6. To the river
Boromir groaned and Théo released his grip. The grey cloak in front of them was stirred, but not by the wind. Slowly it was drawn back; Théodred held his knife high, ready, if need be, to strike dead whatever came through the gap.
A pale other-worldly face with silver, plaited hair appeared at the entrance. Théodred froze, open-mouthed, knife raised.
"Perhaps you will not need that… " the voice sounded vaguely amused. Haldir's voice!
Boromir mumbled in his fever-dreams.
"We… we never expected such help," blurted Théodred, "…and surely it is most welcome, but here is one in desperate need, if you have a healer amongst you!"
Haldir's face instantly grew grave as he saw the man's waxy pallor. He reached a hand to touch his face and quickly drew it back.
"Come. We must get him away from here to where we can help him."
When Théodred scrambled out from their hiding place he found five grey-clad elves standing over the corpses of eight or more orcs. As a sixth arrived, one of the beasts near his path stirred slightly, he casually turned his drawn sword and effortlessly sliced the orc's throat without so much as breaking his stride. It was done so casually, with no more emotion than treading on a snail, and so deeply that the orc's head dropped to one side, almost completely severed. It was this single act as much as anything that brought home to Théodred that these beings were not as he was. One of them bound another's lightly wounded arm; the others at a few words from Haldir fetched orcish spears and broke off the heads to use the shafts as litter poles. They stripped off belts and used what rope they had to lash the poles to make a stretcher for Boromir.
"We cannot linger, but must make the best time we're able. The Lord of Gondor is strong, but his wounds fester. There was probably no poison, but orc filth can easily be just as deadly." Haldir explained.
"My éored will be searching for me. Take us west towards Edoras and they will certainly find us; we can take care of Boromir."
"I fear he needs more help than can be given out here."
"Then where are we going?"
"We need speed; we shall take the river Onodló north, to meet with others who can help you."
"The river? But we would be half-way to Edoras. Why go north?"
"The plains of Rohan are thick with orcs and wildmen. We are too few; we would have to fight our way through them, and guard a sick man. "
"But… then Rohan needs me!"
"You would not survive on your own on foot – and we cannot go that way."
"My Riders will find us."
"Your Riders are occupied. They are under threat from Isengard."
"He coverts your father's land – and your getting killed will not help your people. You must travel with us. Think who we carry! You cannot take him with you."
Théodred was silent. The other elves had finished the crude stretcher and begun to haul Boromir from under the rock as gently as they could. He moaned at the disturbance, though they tried not to hurt him further.
"Careful!" burst out Théodred, though he knew they did their best.
They took the time to stuff the dead orcs under the overhang, since they had no time for a pyre. At least there they would not be discovered so quickly.
"Leave his pack,"said Haldir, "He cannot carry it, neither can you."
Theodred frowned. "We must travel as swiftly as we can," Haldir continued, "We can provide whatever he needs later."
The rohir reluctantly set it aside, having made sure there was nothing in it other than spare clothes. The personal things he crammed into his own pack, along with the cloven horn, which sat awkwardly on top.
The elves lay Boromir's fur beneath him to pad the stretcher, and placed his grey elven cloak over him tucking it tightly around his limbs. Haldir forced some liquid from a small flask past Boromir's lips; it which made him cough, but also quieted his low moans. The elf then urged Théodred to drink as well. The liquor coursed through him, fiery and strong; it jolted him to a wakefulness he didn't realise he lacked. It was still dark when they set off at a steady jog, four elves carrying the stretcher. Théodred soon realised that even after the elven draft he would have had trouble keeping up with the other stretcher-bearers had he had his way and taken a hand. As it was, he stumbled in the dark frequently and an injured elf took to running at his side to catch his elbow before he fell. They travelled swiftly for some hours, only pausing to allow Théodred to catch his breath, and for Haldir to force him to swallow a mouthful or two from his flask. Each time it took longer for Théodred to regain some strength: now both the elf and Haldir ran on each side of him, urging him onwards. At dawn they stopped and set the stretcher down, Théodred collapsing to the ground close by it; from where they were he could see the silver line of the Entwash, running north-south across their path, still some miles away. He was shocked; they must have run for nearly 15 leagues through the night! The elves consulted quietly, and then two of them set off towards the river.
"They go to scout ahead," Haldir said. "Even we cannot carry such a burden without tiring."
Théodred crawled across to the litter. Boromir was pale, his brow sweaty and cold. He pushed aside a lock of hair and Boromir mumbled in a fever-dream, but did not open his eyes.
"He does not do well," said Théodred, as flatly as he could manage.
"No. He does not." said Haldir, his face almost expressionless.
"Edoras is not far now…"
"We cannot go there."
"Take us to the gates; my people would not harm you."
At that a slight smile passed over Haldir's features.
"No, they would not…" He walked away.
The wind was getting up, and the remaining elves struggled to move the stretcher into the lee of some rocks. Théo helped them. Haldir remained aloof, standing very still, facing north. Théodred went over to him, walking around so as to stand firm and speak to him face to face. He was startled to see the elf's eyes half-closed, but more strangely than that, the eyes glowing brightly, like molten silver, beneath his lids. Théodred's arm was shaken by another elf who spoke in halting Westron as he pulled the man away.
"Leave him. He speaks to Lord Celeborn."
"How…? began Théodred.
"It is a gift, not all have it, to far-speak each other. My Lady, it is said, can speak to any she chooses – but for most there must be… a special connection."
He would not elaborate, and Théodred could only guess the extant of a 'special connection'. The elves offered him some of their way-bread and some water; he ate hungrily. Shortly afterwards Haldir joined them.
"It will be evening before they can reach us at the earliest. When we've rested a little we'll go to the river and find a place to stay hidden," he said accepting some lembas.
"What of Boromir?"
"He would be no better in Edoras than he is with us."
"How can you say that…"
"Because it is true."
Théodred fumed in silence for several moments, "You bastard!" was all he could mumble under his breath, before he stamped off in an effort to keep from swinging a fist at the elves' calm face. Under control, but only just, he marched back to them, grabbed a water-bag and took it to Boromir, lifting his head to coax him to drink. The water filled his mouth and slid down his chin. Théodred mopped the spilt water up with his sleeve 'Don't die now,' he thought as he crouched beside Boromir. 'Please, don't die.'
The other elves returned and after a short discussion prepared to move Boromir again. One spoke to the others before casually reaching down and laying his palm intrusively over Boromir's crotch. Théodred angrily knocked the offending hand away, glaring up with a snarl on his lips. The flash in the elf's eyes was swiftly hidden as he stooped to pick up the stretcher pole. The rohir, still angry at the unwarranted molestation, tried to shove the elf away and take the litter himself. The push rocked the elf, but left him unmoved; Haldir intervened.
"Do not fight us, Horselord, we do not have time for this!"
They set off; he could do nothing but follow them, still seething, down the long slope to the distant river.
Once there, they made for a small bend in the river that offered a curved shingle shelf above the water-line, half-hidden among surrounding trees. The river had cut away the ground leaving a bank a man's height or more of exposed roots above the dry beach, giving both a headland to keep look out from and a sheltered hollow below. The elves set Boromir in the driest place under the small, sandy cliff. Théodred kept a close eye on them. Haldir came to him.
"We go to scout the banks to make sure we are secure. Gelmir and Gwindor will tend your friend. Neither has much Westron; if you have questions you'd best keep them until I return."
Théodred nodded sullenly. He settled himself with his back to the sandy wall at Boromir's head. The man shifted a little in his fever, but Théo's hand stroking his head seemed to calm him. The two elves stood apart speaking quietly and occasionally glancing across at them. Gwindor was the one who had touched Boromir so blatantly earlier that day. Théodred glared belligerently at them, daring them to approach him again.
The day warmed and the sun shone on the bank; Théodred's eyes repeatedly drooped from lack of sleep. The hot sun was soporific, as was the dazzle on the water a few feet away; his eyes finally closed and he slept. He woke abruptly to find the two elves had taken their outer clothes off and were now undressing Boromir; they had his tunic and boots off and one was pulling his trews from his ankles. Gwindor had his hand inside Boromir's small clothes feeling at his groin.
Théodred launched himself forward with a yell, catching the elf in the centre of the chest with both hands and bowling him over backwards, Théo on top. Struggling and squirming, the two thrashed about on the shingle. Shortly, it was the elf who sat above Théodred muttering furious words Théodred didn't understand. Pinned fast with both wrists held in a vice-like grip, Théo stopped struggling; the elf shifted back off his chest a little. The rohir took the opportunity to quickly bring his head up into vicious contact with the elf's nose. Théo felt a satisfying squelch as it broke under the impact. Gwindor reeled back with a harsh exclamation, one hand to his face. His hand now free, Théodred clawed at his belt for his knife, but the elf swung back, cracking his elbow hard into Théo's temple. He saw stars for a moment, before he continued to struggle up – then all went red as something exploded against the back of his head. He glimpsed through swimming vision the other elf, Gelmir, standing over him. The elf had struck him with the pommel of his long white knife.
When he awoke, he was bound hand and foot, laying on his side; his head ached like fury and he could taste the leather of the gag in his mouth. His vision faltered in the dazzle from the water and it was a few seconds before he could focus. He was horrified and furious at what he saw – they had stripped Boromir naked and laid him on his back. He saw Gwindor run his fingers slowly over Boromir's groin, pressing his fingers among the curls above his flaccid cock. Théodred was outraged. He bellowed through his gag, flailing about in an attempt to stand, but his bonds simply tightened the more he struggled. The two looked over at him; they spoke to each other briefly. Gwindor shrugged, he bent Boromir's knees up slightly more to tilt his pelvis and ran his hand over Boromir's exposed privates. Théodred threw himself over, squirming furiously, struggling to loose himself. Boromir mumbled and tried to sit up; very weakly he tried to push away his molesters with his good arm. They ignored his feeble protest and putting their arms beneath his knees and back, they carried him into the shallow water. Théodred roared and screamed his outrage, muffled as it was by the gag. The shingle grazed his face as he struggled to get to his knees and failed.
The elves set Boromir down; he shivered and cried out as the cold water lapped his fevered skin. They manoeuvred Boromir so he knelt up in the water, Gelmir held him steady. Théodred watched in horror as Gwindor crouched beside the man, rubbing Boromir's groin, cupping his cock and balls with a wet hand and splashing them with water. Boromir groaned and cried out softly.
Théodred was almost crying with frustration and rage. He threw himself over on the ground, desperately twisting to roll over and over towards Boromir's torturers. They ignored him. He kicked and struggled in the shingle, his muffled voice a hoarse scream of wordless pain. Not feeling the sharp stones he struggled along the ground towards them, his eyes fixed vengefully on Gwindor's stroking hand.
Boromir shuddered and mewed softly under that hand, until abruptly, a small jet of dark amber liquid erupted from him, staining the water. Gwindor's voice was gently coaxing as he splashed more cold water over Boromir, washing the stale urine from his thighs. Théodred teetered almost at Gwindor's back; unable to stop his momentum; he missed the elf and fell face down in the river. He lay there half-submerged, floundering and splashing, until Gelmir glanced over with low exclamations of irritation. The elf hastily transferred Boromir's weight to crouching Gwindor's shoulders and back, then he stood upright to step across and grab Théodred by the shoulders and haul his head out of the water. He dragged him back up the shingle for several paces and dumped him roughly out of harm's way near the bank.
Gwindor and Gelmir between them washed Boromir in the river; gently splashing water to loosen the congealed blood smeared over his back and chest, before lifting him from the water and laying him on his cloak. They dried him with his old shirt, carefully rubbing the circulation back into his chilled limbs, before binding up his wounds with clean linen. The cold water seemed to have revived him a little and they encouraged him to sip some water, before they produced a new shirt and small clothes, obviously their own spares, and re-dressed him. The shirt, while long enough, was tight across his shoulders and had to be split at the sleeve seams. The draws fitted him snugly and it was with swift efficiency they laced them closed and pulled his own trews over them again. Finally realising they meant no harm; Théodred lay inert in his bindings. Only now did he begin to feel the soreness of the abrasions to his face, neck and hands where he'd struggled amongst the sharp pebbles.
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.