Chapter 9: The Wolves
Faramir raised his head slowly from the damp leaves and looked around,
unable for long minutes to remember where he was. Then it all came back to
him in a rush, the flight, the crashing of the horse through the trees, the
fall. He put up a hand to his head and it came away wet; he was cut, his
face bruised and aching. How long had he lain there? By the failing light he
guessed it was late afternoon, and the bright winter sun had been swallowed
up in steel-grey clouds. It was the cold that had woken him, a biting cold
heralding snow, and he shivered as he looked round at the endless groves of
young birches stretching away in every direction. He had no cloak, only a
tunic and a light jerkin, as he had been on his way to study with Gandalf in
the library when the horse had snatched him from the safety of Minas Tirith.
Faramir sat up; he felt as if he was in a dream, or a nightmare, a cold
twilit forest haunted by strange echoes with no path leading home. He
fumbled at his belt, but he did not even have a dagger to protect himself.
There was no sign of the horse. Despite his own danger Faramir felt a surge
of relief; if it had been able to gallop away it was not hurt, and Faramir
hated to see harm come to any living creature. Cheered by this he went to
rise and at once fell back with a gasp of pain; his ankle was sprained,
perhaps broken. When he put his weight on it the forest swam around him and
he felt sick. Now real fear gripped him; he could not move. He could not
walk back to the road, or avoid anything that might attack him in the dark.
And he was already growing numb with cold. Fighting down panic he crawled
through the deep leaf cover to a tree and clawing at it he pulled himself up
to stand on his good leg with his back against the rough trunk, his breath
steaming in the darkening air. He closed his eyes and said to himself;
‘Don’t worry, they will come looking for you soon. They will find you.
Father will send out riders…Boromir won’t rest till you are back in the
At the thought of his brother Faramir felt his heart pause in its racing;
Boromir would not let anything happen to him. However beset he was himself,
he always looked out for his little brother…Faramir started as something
soft and cold struck him on the face. It was followed by another, and
another ….it was snowing.
Boromir ran out of the Great Hall without waiting for permission. Denethor
sat down heavily in his chair, his face haggard. Gandalf wished to speak, to
say something to comfort him, but he knew Denethor was too proud to welcome
pity. The Ranger captain, Dánacht, was anxious to be gone. Denethor seemed
suddenly to remember him and said;
‘Go, Captain. Find my youngest son and guard my eldest…’
Without waiting to hear more Dánacht turned and ran after Boromir.When the
doors had slammed after him Denethor said to Gandalf;
‘I have given everything to serve Gondor. Do I have to give my sons too?’
‘Nay’ said Gandalf. ‘the Rangers will find them, I am sure of it…..’
Denethor looked at Gandalf and there was a brief flash of anger in his eyes.
‘Those who have no sons cannot understand……’
Dánacht caught up with Boromir in the armoury of the White Tower. The bright
morning had suddenly vanished, and sullen light filtered through the
mullioned windows and gleamed on armour and weapons. Boromir was pulling on
a shirt of chain mail, finely worked by craftsmen of Gondor. He buckled on
his sword again without looking at Dánacht and the Ranger thought he saw the
track of a tear on the young man’s cheek. Then Boromir nodded to Dánacht
that he was ready and they walked out of the hall.
As they passed the banners over the arched doorway Boromir suddenly reached
out and unhooked a hunting horn from its place among the javelins and
crossbows. It was finely wrought in silver, and hung from a woven silk
baldric. Hesitating only for a moment Boromir slung it on his shoulder.
Dánacht frowned and said;
’Faramir is lost in the forest near the river. Orcs are everywhere in those
woods, we should venture quietly…’
‘I am not a thief who has to go furtively in my own land….’ retorted
‘I am not going to hide from anyone….’
‘Nevertheless…’ said Dánacht ‘you will do Faramir no good if you get us all
Boromir sighed and nodded. The Ranger was right, he must not let his heart
rule his head like this. He was about to take off the horn when Dánacht
‘Keep it’ he said in a kindly voice ‘it will be night soon, and we may have
need of it to rally our men in the dark…’
Faramir was growing drowsy. He had stopped shivering and now he felt numb,
and just wanted to sleep. He knew from his training that he was succumbing
to the cold but he could not help it. He kept drifting off into a half-world
of blazing fires and welcoming hearths, then forcing himself back to this
cold near-dark and the snow sifting gently down onto the deep layer of
Suddenly he started wide awake, every nerve alert; he had heard a noise, a
scuffling in the leaves. He forced his stiff limbs to move and struggled to
his feet, his back still against the tree. He looked about wildly, but the
only weapon he could see was a crooked root which he picked up and held out
in front of him with numb hands. For an age he strained his hearing then
just as he began to think he had imagined it he heard it again, this time
with a strange swishing noise, as if something wa being dragged through the
Blood roared in his ears, and he tried to calm his rapid breathing but his
mind raced; what could it be? Wolves? He knew only too well that wolves and
worse, those giant half-wolves called wargs roamed these forests, and he
had nothing with which to beat them off. It was still snowing, and the
swirling flakes stung his eyes as he strained to see into the trees. Then he
thought he saw a flicker, and a desperate hope sprang up in his chest; was
it a torch held by someone searching for him? He wondered should he call
out, but then he saw the flicker again and realised it was not fire, but the
yellow glint of two great eyes, moving in and out of the trees towards him.
He gripped the tree root tightly then saw another pair of eyes, yellow with
black pupils, fixed on him and moving steadily towards him from another
Fear threatened to suffocate him, but he forced himself to watch as the eyes
approached from all sides.
‘Farewell, Boromir….’ He said to himself as the shapes suddenly gained speed
and rushed through the trees towards him. As they closed in Faramir for the
first time saw them clearly through the falling snow.
They weren’t wolves. They were orcs.