Lords of Gondor
Faramir sat alone in the Council Chambers, awaiting the coming of his
father. The morning light outside was bright and the day was
progressing, but inside the Hall, the gloom was still heavy. It did
nothing to lighten his dark mood.
He felt empty and weak, lost in a grey sea of sorrow; waves of grief
washed over him and he closed his eyes, resting his forehead wearily on
the smooth table before him. The coldness of the stone was comforting
somehow -- it matched the cold emptiness that seemed to be growing in
He heard a step behind him, but made no move to see who it was or
acknowledge his presence. He heard the sound of striking flint and the
flare of the wick in a lamp, and felt the warmth of light beside him
even as he heard the gentle scrape of the lamp being set upon the table.
Faramir lifted his head slowly and turned towards the man who had spoken. It was Dûrlin.
"Have you eaten, my lord?" Dûrlin inquired, his voice full of concern.
Faramir shook his head. "I was not hungry."
"I thought as much," answered Dûrlin with a frown. "It is well, then, that I have come prepared."
He stepped from the room, but returned almost immediately with a tray
laden with food and drink. Removing the dishes from the tray, he set
each one out on the table before Faramir; when all was arranged
according to his liking, he set the tray aside and poured the wine,
handing the cup to Faramir.
"It will not do to go forth to your new responsibilities weakened in
body as well as in spirit," Dûrlin said sternly. "In your sorrow,
do not neglect your physical needs. You are the man they will look to
now, and it is vital that you take better care."
Faramir stared at the wine in his cup, and swirled it thoughtfully before taking a long drink.
"You know, then?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, I know. There has been talk in the City, since the messenger
Halmir came and went. And have I not seen the fear and pain written on
the Steward's face these past days? Though he has said nothing to me, I
have known something was amiss -- and what else could it be but grave
news of Boromir? Just now I overheard your converse together... and I
saw Boromir's Horn, split asunder..."
Dûrlin ducked his head and looked away for a brief moment.
"Forgive me, my lord Faramir," he said contritely. "I did not mean to
intrude upon your privacy, but I come daily to his room to set things
in order, should Boromir by chance return... I made to leave, but
then... then I heard... Forgive me!"
"There is nothing to forgive, Dûrlin," replied Faramir quickly.
"It is better this way, for I am not ready yet to tell our people of
this grief -- yet I feel the need to have someone by my side who
understands the gravity of what has taken place. And you, being close
to Boromir, should know of this loss, before the others..."
"Thank you, lord. It is a grievous loss indeed -- and at this, our time
of greatest need! I do not know the whole tale, but I know enough to be
of service to you, for I understand well what this forebodes for you.
As did your brother! Before he left us, Boromir spoke to me, and urged
me to look after your needs. He knew your father would ask much of you
during his absence, and that you would give it, even if it were beyond
your own strength."
Sudden tears flowed down Faramir's face as he listened, but he sat quietly, his head bowed, and did not heed them.
"If Boromir were here now, I know what he would say to you," went on Dûrlin.
"And what is that?"
Dûrlin pushed forward a plate of food until it was under Faramir's listless hand.
"He would say, 'Eat, Faramir! A Captain of Men must keep up his
strength, no matter the burden weighing him down! What service is such
a man to Gondor if he falls on his face for lack of nourishment?'"
A smile broke through Faramir's tears.
"Yes, that is what he would say, indeed," he replied; reaching for a
loaf of bread, he tore off a piece. "What other words of wisdom do you
have for me, Dûrlin?"
"Only this. It does Boromir little honor if in our sorrow and grief we
lose sight of all he held dear -- the defense of this people, this
City. We cannot let ourselves give in to weakness and apathy, though
our grief threatens to undo us. Such neglect of ourselves will not
bring him back -- but it does honor to his memory to pursue with all
our strength those same goals he always strove to achieve. We can still
mourn him, but let us not allow our mourning to destroy what hope we
"Even in your grief, you see clearly, Dûrlin. I shall do my best to heed your advice."
He chewed thoughfully for a moment, his face troubled. When he spoke again, it was in a soft voice, as if to himself.
"Yet I would wish that it were as simple as taking meat at table to
keep up my strength. Boromir spoke of my father asking much of me -- it
has already begun. I know not what he has in mind as yet -- he is
coming soon to tell me, after taking thought of all the possibilities.
But whatever the task may be, I shall be doing the duty of two -- my
own, and that of Boromir. Yet we are not the same; I am not Boromir --
and there may come a time when my decisions will not be those of
Boromir. What will I do then, I wonder?"
Dûrlin hesitated, not knowing if it was his place to answer; but Faramir turned to him expectantly.
"Do not fear to answer me, Dûrlin," said Faramir kindly. "And do
not think it above your station to speak your mind if I ask it of you.
You were close to my brother, and you serve me and my father in these
days. You know us as well as anyone, and I value your thoughts on this
"I cannot say what you will do should that situation arise, my lord,"
answered Dûrlin slowly. "Only you can answer that, and only when
the time comes. But I do not think you should fear such a time. You are
a Captain of Men and confident in your own leadership; why should that
change now, though Boromir be gone? I am not a fighting man, and I know
little of such things personally -- but Boromir's mind and heart were
open to me, having served him these many years. I say to you, he knew
your worth and trusted you always -- do you likewise! Be yourself, and
not Boromir. Take on his duties, but make them your own, if you can,
and trust to your own wisdom, even as your brother did."
Faramir nodded gratefully, though he still looked doubtful.
"I see you are not convinced," said Dûrlin gently. "Perhaps...
perhaps you do not doubt yourself, so much as you doubt how you will
answer your father's need if it clashes with your own wisdom."
Faramir made to speak, but Dûrlin held up a hand and went on without pause.
"Forgive me for speaking frankly, my lord, but you gave me leave; and
what I say now, is only what Boromir might say to you if he were here
-- worry not overmuch for the future, for each day has enough care and
need of its own. When the time comes for such decisions, you shall know
what to do; you serve Gondor, and her people, and that will answer our
need -- and your father's as well. He will see it in the end."
Faramir searched Dûrlin's face as he pondered the words he had
spoken. He saw a man past his middle age, with grizzled hair and beard
that may have once been red; his face was lined and creased, but more
from laughter than from care, and his expression was open and honest.
Faramir had never known him to speak vain words, meant only to pander
to the fancy of his lord or say what he wanted to hear; no, when
Dûrlin spoke or gave advice, it was given truthfully and
forthrightly. He was loved and respected by all in the household of
Stewards, but held in the highest esteem by Boromir, whom Dûrlin
had served faithfully for many years. Faramir knew he would do well to
heed what this man had to say to him.
He nodded again, and this time his face was clear of doubt.
"You speak well in my brother's place, Dûrlin," he smiled. "I hear your words, and I will take it to heart."
"Thank you, lord Faramir," replied Dûrlin with a bow. "Thank you
for allowing me to speak plainly. Please tell me, is there anything
else you require? I am at your service."
"I have all I need for now, Dûrlin, but for your listening ear.
If I may, I would speak to you of Boromir and what seems to have
"I wish for nothing else, my lord," said Dûrlin softly, and for a
brief moment, his grief was plainly etched upon his face. "Please, tell
Legolas had seen them from afar, poised upon the edge of the hill as if
searching the horizon for a sign; even as he ran he watched Aragorn
lift his hand to shade his eyes and gaze intently in his direction.
They had spotted him; Legolas had no doubt that Aragorn would know it
was he. Lengthening his stride, he ran all the more swiftly in his own
eagerness to be reunited with his friends.
They were waiting for him at the foot of the grassy hill that sloped
down towards the river to the west. As he approached, they rose quickly
to their feet and ran to him. The companions embraced silently, the
three of them together. They stood thus for many long moments, grateful
to be together once more, yet afraid to speak of the news that each
feared to hear from the other.
"It is good to see you, Legolas!" cried Aragorn, finding his voice at
last. "Good indeed! But tell us quickly -- how fares Boromir? We... we
cannot help but fear that you have come to us so soon, because he is
lost to us. Say it is not so!"
"It is not so," said Legolas with a reassuring smile. "He is well --
better even than I had expected him to be, after this short amount of
time since his wounding. He heals well, and his strength returns."
Gimli gave a glad cry, as Aragorn bowed his head and covered his face
with his hands, so greatly was he moved at the news that Boromir yet
lived. When he looked up again, much of the weariness in his face had
been soothed and what remained was soon banished by a broad grin.
"This is the news I desired to hear, my friend!" he sighed in relief. "You did not leave him alone, then?"
"I did not. Men from Gondor arrived only a few days after we parted;
with them was a healer of great skill. He took up Boromir's care where
you left off; thanks to the healing properties of athelas in the hands
of the king, and the strength that comes from the eating of Elven
lembas, Boromir thrives."
"And how are his spirits?" asked Aragorn eagerly.
"Again, he is well," Legolas replied. "He was at first in great
despair, as you suspected he would be. Well it was that I was with him
then, or he would have soon been lost, in his despair and delirium! But
that tragedy was averted. We spoke much together of what occurred, and
he opened his heart to me about many things. He spoke what he felt, as
indeed he ever has..."
Legolas looked thoughtful as he recalled some of what he and Boromir had discussed together.
"I believe I was able to encourage him -- and the coming of his men did
wonders for his strength and morale, as well." Legolas smiled suddenly,
and into his voice crept a note of awe and respect.
"I have known Men and been among them before, but never have I seen
such honor given to a leader as the Men of Gondor gave to Boromir. He
is greatly loved, Aragorn, and highly esteemed by his men. They will
bring him safely to Gondor if it is within their power to do so -- and
if it is not, they will die defending him with their last breath. Their
love for him is very great."
Aragorn sighed a long sigh and bowed his head once more, but only for a moment.
"Then let us leave him in their hands, and trust them to keep our
friend safe until we can be reunited. May they be protected upon
whatever road they take, for there are yet many dangers between Rauros
and the walls of the White City."
"Aye!" agreed Gimli. "And danger lies ahead for us as well. My heart
burns the less for knowing that Boromir is in good hands -- but the
hobbits are still not freed, and now I am all the more eager to pursue
them for their rescue!"
"Then the captives still live?" asked Legolas eagerly.
"There has been no sign to indicate otherwise," answered Aragorn. "The
trail is still easy to follow, as you see before you. It leads towards
Fangorn Forest; but I cannot see further."
"Then let us go up this hill, and I shall see what I can see,"
suggested Legolas. "Perhaps there is something to be seen with Elven
eyes that will aid our counsel."
Legolas sprang forward and ran up the slope, and the others followed him to stand together, looking towards the forest.
"What do you see, Legolas?" queried Aragorn, after the Elf had stood gazing northwards, a keen expression upon his face.
"I see riders," came the answer. "Riders on swift horses, coming this
way -- the same as those I saw from atop Amon Hen, riding northwards on
some urgent errand. Five leagues only lie between us; they will be with
"Then there is no escape," said Gimli in a resigned voice. "Shall we await them here or go our way and hope they ignore us?"
"We will wait," replied Aragorn heavily. "It seems obvious they come
back down the trail which we are following. They may have news of the
Orcs or the captives, for good or ill."
"I see empty saddles, but no sign of hobbits," said Legolas.
"It may be that our hunt has failed," sighed Aragorn. "No matter; we
shall go down to face whatever news they may have to give us."
"Let us hope we get news from them," Gimli muttered. "News, and not spears!"
Faramir stood beside his father's chair, listening quietly to the
Steward's counsel. A map of Ithilien was laid out before them on the
broad table; now and then as he spoke, Denethor would tap the parchment
with a long finger, as if to emphasize what he was saying. As he leaned
forward to gaze at the map more closely, Faramir felt a thrill of of
having been in the same situation before. It had been in this same room
as they studied maps together, that he and his father had heard the
sound of Boromir's horn call, changing their lives forever.
"... The Haradrim who march to the Dark Land will have to pass through
here, where the road narrows to enter a deep cutting. You would do well
to set your ambush there."
Faramir looked at the spot on the map indicated by his father's finger, and nodded.
"Yes, that is indeed a good spot for an ambush; we will have the
advantage, though our numbers be fewer. Did your message speak of
numbers or the timing of the arrival of the Southron force?"
"No, but they come in great strength, and with them is at least one
mûmak. You have some days to prepare, perhaps, but I cannot say
more with certainty. Can you prepare your strike against them in time?"
"Indeed, it will not be a problem. The men stand ready; Henneth
Annûn is fully manned. I will leave tomorrow at first light and
join them there, to put in motion the remainder of the preparations. I
keep in contact with those who can provide me with what information I
lack concerning the movements of the enemy. Fear not; we shall be ready
and in place in good time."
"Very good," replied Denethor.
Faramir turned away and went to pour wine for himself and his father.
Denethor watched him silently as he pondered how best to phrase his
next directive, without revealing too much of what he knew or
suspected, as revealed in the palantír.
The vision he had seen that morning was yet very clear in his mind --
two small figures, seeming as children to his eyes, but no child could
wander amongst the rocks and gullies of the Emyn Muil as did these two.
Could they indeed be Halflings, that were spoken of only in ancient
lore, and more recently in the riddle that had come in a dream to his
sons? Long had Denethor pondered that riddle which had taken Boromir
from him; he thought he now could interpret much of its hidden meaning
-- if only he had guessed more and sooner, before he allowed Boromir to
go on the quest that had taken him to his death!
These Halflings, if that was what they were -- had they anything to do
with the revealing of Isildur's Bane, as was spoken in the riddle? If
so, did they bring that Thing with them? What was their connection to
Thorongil, who now wandered the plains of Rohan, accompanied by a
Dwarf? And what of Boromir? What did these folk have to do with his
beloved son and the fate that had befallen him?
"Father? Is something wrong?"
Denethor looked up, startled, to see Faramir standing before him,
holding out a goblet brimming with wine. He took it, and drank the wine
down before answering.
"There is one more thing," he said slowly. "Another task to keep in
mind while you are there in Ithilien. It may be that you will meet
strangers passing through the land. Be cautious of them; do not allow
anyone passage without close questioning. Need I remind you of the
penalty for those who attempt to pass through our lands without the
leave of the Lord of Gondor?"
"No, my father, I need no reminding. The penalty is death for those who
will not swear allegience to the White Tower and her lord. Though it
seems unlikely we shall meet such unexpected travelers. The land of
Ithilien has long been deserted of folk, and only the men in our secret
fastness remain -- and the servants of the Enemy."
"Nevertheless, I wish you to be on your guard. It is vital to the
security of Gondor that no person be allowed to wander freely in our
lands, particularly if I have not had word of them, and know nothing of
their business. Such secrecy goes against our interests. In time of
war, we no longer have the luxury of trust, and though death may seem a
harsh answer, it is the surest way to keeping our borders safe from
those who have set themselves against us."
Denethor caught Faramir's gaze and held it.
"May I count on you to deal with this matter, Faramir? To strike a blow
that gives the servants of Sauron pause ere they pass through our lands
again so freely, and to guard our borders against all who might come
"Of course, Father," replied Faramir with a slight bow. "I shall serve
you as I have ever done -- with all my heart and loyalty."
Denethor nodded, satisfied.
"Then go, my son; go to Ithilien, and do not fail me."
Boromir lay back wearily upon his blankets, grateful for a chance to
rest after his exertions of the morning. The exercise he had undertaken
earlier in the day had tired him more than he cared to admit; but he
was glad he had made the attempt. He would continue to drive himself
hard in order to be ready for that day when they would begin the
homeward journey. He hoped it would come soon, for he was worried that
time was growing short for his people and his City. And something had
occurred the night before to give him a new sense of urgency.
He still felt disturbed in his mind after his restlessness in the
night. He had not spoken of it to anyone, but he had dreamed of Black
Riders, and of the cries of Nazgûl in the wilderness. He had
awakened in a cold sweat at the sound of a high shriek on the wind,
piercingly shrill, wordlessly evil. There was nothing to be seen in the
sky above, even if he could have seen through the trees from where he
lay; the darkness of night had fallen, and with it came the quickening
of the wind that precedes a storm. The others, preoccupied with the
possibility of a storm, seemed not to have heard the cry or did not
recognize it for what it was. Indeed, the storm had broken soon after;
the sound of thunder came rumbling across the water as lightening
cracked and brightened the eastern hills, and on the wind the smell of
rain. But the storm had passed southwards and left them dry on the
westward side of the lake.
Boromir had settled down for sleep once more, but it was long before
sleep came. He worried about Frodo and Sam, and wondered where they
were. Had they been caught in the rain as they wandered the eastern
hills? Had they heard the cry in the wilderness of Nazgûl calling
to one another, and felt the same terror and despair as had he? How
much more terrifying it would be for them, for Frodo, who carried the
Thing that would make those enemies invincible!
He sighed inwardly as he thought of the Ring -- as always, with regret
for how It had changed him and how even now It ruled his fate and the
fate of the world. Yes, he understood that much now, at least.
He shifted restlessly as his thoughts turned once more to Frodo and his
plight. The task of the hobbits to find their path forward would be
infinitely more difficult if Nazgûl were now patrolling the river
and lands to the east. Boromir had no doubt in his mind that the cry on
the wind had not been his imagination -- it had been real, and that did
not bode well for the Free Peoples of the West.
The presence of patrolling Nazgûl could mean only one thing --
that the Enemy was considering a major offensive strike and was keeping
closer watch on the movements of those who might oppose him, up and
down the Anduin. The waters of Nen Hithoel above the Falls would make
an excellent point of reference from the air, for Nazgûl and the
beasts that carried them. Boromir recalled suddenly the winged shape
that had advanced upon the Company that night upon the River as they
passed the Sarn Gebir -- if it had not been for Legolas and his bow,
they might have actually been caught.
He felt certain now that the creature had been one of the Nazgûl,
on patrol for its Master. It would only be a matter of time now before
those Nazgûl crossed the River and came west. Then the time of
advantage for the enemies of the Dark Lord would be over, for what
could be hidden from the eyes of his most faithful and frightening
Boromir knew that Sauron had long been preparing war against the West,
but since the attack the previous year on Osgiliath which he and
Faramir had repelled, this was one of the first signs that the Dark
Lord might be almost ready to strike his blow. Boromir felt suddenly
very certain that the blow would fall soon, and that blow would fall
first upon Minas Tirith.
He must get home again, before the hammer fell.
Acknowledgements and thanks go to
Michael Perry for his book, "Untangling Tolkien," from which came the
idea concerning the Nazgûl patrols.