27. What the Palantir Showed
"He must have followed his uncle." Aragorn frowned.
"Boromir won't let anything happen to him." Pippin soothed, patting the anxious father's hand. Though sorry for Faramir he couldn't help feeling a little comforted. At least Boromir wasn't alone. Having somebody to watch out for would make him more careful.
"He might even bring Arandil back rather than risk his life." Merry suggested hopefully.
A Ranger came up to them, saluted Aragorn. "We've found the tracks of two Men heading westward, Dunadan." he reported. "one following the other at some distance. It must be the Lord Boromir and his nephew."
"But why would they be heading west?" Pippin wondered. "The Wolf-lord is in the north - isn't he?"
"Perhaps not." Aragorn said slowly. "I do not understand...." he looked worried. And that worried Pippin. ***********************************************
Aragorn was worried. He had read the depths of Boromir's determination, and his commitment to his chosen fate. He knew only too well his friend would not try to run away from it now. Fortunately he, Aragorn, had the means at hand to establish exactly where Boromir was now and where he was heading.
Nearly twenty years ago he had had a palantir, the Orthanc stone, brought north and installed in the topmost chamber of Elendil's Tower at Fornost so he and his young cousin and viceregent could keep in contact and watch over the lands they governed.
Taking Faramir, Legolas, Gimli and the Hobbits he rode quickly back to the city, arriving late that evening, and led them up the long winding stairs to the Chamber of the Stone.
The black globe of the Palantir was set upon a plinth of fluted white stone, at eye level for a tall Man, beneath a high dome. Wide windows looked north, south, east and west inset with devices of colored glass. Lamps of crystal and fretted steel lit the chamber which was empty save for the seeing stone on its pillar and a stone seat set against the south wall.
Aragorn went to the palantir and looked into it, almost immediately locating two small figures moving swiftly not towards Fornost but the road some distance south of the city. "I see them." he said aloud for the benefit of his companions. "They are together now, safe and sound, making for the road."
He heard Faramir's sigh of relief. "But why?" Pippin wanted to know. "Why isn't he heading north towards Draugoth? Has he changed his mind?"
Aragorn turned his sight further west and south and saw what he had feared; pale wolf wraiths running in pack around the great, brindled grey bulk of Draugoth himself. "No, Boromir has not changed his mind. The Wolf-lord goes south and he goes to meet him."
"What? Why? and how could Boromir have known?" that was Gimli.
"How our friend guessed or forsaw this I cannot say. As for why the Wolf-lord runs south...I fear he is making for the Shire."
"The Shire!" Merry and Pippin chorused in alarm.
"Surely not." Faramir protested. "He must be headed for Annuminas."
"No." Aragorn said flatly. "His course is too easterly. His goal is the Old Forest and the borders of the Shire." he cast his gaze ahead and his heart chilled as he saw black smoke rising from the fringes of Buckland.
His face must have changed for Merry said in alarm: "Strider, what is it? what do you see."
He willed the image closer and was somewhat reassured. "The hedge has been fired. It is nothing but a tangle of blackened limbs." he heard the Hobbits gasp. "A great swath of the Forest behind it has been burnt as well. Buckland itself is untouched but they are preparing for further attacks. Ranks of archers are lined up all along the eastern border. I see Sam moving among them, and Mistress Estella and Lady Took as well."
"At least she's safe." Merry muttered. "Strider, I've got to get home!"
"Indeed you must." Aragorn agreed. "And I will come with you."
"What about Boromir and Arandil?" Pippin wanted to know.
"We may catch up to them on the road, though they have the lead of us. But it matters not, they too are heading for the Shire we are certain to meet them there."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Gimli demanded.
Aragorn looked up from the stone with a wry smile. "I have not slept for two nights, my friend," he reminded gently. "The Wolf-lord cannot travel by day. We can afford to wait until morning to follow him." looked at the anxious Hobbits. "We will get there before Draugoth does, I promise you."
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