Chapter One

The night was cool and clear, highlighting the moon as if in a silver frame. Winds from the north whispered in the trees, and the very first shoots of spring shuddered under a fresh coat of frost. Leaves from autumn past scuttled along the ground in the sharp gusts of wind that kicked in every now and then.

The water flowing down from Henneth Anûn into the forbidden pool sounded too loud in the silence, and one could almost hear the plopping of the fish and other small creatures as they made their watery way through the depths of the pool. Or so it seemed to the silent man who stood watching it, his features caught up in a musing expression. He seemed unsure what to do with himself---as if he was not explicitly ordered to do anything, and yet he loathed to retire and rest.

His hair was light chestnut in color, and it fell straight as an arrow to his shoulders, unbound by any cord or tie. His eyes were a deep, dark brown, moody and unsure, and his face bespoke of years of long experience in the wilderness. By simply looking at his taught muscles and the way he carried himself, one knew he had been a ranger and a military man for most of his life, which looked to have been about thirty years. On one side of his face a scar formed almost a complete circle, and he wore the look of a man who would be difficult to best in battle.

As the breeze blew upon him once again, brushing hair into his eyes, he bowed his head and leaned heavily against the stone wall. His shoulders were tight with pent up emotion; anger, grief, excitement: it was impossible to tell. And as he fingered his bow, there came the sounds of light footfalls behind him.

"Tirinion," a low voice called, "where art thou?"

The man turned, smiling a little. "I am here, brother. What does thou want from me?"

Another man, looking a startling amount like the first, stepped from the shadow and stood next to him. He too looked down at the water for a few minutes until he again spoke. "I wish to speak with thee," he said softly. Looking into his eyes, he laid a hand on his shoulder and asked, "Thee hath much to tell me, hast thou not?"

Tirinion nodded. "Aye, Rochion." interrupting his words with a sigh, he went on: "I will tell thee whatever thou wishest."

With a slight smile, Rochion led the way through the stone walls and both men disappeared as silently as they had come.

Inside there was light and soft talking, and Tirinion and Rochion quickly found a fire to make themselves comfortable by. Both men sat, laying their weapons aside and doffing their gloves. Their cloaks they kept on; the bitter chill in the air penetrated even the stone walls of the cave. Rochion poured steaming liquid from a flask and handed a beaker to his brother, saying, "You must be chilled."

Tirinion accepted the drink, though he said almost silently, "Someone should offer drink to the Lord Faramir."

Rochion's face took on a pensive expression, and he nodded slowly as he poured himself a full goblet from the flask. Then, sitting back, he asked, "He is not well, thou sayest?"

Tirinion shrugged. "As well as can be expected. He speaks of naught but battle plans and will not let the pain which burns in his eyes show through to his lips."

Rochion nodded. "Aye," he simply said. He was silent again, moodily downing his drink. After a minute he leaned forward until he could look into his brother's eyes again, which were partially shrouded by Tirinion's hair. "Tell me what happened. Rumors are flying about the place, but I will believe naught but what thou tellest me."

Tirinion wiped a hand across his forehead and looked up as another man approached. He had darker hair than either of the brothers, and his frame was more wiry and lithe. Tirinion hailed him heartily.

"Greetings, Damrod. What news?" he asked.

Damrod sat across from him, shaking his head and placing his hands over the fire. "Nothing, brothers from Belfalas. We have no clear orders yet, and the Captain keeps his own council tonight." He sent a searching look toward Tirinion, who sighed inaudibly.

Rochion nodded. "I was just asking Tirinion to tell me of what happened whilst they were on patrol. I scarcely know what to believe." He leaned forward until he was just a few inches away from his brother's face. "Is what they say true? Is Boromir dead?"

His words had been said in a whisper, but they still hung in the air between them like an unspeakable stench. Tirinion hesitated, and then very slowly he nodded his head.

"I believe it is so. The Captain is---thee knowest how he has visions of these things---sure of it himself, and I do not distrust him."

Damrod sat forward. "Tell me what happened. You were there; you saw everything. Was he dreaming?"

Tirinion shook his head disgustedly. "Thinkest thou the Captain would let himself sleep whilst watching? Nay, it was no dream. If anything it was a...a vision." He paused, taking a long gulp of his drink, and then went on in a dreamy, halting manner.

"We were moving up the west bank of the river when it happened. Hálas and I were behind, and Faramir and Mablung took the lead. We were just past the cleft in the river when suddenly the Captain stopped. I saw Mablung asking him what was the matter, but the Captain merely shook his head. He dropped his bow lifelessly, and as he stretched out his hands I saw there were tremors running through him.

"Without further thought, he stepped toward the river and began making his way into the cold water. I called to him, asking him what he saw, but he did not answer me. I think perhaps he did not even hear me, for all his attention was focused on something in the river which none of us could see. Soon he was up to his waist in water, and his teeth were chattering with cold, yet he did not halt. He struggled fiercely against the current, but I feared it would drag him under. I called out again, but he still ignored me.

"'Captain!' I called, beginning to wade in after him. I would have, had not Hálas stopped me.

"'Let him be,' he whispered. 'He is seeing something.'

"I frowned, but just then Captain Faramir held a hand out, almost pleadingly. I strained my eyes, and for a moment I thought I might have seen something---a large object, almost boat-like. But then I blinked and I saw nothing. Faramir touched what I could not see, and whispered several words I could not hear. Whatever it was seemed to be passing him, and he turned as it went by. He looked as if he was considering following it, but he held himself back. Then, with a strangled cry, the strength went out of him and the current would have taken him away had Mablung and I not jumped in after him and pulled him out.

"Once on dry land again, we tried to warm him, as he was shaking like a leaf. I looked into his eyes, and what I saw there still scares me."

Tirinion looked around at his rapt audience and said gently, "The Captain suffers more than we know, that is for sure."

Rochion nodded mutely and gestured for his brother to go on. Tirinion took another swig of ale and resumed talking.

"He kept saying his brother's name: 'Boromir,' he said, 'Why hast thou left me? Why hast thou forsaken me?' I asked him repeatedly what had happened, and he finally told me what he saw. A boat, he said. It was riding low in the water, and in it he discerned the face of his brother, Lord Boromir. About him were strewn weapons of foes that were doubtless slain by his hand, and on his breast lay his great sword. His face was ashen and still, and he did not draw breath. He was dead."

Rochion and Damrod gasped, and Tirinion nodded. "After that he quickly gathered himself and, after several self-administered shakings, took charge again. He apologized for inhibiting us and drenching us, and without a word more he led the way back here."

There was silence, and Tirinion finished the last dregs in his mug before wiping his mouth and settling back. Rochion shook his head dazedly. "Then Boromir is...dead," he murmured.

Tirinion nodded. "I will not doubt the Captain. His visions have proved right on more than enough occasions. Though why he should—must—see these visions, I have no idea."

Damrod swallowed roughly. "Boromir was a great man, and he will be sorely missed by us and our cause. And yet..." he stopped and looked down. "Yet I do not know why the Captain must go through this."

Rochion nodded. "He has never been anything but a good leader. I do not know how we would have made it through many misadventures without his clear thinking and swift action. Not even Boromir, I would argue, could match him for leadership."

Damrod laughed softly. "The garrison at Osgiliath would argue that point, I'll warrant. But I agree with you."

Tirinion nodded. "'Tis a different kind of leadership. Faramir was always better suited to this pursuit, if what I have heard is correct. It requires more mental work, and less grit on the battlefield. We have a different way of life."

Damrod turned to Rochion and nudged him. "What are you thinking of? Or is silence often your companion?"

Rochion shook his head silently. "I was thinking of the day Boromir left for the legendary Rivendell, on which journey he doubtless died. Thee must remember---the day we joined forces to fight for Osgiliath."

"Aye, the day we conquered the Mordor scum," Damrod answered. "What of it?"

Rochion sighed. "What his father said to him...I still do not understand it. I was celebrating nearby, but once I overheard their conversation, I had no more joy that day. If my Captain was not celebrating, what right had I?"

"What did the Steward say?" Tirinion asked curiously.

"He told Faramir that but for him Osgiliath would not have been lost. That he had no right to say he had too few men. And when Faramir requested that he himself should seek out Rivendell, he told him it was---it was just a chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality."

Tirinion and Damrod shook their heads, and Damrod gritted his teeth in defiance. "Does anyone understand Lord Denethor's loathing of his son?"

"Nay," Tirinion said, laughing without humor. "For there is no basis. And there never will be one."

"Well one thing is certain: it does not make his job any easier to have a father and lord who is constantly picking out his faults." Rochion set his cup down and pulled hair out of his eyes. "And to see him walking around without eating or sleeping is simply madness. How long does he expect to last? How long does his father expect him to last?"

Damrod snorted. "I neither know nor care. Has he not slept recently?"

"I have not seen him close his eyes since he saw his brother---which was a full twenty-four hours ago," Tirinion said. "And he has not eaten since then."

"Then we must see to it that he does," Damrod said quietly. "I for one will not have the Captain suffer because of his father or anyone else. He has, as you say, led us through many tight spots, and has been a good leader to us. When I was wounded in the skirmish last autumn, it was he himself that risked his own life to rescue me. When he was wounded and bleeding from the same battle, he went around the sick-quarters and helped ease and heal the soldiers until loss of blood forced him off his feet. And even then he was up within the next four hours and reviewing battle plans with Mablung. His hands are the steadiest on the bowstring, his mind is the sharpest, and his heart is the biggest. I have seen him talk to countless rookies before a battle, and comfort them with a few simple words. I would follow him until the end gladly." Damrod finished talking and bowed his head as Tirinion and Rochion nodded gently at the flickering fire which had burned low.

"Thank you," a quiet voice said suddenly from the shadows, and all three men sprang up, partially from respect and partially from surprise.

"Captain Faramir," Rochion gasped as a lanky figure slipped from the shadows. Faramir held his hands up, noiselessly bidding them to sit down. The three men looked at one another in silence, then sat. Faramir reached for a goblet and the ale, and as he poured himself a goblet full of the warm liquid, he said, "I trust you are all off-duty?"

Tirinion nodded. "Aye, we are."

Rochion took the flask from Faramir. "Wouldst thou like something to eat, Captain?"

Faramir smiled at Rochion. "No, thank you. However sporadic my eating habits appear to you, I do in fact take sustenance."

Rochion shifted uncomfortably and glanced helplessly at Tirinion, who winced. Faramir seemed unconcerned, and he sipped his drink silently for a long time. They were just beginning to think he was not going to speak when he set his goblet down. Looking at all of them in turn, he said, "I want to thank you, again, for what I overheard. It was not much," he smiled softly, "but it was enough to make me appreciate having men like you." His voice caught on the last word slightly, but he immediately swallowed and went on. "And do not worry about me; Boromir is..." he stopped and looked down into his goblet. The men could see him waging a silent battle within himself as he stared down into his ale, but when he looked up his eyes were clear. "In any case, I thank you."

Rochion stood silently. "Forgive me, Captain; I must go see to my weapons." He bowed silently, and then he melted away into the men around them.

As soon as he was gone Damrod stood and begged leave to depart too. Faramir waved him away, and when he was gone he glanced at Tirinion. "Are you going to find an excuse too?" he asked with a slight chuckle in his voice.

Tirinion shook his head. "I have none," he said simply. Faramir nodded and filled his goblet again.

"Thank you for saving my life," Faramir said. He looked at the chestnut haired man opposite him and added, "I needed you, in my moment of weakness."

"There are not many of them," Tirinion commented.

Faramir sighed almost silently. "There are more than you would think, I gather." He seemed on the verge of saying something, and for a few minutes he hesitated. "Tirinion," he finally said, "you have been my faithful friend and soldier for longer than I remember. I—I don't know how to say this but..."

"Boromir was a good man," Tirinion said softly. "And an even better brother, I'll warrant."

Faramir gazed at the man from Belfalas. "You know what having a brother is like. You know what pain it would cause you if Rochion were to die. How you would—wish to die yourself."

Tirinion nodded. "Aye," he said huskily. "That I do."

Faramir sighed. "In truth...I do not know what to do. How can we hope for victory without Boromir?"

Tirinion shook his head. "Boromir was great, but he was not the only one," he said. "We still have leaders that can bring us victory. Leaders that men will follow." He stopped and shook his head. "Do not let what others think bring thee down."

Faramir leaned forward until his elbows rested on his knees and began massaging his eyes. "I have to tell him, Tirinion."

Tirinion nodded and stared at the flames. "Aye. He has a right to know, sir." He bit his tongue and cursed himself inwardly for his lack of better words. "But thee must rest first," he finally said, in a firm voice that he had never used with his captain before.

Faramir was not irked. He nodded slowly, hands still over his eyes. "Yes, I should. But I am afraid, Tirinion." He looked up at the other man, and there was fear in his eyes. Tirinion had never seen his Captain look like that before, and he was unsure what to think. "I don't know what I will find in the land of dreams. And I do not want to waste time. Now that Boromir is...gone...I must do the work of us both."

"Thee cannot, Captain," Tirinion protested. "It is impossible. Thee does too much already. Thou wilt kill thyself if thou tries it."

Faramir laughed hoarsely. "Kill myself...aye, I might kill myself. But if that is the outcome, then that is what I must do." He closed his eyes and leaned back, idly unclasping his cloak and loosening the collar of his tunic. "But perhaps I can delay my return to Minis Tirith for a few days..."

"We need thee here," Tirinion agreed.

Faramir sighed and bowed his head, and before long his breath grew measured. Tirinion smiled as he realized that his Captain had finally fallen asleep, and he stoked the fire back to life so he would not be cold. But fate was not kind to Faramir that day, and before ten minutes were up there were heard loud voices at the end of the hall and hurrying feet. "The Lord Faramir...where is the Captain?" echoed through the room, and Faramir's head snapped up. Fingers pointed toward him, and he drew himself up to his full height as a breathless man ran toward him and dropped onto one knee at his feet.

"Rise," Faramir said, helping the man, who looked as if he was about to collapse, up to a standing position. "Sit, here, and tell me your news."

The man nodded gratefully and took a minute to catch his breath before beginning to speak. In his hands he clutched a bundle of cloth which secreted something lumpy inside it. Faramir waited patiently, and every now and then his eye would catch on the bundle. Finally, the man spoke.

"Sir," he began, "I was on watch not an hour ago when I saw something at the edge of the water. It looked as if it was shimmering in the dying light, and I stealthily made my way toward it. When I got closer, I saw what it was, and my heart seemed to be torn within me. And not ten minutes after I fished it out, a soldier rode up to me and handed me its counterpart, for he too had found it in the river. It''s this, sir," he finished, handing Faramir the bundle and turning away.

With trembling hands, Faramir began unwrapping the bundle. Before he had reached the middle, his face turned ashen, and he said in a strangled tone, "Oh Eru!" The men around him looked at each other and murmured, trying to see what it was. Before he could stop it, the object slipped from Faramir's once again lifeless fingers and clattered to the floor.

It was Boromir's horn, cloven in two.

A great gasp went up from the assembly, and Faramir stooped to pick it up. With shaking hands, he wrapped it up again and set it on a stool reverently, then turned to pick up his cloak. "I must leave at once," he muttered, clasping it around himself. Turning to Hálas, he said, "Prepare my horse immediately, and pack me water and bread. I must go to the Steward. Now."

The men began to disperse again, and nobody saw Tirinion making his silent way down to the stables to saddle his horse. His Captain was going on a journey, and he would see to it that he was protected. Faramir could not face this shadow alone.

It's difficult for Faramir's men to understand both the Steward's loathing of Faramir, and Faramir's loving of the Steward. This chapter is made to bring out their confusion, and also Faramir's acceptance that they cannot understand. His emotions run so deep and are intertwined with his instincts so acutely that they have no way of knowing how it is possible for him to love the man who hates him.

"Thee" and "Thou" are difficult to work with, but they do give Tirinion and Rochion an essential part of their characters. It is imperative they have something distinguishing about them---to symbolize, if nothing else, that they are not from around Minis Tirith, and so do not quite understand all its complexities. In a sense they are simpler and truer, and they do not need flowery explanations to understand something. This makes Tirinion a perfect friend for Faramir, who also sees clearly. Tirinion's sense of companionship and almost leech-like friendship—no matter what Faramir does he won't let go—are important for all the trials Faramir must endure. I'm terribly sorry if I slaughtered the 'thees' and 'thous'—forgive me?