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Dark Dreams: 1. Dark Dreams
“What ails Faramir?” I asked.
“Just dreams, Uncle,” Boromir replied in a voice that shook slightly. “I am sorry if we woke you.”
Again, I cursed my dead sister’s husband. Why could he not extend to these motherless boys the warmth I saw him use to win Finduilas? Nightmare or stomachache, my two boys would have thrown themselves into my arms and clung to me for comfort: not watched me with apprehension and shame. True, my sons were little more than babes but far older than this I would have gone to my father for comfort. I sat down carefully on the bed and held out my arms for Faramir. For a moment, Boromir didn’t move and I saw in my nephew’s eyes the defiance he would one day throw at our dark enemies. I reached past Faramir to brush his cheek.
“Boromir,” I said softly.
I tried to put as much reassurance into my voice as I could, and suddenly Boromir’s lips trembled and he released his hold on the boy. With ease, I pulled Faramir onto my lap – at eight he lacked the sturdiness even of my Elphir – and then reached an arm for my other nephew. Faramir’s eyes were closed and he was still crying softly. I wiped his face then rubbed long slow circles on his chest.
“What did you dream of, little one? Tell Uncle.”
Boromir opened his mouth even as I felt Faramir clench his fists. I silenced Boromir with a shake of my head and waited.
Through the open window drifted my nightly lullaby – the broken rhythm of waves crashing onto the beach below us. It was so much a part of my days and nights that usually I heard it without hearing it, but I was a child of the sea while these two lived in a city of stone far from its reach. Faramir had been little more than a toddler the last time he had visited us, and while I could not remember him showing any sign of fear near the waves – indeed, we had needed to keep a careful watch on him to prevent him running joyously out into the white tumbling breakers – many things had clearly changed with the boy since his mother died.
“The waves are a long way away, Faramir. They cannot hurt you. Tomorrow we will all go down to the beach and I will show you the white sea-horses that gallop through the water. Perhaps I will even teach you to ride them.”
“Not those waves,” Boromir interrupted tersely.
I looked at him puzzled.
“Not those waves,” he repeated. “We love Mother’s sea.”
I was about to ask him what he meant when I realised Faramir’s eyes were open and he was watching me.
“There… better now?” I asked as I smoothed his hair and kissed his forehead.
“The people are scared,” Faramir said in a very small voice. “They are beautiful… rich and decked in gold… there are tall handsome houses and gilded temples. Even the streets are lovely – broad and with lots of trees… like here. We hear the wave first… the rich men begin to run. Some quarrel: no-one knows what to do. There is talk of boats but there is no time. We can see it now – a mountain that walks across the sea. People curse the Valar and others call for the king’s death. A woman kills her baby. People are trying to flee the city but all the gates are jammed and they are being crushed. The lords ride over them on their horses as they battle to escape. I hear screams and screams but then the rush of water deafens us and the mighty wave crashes down upon us. There is no escape… and then there is just darkness…”
Faramir began to cry again and I held him tighter and rocked him; murmured soothing words and dropped kisses on his bent head while I fought my own tears. I had been relieved when both Elphir and Erchirion had proved to be sturdy, matter-of-fact youngsters, never even considering that my gift – or curse – of dreaming could have been passed onto a nephew growing up in far away Minas Tirith. He was so like his father it was easy to forget that he was as much of Dol Amroth as he was of Gondor. Long had this dream of Númenor foundering come to me, chilling me with visions of darkness inescapable. There were other dreams too – visions, warnings, glimpses of things that might be – did Faramir see those as well? The boys’ fear of discovery made me wonder. Denethor was not a man to welcome something so fantastical in his family: marrying one marked by Elven blood had been a rare act of impulsiveness on his part.
“Faramir, do you know where the wave is?” I asked and he shook his head through sobs.
“It is Númenor – the land of Westernesse. Our people, the Dúnedain, lived there many generations ago. The land was given to them by the Valar for they were of the Faithful. It was a beautiful land - rich and fertile, and gifted with all that is wondrous to see - and the Dúnedain lived there for many years in great happiness. Finally, though, dark times came when the people began to want more than they had. They wanted to live forever as the First-born do. They listened to evil counsel, and turned away from the Valar. They tried to find happiness in gold and treasure and comfort in false gods and proud tombs.”
The racking sobs were fading as Faramir listened.
“Some of the Dúnedain remained true and they were named The Faithful, or Elendili, the Elf-friends. When the doom of Númenor came, they alone escaped. Númenor did indeed perish beneath a great wave; you will learn about it in your history lessons when you are older.”
Beside me, Boromir looked sheepish – he certainly should have known the story, but I knew from his father’s complaints that Boromir was as uninterested in his books as I had been as a scapegrace lad. I spared a hand to ruffle his hair.
“The king, Ar-Pharazôn, and many of his men, sailed for the forbidden seas and Aman. He was a proud man who had listened to Sauron’s dark temptings and been consumed by the desire for immortality. The Valar withdrew their guardianship and called upon the One - and so Númenor was swallowed by the sea and the world was forever changed.”
I paused and stroked Faramir’s glistening cheek.
“It was a very long time ago, little one. I do not know why the dream comes to some of us: perhaps to ensure that the evils of pride and envy will not be forgotten.”
Faramir snuffled and wiped his face with the back of his hand.
“Never again?” I questioned softly.
Faramir looked at me with eyes as grey as the sea in storm and his voice shook.
“The darkness coming, the end of everything…”
I hesitated only for a moment. A darkness remained in Middle-earth and men’s folly still led them into evil ways, but I did not feel I lied when I answered him.
I rested my cheek against his hair as I rocked him, and swore, as I swore every night when I tucked my sons into bed, that if by any action of mine I could protect these little ones from the gathering shadows I would.
“No,” I soothed, rubbing his back, “never again.”
Slowly, Faramir quietened and his breathing calmed. I sent Boromir to the washstand for towel and water once Faramir had quietened and I bathed Faramir’s face and hands, then helped him out of his sweat-dampened nightshirt and into a fresh one. He stood passively as Boromir and I fussed over him, but one hand gripped Boromir’s nightshirt.
“Come,” I said, pulling back the covers on Boromir’s bed.
Boromir gave me a startled glance, but led Faramir over to the bed and helped him in. He hesitated then, looking at me uncertainly.
“I thought you would prefer to be together,” I said.
He gave me a grateful smile, and climbed in next to his brother. I looked at them cuddled together; Boromir with his arms protectively around his brother and Faramir pressed against him, and felt my heart pierced by new sorrow for my sister’s death. How they needed her, these two – my would-be-warrior nephew, who had arrived for his holiday with no fewer than three practise swords and a wicked-looking dagger I was sure he was not allowed to wear at home, and Faramir the dreamer.
“Uncle Imrahil, may we – could we have a light?” Boromir asked.
“Of course,” I answered, cursing myself for my stupidity.
I lit two candles in a sconce by the door and came back to the bed.
Boromir nodded while Faramir turned a little in his arms to watch the flickering light. I knelt on the floor beside the bed and stroked Faramir’s hair once more.
“There is no darkness here, the moonlight and the candles will light your sleep. And tomorrow we will go down and play in Dol Amroth’s green waves. The sea-horses will gallop to shore, their long white manes and tails flying and, if we watch very closely, maybe we will see one of the sea-folk that ride them. I will show you the underwater gardens that Elphir and I made last summer, and he may let you hold the shell ring he found. We think perhaps it slipped from the finger of a sea-queen as she drifted through our gardens. Then we will build our own tall cities on the shore and decorate them with shining shells…”
Faramir’s eyes had closed and I watched for a moment as he breathed gently before looking at Boromir. He was blinking sleepily but whispered,
I leant over and kissed him goodnight.
“Sleep well till morning, Nephew.”
It was cold on the front terrace. I wrapped my arms around myself as I stood there and listened to the waves breaking. In the silver moonlight, I could see the tumbling white tops of the waves as they raced into shore, and I watched them and tried to lose the vision of cities and towns buried beneath a crashing tower of water, of a whole people lost, helpless, to darkness.
“Never again,” I whispered. “I swear.”
Yet even as I stood there in the fresh sea spray, I felt the edge of a dream touch my mind. I saw Boromir, dressed in warrior’s garb, lying bloodied in death, surrounded by his enemies’ weapons; and saw small Faramir, grown to manhood, alone and lost in crowding shadows.
* Yeah, well this is another overgrown drabble. Gronyats asked for a birthday drabble about Imrahil dreaming and I swear that’s what I started writing – then suddenly there’s nearly 2000 words of Boromir and Faramir wallow! Oh, yeah – and some Imrahil dreaming ;-) My thanks for the inspiration, Gronyats; I hope I managed to squeeze in enough Imrahil ;-)
*The concept of Imrahil also having dreams is borrowed from Isabeau of Greenlea, with permission – and she was apparently inspired by Thundera Tiger. Thank you.
*Many people provided me with detailed feedback on this story and I’m not going to list them for fear of forgetting someone, but please know it was very much appreciated even if I didn’t take your advice. All remaining mistakes are, of course, my own.
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