It was a warm day in early June and Pippin and Faramir walked by the banks
of the Anduin on a mission that pleased them both more than any they had
undertaken for awhile to find a spot to picnic and spend a quiet
day together, not as steward and guardsman, not The Raven of Ithilienand
the Ernil i Pheriannath, but as two friends who were just coming to understand
how much they had in common.
Faramir had spent the morning listening to reports of the sorties that
still plagued the area, and looking with a realistic eye at the wound
on the river where the city had once stood. It made him want to weep,
but he had to admit his dream to rebuild here was not a practical one;
there was too much pain here. Life as a city, for Osgiliath, was over.
This place might continue as a fort, or a garrison, but the citadel of
the stars was gone forever.
After his meetings had ended, he took a rather large woven basket and
called for his new aide-de camp, and they had spent time walking in the
ruins and quietly telling each other stories of the lands where they grew
The sun was westering already when Faramir suddenly thought of the preferences
of his companion, and apologizing for making him wait so long for refreshment,
he spread a blanket on the ground close to the river where they had been
searching for the brightly colored bits of tile that sometimes washed
up on the shore.
Cold meat and a loaf were set out, and the first summer fruits, and plates
were filled and balanced carefully on their laps. Pippin set-to with a
will, but there was nothing strange about that - it would take more than
facing the end of the world to damage his appetite. But he was pleased
to notice that the Captain, too, was enjoying his food and not just pushing
it about. His strength had come swiftly back after his brush with the
wings of death, and now his flesh was also beginning to return, the terrible
drawn look gone from his face, particularly when he smiled.
There is so much power in this place, said Pippin, and the
captain looked up and met his eyes. There was a depth to the little ones
soul that would be easy to miss if one forgot to look beyond his stature.
Yes, agreed Faramir, and so many ghosts.
Still, Pip continued it must have been very beautiful,
for it has a great beauty, even in its ruins and something that
feels old, almost beyond time.
They were sitting in a place where the dome of the old city had been washed
some way along the river when it fell in flames. Most of it was completely
gone, washed down the great mother river long ago, tumbled along the miles
of bank, washing up on the shores of Belfalas, perhaps riding the unseen
rivers under the sea in a quest to return to Numenor that was. But in
places the old structure lay in clear water and here and there a bit jutted
out above, holding on in a place where they could yet be seen.
What is that? What happened here? asked Pip reaching for a
Poor Osgiliath, Faramir sighed. She stood between Gondor
and Mordor like someone caught in the middle of a brawl, and both sides
fell upon her. He swallowed and pointed into the water. These
ruins were part of the great observatory that spanned the river long ago.
The dome was inlaid with pictures of the constellations, and once you
could have stood beneath it and learned all you could wish to know about
the stars. Then the city burned, and the stars fell into the water.
Pippin followed Faramirs hand and looked at the remains of the bright
mosaics that had once represented the pictures in the night sky.
Once the stars that speak of the turning wheel of the year turned
here in their order, Faramir continued. Now
all jumbled together, and even their stories are broken.
Perhaps the river is trying to make up new stories, said Pip.
Thats what my folks would do look at the bits and make
up a new story to fit the changes.
A nearly whole picture stood out just above the water where they sat;
a man with flowing blond hair, holding a bow painted dark blue with a
tracery of waves and aiming a silver tipped arrow. One shoulder had been
broken away, and one foot was somewhere in the river, but he had managed
through the years to somehow keep his head above water. Once he had aimed
his arrow at The Wolf, but now he was pointing straight up, as if for
some reason he wanted to shoot down the very stars.
Who is he? Pip pointed, and helped himself to more grapes.
That is the Archer, said Faramir. He rules our sky in the
autumn. See how he uses his bow to defend - but also to hunt, for he has
a family to support. Faramir looked around at the crumbling edge
of the ruin, but whatever had once been next to the man on the wall was
long gone. Well, he did have them
they must still be around
here somewhere. They wouldnt just leave him.
How do you know so much about him? mumbled Pippin, chewing.
The captain smiled, his grey eyes far away. When I was small, my
grandsire told me the stories, one by one. And later, my father taught
me to see how they all depended on each other.
Pippin grinned. We also have stories about the stars. Some big stories,
like the wain and the dragon, and some small ones, like the hound and
the sisters. I wonder if we see the same pictures. He peered into
Anduins clear waters and suddenly pointed at a gleaming flow of
color, long drowned but still beautiful. Oh!! he cried. The
Yes, smiled Faramir. We may have different pictures
and different stories for many of the stars - but some things are the
same everywhere, I should think. Everyone knows the swordsman, with his
golden belt, and everyone greets him when he climbs up the cold winter
sky to defend us from the dark.
The swordsmans long hair was tied back behind his noble head. He
held his sword aloft in his strong right hand, and with his left he reached
behind to something that was no longer there. The water flowed across
his handsome face, his firm grim eyes awash with the rivers tears.
They were quiet then. They had become quite comfortable together, these
two brave men who until very recently were used to being thought of as
youngest and most unprepared.
After a while, Pippin spoke again. Captain... this place makes you
sad. Why did you want to come here?
The captain hesitated for a moment. This place
is very important
to me. I have many memories that are rooted here, and there is much history
that I hoped would not be lost. I thought that there might be a way to
rebuild here to make Osgiliath once more what she had been. I wanted
to give her back to Ithilien, to thank Ithilien for all she has given
me. But now I have come to accept that some things cannot be remade. And
that sometimes it is no bad thing to see the scar that reminds us we are
still alive, and healing. He smiled and sighed. It is a new
world, my friend. I will go to Emyn Arnen and make a new life.
They shared the end of the bread, warmed by the sun almost as if it has
just come from the oven, and they smiled and enjoyed the last gifts of
the woven basket. Then Pip leaned back and lit his pipe, and Faramir unwrapped
a small tablet of bound pages and drew with quick firm lines some sketches
of the place where the dome of the stars lay drowned.
Faramir broke the silence next, calmly, with no preamble or explanation.
There is something I never asked you, he said without looking
up from his sketching. "Whatever possessed you to do it? He
did not elaborate, nor did he need to do so.
Pip continued to smoke quietly as he thought and dismissed a dozen reasons
that said nothing at all of what the Raven of Ithilien really wanted to
know. He tasted his pipe and smelled the river water and in his own mind,
he was now far away a campsite on the banks of the Anduin as they
traveled south and where he had sat an early evening watch with a man
who had become his friend and was now gone.
Pippin had asked him that night how he could be spared for the journey
he had undertaken. He had replied he could not be spared, but that there
was no other answer.
Might not your brother have come? Pip had inquired. I
thought that he was the dreamer in your family.
No Pip, the warrior had replied. Faramir could not be
sent. You see
I think he believed that I came north in his place
to shelter him or because I felt I was stronger, or perhaps even
because I no longer had any hope and could not bear to watch my city fall.
But the truth is, I came because I do have hope or I want to. Many
men stand on the line for Gondors defense, and they are brave and
true. But Faramirs gifts will be most needed after this terrible
shadow. I will be at odds with myself when the war is over, for war is
what I know. At home, they call me The Blade of Gondor, but I am a broadsword,
swung in her defense. Faramir he is a sharp knife in a healers
hand, and I would not take him away from the place where he will be needed.
Remembering, Pippin felt a tightness close his throat.
Faramir had said nothing all this time. He had just about decided his
friend was not going to answer when Pip took his pipe from his lips and
sighed. Later they would speak to each other of many things, but for now,
he quietly told Faramir only this: I could not bear to lose you
Neither looked up or acknowledged for the moment the power in the small
After a while, Faramir put down his sketching and took two glasses and
a bottle from the bottom of the basket and poured them each a glass of
wine, a pale shimmering gold color with a taste that itself spoke of cold
fresh water and of stars.
This is the last of my hoard, he smiled, the gift of
Ithilien. They raised their glasses to each other and drank. I once
thought it might be the last bottle forever. But Ithilien wines will someday
be traveling by messenger to you in your home, and remind you that you
have planted a vine of friendship in the hills of Emyn Arnen.
As the sun crept down to kiss Anduin goodnight, Faramir packed up their
things and Pippin, who could not resist, wandered down to the waters
edge for a last glimpse of the colored tiles that still revealed their
stories and their beauty to the eye that took the time to see. Then he
and the captain took a last deep breath of the rivers scent in the
cool night air and walked companionably back to the rangers camp
Behind them the sun set on the clear water of the river, making the surface
gleam. Anduin sang for her cold sweet life and she rushed forward in swirling
joy, anxious to kiss the fire of the setting sun.
Illuminated by the glow, the swordsman lay transfigured below the water
as he had now for years uncounted. Still he guarded, still he endured
as he reached back with longing to grasp the archers hand.