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A Little More Effort for the Impossible (PG-13) Print

Written by Ellynn

13 February 2021 | 7212 words

Title: A Little More Effort for the Impossible
Author: Ellynn
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Faramir & Boromir

Set few years before War of the Ring. During a task in South Ithilien, Boromir is captured by Haradrim. Faramir will do all in his power to rescue him… in a mission against all odds.


Author’s note:

In this story, there are two names that are not on the map on Middle-earth. Small river Celion and fortress Harnost in South Ithilien are my invention; but Tolkien’s map has only a few settlements shown, and it seems reasonable that there are many other settlements, villages and fortresses as well.

1.

A small camp set up by Ithilien rangers was well hidden in the woods. Actually, one could hardly call their current location a camp – it more resembled some sheltered spot where they stopped to take a rest and to wait for their remaining comrades. Their horses were hidden even deeper in the thicket. The eight men were cautious; they did not put up a fire. This was South Ithilien, far south of Minas Tirith, where the raids of orcs from Mordor and Harad men were frequent. The patrol was for the very purpose of identifying the enemy’s most recent activities. Faramir was concerned, for they had discovered trails of several bands, which seem to have been lingering constantly on this area. South Ithilien was becoming more and more unsafe.

He watched the sunset and awaited his brother’s return. Boromir led six men a little further south to check the area around the river Celion. They should be back very soon, and then they would immediately move northwards, sheltered by night. They were on the borderline, in dangerous area; they had done their task and it was better not to risk it any more by remaining unnecessarily in this area.

He looked at the face of the man beside him, now lit by a red glow. The sun gave Arantar’s usually pale face certain liveliness.

“When they return, we will start right away”, said Faramir and nodded. “Did everyone eat? We will not have time to stop later.”

“Some ate twice”, Arantar smiled. “You need not ever worry about that.”

“Hm, do not think I did not hear you”, replied Belegorn, giving him a side-glance. “Do I have to check my saddle bag for any missing things?”

“Even that could not help you, I am a ranger, I know how to hide my trails”, replied Arantar and looked at him innocently.

“And he, being a ranger himself, could not read if he is missing a piece of dried meat?” Faramir joined in, laughing.

“I think even my grandmother could find that out, and she’s no ranger”, teased Valandil, who was standing a little away from them.

“My mother would sometimes hide cakes and cookies so we would not eat them right away, especially when we were expecting guests”, added Mallor, still with his mouth full, just finishing his meal, “but my brothers and I would very soon discover all her hiding places and finished off with the cakes in no time.”

“I don’t have any other choice but to send you all home and take your grandmothers instead”, grinned Faramir. “At least they could cook, and they would be at least as successful as you in military actions.”

“Do you mean my cooking is no good?” asked Halmir, pretending to be offended. “That my dishes are not all dainty stuff?”

“Oh, let’s change the subject.” Faramir retreated one step back, as tough in fear. The others also realised the weight of the mistake they had made, for Halmir usually cooked when they were in campaign or carrying out certain missions, and he enjoyed it. He could talk about food for hours, even after being interrupted a number of times. He just needed a little nudge, and they had just made the introduction.

“No one changes the subject now”, continued Halmir, just as they knew he would. “The subject is food, which also indirectly implies my cooking. What do you have to say about …?”

“Your cooking is perfect and we will ask Lord Denethor to establish a special medal for the chefs and you will be the first to receive it and it will be more important than any other medal”, said Belegorn hurriedly in another attempt to change the subject. “Which one of you just mentioned that the other group was late? I hope they return quickly so we can start for Harnost soon.”

Faramir opened his mouth to say something about the fortress, which was their destination, but he was late.

“In order to eat there again when we arrive?” added Arantar, with an obvious intention to trick them all and return the subject to Halmir’s topic.

“Captain, send him on the watch to replace Eradan, because if he continues to talk like this, it will turn out he’s starved, poor thing “, said Valandil, rolling his eyes. “And he eats more than any of us.”

“That would be wrong, for what will Eradan be when he returns from the watch, but hungry?”

But before anyone could say anything, a tit call was heard from the woods, very near, which was a sign for caution and alarm. They fell silent in a second and took their positions, ready to fight, and Faramir hurried towards the guard who gave the sign, to see what was going on. He quickly approached the ranger leaning against a large tree, which was sheltering his guarding position. This was Eradan, a youth who just entered into his twenties, the youngest one in the group.

Without a word, the young man pointed with his head toward the source of a sound, his hand on a bowstring. Faramir himself heard the sound of a horse rider approaching, but just as he was drawing an arrow from his quiver, another whistle was heard – a signal that meant it was their scout returning. Just as he managed to form the thought that something must be wrong, for the rangers usually returned more quietly and sent in the signs of their approaching in advance, when a few moments later Dorlas, a ranger from the group which Boromir led into patrol, rode into the camp. It was enough for Faramir to take just one look at him to realize the man was in a great hurry and anxious. His hair was tousled and his cloak was torn on one spot. His horse was panting after a fast, strenuous ride.

Dorlas jumped off his horse and in one large stride approached Faramir. He was a tall and strong man, over forty-five, and a very experienced ranger.

“Captain, Lord Boromir’s group entered into the Southerners’ ambush. About thirty of them. He has been wounded and captured. The others are, sadly, dead.” He made the report in one breath, and his voice was solemn. The faces of five men who were with Boromir flipped through Faramir’s mind in a second; five men he knew well, who were his friends and with whom he fought side by side for. He felt pain.

The other rangers came to them now to hear what happened. A few moments of silence followed, and in their eyes there was sorrow for loss of their friends.

“How badly was Boromir wounded?” asked Faramir, fighting to conceal his concern and tension.

“He got a nasty stab with a sword in his right shoulder, as far as I could see. He tried to fight with his left hand, but there were too many of them. They overcame him quickly.” He stopped for a moment and then continued. “We checked the entire area around the river and started back. I separated from them, because I went to check something. Then I heard the sound of fighting and returned, but there was simply too many of them. That is why I did not reveal myself, but hid, so I could inform you of everything.”

Faramir nodded. To hide was the only logical and possible thing to do – otherwise he would be killed himself. Then no one could tell them what happened and call for help.

“Where did it happen?”

“Right after the fords, not far from the ravines leading towards east.”

Faramir frowned, analyzing the situation. They were attacked on the most dangerous spot, which they could not avoid, though. Celion was not passable elsewhere, especially not now in spring, when it was flooding because of the melting snows from the slopes of Ephel Duath. The spot was one hour of riding away.

“In which direction did they go?” he asked. However, even before he got an answer, he knew what it would be.

“South.”

Of course, opposite side from where they were. Meaning, they now have at least two hours advantage. While his men immediately started packing for departure and removing the trails of their presence and one went to get the horses, Faramir split a few paces away, thinking.

The people who attacked them could just kill the whole group. However, they wounded Boromir and captured him alive. That could mean only one thing – that they know who he is and want to use him for a hostage. With Boromir in their hands, various blackmail possibilities were at hand. He supposed they would try to distance themselves as far as possible, so they would be closer to the safety of their territory, in order to send a messenger from there with requests and blackmail message.

The alternatives were numerous and equally difficult and uncertain. He tried to stay calm, reminding himself that Boromir was more useful to them alive than dead, but his concern would not completely go away. Especially because his brother was wounded and he did not know if he would receive appropriate care. Perhaps it was in their interest to keep him alive, at least at the beginning, but they probably could not care less in what condition he was. He did not expect anything to keep them from beating and torturing him.

His father might make the enemies think he accepted their terms of blackmail, but in reality, he will certainly prepare a rescue mission. However, that was not so simple. Any larger military engagement in the south, which could tighten up the relations, would weaken Gondor on all other sides; north Ithilien, Minas Tirith and Lossarnach would become much more vulnerable. Gondor could not stand battles on several fronts… and their enemies knew that. That meant that after a certain period of ostensible talks and blackmailing, they would no longer need Boromir alive. Harad did not need fear a significant retaliation.

It will be more difficult to carry out a quick, secret action, as the kidnappers got further away. If they entered the south deeper, the chances would be minimal. The wide wasteland plains south of Poros shattered all illusions about secret, hidden foray.

Even if the kidnappers were not from Harad, even if they were some band who inhabited Mordor and descended down the passes in Ephel Duath on predatory and murdering raids, that did not change a thing when talking about freeing a hostage. It was equally difficult to get to Boromir, were he captured far in Harad or taken across the mountains to Mordor. Actually, the latter was even more difficult.

And for that reason, the solution was simple: they must not let them get away too far. Right, really simple, he thought. The kidnappers had an advantage of whole two hours and there were thirty of them, as Dorlas said. Nine against thirty. No worries. He firmed his lips and wrinkled his forehead. Actually, eight, he remembered; he would send one as a messenger to the fortress of Harnost, the rangers had to be informed of what happened and about Faramir’s plan so they would send backup. However, they alone did not have much choice; they had to move, immediately. He did not want to think about the force ratio, he would figure out something. As long as they were in Ithilien, in this hillside forest country, they had chance. Eight against thirty? No problem. It only takes a little more effort for the impossible, right?

Faramir turned around. The traces of camp were removed and Girion brought the horses. Everyone was ready for departure and looking at him, awaiting his orders.

Who will he send to Harnost? He did not need to think, there was only one possible answer to that question. Eradan. If they got killed on this dangerous mission on which he was about to lead them, let the youngest one, who just entered his life, be spared.

“Eradan”, he spoke to the young man, “you will go to Harnost and inform them of everything. They must take care about the bodies of those who were killed. Also, send the reinforcement after our trail.”

An expression of disappointment for being excluded from this mission appeared on the young man’s face for a second, but in the next one, he solemnly nodded. “Ay, captain.”

“We will follow the kidnappers’ trail”, he said seriously, observing the rest of them. Their faces were determined. They mounted their horses.

One rider started north, towards the fortress. Eight of them chased their horses toward the south, full speed, forced by urgency.

And hope.

2.

It was easy enough to follow the band, even at night, with only the light of the first quarter Moon. There were too many of them; they left trampled grass and broken figs behind them, and one simply could not miss the trails of about thirty horses. While he followed the trails in gallop, Faramir had the impression at certain moments that there could be even more of them… but he could not be sure of it. He would have to dismount the horse and study the ground in detail and in daylight, so he could make a more precise estimation. But that was not possible now.

I hope there aren’t any more of them. The situation was hard and complicated enough as it was. There were periods of concern and periods of thinking about the rescue, mingling in his mind. What if they were late? What if the kidnappers were too fast? What if Boromir’s wounds were more severe than Dorlas could see? Then Faramir reminded himself, he must bear it up. Don’t think this way, there is no use, just concentrate on the rescuing. However, he still did not have a faintest idea how to rescue Boromir. Open fight was out of question; there was not enough of them. The only possible solution was some kind of secret, quick action, when the kidnappers put up their camp. If they ever made one. But what kind of action? And how? His mind was wildly shuffling through all the possibilities, he drew the recollections of previous rescue actions, analyzed the current situation, but he could not plan anything – not before he saw everything with his own eyes, not while the kidnappers were still on the move.

His concern for his brother also did not help him in his ruminations. However hard he tried, he could not completely suppress his fear.

The hills, valleys and woods passed beside them; the hours ran, and he could only hope the band was not advancing as fast as they were, that they were decreasing the distance after all. But the question was if their horses would be able to endure the pace at which they forced them. The Moon was moving towards the western horizon, and when it set, it would be even harder to follow the trails, no matter how numerous the band was. He studied the starlit sky and estimated it was close to midnight when they came near to the tops of another row of hills before them. He considered making a short break when they pass the ridge and observe the field in the valley on the other side. Each lost minute meant an advance for the kidnappers… but if they did not let the horses rest awhile, the break could soon become permanent, because the horses would not be able to run any further. And they must not let that happen.

Soon they found themselves on the top of a hill and as soon as they left it behind, Faramir gave a sign for them to stop, carefully observed the valley, looking for a suitable place for a short break. The rays of the setting Moon shone down upon a peaceful, shallow woodland valley. In the distance he saw another cluster of hills and hummocks, whose dark silhouettes were drawn against a slightly less dark-coloured sky. On the east, to their left, rose the black, threatening massif of Ephel Duath. However, Faramir’s attention was drawn by a distant spot of an orange-yellowish colour. It was barely visible, and its flowing shimmering light was almost completely hidden by trees. The dot could be only one thing. A campfire.

The break was no longer an option, not now when there was a chance open for them… however frail and weak. Eight against thirty? It only takes a little more effort for the impossible. He gave them a sign to continue, but slower and much more careful than earlier. They could not see the fire the whole time they moved forward; the trees would occasionally block the view, but the trails of horses and the camp position they remembered were good enough to guide them. After a little more riding, as they came a little closer, he halted. Although a part of him wished to move forward and free his brother, he restrained his worry and impatience. They could not come any closer than that, for the risk of being discovered. Now only one of them would continue to inspect the kidnappers’ camp location and guards’ positions. Only when he had that information, could he plan the course of action.

Belegorn instantly disappeared amongst the trees. That experienced forty-year-old was among the best scouts Faramir had ever seen. Belegorn even managed to surprise him several times, because he did not hear the man’s silent approaching; he would just turn up, without a warning or a notice. When he would stalk in the woods, he was almost invisible, completely merged with his surroundings.

Well-hidden among the high and thick trees, the rangers waited in silence for him to return. How long was he gone? A minute? Half an hour? Faramir brushed his horse for awhile, trying to occupy himself and keep himself from walking around nervously, waiting. They did not take the saddles and reins off the horses, for they did not know if they would have to carry on riding soon. But at least the animals had some time to regain their breath.

There was no escape from his own tumultuous thoughts and Faramir frowned. It really did not make any difference if he kept on walking up and down or remained on the same spot, his concern was the same. Finally, he sat on a large, smooth stone and stared into darkness. After what seemed like an indefinite time filled with worry, Belegorn appeared without a sound. As soon as he stepped among them, Faramir jumped to his feet.

“Lord Boromir is alive”, Belegorn reported what was most important. “But is tied up and does not move. His tunic is pretty much soaked with blood on his right side and on the sleeve. I could not see if they bandaged his wound at all.”

Faramir slowly nodded, allowing himself only a short sigh of relief. But a very short one. The most difficult thing was yet to come and he did not know how serious Boromir’s state was and how much time they had. “Situation?” he asked.

“Worse than we thought”, said Belegorn seriously. “Their total number is about fifty. It seems that it was not the whole band that had participated in the attack on our group, that they joined the rest of the band later. Two men are very close to Lord Boromir, as guards. The camp is on a clearing and there are four more guards in the woods, one each side of the camp. All of their horses are on one spot, on the edge of the clearing, towards the south.”

“The surroundings?”

“Mostly flat lowland. They are surrounded by the forest through which it is possible to sneak, if the guard on that side is removed.”

“In which part of the camp is Boromir?”

“In the middle. They are all more or less evenly spread around the camp”, responded Belegorn. Faramir frowned. Not that the answer was unexpected. He turned around, thinking, weighing the situation. Eight against thirty was bad enough, but eight against fifty was… very bad. Optimistically speaking.

He must not wither… it takes only a little more effort for the impossible, right? However, the words that he and Boromir used to say so often, especially while encouraging each other, now seemed to lose their credibility. He had participated in a number of different actions, but never before had he found himself in a situation like this, not with such unfavourable proportion of forces. Boromir, wounded and tied up, could not be of any help from the inside. The Fort Harnost was more than four hours of riding away from the spot where they had stopped earlier, and in the best scenario Eradan managed to reach them by now; and now they were much further south than their previous camp. Any possible support from the fort could not reach them in time; they had to act now, for the band would undoubtedly continue its journey south very soon. If they tried any kind of breakthrough in form of a spike, toward the camp centre, they would probably all get killed before even getting close to Boromir. Attack with archery from the woods would not bring any results either, because a group of kidnappers might manage to get Boromir and escape with him, while the other half would return the attack, or they would simply kill him if they estimated that keeping a prisoner was no longer worth the bother.

But, despite everything, he knew one thing. He would do all he could to save his brother… even more than that. He would find a way. And he would save him. Or he would die trying.

Faramir slowly paced among the dark silhouettes of trees, contemplating. He knew that each of his men thought in the same way and sought within his experiences any detail which could help in creation of a plan. To attack when the band starts preparing to move, when their attention was divided on several things? Or somehow to draw group of them somewhere away, turn their attention, separate them? He stopped and sat on a fallen tree trunk, going through the last possibility in his mind. Difficult, but feasible… only, it would require a good reason to draw away at least half of them. Leaning against another trunk, he lifted his gaze towards the sky. But he could not see it; the stars were hidden by thick, entwined crowns of trees. Gentle eastern wind slowly moved the branches above him.

And then, looking up, in a moment he could see nothing. Neither the tree tops, the woods, nor the silhouettes of his men who were only a few steps away. All that surrounded him was gone in one blink – the woods, night, horses, men – as if it drifted far away and disappeared, and his thoughts were focused on one spot only. He could not see anything… except the solution to the problem. At the reach of his hand. For the first time after several hours, he allowed himself a slight smile.

He was among his men in a second. They knew their long-time commander well and immediately they could sense a change in his attitude; in a second he had their full attention. “Halmir, do you still have that water-bottle filed with mead?” he asked tensely.

“I do”, said the man. If he was surprised by the question, he did not show it. When Faramir heard the affirmative answer, he slowly let out the breath he was holding. The plan could be done without it, but it would be easier this way, and safer. Once more he smiled, this time a little wider.

He described his plan in short. Everything was relatively simple; in fact, he presented it all in two minutes. When he finished, he looked at his men. Despite the dark, he could sense approving expressions on their faces.

“Perfect.” Valandil was the first who spoke. His comment was followed by confirming murmurs and nodding from the rest of them.

“It’s not without a risk, especially the role you intended for yourself, Captain”, added Halmir. “I propose someone else should take that part. I will volunteer.”

“No. This is something I need to do”, said Faramir softly but firmly. “You can come next, after me.”

They went through the plan once more, this time more thoroughly, working on the details. And then they moved forth.

The impossible was no longer impossible.

3.

About quarter an hour later, they arrived near the kidnappers’ camp, as close as they could get. They approached the camp from the east, because a mild wind was blowing from that direction, which would help them in their plan; in fact, without the wind the whole thing would be incomparably harder. The guard who was located on that side silently fell down, knife-stricken.

Faramir and Belegorn sneaked quietly near the edge of the forest, where they had a view of the camp. Faramir feverishly surveyed the camp, seeking his brother. And then he saw him. Boromir was still lying in the centre of the camp, with two guards near him. He could not see the details from afar, but he could see Boromir was tied. He lay on his left side, just as Belegorn described earlier, his tunic bloody on the right side. His heart sank. He tried to estimate the severity of his wound, whether it was bandaged, and whether they arrived on time. Of course, he could not tell or estimate any of that from a distance. The only thing he could – and had to do – was to act resolutely… without any mistake.

Then his glance moved further and without a mistake he recognized the commander, a big man standing in the middle and giving orders to the few men around him. His posture gave out a confident man who sought obedience. Some men were with horses, near the southern forest edge. Others were around the camp’s centre, as if grouped together evenly, although it seemed they could easily split and form two or three combat groups if required. Some already started packing for departure and it looked as if they would soon be leaving. They needed to hurry, especially concerning that their… “packages”, if they could be called so, were becoming pretty restless.

Before he went back and started the action, Faramir once more looked towards his brother. Hang on, we’re coming, he sent him a silent message and then quickly turned and went to his men. He briefly recapitulated the situation in the camp and the plan.

“I am moving to the other side now. Position yourselves with space of about two metres between each. When you see me near Boromir, light the torches, and few seconds later launch our missiles,” said Faramir and looked at Mallor and Valandil, who were holding the sacks carefully. Another one was in Erandur’s hands. The faint sound coming from their direction made him feel uneasy. If the sacks opened now… He quickly stopped his stream of thoughts. “Make sure one lands among the horses, it is very important they run off, so the band cannot start a chase. Halmir, when the main wave passes, you come with the horses to get us.”

“Ay, sir,” said the man and added, “these Southerners will think you’re a drunkard. Your smell approximately resembles a walking wine cellar. And mine, too.”

Halmir’s words melted away Faramir’s concern for a moment, and he could not help laughing. They both smelled of mead; they were sprayed with it all over – from clothes to hair, some of it was even spent on two horses. They spent the entire bottle. The scent was strong enough to incommode a sensitive nose.

“I know. I don’t like it either,” he replied. “But that’s the only way to avoid being attacked ourselves.”

The rangers then moved a little closer to the edge of the forest in order to take a combat position and Faramir held his head high. It was high time to start. He bypassed the camp and approached it from the west. Before getting the guard, he checked everything once again. His hands were gloved, protected, and he had a small dagger hidden in his right sleeve. Just one snatch and the dagger was in his fist. His aim was the commander. A thin, semi-transparent shawl, which he took from Valandil’s bag with bandages and medications, was attached to his cloak pin, thrown back and hidden in the hood. Under his tunic, he had a spare cloak for Boromir, also well soaked with mead.

In order to avoid being attacked by the guard before he had time to say something, he addressed him while still approaching. “I’ve come here to negotiate,” he said in official tone, emerging out of the forest towards him. The man drew out his blade in a second.

“Take me to your commander,” added Faramir without taking any notice of the sword pointed at him.

The man hesitated a little so Faramir thought that perhaps the man did not speak Westron, but then he gave Faramir a sign and took him to the camp. As soon as they appeared among the others, there was a slight stirrup, and all men turned their attention to him. The uniform of Ithilien ranger was a recognizable identification sign. Many drew their weapons and he saw others also became cautious. Of course, not because of him; one man was not a threat to the fifty. But they all understood he did not come here alone; no one would drop in such a situation all alone and sign his own death sentence. Many of them glanced in direction of the forest, aware that there could be other rangers hiding out there. But the forest which surrounded the fire lit opening was completely dark, and nothing could be seen.

While he followed the guard who led him, Faramir frowned a little. He would have rather ridden his horse, because he would have better control over the situation, but he knew his horse simply could not stand still in the chaos that was soon to follow. It would break free and run off in panic, and that would be a pure loss. They would lack one horse anyway, when they pull Boromir out and start their way back north.

When they approached the band’s commander, the guard stepped aside. Faramir stood before him and their eyes met. They looked at each other silently for a few seconds, sternly and coolly, measuring one another. The commander was a man in his forties, tall and strong. There were a few grey hairs in his brown hair, his face overgrown in a messy beard. He observed Faramir with a piercing glance, keeping his hand on the handle of his sword. Faramir cast a quick glance at his brother. Boromir’s eyes widened with surprise when he saw him and he tried to sit. But the man beside him stopped his effort, hitting him hard in the stomach with his foot. Boromir twisted in pain. Faramir clenched his fists in anger so that his knuckles ached, but he did not move an inch, he forced himself to remain calm. These men would probably be glad to see some reaction so they could capture him too, and the entire carefully prepared plan would be ruined.

“You shouldn’t have come,” pronounced Boromir in weak voice. “This is madness!”

As if you would not come to rescue me, no matter how dangerous it was, thought Faramir, but then he turned to commander and erased everything else from his mind. He had to concentrate on the plan; the timing was of the utmost importance now.

“What do you want?” Commander’s harsh words sounded as if he spat them out. His voice had a strong southern accent.

“I came here to negotiate. My men are hidden in the woods and your every move is under my archers’ watch. You are outnumbered and you are currently in a worse position, visible and exposed on this clearing. Most of you will be killed if it comes to a combat. I ask you to hand over the captive peacefully and you won’t suffer any consequences for your crime.”

The man’s eyes shrank in anger and Faramir immediately read in them his resolution to fight, but he did not have the time to answer. A little further, on the camp’s edge, a couple of thuds could be heard. “ALERT!!!” someone shouted in a moment when smoke started spreading in direction of the camp, and a few arrows whizzed from the forest. The two guards near Boromir fell down, and Faramir quickly pulled out his knife and struck the commander in the neck. In a second, he drew his sword and jumped to Boromir’s side, warding off the blows of two men at the same time. The arrows were striking the men around him.

Smoke was coming from the east. Some strange, wavy, moving cloud was also getting near, with a sound which most did not instantly recognize.

But when they started to realize, and as the thing making the sound was getting nearer, panic spread among the people.

However, Faramir was now in a dangerous and subordinate position, because he was at the centre of the camp, surrounded by enemies who still did not realize what was coming and they kept on tightening their grip. He hardly managed to ward off the attacks of two opponents at the same time.

An arrow hit one of them and Faramir used the moment he had to get a step closer to Boromir. He did not manage to fulfil his intention, another enemy was soon there. The arrows whizzed around and with a corner of his eye, he saw the man who wanted to attack Boromir falling with an arrow in his chest. Then the wind brought the smell of smoke. He rejected another blow at the last moment and another one… and then the buzzing came really close. He realized he had no more time left.

Forced by urgency and despair, he strengthened his attack, his moves flowed one into another. The two Southerners were just not good enough. After he knocked down one of them, he quickly took out the hidden cloak and threw it over Boromir. “Do not move, for your life!” he yelled to his brother and lifted his hood with his left hand, covering his face with the cloth fastened to his cloak. He could not see so well, but still he discerned enough, the silhouettes were visible. He lifted his sword, but his nearest opponent then realized all at once that there was another enemy here, much worse than a ranger.

That is, a bunch of enemies, and a sword was of no use against them. The air became thick and non-transparent. Not just from the smoke. Swarms of hornets spread across the camp. Faramir threw himself on the ground beside Boromir and flattened the cloak with which he was covered. Wild buzzing smothered the whizzing of incoming arrows. Flying away from the smoke that was advancing from the east, maddened hornets nailed into men in the camp.

The cloth stuck to his face. The smoke obstructed his breathing. He felt as if he were in some sort of a boiling pot. The hornets flew above him in waves. The band’s horses went mad when the hornets appeared among them. They started running in all directions, and in their panic, they trampled on some of the nearest men. Most of them ran to the forest.

The rangers kept on firing their arrows at the Haradhrim who were running towards the forest. However, no one of them even tried to fight back. Chased by smoke from the east, the wild hornets flew back and forth, the buzzing was unbearable, people sought just anything to protect themselves and run away from the maddened insects attacking them, getting under their clothes, stinging. Breathing hard because of the smoke, while his heart beat fast, Faramir was grateful for the protection of his clothes and his shawl soaked in mead. He heard the buzzing around him, and every now and then, some hornet would brush against him, which made him shudder. But the strong scent of alcohol would make them fly away at once.

The smoke scratched his lungs and he heard Boromir coughing, covered under the cloak. The rumble, shouting, buzzing, the sounds of men and horses running in front of the deadly cloud filled the air; he could no longer tell how long it lasted, and his head was pulsing heavily. His lungs cried for clean air. He felt drops of sweat appearing on his forehead.

And then finally, little by little, smoke began clearing and the sounds weakened. He could hear the sound of horse hoofs approaching and realized with relief it was Halmir. The buzzing now almost disappeared in the distance. He removed the shawl from his face and greedily breathed in. He could still smell the smoke, but the air was much clearer now. He quickly removed the cloak that covered Boromir. He was still coughing, his face contorted and red. Faramir carefully lifted him to sit and Boromir finally regained his breath after a few moments. Halmir jumped off his horse and cut Boromir’s ties.

“Are you alright?” asked Faramir.

“You could have come sooner, then I would be even better, my little brother,” said Boromir in rough, weak voice, but Faramir saw a familiar glow in his eyes. We are not late.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, big brother,” he smiled with relief and nodded to Halmir. “Let’s go.”

The air around them was clear now, the hornets flew away from the smoke, and the strong scent of alcohol protected them from any that remained. The horses nervously shook their heads and patted, trying to retreat. Halmir calmed them and together with Faramir lifted Boromir up, minding his wounded shoulder.

“The wound?” asked Faramir quickly.

“It’s not bandaged, they just put a piece of cloth under my tunic” Boromir answered. “But it doesn’t matter, it’s not bleeding, I’m fine, I can ride.”

As if you’d say if you couldn’t. Faramir frowned, but they had to move immediately.

“Hang on for just fifteen minutes, we have to move away from here and then we will bandage the wound properly.”

As soon as Boromir was in the saddle behind him, Faramir spurred the horse. All other rangers were already in their saddles, ready. In a few minutes, they were hurrying north, towards the safety.


Some two hours later, when they crossed a considerable distance, Faramir ordered them to stop. A break was necessary, for the horses, as well as to wounded Boromir. They stopped in a small dell, which protected them well. Valandil and Erandur immediately took guard. They did not light a fire and it was rather dark in the dell. They lay Boromir on a sleeping bag. Although he knew his brother would not complain or admit to feel any pain or strain, Faramir heard – or better, felt his sighs of relief as he lay down.

“Now tell me everything from the start – what did you do and how?” asked Boromir. “Although, I managed to link most of it myself.”

“There’s not much to tell, really,” replied Faramir with a smile. “When we came near the camp, while I was thinking what to do, I accidentally saw hornet’s nests hanging in the trees. That was the solution, and the rest was more or less simple. We took them down very carefully and put them in bags. I must say, not without consequences. Mallor and Arantar got one or two stings, but nothing serious. Luckily, hornets are daily creatures, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to come close, let alone take the nests down. When I walked into the camp, pretending I wanted to negotiate, others lit torches and threw the bags towards the camp. The nests crashed as they had hit the ground and hornets flew out of now untied bags. The wind blew from the east and the hornets run from smoke. By then they were pretty… angry, if I might put it that way. And that is very mildly put. When the nests crushed, it was better not to get in their way. And chased by smoke, it led them right at your poor kidnappers.”

“Really, poor indeed,” laughed Boromir, and then fell silent, contemplating. “You went in because of the cloak for me.” That was a statement, not a question. His tone became serious.

“The hornets run from the smell of alcohol,” said Faramir. “The beekeepers chase them that way: with smoke and alcohol. Though, they mainly use vinegar, and I had to manage with what I had at hand. I hope Halmir can forgive me for spending his bottle of mead. It served us well.”

“Well, I almost choked to death, breathing in the alcohol fumes from your clothes while riding behind you. Is that a way to treat a wounded man?”

“No problem, I’ll take you back to your kidnapers, if you prefer to be with them.”

“And now you’re blackmailing me,” said Boromir, pretending to be offended, and then he smiled. “It wasn’t so bad all in all, little brother, not at all. I am almost impressed.”

“I will remember what you said,” replied Faramir solemnly, feigning to be serious. “Impressed by my action. I will keep on rubbing it on your nose for the rest of your life.”

Then they could not hold themselves any more and they burst into laughter. But, while he laughed, Faramir sensed all his walls falling, all the fear and worry he kept earlier inside coming out. It could have ended differently… Boromir could have got killed… we could have been late. All the things he had to subdue inside, everything that could distract him in the fight and rescue, now immerged out of him without a warning. While the fear and relief mixed and hit him with equal force, his laugh mixed with tears, although he did not realize right away that they were running down his face. And when their laughter ceased slowly, Boromir held out his healthy arm and took Faramir’s. “I don’t know anyone as brave or devoted as you,” said Boromir quietly. “Thank you.”

Faramir could not see his brother’s face in the dark, but he did not have to see it to know all that was written all over it. He knew. Just as Boromir knew the same about him. He bent down and as hard as Boromir’s condition would allow it, he held him. “Brother,” he whispered. And nothing more. It was not necessary, because their closeness and love was not in their words.

It was in their hearts.

NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]

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Ellynn

Crazy cat lady; metalhead; fan of fantasy, reading, writing and astronomy.

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