7. The Storm Breaks Out
It was early in the morning and Beregond had just returned from one of his night shifts at the Citadel, when a nine-year-old boy rushed to his room eagerly.
"Father, Maldir is outside the house and wants to speak with you!"
"Oh?" said Beregond surprised. "Didn't he tell you what is it about?"
"No, he just said it was important."
Beregond let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck in thought.
"Very well then," he said in the end. "Send him in."
Bergil obediently went to his errand, and Beregond sat tiredly on a chair nearby, dearly hoping that whatever Maldir wanted would be quick, for his body demanded a rest.
His heart sank a bit. If merely standing guard tired him, a trained soldier, so, he didn't dare think how exhausted Faramir must have been after days of fighting at Osgiliath.
He momentarily closed his eyes in the hopes of resting them; and he replayed in his mind the events that had happened only a couple of hours ago.
Beregond was waiting impatiently for dawn so that he could go home and get some sleep when he saw two men walking hurriedly the stairs up to the Citadel. The soldier had immediately recognised the forms of Boromir and Faramir, though their faces hardly betrayed their identities; the brothers were pale and worn out.
Yet the one who Beregond felt truly sorry for was Faramir. His friend seemed only a mere ghost of himself, for his face was lean and haggard and white as a sheet. It took all of Beregond's will not to let an exclamation of shock to escape his lips. He looked slightly away, wishing not to arouse any suspicion.
It didn't seem like anyone understood what Beregond tried to do, since everyone was more concerned about the presence of the Steward's sons within the walls of the city in time of War. Yet Faramir did notice him. In fact, before he disappeared behind the Citadel's gates and went into the Great Hall, he mouthed at Beregond's direction two hasty words.
And that was all Beregond got to find out. All he could do was stay on guard as though nothing came to pass, yet he couldn't still his heart. What could it be that could have caused so much concern on the Steward's sons?
Beregond's eyes snapped open at Bergil's voice. There, before him, was his son, followed close behind by Maldir. Letting out a small inward groan, Beregond stood up respectively.
"Well, my friend? What did you want to speak to me of?"
Surprisingly enough, Maldir was smiling.
"Me? Nothing all that important," he said. "The thing is that you once asked me if I could take Bergil and show him the City from the Citadel. Today seemed like a good day for that."
Bergil's face brightened happily.
"Oh, father, can I go? Maldir can tell me all kinds of tales about the place!" he said pleadingly.
Beregond was hardly paying attention to Bergil, however. He was frowning profusely, and he was ready to tell Maldir that he had never asked him anything of the sort.
He immediately stopped himself. Why did he suddenly have the feeling that Maldir wanted for some reason to make sure he was alone in the house? He looked questioningly at Maldir, who only nodded slightly. Beregond had got his answer.
"Of course you can, my son," he said in the end, facing and smiling broadly at Bergil, "just try not to tire Maldir too much by running around the whole time, all right?"
"I promise!" Bergil assured him, and took Maldir's hand excitedly.
Maldir smiled, obviously touched by the boy's exuberance, and smiled a bit at Beregond. "We'll be back in two hours," he said; and with that, both old soldier and boy walked out.
As soon as Mardil and Bergil had disappeared from view, Beregond sat again on the chair and waited, all feelings of fatigue forgotten. He immediately sprang up at the sound of a light knock at the back door and hurried to open.
There, just as Beregond had expected it to be, stood Faramir. Beregond quickly welcomed him and beckoned him inside, then quickly pulled the drapes of the windows in case someone would see them.
"You do realize that coming here in broad daylight isn't the wisest thing to do?" pointed out Beregond, as soon as he felt that all precaution was taken.
"I do. I still wanted to get away from the Citadel for a while and your house is the best haven for that," said Faramir, removing his cloak and pulling up a chair to sit down.
Beregond looked at him, his worry obviously clear on his face, for Faramir smirked.
"Do not worry, I was careful! I even brushed by your son and he did not notice me." A small pause. "Bergil has grown quite a lot. He is very tall for his age."
Beregond couldn't help but feel his heart swell with pride at the compliment. "He takes after his father in that." A sigh. "But he has his mother's face."
Faramir locked his gaze on him. "You still miss her."
"With all my heart," replied Beregond immediately. "Yet, Bergil manages to comfort me with his presence, bless him."
Faramir couldn't help but smile slightly at this. "You should see your face when you talk about him. It seems to light up with an inner glow." He bowed his head in regret. "If only other fathers had the love that you have for your son."
Beregond's heart wrenched. He pulled up a chair as well and sat across his friend. Clasping his hand on his friend's shoulder he asked Faramir to look at him.
"Faramir, I know what you think and, frankly, I used to believe it too. But when Bergil came into my life, I realized that it's not possible for a parent not to love his child."
A bitter smile formed on Faramir's lips. "I know what you are trying to say here, my friend, and I thank you for it. I wish I could believe it as well." He shook his head. "But I did not come here about my father." He clasped his own hand on Beregond's shoulder. "What I am to say to you now, you are to share it with no one."
Beregond nodded his acknowledgment. "I never betrayed your trust to start now. What is it?"
Yet Faramir still hesitated, thus showing to Beregond that he was in great turmoil. Deciding that impatience would not solve anything, Beregond simply waited until his curiosity was finally rewarded.
"It happened in Osgiliath," Faramir started. "After we had been fighting the enemy again and again for hours on end, I grew so weary that it was with a great effort that I could make my limbs move. It was with relief that I welcomed the rise of the starry night, for indeed an opportunity had appeared at last to rest. Thus it was that, without losing too much time – and yawning shamelessly – I excused myself from Boromir and I retired to my tent, wishing nothing more than for sleep to come and claim me.
"But I could not sleep. Unknown fears started nestling in my heart and troubling me greatly. When I finally managed to close my eyes for a while, the strangest of dreams came to me: I was out of my tent, all alone, watching towards the eastern sky and waiting for the rising of the sun. The dawn never appeared. Instead, everything simply grew darker until there was nothing to be seen but black. Then thunders started to crack; at first only a couple, yet they soon became so numerous that their loud crashes nearly deafened me. I knelt down, trembling out of sheer fright and expecting lightning to strike me dead at any moment. Suddenly, I felt warmth on my back. I looked up and lo! There was a pale light still shimmering at the western skies; and a voice sounded from that direction, as though calling to me:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
in Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels 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.
"It was in that moment that I woke up, pouring with sweat and my heart beating in such frenzied pace that I felt that it would burst out of its place. But I only found myself in my tent, which was lighted up brightly by the morning sunlight.
"That same day we were suddenly attacked by Easterlings and they were not alone. I cannot tell what it was. All I know is that, as we were pushing our foes away from one of Osgiliath's many bridges, a sudden inhuman shriek was heard, which sent a chill into my heart.
"I have been afraid a lot of times, but what I felt at that moment was nothing compared to anything I had ever felt before. It was absolute terror, Beregond."
Faramir shuddered, as though he heard the shriek again. Beregond remained silent, waiting to hear the rest of the tale.
"What was worse," Faramir continued, " was that I was not the only one almost frightened out of his wits. I saw the men around me holding their breath, petrified, their eyes widening in indescribable horror. As for Boromir, a man I know he fears nothing, could not help but let out a soft: 'Valar save us!'
"Our arms hung lifelessly at our sides, unable, no, unwilling to wield the sword anymore.
"Meanwhile, the Easterlings, accompanied by their precious allies, the Haradrim, took advantage of our hesitation and attacked with renewed strength and hatred, trying to force us away from the bridge.
"Suddenly the bridge gave way, sending us all to our deaths. I still do not know how my brother and I managed to swim to the other shore unharmed; yet, we did. We returned to our camp at dusk, still shaken to our very souls by what had happened. I felt so disturbed that, as soon as we reached the first tents, I collapsed on the ground, trembling violently. It was only because of Boromir's aid that I managed to rise again and walk to my tent. Seeing that I needed to calm myself, Boromir gave me a drink for my nerves and let me alone so I could sleep.
"That night I saw the same dream again. Only then I realised that this was no mere nightmare I was having, but it was a warning about a danger that was to come.
"I hurried to Boromir's tent and told him all about it. At first he disregarded it, considering it a trick of my tired mind. On the next night, however, he saw the dream as well and he could make neither head nor tail of it. Seeing there was no other option for us, we left people in charge to watch out for any trouble from the other side of Osgiliath, and we travelled back here to consult our father."
"That was just a few hours ago," said Beregond.
"And what was your father's advice?" asked Beregond.
"He decided one of us two had to go to Rivendell – for Imladris is the Elven name for Rivendell - and meet Elrond Halfelven there. If anybody would be able to give answers to the dream would be definitely him. I offered to go to Rivendell gladly, since my knowledge of both the Elven tongue and the Elven ways would prove useful."
"Indeed. So when will you go?" asked Beregond.
"I will not go."
Beregond looked at Faramir, stunned.
"My father wished to send somebody that would be able to represent the might of Gondor. So when Boromir made the same request, he chose him."
"But Boromir's knowledge of the Elven lore is nothing compared to yours!"
"Tell me something I do not know already," said Faramir bitterly. He arose and started walking up and down in his frustration. "My father is a wise man, there is no question about that, but I am afraid this time he has made a terrible mistake; one that will affect even the fate of this City." He looked through the drapes outside the window. "What am I to do?" he murmured, lost in thought.
Beregond arose as well, his eyes locked on the form of Faramir. What was he supposed to say to comfort him? What could anyone say?
In the end, he decided to speak through his heart. He walked up to Faramir, shouldering him.
"Faramir… It is not in my place to say whether he should have sent you or not, nor what good or evil will come out of sending Boromir; this is done already. What truly matters is what you will do now that these decisions were made and how your actions will benefit the city best. Just bear in mind that the fact that your father has taken heed of the visions and decided to seek answers is an encouraging thought, because, once this riddle is solved, we may know what kind of danger it is the dream warned you about. And then, we will be able to fight back."
Faramir didn't speak for many long moments. But when he finally faced Beregond, the latter was glad to see that the fire of determination sparkled at his friend's eyes once more.
"Rightly said." Faramir answered. "My mind has been made up. While Boromir rides off to Rivendell, I will stay by my father's side, for he will need my services in the days to follow more than ever." He looked outside again, and suddenly he grabbed his cloak. "Maldir and Bergil are coming back. I must leave."
Just as he was about to walk out the back door, he turned to Beregond with an expression of gratitude.
"Thank you, my friend. Please, remember what I said: You will tell no one of this talk!"
"Don't worry. I won't," Beregond assured him, and so waved Faramir goodbye. As he watched his friend go, he couldn't help thinking once more of what they said and being troubled by it. Yet he made certain that his behaviour was calm when Bergil rushed to his side.
The months went by slowly and quietly for Beregond. He hardly realised when summer turned to autumn or when autumn turned to winter; and he was certainly surprised when he noticed that spring came again, for the meadows beyond the walls of the city were covered with green patches of new grass sprouting.
Yet, he couldn't enjoy the beauty of nature. The only thing that came into his mind as he was standing by the Citadel's walls on guard, were the hushed rumours that were on everyone's lips for years on end; rumours of a shadow awakening in the East and which finally turned out to be true. For the fires of Mordor burned stronger now that Sauron grew powerful once again, and the days dawning at Minas Tirith became darker. It was true that that could make any soldier's heart sink, yet Beregond had more reasons to fret.
Though a year had already passed, there was no news of Boromir from Rivendell.
Beregond sighed, and wondered how worried Faramir must be to hear no news of his brother. Unfortunately, for the past year, Beregond hadn't heard news of Faramir as often as he wished, and whenever he did, it was through Maldir. It couldn't be helped though. Faramir's duties had increased dramatically during this year, and his responsibilities didn't allow him to spend some carefree moments the soldier and his son.
It was then that he jumped at the sound of a hunting horn. What made him wonder even more, however, was that it wasn't the sound of just any hunting horn.
It was the Horn of Gondor.
Beregond's gloved hand instantly reached for his sword, for everything within Beregond cried out to him that what he heard was a call to fight. But what was he to fight? He looked on his left and right, yet there was nothing out of the ordinary to be noticed. Even more importantly, a part of him tried to reason with him, telling him that only one who had the right to blow the Horn of Gondor was its keeper, the Steward's firstborn himself. The very person who was away!
Trying to compose himself, he looked in a seemingly casual manner to Meneldor, who was standing a few feet away from him, to see that he also was restless and looking around him, puzzled. Beregond now understood that what he heard wasn't his imagination; yet even if there was still some trace of doubt deep within his mind, it was soon to be dissolved when the sound of the Horn echoed through the air again. Beregond pricked his ears and prepared himself to dash forward the moment that he heard the Horn once more, for its call wasn't to be denied – no matter where it was heard from.
But there never came a third call. Thus there was nothing left for Beregond to do but resume with his duty, even though what came to pass troubled him greatly. He knew that the sound of the Hunting Horn was an ill omen, and he couldn't help but expect the worst of news at any moment.
He never heard anything that day, nor the next day or the day after. In fact, everything seemed peaceful – or as peaceful as things could be with the Dark Lord's presence still lingering above the White City. And so Beregond's heart put aside the incident on the walls and he wasn't any more troubled by it.
That is, until the fourth day dawned.
Everything had seemed quiet. The night had passed quietly and Beregond was watching the golden-red rays penetrating the grey sky. He welcomed the refreshing breeze on his face, and all he could think of was that his night shift would be soon over. His eyes drifted at the rooftops of the city, which were getting drenched by cleansing sunlight, and he couldn't help but smile at the beautiful sight that unfolded before him.
Just then, he noticed a figure climbing the stairs of the Citadel. It was Faramir, there was no doubt to Beregond's mind about that. Yet the soldier also noticed that Faramir was holding something in his hands; his gait was laboured and uncertain; his head was bowed; and water was dripping down his clothes.
Beregond turned at the soft call of his name, to see that it was Meneldor from his own post. He had apparently also seen Faramir, and now his eyes were asking silently the question that lingered in his mind. Should they leave their posts?
Beregond nodded at once; and, followed closely by Meneldor, they hurried to Faramir's side.
"My lord?" asked Meneldor, concerned. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," answered Faramir with an effort. His hands still held that something, but Beregond couldn't see what it was. "Pray, let me go to my quarters."
Beregond wondered at this. "Are you certain, my lord?" he asked, remembering to address his friend formally.
Faramir never answered back. He pulled himself free instead and continued his way to the doors of the citadel. Meneldor and Beregond watched him go, confused and saddened; but they knew that there wasn't much they could do, not while on duty.
Soon enough, Borlas, Beregond's new relief, arrived. Beregond welcomed the change of shifts and he started going towards home, though it was with regret that he walked away. He wanted to know what it could be that had upset Faramir, and somehow offer his help. But how was he to do that when Faramir clearly didn't want to speak to anybody?
He was about to go down the stairs, when a servant approached him. Keeping his voice low, the servant said that the Steward's son was asking for him, wishing to speak with him in private; and that he would be in his room, waiting for him.
Beregond didn't have to be told twice; he walked hurriedly towards his friend's room and knocked at the door.
"Come," was the only reply that came from within.
Stilling his anxious heart, Beregond opened the door in a slow, formal manner, and said passively: "You wanted to see me, sir." As soon as the door creaked closed, however, his tone changed to concern. "What happened?"
"Boromir is dead."
Beregond was stunned. "But how came this to be?" was all he faltered.
"I do not know," said Faramir, his eyes seeming to look into the void. "All I know is that last night I was standing by the river's shore, when suddenly I saw a strange boat riding the current to the sea. Mesmerised, I walked into the water to take a closer look at it and, to my wonder, the vessel slackened its pace and drifted toward me. At that moment the moon appeared out of the clouds and its light revealed who was inside: Boromir, seeming asleep, his head resting against his shield and his hands always holding his trustworthy sword. I cried to him but he did not listen; for his sleep, as I soon realized in horror, was the eternal one. I rushed to the boat to catch it, hoping in my grief that I could embrace him and kiss his brow one last time in farewell.
"It was to no avail. The boat kept escaping my grasp. All I could do was watch amid my tears my brother's resting place vanish as suddenly as it had appeared, like some passing dream." He stopped as his voice became tearful, and immediately rested a trembling hand against his forehead, shielding himself thus to hide the tears that threatened to drop. It was many moments afterwards that Faramir managed to compose himself again, letting his hand drop and sighing tiredly. Beregond kept watching him, his heart wrenching to see that Faramir was now carrying the same burden of grief he had to carry twice. He had dearly hoped Faramir had been more fortunate and had only to mourn his mother.
"He is dead, Beregond," Faramir said again, his voice nothing more than a hoarse murmur. "Never shall I look upon his like again except when death has claimed me as well."
Surprisingly enough, Beregond caught himself shaking his head.
"This can't be true!" he declared. "It was just what you said: a passing dream or a nightmare, call it what you will! And, knowing the Dark Lord's ways, I can even call it sorcery!"
"It is none of them," came the defeated answer; and Faramir finally pulled his other arm away to reveal what he held in his lap all along.
It was the Horn of Gondor, cloven in two.
"Ilúvatar…" breathed out Beregond, overwhelmed by shock.
Faramir didn't answer at once. His fingers simply traced the outline of the Horn. "It was an heirloom of my family for centuries untold, and now it is destroyed, never to sound again," he whispered in the end. "An ill omen indeed, Beregond. I am afraid the storm that I told you about so very long ago has finally broken out."
"So it would seem," replied the soldier feebly, the weight of such a revelation making him feel weak. "What are you to do now?"
"What else is there to be done?" exclaimed Faramir. "I have to break the news to my father first, and then I will ask to be sent to Ithilien; the forces under Sauron's service use it as a passage to Mordor. We must make as much damage to them as possible and delay Sauron's preparations for his assault. For, my friend, you can be sure that he will attack – sooner if we are not prepared and later if we prove a challenging opponent." He shook his head solemnly. "Alas for Boromir's death! The tidings that he could bring from Rivendell would be most useful at this hour!"
"And alas for us all!" said Beregond. "You were right Faramir. We are caught in the middle of the storm!"
"And we must fight it with whatever we can now," concluded the Steward's son. His eyes suddenly locked onto Beregond's. "If my father gives me permission to leave, I will go immediately; so we will not see each other for some time – if ever again." He took Beregond's hand in both his own, gripping it tightly. "Farewell Beregond, best of friends! May we see each other again on better days."
"I hope so. Stay safe, Faramir."
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.