30. The Second Battle of Buckland
The brooding trees extruded a menace that reminded him of his forays across the Anduin into the territory of Mordor, but he had long ago learned how to cope with such oppressive atmospheres and the nagging fears they bred. If the trees were trying to goad him into panic they would fail. Still the effort of resisting was a drain on his strength he could ill afford, and it was growing very dark. What little light might have lingered in the evening sky cut off by the forest canopy.
He took out Frodo's phial. It glimmered softly in his hand, like a star through cloud, then its light began to grow, clear and white, dispelling gloom and fear. The Ringbearer's gift imbued with his courage and his strength. Boromir smiled, for he could feel Frodo's presence in the light almost as if his friend were there holding him by the hand.
The trees seemed to shrink from the bright rays giving him more space. Looking around he saw three paths forking off the one he had been following. Impulsively he turned onto the track leading northward. Soon it began to climb, winding round and round a hill. The trees thinned then vanished and he found himself standing on a bare eminence just above the Forest canopy.
Looking westward he could see a line of red bonfires marking Sam's defenses. Far to the east, beyond the eaves of the Forest, more fires burned dotting the Barrow Downs. Of the Wolf-lord there was as yet no sign, though Boromir knew he was close - it would be very soon now. ********************************************** A star of white light blossomed eastward over the Forest, hovering stationary just above the trees.
"What's that?" Merry wondered.
Aragorn shook his head, but Sam knew. "It's Mr. Frodo's glass." he breathed. "I'd know that light anywhere," looked hopefully up at the King. "It couldn't be Mr. Frodo himself could it?"
"I don't think so, Sam," Aragorn replied quietly. "he must have given the Phial to Boromir."
"At least we know he's still alive." Merry sighed, looked around. "Where'd Pip go?"
"Down the line with Diamond to join their Tooklanders." Estella answered.
Suddenly one of Aragorn's knights uttered a sharp warning: "Dunadan!"
It took the Hobbits another few seconds to spot what the sharper eyes of the Ranger had seen; grey forms flowing from the verges of the Forest and over the burnt trunks and limbs of the Hedge towards the line of defenders.
"Estella, get back." Merry ordered drawing his sword. His wife hesitated.
"My Lady, you'll be needed at the hollow to deal with the wounded." Arandil reminded her.
She sighed. "Be careful, Merry." and went.
"Good thinking." the Master told Arandil.
The youngster grinned a little. "I spent most of the afternoon rolling bandages for your Lady."
"Archers ready!" Sam shouted. The first line of Hobbit bowmen nocked their arrows. "Draw!" took aim at the oncoming foe. "Fire!"
Short, grey feathered shafts powdered the wolves. Dropping some and wounding others who continued on dispite the arrows protruding from their bodies.
Calmly Sam ordered the second rank of archers to "Draw" and "Fire". More wolves fell, but by now the survivors had reached the ditch. Not all jumped it successfully, some fell short and were impaled on the stakes, but many made it to the other side to scrabble, snarling, over the little wall of sod and wood that protected the defenders.
"Elendil!" Aragorn shoved Sam out of the way to cut down a wolf who had gained the top of the beastwork in front of them. As other wolves came over barrier the King's knights moved quickly to aid of the lightly armed Hobbits.
"Spread out!" Aragorn ordered his Men, "See to the rest of the line." but he himself, and Faramir, Arandil, Legolas and Gimli remained at the center near Sam and Merry.
There were no more volleys, there wasn't time, the Hobbit archers fired at will doing their best to fell the wolves before they reached the breastworks. Those who survived the arrows faced Sting or Anduril, Gimli's axe or Legolas' knives or the bright swords of Merry, Faramir and Arandil. Yet they kept coming.
Looking up Merry saw the light still shining white and serene above the Forest and wondered how it was going with Boromir.
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