Prince of Horses, Lord of Stone: 40. After the Siege: Returning Memories

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40. After the Siege: Returning Memories

After the Siege: Returning Memories

Lord Celeborn refused to allow the healers to give Haldir the heavy doses of poppy-juice a near-fatal wound like his would normally require. He knew how much his lover loathed, and feared, the feeling of helplessness and loss of control – a leftover from an early experience at the hands of some Wildmen who captured him when he was still young in years. Instead, they used a light draught of numbing herbs that made the senses drift, leaving him painless, but still aware. Celeborn continued to cradle Haldir’s fea with his own until the Marchwarden drifted into sleep. There was much to do; Celeborn was torn between overseeing the disposal of the orc corpses and the proper burial of their own dead, along with seeing to the deposition of urgent supplies and weapons, and supervising new deployments of wardens to reinforce the more distant borders against the skirmishing bands of the enemy still bold enough to attack the Golden Wood.

Most of the tattered remnants of the dark army were heading for the mountains, to make their own fastnesses were they might. The river still refused to let them cross back to Dol Guldor, and those that sullenly tracked south and west were slaughtered by either the remaining éoreds guarding the Mark, or if they made it to the environs of Fangorn, the Ents and their huorns who gave no quarter to their bitter enemies. While the wounded elves were given time to rest, many of the other warriors joined with the elves not directly involved with the battle, and now sought to cleanse their realm of the foulness perpetrated by the enemy. They dragged off the orcs, goblins and warg corpses to be burnt well beyond their trees, broke up the wains and siege-wagons for kindling, and used the remaining stores of slimy oil they found to set the fires blazing.

Where the earth had been rent by the underground waters at Nenya’s command, no greenness or soil was left, only great rocks and huge boulders planted immovably in heavy clay. In the deepest, broadest hollow the geysers had dwindled to become gently bubbling springs that were gradually filling the great basin with fresh water. Around it, spreading along the borders of the wood on either side, the lesser holes conveniently made fresh grave-pits. The honoured dead who had given their lives for the sake of Lórien were interred there; many were laid in each fissure, to be cradled for eternity by their charmed land.

In days to come, the grass would creep back to clothe the bare earth, and the low, uneven mounds would become covered with uilos, the white Star-flower those of Rohan call Simbemynë – Evermind. Above them would grow many, many white-barked Birch trees, slender and graceful, their delicate leaves spin in the wind; with every breeze that touches them they flash like tiny wind-blown silken scarves, or bright eyes shining. The great hollow would became a broad, still pool of clear water that some would come to call Galadriel’s Looking Glass. Though in the years after her departure it would more commonly become known as Silvermere; a place given over to the woodland creatures for no man would ever build a house in that wood. Though many would go there to admire its graceful beauty, and listen to the gentle voices of the wind in the dancing leaves… none could feel comfortable dwelling there.

Gwindor’s lodging among the healers was near to Haldir’s, for he was a renowned warrior himself, and friend to both the Marchwarden and Lord Celeborn; the Lady herself tended his heavily bandaged face. He was kept stupefied by large doses of poppy, especially when the Lady unwound the healing silks, soaked in a poultice of herbs pounded to mulch with the water from her well, and applied fresh ones to the raw flesh of his face. She had them make him a mask, mithril hammered to such fineness as to be almost as supple as the silk she used; his face, though healing, would need protection for months to come. All the time Aerandir stayed by him; helping the Lady with his bandages, tending the lesser burns on his body with salves, washing him, spooning water between his swollen lips, and talking to him softly, or singing very low. He rarely left the injured elf’s side, unless he was forced away by the healers to get food and rest for himself. It was Aerandir's face that Gwindor first saw when they allowed the poppy to release him from its grasp, and though Gwindor could not smile, the clasp of their hands one with the other said much between them.

And Boromir? Boromir slept… and slept. He needed no poppy, his body completely drained of all energy by the experience of containing Celeborn’s fea, and sleep was its best method of renewing itself. He too was watched by Lady Galadriel and the healers, but apart from soothing him with cool cloths if he twisted too restlessly in his dreams, they let him be; let his spirit repair itself and grow within him.

Two days after the siege ended, the lowering, clouded skies in the east were suddenly rent by a huge explosion. A vivid light flashed across the entire sky, though the dreadful boom of the enormous blast did not reach the Wood until many moments later. When it arrived, shuddering through the air, the ground shuddered under their feet; a ripple through the very bedrock of Arda that made everything shiver as it passed. A great clouded column swelled up and up into the skies, then a wind caught it and blew the darkness away. Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel both knew the cause instantly – the Ring, the One Ring, the bane of their long lives was gone – and with its passing… Sauron was no more! And in that moment was both joy and sorrow, for with the destruction of the Great Enemy and the One Ring, the lesser rings also lost their power. Without Nenya, the enchantment of the Golden Wood could not hold. Soon would come a time for many departures.

At that moment Boromir awoke with a huge gasp. He sat bolt upright, breathing hard, his head still filled with night-fears and dreams – it seemed to him that a great malevolent army had been marching towards him from between huge, black gates, when suddenly it had fallen and fled, like stalks of grain before a gale. He’d even imagined he’d felt the heat of a raw, reddened-by-fire wind on his face… And just as quickly, the dream faded, and he found himself in a camp-bed among the healers’ tents. Indeed, one came to see what ailed him, having heard the man suddenly gasping for breath. Boromir’s heart slowed, the pounding drained from his temples, and he recovered himself enough to fend off the healer’s hand, insisting he could hold the proffered goblet for himself. He drank thirstily, accepting a second cup readily.

“We have no facility for bathing here, but I can have a bowl of water and cloths brought for you to wash with,” said the healer, having laid an expert hand on Boromir’s forehead to satisfy himself there was no fever.

“That will be good enough. Where is Lord Celeborn?”

“He makes plans with his captains and wardens, but we are to tell him as soon as you wake. I’ll send a message immediately.”

Boromir nodded. He pushed back the rough blanket and swung his legs to the floor stretching mightily, his muscles sore from the strains of battle and now stiffened from his long sleep. To his own nose his naked body stank of dried sweat and he thought there was still the rank, iron smell of old blood about him. A soak in a hot tub would be a great pleasure… but of course they were too busy tending the injured for such luxuries. Fingernails scratched the cloth of the cubicle to seek admission, and an elf brought in a bucket of water and some flat linen towels. He eyed the man curiously, but did not speak, just put down the water and hurried off on other errands.

As he soaped his body, Boromir found numerous dark purple bruises and several deep raw grazes and minor cuts, but nothing that needed stitching. He’d been helped out of his clothing prior to his long sleep, but nothing had been replaced. He eased on his leggings, muddy and stained though they were. His shirt was stiff with sweat and the padded tunic he’d worn under his mail was cut and sprayed with black orc blood – they both stank… but there was nothing for it…

There was a scratching at the fabric again and the same elf held out a fresh shirt before quickly disappearing. Again, Boromir was grateful that the elves seemed very conscious of the niceties of life! He left the grimy tunic and buckled his sword over his shirt and strode out to find Lord Celeborn for news of what was to happen next.

The man was soon directed to where the Elf-lord gathered his wardens and gave orders. He welcomed Boromir with a smile and a clasp of the shoulder.

“You came precisely at a good time – you felt the ground rock?”

Boromir nodded.

“The Dark Lord is no more - but there is still evil to be undone…”

The rest of his words were lost to Boromir as he suddenly saw in his mind’s eye a face, almost child-like with bright, solemn eyes and curly hair – and he saw the fear in those eyes and knew himself the cause of it. His breath hitched – but then he felt a warm hand squeeze his arm reassuringly… ‘Frodo has succeeded!’ The projected thought drifted through his mind, a warm zephyr in the bleakness of his shame. ‘Courage, my Adan. You have more than redeemed yourself.’

The thought retreated and Boromir jolted back to his surroundings – standing beside Lord Celeborn among the elven captains… as they planned their route to Dol Guldor – too long had Lórien, and the lands at its borders, suffered raids from the orc broods that held that baleful place. The Necromancer and his minions were dead and gone – now they would throw down the tower and cleanse the woods of the abominations there, once and for all!

They would set out in three days time: first, they must gather weapons and send to the garths for extra warriors to replace those too badly wounded to march forth; then they must collect all the boats they could muster to ferry their army and supplies across the Anduin. The few days respite would allow the surviving elves to draw strength, grieve for their dead brethren, and prepare themselves for vengeance. Boromir could feel the mood of the forest around him, a fierce joy at the victory as well as an angry undercurrent in anticipation of avenging past wounds. It made even the air almost crackle of its own accord.

Lord Celeborn and Lady Galdriel and her entourage were to travel back to Caras Galadhon - there were preparations to be made, and Lord Celeborn could coordinate his plans better when he had access to his network of messengers able to run and ride the secret paths of the Wood. The Lord and Lady would ride ahead; the wounded that could be moved would follow in carts; those that couldn’t, would have better facilities brought to them by the healers. Guards ringed the assembled tents containing the wounded, but they had little fear of further attack.

Haldir tried to insist that he could ride, but Celeborn sided with the healers’ protests and forbade him, on pain of having Haldir tied up by force if he did not submit to riding in the back of a wain. The Marchwarden sulked like a child, and it was all his lord could do not to laugh out loud at his petulant frown. Celeborn kissed his cheek lightly and strode off to mount his waiting horse. Blankets and stuffed woollen pallets were laid in the back of the wagons to ease the patients from the jolting of the carts. Gwindor and the ever attendant Aerandir joined Haldir as he was helped into a covered wain. Boromir was sought out by Lórindol and Lindir, and the three rode with the leading group of elves that accompanied Lórien’s lord and lady.

After a couple of jarring miles along the road, Haldir was ruefully pleased they had made him go by cart rather than on horse. His back felt like it was on fire and every lurch pulled at the newly healed skin and muscles along his spine. The healer riding with them would not be refused when he held out a draught of the numbing medication for Haldir, watching sternly as the Marchwarden swallow reluctantly. Then Aerandir quietly but firmly made him lie down on a pallet, half on his side, half on his face, so Haldir could use the scarred elf’s thigh as a pillow and roll with the motion of the wagon rather than try to brace painfully against the jerking movements.

Gwindor was propped against Aerandir’s other side, still heavily sedated with poppy-juice. His head lolled against the sheepskin blanket Aerandir had draped over his shoulder, the elf’s arm protectively around the other barely conscious elf. He spoke quietly, telling the two injured elves softly murmured tales of the sea and the windswept waves and the voyages he had made long ago – for Aerandir had stilled his sea-longing and returned to Middle-earth. He was content to voyage the curve of Arda in exploration rather than take the Straight Road… as yet anyway. Although Gwindor was only aware of him as tumbling visions created in the depths of his poppy-sleep, Haldir was lulled by the deep-pitched husky voice, and, with the rolling motion, almost imagined himself on the deck of a pitching ship, before he sank into deep reverie.

The elves on horse-back covered the ten miles to Caras Galadhon quickly; they cantered rather than galloped, but Boromir was still stiff-legged after they’d dismounted. Word was sent ahead of their coming and by the time they had mounted the great stairway to the Hall, simple food was laid out that could be taken up by hand. Warming drinks were ready and waiting; something Boromir much appreciated, the hot tea tasted good and was very welcome!

Celeborn began making plans and proposals straight away. Messengers arrived to deliver news and were sent back with responses and requests, orders given and taken. Haldir arrived leaning heavily on the arm of the elf with the scarred throat. The Marchwarden’s face was even paler than normal, Boromir noted, and though he insisted he could manage, Haldir did readily accept the chair that was brought for him, and having seen his charge seated, the elf, bowed and disappeared, back to turn his attentions to Gwindor. After a few hours Boromir found he couldn’t contain his yawns, or stop his eyelids drooping. Celeborn smiled understandingly and spoke quietly to him.

“We are nearly finished here – why don’t you go to your chamber, take a hot bath, and rest. Haldir and I will be finished ourselves shortly. We will bathe after you.”

Boromir nodded, and took his leave with a slight bow. He was stiff and aching, he found, as he mounted the upper stairs; the prospect of a soak looked better and better with each step. He found himself smiling in anticipation.

As ever, Celeborn’s efficient chamberlain had anticipated everything. In the bathing room, hot water filled the tub, covered with a folding wooden lid to conserve the heat. More water stood in reserve in a covered cauldron over a small brazier, with buckets of cold water to temper it when the tub was re-filled. The room was warm and fragrant with the familiar smell of white-flower soap, hot wood and scented charcoal; a large jug of red wine and three goblets were set on a tray, along with a covered bowl that Boromir discovered held warm bread rolls baked with honey. Their odour was delicious; he took one and wolfed it down while he stripped out of his clothes and boots in his own room.

Leaving the soiled stuff in a pile, he padded back, naked, pausing only to pour himself a goblet of wine before climbing gratefully into the tub of warm and welcoming water. He sank back with a deep sigh of contentment to immerse himself shoulder deep before he roused enough to sip the heady wine with pleasure. He drowsed, and only woke when the empty goblet loosely held in one hand while resting partly submerged on his chest, fell and hit him on the nose.

He pushed himself up and wiped his face sleepily. He should get out – surely the others would be here soon, and besides, the water was cooling now. He stood and stretched mightily and found his muscles eased by the warmth, as his mind was eased by the wine. He stepped out of the bath and found a bath sheet to drape around him. He poured himself another cup of wine and fumbled with the spigot to let the water flow away, gurgling loudly down the waste pipe. A very short while later came a light tap at the door from his side of the bathing room, and the chamberlain appeared.

“If you are finished… I’ll prepare the room for my lord.”

“Thank you,” said Boromir. He paused for a moment “…Um …how did you know?”

The elf gave a crooked smile of amusement and pride.

“A good attendant knows what a lord wants before he wants it - and my quarters are just below – I heard the water.”

“Ah…” Boromir nodded, as the sudden memory came to him un-looked for, “My father’s chamberlain was similarly astute… when we were younger we thought he must read my father’s mind.”

The elf gave a slight grunt of amusement, “Well, that helps too. Now – if I may prepare for my Lord Celeborn…?”

Boromir shuffled away wrapped in his towel, dismissed. In his room he found a night-robe, fresh clothes, and a tray with more of the honey-bread, freshly warmed, and a small jug of wine and a fresh cup. He chuckled to himself, ‘…yes, an excellent servant!’

He had thought he might read some more of the ballads in the book Tasarion had left, but decided to get into bed rather than sit at the small table. He took the wine and topped up his cup, then took the lamp from the table to his bedside and settled down. Shortly he heard murmuring voices from the bathing room, signalling Celeborn and Haldir had arrived, along with the chamberlain’s soft voice, he noted idly. The occasional gasp and hissed breath led Boromir to imagine that Haldir did need help to undress and bathe… even though some snapped words from the Marchwarden showed that help was not always appreciated.

“I can do it! …Ooh!” Haldir’s muffled voice broke off with a strangled groan.

“Really? Stiff-necked as the King of Taur e-Ndaedlos!” came the reply.

…After which came a long string of colourful elven profanities of the sort that Lindir had delighted in teaching the man. Boromir chuckled softly at the mental image of the lordly Celeborn venting his annoyance as plainly as any barrack-room cove. Haldir’s equally heated response was abruptly curtailed by a loud splash and a squawk… followed by a pause, and then laughter. After that there was nothing above whispers and the gentle rippling splashes of a wash-cloth dipped and raised to trickle water.

Calmness and warmth rolled through him; the wine made him drowsy and Boromir slept. His sleep at first was dreamless… then slowly filled with lingering fear and un-named dread. It seemed he rode hard through the night… he recognised Gwindor - and Gelmir - riding with him, and some others at his back, but it was what he rode towards – agonising pain and hopeless distress, that made him shake with emotion. Fear, loathing, abject despair, a distraught sense of utter failure… and such pain! His back burned; his whole body was wracked with agony… inside and out.

Abruptly, a stark image entered Boromir’s dream – flickering firelight, a young elf, his silver hair tumbled forward hiding his face. Stripped completely naked, spread-eagled and tightly bound with strong ropes that forced his body to bend forward over a large boulder… His pale body torn and cut, striped with great crimson, bleeding wheals, ravaged raw by a whip; the remains of a broken arrow shaft still protruded from his shoulder - his thighs and buttocks were caked and bloody from… Bile rose in Boromir’s throat – there was a gang of the leering ruffians clustered around him in the glimmering red light, maybe twenty… they must have taken turns…

Muffled shouts woke Boromir, coming from the chamber on the far side of the bathing room. He staggered out of bed, that single stark image still in his head. He flung open the door and strode across the intervening room; from beyond he could hear the heavy, ragged breathing that spoke of sobs trying to be desperately subdued. His distress made him forget protocol and he rushed through the door.

Haldir, eyes wide and unseeing with only the white’s showing, was half-crouched, backed against the bed’s draped curtain, a long, thin knife in his hand; slack-jawed, chest heaving in shallow gasps – his spirit was not here, but re-living an ancient nightmare. Celeborn knelt on the bed, slowly edging towards him to wrest the knife from his grasp. He saw Boromir at one door and the chamberlain at the other and waved them both to keep back.

“Haldir, meleth, they are gone. Long gone… they cannot hurt you now…”

“I… heard… his… voice…” Haldir rasped between shuddering breaths.

“No. It was the pain of your wound brought it back. They are gone. Put down the blade…”

“No! No – I felt… it… I…”

The chamberlain had walked slowly forward and was now behind Haldir - who suddenly spun around and lunged at him with the naked blade. The chamberlain side-stepped nimbly and grabbed his wrist, twisting the knife away. Celeborn sprang forward and clasped Haldir tightly, holding the distraught elf’s arms close against his body. Haldir struggled mightily.

“Haldir – Haldir! They are gone! Gone!”

Haldir gasped, shuddered, went rigid for a moment… before letting his head fall slowly onto Celeborn’s shoulder.

“I thought… he was at my back…” he whispered into the fabric of Celeborn’s night-robe.

Celeborn slowly released his grip enough to raise one hand to stroke his lover’s hair.

“No more, no more… never more…” he crooned, and waved the other two away.

The chamberlain took Boromir’s elbow firmly and steered him back through to his room. He pushed the man to sit down on the bed, re-lit the lamp and then emptied the remaining wine into the two goblets and thrust one into the man’s hands.

“Drink.” It was an order not a request.

Boromir sipped a mouthful of wine as the chamberlain took a gulp that drained half his cup. He flopped down in the chair, leant his elbow on the table, propping his head on his hand, he ran his stiffened fingers through his hair. Boromir remained silent, watching and waiting.

The chamberlain drew breath, slowly raising his head.

“You will not speak of this…”

“Of course not!” blurted Boromir, angry at being thought a tittle-tattle.

The chamberlain dipped his head in acknowledgment, but said nothing. He listened for a moment, held his hand up for silence and tip-toed back into the bathing room, returning shortly with the remains of the large jug of wine that had been left there.

“He has settled again,” was all he said. He topped up Boromir’s barely touched goblet and re-filled his own before sitting down again.

“You… saw… something?”

Boromir nodded uncertainly.

The chamberlain took a sip of wine to delay having to speak while he made up his mind. He sat back.

“Before Haldir found his connexion to Lord Celeborn…” he began. He paused to take another sip before plunging on, obviously trying to choose his words carefully.

“Haldir was young, barely come of age; he’d recently joined the wardens when he was sent on a routine patrol to the border near the mountains. He was alone – the last time any warden was sent out singly - when he was attacked by Wildmen. His relief’s horse had broken a leg and he had to kill the animal and turn back – Haldir was left alone to fight off… I don’t know, probably forty or more of the beasts. He killed half before he ran out of arrows and they caught him… and… took their revenge!”

The elf’s face twisted with remembered rage and his fist gripped the cup so hard Boromir thought he might crush it. The chamberlain took another swallow of his wine and continued.

“In his despair and desperation, Haldir’s fea called out and Lord Celeborn heard him. You may not know, but among us it is considered that only true lovers’ feas can meet and allow them to far-speak each other – I have heard the phrase in Westron soul-mate – so those two are. Because of that cry of the heart, Lord Celeborn was able to gather some wardens to him and ride to his rescue – even then, those filthy… had him from sunset to sunset and beyond. What they did…” The elf shuddered, shook his head and spat out a foul epithet.

“Most elves would have given up and faded, but the strength of Lord Celeborn’s newly discovered love for him held Haldir – that was many of your lifetimes ago and still they are together, but… sometimes evil memories take him. Very seldom now, but… there are times… He drifts back into that darkness.”

“He has been sorely hurt… in the battle… I can understand…” murmured Boromir.

“Yes,” said the chamberlain, “You saw it, didn’t you? What we saw?”

“You were there?” said Boromir, more sharply than he meant to.

The elf nodded, “I, Gwindor, Gelmir …and perhaps another half dozen others still breathing in Arda. We saw and we swore a solemn oath never to tell anyone what we saw. The shame of it, to be… so… used! Many an elf has faded for less. This is why you too must swear never to speak of this to any living thing.

Boromir put his hand on his heart.

“I so swear.” He said simply.

“Good enough,” said the elf.

There were a few moments silence, before Boromir’s curiosity got the better of him as the chamberlain stood up to leave.

“What happened to them… the Wildmen?”

“We killed them all of course. Brought them down with arrows - those that didn’t die outright were hacked apart, along with the corpses. Then we threw the pieces down off the cliffs to be devoured by the wild things.”

With that, he strode out and left Boromir to lie back on the bed in uneasy contemplation. He concentrated hard and tried to find a thought from Lord Celeborn, but found nothing. He felt very alone as he drifted into sleep.

Note: the story referenced here as being part of Celeborn and Haldir’s history is: ‘Heart and Body‘ by Implacida.

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.

Story Information

Author: Elen Kortirion

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 09/02/09

Original Post: 04/03/08

Go to Prince of Horses, Lord of Stone overview


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