4. Of Desperation And Death
Even by Eomer's standards Boromir had proven himself a fine rider, but his ability could no longer sustain him against exhaustion. As Smokechaser shrieked and plunged to a halt, he lost his grip. He was flung over the mare's shoulder, striking the ground sidelong and rolling twice before he could regain his feet. Miraculously, he still held his sword in one white-knuckled hand...but he barely had time to toss his sweaty hair out of his eyes before one of the beasts was upon him.
Eomer had problems of his own. Firefoot did not hesitate -- he sped up, tail bannered on the wind, to smash headlong into their foes. Eomer clung close as the stallion rose high, pawed at the air, and screamed in rage. Shod hooves crunched into a fanged face. Blood flew -- black blood, not red -- and upon impact Guthwine flew tumbling through the air to thud into the grass.
The sword was as good as lost. Eomer's world was now a whirl of flying mane and snapping jaws, a confusing din of snarls and the uneven thuds of hoof against earth and hide. He locked his knees and drew his hunting knife, but it was little use against these unnatural beasts! He desperately yearned to ride to Boromir's side, but after his brave charge Firefoot was now encircled by three of the monsters. Eomer had no choice. Merely keeping his seat was hard work, let alone fending death away from the stallion's sides with only a dagger's-length of steel in hand...
Meanwhile, Boromir was holding his own...barely. He'd given way when the monster leapt, landing on his back and letting the beast's own momentum drive his braced sword deep between its shaggy ribs. It screamed and scrambled away, nearly wrenching his sword from his hands, but he held fast and regained his feet.
Though not dead, the creature was breathing badly and drooling blood. It circled the clearing with hatred in its black eyes, preventing escape and awaiting vengeance. Still, the blow was well struck, for it allowed Boromir to turn to his besieged friend. What little hope they had lay in alliance. They must stand together, or surely fall!
He'd barely taken two steps, however, when two more beasts launched into the fray. Growling with frustration, the Gondorian ducked under the first and spun to rake his blade along the other's face. It was an elegant move, but it was not enough -- he'd missed the eye. Now it was truly enraged.
He heard Firefoot shriek in agony, and his heart lurched, but he could not see, could not help, could do nothing...for his own foes were fast upon him again. A huge matted chest slammed against his raised swordarm. The impact drove him to one knee. Jaws slavered inches before his eyes, straining to seize and rend. Gasping under its weight, Boromir struggled to hold it at bay, but for what? The other would surely fall upon him from behind. He was trapped -- he could not turn, could not defend his back, could do nothing but hold firm, and that only for moments more...
His swordarm shook and sank. The monster knew its prey's last shred of endurance was ebbing. Triumphant, it yowled wetly into his face with a great stinking blast of hot breath...
Then something whispered past his cheek; the merest breeze caressed his ear. The beast gaped silent in mid-screech, one black eye rolling wildly. The other...?
The other was now host to a long, pale, white-fletched arrow.
The beast's full weight abruptly crushed down upon him, but it was no longer dangerous. Boromir shoved hard and rolled aside. He whirled to face the other, only to find it already slumped dead with two bloody shafts jutting through its throat. From behind.
Not allowing himself time to wonder, he cast about wildly for his companion. The Rider was still miraculously in the saddle and relatively unharmed, but Firefoot was streaming scarlet from a dozen wounds and staggering under the weight of two attackers. A third lay silent in the grass, its skull grotesquely crushed. Still, two were more than enough! Firefoot shrilled wildly as he fought to stay afoot -- Eomer was shouting hoarse defiance as he hacked and kicked, but he had only a knife...
Boromir thought quickly as he stumbled across the torn grass. Their unknown ally was behind them, which meant that only one of the two beasts was within bowshot. The other was blocked by the horse's own body.
Strategy sprang into his trained mind. He circled wide of Firefoot's threshing hooves and hurled himself upon the farthest attacker. The beast roared with anger, tossing its heavy head back -- then it gurgled and spasmed and slid loose. Eomer's knife was buried hilt-deep in its exposed throat.
And, just as Boromir had hoped, the other squalled and crashed to the ground with an arrow sunk deep into its back. It twisted frantically, seeking escape, but it was struck dead by a second shaft in the heart before it could rise to flee.
There had been a sixth beast, the one which had suffered a deep lung wound when it had knocked Boromir to the ground. The Gondorian tensed, expecting one last assault, but then a stacatto pounding from the clearing's edge caught his ear. An unharmed Smokechaser was furiously trampling what remained of the creature.
Well. Whether it had bled to death from its injury or whether the mare had done the deed herself, he was not going to question their good fortune. Instead, he seized Eomer's bent knee and hissed urgently, "Are you hurt? Don't move. Rein him in."
"I...I am well enough," Eomer gasped, "just....winded, and... The arrows. Yes, I see. Firefoot, shhh, quiet now, you've done well, shhh..."
Boromir peered into the trees, but saw nothing and nobody. As the adrenaline ebbed he had to fight to stay on his feet; he gripped Eomer's stirrup to steady himself. "Who's there?" he called. "We would thank you properly, friend."
Only wind moved in the leaves...then a branch rustled slightly and a single figure dropped to the ground, longbow in hand and a quiver of white-fletched arrows slung across his back. He was clad in grey, slightly roadworn but of fine workmanship; delicately chased silver patterns seemed to shift and twine as he stepped into the open sun. He was blond but far paler than Eomer; his long fine hair was a striking white-gold, half of it caught back in a complicated knot.
And there was something about him...
Boromir felt Eomer's thigh tighten with shock against his steadying hand.
Their rescuer was no man, but an Elf.
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.