Lords of Gondor
Dawn touched the grey sky and turned it red as the sun rose above the
eastern horizon. The brightening of the sky was greeted with the sound
of many hunting horns and the singing of men and the neighing of
war-horses. The light of the new day glinted upon spear and shield as
the Riders of Rohan sprang forward to do battle with the Orcs they had
surrounded in the night.
Two small hobbits watched from their hiding place under the dark eaves
of a vast forest of great, grey trees. The singing of the Men stirred
their hearts, and they watched the battle eagerly for a moment; but the
sight of an Orc loosing his arrows at a tall warrior who had been
unhorsed in the attack caused Pippin to turn away suddenly. It reminded
him too much of Boromir and his last battle, and he could not yet bear
to think of that, so soon after being parted from his friend and
protector. The memory of the dying Boromir, helpless on his knees in
the dirt, was still a raw wound in Pippin's heart.
"We must get under cover," said Pippin, his voice gruff with pain. "We don't want to be seen."
"Yes," agreed Merry fervently. "Look! There's Ugluk! It looks like he
might escape, even now. He's coming this way! I don't want to meet him
The hobbits quickly turned and without a backwards glance, disappeared into the trees.
The light of dawn was just beginning to brighten the mist which
blanketed the eastern shore of Nen Hithoel, when Legolas awakened
Boromir from a sound sleep.
"I promised to wake you," he said, as Boromir sat up with a groan.
"Dawn approaches, and I go now, down the Stair to meet your people, if
they are to be found. I have stoked the fire and laid out some food for
you, for I do not know how long I shall be away."
Boromir nodded his thanks. He stretched cautiously, and drew in a long
experimental breath, noting with pleasure that his breathing seemed to
come easier with each passing day.
"Tell me once more what you know of this Stair," suggested Legolas,
"that I might know what to expect, and waste no time in my seeking."
"The path to the Stair should be easily found," said Boromir after a
moment's thought. "It runs half a mile, perhaps, through the trees and
along the bluff until the cliff wall is reached. The Stair begins
there, at the edge of the cliff over which Rauros falls. It was made to
be a portage-way for those traveling the Anduin, and thus it is
well-built and passeable; but it is long and winding, with many a sharp
twist and turn, for it cannot go so steeply that Men with boats cannot
traverse it! It has been some time since any of my people have made use
of this pathway, and I do not know its current condition. At the very
least it will be wet and treacherous from the spray of the Falls, so
have a care!"
The Elf smiled encouragingly.
"Be easy, Boromir; I shall go with care."
"Ah, yes!" grinned Boromir ruefully. "I forget your Elven
sure-footedness! Very well, then. You may well be gone some time; that
will depend upon how far you must descend before you meet any
travelers. I shall wait for you here, as patiently as possible -- since
there is little else I can do!"
"I will return as soon as I may," said Legolas, "with your friends, or
with news of them. But first, you spoke of a token you wished to give
me, to identify myself to your men as coming on your behalf?"
"I did," replied Boromir, reaching carefully into his tunic. He drew
forth a small object and held it out to Legolas on the palm of his
hand. It was a signet ring, crafted of heavy silver and set with a
blood red gemstone; engraved upon the face of the gem were Elvish
letters surmounted by three stars. Legolas lifted the ring from
Boromir's palm and examined it closely.
"'Arundur'," he read aloud. "That means 'King's Servant' -- this, then, is the device of the Stewards?"
"Yes," said Boromir. "This is a copy of the signet borne by my father
as Steward of Gondor; I bear this as his heir, for I have authority to
act in his stead in many matters. I have used it but once on this
journey -- when I stood before Elrond upon my arrival in Rivendell. I
presented it to him as proof that I had come on a grave errand from
Boromir smiled thoughtfully at a sudden memory. "Yet as it turned out,
such proof was not truly needed, for Gandalf was there, and stood ready
to vouch for me as one known to him."
Legolas placed the ring carefully in a pouch at his belt, and bowed slightly to Boromir.
"I am honored by your trust in giving me this token," he said solemnly. "I shall see that it is safely returned to you."
"That seal will establish you as having been sent by me, and those whom
you meet should trust you," said Boromir, but his voice held a small
note of doubt. "That is my hope, at least; that you will be trusted
readily, with this sign of having been with me. Alas! that the days are
so evil! We of Gondor have fallen into mistrust since we began to lose
hope; many are now held in suspicion whom once we might have held to be
Boromir frowned, and his eyes were troubled.
"I understand," replied Legolas soothingly. "It is the same in the
Green Wood in these dark days. But be at ease; I do not fear your
people. Their concern will be for you, and once it is known I can bring
you together, I have no doubt they will accept me as a friend."
Boromir responded with a nod; reaching up, he grasped Legolas' hand briefly.
"Go safely then, and bring to me my people."
With a wave of his hand, Legolas departed. He passed swiftly along the
shore until he came to a path which opened onto the shingle, just
opposite the lonely isle of Tol Brandir. The mouth of the path was
marked by a worn statue, now almost featureless with age and the
effects of weather. He turned onto the path and followed it through the
The path was relatively clear of undergrowth, and wide enough to pass
single-file with ease, even carrying a boat or any other gear requiring
portage to the foot of the Falls. Even here among the trees and hills,
the pounding thunder of Rauros filled his ears as Legolas drew ever
nearer to the sheer cliff over which Anduin fell.
He came soon to the head of the Stairs, and saw immediately that he
would indeed have to go carefully, even with his sure-footed tread. The
Stair was steep and forbidding, cut into the stone of the rock face;
the steps were broad enough to allow the passage of Men carrying boats,
and deep enough to provide stability when descending, if one went
carefully. Nevertheless, the way was treacherous; the Stair was slick
with water and visibility was poor, for cold mist and spray from the
Falls hung in the air like a fine rain which never ceased.
Legolas did not hesitate. Plunging forward, he began his descent.
Grithnir and his party set out from Gethron's camp as soon as dawn's
light had touched the sky in the East. It was two leagues to the Stair,
following a path that hugged the banks of the Anduin; by the time they
reached the foaming pool at the bottom of the Falls, the morning was
bright and clear. The spray from the Falls obscured the path at times,
but there was breeze enough here on the plain that the mists were blown
up and away, so they could see the way ahead. Yet they could not avoid
the spray that rained down upon them, and they were thoroughly drenched
before ever they arrived at the foot of the North Stair.
They passed the shelving shore upon Anduin where the portage-way ended,
far enough downriver from Rauros that boats could again enter the
River, avoiding the worst of the foaming rapids. The path turned
sharply away from the River at this point and approached the cliff
face. The area below the first steps was wide and paved with
flagstones. A shelter of shaped stone stood at the far side of the
terrace; here they left their horses in the care of Dirhavel, and
mounted the stairs.
Each step was broad and evenly spaced and roughened to afford more
traction, but while the cliff face provided protection and a handhold
on one side as they ascended, the outside was open -- no railing
protected them from a fall, nor was there any way to shield themselves
from the soaking rain of the Falls. They hugged the inside of the
stairs and stepped carefully, to avoid slipping on the stone, which was
slick and treacherous despite the traction of the roughened steps.
The Stair twisted and turned, and wherever it bent sharply in a
switchback to ascend to a greater height, there was a landing, wide
enough to set down a small boat for a rest. They had stopped at one
such landing to catch their breath, when Henderch appeared out of the
mist before them, and held up a cautionary hand; he had gone ahead to
be certain the way was clear, for he had the best sight and hearing of
the party and would quickly be alerted if any one else descended to
meet them upon the Stair.
"Have you anything to report?" asked Grithnir, drawing close to
Henderch and speaking in his ear so that he might be heard over the
thunder of the Falls.
"Yes," replied Henderch. "It was a glimpse only, but I believe I saw
someone descending from far above. I can tell you little more, for the
twisting of the path makes it difficult to see ahead, and mist clouds
the stairs above, so that little is clearly visible. I think we should
proceed cautiously; if someone does approach, he could be upon us with
little warning. We might not even hear his approach -- what little
sound I hear over the roaring of the water carries strangely, and is
deadened by the mist."
"How many?" queried Grithnir, peering upwards through the mist in an attempt to see what lay ahead. "And were they Orcs?"
"No, not an Orc, and I believe he was alone. I can say no more with certainty."
"Very well," Grithnir replied.
He gazed at the upwards path before him as he pondered his decision.
"We will proceed with all due caution," he said at last. "There is
little point in waiting here; we may as well meet our enemy on our own
terms, if indeed it be an enemy. At any rate, there is little to fear
from one, be he Man or Orc, but combat here on this open landing is to
be avoided. I shall go first; follow behind me as you will, and have
your weapons ready to hand."
Grithnir led the way forward, his hand resting lightly on the hilt of
his sword as he climbed; Henderch was at his elbow. Arthad came up close
behind and unslung his bow, though he did not yet nock an arrow to the
string. Linhir loosened the knife in his belt and grasped more firmly
the stout staff he carried to aid his climb.
They went forward cautiously, but had climbed only as far as the next
landing when they heard floating down from above the sound of a clear
voice, calling out to them.
"Men of Gondor!" cried the voice.
They halted as one and waited, for the cry seemed to have come from
close by. When no one appeared, Grithnir stepped forward and went up a
few steps towards the next level.
"Who are you?" he demanded in a loud voice. "Show yourself! Are you friend or foe?"
A figure materialized suddenly from out of the mist -- a tall Elf, very
fair of face, clad in green and brown. He carried a bow and a quiver of
arrows, and long knives in his belt, but his hands were held out palm
upwards in a gesture of peace, and the expression on his face was
"I am Legolas, son of Thranduil of Mirkwood," answered the Elf calmly. "I come in peace, and as a friend to Gondor."
Grithnir made a slight gesture with his head, and the men behind him
removed their hands from their weapons, though they remained alert and
ready to act, should Grithnir give the word.
"You are far from home, Legolas, son of Thranduil," replied Grithnir
cautiously. "What is the purpose of your journey here? Do you seek
passage into our land?"
"Nay, that is not my purpose as yet," answered Legolas. "Rather, I am
come to find you, Men of Gondor -- though you have not acknowledged it,
I deem by your speech and by the device of the White Tree which adorns
your clothing, that you are indeed come from that land. For you, I
bring tidings which you will be glad to hear."
Grithnir felt a sudden lightening of his spirit, as he realized what
that news might be, but he schooled his face carefully to show no
emotion until he was more certain of this stranger.
"Tidings that we will be glad to hear? There is only one such item of
news, and if you can bring us any word of that matter, than we shall
indeed be glad. Tell us your news!"
Legolas dipped his fingers into his belt and held forth Boromir's token.
"I bring you word of Boromir of Gondor; he has been my companion these
past months, on a great quest that began in Rivendell. He bids you come
to him, for he has need of you. I stand ready to guide you to him."
Grithnir extended a trembling hand and took the signet ring from Legolas.
"So he lives!" he breathed softly, but Legolas heard him and answered with a nod.
"Yes, he lives, but he is sorely wounded, by arrow and by sword. There
was battle upon Amon Hen and he bore the brunt of it. Did you know of
"We were sent by the lord Denethor, who had word that our Captain might
be found here, having possibly met with danger," answered Grithnir. "We
came as quickly as we could, but I hardly expected to find him alive!"
"How grievous are his wounds?" questioned Linhir, stepping forward. "Has he received any treatment?"
"His wounds are severe, but I believe him to be out of danger," Legolas
said confidently, his smile coveying a quiet joy that was apparent to
all. "One was with us who knows much of healing. He did what he could
for Boromir, but he could not tarry here; some others of our companions
were taken captive by the enemy who fought with Boromir, and he follows
after, to rescue them. I remained behind to give what care I could,
until someone else came to our aid. I saw your approach from the height
of Amon Hen; hoping you were come to seek him in the wilderness, I told
Boromir I would meet you and guide you to his side."
Grithnir made to hand back the ring to Legolas, but the Elf held up his hand to stop him.
"Return it to him yourself," he suggested, and there was a look of
compassion in his eyes. "I believe it would mean much for him to
receive it back from your hand."
"Thank you," replied Grithnir simply, as he tucked the ring safely
away. He held out his hand and Legolas grasped it in token of
"I am Grithnir," he said by way of introduction. "I am lieutenant and
aide to the lord Boromir, and in command of his chosen men while he is
Linhir, too, held out his large hand in a friendly fashion.
"I am Linhir, master healer to the soldiers of Gondor."
"Linhir?" said Legolas with a smile. "Yes, Boromir spoke of you and
your skill: 'a healer whose hands are gentle, but his manner is
otherwise, especially with me.'"
Linhir gave a loud guffaw and grinned, while the other men smiled and nodded knowingly to one another.
"Captain Boromir needs a stern hand when he is hurt," laughed Linhir.
"A more difficult patient I have yet to encounter! You have left him
alone to come in search of us? Then let us go to him quickly; no doubt
he is doing something foolish, beyond his strength, while we leave him
"Yes," replied Legolas with the flash of a smile. "That is indeed possible."
"Then, come, friend Elf," said Linhir. "Show us to our lord. We are eager to see him again."
Grateful acknowledgements go to
Professor Tolkien, from whom I have borrowed elements of the vivid
description of the Riders' dawn attack on the Orcs, found in TTT
chapter "The Uruk-hai."