Lords of Gondor
The road from Minas Tirith to Osgiliath was wide and well-tended,
running northeast from the City Gate past the homesteads and farmlands,
pastures and orchards of the Pelannor, now almost deserted of its
people. The herdsmen and husbandmen who dwelt there had for the most
part taken their families south to the fiefs of Lossarnach and
Lebennin, or moved them to join their kinsmen within the walls of the
City; for it seemed less safe in these days to remain in the open,
particularly after battle had been waged the previous year in nearby
Osgiliath. During that battle, the great bridge had been thrown down by
Boromir and his company, holding back the advance of the Black Captain
and his army. Thus Gondor retained control of the west bank of the
Women, children, and the elderly now waited uneasily in the City while
arrangements were made for their transport to a safer haven southwards,
should Sauron decide to loose his war upon Gondor at last. Those who
could fight had already gone to strengthen those places where the
hammer of the Enemy would certainly fall, when Sauron deemed his time
had come -- to the fortress of Cair Andros northwards upon the Anduin;
to the western shores of ruined Osgiliath and the overthrown bridge,
which was all that stood between Gondor and the mighty seige engines of
Mordor; to the Causeway Forts that guarded the point where the road
from Osgiliath pierced the Rammas Echor*; and to the Tower of Guard
itself, Minas Tirith, whose walls and battlements bristled with men who
slept little as they watched the eastern sky, wondering when that
hammer blow would fall.
It was four leagues from the Gate of the City to the guard towers in
the northeast wall of the Rammas. Beyond the guarded gates, the land
sloped suddenly down from the embankment to the flatlands by the River,
but the road passed on above that sloping land for another league, over
a walled causeway to the edge of the River and ruined Osgiliath.
Faramir stood at the outskirts of that city, at the day's dawning,
looking out along the road that led across the causeway to the
Pelannor. As the sun rose behind him over the shadow in the East, he
fixed his gaze upon Minas Tirith looming above the plain on the knee of
Mount Mindolluin, and waited. This was a daily custom for him, and for
many who found themselves outside the walls at daybreak; no matter how
urgent the errand, or how pressing the business, this was the time of
day when any Man within sight of the City walls would pause for a
moment, to watch the white stone catch the light of the dawn, and to
hear the trumpets sound, greeting the new day.
At last, when the rosy blush of the sun had brightened the high walls
and glittered on the pinnacle of the Tower of Ecthelion, and the
trumpets' call was carried to him on the morning breeze, Faramir sighed
and turned away. He wondered if he would ever be able to hear that call
again, and not think of the desperate blowing of Boromir's Horn,
echoing still in his memory.
If only he could have gone to Boromir's aid! As much as he trusted
Grithnir with the task of leading the search for his brother, it galled
Faramir not to be one of the party -- yet he knew very well that with
Boromir away, the duties of the Captain-general had fallen to him, and
he could not lightly set that aside. He had promised Boromir that he
would lead in his stead until his return, and he would do it; he would
not forget his duty, no matter the cost.
His current errand was to the garrison at Osgiliath, speaking with the
commanders there to determine if more men were needed, and if so, from
where the troops could be drawn in order to strengthen the defenses at
this strategic location. The task would take but a day or two, at the
most; then he could return to the City. There would be no word from the
searchers so soon, but perhaps some other strange bit of news may have
reached his father in the meantime.
Faramir again pondered what Grithnir had shared before he had departed
-- that the Steward had known where to search for Boromir; but before
he could come to any conclusions, his thoughts were interrupted by the
coming of a messenger from one of the commanders of the garrison.
Faramir sighed once more, and putting aside his fear and his doubts, he
went to do his duty.
The new day dawned bright and clear, but on the River, northwards below
the infalls of the Entwash, the mists were slow to be dispelled. The
fog of early morning clung to the reeds at the edge of the riverbank,
and shrouded both the swirling waters of the Anduin and the Men whose
task it was to keep watch there on Gondor's northernmost border.
Gethron shivered and pulled his cloak more tightly around his
shoulders. He found this time of day to be the most difficult for
keeping watch on the River, for it was easy to become deceived by
phantom-like forms on the water and by sounds muffled by the mist. At
least here they were far enough away from the foot of Rauros to be free
of the drenching mist of the Falls. It was cold and damp at this hour,
but the fog would clear soon enough and the sun would warm the air.
"There is something on the water!"
The call of his fellow watcher was low, but the man's voice carried
clearly over the water in the cold air. Gethron could not see his
companion from where he was standing, but as he peered through the
reeds on the bank of the River, he thought he could discern the
movement of an object in the water.
"I will see to it," Gethron called back. "Do not leave your post. If it
leaves the main current of the River, it will lodge here on this bank,
as often happens with those things brought to us over the Falls."
Warm light began to break through the bank of fog, and the mist in the
reeds retreated. Gethron strained to see through the dimness. Yes,
there was something there; he could see light glinting on something
bright at the edge of the stream, caught and held by the long grass
that trailed in the water. He stepped carefully as he waded out to get
a closer look.
His boots in the water created small waves that pushed against the
swirl of the current, dislodging the object. His hand shot forward to
stay the bright thing, lest it float away before he had a chance to see
what it was; but he quickly realized it would not have gone far, for
the object was attached to a leather cord now tangled in the reeds, so
that it could not float away on the current.
He could see the object clearly now, and Gethron felt a thrill of fear
at the sight of the familiar shape which lay before his outstretched
hand -- a large white horn, tipped in silver, attached to a woven
leather baldric. His heart sank as he saw that the horn had been split
asunder, and that its once smooth side was scored and stained. He
grasped the horn, tugging slightly on the cord to free it from the
reeds; holding it up close to his face, he inspected the design of the
silverwork. Yes, it was as he had feared; this was the Horn of the
Stewards, that Boromir always bore, as heir to the House.
"Halmir!" he called sharply. "Come quickly!"
His companion came splashing to his side from his watch post nearby. "What is it, Gethron? What have you found?"
Gethron held out the object mutely, and Halmir's eyes widened.
"The Horn of Gondor!" he gasped. "The lord Boromir's Horn!"
"Yes, it is his Horn," responded Gethron grimly. "But it is no longer
whole. See? It has been split in two, by a sword stroke or by an axe."
"What can it mean?"
"No good, of that I am certain!" Gethron answered, with a sorrowful
shake of his head. "It has been many months since Boromir left on his
errand to the North, and there has been no news of him in all that time
-- until now. And such news! If only we knew more! Who can tell how
this shard came to be here in the River, or how far it traveled ere it
reached the Falls, or why it should be cloven in two and there be no
sign of our lord who carried it? May the Valar protect him if he is in
"What should be done?" asked Halmir. "Shall we seek for him northwards
by the Falls? Or climb the North Stair and search for him in the
Gethron shook his head.
"Wait, let me think a moment," he said, holding up a hand. After a moment's thought, he gave a sharp nod and continued.
"Halmir, you must take one of the boats and deliver this shard of the
Horn to the lord Denethor. You are the best oarsman; you can make good
time and arrive soonest with this evil news. Time is of importance in
this matter -- and yet, I fear there may be little now that can be
done. It may already be too late..."
Gethron's voice broke, and he bowed his head to recover his composure.
"I will go," said Halmir quickly. "I have seen how the Horn was found;
I will tell the lord Steward all I know and I will ask for guidance."
"Yes," replied Gethron, after a moment. "We are too few here to send
any to search for the lord Boromir, for we know not how far afield we
might have to go, and we cannot leave our post. The others who are on
patrol along the River will not return here for several days, and we
dare not wait upon them. We must leave it to the lord Steward to send
word giving us leave to search, or to send others in our stead."
He wrapped the dangling hauberk around the split half of the Horn and passed it to Halmir.
"Take what you need for your journey and leave at once. I will find
Handir and tell him of this news; he will watch with me until the
patrol comes, or until you can return or send word with someone. Go
With a nod and a brief bow, Halmir turned and disappeared into the
reeds. Gethron watched him go, then climbed up out of the River to go
in search of Handir.
By the time the sun had climbed above the shadow in the East, Grithnir
and his small company of men had risen to continue their journey north,
towards Rauros. Once the greyness of the dawn had lightened the
landscape enough that Henderch could distinguish dark grass from
standing water, he led them unerringly along the firm ground between
the channels of the fen.
The going was slow, for the land about them was a strange mix of linn**
and standing water, stone scarp and boggy swamp, grass, reeds and
willow thickets. At times they were forced to dismount and lead their
horses through knee-deep mud; at other times they rode as their horses
swam the channel where the stream had deepened and flowed more freely
on its way to Anduin.
Grithnir chewed on his lip as he tried to curb his impatience at the
slowness of their progress; he knew that Henderch was leading them
along as quickly as he dared over the treacherous terrain, and there
was little he could do to make them arrive any faster. Yet still he
chafed at delay.
"Take heart, my son," said a voice at his elbow.
He turned in his saddle to see that Linhir had ridden up beside him.
"Take heart," said Linhir once more, and his voice was calm and
confident. "You can do no more than you are doing now, and fretting
about the speed of our progress will not get us there any faster. I
know you are concerned, and rightly so, but do not let it show on your
face; it will discourage the men. They need to see you strong and
He smiled at Grithnir to take the sting from his words.
"You do well to remind me, Linhir," replied Grithnir ruefully. "A
misspoken word or an unschooled expression is all that is needed to
take the heart out of the men. I will try to be patient!"
Linhir nodded, then looked up at the sun as it climbed in the sky.
"Will we reach the Falls before darkness comes, do you think?"
"Henderch assures me we are making good time, in spite of my doubts,"
answered Grithnir with a slight smile. "By dusk we should come to the
confluence of the last stream and the Anduin, where the land of Gondor
ends, some two leagues south of the foot of Rauros. There is an outpost
of Men there, who watch the River on our northern border. We will stop
with them for the night and continue on up the North Stair by daylight."
"Very good," said Linhir. "Then by this time tomorrow we may be with
Boromir, if indeed the lord Denethor is correct and he is to be found
by the Lake above Rauros."
"That, too, is my hope," said Grithnir fervently.
Aragorn bent and gave Gimli a shake to wake him. "Come, Gimli, we must go. The scent grows cold."
Gimli groaned as he rose to his feet.
"It is still dark," he complained as he looked around him. "How are we
to see our way to follow the trail of the Orcs? Even if Legolas were
here to guide us with his Elf-eyes, he could not see until the sun is
"Where sight fails, the earth may bring us rumor," said Aragorn. He
stretched out upon the grass and laid his ear to the ground; he lay
motionless, listening, as dawn came and the light grew around them. At
last he rose, and the look on his face was troubled.
"The rumor of the earth is dim and confused," he said. "Faint and far
off are the feet of our enemies, but loud are the hoofs of horses:
horses galloping, passing in the West. They draw ever further from us
now, riding northward. I wonder what is happening in this land?"
Gimli shook his head.
"I do not know," he replied glumly. "But there is light enough to see by, now, so let us be off! The trail is clear enough."
And so the third day of their pursuit began.
The light of the risen sun struck the peak of the high tower and shone
full on the window of the topmost chamber; but the light could not
reach inside, for the window was shuttered and a curtain was drawn
across it, to keep the room in twilight.
Denethor sat crouched over the palantir, searching within the depths of
the crystal for any sight of his son. He had been gazing into the
sphere for over an hour, ever since light had begun to grow in the sky;
but nothing of interest to him was to be seen in any direction.
He sighed and rubbed his forehead wearily; shifting his position
slightly, he bent over the sphere and turned his gaze northwards once
more, towards Rauros and the Emyn Muil. Again he was frustrated, for
the palantir remained dark. It happened this way sometimes, for what he
saw in the palantir was often governed by chance, and not by skill or
strength of will. He forgot that at times, being skilled in the use of
the crystal, and he had often been able to see places and events that
he chose to view, rather than at random.
But not today, nor any day since he had heard the blowing of the Horn.
The last glimpse of Boromir had been three days ago, when he had seen
him, small and far off, as he paddled his boat on the waters of Nen
Hithoel. Since then, there had been nothing.
Denethor uttered an oath and turned his attention westward toward Rohan.
At last! There was something to be seen here -- but what was it, and
did it have anything to do with Boromir? Two tiny figures were moving
across the wide, empty plains, moving at a fast pace. They were
strangely difficult to see clearly, blending against the background of
the greyish green fields, so that at times the figures seemed to
disappear altogether; but Denethor's eyes were keen, and his mind
sharp, and as he focused on the figures, the vision grew more clear.
After a moment, Denethor was able to enlarge the vision so that he
could see that it was a Man and a Dwarf, sometimes running, sometimes
striding swiftly across the plains, at intervals stooping, as if
following a trail. He concentrated harder and the vision was enlarged
further, until he could see their faces clearly.
Denethor uttered a sudden exclamation of shock and amazement -- he knew
this Man! Forty years at least it had been since he had seen him last,
when he had served in Gondor as a captain under Echthelion, Denethor's
father; he had changed since that time, yet there was no doubt in
Denethor's mind as to who this Man was --
So! thought Denethor grimly, after he had recovered from his surprise.
Thorongil comes to Rohan; what business brings him, I wonder? Will he
come to Gondor? And what does he have to do with my Boromir?
He attempted to bring the vision even closer, but he was weary now, and
the shock of recognition had upset him; the palantir went dark, and he
could not raise the vision again. With a sigh, Denethor slowly covered
the sphere with its cloth, and fell back into a chair, exhausted.
Ah, Boromir! he cried silently. Where are you now? How do you fare? And what -- oh, what have you to do with this Man?
When the sun had risen high enough in the sky to clear the rough hills
of the Emyn Muil and the tall cliffs of Tol Brandir, Boromir asked
Legolas to help him move out into the sunlight, where it shone upon the
open shingle. He was tired of being cold, and he felt the need to move
about, if only to see if he had regained any of his strength.
The short walk to where he could sit in the sun, propped up against the
keel of one of the boats, left him weak and shaking, despite Legolas'
help; but it was good to be out in the open instead of leaning against
the cold stone of the landing in the shade. The sun was warm and
bright, and felt good on his outstretched legs.
As the bright rays of sunlight warmed his limbs, the stiffness began to
leave him, and with it some of the pain. Boromir sighed with relief.
The bright sun on his face, and the feeling of warmth reaching his
aching bones, encouraged him greatly. Hope stirred in his heart.
Perhaps there is still a chance for me, he thought. Perhaps I may yet
recover my strength and see my City once more, in time to be of some
use to my people.
He turned his head and watched for a while the sun glinting on the
mists of Rauros rising high up into the air above the Falls. Tears
pricked his eyes, as he was reminded of how the light of the sun used
to glitter on the pinnacle of the Tower of Ecthelion at dawn. He could
almost hear the trumpets sounding their greeting of the new day.
"May it be so!" he breathed fervently. "May I come in time!"
Acknowledgements: The portion of this
chapter that concerns Aragorn and Gimli was taken -- with a few
alterations -- from The Two Towers chapter "The Riders of Rohan."
Terms used in this chapter:
*Rammas Echor = encircling walls; the protecting wall that encircles the Pelannor Fields.
**linn = waterfall