Young Boromir

by Varda

Chapter 6: Witchcraft

Boromir led Gandalf out of the guest quarters of the White Tower of Minas
Tirith and along a covered way that linked the Rangers’ barracks with the
Citadel. It was after midnight and above the city the winter stars glittered
like diamonds in the black sky. Still unseen by the guards they entered the
great dark fortress-like Rangers’ barracks by a wicket gate and hurrying
along a passageway lit only by shifting beams of moonlight they came to a
low door below the turret stairs.

Seated dozing on the floor outside the room, keeping a vigil for his sick
friend, was a Ranger of Cianda’s age. He was lean and gangly with fair hair
cropped short and green eyes that sparked with anger when he saw Boromir. He
leaped to his feet, bowed hesitantly to Gandalf but fixed the Steward’s son
with an insolent stare. Boromir said cautiously to him;
‘How is he, Siamsa?’
‘No better, Lord Boromir….’

Gandalf shot the young man a searching look, catching the hint of contempt
in his voice, but Boromir just nodded and pushed the door open and led him
into the small room. Inside it was hot and stuffy. A tall uniformed man with
a scarred weatherbeaten face leaned against the wall, arms folded, watching
a black-clad leech with parchment skin and large pale eyes as he bent over a
bed. The officer pushed himself away from the wall and stared at Gandalf in
astonishment as he entered and the leech straightened up and retreated to
the far wall, snatching up his box of instruments and holding it before him
as if to protect him from the wizard and his powers….

‘Thank you for coming!’ said Coscair with a bow. ‘..we have almost despaired
of him…’
Gandalf nodded and picked up the single candle and moved to the bed. He had
expected to find a hardy weatherbeaten Ranger and was surprised to see that
Cianda was slight and fair, with the white skin and black hair of the great
houses of the Numenoreans. Now, however, his face was gaunt, yellow with
fever and damp with sweat. His eyes were sunken and when Gandalf felt his
cheek it was burning to the touch. He raised an eyelid and then took away
the dressing and examined the wound. Cianda did not move, and his breathing
was rapid and noisy...

Gandalf stepped back, recoiling from the infection in the wound. Why, he
wondered, had they not asked the herbmasters and wise women in the Houses of
Healing for help? A dirty bandage was not enough. He said to Coscair;

‘Bring me hot and cold water, and plenty of it. And linen, plenty of that
too. Take that …’ and he gestured to the brazier in the corner of the room
‘..out of here, and open the door…’
Coscair hurried to obey, but the leech said;
‘You will kill him!’
‘Then he will only be finishing what you have already started’ snapped
‘We could always bleed him again….’ suggested the leech.
Gandalf replied mildly;
‘Don’t you think he is weak enough?’
Coscair said sharply;
‘You had your chance and failed. Now leave….’
‘You can’t send me away’ cried the leech. ‘I was appointed by the Steward!’

Gandalf eyed the man with distaste. He knew nothing about healing; he was a
spy. Why, the wizard wondered, would Denethor plant spies in his own
garrison? Coscair barked at him;
‘Well he appointed you and I am dismissing you; get out!’
‘What about my fee?’ wailed the leech. Coscair dug into his belt and drawing
out a handful of coins he flung them at the black-clad figure who turned and
fled out of the room. As he ran down the passageway they could hear him
crying ‘..witchraft…!’

Gandalf turned to the bed and threw back the blankets and when the basins
were set on the table he soaked the linens in the cold water and placed them
on Cianda’s burning skin. Then he took the basin of hot water and reaching
into his satchel he drew out a velvet pouch of what looked like grey
withered leaves. He examined these closely and breathed on them. Then he
cast seven leaves into the boiling water.

At once a sweet smell filled the room and spread out into the dark cold
passageway. Siamsa inhaled it and at once felt hope and strength return to
him. It seemed as if the grim fortress vanished for a second and was
replaced instead by a summer meadow, full of flowers and the warm scent of
grass and leaves….inside Cianda stirred in his dark fever-dream and Boromir
drew a deep breath; perhaps all was not lost….

‘Boromir, wake up! It’s almost dawn….’

Boromir started awake; he had been fast asleep on the floor of the room, and
now Gandalf was shaking him awake. Stiff and cold he got to his feet slowly,
rubbing his eyes. Gandalf smiled.
‘You must return to your quarters before you are missed, although I hazard a
guess that we will both have to account to your father for this…’
‘Cianda!’ said Boromir ‘Is he all right, Gandalf?’
‘See for yourself’ said Gandalf, nodding towards the bed. Boromir went over
fearfully but at once saw by the dying candle that Cianda was resting
peacefully, the fever gone. His colour had returned, and his breathing was
that of sleep.
‘He’s going to live!’ said Boromir ‘you saved him, Gandalf!’
‘Not by myself’ said Gandalf. ‘You brought me here, and he healed himself. I
merely helped you both along….’

Boromir wanted to embrace the wizard with joy, but was afraid. He contented
himself with clasping his hand and shaking it. Gandalf laughed and said;
‘Go on, get an hour’s sleep at least….’

When Boromir was gone Gandalf sat down wearily and lit a pipe. Coscair had
left to attend to his duties an hour before and now he was alone in the
room. He drew on a pipeful of Old Toby with pleasure, thinking of the
distant Shire….a dark notion struck him; a great deal had changed since he
had been in Minas Tirith last. He feared much was awry under the city’s
usual bustle. Had the Shire changed too? Perhaps he should not tarry here
too long….suddenly Cianda opened his eyes. Gandalf lowered his pipe but
before he could say anything the boy asked;
‘Who are you?’
‘I am Gandalf, the Wizard’ said Gandalf solemnly, with a little bow. ‘You
have been ill, Cianda. But I think all will be well now….’

Cianda did not require a wizard to tell him he had been ill; he was too weak
to move and his body ached from head to foot. He looked around though, and
‘Where is the leech?’
‘He was required elsewhere…’ said Gandalf cheerfully. Then he said to
‘What was his name?’
‘Cág..’ replied the boy.

When Boromir hurried out of the room he almost tripped over Siamsa, asleep
on the floor. The boy woke up and scrambled to his feet. Boromir said to
‘He is going to be all right, Siamsa’
The young Ranger, pale and cold with tiredness, his fair hair dishevelled,
nodded slowly. There was an awkward silence then Siamsa said in a quiet
voice, the green eyes glinting dangerously;

‘This isn’t over, Boromir.’