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20 October 2011 | 40533 words
With Boromir and the hobbits missing, an attempt on Arwen’s life that endangers Legolas instead, and an army gathering at Gondor’s southern borders, Faramir’s unique abilities are called upon to help defend Gondor even while those he loves most are in grave danger.
Faramir stepped into Aragorn’s office, finding the King standing at the window.
“You called for me?”
Aragorn nodded. “There’s a… situation I wanted to make you aware of.”
Faramir glanced at the cluttered surface of Aragorn’s massive wooden desk, looking for some clue as to what the situation might be about, but the stacks of neglected papers revealed nothing.
“Isn’t your Steward supposed to be assisting you with problematic situations?” he asked.
Aragorn turned and nodded. “Ordinarily, yes. But he’s not here at the moment; he’s unhappy because the hobbits left to go fishing this morning and haven’t come back yet.”
Faramir smiled, thinking to himself that the sort of fishing Merry and Pippin engaged in was unlikely to produce much in the way of results, but it was rather unlike the two young hobbits to miss both lunch and supper, so he could understand why Boromir had decided to go off looking for them.
“Besides,” Aragorn added. “This situation particularly concerns you more than Boromir.”
“Because it concerns Legolas.”
Faramir’s first thought was to wonder who the occasionally capricious elf had managed to offend this time, but while Aragorn would often call upon Boromir to deal with some mischief committed by “his” hobbits, he had never specifically called Faramir in to discuss any of the questionable behavior “his” elf might engage in.
“What’s the problem now?” he asked. “If it’s about tricking those poor idiots at the inn into a drinking game with him, you already talked to him about that, and so did I…”
“A delegation of elves from Mirkwood arrived this afternoon.”
Faramir stopped, frowning. “From Mirkwood?”
“That’s right. A group of diplomats, according to the letter they brought from Thranduil.”
“What do they want? Is… do they intend to do Legolas some harm?”
“I don’t know,” Aragorn said, shaking his head. “He still won’t tell me what happened while he was in Mirkwood, and all Boromir will tell me is to talk to Legolas. Even the hobbits haven’t told me anything. What has he told you?”
“Legolas? Nothing more than he’s told you. But Boromir did tell me something…”
“What was that?”
“He told me that no matter what Legolas said or how much he pretended nothing bad happened there, that he intended to make sure Legolas never had to go back there as long as he was alive to keep it from happening.”
Aragorn sighed. “Your brother doesn’t make such statements lightly.”
“He doesn’t do much lightly. So why are we even allowing these elves into the city?”
“Because the letter’s not just signed by Thranduil. It’s also signed by Celeborn, as the Lord of East Lórien in Mirkwood. And I can certainly refuse to engage in diplomacy with Thranduil, since I’m fairly certain that he’s gone quite mad over the decades, but Celeborn… the elves of Lórien are our allies and fought beside us in the War, and I can’t refuse his request.”
“Does he know… whatever happened there, when Legolas was there?”
“He might,” Aragorn said. “But Thranduil is a King and he can’t be ignored.”
“So there’s no avoiding having them here.”
“No avoiding it. That’s what I wanted to speak to you about… I want you to keep Legolas and these Mirkwood elves far away from each other. I can’t keep Legolas from knowing they’re here, but I don’t want him doing anything reckless, and if they do intend to harm him, I intend to make sure they don’t manage it.”
“I’ll do my best, but you know how elves…”
Aragorn smiled. “I’m married to one. I know. Just try to keep an eye on him, please.”
Boromir strode down the path among the trees, looking for Merry and Pippin’s favorite fishing (and napping) spot. He’d considered bringing Finn along, but her habit of obsessively pursuing every squirrel that dared to show itself in her presence made her a less than useful companion in the woods.
“Hey! You two! Wake up! It’s past supper!”
He heard no reply and scowled fruitlessly at the impassive trees.
“If I stumble over the two of you doing something filthy…”
This time he did hear something, but it was not the giggle of a hobbit. It was a soft crack as something large shifted its weight among the trees.
“Too close to the city for any sort of trouble,” Boromir muttered, but his hand went to the hilt of his sword just the same. “You two had better get over here, or I’ll…”
Another twig cracked. Boromir’s sword hissed as he drew it from its sheath.
A low chuckle seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. “Hello, Lord Steward. We expected you’d come eventually.”
Boromir spun, eyes looking for a movement or a shadow to give away his enemy. The path behind him was clear, and he could see the walls of the city among the trees. What kind of threat attacked in the shadow of Minas Tirith itself?
“I’m not quite stupid enough to go running off among the trees looking for you,” the man growled. “Show yourself, and I’ll happily make you wish you hadn’t.”
The voice did not reply. However, another sound struck him, freezing his heart in his chest and erasing all other thoughts from his head. It was unquestionably a scream of pain and fright, and the voice was unquestionably Pippin’s. Boromir’s hand clenched around the familiar hilt of his sword as he charged in the direction of that frantic cry.
Faramir hoped that Legolas was in his rooms and not out wandering somewhere; he didn’t want to have to chase the elf all over Gondor to talk to him about the arrival of the Mirkwood elves, and he had resolved that this time he would insist on finding out at least some of what had happened under the trees of that strange place.
He tested the door and found it unlocked, which was a hopefully sign, as Legolas usually locked the door when departing. He pushed the door open and found the main room dimly lit; at this time of evening the sun slanted away from these windows and normally there would be lamps lit by now to provide light for reading. The lamps were dark, though, and showed no sign of having been lit at all that day. Faramir frowned and stepped farther into the room, wary and alert to anything out of place. Nothing seemed odd, though. The hearth was cold; the day had been warm, but the nights had begun to turn cold and if Legolas was around he usually started a fire for Faramir’s benefit, knowing the man’s healed wounds still ached in cold, damp weather.
“Legolas?” he called.
The remains of a light afternoon meal sat on the stand next to the elf’s preferred reading chair, an empty mug and a small wooden dish with a few small mushrooms still in it. He smiled; forest creatures by nature, elves seemed to have a tremendous fondness for mushrooms and collected them avidly, having learned as small elflings which were safe to eat and which were harmful. Perhaps Legolas had gone out and neglected to lock the door, since he was not in the main room and there would certainly be no reason for him to be…
The door to the washroom was open, and blond hair lay across the floor in the doorway. Faramir thought for a dizzy moment that the elf had to be playing a joke on him; they did tend to have a slightly macabre sense of humor. Two more steps told him that this was not a joke. The usually graceful figure was sprawled awkwardly, neck and back painfully arched, hands clutched into fists, jaw clenched, every muscle tensed and rigid.
The blue eyes flew open, wide and stunned and near to panic.
Faramir, relieved to at least see the elf looking back at him, knelt and grasped him by the shoulders.
“What’s happening? Can you hear me?”
The quick flicker of the eyes told him he could hear, but not answer him. He attempted to lift him from the floor but found that the motion only sent the already unyielding muscles arching into further spasms, forcing a choked cry from the elf. The man quickly laid him back down, horrified.
“I’m going to get Aragorn. He’ll know… I’m not leaving you; I’m coming right back with Aragorn and he’ll be able to help you…”
The blue eyes followed him as he stood. For a moment he lingered, afraid that something terrible would happen if he left the elf even for a moment, but he had no idea what was happening and could only hope that Aragorn would.
Merry huddled against the trunk of the broad tree, holding Pippin tightly to his chest. The younger hobbit trembled, trying to muffle his sobs.
“Shh, Pip. It’s all right. Someone will find us.”
“My shoulder hurts,” Pippin murmured.
Merry looked down and winced at Pippin’s crooked and misshapen right shoulder. “I know, love. I’m sure it does. I think it’s dislocated… you remember, like the little Barnaby boy when he fell out of that tree in Maggot’s orchard?”
“Yes,” Pippin said softly. “I wouldn’t have laughed at him if I knew how much it hurt.”
Merry’s stomach clenched; he’d felt on the verge of being ill since he watched the orc haul Pippin off the ground by the arm and then drop him, crying out in pain, to the hard ground.
“I told you not to try to fight with them,” Merry whispered, stroking Pippin’s damp curls.
“I thought they were going to hurt you.”
Merry sighed and held him closer, avoiding any motion that might jar his injured shoulder. “Don’t worry about me, my little one. Just lay still for now. We’ll find out soon enough what they intend to…”
Pippin raised his head, eyes widening. “Did you hear that?”
“That voice! Merry, it’s Boromir! He’s coming for us!”
Merry looked around, alarmed. He was fairly certain there were at least eight orcs, and the forest was falling into twilight. If Boromir barged into this camp, Merry doubted he would have even a chance of surviving it. He clutched Pippin against his body and closed his eyes, hoping that Boromir would, against all odds, have the good sense to go back to the city for reinforcements before coming after them. He wished there was some way to tell the man they were alive and hopefully would still be in the morning; Pippin’s injury, though painful, was not life-threatening.
“He’s going to be killed if he comes after us, Merry,” Pippin whispered.
“Shh. Don’t think about that, Pip. Just… don’t. Close your eyes, love… just lay your head down for a moment.”
Pippin’s head slowly slumped against his shoulder, lulled by Merry’s soft voice. The older hobbit cautiously slid his hand downward and found the handle of the knife he carried in his boot, the one the orcs had not bothered to take from him. He might not be able to fight their way to freedom with it, but he clutched it in his hand and vowed that any orc daring to lay a finger on Pippin would be missing that finger if Merry had anything to do with it.
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