Henneth Annûn grew very quiet the minute Mablung set the boy down on a mattress and stepped back to make room for the healer. Every set of dark or grey eyes rested on the senior Lieutenant, as Lieutenant Damrod hurried up to him from the darkness of the cave and clasped his dirty hand in greeting. “Mablung. We have been worried about you!” he whispered. Louder he asked: „What news of the Captain? “
Mablung clasped his hands behind his back to keep them from trembling. “Eastern Osgiliath has fallen,” he announced. He thought it best to speak the plain truth, for there were no words to soften the blow. “The bridge has been destroyed beyond repair.” It had been quiet before, but somehow every living being in the cave seemed to stop breathing for a moment. Mablung could hear the beat of his own heart loud as thunder in his ears. “The Captain and our fellow rangers fought together with the Osgiliath garrison to deny the enemy passage onto the plains of Gondor. We have no news of who survived the battle.” He took a deep breath and added, before the question could be asked. “I have no tidings about the Captain, good or ill.”
The injured boy on the mattress moaned softly as the healer carefully removed the bloody bandages from his infected feet and cleaned the wounds with warm water. The quiet sound echoed in the large cave, sending shivers down Mablung’s spine. The men were silent, numbed by the terrible news.
“We only know what young Anakil here was able to tell us. No official messenger has been able to reach us to give a more detailed account of the battle. We can only hope that the enemy were stopped before they could set foot on the western shore of Anduin,” he said.
Even though he pressed his hand against his mouth to suppress any sound, a small moan again escaped Anakil’s lips. The healer dabbed an ointment made of herbs and some nasty-smelling oils on his wounds, and for a moment his feet were on fire. The healer cast him an apologetic look, and Anakil pressed his eyes shut to keep at bay the tears that threatened to spill over his dirty cheeks. He did not want to cry in front of the Rangers.
“Do we know anything for sure?” Damrod asked, his voice a little shaken. “Is there anything we can do?”
Mablung lowered his gaze, unable to meet his fellow Lieutenant’s desperate eyes.
“I do not know, Damrod,” he said quietly. “Valar help me, I do not know.”
“Do not try to go to Eastern Osgiliath,” Anakil whispered. “There are thousands of them. I have been there. I have seen them. They do not take prisoners. They kill every living being that is not like them.” He remembered what he had seen while the Poet had carried him through the lost garrison. “They even kill the boys. I have seen it. I have smelled it. It was terrible.”
The healer finished bandaging his feet, while Mablung kneeled down next to him and put a soothing hand to his forehead, brushing away dirty and sweaty hair. “Rest,” he said. “You are injured and you have done enough. You can tell us everything you have seen and heard when you have had some hours of sleep.” The Lieutenant raised his eyes to look at his Rangers. “That is a piece of advice I give to all of you. Rest. There will be no scouting parties today. Until we know what has happened and what we have to do, we will stay close to the cave and guard the entrance with double watches. The enemy has made an important move. We will answer in kind. But we will not let our emotions rush our decisions. Eastern Osgiliath might have fallen, but Henneth Annûn is still strong. We will not lose Ithilien. Not now. Not ever.”
A short defiant cheer erupted at his declaration.
Anakil remembered the battle cries he had heard over and over again during the longest night of his life. “For Gondor!” he whispered, as he closed his eyes.
“For Gondor!” he heard Mablung’s whispered answer, and the cool hand on his forehead tightened slightly. “For Gondor, whatever may be left of her.”
Anakil’s fever escalated to an impressive level, but he slept through most of it. The healer woke him up in the middle of a meaningless but vivid dream to force some vile drink down his throat. Later, much later, he remembered a concerned voice telling him his fever was still raising, and that the foul smelling and tasting liquid was for his own good.
Rough hands stripped him of his clothing and bathed his burning body with cold water. There was no pain as the bandages on his feet were changed. He felt strangely remote, unable to wake and appreciate his surroundings, unable to feel and think behind the hazy fog that had settled on his mind. He did not recognize the voices that were talking to him from time to time.
Once he thought he could hear his mother calling out to him, but a part of him knew that she was not here, that she had died months ago, that he would not hear her voice again for a very long time. She was the lucky one, she would never encounter the terror that had passed him on the bridge, she would never again feel despair and desperation, she would never lose someone close to her, a friend, a comrade. She was lucky indeed; she had found a level of peace he was sure he would never find in this dark place.
When he woke up, the cave was illuminated by only a few torches. The opening to the waterfall was shrouded in complete darkness. He realized that it must be the middle of the night, for the Rangers were sleeping on their mattresses on the floor and no one was moving about. He turned his head and saw Lieutenant Mablung sitting next to him, his head tilted to one side, his eyes closed. A soft snore emanated from his open mouth, and his rugged features appeared more relaxed than Anakil had ever seen them.
Anakil slowly raised one hand and rubbed at his sweaty face. He felt weak and filthy, and the heavy blankets the Rangers had draped over his naked body were making his skin itch. He rubbed his face again und pushed oily hair away from his forehead, careful not to move his bandaged feet. He was in no pain, and did not want to change anything about that. His tongue was dry and foul tasting. He was thirsty.
Lieutenant Mablung seemed to sense his movements. His snoring stopped, his dark eyes opened and he simply gazed at the boy, wide awake at once. “You scared us, Troublemaker,” he whispered. “For a moment I thought you would succumb to fever and exhaustion.” The Lieutenant held a cup of water to his lips, and the boy drank greedily.
“Thank you.” Anakil managed a smile. His voice was hoarse and weak. „It’s not that easy to get rid of me, my Lord.”
Mablung noticed the provoking address, but he simply returned the smile and nodded his head. „I can see that. You look a lot better than you did a few hours ago. Do you want me to wake the healer?”
Anakil shook his head. “There is no need.” He wanted to assure the Lieutenant that he would be all right, but the words somehow did not want to leave his lips. Would he ever be alright again after the events of the previous days? Could he look at the river without seeing the dead and the dying? Could he walk on his feet without remembering the pain? Could he cross a bridge without hearing heavy stones collapsing around him? Could he read a book without hearing the Poet’s voice? “How long have I been asleep?”
“You have battled with fever for 18 hours,” Mablung told him. “The fever broke a few hours ago. I guess you have been asleep since then.”
“Eighteen hours?” Anakil asked, shocked. “Then it is not tonight but tomorrow night?”
Mablung chuckled softly, a rich rumbling sound that seemed to emerge from deep inside his chest. “A strange way to think, but from your point of view, I guess you are right.”
Anakil rubbed his face again. “What did I miss?” Suddenly he remembered something. “Where are my clothes?” he asked.
“We had to strip you naked to bath you and cool you down.”
“I just need my breeches,” Anakil said. “I don’t want to pull them on, I just want to know they are safe.”
Mablung shot him a curious look. “Why?”
“There is something very important in my pocket,” Anakil explained. “Something that does not belong to me. I have to give it back.”
Mablung looked at the boy with an almost sad expression. “Don’t let yourself be troubled by borrowed things. From what you have told me of the battle, you cannot be sure the man who lent it to you is still alive.”
“I hope he is alive, for Gondor would mourn his loss greatly,” Anakil sighed.
Mablung raised an eyebrow.
“The thing in my pocket belongs to the Captain General,” he explained.
There were a few battles he knew he would always win, and arguing with his brother was one of them. Boromir had settled to an, in both their opinions, acceptable truce and had let the healer bandage his bad knee tightly. He had agreed to using a stick when walking more than a few steps, and under the watchful gaze of some carefully-placed Rangers, he stayed at the desk in front of his tent to command his garrison from there.
Faramir took upon himself the tasks of seeing to the wounded and dying and distributing reinforcements and supplies from the White City.
The boys arrived first.
There were about twenty of them, none looked to be older the fourteen. They were let by a slightly older boy, maybe seventeen years of age, who had already reached the height of a man, but who hat yet to grow into his manly frame and consisted of knees and elbows and very little else.
Children were fighting this war!
Faramir watched from afar as Boromir put away his quill and papers and rose stiffly when one of the Rangers presented the frightened lot to him. The boys looked out of place and confused, and even the oldest one did not summon up the courage to look the Captain General in the eye.
“Welcome to Osgiliath,” Boromir said gently, and the boys shuffled their feet at his words, scared to death that the Captain General of Gondor was talking to them. “Where is you Lieutenant?”
“My Lord, we have been sent here alone, with the horses and the bread,” the oldest boy said, staring at Boromir’s dusty boots. “I am the oldest, so they listen to me, but we do not have a Lieutenant, my Lord. He stayed in the city with the remaining boys, my Lord.”
“Has one of you been in Osgiliath before?” They needed the boys everywhere, for they had lost most of their own during the retreat over the bridge. There was nobody to help with the few remaining horses, the too-many wounded, the food and drink. There were no fast and busy feet to run about and relay messages and orders. Nobody had ever noticed the boys before, but now their absence war acutely felt.
The oldest boy shook his head. “We all hail from Minas Tirith, my Lord. But we are quick learners. One or two of your boys or your Lieutenant can show us around.”
“I am sorry to say that the Lieutenant is missing and presumed dead, and most of the boys are unaccounted for as well,” Boromir told him.
The boy looked at the Captain General at those words, his gaze full of shock. “They are all dead, my Lord?” he asked, and his breaking voice was barely audible.
“I am afraid that is the case.” They had lost so many, but they had also gained much. The enemy had not been able to reach the western shore of Anduin, so the many sacrifices had not been in vain.
The moment Boromir reached for his stick, looking glad to have an excuse to leave the paperwork behind for a few minutes, Faramir left his observer’s position and slowly started moving towards his brother’s tent. His brother had never been a patient man, and even the Captain General needed to be protected sometimes, mostly from his own carelessness.
“Since we have a certain lack of officers at the moment, I will show you the healers’ tents and the stables, where I am sure you can be of great help,” Boromir said.
The oldest boy lowered his gaze again. “An honour, my Lord,” he stammered.
“With your permission, Captain, I will show the boys around,” Faramir interrupted.
Boromir sighed. Obviously he had not noticed his brother standing nearby and had not heard him approaching. He turned around to meet Faramir’s concerned grey eyes, and his lips mouthed the silence words: I am fine!
You are not! Faramir’s gaze answered, as he almost accusingly looked at the stick Boromir had to lean on. “There are a few boys at the healers’ tents. They can introduce our new boys to their new duties.” Boromir lowered his head in an almost imperceptible nod, and Faramir knew he had won, at least for now. He let his eyes stray to the paperwork on Boromir’s desk, and Boromir sighed again. Had they both been healthy and out and about, it would have been Faramir who would gladly have taken over the administrative duties, while Boromir showed resence among the men.
Boromir sat down again and put his stick away. “Thank you, Captain,” he simply said, but his gaze told his brother they would talk later.
“Captain!” Faramir bowed his head and mentioned the boys to follow him.
The oldest boy fell into step beside him, obviously glad to put some distance between the Captain General and himself.
Faramir guessed the boy’s thoughts and chuckled softly. “He is not as frightening as he appears sometimes,” he said.
The boy shrugged. His clear grey eyes were wide, as Faramir led him and his comrades through what was left of Osgiliath. Order hat returned, and those lucky men that had remained in fighting condition were practicing their swordplay among the ruins of the ancient city. The sound of steel meeting steel could be heard everywhere.
Otherwise, the city was silent. There were no horses, no boys running about, no officers shouting orders, no men off duty relishing the midday sun. A strange quiet lay over the garrison, an air that most people associated with graveyards. The dead were buried, but the loss of so many souls still weighed heavy on everyone’s heart. Grieve could be felt in the light breeze that rippled the banners someone had erected at the top of a fallen tower.
“What is your name?” Faramir inquired softly.
„Huanor, Captain,” the boy answered.
“Well, Huanor, I am sure you are confused that everything is so silent around here. The White City is always so full of life.”
The boy nodded. “Yes, Captain. I had expected Osgiliath to be – different,” he confessed.
“It will be different, in a while,” Faramir said. “I am sure you and your boys have never seen battle, and hopefully there will not be another battle for quite some time. You have joined us at a very bad stretch. We have lost much and many in those last days. But not everything is lost. Your presence here shows us that Gondor is still strong, and that there are many things worth fighting for.”
“Yes, Captain,” the boy said, even though it was clear that he did not understand.
Faramir nodded at every single man they passed on their way through the ruins. Some of them would be officers of the realm in less than twelve hours, even though most of them did not yet know about their upcoming promotion. There was no better time than wartime for a quick career in the army. The Steward had approved Boromir’s recommendations, and there would be a small and quiet ceremony after supper.
“How is the City?” he asked. “I have not been there for quite some time.”
Huanor thought about the question for a moment. “It is summer,” he answered. “And it his hot in the streets. But nevertheless there is laughter everywhere. The City is never quiet. The laughter stopped when the news came that the bridge was lost, but it started again when it was clear that Minas Tirith and the Captain General were safe.” He hesitated. “Now that I have seen him, I understand why the people love him so much.”
They reached the healers’ tents. Some of the wounded had found a place to rest in front of the many canvas structures, and there were two young boys tending to them. Faramir did not see a healer around, all of them seemed to be busy inside the tents. He did not want to disturb them, so he mentioned one of the only slightly less busy boys to come over for a moment.
“Captain?” the boy said, out of breath.
“This is Huanor and his comrades from the city,” Faramir introduced the boys. “They have been sent here to help. Show them around and give them something to do. If there should be something amiss, report direct to me.”
“Yes, Captain!” The boy nodded. „Come on, Huanor and company, there is more than enough work for all of us.” The boy smiled and showed his bloody hands. “Dirty work, mostly.”
Huanor followed the younger boy, and even though the Captain was still well within hearing range, he pointed at Faramir and asked: “I like that one. He is much nicer than our Lieutenant in the city. What is his name? He did not care to introduce himself.”
“That’s Captain Faramir of Ithilien,” the boy answered and raised his hands in mock despair. “Do you spoiled boys from the City not know anything at all?”
Faramir chuckled and returned to his brother’s tent to get some paperwork done.
“Father asks me to return to the City as soon as I am able,” Boromir said, as the two Captains shared a glass of wine in the Captain General’s tent in the early evening “He asks for your presence in Council as well.”
Faramir closed his eyes and sighed. He would never lie to Boromir, he would not even try to hide his discomfort. “To welcome me home or to blame me?” he murmured.
Boromir knew that the two men he loved above all else had never been at ease dealing with each other. He put their father’s letter aside and lay a heavy hand on his brother’s arm. “If someone is to blame for what happened, that someone is me,” he said. “Osgiliath is my command. Without you and your Rangers, we would have lost the West Bank as well.”
Faramir sighed again. “It’s been years since we have talked. It’s been even longer since we have not raised our voices,” he said. “I have tried, Valar, I have tried hard to hold Ithilien.”
“Nobody could have done it better than you. Your dirty band of Rangers is still strong.” Boromir smiled. “That Lieutenant of yours, that one with the wavy hair, what is his name…?”
“Mablung,” Faramir said.
“Right, Mablung. He lost a toe in the fight that drove him and his patrol here a few weeks ago. He is a force of nature all by himself, always shouting and cursing, but the men love him fiercely.”
“He is a good man,” Faramir said simply.
“Yes, he is that. And this Mablung, he has the worst singing voice, but no one seems to care. I swear to you, I have never heard a soldier who could not carry even a simple tune, but when he started singing at the fire in the evening, and he likes to sing too, the whole garrison joined him.”
“I know. He has a rather gruff exterior, but he always cheers us up during the cold winter nights in the cave.” Faramir took a sip of his wine. “I would never repeat his jokes and stories when a woman is present, but they sure are funny. I hope he and the men are all right.”
“And this man, and all other Rangers of Ithilien, they would lay down their life for you, not because you are their Captain, but because they love you. So I guess you must have done something right.” Boromir pressed his brother’s arm again. “Father asks for your presence, he does not command it.”
“You know he does not have to.”
“Stop brooding,” Boromir said, suddenly stern. “I have not seen you smile almost all afternoon. Do not think too much about things none of us can change.”
Faramir rubbed his face with both hands. “The boys that arrived today, they are so innocent. They did not even know the meaning of silence and grief.”
“Those boys I was not allowed to escort to the healers’ tents?” Boromir said, accusation in his voice.
“You are injured,” Faramir answered. “Your knee needs rest.”
“I know.” Boromir sighed. He clenched his fist. „How I despise being wounded!”
“It will heal. You will be able to ride to Minas Tirith in a few days, if you do not exert yourself too much.”
“I have to announce the promotions this evening, and I have to do it standing and walking!”
“You do not have to,” Faramir protested. “But I know you can not be persuaded to sit down during this event. So all I ask for is that I am allowed to stand behind you.” A small smile grazed his lips. “To catch you, should you stumble and fall.”
Boromir raised his glass. “I promise you, I will not fall and crush you, but you may stand behind or beside me nevertheless. Just in case.”
The brothers clinked glasses. „Just in case,” Faramir repeated.
“Anakil!” The whispered word raised him from a deep slumber. “Anakil, wake up?”
“It can’t be morning yet!” the boy grunted and snuggled deeper into his blanket.
“Anakil, I know you are exhausted and most probably want to sleep for days, but you have to wake up and listen to me. It’s important, lad!”
Anakil slowly opened one eye and was startled to see Mablung’s grim face only inches away. “I’m awake,” he murmured. “What has happened?”
Mablung snorted. “That horse of yours, that’s what happened.”
“A dragon’s name.” Mablung snorted again. „A fitting name for the ugly beast.”
Anakil raised himself into a sitting position. After a sponge bath and a hearty meal he felt almost human again. His bandaged feet hurt, but the pain was bearable, and the fever had not returned.
“That animal has to disappear,” Mablung said grimly. “Either we kill it and dispose of the body somewhere far away in the woods, or it has to leave the proximity of Henneth Annûn immediately.”
“Why?” Anakil asked, fear in his voice. Glaurung was he good horse, he did not deserve to be slain.
“Orcs,” Mablung explained. “Lots of Orcs. They might smell his scent. It is too dangerous to keep him anyhere near here.”
Anakil untangled himself from his blanket and reached fort the old boots the healer had given him. “I will send him away,” he said. “He listens to me.”
Mablung briskly shook his head. “Too risky. You sent him away before. I was told he returned.”
“He will obey this time!” Cold fear creped into Anakil’s heart. This horse had been at his side for years, almost his entire life. It had been his companion at his father’s farm, and it had reminded him of home, of what all of them were fighting for, when he had joined the Osgiliath garrison. “I will not let you kill him.”
Mablung chuckled softly. „And how, precisely, will you accomplish that, Troublemaker?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” Anakil did not lower his gaze. „What do you want me to do? You did not wake me to tell me I can not prevent you from killing my horse.”
“You are quite right.” Mablung rose to his feet, towing over the boy in the darkness of the cave. “The only way we can keep that horse alive is to make sure it stays away from here. That means you have to leave together.”
Anakil rubbed his tired eyes. “You are sending me away?”
Mablung shook his head. “No, I am asking you for your service as a messenger of Gondor.” The tall man knelt down next to the boy and pushed unruly, wavy hair out of his weary face. “I know you are injured and weak. I would never even think about it if there was someone else I could send. But this horse listens only to you, and even if that was not the case, until the Captain returns I cannot spare a single man. Tell me, honestly, how much trouble are your wounds causing you?”
Anakil looked down at his bandaged feet. “I cannot walk well, but I can ride,” he said.
“How far?” Mablung inquired.
“As far as I have to,” Anakil said, and his voice was more confident than he felt himself to be. He was weak, his fever had only recently broken, and every step pained him greatly. But he was certain Mablung would kill his horse if he was unable to leave on its back, and that price was too high to pay. He could deal with the pain of his wounds, but he could not deal with the thought of cold steel ending Glaurung’s life.
Mablung studied the boy’s face for a long moment. Anakil did not avert his gaze. He seemed to be content with what he saw, for suddenly Mablung ruffled the boy’s short hair in a rough gesture of affection. “You have to leave within the next hour.”
“As you command, my Lord.” Anakil slowly rose to his feet, careful to walk on tiptoes, for that was the only way the pain was bearable. He had to concentrate to keep the agony out of his eyes as he gathered his clothes and boots and got dressed. There was still dried blood on his messenger’s shirt, but he did not care.
When he was ready, Mablung handed him two sealed envelopes. Anakil took a look at the name and the seals and safely stored the precious slips of paper in his shirt’s pocket.
“These messages are for Captain Faramir’s eyes alone. Should the worst has come to pass and he has died at Osgiliath, present the missives to Captain Boromir instead.”
Anakil pressed his lips into a thin line, but he had to ask. Both Captain’s had been on the bridge shortly prior the structure had collapsed. He reached into his pocket, and his fingers touched the seal of Osgiliath he had taken before burning down the Captain General’s tent. “And if Captain Boromir is also … among the dead?”
“Then those will have to go directly to the Steward,” Mablung said grimly.
“I will guard your words with my life!” the boy said.
“I would expect nothing less of a messenger of Gondor.” Mablung managed a small smile. “You have to leave, Troublemaker. The orcs are quite close, but I am sure you will find a safe way to the river.”
Anakil followed the Lieutenant out of the cave. They stopped at the waterfall, and Anakil filled a water skin Mablung had given him. It was a clear night. The pale light of the moon was reflected in the curtain of droplets. It was very quiet. The Rangers were asleep in the cave. Mablung carried a torch, and its soft flicker cast long shadows on the stony ground. It was almost peaceful, but both the Ranger Lieutenant and the boy knew that the peace of Ithilien was a lie.
“Goodby!” Anakil murmured.
Lieutenant Mablung let him through the tunnel into the open, where Lieutenant Damrod was waiting in a small clearing with the horse. There was no one else to be seen, but Anakil was sure there were many guards hidden in the underbrush. The Rangers had knotted a rope around the horse’s head to serve as bridle, apart from that, the animal was bare of tack. The brown beast snickered softly as it set its eyes on its young master, but Damrod did not let it step towards the entrance of the cave.
Anakil caressed the ugly head as soon as the animal was within reach, and the horse rubbed his nose against the boy’s pockets in search for something edible. Anakil laughed softly. “I’m sorry, old boy, no apples today!”
The horse snorted in disappointment.
Damrod handed the boy the makeshift reins and reached for his hand. “Good luck, Anakil of the Anduin,” he said, as Anakil’s small hand almost disappeared in his big, callused fist. “Give my greeting to the Captain!” The Lieutenant smiled faintly, and then he disappeared in the dark tunnel.
Mablung hoisted the boy on the horse’s back. “Ride hard, as long as you are able. Do not look back. Make for the river. Cair Andros in not far to the north. I know your wounds still trouble you greatly, but do not rest until you have reached the garrison. These woods are infested with orcs.”
“I will not disappoint you, Lieutenant,” Anakil promised. He was suddenly aware of the fact that he was not armed. He did not even carry a knife. But he did not need a weapon, for if he stumbled upon orcs, he would die, plain and simple. In his present state, he was not able do defend himself, weapon or no.
Mablung put a heavy hand on the boy’s knee. “I would never send a wounded boy away, but desperate times call for desperate measures,” he said sadly. “Now get going!”
Anakil proudly raised his head. “Do not forget, my Lord, that I am no longer a boy. I am a messenger of Gondor, and I will do my duty!” He spoke a soft command to the horse, and the big animal with its slender rider disappeared into the underbrush at a brisk walk.
“I told you before; do not call me ‘my Lord’! Stay out of trouble, Troublemaker!” Mablung called after him, and even though the boy pretended to be out of earshot, the Lieutenant was sure he had been heard.
Twilight had fallen over Western Osgiliath, and very soon the garrison would be shrouded in complete darkness. A great campfire had been lit in front of the Captain General’s tent, and his desk and papers had been put away. The garrison had gathered for the first time since the shadow had passed them and the bridge had fallen, all except those on guard duty and those too injured to rise. Even though it was an assembly of several hundred men and boys, there was complete silence. No whispered words were exchanged, no jokes passed through the ranks, no one even dared to shuffle his feet. They all remembered those that could not be here today, that had found wet or earthy graves.
The Captain General had asked them to assemble so he could speak to them. All of them knew what he was about to announce. The news that the messenger from the White City had returned with many dispatches singed by the Steward himself had travelled through the garrison like raging fire. Common men would be promoted to officers this evening, men who had proven their valour to the Captain General not just in the last battle, but in their long and faithful service to Gondor. Men who had survived the horror with their bodies and minds intact.
Captain Faramir stepped out of the Captain General’s tent a step behind Captain Boromir. The Captain General was limping slightly, but even though his breaches were patched and he wore a borrowed cloak, in the flickering light of the campfire his bearded face did not show the strain of the last few days. His grey eyes moved about his assembled men with pride, and his right hand loosely grasped the hilt of the gleaming sword at his hip. He resembled the kings of old, tall, fair and strong.
Captain Faramir stayed a step behind as the Captain General took position in front of the flickering fire, and both Captains clasped their hands behind their backs. “Men of Gondor!” the Captain Generals resonant, clear voice rang out across the garrison. “We have gathered here today to remember those whose commands we will never again hear on the battlefield, and whose wisdom will never again enlighten our councils.
In fighting for Gondor, all of us have begun a difficult and uncertain journey, and none of us can see its end. But our cause is a just one, an honourable one. That truth honours our fallen comrades and leaders, who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we might carry on the hard work that is ahead of us. We might take comfort in the knowledge that Gondor is strong and safe. We are gathered here today, to honour their memory, and their names.”
“Anarion of Minas Tirith, Lieutenant,” Faramir called out.
“Darin of the Mountains, Lieutenant.
Mangor of Lossernach, Captain.
Tudor of the Anduin, Lieutenant…”
The list was long, and even though he had not known all of them in person, Faramir could easily remember their names.
When his brother was finished, Boromir turned his head to the west, towards the city of Minas Tirith, his home. “We battle in the east, but hope lies in the west. The White City of Númenor stands strong as ever. The west has not failed and will never fail. We have lost so much, but there are many good men who will fill the empty places. We will continue with our strength renewed, though we will never forget those who walked the dangerous paths before us.”
He called out the name of those the Steward had appointed to fill the empty commissions. The men stepped forwards, one by one, and knelt before their Captain General with their swords laid out before them. One by one they repeated the vow of service that they had sworn to the Steward on the day they had taken up arms for Gondor, and that they now spoke to the Steward’s heir again to take up their duty as officers of the realm.
Boromir, Captain General of Gondor, accepted their swords in the Steward’s name, and Faramir had to suppress a shudder at hearing his brother intone the words that usually were his father’s alone.
“And this I do hear, Boromir son of Denethor, Captain General of Gondor, Warden of the White Tower, heir to the Stewardship, in the name of the Lord Denethor, son of Ecthelion, Lord of Gondor, Steward of the High King, and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour, oath-breaking with vengeance.”
The officers of the realm picked up their swords und put them away.
Seek for the sword that was broken
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsel taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
The words of their shared dream came back to Faramir’s mind, stinging like an infected wound, and this time he shivered slightly. But all eyes were on Boromir, and therefore nobody noticed his discomfort.
The Captain General had put his weight on his good leg, and Faramir could see that the wounded knee was causing him considerable pain. Boromir was speaking his customary closing words, but Faramir knew he was the only one to hear the strain in his brother’s strong voice.
“May the Valar always stand between you and harm, in all the dark and dangerous places a soldier must walk!”
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.