Lords of Gondor
As the Great Road from Edoras to
Minas Tirith skirted Amon Dîn it bent southwards, passing
through a heavily wooded area that was the thinning edge of the
heavy forest that blanketed the slopes of the beacon hill.
Coming out of the woods, the road widened and continued straight
on across the open grassland for some seven leagues to the wall
of the Pelennor and the townlands of Minas Tirith.
Two riders rode swiftly along that road upon an urgent errand to
the City. Though the road now ran free of the wood, it was
scarcely less dark than it had been under the canopy of trees,
for Mordor's darkness was thicker and blacker than ever here
along the approach to the City. Yet Denethor's errand riders did
not need light to guide them as they rode; they knew the route
so well they could find the way with closed eyes, and guide
their horses to the right path whether in darkness or daylight.
It was here that Hirgon and Ulrad hoped desperately to make up
the time they had lost in eluding enemy Easterlings upon the
road behind them, and reach Minas Tirith in time to bring hope
to their lord with the news of Rohan's muster. But now to that
news of Rohan's riding must also be added the word that the Road
was taken by the enemy.
Hirgon urged his mount to a full gallop, his companion keeping
pace with him on his left.
This stretch of road is our best hope for speed as we approach
the City, thought Hirgon. Mayhap we can still reach the gate in
the Rammas wall and the pass over the Pelennor in safety. But
the road behind us is now taken by the enemy, and the Rohirrim
who come after us will meet a great host before ever they
approach the Pelennor. I could not count the enemy in the dark
distance, but the light of the torches glimmering through the
murk implied vast numbers. Alas! Rohan brings only six thousand
to the battle! How many will be lost to battle before the reach
the City itself?
Beside him, Ulrad cursed aloud suddenly and drew back on his
reins. Looking ahead, Hirgon reined in sharply as well,
muttering an oath of dismay. The enemy had taken the wall! There
was no other explanation for the movement of torchlight ahead of
them, accompanied by the hoarse cries of Orcs and the sound of
ax and club pounding, breaking against stone.
"We cannot get through!" hissed Ulrad in Hirgon's ear, as he
drew his mount up close beside his companion. "Yet we must if we
are to return the Red Arrow to Lord Denethor with news of
Rohan's coming. What do you advise, Hirgon? Shall we press on in
the hope that we can pass through the gate and outrun the enemy
that attacks it?"
Even as Hirgon drew breath to reply, black arrows flew out of
the darkness and a mass of torchlight broke away from the main
group and hurried towards them.
"They have seen us!" Hirgon cursed. "We are too late! Our hope
is denied; we can go no further this way. Turn back, Ulrad! If
we can elude the Easterlings upon the road behind, we can
perhaps reach the beacon post at Amon Dîn in time to warn
both Rohan and Minas Tirith. The path up the hill is less than a
league back, perhaps we can reach it in safety. Relighting the
beacon may warn the Rohirrim that the Pelennor is overrun, and
also serve to alert the City. If we cannot deliver the Red
Arrow, we can at least send some kind of news via beacon fire."
They wheeled their mounts around and fled back the way they had
come. Flying arrows and the cries of Orcs and deep-voiced Men
followed them. As they rode, Hirgon clasped the Red Arrow in one
hand even as he loosed his sword in its sheathe with the other.
If we must fight our way through to safety, then so be it, he
thought. I will protect the Red Arrow with my life in the hope
that I can yet deliver it to the hand of my lord with news that
will soothe his despair!
Faramir watched silently as Gandalf gave final instructions and
cautions to the men who would ride with him in escort of the
wains filled with wounded. There were more wounded than hearty
men left for the fight, yet Faramir wished the wains were
carrying three times the men they held, for it would mean that
many more had been saved from perishing in the slaughter at
Osgiliath and the Causeway Forts.
"...We may make the Enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage
and yet rue the exchange," he had said to his father only a day
ago. "For he can afford to lose a host better than we to lose a
company. And the retreat of those that we put out far afield
will be perilous, if he wins across in force."
The Enemy had indeed won across in force, and though he had paid
dearly for the crossing, the Men of Gondor had paid the higher
"Do not doubt your choices, Faramir," Gandalf said gently,
laying a fatherly hand upon Faramir's shoulder. "Not your own
choices, and not the ones forced upon you by circumstances and
by others. You are a wise commander and understand well the
timing of when to do battle and when to retreat. I am certain
that the loss of life from these recent skirmishes would have
been far greater had one less wise than you been in charge. Your
father's trust in you is well placed!"
"Does he trust me?" Faramir asked doubtfully. "I came in
Boromir's stead, whom he trusted above all others, but I am not
Boromir. I do indeed doubt my choices, especially when I look
upon the wounded and think of the dead left behind...."
"Faramir!" Gandalf interrupted sternly. "The Lord Denethor your
father is master of this crisis. He has prepared long for this
battle that now threatens to break upon Gondor and the lands
west of the Great River; he is truly ready for it. He knows well
the need of the hour and which men he can trust to fulfill that
need and see his battles fought -- yes, fought and even won. It
is true that Boromir is no longer a part of those preparations
-- but do you think for one moment that he would have pushed for
you to lead this venture as the captain doing his will if he did
not think you capable of standing firm in the face of
overwhelming foes? I think not. He knows your quality, and he
trusts it well."
Faramir gazed into Gandalf eyes for a long moment, then with the
ghost of a smile upon his lips, he nodded. "You reminded me
earlier of my father's care for me, Mithrandir. And here you are
doing it once again! You are right to reprimand me. It is a tool
of the Enemy to plant such seeds of doubt in the hearts of those
who should love and trust one another without hesitation. My
father will not fail me, nor will I fail him. I shall hold the
Causeway Forts awhile longer to aid your retreat with the
wounded, and then I shall return to the City to take my place at
my father's side for the battle that will follow at my heels."
"That is better," Gandalf replied, smiling. "I, too, know your
quality, Faramir, and I trust it well. For this reason I am not
surprised to hear you are resolved to stay with the rearguard --
but do not leave your own retreat too late! The foe at your
"Did you not just compliment me on my wisdom and timing,
Mithrandir, and give me your full trust?" Faramir interrupted,
shaking his finger sternly at the wizard. "Fear not! I will not
leave it too late. I shall come soon. Go now, my friend, and see
these men safely to the Houses of Healing!"
Boromir arose early to prepare himself for the events of the
day. He had thought he would pass a restless night in
anticipation of his meeting with the Rohirrim -- and possibly
some of the companions he so sorely missed -- but in fact, he
had slept soundly and felt well-rested and strengthened in both
body and mind.
The familiar discipline of dressing for battle soothed and
encouraged him, as well. The hauberk of mail provided from
Gwaeron's store was light indeed, and the weight of it was easy
to bear. Boromir held his breath as Grithnir settled the mail
coat upon his shoulders, but then grinned in relief as he
realized how easy and comfortable it was. Grithnir nodded in
approval and obvious relief that his lord was once again well
"I am fully prepared to act as your shield, my captain,"
Grithnir remarked, "but my task will be made that much simpler
with a fine mail shirt between you and an enemy blade."
"I shall be glad to have both mail and your blade to keep me
from harm," Boromir replied, as he pulled his leather surcoat
over the mail and strapped on sword and belt. "I do not wish to
be a burden to you, Grithnir, nor do I want you to be put in
danger because of the need to protect me as well as fight your
own battles. Yet these past few weeks have taught me nothing if
not the lesson that it is no weakness to trust in the strength
and loyalty of others when my own strength is insufficient for
the need at hand. I will fight, for I was born for this coming
battle and I will defend my people with whatever weapon comes to
hand -- but I will also do all I can to not be a burden to you.
Nay, do not protest! I know well what you would say; you will
claim until your dying breath that I am no burden to you!
Whether that be true or no, I will not deny you what you wish.
As I said, I am content to have you by my side, be it fighting
or shielding me from the fighting."
Boromir tightened his sword belt decisively, then drew the sword
from its sheathe and hefted it, testing the weight in his hand.
"This sword of Dirhavel's is lighter than my own sword Harthad;
being one-handed, this sword will be easier to lift and swing.
It will serve me well -- if I have not forgotten how to handle a
He swung the sword about experimentally, and was pleased to note
that there was some strength in his arm and only a little
catching stiffness in his shoulder.
"No doubt I shall feel the pain of my wounds anew when striking
down an enemy as opposed to swinging a blade about in the air,"
he commented in answer to Grithnir's worried look. "But this
will do, Grithnir. My arm seems to remember well enough how to
lift a sword, and if that day comes when skill and strength are
lacking because of the pain of my wounds, I know that you and
the others will be at my side to supplement that lack."
"We will indeed, my lord! And it is no burden to us -- not now,
Boromir laughed. "So be it! Come then, let us say our farewells
to Gwaeron and his men, and be off down to the road. Are the
horses ready for our riding?"
"They are, Captain Boromir," Grithnir answered. "Eadric and the
other scouts await us at the picket."
"Then let us keep them waiting no longer!"
Eadric and his fellow scout Guthwald stood beside the waiting
horses, Hirvegil of the outpost with them. As Boromir and his
men approached, Hirvegil led four horses forward and offered the
reins to Boromir.
"My lord," he said with a bow. "It was an honor to provide you
with a change of horse when first you rode away upon your great
journey northwards, and now it is an even greater honor to give
you the mounts you need to go to war! May they serve you well,
and carry you swiftly to battle and afterwards to a safe haven."
"I thank you for your service and for your horses, Hirvegil!"
Boromir replied as he grasped the reins in both hands, bowing
over them in an expression of gratitude before handing them over
to each of his men in turn. As he made to mount the horse that
remained, Eadric stepped forward and stayed his hand.
"My lord Boromir," he said. "If you are willing, let me take
this fine Gondorian horse as my mount; in his stead, I wish you
to have Stánfót. Take him as my gift to you and my
provision for your further protection."
"Surefoot!" Boromir exclaimed in surprise and wonderment. "You
give me Surefoot?"
"Indeed!" replied Eadric with a smile. "He has told me that he
wishes to remain with you. He regrets leaving you before on your
previous journey and wishes to continue serving you now as best
he can. He is a true warrior and will fight for you as fiercely
as your own men, for he loves you well, even as they do."
Boromir's eyes were moist as he took Surefoot's halter in one
hand and smoothed the horse's mane with the other. "He has told
you this, has he?" he said softly. "Then who am I to refuse such
love and eagerness to serve? I accept your offer, Eadric! With
Surefoot to carry me on the right path, my men beside me to
serve as shield and sword, and the Riders of Rohan around me as
we go forth to battle, I can see nothing ahead but victory!"
"May it be so!" Eadric replied with a deep bow. "And now, lord,
if you are ready to ride, I will tell you what I have arranged
for your meeting with Théoden King. My man Brynhere has
gone on ahead to bring word to the king of our riding and the
timing of our arrival. The army of Rohan will halt at midday for
a brief rest and to take a meal; we will ride from here and meet
them upon the road as they rest."
"It is a good plan, Eadric," Boromir agreed, nodding his head in
satisfaction. "Will you lead the way, then, and present me to
your king when the time comes?"
"Most happily, my lord!"
Boromir mounted Surefoot, and turned to face the men of the
outpost who had gathered outside to say a final farewell.
"Men of Gondor," Boromir addressed them solemnly. "Faithful
caretakers of Nardol's beacon fire! I thank you for your service
to me and to my men and for your care of us in our time of need.
I thank you for your service to Gondor and your unfailing
devotion to your duty! I bid you be strong and continue in that
service, and may the Valar grant that we meet again with no
enemy to hinder our reunion!"
The men shouted their affirmation of Boromir's charge.
"Go swiftly and return to your father and our people, my lord,"
Gwaeron said with a bow. "Deliver them from the slavery that
threatens, and send word when you are able of your victory!