Following the Dream by Linaewen

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Story Notes:

Written for the 2016 Back to Middle-Earth Challenge, from a 2015 B22MeM prompt -- Boromir preparing to leave for Rivendell for the council.


Boromir gazed out over the ruined city from his vantage point atop an elevated terrace of burned and crumbling masonry. The city of Osgiliath was vast, and lay on both sides of the river, joined by a great stone bridge across the Anduin. Gondor held the western bank; the eastern bank was veiled in shadow. The clash would come here at this strategic spot. His father had foreseen it, and so they were preparing to defend their fortifications and the bridge that linked the east to the west, giving passage into the heart of Gondor.

There was no sign of the enemy as yet, but Boromir knew they were coming. He had sent scouts with keen eyesight to watch the Crossroads in secret; they would alert him when they saw the army of Sauron on the move. Boromir's company had been working feverishly on the bridge so that in the last event, it could be thrown down to prevent the enemy from crossing over; it was now time to take up their positions on the eastern bank. They would meet the enemy head-on before they reached the bridge.

Even as Boromir descended, he saw his brother Faramir approaching. "How goes the work, my brother?" Boromir asked.

"We have done what we can," replied Faramir, looking doubtfully at the eastern shore. "If we must fall back to the bridge, we should be able to prevent the enemy from crossing."

"They will come tonight."

"Yes," said Faramir wearily. "We should cross over soon, and form our defense."

Boromir looked at his brother sharply. "What is it, Faramir? What is wrong?"

"You always know when something is amiss with me!" Faramir said with a smile. "I had a dream last night, and it troubles me still."

Boromir frowned. "Not the sea dream again?" he queried, his brow wrinkled in worry. "The vast wave that engulfs us all? I would take that as a bad omen, indeed!"

"No, not that," replied Faramir, shaking his head. "It was a dream I have never had before. I will share it with you, but perhaps now is not the time; I would ponder it further before I speak of it."

"It must have been very troubling, then. Will all be well with you?"

Faramir drew himself up. "Do not fear, I will not be distracted from my duties."

"You?" Boromir scoffed affectionately. "Distracted from your duty? May I live to see such a thing!" Boromir's smile changed to another frown as he looked at his brother closely. "I was serious when I asked if it is well with you. I know such dreams are often disturbing to you.  And be sure I have noticed that you have not slept well these past nights."

"Speak for yourself, my brother," retorted Faramir. "As the Captain-General leads, so the men will follow. When was the last time you slept well, may I ask?"

"I do not remember," sighed Boromir. "Too long. But it is hard to close my eyes when constant vigilance is needed. The enemy is everywhere, it seems, and we are hard pressed to guard all our borders."

"Vigilance!" Faramir looked at his brother with fondness. He shook his head. "You sound like Father when you say that! Yes, vigilance is needed, but there is more to life than constant battle."

"I do not forget it," replied Boromir, "though our father may."

He looked at Faramir thoughtfully. "Father drives you hard," he said. Faramir's only answer was a weary shrug.

"You have shown yourself more than capable as a captain and leader of men, and yet he still seems reluctant to trust you fully!" Boromir cried, suddenly angry. "I do not understand! Why does he not see, why does he not realize your mettle?"

"It matters not, Boromir," said Faramir. "I can bear it; he will see it one day."

"He sees so much, knows so much of what is happening in the kingdom, yet he cannot see that the future is as much with you as it is with me!" Boromir's anger was suddenly spent, and he shook his head sadly. "There will come a day when I will not be here to lead, and then he will be forced to realize that you are more than ready to take my place."

Faramir stared at Boromir in surprise and fear. "What is this talk of taking your place?" he growled, almost angrily. "You are the heir and our Captain-General, no other!"

"We must be realistic, Faramir; if I should fall, you will be Captain and heir."

Faramir ducked his head, but not before Boromir caught the swift look of pain and denial in his eyes. He gripped Faramir's shoulder.

"Now it is my turn to say, 'Do not fear!'" Boromir said firmly. "Father will see your quality, and acknowledge it. As for the other thing, it is practical to think of of the future; but I am not lost to you yet, and I do not look to be! You will wait long for the captaincy, I assure you! Did you not know? I am indestructible!"

Faramir laughed, relieved. "So that explains it! That is well! I have no desire to take your place just yet.  Being Captain of the Rangers of Ithilien is enough for me."

"Then if that is settled, come! Let us go down to the men."

***

Boromir stood in the Embrasure of the Citadel and faced East, gazing out over the city of Minas Tirith. Below him, the city below rose from the plain of the Anduin, tier upon tier, until it towered above the river valley, a strong and durable fortress that stood against the threat of the East. Smoke and shadow hung over Osgiliath. Several days had passed since the battle for the bridge; it had been hard fought, and many good men had lost their lives, but in the end, they had held back the enemy. Their borders were secure once more.

He heard a footstep behind him, and turned. It was Faramir.

"You were asking for me, Boromir?"

"Yes, I have need of your counsel."

Faramir looked at Boromir sharply. "What is it? What is wrong?"

"Is it so strange that I should seek your counsel that you assume there is something amiss?" asked Boromir with a smile.

Faramir returned the smile. "No," he responded. "It is not so strange, perhaps; and yet, it is rare enough!  Therefore, I must assume something is amiss!"

Boromir sighed and looked out over the wall to the West. "I dreamt last night, Faramir," he confessed. "My dream was the very same riddling dream that has come to you for so many nights since the eve of the battle under the moon."

"So!" replied Faramir heavily. "It means something significant, then. I feared it was so." He shook his head wearily. "I should have acted sooner, perhaps, but I did not know my way forward.  I have been searching for something in the archives that might shed light on this riddle, but there is nothing there that makes sense to me. I had thought to find something that would confirm an idea I had, but it is all still unclear!  So I delayed, and now the dream has come to you.  It is a summons, and we both have been called to answer it.  I did not answer the call, and now you have been drawn in."

"We must tell Father," said Boromir, with another sigh. "He will be angry that we have kept this from him, but there was no other way. He might have listened better to you, if you had found an answer explaining the riddle; but now..."

A look of resignation crossed Faramir's face, as he nodded his assent. "Yes, now... now he will listen, indeed, because you have dreamed as well."

Boromir made a quick movement as if to gainsay Faramir's statement, but Faramir shook his head and smiled sadly.

"I am not angry, Boromir," he said, gripping Boromir's arm. "You speak the truth, he would not have listened. 'Just another one of Faramir's dreams,' he would think, 'of little importance'."

Faramir shook his brother's arm emphatically. "But now you have had the dream as well, and he will have to listen!  It means something, something important!"

"Yes," replied Boromir. "It means something. We are being called to some great task -- a summons, as you suggested.  Yet I cannot understand what it might be. Let us hope Father may have some answers for us. If he cannot help, then I fear one of us will have to seek the answers elsewhere. Come, let us have it done!"

***

"Seek for the sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand."

Denethor's eyes glittered, but he did not speak, as Boromir recited the words of the dream that had come to Faramir and himself.

"We had hoped you might be able to shed light on the meaning of the dream," said Boromir, in the silence that followed his recitation. "Faramir has searched the archives for answers which might aid us, but to no avail. We cannot interpret the meaning of the dream."

"You are wise in ancient lore, Father," added Faramir. "We thought you might have some knowledge which would help us decipher the strange words."

Denethor was silent for a long time.  "The meaning of the riddle is dark to me," he said at last.  "One thing I do know, however, though the knowledge may be of little use: Imladris was of old the name of a valley in the North. It is said that Elves dwell there, and with them their lord, Elrond the Half-Elven."

Faramir's face brightened and he stepped forward eagerly.  "This proves the dream to be true, then! If only we knew the meaning of the other words! Isildur's Bane...the sword that was broken..."

"A broken sword," mused Boromir aloud. "Could the dream be speaking of some kind of weapon that will help us in our need? That could be useful, though I like not the reference to 'doom near at hand'! What do you think, Father?"

"A sword that is broken!" scoffed Denethor, and Boromir was surprised at the sharpness of his tone. Denethor's eyes glittered again, and Boromir wondered if his father knew, or guessed, more than he was saying.

"A broken sword?" Denethor repeated. "Useless! Absurd! This riddle is of no help to us! You will do well to forget your dreams and think more of the need of your City and your father."

"We do think of our need, Father, and you are wrong to dismiss this so quickly!" argued Boromir. "It is clear that this is important. Faramir has had this dream many times, and now I, too, have had this vision. It must have some meaning. You know I am not one to rely on such things, but this is different. We need to learn more of this matter."

Denethor frowned fiercely and sat glowering at Boromir. It was not often that Boromir opposed his father, but he stood his ground.

After a time, Denethor nodded reluctantly. "What then do you propose?"

"Let me go seek out this place," pleaded Faramir. "I will find the answer to this riddle!"

Denethor looked at Faramir, considering.  "Very well, if you wish it. Perhaps it would be prudent to look into the matter, though the journey will be long and hard."

Boromir stirred.  "No!" he said suddenly. "The way will indeed be difficult. Therefore, it is for me to do this. Faramir should not go."

Faramir turned quickly to face him. "No, Boromir! The dream came to me; I should be the one to go!"

Boromir gripped Faramir by both shoulders and gave him an earnest, searching look.  "I know the dream came to you. I am not disputing that; but it came to me also. One of us must go; we have been chosen. But I am older and stronger, better suited for such a long journey; this task is mine."

"Of course you are better suited, I know that," Faramir sighed. "But I, too, am capable, and well able to take on such a quest. Did you not tell me so just a few days ago? And there is this: you are our Captain.  Your strength and your wisdom are needed here in Gondor! Let me be the one to go!"

Boromir shook his head, and started to speak, but Denethor interrupted him.

"Your brother is right, Boromir; you are needed here. There is no question of you going. I cannot spare you."

"Why not, Father? Faramir is fully capable of leading here, but for this journey, I am the better choice. I am the hardier, and I am the eldest; and it is fitting that the Heir of Denethor make this embassy.  Who better?"

"This is not an embassy!" Denethor responded angrily. He frowned at the staff in his lap, then waved his hand dismissively.

"What need have we of help from the North?" he said shortly. "That kingdom is no more, and if any still live of that line, they would still have little claim here. The Elves remain hidden and have no interest in giving aid to any of our race, should we even have any desire to ask it of them. No; I have changed my mind. You must forget this. It is not for us."

"Come, Father! I am the Captain General, I know what we need, and I tell you, we need help! You see far and know much; surely you know that we cannot go on much longer alone? Faramir is well able to take my place; you can rely on him."

Denethor looked at Faramir, uncertainty in his eyes.  "Such responsibility..."

"I tell you, he is ready!" interrupted Boromir. "You do not see it, but it is true. Do not fear for our war with Sauron. Faramir will lead in my stead, and I shall go."

Faramir stepped forward and laid a hand on Boromir's arm.

"Boromir..." he began, then faltered.

"You are ready," said Boromir firmly. "You know you are."

He lowered his voice so that only Faramir could hear his words.

"What other chance will there be for you, my brother?" he said quietly. "You know Father will always turn to me, as long as I am here; but if I am out of the way, you can show your strength as you take your place as the Captain of our men. You should make the most of this opportunity."

"I do not want you out of the way!" growled Faramir fiercely.

"I know that, dear brother! But this task is for me to do -- I know it in my heart! I must be the one to go. Do you understand?"

Faramir looked unhappy, but at last he sighed and nodded.  "I understand," he said heavily.

Boromir smiled encouragingly at Faramir, then turned back to face Denethor, who was watching the two of them closely.

"So, Boromir," his father said sternly. "You say not to fear for our war with Sauron, and that Faramir is ready to lead. Perhaps you are right; but again I say, what need have we of help from afar, offered in a dream? We need Rohan and the help of our allies! We need men who can fight, who are willing to lay down their lives for Gondor, who are willing to obey without question! What will these strangers know of our trouble here?"

"I do not know," replied Boromir shaking his head, "but it is not good to spurn help when it is offered, though it be offered in enigmatic dreams. And why should we not seek such help? You have men who will lay down their lives for you, and Rohan will come if the Riders can be mustered. But it will not be enough!"

"He speaks the truth, Father," said Faramir. "We are hard-pressed, and the men begin to lose heart. Help from any quarter would be welcome."

Denethor was silent, observing his sons from under lowered brows; then he stood abruptly.  "Do as you wish, since you will not be stayed," he said to Boromir. "Go North and seek this Imladris. You know our need; bring me what aid you can, whether it be weapon or army. Yet I fear your quest will be in vain, for I fear there are none left who will deign to aid us."

He turned to Faramir.  "The fate of Gondor will be in your hands, Faramir, until your brother returns. Do not fail me."

***

Denethor's slow footsteps echoed hollowly in the empty passageway, as he strode away from the chamber.  The faces of his sons filled his inner vision as he recalled the discussion that had just taken place.

Boromir: triumphant at having gotten his way once again, eager to set out on the quest he had taken up, wholly confident in Faramir's quality and abilities to lead in his stead.

Faramir: disappointed and rueful at not being chosen, affectionate and whole-heartedly supportive of Boromir's right to take on the quest, quietly determined to prove his own quality to those who would now have to rely upon him.

Denethor felt neither triumph nor pleasure at the decision he had made.  For the first time in many years, his confidence was shaken.  He had always known exactly what needed to be done, what course of action needed to be taken in his office as Steward to the people of Gondor and the city of Minas Tirith.  But now, he was filled with doubt.  Had he chosen wisely?  Was doom truly at hand?

His heart was heavy with dread and he knew not why.

***

Boromir watched his father go, then turned to his brother. Faramir was looking at him, a sad smile on his face.

"So, my brother," said Faramir. "You are to go, and I am to stay. So be it! I do not begrudge you this task; I only hope you will find what you seek, and return to me safely. I shall be Captain in your absence, and your faith in me will be justified -- but my hope will ever be for your speedy return."

"I fear my journey will be long, and my return delayed, but I will come as swiftly as I may." Boromir put an arm around his brother's shoulders. "The truth is, we are both needed here. We are indeed hard-pressed. Let us hope, Faramir, that my seeking is not in vain, as Father suggests; let us hope that I find the weapon we need to end this interminable war once and for all!"

Boromir sighed, then gave his brother a little shake.

"Come, help me get ready for the journey. Are there any useful maps in that archive of yours that will help me find my way in the wilderness...?"




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