Sorry to anyone upset by the imagery in this- I've been agonising about posting it ever since 26/12.
Tolkien owns the world, not me. Don't sue.
Oh, and whoever this was for? Enjoy...
The two brothers stood facing each other, centre of the circle, centre of the world.
Neither saw anything else but the other.
It was always this way, every time the ceremony took place.
One in purest white, the other in brilliant, dazzling yellow.
Sun and moon, night and day, first and second... perfect symmetry, as always.
This year, something was wrong.
You wouldn't have seen it, looking in.
What you would have seen was two people gazing into each other's eyes.
Two people barely breathing as the sun rose on the longest day of the year.
Two boys in the centre of a circle of men.
Two brothers, taking part in a ritual as old as anyone still living could remember.
Looking in, it would have been perfect.
But one of the brothers was troubled, and the other knew it.
He didn't show it, and his brother didn't show it, but he was troubled nonetheless.
Wordless conversation drifted between them as the sun rose.
~What is it, my brother?
~I shall tell you later.
Words unspoken, words between brothers, words between friends.
Slowly, as every year, the ceremony finished, and the mood lifted.
The midsummer day ceremony was over, and preparation could begin for feasting, for merriment, for laughter and friendship.
The men left.
The boys remained.
Sun and moon, night and day...
Finally, when they were sure they were alone on the ceremony hill at last, the words were spoken.
"I dreamed, this night."
His brother nodded agreement.
"Indeed you did- you woke me with your moaning, Anarion."
Anarion raised an eyebrow.
"Indeed, my brother. I thought I might have to smother you before you woke the entire palace."
Anarion looked troubled, and his brother placed a hand upon his shoulder, but the frown did not leave his brow.
"I dreamed of great, grey ghosts watching us at the ceremony this morning, three of them. They should have been men, but were... not so."
Now it was Isildur's turn to be troubled.
"How so, my brother?"
Anarion moved away from his brother, finding his touch suddenly uncomfortable in the face of the memory of the previous night's horror.
"Huge they were, my brother. Huge and grey and shadowy, and yet... they moved as men, and were formed in the shape of men, and talked as men. And yet..."
Silence fell upon the boy. His brother took up the fallen conversation.
"...And yet they were somehow not men. They were dressed as if they were long-dead and risen from their tombs, and their footsteps were as mist, and their voices were as the wind across an empty battlefield."
Now it was Anarion's turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Brother, that is how they were. Exactly how they were. How..."
"I have dreamed the same dream this past night, my brother. I awoke from it to find you thrashing and moaning as if one possessed, and I knew in my heart that it must be that you were dreaming."
"And you woke me not?"
Isildur shook his head, and turned from his brother, gazing up at the skies.
"No, I thought you might think me... silly. And everything went perfectly today, did it not?"
Indeed, anyone looking at the skies would have found it hard to disagree. They were perfect midsummer's-day blue, without a cloud to mar them, so far removed from his dream of the previous night that-
There was a sudden, violent shuddering which pitched the two boys sideways, and then a roar on the air, a roar mightier than any beast, a roar that started loud and grew louder by each passing second until it seemed it rang against the heavens.
The very earth the two brothers stood upon shook, and the ceremony hill writhed like snakes placed on hot coals. The two boys looked at each other in mute horror, and could not speak as the sky suddenly turned darkest black. Forks of lightning ripped the sky from horizon to horizon, and the roar grew ever louder, impossibly louder.
~This is the end, Isildur.
He could not say it, could not bring himself to say it, but Anarion thought it nonetheless.
~This is the end of the world.
Great cracks appeared in the ceremony hill now, great cracks that stretched to Gods-knew where, great cracks that howled the earth's anguish at the two boys, now separated by a great gulf, the maw of some hideous, unknown, roaring beast.
~This is the end, Anarion.
He could not say it, knew he would not be heard over the roaring, nightmare tempest that their world had so suddenly become even if he could have brought himself to say it, but Isildur thought it nonetheless.
Thought it as he watched three great, grey spirits rise into the hideous, storm-wracked skies, three great,grey shadows that should have been as men but were somehow not...
Thought it as he watched the wall of water rising impossibly, inexorably into the skies, an emerald-green monolith of foam-capped death that would surely engulf him, his brother, his world...
Thought it as the earth trembled again and Anarion his brother was shaken sideways, as Anarion his brother toppled shrieking into the seemingly bottomless chasm and was lost forever...
His voice was lost as the wave crashed down.
"Isildur, brother, wake up!"
The young prince awoke with a start, sheathed in sweat, his limbs entangled in his bedsheets like a snare, his brother's concerned face gazing down at him from a halo of candle-light.
"You were having a nightmare."
Isildur could only nod, mutely, the shattering, ultimate horror of his dream still strong in his mind. Anarion smiled.
"You are worried by the ceremony tomorrow, yes?"
Another mute nod, but less horror now, the nightmare fading before his brother's calm voice.
"I am, too. I hope the weather is better than it was last year. Remember last year? It soaked me through."
Isildur allowed himself a faint smile now.
"You looked like a great drowned rat in a dress."
Anarion raised an eyebrow.
"You're a fine one to talk about drowned rats in dresses. I could have sworn you were one."
The nightmare was gone now, only a memory, and a rather silly one at that. What had it been about, Isildur wondered- something about the ceremony? Something about his brother? Something about...
He shook his head, the nightmare lost to wakefulness.
"I'm sorry to have woken you, brother."
"Just get back to sleep, my brother. Everything will be fine, just you wait and see."
Isildur nodded, and lay back on his bed.
Yes, he thought, everything would be fine.
Everything would be fine...