Halmir leaned against the carved wooden door of the Council Chamber, his hand still upon the latch, struggling to compose himself. He heartily wished that fate had not handed him the task of delivering to Denethor the news of the death of Boromir; the sight of tears upon the face of the proud Steward had been more than he could bear.
As he turned away from the door at last, he saw the chamberlain approaching, and hurriedly blinked away his own tears.
"Is your business accomplished, my lord?" inquired the chamberlain. "Have you need of lodging? I will make arrangements for you, if you do not have family in the City."
"I have no family here," answered Halmir, thankful that his voice did not betray his agitation. "If I may stay in the barracks until the lord Steward is ready to receive me once more, that would be all I require. He... he needs time for thought on the matter of business I brought to him. I shall await his orders, before returning to my post in the North."
The man bowed in acknowlegement and laid his hand upon the door latch, but Halmir stayed him with a touch on his sleeve.
"The lord Steward requests solitude for a time," he said, drawing the man aside and away from the door. "He commands that no one disturb him."
The chamberlain looked at him, startled; he must have seen the brightness of remaining tears in Halmir's eyes, for he gave a low gasp and shot one quick glance at the closed door of the Chamber.
"Your news... " he stammered in a trembling voice. "Was it ill news, then?"
"Yes," sighed Halmir, and a tear, unbidden, trickled down his face. "The worst possible news -- for us all!"
He looked back at the closed door of the Chamber for a moment, then turned away, leaving the chamberlain standing shocked and irresolute. He strode through the Hall and out, his footsteps echoing hollowly behind him in the emptiness.
The long day was almost over, and Faramir welcomed the darkness and the chance to be alone with his thoughts. He had made the rounds of the Osgiliath garrison, seen the guards set and the defenses secured, and left Anborn and Mablung to make their way to their assigned posts on the flatlands by the River beneath the Causeway. He had taken up his own post a little further north, beyond the Causeway and the ruins of the old city, in a spot which gave him a good view of the distant bank opposite, as well as of the River itself. He had chosen this spot for himself because it was quiet here, far enough away from other watchers that he could be alone, but not so far that a shout for aid would not be heard.
Faramir had much need of thought this night, for his heart was heavy with foreboding. His dreams had been troubling of late, filled with images of Boromir in futile battle with a formidable enemy... Boromir wounded and bleeding... Boromir lying still and pale -- as if dead -- his face drawn with pain... And all the while, throughout his dreams, came the echoing sound of Boromir's Horn, calling, calling...
It had been now three days since Faramir had heard the Horn of Gondor blowing on the edge of hearing; three days since he had heard the desperate call of his brother in need somewhere on the northern borders of his land. There had been no word of Boromir since he had left, so many months ago; nothing, until the sounding of the Horn.
Faramir stirred and shifted his position. He was weary, but it was fatigue born of despair, rather than lack of sleep. If only Boromir would return, safe, and whole! If only there were something he could do to bring his brother back to the place where he was so sorely missed, so sorely needed!
The night was dark, but the moon shone palely bright upon the mist that drifted across the surface of the River. The midnight stillness was broken only by the lap of the water at his feet, and by the sad rustle of the wind sighing in reeds all around him. He listened to the soft sound of the wind, and almost he could imagine he was hearing the wind in the trees of the forests of Ithilien...
... but it was not Ithilien. He looked about him and saw he was in another place, a forest of pines on a steep hill, dappled with sunlight; the sound in his ears was a distant roaring, as if a great fall of water was there, beyond sight but not beyond hearing.
A heavy sense of dread fell upon him as he gazed up the hill through the trees and saw a battle being waged. He heard the harsh cries of many Orcs and the calling of young, frightened voices, and then the shout of the Horn call and the battle cry of Boromir, his brother. He strained to see what was happening, and suddenly he was there, in the midst of the battle. All about him was confusion, but he had eyes only for the tall figure of Boromir who stood before him, bloodied and bruised, his Horn cloven and his body pierced with many arrows.
Even as Faramir watched, frozen into immobility, he saw another arrow flying, striking his brother with great force in his midsection; his head snapped back, and he staggered backwards several paces. Somehow, he was able to keep from falling completely to the ground, but he no longer seemed to have the strength or the will to remain standing.
Faramir stared helplessly as Boromir dropped slowly to his knees, his useless Horn slapping and bumping against his side. His sword was still in his hand, and he gripped it tightly, but he could no longer raise it. Boromir's proud head drooped, and his chin fell to his chest. His mouth opened and he strove to speak --
Boromir could only mouth his brother's name, for his breath was almost gone. He looked up, straight into the anguished gaze of his brother, and the look in his eyes made Faramir cry out in pain.
"I am here, Boromir!" cried Faramir running forward. He stretched out his hand to his brother...
... and awoke to find himself standing knee-deep in water, his hand outstretched and empty. The sighing of the wind in the reeds was in his ears, and the force of the River's current was against his legs. Boromir was gone, leaving behind him nothing but an aching, empty void.
Faramir swayed with the shock of the sudden transition, but he recovered quickly. Sometimes his dreams were like this, coming to him even when he was awake, but he had never before been drawn in so thoroughly or so suddenly.
He inhaled deeply and let his breath out again slowly in a long shuddering sigh. Leaning forward, he scooped up water with his hands to wet his face in an attempt to wake himself and recover from the effects of the dream.
As he straightened, he caught out of the corner of his eye movement in the mist, and the glint of moonlight upon an object in the water. Faramir stepped forward cautiously, peering into the darkness. Yes, there was something there, spinning on the surface of the water...
Faramir stretched out his hand towards the object and it floated to him as if bidden. As he closed his hand upon it and lifted it from the water, a wave of fear and loss smote him, for he recognized the familiar curve of horn tipped with silver -- now a cloven half, scored and bloodied, just as he had seen it in his dream.
Faramir's throat closed with grief as tears sprang to his eyes and flowed down his cheeks.
"No!" he breathed, and did not know he spoke aloud. "Boromir! You cannot be lost to me!"
But he knew his dream had been true. He had no doubt that Boromir had fallen even as he had seen in his dream. He looked northwards, but all was grey darkness, and no sound came to him but the endless sigh of the wind in the reeds. Boromir was gone into the North, and would not now return; his Horn was silenced, the last voice of his brother.
Words from the past now echoed in his mind, words shared with Boromir before he departed upon his fateful journey...
I only hope you will find what you seek, and return to me safely. I shall be Captain in your absence, and your faith in me will be justified; but my hope will ever be for your speedy return."
"I fear my journey will be long, and my return delayed, but I will come as swiftly as I may."
The sound of his brother's voice in his mind made Faramir's breath catch in pain and sorrow. Even now, he could feel the weight of Boromir's arm upon his shoulders, as he spoke of his hopes for the success of his quest and what it might mean for Gondor.
I will come as swiftly as I may...
He heard another echo, from even further in the past...
...Do not fear! I am not lost to you yet, and I do not look to be! You will wait long for the captaincy, I assure you! Did you not know? I am indestructible!"
Faramir gripped the Horn and hugged it to his breast, and gave himself up to his sorrow. Bowing his head, he let his tears fall freely to mix with the waters of the Anduin which had brought to him proof that his brother was not indestructible after all.
Boromir stifled a sigh as he stirred restlessly, trying to find a comfortable position for sleep. But sleep proved elusive. Linhir, who lay beside him, sat up and laid a comforting hand upon his arm.
"What troubles you, Boromir?" he questioned quietly. "Do your wounds pain you?"
"Forgive me if I have disturbed you at this late hour," sighed Boromir, as he struggled up into a sitting position. "I am not in pain -- in spite of all your prodding and bandaging and stitching of wounds!"
"Why then are you wakeful?"
Boromir was silent for a moment, and when he spoke, his voice was gruff with emotion.
"They will think me dead," he said plaintively. "You tell me that a part of my Horn has been found by the watchers at the foot of the Falls?"
"It will be in my father's hands by now," Boromir continued. "He will despair of my coming. If only I could get word to him..."
"Let it go, Boromir," said Linhir firmly. "You can do nothing more than you are doing now. We shall come to the City as soon as may be, and then your father shall see you with his own eyes, and know you are well, and not dead. No other messenger now will he believe."
Boromir frowned firecely at this reminder of Linhir's news of his father's slow slide into despair.
"It seems that before ever I left upon my journey, he was losing hope and falling into despair, which made him hard and strict -- even with me! Alas for Faramir, if my father should think me dead! The burden of my duties and my father's ill mood shall be upon his shoulders one hundredfold!"
"Do not concern yourself with Faramir," advised Linhir. "His shoulders are as wide as yours, and as strong. He will bear it well, until you return to relieve him of some of that burden."
"And my father?"
"Your worry for things you cannot change will not help him -- nor will it help you come to him any sooner. Rest now, and get yourself strong and well, so that you may return to him whole, to heal his sorrow. Trust Faramir to deal with your father, in the meantime."
"Faramir, too, will think me dead," Boromir said in a low voice filled with pain. "I have broken my promise to him for a swift returning. It is not the worst of my broken promises, but it is one that I feel keenly."
Linhir gripped Boromir's shoulder and gave him a gentle shake.
"Again I say to you, let it go, Boromir! We shall see you home as swiftly as may be, so that your promise to Faramir, at least, may be mended."
He pushed Boromir back with one hand and with the other supported him until he was once more lying back upon his bedroll.
"Now will you rest?" Linhir said sternly. "Or must I give you something in your drink to make you sleep?"
"Nay!" he responded with a grimace. "None of your bitter herbs for me, I beg you! I shall sleep -- I must, if I am to be back on my feet and home to my family once more."
"Exactly!" said Linhir decisively.
He rose to his feet and shook out his blanket, placing it carefully over Boromir's own, and tucking it about his shoulders.
"It is my watch now," he said to Boromir, "but when I return, I had better find you sleeping, or it will be bitter herbs for you, my Captain!"
"A good night to you, Linhir!" growled Boromir, as he turned on his side and pulled the blankets over his head, to muffle the sound of Linhir chuckling as he walked away to take up his watch.
He was certain -- in spite of what he had said to Linhir -- that he would be unable to sleep, for he was still greatly disturbed at the thought of his loved ones thinking him dead. But after a time, he found himself relaxing, and at last he grew drowsy.
"I am coming, Father... Faramir..." he muttered, as sleep took him away. "I am coming... as swiftly as I may..."