Unfinished plots, still a happy reader
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Messages: 3. Henneth Annun
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)
Anakil stared at the glistening waterfall, his eyes wide with wonder. “This
is the most beautiful place I have ever seen!” he gasped.
“Wait until you see it at sunset,” Anborn chuckled from behind. “Ithilien
has many falls, but there is none to match this one, lit by the very last
rays of the evening sun. Remind me to accompany you out here when the time
“I will,” Anakil promised. “I will.” He took one last glimpse of the fall
and the sunlight, then he turned around to face the Ranger.
Anborn had his arms clasped behind his back, his tall frame almost blending
in with the dark rocks behind him. “We have a doorstep to shame even the
castle of a king, but I fear the hall behind it is not kingly at all,” he
said. “I have to take your weapons now, for I cannot watch you as I did in
the forest.” He held out his hand.
“I am what I claim to be.” Anakil protested, but he unfastened his sword
from his belt and took the bow from his back.
“You will be considered a guest as long as you behave as it is expected of
one,” Anborn replied and accepted the weapons with a nod of his head. “You
are a stranger to our company, so you cannot appreciate the trust I
displayed by bringing you here. I could have easily taken your message and
left you in the woods, I am sure you are aware of that. You might have been
able to kill an Orc, but I strongly doubt your ability to resist a Ranger
on guard, let alone overpower him.”
“I meant no offence.” Anakil raised his hands in a gesture of peace. “I
will honour your laws. Lead on, for I have a message to deliver.”
Anborn grunted in response and stepped through the dark rocky gate.
It was the entrance to a large chamber in the rocks, the roof high enough
for a man to stand up straight. The only light came from the small entrance
and a few torches on the wall. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dim
light, Anakil saw a great amount of weapons piled in one corner, as well as
large barrels and boxes of supplies. The cave was wide enough to easily
hold several hundred men, but there were only about twenty moving about,
none of them showing an interest in the new arrival.
There were many mattresses piled close to the walls, four of them apart
from the others. These mattresses were occupied, and Anakil guessed they
were the beds of the ill and wounded. He squinted his eyes in the gloomy
light, but he could not see well enough to make out whether Beldil was
among them. At the far end of the cave, curtains obscured the view, maybe
to give the Captain, his Lieutenants and invited guests a little privacy.
“Feel free to move about and talk to the men, but stay away from the
weapons and the supplies, and do not try to leave without permission. I
will send a man with water and breakfast in a little while.”
“I have to see the Captain,” Anakil said.
“The Captain will see you in time.” Anborn bowed his head and departed
without further instructions.
Anakil took his time wandering around in the large cave, avoiding the
weapons and supplies carefully. There was not much to see, it was a plain
camp, neither as spacious nor as comfortable as the lair of the Osgiliath
company from where he had set out on his errand.
A Ranger approached him with a bowl of clean water and a dark piece of
cloth and he gratefully washed the dirt and grime off his face and hands.
His cloak was soiled with dark orcish blood as well, but there was nothing
he could do about that for now, for he did not bring clothes to change on
his journey. He dried his face and neck on the cloth and settled down with
his back against the wall to get some rest.
The few Rangers who were moving about the camp were tall men, most of them
with a full head of dark hair, clad in green and brown, some armed with a
sword, some having shed their arms to move about unhindered. The poor
description he had been given of the Captain fitted every single one of
them well enough, he was unable to tell if the Captain was present in the
Another Ranger brought him a mug of wine and bread, cheese and salted meat
on a plate. Anakil remembered that he had not eaten for quite some time and
was hungry indeed, and his stomach growled in anticipation.
“You are the messenger called Anakil?” the Ranger asked him as he thanked
him for the meal.
“Yes, my name is Anakil,” he replied.
“Beldil, the wounded messenger that arrived in your company, would like to
have a word with you, when you have finished your meal,” the Ranger told
him. “He cannot come to you, the healer has forbidden him to rise and move
about. His bed is over there with the other wounded.” The Ranger pointed to
the far end of the cave where the four occupied mattresses were situated.
“I will seek him out,” Anakil promised and started to eat.
When the Ranger turned around to leave, he opened his water skin and poured
some water into the mug of wine, for he did not have much experience with
alcohol and feared that even a single mug would get him light headed.
The boy finished everything that had been brought to him and remained
seated for a while to relish the feeling of being reasonably clean and
satisfied. The dim light of the cave seduced his eyes to flutter shut, but
he fought the fatigue that started to overwhelm him and pushed himself to
his feet to keep his promise to the messenger.
There were four people on the sickbeds of Henneth Annûn, all of them young
men, their faces white, at least one part of their bodies wrapped in
bandages. It occurred to Anakil that so far he had not seen an old man
among the Rangers of Ithilien.
He recognized Beldil from their time together in the woods, even though the
man’s forehead was covered with a white piece of cloth, and there was the
dark shadow of a beard on his pale cheeks. His eyes were closed, and Anakil
hesitated, unwilling to wake the man should he be asleep. There was no
healer around he could ask for advice or permission to speak.
“Beldil?” he whispered. “Are you awake?”
The messenger’s eyes popped open, causing Anakil to step back in surprise.
“Obviously you are,” he said. “My name is Anakil. You sent for me.”
“You are a boy, indeed.” Beldil’s grey eyes scrutinized the boy for a
moment, then he got his right arm out from below the blanket to slowly wave
his fingers. His upper arm, where the arrow had hit him, was tightly
wrapped in a clean white bandage. “Come closer, sit down if you like, we
don’t want to disturb the others.” His voice was hoarse but stronger than
Anakil had expected it to be.
The boy lowered himself next to Beldil’s bed, his back against the cold
wall. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
Beldil snorted. “Well enough, considering I was in close contact with a
band of Orcs.” He slowly offered his right hand. “Thank you for saving my
life, young Anakil. I am in your debt.”
Anakil hesitated before taking Beldil’s raised hand, and he almost winced
as the messenger, despite his injured arm, squeezed his hand firmly. He
pressed back with all the strength he could muster, and Beldil smiled.
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I am fifteen, but I will be sixteen in a few months,” Anakil replied.
“Don’t tell me I don’t look it, those are the first words I hear when
giving away my age.”
“You are rather...,” Beldil hesitated to find words that would not hurt,
“..small,” he finished. “But there is a certain advantage in being small,”
he added with a sly smile. “When I was your age, I was as tall as I am
today, all knees and elbows and not pretty to look upon. The knees and
elbows have slowly disappeared, but I fear the rest has never changed, and
right now I look even worse.”
“Are you in pain?” Anakil asked.
“No. The healer made me swallow a strange tasting tea, and most of the pain
and the fever disappeared. I feel a little light-headed, almost as if I
have had too much of bad wine, but it is better than feeling the pain. Much
better. I have never been wounded before, and I have to admit I do not like
it very much.”
Anakil chuckled. “I know a lot of people who are convinced it is a good
sign to be in pain. It assures you that you are not dead yet.”
“I know people who talk like that, too.” Beldil rolled his eyes in mock
desperation. “Most of them are healers.” His eyes searched the
surroundings, and he put one finger to his lips. “Don’t tell the healer I
said this,” he whispered. “At least don’t tell him as long as I am in no
condition to run.”
Anakil suppressed a smile and nodded gravely. “I promise. But you have to
show me who he is, for beside the Rangers named Anborn and Galdor and the
third of our company whose name I did not get, I do not know anyone in this
company. I even don’t know the Captain. Is he around?”
“The Captain? No, he is out with everybody else. Anborn told me one of our
Lieutenants went missing seven days ago. He and his party were pursuing a
rather large host of Orcs, and they sent a man to summon help. The Captain
set out immediately with every man in the fighting condition, but their
tracks disappeared at the shores of Anduin and were not found again. We
fear our men might have been overwhelmed by the Orcs, but the Captain does
not give up easily. He is leading a party to look for them, he won’t be
back before nightfall, I guess.”
Anakil drew his knees to his stomach and locked his arms around his calves
for support. “Do you know him well?”
“The Captain or the Lieutenant?”
“He is a noble lord, a good leader, and I believe he really cares for us,”
Beldil said slowly. “I joined this company when I was about your age, but I
have never been a fighter. I like to move about, to find my own path, and
the Captain was kind enough to let me be a messenger. I have been away
running errands for the better part of ten years now.
I cannot claim to know the Captain well, he is my Captain, not my friend,
but I will gladly lay down my life for him, for he is what holds this
company together, and this company is my life, my home and a part of my
“And the Lieutenant? The one that is missing with his men?”
“He is one of the best. He always tells me that I talk too much.” Beldil
laughed quietly. “You know, he is right, I always talk too much. Maybe that
is the curse of messengers. They deal with messages all day, written and
“Have you delivered your messages yet?”
The smile disappeared from Beldil’s face. “I may talk too much sometimes,
but I never talk about an errand, only to the one man I was sent to find.”
He scrutinized the boy with a questioning gaze. “You have not been taught
the rules of the written, spoken and concealed words?”
Anakil shook his head and cast down his eyes to avoid Beldil’s hard stare.
“This is my first errand outside the confines of Osgiliath,” he admitted.
“Then let me give one piece of advice.” Beldil paused until Anakil raised
his eyes to look at him. “Never talk about the contents of a message,
neither to your friend, nor to your enemy. You never know who is listening,
and you cannot be sure that your friend is your friend. Do not hand a
written message to anyone other than to the man you were told to seek out.
If you cannot deliver a written message, destroy it before you have to
leave it behind or surrender it to other hands. Lives may depend on the few
words you carry in your mind or in your pockets.
Words are weapons, just as sharp as spears and swords and arrows, and when
you know how to wield them, you wield a power that is as dangerous and
terrifying as any other weapon people use in times of war.
If you have the choice between fighting and running, run. Nobody will know
you died a hero’s death if none lives to deliver the message.” Beldil spoke
slowly, carefully, making sure the boy understood what he was talking
Anakil nodded slowly, his hand creeping to the message in his pocket. “I
will remember your advice,” he said. “Every single word of it.”
Beldil raised his right hand again and clasped Anakil’s forearm. “I know
you will,” he said. “But I bet in an hour or two you won’t be able to
recall every single word.”
“I will,” Anakil smiled. “Believe me, I will.”
“He is not singing yet, but he is talking again!” The Ranger Galdor
approached the mattress and bent down to carefully ruffle Beldil’s hair
with one hand. “You got me worried on our ride this morning, for you did
not utter a single word. I started to fear you were fatally hurt.”
“It takes more than a few arrows to silence me for long,” Beldil replied
and swatted away the hand on his head. “Stop that, you are starting the
headache again. And you are ruining my hair.”
Galdor grinned and planted a brotherly kiss on Beldil’s head before he sat
down next to the mattress. “There is not much to ruin, I am sorry to tell
you, my friend. You look better than you did this morning, but still bad
enough to frighten small children. How do you feel?”
“It is a good sign to be in pain, for it assures you that you are not dead
yet, as our young friend here was so kind to remind me” he replied and
pointed at Anakil.
Anakil raised his hands in a gesture of peace and greeting and listened to
the friendly bantering and jesting of the Rangers. They seemed to know each
other well, and he was content just to smile at their conversation, until
Beldil got tired and fell asleep and Galdor strolled away to do whatever a
Ranger did when he was not talking with a wounded comrade and was not out
fighting in the woods.
Anakil felt exhaustion overwhelm him, and he closed his eyes to get some
sleep as well.
When the boy woke again, it was late in the afternoon. The cave had turned
busy during his long, deep sleep. Many Rangers had arrived and were moving
about the camp, opening boxes and barrels to prepare dinner, fetching water
from the fall, carrying small benches for the meal, talking or resting.
More were still coming in through the entrance at the fall, and more
torches were lit than during daytime.
Anakil rose to his feet and stretched his stiff muscles. He spotted Anborn
talking to a group of his fellow Rangers, and as he looked down at Beldil
he found the messenger and his mattress gone. All the mattresses of the
wounded had been brought away, Anakil guessed they had been moved behind
the curtain at the end of the cave to enable the rest they needed above
He rubbed his shoulder blades, numb from leaning against the hard wall for
hours, and the pain hit as some circulation returned. He started to move to
give two Rangers a hand with a heavy looking wooden bench when a grave but
gentle voice addressed him from behind.
“Anakil son of Anabar.”
He paused and turned around.
The Ranger that had spoken to him was tall, even taller than Anborn, rough
cut black hair framed a stern face, and keen grey eyes looked down at the
boy from under dark lashes. His green and brown clothes were stained, his
boots well worn, and he had his hands clasped behind his back. “Anborn told
me that you would like to see the fall when the sun goes down. I will take
Anakil followed the tall Ranger out of the cave, to the doorstep below the
fall. The sun was about to disappear behind the horizon, and her red light
was broken by the falling water, casting the thin veil into flickering
shades of red, like a burning fire.
The Ranger folded his arms across his chest, and Anakil caught a glimpse of
a long sword he carried at his belt. He felt intimidated by this stern
man’s presence, and he was in awe of Ithilien’s beauty opening up before
“I was told you have come from Osgiliath to deliver a message?” the Ranger
started to speak as the sun disappeared, and the fire burned down in the
water of the fall.
‘Never talk about the contents of message, neither to your friend, nor to
your enemy,’ Beldil’s advice echoed in Anakil’s mind. “My message is for
the Captain alone,” he replied.
“Then speak, for I am Faramir, Captain of Gondor and of the Ithilien
Anakil noted the quiet authority in the man’s behaviour, his commanding
voice, and also the concerned and weary look in his grey eyes. He had seen
men with eyes like this before, Captains who had just lost part of their
company, or worried about some of their men, as Beldil had told him. He
scolded himself for not seeing what was plainly in front of his eyes. He
took a look around and realized they were alone, all men that had been
moving about before had quietly departed.
His fingers dove into his pocket to present the message, and for the first
time he noticed the bloody fingerprints he had left on the white paper
while fingering it after killing the Orc. “My lord,” he said and bowed his
head. “I was sent here to deliver this message, and to tell you in person
that Mablung and his company have reached Osgiliath safely and with minor
injuries only. These injuries force them to spend at least a week at
Osgiliath, before returning to Ithilien and giving a full account of the
errand in person. Mablung has given the uninjured fellows two days leave,
either to see their families or to find some - distraction from duty in
Minas Tirith, as he had put it, and he personally vows for their timely
return. He has sent me, I can only quote his words again, to make sure you
do not worry about his well-being, for you already worry entirely too much,
Anakil could not read the Captain’s face, as the man nodded at his words
and took the sealed message from his hand, moving his thumb slowly over one
of the bloody fingerprints. He took a look at the seal, and his brow
narrowed in a frown.
Anakil had noticed the strange seal before, it was a patch of green wax,
but instead of the rough outline of a ring, there was only a fingerprint
visible in the wax, and two small lines, like the scratch of a fingernail,
crossed in the middle.
The Captain broke the seal, pulled out a small piece of paper and read the
words in the last light of the fading day. Suddenly a smile crept onto his
face, transforming his stern features into the likeable face of the boy he
must have been a long time ago, and Anakil felt himself smiling in return.
“Mablung,” the Captain muttered under his breath and shook his head, still
“My lord?” Anakil said and forced the grin off his face. He did not now if
he should take his leave or request an answer, so he crossed his hands on
his back and kept his curiosity at bay, until the Captain had finished the
message and decided to talk to him again.
The Captain read the message twice, a small smile playing at the corners of
his mouth, a flickering light in his grey eyes. He took a long look out
through the waterfall onto Anduin, glistening in the distance, then he put
a heavy hand on the boy’s narrow shoulders. “You are the bearer of good
news, young Anakil. I fear there is far too little good news in these
times. Mablung’s company, for which we have searched in vain for days, has
reached Osgiliath safely, and all of them are alive. The host of Orcs in
their pursuit was taken care of by the men of Osgiliath. It must have been
Mablung himself who gave you the errand, can you tell me if he was among
Anakil nodded. “The man who wrote the message in my presence was slightly
limping on his right foot, and he was cursing the Orcs’ spears in every
second sentence. He never introduced himself to me, for I am only the
“Anborn told me you are also an able warrior,” Captain Faramir stated. “You
have to tell your story when Beldil is on his feet again to join us.”
Anakil felt a blush creep onto his cheeks. “I will, if my lord commands,
but there is no great story to tell.”
“Beldil can make an entertaining story out of the smallest event, and I am
sure you can do that as well, for you are a messenger like him, and all
messengers I have met so far are very able in the game of words. Let us now
join the men and tell your good news, and thereafter have a meal together.
You are our guest tonight, young Anakil.”
“Thank you very much for your kindness, my lord,” Anakil said and bowed
The Captain stepped into the cave and raised his hand, and the men fell
silent at once. The Captain’s voice echoed through the cave as he announced
that Mablung and his company were safe, and the men cheered in response.
Anakil stayed at the Captain’s side, and he found himself cheering as well.
Suddenly the men grew quiet and stepped aside to form a passage in their
middle. Galdor and Anborn slowly walked through the cleared path,
supporting Beldil between themselves. The messenger’s face was flushed from
the strain of standing upright and moving.
The three men stopped in front of the Captain. Anborn let go of Beldil’s
waist and stepped back into the crowd of Rangers.
Beldil was panting heavily but managed to raise his head in proud defiance,
his left arm draped across Galdor’s shoulders for support. The Ranger had
his left hand on Beldil’s left elbow, carefully avoiding touching the
broken wrist, his right arm wrapped around the messenger’s waist.
Beldil needed some time to get his heavy breathing under control, and his
fellow Rangers patiently waited for him to speak.
Beldil’s right hand slowly crept under his shirt, and he pulled out three
white envelopes, wrinkled and dirt stained but without tears in the thin
paper. He carefully bowed his bandaged head and presented the envelopes to
the Captain. “Captain Faramir,” he said. “I was sent to deliver these
messages from Minas Tirith.”
Do not hand a written message to anyone other than to the man you were told
to seek out. Anakil could almost hear the words in his head. You cannot be
sure that your friend is your friend.
Captain Faramir accepted the envelopes with a smile on his stern face and
bowed his head in return. “Thank you, Beldil.” He put his hand on the
messenger’s shoulder. “I have heard you fought well.” The Captain’s smile
widened. “For a messenger.” The assembled Rangers roared with laughter. “Go
now and rest, for I guess these Orcs will appear like no more than flies on
the wall when the healer has finished with you.”
“Aye, Captain, I fear you are quite right.” Beldil bowed again, and Galdor
helped the messenger to turn around and slowly make his way back to his bed
behind a curtain.
Anakil laughed and cheered for the brave messenger with the merry crowd,
his young voice clearly distinguishable from the deeper tones of the
Rangers. The Captain laughed as well, taking a short glance at the three
messages in his hand. His gaze lingered on the seals for a second or two,
and Anakil, standing next to the tall man, caught a glimpse of alarm and
worry on the handsome face.
The boy stopped laughing, waiting for the Captain to announce the cause of
his sudden change in mood, but the Captain put the messages into a pocket
of his cloak, and when he raised his head, he was laughing again. But the
laughter did not reach his eyes.
Anakil felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around, startled, and found
Anborn standing beside him. The tall Ranger put a finger on his lips and
shook his head, and Anakil realized Anborn had seen the concern on the
Captain’s face as well. He wanted to ask what was going on, but Anborn let
go of his shoulder and quietly disappeared into the crowd.
The boy decided to keep quiet for the time, for Captain Faramir’s concerns
were none of his business after all. The Captain made his way through his
cheering men, talking and grasping hands, but when he shortly turned
around, Anakil could see that the laughter of his mouth had not been able
to banish the anxiety from his eyes.
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