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In another sick room in the Houses of Healing the following morning, Imrahil and Galron sat around the bedside of Faramir. The captain was propped up against pillows. His fair face bore the marks of weariness from his fight against death.
“My spirits are lifted to see you on the mend, nephew,” stated Imrahil.
“And mine are lifted to see anybody, Uncle!” Faramir smiled wanly. “I would not be here now if it were not for you.”
With that, there came a soft knock at the door followed by a nurse carrying a tray of fruits and breads for breakfast. She placed it on a stand next to the bed, curtseyed, and departed.
“I was not alone in saving you.”
Faramir arched an eyebrow as he bit into a slice of pear.
“Halon was bearing you away from the field on your horse when I found you.”
“Ah, little Halon. He is the best scout in my company.”
Faramir, who had been drinking water, shot a quick glance at his uncle and began to cough and sputter. He put the glass down, picked up a napkin, and dabbed at his mouth.
“Indeed. She was mounted behind you and had been pierced multiple times. Fortunately for her, none of the arrows were poisoned like the one that struck you. But she was hurled into the dark vale. The Lord Aragorn recalled her.”
At this Galron, interjected, “And it was learned last evening that she has also partially lost her eyesight from a blow to the back of her head.”
Faramir sighed, bowed his head, and swallowed hard. Suddenly, he was no longer interested in the food before him.
“I am steadfast in my conviction that women are treasures to be protected. Yet, I have apparently failed in this endeavor.” His mind wandered to a far-away time and visages of a mother he hardly knew, yet he bore her memory with reverence.
Imrahil reached out and placed his hand on top of his nephew’s, “Do not judge yourself so harshly.”
“I am sure this has reached my father,” Faramir stated with clenched jaw.
Galron and Imrahil shot each other knowing glances.
“He does not know.” That was news Imrahil was not yet prepared to reveal.
“None of us knew,” continued Faramir. “She and her brother Beriandir joined my company about a year ago. She hid her identity well, and he looked after her…..until a few weeks ago. I sent him out on a scouting mission, and he never returned. Halon actually found him, headless, and skewered to a tree. This was shortly after I learned of my brother’s death. Thus, I felt her grief as keenly as mine. She has seen and endured things that will scar her for life, I fear. Alas, for these evil times!”
Galron spoke up. “She told me her true name is Halel, my Lord. And Beriandir was actually her husband.”
Faramir closed his eyes. Each new piece of information pierced him deeper than the arrow, and he instinctively reached up to massage his wounded shoulder.
A silence ensued in which Faramir began to wonder how Galron knew so much that he did not.
Imrahil leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs, steepled his fingers, and cleared his throat. To Faramir, this posture typically foreshadowed an onslaught of playful harassment, a careful lesson, or a combination.
Typically, the noble prince of Dol Amroth exuded an air of stoicism and grimness, especially when approaching warfare and affairs of the state. He was the epitome of the cultured warrior. Yet, he could exhibit a mischievous streak when dealing with his nephew. His lighthearted teasing was one tactic he employed to draw out Faramir, who had a tendency to retreat within himself when suffering Denethor’s ill moods or becoming overly engrossed in intellectual pursuits. This approach had been effective with the younger brother, but not the older, who simply failed to delight in, or appreciate, the witty banter that accompanied the teasing.
And now with the revelation of a woman having fooled Faramir by sneaking into his vaunted company of Rangers, Imrahil seized the opportunity to launch an outright assault, as any good commander in war should.
“Faramir, you have always been a keen judge of men. How could you not know?” He laughed.
Faramir gazed at Imrahil, sighed, smiled, and chuckled, “Men, dear Uncle, men!”
“I see. Dear nephew, shall I remediate you on my lesson regarding women?”
Faramir laughed, “Nay, Uncle! ‘Tis quite unnecessary!” Imrahil noticed Faramir was blushing and he reveled in his game.
He leaned forward and thrust his hands towards Faramir, spreading his fingers apart for emphasis.
“Her hands, Faramir, her hands?”
“If she wasn’t wearing gauntlets, she kept her hands hidden, either behind her back or in pockets.”
Before Imrahil could say another word, Faramir thrust a fist forward, his index finger pointing upwards, “She looked like one of the other youths in the company. It was easy to mistake her for such considering that we are unaccustomed to seeing women wear breeches. Her jerkin and equipment helped flatten her chest, which she probably bound anyway. And she always wore a kerchief to hide her smooth throat. Furthermore, she spoke little. If she found the need, she did so in hushed tones. Also, her broth….husband….her husband helped to shield her. That is apparent now.”
Faramir was not going to let his uncle win his playful game. He cut off a piece of bread and chewed thoughtfully as he attempted to determine his attacker’s next move. He was unsuccessful.
Imrahil facepalmed, “You recognized all these things yet were not compelled to question them?”
For a brief second, Faramir felt as if he were being interrogated by his father, except he knew his uncle truly loved him, had confidence in his abilities, and was merely having fun at his expense as he had at times since his childhood. Besides, Imrahil posed legitimate questions Faramir was asking himself at that very moment.
The captain shrugged, “Nobody thought a woman would even desire, much less attempt, to live a soldier’s life. That made her more secure from detection.” He bit off another piece of bread.
“Be at peace, Captain Faramir,” chuckled Galron. “Lord Imrahil is apparently the only one adept in the dealings with women. As a matter of fact, he was able to detect life in another one wounded in battle. A woman of the Rohirrim. She slew the Witch-king with the assistance of a halfling.”
Faramir stopped chewing and looked at the younger knight of Dol Amroth, “Another one? Verily, have we men become so inept at warfare that women feel the need to do our duty?”
Galron shook his head and shrugged, “Their cause to go to war is no less than ours, I deem.”
At that moment, there was a slight rap at the door, and one of Faramir’s Rangers stuck his head in.
“I heard you had awakened, Captain! ‘Tis good to see you on the mend!”
Faramir wanly smiled and nodded, “Come in, Tonnor. My uncle, Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and his subordinate, Galron.”
Tonnor saluted with a clenched fist over his heart, “My Lords.”
And then turning to face Faramir, “Captain, did you know that Halon is a woman?”
Faramir pinched the bridge of his nose with the hand free from the sling. He was going to have to deal with this issue for a long time hence.
“I just learned, Tonnor.”
Tonnor’s countenance turned wistful. “I recall a time when she and I were out on reconnaissance when we stopped for water. The cork of her flask broke, and she spilled its contents all down her trousers. ‘My water broke,’ she declared.” Tonnor laughed.
Imrahil immediately shot a glance at Faramir.
“I wasn’t there,” he shrugged.
Imrahil looked back to Tonnor, “And that didn’t arouse your suspicion?”
“Arouse my suspicion regarding what? That she was a woman? No, I thought she was merely using a phrase particular to her region and, therefore, foreign to me. What does it mean?”
Imrahil once again facepalmed. He didn’t have the time or energy to explain it to the unmarried youngster.
Faramir observed, “It is interesting that she would let her guard down with such a nonchalant statement after all the care she devoted to her ruse.”
Imrahil responded, “She was perhaps merely seizing the moment to have a bit of fun with the innocent lad.”
Suddenly, Tonnor gasped, his face filled with horror, “Speaking of water….I made water in front of her!”
At this, Imrahil and Galron burst into laughter.
“She was married, Tonnor. So I’m sure she didn’t see anything she hadn’t already,” Faramir chuckled.
“That doesn’t really alleviate the humility, Captain! But I shall now leave you to your breakfast. I did not mean to interrupt. I merely wanted to check on you.”
Faramir smiled and nodded, “Thank you.” With this, the young Ranger departed, shutting the door behind him.
When the captain turned back to face his uncle, he noticed his eyes were glimmering. Faramir sighed and cleared his throat.
“Some, such as myself, are indeed modest, Uncle. It is not uncommon for us to seek the solitude of the forest for relief. Therefore, she did not draw attention when she did the same.”
Before another word could be spoken, Galron, still laughing and blushing, rose from his chair.
Faramir pointed to him, “See?”
Galron blushed even deeper, “Peace, Lords! I do not wish to be drawn into your melee!” As he retreated quickly through the door, the healer, Terevion, entered carrying bandages, towels, a pitcher of water, and a jar of dark medicine.
“Forgive me, my Lords, but I must tend to the Stew…captain’s wounds.”
Imrahil glared at the healer. Without waiting for a response and hoping Faramir hadn’t picked up on his slip, Terevion quickly sat in a chair and pointed to the captain’s tunic, “Can you manage?”
“Indeed.” He removed the sling and then reached down with his good arm, grabbed the hem, and began tugging it upwards. Thankfully, the garment had already been unlaced at the neck, which made it a bit easier to pull over his head. He let it fall in front of him and made no effort to remove it further.
“Good enough,” declared Terevion as he unbound the bandage from around Faramir’s shoulder and toned chest. The captain laid his head back to rest against the headboard as the healer painfully probed the skin around the wound causing the captain to wince and gasp.
Imrahil turned away. Faramir was a grown man and a skilled warrior. He profoundly understood the hard life of a soldier and the distinct possibility of suffering from the poor fortunes of war. Yet, it still pained the prince to see his gentle nephew in this condition. And he began to ponder whether he could have saved him from such.
“Faramir, I am off to attend to my duties and shall return later.”
“Farewell, Uncle,” he said without lifting his head from the headboard.
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