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A Handful of Valentines  by Branwyn

“By long-hallowed tradition is this token borne by the eldest son of our House.  Vorondil the Hunter fashioned it from a horn of the wild oxen of the east, and for a thousand years has it been passed from father to son.”  Denethor leaned down and draped the baldric over the boy’s shoulders.  “Ever have our foes fled at its sound, and within the ancient boundaries of this land, its call for aid will never go unanswered.” 

To his great relief, Boromir remembered the proper words. “May I carry it to victory,” he said loudly.   His father raised him to his feet then turned him to face the hall.  The people cheered, shouting “Boromir! Lord Boromir!”    

When the ceremeny had ended, he ran to find his brother, ducking past the ranks of counselors and guards.  Faramir had had no part to play, so he had been left in the care of one of the older squires.    Boromir proudly showed him the war horn; he even let his younger brother hold it.  Men and horses and oliphaunts were carved in the yellow ivory, and the horn was bound with fittings wrought of silver.  

Head bowed, Faramir traced a finger along the carvings.  “This once belonged to Father, and now it is yours,” he said, his lips pressed tightly together.   He handed it back without another word.    

A House and a lordship could have only one heir, and even if Boromir had not been the Steward's heir, he would ever lead his brother in all things merely by virtue of age.  He would be the first to have a sword, the first to have a horse and commission. And by ancient tradition, certain treasures came to the heir.  This was as it should be, yet still he was troubled by Faramir's downcast look. 

The next day, Boromir waited until after the City bell had struck twice, for he knew that was when his brother rode his pony at the stables.   He pushed back the heavy lid of a chest and began to rummage inside.    What would serve his purpose?   After searching through piles of gear, at last he held up a small object in triumph. 

When Faramir returned, he led him to the great hall.  In the late afternoon, no one was there save for a servant wielding a broom.    

“Now you must kneel before the dais, like the captains when they swear fealty,” Boromir ordered. 

“Why?” his brother asked as always.

“Because otherwise there can be no ceremony.”  He recalled what his father had said.  “That is long-hallowed tradition.”

Faramir hurriedly knelt on the bottom step.

Handing him a lump of black rock, Boromir proclaimed, “This is the lodestone of the second son, which shall henceforth be passed from father to second son.  May it always show you the way.”  Like the horn of Vorondil, the lodestone was precious and helpful at great need, pointing the traveller to the north.  It seemed a fitting heirloom for their House.  His father had kissed him on the brow, so Borommir leaned down and embraced his brother.  Then, for good measure, he tapped him on each shoulder with a wooden practice sword as if he were being knighted.     

Faramir gazed at him joyfully, the token of the second son clutched in his hands.

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