One Hundred and Ten Days

by Linaewen

Chapter 13

Boromir awoke, in pain and very thirsty. His memory was hazy, but he remembered a fight...a fight with wolves, and a fall from the cliff. The sun was bright and hot on his face, and he wondered how long he had been unconscious. His wounds were stiff and he felt weak from loss of blood. He tried to stand, but his leg was swollen, and he was unable to bend it, or to put weight on it.

He dragged himself to the water's edge and drank deeply. He laboriously washed off the worst of the blood and grime, then did his best to clean his wounds. It was difficult; he was dizzy and had trouble focusing. He wondered if he had struck his head when he fell. He had many cuts and gashes, and two bad bites, one on the back of his leg above the boot top, and the other on his forearm, just below the elbow. The long teeth of the wolf had penetrated the chain mail, and the powerful jaws had crushed the metal into the wound and lacerated it even further.

The effort was too much for him. Spots swam before his eyes, and flashes of light and color seemed to burst inside his head. He crawled back away from the water and with difficulty managed to reach the lee of the ridge where there was some shade. He lay there in a heap, exhausted.

My sword, he thought. Where is it? I must go back for my sword...

Before he could finish the thought, darkness overtook him.

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Hot breath on his face brought him suddenly back to consciousness. Boromir struggled to sit up. Acting instinctively, he reached for his sword, certain he was being attacked again. As he groped unsuccessfully for his weapon, the world began to spin. He felt light-headed and ill. Boromir leaned forward with his head in his hands, too sick to move, or care about what was attacking him.

He felt another puff of warm, moist air in his ear, this time accompanied by a small whine of inquiry, and a cold nose on his cheek. He looked into the face of a small wire-haired dog. There was a friendly look in the dog's deep-set eyes. As he struggled to focus, Boromir heard footsteps approaching, and a pair of booted feet appeared beside the dog. He looked up, but the light was too bright, and he winced as a stab of pain sliced through his head like a knife.

"Easy, friend," said the man, as he knelt beside Boromir. "Easy now, you're sore wounded." Gentle hands gripped him and eased him back down on the ground.

"Who...who are you?" croaked Boromir.

"Don't worry now, I'm no enemy, 'specially not to a warrior feller like yourself," laughed the man. "I see you run afoul of some wolves, but you got the better of 'em!" As he talked, the man was exploring Boromir's wounds carefully.

"Name's Bran, by the way. Live near here at the fork of the rivers. Heard all the howlin' last night and I thought I'd have a look at what those grey devils was up to. Sometimes 'tis worth my while to pay attention. Every now n' then, their prey gets away from 'em, and if it's too tired to run from me, then I can catch me some supper without extra fuss...if you know what I mean."

Boromir felt slightly dazed as he listened to the man's chatter, but his voice was pleasant to hear, after being so long alone; he was comforted by his words and his friendly manner. He lay quietly as Bran cupped his hands around Boromir's eyes, looking intently into them as he first held his hands there, then removed them. Bran made a clicking noise with his tongue that seemed to indicate he wasn't altogether happy with what he saw.

"Looks like you've taken a hurt to the head, young feller. Feelin' dizzy, are ye? Seein' stars, so to speak?"

Boromir nodded without thinking, and regretted it.

"Yes," he replied weakly. "I fell from the ridge in the struggle."

"Well, it ain't too bad, it'll be right soon enough, if you stop waggin' your head about, but the leg is bad, and I don't like the look of that arm of yours. Between tooth and mail, it's chewed up your arm somethin' fierce. By the way, that's fair chain ye got there, son, that'll stand ye in good stead from a sword blow...but it ain't much good against the big wolves' teeth, is it? Wonder how it'd hold up to them black goblin arrows, now? Chain ain't so good at keepin' out arrows sometimes."

Boromir flexed his arm and winced at the pain. This was his sword arm...if it did not heal properly...

Bran seemed to know what he was thinking.

"Now don't you worry, son. We'll get you fixed up in no time. Like I said, my place ain't too far from here, and my lady's good with takin' care of sick folk, and them that are hurt. 'Fraid you'll have to do your best to walk there on your own two feet, though. I don't think I'd be quite up to carryin' a big feller like you, no matter how close my place is!"

Boromir tried to thank him, but he waved it away.

"You just lie here a bit now, while I scout up a crutch for you, and fetch your sword."

Bran spoke a word of command to the dog, then strode off down the riverbank, picking his way around the bodies of the dead wolves. The dog stayed by Boromir's side, sitting quietly alert. Boromir tried to follow Bran's progress by watching him through slitted eyes; he found that he was able to focus a little better if he squinted, but it gave him a headache. Bran was soon returning, a staff of wood in one hand. He scooped up Boromir's sword as he passed and brought it to him.

"Now then, son, let's get you up and out o' here. The air's none too good with all this carrion layin' about, and yer beginnin' to look a bit feverish to me."

Boromir set his jaw and clenched his teeth against the pain, as Bran helped him to his feet. Bran got under his arm and supported him so that he could put as little weight as possible on his bad leg. The staff he had brought him was stout and would hold his weight as he leaned on it, but it was going to be a long and difficult walk.