He was dying for his father.

Wasn't he the one who words were still ringing in his ears? Wasn't he the one who had sent him out on this suicidal charge? Wasn't he the one who had spent years slowly wringing the hope from his son's heart and in one final squeeze hadn't he broken it beyond repair?

Faramir could hardly see through the tears that streamed down his face. In front of him blurred and indistinct loomed the ruins of Osgiliath. He could almost make out the black blobs that would be the orc archers raising their bows but the whole of his world was frighteningly indefinite and impermanent, lurching before him on this last ride.

Faramir shook his head to clear his vision and the chinstrap of his helmet dug into his neck annoyingly as it always did. 'He will love you before the end'. Gandalf's words still resonated around the young captain's head but he dismissed them swiftly. This was the end and there was no love. There was no hope.

The horse below him lurched suddenly. At the same moment Faramir felt a sharp burning pain in the right side of his chest and then another lower down in his gut. He grunted as his horse lurched forwards and he was tossed over its neck. He dropped his sword as he fell.

No, he was not dying for his father because his father wasn't worth dying for.

He was dying for Gondor.

He had struggled all his adult life to keep it free and safe. He had forced out of his mind his own hopes and desires, his own need for contemplation and study to become the consummate soldier and captain of men. He had faced his fear and dared to ride before the nazgul just to save his city, his people.

Faramir slowly opened his eyes. The world was grey and colourless. There was smoke drifting lazily on the air blown from the burning ruins of Osgiliath but closer still was the acrid scent of blood and death. He tried to move but his body was numb and broken. He was lying on his side with his face in the dirt. He tried to lift his head but none of his muscles seemed able to answer his call. He gulped as he forced his eyes to stay open; unconsciousness was just a heartbeat away. All he could see was the sepia earth beneath his head that spun out of focus. He felt sick. Somewhere close by a man screamed in agony. Faramir tried to recognize the voice, it must be one of his men but the scream was too primal for him to perceive its human characteristics. He remembered the looks in the eyes of his men when he had given them the order for the last ride and he had to fight his nausea still more.

Faramir tried to move again but nothing worked anymore. He longed to be able to reach out to the soldier and comfort him but he could not. A wave of guilt washed through him. He had brought the soldier to this end, to lie battered and broken in the dirt and wait for death's comforting release. And soon enough this end would take them all. There was no hope, Gondor would fall and all of his labours would be for naught.

No, he wasn't dying for Gondor for Gondor was lost already.

He was dying for his king.

For a thousand years his people had waited, their patience sustained through their suffering by this one hope.

The screaming had degenerated into a weak whimpering as the soldier pleaded for aid. Faramir pulled in a ragged but deep breath wishing it would be his last but death would not take him, in this as in all things he seemed destined to disappoint his father.

Suddenly the earth beneath him began to shudder, weakly at first but growing with every moment. The whimpering soldier was silent as another sound took his place, the evil rhythm of goblin drums.

A deep dread took Faramir then. He closed his eyes but the quaking of the earth and the drumming did not stop. It echoed through his body causing him to twitch and move in a way his conscious mind could no longer command. He took a deep breath and concentrated hard. Strength from fear made it possible for him to lift his head slightly and look along the ground towards Osgiliath. Fear multiplied a thousand times as he saw the Mordor army approach in all its glory as he lay before it powerless to resist.

No he was not dying for his king for his king was too late.

He was dying for his brother.

Boromir, dear Boromir, his one true friend. For a second his thoughts brightened with the memories of the great warrior of Gondor and the bond they had shared. His brother's love had been as strong as his indomitable heart and Faramir knew he had been truly blessed to feel its potency.

Movement close by chased the warming comfort of memory away and brought him back in the barren colourlessness of the present horror. Weakly he raised his head again and saw a group of goblins moving along the line of his men. His forced his watering eyes to focus and what he saw caused the bile to rush up his numb body. For the goblins were carefully traversing across the line beheading his men as they went. Dread and disgust filled Faramir then but he could only clench his fists impotently and that took so much of his energy he almost lost consciousness.

They reached the whimpering soldier who cried out desperately for mercy. He found none.

Faramir sank back into the dirt and waited, alone and hopeless on the battlefield. There was nothing else for him to do.

The goblins reached him, he could smell and hear them more than he could see them for his vision was losing clarity once more. Roughly they grabbed hold of his breastplate and pulled him forwards. A flash of pain wracked through him and Faramir could not bite back his groan that although fuelled by pain was unmistakably tinged by fear.

"This one's alive too," came a whining goblin voice. "Should we do him, same as the others?"


Another face, more ugly and misshapen but equally gray swam into Faramir's watery vision. It bent down to spit putrid words into his face.

"I recognize this one," the voice said.

Faramir was struggling to decipher the meaning and stay conscious as the pain and fear washed through him. His body betrayed him then as it started to convulse uncontrollably.

"He's near as dead as makes no difference," the voice continued and then an evil laugh followed. "He's their captain. Save him. We'll send him back before his men; give him the respect a bold captain of Gondor deserves! See the fear in him - he can share it with the rest of his people!"

The words dripped with derision and were followed by more grotesque giggling.

Faramir wanted to scream his defiance but his voice was lost in a pathetic whimper of despair.

The leader threw Faramir backwards to the dirt. Again he was unable to stop the grunt of pain that escaped him. The goblins laughed all the more and Faramir felt a stinging kick in his side. Violent scarlet pain shot through him then chasing away the last of him. The last of his courage, the last of his reason and the last of his hope.

No he was not dying for his brother because his brother was dead already.

He was dying because there was nothing else to do.

Pain, purple and penetrating was all he was. He had no coherent thought, no consciousness and no feeling except the agony searing in to his very soul. They had taken him, pulling him roughly along the ground to a horse. Lifting his leg they had tied it to the stirrup and then with harsh words they had set the horse running. And all the time Faramir had known nothing except the pain. His numbed body had exploded into burning anguish as he juddered along the plains.

As the horse slowed he managed to open his eyes one last time. Through the dust and passed the arrows protruding from his body he managed to see his city before him. It seemed to him that a shaft of brilliant sunlight cut through the black sky above him. For one fleeting moment Faramir beheld the White City in all of its glory and his heart swelled frenziedly in his chest.

In that moment he saw, with a clarity of vision few men experience, that he did not want to die for any of them; not for his father, not for Gondor, not for the king nor for his brother. He wanted to live! Even after all the suffering and all the fear he wanted to live! Just to draw the next breath, to be able to carry on fighting, to prove that his life was precious and important after all. He wanted to live! He felt his long forgotten hope re-kindle like a fragile spark in the growing darkness.

No he was not dying because there was nothing else to do because in the end there was nothing worth dying for; it was all worth living for.

And then the brutal blackness smothered his proud but broken heart, his eyes closed, his head bumped back into the dust and his beleaguered spirit gave up its tenuous hold on life and fled.