The Son of Gondor

by Linaewen

Chapter 40

The empty, rocky folds of Dimrill Dale lay bright about the Company as they stumbled out and away from the dark archway of the Gates under the mountain's shadow. Grief at their loss overcame them; some wept, cast upon the ground, while others stood silent, or walked aimlessly. Boromir's throat was tight and tears pricked in his eyes, but he gritted his teeth and held them back; he did not like to be seen weeping. He gripped Gimli tightly; in his grief and anger, the Dwarf was determined to return to the Mines to wreak vengeance upon the enemy.

"Gimli!" Boromir cried, raising his voice to be heard above the Dwarf's cursing. "Gimli, listen to me! It will do no good, not now! Do not throw your life away on such a fruitless pursuit! It will not bring him back!"

"No," growled Gimli, relenting suddenly, leaning back into Boromir's embrace with a sigh. "No, but it would make me feel better!"

He sat suddenly, and put his head in his hands. Boromir laid his hand on Gimli's shoulder, and the two warriors stood thus for a moment; their loss was too keen and their hearts too angry for tears.

"Legolas!"

Boromir looked up at Aragorn's shout.

"Get them up!"

Legolas, after a moment's hesitation, started towards Pippin and Merry, who sat with their arms about one another; Sam sat alone nearby, weeping silently. Boromir's sorrow and frustration boiled up, and he turned suddenly towards Aragorn.

"Give them a moment, for pity's sake!" he cried, his voice thick with unshed tears.

Aragorn's face hardened.

"By nightfall these hills will be swarming with orcs!" he said, sheathing his sword with an emphatic gesture. "We must reach the valley and the protection of the woods before then, and the sun sinks early!"

Boromir was dismayed at the sharpness of Aragorn's tone. A few moments only! he thought angrily. What is the harm? Then he paused. He recognized now that sharp note in Aragorn's voice: it was the tone of command of a captain who is forced to move on in spite of loss and defeat. He had given that order many times himself, with the same note of sharpness, that hid the underlying pain. Boromir found it strange and surprisingly unpleasant to have his role thus reversed: Aragorn was the captain now, not Boromir, for all his years of experience.

"Come, Boromir!" Aragorn said again. "Legolas...Gimli! Get them up!"

Boromir blinked uncertainly as he met Aragorn's gaze, then bowed his head and turned away. Behind him he heard faintly Aragorn speaking to Sam, and then calling out to Frodo, who had wandered some distance away.

Let it be! he chided himself. It is a poor leader of men who cannot take orders himself. I must set an example for the others; the important thing now is to hold together.

He turned to Gimli and touched him gently.

"Come, Gimli," he said. "There will be time for grief later; now we must press on."

As he straightened, Boromir looked out across the valley. He could see Frodo in the distance; he looked dejected and alone, and very, very small.

Poor Frodo! thought Boromir. I fear he will take this loss very hard!

******************

The Company now took the road away from the Gates. It was rough and broken, fading to a winding track amid cracked stones. An eastward bend in the road led them hard by a green sward and a deep blue mere, still and unruffled. Near the roadside stood a single column broken at the top.

"That is Durin's Stone!" cried Gimli. "And this is Mirrormere, that we call Kheled-zaram! I cannot pass without turning aside for a moment to look at its wonders!"

"Be swift then!" said Aragorn, looking back towards the Gates. "The orcs may not come out until after dusk, but we must be far away before nightfall. The moon is almost spent, and it will be dark tonight."

"Come with me, Frodo!" called Gimli as he sprang from the road. Frodo followed slowly, as if in pain, and Sam went with him. Boromir noticed as he passed that Sam had a deep gash on his forehead, caked with dirt and dried blood.

Gimli and the hobbits returned, looking thoughtful, and they pressed on. They went quickly, sometimes jogging, sometimes running as fast as they could run, spread out, with Aragorn in front and Boromir behind. Boromir turned frequently to see if anything followed, but there was nothing to be seen, not yet. But he knew they followed. Once, he thought he heard an echo on the wind that could have been a hoarse shout; then a distant drumming as of many feet marching. Though it was still daylight, the orcs were coming after them.

They came to a river that flowed quickly over a shallow, rocky bed. They ran across and paused on the other side, looking about them. They were still high up, and could see out across the valley; in the distance they could see a vast stretch of forest that seemed to glow with a golden light.

Boromir approached Aragorn and spoke in his ear.

"We are being followed," he said in a low voice. "They are still some ways back, but they will come swiftly, in spite of the sunlight. Do you know the road we will take? Is it much further?"

"Not much further," said Aragorn. "We should come there by early evening. We cannot stop yet, though we need a rest. This place is too much in the open."

Aragorn turned to the others.

"Our road leads beside this stream for some miles now. I shall take you by the road that Gandalf chose; we will soon come to the woods where the Silverlode flows into the Great River -- out yonder." They looked as he pointed, and before them they could see the stream leaping down to the trough of the valley, and then running on and away into the lower lands, until it was lost in a golden haze.

"There lie the woods of Lothlorien!" said Legolas. "That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land."

"It is still many miles to the borders of Lorien," said Aragorn. "Let us hasten!"

He sprang forward, and the others moved to follow. Boromir turned to Frodo, who sat wearily with his back against a large rock, Sam standing at his side. Frodo's eyes were closed and he looked very sad.

"Frodo," Boromir said gently, and extended his hand.

Frodo opened his eyes with a sigh, and smiled wanly. He reached up and took Boromir's hand and allowed himself to be pulled up.

"Come on, Sam," said the hobbit, hitching up his pack. "Let's get on with it."

***************

Aragorn led them at a great pace and they made good progress, but after a while, Boromir noticed that Merry and Pippin were missing from his side. Just as he turned back to look for them, he heard a cry from Merry.

"Boromir! Wait" Merry called out. "It's Frodo, he and Sam have fallen behind!"

Boromir looked back, and saw that Frodo and Sam had indeed lagged far behind; Merry and Pippin had fallen back to walk with them. He spoke to Aragorn, who ran back, calling Boromir to come with him.

"I am sorry, Frodo!" Aragorn cried, full of concern. "So much has happened this day and we have such need of haste, that I have forgotten that you were hurt by the troll's spear, and Sam is wounded, too. You should have spoken. We have done nothing to ease you as we ought, though all the orcs of Moria were after us. Come now! A little further on is a place where we can rest for a little, and I can see to your wounds." He turned to Boromir. "Come, Boromir! We will carry them."

Aragorn picked up Frodo, and Boromir carried Sam; soon afterwards they came to a place where another stream ran down from the west, and joined the one they followed. The water plunged over a fall into a dell surrounded by fir-trees, short and bent. They rested at the bottom of the fall were there was a level space through which the stream flowed noisily over shining pebbles.

While Gimli and the two younger hobbits kindled a fire and drew water for heating, Aragorn tended Sam and Frodo, while Boromir looked on. Sam's wound was not deep, but it looked ugly, and Aragorn's face was grave as he examined it. After a moment he looked up in relief.

"The cut is not poisoned as I feared, though the wounds of orc-blades often are. It should heal well. Bathe it when Gimli has heated the water." Aragorn opened his pouch and drew out some withered leaves. "These are dry, and some of their virtue is gone, but these are leaves of athelas that I gathered near Weathertop. We will crush some in the water to wash the wound clean. Now it is your turn, Frodo!"

"I am all right," said Frodo reluctantly. "I only need some food and a little rest."

"No!" said Aragorn. "We must have a look and see what the hammer and the anvil have done to you. I still marvel that you are alive at all!" Gently he stripped off Frodo's jacket and unbuttoned his shirt, and gave a gasp of wonder, which was echoed by Boromir. Underneath his shirt, Frodo was wearing a silver corslet of mail that shimmered and shone like the light on a rippling sea. Aragorn laughed and called out to the others. "Come look, my friends! If it were known that hobbits had such hides, all the hunters of Middle-earth would be riding to the Shire!"

"And all the arrows of all the hunters in the world would be in vain," said Gimli in amazement. "It is mithril! A coat of mithril, the finest I have ever seen! Was this the coat Gandalf spoke of? Then he undervalued it!" Gimli smiled and shook his head. "You are full of surprises, Master Baggins!"

The others turned back to their tasks. As Aragorn carefully removed Frodo's shirt and lifted the mithril coat up over the hobbit's head, the light caught the Ring on its chain with a flash and a sparkle. Dazzled for a moment, Boromir's gaze was caught and held; but after a moment, he turned away. It was strange; he had often thought of the Ring in recent days -- under the shadow of Caradhras and in the dark halls of Moria -- but now, for the moment at least, it held no wonder for him. His heart was still too heavy with the memory of Gandalf's loss.

Losssssst.....whispered the voice that plagued him in the darkness.

Gandalf is lost to us, Boromir thought sadly. Now who will decide our road? Who will help us fulfill the Quest?

Help usssss.....hissed the whispering voice.

Boromir slowly turned his head back to look at Frodo, unconsciously taking a step forward. Suddenly, a pungent fragrance filled the dell, and the whispering stopped abruptly. Aragorn had thrown the athelas leaves into steaming water brought to him by Gimli, and was bathing Frodo's wound, where the rings of his mailshirt had been driven into the flesh by the cave troll's spear. The fragrance was refreshing. Boromir drew in a deep breath of it and breathed out again slowly. He felt strangely strengthened; all thoughts of the Ring were dispelled, and his heart felt lighter than it had for many days. When he looked again, the Ring was out of sight and Aragorn was binding a soft cloth over the sore spot.

"The mail is light," said Aragorn. "Put it on again, if you can bear it. I am glad to know that you have such protection. Do not lay it aside, even in sleep, unless fortune brings you where you can be safe for a while; and that will be seldom while the Quest lasts."

Frodo smiled tiredly and nodded. He looked more comfortable now and was breathing easier. Aragorn helped him put on his shirt and coat again, then moved away. Boromir put out his hand and helped Frodo to his feet. He laid a friendly hand on Frodo's shoulder.

"Come closer to the fire, Frodo," he said. "The meal is almost prepared. You will have a little more time to rest before we must move on."

Together they went to join the rest of the Company by the fire.