Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice

by Agape4Rivendell

11  12  13  14  15  16  17 

26.
Third Age - 3018 

11.

“Is there no report yet?” Denethor bellowed.

His guard ran forward. “None yet, my Lord.”

“Then send a rider. I must know!” He flung his goblet against the wall of his study as the guard saluted and hurriedly left the room. The door stood open and Denethor paused. He had only left It an hour ago; he was still exhausted from struggling with It, and yet, he must know. He climbed the stairs, opened the door, and stood before It. Gently, giving thanks again to the Elves who had gifted It to his people, he removed the covering, stationed himself so that he faced West and placed his hands on It. It awoke to his touch and showed him Osgiliath, burning. His sight swept across the bridge and into the eastern section of the fallen city. The army stood before a vast horde of beasts, Uruks, Haradrim… But that was not what caught his attention, pulled a horrified gasp from him.

Staggering, he saw before him horror unimagined; Denethor struggled to hold onto the globe. The men were in disarray, running this way and that, as black riders rode towards them. The rest of the Enemy’s forces stayed back, waiting, it seemed, for the terrors on horseback to give them the advantage. There must have been some terrible sound accompanying the horsemen, for many of Gondor’s finest ran with their ears covered. Denethor tried to calm himself and look with discernment upon the scene he was presented. He must ascertain what was happening and discover what he could do to help. Needless to say, there was no sign of Boromir nor Faramir. They could not be in the midst of the battle, for the stone never showed him any place where his sons were present. So – where were they?

Faramir would be where Denethor had sent him – at the front of the attack, but hidden amongst the woods that fronted the eastern city. That left Boromir. He should have been in front. For even though Denethor ordered him to stand at the back of the army and direct the battle from there, he knew Boromir would not. ‘My son thinks himself indestructible,’ Denethor thought helplessly, ‘that naught can touch him. How did I raise such a fool?’ But he quickly chided himself. Boromir was no fool, but a good captain who would not let his men go into battle whilst he remained safe at the back of the troops.

He watched as the black riders rode through his army, not being stopped at all, not slashing with swords or anything. They did not need swords; the horror of them seemed to slay men before them. They crossed the bridge, and rode into West Osgiliath. The reaction from the men of that garrison mirrored those men the riders had just come through. Denethor shuddered and the globe went black.

Boromir needed more men! Reverently, he placed the covering back on the stone, ran from the room, and locked the door behind him. Hirgon stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up and holding a missive in his hand. Denethor ran down and motioned for the Rider to follow him into his study.

“A missive from Captain-general Boromir,” he stood silently by as Denethor read it.

The Steward devoured the note, then rang for his aide. When Belegorn entered, he sent for Húrin. “Get yourself some food, Captain,” he told Hirgon, “Return in one hour’s time.” Hirgon saluted and left him. ‘Four hours ago,’ Denethor thought, ‘Boromir yet lived. That is a consoling thought. And Faramir too; Boromir would have noted…’ He did not continue with the thought. Húrin entered moments later. “They need more men. Send the Second and Third Company to Osgiliath.”

“My Lord Steward,” Húrin blanched, “that leaves only the First Company to guard the Citadel.”

“Boromir comes against a foe he cannot battle with the forces he now has. Send the companies and do not question me further.” Húrin saluted and left. Five minutes later, Denethor heard the horns calling the companies to arms. He steeled himself against returning to the Tower room. Another thirty minutes passed and he heard the horns again calling – this time to march. His heart lifted. They were well trained, the best of Gondor’s knights. Not many a company could assemble and march inside an hour’s time. He could only hope they would be enough, be in time. It would take them six hours to cross the Pelennor, another hour to reach the battle itself. He should have sent them before.

Taking his cloak and wrapping it about him, he crossed the Court of the Fountain and stood at the tip of the parapet. At times like these, he wished he had the famed Elven sight. All he saw was smoke lifting from the desolate city. “Boromir. Faramir,” he whispered. “Take care of each other.”

He began to second-guess his orders. He should have put his sons together. They seemed to draw strength from each other. But Faramir had to take the Rangers to the perimeter and harry the enemy before they attacked the city. Boromir had to remain with the main body, waiting till the Rangers and Faramir’s archers had dealt the first blow to them. Cursing furiously, he clenched the top of the wall, fighting desperately not to run back to the Tower room, for he knew It held no answers for him. It would not show his sons.

Húrin stood next to him, holding out a goblet. “Take the brandy. It will keep you warm.”

“How is it,” Denethor wondered aloud, “that it is so cold in the midst of July? Some trick of the Enemy?”

Húrin made no answer.

~*~

“I have you, Faramir. Take a deep breath. Mablung, hold him steady!” Boromir worked furiously, stripping his brother of the mail that he had insisted Faramir wear and which had almost cost him his brother’s life, pulling him down into the River. Boromir then tore the shirt open. “Breathe, Faramir, for Elbereth’s sake, breathe! Damrod! Do you see any of the others?”

“Nay, Boromir. They are all lost.”

The Captain-general of Gondor sobbed. “Faramir. Open your eyes, please, Faramir. I have you.” Another sob. “Please, Faramir, open your eyes.”

“He is gone, Boromir,” Mablung sobbed wretchedly.

“Nay!” Boromir bellowed. “Faramir!” he screamed and pulled his brother close, “Do not leave me, do you hear!” He beat on his brother’s back, trying to get the water out of his lungs. “Breathe!” he screamed again.

At last, he felt a movement in his arms. Beating Faramir’s back again, he whispered in his brother’s ear, “I have you, Faramir. Do not leave me.” He was shaking so badly that Damrod had to hold his arms. “Faramir,” he whispered again.

He felt the boy’s body shake and held him close as Faramir began to cough and choke. “Good! Good! Now take some breaths, Faramir. You are safe now. Take some breaths. Slowly, I have you.” He clenched his teeth tight to stop his jaw from shaking.

“Bor- Boromir?”

“I have you, Faramir. Safe. You are safe now. Just take it slow and breathe a little. Do not breathe deep, just shallow.”

Faramir continued to cough; Boromir patted him on the back. “You are safe,” he kept whispering, “you are safe.” He felt Damrod’s arms about him and leaned into the man’s body. “Thank you, Damrod,” he sighed. “Thank you.”

“Boromir. My men?”

“All dead, Faramir. As are my own. The bridge. I do not know what happened; it collapsed too soon. Poor Elatan is dead, too.”

Faramir shook in his arms, but Boromir could hardly hold him for the shaking his own body was doing. Damrod still held him tightly. “Mablung. Go to the bridge and find someone. Bring some help back?” Boromir ordered. Mablung nodded and ran up the bank of the Anduin. Boromir looked about him, trying to figure out where they were.

“We are about a league south of the bridge,” Damrod understood his concern and Boromir was grateful for the soldier’s answer to the unspoken question. “You have been with me too long, old friend.” Damrod smiled and held him tighter. Boromir sighed. “Faramir?”

“I think he sleeps, Boromir. I can feel his breath; he only sleeps.”

Boromir nodded and hung his head down. “I thought we had lost him.” He felt Damrod’s nod. “I cannot stop shaking.”

“I know. I will start a fire. We are all freezing.” Boromir felt Damrod’s body shake. “The attack is stopped. I know not why,” the soldier said. “The fighting has stopped.”

Boromir looked up and towards the east side of the River. Damrod was right. The fighting had stopped. The enemy had withdrawn. “Why?”

Damrod just shook his head as he went about collecting dead wood from the banks of the Anduin. “Mayhap something else happened. The Steward might have sent more men. I know not.” He flung the wood down near Boromir and began to tear up the dried grasses from the top of the bank. Quickly, he brought two handfuls down and put them on the ground, then piled the wood on top. Pulling his flint from the wax-soaked box, he struck it and lit the grasses. They caught immediately and soon a fire was blazing.

Boromir moved Faramir closer. His brother began to shake. Boromir tore the clothes off him and moved him even closer to the fire. “Can you find anything we can cover him with?” he called out to Damrod.

The soldier scoured the banks of the River, but found naught. “There is nothing here, Boromir.”

“Never the mind.” He pulled his own sopping tunic and shirt off and pulled Faramir tightly to his body, hoping he had some heat left to share with him. “Do you hear anyone coming, Damrod?”

“Nay. Yes! I can hear feet running. Over here!” he stood and waved furiously. Within moments, Hador, Galdor and a full company of knights surrounded them.

“Blessed Eru!” Hador cried. “We thought we had lost you.”

“You will soon if you do not find something to cover me with. I am freezing,” Boromir smiled through chattering teeth.

A blanket was thrown over his shoulders. Galdor stooped low and tried to take Faramir from him. A hand, strong as steel, encircled the captain’s wrist. “Do not touch him,” Boromir whispered. “Do not touch him.”

Galdor stepped back in surprise. “I…”

Mablung knelt at Boromir’s side. “He needs to be clothed, Captain, else he freeze to death.”

Boromir looked up in surprise. He swallowed hard. “As do you and Damrod.” He moved his hands from Faramir and watched as a shirt was thrown over Faramir’s head and a blanket then covered the rest of him. Mablung and Damrod too were given dry clothes.

“We best move you to the garrison, Captain-general,” Hador said quietly. “The healers should look at all four of you. Where are the rest of your men?”

Boromir bowed his head. “Gone. Any who did not make it across the bridge are gone.”

Hador nodded and put an arm under Boromir’s to help him rise. Damrod stepped over, having now dry clothes upon his back, and moved the captain away. “It is my duty, Captain Hador.”

The captain of Cair Andros moved away as Damrod helped Boromir stand. Mablung, now also fully dressed in warm clothes scooped Faramir into his arms. “Lead the way, Captain. We will follow.”

“I want to carry him, Mablung,” Boromir stood close.

“You can hardly walk,” Damrod whispered. “Let Mablung carry him. Faramir knows not the difference.”

“But I do.” Boromir willed himself not to sob. “Let us go then.” He clutched Damrod’s arm and struggled to reach the top of the bank. Hador moved behind him and gently pushed on his back, helping him up the steep slope. When they reached the top, Boromir was grateful to find horses waiting for them. Damrod jumped upon one and Hador cautiously helped Boromir mount in front of Damrod. Mablung did the same. The company moved out, with Boromir and Damrod, Mablung and Faramir, in the lead.

Within fifteen minutes, they were at the garrison. Strong arms helped them down. Men ran back and forth, shouting orders, telling all that the Captain-general was hurt and must be tended to. Boromir pushed aside a helping hand and bellowed, “I am not hurt; leave me be.” Then, he strode towards his quarters, smiling as he hubbub behind him subsided. Someone yelled, “Hail, Boromir!” He did not stop, but waved nonetheless. Damrod ran to catch up with him. “Damrod, bring Faramir with you.” The soldier nodded and ran back to Mablung, directing the man carrying the sleeping Faramir to the captain’s quarters.

Once inside, Boromir collapsed. Damrod, seeing his captain’s knees buckle, caught him just in time. “You are stubborn!” he hissed. “You might have hit your head and done what the enemy could not.”

Boromir smiled as he pulled himself up Damrod’s arm. “Thank you. Now, Mablung, put Faramir on my bed.”

Damrod sat Boromir in the bed. “You will lie down here. Another bed has been sent for. Mablung can hold Faramir for another moment or two.”

Boromir nodded in agreement as Mablung sat in a straight-backed chair by the table. He watched as Faramir still slept. “Are you certain he is all right?”

“He sleeps, Captain,” Mablung whispered. “He took in much water. The struggle to reach the surface has taken all his strength.”

Just then the door was flung open and another bed was brought in, followed closely by the garrison’s healer and Captain Isilmo. The healer strode towards Boromir, but the Captain-general waved him to Faramir’s side. Kneeling by the now reposing Faramir, the healer did a quick examination. Then he walked to Boromir’s side. “He is well. The lungs sound clear. That is a good sign. And he must feel comfortable to sleep so soundly. Now, if I may look at you?”

Boromir growled, but did all that the healer asked. At last, the man stepped back. “You have survived again. The men call you indestructible, but do not believe it, my Captain. No man is safe from death.” Boromir nodded and gratefully accepted the drink the healer offered. “This will help your throat. The water of the Anduin is not pure, what with the filth that fell into it this night. I will return in the morning.” He turned to Damrod. “I want this tea given to both of them before they sleep.” He smiled, “That is, if Faramir wakes up. If either have need of me, send for me.” Damrod nodded and walked the healer to the door.

Boromir leaned back in the bed. Isilmo stepped forward. “The attack has ended. The enemy disappeared into the night, once the bridge was blown. That was brilliant, destroying it like that. They had no chance to cross over.”

“It was not the destruction of the bridge that caused them to pull back. I know not what it was, but it was not that.” Boromir shivered, but not from the cold.

Damrod stepped forward. “Captain Isilmo. I believe you may give your report to the Captain-general on the morrow.” He took the captain’s arm and moved him towards the door. Boromir smiled. “Good night, Captain.” Within moments, he too slept. He would have smiled if he watched Damrod stand guard at the door whilst Mablung stood guard over Faramir. He slept and did not see, but slept in peace because he knew his men.


A/N - If you have any questions/concerns regarding the Battle of the Bridge, please see A/N's from Chapter Nine.

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12.

Sunrise would soon be upon them; Damrod rued the fact that the garrison would soon be awakening. Boromir and Faramir had only had an hour’s sleep, at best. He was startled, in the middle of the short rest, when Boromir began to thrash about. He took a step closer and looked towards Mablung, noting concern on his friend’s face also. “Faramir!” Boromir’s scream caused both of them to jump.

Faramir woke. “Boromir?” he called plaintively.

“I am sorry, Captain. Your brother had a nightmare. He is now resting comfortably. The healer left you some tea. He asked that you drink it.”

Faramir grimaced, but when he tried to sit up and take the cup, he found he could not. Mablung knelt beside him and held his head up, pouring the tea slowly into Faramir’s mouth. At last, the entire drink was gone and Mablung lowered Faramir back onto the bed. “You are warm to the touch,” but Faramir was asleep again. “He is hot, Damrod. Should we send for the healer?”

Damrod stepped to Faramir’s side, lightly touching his captain’s brow. “Not overly. It cannot be the fever again! Let us wait another hour and see if he cools. Mayhap it is just from the River.”

“He would be cool to the touch if it was the River. The water flows from the mountains. It is cold.”

Damrod laughed despite himself. “I remember that well, Mablung.”

“Then I think we should call the healer.”

“What is wrong?” Boromir’s sleepy voice questioned.

“Faramir seems a bit warm. We were considering sending for the healer.”

Instantly, Boromir was at his brother’s side. He touched Faramir’s forehead and winced. “Morgoth’s breath. Is it the fever?”

“We wondered the same. He should be cool,” Damrod touched Boromir’s skin. “Yours is warm, too. Mayhap it is the blankets?”

“Send for the healer,” Boromir lowered his head into his hands. “Hopefully, it is nothing.”

“Boromir, lie back down. There is naught you can do, for the nonce.”

Boromir shook his head. “I did not rest well. I dreamt of Faramir in the River.” He shook and Damrod took the blanket from Boromir’s bed and wrapped it around the Captain-General’s shoulders. “I have wondered too about the bodies of our dead. Those who fell in the River are lost. Or… Mablung, after you find the healer, send an errand-rider to the Harlond. Ask them to keep watch for the bodies and take them from the River, have them brought back to the City. If they have already passed, have a rider leave the Harlond and go to Pelargir. I do not want my men’s bodies going to the Sea. They should be buried, if we are able to do so.”

Mablung saluted and left them.

“Damrod, the bodies of those who died in East Osgiliath. I would send a detail to bury them, but we would need to send them over in boats. We have not enough. And for that matter, I wonder if it is wise. The city is no longer ours and they would be in grave danger.”

“Boromir,” Damrod said gently, “they are Orc fodder now. It is too late. It was too late the moment they died.”

Boromir lowered his head again and began to weep. Damrod knelt at his friend’s side and held him. “We must hope they all died in battle.” Boromir shook. He saw before him the hundreds of bodies strewn across the old city, and prayed to the Valar that none had been taken captive.

A moment later, the healer entered the room with Mablung at his side. He strode towards Faramir’s bed and knelt at Boromir’s side. “Has aught happened?”

“He is warm to the touch. Captain Faramir was afflicted with undulant fever late last year. Could this be a reoccurrence?” Boromir moved so the healer could examine Faramir.

“It very well may be. He should be sent to Minas Tirith immediately. I cannot care for him, if thus is his condition.”

Boromir nodded and watched as Damrod ran from the room.

“Did you drink the tea I left?”

“I remember no speech of tea.”

“Ah. You were still battle-shocked. I left tea for you and Faramir.” The healer stood up and walked to the table. “I see Faramir’s is gone. He must have drunk it. That is good. I would have you drink yours. It is cold, but that matters not.”

Boromir accepted the cup and drank it quickly, grimacing slightly at the taste. “Will you ride with us to the City?”

“I cannot. There are too many wounded here. I need more healers, my Lord, if you could ask the Steward to send them?”

“Of course. Will Faramir be… should it concern me that we travel with no healer?”

“Nay. He is warm, but not truly hot. I think we should stem this before the fever heightens.” The healer put his hands to his eyes and wearily rubbed them.

“Have you had any sleep this night?”

“Nay. Too many wounded.”

“But you have at least five healers and a dozen assistants.”

“My Lord Boromir,” the man sighed as if he spoke to a child, “there are hundreds of wounded.”

Boromir turned his back on the man, holding in his tears. “I understand. I am sorry I questioned you.”

“Nay. When Faramir wakes, give him some of this.” He handed Boromir another cup of tea. “It will help give him strength for the journey. Take it slowly, Captain. Putting him through a strenuous ride would be worse than the fever rising.”

“Thank you. Go now and take some rest. I order you an hour’s sleep.”

The healer smiled. “I will, my Lord. May the Valar be with you and your brother.” He saluted and left the room.

Boromir sat tiredly at the foot of Faramir’s bed. His brother looked so peaceful that he almost envied him.

Noises from the courtyard drew their attention from Faramir for a moment. Mablung quickly strode towards the door, opening it to a cacophony of sound.

“More men from Minas Tirith, Boromir!” The man’s voice held stunned surprise. “It is the Second and Third Companies of the Tower Guard.”

Boromir sprang up. “Watch Faramir,” he ordered and ran out the door. He found Beregond standing guard outside. For a moment, he was startled, then a deep smile creased his face. “You live, you scoundrel,” and Boromir grasped his aide in a heartfelt hug.

“I dare not die; I have a surly Captain-General to care for. Though getting past Mablung and Damrod last night was more than this poor soldier could accomplish. I stationed myself here instead.”

“Thank you. Go in and relieve them. They have not slept. Faramir’s fever has returned. Sit with him?”

“Of course. I am sorry to hear it.”

Boromir turned at the shout of his name. “Gwinhir! What brings you here?”

The Captain of the Second Company strode forward. “The Steward Denethor sent us to help in your hour of need, but it see we are not needed. Not oft is the Steward wrong.”

“Nay. Not wrong. The enemy cut off the fight; I know not why, but let us to the mess. Faramir yet rests. We inadvertently went swimming last night.”

“The destruction of the bridge went ill?”

“It did. We lost Elatan.” The remembrance caused Boromir to stop walking. “Captain Isilmo,” he called out. The captain ran to his side. “Where is the other engineer? Meneldil?”

“I know not. I thought he had also perished when the bridge collapsed.”

“I think not. Have all but the guard returned from the bridge?”

“They have.”

“Find him.”

Isilmo nodded, turned and began shouting orders.

Boromir and Gwinhir entered the mess. Mugs of whiskey-laced coffee were brought to them. Boromir nodded his head in gratitude as he tasted it.

“You and your men should return to the City as soon as your horses are rested, Gwinhir. A company will be leaving with me within the hour. I am handing command of Osgiliath to Isilmo in my absence.” He lowered his voice. “Did the Steward tell you aught of the battle?”

“Nay. I did not speak with Lord Denethor, but with Warden Húrin. He gave the order to reinforce your ranks.”

“We faced a foe I hope never to see again. They rode through my men as hot steel through butter. They did not stop, but continued here and then northward. I sent missives to Cair Andros. Has there be any word from the island garrison?”

“Not to my knowledge, Captain-General.”

Boromir sighed. “No news, hopefully, is good news. I will leave you now; eat and rest while you may. Then, return to the City as quickly as you are able. I do not take pleasure in the thought that the Citadel is left guarded only by one company.”

Gwinhir saluted and Boromir gulped the last of his coffee and left, looking for Isilmo. In the distance, he saw the captain striding towards him.

“Meneldil was injured; he is being cared for.”

“Take me to him.”

As they walked, Boromir transferred the command of Osgiliath’s garrison to Isilmo. The captain understood and accepted it, until Boromir’s return.

Shortly after, they entered the garrison’s own version of the Houses of Healing. Boromir stopped at each cot and spoke with each man. At last, he stood next to Meneldil’s cot. A deep gash was being tended by one of the assistants; it had already been stitched closed.

“My Lord Boromir,” the young engineer sobbed, “Elatan is dead.”

Boromir knelt and took the man’s hand in his. “I know. How were you injured?”

“I saw the bridge collapsing. I had yet to order the last cut. Elatan was still on it, just walking back. He must have felt the tremor. He lunged, but… I tried to catch him.” The man wept bitterly.

“Why did the bridge collapse,” Boromir asked gently.

“I know not. We had cut precisely. You yourself inspected it. It was strong enough to hold your retreating forces.” The young man shook his head in obvious bewilderment.

Boromir touched his shoulder. “Take you rest; you did what you could.”

“It might have been those…” The man shivered. “It might have been the passing of those horses. The bridge shook as they rode past.” Another shiver. “I did not note much.” The blush that covered the engineer’s face was heightened by its pallor. “I hid my face in the ground as they passed.”

Boromir’s brow furrowed. “It is as you say. They were fell beast.” A brow rose. “Rest now and return to the City when you are released from here.”

He stood and looked about him. A hush descended upon the room as the men felt his regard. “This night, we were assailed by forces no other men could endure,” Boromir began, loud enough for all to hear him. “You carried yourselves well. All of Gondor will sing your praises for your stalwart defense of Osgiliath. We will reclaim the eastern city,” Their cheers interrupted him. He smiled, motioned them to silence, and continued. “I leave you with my deepest regard and respect. When I return from reporting to the Steward, we will rebuild the bridge and take back our city. It has been done before.” The men cheered again. “For Gondor!” The men took up the call; Boromir saluted them and left. He smiled as he listened to the excited hubbub he had left behind him.

Isilmo beamed. “You give them new courage and hope. I will be hard-pressed to hold them down till you return.”

“Is everything ready for our departure?”

“The horses are saddled; the company assembles as we speak.”

“Good. I return to Faramir’s side. As soon as the company is ready, bring our horses to my quarters. Also, I will be taking Mablung and Damrod with me. Of course, Beregond will stay at my side.”

Isilmo saluted and left him on the doorstep of the captain’s quarters.

Beregond opened the door. “I heard your step.”

Boromir laughed, then sobered. “How is Faramir?”

“Restless.”

Nodding, Boromir walked to his brother’s cot. Taking Faramir’s hand in his, he sat on the edge. “Take some rest and food, Beregond; we will be leaving shortly.” The soldier saluted and left them.

“Boromir?”

“How do you feel?” He touched his brother’s forehead. “You seem cooler.”

“I think I am. Boromir,” the seriousness in Faramir’s tone caused Boromir to kneel at his side. “I had a dream, the night before the battle. I gave it little thought, though I found it disconcerting.” He shivered then swallowed convulsively. “I had it again, just before I woke at the sound of your voice. It chills me to the bone.”

“Tell me of it,” Boromir said quietly.



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13.

Silence filled the small captain’s quarters, once Faramir had related the details of his dream. The youngest son of the Steward closed his eyes with some relief. It had been a heavy burden upon him, this unsettling dream, and not having anyone to share it with had not helped.

Boromir, on the other hand, was concerned. His little brother had always been one for dreams. He remembered being awakened many a night by a frightened little boy begging to sleep with him after one of the ‘wave’ dreams. ‘Mayhap ‘tis only the fever.’ But he threw that thought aside; the first dream had come before the battle. He pulled on his lip for a moment. “Tell me, you have studied so much more than I, is there aught in any of your reading that has mentioned Imladris? I have never heard of a Halfling. I am assuming it is a people like unto men, unless it be some creature that stands.” He breathed a heavy sigh. “Let us wait another night or two, see if the dream comes to you again, and, if it does, then I will go with you to Father. He knows more than any of us of the lands beyond Gondor.”

“I would wait also,” Faramir frowned. “It was so real and the very same both times. But you speak rightly. The wave dream that woke me when I was a child spoke the same to me as this one does. Real and terrifying.”

“Does this dream terrify you?” Boromir asked in concern.

“Nay. It is more disconcerting for it speaks of things that wander just out of the reach of my thoughts. I have not heard of Imladris before, but the Sword that was broken – that I know. Isildur, of course, is well-known to me, but I know not what Isildur’s Bane might be.” He mirrored his brother’s sigh. “I will wait and see if the dream comes upon me again. If it does, I will find you and we will go to Father. In the meantime, I will search the Library for anything that might mention this place.”

“It is the note of Doom that bespeaks an urgency, especially after what we fought last night. Morgul spells. What can they be? Though I would swear I had been under a spell when the Black Riders rode past us. My own men also were thusly affected. I would deem this a dream of some importance. But, now, let us go home. I am tired and you are still fevered,” he touched Faramir’s forehead, “though not as warm as you were earlier. Are you able to walk on your own?”

Faramir smiled and pulled himself upright. “I would not have been last night, but I believe the teas I drank have helped. I do not feel quite so wretched today. Just give me a hand to stand up and I will do my best.”

Boromir reached out and placed a hand under Faramir’s right arm and helped his brother to his feet. His brow rose in alarm as Faramir swayed for a moment, but his brother steadied himself with a smile.

“I think I can manage the rest of this.”

“There is tea here for the journey. The healer bids you drink it, then you will ride with me.”

“Nay, Boromir. I would not have the men see me helpless.”

His brother shrugged, “You are.”

Faramir cuffed him lightly on the arm, then drank the odious tea. “Give me a moment to gather my strength and let this tea works its magic, then I must ride on my own horse.”

“I do not think Mablung nor Damrod will agree to such a plan.”

“Hang them both!”

“Who, Captain?” Damrod asked as he entered the room. “Hang whom?

“He is suggesting that he ride alone.”

Damrod’s brow lifted. “I do not think that wise. Can you even walk?”

Faramir swore lightly. “I can do more than walk,” He fidgeted for his sword.

“Calm down, Faramir,” Boromir laughed. “You would kill Damrod outright for he would not return the fight.”

Faramir blushed. “I am sorry. I do not want the men seeing me weak; the night’s battle has been difficult enough, that they would be concerned for my well-being is too much.”

Boromir leaned forward and laid a tender kiss on his brother’s forehead. “The fever has abated. I understand your concern for the men and I will bow to it. I ask this vow from you, if you falter or feel yourself unable to ride, you stop immediately and join me on my horse. Else we will not leave here.”

“I will so do it. I swear.”

Boromir nodded. Damrod helped Faramir put on his over tunic and strap his scabbard-encased sword to his belt. Taking one of his captain’s arms, he led him to the door. “Captain-General. When we leave this room, I will let go Captain Faramir’s arm. I will stand close to his side and help him mount his horse. You need not fear. Go and speak your last words to Captain Isilmo. We will wait for you to rejoin us.”

“I will be but a moment, Damrod. Thank you.”

He stepped past the two and walked into the sunlight.

~*~

Denethor listened attentively as his oldest gave his report of the Battle of the Bridge, but his sight was repeatedly drawn back towards his youngest. That something was very wrong with Faramir was easily discerned; what the cause was, was not. When Boromir was done with his report, and Faramir finished his own report, Denethor stood. “Come with me to my study.” He strode quickly past them and through the Great Hall. The Chamberlain barely had time to rap his staff on the floor and declare the session ended. The Lords in the Hall moved back, but Denethor distinctly heard the low whispers and knew them for what they were: fear. It had encompassed his own heart as he listened of the Black Riders. Thankfully, Cair Andros had been spared, but where did they head? Were they riding to Rohan? Had Theoden’s loyalty finally been lost to Gondor? Or perhaps they were in league with the Elves of the North, the Mistress of Magic of Laurelindórenan?’ His mind hurt at the thoughts and questions that spilled over and he cursed himself for spending the entire night in the Tower room.

When Faramir and Boromir entered the study behind him, he bid them sit, but he himself paced up and down before the great fireplace that dominated the room. The oaken panel behind the fireplace that bore a carving of the White Tree rose to the ceiling. Denethor looked upon it and ceased his pacing. “There are those who would take Gondor from us,” he whispered. “Not only the Enemy, but one who was a friend.” He turned and faced them. “Faramir,” he strode forward and knelt on one knee before his youngest. “What ails thee? Wert thou wounded?”

“Nay, Father. The fever returned. But I am better now.”


Denethor stood and rang the bell. A servant entered and was immediately sent to fetch the Master Healer. Faramir tried to stay his father, but Denethor would not be swayed. “You look ill. I will not have you relapsing.”

“It was the dunking in the river, Father, I am sure of that.”

“We will see what the healer says. I do not quite trust your judgment, Faramir. You showed no sense when the fever near took you from us last year. I will not discuss this. You do not leave this room until the healer tells me this is not a relapse.”

Faramir nodded, not saying a word, but rolled his eyes when Boromir gently nudged him.

“These Black Riders. Tell me more.” Denethor sat and motioned for Boromir to describe in further detail the Enemy’s newest weapon. When Boromir was done, Denethor sat in thoughtful silence. “They do not seem so fierce. They took no lives.”

For a moment Boromir shivered. “They took no lives because some of our men took their own in unbridled fear.” Another shiver assailed him. “I truly saw them not, for the reports told of more than one, but I felt such evil, and then a black despair enveloped me. It took all my will, Father, to follow them or it.” Boromir paused in the remembrance. “I do not think they were Men. Definitely not Orcs or Uruks.”

“Well, we will leave that for the nonce. They have passed Gondor’s borders. We need not concern ourselves further. But tell me, Faramir,” and the Steward turned towards his youngest with such a look that he might have laughed at Faramir’s dropped jaw, if he did not sense something disturbed his son, “what have you seen?”

Faramir gasped for a moment, then blushed furiously. “I had a dream.” He too shivered and Boromir ran and brought back a blanket, covering Faramir’s legs.

The Steward did not move or say a word.

At last, Faramir, outflanked spoke quietly. When he had finished telling of the dream, Denethor sat back. “Get your brother a glass of brandy, Boromir.”

~*~

A week went by, and every night, Faramir was tormented by the dream. Some times it came two or three times in one night. At last, Boromir could stand it no longer. His brother’s eyes were dark-circled and red. He followed Faramir into his rooms. When his brother looked at him in surprise, he said, “If I sit by your side as you sleep, mayhap the Valar will give you one night’s rest.”

“Thank you, though I deem it not necessary. The dream will come whether I will it or no.”

“Be not so down-hearted, Faramir Rest while you may. I brought a book with me, one of the Dagorlad. I hope to find something of Isildur in its passages. Sleep now.” Boromir pulled a chair up to Faramir’s bed and sat on it, steaming brandy in one hand, the book in the other.

Faramir looked upon him with some skepticism, then shrugged. “If you insist on being stubborn, then I will debate you no further.” He shrugged off his outer clothes, took a clean night robe from the press, donned it and crawled into his bed.” After a moment’s hesitation, he spoke. “Would you read me some of it?”

Boromir smiled, remembering days gone by. “It will keep you awake. You will question everything I read and we will be up till dawn.”

Faramir snorted, rolled over and pulled the covers over his head. “At least you could leave only one candle lit,” he said testily.

“Shush!”

The battle raged for seven years. Boromir read well into the night, once in awhile noting that Faramir seemed to sleep peacefully. Often his mind was fortified by the daily skirmishes noted in the book, but too oft did his mind wander as the details took some joy from the reading. At last he found his eyelids heavy. He thought upon returning to his own rooms, his own bed, to sleep, but he had promised Faramir he would not leave. After a bit, his eyes burned. He closed the book and laid it on his stomach, leaned one leg against the arm of the chair and fell asleep.

He could smell the Orcs! He could hear the screams! How awful. How terrible it was to watch Elf after Elf fall, to see Elendil himself fall, and, oh! To see Isildur cut the Ring from the hand. The dream was vivid. He woke, startled, an exclamation just loosed, but, thankfully, Faramir did not wake. Boromir picked up the book and put it on a nearby table, stood and stretched. He looked down upon his sleeping brother and smiled. There was a hint of the child he once had been in the way the lips lay slightly open, the hair tousled, the hands twitching in some dream world. He hoped it was not the sword dream.

He walked about the room for a few minutes, heartened that he was fully awake, then sat back down and picked up the book. Within moments, he slept once more. This time, he felt it, in the very marrow of his bones. The eastern sky, above Mordor, was growing dark, but it was not from the loss of Anor; it was a malevolent darkness that spread out from it and over the Ephel Dúath, slowly coming closer and closer to the Pelennor. His breath hitched as growing thunder shook the room. He tried to turn away from the horror of it and finally found himself facing westward. To his delight, there was a light there still, lingering as if it was fighting some force; it brought a smile to his face and a moment’s peace. But the light shimmered as if alive and a voice came from it. At first, Boromir could not understand the words and he chafed at his ineptness. He strained further and the voice cleared, though it still seemed far off. He heard the words and shivered in his sleep. Doom. It was the only word that he really understood. Imladris and Halfling were unknown to him, but Doom. He knew doom and what it meant. The book fell from his lap and he stood up, startled.

Faramir still slept, but Anor was awake and tingeing the window with a reddish light. ‘Rain today,’ he thought to himself. Boromir stretched and walked over to it. A shiver ran down his spine as he looked at the Shadow Mountains and remembered. ‘I must leave – and soon. I must go to Imladris and find this sword and this Halfling and turn this Doom to victory for Gondor.’

“Boromir?”

“I am awake. Did you sleep well?”

“I did. No thought of the dream. I feel rested at last. But, Boromir… You had the dream?”

His older brother chuckled. “You have Father’s gift. I had the dream. When we go to Father to break our fast. I will ask him to send me to this Imladris” Faramir’s face fell. “You do not think I would let you go? It is dangerous.”

“And serving in Henneth-Annûn is not?”

Boromir felt the sting in the words. “I am heartier than you, Faramir. I only take this because of the fever.”

“It is long gone,” Faramir snapped. “Do not use that as an excuse!”

Boromir bit his lip and turned his back to his brother. “We will let Father decide. I will speak of it no more.”

Faramir threw his covers back, laved his face, and put on new clothes. He spoke not a word and grimly left the room. Boromir followed.

~*~

A/N – 1) Faramir calls Galadriel the ‘Mistress of Magic’ in TTT: Book 4: Ch. 5: The Window on the West. 2) FoTR: Book 2: Ch. 1: The Council of Elrond - "In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Of these words we could understand little, and we spoke to our father, Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, wise in the lore of Gondor. This only would he say, that Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Halfelven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters. Therefore my brother, seeing how desperate was our need, was eager to heed the dream and seek for Imladris; but since the way was full of doubt and danger, I took the journey upon myself. Loth was my father to give me leave, and long have I wandered by roads forgotten, seeking the house of Elrond, of which many had heard, but few knew where it lay."


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14.

“So it comes to this,” Denethor said quietly, “ I must send one or the other of my sons on this quest?”

“It appears so,” Húrin smiled sadly. “Of course, you could send me. I have had the dream also.”

“Though you are a great warrior, Húrin, the journey will be long and arduous. Boromir speaks rightly; he is the one fit for such a mission.”

“You cannot send Gondor’s Captain-General.”

The Steward watched as his eldest son shifted in his chair. He knew Boromir did not like them talking about him in such a fashion, as if he were not in the room, but this was too serious a matter to be overly concerned about hurt feelings. Faramir did not seem to understand that.

His youngest squirmed. “I had the dream first and more oft than either Húrin or Boromir. I am familiar with finding my way in strange places. My woodland skills are beyond reproach.”

Faramir spoke quietly, but Denethor could feel the tension flowing from the boy. “You only want to see another Elf,” he gently chided.

“That is true, Father! Besides Faramir, most of what you speak of you learned from me.” Boromir laughed and Faramir’s eyes rolled

“And it would be true also, Father” Denethor noted Faramir’s taut jaw line as the boy spoke in his low, quiet voice, “But Lord Húrin is correct, Gondor needs her Captain-General. Better I should go. Besides,” and finally Denethor noted a twinkle in his youngest’ eye, “I have a better sense of direction.”

Boromir made to protest but Denethor stayed him with but a gesture. “The matter has been placed on tomorrow’s Council agenda. You are both invited. We will listen to the Lords’ thoughts and we will decide.” He watched Faramir’s shoulders sag and noted Boromir’s concern. Obviously, both thought the other would be sent. He sighed and stood, walking to the window. “Would that I had had the dream.”

Húrin’s brow rose. He saw the strong back of his Steward straighten and asked in alarm, “You would not consider going yourself!”

Denethor turned back and looked at the three men in his chambers. Húrin was a great warrior indeed, but his time had passed for wandering in the unknown reaches of the world. Boromir was Captain-General and most needed at this time. Faramir, though not a child, did not have the stamina for such a long journey, though he did have the heart and, it seemed, the right.

That very morning, he and his sons had poured over what maps could be found. The archivist were told to continue the search as there was almost nothing once one crossed the River Gwáthlo, the Greyflood as the Rohirrim called it. Tharbad, if he remembered correctly, had been flooded so badly during Turin’s Stewardship that the port finally closed and the people dissembled. The bridge had been washed away or collapsed; he could not remember which. A few scratches on paper, showed a river or two, and a town or two sprinkled across the paper, but naught of note. If this Imladris was near Fornost, it would take at least two months time to travel there. None knew how populated the North was; the Palantír would not see that far. Then another two months to return. Denethor could not hope for such a speedy trip; at the least his son would be gone four months, more likely five. December. Mayhap he would return by Mettarë, or earlier.

“Boromir,” his eldest stood next to him in but a moment’s time, “This blackness came from Mordor?”

“It did. From there.” He pointed to near where they both new Minas Morgul stood.

“Father,” Faramir stood next to them, sensing that Boromir would be the one chosen. “Send me. I beg you. I have seen the dream almost every night. I know it in my very bones.”

Denethor turned, his face grim, his lips pulled into a taught line across his face. “We will listen to the Lords,” he said patiently, “and then I will give my decision.” He put his hand on Faramir’s arm. “You will obey me.”

Faramir blushed and Boromir cursed. Denethor continued, “I have not forgotten your last foray against my will, Faramir.” He walked away from them and sat at his desk. “Have you met with Mithrandir?”

Faramir blanched. “He is not in Minas Tirith.”

“You have met him elsewhere in days past… perhaps he has been to Henneth-Annûn?”

Faramir drew his shoulders back. “I have not seen the wizard since last year.”

“Father,” Boromir interrupted what was surely going to turn into another of the nasty ‘wizard’ battles that had become more frequent since Mithrandir’s last visit. “Is there anything known of Imladris besides the fact that it lies north? Faramir and I have spent the last week with the archivists and have found not a word. Even the scrolls of the Battle of the Dagorlad are vague about the Elves that fought there.”

“Vague indeed. Yet, you looked in the wrong place, my son. Perhaps if you had opened a tome of the men of Númenor you would have discovered part of the answer. Tar Minyatur, Númenor’s first king, had a brother. Faramir, you must know this! Elrond Halfelven, a renown loremaster even to this day. Elrond is said to live in Imladris.”

Boromir shivered. “Another wizard!”

“Nay. Loremaster. An Elf.”

“So he will be difficult to find?”

“I think that assertion is correct. But we will discuss this no further. Both of you, and you Húrin, join me for the breaking of the fast on the morrow, then we will join the Council.”

~*~

The Council met and fruitless were its deliberations. It was still undecided when the Steward dismissed them, for Denethor had despaired of receiving a wise judgment from his Council. Most of the Lords of Gondor were appalled to even think that their Captain-General would desert them at this most difficult time. They had been badly frightened by the attack at Osgiliath. Many had hitherto not believed Denethor, though he had spoken again and again of the encroachment of the Enemy’s forces and the need for more men. At least, because of this, the ranks of Gondor’s army would be fortified; each Lord pledged another number of their own men to Gondor’s main forces. The total came to almost a thousand. ‘Yet,’ Denethor thought, ‘we lost almost five hundred at Osgiliath, and they well-trained men compared to what we will be getting from the fiefdoms. Never the mind,’ he thought to himself, ‘we will have them trained quickly and out in the field before Yáviérë.’

Boromir was in Denethor’s chambers almost every hour of the day, haranguing his father to give him the quest. Faramir brooded in the Great Library whilst trying to find maps of better quality for the journey. Húrin hardly knew what advice to offer his Steward and all of Minas Tirith felt dread fall upon them. Many heard of the rumors of the unknown assailant at the battle, and, as rumors go, the tale became so embellished that it seemed four hundred riders on black horses with flames issuing from their mouths and eyes red as the fires of Mount Doom sought and turned the bravest knight into a mound of boneless flesh. The riders’ cries, it was said, could be heard all the way to Minas Tirith; many, Húrin said, told that they too heard the cries and shuddered in fear. None however stated they were so frightened as to hide under their cots, yet, they told of soldiers doing such a thing. Even worse, and this was too true, that the cries turned soldiers against themselves and each other, some falling on their own swords in despair. Denethor shivered himself. The tales were beginning to undermine his knights.

There would be one more meeting – three hours past midday. He would make his decision sometime this morning and would speak it at the Council. Faramir and Boromir were told to leave him; he needed time to ponder this decision and their constant verbal sparring prevented him from concentrating fully. He smiled at the thought, ‘They are almost as when they were children. ‘Let me go. Me first, Ada. It is my turn.’’ But tears filled his eyes. How he wished they were still young and not able to be sent on fell deeds such as this.

Finally, he went to the parapet and looked out upon the Pelennor. The bow of the ship that was Minas Tirith was empty. Húrin, in his wisdom, had ordered nuncheon served in Merethrond. Only his knights still stood about, guarding the Court of the Fountain. He would send Faramir. Boromir’s battle skills were desperately needed. Though Faramir was by far the weaker, he would endure. The Steward decided he would send a company with the boy… ‘Boy. Yes, still in my thoughts Faramir is a boy. How can I send a boy into the wild?’ But Faramir was a Captain of Gondor. Well-respected, loved by his men, and capable. The others who had captained Henneth-Annûn had left the hidden fortress weak. Faramir had brought it to strength. It was now a thorn in the Enemy’s side.

But he could not send Boromir. He made his way back towards the Hall when he staggered and found himself slammed forcefully against the Tower wall. More and more he was assailed by this weakness of body. He must sleep; he could not remember the last time he had slept. But keeping watch in the Tower, holding the Palantír and making it do his will – this was what was needed to save Gondor.

Slowly, his breath returned to him. He opened his eyes and saw before him the Anduin. His head spun as he watched, in horror, the scene before him. Once again he saw it, Boromir in a boat – dead.

~*~

A/N - I wasn’t going to go with anyone else having the dream, but the Muse thought it most appropriate. In HoMe VII, it even states that Denethor had it. I couldn’t quite go that far!!! “A dream came many months ago to the Lord of Minas Tirith in the midst of a troubled sleep; and afterward a like dream came to many others in the City, and even to me. Always in this dream there was the noise of running water upon one hand, and of a blowing fire upon the other; and in the midst was heard a voice, saying: Seek for the Sword that was broken:” HoMe: VII: Verse VI: The Council of Elrond.

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15.

A blackness settled upon him, squeezed his heart, and filled him. His chest hurt. His eyes burned. And yet, duty still called. No matter that his body warred against him or that his mind would leave him at times. Duty called.

The only thing these days that gave him surcease from the assaults about him was the stone, the globe that constantly called to him. It was the only thing that did his bidding. The only friend he had. His brow furrowed at the thought. It was only a stone! It could not be a friend.

But when he held it between his hands and plumbed its depths, he found he had control. He had lost control of every other aspect of his life, of the lives of his sons, but the stone would obey him. He could wield it easily; had been able to wield it with ease for at least the last ten years. It showed him what he needed to see, though it would still not show him his sons. This Elven gift was the only thing that kept him sane as horror and war loomed ever closer.

Sometime this past year, he had lost hope. He could not say the precise day nor the hour when it was taken from him. But he knew it was gone, and that knowledge left an ache in his heart that at times bled. Especially when he looked upon Boromir. Had his dreams or visions or whatever the hated things were, been true? Would Boromir die? And soon?

He closed his eyes as the memory engulfed him, caused his knees to betray him. With eyes still closed, he leaned against the Tower wall. Boromir lay in a boat – of Elven make, of that he was sure – with his sword clasped to his breast, his eyes shut in death, as the boat took him, flowing down the River to the Sea. Denethor bent over in horrified grief as agony once again assailed him through the vision. Sobs choked him, but he could not stop the sight. He saw Boromir’s beloved hands clasped in a death hold on his sword; hands that oft clasped his own in joy-filled greetings. He saw the face, deathly pale; the same beloved face of his eldest that consistently lit up with such a smile that Anor itself hid in shame. He saw the arrows at Boromir’s feet; arrows of his enemy laid in homage of a valiant deed. Boromir’s face lay serene and at peace as the vision brought it closer to him. But he was dead. Boromir was dead!

“My son is dead!” He wept aloud as his chest felt pain like unto the thrust of a sword piercing it. “Nay! Nay! Not dead. This is but a dream. It can be changed. This must be changed!” He would do as Boromir asked. He would send him to Imladris, to the Elves, and as far away from the Anduin as east is from west. And Boromir would bring back to him the weapon the dream spoke of. The sword that was broken. Denethor would have it re-forged and the Enemy could once again be vanquished. But this time, with Boromir wielding it, this time the Enemy would be soundly defeated, destroyed, and Minas Tirith would be safe. He could go to his final rest in peace. Boromir would sit upon the Chair of his ancestors and rule Gondor. Faramir would stand at his side, freed from the wizard’s wiles, and all would be right. Gondor would be saved. He could rest in peace.

He fell to the ground, totally exhausted, and wept. It was there that Boromir found him, raised him to his feet, and held him close. “I am taking the Quest, Father, Whether you will it or no. Gondor desperately needs help, but if no help will avail us, then at least I will return with answers. You need this, Father. Faramir is too weak; the fever comes and goes. We know the journey will be long and arduous. He could not endure it.”

Denethor tried to speak, but Boromir put two fingers over his lips. “Hush. Let me take you to your chambers. There is still some time before the Council reconvenes. You will have time to regain your strength. You must be strong when you tell them I will be taking the Quest. They will whimper and whine and say Gondor can ill afford the loss of its Captain-General, but you will tell them Faramir will take my place. He is worthy of it, Father. I know you have thought upon this long and hard. I know you agree with me. I can see it in your eyes.”

He moved his arm around Denethor’s waist and began moving his father forward, towards the Tower. Denethor let him lead him, exhausted in his grief. When they reached Denethor’s chambers, Boromir motioned the servant away. He brought his father to his bed and sat him upon it. Kneeling, he removed Denethor’s boots, then he helped him to stand. He removed his cloak and tunic, took off the heavy mail amidst Denethor’s protests, and gently pressed his father to lie upon the bed. Covering him, he bent low and kissed his forehead. “If it is not too unpleasant, I would sit with you for a bit?”

Denethor closed his eyes; tears slipped between the closed lids. “Faramir?” he whispered.

“He is in the stables. His horse threw a shoe. He will be here shortly, if you so wish?”

Denethor nodded. “Please. I would tell him myself. Before the Council meets. He will be gravely hurt. I would spare him the humiliation.”

Boromir’s eyes burned with unshed tears. He pulled the chord and the servant entered. “Please send for Lord Faramir. He is in the stables.” The servant nodded and left. Boromir turned back to Denethor, but his father slept.

The Steward’s eldest leaned against the bedpost and wept bitter tears. Within the space of a what seemed like a heartbeat, Faramir was at his side, cradling him, whispering words of comfort, for what, Faramir knew not, only that Boromir’s sobs tore his heart into a thousand pieces. At last, Boromir realized Faramir stood with him. He looked at him in wonder. “You came.”

“I always answer a request from Gondor’s Steward.” He smiled as tears streamed down his own face. “Boromir, why do you weep?”

Boromir bit his lip, then clutched Faramir tightly to him. “I found father by the Tower wall. He was distraught, almost mad with what appeared to be grief. I had to help bring him home. I know not what horrors assail him. Faramir, we must find out what it is that has caused so many changes to him. Will you help me?”

“Of course. Here, sit.” He pulled a chair up next to Denethor’s bed, waited until Boromir sat, then sat himself on the floor at Boromir’s feet. “What is it you want me to do?”

Boromir’s chin shook. Should he tell Faramir or let Denethor tell him? Nay, he could not. It would be a disservice to Faramir and to Denethor. What could he say? Holding his hands out before him, he splayed them open, then clenched them tight shut. Heaving a heavy sigh, he spoke quietly. “I love you, Faramir. More than I have loved any other. Would you please remember that?”

Faramir pulled himself closer to Boromir, knelt before the chair and cried aloud, “Where are you going? Is father sending you to Mordor? Or to Minas Morgul? Are we starting an offensive against the Enemy?”

“Nay. I am still Captain of Osgiliath. Faramir, it is just that my heart has been heavy of late. Your dreams, and then the same dream coming to me, have set my thoughts awhirl. Father’s decision will be known to the Council this afternoon. I want you and me to be right with one another before the decision is announced. No matter what he decides, you will remember, I love you?”

Faramir looked long and hard at Boromir and suddenly, Boromir felt as if Denethor looked upon him. Faramir’s brow rose. “He has decided. He is sending you.”

Once again, Boromir splayed his hands, then clenched them. “He has decided. He is sending me. You will become Captain-General until I return.” Agony slammed against him as he watched his brother’s shoulders slump. “Do not be angry with me, please.”

“I will not. If that is his decision, I will abide by it. How can I not? When will you leave?”

“Be not so cold. Scream at me. Throw invectives against me. Anything but this, Faramir. I cannot stand this iciness.”

“I am not being cold, Boromir. Pragmatic. I somehow knew, as soon as the dream came to you, that father would send you. Why not? Are you not the…?” He stopped; he would not go there. He would not let those thoughts of inadequacy and failure pass his lips. He knew his father loved him dearly; they just did not understand each other. He stood and pulled Boromir to his feet. Embracing him fiercely, he whispered, “I love you with all my strength. What can I do to help you? When will you leave?”

Boromir hugged his little brother tightly. “At first light, I think. Father and I have not discussed it. I will go alone. Faramir! Please. It is best this way. Secrecy is uppermost on this Quest. No other should know. If I leave with a company, tongues will wag. I cannot allow that. When I saw Father on his knees by the Tower, I vowed I would go to save him. That is my only wish, Faramir. To save him and you and Gondor… and our City. And I must go alone.”

“Faramir,” the strength of the voice surprised Boromir.

“Father. It is good to see you,” Faramir stood. “I am sorry I did not come immediately, but my horse threw a shoe whilst I was riding, and I took him to the smithy. Are you well?”

Denethor nodded. “Your brother thinks I am a child and has put me to bed for a nap.” Denethor chuckled dryly. “I should have him thrown into the dungeons for it, but I can be magnanimous today. Do I not have both my sons at my side?”

“You do. Might I bring you some brandy?”

“Nay. Help me up, Faramir. I would speak with you.”

Boromir nodded, gripped Faramir’s shoulder tightly, then left them.

Denethor took a deep breath. “You have already discerned why I sent for you.”

Faramir nodded.

“You are so like me,” Denethor said through clenched teeth. “I am sorry.”

“Why, Father? It is an honor to know you think me like you. You are a great and wise Steward. I can only hope to support you the best I can.”

“I would use some excuse as to why I send Boromir in your stead – that the fever still harries you, that you are not as strong as Boromir, that you are needed in Ithilien – but all these would only be excuses. I will tell you outright and you help me decide if I have chosen rightly.”

Faramir sat in the chair Boromir had vacated. “I will listen, Father. I cannot second-guess your choice. You know more than I of the comings and goings of the Enemy, where the greatest need is, what should be done. But I will listen, if you wish.”

“I wish.” Denethor looked down at the covers and smoothed them out. Then, embarrassed, he looked up. “You have dreams, Faramir. You always have. I too dream. I dreamt I saw Boromir in a boat, drawn down the River by the current, past Minas Tirith and headed out to the Sea. He was not sitting.” Denethor gulped back a sob. “He was dead, Faramir. He lay dead in the bottom of the boat, with his sword broken in his hands.”

Faramir shuddered. He took Denethor’s hands in his own. “So you send him away from Gondor to spare him this fate?”

“I do. The time of the dream is now. He is of the same age as he is now,” his brow rose in horror. “He must be saved, Faramir, at all cost. Do you not agree?”

“I do. Remove him from Gondor, send him North, and he cannot ride the River to his doom. Have you told him?”

“Nay! And I will not. He must go with courage; not be afraid of a fate that may not be, a fate we can save him from.” His voice grew strong and fierce. “We can save him, Faramir.”

A knock interrupted him. Boromir opened the door. “The Council is to meet in one half hour’s time, Father. Might I help you dress?”

“Come in, my son. Faramir understands and agrees with me. You will take the Quest. I will tell the Council. When do you think it best to leave?”

“Tomorrow. At first light. The need is very great, Father. I think it best I not wait any further. Besides, once I am gone, Faramir might receive respite from the dreams. What say you, my brother?”

Faramir stood and pulled Boromir to him. “I say I will be with you at first light and send you off with a warrior’s fare well.”

“Thank you, Faramir. Thank you.” He choked on the last words. “I am sorry.”

“Nay! I fully agree with father. You are the one who can fulfill this Quest, find the sword and bring it back to Minas Tirith. Find the answers to the riddle the dream presents.”

“I will, Faramir. I promise.”

They let each other go, sorrowfully. Denethor pushed the bedclothes back and stood up. “Now, if one or the other of you would help me with the mail. It is a little heavy.”

Once he was dressed, the three men moved to the family’s dining room. They ate quickly and quietly, all lost in thought. When they finished, they walked down the stairs, Denethor in front and Boromir and Faramir behind him. They walked into the Great Hall together, Denethor in the middle, Boromir on his right and Faramir on his left. The Lords of the Council stood and greeted them. Húrin stood next to the Chair.

“We have discussed many things this day, but none more important than the dream that my sons have had. I have decided to send Boromir to the North to find this Elven stronghold and bring back answers to the dream.”

“How can you do this based only on a dream?”

“What will Gondor do with its Captain-General off on some misbegotten quest?”

“We will not send our sons to Minas Tirith while your son goes off on some lark.”

The last statement of all those thrown at them by the Council incensed Faramir beyond his ability to hold his tongue. “Boromir goes off on a dangerous Quest to find help for Gondor. He will be going alone. He will be going to places we do not even have maps for. He will be risking his life for Gondor. It is not a lark.” Faramir’s fury quelled them all. Not often did the youngest son of Denethor speak at a Council meeting. They sat in amaze and a few in some slight fear.

“Faramir speaks truly.” Denethor spoke so quietly, some did not hear. “You insult my son by your words. I have told you before, you may insult me, but you will never insult my sons. The Council is dismissed.” He turned and walked out of the Hall, Boromir and Faramir striding quickly to follow him.

“You were splendid,” Faramir said.

“Because I spoke the truth? I have warned them before, Faramir. I will not countenance this lack of respect. Now, let us to my chambers. The archivist has found one more map that I think we should view.”

They spent the next hour pouring over a map as old as the Citadel itself. At last, Denethor sat back in frustration. “Naught! It is as if none of our people ever rode beyond Calenardhon. At least the maps to the Fords of Isen are complete; after that, my son, you are on your own. Somewhere to the North lies Imladris. I have no further information.”

“I could travel up the Anduin towards Beorn’s people...”

“Nay!”

Boromir sat back in surprise at the vehemence of Denethor’s response and the fear in Faramir’s voice as they both shouted at him. He held his hands up. “Peace. I will travel through Rohan, if that is your wish.”

Faramir sat back, eyes misting; Denethor stood, moved around the desk, and held his eldest by the shoulders. “You will travel West to Edoras, then to the Gap of Rohan and North, until you find Imladris. You will return the same way. You will stay away from the Anduin.”

Boromir nodded, his face still open in shock and surprise. Denethor realized they had almost let loose the secret reason for sending Boromir on this Quest. “Stop at Meduseld. Be wary though, I have seen… I have heard disquieting things about Théoden’s counselor. After your audience with Théoden, send me a missive as to your thoughts. I fear for the alliance between Gondor and Rohan; I must know Théoden’s heart.”

“Mayhap there are still settlements near the old port of Tharbad. I will find others who will help me on this Quest, never fear, Father.”

“I know you will. I would have you ask a boon of Théoden. I believe he will give it, if for naught but memory of the friendship we once shared. Ask for a horse; a horse that is fit for a long journey.”

“But, Father, my horse…”

“Your horse is fit for battle, a true warrior’s horse. But you do not go to battle, Boromir. You go on a long journey and must have a suitable horse, one that is accustomed to traveling the grasslands of Calenardhon. Further west, the forests of Enedhwaith are gone; you will be traveling upon land west of the Isen that has been devastated for more than an age.”

“I will do as you ask. I am sure Théoden will find a suitable mount. Now, if you will excuse me, I must finish packing.”

~*~

A/N – on why Boromir was sent. Besides the fact that many believe Boromir ‘forced’ Denethor to send him, there is nothing that substantiates that in the books. I have never found, either in any of the Tolkien books, nor in fanfiction, a ‘binding’ reason why Denethor sent Boromir. So, the Muse expounded this theory – that Denethor ‘saw’ his son dead on the Anduin, and – to protect him from such an end – sent him as far from the Anduin as possible. Poor man – didn’t work! If you have quibbles over this – I swear it is not NOT canon… however, there is nothing mentioned of such an event that would make it NON-canon.

Blessings!

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16.

The mountain air was refreshing, after the stench of Orc and the fear of the unknown assailants. Denethor had named them Black Riders and so they would be known. But none of that would be thought of this afternoon. The brothers Mir were saying their farewells in the only place that ever really mattered to them – the small copse above the City where they had always shared their grief, their joys, their loves.

As they lay in the sweet-smelling grass, Faramir began to weep, quietly, but not quietly enough for Boromir not to hear. “You hold some secret in your heart that causes you pain?”

Faramir nodded, not even bothering to wipe the tears away.

“I will not ask, since you deem it unfit to tell. However, I would ask you to have some hope, little brother.” His sad smile was missed as Faramir turned his back to him. “This grief is beyond endurance?”

Faramir nodded again.

“Is there naught I can say to bring you comfort?”

Faramir turned back and leaned full upon his back. He bit his lip and shook his head.

Boromir’s own head bowed. After a small grimace, he looked up. “The sky is beautiful here, Faramir. It takes my breath away sometimes. Do you not ever wish to fly? I do. I sometimes see the peregrine and think how wondrous it must be to spread one’s wings and let the wind take one off. No duty to hold oneself to the earth.” He paused, knowing Faramir understood duty, but then continued, “The view here is never enough for me. I want to see it all, unhampered by mountains and such.” He pulled on an unlucky eyebrow. “I think Nana felt the same way. Have you…” He chuckled. “Of course you have read her poetry.” He looked over at his brother, eyes lit in joy. “You did not think I read her tome?” Cuffing Faramir on the side of his chin, he laughed aloud, “I am not as dull-witted as you might think. I do, occasionally, read.”

Faramir’s smile finally broke and Boromir sighed in appreciation.

“That is better. Put these thoughts of grief from you for the nonce, Faramir. If truth be told, I need a moment of joy, of peace. My heart misspeaks this Quest, but I must be about it. If I dwell too long in thought, I will quake in my boots. Do not tell Father,” he smiled wryly.

Faramir struggled to sit up; now understanding Boromir's need, he pulled himself from the malaise that weighed him down. “I would be an eagle, I think, if given the choice. Peregrine dwell too close to the mountains. Eagles fly over the mountains, but also the plains, and far over the sea. They can soar for hours. I think I would need more than a few moments flight. Their eyes see far. That is another thing I would like. To see as far as…” His chin shook and a sob escaped his lips. “I would see to the ends of the earth.”

“You would follow me, high in the sky, as I trudged through the miles that lay before me?” A gentle laugh.

“I would watch you and laugh as you wandered, lost, amongst the plains of Rohan.”

“Rohan is not my concern, little brother. The road, though not good, is still well marked. It is once I leave Rohan and enter the lands beyond… Father says the Great West Road meets the North-South Road and is called by some the Greenway, it is so o’er run with weeds and grasses.” He cuffed Faramir’s chin again. “Besides, I would have you stop this constant haranguing of my ability to read signs and follow paths.”

“You know as well as I that you have some small difficulty with direction. I think, if Mindolluin were not at your side, you would not know which way was east and which west.”

Boromir tried to look stern and failed utterly. “You have spoken with Beregond?” His raised eyebrow at Faramir’s nod looked quite comical. “He is an untrustworthy aide!”

“Be that as it may, remember – moss grows on the north of trees…”

The youngest brother had not a moment to finish his sentence ere Boromir was on top of him, flailing at him in mock rage. The brothers tussled for many long moments until Faramir’s kick landed a little too harshly upon Boromir’s stomach. “I’m sorry,” Faramir quickly held his brother close. “I did not mean it to land.”

Boromir sat still for a moment, collecting his breath, relishing the feel of his brother’s arms. So warm and comforting. He had spoken rightly: Faramir and Denethor were hiding something, and it did make him quake. For these two to be afraid for him… What had they seen, his kin that were so foresighted? “It is my fault; I did not duck.” He finally gasped.

Faramir let him go and lay back upon the grass, nursing a bruised thigh. “You landed a few kicks yourself,” he laughed.

“Something to remember me by.” Boromir’s laughter rang through the mountain.

Faramir sobered and lay back down to hide his face. “I would come with you. Would you change your mind and take me?”

“I cannot. Gondor does ill enough with my absence. And Father will have need of you.”

Faramir almost choked. “I think not. We are too at odds, these days, to be of much use to one another.”

Boromir turned to him, pulled him from his reposing position, and held his arms tightly. “Then you must change that! I speak truly, Faramir. It is Gondor’s weal we speak of now. You and he must converse easily and with respect for each other. You cannot lose the love he has for you, but you grow close to losing his respect.”

Faramir glared at his brother, then relented. “I have oft been grateful for your mediation. I will do my best. I do listen and obey, when I can. There are times, like the new order he has given of trespassers, that I disagree vehemently.”

“You understand, do you not, why he has issued such an order? Gondor is in the last throes of this battle. We must do everything we can to protect her. Thus, keeping strangers from our borders is of the utmost importance.”

“Keeping them from our borders is one thing: murdering them, once they are found, is another.” Faramir fairly shook with rage.

“You will obey him, whether you agree or not. Spread the word. Let all who come close to our borders be told of the new order. That should spare lives. Post signs. The Orc cannot read them, but those who can will be warned and will keep away.” Boromir shook his head. “I understand your reluctance. But anyone who enters Gondor’s borders nowadays does so with an evil purpose in their hearts. Do not be swayed by soft voices and gentle words, little brother. You felt the Black Riders evil; they will sway others who seem fair to their ways. I would not have you go out, innocent to these things.”

Faramir snorted. “Let us speak no further on this issue. I will continue to speak with Father in its regard in hopes of having it rescinded, but I will obey. And I will post signs.” He snorted again, “But I fear the Orcs will pull them down as soon as I post them.”

“Then repost them. It is a little enough task to save a life. Now, what did you bring to eat?”

“Me? I thought you brought the basket!” He smiled at Boromir’s look of chagrin, stood and walked to a nearby tree and pulled forth a pack hiding behind it. “Only the best as a last…” He swallowed hard and bit his lip. “It is a fine repast. Let us eat.”

~*~

“Beregond,” Boromir spoke quietly, “what am I to do with you?”

His aide smiled. “I could go with you.”

“Nay. As I have told the Steward, stealth and surprise are my greatest allies in this. I go alone.” He paused, lay down the shirt he was folding, and walked to his aide’s side. “I could make you a captain again.”

“You know my feelings on that score, Boromir. I would serve in the Citadel, if I might. Not one of the guards of the Fountain; perhaps with the Third Company?”

“It shall be done, but this is against my wishes. Your loyalty has been a gift for me, Beregond.” He walked back to his kit and began to fold the neglected shirt. He dropped the shirt again, put his hand to his forehead, scratched it, and looked up at his aide. “Damrod and Mablung will be at Faramir’s side at Henneth-Annûn, yet I would have him have a friend when he returns to the City for Council meetings and such. I ask a great favor of you, Beregond. Will you befriend him? Protect him whilst he is in Minas Tirith? Especially with my father?”

“With my life, Boromir.”

Beregond’s Captain-General sat at his desk and wrote new orders, then handed them to his aide. “Give these to Húrin, after I am gone. Now,” he stood once again, “is my horse ready?”

“It is.”

“Good. Let us finish this and leave. Faramir awaits me at the stables.”

“Did you see Lord Denethor this morning?”

“I broke my fast with him.” Boromir’s eyes grew moist. “He rues this decision. I fear there is something he is not telling me.”

Beregond folded and packed the shirt, then closed the kit. He began dressing Boromir in his over tunic, then draped the Horn of Gondor over his captain’s shoulder, and strapped the scabbard to Boromir’s belt, at last, handing over the sword.

Boromir looked upon it with fondness. “You had it sharpened.”

“The smithy spent the whole afternoon on it yesterday. It could cut Mindolluin marble, if you were so inclined.”

Boromir laughed. “I will miss you,” he said fervently. “Take care of my brother.”

“My word is my oath, Captain-General.” Beregond hesitated a moment, “Boromir, you will ever be in my thoughts.”

Boromir grasped the warrior’s shoulder and tightened his grip, then let go, swung his kit over his shoulder, and walked from the room.

As he passed through the Courtyard, soldiers greeted him. Some even stepped forward to offer well wishes for success. The news had flown through the Citadel, once Denethor had announced it to the Council. ‘So much for secrecy,’ he thought wryly. ‘I wonder if the Enemy himself knows of my plans.’ He tried to quell the shiver that threatened to overtake him, but managed only to keep it from laying him flat upon the marble stones of the Courtyard.

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17.

Denethor watched from the window as the two brothers met in the Sixth Circle below the Tower window. The morning’s breaking of their fast had been stiff and stilted. Faramir and Húrin came too, but Húrin left as soon as he was done with his meal. Faramir stayed but for a short time; Denethor knew his youngest felt his father’s need to speak with Boromir unaccompanied. Once they were alone, they spoke quietly of the maps and the route Boromir would take, a bit about Rohan and what might be expected; Denethor gave written notes for Théoden and Théodred, then, at Boromir’s urging, spoke of Faramir and his place as interim Captain-General. In fact, now that Denethor recalled it, Boromir spoke almost exclusively of Faramir. He chuckled. ‘He thinks I will denigrate the boy unto estrangement.’ Finally having reassured Boromir, the time to leave had come. He embraced his eldest, his heir, for only a moment, thoughts of Finduilas’ leave taking filling his very being. He held himself in check as long as he could, not letting Boromir feel the shivers that threatened to engulf him. Once Boromir left him, he walked slowly to the Tower room, ignored the calling of the stone, and walked to the window.

After a few moments and recognizing the pain his two sons were enduring, he turned in sorrow to the stone. Rohan spread before him: endless plains still as the dead, summer winds failing them; lands brown and scorched by the drought that was plaguing the horsemen’s reign. It would not be a good harvest for the Men of the Mark. Hunger would cause deaths this winter, deaths Rohan could ill afford. ‘Though,’ and the thought made him shiver in horror that he even gave it a thought, ‘the children and infirm will die first. Rohan will still have its warriors. But the roads are clear, though it is strange there are no patrols on them. Yet, I see no Orc activity.’

Grief bubbled up inside him. ‘Children and infirm.’ The Houses were overcrowded since the Battle and the orphanages were filled beyond capacity. He would have to meet with Húrin this forenoon and make further arrangements. There were at least four large, unoccupied mansions on the Fifth Circle that would be suitable for orphanages. But where to get those to care for the children? Then, there was the matter of the memorial. The count of dead finally had ended at four hundred and ninety-two. And most of them would be sorely missed. He shook himself in anger. ‘Think not of them as warriors; think of them as husbands and fathers and know the sorrow of their passing is more grievous to those they leave behind.’ He bowed his head in wonder. ‘Nay. Their passing is more grievous for it leaves Gondor even less prepared than before. And if Gondor falls, then what good is it for them to have husbands and fathers? They will soon all face the Enemy’s wrath. It seems all my machinations at defense are lost.’ A sob cut through him. ‘Everything I do is for naught.’ His hands slipped from the globe as his knees failed him. “Would that what I do for Boromir is not for naught,” he cried aloud.

~*~

Faramir walked forward as he came out of the Seventh Gate onto the Sixth Level. “Your horse is ready. There are a few choice gifts in her bags. Treat her well and tell the Rohirrim to send her back to us. It will be one sign that you have at least reached one stage of your journey. Though I give it not much hope, Boromir. You have gotten yourself lost on the Fourth Level.”

The laughter that burst from Boromir’s mouth caused many a guard to look at him in wonder. “You are an impertinent brat, did you know that?”

“I did. As you said, I learned everything I know from you.”

Another outburst of laughter greeted this witticism. “If I could, I would take you with me,” Boromir said with a great smile, “for I am sure I will need some laughter in the coming months.”

Faramir drew in a sharp breath. “I would come, if you would allow it.” His throat tightened and Boromir felt the sorrow flow from his brother.

“Is there aught you wish to speak to me about?”

Faramir shook his head, “Nay.” Boromir began to mount; Faramir’s hand stayed him. “I would ask you to watch your back. You have told me the same so many times that I wonder if you remember it yourself. Boromir.” Tears welled in his eyes, “Come back to me.”

“What have you seen, Faramir?”

“I have seen nothing,” he gave a short laugh, “except for waves and cloudy skies and heard only words of Halflings and banes.” He grimaced in mock surprise. “I see you take the Horn of Gondor and yet, how am I to be Captain-General if you take the guarantee of it, the very symbol of the title?” He kept his tone light.

“You would give it back to me when I return?”

“Of course,” Faramir smiled. He sobered once again. “Take it with you and wind it at every stage of your journey. I will hear it; you know I will. Boromir,” he pulled his brother to him and hugged him fiercely, “I love you. Come back to me.”

Boromir nodded, returned the embrace, and quickly kissed Faramir on the brow. “I will hang Damrod and Mablung if ill comes to you. Remind them of that.”

Faramir smiled through his tears. “Come back to me,” he mouthed as Boromir mounted and rode off. The youngest son of Denethor ran to the embrasure and watched his brother’s slow progress towards the Great Gate. The Horn’s call echoed through the City as Boromir passed out through the Gate and onto the Pelennor. Faramir bent his head and wept.

“He will return to us. We have cheated death, Faramir. I thank you for agreeing to this.”

He turned in surprise, “How could I not, Father! If this will save Boromir, what matters it if I had the dream first, or fifty times, or not at all. I have not had the vision you did. Are you sure?”

“Visions cannot be confirmed until the time of the event passes. I know not if it is genuine; but I dare not tempt fate by keeping him here.”

Faramir lunged forward and held his father.

After many moments, Denethor pulled him away. “It is time for you to return to Henneth-Annûn. As soon as the first missive arrives, I will send for you.”

~*~

Father, Faramir,

I have been poisoned. If not for Éomer, I would now be dead and buried in some unmarked grave in the foothills of the White Mountains. As it is, I am barely recovered, but Éomer says we must leave tonight. He has kept me hidden for a little more than a fortnight now in a room in the back of a smithy, nursing me until I was well again. I am not quite well, but rumors fly that I am still in Edoras and we must be away. He is sending me with one of Théodred’s marshal’s, Grimbold, to a paddock on the west side of Edoras. There we will be able to procure me a horse and I can be on my way. Grimbold will ride with me to the Fords and Théodred’s camp. I will be most happy to be away from this place.

I should have known though, and chide myself thoroughly! I tried to be careful, once I saw her, but… I speak of the Rohirric healer who tried to murder me last year. She is now healer to the snake who advises Théoden. I was concerned, as soon as I saw the high status she now has. Éomer is most distraught after his promise to you, Father, that she would be punished. She has been exalted instead, but there is naught he can do.

Father, you asked me to assess Théoden’s state: it is bad, very bad. He looks as if death sits on his doorstep. His advisor is a worm of a man, you remember him! Wormtongue, Éomer calls him. I cannot blame poor Théoden for anything that has happened to me. He has lost his wits. I fear Gondor will receive no aid from Rohan, but Éomer has vowed that he and his men will answer your call. He said Théodred is of like mind.

I must be away now. Grimbold waits and even another moment may prove a fool’s thought. Éomer has promised to place this missive in the hands of a trustworthy rider. I will write again, once I reach Théodred’s forces.

Faramir – watch over Father for me.

Your devoted son and brother,
Boromir

~*~

Mettarë came and went and still there was no word from Boromir. Faramir had returned to Minas Tirith, without being summoned, in hopes that somehow Boromir had returned. But there was no sign of the eldest son; the Mettarë feast was subdued and tense. At last, Faramir left for Henneth-Annûn and Denethor returned to his lonely vigil in the Tower room.

Húrin had stopped asking where his lord spent his nights. The Warden was appalled at the look of his Steward: gaunt, sallow-skinned, and nigh unto listless. If they did not hear from Boromir soon, the poor Warden wondered if Denethor would survive. How could the boy not send a missive? What was wrong with him? There would have been ample opportunity whilst he procured a horse in Edoras. Théoden would not be disinclined to send a rider to the Rohirric garrison at the Mering; then one of the riders of Gondor could have brought the missive here. He did not understand. Mayhap he should send a rider to Edoras himself. ‘Nay,’ he thought, ‘I will send a rider to the garrison at Halifirien. They will tell me when Boromir passed by. That will give me some idea of when he might have entered Edoras.’ He shivered. ‘He must have passed through Edoras, unless there was evil in that place. How would he have known to keep his distance? Perhaps Éomer? The boy patrols the Eastfold; mayhap he met Boromir and advised him to skirt Edoras? But that makes no sense. Gondor and Rohan are still allies. I will send a rider and ask for… I dare not ask for news from the Rohirrim at the Mering. If Théoden is no longer Gondor’s ally, then it would be ill to ask. If we have lost Rohan’s friendship, then darkness is truly upon us.’ He swore a particularly vile curse and sent for Hirgon.

~*~

Characters: TA 3018:
Aerin – wife to Beregond and mother of Bergil
Avranc – Council member
Beldis – Hurin’s wife
Belegorn – aide to Denethor
Beregond – aide to Boromir
Brodda – Council member
Celebrin – Boromir’s horse at Osgiliath
Elatan – engineer
Galdor – Captain of Amon Din
Gwinhir – Captain of Pelargir
Hador – Captain of Cair Andros
Hundor – Council member
Isilmo – acting Captain of Osgiliath
Mardil – Captain of Amon Anwar
Meneldil - engineer
Oromendil† – Captain of Osgiliath
Ragorn – member of Denethor’s personal guard
Tarcil – Lord of Lebennin

FROM 3017 (and still around)
Amlach – Henneth-Annûn Captain
Amlaith – Denethor's third aide in three years
Argon – Master Warden of the Houses of Healing
Baranor – Aide to Captain Guilin at Amon Dîn; father to Beregond; Recalled to
Minas Tirith and made tutor for esquires.
Belegorn – Lieutenant under Mardil at Amon Anwar; recalled to Minas Tirith as
Denethor's aide.
Beregond – Guard at the Causeway Forts; promoted to Captain of Amon Dîn; demoted
and made Boromir's aide.
Damrod – Ranger from Henneth-Annûn
Derufin – Of Blackroot Vale - Aide to Boromir
Dirhavel – Healer - Osgiliath