Of Stewards and Rangers
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Phrygian Flute, The: 1. The Breaking of a Storm
Sweet was your song of the world’s desire
When life was yours: now your days are sped
I set at your feet my Lydian lyre,
And my Phrygian flute to mark your head.
~ Anonymous Greek epitaph ~
North Ithilien, 20 June 3018
THE WOODS WERE silent. It seemed that all the forest creatures had fled, leaving only the trees, unmoving in the hot summer sun, for there was no breeze now to stir the still leaves and parched brown grass. It was as though all Ithilien was holding its breath, awaiting the breaking of a great storm.
Suddenly a bird screamed and soared like an arrow into empty sky, circling angrily before it fled away into the west. Once more, the forest lapsed into its uneasy stillness.
Then, a curlew called softly. Twice, its voice pierced the silent air.
In the brown dappled shade, a man moved. But none saw him, for he made no sound, and his light feet left no mark on the forest floor. Passing swiftly from shadow to shadow, he ran with the sureness of one who knew every tree from its brother, and every stone from its twin. Loping up a gentle hill, he ducked behind a bush, and paused to draw a long hunting knife from his belt, and dull its shining blade with a handful of earth.
Not much more than a spear’s throw away was a high outcrop of moss-covered stone, surrounded by low shrubs and brambles. Within its shelter, one could look upon well nigh all of North Ithilien; and a man with keen eyes would see far to the south, the grey ruins of Osgiliath, and beyond it the shining face of Mindolluin, and the White City at its foot. And to the east, the black heights of Ephel Duath.
Knife in hand, he crept through the deep undergrowth, by a secret way known only to a few, a path cleared of bramble thorns that would have snared their clothes and left the tell-tale signs to servants of the Enemy. Then he slid through a deep fissure in the stone - and checked violently.
A tall man, hooded and masked, stood before him in the rock-strewn space beyond, and an arrow, nocked to his bow, was ready to make its deadly flight. Slowly, the newcomer raised his hands in surrender.
In a pleasant voice, he said, “Mablung, your welcome is over-warm.”
The other quickly lowered his bow, and a smile came into his eyes. “Well met Captain Faramir. But I see that you too, come not unprepared.” Then, he was grave again. “You have seen it, sir?”
“I have,” said the other, sheathing his blade. “It is an ill sign.”
“Yet, there is more. Look, and listen.” In a crack between two great stones, the greens and browns of North Ithilien fell away before them, and in the darkening east, the vast wall of Ephel Duath seemed to swim in noon heat. At first, Faramir saw nothing; then he felt the still air tremble with the sound of marching feet, and his straining eyes caught a glint of metal in the shadowy eastern woods, before it vanished, as though it had never been.
Behind him, Mablung laid a hand on his shoulder and whispered. “Stay but a moment, sir. They come now to a path unmasked by woods, and we may know then what their strength is.” They watched and caught their breath as they saw first, little more than a grey dust cloud that soon became a long black column swarming in the distance, and the ragged standards lifting in the wind of their passing. For a long while - too long - the Enemy’s forces swept on and on, like a torrent till the last dark trickle died away into the trees.
“They are so many, and they march at a great pace,” said Mablung grimly.
“The scouts - have we had any word from the scouts?”
Mablung shook his head, and his face was troubled. “Not a breath, though I sent a party east three days ago. They could not have come so far unnoticed, unless -” he stopped abruptly, and sighed. “Well, what now sir?”
But Faramir’s blue eyes had turned to the west, and there was a frown between his brows. “This is ill news indeed. A great band of Southrons are coming up the old Harad road. I’ve sent a company south to harry them, but I fear our numbers are too few.”
“Osgiliath,” Mablung said grimly. “There is no other place that the Enemy may make the crossing in force, save by the bridge.”
“Aye. They make for Osgiliath, and the attack will be upon us this very night, unless I am much mistaken. Thus the hammer blow falls at last.” Then he straightened, and said, “Mablung, go swiftly now to Boromir and tell him of this thing that we have seen. I will gather our brothers, and make what resistance we may, but we cannot hold them for long. Go now, there’s not a moment to lose!”
“Aye, sir. Swift as the wind, I‘ll be.”
In spite of it all, laughter came suddenly into Faramir’s eyes. “Swift or no, you’ll be wet before you know it, my friend. I smell a storm in the air.”
“Just as well, sir. We all need a bath.”
“Or two, Mablung.”
They clasped hands, then Mablung was gone.
For the second time that day, the curlew’s call echoed through the hills of North Ithilien, and here and there, it was taken up; then all sound died away, and the silence of the trees was not broken again, save for the growing tramp of enemy feet, coming nearer with each step to Osgiliath.
* * *
THE RAIN HAD come suddenly, dark torrents of it tearing through the wind-driven trees, washing away the heat of what had promised to be a blazing afternoon, and swelling the calm waters of the great Anduin to a white whirling madness.
All that afternoon, the orc army marched westwards, following the ancient road built by the kings of Gondor in the days of old, and the host of wild Easterlings followed, straggling behind. The road was little more than a narrow pathway now; for when the men of Ithilien had fled the evil growing in the east, they had let their roads, once white and shining in the summer sun, go back to the wild. Year after year the trees above it had crept so close that they blotted out the sky; grass grew and cracked the proud stone paving, and here and there, the marsh had swallowed it, and sometimes for leagues, it was nothing but a straight dirt track.
The storm did not stop them, for orcs and the Easterlings were hardy, and they swept on, as dark clouds driven by a great wind; yet, by late afternoon their numbers were something fewer than when they had started out a day and a night before. Through the rain-greyness, deadly flights of arrows sped silently from the woods, and tore gaps in their ranks. Naturally, they too sent their own black arrows singing blindly back into the murk, but the Enemy never knew whether they found their targets. And they did not dare follow their unseen foe into the trees, for they knew that those who did would not return alive.
All the long afternoon, the green fletched shafts pursued them, but the long harried column marched on, leaving a trail of sodden corpses to leak their dark blood into the darker earth.
But now the rain had stopped at last, a grey sky showed above the dark dripping leaves above them, and the woods seemed silent and empty. Yet for a while now, the Enemy had made slow progress, for the road was now a narrow muddy trail that sank all too often into marsh, hemmed in by trees on both sides.
* * *
IT WAS A MEREST hint of sound, the faint tramp of feet far away. The watchers in the woods sat up, some reaching quietly for their long bows. They had been waiting since the rain had eased to a pale mizzle; they waited, sitting on their heels, still and silent with their drawn swords darkened with earth, and their long, fair arrows thrust into the ground before them. They numbered some hundred men, masked and grimly sheltering under their green hooded cloaks on either side of the old road.
Ill tidings had come to them early that afternoon, for a company sent south to waylay the oncoming host of the Haradrim had been beaten off with grave losses, and now their remnants were harrying the Southrons on the road to Osgiliath, to slow their march if they could. But the Enemy was still advancing at a great pace, and it would be all too soon before the rangers would have to fall back behind the ruined city walls.
Their captain had taken the news with his usual calm, and had paused only to issue fresh orders to the weary galloper who had come to them by the secret ways through wind and rain. Now, hooded like the rest, he stood leaning lightly on his bow, his keen, narrowed gaze turned northwards. He too, felt the odd thrumming in the air that always came before a battle; the hammering of men’s hearts within their breasts, the scarce-taken breaths, the slow tautening of nerves. He could hear voices now, low growls that passed for speech among the orcs, the uncouth tongue of the Easterlings and their heavy steps growing ever closer. There was a scent of damp leather in the air, and sharper now, the sour smell of orc. Soon the vanguard would be in sight.
The moment had come. Cupping hands to his lips, Faramir whistled softly, as one bird calls lazily to another. The rangers took up their bows and came soundlessly to their feet. A stocky man shouldered up beside him, his eyes bright in the darkness of his hood.
“We’ll be off now, sir.”
“Be careful, and remember to break off at the signal.”
“Aye, sir.” Tensely, he watched the small detachment peel away and melt into the shadows, and with a quiet sigh, drew on his mask, for with that tiny knot of men went all their hopes. Then he too, fitted an arrow to his bow, and turned to the road once again.
He was just in time. The first ragged standards, clinging wetly to their shafts winked darkly between the dripping leaves below, and the vanguard, struggling and cursing in the mud burst quite unexpectedly into sight.
A man beside him laughed quietly. “There they are at last! We have waited over long.” Another chuckled, “Hush, Anborn, you’ll scare them away.” The breath of laughter caught, then died away altogether, and the smell of drawn steel that was the smell of battle came to him, and for an instant, Faramir could hear nothing for the pounding of blood in his ears. Odd, how some men took such easy delight in war, in the clash of blade against blade and the letting of blood; for the way of war had never come easy to him.
The Enemy was close now, so close that he could have almost reached out and touched one with a spear.
Like a storm, the battle burst upon them. A flight of arrows screamed; orcs and Easterlings fell, and others, roaring, rushed for their weapons. Then, Mardil and his small band, drawing their swords, leapt into the open, crying, “Gondor! Gondor!”
Enraged, the Enemy swept in a dark mass toward the tiny knot of men, and overhead, black arrows darkened the sky. Rangers fell, but Mardil and his little detachment grimly stood their ground.
“Now!” cried Faramir, and behind him, the shrill, mocking note of a hunting horn echoed in the trees, and the men on the road turned and fled for their lives. Still the orcs charged, the Easterlings behind them shoving the rest along in a furious wave, and somewhere, the Enemy’s booming war horns bellowed in answer. Onward they rolled, yelling their savage rage, and their black standards streamed in the wind.
“Ten paces,” a man whispered tautly.
Only little more now. Faramir’s hand tightened on the shaft of his bow, and he felt the silent, in-drawn breaths of his men hold, and hold. Five more paces. Mardil and the rest leaping for the cover of the woods.
Suddenly, the front ranks buckled with a terrible cry, and the innocent earth yawned and swallowed them, while the bear traps, with their sharp, fired stakes did their bloody work, for the ditch was deep, and wider than the arm spans of three men. The charge broke into a mesh of tangling, pushing, threshing bodies, as orcs and men who escaped the stakes scrambled out, and some were on swept into the ditch by their fellows and yet others came swarming over the bodies of the dying and wounded.
A great cheer rose from the trees, and the arrows tore from the wooded shadows like flights of dark birds. The arrows whistled from his bow with the easy speed of long use, and the straggling column of the Enemy swarmed and crumpled in upon itself, and several times, their ragged standards tumbled, then righted themselves again. Then the orcish arrows came thrumming into the woods; one grazed his ear, and beside him, a man dropped with a strangled cry, clutching at a black feathered shaft in his throat.
Catching up his sword, he cried, “It’s time to finish the work, my brothers! Faramir for Gondor!” All around him, the battle cry was taken up; the hunting horn screamed once more, and they fell upon the enemy, yelling and hewing as they went. From the other side, more men sprang out from the trees; rangers, orcs and Easterlings crashed together as the white surf crashes upon black rock, and the battle began in earnest.
* * *
THE GALLOPER HAD broken out of the woods in the afternoon, and the lookouts, sighting a stranger through the slant-wise rain, bent their bows upon him. Then they saw that he was one of their own, a young ranger drooping in the saddle, sodden with mud.
He had ridden on many errands that day, and would have fallen on the grey-cobbled ground, had a pair of gentle hands not caught him.
“Get him out of this rain, quick, and bring some strong wine.” A man’s familiar face; eyes with the light of the evening star in them. Relief overcame him; then a wave of blackness, like the terror of great beating wings swept sight from his eyes, and he knew no more.
It seemed an age before the light came again. He woke to the glow of a crackling fire, the hammering of rain outside, and men’s voices hushed and grave. And he lay warm in the rough folds of a bear-skin rug, warmer than he had been for a long while now. In the fire-glow the boy saw two men; one slight and dark, in the green-brown garb of a ranger and another, whose bright armour glittered like the sun on river water. And he held his breath, for the man was tall and grave as a king of old.
Yet he knew their faces - Mablung’s with its kind grey eyes, and the other, fairer, and more noble, yet with little gentleness in it.
“Mablung! My lord Boromir!” Rising suddenly, he choked like one half drowned.
“Nay, lie still now Beleg, and drink this,” said Mablung gently, dropping to one knee and taking the boy in his arms. The wine, hot and sweet, went down like fire, and the colour came flooding back into his cheeks.
Boromir’s long shadow fell over them both.
“What word does my brother send?”
Under the lord Boromir’s grim gaze, Beleg stammered out his errand, and told of the fell thing that had hunted him in the woods. For a long while after he had finished, Boromir said nothing, but his fingers grew white as bone on the hilt of his sword.
“This black-winged creature - have you seen it Mablung?”
“Never, sir,” Mablung answered, shaking his dark head. “Else we would have brought word of it.”
“So, a new terror comes upon us,” said Boromir, rising to his feet. “Yet, we can only watch and wait, and hope.” Outside, the rain was easing at last, and with it, his heavy heart lifted a little. Then he turned away, and the look in his face, shrouded in the shadow was one that few men had ever seen. Faramir, Faramir, why do you not return with your brothers? Would that I were with you! Yet he knew that Faramir had done the only thing he could.
And so must he. The thought of it lay like a stone in his belly.
“Come Mablung, there is much still to be done.”
Boromir had turned away, but the boy Beleg cried, stumbling to his feet, “My lord, what can I do? My brothers are away, and I will not lie here abed while others do the work of war!”
He was a mere child; and Boromir, looking across twenty summers, saw with a catch in his heart the ghost of another boy, fair and scholarly and full of the same eagerness. “Nay, rest now,” he said gently, setting his hand on the child’s shoulder. “ You have done a man’s work this day, and there will be more to do tonight. Your company rode in an hour ago, and you may join them when you find your feet again. Your captain did well to entrust this errand to you, Beleg, for you have done him proud.”
With a smile, he and Mablung slipped away into the grey rain, and Beleg’s eyes, bright with unshed tears closed for a moment, remembering those who laboured still in the woods and the captain who had kissed his brow before he rode away into the dark and sunless forest.
“Go now, and may the light of Earendil go with go with you.”
* * *
IT WAS RED work. The enemy recoiled at the first onslaught of the tall, masked men who swooped down on them with their long sharp swords; and they drew back from one in particular who was taller than the rest, whose pale eyes seemed to blaze with the fire of the elven-kind, and whose deadly brand wreaked ruin in its wake.
So the battle raged, and the Enemy’s force, strung out perilously along the forest road broke in many places, and fleeing into the dark woods, were hewn down by the men of Ithilien. The rangers spared none, and each blow they struck was for the memory of the homes and kinsmen they had lost long ago.
Blood and mud mingled, churned by feet of friend and foe alike, and the bright gold of many an Easterling lay dulled on the red running earth. It seemed that the tide was turning for the men of Gondor at last, and that the Enemy, numerous though they were, must turn and flee.
Then, at the height of the battle, a cry echoed in the woods. The sound of it chilled the stoutest hearts, and fear froze the swords in their hands. Even the trees seemed to shiver, and all around, green leaves fell like rain. And above the roiling battle, in the cold grey sky, came the beating of giant wings. A great shadow on the back of a winged beast, and a fell blade like fire in its hand.
Down and down it swept, and claws, sharp as spears, slew. All about Faramir, men fell, screaming, and the Enemy, with a roar like thunder, rallied. The rangers fought like heroes, but little by little, they were driven back and back into the woods, the mud sucking at their feet. Again, the black shadow swooped, and men, maddened by fear, threw down their weapons and fled. Soon the retreat would become a route.
Their captain, surrounded now by a knot of Easterlings was one of the last to turn. Grimly cutting his way back to the sheltering forest, his clear voice rose above the battle-din.
“Fall back! Fall back to the horses!” And somewhere, the hunting horn sounded the retreat. Again and again, it rang in the trees, till at last it broke off in the middle.
* * *
THE RIDERS BURST from the woods like a skein of geese flighting, a long stream of them in their sodden greens and browns, crouched low on slavering mounts. Up the old road they fled, riderless horses among them, the rest close to foundering, and the high, desperate cries of men, quavering with terror, reached the watchers on the ramparts.
“Open the gates!” cried Boromir. And he leapt down the rampart stairs, hand on his sword. Men and horses came clattering through the archway, and the sharp smell of sweat and blood was in the air. So many faces strained with weariness and horror. But where was Faramir? Fear, like a cold hand seized his heart. In the tangle of plunging horses, he pushed his way to a man he knew.
“Mardil,” he cried, “What news, and where is my brother Why is he not with you?”
The man was pale. His horse stood sweating and trembling, and blood foaming at her lips. “We were beaten off, sir,” he gestured helplessly to the riderless mounts, and swallowed. “Then a great terror came from the sky, a winged creature of the Enemy. It drove the horses mad, and swept men out of their saddles as an bird of prey snatches its quarry from the earth.”
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Mardil met Boromir‘s anxious eyes. “Our captain was not far behind. He, and a few others in the rearguard. Oh sir, let you bid the men hide swiftly in the ruins now, for the winged terror will be upon us! Mablung, Damrod and I will ride out to Faramir now and find him.”
A pause. He would have said, “And I will ride with you, for he is my brother, and I will not abandon him to torment and death.” But duty, duty bound him as surely iron fetters bound a prisoner to his cell. His entire being cried out against it, and for an instant, anger blazed within him; then he saw the eyes of his men, the simple faith in their faces, and rage died away. Who would lead them if not him? And so, he made his choice.
“Go now,” Boromir said gravely. “And know that my heart goes with you. Find him, and bring him back.”
“That I will, sir,” said Mardil.
Suddenly, a sound like the death-cries of a thousand men pierced the air; and two horsemen broke from the cover of the woods. Faramir, his fair hair streaming in the wind, and another. For a long moment, the men of Osgiliath did not move, for the terrible shriek had turned their limbs to stone, their blood to ice.
A great winged creature, bearing a black, faceless shadow swooped, scything. Horse and rider crashed to the ground in a flailing, screaming tangle of legs and limbs. Frozen with horror, men saw blood spurting crimson onto the green grass, but the ranger rolling clear, was on his feet, and stumbling towards the safety of the gate arch.
Then, Faramir’s clear voice rang in the unnatural silence; and swinging his terrified mount, hauled the man into the saddle before him, and swept onward to the gate. A cry of rage, and black claws tearing through the grey featureless sky, missed them by a hair’s breadth.
In the ruined city, a man moved at last, and shivering hands drew bow. A lone arrow speeding skywards, found its target, the Nazgul screaming this time in anguish. Then, as men found their courage again, more arrows darkened the sky, and tore through the great flapping wings. The creature, maddened with rage and whirling in agony, circled once before it fled screeching into the deep hills.
A ragged cheer of joy and relief erupted from the garrison, and Faramir drawing up before the great stone arch, saw his brother and raised a gloved hand in salute. The man before him slid from the saddle, and dropped to his knees, retching. The shadow in the sky was gone now, but the terror of its passing lingered still in the air, and some men looked up still in fear at the gathering dusk. They waited and waited, sword and spear and bow in hand, hardly daring to breath.
Nothing. Only the sky grew darker, for night would soon be upon them. Then they knew that the creature would not be returning. Not yet.
Boromir laid down his bow. Danger had passed, but there was a cold knot in his belly, and his fingers were stiff. Behind him, men slowly turned to their work again, talking in hushed tones, and here and there snatches of strained laughter reached his ears, and the cries of the wounded. Dark-cloaked shadows passed him by, and the subdued voices of his brother’s men reached him through the pounding of his heart. No doubt, in their own quiet way, the rangers would be seeing to their own, for the brunt of the first blows had fallen heavily upon them, as it always had.
Only Faramir, sitting very still on his horse bent his bright gaze skywards, a deep line between his brows. The last red rays of the setting sun blazed in the west, and the long horizon, with the White City far away, the Causeway Forts and the great ruins of Osgiliath burst into flame. He wished that he could cling to the golden sun and never let it go, for who knew what the night would bring with it? Darkness, like a great sea-wave swept suddenly between him and the sun.
Boromir’s quiet voice reached him. “What was that?”
“I do not know. Twenty summers I have spent in Ithilien’s woods, yet I have never seen its like.”
Then Boromir seized his arm and demanded sharply, “Faramir, are you hurt?”
He smiled, passing a weary hand over his eyes. “Nothing that bread and good wine will not cure.” Slowly, he eased himself off his horse, and quite suddenly, the earth reeled, and in his ears, came the sound of a river rushing. Breath left him, and he would have fallen, had Boromir’s hand not caught him. An instant’s fury at his weakness brought colour back into his bloodless cheeks. With great effort, he righted himself.
“It was a long ride, brother, and one made in great danger,” said Boromir.
So his brother understood after all. Had Boromir felt too, the tremors in his hands and seen the terror in his eyes? Was Boromir never afraid?
“So it was,” said the captain of the rangers steadily, turning to the west. The sun had melted away into darkness, and he saw across the river, Minas Tirith glowing softly, and nearer, a chain of lights, steady and unwinking along the Rammas, and on the west bank. Soon the torches would be lit here too, in the east. Night had come at last. “So it was,” he said under his breath.
* * *
THEY GATHERED IN the burnt out ruins of what had once been a library. It was still partially roofed, and in the blackened corners were the rotting remains of carved wooden shelves, and the fallen leaves of many autumns. The books of course, had long gone. Who knew what timeless treasures had perished here, in the smoke and fires of countless battles? What splendour was there now, that did not lie in ruins? On the crumbling stone wall, a wild rose bush had taken root, and in the flickering firelight, the fragile branches with their three pale blossoms leapt and swayed with a golden life of their own.
The captain of the rangers did not love Osgiliath now. Once, when he was a child, he had loved it for its memory, its lost beauty and its ageless sorrow. As a man, he saw in it only death and suffering, and the ghosts of a tragic, long-perished glory. So he had turned his eyes to Ithilien instead. Fair Ithilien still, though she bore now the marks of the Enemy; Ithilien, which belonged to him, and him to her in a way that he could not explain, and his heart was heavy, as though with incipient grief.
He was among the six captains huddled beneath their cloaks in the library; though it was summer, the nights were chill, and the small, crackling fire did little to warm them. Even the wine, hot, strong and sweet failed to lift their spirits. Sodden still with rain, he sat, like the rest of them, warming their bare hands before the flames, listening to Boromir’s quiet insistent voice, watching as he drew the battle plan on the stone floor with the end of a charred stick.
It was simple enough - to hold the walls and the city gate if they could, and if the enemy broke through, they would retreat in good order to the bridge. It was pointless, Boromir argued, to fight a running battle amidst the ruins - the Enemy’s numbers were too great.
Then Mardil looked up from the fire, and when he spoke, it was with the soft lilt of Lossarnach in his voice. Once, long ago the men of his line had come from Ithilien, but now, like so many of the company, they had become a scattered people.
“Will there be enough of us to hold them, even for a while?”
“I have called up the western garrison to add to our strength. Only a small force remains there to guard the city. But if the Enemy should chance to look -” he waved a hand, and they all turned to a window looking west. They saw lights, the glow of many camp-fires shining like golden stars across the river.
“ - they will find that we are a multitude.”
A breath of laughter rose among them, and Boromir smiled. Then, he was grave again. Pausing, he looked at each of them in turn. “There is one thing we have not spoken of this night. The winged creature of the Enemy. Fire arrows have been issued to the men, but use them sparingly, for there was not time enough to make more. But the men must stand. Fly, and all will be lost.”
“There is nothing for it. If we cannot hold the east bank, we must pull out. From here, the bulk of our men will fall back across the bridge whilst a small party will stand here,” he said, placing a small stone at the neck of the bridge where he had drawn it, “and hold it against the Enemy. The bridge is narrow, and a rearguard of perhaps two dozen men will suffice. Meanwhile, the sappers will hew down the bridge at my order. Once the rearguard makes its way across, the last beams will be cast down, and the Great River will take all with it.”
Then, one of Boromir‘s captains, a small scar-faced man nodded and said, “And since the Anduin is in full spate, there is no other ford for leagues around. That will hold them for a while and a while on the east bank.”
“Aye,” he said briskly. Turning to his brother, “What do you think?”
Faramir, who had said little, looked up and said, “I am with you. Though I am loathe to leave Ithilien to the Enemy, even if it is for a little while.”
“We have done what we can,” Boromir said quietly to his brother, laying his hands on Faramir’s shoulders. “No man could ask for more.” The grief in his brother’s eyes was as a knife turning in his heart.
“No man, not even him!”
The brothers looked at each other. Then, at last, Faramir nodded. “It shall be as you say. We will hold.”
Then, Boromir rose and said to them all, “If we yield the east bank to the Enemy this night I, Boromir, son of Denethor promise you this: we shall return one day to drive the darkness from these shores, and the silver trumpets will ring to our coming. The blood of Gondor will not be unavenged!”
His long shadow fell over them, and in the fire light, he seemed like a hero-king of the elder days, tall and golden and full of wrath and majesty, and their hearts were comforted. Then, the moment faded, and he was their Boromir once more, brave and beloved.
They parted soon after, with the little jests that men make before a battle; each man to his own duty, each to his own fears. At the last the brothers were left alone. What was there to say, after so many battles, so much death? What words of farewell could encapsulate the shared love and memory, the bond of common blood and brotherhood? So they embraced in silence, and reluctantly, Boromir let his young brother go. And he stood watching long after Faramir had turned away, a tall slight figure in a ragged cloak fading into the torch-lit dark, his fair hair gleaming gold.
* * *
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