2. Plagued By Dreams
But it had to be said that, this year at least, three of the four companions were not in a party spirit. Faramir had been looking forward to this evening for weeks, but as he glanced round at the others, he realised that he was going to have his work cut out to brighten their mood. Aragorn seemed preoccupied. Gimli, as far as Faramir could tell underneath all that beard, was sullen. Legolas looked pale and hollow-cheeked. Well, Faramir corrected himself, more pale and hollow-cheeked than normal. The elf hadn’t eaten a scrap of the meal in front of him. Even Gimli, whose appetite could rival that of a hobbit, had merely toyed with the food listlessly. What on middle-earth could be the matter with them? Was there some evil rumour of war of which he had not heard? Were the Easterlings going to renege on their trade agreements again?
Faramir racked his brains for a topic of conversation that could cheer his companions up. He smiled brightly. “Have you had any news from the Shire since we last met, Aragorn?”
After a small pause Aragorn looked up at Faramir and blinked owlishly. “The Shire?” Dragging himself out of his reverie, the King, focused his attention on Faramir’s question. “Oh, yes, we had a letter from Merry only last week.”
“And…?” Faramir smiled encouragingly.
Aragorn’s brows furrowed for a moment in recollection. “Sam and Rosie had a baby in June.”
“Another one! That’s seven now isn’t it? Do you think Sam has any idea what causes them?” Faramir waggled his eyebrows wickedly.
Aragorn managed a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Gimli didn’t appear to have heard and was gazing down into his beer mug. Legolas simply sighed.
Faramir tried again. “I’m looking forward to setting off tomorrow. Do you remember last year’s fun and games? Eh lads? What a week that was! Six days’ hunting and then into our disguises for the pub-crawl from Fletcher Street to Thorn Lane. Oh yes!” Faramir’s eyes shone with happiness at the memory. “What was it the barman in The Golden Dragon said to you, Gimli? Gimli!”
The dwarf dragged his gaze up from the depths of his beer and managed to focus on Faramir’s face.
“I’m sorry, Faramir. You were saying?”
“Last year. The Golden Dragon You remember? What the barman said. Come on! You know!” Faramir put on a gruff voice. “You’re welcome in my bar, Master Dwarf. After all, I’m used to serving shorts.” Gimli frowned vaguely. Faramir sighed and tried to get the elf’s attention instead. “You must remember! Legolas, surely you can’t have forgotten? I seem to remember you fell off your chair laughing.”
“Mmm… shorts, yes.” Legolas smiled faintly.
Faramir persevered. “And then, Gimli, you punched him, do you remember, and he just crumpled up behind his bar as if he’d been poleaxed. Oh yes! Went down like a felled tree. Just crumpled up, didn’t he, Aragorn. It’s true what they say about dwarves being volatile.”
Faramir was pleased to note that the King was at least nodding, if somewhat lethargically.
With a sigh, Faramir picked up the three-quarters empty wine bottle and replenished his own glass and Aragorn’s. He moved the bottle on to Legolas’s glass but found a top-up unnecessary as the elf had not touched his wine at all. As far as Faramir understood elves, which, he would be the first to admit, was not actually very far, he believed that it was not possible for one of the Firstborn to suffer illness. However his knowledge did extend to an appreciation that when one of King Thranduil’s sons was off his wine, something was seriously wrong.
He took an exceptionally large swig from his glass and reached a decision.
“Right! That’s it!” He thumped his fist on the table. “I’ve had enough of this. What is the matter with you three? This is meant to be the highlight of the summer for me. I had more fun last time I had a tooth pulled. I could be at home with Eowyn, you know. I don’t have to be sitting here in Minas Tirith surrounded by you lot.” He glared at them each in turn. “What’s the matter?”
Gimli stared at the man and took a long, long pull from his tankard. “Perfectly alright, I am. Don’t know what you’re on about Faramir.”
Legolas remained unmoved, lost in some mournful reverie. Aragorn, however, visibly pulled himself together and looked Faramir in the eye.
“I must apologise, my friend, I have been a dreadful host, truly dreadful.” Aragorn paused for a moment as if caught in a difficult decision. “I must confess that there is nothing wrong that a few good nights’ sleep would not put right. But, erm…” Aragorn bit his lower lip for a second. He leaned a little closer to Faramir. “If the truth be told,” said Aragorn, “I have been plagued by the most worrisome dreams. Night after night I am beset by them. I cannot fathom their meaning. It has got to the stage where I fear to go to bed at all!”
At Aragorn’s words, both the elf and dwarf looked up.
“Dreams you say?” Legolas suddenly looked more animated than Faramir had seen all day. “What manner of dreams?”
Aragorn shook his head slowly, grimacing as if the memory was painful. “They are always the same. Over and over I am re-living my experiences in the War of the Ring. Time after time I am fighting orcs, uruk-hai, wraiths, wargs, everything…at Helm’s Deep, at Weathertop, in Rohan, oh, it is unbearable.”
Both Legolas and Gimli were now gazing at Aragorn with wrapt attention.
“I too have been troubled by such dreams,” said the elf in wonder. “Can it be that we are sharing the same nightmares?” Legolas’s gaze was turned on the dwarf. “Gimli, how fare you? Do you suffer in the same way?”
“Aye! It is as Aragorn says. The same battles over and over.”
“How curious,” said Faramir, his annoyance forgotten instantly. He thought for a moment. “You know, it is not uncommon for warriors such as ourselves to be haunted by the horrors of the battlefield. Even the bravest soul can be unsettled by such experiences. The blood, the pain, the screams of the dying…”
“No, no, you do not understand,” Aragorn interrupted. “The dreams are not memories of events that have happened to me, but rather…” Aragorn rose to his feet and began to pace the room as he struggled to explain. “But rather a reconstruction of events.” Encouraged by nods of understanding from the elf and dwarf, he continued. “It is as if I have been placed into all of these battles and skirmishes by some outside force and am being compelled to re-live them, over and over.”
“Yes!” Legolas’s eyes were wide. “It is a strange thing, indeed. Every scene in which one plays has a familiarity to it but it is not…not real.”
“And your movements are utterly out of your control,” Gimli added. “It is as if you are possessed.”
The atmosphere in the room had changed out of all recognition. A frisson of excitement had replaced the apathy and exhaustion. Aragorn was still striding to and fro. Legolas was perched on the edge of his chair.
“How long have these dreams troubled you?” asked Faramir, throwing the question open to all three.
“Two weeks, maybe three,” Aragorn said, his gaze seeking confirmation in the faces of his companions. The elf and dwarf were nodding again.
“Aye, two or three.”
“Three weeks at the very most.”
Aragorn frowned suddenly. Legolas and Gimi had arrived in Minas Tirith the day before yesterday. Why had he not noticed that his companions had seemed unhappy? Had he been sunk in his own misery so deeply that he could not perceive when his old friends needed help? Not only had he been a lamentable host to Faramir, but also a woeful friend to Legolas and Gimli. He determined to untangle this mystery and make amends.
“Let us examine these dreams,” he said, sitting down again and taking a mouthful of wine. “I walk, I run, I fight, I talk and none of it is of my own volition. A power beyond my ken moves my limbs and I… I am merely a puppet.”
“And do you not find, Aragorn, that when you fight, you can manage only the same movements over and over again?” Gimli asked. “The same swing, the same slash time after time, even when it is ludicrously inappropriate. I simply do not fight like that. If I did, I would have been quaffing good ale with my ancestors in the Halls of Mandos long ago.”
“It is curious that you should say that,” said Legolas. “I too found that my style of combat was…how shall I put it? Stilted? Repetitive? But as the nights have gone by and the battles have moved on, the force controlling me demands more and more advanced manoeuvres. No longer is it sufficient for me to make a simple thrust or cut, but I needs must spin and turn like a demented whirlwind.”
Aragorn nodded vigorously. “Do you know, I was compelled to stab an uruk-hai who was behind me without even looking!”
“Oh, yes.” Aragorn took a mouthful of wine to steady himself. “Oh, yes.”
“Well,” Gimli said, with a grave expression on his face, “I have been forced to… to…” He licked his lips and leant forward. He looked from face to face with the utmost seriousness. His voice was little more than a whisper. “I have been forced to parry.”
A collective gasp went up from the other three. Any power that could compel a dwarf to make a defensive move in combat was a force to be reckoned with, for sure.
“It is most disturbing,” Legolas continued, after they had recovered from the shock of Gimli’s revelation, “when one is made to fight in a way that is unnatural. I for instance, am forced to fight with two knives. I suppose it would be possible. I am, of course, ambidextrous.” Gimli rolled his eyes at the ‘of course’. “But I have fought with one knife since I was an elfling.” Legolas was standing now, moving his arms in exploratory sweeps and stabs. Clearly feeling that the balance was not quite right empty handed, Legolas searched the dinner table for something to wield.
“Are you alone in your dream battles?” Faramir asked Aragorn.
“Nay, Gimli is often there. And him.” Aragorn nodded his head in the direction of the elf who was flailing around with two gold candlesticks. “For goodness sake Legolas, they were a wedding present! Find something less valuable!”
“Too heavy anyway,” muttered the elf as he renewed his search for weapons.
“And Gandalf is with me at times,” Aragorn continued. “Frodo also.”
Faramir, trying hard to ignore the gyrations of the elf as he battled imaginary foes with a couple of leftover breadsticks, turned to Gimli.
“And you, Gimli, do you see other people in your dreams.
“Elbereth!” Legolas leapt like a dervish, twisted in mid air and plunged both breadsticks down into the table in a blinding shower of crumbs.
Gimli sat motionless for a moment. “Have you quite finished, elf? Good, then sit down. Now, Faramir, you were asking about other people. Yes, I agree with Aragorn. I can see Legolas, Gandalf, Frodo, er… Boromir…” Gimli glanced worriedly at Faramir but the man seemed unperturbed.
“And of course,” added Legolas, somewhat breathlessly, “in between the battles Aragorn is always talking to Eo…”
“Here are some more breadsticks, Legolas,” said Aragorn loudly. “Show me that last move again.”
“Oh don’t encourage him, Aragorn! We are trying to have a serious discussion here. The last thing we need is a battle-crazed wood-elf.”
But Gimli’s protestations were to no avail. Legolas was already on his feet. Gimli turned to Faramir once more as the young man asked, “Do you feel pain as you fight in your dreams, Gimli?”
“Ah, well. Something that puzzles me greatly is that in the midst of the battles, when I feel exhaustion dragging me down, when my very lifeblood is gushing from my wounds, all of a sudden there will be a strange coloured bottle at my feet and as I step towards it, my injuries are healed and I feel as good as new.”
“Oh, yes. There is a little tinkling noise somewhere and, whoomph, instantaneous recovery. It’s tremendously useful. Some wondrous magical potion, no doubt. Gandalf would know, I’m sure.”
“Miruvor possibly,” hazarded Faramir. “Or concentrated extract of Athelas.”
“Mind you,” Gimli continued, “it doesn’t always work. There are occasions in my dreams when no potion is to be found and my enemies have me surrounded. Under such circumstances I have been known…” He lowered his voice. “…to die!”
Faramir was horror-struck “Die?” He thought for a moment. Here was an opportunity to find the answer to a question that had plagued mankind for all eternity. “So tell me, Gimli, what happens after the Grim Reaper takes you?”
“Oh, you just start all over again from the beginning of that battle.” Gimli reached out a hand for a cold lamb chop that he had neglected at dinner.
“Yes, just get back on your feet and have another go,” said the dwarf, with his mouth full. “Or if you were killed by a particularly ferocious creature – a troll, say, or a Watcher in the Water – you just have to begin from the start of the combat with that monster.”
Gimli was warming to his subject now that Faramir was so obviously fascinated. “And let me tell you, Faramir, when you are tackling one of those fell beasts single handed, you cannot afford…”
“’Scuse me!” Legolas dived in between them, grabbed his neglected glass of wine and drained it in one gulp. “Thirsty work, this ‘two knives’ business, you know.” And, with a keening battle-cry, he was off in a whirl of skinny limbs and breadcrumbs.
“As I was saying, combat with the great monsters is particularly…”
But Faramir’s attention had been distracted. “Do you ever die in your dreams, Aragorn?” he said as the King walked over to the table, brushing debris from his tunic.
Aragorn nodded. “‘Tis most frightening. Sometimes it is because my enemies are too numerous. Sometimes it is just one mighty creature that is my doom. There are occasions when fire surrounds me and I cannot escape. ”
“Strange indeed,” said Faramir.
Gimli tried to recapture his audience. “The most important thing to remember, Faramir, when facing up to one of the really big…”
“What causes your death in your dreams, Legolas?”
The elf spun on one foot and brought the other one around in a high kick, smartly knocking the helmet off an ancient suit of armour.
Faramir raised his voice above the clanging din that ensued. “I said how do you die in your dreams?”
Legolas turned to them at last. “Like this…” His arms hung slack at his sides, he wavered for several seconds before sinking to his knees and, with a soft gasping, cry, he fell forward onto his chest with one arm tucked neatly under his body.
Aragorn burst into spontaneous applause.
Faramir frowned. “Very graceful I’m sure, but I meant under what circumstances do…”
“I don’t manage anything like that,” Gimli said, gesturing with the remains of his lamb chop towards the prone elf. “I just keel over. What about you, Aragorn?”
“Fall sideways and twitch.”
“Very sensible. I was worried that with your upbringing you would go in for elvish melodramatics.” Gimli threw the lamb bone at Legolas. “You can get up now.”
“But,” said Faramir, returning to a previous question, “you feel no pain in your battles, even if you die?”
“That’s right.” Gimli answered. “No pain. In fact if it weren’t for the feeling that my body is possessed by some evil force, the dreams would be bearable. To fight endlessly but feel no pain is not unpleasant.”
Aragorn looked curiously at the dwarf. “Do you really believe that the possession is evil, Gimli? I feel that the being that controls me is not malevolent. I sense intense interest but no evil purpose. The master of my dreams does not want to see me die.”
“But who is the master of your dreams, as you call him?” Faramir asked.
“Mistress,” came a muffled voice from the floor. The elf still hadn’t moved.
They all turned.
“Mistress. Mistress of my dreams.” Legolas finally abandoned his corpse pose and rolled over, resting his head on his interlaced hands. He stared at the ceiling. “The being that controls my body in my dreams is most definitely female.”
“Nonsense! How can you possibly tell?”
The elf simply grinned.
“Rubbish!” continued Gimli. “He’s talking gibberish, isn’t he Aragorn?”
“Mmm.” Aragorn decided not to mention that the power controlling him seemed sometimes to feel that it must be very hot work, fighting, and that it would be much better for him to take off his shirt. Perhaps a change of tack was called for. “There is never any shortage of arrows in my dream-world, Legolas. It is truly an archer’s heaven.”
“I know.” The voice was wistful. “’Tis the same for me. Time after time I reach behind my shoulder and there’s another arrow, and another. That quiver must hold, oh, fifty, sixty arrows.”
Aragorn frowned. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Aye, my friend, sixty. And also I have found,” Legolas continued sitting up and crossing his legs, “That sometimes my arrows set the enemy on fire! Even trolls!”
“Truly. Well… some trolls. What wouldn’t I have given for a quiver of such arrows at Helm’s Deep, Pelargir, Pelennor Fields…?”
Aragorn smiled at the expression of infinite longing on his friend’s face. “I’ve found that I rarely miss with the bow in my dream-world. What about you Legolas?”
The elf flashed a smug look at the King. “I have found that I rarely miss with the bow in any world.” Legolas ducked as assorted items of food were thrown at him from three directions.
“Let me just get this clear in my mind,” said Faramir. “You three are having dreams in which you can…let me see…fight like demons, feel no pain, heal yourselves magically…” Faramir was counting the points off on his fingers now. “Kill trolls with flaming arrows, rise from the dead…and you’re *complaining*?”
Aragorn opened his mouth to speak, paused and shut it again. Actually when you put it like that, he thought, it doesn’t seem too bad. Legolas wore a puzzled expression, as if his perspective on life had just been rotated through one hundred and eighty degrees. Only Gimli remained resolute.
“But we have absolutely no control over our actions, Faramir. We are just helpless puppets!”
“Being manipulated by a beautiful enchantress,” said Faramir. “Truly my heart bleeds for you.”
“I didn’t say that she was beautiful,” said Legolas, coming to sit at the table with them and refilling his glass. “Simply…enthusiastic.”
“Dedicated,” added Aragorn thoughtfully. “Devoted.”
“You’re making it up!” protested Gimli.
“Obsessed!” The King’s voice was a low purr.
“Durin’s Beard, Aragorn! You’re married!” Gimli pleaded. “And as for you,” he wagged a finger at Legolas. “Since when were you interested in women, eh?
The elf looked offended. He rose to his feet. “Are you suggesting that…?”
“I’m not suggesting anything. All I’m saying is that given the choice between talking to a woman or an oak tree, you would generally prefer to have to compliment your partner on her exquisite acorns.”
“You are implying that I cannot talk to women?”
“Well, seriously, Legolas, when was the last time you talked to a woman?”
“I spoke to the Queen only this afternoon.” Legolas picked up his glass and took a few mouthfuls.
“Alright, when was the last time you spoke to an unmarried woman?”
A silence began to stretch out across the seconds. Aragorn and Faramir leant forwards in anticipation. Gimli reached for a slice of bread and began to spread honey on it thickly. Occasionally Legolas would begin to frame a response, but then stop.
Gimli sat back, taking a large bite. As he chewed, he looked the elf up and down. “Maybe,” he said, a little indistinctly, “women simply don’t find you attractive.”
Legolas’s jaw clenched. He drew himself up to his full height. “In the course of my life, I have had many female lovers.”
“How many?” cried Faramir.
“Name three!” yelled Aragorn.
“I could not possibly be so indiscreet.” The elf’s face was a mask of haughty disdain. “I will have you know that I have had as many female lovers as… as… Aragorn has had baths.”
Gimli grinned. “Still a virgin then, Legolas.”
Faramir had unfortunately chosen that moment to take a gulp of wine. Aragorn had tears in his eyes as he slapped the man between the shoulder blades. Even Legolas managed a wry smile. He brightened as a thought struck him.
“I could perhaps point out, Gimli, that you remain obstinately unwed.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m not interested in women, though does it?” The dwarf smiled at a fond remembrance. “As it happens I have a weakness for tall, willowy blondes with bright blue eyes.”
Aragorn snorted. “Could be your lucky night, Legolas!”
“No!” Gimli protested loudly. “No! I was referring, as you well know, Aragorn, to the Lady Galadriel.”
“And as she left for the Havens twenty years ago, Legolas would be well advised to lock his door this evening,” said Faramir.
“Or not, as the case may be,” added Aragorn with a smirk.
Legolas shot him a look of pure venom. “Speaking of blondes…Tell me, Aragorn, how did Arwen react when you told her that she does not appear in your dream-world but another person’s wife most certainly does?”
Brazen it out, thought Aragorn. If I do not show any embarrassment, Faramir may not even understand what the elf said. In a voice that was ever so slightly too loud he began, “Arwen was, of course, concerned that my sleep was so disturbed and has been extremely supportive. I talked to her in detail about my dreams and explained er… everything to her. There are no secrets between us. I sought her advice straight away. I thought she may have some insight into the cause of these dreams. I was completely open with her about them.” Aragorn realised that he was over-elaborating and decided to shut up.
“It is good that she is so understanding,” said Gimli, archly. “Many wives would become jealous if they knew their husbands spent their nights pouring their hearts out to another woman, telling her the story of their adventures.”
Hell’s teeth! thought Aragorn, the elf and dwarf are ganging up on me now.
“Moria was a dark time for the Fellowship…” intoned the Dwarf in a sombre voice.
“Erm…?” Faramir began, but Legolas and Gimli were in full swing. The dwarf stood up and adopted an heroic stance. The elf, putting his glass on the table, went down on his knees so that their heads were at the correct height. Legolas looked up sideways at Gimli and batted his eyelashes.
“It was here that we would find far more than the tomb of Balin, Lord of Moria,” said Gimli, his chin thrust nobly in the air, his eyes narrowed. Legolas gazed adoringly at the dwarf, his lips parted just a little.
“What exactly are you…?” Faramir was beginning to become suspicious. “Who is Legolas pretending to be? What’s going on?”
“Despite Boromir’s heroism, the servants of Saruman captured members of our company, but we would not abandon them to torment and death,” said the dwarf, his face a picture of valiant resolution. Then he reached out and touched Legolas’s cheek. The elf, doe-eyed and panting slightly, leant into the caress.
“That’s not fair!” cried Aragorn. “I never laid a finger on her!”
“Her? Who’s ‘her’?” Faramir’s hands were on his hips. “Legolas, stand up, you look bloody ridiculous!”
Gimli was quick to disagree. “I think the resemblance is quite remarkable. If you just took your hair out of its braids…”
“Resemblance? What resemblance? Legolas, for goodness sake!” he pulled on the elf’s arm. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Far, far too much,” said Aragorn, taking Legolas’s other arm. “And on an empty stomach. Perhaps it would be best if we all went to bed.”
“Yes, but what do you mean about—”
“We’ve got an early start in the morning. I thought that we could head south to start with. Which horse have you brought with you Faramir? Ebony? Starfoot? Gimli will be riding with you, Legolas, of course, won’t he? I’ve already sorted out provisions and such like.”
“But Aragorn,” said Faramir. “You still haven’t explained—”
“Aye, you must explain, mellon-nin. Tell him how she gazes up at you, drinking in every word!” said Legolas with, to Aragorn’s mind, a distressing clarity and lack of drunkenness.
“Ha ha! You’d think an elven prince would be used to red wine, wouldn’t you,” laughed the King, suddenly gripping Legolas’s arm very tightly indeed.
“Oh dear, Legolas, is that your old Battle of Five Armies wound playing up again? Here come with me, my friend, I’ll help you to your room if you like. I can take him from here, thank you Faramir. Off we go now.” If he could just get the elf and the dwarf out of here before Faramir put two and two together…
“I wasn’t wounded at the Battle of Five—.”
“Yes, yes – poisoned arrow in the shoulder and a nasty head wound… severe concussion, Gandalf told me. You hardly remember anything about it. You were delirious. Gimli! Your assistance here, please!” Maybe, thought Aragorn if I did a really good impression of a seagull I could distract Legolas.
Faramir found that Aragorn had steered the elf away from him. “But…”
“Goodnight Faramir,” called Aragorn as he, Gimli and Legolas lurched towards the door.
“Goodnight!” shouted the dwarf.
“See you in the morning,” said Faramir, still somewhat perplexed.
“G’night, Marafir!” Legolas shouted from out of sight. “I’m sure Aragorn will give Eowyn a kiss from you when he sees her tonight at Helm’s Deep— Aaaargh! My arm!”
There was an awful pause.
“Aragorn!” Faramir bellowed. “Get back here!”
But three pairs of feet were running down the corridor at full pelt.
Oh, yes, thought Faramir. There would be a hunting expedition tomorrow. But who would be hunting whom, he had not quite decided.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.