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3
Doom is near at Hand

Doom is near at Hand

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. This story is written for pleasure not profit.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella

A year later my lady was with child again. She bore me another son, whom we named Faramir. I know a man needs heirs, yet I admit I was a little disappointed to have another boy. I had hoped this babe would be a daughter, as fair as her mother and as gentle. I already had the fairest son and heir that any man could hope for in my Boromir! This second son could never hope to compare with him.

Faramir was a very different babe to his brother, more timid and fretful and less venturesome when he began to crawl. My father was very taken with his new grandson, though. For a while I hoped that he might rally, but when Faramir was only two years old, Ecthelion died.

Worse was to follow as my lady then began to sicken. Many times I found her gazing at the East towards Mount Doom. Then she would recoil and shudder as she murmured, "What will become of my little ones growing up under this shadow?" Other times she would gaze towards the West, or open the window and strain her ears to catch the screaming of the gulls that flew up the Anduin from the sea. The Easterlings were again violating our borders. Now I was Ruling Steward, I was constrained by my duties and could no longer take her to visit her kinsfolk at Dol Amroth. By now, she was too frail to travel in any case; she spent her days in her solar. Faramir was usually at her side; the boy was devoted to his mother. He was now a solemn little boy who liked nothing better than to peruse a book. At the same age, my Boromir was rarely without his wooden sword, fighting imaginary foes behind every bush in the gardens.

Soon after Faramir's fifth birthday, at the fairest time of year when spring ripens into summer, Finduilas breathed her last and all joy left me. I could not weep, for such weakness ill becomes a man, but it seemed that my heart had turned to ice within me. The sun's rays offered no warmth to me and I could feel joy in nothing save the lively company of my Boromir. Faramir's weeping for his mother reminded me too much of my loss and the tears I could not shed.

They say time is a great healer, but some wounds never heal. I devoted myself to my duties as Steward. During my father's lifetime I had often wondered why he did not avail himself of the palantír in his keeping. It was the lawful right of the Steward and his heir to use the precious object. Such a mighty gift ought not be left to gather dust. When I had come of age my father had shown me the palantír, but told me it was too dangerous a thing to make use of. Maybe it was for him, but I had the greater mental powers and was a master of lore. I would have used the stone as soon as my father was buried, but my lady feared it too and I allowed her to persuade me. Now that she too had departed Arda, I was determined to exercise my rights. I would be able to see what Mithrandir and Thorongil might be plotting as well as gain an advantage over the Dark Lord.

I occasionally glimpsed Mithrandir as he scurried hither and thither, seemingly to no purpose, but Thorongil seemed to have melted back into the shadows whence he came. The palantír had great virtue, though as I could follow the movements of the Enemy and ensure that Gondor was not taken unawares. Using it took a great deal of strength and will, but the more I did so, the easier it became and my knowledge increased.

Boromir remained my greatest joy. Each day he seemed to grow taller and stronger. He had little love of lore and learning, but more than made up for that in his prowess with sword and bow. He could surpass boys several years older on the practise fields and all men loved him.

If only Faramir had been more like his brother! The boy seemed to care for little save books and animals. In a different age that might have been well enough, but Gondor, alas, needed soldiers, not scholars. Nor would I have my son acting like some farmer's lad, tending horses, playing with pups on the heart and rescuing stray kittens.

The boy troubled me. To my dismay I realised he had an air of Thorongil about him. I knew that my lady would never have played me false and Thorongil was gone long before Faramir's begetting, but it seemed fate had dealt me a further unkind blow by giving me a son who happened to resemble my rival. My brother in law laughed when I mentioned the resemblance and insisted that Faramir was in fact like me with the addition of Finduilas' near Elven grace.

As Faramir grew older, he shared something else with Thorongil, a friendship with Mithrandir.

"Would it not be a wonder if the White Tree were to bloom anew and the King return?" Faramir asked me one day after I had dined with my sons.

"The King will never return," Boromir said. "Why should you not take the throne, father? It is well nigh a thousand years since the last king departed."

"Because that is not the Steward's part, my son," I replied. "It would take ten thousand years or more to make a steward into a king."

"I dream of the real king coming back," said Faramir. "Then the White Tree will bloom anew and Gondor will be at peace and be a centre of lore like in the days of old. Mithrandir has been telling me of those great days of long ago."

"Mithrandir has filled your head with foolish fancies," I said sharply. "Gondor is still the greatest land in Middle-earth, but she has no need of a king. A dead tree can never be restored to life. Anárion's male line died out long ago. You should apply yourself to mastering sword and bow to defend our land. Peace is but a dream and what little we have is hard won by the sword."

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the arts of war, as he grew older, Faramir proved a competent enough archer and swordsman and became Captain of the Ithilien Rangers. His men loved him, much as men had loved Thorongil. Of course, all loved Boromir more and deservedly so, yet Faramir's men would have walked through fire for love of their lord

Neither of my sons showed much interest in taking a wife. Boromir would need to marry eventually to sire an heir, but I had not married until late in life, and while he remained unwed, Boromir's love was not divided. Faramir had said he should one day like a wife, but no lady had stirred his heart. I was not sorry, for the boy was far too easily led astray.

After Mithrandir filled Faramir's head with stories of kings, I wondered if Thorongil were planning to return and sent spies to discover his whereabouts, as the palantír had failed to find him, but I could discover nothing. It was as if he had vanished from the face of the earth. Maybe his luck had finally run out and he was dead, or he had married his Northern girl and was busy enjoying her charms in some snowbound hovel amidst the ruins of Fornost.

As the years passed the Enemy grew in strength and ever bolder. Often I heard men say, "Would that Captain Thorongil were here!" but what would his disreputable presence have availed Gondor in her hour of need? He was but one man.

I knew we had to be prepared for an attack at any time and I wore my armour night and day and kept my sword at my side. The discomfort kept me alert and prevented me from growing soft now that I no longer led my men in battle.

I was writing commendations for the men killed in a fearsome attack on Osgiliath when my sons asked to see me. It was a marvel that they had escaped alive. It was fortunate that their uncle had taught both to swim well. I had insisted they should both take some leave before returning to their respective duties

After they had greeted me Faramir said, "Twice I have dreamed a strange dream, sire, both on the eve of the battle and again afterwards. I would seek your counsel."

"You were ever a dreamer, Faramir," I replied. "You need more sleep and less dreaming."

"I have dreamed it too, father," said Boromir.

"What is this dream, then?" I asked.

"I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken;
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall councils be taken;
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand."

"I dreamed exactly the same," said Faramir. "I know not what it might mean, though. Lore tells that the Dark Lord broke Elendil's sword."

"Many warriors swords' have been cleft in battle," said Boromir. "The dream is a riddle to me."

"Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Halfelven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters," I answered. "I know not, though, whether it still endures in these latter days."

"Please, sire, let me seek out this place," Faramir begged. "Maybe this Master Elrond can give us wise counsel that we might yet avert doom. Dearly would I love to meet such a one who was friend of Gilgalad."

"No," I said firmly. If Imladris did indeed still exist, it might well be where Thorongil was hiding, and most likely Mithrandir with him. They would easily beguile Faramir and bend him to their will, setting him up as an agent against his lord and father.

"Let me go, then, father," Boromir pleaded. "I am older and hardier than Faramir. I shall surely succeed in this quest and bring help to Gondor."

"No, my son," I replied. "I need you here in charge of our defences. Now leave me, my sons, I have work to do."

Over the next few days my sons continued to plead with me to allow them to seek out Imladris. I could deny Boromir nothing At last I reluctantly gave my permission. I could better spare Faramir, but I could not trust him if he encountered my old adversaries. Boromir's head would not be turned so easily. I counselled him before he left that he must be wary. He bade a loving farewell to me and to his brother and set off on the long journey North.

Woe the day that I ever let Boromir leave on such a dangerous mission! I thought I heard his horn sounding one fell day in winter; and then it was brought to me, broken and fished from the river. Boromir would never part with this heirloom of our House while he still had breath in his body. My son, my beloved son is dead! What hope for Gondor now without Boromir?

I sought answers within the palantír and he was there- Thorongil; but as I had never seen him before. A light blazed in his eyes while he held a great sword aloft, the sword of Elendil reforged. He now openly claimed to be Elendil's rightful heir who demanded his birthright. Birthright indeed! He has no rights in Gondor, the last of a ragged line bereft of dignity!

The enemy are fast approaching our gates. Hope is fading. Faramir returned with tidings I could scarce comprehend. He had the Enemy's weapon within in his grasp and let it slip from him in the hands of a pair of Halflings! How could he betray me thus? Boromir would have brought me a mighty gift. Oh why did I not send him North instead of my Boromir? How could he do this to me?

It all became clear, Faramir is no loyal son of mine but a wizard's pupil, who puts Mithrandir's will before his father's and lord's! He must be punished for his folly. Let him defend Osgiliath if he would prove himself a true son of Gondor!

Mithrandir's appearance here in Minas Tirith so soon after Thorongil reveals his plans proves what I have long suspected. They are working together to usurp my place.

There is worst to come. Faramir is sore wounded. Faramir, my last surviving child, whom I sent forth unblessed into battle. He burns now with fever within my chamber ,while without the City burns. All is burning! I have lost all. What point is there in fighting? Should we triumph today, Thorongil will come and expect me to bow the knee before him. I would not live as his dotard chamberlain watching him pour poison in Faramir's ears and making the fool boy fawn upon him.

He took my father's love; he will not take my son's together with mine office!

The Enemy will come though; Thorongil cannot stop them. The Orcs will put us to torment and defile our corpses; Faramir and I both. I have seen the Dark Lord's plansin the palantír! I will thwart his will.

I call for my servants. I will die as the heathen kings of old by fire. And I shall bear Faramir with me. I have lost all; I would not lose him too.

Come, Thorongil, and inherit your kingdom of ashes!

A/n, Some lines are taken directly from Tolkien.

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