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Lords of Gondor: 10. Hill of the Eye of Númenor
But that would not be for some hours yet; in the meantime, Boromir passed the time by trying to discern landmarks upon the opposite shore. There was little that could be seen in the darkness of the woods which advanced to the very edge of the water on the far shore, but the eastern hills were stark and bright in the light of the westering sun. Amon Lhaw stood out sharply against the sky, and the remains of the outpost that stood on the crown of the Hill could easily be seen. Even from here, he could see the shape of the high seat that stood up clearly against the greying clouds behind.
Legolas approached and offered Boromir some water to drink; the Elf gazed silently at the far hilltop until Boromir handed back the skin. Capping it tightly, he laid it aside and sat down next to Boromir.
"What do you know of the high seats of Númenor, Boromir?" he asked. "I recall Aragorn's discussion with you concerning the Hills of Hearing and Seeing, and the Seats of the Kings, but I know little of this."
"Yes," agreed Boromir pensively, recalling the lengthy argument that had taken place on that occasion, over which road to take with the Ringbearer. "Aragorn intended to stand in the high place, before he decided his further course -- but I do not know if he had that chance, before his course was decided for him."
Boromir fell silent; after a moment he shrugged, in an effort to dispel the melancholy that threatened to engulf him. Two days it had been since his own course had been decided, and the pain of his failure still troubled him when he could not distract himself.
Legolas smiled at him fondly.
"You should try not to do that," he said gently.
"Lift your shoulders in that way," Legolas explained. "You should be careful not to dislodge the leather patch sealing the wound in your shoulder. Your breathing is much better, and the bleeding is well stopped, but that wound was severe, and may still need the care of a healer before it can fully repair itself."
Boromir shrugged in response, then laughed when he realized what he had done.
"Indeed," he replied, "it does pain me when I do that; but I can no more stop that habit than I can keep a hobbit from smoking pipe-weed!"
They laughed together at the thought of that futile venture.
"The Hill of the Eye of Númenor," mused Boromir after a moment. "I know something of it, and the other, which is the Hill of the Ear; I studied such things in my days of being tutored in the military history of my people. Each hill was an outpost of Gondor in the days of the ancient kings, where there was a watchtower and a garrison to guard the northern borders of the kingdom, and perhaps even a beacon. The high hill was a lookout point for the garrison, and commanded a wide view of the valley."
"What of the Seat Aragorn spoke of?"
"It was said in the old lore that one sitting in the Seat of Hearing could hear what passed in the land, as if all sounds were being magnified and whispered in the ear. One sitting in the Seat of Seeing could see for many miles -- even as far south as the Sea -- images small and clear, as if laid out upon a table."
Boromir hesitated and frowned.
"I know little enough of these matters," he continued. "It is hard to believe such things could be so -- yet, I have learned of late there is much that passes in this world that I do not understand. In any case, the view from the Seat would be far, even without the aid of any magic."
He paused once more, and a look of sorrow crossed his face.
"I... I wish I could sit there, Legolas, to look out over the valley. Perhaps there is nothing to be seen, beyond empty plains with the River laid out below; yet there might be something -- the movement of troops, incursions by Orcs..."
He sighed heavily. "I would know what is happening in the world, while I sit here weak and useless!"
Legolas shook his head as if disagreeing with Boromir's assessment of himself, but he said nothing.
"I wonder if one could see Minas Tirith from the Hill?" Boromir went on, as if to himself. "I am tempted to try it, for I yearn to see my City again -- so much so that it is a constant pain in my heart! I wish to see the Tower of Ecthelion catching the rays of the sun, and the Fields of Pelennor laid out green before the Gate! I wish... I wish to know if Minas Tirith still stands..."
He looked up suddenly and saw Legolas gazing at him, a worried expression upon his face. Boromir smiled faintly and sighed.
"It is but a foolish fancy, Legolas," he said with shake of his head. "I know I cannot manage the climb to the Seat, for I am still weak and weary, and it would undo all you and Aragorn have done to try to save me."
Legolas laid a hand on Boromir's arm.
"I understand why you desire to do this," he said. "Who would not want to see their home after a long time away, if such an opportunity presented itself? But what you say is true, you cannot manage this now. Let me go then, in your stead. It is wise to see what lies ahead, if there is anything to be learned from what passes on the plains. Perhaps there will be something to be seen that will be of some use to Aragorn, as well."
Boromir's face brightened.
"Indeed, it would comfort me to know if there is anything to be seen from the high point -- even if I cannot see my City for myself." His smile broadened. "Who knows? It may be that you will see some of my people coming to rescue me!"
Boromir laughed suddenly, a short sharp laugh that was both hopeful and tinged with doubt.
"If I am to speak truthfully," he said with a shake of his head, "I have little hope of that possibility. I fear I shall remain a burden to you, my friend, until I am well enough to travel. I am sorry, for I know you wish to return to Aragorn."
"Do not despair, friend," Legolas responded. "I believe someone will come -- and not because I would be rid of you, so that I may go about my other business! Aragorn was confident that someone would hear the call of the Horn of Gondor; he believes there are those in Gondor who would have heard that call, and will stop at nothing to come to your aid. Do you not believe it? You were the one who urged us to go after the Orcs because you were confident someone would come."
"I was eager to convince you to save the little ones," said Boromir sadly. "And I did believe what I said... then. It seems not so likely to me now, for some reason."
"Do not look too far ahead when you are weary and ill, Boromir. The future indeed looks grim if seen through eyes that are dimmed by despair. Remember your confident words and trust in them -- you spoke more truly than you realize, I believe. Remember? Just now, you said there is much that passes in this world that you do not understand. Your people are searching for you even now; I am certain of it. I will go to see if they draw nigh, so that you might be comforted."
"Very well," Boromir said, his voice betraying his relief. "I will not give up hope of rescue just yet, then. Indeed, if there is anything to see at all, your Elf eyes will see it from that high place."
Legolas rose to his feet.
"I will go now, before the sun descends any further. Will you be well here alone until my return?"
"By that you mean will I promise to refrain from doing anything foolish while you are gone?" Boromir laughed. "Yes, friend nursemaid, I shall behave, and not move from this spot. But do not tarry!"
It was Legolas' turn to laugh. "I will return swiftly with news."
Legolas retrieved his bow and his quiver of arrows, and with a wave of his hand disappeared into the trees. Boromir watched him go until he could turn his head no further, then he laid back with a sigh, to begin the wait.
It did not take Legolas long to reach the top of the hill, though he took a longer path around to avoid as much as possible the dead and decaying Orcs that still lay all about the hill. There was no sound to be heard among the trees but the roar of the Falls; if any birds called to one another or if any creatures moved in the underbrush, the sound was drowned out by the thundering waters of Rauros.
Though the sun had passed its zenith and was descending now into the west, it still shone brightly upon the summit of Amon Hen, for the crown of the hill was barren of trees. Atop the hill was an ancient outpost of Men, now fallen somewhat into ruin, but still impressive. A crumbling battlement surrounded a wide flat area of flagged stones, set in a circle; in the midst of the paved area stood a high seat set upon four carven pillars.
Legolas ran lightly up the many steps that led to the Seat on its high platform. The thronelike Seat was carved of stone in the shape of eagles facing north, south, east and west, commanding a wide view of the lands below. There was no need for Legolas to sit upon the Seat; with his Elven eyesight -- far keener than that of Men -- he could see for a great distance in all directions.
Standing upon the edge of the platform, he gazed outwards at the world that lay before him. Remembering first the desire of Boromir, he looked southwards, and beheld in the distance the proud, white towers of Minas Tirith, gleaming brightly against the darkness of Mordor looming in the nearby East, as if to overwhelm the City of Guard -- but it was not yet overwhelmed. Boromir would be comforted to know that his City still stood, awaiting his return.
Legolas then turned his eyes to the view that lay at his feet. Far below, the sun glinted on the mist that hung over the Falls of Rauros, and the River Anduin flowed away swiftly from the foaming pit at the foot of the cascade. He looked further on, following the winding path of the water to the fens and marshlands of the Mouths of the Entwash, in hopes of seeing a sign that might indicate a party of Men searching for their lord.
Yes, there was movement -- there, amidst the myriad streams and rivers that crisscrossed the great slough. Legolas shaded his eyes to help sharpen his focus, and saw five tiny horsemen moving slowly northwards across the marshlands; even now they were approaching the northernmost stream of the Entwash where it flowed into Anduin, some twenty miles south of the foot of the Falls. If this was indeed a search party coming to seek the whereabouts of Boromir, they would likely arrive soon -- perhaps even on the morrow. Boromir had not been forgotten.
Before descending the stairs once more, Legolas turned his gaze to the West, where lay the grassy plains of Rohan like a vast sea of green stretching for many miles, north, south and west; here, also, there was movement on the plain -- a large group of horsemen riding north at a fast pace.
Beyond the plain on the very edge of sight was a great black cloud like smoke hovering over the Vale of Isengard in the foothills which lay at the very end of the Misty Mountains; in the darkness under the cloud Legolas thought he could discern the sharp spike of a black tower.
Trouble is brewing in Isengard, he thought, and a great sense of urgency gripped his heart. Saruman prepares for war and is certain to strike soon, in Sauron's cause -- or his own! I must follow as quickly as I may, for Aragorn may soon have great need of me; Boromir cannot be left until his people come, but once he is in their care, I must make haste...
Turning away, he descended the stairs and hurried down the hill through the trees to tell Boromir of all that he had seen.
Henderch rode ahead with his fellow scout, Dírhavel, sometimes leaning forward, sometimes sideways in the saddle to peer at the path ahead. He knew his way through the maze of streams and rills that snaked through the bog, and though progress was slow, it was steady. Grithnir and the others followed behind, guiding their horses to follow in the steps of the two scouts who rode ahead.
Grithnir gazed up at the bluffs of the Emyn Muil rising up before him, growing steadily closer as the riders made their slow way north. The light of the westering sun shone upon the heights, and upon the bare crown of Amon Hen before him; he thought he could see stonework against the sky that suggested the presence of battlements and a watchtower.
"How much further is it, Henderch?" asked Grithnir, drawing his horse up beside the scout. "Will we come to the watchers' camp on Anduin before nightfall?"
"I believe so, sir. It is not so much further, and I think we will soon be able to pick up the pace. There is an upthrust of underlying stone in this part of the fen on which the horses can tread, which will greatly increase our speed -- if I can find the path."
"Very well, then. Lead on as quickly as is safe."
The River Anduin flowed swiftly, swollen by the waters of many streams and rivers which joined it upon the way. The current was strong and carried its small burden quickly along. The shard of horn floated lightly upon the surface of the water and followed the current wherever it led; the setting sun shone upon its whiteness, brightening the silver that tipped it. Now and then, for a moment, the horn was stayed briefly in its progress, as it bumped against an outcropping of rock, or a branch floating in the water. But it moved rapidly onwards, following the path of the relentless current, coming ever closer on its journey to the hand destined to lift it from the water.
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