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Swan in Stone fragments
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March 1

Please understand-this is a work in progress and none of these fragments may be finally published in the form they are now. But Junos's challenge seemed the perfect time to set them out.


March 1 3019-It started as the wave dream that has ever haunted my family--the Darkness rising, coming, crested and inescapable. But then it changed, and the wave became fire instead of water, rivers of fire pouring through a dike of stone, breached in many places. And that seemed inescapable too, though the peril was not directed at me, I suddenly realized, but at Faramir, whom I saw overwhelmed as he tried to stand and fight.

Then, with a noise of thunder, the dream changed, and I was sitting on the shore at Dol Amroth, watching the waves, and the gulls. There was someone beside me, and I turned to behold with surprise my nephew Boromir, who smiled when I noticed him. He was clad in travel apparel of a richness befitting the Steward’s Heir, but it was much stained by weather, and by worse things. The blood of many wounds marred it, strange to see in connection with his calm, smiling face.

“Uncle,” he said amiably, “I fear that I have been a fool.” His expression was very much a grown version of the one he had worn when he was caught in some mischief as a lad, and intended to charm his way out of it.

“What do you mean, my boy?” I exclaimed. “What has happened? How can I help you?”

His smile broadened, but became regretful as well. “I am far beyond your help now, Uncle, though in truth I wish I had had your counsel earlier. I did try to mend the mistake I made, I want you to know that, and I paid for it in the only coin I had. I think I kept my honor.”

“I am sure that you did, Boromir,” I whispered, distressed, for I suddenly understood what had happened, what those wounds portended. Seeing my anguish, he put his arms about me for a moment, and embraced me. Though he was covered with blood, it left no mark upon me, and there was no charnel house smell to him--he was simply my nephew, strong and broad, the bulwark of Gondor’s defense, with the warrior’s scent of leather and steel and saddle-soap and oil about him.

“Who did this to you?” I asked against his ear. “How did you come to this pass?”

“A great many orcs did this, though I took a great many of them down with me. And I came to this pass through my own folly. There was nothing you could have done to prevent this.” He sighed softly. “I bade Faramir good-bye,” he said, releasing me. “And glad I am to be able to speak with you as well. I could not reach Andra, no matter how hard I tried-his mind is closed to such things. Would you speak to him for me?”

“Of course. What would you have me say?”

Boromir looked at me with uncharacteristic gravity. “That I love him, and will wait for him….you will know what is best to say and when the time is best to say it. You always do. And as you have dreamed true, Uncle, so I will ask another boon of you, that you guard another we both hold dear. My brother stands in peril. Promise me you will save him if you can?”

“Of course,” I said at once, “I swear it.” He looked deep into my eyes for a moment, then nodded slowly in satisfaction.

“That is good. I know that he has always been a child of your heart, and that you have always stood more in the father’s place to him than has our father. I can go in peace if I know that you will be watching over him.”

“Always, Boromir,” I promised, and he stood up, gazing thoughtfully out to sea for a moment.

“Most of the truly happy moments of my life were because of you, and Aunt Nimrien, and this place. Not to mention the street-rat whose life you saved long ago in Umbar. Thank you, Uncle.” I nodded, fighting the impulse to weep, and he looked at me and smiled the rare, peculiarly sweet smile he’d inherited from Finduilas.

“All is well then. I must go now. I have to catch a ship I don’t think even ‘Chiron is in a hurry to board!” I could see it from where I sat, but it was a small, graceful, silver-grey boat rather than a ship, seemingly without sail or oar, waiting with uncanny obedience in the spume of the surf. The reference to his cousin, my second-born son Erchirion, a captain of Dol Amroth’s navy, caused a somewhat choked chuckle to issue from me despite the seriousness of the situation. Boromir reached down his broad warrior’s hand and hauled me to my feet. His voice was somber as he said, “Uncle, a veritable storm of darkness is about to fall upon Gondor. And it may seem that it is insurmountable. But if you can stand fast, there is a hope of light beyond.” Leaning close to my ear, his last whisper was scarcely louder than the murmur of the waves. “The King is returning.”

Suddenly, he was gone, and there was another noise of thunder, and Dol Amroth was gone as well. I was sitting bolt upright on my cot, in my tent, gasping and shuddering. The young esquire on duty in my tent slept undisturbed, but Andrahar, my Armsmaster, bodyguard, and blood-sworn brother, awoke when I stirred.

“Imri, what is it?” He looked at my face in the light of the night lamp we kept burning, and his eyes widened. A muttered curse in his childhood tongue fell from his lips. “That hasn’t happened in a while! You stay here.” Rolling out of his bed, he pulled on his boots and left the tent. I waited, rubbing my arms because of the cold, until he returned with a cup of cider, some bread and some cheese. Andrahar knew from long experience that after one of the dreams, nothing grounded me and dispelled the weird sense of unreality so quickly as a small meal. He gave the food into my hands, and went and got my cloak to drape over my shoulders as well.

“What was this one about? That wretched wave again?”

“It started thusly,” I said with some hesitation after taking a sip of cider. I was unsure of just how much I should tell him. The previous July, the Steward of Gondor had discovered by some unknown agency that Andrahar had been Boromir’s lover for over twelve years. Even I, as close as I had been to Andra, had never learned of their long relationship, so discrete had the two men been.

Denethor had not taken the news at all well, using the knowledge to coerce me into giving him a sizeable sum of money and a promise to bring all of my Swan Knights for the defense of Minas Tirith when the Shadow fell upon her, in return for sparing Andrahar’s life. Boromir, who had been commanded to cease his congress with Andrahar, left Minas Tirith soon afterwards in search of Imladris, an errand originally intended for Faramir. He had usurped it, I suspected, in order to put some much-desired distance between himself and his father and to postpone the marriage Denethor had made him swear to make to a woman of the Steward’s choosing, as punishment for his part in the affair.

Andrahar, never an overly talkative sort, had spoken very little of the matter to me since then and nothing of it to anyone else, for he had no other confidant. I had wondered if his reticence was due to the fact that he had finally found a man who could give him the physical intimacy I had never been able to, and that he feared that I would feel in some way betrayed, or whether it was simply because the hurt ran too deep. As time passed, I decided it must have been the latter. My sworn brother did not love easily, but those whom he loved, he loved with all of his fierce heart, and over the last few months he had become even more stern and less inclined to suffer foolishness than was his usual wont.

For all that Boromir’s and Andrahar’s meetings had been sporadic and brief, they had apparently been a great comfort to both men, and Andrahar was feeling of the lack of Boromir’s company acutely now. I had always preferred to trust him above others and perhaps unfairly had burdened him with two of the three main offices in the Swan Knights. As both the Commander of the Knights and the Armsmaster, who was responsible for the training of Dol Amroth’s esquires, there were many tasks which required his attention, and those tasks had increased four-fold with the imminent threat posed by our Enemy. There had been much preparation to be done, and he had thrown himself into it with a zeal that spoke of his desire to bury his grief in his work.

Twice had he spoken privately to me of his worry about Boromir, of how the Captain-General of Gondor was faring upon his quest for information to combat the Morgul-fear that had caused our defeat at Osgiliath. And each time the repressed anguish and desperate hunger behind the quiet conversation had been apparent to me. Andrahar had expressed concern not only over the perils of the journey, but the difficult adjustment that would await Boromir upon his return, and I had thought, though I did not tell him so, that Andrahar himself would have an equally difficult adjustment to make. For learning to live without one whom you love is a daunting task, as I know all too well. There had always been a lack of romance in Andrahar’s life--as a lover of men, his opportunities had been much more limited than had been my own. Any little crumb of affection would therefore naturally assume a greater significance for him. Also, there was another way in which his situation was much more torturous than mine. My own love was long dead and laid to rest, while his, if Boromir returned safely, would remain for the rest of his life in tantalizing, untouchable proximity.

So now the question was--what did I tell him? For while my visions were usually truthful, they were not always absolutely reliable, and were subject to misinterpretation. Also, it was not always possible to discern which was dream and which was vision. Andrahar was my good right hand, and I needed his keen mind and stout spirit untroubled by what might be merely nightmare. The days ahead looked to be dark enough in and of themselves without making him labor under the pall of what was only the possibility of Boromir’s death.

“Yes, it started as the wave dream. But it became something else after a time.” Having made my decision, I finally continued, after a pause that made him narrow his eyes at me suspiciously. “I fear that Faramir might be in some danger.”

“Aside from the usual perils of war?”

“No, because of them. The vision was of a battle. He was in it and things was not going well.”

“Do you know for certain?”

“I never know for certain, you know that.” A disgruntled sigh gusted out of him.

“Well, let’s hope you’re wrong then! Why can’t these stupid visions of yours ever be about something pleasant?” I grimaced.

“The Valar only know! Trust me, if I could make them be about something pleasant, I would!” Then I remembered my nephew’s last, hopeful message, and took a bite of bread, chewing thoughtfully. “What is the hour?” I asked, after swallowing.

“A couple of hours before dawn. You should go back to sleep--we have leagues to cover today.”

“I do not know if I can.”

“Well, try anyway.” He coaxed me to take a couple more bites, then took the food away, removed my cloak and bade me to settle back under my covers.

“You’re fussing, Andra.”

“’Thiri is not here, so someone has to. And I know how those things drain you. I don’t suppose you saw where we will need to be or what we will need to do to prevent this disaster from coming to pass, while you were about it?”

I drew blanket up to my chin and smiled regretfully. “I am afraid not. You know that it does not often work that way.”

“It doesn’t ‘work’ at all from what I can see! Just causes you worry and bother. Will you tell the Steward of your vision?”

“No, I think not. Lord Denethor has visions enough of his own--he has no need of mine.” Andrahar snorted at that, and suggested once more that I take my rest. I closed my eyes and strove to do as he suggested, but sleep eluded me, and it was with heavy eyes and a heavy heart that I greeted the dawn, and the long road ahead of me that day.

And during the rest of the ride to Minas Tirith, I grieved in secret for the elder of my sister’s sons.


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