Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Adraefan: 30. An Unexpected Arrival
The elf, blond and fair, smiled at a passing comment of the dwarf’s. He halted in his walk and turned to face the squat figure beside him.
“Then I should like a try,” he said.
“A try at what?” the dwarf asked.
“You claim an ‘elf princeling’ could never wield the axe as well as a common dwarf,” the first said smoothly. “Those are heavy words, and I should like to prove them wrong.”
The dwarf grunted with amusement. “Very well, Legolas, here. But be careful, I will be very unhappy if you manage to bend the blade or break the hilt.”
He removed his axe from its sheath and handed it to Legolas, who took it, grasped it firmly in both hands, testing the weight. As the dwarf looked on with increasing mirth, Legolas ran a finger over the sharp blade, careful not to cut himself, and then eyed the axe’s shaft.
“This is not straight,” Legolas commented.
“It is as straight as needs be,” Gimli scoffed. “It hits the mark.”
“So you claim. We shall see.”
Legolas turned and studied the surrounding trees. They were at a part of the path that was thick with trees of varying sizes. Thin wisps of infant walnuts stood amid the thick, older oaks and elms. Legolas walked several paces before finding his desired spot. He then pointed at a distant trunk, medium in width, with a paler swirl of wood amid the monotonous browns.
“There,” Legolas said. “See that pale spot on yonder ash? That is my target.”
Gimli peered into the forest, his hands on his hips.
“The one with the squirrels on it?”
“Nay, two trees to the right.”
“Oh yes, I see it,” he nodded. “Very well, princeling, let us see you hit it.”
Legolas took several moments to prepare, earning various sighs and impatient snorts from Gimli. The elf tested the axe, swung it around, tested it again and swung it high and low. He aligned the blade with the target, feigned as if to throw, feigned again, and then stepped back to reconsider. Gimli growled and crossed his arms. With a smile, Legolas stepped forward again, checked his balance, made mental calculations on the wind’s speed and humidity, checked the axe again, leaned back and finally – in a movement at once graceful and strange-looking for an elf – threw the axe.
After spinning several times, it slammed against the tree, sending bark everywhere and birds flying. It came to rest perhaps three inches above the pale swirl of wood.
“Ha!” Gimli barked. “See that, eh? Thought it was all too easy? Ha ha!”
Legolas clenched his fists in frustration.
“It is too short for my build,” he argued. “I have longer arms than you. The axe was too short.”
“Ha ha! Too short, indeed!” Gimli clutched his stomach. “If that was an orc, you would have but trimmed his hair!”
As the dwarf roared with laughter, Legolas stormed forward and jerked the axe from the tree. He stalked back, sending vicious glares at the still-chuckling dwarf, and resumed his position.
“I wish to try again,” Legolas said.
“Oh, go ahead, my blind friend, let us see if you can pierce the wind above the orc’s head. Ha! Shall I stand here, to your side, or am I in danger of being hit?”
“After this throw, we shall see your talents with the bow,” he murmured.
Gimli made a noise as if to feign fear and waited. The forest audience hushed as Legolas prepared his second throw. He did away with the excessive testing and pacing, and instead eyed the target, letting his mind wrap itself around the trunk and embrace it. He felt the air against his fingers as they curled around the axe’s hilt. He envisioned the blade cutting through the swirl – he let loose with this vision in his mind – and the vision was realized. The axe hurtled through the air, whistling, and landed in the very center of the designated target.
Legolas turned, smiled.
And as Gimli was gathering his breath for a barrage of excuses, insults and reevaluations, a noise pricked up their ears, and there was movement up along the path. Both Legolas and Gimli turned, the latter instinctively reaching for the axe with now hung against the ash tree. There, further up the path, a group of elves on horses trotted along slowly. Their purpose, Legolas could not tell. He recognized a few by face, but not by name. Mirkwood. They approached, and all parties bowed. The elf in the center, a tall elf with dark hair and bright eyes the color of the midday sky, smiled benignly at Legolas.
“Legolas Thranduillion, prince of the Woodland Realm,” he began. “I bring tidings from your king and father.”
“That is unexpected, and I am happy to hear it,” Legolas saluted. “But forgive me, kinsman, for I know not your face.”
The elf smiled.
“That is understandable. I am Dínendal Edledhronadbar, the second exile of the elven kingdoms. I am a friend of Boromir, son of Denethor, and I ride to Minas Tirith to meet him, for I hear that he lives.”
Legolas and Gimli both expressed immediate surprise – Legolas with a slight widening of his eyes and Gimli with a raspy gasp.
“You are one of the elves who traveled with Boromir in the time after Amon Hen?” Legolas asked.
“This is news indeed! He has spoken little of his time in the wasted lands of Dagorlad, and we believed all his companions dead.”
“Two, alas, perished, this I know,” Dínendal cleared his throat. “But I lived and have remained for these months in Mirkwood, or Eryn Lasgalen as it is now called, to heal and to once again breathe the smell of my home. For it has been very long since I have passed the realm’s gates, and to be welcomed back, with name renewed, well… it was difficult to tear myself away so soon.”
Legolas smiled. “I understand. And, as a prince of that realm, you have my respect and friendship. What little Boromir recounted has shown me that you, and your two companions, have regained tenfold whatever was lost.”
Dínendal nodded in thanks.
“Bah!” Gimli snorted. “Enough of this prim talk. Will you walk with us, Master Elf? I’m curious to hear of these Dagorlad adventures.”
The elf grinned slightly, dismounted. Gimli gathered his axe, and soon the three were walking along the path, back to Minas Tirith. The other elves, two tall dark-haired types, also dismounted and led the three horses by their reigns. They walked several paces behind Legolas, Gimli, and Dínendal.
“Tell us, then,” Legolas said. “How came you upon Boromir? And by what paths and choices did you find yourself in Dagorlad? Is it true you stifled the progress of the Easterling army?”
“I see some of my tale has already been told,” Dínendal grinned. “Well, I should begin at the beginning. My brothers and I did ever wander through Middle-earth, without aim or home. Scarcely did we meet others, for we took cares to avoid all realms and settlements. As you know, we were forbidden from living as the Eldar, and so we walked without purpose, without end. We came across Boromir near the Rauros Falls, at the foot of Amon Hen. He was gravely wounded. Two arrows pierced his person, and near twenty Uruk-hai lay at his feet.”
Gimli and Legolas both felt their faces flush with guilt.
“Alas that we abandoned him so soon,” Legolas murmured. “How I regret our hasty decisions that day.”
“Aye…” Gimli muttered.
“Nay, nay,” Dínendal said. “Be not ashamed. For we three egledhron soon learned the origin of Boromir’s guilt, as well as the reason for his abandonment. We too left him shortly after, for we feared that which he cried out for. We feared the Ring.”
Legolas and Gimli stared. Dínendal smiled.
“Aye, he was delirious from his wounds, and he did utter aloud his supposed crime. We learned much of his companions, his quest, his torment. He spoke often of the Ring. It was clear he had been tempted by it, though we knew little more. Nonetheless, we left him, and he did follow us in order to challenge us,” Dínendal laughed. “Needless to say, wounded as he was, he did little save injure himself further.”
Legolas sighed. Gimli cocked his head.
“That is the Boromir we knew…” Legolas murmured.
“Aye,” Gimli agreed. “A bold, doughty Man.”
Dínendal raised his eyebrows.
“My friends, you are strange as I speak of him, and this worries me,” he said. “What with Boromir? Speak now, ere we reach the city. What is there to Boromir that makes you sigh so?”
Legolas and Gimli looked at each other, considering. Dínendal waited. Finally, Legolas spoke.
“He is not the same, Dínendal,” the elf said softly. “He returned from Barad-dûr witless and ruined. Much time he spent in the healing houses. I know not if the rumors have reached you on your travels. But they speak of madness…”
“Madness!” Dínendal exclaimed.
“I am afraid so, Master Elf,” Gimli growled. “He’s become no more than a pitiful drunkard.”
“Gimli,” Legolas hissed.
“I speak only the truth.”
Dínendal stared at the two, aghast.
“His brother, Faramir, has been named Steward of Gondor, even though the title was Boromir’s by birthright,” Legolas said softly. “And rumors fly around the city of his overindulgence and of his madness.”
“Nay…” Dínendal breathed.
They were nearing the walls now. Legolas, Gimli and Dínendal could already see the white stone glinting amidst the trees, further down the path. The sunlight splayed across the walls in intricate patterns. From just this corner of the wall, this small window, Minas Tirith was beautiful.
“And it is Barad-dûr which has done this to him?” Dínendal asked.
“So they say,” Legolas said. “Though we had hoped to learn more of his travels from you. If mayhap some trials along the way had not already weakened his mind.”
“Apart from the Ring, you mean,” Gimli muttered.
Legolas shot him a sharp look.
“He did suffer much grief,” Dínendal admitted. “For the Ring. For his home. And later, for the death of one of our companions. He had come with us seeking exile, for he believed Minas Tirith would no longer accept him.”
“Exile?” Legolas and Gimli asked in unison.
“Aye. We three egledhron had planned to abandon the West in favor of the Wild Lands of East. Boromir was to join us. But, when we caught sight of the Easterling armies, we chose instead to remain and fight. My companion, Golradir, the first exile of Mirkwood, did e’er say we were reversing our shame and regaining our honor.” Dínendal sighed. “Alas, that such a Man should fall to such low depths. I do e’er shudder to think of that day…”
“Which day?” Gimli asked.
“I expect he has not spoken of it, of our last battle on Dagorlad plains.”
“Never,” Legolas said. “’Tis a dark memory for him, I fear.”
“Indeed. Five nazgûl overwhelmed us as we fought there… The Black Breath was already upon Boromir, and my brother, Amdír, and I, we did raise our blades high and utter the ancient war-cry of Fingon. But there were too many. Amdír was taken. The last I saw of him, he was being ripped from the earth by a Fell Beast. I charged on, and one nazgûl did I slay. But still, there were too many. Boromir was taken shortly after. I remember nothing else, for an arrow pierced my person in that moment.”
Legolas and Gimli walked slowly now. So slowly, their footsteps forgotten as they listened with rapt attention. So this was part of the mystery to Boromir and Barad-dûr. So this was the last battle. So this was the beginning of a madman’s torment, of his slow crumble.
“Come, then,” Legolas said. “Let us hasten to the Citadel. For your stories shed light on much that has remained in shadow. The King and Lord Steward especially will be doubly curious to hear of all this.”
It was one o'clock in the afternoon. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Rúnyafin was agitated. His job as Head of the Lord Boromir's personal chambers had always been an uneventful, monotonous affair - since his Lordship was usually out in wars or mysterious quests, there was little to do except maintain the chambers in decent condition for when, and if, he returned. There had been occasional mistresses or heated arguments with the Lord Faramir, but the minimal gossip these episodes produced usually fizzled out within a few days.
Yet, ever since the Lord Boromir's return to Minas Tirith, his person had developed something of a cult following among the servants, complete with endless gossip, speculation, and fabricated tales. His madness was well documented throughout the Citadel staff, as was his drunkenness. His loss of title, his muttered ramblings, his exclusion from Citadel society; all this had proved a morbid delight among the castle servants and common folk. And what will they think, Rúnyafin thought wryly, when they find I was awoken in the middle of the night and his Lordship, drunken and with broken nose, did stumble back to his chambers supported by a dwarf and the newly-minted Faramir Steward? Rúnyafin snickered, but stopped short.
Unless, of course, I did dream that episode.
Rúnyafin looked up at the ceiling – at the ornate stone carvings that wormed their way up into each arch - and prayed to the Valar that he had not dreamt it. For it was a piece of gossip too good to let slip.
However, now, he was in a hurry. Rúnyafin had been sent by King Elessar himself to wake Lord Boromir and return him to the Great Hall, where a visitor was waiting. In the Hall, Rúnyafin had caught a glimpse of dark hair tied back to reveal a pointed ear. An elf! Thirty-seven years working in the Citadel, surrounded always by the usual drudges and attendants, with only the deterioration of Lord Denethor’s sanity to keep things a bit lively, and now Rúnyafin was practically swimming through a sea of elves and foreigners. The Queen, Lady Arwen, the young Prince Legolas, the famous Lords Elladan and Elrohir. Even dwarves! Halflings! And now here was another exotic specimen. For one brief moment, Rúnyafin felt as a boy again, full of wonder and excitement.
He rounded another corner, walking at full speed. A few passing servants cast him questioning glances, and he returned their looks with an exasperated shrug. All knew Rúnyafin was the Head of Lord Boromir's chambers. Rushing through the Citadel corridors at noon was self-explanatory.
He found a woman and a boy waiting for him by the entrance of Lord Boromir's quarters. The woman was young, perhaps in her early thirties, while the boy was a gangly thirteen. As Rúnyafin approached, he noted that the boy was wringing his hands nervously and a faint sheen of sweat covered his brow.
“Innwen,” Rúnyafin called. “Is this the boy, then?”
“Aye, sir,” Innwen bowed her head. “Master Rúnyafin, this is my son, Innrod. Innrod, this is Master Rúnyafin, Head of the Lord Boromir's Chambers.”
“First day at work, I imagine?” Rúnyafin asked from the bridge of his nose.
The boy nodded fervently, staring at the ground.
“Speak, boy, are you dumb?”
“N - no, sir,” the boy mumbled.
“Very well. I do not know what nonsense your silly mother has told you, but it is my duty to prepare you for service in his Lordship's chambers. It is a great honor to wash his Lordship’s undershirts or clean his stables, remember that. When I die, or - Valar permit - when I am discharged from his services for old age, you will become the next Head of his Chambers. Your duties will be to manage his Lordship’s personal affairs – which means ruling over all the various aides, nursemaids, drudges, pages, squires and attendants in his Lordship's entourage. His shirts must be cleaned, his apartments dusted, his arms polished. His boots must be counted, his cloaks pressed, his papers organized. You must oversee all that is menial and trivial, all that his Lordship cannot be bothered with. Do you understand?”
“Learn to be as a shadow. Your presence must be minimally seen, never felt. You must sink into the backgrounds. Never speak unless his Lordship calls upon you. Make no comments, have no opinion. Also, the mark of a respectful servant is to keep his tongue behind his teeth. Now. Today we must needs wake his Lordship, and quickly too, for he has a visitor waiting in the Great Hall. Ready, boy?”
Innrod nodded quickly and dragged the back of his sleeve against his brow. Rúnyafin smiled inwardly. How he relished the anxiety of these young upstarts! He decided to make the anticipation somewhat more painful by looking Innrod up and down with a disparaging eye.
“Polish your shoes. We always meet his Lordship in excellent dress.”
The boy gasped and lunged down to clean his black leather shoes. After rubbing fervently, he sprang up again. Rúnyafin smiled, adjusted the boy's stiff collar, glanced at Innwen over his shoulder, and knocked on the door.
There was no response.
“My lord?” Rúnyafin called, knocking again.
Rúnyafin emitted a theatrical sigh and pushed open the large doors. The three servants were met with stale, dank air that smelled horribly acidic. Innrod scoffed involuntarily and held his nose. Fierce sunlight poured in from the large windows, the bed was disheveled, and a bowl of cooled water rested on a low table. So it was not a dream, Rúnyafin thought.
They found Lord Boromir lying in a crumpled heap under the window. An empty bottle lay strewn against a chair. A wide stain had formed on the cushioned seat where the drink had spilled out. For a moment, Rúnyafin nearly smiled. This was too good to be true. No one would believe this. Yet he maintained his serious expression and stepped forward, Innwen and Innrod trailing at his heels.
As they neared his Lordship, Innrod let out a disgusted cry. Vomit soiled the Man's tunic and beard, and a mess of it lay beside him. A black bruise had formed around the broken nose, and dried blood crusted into the beard beneath. Innwen gasped and brought a handkerchief to her face.
“Boy, see to the mess,” Rúnyafin ordered. “And you, woman, help me wake him.”
Rúnyafin and Innwen stepped forward, careful to avoid the mess, and crouched beside Lord Boromir. Innrod lingered behind, hovering over them uncertainly. With a sharp glare from Rúnyafin, he finally bent down with a handkerchief and attempted to clean. Meanwhile, Rúnyafin knelt on the other side of his Lordship.
“Lord Boromir?” he said, placing a wary hand on the Man's shoulder.
There was no response. The Man’s head lolled back, limp.
“Wake up, my lord,” Innwen tried. “’Tis day. Come now, my lord. You are needed in the Hall. King Elessar beckons.”
After much jostling and pulling, Boromir moaned and opened his glazed eyes. Rúnyafin managed to pull him upright, so that his back leaned against the chair leg, but the Man was both heavy and unwieldy. He blinked, leaned against his hand, grumbled something. All the while, Rúnyafin and Innwen cooed childish encouragement.
“There you are, my lord. Up and about,” Rúnyafin said. “Well done, sir. Good, good. Try and stand for me, yes?”
Boromir staggered slightly as his elbow buckled. Rúnyafin and Innwen moved forward to keep him sitting. Yet he pushed them away, his face paling considerably, and jerked forward to retch. All three servants jumped back, though Rúnyafin caught some of it on his sleeve. When he was done, his Lordship slid back onto his side, intending to lose consciousness again. They tried coaxing him back up, but he simply pushed them away with incoherent murmurs.
“Come, my lord, awake,” Innwen said anxiously. “They are waiting for you in the Hall.”
Boromir groaned and, with eyes closed, mumbled: “Let them wait...”
“Nay, my lord,” Rúnyafin insisted, failing to hide his irritation at having his sleeve vomited upon. “It is past noon, the sun is high.”
It was too late, his Lordship had already fallen asleep. His breathing was deep and even, if somewhat hampered by the broken nose. Rúnyafin threw his hands in the air and sat back with a frustrated sigh. Innwen continued to shake Boromir by the shoulder, but to no avail. After a few moments of disgust and despair, Innrod finally stepped forward. He crouched over Boromir and pressed his thumb against the bridge of the sleeping Man's crooked nose.
It worked. Boromir jerked back with a hiss, immediately awake. He fumbled to lay a backhand on the quickly receding boy, but, finding it too difficult, sat up instead to nurse his nose. He cupped it with one hand and shielded his eyes from the sun's glare with the other.
“By the Valar!” he snarled. “Idiot boy, I’ll have your head for that!”
Rúnyafin hastened forward and, together with Innwen and Innrod, they hoisted Boromir onto his feet before he could resist. He stumbled sideways, reeled left and forward. Rúnyafin pulled the Man's arm over his shoulder and led him to sit at the low table.
“They are waiting, my lord!” Innwen was saying. “We must make haste!”
“F – forgive me, m’lord!” Innrod overlapped. “I did not mean to – ”
“There, good, up on your feet,” Rúnyafin said. “Here. We must be quick, my lord. They expect his Lordship immediately.”
Boromir slouched onto the couch, leaning his head over the edge. His nose was bleeding afresh, and Rúnyafin caught an ashamed flush from Innrod. Yet his Lordship seemed to have already forgotten the harsh methods used to wake him, and was instead covering his eyes with his hand and concentrating on the nausea. Innwen bent over him with the water and began to dab at his nose.
“Rúnyafin, close the curtains ere my head pounds me blind,” Boromir scowled. “Who calls me at this wicked hour?”
“King Elessar, sir,” Innrod burst forth, excited. “And they say one of the warrior elves your Lordship encountered during the War.”
Boromir struggled to raise his head. He stared with swollen eyes at the boy, who was again blushing furiously. “Boy, are you a lying dullard? Who told you such? All three elves I knew did perish.”
Innrod shook his head fervently.
“Nay, my lord, ‘tis a warrior elf from the Mirkwood kingdom. I am sure of it!”
Boromir’s lips parted slightly in shock while the servant woman cleaned away the mess in his beard. Innrod could not help but smile. Yet his Lordship’s reaction was not necessarily one of joy as it was one of haste. He sat forward, keeping a hand against his stomach and the other against the chair’s armrest.
“My doublet. I need to change.”
“Yes, my lord,” Rúnyafin hastened away.
Innwen laid a wet cloth against Boromir’s nose, and he groaned with relief. Rúnyafin returned with fresh clothes, Innwen set aside the bowl of water, and Innrod took a step back as they helped Boromir remove his soiled surcoat, overshirt and undershirt. Once Boromir’s torso was nude, Innrod nearly gaped at the scars – especially the black mutilation in the stomach – while Innwen and Rúnyafin diplomatically kept their eyes averted. Boromir loosened one of the new shirts and noticed the attention.
“An obscene wound, verily?” he smirked.
Innrod dropped his gaze.
“Nay, my lord. Forgive me, my lord. I did not mean to look.”
After the undershirt and overshirt were on, Boromir buttoned his doublet.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Boromir said. “You stare. So would these two, but they know enough to hide their half-glances and whispered comments. What is your name?”
“Innrod, my lord.”
“Innrod, bring me my cloak. Your elders will take care of the chambers.”
Innrod beamed. He rushed out of the room, grinning stupidly at Rúnyafin and Innwen. Boromir took the wet cloth from Innwen’s hand and pressed it against his nose again. They watched him, silent. Rúnyafin found it difficult to hide a rather evil glare, though Boromir did not seem to notice or care. The boy returned. He stumbled in with cloak and scabbard. Upon seeing the sword, Rúnyafin flushed, but Boromir simply laughed.
“Aye, good thinking, lad,” he said as he took it. “Always armed, always.”
Innrod smiled. Boromir fastened his cloak, turned to the other servants.
“Have the room cleaned ere I return. I would also request that you speak naught of last night’s adventures, but I know it would be a foolish request.” He turned, walked towards the door. “Come then, Innrod.”
With Innrod trailing faithfully at his heels, Boromir strode out of the room, leaving Innwen and Rúnyafin glancing at each other.
Outside, Boromir and Innrod walked quickly, zigzagging down the halls while Boromir fumbled with his belt. Innrod watched the Man with an intense mix of curiosity and unease. So this was Boromir the Mad. How his friends would envy him if they knew he was now in the Lordship’s service! Innrod smiled to himself, for all his friends still worked in the kitchens or stables. Ha!
“The girl, Innwen, she is your mother?”
“Aye, my lord.”
“Who is your father?”
“I know not, my lord, he was killed during the War, my lord.”
Boromir grunted. They turned a corner and began to climb a stone staircase. Innrod watched as Boromir, every so often, paused to grip his stomach and swallow with eyes closed. The various nobles, guards and servants all bowed to his Lordship or muttered respectful salutations. Innrod soaked everything up with awe. He had never been in this part of the Citadel before.
They reached the top of the stairs and began a rushed walk down a long, wide hallway. Innrod had to skip forward to keep up with Boromir’s long strides. The Man was still relatively drunk, for he often shouldered passing servants or collided with the wall unexpectedly.
“My lord? May I ask a question, sir?” Innrod asked, childish curiosity consuming him.
Boromir did not respond, but did not say no. Innrod bounded forward, trying to keep pace and keep his breath steady.
“That – my lord, that wound, is it from your battles with Easterling savages?”
“Nay. ‘Twas a poisoned Uruk-hai arrow that did it.”
“My lord, is it true that the Uruk-hai are twice the size of Men?”
“That is an exaggeration.”
“Does it hurt still? The wound?”
“Mind your place, boy.”
“Yes, my lord,” Innrod said, barely audible and blushing.
After a few more strides, Boromir cleared his throat. Innrod felt himself being observed. They were walking the last stretch before the Great Hall, and there were no people in this part of the corridor. Innrod noticed how Boromir lowered his voice to a private growl:
“Aye, it does hurt, lad.”
“Is that why you drink?” Innrod asked, rather stupidly.
Boromir laughed strangely. “What do the servants think?”
“They think… nay, forgive me, my lord.”
“They say it is… they say you driven to it from evil memories.”
Boromir did not comment. They had arrived at the entrance of the Great Hall. Two guards pulled in their spears to salute. Boromir turned to Innrod. The boy wiped his hands nervously against his breeches. Had he said something wrong? Yet, his Lordship’s expression softened, not quite a smile but close.
“Well? Am I presentable?” Boromir asked.
Innrod smiled broadly, almost laughed. “His Lordship’s nose is black and he is very pale.”
Boromir shrugged, loosened his collar slightly.
“Aye, that will do for today. Just so long as I am not sick on the King himself.”
“Off you go, Innrod. I will call on you if I have need.”
Innrod smiled, bowed slightly, and, before he could contain himself, beamed: “Good luck, my lord!”
Boromir laughed and nodded, and then he was gone, into the Great Hall. Innrod peeked in, he could see a group of Men and elves – even a dwarf! – waiting for Boromir. Innrod tried to steal a glance at the King, but the guards were eyeing him nastily, and so he hastened away.
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