Power to Protect by Linaewen

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Story Notes:

Written for the 2015 December Challenge: Yule Fic Exchange. The recipient, tallulahred, requested a story featuring Finduilas preparing for Yule and a three year old Faramir.


Finduilas looked up from her sewing just in time to see Boromir crack the door open to peek out into the hallway beyond.  Young Faramir clung to his leg, trying to see past him as he stood in the doorway.  Glancing to the side, she saw that Denethor had noticed the boys, but was pretending to be engrossed in his reading.

"Close the door, please, Boromir," she said with a smile.  "There is a draft."

Boromir swiftly closed the door and stood in front of it, trying hard not to look like he had been caught in a bit of mischief.  Faramir gazed forlornly at the closed door.

"When will they come?" he wailed, sounding close to tears.

Denethor rose swiftly to gather the small boy into his arms.  "It will not be long now, my son," he reassured.  "Be patient a little longer.  I know it is a long wait for a little one, but you have done well to stay awake this day.  Do not lose heart at the end of it!  You do not wish to meet Yestarë, the first day of the new year, with tears on your face, do you?"

Faramir scrubbed at his eyes with a small fist.  "Not crying, Father!"

"Very good, Faramir," Denethor replied with approval.  He set Faramir down in Finduilas' lap and she held him close, kissing the top of his head.

"Are you certain it was wise to allow him to remain awake this late?" she asked.  "He is only three years old, after all..."

"I know, my dear, but I feel it is important for our sons to learn the traditions at an early age.  He is young, but he already understands well the importance of tradition.  In any case, he would have certainly remained wakeful, knowing Boromir was allowed to wait up with us."

"I wonder if that also was not wise," Finduilas laughed, as Boromir stifled a yawn.  "You are right, of course; it is good for them to learn the traditions early on, especially those that bring joy and hope!  I will just remind you of your promise to be on hand on the morrow when I am dealing with tired, fretful boys!"

"You have my word," Denethor declared with a solemn bow.  "I will not forsake you."

"The story of the holly is a tradition, Mother," Boromir said, coming to stand by her side.  "Will you tell us about the gathering?  Faramir needs to hear the story, he was too little last year to understand and slept through the whole evening!"

"I seem to recall you also missed some of the evening..."

"I only closed my eyes for a minute, Mother," Boromir reminded her scornfully.  "I was not sleeping!"

"Ah, I must have been mistaken," Finduilas replied, trying to cover up her smile.  "In any case, it is true that Faramir has not heard the story properly told.  I shall tell it while we wait for the gatherers."

She settled the child more comfortably in her lap as Boromir leaned against her chair and Denethor looked on from where he had stationed himself at the door to the hall.

"Do you know what holly is, Faramir?"  Fararmir shook his head.  "Holly is a plant that grows in Ithilien, sometimes as a small bush or shrub, other times as large as a tree.  Holly remains green all year round.  The leaves are tough and glossy and sharp with spines, and bear white flowers and red berries."

"What's glossy, Mother?" Faramir interrupted.

"Glossy means shiny and smooth.  The leaves are very beautiful, a smooth dark green.  It is said that the plant has protective qualities, and when planted around homes, it protects and guards against lightening, poisoning and evil spirits.  But holly is particularly prized to decorate doors, windows and fireplaces because of its prickliness, which is said to ward off or snag and capture evil spirits before they can enter and harm a household.  It has long been our custom in Gondor to gather holly branches to decorate our homes on Mettarë, the last day of the year.  Whether or not it truly can stop evil from entering, it is symbolic of strength, protection, good will and everlasting life, and those qualities are always worthy of celebration as a new year opens.

"You know we have been waiting for your father's men to come bearing the Mettarë greenery for decorating our home -- but not just any greenery, it must be holly to start the new year safely protected.  So the men we are waiting for so eagerly have been gathering holly branches in Ithilien.  I always feel that the danger they put themselves in to bring us holly for our decorating adds a special layer of meaning to the ritual that is meant to provide us with protection and good fortune."

"Will the holly really protect us, Mother?" Faramir asked, amazed at what he had just heard.

Finduilas smiled.  "That is the tradition, my child.  What say you to Faramir, my husband?  Is there truly power to protect in the leaves of holly?"

Denethor's reply was solemn as he gazed at Finduilas and his two boys.  "I do not know for certain, Faramir.  As your mother says, that is the tradition.  Whether or not there is truth in such traditions, I do know this -- I am willing to do anything within my power to keep evil away from those in my care.  And that includes beginning Yestarë with a branch of holly upon my mantle and over the door."

The silence that followed Denethor's declaration was broken by a cry from Boromir.  "Look, Mother!  The door is open a crack -- Father has been peeking!  Shall I scold him for letting in a draft?"

"Nay, Boromir, let him be," Finduilas laughed.  Denethor sighed and scowled at his oldest son.  "Your father is as eager as you and Faramir for the men to come -- more so, perhaps, because he is concerned for their safety and regrets that he can no longer take part in the gathering as he once did."

Boromir's eyes grew round.  "Father, did you used to go to Ithilien to gather the holly?"

"I did indeed, Boromir.  There was a time when I was not engaged directly in duties involving the stewardship of Gondor, and I was free to take part in such things.  Now it is no longer fitting, and I must send others to do my work for me."

"I wish I could have gone with them to gather.  I want to see Ithilien!"

"You will have that wish one day, my son," Denethor assured Boromir.  "Now you are only eight years old, but the time will come when you will be old enough to go out into the world.  You and Faramir both will take part in fulfilling our traditions as representatives of Gondor and your father, the Steward, serving me in Ithilien and beyond."

"I wish I was old enough now!" Boromir sighed plaintively.  Faramir nodded his head vigorously in agreement.

Denthor looked thoughtful for a moment, then closing the door tightly behind him, he approached Finduilas and took Faramir into his arms.  He offered his hand to Boromir.

"You may not be old enough to go to Ithilien as yet, but I do believe you are both old enough to hear a story about one of my adventures in Ithilien while accompanying the gatherers one Mettarë a number of years ago."

"Adventures!" cried Faramir.

"Father, you had an adventure?" gasped Boromir.  "Please, tell us!  Were there orcs?  Was there a battle?  Did you have a sword?"

"Boromir," Denethor said severely.  "I cannot tell the tale properly if you ask questions and do not listen.  The story of my adventure must be told in order for its full effect, so it would be spoiling things to tell you ahead of time whether there were orcs, would it not?"

"There must have been orcs," Boromir breathed, his eyes shining.  Faramir wriggled with excitement.

"Boromir!"  Denethor reprimanded.  "I cannot begin unless you sit quietly!"

"Yes, Father..."

Finduilas laughed, and rising to her feet, gave each of her men a hug and a kiss.  "I wish you much fortune in trying to get Boromir to listen quietly to a story of adventure that may or may not include orcs.  Perhaps a warm drink will settle you all for an evening of storytelling, and make the wait for the Mettarë gatherers that much shorter.  I will fetch it and some food to accompany it."

"That would be welcome, indeed, my dear," Denethor nodded.

As Finduilas passed out of the room, she back lovingly at her family -- Denthor seated in his big chair, Faramir on his lap and Boromir leaning against his knee, hanging upon his father's every word.

"Power to protect," she said softly.  "Whether it be leaves of holly keeping out the spirits of evil, or the high walls of a strong city, or a husband determined to do whatever it takes to keep his own safe -- may it be so, and may that power be enough!"

*****

Notes:

mettarë -- The last day of the year, which in Gondor fell in winter, the modern equivalent being December 21st
yestarë -- The first day of the new year, the modern equivalent being December 22nd




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