Boromir threw himself down on the flet with a weary sigh. What a day it had been! Had it really only been this morning that Gandalf had fallen? He felt bone-tired, both physically and emotionally; a rest where he could actually sleep would be so welcome! He had not slept well in Moria for some reason; the darkness had bothered him, perhaps, or the emptiness...or perhaps the constant whispering that had plagued him since...since...he cut off the thought abruptly. No, it was nothing more than the emptiness in my ears, he thought. Nothing more than that.
The wooden floor was hard, but not uncomfortable; he was used to sleeping on hard surfaces, though he had never before slept in a tree. A breeze was blowing steadily, but it was not cold; he would be comfortable enough without his cloak. He had left his cloak in Moria, in Balin's tomb, where he had removed it just before the fight. He had not thought of it again, though there would have been time to retrieve it if he had remembered. No matter, a cloak was a cloak, nothing more than clothing; he still had with him the things that mattered: his sword and shield, his dagger, and the Horn of Gondor. He fell asleep thinking of familiar things, and he was comforted in the midst of strangeness.
The morning was still young and cold when the Company set out again, guided by Haldir and his brother Rumil. They returned to the path that went along the west bank of the Silverlode, and followed it for some distance southward. There were prints of orc feet in the earth. Soon Haldir turned aside into the trees and halted on the bank of the river. He gave a call like the low whistle of a bird, and an Elf appeared out of a thicket of trees on the opposite bank; his hair glinted like gold in the morning sun. Haldir hefted a coil of grey rope in his hand, then cast it out over the stream, and the Elf caught it and bound the end about a tree near the bank.
"The Silverlode is already a strong stream here," said Haldir, "and it runs both swift and deep; and it is very cold. We do not set foot in it so far north, unless we must. But in these days of watchfulness we do not make bridges. This is how we cross!"
He made his end of the rope fast about another tree, then proceeded to attach two more ropes in like manner, one shoulder-high, and another half-high; holding these ropes, the Company would be able to cross with care. Haldir and Legolas led the way and the rest followed, some cautiously and slowly, others more easily.
Boromir waited until the others had crossed before he set foot on the slender bridge. He tested the spring of the rope gingerly with his foot; it had sagged a bit when Aragorn had crossed, and even more under Gimli's weight.
"Do not fear," said one of the Elves who waited with him; "the rope will bear your weight."
"I am not afraid!" replied Boromir shortly. "It will not break, of that I am certain; but will it bear me up out of the cold river? I am no lightweight, and my gear is heavy."
He settled his shield more firmly on his back, then turned and walked quickly across, holding on with only one hand. Though the rope sagged down almost to the water at midpoint, he did not hesitate or look down.
When at length the Company and the Elves who went with them were gathered on the east bank, the ropes were untied. Two were coiled and stowed away and the third was drawn back and taken away by an Elf who was remaining with the guard.
"You have now entered the Naith of Lorien, the land that lies like a spear-head between the arms of Silverlode and Anduin the Great," said Haldir. "Few indeed are permitted to set foot here. So little faith and trust do we find now in the world beyond Lothlorien, unless maybe in Rivendell, that we would rather remain here alone, an island amid many perils, than to risk danger to our land by allowing strangers to enter."
As I expected, Boromir thought. These Elves have been cut off from the rest of the world too long; they will not dare to help us. Why should they? They care nothing for our trouble.
"Yet you are to walk free," went on Haldir, with a bow and a smile for each one of them. "Yes, even the Dwarf! Word has just been given me; a message from the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim: the Lady knows who and what is each member of your Company, and you are to be welcomed."
It was a journey of two days through the forests of Lorien to reach the Elvish city of Caras Galadhon. The Company filed along the paths in the wood, led by Haldir and his brother, while other Elves walked behind in a long line. Though it was midwinter, the leaves on the trees had not changed color, and the moss that covered the path and the hills under the trees was green and soft. Boromir walked in the midst of the group; he turned often to look at Frodo, who was walking as if in a dream, head down, barely noticing his surroundings.
Frodo must have been very close to Gandalf, Boromir thought sadly. It will take him time to get over the loss. As it will for all of us! For my part, I was not so close to him, but his death is still a blow, and a sorrow. He was someone familiar at least, in all this land of strange and new things! Do not carry the weight of the dead, I said to him...I fear I must heed my own advice.
The path eventually led up a steep hill, and then along a ridge from which the whole valley could be seen. They stood on the edge, looking out over the land of Lorien that stretched out before them.
"Caras Galadhon!" said Haldir reverently; "the heart of Elvendom on earth, realm of the Lord Celeborn and of Galadriel, Lady of Light!"
Before them they saw a great hill of many mighty trees that dominated the landscape; it was still some distance away, yet because of the immense size of the trees, it looked close enough to reach by simply stepping off the edge of the ridge. The trees glowed in the golden light of the setting sun. Beyond the hill eastward, the land ran down to the pale gleam of Anduin, the Great River. Boromir's heart leapt at the sight, for it was the same river that flowed past Gondor and his City of Minas Tirith.
Soon, my people! Boromir sighed as they turned aside and began to descend into the valley. I shall return to you soon!
As they descended into the valley, the sun began to sink behind the mountains, and the shadows deepened in the woods, so that their path took them into thickets where deep dusk had already gathered. When they had come out into the open again, they saw above them a pale evening sky dusted with a few early stars. Before them lay a wide treeless space, beyond which was a deep fosse, lost in soft shadow; the grass on the brink of the moat still glowed green with the memory of the sun that had gone. Upon the further side rose a green earthen wall of great height that encircled a high hill thronged with mallorn-trees, taller than any they had yet seen. Their height could not be guessed, but they stood up in the twilight like living towers.
"Welcome to Caras Galadhon!" said Haldir as he turned to the Company. "Here is the city of the Galadhrim. But we cannot enter here, for the gates do not look northward. We must go round to the southern side, and the way is not short, for the city is great."
He led them along a road paved with white stone that ran along the outer brink of the moat. As they walked, Boromir gazed at the city that climbed up on his left like a green cloud; as the evening deepened, he saw lights springing up above him until all the hill seemed on fire with stars.
What kind of city is this? he wondered in dismay. I see no stone here, no walls to speak of, no towers! Rivendell was strange to me, with its houses built around trees and open to the air, but at least there they had proper foundations of rock and stone. What kind of people are these Elves, that live in the trees like birds? What kind of aid can they offer my people?
They came at last to a white bridge and the great gates of the city. The gates faced southwest, set between the ends of the encircling wall, and they were tall and strong, and hung with many lamps. Haldir knocked and spoke, and the gates opened soundlessly; of guards they could see no sign. The travellers passed within and the gates shut behind them with a faint clatter. Boromir felt a thrill of apprehension at the sound of the gate closing behind him.
They passed through a deep lane between the ends of the wall and entered the City of the Trees. There was the sound of many voices about them and in the air above, and far away up on the hill they could hear the sound of singing falling from on high like soft rain upon the leaves. They went along many paths and climbed many stairs, until they came to the high places and saw before them a fountain shimmering in the middle of a wide lawn. The fountain was lit by silver lamps that swung from the boughs of trees, and the water fell into a basin of silver, from which a white stream spilled.
The Company looked up in awe as they saw beyond the fountain many great trees, with smooth boles that gleamed like grey silk, towering up, up until branches far above opened their huge limbs under shadowy clouds of leaves. Upon the south side of the lawn there stood the mightiest of all the trees. A broad stairway lay among the great roots at its base; by the stairway stood three mail-clad Elves. They sprang up as the travellers approached, and one of the Elf-wardens blew a clear note on a small horn, which was answered three times from far above.
"We are expected," said Haldir to the Company. "I will go first. It is a long climb for those not accustomed to such stairs, but you may rest upon the way."
As they climbed slowly up they passed many flets in other trees: some on one side, some on another and some set about the boles of the trees so that the stairs passed through them. Elves stood here and there on these flets and on balconies that overlooked the stair on which the Companions were climbing, and others passed them on the stairway as they ascended. Boromir soon lost count of the steps as they wound their way round and round the great tree trunk.
Darkness descended upon them as they passed on up, and night was about them before they had gone even halfway. In the arched roof of the stairway, and among the branches and the ever-moving leaves of the trees, countless lights and lamps were gleaming, blue and gold and silver.
Boromir came last in line, stepping slowly and carefully, looking about him as he climbed. His wounded hand ached, and he realized he was gripping the strap of his shield tightly; he made a conscious effort to loosen his grip. It was all so very unfamiliar and unsettling for him to be in this strange place! He felt unsafe, so he took refuge in his old habit of keeping watch, guarding his back. Foolish and overcautious, perhaps; but it brought him a little comfort.
Haldir led them at last onto a tiered flet within a vaulted chamber near the top of the mallorn tree. Before them was a flight of stairs, flanked by hanging basins and lamps set in tall stands; at the top of the stairs, two tall guards stood at attention. Boromir looked around carefully. Behind them, the flet circled around a wide opening; looking down, Boromir saw that they were at a great height above the ground. He shaded his eyes against the glare of the lights in the trees and look back along their path. You must relax! he chided himself. What do you fear here?
A slight sound from Haldir alerted Boromir, and he turned to see two Elves descending the stairs; there was no doubt in his mind that these two were the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim. Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord. The hair of the Lady was of deep gold, and the hair of the Lord was of silver; no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes. Their glance was keen, yet profound; after a moment, Boromir looked away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the others of the Company were standing quietly at attention. He felt uneasy, and shifted his weight on his feet, then stood still, waiting.
Celeborn courteously greeted each one of the Companions by name, but his look was grave.
"The enemy knows you have entered our land," he said. "What hope you had in secrecy is now gone." He paused. "Eight there are here, yet nine there were set out from Rivendell. Tell me, where is Gandalf? For I much desire to speak with him. I can no longer see him from afar."
The Lady Galadriel spoke for the first time. Her voice was low-pitched and she spoke quietly, but Boromir could hear every word clearly, as if she spoke close to his ear. "Gandalf the Grey did not pass the borders of this land. He has fallen into shadow."
Aragorn nodded sadly. "He remained in Moria and did not escape."
"He was taken by both shadow and flame -- a Balrog of Morgoth!" exclaimed Legolas, angrily. "For we went needlessly into the net of Moria."
"Alas!" said Celeborn; "We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. But had I known that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria again, I would have forbidden you to pass the northern borders, you and all that went with you!"
Even from where he stood, Boromir could hear Gimli's heavy sigh of sorrow.
"Needless were none of the deeds of Gandalf in life," said Galadriel. "Those that followed him knew not his mind and cannot report his full purpose. But however it may be with the guide, the followers are blameless. Do not repent of your welcome to the Dwarf. If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlorien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?"
She turned to look at Gimli and her gaze was kind. "Do not let the great emptiness of Khazad-dum fill your heart, Gimli son of Gloin. For the world has grown full of peril, and in all lands love is now mingled with grief."
There was silence. Boromir felt a pang of sorrow at the thought of his own grief: his father's need, his people's struggle, his separation from Faramir, his own desire for a weapon to end the war once and for all...
At length, Celeborn spoke again. "What now becomes of this Fellowship? Without Gandalf, hope is lost." He paused and his look was troubled. "I did not know that your plight was so evil; let Gimli forget my harsh words. I will do what I can to aid you, each according to his wish and need, but especially that one of the little folk who bears the burden."
"Your quest is known to us," said Galadriel, looking at Frodo. "But we will not here speak of it more openly. Do not fear, for even now there is hope left. I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be. But this I will say to you: your Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while all the company is true."
And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. Boromir felt her eyes upon him and he looked up; her gaze was stern and piercing. He blinked in surprise, but could not turn away. He suddenly felt trapped, pinned down. Words came into his mind and he listened, fear growing in his heart as she spoke inside his head. He swallowed hard and tried to concentrate, to understand what it was she was telling him and showing him. He frowned, and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. No...this cannot be...
Boromir shuddered and drew in a sharp breath, but he could not hold back the gasping sob that welled up from deep inside him. He bowed his head; with an effort he stilled his ragged breathing. When he looked up again, she was still gazing at him, but her look was not as sharp. What did he see there? Pity? Why pity?
As Galadriel turned her glance away, Boromir sighed and felt suddenly weary, as if he had been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly. But words had been spoken, and he had heard them, and he was dismayed.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled," said Galadriel at last, smiling softly. "Go now, and rest, for you are weary with sorrow and much toil. Tonight you will sleep in peace."
"Even if your Quest did not concern us closely," added Celeborn, "you should have refuge in this City, until you were healed and refreshed. Now you shall rest, and we will not speak of your further road for a while."
The Elves spread for them a pavilion among the trees near the fountain at the foot of the great tree, and in it they laid soft couches for the weary travellers, and brought them food and drink to refresh themselves. As they ate, they talked quietly amongst themselves of their night before in the treetops and of their day's journey and of the Lord and Lady.
Boromir ate with the others, but he was silent and did not share in the conversation. He kept a tight rein on his thoughts, for fear there would be someone else looking; for fear his face would reveal his anxiety, reveal what he had heard and seen.
I must be alone for awhile, Boromir thought desperately. He set down his plate and walked away from the pavilion. Finding a bench on the edge of the hill that overlooked a tree-filled hollow, he sat with his back to the pavilion. Boromir stared out into the trees below, but he saw nothing. Tears brimmed in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks, but he was not aware of them. At last, he covered his face with his hands and gave himself up to despair.