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CHAPTER FOUR: ITHILIEN
Frodo and Sam crouched hidden deep in the fern, listening.
There was no doubt of the voices. They were speaking low and furtively, but they were near, and coming nearer. Then, one spoke quite clearly, close at hand.
“Here! Here is where the smoke came from!” it said. “ ‘Twill be nigh at hand. In the fern, no doubt. We shall have it like a coney in a trap. Then we shall learn what kind of thing it is.”
“Aye, and what it knows,” said a second voice.
At once, four men came striding through the fern from different directions. Since flight and hiding were no longer possible, Frodo and Sam sprang to their feet, drawing their swords.
The Men stared in astonishment at the small and unfamiliar creatures who stood there so defiantly. But one of them looked even more astonished than the others. “Frodo? Frodo Baggins?”
Frodo lowered Sting with an amazed look of delight. “Faramir! Oh, Faramir! It’s you! Boromir *told* me you were in Ithilien! Is that where we are?” He turned to his companion, who still held up his sword, though his expression had changed from fear to confusion. “Sam! It’s Boromir’s brother, Faramir!”
Faramir stared in amazement, and as he gazed into the oh, so familiar blue eyes, suddenly his mind went back to that night, so many years ago, when he and Boromir were still barely more than children themselves, it seemed now to him…
Boromir aimed and shot in the direction of the movement.
Boromir and Faramir both heard something fall in the brush.
“See?” Boromir clapped Faramir on the shoulder. “My aim never fails.”
“Was it a deer?” Faramir asked. His heart had sped up, and he felt nervous, though he was not sure why.
Boromir climbed to his feet with a determined light in his eyes. “Let us see. Hopefully we will feast on more than dried fruit tonight.”
They entered the woods where they had heard the creature fall, and Faramir’s skin turned cold when he saw a small figure with dark curly hair lying on his stomach on the ground. This was no beast.
Boromir let out a sick gasp and fell to his knees beside the small figure. “I’ve shot a child.” He looked up in agony. “What is he doing here, in the wilderness, so far from home…?”
Faramir turned the figure over so that he lay on his back. The lad’s face was pale. Though he was the size of a child of eight or nine, his face looked older, as if he were an older teenager or young man. He was still breathing, but his eyes – a brilliant shade of sky blue – were wide and full of pain. He clutched at his belly, where Boromir’s arrow was deeply imbedded. Blood seeped outward from the wound, soaking the brown vest the lad wore. Faramir noticed that the little one wore no shoes and that hair covered his tough feet.
“Boromir,” Faramir said, his voice faint. “You’ve shot one of the halflings.”**
Faramir shook his head free of the memories, as Mablung touched his arm.
“Captain, you *know*these strange creatures?” The other rangers looked at Frodo and Sam with suspicion.
“They are halflings, pheriannath, Mablung. And I met this one many years ago, when Boromir and I journeyed in the far lands of the North.” He turned to the hobbits. “Frodo, what are you *doing* here?”
“Do you recall the errand your brother was sent on? The riddling words of the dream you both shared?
Seek for the sword that was broken
Faramir’s jaw dropped in astonishment. “*You* are the halfling of whom the dream spoke? But of course! And what of Isildur’s Bane?”
“That is hidden,” said Frodo. “Doubtless it will be made clear in time.”
“We must learn more of this,” said Faramir, “and know what brings you so far east under the shadow of yonder--,” he pointed and said no name. “But not now. We have business in hand. You are in peril, and would not have gone far by field or road this day. There will be hard hand strokes nigh at hand ere the day is full. Then death or swift flight back to Anduin. I will leave two to guard you, for your good and for mine. If I return, I will speak more with you.”
“Farewell!” said Frodo. “Please take care, for I would not for all the world have found you here, only to have you come to harm ere we can speak more freely! I wish that we could be of aid to you, but I am afraid our small swords would be of little use to such doughty men as you! May the light shine on your swords.”
Faramir smiled, and clasped Frodo’s shoulder briefly in farewell. Then he turned to his men. “Mablung! Damrod! Take you good care of them--Frodo is a dear friend, and I would not have him come to harm!”
It had been with many an apology that Faramir saw to the binding of Frodo’s and Sam’s eyes, but it was worth the journey, Frodo thought, to come to such a place of refuge after all their terrible toil. He and Sam had made such a meal among friends as they had not known since Lothlórien. Afterwards, Faramir had taken them away from the earshot of his men, and Frodo confided his errand.
“I had to leave, Faramir! If you could have seen the torment on your brother’s face, as he fought off the Ring’s temptation. I could not subject him--or any of my other friends--to any more of that.”
“Ah! Boromir!” exclaimed Faramir. “Such a sore trial of your honor must have been hard indeed! I think, Frodo, that it was as well you had already his sworn friendship ere you met in Rivendell. My heart tells me he might not have fared so well otherwise!”
Sam nodded emphatically. “Mr. Faramir, sir, your brother was sore tempted! From the first, he kept saying as how it could help your country and your father! But I don’t think as how that’s the way it would have gone!”
“Minas Tirith needs no such tainted help! Better she go down in flames and sorrow, fighting the Enemy, than to rely on such evil means to secure her victory!”
“I think,” said Frodo, with sad horror on his face, “that if the One went to your city, there would soon be two cities of Minas Morgul, grinning at each other across a dead land filled with rottenness.
“I do not doubt you, Frodo! Take your rest, you and Samwise.”
But Frodo and Sam were not fated to sleep the night through--they were roused as the Moon was just setting, and all to the fault of Gollum…
The next morning, Frodo pressed Faramir to allow him and Sam to leave. Faramir was loathe to trust them to Gollum’s guidance, but realized he had no choice.
There were tears on both sides, as he and Frodo embraced in farewell.
“Farewell, Frodo Baggins! And to you also, Samwise Gamgee. Be wary, the both of you, of this creature you have taken up. I do not think he would find it hard to betray you! I do not hope to see you again on any other day under the Sun. Yet if ever beyond hope you return to the lands of the living, and we re-tell our tales, sitting by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, I shall rejoice to be with you once more! Until that time, or some time beyond the Seeing-stones of Númenor, farewell!”
He rose and bowed low to Frodo, and drawing the curtain passed out into the cave.
Frodo stood for a moment, watching. He had never thought to encounter an old friend so far from home. He drew a hand across his brow, and turned. “Well, Sam! Sméagol! Let us be on our way.”
But he went onward with a heavy heart.
**Quoted from “Clear Shot” by Claudia
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