37. – Preparations - The Third Siege of Lorien
“Here is as good a place as any. There’s a spring nearby if we take the track that way,” said Gwindor.
Boromir felt grateful for that; his back ached from swaying in the saddle over the uneven ground. The route they took back to the City of the Trees was more direct as the bird flies, but the land was uneven, rising and then falling away, so they had to constntly zig-zag up banks to regain the higher ground where the trees were less dense. Erellont, his partner Falathar, in consultation with Gwindor had privately agreed that to keep to the centre of the wood would offer such a small party as theirs more protection than galloping a faster path at the edge of the forest where there were still likely to be large bands of orcs roaming. They’d conferred privately and decided speed could be sacrificed for safety.
Shortly after, they entered the small clearing, a bowl in the side of the hill through which a spring tumbled from the rocks above. The tiny fall had worn a wide trough in the smooth rock before overflowing into a small stream that ran away among the underbrush. They dismounted and allowed the thirsty horses to drink before hobbling them to crop the verdant grass in the sheltered basin. Boromir stumbled to sit against some rocks to ease his back and shoulders; he was shivering, for the night was growing cold. Lórindol saw him and murmured to Gwindor who looked across before shrugging ‘why not?’ The younger elf beckoned to Lindir and they quickly gathered some kindling – dry twigs and leaves blown under the lee of the little cliff the spring fell from. Soon they had enough to lay and light a small fire on the wide, packed earth shelf beside the spring.
Falathar brought out a pan from his pack, and set water to boil for tea. Between them, they had walnuts sent from that garthh, and walnut oil to dip their bread, meat sliced from a cured ham, and sweet, dried apple slices to chew on afterwards. They had shielded the fire in a hearth of rocks they’d gathered, and seated themselves in their grey cloaks around it. It would have taken a very sharp-eyed orc to spot them in the sheltered hollow. Boromir stretched and twisted his neck, his shoulders still tight. Lórindol nudged Lindir and lifted his chin towards the man.
“Well, if he sits in front of me… and I sit in front of you… we can all get some ease.”
Lindir grinned. “Come hither, my adan, we have something for you.”
Boromir frowned a little. “Nay, don’t pout!” laughed Lindir “One good turn deserves another – you can rub Lórindol’s shoulders when I’ve finished.”
Lindir gave him no choice, but shuffled over behind him and dug his fingertips into the knotted muscles of the man’s neck. Lórindol spread his legs out behind his partner and began to rub his back. Erellont and Falathar watched in mild amusement, while their two companions took their places on watch at the rim of the hollow – even here, they were not completely safe. Gwindor stared into the fire morosely. Lórindol watched him for a while before speaking quietly:
“Shall I sit with you? Perhaps I can ease your ache…”
The elf shook his head with a bitter smile. “No. I’ll sit with my thoughts awhile before we ride.”
Boromir gave low grunts of pleasure as Lindir’s skilled fingers worked the knots from his shoulders. He relaxed into the pleasurable kneading, and tiredness began to overtake him again. He shook his head to keep himself awake, but his eyelids still drooped closed, his head nodded forward on his chest.
“Let him sleep,” said Gwindor softly, “We can travel onwards when he wakes.”
“He is the adan Lord Celeborn favours?” asked Erellont.
Gwindor nodded, “We are charged with his safety – the Lady sees he has a part to play beyond this. And he fights well… for a man. Though I’ll admit… his companion did well also against the wildmen and orcs we encountered.”
“Ah… he has a partner-in-arms?” said Falathar.
“A rohir,” replied Gwindor
“Keep a gentle tongue! Our Lord of Stoneland is bound to a Prince of Horses who’ll one day be a king.”
Falathar bowed his head, “Your pardon… but hear… your young lordling is fast become a hedgepig!” He chuckled.
Indeed, Boromir had curled over to lean against Lindir’s chest and was now gently snuffling in his sleep, much like one of the spiny forest creatures.
“Let him sleep,” repeated Gwindor, “I fear he’ll find no rest when we return.”
They arranged themselves around the tiny fire and took it in turns to watch or slip into reverie until a lightening beyond the clouds signified the sun had risen.
A quick splash in the icy spring, a hasty breakfast, and they were away towards Caras Galadhon again. But the sun failed to warm the day, and the further they travelled the more uneasy they became. At first it was nothing tangible, but then they noticed the silence – the birds had stopped singing, or departed. Then below them, weaving through the thick undergrowth within the winding vales, they briefly glimpsed a large party of cloaked elves, heading west towards the Walnut Garth. Shrouded in the Lady’s glamour, mounted on horses with muffled hooves, pulling narrow covered carts whose wheels were also bound with leather to quiet them, they were all but invisible. Evidently Lord Celeborn had decided to take the offer and despatched some of the more vulnerable to a place of hoped-for safety in the Walnut Garth. Among them rode Tasarion, but hidden in her hooded cloak, she did not see Boromir pass by on the bluff above, nor he her.
The wardens rode on in a silence broken only by their horses’ hooves cracking dry twigs – until they began to hear from far off in the distance the deep regular thumps of war-drums - coming slowly nearer all the time.
“They mass again!” gasped Falathar. He spurred his horse forward and the others followed, eager not only to gain the security of the city’s trees, but also take up arms among their comrades in what may yet be their final battle.
They cantered as fast as they could towards the city, weaving around traps set for the unwary, A few elves high among the branches watched them pass and sent messages ahead that riders were coming in.
Within the city, grim-faced archers and armoured warriors hurried to their allotted places. Healers made ready their tents; drew water to have ready for thirst and washing wounds, laid out their salves and knives in preparation. Grooms rushed forward to take the horses and grinned delightedly at the new provision of cured pork and at the arrowheads. Gwindor rushed away immediately to find the Marchwarden, to give his report and seek a place in the forefront of the defending lines of elves; the others swiftly followed him.
They found the Marchwarden with Lord Celeborn and his captains, amidst a flurry of runners delivering messages and taking instructions out to the defending elves already being despatched to their positions. Reports were coming in from the lookouts as to the strength and numbers of the advancing orcs, where they were closest and what arms they bore. Goblins were with them, driving battle-wagons pulled by huge kine. Trolls were hauling massive siege weapons towards the Golden Wood, and above them all flew one of the Nazgul on a screaming fell-beast. They massed at a distance, but did not attack. Evidently their commander wanted to gather the entire force onto Lorien’s side of the Great River before advancing the army as one to attack them.
Celeborn frowned over his maps as reports came in about the orcs’ postions – they were spreading to the west in increasing numbers. They appeared to be planning an attack along a wide front in hope of spreading the defenders thinly enough to enable the orcs to breach the elvish lines.
“…There is thought behind their strategy," he murmured half aloud. "If they attack in several places with heavy force, it becomes more difficult to judge where reinforcements should be sent… Now is the time I should be I three places at once!”
He continued to frown at the painted counters on the maps that showed the depositions of attackers and defenders.
“Perhaps you can be,” said Haldir softly.
Celeborn looked up with a raised eyebrow.
“I - and the Lord Boromir… we both have connection to you. Use us.”
Celeborn stared at him - then shook his head.
“Do not dismiss the idea so easily – we can both be your eyes and ears. You can command through us with your thoughts and wishes.”
Celeborn glanced up; Boromir had arrived in the company of Lórindol and Lindir. The elf-lord turned to speak to privately to his companion.
“I can not impose that on you, nor the Stone-lord either…”
“But we can help you…”
“You help me by being beside me. Your thoughts are my aid… that is enough.”
“We could do more!”
“No!” He briefly gripped Haldir’s fore-arm to temper his emphatic denial, before turning to hear the report of another newly arrived scout.
“My lord,” Lindir greeted the Marchwarden with bowed head, as did Boromir and Lórindol
Haldir graciously nodded acknowledgment. “How fared the garths?”
“They do well.” Lindir replied, “The attacks upon the Oak Garth were repelled, and the Walnut Garth has escaped so far with little more than a skirmish on its borders.”
Haldir nodded, “Lord Celeborn despatched a convoy of the young and the wounded there in the hope that its remote vale will prove some shelter.”
“We glimpsed them once in passing,” said Lórindol, “But the Lady’s glamour was such that even for us they were little more than grey mists among the trees.”
Boromir stood silently as their reports was given.
“And they remain well supplied?” queried Haldir.
“Enough to despatch back two pack-horses of cured meat and several good bags of arrow-points.”
“Those we will need soon enough! There is little for you to do here – seek your captain and find a suitable post.”
“The arrow-heads need fletching.”
“Good enough,” said Haldir, “But keep close in case you are needed.”
“Shall I go with them?” asked Boromir.
“Every hand will be needed this day. Your help is appreciated.”
“My hands and my sword are Lord Celeborn’s to command.” Boromir placed hand to heart and bowed formally with grace.
Haldir barely hesitated before responding in the same manner, even going so far as to clasp Boromir’s shoulder briefly – a point of note for the other wardens, who knew that although the Marchwarden had dealings with men, he kept himself at a wary distance. Rumour was that old injuries received from a marauding band of Wildmen in his youth had made Haldir loathe to even touch the Secondborn, or willingly be touched by them, if he could help it. But then… this man was not as other men.
“We may yet have need of them.”
The Marchwarden turned back to the table, leaving the elves and man to return to the paved glade of stabling where the horses and supplies were kept. Lindir collected a bag of arrow points and an armful of shafts, Boromir carried the thongs and feathers, and Lórindol went to find another little cauldron of pitch to set the vanes. He returned not only with a steaming pot, but also, fresh bread, cheese and a pitcher of small beer, ‘to keep their strength up’ he announced cheerfully. They found themselves a small clearing slightly away from the hustle and bustle and set to. Boromir’s fingers were not as nimble as the elves', but he found he could pitch and mount the points accurately while the elves split the feathers into vanes and set them. Soon they had found their rhythm, enough that they could talk of other things while at their tasks. As Lórindol and Lindir speculated on the forces and where they would attack first, Boromir looked around, and realized that he knew this place - that he had been here before.
They had camped just over there… the Fellowship… Pavilions had been erected for them – there the Hobbits had slept, and over there… he’d shared a tent with the dwarf and… Aragorn. He gasped as the memories tumble back… the Ring! He’d tried to take the Ring from Frodo! His breath hitched, his chest felt too tight to breathe. His face coloured crimson at the thought of his betrayal. He half started to rise, his body hot then icy, his fingers fumbling and almost upsetting the cauldron of pitch.
“Are you well?” asked Lindir, noticing the man suddenly startle, then freeze and drop the arrow he was holding.
Boromir mumbled something incomprehensible, then arched his back, “I’m stiff – I’ll just go and stretch my legs a moment…”
He scrambled up hastily and stumbled away into the surrounding trees. Lórindol and Lindir glanced at each other, Lórindol shrugged.
“Give him a little while. By the look on his face, he has remembered things that need thinking about in privacy. Thankfully he’s left his knife here….”
“You don’t think he would harm himself?” frowned Lindir.
“Who knows with Secondborn? No, I don’t think so, but something clearly plays badly on his mind. We’ll wait and watch awhile before seeking him out.”
Boromir stumbled through the bushes ‘…what had he done? What had he done?’ When sure he was out of sight, the man sank to the ground at the base of a tree, his head in his hands… ‘What had he done!’ Celebmir was not here now; these were Boromir’s thoughts of shame and despair. ‘…to have dishonoured all he thought was in his nature …to have attacked a weaker one …no matter what he thought the reward!’ His face reddened at the notion in a wave of hot shame and he beat his fists on his knees. And the thought came to him ‘I can’t go back!’ …how could he face Frodo? How could he face Aragorn? …But then, Aragorn knew! Another wave of jumbled thoughts washed over him… ‘Aragorn… he had despised the ranger as a ragged nothing from a displaced line …and then, and then…’ He buried his face in his hands again. ‘They had… he had…he and Aragorn had lain together here… and he had taken comfort and pleasure in it.’
He sighed and groaned aloud ‘…he had thought himself in command of those encounters… and it wasn’t so… not really. The ranger had offered friendship and more, and he had betrayed his trust!’ How could he face him? How could he face Théodred? Oh, for sure – Théo already knew!’ He brought to mind Théo's anguished face when… oh, so long ago it seemed… Aragorn had tended his wounds and Théodred had watched and guessed what had passed between them. Boromir shuddered, shot to his feet, and paced the ground – ‘it’s not that Aragorn meant nothing… No! Think, Boromir, think!’
At first, he had guessed what might be had, and thought nothing of taking it, ‘let him stoop for me’, he’d thought… but then… the terrors of Moria, Aragorn’s distress at Gandalf’s fall, his own growing discomfort with the nearness of that damned ring! All had contrived to throw them together for comfort, a comfort that was sometimes near wordless, because the intimacy of another body said more than words could… There had not been between them what he and Théo shared but… there had been… something … fealty… loyalty… love… call it what you will. And he had betrayed his trust! He had let Aragorn down in the most spectacular way possible when he attacked Frodo! He’d let himself down, he’d let his brother down with that betrayal. His father… his father wouldn’t look on him again, with anything but crushing disdain! What had he done?! He sank to the ground again utterly crushed, and curled up into a tight ball of misery, hugging his knees hard to his chest, head bowed.
He was barely aware of their presence until he felt the warmth as Lindir and Lórindol sat down on either side of him - so sunk in sudden black despair he didn’t even care that they found him thus. The two elves waited in silence, sitting shoulder to shoulder with Boromir, until the man finally lifted his head and wiped his wet face with the back of one hand, pushing his hair aside. None of them spoke, until eventually Boromir heaved a great shuddering sigh. Lindir put an arm around his shoulder, and Lórindol put an arm across Boromir’s back.
“There is very little that can’t be made to ease by being spoken about,” Lórindol said quietly. Boromir nodded slowly, but did not speak.
“And,” said Lindir lightly, “Although we are young compared to many of our brother-elves here… we are still old enough in your terms to have lived many lifetimes. I very much doubt that anything you confess will shock us”
Boromir smiled wanly, but shook his head.
“Speak, friend. How will you know how affronted we are if you don’t tell us this grievous deed?”
“Not one deed only,” said Boromir ruefully, “I behaved without honour, I… I betrayed my friends… I…” He faltered. “They can never forgive me for what I did.”
Lórindol nodded, “I see. Have you considered that, perhaps, it is you that cannot forgive your actions?”
“It isn’t up to me,” blurted Boromir. “I let them down; I wasn’t strong enough, although in my pride… I thought I was!” He threw back his head, banging his skull against the tree. Lindir leaned the man forward a little.
“No need to take it out on the poor tree,” he joked, “and braining yourself isn’t going to atone for anything.”
“If only there was a way to put things right.” Boromir spoke through gritted teeth, trying to contain his distress.
“Boromir…” Lórindol spoke slowly and soothingly, “One thing that we do know is there is very, very little in Middle-earth that cannot be put right by the right will and a generous heart – and you have those. If you have done wrong by your Horselord, believe us, we know he has long ago forgiven you. If you acted badly in battle…” He shrugged, “It is only fools who never fear.”
“It wasn’t fear – it was pride. I betrayed a trust because I thought I knew better, because I thought what belonged to another should be mine. And I was wrong…”
“Knowing that is half the battle, young one,” said Lórindol.
“And if you know you served someone ill by doing the wrong thing that cannot be put right, then you can make at least some recompense by doing the right thing for somebody else in their time of need,” said Lindir. He paused, “…Did that make sense? Well, you know what I mean!”
Boromir smiled, “Yes, I understand you.”
“That’s more than I do!” laughed Lórindol getting up. “Come now, let’s finish this batch of arrows – we shall have need of them sooner rather than later, I fear.”
“And I will do my best to fight worthily in your eyes,” asserted Boromir, stretching as he got to his feet.
Lindir put out a hand to be hauled up. “We have no doubts of that at all.”
As they returned to the clearing they found another elf looking for them with word that the Marchwarden had sent for them to attend him in Lord Celeborn’s hall. They climbed the stairs to the flet, hearing as they did so the distant thud of the drums. No nearer, but now there were many more.
They entered the hall and Celeborn’s attendant with the crippled hand waved them towards a curtained arras to one side. Seated at a small table covered by a map of Lorien was not only Lord Celeborn, but also Lady Galadriel; Haldir stood slightly behind his lord and to one side. Boromir felt his heart jump to his mouth. The last time he had seen her she had spoken to his thoughts and offered… he blushed and bowed his head low before her. At the edges of his mind he felt a tendril of enquiry and amusement that drifted rapidly away to be replaced by the quiet, supportive power that he recognised as Lord Celeborn. Boromir took a deep breath to calm himself… and Celebmir exhaled.
“Take seats, and be at ease,” said Lady Galadriel with a courteous smile. Lindir and Lórindol bowed low, glancing at each other. For all their years in the wardenship, they were rarely in the Lady of Lorien’s presence with so few others… a thought that made them wary.
“We have intelligence to pass on to you, and a task, if you are willing to consider it,” she said. “It is not a task to be considered lightly, at least not by you,” she smiled, gazed directly at the man, and his heart missed another beat.
“We understand that this attack will be different. A commanding will leads this rabble of orcs, one bent on our destruction and through that the utter ruin of Lorien,” Celeborn said calmly. “Our Marchwarden,” Celeborn said formally, “has a plan that requires your assistance.”
He addressed Boromir, looking him directly in the eye, while Haldir clasped his hands behind his back and stared over their heads at the curtain behind them.
“The Black Easterner commands this army, and my Lady perceives his thoughts turned to my destruction as a way of leaving her vulnerable and open to attack. We have a plan to deceive him, by making him unsure of where to launch that attack. We propose that Haldir will masquerade as me. To make that even more effective it would be to our aid if you would also allow me to channel my thoughts through you, so that you spoke with my orders, and I saw with your eyes.”
Celeborn paused to let the request sink in. Boromir swallowed. He was being asked to again lose himself, to give over his will and the sovereignty of his body to the other, and that thought filled him with fear. With a struggle he mastered his thoughts, realising that Celeborn had tactfully withdrawn; the mind he made up would be entirely his own. Boromir set his lips, and then nodded. The glimpse he had had of Celeborn’s thoughts hinted at the vital need to defend his lady, the mix of love and duty, and loyalty… and the buried touch of anguish that he must endanger Haldir. If the bitter choice had to be made, Celeborn must sacrifice his lover before his wife. Boromir stood, then took a step forward and went down on one knee before Lord Celeborn,
“I am forever your liegeman, ready to do whatever you ask of me,” he said, and bowed his head.
Lord Celeborn placed his hands on the man’s shoulders, and leaning forward, placed his lips on Boromir’s forehead in a kiss of grace.
“And I accept your fealty,” he said.
“Good,” said Lady Galadriel, “I know you have much to discuss, my lord and I will speak later, so now I will leave you.”
They all rose to their feet as she stood, and Lindir held aside the curtain to let her pass. After she left, it was almost as if a tension was broken around the table. Celeborn reached for Haldir’s shoulder and clasped it briefly; the Marchwarden inclined his head as an unspoken thought passed between them. Even Lindir moved his hand to brush the back of Lórindol’s hand, a momentary touch of comfort. Only Boromir stood rigidly alone, until Celeborn lightly reached to take his elbow and indicated they should all sit.
“We have plans to make,” he said decisively.
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.