Young Boromir

by Varda

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;
‘Answer me!’

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 amusement.
‘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…’

‘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 quietly;
‘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 speak calmly;
‘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…