Someone was sobbing, far away. He had heard something very faint, niggling the edges of his consciousness. That was it. Someone crying. He needed to go and help the voice that cried, but it was dark. It was so dark he could not see anything. He would just have to follow the sound.
So he started out. But, no, nothing moved. He realized then that he could not move, in fact could not feel his body at all. Strange. He could feel nothing, see nothing. Then, even the voice faded away. He sank back down into the blackness.
He did not know where he had been or for how long. He felt something cool and damp on his face. That was good. He could feel his body again. He tried to open his eyes, but it seemed to take a very long time. He decided to leave that for later. He tried to speak. With great effort, his lips formed the word ‘where,’ or tried to.
Then he heard the voice again, this time not crying, but still far away. “Master Boromir! Master Boromir! Please wake up. Come back. Please.”
He was not alone then. That pleased him. He must try harder.
“Where...?” Very good. A word. He had succeeded.
“Oh! Thank the Powers!” The voice sounded much closer. He heard the sloshing of water, then felt the coolness on his face again, first one cheek and then the other. Then he felt water trickling on his forehead. His eyes finally obeyed him and opened. He saw a face hovering over him, dirty and streaked with tears.
Why had Morby been crying? Gaining command over his arms, Boromir lifted a hand and touched the hovering face. “What...?”
Then he remembered it all. He drew a shuddering breath.
Tears gathered in Morby’s eyes. One fell on Boromir’s chest, then another.
“It’s bad. He’s alive, but that thing cut him. He’s barely breathing. He won’t wake up. It’s been two days.”
Boromir struggled to sit up. His head swam and his stomach heaved. He held out a hand, and Morby helped him stand.
“Where is he?”
“Over there under that tree.” Morby pointed back, toward the woods to the right. I dragged him off the road into some shelter. I couldn’t move you, so I had to let you lie where you fell. I’m sorry. I couldn’t move you.”
Boromir put a hand on the riverman’s shoulder and gave it a little shake. “I’m amazed you could move Quill.”
They walked over to the spot where Quill lay on a bed of moss, under a large oak. Boromir knelt down beside him. If Morby hadn’t told him differently, he would have thought the marshman dead. He moved his cloak, which Morby had tucked around Quill, and put a hand lightly on his chest. He sighed with relief as he felt a very faint, put reassuring, movement.
Then his hand moved up to the clumsy bandage on Quill’s shoulder. He lifted it and winced at what he saw. A deep slash cut through the flesh between the neck and shoulder. The wound still oozed green blood, and the flesh around it was swollen and a strange greyish-yellow colour. Boromir put his hand up to Quill’s face. It felt unnaturally cold, even for such a cold day.
Echoing Boromir’s thought, Morby said, “I wrapped him in your cloak. He seemed so cold. I can’t get the bleeding to stop. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You did well,” Boromir said. “Did you see what happened?”
Morby nodded. “The rider who brought Quill down searched him. He was looking through his clothes. When he saw you drag the other one off his horse, he ran over. By the time he got to you, you’d stopped fighting You were so still, I thought you was dead. It took me too long to cross the river again....” He stopped suddenly and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
Boromir reached out and put a hand on his arm. “I told you to stay on the other side.”
Morby ignored him. “They searched you, too. I heard one of 'em say, ‘It is not here.’ Right about then, I came up out of the river. They both turned and looked at me. I’ve never been so scared in all my life. I figured they was going to kill us all, if you and Quill weren't dead already."
Boromir could not imagine why all of them were not, indeed, dead. “Did they hurt you?” he asked urgently. His eyes rapidly scanned Morby’s small frame. He thought of the rider’s foul breath in his face, of the fire and darkness in those terrible eyes. “What happened?” He tried to keep his voice calm.
“Well, that’s the strange thing,” Morby said. “Right when they started toward me, two others just like 'em came tearing down the road.”
“What?!” Boromir exclaimed.
“They was yelling and waving and swirlin' about. The one that hurt Quill started towards me, but one of the new ones called him back. The one on the horse said something about me not being the ‘bearer,’ whatever that might mean. The new ones was trying to get the others to mount up and follow. They kept motioning to the north and west. Anyhow, the one you fought with looked at you and said something. But the one that seemed to be in charge said, ‘Leave them. They have no importance.’”
Morby lowered his voice and tried to imitate the rider’s tone. Boromir shivered.
“Then they took themselves off.”
What were the riders looking for? Who were they seeking? And why? Boromir could not fathom it. It made his quest seem at once more urgent and more hopeless. If the servants of Sauron were ranging this far, had the battle for Gondor been lost already?
He felt weak and sick and uncertain. He tried to shake it off, knowing that he had to act quickly for Quill’s sake. But every movement, every thought, seemed shadowed. It felt as if some part of him still lay tangled in the smothering darkness of the rider’s robes, tainted with that terrible breath. He would just have to carry the darkness, along with his fears and his duties, for as long as he must.
He took turned to Morby. “Help me gather wood. We will build a fire here, near Quill. We have to decide what to do about his wound.”
They built a roaring fire. The clammy coldness of Quill’s body worried Boromir, and the fire seemed worth the risk. After their encounter with the Dark Ones, it didn’t seem to matter who knew they were here.
Boromir went to the river for more water, and Morby made up the last of the tea they had taken from Nendaeril’s house. Boromir took a cup and tried to get some of the tea down Quill’s throat, but it dribbled out of his mouth. Even after an hour’s time, the fire seemed to have made no difference to his body temperature.
Boromir sat, thin-lipped and shoulders sagging, looking at the gash on Quill’s shoulder again. Finally he turned to Morby.
“There is poison in it. Look here at the edges of the wound. It is an ugly color, and even the texture of the flesh has changed. Something evil works here.”
“What can we do?”
“I fear moving him, and I fear going for help and leaving him in this condition. Perhaps we should cut away the flesh where the sword touched him. That may stop the poison. Then we can cauterize the wound.” If he doesn’t bleed to death first, Boromir thought to himself.
They looked at each other for a long moment.
“I think that’s for the best,” Morby said. “Couldn’t get much worse, could it? I don’t think he’ll last long like this, Master Boromir.”
So Boromir took out a small skinning knife he had liberated from Nendaeril’s stores and held out his hand for Morby’s knife. He put the blades of both into the fire. He took the skinning knife out first and let it cool. Then, kneeling beside Quill, he took off the bandages that covered the wound.
“We must work quickly, Morby. I will cut away the damaged flesh. Then I will hold the wound closed. You must take your knife from the fire and seal the wound cleanly.”
Morby turned pale, but nodded. Boromir went to the fire and took off the last of the hot tea.
“Here, pour it over my hands.”
Morby did as he was told. The hot tea scalded, but Boromir just rubbed his hands together and quickly flung the excess liquid off, hoping that his hands were now reasonably clean.
Then he went back to Quill, took a deep breath, and cut around the damaged flesh as cleanly as he could. There was a lot of blood, but he could not pause to try and stop the bleeding. First one side of the wound, then the other. His fingers were slick with blood by the time he had finished. He cursed as he tried to get the sides of the wound together, but finally managed it.
“Now, Morby, quickly.”
Morby drew his knife from the fire, knelt beside Boromir, and leaned over the wound.
“I can’t see... your fingers....”
“There. Quickly, quickly.” Then the smell of burning flesh.
“There. That’s enough.”
Boromir held the wound for many minutes, afraid that the closure would not hold. His legs cramped and his back burned, but he would not move his hands. Finally, every so slightly, he release the pressure. He sighed with relief, and so did Morby, who had been bending over him the whole time. The wound did not reopen. The bleeding had stopped.
They took turns watching over Quill that day and night. By the next morning, his condition had changed, but Boromir was not sure whether it was for better or for worse. He was not as cold, and his immobility had changed to pitiful twitchings and mutterings. He was not conscious, but seemed to be submerged in a nightmare from which he could not awaken.
Boromir knelt beside him, his hand on the marshman’s face. “Quill, you are safe. They cannot harm you any longer.” He hoped he was speaking truly. Quill’s movements just grew more agitated. When the day saw no change, Boromir knew they must seek aid. He could only hope that they were near Imladris, near enough to get help before the marshman was beyond all healing.
Early the next morning, they crossed the river. Boromir carried Quill, who was sometimes a dead weight and at other times struggled and cried out. Morby carried the few supplies they could not do without. They moved slowly, but Boromir knew that Quill was beyond their aid. The elves were their only hope.
They walked for the rest of the day, and Quill grew worse by the hour. Finally, toward sunset, Boromir decided that they must rest.
He laid Quill down in a small clearing off the road. He bent over and put a hand to the marshman’s face and found he was burning with fever. Boromir lifted one of his tightly closed eyelids. His eyes were rolled back in his head. Morby stood standing silently beside them, his face drawn and tired.
“Find us a bite to eat, Morby. Then we’ll rest for a while.”
After a scant meal of cold, smoked venison, Boromir told Morby to try to get some sleep while he took the first watch. He sat talking quietly to Quill as the sun sank and the moon rose bright over the trees. He knew Quill would not understand him him, but he talked anyway, hoping that the sound of his voice would reach him and let him know that he was not alone in the dark. As he talked, he bathed the marshman’s sweating face with water from a nearby stream. For a time, Quill seemed calmer, and the jerky movements of his head and limbs quieted.
Deep in the night, Quill grew worse again. He seemed to be in the grip of some terrible nightmare. He held his shaking hands up as if to ward off some terrible thing. His moans turned into screams that made Boromir want to weep out of pity and out of frustration that he could do nothing.Hearing something moving behind him, he turned to see Morby standing close by, awakened by Quill’s cries.
They looked at each other for a long moment, then Boromir said quietly, “Morby, I do not know how much longer he can last, or how far away help may lie. I am afraid that I must leave you and seek it as quickly as I can.”
Morby simply nodded.
Boromir stood, stripped off his sword and his horn, his cloak and his mail, and made a small pile at Morby’s feet. He would need to go swiftly. He could only hope that Imladris was at the end of the road, and that he could bring help back before it was too late.
He started to say something, but then thought better of it. What else was there to say? He gripped the little riverman’s shoulder, then turned and ran, with Quill’s screams echoing in his ears.
Boromir ran through the night, not pausing to rest. Fortunately, the moon was near full, and he had little fear of losing the road. He stumbled and fell several times, but he simply picked himself up and set off again, not slackening his pace. After a time he did not hear his own gasping breaths or the pounding of his heart, no longer felt the pain that knifed through his side with every breath. He would not stop until he found the elves or until he could no longer keep upright. That made it simple. He only had to run.
With that decision made, his mind was free to wander. It did not go back to Quill and Morby. There was nothing more he could do for them now, except run. His mind did not go ahead, either. The future, like the way ahead, seemed dark. So he thought about the past, of running through the woods of Ithilien on a golden autumn day, Faramir laughing and swearing behind him as Boromir outpaced him in pursuit of some hapless deer. He remembered running naked down the grassy bank at that spot they had found, well-hidden from view of the city walls, then plunging into the cool grey-green Anduin on hot summer days. Further back, he remembered running down a long hall in the King’s House when he was very small. He ran towards a tall man with sea-grey eyes, who gathered him up and swung him around and around, until he was laughing and breathless.
Boromir’s memory of the grey eyes blended into something grey before him on the road ahead. He came back to the present, almost crying out as the pain in his side and his legs stabbed at him. He slowed a little to get his bearings, because suddenly everything seemed grey: pearled moonlight mingling with a hint of dove-breast dawn in the sky, mist shrouding the woods and the road. What was the thing he had seen? At first he thought it was a just a large, flat stone. Then he saw that the path disappeared into space, and the grey shape was the beginning of a long flight of stone steps leading down into a narrow, mist-filled valley.
Steps! It must mean he was near some settlement. Could it be Imladris? He stopped at the edge of the steps, breathing hard and trying to peer through the shifting mist. He could see a bridge over the river at the valley’s floor. Then, on the other side of the river he saw it: parts of a red roof and massive stone walls. He stood looking down into the valley, his heart pounding, almost overwhelmed by the thought that this might be... no, must be... Rivendell.
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.