Summary: In the Third Age 3018, on the cold night of mettarë, Faramir lay shivering in a ditch in Ithilien, in the midst of the bloody War of the Ring. Yet the spirit of Ilúvatar, the Father of All, would transform this night into one that Faramir would never forget… A oneshot based on the true story of WWI soldiers on Christmas Eve, 1914.

Disclaimer: I own nothing about this story whatsoever. That honor belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien—for his books, characters, languages, and everything else—and to Garth Brooks for his song called "Belleau Wood".

Special Disclaimer: The concept of using mettarë as a popular Gondorian holiday is thanks in part to steelelf's fanfiction stories. Obviously I couldn't use Christmas, heh.

Dedication: This story is dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien, who fought in World War I—the Great War, the "War to End All Wars"—and to all those who continue to fight and die for our country, so far from home this Christmas Eve. Nai kal ndu hiruvailye. (May it be that light from on high will find us all.) Merry Christmas, mellyn nin. - Minyasta

Just Beyond the Fear

Faramir shivered against the corpse that had fallen against his body. The arrows had ceased. The screams were silenced. Somewhere, the last flame set ablaze by the enemy's volley of fire-shot was extinguished. They lay in a shroud of darkness, half-buried in dirt and mud caked with dried blood. Shaking hands still gripped their bows, too afraid to let go, adrenaline still flooding their veins. An innocent dusting of snow fell unseen upon the land between their ditch and the enemy's, covering the dead bodies that sprawled like a child's collection of dolls just beyond the range of fire.

"Faramir." He turned his head towards the whisper. It was Damrod. He was still alive, then. "Faramir, do you know what today is?"

"Yes, Damrod," said he. "It is a Heavensday."

"No, Faramir! It is mettarë, just a few minutes before midnight!"

Mettarë. Literally "Last Light". The last day of the year, when everything was supposedly born anew and Middle-Earth was given another chance at peace.

Peace, thought Faramir, his bleak, grey eyes gazing hollowly at the earthen wall of the ditch. What about peace? The air is choked with the black smoke of fire. The earth is riddled with the bodies of our brothers. The water is poisoned with the blood of the innocent. Peace forsook Gondor long ago…

From nearby, Faramir could hear a lieutenant's shaking voice: "Dúlo, estel…" But there would be no hope, not until dawn, still many cold hours away…

A soft, gentle sound suddenly broke the silence about the Gondorian trench in two, and Faramir stiffened with fear and alertness. An ambush? But how? There was no way the Easterlings could have made their way across the span of land between the two ditches without being detected! The whole Gondorian line was awake within seconds, and Faramir gestured to his lieutenants to keep them silent. He strained his ears to listen, and he heard then something that nearly made his heart stop in shock.

It was a song in a language that he did not understand, but the melody was one that he could not have misinterpreted. "Dín Lómë" it was called in Gondor, a traditional song of mettarë. In Westron it was known as "Silent Night."

"Bless the Valar!" whispered Damrod, his voice barely more than a breath. "Could it be…?"

A million thoughts raced through Faramir's mind. Was it a message from Eru? Was it a hoax of the enemy? Was it a sign of peace? Was it an omen of death?

"Faramir…what are your orders?" asked Mablung, who had suddenly appeared at Faramir's side. Along the Gondorian line, men were stringing their bows. Faramir could not answer. "Faramir," Mablung repeated, urgently.

Faramir listened in silence, unable to give the order, hearing the lonely gleam of hope in the voice across the broken battlefield—one voice, defying them all…

But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increasing in unison and harmony…

"Stand down."

Mablung blinked. "Sir?"

Faramir did not repeat his orders. Then the fear and doubt surrounded him, for he'd die if he was wrong. But he did something that he later knew was the bravest thing he had ever done.

Faramir stood up out of the ditch, closed his eyes, and began to sing along.

"Dín lómë, aina lómë.

Ilúve kala, ilúve úna coirë.

Úraenelye! Auta i iaur loa!

Ortana i anar! Túla i vinya!

Eru tíra este le.

Eru tíra este le…"

As he sang, he heard another Easterling voice joining in from across the frozen battlefield. One by one each man became nothing more than the singer of a lost, desperate hymn on that cold night—not a soldier, not a warrior, not an enemy, just a man raising his voice in a great plea to the heavens above, a cry for hope and new birth in the midst of blood and carnage.

Then Ilúvatar said to them: 'Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music…'

Damrod stood beside Faramir, singing in Westron.

"Silent night, holy night.

All is calm, all is bright.

Wander thou not! Passing is the old year!

Lifting up is the sun! The new cometh here!

Eru watches over thy rest.

Eru watches over thy rest…"

Faramir thought then that he had slipped into a dream. Across the battlefield, in the enemy's ditch, an Easterling stood so that he was face to face with Faramir and Damrod, their dead stretched between them, the white snowflakes falling silently down. The song rose in a great tumult of triumphant noise, a climax of word and melody that pitched and rolled in the chill night air. All the men on both sides of the field were singing, one great harmony that flooded the silence. Faramir watched as the Easterling raised his hand and smiled at him, as if he seemed to say, 'Here's hoping we both live to see us find a better way.'

And though Faramir would fight countless battles and kill many men, he would never forget that one, fleeting moment when the answer seemed so clear:

Heaven's not beyond the clouds, it's just beyond the fear.

--- i met.---

- The parts in bold are lines taken directly from Garth Brook's song entitled "Belleau Wood".

- The parts in bold and italics are excerpts taken directly from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion.

- Er...kudos to whoever wrote "Silent Night". I just translated it into Elvish and made it fit mettarë instead of Christmas. The translation can be seen above, when Damrod sings in Westron.

Dúlo, estel.

(Come, hope.)