20. Boromir Takes Council
Their destination was a stronghold known as Caur Amrun, built nearly three thousand years ago by King Valandil to defend the eastern approach to Fornost from raiding Hill Men. It was now garrisoned by some five hundred descendants of those same raiders who had, long ago, become loyal subjects of the High Kingdom.
The fortress was a long day's march from Fornost going at an easy pace. Of course ideas of what qualifies as 'easy' differ. The brief rests at the end of each hour's march seemed very short indeed to the Hobbits.
"It's scarcely worth getting off the pony." Pippin complained to Aragorn at their third halt. "No time to snatch a bite or even brew a cup of tea!"
"There will be an hour stop at midday for the noon meal." The High King told him with ill-concealed amusement.
"*One* hour! *the* meal!" Pippin spluttered, his open horror bringing grins to the faces of the knights and guardsmen within hearing.
"Don't complain, Pip," Merry councilled, "it's better than sunup to sundown with nothing but an apple or two."
Aragorn laughed. "Come, Thain, you've marched farther and with a tighter belt in your day."
"I was younger then." Pippin grumbled, shrugged. "Oh well, at least I'm riding not walking this time."
Gimli wasn't very happy either, Dwarves are not fond of travelling horseback. Yet he greeted Boromir's suggestion he march among the footmen with a gruff refusal, not wanting to be seperated from his companions.
Boromir shook his head privately. Did they really think he'd try to break away on the road? He was no such fool, there would be better chances later.
They reached Caur Amrun perhaps two hours before sunset - or at dinner time as Hobbits reckon it. A low curtain wall enclosed a steep sided hill crowned by high, grey walls, the turrets and roofs of a massive Tower Keep showing above the battlements.
Once through the outer gate they saw the base of the hill was encircled by a broad, deep defensive ditch, crossed by a drawbridge. A second gate led to a steep and narrow causway climbing the hillside between high walls to the great gatehouse of the inner wall.
The Tower ward was paved with flagstones, the outbuildings set against the walls where they could give no cover to an enemy who managed to penetrate the outer defenses - unlikely as that possibility seemed. No question but those old Numenoreans had known a thing or two about fortifications!
A tall, swarthy Man with curling, coal black hair and beard stood on the steps of the Keep wearing the black and grey livery of Arthedain, ensigned with the stars of the North Kingdom, and surrounded by similiarly dressed Men of the same kind, his officers.
Boromir noted the warden made his bow to his own King, Gilvagor, who then presented him to the High King thus neatly establishing the chain of command. Aragorn himself was, for the first time since Boromir's return, dressed appropriately for his rank in gleaming mail of mithril with the star and the white tree embroidered on his sable surcoat and a jewel of adamant on his brow. Yet the Man addressed him with the lack of awe or ceremony Boromir had come to recognize as characteristic of the North.
"The enemy is still half a day's march away, Dunadan, we should be able to see their fires after dark. I would suggest a night attack did I not fear we will be facing an assault of our own tonight."
Aragorn nodded agreement. "They will send their Orcs to assail us since they cannot fight by daylight. In what numbers?"
The Warden turned to lead the two Kings and their company into the Keep. "Far more than I expected." he admitted ruefully, "Draugoth must have rousted out the inhabitants of every maggot hole and warren in the Northern Mountains and Angmar Hills. There are even a few Uruks leading them."
"Sounds like we're in for a lovely, restful night." Merry muttered at Boromir's side. ****
Boromir was shown to a small chamber high in the Tower to get a few hours rest before the expected exertions of the night.
He filled the wash basin and took a small phial from its hiding place in an inner pocket of his surcoat. Cut from crystal of adamant and filled with clear water it glittered in the pale gleam from the dusk sky outside his window. Then, slowly, as he cupped it in his hand, it began to glow with its own light; pure and bright.
"I need to know where the Wolf-lord will be," he told it softly, "show me." and held the phial so its rays fell on the water.
The surface darkened as an image formed; tree boles, knarled and grey, with many lithe, pale shapes running through the shadows between them. Boromir frowned, then slowly nodded. "Of course. I should have known."
Suddenly the picture changed; sunlight glittering on water, a green isle in a bright lake with a lacy white pavilion in its midst. His frown deepened as the image shifted to the interior where a small figure in green and a taller robed in white stood looking down at a low bier. A shiver ran down his spine as he recognized Mithrandir and Frodo standing over his own inert body in the Pavilion of the Lake in Avallone.
But no sooner had he recognized the scene than it was replaced by the image of Mithrandir's face, eyes looking out wide and piercing, lips moving silently. Boromir could not hear the words but he didn't need to, he remembered them well: *Once you return to Middle Earth much that is now clear to you will become uncertain or even be forgotten.*
The light faded and the water was only water again. He put Frodo's Phial *2 back in his pocket and sat down on the bed. Clearly it was telling him he'd forgotten something, something important.
He sighed. It seemed all too likely, everything else had gone wrong after all! But there was nothing to be done about it. He'd simply have to carry on and hope the memory returned before it was too late. ***
*1 Forgive the British spelling but this *is* Tolkien and 'jailers' just looked wrong somehow.
*2 Yes this is the phial Galadriel gave to Frodo in Lorien.
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