1. House on the Other Side of the River
House on the Other Side of the River
Boromir lost his way in Ithilien once.
He found himself by a river he couldn't remember, on the edge of a silent, decaying forest, and he had no idea how he got there.
He had not meant to travel far and had hardly any provisions with him, and by the second day hunger stung like a claw in his gut.
Later he told himself that was the reason...the reason he saw a house on the other side of the river...
It first appeared to him on the night of the second day. It looked ancient but from no time he could think of. Light was shining from countless empty windows on a wall that looked woven from shadows and rain.
It seemed like there was nothing behind the light; as if the massive wall was some ghostly cut-out. And there was no sound, only the rush of the river water.
At daybreak the vision faded.
"Hunger dream", he told himself.
He attempted to walk along the river. The world around him was silent and grey. The trees leaned on to each other like tired old men; the river was slow and sluggish and every step was an effort. It was like walking through water and hard to breathe. He was dimly aware that something was amiss, that he was trapped and had left his normally energetic self somewhere else. He tried to remember things and to focus his mind, but his brain would no obey him. All he could remember was broken lines from books he must have read once upon a time.
He said them loud, but his voice sounded hollow as if he was speaking into a pail. He felt foolish.
In the end he just sat down, stared at the water and waited.
When it appeared that night the house seemed to have gained some solidity it did not have before: the walls no longer looked fashioned from shadows and rain but rather polished bone, and the light had a warmer sheen. He thought he saw shadows dance beyond the windows, like insects around a lantern.
Then he heard music, but like no other music he had ever heard. Sweet and dissonant, like played on an enchanted, broken harp it filled is mind and tugged.
He stretched his arms towards the house. Their shadows were strangely elongated, spanning the river like insect legs. He wanted to move his shadow hands up the wall and in through the windows.
Then the house disappeared suddenly and he was alone with the darkness
Boromir felt bereft. And when daylight came he didn't move, just sat frozen and still with his arms around his knees and looked towards the other river bank.
The hours ticked by and he fell into and uneasy slumber. In his sleep someone whispered in his ear, caressed his cheek and moved invisible fingers gently through his hair.
He woke as darkness fell into the river. He held his breath and the house emerged slowly from whatever crease in time it occupied. Now it was blazing with light like lit from inside by a hundred torches. The upper windows had a rosy hue like opening on to into halls of pearl.
Then the music started again, its lovely dissonance filing his heart with delight and pain.
Slowly large doors opened in the wall. Measureless caverns of crystal and ruby were revealed to him, shimmering like gossamer dew, and he heard voices and laughter.
Boromir felt like an insect lost on a dark mantle and an infinite loneliness. He wanted to join the merriment on the other side, walk through those inviting doors and not turn back.
Someone held an arm around his shoulder, comforting him, and when this invisible presence gently pulled him to his feet and led him closer to the river bank, he let himself be led, his eyes fixed on the portal into the shining caverns.
He never quite knew what happened next, but he found himself to his neck in icy river water. Fear cleared his mind for a second and cut through his enchantment. He was not lonely, Faramir would be looking for him, people depended on him...
Then Boromir fought; fought the invisible arms that embraced him and the pull of the house. Somehow he knew that this moment of clarity would not last long. With a last effort he wrenched himself out of the water and collapsed on the riverbank.
The house began to vibrate, flared up like a flaming hand and went out.
Boromir sat shivering in the dark like a drenched animal. He had never felt so abandoned in his life. And then he wept. He wept over his release from the arms that had held him, over the loss of the music, the glowing windows and the rooms with their shimmer of pearl and bone. He let his face fall to knees and then he remembered no more.
Faramir and his rangers found him the next day, in the nick of time. Boromir was cold and unconscious and would not have lasted much longer.
Boromir only had blurred memories of the days that followed, of fever dreams and his brother's worried face.
On the third day his fever was down. Faramir came in with two cups of tea, sat down on the edge of the bed and handed one to Boromir. After a while he said: "You were talking during your fever, about some house..."
Boromir froze. He opened his mouth to say something but the words wouldn't come. "Fever hallucinations"," he managed at last, gruffly, they mean nothing."
Faramir looked into his tea.
"I heard a story from one of the older rangers," he said. "Many years ago they lost two men, within months of each other. They were experienced rangers that knew this landscape at the back of their hand, but they disappeared one day none the less." Faramir stopped and swallowed. "Their bodies were found by the river bank a week later, not so very far from where we found you - which is why we searched for you there."
He squeezed Boromir's arm.
"I think I very nearly lost you."
The Brain has Corridors
Boromir never had such an experience again, and he put it behind him.
But a fragment of the vision remained lodged in a corridor in his brain, and sometimes, and always when he did not expect it, it would appear. He could be in good company, surrounded by friends or alone, and the memory of the house would trickle by behind his eyelids like a dark tear. He would fleetingly hear the music and see the windows with their rosy hue, and remember that other part of him. The part that didn't want to fight the river between him and the house of the other side.
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.