|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
A/N: This chapter is quite quote heavy, but I did my best to spread them out. Also, I realized I realized an upcoming plot point might be too much of a surprise, so there are now some very minor additions to Chapter 7. It isn't necessary to go back and read that chapter, though.
Boromir had been distracted by the throbbing in his arm. This he freely admitted. He was sore. He was tired. He was cranky. That he had likely pulled a stitch or two that morning, trying to get down from the heights of elven hospitality, hadn't exactly improved his mood. He had been content to wallow in his ire all morning, but something about the hitched gasp from Frodo had driven him from him from his wallowing. He'd turned in alarm, following Frodo's horrified gaze to see Pippin wavering.
At first, Boromir had thought the Halfling was grand standing, and had felt only irritation that Pippin didn't just grab the makeshift handrail, instead choosing to cause a stir in order to get attention. He'd made it almost all the way across already, for goodness sake, and Boromir had personally witnessed the hobbit's rather extraordinary sense of balance. After all they had been through, could he not see this was no time for jesting? Could he not see what it was doing to Frodo? Why did he not grab onto the rail?
"His hands," Haldir gasped in Sindarin beside him, supplying the answer. Guilt sank like a stone in his stomach as a flash of memory surfaced from the night before. In his own anger and exhaustion, he'd barely even registered the hobbit's flayed hands, and he hadn't even tried to find out if Pippin was alright, or even what had happened. He'd just yelled at him for scaring him so. Boromir realized with a jolt that Pippin was well and truly in trouble.
The Halfling almost—almost—pulled it off, skillfully managing a few more feet before he tried a last ditch grab at the handrail. "He's going to fall in!" Sam yelled when Pippin's weak grasp failed to arrest his fall. Rúmil, who had been waiting for them on the eastern side dove toward the Halfling. Boromir began running down stream. The elf would not be able to catch Pippin, even fast as he was, and they would be hard pressed to outrun the swift current. Behind him, Haldir cursed and began running faster. Boromir turned his head upstream to see Pippin wheeling his arms frantically as he dropped into the water.
The hobbit instantly sank beneath the current. The man stopped for a moment, his heart pounding in terror, his eyes roaming for any sign of the Halfling. The seconds passed like minutes as they all waited for him to resurface. If Sam was pale, Frodo was white—his hands fisted in terror. He gave a little cry as a head bobbed out of the water, curly hair plastered to its head.
The current was merciless and swiftly began to carry Pippin downstream. Even at a dead sprint, Boromir couldn't keep pace with the elves, who had now pulled ahead of him, while Sam and Frodo trailed far behind. If the Halfling managed any sound, the rush of the river drowned it out, and he was dragged back under.
Boromir looked in vain for an opportunity to grab him, but Pippin seemed to sink as soon as he surfaced, tossed up and down by the current. The river was slowly funneling Pippin away from the edge and toward the deeper middle, and it was taking longer and longer for the hobbit to resurface. He was slipping under much more quickly now. A minute or two more, and he'd be beyond their reach. Boromir dug into the last of his reserves, but he couldn't quite run fast enough to overtake the hobbit, and he kept losing sight of him when he went under. But somehow, Haldir could track him, even when he was beneath the water, and the elf knew the river better.
At almost the last possible moment, Haldir managed to jump into the water in front of the hobbit and halt Pippin's course. He didn't so much catch the hobbit, as provide an obstacle to halt his being swept away by the water. Boromir splashed in after him. The temperature of the water was much colder than he'd expected, and the current quite fast as it pulled at Pippin's limp form. At least he was no longer at the river's mercy. The hobbit was limp-a sickly white, his lips blue with the cold. Boromir couldn't even say for certain that he was alive, but the hobbit had held on this long, and he refused to allow him to slip away from them now.
He barely registered the popping of his stitches as he helped Haldir haul the Halfling from the River. Pippin's sodden clothes more than doubled his weight, and his arms and legs dangled limply from the anchoring arms that held him. The Halfling's head was propped in the crook of the elf's arm. Blue eyes stared vacantly at him from beneath dripping curls, making Boromir's heart clench in dread. But then the hobbit blinked sluggishly and fixed him with a dazed stare. He still hung limply in their arms, but he was alive.
"Quickly now, let's lay him over here," Rúmil guided from their left as Frodo and Sam crowded around. They carried Pippin a bit farther up the river bank, stumbling occasionally, the hobbit's feet bouncing as they dragged him backward on the uneven ground. They set him down at last, and the Halfling flopped backward against Frodo like a fish.
Haldir knelt in his sodden clothes beside Pippin's still form, looking unfazed by his own dunk in the icy water. His keen eyes assessed the hobbit in front of him. A bit dazed himself by the turn of events and the icy water, Boromir followed the elf's gaze and was relieved to see Pippin's chest rise and fall steadily, his breathing unlabored. Even so, it was unsettling to see the hobbit so still.
"Someone get a fire going," Boromir relayed, taking charge. "He needs to get out of these wet clothes and warmed up." He refrained from saying he didn't trust these elves to know what to do, and that he'd handled situations like this before-Pippin would be fine. Surely they could risk a fire, deep as they now were in the Golden wood, and in the middle of the day.
If a fire was a problem, neither Haldir nor Rúmil batted an eye, but the Halfling panicked as they stripped off his wet clothes. No amount of explanations would calm him, and he began to kick out in confusion. Despite this confusion, he seemed to be a bit more alert, and Boromir was heartened that he might be snapping out of it. He could hear the Halfling mumbling about it all being a strange dream before yelping quite loudly, "I am a very modest Took, thank you very much!"
"Hush, Pip-we know," Frodo soothed, brushing the wet curls from his cousin's eyes yet again, his voice amused, though his face was still pinched. Boromir marveled at how the Halfling calmed immediately and sank back against Frodo, allowing them to tuck a blanket around him.
In the end, it was Sam who got a fire organized, and Boromir found himself appreciating the stout hobbit's level-headed practicality. "Alright, Pippin, let's get you warmed up," Sam said, leaving no room for further argument.
At a nod from Frodo, Boromir allowed himself to be pushed aside as the two older hobbits moved the tween as close to the small fire as they dared. He tried to flinch away, but his kin refused to relent. Feeling rather useless, Boromir stayed nearby, leaning close to Pippin's ear so the hobbit could hear his sage advice.
"It will hurt at first when the feeling is coming back, but I promise you your feet are not actually on fire."
Beside him, Sam and Frodo chattered worriedly, cajoling and prodding-doing anything they could think of to rouse Pippin to do more than stare and blink. Frodo looked haunted, Boromir realized, and had Pippin been able to comprehend it, he thought the Halfling might have snapped out of it immediately. Instead, his eyes fluttered shut.
"No, Pippin!" Boromir coaxed urgently, leaning forward to give him a shake.
"Jus' res' ….moment," the Halfling slurred.
"You can't rest yet, Pippin," Frodo said, sounding both relieved and alarmed.
Boromir gave him a more vigorous jolt, and Pippin jerked feebly away from the man's insistent shaking. "Stop that….'s rude!"
He still didn't seem to understand what was happening around him, but after a few minutes, the pain of waking nerves seemed to drive Pippin to complete alertness. He gave a squeak and stared from Boromir to his feet. The man could see that he was more coherent now.
The Halfling's gaze drifted out to the river, and he shuddered violently in spite of the fire's scalding heat. His teeth soon began to chatter, a good sign, though Boromir knew well that the return of feeling would soon turn even more painful. He'd not soon forget his own experience with rewarming.
"Well," Pippin croaked shakily, "That was a close one." His voice was low and gravelly, but aside from being so cold, he was remarkably unscathed. There wasn't a scratch on him.
Sensing the crisis had passed, Sam put his head in his hands. "What else is going to go wrong?" He wailed quietly. He had a point, Boromir thought. So much misfortune, and they hadn't yet reached their crossroads.
"Just a bit of bad luck, Sam," Pippin managed after a few false starts, having some trouble getting his tongue to work over his chattering teeth. "If it hadn't been so cold, it might have actually been kind of fun!"
Boromir sighed and rubbed at his forehead, while Sam gave an indignant huff, "See there, Mr. Frodo—he's already on the mend. We just need to warm him up a bit more, and he'll be right as rain—you'll see!"
After giving Pippin a stern glare that was clearly a command to behave, Sam leveled such a curious look at him, that Boromir found himself raising his eyebrows in confusion. The look grew harder, and the blond hobbit tilted his head toward Frodo. Observing the ringbearer's still-stricken expression, the man found himself hastily voicing his agreement with Sam's words. "Sam is right, Frodo. Pippin will be alright."
The fire crackled cheerily, filling the silence.
"Sorry I worried you," Pippin said, looking chastened. "I promise…it was an accident."
"We know, Pippin," Frodo reached over and gave the tween's hand a squeeze.
"No, master hobbit, it is I who should apologize," Haldir interrupted, "In all the excitement, we forgot about your hands, and should have made concessions for you to cross the Celebrant safely. The luck of Eru was with, though I wish it had not needed to be. Had you been swept to the middle of the river, you would not have been able to resurface—it's at least twice my own height."
Frodo blanched. "The Thain's son…drowned in a river," he said faintly.
Boromir raised an eyebrow. "Thain?"
"A bit like your own position back home, if you take my meaning." Sam explained simply.
"We've been through this before," Pippin warned sharply, acting a bit more like himself, and whatever either Sam or Frodo had been going to say was promptly dropped.
"We can find another Thain, but I can't so easily replace a cousin," Frodo said quietly.
"I'm sure one of my sisters would be glad to take my place," Pippin said with a shrug, "Wouldn't that be a first for the Shire? Or Merry, if they are too set in their ways to allow a girl."
Sam groaned, but Frodo merely continued earnestly, leaning over to grab the cup Rúmil was offering, "You are irreplaceable, Peregrin Took."
It happened in slow motion, arresting Boromir's eyes. The Ring tipped out from Frodo's shirt. Boromir found himself staring at it as it flickered in the fire light, level with Pippin's nose, almost touching him. The Ring held his gaze for a moment before he blinked. To his surprise, the hobbit flinched violently, as if the Ring had been speaking to him. There had been times on their journey Boromir had thought he'd heard it, but he'd rather thought the Halflings were immune. Apparently not.
The Halfling swallowed hard, but his wide, round eyes followed the Ring, even after Frodo leaned backward, as if it held him captive. The hobbit had paled again, losing the bit of pink that had begun to come back into his cheeks.
"Pippin—what's the matter?"
He shook his head. Boromir wasn't even sure he was capable of speech, but his eyes remained fixed on the ring as he trembled violently and curled in on himself. He looked as if he might put his hands over his ears.
Tears began to stream down the hobbit's cheeks, and Boromir had to look away.
"Please, tell us." But Pippin couldn't, and in the silence, the call of the ring grew stronger. Boromir was certain now that was what it was. It would be so easy to just reach out…
"Put it away," Boromir croaked at Frodo, shaking his head as if to throw off the thoughts that had come over him. The ringbearer's hand came up to clutch possessively at the Ring. He shot Boromir such a look of distrust that the man almost flinched at the violence of it. The moment passed, and Frodo shrank back from them, grief and resignation on his face. He tucked the Ring back out of sight and its hold on them released. Even the elves looked shaken.
"It's my fault…all of it." The whisper was barely audible.
"What is, Pip?" Sam had recovered first.
"Gandalf. I am a fool. Might as well have killed him myself…and everything that followed. If he'd been with us, everything might have gone differently."
"You can't know that, Pip," Frodo soothed.
"Lord Elrond was right to be against my coming. 'You do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead,' he told me, and he was right. He only relented because I threatened to follow you on my own. He should have sent me packing—and now look what I've caused. I shouldn't have come."
"The Enemy was already watching for us-would have found us anyway. If anything, your so called foolishness warned us we weren't alone."
"Well I warned them, too."
"Gandalf himself lamented that he should not have delayed us, if you'll remember," Boromir interjected, "And it was Saruman who thwarted us at Caradhras. And Sauron drove us into the mines in the first place. I think they'd have been laying in wait for us, regardless."
"Besides," Frodo said firmly, "Gandalf would say you are here because you have a part to play in all this—and I agree with him. Now," he turned to Sam, neatly changing the subject, "would you mind passing me your spare trousers so Pippin can start getting dressed?"
Pippin looked down then, and a deep blush bloomed over his cheeks as he realized he had not, in fact, imagined being relieved of his clothes. "At least Merry isn't here to tease me about this," he said softly, though Boromir thought by his tone that he felt exactly the opposite.
While Pippin warmed up, they took refreshment by the fire. Boromir took the opportunity to remove the sodden and useless bandages from the tween's fingers and reapplied a salve supplied by Rúmil. When he was finished, he grudgingly allowed Haldir to add a couple new stitches to the slice in his arm. Eventually, they would need to continue on, but no one wanted to risk doing so before Pippin was sufficiently rewarmed and all hurts had been tended. Though the weather itself was not dangerously cold, the icy river could easily cause a chill, and the group was weary and bedraggled enough without adding unnecessary discomfort.
It was at Pippin's insistence that they set out again. He had again donned his good cheer and proclaimed that they had rested long enough. Boromir and the others were not fooled. The incident with the ring had shaken him more badly than his near drowning.
The Company filed slowly along the paths in the wood, led by Haldir, while Rúmil walked behind. Boromir could smell the trees and the leaves overhead, the river murmuring away on his right, and the thin clear voices of birds in the sky. He closed his eyes and tilted his head up. He felt the sun upon his face and hands when they passed through an open glade.
As soon as he had set foot upon the far bank of Silverlode a strange feeling had come upon him. He had forgotten it with the near-catastrophe, but now he noticed it again. It deepened as he walked on into the Naith: it seemed to him that he had stepped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more. In Rivendell, there was memory of ancient things; in Lórien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Orcs might have pressed close on the wood's borders: but on the land of Lórien no shadow lay.
The crisp freshness to the air reminded Boromir of bonfires and spiced cider, and the farther they went, the more he felt the edgy wariness that had been dogging their steps loosening like a knot that had been untied. Though his arm throbbed in time with his steps, he felt a peace and energy he'd not felt in a long while.
Boromir welcomed the solace. It made venturing into this strange place much more palatable. He could see the whole picture much more clearly now, and ,though he still saw the necessity of wielding the Ring on Gondor's behalf, the urgency had been muted. He now found that he could focus on their other options—like Frodo's task. Here in the peace of the woods, he allowed himself to feel optimism, to imagine the quest playing out as Elrond hoped. It no longer seemed such an impossibility.
All that day the Company marched on, until they felt the cool evening come and heard the early night-wind whispering among many leaves. They gathered with the elves around a small fire, sipping elf wine and munching on lembas. It was clear to him that the hobbits would have appreciated more variety.
"Welcome, friends," said Haldir, oblivious to half the party's thoughts on the menu, "to the Naith of Lórien, or the Gore, as you would say. It is the land that lies like a spearhead between the arms of the Silverlode—with which you are all by now very well acquainted-and Anduin the Great." Boromir tactfully avoided looking in Pippin's direction.
"These rivers have long defended us," the elf continued, "but they are a sure guard no more; for the Shadow has crept northward all about us. Some speak of departing, yet for that it already seems too late. The mountains to the west are growing evil; to the east the lands are waste, and full of Sauron's creatures; and it is rumoured that we cannot now safely pass southward through Rohan, and the mouths of the Great River are watched by the Enemy.
All this would need to be reported to Aragorn later. Conditions abroad had worsened dramatically since he had departed Gondor, and the path beyond Lothlórien would be perilous indeed. Boromir thought now of home, and of the encroaching shadow that threatened his people.
"In Gondor, also, the shadow draws near, and daily our numbers and lands are reduced as Sauron grows ever stronger," he found himself offering, his tongue loosened by the wine. "Even Minas Tirith with its great fortifications, will not be able to mount a strong enough defense. Though we managed to retake the outpost of Osgiliath, it was hard won. I fear the enemy will soon retake it permanently, if we cannot find some way to hold back the tide."
"It is the way of the enemy." The elf's face looked resigned in the fire light. "Whatever plan Lord Elrond has conceived, I can only pray you have success."
They bedded down on the ground that night. For the first time since the House of Elrond, they would rest and sleep without fear on the ground," but it was bittersweet, for their company were separated, and their safety could not be known. It left a sick feeling in Boromir's gut. Not for the first time, he thought of Faramir and wondered how his brother fared in light of Haldir's tidings. Was he safe? Was he well? He thought for a moment could hear the distant howls of wolves amongst the sounds of night, and strained briefly to see if he would hear them again, but his weariness at last overcame him. Sleep claimed him.
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|