Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Adraefan: 42. Recovery in Imladris
He swung his legs around, stood. The marble was cold against his bare feet. Light-headed and dazed, he felt his head ache for a moment, his vision dim. Swaying. There was a large basin on the table. He looked down at himself. Bare torso. Scars – the black stomach scar, darkened veins spreading out – scars. Ribs, too visible. Ribs to count. One, two, three, six… Very pale in the moonlight which streamed in from the window. Bandages here and there.
He walked to the basin. The water was tepid. He washed his torso quickly, shivering. And then he cupped his palms, collected water, washed his face. Alarming himself, as always, with the unevenness of his skin – the innumerable scars, open lacerations, indentations on his face – the newly trimmed beard. There was a mirror, and he avoided it.
He removed his breeches, washed further, dried himself quickly and donned the fresh garments. With several shirts and jackets on, as well as two pairs of breeches and his boots, he felt reasonably warm. He nearly considered putting his gloves on, seeing his hands tremble so much, but decided against it. For he knew his hands did not tremble from the cold.
Outside his window, Imladris was still. Quiet, all asleep. The frosty chill of an October morning. There was a low-burning fire in his room, but Boromir still felt cold. Or rather, felt ill, weakened, and in severe need of something to drink. If only to soothe his stomach.
There was a simple meal on the table. A mug. Boromir took the mug, sniffed. It was the tea – the usual herbal variation that he had been drinking since Radagast and Dagorlad. He was beginning to loathe the herbal drink. Even if it relieved his nausea, and allowed him the ability to eat, he had grown to despise its taste. He left the mug. What else? Bread, cheese, dried meat, autumnal fruit. It looked repulsive.
So early. An entire day that had not even begun. A difficult day. He would see Pippin again. And Dínendal. Gandalf, Merry, Frodo, Sam. How would he face them? His heart gave a lurch at the thought. His stomach nearly revolted. Nausea. Fear. And, as usual, any present fear led inevitably to the black memories – to Barad-dûr. So that Boromir feared silence. Between hiding in his room, avoiding the others and tolerating the unbearable quiet, Boromir decided to move. Better to face them than to face the silence. Surely someone was awake. Elrond. He needed to find Elrond, thank him, and ask promptly for a horse to leave with. Perhaps then he could avoid seeing the others altogether.
But first, something to drink. Just something to soothe his nerves, to give him courage enough to face the day. The eternally long day. He checked the soiled breeches he had just removed. The flask was not there. He checked his own doublet, now cleaned. No. His jacket, the hidden pocket in his cloak, the side of his boot. Nothing. The flask was gone. The elves must have found it as they had cleaned his clothes the night before. Surely they had disposed of it.
And something else was nagging at Boromir – a burning, low and intense, in his gut. A shame. Shame at his weakness, at his compulsion, at his fear. As if the old Boromir, the one who had set forth from Minas Tirith for Imladris nearly two years earlier, was struggling to return. Was struggling to loosen the chains of Barad-dûr. Anger replaced shame. What sort of pitiful fool was he? All had fought the War, and he had been a soldier all his life. Why now should he become some craven weakling? Why now should he be the one to have nightmares? To fear the dark and the silence? To fear peace?
The chains. The whip. The machine. The blood. The bones. The fire. The screams. The questions. The dust. The mask. The poison. The nazgûl. The Ring. The EYE.
Boromir shook his head with a jerk.
Nay. Even without title, even stripped of rank and respect, he was still of noble blood. He was still a born and bred soldier. He would overcome this weakness. They had all fought, had all seen their abundant share of grotesque and terrible sights. They had all lived through it. That he should be the only one – even Frodo continues on! – to clean away his anxieties with alcohol reflected a weak spirit, a cowardly soul.
And so Boromir sat on the edge of his bed, gripped the mattress, and waited for dawn. Constantly drying and re-drying his sweaty palms against his breeches. Constantly swallowing back the nausea which crept up his esophagus like a rising tide – sickening. An hour passed. Once the sun rose, and the birds chirped, Boromir stood again, hoping his knees had acquired some new strength. He walked several paces around his room, his gut twisting in agitation, his anxiety building, until, finally, he moved to leave.
As he reached the door, his eye caught his scabbard leaning against a chair. Part of him considered taking the sword with him – if only to have something with which to occupy his ever-trembling hands. But he decided against it. For surely they all already thought him mentally unrecoverable. And to go around Imladris wielding a blade would probably give a poor impression of his mental health. So he left it.
Outside, the hallway was quiet. Yesterday, he had passed this same corridor in a frightening state of shock, and had understood little to nothing. But now, on this cold, empty morning, he saw the clarity and familiarity of these halls. The carpeted floors, the elven runes, the tall windows. The columns with their designs worked and re-worked, smoothed to perfection.
He stepped out into the corridor. Again, the pounding heart. The shaking hands. The cold sweat. He walked as lightly as his footsteps could permit, knowing already that an elf would find him sooner or later. He moved, constantly adjusting and readjusting his tunic and his belt, hoping that none would see him. And hoping that someone would see him, if only to talk. Whoever it was, as long as it was not Pippin.
Boromir walked. He arrived to a wide, oak-paneled room. The library. He remembered this library. How long ago was it? The Fellowship had left Imladris last winter. It was already autumn. And to be here again, in this same library where not a book had moved, not one particle of dust had been blown off the shelves, while Boromir, instead, was a completely changed Man – it was unsettling, to say the least. He entered. Uniform shelves, uniform stacks. Irregular books. Some dusty, some polished. All kept in perfect condition, with yellowing pages as the only sign of age.
He wandered amidst these shelves, feeling secure in their weight and authority. Feeling hidden. Outside, the sun was rising. Enough to give light to read.
Noise. Someone had cleared their throat. Politely, softly, mildly. And yet Boromir jumped nonetheless. He jerked around. A tall elf stood before him, leaning against another bookshelf, holding an open tome. The elf had dark hair, pale eyes, a fair face. He looked as all elves did, so that Boromir nearly mistook him for Second One. For Dínendal, rather.
“Good morning,” the elf said.
Boromir’s hands began to shake violently. He could not help it. He struggled to maintain his composure – his heart secretly rejoicing at social interaction, yet quailing at it as well. But the silence could not be tolerated. And so he mustered his every reserve of nobility and grace, and bowed, hiding his hands.
“Good morning…” he murmured. After stumbling over a proper title, he blurted out: “Forgive me, but I know not your name.”
The elf smiled.
“We know each other, Boromir of Gondor,” he said. “Though mayhap you have forgotten. We saw each other little in the time I spent in your fair city, even less in the journeys to Edoras. I am Elrohir, son of Elrond.”
The twins. Even had Boromir remembered, he would have had no hope in identifying which was which. But he nodded.
“Aye, I remember now,” Boromir said. “Forgive me.”
The elf nodded graciously. “There is no need, friend.”
He closed his book, placed it neatly on a shelf.
“Enjoying an early morning walk?” Elrohir asked with a smile.
Boromir hesitated, unsure whether the elf teased or was in earnest. Was this the elf that had found him yesterday? He cringed to think of it.
He looked away, out the window. The dawn light was streaming into the room now, casting long pink shafts against the floor. Birds chirping. And outside – all fiery reds, subtle golds, occasional greens. Autumn.
“In truth,” Boromir replied, “I had no destination in mind.”
“Come then. Join me. I was to take my morning meal.”
And so he followed Elrohir out of the library, back into the corridor, outside into the open courtyard. Dry leaves carpeted the fine marble and stone, all dull whites and silvers. Elrohir walked slowly, hands clasped behind his back, occasionally glancing at Boromir and smiling. And Boromir knew not what to say – he had forgotten sober social graces – and so he simply walked, staring at the ground, his cheeks occasionally burning with an embarrassed flush if he saw another elf in a balcony, or someone further along the path.
Passing the courtyard, they entered a colonnaded gallery. A soft wind blew some of the leaves in, and Boromir shivered. They passed no one else, though distantly, very distantly, Boromir could hear music – a morning song – gentle and calming and… A feeling of weariness enveloped him as some of his tension was relieved.
“’Tis my favorite season,” Elrohir remarked. “Perhaps. Sometimes it is. For the past few years, I have enjoyed the autumns.”
Boromir said nothing.
“I recall – how soon it was, and yet it feels so long ago! – last year’s great Council,” the elf continued. He smiled. “Yet, better now, where we may once again enjoy the turning of the leaves. Do you not agree?”
“Aye…” Boromir concurred lamely.
They entered a slim door which led into a short hall with a tall ceiling. Torches were lit. And from another door, further on, left ajar, Boromir could hear the soft clinking of plates and glasses. And a very familiar voice – louder than the rest – speaking furtively, joyfully, earning musical laughter in response. Pippin. Boromir stopped in his tracks, and Elrohir walked several paces ahead before stopping too. He turned.
“I should prefer… a walk outside – I am not very hungry – thank you, Master Elrohir – but I…” Boromir stammered, backing away instinctively.
Too late. In that moment the door swung wildly open and Peregrin Took, looking flushed and content, biting down on a half-eaten apple, emerged from the kitchen. Boromir’s entire body went rigid, and his heart skipped. His mind screamed to flee, to run, to get away from this – yet he had no control over his limbs, and so he simply stood there.
As soon as Pippin turned away from the kitchen and towards the Hall, he saw them. The hobbit also froze, equally surprised. His cheek, still stuffed with apple. With wide eyes and a slow swallow, he stared at Boromir. Boromir nearly quailed under the scrutiny.
“Boromir…?” Pippin breathed.
Boromir could not form any response, his mind had gone entirely blank, with only a sickening sense of panic overwhelming him. He did not want to hold Pippin’s gaze, yet he could not force his eyes away.
And without a word, without explanation, Pippin burst forward, arms outstretched.
“Boromir!” he cried and threw himself into the Man.
Completely unexpected, Boromir stumbled back as the hobbit embraced him fiercely, squeezing his arms around his waist, pressing his cheek against his stomach. In the blur, Boromir caught a warm smile from Elrohir.
“Oh, Boromir!” Pippin pulled back, looked up, his eyes glistening, hugged him again. “We didn’t – I thought – oh, we were worried sick! Where did you go? What happened? Are you well?”
The hobbit’s voice, muffled by tears and cloth. And Boromir brought his hand up, tentatively, placed it gently on the curly head before him. And he felt his own eyes prickle, his chest constrict, his chin tremble. Embarrassed and ashamed, he quickly pulled his hand away from Pippin’s hair, brought it to cover his mouth, for he felt the threat of losing his composure. The hobbit looked up, smiled through his own tears, stepped back to wipe his nose with his sleeve. Boromir swallowed, hoped his voice had regained some strength.
“Pippin, I – forgive me, Pippin, ‘twas – ‘twas madness and – ”
“Nay, not madness, don’t say that,” Pippin chuckled with a stuffed nose. “It’s all finished. Water under the bridge, as they say in my country. Oh, I’m just so glad you’re here! Everyone’s been fretting for days!”
And once again he lunged himself at Boromir, embraced him, squeezed. Elrohir laughed lightly.
“Were you expecting anything less than such a welcome, Boromir?” the elf asked.
Boromir looked away, again self-conscious of his overbright eyes and trembling chin. He struggled to find a response – but instead Pippin detached himself, grabbed his hand and began to pull him along the hall towards the kitchen.
“Come on, you’ve got to see Dínendal – he’s been so worried…”
Yet Boromir resisted the tug.
“Nay, Pippin – I…”
Once again, coincidence conspired against him, for Dínendal emerged from the kitchen in that moment, carrying what looked like Pippin’s jacket. He was smiling, and he seemed ready to shout a joke, yet when he saw who Pippin was pulling along, he stopped and stared. Again, Boromir felt the impulse to turn and run, to escape all this. Yet Dínendal, who recovered very quickly from his shock, smiled so warmly, so openly, that Elrohir laughed again.
And Dínendal approached, arms wide, and pulled Boromir into a laughing embrace. He leaned back, grinning.
“Blessed by the Valar, mellon nín,” he breathed. And then his eyes grew sorrowful, though his smile remained. “We worried for you.”
Boromir did not understand. He was beginning to think they were teasing him, or this was another vision and was not happening at all. But Dínendal was truly there, stepping back now, gripping his shoulder with a wide grin. Pippin was truly there, embracing him yet again, squeezing his side and laughing.
“Oh, will you forgive us, Boromir?” Pippin exclaimed.
“Forgive you?” Boromir sputtered, and the tears came then, no matter how much he fought against them.
When Pippin stepped back and saw his glistening cheeks, he chuckled and gave Boromir’s side an affectionate punch. Boromir waved him away, covered his eyes with one hand.
“Give – give me a moment,” he choked.
But Pippin grabbed his free hand and urged him out of the hall and back outside. Dínendal followed, and Boromir could hear Pippin yelling, voice shrill with his own laughter and tears, “We’ll give you a moment later, and you can have all the moments you desire, but right now I’m taking you straight to see Merry and the others – they’ll never believe – Ho! Merry! Look here!”
Boromir was weeping openly now, unable to control himself, and so he simply let himself be pulled, Dínendal’s hand on his back, Pippin’s laughing cries ahead of him. Once the hobbit released him, Boromir hid his face in his hands, shoulders shaking. But he choked back anymore tears, wiped his nose quickly, saw a blurred Merry standing before him.
“Boromir…” Merry whispered. He was holding his pipe. Boromir covered his eyes again, clenched his teeth. Yet seeing the Man’s embarrassment, the hobbit quickly added, “Ah, don’t worry, Boromir. Pip tends to have that effect on people.”
It was a feeble joke, and Merry’s voice was thick, but Pippin laughed.
“Aye, well the poor Man missed me, Merry!”
Merry stepped forward then, and took Boromir’s hand, giving it one firm shake.
“It’s good to have you back, Boromir.”
The Man, not trusting himself to speak further, only nodded. Eyes glistening, a fragile smile before once again breaking down into sobs.
“So that is the infamous Boromir of Gondor?”
A window. Looking down from the House’s upper study to the open courtyard below. The windswept ground – dry, dead leaves cluttering, shuffling. And there – in the center – a shabby Man, nodding, speaking softly. The hobbits standing by. And now Mithrandir, walking forward, arms outstretched, laughing, a low rumble. Dínendal the Returned Exile smiling, keeping a hand on the Man’s shoulder.
The elf at the window toyed idly with his goblet of wine. Elrond approached from behind.
“Well. I have not heard all good things.”
“Thranduil, you are too harsh.”
The elf shrugged.
Dínendal sensed that Boromir was still embarrassed about his bout of weeping from that morning, even though the others had been far too surprised and happy to see him to care if he blubbered like a child. Indeed, the Man had crumbled with Pippin and Dínendal in the hall leading to the kitchens, and had continued for quite some time – eventually babbling apologies and explanations to Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, all of them. Boromir had even apologized to Bilbo, Dínendal recalled with a smile, which had caused the elderly hobbit to pat the Man’s hand, nodding and cooing, There, there, lad, no sense in shedding oliphaunt tears – before pulling Frodo aside and murmuring – Frodo-lad, forgive an old hobbit’s poor memory… but do I know this gentleman? Dínendal had laughed out loud at that.
Once Boromir had regained control of himself, nearly an hour later, he had been abashed and reserved, answering their questions with eyes averted. And slowly, slowly, they had learned of his days of madness, of his senseless wanderings. He did not elaborate much, but Dínendal pieced together the tale from what little Boromir said and what Elrond later whispered to him in the corridor.
All the travelers – Pippin especially – had exhibited a collective guilt since the departure of Boromir. For they had gone forth on the road to Imladris, bickering and arguing over the fate of the Man, and whether they had abandoned him to some harsh fate. Pippin had, ironically though not entirely surprisingly, championed Boromir’s cause – urging the others to turn around and search for him. He’s not well! We can’t just leave him to the wolves! Gandalf had reminded Pippin that Boromir is a doughty warrior, Peregrin – Was, Frodo had absently corrected – and Sam had chided him angrily. Beggin’ yer pardon, Mister Pippin, but do ye want ‘nother chunk a hair missin’? I know ye mean well, but the Man’s mad, so he is, and there ain’t no way ye can help him, nor any of us. The arguments had continued all the way to Elrond’s house, and then on and on, at times involving Elrond as well. The hobbits had not told Bilbo about their missing companion, if only so as not to alarm or disturb the hobbit. But they had discussed the events at great length with Gandalf, Dínendal and sometimes Elrond; eventually coming to the conclusion that the Man was ill and not to be blamed and perhaps they should have gone after him. Even Sam had, in the end, reluctantly agreed.
Now, the sun was setting over the towering peaks, so that the valley of Imladris darkened to a gentle blue. The hobbits – already anticipating dinner – had gone off to their rooms to get prepared. At Merry’s urging, they had decided Boromir’s arrival warranted a festive dinner – something which required proper attire. Boromir had naturally begged them not to, but it was clear the hobbits were also giving the Man space to rest, for Boromir – not having eaten or slept properly for many days, apparently – was visibly tired.
Dínendal sat with Boromir now, at the table in the center of the Man’s room, overlooking the Rivendell gardens and courtyards below. An elf had brought in a tray of sweetmeats and hot tea, though neither Dínendal nor Boromir had touched it. Instead they sat, speaking of the days of Minas Tirith, the days of Dagorlad. Occasionally, Boromir’s mood would slip – and he would bark some gruff remark – but then, wearily and softly, he would apologize. And Dínendal watched, watched as the hours passed and the Man shifted restlessly – visibly yearning for a drink – yet never once had he spoken of it.
Finally, when the sky darkened to a deep blue, and the bells of dinner would soon begin to toll, Boromir raised his eyes to meet Dínendal’s. They had been speaking of the hobbits, and the coming journey to the Shire.
“It has been a full day, Dínendal.”
Dínendal held his gaze. “A full day?”
“Since I have touched the drink.”
“Aye.” Dínendal spoke slowly.
“I did not…” the man swallowed, licked chapped lips, “I did not think I needed it so.”
Dínendal raised an eyebrow, questioning. Boromir dropped his eyes, smiled self-consciously, quickly. He dragged his palms against his breeches, stopped to pick the fabric at his knee. The smile vanished.
“Perhaps young Peregrin was right… Perhaps I shall try without?”
Dínendal stared. The Man’s voice – choked, cracked. His hands trembled.
“Boromir, are you going to weep again?”
Boromir laughed abruptly, loudly, and shook his head. He leaned back in the chair, still chuckling, rubbing at an eye.
“Nay!” With his free hand, he gave a dismissive wave before crossing his arms in mock petulance. “Bah! Dínendal, how you tease!”
Dínendal snorted. “Forgive me. Sometimes it is too easy with you.”
The Man’s laughter faded, and he stared, bemused, at an edge of the table.
“First One said the same thing once.”
“He ever delighted in teasing others. We faulted him that, though in truth it is one of the things I miss about him.”
“Aye… aye, I miss him as well. And I did not know him so long.”
“Fellowship grows quickly, when it is true.”
“Aye… so it does.”
They listened to the evening-sounds of Rivendell outside. Dusk. Peace. Eventually, Dínendal shifted, leaned back in his seat with a smile. Boromir watched him curiously.
“Well, I suppose I should tell you the long-awaited decision,” Dínendal said.
“The lords of Eryn Lasgalen, Imladris and Lothlórien were to make a decision regarding a certain – privilege – and whether it should be afforded to me.”
Boromir winced. “Aye, you spoke of it in Edoras, forgive me – I had forgotten.”
But Dínendal waved a hand. “’Tis nothing. As you know, the Lord Celeborn left Imladris not two days ere your arrival, which is unfortunate as he was most curious to speak with you, nonetheless I am sure you will be able to tell Lords Elrond and Thranduil everything that needs –”
“Valar, Second One! Just tell me! What is this decision?”
Dínendal’s smile broadened.
“They have decided to grant me passage along the Straight Way. I shall go West.”
Boromir stared, confused. But then, as comprehension dawned, he smiled – then frowned – brow knit, thinking – then smiled again, this time understanding. A slow, sad smile.
“And you shall see Itarildë again?”
Dínendal nodded. But, noting the sorrow in Boromir’s eye, he quickly added: “Though not immediately. I may yet tarry in Middle-earth.” At this, Boromir smiled genuinely, causing Dínendal to quip: “If only for Radagast’s sake.”
At dinner, the long table was crowded with plates of varying sizes, all manner of cutlery and crockery, three glasses in increasing size. Elrond sat at the head of the table, with Elladan and Elrohir flanking him. And then Gandalf, Frodo, Sam and Bilbo on one side. Thranduil at the other end. Coming back up to Elrond’s end: Dínendal, Boromir, Merry and Pippin.
Various elves swooped in and out, bearing trays of food, baskets of bread, jugs of water, wine.
An elf came by, moving slowly down the table with the fat bottle of Dorwinion wine. Gandalf accepted. Frodo and Sam declined. Bilbo accepted, giving Boromir a cheeky wink. Thranduil accepted. Dínendal declined.
And then, there, hovering at Boromir’s shoulder, the elf stood. The bottle of wine, tipped at an angle, waiting.
Boromir looked around. The hobbits were watching him. Gandalf was pretending not to. Dínendal, sitting at Boromir’s elbow, made no move.
Finally, a mutter:
“Nay, thank you.”
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