Young Boromir

by Varda

Chapter 20:   Faramir's Dream

Faramir gazed drowsily at two huntsmen pursuing a boar along a carved and gilded oak beam. Their brightly coloured coats glowed in the dim firelight and he thought they looked familiar. He started and tried to sit up; the huntsmen were on the roofbeam of his room in Minas Tirith. He was at home….

When he moved he startled someone sitting beside his bed. It was Boromir, and his brother jumped to his feet and bent over him. Faramir lay back breathless; he was too weak to sit up, and he had woken pain in his arms and his wounded ankle. He raised his hands and looked at them in horror; they were bandaged from the elbow to the fingertips. He could not keep back a cry of dismay…

‘Do not fret, little brother!’ Boromir said gently. ‘You will be well again, but your hands were torn from the ice, and frozen, so we bandaged them...’
Faramir looked up at Boromir. His older brother was pale and gaunt from the long ride back to Minas Tirith and his eyes were red from lack of sleep. Faramir wondered had he been weeping for him…
‘What happened?’ he said in a tired voice. Boromir frowned.
‘Don’t ask, little brother. I will tell you everything when you are better. For now it is enough to know that the Rangers rescued you from the river, and brought you safe home to the city….’

Memory flooded back to Faramir as his brother spoke the words. He put a linen-bound hand over his eyes.
‘It was all my fault! I was not strong enough to hold Tréan….’ He took his hand away and looked at Boromir and asked in an anguished voice.
‘Was anyone killed in saving me?’
Boromir hesitated, then replied.
‘One man, Galán’.

Faramir began to weep, putting his arm over his face.
‘A man died because of me! Because I broke a vow....’
Boromir pulled his hand away and said angrily;
‘No, it was not your fault! If it was anyone’s, it was mine. The horse was goaded by a thorn put under its saddle. It was a trap meant for me and you fell into it. It was not your fault, Faramir. And the man who died….well, let us only say that Fate is just. This time at least….’

Faramir stared at his brother. Boromir looked fierce. Suddenly he embraced Faramir, picking him up and clasping him tightly to his chest without a word. Faramir felt his ribs ache with the pressure, then Boromir laid him down again on the bed and said, tears in his eyes;
‘Nothing matters, except that you are safe…..’

For a while neither of them spoke. Boromir rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. The fire crackled in the wide hearth and outside snow batted softly on the horn windowpane. The light was fading, it was late afternoon. At last Faramir said;
‘There was an orc, a strange orc, he was the leader. Did you see him….?’
‘It is dead’ said Boromir with brutal finality. ‘I slew it.’

Faramir felt strangely upset at these words; not sad, how could he be sad for an orc..but was it an orc? He recalled the stories of how orcs were first made, from captured Elves.
‘He was not like other orcs’ said Faramir, but his brother did not reply.
Then after some moments, Boromir said;
‘You are the scholar, Far. What do the words; ‘Is mise fealltóir inniubh; tusa amárach…’ mean?’

Faramir stared at his brother in consternation; that was the ancient Elvish tongue the orc leader had used. So the creature had spoken to Boromir? Why would his brother not tell him what it said and what had happened? But Faramir had the sense not to press Boromir; not now at any rate….he replied in a quiet voice;
‘It means, ‘today I am the traitor, tomorrow it will be you….’

Boromir grew pale and looked away from Faramir, staring into the coals of the fire deep in thought. Faramir changed the subject and asked;
‘How is Father, Boromir?’
His brother roused himself and replied;
‘He sat by you all night, and only left to get some rest an hour ago when your fever abated. He has had no sleep for three days.’ He frowned as he went on;
‘He looks older, Faramir, these few days have bent him and he seems tired and aged. I swear his hair has grown more grey.’
Faramir was stricken with guilt but Boromir continued;
‘I must help him, Faramir, I must take as much of his burden as I can….’
He saw the look of hurt on Faramir’s face and hastened to add;
‘We must both help him, I mean…’

There was a silence. Then Boromir looked round and said with forced cheerfulness;
‘This will be your room alone from now on!’
The two boys had shared this little bedroom since their mother died. Faramir said in dismay;
‘Why?’ Boromir’s face darkened as he replied;
‘I am to be a lieutenant in the Guards, and will live in the barracks in the Citadel. I will be Captain of the Guards one day. We are not boys any more…’

Faramir felt hurt, but could not explain why. His brother looked very tall in his black guards’ uniform, and Faramir felt an aching distance between them. A nameless fear beat dark wings on the edge of the moment. Then Boromir saw his face and said quickly;
‘Don’t worry, little brother. You are to be an officer in the Rangers, and one day you will lead them. You can hunt the fair vales of your beloved Ithilien for orcs to your heart’s content, little fox!’
Faramir started and turned pale; the orc leader had called him that, Little Fox….but Boromir did not notice. At last he got to his feet.
‘You are getting tired, little brother. Time to rest….’Faramir protested but Boromir went on;
‘Gandalf left you this drink before he went away…’
‘Gandalf is gone!’ said Faramir in despair. ‘What about my studies….?’

He had looked forward to learning under Gandalf, now that too was to be lost. But Boromir laughed and shook his head.
‘Do not fear, little scholar. The wizard will be back, he said, at the next new moon. You are to get well first. He said…’ and Boromir knit his brows ‘..that he had an urgent errand to perform. It is always thus with Gandalf, he comes and goes as he pleases. And usually when there is trouble. No wonder father calls him Gandalf Stormcrow…’
Faramir thought how much like Denethor his brother was when he said that. He murmured;
‘I wish father would listen to Gandalf…’Boromir answered sharply ‘The Steward of Gondor has no need to listen to wizards, he has his own counsel..’
But then he saw the look on his brother’s face and said in a kind voice;
‘Come, little brother, this will ease your hurts and help you rest….’

With great care Boromir put an arm round his brother’s shoulders and lifted him up and held the cup to his lips. Faramir drank and found the drink sweetened with honey but the honey could not mask the bitterness of herbs. Boromir laid him back gently and pulled the heavy black bearskin over him and kissed him on the forehead. Perhaps it was his fever, or his brother had become chilled sitting by the dying fire, but Faramir thought Boromir’s lips felt cold, and the hand he laid on his own like ice. But Boromir smiled at him and said;
‘Rest now, Faramir….’ And almost before his brother had closed the door the healing herbs had brought sleep to Faramir’s aching limbs….

At once he was visited with dreams. At first they were nightmare echoes of the chase and fight in the forest, dark orc-shapes charging across the dazzling white snow, and the yellow eyes of the orc captain peering into his very soul….but then the scene changed, and the icy river gave way to a deep calm Anduin strewn with late autumn beech leaves like gold coins falling through the depths. A mist, dyed with moonlight, drifted across the black water like a silver veil.

Then the mist lifted and in the dark valley of the sky a single star appeared, and by its light Faramir saw a boat drifting towards him on the black tide. He stepped forward into the water and waded out through the tall motionless reeds to meet it. As it neared him he saw it was no boat of any kind known to him; it was of light grey wood, shining like silver, and its prow was curved like a swan’s neck. Along the gunwhale was a line of carved leaves and runes which Faramir knew as Elvish. An Elven boat! But Faramir felt no joy even though the boat was fair; something in its slow drift filled him with foreboding. He wanted to rush out and look into it, but the water grew deep just beyond where he stood and he had to wait. The boat slewed round and he raised his head to look into it. The silver prow stopped and the boat stayed its progress and Faramir could see what it bore. It was Boromir, his brother, dead.

He might not have known him, as his face was bloodless and grey and utterly still, not forceful and alert as Boromir had been in life. His fair hair had been arrayed over his shoulders but seemed black in the river dew. He still wore his silver-embroidered black cloak and the silver circlet round his neck but drops of cold water shone on his skin and no breath stirred his chest. His sword, so familiar to Faramir, lay on his body with his long white hands clasped stiffly round the hilt. And by his side, cleft in two, was the horn he had taken only a few days before from his father’s hall….

‘Boromir!’ cried his brother in anguish but then the deep river claimed him and he stepped off into nothingness. The boat, like a startled horse, spun away on the tide and the icy waters met over Faramir’s head. He was plunged into blackness which drove from his mind all memory and thought.