“Do not cry out when I release your bonds. There are wildmen nearby who are not friendly.”
Théodred nodded his head once. Haldir cut the thong that bound the leather pad into his mouth. The man worked his jaw to free the strained muscles. Haldir continued.
“Before I untie you - my apologies - they should have waited until what they were doing could be explained to you. Water must pass through the body naturally or an injured man will sicken and die, even if his wounds appear to be healing. Gwindor knew Boromir had not passed water for at least a day, and that he needed to be helped to do so. It is unfortunate that you misconstrued what they were doing. They only meant to help Boromir, not harm him in any way.”
Théodred nodded. He had finally seen that for himself, and was grudgingly grateful that they had. Even now Boromir’s colour looked a little better than it had; he seemed more asleep than unconscious were he lay.
“Tell Gwindor I am sorry about his nose,” he said gruffly.
Haldir gave half a smile, tipping his head to one side, “Do not worry, he was always too proud of his handsome face.”
Théodred nodded gratefully; he’d have been wary of taking on one of these elves in single combat – when Gelmir hauled him from the water, he’d lifted him clear into the air and thrown him for several feet with no more effort than shifting a recalcitrant hound!
But before Haldir could cut his bonds, an elf cried out in pain; they both turned at the sound. An arrow was embedded in Gelmir’s thigh, another landed beside them; then there were more, striking the ground hard to quiver upright among the stones or skitter across the shingle.
“Orcs!” shouted Théodred.
“Men!” spat Haldir.
He whirled to take up his bow, as with dull, throaty screams a pack of wild men of Dunland charged through the trees towards them. The other elves loosed their arrows rapidly; with a muffled cry, Gelmir broke the arrow-shaft free from his thigh so it would not impede him as he fought.
“Free me! Loose me!” screamed Théodred, but now they were all occupied – fighting for their lives.
The onslaught was merciless. The wild-eyed men seemed to have no fear of death, but blindly ran onto the elven swords as if expecting to survive unscathed. They screamed as they ran, waving long swords, battle-axes, war-hammers… even sickles and pitch-forks; such was their killing frenzy they cared nothing of themselves, but what they could maim and kill. The first onslaught was met by the elves with cool precision as they mowed their attackers down like wheat before the scythe – and still they came.
A man fell dead at Théodred’s fee. He wasted no time in thrusting his ankles at the axe blade still clutched in the headless man’s hand, trying to saw his bonds free. Another man fell over him, knocking him face down into the axe-man’s blood. The horselord shook his face free of bloody hair and continued to saw urgently at his ankle bonds. The second man clawed at him frantically with the feebleness of the fatally injured until Théodred dispatched his attentions with a head-butt that made his own head ache the more. Ankles free, he twisted to rise and stagger across the small curve to where Boromir lay defenceless, but ignored by the Wildmen, who had all their attention focussed on the grimly fighting elves.
Their bright blades flashed and parried under the frenzied onslaught, but blows were hitting home and not one of the grey-clad figures was without stains of trickling blood from some wound. Gelmir was most disadvantaged, blood running freely from the arrow in his thigh; increasingly the wound made him less nimble. The men sensed this and concentrated their attack on him, eventually battering him to the ground from sheer force of numbers. Théodred, wrists still bound, attempted to defend Boromir the best he could, shielding him with his body until a dropped blade enabled him to try to free his wrists again. He never saw the huge man wielding a hammer who struck at his head. The blow never connected; Haldir’s sword laid the man’s side open to the bone. He screamed, but his dying momentum launched him over Théodred and his helmeted head connected with the rohir’s, knocking Théodred almost senseless across Boromir’s legs. Of a sudden he felt his hair snatched up and he was hauled backwards to arch across some hefty knee.
Across the shingle, Gwindor stood over Gelmir’s body, fighting off half a dozen men. Haldir and the others were likewise surrounded, their feet slipping and tripping over bloody bodies. A horn sounded at Théodred’s ear, numbing his hearing so he could barely tell what the big man yelled, but the knife at his throat was clear enough – he froze from struggling as the blade caught his flesh and the hand in his hair tightened its grip.
“Stop now, or I slit his throat!” roared the man.
Haldir sprang back and raised an arm. Gwindor took a mighty blow to the side of his head and slumped to the ground across Gelmir. Haldir shouted a sharp command and the three other elves… just melted backwards into the trees. The men yelled in wonder that they had vanished – and that they seemed to have won the squirmish. Their leader shouted again.
“Hold fast! No one follows them – that’s what they want. They won’t leave their own – and we have ways of bringing them back to us!”
An evil laugh sounded behind Théodred’s head. “As for you, horseboy,” the harsh voice cackled, “We’ve got plans for you as well!”
He clouted the side of Théodred’s head with a huge fist, knocking him to the ground again. Then he strode over to Boromir and quickly ran his hands over his body; finding no weapons he stepped back.
“That one won’t last the night anyway.” he announced to his mob. He turned to Haldir.
“Drop the sword, Elf”
Haldir stood his ground, breathing hard. The chief nodded. One of his men nearest to Gwindor grabbed a handful of silver hair and stretched the fallen elf’s neck back, a sickle to his throat. Gwindor’s eyes fluttered open.
“Drop your sword or I’ll bleed him like a pig!”
Haldir stared at Gwindor, who tried to shake his head free, but was gripped all the tighter. Haldir carefully placed his sword on the ground in front of him. Immediately half a dozen men set on him, punching and kicking him to the ground. Their leader paused to let them have their way before shouting ‘Stop!’ Haldir raised his head, blood trickling from cuts over his eyes. His lip was split and bloody.
“I don’t want him dead – not yet, anyway!”
The wildmen jeered their approval. They began to haul the bodies of their comrades to one side, but showed no courtesy for the dead. The severely injured were dispatched with a swift knife. The living they helped to sit against the bank away from the river, where some among them helped them bind their wounds.
Others found ropes and pieces of leather thong and tied Haldir and Gwindor roughly, pulling their arms painfully behind their backs, forcing them to kneel side by side. Théodred’s bonds were half-cut through, but since they didn’t inspect them closely, he managed to press his arms together and they failed to notice or re-bind his wrists. Gelmir still lay senseless on the ground. The chief went over and kicked his injured leg, when that produced no response, he bent and twisted the remains of the embedded shaft. Gelmir screamed and writhed. The chief stood upright.
“Didn’t think that one was really dead,” He beckoned to his men to drag the elf across to the bank, hauling him upright , his arms outstretched.
“Hold him steady,” commanded the chief. Then he took a knife and cut the laces of Gelmir’s tunic so it fell open. Gwindor growled at Théodred’s side. The chief turned slowly to face them; he deliberately tore open the elf’s shirt to expose his naked body as he watched the deepening frown on Gwindor’s face.
“He’s yours, is he Elf-swine?”
With that he turned back, holding the knife to Gelmir’s bared stomach with one hand, grabbing between the elf’s legs to grip his crotch brutally hard with the other.
“Shall we see what this pretty one has to offer, boys?” he leered.
Gwindor half-rose, but was knocked to the ground by the men guarding them. Haldir spoke softly to him, though his eyes blazed. Gwindor subsided, but his body remained taut as a strung bow.
“Or shall we have a horselord for our entertainment?”
The men roared and stamped calling for one, or the other. The chief raised his hand and beckoned. Théodred was dragged roughly to his feet and forced across the slippery stones to Gelmir’s side.
“Strip them!” the chief commanded. As the men came for him Gelmir lashed out, kicking one’s knee painfully; another man slashed a short knife into Gelmir’s ribs, making a shallow wound, a threat of more to come, to subdue him. Gwindor explode upright, launching himself at the chief, but was brought down by a pack of men who kicked and punched the struggling elf until one finally got him around the throat in an armlock and all but strangled him into submission.
Haldir shouted in Elvish :“Courage. They’ll soon be with us!” before he received a clout to the head that knocked him sideways. Gwindor saw the chief holding a long sword at Gelmir's throat, far enough away not to be kicked again, but able to thrust and kill. Gwindor stopped fighting.
“Make sure he watches everything” the chief leered.
One of the men on Gwindor’s back substituted a knife for the armlock, another seized two handfuls of hair and pulled his head up to face Gelmir.
“You - you’re their leader, tell him to lay still or I’ll cut his friend’s balls off.”
Haldir spoke quietly in their language, “We will have this scum on their way to Morgoth’s fires before Ithil rises. They won’t kill him – the shame is theirs, not his. Remember that.”
Théodred saw the pain in Gwindor’s eyes, and remembered his own anguish when he thought they were mistreating Boromir.
“Aren’t you man enough for a real man then!” he drawled, taunting them.
The wild men set up an ugly murmur. The chief looked at him appraisingly.
“Looks like we got ourselves a volunteer, lads.”
They jeered and cat-called as Théodred was dragged forward. His face was still a bloody mask, his hair caked, clothes filthy with mud and gore.
“But he doesn’t look half so pretty – maybe a bath will help. Dunk him!”
The two men holding him dragged him over to the water and strode in waist-deep to force his head under the water repeatedly, only letting him up when his breath was nearly spent. Then they dragged him out to stand before Gelmir.
“You, Elf – strip him!”
Gelmir ignored the chief. He nodded at the men holding Gwindor, who pulled his head back, stretching his throat before their knife.
“He does not understand Westron,” shouted Haldir.
“But you do. Bring him here!” the chief commanded.
Haldir was dragged across the ground on his knees to Theodréd’s side. The chief gestured for his men to release Gelmir.
“Tell him to strip the horseboy naked or we gut the other one slowly.”
Théodred gave the slightest of nods.
Haldir spoke quietly to Gelmir. “Take the prince’s clothes from him, but do it as slowly as you are able. We will see this rabble rot in their own filth yet!”
Théodred stood upright, stock-still as Gelmir limped forward and made as slow a job as he could of untying the laces to Theo’s trews.
“And you,” the chief pointed at Haldir, “you are going to put that pretty tongue of yours to good use on him. I want to see the horseboy begging for it!”
His men laughed raucously, some rubbed at their crotch in lascivious anticipation. Gelmir loosened Théodred’s trews and they slid down to his hip bones, revealing his pale belly trailed with dark-golden curls. Some of the men whooped in anticipation.
“Too slow!” grumbled the chief.
He waved forward a man with a drawn knife standing at Gelmir’s side As the ruffian approached Theo, reaching with one hand to yank at his small-clothes, the rohir suddenly broke his remaining bonds and grabbed the man’s hands pushing and turning him to stab at the man behind him. As he was pushed closer, Gelmir grabbed the sword at the man’s belt, wrenching it free and lunging to take the chief through the chest. At that instant, the man holding the knife at Gwindor’s throat gurgled and slumped, a knife buried hilt-deep between his shoulder-blades.
Boromir fell forward on his hands and knees, all his strength taken by that one throw. Haldir, lurching up from his knees barged another man to the ground. Gelmir swiftly sliced the bonds at Haldir’s wrists, allowing the Marchwarden to produce a blade concealed in his boot. He launched himself at the nearest men, slashing lethally, teeth barred in a vicious grimace. Gelmir ran, screaming furiously, at Gwindor’s retreating captors. All was chaos, and into that maelstrom, white-fletched arrows began to find their mark in a rain of deadly accuracy. Out on the river, two long, grey craft approached rapidly; bearing elven archers who loosed arrows with devastating accuracy into the confusion.
Without a leader the wild men’s courage disintegrated; those who could, fled, to be cut down by Haldir’s companions waiting in the woods. Gelmir and Gwindor were merciless with knife and blade, as were Théodred and Haldir. Soon, the four of them were the only living beings on the shore – apart from Boromir… Boromir!
Théodred rushed to his side, picking him up from his knees and into his arms.
“Are you all right?!”
Boromir was very weak; he nodded with the barest smile.
“Just… had to… choose… the moment,” he managed to say with an effort. Théodred held him as his eyes fluttered closed again.
The grey boats beached and Elves leaped out, bows at the ready. Among them was an especially tall and noble elf with long, silver hair pulled back into ornate warrior’s plaits. He seized Haldir by the forearms and for a brief moment both of them were locked in each other’s grasp as their eyes drooped half-closed, and under the lids there briefly glowed bright-silver. Théodred watched them, truly knowing the delight and relief they felt in this reunion; his arms tightened convulsively around Boromir. The light faded from Haldir’s eyes and he turned, smiling to the two men on the ground.
“Prince Théodred, this is my Lord Celeborn, the Master of the Golden Wood. He has come to aid Lord Boromir.”
The regal elf placed a hand graciously across his chest in greeting, bowing his head slightly. Théodred all of a sudden felt a sense of awe he’d never before experienced; here truly was a being of power! Lord Celeborn knelt and laid probing hands on Boromir, pulling aside his borrowed shirt to feel his heartbeat, and then gently peeling back the bandages to look at the wounds. He smiled at Théodred.
“Your lord of the stone-lands will live – but we do need to get him to our encampment in Fangorn as swiftly as we can.”
He signalled and elves newly arrived came forward to pick Boromir up and place him in one of the boats. They swiftly gathered the men’s gear and put it with them. Gwindor and Gelmir came over to Théodred as he was about to climb into the craft. Both bowed, Théodred in turn seized their hands between his own two hands and shook them firmly; gratitude on both sides was acknowledged without being spoken.
Celeborn and Haldir followed behind them, speaking softly together in Elvish.
“What news of Rohan?”
“They withstood the attack on the Fords, although with many losses. Now a second force marches against them,” said Celeborn.
“We should warn him.”
“Not now. He would ride alone against Saruman’s army without a thought; as yet his people may have need of him.”
“Surely they need him to fight…”
“And if the fight goes badly? They will need him even more to lead those that remain.” Celeborn did not add ‘if any’, but the words hung in the air as they neared their boat. The craft containing the two men had already pulled away from the shore.
“No – the quest still stands on a knife-edge. What aid we can give, we will give to these two at least. They still have their part to play in this war – even if I do not see it clearly as yet.”
They climbed into the remaining boat and the leaf-shaped paddles of the rowers cut deeply into the water, taking them north, as the setting sun cast their long grey shadow across the river.
Downstream from the little shore, the water flowed, tainted red, but swiftly running clear as the blood became diluted by the river and dispersed. Even now the crows began to gather and the flies buzzed. By next spring there would be nothing left on the shingle but a few scattered white bones.
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.