Heart of the Storm

Author: Raksha the Demon

Nominator: Larner

2011 Award Category: Men: Faramir - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Ficlet

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes

Summary: Those who have endured the winds of war cannot always rest easily. When memories become nightmares, does the sleeper awaken to dread or to hope? A ficlet inspired by autumn, Halloween, and, of course, Faramir.

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Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

I'm a big fan of Raksha's Faramir, and this ficlet is a welcome addition to her collection of stories that focus on the Steward. This is a story that touches upon the lingering heart of darkness that is overcome by love. Disturbing memories, especially those engraved in our minds by fear and trauma, is part of the human experience, whether in our primary world or in Tolkien's sub-creation as Raksha aptly shows. The transition from Faramir's nightmare to waking state is handled well, particularly Eówyn's response, which clearly shows this is a recurring nightmare for Faramir. To me, this is a logical and realistic consequence of the experience of war, and in this case, with a foe that was something Other, but also something that was once human. The connection of the howling autumn wind and the shriek of the Witch King is satisfying in a deliciously creepy way. This calls to mind the cries Frodo and company heard in the Wild. Also very satisfying is Faramir's response as a loving and protective father checking to see if his children are safe, even though rationally, he knows they are. It's a gut level response that adds to the ficlet's authenticity. The story serves as a reminder of what Faramir and Eowyn fought to protect, and the sacrifices of many others who did the same.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 10

Those who have been through times of dread will have the memories revived from time to time, and often when the weather is changeful or stormy, with the turmoil of the winds and rain often awakening echoes of the turmoil of past struggles in our memories and dreams. So it is with Faramir during a visit to Minas Tirith, as he awakens in the night from dreams of the retreat of his Men across the Pelennor from the ruins of Osgiliath. In this vignette Raksha has skillfully woven just enough detail both from the original battle and from the windstorm that batters the Citadel outside the windows to bring us into the dream with him, and to aid us to appreciate the comfort he receives from his beloved wife, who after all has fought her own demonic memories of the years and certainly can appreciate what dreams the storm would waken in her husband. And we can almost feel the cool stone under his feet as he leaves his own chamber to assure himself his children’s sleep in undisturbed. The tale is short and perfectly wrought, a delicate moment caught and carefully preserved for us to examine and appreciate. It is definitely a tale that I was proud to nominate this year, and I so hope others appreciate it as much as I have!

Author response: Thanks for this lovely and thorough review, Bonnie! I wanted to touch on the issue of post-traumatic stress in Faramir's life, how those memories affected his daily life. I think, as a former Captain of Rangers, it would be natural for Faramir to want to check on those most important in his life after a reminder of one of the darkest days imaginable. And I think that Eowyn and Faramir would be very good for each other in terms of their mutual understanding of battle scars emotional and physical. I'm glad you liked the tale; and thanks again for nominating it.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 10

I admit I used to feel that Faramir and Éowyn were ill suited to one another but this exquisite ficlet of Raksha’s has made me think again. Few soldiers troubled by memories of war with have wives with whom they can confide their troubles in the certain knowledge that their wife will understand because she was there on the battlefield too. Faramir is blessed with such a wife. Many of us are troubled by nightmares in which the difficult times of our lives come back to haunt us, and we can identify with Faramir in this story, while safe in the knowledge we shall not witness the horrors that he has. I feel uncomfortable when the wind howls round the house, recalling a gale that blew off the slates, but I do not have memories of the nazgul to contend with and doubt I could bear them as bravely as Faramir if I did! I love the vivid intimacy of this story, which at once transports the reader into Faramir’s world and the vivid contrasts between past and future. I found myself smiling with Faramir as he finds his equilibrium restored at the sight of his sleeping children. I love it too that he cares about those less fortunate than he is. A beautifully written and heart-warming story.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 8

Dear Raksha, this is a very well-crafted ficlet that packs very much into a small space; convincingly conveying the sense of relief and of gratitude for the peace as well as the lasting sadness and injuries and Faramir’s constructive way of dealing with them. What I like best about it, though, is the relationship between Faramir and Eowyn that we see here. There is the way she immediately knows what nightmare is troubling him, and Faramir’s confirmation that they both defied the darkness, expressed in the same sentence as if even at that time, before they knew each other, they had been working together. This is so important in marriage. I get the sense here of a very solid relationship, built not so much on that airy-fairy romantic love people make so much fuss about, but on a true kinship of minds and unfailing suipport of each other. Finally, I like the two closing sentences with the contrast of inside and outside, the alliteration of W and the imagery of the lamp chasing the darkness. Very well done.

Reviewed by: Kara's Aunty  ✧  Score: 5

A ghost from the past haunts Faramir's dreams years after the phantom it hails from met its final doom at the hands of the Steward's wife (and Merry!). We see how Faramir's disquiet thereafter is soothed by the mere knowledge that his sacrifices, and those of countless others, have allowed the children of the West (represented here by his own little angels) not only to thrive, but to know a safer, sweeter night's repose than he might enjoy. Makes it all worthwhile, really. A beautiful, reflective piece featuring a character I have always harboured a huge soft spot for. Well done, Raksha!

Author response: I'm delighted that you liked the story, K.A. Faramir is, of course, my favorite Tolkien human character; and I had been wanting to write something on this subject for awhile, and finally did. It would help any veteran, and Faramir too, to have a family both to support him (as Eowyn would be very qualified to do, considering what she experienced on the Pelennor) and that he want to protect. The Nazgul are a horror that no later warriors had to encounter, but their supernatural viciousness placed them in a unique place among the horrors of all wars; and Faramir was one of the few, according to Tolkien, who could withstand them, and even he was shaken, though not broken, by their fury (and the assault of the Black Breath). Thanks much for the review!

Reviewed by: Altariel  ✧  Score: 4

When you've lived through nightmares, it's no surprise that they can creep up on you again in the dark, when the wind is whispering. Raksha touches on what I think is important nuance in Faramir's love for Eowyn: that she was the one who killed the Lord of the Nazgul and expelled that particular nightmare from Middle-earth. This is an atmospheric piece which calls the shadows to mind, before shining a light to send them away again.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 4

This story begins at a fast pace with lots of action; it continues on to remind us that combat always leaves its mark. Faramir does not forget what Mordor and the Nazgul inflicted on his people, his family, and himself. Eowyn is understanding, having by implication undergone simliar experiences. Faramir especially realizes that the health and love of his family, the prosperity of his city, and the freedom of his people, can serve as a powerful antidote for the War's negative experiences. Very well written!

Author response: Thanks much for reviewing this story, Darkover. I was fond of how the piece turned out. Yes, combat always leaves marks and scars, some obvious, some crippling, some under the skin. Opinion in Tolkien fanfic seems to have varied as to how much 'PTSD' Faramir suffered. I think that Faramir was a very strong-willed and emotionally resilient man, but he had to have felt after-effects and nightmares. I think Eowyn did too; and that they understood each other very well. Faramir was also heavily invested in his city and land's recovery and peacetime progress; which would have helped. I'm glad you enjoyed the story!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 4

A sweet celebration of victory and freedom, told through Faramir's eyes (a very fitting narrator indeed, in my opinion). I was quite struck by the way Faramir's first reaction upon waking from his nightmare was to ensure that his children slept safely. It was a wonderful touch, I thought, and very fitting with Faramir's character. On a more technical note, Raksha's prose was simply perfect here, giving just the right feel to the wonderful snippet of the Steward's life.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 3

This is a really great short tale by Raksha. It makes perfect sense to me that both Faramir and Eowyn might experience nightmares related to their combat experiences, and this is a particularly vivid description of what it feels like to wake up from that sort of a nightmare and need to pull yourself back to the present moment. Beautifully written.

Reviewed by: Ellynn  ✧  Score: 2

A wonderful ficlet about Faramir and his memories of war. I especially like the last three paragraphs - they are so touching and beautiful.

Author response: I'm glad you enjoyed 'Heart of the Storm', Ellyn; and thanks much for reviewing it. I wanted to grapple with Faramir's memories of the Ring War at least briefly; and his relationship with Eowyn, and to some extent their children, would be a part of how he dealt with those memories. Dreams can be quite powerful even when they are not prophecies or portents...

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 2

Only people who have been through the same kind of difficulties can understand how and why certain things often trouble their friends, comrades and spouses.

Author response: I always thought that in some ways Faramir and Eowyn were very well matched. Thanks much for reading and reviewing, Liadan.

Reviewed by: Sevilodorf  ✧  Score: 1

Gets right to the heart of Faramir's personality.