Unfinished plots, still a happy reader
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Messages: 6. The Wounded
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 wanted to just cut off the arm and be done with it. The stitches the
healer had applied to the wound at his right upper arm itched and burned.
He squeezed the fingers of his left hand into a tight fist to prevent
himself from scratching. His right arm rested in a white sling close to his
body, and he sat with his back against the cold wall, trying not to wince
as the healer cleaned the many scratches from the fall off the tree.
He felt rather ridiculous, sitting in the dim light in his underwear. Every
Ranger that laid his eyes on him stifled a chuckle or grinned openly. If
granted a wish, the boy would choose to become a mouse and hide in a hole
in the wall right now.
“Do not move!” the healer commanded sharply, as Anakil instinctively
flinched from the touch of the burning, bad smelling ointment the healer
rubbed with vigour into the scratch on the boy’s right knee. “You do not
want to risk an infection, do you?”
“I’m sorry.” Anakil was sure he had uttered these words more often today
than in the last three years - at least.
“You were very lucky, you know? Anborn told me you fell more then ten feet.
Most people do not get up and walk after a fall like that.”
“I do not feel lucky right now.”
The healer put the bad smelling ointment away, and Anakil sighed in relief.
“May I get dressed now?” he asked.
“You may,” the healer said. “But I would strongly recommend waiting until
the smell has diminished a little. Otherwise it will cling to your clothes
Anakil grunted and reached for a blanket to cover his bare chest and legs.
The healer smiled. “Wise decision, young friend. You would lose all friends
you might have made during your stay here, smelling like a walking bowl of
medicine. Take it easy for the rest of the day; you have a bump the size of
an egg at the back of your head.”
“Thank you!” Anakil said softly. Suddenly he felt very small and very
lonely. The healer was talking about friends, but the boy realized that he
had not been very successful in blending in with the Rangers and making
“I have patched up worse accidents than yours, young friend. Don’t blame
yourself too much. Things happen. You will be fine in a few days.” The man
put a soothing hand on the boy’s uninjured arm and stooped to pick up the
bowl with the ointment. “Excuse me for a moment; I have to get this out of
the cave before Anborn has a talk with me about his sensitive nostrils.” He
grinned and disappeared into the twilight of the cave.
“Things happen,” Anakil whispered to himself. “Why do things always happen
to me?” His clenched fist unraveled itself with a mind of its own and
moved to the arm in the sling to scratch the stitches.
“Don’t even think about it!”
Startled, Anakil hid his hand below the blanket and stared down at Beldil,
who had been sleeping on the mattress next to him mere moments ago.
“If you even touch his stitches, he will kill you, very slowly and
painfully. He is a healer, believe me, he knows what hurts most.”
“How long have you been awake?” Anakil asked, moving his restless left hand
to rub his face.
“Long enough.” Beldil’s small smile widened into a broad grin. “I did not
want to interrupt him and remind him that he hasn’t treated my wound yet. I
can live without the smell for a little longer, and besides, I feel quite
“Glad to hear that.” Anakil hid his hand below the blanket again.
“I have to admit I am not so glad about some news I heard about you.”
Beldil’s smile was replaced by an illegible frown.
“I am sorry. I did not intend to dishonour the duties of messengers. I
just... jumped at an opportunity...rather thoughtlessly.”
“I am glad you did what you did, otherwise there is a good chance I would
be dead by now.” Beldil sat up slowly and rested his back against the wall
next to the boy. “Why didn’t you tell me yesterday? I would have talked to
the Captain and maybe convinced him to just let you go.”
“Why would you do that?”
“You deserve it. It is as simple as that.”
Anakil leaned back his head and winced as his bump came in close contact
with the cold, rough stone. “I thought about running away while walking
home from the hunt today,” he confessed. “I thought about grabbing my horse
and just galloping away. Maybe the guards wouldn’t have shot me. Maybe they
would have. I do not know. But where can I go? I cannot go back to
Osgiliath, I cannot stay in Ithilien, and I cannot go home. I fear I have
to accept whatever the Captain decides to do with me. That seems to be the
right thing to do.”
“The Captain is a fair judge,” Beldil said. “And I will speak for you,
should he be willing to hear me. Messengers have to stick together, after
“I am not a messenger,” Anakil said. “Not a real one.”
“You delivered a message, and you did well. As far as I am concerned, you
are a messenger, until the Captain decides otherwise.”
Anakil took Beldil’s good hand and squeezed it tightly. “Thank you,” he
whispered. Maybe he had made one friend after all.
The patrols of the Rangers returned late in the afternoon. All men in
fighting condition had been out in the woods, save the few who were needed
to guard the cave and care for the wounded. The cave quickly filled with
hungry and tired men. But despite their fatigue and weariness, the men did
not sit down and rest but moved about, knowing what to do and where they
were needed most in the operation of a camp the size of Henneth Annûn. Some
set up benches for dinner, other opened storage barrels, some cleaned their
dirty hands and green painted faces, others polished swords and mended
broken arrows without getting in each other’s way and without any sign of
The wounded were brought in with the same calm order in which all other
business was taken care of. The conversation between the healer and the
Rangers was short and poignant. Anakil understood that there had been a
fight in the woods; a fight with a company of Southrons far larger than the
scouting party he and Anborn had stumbled across during their hunt.
One man was dead. The Rangers had been able to recover the body, but Anakil
did not see anyone carrying a corpse into the cave. The boy did not know
how Rangers mourned and buried their dead, but he knew he was not in the
position to ask one of the men about such a personal matter. He probably
would not have hesitated to ask Beldil, but the messenger was asleep, and
he did not want to disturb the wounded man.
Four men had been severely wounded in the fight. Anakil left his mattress
next to Beldil to give the healer more space to work and move about the
area. The boy sat down at the wall on the opposite side of the cave,
playing with the white sling, twisting parts of it around the fingers of
his left hand.
The Rangers tended to those who had sustained minor cuts and bruises, and
Anakil realized the men were very capable of performing those duties. The
boy had worked with the healers of Osgiliath more then once, he knew what
to do and how to assist, but his injured arm prevented him from offering
Anakil returned to his mattress at the wall next to Beldil as soon as all
the wounded had been taken care of. The healer stepped back to clean his
bloody hands in a bowl of fresh water one of his fellow Rangers had brought
him. The sun started to set behind the veil of the waterfall, casting the
world outside of Henneth Annûn’s cave into a bloody and golden light, and
the Rangers of Ithilien stood in silence, facing west, before they sat down
to have dinner.
Anakil stood silent as well, even though he did not dare to sit down at the
benches with the healthy men. The healer was grateful that he used his good
arm to help the recovering men like Beldil to sit up and eat, despite the
fact that he himself did not find much time to stuff a piece of bread or
some cheese into his mouth. The boy did not mind skimping his own dinner;
it felt good to be of some use.
He had not seen Anborn since the Ranger had delivered him into the healer’s
care when returning from their ill-fated hunt. Therefore he was startled as
the tall man suddenly appeared next to him, both hands hidden behind his
“Good evening, Anborn,” the boy croaked, unable to hide his discomfort in
the presence of this particular Ranger. He was sure all the men knew by now
what had happened to him, but Anborn had seen it, and that was definitely
“Good evening, troublemaker,” Anborn replied gravely. “I hope you did not
even think of getting into trouble for the rest of the day?”
“I didn’t.” Anakil avoided meeting the Ranger’s gaze. He pretended to cover
his unease by checking on Beldil, who was fast asleep, but he was sure he
could not fool the experienced man.
“You know, I have been observing you for quite some time now.” Anborn
pointed to a mattress in an extremely dark area of the cave.
“I am sorry for what happened on the hunt,” Anakil started. He finally
looked up to meet the Ranger’s dark eyes. “I really tried to be useful â€“
and to stay out of trouble.”
Anborn silenced him with a piercing stare. “I know,” he said.
Then a small smile crept onto his face. He moved his hands from behind his
back and showed the boy a small plate filled with freshly cooked meat.
“Fresh meat is rare among us Rangers and normally reserved for those
needing it most, but I saved a few bites for you. It’s the rabbit you shot.
I cooked it myself; I hope it tastes as good as it looks.” He smelled at
the plate and licked his lips. “I can imagine you are still hungry, judging
by the few bites you had for dinner.”
Anakil stared first at the meat, than at Anborn’s smiling face, unable to
come up with a reply.
Anborn started to chuckle and placed the plate in Anakil’s hands. “Say
thank you, troublemaker.”
“Thank you â€“ Anborn,” the boy said obediently.
“My pleasure. Now eat and don’t tell the Captain anything about fresh
rabbits when you see him later this evening.” Anborn twinkled and
disappeared into the shadows.
“Thank you, Anborn,” Anakil said to the Ranger’s retreating figure as he
shifted his back into a more comfortable position against the hard rocky
wall, his nose close to the delicious smelling plate in his hands.
“I smell rabbit,” Beldil’s voice stated, and the messenger opened one eye
to peer at the plate in Anakil’s lap. “Fresh rabbit. Tasty rabbit.
Delicious rabbit. Rabbit cooked by the great Anborn himself.”
“You just had dinner,” Anakil said, trying to cover the plate with one
hand. “You should be asleep. You seemed to be asleep mere moments ago.”
“Things are not always as they seem to be. I can’t sleep.” Beldil’s face
creased into a broad grin. “But one bite of fresh rabbit, and I will be
sleeping all night,” the messenger promised. “Or better, make it two bites,
just to be sure.”
Anakil smiled, moved his hands away and placed the plate between their
mattresses to share his meal with his only friend. Just to be sure the
wounded man got a good night’s sleep...
The rabbit was delicious, and Anakil allowed himself a cup of wine without
water. His stomach filled and his mood lightened by the wine, he settled
down on his mattress and propped his head on one hand to have a better look
at Beldil next to him. “Would you mind me asking something, before we both
go to sleep?”
“Go ahead.” Beldil had his eyes close, his injured wrist placed carefully
on his stomach.
“The man that died today â€“ what happens to him now? I caught from
conversations that they brought the body back to this place, but I did not
see him being carried into the cave with the wounded.”
“Galdor.” Beldil sighed, and squeezed his eyes shut tightly to cover his
Anakil remembered the man called Galdor. He had been with Anborn when they
had first met at night in the forest, and he had been a friend of Beldil’s.
Briefly he wondered how Beldil had been able to get to know the name of the
dead, being asleep for the better part of the afternoon and evening. News
traveled fast and on invisible paths in Henneth Annûn.
“They will bury him outside in a clearing, facing west, so that he can see
the sun set over the plains of Ithilien and Gondor, the Anduin and on clear
days the White city and the peaks of the White Mountains,” the messenger
said softly and slowly. “He has fought hard for this land for many years.
He will continue to look at its beauty even though he cannot protect it
with his sword any more. He loved this land deeply - we all do. I am sure
he will be at peace here.”
Beldil’s voice dropped to be no more than a whisper. “He took a spear right
into the heart. I think he was dead before his body hit the ground. Maybe,
hopefully, there was not even pain before his last fight was over. He was a
good fellow, a good comrade, a good man. I think I will miss him - his easy
manner, his laughter, his bad jokes. Well, maybe not the really bad ones.”
Beldil stopped talking, and Anakil did not press any further. He watched
the messenger for a little while, but Beldil did not open his eyes again.
The boy curled up on his mattress, mindful of his injury, to finally get
Anborn’s well known dirty boot on the left side of his chest roused him
rather violently from a deep, dreamless slumber. He heard Beldil’s soft
snoring beside him and stifled a yelp of surprise to not wake the sleeping
“The Captain would like to see you now, troublemaker,” Anborn whispered,
tapping the tip of his boot lightly against the boy’s left shoulder.
Anakil tried to shrug off the restraining boot, as he had successfully done
in the morning, but the pain welling up in his injured arm stopped the
movement. He squeezed his eyes shut to hide the sudden tears.
“I am sorry.” Anborn’s boot disappeared at once, and the Ranger offered a
hand to help the boy to his feet. “I did not want to hurt you. How is your
“Hurt,” Anakil hissed, ashamed of the wetness in his eyes. He ignored
Anborn’s outstretched hand and scrambled to his feet on his own, wiping his
face with the sleeve of his good arm.
It was quite dark in the cave. Most of the torches on the walls had been
put out, but there was enough light to see that the curtain at the end of
the cave was open and the Captain’s private recess empty.
“The Captain is outside,” Anborn said. “He did not return inside after
overseeing Galdor’s funeral.” The Ranger’s mouth was pressed into a thin
line, and Anakil realized the man, too, was grieving for the dead comrade.
The boy remembered the concerned and weary expression on the Captain’s face
when he had been worrying about his missing Lieutenant’s company the night
before and wondered whether, after having overseen the funeral of one of
his men and maybe even a personal friend, the Captain might be in need for
some peace. “Are you sure he wants to see me now, Anborn?” he asked
“Absolutely sure, troublemaker. The Captain does not like unfinished
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