17. Distraction and Flowers
Théodred emerged from the wind-curtains with dogged determination in every step; the decision was made, for good or ill. If the Riders of the Mark rode to war against Mordor – then his place was amongst them. He put from his mind his doubts and worries, he was a warrior and all his thoughts must bend to that end now… but he could not help the nagging fears for Boromir at the back of his mind '…what if he never came back to his body? What if his love had left him forever…?'
'Enough!' He shook himself free of the corrosive doubts and misgivings – to think thus would like as not ensure his own death, when he failed to react to an orc's axe or a Southron spear – the task at hand was war. It was not a task to be taken lightly. He strode away from the camp to where the four Elves waited for him on the path to the south, scarcely registering that the bells had not rung behind him.
They had his pack prepared for him. He did not speak as he accepted it, merely nodded; he was sure they would have packed all that was necessary. In silence they turned from the glade and started down the narrow path to the river. With resolute determination Théodred tried hard to think of nothing but his surroundings, his footfalls and the trees and bushes on either side of him, and indeed, he did seem to see them more clearly than he ever had before. They passed humped banks of greenery, patterned liberally with six-petalled flowers that reminded him of Simbelmynë, save these were golden rather than white.
"What are these flowers called?" Théo asked.
"Elanor," replied Lindir.
They walked on, through banks of soft, fern-fronded plants, pungent when stepped upon. 'Sweet Cicely' he remembered; the house-keepers cut it and mixed it with the straw laid outside the doors to catch the mud from careless tramping boots. Further back under the bushes where the great, leathery leaves of the plant the people called 'Elfshield', each shiny green surface curved out broadly on either side of the upright stem before swooping to a long point. Above him, long thin catkins scattered their dust on the breeze.
"Old Man's Willies!" he said aloud.
Lórindol turned inquiringly with a half-smile.
"Your pardon," said Théodred, "I was just remembering old names we had as children for some of these plants…"
Lindir, walking at Théo's side nodded, "I understand the words, but not why."
"Because they always hang down loosely and scatter yellow rain."
Théo frowned at himself for being too free; such a stupid, school-boy name would probably not be taken well by these fey creatures. Lindir, he could hear, was obviously explaining the reference and translating the vulgar nick-name. Théo was relieved to see the others grin. Gelmir pointed out a plant in the undergrowth half-hidden by clustering leaves. The centre was a single short, thick, green spike standing stiffly upright, topped with a vivid ball of tightly packed, bright red berries – the others chuckled at his remark.
Lindir turned to the man "You are not the only ones - he was reminding us of the common name for that plant – I think you would say it as 'Adan's Cock'.
Théodred looked again, yes… he smiled '…it did have an unmistakably phallic look about it' – which gave him something to ponder '…if they called the short, thick stem 'man-cock'… what did… theirs look like?' He could feel himself colour – what an idiotic thing to think of at a time like this! Almost in answer, Lórindol pointed out some clumps of slender, silvery green stems that wafted, stiff but graceful, in the slight breeze, each topped with a slightly pointed, pale golden ball of many flowers.
"They call those 'Maiden's Delight' he said with a wink – and Théo realised his unspoken question had been answered.
He chuckled to himself as he walked and thought '…I must tell Boromir that…' And with that his face fell '…Boromir… would he ever get back the one he loved?'
Lindir looked at him with some concern, but said nothing. Instead he dropped his pace to walk nearer to Théodred, keeping to the man's stride; eventually he began to point out various trees and plants telling Théo the names he knew and asking what Men called them. Theo welcomed the distraction; he knew the Elf was trying to push his thoughts elsewhere and he was grateful not to be allowed to brood on Boromir's fate… or his own.
He did not yet know if he would be able to catch up with the Riders '…would he be stranded in the wilds on his own? Would he even find a Mark to get back to? And what of his father? His cousins, Éomer and Éowyn? How did they fare – had that weasel Wormtongue poisoned their thoughts as well?'
He shook his head to free himself of this gloomy introspection – if you go into a fight believing you will lose, then surely you will lose! He had been taught that as a very small boy – if you believe you can do it – then you stand a much better chance of achieving what you desire. And at present his desire… his desire… was torn between his duty to his father and the Mark… and his desire to help his dearest friend, lover, and companion of his heart Boromir was all of these to him – having come so close to losing him, then nearly losing himself… He shuddered at the still-strong memory of how enticing the merriment inside that far-off Hall had seemed. He would open the door one day… but not yet, no - not for a long while yet! His chin came up at the thought '…No! Not yet at all!'
Lindir smiled at him encouragingly with a nod … and it began to occur to Théodred that the elf seemed rather more in tune with him than was comfortable.
"Do you read my thoughts?!" He blurted this out before he considered the affront his accusation might give to a subtle people.
Lindir shook his head, "No… but you wear your feelings so clearly... he shrugged, "…they are easy enough to read."
Théo frowned; he did not care to be so transparent, it was unsettling…
"…we try not to, but…" the Elf was obviously trying to choose his words with care, "…we sympathise with your pain. If any of us had a comrade we loved - lost and seemingly on the path to Mandos' Halls – we too would wear our grief openly…"
Théo turned his words over in his mind before replying; eventually he just nodded, "Then we are alike after all," he said.
They walked on in companionable silence until they reached the river, where a small, lithe craft awaited them, sleek and grey; it rested ready on the shingle. The larger boats had already been concealed further up the bank, wrapped under lengths of coarse fabric and turned upside down with branches stacked over them. The Elves lost no time in stowing their packs and carrying the craft down to the water. Gelmir held the prow while Théo pushed his gear under the middle bench and climbed in; then they pushed the boat into the river and vaulted into their places. Immediately they paddled out to catch the fastest current and they were away down the river, down to a battle and an unknown fate. Théodred was a little ashamed to admit to himself, but he was looking forward to it.
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.