Chapter 13: Blood and Snow
‘Are you Faramir?’
The voice was still quiet but now more insistent. The ancient
dialect in which the orc spoke made Faramir think he was listening to
an old story of wars past, but then he was jolted back to reality as
Giarsa suddenly shouted;
A terrible silence had fallen on the host of orcs standing around.
Faramir shot a desperate glance at them and saw in their eyes not
hatred or cruelty but indifference, the blank look of those without
spirit or soul. Beyond the orcs the great river spread in an arc of
blue and silver, flowing strongly between grey slabs of ice. In the
endless blue sky the waning moon was a ghost ship sinking to the
distant mountains. Beyond the water stretched the valleys of Ithilien,
as unattainable as any dream. Pierced to the bone by cold and terrified
as he was, Faramir could only think how beautiful it was, how dear to
him now he was about to leave it.
The orc holding him shook him and he raised his eyes reluctantly to
Giarsa’s face. Close up, he saw with a shock that the amber eyes held
an intelligence not like that of orcs and the scarred and
weather-beaten face had once been fair.
‘If you are not Faramir, who are you?’
The tone was mild, even reasonable and Faramir fumbled for a name, any
name, but his mind seemed to be obscured by a black fog impeding
thought and speech. He stared dumbly at Giarsa and said nothing. A
smile twisted the broken features of the orc leader and he said;
‘If you do not tell me the truth, I will cut it out of you….’
And Giarsa drew from his belt a long black dagger. Faramir could see
everything with terrifying clarity, and noticed the handle was formed
of two intertwined snakes with eyes made of crystal….Giarsa with one
swift movement imprisoned Faramir’s hand in his own mailed fist and
began to tighten his grip.
Faramir bit his lip to stop from crying out but the pressure increased
and his head began to swim from the pain. He expected to hear the crack
of bones, but instead he heard Giarsa whisper to him;
‘Tell me your name, and the pain will end. Tell me your name, and I will let you go…’
Let him go! Hope leaped up in Faramir’s heart but he forced it down.
The creature was lying; all the servants of Sauron lied. If he told the
truth they would still kill him…..but the pain was becoming unbearable.
Perhaps the orc meant what he said….what good was he to them anyway,
whoever he was?
‘You are Faramir son of Denethor, aren’t you?’ The voice was soft,
almost casting a spell, but at the same time the grip, more powerful
than human or even animal, powerful as an Elf’s, continued to crush his
hand. Then Faramir felt the keen edge of the dagger against his wrist.
‘Answer me, or lose your hand…’
Faramir closed his eyes and was glad the orcs were holding him up, for
his legs would have failed. He did not speak, and at that moment
doubted if he could speak. All he could do was wait. The bright sound
of the winter river carried to his ears, still running despite what
befell on its banks.
The sharp edge of the blade was suddenly taken away. Faramir opened his
eyes in surprise, and looked up at Giarsa. The amber eyes glinted with
‘I don’t have to cut the truth out of you, little fox. It is written all over you….’
Faramir shook his head desperately
‘No!’ he cried but Giarsa gestured sharply to the orcs holding him.
‘Bind him hand and foot, and guard him well…..’ As Faramir was dragged away he thought to himself;
‘One cub will draw the other to his aid. It is the way of the men of
Gondor to give their lives for their kind. Faramir will be the bait for
‘Boromir! My lord! This is madness, we must stop……’
Dánacht was shouting at him over the sound of the wind, but
Boromir was trying not to listen. Tears had frozen on his cheeks, but
not from the stinging snow. Reluctantly he looked around, and by the
ragged light of torches he saw the Rangers scattered in the blizzard,
their horses struggling through the snow-drifts. He pulled Stormwing to
a halt and Dánacht rode up to him and said again.
‘We must stop…’
Boromir nodded, his head bowed in resignation. They would have to go
back to the Causeway Fort, the snowstorm had got the better of them….
They had hardly traversed the Pelennor when daylight faded and great
thick flakes of snow began to fall. Boromir, afire to search for his
brother, insisted that they go on, so they scoured the land beyond the
fortress on the outer wall, but as the snow got thicker and the day
darkened they realised they would find nothing…
‘Let us retire to the Fort, and resume the search in the morning…’ said Dánacht.
‘My brother might be dead by then!’ retorted Boromir, but he could not
dispute it any longer; they had to retire, or lose men and horses…
Back in the fort the horses were unsaddled and put into what shelter
the tiny castle afforded. The men gathered round great iron braziers in
the yard to warm themselves, then wrapped their grey-green cloaks round
them and slept under shelter until shortly before dawn the snow stopped
and the sky cleared.
But Boromir did not sleep. He pulled his cloak round him and climbed up
to the battlements and sheltered by the side wall of a watchtower he
peered out into the snow and the darkness, his thoughts only on his
brother and his heart aching. When at last a single star, bright and
hard as diamond, proclaimed the end of the storm and the last of night
he ran to the horses and began to saddle Stormwing.
The snow, their enemy in the night, was a help to the searchers when
day came. Every track was clear on the glistening expanse of white,
although all they could find, by diligent quartering of the land
between the river and the Pelennor, were the prints of fox and deer.
The sun had almost reached its zenith when one of the Rangers on the
left flank of the party called out and Boromir at once spurred to where
the man crouched over tracks in the fresh snow….…
As he dismounted Boromir noted bitterly that this place was barely a
mile beyond where they had abandoned the search the night before. He
also noticed a strange silence had befallen the men and they were
standing around with their heads down, not looking at him….
The Ranger who had called him was Abartha, an older man renowned for
his tracking skills and his experience in war. He waited till Boromir
came up and then pulled off his gauntlet and spread a weatherbeaten
hand over a trampled patch of snow. Boromir followed his gesture and
saw a confused jumble of tracks. A terrible fear began to grow in his
mind as he tried to make sense of the marks and then Abartha said
‘Orcs, my lord.’
Boromir’s heart plunged and for a moment he could not speak. But then
he realised that the men and Dánacht were watching him and he
remembered he was the son of the Steward and must not betray either his
father or his brother by any show of weakness. He forced himself to
‘Is there any sign of Faramir?’
Abartha pointed to a churned circle of snow scattered with leaves and replied in a grim voice;
‘He has been taken, my lord. His tracks are clear, but then they vanish. They must have borne him off with them…’
A murmur of dismay ran round the search party. But Abartha had not finished.
‘..and he is wounded.’ he added. ‘There is blood spilt here…’
Boromir knelt down beside the tracks and Abartha pointed out the bright
red spots on the snow. Boromir scooped up a handful and stared at it.
The tracker was right; this was not orc blood but the blood of a man.
It was Faramir’s blood…