21. Trial and Errors, Part II
The man of Gondor washed his hands over his face in attempt to dispel the sudden nausea, forgetting in the process that his nose was broken. He doubled over and groaned as he jarred the injury, causing pain to flare over the entire front of his face and tears to spring to his eyes. Sometime within the grasp of the searing pain, he also managed to slide off the bench.
When the moment passed, Boromir was rather perturbed to discover himself lying on the floor; eyes watering, nose smarting, and a sizeable bump on the back of his head—courtesy of the bench or floor (from which, he was not quite certain). ‘By my sword,’ he swore, ‘At this rate, I shall be my own undoing.’
“’Eesss na doh skaweee.” Boromir wondered if perhaps the fall had muddled his head. He was positive the townsfolk had been perfectly understandable the day before. He slowly sat up and turned around.
“Yes, you are right Thorald. I do not find him much threat to us either. His power must have been lost when the rest of his lowly pack disappeared.”
Boromir sighed deeply. The girl Mysian and a very thin, wiry peasant with no teeth were standing in his cell. The bony peasant vehemently brandished a rickety gardening hoe at Boromir. Though the tool had undoubtedly been the death of many a weed, Boromir found the makeshift weapon completely non-threatening. Then again, he had also thought the same of Mysian.
‘The plan! Use the plan, you fool!’ his mind began screaming. Boromir paused: the addition of the toothless farmer was unexpected. Would he have to somehow cause the old man to fall in love with him too? He could not recall Denethor’s books ever describing such a situation.
He eyed the man, who was prone to drooling, and decided even by order of the Valar would he not kiss such a repulsive creature. Boromir was willing to perform many acts of desperation if it meant he might regain freedom, but kissing toothless old peasant men was where he drew the line.
“Come Borofara, on your feet. The Council awaits.” Mysian, rosy-cheeked face void of any kindness, crossed her arms and narrowed her green eyes.
Boromir blinked and furrowed his brow in confusion. “Council?” He had been to enough councils as of late, and none of them yielded pleasant results. “I have no need for such a meeting.”
Thorald growled and mumbled something. “No, Thorald,” answered Mysian, addressed the wispy old man, “You need not hit him.” Boromir eyed the hoe-wielding peasant warily. Apparently, deciphering his words was an acquired ability.
The honey-haired maiden turned back to Boromir. “You are to be brought before the leaders of Fenadoch and judged, Borofara.”
Boromir’s jaw dropped. “Judged?” he cried. “What shall be the basis of this judgment? I have done no wrong!”
Thorald emitted a snort, which caused his entire body to heave. “That is for the council to decide,” Mysian responded briskly.
“I do not doubt they have already proclaimed me guilty.”
Mysian did not meet his eye and shrugged as though it mattered not whether the council had already reached its decision. “You do not deny it,” exclaimed Boromir, an unsettled anxiety growing within him. “They have already declared me guilty.”
“But you are guilty.” Mysian tried not to feel empathy for the man as she bound his hands with a frayed rope. He seemed so… helpless and lost. He reminded her of a little boy; she was beset by motherly instincts to comfort the poor child. ‘A small child who has been severely beaten,’ Mysian decided, glancing up at his bruised and swollen face.
She sighed at the look of pure misery settled upon his marred features. “Do not worry, Borofara.” She gave his hand a sympathetic pat. “Mayhap you shall be granted a quick death. I am sure a hanging or beheading would not be above the mercy of the council.”
Thorald gurgled in agreement.
“Death?” Boromir jolted. “You are going to kill me?” The man of Gondor had been expecting to be jailed indefinitely, or a sentence of exile; perhaps indentured servitude at worst. What kind of bloodthirsty townsfolk had captured him? “You cannot kill me! I am the—“ He stopped abruptly.
Mysian shot him another sympathetic glance. “—Leader of the Black Riders?” she finished, as though speaking to a child of four.
Boromir closed his eyes and groaned. “Nay! How many times must I tell you—we are not the Black Riders.”
“Weh?” Thorald gripped his hoe and let his eyes rove the room suspiciously. Apparently the man was able to pronounce some words.
“Yes, we,” snapped Boromir, wondering if perhaps he should stop acting so complacent while Mysian tightened the knots on the rope. “Myself, Strider, Malbeorn—“
“—Elrond and Gil-Galad?” Mysian again finished. She gave the knot a final tug to make sure it was secure.
“No, yes. I mean…” Boromir groaned a second time. He was going to hang.
Much to his surprise, Mysian leaned forward and whispered into his ear. “Borofara,” said the rosy-cheeked maiden, “If you admit to your guilt, I am certain the council will grant you a quick and painless death.”
“But I am not guilty!” Boromir roared, frustration lacing his voice.
Mysian huffed and turned sharply on her heel. She tried to warn the foolish man, it would be his own fault if he was racked or burned. “Come. I shall not bind your feet, for I trust you are wise enough not to attempt an escape.”
“Wait,” cried Boromir. He sensed his plan must be acted upon, or he would never again have the chance. Mysian turned and cocked her head. “I would speak with you.”
The serving maiden and her toothless bodyguard met eyes and held silent council. “Please,” Boromir implored. “I beg of you.”
Thorald shrugged and wiped drool from his chin with the back of his hand. “Very well,” stated Mysian. “Speak your piece.”
Boromir glanced at Thorald. No, he would kiss his own horse ere he would plant one upon the old peasant. “I desire a word with the lady alone,” he said.
Mysian again looked to Thorald. The wispy peasant shrugged, then brandished his gardening hoe at Boromir before turning and exiting the cell. “Iee wehl gid ooou eeble bwahck widah,” he called over his shoulder.
Boromir blinked. “Pardon?”
“He says he shall rip you apart limb-by-limb, beat you with his weapon until you are nothing more than a helpless mass of bruises, and then pour oil onto your skin and light you on fire if you even so much as look at me in a threatening manner.”
“Ah, I see.” Boromir mentally repeated Thorald’s words, concluding Mysian must have added a few extra punishments, as the peasant’s threat came nowhere near the length of her translation.
Mysian placed her hands upon her hips and bore her green eyes into the man of Gondor. “You may now speak, Borofara.”
Boromir paused. Should he first kiss her or reveal his true identity? He pondered the thought for several moments. ‘The ordeal shall probably go over better if I first tell her who I am,’ he decided.
Mysian cleared her throat impatiently. “If you seek to stall for time, I assure you—“
“—Nay,” Boromir hurriedly interrupted. “I must… I must reveal something to you.”
The honey-haired girl looked up at his bruised face, curiosity clearly exposed on her own. “Go on,” she said.
Boromir furtively glanced about the cell, lest anyone overhear what he was about to impart. “I am not Borofara,” he stated, his voice at a low whisper. “My true identity is Boromir II, son of Denether II Twenty-sixth Steward of Gondor. I have embarked upon a scouting mission of the utmost secrecy and importance with the Dúnedain of the North, in the name of the free peoples of Middle-earth. We seek to discover the movements of Sauron and his allies.” He watched her face as she digested the information, but could not decipher her thoughts.
After several moments, Mysian crooked a finger at him and beckoned him to lean closer. He acquiesced and placed his ear near her mouth. “And now I shall tell you a secret, Boromir son of Denethor,” she whispered. “I am not really a simple serving maiden.”
Boromir jerked his head up and looked at her in astonishment. “You are not?” he exclaimed. By the Valar, this was turning out just as Denthor’s books were written!
“Nay,” whispered the girl, grabbing his collar and pulling him back down. “I am…” she paused and looked around the room suspiciously. “I am… QUEEN OF THE DWARVES.” Boromir yelped in pain and jerked his ear away as her shrill voice stabbed through his eardrum.
“How foolish a maiden do you take me for?” she spat vehemently. “Son of the Steward of Gondor?” The girl snorted. “I must congratulate you on a fine tale, for I had yet to have the ‘Son of Denethor’ grace my humble, insignificant table at The Singing Mûmak. The great Elendil and Fingolfin once paid visit to me, though they came in the form of a pot-bellied drunk and his three-legged dog.”
Boromir tried in vain to interrupt her rant, but could only manage to stammer one-word responses.
“May the Valar help us!” Mysian threw up her hands to the heavens in disgust. “You and your lackeys descend upon our gentle town as a plague of shadow, destroying half of our village, and YOU—“ she jabbed his chest with her finger, causing him to stumble backwards and wince, “—have the horrid nerve to claim you are Gondorian royalty?”
Boromir decided that now was probably the best time to kiss Mysian, as he could think of no other way to silence her.
“—not to mention you clearly do not resemble the line of Stewards, for it is well-known that…” Before Mysian could react, Boromir cupped his bound hands underneath her chin, brought her face forward, and placed a most generous kiss upon the fair maiden’s lips.
It was a kiss to remember.
Instead of melting into his arms and returning the kiss as Boromir supposed she would, Mysian went rigid as the iron bars within his cell and, wrenching herself away from his grasp, promptly slugged him.
* * *
Winter fell soft and heavy upon Mirkwood. The newly fallen snow, undisturbed as of yet by foot or paw print, glistened under the morning sun. Legolas inhaled, a shiver of pleasure running down his spine as his lungs took in the biting air. The clear and silvery laughter of his brothers Mallos and Calengaladh pealed throughout the serene forest. Grabbing his bow and hastily donning a cloak in afterthought, Legolas sprang to the branches in search of them. Lhûn, his eldest brother and Mirkwood’s Heir, was most likely engaged in some dry political session with Thranduil and the king’s advisors. Legolas felt a twinge of sympathy for his brother—what a shame to be locked inside on such a wondrous day!
The young Elf darted through the trees, marveling at the snow’s ethereal purity. He passed through the ancient pine grove; the smell of their wet needles was so bitter it was almost sweet. Legolas smiled as he hopped down to the snowy earth. His brothers’ laughter drew closer, their joy was infectious and all his troubles seemed to fade away. Even his shoulder ceased to ache.
Quite unexpectedly, the ground began to shake. Legolas froze in alarm as the stately trees began to tilt crazily. What was happening?
The ground’s quaking increased in severity. Legolas instinctively fell to his knees and attempted to curl into a ball.
Was someone calling his name?
“Legolas! Elbereth, do all the Silvan Elves sleep so deeply? Get up Legolas! I am tired and wish to sleep.”
The youngest prince of Mirkwood blinked and roused himself. The sunlit snowscape of Mirkwood vanished, replaced by looming boulders, howling winds, and a vast and starless sky. “Arise, son of Thranduil.” Orimhedil’s shadowed face peered down at him. The Rivendell Elf gave him another vicious shake.
“I am up,” snapped Legolas, annoyed by the rude awakening. “Kindly cease throwing me about.” He sat up with a scowl and instinctively reached for his bow.
“If you had awoke when I first called out to you, I would not have resorted to such means,” replied Orimhedil crossly. “It is time for your watch.”
Legolas lifted his face up to the empty sky, searching for some clue as to what time it was. However, the moon and stars appeared to have abandoned the treacherous night. Legolas did not blame them. “My watch has come already?”
Orimhedil had already thrown himself to the ground. “Yes,” he answered tersely. Legolas recalled how little sleep the eastern scouting party had managed in the last few days. To say tempers were flaring was an understatement. “Wake Glorfindel when your watch is over.”
Legolas sighed and wearily pulled himself to his feet. It was far colder than he remembered, and he was almost to the point of shivering. “The weather is uncommonly bitter,” he commented, rubbing his hands vigorously up and down his arms. Large snowflakes floated downward and settled at his feet. Legolas found himself thankful for the wall of boulders, which surrounded the company and effectively blocked the wind.
Orimhedil rolled over onto his side and looked at the Mirkwood Elf curiously. “Yes, it is somewhat chilly, but no more than usual.” The tall Elf of Rivendell gave a sharp nod to the thick snowflakes. “If it continues to snow as thus, we shall be forced to move our camp. Rouse the others in a few hours’ time if the snow has not abated.” He shot Legolas a scrutinizing glance as the younger Elf shivered. “Are you well, son of Thranduil?”
Legolas blinked in surprise and looked back to the Rivendell Elf. Slight concern reflected in Orimhedil’s eyes. Legolas flushed indignantly. “Of course I am well,” he responded, chagrinned. Orimhedil shrugged apologetically and rolled over.
Legolas climbed atop an icy boulder and crouched wearily. Forsaken by even moon and stars, the barren land lie in agitated slumber. Inky sky melted into blackened mountains, which in return receded into even darker crags and crevices. A frigid wind whistled and ranted as it rushed by, the snowflakes it carried stinging Legolas’ cheeks. His cloak flapped maddeningly within its icy blasts.
He strained his eyes and ears to the utmost, searching for any sign of foe in the bleak night. He sensed nothing. Legolas began to silently traverse the surrounding boulders. The company had found a giant ring of sorts, and slept encamped within its walls.
‘It is an ill sign when even the stars deny us the comfort of their light,’ he thought with a sigh. ‘Starless and moonless, as was the eve of Gollum’s escape.’ He shifted his quiver, as it was aggravating his shoulder. Eyes still roaming the blackened distance, Legolas prodded the shoulder and grimaced. It should have ceased to pain him by now. Granted, he did keep poking at it, but that was beside the point.
He returned to the first boulder and sat down, cross-legged. Laying his bow across his lap, he gave his aching shoulder a languid roll. The wind continued to howl, and he shivered and drew up his cloak a bit tighter. ‘It shall be a long watch this night,’ Legolas thought wearily. His entire arm felt stiff, and he was fatigued—unnaturally so.
He shook his head as his eyes began to close of their own accord. He stiffened in alarm. This was not right. There was no reason his body should be so tired. He must wake Glorfindel; he must inform Glorfindel that he was ill.
Legolas tried to push himself to his feet, but his efforts were in vain. His body simply would not comply. His arm ached mercilessly and every limb felt as though it were packed with lead. Even his eyelids were too heavy to keep open.
Legolas struggled against the overpowering fatigue. ‘Stay awake, stay awake,’ he desperately urged himself. ‘Glorfindel! You must... wake... Glorfindel.’ Panic welled in him as his eyelids drooped and clamped shut. It seemed as though his entire body had shut down. Despite his best efforts, the archer soon drifted off into a still and blissful slumber.
* * *
The gleaming yellow eyes watched in barely contained excitement as the Elf’s head slowly sank to his chest. Slender hands relaxed and released their grip on the wooden bow, and then the lithe body crumpled and slid off the boulder.
Snow flurried down from the dismal heavens at an alarming rate, making visibility nigh impossible. The wind swirled and tossed the flakes, packing them into every opening and crevice. Temperatures plummeted amidst the howling gusts, lending a thick crust of ice to the wet snow. Winter released its first storm, borne of long and pent-up waiting, upon the Misty Mountains.
* * *
Glorfindel’s senses were literally screaming. Still half-asleep, the Elf lord sprang to his feet and unsheathed his sword. Snow blotted out the morning sun, and he could see nothing save an impenetrable wall of swirling whiteness. The flakes had covered everyone and everything. He hoped the oddly shaped lumps surrounding him were the remaining company and not random boulders.
The golden-haired Elf held up a hand to shield his eyes from the driving snow. His cry of dismay awoke the rest of the company.
Clouds of snow flew up into the already-whitened air as Orimhedil, Barin, Gimli, and Glóin bolted upright. “Eh? What!” shouted Glóin in alarm.
Gimli desperately tried to brush snow from his body before it melted on the uncovered parts of his skin and left him freezing. Nonetheless, he could feel the biting cold on his wrists and ankles; so frigid it burned. He could see nothing but white—it was everywhere. The Dwarf felt himself removed from reality.
“We are trapped!” The melodious voice of Orimhedil contained a clearly defined note of panic. “We cannot get out! We are trapped within the rocks!” An odd scraping could be heard as the Elf unsuccessfully attempted to climb the boulders. They were too icy for even an Elf to discover footholds.
Glorfindel threw himself against what had once been an opening between two boulders. Now, it had become a great wall of snow and ice. The Elf lord’s powerful frame hit the wall with a crunching thud, but the snow did not give. Glorfindel backed up further, hoping to succeed by gaining more speed, and tripped over a snow-covered boulder.
Rolling over, the golden-haired Elf cursed as something jabbed him sharply in the ribs. He angrily sought out the object, intending to throw it out of the way. His hand unexpectedly met the polished wood of Legolas’s bow.
Scrambling on all fours, the Elf began digging at the “boulder” he had tripped over. He was soon rewarded with the still form of Legolas. The young Elf remained limp and placid, despite Glorfindel’s incessant shaking. What concerned the captain of Imladris the most, however, was that Legolas’s eyes remained tightly shut. He put his mouth next to the young Elf’s ear and yelled loudly.
He received no response.
A high-pitched, keening howl floated eerily on the blustering wind. The entire company froze. Several more howls, some low and guttural, others high and whining, were quick to follow.
Gimli, axe gripped tightly between his hands, whirled around and nearly decapitated Orimhedil as they accidentally backed into one another. “What, in the name of Mahal, is that?” the Dwarf fairly shouted, his nerves on edge.
“Wargs,” hissed Orimhedil, his fair face pinched and grim as he flexed his fingers over his sword handle.
“Wargs?” Gimli’s mind brought forth a vague and shadowy image. He had never actually had the pleasure of meeting one of the beasts first-hand. “Where are they?” he demanded, peering furtively into the whirling snow. “I can see nothing!”
The howls rang out again amidst the screaming wind. Glorfindel suddenly appeared from the swirling whiteness, carrying the still form of Legolas in his arms. He deposited the unmoving Elf onto the snow and called for the others to draw near. Gimli cast a disgusted look at the son of Thranduil. What had the troublesome Elf gotten himself into now?
“Is he dead?”
Gimli immediately wished he had not bothered to ask. Glorfindel somehow managed to simultaneously glare at him and the shapeless howling beasts surrounding them. “Nay,” responded the Elf lord tightly, his sword aloft and ready to strike, “but I cannot wake him.”
The deadly chorus of howls stopped as suddenly as they began. The eastern scouting party stood tense and on edge, surrounding the body of their unconscious comrade. Gimli could hear nothing save the wind, his pounding heart, and the gasping breaths of his companions. The air was thinner and harder to come by at this altitude. He looked worriedly to his father. Glóin’s powerful chest heaved in and out, but there was a dangerous glint in his eyes and he brandished his axe with all the flare of the deadliest Dwarven warriors.
A sharp bark echoed across the mountainside, and suddenly the howls resumed, coupled by the scrabbling of claws upon icy rocks. “They attack!” cried Orimhedil.
Glorfindel planted his feet firmly upon the snow. “Hold fast,” he ordered. Gimli marveled at the Elf’s level of calmness.
Shrieking dark shapes came barreling out of the snow, their size and speed catching even Glorfindel off-guard. Gimli whirled and hacked blindly at anything that moved. He fervently hoped his blade met only Wargs, for in the whiteout it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe. His world became a mass of teeth, fangs, and thickly furred bodies amidst endless snowflakes. He could not make out the others in the strange white nightmare, but could hear their singing blades and arrows along with the occasional Dwarven or Elvish cry.
“AAARRGHHHH!” Gimli roared as he embedded his axe into the Warg’s leaping body. Much to his dismay, the blade became lodged in the beast’s ribcage. He tugged with all his might, frantically trying to remove the blade before the next Warg was upon him. A ripping snarl warned him that his attacker sprang from the right. His axe would not budge. Mustering the last of his strength into a great jerk, Gimli somehow managed to dislodge the blade just as the Warg pounced.
Unfortunately, the Dwarf was not fast enough. He felt his axe wretched from his hands as the dark beast slammed into him. Its teeth sank into the mail on his chest as they fell heavily into the snow. The dark beast snarled and snapped its head back and forth in attempt to tear off the metal protecting the Dwarf’s chest. Gimli cried out and began pummeling the Warg with his fists, his axe out of reach and half-buried somewhere in the surrounding snow. The Warg shrieked in pain as Gimli’s thick fist came into contact with its sensitive nose. The Dwarf successfully managed to shove the beast off of him and rolled into the snow, thankful the blizzard would conceal him as it had the Wargs.
He hastily scrambled to his feet, poised and ready for the next attacker to jump out at him from the swirling snow. ‘I must find a weapon!’ he thought urgently. His eyes scanned the snow-laden ground. He needed a rock, or perhaps a sharp icicle. Anything would do at the moment. And then he saw the Elf. The Elf, who was partially buried in the snow, and appeared to be...sleeping.
Gimli growled and dropped down onto his knees next to the Elf. All around him, amidst the whirling snow, Wargs howled in tune to the wind and Elves and Dwarves cried in ancient battle tongues. And still the Elf—Legolas—slept.
The Elf had a bow and arrows.
The hairs on the back of Gimli’s neck stood on end, as they always did when his gut was trying to warn him. The Warg whose nose he had injured released a deadly wail from somewhere close by. Gimli growled and acted upon the first impulse that sprang to mind. He lifted his hand, and then swung it across the Elf’s face as hard as he could. “Wake up! Wake up you stupid, arrogant Elf!” he hissed. The Elf moaned and his eyelids fluttered. Gimli gave him another slap for good measure. This time, the Elf’s eyes flew open, though he appeared greatly disoriented. Gimli grabbed a handful of snow threw it in Legolas’s face. “Get up! We are going to be eaten alive!”
* * *
Legolas was yanked back to the waking world by a stinging slap, which nearly took off his head. He groaned and tried to open his eyes.
“Wake up! Wake up you stupid, arrogant Elf!” The iron fist again assaulted his face.
He was dreadfully cold and his shoulder was throbbing. He had never been ill before, for such afflictions did not plague the Elder, but he certainly felt as though he were at the moment.
“Get up! We are going to be eaten alive!” A handful of wet snow landed on his face. Legolas jerked his body in response. The world made no sense: only a cold and sterile whiteness greeted his eyes. Strange howls and cries mingled in the wind. They were vaguely familiar—disturbingly so. He closed his eyes and wished to fall back to sleep.
“Fine.” Someone kicked him. “You can lay here and die for all I care. We would be better off without you.” He was being rolled over onto his stomach. Legolas tried to push himself over, but his body refused to obey. He still felt as though he were filled with lead. His tormentor finally gave up and left him alone.
A bone-chilling howl caused his eyes to snap open. He wearily lifted his leaden head, only to discover, to his utter horror, Gimli the Dwarf attempting to shoot an enraged Warg by means of bow and arrow.
HIS bow and arrow.
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.