Did you remember to....


It was the last thing he heard as the cold dark closed over his head and the swirling water embraced him and tried to carry him away in its arms, making his body part of the eddy and flow of the river.

Fighting for breath, he struggled to right himself, finding no bottom, no purchase. He was not given to panic, usually keeping a calm heart and a cool head in times of danger… but someone had forgotten to t ell his lungs, and they screamed and felt like they would burst.

And then his brother’s voice, his brother’s hands supporting him, sunlight and air. “Did you remember to breathe?” the voice teased, laughing to cover its own moment of anxiety.

“Don’t be so smug, Faramir,” he sputtered miserably, shaking water out of his eyes and nose, “I didn’t have time to remember anything.”

The older boy was just turned sixteen and liked to think of himself as a man. He had been taking the opportunity to lord it over the younger as he sat proudly on his birthday present, a frisky grey gelding the same steely color as their eyes. A very noble picture he made, too - until the ill-timed and unlucky bee sting that sent Fanya bucking forward, tumbling him into the bend of the river where his little brother had been happily - and idly - paddling about in the water.

A long quick dive brought Faramir to his brother’s aid, and he grasped the strong shoulders and pushed for the surface. They floundered together the few strokes it took for them to be able to stand. Measuring the short distance with his eyes only embarrassed the older again.

The younger was eleven, still a colt, all long leg and arm. He admired the strength that rippled over his brother’s frame, wanted badly to match it, but even with daily sword practice he still felt that it would never come. He was learning instead to look for his own skills, the things that made him feel a glow of secret pride. Swimming and the bow were two things he could excel at even if he never muscled up like Boromir.

They stood laughing, holding each other’s shoulders, shaking their long wet hair back from their faces.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to come to your aid. I had forgotten you can’t swim.” There was still a part of Faramir that believed his brother could do anything.

The older growled to cover his humiliation. “When would I have time to learn such a frivolous pleasure? Swimming is not a soldier’s skill.”

“It is in Dol Amroth!” laughed Faramir, who was newly returned from a stay with his uncle. “It will be in Ithilien, I am sure! It would have helped you today, Boromir.” He looked at his older brother with barely concealed concern. “You should put down your sword sometimes – you are too single-minded!”

“Me!” Boromir nearly slipped from his brother’s grip on the slick river stones as he startled at the comment. “You are the one who always has his nose in a book!”

“Maybe... but I read about many different things. I feel like the whole world comes pouring off the page into my dreams. I will never be tired of wanting to know.”

He shook his dark head. “There is more to life than war, brother. And more to you than the sword.” They looked at each other for a moment, seeing as only brothers can see, into each other’s hearts. Then they grinned and slapped each other’s arms companionably.

“Come on,” said Boromir, “I am freezing. Fanya has my cloak, that should be dry.” They slipped an arm around each other’s shoulders and supported each other up the slippery bank as they, unthinking, did in all things.

“Faramir,” the older asked quietly as he stripped off his wet clothes, “would you have time to teach me to swim? It seems like a useful skill.”

“If you can make the time in your schedule, I would be happy to.”



It was the last thing he heard as the cold dark closed over his head and the swirling water embraced him and tried to carry him away in its arms, making his body part of the eddy and flow of the river.

He struck out for the surface, his strong arms knowing with unconscious grace how to handle the dance and battle that was water unbound. He was a fine strong swimmer, but tonight he would need all his skill.

As he shook the water from his streaming eyes, he tried to orient himself in the dark pools of the night river. Debris from the bridge bobbed along with him, or jutted dangerously out of the water, or hid treacherously below the oily gleam. On the eastern shore, he could see the many small fires that consumed the city that had once been Gondor’s jewel, the citadel of the stars.

He looked around in panic, and felt two strong hands take his shoulders from behind. “Did you remember to breathe?” his brother’s voice coughed next to his ear.

“Of course I did, Faramir,” he sputtered, watching his brother’s raven hair float on the inky water. “Swimming is a soldier’s skill.”

They slipped an arm around each other’s shoulders, and supported each other up the bank, as they did in all things.


The March nights were still cold and, though wounded, Ithilien reached with longing for spring.

The captain was all but invisible in the gloom, his dark-dappled cloak a pattern of moonlight through leaves, his dark hair a shadow in the gathering of shadows that haunted this place. He might have been a tumbled pile of stones that vaguely resembled a man. Only his eyes, silvered in the grey dark, spoke of his presence - and even they seemed a reflection of stars on dark swirling water. He scanned the great river for any sign of movement, any hint of danger. He perched and waited, restless, the Raven of Ithilien, feeling that he was watching for death.

Lately his dreams left him wakeful, mind racing, thinking it best not to waste a precious second he might regret tomorrow. Instead of sleeping he would walk among his men, study their faces, and try to remember how to breathe - tasting every breath, in and out. Sleep might come all too soon.

He had been watching the full moon dance on the black water for some time before he remembered there should be only a pale gleam tonight. Something danced like foxfire in the stream. He stepped through the reeds and waded into the swirling current, mesmerized, powerless, yet unable to feel alarmed.

It proved to be a sleek grey boat with a prow that reared like the neck of a stallion as it turned and came toward him. Inside, it was full of clear bright water, brighter than moonlight, yet casting no light into the surrounding dark.

In the boat lay the Blade of Gondor, and he was broken.

Faramir’s heart hammered at the sight. He raised his hand to touch the familiar face, but was unable to defy the unearthly light. Among the wounds, above his brother’s heart he could see the rent where an arrow had delivered its deadly sting.

“Boromir!” he whispered. “I heard your call. Did you fall so close – so close to home? One long dive and I might have reached you.”

A great sadness stretched its hand toward the captain’s heart; he felt the touch of the icy fingers, but to his surprise it did not clench its cruel fist. He understood that Boromir was dead, yet looking into the light he was drawn to the peace and beauty that transfigured the warrior’s face. His brother smiled as though his closed eyes focused now only upon the stars.

There had been a time when his hands had the power to pull his brother back from Anduin’s grasp. She had released him for only a little while - yet it had been time enough for his brother to learn to be at ease in the water. Boromir no longer needed his aid.

His brother, who he had feared would live his life only for war, had somehow found peace. Now he had come to share the knowledge of his final gift.

Too soon, the river called again for what was hers, and the little boat moved back into the current of the stream. The cold brightness closed over his brother and embraced him, held him in the silver circle of its arms, making his body part of the eddy and flow of the river.

Faramir watched the light as it was swallowed up by distance and darkness, leaving him once more a shadow in the gloom, hoping that peace was a gift he would someday share.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” he whispered.

As his brother slipped away, he turned and scrambled up the bank, grasping at reeds to support himself.



I didn't want to disturb the symmetry of ‘Breathe’ as a vignette – I liked the moment of strength and the completed feel of the words. But I can not think of these brothers meeting in the Anduin without also thinking of the last time it occurred . I decided to offer as a coda for those of you looking for the closing of the circle. Available, yet slightly outside. You can see Robin's painting of Blade in his boat here.

Over the Memorial Day 2003 weekend, there was a War and Rememberance challenge held at Henneth Annun, to write about war or memories associated with war or its loss in a piece of less than 500 words. I wrote of Faramir and the river once again, in Peace Like A River Ran Through The City. More than fourty entries about the heart of war were entered - you can find that challenge here.

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 private enjoyment, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

April 2003

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