The Captivity of Boromir

by Varda

Sequel to The Ring will Come to Gondor

1; The Tetrach of Rhun

Boromir did not know how long that journey lasted. It could have been two days, it could have been twenty. All he knew was darkness; the gloom of a covered cart and a blindfold so tight it cut into his skin. And always, there was pain….

Towards the end of the journey he woke up more often, and began to be aware of his surroundings. He felt the air had grown colder, much colder, dry and bitter as the deepest winter in Gondor. He realised they must have come a long way North. The rattling, rocking boards of the wagon he was in conveyed to his aching wounds every bump and hollow of the ground they traversed and he sensed that grassy plains had given way to barren land strewn with rocks and marshy lakes. The light changed to a slanting sun, and it struck up as well as down, from blinding snow under the wagon. The wheels crackled as they broke the ice in great pools…

At first, being unconscious, Boromir felt little pain. But as the journey progressed, the wound in his hip began to ache fiercely. Someone had treated it, for pawing weakly at it he could feel it was covered with a poultice. After a time, though, the wound grew hot and he fell into a fever. The rest of the journey slipped by in a restless dream…

In all this time, Boromir thought little of where he was going or who his captors were. His thoughts dwelt only on his father, Denethor and on his brother Faramir. And he dreamed endlessly of his city, Minas Tirith. Although in the depths of a fever, he walked her steep, winding streets and looked forth from her shining walls. He heard the silver trumpets ringing at dawn from the White Tower, and smelt the bay trees that grew in the narrow stone courtyards below the Citadel. He felt again on his face the warm southern sun of Gondor. Although he had relinquished Minas Tirith, although he had bade her farewell in order that she might be saved by another, still Boromir’s heart turned towards her, and he knew he would in some sense never leave her. Of those who had taken him and what they would do to him, Boromir knew little and cared not at all. All he knew was he could not return to Minas Tirith, and for that grief there was no consolation…..

When he was lucid enough to think, Boromir thought also of the Fellowship of Gondor, and of Eowyn. Etched into his memory like the silver line on a fine steel blade, was her face when he had parted from her at the White Bridge. Then her tears of sorrow had been mingled with tears of anger.
‘You would have fought at my side, Eowyn of Rohan….’ He thought in his dream. ‘..had you been allowed to do so…’

But Boromir knew, however much he had wanted to keep Eowyn with him, that he could not have borne the sight of her slain or captured.
‘Better that you escape, Eowyn the fair. Your death would have been the death of me too…’

At last Boromir awoke to find his fever gone, and gone too the rocking, bumping movement of the wagon. He was lying on solid ground, however hard, and still in darkness. But this was not the darkness of a blindfold; raising his hand to his face he felt his eyes were not longer bound. He was in a building of some kind and his senses were assailed by smells of beaten earth, dried mud and willow lathes dark with the smoke of peat fires. His heart leaped in his chest; he had reached his destination, and this was the dwelling of his captors.

He went to sit up, but found he was tied; his hands were bound behind his back, and when he tried to move, a searing pain in his hip made him sink back, gasping, the darkness suddenly illuminated by stars of pain. He lay still, gathering his wits.

He could hear sounds outside; a horse whinnying some distance away, people talking in a strange language, women arguing. The wind keened bleakly and the door of the hut rattled in the breeze; there was the scrape and clatter of a cooking pot on stones.
‘I must brave the pain and get out of here…’ he thought as he tried again to sit up. Just as he did so, the wooden plank covered with bullhide that served as a door was flung back, admitting an icy blast of wind and a blinding glimpse of white snow. Boromir closed his eyes at once and lay still.

From the momentary outline in the doorway, Boromir knew the newcomer was a woman. He just about made out a long, light-coloured tunic belted with a shawl of dark red or purple, and a small round close-fitting hat of fur or wool worn against the cold. He saw too long black hair bound loosely with strips of red velvet. It was material cut from his own tunic, as he would later discover….

Boromir pretended to be asleep, keeping his eyes closed. The woman moved over to where he lay and knelt down at his side. She leaned over and with piece of bark she fanned to life a few cinders that glowed on stones in the centre of the hut. A tendril of smoke wafted up to the hole in the roof. Boromir risked a glance through almost-closed lids and saw the woman’s face in the dim red light of the fire.

The Prince of Gondor felt a shock run through him; on the woman’s forehead, between her eyes, was an arrow-head tattoo. The same as on the veiled face of the warrior who had vanquished him…..the woman picked up a wooden bowl and looked straight at him.
‘I know you are only pretending to be asleep; sit up and take this soup….’

Boromir felt annoyed; he did not realise he was such a poor dissembler. But he still lay with eyes closed as if asleep. The woman sighed.

‘I know you are awake. I don’t blame you for shamming, but you are a long way from your people and it won't do you any good. Open your eyes and take something to eat, or you will die….’

The woman spoke a language that Boromir could understand, but it was not the Common Speech. It was an old dialect of Numenor. It was shocking to hear it from the lips of an enemy, but many of their ancient foes still spoke a tongue they had learned from the men of Numenor whom they had fought all those ages ago….even in this uncertain and dangerous situation Boromir saw the irony of his city gifting to its enemies only an ancient language…

Still not receiving a reply, the woman gave a sigh and pulled back the blanket that protected Boromir from the cold, and lifted the poultice from his wound….

Boromir gave a yell of pain, and sat up. The woman smiled wryly and offered him the bowl.
‘Your fever is better, but you must eat or you will die anyway…’

Boromir stared at her for some time, then said;
‘You are the warrior who vanquished me’
The woman stared back at him, her face registering neither satisfaction nor surprise. Boromir smiled.
‘I must commend your mastery of arms…’
At these words a trace of a smile crept onto her weatherbeaten face and she replied;
‘Among our people, war is not a game, Lord of Gondor. Here, it is our life….’

Boromir nodded, and glanced around the hut. There were implements of cooking and housekeeping; pots were lined up against the walls and animal skins in various stages of curing were piled on the floor. But pride of place in the dwelling went to the shields hung on the beams and the spears slotted in long racks. Swords were hung on the roof tree and the light of the small fire played on armour stacked, neatly folded and oiled, close to the door. This was a warrior people.

‘We of Gondor are also a nation devoted to war….’ said Boromir. ‘..for many ages we have had to defend our lands…’
‘Perhaps…’ interrupted the woman ‘…you might have had to fight less if you had talked more. Not all your enemies were born so, but made so by your pride and arrogance…’

Boromir raised his eyebrows. There were spots of angry colour on the woman’s cheeks. Boromir suddenly remembered what his brother Faramir had once said to him;
‘We study war too much, Boromir! Lore is being forgotten, or lost altogether. Our library only gathers dust, yet in it lies all the knowledge of Numenor that is still given to us. We are drunk on war….’
Boromir remembered that he had laughed at his brother.
‘Faramir, little brother, you read too much. Prowess in arms, and a strong arm to strike and defend, that is what Gondor needs…’
To Boromir’s surprise Faramir, who rarely lost his temper, went pale with anger. He stepped up to Boromir and said;
‘Not by arms will Gondor prevail, Boromir. And if skill in arms is all we have left of our Numenorean heritage, then we do not deserve to prevail….’

‘Enough of this….’ said the woman, abruptly breaking into Boromir’s thoughts.
‘You must eat…’
Boromir looked straight at her and asked;
‘What do you care if I live or die? I am your enemy…’
The woman smiled grimly.
‘You misunderstand, Lord of Gondor. I defeated you and by that I won you. You are my prize. I did not keep you alive all these days of hard travel only to see you die of hunger….’
Boromir nodded, the truth of the situation dawning on him. The woman went on;
‘If you do not eat, I will get two men to hold you while I will pour the broth down your throat. Is that what you want?’

Boromir looked at the woman, a slight smile playing on his face.
‘I think you underestimate how hard that might prove. But if I am no good to you dead, I am no good to Gondor either, and for that reason and no other, I will take the food…..’

The woman nodded, looking relieved.
‘…on one condition…’
He face fell. Boromir smiled.
‘You have the advantage of me; you know who I am, but I do not know who you are; what is your name?’

The woman hesitated for a moment, then replied;
‘Taise’ Boromir raised his eyebrows.
‘I know your language, for it was once spoken in Gondor..’ he said. ‘..and your name means Ghost….’

The woman smiled, and there was sadness in her face.
‘I was given that name for my skill in war. I can strike with such speed and skill, it is like something from another world….’

Some time later the door of the hut was flung back and Taise and Boromir emerged into the bright late winter sunshine.

Boromir shielded his eyes against the light and looked around; on all sides were the great round black huts of the Easterlings, a city of black domes set on the bleak, windy shores of the frozen lake of Rhun. On the horizon, blunt peaks rose against the sharp blue sky, and the ice of the lake, still unbroken even in March, sent up a blinding reflection of the sun.

Limping, Boromir walked beside Taise through the huts, looking about him all the time. This was a permanent camp, or as close to permanent as these nomads permitted. But beyond the edge of the city of hides and wattle stretched another great camp of black tents, rows of them interspersed with long picket lines where small, tough Northern ponies were tethered. There were platforms on which were set shields and racks of lances and javelins. With a thrill of horror, Boromir realised that this was the camp of an army of invasion assembled to attack Gondor.

His steps faltered and he stopped. A curious crowd was beginning to gather to look at him, Easterlings clad in warm felt coats and round hats, and some warriors in lamellar armour of shining gilt leaves. An angry murmur rose from the crowd.
‘Keep walking!’ hissed Taise at his side.
Boromir continued forward, but just at that moment a stone flew through the air and hit him on the cheekbone.

Boromir clapped a hand to his face to staunch the blood and stifled a cry of anger and pain. He looked around, quite prepared despite his wounds to teach the stone-thrower some manners. But the woman tugged at his sleeve.
‘I beg you, do not be provoked….’
‘What was that you said about me being no good dead?’ replied Boromir. ‘perhaps you should tell your friends…’
‘They are not my friends….’ she snapped. ‘they hate Gondor, and they are jealous that I took such a prize…they want to kill you before you are brought before the Tetrach….’

The woman never slackened her pace, and Boromir at last began to understand; she had not slept all the way to Rhun, but had kept watch over him. Not just to keep him alive, but to guard him from her own people.
‘You must expect a very big reward for all this….’ Boromir said bitterly.
‘For a lord of Gondor?’ she said incredulously. ‘I can name my own price…’

Another stone whistled through the air, but this time Boromir ducked. A tall, broadshouldered warrior clad in rusty armour stood blocking his path, but Boromir shoved him roughly aside . Then suddenly they walked round a hut and stopped at the gate of a palisade that stood in the middle of the city of huts. Over the walls Boromir could just see the domed roof of a great wooden building. A gilded emblem of a dragon adorned the spire and banners fluttered from long poles before the gates. As Boromir and Taise approached, two guards clad in gilded mail and long red cloaks stepped forward to block their path. At this stage a large, angry crowd were following them, shouting and waving sticks and weapons. Taise said to the guards in a loud, clear voice;
‘I beg to be admitted to the presence of the Tetrarch of Rhun! I bring him a treasure beyond all imagining; the Prince of Gondor, Boromir!’

These words, shouted over the din of the crowd, were answered by a roar of fury and the mass of people surged forward. The guards seized Taise and Boromir and pushed them inside the palisade and turned their lances on the people. Other soldiers came running over to block the gates. The air was full of stones and other missiles. A warrior in a round brass helmet adorned with wings of gilded metal put a mailed hand on Boromir’s shoulder and pushed him forward into the fort. Then the guards swung the gates closed and the noise died down.

In an eerie silence Boromir and the woman walked across the empty space before the great wooden hall. Looking up, Boromir thought it resembled what he had been told of Edoras, the Golden Hall of Meduseld, seat of the Kings of Rohan. It was smaller, however, and adorned with decoration more primitive and crude. Other warriors clad in black and wearing masks stood guard at the door, but raised their lances and permitted the two to pass, only their black, almond-shaped eyes following Boromir as he limped up the wooden steps and entered the dark of the great, shadowy, wooden hall…

For some moments, Boromir could not see. But as his eyes became accustomed to the gloom after the blinding snow, he made out soaring roof beams carved with scenes depicting hunts and battles, and warriors afoot or mounted on the small, tough Northern ponies, mail-clad warriors with spiked helmets bearing bows and swords and vanquishing knights who seemed to represent the warriors of Gondor….

Drawing a deep breath and fighting down his anger, Boromir stepped forward into the great hall of the Tetrarch of Rhun. His feet crackled on rushes cast on the earthen floor, and on top of them spring flowers, just coming into bloom in the Northern marshes and put down to sweeten the air of the dark, dank hall. A fire burned on a raised stone hearth in the middle of the hall and its smoke rose to a round hole in the roof, which admitted the only natural light that fell into the building.

Guards lined the great room, and as Taise walked slightly ahead of him, Boromir looked forward and saw a raised dais at the end of the hall on which stood a tall wooden chair, something like a throne. Banners of war were set on spears behind it, bearing the sign of the Dragon of the Tetrarch, and the emblems of his subject clans. The bright colours, red and gold and green and black, contrasted with the gloom of the hall. Slumped on the wooden throne, watching Boromir with his one glittering eye and fingering a staff with a head of walrus ivory carved in the likeness of a skull, was the Tetrarch of Rhun. In front of Boromir, Taise bowed low.

‘My lord Tetrarch!’ she cried in a loud voice. ‘I bring you Boromir of Gondor, won in battle with the leave of your own generals. I offer him to you at a price!’

This Tetrarch had enjoyed his throne for less than three months; he had risen to power after the sudden and unexpected death of the previous Tetrarch, who had opposed an alliance with Sauron. This Tetrarch, called by his people Airgead because of his fine armour and mail of silver, had proved more amenable to Sauron’s overtures. Now he studied Boromir and Taise as he sat motionless, one hand on his ivory staff, the other rubbing his chin in thought. Over his black and silver armour he wore a thick black bearskin against the cold. A silver chain hung from his neck on which was an amulet in the shape of a great red Eye….His face was thin, little more than bones, with a yellow hue. One eye was blind and covered with a black scarf and the other was fixed on Boromir. Suddenly, he began to laugh, a harsh, mocking sound. Taise looked bemused and shot a glance at Boromir. At last the Tetrarch rose to his feet and descended the few steps to stand in front of them.

‘Boromir!’ he said, and his voice was surprisingly rich and deep. ‘At last! Now, some unfinished business that I have with your father Denethor can be completed….’

At these words the woman turned and stared at the Tetrarch. Even Boromir looked lost.
‘You knew my father?’ he blurted out. The Tetrarch sighed and turned away.

‘Did I know Denethor? Did I know your White City of Minas Tirith?’
Boromir was staring now. The Tetrarch turned; his smile had vanished.
‘I knew every stone of it, before your father banished me. I, too, am a prince of Gondor…..’ and at these words he stepped up to Boromir and took his arm in a grip of iron.

‘I was punished wrongfully by your father Denethor the Steward. Now, I will avenge myself on his son….’