Boromir slept well that night. The darkness
around him was oppressive and unnaturally heavy, as if a storm was
about to break with thunder and lightning and torrential rain – but no
storm came to relieve the heaviness, no breath of wind came to blow
away the dark clouds that covered the moon and the stars. Even so, his
heart was lighter than it had been for many, many days. The reality of
his return to Minas Tirith was suddenly, unexpectedly, within his
grasp, and the hope that he might come in time was renewed.
In spite of his new-found determination to be done with despair,
Boromir had continued to struggle with the feeling that, if he arrived
home at all, it would be too late to be of use to anyone. Each day of
wandering through fen and over plain had become so like the next that
it seemed he was making no progress at all, and his frustration with
his own weakness and inability to press forward with any speed added to
But now, with the promise of horses, the miles that lay between him
and his City seemed remarkably shortened and his weakness of less
consequence; hope was renewed that there was still a part for him to
play in the defense of his people. The battle he had always known would
come one day was to be fought before the gates of Minas Tirith, and
there was a very good chance that he would be there to fight alongside
The coming of dawn was marked only by the slightest change in the
quality of the murk that surrounded them; the heavy darkness became a
little less dark, the brown air a little less close – though still no
breeze came to stir the grass and the morning songbirds remained
As soon as they were able to see well enough to advance without danger
to their steeds, Guthwald set out for the outpost at Nardol, while
Thrydwulf and Hunlaf headed west at a gallop, to take word to Éomer of
all that had passed on their scouting mission. Eadric and Brynhere
remained behind to assist Boromir and his men, should they require
“If all goes well, my scouts should return by nightfall with mounts
from the outpost,” Eadric reassured Boromir. “We have not pushed our
horses so hard on this venture that they are too weary to make a swift,
short journey of it – for the Road is not far for those who go mounted
and are not nursing injuries. Tomorrow will find you resting at the
Nardol way station.”
Boromir grinned, not even attempting to hide his eagerness at the thought of reaching the Road so soon.
Behind him, Arthad stood quietly conferring with Grithnir.
“What do you think?” he said to Grithnir in a low voice. “Would it
not be wise to await the coming of the scout bringing mounts, in order
to give Captain Boromir a day to rest? He does well enough, but a full
day taken with no walking might...”
Arthad broke off as Boromir turned and approached him.
“I am not so weary or so ill that I need you to be making decisions
for me, Arthad!” Boromir chided. “We will press on. A day of sitting
and waiting will hardly benefit me at this point -- I fear the dullness
of it will do me harm, in fact! Time will be saved if we move forward
as we are able, and meet the scout as he returns.”
Arthad stifled a sigh as Grithnir smiled at Boromir.
“I knew he would be of that mind, Arthad,” Grithnir chuckled. “As
did you, no doubt. But it was a good thought, nonetheless, and worth
the attempt to suggest it!”
“Indeed!” Boromir laid his hand lightly on Arthad’s arm. “My thanks
to you, Arthad, for your wisdom and concern. You are right to remind me
that I should not expend all my strength in my eagerness to end this
journey. Therefore, we will press forward -- but at a slower pace than
of late. And you have permission to call a halt for the purpose of rest
whenever you see fit – and I shall obey you without grumbling.”
“If I can get you to rest without grumbling, then I shall indeed be satisfied!” laughed Arthad.
"I'm up, I'm up!" groaned Pippin, rolling over and pulling the
coverlet up over his head. "There's no need to shine the lamp in my
"You are not 'up'," Gandalf said sternly, "until you are out of bed with your two feet on the floor and your eyes open."
Grasping the edge of the blanket, the wizard pulled it out of
Pippin's tightened fist and tossed it onto the floor in a heap beside
"Come, my lad," he said firmly. "It is high time you were up and
preparing yourself for what lies ahead. I cannot leave until I am
certain you will not be late for your duties. The lord Denethor will
brook no delay this day."
"Well I know it!" sighed Pippin as he scrambled out of bed and
headed for the wash basin to splash his face with cold water. "But I'm
not late yet, am I? I didn't mean to oversleep..."
"No, no, do not be alarmed," Gandalf quickly replied. "I have
roused you early, for a reason. You need ample time to ready yourself
and collect your thoughts and your strength before today's Council
Pippin nodded with understanding. He sat on the edge of his bed, and looked up at Gandalf with a serious face.
"This is an important Council meeting, isn't it?" he asked. "More
so than the others you have attended since coming here, maybe?"
"I believe so," Gandalf said gravely. "All the captains are present
now, and Faramir, also. Today will be the final laying of plans and
strategies before battle breaks."
"Will the battle begin soon?"
"It has already begun -- that is the meaning behind this darkness
that covers the land. But the tide of war has not reached us here as
yet. Even Sauron, for all his power, cannot force his armies to
approach any faster than they are physically able to travel. But they
are coming, and we must be ready."
Pippin shivered, then squared his shoulders, hoping that no sign of his anxiety showed on his face.
"Do you know what Denethor has in mind for the battle, Gandalf?"
"I do not. But I have no doubt he has long prepared for this, and
that it will take but a word from him to set things in motion. He is a
good, strong leader, and a tactician not to be rivaled. He knows his
people as well as he does his enemy, and they follow him and his sons
faithfully and with great trust. They are as ready as they can be, if
one can ever be ready for such a war as this will be."
Pippin sighed heavily.
"It... it's hard to think of Boromir not being here. He was so certain he would be needed when the time came to fight!"
Gandalf laid a hand on Pippin's shoulder, and squeezed it comfortingly.
"He is very much needed!" he agreed. "It is a severe blow to Gondor
that he is not here; many plans and strategies must be thrown out and
rethought to make up for such a loss. It will fall to Faramir to take
Boromir's part as well as his own. He is also a capable leader, but one
man can only do so much..."
Gandalf paused when he saw that Pippin was paying little attention
to his concerns for Faramir; his mind was all too obviously still taken
up with Boromir and his absence. Pippin's next words confirmed it.
"Gandalf, do you think Boromir could possibly still be alive?"
"Ah, so our friend Dûrlin has been talking to you of his hopes for
Boromir's return, has he?" Gandalf looked thoughtful as he considered
the possibility. "Dûrlin is a wise man, and does not speak without due
consideration for what impact his words might have. He must be quite
confident of Boromir's chances, for he does not fear to speak of his
hope. And yet... I do not know, Pippin. Aragorn, too, has asked me this
question, and I could not comfort him, either. Not with any certainty.
And in these days, it is unwise to speak of that which is not yet
certain. Even so, this I do know -- if Boromir does live, he will come.
If he is alive, then nothing will keep Boromir away."
Pippin nodded, satisfied.
"That's what I think, too."
"Well, then!" replied Gandalf with a slight smile. "If you have no
further questions for me about matters I may or may not be able to
answer at this early hour, I shall be off about my own business. I
would suggest you attend to your dress, and to taking what food you can
in what remains of your free time. Your duties today may involve little
opportunity for eating, even if they are not physically strenuous."
"Well I know it!" muttered Pippin ruefully as the door shut quietly behind Gandalf.
Pippin was eying his meager breakfast with a wan look upon his face, when there came a light tap at the door of his chamber.
"I hope that's Dûrlin with some extra breakfast," he muttered as he went to the door.
A man stood there, holding a tray covered with a cloth, but it was not Dûrlin. It was Faramir.
"Good morning," said Faramir, bowing carefully so as not to disturb the tray he carried.
"Good... good morning!" stammered Pippin, trying not to stare.
Faramir looked so much like Boromir, it took his breath away. Even his
voice was similar...
"I trust I am not disturbing you," continued Faramir kindly,
seemingly oblivious to Pippin's staring. "Mithrandir assured me you
would be awake, even at this early hour. I thought perhaps we two could
speak together before the Council session begins. I do not know what
chance there may be otherwise. Have you broken your fast as yet? May I
"Of course, come in!" exclaimed Pippin, recovering his composure.
"I have been keen to talk to you as well, but didn't see how I could
manage it. Do come in and sit. I was just about to have my breakfast.
There is little enough to eat here, but what I have I will gladly share
"As it happens," Faramir smiled, "I have brought some breakfast
with me. Dûrlin sent it along for both of us to share. I believe he
said something about the two of us having hard duty today, so that we
would need our full strength to face whatever the day might bring. Food
is being rationed now, even for those of us of high rank -- so what I
bring is simple fare. But combined with what you have laid out there,
it should be more than satisfying!"
"Oh, how excellent!" cried Pippin, quickly making room for the tray on
the table. "Dûrlin takes good care of us, doesn't he?"
"He does indeed!" laughed Faramir.
Pippin watched happily while Faramir removed the dishes from the
tray and arranged them on the table. There would indeed be plenty to
eat, even enough to satisfy a famished hobbit. The prospect of sharing
it with Faramir was pleasant as well.
"Gandalf knew you were coming, didn't he?" Pippin asked. "That's why he got me up so early!"
Faramir smiled down at the hobbit.
"Yes, he knew. We had speech together this morning about matters
that concern both of us, and I told him I wished to visit with you if
chance allowed. And this is our chance."
"I expect you want to hear about Boromir," Pippin said hesitantly.
"You haven't said so, but... well, I can just tell he's on your mind."
Faramir's answering smile was both eager and sad.
"You are right; Boromir is much on my mind. Indeed, that is one of
the reasons I wished to speak with you while I could. I would very much
like for you to tell me of him, even of his last moments -- if it does
not hurt you too much to speak of it. In return, perhaps I can share a
little of what passed between me and your kinsman, Frodo. I deem you
are as eager for news of him as I am for news of my brother."
"Oh, yes!" cried Pippin. "I have been so worried about Frodo and Sam; I would dearly like to hear how they are doing!"
"Then you shall hear whatever I can tell. But first, let us eat
what Dûrlin has prepared. He will not be happy if we do not finish
Yet Faramir did not immediately sit. Pippin watched him, puzzled,
as the Man stood gazing upon the table laid with food and drink for a
long, thoughtful moment. Then, as if coming to a sudden decision,
Faramir unbuckled his sword belt and laid his weapon gently against the
wall beside the table.
"There!" he said, satisfied. "We shall put aside war for a time and
eat in peace. It is not often I have opportunity to go unarmed in these
days; this may be my last chance to set aside my weapon for a time, in
relative peace and safety. Such safety may be fleeting, but it should
all the more be celebrated for that."
Pippin nodded solemnly, his eyes wide and admiring. As they sat down, he craned his neck to get a better look at the sword.
"That sword looks a lot like Boromir's -- the hilt, anyway," Pippin
remarked as he filled his plate with bread, cheese and fruit. "The
scabbard is a bit different, I think, but the hilt is very much the
same as Boromir's, if I remember aright..."
"You remember well," smiled Faramir. "This sword and Boromir's were
a pair, handed down to us by my grandfather, Ecthelion, who was Steward
before my father. Ecthelion bore one of them himself, and that was the
sword which Boromir received from Ecthelion's hand upon his death.
Boromir was only a child at the time, but he took on the full burden of
his duty to Gondor from that day forward. Harthad his sword was named,
which means Hope. Wielding that sword, Boromir became the embodiment of
hope for all the people of Gondor."
Faramir sighed heavily and was silent for a moment, before continuing to speak.
"The other sword that was my grandfather's was put aside for me
until later, for I was too young for such things then -- I was only a
babe in my mother's arms! When my father deemed me old enough, he gave
Narthad into my hand."
"Narthad!" repeated Pippin. ""The name is like the name of Boromir's sword, too. What does it mean?"
"Narthad means Kindler."
"Ah!" breathed Pippin. "That is a good name!"
"It is indeed! Boromir used to always say that as long as we two
wielded our swords together, we could kindle hope in the hearts of our
people and win against the darkness that threatens to extinguish the
light that is Gondor."
He smiled fondly, remembering. But then he sighed again and shook his head.
"Yet I fear it has not happened as Boromir foresaw. Hope is waning
in our hearts rather than being kindled -- and we two brothers are no
"Oh, but he may yet come, Faramir!" Pippin cried. "If he lives, he will come. Gandalf said so!"
Faramir turned his head slowly to gaze upon Pippin's eager, open face.
"Do you believe him to be alive?" he asked in wonder.
"I don't know for sure," Pippin replied thoughtfully. "I think...
Well, yes, I think he might be. I believed he was dead. I saw it, saw
it in the... in a vision, I mean. But visions don't always tell all the
story, right? So I'm thinking I must have been wrong about what I saw.
I hope so, anyway!"
Faramir looked doubtful.
"Dûrlin has been trying to encourage me in similar ways," he
admitted. "He is quite confident that Boromir lives and will return to
us. I trust Dûrlin, but I do not know... I, too, have seen visions, but
even if they only tell a partial truth, it is sufficient to make me
fear for Boromir and doubt his survival."
He hesitated, uncertain.
"No, perhaps it would be more truthful to say I fear to trust in
his survival. I have seen so many hopes dashed or crushed, that I fear
to have this hope come to naught. I seem no longer to have the strength
to keep such a hope alive in the face of all that shows me it is a
Pippin noted the weight of worry on Faramir's face that could not
be hidden by his smile, and realized suddenly just how much had fallen
to this Man, now that his brother was no longer here to carry the load.
"I suppose it's easier to keep hoping when all the responsibility
for taking care of things isn't laid at your doorstep," he said.
"You are wise, young Peregrin," he confirmed. "It is so; great
responsibility has a way of making the bearer of it forget all else but
the burden. I used to tell Boromir that my shoulders were wide enough
to bear his burden as well as my own -- and they are. But it is heavy
at times, and grows heavier the longer I carry it. Even so, hope should
not be swayed by such burdens; rather, it should be strengthened by
Faramir straightened his shoulders and looked upon Pippin with a clear steady gaze.
"Do not fear for me, little one," he said encouragingly. "I said
hope was waning -- but it is not yet gone. Perhaps it can still be
rekindled to its former strength. You can help me with that, by
speaking to me of Boromir as he was when you traveled with him. Let us
put aside the tale of his final battle until after we finish our meal;
for now, let us remember only his strength and his honor, his
confidence and his joy in defending those under his care. That is the
kind of tale that quickens hope, and reminds those who doubt that all
is not vain."
"Yes, yes!" cried Pippin. "That is how he was, always! So kind and
lordly and confident, and eager to leap to the defense! I don't think
he was ever afraid, not of anything. Let me tell you about the time he
saved us in the snow at the pass of Caradhras..."
"Snow, you say? Ah, yes!" Faramir laughed. "Boromir would not be
daunted by snow, not in the least! Please, do tell me about that time!"