10. The First Skirmish
Orchestration, pulling the strings to lift Boromir’s arm up as he signals to the elves, as the adraefan-wizard-Man shift and crawl along the grasses creeping along like children playing games of war… Another string is pulled, this one tied to the hinges of Second One’s mouth so he whispers quiet, “They are a mile away.” Up above, high up above Brown Land shrubbery, a few Puppeteers linger to watch though respectfully we call them the Aratar. Tulkas the Valiant is managing the strings now, pulling loose a sword unleashing a bow and removing an arrow from full quiver. He beams bright energy, sunlight strength and glory in battle, he lusts for these, he is the Valar’s soldier, the warrior-god… and he turns to Vairë the Weaver (because she has stopped to play audience) with a smile, booming: “A new thread begins.” Vairë, Mistress of Fate, snorts, “A new thread be-GAN, General Astaldo, back on Amon Hen when We kept that shaky non-hero alive!” “Shaky non-hero?” Tulkas laughs and gives one string a jerk so that Boromir’s hands tremble with brief pre-battle jumpiness. Vairë’s husband wanders by, leaving a trail of ghostly smoke, as always, leaving the Door of the Dead wide open, and Tulkas shouts a greeting: “Salutations, Námo, Mandos-Keeper and Doomsman! How goes it?” Grim Námo peeks down onto the living, breathing Middle-earth map sees a scuffle about to happen, and smiles sinister, “Hello, hello, General Astaldo. Any deaths today?” Tulkas shrugs: “A few. Stay and watch.” Are the Valar-Gods truly so frivolous in our fates?
The Easterlings arrived at the well perhaps thirty minutes later. A quick count revealed a group of fifty. Large, but not impossible. Boromir leaned against the grass, pushed his head through the bushes. Wild Men, indeed. Soiled garments, filthy with mud and soot. All greasy, frazzled hair and unkempt beards. True, his own appearance was somewhat less attractive as of late, but he liked to think that he still retained the noble quality of a Gondorian. Beside him, the elves were also lying against the grass, spying. Radagast had gone off to another part of the woodsy thicket, saying that he would take care of the Easterling's animals. The Wild Men brought with them horses, dogs and birds for messages. Boromir and the elves had hidden amidst the thorny bushes, watching the Easterlings approach the well. The well. Old, uneven stones, a chain pulley, cobwebs. It was clear that none had used this well in many years, centuries even. All the metal was rusted, the wood rotten, the stone eroded. And the Easterlings were wary to approach it. As the Wild Men circled the old structure, Boromir slowly withdrew his sword. "Wait for the group to spread," Boromir whispered, "First One, Second One, hide yourselves amidst those trees there and there. We shall attack them from all sides. Wait for my signal." The two elves nodded and went swiftly away. Third One inched himself over to Boromir's side. He had withdrawn his own bow and an arrow. "Boromir, let us wait until they taste the well-water," the elf said softly. "It shall work to our advantage." "Nay, nay, I am impatient. And what advantage is there in waiting?" "Watch, and you will see." Boromir raised his eyebrow, but said nothing. So be it. He crawled forward, winced when a thorny branch scraped against his cheek. His shoulder was not handling the exertion well, and so he leaned lopsided to his right. His stomach wound was relatively calm. Thankfully, his mind had cleared considerably since yesterday’s blurred giddiness. And now, adrenaline kept the pain at bay. For his mind was entirely preoccupied with the upcoming fight. He watched the scene: A tall Easterling approached the well, pushing past his soldiers. He was clearly the leader, for he was older, scarred, and imposing. He yelled something at the younger Men, beckoned them forth. But all were hesitant to near the well. Finally, after the leader struck one on the shoulder, they began to move uneasily. A young Wild Man with ginger hair and beard doubtfully lowered the bucket. As he did so, he was speaking furtively with his nearby companions. They nodded, attempted to tell the leader, but to no avail. The elderly leader snarled something at them. After hauling the bucket back up, now filled with water, no one wanted to touch it. Boromir could only see the bucket's edge, he could not see the water inside. But, when someone jostled someone else, and some of the liquid came sloshing out, Boromir was alarmed to see it was black. Black water? He looked to Third One for explanation, but the elf said nothing. Finally, after much arguing and yelling, the leader shoved aside the young, ginger-haired Man and took the bucket. He tilted it back, drank deeply and swallowed. The other Men waited. Boromir waited. Everyone waited. And with only an anticlimactic sigh, the leader lay down upon the ground and fell asleep. There was a moment of silence. Someone laughed. Yet after nudging and jostling and shaking the sleeping Man, the Easterlings began to panic. Anxious yells, harder jostling, rapid-fire speech. The black water. The black water was not to be touched. Poison! "It is the water of the Enchanted River," Third One explained under his breath. "Any who drink it fall into a deep sleep, never to be awoken." Boromir nodded. The leader was down. The soldiers were panicking. Now was a good time to attack. He raised himself to his knees and made eye contact with the other elves. Second One was further north, crouching behind a bush. First One leaned against a tree on the southern flank. When each saw Boromir wave his arm, they nocked their first arrows, lightening-fast, and began to fire. And so the fight began. With vicious accuracy, the arrows flew through the panicking Easterlings and found this neck, that heart, those eyes. The horses neighed, the Wild Men screamed, everywhere was terror. Boromir began to laugh. Beside him, Third One was standing, nocking and releasing arrows - one, two, one, two, one, two. Boromir hauled himself to his feet, swung his shield around, readied his sword and charged. Into the mess of Wild Men, into the blood and panic and chaos of the fight, he charged. The Easterlings were not expecting a single attacker, and, despite their greater numbers, they stumbled back, screaming in fear. He swung his sword around, roared savage, plunged it into an Easterling's heart. All the while, arrows streamed from all sides. But one stream of arrows stopped, and soon Third One appeared in the fight, sword drawn. Easterlings were running, this way, that way, the braver ones remaining to fight. Boromir hacked, pushed forward, sidestepped blows, snarled and spat. He saw only his blade - slicing through tendons and sinews and veins - his blade - spraying blood back into his face and onto his tongue. He spat. He cried out. He moved to decapitate an Easterling, but the sword got wedged in the dead Man's neck. As he yanked at it, something struck him in the stomach. And so all the pain came flooding back, intense, acidic, burning. Boromir crumbled to his knees, squeezing his arms around the stomach, almost dropping his own sword. His vision blurred, he saw only a dim figure moving swiftly towards him. There was a rush of air, and the figure fell dead. But Boromir could not thank his ally, whoever had fired the arrow, for the pain in his stomach blinded and crippled him. He pushed himself to his feet, pushing against the curved stone to his right. Without realizing it, he was by the well. And just as he was to look up, and get his bearings again, an agitated voice traveled through the air: "Boromir! Ware! On your left!" Boromir snapped his head around and saw a Wild Man charging towards him. A jagged sword swinging down. Boromir raised his own sword, knowing already that his timing was off and that he would not deflect the blade, when another arrow appeared. With a sickening thunk, the arrow landed hard against the Wild Man's neck. Yet the Easterling's own momentum had launched him forward, so that even in his death throes, he stumbled into Boromir and both went toppling into the well. Valar! Boromir registered only this single thought as he found himself knocked against stone walls. Falling, falling, falling. Panic, fear, terror. Boromir reached out, desperate, and grabbed onto the chain rope. But his speed was so great that he continued down, knocking once, twice, hard, crushed against the walls. One particularly grisly collision slammed his knees against the stone, and Boromir was sure his kneecaps had been blown off. But he clung, stubbornly, painfully, his hands burning fire, to the chain. The Wild Men, by this time dead, fell with him, an extra weight pulling him faster down. The basic survival instinct kept Boromir's hands against the chain. He flung his feet out towards the wall, grinding himself to a halt. A screaming crescendo of pain. Finally, they stopped. He disentangled himself from the dead Easterling, crying out with disgust. Crying out from the pain in his hands, in his knees, in his stomach. The Wild Man jerked over, fell forward, and, with a desperate kick from Boromir, disappeared down into the well. Many seconds passed before Boromir heard the sound of the corpse hitting water. Sweating, bleeding, clinging ridiculously, Boromir hung with his hands against the chain and his feet against the stone wall. He looked up. His breath quickened. The well's opening was just a tiny orb of blue sky. He must have fallen nearly twenty meters. He could still hear the sounds of battle echoing down the well. Hot blood trickled down his hands. He cursed himself for not wearing his gloves. He had thought, stupidly, that they were not needed, and, in the day's heat, he had shoved them back into his pack. Now, as his bleeding hands throbbed dully, he entirely regretted that decision. But that was not the only injury. His right shoulder. His head. His left shoulder. The stomach wound. The knees - gummy with blood. As he hung there, he saw a mess of brown, white and red on his kneecaps. There was little discernable difference between his garments and his bare, broken skin. He groaned. And now what? He tried shifting his weight against the wall, swinging to his side. But the diameter was too large, so that he could not lean back and rest against the stone. Above his head, the fight continued. Foreign cries mingled with swords clashing, horses baying, screams. Had anyone noticed his fall? He cringed to think of calling for help. Perhaps he could climb out. Bracing himself for the inevitable surge of pain, Boromir peeled one hand away from the chain, tearing strips of flesh. He cried out. Yet once his hand was free, and the blood dripped down his fingers, he wrapped his arm in the chain and hoisted himself up. It did not work. His free hand burned and stung so fiercely that he could not grasp again the chain, and when he did, it slipped off with sweat and blood. He was loath to tear away the other hand, and his knees nearly gave out as he pulled. No, he would have to wait. And wait he did, for an interminable amount of time, listening to the sounds of battle above him. He did not dare move a muscle, for his grip on the chain was slipping, and any moment now, he would go tumbling down the well and into the black water. He controlled his breathing, closed his eyes, kept absolutely still. All the while, he felt the metal digging into his raw palms, digging, digging, slowly slipping. Things did not improve after an hour or so of this tense waiting. There was a cry from above and Boromir looked up. A dark form, flailing and screaming, hurtled down at him. He braced himself against the chain. The Wild Men slammed into him with a crack. This Easterling was not dead, however, and, as he tumbled away, he screamed. He grabbed at Boromir's clothes and cloak, desperately searching for any hold which would prevent his fall. Boromir roared in pain, but that roar was cut short as the Man grabbed his cloak, cutting off his air. As the Man's weight jerked to a halt, Boromir was ripped from the rope, backwards, to knock his head against the well wall. Both went tumbling down, and Boromir, eyes closed, not breathing, seized with his hands anything that would hold him. His nails scraped against stone, his knees hit, again, something very hard. As he fell, he was bounced off a wall and into the chain. As soon as he felt the chain’s touch again, he grabbed it, frantic, snarling. Again, he came grinding to a halt. The Wild Man had also attempted to grab the chain-rope, and there was much shaking as he became entangled in it. But Boromir heard at once the sound of water. The Easterling's screams died as soon as the splash did. Boromir was much lower in the well now. His heart was pounding. Sweat drenched his clothes, poured down his face, into his eyes. Only a moment before, he had been flying down the well. Absolute terror. And here he was, once again, clinging to the chain. A tiny shaft of light filtered down this far, and, as Boromir swung back and forth, he saw his hands were all red. The pain was complete now, so that every beat of his heart sent a surge of fire through every nerve, exploding. He gasped for breath. And in that dripping silence, he heard the first echo. "Boromir!" Boromir flinched. He arched his head back. But he could not see. His vision swam. He attempted to call back, but his throat was dry-parched, and he only made a sort of wheezing sound. Again: "Boromir! Ho! Answer if you can!" Finally, swinging back and forth, forcing his voice to rise up out of his throat, Boromir called hoarsely: "Aye!" "Hold on! We shall pull you out!" Before Boromir could properly hold on, the chain jerked up and he howled in agony. Slowly, slowly, miserably slow, he was pulled up, up, up. He wrapped his leg in the chain, for his hands were slipping off. Sweet Eru! An eternity! Pain in every form - clawing at his hands, drilling into his knees, swelling in his stomach. Pain so dizzying that he entertained the idea of simply letting go and falling into the water below. Yet he clenched his teeth, swallowed the cries, closed his eyes, pressed his brow against the chain. The smell of dank air suddenly gave way to a breeze - so sweet and alive and fresh. He was out. Elf-hands grabbed him on all sides and pulled him the final measure, so that he was dragged across the short stone, landing on his feet. He opened his eyes, walked several dazed steps, and then fell back onto the grass. He had no time to register the number of Easterlings dead, what time it was, if any of the elves were hurt. He simply lay curled up, panting. In the sun's glare, he saw the elves watching him in concern. Each was covered in a varying level of blood and dirt. They looked almost identical. Boromir forced a gasping smile. "I - see - you three - were not hasty."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.