Unfinished plots, still a happy reader
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Messages: 7. The Decision
fair stables where a few swift horses were kept, hard by the lodging of the
errand riders of the Lord, messengers always ready to go at the urging of
Denethor or his chief captains. But now all the horses and riders were out
and away.”(Return of the King, Minas Tirith)
The night was partly cloudy, and in the tunnel that led to the surface,
there was no light at all. Anborn carried a small torch and strode on
quickly, his footsteps echoing in the silence of the night, his flickering
shadow moving alongside him, painting dark pictures on the even darker,
rocky walls. Anakil followed close behind, anxious to stay in the small
circle of light, careful not to trip and fall in the lasting blackness.
Anborn might know the tunnel well enough to find his way even in complete
darkness, but Anakil, despite his good memory, had walked this dark passage
only three times in two days, far too seldom to memorize every small
turning point and every bigger piece of rock on the ground.
They did not turn towards the main exit that led out into the wild, but
followed many steps that started to their left, winding up like a turret
stair, a path Anakil had neither noticed nor walked before.
The stairway ended, and they stepped out of the rocky darkness onto a flat
rock, smooth surfaced but not slippery and surprisingly dry. To their right
there was the river in its narrow bed of stone, splashing over many steps,
then flowing down a smooth hewn channel, obviously the product of man’s
work of long ago. Foam flecked the rushing water, glistening in the pale
light of few stars. Dancing merrily despite its narrow enclosement, the
water fell over the edge of the rock at their left, into a deep abyss
yawning dangerously and black in the darkness.
A man sat there near the brink, his legs folded under his body, his
features lit by the flickering light of a small lamp partly hidden below
his cloak to keep the light from being visible from a greater distance.
“Good luck, troublemaker!” Anborn slapped Anakil’s shoulder and stepped
back to the stairway that led down to the tunnel.
Thousands of questions concerning the Captain were in Anakil’s mind, had
been there right away since they had entered the tunnel, but it was too
late now. Anborn’s footsteps swiftly faded away, and the boy did not want
to shout after him. For a moment he gazed into the opening where Anborn’s
flickering torchlight had disappeared.
Then he reluctantly stepped forward towards the dark figure next to the
It was the Captain, sitting cross-legged on the smooth rock, an open book
on his knees. The flickering light of the lamp made it difficult to read
the small letters on well-worn pages, but the Captain squinted in the
darkness and seemed to be lost in deep concentration, his dark hair and
cloak stirring in the cool breeze.
Anakil stopped beside him and was glad he had never been afraid of heights.
He was standing at the edge of the waterfall that veiled the entrance of
the cave. From his present position the waters of the small river poured
down at least 75 feet, splashing white and foaming into a rocky basin,
dancing and swirling about, before they found a narrow outlet and escaped
into calmer regions.
Anakil tore his gaze away from the abyss opening before his feet und
cleared his throat to get the Captain’s attention. “My lord?”
Captain Faramir slowly raised his head and smiled up at the boy. “Good
evening, Anakil. How is your arm?”
Anakil gazed down at his right arm in the white sling. The wound was still
itching and burning. “It’s nothing, my lord. It only required a few
Captain Faramir blew out the small lamp and shut his book. “Sit with me for
a while, young friend.”
Anakil obediently sat down next to the tall man and slung his good arm
around his up-drawn knees. “I did not mean to disturb you, my lord. I was
brought here to hear my...” He paused to find the right word. “...punishment
...sentence,” he finished. He did not like the sound of either word.
The Captain chuckled softly and rubbed both eyes with one hand. “What do
you expect me to do?”
“I honestly don’t know, my lord.” Anakil did not meet the other’s
questioning gaze. “I expect everything and nothing, I suppose. I am sure
Anborn told you of all the trouble I caused today?”
The Captain chuckled again. One of his hands came to rest on the book at
his side. “Anborn told me you shot a rabbit, killed two Southrons that were
pursuing him and took an arrow in the fight. He also told me you are an
able bowman, for a boy without appropriate training. You have an excellent
memory indeed, and you are a quick study. Your horse is an ugly beast, I
saw that myself last night when the guards and myself struggled hard to
keep it away from the entrance of our tunnel. Is there anything you like to
“I am sorry for the trouble my horse caused, my lord.” Anakil stared at the
dark band of the Anduin in the distance. “And, maybe Anborn forgot to
mention it, I fell off the tree during the fight and knocked myself out for
quite a long time.” His hand crept to the back of his head to touch the
throbbing bruise. “I am sorry for that, as well.”
“Anborn did mention it,” the Captain said. “And he does not blame you. He
has not dealt with inexperienced fighters for a long time. He simply forgot
to test your abilities with the bow and the sword before he took you with
him on the hunt.
“He sees the young man you are and treats you according to that obvious
picture, but nevertheless he expected you to behave like a Ranger in the
moment of danger. That was his mistake, not yours. You took an arrow and
lost balance while trying to shoot from a high branch; that would have
happened to anyone who is not used to anticipate the move of an enemy.
“You performed better than Anborn could expect you to do. I cannot and will
not punish you for covering his back.”
“I missed two targets out of four,” Anakil confessed miserably. “And I
didn’t hit the rabbit correctly; it squeaked and jumped before it was
The Captain smiled an amused smile. “An afternoon half naked in the cave,
smelling like a bowl of medicine, is punishment enough for a squeaking
Anakil started to wonder how the Captain could possibly know anything about
how he had spent his afternoon. He decided not to dwell on this thought for
long; the Captain had to know everything that came to pass in his company.
Most likely either the healer or Anborn had told him.
“As of the other deeds you have done, I have thought about them since we
talked last night.” His fingers started to tap on the book next to him. “I
have never heard or read anything about a horse boy, errand runner and
barber pretending to be a messenger before. There is nothing known to me on
which I can base my punishment.”
“I am sorry,” Anakil said. “My lord,” he added quickly.
“There has to be a first time for everything,” the Captain shrugged. His
fingers still played with the hard cover of his book. “Do you like
“I used to, when I was younger, my lord” Anakil said, surprised by the
sudden change of topic. “When I got older, I put all my efforts in riding
and learning to fight and growing.” With a touch of dark humour he added:
“I am still working on the growing part. With all those tasks at hand,
reading is a waste of time.”
“Reading is never a waste of time,” the Captain corrected him mildly. “Even
though I think my own brother would disagree with me on that matter. I am
sure Beldil told you that the written word is a weapon as sharp and mighty
as any sword. He is right.”
“He told me that, among many other things. Beldil is a good man, my lord.”
“I know. And you saved this good man’s life, young friend.”
Anakil was grateful that the Captain had not adopted Anborn’s nickname or
made up a new one on his own. He liked to be called friend.
The Captain raked his hand trough his hair. “Now what shall I do with you?
Beldil has not spoken to me, but I can imagine he would, given the chance,
plead to just let you go. Anborn asked for a mild sentence as well. Your
injury is weighing quite heavy on his consciousness; even though I am sure
he did not show it openly.”
Anakil raised a surprised eyebrow. “My lord?” He would have sworn an oath
that Anborn would prefer to dump him and his horse somewhere far away from
the cave, bound and gagged, never to return.
“You don’t need to fear me, young friend.” The Captain smiled down at the
small boy. “You can still call me Captain.”
“Captain,” Anakil said and bowed his head between his knees.
“You have been very honest, so I will be honest with you as well. My first
thoughts when you confessed the circumstances that led you here were to
send you home for a while,” the Captain said, and his smile turned into the
stern, commanding face all officers of the realm were capable of. “You
could use some time thinking about what would happen to Gondor’s defence if
more soldiers took the liberty to come and go as they pleased. But you told
me of your home, and I realized that sending you there would be a reward,
not a punishment, despite the shame you would have to endure for a while.
Many other boys, even some who are training to be warriors, would endure
that with a smile, considering it a fair prize to be away from the war and
with their families for some precious time.
“Then I thought about keeping you here among the Rangers, not as a warrior,
for that would be a reward as well, but as an errand runner, a much needed
assistant to the healer, and an even more needed barber.” A short smile
touched only his eyes, as he ruffled his rough cut black hair again. “You
would have gained and lost nothing this way, only, I imagine, Osgiliath is
a place far more comfortable than Henneth Annûn.
“A young, small man with your extraordinary memory would some day make an
excellent scout, given time and Anborn’s training. Scouts are desperately
needed in Ithilien.
“But I soon realized I cannot do this either. Not because it would not be
an appropriate punishment, but because I am not the right person to punish
you at all.”
Anakil raised his head. “Captain?” he asked, astonishment in his voice.
“Your actions did not harm my company, therefore my punishment would be
very mild. But the Captain of Osgiliath is the officer whose company you
left without permission. He is the one to decide what harm resulted from
your deeds, and how you can make up for it. You are a member of the
Osgiliath Company, after all, and the Captain of Osgiliath is the Captain
General of all of Gondor; therefore he is my superior officer as well as
“You will leave for Osgiliath at sunrise, to present yourself to your
Captain. He will decide how to punish you best.” It was too dark to be
sure, but Anakil thought the Captain’ eyes narrowed in concern as he added:
“I happen to have more than a passing acquaintance with the Captain General
and will give you a message for him with a full account of your deeds and
my thoughts on the matter. I hope he will take my recommendations into his
The Captain scrutinized the boy with his piercing grey eyes. Anakil was
unable to hold that gaze for more than a few seconds. He lowered his head
again and wavered between relief and disappointment. He had never had any
business with Captain Boromir of Osgiliath. He had seen him every now and
then, walking in the distance or uttering orders to his Lieutenants, but he
had never been close to the man. He was only a horse boy and errand runner
after all. His duties had never led him to the Captain of the White Tower,
son of the ruling Steward and future Steward of Gondor.
The boy realized he would have preferred to be punished by Captain Faramir.
He did not now him well, but the Captain was held in high esteem by his
men, and Anakil had met the Rangers as fierce and determined men who did
not give their love and loyalty easily.
The Captain of Osgiliath was also loved and admired greatly, as military
leader as well as future ruler of Gondor, but Anakil did not know anything
about his bearing as a judge.
“Yes, Captain,” he whispered, realizing Captain Faramir expected a
reaction. He did not meet the Captain’s gaze.
Slowly he turned his head to watch the rushing and twirling water in the
smooth channel. His eyes tried to follow a single patch of foam drifting in
the current, but he failed and lifted his gaze to the plains of Ithilien
that stretched out far below.
The world seemed to be very quiet and peaceful. A chilling wind caused him
to shiver slightly. The moon hid behind thick cloud patches, and few stars
lit a thin layer of mist in the distant valley, turning it into dark
silver. The Anduin was visible in the distance, a dark band dividing the
darkness, seemingly close to the snowy peaks of the White Mountains that
were visible as shadows on the horizon. A dark sign leading south towards
“You will not go alone,” the Captain said quietly. “One of the wounded men
who is able to go the distance will accompany you to Osgiliath. Our single
healer will be overwhelmed if the number of wounded continues to increase.
We shall take advantage of your horse and send at least one of the wounded
to the south.”
“A few men will escort you to the Anduin south of Cair Andros, but with
Mablung and his company still absent I cannot spare those men to accompany
you all the way to Osgiliath. You will follow the shoreline, for the river
is well guarded and no enemies have dared to approach the eastern shore for
a long time. You will ride hard and hopefully you will reach Osgiliath or
meet one of the patrols before nightfall. Both you and your companion are
injured and cannot defend yourself properly, should you be attacked, but I
am willing to take that risk to get you and another injured man to safety.”
“I would stay until Mablung and his company returns,” Anakil offered and
raised his head to see the Captain’s reaction. “To your conditions,
“I bet you would.” The Captain laughed quietly. “But you can’t. Henneth
Annûn is no refuge for boys that are bored of their duties. You cannot
escape punishment or even delay it.”
“I didn’t mean to imply...” Anakil started.
The Captain silenced him with a wave of his hand. “I know.” The light of
the few stars cast dark shadows over his grey eyes, and for a moment his
young and stern face appeared almost sad. “I have to send word to Galdor’s
family about his death. I will ask you to carry the message back to
“Of course, Captain.” Anakil did not know what to say. He could not imagine
what exactly he had done to gain the Captain’s trust.
The Captain picked up his book and scrambled to his feet, carefully
stretching his long limbs. “I have some letters to write, and you should
get a good night’s sleep. You have a long and exhausting day ahead of you.”
He extended his hand and carefully pulled the boy to his feet, before
stooping to pick up the lamp. “Let’s call it a night.”
“Yes, Captain.” The boy wondered shortly if the Captain ever slept at all.
Anakil followed the Ranger over the rock and down the stairs that led down
into the tunnel. The Captain lit the lamp again, but the flickering light
was barely enough to light the way. The tall form of the Captain almost
vanished in dark shadows.
“Don’t fear the Captain General too much, Anakil,” the Captain said as they
reached the bottom of the stairs and followed the tunnel back to the cave.
“He will neither execute nor eat you. That rabbit wasn’t your last decent
meal.” He did not turn around to show his face, and his voice was
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