The Dream

by Feb 7, 2006Stories

He walked along the shore, hearing the sound of the waves blending with the rustle of his mother’s night-blue, star-embroidered cloak. She smiled down at him, but they did not speak. They paused a moment to watch the waves gently lapping the sandy beach. The sea and sky met at some unimaginable distance. He let go of her hand as he bent down to pick up a shell. He turned to show it to her, but she had disappeared. Then he saw that the water had receded far from him, exposing a vast expanse of the sea floor. As he looked at it uncomprehendingly, just as suddenly he became aware that an impossibly tall wave had blotted out the sky and was racing toward the shore, its approaching thunder smothering all other sounds. It towered high above him, much higher than the trees and the city behind him. He started to run, but knew that he could never outrace the darkness that would soon engulf him and all the world. He stumbled, then fell face down on the sand as the wall of water roared over him. Blinded, suffocating, he struggled desperately as the undertow swallowed him in its inescapable grasp–
“Faramir! Wake up! Wake up!” came a hoarse whisper. Slowly he became aware that he was struggling not against a wall of water but against the blankets that had wrapped themselves about his arms and legs. A pair of strong hands freed him, and there was his older brother, sitting on the edge of the bed. It was the deepest part of the night, and save for themselves all was quiet. Moonlight streamed in through the windows, bright enough that he could see Boromir looking at him anxiously.
He resisted the urge to throw himself into his brother’s arms as he had so many times before. But he was ten years old now, far too old to act like a little boy. He tried to sit up straight and meet Boromir’s searching gaze.
“You had that dream again, did you not?” Boromir asked, holding Faramir’s arms. Still unable to speak, Faramir nodded in reply.
“It is only a dream, after all,” his brother said patiently. “Tomorrow I ride out with the army for the first time. What will you do if you have the dream again while I’m gone? Go to Father?”
“No!” Faramir answered quickly. As bad as the dream was, the thought of telling their father about it was even more frightening. A stern and forbidding man at the best of times, the lord Denethor had grown even more remote after their mother’s death five years ago. Now he spent almost all of his waking hours planning the defense of the city and the realm that he ruled as Steward.
“You must remember that a mere dream can do you no harm,” Boromir told him, not for the first time. “You have had it many times now, and it is always the same, is it not?”
This was true. “But I am afraid every time,” Faramir admitted. He could not help adding, “When you taught me how to swim, I thought I would stop having it.”
“You will always be afraid until you can face that fear, little brother,” Boromir replied with a smile at Faramir’s complaint. “When you are grown, you too will lead men into battle. And you must set the example. If you show fear, they will be afraid, too.”
“Yes, I know,” Faramir said. Though Boromir would one day be the Captain of the White Tower and ultimately the Steward, Faramir had always known he would have responsibilities of his own.
Boromir hesitated, then said softly, “Sometimes I wonder… What will it be like? To be in battle, to fight?”
Faramir was amazed at his brother’s question. Though only fifteen, Boromir had reached nearly his full height. His shoulders were broad, his arms strong, his hands heavily callused from wielding a sword–until now only in the practice yard. He had looked forward to this day ever since Faramir could remember.
Faramir put his own worries aside. “You will have the Horn. Remember what the traditions say. Within Gondor, within the boundaries of the kingdom as it was, the Horn will be heard if you sound it! You will have no reason to be afraid!”
“Yes, of course,” his brother said. “Will you help me with my gear in the morning?”
Faramir nodded eagerly. Tomorrow for the first time Boromir would take his place in one the armed companies of the city on a scouting mission to the old capital of Osgiliath. He would not have his own command–not yet–but their father wanted him to begin his military experience, even of battle, as soon as possible. Constantly he impressed on both his sons the need to be strong in the defense of their city. The Steward gloried in his older son’s prowess but seemed not to notice Faramir–except to criticize him for some shortcoming. Only this morning Boromir had raced to Faramir’s favorite private spot–a quiet walled-off nook between the Citadel and Mount Mindolluin, pulled a book out of his hands and flung it away. Without a word, ignoring Faramir’s stammered explanation that he had forgotten the time, Boromir had dragged him to the practice yard at breakneck speed. Moments later, their father strode into the yard to watch his sons’ progress.
When practice was over, Denethor flung his arm around Boromir’s shoulders. “Ah, my firstborn!” he said proudly, inviting all those nearby to share his admiration.
As Faramir gazed at him with eyes shining, Boromir flushed, then asked, “Did you watch Faramir? He has improved so much these past few weeks.” Faramir felt his own face grow warm at his brother’s praise, then looked hopefully to his father.
“He has improved–a little,” Denethor admitted grudgingly. “But he still needs to be more aggressive,” he added, then abruptly led the way out of the yard. As he followed, Faramir turned his face away to hide the hurt. Unobtrusively Boromir drew close and whispered, “Don’t worry. We’ll practice it again.”
Now the brothers would be separated for the first time. Faramir’s happiness for Boromir was tempered by worry for himself. Though he much preferred books and music, he could not afford to neglect his arms practice after tomorrow, without Boromir to shield him from their father’s displeasure.
In the evening, as was their habit the two brothers stood on the walls near the Citadel. By unspoken agreement, they never looked directly east towards the Black Land, but always to the south. They often came here at the close of day, to seize a few minutes together before facing their father for the inevitable formal dinner. On the rare occasions when no business pressed and he could spare a little time for leisure, the Lord would request a minstrel to sing after the meal. Faramir hoped that tonight would be one of those occasions. He loved the old legends the best, especially those involving the Elves; Boromir was interested only in stories of battles long ago.
Faramir felt Boromir’s arm around his shoulders as his brother said quietly, “He does not intend to wound your feelings. He thinks only of Gondor, and how we must all do our utmost. And who would not love Minas Tirith?” he added, gesturing with his other hand. “What greater honor could there be than to defend the most glorious place in all of Middle-earth?”
Faramir did not need to turn around to see the light in Boromir’s eyes as he gazed at the domes and gleaming white walls of the city below them. Faint sounds drifted up to them as the people of the city laid aside their work or closed their shops for the day, called their children home and prepared for the daymeal. Children’s voices–always too few–rang distantly as they parted from their friends for the night. Beyond the city lay the tranquil farms and fields of the Pelennor, guarded by unceasing vigilance and the great encircling wall of the Rammas Echor. The Anduin gleamed like a satin ribbon as it wound toward the distant sea that neither of them had ever seen in waking life, though their mother had come from the coastland. Far above the boys’ heads soared the Tower of Ecthelion, golden in the light of the setting sun as the guards lowered the pure white banner of the Stewards to mark the close of day. Faramir glanced up at the Tower, where he knew his father often consulted ancient scrolls, books and maps, searching the lore of old for aid in defeating the devices of the Enemy.
The evening bells rang, and Boromir suddenly darted away. “I’ll race you to the dining hall!” he shouted. Faramir hurried after him, knowing that as always Boromir would pull up short at the door so they would enter together.
The next morning, the leaders of the city assembled in the Hall of Kings. Faramir pushed his way to the front, but none seemed to regard him. The Steward was in his plain black chair at the bottom of the steps to the king’s throne, where none had sat since far beyond living memory. The Hall was filled with the Lords of the City and other important persons. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, brother-in-law of the Steward, was also present; he made a place for Faramir in the front of the crowd. All watched as Boromir strode in proudly and knelt before his father to take the oath, solemnly repeating the words after Denethor: “Here do I swear fealty to the Lord and Steward of Gondor….” Faramir’s own lips moved as he silently repeated his brother’s words; someday he would take the same oath himself. Then Denethor gestured, and a servant brought the great Horn that the Stewards always carried into battle, from the earliest days of their office. Boromir rose, and the Lord himself belted the horn around his son’s waist. When Boromir turned to face the crowd, a great roar of approval greeted him, and his father clasped him in his arms. Eyes shining, Boromir looked around at the crowd until his eyes met Faramir’s.
After the ceremony, the brothers returned to their room. “Did you see them? Did you hear them?” Boromir asked, striding up and down and waving his arms in his excitement. “When I am Captain of the White Tower, I will take back all the lands that the Dark Lord has stolen from us! I will make Gondor as great and glorious as it was in the days of the kings–perhaps even greater! You will see, little brother!”
“You have yet not achieved any of those things,” Faramir reminded him, “and until you do, perhaps you should not boast of them.” Although he was certain that no one in all Gondor could compare with his older brother, a small, disloyal voice within him sometimes whispered that Boromir agreed with that opinion a little too well.
“You will see, little brother, and you will be at my right hand,” Boromir replied with a laugh, unoffended as always, his confidence undiminished. “With your help, I will make Gondor the queen of Middle-Earth again! And then you will have all the time you want for poetry and music!” But he quickly sobered as he put aside his festive garb for the simpler, more practical (but still richly made) clothes he would wear in the field. Faramir helped him into the mail shirt and surcoat, then rebelted the Horn about his waist.
Later, Faramir cheered along with the people of the city as Boromir sounded the Horn for the first time. Then, head held high, he marched out with the White Company. Faramir ran all the way back up from the Gate to the Seventh Circle to watch from the walls and keep them in sight for as long as possible. To his surprise, his father was there before him. Faramir hurried to his side, trying to calm his gasping breaths. Father and son stood watching in silence for a moment before the Steward laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. Faramir did not speak but glanced up hastily, not wanting to meet his father’s eyes. But his father was gazing outward over the plain. Did Faramir imagine it, or did his father’s face for a moment reflect his own sudden fear?

The dream came to Faramir again and again as he grew from boy to man, learned to handle weapons and prepared for his own role in the defense of Gondor. Gradually the memory of his mother faded. The dream still troubled him, but he had come to accept the fear. As Boromir had told him, it did make the dream easier to bear. With his brother so frequently absent and with no one but the boys he trained with for company, he began to realize that not all of them–indeed, hardly any of them–resented him for being the Steward’s son. Two boys named Mablung and Damrod became his particular friends. One or two other boys tried toadying to him, but he quickly let them know that he did not welcome this behavior. Often he wished that Dol Amroth were not so far away, but the Lord Imrahil always made sure to spend time with him when he came to the city to consult with the Steward.
Like his brother, Faramir eventually swore the oath of fealty to his father, but no public ceremony was deemed necessary for the Steward’s second son, and only Boromir and the Lord Imrahil (who had come on the pretext of business with the Steward) were present as witnesses. Nor did the younger son receive any heirloom of the House of Stewards, though Boromir and his uncle gave him small gifts to mark the occasion. Eventually Faramir was given his own command, leading the Rangers of Gondor on dangerous missions in Ithilien, on the very borders of the Black Land. Because of the secrecy necessary, little public notice–or renown–came his way.
Faramir continued the custom of standing on the walls of the Citadel at sunset, even when his brother was away. A few years after Faramir had taken the oath in his turn, one evening his glance strayed to the topmost tower of the Citadel, where he knew his father was studying yet another ancient scroll. Did he imagine it, or did he glimpse a momentary flash of light from the topmost window? He had seen it once or twice before, but always before he could decide whether it was real or not, it was gone.
Boromir indeed surpassed all his father’s expectations, winning victories for Gondor and acclaim for himself. Faramir did no less well, but sometimes it seemed to him that only Boromir, now the Captain of the White Tower, acknowledged his efforts. His brother’s unstinting praise almost made up for their father’s indifference.
Their different roles often kept the brothers apart, but they met whenever possible. Occasionally their duties brought them together. One night just before midsummer, Faramir, Boromir and a force of Rangers and men from the City were encamped in Osgiliath, on the eastern bank of Anduin. Faramir dreamt again. This time he stood not on the shores of the sea, but somewhere seemingly apart from time and place. The eastern sky was dark and ominous, but the the West was still light. Out of that light a voice spoke to him–
He awoke abruptly, drenched in sweat, with an urgent sense of danger. A moment later, shouts and screams erupted out of the darkness. Later he could remember only brief moments of the battle that followed. Easterlings, Haradrim and Orcs poured into the ruined city from the East. He recalled seeing what might have been a horseman cloaked in shadow, a figure with the power to spread fear and horror among the men of Gondor while heartening their enemies. Forced to destroy the last bridge to the western shore of the river, the brothers and the remnant of their forces took to the river. Faramir struggled across in a waking nightmare as the swift current tried to claim him. At last he crawled up onto the shore. As he lay gasping for breath, shivering in his sodden clothing, he realized he was alone. Was he the only one left? Then he heard sounds nearby as at least one other man climbed up out of the river. Hardly daring to hope, he called out softly–and heard his brother’s hoarse whisper in reply. They hid until dawn, hoping the rest of their force would somehow make the crossing. Gradually the the yells of the triumphant orcs faded, as did the terror that the dark horseman brought. But the day brought no comfort: Only the brothers and two other men had survived.
One evening a few days later, Faramir stood on the wall to watch the day’s end. But this time, he stood where he could watch the darkness overspreading the Black Land, as if by simply facing the approaching menace he could somehow resist it. A short while later, his brother joined him to gaze silently into the growing darkness. Boromir seemed about to speak, but Faramir sensed an uncharacteristic hesitation in his brother’s manner. He waited patiently.
“Do you remember, little brother, when you had that dream?” Boromir asked finally.
“I do indeed,” Faramir replied. “It still comes to me, but I have followed your advice, and it troubles me somewhat less than it once did.”
“Now I too have had a dream I do not understand,” Boromir said quietly. “In the East, the sky was dark, but the West was still light. I heard a voice that said, `Seek for the Sword that was Broken’–“
“`In Imladris it dwells,'” Faramir finished, to Boromir’s complete amazement. “I have had the same dream several times. The first time was the night of the attack on Osgiliath.”
“Only last night it came to me,” Boromir replied. “I could think of nothing else all day.”
“Why have we both had the same dream? What is the Sword that was Broken? Have you ever heard of Imladris?” Faramir asked.
“I would know what `Isildur’s Bane’ might be,” Boromir said. “Is it perhaps some mighty weapon?”
“If it was baneful to Isildur himself, surely it can only be a bane to the House of Stewards,” Faramir replied. “What is a `Halfling’?”
Boromir hesitated again before answering. “Perhaps Father will know.” Though the Steward had not traveled for many years, he had learned much from his study of ancient lore. But for all that Denethor still favored Boromir, he too was reluctant to speak to their father of private matters, certainly not about something so apparently meaningless as a dream. Faramir knew that Boromir had his own memories of their boyhood, of constant awareness of his future role with all its burdens as well as its chances for glory, of struggling to meet near-impossible expectations, of severe formality and stiff good-nights to a figure who had become more, not less, formidable as the boys grew older. Now the Steward treated his sons almost no differently than he did the other commanders of his forces. Although the formal evening meals continued–when at least one of the brothers was home–they rarely met otherwise than to report to him or to receive his orders.
Far above their heads the Guards of the Citadel lowered the white banner, and sounds drifted up from the city below. But tonight they were somehow muted. Though it was just past midsummer, the setting sun was weak and pallid, the sky hung with clouds as the Dark Country loomed in front of them. The walls and domes of the White City were grey in the approaching night. The bells rang the hour, but their usually clear tones sounded dulled. The brothers turned away silently to join their father for the evening meal.

Before first light a few days later, Faramir was in the stables, watching as his brother saddled his horse. At this hour, the stables were nearly deserted; the only noises were the small movements of the other horses in their stalls. The brothers had little need for words; once Boromir had taken the oath, both knew that every parting might be their last.
For all his wisdom, not even the Steward could say who or what a Halfling might be. Once Denethor had explained what he knew, the elders had wanted Faramir to make the journey, since the dream had come to him several times. Faramir was eager to go, faint though the hope of bringing back aid might be. But Boromir had argued strenuously that he should go: None knew exactly where Imladris lay, save that it was far to the north and west, beyond the Misty Mountains and across many rivers. He was older and hardier than Faramir, and therefore better suited to a long and dangerous quest that all were agreed was best undertaken speedily–and therefore alone. In the end, Denethor gave his consent to Boromir. Despite the Lord’s deep reluctance to send his older son and heir on what might be a fool’s errand, his decision was inarguable and final.
For a fleeting moment, Faramir wished they were boys again, so that he could tell his brother to take care. But Boromir seemed to sense his unease. When all was ready, he turned and gave Faramir a hard embrace, then held him at arms’ length as he had long ago.
“You will see,” he said. He smiled, but now his tone was quiet and somber. “I will find the Sword That Was Broken. I will bring back hope to Minas Tirith and to our people.”
Faramir nodded. For some reason he could not trust himself to speak.
“And Father,” Boromir said. “You do know that he loves you.”
Faramir nodded again. He knew this was true–insofar as their father could love anyone.
“We will meet again, little brother, I promise you,” Boromir said as he sprang into the saddle. He walked the horse so that Faramir, on foot, could keep up with him. They proceeded in silence until they reached the Gate. The sky was lightening with the coming of day. Boromir raised the Horn to his lips and blew, announcing that the Captain of the White Tower was setting forth. Far above, as if in answer, the silver trumpets greeted the day, and the Tower Guard raised the white flag of the Stewards.
The brothers exchanged one last, long silent look, and then Boromir spurred his horse. Faramir watched as he galloped away over the Pelennor Fields, then found himself running up, up to the Seventh Level and then to the wall. To his surprise he found his father already there.
The small figure on horseback was still in sight. As if he were a small boy again, Faramir tried to quiet his breath. As he had long ago, the Steward put his arm around Faramir’s shoulders. They watched in silence for a long time until the Steward turned and walked back to the Citadel. Faramir’s keener eyes could still spot Boromir riding into the distance. Long after his brother was lost to sight, Faramir finally turned to leave. Something far above caught his eye, and he thought he glimpsed a flash of light, high up in the Tower. Then it was gone.


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