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2
Every Breath

March, 3019

The March nights were still cold and, though wounded, Ithilien reached with longing for spring.

The captain was all but invisible in the gloom, his dark-dappled cloak a pattern of moonlight through leaves, his dark hair a shadow in the gathering of shadows that haunted this place. He might have been a tumbled pile of stones that vaguely resembled a man. Only his eyes, silvered in the grey dark, spoke of his presence - and even they seemed a reflection of stars on dark swirling water. He scanned the great river for any sign of movement, any hint of danger. He perched and waited, restless, the Raven of Ithilien, feeling that he was watching for death.

Lately his dreams left him wakeful, mind racing, thinking it best not to waste a precious second he might regret tomorrow. Instead of sleeping he would walk among his men, study their faces, and try to remember how to breathe - tasting every breath, in and out. Sleep might come all too soon.

He had been watching the full moon dance on the black water for some time before he remembered there should be only a pale gleam tonight. Something flickered like foxfire in the stream. He stepped through the reeds and waded into the swirling current, mesmerized, powerless, yet unable to feel alarmed.

It proved to be a sleek grey boat with a prow that reared like the neck of a stallion as it turned and came toward him. Inside, it was full of clear bright water, brighter than moonlight, yet casting no light into the surrounding dark.

In the boat lay the Blade of Gondor, and he was broken.

Faramir’s heart hammered at the sight. He raised his hand to touch the familiar face, but was unable to defy the unearthly light. Among the wounds, above his brother’s heart he could see the rent where an arrow had delivered its deadly sting.

“Boromir!” he whispered. “I heard your call. Did you fall so close – so close to home? One long dive and I might have reached you.”

A great sadness stretched its hand toward the captain’s heart; he felt the touch of the icy fingers, but to his surprise it did not clench its cruel fist. He understood that Boromir was dead, yet looking into the light he was drawn to the peace and beauty that transfigured the warrior’s face. His brother smiled as though his closed eyes focused now only upon the stars.

There had been a time when his hands had the power to pull his brother back from Anduin’s grasp. She had released him for only a little while - yet it had been time enough for his brother to learn to be at ease in the water. Boromir no longer needed his aid.

His brother, who he had feared would live his life only for war, had somehow found peace. Now he had come to share the knowledge of his final gift.

Too soon, the river called again for what was hers, and the little boat moved back into the current of the stream. The cold brightness closed over his brother and embraced him, held him in the silver circle of its arms, making his body part of the eddy and flow of the river.

Faramir watched the light as it was swallowed up by distance and darkness, leaving him once more a shadow in the gloom, hoping that peace was a gift he would someday share.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” he whispered.

As his brother slipped away, he turned and scrambled up the bank, grasping at reeds to support himself.

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