50. Third Age 3018 - Part Three
"Is there no report yet?" Denethor bellowed.
His guard ran forward. "None yet, my Lord."
"Then send a rider. I must know!" He flung his goblet against the wall of his study as the guard saluted and hurriedly left the room. The door stood open and Denethor paused. He had only left It an hour ago; he was still exhausted from struggling with It, and yet, he must know. He climbed the stairs, opened the door, and stood before It. Gently, giving thanks again to the Elves who had gifted It to his people, he removed the covering, stationed himself so that he faced East and placed his hands on It. It awoke to his touch and showed him Osgiliath, burning. His sight swept across the bridge and into the eastern section of the fallen city. The army stood before a vast horde of beasts, Uruks, Haradrim... But that was not what caught his attention, pulled a horrified gasp from him.
Staggering, he saw before him horror unimagined; Denethor struggled to hold onto the globe. The men were in disarray, running this way and that, as black riders rode towards them. The rest of the Enemy's forces stayed back, waiting, it seemed, for the terrors on horseback to give them the advantage. There must have been some terrible sound accompanying the horsemen, for many of Gondor's finest ran with their ears covered. Denethor tried to calm himself and look with discernment upon the scene he was presented. He must ascertain what was happening and discover what he could do to help. Needless to say, there was no sign of Boromir nor Faramir. They could not be in the midst of the battle, for the stone never showed him any place where his sons were present. So - where were they?
Faramir would be where Denethor had sent him - at the front of the attack, but hidden amongst the woods that fronted the eastern city. That left Boromir. He should have been in front. For even though Denethor ordered him to stand at the back of the army and direct the battle from there, he knew Boromir would not. 'My son thinks himself indestructible,' Denethor thought helplessly, 'that naught can touch him. How did I raise such a fool?' But he quickly chided himself. Boromir was no fool, but a good captain who would not let his men go into battle whilst he remained safe at the back of the troops.
He watched as the black riders rode through his army, not being stopped at all, doing no physical damage as could been seen, and not slashing with swords. They did not need swords; the horror of them seemed to slay men before them. They crossed the bridge, and rode into West Osgiliath. The reaction from the men of that garrison mirrored those men the riders had just come through. Denethor shuddered and the globe went black.
Boromir needed more men! Reverently, he placed the covering back on the stone, ran from the room, and locked the door behind him. Hirgon stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up and holding a missive in his hand. Denethor ran down and motioned for the Rider to follow him into his study.
"A missive from Captain-General Boromir," he stood silently by as Denethor read it.
The Steward devoured the note, then rang for his aide. When Belegorn entered, he sent for Húrin. "Get yourself some food, Captain," he told Hirgon, "Return in one hour's time." Hirgon saluted and left him. 'Four hours ago,' Denethor thought, 'Boromir yet lived. That is a consoling thought. And Faramir too; Boromir would have noted...' He did not continue with the thought. Húrin entered moments later. "They need more men. Send the Second and Third Company to Osgiliath."
"My Lord Steward," Húrin blanched, "that leaves only the First Company to guard the Citadel."
"Boromir comes against a foe he cannot battle with the forces he now has. Send the companies and do not question me further." Húrin saluted and left. Five minutes later, Denethor heard the horns calling the companies to arms. He steeled himself against returning to the Tower room. Another thirty minutes passed and he heard the horns again calling - this time to march. His heart lifted. They were well trained, the best of Gondor's knights. Not many a company could assemble and march inside an hour's time. He could only hope they would be enough, be in time. It would take them six hours to cross the Pelennor, another hour to reach the battle itself. He should have sent them before.
Taking his cloak and wrapping it about him, he crossed the Court of the Fountain and stood at the tip of the parapet. At times like these, he wished he had the famed Elven sight. All he saw was white smoke lifting from the desolate city. "Boromir. Faramir," he whispered. "Take care of each other."
He began to second-guess his orders. He should have put his sons together. They seemed to draw strength from each other. But Faramir had to take the Rangers to the perimeter and harry the enemy before they attacked the city. Boromir had to remain with the main body, waiting till the Rangers and Faramir's archers had dealt the first blow. Cursing furiously, he clenched the top of the wall, fighting desperately not to run back to the Tower room, for he knew It held no answers for him. It would not show his sons.
Húrin stood next to him, holding out a goblet. "Take the brandy. It will keep you warm."
"How is it," Denethor wondered aloud, "that it is so cold in the midst of June? Some trick of the Enemy?"
Húrin made no answer.
"I have you, Faramir. Take a deep breath. Mablung, hold him steady!" Boromir worked furiously, stripping his brother of the mail that he had insisted Faramir wear and which had almost cost him his brother's life, pulling him down into the River. Boromir then tore the shirt open. "Breathe, Faramir, for Elbereth's sake, breathe! Damrod! Do you see any of the others?"
"Nay, Boromir. They are all lost."
The Captain-General of Gondor sobbed. "Faramir. Open your eyes, please, Faramir. I have you." Another sob. "Please, Faramir, open your eyes."
"He is gone, Boromir," Mablung sobbed wretchedly.
"Nay!" Boromir bellowed. "Faramir!" he screamed and pulled his brother close, "Do not leave me, do you hear!" He beat on his brother's back, trying to get the water out of his lungs. "Breathe!" he screamed again.
At last, he felt a movement in his arms. Beating Faramir's back again, he whispered in his brother's ear, "I have you, Faramir. Do not leave me." He was shaking so badly that Damrod had to hold his arms. "Faramir," he whispered again.
He felt the boy's body shake and held him close as Faramir began to cough and choke. "Good! Good! Now take some breaths, Faramir. You are safe now. Take some breaths. Slowly, I have you." He clenched his teeth tight to stop his jaw from shaking.
"I have you, Faramir. Safe. You are safe now. Just take it slow and breathe a little. Do not breathe deep, just shallow breaths."
Faramir continued to cough; Boromir patted him on the back. "You are safe," he kept whispering, "you are safe." He felt Damrod's arms about him and leaned into the man's body. "Thank you, Damrod," he sighed. "Thank you."
"Boromir. My men?"
"All dead, Faramir. As are my own. The bridge. I do not know what happened; it collapsed too soon. Poor Elatan is dead, too."
Faramir shook in his arms, but Boromir could hardly hold him for the shaking his own body was doing. Damrod still held him tightly. "Mablung. Go to the bridge and find someone. Bring some help back." Boromir ordered. Mablung nodded and ran up the bank of the Anduin. Boromir looked about him, trying to figure out where they were.
"We are about a league south of the bridge," Damrod understood his concern and Boromir was grateful for the soldier's answer to the unspoken question. "You have been with me too long, old friend." Damrod smiled and held him tighter. Boromir sighed. "Faramir?"
"I think he sleeps, Boromir. I can feel his breath; he only sleeps."
Boromir nodded and hung his head down. "I thought we had lost him." He felt Damrod's nod. "I cannot stop shaking."
"I know. I will start a fire. We are all freezing." Boromir felt Damrod's body shake. "The attack is stopped. I know not why," the soldier said. "The fighting has stopped."
Boromir looked up and towards the east side of the River. Damrod was right. The fighting had stopped. The enemy had withdrawn. "Why?"
Damrod just shook his head as he went about collecting dead wood from the banks of the Anduin. "Mayhap something else happened. The Steward might have sent more men. I know not." He flung the wood down near Boromir and began to tear up the dried grasses from the top of the bank. Quickly, he brought two handfuls down and put them on the ground, then piled the wood on top. Pulling his flint from the wax-soaked box, he struck it and lit the grasses. They caught immediately and soon a fire was blazing.
Boromir moved Faramir closer. His brother began to shake. Boromir tore the clothes off him and moved him even closer to the fire. "Can you find anything we can cover him with?" he called out to Damrod.
The soldier scoured the banks of the River, but found naught. "There is nothing here, Boromir."
"Never the mind." He pulled his own sopping tunic and shirt off and pulled Faramir tightly to his body, hoping he had some heat left to share with his brother. "Do you hear anyone coming, Damrod?"
"Nay. Yes! I can hear horses. Over here!" he stood and waved furiously. Within moments, Hador, Galdor and a full company of knights surrounded them.
"Blessed Eru!" Hador cried. "We thought we had lost you."
"You will soon if you do not find something to cover me with. I am freezing," Boromir smiled through chattering teeth.
A blanket was thrown over his shoulders. Galdor stooped low and tried to take Faramir from him. A hand, strong as steel, encircled the captain's wrist. "Do not touch him," Boromir whispered. "Do not touch him."
Galdor stepped back in surprise. "I..."
Mablung knelt at Boromir's side. "Faramir needs to be clothed, Captain, else he freeze to death."
Boromir looked up in surprise. He swallowed hard. "As do you and Damrod." He moved his hands from Faramir and watched as a shirt was thrown over Faramir's head and a blanket then covered the rest of him. Mablung and Damrod too were given dry clothes.
"We best move you to the garrison, Captain-General," Hador said quietly. "The healers should look at all four of you. Where are the rest of your men?"
Boromir bowed his head. "Gone. Any who did not make it across the bridge are gone."
Hador nodded and put an arm under Boromir's to help him rise. Damrod stepped over, having now a dry tunic about his shoulders, and moved the captain away. "It is my duty, Captain Hador."
The captain of Cair Andros moved away as Damrod helped Boromir stand. Mablung, now also fully dressed in warm clothes scooped Faramir into his arms. "Lead the way, Captain. We will follow."
"I want to carry him, Mablung," Boromir stood close.
"You can hardly walk," Damrod whispered. "Let Mablung carry him. Faramir knows not the difference."
"But I do." Boromir willed himself not to sob. "Let us go then." He clutched Damrod's arm and struggled to reach the top of the bank. Hador moved behind him and gently pushed on his back, helping him up the steep slope. When they reached the top, Boromir was grateful to find horses waiting for them. Damrod jumped upon one and Hador cautiously helped Boromir mount in front of Damrod. Mablung let another hold Faramir while he mounted, then the sleeping captain was offered up to Mablung's waiting arms. The company moved out, with Boromir and Damrod, Mablung and Faramir, completely engulfed in the protection of Gondor's finest.
Within a quarter hour, they were at the garrison. Strong arms helped them down. Men ran back and forth, shouting orders, telling all that the Captain-General was hurt and must be tended to. Boromir pushed aside a helping hand and bellowed, "I am not hurt; leave me be." Then, he strode towards his quarters, smiling as the hubbub behind him subsided. Someone yelled, "Hail, Boromir!" He did not stop, but waved nonetheless. Damrod ran to catch up with him. "Damrod, bring Faramir with you." The soldier nodded and ran back to Mablung, directing the man carrying the sleeping Faramir to the captain's quarters.
Once inside, Boromir collapsed. Damrod, seeing his captain's knees buckle, caught him just in time. "You are stubborn!" he hissed. "You might have hit your head and done what the enemy could not."
Boromir smiled as he pulled himself up Damrod's arm. "Thank you. Now, Mablung, put Faramir on my bed."
Damrod sat Boromir in the bed. "You will lie down here. Another bed has been sent for. Mablung can hold Faramir for another moment or two."
Boromir nodded in agreement as Mablung sat in a straight-backed chair by the table. He watched as Faramir still slept. "Are you certain he is all right?"
"He sleeps, Captain," Mablung whispered. "He took in much water. The struggle to reach the surface has taken all his strength."
Just then the door was flung open and another bed was brought in, followed closely by the garrison's healer and Captain Isilmo. The healer strode towards Boromir, but the Captain-General waved him to Faramir's side. Kneeling by the now reposing Faramir, the healer did a quick examination. Then he walked to Boromir's side. "He is well. The lungs sound clear. That is a good sign. And he must feel comfortable to sleep so soundly. Now, if I may look at you?"
Boromir growled, but did all that the healer asked. At last, the man stepped back. "You have survived again. The men call you indestructible, but do not believe it, my Captain. No man is safe from death." Boromir nodded and gratefully accepted the drink the healer offered. "This will help your throat. The water of the Anduin is not pure, what with the filth that fell into it this night. I will return in the morning." He turned to Damrod. "I want this tea given to both of them before they sleep." He smiled, "That is, if Faramir wakes up. If either have need of me, send for me." Damrod nodded and walked the healer to the door.
Boromir leaned back in the bed. Isilmo stepped forward. "The attack has ended. The enemy disappeared into the night, once the bridge was blown. That was brilliant, destroying it like that. They had no chance to cross over."
"It was not the destruction of the bridge that caused them to pull back. I know not what it was, but it was not that." Boromir shivered, but not from the cold.
Damrod stepped forward. "Captain Isilmo. I believe you may give your report to the Captain-General on the morrow." He took the captain's arm and moved him towards the door. Boromir smiled. "Good night, Captain." Within moments, he too slept. He would have smiled if he watched Damrod stand guard at the door whilst Mablung stood guard over Faramir.
Sunrise would soon be upon them; Damrod rued the fact that the garrison would soon be awakening. Boromir and Faramir had only had an hour's sleep, at best. He was startled, in the middle of the short rest, when Boromir began to thrash about. He took a step closer and looked towards Mablung, noting concern on his friend's face also. "Faramir!" Boromir's scream caused both of them to jump.
Faramir woke. "Boromir?" he called plaintively.
"I am sorry, Captain. Your brother had a nightmare. He is now resting comfortably. The healer left you some tea. He asked that you drink it."
Faramir grimaced, but when he tried to sit up and take the cup, he found he could not. Mablung knelt beside him and held his head up, pouring the tea slowly into Faramir's mouth. At last, the entire drink was gone and Mablung lowered Faramir back onto the bed. "You are warm to the touch," but Faramir was asleep again. "He is hot, Damrod. Should we send for the healer?"
Damrod stepped to Faramir's side, lightly touching his captain's brow. "Not overly. It cannot be the fever again! Let us wait another hour and see if he cools. Mayhap it is just from the River."
"He would be cool to the touch if it was the River. The water flows from the mountains. It is cold."
Damrod laughed despite himself. "I remember that well, Mablung."
"Then I think we should call the healer."
"What is wrong?" Boromir's sleepy voice questioned.
"Faramir seems a bit warm. We were considering sending for the healer."
Instantly, Boromir was at his brother's side. He touched Faramir's forehead and winced. "Morgoth's breath! Is it the fever?"
"We wondered the same. He should be cool," Damrod touched Boromir's skin. "Yours is warm, too. Mayhap it is the blankets?"
"Send for the healer," Boromir lowered his head into his hands. "Hopefully, it is nothing."
"Boromir, lie back down. There is naught you can do, for the nonce."
Boromir shook his head. "I did not rest well. I dreamt of Faramir in the River." He shook and Damrod took the blanket from Boromir's bed and wrapped it around his Captain-General's shoulders. "I have wondered too about the bodies of our dead. Those who fell in the River are lost. Or... Mablung, after you find the healer, send an errand-rider to the Harlond. Ask them to keep watch for the bodies and take them from the River, have them brought back to the City. If they have already passed, have a rider leave the Harlond and go to Pelargir. I do not want my men's bodies going to the Sea. They should be buried, if we are able to do so."
Mablung saluted and left them.
"Damrod, the bodies of those who died in East Osgiliath. I would send a detail to bury them, but we would need to send them over in boats. We have not enough. And for that matter, I wonder if it is wise. The city is no longer ours and they would be in grave danger."
"Boromir," Damrod said gently, "they are Orc fodder now. It is too late. It was too late the moment they died."
Boromir lowered his head again and began to weep. Damrod knelt at his friend's side and held him. "We must hope they all died in battle." Boromir shook. He saw before him the hundreds of bodies strewn across the old city, and prayed to the Valar that none had been taken captive.
A moment later, the healer entered the room with Mablung at his side. He strode towards Faramir's bed and knelt at Boromir's side. "Has aught happened?"
"He is warm to the touch. Captain Faramir was afflicted with undulant fever late last year. Could this be a reoccurrence?" Boromir moved so the healer could examine Faramir.
"It very well may be. He should be sent to Minas Tirith immediately. I cannot care for him, if thus is his condition."
Boromir nodded and watched as Damrod ran from the room.
"Did you drink the tea I left?"
"I remember no speech of tea."
"Ah. You were still battle-shocked. I left tea for you and Faramir." The healer stood up and walked to the table. "I see Faramir's is gone. He must have drunk it. That is good. I would have you drink yours. It is cold, but that matters not."
Boromir accepted the cup and drank it quickly, grimacing slightly at the taste. "Will you ride with us to the City?"
"I cannot. There are too many wounded here. I need more healers, my Lord, if you could ask the Steward to send them?"
"Of course. Will Faramir be... should it concern me that we travel with no healer?"
"Nay. He is warm, but not truly hot. I think we should stem this before the fever heightens." The healer put his hands to his eyes and wearily rubbed them.
"Have you had any sleep this night?"
"Nay. Too many wounded."
"But you have at least five healers and a dozen assistants."
"My Lord Boromir," the man sighed as if he spoke to a child, "there are hundreds of wounded."
Boromir turned his back on the man, holding in his tears. "I understand. I am sorry I questioned you."
"Nay. When Faramir wakes, give him some of this." He handed Boromir another cup of tea. "It will help give him strength for the journey. Take it slowly, Captain. Putting him through a strenuous ride would be worse than the fever rising."
"Thank you. Go now and take some rest. I order you an hour's sleep."
The healer smiled. "I will, my Lord. May the Valar be with you and your brother." He saluted and left the room.
Boromir sat tiredly at the foot of Faramir's bed. His brother looked so peaceful that he almost envied him.
Noises from the courtyard drew their attention from Faramir for a moment. Mablung quickly strode towards the door, opening it to a cacophony of sound.
"More men from Minas Tirith, Boromir!" The man's voice held stunned surprise. "It is the Second and Third Companies of the Tower Guard."
Boromir sprang up. "Watch Faramir," he ordered and ran out the door. He found Beregond standing guard outside. For a moment, he was startled, then a deep smile creased his face. "You live, you scoundrel," and Boromir grasped his aide in a heartfelt embrace.
"I dare not die; I have a surly Captain-General to care for. Though getting past Mablung and Damrod last night was more than this poor soldier could accomplish. I stationed myself here instead."
"Thank you. Go in and relieve them. They have not slept. Faramir's fever has returned. Sit with him?"
"Of course. I am sorry to hear it."
Boromir turned at the shout of his name. "Gwinhir! What brings you here?"
The Captain of the Second Company strode forward. "The Steward Denethor sent us to help in your hour of need, but I see we are not needed. Not oft is the Steward wrong."
"Nay. Not wrong. The enemy cut off the fight; I know not why, but let us to the mess. Faramir yet rests. We inadvertently went swimming last night."
"The destruction of the bridge went ill?"
"It did. We lost Elatan." The remembrance caused Boromir to stop walking. "Captain Isilmo," he called out. The captain ran to his side. "Where is the other engineer? Meneldil?"
"I know not. I thought he had also perished when the bridge collapsed."
"I think not. Have all but the guard returned from the bridge?"
Isilmo nodded, turned and began shouting orders.
Boromir and Gwinhir entered the mess. Mugs of whiskey-laced tea were brought to them. Boromir nodded his head in gratitude as he tasted it.
"You and your men should return to the City as soon as your horses are rested, Gwinhir. A company will be leaving with me within the hour. I am handing command of Osgiliath to Isilmo in my absence." He lowered his voice. "Did the Steward tell you aught of the battle?"
"Nay. I did not speak with Lord Denethor, but with Warden Húrin. He gave the order to reinforce your ranks."
"We faced a foe I hope never to see again. They rode through my men as hot steel through butter. They did not stop, but continued here and then northward. I sent missives to Cair Andros. Has there be any word from the island garrison?"
"Not to my knowledge, Captain-General."
Boromir sighed. "No news, hopefully, is good news. I will leave you now; eat and rest while you may. Then, return to the City as quickly as you are able. I do not take pleasure in the thought that the Citadel is left guarded only by one company."
Gwinhir saluted and Boromir gulped the last of his tea and left, looking for Isilmo. In the distance, he saw the captain striding towards him.
"Meneldil was injured; he is being cared for."
"Take me to him."
As they walked, Boromir transferred the command of Osgiliath's garrison to Isilmo. The captain understood and accepted it, until Boromir's return.
Shortly after, they entered the garrison's own version of the Houses of Healing. Boromir stopped at each cot and spoke with each man. At last, he stood next to Meneldil's cot. A deep gash was being tended by one of the assistants; it had already been stitched closed.
"My Lord Boromir," the young engineer sobbed, "Elatan is dead."
Boromir knelt and took the man's hand in his. "I know. How were you injured?"
"I saw the bridge collapsing. I had yet to order the last cut. Elatan was still on it, just walking back. He must have felt the tremor. He lunged, but... I tried to catch him." The man wept bitterly.
"Why did the bridge collapse?" Boromir asked as gently as possible.
"I know not, my Lord. We had cut precisely. You yourself inspected it. It was strong enough to hold your retreating forces." The young man shook his head in obvious bewilderment.
Boromir touched his shoulder. "Take you rest; you did what you could."
"It might have been those..." The man shivered. "It might have been the passing of those horses. The bridge shook as they rode past." Another shiver. "I did not note much." The blush that covered the engineer's face was heightened by its pallor. "I hid my face in the ground as they passed."
Boromir's brow furrowed. "It is as you say. They were fell beasts." A brow rose. "Rest now and return to the City when you are released from here."
He stood and looked about him. A hush descended upon the room as the men felt his regard. "This night, we were assailed by forces no other men could endure," Boromir began, loud enough for all to hear him. "You carried yourselves well. All of Gondor will sing your praises for your stalwart defense of Osgiliath. We will reclaim the eastern city -- " Their cheers interrupted him. He smiled, motioned them to silence, and continued. "I leave you with my deepest regard and respect. When I return from reporting to the Steward, we will rebuild the bridge and take back our city. It has been done before." The men cheered again. "For Gondor!" The men took up the call; Boromir saluted them and left. He smiled as he listened to the excited hubbub he had left behind him.
Isilmo beamed. "You give them new courage and hope. I will be hard-pressed to hold them down till you return."
"Is everything ready for our departure?"
"The horses are saddled; the company assembles as we speak."
"Good. I return to Faramir's side. As soon as the company is ready, bring our horses to my quarters. Also, I will be taking Mablung and Damrod with me. Of course, Beregond will stay at my side."
Isilmo saluted and left him on the doorstep of the captain's quarters.
Beregond opened the door. "I heard your step."
Boromir laughed, then sobered. "How is Faramir?"
Nodding, Boromir walked to his brother's cot. Taking Faramir's hand in his, he sat on the edge. "Take some rest and food, Beregond; we will be leaving shortly." The soldier saluted and left them.
"How do you feel?" He touched his brother's forehead. "You seem cooler."
"I think I am. Boromir," the seriousness in Faramir's tone caused Boromir to kneel at his side. "I had a dream, the night before the battle. I gave it little thought, though I found it disconcerting." He shivered then swallowed convulsively. "I had it again, just before I woke at the sound of your voice. It chills me to the bone."
"Tell me of it," Boromir said, keeping his voice low.
Silence filled the small captain's quarters, once Faramir had related the details of his dream. The youngest son of the Steward closed his eyes with some relief. It had been a heavy burden upon him, this unsettling dream, and not having anyone to share it with had not helped.
Boromir, on the other hand, was concerned. His little brother had always been one for dreams. He remembered being awakened many a night by a frightened little boy begging to sleep with him after one of the 'wave' dreams. 'Mayhap 'tis only the fever.' But he dismissed that thought immediately; the first dream had come before the battle. He pulled on his lip for a moment. "Tell me, you have studied so much more than I, is there aught in any of your reading that has mentioned Imladris? I have heard of Halflings in folk tales, naught to base belief upon. I am assuming it is a people like unto men." He breathed a heavy sigh. "Let us wait another night or two, see if the dream comes to you again, and, if it does, then I will go with you to Father. He knows more than any of us of the lands beyond Gondor."
"I would wait also," Faramir frowned. "It was so real and the very same both times. But you speak rightly. The wave dream that woke me when I was a child spoke the same to me as this one does. Real and terrifying."
"Does this dream terrify you?" Boromir asked in some alarm.
"Nay. It is more disconcerting for it speaks of things that wander just out of the reach of my thoughts. I have not heard of Imladris before, but the Sword that was broken - that I know. Isildur, of course, is well-known to me, but I know not what Isildur's Bane might be." He mirrored his brother's sigh. "I will wait and see if the dream comes upon me again. If it does, I will find you and we will go to Father. In the meantime, I will search the Library for anything that might mention this place."
"It is the note of Doom that bespeaks an urgency, especially after what we fought last night. Morgul spells. What can they be? Though I would swear I had been under a spell when the Black Riders rode past us. My own men also were thusly affected. I would deem this a dream of some importance. But, now, let us go home. I am tired and you are still fevered," he touched Faramir's forehead, "though not as warm as you were earlier. Are you able to walk on your own?"
Faramir smiled and pulled himself upright. "I would not have been last night, but I believe the teas I drank have helped. I do not feel quite so wretched today. Just give me a hand to stand and I will do my best."
Boromir reached out and placed a hand under Faramir's right arm and helped his brother to his feet. His brow rose in alarm as Faramir swayed for a moment, but his brother steadied himself with a smile.
"I think I can manage the rest of this."
"There is tea here for the journey. The healer bids you drink it, then you will ride with me."
"Nay, Boromir. I would not have the men see me helpless."
His brother shrugged, "You are."
Faramir cuffed him lightly on the arm, then drank the odious tea. "Give me a moment to gather my strength and let this tea works its magic, then I must ride on my own horse."
"I do not think Mablung nor Damrod will agree to such a plan."
"Hang them both!"
"Who, Captain?" Damrod asked as he entered the room. "Hang whom?
"Faramir suggests he ride alone."
Damrod's brow lifted. "I do not think that wise. Can you even walk?"
Faramir swore lightly. "I can do more than walk," He fidgeted for his sword.
"Calm down, Faramir," Boromir laughed. "You would kill Damrod outright for he would not return the fight."
Faramir blushed. "I am sorry. I do not want the men seeing me weak; the night's battle has been difficult enough; that they would be concerned for my well-being is too much."
Boromir leaned forward and laid a tender kiss on his brother's forehead. "Faramir, I understand your concern for the men and I will bow to it. I ask this vow from you: if you falter or feel yourself unable to ride, stop immediately and join me on my horse. Else we will not leave here."
"I will so do it. I swear."
Boromir nodded. Damrod helped Faramir put on his over tunic, strapped his scabbard to his belt, and allowed Faramir to sheath his sword. Taking one of his captain's arms, he led him to the door. "Captain-General," Damrod stopped at the entrance. "When we leave this room, I will let go Captain Faramir's arm. I will stand close to his side and help him mount his horse. You need not fear. Go and speak your last words to Captain Isilmo. We will wait for you to rejoin us."
"I will be but a moment, Damrod. Thank you."
He stepped past the two and walked into the sunlight.
Denethor listened attentively as his oldest gave his report of the Battle of the Bridge, but his sight was repeatedly drawn back towards his youngest. That something was very wrong with Faramir was easily discerned; what the cause was, was not. When Boromir was done with his report and Faramir finished his own, Denethor stood. "Come with me to my study." He strode quickly past them and through the Great Hall. The Chamberlain barely had time to rap his staff on the floor and declare the session ended. The Lords in the Hall moved back, but Denethor distinctly heard the low whispers and knew them for what they were: fear. It had encompassed his own heart as he listened of the Black Riders. Thankfully, Cair Andros had been spared, but where did they head? Were they riding to Rohan? Had Théoden's loyalty finally been lost to Gondor? Or perhaps they were in league with the Elves of the North, the Mistress of Magic of Laurelindórenan?' His mind throbbed as thoughts and questions spilled over; he cursed himself for spending the entire night in the Tower room.
When Faramir and Boromir entered the study behind him, he bade them sit, but he himself paced up and down before the great fireplace that dominated the room. The oaken panel behind the fireplace that bore a carving of the White Tree rose to the ceiling. Denethor looked upon it and ceased his pacing. "There are those who would take Gondor from us," he whispered. "Not only the Enemy, but one who was a friend." He turned and faced them. "Faramir," he strode forward and knelt on one knee before his youngest. "What ails thee? Wert thou wounded?"
"Nay, Father. The fever returned. But I am better now."
Denethor stood and rang the bell. A servant entered and was immediately sent to fetch the Master Healer. Faramir tried to stay his father, but Denethor would not be swayed. "You look ill. I will not have you relapsing."
"It was the dunking in the river, Father, I am sure of that."
"We will see what the healer says. I do not quite trust your judgment, Faramir. You showed no sense when the fever near took you from us last year. I will not discuss this; you do not leave this room until the healer tells me this is not a relapse."
Faramir nodded, not saying a word, but rolled his eyes when Boromir gently nudged him.
"These Black Riders. Tell me more." Denethor sat and motioned for Boromir to describe in further detail the Enemy's newest weapon. When Boromir was done, Denethor sat in thoughtful silence. "They do not seem so fierce. They took no lives."
For a moment Boromir shivered. "They took no lives because some of our men took their own in unbridled fear." Another shiver assailed him. "I truly saw them not, for the reports told of more than one, but I felt such evil, and then a black despair enveloped me. It took all my will, Father, to follow them or it." Boromir paused in the remembrance. "I do not think they were Men. Definitely not Orcs or Uruks."
"Well, we will leave that for the nonce. They have passed Gondor's borders. We need not concern ourselves further. But tell me, Faramir," and the Steward turned towards his youngest with such a look that he might have laughed at Faramir's dropped jaw if he did not sense something disturbed his son, "what have you seen?"
Faramir gasped for a moment, then blushed furiously. "I had a dream." He too shivered and Boromir ran and brought back a blanket, covering Faramir's legs.
The Steward did not move or say a word.
At last, Faramir, outflanked, spoke quietly. When he had finished telling of the dream, Denethor sat back. "Get your brother a glass of brandy, Boromir."
A/N - 1) "But it was at the coming of the Halfling that Isildur's Bane should waken, or so one must read the words," he insisted. "If then you are the Halfling that was named, doubtless you brought this thing, whatever it may be, to the Council of which you speak, and there Boromir saw it. Do you deny it?' Frodo made no answer. "So!" said Faramir. "I wish then to learn from you more of it; for what concerns Boromir concerns me. An Orc-arrow slew Isildur, so far as old tales tell. But orc-arrows are plenty, and Boromir of Gondor would not take the sight of one as a sign of Doom. Had you this thing in keeping? It is hidden, you say; but is not that because you choose to hide it?" TTT: Book IV: Ch.5: The Window On The West; 2) Faramir calls Galadriel the 'Mistress of Magic' in TTT: Book 4: Ch. 5: The Window on the West; 3) FotR: Book 2: Ch. 1: The Council of Elrond - "In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Of these words we could understand little, and we spoke to our father, Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, wise in the lore of Gondor. This only would he say, that Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Halfelven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters. Therefore my brother, seeing how desperate was our need, was eager to heed the dream and seek for Imladris; but since the way was full of doubt and danger, I took the journey upon myself. Loth was my father to give me leave, and long have I wandered by roads forgotten, seeking the house of Elrond, of which many had heard, but few knew where it lay."; 4) "Thus though no 'halfling,' so far as is known, had ever actually appeared in Gondor before Peregrin Took, the existence of this people within the kingdom of Arthedain was known in Gondor, and they were given the name Halfling, or in Sindarin perian. As soon as Frodo was brought to Boromir's notice [at the Council of Elrond] he recognised him as a member of this race. He had probably until then regarded them as creatures of what we should call fairy-tales or folklore. It seems plain from Pippin's reception in Gondor that in fact 'halflings' were remembered there." Unfinished Tales: Appendix: Númenórean Linear Measures
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