1. The World Ahead
Home is behind, the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight.
Boromir stood on a high mound at the edge of Tharbad and looked out across the dismal landscape. The road he had traveled to the ford wound its way across a crumbling causeway to the river and the remains of a bridge that had once been the way across the River Greyflood. The ruined town stretched for a mile or so on either side of the river, now consisting only of mounds of stone and earth that had once been walls, tumbled and broken rock that had once been streets and houses. In ancient days, Tharbad had been a thriving town, but it had suffered in the wars between Sauron and the Elves in the Second Age, and after vast flooding and the Great Plague that devastated Gondor and Eriador, the town was totally abandoned.
It was an altogether dreary place. The wind whistled through the mounds and the ruins with a mournful wail and caught at Boromir's cloak, whipping it behind him as his eyes followed the decaying road to the ford and beyond, across the river. The noise of the Greyflood was loud as it thrust against the stone bridge and tumbled over the rocks that lined the riverbed.
Boromir shuddered as he recalled his crossing. He had been deceived by the shallowness of the water into thinking the passage would be simple, in spite of the wideness of the river. The water had indeed only been knee-deep, but the current was swift, flowing over shelves of slippery rock. He had led his horse across, picking his way carefully over broken steps of stone. But he had only reached midstream when his foot slipped and he had fallen, letting go the reins. Startled by Boromir's floundering and splashing in the water in an attempt to regain a footing, the horse had pulled free and dashed back through the water to the southern bank of the river.
With difficulty, Boromir had at last gained the northern shore. There was no sign of his mount anywhere; the animal had fled down the road and was lost to sight in the low hills beyond the flat leading up to the causeway. The wide river and miles of wilderness were now between them. Boromir felt no interest in making his way back through the treacherous waters to seek for a lost horse in the empty lands through which he had just passed; his own two feet would have to serve for the remainder of the journey.
Turning his back on the Greyflood and the ruined bridge, Boromir gazed northwards. Which way should I go? he wondered. How do I choose the right path? Should I head straight north across the downs where there is no discernable track? Should I take the northern road, which faint and overgrown, but runs straight and true? Or should I follow the River Greyflood back towards the northeast in hopes of finding someone who can give me some direction?
Straight to the north was a barren land of ridges, hills, and grass; Boromir knew that if he went that way, he would risk getting lost in the rough and roadless wasteland, without a map or a clear sense of direction. The road from the ford led away from the river in a northwesterly direction and offered a better way for travel. It was broken and decayed, but unmistakably the main road that had once connected the Southern and Northern kingdoms. That road would eventually take him to the old kingdom of Arnor and the Great East Road, which in turn would bring him to the mountains in the northeast where he was guessing Rivendell to be. That might be the best route for a man horseless and on foot, but Boromir was reluctant to go that way, for it was the longer road. It would be faster instead to go northeast along the river, following it upstream back towards the mountains.
Northeast with the river as my guide, Boromir decided. This is the best way for me. The burden of time is upon me, and my quest demands me to hurry; I fear to take the easier road and come too late to whatever fate it is that awaits me. Home is behind, the world ahead; I cannot turn back, so I must go forward and tread the path I have chosen, whatever comes of it. The shadows are lengthening, night will come soon and there will be nothing but stars and a pale moon to show me the road. I had best be on my way while there is light....
Boromir shifted his shield on his shoulder as he gave one last glance to the south. Then, turning his back on the road home, he set off down the far side of the mound, striding confidently towards the eastern arm of the river that would guide him to his destination.
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.