1. Trees, Nothing More
The Company had been journeying now for several days, letting the River bear them at its own pace; with the exception of Boromir, no one had any desire to hasten towards the perils that lay ahead. Boromir was no more eager to come to danger than the others, but his home was there before him, and he wished to delay his journey no longer than was necessary. Yet he was willing to drift with the current for the time being, for it was good to husband their strength against the weariness to come; the little ones especially would find it increasingly difficult, the closer they came to embattled lands. So Boromir sat quietly in the Elven boat, and watched the shadowy banks pass by as Merry and Pippin dozed.
Letting his mind wander, Boromir thought back on the time the Company had spent in that strange golden land of the Elves, most particularly of that final conversation with Celeborn upon their departure from Lorien.
"...Fangorn is a strange land, and is now little known," Celeborn had said, in his warning to them against becoming entangled in the Forest. "But Boromir and Aragorn doubtless do not need this warning."
"Indeed we have heard of Fangorn in Minas Tirith," Boromir had replied. "But what I have heard seems to me for the most part old wives' tales, such as we tell our children. All that lies north of Rohan is now to us so far away that fancy can wander freely there. Of old Fangorn lay upon the borders of our realm; but it is now many lives of men since any of us visited it, to prove or disprove the legends that have come down from distant years. I have myself been at whiles in Rohan but I have never crossed it northwards..."
Now, as he watched the wooded banks of Anduin slip silently past, Boromir recalled that there had indeed been a time when he had crossed Rohan northwards, and that he had actually entered that great forest of Fangorn, so famous in legend.
How could he have forgotten that visit, and his strange experience there? It had not been so long ago -- fifteen years, perhaps. Yet in spite of that he had indeed forgotten -- or put it out of his mind until now -- so that even the talk of Fangorn there in Lorien had not recalled it, until this moment.
He had been twenty-five; young, but already experienced as a leader. He and a small group of his men were on a scouting expedition to the borders of Gondor, across the Entwash along the southeastern border of Rohan. The purpose of the mission was primarily to tour the northern borders, to understand the lay of the land for the better defense of Gondor. There had also been reports out of Rohan of small parties of Orcs in the eastern regions, raiding and slaying horses, and Boromir wanted to make certain that his own borders were secure.
With him as his advisor was Madril, who had trained both Boromir and his brother Faramir in arms and combat. It had been Madril's suggestion that Faramir accompany them, for in the past, their journeys together had not brought them this far north, and Faramir was as eager as Boromir to learn more of the border regions of his own land.
Boromir had allowed it. It would be pleasant to have his brother's company, and it was unlikely that harm would come to him, in spite of the possible danger from Orcs. Faramir was young, but not so young that he was unable to handle himself in battle. Nevertheless, Boromir avoided such situations when he could, where his brother was concerned, for he took his role as older brother and protector very seriously.
But the journey was uneventful and the mission had gone well, until they came upon Éomund and his Riders. Éomund of Eastfold was the chief Marshal of the Mark, under King Théoden, and his charge was the Eastern marches. He was a great lover of horses and a fierce hater of Orcs, and his anger burned when he heard of horses being slain in raids. It had been said, and was heard even in Gondor, that if ever he heard of a raid, Éomund would ride against the Orcs and pursue them at all costs, even if his men were few.
The two parties had met by chance at the northern border, where Éomund and his small group of men were investigating rumors of another Orc raid, and Boromir and his party were traversing the mouths of the Entwash along Rohan's easternmost border. Éomund had welcomed the chance meeting, and invited the men of Gondor to join him in his hunt. After consulting with Madril and Faramir, Boromir had agreed.
It had not been long before the small band of Orcs was sighted, heading towards the Emyn Muil, and the chase was on. It had been exhilarating, for the Orcs were swift in their flight, but they were no match for pursuers on horseback. The riders caught up with them on the very borders of the Emyn Muil, and slew them with ease.
That was when things had begun to go wrong. Even as they had turned away from the dark cliffs of the rugged hills, a cry went up that more Orcs had been sighted; a strong force had been lying in wait among the rocks, and their attack was sudden and unexpected. The hunters had suddenly become the prey.
Boromir winced at the memory of that battle. He had been foolish to let down his guard, foolish to believe that so small a band of Orcs would be alone in the wastelands. It had been a fierce, desperate battle; a number of the Riders had been wounded as well as several of his own men. Éomund had been pulled from his horse and attacked with sword and axe, while Faramir...
Ah, Faramir! Even now the fear of that wounding returned to Boromir, so many years later. Faramir had ridden to the aid of Éomund, and had been pulled down with him. Boromir had not known of it until after the battle was over, after the Orcs had been slain or put to flight. He had been gazing off to the northwest, following with his eyes a group of Orcs fleeing through the long grass of the plains and wondering if men should be sent in pursuit, when he had sensed someone at his side...
Boromir turned and saw Madril at his side; black blood stained his face and he had a cut on his cheek. Madril started to speak, then stopped short as he caught sight of blood on Boromir's face.
"My lord, you are hurt!"
"Am I?" Boromir put his hand to his head and it came away dark with his own blood. "I had not noticed. I will have it seen to, but first, tell me quickly! Where is Faramir? How does he fare?"
Madril's face darkened, and Boromir's heart missed a beat.
"That is what I have come to tell you," sighed Madril. "He is wounded -- badly wounded. The Orcs took him when he rode to the rescue of Éomund. The Marshal is also severely wounded -- so much so that I fear he will not live."
Boromir felt his his world spinning out of control, and he trembled -- whether with fear or anger, he knew not. Suddenly, he leapt from his horse, and grasped Madril firmly by the arm.
"Where is he?" he asked in a strangled voice. "Take me to Faramir!"
They led him to the spot where Faramir lay; his eyes were closed, and he was pale from loss of blood from several stab wounds to the chest. The men with him had done what they could to stay the bleeding, but it looked very bad.
Boromir felt anew the fierce anger like a hot wave that had overtaken him. He blamed himself for allowing Faramir to come, blamed himself for not being at his side when he was needed, and for not being the one lying dead on the ground. For Boromir was been convinced his brother was dead; nothing the others could say could convince him otherwise.
He sat with his head in his hands as they treated his head wound, and his anger grew until he could contain it no longer. Before anyone could stop him, Boromir had mounted his horse and was riding after the fleeing Orcs, bent only upon revenge.
Boromir shook his head at his own folly. But he had been young and very angry, and had given little thought to the consequences to himself, in lone pursuit of a band of Orcs.
The pursuit of the Orcs was still dim in his memory, but the chase must have taken many hours and covered many leagues. The Orcs ran swiftly and he had followed them. Why they had been fleeing away from the Emyn Muil and not towards it was a mystery, but he had cared little. Boromir's mind was bent only on following the enemy whereever they led him, to make them pay for the death of his brother.
The Orcs had led him to the very eaves of the Forest of Fangorn.
Boromir stared up at the towering trees in front of him, and hesitated. His head was throbbing with pain and he was beginning to feel feverish; he had been in pursuit of the enemy for so long he had lost all track of time. He knew the Orcs had entered here, but even in his urgent need for revenge, he was cautious of entering the wood. He had heard many tales, tales of mystery and foreboding...
"Tales for children!" he said suddenly and decisively; dismounting, he flung aside the reins and plunged into the forest.
He immediately felt a change in the air, an oppressive weight upon him, and all sound was deadened. It was if the air itself was heavy with anger -- it matched well his own mood. He went forward cautiously, his sword unsheathed, held out in front of him at the ready.
Strange shrieks could be heard coming from further inside the forest -- was that the sound of Orc voices? Boromir pushed his way through the thick underbrush that grew under the gnarled trees and followed the sounds deeper into forest.
He was beginning to think he had imagined it all, and was considering turning back, when he came suddenly into a clearing and saw before him the bodies of the Orcs he had been pursuing. He stared at them for a long time, unable to comprehend that the enemy he had followed for so long was here in front of him, dead by another's hand. He had been cheated of his revenge and the fact filled him with fury. Cursing and shouting angrily, he fell to his knees beside the Orc that lay closest to him, and stabbed at it with his sword until his strength was spent.
As Boromir knelt upon the ground beside the Orc, he heard a strange shuffling, creaking sound behind him. Jumping to his feet, he spun about, sword raised to parry a blow. But there was no one there -- nothing stood before him but a tall gnarled tree, where no tree had been before.
But was it a tree? Boromir narrowed his eyes and peered cautiously up at the tree towering above him. He could no longer see clearly, and he felt very faint.
I must be imagining things, he thought. Does this tree have eyes...?
"Hoom, hmmm!" said a deep, musical voice. The tree was speaking to him. "Harraroom! It is long since Men have walked in this place. You are very young, very young indeed; but even one so young should know that it is a dangerous thing to walk about in my land with an unsheathed sword."
Though dazed and confused, Boromir still had enough wits about him to quickly sheath his weapon.
"Do not fear!" spoke the creature that looked like a tree. "I am not so hasty that I cannot see the Orc-blood that stains your brow, and feel the anger in your heart. You have been pursuing these bararum..."
A twiggy arm waved in the direction of the dead Orcs, and Boromir watched the waving hand as if in a dream.
"You have been pursuing these Orcs, with the intention of destroying them; that is obvious. That is well. For this reason you have been given leave to pass this far into the Forest -- but you must go no further."
"Who are you?" stammered Boromir, at last looking up and meeting the gaze of the eyes that were looking down upon him. They were like deep wells of water, and Boromir felt as though he was drowning in them. The eyes were sleepy, yet alert; kind, yet stern, and very, very old. Boromir sensed no danger to himself from this creature -- and yet, he felt very afraid.
"This is my country, Fangorn Forest, and I am Fangorn -- or Treebeard, if you wish. Hoom, hmm, do you have a name?"
"I am Boromir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor." The stating of his name and rank calmed him, and Boromir felt his fear lessen. He stood a little taller and looked at the creature, at Treebeard, more directly.
"Did you slay the Orcs, then?" Boromir asked.
"Hmm, hooom!" replied Treebeard. "A son of Gondor! Hah, hrum! Yes, the Orcs were slain by me, and by others. We do not love Orcs, for they do not love us, and we do not allow them to enter our Wood. Tell me, Son of Gondor, why were you pursuing these Orcs, so far from your own land and all alone?"
"We were attacked near the Emyn Muil, my men and I, and some Riders of Rohan. My brother was among the wounded..." Boromir caught his breath, then went on more slowly. "I fear he is dead, and the Marshal of the Mark with him. I thought only of revenge...I have been following them for more than a day."
"Hoo, hrum," replied Treebeard thoughtfully. "That is some distance from here! You are a hasty young man to have come such a long way, alone and wounded, in pursuit of revenge."
"It was a long way, yes," agreed Boromir. "But he was my brother."
"Humm, hoom! Yes!" said Treebeard after a moment. "Well, you have not had your revenge, but you do have the satisfaction of knowing that the Orcs that slew your brother are dead. Let that be enough. Now you must go from here; your people are seeking you, and they must not enter the Wood -- not now. My people are angry; the Orcs have angered them, but they will not stop at Orc slaying perhaps, if your men dare to enter the Wood. Harraroom!"
"It is enough that the Orcs are dead, though I did not slay them with my own hand," sighed Boromir. He swayed a little, and the world grew momentarily dark. He felt a gnarled hand touch his elbow to steady him.
"Could you...would you show me the way out?" he said hesitantly, looking up into deep eyes like wells of quiet water.
Boromir had little memory after that of his return through the forest. He knew only that Treebeard went with him, until suddenly he was there at the edge of the forest; the grasslands of Rohan stretched out before him, and his horse whinnied a greeting. He turned to look back into the wood, but there was no sign of anyone there. Treebeard was gone and all that remained to be seen were trees which were nothing more than trees.
Boromir mounted his horse slowly and carefully, and turning his back on the Forest, rode away. He had not ridden far before he was met by Madril and several of the men of his company. When they saw him approaching, they rode forward with glad shouts of joy.
"My lord, you are safe!" cried Madril. "We have sought you long; we feared you had entered the Forest and were lost."
"I did enter the Forest," replied Boromir wearily. "But I found my way out again. The Orcs that attacked us are dead."
Boromir gripped Madril's arm and gazed at him pleadingly.
"What of Faramir? Éomund?"
"Éomund is dead," came the reply, "but Faramir lives."
Boromir bowed his head and could not speak for a moment; tears spilled down his cheeks as a great sense of relief filled him.
"I thought he was dead!" he sighed.
"His wound is severe," answered Madril, "but he will recover. He is resting comfortably and is asking for you. We did not wish to return to Minas Tirith without you."
"Come then," said Boromir with a joyful smile at the news that his brother was asking for him. "Let us go to him."
They rode in silence for a time, until Madril turned to Boromir.
"There are many tales about the Forest of Fangorn, strange tales and legends," he said curiously. "What did you see there, Boromir? Did you see anything to prove the tales to be true?"
Boromir was silent for a long time, as he considered all that had occurred in the Forest. He felt dazed, and his memory was vague. Had he truly spoken with someone who had called the Forest his country? Had he actually met such a creature as Treebeard of Fangorn? Or had it been nothing more than a feverish dream, the result of his wounding and a long wearying ride?
"No, I saw nothing," he replied at last. "Only trees...and dead Orcs."
Only trees...Boromir shook his head in wonder and in doubt, as he watched the water flowing past the sides of his boat. The water was deep here, but not so deep as those eyes had been...
Had he truly seen those eyes and heard a tree speak? Had he actually conversed with such a creature? Almost he could believe it now, after the strange things he had encountered on this journey. And yet, his practical mind rebelled at the thought. Surely not! It must have been his head wound...
No, he thought again. It was nothing. I saw only trees...and dead Orcs, nothing more.
He noticed that his boat was drifting close to the eastern shore, and dipped his paddle into the water, guiding the boat back into midstream.
It is as well that none of us will be going that way, he thought, gazing at the nodding heads of the hobbits in front of him. I do not wish to see that place again.
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.