yelp turning to a scream as he heard and felt a sudden sickening crack in his lower leg. The unbalanced Faramir tumbled atop him, causing another scream as the additional squirming weight built pain upon pain. It was all too much for Boromir whose world simply shrank down to a pinpoint and then blinked mercifully out.
For some moments Faramir sat staring at his older brother, expecting some movement. When none came he scrambled to his side and began by unfastening the scarf that joined them. “Boromir! Boromir, please don't die.”
When pleading and some gentle patting to pale cheeks gleaned no response he tried to recall anything of his basic training. Relief washed through him as a hand placed beneath his brother's nose was warmed by soft breath. Assured that Boromir was alive he shuffled down to examine his legs and had to swallow hard when he saw the strange angle of the left foot. Even with his limited training it was clear that the leg was broken just above the ankle.
Desperate, he stood to look about him but it it was patently clear that even if the blizzard would allowed him to see beyond a few yards there was simply nobody abroad to be seen. They were alone, Boromir was injured, he did not know the way down the mountain and he could not carry his older brother. Despite his best efforts Faramir could feel hot tears sliding down his face.
“Faramir?” Boromir blinked up at his sibling, who appeared to be crying. “Little brother, don't cry.”
Faramir dropped to his knees once more, palming tears from his cheeks and trying to smile. “It's just the cold. How does your leg feel? How can I help?”
The questions made little sense to Boromir until he tried to sit up, then he bit back a yelp as pain flared. Faramir moved to support his back, wincing in sympathy. “I'm sorry. What can I do? Should I fetch help?”
For several moments Boromir only sat very still, biting his bottom lip until it was white. Then he took a deep breath. “It is alright. But I will need your help. The leg must be straightened and then braced to support it so that we can walk.”
Faramir's already pale face went white. “Straighten? I've never done that. Would it not be better if I fetched help?”
Boromir tried to smile, grasping his brother's hand. “You will get lost in this blizzard and that will make it twice as hard for the searchers to find us. Even if you found someone you would not be able to retrace your steps.” He squeezed Faramir's hand. “It's just you and me.”
Faramir considered their joined hands for a long time and Boromir waited, only too aware how frightening was the prospect of setting a broken limb. Boromir was afraid and at five years his junior Faramir had even less medical training. He may not even have the physical strength required. Faramir eventually met his brother's gaze. “How long do the splints need to be?”
“Well done, Little Brother. Two splints would be best but one will do at a pinch. They need to stretch from below my ankle to my knee.”
Faramir stood. On the edge of his vision was the grey shadow of a clump of trees, surrounded by bushes. “There may be some over there.”
When he would have run off Boromir grabbed the hem of his cloak. “Careful. Where there is one rabbit hole there will be others. Find a stick and test the ground in front of you before taking a step.”
There were few to be found but Faramir finally uncovered a short stick and applied it diligently, grateful for having done so when he encountered two more rabbit holes before reaching his goal.
The copse had obviously been coppiced in the past for he discovered several long straight stems and stood, debating how to break them off .
Suddenly a large hand landed heavily upon his shoulder. “I hope you were not about to break those. That tree will definitely object.”
Faramir spun about with a cry and threw himself into Gandalf's embrace. Staggering, Gandalf nonetheless wrapped strong arms about the lad. “Now, now. What's all this? And what are you doing out and about in a blizzard?”
“Oh Gandalf! I only wanted to play in the snow but now we're lost, and Boromir is hurt, and father is going to be so cross and . . . and I don't know what to do!” Faramir wailed, finally winding down in a flurry of sniffles.
The old wizard smiled fondly before fishing in the depths of his tattered robes to supply a surprisingly clean handkerchief, which Faramir applied to his nose with some gusto. “As I see it, you are not lost because I have just found you. Between us we can surely help Boromir and then make our way home. So no more tears.” As he spoke Gandalf led the way unerringly to where Boromir lay shivering.
“Gandalf? What are you doing here?” Despite his pain and the cold Boromir was still wary of the wizard, who's arrival seemed far too convenient. “Are you alright, Brother?”
If he noticed the chill in Boromir's greeting Gandalf ignored it, leaning upon his staff as he surveyed their surroundings, indistinct as they were in the driving snow. “I was taking a stroll when I noticed your brother here contemplating the felling of a tree with his bare hands. Naturally, I offered my assistance but if you can manage on your own I will be happy to continue upon my way.”
Boromir swallowed his pride enough to reply through chattering teeth, “I would be grateful for your help, if you can spare the time.”
“Then it is settled.” Gandalf handed off his staff to Faramir. “Run back to those trees and ask politely if you may have some wood for splints.”
The youngster frowned. “Ask who? I thought you were alone.”
Tutting, Gandalf spun him about to pull the blanket from his pack and wrap it around Boromir. “That depends upon your definition of, 'alone'.” When Faramir only continued to frown in confusion Gandalf sighed, climbing to his feet. “You look after your brother and I will fetch the wood. The trees will understand me better anyway.”
Boromir was left contemplating how Gandalf knew there was a blanket in his brother's pack. Awaiting his return Faramir wrapped arms about his brother for support and warmth. That Boromir did not protest such coddling was testament to his level of pain.
The snow swirled so thickly that Faramir jumped again when Gandalf loomed above them once more, holding two smooth straight pieces of wood. He knelt at their side with a smile of reasurance to Fararmir. “It will be your task to fit these splints whilst I hold your brother's leg still.” Gandalf unwound his long scarf and began to tear off strips, which he laid beside the wood. “Take hold of his leg just below the knee and keep it still while I pull.” Gandalf smiled apologetically at Boromir. “I am sorry. This will hurt but once done the pain will lessen.” He gave one final glance to both boys. “Ready?” Two dark heads nodded.
As soon as he took hold of the foot Boromir clenched his teeth upon a cry but Gandalf did not relent. Faramir leaned all of his weight upon the leg so that there would be something to pull against, his attention switching worriedly from his brother's pained expression to Gandalf's hands as they gently pulled and manipulated. Finally the foot was correctly orientated.
“Tie the splints in place Faramir. One on each side.”
Boromir swiped tears from his cheeks and looked up at the wizard, surprised to be met with compassion. “The worst is over,” Gandalf murmured as Faramir fastened the last tie. Standing, he handed his staff to Faramir then bent to gather Boromir into his arms as though he were no heavier than a babe. “Now we need to find some shelter. I suggest we repair to yonder copse. Follow in my footsteps Faramir.”
Soon Boromir was lying in an area cleared of snow by his brother. Beneath the trees at the centre of the copse they were protected from the worst of the wind and snow and Boromir's teeth ceased their chattering.
Gandalf began to issue instructions. “This storm will blow itself out within the hour but we are safer here until it does and we need a fire, if the trees will allow it.” He glanced about him at the slender trunks and laid a hand upon one. Apparently satisfied at whatever he heard or felt he pointed to the intrigued Faramir. “See if you can find some dry kindling under the bushes and I will collect what wood I am allowed.”
Boromir snorted. “This mountain is under the Steward's protection. He permits the taking of any wood whenever people wish.” He visibly shrank however, when Gandalf fixed him with a disapproving glare.
“The Steward may say whatever he wishes but it is the trees who permit. They have permitted the gathering of their wood because you have not been greedy, just as they will permit me now. I have found, however, that manners never go amiss and a simple please or thank you is polite in any situation.” Leaving Boromir blinking he moved off to start collecting. For his part, whenever he found dry kindling Faramir decided to play safe and murmured thanks to the nearest branch.
Soon there was a respectable pile of kindling and wood and Gandalf patted his clothes thoughtfully. “I don't suppose either of you has flint and steel?”
Both brothers had the grace to blush. “I am sorry,” replied Faramir faintly.
Boromir was not quite so gracious. “We did not anticipate this weather. It was only going to be a short walk.”
Gandalf knelt by their almost-fire. “A good soldier is prepared for any eventuality, Son of the Steward. Had you taken time to read the clouds you would have known more snow was on the way. It seems you have lived too long within the safety of your city walls. I suppose I had better pull something out of my hat.” With those words he winked at Faramir as he quite literally swept off his tall hat and rummaged around inside, producing a small wad of straw. By way of explanation he added, “It's the best place I have found to keep it dry. And I see no other reason to wear such ridiculously headgear. I have never understood why people expect it.” While Faramir watched, open mouthed, Gandalf plonked his hat back upon his head and touched the wad to the tip of his staff, where it flared to life.
Within moments they had a cheery blaze. Settling cross legged across the fire the wizard fished about in his robes for pipe and weed. “We have some time before this snow will stop so what sort of a tale would you like to hear?”
“A story about dragons!” “A story about a great battle!” Both boys shouted at once.
Gandalf chuckled. “Very well. I shall tell you a story about a dragon and how the lust for his hoard caused a great battle. Far to the north of here is a solitary mountain . . .”
Denethor's colour was high, his brows low as he stabbed a finger at his eldest, who was propped up in bed. “As soon as you are on your feet you will attend the Master of the Pages who will appoint you tasks suitable for your mental age, which would appear to be that of a first year page. You will clean boots and wait at table until I deem you have learned the importance of responsibility.”
Faramir gasped, about to step in to defend his brother when Denethor switched attention to him. “As for you. You were ever the weaker of the two but I have little doubt it was you who persuaded your older brother to take part in this escapade.”
Boromir interrupted indignantly. “I was the one who suggested the journey. The fault is entirely mine. You . . .”
“Enough!” Denethor's roar could be heard in the far reaches of the citadel and lords and pages alike took cover. “Faramir has you wrapped about his finger and your biggest weakness is that you would be swayed by him. Do not defend him. I know where the true blame lies.”
Faramir shrank before his father's ire.
“But what is to be your punishment? You would find the work of a page no hardship. Extra lessons perhaps?” He glared at the wizard, who until this moment had remained silent. “No. You have wasted too many hours at this ragged charlatan's feet.”
“Then perhaps a task suited to one who will eventually be called upon to defend his people?” Gandalf offered mildly. “Some lessons in the martial arts? I understand his aim is good. Archery perhaps?”
Denethor searched for an ulterior motive for wizards had their own agenda's but although the gift of seeing into men's hearts was his, it seemed it did not extend to wizards. He could see only the outward expression of innocence and yet he knew enough not to believe it.
He turned upon his youngest. “I am inclined to mistrust this wizard's suggestion. But I hold the perhaps vain hope that one day you will rise to the rank of captain of one of the lesser troops. Archery would be as good a place as any to start. You will report to the Master at Arms on the morrow.”
Of all the punishments contemplated, this was not on Faramir's list. Having spent many hours admiring the skill of archers he felt a pang of guilt, for this was no punishment at all. When he would have said as much Boromir winked so he adopted a suitably contrite expression. “I shall try to live up to your expectation, father.”
Denethor only glowered. “That will not be difficult for my expectation of you is very low.” With those cruel words he spun upon his heel and strode from the room.
Tears glistened in Faramir's eyes and Boromir opened his arms. “Come here, Little Brother. You will far exceed his expectations for mine are higher and I am confident you will meet them. When we are grown you will be my deputy and together we shall lead the armies of Gondor to victory against all our foes.”
As the boys hugged Gandalf studied them. It did not require the skills of a wizard to see that there would be battles in their future but he sensed both were destined for things more important than leading men into battle, necessary as that would be for the sons of the Steward. Bend his will as he may he could not see details of their fate but one thing he did know. They would both grow to be strong and honourable men who would lead others not by might but by example. Perhaps inspite of their father, these sons of Gondor were true heirs to the best of the noble race of Numenor.
“You have seen snowfall?”