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Adraefan: 38. The Treegarth of Orthanc (Farewells)
The days were peaceful, serene. Boromir spent most of his time with Dínendal, and they would wander away from the main group to lean against a parapet and stare in silence at the wide expanse before them. Sometimes, Dínendal would begin speaking about Itarildë and when they had met. Or sometimes he would reminisce about those first days the adraefan had spent with Boromir above Emyn Muil, occasionally earning stifled smiles from Boromir, who, despite himself, would laugh at the memory.
Boromir spent the days during and after Helm’s Deep drifting from painful sobriety to those few, hidden moments of indulgence. He found that he could resist with merely a few swallows of whatever was at hand in the morning, upon waking, and then nothing – or what he considered to be little – by nightfall. At least, he congratulated himself on never appearing drunk – no one knew how much he drank, if or when. They had been wrong to think him such a drunkard.
Yet however peaceful and dull the days were, the nights held their own trials.
At night, Boromir dreamt. Foul dreams, wretched dreams, vivid dreams. Dreams such as he had not suffered through since the days of Osgiliath – when if he was not dreaming of riddles and broken swords, then he was dreaming of plans and strategies and sudden orc attacks. Dreams that he could not escape from. Dreams that crawled through his throat like a snake, burrowing deep into the belly, infecting him with fear. Fear that lasted throughout the days following the dreams. He called them dreams but they were nightmares.
The first night after Edoras he had dreamt of his brother. They were children, and mother was alive. She was calling to them – calling to them to return from their War, return from their fighting. But they were too young, Faramir especially, to be fighting, and there were no battles. Boromir could not understand. But then – Osgiliath – the fall of the eastern bank was happening again – and now Boromir and Faramir were older, grown Men, wounded – and the winged Fell Beast was swooping down, claws outstretched, ready to rip his brother from the ground. But such a cry! And such a fear! Boromir heard it all again – heard the nazgûl scream reverberating through his ears – and his ribs, cracked and bruised and crushed, and –
He had awoken with a choked gasp, sweating.
From Deeping Coomb and on the way to Isengard, Boromir dreamt of fire. He dreamt of a fire consuming Minas Tirith – blackening it – and his father’s laughing face above it all. It was the face Denethor had made after the Council had chosen Boromir for Imladris. Full of pride and a satisfied confidence and snarling anticipation. And the fire of Minas Tirith had turned icy, so that Boromir found himself clawing through an interminable white mountain – snow on all sides – seeping through his clothes and burning him with its frigidity. And a sense of urgency – a frantic urgency – for everything hinged on this task – to get through – and the fire in his mind, burning through the ice…
He had awoken and remained awake for the rest of that night.
As the days passed, the dreams became clearer. Boromir dreamt of Third One – blinded, blood streaming from empty eye sockets – stumbling forward, searching with his hands – and when Boromir approached him to help, to aid him – and Boromir placed his hand on Third One’s arm – he saw with horror that his grip crushed straight through the elf, squeezing, as if the elf was boneless, so that the blood seeped crimson between Boromir’s fingers – and it felt to Boromir as if he were squeezing down on a boneless, limp thing – for his hand eventually clamped down around itself, holding only a ragged tatter of skin, oozing blood.
He had awoken to hear his screamed echo returning to him.
The dreams continued, every night…
Laughing laughing laughing orcs as they scream through the bloodied wall spitted against burrowed spikes burying in the shoulder blades deep back into the shoulder blades and then a crisp CRACK of whip tearing into flesh and leaving fine white lines over the back – yes yes yes yes yes pretty little Gondor prince that’s how we like it yes yes yes yes – now scream for us so we can hear you asking questions telling lies and the poor poor poor poor elf leaves tracks of tears through his bloodied face stinging in the burns and cuts and bruises and tell us tell us tell us tell us or we shall let a nice clean CRUNCH bury down into the leg arm heart lungs spilling out slipping onto the black jacked ground and expanding expanding expanding with waste and –
“Third One? Third One! THIRD ONE!”
“Boromir – resist, my friend, my brother, resist!”
“Ai Eru, Third One!”
“Look away look away look away do not look at me do not give in do not say it, Boromir, do not say it do not tell them there is nothing to tell nothing to say look away, Boromir, my friend, I was a good friend, wasn’t I?”
Blubbering through his tears so that he cannot speak, ha ha ha: “Nay, Third One – nay, nay – leave him – leave him leave him alone leave him be – ai ai ai very well very well very well I will – ”
“NO! Do not do it, Boromir! Do not say it!”
Slipping down into the bloodied floor and grinding away from the machine pulling twisting away the wrists holding him down holding him down burning away the wrists and he screams and shudders and pulls away and weeps and sobs and cries out and the fire licking away at the wound in his stomach so that he cringes back back into the machine back into the machine pulling pulling pulling apart and the muscles stretching thinner thinning thin snapping away blood seeping through the skin and foul crying AI SWEET ERU HELP ME NOW and and and stop stop STOP stop stop begging begging like a fool a fool begging burying down huddled weeping BURNING EYES in the mind red pop hissing with cackling cruelty –
Slipping on the cobblestones like a drunkard with Minas Tirith laughter cackling ha ha ha ha and Faramir’s neck livid bruising with a father on fire and the heckling SNAP of a CLICK CLICK CLICK torture machine grinding down like a pretty little prince yes that’s how he likes it doesn’t he likes it likes that yes yes yes yes yes yes doesn’t speak but cries and yells and whimpers like a little child in the GREAT EYE BURNING great eye burning burning indeed burning through everything and a heart on fire because please please please please please THIRD ONE NO NO NO NO no no no where is where is mother and father and Faramir Faramir can you help me help help help forgive me for today, forgive me for the King, forgive but stay stay stay please VALAR DO YOU HEAR THESE CRIES?
(The Valar-Gods shift. Someone glares at Irmo, Dream-God.)
Breathing ragged with the head hanging down trembling on the side…
That evening, he awoke to see Dínendal hovering before him, the elf’s hand on his shoulder. He had been dreaming of Barad-dûr, of Minas Tirith, of something, and he was ashamed to find his face was wet with tears. They were in the tent which Boromir shared with Dínendal, Pippin, Merry, Legolas and Gimli. All the others seemed asleep.
“Boromir, you dreamt.”
Boromir’s throat felt parched. Immediately, he thought to rifle through his things and find the flask, but he quickly chided himself. No. No, he did not need it. He did not need it. He sometimes needed it. Only at night, for during the day, they were often traveling, and the King was nearby, and Boromir kept his mind busy with studying the scenery, or speaking with Dínendal, or musing over his great journey a year ago through these same lands. Ignoring the pain in his stomach, begging him to drink it away. Ignoring the ache in his knees as he mounted the horse, telling him one drink would make the ride so much easier. The drink. He did not need it. Sometimes, he needed it. He needed it. But he would fight it. Or he would not fight it, but none would know of his private failings, his silent surrenders.
Yet the nights were full of dreams, full of nightmares, so that always he found himself staring at the saddlebags. He had brought it all with him, the flask and the bottles. He had told the boy, Innrod, to pack it all away without Rúnyafin noticing, back in Minas Tirith. And he remembered searching through his bags the first night on the journey to Edoras, and counting the bottles, and wondering if they would last him the entire trip. And then he had wept – wept with bitter laughter, for he had taken to weeping as often as a maiden in these past few weeks – but he had wept nonetheless, not knowing or understanding why the tears streamed so easily down his face.
Now, he wiped at his eyes with one quaking hand and sat up. Dínendal sat back on his heels.
“You dreamt of – ?”
“Leave off, Second One, you can guess what I dreamt…”
Dínendal nodded, but did not leave. He stared at a patch of ground, his eyes glazed over with thought. Boromir suddenly wondered what he had exclaimed in his sleep. He did not want to know the answer. And so he stood, grumbling something, and left the tent.
He did not notice Dínendal had followed him until several paces out into the camp, into the fresh clean night air, when he turned and jumped back, startled, finding the elf a step behind him.
“Dínendal!” he hissed, fumbling for his empty sheath. “Make – make more noise as you walk!”
Dínendal smiled at this. “I shall try.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “May I walk with you?”
Boromir snorted, but did not say no.
And so they walked. The camp was quiet as they strolled. All the canvas tents, the King’s banners, the horses; still and silent. All asleep, with soft snores and the occasional owl hooting. Crickets. It was a clear night, and the sky was an indigo canvas peppered with light.
They walked away from the clear patch of ground where the great entourage had settled itself, and towards a gentle hill rolling towards some nearby woods. Away from the burning torches of the camp, the stars gleamed brighter against the blue-black sky. Boromir and Dínendal walked up this softly-sloped ridge, Boromir occasionally waving away a buzzing insect.
And there, at the top of the ridge, where they could see the dark forest to their right, and the rolling hills before them, and the silhouette of the Misty Mountains to the northeast, they sat. Dínendal sat first, without explanation, facing away from the camp. Boromir smiled slightly, but joined him, bending down slowly, careful of his knees, until collapsing clumsily with a grunt.
They did not speak, but rather sat in silence, enjoying the warm night air. Sitting on the ground was causing Boromir’s knees to throb dully at remaining so bent, and the wound in the right leg was also complaining. He leaned back on his elbows, but – after swearing and muttering to himself as he shifted, vainly searching for a more comfortable position – he found that his weak shoulder refused his weight. And so he surrendered and simply dropped back onto the ground with a grunt, flinging his arms above his head. Dínendal twisted around, smiled lightly.
The crickets chirped. On his back, Boromir stared up at the sky – the innumerable stars – and he remembered the nights when he and Faramir would sleep out in the wild, delighting themselves in these minor adventures, and every night Faramir would insist on playing a game. The game was to create a story using the stars, and while Faramir saw great battles and dragons and swords and tidal waves and ships hovering in the sky, Boromir had never seen more than a mindless jumble of tiny, white specks.
“’Tis always the same, Dínendal,” he mumbled. The elf did not turn. “’Tis always the same,” Dream, he wanted to add. Fear. “’Tis – ‘tis so… tiresome.”
A few moments of silence passed, and Boromir began to wonder if the elf had heard.
“Today I did not see you drink,” Dínendal said finally.
Boromir snorted in offense. “Think you that I am so weak? That I have no choice in the matter?”
“The bottles you have in your pack, would you throw them all away? Or leave them with some farmer ere we reach Isengard?”
Boromir glanced down his chest. He could see the elf’s lithe silhouette, his back curved as he leaned forward, sitting.
Boromir did not answer immediately. No matter how comfortable he felt with Dínendal, he could not admit the fear. He could never fully acknowledge the panic, ever present at the edge of his vision, always threatening to pour in and consume him. The panic – the panic – the pain and trembling hands and the echoes which chilled his blood – he could not admit that the drink helped keep all of this at bay.
And so he did not answer, but let the question hang there, in the night air, lingering. Dínendal made no move, though eventually, after long, awkward minutes, he turned around and looked at Boromir.
He smiled. “Ah, I thought you had fallen asleep.”
Boromir chuckled, arched his head back. “Nay…”
“You simply did not want to answer the question,” Dínendal supplied.
Boromir remained silent. He closed his eyes, mumbled something about being weary, and pretended to rest. He could feel the elf’s gaze on him. A cool breeze traveled over the forest – a wave of noise, the soft rustling in the leaves – until it whispered over the hill and across their faces. Boromir inhaled somewhat shakily. He heard Dínendal shift, turning away from him.
“You hide it,” the elf said softly. “You think I do not see. But I have noticed.”
Boromir said nothing.
“I know not…” More shifting. Boromir cracked an eye open and saw Dínendal’s silhouette leaning an elbow on one knee, chin in hand. “I know not why you do not seek relief from your friends. And we are friends, you and I. I would help you. I do not judge you, Boromir, I have never thought you mad, nor a drunkard – nor any of those insults. Yet I see that you are ashamed when I speak of these… tendencies. Would it not be better if you simply spoke of what haunts you?”
Boromir shut his eyes, crossed his arms.
“What do you want me to say, Dínendal? I have told you enough, it seems. There is nothing more to confess.”
The elf was silent. After a few moments, he sighed. “Perhaps… you are right.” At this, Boromir opened his eyes, frowning. “It seems I have little effect, as well. Perhaps my help is not sufficient.”
Boromir shook his head, opened his mouth as if he wanted to find something to say, but Dínendal cut him off. “If only Radagast were here. He is wise. He would know what to do. And he always did say you were rather bullish – so perhaps he would know better how to manage you, as he has had dealings with such beasts.”
Dínendal smiled slightly, almost mischievously, and Boromir laughed, though he could not ease the strange ache in his heart. Dínendal’s smile and Boromir’s laugh both faded too quickly, and soon they were once again sitting in silence, staring up at the sky. Though now Boromir felt guilt pressing down against his chest – guilt and embarrassment.
He was about to say something, to blurt some gruff remark telling Dínendal not to coddle him so, that he needed no keepers and he did not need any of this so-called help, and that he did not have any bottles in his packs anyway, but any such thinly veiled apology was interrupted by the sudden arrival of a third night-walker. Boromir heard nothing behind him, but Dínendal looked up and, eyes alight, stood quickly and bowed. Boromir turned.
Aragorn walked up the ridge, a pipe in one hand, his gaze fixed on the night sky. When the King saw Dínendal bowing, he immediately smiled and shook his head. Boromir was still clambering to stand when Aragorn raised his free hand, “Please, my friends. ‘Tis too late… or perhaps too early… to begin with the formalities again.”
Dínendal relaxed, and smiled. “You are a most gracious King, Aragorn.”
Aragorn chuckled and met eyes with Boromir, who was still half-kneeling, half-standing. Boromir lowered his gaze.
“What brings my noble elven guest and my prince out here on such a night?” Aragorn asked, grinning. “Stargazing, friends?”
Boromir flushed, chuckling, and sat. Aragorn waved for Dínendal to seat himself and went to sit on Boromir’s right. He leaned back, brought a knee up, took a drag from his pipe.
How unlike a King he is. But what right did Boromir have in casting such judgements? Not when he too had changed so much, when his beloved city had warped into something intolerable. No, everything had changed. Everything was different. And there was something easing in Aragorn’s manner, so that, for once, Boromir found himself relaxed in his presence.
After a few moments, as Boromir listened to the steady drags of Aragorn’s pipe, smelled the familiar pipe-weed, Aragorn spoke, “Dínendal, know you any of the elven songs for Elbereth?” He smiled. “I should say the Queen of the Stars smiles down upon us this evening.”
Boromir could not help his sharply raised eyebrow and cynically amused snort, though Dínendal simply shrugged and crossed his arms over his knees.
“Aye, I know the songs,” he murmured. “Though I was never considered a singer among my people. ‘Twas Amdír who delighted in such songs.”
“Forgive me, then,” Aragorn said. “Perhaps it is not so gracious, after all, for a Man to ask an elf to sing whenever he gets the chance.”
Dínendal laughed softly. “Nay… I meant it only as a warning; my voice is not as fair as young Legolas’, for example. But I have been musing over my friend Amdír these past few days… it would please me to reawaken his memory in song.”
And as Aragorn leaned back, pipe in mouth, and Dínendal was to begin singing, Boromir nearly exclaimed, Stop! But he bit back the cry, and instead lay back against the ground, arms and ankles crossed, rigidly staring at the stars, willing himself to remain calm and silent.
The song began…
“A Fanuilos! Brennil gelair!
Athan Aear Annui, Bereth,
Calad ammen i reviar
Mi 'aladhremmin Ennorath!”
And were these not the words of Third One, one half-year ago, on the barren wastelands of the Brown Lands? When all about them there had been darkness and cloudy skies and a persistent gloom, yet the elves had laughed and joked and jested with Boromir?
“A Elbereth Gilthoniel!
I chîn a thûl lín míriel,
A Fanuilos! Linnam allen
Athan Aear min ndôr chae hen.”
Boromir grit his teeth. The stars blurred.
“Elin i ned în ben-Anor
Go gam hílol na hen rennin,
Mi dailf ’waerin lim a celair
Celwelyth lín reviennin!”
And did these three night-walkers – this King out of legend, this broken warrior and long-returned exile – know of the soft sigh that Varda, Elbereth, Star-Queen and glowing Vala, gave when she heard the elf-exile’s self-conscious melody? Did they hear the deep rumble of disapproval – Manwë, Ulmo, Tulkas – stirring through Taniquetil as the Valar saw one Valar Queen’s silent favoring of the troubled Boromir? The jealousy between gods…
“Gilthoniel! A Elbereth!
Min ndôr chaeron hen din gelaidh
Ve i dortham sí renim ui
'ilgalad buin Aeair Annui…”
As Dínendal’s voice drifted away in the night air – just as Third One’s so often did; Dínendal was modest to consider himself a poor singer – Aragorn exhaled a long, silvery puff of smoke. He looked over to the elf and nodded. Dínendal smiled slightly, looked away.
And as the song faded, Boromir relaxed, blinking several times, swallowing away the thick knot in his throat.
It was not long before Aragorn spoke again. He turned the pipe upside down, began to knock the ashes onto the grass.
“Well, tomorrow we shall part ways, my friends.”
“Aye…” Dínendal whispered.
“And so will come the breaking of the Fellowship.”
“It was broken long ago,” Boromir muttered before he could control himself.
Rather than being angered, or troubled, Aragorn grinned, more gum than teeth, and raised an eyebrow in Boromir’s direction. In a sudden gesture, he laid a hand on Boromir’s shoulder, squeezed.
“We shall not pursue that topic, though perhaps on your return from the Shire, we shall discuss at length all the cracks and fissures of the legendary Fellowship. But Boromir, you shall find that the Fellowship was never truly broken, nor shall it ever break, while we are all yet living. And I would venture that e’en upon death the Fellowship shall continue. The ties cannot be so easily severed, as I imagine the ties of the adraefan will ne’er break.” Aragorn paused. “Besides, you are too modest, and e’er too grim,” another pink grin, “Do not forget that you are a legend.”
Boromir snorted gruffly, though he could not hide the creeping smile. He crossed his arms, burrowed his chin into his chest.
“You are in a fanciful mood tonight, sire.”
Aragorn laughed. “Aye, perhaps I am. ‘Twas Dínendal’s song, it has raised my spirits.”
And with that, he stood, gave Boromir’s shoulder another friendly clap and then placed his hand on his heart and bowed to Dínendal. The elf returned the bow from his seat.
“Goodnight then, gentlemen. Until tomorrow.”
He left. A few moments of contemplative silence. And then Dínendal turned to Boromir, smiled.
“Perhaps I am not such a terrible singer.”
“…burárum, those evileyed-blackhanded-bow-legged-flint-hearted-clawfingered-foulbellied-bloodthirsty, morimaite-sincahonde, hoom…”
Boromir stared. The last hoom rumbled through the earth, startling the horses into nervous whinnies and the occasional clop.
“…well, since you are hasty folk and their full name is as long as years of torment, those vermin of orcs; and they came over the River and down from the North and all round the wood of Laurelindórenan, which they could not get into, thanks to the Great ones who are there.”
The mighty tree, that massive, lumbering, entirely unnatural Treebeard waved one gnarled hand – or what Boromir assumed was a hand, even though it seemed more like a tangle of branches – in the direction of the Lothlórien woods – before turning back to all of them.
Isengard. Gardens, rows of flowers, the black tower piercing the sky, empty. They stared up at the two great Ents, though the sun was in the way, and so the tall creatures were silhouetted against the glare. Boromir could not help wanting to nudge his horse around and to the other side, or request that they all move in the shade, if only to see these creatures better.
Beside him, the hobbits sat on their ponies, occasionally elbowing each other, or murmuring asides as Treebeard and Quickbeam spoke with Aragorn and Gandalf. The rest of the company stood behind them, all of them glancing back and forth, curious, taking in all the change and all the disappointing familiarity of Orthanc. The so-called Treegarth of Orthanc was alive with a rich variety of green vegetation, but everyone was still quite wary of the enormous, hulking tower beside them.
Nevertheless, Merry and Pippin seemed content in whispering the entire tale of their Ent meetings and Entmoot and Isengard battles, earning several stern looks from Dínendal as well as an uncharacteristic shush from Boromir. Aragorn and Gandalf seemed unfazed, however, by the group’s wandering interests, and they continued to discuss at great length all the recent happenings with Treebeard. Boromir was, admittedly, not paying attention as much as he should have been, since he too was somewhat preoccupied with the strangeness of Treebeard and Quickbeam.
One snatch of conversation, however, caught everyone’s attention:
“I observe, my good Fangorn,” Gandalf said, squinting in the sun’s glare, beard twitching, “that with great care you say dwelt, was, grew. What about is? Is he dead?”
Treebeard swayed before answering, peering up at Orthanc Tower, occasional leaves drifting from his head over the company.
“Is who dead?” Pippin whispered.
“Saruman,” Frodo said.
“No, not dead, so far as I know…” Treebeard rumbled. “But he is gone.”
Everyone started at this.
“Yes, he is gone seven days. I let him go. Though there was little left of him when he crawled out, and as for that worm-creature of his, he was like a pale shadow.”
Gandalf seemed about to blurt something out, but Treebeard raised one creaking arm. “Now do not tell me, Gandalf… that I promised to keep him safe; for I know it. But things have changed since then. And I kept him until he was safe… safe from doing any more harm.” He rumbled again, something unintelligible, and another cluster of leaves fell from his head. “You should know that above all I hate the caging of living things, and I will not keep even such creatures as these caged beyond great need… a snake without fangs may crawl where he will.”
He closed the matter with that, and everyone was left to brood over the news while Quickbeam presented the keys of Orthanc to Aragorn. Sam started shifting in his saddle, visibly troubled, and both Merry and Pippin were frowning with thought. The company decided to take its meal with the Ents here at the Treegarth. And so everyone dismounted, let the horses graze while they found a shady spot – on the other side of the great tower, under the fresh saplings of young fruit trees – and sat to take their meal.
Treebeard invited anyone who was interested on a tour of the entire, replanted Isengard, and Aragorn and Arwen obliged. Merry and Pippin also agreed, and Treebeard immediately lowered his great arms and picked them up without hesitation. Everyone laughed at this, watching the Ent place the two yelping hobbits onto his branches.
“Hoom, I have yet room for a few more if anyone is sore-footed,” he eyed the group.
Legolas smiled over his lembas, jutted his chin towards Gimli. “I believe the Dwarf would enjoy a ride.”
Gimli nearly jumped with shock when the Ent bent down to pick him up, and he hastened to disentangle himself from the limbs, grumbling, “Ah, no, no, no thank you, Master Fangorn. ‘Twould feel unnatural for a dwarf if he did not have both feet firmly set on the ground. Perhaps,” the dwarf’s eyes twinkled mischievously, “perhaps you should consider Boromir over there.”
Boromir, who had been idly chewing a piece of dried meat, looked up. Gimli began roaring with laughter as Treebeard took the single long stride over to where Boromir sat and, without letting the Man utter a single word of protest nor even swallow his food, bent down and yanked him unceremoniously off the ground. Boromir uttered a shocked shout and struggled against the limbs, but the Ent would not be forestalled. Soon enough the Man found himself sitting awkwardly against the swaying trunk, with Merry and Pippin chuckling nearby. A thick canopy of leaves obscured his vision. Down below, he could hear laughter.
“I pray, good Treebeard, that you shall spare my Queen and I,” Aragorn called. “We are quite content with walking.”
“If you think you can keep up, King,” Treebeard rumbled. “Though… perhaps it would be best if you took the horses.”
“Very well, that is indeed a good idea,” Aragorn agreed. Through the swaying leaves, Boromir, clinging to the trunk, caught a glimpse of the King’s face, smiling and looking up. “Ho, Boromir! Have you found a comfortable spot?”
Boromir shifted his position. Something sharp jabbed him in the hip. “Aye, well enough! Though this mode of travel seems more adept to hobbits than Men.”
“Ah, well, I’ve got something sticking in my back,” Pippin said, arching away from Treebeard’s side. “But you get used to it soon enough.”
Treebeard growled something. And then, without warning, he swung his head around, nearly unseating Boromir, and raised an arm. Merry huffed, knocked the leaves out of his face.
“Quickbeam… you may carry some… Come, we shall make of this a… hoom, grand tour.”
And so the two Ents bent down and, much to everyone’s abashment, picked them up off the ground and placed them in random points about them. Soon enough they were carrying all the entourage – the hobbits, Dínendal, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, as well as two royal guards – between the two of them. Gandalf had laughingly kept his distance, opting to ride Shadowfax instead, and the King and Queen had watched the whole spectacle, laughing and encouraging and jesting.
Boromir found himself wedged into a stump and several branches, his boots dangling off the edge, occasionally knocking against Pippin below him. The hobbit kept swatting them away.
“Boromir! Watch your feet!”
Above Boromir, a very nervous, young royal guard sat, clinging with both hands to the top of Treebeard’s head. So much so, in fact, that the Ent complained of being ticklish there and gave his head a jerk, jostling everyone riding him. The guard fumbled frantically before contenting himself with sitting very close to Boromir and holding onto a pair of flimsy branches. Boromir could see Dínendal and the others riding atop Quickbeam, laughing and conversing with the other Ent.
Dínendal had perched himself atop the highest point, leaning against it as easily as one would lean against solid ground, and when he caught Boromir’s eye, he waved. Gimli’s near-frantic complaining could be heard from somewhere within the lower part of Quickbeam’s leafy torso.
“Are we all ready then?”
A chorus of ayes.
“Lead on then, Master Fangorn!”
One lurching step, followed by an excitable and laughing, Whoa-ho-ho! Everyone scrambled to get a better hold, and Boromir, finding now the situation extraordinarily humorous, began to laugh. Laugh so hard, in fact, that he could barely hold onto the rough bark beside him. The guard behind him was now openly fisting Boromir’s cloak, his face pale, and he stared at Boromir in disbelief as the older Man dissolved into gasping sobs of merriment.
Back and forth, the entire Ent pitched, swaying with each step. On the level of branches below Boromir and the guard, the hobbits kept up a lively commentary – laughing quickly, asking Treebeard questions, calling back and forth to each other. Sam was somewhere in the Ent as well, though Boromir could not see him, even though he did hear the occasional Sweet Albermira! or Well, me ol’ gaffer’d never believe this, hi!
They circled the great garden spanning around Orthanc, and then they moved into Fangorn, if only to explore the closer acres. Boromir ventured to look down – though his stomach churned to do it – and he saw the ground passing swiftly beneath the tangle of branches and leaves – as well as fleeting glimpses of a white horse and rider, or the King and Queen trotting along. Quickbeam and all the others were behind them – since Boromir could hear the creaking wood and occasional exclamations as the second Ent walked. Once or twice, those in one Ent began to call back to those in the other:
“Mister Frodo! Got a good grip, eh? It'd be quite a tumble from this high up!"
“Aye, good enough, Sam!”
“Now don’t be rude, Sam Gamgee. Remember that me an' Pip traveled extensively with these fine Entish gentlemen, and never once did Treebeard drop us!”
“Gimli, that is my leg.”
“What? Aye? Oh, oh, pardon me, Master Elf. ‘Tis – ‘tis difficult to keep hold! How it tilts and sways!”
Boromir turned, attempted to twist his neck around without letting go his grip on a tuft of leaves to his left. He caught a brief glimpse of Quickbeam, and he saw Dínendal leaning over the canopy, smiling broadly.
“Aye?” Boromir called, hoarse.
“’Tis rather like the Great Tree by Moonlight, is it not?”
Boromir chuckled and cleared his throat. “Aye, it is indeed!”
They visited some of the newest saplings, which Treebeard introduced to everyone, and saw all the replanted vegetation and growing forest. And then they turned, made their way back to the open Treegarth and gardens around Orthanc. By the time they reached again the black tower, everyone was abuzz with childish excitement, talking and laughing and thanking the Ents for the tour. A few royal guards had stayed with the other horses and camp, and their envy was evident as they saw each giggling traveller descend from Treebeard and Quickbeam.
When they were all on the ground again, dizzy, and the King and Queen once again dismounted, the humor eventually faded, as it was time to leave. Everything was gathered up, and saddlebags were replaced, and soon it was time for the first partings within the Fellowship. For Legolas and Gimli were to begin their journeys together, and they bid farewell to each member of the group. The hobbits remained somber at the exchange, yet Legolas urged them not to grieve.
“Goodbye, but not forever, my friends,” the elf smiled. “We shall see each other again, I feel.” He looked at Boromir. “We are parting ways, aye, but the Fellowship is not broken.”
Aragorn stepped forward, placed a hand on Legolas’ shoulder. “Nor shall it ever, mellon nín.”
But Legolas pulled back slightly and placed his hand on his heart. He bowed. “Farewell, King of Gondor.” And he bowed to Arwen. “Namárië, Arwen.”
Gimli stepped forward. He nodded gruffly, shifted his belt. “Aye, well, I suppose I will be seeing all of ye soon, so no sense in shedding any tears.”
“Here then at last comes the parting of ways,” Aragorn sighed. “Though I hope that ere long you shall return to my land with the help that you promised.”
“Aye, that we will,” Gimli nodded. His voice thickened, and he turned quickly to clamber onto the horse behind Legolas. “Well, get on ye way, my hobbits. I won’t be kept awake with worry for you. Send word, and I suppose we shall see each other again someday. But I know not if we shall ever all be reunited again.”
And so the farewells continued. Legolas and Gimli eventually disappeared along their path, and soon the company took leave of the Ents as well. They made for the Gap of Rohan, riding swiftly now, with hearts heavy, and by evening there came time for another goodbye.
Dusk. The fierce red streams of sunlight burning against the uneven ground. Here, Aragorn turned his horse, and all stopped. Sharp winds burst through the Gap, flinging down from the mountain ranges on either side, so that everyone’s hair was whipped forward, backward, and the White Tree banners snapped, and Gandalf’s robes billowed and blossomed in great white balloons. They dismounted.
They stood in silence for several moments. The wind howled. Finally, Aragorn looked at each of them in turn, and without a word, he placed his hand on his heart, and he bowed to the hobbits. And then the Queen stepped forward, and she removed the glowing Evenstar from her neck and, gazing at it, she gave it to Frodo, who blushed crimson. The hobbit opened his mouth as if to say something, but Arwen simply nodded with understanding eyes.
“Farewell, my friends,” Aragorn said, and he spoke softly, even though the wind roared in their ears. “Remember that the northern kingdom is part of Gondor, and so we shall meet again. Soon, I hope. And we shall perhaps share a pipe in the Prancing Pony.” The hobbits smiled weakly at this, though Pippin’s eyes glistened. Aragorn placed a hand on the younger hobbit’s shoulder. “And do not forget, Peregrin Took, that you are a knight of Gondor, and I do not release you from your service. You are going now on leave, but I may recall you.”
Pippin smiled at this, a slow, feeble, teary smile, but he nodded.
And then Aragorn turned to Boromir and Dínendal and he gazed at them with serious eyes. They bowed.
“And go then, prince and elf-exile. For Boromir, you divide your heart now with the Fellowship and the adraefan, I feel. Yet I hope to see you in Minas Tirith ere the spring festival.”
“Aye, my King,” Boromir murmured, bowing again.
With a gruff smile from Gandalf, they made their final goodbyes and remounted. And so the final, stripped group – the Travellers and Escort – rode forth – just as the sun burned away into the horizon, blinding them from what lay ahead – and, after riding for a mile or so, they turned. And there they saw the King and Queen standing on the ridge, the banners of Gondor whipping in the strong wind, and Aragorn held up his hand, and there glowed a fierce, green light.
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