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Chapter Five - Is There Hope?
Boromir backed into the wall, pressing as close to it as possible, and held his breath. Yes, it was definitely someone or something moving in the tunnel ahead of him. He could not see, black as it was, but thought he might try the other fork. The noise came from directly ahead; if he turned to his right he might bypass the danger ahead. The tunnel had been free of debris so far; with any luck, he could move relatively silently and stay away from whatever… It was his only hope at the moment.
He moved forward and his legs gave way. He swore at himself for not remembering he was still weak. The clatter as he fell sent shivers through him. He held himself still, waiting for what seemed an interminable amount of time, but there was no further noise. ‘Mayhap a mouse,’ he hoped.
Before he was able to move another muscle in the piercing dark, a hand covered his mouth and a voice whispered in his ear, “Speak not a word if you value your life.”
He froze, then nodded, trying desperately to place the voice. A further pressure on his mouth and he tried to stop from even thinking.
“Boromir?” the voice questioned in stillest tones.
He nodded again, this time with some hope.
“It is I, Háma. Théodred sent me, hoping you would have remembered the old passages. He could not come himself, too closely watched; he is supposed to be giving you your medicaments as we speak.” A low growl of derision accompanied the words.
Again, the Man of Gondor nodded.
“We cannot make a sound. They are in your room as we speak. These walls are thick and should keep any noise away,” Háma continued to whisper, “but your fall echoed through the chamber. I am hoping your disappearance has them all jabbering enough that it was not heard. Can you walk?”
Boromir nodded again, not trusting the strength of his own voice, and truly hoping his legs would obey him. He felt Háma’s hand on his arm and let himself be half-led, half-carried.
As they traveled downward, Boromir’s knees again buckled. He fell against the floor hard and lay still, trying to catch his breath, and most grateful he had not cried out; however, his body began to shake violently. The warmth of Háma’s hand on his shoulder filled him with comfort.
“You are shivering like a new-born foal, Boromir. What is this? You only wear a nightshirt? Where are your clothes? Here,” and he felt a warm, horse-smelling cloak drape around his shoulders. He sighed with relief.
“I am sorry, my Lord. I did not note.” Boromir could tell Háma was on his knees. He shook his head. “Never the mind,” he whispered. “Give me but a moment; I will regain my strength.”
“Have you eaten aught today?”
Boromir’s shoulders shook with the inanity of it all. “Only poison this day, my friend, only poison.”
“And perhaps some charcoal that Théodred mixed with it, once we discovered what was happening?”
“Tell me!” Boromir almost shouted in wonder.
”Not here. We must reach the end of the tunnel. As soon as night falls, and there is no moon tonight, we must be ready to leave for a safer place. Stay still another moment, but only that; then, we must continue. I have a roll, left over from nuncheon. It’s not much, but better than nothing. I had never considered bringing food with me.” He handed it to Boromir. It had been cut in half and filled with sweet honey; Boromir sighed in gratitude.
“Eat it slowly! Your stomach is probably ill-used.” Boromir laughed at the absurdity. ‘Ill-used indeed.’ He hoped the roll would stay down. Finished, he put his hand on the wall and pulled himself upright. “Lead on. I am better.”
Yes, he had been better immediately after the roll, but walking downhill pulled at his calves and they began to burn. He was beyond exhausted. The longer they walked, the weaker the Man of Gondor became. Hating to further display his debility, Boromir finally had to stop. Háma was instantly at his side. “I am afraid I can go no further.”
The Doorward helped him sit. “It is no matter. We are only a few rods from the entranceway. I will go forward and see if the sun has yet set.”
“Go then. I will wait.”
He closed his eyes and laid his head back against the tunnel’s wall, grateful for the moment’s respite. ‘Must regain my strength for when it is time to move again.’
He jumped when a hand touched him; he had fallen asleep.
“It is time, Boromir,” Háma whispered. “The sun is gone and someone awaits. We must hurry, once we leave the tunnel, but there will be an extra set of hands to help, should you falter.”
Boromir, with Háma’s help, forced himself up and staggered towards the entrance. It was still blacker than night in the tunnel, but Boromir could see a faint white light ahead of them.
“Grimbold,” Háma breathed what very much sounded to Boromir like a sigh of relief as they rounded a bend. There, in fact, stood a Rohirric warrior, dressed for battle with sword drawn, a blazing torch in the other hand.
“Is this Lord Boromir?” he held the torch high and looked with disbelief at Boromir.
The Man of Gondor almost laughed. He must look a sight, but the Rohir was a sight to behold. ‘A man of strength,’ Boromir thought. ‘I could easily use him in Gondor.’ Boromir took new courage, though his body had once again begun to shiver violently.
“We must get him to the smithy now. He will not last much longer,” he heard Háma whisper.
“Nay. You need not worry about me, Háma. I see hope now and for that I am thankful. Lend me an arm and I will scurry with the best of them.” His smile brightened the tunnel.
Grimbold extinguished the torch in the dirt floor and took Boromir’s arm in a vice-like grip. “I will not drop you, but try to keep your feet, Gondorian; I do not wish to meet the enemy tonight.”
Lightning-like, the Rohir drove Boromir onward, out of the tunnel entrance, cleverly hidden as a part of the back wall, and down the street that the wall created. As Boromir once again thought he would not make it, he was thrust into a stall. ‘Nay,’ he thought wildly, ‘it is not a stall, but a smithy.’ His head was beginning to wander again and fear gripped him once more as his legs turned to lead. Thankfully, he deemed they were at their destination, for a door flew open and he was almost carried inside by the man, Grimbold.
“Take those clothes off him and put something warm on him,” he heard a woman’s voice ordering. “Here, lay him here. Théodred said he needs to drink this before anything else. Once he’s taken that, I’ve got soup ready; force some down him if you must.”
Boromir recognized the smell as the foul liquid was poured down his throat; it was as a fire as it wanes. ‘Charcoal.’ Háma had mentioned charcoal before. Boromir fought the ache in his head, trying desperately to remember what it was, but the room suddenly began to sway and he knew he was, at last, dying. He gave a strangled laugh. Faramir would be sad.
‘Faramir!’ His eyes opened wide in horror. He began to shout Faramir’s name and Grimbold shoved a cloth into his mouth. Boromir gasped for breath and flailed his arms in surprise and horror.
Háma grabbed the Rohir’s arms and pulled him away.
“He will have us all found and killed,” Grimbold hissed between his teeth.
“He is mad with the poison.” Háma took Grimbold’s place next to Boromir and held his hand over the man’s mouth. “Boromir! Stop screaming. You will have us all killed and then who will be left to help Faramir?”
At that, Boromir understood and ceased his struggles. Háma took his hand from the Gondorian’s mouth. “Good. Now tell me what disturbs you?”
Boromir took a moment to catch Háma’s arm. “She said they will kill Faramir. You must help him.”
“Oh, Boromir! If I could I would. I cannot see how she can reach into Minas Tirith. Think, for a moment. It is the poison that addles your mind and fills you with this fear.”
“Nay, Háma,” and Boromir, Son of Gondor and Captain-General of all the armies of Gondor, began to weep. “She said they would kill him. There is something or someone there, in my City, bent on his harm and I can do naught to save him.”
“Weep not, my friend,” Boromir heard Théodred’s voice and looked up in surprise. “We will send a missive to Denethor, warning him of such a plot. When you are well, you may then return and see what must be done.”
Boromir fell back upon the bed, threw his hands over his face, and wept bitterly. “I cannot return, even for Faramir’s life. I am bid and must go North.”
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