A Malady in Meduseld

by Agape4Rivendell


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1.
A Strange Welcome

The morning breeze blew cold and Boromir’s brow furrowed. ‘It is July. Though the mountains are close, I recall Edoras being warmer at this time of year. I hope this portends no ill.’ He walked slowly up the granite steps, looking to right and left as he felt myriad eyes upon him. His skin crawled; he could not tell why.

Then – he saw her. Eyes opened wide in shock as he watched her run into Meduseld. She was dressed well and – this was the shock of it – she walked about freely. He closed his mouth as Háma called to him, putting aside all wonderment at the sound of a friend’s voice.

“My Lord Boromir!” the Doorward spoke quietly, but in obvious delight. “What brings you to Edoras? The love of our mead?”

Boromir strode forward, arms opened wide for a warrior’s embrace; however, he noted the alarm that quickly encompassed Háma’s face and made as if he were merely stretching, lowering his arms. He gave Théoden King’s captain a salute. “Háma, old friend,” he kept his voice as muted as the Doorward’s. He took a step back. “You look terrible. Has some illness assailed you?”

“Nay,” the eyes that met his were guarded. “I am well. I had no mention of your coming.”

“It was a last minute decision, though I would have thought my father’s errand-rider would have arrived before I did. I hope naught untoward has happened to the man. You have not seen an errand-rider from Gondor?”

Háma turned to the guard next to him. After a moment’s speech, he turned back to the son of Denethor. “I have not and it seems no rider has been reported as arriving.” The Doorward looked around him, as if searching for someone, then said in a low whisper, “Meet me tonight in the stables. And mind your tongue.”

Had he really heard that last request? Boromir checked his surprise. “Would you announce me to Théoden King?”

“If you would wait here, I will speak with his advisor.”

Boromir had to stifle every impulse not to raise an eyebrow, but he succeeded and merely nodded. “As you wish.” He turned away as Háma entered Meduseld, and looked out upon the city. There was hardly any activity, though it was late morning by now. ‘Is not today market day?’ he thought in surprise. Soldiers walked the streets, hands lightly placed on sword hilts, doors were closed and windows were shuttered tight on the homes that faced the square, silence ruled.

“My Lord Boromir,” he turned quickly. “Théoden King has many duties to attend to today,” Háma’s face seemed red with suffused anger. “He will see you in two days time at the first hour.”

Boromir did not flinch at the insult; however, every hair stood on end as he finally realized the sense of unease that had overcome him the moment he stepped inside Edoras’ palisade was, in truth, a sense of danger. “Might Théodred be available?” he asked crisply.

“I am told Théodred will be in conference all day. “Háma’s face reddened even further.

“Then, dear Háma, I will take my leave. Might you offer the name of a good hostelry?” He nodded as Háma pointed down a side road. “My thanks, Háma.” Turning without a backward look, he strode down the steps, feeling a thousand eyes watching his back, and hoping an arrow would not pierce it.

Once he had taken care of his horse in ‘The White Hawk’s stable, he stopped in the inn’s common room and bought a mug of mead. He was correct in this; Rohan’s mead was indeed fine. Gondor’s son sprawled in the chair, his long legs thrust out before him, his eyes hooded, but alert, perusing the few patrons seated about. After a half hour, the innkeeper came forward with another mug of the brew. This time it was warm and Boromir looked up in surprise. The innkeeper lifted his eyebrows and Boromir decided some kind of message was being passed to him – what it was, he did not know. As Boromir handed the man a coin, he found a many-folded missive in his hand. Gondor’s Captain-General took the mug, drank deeply, and retired to his room.

Latching the door behind him, he waited no further, but quickly opened the missive. Sighing in relief when he recognized Théodred’s hand, he read the note quickly, shook his head in puzzlement, then slipped out of the window.

Thankfully, Faramir and he had spent many summers in Edoras and he easily enough found his way to the street and the stable noted in the missive. Surreptitiously looking about to make sure none had followed him, he opened the door and slipped inside. A hand clamped across his mouth and hot breath whispered in his ear, “Be quiet.” He nodded, as well as he was able. The hand moved away and he was warmly embraced.

“Boromir! It is good to see you.”

“Théodred! What is this about? Why are you skulking in stables? And what was that woman doing,” at the remembrance, fury unleashed. “Why is she free?”

“Who? Oh! The healer. I did not realize you saw her.”

“I did. I had your solemn word that she would be, at the least, imprisoned.”

“I am sorry, Boromir. She has become the right hand of my father’s advisor, Grima.”

Boromir exhaled sharply. “I remember him. The Wormtongue?”

“The same. Come and sit with me.” They walked towards a bench in a far corner of the stable. Háma stepped out of the shadows.

“Ah!” Boromir cried. “Thank you for the warning.”

“It will be my everlasting shame that I had to put you up in a hostelry instead of your old rooms.”

“Never the mind. You were only obeying orders.”

“It is a disgrace that the Steward’s son should be left to sleep in a… “

“Háma!” Théodred warned. “The very walls have ears, Boromir. I know not how the snake knows so much of what goes on outside of Meduseld, but he does. None dare speak openly anymore. Treason is used as a catchall word for any imagined crime. One merely has to look askance at any in the snake’s employ, and they find themselves in my father’s dungeons.”

Boromir nodded. “I am sorry to hear it.”

“That is not the worst, Lord Boromir,” Háma’s face pinched in pain. “Théoden King is but a shadow of himself.”

“Illness?” Boromir asked in alarm.

“Nay. I almost wish it were,” Théodred sighed. “It is as if he lay down and died. The man on the throne is not my father.”

“I am sorry, Théodred. Do your healers offer you any hope?”

“They say it is no malady they have encountered before.”

“What think you?”

“I know not. I am to be sent to the Fords of Isen sometime in the next few weeks to command the men there, so I will not be able to help him. This greatly troubles me. Though Éowyn will be here and will care for him.”

Boromir shook his head. “This is ill news indeed. And at the most inopportune time. I am sorry; that sounds crass, but Gondor has been under attack, Théodred. Black Riders came from Mordor; we felled the bridge, but they had already crossed it. Faramir and I barely escaped with our lives. Fell creatures.” His shivering emphasized his horror.

“Why are you in Edoras, Boromir? Hope you that Father will send men to Gondor?”

“Nay. I am on my way to some place in the wilds of the North. Faramir and I both had a dream that our rescue might come from the North.”

“I would go with you, but I cannot.” Théodred lowered his head. “You have hope, then?”

“I do, but I would take none other with me. The route is tenuous at best; the outcome unsure. The dream spoke of doom, but there seemed to be a promise there too. If I can do aught to save Gondor, I will do it.”

“Of course. Now, why seek you an audience with my father?”

“Only courtesy. Háma said he would meet with me in two days, but I have not the time to sit around here, waiting. I must be gone and soon.”

“I think you cannot leave without causing a bit of a situation, now that he knows you are here. Nay, not now that he knows you are here, but now that Grima knows you are here.”

Boromir shivered. “It is still upsetting to know that woman is free.”

“Excuse me, my Lord, what woman does Boromir speak of?”

“Ah. Hathawyn.”

“She poisoned me after I had been wounded by Orcs last year. Left me for dead. If Éomer were not with me, I would have died.” Boromir scowled.

It was Háma’s turn to shiver.

“There is naught that can be done now. I am sorry I have failed in my promise to your father, Boromir. Grima holds sway over court here and my hands are tied.”

“I understand, Théodred. Let us not discuss it further. Suffice it to say, it was a bit of a shock, but I am well recovered now. I would take my leave of Edoras now, but you are right; I must stay until I am granted audience with Théoden King. I will farewell you, before I leave.”

“You best!”

Both men smiled. It was decided Háma would leave first, then Théodred, and then Boromir. The two young men embraced, wished each other kind fate, and soon the stable was empty. Except for Hathawyn, who sat in the loft and smiled.

~*~
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2. What Has Happened to Rohan

For two days, Boromir saw neither hide nor hair of Théodred or Háma. However, on the second day since his arrival, a missive was delivered to his room. After he finished reading it, he went into the common room and ordered whisky. Finishing off the drink in one gulp, he then walked back into his room and began to pack. He carried his kit to the front desk and asked for his bill.

The innkeeper looked up in surprise. “You are leaving Edoras? I thought you were to meet with our king?”

“In due time. You must know of the orders just handed me.”

The man looked about him in fear. “I know a note was delivered to you this morning from Meduseld. Other than that, I know nothing.”

“A company of riders is to be garrisoned here for the next week. I am to give up my room and move to a hostelry near the back gate.”

The man blushed. “Sometimes, men are not free to do all as they would.” He seemed to wait for Boromir’s agreement. Finally, “If you need anything while there, please send a note to me with the inn’s stable boy; he can be trusted.”

“I will. If you would ask one of your lads to move my horse to ‘The Wandering Stranger,’ I would be most appreciative.” He took a coin from his purse. “Give him this in payment.”

The innkeeper nodded. “Perhaps you would like a bite to eat before you leave?” He bent over the desk and whispered, “The food there is not as good as what I serve here. A gift for your inconvenience.”

Boromir could not understand the dichotomy in how he was treated. As he sat over hot fried potatoes with sausages, he mused on the unexpected treatment. Here, an innkeeper who did not know his inn was going to be overtaken by soldiers; here, the captain of the king’s own guard stood and whispered at his post; here, the heir of Rohan met in a dingy stable; and here, the heir of the Steward of Gondor was treated as lower than dust one moment, and as a visiting dignitary the next. He downed the last of the mead and stood, nodded his thanks to his host, and left the place.

Wondering where he should go, for he had already vowed he would not stay too long in the pit of dung that he was now consigned to, he found himself meandering through the streets of Edoras. The bizarre attitude of the people as they noted his Gondorian attire and almost ran from him disturbed him even further. ‘What has happened to these people? Once I could walk these streets and be hailed and invited in for a drink, a laugh and a song. Now, I am treated as if I had The Fever.’

As if the very thought brought fulfillment, a woman screamed. Boromir watched to see who would rush to help and if he was needed, but to his utter amazement, none moved forward nor even looked up in surprise. He bit his lip. ‘So, not only am I to be shied from, they abjure their own people. What has happened to Rohan?’

He made up his mind, and quickly. No matter the diplomatic ramifications, he would leave Edoras today. He had a mission to complete and standing around here was worse than useless; he could not let anything stop him from reaching Imladris. Not even unwritten treaties. Besides that, a fear was growing in his stomach. He felt a threat against him and he knew not from what quarter.

He returned to the inn only to discover his horse had already been moved. He walked as quickly as he could to ‘The Wandering Stranger’ and walked into the stable. His horse was nowhere to be found. He found the stable boy and inquired, but the lad was useless at best, a liar at the worst. ‘Nay,’ Boromir thought. ‘The High House’s innkeeper thought the lad trustworthy.’ He stood before the boy and asked, “Can you take a missive to Théodred, Théoden’s son?”

The boy looked at him as if he spoke in Elvish. “Just say yea or nay.” The boy slunk back from him, eyes wide in terror. “Never the mind.” He stalked from the stable, fuming. ‘Well, it was foolish to ask him. He is only a lowly stable boy. I will go to Háma and ask him if he will give a message to Théodred. But first I will return to The High House and see if my horse might still be there.’

He walked back to the hostelry and entered. The innkeeper was nowhere to be seen; the common room was empty. He stepped back outside and made his way to the stable in the rear. His horse, just as he had suspected, was not there; it had already been moved. But where to? Cursing himself roundly for being worse than ten thousand fools, he walked back into the hostelry and began to call out for the innkeeper. Only silence answered him. He went through the back doors and into the kitchen, into the pantry, into the office; no one was there. At last, he walked back towards the rooms to let, opened each door, and discovered the building was deserted. Drawing in a deep breath, he walked back to the common room, walked behind the serving counter, and poured himself a double whisky. He downed it quietly, then left the inn by the back door.

“Lord Boromir, I presume.”

“Lord Gríma, I presume.” The heavy-lidded eyes before him smiled.

“You are a wit, I see.”

“Nay. Just observant. I dimly recall having met you when I was but a youth. You have not changed.”

“If you recall, I desperately tried to save your - what did you call her? Amma - when she was so ill.”

Boromir held himself in check. Indis had indeed died in Meduseld. This one before him, to all appearances, tried to heal her. But Gondor’s Master Healer and Indis’ husband had believed she had been poisoned, and at Gríma’s hand. Knowing he was, at present, in the company of such a vile creature, Boromir kept his tongue and gave a perfunctory nod in reply.

“That is neither here nor there. I have come to extend my lord’s bounty to you. He has asked that you take nuncheon with him. If you would follow me?”

Boromir found himself, within moments, in a small room off the main hall of Meduseld. He looked about him, but this did not seem to be the eating-place of a king.

Gríma watched him. “Of course, Théoden King is not here. This is a waiting room. I will go to him now and tell him you are here. When he is ready, I will return and bring you to him. In the meantime, why do you not sit and have a glass of this wine. It is from the king’s own cellar.”

After Gríma left him, Boromir eyed the glass suspiciously. A servant came in with a carafe and topped it off, then left the carafe. Heaving a sigh and chiding himself for being obtuse, Boromir took the glass and finished if off quickly. It was good wine. He poured himself another glass and sat down. After a half an hour with no sign of the Wormtongue’s return, Boromir stood. At least, he tried to stand. He chided himself for not being able to handle a little bit of Rohirric wine. Perhaps it was because he had hardly slept the night before? Nay. He shook his head and decided another glass might help clear it. The glass fell from his hand and broke into a thousand tiny shards. Dumfounded, Boromir looked at the muddle before him. He bent to pick up the stem and fell forward. Cursing soundly, he held onto the chair and pulled himself up. His head reeled.

A soldier entered the room and easily picked him up, throwing the son of Gondor over his shoulder. Boromir grunted in surprise and mortification. “I can walk, you know. Is this the courtesy of the Mark? What has happened to the Men of the Mark that I should be treated thusly?” He shook his head again for his voice sounded slurred. He had not drunk enough…. A shiver ran down his spine. “Let me go, man. I can walk myself.”

But the soldier did not stop, nor did he put the son of Gondor down. He walked towards the wall and touched a stone. The wall slid back and Boromir found himself in a dark passageway. He bit his tongue and tried to count the steps taken, so that he could find his way back, once he had escaped from this oaf who carried him. He swore to himself in utter frustration, for his limbs did not obey him. ‘I have been drugged,’ he thought before consciousness left him.

~*~

A/N – 1) It wasn’t till after Gandalf’s visit on September 19th that Théodred and Éomer began to defy Gríma; 2) The word nuncheon is used by Beregond in RotK: Book V; Ch. 1 – Minas Tirith), but the link below shows that the Rohirrim could very well have used the word too – both cultures were ancient; though the Hobbits definitely called the noon meal, lunch (TTT: Book III; Ch. 9 Flotsam and Jetsam)

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3. At Rohan's Mercy

Once his head stopped its pain-filled assault, Boromir tried to sit up, but the room spun and his stomach lurched. Hoping to keep what little he had eaten, he lay back down. Cursing himself roundly for a fool, he tried to imagine why or who had done this to him. Would Gríma be foolish enough to drug him? Or was it the healer, that Hathawyn? But Théodred said the healer was in Grima’s employ. He could not fathom one of Theoden’s counselors doing such an absurd thing. At least, it seemed absurd to him. ‘Time to unsnarl this later. It is now time to free myself.’ He chuckled wryly. ‘If I can sit up!’

Gently, he turned to his side. The feeble cot lurched and he held on tightly, his head swimming. He bit his lip and waited a moment. Finally, the room quieted to a dull roar. He swung his legs over the side and dropped them, slowly, to the floor. ‘So far so good,’ he thought, thankfully. Taking a deep breath, he pulled himself up into a sitting position. Immediately, his stomach wrenched and he lost his meal. Holding his head down between his legs, he soon stopped retching; gingerly, he lifted his head. The room did not spin, his stomach did not recoil, his legs seemed to work.

He waited another moment, then stood. ‘Yes!’ he almost shouted aloud in triumph, He took a step and then another. Though his head was merciless in trying to beat him senseless with pain, he managed to walk to the door. Looking through the bars, he saw no one. ‘Good. One good thing in this miserable day.’

‘If I recall,’ he thought grimly, ‘most of these cells have not been used in a very long time. How did Faramir get us out, that time we played hide ‘a seek and got locked in?’ He scratched his forehead as he tried to remember. The clank of a door pulled his thoughts up; someone was coming. He swore to himself. ‘What ill-begotten fate holds me in its sway?’ He ran back to the cot and lay down, throwing his arm over his eyes as if in sleep.

As he had feared, the door to his cell was unlocked and someone stepped inside. “I told you this was no mistake.” It was the healer’s voice! “He has already caused problems. We can’t move until he’s taken care of.”

The voice of the other was deliberately falsified for Boromir to discern who it was. “All know Denethor’s son is here in Edoras. How will you explain his disappearance?” Boromir kept still and waited, hoping they would speak further and he would finally be able to decide what was happening to him and to Rohan.

“All right then. We take him to his old rooms and say he’s been taken ill. We let Théodred see him, along with Háma. I tell you, your Doorward distrusts you. Then, we do what we have to do. What has been done with to all those who would wreck the master’s plans.” Another muffled reply. Then a call from the healer, “Guard. Pick up this fellow and follow me.”

He felt himself lifted and slung over a thick shoulder. He moaned, only half in pretense, then stilled. His head hit the lintel as the soldier passed through the door and Boromir saw stars. “Hurry! We want him to think this a dream or some such. We must get him to his room before he wakes.”

Boromir realized the soldier was rushing up stairs as the rough bumping caused his stomach to roil further. He obviously had not vomited all of the drug that had been given him in the wine. Biting his lip to keep from moaning further, he waited. At last, he heard a door open and found himself flung into a familiar bed. Oh, if he did not feel so wretched, he would cry out in joy at the feel of the soft down-stuffed quilt, the feathery pillow, the scent of clean soap.

His boots were ripped off his feet; his tunic and other garments were taken from him, and a nightshirt was put over him. He thanked the Valar that his undergarments were left on. He was stuffed under the coverlet and his tormentors left him. The turn of a key at the door told him he was yet a prisoner.

He sighed and snuggled deeper into the bed, exhausted. He had not realized, in the two weeks and some that he had been traveling, how good a bed felt. The bed in the inn, though it was a good inn, scratched, while the beds in Meduseld almost rivaled those of Gondor. But he could not lay here forever; he must be about getting word to Théodred.

He waited a few moments to make sure none guarded the room, then opened his eyes. Surprised to see it was already dark, he managed to fumble his way to where he remembered the commode was. He used the chamber pot, then poured water into the washbowl and laved his face and neck. ‘The comforts of home,’ he thought wryly. ‘How good of them to put me in my old rooms!’ He chuckled, then sobered and sighed.

‘Well, what do I do now? How do I get word to Théodred? Nay, they said they would bring him here and they will. But how will they protect themselves? I will surely tell him I have been absconded, put in the dungeon, and now am locked in this room?’ A chill ran down his spine. ‘Of course. I will be drugged again. I dare not eat or drink anything, though I know not how long I can keep up this charade of being insensible.’ At that moment, he ran for the bed. ‘Footsteps. Two, perhaps three people.’ He pulled the coverlet to his chin and closed his eyes just as the door was unlocked.

A moment passed then he heard a gentle laugh. “You think I am fool enough not to see you’ve used the washbasin? You should have thrown the water out of the window.”

He opened his eyes. “I thought it only polite to keep quiet as you seemed so intent on keeping me quiet. And hidden.”

“Yes. I do so hope you were pleasantly surprised to see me again?

“I think pleasantly is a little far stretched.”

Hathawyn’s face took on a look of pure hatred. “You think you can undo, by your mere presence, all we have planned? You’re as stupid as Théoden - and his cur of a son.”

Boromir flung the covers back in fury and stood. “Speak not of the King of the Mark in such terms!” he bellowed. He was backhanded immediately and fell onto the floor. Cursing himself for not seeing the guard, he pulled himself slowly to his feet. Another blow and he landed back onto the bed.

His head was held in a vice-like grip, his nose was pinched closed, and his mouth was flooded with a foul-tasting drink. He knew he could not prevent the drug from being swallowed, but he would rather die in the fire pits of Mordor than give her the satisfaction of seeing him take it meekly.

Almost immediately, his body began to shake. “Hoy! What have you given me?”

“It’s a bit more than you had the last time. Or would you prefer that I cut you open again and fill the wound with the swill from our pigs?”

How he hated this woman! The door closed and the key turned. Tears filled his eyes at the realization – ‘She is going to kill me this time.’ There was no doubt in his mind. Shivering from the effects of whatever he had swallowed, he pulled himself into a tight ball, trying desperately to combat the fear that filled him.

It only grew as his body shook from a cold such as he had only felt once before, the time she had tried to murder him on their way to Minas Tirith. His heart began to race. ‘They must have given me something very potent to cause such sudden infirmity.’ Fear raced through his belly, ‘but then again,’ he thought belatedly, ‘it could be the draught.’

The room began to spin; he tried to bury his head in the bed cushion, but his head began to ache fiercely; even the touch of the pillow made it throb. He cried out in anguish, but none heard, he was sure of that. ‘Voices! Someone comes to save me.’ He opened his eyes and looked hopefully towards the door, but no one entered. He heard Gondor’s trumpets in the distance. “Father,” he called out weakly. A bird flew about the ceiling, black and harshly crying. He swallowed hard. ‘Mind wandering already. It is potent. I wonder they give enough time for Théodred to come.’

Oh but he was weary. He closed his eyes and wished it would all go away, that he was in his own bed in Minas Tirith, that he had never had the wretched dream that brought him to this place – this place that had once been as a home to him, but now was to become his doom. ‘Doom,’ he thought groggily, ‘Did not the dream mention doom?’

~*~

A/N – 1) In my own perverse thoughts, I have always felt that the family of the Steward of Gondor and the family of the King of the Mark were sociable. That they saw each other from time to time and that the children, perhaps, even spent summers at each others’ homes now and again. After all, Edoras was only a gentle two-week ride from Minas Tirith. 2) coverlet – circa 1250; 3) commode – 1600’s; toilet 1500’s; washbowl – 1500’s…4) lave – 900; wash – 900; 5) insensible – 1300’s; unconscious – 1700’s; senseless – 1500’s; 5) undergarments – 1500’s; underclothes – 1800’s; 6) arsenic (a substance that was readily available to Grima and his cohorts) poisoning - Symptoms of arsenic poisoning begin with headaches, confusion and drowsiness. See this link for other symptoms leading to death and also some ‘home’ remedies. http://www.chelationtherapyonline.com/articles/p110.htm


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4.
Boromir tried to open his eyes, struggling against the pain in his head, and wishing that someone would close the hangings on the windows. The light was too bright! He felt a hand under his neck and a gentle pull towards sitting. Forcing his eyes open, he gasped to see Théodred on the bed next to him, holding his head up. His friend’s face was filled with grief; tears fell upon his cheek. He wanted to tell Théodred about the potion, but when he felt a cup lifted to his lips, and tasted the familiar smell of the poison, he tried to recoil, but his body would not obey him.

Théodred, he knew, felt the struggle, but did naught but sigh. “Boromir, take this. It will make easier the pain. The leeches do everything they can to help you, but you must help them. Please, my friend, drink it for me.”

He blinked as she came into view, behind Théodred. “What Théodred tells you is truth, Boromir. Take it, it is to help you.”

His stomach roiled. She was using Théodred to kill him. And then, perhaps at some later time, she would tell Rohan’s prince that he had been the unwitting tool in Boromir’s death. It was too heinous to comprehend, but understand, he did. He writhed, as much as his body would let him, hoping Théodred would stop, but nay, his friend thought he was helping.

A tear slid from Boromir’s eye at the treachery of it as Théodred forced another mouthful into him. “Boromir, do not die. Hold strong until we can find a way to help you. Hold strong.”

He closed his eyes, hoping that Théodred would think he slept and leave the potion aside, but his friend believed the lies and continued to pour more of the liquid down Boromir’s throat. At last, his body rebelled and spewed some of the concoction back out. Théodred only wept further.

“Boromir. We will stop for now, but I will return and we will try again. You must drink this.” He leaned forward and kissed Boromir’s forehead, then sadly left the room.

A low laugh pulled his eyes open. “Delicious, isn’t it? That you will die at your friend’s hand. It will be soon now; I would not draw your agony out too long, but it must be long enough for Théodred to think it is natural.”

Boromir had not even the strength to reply. He closed his eyes.

“That is well. Submit to your fate, Boromir. I promise, we will send your body home with full honors.”

His eyes flew open. How he hated this woman! Once before she had tried to kill him, had almost been successful, and now, she would finally have her will. What could make her hate him so?

“It’s not you, Boromir, if that’s what you think. You cannot go to Imladris. Don’t be surprised. We know much. More than that wizard would believe of us. Soon, oh soon, Boromir,” and her voice took on a tone of wonder and breathlessness, “Soon we shall have all Edoras and beyond. My master will be lord of all the lands of Middle-earth, mark my words. You needn’t fear. Your father will die with a sword in his hand. Plans are already made for the battle. He will be weak, for he will have lost both his sons.”

She laughed again and he swallowed in grief. ‘Do they have such power?’

“Now. Try to sleep a little. I will send Théodred in again, perhaps in an hour or two. You have not much longer to suffer. Another day or two perhaps. Tonight, the potion will be potent. You will probably not wake.”

He shivered and tears fell. He was going to die… ignobly.

~*~

He could not remember why he had awoken. It was still day; the light from the windows still burned his eyes, but it was lessened. ‘It must be near to the daymeal. How can I tell Théodred what he is doing?’ He groped at the covers and found his hand moved. In fact, his head hurt less. Carefully, he tried to raise it and was delighted that he had the strength to hold it up. Not knowing why he felt stronger, but giving it only a fleeting thought, he moved his legs. ‘Praise the Valar – they move!’ He swung his legs over the side of the bed and tried to sit. After three attempts and vomiting profusely after the first and second try, he managed it. He was sitting. Forcing his eyes open from the slits they had been, he looked around the room. There was no one about. He wore bedclothes and saw naught of his own clothes, nor his sword, but he could move.

Biting his lip, he tried to stand. His knees collapsed as pain shot through his head. He sat on the floor for only a moment, then crawled forward. There was a door here, hidden, that he had used numerous times to sneak out into the night with Théodred and Faramir. ‘Where is it?’ His mind was still addled and fuzzy. He shook it and cursed silently for being a fool. He held still until the pain lessened, then moved forward again. Near to the fireplace. Yes, he remembered now. Next to the fireplace. He reached it after an interminable length of time, fear causing sweat to pour down his face as he imagined her coming through the door and finding him. He could not fail now.

At last, he nudged up against it. ‘I cannot leave any markings of my progress.’ He looked about him. Nothing seemed disturbed; his escape would be a mystery. ‘Let her try to solve this,’ he thought with glee. The hidden door opened and Boromir fell inside, banging his head on the wall. ‘Oh! If only the stars will go away.’

He waited for another few moments, then made sure the door was closed behind him. Slowly, he pulled himself into a crouch, knees held to his chest as his stomach betrayed him. He waited till the vomiting passed, then wiped what he could off his legs, and crawled forward. ‘How far does this go? Where does it let out?’ He could not remember.

After but a moment, he realized, ‘They will bring dogs, once they find I am gone. I must go back and disguise my path in some way.’ He groaned at the thought, and fear threatened to overtake him again, but he fought it and made his way back to the door.

Listening for a moment, he heard naught. Opening it, he looked about. No one! Where was the commode? Thankfully, it was still light out. He crawled to the basin and pulled out the square of soap. It was all he had to use; he could only hope it would hide his scent.

He went back towards the bed, scraping the bar along the floor, then headed back to the door the way he had come. There was naught to show for the soap; it left no residue, but would hide his scent from the dogs. At least, he hoped it would. He crawled again back into the hidden tunnel and waited until his breathing slowed and his head stopped its infernal throbbing.

When he could think again, he wondered if there was a latch or something to keep the door closed. He felt around, wishing he had a torch but knowing it would give him away. ‘Ah. One small piece of good fortune.’ There was a latch. He set it and turned, crawling down the tunnel as memories of happier times filled him. Faramir’s scent seemed to hang in the air, but Boromir knew that could not be. Yet, he felt his brother at his side. He would go on. They must plan to kill Faramir too. His breath caught at the realization of what he had heard and failed to understand. They would kill Faramir and leave his father alone in grief to battle the Enemy. He bent his head and sobbed.

After the grief was harnessed, he pulled himself together and moved forward. The tunnel was slowly going down. If he was not careful, the slope of it would cause him to tumble forward and he must do naught to cause any noise to escape. How he wished he could remember where this tunnel let out, but he could not. ‘Oh! The stables. The royal stables. I can find a horse and ride away.’

He choked at the hysterical laughter that tried to well up and burst from him. ‘Just take one of the royal horses, perhaps a Mearh even, and ride out through the gates as easy as can be.’ He had to stop. Fear gripped him so tightly that his mind was beginning to give way. ‘I will be strong. I will survive. And I will kill that woman.’ He felt instant relief at the thought of his hands around her neck.

Another moment, a few deep breaths, and Boromir continued on. The tunnel took a turn and Boromir wondered which way he should go. If only his mind were not so addled, he would remember. He sat again, pondering, when he heard a noise. His face went white, his skin grew cold. It was not behind him. It was before him. They had found him!

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Additional chapters in this tale may be found at Stories of Arda - this way!