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Emmaus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Emmaus

Heat. White heat and a roaring that overwhelmed the voices, save one. It railed in the darkness, a thread of fear that made his heart quail in wonder and yearning. "Father?" he called, confused and upset. "Father?" But everything was falling away in smoke and flame, and he did not like this dream, and so he left it...

Drifting in the darkness. All dreams end in water, well up as waves to engulf the mind. White on the waters, and he sighs as he lets the current take him, draw him down to anchorage in the depths—


Faramir opened his eyes to a blue-white sky and a dazzling sun. He raised a hand to spare his eyes, while the fingers of the other grasped at the creeping tendrils of silkgrass. A moment longer, he lay there waiting for his heart to calm, and then he rose, brushing sandy earth from his clothes and out of his hair. Then he turned to look out at the vista that confronted him.

The gulls were crying as they hovered on the breeze, white wings over the white-sand ribbon of road. Through the green hills the road cut, passing amid sage grass and scrub with a profusion of pale yellow flowers, all of them in bloom against a horizon of seeming endless blue. The sea lapped the shores below, its restless surface aglitter in the sun, and the breeze that carried the seagulls brought also the salt scent.

The road to Dol Amroth was fair indeed in the summer.

And there was a clarity, a sharpness to the world that told him that he dreamt still. His inner eye, it seemed, was awake and clear, and apparently it had all been a bad dream before, not a vision—from those, he could never waken himself, nor leave ere they had done with him. Only a nightmare, he thought, relieved, and promptly forgot it. He could do that in dreams. He could do many things in dreams, having long since discovered how to walk in them almost as if in the waking world.

Indeed, he was not surprised to find himself on this road, for he had always loved this land and its people. Ever since Faramir could recall, he had found in them a welcome and a warmth that the north lacked. He and Boromir had come here when they had been children. Their uncle had taken them to the beach beneath the city and let them wade out into the surf, and when Faramir had had enough of wrestling in the shallows with Boromir, he had gone off alone to watch the hermit crabs in their little pools and investigate the multitude of seastars clinging to the rocks.

Seastars...
Seven stars... whitecaps...


He thought that it had been too long since he had looked upon these waters. Anduin was magnificent, was a sight rooted deep in his heart, but a river was restless, incomplete in itself. It was here that it found its purpose, emptying itself out into the encompassing sea in an unending thanksgiving. Here, where the river met the bay, was homecoming—

Moon on the dark waters. A grey boat on the Anduin. Hands slack upon the hilt, no more Gondor's support—

Faramir blinked the glare of the ocean from his eyes and shook his head sharply. Where had his mind been wandering? And whence that thought? After a moment spent casting about for its source, he gave up and let it slip from his mind. Whatever it was, it was not a part of this dream. For I have been here before, and here I shall stay, and leave all puzzles. But he did need to continue on his way, he felt, and so he walked slowly, enjoying the view and the sense of having no place to be but here, upon this road, beneath this sky, at just this hour.

Tufts of cloud drifted lazily overhead, and besides the gulls, the occasional sparrow chirped. Such were his waymarkers, and they pleased him. To be measured by song and not miles, by only such wanderlust as he possessed and not the urgency of days and hours—for time as men reckoned it lately to have no meaning...

He had therefore no idea how far he had traveled, nor how long, nor did he care, but at length, the way began drop down into a gully, where it ran between two hills before mounting upwards again. The descent was easy though wending, and Faramir amused himself, towards the end, by leaving the path to scramble amid the rocks, as he had done when he had been a child. He and his brother had played and hidden among them once, as had his cousins. Amrothos had found a bit of sandstone once that had had coiled shellfish embedded in it.

"Look, cousin!" the boy had said, holding up the flat stone, eager to show off his find. "Look! Do you suppose they got lost and died here?"

"The sea was much broader once, they say," Faramir had replied. "They say that the lands changed after the Breaking of the World, and after the Downfall. Thus we see proof of it."

Amrothos had looked upon the shells and the ghostly outlines of their bearers and said, "It seems a sad thing."

"Yes, yes it is a sad thing," Faramir had replied, and now repeated to himself, moved for some reason he knew not why. A sad thing—

—as the stone that rained down. There was Darkness on the air, water beneath, and someone called him—


Faramir shivered and once again shook his head. Uncertainly, he looked about, wondering why his heart beat so swift. Steady, lad! Tilting his head back, he shut his eyes and breathed deep. Salt scent washed over him, burned in his throat, coated his tongue and stole into aching lungs—he held his breath 'til the spots danced before his eyes, and then breathed out, all fear draining from him with that stale air. Opening his eyes once more, he smiled, cocked his head at the cry of a gull, and continued on his path.

The wind whistled through the passes as he walked, cool against his skin. The slope grew less steep, leveled out at last. In the belly of the rift between the hills he wandered. The gulls had gone quiet above. Instead the breeze carried the sound of the surf on the shore, an unending rush and beat of waves on rock and sand, like sighing. The sea sighs for lovers. How many sailors leaving Dol Amroth had put out to sea to those words?

Of a sudden, moved by memories of nights above the docks in Dol Amroth, he began to sing:

She's gone down to the shore,
In the ladybug season,
When wings like bright shells
Beat the air damp, wet.

And it's white on the water—
Blue like brooding,
Thick as grey away out there

Ah she's on the strand now;
Sing your farewells.
Love, break me open,
She's that fair—

Oh break me open,
She's that fair—

But it's white on the water—
The sea sighs for lovers,
And she's got storm clouds in her hair.


Faramir trailed off as he came to that final verse, and he cocked his head, amazed, for another voice had joined with his, rising above the chorus of echoes. For the first time hurrying, he made his way up out of the gully, which gave way swiftly, to the grassy hillsides above the sea. And as the road snaked round a bend to run along the bright shoreline once more, Faramir came upon the singer.

A man he was, of noble visage, though Faramir did not recognize him. Yet as the last note of the song died away, and the singer rose from the grass to greet him, something stirred in Faramir's breast.

I know him.

Conviction pulsed deep and instant, but briefly, too, and it faded as the man spoke: "Well-met, Pilgrim. Well-met at last."

"At last?" Faramir echoed.

The man smiled, and turned to look out at the ocean. "I have been waiting for you."

"But I am not expected back," Faramir said softly, bewildered, and closed his eyes against sudden dizziness.

Sea spray. Light on the water. White sand and green hills, and the road to Dol Amroth. Stillness, save for the voices of birds... peace....

Warm fingers brushed Faramir's cheek. He opened his eyes, and found the stranger remained before him, smiling slightly—an enigmatic expression that once again roused a thrill of seeming-buried recognition through him.

"You are the very rock of this land," the other murmured, and those same fingers touched Faramir's lips now, stilling his tongue. "Shall I show you something new?" he asked. And without awaiting an answer, he turned from the seaside, leaving the path to climb slowly up towards the hill's summit.

Below him, Faramir stood staring after him. The surf crashed loudly below, pounding the shore, and his heart beat in time with the waters' rush.

The river flowed ever homeward, emptied out into the bay that flowed past Dol Amroth to the sea, eternal rest in the meeting and merging of waters...

But the stranger still remained, and without a word, Faramir began to follow him.


The way was steep. The long grasses seemed to roll like waves across the hill face as the wind blew in from the east. Faramir shivered, though the sun scorched his back. Ahead of him, ever at the edge of sight, the other walked, head bowed, and Faramir strained after him, feeling the loose earth shift beneath his feet. Before long, he was panting, the blood loud in his ears, and his shadow seemed to eclipse the day, which faded with the stranger to the very limits of vision.

In another time and place, he might have wondered at the ease with which the other moved, when he himself struggled so. But he had banished all puzzles and puzzlements—such would not be admit—

"Amroth for Gondor! Amroth to Faramir!" And there was shadow under the night—


No! No puzzles. No puzzlements. No fear. There was grass beneath him, and sweet it smelled as he lay panting upon the earth, and the long strands seemed to twine about him, caressing his face. He sighed drowsily, breathing in that scent. So overwhelming it was...

"Cousin Faramir?" Amrothos' voice pierced insouciant thoughts, and he blinked tired, dazzled eyes open to find the boy crouching beside him in fact, frowning anxiously at him.

"'Rothos. I am sorry, lad. I must have fallen asleep," he said.

"You have slept a very long time," the boy replied, and rose. "I think you should get up now."

"Do you indeed?" he asked, gazing up at his cousin's face.

"Yes. I told you, I have to show you something," Amrothos replied, and held out a hand. Faramir, however, found himself afflicted with a profound lethargy, and did not immediately take it. Instead, he let his head loll back so he could see the sky. There was a white burn behind the clouds—the sun, still high up. Time seemed content to lag and Faramir found in himself no great desire to hurry it along.

But his cousin was waiting, he reminded himself, and so he held up a hand absently. A weight landed in it, and his fingers curled habitually about it. But it was not flesh he grasped, and with a soft grunt of surprise, his hand fell back to earth, borne down by what it held.

Faramir rolled onto his side and elbowed himself up, then he frowned down at the broken sandstone that lay in his palm. 'Rothos' stone, he remembered, running a finger over petrified shells, themselves now cracked as the stone itself.

I broke it. The thought arose unbidden, and brought with it a sudden and inexplicable weight of grief. It should not be thus! But he could not fit the stone's halves together again, try though he might. It should not be thus, he thought, distressed as shell flaked, mocking his efforts, laying bare what had lain so long concealed within.

Yet even that did not long remain, for shell and stone turned to sand in his hands, streaming through his fingers like water. The wind blew suddenly hard and fresh, catching the grains and Faramir turned to see them float shimmering over a darkened sea that mounted ever higher over the beaches.

The wave. The drowning wave... He rose unsteadily to his feet. And as from afar, a voice called faintly to him:

"Faramir!

"It is late," he murmured, and swallowed hard, the blood roaring in his ears again.

Without a further word, he turned away, and feeling suddenly compelled, began climbing up the hillside once more. And as he walked, the sun hot upon his back once more, a shadow hovered before him, just beyond the limits of vision. Pierced with light, it drew him onward... and it was not his own.

***


The stranger was waiting for him when at last he crested the hill, standing like a shade within a deeper shadow, a sight that drew the splinters of memory from the depths of Faramir's mind, as a magnet draws iron:

Black wings. Wraith cry. Death.

Faramir blinked and Dol Amroth wavered briefly back into view, resisting memory. Not in this place. They shall not have me here—here they cannot touch me!

And yet the day was turning in despite of him. Gone was the sun, and a sweltering darkness hovered over all the land. As Faramir drew nigh to his nameless guide, his heart was in his mouth, and a weight seemed to settle on his chest as he looked out over a broad field to a city that gleamed like pearl. For it was not Dol Amroth, city of the Swan-lords, that stood waiting.

"Minas Tirith." White eye in the storm as the swarming darkness closed round, and his heart cried out over too many leagues—

"Yes," the stranger replied.

"Why have you brought me here?" Faramir demanded. "I have been here before!"

"Have you indeed?" the other asked, pinning him with eyes that gleamed in the dimness.

I do not wish for this! I do not wish to be here! But he could not leave; the leaden feeling grew, and Faramir sank slowly to his knees. He shook his head, staring in mute horror over the fields as a small company of horse and infantry—his company—retreated before the horde, defiant as the shore before the pitiless sea.

"Faramir—" I would leave this nightmare. I must leave it! But try though he might, he could not.

"What vision is this?" he whispered, then, for surely it must be one that bound him here, would not let him escape.

And above him, his companion said softly, "'Tis no vision, but a choice."

"Who are you?" he demanded then, lifting his head with an effort. The stranger cocked his head at him, and then moved to stand before him, a little lower on the hill. There he knelt, gazing straight at Faramir as the earth began to quake.

"If you would know, then come with me."

And as he spoke, another voice and other words seemed to speak through him: Is there a captain here who has still the courage to do his lord's will? Faramir gasped, as memory won back a voice. Denethor! "Father," he murmured, as the world began to spin.

"Will you come with me, Faramir?" his father demanded over the rising swell of earth and sound.

In Osgiliath, they had come like a wind of death, and he had held forth expecting to die. Yet he had not, and the river had delivered him up to his father... who would send him forth to do it again... and again... and again... "No more," he whimpered, the cry of an enervated soul. "I can do no more!"

"Faramir—"

"Leave me be," he pleaded as memory threatened total eclipse—

—The plain had trembled beneath pounding hoofs, and then the whole world shattered on the cries of hellhawks—

"Only leave me in peace!"

"Faramir."

No! "I cannot. I cannot—"

"Faramir!" There was anguish in that voice, a rawness that Faramir knew too well from every killing ground he had ever made. His head snapped up and he met the other's eyes, which glowed beneath a white star. And in them, it seemed, flickered too many familiar faces. Amrothos. Boromir. Father. Mablung... Men he had seen in the market, or upon the field. Men of his own command. The living... and the dying. He shut his eyes.

"Father… please…"

Fingers touched his face once more, compelled him to look once more into the face of death, for death it surely must be now who came calling.

But there was strain in those eyes, and the face that hung before his was pale, taut—weary, as only one can be who has suffered much, and Faramir shivered suddenly. Not death, said a small, quiet voice in his mind. Choice. To be a wanderer or to be a captain. To refuse or to obey. To abandon or to stand with. O do not ask this of me!

But the other remained, and the question remained, and at last, Faramir bowed his head.

I do not oppose your will, sire.

"Then come," the other said simply, holding out his hand to him. In dread, Faramir reached, took it, was pulled to his feet. "Come." And slowly, as a sweet wind rose, he stepped forward toward death below—

and into the light.

***


Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. 'My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?'

~~~

Author's Notes: For Faramir Creation Day, and belatedly for Altariel, for whom this was originally drafted in 2004 (I think).

Suddenly Faramir stirred, and he opened his eyes, and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. 'My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?'

—"The Houses of Healing," RoTK, 156.


Is there a captain here who has still the courage to do his lord's will? and I do not oppose your will, sire.:

"'Much must be risked in war,' said Denethor. … 'But I will not yield the River and the Pelennor unfought—not if there is a captain here who has still the courage to do his lord's will.'

"Then all were silent. But at length Faramir said: 'I do not oppose your will, sire. Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead—if you command it.'"

—"The Siege of Minas Tirith," RoTK, 98.


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