10. A Grisly Discovery
Chapter Ten – A Grisly Discovery
My spirit is crushed. I placed such hope in finding Boromir near the quarry that when we found it desolate, my heart all but sank. The Drúadan Forest likewise proved of little worth. I know not where to look.
"Both the quarry and the forest helped our search, Faramir. We know where Boromir is not." Mablung pulled back. "I am sorry. I did not mean to read your journal."
Faramir faced Mablung. "The despair I write of is writ upon my face."
"But the signs show the Rohirrim battled the Drúin in the cave. I think we should look to Rohan."
"The battle appears to have occurred only two or three days ago." Damrod added.
"But we know not if Boromir was there. What would the Drúin want with Boromir?" Faramir's voice dropped to a whisper. "I cannot believe Théodred would ever let me suffer as I do now. There is no excuse for what Théodred has done."
Damrod held Faramir's horse as his lieutenant mounted. "Théodred would not hide Boromir from you. Let not your fears for Boromir sully your friendship with Théoden's son, Faramir."
"For myself, I hope you speak true, Damrod." Faramir breathed a weary sigh, "If you are ready, let us on to Rohan. I am tired of this riddling."
They turned east. As they rode, Faramir kept a watch on the path before them. The signs of the Rohirrim were everywhere. He chuckled. "They hide not their presence." The next moment, his face turned grim. "I thought at first that the tracks were from Walda's company. They are not. Look here. It is at least an éored riding towards the forest. Walda only rode with a dozen men. And he insisted they used the Great West Road. They did not ride here, amongst the trails of the Drúadan."
"There!" Mablung shouted and spurred his horse southward.
Before Faramir and Damrod reached him, Mablung slid from his horse. "It is a grave," he whispered.
Faramir jumped from his own horse and fell to his knees. "No. Not Boromir."
"Take heart, Faramir." Damrod knelt next to his lieutenant. "The Rohirrim would never bury Boromir. They would bring him to your father."
"By Varda's light," Mablung gasped. "It is a child. The grave is new, perhaps a few weeks. The bodies have been dead at least three months."
"Not a child. Some kind of abomination." Faramir looked away.
"A mongrel of some sort, but not Orcs. I think it is half human, half Drúin. There is another body underneath. A woman." Mablung gasped. "Mother and child."
"The Rohirrim would not leave their dead in a hillside grave. Would the Drúin?"
"No." Faramir sat back on his heels. "I do not understand this."
"If the Drúin captured her, they would have eaten her when she died." Faramir stood. "But it is not our concern. Cover the bodies. We ride west to find Boromir."
Mablung and Damrod replaced the dirt and mounted.
As nightfall crept closer, Faramir called a halt. "The Rohirrim camped here. Search the area for signs of Boromir."
"An éored, no doubt, Faramir." Damrod knelt by a spent campfire. "But it has been weeks since they were here. The bodies we found were dead longer than that."
Faramir knelt next to his friend. He studied the tracks. "We have another riddle here. This is not Walda's camp. We know that. This is a full éored's. But the tracks we have been following were those of perhaps fifty riders. What has happened?"
Faramir sat back on his heels. "I read this and beg your thoughts. An éored, probably led by Théoden's son, left Aldburg or Amon Anwar, headed eastward. They camped here, found the bodies and buried them, then continued on. Somewhere along the way, they split. For what reason I cannot fathom. One half returns this way. I cannot believe they lost half their men in the battle in the forest. Where were the bodies? No. Théodred triumphed." His brow furrowed deeper. "Where is the other half of the éored?"
A/N – Drúin (plural) Dru (singular) - Sindarin for the native Drughu.
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