32. Third Age 2997 - Part Three
Boromir rode swiftly towards the Rammas, his heart in his throat as he approached the Forts. He watched thick black smoke rise before him. Shouts of battle assailed his ears. 'Has the enemy crossed the river? Has he breached the city?' A hand reached out to stop him at the gates of the great wall, but he shouted the password, batted the hand away, and continued on. Sorry he had to treat the guard such, he was only obeying orders after all, but a panic had welled in the new Captain-General's heart and he deemed hurt feelings a small sacrifice for the needs of Gondor.
In only a short time, he stopped before Captain Guilin. He remembered little of this captain. They had gone through training at the same time, but the captain was four years ahead of him and they rarely spoke, except during matches, which most often Boromir had won. Boromir saluted and Guilin looked startled. "Captain Boromir reporting. The Lord Steward has placed me under your command to do what you will."
Boromir saw Guilin's eyes look towards the horn. He had pushed it behind him when he dismounted, but the action of saluting brought the thing slightly forward. Boromir blushed. He wanted to be only a captain, at the moment; he did not need to be burdened with wondering if others were upset, confused, or angry at this new title. He had not earned it.
"We have just been joined by a battalion from Minas Tirith, under the command of Captain Gorlim. If you are to report to anyone, I would suggest it is to him."
"Who sent...?" Boromir bit his lip. It was not his place to question orders. "Thank you, Captain. Where might I find Captain Gorlim?"
"He has set up command on the parapet of the ruined Dome of Stars."
Boromir saluted. He turned, discovered his horse had been taken to the stables, and ran towards the bridge.
Captain Gorlim was easily found. The man had to be as tall as Lord Forlong. His head stood above all the others on the parapet. Boromir strode forward, saluted and waited. Gorlim caught sight of the Horn also. Boromir wondered if he should hide it somewhere. 'Nay! 'Tis the Horn of Gondor and it has been given to me. I will learn how to accept whatever response I receive when its presence is noted.' He stood a little taller.
"Have you missives from Lord Denethor?"
"Two, my Lord. You are to send updates every four hours to the Lord Steward. And, I am to report to whomever is in charge of Osgiliath and offer my services as Captain of Gondor."
"Only captain," Gorlim's slight sardonic smile put Boromir off.
He swallowed. "Only captain."
Gorlim stared at the young man before him. "Where were you stationed before this?"
"At Amon Dîn, my Lord."
"Did you see action at Amon Dîn?"
Boromir was beginning to lose patience. Gorlim, if he had attended any Council meetings at all, which Boromir knew he had, was aware of the doings at Amon Dîn. Though the garrison was not in the thick of things as Cair Andros and Osgiliath were, they had seen their fair share of fighting. Orcs and Easterlings attacks were not unknown. But Boromir curbed his temper and answered evenly, "Not as much as I will see here, Captain, but I have been involved in a few skirmishes."
'So, the boy knows enough not to boast.' Gorlim turned towards the eastern city. "I have lost five captains already during the night. You will, indeed, see much more action than you want to. Go to the barracks, find yourself a place to sleep, take some rest, and return to me in two hours."
"Yes, my Lord."
Boromir saluted and left.
Gorlim watched the Steward's son leave. The boy looked spent. "Hold a moment!" he shouted as a disturbing thought assailed him. Boromir had not had the Horn the last time Gorlim had seen him. 'When was that?' he wondered. 'Ah, yes, only a week ago, when the boy returned for a short leave. So the Steward had the ceremony?' Gorlim was surprised. 'It should have been done next year, if I remember Boromir's age correctly. Why did Lord Denethor do this now?' He shivered. 'Did the Steward know that the enemy was going to attack? Was Boromir's ceremony done in preparation for this?' All who served under the Steward knew of his foresight. To have it shown to him so clearly was disconcerting.
As Boromir walked back, Gorlim asked, "Where were you last?"
Boromir's brow furrowed. "Amon Dîn, my Captain."
"Nay!" he said testily. "Where were you last?"
"On Mindolluin with the Steward."
"You are just come from there?"
"Yes, my Captain."
"Go. And return to me in four hours," he ordered, noting Boromir's quizzical look and turning from him. He had been afraid the lad had been out celebrating last night. But he had not time. No wonder he looked spent. They must have ridden as soon as they heard the alarm. He should have known the Steward's son would know his duty.
'Now what am I going to do with the lad? The posts here are all dangerous. The Steward knows that. Where am I to place him that he will not be killed within the first five minutes of his new position?' Rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hand, the captain looked east again. Fire was spreading in the city. He could not keep Boromir from danger. He would have to be sent across the river. He sighed and moved towards his maps. Duilin stepped forward.
Boromir ran across the bridge and to the barracks. He had been here before many times. During training, Húrin brought him here. He wanted Boromir to feel the destruction wrought by the enemy; he wanted him to know what he was fighting for and against. As he turned towards the barracks, he passed the kitchen. His stomach was empty, had been for almost a day and a half now. He walked in and was immediately greeted by no less than five shouts. Many of his friends from training were sitting around tables, resting while they had a moment. He sat next to Iorlas. Immediately a serving boy brought food and ale. Listening attentively to Iorlas' assessment of the battle, Boromir ate quickly. When he was finished, he stood up, apologized for leaving so soon, and headed for the barracks. He found an empty cot and flung himself down, falling asleep immediately.
"Stay!" Faramir heard the shout and quickly pulled his horse up. "What is the password?"
Faramir shook his head. "I am on the Steward's business and must reach Osgiliath."
"None pass unless I hear the password." The guard said, still stung by this one's brother's insult.
Faramir sat, perplexed and angry. 'What am I to do? I do not have the password. I am not even supposed to be here.' But he wanted to fight alongside Boromir. He wanted to be near his brother. His father's words made it quite clear that Boromir might not return from this duty. 'I cannot let him die alone...' He shivered. "Please send a missive," he said desperately, "to Lord Boromir in Osgiliath. He will vouch for me." Quickly scrawling a short note, he gave it to the man. "Give this to Captain Boromir."
The guard grumbled. 'Who does this upstart think he is ordering me about? And him just an esquire?' But this esquire was the Steward's son, and though the guard had the authority to block his progress without a password, he still best watch himself. "I will send someone as soon as I have a moment."
Faramir dismounted and stood by the man, waiting.
The guard swore and called one of his company. A young boy came forward. "Go to the barracks at Osgiliath and give this message to Lord Boromir."
The boy saluted and left.
The guard glared at Faramir and went back to standing in front of the gate.
Someone was shaking Boromir's shoulder. 'It cannot be time, yet,' he groaned to himself. 'It feels like I have only slept but moments.'
"Captain Boromir. I have an urgent missive for you."
Boromir sat up, took the missive, swore as he read it, and put on his boots. "Get me a horse!" he bellowed and strode out of the barracks. Within but a moment, a horse was brought to him. He looked for Captain Guilin and rode towards him. "Forgive me, Captain, I have an urgent message to meet the Steward's messenger at the Causeway Fort. I will return shortly." Guilin nodded and Boromir rode off. He had not time to report his absence to his own commander. As brusque as Gorlim had been, he knew he was probably in for a reprimand when he returned. 'Why is Faramir at the gate? Is something amiss at home? But Father would have sent a messenger, not Faramir. Is something wrong with Faramir?' He swore again and rode west as fast as he could.
After almost an hour's ride, he pulled up to the Causeway Fort and saw his brother standing, waiting. The guard looked none to happy to see him again. Before doing anything else, he apologized. "I was on urgent business for the Steward," he said to the guard, "but that does not excuse my actions. I ask your forgiveness."
The guard swallowed hard. "Of course, my Lord. 'Twas your duty to obey the Steward and mine to obey my captain."
Boromir smiled. "Yes. Thank you." He turned to Faramir, pulling him away from the guard and walking with him onto the Pelennor. "What are you doing here? What is wrong? Am I supposed to return to the City?"
Faramir bit his lip, keeping his eyes on his boots. "I needed to see you," he whispered, suddenly very aware of what he had done.
Boromir stood, stunned. "What are you saying, little brother?"
The endearment made this even more difficult. "I was afraid for you... I heard what Father said... I wanted to be with you... I do not want you to... "
"What?" Boromir clenched his hands to stop from screaming. None of this made sense.
"I did not want you to die alone," he sobbed.
"Faramir!" The sight of his brother in tears washed away all of his anger. He stepped towards him and put his arm around his brother's shoulder. "I will not die, if I have anything to say about it."
Faramir hugged him. "I am sorry."
"Do you have any idea of the trouble you are in? The trouble you have placed me in, Faramir?"
The boy looked at him in puzzlement.
"Faramir. You are an esquire in the Army of Gondor. You have left your post. And you have made me leave mine. I do not know how we can extricate ourselves from this mess."
Faramir swallowed hard. "I did not think. I only..."
"You were tired and hungry and frightened. Too many burdens for one as young as you."
Faramir bit back a hot response as to his age. He had been wrong. There was no excuse for it. And now he would have to face his father. He shuddered slightly.
Boromir felt the shudder and understood the cause. "If I give you a missive as to my movements since I left him, say that I asked you to join me, he will be appeased."
"I cannot let you do that," Faramir said heatedly. "It was my decision. I must take responsibility for it. I will not put you in disfavor with Father for my mistake."
"You cannot just slip into the City without explaining this."
"I know," Faramir said quietly. "It would not be the honorable thing to do anyhow, whether I could manage it or no. I must tell him what I have done."
"Yes. Take this message with you; a missive from me might at least blunt some of Father's anger." He quickly scribbled a note and gave it to Faramir.
"Thank you, Boromir. I will miss you. Please," and the boy looked at him with such pain that Boromir's heart clenched. "Please take care."
"I will, beloved brother. You too. It is getting late - you must ride hard and fast so they do not close the gate upon you."
He hugged him warmly, helped him on his horse, and hit the flank hard. The horse rode off, dust scurrying under its hooves, as Boromir watched. His heart was heavy as he turned and mounted his own horse.
As he listened to the bells in the City ringing the hour, Denethor thought of all the Palantír had shown him. Across the river in Osgiliath, fire was everywhere; he saw the bodies of his men, his knights, strewn about on the road, the Crossroads itself covered in blood and corpses. The blinds that were so painstakingly dug and hidden were all destroyed. He could see arms and legs sticking out in different angles, attesting to the swiftness of the enemy's attack. At least six hundred men killed this one day in Ithilien.
He had turned north, once his stomach had settled, and saw the mass of Easterlings crossing the river, attacking the little island of Cair Andros, Gondor's closest garrison to the Black Gate. Rangers from Henneth Annûn had swelled the ranks of the fortress, but his men were still hard-pressed to stop the advance.
He had also seen Indis' handiwork. His sister was a marvel. The troops she had sent were the best he had, short of his own regiment, the Tower Guard. He could see their steady thrust against the enemy: Orcs fell back in droves from Osgiliath, returning to the mountains from whence they had spewed forth; Easterlings, struggling to keep their retreat fairly orderly, crossed the river, heading east. Grateful, as always, that he had continued to include Indis in the daily meetings with his captains, he smiled. She was a marvel indeed. The captains all knew she spoke in Denethor's name and had obeyed her completely. 'If she were a man,' the thought crossed his mind, 'she would be Steward.' His eyebrow lifted at the thought. 'And a good one, too!'
His eyes burnt from contact with the stone and he knew he would not be able to stand any time soon. As he had looked south, towards Pelargir, a horror had overtaken him and he had collapsed. When he came to, he had not the strength to bend the stone to his purpose. So he sat and waited. He must discover the cause of his alarm. Slowly, strength came back to him. 'It is time; I am rested.'
Boromir rode back to Osgiliath, trying to doze on the way. By the time he returned, he would have to report for duty. He was still amazed and confused by Faramir's actions. 'What is the boy thinking? Is he purposefully trying to anger Father?' He wished he could somehow have ridden home with Faramir, stood next to him when his brother faced Denethor. He could not. It had seriously hurt him to see the pain in Faramir's eyes. 'Why would he ever think I would let myself get killed?' he chuckled sourly. 'I do not intend to die on my first day as Captain-General.' Both boys knew, however, that that was a possibility. 'More than a possibility,' Boromir thought as he remembered the scene that day before him at the Dome of the Stars. The fresh troops from Minas Tirith were indeed pushing the enemy back, but the carnage that lay before him was terrible to behold. 'Of course, I did not expect being reprimanded my first day either - yet, that is what will happen, once I return.' He shook his head. There was no understanding his brother, at times.
He stopped at the kitchen once more as a groom took his horse, stuffed his pockets with cheese and bread, and filled a water skin before walking to the smithy. He left his sword and his dirk for sharpening, then walked towards the river. Iorlas was standing with a group of men, looking down. "'Tis an ugly sight, my Lord."
There had not been much rain this summer; the river flowed less swiftly than was its norm. As Boromir looked down its high banks, he gasped. At least a hundred swollen bodies covered it; most were men of Gondor. Their faces were unrecognizable, damage from the water and the hot sun disfiguring them, making them look like Orcs. But the black livery they wore, with the White Tree on it, marked them as Gondor's sons. He heard men weeping around him. Boromir wished he had not eaten. The slashed faces, missing limbs and grotesque bodies were more than he could bear. Trying to keep some measure of dignity, he nodded to Iorlas, walked away, and found a broken down wall to hide behind; he promptly lost his dinner.
Hearing the bells over his own retching, he realized he was now late in reporting back. Wiping his hand over his mouth and spitting trying to rid it of the foul taste, he ran to the smithy, retrieved his weapons, threw a thank you and coin at the man, and ran to the parapet. Gorlim, surrounded by his captains, pointed to a map. He noticed Boromir and motioned him forward. Quietly, but still loud enough for the men around him to hear, he said, "When I tell my captains to return at a certain time, I expect them to obey me." He did not wait for Boromir to reply, just continued with his instructions.
Boromir tried to listen attentively, but his embarrassment was great. When Gorlim finished, he dismissed his men. Boromir, walking away, was stopped by his captain's call. "Captain Boromir." He turned and walked back, his face ablaze.
"I understand," Gorlim said quietly, "that you disobeyed my orders to rest and even left the garrison?"
Boromir stood straighter. "I did not disobey, Captain. I did rest some. I was taken away from the garrison by a message from Minas Tirith."
"And what did Lord Denethor's missive say?"
Boromir swiped his tongue across his lip, then, bit it. "'Twas not from the Steward, my Captain, but a message for me."
"A personal message?" Gorlim queried.
"Yes, my Lord," Boromir said, miserably.
"So, you rest for half an hour, leave the garrison, abuse a horse in a quick ride to the Rammas, receive a personal message, ride back again resulting in a horse that will be useless for many hours till it is rested from the pace you set, and still report late? Is this normal for a Captain of Gondor, or only for the Steward's son?"
The bite and scorn in his captain's voice was almost as harsh as Denethor's. 'Which,' Boromir thought tiredly, 'is no surprise. Does not Gorlim report directly to Denethor?' The captain had probably heard the same tone of voice thrown at him over the years. Boromir almost felt sorry for the man, but his shame was too great.
"It will not happen again, my Captain," was all Boromir could say.
Gorlim waved him away and now Boromir felt thoroughly chastised. He walked back across the bridge, found his new second and his men, and ordered them across the bridge, swearing at himself the entire time.
They encountered a small band of Orcs almost immediately after entering the land just east of Osgiliath. Like any good captain, Boromir had sent scouts ahead, though the latest reports had said the Orcs had been pushed back to the Crossroads. Nevertheless, the reports were wrong, woefully wrong; Boromir swore as his scouts sent the signal that the enemy was near. He quickly ordered his men into the underbrush next to the road, half on one side and half on the other. The horses were taken away by handlers and hidden. He wished he had more men, but only three companies had been given to him. Silent, they watched and waited. Not a breath was sounded by any of the two hundred and ten under Boromir's care. He smiled. This group seemed to be well disciplined. He must get to know more of them as quickly as possible. He disliked going into battle with no idea of his men's strengths or weaknesses.
At last the Orcs appeared, a small band it seemed, but that could be a ruse. He waited till the last Orc passed his first men, though he could feel his lieutenant squirming in frustration. His scouts came up behind them. One whispered to him, "That is all, Captain Boromir. None others follow." With that news, Boromir signaled for the men to crawl through the scrub towards the enemy. There were at least two hundred Orcs, but they were obviously battle-weary. There was no sign of discipline, nor vigilance. Boromir watched and waited. The men reached the sides of the road where the Orcs were and Boromir gave the signal. All three companies exploded from the brush, screaming their hatred of Orcs and brandishing their weapons. It was a quick battle, lasting only nigh unto an hour. Boromir wiped his blade with his tunic and smiled. His men were good and competent. And valiant. He was most pleased. If he were nearer an outpost, he would have called for ale. As it was, he called for rest.
Arthad moved closer. "My Lord Boromir? I wish to ask your pardon for my lack of patience."
Boromir smiled at his second. "When you find your patience, I would most enjoy having some! I wanted so badly to jump out and kill them all as soon as the first Orc appeared. But I have learnt that Orcs sometimes travel in small packs far enough apart to be missed by scouts, but near enough to help each other in battle. I am glad that was not the case today. Call the men together. I would congratulate them!"
When his troops were assembled about him, Boromir smiled. "You did well today. I am most pleased by your skill with your weapons. But I am more pleased with your obedience. It was of the utmost importance that we remained still, until I had my last report. You did admirably. Let us continue that on the morrow." He turned to Arthad. "You may dismiss them."
Boromir sat near the road in an abandoned blind. The place reeked of Orcs, but it was dry. The walls kept the night air away. They would not have a fire tonight. Wrapping himself in his cloak, he waited for his second's return. A whisper announced his arrival.
"Come and sit with me. I did not wish to stop for the night. The faster we travel, the more Orcs we will kill. But I deem it unwise to sally forth in the dark. Orcs have too much of an advantage as it is. We do not need to give them more. At first light, we will move towards Emyn Arnen. Our orders are to secure that area and wait for reinforcements. Are you familiar with Ithilien?"
"I am, Captain Boromir. I have been a lieutenant with the battalion of East Osgiliath for the last five years."
"Good!" Boromir slapped the man on the back and nearly upended him. "I too know the land well. It is my ancestral home."
Boromir led the company as they rode towards forest of Emyn Arnen. By now it was light. However, he could sense his men were nervous. He smiled. They probably did not trust him yet. He would not trust himself either. Most must have known this was his first command. To go into battle at such a time without experience must seem like folly. He noted Arthad speaking with some of the men as they broke their fast this morning. He had caught them looking at him; they had turned as soon as they saw him look at them. He knew what they were discussing. Arthad, he felt confident, would tell the men to trust him. He already knew he had Arthad's trust. One little battle can either make or break a new captain. He felt their battle last night had convinced his second that their new captain would not get them all killed, at least not for a day or two. He chuckled to himself.
They were on the main road almost immediately after his men had broken their fast, riding quietly east. He would not go as far as the Crossroads; he would turn south before they reached it.
As they entered the forest of Emyn Arnen, Boromir remembered a story his father had told him about a battle he had fought here years ago. His aunt, Indis, along with the Lady Listöwel, and Morwen Steelsheen, before she became Queen of Rohan, had also fought in the battle. Indis had brought him here many years ago, shown him the sight, and took him to the graveyard of the House of Húrin. He marveled again at the thought of these women fighting Orcs. His father, once he had discovered Indis had secretly been in training, had encouraged her. She still came to the training grounds, twice a week, to keep her arm strong. Boromir smiled; she had even challenged him once, when he was eleven. He rubbed his shoulder, remembering the bruise he had received. He had thought, in his naiveté, that he would beat her soundly. It had turned out the other way round.
He ordered a stop. Arthad moved his horse closer. "We will wait for the scouts to return. I will not press further without their report. Tell the men to break for nuncheon. I want six pickets set - not four."
As Arthad saluted and moved off to carry out his captain's orders, shouts were heard from the southern edge of the forest. The men, those who had already sat, jumped to their feet, others drew their weapons and waited. Boromir called order. Four scouts returned with a tale of a massive army coming towards them. They were still not discovered. They had the element of surprise on their side. There was no time for strategy. Boromir ordered all four scouts back to Osgiliath requesting reinforcements. He could not wait though; he would have to attack, hope that surprise would give him the upper hand, and send each company forward, separated by only sixty yards. He did not know the men; he was not sure who commanded which company, nor their capabilities. He turned towards Arthad.
"Who is the strongest lieutenant?"
"Ragnor, my Lord. He has the most experience. He is with the Second Company."
"Then order him to me, along with the others."
Arthad's face was strained, but he quickly obeyed. When his lieutenants stood around him, Boromir said, "We will try to drive a wedge through the enemy; the forest will give us some cover. Their numbers are greater than ours. We will drive the wedge of men directly towards them. The Third Company will be the western edge, the First along the east, and Ragnor will command the Second - they will be our point. As they are forced to the outside, their flank on either side will be vulnerable. Have your strongest, bravest men at the head of each company. You know your men," he looked long at those around him, "use them wisely."
Arthad dismissed them. "Ragnor," Boromir called.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"I will ride with you. I have some experience with Orcs, but none with Southrons. I would hope you could teach me."
Ragnor smiled broadly. "I have fought them since I was your age, my Lord, and I still live."
Boromir laughed. "Yes. You do. I will watch and learn."
"Watch not too long, my Captain, else I receive a lance in my heart," the man smiled.
"I will ride beside you, watching from the corner of my eye," Boromir smiled back.
"I hope that eye functions well."
Boromir laughed again and moved forward. His heart was in his throat, his skin shone from the perspiration upon it, and his hand shook slightly. 'This is going to be an interesting battle,' he thought and gave the command to move.
Denethor pulled himself away and stretched his mind. He had been looking south when the horror had taken him. There it was! A quick breath was all he could take as he watched the army move north. Southrons! There were no reports of such an army marching in Ithilien. They had already reached Emyn Arnen. He was too late to warn his men! He saw Gondor's companies taking their rest. The enemy would not remain hidden long. His men could deal with them, if reinforcements were sent quickly, of that he was certain. 'Wait!' He saw knights of Gondor riding towards the Southrons. A dark shape, large beyond belief, followed the enemy. Denethor gasped, gulped and watched spellbound. He had only seen one before. He tore his gaze from the great beast. Who was Gondor's captain? Who was in charge of the company under attack? He strained further, crying aloud when his eyes lit on the man in front. It was Boromir!
Suddenly, the stone went black. Denethor screamed and clutched it tighter. Naught showed; naught stirred in its depths. He cast it down upon its stand and ran to the window. The sun shone brightly; the air seemed clear and clean. The fires in Osgiliath had burned down and there was almost no smoke. Yet danger was coming towards his son, his first-born! He ran back to the Palantír and shook it, screaming his frustration. "Boromir! Boromir!" But naught appeared, only eternal blackness.
He ran down the steps, almost tripping in his fear. Berelach caught him as he fell out the doorway. "Send a signal," he screamed, "wind the horns; Osgiliath must be warned. The battle goes ill. Haradrim come in full force with a great beast."
Berelach, knowing never to question his Steward, ran towards the Citadel. Men from the Third Company had seen him and joined him. The warning signal was sounded and the trumpeter on the Citadel's Tower blew his notes of warning. Other horns took up the call and soon the air was filled with the strident call for help. Soldiers ran into the Courtyard, looking about in dismay.
Suddenly, the enemy appeared. Boromir shouted the order for attack and Gondor's finest surged forth, Ragnor and he riding at the front of the wedge. There was no time to confirm his troops did as he commanded. The enemy did not falter, at first, and Boromir's heart tightened. Then, slowly, he noted the wedge was severing the army before him. Soon, soon he prayed to the Valar, more men of Gondor would come forth and attack those his troops pushed to the side. It was the only thing that gave him hope. There must be warriors near; there must be!
He fought furiously and was gratified to see Ragnor doing the same. The older man had an easy air about him and it filled Boromir with confidence. They swung their swords in measured cadence. Boromir first, then Ragnor. Boromir was surprised at the ease with which he fought at this man's side. Southrons have a way of fighting; scorn emanated from them, as if they were the better warriors. It drove Boromir mad at the thought, but Ragnor fought as if he were on a jaunt to the river. Boromir renewed his attack upon another snarling face before him. Slicing feverishly, he slew one after another.
A moment's break. He quickly gulped and wiped his sword clean. His sword. He looked down upon it in amaze. Had he not just the day before received this sword from his father? His heart lifted. He was Captain-General of Gondor. He would not lose this battle. With a shout, he lunged forward again, taking out two foes with ease. His men, looking with surprise and not a little delight, caught his fervor and passion. They joined his screams with their own and rallied again. "We will win this battle," Boromir shouted above the din of clashing swords, creaking leather, and the moans of the wounded and dying.
Horns sounded from far away; then others, probably from Osgiliath, joined them. Boromir knew they were warning horns telling the men of Gondor that a battle was being lost and help was needed forthwith. Someone, at last, had realized that Ithilien's southern lands were under attack. His men shouted with renewed hope! He smiled as he hewed down another of the horde before him. Reinforcements would be coming soon. Then, he heard it - a great crashing in the trees, a bellowing sound, thudding and bumping; cheers came from the Southrons.
"Ware! Ware!" cried Boromir to his men. "May the Valar turn him aside! It is one of the beasts of the Haradrim!"
Boromir's horse lifted its front legs and spilled his rider. Its eyes were white with fear. Trying to grab the reins while pushing himself up from the ground, he had left himself open. A smiling, sun-darkened face brought a blade down. Boromir flinched, but Ragnor caught the blade with his own and turned it aside. He had also lost his horse when the beast roared, but was able to stand quickly. Boromir had not the time to even thank the man as another and another came at him, the enemy renewed by the charge of their greatest weapon.
Ragnor and he continued, shouting encouragement to the men, who looked about to flee at the sight before them. The animal, if one could call a towering black hill an animal, became frightened by the horses' screams and the battle sounds. It pulled up, front legs, rather tree-like, flailing and knocking off men from its back. Boromir now saw that there was some kind of cart or... It was a war-tower! A war tower on top of the beast! But the creature was shaking and running; the tower and the men in it were being thrashed from side to side. Finally, the whole aperture fell over, clinging by straps to the underside of the beast. Men fell everywhere and were quickly stomped in the beast's fear.
Faramir heard the horns' call and reacted. The company of esquires had been on the Pelennor for training. He tore away from the maneuvers and rode to the Great Gate. A groom ran to him as he pulled into the Ranger's headquarters on the First Level. He dismounted and grabbed another saddled horse, one that stood ready for an errand-rider. The captain of the company shouted for him to leave the horse, but Faramir ignored him, jumped on the horse and turned its head towards the next gate. He knew what the horns were saying, a battle was gone ill; Boromir was in Osgiliath; therefore, knowing Boromir's penchant for being in the thick of things, that meant that Boromir was in the battle. He pushed the horse forward while the captain screamed to at least slow down if for naught but the horse's sake. But Faramir never heard, his heart in his throat and tears streaming down his face.
"You promised!" he whispered through clenched teeth. "You promised you would not be killed! You promised!" he kept chanting as he forced the horse faster and faster up the levels. His teeth chattered as he tried to force himself to some sort of calm. Swiping tears from his eyes, he slowed the horse. 'Tis not the horse's fault that Boromir is in trouble.' He brought the horse to a walk. He was only on the Third Level. Turning the horse towards one of the parapets overlooking the Pelennor, he stopped and looked out. Eastern Osgiliath was on fire. Boromir was stationed in Western Osgiliath. Perhaps he was not in the battle after all. Perhaps Faramir had panicked for naught. He shook his head. 'Nay. Boromir would not stay back if a battle were being waged. Father must know where he is.' He turned the horse's head to the Fourth Gate and passed through.
The Citadel itself and all the grounds around it were full of people, mostly warriors watching what they could from the parapet. Faramir had left his mount at the gate and walked through the tunnel. As he emerged, men caught sight of him and greeted him. "Your father awaits you," one of them said. "He is in the Great Hall."
Faramir nodded and went on. Pushing open the doors, he stepped into quiet. His ears hurt from the contrast between the dark still of this hall and the shouts and moans of the masses on the parapet. The Chamberlain greeted him and ushered him forward. Halfway down the hall, the man bowed and quietly left. Faramir continued towards the Steward's Chair. Indis sat at his father's feet, silently stroking his hand. The sight sent chills down Faramir's back.
Indis saw him first, rose to greet him, and was held back by Denethor's hand. "Long has your return been, my son," Denethor said quietly, not looking up. "You would have my concern for your brother be o'ershadowed by concern for you?"
Faramir sucked in his breath. "That was not my intent, Father. I know naught of Boromir's state."
"You were with him last?"
"Yes, Father. I rode to the Causeway Fort to speak with him once before he began his assignment."
"I told you to return here, to me. I did not give you leave to follow him."
Faramir swallowed. "I was wrong, Father. I... I was concerned and let sentiment guide me."
At that Denethor lifted his face and looked full upon his youngest. The tear-streaked face told more than his son's words.
"Boromir is in the midst of a desperate battle. I know not if he will survive. A mûmak, one of the beasts of Harad, ventures into Ithilien. Your brother is in the forefront of those assigned to stop it and the army it is with."
Faramir stared in astonishment. "Did you order him there?"
"I did not. But if I had known, I would have. Do I not trust your brother? Do I not trust his leadership, his skill as a warrior?"
Faramir swallowed again. "I... He would be proud to know you think so highly of him, Father."
They stayed thus for a long while. At last, Indis spoke. "Brother, you and your son need food. I will order the kitchen..."
"My Heir does not have food in the midst of battle, neither will Faramir and I. We will wait until Boromir eats, then we will eat."
The men of Gondor were not spared. Boromir looked on in horror as those mammoth feet crushed man after man, as they tried to escape. He screamed retreat and pushed his men before him. They ran in disarray, each trying to avoid the terrible beast before them. The Southrons were running also, all sense of battle driven from them as they tried to escape their own weapon. Suddenly, arrows flew through the air from the east. Bowmen, shooting feverishly, turned the great beast, though their arrows bounced off its hide. But it was enough. The creature fled. The Southrons, seeing that they were beleaguered by a greater host than ever, quickly turned, calling retreat themselves, and fled further into the forest. The archers followed.
Boromir called a halt and gathered his men about him. Quickly, his lieutenants called off the role. Boromir's face blanched as he heard silence too many times. At last, Arthad stepped forward.
"We have twenty-seven men left standing, my Lord. There are another thirty-two wounded."
Boromir stood silent, hands at his side, his sword feeling heavy and cold. Of the three companies, he had lost one hundred and fifty-one men! The horn pushed against him. He should have winded it. What had been wrong with him? He could have saved his men if he had called for help.
"A valiant effort, my Lord," Ragnor put his hand on Boromir's shoulder. "Our men did themselves proud."
Boromir gulped and looked at his lieutenant. He should be praising his men, not berating himself with futile questions. He turned towards them and his heart flinched as he saw the haunted eyes before him.
"Ragnor speaks well. I have never seen such bravery. You are doughty men and true. Gondor will sing your praises tonight! Let us turn towards Osgiliath and rest." The men shouted with joy at the praises of their captain. "Arthad," he turned and smiled. "I am glad to see you alive. You did well!"
His second smiled. "I am glad to be alive myself! I have never seen such a beast before. What was it?"
"We will talk once I report to Captain Gorlim. Order the men back to Osgiliath. Meet me in the dining hall."
Arthad saluted, turned and began assembling the company.
Ragnor stepped forward. "I will see to the wounded."
"Yes. We are too few and too haggard to bury our dead. Others will have to see to that unhappy duty."
The horns sounded and Denethor lifted his face towards the front of the Hall - and waited. At last, a soldier bounded through the doors. Quickly speaking with the Chamberlain, he saluted and left. The Chamberlain hurried forward.
"My Lord Steward. There is good news from Osgiliath. The Southrons have been vanquished."
The Chamberlain looked in surprise. "Boromir, my Lord? I know naught of Boromir. There has been no missive, just the call of the trumpet with news that the battle has been won."
"Send an errand-rider to me immediately." The man bowed and quickly left.
"Faramir," he looked up in surprise. "Have you been standing this entire time?"
"It is nothing, Father. I wanted to be with you when news reached your ears."
Servants came in with torches to light the hall; the sun was setting and the natural dimness of the Great Hall was deepened by the sun's decline. When a torch was lit near to the Steward's Chair, Faramir gasped. "Father!" He stepped forward but quickly stopped at Denethor's command.
"Come no closer. There is no need. I am well. You may wait here until the rider comes from Osgiliath, then you will return to your duties as esquire. I cannot keep you from punishment. You deserted your post, Faramir. You were not given this time off. Your penalty will probably be harsh. Was it worth it?" The last words were whispered.
"What do you think, Father?" Faramir said quietly. "How could I have stayed below when I know Boromir is in trouble?"
The errand-rider strode into the hall. Bowing low, he waited.
"Scribe!" Denethor shouted. One came running forward with quill and parchment. "Take this missive to Captain Gorlim." The scribe sat on the marble steps, ready.
"Captain Gorlim, great news of the battle won at Osgiliath this day. You and your men are to be commended. As soon as you are able, for I understand your pressing needs, send this rider back with a full report. If he should come to you after you have sent a report, then send..." Denethor stood and moved down the stairs. Walking towards one of the tall windows, he placed his hand on the sill and drew in a sharp breath. 'I cannot ask if my son lives,' he swallowed in grief and torment. 'I cannot ask anything about him. He is a soldier, a warrior of Gondor, the same as the other men there. How can I ask of him when I do not ask of others?' He held back a sob. 'So much power; so little power. My son. My son.' He clenched his sword, drew in a breath and walked back towards the scribe. "Just leave it end with a full report." He took the missive, signed it, and gave it to the errand-rider. "Go, and quickly. I expect your return before morning."
The man bowed and left.
Denethor sat, silent, but Indis spoke. "It is late. The rider will not return this night. I cannot see you sitting here, without food or rest, until that time comes. You know Boromir is well. If he had been killed, the horns would have announced the news. They did not." She motioned and the Chamberlain came forward. After she ordered their repast, the man departed.
Denethor sighed. "You do not know for certain..."
"Your men are trained well, brother. They would have sounded the horn. He is alive and is probably eating even as we speak."
"Captain Boromir," Gorlim stood as Boromir entered the room. "I have heard tales of your prowess on the battlefield and your defeat of a mûmak. How often does that happen?" He smiled broadly. "I have never even seen one and you have defeated one!"
"I did naught, my Lord. In fact, I have lost too many men. I should have winded my own horn, asked for help, but I mistakenly thought we could contain them until reinforcements came. I lost too many men," he again reiterated miserably.
"Your horn would not have called men faster than those who finally arrived. The bowmen were the nearest. Your battle could be heard all the way to the Crossroads and the bellowing of the great beast could be heard clear to the river. You did well. You lost many men, but they fought and died bravely. I was hard on you earlier today. I thought you might consider yourself above your men; however, I have heard only good reports about your behavior. Ragnor speaks highly of you and I value that man's opinion. How long did your fa-- did you plan on staying here? What were your orders?"
"The only order I received was to come to Osgiliath and help in this time of crisis, though I have been appointed Captain of the garrison at Eilenach."
"Eilenach. I was stationed there once myself. A lovely land. Close to the mountains, but not close enough to freeze. Once in awhile, the Horse Lords stop and tell tales with the men there. It can be pleasant."
Boromir's cheeks burned. "I was not made captain to sit about and listen to horsemen's tales," he fairly blustered.
"I did not mean that, Captain. There is no garrison left in all of Gondor that is always pleasant." The captain's tone was harsh. "I have said you appointed yourself well. I thank the Steward for sending you to us. Now, go and take care of your men and yourself. You will have one day's rest, then you will be sent out on patrol again."
Boromir bowed stiffly and left. 'He thinks I am to captain Eilenach to keep me from battle, to protect me.' He shook in fury. 'Why would Father send me here, then, if I were to be protected?' He was still livid when he entered the dining hall. Arthad waved to him and Boromir calmed himself. Smiling, he waved back, walked through the crowd of men in the hall, patting some on the back and shouting words of praise to others. The air was festive. The men were glad they were alive; tales of the battle with the Mûmak were growing greater and greater in deed. Ragnor strode forward and put his hand on Boromir's shoulder, forcing him to sit next to Arthad. He waved for food and ale to be brought to his table. Then, he sat next to him.
"Were you permanently stationed here, my Lord?"
"Nay. Only for the present crisis, Ragnor. I am to go to Eilenach, when the Steward says it is time."
"Then, I would ask to go with you."
"You would leave the joys of Osgiliath?" Boromir smiled.
"I would be with you to guard your back, my Lord. Seems to me you have not quite learned to do that by yourself."
Boromir smiled. "I did not thank you, did I, for saving my life?"
"I noted another three or four times during that very same battle, that you saved mine. There is no cause for thanks. All in the line of duty." The man smiled and drank his ale. "But I am surprised at your ease in battle."
"I was not at ease. I was watching you. You were at ease. I followed your lead."
"Then," and Ragnor laughed uproariously, "Neither of us led today!"
Boromir smiled and drank. With men like Ragnor, he enjoyed being a Captain of Gondor.
"One question, my Lord."
"Go ahead, Arthad."
"You wear the Horn of Gondor. I was told that honor is only for the Captain-General of Gondor. Am I misinformed?"
Boromir sat still for a moment. "You are not misinformed. The title was given yesterday, or the day before; I am so tired I do not remember. It is only a title, Arthad, Ragnor. I command no one but the little garrison of Eilenach. And that at the Steward's will."
"If that is what you wish known, then we will abide by that. It is good, though, to know that the Steward places such trust in you."
Boromir smiled tiredly. "Do not go there, my friend. The Steward's trust is difficult to gain. I have not, as of yet. Now, I must to bed before I fall. I cannot remember the last time I slept. Tell the men to rest also. We have another day before we are on patrol again."
He rose, was greeted by shouts of approval, smiled at his men, and left the hall. His heart fairly burst with pride at the honor shown him. They were doughty men and he was their captain and life was good.
"What is wrong with Father, Amma?"
Denethor had insisted Faramir return to his barracks. Indis had promised Faramir she would send for him as soon as the errand-rider returned. As she accompanied him to the Sixth Level, she held Faramir's arm. "What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. He looks nigh unto ninety years. He is not even seventy. What has happened since yesterday?"
Indis did not reply.
"Amma. In one day he has changed. His hair is graying at the temple and lines run across his forehead. He did not have them yesterday. Worry for Boromir could not cause this."
He waited. "You will not say?" he finally asked.
"I will not. You may ask your father, but I doubt he will tell you. He does what he can for Gondor, Faramir. All that he can."
"Even unto death, Amma?"
"You know that answer even better than I, Faramir. Even unto death, yours, mine, Boromir's, his own..." She started to cry and he stopped.
"Forgive me, Amma. I understand that the Steward and his family live and die for Gondor, but I cannot sit and watch him like this."
"There is naught you can do. Faramir, you must obey him, in all things, you must learn to be a warrior like Boromir is, he needs you strong, he needs your approval."
"Yours. He values you, Faramir. His foresight gives him cause for fear and he would... Every man of Gondor must prepare for the worst. He sees great battles before us and too few men for Gondor. He is torn between his love for you and his duty and passion for Gondor. Do not make him chose between you."
"I will not, Amma. I will obey him. I promise."
A/N - I borrowed Damrod's very words from TTT at the attack of the Mûmak and gave them to his captain -I'm sure he'll forgive me. 'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbits.'
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.