Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Adraefan: 3. The Elves' Departure
“Run, Pip! Keep going!”
Another group of orcs was approaching from the other side. They were trapped. Merry grabbed Pippin by the sleeve and pulled him away. But it was too late – a single Uruk-hai was already lunging forward, jagged blade raised high. Both hobbits froze, unable to move in their terror. This was it. This was the end. They watched as the blade fell towards them, slowly, like the axe of an executioner – only to clash against the sword of a Man – of Boromir. Merry and Pippin yelped in surprise and gratitude. They were saved!
They heard his familiar battle cry as he plunged his sword deep into the belly of the orc. With a final thrust, Boromir turned and pushed the hobbits away from the battle. They obeyed and frantically continued their descent. They could hear him grunting and snarling behind them. Uruk-hai fell against their heels. A howl was stifled as someone’s throat was cut. Merry and Pippin chanced a look over their shoulders:
More Uruk-hai, everywhere. The orcs swarmed all over the forest. The only clear path was down. An Enemy warrior came charging at Boromir – the Gondorian quickly ducked and flipped the orc over his shoulder, the weight of which caused him to stumble as well. Merry and Pippin dived forward, plunging their tiny swords into the fallen orc before he could get up. Out of the corner of his eye, Merry saw Boromir stand. The Man grabbed the hobbits by the scruff of their necks and practically threw them down the hill.
“Go! Run!” he roared.
But Merry and Pippin could not abandon their friend so easily. They grabbed some rocks and threw them at the charging Uruk-hai. Pippin had always prided himself a skilled rock-thrower, and he elbowed Merry in the ribs after one of his stones hit an oncoming orc square in the face. Boromir stood between them and the other orcs, slashing and cutting and hacking his way through the Enemy. The Uruk-hai fell at his feet in a constant stream and the two hobbits, in their renewed confidence, jeered and threw more rocks. They were scared, but with Boromir acting as a protective shield between them and any danger, their courage was fueled. They did not realize how many orcs were coming, and truly they did not care, for in their hearts, they knew that nothing could stop the son of Denethor. Nothing could kill him. Not so easily.
Boromir lifted the Horn of Gondor to his lips. He inhaled deeply, preparing to call for help, but something happened.
An arrow, soaring out of nowhere, plunged deep into his shoulder. The Man staggered. His horn fell. The world around them slowed. Merry and Pippin jerked to a halt, frozen. They watched Boromir fall to his knees. Even the oncoming Uruk-hai slowed their pace. All noise fell away. They could hear only his heavy breathing, his sudden, painful gasps.
He met their eyes. They watched him struggling for breath, shuddering with every movement. Merry and Pippin stood with blank faces and stilled hearts. They forgot of danger, of fear. They could only stare transfixed at the fresh blood seeping through Boromir’s clothes. Dark blood like heady wine pouring liberally out of a corkscrew opening in the shoulder.
With desperate resolve, Boromir lifted himself from the ground and swung wildly behind him. He cut through a startled Uruk-hai. This sent the other creatures near him charging. Merry and Pippin were momentarily forgotten as the orcs rushed towards the wounded Man. But Boromir defended himself – his every movement an exhausted burst of fast-diminishing strength.
Three more orcs fell away when something whistled through the air.
Another arrow cut into the Man’s stomach, knocking the breath from him. Merry and Pippin watched him fall again to his knees. They did not know that their faces were wet from weeping, but Boromir’s expression seemed to soften – a silent apology – as he faced them. Pippin sputtered as fresh tears fell along his face. He grabbed his small sword and screamed defiantly, charging towards the oncoming orcs. Merry followed, rushing past Boromir and towards the Enemy. The hobbits were immediately swooped up onto black shoulders, and they screamed hoarsely. No! No! Please! They reached desperately for Boromir, stretching their arms, trying to help him, calling to him, watching him slowly get back to his feet. The orcs ignored the Man and instead hauled the hobbits away down the hill. The last image they saw was of an Uruk-hai colliding with Boromir and both warriors tumbling down the hill.
Merry and Pippin bounced against the jagged armor of the Uruk-hai, who ran at a terrible speed. They passed a thin stream. No! It could not end like this! Pippin was still sobbing. Merry looked wildly around – his vision jumping up and down due to the running Uruk-hai – yet he could not see any of the Fellowship. Where were they?
“Help!” he cried. “Help! Help us!”
“Silence the Halfling!”
Something hard hit his head, and Merry felt hot blood rush down his face and blind him. He struggled to hold on, but the dizziness overwhelmed him and he fell unconscious. The last sound Meriadoc Brandybuck heard was the triumphant Uruk-hai roars and Pippin’s weeping.
Boromir tried to lift his arm and felt a white-hot explosion of pain in his shoulder. He fell back against the ground. There was a terrible agony in his stomach, as if a thousand jagged knives were simultaneously ripping outward and stabbing inward with each breath. Below that fire, he felt nothing. Boromir bent his head to see that he did, indeed, still have legs, even though he could not feel them. But his vision was sufficiently blurred so that he could not distinguish the white-red gauze around his stomach from the pale skin of his torso. He raised his right hand to touch – even a tentative brush against his bare ribs sent tremors of nausea and pain throughout his body.
A few moments passed as he pushed down the urge to vomit. Visions of the days before drifted back to him, of a suffering so acute he had begged for death. Another shameful act to add to the list, he thought with chagrin. And Frodo! The Fellowship! The Ring’s distant echoes. Boromir groaned. He was thankful that the Fellowship had left him behind, for he feared he could never face them again.
Or Minas Tirith, for that matter.
Boromir tugged at the heavy cloak on his side. A fire crackled nearby, but the night was still cold. Something hooted in the distance. Insects chirped. He closed his eyes – the dream was still vivid. He clearly saw their weeping faces leaving him, disappearing behind a crowd of black Uruk-hai. And he longed to see them again, despite the shame. Merry and Pippin had brightened his days, allowed him to smile. With them, he had almost forgotten the despair of Gondor. The endless drone of jokes, Shire politics, gossip, and inane asides had successfully drowned out Boromir’s usual worries. Something about the little ones made the rest of Middle-earth’s problems fade away, as if everything outside the Shire was nothing more than a surreal nightmare.
True, in the early days, he had felt annoyed by their endless merriment. He had envied their simple life, the peace they enjoyed thanks to Gondor’s blood. But in time he had let himself laugh and enjoy their company. He had even entertained the whimsical idea of visiting the Shire after the War.
“You’ve got to see the Green Dragon, Boromir!” Pippin exclaimed.
“Finest ale in the Shire!” Merry nodded.
The Fellowship was walking along a narrow forest path. The mountains loomed in the distance – Caradhras dominating the distant landscape. Birds chirped cheerfully, while the sun’s rays poured in through a ceiling of leaves. The company had been in a joking mood that day. Although they marched endlessly, never stopping if only for brief meals, there had been no evil to mar their path.
Gandalf was ahead, leading the way with his tall staff and pointed hat. Directly behind him walked Merry and Pippin beside Boromir. Then came Sam and Frodo. Aragorn followed, with Legolas behind him and Gimli last.
Merry and Pippin’s eyes were alight with excitement.
“And try some South Farthing pipe-weed, as well! Even Longbottom Leaf!”
“Aye, we can’t let you have any of our travelling supply, as it’s supposed to last us the entire trip. Sorry,” Merry grinned. “But they’ve got barrels of it back home!”
“Judging from the smell,” Boromir laughed. “I doubt I would enjoy it.”
“Oh, it’s better than you think, Boromir of Gondor,” Gandalf, who had been striding ahead of them and listening idly, commented. “You may find it a rare treasure. Yes, yes, there are many pleasant surprises to be found in the world of hobbits, if one knows where to look.”
All four hobbits beamed.
“Hear that, Mister Strider?” Sam’s voice traveled from further down the path. “I reckon a wizard’s compliments are of the highest sort.”
“They are, Sam,” Aragorn replied. “But I have a feeling Gandalf is just trying to get some of Merry and Pippin’s pipe-weed.”
The wizard’s low rumbling laughter traveled down the line of walkers.
“And,” Legolas, who was walking behind Aragorn, added, “it seems he is not succeeding.”
Boromir laughed genuinely as well. Merry and Pippin had indeed eyed Gandalf suspiciously since Aragorn’s comment. Their hands clutched greedily the bag of pipe-weed.
“Oh no, I have no need to endear myself to our young hobbit companions,” Gandalf smiled, and lowered his voice menacingly. “If I wanted any pipe-weed, I’d simply turn them both into a pair of toads and be done with it.”
The two hobbits gasped audibly, causing more laughter among the company. They watched his staff with horror-stricken looks. And on an affectionate impulse – something Boromir had not imagined himself capable of – he ruffled their curly hair and took a step in front of them.
“Fear not, little ones,” he said in joking solemnity. “No harm – no evil toad spells or thieves – will come to you under Gondor’s care.”
But the oath had been broken, he had failed. Merry and Pippin would die at the hands of the Uruk-hai. The innocent little ones so far away from their Shire would now suffer torture and death. All for the weakness of Men… His throat ran dry.
A rustling of leaves interrupted his thoughts.
“I thought I heard someone speaking,” a voice said.
A tall, dark-haired elf appeared in the left corner of Boromir’s vision. He could have been Legolas’s brother. Or father. The elf placed another log on the fire before settling down beside the Gondorian. He grazed the stomach wound – causing Boromir to gasp – and peeked under the bandage.
“Ah yes,” the elf grinned. “Good. I must inform Second One, he was right – very skillful, indeed. Boromir of Gondor, I am pleased to inform you that the bleeding has stopped and the fever has broken.”
Boromir stared at him blankly.
“How many times shall I introduce myself? You may call me Third One.”
The elf patted the Man’s good shoulder as if they were old friends and then retrieved a bundle of leaves from his pack. He unwrapped the bindings to reveal golden bread. The smell of lembas filled the campsite.
“Here, you must be hungry,” Third One said.
Yet the sight and smell of food repulsed Boromir. He felt acid bile creep up his esophagus.
“Nay, it sickens me,” he rasped.
“I’ll attribute that to madness then, for denying lembas is quite a feat.”
The elf smiled at his own joke and took a bite from the bread. Boromir found he could not even watch another eat, so he turned to face the burning fire. The flames licked up into the night sky. Beyond the crackle, he discerned the sound of water flowing. They had taken him to the riverbank. He was back by the Anduin.
Nudging against the top of his head was an overturned boat. He immediately recognized it as one of the three boats from the elf forest of Lothlórien. Shuddering at the memory of his brief stay there, the Man braced himself and tried propping himself up on his elbows in order to sit against the boat. His arms shook unsteadily and he collapsed onto his back. The elf moved to help him.
“I can do it,” Boromir snarled.
The elf backed away, a look of mixed amusement and worry on his face. Boromir struggled on, surprised and angered that suddenly the simple task of sitting up was near impossible. His arms shook as he pulled himself towards the boat. His legs lay motionless before him, nothing more than two dead weights. Once he managed to ease his back against the boat’s curved surface, he was exhausted. With each heartbeat, the blood pulsed through his stomach and awoke the burning pain. His left shoulder ached as well, trembling anew from the unexpected exertion.
“Well done,” Third One said, a faint smile creasing the corners of his mouth.
Boromir glared at him but did not speak for weariness. Instead, he leaned against the boat and watched the Anduin flow. He did not want to think of the little ones, of his brother and father, of Minas Tirith, of all that he loved and had now lost. But, naturally, that was all he could think of. His body lingered on Middle-earth, but there was no life for him. How would his father accept the dishonor Boromir now carried? Aragorn, if he was still alive, would ride to Minas Tirith and claim his crown – and the line of Stewards would end in disgrace…
Boromir shook his head to rid it of the morbid thoughts and studied the elf before him. Third One was peering up into the forest, through the thick curtain of black trees and towards some unknown object. Boromir followed the elf’s gaze, but found he could not penetrate the darkness. He clenched his teeth in irritation. Being outfought by orcs so as to lose Merry and Pippin; being outwitted by elves so as to avoid well-deserved death; succumbing to the Ring’s temptation. These were endless blows to Boromir’s fierce pride, to his honor, to his worth as a Man. He felt the anger and humiliation swell up from his pained, empty stomach through his heaving lungs and into his head. The elf, sensing the Man’s rising hostility, watched him with hesitation. But Boromir knew that Third One feared not an attack, but rather that an angered patient would simply injure himself further. Boromir’s blood boiled – and to think he had begged this elf for mercy, for a quick escape from the pain!
“Is something wrong?” Third One asked mildly.
Boromir inhaled painfully. He cursed the elves for their perception. He flashed Third One an angry look.
“Is it the custom of elves to meddle in the affairs of others?”
“What do you speak of?”
“I did not ask to be helped.”
Third One smiled again. The elf’s humor, ever unfazed, was also grating on Boromir’s dangerously frayed nerves.
“You were not able to ask, considering the condition we found you in. Nay, we took it upon ourselves to help you out of sympathy.”
“Did you three not think perhaps I preferred to be left alone?” Boromir spat.
“Yes, to die!”
The elf’s smile faded.
“No living thing desires to die, not in their heart. Believe me, Boromir of – ”
“Do not call me by that name! I am no longer of Gondor, and it would be an insult for the Men of that realm if I should continue carrying such a title!”
“Why?” a new voice asked. “What crime have you committed?”
Both Boromir and Third One looked back to see the other elves emerging from the shadowy forest, though Third One was not as surprised as Boromir. First One’s thin frame appeared first, and it seemed it was he who had asked the question. From the other side of the clearing, Second One arrived, bow in hand. The two elves deposited their things by the other travelling packs. Second One took a seat beside Third One, while First One remained standing, peering curiously at Boromir.
“Your voice carries far for our elf ears,” Second One teased.
“Verily it does,” First One continued, serious. “As does your anger.”
“And do all elves inhibit the minds of others?” Boromir growled.
“Nay,” First One replied smoothly. “Rather it is Men who are transparent.”
Boromir started forward, pulling instinctively at his empty sheath, but the blast of fiery torment in his stomach stalled the attack. None of the three elves had moved, though all stared at him in alarm. His chest heaved. Shocks of pain lashed from his shoulder and gut, blurring his vision and fueling his anger.
“It is not wise to strike those who help you,” First One said, his voice cold.
“Peace, First One,” Third One said. “He is not himself.”
“Aye, what is it that torments you?” Second One asked.
“You know nothing of what torments me!” Boromir raged. “My death was on Parth Galen, and now you three have forced me to live on as carrion! What right do elves have in dragging a Man away from his end! What could they possibly know of what he must now endure? They see nothing for their arrogance!”
His voice echoed loudly throughout the forest, ringing ominously. A tense silence followed, punctured only by Boromir’s ragged breathing. Finally, First One knelt beside the Man and whispered:
“I would not presume so much. We know more than you think. The fever betrayed you.”
Boromir’s eyes locked onto First One with a flicker of alarm.
“Yes,” First One continued. “It is no mystery where you came from, and the so-called torment that haunts you. You speak of the Ring.”
The flicker of alarm in Boromir’s eyes grew to outright panic.
“We know of your travels. You voiced Caradhras… Moria… Lórien. There were also names – perhaps they were your companions? Frodo. Aragorn. Legolas.”
“Merry, Pippin,” Third One added.
“Mithrandir,” Second One mused. “It must have been a significant quest to unite such characters.”
Boromir could not breathe but for short, shallow gasps. Cold sweat trickled down his temples.
“And we know of your crime,” First One dropped his voice to a lethal whisper: “To steal the One Ring.”
“Nay!” Boromir exploded. “I did not steal it!”
“Peace, Boromir,” Third One soothed. “The Ring is very powerful. Even the strong – ”
“Your companions left you because you were a danger to them,” First One interrupted fiercely. “That is the torment you speak of – Sauron’s temptation! We three have walked this Middle-earth for a hundred of your lives, do not insult our intelligence! Did you think we could not walk away? Abandon you to the danger you carry? You say that you are but carrion, very well. We shall leave you to your fate!”
First One stood abruptly and grabbed his pack from the ground. He walked to the other overturned boat and pulled it upright. The other two elves stood.
“First One?” Second One asked, bewildered.
“Come, brother,” the thin elf growled.
“We cannot leave him so soon!” Third One gasped.
“We can, and we will!”
Boromir watched in dread, a heavy panic pushing against his chest. He could not speak for the fear of what they had just told him – he had betrayed the Fellowship entirely – and of the idea that they should now leave him, stranded on the banks of the Anduin, while they walked the land with the quest’s secret.
“I – I don’t have the Ring!” Boromir cried.
“Aye, but you have meddled with it,” First One spoke without turning. “We have helped you enough, you will mend. Now I would be rid of such a heavy burden. It is not wise to get close to such evil.”
First One was already throwing in the other elves’ belongings. Second One tried placing a gentle hand on the elf’s shoulder, but First One shook it off. He began pushing the boat out into the river. Second One looked back to Third One, who remained hovering uncertainly over Boromir.
“Come, Third One,” Second One called.
Third One removed some more lembas and an extra vial of miruvor from his pack and placed them beside the seated Boromir. He then cast the Man a sympathetic look and rushed back to the other elves. They pushed the boat further, the water curling around their legs, and hopped in. Boromir watched as they paddled away, disappearing into the darkness. He caught one last glimpse of Third One’s distant face, turning to look at him, before the boat faded completely.
He remained seated on the bank, shivering slightly, feeling the silence press against him like a tomb. And the dream returned…
Sunlight danced across the forest floor. Boromir tumbled down the leaf-covered slope; Parth Galen was a blur of movement around him. He landed on his back with a grunt and slid several feet – the Uruk-hai warrior pinned on top of him. He could hear the rest of the Enemy retreating in the distance, the screams and sobs of the little ones no longer discernable among the great noise of stomping feet and terrible roars. Two more Uruk-hai soldiers came bounding downhill towards Boromir and the one before him.
With one desperate swing, Boromir hacked into the Uruk-hai’s side. The black warrior screamed in pain and fell to the side, pulling at the arrow in Boromir’s stomach as he stumbled off him. Pure agony ripped through the wound and unhealthy flashes crept through Boromir’s quickly disappearing legs. The blood was oozing out, soaking his torso and turning the White Tree of Gondor red; his entire lower half was falling numb.
Another Uruk-hai came running down the slope and Boromir had enough time to pull a dagger from the fallen Enemy soldier’s belt and hurl it at the oncoming Orc. The creature ducked to the right, but not before the soaring dagger caught his eye. He uttered a mangled cry before collapsing headfirst downhill.
Boromir did not see the third Uruk-hai until it was practically on top of him. The Orc seethed with rage - his yellow-black teeth bared in a vicious grin. With one fierce movement, he gripped Boromir’s throat, blocking the Man’s breath and keeping his head down, and grabbed the arrow shaft protruding from the gut.
Boromir whimpered and hated himself for it.
“So, Man thinks he can kill Uruk-hai,” the soldier spat, giving the arrow shaft a cruel twist and provoking a strangled wail from Boromir. “Your little halfling friends aren’t here to help you anymore – pity, I wanted them to see you die.”
Using his last reserve of strength, Boromir roared and threw his sword clumsily against the orc. He could not see for the sudden spurt of black blood sprayed into his eyes, but he felt the Uruk-hai resist momentarily, nearly snapping the arrow out of his wound, before relenting and falling dead aside the others. Boromir sputtered and wiped the mess from his face. He could feel his hands shaking, his vision fading in and out. He did not dare think of what his mangled torso resembled now, but the arrow was slick with blood when he tested to see whether it had been pulled out or was still in. The pain was also fading – a bad sign – and a dim feeling crept up from his forgotten legs through his gut and into his heart.
…As the darkness flooded in from all sides, Boromir thought he heard someone calling his name. It was so distant, only a soft voice carried by the wind through the trees, that he wondered whether it was real. He tried to respond but found there was no strength left. With a resigned sigh, his body fell limp…
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