Note 1: This story was originally written for the October 2008 Teitho Contest under a different pen name.
Note 2: The italicized, parenthetical quotes are taken directly from The Silmarillion.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
—William Shakespeare's The Tempest
Sensation slowly creeps into his darkness in a sea of voiceless alveolar fricatives, a soft caress of sound that speaks to him of the rhythmic strokes of waves upon the shore, or the gentle sighs of leaves stirred by the wind. It's soothing, the way that sound flows over him like water, pouring through all his vast and empty spaces until it fills up every corner. Then he's floating in it, amidst the staccato lapping of alveolar lateral approximants as they slap back against the black, lazily defining its edges. He would be content to stay here, cradled in this darkness made of sound, but then it starts to churn and froth, a fast-growing fury of voiceless labiodental fricatives that tooth and claw for his attention. It's the snap of a finger, the twang of a bow, a sharp clap of thunder—
That comforting cacophony implodes, explodes, unfolds into words, beautiful strings of words of strings of letters woven from those threads of sound. They come from somewhere, come from nowhere, come from the nothingness beyond. They come and they wrap him up like fingers to pull him forward, pull him up (and up and up and up) and out of his cocoon until suddenly he is free of it. On the crest of a wave ("deep breath, little brother, deep breath just like I taught you") and the shattering of crystal—
"Faramir lasto beth nin, tolo dan n'galad!"
Sound gives birth to light with all the violence of the dawn ("but when they were come into the Void, Ilúvatar said to them: 'Behold your Music!' And he showed to them a vision, giving to them sight where before was only hearing; and they saw a new World made visible—")
The nothingness contracts, a whipcord's snap and crack, and suddenly the world is slamming up to meet him with a great gasping shock of pain, an unadulterated breath of agony and with it the sense that he is falling up, of pinwheeling out towards the heavens. And far above him (or was that far below) the newborn light refracts into a riot of rainbow stars, and in his newfound wonder he rushes off to follow all of them at once.
"But he lies so still! I fear for him..."
"And to your credit, my Lady, but even now his spirit grows strong within him. His body needs this healing sleep... and too, I believe, does yours."
The world is caught and held in the pulsing cadence of his life, the gentle and ever-present metronome of his heart as it keeps time for all his weary wanderings. He is a man, he knows, now; his existence slowly taking shape, grounded in the simple thud-thud-thudding that suffuses him. He hears it; feels it; revels in it and its recurring promise.
Promise. Oialebeth in the Elven Tongue, from the Sindarin for ever-word ("I want your word on this, little brother.")
A noun (direct object, rendering); offered up from one soul unto the next. Intangible. Invaluable. ("This I promise you.")
Or an action (verb); an act of giving. An act of creation. ("I made a promise, Boromir. I gave my word.")
Promise. Oialebeth. Ever-word. He made a promise to someone, once. With each beat of his heart he is reminded, his pulse echoing with words he cannot remember. He knows only that he lived and that he has lived, his life a lonely road stretching out before his feet. He has been more than this, once, for (once upon a time) the road has to have led from somewhere, has to lead on to somewhere else. He feels the rhythm in his head, pounding out its own half-steps ("and mind your half-steps, Faramir, when sliding up the scale"), each thrumming to the rhythm in his bones.
He promised someone something sometime, but it lies beyond him still, before him or behind him on that long and winding road, a promise in itself.
"How does he fare?"
"About as well as can be expected, given..."
"That wound should have been mortal. I can scarce believe it didn't kill him."
He knows he lives, because he also knows that he's died one time before – died, and been called back – and dying hadn't felt like this. Death was like sinking, slowly, pulled down into a lover's arms ("—and do you, Faramir son of Denethor of the House of Húrin, take she Éowyn, daughter of Éomund of the house of Eorl—"). Death was like drowning ("deep breath, little brother, deep breath and then on three—"), light shimmering and refracting, beauty inside of danger, pleasure inside of pain, razorblades in custard – suspended just beyond his reach ("—star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset, radiant—")
The memories drift before him, thin and insubstantial. Wisps of smoke he couldn't hold, even if he caught them.
Smoke. Because the world around him is on fire.
Maybe he's dying after all.
Or maybe he is made of wax and melting, flesh made molten and malleable by the searing heat ("and being in anguish and despair he cast himself into a gaping chasm filled with fire, and so ended—") Or is it that the air around him is made of knives, hot as pitch, that rend him deeper with every breath.
And he can't be dying, because you can't breathe when you're dead no matter how much you want to.
"This was all my fault. If I hadn't—"
"You saved his life, you know."
Faramir exists. He is both here and not-here, living and yet not-living, home and yet not-home inside the whorls and arches of his hallowed halls and ("come on in little brother, the water's fine") refined and rare and rarefied inside the him that is not him, the self that is not self ("and for many days she could neither hear, nor see, nor stir by her own will—") and there are voices that he knows, and voices that he remembers knowing, and they all want something from him—
—but he doesn't know what it is and he doesn't know if he should give it.
"He reminds me of you. Not as you are, but who you could have been, if—"
"Don't what? Say how I wish that I could keep him safe?"
"He wouldn't thank you for it."
"Of course not. You're his idol."
He is compelled. It is a familiar feeling: voiceless, weightless, kinetic, kinesthetic, pulled towards the light ("and she rejoiced in light as it were a new thing, and all things else that she saw seemed new and strange, for she had no names for them—") and it's like breathing, this pull of ingrained duty, and ("here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor—") it weighs him down like iron chains, ("—and to the Lord Steward—") his own personal dragon's curse ("—speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go—"). And he will always do as he is bidden. ("—in need or plenty, in peace or war—") Because this is his life ("—in living or dying—"). The life he did not choose. The life he would not have chosen. The life he only sometimes (sometimes) wants.
The snap of a finger, the twang of a bow, a sharp clap of thunder—
"My Lord, you called me. I come. What does the King command?"
And Elassar's breath catches on a laugh that just might be a sob to hear the old refrain, as his Lady Wife throws herself down upon the bed beside him in her joy.
"We thought you lost to us," she wails into his shoulder.
Faramir says nothing. Simply turns his face into the sunrise of her long blonde hair ("after the Long Night, the light of Valinor was greater and fairer than upon Middle-earth; for the Sun rested there, and the lights of heaven drew nearer—")
"I thought you dead."
And Faramir smiles, beatific, up into the sea of concerned faces. "Nay. The night is passing, and Day shall come again."
"Auta i lómë!" ("The night is passing!")
"Aurë entuluva!" ("Day shall come again!")
–Hurin answers Fingon, as yet High King of the Noldor, during the Nirnaeth Arnordiad (Silmarillion).
"My Lord, you called me. I come. What does the King command?" – Faramir's first words upon awakening in the Halls of Healing, RoTK
"lasto beth nin, tolo dan n'galad": Sindarin – listen to my words, return to the light