31. Reunion of Two Friends
They walked down a narrow set of stairs and down another spiral staircase. On either side, magnificent and ornate rooms, all stone and burning fires, loomed past. Dínendal followed his guide, silently examining all the sites and sounds around him. He studied the intricate designs on each arch and doorway, the tall statues of past Kings and Stewards, the tapestries of battles fought. He marveled at the beauty of the long, curved hallways which sometimes opened up onto great landings for staircases. As they passed guards and attendants, everyone saluted Boromir and gave a respectful nod to Dínendal. The elf, however, also heard snatches of whispers as they moved away from each interaction. “…duel in the fourth circle…” “…spends most of the day drunk…” “…aye, his father’s son…” Dínendal forced his ears shut and concentrated on the carvings on a nearby wall. Occasionally, Boromir would check behind him and then smile, indicating a hidden door or passageway they were about to enter. They stepped into a thin gap, narrow enough for only one person, which led to a poorly lit spiral staircase of grey stone. Walking down, Dínendal heard the familiar sounds of a castle kitchen. The crackle of fire, the clanging of spoons and the scuff of wooden chairs against a stone floor. He could already smell the stew and roast meat. They arrived in the kitchen, a long room with a low ceiling. There were windows on the far side, constantly open to let the smoke out, and from them, Dínendal could see the outline of a mountain wall. Torches lined the walls, casting the room in a perennial gold glow and adding to the stuffiness. As Boromir entered, many of the attendants and drudges bowed and stepped aside with whispers of “My lord…” They kept their heads down, and Boromir acknowledged them with a curt nod or grunt. Dínendal noted with a smile that many eyes watched him in curiosity as he followed. At the far end of the kitchen, pots boiled and stoves were alight. Dínendal located the venison he had smelled roasting on a large spit by the window. Cooks shuffled in and out, passing out of Dínendal’s field of vision, and he assumed that behind the stone columns on the left, there were other doors leading to yet more corridors and rooms. The pantry, probably. Three long wooden tables with benches stood before their entrance, and two guardsmen were eating a simple meal at the center table. They immediately stood upon seeing Boromir and lowered their eyes in respect. “My lord.” “M’lord.” Boromir raised his hand. “Eat, eat. Don’t let me interrupt a good meal.” The guards smiled, relaxing slightly. They sat and continued eating, but Dínendal noted that they ate quickly and without comment. Within minutes, they had finished. They hurried out, again bowing to Boromir and casting quick, curious glances in the elf’s direction. “Oh! Is that you I hear, lad?” a worn voice called. Emerging from behind a cupboard, an elderly woman, plump and with hair like silver wire, smiled toothlessly and hurried towards Boromir. She showed no sign of respect, neither a bow nor a nod, but instead clasped his shoulders and gave him a quick embrace. A few of the girls and boys working the stoves smiled and whispered amongst themselves. “Good evening, Azaelia,” Boromir said, a broad, glinting smile cracking his scarred face. “Why, it’s been near three days since I saw ye!” the elderly woman, Azaelia, cried. She pulled her hands away, wiped the grease on her apron, and cupped Boromir’s chin. “By the Valar, what happened to your nose, love? ‘Tis all black and yellow.” Boromir pulled away with a pained wince. “Aye, ‘tis broken, and sensitive to the touch.” Azaelia pursed her lips, her expression becoming serious. “So, what they say’s true, then? The rumors that were flyin’ ‘round the Citadel this morning?” Boromir did not respond, but stepped aside. He motioned Dínendal forward, and the woman lowered her eyes in a sudden, unexpected show of respect. Hastily, she matted down her stray, grey-white hair and smoothed her stained apron. The other servants also appeared in overt awe of Dínendal’s presence. He smiled inwardly. “Unless my old eyes play tricks on me, that is verily an elf I see,” she whispered, glancing sideways at Boromir. “For he’s as fair and as tall as the legends say.” “It is an elf, indeed,” Boromir grinned. “Azaelia, this is my friend, Dínendal of the Woodland Realm. Dínendal, this is Azaelia. She has worked in the Citadel since my father’s youth, and she holds the hearts of all, especially of my brother and I.” The elderly woman blushed furiously, avoiding Dínendal’s quizzical gaze. He smiled, despite himself, at her bashfulness, and, at the same time, caught a few hushed murmurs from passing servants. “Oh, shhh, ye raise me from my rightful place, sir.” “Sir? Come now, Azaelia, the last time you addressed me as ‘sir’ was near five years past, and that was only because Prince Imrahil was present,” Boromir chuckled. He turned to Dínendal. “Many a time in our youth, she scolded either me or my brother for stealing away with kitchen scraps. And my backside still aches from the rolling pin she so liberally used...” All three laughed. Giving Boromir a quick slap on the forearm, Azaelia turned and moved back to the abandoned iron cauldron. “Well, sit the fair Master Dínendal down, and sit yourself down as well, m’lord,” she called over her shoulder. “I’ve just put on a pot of rabbit stew. Is there anything else you’ll desire?” Boromir motioned for Dínendal to sit at the nearest table, and the elf took his place on the bench. Boromir walked around the long table, spying the contents of the various cupboards as he passed. The young servants who worked the kitchen paused in their labor to let him peek in each jug or crate. A girl stepped aside, allowing Boromir room to tip open a small pot which she had just covered. Azaelia spotted this, reached over, and snapped her wooden spoon against the Man’s knuckles. “Tsk, now! That is not to be disturbed!” “What is it, Azaelia?” Boromir asked, shaking off the ache in his hand, while the girl beside him blushed and stifled a giggle. “Roasting sauce for the venison, and now get ye gone or it’s another rolling pin to the bottom!” Boromir laughed, as did most of the others in the kitchen. It was a laugh Dínendal had never heard before. It was deep-throated, genuine, relaxed. The laughing Boromir cast Dínendal a helpless look before returning to the table, taking a seat opposite him. “Well?” Azaelia asked, stirring the venison roasting sauce furiously. Boromir eyed Dínendal for confirmation and then called back: “Let us have fresh bread, cheese, some greens, the pheasant scraps I detected in that cupboard there, and rabbit stew – ” “The rabbit stew won’t be ready for another twenty minutes,” Azaelia interrupted. “Then in twenty minutes bring it to us!” Boromir chuckled. “Also dried fruit, and a half-barrel of the strongest ale to begin with.” “M’lord, you’ve near finished the ale!” A few chuckles, a quick whisper between two serfs by the window. Dínendal ignored it. “Nonsense, Azaelia! The night is long, the sun has yet to set, and today we must celebrate. Bring us the half-barrel then. No gripes, now, or it’s to the dungeons with you!” Azaelia sighed, shook her head, and gave the youngest girl, not nearly ten, a pat on the shoulder. The girl hastened around the kitchen and brought plates and cups, piled high so that her face was hidden. She set them before Boromir and Dínendal. She then carried a small barrel, perhaps twenty pints-full. Her thin arms strained to place it on the table. Dínendal helped her, taking it from her, and the girl nearly yelped in surprise. “Go on, Poppy!” Azaelia called from the stoves. “Say thank you to the Master-Elf Dínendal.” “Thank-you-Master-Elf-Dínendal,” Poppy murmured softly and curtsied. She then hurried away and returned periodically with all the requested food, until it crowded the space between Boromir and Dínendal completely. They poured the ale, passed the plates and fell into companionable silence, listening to the sounds of the busy kitchen behind them. Dínendal noticed that Boromir left his plate mostly empty, with only some bread and cheese. The food lay forgotten in the Man’s plate as he instead took firm hold of his ale-filled goblet and raised it high. Dínendal raised his own. “My friend, it is good to see you,” Boromir smiled. The firelight danced along his features, and in the warm glow, with a genuine smile across his face, he looked content. Not entirely. “I leave the toast to your wisdom.” “To peace, then.” “To peace.” The goblets met, brass clinked brass, and were raised high again. The Man and elf then drank. Boromir finished his entirely and began pouring another, filling his goblet to the brim. Dínendal lowered his eyes. He did not want to comment. Instead, he picked at his food, beginning with the pheasant and some cheese on bread. He was not particularly hungry, but he could not offend his host. Part of him also wanted to avoid any bruised knuckles from an offended Azaelia. At first, they did not speak, but ate in silence, enjoying each other’s company. In truth, Dínendal did not know where to begin. He was struggling to find the right words, and thus he opted to just eat and take in his surroundings. There was some noise by the other end of the kitchen, in the pantry, behind the stone columns on the left. Pots clanging, small feet running. A boy ran up to Azaelia and tugged at her sleeve. “Away, child, not now.” Boromir also watched as he sipped his ale. The child pulled again at her sleeve. “Ma’am, ma’am,” he pleaded. “Be gone, filthy mouse!” “Ma’am, it’s the periann again, ma’am. Come, look! He’s rooting through the dried mushrooms!” Azaelia gasped. “Oh, the devil, he wouldn’t dare…!” Without finishing, Azaelia grabbed a nearby rolling pin and, baring her gums in a sinister grimace, stalked out of the kitchen and into the other room. As she left, Dínendal caught Boromir’s eye, which twinkled expectantly. There was a howl and the sound of wood hitting soft cloth, followed by another cry and the sound of feet pattering against stone. A halfling with curly hair and bright eyes barreled at full speed into the kitchen, weaving between the legs of servants and drudges, chased closely by a red-faced Azaelia with rolling pin held high. The halfling dodged another blow from Azaelia’s weapon, so that it caught instead on a pestle and mortar. The contents, a mixed spice, fell from the container, blossoming into a red cloud. Immediately, the nearest serf started sneezing. Someone elbowed someone else, there was a cry. Another slam of the rolling pin against stone, oaths and curses. Someone dropped something, a crash, more sneezes. Beside Dínendal, Boromir was laughing so hard he made no sound, but only clutched his stomach, his face red and his eyes streaming. Seeing him so consumed with merriment only fueled Dínendal’s own mirth, and soon the two were howling at the scene. The halfling heard them and made a desperate dive towards their table. He scuttled under the benches and the table, and Boromir hooted suddenly, eyes wide, and brought his knee up to knock against wood. There was a heavy thump, followed by a pained hiss and mangled curse from Boromir. The clutter of plates wobbled noisily and Dínendal’s goblet teetered. He grabbed it with elven reflexes, sending only some of the ale onto his plate. “Pippin!” Boromir cried. “I’ve no desire to disturb the good prince’s dinner with his friend, Master Took,” Azaelia growled, keeping her pin held high. “Just hand back the mushrooms, and I won’ be touchin’ ye.” The voice from under the table squealed. “I don’t believe you!” Boromir grasped the table with both hands and began shaking his leg back and forth, provoking more yelps from the hobbit which clung to him. “Ai! Send her away, Boromir!” Pippin cried. “She already got me in the bottom – ooh, it smarts! Send her away, or I’m not coming out!” Laughter from the kitchen. Azaelia stepped forward. “Pip-pin! Off!” Boromir roared, shaking his leg furiously. Dínendal could hear muffled grunts and wails as the hobbit was kicked against the bench and table legs. “Ai! Oh! Fine, fine!” Boromir relaxed, now keeping a hand against his gut, and soon the hobbit – Pippin Took – poked his head from the table’s edge, revealing only hair and eyes. “Make her promise not to hit me.” “Give her the mushrooms.” The blue eyes flickered up to Boromir in a sign of disgust, shock, betrayal. Boromir sighed. “Come now, Pippin. You can have our food if your stomach is so empty.” The hobbit eyes traveled from Azaelia’s rolling pin – which hovered in the air, ready to fall at any moment – to Dínendal, where they glowed with curiosity, and then to the food which was scattered along the table between he and Boromir. Pippin made his decision. He tossed a bag of dried mushrooms up over the table, and they soared straight into a nearby servant’s open crate. “Very well,” Azaelia seethed. “But if I catch ye one more time – or any of your Shire-folk friends – I won’t be so forgivin’!” Softening, she bowed to Boromir and Dínendal. “My lords.” Once she was gone, safe behind the stoves, and the rolling pin stashed away, Pippin raised his head and took a seat on the bench next to Boromir, who was already going back to his ale. The hobbit stuck out his small hand and gave Dínendal’s a hearty shake. “Hello,” he said. “Peregrin Took, but you can call me Pippin. And you are?” Dínendal smiled. “Dínendal, of the Woodland Realm.” “Oh! Like Legolas, then?” “Indeed.” Pippin elbowed Boromir in the gut, causing the Man to choke on his drink and gasp suddenly. Pippin did not seem to notice. “Legolas’ home! Mirkwood! I didn’t know you knew any other elves, Boromir. Well, except for those three from…” “This is one of those three,” Boromir muttered through clenched teeth. Pippin looked back to Boromir, looked to Dínendal, looked back again. “Are you sure? I thought they all, you know…” “So did I,” Boromir lowered his eyes, took a fast drink. “Alas, I almost joined my brothers in death,” Dínendal said softly, “for I was gravely injured in our final fight with the Easterlings. I fell from my wounds on the fields of Dagorlad, beneath the mountains of Ered Lithui,” the hobbit shuddered, “but was saved by an Eagle, who bore me away and took me straight into Mirkwood. There, Radagast the Brown argued my case, and the case of my fallen companions, and we were granted full remission of our crimes. We were welcomed back into our lands, and I was once again given the honor of a name.” “You didn’t have a name?” “Nay, as an exile, it was forbidden I should utter it. And after thousands of years, one forgets.” Pippin turned his bright eyes to Boromir. “Is that why you called him…?” “Second One,” Boromir spoke from his cup. “What sort of a name is that?” Pippin asked, disgusted. “A poor one,” Dínendal admitted with a smile. “But one gets used to it.” Pippin nodded, mouth open, eyes wide. He grabbed a plate of cold meat and began eating. “You fought with the Eagles? Boromir never told me that. Is that when you were,” he turned to Boromir, cocked his head to one side, “when you… you know, is that when you were taken to – to the Black Tower?” Boromir nodded wordlessly, poured another drink. Dínendal watched him in worry, making sure he kept his face smoothed and expressionless. He turned back to Pippin. “And are you the halfling everyone speaks of?” “What? Who speaks of me? Ha! Maybe!” Pippin took another bite, spoke with mouth full: “Oh no, you mean Frodo Baggins, my cousin. He’s the one that saved us all from death and destruction, aye.” He swallowed. “A stout one, and with a fair amount of Took in him, thank you very much. I would say it was the Took side that did it, because the Bagginses aren’t a very adventurous sort. Well, of course old Bilbo – ” “Pippin,” Boromir cut him off sternly. “What?” “Don’t bore Dínendal with Shire politics.” Pippin glared at Boromir, but did not argue, and so forced a mild shrug. He grabbed another plate, this one filled with dried fruit, and began eating. With mouth full and eyes gleaming, “So, how long were you in exile?” “Three thousand years,” Dínendal said. “Well, that must have been very dull.” Dínendal laughed. “It was, indeed.” “Did you travel far?” “Aye, very far. We three adraefan traveled beyond the eastern and southern borders of all Known Lands. We passed through lands which have no records here. Where the Men are strange, and the elves distant. Where mountains meet deserts which lead into forests and back out into desert.” “Well!” Pippin smiled. “That seems very far! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a desert, nor will I ever in this lifetime.” He turned. “Have you seen any, Boromir?” Boromir shook his head. “The lands far south, in Harad, are at times desert. But no, I have never seen one.” “And this Ranafast…” Pippin said, stuffing some dried berries into a sandwich of pheasant and cheese. “Radagast,” Boromir corrected. “Radagast. Is he a wizard like Gandalf?” “He is,” Dínendal nodded. “They are of the same Council, but Mithrandir wields more power. Radagast has sway over the beasts of the land. He speaks with birds and deer and all the simple beings. He dwells in Rhosgobel, nigh the Old Forest Road in Mirkwood.” “Old Forest Road? I think old Bilbo went down that once,” Pippin mused, taking a bite from his pheasant-berry-cheese sandwich. “Pippin.” Pippin turned to look at Boromir. “What?” Without explanation, Boromir gulped down the remaining ale and rumbled, “Leave us.” The hobbit did not argue, though he was visibly hurt. He inhaled sharply, pushed the seat back and stood. With a polite farewell to Dínendal, a grim glance at Boromir, and a quick snatching of some pheasant which he stuffed into his pocket for later, he left. Dínendal watched the hobbit leave, watched Boromir empty the barrel’s contents into his goblet. He could feel the eyes of the kitchen staff watching as well. But he did not make comment. Instead, he waited. He was beginning to wonder if Boromir had chosen this place as a means of avoiding the more sensitive subjects of their lost companions. Yet, before he could comment, Boromir leaned forward, stared into his cup. “What were their names, Dínendal?” “First One was Golradir, and Third One Amdír.” Silence. Boromir’s expression darkened. He picked at the imperfections in the wooden table. Dínendal studied Boromir, and felt his own grief swell deep in his heart. The Man was ruined. Gaunt cheeks, scars, a weak, patchy beard. The drink makes the beard fall out. Dim, heavy-hooded eyes. The crooked nose. And what of Amdír? Did he die so beaten? Dínendal felt his stomach grow cold. For the innumerable time since waking in Mirkwood, Dínendal regretted that he should have been saved, while his friends were not. The years of exile – shameful years, but also years of companionship and a hidden joy – were all gone. He was the last one, the surviving adraefan. All three, fearing battle, had chosen to postpone fate. Yet only two had been destined to die on Dagorlad. And he was the one destined to survive. Itarildë, my love, you were right. I was blessed by the Valar, I was to live. And what blessing was ever so bitter? Azaelia arrived and began to remove the empty plates. “Bring us something to drink, Azaelia,” Boromir muttered. “We have finished this.” Azaelia looked pointedly at Boromir, but the Man was grave, his expression dark. She looked to Dínendal for help, and the elf leaned forward. “Nay, nay, I think we have had enough.” Boromir’s head snapped up. He glared at Dínendal, but said nothing. Azaelia watched Boromir, waiting. But he did not argue, instead he went back to picking the irregular fragments of wood in the table. Dínendal noted that Azaelia’s shoulders fell with relief. She gathered up the plates, stacked them, and, giving the Man one final look, left. Once she was gone: a heavy silence. Dínendal saw Boromir clench and unclench his jaw, saw his knuckles turn white with tension, saw his fingers shaking as he dug a nail into a splintered fragment at the table’s edge. “Boromir…” “Aye?” The response was rough, quick, pained. “A half-barrel is more than enough for one Man.” Dínendal hesitated before adding: “Too much, even, for one Man.” Boromir’s expression turned vicious, his eyes hardened. He stared at Dínendal now as if the elf were responsible for all the crimes of Middle-earth. It was an expression of hate, suffering, fury. He ran his hands over his face, cracked his knuckles, muttered to himself. “Too much… too much, indeed… Third One was called Amdír? Amdír. He did not know it, ere his end. Nay, he did not have that privilege. Poor fool. Too much for one Man. And the elves are said to be wise…” Boromir’s self-control was faltering. The conversation was sinking into depths Dínendal did not want to enter. “I did not mean to offend,” Dínendal soothed. He could feel the attention of the kitchen staff, all listening. “Come, this room stifles. Let us to outside.” Boromir nodded, jerked himself roughly from the table. He sent a plate of bread near him clattering to the ground, but made no move to pick it up. Without a word or look in Dínendal’s direction, he walked out of the kitchen and back up the spiral staircase. Dínendal met the eyes of Azaelia, who stood by the stoves. Barad-dûr, it is Barad-dûr. Speak to him. To you he may yet listen. And so he followed Boromir out. The other servants had pretended not to notice, though Dínendal heard a storm of whispers as he took the first steps out of the kitchen. Upstairs, moonlight leaked into the dimly lit corridor through tall windows. Boromir’s stood silhouetted against the glass. As soon as the Man saw Dínendal emerge, he turned and walked. Dínendal hurried to keep up, for the Man stormed on without hesitation or pause. “Boromir,” Dínendal said. The Man continued walking. A few nobles passed and uttered a greeting. He ignored them. “Boromir.” “The good Master Elf Dínendal wants a walk outside?” Boromir muttered. “So be it. Come, I have little patience. Do not drag your feet. Let us have your walk and be done with it.” Dínendal was stunned into silence. Lost, lost, he is lost! The rumors are true, he is no more than a drunkard. A beggar, saved only by his blood-right to live in the Citadel. Look at him, see his scars? All that was noble and fair is disappeared. And they say he is even mad! Lost! This is futile! They walked for several tense moments until they reached a wide arch leading to the Citadel balconies. Outside, the air was cool, fresh. The moon waxed large, the stars danced. Dínendal remembered similar dancing stars. So long ago, it seemed. Boromir did not slow his walk. Finally, Dínendal, in growing irritation, grabbed Boromir’s arm and pulled him to a halt. Boromir whirled around. “Enough!” Dínendal hissed. “What manner of receiving friends is this? You act as if my very presence displeases you!” They were standing on a jutting precipice of the Citadel balconies. No one was near. Distantly, drifting up from the lower circles, the sounds of a city going to bed could be heard. Someone was playing a guitar. A slow, melancholy song. Dínendal and Boromir stared at each other for several moments, glaring even. “Mayhap I did not desire your presence!” Boromir snarled. “Mayhap your presence brings back memories I do not wish to remember!” “Think you are alone? Think I do not also shrink away from the past and wish to forget those dark days? We have both suffered through it, and it is difficult for both to remember!” “Suffered through what? Have you any idea what my nights are like? Every moment I spend in silence, my ears are filled with his cries! I cannot sleep, I cannot eat, I cannot lie still, ere his noisy dying deafens me! They shun me here, for they say my presence is a black one. Oh, they talk and chatter and gossip at my shoulders, thinking I am too drunk or too mad to understand. Aye, but I understand. I hear it all, and above everything I hear Barad-dûr. On and on, Second One, as if my body is in Minas Tirith and my mind is forever enslaved to that Black Tower. You know nothing of such torment!” “I do not pretend to!” Boromir roared, threw up his hands. “Ah, get you gone! You’ve come here only to torment me further!” He began to walk down the balcony, so that Dínendal was forced to hurry after him. They walked back into the corridor. The passersby noted immediately Boromir’s temper and so many hastened out of his way. He rounded a corner, Dínendal squeezing on after him, until he found his target and cried out, “Ho! Boy!” A young thirteen-year-old boy, thin and awkward, turned. His face lit up upon seeing Boromir and the elf, and he dashed towards them. He tore off his cap, smiled and bowed clumsily. “My lords!” the boy cried, glancing back and forth between Boromir and Dínendal with delight. “Why do you grin, Innrod? I have no need of a smiling idiot!” Boromir snarled. Innrod’s expression fell, visibly hurt. “My lord?” “Be useful and find him a room,” Boromir indicated Dínendal. “I go to my chambers.” “Yes, my lord,” Innrod muttered. Without another word, Boromir stormed off down the hall and out of their sight. Dínendal watched him leave. He saw the Citadel nobles and courtiers whirl around as he left, like in the wake of a passing ship, all turning to catch a glimpse of Boromir the Mad. As soon as he disappeared around a corner, all turned back to their companions with fervent whispers. Dínendal looked to the boy, Innrod, with a sigh. But the boy was studying him with a peculiar expression. “My lord, you are an elf?” “Aye. I am Dínendal, of the Woodland Realm.” “It is true then, you are one of the Three?” “I am.” Innrod’s face brightened.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.