Feeling more unnerved by the first visible sign of Boromir’s losing battle with the ring than he cared to admit, Faramir stepped out onto the balcony for a breath of fresh air. Overhead the noon day sun shone brightly but when he turned his eyes to Mordor, he could still see the remnants of the smothering shroud of thick, black clouds that not too long ago had hovered suffocatingly over Minas Tirith. The darkness had lifted after the victory on the Pelennor, but Faramir could see that it still hung heavily over the fiery red skies, mocking the welcoming brightness of day that he saw as symbolic of the hope of those who marched on the Black Gates.
Taking a deep, shuddering breath as if to rid his lungs of the stench of evil, or perhaps to fill his heart with the courage to continue reading the painful words he imagined awaited him, Faramir poured a cup of wine and drained it in a single swallow. Heart racing with the barest hint of fear, he hesitantly forced his fingers to turn the page.
...My dear Faramir,
I have an only a few moments to spare for writing.
‘Tis about fourteen days since we left Rivendell and its well protected borders behind. We have reached Hollin, a land that long ago belonged to the Elves, a place that Mithrandir deems as safe as we can expect to find to take an extra day’s rest. Legolas senses that even the rocks have all but forgotten the faded whispers of the voices of his kinfolk, but a ghost of elvish power to protect us is better than none.
The journey so far has been uneventful, we have not been attacked unless you consider rugged terrain and cold, biting winds that find their way into the warm clothing provided by Elrond to be an enemy, as I am certain Merry and Pippin do. We have stopped briefly thanks to Mithrandir’s compassion for weary travellers, invoked no doubt by a few quietly voiced complaints from the Hobbits who are struggling at times to maintain the pace. That they are novices with travelling in the wild is becoming very apparent, but ‘tis a minor problem that will soon be overcome as they learn from their more experienced companions
Yet for Sam in particular, the even greater hardship comes from not being able to light a fire to prepare a ‘decently cooked supper.’...
A smile threatened to destroy Faramir’s nervous scowl when he read Boromir’s friendly taunting, and he relaxed just a little to see that his brother had not yet succumbed to the lure of the ring. His strong, stubborn and prideful brother was not giving in without a fight, even though he did not yet realise he was at war with the invisible foe.
... We walk warily through the eerie and unnatural silence that surrounds us for there are no living creatures here aside from the crebain from which we hide whenever they fly overhead. Aragorn believes the birds are the eyes of our foe and the dearth of life along our path to be a ploy meant merely to unnerve us, perhaps make us drop our guard. There is no way to tell what devious plans and schemes form in the nameless one’s mind, as you and I well know, my brave Ranger Captain.
How often have we been subjected to unheralded attack or sudden and unexplained retreat by our enemies as we fight the armies of Mordor? How often have we wished for a single means to defeat them?”...
Here the entry ceased abruptly, with an ink blot covering a small hole that appeared to be the result of the tip of the quill tearing the paper. Faramir’s eyebrows rose in alarm, and he quickly turned to the next entry which had been started afresh on a new page to discover what had gone amiss.
...Faramir, please forgive the mess I made of that last page yesterday, I must be losing my wits or was perhaps more tired than I realised, for I fell asleep as I was writing, or so Aragorn informed me later. An embarrassing event to be certain, but of little import compared to the unsettling knowledge that I had another unwelcome dream, the first since that night in Rivendell. Only this time instead seeing my city on fire, I saw you die. Read no further if you find you can not stomach hearing about it, but I need to tell someone about it and am more thankful than ever that I can at least speak to you in this journal if not in person...
“So am I, Boromir. I know you needed me towards the end, and it pains me to think of you suffering alone. Forgive me for not being there, my brother,” Faramir whispered, feeling a single tear drop trace a path down his cheek as he closed his eyes against the ache in his heart.
…You were standing near the White Tree, and as I watched it seemed to fade to dust before my very eyes… as did you, my brother. I fell to my knees, stunned by the pain of my grief, and unable to utter anything but a cry of anguish. It was then that I saw the whole city begin to turn to dust and I heard your voice on the breeze, pleading with me to heed your words.
“There is but one way to save Gondor, to see me restored to life. Bring the ring to Minas Tirith, I beg of you, Boromir.”
“As you wish,” I can hear myself saying. It seemed such a simple, easily accomplished task and the part of me that could not see you die was ready to take the ring from Frodo, whilst my nobler self screamed and fought in protest. I must have been writhing around as the inner battle raged, for I awoke to find myself tangled in my blankets and breathing heavily. I was disoriented until I felt Aragorn’s hand on my shoulder, offering me comfort from my nightmare.
He did not ask for an explanation, for which I was most grateful but he did offer me a sleeping draught and as I drifted back to sleep, I heard my own inner voice reminding me once more of the word I had given the council, commanding me not to be swayed from doing as honour and duty demands...
Faramir’s eyes glittered with the dark fire of outrage at this brother’s slow torture by the ring, for he had no doubt as to what was responsible for Boromir’s nightmare. His shaking hands pushed the journal aside and he reached for another cup of wine, downing it quickly, caring not that he was already feeling the effects of overindulgence.
...This morning I have fully recovered both from my weariness and the nightmare and I know you would suggest that I at least seek Mithrandir’s counsel, but I found myself telling Aragorn of the dream instead.
He warned me that such visions or dark dreams could be a weapon of the ring, a means to gain control thorough fear, but I find that hard to believe. I am not drawn to the ring, nor do I expect to be and I can not easily be swayed. I have the strength of the Men of Númenor in my blood and a fierce hatred for the forces of darkness. After all, as unpleasant as the images were, it was merely my mind playing tricks, taking advantage of my bodily weakness and my inner fears of losing all that I love.
Aragorn appeared relieved to hear that, and admitted that he was not so certain as I where he was concerned, that he did not know the strength of the blood of Isildur’s line for it had not yet been tested. I reminded him that Isildur had initially shown great courage and force of will to face Sauron and strike the ring from his finger and that is what lies in his blood, it is that strength of will our that our uncrowned king must draw upon should he be tempted by the power of the ring.
You know I have no special powers or gifts of insight, but there is something about Aragorn that speaks to me of strength and nobility within. He will be a great king, of that I am certain, but even as I write the words, I wonder why he has deferred the leadership of this expedition to the wizard.
“I may be the future king, but only you of all the Fellowship, man of Gondor, owe me any allegiance. My skills as a ranger unfettered by the bonds of leadership are of much more use on this journey. Mithrandir leads because he commands the respect of us all and because he knows the way better than I do. I have never travelled this path,” he replied with a wry grin and nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. We both burst into laughter when I added that the role of leader was indeed suitable for one of his years, however many that may be.
I see your eyes alight with curiosity now, little brother, but I am sorry to report that Aragorn does not know our wizard’s age either, although he thinks Elrond might be able to settle our wager...
Faramir, anything more will have to wait… I see Gimli eyeing his bedroll as he strolls back into camp and I must relieve him and take the second watch...
That memory brought a sad smile to Faramir’s face. He and Boromir had spent many hours and years when it came to that, trying to decide exactly how old Mithrandir was. He was definitely much older than his greybeard suggested, but asking him outright had proven to be a waste of time when they were but boys, as well as later when they were young men. They had not been able to agree whether he had seen centuries or millennia pass, but Faramir favoured the latter, Boromir the former and so they had wagered a bottle of a rare vintage wine on the answer. The wager had yet to be settled, and now never would be, Faramir thought sorrowfully.
A knock on the door forced Faramir to put the journal aside, but he failed to hide his displeasure at the intrusion when he gruffly accepted the message form the young boy sent to deliver it. Faramir’s eyes widened with trepidation when he saw the missive bore Imrahil’s seal and he opened it quickly, hoping it was good news, not bad.
He breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he read that so far all was well, that the forces had gathered and that the march on Mordor had begun, but he needed no messenger to tell him that the ring was not yet destroyed, for he was certain that he would feel it in his heart when the Dark Lord was finally defeated.