2. Dreams and Journeys
The White Wizard, high in his tower, had waited for this day, waited until the time was right to send his servants and his magic toward the dangerous Man who had strength that he himself did not, and hopefully in the same actions to gain the One Ring that had belonged to the Dark Lord and held his power. Now, he could see from afar the travels of the group that contained the Ringbearer, the Grey Wizard and the dangerous Man. All three of his targets in one group! It was fortune unlooked for and unimagined. He could see them, walking in the wilderness, crossing vast distances, and coming to the tall mountains. He sent his voice and his magic to bar their path, and watched with glee as the storms of the mountain sent down their wrath, and the group again descended in defeat. He watched as they took to the paths under the earth, where dark things hid and hope was dimmed. If the company were lost there, he had hope that that the dangerous Man would be defeated, the Grey Wizard would fall, and the Ring would be discovered by evil creatures akin to his own servants, and he then would be able to take it for himself. Alas this did not happen, though he saw that the Grey Wizard did not emerge from the deep paths, and he heard echoes of a great struggle with powers that were mysterious even to him, though not unknown. That would be the last he would see of his "old friend" he thought with a smile.
As the remains of the company walked onward, he formed his plans, and as they reached the eaves of the Golden Wood, he sent his magic after them. He crafted dreams of fear and loss, of desire and power, writ them on the paper before him with his quill, and burned them slowly over the flame of the lamp to send them forth to the dangerous Man. Then he gathered the ashes, and mixed them with his ink, and with it wrote the words of the three dreams that would bring the man to his fall. First, a dream of a golden key, then a dream of a dark door, and at the last, a dream of opening the door with the key, and an abyss beyond. The man would fall into the abyss, and his fate would be written, so that no matter what he did in waking, he would walk a path that would lead him to death. This paper he set on the little table, to let the dreams do their work. Then he sent orders to his servants, and sent forward dark creatures to pursue the company. He watched in his dark sphere as the first of the dreams, dreams of fear and desire, reached the dangerous man, and he observed this with satisfaction. Then he went to bed and slept the night peacefully. He was, for that night, content.
Days later he looked towards the sheet of dream-spells, and noticed with pleasure that it was beginning to turn brown, the edges charred, as if it had been placed too close to a flame. It was going to work. He smiled.
The night before the company departed from the golden wood, the elder brother dreamed a strange dream. He dreamed that he was standing in his mother's room, and she stood before him, just as he remembered her in life, before she fell ill, when he was very young. She was fair and her expression was calm and doting, but her eyes seemed pale and blind, staring straight through him. In her hand lay a golden key, smooth and shining and lovely, that she held out to him slowly. He took the key from her hand, and gazed at it. He knew somehow that it was the key to something very important, perhaps some long-hidden door in the White City, perhaps some box of his mother's possessions that had been locked since her death. The key reminded him of something, with its golden sheen, but he could not remember what. He looked up again, wanting to ask his mother what the key was for, but she was gone, leaving him alone in her room, though he thought for a moment that he saw his brother, peering around the corner at him. He soon awoke, with his hand still closed about a nonexistent key, feeling troubled, wondering if the dream was an omen or a warning. Throughout the day, as he walked with the company, he found himself looking, digging through his pockets, searching for the key, and each time realizing that he had not ever seen or touched it, except in his dream.
Several nights later, the elder brother again dreamed a strange dream. This time, he saw his grandfather, though his grandfather had died when he was only six. They stood together on an island in the sea, not more than a bare black rock in the midst of crashing waves. Sea birds wheeled overhead, cawing mournfully. He was about to speak, to ask his grandfather what place this was when the old man took his hand and led him to the far side of the island where he saw a door appear out of the sea spray at the edge of the rock. The door was black and sat in no frame, but when he reached out to open it, it would not yield. No matter how he tugged and pulled, the door remained closed. He peered around the side of it, but although the back was identical to the front, he was sure that if he could open it, he would find something other than the crashing waves beyond. He turned to ask his grandfather what was on the other side of the door, when he again found that the old man had disappeared and he was alone. He walked around the small rock, searching for some way to open the door, but he saw nothing. Suddenly it came to the elder brother that he was being watched, and he looked around himself, but there was nothing in his dream, save for the gulls and a tiny figure on a distant cliff that might, he thought, have been his brother. He woke again feeling uneasy, and over the next days each time he lay down to sleep, he expected another dark dream, but none came. Ten nights after the first dream, he slept and dreamed of the fields around his city where he and his brother had played as children, and though his brother was not there in his dream, the darkness on the horizon that had been there all his life was gone, leaving only clear and beautiful blue sky. It made him happy to be there. When he woke he felt certain that this was a dream of good tidings, and was relieved that the days of the dark dreams were done with.
His good mood lasted until later that day, he found himself suddenly overcome by fear, by need and desire and rage that seemed to come from outside him, clutching at the air where the Ringbearer had been but a moment before, and falling to the ground as if stricken. He wondered how this had come to pass as he wandered back towards his companions. He cursed the path that had brought him to those actions as the company split apart, searching for the vanished ringbearer. He put aside all worries and fears as he battled dark and fearsome creatures to save the lives of his small friends and companions, and all thought was washed away as he felt an arrow strike him. He tried to stand, to continue fighting, but could not, and he fell to the ground in defeat. When his other companions found him, bleeding and cold with despair, he was wounded and weakened beyond shame or fear. All he felt in these moments that he imagined to be his last was a deep longing for his brother, and sadness that he would not see him again.
When he awoke from this dreamless sleep, he opened his eyes to moonlight, and felt the slow motion of river-water, and discovered that he had been set adrift in one of the company's boats. He wondered what had occurred as he paddled towards the shore, for he found that the arrow was gone and the wound it had made was part-healed and looked as a fresh cut does that has not even begun to bleed, slick and sticky-white. It ached. He stepped out of the boat and clambered up the bank and began walking. He recognized the land about him, and made his way towards the secret place where he hoped to find his brother and his men. He had walked only an hour before he saw a lonely tree, and beneath it a shape in the grass. He approached and found that it was his brother, with a lone arrow protruding from his shoulder, a mirror of his own wound. His brother lay as still and silent as a dead thing, but he could see that his brother still lived, for he breathed, though his breaths were slow and weak. He tried to wake him, but his brother did not stir. He stroked the beloved face and called his name softly, but to no avail. He examined the wound, and though he was no healer, this he had dealt with before. Carefully he worked to remove the arrow. Blood was crusted on the wound and around it, dried dark into the cloth of his green tunic, and the elder brother noticed for the first time that his own wound had left no such stains. He had no way to clean the wound, but he bound it in a bit of cloth torn from his own tunic, and without further delay, he gathered his brother into his arms, wrapping him in his own cloak to keep him warm, and set off across the countryside in search of a healer. As he walked, he beseeched the Valar, and any other being who might be listening, to let his brother live. "Námo, do not take my brother from me! Nienna, whose tears flow for all the hurts and wrongs of this world, weep for my brother and intervene! Ulmo, always you have been near to Men. If you can hear me, take pity, for I fear my brother is dying. I would trade my place for his, if that would save him. Please…"
The sun had risen when he came to a stream that wound its way back across the land to the river. The stream, though not wide, was deep and cold, and he walked along it until he came to a narrow bridge. On the bridge, an old man stood leaning on a battered staff, looking much like a beggar in his tattered tunic and robe, but though threadbare the cloth was once fine, and still retained its deep blue shade. The elder brother stepped up onto the bridge, his brother still limp in his arms, but the old man stood where he was, gazing calmly at the rushing water below. Then the old man spoke.
"It is a fair day, and warm, for winter here."
The elder brother nodded in agreement, and moved to pass the old man, but the man suddenly turned, blocking his path. "Who is that you carry, and where are you going?"
"He is my brother, and I go to seek a healer, for he is grievously hurt and will not wake."
The old man suddenly looked very cross, and raised his staff and with it he struck the elder brother across the shoulders.
The elder brother turned, thinking only of protecting the form in his arms. "Why do you strike me?" He asked.
The old man looked at him slyly. "You know why." He said, then as the elder brother's eyes turned away from him in grief and shame he added "…for deserting your duty to your people, leaving your destined path and for meddling in affairs of which you know nothing."
The elder brother stared in surprise, then spoke with as much calm as he could muster, for though the blow had hurt only a little, the old man's words cut him. "You may be right to hit me, for it is as you say, I have chosen to seek help for my brother when I might be rushing homeward. I have departed from any familiar path, and maybe I am meddling, but he is my brother! I must save him, now that I am here. I must get him to a healer."
"You must? You must?" Again the old man hit the elder brother with his staff, "You fool! Do you know nothing at all? What you must do is return to where you found your brother, and sleep, with a token of the Lord of Dreams beneath your head, for it is in dreams that your brother is trapped."
"If I can ask this, without receiving another blow," said the elder brother, "where would I find a token of the Lord of Dreams?"
The old man stared at him for a long moment, then sighed and drew a slip of paper out of the folds of his robes and handed it to the elder brother.
"There," the old man said, "Though you are still a fool; either he will die or you will, and nothing you can do will change that."
The elder brother had glanced down at the paper he was given, and now he looked up, intending to thank the old man and tell him that he would willingly die to save his brother, when he realized the old man was gone, and he was alone on the bridge, with his brother's limp form in his arms.
He frowned, looking at his brother, who had become deathly pale, wondering whether he should do as the old man said. If he could find a healer… But as he stood there in doubt, he remembered a fragment of something his brother had once told him. "Ossë, vassal of Ulmo, is doomed to wander the coastlands and riverbanks as an old man…" The old man could have been no other. He wondered why the Maia had taken an interest in himself and his brother; they were surely of little consequence to beings who had seen entire ages of the world. He took a step back the way he had come, though he took little comfort in remembering the other part of what his brother had said of Ossë… that he had been doomed to wander because of his transgression; he had been swayed, and had stood with Melkor for a time before his spouse drew him back into the service of Ulmo.
His feet carried him back towards the lone tree where he had found his brother just that morning, but while he had barely noticed his brother's weight before, now his back was bent with the effort, and his legs felt weak. He would have again beseeched the Vala to protect his brother, but while to pray is one thing, to do so to beings who may seek you out and strike you with sticks if you displease them is another thing entirely, so he contented himself with a constant stream of thoughts that began and ended in the same place; "My brother, I love you, you must live!"
As he approached the lone tree, he felt wearier than he could ever recall feeling. The branches of the tree seemed like something in a dream as they swayed in the breeze, and the grass beneath his feet was so vividly alive he swore he could see it growing as he walked. At last, beside the tree he sat, his little brother still in his arms. He pulled his brother close, making a pillow for the wounded man of his own chest, wrapping his cloak around them both. The feel of the tree's skin at his back was comforting. Before sleep overtook him, he drew out the slip of paper, but he could not read what was written there. The letters seemed to swim and sway before his eyes until he wasn't even sure that they were more than random splashes of ink. He sighed and let his eyes fall closed, and he slept.
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.