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Another Man's Son: 3. prequel chapter III: aftermath
Boromir shouted with laughter. It was a victory. They had destroyed them. Faramir was before him with unnerving suddenness and they embraced delightedly. "I think your green captain proved himself admirably," Faramir said, grinning widely.
Boromir grinned back. "Well," he said, "I shall have to drink with him, to know his full measure."
Faramir laughed. "We have to get back to the City first," he said, sobering a bit. He clapped Boromir on the back again and moved out to collect his Rangers, to get the wounded on horses, to get out of this hostile place. Ithilien could be a cruel mistress-- it would give you a victory, but it was still not yours.
The young captain kneeling beside his horse. The beast was dead, its face and throat cut. Three horses were dead, and two badly injured. Four men were dead, and ten injured. Walda reported this to Boromir, who nodded and began to make arrangements. "Why do you not report to your captain?" Faramir asked quietly, jerking his chin at the grieving captain.
Walda looked worriedly at Faramir. "I have reported," he said. "He told me to go to Captain Boromir."
Faramir knelt beside the young captain. "Are you all right?" he asked.
Eomer did not turn his head. He had one hand on the dead horse's neck, the other hand tucked under his elbow. "We cannot stay," Faramir continued softly. "We must go. We cannot bring the fallen horses with us but we will get their bodies out of the road, at least, so that they won't be found and eaten."
"Yes," Eomer said finally, his voice distant and breathy. "That is fine."
"What was his name?" Faramir asked, reaching out and touching the still-warm horse.
Eomer said something quietly in Rohirric that Faramir took to be the animal's name. "He was old," he said. "I should have retired him. Help me up, Faramir. I cannot stand."
"Are you hurt?" Faramir asked with some concern.
"Yes," Eomer said. "Yes. I have lost blood but it has slowed now. I cannot ride but I can sit a horse. I don't think I can walk."
Faramir noticed the injury, a crushing blow to the shoulder farther from his view. Bones were certainly broken but the major arteries had not been cut or the youth would be dead. Eomer's lips were pulled back from his teeth and his breath hissed between them. Faramir exclaimed softly and moved to inspect the wound.
"Can you move your fingers?" Faramir asked.
"Now is not the time," Eomer said. "It is not bleeding badly. I will survive. I cannot get up and I cannot get my men up. Please help them, Captain. I trust my lieutenants but this is a strange place and we cannot rely on the same things we are used to." Eomer's voice weakened and he shivered painfully.
"It is bleeding," Faramir said, and pulled out the dressing he usually kept tucked into the top of his boot. He put it gently over and into the wound, and pressed it carefully in place. Eomer clapped his good hand over his own mouth in obvious distress, struggling to keep silent. Faramir pulled the bandage he usually kept tucked into the top of the other boot, and secured the dressing in place quickly. Eomer shuddered again, his breath hissing through his nose, but he was otherwise silent. It was a nasty wound, and could cripple the man, but it was his left shoulder, and Faramir had seen worse mended by Minas Tirith's healers.
Boromir's voice behind him exclaimed in dismay. "Captain Eomer," he said. "You have taken a hurt?"
Eomer did not turn, could not turn, and Faramir looked at Boromir somberly. "He will live," Faramir said.
"Captain," Eomer said. "Please, did my lieutenants report to you?"
"Yes," Boromir said. "I have seen to your men. All of our wounded are on horses, except for the wounded horses, who we have tended as best we can. One of them may have to be put down but his rider is with him now seeing if he can be saved."
"Good," Eomer said faintly.
"We have arranged for the dead to be taken care of as well," Boromir said. "Your lieutenants are very capable."
"They are," Eomer said. "They are not mine. They belong to the Third Marshal. I will tell him of your praise." His voice faded and Faramir steadied him as he swayed.
"Eomer, do not speak," Faramir said. "You must conserve your strength."
"We are ready," Boromir said. "Your men are itching to depart. It is unwise to tarry longer."
Faramir nodded. "We will depart now. Boromir, Captain Eomer's horse is dead and he cannot walk. Can you take him with you?"
"Yes," Boromir said. Faramir and the Rangers were afoot; of the Gondorians, few had horses. The horses of the Rohirrim were laden with the wounded. And Eomer was a big man, taller than any of his men. Boromir was the only one big enough to hold him on the horse if he lost consciousness.
The brothers had no small experience at dealing with wounded men, and Boromir easily helped Eomer to his feet, holding him under his good arm. Eomer was in bad pain, panting for breath to keep from crying out. But once he was up he walked on his own, checking up on his lieutenants before he let Boromir help him onto his horse.
It was a long ride back. Boromir idly watched the blood darkening the crude dressing on Eomer's wound. "What happened?" Boromir asked. It seemed to be in his best interests to try to keep the heavy Rider alert, if possible.
"Hm?" Eomer collected himself with some difficulty. "What happened when?"
"That you got hurt. Most of your men did not." Boromir shrugged. "I merely wondered."
"An unusually coordinated Orc," Eomer said. "I saw the little rat. He was panicking and flailing, and stuck his arm out when my horse ran into him. So he stabbed the poor beast before he got run down. Poor old fellow. He went down, and before I could get all the way up I got chopped."
Boromir nodded. "How did you get out?" he asked, remembering the thick press of enemies on the road.
"The hard way," Eomer said. He laughed humorlessly. "I lived because I still had one good arm. Good job I'm right-handed."
"Must've been rough without your shield-arm," Boromir said.
"My armor's good," Eomer said. "And they weren't, very."
Eomer's voice was tight but his words came fluently. He didn't seem too far gone. Boromir was pleased. "You were right," he said in a moment. "Your plan was better than mine would have been. I concede: you know cavalry better than I do."
"That is high praise," Eomer said, "coming from the Captain-General."
"It is," Boromir said.
"I am grateful you were willing to let me prove my worth," Eomer said. "I could not have easily borne being asked to charge into a melee full of allies."
"Your objections were reasonable," Boromir said. "I confess I thought you rather green for this assignment, but I see they teach the craft of warfare early in Rohan."
Eomer laughed again. "Rather green," he said. "That's a--" He bit off his next comment. "Yes," he said. "I am young. But I was eleven when they brought my father's body back."
"I suppose that would give an early start," Boromir said, wondering what he had started to say. "He fell in battle?"
"Uruks," Eomer said. "Some of the men with me now were there."
Boromir turned, catching sight of movement. The Rangers were trailing them, watching for pursuit. They had been relatively unscathed in the action, which should please Faramir. They had done very well. Boromir had taken more losses among his men, but on the whole the action had gone better than he had anticipated. He was pleased.
"Well," he said, turning back to Eomer. "We could not have done that without your horses and men. I will be sure to express my gratitude to your lord, and to ensure that my lord is apprised of your role."
Eomer cursed suddenly. "The Council," he said. "There will be a Council meeting after this battle, will there not?"
"Yes," Boromir said. "What is wrong?"
"Theoden instructed me at great length how to speak for him at that meeting," Eomer said. "Will it be held immediately upon our arrival in the City?"
"No," Boromir said. "The next morning."
"Good," Eomer said. "I hope your healers are fast. I have to be at that meeting."
"Send one of your lieutenants to make your report," Boromir said, frowning. "It would be all right."
"Can you see Walda before the Steward?" Eomer said quietly. "He is a valiant man, and has served long and well. But I have met the Steward now, and it seems that all my uncle has told me of the man is true. Walda will make his report, but if Lord Denethor asks him a single piercing question he is likely to lose his composure entirely. And that will be the impression of my people retained by all the Lords of Gondor."
"Denethor is intimidating," Boromir said. "I will allow that. But I do not think he would seek to deflate your lieutenant."
"Be that as it may," Eomer said, "I am the one Theoden has charged with speaking to the Lords of Gondor. I do not think I have the strength to explain to Walda what he must say."
Boromir nodded. "I think I understand," he said. "I will see what I can do to be sure you are able to attend."
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