Author's Note: the names at the beginning of each chapter signify whose point of view (POV) the chapter is in. Quotations are taken mainly from The Return of the King: "The Houses of Healing", and "The Steward and the King". All others are taken from the movies or related sections of The Lord of the Rings.
How can you see into my eyes -Wake me up-
like open doors
Leading you down into my core
where I've become so numb
Without a soul
my spirit's sleeping somewhere cold
until you find it there and lead it back home
Wake me up inside
-I can't wake up-
Wake me up inside
Call my name and save me from the dark
-Wake me up-
Bid my blood to run
-I can't wake up-
Before I come undone
Save me from the nothing I've become...
-Wake me up-
'Bring Me To Life' by Evanescence
Chapter I: Awakening
"Is there a Captain here who still has the courage to do his Lord's will?"
I did not answer. I could not answer, even if I wanted to, for the lump in my throat.
He had said earlier, "Fealty with love, courage with honour, oathbreaking- with vengeance." He had glanced at me meaningfully when he spoke the last part. I had no answer for that either.
So I bowed low and walked away. Then, just as I reached the great doors, standing like towering sentinels at the end of the hall, I turned. And the words that came out of my mouth surprised even myself.
"If I should return, think better of me, Father."
The guards on either side stiffened in silent shock. He was obeying? Obeying this-this folly, this madness?
I felt a bitter smile touch the corners of my lips. Yes. I would obey, no matter what the cost. My mind flashed back to a scene earlier that morning: the Halfling Pippin had taken his Oath.
"Here do I swear fealty to my Lord, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my Lord release me, or Death take me."
Easy words, easy to remember and stay by in the daylight. But when you got down to the hard truth of those words in the eternal twilight of the Shadow, they were solemn, stern, - and they bound you with cords of a surprising strength. Strength I had not realized when first I took this Oath, long ago as a mere boy dressed in armour too large for his slight shoulders, wide-eyed and longing to be like his older brother. Strength I had come to understand over the years, while I watched the borders and guarded, in Ithilien, in Osgiliath, in Imloth Melui. Strength that had reassured me, given me confidence when the Southern Haradrim seemed as numerous as the oceans' waves. Strength that now I resented, because it would not allow reason against this madness, would force all to give way in headlong suicide, would make dead Men of us all, or face the alternative of lost honour.
Well, I would keep my honour. "Show your quality!" The words were meant to be taunting, demeaning, but instead they hardened me, gave me stubbornness to carry out whatever my Lord wishes. And now I looked back to the long table and remembered that my Lord had not yet given his answer.
Lord Denethor had taken my reply in silence, his outward signs of- anything- few and hard to understand: a tightening of his thin lips, his bony knuckles growing white around his goblet's stem, a flicker of eyebrows- that was all. And then he spoke:
"That will depend upon the manner of your return." It was soft, menacing, daring me to come back like the skulking coward he all too clearly believed I was.
Somehow it didn't affect me as much as I thought it would. Perhaps now I was numb to all his attacks, his insinuations, his inflections of voice. I had no more feelings he could touch. Instead I thought of my mother, of this City, of Boromir. Boromir. He had defended this outpost, Osgiliath, Citadel of the Stars. I would take up his place, the place of the fallen. The place of glory and honour.
When Mithrandir came to persuade me otherwise, I was immovable. "Where does my allegiance lie, if not here? I will gladly give my life to defend her beauty, her memory, her wisdom…"
I had meant those words with all my heart.
When the arrows came, red with hate and anger and blood-lust, I seemed oblivious. All my concentration, all my will, was fixed on the outer walls of Osgiliath, lying in front of my meager line of cavalry.
The men were silent, as was I; quietly they had accepted the flowers the women had given them; flowers of regret and pain and death; they did not expect us to return. And we shall not, I thought. As we rode across the open plain, I turned in my saddle just once; once to see a last fading glimpse of my City before the final battle. Execution, more like.
We were almost to the first wall. The arrows flew thick, and more than half of my men were now gone.
Words, like some half-forgotten rhyme, drifted through my mind, clear and clean-cut amidst all the dream-like fog.
And there are many paths to tread…through Shadow, to the edge of night…all shall fade…
Then let us fade with honour! My mind screamed suddenly, and rising in my saddle, I lifted up my sword, and opened my mouth to shout…
I slowly felt the darkness slip away, or rather, be driven away, by what or who I could not yet tell. I felt sick, and cold, and light-headed, yet there was a tiny place of rest and peace within my mind. It- it was a smell. A fragrance. It smelt like- like, a memory; a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring is itself but a fleeting memory.
And then I rolled over, slowly, painfully, and the pain made me remember who I was, and all that had come to pass. I saw glimpses of the past. Osgiliath's ruined, crumbling structures, dark with the twisted figures of Orcs. The Southern dart, hot and clenching. Denethor, his eyes cold with despair. Pippin, pleading with him for- what? Oh. Yes. The torches and stacks of wood piled high on either side of me, blocking my vision. The greasy feel of oil on my skin. The fire, its heat welcome to my cold body, warm and inviting. And then…darkness.
So I had been saved. I had not been burned after all. Denethor was probably upset I didn't perish in Osgiliath, so he decided to take matters into his own hands, for once. A nice change instead of using me to do it for him.
But still…I tried to look around me, and found I could still see. The objects around me were fuzzy, washed-out. I squinted and tried again. This time, slowly, they came into focus. A bowl; round, blue, water steaming. A cloth, white in the darkness. A low table of dark, polished wood, its surface glossy as a mirror. Then my eyes went out of focus again.
I was in a partially darkened, quiet room. I stared up at the ceiling; it was smooth and white, high above me, smooth curves arcing into darkness. Faint light filtered through a curtain drawn across a small window, set high in the deep wall. The scent that had woken me filled this tiny room with peace.
I lay there for several minutes, as clocks count time, blocking everything from my mind except the feeling of cool linen against my skin, the quiet restfulness of this silence, the darkness around me, so different from the orangey-yellow flames that had surrou- No, don't think of that.
A soft current of air brushed my face, and I turned towards it. The door handle turned, and then a figure filled the open doorway, backlit. I could not see its face, but the light streaming in around it gave it sharply defined edges and hard shadows. The light also blinded me, and I turned away from it, the pain spreading to the rest of my body.
Another creak, and the door was shut, and I was in darkness again. Soft footsteps came toward me, and the figure sat gently on the edge of the bed, next to me. He leaned over me, and I saw a face that, though I had seen him but once before, I knew him instantly.
"My lord," I said, and found I could still speak, "you called me. I come. What does the king command?"
The Lord Aragorn smiled briefly and turned to the bowl of water, moved it closer. "Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!" He searched my face with keen eyes. "You are weary…"
I did feel weary. An ache had set in my bones like an old sore that never quite heals. He spoke words of comfort to me, but I could not hear them for the ringing in my ears. I felt ashamed of my weakness, and was angry and surprised with myself, but still felt guilty; I couldn't even rise to greet the King in the manner he should be greeted, with honour and glory and praise.
I said, softly, "For who would lie idle when the king has returned?" It was directed to myself, a reproach for my weakness.
But the King had heard, and answered gently. "Rest yet awhile longer. Farewell. I must go to others who need me."
Others? I thought foggily as I slipped back into my dark world of dreams. What others? Who?
I thought I felt the whisper of a kiss on my brow, right before I lost consciousness.
- - - - - - - -
I woke later that night, drenched in sweat. The healing fragrance had long since vanished, and the once warm water had grown cold. The pain returned with a jolt, and I shivered, icy fingers unable to feel the blankets as I tried to draw them up.
I had dreamt of my father, and in my dream, he had looked at me with hate-filled eyes, eyes that no longer even pretended to conceal his loathing and discontent for me, his unworthy second son. He said, Your death was not prevented, merely put off. You will join us here. Soon.
And then I saw Boromir, and he looked at me with sad, disappointed eyes. You could not even save the country I dedicated my life to.
No! I had screamed. I tried. I gave my life, too, you know. I died to retake Osgiliath. He merely shook his head.
Boromir, I tried again, growing desperate. Please! Don't do this to me. Don't.
Before he dissipated into the mist as Denethor had done, he turned to me once more. You can live again, Faramir.
He looked over his shoulder, at something far behind him. I looked past him, too, and saw Minas Tirith, ruined, smoking, chunks of shattered rock lying here and there, great segments ripped out of the battlements; the Pelennor Fields charred and torn up, corpses strewn in reckless abandon across its waste.
Boromir turned back to me. Rebuild this land, this country; renew Minas Tirith to as it before the Shadow. You should be good at it, he added bitterly. Weak indecision is all you were ever good at.
I woke up pleading with him.
Slowly I let my eyes travel up the wall to the window, saw it was dark behind the thin curtain. Night. I imagined I could see faint stars glimmering through the ragged, dull cloth. Suddenly I felt a strange, desperate urging to see them, the stars. I needed to know is they were still there, untouched in all their quiet majesty by the Shadow, needed to feel sweet night air on my now hot, feverish skin. I started to sweat again.
I raised myself on an elbow, then gasped as the pain jumped to a new level. My vision swam. I was surrounded by the flames again. The hard stacks of wood dug into my back. I drew in a breath, but my lungs only took in greasy smoke, and I coughed, choking on it. I could feel the fire cackling, getting closer…hotter and hotter…it caught the edge of my leather tunic…it was melting my hand now…
And then the air seemed to clear a little, and I could feel the hard edge of the table under my hand, cutting into my palm. I carefully lowered myself back into the bed and took a deep, shuddering breath.
Fine job you made of it, I thought bitterly. You have failed everything. Your father, your country, your brother, your men…you have even managed to break the oath you took. No, even though all your men gave their lives to reclaim Osgiliath for Gondor, you just had to make it through the slaughter alive. You were the only one. Why? Because you are without honour or courage. Because you are weak, without a single good quality, as the Lord Denethor said. Why don't you just die now, before you destroy anything else you love?
I lay for some time, staring into the darkness, willing myself back to sleep. Because I have already destroyed everything I care for and love. And now I can't even get up to see what I have done.
I wish to die now. How ironic; I smiled in self-derision. Faramir, Captain of Gondor. What a fine-sounding name. He is supposed to be strong, full of courage. He can lead his men to whatever end. He can conquer an outpost taken by Orcs almost single-handedly, as his brother did before him. And yet-
I sighed; one moment I hated myself, and the next I simply wanted to stay alive. I am not strong. I did not lead my men to victory; we were slaughtered, routed. I cannot even fulfill the merest whim of my Lord, I am nothing like Boromir. I lie here weak and dying, incapable of anything. I have truly failed.
A single tear rolled down my cheek, glittering in the starlight like a liquid diamond.