1. Fever Dreams
Peace lies lightly over the land in the fresh, clean air that blows down from the mountain. The flowers of the white tree send a perfume through the lofty white towers of the citadel that cannot quite be grasped as other than joy. A gleam of pearl and silver as the king steps down from the throne to greet me with a smile. He clasps my arm in friendship and his hand is strong, comforting. He brings not only justice but succor and healing to this strife-riven land. My heart leaps at the promise of rest and I walk beside him in the sunlight. The pure, sweet laughter of children echoes off bright walls, and golden flowers star the verdant grass where once was only stone.
Faramir gradually became aware that he was dreaming. There was only darkness before his closed eyes, and an all too familiar pain of a recent wound coursed through him, throbbing its message of mortality. His limbs felt watery and weak. As he became more aware of his surroundings, the dream slipped away. Wounded men moaned nearby and the smell of wet ash and smoke wafting in the cold, damp air did not quite mask a charnel stench. His mind grasped hopelessly after the receding images of peace. Even though he knew they were naught but fever dreams, he mourned for the loss of their ephemeral comfort. He felt the facile tears of long illness welling behind his lids.
He forced the tears back and reached up to scrub the sign of weakness from his face with a trembling hand. Cautiously, he opened his eyes. The last thing he clearly remembered was the disastrous retreat to the city: a sharp, stabbing pain, an almost unbearable fear from above that sought to beat him down, and then … nothing.
The room he lay in was dim and full of shadows, but he recognized the Houses of Healing. The light that edged the drape at the window was grey and faint. Sauron's darkness must still overlay the land.
He strained to hear the sounds of battle, but could understand nothing of the vague shouts and commotions that came to his ears. Hoarse cries and a crash of falling masonry sounded in the distance. From the window he knew he would be able to see how things stood on the Pelennor. Pushing on unsteady arms, he tried to rise. A wave of dizziness blurred and tilted the room. Steeling himself, he pushed harder. At the pull on his torn flesh, he gave out a low moan.
"Easy now," a voice admonished him. Small hands helped him to sit.
"Pippin?" Faramir made out the worried face of his father's newest esquire, as the halfling thrust a pillow behind him to prop him upright. There was surprising strength in the arm that supported him. He is not a child, Faramir reminded himself.
"Aragorn said to give you this when you woke. It's athelas." Pippin held a cup to his lips. Faramir sipped and tasted an unfamiliar bitterness in the liquid. As he drank, another vivid vision of peace calmed his mind, and the throbbing from his wound receded. He lifted his hand and grasped the cup, breathing in deeply over the remaining liquid. Pippin relinquished it to him and went to build up the fire.
"It's a good thing I came in when I did," Pippin said as he carefully placed a log on the grate. "You should not have been left alone, but we're rather short staffed." Greedy tongues of flame licked at the wood, spreading a counterfeit of morning on the walls of the chamber. "Or maybe just over busy after yesterday."
Faramir drained the cup and silently cursed his weakness and his wounds. He must have been sorely needed. Clutching after the vision of peace, even though he knew it for a mockery, he watched as the esquire carried over a small bowl of broth and set it down on a table next to the bed. Pippin took the empty cup from Faramir and offered him a spoonful of soup.
"I'm not very good at sickroom things," Pippin admitted. "I've been in your place with my sisters twitting around spooning slops into me more than I've been a caretaker. If I forget to do something you need, just tell me."
Between sips, Faramir felt the thick pad of bandages covering his wound. He was injured, but not completely disabled. He felt a trickle of energy return as he finished the broth. When Pippin set the bowl down and went back to the fire, Faramir slowly sat more upright and flexed his arms and shoulders. The movement pulled at the torn muscles of his injury, and he hissed softly. Though he still felt very stiff and weak, it would have to do. He summoned his resolve, pushed aside the blanket, and swung his legs over, levering himself up through the pain until he was sitting on the edge of the bed.
"What are you doing?" Pippin cried in alarm. He ran across the room and tried to push Faramir back onto the pillows.
Faramir looked up at Pippin's anxious expression and attempted a smile. His lips twitched but he could not quite sustain an upward curve. "I do need something, Pippin. Fetch me my armour and my sword." He spoke quietly, but his tone expected obedience.
"Why?" Pippin breathed out, shock and horror creeping into his expression, hands still on Faramir's shoulders but with no pressure now.
Faramir's head drooped and he let his hands dangle between his knees. He took several shallow breaths. It would be so easy to lie back and let the War rage without him. Alas, Boromir was dead. There was no one else.
"I need to go down to the troops. Fight with them." He gestured towards the window and the faint grey light that seeped into the room. Straightening his back, he set his lips in a thin line and looked directly into Pippin's startled eyes. "The darkness has not broken and I would prefer to die, if die we must, making a last stand on the walls of my city. Fetch my sword, Pippin, and do not argue," he commanded.
Pippin ran over to the window and tugged the drape open. Faramir saw a sky stained red with angry, dark clouds roiling on the eastern horizon, but, as his gaze travelled upwards, he saw it was otherwise clear and a few pale stars still shone out. The first golden ray of the sun speared from amidst the darkness and the red changed to pinks and purples. The stars vanished to leave the clear blue of a spring morning.
"It was dark only because it's barely dawn," Pippin cried. "This battle's finished, Faramir. It wasn't… without cost, but we did have a victory!" Pippin came to stand in front of Faramir again and once more tried to push him back onto the pillows. "There's no enemy left out there to fight. Truly."
Faramir clutched Pippin's arms. "How?" The swarms of orcs had blackened the plain, and the fear that flowed before them had unmanned his chosen troops. He knew the strength of his City. It was not enough.
"The Rohirrim came," Pippin said simply. "And Aragorn brought up another army from the south in the Corsair ships. No foes ever got into the city. Lady Éowyn killed the Witch King." He grinned as he added, "With help from my cousin Merry."
Faramir let out a long held breath, and loosened his grip. He sagged and allowed the halfling to help him back onto the bed and pull the blanket up over him. That name again, Faramir thought. Aragorn. Where have I heard that name?
Pippin's hand came up to touch his cheek. "No fever. That's good. But you've still got to rest," he chided him. He added earnestly, "You won't need your armour today."
"Who is Aragorn?" Faramir asked suspiciously. He knew the names of all the lords of Gondor able to call up an army, and the leaders of every border area likely to be an ally. There was no one named Aragorn.
"Aragorn?" Pippin's brow creased. "He's, he's the king, Faramir. He was here last night. He called you back, out of the fever. You spoke to him. Don't you remember?"
Faramir frowned and rubbed his hand over his mouth as he tried to remember, feeling his lips chapped and dry under his fingers. Kings were for fever dreams: compassionate eyes in a fair face, the white tree in flower, peace. He shook his head. "King of where? I've never heard of him."
Pippin's eyes darted wildly around the room apparently seeking counsel from the walls, but none came. He gulped and said, "Gondor. Aragorn is king of Gondor. He's Isal... Isi- someone's heir from the north. Everyone's accepted him, Gandalf, Imrahil, Éomer," he swallowed again, "You." He finished with a hopeful smile. "Last night you called him your king."
Frodo's face swam before Faramir, his determined voice speaking the words, "Because Aragorn is descended in direct lineage, father to father, from Isildur Elendil's son himself."
"Frodo spoke of him. I remember now." The clear grey eyes of the king floated before him, and called him, offering his hand in friendship. Faramir took it and smiled. The white tree bloomed… He looked up at Pippin, and grasped his arm again, a new fear clenching at his guts: this land, already cloven by Sauron's armies, torn asunder by civil war. "Everyone accepts this Aragorn?" he said harshly. Pippin nodded. Faramir saw his father standing between himself and the nebulous hand extended in friendship; even the illusion of peace was denied him. "You do not name Théoden, nor Denethor."
Pippin grimaced, and Faramir knew that his hand must have tightened cruelly, but the halfling looked steadily into his eyes. He reached out and touched Faramir's shoulder. "Faramir, I'm so sorry. Théoden was taken on the field, and your father..." he hesitated, "died here in the city during the fighting."
Faramir abruptly let go, and rolled onto his side so that he would not have to face the concern in Pippin's eyes. He felt numb with shock: hollow. Even through his closed eyelids he could see the sun. Tears leaked out of his eyes and ran in hot streaks down his cheeks. He clenched his lids against them, but their flow only increased. Sobs shook him. He felt a small hand rest lightly on his shoulder, offering what comfort it could in a gentle touch. Faramir allowed his tears to flow more freely. He hoped they were for sorrow at his father's passing. He feared that they were for the comfort of his fever dreams coming true.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.