42. Dol Guldur Falls
“Come. The fetid waste offends me also, but we can deal with this on our return.”
Lady Galadriel, bit her lip, but acknowledged her husband’s wisdom; as much as she hated the piles of dung and fly-blown bones… they were as nothing as to what she knew they would find ahead of them.
Celeborn led them further south, so that the reek of the orcs passing was upwind of them. Here the white wind-flowers had not been trampled by iron-shod feet. The new grass was still sweet and green here, studded with the tiny wild flowers that sheltered beneath the tussocks: little gems of sky-blue bells, patches of tiny bright crimson stars on creeping stems and here and there, longer plumes of pale yellow buds, upright but bending and tossing in the freshening wind. They made good time that day, in spite of being slowed by the pace of the heavy wains. The mounted elves were fitful at the slowed progress; Celeborn allowed them to range widely to canter their frustration away – though sometimes their squadron heads had to rein them back and remind the younger elves to keep their destination in mind.
That night they made camp on and around a small hillock, crowned with a stately ring of huge, ancient pine trees, their trunks soaring up bare for three times the height of a man before they branched. Two springs started from the rocks below them and ran to fill a large pool that more than half-moated the hill. When the elves first arrived it was evident that many orcs had stopped there for water; the ground was churned to mud that stank of strong urine and faeces. Around and about, bushes were broken and torn up by their roots, but no assault had been made on the hill itself or its green crown.
The Lady’s face was thunderous in her rage, and Boromir caught a wisp of bubbling amusement from Lord Celeborn’s mind – evidently his lady was venting her ire in a long string of epithets that would have done credit to any foot-soldier, be they from the Golden Wood or the stews of Minas Tirith! Sensing him there, the elf-lord mischievously allowed Boromir to hear a little of exactly what Galadriel thought of their dams, sires, grandsires, and what she would do with them if she ever got her hands on the desecraters! Boromir was stunned, but impressed… which made Celeborn laugh out loud, before his lady glared at him for his indiscretion and Celeborn hastily dampened his link to the man. Boromir was left with his mind ringing; he looked around him at the rest of the guard and a few sly smiles told him Galadriel had not been very discreet in her fury.
The guard were told to spread the wood for the elves to move to the level ground on the far side of the hill, well away from the fouled pool. Lady Galadriel and her lord mounted the hill. Hand in hand they slowly circled the outside of the ring of trees, sometimes half hidden by low greenery that grew like a hedge outside the foot of the pines. Having completed the circle they paused, as if seeking permission to enter. Bowing low, the two elves crossed the invisible boundary between the trees. The elf-queen walked to stand at their centre and raised her arms above her head, her husband standing behind her; one hand on her left shoulder, his other arm outstretched, palm down to the earth.
“Why were those trees left unharmed?” Boromir whispered to Lindir.
“There’s an older magic here, still powerful” the elf murmured. “There are places like this in Fangorn, places where even we do not – can not - venture in without permission, and certainly orcs cannot. That’s why they take pleasure in leaving their dung at its feet – an insult is all they are capable of against… this.”
He spread his arm, palm out an invitation for Boromir to watch… around the ancient trees the air wavered, as if in a summer heat-haze. As he watched, the haze spread and broadened, but the air within became clearer, sharper, it seemed to Boromir that he might count the needles of the trees if he tried, or the embroidered stitches on the Lady’s tunic. The dome of power spread out to encompass the whole hill; it licked out over the surface of the pool and the surrounding mud. There, the light became confused; it veered and swirled, sparking flashes of green fire. Boromir could feel the air charged, it crackled over the metal of his armour. The horses shied and whinnied as their bits and bridles pricked them. He looked across and saw that the soft hair loosened from Lórindol’s temple floated in the air around his head, then realised that likewise his own hair buzzed and drifted. Gwindor bowed low and fumbled his mithril mask free. Aerandir held out a silk scarf to him that rather than hanging loose, rippled together in clinging folds. Aerandir’s hair floated around his head as if on the surface of the sea, dipping and swirling in watery slow-motion; he shook the scarf free and helped Gwindor shield his face.
Above the soft crackling a low rumble started below the ground, the deep vibrations made the horse shift from foot to foot. The elves standing felt it immediately, a shiver that ran up through their bones and built a knot in their bellies. Suddenly, the springs released a huge flood of water, pouring forth in torrents, as a great sigh of release was exhaled by the waiting elves as the tension vanished from their limbs. The air rushed away in sudden gust of wind that almost made them stagger and the stillness that came after was quiet and bright, everything glistened as if new made.
The roaring water washed out the pool in a mighty flood, scouring away with it the fouled mud and excrement. Boromir was never sure how long it took, a few moments, a few hours… time did not so much stand still… as cease to exist. Then it was done. The man blinked hard to clear his vision; the wavering, pure light had vanished and Lord Celeborn led his lady down the bank of the hill by the hand.
They set up camp round and about the hill, able now to throw broken branches on the still soft, cleansed mud so that the horses could approach the water and drink. The cooks set their hearths, food and hot drinks were welcomed and word was passed that the guards could be a minimum as they whole camp was now within the girdle of power of this… other place. Boromir settled at a campfire shared with Gwindor and Aerandir as well as Lindir and Lórindol. This night there was no lustful play, rather they took their turn to walk the perimeter, returning to listen to Aerandir’s soft lilting songs of the sea. Lindir came back from guard and slumped down behind Boromir, only half waking him from his drowsing sleep.
“Hush, my adan, listen to the sea-songs and sleep well,” he whispered, before kissing the man lightly on the temple and curling behind him. Boromir welcomed the warmth, and lying spooned against the elf, drifted into restful sleep.
The day’s march was punctuated with small forays as wandering bands of orcs were spotted, but most of those let fly a few arrows and fled. Celeborn would not allow them to be pursued; he would not be distracted from his goal. They camped again, this time uneventfully and marched the following day until dusk.
“Tomorrow we shall reach Dol Guldur, this night we must double the guard, but we will rest before we enter that accursed forest - for there’ll be no time for respite once within its environs.” Celeborn addressed his elves. They were more sombre now and very little beyond a brief melancholy song was heard through the elven camp that night.
That fourth morning they could see the dark line of the forest ahead of them, a grimy smudge against the clearing skies of the East. Under Celeborn’s leadership, the mounted elves at the fore pressed onwards, followed closely by the unwounded warriors that fronted the column of marching elves. Soon they had all but split into two groups, with Galadriel and her escort of archers now leading the second group of elves who were slowed by wounds, with the more ponderous wains of the supplies and the healers following behind them. The double-mounted outriders flanked the column, riding forth and returning after investigating any untoward movements they saw from the vantage point of being on horseback.
Boromir rode a little behind Gwindor and Aerandir, the latter keeping a careful eye on the stoic Gwindor. Since having been attended again by the Lady’s healing the previous night, Gwindor rode straight-backed and true. His face was invisible behind his mithril mask, but Aerandir seemed satisfied that he did not suffer unduly, although occasionally he urged the injured elf to drink from the small flask he had at his belt. Poppy, Boromir decided, it must be, mixed withmirovur, from the slight heady waft his nose caught when the flask was unstoppered.
The thick, coarse grass of the plain became longer and ranker, dotted by stunted bushes that rapidly became larger and interlaced with tangled patches of brambles the deeper into them they ventured. The elves were forced to move to march two-a-breast as they wound a path through them. Twisted saplings of dark trees marked the edge of the forest proper. Aerandir turned back to speak to Boromir.
“Remember – eat nothing, drink nothing. This place is tainted with poisons and sorcery.”
Boromir nodded, but within a few yards of entering he began to feel his throat dry. His fingers strayed to the lacing of the water bottle at his saddle's pommel, but he controlled the urge. He must ration himself; Eru knew how long they would need to make the water they’d brought with them last.
All about them the predations of Dol Guldur’s master became evident – fine old trees hacked down, the ancient timber left to rot and become nothing more than a host for pale slimy toadstools, or buttressed fungi noisome with buzzing flies. In their place grew entanglements of whippy saplings hung with clinging vines, whose fruit glimmered luminously, sour-green and unwholesome. Those trees that had grown up were twisted and malformed, blasted by blights and diseases that scarred their trunks and twisted the leaves into homes for bloated larvae. Some of these seemed to drop themselves deliberately on the marching elves, to slip down necks of tunics or under armour to squelch miserably into sickly slime. Lord Celeborn called a brief halt so that all might don scarves or tighten lacings on their mail – the worst was when they trailed, unnoticed at first, through the hair leaving noisome viscous tracks until a fellow brushed it away. Lady Galadriel paused to quickly plait her long locks and tuck them fastidiously under a hood, the glutinous grubs a nuisance rather than a deterrent.
The paths narrowed, and the scouts ahead were forced to probe here and there to find a way through the tangled dankness of the undergrowth. The ground rose in a series of gathering bluffs. Below each ran a rusty stream, reddened and cloudy with silting sand and iron. Where debris had blocked it, the water spread into boggy meres full of sharp-edged sedges that plucked at booted legs, or sucked feet into an oozing filth of rotting vegetation. Hindrances only served to feed the elves' anger and made them more determined to push onwards. Sometimes the horses had to be walked through treacherous ground, or taken around it when the quaking bogs deepened. Tiny eyes blinked in the heavy shadows, and sharp-nailed feet skittered unseen over dead leaves and broken branches. A thick miasma rose from the stirred leaf-mould, redolent with resentment, but the elves strode on undeterred.
Having threaded their way through the interlaced hillocks and streams, the trees changed abruptly around them, becoming ranks of brooding conifers, their branches knit overhead so closely that sunlight was dimmed to dank gloom and shadows. Shadows moving in inexplicable ways, confirming that unseen, dark things slipped among them. Beneath the trees, the undergrowth failed to thrive, and grew as brittle twigs starved of light, or tall, thin plants, sparsely leaved, that stretched high until their own fragile weight brought them down to sprawl over the dried ground. The cleared earth should have made walking easier, but any heavy rain had had nothing to anchor it and the forest floor was covered with deep, ankle-twisting runnels, exposing rocks and tangled mats of twisted roots. Amongst those, the loose earth had been burrowed into by Eru knows what clawed or stinging creatures of varying sizes, whose runs and spoor littered the ground around the holes.
At first the company took little notice of the pale vines that hung limply like skeins of leprous skin across the dark branches. Then they realised, these ‘vines’ were draped together in patterns, becoming thicker as they formed treacherous nets between the trees. One of the horses reared in alarm; from behind a spreading net charged a huge spider, black, coarse-haired, gruesome in its ugliness. Five arrows pierced its body before it had covered half the distance to the rearing horse, its riders clinging to its back; one elf bent over its neck, whispering to calm the frightened animal, the other nocking a second arrow to his bow.
Suddenly there were dozens of the hideous beasts, skittering forward to try and sting and bite, rearing up to spit streams of fetid, sticky silk in their attempts to bring down the elves. Any elves touched by the noxious thread cried out in horror and disgust, but fought to be free of it. Some had to have it cut from them by their neighbours, while they were defended from further attack by the bows and blades of their comrades. Boromir, sword in one hand, knife in the other, carved a thick strand of foul thread from the back of Aerandir’s cuirass, before whirling to hack at a long-legged beast attacking from his other side. He saw Lindir’s horse dancing and kicking over smaller, many-legged backs as Lórindol fired arrows into more of the unnervingly fast-moving monstrosities, while Lindir leant to sweep the ground around their horse’s legs with broad slashes of his blade.
Baleful, many-facetted eyes glittered menacingly, reflecting the hot anger glowing brightly in many an elf’s face. The loathsome spiders spewed forth from the forest’s shadows in ever increasing numbers, pressing hard to break the ranks of the elves, now gathered in defensive groups to fight against the foul pestilence. An elf screamed - stung by poison that laced his arm with fire under the skin. Instantly he was defended, while another caught his body as it fell. Slashing, cutting, thrusting into noxious flesh, the elves fought valiantly against the disgusting hoards that sought to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Boromir’s arms dulled under the violence of swinging and thrusting; sometimes jarred to the bone when sword met chitinous skeleton, hard and unyielding.
Then a light grew amongst them, piercing the gloom, illuminating the dark trees, growing in brilliance until it blinded the great eyes of the dark creatures. The lesser of them took fright and fled where they could. The larger cringed, and in that moment of indecision, the elves attacked ferociously and slaughtered all that remained, hacking at limb and eye until the ground could soak up no more blood and bile, but became slippery underfoot.
Galadriel’s light, coruscating, blinding, gradually dimmed; she stood, trembling with rage, terrible in her anger, her face still bright, eyes flashing. Around her, her escort fired unceasingly, though no beast had been brave enough to edge close enough to attack her by sting or claw. Breathing hard, Boromir let his sword hang at his side, the blade smeared with loathsome ichor. Gwindor and Aerandir, still mounted, were back-to-back behind him, equally smeared with gore, their horses trembling and snorting, stamping with their own rage at their now-dead assailants. Aerandir’s lips bore a feral grimace, half of triumph, half of blazing anger, while Gwindor’s mask glowed blindingly white with the wrath of its wearer, shining out… a beacon of fell appetite for death and destruction. The elf’s hands clutching sword and bloody knife also glowed, Boromir noted, though the light there faded under his flesh before his concealed face gradually dimmed.
“Forward!” commanded Lord Celeborn, plunging onwards through the forest.
His guard reined around and followed him. The elves behind reformed themselves, some helping the wounded up to sit among the wagons and be tended to as the army moved onwards, deeper into the baleful forest.
They crested another rise and there it was – the Hill of Sorcery topped by a bleak stone tower. And at its feet scurried the remains of the dark army. Leaderless now that the Nazgul had been destroyed, the captains rallied what they could of orc, goblin and foul denizen of the wood. At first, Boromir thought the tower surrounded by a ragged spiked fence of bleached white wood, but as the gasps of horror and outrage became harsh screams of wrath and revenge, he realised his error. The bile rose in his throat and forced him to lean from his horse to vomit – the huge encircling fence was made of old, slender bones… elves’ bones!
And not just propped up, the skulls’ jaws agape in soundless eternal agony, but tied spread-eagled, the bony limbs stretched across black spears plunged into the ground - and each fleshless frame bore terrible, horrifying wings. Wings made from their own ribs, cruelly hacked away from the spine and twisted out and up… Blood-eagles!
They had made all of them into Blood-eagles!
The elves wept, some screamed and ranted, but like lightening fire raging through summer brush, incandescent fury flamed up and consumed them all. They charged, howling for vengeance, a great and terrible flood of shining tormented rage. Gwindor tore off his mask, eyes blazing, his face fearsomely contorted with the ridges and furrows of his burned flesh – he was become monstrous in his fierce hatred of those who had done this thing.
“Gelmir!” he howled. “Gelmir! Gelmir!!” And he was gone.
Charging at full gallop, a blistering light of fell accord – his death or theirs, it made no difference to him now. Aerandir galloped hard at his heels, his face near as grim a mask as Gwindor’s had been, save it was flesh that had set hard and smooth as mithril; flesh fired by rage and love and revenge and fear of loss… He charged to meet his fate - and let Mandos choose who he would have for his newest guests!
Boromir heaved his stomach dry; he wiped his mouth on his gauntlet, gathering himself to follow, when his reins were snatched by twin gleaming wraiths on the same horse.
“Not you, adan! This is our fight!” snarled Lindir.
“Nooo! I fight!!” shouted Boromir.
The horse reared impatiently, dancing to be off.
“Do not cross us! Our feas howl for blood - there will be no quarter for anything not of our kind!” screamed Lórindol.
“Then let me be of you and yours!” Boromir screamed back, his voice harsh and cracked with wrath, but they had gone, racing away towards blood and destruction.
Boromir leant back his head and shrieked his rage. His mind battered at the thoughts of Lord Celeborn - ‘Take Me! Take me with you!’ …and all at once a tiny peel of the elf-lord’s fury entered Boromir’s mind.
‘You will it?’ snarled the thought.
“Yes!” shouted Boromir aloud.
The red-hot rush of unchecked ire ran through him in a malevolent stream directed at the perpetrators of this unimagined villainy. He was a fell spectre of wroth, of ruin … and he was coming to kill, maim… destroy! Boromir sank away – it was Celebmir, shining with rage and absolute hatred for what was not of his kind that spurred towards Dol Guldur. The screamed battle-cries of Lord Celeborn found a harsh second tongue within him; he matched them shriek for impassioned shriek as he galloped toward his sworn foes.
Behind the hideous fence, the remaining orcs and goblins defending the tower quailed and tried desperately to flee, though many shrieked their defiance, knowing death was come upon them and there would be no escape.
The shining elves slaughtered every living thing that stood before them - and everything that ran in a futile attempt to escape their flashing, murderous blades. Hatred and death was all the Elves of Lorien knew; frenzy and revenge consumed them utterly, no soft spirits remained… only blisteringly hard phantoms of unbridled fury.
It did not take long. Nothing was left breathing that was not elven; nothing moved that had not their permission to live. And into that silence crept pain and sorrow. Grieving, some reached out with faltering hands to touch the terrible whitened bones, weeping copiously, their tears washing the spattered black blood from their faces. But the fence sighed – its spectres lived, trapped by the sorcery of the bleak tower. The elves wept, cursing and railing that even their dead were not allowed to rest with Mandos, but forced to remain houseless… disembodied wraiths.
Then Galadriel rode forth. She dismounted before she approached the pale agony, another sun in the gloom of the forest. Hands out-stretched, eyes closed, she whispered words of power and strength, chanted release and relinquishment, slowly prising open the locks and spells that bound the tortured feas of the fallen elvish warriors to this hateful place. The elves of Lorien watched in silence broken only by their soft weeping as they clung to one another - and like pale mist above early morning waters, the Dead assembled. Torn and tattered, the broken forms mended, reformed, ghostly flesh repaired itself over shattered bones that straightened and came together, renewed. Ghastly grinning skulls closed jaws with new-formed lips, and eyes replaced the dreadful empty black sockets. Long tresses, golden, black, brown, blew as delicate shining banners in an unfelt wind.
The ancient elves took form again, translucent as clear water they gathered before the Lady. She opened her eyes, bade them welcome, and bid them go gladly, now that their long agonies were over. One by one, then in twos and threes they made obeisance, the sign of grace, and facing to the West they raised their ghostly arms in supplication. Out of the West a fair wind came, fresh with rain, and scented with sea-spray and fresh green-leaves; it rushed around the stricken tower. The great walls quivered at its touch, quaked and shook before its cleansing power, but this wind was not there for stones – it was there to bring the Fallen home. The ghostly elves welcomed it and let it take, thaw and dissolve them into its billows to return them westward to their longed for release. As each faded into light and air, his bleached white bones crumbled to dust so fine that instantly it rose into the gathering winds – and all fled westward over sea, down the long Straight Road that lead beyond the curve of Arda.
The silence that remained was broken only by Galadriel’s great sigh. She dropped her arms to her side, and then turned to her lord. Silver-eyed, she far-spoke him, her words in his mind as clear as day.
“Husband - it must come down.”
“Wife – we too will help”
Then aloud, Lord Celeborn called out to the assembled elves.
“This foulness must fall. Dol Guldur shall be no more. Lend my Lady your will and she shall see it done.”
Then every elf there knelt on one knee and offered himself, his spirit, to her, and Celebmir knelt with them - for elf or adan, he too felt himself enough one of them to desire to be a part of this deed.
Lord Celeborn took his place at his lady’s shoulder. He beckoned to them to come forward, and at her other shoulder stood Gwindor, his face re-masked, and Aerandir stood with him; the rest of the guards of the elf-lord and the Lady stood close around them. Celeborn far-spoke to Celebmir, and Boromir heard:
“Come. Stand with me”
The man rose and stood with him, and Lindir and Lórindol came at their lord’s wish to stand with and support the man.
Then it began.
Lady Galadriel, the most powerful elf left on this side of the Sundering Sea, began to summon her strength – the strength of Nenya, the strength of Lorien, the strength of the willing elves who gave of their essence so that she might cast down the dreadful place… She drew it up like a wind draws the water from the sea, from the greenwoods’ leaves, like the sun draws all living things toward it. In this empowerment she became great, and terrible, a mighty queen over all.
Those kneeling nearest closed their eyes, or turned their heads. Lord Celeborn and her guards swayed as if buffeted by a great storm that would make them stagger and bow before it, but they reached arm to shoulder and held their places. Lightening crackled up from ground to sky, great storm-clouds gathered overhead, and rolled in thickening darkness sheered through by flashing, jagged bolts. The Lady of the Golden Wood raised her arms. She called out in a voice terrible, beyond the power of the living to comprehend; she called upon the spiralling, gathering powers of earth and sky, of wind and water, to do her bidding.
The tower shook. The tower trembled. The mortar loosed between each stone, turned to dust and fell away. The stones were ripped apart, each one from its neighbour, and as her great voice chanted her commands, the tower broke, riven into thousands of pieces. It shivered violently and the topmost stones keeled outwards and fell away to tumble with huge rending and tearing, before they thudded to the ground, each impact sending the earth shuddering like a great drum, struck and vibrating. Faster and faster, more and more fell away, until the stones tumbled down in a huge waterfall of dust and smashed rocks and broken mortar.
The kneeling elves shielded their heads with their arms and pressed their mouths closed against the billowing storm of grit and dust. They shielded their eyes against the brilliant flashes of the lightening stalking the ruined ground, before it chased up to the gathered storm clouds and back to the earth. The Lady was relentless. No stone was left whole, no step or stairway, but it cracked and fell, no arch, or chamber, sill or buttress, but it was all utterly consumed by the elves’ revenge. The tumultuous roar of rending and tearing, splitting and splintering finally dwindled to dull crashes and thuds. The elves protected their faces until they felt the air subside, and the noise was reduced to sliding rubble coming to a slow rest. Then - there was stillness.
They opened their eyes. Clouds of dust still hung in the air, choking and cloying, but Dol Guldur stood no more. The Lady motioned them all to withdraw and she took herself to stand a short distance away on a rocky outcrop. Fire arced about her head and sparked sharply to the ground and then up to the clearing skies. She held out her hands palm downwards and the huge pile of smashed stone and debris shook and fell against each other. Chinks appeared at the base of the pile and masonry fell, sinking down and down.
Galadriel was opening the pits beneath Dol Guldur. As each level collapsed, more of the hated stones fell in on themselves, crushing to dust those below so that more and more could compact down. The ground shook. It shivered faster and faster and the bodies of orc and goblin not smashed under the piles of rubble began to sink as if into soft mud. The broken stones sank too, until finally only a mound of unrecognizable rock remained to mark the place that had been the dreadful Hill of Sorcery.
All the elves exhaled, breathing out in a great collective sigh as the Lady released them from her. Boromir staggered a little but was caught by the arms of Lindir and Lórindol wound around him. He turned his head automatically to look for Lord Celeborn, who met his eyes.
“We let you go…with our thanks…” he said silently into Boromir’s mind.
As Boromir drifted away he became aware that Celeborn also shared his thoughts with Haldir. He felt the distant elf there, absent in body perhaps, but ever-present in his love’s mind. The Marchwarden had also added his will to the elf-lord’s might.
About him the elves blinked and stretched, still stunned by the tumult that had assailed their senses. Slowly they gathered themselves together and began to deal with the aftermath of any battle: minor wounds to be tended and stitched, weapons to be cleaned. Most sought water to wash their mouths free of the dust. Flasks of mirovur were passed around t help them revive. Gwindor staggered and was urged, nay, ordered, to sit down by Aerandir, who produced the little flask of poppy and liquor and stood over Gwindor until the elf had drunk enough to satisfy his self-appointed nurse.
Lindir held out a flask to Boromir. The man took it gratefully, but coughed and spluttered when the huge gulp he took turned out to be the reviving but fiery liquor rather than water. Lindir laughed and clapped him on the back to aid him from choking.
“That’s it, my little adan – do you not die on me now!”
The thumps made Boromir stagger under the blows, until Lórindol held back his lover’s hand.
“Gently, meleth, the lord may come from the Stone-land, but he’s not made of it!”
He held out a water bottle.
“Here, Boromir mine, drink this and I’ll hold that great dwarf back from pounding you to dust!”
Boromir, his eyes watering, nodded and reached to catch the flask from Lórindol’s grasp. His saviour meanwhile caught Lindir away in a bear-hug.
“You should pick on someone your own size,” Lórindol admonished.
Lindir’s hand slid surreptitiously between their bodies to cup…
“I usually do…” Lindir squeezed quickly before sliding his hand away and was rewarded with a gasp as the other elf struggled to free himself.
“Not now…” muttered Lórindol.
“But we all know about later!” quipped Boromir, now recovered.
Lórindol raised an eyebrow and winked at him, and Boromir had the grace to blush.
Lord Celeborn climbed an outcropping of rocks so all could see him.
“We still have work to do here. We will make our camp and rest until tomorrow. But remember – drink nothing, eat nothing. This place is still tainted, but burn whatever wood you wish. We will light this place and it will never darken again!”
He climbed down and amidst smiles and laughter walked over to Boromir, taking his arm to walk him aside a little.
“My friend – and I call you that with reason – your task here is done. Any allegiance you hold for me, I release you from it.”
“My Lord, my allegiance will ever be with you, you have but to call upon it, but…”
“You remember more and more of your home land and the other ties that bind you?”
Boromir bowed his head.
“Go to them,” said Celeborn softly, “Go to him – he waits for you.”
“Does he?” Boromir’s head jerked up.
“I would… if I were him,” Celeborn smiled and took Boromir by the shoulders, “So young you are, yet not a child… Be at peace Boromir. I have seen the love you hold for him – and the love he holds for you. If he were now with Mandos or beyond – you would know… And as you do not… then he waits.”
Boromir nodded. “I feel what you say is right, even if my head may doubt, my heart knows the truth.”
“Then follow your heart – it is bold and true, and will not lead you astray.”
“Ah – my pride did that,” sighed Boromir, “Now where shall I go?”
“Back to your city. You still have a place there, a different place perhaps… but an honoured place nonetheless…”
“But I shamed myself…”
“And you redeemed your honour, ten-fold. I do not doubt your worth, neither will he who comes now into his long inheritance.”
Celeborn nodded, “Long have his forebearers wandered, and long have the Elves sheltered them, waiting for the heir who would be king – a king to re-unite the realms of Arda… especially now the time of the Elves is passing.”
“You will go into the West then?” Boromir halted in his tracks.
“My Lady will… and many with her… but not I. I am beholden to Arda now. For the sake of Haldir I pledged myself to the forests… and I would not have it any other way. Besides… there’s another consideration now…”
Celeborn merely smiled half to himself, “Another small hope to come, perhaps…" Then he brightened, " But you must think of your return to the White City. Elessar will take up his rightful place soon. He will keep tradition and become a king at the next post of the seasons’ wheel.”
“I should go to serve him, but he may wish to wipe away the Stewards…”
“Never. He well knows their worth – all of them.”
“I hope my father agrees.”
Celeborn shrugged. “Take some rest with us now. Then return to Lorien – I shall send Lindir and Lórindol with you - nay, no argument – there will still be orcs roaming free and looking for easy vengeance! Haldir will see a boat prepared for you and you can continue the journey you started once before. This time, I think that you will discover things have changed a great deal. You will find Hope, and Hope will find you. May you have joy of it, you and the Prince of Horses.”
The Elf-lord embraced Boromir briefly and walked away. He still had many plans to make with his Lady. The world had changed; now he had to see what would be changing with it.
Boromir watched him go; aware that he would never again share himself so completely with another being. No, not even with his beloved Théodred, and he was not sure if that thought made him happy or sad…
He looked back to where the elves gathered wood to burn as bonfires through the night, already they were singing to commemorate the dead and praise their victory. The world, his world had changed, he had changed – now it was time to seek out his city, his family… and yes… his king. He drew in a deep breath, already touched with wood-smoke and the sweet strewing-herbs cast to the flames by the healers, and exhaled in a great sigh – ‘to seek that which he yearned for and yet feared to find… He had to find his Théodred.
Soon. He would have to leave very soon. He would need to ride hard, and then hope the river proved favourable to him – he had thirty days to return to Minas Tirith. If the king was to be crowned – then as the Steward’s son – he should be there. And if he was not the Steward’s heir when he got there… so be it. He would pledge his fealty again, for surely there would be a place in Gondor’s army for him? And if not, as a warrior for hire in Rohan, maybe? He walked slowly back towards the elvish camp, conscious of the smells and sounds that had been so frighteningly different once, but know were a part of him, and he realised – he also needed trees. Lord of Stone, yes… but from now onwards he would always yearn for the company of trees.
His thoughts still rolled in turmoil as he approached the area set aside for Lord Celeborn and his guard; Lindir and Lórindol were there, also Gwindor, masked again, sitting with Aerandir at his back rubbing his shoulders.
“Hail Boromir,” Lindir greeted him cheerfully, “We four are to accompany you with our lord’s blessing.”
Lórindol nooded, “Aerandir has a mind to show us the sea he sings of so often, and since the river is the obvious way to get there, we thought it would be killing two birds with one arrow for us to pass by the Stone-land. Do you not wish us to see your White City?”
“Nay!” Boromir smiled in real pleasure, “To have your company would delight me!”
Lindir grinned ‘I told you so’ at Lórindol.
Boromir caught the sly glance and flushed slightly, “All of your company…”
Which made Lindir burst out laughing at Boromir’s sudden and evident confusion on realising what he might have implied.
“Do not worry my adan, we travel with you, but we make no demands… unless you choose to…” Lindir raised an eyebrow, but Lórindol pushed his shoulder.
“Hush dwarf! You’ll give us all a bad name! Our friend Boromir, we would be pleased for you to accept our offer of company on your journey.” Lórindol made a formal gesture hand to head and heart.
“My friends,” Boromir replied with the same acknowledgment. “You do me honour.”
“Well – if that’s all settled then, what about some food? I smell cooking – is there only me to fetch and carry for all of you?” said Lindir brightly.
“Come away, glutton,” laughed Lórindol, “Before you start eating the toadstools!”
They strolled off in easy comradeship, arms about each others shoulders. Boromir watched them go for a moment, and then sat down by the fire. Gwindor nodded to him, Aerandir paused and smiled at the man before continuing to massage his companion’s shoulders. Boromir watched them with a slight smile he little knew revealed his hunger for such company. He settled back against the piled saddles and his thoughts turned again to what he might find in Minas Tirith, what he hoped to find there… ‘Théodred could not be dead, he was sure of that… wasn’t he?’
He sighed and the seated elves glanced across at him, though Boromir was lost enough in his thoughts not to notice. He pulled his cloak around him; the warmth of the fire, the realization of tiredness… his eyes slowly fluttered and closed…
‘Wait for me, my Prince… I shall come to you… I shall come…’
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.