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Awake

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“And in the end he woke, and see: it was a dream.”

Tall towers rose above him, too many to count. They surrounded him, and he, he was standing on the stark, bare ground of black rock. No blade of grass, no soft earth, just hard rock, down to the bones of the world.

Black sky above, and the air were full of crows. Swooping, cawing, circling the towers in dark clouds of wings. He ducked, and flung his hands up against the sky. Feathers brushed his fingers and they were real, so real.

He woke, and see! it was a dream.

But he had woken, and the dream was real. The dream was real. The stone cut his knees when he scrambled to get away from the birds. Their wings touched him, and the cold, clammy skin of their feet was worse, even, than the claws. He crawled. He pushed himself close to the ground and crawled. There: a rock. There: a sharp edge in the stone. There: a wall of polished glass.

A wall.

He looked up. The tower was smooth, no crack, no place where stone met stone; this wall was made of living rock, fused together with skill that now was lost.

The birds avoided it, circling, but never coming near enough to touch.

A haven!

But it was not. He rested his forehead against the stone, leaned his body against his wall and closed his eyes. One moment, just one moment’s rest! The wall was cold underneath his arms, and unmoving point in a world that was spinning around him. One deep breath. Then another.

And the moment passed.

His forehead sunk deeper into the stone. Its coldness crept across his skin. He shivered, and pushed away from the wall.

He could not.

His skin was stuck, his hands pushed deeper into the stone and the wall sucked him in. He fought against it; pull away with all his weight, not caring if it tore his skin. But he could not tear himself loose, and the cold slowly over overcame him. Froze him until his body was stiff, until the stone covered him and he could not move, could not shout; could not breathe. Darkness came, and he closed his eyes and thought:

And in the end he woke, and see! it was all a dream.

“Faramir!”

From far away he heard the voice.

“Faramir!” it called. “Faramir!”

He opened his eye.

He woke, and see! it was a dream.

There was light, light shining in his eyes. The ground underneath him was warm and soft, smelling of earth and sun and green grass. Beyond the light he glimpsed blue skies and the wind was soft against his cheek. He smiled.

“Are you happy, Faramir?”

He turned his head. “Father,” he said. “I had a bad dream.”

“And this makes you happy?”

“No. Waking, and finding that it was a dream; that made me happy.”

“Was it the wave again?”

“Not this time,” Faramir answered. “This time… this time I dreamt of war, and my brother was dead and darkness fell on us. Darkness and pain and cold, and the carrion-birds flew around the towers of the City.

“But then I woke, and the sun was shining, and it was all a dream. And I smiled.”

“That is good, Faramir; that is good.” His father’s voice was warm, and full of smiles. “Go, play in the sun; for all is right in world and the day is good.”

He smiled again, and his father kissed his brow. With a laugh he rose and ran barefoot through the grass. He ran across green fields, under blue skies and he laughed as he ran. Above gulls were crying, and the scent of salt and sea met him and he followed it.

A high cliff overlooked the bay where the Anduin joined the sea. He stood on the top and let his eyes roam the wide waters that glittered underneath him. Down by the mouth of the river he could see a boat with white sails. A man stood beside it, his face turned up and he waived.

“Faramir!”

He sped down, loose rocks and sand spilling around him. He laughed, and from below his brother’s laugh rode with the wind up to mingle with his.

“Brother!” he called. “Brother, wait for me!”

His brother stood in the boat, waiting for him. “We will sail together, little brother. We will sail together.”

“Faramir!”

He turned, but his father was not there.

“Faramir!”

It was not his father’s voice. His brother stood smiling on the ship, waiting for him to board, but it was not his voice either. From far away the voice came, from beyond thick walls and great distances.

“Faramir!”

Clearer, and nearer, the shout was heard. The sky darkened and the wind blew, and his brother held out his hand, beckoned him to join him. But his movements became sluggish and slow. His limbs would not move. Cold crept over him and his brother’s face paled; grew sickly and dead.

“I remember,” he whispered. “You are dead, brother. You are dead.” And he wept

“Faramir!”

He turned from his brother, from the sea and the sky and the gathering darkness at the edge of the world that swiftly flew towards them, carried on the back of a storm. Cold stillness grew upon him and covered his skin. He closed his eyes.

And in the end he woke, and see! it was all a dream.

He could not move. He could not see. Stone all around him, holding him. Shutting him in. he could smell it, barren and cold.

“Faramir!”

The voice called from beyond the stone. He tried to turn, but the stone held him. Unmoving. Stiffened. Frozen. He could not scream, he could not cry, but he could hear the crows cawing and feel the flapping of their wings.

He woke, and it was a dream.

He struggled. His body grew aching and sore. He strained to find the voice, to reach for the sound and hold on, but the voice fell silent, and he wailed. Silently he cried, muffled by the stone sealing his lips.

Wake me! Make it all a dream.

Then he felt it: a scent of sun and spring, like the memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun. It thawed his limbs and melted the stone. It pierced the shell, pierced his heart until it ached terrible joy. If he could have laughed or wept, he would. He drew a shuddering breath, and moved.

Faramir stirred. He opened his eyes and smiled at what he saw; he knew this man, this place; this joy.

‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?’

‘Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!’