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Choose Life by Linda Hoyland

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Choose Life

These characters belong to Tolkien and his heirs. I make no money from writing this story.

Caught between life and death, Faramir faces a decision.

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live – The Bible Deuteronomy 30:19

A/n. Some lines are taken directly from Tolkien.

Faramir had ridden out to battle more times than he cared to count. Today, though, was different. He was certain he would not return. No man had wanted this mission, so hopeless did it seem. Only his father's piercing gaze and direct challenge to his courage had compelled him to volunteer. There was no other choice. His father expected him to atone for not bringing him the Halflings and the thing that they carried.

He preferred to think of it as simply a thing. He had spoken truly when he had told the Halflings that he would leave it on the highway if he found it, but that did not mean he could not feel the Ring's lure. It seemed to whisper to him that his father would love him as much as Boromir if he took it, but so absurd was the suggestion, he had pushed it from his thoughts at once. Now, he was trying to retake Osgiliath in Boromir's place. He wondered if his father would have been so willing to send his brother to almost certain death.

Boromir was already dead, though, and with him any hope that Gondor might somehow triumph in this war. Faramir wondered just what had gone through his brother's mind in the long weeks spent with the Halfling. Had the Enemy's weapon teased and tormented him beyond all endurance? Frodo had said little, but Faramir could guess all too easily what had remained unspoken. Somehow, the Ring had led to Boromir's death. Had it been brought to Minas Tirith, it would surely have destroyed them all.

Before Faramir had ridden away, Mithrandir had spoken to him. "Do not throw your life away rashly or in bitterness," he had said. "You will be needed here, for other things than war. Your father loves you, Faramir, and will remember it ere the end. Farewell!" Faramir had smiled sadly at the wizard. His life was most surely forfeit today for the odds were overwhelming. As for his father, if he truly did love him, would he have sent him forth without a word of encouragement or blessing? Faramir sighed. Had he brought his father the thing he so desired, he would doubtless now be beside his sire in the Citadel, watching him become something he hardly recognised. It was better this way. His father's wrath had fallen heavily upon him, but he knew he had done what was right. They were doomed, but trying to use the Enemy's weapon against him would have been a greater evil by far.

Despair gripped Faramir's heart. He had often felt sad throughout his life, but before there had been hope, not this bleak emptiness that now filled him. He glanced around at his men. They all rode silently, with heads bowed. There was none of the usual camaraderie and bravado that usually came before a battle. Even the horses were subdued. It were as if the Enemy had not only brought terror, but with it, utter despair. Every part of his body ached, but worse was the ache in his heart.

A blood-curdling screech filled the air. The dread enemy captain had returned and was circling overhead on his fell beast. Death was approaching and Faramir was ready to embrace it. He would perish defending the city he loved. The last remnant of Númenor 's glory was about to be swallowed up by darkness. He urged his horse into the fray. His men were vastly outnumbered by a hoard of Orcs and Easterlings. He felt a sudden sharp pain in his shoulder and his eyes dimmed. The sounds of the battlefield grew faint.

0000

Faramir knew not for how long he had stumbled through this dark vale where even the sun glowed black instead of gold. If this were death, it brought no release. He wondered if this were some form of punishment for disobeying his father. Sweat soaked his garments and a raging thirst tormented his throat. Thorns and sharp rocks tore at his burning flesh. His body throbbed with pain from head to toe. Fell creatures assailed him. Somehow, Faramir managed to fight them off, even as he wondered how could they kill him if he were already dead?

Somehow, he felt convinced that he yet lived, if only because he had always been told that the dead found peace beyond the circles of the world. And where was Boromir if this were the realm of the dead? Would his mother not come to greet him too? Surely they would not leave him to wander in this parched wasteland?

Something crunched beneath his feet. He glanced down and to his horror saw that his boots had crushed a human skull. Then the ground went soft beneath his feet and the air was rank with the stench of decaying flesh, the flesh of his men.

Bile rose up in his throat. He had to leave this place!

As if in response to his thought, a shaft of golden light appeared in front of him and he could see a tunnel opening. Boromir and his mother and father stood at its mouth and beckoned to him.

They had come! Faramir stumbled towards them, filled with relief. Then he wondered why his father was there. Surely, Denethor was alive and leading the defence of the City? It mattered not, though. Boromir would lead him into the light that surely lay beyond .

Suddenly, he heard someone in the distance calling his name, like a shepherd might call for a sheep that was lost. Faramir hesitated. The voice came from behind him and was coming nearer. It seemed too great an effort to turn and see who was calling. He ignored the increasingly urgent tone. He entered the tunnel. Boromir was waiting. Soon they would be together and there would be no more pain and heartache.

He was so near now to being with Boromir again, so very near! Something in the voice, though, compelled him to stop and turn around. A strong hand immediately grasped his.

Faramir tried to pull away.

"Faramir, come!" said the stranger.

"My mother and brother are calling for me," said Faramir. "I must go to them."

"It is not yet your time," said the man, clasping Faramir's hand more firmly. "Come with me and choose life!"

Faramir turned and looked at the stranger. For a moment, he thought that the man could almost be the twin of his sire, but when he studied the carven features, the eyes were full of warmth and compassion rather than coldness and anger. The stranger had an air of high nobility about him and was bathed in a clear green light which emanated from a gem he wore set in a brooch shaped like an eagle. On his brow, he wore a gem, which gleamed like a star,the brightest thing in this dark place.

Suddenly, a gauntleted hand seized Faramir's other arm. A chill coursed through Faramir's body as the Lord of the Nazgûl tried to drag him away. He cried out in terror.

The stranger drew his sword. It gleamed with clear blue light. "Begone, spawn of Sauron!" he cried, piercing the creature with the blade. It gave an unearthly shriek then crumbled into nothingness.

Faramir almost swooned, but the stranger's firm grip kept him from falling. He opened his eyes and regarded him with awe. "Surely you are one of the Powers!" he exclaimed.

The stranger's face lit up as he laughed. "I am more accustomed to being called a vagabond and a layabout!" he replied. "I am a mortal man like you. My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn."

"Then surely you are some great lord, sir?" Despite his pain and weariness, Faramir felt drawn to know more about this man. "What brings you to this dread place?"

"I am come to seek you and bring you home, Faramir, son of Denethor," said Aragorn.

"But why, lord? My father says I have failed him and betrayed Gondor."

"I say that he was wrong. Never did a truer man draw breath than you, Faramir. The Enemy seeks to destroy you. He knows full well that I shall have need of you in my kingdom should we triumph in the days that lie ahead."

Recognition dawned on Faramir. He would have fallen to his knees had he not feared he might never rise again if he did. "You are Elendil's heir, my lord and king!" he cried. "I can depart with joy, knowing that you are come."

"I bid you to choose life!" said Aragorn. His tone was stern, yet kindly at the same time. "I bid you come with me."

Aragorn laid his hand on Faramir's brow and the younger man felt new strength coursing through his veins.

"I will come, though I know not the way," said Faramir. "How long have I tarried in this place?" He glanced back just in time to see the tunnel of light close and his family vanish from sight.

"Come!" said Aragorn. He put his arm around Faramir's shoulders and half dragged, half carried him along. "You have been here for three long days. It is time to return to the light. I will lead the way."

The ground was as rocky as before and fell sights, sounds and smells of death and evil still assailed him. Now, though, Faramir began to believe that maybe he could escape this place. It were as if Aragorn were pouring his own strength into him.

At length, though, even Aragon's strength seemed to falter. They were climbing a steep cliff together, which seemed to have no summit. More Orcs and fell creatures of every kind came to try to block their path. Aragorn despatched them all with his gleaming sword, but he was moving more slowly now.

"You should leave me, lord, save yourself," said Faramir.

"Endure but a little longer and we shall come safely home," said Aragorn.

They reached a rocky overhang and paused to draw breath. "I am so thirsty," said Faramir. "The foul air burns my throat."

"You shall soon have water in abundance," said Aragorn. "Wait here but for a little while. I shall return."

To Faramir's dismay, he vanished from sight. Faramir huddled against the rock face, his sword clasped in a somewhat shaky hand awaiting the next enemy that might appear. Somehow, though, he knew that Aragorn would not abandon him.

Suddenly, a fresh breeze blew, dispersing the foul air and carrying on it the scent of a spring morning. The barren landscape seemed to melt away leaving in its place a fair meadow full of blossoms. Faramir lay down on the grass, closed his eyes and breathed in the sweet scent.

"Faramir, awake! I bid you to choose life!"

Faramir opened his eyes. His gaze met warm, kind eyes shining in a weary but noble face. He realised he was lying on a soft bed. A light of love and knowledge was kindled in Faramir's eyes. "My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?" said Faramir.

"Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!" said Aragorn. "You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return." He turned away for an instant then held a glass of water to Faramir's parched lips.

Faramir drank deeply. It tasted sweet, the very stuff of life. He had chosen.

A/n Written for the Teitho Challenge "Life and Death" a couple of years ago. With grateful thanks to all who have helped me with this story.


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