A/N: I've been trying to write something of this nature for a looooong time, and I'm quite happy to see it finally written out in a way that is acceptable to me. And huzzah for actually posting something! It's been a while. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Naught but two unimportant characters.
Note for all you slackers- i.e. movie fans: It was a dream that told Boromir to search for Rivendell, not his father, and certainly not news that the Ring was being kept there.
Note for all you über non-slackers: the names Avarnen and Falathil are completely made up courtesy of mushing random, Elvish words together with no concept of grammar or making sense in mind. I was just going for something pronounceable. As far as I know, the two other survivors of the attack on Osgiliath remain nameless so I took matters into my own hands.
If ever I may forget the events of that time, I know I will always remember the cold. A biting cold like daggers of ice thrust into my body and heart again and again. It is something so deeply engraved in my mind that even now, much later, I can still feel the wind burning at my soaking skin, an equally miserable, shivering figure lying feverish at my side.
There was much to think about in our current situation- the dreadful cold, the welfare of those around me, the utter hopelessness slowly taking hold of my heart and overcoming the pain of the sizeable gash in my arm- and yet I could not bring my thoughts from what had occurred a few hours earlier. Defending the bridge was our last hope of retaining the city, our very last. And if not receiving victory then it was the last hope of our very survival. But it fell. It fell and took with it countless men I had long fought beside, it took with it myself and my brother who I presumed dead for the longest hour of my life.
For once, the great captain Boromir was at a loss as to what to do. Those not plunged into the waters of the Anduin and crushed beneath the collapsing structure we had been defending were slaughtered one by one by the enemy. The city was taken and all hope was lost. It was then that the instinct of survival must have brought me somewhat to my senses. After all, I was no use to anyone dead.
So I swam.
The river pounded over and around me, I was fatigued and injured and wanted nothing more than to let myself sink to the bottom. Only when I saw another a few meters behind me, another in the same situation as I, only then was I heartened.
And so it was that myself, Avarnen- a gruff, older man, Falathil- only seventeen or eighteen years of age and frightened, and (to my utmost relief) Faramir cast ourselves upon the western shores of the Anduin, far south enough for the further destruction of Osgiliath to seem as but a fading nightmare.
A deep, desolate cold, accompanied by the winds rising in strength and freezing my body, set within my heart as I realized what the consequences of the defeat would be. We dragged ourselves to a small gathering of boulders not far from the river's edge and there sought shelter from the biting elements. Our own destitution was enough to freeze us without nature's aid.
Avarnen managed to strike up a small fire, and for a time we silently huddled around it, pressing towards it and each other for warmth. Falathil, our other companion, spoke only once with a quavering voice and moist eyes.
"My lord," he asked of me, "what are we to do?"
With all of my heart I wished to just say, 'I don't know' and be done with it. But three gazes with vague traces of hope were turned on me- even my brother, who has always been the steadier thinker. They simply assumed that I would have an answer, and so I gave them the first that I thought of and prayed that it would not lead to our demise.
"We will wait here for the night. As soon as we are able we will begin the journey to Minas Tirith. The steward must be informed of the nature of our defeat, if he does not know already."
And there is nothing else we can do, I added silently. I had my doubts that we would ever make it to the city at all- four bedraggled and injured men as we were going such a long way on foot.
The others silently agreed that this is what we should do, and then the silence ensued once more.
Faramir was the first to grow weary which surprised me somewhat, but he had been threatening to grow ill for the past week and I would not disturb his chance for repose. He lay curled at my side, his back facing me, in a position I had not seen him use since we were much younger. Falathil gave in to sleep next, as much as he tried to fight it off. Avarnen and I were left alone to stare into the flames and brood.
Within the hour I was dozing, although since I was certain that someone should remain awake and keep watch lest our refuge was discovered I let myself drift no further. I was startled from my half-waking as my brother began to fidget beside me. I glanced at our two companions to discover that Avarnen now slumbered and Falathil continued to breathe steadily and quietly. Returning my attention to my brother, I noticed that he was now shivering. Gently, I pulled him so that he lay flat on his back.
His eyelids flickered and mouth twitched in a way that suggested he was having a difficult dream. This did not worry me so much as the paleness of his cheeks as shown by the dying fire, and the sweat forming on his brow. I placed a hand gently to his face to find it abnormally hot. So he was ill at last. The over-exertion and the cold of the river had pushed him too far. I looked up to where, in the distance, I could make out the lights of Minas Tirith, and wondered vaguely if my brother would die that night.
Faramir continued to sleep fitfully on. I moved him so that his head lay in my lap, and knew that I need not worry about falling asleep. It was important for me to be ready in case he woke up. I could only hope that the daylight of tomorrow would offer some guidance as to what I should do.
From within the depths of his dream my brother began to speak- strange, indecipherable mutterings at first, and then one word that sent a chill down my spine:
I was unwillingly drawn back in time to an incident I oft tried to forget…
I was fifteen years of age and not getting enough sleep for a 'growing boy', everyone would tell me. But how could I sleep so easily, knowing how my mother had fallen ill? I loved her with all my heart, as did my brother and my father, and this inexplicable and apparently incurable illness worried me incessantly.
I was assured many times that it would pass, that it was nothing to worry about, that Mother needed only plenty of rest and she would be well soon enough, I would see.
Only slightly reassured, one night I was actually able to drift off at a decent hour. I don't know what woke me up a few hours later in the deepest part of the night; for it was apparent my brother had been sitting there on the edge of my bed for some time and had not moved.
"Boromir?" he whispered, seeing that I was awake. Moonlight seeped through the window and I noticed the sparkling quality of his wide eyes. Had he been crying?
"What is it, Faramir?" I mumbled sleepily, my annoyance of being awoken suddenly forgotten.
"I… I had a bad dream," he admitted, biting his lip. I sighed and sat up, gesturing that he should come sit beside me. Immediately he complied, and the two of us leant back against the headboard. I put an arm around his shoulders and bid him to tell me of his dream.
"I don't want to say it," he said, his breathing becoming unsteady. "It was horrible."
"You'll feel better if you tell me about it," I said matter-of-factly. I knew he couldn't resist if I used that voice- Faramir thought I knew everything.
He took a deep breath and leant closer against me. I tightened my hold around him in hopes of offering some protection from whatever had him so deeply frightened. "It was mother," he said in a whisper so quiet I could hardly hear, "she was dead."
I froze, for I had not been expecting this. At first I thought to lash out defensively at him, curse him for even thinking such a thing. Luckily I came to my senses and realized that in my arms was a frightened child as fearful for his mother's life as I was. It was natural for him to dream about such things, for I'd long since discovered that my brother's dreams often dealt with events occurring in our lives.
"It was a dream," I assured him after a few moments of silence, "You know dreams aren't real, Faramir. There's no need to be scared."
"I know," he breathed. "It's just… this one seemed different. Like maybe it was real."
I pulled him closer to me in a comfortable embrace, assuring him that sometimes dreams did seem like that. They were still just dreams, though, nothing more. We fell asleep in that way, and for the rest of the night neither of us dreamt.
But after that for two weeks, Faramir would dream of our mother's death every night. And every night he would tell me of it, and every night I would grow more and more anxious. I could not let him know that though. To him I was completely confident that our mother would recover. Inside I wasn't so sure anymore.
The next night I thought I had simply been driven over the edge, for now I too had a dream of our mother's death. I woke up sweating, but slowly logic returned to me and I realized that I had merely had Faramir's plight on my mind as I slept, and that was that. I ignored how real the dream had seemed to me. Then I noticed Faramir sitting on the edge of my bed as he had been for two weeks, and the words he spoke caused me to freeze and my breath to catch in my throat:
"She was in a bed of white… it was snowing… there was a flower in her hair…" he whispered. And I knew immediately he was describing how our mother looked on her deathbed in his dream. I knew this because I had had the same vision moments before.
The next day our mother was dead.
"Boromir?" a raspy voice pulled me from my thoughts and I looked down to see that Faramir was awake, although apparently a bit delirious. His eyes focused on me and he said my name again. I placed a hand on his brow and was immensely relieved to find that his fever had grown much less intense.
"Yes, Faramir, what is it?" I whispered, not wanting to wake the others who slept on peacefully.
"Boromir… it was so real…" he said, and I tensed. It was impossible for him to know what I had been thinking about, wasn't it? And yet here he was speaking the same words of years and years ago.
"Faramir…" I began, hoping to convince him to sleep again. He needed rest if we were to begin the journey back any time soon. He closed his eyes of his own accord; however, and uttered one question before falling back into the depths of sleep.
I remained awake for the rest of the night, pondering what he could have meant by that question. Imladris. It felt as though the word meant something to me, and yet I was certain I had never heard it before. I decided I would ask Faramir about it once he was awake and in better condition to answer. Then again, by then he might not even remember it.
The next day we were rescued by messengers sent out on horseback from Minas Tirith. What little sunlight appeared those days was warming, and the messengers offered us cloaks and blankets, for we were still wet from the previous night's endeavors. But nothing, not even warm fires and hot meals back in the city, could drag the cold from our hearts- the cold of uncertainty and companions lost.
Faramir's illness was brief, and only a few days later he was well enough to pick up his usual duties. But every night he continued to twitch and shudder in his sleep. He would explain nothing when I asked him to tell me about it, only ask me the same question- "Where is Imladris?"
I would look at him strangely and tell him I didn't know. I grew tired with Faramir's ambiguity. And with each day he would grow more and more restless in his waking hours. Was it so incredibly important for him to find this place, this 'Imladris', which was probably nothing more than the result of a fever-induced dream? I did my best to get back on schedule. There was much to be discussed now that Osgiliath and our control on the east side of the Anduin had been overtaken. Soon it would be time to ride out once more, for protecting the western shore was all that we could do, and something we would do until the last man fell.
I was sure that I would be one of them.
One night, so black as any others that the moon did not shine, found me gently sitting at the edge of my brother's bed. He slept on; for once it appeared he was at peace. With a sinking feeling I knew why. It seemed a shame to arouse him from such serene rest, but before I could leave I found that he was awake and looking at me already.
I was shaking from head to toe, but my question came out in a surprisingly steady voice. "Do you think it meant Narsil? Do you think the ancient sword of Elendil is… is in Imladris?"
Faramir swallowed, realizing what my words meant. I have no doubt his mind drifted back to a time years ago when a frightened little boy and his brother shared a dream.
And the dream came true.