5. The King Takes Command
"I agree with you, Pip. I'm just not sure what we can do to stop it."
They were in Merry's study, a small and rather dusty room littered with notes and bits of dried herbs, sitting across the table from each other with a brandy bottle between them and the stars shining through the open window.
Pippin took a gulp of his brandy. "There's got to be *something* we can do."
"Maybe Strider will know." Merry sighed, refilling the glasses.
A soft knock heralded the entrance of a slightly glassy eyed footman. Merry looked at him in disapproval. "Bert? what are you doing up at this hour?"
"Begging your pardon, sir, but my brother Bill, who works down in the stables, just woke me up. He says another Man's arrived - he thinks it's the King himself!"
"Strider, thank goodness!" Master and Thain made a dash for the door, poor Bert getting out of the way just in the nick of time.
The figure coming up the path from the stable was unmistakably a Hobbit and familiar if unexpected.
"Hullo, Sam -" Merry began
"What's this about trouble with the Forest?" the Mayor interrupted, a dangerous glint in his eye.
"It started after you left for Annuminas." Merry explained apologetically. "Just the usual restless muttering at first, it only began to get alarming a day or two ago."
"You should have told me."
"Sam, he didn't tell *me* until after he found Boromir." Pippin put in quickly.
"I didn't have anything to tell." Merry pleaded. "I went into the Forest to find some answers."
"And instead found a greater riddle."
"Strider!" Pippin and Merry flung themselves at their friend and King who went down on one knee to greet them.
He was dressed as a simple ranger, with only the Ring of Barahire to show his ranks, and looked just as he had when they first met him all those years ago in Bree. Aragorn glanced from Merry to Pippin, a hand on the shoulder of each. "What is it?"
Merry took a deep breath. "Boromir says he's just here to die again, killing whatever it is in the Old Forest."
"That can't be true, can it?" Pippin pleaded.
"I don't know." Aragorn said quietly. "Where is he?"
"The big guest room." Merry led them along a side path to a small door and unlocked it. "Third room on the left, watch your head."
The King shot one of his dark looks over his shoulder, ducked through the door and disappeared into the shadows. The three Hobbits stood gazing after him for a moment then Merry clapped Sam on the shoulder. "Come and have a brandy it must have been quite a ride. And don't scold. We had strict orders from Madam Mayoress not to bother you on your holiday."
"'You're Thain of the Shire, Peregrine Took, time you started acting like it instead of leaving everything to my Sam!'" Pippin quoted, grinning.
A gentle snort from Sam. "I'm not sure I'm ready to leave the Shire to the likes of you two."
Aragorn slipped through the door of Boromir's room, crouched just inside for a moment, (knowing better than to try to stand) and studied the sleeping Man.
After a long moment he nodded slowly to himself then, stooping, crossed the room to kneel beside the pallet and lay a light hand on Boromir's arm. His eyes opened instantly. For a moment all he could see was the dark silhouette of another Man bending over him and tensed reflexively, then he realized who it was. "Aragorn!" He clutched eagerly at the other Man's arms. "My King!"
"I am very glad to see you my friend." Aragorn pressed him gently but firmly back onto the pallet. "How badly are you hurt."
"My shield arm is the worst of it, a clean break and mending fast, the rest is mere scratches."
The King gave him a mildly skeptical look and began undoing the bandages with deft, practiced hands to see for himself. He grimaced a little at the sight of the wounds having tended enough mauled Rangers to recognize Warg marks when he saw them. "Not all scratches," he said touching a long, neatly stitched tear on Boromir's upper arm.
"No. One of them got me down and worried me." Aragorn felt the other Man shudder at the memory. "I killed four of them - but by daylight there were no bodies or blood, except for mine."
"Like the wargs that attacked us below Caradhras." the King nodded. "Do you know what sent them?"
"I was not told," Boromir answered slowly, "but what could it be but a werewolf? It that possible, Aragorn?"
"Very." was the grim reply. "Three survived the fall of Angmar, so they say. My ancestor, the first Aragorn slew one, and my kinsman Belecthor another, but the third and most powerful lives yet."
"And is lurking in the Old Forest." said Boromir and frowned. "I do not like that it has chosen a place so near the Shire."
"Not do I." the King agreed. He finished rebandaging and settled back on his heels. "What happened, Boromir?"
Simply. "I died." his eyes unfocused, gazing past Aragorn at something only he could see: "I always thought dying would be like falling into darkness but it is not - there is such light.... And after, after..." he trailed off, shaking his head. "There are no words."
A long moment passed then he looked back at the King. "I remember I was asked if I were willing to return and I said yes. And sometime later I awoke in Avallone with Mithrandir sitting at my bedside. He and Frodo told me how the quest was completed and what had become of you all."
"And how is Frodo?" Aragorn asked softly.
"Better. He seemed to improve daily even in the short time I was with them. He is sure one day, not too distant, he will be altogether well again. And Mithrandir agrees." The King closed his eyes in relief. "That is good to hear." opened them again. "And what of you, Boromir?"
"I am here to destroy this evil." he answered. "This - werewolf if that is indeed what it is."
"Alone and unaided?" Aragorn asked dryly.
Boromir flushed a little. "I know how it must sound, but this is my task, Aragorn, of that much I am certain."
"And that you will die accomplishing it?" the King asked softly.
Boromir swallowed, nodded. "So Mithrandir forsaw."
Aragorn lowered his eyes, sighed, looked up again. "Merry and Pippin are greatly distressed."
"I know." the other Man said miserably. "Perhaps I should not have told them but I thought if they knew - had a chance to prepare themselves - it might be easier for them."
"And for you?"
"I expected it to be hard." Boromir closed his eyes against pricking tears. "But I did not know how hard."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.