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Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice  by Agape4Gondor

Ch. 24 - Third Age 3017 - Part Seven - A

An hour after leaving the Mering Stream's Rohirric garrison, Boromir pulled up. Guilin did the same and waited. “I think it about time that the men have a day’s rest. The Mering is known for its fishing. Tell the men to dismount and relax. Any who want to throw in a line are welcome, as will their catch be welcome for nuncheon. We will resume our way to Amon Anwar after our meal.”

“Aye, Captain. It will be done.”

Boromir dismounted and walked away from the group. The sounds of their joy at the unexpected furlough echoed through the air. He could not help but smile; the smile quickly turned into a frown. ‘However am I to wed and be a husband and father? I will spend the next year on the northern borders and only return to the City at infrequent intervals. I will not even know the woman.’ He bit his lip. ‘Many before me have not known their spouses until the day of the wedding feast. Why should I be different? Though I had hoped…’ Sadness filled him. ‘I have thought of naught but war since I was six and now I am to put that all aside and think of home and family…’ He turned eastward. The foothills of the White Mountains lay before him. ‘If I but look in any direction, I can see the site of a battle long since past. Is this the legacy I want to leave my child?’ He shuddered. ‘The self-same legacy that Faramir and I have been gifted with. War and battle and death.’ Swallowing became difficult. ‘Even now, Faramir may lie dead on some patch of green in Ithilien. Do I want this for my son? How does father endure this? How does he send us off with the knowledge that he has? He knows more than I, sees more than I, and still he sends us out. And his people. He sees their suffering. I can think no further on this. I know my duty. It is the same as fathers. If I wed and have a son, I will,’ he drew a sharp breath, ‘I will raise him as a warrior.’ He turned back to his camp. He needed to hear the sound of soldiers.

They broke camp three hours after nuncheon. The sun had already passed well westward and was hidden by the mountains. Darkness began to engulf them as they entered the Firien. Light was the banter as they road towards the beacon garrison. Boromir’s heart had lifted as soon as he had returned to their camp. ‘My son could have no better life than this,’ he thought. ‘If only there was no war.’ The silence of the forest was hypnotic. ‘So peaceful, so green,’ he thought. He pulled his horse up. Something had caught his attention, but he knew not what.

‘Silence!’ He called to Guilin, but in the moment between his thought and his cry, the first scream rent the air. Orcs! A large number were coming from all sides. Guilin pulled his horse up close to Boromir’s; his drawn sword flashed in the waning sunlight. They were quickly surrounded. Men fell before they had unsheathed their swords. Boromir swore. ‘Where are my scouts? By the Valar, where are my scouts?’ But he had no further time to think. They were engulfed, encompassed and Boromir knew they were defeated. He looked about, trying to find some way of escape. The hoard was thick. Guilin fell, a dark splash of red quickly staining the front of his tunic. Boromir dismounted and tried to hold the man. He reached out and killed the Orc that had attacked him, but the Orc fell on top of him, its hard helm crashing down upon Boromir’s unprotected head. Boromir swayed and fell forward.

‘Silence.’ Tears filled his eyes. He lay still, waiting for his senses to return, waiting for the sword to slash through his tunic, waiting for death to come. It did not. He heard far off grunts and wondered who it could possibly be. He tried to open his eyes, but they were covered in some sort of film; a sticky ooze ran down his face. His arms still worked. He was surprised, for his head throbbed. He did not think any part of his body still functioned. He brought his hand slowly and carefully to his face and wiped away the slime. Trying to see in the blackness that engulfed him, he blinked and tasted a bitterness. ‘Orc’s blood; thankfully, not my own. But why does my head pound so?’ Slowly, memory returned to him. ‘Guilin!’ The grunts he had heard must be the Orcs. ‘But where are they?’ The noise was growing softer. ‘They are leaving. They take me for dead and they are leaving.’ He raised himself but found he could only move an inch or two. ‘Ah! The Orc still lies on my body.’ He pushed with all his might and his dead enemy slid off him; Boromir stood. “Orc's breath!” He swayed but fell to one knee and saved himself. He waited for the dizziness to subside, noting that the darkness was not from his wound but that night had fallen.

‘Guilin. He was next to me. Where is he?’ He stood. Bodies lay all about him. ‘The Orcs will be back to collect more food. I wonder why they left.’ He stumbled over Guilin and heard a moan. “Guilin?” The moan grew louder. “It is Boromir. Where are you hurt?” There was no answer. Boromir wished with all his might that there was more light. He remembered the slash across the captain’s chest. He touched it and felt the blood; it was cool. He opened his tunic, tore his shirt and stuffed it up under Guilin’s own tunic. Wildly looking about, he tried to remember where he was, what part of the forest this was. ‘There is a cave nearby, if I recollect rightly. It is only a furlong away to the south.’ He pulled Guilin to a standing position. “Please, Guilin. You must help me. Can you walk?” The man did not reply, only groaned softly. “I will take that as an aye. Now, we are going to walk a little way, a short distance. You can do that!” He wrapped Guilin’s left arm about his shoulder and began walking towards what he hoped was south. After many long moments, he felt Guilin’s body become heavier. He stopped and waited, listening. There was still breath. He began walking again, more slowly as the weight of the warrior increased.

After an interminable length of time, he felt the ground begin to rise. ‘We are near the foothills,’ he thought in relief. ‘The cave is here somewhere.’ They broke out of a part of the forest and into a patch of open land; the moon shone brightly upon them. Boromir offered a prayer of thanks to Ithil. Nothing was visible in front of him, but he saw a dark spot off to his left. He turned towards it, hoping it was the cave. Only moments passed and he reached the dark area. It was the cave. He sobbed in relief. ‘Empty,’ he prayed to the Valar, ‘please have it be uninhabited.’ He could not lay Guilin down to explore it; he would have to trust. He stooped and entered. The air was only slightly foul and dusty. It was empty! He sighed as he lowered Guilin to the ground. “Stay here, my friend. I cannot start a fire yet. The Orcs most likely are still about, but I know a stream that runs nearby. I will bring water. Be still until I return.” He hoped that Guilin heard and understood but he had not the time for a reply.

Another few moments and he was back, his water skin full. He helped Guilin to a near sitting position and offered the drink. Guilin swallowed a bit, then his head sagged. Boromir laid him back on the ground and took a quick swig himself. Then, he explored the cave. It was tiny, as he remembered. A twinge of remorse tugged at his heart. Faramir and he had played hide ‘n seek here when his father took them hunting as children. They had scared the breeches off Denethor when he could not find them.

He knew the cave fairly well. There was a second chamber behind the first. He could only crawl into it, the ceiling so low. Firewood and kindling, just as he remembered. He felt it in his hands and sighed. ‘I can start a fire here and it will not be seen from outside.’ He crawled back into the outer chamber, put his arms under Guilin’s still form, and pulled him into the back chamber. He started a fire. Then, he examined Guilin. The gash was long and deep. He held the captain to him and waited. Within the hour, Guilin died in his arms. He never woke. For some reason, comfort for himself, he could not say, he held the man closer. His throat tightening, he whispered, “You were a good soldier, Guilin. I am sorry we spoke hard words to each other at Amon Dîn. You will be missed, by your men and by me. I knew I had your loyalty, even when you said things that you knew I did not want to hear, but needed to hear. You were a good friend.” He choked and stopped. At last, he pulled the body closer to him and dragged it off to the side of the chamber. “When I return, I will bury you, I promise.”

He leaned against the side wall, next to the body of his companion, and waited for morning. He planned to leave at first light, go further up the mountain to the beacon garrison and bring back a contingent to find the Orcs and destroy them, then to bury their fallen. Closing his eyes for a moment, he relaxed. The cold of the earth about him felt good; his head still throbbed but at least he was able to walk. His head nodded. ‘I cannot sleep, not now.’ He could not walk in here so he crawled through the opening into the outer chamber. He sighed and walked to the entranceway.


Morning was almost upon him. Denethor put down the globe and leaned back, wearily wiping his brow. No sign of Boromir. He walked to the window and looked out upon the Pelennor. The stars were lost now in the faint hue of Anor as she began her climb from behind the Ephel Dúath. Resting his hands upon the sill, he closed his eyes. Whenever he looked westward, he felt strong. Even if he looked into Isengard, still he was able to watch without the horrid fatigue that assailed him when he looked eastward. And yet, eastward was the Enemy. Waiting and watching for him. Ready to pounce at the slightest sign of weakness.

He was tired. He had ridden late yesterday after having inspected the Rammas by the Causeway Forts and then, against his better judgment, the Rammas where it met the Harlond. Faramir was right, as usual. The Rammas needed improvements by the Forts. It should be raised at least another two feet. But the cost and the manpower were beyond Gondor’s ability at this time. Better to concentrate solely on the Forts and leave the Harlond for another year. The wall was still strong by the quays; the merchants who used the Harlond made sure of that. He remembered the vocal sessions trying to raise the tariff on goods coming in. They screamed their fury, but his logic had won out, that time. The Harlond was safe, for the time being. The North-gate. He had told Húrin that could wait for another few years, but in truth, it should be raised. Denethor shook his head. It would not be this year, nor the next. Perhaps in three years?

He covered the stone and walked slowly down the stairs. ‘Why does it not show me my sons? And yet, I saw them - dead.’ He shuddered; the stone would only show them to him when they were dead. So now he had to hope that he would never see that again. He leaned against the cold white marble and laid his burning forehead against it. The coolness sent a shiver through his body. It felt like the cold flesh of the dead. He clenched his teeth, fear and agony vying to undo him. He pushed himself away from the wall and continued to the Citadel’s floor. Imrahil was crossing the Courtyard and waived to him. Denethor stared. He wanted desperately to look to the past again, to find Finduilas and revel in the sight of her. He knew he could not. The last time he had done that, a month ago he thought, he had found it nigh unto impossible to break away. The stone held him. Brought scene after scene to his eyes, of her dancing, of the birth of his sons, of their times in Rohan. The weddings. He held his breath again. He could not look upon her.

As he came to the Great Hall, Imrahil greeted him. “I have been wondering where you went off to. It is almost time. Lady Míriel will arrive soon. Arthad has been a great help. Her quarters have been aired and cleaned. I think she will be pleased. The windows look south. Is there a reason for that?” He put his hand gently on Denethor’s shoulder.

“Not today, Imrahil,” Denethor whispered, not looking at his brother. “Not today.”

Imrahil took the man in his arms and held him. The stiff body would not yield. “I will not press you. She is happy, wherever she is.” And he let Denethor go and walked away.

Denethor’s knees buckled but he caught himself before he fell. Turning swiftly to the tunnel, he walked through and to the practice field. He spent an hour there, then refreshed himself in the baths and returned in time to break his fast with Húrin. Another day of preparation for war.


Boromir watched as the sky turned a lighter shade of black. The sun would rise soon. He must get away. He returned to the inner chamber and snuffed out what remained of his fire. He took some dried meat from his belt and quickly ate it, followed by a slug of the water. He should refill his skin before he left. He looked once more upon Guilin. Saluting, he crawled back out. The outer chamber was filled with the most hideous stench. Boromir looked up in surprise. Orcs filled the cave. He stood up, drawing his sword, and hesitated as the largest of the hoard laughed, if laugh it could be called. He stood firm as his heart sank.

When next he awoke, Boromir found that the pain in his gut far outweighed the pain in his head. He kept as still as possible, waiting for his senses to tell him where he was, who he was with, and what was happening. He knew he must still be in the cave for he could feel the cold floor under his back. He could remember nothing after he began hacking at the Orcs with his sword. He did not have long to wait.   

“Fresh meat. That’s what he is, fresh meat and ya’ll not be touchin’ him till I says. We head further up the mountain as soon as night falls. The others have all been cut and put in sacks; we’ll have enough meat to last for a week or more. Then, we kill this one. If’n ya have a problem with that, then stick yer head in Isengard’s fires.” A harsh laugh, the same one he had heard when first he was surrounded, burst forth. Boromir decided he did not like that laugh nor its owner.   

None noted that he was awake. If he could have, he would have smiled. It was a trick Faramir and he had honed over long years of practice. They had been taught, and well, how to keep their stomach muscles loose, how to breath little sips of air from the corner of their mouths, how to keep their eyes rolled up so that none could see any errant movement. They had sorely tried and many times startled their nannies.   

The pain, now, was almost more than he could bear; he found it more and more difficult to ‘play possum.’ He wondered how deep the wound to his stomach was, and if the Orcs had used poisoned weapons. ‘Not if they plan on eating me. Though I doubt their poison would harm them. And if they wait till nightfall, I’ll have bled out by then and will definitely not be fresh meat.’  

There was a stirring in the cave, a rustling of cloth, and suddenly all grew quiet. ‘They sleep,’ he marveled. He opened his eyes to tiny slits and looked around the best he could without actually moving. There were six of the beasts lying about the cave. He wondered how many might be in the back chamber and then almost gave himself away as he realized Guilin would be naught but bones. The sob caught in his throat and he almost choked. He closed his eyes, but too late.  

“So ya think ya’ve got me fooled, do ya?” The cruel voice laughed low. “I knew ya’d been awake all this time. Thinkin’ ya might be able ta escape?” A low rumble turned into dreadful coughing as the creature tried to stifle its laughter.

Boromir opened his eyes and looked full upon the face of his enemy. Never, in all the long years that he had fought Orcs, never had he spoken with one. His skin prickled at the thought, but somehow he had to keep himself alive, hoping against hope that someone would rescue him. He could not possibly escape on his own. And the creature knew it and reveled in that fact.  

‘How do I act? Do I speak? Do I give him homage?’ The question was moot as the evil thing kicked Boromir hard and slammed the breath from him. Blackness engulfed him once again.  


Vaguely, he remembered a tale his father had told him about being captured by Wildmen near this very same forest. Boromir tried to focus on the tale, anything to keep his mind off the searing pain in his gut, the feel of blood running down his side, and the fearful pain that lit his chest every time he tried to breath. ‘Ribs broken, probably.’   

“I see you,” the hideous voice whispered, then broke into another foul laugh.   

Was the filthy thing watching him constantly? Did it not sleep? Boromir’s mouth felt like death warmed over. It was dry and foul. He wanted desperately to ask for water. Instinct told him that he would be mocked and ridiculed if he asked. He smiled grimly. Water would not be forthcoming anyhow, more likely a swift kick. He tried to swallow and a moan escaped him. Under his breath,he swore every curse known to him, for the show of weakness.  

“I suppose ya want water?” The creature waited, and when Boromir nodded, it laughed, hissed, and kicked until, once again, Boromir lay senseless.  


He felt himself being pulled up. His head hurt, but that pain was o’er ridden by the fire in his gut. His legs were wobbly and prickled. He had lost feeling in them sometime during the day and could not stand. The foul creature that tormented him grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back. “If ya don’t walk, I’ll cut off yer fingers one by one. Then, I’ll eat each one before yer very eyes. And then I’ll cut out yer tongue and then yer ears. Ya can imagine where I’ll go from there.”  

Boromir grabbed the beast’s arm and pulled himself up. He took a step, and then another as he willed himself to walk. The Orc laughed and pushed him towards the opening of the cave; it was almost night. Boromir’s head hit the side of the cave as he was shoved through to the outside. He crumpled to the ground.   


“Faramir, you came,” the words hardly sounded intelligible, but he could tell from the gleam in his brother’s eyes that Faramir had heard and understood. Boromir shuddered in relief.  

“As soon as I heard, I was on my horse. None could keep me from you.” 

Boromir sighed. Faramir was here with him. A tear escaped his eye and he tried to brush it away, but his arm would not obey him.  

Faramir leaned closer. “Be still. You are sorely wounded.” 

Letting out the breath that he had unconsciously pulled in when the pain shot through his gut, Boromir tried to calm, tried to obey his brother. “I…” He found he could no longer speak. 

“Say naught, brother. Rest.” 

Boromir turned to look at Faramir. The sweet face beamed down at him, the ebony hair lay loose about his face, the hands held him and squeezed. Tighter and tighter until Boromir raised an eyebrow in concern. He heard a laugh and his skin prickled. Faramir’s gentle face grew longer, wider, grew into a hideous caricature of the beloved face. It was the Orc!  

“Faramir!” he cried in distress. ‘The beast has Faramir.’ He cried out in fury, “I will save you, little brother.” He reached for his sword and found it was not there. Blood covered his hand. He looked up to where Faramir had been just a moment before and saw him lying on the ground next to him, his face still serene, but his stomach split wide open. He screamed, “No! Faramir! No! I will save you. I will save you.” But nothing came from his mouth; instead, it filled with the coppery taste of blood. His own. He was dying. ‘Better to die at Faramir’s side than to live without him. To live knowing I let him die for me.’ He sobbed. 


“Does he live?”  

“I do not know. I will not give up though. Bring the torch a little closer. Boromir? Boromir!”  

“He is dead. There is no movement.”  

“I tell you we will hope. Is the leech come yet?”  

“She should be here any moment. ‘Tis a good thing we keep one at this outpost. If he lives, he would not survive to Edoras.”  

Éomer closed his eyes, lifted his heart to Béma and thought simply, ‘Do not let him die.’  

Boromir cried out in agony. Éomer gasped and took the beloved hand and held it. “Boromir. It is I, Éomer. I have come to help. Hold on a little longer.”  

Tears spilled from the closed eyes. Boromir’s hold on his hand was tenuous at best. “I want you to remember who you are. Boromir, famed Captain-General of Gondor, my friend. Do you remember the times we went riding together, when your family came to Edoras? Do you remember the times we would cut through the streets and alleyways of Minas Tirith in search of the perfect pint?”  

The tears flowed. “Boromir. I know you can hear me. I need you to hang on. Think of anything but the pain.” He took a deep breath. “Think of Faramir. He needs you. You know he does.” The hand tightened and Boromir’s face turned into a deep grimace. ‘What is wrong with Faramir,’ the Rohir wondered, ‘that the mention of him should bring such agony of mind? Oh! Béma, I pray Faramir was not here. Was not part of this company.’ Frantically he looked about, but there was no sign of any other, only the half-eaten corpse in the other chamber. ‘Too short for Faramir,’ Éomer shuddered. 

“Ah!” A thought struck him. “Think of your betrothal, Boromir. I hear it is soon. You will be happy; I know it. You will grow fat and lazy as she feeds you good foods, takes care of all your needs, loves and cherishes you.” The Rohir choked. “Boromir. You will return to Minas Tirith soon and to your father. He waits for your report.”   

Éomer bowed his head in grief. The leech entered the cave and stopped. “My lord,” she strode purposefully towards the Marshal. “Where is your wound?”  

“It is Boromir who is injured. Here,” and Éomer pointed to the blood-stained tunic. “It is deep.”  

She moved the tunic to the side and wondered aloud where the shirt was, but immediately began to pull the skin apart to see how deep the cut was. “Deep, but I have seen worse. He still lives and that is a good thing. Are we safe here?” she asked, looking about at the dead carcasses of Orcs lying about.   

Éomer motioned and his men began to clear the cave out.   

“I suppose it would be too much to ask to move him to a quiet, undisturbed corner? This dust will infect the wound.”  

“There is a chamber further back. Do you think it wise to move him?  

“We must. Orcs carry foul diseases with them. Their bodies have infected the floor here. Move him we must.”  

Éomer nodded and six of his éored picked Boromir up and easily moved him to the back chamber. The fire was started again and the room quickly warmed.   

“I will need hot water and lots of it.” She knelt next to the stricken man and opened a large pouch. Éomer could smell the medicaments and herbs. “Go away now. I will take care of him. If I need you, I will call.”  

Night turned into day and still Boromir seemed as if dead. Éomer sent riders to Amon Anwar; by noon a rider of Gondor came. The White Tree was emblazoned upon the man’s livery. Éomer kept his hand on his sword. He had no idea what would transpire here. This rider’s captain lay near death and in the presence of Rohirrim. There was no longer the open trust of a few year’s back; there was dissension and distrust. Éomer knew his life and the lives of his men hung in the balance with the words he was about to utter.  

He stepped up and saluted the Gondorian. “Orcs attacked your captain’s company. None but Boromir survived. He was alive, but barely, when we found him. My healer is with him now.”  

“Will he live?”  

“She believes he will.”  

“What was he doing here? I had no report of him coming to Amon Anwar.”  

“He came to the Mering to meet with me, as far as I can discern. I… I was not at the camp when he arrived so he left.”  

“I must notify the Steward.”  

“Boromir left a company at the Mering. When I returned from Edoras, I was told of Boromir’s arrival and later departure; I quickly left to follow him. We found the remains of a battle near the Firien, then followed tracks and discovered this cave and Boromir. The Orcs were holding him as captive.” He saw the man shudder and quickly continued. “We overcame them and released Boromir, but he was already grievous wounded. I sent a rider back to Boromir’s company at the Mering. I was told they dispatched a rider to Minas Tirith.”  

The man sighed and Éomer realized the Gondorian was glad that he did not have to be the one to send a rider. Such dreadful news for the Steward would not be well-received.  

“The garrison at Amon Anwar is too small. He should be moved back to the City. Yet, is he able?”  

“I think not. He began to bleed further when we moved him a short distance to the back chamber of this cave.”  

“May I see him?”  

“Of course,” Éomer said, surprised at the diffidence in the request. “Come with me.” 

Éomer bent to enter the chamber and the Gondorian followed him. He heard the man take in a sharp breath. Boromir’s face was covered with the black blood of Orcs, probably from the battle, and his tunic, laid to the side, was drenched with his own blood. The wound gaped open, wide and ugly, while Boromir’s sides were purpling into nasty bruises. “Kicked a number of times, I think,” Éomer explained.  

The Gondorian clenched his fists. “You spoke of a company of men with Boromir. Where are they now? Why did they do nothing to protect him?” Anger flared in the man’s eyes and Éomer pulled him back into the outer room.  

“They are all dead. We found sacks with their remains… we found them dead. There was one in the other room with Boromir, but he is… dead too.”

The man nodded, walked to the entrance, and hurried outside. Éomer heard the retching and left the man alone.   

“Faramir,” the voice was weak.  

Éomer ran to Boromir’s side, but his friend was still unconscious. ‘I must find out if Faramir was part of this sortie. If he was, Béma help us. I will then have to search the sacks.’ His stomach roiled at the thought. “Send a rider to the Mering. Ask the Gondorian captain if Lord Faramir was with Captain-General Boromir.” One of his men saluted and left.  

Éomer slumped to the floor; this was turning more hideous than ever. If only his sentry had used common sense and had been civil to Boromir. He knew, from the accounts he had heard when he reached his camp, that things had gone horribly wrong. Boromir had been affronted and left. Obviously, Boromir planned on returning when he found that Éomer himself had returned. Théoden’s orders were firm, yet this was the son of Denethor! He swore under his breath. His men milled about waiting for their Marshal to calm. 

“Forgive me,” the Gondorian said in embarrassment as he reentered the cave.

Éomer waived the apology aside. “Nothing to forgive. Will you send a patrol to see if there are more Orcs about the area?” 

“I have already ordered it. My men left the outpost as I was riding here. Your rider told me of the attack. Hence the swiftness of my arrival. I am grateful.” 

“This should never have happened. Did you know of Orcs in the area?” 

The man paused and Éomer wondered at the rift that was slowly building between Rohan and Gondor. 

“We did not. I wondered if Rohan knew.” 

“There has always been Orc activity upon these foothills, but I knew of naught in recent days. I just returned from a sortie to the Emyn Muil. There, we fought and slew every Orc we found.” 

“I am sorry for the hesitation. I have heard rumours that Rohan…” 

“That Rohan does not abide by its oath?” 

The man blushed this time and for that, Éomer was glad. “This is something that must be stopped. I know my men are at fault also, but we both watch this border: you on the Gondorian side and my men on the Rohirric side. We must cooperate.” He wanted to add ‘whether our leaders cooperate or no,’ but he didn’t. “Have you orders to keep silent?” 

The captain drew in a firm breath. “We do not! If we had heard, we would have sent a rider to your outpost.” The unspoken rebuke hung in the air. 

“Then you have Rohan’s gratitude. What is your name?” 

“Mardil. Captain of Amon Anwar. And yours?” 

This time, Éomer blushed. “I am sorry. I am Éomer, Marshal of the Riddermark. I thought you knew else I would have introduced myself. I am humbled by your trust, answering my questions without reservation.” 

“The Rohirrim are our allies. Is there aught I should have done?” 

“Nay. And I will make sure your Captain-General knows of your sense of duty. I am proud to call you ally.” 

Mardil smiled. “As am I.” 


Morning came and with it, a deep sense of urgency. No Orcs had been found; the Gondorians had come to the cave and reported to Mardil. This did nothing to lighten the mood of all present. Boromir was failing. Though the wound was not poisoned, he had lost a large amount of blood.

Mardil sat next to Éomer. “I think we must move him to Minas Tirith else he die.” 

“I agree but the ride will probably kill him.” Éomer clenched his fists in anguish. “Gondor… Nay! Rohan cannot afford to lose such a warrior as he.” 

“The longer we wait, the worse it will be. I can have two companies here within an hour. That should be enough.” 

“I will come with you. I must… The Steward will want a full report and I am duty-bound to give one.” 

“I will accompany you.” Mardil left the cave and Éomer heard him shouting orders. Within moments, the Gondorian patrol was gone. 

Éomer called his own aide over and commanded him to bring Boromir’s company from the Mering. 

Mardil stopped him. “If relations are as bad as they seem at the Mering, I will go with your errand-rider and bring the company back myself. I do not think they will obey you.” 

Éomer nodded. “I will have Boromir ready. You should be back by noon?” 

“We should, barring any further attacks.” 

“I will, with your permission, send out two companies into Gondor, along the West Road, and have them scout before us.” 

“Aye. My outpost will be close to depleted with the two companies gone. I will send one of my men with your scouts else they be accosted by mistake.” 

Both men knew it would not be by mistake, but they kept their thoughts to themselves. Mardil left shortly thereafter and Éomer went to prepare Boromir for the trip to Minas Tirith. 


“Give me this night,” the healer pled when Mardil returned with Boromir’s remaining company. “It is already past noon. You will only have a few hours to ride. He is weak; I must put fluids back into him.” The leech stood before Éomer. “It is well to take him to Mundberg, but not tonight.”

“I agree. What say you, Mardil?”

“If she thinks she can help strengthen him further, then it would be best to wait. I have syringes at the garrison if she needs extra.”

“Syringes? Do you mean syrinx?” the healer looked at him quizzically. “For what?”

“For putting the fluids back. How else?” He looked at her in horror. “You would not…? A physic? That practice has not been used for a hundred years! Not for replacing fluids!”

“It is safe and done in the King’s own hall,” the healer sputtered. “I have done it since I was nigh unto a babe. How else indeed? Not with some sharp thing that could puncture him!”

“Of course it would puncture him and put the fluids where they belong, in his body!”

The healer stood up, straight and tall. “My way will not puncture him. Now, leave me and let me do what I must. Marshal,” she turned to the dumbfounded Rohir, “I need to make a broth, of beef if you have any.”

Éomer nodded and left the chamber, pulling Mardil out with him.

The Gondorian pulled up once they had left the inner chamber and grabbed Éomer by the arm. “I will not allow it. It is barbaric!”

“Have you any skilled in using the syrinx?”

Mardil shook his head. “Nay, but you cannot allow her to do that.”

“We have no recourse. He is not awake. We cannot force the fluids down his throat. He will choke and eventually it will bring lung sickness. It must be this way, at least until we reach Mundberg.”

“And why does he not wake?”

“The Orcs saw us and panicked. They pushed him. He hit his head on the cave’s entranceway right before we rescued him. I think he must have a héafodwund.”

“A concussion?”


“Did you check his eyes?”

Éomer looked at the man with disdain. “We are not barbarians as you seem to imply.”

“I am only concerned for my captain. These are questions you would ask also, if our roles were reversed.”

The frustration in Mardil’s voice touched a note in Éomer’s heart. “You are right. But you must let the healer do what she can. Without this, he will surely die.”

“I… I will stay with him while she does it.”

“Of course. As will I.”

The night proved extremely long for Mardil. Boromir’s body was limp and non-responsive. Even during the physics, he did not move, nor moan. By the time morning came, Mardil was exhausted. He looked at the Rohirric Marshal. The man’s eyes were closed, but Mardil knew he did not sleep. The healer had left the chamber to try to sleep a little before they broke camp. Mardil wished with all his heart that he could do the same, but if Boromir died while he slept…. He took a huge gulp of air and Éomer opened his eyes.

“Is aught wrong?”

“Nay. We must break camp soon and leave.”

“Is he worse?”

“Nay,” Mardil shook his head in frustration. “But he is no better. We must leave now.”

“I will assemble the men. We can break our fast on the road. The handcart has been made?”

“It has. It is ready to carry him. It is strapped to his own horse. Odd that the horse survived the Orcs’ attack. Usually they eat them, too.”

“Boromir’s horse has been in the thick of battle too many times. It knows to run and then return, once the battle is o’er.”

“Then it will be well for Boromir to have his own horse pull him.”


Faramir returned to Minas Tirith three days after Denethor’s visit to Osgiliath. He walked slowly into the Great Hall, expecting to see Denethor. The Steward sat in the Chair. He had been hearing the grievances of his people and giving his judgments. Faramir stood in the back by the entrance hall and waited. The Chamberlain whispered in Denethor’s ear, when he caught sight of the Steward’s son; Denethor raised his eyes from the man in front of him and looked down the hall. He nodded and Faramir smiled in acknowledgement. The young captain went directly to Denethor’s private study and waited.

“It is good to see you here,” Denethor said as he entered the room. He poured them both glasses of wine and handed one to Faramir. “I had not expected you for another seven or eight days.”

Faramir had almost jumped when Denethor spoke; he had been lost in thought. But now, he stood, greeting his father with a warm hug. “I… My heart is heavy and I know not why. I thought… I thought you might have word of Boromir?”

“Nay. He should be on his way home by now. I have not received any missives, which is sometimes unusual for your brother.” Denethor smiled. “Or not.”

Faramir chuckled. “More likely, or not, with Boromir. Probably has been having too much fun. Hunting and fishing along the way. Singing and dancing in the evenings. He is unattached for only a short time more. Probably savouring the moments.”

Denethor stood by the window and looked northward. “I wish he would send a rider. I am anxious to find how his dealings with Éomer progressed.”

Faramir stood behind Denethor, scanning the northern horizon himself, but for a different reason. Two nights before, he had a hideous nightmare. He had seen Boromir covered with blood and lying in some filthy cave, an Orc standing over him. The dream repeated itself last night also. He left Osgiliath looking for answers. Though now that he was here, he could not bring himself to ask Denethor, but he was worried.

“You do not look as if you rested at all while at the garrison, Faramir. I thought I asked you to take care of yourself?”

“I did, Father. I rested whenever I was able.”

“Which, by the look of the bags under your eyes, was not often. If Boromir comes home and finds you in this state, he will be quite put out. And will probably blame me.”

“Nay, Father. He likes to blame Fëanor.” Faramir smiled at the old joke. “But you do not look much better, Father. Have you not slept?”

“Imrahil shoes me to bed every evening before the mid night hour. I can hardly get any work done. But I am well.” He did not mention the horrid dreams he had been having. No sense in upsetting Faramir. He looked down into his wine glass. The red was the same red as Boromir’s blood, in his dreams. He held himself so that Faramir would not see the shiver that tried to shame him.

“Are plans going well for the betrothal?”

“They are, much to Arthad’s dismay. I put the young aide in charge of the ceremony and all the other attendant parts of it. He is quite good at it, but I understand he is not very happy about doing it. I think he is more unhappy that he is not with Boromir, than unhappy with his duties.”

Faramir smiled. “Arthad is a good man. I believe Boromir wants to make him captain of Cair Andros next year. He trusts the man implicitly.”

“He plans well. Everything is running smoothly. If the woman came tomorrow, I believe we would be ready for her.”

“I wish she would. This waiting is interminable.”

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