linaewen: (Lords of Gondor by captinskywalker)
Success!  I have reached my goal of 7,000 words added to my Lords of Gondor WIP -- what a relief!  The total word count between the three chapters written for the Finish-a-thon challenge comes to 7,078 or so, so I just barely made it.  But I'm content.  Now I'll just have to keep my momentum going and not let months pass before I add Chapter 52.  ;-)

Without further ado, here are Chapters 50 and 51:

Chapter 50

As the Great Road from Edoras to Minas Tirith skirted Amon Dîn it bent southwards, passing through a heavily wooded area that was the thinning edge of the heavy forest that blanketed the slopes of the beacon hill.  Coming out of the woods, the road widened and continued straight on across the open grassland for some seven leagues to the wall of the Pelennor and the townlands of Minas Tirith.

Two riders rode swiftly along that road upon an urgent errand to the City.  Though the road now ran free of the wood, it was scarcely less dark than it had been under the canopy of trees, for Mordor's darkness was thicker and blacker than ever here along the approach to the City.  Yet Denethor's errand riders did not need light to guide them as they rode; they knew the route so well they could find the way with closed eyes, and guide their horses to the right path whether in darkness or daylight.  It was here that Hirgon and Ulrad hoped desperately to make up the time they had lost in eluding enemy Easterlings upon the road behind them, and reach Minas Tirith in time to bring hope to their lord with the news of Rohan's muster.  But now to that news of Rohan's riding must also be added the word that the Road was taken by the enemy.

Hirgon urged his mount to a full gallop, his companion keeping pace with him on his left.

This stretch of road is our best hope for speed as we approach the City, thought Hirgon.  Mayhap we can still reach the gate in the Rammas wall and the pass over the Pelennor in safety.  But the road behind us is now taken by the enemy, and the Rohirrim who come after us will meet a great host before ever they approach the Pelennor.  I could not count the enemy in the dark distance, but the light of the torches glimmering through the murk implied vast numbers.  Alas!  Rohan brings only six thousand to the battle!  How many will be lost to battle before the reach the City itself?

Beside him, Ulrad cursed aloud suddenly and drew back on his reins.  Looking ahead, Hirgon reined in sharply as well, muttering an oath of dismay.  The enemy had taken the wall!  There was no other explanation for the movement of torchlight ahead of them, accompanied by the hoarse cries of Orcs and the sound of ax and club pounding, breaking against stone.

"We cannot get through!" hissed Ulrad in Hirgon's ear, as he drew his mount up close beside his companion.  "Yet we must if we are to return the Red Arrow to Lord Denethor with news of Rohan's coming.  What do you advise, Hirgon?  Shall we press on in the hope that we can pass through the gate and outrun the enemy that attacks it?"

Even as Hirgon drew breath to reply, black arrows flew out of the darkness and a mass of torchlight broke away from the main group and hurried towards them.

"They have seen us!"  Hirgon cursed.  "We are too late!  Our hope is denied; we can go no further this way.  Turn back, Ulrad!  If we can elude the Easterlings upon the road behind, we can perhaps reach the beacon post at Amon Dîn in time to warn both Rohan and Minas Tirith.  The path up the hill is less than a league back, perhaps we can reach it in safety.  Relighting the beacon may warn the Rohirrim that the Pelennor is overrun, and also serve to alert the City.  If we cannot deliver the Red Arrow, we can at least send some kind of news via beacon fire."

They wheeled their mounts around and fled back the way they had come.  Flying arrows and the cries of Orcs and deep-voiced Men followed them.  As they rode, Hirgon clasped the Red Arrow in one hand even as he loosed his sword in its sheathe with the other.

If we must fight our way through to safety, then so be it, he thought.  I will protect the Red Arrow with my life in the hope that I can yet deliver it to the hand of my lord with news that will soothe his despair!

***

Faramir watched silently as Gandalf gave final instructions and cautions to the men who would ride with him in escort of the wains filled with wounded.  There were more wounded than hearty men left for the fight, yet Faramir wished the wains were carrying three times the men they held, for it would mean that many more had been saved from perishing in the slaughter at Osgiliath and the Causeway Forts.

"...We may make the Enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage and yet rue the exchange," he had said to his father only a day ago. "For he can afford to lose a host better than we to lose a company. And the retreat of those that we put out far afield will be perilous, if he wins across in force."

The Enemy had indeed won across in force, and though he had paid dearly for the crossing, the Men of Gondor had paid the higher price.

"Do not doubt your choices, Faramir," Gandalf said gently, laying a fatherly hand upon Faramir's shoulder.  "Not your own choices, and not the ones forced upon you by circumstances and by others.  You are a wise commander and understand well the timing of when to do battle and when to retreat.  I am certain that the loss of life from these recent skirmishes would have been far greater had one less wise than you been in charge.  Your father's trust in you is well placed!"

"Does he trust me?" Faramir asked doubtfully.  "I came in Boromir's stead, whom he trusted above all others, but I am not Boromir.  I do indeed doubt my choices, especially when I look upon the wounded and think of the dead left behind...."

"Faramir!" Gandalf interrupted sternly.  "The Lord Denethor your father is master of this crisis.  He has prepared long for this battle that now threatens to break upon Gondor and the lands west of the Great River; he is truly ready for it.  He knows well the need of the hour and which men he can trust to fulfill that need and see his battles fought -- yes, fought and even won.  It is true that Boromir is no longer a part of those preparations -- but do you think for one moment that he would have pushed for you to lead this venture as the captain doing his will if he did not think you capable of standing firm in the face of overwhelming foes?  I think not.  He knows your quality, and he trusts it well."

Faramir gazed into Gandalf eyes for a long moment, then with the ghost of a smile upon his lips, he nodded.  "You reminded me earlier of my father's care for me, Mithrandir.  And here you are doing it once again!  You are right to reprimand me.  It is a tool of the Enemy to plant such seeds of doubt in the hearts of those who should love and trust one another without hesitation.  My father will not fail me, nor will I fail him.  I shall hold the Causeway Forts awhile longer to aid your retreat with the wounded, and then I shall return to the City to take my place at my father's side for the battle that will follow at my heels."

"That is better," Gandalf replied, smiling.  "I, too, know your quality, Faramir, and I trust it well.  For this reason I am not surprised to hear you are resolved to stay with the rearguard -- but do not leave your own retreat too late!  The foe at your heels...."

"Did you not just compliment me on my wisdom and timing, Mithrandir, and give me your full trust?" Faramir interrupted, shaking his finger sternly at the wizard.  "Fear not!  I will not leave it too late.  I shall come soon.  Go now, my friend, and see these men safely to the Houses of Healing!"

***

Boromir arose early to prepare himself for the events of the day.  He had thought he would pass a restless night in anticipation of his meeting with the Rohirrim -- and possibly some of the companions he so sorely missed -- but in fact, he had slept soundly and felt well-rested and strengthened in both body and mind.

The familiar discipline of dressing for battle soothed and encouraged him, as well.  The hauberk of mail provided from Gwaeron's store was light indeed, and the weight of it was easy to bear.  Boromir held his breath as Grithnir settled the mail coat upon his shoulders, but then grinned in relief as he realized how easy and comfortable it was.  Grithnir nodded in approval and obvious relief that his lord was once again well protected.

"I am fully prepared to act as your shield, my captain," Grithnir remarked, "but my task will be made that much simpler with a fine mail shirt between you and an enemy blade."

"I shall be glad to have both mail and your blade to keep me from harm," Boromir replied, as he pulled his leather surcoat over the mail and strapped on sword and belt.  "I do not wish to be a burden to you, Grithnir, nor do I want you to be put in danger because of the need to protect me as well as fight your own battles.  Yet these past few weeks have taught me nothing if not the lesson that it is no weakness to trust in the strength and loyalty of others when my own strength is insufficient for the need at hand.  I will fight, for I was born for this coming battle and I will defend my people with whatever weapon comes to hand -- but I will also do all I can to not be a burden to you.  Nay, do not protest!  I know well what you would say; you will claim until your dying breath that I am no burden to you!  Whether that be true or no, I will not deny you what you wish.  As I said, I am content to have you by my side, be it fighting or shielding me from the fighting."

Boromir tightened his sword belt decisively, then drew the sword from its sheathe and hefted it, testing the weight in his hand.  "This sword of Dirhavel's is lighter than my own sword Harthad; being one-handed, this sword will be easier to lift and swing.  It will serve me well -- if I have not forgotten how to handle a weapon!"

He swung the sword about experimentally, and was pleased to note that there was some strength in his arm and only a little catching stiffness in his shoulder.
 
"No doubt I shall feel the pain of my wounds anew when striking down an enemy as opposed to swinging a blade about in the air," he commented in answer to Grithnir's worried look.  "But this will do, Grithnir.  My arm seems to remember well enough how to lift a sword, and if that day comes when skill and strength are lacking because of the pain of my wounds, I know that you and the others will be at my side to supplement that lack."

"We will indeed, my lord!  And it is no burden to us -- not now, not ever!"

Boromir laughed.  "So be it!  Come then, let us say our farewells to Gwaeron and his men, and be off down to the road.  Are the horses ready for our riding?"

"They are, Captain Boromir," Grithnir answered.  "Eadric and the other scouts await us at the picket."

"Then let us keep them waiting no longer!"

***

Eadric and his fellow scout Guthwald stood beside the waiting horses, Hirvegil of the outpost with them.  As Boromir and his men approached, Hirvegil led four horses forward and offered the reins to Boromir.

"My lord," he said with a bow.  "It was an honor to provide you with a change of horse when first you rode away upon your great journey northwards, and now it is an even greater honor to give you the mounts you need to go to war!  May they serve you well, and carry you swiftly to battle and afterwards to a safe haven."

"I thank you for your service and for your horses, Hirvegil!" Boromir replied as he grasped the reins in both hands, bowing over them in an expression of gratitude before handing them over to each of his men in turn.  As he made to mount the horse that remained, Eadric stepped forward and stayed his hand.

"My lord Boromir," he said.  "If you are willing, let me take this fine Gondorian horse as my mount; in his stead, I wish you to have Stánfót.  Take him as my gift to you and my provision for your further protection."

"Surefoot!" Boromir exclaimed in surprise and wonderment.  "You give me Surefoot?"

"Indeed!" replied Eadric with a smile.  "He has told me that he wishes to remain with you.  He regrets leaving you before on your previous journey and wishes to continue serving you now as best he can.  He is a true warrior and will fight for you as fiercely as your own men, for he loves you well, even as they do."

Boromir's eyes were moist as he took Surefoot's halter in one hand and smoothed the horse's mane with the other.  "He has told you this, has he?" he said softly.  "Then who am I to refuse such love and eagerness to serve?  I accept your offer, Eadric!  With Surefoot to carry me on the right path, my men beside me to serve as shield and sword, and the Riders of Rohan around me as we go forth to battle, I can see nothing ahead but victory!"

"May it be so!" Eadric replied with a deep bow.  "And now, lord, if you are ready to ride, I will tell you what I have arranged for your meeting with Théoden King.  My man Brynhere has gone on ahead to bring word to the king of our riding and the timing of our arrival.  The army of Rohan will halt at midday for a brief rest and to take a meal; we will ride from here and meet them upon the road as they rest."

"It is a good plan, Eadric," Boromir agreed, nodding his head in satisfaction.  "Will you lead the way, then, and present me to your king when the time comes?"

"Most happily, my lord!"

Boromir mounted Surefoot, and turned to face the men of the outpost who had gathered outside to say a final farewell.

"Men of Gondor," Boromir addressed them solemnly.  "Faithful caretakers of Nardol's beacon fire!  I thank you for your service to me and to my men and for your care of us in our time of need.  I thank you for your service to Gondor and your unfailing devotion to your duty!  I bid you be strong and continue in that service, and may the Valar grant that we meet again with no enemy to hinder our reunion!"

The men shouted their affirmation of Boromir's charge.

"Go swiftly and return to your father and our people, my lord," Gwaeron said with a bow.  "Deliver them from the slavery that threatens, and send word when you are able of your victory!  Farewell!"

~*~*~*~

Chapter 51

The beacon hill of Erelas was behind them when the army of Rohan stopped at midday for a brief rest and to partake of food for both man and horse.  A tent for the king and his guard was swiftly erected, and the commanders of each éored now met together as they waited for the coming of the son of Denethor and his men.  Word had spread throughout the ranks that Boromir of Gondor lived and would join them in their ride to the stone city.  He and his men were few in number, but great in renown, even among the Rohirrim, and the riders saw Boromir's arrival as a good omen at a time when fortune seemed to be turning against them.  King Théoden welcomed the men of Gondor, and anything that cheered the king and encouraged him was also an encouragement to the riders who followed him faithfully.

The troops rested and ate where they halted, strung out along the road and upon the open grassland northward.  They remained alert and poised ready to move on as soon as the signal was given.  Scouts had been sent ahead to keep watch for any enemy passing along the road and to guide Boromir to the king.

"Can't we get any closer?"  Merry complained, straining to see through the gloom ahead.  "I can't really see anything from here, not even the king's tent.  In fact, I can hardly see my hand in front of my face, it's so dark, even though it's the middle of the day now and time for nuncheon!"

"I am sorry," replied Dernhelm quietly.  "It is not possible to get any closer at this time.  We must remain grouped with our assigned éored, particularly now while we are stopped and the darkness hinders our sight.  It would be too easy to become separated in this gloom.  The signal to move forward could come at any time, and we must be ready to set out in an orderly fashion."  He looked at Merry with compassion and laid a comforting hand on the halfling's shoulder.  "I know you are eager to see your friend once more, but you will have to trust Elfhelm to get word to him that you are here and that you await him.  He will not fail you!  He will surely speak to Boromir, and the man of Gondor will swiftly seek you out as soon as he knows you are here." 

Merry sighed heavily and looked morosely at the piece of bread in his hand.  "I know.  I'm sorry for being so impatient, Dernhelm.  It's just that I wanted to see Boromir come if I could, and see his meeting with the king.  But I guess I can't have that, so there's no point in wishing otherwise!  I'll try to stay calm and wait quietly, and be ready to ride again when it's time.  Oh, I do hope that the marshal is able to get word to Boromir soon.  I can't wait to see the look on his face when he sees me up close!"

***

Even as Boromir dismounted before Théoden's tent, the king emerged and strode forward to embrace him.

"Well met, Boromir son of Denethor!" Théoden exclaimed, holding Boromir at arm's length and looking him up and down as if to reassure himself of Boromir's good health.  "We have heard many a tale of your struggles upon your journey, and had thought you lost to us forever.  I was exceedingly glad to learn that the news of your loss was in error.  To see you alive and standing before me gives my old heart renewed hope!"

"Would that all such news of death and loss could be overturned as untrue!" Boromir replied, bowing over the king's hand and kissing it reverently. 
"I was greatly saddened to learn of your own bereavement, my lord.  Eadric of the Rohirrim scouts told me of the slaying of your son Théodred at the Fords of Isen -- I grieve the loss of one who was my friend and a strong ally of Gondor and your only heir.  I did not doubt Eadric's word of that loss, but to not see Théodred here at your side as you ride to war is like hearing the news of his death for the first time.  It is a blow to both our peoples and I mourn with you, King Théoden."

"I thank you for these words from your heart and for the tears I see upon your face as you speak them," Théoden answered with a sad smile.  "It is a great loss indeed to Rohan and to my family.  Éomer is my heir now, and he rides with me in the place of my son.  Our grief over Théodred's absence is keen, but it serves this good purpose -- to sharpen our desire to see justice done and to avenge our son and brother in battle!"

Boromir straightened and his face set resolutely.  "May I ride with you and join in that battle, my lord?"

"You may indeed, my son!  You are most welcome, and I shall be much honored to have the son of Gondor at my side as I ride in aid to his people!"  Théoden made to return to his tent.  "We are just finishing our midday meal, and will ride out soon.  Have you eaten as yet?  Will you and your men come and break bread with me before we ride together?"

"I am honored!"  Boromir agreed.  "I will gladly share Théoden's table, and hear what news he has to tell me of recent days."

Éomer stepped forward then and greeted Boromir with a firm embrace and a stout slap on his shoulder.

"It is good to see you again, as well, Éomer!" Boromir laughed, returning the embrace.  "It has been long days and many miles between us since last we met upon the grassy plains of Rohan."

"I see you are once more united with the steed who bore you away upon that long journey and then left you to return to us," Éomer grinned.

"Indeed!  I am happy to be reunited with Surefoot; he is all you claimed him to be when you offered him to me -- loyal and faithful, whose feet always find the path.  I am content that he found his way back to safety, though my road was long and slow after we parted."

As Boromir gave Surefoot an affectionate pat, he looked about him as if seeking something or someone.  Éomer was quick to notice.

"Do you seek the other companions who were with you upon your journey?" he questioned.  "Yes, we know of them, Boromir.  My éored met with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas upon the plains as they sought your lost companions, and they joined with us to fight at Helm's Deep.  They were with us until just recently, but they have gone their way again, each to his own doom or destiny."

Boromir's face fell, as he tried unsuccessfully to hide his disappointment.  "What of the halflings?" he asked urgently.  "Did they find them?  Were they rescued?"

"They were indeed, though not by your friends," Éomer replied.  "That is a long tale, of which I know but a small part.  But I can tell you what I know while we take food together."

"I will be glad to hear it!" Boromir cried, forgetting his dismay at not seeing Aragorn.  "Where are they now?  Did they ride with Aragorn?"

Boromir was surprised to see Éomer's face darken, and wondered at the change.  But Éomer only shook his head in reply.

"No, they did not take Aragorn's road," he said gravely.  "One of the small ones swore service to my lord the King, and remained behind in Edoras in the care of my sister, while the other rode with Gandalf to Mundberg some four days ago."

Boromir gasped and struggled to speak, but he was stunned and totally at a loss for words.  "Gandalf!" he stammered at last.  "Gandalf?  But... how is this possible?  I saw him fall in Moria...  How can he be alive?"

Éomer laughed and clapped Boromir on the shoulder once more.  "You traveled with a wizard and learned nothing of his ways or his magic?  Yes, he lives and he returns more powerful than ever before.  Gandalf the White they call him now.  But there is much you do not know, I see.  Come and eat now, my friend, and you will hear an amazing tale of lost ones who are found, of fabled creatures in children's songs walking about on the green earth, and of the dead who return to life and sway the counsels of kings.  I would hear as well the tale of your own return from death, for though we first heard from Aragorn that you had survived your dealings with Saruman's Uruk-hai, news later received seemed to indicate you were once more lost to us, to our great woe and detriment."

Boromir heaved a sigh and shook his head in wonderment.  "I have had an adventure or two since then," Boromir affirmed, a smile growing on his face.  "I will tell you the tale, and gladly hear yours in return!  Let me just see our horses cared for and we will join you and the king directly."

Boromir turned to speak to Grithnir and the others, but came face to face with the marshal Elfhelm who had been waiting quietly to speak with him.

"Elfhelm, is it not?" Boromir queried.  "I remember you; you have come to Minas Tirith a number of times in the past on business for Rohan."

"I am pleased you remember not only my face but my name!"  Elfhelm exclaimed.  "Yes, I am he, and I am honored to be able to greet you once again."

Taking Boromir's arm, Elfhelm drew him a short distance away from the group.  "My lord Boromir, if you please, I will see that your horses are watered and fed for the next leg of the journey.  But first, if I might have a brief private word with you?  I bear a message that I think you will want to hear...."

***

Horns were blown to signal the end of resting and the Rohirrim set forth once again upon the road to Minas Tirith.  Merry waited beside Dernhelm's tall horse, wondering where the rider had gone.  Just as he began to worry that he had lost the rider and would be somehow left behind, Dernhelm appeared out of the gloom and came forward to where Merry stood.

"Were you afraid I had left you?" Dernhelm asked.  "Have no fear, you shall go with me, to the bitter end if need be.  We need every valiant warrior for this fight, no matter his size."  Lifting him, Dernhelm set the halfling securely upon the horse and mounted behind him.

"I have just come from Elfhelm," Dernhelm said into Merry's ear.  "I have news for you from him, and a message."

Merry sat up straighter and turned eagerly towards Dernhelm.

"Boromir of Gondor has been told of your presence with us, and he sends word to you that he will seek you out when we make camp for the night.  Only a few hours more and he will be with you, as you wished.  And he also says this, according to Elfhelm:  'Tell Merry to stay out of trouble and try not to get lost before our meeting, or I shall be very unhappy with him!'.  It is a strange response from one who professes to be a close friend, but that is what he said."

"It's not so strange a response," Merry laughed happily.  "That's just the kind of thing Boromir would say, even if we'd been apart for a year!  Pippin and I have caused no end of trouble to Boromir -- at least, that's what he's always telling us.  But he'd not have it any other way, I bet.  Him growling at me about staying out of trouble is his way of saying he's glad I'm alive and that he can't wait to see me.  I expect I'll get a cuff to the head into the bargain, as well, but I'll take it!  His hand is gentle to me and his growling has nothing but love in it!"

"I see," said Dernhelm softly.  "A true friend, indeed."

"He is that, for sure," Merry answered.

"Tighten your grip now," Dernhelm cautioned as he urged his horse into a faster pace.  "We will be riding hard until evening.  This could be our last night camp before we approach the walls of Mundberg and see battle before the Great Gate."


Thanks for reading!



Profile

linaewen: (Default)
linaewen

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Aug. 24th, 2017 03:10 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios