“Do not fear, my love. You are safe.”
“Faramir!” exclaimed the woman, turning instantly towards her husband. “So I found you! I thought it was a tired mind’s trick.”
“No, far from that,” replied the man. “How are you feeling now? You were quite exhausted last night.”
“I am much better, really. It is for somebody else that we should worry now.” And with a few brief words, Éowyn told everything that happened to her and Beregond: how they found the Orcs’ lair; how the Wargs sensed them and raised the alarm, and how she managed to escape and learn of Beregond’s captivity.
Faramir listened intently to everything his wife had to say, his face growing more worried as she kept talking. However, he didn’t interrupt her tale, but spoke only after she had finished.
“Are you sure about what that Orc said concerning Beregond? That he will last for days in their little games?”
“Then they intend to keep him alive at least for so long,” said the man with as much relief as the circumstances allowed. “But how are we to get him out of there? It is almost certain that the Orcs will be waiting for us if we enter the forest.”
“But we cannot leave him in their clutches!” exclaimed the lady.
“Of course not! That is not even an option! Yet we cannot just attack mindlessly in the vague hope that we can defeat all the devils either.”
“Then what can we do?”
Faramir sighed in exasperation and then sat on a chair nearby, soon to be lost in thought. Éowyn watched him sitting perfectly still, his eyes having an intent look; and, however strange that thought seemed, she couldn’t help thinking that at that moment Faramir reminded her a lot of Beregond. Indeed, that kind of posture had the captain too when he was sitting by the fire next to her the night before yesterday. Unlike, and yet very much alike, she figured.
It was then that it was made clear to her that the long friendship that existed between the two men had affected them in more ways than it seemed, including their behaviour and mood. And she understood that if one of the two died before his time, it could break the other’s heart. She wished now more than ever that Faramir would find a way to free Beregond, for such was the love that she had for her husband that she didn’t wish to see him suffer in such a terrible way. By now she had even regretted that she hadn’t told him of her pregnancy and had him worry so much. Thus she promised herself that she would tell Faramir everything once she got the chance.
At that moment the prince rose, his eyes shining with resolution.
“Tell Éothain to gather the men by the fire. I will give them further instructions there. And make sure they are all armed.”
“You know what to do then?” asked Éowyn with new hope in her voice.
“Yes. It will not be an easy task and it might prove dangerous for Beregond, but it is worth the try. You will know what it is once the men gather around.”
As soon as Éowyn rushed outside to find Éothain, Faramir put on his own armour. He picked up his sword that was laying nearby and, grasping it firmly by its hilt, looked at its blade.
“You had better be alive, Beregond, or the Orcs will witness such a wrath that would make a dragon quail!” he declared, feeling his soul burning inside him. He buckled the weapon to his side and, when he was fully armed, he went to find the soldiers by the fire.
Beregond’s situation only got worse. He had been left hanging above the Wargs all night, suffering the rain and cold; and now it seemed that the Orcs intended to keep him up there all day as well. Even though he was able so far to cope with that, as well as his hunger and thirst, the rope kept cutting his wrists at the slightest of movements. Not to mention that the strain to which his back was subjected after so many hours of his arms held up by force was becoming unbearable.
All these torments at the same time fatigued him to no end and made him feel sick and weak. All he was left to do was wearily watch the Orcs circulating in the camp, hardly noticing their crouching gait or their nervous and angry talk. He didn’t even heed the Wargs’ growls anymore.
However, something was bound to draw his attention at last: he saw the cloaked figure speaking with the leader of the Orcs. Beregond couldn’t hear what they were saying; but, by the cold glances that were cast at his direction, he had the feeling that it had to do with him.
“You are sure of this?” asked the cloaked figure again.
“My men saw them riding into the forest about three hours ago,” replied Azrag.
“Riding? So they come on horses then. How many?”
“They counted twenty of them. The female tark is with them.”
“Of course she is, she is the one that leads them! So… they are finally planning to save their comrade. Quite valiant of them I am sure,” said the dark face, curling his lip in distaste; then looked once more to Beregond’s hanging form. “He should feel flattered. It is quite unusual that all these men go through this kind of trouble for just one of their own.”
“Maybe he’s someone of importance, an officer probably,” remarked Azrag.
“Perhaps. That certainly explains the well-crafted armour and sword that your men took from him. We should consider ourselves fortunate. They won’t wish any harm coming to him, so they will let us go peacefully if we so much as threaten that we will hurt him.”
The great Orc looked up at Beregond’s direction and then returned his gaze to the dark clad form, a strange glint shining through his eyes.
“Why don’t we use this to our advantage?”
“What do you mean?” asked the being, obviously not pleased with what it might hear.
“Let us kill two birds with one stone. Let’s see how much they are willing to give for the tark’s freedom,” hissed Azrag, and quickly turned to some Orcs nearby. “Bring the prisoner here.”
“Ransom?!” exclaimed the figure as soon as the Orcs were gone. “You must be joking!”
“You agreed with me when I said that the tark must be of importance.”
“Yes, but to nothing more! The horsemen are soldiers, remember? What makes you think that they will carry anything of value with them?”
“Even surrendering their weapons should be enough. A fine blade or two will make us an even more formidable force to reckon with.”
At that moment, the Orcs brought Beregond close to Azrag. The abomination looked down at the human for a while, and then cupped Beregond’s chin with his claw to force him to look up at him.
“I’m sure they won’t object to such terms in order to save him,” he continued. “Otherwise they’ll only get back his head.”
The Gondorian didn’t say a word, but his eyes revealed all the hate and loathing he felt for his captors; for he had heard Azrag’s last words and quickly figured out what his intent was. His heart wished more than ever that there was something he could do to prevent the Orcs from manipulating Faramir and the soldiers in such a way. Yet the ropes around his hands and legs didn’t make that possible.
“You seem to forget one important thing,” said then the cloaked form.
“Oh?” said Azrag, letting go of Beregond and looking back at his ally.
“They may not surrender anything. In fact, let me tell you what else might happen. They might not wish to make such dealings with somebody whom they would not trust even if he had asked half as much. And that means that they will attack us, not caring anymore for the captive, or even hoping that they will manage to get him back by force. Either way, it means the death of us all, because you would not settle with simply walking out of here alive!”
Azrag stretched his posture challengingly at the figure.
“You just have the answer for everything, don’t you? Ever since I let you tag along with us, you’ve done nothing but order us about!”
“You forget what I am and your place, Azrag!”
“On the contrary, it seems that I remember it again finally!” cried the brute. “I’ve had enough of you. I don’t hate every tark on the face of the earth to the death just to put up with you!”
Beregond tensed at such a revelation from the Orc’s part. So the dark-clad being was of human race! He looked up again in the hopes that he would be able to discern his features, but, unfortunately, the cloak covered the face only too well. By watching the man clenching his hands with rage however, the Gondorian was able to notice on the back of one fist a tattoo of a red eye. That assured him, more than ever, that the man before him used to be under the service of Sauron. Indeed, Beregond had heard of servants of the Dark Lord bearing his mark, yet this was the first time in his life that he actually saw one. But how could it be that he ended up with the Orcs in these parts of the world was beyond Beregond’s understanding.
“So you will not put up with me anymore?” said the dark man wrathfully at that moment, cutting Beregond’s train of thought. “Then don't! I have had enough of your stupidity myself! I am leaving this place and you and your petty thieves can get yourselves killed for all I care!”
And with no other word, he walked away; but Azrag still wanted to have the last word in the conversation.
“Good riddance, I say! I just hope that the poor creature, to whose stomach you’ll end up, won’t get too sick!”
Beregond cringed and turned his head away as the Orc’s shrieks pierced his ears and rung through his head. When he looked up again, the cloaked man was nowhere to be seen.
However, the Gondorian didn’t have time to think of the matter, for at that instant a stinging pain that started from the wrists coursed through his body, and it took a great amount of effort to hold back his exclamation of pain. Azrag had just wrung the rope that kept his hands tied together, thus making the bonds even tighter.
“My business with you is far from over,” Beregond heard the Orc growl close to his ear, something that made him shudder - he understood perfectly well what was meant with these words. He closed his eyes, and helplessly awaited the new torments of his captor.
Faramir’s eyes darted again in the direction of the trees that surrounded him and then back to his men and Éowyn. By the way everyone had tensed and held to their weapons showed him clearly that he wasn’t the only one feeling that they were being watched. Even the horses would occasionally let out snorts of apprehension. Yet no noise betrayed to him the exact whereabouts of the Orcs, nor did it seem that they planned any attack soon. They seemed to content themselves by keeping an eye on the intruders instead. Faramir started to understand now how well organised this particular band of Orcs was, and also how difficult it might prove to free Beregond.
Éowyn, meanwhile, motioned her horse next to Faramir’s and touched his shoulder lightly.
“We are close,” she whispered. “The place is getting more familiar with every step we make.”
“So do the Orcs,” whispered back the prince and, discreetly raising his hand, pointed to his right.
Éowyn turned her head slowly and she noticed the two Orcs that were by some bushes, ready to shoot them should any fight break out.
“I hope your plan works,” murmured the woman under her breath.
“We will soon find out,” was all that Faramir replied.
It wasn’t long before they reached the borders of the camp. Faramir gave the order to halt and wait for anyone to appear. At first it was a surprise to him to find the place empty of Orcs, as though deserted; but he quickly saw that the fiends were only making sure that it was safe for them before they came out of their hiding places. As he still looked at the monstrosities jumping out from everywhere, his eyes fell on a pole at the centre of the camp. His heart missed a beat when he recognised the bowing form that was tied to it.
“Beregond!” he called worriedly, hoping dearly that his friend would be able to answer back to him.
Truly, the captive raised his head weakly at hearing his name, revealing to Faramir the cut and the bruises that marred his face. However, Beregond never found the will to answer in time, for another voice broke forth.
“Don’t waste your breath on him!” cried Azrag, strolling up to the pole and bringing himself close to the bound man. “Whatever you want to discuss, you’ll discuss it with me!”
“What do you want?” said Faramir.
“Two things,” answered the Orc. “You won’t attack us while me and my men walk out of the forest. Your comrade will be set free once we are safely out!” Or so you’ll hope, he added in his mind.
“And what is the second demand?”
It was then that Beregond shook his head violently.
“Don’t deal with him, no matter what!” he cried hoarsely.
“Quiet, you!” exclaimed Azrag enraged, slapping the Gondorian with the back of his claw. Such was his force that Beregond hit his head on the pole, making him so dizzy that he slumped forward, slipping almost to unconsciousness.
Faramir watched the scene unfolding before him in exasperation, his eyes locked onto the abomination furiously.
However, the fiend didn’t care to concern himself about that.
“The second demand is this: You will surrender your weapons and lay them at my feet!”
Exclamations of surprise and indignation were heard amid the soldiers, but Faramir calmed everyone down by raising his hand.
“How can I be certain that you will release the prisoner, should we agree to these terms?”
Azrag grinned evilly, revealing his fangs.
“You can’t. But why risk your man’s life by doing otherwise?”
“Because I know your kindred’s ways only too well!” answered the prince in defiance. “FIRE!”
What was to follow happened in the blink of an eye. To Azrag’s surprise, Orcs and Wargs started shrieking and falling down, pierced by arrows that flew from every direction. As for the rest of the Rohirrim, led by Éothain, they charged in on their horses, throwing their spears upon every foe that their eyes set upon.
Too much confidence finally proved the downfall of the Orcs. They were so engrossed on watching and following the Gondorian knights that none was left behind to see the second team of riders that consisted of the Rohirrim entering into the forest as well. Keeping in small groups and making sure they stayed against the wind at all times, so as not to be sniffed out by the Great Wolves, the Rohirrim silently killed every Orc that crossed their path, until they finally reached the camp and surrounded it. Faramir merely distracted Azrag with his negotiating long enough till everyone was in place for the attacks.
Now all the Orcs were running helplessly hither and thither trying to save themselves. Though some of them attempted to fight back, it was of no use: the Rohirrim were everywhere, and now the Gondorians had joined in the fight as well, hewing them with their swords as they rode throughout the camp. The shelters were soon set on fire; and the flames soon engulfed the place, trapping the Orcs so that there was no way of escape for them.
Faramir was slaying another one of the abominations, when he suddenly saw to his dismay that the fire was getting dangerously close to the centre of the camp, where Beregond was tied. He swiftly turned to Éowyn, who was fighting beside him.
“Lead the men in my stead! I am going for Beregond!” he cried and, without even waiting for his wife to answer back, he rode up to the pole.
To his horror, Beregond was gone. The prince quickly scanned the ground for any possible clue as to what could have possibly happened, and found drops of black Orc-blood trailing away. Guessing whose blood might that be, he spurred his horse to the same direction, praying that he wouldn’t be too late.
Beregond tried to will himself to remain conscious. It was a great difficulty to register what was happening to him through half-closed eyes and ringing ears; nevertheless he still felt immense heat surrounding him and thick smoke blocking his lungs, while somebody was dragging him by the collar. Looking up, he saw Azrag’s form. He made a feeble attempt to pull himself away, but the Orc’s talons grasped even more tightly.
“You’re not going anywhere!” snarled Azrag, facing the Gondorian.
Beregond noticed an arrow sticking out of the abomination’s chest, but before he had the chance to see much more of the wound though, Azrag unsheathed his scimitar.
“If you think you will be saved after all, you’re wrong!” the great Orc declared and, letting out a cry full of hate, he raised his hand to strike.
However, Beregond wasn’t willing to give up so easily. With an amount of energy that he hadn’t realised he had till now, he placed all his weight on his back and lunged his legs upwards, kicking Azrag on the stomach.
Though the Orc bent over in surprise and pain, he quickly recovered; whereas the man found himself coughing violently after such an effort his lungs suffered. Azrag grabbed him once more, this time by the hair, forcing him to face him.
“You’re just fighting off the inevitable,” he hissed, raising his scimitar again.
Azrag never managed his deathblow; for, at that very moment, Faramir appeared on his horse and with a swift swing of the sword struck him down. Only seconds after the Orc’s body fell to the ground, the prince jumped down from his steed and rushed to Beregond’s side. The bound man’s eyes shone with relief and gladness as Faramir cut the ropes from his hands and legs.
“I knew you would come,” he said, smiling weakly.
But Faramir’s eyes betrayed only sadness.
“I wish I had come sooner,” he replied, seeing the abused wrists and face.
“They are not as bad as they seem, don’t worry,” the captain assured him, just before another series of coughs broke out from his lips. “But we had better go, otherwise the smoke will smother both of us.”
“Can you ride?” asked Faramir with worry, helping Beregond rise to his feet.
“I think so,” replied the latter, standing up.
However, the prince noticed how the captain’s legs trembled, unable to hold his weight for long.
“Here, lean on me for support,” he suggested; and, holding his comrade, they soon went up to the horse. He helped Beregond up, and then he climbed up behind him, offering again his body frame for support. However, by the time they did all that, they were completely surrounded by the flames and the smoke only got thicker.
“Things are getting better and better,” remarked Beregond hoarsely.
“Just hold on,” said Faramir amid his own coughs. Without hesitation, he spurred the horse towards the red tongues and commanded it in the Elven-tongue to jump. The steed obeyed bravely and without hesitation, and so both riders were safely out of the fiery circle.
Still, Faramir kept riding until he had placed a safe distance between them and the raging fire, and only then did he eventually stop. After dismounting, he assisted Beregond down as well so his friend could rest his back against the trunk of a tree while he examined his injuries.
“You are right, they are not as bad as I thought at first,” he admitted. “Nevertheless, I will have to clean them and bind them.” He ripped a piece of fabric from his sleeve and, after wetting it with water from his gourd, used it to wash the abrasions.
Beregond didn’t say a word, but the prince noticed how his friend’s muscles tensed at the treatment and he bit his lower lip. Though Faramir didn’t like to cause more discomfort to the captain, he couldn’t do otherwise: the wounds had to be tended. And so, trying to be as gentle as possible, he carefully wiped the dried blood away from the injuries and used some clean bandages that he had in his pack to bind the wrists.
“You carried a medical pack when you knew you had to be free of burden to fight?” asked Beregond, raising an eyebrow.
“I had figured you would not be in the best shape after freeing you,” replied Faramir with a tinge of teasing in his voice; but he soon sobered again. “I am glad that nothing worse happened to you. Or even…” he paused, not wishing to utter the deepest worry that had haunted him.
Surprisingly enough, Beregond smiled.
“I was afraid of that too when I was captured,” he said, “but only for a little while.”
“Oh?” said Faramir, surprised. “What happened that made you think otherwise?”
The captain closed his eyes, his mind recalling the memories of his captivity.
“The Orcs had hung me for the night on one of the trees that surrounded the camp, letting the Wargs do the guarding for them. All I was left to do was to guess at what would be my fate, one dark thought following another. Soon I had despaired; for I truly believed that I would die in this place before any help could arrive in time – if it ever arrived.
“But then another thought entered my mind. A silly one, I have to admit, and yet because of it I made a promise to myself that filled me with hope – and I intend to keep it even now that the danger has passed.”
“That I am the First Captain of Ithilien and under your service, so if anyone should decide whether I should die or not, it is you and not some fiends. And that was the promise I made to myself: to die when you say I can.”
Faramir didn’t speak, thinking of what Beregond just told him and feeling quite touched by the depth of his friend’s loyalty.
“I knew it was a silly thought,” murmured Beregond tiredly, opening his eyes a little when his ears picked up the long silence.
“Silly… and yet not so,” replied the prince, smiling. “And I also know now that you will have a very long life indeed!” he added, causing both of them to chuckle slightly.
At that moment, Éothain appeared, his horse by his side.
“Lord Faramir, all the Orcs and their steeds have been killed. The men are now putting out the fire as well.”
“Good news, Captain. As soon as the men are done, give the order to settle here for the night, it has been a difficult day for all of us. We will burn the carcasses in the morning and so destroy any trace of their vile presence here.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Faramir watched Éothain walk away, and then his face brightened up with another teasing grin.
“Now that will be quite a story to tell Bergil upon returning home, will it not, my friend?” he said; but when he turned to look at Beregond, he saw him sound asleep, exhaustion finally catching up with him.
The prince smiled warmly at the calmness that could be discerned on the sleeping form’s face, then unclasped his cloak and covered him up to his shoulders to keep him warm.
“Rest, my friend,” he whispered to him softly. “You certainly need it.” And, being careful not to disturb Beregond’s sleep, he rose quietly and went to find Éowyn and the others.
Early the next morning, after the bodies of the Orcs had been piled and burned, Faramir came across Éowyn, who was holding a flask of water.
“I wanted to take some water to Beregond,” the fair lady said at her husband’s questioning look. “But he is still sleeping, and I did not wish to wake him.”
“I am glad you did not,” said Faramir, embracing her and holding her close. “I would rather have him regain most of his strength before setting out again, even though I understand you want to return to Ithilien as soon as possible.”
“Me?” exclaimed Éowyn with surprise.
“You do not remember? We argued about it before the Warg attack: I suggested some rest and you would have none of it.”
“Oh!” said she, recalling the incident also. “Concerning that… My apologies. It is just…”
But she didn’t continue.
“What?” asked the noble man, looking into her eyes and pleading her with his own to carry on.
“I was too stubborn to listen even when our own child demanded the rest,” she murmured.
Faramir, however, heard her; and his eyes widened in realisation, as soon as the words sank in.
“Our child? You mean you are…?” he faltered, dumbfounded.
Éowyn nodded yes, smiling. The prince stared at her for a few moments at a loss. And then, letting out a joyous cry, he crushed his lips onto hers, scarcely containing his excitement at such news.
“And to think I was so worried all this time!” he said, relief echoing in his every word since Éowyn’s past behaviour finally made sense. “But why did you not tell me sooner?”
“I merely could not bring myself to do it,” she admitted, blushing. “I did not know what to make of it; and, frankly, I did not know how you would react. Although it seems that I did not need to worry myself in either case,” she added with a smile.
Faramir smiled back and, still looking with love into her eyes, he knitted his fingers into hers and rested his forehead against her own.
That was how Beregond found them when he awoke; and he was gladdened to see them like this together, for they reminded him so much of his own time with Almiel. He sighed with nostalgia and walked away, letting them be. This, after all, was Faramir’s time with Éowyn.
Later that day, everyone was ready to leave. They mounted their horses and they started cantering away once more out of the forest, resuming their journey to Ithilien.
As they rode on, however, Faramir noticed Beregond uneasy and constantly slackening his pace on his new horse. Telling the rest to move on, he rode next to him concerned.
“Beregond, is something the matter?”
The captain looked again around without answering. He wanted to find at least a trace of the cloaked servant of Sauron, but nothing could be seen. Though that made him nervous and restless, it was with a calm face that he turned to Faramir.
“Probably nothing. I will tell you when we get safely back to Ithilien,” he said with a small reassuring smile.
The prince nodded in answer, appeased for the time being, and they both quickly rode to catch up with the rest.
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.