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Adraefan: 40. Degeneration
It was a clear evening when Boromir staggered away from the group, green-faced, mumbling something, disappearing into the woods. Their walk ground to a halt with several impatient remarks and poorly concealed sighs. Gandalf leaned back in his saddle, exhaling. Frodo’s face hardened. Sam blew his breath out with visible annoyance. Merry’s brow knit in a twist of embarrassment and concern. Pippin set out after him, but Dínendal stopped him.
“I shall go,” the elf said.
“Oh, we should just leave him!” Sam huffed. “Beggin’ your pardon, but this is ridiculous! We’ve spent more time on this journey just waiting for him. I say we send him back to Gondor!”
“Do you think he’d find his way back?” Frodo asked caustically.
“I reckon he wouldn’t,” Sam shrugged. “But it wouldn’t be our problem, Mister Frodo. Not anymore.”
Merry and Pippin said nothing.
Back in the woods, Dínendal tracked Boromir until he found the Man kneeling against a tree. They were far from the path, so there was no risk of being heard. The elf stepped forward. The Man was being sick. He shoulders trembled in the moonlight. His hands grasped the trunk and grass for support. He coughed violently. Dínendal cringed at the sound. When the heaving ebbed, the elf approached.
Boromir looked up, sweating and pale. His bleary eyes blinked several times. His mouth hung open, and he swallowed.
Dínendal held his breath. A stinging pain in the chest.
“Nay, Boromir. It is I, Dínendal.” Dínendal hesitated. “Second One.”
“Come, drink some water,” the elf retrieved a water-skin from his pack. The Man sat back heavily, leaned against the tree. His head fell back, scraped the trunk. His arm hugged his torso. Dínendal avoided the mess and knelt beside Boromir. He guided the Man’s hands to the water-skin, helped him raise it. Once Boromir finished drinking with a pant, Dínendal leaned back on his heels.
Dínendal hated this. Only with Boromir could he speak of Amdír and Golradir, of Dagorlad battles and Easterling swords. Of all the grief that weighed on his heart and chilled his stomach, all the grief that had grown, inexplicably, with each passing month. They had died in the spring, and it was now fall, and the wound in Dínendal’s heart had grown and throbbed and stung more than it did in the first months in Mirkwood. He found himself thinking back to them more and more often, all the time almost. He found himself hating that Easterling, hating that battle. What little he knew of Amdír’s end, he would relive and relive and embellish and imagine in his dreams, in his nightmares. And, as the Travellers would walk, Dínendal often found himself fighting off the vision of Golradir’s body – embedded in the earth, somewhere to the southeast, somewhere in the Brown Lands – rotting away. But no, Golradir and Amdír… They were in the Halls of Mandos now, peaceful, waiting. Why did Dínendal let his thoughts become so morbid?
And how Dínendal often desired to speak with Boromir, to soothe his own worries, to heal his own hurts by hearing what Boromir had to say! But Boromir had closed himself off completely. He had retreated into his own indistinct haze. He had forced his own problems onto the other Travellers by virtue of his drinking. Forcing help, forcing pity.
Who, then, could Dínendal speak with? Mithrandir was wise, and always listened when Dínendal expressed his worries or troubled memories. But Mithrandir’s consolations were limited to philosophical optimism. Only Boromir could offer a true consolation, for only Boromir knew what Dínendal had experienced.
Dínendal decided to try to speak with the Man, for he had much on his mind. As they had neared Imladris, his agitation had grown. This would be the first elf realm outside of Mirkwood he would visit. And judging from his home country’s somewhat reluctant acceptance of his return, he was not sure what the other elves of Middle-earth thought of the adraefan. He was nervous. He was having dreams of Golradir and Amdír chiding him. And while Radagast could have offered Dínendal comfort through wisdom and Dagorlad-experience, Radagast was not here. Dínendal was forced to settle for Boromir.
The moonlight was shining, and Dínendal saw Boromir’s head rolling back against the trunk, eyes closed and mouth open. Dínendal inhaled.
“I am worried for Imladris,” he said softly. “I know not if they have accepted the adraefan’s end. The Lady Arwen was e’er courteous to me in Minas Tirith, but I know not what her father thinks. I spoke little with him. And I am worried they will be less than welcoming. What of the others?” He sighed. “I have spoken with Gandalf, he says to trust in Lord Elrond’s wisdom. But it is difficult. I am unused to travelling with a name and a country. I imagine they have held the council of sorts…Yet what if they should not recognize Thranduil’s decision?”
Boromir rumbled something. Dínendal waited. The Man made no other move.
“Boromir, do you sleep?”
A sluggish grin stretched across Boromir’s face. He did not open his eyes, but managed to slur, “Then you shall wait outside the gates…”
Dínendal laughed, nervous, relieved.
“Come, friend, I do not jest. It has troubled me since we decided upon this course. The elves of Imladris are just and fair, yet… I cannot help but be apprehensive.”
But the Man was asleep. His soft snores echoed throughout the wood. No, Boromir could not help. Boromir demanded help, he could never give it. And so Dínendal was left alone, to sort out his own misgivings. He was, essentially, the surviving adraefan. For Boromir had changed so much as to be completely removed from his former self. This Man, drunk and sleeping against a tree, was not the proud, brave Man the elves had come upon at Amon Hen. And he could not help, or console.
Dínendal sighed, placed a hand on Boromir’s shoulder and shook. “Boromir, awake. You cannot sleep here. They are waiting.”
“What?” Boromir mumbled, irritated. “Who?”
“The periannath and Mithrandir. Come, I will help you to your feet.”
Dínendal stood, grasped Boromir by his doublet and pulled the Man up. Boromir reeled, lost his footing, stumbled. Dínendal steadied him.
“Can you walk?”
Boromir snorted indignantly. He shook himself free of the elf’s grasp. “Aye…”
But he stepped back and caught his heel against something. The elf lunged for his cloak, saved him an embarrassing fall. Boromir kept a hand on Dínendal’s shoulder. He leaned forward, gripped a swaying knee.
“Standing does not sit well with me…”
“Wait a moment, the dizziness will pass.”
Dínendal knew it was a lie. The dizziness would not pass for several hours, but the elf needed the Man to walk back to camp. They had already spent too much time away from the group. Dínendal imagined what Frodo and Sam would say, for their irritation with Boromir was no longer concealed. Even Gandalf was, day by day, growing impatient.
And so, slowly, clumsily, with many drunken falls and uneven steps, they made their way back to the group.
The others had, indeed, made camp, and they stared at Boromir as he arrived. Dínendal was helping him, keeping an arm around his shoulder, but the Man shook free of the help. He stumbled towards the newly made fire, found his things lying neatly by the others – Dínendal guessed Pippin had put them there – and fell onto them. No one spoke.
Dínendal took a seat. The others had already set water to boil, and Sam, as usual, was managing the meal. Merry leaned back against his bedroll, smoking, pretending not to notice. Frodo was seated next to Gandalf, staring absently in the fire, scowling. Pippin and Gandalf were watching Boromir. And Boromir?
Dínendal sighed. The Man was already asleep, sprawled unevenly over his bedroll and pack.
Gandalf cleared his throat. The Travellers looked up.
“We will reach the House of Elrond tomorrow,” Gandalf murmured. “There, we shall find warm beds and warm meals.”
The hobbits smiled at this, even Frodo.
“Not that your cooking hasn’t been exceptional, Sam,” Merry smiled.
Sam snorted. “Now, Mister Merry, there’s no need to tease.”
“I don’t!” Merry laughed.
“Nay, you are a skillful cook, Master Samwise,” Gandalf smiled. “But Elrond’s House shall provide a welcome respite from all our traveling. And mayhap,” he glanced at the sleeping Boromir, “mayhap it shall ease the troubled minds.”
They fell silent. Once Sam finished preparing the meal, they ate. Dínendal watched Boromir out of the corner of his eye, but the Man did not awake, even when Pippin nudged him to see if he wanted something to eat. Dínendal sighed inwardly. He looked up, watched the stars.
And so time passed for the weary Travellers. The meal was finished. They packed everything away, and each rolled himself into his blanket and fell promptly asleep. Dínendal agreed to take the first watch, even if it was hardly needed. But he was not tired. And he enjoyed the peace of such clear, cool, autumnal nights. They were his moments of calm, of quiet.
Eventually, everyone seemed asleep and Dínendal took a seat on a nearby log, facing away from the fire. His usual position. He toyed with the idea of turning around to see Golradir and Amdír arguing over some point. A bittersweet game. Dínendal often let his thoughts drift back to his brothers-in-exile on nights such as these. It was always painful. But he could not help it.
He imagined Golradir and Amdír. How they argued, how they bantered, how they fell silent when they ate. He pretended they were behind him. The fire crackled. Perhaps they were sleeping.
Dínendal sighed. Stop it, you are being naïve. He could not conceive of the long years stretching out before him without his two most beloved friends. He turned around. Boromir had not shifted in his position. Nay, his friends were gone. He was alone. The last one. The one destined to live. Destined to live…
Dínendal was about to turn away when he caught sight of two bright eyes peering out from a mound of blankets.
“Pippin?” Dínendal whispered.
The hobbit shook away his blanket, sat up and leaned against his hand. He too was watching Boromir, rather anxiously.
“Dínendal, I was thinking…” the hobbit swallowed. He looked up at the elf. “We should throw it all away. Right now, as he’s sleeping. So he can’t stop us. It’s the only way.”
A moment of silence.
“He will be angry once he awakes,” Dínendal finally said.
“Aye, but…” Pippin stood slowly. “It’ll force him to stop.”
Dínendal turned around. He almost wanted to stop the hobbit in this childish endeavor. Even if they stole all the bottles from Boromir’s pack and emptied their contents, it would certainly not stop the Man’s compulsion. At this point, Dínendal even worried it would worsen the situation. Even if Boromir’s violence – the madness everyone spoke of – had ceased for several months, Dínendal always imagined it was simply the drink which rendered him docile. He did not want to admit that he feared what a relatively sober Boromir might do once he awoke.
But Pippin was already tiptoeing over to Boromir. The Man had fallen asleep with his head and arm draped over the pack, and Dínendal watched as the hobbit hesitated. Then, moving deftly and quietly, Pippin lifted away Boromir’s wrist and gently pulled the pack from under him. The Man grumbled something, stirred. He moved to his other side, leaving the pack free of his weight. Pippin pulled it away and hastened towards the elf.
“I’m going to do it,” he whispered determinedly as he approached. “Do you think he keeps it all here?”
“There’s also the flask,” Dínendal said. “But, Pippin, please, consider what you are doing. You are forcing him to relinquish something he cannot give up so easily. It will be difficult.”
“Well, he must stop drinking!” Pippin hissed. “I’m his friend and I’m worried about him. Merry thinks this is the only way he’d stop, if we just threw it all away when he wasn’t looking.”
“Pippin, I think Merry meant – ”
It was too late. Pippin went bounding away from the camp, into the forest. He disappeared into the darkness, hauling the too-large bag with him. Dínendal watched his faint silhouette dart behind trees and over bushes. Eventually, the hobbit fell out of sight. Dínendal waited.
After a short while, Pippin reappeared from amidst the trees. The bag was noticeably lighter, and he had slung it over one shoulder. He was smiling as he arrived. Dínendal frowned.
“There,” Pippin said. “All gone. All into the stream.”
He walked over to Boromir, still sound asleep, and laid the pack beside him. Then, with a beaming smile at Dínendal, he settled back down into his bedroll and fell quickly asleep.
Silence. Insects buzzing. An owl hooted.
Dínendal scowled as he imagined what tomorrow morning would be like. Yet, as he scanned the others, his eyes lingering on Gandalf, he felt reassured. Indeed, the only way for Boromir to stop drinking, would be to stop drinking. However difficult and ugly that would prove to be. And they were all here, all of them, and they could – Dínendal swallowed at the idea – they could restrain Boromir if need be. But surely he was not so far gone…
The hours passed and eventually Sam awoke and took Dínendal’s watch. The elf was wary to give up his shift to Sam, but the hobbit urged him on.
“Go on, Mister Dínendal,” Sam said. “I’ll take over from here. I reckon there isn’t much to look out for, anyway.”
“Indeed, it has been very quiet,” Dínendal said.
And so Dínendal relented. He found his bedroll, laid down upon it, gazed up at the starry ceiling and fell asleep.
Slowly coming awake. A haze…
The sun had not fully risen, and in the pale dawn light, Dínendal began to take in the blurred scene: an exasperated Merry standing beside a raging Boromir. The Man had dumped his entire pack’s contents on the ground, and was snarling something at the hobbit, who kept shrugging and murmuring nervously. As Dínendal’s mind came into focus, he saw the scene clearly:
Merry, Frodo and Sam were hovering at a short distance from Boromir, who kept picking up objects and flinging them aside. Gandalf was still asleep, as was Pippin. Dínendal stood quickly.
“We don’t know, Boromir,” Frodo insisted. “There’s no sense in dumping everything on the ground. They’re obviously not here.”
“What is it?” Dínendal asked and approached the group.
“Mister Boromir’s lost something, it seems,” Sam said dryly.
“Boromir?” Dínendal asked.
But the Man was entirely consumed by the missing bottles. Merry looked at Dínendal anxiously.
“I just woke him up a few minutes ago,” Merry said. “Gandalf said to get everyone up and ready before dawn, but – ”
“Dínendal!” The Man barked as he jerked himself upright. “Did you do this?”
By now, Gandalf was coming awake as well, while Pippin still slept soundly. That hobbit sleeps through anything. Dínendal held up his palms.
“Boromir, be easy,” he soothed.
“I will be easy, Master Elf,” Boromir roared, “when I find the thief!”
“Thief?” Gandalf rumbled.
Everyone turned. The wizard was laboring to stand. With disheveled beard and hair, he took in the scene and frowned.
“What is going on?” he asked.
Dínendal was about to respond when Boromir suddenly stormed over to the only hobbit who remained sleeping. With a vicious jerk, he grabbed Pippin by the hair and yanked him up. Pippin screamed himself awake. Everyone lunged forward, stumbling over the things strewn about the ground. Pippin wailed as the Man dragged him from his bedroll, twisting his hair.
“Where did you put them?” Boromir bellowed.
Pippin only howled in pain, and Dínendal managed to disentangle himself from someone’s bedroll and rush to the pair. He grabbed Boromir from behind and pulled him away from the hobbit. Sam had retrieved his sword, and both Merry and Frodo hastened to Pippin, who had fallen against the ground, clutching his head.
Dínendal struggled to restrain Boromir, who was by now furious and kicking. Tufts of curly hair, bloodied at the tips, fell from his hands as he swore and threw himself back and forward. The elf held fast, hugging the Man’s arms from behind, yelling madly.
“Peace! Boromir! Peace!”
“It was you, you grubby-handed thief!”
Pippin was seated against the ground, covering his head with his hands, rocking back and forth. Frodo and Merry were crouching over him. Sam stood with his sword pointed at the spitting, screaming, raving Boromir.
“Boromir!” Gandalf bellowed, startling everyone, and momentarily silencing Boromir. “Have you lost your mind?”
Boromir stopped struggling, though his lungs heaved and his face was red. Dínendal did not release his grip.
“The filthy haelfdon has been rooting through my pack!” Boromir snarled and lunged towards Pippin. Dínendal jerked him back.
Merry stood and stormed over. “What did you call him?”
“He’s a mad stinking drunkard, see!” Sam roared. He jerked his sword towards Pippin, who was still seated, nursing his head. “Gandalf, he’s as mad as his father, and he’s a danger to us all! I say we send him back to Minas Tirith! Once and for all!”
Gandalf raised his hands. “Everyone, please, I ask you to remain calm!”
Everyone fell silent and Boromir shook himself roughly from Dínendal’s grip. He began gathering up his things.
“So be it, if you do not desire my presence!” he barked, gasping for breath. “Better to travel alone than in the company of thieves and aging imbeciles!”
Sam was about to go after him for that comment, but Gandalf held his arm out. They watched as Boromir roughly reassembled his packs, loaded the saddlebags and placed the saddle on his horse. The horse whinnied and snorted with agitation, sensing his rider’s fury. Boromir buckled the saddle into place. Once everything was secure, he kicked his leg over, nearly toppled over the other side in his zealousness, and then galloped away.
And so Boromir left them. Once he was out of sight, Sam sheathed his sword and hurried back to Pippin’s side. Pippin was sitting cross-legged, staring numbly at the ground.
“Are you alright, Master Took?” Gandalf asked, kneeling beside the hobbit.
Pippin looked up, nodded mutely. He touched his scalp and winced.
“Aye, he got a good bunch of hair,” he said. With a sudden look of horror, he looked up at the wizard. “Will it grow back, Gandalf?”
Gandalf chuckled and patted the hobbit on the shoulder.
Boromir rode hard, fast, ruthless. He pushed the horse on and on, ignoring its enraged and exhausted cries. He galloped, down the path, away from the wood, back out onto the plain, on and on, loud, vicious, furious. Hours passed, and he galloped on. The thunder of hooves, the blood in his ears, the strain and anger and humiliating pain.
And then, as suddenly as he had ridden away from them, he pulled the reins in. The horse reared back, startled, nearly flinging him from the saddle, and then clopped down harshly on its forefeet. They had reached a golden field. Tall grass swayed in the afternoon breeze. The sun. Emptiness, wide and lonely.
Boromir dismounted. The horse was stumbling unsteadily, its muscles trembling. Sweat. He had pushed it too hard. And he stood for a moment, feeling the anger bubble up through his chest so as to be uncontrollable. He screamed in rage. A hoarse echo. The horse neighed, shook its head. He threw the reins harshly with another infuriated cry, unsheathed his sword, searched frantically for something to strike. The horse, the grass, himself, nothing, nothing. He spun around, finally thrust the sword deep into the earth and screamed again.
And so, he stumbled forward, fell to his knees, dug his fingernails into his skull, gritted his teeth, bellowed.
Already, the anxiety, the fear, the absolute hopelessness, gnawed at his heart so that he should tear it out and bury it beside the blade. The need – yes, there it was – the need for that artificial warmth coating his throat and his mind and his thoughts, everything numb and dulled. He needed it right now, for he feared the madness was overwhelming him. In the blur of his anger, of his residual intoxication, of his chaotic mind, he noted the horse was trotting away –
But it did not matter now, nothing mattered, nothing, and he fell forward into the grass. Into the soil, pressing his face deep down into the earth. He howled into it, tasted the soil on his tongue and against his teeth, feeling and relishing the pain in his stomach. And there was another pain, the pain of immediate withdrawal – he brought his hands forward, felt the tremors shake through them. The cold sweat, the convulsions, the nausea – the desire, the need, the craving, the absolute and complete frightened rage. Already the idea of sobriety was terrorizing him.
Boromir clenched his teeth.
The panic was there, coming back in waves, returning, swallowing him whole and crushing his bones. He would have cried out again, but suddenly he felt a staggering fear. To face the days and the nights – to face the nightmares and visions and the true madness and the past and Barad-dûr, Barad-dûr, Barad-dûr – nay, it was impossible. He could not do it. The bastard halfling had stolen his only means of survival, that single thread tying him back to the real world. True, it was a half-reality, a constant state of subperception. But it was the only thing, it was the only anchor, the only support, the only help, the only help, it was the only help. And the halfling had ripped it away, so that now Boromir was left adrift in a sea of maddening thoughts. Echoes of torture, and they were already creeping back, so that Boromir shifted abruptly, backing away from his sword as if it were a living orc.
He rose up on his knees, unsteady, and looked out over the grasses. The plain. So large. A hollow wind whistling through. Alone. The horse was gone. Boromir began to shake, his every limb shaking, shaking, shaking. And he cowered in desperate fear, for traveling with the wind, he imagined there would be Third One and First One and Barad-dûr and orcs and Easterlings and the Ring. He waited, holding his ever-trembling hands against the ground, looking back and forth, dragging in breath after painful, burning breath, gasping for air, fiery, trying with all his will to still his shuddering bones.
The wind was silent. He was truly alone.
The coils in his chest – all tightly-bound, all straining against his ribcage – snapped and burst through, so that he trembled altogether and nearly suffocated sobbing. Tears blurred his vision, already hindered by the drink-remnants, and he felt no comfort in his shaking hands. Nor in his weak legs, now damp with the earth’s moisture. When he stared at his hands, amidst the tremor and the blur and his tears, he saw blood. Pippin’s blood. And his nails, red and broken.
He wiped his hands against the soil, desperate, scraping, grinding away the blood. And all the while, sobbing, shuddering, wailing with despair and rage and terror and Barad-dûr. He ground his hands against the soil, burning them, rubbing the heels raw, leaving great black and red marks, soil and blood. He could not breathe for a moment – with the sobbing and his stuffed nose, and so he snorted violently, panicking, fell back, placed his stained hands against his eyes and wept again. Great heaving sobs, so that his stomach clenched, the gut burning, and the bile rose, and his ribs felt they would splinter against his straining lungs.
Lucidity was death – it was intolerable.
And the screams, the screams, the screams.
He did not want to hear Third One, smiling and laughing in Dagorlad, shouting, Aye, tell us. Settle our wager: is it the wine or the well? He did not want to remember how unrecognizable Third One had been when they had seen each other – just a quick glimpse, enough to yell out to each other, to yell out, Hold on! Resist, my friend! Resist! – as they were hauled in separate directions through the Barad-dûr halls. He did not want to think about that. About the constant drip-drip-drip in his cell, and the way First One had said, so accurate, And so we meet them head-on today. ‘Tis risky.
And a new terror. Boromir quailed. He had struck the hobbit. His only friend, who had meant to help him, even. And now, banished even from the last, small group which had tolerated him.
He could not return to Minas Tirith.
And Pippin! Dínendal!
Valar! Valar! Ai, I am a fool!
Valar, I am a fool…
Boromir slept there, in the field, once his mind – tumbling through a mess of terror and fear and despair – finally settled, exhausted, into nothingness. He half-slept for three days and three nights. He awoke fully on the fourth morning with clothes partly damp from old rain and partly stiff from baking in the new sun. He did not move for many hours, but simply remained there, lying against the ground, feeling his throat tight as the nausea swept through him, feeling too frightened to move, to think, to truly come back to reality.
The drink was gone. He needed to resist without it. And yet the desire was so great that he pushed himself to his feet, swayed with a light head, his muscles stiff and aching, and began stumbling back towards where he had come from, back on the path to Elrond’s House. He guessed Pippin must have hidden the bottles somewhere, and, in his absurd thinking, he went in search of them.
After two days of searching without sleep, he collapsed in some unknown part of the woods. The days were feverish, and his rest did not last long. As soon as his bedraggled head hit the ground, and his mind retreated into sleep, the nightmares came. He awoke with a scream, and some nearby animal darted away.
Valar, help me! Help me now!
Hallucinations. Visions of Third One wandering up ahead, on the path, so that Boromir stumbled after him, dehydrated and starving, beast-like, babbling. Visions of Faramir drawing his sword, raising his head, and crying out, Nazgûl! So that Boromir would fling his own sword around, lose his balance and howl. Expecting, at any moment, to be ripped from the ground, to have his ribs crushed, splinters in the heart, as the Fell Beast wrapped its claws around him and pulled him up, up, up – and he is going up, up, up, the ground is shrinking beneath him, Second One and the horse are disappearing, growing ever smaller, tiny spots amid a chaos of movement. He howled in rage and despair, fought against it, jerked his sword. Another cry, another wail of nazgûl. Over Ered Lithui, the highest ashy peaks brush past Boromir’s fingers, and the Beast turns around to give him a better view of: tears, sobbing, collapsing onto the ground and wailing into it, begging for silence, begging for relief.
He did not care for himself in these days. He did not eat, drink, seek shelter. He did not mind his garments, his relieving, anything. Had any passing travelers come upon him, they would have run from the sight of the soiled, gibbering Man, stumbling over roots and swinging his sword at invisible foes. Or they would have pitied him, if they had stout hearts, and helped him. But none came upon Boromir in these days.
In his more lucid moments, he would stagger to a halt and look around, confused. And then the desire, the need, the craving, the fear and the visions and the dying wails returned.
After eight days of wandering in the wild, Boromir arrived over the high moors and was suddenly greeted by a deep valley: Rivendell. Cascading waterfalls, golden sun, the perfume of secret flowers. Boromir stopped. He stared. He swayed on his feet. A passing elf saw him.
“Ho! A traveler has arrived!”
And before Boromir realized what was happening, he was being supported on both sides by two identical elves, pulled across the bridge and up to the doors of Elrond’s House. His mind was spinning madly. Yet he had enough sense to realize that his current state was somewhat less than appealing, and so his tremor worsened as he grew nervous. The elves, everywhere elves, identical, a dozen Third Ones, a dozen First Ones, all of them, they all urged him on, helped him up the steps as if he was an old Man.
A knock. Lamps in the windows. The door opened.
A figure came striding across the courtyard towards him. Blurs, trembling hands, cold sweat coating him, but he managed to focus enough: Elrond. The elf-lord approached hastily.
“Boromir?” he asked, concern plain in his voice.
“We found him nigh the southwestern pass,” a nearby elf responded. “He had no horse.”
Elrond was staring at him with such shock that Boromir felt ashamed. He guessed his appearance was unpleasant, to say the least. And his hands, always shaking.
Clearing his throat, he croaked: “Have the others arrived?”
Ludicrous amusement mingled with the alarmed worry on Elrond’s face. He nodded.
“Come, come,” he said, breathless. “We did not expect you, son of Denethor. But come, you are – you are in need of help, it seems.”
Boromir did not argue. His legs felt weak. His stomach, revolting. Days without food and, more importantly, alcohol, had left him in a state of near-constant delirium. The hallucinations, the continual blurring between dreams and reality, the lack of sleep. Was this even true? Or another half-dream? And all the elves standing around him, he thought he should break down and weep for they were all so much like First One and Third One as to shred his heart.
He felt himself being led through the courtyard, up stairs, down hallways and finally into a room. There was a bed. There was a basin of steaming water, clean garments, a meal. All hastily put together, blurs. Elvish healers. Third Ones and First Ones and Second Ones and Elrond and Third Ones again. Someone was talking. Boromir sat on the edge of the bed.
“Lord Elrond,” his throat felt very parched, “have you anything to drink?”
“There is water, and an herbal tea.”
“Nay, nay, I mean…”
“Sleep, Boromir. You are weary with toil.”
Boromir ran sweaty, shaking palms against his clammy face. His throat felt so dry, and his lips cracked. He needed a drink. The figures moved quickly, stripping him of his clothing, leaving him trembling in his soiled undergarments. He resisted, feeling little control over his limbs. In the sudden comfort of a room with a bed, his muscles jerked in recovery. And he struggled weakly, embarrassed, against the healers treating him – cleaning and bandaging the stinging cuts and dark stains and yellowing bruises – pouring the drugged tea down his throat. And he struggled, trying numbly to push them away with thick, clumsy hands, as they cleaned away the worst of the grime, the blood. And as the wave of sheer exhaustion hit him, he struggled against it. He saw Elrond standing by the bed, and he attempted with all his will to focus on the elf – the elf who swayed now, back and forth, becoming foggy, dim.
“Nay, Lord Elrond, I cannot sleep – what – where are the others? Lord Elrond, please, is there nothing to drink? My hands – they – Lord Elrond, I need something to drink. You know this.”
“I am sorry, my friend,” Elrond said softly. “Rest now.”
And, as much as Boromir fought against it, his eyes closed and he slept.
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