Lords of Gondor
A light breeze ruffled the waters of the lake and sighed in the
branches of the trees along the shore, but the sound of the sighing was
drowned out by the louder thunder of the Falls of Rauros. The
midmorning sunlight was strong and warm, and the air was clear but for
the mist which hung like a cloud over the Tindrock. Beyond that cloud
of mist, the world seemed to drop away, and behind it was nothing but
In spite of the warmth and brightness of the sun upon the lakeshore --
and the fact that they were almost ready to set off on their return to
Gondor -- Boromir was concerned, though he strove to hide it from his
men. He was more than eager to be on his way, for he was weary of
inactivity and wished to be home, where he was needed so desperately.
But he knew it would not be an easy journey to undertake. The North
Stair would be treacherous, especially for those burdened with a litter
and a wounded, helpless man. Visibility would decrease as they
descended towards the warmer plains, and there would be no getting away
from the spray of the Falls and the fog-like mist which clung to the
cliff face. They might avoid the worst of it by traveling in the heat
of the day, when the sun was at its zenith, but it would still be hard
But this was the way, and they would walk it, and the journey would be
no easier for him fretting about it in advance. So Boromir shrugged his
worries away, and schooled his face to hide his impatience. The Stair
was, after all, a portage-way, designed to be traversed by men carrying
burdens -- whether they be boats or wounded captains upon litters. The
men had recently traveled the Stair to deliver the boats to the
shelving shore, so they would be well aware of the condition of the
path; they would take proper precautions.
Boromir sat waiting upon the litter where it lay at the edge of the
lawn of Parth Galen, his legs stretched out before him; beside him was
set the bundle containing the shards of his sword and the staff of wood
he used for support. He watched as his men discussed amongst themselves
how best to manage the task of carrying their captain down the Stair,
and in spite of his resolve not to fret, he winced inwardly at the
thought of being carried like a piece of baggage -- not only would it
be damaging to his pride, but it would also undoubtedly be painful. He
knew better than to think he was fully healed, no matter how much
progress he had made in the week since his wounding. That day's
painful, jostling journey to the shore upon this very litter was still
fresh in his mind.
He looked up to see Linhir watching him, a knowing look in his eye.
"Your waiting will soon be at an end, Boromir," said Linhir. "Your
journey home will not be without pain or struggle, but you will manage
it well, I have no fear. As for the descent, it will hurt you, but your
injuries are sufficiently healed that no lasting damage will come to
you, I think. If you wish, I can give you something to reduce the pain."
"No!" answered Boromir emphatically. "I do not relish the thought of
traversing the Stairs, as you seem to have noticed, but I have no need
of your numbing herbs. I shall bear the discomfort so that I might be
alert and prepared to give advice when it is needed, and to avail you
of my leadership, though it be from a sick bed."
Linhir gave a shout of laughter.
"I would have it no other way, my friend! We look to such leadership in
these times, though I will reserve judgement on the advice, if it
counters my own concerning your health needs."
"Indeed," laughed Boromir. "I would have in no other way, my friend."
Grithnir approached and knelt, to be more at eye level with Boromir.
"Forgive the delay, my captain," he said with an understanding smile.
"There were a few matters concerning the downward path that we wished
to clarify before we leave; we are ready now."
"We had best be on our way, then," replied Boromir with a nod. "The
journey is long enough for one on foot and lightly burdened, but it
will be no easy task to bear me such a distance on the narrow and steep
path. No doubt I weigh less than once I did, after eating little but
Elvish bread for days on end -- but I am still weighty enough to give
you all pause."
"We shall not feel the weight, with four of us to bear you," said Grithnir stoutly.
"It would save you some trouble and some pain if I might be allowed to
walk at least as far as the mouth of the path to the Stair... " Boromir
"-- and would wear you out needlessly," finished Linhir firmly. "A
worthy attempt, my captain, but I am still in charge of this matter at
least, and you shall be content to be carried down at your ease. There
will be time enough later for walking on your own feet, when you are
"Very well," sighed Boromir; but there was a twinkle in his eye. "I
will rest, then, and enjoy the view from my litter. But have a care! I
shall make note of every bump and jolt."
"We will not allow you to fall, my captain," assured Grithnir. "You are safe with us."
"I know it well, Grithnir," answered Boromir, as he lay back and
settled himself upon the blanket-covered litter. "I am trusting in
that, and I am well content."
Arthad and Dirhavel took the foot of the litter, and Grithnir and
Linhir the head; lifting it up carefully and setting it to their
shoulders, they started off down the sandy shingle. Henderch walked
well ahead to act as scout. They came to the mouth of the path, marked
by a standing stone that had once been a shaped statue, but was now
worn and weathered. Turning aside from the lakeshore, they passed under
The path led them upwards at a gentle slope until they had drawn away
from the lake, then onwards for a half mile or so along the ridge
overlooking the channel of water which flowed from Nen Hithoel, past
the Tindrock and over the Falls of Rauros. The lonely isle of the
Tindrock cast a long shadow in the midmorning sun that darkened the
path, and the air grew suddenly cooler; when they had passed beyond the
shadow, the sun shone again, but it was veiled now in haze from Rauros
and the coolness in the air remained. The sound of the waterfall was
like thunder in their ears that never diminished or passed away. Now
and then as the path drew near the edge of the bluff on their left,
they caught a glimpse of the rushing water and felt the dampening spray
of the Falls upon their faces and their clothing, and they knew they
were drawing nigh the Stair.
At last it lay before them, broad steps leading steeply downward, then
turning towards the Falls, hugging the scrub-studded rock face on one
side, and open to the wind and the sky on the other. The broad steps
descended inexorably, alternating at intervals with stretches of
flatter stone and wide landings at each sharp switchback, until the
path was lost in the mist. Only a narrow strip of tumbled stone lay
between the edge of each stone step and the fall into nothingness.
"Set me down for a moment," said Boromir, and the men obeyed him.
Linhir helped Boromir to his feet and Grithnir handed him the wooden
staff which he had retrieved from the litter. Boromir leaned upon it as
he contemplated the stairs before him.
"Let me walk down as far as the first landing," Boromir suggested after
a moment of careful consideration. "It is not far, no more than two
score steps. The passage here at the top is narrow and awkward for four
men carrying a litter -- that is well enough for two carrying a boat,
but we are wider than that, with men on either side, and me in between.
The stair becomes broader after the first landing, and can be traversed
with due caution -- though the men on the outside will have to step
with care and keep an eye to the edge."
He looked inquiringly at Linhir, who smiled and nodded his acquiescence.
"It is reasonable," Linhir agreed. "I can allow that much -- but
Grithnir will be at your side to support you, lest you find yourself in
He eyed the staff in Boromir's hand for a moment, then stepping forward, held out his own stout stave of dark, polished wood.
"Take this in exchange for yours," Linhir said. "It is strongly made,
of lebethron from the slopes of Mindolluin. It has been shod so that it
will not easily slip -- you may trust your full weight to it, even upon
wet stone. I will take your staff for my own use; it will be sufficient
for my needs."
Boromir hesitated, but only for a moment.
"Thank you, Linhir," he said quietly as he passed his own staff to the
healer and gratefully accepted the other in its place. "You honor me
greatly with this gift -- it has been in your possession for as long as
I can remember."
"Nay, Boromir," smiled Linhir. "You honor me by accepting it. May its
virtue of finding and returning bring you safely once more to the White
City in the shadow of Mindolluin, whence it came. Now wait a moment,
while the others go ahead with the litter; then you may descend to the
The descent was difficult, more difficult than he had expected; Boromir
was thankful he had Grithnir's strong and steadying hand under his
elbow and Linhir's staff to support him. He took each step carefully,
looking down at his feet to be certain he placed them firmly -- it was
an odd feeling to realize that he did not have complete control over
his own limbs. Before he had descended a score of steps, Boromir knew
for certain that Linhir had been right to be so firm with him; he would
not have been able to venture the entire flight of stairs, even with
aid, for his knees were shaking, and his wounds ached fiercely even
after only a short distance. A choking sense of despair welled up in
his heart as he wondered if he would ever regain his former strength,
to walk unaided. His steps faltered, and his head drooped wearily.
"Do not lose hope, my captain!" murmured Grithnir in his ear, gripping
his arm encouragingly. "Your strength will return in time."
"The sooner, the better!" said Boromir through gritted teeth; but he squared his shoulders and pressed on with renewed heart.
As they approached the landing, the stairway opened out and leveled off
to become a wide flat area, the first of many such landings which
provided resting places for the descent. A bench of stone was placed
under the arching rock face, so that it did not interfere with passage
up or down the stairs, yet provided a place to rest for those beginning
their descent, or gathering their strength for the final ascent to the
top. Boromir lowered himself slowly and gratefully onto the seat
provided and heaved a quiet sigh of relief.
When the trembling in his limbs had subsided, he rose and faced his men.
"It is time for me to submit once more to being burdensome," he said
with a rueful grin. "I shall bear it more willingly this time, I assure
As he stepped forward towards the litter, Boromir looked out into the
empty space beyond the edge of the path. The cliff face was veiled and
the plains far below were obscured by mist from the Falls; a gust of
wind blew spray like a fine rain into his face. He stood still for a
moment, and let the breeze from below lift his hair, bringing with it a
faint scent of new grass and flowers growing at the edge of marshy
pools. Then it was gone in a swirl of damp fog and the smell of wet
stone and damp leather.
But the wind quickened once more, and now the mist broke and blew away
in tatters, so that the vale below was suddenly revealed, brightened by
the sun marching above the mist. For a moment the air was clear and
Boromir looked out to see the land of Anórien stretched out like
a map before him -- the glittering ribbons of water that formed the
mouths of the Entwash, the grass of the lowland plain undulating like a
green ocean, and far beyond upon the southern horizon, the White
Mountains of his home, capped with snow and shining in the morning
Boromir caught his breath in wonder at the unexpected sight; he felt
moved to tears even as his heart leaped suddenly light and hopeful. He
had yearned to be home for so long, and now it seemed it would only
take a few steps more and he would be there... he would be home at
The mist closed in once more, and the view was cut off, the glimpse of his homeland, gone.
Boromir swallowed hard as a keen sense of loss smote him; but it was
quickly replaced by a wave of joy, for he knew that his land was not
lost -- it was there below, waiting for him. It would be only a journey
of a few short hours before he would stand once more upon the soil of
Turning, he saw his men gathered behind him, watching in silent respect and understanding.
"Let us go," Boromir said gruffly. "I would be home again."
Note: The reference to lebethron comes from The Two Towers
chapter "Journey to the Crossroads" in which Faramir gifts Frodo and
Sam with staves made of the wood which are set with a virtue of finding