Door to the Future

by MerryK

"There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in." —Deepak Chopra

2995, Third Age

There was something perverse about Denethor that would not allow him to break tradition, even when time and money, with which he was usually miserly, were being flagrantly wasted. Breakfast was one of those events that Denethor would have happily done without—had it not been tradition. Every morning, though upon awakening he had absolutely no desire to stick food in his stomach, he joined his sons at the table and ignored the sumptuous food provided for a full half an hour. He did allow himself to sip some morsaw, bitter though it was, and he meditated while doing so.

Both Boromir and Faramir had no qualms about eating in the morning, however, and had accepted their plates loaded with crisp bacon, steaming eggs, steak fried in batter, and plump sausages. Denethor stared at his empty plate, but his highly-tuned ears were being entertained by the eating noises around him.

Crunch, crunch, gulp. That was Boromir, of course. Chew, chew, gulp. Chew, chew, gulp. Crunch, chew, gulp. Like a ploughhorse, Denethor's eldest made his way through the food with steady speed and constant rhythm. Chew, chew, gulp. Crunch, chew, gulp. Crunch, crunch, gulp.

Tink. Tac. Tinkity. That was Faramir. Tink. Tack. It seemed that he was not eating at all, but picking at his plate with a fork. Tink. Tick-tink. Tank. Tonk. Tink-tink. Tac.

Chew, chew, gulp. Tink. Tank. Crunch, chew, gulp. Toc. Tink. Denethor listened without much interest to the sounds of breakfast.


Two figures leapt in their seats, startled, and cried automatically: "Boromir, please!"

Boromir set down his glass with surprise, eyebrows lifted in innocent questioning as to why his father and brother had been so affected.

"Slurping is not allowed," said Denethor severely. It was one thing to have a constant and steady noise like chewing, and quite another to break the mood so irritatingly.

Faramir took a silent sip of water, entirely at one with his father on sudden noises being upsetting. Boromir shrugged and continued to eat. Chew, chew, gulp.

But now that the ice had been broken, however rudely done, Denethor spoke again. "Faramir, you are not eating."

"I am not hungry, Ada." Tink. Tank.

"You are troubled. Why?" Denethor might not be able to extract all he wanted from Faramir the first time, but he would give his astute son no vagaries to skirt, but would go straight to the point.

"I had a dream last night."

"You have dreams every night," muttered Boromir through a mouthful of eggs.

"Ah, the devourer can speak," said Denethor in a sarcastic aside. "What upset you about this dream, Faramir?"

Faramir sighed and put his fork down. "I do not know."

Denethor grunted, and took another sip of morsaw. All was quiet. Faramir could never be forced to speak about anything he did not wish to.

Boromir soon looked around the table and found that there was no more food. Reading this signal correctly to mean that breakfast was over, he rose and left to go on duty. Faramir sat still, staring at his plate. Denethor could almost see his mind thinking over something, and wished to know what it was. But there was no time to waste over boyish thoughts, and he rose to depart.

"Father," called Faramir, also standing.

Denethor's eyebrows rose as he turned around. "Yes?"

"May I speak to you about the dream? I—I think I should. It was not like the others."

Denethor nodded, and beckoned to Faramir to follow him. He led Faramir to his own chamber, thinking that the soft sunlight shining in the large windows and the informal atmosphere would soften the shield that surrounded Faramir. He used to be such a talkative child, thought Denethor. What happened? What gives him this shell that he retreats into? But he knew the answer; Faramir had no mother. Denethor had been frightening in his grief, especially to a boy of five who could not understand why his mother was not there, and so he had learned to hide himself away. Denethor regretted this, but did not know how to change it, and so he had learned to interrogate, to ask enough of the right questions so that Faramir would have to answer satisfactorily.

But sometimes Faramir would speak willingly, and Denethor was glad that now was one of those times. Faramir sat down in a chair by the fire, and Denethor claimed the one opposite him.

Resting his hands in an orderly way in his lap, he began by saying: "Now, what was different about this dream."

"It was clear, as if it were a picture before my mind, and not cloudy like all the ones before," said Faramir. "It was almost as if it was a message."

"You think it was a vision?" asked Denethor. Faramir nodded, and Denethor sighed. "Visions have sometimes come to those of our house, those of Numenorean blood, but I did not think they would come to you."

"I have always had dreams," responded Faramir, his eyes unveiled for a moment. "You know that."

"Yes, but they meant nothing," answered his father.

Faramir looked as if he were about to say otherwise, but his mouth closed tightly before he spoke. Denethor inwardly cursed such reticence, but said aloud only: "What were the pictures you saw in this dream?"

And Faramir began, slowly and steadily, not pausing for words, as if the scenes were still in front of him to describe. "At first I was in Minas Tirith, watching a farewell between three men. One of them wore a crown, and seemed to be father to the other two. The king and the taller of the sons embraced the other and then mounted to ride away ahead of the army. For a moment the young man stood and watched, and then he turned away. Then the scene changed, and I saw a battle. The king and the elder son were fighting hard on foot, and around them were Riders of Rohan as well as men of Gondor. They were both soon cut down by the enemy and lay bleeding together in the dust. And then the battle was ended, and men were walking through the field, looking for those they knew among the dead. There was one Rider of Rohan lying dead, but when they turned him over and removed his helmet, his hair was dark and his eyes were sea-grey. It was the young man who had been left in the City. He had ridden to war in disguise, and had fallen along with his father and brother in one battle. And then I awoke."

Faramir shuddered as he finished, and looked down at the floor, brow deeply furrowed.

Denethor did not speak, his surprise overwhelming him. This was indeed a strange dream, for it was no vague symbolic picture, but a reenactment of history. "Faramir, do you know what your dream was of?"

"No, father."

Denethor exhaled. "It is the story of another Faramir, son of King Ondoher of Gondor."

Faramir looked up, eyes lighting up at the idea of a story he had not yet heard. Denethor smiled grimly, and continued: "His is a sad story, for he was the second son of the King, and when his father and elder brother rode to war, he was to stay behind and keep safe the City until his lord's return. He disobeyed, however, riding to war as a Rider of Rohan, and it so happened that he and his father and brother all died on that day, leaving the City without a clear heir."

Faramir's face fell, his gaze troubled, and he looked down at his hands.

"What is it, son?"

Faramir spoke without looking up, but his voice trembled: "You named me for such a man? Did you think that I would share his fate?"

"No," assured Denethor quickly, "I did not name you for him. I did not even think of a namesake when I named you. It was only later that I remembered the first Faramir. No, I would not be so unfair to you." And Denethor reached out for Faramir's hand, and held it for a moment. Faramir did not look up, but Denethor felt him relax a little.

"Why did you name me Faramir, then?" asked Faramir.

A rare gentle look came over Denethor's face as he thought back to that day, twelve years before, when he had given a name to his second son. "Your name, Faramir, do you know what it means?"

"I have always thought it meant Jewel of the Hunt," said Faramir, "From the words "faras" and "mir"."

Denethor paused. "No," he said. "No, your name comes from the words "far" and "mir". You are the Sufficient Jewel."

Faramir frowned. "But what does that mean?"

Denethor smiled. "It means that you are enough. Before you were born, life was incomplete, but now it is—perfect. I need no more, no less; you are sufficient." As he spoke, Denethor realized that in some ways he had been waiting a long time to say these words, and they came up from the depths of his heart where grief had hidden them.
A ghost of a smile crept onto Faramir's face and he looked up a little "I like my name," he said in a manner that better showed his twelve years than the more thoughtful one before. "Do you think that maybe King Ondoher was thinking the same as you when he named his son?"

"It is possible," admitted Denethor. "Two sons is often accounted just the right amount for a man."

"I must be connected in some way to the first Faramir, or he would not have visited me," said Faramir, growing serious again.

"Yes, that is true," said Denethor. "But visions are not straightforward. This one could mean many things."

"Yes," said Faramir in a gloomy tone. "That is why it worried me. What could it mean? To prepare me for the death of my father and brother? For the downfall of the line of the Stewards, for my own death even?"

"It need not be all that," said Denethor, attempting to allay the gloom, even though it was not unlike his own. "It may only be to remind you of Gondor's close connection with Rohan throughout history. It is always good to look to the past for the lessons we might find, but sometimes the lessons we seek and the lessons we need are two different things. Only when we are looking behind us can we see where history truly came in. And though there is nothing new under the sun, history rearranges itself, it does not merely repeat."

"Our past is so dark, though," said Faramir, a young boy again, as he set his chin in his hands. "I do not wish any of it to repeat in my life."

Denethor laughed grimly. "Unfortunately, my son, I did not beget you into a fair time of peace, and I must beg pardon for that. But however dark the past, the world did not end then, and many darker things must happen before it does so. If you take one lesson out of your vision right now, let it be that though Ondoher and his sons died, the line of kings did not fail then."

The bell rang for the second hour, and Denethor looked up swiftly. "Valar, events are becoming history as we speak! Think no more on the dream, Faramir. It may not mean anything in the end, and worrying will not help you. Now go to your lessons!"

And with a helping push from his father, Faramir exited the room so that Denethor could dress in peace. Faramir was a strange child, Denethor had always known, plagued by dreams ever since infancy. They were often interesting, but in Denethor's opinion, true visions, visions that offered clear foretelling, did not occur anymore. Perhaps this one was an exception, but perhaps it was not. And when the person who received it had a tendency to overthink, like Faramir, it was best to counsel him to forget it.

But Faramir did not forget, and that was not strange, as he did not try to do so. For all his father had said, he believed that there was something special about this dream, and the problem troubled him for days. Later that week, he had the dream again. He did not tell his father. He had it once more several weeks later. It was a little different each time, but always it ended with the young Rohirrim who was not as he seemed. Faramir analyzed his dream many times, and in the end he always felt that there was some odd connection between him and his namesake.

The last time he had the dream, two years later, convinced him. For as he saw his countrymen remove the helmet of Faramir son of Ondoher, those eyes that were supposed to be dead were lit from within, and Faramir son of Denethor met a gaze as hard as stone from eyes the color of the sea. He never forgot that gaze.


A soft breeze was floating through the trees in the night, and there was a nightingale gently singing somewhere. Faramir felt peace, but a guilty peace, for only miles away his countrymen stood on the brink of doom while he spent all his days in the gardens of the Houses of Healing. Beside him, Eowyn stirred restlessly, and he wondered if she too was feeling unworthy of this rest.

But then, she turned and spoke to him, saying, "My lord, I am afraid you have been deceived about me."

"How so, my lady," said Faramir in a tone that clearly showed his curiosity.

"You have spoken of me, and to me, today, in a way that lets me draw no other conclusion but that you respect me," she continued. "And my conscience tears at me that you should do so, not knowing who you bestow such honor on."

There was a pause, as Faramir digested this strange speech, and as Eowyn gathered her courage together. Then suddenly, she turned to face him, looking up into his face with a steady gaze. "I am not worthy of any man's honor. If I slew the Nazgul Lord, it was through an act that should give me only dishonor among those who know. I was charged to protect my people, to keep the Golden Hall until my lord's return, and I deliberately broke my oath."

And as Faramir, surprise plain on his face, still met her gaze, a shock ran through him. Those eyes, grey as the sea, hard as stone; he knew them from before. And in the moment of silence while neither spoke, a specter came from Faramir's mind and stood before him, Faramir son of Ondoher, tall as kings and yet in the armor of the Rohirrim. The young prince bowed, his gaze never leaving his namesake, and as Faramir looked back at him, the face changed but the eyes were the same, and he beheld Eowyn, still looking at him, waiting for a response. The vision left him, but he knew now what it meant.

He laughed softly, very softly, very gently, and said, "My lady, this knowledge does not change my opinion of you; indeed, I already knew your whole story from the halfling. But I do not blame you, and even if I wished to, I could not. Who among us has not broken an oath, willingly or no? Did not I break the laws of my own country, and let strangers pass through Ithilien? Nay, your honor is still in place, lady, for fate led you to the Pelennor, and all has turned out well in the end."

Eowyn for a moment looked puzzled, and she said nothing, but dropped her gaze and pondered these words.

Faramir smiled to himself, and he looked up to the heavens, and sent a silent prayer of thanks to the power that had given him that vision so long ago. For though connected by a coincidence of naming, and though in character and fate different in the end, yet still Faramir's past had been a door to his future, as his father had said. And his future was with Eowyn of Rohan, the young Rohirrim who was not as she seemed, with eyes grey as the sea—and hard as stone.

But one day they would soften.

The End