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Messages: 2. The Rangers
fair stables where a few swift horses were kept, hard by the lodging of the
errand riders of the Lord, messengers always ready to go at the urging of
Denethor or his chief captains. But now all the horses and riders were out
and away.”(Return of the King, Minas Tirith)
The Ranger Anborn decided to go back to the clearing where the fight had
taken place. His comrades carried the body of the still unconscious
messenger, Anakil had understood his name was Beldil, between themselves.
Anborn led the way with a small torch, his sword ready in his hand, and
Anakil brought up the rear, leading his horse on the old bridle. He had
realized he was not a prisoner, but he was not free to go either. The
Rangers expected him to stay with them until they had come to a decision on
what to do with him and his message, and the boy was rather grateful for
their company and protection.
They built a bed for Beldil and covered him with a thin blanket. The man
had not started to shiver yet, but Anakil feared there was only a slim
chance for him to escape the fever. His wounds were too grave, and he had
lost a lot of blood.
While the two Rangers disappeared in the darkness around the clearing to
check for possible threads, Anborn ordered the boy to stay next to the
wounded. “You obviously know something about caring for wounds,” he said.
“Watch him closely. Should he wake or appear to worsen, call me.”
Anakil nodded and obediently sat down cross-legged on the cold ground. His
hand let go of the bridle, he continued to hold the horse by the rope that
served as reins.
“You won’t need the horse any more tonight,” Anborn said and took the rope
from Anakil’s hand. “We will stay for the night and wait for daylight.”
Anakil looked at Beldil, then up at Anborn again. “He needs a healer, fast”
he said slowly. “I did not stitch the wounds, and I do not have any herbs
to treat his condition.”
“Do you know how to stitch?”
Anakil thought about this question. “I have assisted at least a dozen
times,” he finally said. “But I have done it myself only with horses.”
Anborn snorted. “Beldil is not a horse.”
One of the Rangers stepped out of the darkness of the underbrush, his
movements inaudible despite the silence of the night, and Anakil flinched
in surprise. Anborn must have expected him, for he tossed the reins of the
horse to his companion, and the man led the animal to the opposite side of
the clearing. There he fastened the rope on a strong tree and motioned the
animal to be quiet. The big, brown steed immediately settled down on the
ground, his nose sniffing for something edible between the damp leaves and
thin branches on the forest floor.
Anborn bent down, drew Anakil’s small sword out of its scabbard and laid
the weapon across the boy’s bent knees. “Be on guard,” he told him. “There
might be silent hunters around, and most of them are far more hostile and
dangerous than a Ranger.”
Anakil nodded, took up the sword to lay it aside and readied his short bow.
“I am a better bowman than swordsman,” he explained.
Anborn grunted grimly in response and walked away to confer in hushed tones
with his comrades. There were not many words necessary to coordinate their
actions. Soon the three men moved about the clearing, stripping all dead
creatures of armour and gear and building a pile of dead Orcs over the
cadaver of the horse. They could not burn the dead Orcs, for a fire would
give away their position to other creatures of the night.
The bodies of the slain creatures and the dead horse were too fresh to
start smelling, but in Anakil’s imagination the stench of death and decay
intensified with every passing minute. As the men picked up the body and
severed head of the Orc he had slain, he had to concentrate hard on
ignoring the sickness that once again welled up in his stomach.
His hands searched his pockets for a piece of cloth to cover his mouth
with, but he knew the search was in vain. His fingers touched the paper of
the sealed message he was carrying, otherwise his pockets were empty.
Anborn had been friendly enough, but Anakil knew none of the Rangers
trusted him. He sensed he was being watched, even though he never caught
one of the men observing him openly. Should he try to leave or use his
weapons for another purpose than defending himself, he was sure he would be
pierced by arrows or daggers before he could send a single arrow on its
His gaze shifted to the bow in his hands and the sword at his side. His
hand were soiled with dark blood, and he could feel dried blood on his face
as well. He longed for water to clean himself of the grime, but what little
water he had he wanted to preserve for Beldil. He did not know where the
Rangers’ camp was located, and therefore he did not know how far they had
to carry the wounded.
Anborn and his comrades finished the gruesome task of searching and moving
dead bodies and settled down next to Anakil. There were still a few hours
left until the light of dawn. Anborn fished three wooden toothpicks out of
his pocket, marked one of them with his thumbnail and enclosed all three in
his clenched fist. The unmarked heads were sticking out between his thumb
and forefinger. Each of his comrades picked one toothpick, examined it and
grinned. Anborn scrutinized the toothpick that was left in his hand,
shrugged and put all three toothpicks back into his pocket.
The two Rangers settled down on the fallen leaves, drew their hoods over
their heads, wrapped themselves in their cloaks for warmth and closed their
eyes to get some sleep.
Anborn took a seat on a patch of leaves and leaned back against a tree
trunk, his sword ready across his outstretched legs. “How is he?” he
whispered, his concerned gaze fixed on Beldil.
“Holding on, I think,” Anakil whispered back. “I don’t know if he is
unconscious or asleep. He has not moved for a long time, never opened his
eyes. No fever yet.”
Anborn grunted. “Good. Let him rest.”
“What do we do now?” Anakil knew he should not ask, but his curiosity was
too strong to remain silent until the Ranger decided to tell him.
“Rest,” Anborn answered. “Try to get some sleep. I have watch until dawn.”
“I am not tired,” Anakil said, his fingers in his pocket fingering the
“Then be quiet and let those sleep who can.”
Anakil looked at the still forms of the two Rangers and realized they were
already deep asleep. One of them was snoring softly, but they lay too close
together to distinguish where the sound was coming from. He envied them
their calmness of mind to fall asleep after the disgusting task of sorting
through the bodies of dead Orcs. He did not want to admit it, but despite
his tension he was tired, he just did not want to close his eyes, for he
feared what he might see in his dreams.
It was good to feel the soft paper of the message between his fingers. This
message was the reason he was here, and it gave him the right to be here,
to spend the night among experienced Rangers and soldiers in the
Beldil moaned softly, and Anakil put a soothing hand on his arm. The touch
calmed the wounded man, and the boy decided to let his hand linger for a
moment. He could feel Anborn’s watchful gaze following every single
movement, and he knew the Ranger had only allowed him to keep his weapons
out of respect, for he had saved the messenger’s life, but he was not
considered a threat. He was just a boy with a bow and a sword; he was no
match for an experienced Ranger.
He raised his head and met Anborn’s eyes. The Ranger was chewing on one of
his toothpicks now. He had pulled his hood over his head, his dark eyes
glimmering like polished stones in the dim starlight. Anakil could not
endure the motionless stare of those eyes and quickly lowered his head to
fuss over Beldil’s motionless form.
Anborn’s deep chuckle surprised him. “Do yourself a favour and sleep!” the
Anakil nodded wordlessly, embarrassed that the Ranger had noticed his
uneasiness and exhaustion. He let go of Beldil’s arm, rested his back
against a tree, drew his hood over his head to hide his flushed face and
closed his eyes.
Just before sunrise, there was an eerie silence in the woods and plains of
Ithilien. Dark patches of clouds came from the east, and all natural sounds
seemed to vanish; animals hid in their holes in the ground, and the stars
disappeared from the sky. Evil voices seemed to whisper in the twilight,
their speechless murmur trying to pierce the frightened men’s mind. Anborn
was used to being awake during this uneasy hour, and he greeted the first
glimpse of the rising sun with a nod of his head.
The ugly brown horse at the other side of the clearing scrambled to his
feet and stretched its strong limbs and heavy body. Beldil started to move
as well, and Anborn moved to sit beside him. “Beldil, it’s Anborn” he said
softly. “Can you hear me?”
Beldil’s eyes fluttered open, and he tried to sit up. A groan escaped his
lips, and he squeezed his eyes shut again as the pain hit.
Anborn put a soothing hand on his shoulder. “I can imagine you have quite a
headache. You have a bump as big as my fist on the back of your skull.”
“You have very big hands,” Beldil croaked and opened his eyes again. They
were bright with unshed tears of pain and beginning fever.
Anborn smiled down at him and clasped his arm in the greeting. “Good to
hear you talking again,” he said. He supported Beldil’s head with his hand
and put a water skin to the messenger’s cracked lips.
Beldil swallowed a few sips and sighed.
“Better?” Anborn asked.
Beldil nodded and winced in pain.
“Do you remember what happened?”
“Orcs,” Beldil answered slowly. “Too many Orcs.”
“Nine, to be exact.” Galdor and Darung had been raised by the voices and
stepped forward to greet their injured companion with a smile. “Obviously
one too many.”
Beldil let his eyes move around his limited field of vision. “This is not
the camp,” he stated.
“No, we spent the night in the woods. You are seriously hurt, we could not
risk moving you in the darkness. But we will get you home in no time.” ing
Beldil was a tall, strong man in his mid-twenties, and Anborn was very
grateful for the presence of Anakil’s horse. He motioned Darung to go and
get the animal.
The boy was still sleeping, his short upper body propped up against a tree,
his young face shadowed by his hood. The movement and voices had not
disturbed his deep slumber.
“There was someone...a man, I think,” Beldil started, searching his hazy
memory for details.
“A boy,” Anborn corrected. “He finished off the last Orc for you and cared
for your wounds thoroughly enough. He is with us now. His name is Anakil.”
“Don’t know an Anakil.” Beldil wetted his cracked lips with his tongue.
“Neither do I.” Anborn shrugged and got to his feet, stretching his stiff
muscles and throwing back his hood. “Claims to carry a message for the
Captain. Has Gondor’s sign on his shirt. I will take him to the Captain.”
“I have messages for the Captain as well,” Beldil breathed.
Anborn stooped down next to the wounded man and put a dirty finger to his
lips. “Think about saving your strength,” he said, his deep, hoarse voice
soft. “Let us worry about the rest.” He moved his fingers over Beldil’s
face, gently closing the eyes with the palm of his hand. “Rest.”
Beldil’s eyes stayed closed, his laboured breathing slowing a little.
Darung had freed the horse and made the animal lay down next to Beldil to
get the wounded man on the animal’s back without putting too much strain on
the open wounds on his leg and arm.
Anborn squatted down in front of the sleeping boy and put a hand on his
shoulder. “Anakil!” he called. “Wake up.”
The boy winced and let out a small sigh. “Ready for duty. Be there in a
Anakil’s eyelids shot open at the commanding voice, and he scrambled to his
feet. For a moment his face searched the clearing for anything familiar,
than his memory returned, and he recalled the events of the night. The
sight of the dead Orcs made him wince again, and he averted his gaze,
pretending to rub sleep out of his eyes.
“We will set out as soon as you are ready,” Anborn said.
He left the boy to care for himself and helped settling Beldil on the bare
horseback. The messenger was too weak to hold himself steady on the broad
horseback, so Darung seated himself behind him to keep him from falling.
“Anakil, you will lead the horse,” Anborn ordered. “Follow me closely.
Galdor will cover our backs.”
“What about breakfast?” Anakil asked. He had not eaten for more than twelve
hours, and his stomach demanded food.
“You have a message to deliver, we have an injured messenger to care for.”
Anborn took a last look at the clearing, before striding into the
underbrush, still dark and unwelcoming in the twilight of dawn. “No time
Anakil grabbed the bridle of his horse and hurried to follow him. Galdor
formed the rear, his hand at the hilt of his sword.
They traveled in silence. Anborn could hear the laboured breath of the boy
close behind him, the young messenger was obviously not used to moving at
great speed. The heavy hooves of the horse clattered evenly on the hard
“How is Beldil?” he heard the hesitating voice of the boy.
“Hurt,” Darung said curtly, and the boy fell silent again.
They continued at a fast pace, leaving the thick underbrush behind. The
sound of flowing water could be heard, and turning right they came to a
small river, rushing over stones and small rapids in its narrow bed. In the
west, beyond plains that stretched out somewhat below, the rising sun
glinted on the waters of the Anduin.
Anborn stopped and turned around to face his companions. Darung had already
dismounted, and together with Galdor he had lowered Beldil to the ground.
Anakil had one hand tightly at the horse’s bridle, his other hand rested on
the animal’s nose, using the animal’s breath for warmth in the morning
“We have to leave the horse behind,” Anborn said. “The way we are about to
go is too narrow and dangerous.”
The boy’s hand on the animal’s nose started to caress the soft, damp skin,
and the animal snorted in delight. “Good boy,” the boy murmured and freed
the ugly steed of the bridle. “You know the way home, don’t you? There, in
the west, there is the river. Just keep on going downstream, and you will
find your way home.” The horse rubbed his big head on the boy’s shoulder,
and the boy laughed quietly. “Don’t worry about me, just go!” He smacked
the animal behind its big ears, motioned with his outstretched arm towards
the river, and the horse obediently trotted away. The boy slung the bridle
over his shoulder and hid his hands under his cloak.
Anborn searched his pockets for a moment and pulled out a green, woolen
scarf. “I have to blindfold you, Anakil, for no stranger is allowed to see
the path to our camp. No enemy has found our hiding place so far, and we
want to keep it that way for as long as we possibly can.”
“I am not an enemy,” Anakil protested.
“The sign of Gondor at the neck of a shirt, a living messenger and a slain
Orc are no proof of good intentions,” Anborn replied. “You will deliver
your message, and the Captain will decide whether you are considered friend
or foe. You can come willingly with your hands unbound and your weapons at
your side, or we can disarm you and carry you in with your hands tied
behind your back, it is your choice.” The tall Ranger loomed large above
the small boy, his deep, hoarse voice commanding and firm. He had his right
hand at the hilt of his sword, indicating he was not jesting.
“I am a messenger of Gondor, there is no need to bind me.” Anakil stepped
forward and did not move as Anborn fastened the scarf securely over his
eyes. “I will not cause any trouble.”
The Ranger put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to guide him, and they
started moving again, slower, for Anakil could not see the path ahead, and
Galdor and Darung had to carry Beldil between themselves.
The path was leading them downwards and through small passageways framed by
high stonewalls. Anborn steered Anakil with his hand and his voice,
preventing the boy from stumbling and falling on the uneven path. The noise
of water never ceased. After a while the path ascended again, and the noise
of the water almost disappeared. Galdor and Darung were breathing heavily,
and they rested a while to let them regain their strength.
There were no guards visible to prevent them from traveling the path, but
Anborn knew they had been watched closely since they had parted from the
horse. He did not doubt preparations had already been made to care for the
wounded, and his stomach growled in anticipation of a healthy breakfast.
After their short break they climbed down many steps into a cave in the
rock. The sound of water reappeared, and there was the stream again,
splashing down in front of them in a thin veil of droplets, sparkling like
silver in the light of the morning sun. A dark, unwelcoming gate opened in
the rocky wall behind them, and the hard ground they stood upon was wet
from the spraying water.
Two men appeared out of the dark rocky gate, lifted Beldil from the tired
Ranger’s arms and carried him away. Words were not necessary to coordinate
the care for the wounded, and Darung and Galdor followed their comrades
into the darkness of the opening.
Anborn turned Anakil around so that he faced the sparkling fall and pulled
the scarf off his eyes. The opening in the rocks faced westwards, it took
the boy only a few moment to adjust to the bright but not blinding morning
light. Slowly he stretched out a hand to touch the veil of water in front
of him, as if testing if it was real. The cold water touched his dirty
hand, and the boy pulled back his arm, slightly startled.
A smile crept onto Anborn’s stern face, and he once again put a hand on the
boy’s shoulder. “Welcome to Henneth Annûn, Window of the Sunset, refuge of
the Ithilien Rangers.”
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