Dark was the land as it lay under shadow, and the stars and moon were quenched, so that it was not possible to tell where earth met sky and so ended. Darkness unutterable wreathed the unwary traveler in its foul vapors and laughed at the fear it incited; and yet it was not complete, for far awaywest, instinct insisted, though there was no sign to tell directionthere gleamed one desperate patch of light. There, the darkness swirled and gnawed, but ever the light grew brighter, blinding the onlooker.
And from that light came a voice, crying loudly yet the words were faint, partly stifled by the brooding shadows:
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.*
Echoing in the void, those words rang out, seeming to grow in strength rather than diminish 'til there was no escaping them. The Darkness, too, seemed to cry out, though in anguish that smote the heart and brought even the bravest to his knees. And still the echoes continued:
Doom is near at hand
Isildur's Bane shall waken Isildur's Bane
the Halfling forth shall stand
stand stand .
"Enough!" Boromir woke suddenly, and knew not whether he had spoken aloud his plea. At the moment it mattered not, for he felt someone else near him, and instinctively he leapt up, hand going to his belt in search of a weapon. In the dim light a silhouette crouched across from him, tense and waiting, but as they stared at each other, fear gave way to relief as memory returned. "Faramir!" Boromir sighed, and straightened. He turned and groped atop the table for a match. Finding one, he struck it and lit the candle, which he then held aloft. In the flickering light, the lean shadow gained a face: beyond the cot, which had been overturned by their violent wakening, his brother stood, blinking in the light. Faramir passed a hand before his eyes and shook his head as if in embarrassed chagrin, for in his left hand gleamed a dagger. He, unlike Boromir, had fallen asleep armed.
"Valar be praised that stayed my hand!" he muttered and sheathed the weapon. Then he frowned at his brother, and asked, "When came you back?"
"Three hours after the dead watch," Boromir replied, "You were asleep when I entered." The two of them stooped and set the cot aright, gathering up scattered blankets.
"You should have roused me," Faramir said, then paused. "Did you dream it?" Grey eyes, brilliant in the light, gazed intently upon Boromir, as if in expectation.
Boromir stared back in silence a moment, then nodded. "'Doom is near at hand,'" he quoted, and shivered at the premonition.
"And the Halfling," Faramir said grimly, and sank down once more upon the cot. Running a hand through his still-damp hair, he stared at nothing, and Boromir could see that he was troubled. Over the years, he had grown accustomed to his brother's prophetic and disturbing dreams, and yet he had never thought to experience one himself. He found himself waiting for Faramir to speak, to interpret the staves or indicate what must be done. That both of them had dreamt alike did not strike him as unusual amidst all the other odd and uncanny happenings of the previous day. Finally, Faramir stirred and looked up at him, and a queer humor lit his eyes and touched the corners of his mouth as he said, "I fear I have no answers to the questions I see in your face, brother mine. Nay, not even a guess as to what these words mean in truth, for the symbols are opaque to me. Yet this is not the first time that I have pondered that rhyme."
"What do you mean?" Boromir asked, rather more sharply than he had intended, and so he shook his head and came and sat by Faramir instead, so as not to look down at him. "Do you mean that you have seen this poem somewhere before?" he asked, by way of elaboration.
"Nay! Would that that were all!" Faramir responded with a sigh. "Nay, these words came to me yesterday afternoon in a dream." Boromir bit his tongue to refrain from an outburst, for he had no cause for anger in truth. When have I ever been overeager for strange portents? Faramir knows me well, and he is circumspect in these matters even with me. Still .
"Why did you say nothing of what troubled you, then? I thought you seemed unsettled yestereve, but I set that aside as the anxiety that all suffered ere the battle."
"What could I have said? I knew nothing of what this dream meant, nor that it would be repeated, even shared by another. I have never heard of such a thing before. And," Faramir paused and gave a ghost of a smile, "I recall some good advice that once someone gave me, that one ought never to reveal one's fears before the enemy."
"Then I think you may have taken my words too much to heart," Boromir growled, but he, too, smiled and shook his head for more innocent times. Innocent! How that word has been sullied if I use it now of those difficult and painful days! "But if you have now dreamt this this verse twice, surely that makes it important."
"Even had I dreamt it but once, and you not at all, it would be important," Faramir countered. "But saying so does nothing to clarify it. Isildur's Bane who now would know what that means?"
"He was slain by Orcs, and though we see those aplenty, yet I would not call sight of them prophetic," Boromir replied. "And what of the Sword that was Broken?"
"I know not," Faramir shrugged. "Nor have I any counsel concerning Halflings, for never have I heard such a name before."
"Well," Boromir mused as he stood and began pacing, unable to sit still, "if you know not, then I can add nothing to your speculations. And I can think of but one person who might." He stopped and faced Faramir, looking his younger brother squarely in the face.
"Father," Faramir replied in a tone that was painful for its very neutrality. For a moment, they gazed at each other, Boromir silently urging his brother to consider the matter, and Faramir seeming to wish he could resist the obvious conclusion. But in the end, the younger of Denethor's sons lowered his eyes and with a gesture acknowledged defeat. "You are right, and I would be remiss in my duty to Gondor if I did not bring this before him. Yet I am afraid, Boromir, as I have never been before." He raised burning eyes to meet and pin his brother's gaze once again, and continued, "There is in this an urgency, and a summons. Mark you well that the rhyme spoke of a place where these things would be revealed, and so we must discover where this Imladris lies, and go there if we hope to be answered! I fear, though, to make such a case before the seat of the Steward without having sought the answers ourselves first, or how else shall we convince him that we are in earnest?"
"Then we shall do that. We would have sent messengers to Minas Tirith in any case ere this day were done. Let you go, then, and deliver the tidings of what has happened here, but tell our father that I shall come soon for we three must speak together. While you wait, see what may be found in the records of the city, which you know far more intimately than do I," Boromir acknowledged with a wry smile, and Faramir chuckled softly.
"I hear and obey," Faramir replied, rising and he bowed low. "Well, if I am to leave before sunset, I should go and make ready, and see to my men what is left of them," and there was in his voice a terrible pain that was yet mixed with a fierce pride as he acknowledged how devastated the Ithilieners were. Boromir nodded, approving of the sentiment, and clapped his brother on the shoulder.
"Come find me before you leave. And let Tarodin meet me at the changing of the guards tonight."
"I shall," Faramir started to leave, pulling his cloak tight about him as he stepped towards the entryway. But then he paused and said softly as he lingered there, "Be careful, Boromir, for though Osgiliath be safe for a time, there are other dangers: less visible, perhaps, but no less deadly for that. Time is running out." Ere his brother could respond, Faramir was gone, and Boromir heard him greet a guard on his way out.
"Other perils there are?" he mused, wondering what had inspired that odd warning, which had seemed to come apropos of nothing. "Well, we shall see!" With that, he tried to put the disturbing dream behind him so that he could face the day. Yet though he went about his duties with his usual vigor, ever in the back of his mind a voice whispered: Isildur's Bane Doom is at hand! And so, gently into his heart slipped the fear that he had kept at bay for so long: fear for Gondor, the seed of doubt and mistrust that lay dormant until events beyond the foresight even of Faramir brought it starkly to dreadful fruition. He did not recognize the change, being concerned with many other things, but his gaze strayed now rather westward than east. And when Faramir left at last, the sun as it set behind the mountains recalled the fading light of the dream, and Boromir shivered as he turned back to the long eastward vigil.
* FOTR, 240.
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