Faramir came to a halt when it was clear his horse would go no further and that the rain would not abate as yet. He had not wanted to exhaust the animal so and had even tried earlier in the day to walk with her, but he himself was so tired he had stumbled all the while as they’d negotiated a grassy bank, once even falling into a huge puddle that resulted in him getting his torn clothes thoroughly wet.
And then it had started raining heavily and Faramir had no choice but to mount his horse and lead her through the pouring water across the vast open meadows. Rider and horse plodded slowly and miserably through mud and water, and while Faramir was unhappy at the effort his poor horse was being put through. In the last few days he had come a long way from Minas Tirith and the faithful animal had been with him all they way along, uncomplaining. However, he was also loathe to tarry longer. It would take a day more of riding to leave Rohan behind entirely. He was anxious not to meet any of the Eoreds knowing their commanders would recognise him and he had no desire to explain his presence in their land or for them to learn he was now banished by his father from Gondor. Or to be taken to King Theoden or his advisor Grima Wormtongue.
He tried not to think of it as he led his horse to the cover of some large rocks, ensured she was comfortable and fed her some hay. For himself, all he had to eat were some fruits he had picked off some trees along the way and he munched those quietly, stifling his hunger pangs as he had been doing through his journey.
He sat back now against a wet rock, and as ever his mind wandered back to his last encounter with Denethor, and it was not just the cold the rain caused that made him shiver as he remembered Denethor’s voice, offering him an alternative. He had been stunned into silence then, unable to believe what his ears were hearing. But then Denethor’s fingers had wandered between his buttocks and fingered his entrance and Faramir had reacted with disgust and anger.
“No!” he’d shouted, “I would never – let me go…”
Faramir had felt anger turn to something akin to fear as Denethor had suddenly pushed his fingers into him. He’d cried aloud in pain as he felt his entrance being stretched to accommodate two fingers and even as he’d tried desperately to push Denethor away, he hadn’t been able to and the finger had continued to push into his resisting body, hurting him.
“Think again boy,” Denethor had whispered, "I order you to accept."
“No!” Faramir had ground out, pain, fear, anger all colliding in him. He wriggled in Denethor’s arms, only to feel more pain spike through his lower back. Denethor made a smirking sound and pulled his fingers out of Faramir, and shoved him away.
“I knew you would refuse that. It is why I made the offer," he said his lips curling into a scornful smile, "And you have now given me reason enough. You have chosen to disobey me and therefore I command you to leave Gondor this instant. If you are found within her borders again, I will have you carried into the deepest dungeons and flogged. You will not come near your brother again. You have ever been a troubling influence on him and I will have that no more. I shall tell him that you have been sent on an errand to Rohan. In two days’ time he shall be told you were attacked by orcs and nothing of you or your guard is left.”
Faramir stared at him uncomprehendingly as he turned and walked over to his desk.
“You shall leave now,” Denethor had said coldly, “And you shall do well to do so. I shall not touch you. But my friends or your brother's friend Tirion - they seem to be much enamoured by you and I would not hold them back should they ever express an interets in you. However, before you leave, I must punish you for your stubbornness and your behaviour this last day.”
Faramir looked up to see Denethor holding a whip in his hand and swallowed dryly as Denethor neared him. He did nothing as he was flung bodily over the table. He simply lay there as he had done countless times earlier and let the whip fall repeatedly on his back and buttocks, grateful that for once his clothes stayed on to take the brunt of the initial beating. Denethor beat him until the skin was cut and briefly Faramir wondered why he was enduring this when he was after all banished from Gondor, was he not? But try as he might, in all his years Faramir had not been able to bring himself to fight one man and that was his father. And so he lay bent over the table quietly, ignoring the pain as he always had.
When it was over Denethor had shoved him out of the door that led to the stables.
He had left that night. Denethor had let him take his horse, to get him the sooner out of Gondor he had said, but nothing else. All he’d had were the clothes he wore, torn now from the whipping and his cloak
“Go, before I call the guards,” Denethor had sneered.
He had left, tired, aching, hurt and suddenly terrified of Denethor. He’d always been scared of him, a fact he had not admitted even to himself until now, but now, he was even unwilling to cross him, not in his current state. He would leave, let Boromir think he was dead… it was better than having to submit to Denethor and lie to Boromir and have Boromir caught between them.
The first few days had been painful. Faramir had tended to his wounds as best as he could with makeshift herbs. The whip marks on his skin were deeper than usual. The injuries were still healing when he’d reached a small village where he’d told the people that he had been attacked by orcs and sold his silver buckled belt and bought a meagre stash of provisions.
He had ridden on after that, days merging into nights until he could no longer remember exactly how many days he’d ridden. He had somehow decided to ride North, beyond even Rohan. He would ride there and live off the land there and then –
He didn’t know what he would do then, and now leaning against the wet rock as the rain continued to fall around him and his poor horse whinnied in distress he felt despair course through him as he wondered what he should do now.
Perhaps if he’d accepted Denethor’s offer… but he couldn’t have… if Boromir found out he would be so disgusted with Faramir …anyone would if they knew.
He shivered again, aware now that he was tired and should sleep, but then he heard the sound of a horse and stood up suddenly, to see three riders coming to the place he sheltered in. He pulled out his sword from his saddlebag, and held it tight, breathing rapidly.
They were no orcs, true merely wayfarers like him but why take a risk… the riders slowed as though noticing him and then the man in the lead swung off his horse with an ease of movement that reminded Faramir achingly of Boromir’s grace.
He said nothing as he stood there, watching in the dim evening light as the stranger also holding a sword walked towards him. He caught a glimpse of dark straggly hair and sharp grey eyes beneath a hood and backed a step away.
“Who goes there?” he asked his voice hoarse partly from the cold and partly from nervousness.
“Travellers, who are you?” the other man asked in a strong even voice, and walked closer to Faramir.
“I – a -,” he found himself faltering as the other man neared. His companions followed.
“You are but a child!” the first man exclaimed, pushing back his head to reveal a handsome face.
Faramir flushed at that, and put away his sword.
“We seek shelter from the rain as you do,” the stranger told him calmly.
They seemed to know the place well, Faramir realised for as the man spoke his companions settled comfortably in the rock formation as though they had been there before.
“You are alone?” the first man asked sharply, glancing at the wet and torn clothes and then the horse.
Faramir pulled his cloak tighter around him. He was getting wet standing out in the rain but he ignored it as wondered what to reply. Their looks turned suspicious now and Faramir felt uncomfortable at the close scrutiny, but he knew it was unlikely for people to travel alone in these orc-infested areas. He was merely lucky he had met none yet.
“A fine horse for a lone traveller,” the second rider spoke, his voice much like the first man’s. He pushed his hood back to reveal features similar to the dark haired man, although older, “Where did you get her?”
“Peace Halbarad,” the first said, “He is a mere boy.”
Faramir flushed at that repeated remark but the other man’s next statement had him flushing for an altogether different reason.
“All the more reason Strider that I’d like to know where he got such a fine animal from and why he drives her so hard,” came the hard voice.
“And she is from Rohan while he is not," the third said, his voice equally hard, "And these roads lead out of Rohan. I do wonder –“
“I have not stolen her!” Faramir blurted out, feeling angered and sick.
“You bought her then,” Halbarad asked, “Why not buy yourself some clothes then boy?”
The thrid man spoke up bluntly, "They speak of horse thieves in Edoras I heard."
Before Faramir could reply, the other man, Strider held up his hand in warning.
“Halbarad, Alderhed, someone is coming,” he said.
--Minx 11 December 2005 11:12 (GMT)
What happens next?
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