Characters: Faramir, Boromir, Finduilas, Denethor
Warnings: canon character deaths referenced
Summary: Memories of the sea, and of the truths it teaches.
Prompt: "Summers that have been"
Word Count: 1704
Disclaimer: All of Middle Earth is from the hand of Tolkien. I own nothing. I make no profit from the short story.
A/N: I'm not entirely sure where this came from. It just did. But I sort of like it. I don't like the title, though XD.
“Ada!” Boromir laughed, splashing through the waves to run, dripping, up the beach to his father’s feet. Finduilas laughed, shielding her face from the mighty spray of seawater her son brought with him, as Boromir threw his arms around his father’s knees.
Denethor chuckled and lifted the boy in his arms. Boromir, wet bangs plastered to his grin, nestled in his father’s embrace, streaming water down the Steward’s tunic.
“Well, my little cygnet, how is the water this fine morn?” Denethor asked.
Boromir giggled. “Wonderful! Sig-nit is a funny word, Ada.”
On his mother’s lap, Faramir sat up expectantly. “What does it mean, Ada?”
Denethor winked at his wife. Finduilas smiled and leaned down to kiss Faramir’s head, making her younger son crane back to look up at her. “It means a baby swan, ion nin. You are one, too.” She poked the tip of his nose. “See, a beak!”
Faramir giggled but Boromir scrunched his up face in distaste, frowning at his father. “Swans? Swans only sit and look pretty all day… I would not want to be a swan.”
Denethor raised an eyebrow. “What would you like to be, then?”
“I would be a great dragon!” Boromir replied. “They are mighty.” He spread his arms in emphasis, as if to mimic the imagined wings of his sky terror, but mostly only managed to drip more on his father.
Denethor carried his son to Finduilas’ side. His wife gave him an amused look, and Faramir was watching him closely.
“Well, I will tell you, Boromir, there is great honor in being a swan.” As Boromir looked up at him in surprise, Denethor smiled. “Swans are loyal creatures, and fearsome when threatened. A swan whose home comes under siege can kill a man. And even yet they are creatures of great poise and grace.”
Boromir hesitated, seeming unconvinced. Faramir, who had been absorbing the words with rapt attention, spoke up eagerly. “But, Ada, why are we swans? It does not make sense.”
Denethor gave his wife a special smile that belonged only to her before looking down at his cygnets. “The swan is the herald of Dol Amroth. Did you not see the flags when we arrived? Your uncle Imrahil is a swan. As is your mother.”
Faramir looked up at his mother in surprise, to see her smiling widely. Boromir’s eyes widened. “Uncle is a swan, too?” Finduilas hid a laugh behind her hand. Both Steward and Stewardess knew of their elder son’s great admiration for his uncle. After his father, Imrahil was his favorite.
“Now, is that so bad?” Finduilas asked, reaching out to brush back Boromir’s bangs as Denethor sat beside her on the blanket, Boromir on his lap.
Faramir beamed up at them all, as Boromir slowly smiled. “No. I suppose not, Nana.” He seemed to debate for a moment. “But I still do not want to be pretty.”
Finduilas laughed brightly, and Denethor smiled. “Oh, my dear, you do not have to be. I promise,” Finduilas said. As Boromir smiled, she helped him off his father’s lap. “How about this, instead; you may swim with the same strength and power as a swan.”
“I’d like that!”
Later, as his elder son splashed about in the waves under the watchful eye of his mother, Denethor found himself occupied with his youngest. Faramir was yet too small to swim so far out with his brother, but he liked to splash about at the very edge of the breakers, letting the sand wash between his fingers. A swan through and through, even before he could fly.
Denethor looked out at the rolling skin of the ocean, at the millions of glittering points of light on its rough surface, and at his wife, standing there with her hair flying, the laugh lines on her face alight with the sun, as she chased after his splashing boy. Oh, what beauty, a swan upon the sea, and to know that they would come back to him, into his arms!
“Ada?” Small hands pulled at his tunic, their grip strong.
He crouched down, uncaring that the hems of his clothes trailed in the gentle surf. “What is it, ion nin?”
Faramir splashed in the next gentle wave, making little grains of sand dance in the water. Then he sifted down deeper, feeling curiously and the unseen world beneath the beach. “If I am a sig…cyg…”
“Cygnet,” Denethor offered.
Faramir nodded, looking up at him. “Will I grow into a swan?”
Denethor hesitated for a mere beat. “You were born a swan,” he concluded finally. “And thus always will be such.”
“Then, if Nana’s a swan…” Faramir reached after the edge of a wave as it retreated down the beach. “What are you?”
Denethor paused, and sought for an answer in the rhythmic rustling and crashing of the sea. What was he? The Steward, of course, but that was no answer to his three-year-old’s earnest question. The defender. The bearer of the white rod. The family of the white flag, without sigil or sign, content with the white alone. Yet how to condense that into the language of a child?
Faramir reached out sand-and-sea-water coated hands, and Denethor took them gently. “We, my son, are the circle of stones that guards the White Tree.”
Faramir’s brow furrowed. Denethor could see him trying valiantly to understand how a stone and a swan could be the same. At length, however, as the water splashed around them, Faramir sighed softly, shaking his head. “I do not understand, Ada…” he said. “Swans and stones?”
Denethor smiled, gently patting his son’s head, making Faramir giggle as he tried to dodge the water sprinkling from his father’s hand. “That is fine, ion nin. There is no hurry. You inherited that from me, just as the swan wings are from your mother, and it is a part of you.”
Faramir sat back in the water, looking up at his father with a gentle smile. “So…I will grow up to be a stone swan.”
Denethor laughed. “Exactly. Those are the best, and the bravest.” And, as the morning light fractured off the waves of the sea, he kissed his little cygnet on the brow.
“I think I’d like that, Ada,” Faramir said.
Out in the surf, Boromir swam to his mother and she helped him stand against the waves. Once he found his balance, he gazed out in wonder at the sea, feeling its power as the weight of oceans brushed against him. Of a sudden the light struck the sea’s surface, and lit by it Denethor saw his eldest as strong and as noble as Elendil himself, a vision of the kings of old in the crossing of sky and sea. Salt spray set his heart beating faster as water tickled his toes. In that instant, it seemed no wave in all the oceans of the world could overpower so splendid and wondrous a figure!
The hushed awe in Faramir’s voice matched his joyous sensibility perfectly, and thus it was without surprise but with wonder that he looked down and beheld the object his son had discovered in the sands, brought to the surface by the gentle channeling of the ocean. Faramir reached into the tendrils of the surf, brushing currents of silt away from a smooth, white surface. As Denethor watched, Faramir pried the object free from the rushing grip of the outgoing sea. It surfaced perfectly clean, bright with the last glimmers of the water. A sea-worn, smooth-faced rock, its surface brilliant white.
Beaming, Faramir held it up. “It’s you, Ada.”
Denethor accepted the gift, marveling at its smooth texture in his hand, the coolness of the sea seeming to beat with waves of its own against his skin. “So it is,” he agreed. “So it is.”
Faramir paused, eyes narrowed against the dim light as he tried to make out the contents of the old chest. To his knowledge these had not moved in well nigh twenty years.
Something caught his eye, though not that which he sought. Without thought, he reached for it. The stone, which had seemed so huge all those years ago, now slipped easily into the palm of his hand, nestled there. Almost as if it had waited all this time to fit.
He brushed the dust away with careful fingers. It was foolish; he knew it would not break. Few things could shatter such a stone, and he was certainly not one of them. The sea-smoothed curves remained as white as that long ago day. Before he had understood, before he had known enough to know what he was, and who he was.
Faramir, Steward of Gondor, held the white stone for a long time, wanting to open his hand and look closer, but loath to lose the smooth brush of the sea against his skin, to end the memory of the splash of the waves, and of his father smiling, and showing this gift to his mother.
He knew now. And though he may have always remained a swan, he first and foremost had lived as his father before him, under the white flag, without sigil, proud to bear the white of the tree and naught more.
Finally, he turned his hand. Then, Faramir stopped, surprised. Carved letters crossed the smooth surface, engravings he had never seen. The letters flowed across the stone’s face with long, sweeping strokes, like immortal waves etched into rock.
For my Silver Swan. Dearest, loveliest, and wisest of all the sea’s treasures.
Faramir thumbed the etched letters, feeling their cool edges. His father must have had them carved, perhaps during that same visit to Dol Amroth, as a gift to his mother. He had never known.
He lowered the stone back in the chest, tucking it gently amid the years of dust and love laid to rest. Searching on the other corner, he found what he sought. With careful hands, he drew forth the blue mantle, strewn with stars.
Some day he would face all of them, these sacred memories the white tower had cherished for so long, but for today he took only one, leaving the rest, untouched and untarnished, as had his father before him.
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