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Chapter 24 - Part Eleven
When the meal was over, Denethor insisted that Belegorn sit and eat, but the man was constant. He cleaned off the table, rang for Denethor’s manservant, and asked to be excused. A quarter of an hour later found him back at Denethor’s side with the newest dispatches from the riders. He stood at attention. At last, irritated beyond belief, Denethor insisted that the man at least stand at ease. Belegorn nodded his head and relaxed just the slightest. His Steward sighed. A moment later and there was a knock on the door. Belegorn came back from answering. “It is Captain Hirgon. He says he has an appointment?”
“He does.” Denethor shivered imperceptibly. “Give me another moment and then let him in.” Denethor walked into his bedchambers and looked out upon the Pelennor. ‘How do I tell him? How?’ Another moment passed and Denethor walked into his study and motioned for Hirgon to sit. Belegorn stood by the door. “Please leave us.”
“I cannot, my Lord.” Belegorn’s face contorted, offended. “I was told of the…”
“I said you might leave. I trust Hirgon with my life.”
Belegorn nodded and left, his hand fingering his sword hilt as he did so.
“My Lord Steward. There is naught that we could not discuss with your aide here at your side. It is his right and duty.”
“You deign to give me counsel?”
Hirgon’s face turned red. “You know I live and breathe the laws of Gondor, my Lord. That is why you gave me the captaincy of your errand-riders, is it not? By right, your aide should be at your side at all times, whether or no you trust the person you are with. I give not advice, my Lord Steward. I remind.”
Denethor would have smiled had the seriousness of the upcoming discussion not pained him so. “I deem you are correct in this; however, it is the Steward’s right to decide for himself.” He hefted a great sigh. “Hirgon, I have news to tell you that is heinous.” He carefully watched the captain’s face. “It is about your brother.”
“I have not seen him since I returned from Cair Andros. What has he done now?”
“Why do you ask?”
“He is known for his… lack of discipline.”
“Your brother was found a murderer – and a traitor.”
Hirgon’s face bled white. His mouth opened, his tongue lifted and touched the roof of his mouth. He swallowed hard. “He will be – hung?”
“I am sorry, Hirgon. I did not know he was your brother nor that you were Berelach’s sons. He was tried and hung a week ago.”
The soldier’s teeth clenched. “When will my mother and I be banished?
“Hirgon. I cannot banish the son of one of my dearest friends. I have moved your mother into a house on the Fifth Level. You will not be punished, nor your captaincy taken from you.”
“It is the law, my Lord Steward. You cannot thwart the law.” The man’s eyes appeared red. His hands shook.
“I can and I have. I want no further discussion.”
Hirgon fell to his knees. “I must once again pledge my loyalty, my Lord Steward!”
“Nay. The oath was taken upon your commissioning. I will not ask for it again. Hirgon, you have shown yourself a trusted warrior of Gondor. Do not push me on this. I have decided and made it so.”
The knight rose and saluted. “May I go to my mother?”
“Yes. My aide will tell you exactly which house is now your family’s. Hirgon, once you have visited her, come back here. I would share a… Come back here.”
“Yes, my Lord Steward. And thank you.”
Denethor waived him away. His aide entered. “I am sorry, Belegorn, there are things that must – ”
“No need, my Lord Steward. Is it time for a brandy?”
Denethor smiled. “It is.”
It was quite late when Hirgon once again stood before Denethor. The warrior knelt as soon as he was admitted and Denethor had to force him to stand.
“The house you have given my mother, my Lord Steward, it is too grand.”
“It is not. Its owner abandoned it many long ages ago. It needed someone to care for it. As for your farm on the Pelennor, I want you to know it is still yours. If you need to go there to care for it, now and again, let your captain know you have my permission.” He acknowledged Hirgon’s gratitude. “Now, will you share a glass of brandy with me?”
After they sat and drank for a bit, Denethor asked him, “My son Boromir, how fared he?”
“Well, my Lord, though he seemed angry at the contents of the missives. Nay, not angry, frustrated.”
Denethor smiled. “Of course. Did he leave for Cair Andros then?”
“He did. He sent me off with the missives I brought back and they broke camp that very day.”
“Do you know aught of his plans?”
“Nay, my Lord.”
“Tell me a little about your father. I only knew him as a warrior; I did not know he had family. Did you always live on the Pelennor?”
They talked long into the night, sharing stories of Denethor’s friend and Hirgon’s father. At last, Belegorn coughed discreetly.
Denethor smiled. “Go now, Captain Hirgon, and take a well-deserved rest. I am waiting for missives from Faramir. When they come, please bring them here, no matter the hour.”
“I will, my Lord Steward. I thank you again.”
“I will not hear it again, Captain. I owe your father my life and perhaps Boromir’s life. I have been remiss these many years. Go now.”
The Palantír was cold to his touch. It had been days since he had last looked, but he could stand the suspense no longer. The fields north of Cair Andros were clear; there were no signs of Easterlings or battle. Denethor groaned in frustration. No sign of Boromir, of course. But he had at least hoped to find something. If, however, he was ‘allowed’ to see the area of the Nindalf, then the battle was over. If Boromir had been defeated, there would have been bodies strewn about. The Easterlings would not have bothered to bury them. Unfortunately, there were no burial mounds at all. ‘Is this the present?’ Denethor had to wonder. There was almost no clear delineation between the past or the present or even the future. How was he to know what he was looking at? ‘Ah, of course,’ he sighed, ‘only by the landscape. If it is the present, I should recognize it. Before the Battle of the Dagorlad, the marshes were not so wide spread. What I see is at least…’
He moaned in frustration. He could stand it no longer. Anor was rising; she would creep over the mountains within the hour. He must get some sleep before the duties of the day began. He covered the globe and walked slowly down the stairs. Belegorn met him at his quarters, a deep scowl upon his face.
“I cannot guard you, nor aid you as I would, if you continually keep me from your side, my Lord Steward. Have pity on me, I beg you. I spent my nights here, watching and waiting, pacing your floors.”
“From now on, Belegorn, I promise, the only time you will not be at my side is when I visit the upper chamber. There, none may enter. Upon pain of death.”
Belegorn nodded. “There is a missive from Dol Amroth.”
Denethor took it from his hand and walked quickly into his study. He read it standing, for it was very short, obviously not from Faramir.
“Ask for Húrin to attend me.”
Within moments, the Warden of the Keys stood before Denethor. “Come, help me break my fast.”
Húrin grimaced. “You did not sleep again. I can see it in your eyes. What am I to tell Boromir when he returns and wishes to cut my throat?”
Denethor chuckled. “Tell him we spent the night playing Noddy or some such. I know not. Just sit, please, I have had enough strain for the nonce. I would speak of lighter things.” Denethor’s face contorted in grief. “By the all the Valar, there is hideous news from Imrahil. Míriel is dead, Damrod has been wounded, and Galador has been banished to Ras Morthil”
Húrin sat heavily in the proffered chair. “How?”
“I know not the details. Imrahil promises to send a full report immediately. He thought it imperative that I know at least a little before any rumors began. Have you heard any?”
“Nay. I have heard naught of this. I cannot take it in.”
Belegorn brought over a small glass of brandy and handed it to Húrin. The Warden looked up in surprise. “Thank you,” he said bemusedly. He turned to Denethor. “I cannot remember the last time one of your aides gave me brandy.”
“Belegorn is quite good at his duties. I think I will keep him.” The smile was strained. “I am afraid for Faramir. There must be a connection with Faramir’s visit and Míriel’s death, but for the life of me, I cannot fathom it.”
“Damrod would let naught happen to Faramir.”
Denethor bit his lip. “Perhaps that is how Damrod was wounded.” His mind whirled in a thousand directions. His aide stepped forward and refilled his glass, then stepped back.
“We must call a Council meeting. One is past due. I believe it should coincide with the feast of Yáviérë. Imrahil will come for that. If Faramir has not returned by then, I will pry the details out of the Swan Prince if I must. I do not like the brusque way it is written. There is more here than meets the eye.”
“I agree, Denethor. Would you want me to go to Dol Amroth? The feast is still more than two months away. I can be there and back before then.”
“Nay. If there were danger to Gondor, Imrahil would have brought the missive himself, or at least instructed Faramir to return immediately. Since Faramir is not here, and neither is Imrahil, I must surmise we are not in mortal danger. Not yet.” His brow furrowed. “I need further tools. I cannot govern Gondor without knowing more.”
“None know as much as you, Denethor.”
“The Rammas. Have the reinforcements begun?”
“They have, Denethor. The Causeway should be finished by next spring, if the winter is not too harsh. I have already started plans for the Harlond. That should be next, though it is well tended. The storehouses, those homes that we altered, are still not full. The burning of the Anórien fields has greatly crippled our attempts to stock extra supplies. The people, I am afraid, may yet this winter face rationing of foodstuffs.”
“When the invitations for the Council meeting go out, make sure there is a request for an inventory of all the fiefdoms’ food supplies. Also, while we are about it, I want to know their weaponry. An inventory of those also, Húrin.”
“Good thought, my Lord.” He sighed. “I would have them list their plans for housing for the possible refugees. Though I truly dislike even thinking of an evacuation.”
“As do I, Húrin, but it must be dealt with. I agree with that listing too. I believe we should consider scheduling two days for the meeting, what think you?”
“I agree. The lords will strongly protest, but I think the agenda is already full and who knows what tidings Boromir may bring from the north.”
“Wisely said. Two days then. That means accommodations must be prepared for those lords who have no second homes here. With Arthad gone, whom will we command to handle these affairs? I do miss the man. He was an excellent organizer.”
“Boromir may return in time – early enough for Arthad to be commandeered again and used. I do like the man myself. Not many have the enthusiasm and organizational skills that he does.”
“Then it is settled. It will be held two days before Yáviérë. Sign the missive. I do not need to see it. If you find someone you think can help before Arthad returns, use him. I wish Indis were here. She would love to prepare for this.”
“She would have loved to prepare for Boromir’s wedding. I still do not understand and it troubles me greatly, Denethor, the news you have had from Belfalas.”
“Let us not be concerned with that until we learn more, Warden. Now, it is time I meet with my people. Is the Chamberlain ready?”
“He is, my Lord Steward. The Hall was filling as I came over here.”
“Then let us go.”
Boromir stayed at Cair Andros for another fortnight. The captains, rare that they were able to meet with their Captain-General for more than a few hours or a day at most, were grateful for the opportunity to spend time with him. Maps were brought out and updated, rosters were discussed, though the filling of them depended entirely upon Faramir’s attempts to wrangle more men from the reluctant lords of the southern fiefdoms, and battle strategies were discussed. In between, they practiced new techniques that they found had helped them in this last battle. Always, the enemy had created some new armor; many lives were lost until someone could determine how to overcome it.
When it became nigh unto time to leave, Boromir found himself strangely reluctant. Egalmoth lit the brazier in Boromir’s tent and proceeded to make his morning tea. Boromir dunked his hands in the washbasin and quickly pulled them out again, sputtering in shock. “It is freezing! Did you not heat it?”
“I was watching over your tea.”
“Of course you were.” Boromir stayed his tongue. “Would you heat some water so that I may at least lave my face?”
“Right away. Here, I brought this from the captain’s quarters.” He moved forward with a pot of boiling water, tripped on the main post of the tent, and fell forward. Boromir just missed being severely scalded by stepping off to the side.
Just then, Beregond entered the tent. The smile froze on his face as he looked from one man to the other. Boromir’s look told Beregond that his Captain-General was very close to cutting off his aide’s hands. “I beg your pardon, Captain Boromir. I have some things I wished to discuss with you regarding Amon Dîn. Might I have a moment?”
“Yes.” He waved for Egalmoth to leave them. Swearing under his breath, he went to the brazier. The lad had failed to light the charcoal and the brazier was cold.
“Let me, Captain.” Beregond expertly lit the charcoal and used some sticks from a faggot nearby to complete the task. Within a moment, the fire filled the tent with warmth. “I will return in a moment.”
Boromir sank back onto his cot. ‘When I return, Míriel will be there and I will have to spend time with her.’ His thoughts were interrupted as Beregond brought in a pot filled with hot water.
“I decided to borrow some from the men’s fire. They were glad to share it with you.” He smiled. “It is an honor being here with you and they are most grateful.”
“I owe them much. They are good and stalwart men. I trust them. I wonder how many other captains can walk into battle with the knowledge that their men stand behind them, ready and able to do their part?” He turned at the groan from Beregond. “Is something amiss?”
“I do not know if I can do this. Being a lieutenant was not difficult, but being a captain?” He swallowed hard.
“You did well during the battle. Your men trusted and followed you.”
“They only did so because they are good men, as you have stated. They would have followed a… a mûmak.”
Boromir laughed roundly. “But one has to watch where one walks when following a mûmak!”
Beregond joined in Boromir’s laughter, then sobered. “I do not think I should have been promoted.”
“Beregond. Sit. Please.”
“I am sorry, Captain. All my life I have spent as a lowly soldier. I was not pleased when I was raised to lieutenant last year. I know Gondor needs captains, but there are so many others who are better equipped to carry that load.”
“Like Egalmoth?” Boromir grimaced.
“I am not ungrateful; I just do not feel I am what Gondor needs. Demote me. Let me be your aide. I beg of you. That is work I am suited for.”
“Beregond, your father has been a great captain for Gondor. As his son, it is only right that you continue your family’s proud tradition. I have every faith in you, as does my father. Else, he would not have promoted you. I cannot do this.”
Beregond stood up. “I will lead the men to death! Do you not understand this? I have neither the wit nor the courage to do what Gondor asks of me. If you persist, if you do not demote me, then I must do something to earn demotion. Disobey an order, defame the Steward, something!”
Boromir stood in alarm and grasped the man’s arms. “You risk hanging,” he hissed, “and disgrace for your family.”
“Boromir, if I make a mistake, if I make a wrong decision, I can lose a whole regiment.”
“Sit,” Boromir motioned and sat himself. “I know the fear you speak of. It is ever with me. I have lost more men than I can remember. But Beregond, Gondor desperately needs good captains.”
“I am not one, Boromir! In the month’s that I have served as captain, I have discovered that failing.” The man fell to his knees. “Please. Take me as your aide. What greater service is there for a soldier than to care for his captain?”
Tears filled Boromir’s eyes, as he finally understood. “You would do this for me?” When he had finally caught his breath, he said, “Egalmoth is not that bad. I cannot let you do this. Please, do not ask again.”
Beregond stood, shoulders sagged. “Let me at least help you prepare for your journey. Your aide is not about, again.”
Boromir nodded, his mind still awhirl at the level of loyalty and love he felt from Beregond.
The soldier began packing, then took Boromir’s sword from its sheath.
Boromir groaned. “Yester eve, I asked Egalmoth to take it to the smithy so that it would be sharpened for my ride home. I see he did not.”
“I would have,” Beregond whispered.
“If I demote you, what excuse do I use that would shame you and your family the least?”
Beregond looked up, hope plain upon his face. “Dereliction?”
“All know you are as far from dereliction as Anor from Ithil!”
“From my men then. I have been with you all morning. It was my duty to be with them, help them prepare for the journey back to Amon Dîn.”
Boromir smiled warmly. He placed his hands on Beregond’s shoulders. “You do not have to do this. It will remain on your record.”
“Have I not pledged all for Gondor? Shame is naught if I can serve you. I will explain a little to my father. He will understand and agree. My Captain, do it now, here in the field, then I will serve you till I die.”
“Who do I appoint in your place as Captain of Amon Dîn?”
“Hirgon. I served with him at the Causeway. He is ready. Or Galdor. He serves here at Cair Andros under Captain Hador. He could be sent today! Ask Hador what he thinks.”
“Very well, But I will have you know I do this under duress. If not for the need of a sharp sword…” He smiled and hugged Beregond. “Welcome, Aide. Now, send for Captain Hador. I hope he does not object too strenuously.”
Beregond poured Boromir another cup of tea, saluted, and left the tent singing a bawdy tavern tune.
Boromir’s brow furrowed as Egalmoth entered.
“Here is your hot water, Captain.”
Boromir kept his face still. “Thank you, Egalmoth. I have some good news for you.”
The ride to Pelargir lasted overlong, in Damrod’s estimation. They stopped at every town, hamlet, village, and settlement that happened to be within ten leagues of the road. Damrod knew why. The Steward’s son did not want to go home. The news of Míriel’s death had to have reached Denethor by now; going home would make no difference. Except for the grilling that the young man would have to endure. But Damrod felt certain the Steward would understand. None of this was Lord Faramir’s doing. As they sat around a fire one evening, when meeting and greeting another Lord of Gondor had seemed too much for Captain Faramir, Damrod had tried to reassure the man. However, the captain would have none of it. Looking into Faramir’s gray eyes, Damrod’s loyalty seemed to reach new bounds. Faramir was one of the bravest men he had ever served under, even, in his own way, braver than Captain Boromir, yet to be afraid of one’s own father. He clenched his teeth and kept his tongue.
“I know you do not understand,” Faramir finally spoke. “The Steward is a wise man and, if it was anyone but me, would accept my report, backed by yours. However,” he paused, trying to put his feelings into words for he felt he owed this man, of all men, an explanation. “I have made some mistakes in my dealings with those Lord Denethor deems ‘suspect.’ Nothing that would harm Gondor, only myself,” his self-deprecating smile endeared him even more to his underling, “but which makes my fa – makes the Steward question my judgment.”
Damrod sat in silence, but his blood began to boil.
“And judgment is the key in this situation. I foolishly accepted the Lady Míriel as a friend, because of – well, it makes no difference why.” He did not want to bring his uncle’s hearty approbation for the woman to mind. If Imrahil had not been so enthusiastic… But he could not lay blame upon his uncle. As soon her intentions had become clear to him, he should have run the other way. Instead, he was involved in a rendezvous with the woman in his mother’s private gardens. How to explain this to his father? No matter how hard he had tried in the past, his father could read his mind, of that he was certain. Yet, he was innocent. She had waylaid him. “Orc’s breath!”
“Captain. There is naught anyone can do when a woman sets her claws into a man. Your father… The Steward is not a farm boy. He knows the wiles of women. Do not be concerned. Tell him the details and he will accept them.” Much to his chagrin, Faramir would not listen. He tried again, “The Steward will know from your reports that you have appointed yourself well on this trip. Do you not have o’erwhelming pledges from the lords for men and coin? Is that not why you were sent on this mission? It is a success.”
“Míriel is dead and naught will be worse than the telling of that affair.” Faramir shook his head at the ill choice of words. “It is past time. We should return to Minas Tirith. Tell the men we move out in the morning. We stay in Pelargir for two nights and then leave on the third morning.” His aide stood to leave. “Damrod. I do not know what I would have done if Boromir had not sent you with me. Thank you.”
“It is my duty, Captain, naught more.” But the man left him with a smile upon his face and Faramir saw it.
A measure of peace came to him. If men such as Damrod listened and obeyed him, even offered their life for him, perhaps the future that so daunted him was not as bleak as he imagined. He entered his tent and pulled the covers over his face.
In the morning, they broke their fast before the sun broke the sky. The road to Pelargir was well tended, not like so many others they had crossed on their journey. Faramir had made a listing of those roads in dire need of repair. One of the many reports that Faramir would be presenting to Denethor. The list of reports had grown long as their journey progressed. Faramir ticked them off as he rode, not watching the road, but letting Damrod lead them.
By nightfall, they were only a day’s ride from Pelargir. A company of soldiers had been sent out to meet them and a camp was already set. Faramir gratefully sank into the cot prepared for him. He smiled. The captain of Pelargir, what was his name? Gwinhir. That was it. Gwinhir had sent him a luxurious tent with a cot covered in furs, fresh fruits, wines and meat, and new clothes to replace his travel worn outfits. Faramir shook his head. The man was naught but organized. He chafed at the expense, but was too tired but do aught but luxuriate in the feel of it. He slept immediately.
In the middle of the night, he awoke, screaming. Damrod was at his tent door immediately, calling in after him. “I am well. I am sorry, Damrod. A dream, only a dream.” He sat up and shook until his teeth chattered. He had had this dream before, many times, but never so vivid. The wave crashed and rolled, climbed over beautiful, lush, green lands, over hills rampant with sheep and cattle, across great rivered valleys, and inexorably over even the tallest mountain. He saw people running, screaming in terror, as the darkness unescapable, came and covered them. He saw them drowning, trying to fight there way to the top of the crest, but all in vain. They died, screaming, their faces distorted in terror. He sobbed. “Father!” he whispered brokenly. “We are drowning.”
“The tent is from Lord Amandil. He hopes it served you well. He asks for an audience sometime during your stay at Pelargir. At your convenience,” the man intoned.
Faramir sat in wonder, his tea held loosely in his hand as the servant of Amandil bowed low. Damrod stood by Faramir’s side. “Once I arrive at Pelargir and have my schedule before me, I will contact your lord. Please thank him for his kindness.” The man bowed and left.
Faramir turned to Damrod, amaze writ upon his face. “I do not know why the old lord would want to see me. I have wracked my brain, but there is naught I can do for him.”
“You are the Steward’s son. Mayhap he needs a favor from your father.”
“Amandil is a member of Denethor’s Council. He knows well that my father rarely grants me any favor. I have no sway over the Steward’s will. Well, be that as it may, let us be off. I want to reach Pelargir by early evening. Tell the men and the cooks we will eat nuncheon as we ride.”
“I am very grateful that we do not have to strike this camp, that Amandil’s servants will do that. The tents are large and there are so many. ‘Twould take half the day to pull everything down and pack it. I must admit weariness over such things.”
Faramir smiled. “And yet you do it so well, Damrod.”
Laughing Damrod saluted and left to prepare their departure. Whether or no they were striking camp, still much needed to be done before leaving this camp.
Anor was setting as they approached the city of Pelargir. Captain Gwinhir stepped out of the garrison’s gates and motioned for them to stop. “Lord Faramir. Welcome to Pelargir. You have been missed. However, much as I would wish you to bivouac here at the fort, Lord Amandil has procured a house for you, near the breezes of the Anduin. He begs you to accept it whilst you stay in Pelargir. This guard will take you there, if that is your command.”
Faramir’s brow furrowed. “Is that the only message he gave you?”
“Only one more. That I have been invited to your house for the daymeal, less than an hour from now. Will you be ready by then? Have washed the campaign’s dust from you?”
At that Faramir smiled. “It does not take much to wash if there is a tub, which I am assuming this house has. I think I would like a bath very much! So, I will accept Lord Amandil’s gracious offer and see you there at the twelfth hour. In the meantime, would you make sure my men are cared for? Damrod, come with me.” Faramir saluted and turned to follow the guard.
They rode easily, for the first time in months, for his father was not expecting him back for at least another fortnight. Boromir’s mind was ill at ease. Some sense of impending doom. He cursed quietly and rubbed the wound. It still ached, especially after a long day’s ride. If his father every knew… At that, he paused. There was little one could hide from Denethor, but this he must. He had not rested as he had promised. Every day had been filled with either riding or battle. And the cold nights spent on the ground wrapped in a too-thin blanket had not helped. His wound definitely ached, but it was closed and there was no sign of ill health.
To take his mind off the pain, he began to count the duties he would have to face once they reached the City. The beacon-hills must be reassessed; defense plans made against siege towers; repairs to the Rammas; new weaponry; and so much more. Oh! He had forgotten the trebuchets. Add to that – Míriel.
Beregond rode to his side. “Time to pitch camp?”
“Yes. I need to walk about, try to clear my mind.”
“There is much to prepare.”
“The Rammas. Yes.”
Beregond smiled. “I meant the wedding.”
“It is that plain, my disquiet?”
“It is, my Lord. The Chamberlain will handle the details. There is not much you need concern yourself about.”
“It is not the ceremony that vexes me.”
Another smile, this time wider. “The wedding night?”
Boromir’s jaw dropped. “I fear not that night. I fear the years that stretch ahead of me.” He dismounted as the company halted at his command.
“I am sorry, my Lord. Mayhap… ”
“Say naught more, Beregond. It is known about the Citadel that I am not her preferred companion.”
“None would say that aloud, my Lord.”
Another low curse.
“I cannot understand why the Lord Denethor insists you wed at this time. There are so many details that must be attended to from the Rammas to the beacon-hills.”
“You read my mind, Beregond. However, my father’s will must take precedence to mine. He is the wiser one; I must obey.” He handed Beregond his reins. “Have the men set up camp. I am going for a walk.”
Beregond took the reins and began to shout orders. Controlled chaos reigned as Boromir trudged northward.
After walking a half league or more, Boromir paused, brow furrowed at the sight of wagon marks well away from the road. He walked further, almost a full league, and stopped in horror. Two smashed wagons lay toppled on their sides; soldiers’ bodies, fly-covered, lay about; horses, half-eaten, were strewn everywhere. The smell was beyond endurance. He covered his mouth, walked a few yards back the way he had come, leaned over and lost what little was in his stomach. Would his body ever stop betraying him like this? He tore a piece of cloth from his shirt, covered his mouth and nose, and walked back to the carnage.
Two wagons. It was Orcs, of course. He wondered where they had been bound. The men of Gondor seemed to have been attacked at least a fortnight ago. There were nigh unto fifty bodies, another twenty horses. How many had been taken captive to serve as food when the foul creatures were once again hungry? He swore again, this time shouting out the words, but naught eased his heart. At last, not being able to find any recognizable features on any of the men, he turned back to where his own men camped. There was no risk, at least at the moment, for his company. His father would know where this sad group was heading and which captain had led them.
Beregond saw him walking and ran to his side. “Is something amiss, my Lord?”
“Supply wagons attacked about a league from here. Send a burial detail. I recognized no one.”
“Yes. Though no signs of torture; I am certain they have carried off some of our men.”
“Your tent is set, Captain. I will see to the detail.”
“Thank you, Beregond,” Boromir whispered and walked slowly to his tent. The men parted as he passed, but he had not the heart to speak with them. As he prepared to enter the tent, he paused and looked back. Twenty men were saddled and heading north. He pulled in a breath to stop the tears. Weariness closed in upon him. Pulling the flap behind him, he lay on his cot, arm flung over his eyes, and wept.
The house that Lord Amandil had procured for him was spacious to say the least. It was on a small hill overlooking the harbor, close enough to enjoy the cool breezes during the summer, but far enough away to keep the smell of the city from causing discomfort. Faramir sat on the terrace overlooking the Anduin and at last let himself relax enough to ponder the last month’s events. Damrod had been correct; he had done everything in his power to lengthen their journey. And it was not for Damrod’s sake, though he was most grateful that his aide was healing, and well. The truth of the matter was - he did not want to meet his father’s scrutiny over the death of Míriel. He was at once embarrassed and disheartened. The glass of wine in his hand was untouched, his brow furrowed, and that is how Lord Amandil found him.
“My dear Lord Faramir,” the man exclaimed loudly, “you will spill your wine if you do not pay more attention to it. Is it not to your liking?”
“It is most excellent. However, my journey has been taxing and I am enjoying the view and the comfort of your benevolence. This house is spacious and most comfortable.”
“I am glad you approve. I had a few properties that I perused before deciding upon this one for your stay here. I am disturbed to discover from your aide that you only plan to spend two days in our fair city. There is so much to see and discuss. I had hoped we could examine the armaments and perhaps inspect the men?”
“And what else would you have of me, Lord Amandil?” Faramir was weary beyond endurance and had not the strength nor the heart for subterfuge. He had been unable to discover what Lord Amandil wanted and it irked him.
“My Lord Faramir,” Amandil fairly bristled, “I have only the weal of Gondor ever in my thoughts. We, the entire city, rejoiced at the news of your coming. A banquet was planned for the night after next.”
“My Lord Amandil. Forgive my brusqueness. I found the journey wearisome. I was taken with fever for a time and I do not believe I have quite recovered. Give me a night’s rest and I will listen to your suggestions for Pelargir. Are the plans for the banquet complete?”
“I did not know,” the man apologized profusely. “I will leave you. The banquet can be canceled. If there is aught you need, do not hesitate to ask the servants. Your word is mine. Shall I send my personal healer?” Faramir declined and the man nodded and left.
Faramir leaned his head in his hands.
“Are you truly not well, Captain?” He heard Damrod’s voice behind him.
“I am beginning to think I have not recovered. My head aches and I feel chilled. Unfortunately, they have prepared a banquet. It would be wise if we should stay for an extra night.”
“Of course they have. Have we not endured many feasts on this trip? I am tired of the rich food; it will be good to return to Ithilien and simple meals. I fear, though, it should be off to bed with you before I risk the ire of your father. I am ready myself for a good night’s sleep. The beds are soft and clean.”
“Ah,” Faramir smiled, “soft and clean. What more could a man ask for?” He stood up. “Damrod?”
“Do you know what Amandil wants? Have you heard aught since we arrived this afternoon?”
“I have not.” He paused.
“Out with it!”
“He has a granddaughter.”
Faramir groaned. “Valar preserve me!”
“To bed then, Captain, for you will need all your strength on the morrow.”
Faramir’s groan turned into a soft curse. He nodded and left his aide. The bed was soft and clean, yet his heart was pounding. “I will not listen. I will suggest he meet with father at the Council meeting. There must be one planned soon. There must be.”
He slept fitfully.
Fury and utter helplessness roiled through him as Boromir recounted the carnage he had seen. “The enemy knew!” the Steward’s eldest shouted, his voice grown hoarse, “knew that Amon Dîn was short-staffed, knew that we were north in battle against Easterlings, knew our wagons were on the road, knew we were helpless…” He screamed the last and pushed hard against his desk. A heavy crash and the desk overturned. Sudden silence filled the room. Boromir looked on in horror as papers gently wafted to the floor. At last, he whispered, “We have no hope.”
“There is little hope, but what we have, we will guard,” his father answered quietly.
“Nay, Father. We have no hope.”
“You have forgotten Faramir’s hope in the king’s return?”
Boromir snorted in derision. “The king. What need have we for a king who comes when all of Gondor is lost? The kings we had were weak. So were the Stewards before you. There is no hope.” His voice had grown flat and hard.
“Come into my chambers. Let your man clean this up. We will sit and drink a little brandy and mayhap speak with the wizard.”
Boromir looked up in surprise. “Mithrandir is here?”
“He is. He awaits Faramir.”
“Of course. And they will read poetry and discuss Elves and all will be lost.”
“Boromir! Speak not such bitter words. All is not lost. Not yet.”
“You did not see, Father! You did not see what I have seen these past months.”
“I have seen such sights before, Boromir,” Denethor’s tone was gentle. “All my life I have seen such sights.”
“And my children will see the same. Father, I cannot wed, not now. Mayhap never. I cannot leave such a legacy.”
Denethor drew in his breath. He had forgotten in the fury of Boromir’s pain. “Come into my study now, Boromir, as I had commanded you to an hour ago.” Denethor turned and strode from Boromir’s chambers. His son nodded to his manservant in apology and left.
As he entered Denethor’s study, he was surprised to see Húrin and Siriondil there. He nodded to the Master Healer. Boromir so missed Arciryas that it was difficult to look his replacement in the eye. “Warden. It is good to see you again. Is your son well? He is stationed at Linhir, is he not?”
“That he is, Captain-General. His first assignment.”
“Ah, yes. I have not seen him in over a year.” Boromir found he could no longer speak in a courtly manner, so he closed his mouth and sat heavily on Denethor’s settle. Húrin’s brow rose, but he said naught.
Denethor entered from his bedchamber, a rolled missive in his hand. “I must read you something, Boromir. But first I must ask Siriondil to look at your wound.”
Boromir sat forward and began to protest.
“I saw you flinch just now when you tried to stand. And I noted you held your stomach after you attacked your desk. Do not try to hide things from me, Boromir. Siriondil,” he motioned and the healer went to Boromir’s side. With barely suppressed anger and some chagrin, Boromir stood, took off his tunic, and lifted his shirt. The healer’s hands pressed and a stifled moan escaped the young lord’s lips.
“You did not rest?”
Boromir did not answer.
“A week’s rest at least, my Lord Steward. Else I will have to move him to the Houses. The wound is not infected, but it is tender. It should have lost that tenderness by now, if Captain Boromir had obeyed my orders.”
Denethor nodded. “Thank you. You may go.” He waited till the man left, then turned to Boromir. “I will not chide you, but I do not like you disobeying me. Remember that.”
His tone was soft and low, but Boromir knew he had been severely reprimanded.
“Please sit and listen. Húrin, would you pour Boromir a brandy? And yourself one too.”
Húrin nodded and filled three glasses, giving one each to Denethor and Boromir and finally settling himself in an armchair to the right of Boromir. He slowly sipped the drink and waited; he knew the missive that Denethor carried.
“My Lord Steward,” Denethor read, “I have the unfortunate duty to inform you of a grave matter.”
“Nay. Sit now and listen,” Denethor’s voice was crisp and firm. “It is from your Uncle Imrahil. It is about Faramir but there is naught to fear; he is well. Now, let me continue.” He waited until Boromir sat once again.
“I have not had to write such a hard report in a very long time. I beg you to know that your son, Faramir, had naught to do with the happenings, except to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Boromir made as if to stand, but Denethor’s withering gaze stayed him. “There was an accident. The Lady Miriel is dead.” Denethor paused.
This time, Boromir stood slowly. He walked to his father’s side and put his hand on Denethor’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Father.”
“You know of her fondness for Faramir,” Denethor continued. “She assumed it was returned. When he did not meet her at a time she appointed, she rode from her home to Dol Amroth. The road is treacherous in part and she was distraught. She rode too close to the cliffs; her horse fell; she fell with it. Lord Galador was in pursuit and saw the accident. He came to report it to me. I will tell you that we had her mummified and buried in state in the crypt at my palace. After an appropriate mourning time, Faramir left. He is continuing his journey and will pass through Pelargir before he turns north for Minas Tirith.
“Please accept my deepest sympathies for the loss of your future daughter-in-law. Please extend these sympathies to my dearest nephew, Boromir. Other circumstances surrounded her death, but I will make haste to personally bring you those tidings. I leave within the week. Respectfully, Prince Imrahil.”
“Has he arrived?” Boromir asked quietly.
“He has not.”
“Were other missives sent? Did not Faramir write a report?”
Boromir turned towards the window and looked, with unseeing eyes, upon the Pelennor. “I should be sorry. I am not. Nay, I am sorry for her mother and father. It is a terrible blow. We expect men to die, for battle wages all around us. But to have such a young and vibrant woman…” Boromir rubbed his face with his left hand. “It is not right.” He sighed wearily. “Would you have me go to Dol Amroth and offer my condolences to her family?”
“Nay. Imrahil has done our duty for us. When the Council meets on Yáviérë, you may extend your sympathies to her father. Besides which, my Master Healer has ordered you to rest. I need you here in the City, Boromir.”
“May I go, Father?”
“Nay, Boromir. I deem it not well for you to be alone at this time. Húrin was about to give me his reports on the Rammas. I thought you would be interested.”
Boromir nodded wearily.
Boromir woke with a start to hear whispers coming from his father’s dining room. It had been a very long time since he had fallen asleep during a meeting. He wondered, briefly, what his father would say, but of more concern to him was the fact that Anor was setting; the Pelennor was almost black. ‘My men!’ he thought. They were to meet for the daymeal and here he was. He rose and heard his name called. “Yes, Father, I am awake.” Walking into the outer chamber, he stopped in surprise.
“Well met, young lord,” Mithrandir smiled at him.
“My Lord Mithrandir. It is good to see you again.”
“Not from what I hear. Poetry and such, bah!”
The smile on the wizard’s face gave away the remark for the jest it was, but Boromir, nonetheless, was disconcerted. “Forgive me. I spoke rashly.”
“Nay. When your brother and I get together, we tend to babble.”
Boromir smiled broadly. “Then sometime, mayhap, I might join you?”
“Boromir,” Denethor interrupted. “Beregond was here and took a message back to your men. You will meet in a tavern, he said, on the Fourth Level. That is not the ‘Three Fishermen’ by any chance, is it?”
Nodding his head and not taking the bait, Boromir sat at table. Immediately, Denethor’s man brought out a salver filled with food. “What were you two discussing when I entered?”
“The Rammas. Your father thinks he should let the North Gate alone until the rest of the changes have been made. I disagree.”
“But Rohan guards our border.”
“You yourself, if I am correct, know of the attacks to the north. I deem it unwise to wait.”
“He has a point, Father,” Boromir spoke between bites. “The wagons were attacked with impunity.”
“You listed the reasons they were attacked, Boromir. Those reasons will now be corrected. Never again will I leave Amon Dîn so poorly manned.”
“That will help,” Boromir conceded. He took a long drink of wine and then stood up. “If you will forgive me, Mithrandir – Father – I would bathe before I meet with my men.”
Mithrandir’s laughter rang throughout the room. “You would eat with us unwashed and yet meet with your men bathed. Have they not endured your stench these past few months?”
“I am sorry,” Boromir colored. “I did not realize…”
Denethor put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “The wizard teases you, Boromir. Go now and attend to your needs. I would meet with you on the morrow. There will be a Council during Yáviérë; the schedule is already filled for two full days.”
“Thank you, Father. I will break my fast with you tomorrow.” Surprisingly, his father took him in a warm hug.
“Rest tonight,” he whispered.
Boromir returned the embrace. “I will.” He nodded to the wizard and left them.
“He is suffering from the wound still?”
Denethor looked closely at him. “He is. Again, I find myself perplexed. You know more than I give you credit for.”
“I only watch. He grimaced when you embraced him. I do not think it was from discomfort at your show of affection.”
Denethor laughed heartily. “You are wily. I think we can now continue our game.” He strode to the study and pulled out the drawer that contained their ‘Kings and Stewards’ game. “I believe it is my move?”
The wizard sat across from him. Lighting his pipe, he continued where they left off. “Rohan will guard your borders only until they are attacked somewhere else. I deem it unwise to leave the North Gate last for refitting.”
“Do you know something about Rohan that I do not?”
“I think not. You see more than many, my Lord Denethor. What do you see?”
Denethor’s brow furrowed. “I see a friend in a spiral of decay. I see a great and courageous mind lost to confusion and… poison? I see him trusting a wizard’s pupil.” A slight chill ran down his back, but he stayed the urge to shudder.
“A wizard’s pupil? I have no pupils.”
“Are you the only wizard in the land? I think not. Though I believe my son listens to you with unbridled devotion.”
“Faramir is your son. He thinks for himself, though he deigns to give an old man respect.”
“I do not?”
“You show it on the outside, but I doubt there is any in your heart.”
At this, Denethor shivered. “I value your opinions but I will not obey you just because of who you are. You are right in saying I see much. I have seen things which cause me to question your motives.”
“If you speak of my relationship with your father, then you are correct. I deemed your father wiser than you. However, you have grown in wisdom since then.”
Giving a low chuckle, Denethor moved a piece. “I begin to question. I do not accept what you say without balancing it against all I know.”
“Your son questions you and for that you deem him my pupil. Do you not wish, Lord Denethor, that you had questioned Ecthelion?”
Denethor drew in a sharp breath. “Yes. I do wish that.” He shivered again. “But I would still obey him.”
“Faramir obeys you.”
“Not always. Not always.” He grew silent and did not note when Gandalf moved his knight.
Another moment passed. The wizard waited. “Check,” he repeated at last.
Denethor looked down at the board in surprise. “Will you be here for the Council meeting?”
“Do you want me there?”
“I do. I want you ever before me.”
“So that you can watch me?”
Denethor smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “Yes.” He lay his king down. “I fear I have lost.”
“Just this round, Lord Denethor, just this round.”
Faramir sat at Amandil’s table and tried to hide the grimace. Not only had Amandil a granddaughter, but also a niece. He was telling how his own daughter had been considered as a mate for Denethor before Prince Adrahil offered Finduilas. The man’s tone was harsh and bitter. Faramir had all he could do to contain himself. The effrontery! To speak of his grandfather in such discourteous terms was bad enough yet, the man did not stop there. The tone he used when he spoke Finduilas’ name held only contempt. Faramir at last could stand it no longer. “Thank you for inviting me to your home and the wonders of your table. I must prepare to leave though. I have extended my stay two days beyond my original plan. My father awaits my reports. You know it is not wise to keep the Steward waiting. As for your proposal, I will carry the missives to the Lord Denethor. I will ask him to make time to discuss them after the Council meeting.”
Amandil sputtered and Faramir knew the man was furious at the early leave-taking, but it could not be helped. If Faramir stayed any longer, he was afraid he would gut the man with his dirk. Damrod saluted and stood between the two.
“All of Pelargir will be sorry to see you leave, my Lord Faramir. My thanks for sharing my table. Nerwin, Mithrellas, offer the Lord Faramir your thanks for spending time with us this evening.”
Both women bowed their heads. Nerwin giggled and Amandil sputtered even louder. “The girls will be coming with me to Minas Tirith for Yáviérë. They have not been to the City before. Perhaps you could arrange an escort to show them about?”
“Of course. I will see to it. Again, my thanks for your hospitality. Come, Damrod.” He saluted, followed the servant out and left the palatial home quickly behind him.
“I think you can stop running, Captain. None seem to be following us.” Damrod started laughing.
“I am not running.”
“For all intents and purposes, Captain, you are running. I can hardly keep up.”
“Damrod, I am sorry. Is the wound…?”
“Nay, Faramir, but the laughter is too much to continue at this pace. You should have seen your face when he brought those women into the room. I thought I would have to pick you up off the floor.”
“He said naught about presenting his granddaughter and niece. I was taken unawares.”
“You almost chocked to death on your wine. He could have warned you,” his aide grinned.
“How do I get myself into these predicaments? The Valar must hate me.”
Damrod started choking. He stopped and bent over. Faramir shoved him. “Stop it now!”
“I am sorry. I have too good a memory. The look was beyond price.”
Faramir stopped and leaned heavily against a wall. “I am definitely doomed. I will not take them around the City. I have learned my lesson.”
“Thankfully, it is your brother’s hand that Amandil seeks for those he loves. You are not worth much as of yet.”
Faramir started laughing. “Poor Boromir!”
Damrod joined him and the two men leaned on each other as they made their way back to their quarters, laughter causing them to stop many times on the road.
“It is time we began the preparations for the Council meeting, Húrin. We have the agenda already set, but we must prepare as many reports as possible to present to the lords. I want no arguments this time. I want everything made clear to them so they do not question me.”
“A good and sincere thought, Denethor, but do you truly think the lords will not question you?”
Denethor snarled. His guard entered the room. “What is it?”
“Prince Imrahil requests an audience.”
“Imrahil. I did not hear the call. Send him in. Send him in.” He rang the bell and his manservant entered. Quickly he gave orders for food and wine, then turned to Húrin. “Did you hear his horns?”
“Nay. Did he not want to be heralded?”
“I know not. Ah! Imrahil,” he stood and embraced the Swan Prince. “Welcome. Did you not bring an entourage? I heard no trumpets.”
“Only a small company, my Lord Denethor. I must return to Dol Amroth. My stay will not be long. In fact, if I have my way, I will leave tonight.”
Denethor looked in surprise at the man. “Come into my study.” He led the way, offered a chair to Imrahil, and sat behind his desk. “You come to give me report?”
“I do, my Lord Steward.”
“It is serious then. You use my title.”
“I will not beguile you with words of comfort. A wanton act of treachery occurred in my city. I have come to beg your forgiveness and to ask your will in the matter.”
Denethor sat back. His servant entered and Denethor nodded that Imrahil be served first. The prince declined. Denethor waved the man off and sat forward. “Is there a written report?”
“Nay. I deemed the matter too… delicate.”
“Begin then. I will try not to interrupt.”
Imrahil told the whole tale, evincing every detail. At the end, Denethor sat back. “So my son is an idiot and your cousin is a wanton woman!”
Imrahil stood in fury. “Say naught about Faramir. He appointed himself well. As for my cousin, I bid you speak not ill of the dead.”
“My son would now be buried in your vaults if not for his aide. I will speak of her as I will. Galador has been banished to Athrad, you say. I want him here, in Minas Tirith, for trial.”
“My Lord Denethor,” Mithrandir spoke up and Imrahil started to see the wizard sitting in a chair by the fire. “As Prince Imrahil states, it is a delicate matter. If you bring the girl’s father here, put him on trial, you shame your line.”
“I want the man dead,” Denethor hissed. “He dared to touch my son, my son!”
Boromir strode into the room. “Your shouts can be heard down the hall, Father.” He turned and walked to Imrahil’s side. “Uncle.” Imrahil stood and was enveloped in Boromir’s arms. “It is good to see you. I am sorry you come with such disturbing news. How fares Faramir? What is this that father speaks of?” He motioned and Imrahil sat.
“Lord Galador lost his mind in the grief of his daughter’s death. He attacked Faramir, but Damrod took the blow instead.”
“Damrod lives?” Boromir’s face had grown white.
“He does. The wound was not deep. However, Faramir took injury earlier in the day. He has had a difficult journey. Before he reached Dol Amroth, he was afflicted with a fever that left him weak. Míriel surprised him in your mother’s gardens…” He stopped as he heard Denethor’s indrawn breath, then continued, “He fell against one of the marble benches and was concussed. I do not want to live through another day like that one.”
“Where is Lord Galador?”
“I sent him to Athrad at Faramir’s request. The man’s wife has become unhinged. She began writing missives, nasty things, to Faramir. He was concerned for my welfare.”
Boromir sat next to his uncle, took a glass of wine for himself and insisted that Imrahil take one too. “You still have authority over the man? You can bring him back here, to Minas Tirith?”
“Of course. He is in the coast guard there.”
“Then, Father, if it is truly your wish to hold a trial, we have not lost the man. It is easy enough to summon him here. Mayhap you would wish to wait to hear what Faramir has to say?”
“I know what your brother would say. He would bid me have mercy upon the man. If news of this treachery is found out and that I have done nothing to punish the man for his act of treason, then all of Gondor suffers. Yes, I put my anger and pain first, but I deem it unwise to let this matter drift into oblivion. For it will not. Rumors already abound. There must be some retribution made. The man’s actions call for his hanging.”
“And yet mercy would not be unwelcome by your people. What would you do if Faramir had actually died? Would you hold your anger in check? I speak foolishly; your mind is greater than Galador’s. Faramir’s mercy should be yours, Father. It would benefit Gondor.”
“Well spoken, young lord,” Mithrandir said quietly. “He speaks rightly, Lord Denethor. The people would understand a ruling of mercy along with banishment.”
“Banishment. Yet the man still serves me in the guard. This I will not tolerate. Imrahil, when you return to Dol Amroth you will carry a proclamation from me stating that Galador and all his heirs and close kin are banished forever from Gondor’s soil.”
Imrahil stiffened, but nodded his acceptance of his liege lord’s will. “It will be posted on the city’s gates.”
Denethor sat wearily. “Faramir? Has he completely recovered? Where is he now?”
“He went to Pelargir to complete the task you set him. However, I had expected him to be here.”
“I have received a few reports from him, brief ones, but nothing from Pelargir. Nor from Dol Amroth.”
“I imagine he holds the Dol Amroth report until he can give it personally.”
“Forgive my outburst, Imrahil,” Denethor said quietly, “and accept my hospitality. Stay at least another day, until Faramir arrives. It would much hearten the boy to see you.”
“I will, Denethor. I would speak with him. See how he fares. I was concerned for him. I knew not if he had recovered from his other wounds. Then to be assailed with fever, a concussed head, and a guilt-ridden heart…”
“Guilt-ridden? What had he to be guilt-ridden? You say the woman threw herself at him.”
“Father,” Boromir gently chided. “You speak of Faramir. Of course he would be guilt-ridden.”
Denethor turned towards the window. ‘He carries Finduilas’ weakness.’ His face burned in shame and sorrow.
“Nuncheon is ready, my Lord.”
“Belegorn!” Boromir rose in surprise and hugged the man. “It is good to see you! What are you doing here in the City? Does not Mardil keep you chained to him? I did not think he could captain Halifirien without you!”
Belegorn smiled and returned the embrace. “No one can say nay to the Lord Steward of Gondor. I am now your father’s aide and this is most embarrassing.” He tried to pull away from Boromir, but the heir would not allow it.
Boromir turned to Denethor. “Father! This man was one of those who saved my life! I owe him much.”
“Mayhap I should raise him to captain, assign him to the Tower Guard?”
“Nay, my Lord Steward. I am content to be your aide. Please let me continue. Lord Boromir, I am happy to serve your family in this way. Do not interpose your will upon your father.”
“Aye, Belegorn. I will not. Father is desperately in need of a good aide. I am grateful, as will my brother be. Thank you!”
“Nuncheon is ready,” Belegorn quipped and Boromir laughed. “Father, may Belegorn join us?”
“Nay!” Belegorn held the wanted shout down to a gentle whisper at the same time that Denethor said, ‘yes.’
“Sit with us this day, Belegorn. Afterwards, you may again pick up your duties. I would hear more of the daring rescue of my son.”
A/N – 1) Noddy – a card game for 2 players. Though commonly credited to the invention of the 17th-century English poet Sir John Suckling, cribbage clearly developed from an earlier game called noddy… http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-417074/Noddy
2) While Linaewen and I were discussing fires and such, she sent me this link. http://e-charcoalmakingprocess.blogspot.com/ It seems plausible that a place like Cair Andros and the other garrisons of Gondor would have a storehouse of charcoal for starting fires.
3) Faramir’s dream taken from ROTK: Book 1 - Ch. 5: The Steward and the King - “Yes,” said Faramir, “of the land of Westernesse that foundered and of the great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable. I often dream of it.”
4) Regarding above charcoal information - On the road, it seems it would have been different; they probably would not have carried charcoal, if the two passages in FOTR about faggots are any indication. In Bree, the Hobbits use faggots (bundles of sticks) to get their smoldering fire started again. FOTR: Ch. 10. Strider - “It was not until they had puffed up the embers into a blaze and thrown on a couple of fa ggots that they discovered Strider had come with them. And, of course, the famous line that Boromir speaks as they head towards Caradhras. FOTR: Book 2 - Ch. 3: The Ring Goes South - “When we leave here, where there are still a few trees and bushes, each of us should carry a faggot of wood, as large as he can bear.”
5) The twelfth hour is based upon the time used in ROTK: Ch. 1: Minas Tirith - “About the eleventh hour, released at last for a while from service… It was the sunset-hour…”
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