Letters from Faramir

by Agape4Rivendell

XVII: 
The River as described by Peregrin Took

Strider is letting the river take us along. We have not put our paddles in the water, except only to straighten our boats and keep them in the middle of the river. It is now the fourth day. The trees have thinned to nothing and the land seems somehow fearful – a trouble seems to lie upon it. A trouble is upon my heart too, for danger seems to be all around us. No one speaks. There is no laughter, no song. Everyone seems busy with their own thoughts.

My heart has fallen. I can feel my stomach churning. Merry feels it too. The moment of peace for Boromir seems to have fled. He sits in the boat and mutters to himself. I’ve heard pieces of what he says. ‘What kind of a king is this? But he has the sword and Elrond’s trust. Indecisive! What kind of a Dunedain? Same blood as mine... Destined to remain a Steward always. Does it now end? Can he do it? Is he the one? Many others have claimed it before, but now, with the sword... Same blood runs in my veins. No, I’ve seen his bravery. Strong. Why can’t he decide? Folly. Folly to go to Mordor. Folly to throw it away. It is a gift. Must go to Minas Tirith. Why can’t he see this? Must force Frodo to go to Minas Tirith. It is the only way. Must use it.’ This has been going on for days, and all the while he is biting his nails. Never have I seen him do such a thing. The way he stares at Frodo, it gives me chills. His eyes shine – I don’t know how to describe them. There is a madness in them or an evil. Merry is so ill at ease that he makes me sit by Boromir, but I am frightened. I know he won't hurt me...nothing could be further from my mind. But I am frightened for him.

Strider now decides we must travel by night and this decision almost costs us our lives. The river is running smooth and strong when suddenly, towards midnight, Sam, who is in the front boat as watchman, yells. Strider curses and says we are upon the rapids of Sarn Gebir. He has misjudged the swiftness of the river and he has brought us to our doom. Boromir yells in distress to Strider that it is madness to dare the rapids by day or night. Strider yells to us to paddle with all our might. The current has carried us close to the eastern shore despite our paddling. If it had been just Merry and me, we would be grounded on the other side, but Boromir fights the river as he fought the Wargs. His mouth is slightly open and I can hear him over the rapids, his breath coming quick and sharp. He yells something and I look back and see a smile on his face. This is a battle he can win. There is no fear in his face now. Almost a joy seems to fill him. Suddenly, I hear arrows. One almost hits Merry’s hand. I think I might have yelled out myself. We keep paddling until I think I will faint, but finally, we reach the safety of the western shore. I hear Boromir take great gulps of air and again I know our lives have been spared by this man’s courage and strength.

Legolas jumps from his boat, stands on the shore and watches the sky. His bow is ready, an arrow in its place. A chill goes through me as I look towards the sky. The Orcs on the eastern shore are screaming in delight. Something horribly evil is flying overhead. I feel as I did in Moria when the Balrog first appeared. Legolas aims and shoots into the sky and a huge bird cries out and falls. But it can’t be a bird; it is even bigger than an eagle. Its death scream is horrible and brings howls of anger from the Orcs on the eastern shore.

Strider says we will spend the night here and look for a path around the rapids tomorrow. Once again we find ourselves arguing. Well, Strider and Boromir are arguing about what we are going to do next. Boromir wants to abandon the river and head west and then south to Minas Tirith. Strider doesn’t want to leave the river yet. Boromir wants to know how we are going to get down the falls and Strider reminds him of the ‘North Stair’ whatever that is. I didn’t know Strider has been this way before. Finally, Boromir says that the men of Minas Tirith don’t desert their friends at need and that we will need his strength for the next part of our journey. He says he will go no further after we reach Rauros but will turn towards his home. My heart breaks, Faramir, for he says, ‘alone, if my help has not earned the reward of any companionship.’ How can I not go with him? And how can I not go with Frodo?

The morning dawns cold and sad, or maybe it is just my heart that is sad. Strider says we must find the path to carry our boats past the rapids. He says he and Legolas will go search for the path. If they don’t return in one day, we are to pick another leader and decide which way to go. He and Legolas leave us. They are only gone three hours and look, they return, smiling. They have found the portage way and we start making trips back and forth to the path, carrying our supplies. Boromir and Strider carry the boats, one at a time, to the path. Three times they make the trip. The sweat pours off of Boromir, but there is a smile upon his face. He attacks this as if it were a battle too. All the baggage and the boats are now on the path and it is time to move on. It takes two trips to get everything past the rapids. We could not have done this without Boromir and Strider. Gimli for all his sputtering about his strength is too short to help with the boats and is left to carry baggage. He’s not very happy about this. I’m so very tired. All of us are so very tired. When we finally stop for the night, Boromir comes over by me. This is the first time he has sought me out since we left Lothlorien. Seven nights I had sat in misery, watching. Strider seems not to have noticed the change in Boromir. He still has not decided where we are going once we reach the falls and the uncertainty is killing Boromir. Boromir looks at me strangely and asks me if I have heard anything in the wind. Anything. Perhaps singing. Perhaps a gentle voice. My skin crawls. What is he saying? He walks away shaking his head.

Strider and Boromir take the first watch, and tired as I am, I lie close by to listen. Boromir is strongly urging Strider to take the company to Minas Tirith. He speaks to him of the beauty of the city and his concern over its fate. He tells him of a place called Osgiliath and how the Orcs have destroyed the half of the city that is on the eastern bank of the river. The anguish in his voice, Faramir, as he tells Strider that he had just taken back the western half before he left on this mission. He tells Strider of the beauty of Osgiliath and that now the buildings are destroyed, the libraries, the observatory, the halls for singing and tales – all destroyed by the Orcs. His voice cracks as he tells Strider that he cannot bear to think of the same happening to Minas Tirith. He tells Strider of a great city hewn out of rock from a huge, snow-covered mountain. Of flowerbeds on windowsills and long, clean streets. Of a city seven stories high, bright and gleaming in the sun. He tells him how the women no longer wear beads in their hair, mourning the never-ending war. Of the widows left from the battles of too many generations. How he must stop this carnage. How he must save the city. He tells Strider that he believes he is the rightful king and begs him to come to Minas Tirith. He cannot save the city alone, he says. He stands and starts to pace and his arms fling wildly as he tells him of the rock-strewn streets of Osgiliath. Of the bravery of the soldiers of Gondor. He says he is only a soldier himself and does not have the words to tell all that must be told, that must be said to sway Strider to come with him. To come save his city. He says it is Strider’s city too. Strider has tears in his eyes and tries to calm him, but nothing will calm Boromir. He punches one hand into the other to ease his tension. The air crackles with the fire in his heart and his voice. I am shaking and cannot sleep. But exhaustion finally wins out or Boromir has perhaps finally come to the end of his strength and ceases his talk and I fall asleep.

It is morning and we are once again on the river. It is day eight and I’m tired and want to sleep for a hundred years. We’re in the midst of a very strong current now. The sides of the river have hemmed us in and we are being rushed along. I don’t think I could stop or turn the boat if I wanted to, the current is so swift. Further ahead to either side lie some sort of structure. Could it be mountains? No, it is some great hand-hewn structure – one on each side of the river. Huge in the figure of men. One on each side, holding its left arm outstretched – to tell us to stop? I am afraid of them and hide my head. I see that even Boromir bows his head to these statues. Strider yells to keep to the center of the river and away from each other. We finally are through this needle. We come out upon a beautiful, peaceful lake – silent and still. The current is still strong, but not too strong and we let it carry us as we put up our paddles for luncheon. I have forgotten second breakfasts and elevenses and supper these past months and the thought makes me sad. How many other Hobbit things have I forgotten? I have changed. I don’t know for ill or no. I do not laugh as I used to and songs come less frequently to my lips. In fact, we all, we Hobbits, seem to have changed. Along with Boromir. We are going to pull our boats up to a docking area on the west side of the river and spend the night. I am ready.