3 CerimŽ (July)
Faramir awoke with a start, the nightmare jarring him out of sleep. He reached for the glass of water on the table near his bed, gulping it down greedily, for his mouth and throat felt dry as bone. He lay back in his bed and drew a deep breath, seeking to calm his pounding heart, attempting to force away the memories of fear and terror.
The dreams came regularly now, several times a week, forcing him to remember moments he wished he could forget. This time it had been the bridge at Osgiliath. In his nightmare, he relived the terrible day once again. Men and horses fled from the ice-cold presence of the NazgŻl, and then came the sudden, wretched sensation of the bridge coming apart as it fell away underneath him. He felt the chill of the water as the swift river pulled him under, his mail weighing him down, and he could only watch as the men around him drowned.
He dreamed of the final battle for Osgiliath, he dreamed of the retreat across the Pelennor, he dreamed of other battles and skirmishes, and perhaps worst of all, he dreamed of his brother and father. In his dreams, they were never alive, never content, never at peace -- they were just dead.
He closed his eyes once again and prayed for peaceful rest, but it would not come, the nightmare images threatening each time he began to relax. Eventually he surrendered and abandoned his bed, though from the darkness outside his windows, he knew it was still several hours before dawn. The room suddenly felt oppressive; his head began to ache. He dressed quickly, tossing a cloak over his shoulders before he left.
He left the Steward's House and walked down to the Sixth Circle. Without conscious thought, he soon found himself headed for the Houses of Healing and its gardens. A smile flickered across his face as he thought of …owyn, and he wondered how she was faring in Edoras. He looked forward to seeing her again in several weeks' time, for he planned to travel to Rohan with King Thťoden's funeral procession. Perhaps, he thought, once he was away from Minas Tirith, the nightmares would cease.
As he entered the gardens, he halted, realizing he was not alone. A tall, dark-haired figure, cloaked and hooded, stood near the wall. He turned, and Faramir felt the man's eyes upon him.
The man approached, drawing back his hood. Once his face was out of shadow, recognition dawned, and Faramir bowed. "My lord Elrond," he said, surprised.
Faramir had met the Queen's father before the wedding, but there had been no opportunity to speak with him since. Faramir could not help but feel vaguely stunned in his presence, for Elrond was a figure out of the pages of legend come to life.
The Elf-lord nodded graciously. "Lord Faramir," he said.
"I do not wish to disturb you, my lord," Faramir said. "I shall go elsewhere."
Elrond stayed him with a gesture. "Do not, please," he said. "There is space here for us both." His eyes met Faramir's for a moment, and Faramir did not look away, though he found the gaze of the older Elves difficult to endure. Their eyes were so bright and clear, it was as if they did not reflect the surrounding light them, but contained the light itself. Faramir felt Elrond's eyes penetrating to the depths of his being.
Eventually, Elrond canted his head slightly, almost nodding to himself. "Indeed, I would not mind a bit of company, if you are so inclined."
Slightly taken aback, Faramir nodded, and he fell in step beside Lord Elrond. "Your city has many virtues, Lord Faramir," he said, "but it is sorely in need of more gardens." Elrond's face did not alter from its guarded expression, but his voice held a hint of jest.
"Indeed, my lord," Faramir agreed. "Lord Legolas has offered to assist in that endeavor, and the King has accepted." They walked back toward the wall. "Minas Tirith had more gardens once, but they fell into neglect over the years."
Elrond nodded. "It cannot be faulted, for I imagine there has been time for little more than pursuits of arms, here in the shadow of the Dark Land." They stopped at the wall, and Faramir looked east; he thought it almost odd that he saw only the silent shadow of the Ephel Dķath, rather than the persistent red flames rising from Mount Doom.
"Many other things have been neglected, I fear," Faramir said. "And though there will surely be more battles to fight, I trust we will now have the chance to see to other tasks as well."
"Is that what brings you out in the middle of the night?" Elrond asked. "Has my foster-son laden you with so much work that you must rise before dawn?"
Elrond's voice held the same hint of dry humor, and Faramir could not help but smile at the notion of the King burdening him so. Indeed, the King's concern that he should not overwork himself was evident, as he frequently asked Faramir whether he needed additional staff or other assistance. "No, my lord," he answered. "Dreams woke me this night, and I could not return to sleep."
"Your brother mentioned that you were a dreamer," Elrond said, walking on sedately, his hands behind his back.
Faramir walked beside him, his heart swelling with regret as he thought of the dream that had led Boromir to Elrond's doorstep. "That is true," he said, unable to keep the sorrow from his voice. "I first dreamed of the verses that led Boromir to Imladris."
"He was sorry you were not with him," Elrond said. "He thought you would have enjoyed the libraries and the gardens. He said you were a scholar of history and lore as well as a warrior."
He shrugged. "I am not certain I was truly much of a scholar, my lord, for there was never time enough to study, once I began my service. But I would have enjoyed seeing Imladris nonetheless," he said. "Though despite the treasures in your keeping, that is not the reason I wish I had taken the errand in my brother's stead."
They reached a wide bench under a large tree, and Elrond gestured. After they sat, Elrond said, "I am sure you grieve your brother sorely." His voice was warmer, sympathetic, without the usual cool distance of tone. "Perhaps Boromir might have lived if you had journeyed to Imladris in his stead. But perhaps there was a reason events occurred as they did."
"I do not understand, my lord."
Elrond's gaze met his. "I know what happened at Parth Galen," he said. Sorrow too profound to share made Faramir look away from Elrond. "Had Frodo not left the Fellowship then, the task might never have been completed. Perhaps Boromir was meant to be present, to fall and find redemption as he did, that the quest might be fulfilled."
Faramir shook his head sadly, his emotions caught somewhere between grief and anger. "Are you saying that Boromir was meant to betray his friends, that it was ordained he must die?" He met the Elf-lord's eyes once again. "I do not wish to believe the Powers of the World are so cruel as to demand Gondor sacrifice her best son before she could prevail."
Elrond's eyes were filled with compassion as he spoke. "I do not believe it is cruelty, my young prince." He looked away, toward the vista of the Pelennor and the river beyond. "I do believe things happen for a reason. I have known great joy in my life, but much sorrow too. I was sundered from my family, and my dearest friend and mentor was lost in battle --"
"Gil-galad..." Faramir whispered, forgetting his own sorrow for a moment.
"Yes." A smile flickered across Elrond's face. "Gil-galad." He was silent a moment, and the smile disappeared, his gaze wandering toward the still-dark horizon. "I have lost many whom I loved, and there are more losses yet to come."
He could not imagine Elrond's pain, Faramir knew. He had been stunned when the King had told him of Arwen's sacrifice.
"Do not feel pity for me, my lord prince," Elrond said softly. "I tell you this only that you may know I have felt the pain of loss many times in my life. My only solace is that the World has an order, reasons why destiny may sometimes seem cruel. It is what I hold onto when all seems lost."
"Is it enough?"
"It must be, I think," Elrond said, and Faramir stared at him a moment. Were not thousands of years walking the earth enough time to learn the answers to such questions?
"Even the Wise do not know all," Elrond said dryly. "Now, perhaps you might tell me of these nightmares, that I might aid you? I have some skill as a healer."
Faramir stifled a snort at the understatement. He had heard the tale of how Elrond had healed Frodo's shoulder of the wound inflicted by a cursed weapon of Minas Morgul -- it was likely there was no more capable healer to be found on Middle-earth. But... he raised an eyebrow.
"I do not mean to invade your privacy," Elrond said, "But I felt your distress quite keenly upon first seeing you. Once you told me a 'dream' had awakened you, it was an obvious conclusion. If you wish to speak of it, whatever you tell me will remain in confidence between healer and patient."
Faramir sighed. "Since the War, I have suffered nightmares at times. About fighting, mostly, but sometimes about my brother, or my father."
"I was a warrior, a long time ago," Elrond said.
He nodded, though he was quite certain Elrond was aware Faramir knew of his history. "I know the tales of the war in Eriador, my lord, and of the Last Alliance."
"After the Last Alliance, I lay down my sword, and became a healer instead."
"Had you tired of war, my lord?"
"Indeed, I had, though that was not why I lay down my sword," he said. "Among my people, it is believed that one should not be both warrior and healer. Killing -- even hunting -- diminishes the healer's gift."
"I knew this not. Among Men, as you know, there are those who are both warriors and healers, like the King." Faramir pondered, uncertain why Elrond was telling him this. "The nightmares, my lord?"
Elrond smiled. "Even during a man's life -- which admittedly is far briefer than an elf's -- one can have more than one vocation. You were a warrior because your land needed you, but perhaps now, as you said, there are now other tasks to see to, and you might lay down your sword."
Faramir felt he was on the verge of understanding something important, but it lay just outside his grasp, at the edge of conscious thought. "But..."
"Nightmares such as those you have described," Elrond began, "are strange to Elves, for we retain control over our dreams. But among Men, I believe such dreams derive both from memory of the past, and uncertainty or fear of what lies ahead."
"So if I dream of battle and death..."
"In part, at least, the nightmares reflect a fear of more battles and death in the future." At a glance from Faramir, he continued, "I do not doubt your courage in war, my lord prince; indeed, I have heard tales of your valor. I do not think it is the risk to yourself you fear, but the risk to those under your command. That is why I suggest you might consider leaving war to others, and focusing your talents on other tasks. There is no shame in it," he said, as if sensing Faramir's thoughts. "I gave up war to focus on other talents, and such a choice on your part would be no different."
"Perhaps," he said. "Yet it would feel strange, to know other men go to war while I stay behind. Can I be a prince without leading my men into battle, as my uncle does?"
"Certainly you can," Elrond replied. "Imladris has been under the threat of its enemies for many years. I plan strategy and confer on matters of defense, yet I do not ride with the warriors. I have other responsibilities no less important, as I suspect you will, as both prince and steward."
That was true enough, and Faramir nodded. "I will think on it, my lord."
"As for the memories in your nightmares," Elrond said, "those will fade in time, unless you hold yourself responsible for the deaths of those you commanded. Remorse and guilt are powerful emotions, and not so easily banished."
"It is difficult," Faramir admitted. "I know in my mind that the War was responsible, the Enemy himself, truly. But in my heart, when I look upon the widows or children of the men who died under my command... it is difficult not to feel responsible."
"Knowing it in your mind is the first step," Elrond said. "The rest should come in time." He considered a moment. "My people use a form of meditation that calms our minds. Not many of your race could master it, but I deem you could. I would be willing to teach you, while I abide here, if you wish. You are traveling with us as far as Edoras when we depart, are you not?"
"Yes, my lord, I am. And I would be most a willing student."
Elrond nodded. "Then we shall have more time. Aragorn could work with you, as well, after we part."
"I would not trouble the King with something so trivial..." Faramir demurred.
"It is not trivial," Elrond said sharply. His voice softened, and he said, "We shall see. If I deem it necessary, I shall ask Aragorn myself, and I assure you, he will be quite willing. We can begin when you are rested, but perhaps in the meantime...."
Elrond turned on the bench so he was facing Faramir and gestured for him to do the same, then bid him to close his eyes. Faramir felt fingers on his cheekbones and his forehead, first touching gently, then pressing firmly. Faramir felt no pain, just the pressure, then a surge of warmth that seemed to flow through Elrond's fingertips. After a few minutes, Elrond took Faramir's hands into his own, similarly applying pressure at different points along his hands and wrists.
Faramir sat still and quiet until Elrond bid him to open his eyes. He did so, blinking for a moment. Then he realized his headache had disappeared, and he felt lighter, refreshed, more at ease.
"That is most wondrous, my lord," Faramir said.
Elrond smiled. "'Tis a most basic form of healing." He looked at the sky. "It is almost dawn, I deem, but if you were to return to bed, you might yet reclaim a few hours' sleep this night. I think you will not have difficulty."
"Perhaps I will, my lord," he said, standing. He turned towards Elrond, choosing his words carefully. "I would never insult you by suggesting that anything I could offer would be suitable recompense for the gift of your time and skill, Lord Elrond. But should you require anything in Gondor, I am ever at your service."
Without pause, Elrond said, "Be a friend to my daughter, my lord prince. I do not doubt Aragorn will be a good husband to her, but she will have need of friends as well."
He smiled. "That is the easiest of requests to fulfill, my lord, for she is the kindest and most gracious lady I have ever met."
Elrond inclined his head slightly, acknowledging Faramir's kind words about his daughter. "Sleep well, my lord prince."
"Thank you, my lord." Faramir bowed and turned to depart.
"Lord Faramir..." Elrond called, and Faramir turned back, surprised by the warm smile on the Elf-lord's face. "Perhaps later... you might show me your library?"
Faramir smiled in return.
A/N -- This story is set just a few days after Aragorn and Arwen's wedding, before Eomer returns to take Theoden's body home.
I'm aware Elrond is properly called "Master Elrond" rather than "Lord" -- but given custom in Gondor, I'm not sure Faramir would know this, and Elrond is too polite to correct him :)
Many thanks to Marta, Nic and Cheryl for their help and support. Any mistakes and/or badness belong to me alone, though.