23. Amon Hen
It was a beautiful and peaceful dawn.
It seemed strange to me that a day on a journey as dark as ours could have such an innocent beginning. It felt almost as if someone up there in heaven – here that would be the Valar and the One – wanted to give us a sign. A sign that not all hope was lost yet. Yet.
Then the moment of peace was over, the sun rose and the fog dispersed.
We kept as closely as possible to the western banks in the shadows of ever rising cliffs. During the morning the sky darkened again with many low clouds and before noon it began to rain heavily. We had to draw skin-covers over the boats to prevent them from being flooded. The magical cloaks of Lórien turned out to be not too magical after all, because after a time the wetness of the rain soaked through the cloth with the grey fabric clinging wetly to our bodies.
Luckily this heavy rain did not last long. It was not even afternoon when the clouds passed away again, driven by fierce winds following us from the Misty Mountains. The sun returned bright and warm, melting the last remnants of fog and mist away.
At about this time we entered a wide, rocky ravine where only a few gnarled trees managed to cling to the narrow clefts and crevices of the rock face. Soon the channel grew narrow and the currents of the Anduin swept as along swifter than ever. I prayed that Aragorn knew what he was doing. His misjudgment of the closeness of the rapids had scared me. I did not want to drown. Drowning was definitely not on the list of my favorite ways of dying.
The cliffs closed in on both sides now, casting deep shadows on the river. The only light was a thin stretch of pale blue sky far above our heads. Suddenly I grew aware of two huge pillars of grey stone in the distance. They seemed to guard the river, which flowed through a narrow gap between them. As we were being swept towards them, I noticed how strangely smooth and sheer the grey rock of those pinnacles was. Where the light hit the stone, it almost looked like enormous folds of cloth hanging down to the river from far above. I blinked. The cliffs looked like huge statues of grim faced men, stretching out their palms towards us, as if they wanted to warn us from getting any closer or to ward off evil from passing between them. Then I realized what they were –
"Behold the Argonath," Aragorn called out, taking the paddle out of the water for a moment to indicate the huge pillars of rock ahead. "The Pillars of Kings! We have to pass through the narrow channel of water between them. Keep the boats in line and as far apart as possible."
Easier said than done. The currents gripped our larger boat harder than the smaller ones and Legolas and I had to fight hard to keep the boat from being carried to the sides of the gorge and crashed on the outcrops of the rocks. I couldn't spare a moment to look at the Argonath.
When I thought that I couldn't lift my arms for another stroke with the paddle, we shot towards a gap of light and out into the sunshine. Here the river ran suddenly almost slowly, leisurely, more like a great lake than a river. I gasped for air and pushed sweaty strands of hair out of my eyes.
Only then did I turn around to have a look at the famous pillars of kings. But from behind them there was not all that much to see. The back of the cliffs had not been worked; only the helms and crowns could be seen from here, rising as strange, round mounds above the rugged stone of the cliffs.
The oval surface of water we now floated on was surrounded by steep grey hills and the suddenly soft currents towed us slowly, but inexorably towards three sharp peaks of rocky hills. These hills jutted out of the water at the southern end of the lake; the one in the middle was an island, but the other two were merely outcroppings from the mainland and still connected to the shores. I suddenly remembered the name: the Nen Hithoel.
For a few moments that horrible ravine had driven all coherent thought from my mind. Only slowly I felt myself relax and able to take in my surroundings again.
The Nen Hithoel…
But then those three peaks and the great, muted roar we could hear from afar had to be –
"And behold Tol Brandir," Aragorn called out to us, pointing to the three peaks. "To the left is Amon Lhaw, and to the right is Amon Hen, the Hills of Hearing and of Sight. In the days of the great kings there were high seats upon them. Watch was kept there. The island between them is Tol Brandir, and it is said that no man or beast has ever set foot there, because behind it lie the great falls of Rauros. I hope to reach Amon Hen before nightfall."
Suddenly my throat felt choked with apprehension.
We let our boats drift for half an hour, barely moving towards the southern end of the lake, eating and drinking and relaxing. The sun was already turning red with the coming of the evening. I looked at the dark waters of the lake which reflected the sun and the hills around us almost like a mirror. The Nen Hithoel had to be very deep, I thought, to stop the mighty currents of the Anduin like that, especially with those great waterfalls at its southern end. Remember not to fall in… could be the last thing you do…
We took up our paddles again and made for the western shore, hastening towards Amon Hen.
Silently we sped through the growing twilight. When we reached the shadow of the hill at last, night had fallen and many stars shone above us. Behind the Hill of Amon Hen the Nen Hithoel formed a small, half-circle cove with a sandy beach. We paddled right to the beach and towed the boats well out of the water, hiding them under nearby bushes and shrubs. Nearby a small, clear spring tumbled down from the hill towards the Nen Hithoel. This was where we made camp for the night.
Above the beach a grassy lawn ran up the sloping hill to the feet of Amon Hen. Behind it more hills rose in the shadows, grown with many dark trees, following the curving shores of the lake. Everything seemed calm and peaceful, but as I crawled into my sleeping bag, I saw that Aragorn was still awake and keeping watch with Frodo.
They talked in low voices and Aragon glanced around the dark slopes of the hill every now and then. He clearly felt uneasy and my heart promptly started pounding again, adrenaline rushing through my body, driving away the fatigue of the day. I watched breathlessly as Frodo drew his blade. But although it seemed to shimmer at its edges, it did not gleam with that clear blue light I remembered from Moria and Aragorn did not yell 'Orcs!' to wake us for battle.
It was a long time before my heartbeat slowed down again and longer still until I finally drifted off to sleep.
The next day dawned ominously. For some bizarre reason I recalled the line Tolkien had used in the books. The mind is a strange thing, keeping the most idiotic references hidden away in its nooks and crannies. Anyway, the line I refer to is: "The day came like fire and smoke."
In the eastern sky great clouds of black smoke drifted up and I imagined I could smell burnt wood and grass. The sun rose red like fire and brought another quote to my mind, this time Orlando Bloom: "A red dawn…blood has been spilled tonight."
My stomach lurched sickly. Goal for the day: keep the hell away from any orcs.
We ate breakfast in silence. Afterwards Aragorn called for a council. My heart raced, my stomach was in flutters. Everything will turn out alright, everything will turn out alright…
I repeated this thought – this mantra – over and over in my mind, barely listening to what speech Aragorn gave on the choice now placed before the fellowship.
I was relieved to see that Boromir seemed calmer and more like himself. Perhaps he had after all found enough strength in his heart to resist the ring. Gods, how I hoped he would remain strong, how I hoped he would not frighten Frodo off, making all of us chase after the hobbit and… Suddenly the sound of a light, shaky voice raised above the others brought me out of my fretting. The others fell silent at once.
"I know that haste is needed," Frodo was saying. "But I just cannot choose right away. This is such a burden! Give me an hour on my own, and I will tell you my decision. Just an hour for myself, to think things over!"
I wanted to interrupt the hobbit, asking him to stay, not to endanger himself, envisioning how angry Aragorn would be when he realized that I had known… But suddenly the voice of Galadriel returned to me: "Even for immortals it is difficult to discern which deeds and omissions lead to the one end or the other."
This was Frodo's burden. He needed to make up his mind on his own.
What if my interference would cause him not to find the resolve he needed to go on?
If an ill-placed warning prevented him from finding the courage he needed to go on?
I bit down on my lip and looked at the grass in front of me. An ant was carrying a crumb of lembas away that was three times her weight. What would lembas do to ants? Turn them into super-ants?
"Very well," Aragorn said softly. "You shall have an hour, and you shall be alone. But don't go far, or out of call; danger is near."
My heart beat like a drum, but I kept my silence as I raised my head and watched Frodo walk off into the wood. Sam's grey-green eyes followed him until he disappeared. When Sam turned back to us, he wore an exasperated and thoroughly annoyed expression on his face. He looked as if he wanted to ask us how stupid we could be. I sighed. Today the only possible answer to that was something like: "You ain't seen nothing yet, mate."
The others began to talk again, asking Aragorn about Gondor and the Argonath. I chewed the nail of my right thumb, thinking about what I should do, if I should do anything.
Perhaps I could try to keep Boromir from following Frodo.
I rose to my feet and walked over to where the man sat on his own. I was relieved to see that his eyes were clear and that he seemed to be calm and quite himself.
"Hey," I said softly. He looked up at me and smiled wearily.
"Hey yourself." Then Boromir sighed heavily. "Poor Frodo. I would not want to be in his shoes today. Do you care for a walk?"
When I did not answer at once, his eyes filled with hurt. What the hell, I thought. A walk could not hurt, and I would make sure that we went into the opposite direction of Frodo.
"Alright," I said. "But not far. You heard Aragorn. Danger is close at hand."
The warrior raised his eyebrows at being cautioned by a girl. He rose swiftly to his feet and offered me his arm. I placed my shaking hand on his arm. Would that be the last time I touched him alive?
"We won't go far, Aragorn," Boromir said. "But Frodo is not the only one in need of some peace and quiet." The ranger only nodded, but he gave me a fierce look of warning. I swallowed hard and nodded imperceptibly. I did know that it was dangerous to be alone with Boromir – even without any orcs nearby.
We walked along the shore of the Nen Hithoel away from Amon Hen. We had not gone very far, when I noticed that Boromir was growing tense and fidgety again.
"What's the matter?" I asked, apprehensively.
"Don't look at me like that," Boromir growled. "As if I was carrying a disease or something. You don't understand, none of you!" His voice rose shrilly. "You don't know how it stands with Gondor! My people are barely holding out against the enemy! We need
help! We need a weapon against the enemy! We've lost so much, Lothíriel! So many innocent people have already been killed, and more are killed every day that we spend on this damned goose-chase! Men, women and children! Murdered, tortured, mutilated! If you had ever seen what those orcs do to the inhabitants of the villages they raid, you would not act so cold!"
His voice broke into a sob.
I touched his arm in a gesture of sympathy and understanding.
"I am so sorry, Boromir. I can't tell you how sorry I am! But this thing is dangerous! It cannot help you! Don't you see how it plays with your mind?"
He rounded on me with fury blazing in his eyes. Frightened I backed away one step, and then another, my footing unsure with fear.
"What do you know about that? You are no wizard! You are no Elf! You are only a girl!"
"Boromir, please, keep calm!" I pleaded, raising my hands entreatingly. "Don't you see? That's exactly what I'm talking about! It's this evil thing! It's turning you around, it's changing you! Please, keep calm!"
"Keep calm?" He took a menacing step towards me. "Keep calm? When my people are killed and murdered by demons every day we waste with this idiotic quest? Changing? Turning ME around? It's you
who are twisted, not I! I only want to save my people! And you are not going to keep me from trying!"
With that he gave me a great shove. I stumbled backwards, losing my balance, stepping back once more to regain my balance, but then I stumbled again as my heel got caught on a root and this time I fell and I kept falling and falling until I landed with a great splash in the cold water of the Nen Hithoel. For a moment of complete panic I felt my clothes pulling me down towards the unfathomable depths of the quiet waters. I submerged, my arms and legs flailing madly. Then my feet found firm ground. I was lucky. Much as in the cove where we had made camp there was a small strip of sand at the edge of the water where I had fallen in.
Sputtering, coughing and gasping I emerged from the water. I sat down on the ground and shivered and shuddered, only slowly getting a grip on myself.
As the shock subsided I started feeling mad as hell. I blinked hard and rubbed at my eyes. Where was that son of a bitch? Ring or no ring, he was going to catch hell for this!
But when I finally looked around, Boromir was gone.
I froze with shock as I realized exactly what that meant.
I got up and scrambled laboriously back up on the bank.
"Boromir?" I called out. "Boromir?"
There was no answer.
Bloody fucking hell!
I turned and ran back to the camp.
When I reached the camp, the others were still deep in talk. When they got a look at me, they jumped up, drawing their swords.
"What happened?" Aragorn asked. "Where is Boromir?"
"I have no idea," I gasped. "We had an argument, I fell into the lake. When I got back out, he was gone. Where is Frodo?"
"Where is Frodo?" Sam repeated. "What if something's happened to him?"
"We have to go and look for him," Aragorn said. "Lothy, you stay here, change and ready the boats for carrying them down the hill. The others –"
At this moment Boromir came running down the slope of Amon Hen. He was crying and white as a sheet. He looked as if his heart was broken. When he looked at me, all wet and shivering, the others standing around me in a protective circle with their swords unsheathed, unspeakable despair rose in his eyes.
"Where have you been, Boromir?" Aragorn shouted. "What have you done?"
Boromir slumped down, barely able to speak. His voice was choked, when he answered.
"I have been looking for Frodo. I found him way up the hill. I was so angry, I was beside myself, I don't even remember what I said to him, and suddenly he vanished. He must have used the ring, because he was frightened of me," he moaned, tears running down his cheeks.
"Is that all that happened?" Aragorn asked, his voice cold as ice.
"Yes, yes, I swear it. I swear it!" Boromir cried, his voice full of anguish. Aragorn turned to look at me, his eyes questioning me. I nodded. It was not quite what had happened as far as I knew. But it was more or less what had happened.
"This is bad!" Sam shouted. "Why should Mr. Frodo put this evil thing on? He didn't ought to have! There's only one reason why he would think he had to! What have you done, Mr. Boromir? What have you done?"
Boromir put his face in his hands and wept like a child.
"He would not keep it on," Merry interrupted. "He would take it off as soon as he had escaped, the way Bilbo used to get past unwelcome visitors!"
"But where did he go?" Pippin cried out anxiously. "He's already been gone for ages!"
"When did you leave Frodo?" Aragorn asked Boromir. "Tell me at once!"
Boromir lifted his head, his eyes dull and broken. "Twenty minutes ago, maybe half an hour. Maybe more. I cannot remember. Everything's hazy."
"You cannot remember?!" Sam sputtered, rage rising in his eyes.
"Not much more than half an hour," I put in. "I came back to the camp at once, and Boromir had to get from back there up the hill first. An hour at the most."
"But that's a long time," Pippin shouted. "Anything can have happened to him by now!"
"We have to go and look for him!" Legolas called out, picking up his bow.
"Yes, at once!" Sam called out. Merry and Pippin were already running for the woods.
"Wait," Aragorn called out. "Wait! We should go in pairs! It's too dangerous to go haring off like that!"
But the hobbits never heard him. Soon their bright voices drifted back to us from way up the hill, calling, "Frodo, Frodo."
"Oh, no," the ranger groaned. "Now we have to find them, too! Boromir, Lothíriel, you go after Merry and Pippin. Legolas, Gimli, you go and look for Frodo! I will catch up with Sam and take him looking for Frodo, too."
With that he disappeared into the woods. Moments later I heard his voice call out to Sam: "Come with me, Sam! We have to find your master!"
Legolas sprang forth nimbly, Gimli hard on his heels, running with great speed for a dwarf.
I ran over to Boromir, dropping my wet tunic to the ground. The man sat on the ground, looking totally dazed. I shook him at the shoulder, hard.
"Boromir! Boromir! Snap out of this! We've got to find Merry and Pippin! There are orcs about!"
"Orcs?" Boromir looked up and moaned, "Oh no!"
But this additional shock at least roused him from his daze. He was on his feet at once, horror growing in his eyes. I grabbed my sword, Tínu, and fastened the scabbard to my belt.
Boromir turned slowly towards me. For the first time in days the man I had made love with was really back in his eyes, the kind and gentle warrior I had come to like so much, and almost love, in Lórien and before. But his fierce spirit was broken, his self-esteem withered. The man he had been was destroyed by the ring. I felt tears of my own rise up in my eyes.
Boromir looked at my wet and shivering appearance for a moment, then he said, his voice shaking, "I am so sorry, Lothíriel. You have been right all along. I should have listened to you."
I reached out and clasped his hand tightly. His hand was cold and trembled.
"It's alright. What is important is that you did not take the ring and that you came back right away and warned us. But we have to run now, we have to find Merry and Pippin before the orcs find them!"
Boromir nodded. "Follow me and when we meet the enemy, take the hilt with both hands! You will need every ounce of strength you have!"
With that he sped off into the woods. I ran behind him, trying desperately to keep up the pace of his longer strides. Behind us I heard a soft splashing sound, as if one of the small boats hit the water. I did not look back. But I knew in my heart that Frodo had made his decision and was setting out for the last stage of his quest. I hoped that Sam would be in time to accompany him, but there was no way I could turn back and make sure of it. Somewhere in the woods before us Merry and Pippin were running along: running straight into the arms of the orcs.
And Boromir and I followed them as fast as we could.
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.