1. Fears and Wings
Title: Lessons of Lorien
Disclaimer: Characters, storyline and a bunch of phrases blatantly stolen from Tolkien, Gaiman and a Japanese folktale.
Rating: PG-13 for themes and slashiness
Warnings: AU, very mild sibcest
Characters: Faramir, Boromir, Ossë, Irmo, Saruman, various others in passing, oh and several...uh... things... that I can't really explain.
The Steward of the City was wise and vigilant in protecting his city and its people, and he had two sons to follow in his stead. The two boys grew up together and alone, for their mother had passed from the spheres of this world when they were young, and their father was often busy with affairs of state. They grew tall and strong and fair, and they looked much like each other, though the younger was more lithe of limb, and darker of hair. They grew to be very close, and sometimes even dreamed the same dreams. Never, even in childhood, did they argue as brothers typically do. They loved each other fiercely, and each sought always to protect the other from harm. Each would have willingly fought and died for his brother. This was no idle promise, for their neighboring land, a foul place that harbored evil, ruled by the Dark One who was not named except in whispers, made war upon their land. Despite this cloud of dark danger, the future of the brothers seemed bright, for a pair such as they can conquer any obstacle, so the people said.
They grew to manhood, and they did what they could to protect their people, leading the armies of their land in defense against the spreading power of the Dark One. One night, the brothers dreamed of a riddling verse that spoke of a far land, and on waking they consulted their father, the Steward of the city. They told him the verse, and their father, keeper of much knowledge now lost, consulted his scrolls. The meaning of the dream, he told them, was uncertain, but one of the brothers must go to the far land to discern it, for it was certainly of the greatest importance.
The younger brother spoke, saying he would go on this quest. His brother protested. He would not send his younger brother into harm's way, as such a quest could hold many hazards, and he, as the elder brother, should take this duty upon himself. For the first time in their lives, disagreement threatened to become argument. Alone that evening, the younger brother spoke.
"When I think of you taking this journey, I dread it. Please, I will go; then I will not worry."
"If there is indeed such danger to make you worry, why should I not worry if you go in my stead? Dear brother, no harm will come to me. We will not be parted for long, I promise you." Then he kissed his brother's brow, to seal the promise.
The younger brother at last acquiesced, though he slept uneasily that night, and when his brother rode away from the city days later, he watched with a feeling of foreboding.
To the west of their land there lived in a tall tower a Wizard, a Master of Lore. His robes were all of white. He sat in his tower, and before him on a small table was a lamp, a dark sphere, and a quill, ink and paper. Beside him sat his staff.
The wizard was powerful. He was the head of the White Council, and men, elves and maiar alike sought his advice and wisdom. He was also the master of many servants, men and orcs and uruks, and all obeyed him. His wisdom was reputed to be unrivaled, and all either feared or respected him. He lived in comfort in the strong tower that had been his for countless lives of men. But even with all this, he was not happy.
During all his years in Middle-earth, he had been unhappy. In truth, he was afraid. With all the wisdom and power that he desired and gained, he had hoped to banish this fear, leave it behind him, but it followed him, pursued him in every waking hour, crept into his dreams and spoiled his sleep. It soured all pleasures, and colored every happy moment. Soon, even the knowledge of his own power did not calm him. He did not fear death, he did not fear the evils of the world, he did not fear any living being. This was a nameless, sourceless fear, implacable and inescapable. It turned his world to darkness, and in turn his thoughts became dark and wicked. But he was not an evil man. He was frightened.
In the darkest depths of his tower there existed three elf-spirits that had been there since the tower was erected so long ago. With his magic, he could see their form; the three elf spirits appeared as one before his eyes, an elf lady, neither young nor old, cold and hard and fearsome. None of his servants and slaves knew of this dungeon room, and any who wandered into it were never seen again. He himself would only go there in the dark of night, with only the light of his staff before him. This night the fear gripped him in its cold claws, and he went down to the lowest level of his tower, unlocked the door to the small stone room, and entered it, lighting it with his staff. She appeared before him, clad in an open robe. Breasts white as stone, and likely as hard and cold, were visible under it, tipped starkly with nipples the color of bruises.
"Tell me," he demanded, "Tell me how to rid myself of this fear."
She sneered at him for a moment before her expression smoothed into coldness. "You will not be free from fear until you are the most powerful being in this world."
"How can I become the most powerful being in the world?" He asked
"You can only become the most powerful by stealing the power of all others. At this moment, there are only three who can rival you. It is their power you must take."
"Who are these three?" He asked softly, transfixed by the coldness in her eyes and the promise in her words.
"The Dark Lord is one. He has power you do not. His power is trapped in his One Ring, lost long ago. You must find the One Ring and make it yours, and then you will have his power.
"The Grey Wanderer is another. He has wisdom you do not. His wisdom cannot be taken from him, except by your arts. You must ensnare him, and hold him near you until you can divine all his secret wisdom.
"The last is the elder son of the Steward of Gondor. He has strength that you do not. His strength cannot be taken from him by your arts, but if you bring about his death, his strength will become yours."
These words resounded in his head as the dead elf woman's cold fingers traced along his face and down his neck. He shivered and shook himself, and without another word he left the cold room and locked it behind him.
The morning found him planning and plotting. The One Ring had been lost for so many years, he did not know how he would find it and make it his own, but he resolved to do so. Next he thought of the man of Gondor; though the man was a warrior of great renown, it would not be difficult to bring about his death; he was but a man. It could wait; the other tasks would take more time. The place to begin was with his old friend, the Grey Wizard.
Time passed, and he managed to lure the Grey Wizard into his tower in the belief in their old friendship. Soon enough, though, his purpose became clear, and he was forced to imprison him at the top of the tower, a place perhaps more difficult to escape than its deepest dungeons, for the walls were sheer and the drop was great. During this time, he did garner much of the Grey Wizard's secret wisdom, so much so that he hardly worried when the Grey Wizard escaped, borne away by a great eagle. He had learned where the One Ring could be found. The Seeing Stone had shown him that the elder son of the Steward was traveling towards it. He would gain the power of both in one fell stroke.
Things had grown dark in the Steward's land, and the elder brother had still not returned, though more than half a year had passed. His brother had taken many of his duties, and was in the outlying lands near their borders, leading his force in secret, watching for movements of the enemy. That he had not yet returned troubled the younger man; his feeling of foreboding at their parting had only grown stronger. Late in the darkness of a moonless night, he lay with his sleeping company in a wild and empty land, far from the city. The wind that had been silent began to blow, and it carried on it scents of decay, and it brought whispers and cries as if from a great distance. He listened, and it seemed to him that the wind carried voices, several voices that sounded like stone being crushed.
"We have tracked them. The Master says they carry some treasure, and we will find it with the small ones. We are not to kill the small ones."
"Yes, not the small ones, but we are to kill the others. One of them, one of the Men, is dangerous. The Master is sending evil dreams to the dangerous one, that he will be weakened and falling before we even find them. He will dream first of a golden key, then of a dark door, and then of opening the door with the key, and an abyss beyond."
"If he is so dangerous, what harm will dreams do to him?"
"The Master says that the evil dreams will draw him to our arrows, and I do not doubt it is true. The Master is very powerful. And there is but one way for him to banish the dreams, and he will not find it before we arrive."
After this the voices fell silent. The younger brother lay, utterly still, trying to decipher the meaning of their words. It seemed to resonate with the dream, the riddling verse that he and his brother had both dreamed. Could the "dangerous one" be his brother? Who was pursuing him? Who was the Master? He was still wondering when morning came. All that day and the next he thought and pondered and worried about the strange voices in the night, and the message that he had overheard. Finally, when he could stand the worry no longer, he made his way to the shores of the river, half a day's walk, leaving his men in their secret place. He carried with him a brooch that had belonged to his mother; it was all he had of her. It was a beautiful thing, fine-wrought silver strands that swirled about each other like a wisp of cloud, and in the center a blue stone like clear sky. This treasure had come down through her family for countless years, and it was said to be of elven make. He held it in his hand as he walked to the river, and at its banks, he gazed at it one last time. He sorrowed to part with it, for it had brought him comfort and memories of his mother's touch. In one swift motion he flung it out into the swift-flowing current that lead to the sea. In his mind he asked for answers as he released the brooch to the waters. "I give up this thing that is precious to me, I give it to the waters, and all I ask is the knowledge of how to save my brother from the evil dreams that are being sent to him. The one way…"
As he walked back to the secret place, he became more and more weary. When he reached his men at last, sleep was already overtaking him.
This is the dream that the younger brother dreamed at that time.
He found himself standing on a wide plain under a grey storm sky. The ground beneath his feet was drear and bare of any green thing, but in the distance he could see a garden of flowering trees, their leaves and blossoms so vividly colored that it seemed to him that all colors he had seen before that moment had been weak and faded. Turning reluctantly from the sight, he saw a form, impossibly vast and tall, in the shape of a man, but its back was to the faint light, and he could not see its face. It occurred to him then that he was in a dream, and he knew somehow that before him stood the master of this realm; Irmo, Lord of Dreams.
The figure stood, head tilted slightly as if waiting, listening. The younger brother walked forward a little ways, and then fell to his knees before it. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came.
"Rise, young one, and fear not. You gave up much to dream this dream." The figure said, its voice surprising the younger brother in its soft gentleness.
The younger brother stood, and at last found words to speak.
"I heard voices on the wind, saying that they were tracking a company that carried a great treasure, and they were to kill a Dangerous Man that walked with that company. I fear that they speak of my brother. They said their Master will send to the man a dream of a key, and a door, and of falling into an abyss when the door is opened, and then the man will die, drawn to their arrows. Who is this Master, and how can I save my brother?" He gazed up at the motionless figure for many long minutes until he was certain he would receive no reply, when the figure spoke.
"The Master is the White Wizard. You cannot save your brother, if he dreams those dreams."
At this, the younger brother nearly turned away in despair, but his eye was caught by motion nearby. He looked, and saw what he had not seen before. There were countless shapes here and there, flitting through the air, small dark birds that seemed made of mist and shadow. They would swoop and wing in patterns around unseen things in the air around them, utterly silent, and he gazed at them in wonder.
"What are those birds? I have never seen any like them." He said.
"Those are the gwath e-dúlinn, the Nightingale's Shadows. They are called Nad i mâd elei, or Baku in the tongues of Men. They are the Dream-Eaters. They feed on the remnants of dream that remain when a sleeper wakes."
"And what," the younger brother asked, "would happen, if one caught a baku, after it had consumed a dream?"
"Baku are swift and cunning. None before have caught them." Irmo said quietly.
"I am swift also, and I have tracked many cunning creatures. I will catch them."
The great figure nodded, and it seemed to the younger brother that it looked at him and saw all his thoughts, all his dreams and fears, and all he felt.
"The paths of many are tied to his dreams. You may not find happiness, even if you save him."
Before the younger brother could answer this, the figure before him grew larger and loomed up until it eclipsed the light entirely, darkening the sky and becoming the night itself. The younger brother stared into the night and spoke.
"If that is my plight, I will bear it, for I would die for him gladly. I love him… as more than a brother. He is all I have."
It seemed to him that the night answered, in a silent voice.
Then catch his dreams, young one.
The morning sun was already shining when he woke. Before he rose, he thought tenderly of his brother. I will not fail him, he said to himself, and went about his day.