The Dragon and the Fox

by Varda

Chapter 28: The Fall of Gondor

‘Boromir!’ repeated Marfach in astonishment. The son of the Steward of Gondor! Could anything prevent the fall of the city, now that the heir to the Stewardship was dead? Marfach remembered what Haldir said of Boromir;
‘He has done great good and great evil…’

Haldir himself was looking down at the Elven ship rising and falling against the stone quay. The sails had been unfurled, and the ship was ready to leave. Marfach knew they did not have much time. He turned to Boromir. He could not bring himself to believe the man was dead; although his face was pale and bloodless, he had a burning fire in his grey eyes and seemed to want to speak to Marfach, but was under some spell or ban and could not….in the end, Marfach spoke to him, with great feeling;

‘No-one is beyond forgiveness, Boromir.. I too have done great wrong, but I have been granted another chance…’
Boromir nodded and smiled, although there were tears in his eyes. He glanced at Haldir as if looking for permission, but the tall Elf lord watched them without speaking. Boromir said;
‘You Elves yearn always for Valinor; there your hearts lie. But my heart lies here, with those I must leave behind.’ He looked anxiously at Marfach and asked;
‘Do you understand, my lord?’
Marfach understood him only too well, and thought of Líofa and Callanach. Then Boromir said;
‘I cannot ask you any favour, you have already given me a great gift…but if you can aid my father in anything…..or protect my brother, Faramir..’
‘Faramir!’ said Marfach, remembering their meeting in Ithilien. But before he could speak of it Haldir beckoned to Boromir, with a stern look that allowed no delay. Marfach replied hurriedly;
‘If chance brings me to them, I promise I will…’

Boromir gave him a look of relief and gratitude before hurrying down to join Haldir on the stone landing place where the Elven ship was about to depart. Once only, as he was about to board, Boromir looked back, then he and Haldir were lost to view as grey-clad Elves raised the white sails and pulled on the silken ropes and the ship was borne rapidly out to onto the darkening sea.

Marfach was alone and knew not what to do. The twilight was deepening and the cold bit into him and he made his way down to the shore once again. The ship was no longer to be seen and as Marfach trod the path along the dunes he saw a figure clad in a long black cloak standing on the sand, looking out to sea, not moving. He hesitated; he felt unwilling to approach the figure, but was drawn to it...

It was a small, slight figure, like a child. The hood was pulled up, and as Marfach drew closer he saw, with a strange cold feeling in his stomach, that the cloak wrapped round it was of ragged black silk, old and faded. He stopped, and at that moment the hood was pushed back and the figure looked at him. He stepped back quickly...

It was a young man, with fair hair cut short and piercing grey eyes. He was bone-thin and had a scar which half-closed his left eye, giving him a strange wild look. Under the cloak he wore black armour, old and dented, but emblazoned on the cuirass was the tree and stars of Gondor. Yet he was not a warrior of Gondor….

‘Your friends are gone where you cannot follow! You will never see Valinor. Grieve, for you are lost now indeed…’

Marfach felt angry.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded. At that the boy laughed even louder and throwing back the torn black cloak he seized the hilt of a long black sword and drew it.
‘I?’ he said ‘I am the servant of Sauron…’
Marfach recoiled, backing away from the sharp point of the sword.
‘Why then do you wear the armour of Gondor?’ he asked. The boy laughed again.
‘Because I slew the owner! As I will slay you…’ The boy’s laughter stopped and he stared at Marfach with hatred in his eyes.
‘I am the Vengance of Sauron, and I will never let you go…’

And with that the young warrior rushed at Marfach who, unarmed and unable to flee, put out a hand to ward off the sword stroke. The blade bit into his wrist and he cried out in pain and stumbled to his knees..

‘Marfach! Marfach! Stop struggling! Stay still! If your wound starts bleeding again you will die, not even an Elf can lose so much blood….’

Marfach opened his eyes. He was aware of searing pain in his right wrist, and someone holding him in a grip like iron to keep him still. He ceased thrashing about and lay back exhausted and soaked with sweat.. Salanda let go his grasp on Marfach’s arms and looked at him with relief.
‘At last, you are awake! I thought you would die without ever coming to your senses again…..’

Marfach looked about him. He was lying by a small fire lit in the mouth of a cave under chalk cliffs. It was dark, the stars wheeling towards dawn, and he sensed more than heard the Anduin not far away. They were alone, although he could see the faint outline of two horses tethered beyond the circle of firelight. He tried to sit up but Salanda pushed him back.
‘No, you will open your wound again, I told you!’ he berated the Elf.

But Marfach wanted to know where he was. Where had the seashore gone, the seabirds, the boy in black…. Seeing his perplexed look Salanda said;
‘You don’t remember, do you?’

When Síota was prevented from killing Marfach, Salanda had rushed over and dragged the dead Haradrim champion off him. The Elf was unconscious and bleeding to death…
‘Help me!’ Salanda appealed to An Seacal ‘You are the judge, Marfach won fairly. Don’t let him die…’

An Seacal hesitated then ordered his men to aid Marfach. The Haradrim always carried fire with them in an iron basket and they brought a blade, heated it to red hot and cauterised his wound and bound it up. The smell of scorched flesh made Salanda turn away, but Marfach remained unconscious throughout it all...

A debate then arose as to what to do with him. Those who were going back to Harad did not want to take him with them, in case he brought bad luck, and Síota did not want to take him to Mordor..
‘Leave him here, he is as good as dead anyway!’ he said, furious that such a large part of his force had decided to turn for home on account of Marfach’s words. An Seacal shrugged; he had done his part. Salanda spoke up then;
‘I will look after him, only leave us our horses, that we can outrun the Rangers if they attack us….’

Síota then prepared to lead the Haradrim army on to Mordor, but those clans that were returning to Harad camped for the night in Ithilien. As Síota’s forces departed a black-cloaked figure strode across to where Salanda kept watch on Marfach. The Haradrim looked apprehensively at him; he was a small, thin, undersized young warrior, but he wore black armour emblazoned with the arms of Gondor and bore a drawn sword. Salanda stood up and said to An Seacal,
‘What is this?’

The Jackal watched the warrior approach with a look of distaste then spat and said to Salanda;
‘That is one of the Daltaí’

Salanda asked no more. Síota’s Haradrim were accustomed on their raids into Rohan and Gondor to take young captives, Daltaí, or fosterlings, who were then raised up as fighters even more pitiless than the Haradrim themselves. Síota had a number of these fierce young warriors which he used as his personal guard. Salanda could see this boy had been taken from the Rohan; he was fair-skinned and his yellow hair was cropped short; among the swarthy dark-eyed Haradrim he stood out like a dove among ravens. But he was no dove of peace. One eye was half-closed by a scar and when he was near to Salanda he cried out in a mocking voice;
‘Take good care of your master, Slave. This is not over….’ And he brandished his sword.

Salanda drew his own sword; the Daltaí were unpredictable and afraid of nothing. But the fair-haired warrior only laughed and turning walked back to where Síota sat on his horse. He scowled up at his master.
‘Why not let me kill him now?’ he asked.

Síota shook his head. Because of Marfach he had to enter Mordor with only part of his army, and Sauron does not easily give a second chance. But it did not matter; nothing now could prevent the fall of Gondor.

'We will destroy him when we destroy Gondor. We will destroy them all....'