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[Index]

1

July 1, 3018--

“Amroth for Gondor! Amroth to Faramir!”

Boromir awoke, shuddering, and rolled over to look out the window. The sun was up, but only barely, and birds were singing their morning song. It was earlier than he had awakened in several days, for he tended to either brood most of the night away over the military paperwork generated by his upcoming absence, then fall into a heavy slumber and sleep till noon--or else go out and drink himself into a stupor. Faramir had had to put him to bed rather often of late. But last night, weariness of both body and spirit had finally caught up with him, and he had foresworn drink and sought his rest at a more sensible hour.

He lay blinking, collecting himself, shivering again as he remembered the dream that had driven him awake. His brother, in armor, falling on a battlefield. The girl, also in armor, trying to defend him, blood blossoming on her face. The girl again, plunging a dagger into a huge Haradrim’s armpit, trying to bring the man down. Her knife snapping against his armor, and the man’s scimitar taking her head off. His uncle’s Swan Knights, charging forth to drive the enemy back, but arriving too late for his brother. Prince Imrahil, his face grief-stricken, riding back into the City with Faramir’s trampled, blood-soaked body in his arms.

Was it merely a nightmare caused by the stresses of the last month? Or had the Dol Amroth gift come upon him at last, so late in life? Had his dreaming Faramir’s vision about the Sword been another example of the gift, or merely suggestion, caused by his brother suffering it so many times and describing it to him so completely? Several years previous, he had experienced what he thought might be one of the dreams--a rather jumbled, incoherent vision while visiting his brother in Henneth-Annûn--but had wakened with no surety of anything but the feeling that he had missed something important. Now that he thought about it, it too had contained his brother in full harness and a bloody-faced Hethlin, and his sense of unease about it at the time had been one of the things that had caused him to look the other way when Faramir made the young woman a Ranger.

Was this another vision? If so, was it a true one? Judging from the dream, things were apparently going to escalate more quickly before his return than he had thought, for he could not imagine why his brother should be in full armor instead of with the Rangers, and if so, why he was not at his side. Should he allow Faramir to seek Imladris in his stead? Was this something that was going to happen if he left, or would it occur no matter what he did? The images, despite their clarity, raised more questions than they answered, and for the first time Boromir truly understood Faramir’s frustration with his dreams.

During that same visit to Henneth-Annûn, while he had been helping Mablung tend Faramir, who had been wounded by an orc spear, the Ranger lieutenant had told him something interesting about his brother’s dreams. Mablung had spoken of an occasion when Faramir had sent a triple strength patrol to the Crossroads, a strategy based upon a vision he’d had the night before. The patrol had found a large contingent of orcs there, a force that would have easily slain the regular patrol. So it seemed that the dreams could serve as a warning, that there was truth to them--and that by taking correct action, one could change the outcome of the vision.

If that were the case, then how was he to stop the calamitous future he had dreamed? With a grunt, he rolled out of bed and began to attending to morning matters as he pondered the question. While he shaved, he looked into the eyes of his reflection in the silver mirror over his washstand as if that Boromir might know the answers that he did not. Faramir, felled by an arrow or dart. The girl, throwing her own horse at the Haradrim captain, and being downed. The girl, somehow doing the impossible, getting back up, standing over Faramir, leaping for her foe and driving the knife in under his arm. A well-placed blow, certain death had the knife not snapped. But it had, and the captain had killed her, then ridden over both her and his brother gleefully. Imrahil had slain him with vengeful fury moments later, but it had been too late for Faramir. And for poor Hethlin as well.

If the knife had not snapped,
Boromir wondered suddenly, and the Haradrim had been killed instead of the girl, could Hethlin have held them off long enough for Uncle to arrive? A silly idea, that one simple weapon could change the course of destiny. But then, Faramir’s vision was about a sword that is apparently very important…He groaned in frustration. I have no experience with dreaming, I am no interpreter of visions! This is something for Uncle or Faramir, save that I cannot bear to relate it to either of them…

If the knife had not snapped…


Boromir splashed cold water on his face, and looked again at his wide-eyed, damp-faced reflection. The water drops upon his cheeks looked like tears and a tingle ran down his spine.

The knife…

************

He knew exactly what he wanted, and knew as well that he would not find it in any weapons shop in the City, for the wavy-sheened steel that had come only from Numenor or the earliest days of the Kingdom was dearly valued by the old families, borne proudly upon belts in these days of war, or secreted in family armories. Why he felt that the blade must be sea-steel (for such was the metal called, either because of the wave pattern or because of its origins in Numenor) he did not know, other than that it was the hardest and finest available.

And so it was to his family’s armory that he went after a silent breakfast with his father. Denethor, not wishing to damage the tenuous peace that lay between them, had said very little, and Faramir had thankfully already been gone about Ranger business by the time he came downstairs.

In the armory, he found things much changed from his childhood memories, or even recent ones, for many weapons and pieces of armor that he clearly recollected were now missing.

The Heir to Calembel had that sword that looked naggingly familiar at Council but a few days past…and now that I think upon it, there have been the odd armor bits here and there… What has Father been doing? Raising funds to equip the army by selling the heirlooms of our house? I cannot fault his desire to save Gondor at all costs, but if he has been reduced to such strategies, then it is no wonder that he was so desperate as to try to extort money from Uncle!

I am not certain that I like the idea that Andra and I might have been doing Father a favor by giving him a way out of his financial difficulties,
the Steward’s son thought with grim humor, bracing against the inevitable ache that always came now when he thought upon his former lover. It looked as if he were going to have to take his search for a proper dagger into the City, and it was just the sort of errand he could have asked Andra to have accompanied him upon without suspicion, had his father not discovered them. He could have claimed he that needed Andra’s expertise to select the proper weapon and openly spent an entire day in his lover’s company. A chance to talk and be together, even in the limited manner that public scrutiny restricted them to, would have been a treasure beyond price.

We always had so little time…

With a sigh, he set out to comb the armorer’s area down on the lowest circle for the perfect blade.

************

Needless to say, there was no sea-steel available for sale in any of the armorers or swordsmiths he searched that day. So he resigned himself to simply finding the best dagger his money could buy.

It was while he was looking through the fifth and finest swordsmith’s shop, his personal favorite, that another solution to his problem came to him. There was a Ranger-style long knife there that suited him well, and he smiled in fond reminiscence at what Andrahar had said when he had proposed getting a longer knife. So he purchased it, and while the smith was putting an edge on his new purchase, he had him sharpen his old knife as well.

“It doesn’t need much, milord,” was the smith’s comment as he worked the grindstone. “Seems to have held its edge really well. What I can’t fathom is why you’d want another--not that I‘m complaining. I can’t make steel like this, and I’m the best blade-maker in the City. It is sea-steel, is it not?”

Boromir nodded. “Early kingdom, I think. My uncle carries the only true, documented Numenorean blade I know of. But of a certainty, it is very old. It was a gift from Father upon my fourteenth birthday, and I’ve carried it ever since. A good, honest blade and it has served me well, but I need something longer now for my sword-and-knife work.” The smith grinned.

“Becoming a Ranger now, sir?” Boromir fingered the edge of his new blade.

“Something like that.”

“Well, you be careful out there in the wilderness!” He handed Boromir the other blade and watched as the Captain General sheathed them both, then belted the new one on.

“Believe me, I intend to.” He paid the man and left.

************

Searching for the Ithilien Ranger out of its native habitat was far easier than tracking it upon its home ground. In the evening hours, Rangers could be relied upon to arrive at taverns to quench their thirst as faithfully as deer came to drink at streams at dusk. A search of taverns in the fourth and fifth circles soon yielded his quarry--a pack of already raucous Rangers in the Red Dog, who were celebrating the elevation of one of their number to the lofty rank of captain. Boromir approached the table with a grin, feeling simply happy for the first time that day.

“Congratulations, Captain Mablung,” he said, and all the Rangers scrambled to their feet, saluting in haphazard fashion. Hethlin was there, he noticed, in the chair closest to the bar--she had apparently been assigned or appointed herself to be the bringer of beer. A sound strategy, since she looked to be the only one not already a little tipsy. Her own mug was nearly full, and her salute was the sharpest.

“You know, it’s more insulting to him to do it that way than not to do it at all,” Mablung growled at his men. His salute, too, was passable. “Good evening, Captain-General, sir, and thank you.”

“Where’s my brother? I thought he’d certainly be here with you on such a special occasion.”

“On his way, sir. Harassing….I mean trying to persuade the quartermaster to give us some of those new supplies that turned up yesterday. He’ll be along in a bit. Would you care to join us?”

“Yes, I think I would.” He raised a hand and the tavern-keep scampered over to serve his illustrious guest. “The next round on me for these fine warriors.” The Rangers raised a cheer on his behalf, and he beckoned the tavern-keep closer. “And a bottle of the best sweet wine you’ve got, and two glasses.” The man nodded, and hastened off. “Captain Mablung, while we’re waiting for my brother, might I borrow Hethlin for a few moments?” The girl gave him a surprised look, and Lorend started to say something, only to be quelled by a look from his superior, and shoves from the Rangers upon either side of him.

“Of course, sir,“ the new-fledged captain said. Hethlin rose, and started to bring her tankard with her, but Boromir stopped her with a gesture.

“Leave that.” Following him over to an empty table in the far corner, she gave him a curious look, but there was no longer any of the wariness with which she had used to regard him when she had first joined the Rangers. Repeated meetings over time had convinced her that he was not an ogre. The inn-keep brought the bottle and glasses over when they had seated themselves, and drew the cork for him--an effort to provide civilized service that the Captain-General suspected other customers did not receive.

“What can I do for you, sir?” the girl asked, her husky voice soft. Boromir rather liked her voice--it was far preferable, in his opinion, to the shrill screeching of some of the court ladies.

“For a start, you can take a bit of this, and tell me what you think,” he said, pouring her a half glass, and a full one for himself. A quick sip assured him that it was not barely better than vinegar, but rather what he had hoped, full-bodied and sweet enough to appeal to an uncultured palate. She took a cautious sip, ale-drinker that she was, rolling it around on her tongue for a moment in a way that almost made him laugh, then swallowed.

“It’s nice, sir,” the girl said after a moment.

“Good,” he said, and took a drink himself. “I am going on a long journey in a couple of days, North to see about some possible alliances. I don’t know if you had heard or not.”

“No, sir, the Captain doesn’t talk to us about your business.” He smiled at the quick avowal. She was indeed protective of his brother.

“Well, it’s not a state secret exactly, I don’t think it would have mattered if he had,” Boromir assured her. “But I’ve been tying some loose ends up before I go, and I wanted to talk to you.” Puzzlement creased her brow.

“To me? Whatever for, sir?”

Instead of directly answering, he asked, “Would you give me your knife, please?” Surprised, she did as she was bidden, though a bit slowly, drawing the blade and handing it to him hilt first. He studied it for a moment. “Standard issue, I see. Though you keep a keen edge on it.”

“Father taught me how to care for a blade, my lord.”

“And your father had a blade worthy of such care,” he answered, indicating her sword. “But you’re a bit unbalanced, with a sword of pedigree like that upon one side, and this,” holding up the dagger, “upon the other. So I am going to remedy that.” He pulled his old knife from where he’d tucked it in his belt, and handed it to her. “This is for you.” She took it from him and simply held it in her hands for a moment, weighing it. Then, after a glance at him for permission, she drew. Her somewhat heavy brows arched as she looked at the watery sheen to the steel--she knew what she was looking at, he could tell.

“This is too nice for the likes of me, sir.”

“I want you to have it. It’s my old blade. I don’t know all of its history, but I suspect that it dates back to the early days of the kingdom at least. I am not much of a two-hand fighter, and I’ve purchased a new knife for my journey that suits me better. I figured it was best bestowed upon a Ranger.”

Hethlin sheathed the blade once more, laying it upon the table. “You should give it to one of the officers, then, my lord. Mablung, or Anborn or Damrod.”

“No, I want you to have it. But it comes with a price.” She gave him a sharp look then, or as sharp a look as a humble soldier of the rank-and-file dared give the supreme commander of Gondor’s forces. Boromir chuckled.

“Nothing like that, Hethlin,” and chuckled again when she turned beet red with embarrassment. She picked up her glass and took a gulp of wine to cover her confusion. “My reputation precedes me, I see. No, this is something that I don’t think you will mind doing at all. I just want you to stay with him.”

“The Captain, sir?”

“Yes. Keep an eye on him for me, particularly if you get into any battles while I’m gone. Stay as close as you can.” Comprehension dawned suddenly in Hethlin’s eyes.

“Have you had some sort of omen, my lord?” she asked softly. A bit surprised at her perception, Boromir took a deep drink of his own. An omen? I have seen you dead, and my brother as well. But I will not tell you that, lest it daunt you when the moment comes.

“Not a omen, exactly,” he said aloud. “More like a feeling. You know what I mean.” The girl nodded, and he knew that no further explanation was necessary. Soldiers were a superstitious lot, given the life and death nature of their trade, and believed in premonitions. And Hethlin, no matter what his brother might think, was a soldier born and bred.

“I would have done that in any event, sir. You don’t have to give me this.”

“But I have no use for it now, and it would hearten me to know that you have it. It will be as if I am still here, protecting my brother.” And I find a delightful irony in giving father’s gift to his best-loved son to the daughter of a man he disliked, who will in turn guard his least-regarded younger son…

Hethlin, who knew nothing of what Boromir was thinking, considered this for a moment, then nodded abruptly.

“Very well then. I thank you, my lord, for a beautiful blade, and I swear to you I will stay as close to the Captain as I can.”

“And I thank you as well, Hethlin. Your promise reassures me greatly.” She cast her eyes down, and took another careful sip of her drink, while Boromir drank rather more deeply of his.

“One more thing,” he said after some quiet time had passed. Thank the Valar that she is not the sort of woman who feels threatened by silence, he thought, who must fill it with her own chatter. The young Ranger looked up at him. “My brother….he is his own worst enemy at times. Too hard on himself, and prone to melancholy.”

“Too much book learning,” the girl who spent almost as much time reading Faramir’s books as he did himself immediately declared. “All those gloomy tales about people coming to bad ends. Just that Turin fellow alone is enough to make you want to throw yourself off a cliff, never mind the rest of them.”

Boromir, who was swallowing at that exact moment, started to laugh despite himself and took some wine in the wrong way. He began coughing, and after a moment Hethlin started to thump him between the shoulder blades, tentatively at first, then finally with enough force to actually help matters. When he could at last take a clear breath, he looked up through watering eyes to see the table of Rangers watching them with great interest. Hethlin did too, and glared at her comrades, whereupon they made a deliberate show of turning back to their own talk, with only the occasional glance in the direction of the corner.

“Indeed,” Boromir rasped when he could find his voice once more. “I think you may very well have the right of it. But whatever the cause, will you try not to let him get too despondent?”

“The Captain does have his moods,” she replied quietly. “We all of us know that. And those that have been with him the longest--Mablung and Angrim and Anborn and Damrod and some of the others--well, they know when to press matters and when to leave him be.”

“You know when to do that too,” he said gently. “I’ve watched you.” Hethlin blushed.

“That’s as may be, sir. But you need not fear--we all love the Captain, and won’t let any harm come to him. Even if the harm is coming from him.” Boromir leaned back in his chair.

“Once again, I find myself reassured. You are quite the comforting presence this evening, Hethlin.” She made no verbal reply, but merely a bob of the head not unlike what her habit had been when she’d been a mute, tragic refugee first come to Henneth-Annun. He considered her as she took another of those tiny sips, a rather ridiculous mannerism in such a large and healthy young woman, and smiled ironically as an idea occurred to him.

It is perhaps unfortunate that I did not insist that Father let me marry whom I would when I had him at my mercy. This poor, damaged child, who thinks herself no longer a woman--she would be a fitting mate for a man who has no use for women! We could lie down together chaste as brother and sister of a night, and hunt and fight together by day, and probably make a happy enough life of it in most respects. She does not annoy me as many women do, her presence is soothing, and there would be no children to worry over, to fear would come to harm from the Enemy’s hand or my own. As for Father, I cannot think of a bride he would find more unsuitable than the untutored farm girl daughter of the arrogant Ranger he found so threatening! It would be the perfect solution in many respects--other than the fact that life at court would make poor Hethlin miserable.

And there was at least one other problem with his little daydream, as he found but moments later, when Faramir finally arrived to join in the celebration. The Rangers roared out a welcome for their Captain, and Hethlin’s face lit up in a way that made it almost beautiful. The glow of loving devotion in her eyes made his heart thump painfully for a moment, for it was a reminder of what he had recently lost. And that pain made him less than charitable as he thought, Brother, you are a fool, not to see what a treasure lies beneath your very nose!

But he would say nothing of that ever again, even in jest, for the girl was under Faramir’s command. Even if he were reading Hethlin’s feelings correctly, any affair between the Ranger girl and her commander would be as inappropriate and illegal as had been his with Andrahar. And in truth, he admitted to himself, a good part of my annoyance may stem from the fact that my little brother seems capable of more self-discipline than I do!

He had done this day what he could to insure his brother’s survival, if he had guessed rightly. The girl had been encouraged to stay close to his brother and given the best arms that Boromir could provide. There would be few opportunities for bibulous comradeship in the immediate future, and since he had promised the Rangers, it was only fitting that he rejoin them. Also, since Faramir was now here, and could be relied upon to see him home, there was nothing to stop him from drinking himself once more into the oblivion that permitted dreamless rest. For he really did not want to have another prophetic dream that might tell him he had guessed wrong…..

“Come, Hethlin,” he commanded, rising to his feet and starting towards the Rangers and his brother, who was watching them with open curiosity, “and bring your glass with you. We will make a wine drinker of you yet.”

**********

September, 3018, the ruins of Tharbad

“Faramir is better by far in the wild. I fear you would starve in the wilderness without an aide to cook your supper!”

Andrahar’s loving, mocking words echoed in Boromir’s head, as he crouched miserably over an embryonic fire, trying to shelter it from the early autumn drizzle, which was all that remained of the pouring rain that had swollen the Greyflood. He had lost the Dol Amroth gelding this afternoon to the flooded river, and had barely saved himself from the torrent. Then he had been forced to travel a couple of miles downstream in the hopes that the animal had come to shore upon the same side of the river that he was on, that he might retrieve his possessions. Fortune had favored him that much, though he’d had to dispatch the poor suffering creature, still alive and impaled upon the branches of flood-wrack. He’d then returned to the ruins, hoping to make enough shelter that he could dry out and sleep warm, for the near-drowning had sapped his strength.

There, he had found a rough roof of old limbs and timbers, laid there by some previous traveler who perhaps had had cause to stay awhile. He’d added some more branches blown down in the storm, and the result only dripped a bit here and there. He’d wrung his cloak and spare clothes and blankets out as best he could, and built the fire just under the edge of the shelter, but knew there was no way with night coming on that they would dry. He would sleep wet tonight.

A sneeze shook him as he fed the fire a little more rain-soaked wood, which hissed and steamed but thankfully caught after a bit. It had taken a couple of hours to get that fire going, and a large pile of more branches and drifted wood waited nearby, sharing the shelter with him and hopefully drying a bit, for he had no intention of letting the fire go out. He then rummaged through his saddlebags and found that the only food that was still edible after the submersion was some cheese and a sausage that had been kept in an oilskin sack. He stuck bits of them on a stick, and toasted them slightly, that they should be warm, then ate them to the accompaniment of some treasured brandy he’d brought in a flask against just such a miserable day. It had been quite a while since he’d drunk anything--alone, he had needed his wits about him, and the rigors of the journey had tired him enough that he did not require it to sleep, as he had done in Minas Tirith. But no predator or robber in its right mind would be venturing forth tonight, and he felt he more than deserved the indulgence.

Another sneeze came as he was finishing his meager meal, and he cursed mentally, a chill of fear running through him. He did not need to be ill, all alone in the Wild as he was. Drawing his sodden cloak around him, he hunkered closer to the fire, hoping that the garment might hold a little of his body heat in, wet as it was. The brandy had warmed him a bit, and he stared into the flames, morose thoughts jostling in his mind.

No horse, hardly any food left, and no idea of where I am going, other than a suspicion that I’m nowhere near enough north yet. This was folly! I should be home, doing what I do best, defending our realm instead of playing the would-be Ranger! Andra was right--‘twas Faramir’s errand. Which led to another uncomfortable thought.

I never had that dream until I had usurped this errand for myself. Did I doom Faramir by taking this journey in his place? Were my efforts to ensure the girl’s survival so that she could save him mere futility? I wish I could know. And oh, how I wish that Andra were here!

Boromir smiled slightly at the thought of what his lover would have made of the flooded river. Andrahar was a competent swimmer, badgered by Imrahil in their youth into becoming such; but like a cat, he preferred to avoid such immersion whenever possible. If only we had not been discovered. I wonder if I could have persuaded him to make this journey with me? Probably not--he could not bear to leave Uncle’s safety in other hands for so long. But alone together in the Wild, we could have been ourselves without worrying about anyone seeing or spying or reporting to Father or causing a scandal. And I’d have certainly slept warmer of a night!

It was at night that he missed Andrahar the most, which was odd, since they’d certainly never shared a bed upon a regular basis. There was no real reason to feel that his bed was empty, when it had so seldom been full. But he did, and from time to time on this journey, he had indulged in imagining that his lover was there. A cruel indulgence, since such would never be the case again, but it made the quest endurable. Sometimes he could almost forget the oath he’d made to his father, envisaging a homecoming with the welcome he most desired, instead of the marriage to some poor unfortunate girl that actually awaited him.

He threw more wood onto the fire, building it larger and hotter, and a few minutes later stoked it yet again, so that at least embers would survive till the morning. Then he moved back deeper into the shelter, drawing the cloak about him, leaning back against the wet stone with his legs drawn up, imagining that he was leaning back instead against a warm, strong chest, that badger hair brushed his cheek. Another sneeze came, but no others, and eventually he closed his eyes, still seeing the flickering of the flames.

Horsemen, companies of them under a dark wall that he recognized as the black, invulnerable outer wall of the City. Swan Knights, and the little cavalry Minas Tirith possessed. His uncle, a look of furious impatience upon his face, Andra at his side and Cousin Elphir upon the other. There was a roar of distant battle, and horses stamped restlessly.

“We wait no longer!” Imrahil was saying, nay, snarling. Boromir had never seen his uncle in such a mood before.

“We were to wait for the signal horn,” Andrahar reminded him calmly, his demeanor as chill as Imrahil’s was hot.

“If we wait upon HIM, they will all be slain to the last man! We go NOW!” The Prince exclaimed, and rode his horse out to the front of the men.

“First, Second and Third Companies with me upon the left! Fourth, Fifth, with Prince Elphir upon the right/! Lord Húrin, of your courtesy, go with my son, please.” Húrin of the Keys saluted with his blade.

Caerith, catching the Prince’s mood, reared suddenly, and Imrahil spurred him on.

“CHARGE! Amroth for Gondor! Amroth to Faramir!”

A horn rang out from the walls above as the Swan Knights took up the call and swept forward, forming up flawlessly, with the Prince, Andrahar and the banner in the van. It was as if Boromir was with them, experiencing the thrill of the charge, dimly perceiving that there was some other rider ahead of them, some strange glowing figure.

Their goal was a mass of men a scant two furlongs distant. Men of Gondor, foot and horse and Rangers, hard beset by a horde of Haradrim and orcs. A chill shuddered through Boromir as the evil cry he’d first heard at Osgiliath rang forth again. Was there something circling about in the air? He could not see it clearly.

The Prince swept around the left flank of the enemy, his men hard-pressed to keep up with him. The Swan Knights hammered into the Haradrim and orcs with brutal force, and wails of dismay arose from the enemy as the finest cavalry in Gondor mowed them down. Imrahil and Andrahar were death personified, swiftly slaying anything that stood between them and their goal, and the enemy fell back, unwilling to face their wrath. A blue and silver circle of protection began to encompass the beleaguered men.

Boromir’s focus shifted…and there it was again, his nightmare. The Haradrim captain striking the girl from her saddle. The girl, getting back to her feet somehow, slashing desperately at his horse. The captain coming back in, the girl leaping for his arm, striking with her dagger into his armpit.


The vision rippled suddenly, like something seen through a rain-battered window, then cleared once more. He watched impotently, heart in his throat, waiting for the carnage to start, but…

The blade struck true, and the captain toppled from his horse, a surprised look upon his face. The girl looked surprised as well, as she staggered back to stand over Faramir, tears and blood streaming down her face.

“Ithilien! Ithilien to me!” Her desperate voice sounded thinly over all the din, as she slashed furiously at all who came near, her sword and dagger dripping blood. The dagger arm was not moving at all well, Boromir noted.

“Heth! Hold on! By the Valar, you hold on girl, I’m coming!” Captain Mablung had heard her, and Prince Imrahil as well. Both made their respective ways towards fallen Faramir. The enemy was retreating in confusion for the moment, and it did not take long for the two men to reach the girl, who, with no one left to fight, had sunk to the ground cradling Faramir’s head in her lap.

Boromir could not hear what was said as the Prince, all fury gone from his face, approached Hethlin cautiously and spoke soothingly to her. But he could tell from his uncle’s expression as he examined his nephew, and from the placement of the injury itself, that it was not fatal. Faramir had suffered worse, and survived. He even roused briefly to speak to Imrahil, before he swooned again. The Swan Knights clustered close to protect their Prince as Faramir was lifted carefully up to him, and then they began to make an orderly retreat back to the City, Mablung and Hethlin accompanying them. Faramir’s foot and Rangers had already gone in, and last of all, Imrahil carried him safely home…


Boromir awoke with a stuffy head and stiffened body, to a pale, watery sun that gave no real warmth, peeking through clouds that looked as if more rain could be on the way. Despite all his careful precautions, the fire had gone totally out. And he had no idea whether the dream of the night before was true vision or wishful thinking, any more than whether the original one had been true vision or a nightmare. But for some reason, despite all of that, he felt curiously comforted and hopeful, as if beyond expectation, some grace had been granted him. He ate cold cheese and sausage for breakfast, then set about making some sort of pack to carry his things with, now that he was on foot. As the morning progressed, as if in reward for his diligence, the sun came out to stay. He draped his things to dry over the ruined walls of Tharbad, and in between sneezes began to whistle.

[Index]

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