They could not be stopped.
They were coming.
The enemy had driven them back against the river, with their fortress burning in flames behind them. The eastern forces were dwindled to himself, Boromir, who struggling to move through the water besides him and two others who were fighting exhaustion to keep going. He cast a glimpse over his shoulder and saw the ruins of the Osiligath behind him. Boromir’s hand was locked around his arm, ensuring that they made the crossing together. Their clothes and weapons were a terrible weight to carry across the Anduin but they were too terrified to relinquish their only means of protection. The bridge they had defended so valiantly as the eastern forces were driven back now lay beneath the dark water of the river.
Even through the rush of water around their ears, they could hear the cries of victory from the forces of the Enemy; Easterling voices mingled with that of orcs and Uruk Hai as they howled their triumphant push through the eastern shores that would soon spill upon the western lands. Fighting exhaustion and fear, they forced all thoughts of what was behind them in order and fixed their minds on crossing the river to safe shores on the other side. Throughout this ordeal, Boromir’s hand had remained clenched around Faramir’s arm, frightened to let his brother go in case he disappeared like so many others who had done during the battle that had been fought here. Even though Faramir was a seasoned warrior by now and a Ranger of Ithilien, to Boromir he was always going to be his younger brother and the need to protect him was equally eternal.
After what seemed like hours instead of minutes, they finally felt the shale sand of the shore under their boots as they dragged themselves out of the freezing water. All four collapsed along the embankment of the Anduin, weary not merely from their crossing of the river but also from the battle that had preceded it. Gazing across the river, Boromir felt his stomach clench at the sight of the fires burning in midst of the ruined Osiligath. Their flames lit up the sky as if it were day and in that illumination, they could all see the bodies of their dead comrades lying on the ground, blooding the earth where they had fallen. Boromir did not think the Enemy would give them leave to reclaim their dead or send them into the next life like honored warriors should be when they had died in battle.
“We need to regroup,” Faramir remarked once the breath had returned to him. “We need to strengthen our line of defense. Now that they have driven us off the Osiligath, they will be far bolder. They will try to cross the river.”
“They will not try,” Boromir said grimly, wiping a strand of wet hair from his eyes. “They will do it. There is nothing to stop them. Our own forces as defeated and what there is, will soon be withdrawn to defend Minas Tirith. Father will not expend them here when the heart of Gondor is under threat.”
“We need allies,” Faramir nodded, agreeing with Boromir’s assessment of the situation and yet he did not feel happy about abandoning these lands to the Enemy. “Father must asked Theoden for aid.”
“I do not know whether they will help us,” Boromir replied. “Rumor has it that Theoden no longer rules the court of Meduseld, his counselor does and he does not seem predisposed to angering the Enemy lest Rohan should suffer our fate.”
“We have an alliance,” Faramir stared at him in shock, unable to believe that the Rohirrim would ignore a call for help. “They must help us.”
“Alliances are broken every day brother,” Boromir answered sadly, “and I fear that unless something extraordinary happens in Meduseld, we will receive no aid from Theoden.’
They rested a little more at the shore before embarking wearily on the trek to rejoin what was left of their forces guarding the Western Shore. Their arrival in camp did nothing to improve the morale of the troops who knew what had taken place at the Osiligath. Their failure to defend the last bridge from the Enemy weighed heavily on their minds and when though he was exhausted, he found no sleep when he was finally shown a place to rest.
Faramir, on the other hand, had fallen asleep immediately and Boromir envied him his ability to do so. Faramir seemed to be able to handle the unfortunate turns of life much better than he. In that way, he was like their father though Faramir would never believe it and neither would Denethor for that matter. Like their father, Faramir worried little about things he could not change, choosing instead to move on to things that were within his control unlike Boromir whose natural stubbornness would not allow him to relent, even in the face of overwhelming odds. However, his brother also knew when it was necessary to hold his ground and on the eastern shore, Boromir had never seen him more determined or never been prouder to be fighting at his side.
Suddenly his attention was drawn away from his thoughts by the sound of Faramir releasing an uncomfortable groan in his sleep. Boromir sat up immediately in his bedroll and saw him brother twitching in his slumber. He wondered if Faramir was being visited by nightmares. After what they had endured, it was certainly possible and not unexpected. Whatever his brother was seeing in the dreamscape was clearly agitating him by the increasing anxiety he was displaying in his restless tossing and turning. Boromir was almost tempted to wake him when suddenly Faramir sat upright, his body covered in perspiration.
“Faramir, are you alright?” He asked with concern.
Faramir ran his finger through his still wet hair and took a deep breath as if to steady himself. He looked clearly unsettled and Boromir wondered what horrors had he seen in his dream.
“Yes,” he answered after a few seconds when he was aware of Boromir’s gaze upon him. “I am fine. I was having a dream.”
“More like a nightmare if you woke up with such abruptness,” Boromir remarked, propping himself up on one elbow as he regarded his brother.
“It was strange,” Faramir muttered softly, clearly troubled by what he had seen but appearing reluctant to speak of it. “I have never dreamed in that manner before.”
“What do you mean?” Boromir questioned.
“With such urgency,” he confessed. “It felt as if something important needed revelation but I cannot for the life of me understand what it was.”
“Tell me,” Boromir asked looking at him intently, similarly unsettled as Faramir now.
Faramir stared at his brother, understanding more of what he had seen in his dream state then he would care to admit. In the years since his youth, he remembered how Boromir felt about his father remaining a Steward even though he was by all rights a king. It irked him that no matter how Denethor or the sons of Denethor fought for the kingdom of Gondor, they would never be considered its rightful rulers. While Faramir had no desire to be king or a prince for that matter, the question plagued Boromir and what Faramir had seen in his dream stabbed the very heart of that wound.
As much as he loved his brother, Faramir also feared for Boromir because he knew what was coming even though he was uncertain of how it all would turn out exactly. Yet the dream had revealed enough for him to know that Boromir was in great danger and it had little to do with orcs or even Sauron and everything to do with Boromir himself.
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
For once in his life, he and his father were in agreement. Denethor did not wish Boromir to make the journey to find Imladris, the dwelling place of the elven lord Elrond who was considered the greatest lore master in Middle earth. The dream that he had hoped to keep to himself had returned not only to him on another night but also to Boromir. With Gondor on the brink of falling to the Nameless One’s forces, his brother was more eager to find help for his people in any way possible, even if it meant travelling across Middle earth to reach the fabled Imladris. When they had brought their dream to their father Denethor, who had for years kept all the ancient texts of Gondor within his treasury, instead of the library where they should be, it was Denethor who told them of Imladris or Rivendell as it was known to the Westernesse.
Faramir who knew more than anyone could have possibly imagined about Isildur’s Bane, had beseeched his father to let him go to Imladris, to answer the riddle that was plaguing both him and his brother. Denethor was more than happy to let this happen until Boromir demanded that he go instead and his insistence on going gave Faramir real concern. Denethor was not eager to let his son, the High Warden of the White Tower and the captain-general of his army to leave for so long a time, especially when Gondor was in the midst of war.
However, Boromir was determined no matter how much Faramir or Denethor attempted to convince him otherwise. While Denethor’s desire to keep his son close was for obvious reasons, Faramir was gripped with a good deal of concern for his brother. Faramir knew a good deal about the One Ring, how it used the desires of its wearer against themselves. Boromir’s determination to save Gondor and see their father finally become the king he should be was a fire burning inside him and was the kind of passion that could become dangerous if manipulated.
Despite Faramir’s earnest efforts to dissuade his brother from the course Boromir had chosen, to let Faramir go in his place, the captain of Gondor would hear none of it. He was intent on going and after awhile, even Denethor had relented and given his son permission to take his leave of Minas Tirith much to Faramir’s regret. Boromir claimed that the journey to Imladris was long and treacherous, that he would not place his younger brother in such peril but Faramir knew better. Boromir’s mind was beginning to churn with the same fever that had forced Isildur to keep the ring for himself instead of destroying it as he should have when it was cut from Sauron’s finger.
Faramir had remembered praying that Elrond of Imladris was as wise enough to ensure that Boromir would never came within arm’s reach of that ***ed ring.
“Are you certain that you wish to do this?” Faramir asked Boromir one final time as he prepared to mount his horse in order to begin the long journey to Imlardis.
“My answer has not changed since the last time you asked,” Boromir retorted, casting a look at his brother as he readied his horse and saddle for the ride ahead. “Yes, I am certain I wish to go. The way is perilous between us and the valley of the elves, I would spare you that danger.”
Faramir bit his tongue, aware that as much as Boromir may attempt to convince himself that his decision to embark upon this journey was for his brother’s protection, there was a darker reason for this insistence on going himself. However, Faramir would not be unkind enough to say so, not when the journey to Imladris would ensure that they did not see each other for quite some time. Faramir did not want their parting to be laced with bitterness even though there was a heavy feeling in his heart that he could not dispel, a feeling that held the portents of tragedy.
“I am old enough to fend for myself you know,” Faramir remarked instead. “Being a Ranger has made it a necessary requirement. I am not a child that I need your protection.”
“I know,” Boromir softened a little in his manner. “But you are my brother and the only person save my father whom I care about in this world. I would not risk you for anything.”
“It is for you that I fear,” Faramir replied, touched by the sentiment but undeceived at that being the only reason for Boromir’s decision to go instead of him. “You go too often where others fear to tread and you have more bravery then you have sense. I fear that you may be tricked into believing that you can handle any situation when it is you that is being handled.”
Boromir stared at him oddly, not understanding the full weight of his words. There would be a time in the future when Faramir would wonder if he had, would the course of events that led to his death taken a different turn.
“You say the oddest things at times brother,” Boromir shook his head turning away.
Faramir let out a deep sigh, realising that he could not sway his brother’s mind on the course he had chosen to embark. There was nothing left to say even though a warning about Isildur’s Bane lingered on the tip of his tongue, wanting badly to be heard while there was still time. However, Faramir knew to utter anything about the One Ring would do more harm than good because speaking it out loud would give it power in Boromir’s mind for the span of the journey to Imladris. Isildur’s Bane was now a mere shadow of hope for Boromir, something for which he grasped at wildly in his efforts to save Gondor and their people. It was not real to him and Faramir hope he would never come within sight of it for that to change.
“Boromir!” Faramir called out suddenly when his brother faced his horse again.
Boromir turned around to the receiving end of a fierce embrace. For a moment, he was filled with surprise as he felt Faramir hugging him tight, in a manner he had not done since he was a small boy, weeping tears caused by Denethor, dried by his older brother’s love and kind words. The gesture filled the captain of Gondor with deep sentiment and there was something in this that made his heart ache; though he knew not why.
“I love you brother,” Faramir said softly, his eyes full of sadness so much like their mother’s Boromir thought. “You have played a great part in my life to such extent that I do not think you will every truly know but before you ride Imladris, I will have you know that you have been brother, friend, teacher and my comrade. I will feel the emptiness where you should be until we meet again.”
“What frightens you so young one?” Boromir asked as he saw the intense emotions playing across his brother’s face.
Faramir almost told him but he could not say it out loud, fearing that to speak it might make it come true and that was something he could not even begin to imagine, “I will miss you that is all. These are troubled times, it is good to say what is in one’s heart while there is leave to do so.”
‘Do not be so grim,” Boromir remarked with a wry smile, ruffling Faramir’s hair as if he were a small boy again. “I will go to Imladris and I will find the answer to this riddle. If the gods are kind, we will also find some way to help our people and I will come to home to you and father. We will see each other again Faramir,” he said seriously as if he was making an oath and in truth he was. “I promise you that.”
Faramir nodded slowly, wanting more than anything else in the world to believe him. “Good journey Boromir,” Faramir said finally as Boromir drew away from him and started to climb into his saddle.
“You take care of our father and yourself while I am gone, you are all each other has,” Boromir instructed, always playing the part of intermediary between the two. He settled into his saddle, his hands holding the reins of his steed in preparation to depart.
Faramir looked at his brother, the image of the proud warrior astride his horse, appearing ready to ride into the world and fight whatever darkness waited him in it. Whether or not Faramir knew it then but in years to come, it would be this image that his mind would remember when he thought of his brother. A smile crossed his face as he waved Boromir farewell.
“Remember,” Boromir grinned as he dug his heels into the flanks of the horse and prompted it into moving, “we will see each other again!”
And as he rode away, Faramir knew that he would not, that he and Boromir would never lay eyes upon each other again.
“He did keep his promise,” Faramir declared as he rested with his head on Eowyn’s lap, his body stretched languidly across the blanket she had brought along with their picnic lunch.
“How so?” Eowyn asked as her hand stroked the strands of his gold hair.
They were resting under a tree not far from the cascade of Henneth Annûn where they had dined with the lunch prepared by the cook at their court, enjoying the heat of the day before Faramir began speaking about Boromir again. Eowyn had listened gently, having been accustomed to his need to speak of his brother during this day in the years since becoming his wife. She did not mind for she too sometimes grew melancholy when she thought of Theoden and she knew something of Boromir herself, enough to know that he was a good man, mourned not only by his brother but by her as well.
“Til this day I do not know if it was a vision I saw or had I merely fallen asleep on the banks of the Anduin and dreamt it all during the brief time we had held back the Enemy from Osiligath. Perhaps it is not for me to know for certain what it was. I only know that I saw a boat, a grey boat with a high prow on the waters of the Anduin. I went to it, wading through the water to but it remained beyond my reach. I saw him in that boat, appearing as if he was asleep, peaceful I suppose. I knew then he was dead, that through the grace of forces of I do not understand, I was allowed to say goodbye after a fashion. Perhaps his valor had allowed him to keep his promise to me, I do not know but I knew when the boat sailed away from me that I lost him, I had lost my brother.”
Faramir blinked and a warm tear rolled down his cheek and his breath caught his throat. He closed his eyes to regain his composure and felt Eowyn’s finger brushing that stray drop of water from his face.
“He is gone from you but I doubt that you ever lost him Faramir,” she said gently. “One so strong and brave and determined to protect you would not be kept from that charge even in death. You may not see him but I know he is here and he watches over you, as only he can. He lives on in your heart, my love, do you not see that? You carry him wherever you go and keep him alive in your thoughts.”
“I miss him so much,” Faramir whispered, his voice breaking a little. “I wish he could have seen how much the world has changed, how great Gondor has become.”
“I’m sure he can,” Eowyn smiled, “I’m sure he can.”
“I don’t like the look of him,” he looked up at his father after catching his first glimpse at the small pink thing in its cradle. Was this the reason his mother’s belly had swollen so and had made Finduilas scream with pain? The child resolved himself not to like this sudden intruder into his life.
“He’s small and ugly,” he added firmly.
Denethor cracked a smile and gazed down at his fivc year old son with some amusement at the stare he was giving the infant with such trepidation, “I am certain you will become accustomed to him Boromir.”
“I don’t want to,” Boromir insisted. “I don’t even like him.”
The infant stared at his brother with a frown on his bow shaped lips and Boromir wondered how he could be expected to like something wearing a face like that.
“He won’t always be this small Boromir,” Denethor remarked. “Faramir will grow and you will be his older brother. It will be your job to protect him and teach him the ways of the world.”
Boromir stared at his father with a raised brow, “all right then,” the child conceded that much but refused to admit defeat and added promptly, “but I still won’t like him.”