The Clear Ringing of Silver Trumpets

by Lithilien Quicksilver

Oomph! The fall jars me to my senses. Shame....such shame! Reluctantly, I raise my head. “Frodo?...Frodo.” My eyes search the trees, the forest floor, anywhere, but to no avail. I know it is hopeless ere I begin. “What have I done? Please.....Frodo.” My voice rises to a desperate shout. “Frodo, I’m sorry! Frodo!” No answer. I expect none. I have frightened him too deeply, betrayed him too completely. How will I ever face him again? Or any of the Fellowship? Frodo will return to them, tell them of my deed. They will all know....my honour gone, my shame complete....I can see no way out. Nothing will ever be the same after this. I have failed, utterly.

I sit, holding my head in my hands, these hands that tried to take the Ring, steeling myself for what must come - a confrontation with Aragorn. He will want an answer. I brush the dry leaves from my hair. What will I say? Forgive me....a madness took me, but it is gone? How will they trust me again? I will be totally dishonoured. Between clenched teeth, I berate myself for this cowardice. “Enough! You are a warrior, son of the Steward of Gondor, Captain of the Armies of the White City. You will do this!” Still, my shame is so great I cannot force myself to stand, to take the first step back to face the Company’s ire, their accusations.

Alright, get up! The future Steward of Gondor will not wallow in self-pity. I have a plan. If I can but find Frodo, speak with him, ask his pardon, my honour might yet be spared. If I can regain his trust, perhaps he will hear me. Perhaps the Ring may yet come to Minas Tirith. Now, which way has he gone? My eyes search the leaf-littered hillside. He must have fled downhill. I remember the bobble of that fallen branch as he tread upon it. I will begin my search in that direction. He sought solitude before; perhaps, if my luck holds, he still wishes to be alone and has not yet exposed my folly to our companions. I begin walking, seeking for some small clue that Frodo has passed this way. My father’s voice thunders in my mind.... ”my heir....future Steward of Gondor....the fate of your people....make things right.” I will, Father, I will.

How long have I been searching? There is no sign that I am on the right track, no trace of his passing. How can he so easily elude me? As my eyes have not aided me, perhaps I can better use my ears. I close my eyes to shut out all distraction. What is this? The trampling of many heavily-shod feet, and the gutteral growl of Orcish voices! My eyes fly open, wide with alarm. Ambush!

What matters now my shame? The Company is in peril...the Ring may be taken! My purpose now is clear: It is for this I was born, for this I have trained. Drawing my sword, I race in the direction of the sounds. As I clear the top of a small rise, I see the Halflings Merry and Pippin, surrounded by a host of Orcs, larger than any I have ever battled! They have no chance! They will be overwhelmed and slain!

I force my legs to greater speed as I rush to defend them. Hurry! Faster! An Orc raises a battle-axe, readies himself for the downward stroke that will end young Pippin’s life! Swiftly, I close the distance between us. “No!” I wrestle the axe from his grip and cleave his head in the same practised motion. From the corner of my eye, I see the little ones bravely wielding their short swords. Parry.... thrust....yes! They do well, even as I taught them. Still, our only chance against so many is to regroup with the rest of our company. I urge them to retreat even as we fight. One charging Orc falls prey to my knife in his throat, but a score swarm behind him. I raise my horn and sound forth a clear call to summon Aragorn and the rest of our friends. That will put these beggars to rout! For now, we fight....the Halflings using their swords as best they can, and myself placing my body between them and harm at every opportunity. What delays them? Perhaps another call of my horn will bring the company to us more swiftly. It rings out, strong and clear; I pray they also hear the urgency of my call.

No! My chest tightens at the sight of new enemies, pouring over the ridge like flood waters over a breached dam. “Run! RUN!” Good, that has spurred the Halflings. I take one step, two, but must turn to engage the swiftest of our pursuers. He is strong, but lacking in skill. Huh! I dispatch him with ease. Another takes his place....I do not fear the combat - taken one by one I can defeat them all - but so many at once....Where are our friends? What chance do we have? Now they come too quickly to allow retreat. Once again I sound my horn. Surely they will come soon.

No thought to spare now for anything but battle. They come so thick! My body responds automatically now....wielding my sword two-handed. I wish I had my shield....Where is it? Ah, yes, on the shore. Well, ‘twill do me no good there. What I lack in defense I must make up for by the fury of my offense....Good! Three more down....must be a dozen now...

A little lull....just let me catch my breath and I’ll have more of you....

“Uhhnn!” What’s this? Blinding pain...? I stagger with the force of the blow, then drop to my knees. An arrow...? Disbelief. Where...? I lift my eyes toward the top of the hill. There he is...coward. Strike me down from a safe distance, will you? Well, you’ll not have me so easily.

Anger and determination propel me to my feet. I meet the hatred in the eyes of another attacker with the steel of my sword. There is life and fight in me yet...all I must do is endure until Aragorn arrives. At the least I will take a few more of these villains with me.

“Oh!” Pain worse than before! Why are my legs so weak? On my knees again...? I must not faint....I must get up! “Get up! Get up! On your feet, boy! No son of mine will be called a weakling!” “No, Father....I mean, yes, Father. I’ll get up, sir. Please, sir, just a moment....until the pain passes....” Wait....that’s not my father’s face before me.... Merry...Pippin...I hoped you had fled....or were well hid...How can I protect you now? Frodo...? Is...is that you with them? No....he is gone....gone, or taken. I’m sorry, Frodo. I have failed....I have doomed you all. Not yet! No! I will not give up yet....On your feet! “On your feet, Sam.” “Give them a moment, for pity’s sake!” A moment? There is no moment but this one, to stand and fight, or fall and fail.

“Arrrrrrrr!” That’s it! On your feet! Just keep fighting, just a little longer. There’s another one down....Now lift the sword, and strike to kill. No matter that I cannot clearly see....I can smell him there. Just....strike! Yes! That ends his foul life!

“Oh!” No....not another....but yes....I feel it there....near my heart....I drop again to my knees. No hope of rising this time....no hope....I’m sorry, Father....I tried not to be weak....I hear the Orcs swarming round me. They pass close by, not fearing me now. I hear Merry and Pippin, their small voices raised in rage....or fear.... soon stopped, and carried away. I’m sorry, little ones. I’m sorry. I cannot save you now....I cannot save the Ring....or my city....I cannot even save myself....It is a cruel end to be so completely at the mercy of such foes.

There he is....my enemy....standing before me. I cannot rise to strike him, but I can choose the manner of my death. His eyes hold hatred.... contempt....no pity. Well, he will glimpse no fear in mine. I can at least face death with honour.

Ha! Aragorn....he comes! Now you pay, you devil! At last I can rest.... How did I get on my back? Why is it so cold? And....and dark? I have to hold on....tell Aragorn about Merry and Pippin....and Frodo.

Good....he is here. I must tell him....everything.

“They took the little ones.”

“Lie still....”

“Frodo. Where is Frodo?” He must listen to me....

“I let Frodo go.”

“Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the Ring from him.”

“The Ring is beyond our reach now.” His eyes do not condemn me.... Why? I condemn myself.

“Forgive me. I did not see. I have failed you all.”

“No, Boromir. You fought bravely. You have kept your honour.”

What is he doing? Trying to remove the arrow? Too late....it’s too late.

“Leave it. It is over.” He doesn’t understand.... “The world of men will fall....and all will come to darkness....and my city to ruin.” I cannot stop the sob that rises in my throat at the thought of those beautiful white towers thrown down. Aragorn, if you are indeed of the blood of Numenor, the heir of Isildur, do something! Save Minas Tirith! Please.... please....

“I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall.” How did he hear my thoughts? “Nor our people fail.”

What did he say? “Our people?” He nods....he means it....he is one of us. “Our people.” He claims us again as his kin, his own. There may be hope yet....he may be that hope. He must be that hope, if any hope remains. He at least will go to Minas Tirith. She will not be left defenseless.

I can die like a warrior now. I have not failed utterly of my mission. My sword....where’s my sword? Aragorn places it in my hand, and my hand on my chest. Yes....it is fitting....This is a good way to die. I search his face, his eyes once more. I see it now, tho it was not there before....

“I would have followed you, my brother....my captain.” Yes, I see it now. “My King.” My King.....

What...? What is that beautiful sound? Ah....trumpets....silver trumpets....