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More Things in Heaven and Earth

Chapter 5

by Mirabella-(V)
December 15, 2011

An uneasy silence fell, and both men started when the dogs began to bark, but the cause for the alarm was only the sentries bringing a basket of clothes.  The hour was late, so Eldahil took the basket and ordered his men to return to their quarters and get some rest.  

A little bathhouse was built off the kitchen, designed so the heat from the fireplace would warm a stone tank of water.   Eldahil turned on the tap that filled the bath then helped his cousin pull off his water-logged boots.  Leaving his mangled clothes in a heap on the floor, Boromir slid with a sigh of contentment under the steaming water.  “My first bath since Lothlorien, unless you count several months in the River.”

When the ghost had finished bathing, he sat wrapped in a coverlet while Eldahil dressed and bandaged his wounds.   It seemed wise to hide the gaping holes in his flesh, and the bandages showing at the neck of his tunic would help explain the dead Man’s terrible pallor.  After his wounds had been swathed in linen, Boromir looked through the basket of clothing.  He donned a pair of plain black trousers and a knee-length black tunic, and around his shoulders, he fastened a horseman’s short grey cloak.  To give the garments a travel-stained look, he smudged them with dirt from the garden.  After a glance in the mirror, he also rubbed the dirt on his face.   The dead Man had worn a gleaming belt fashioned of linked golden leaves.  Eldahil had never seen its like. This treasure was put aside and replaced with a simple leather belt.  To complete the disguise, one of Eldahil’s saddlebags would serve as a messenger’s satchel.  

“You look convincing,” Eldahil said, “though an errandrider would never travel unarmed.”   He fetched his sword from its place by the door and offered it to his cousin. 

“No longer am I fit to bear such honorable arms,” the dead Man said in low voice.  “Find me a spear or short bow instead.”

“Boromir, that sword belongs in your hands, not mine. You would easily knock me sprawling in a fight,” Eldahil told him with a grin.  “Your skill with the sword is unmatched.  If you mean to defend the City, why throw away that advantage?”

Even Boromir could not argue with the truth of this, so with a slight bow, he took the offered weapon.  He drew it slowly and held the blade near the light, studying the welded pattern of its forging.  After hefting its weight in his hand, the dead Man hurried outside to the kitchen garden to test its balance and speed.  The blade glimmered in the darkness as he raised it overhead then brought it down in a gleaming arc and turned then raised it again.  The steel whistled as it cut the cold air.  Back and forth he strode, stepping between the frozen rows of cabbage.  For the first time since his return, he seemed almost happy.

As soon as the sky had faded from black to grey, they set out for the Citadel.   The dead Man carried the satchel over one shoulder and kept his hood drawn forward.  The Enemy’s catapults had reached only the lower levels, so as they ascended the hill, there was less and less sign of damage to the buildings.   Mettarë was less than a week away, so houses were hung with garlands of pine, and the cold air was sharp with its scent.   The streets grew more crowded as the City began to stir. 

“So many strange faces,” Boromir murmured as they hurried past the market.

“Many folk from the townlands have yet to return to their homes,” Eldahil replied.  “The Enemy destroyed everything in their path.  And so many lives were lost during the Siege that companies from the south have remained to help guard the walls.”

When they reached the sixth circle, they stopped at a tavern.  At Eldahil’s request, the serving maid took them to a table in the back, though at this early hour, there were few other patrons.  The maid brought them tea then went back to cleaning and sweeping the floor. 

“I will wait here while you scout ahead,” Boromir told the other Man.   “The last thing we need is to run into Hirluin.  If he is with Faramir, we will need to wait and make another attempt.” 

After a half hour, Eldahil returned from the Citadel.  “The way is clear,” he said.  “I asked after Hirluin, and the guards say he has gone to the Tower armory.  We can find Faramir in the small council chamber.”  After paying the serving maid, they left.

At the entrance to the Citadel, the guards asked them to state their names and errand.  By custom, no strangers could pass unescorted.

“I am Eldahil son of Duinhir,” Eldahil said with a courteous bow, “and this is—“ In sudden horror, he realized that they had forgotten to give the messenger a name.   “Uh, this is my elder brother Barahir.  He comes bearing a most urgent dispatch from my lord Imrahil.”     

“You are known in the City, Captain, so if your brother will surrender his sword, he may pass.” 

Without a word, Boromir unbuckled the weapon and handed it to the guards. 

“Sir, I mean no discourtesy, but as you are a stranger here, I must ask you to uncover your face.”

Boromir drew back the hood and regarded them with a cool look.   One of the guards peered closely at him and scowled.  “You had better have the healers clean that cut on your face, sir, before it begins to fester.”  Bidding them a good day, the guards let them through. 

“Your brother Barahir?” The dead Man gave Eldahil a wry grin from under the hood as they crossed the main courtyard.

“The best I could do at the moment.  Luckily for us, it has been many years since he last was in Minas Tirith.  A blind Man in a dark room would not mistake you for him.” 

As they neared the White Tower, Boromir halted at the sight of the King’s standard floating from the high spire.  He shook his head and murmured, “So much has changed since I left for Imladris.”  His voice was filled with amazement, yet his grey eyes were troubled and he suddenly seemed lost.

“We dare not tarry in plain sight,” Eldahil warned him and, catching his arm, tried to hurry him up the steps to the Tower. The guards at the door questioned them briefly then stood aside to let them enter.  The two Men hurried down the hallway toward the small council chamber where Faramir was.  We are almost there, Eldahil thought.  Just then Lieutenant Hirluin stepped into their path.

“Good day to you, Captain Eldahil,” the aide said with a courteous nod.  “Do you bring a dispatch for the Steward?”

Eldahil inclined his head in return.  “Lieutenant, I would like you to meet my eldest brother Barahir. He has journeyed from Dol Amroth bearing news on behalf of Prince Imrahil.” 

“I am honored to meet you, sir,” Hirluin said with a low bow. 

“Barahir,” Eldahil told the pretend messenger, “this is the Steward’s aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Hirluin.”

“I am your servant, sir,” the dead Man said.   He spoke after the manner of folk in Dol Amroth, drawing out some of the sounds while clipping others short.    Eldahil stifled a sudden, unseemly urge to laugh, though in truth, it was a fair attempt for a Man who was raised in the north of Gondor.

The lieutenant looked closely in Boromir’s face. “You bear a passing likeness to the Steward, sir.  But perhaps that is not so strange, as indeed you are kin...”  His words trailed off as he stared at the dead Man. Hand falling to sword hilt, he took a step backwards.  “What devilry is this that takes the form of the slain?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.

“Good morning, Eldahil,” Faramir called as he strode toward them, followed by two guards.  “What brings you to the Citadel at this early hour?“  Then he caught sight of the messenger and stopped so suddenly that the guards almost ran into him.

“My lord, come no closer!” the lieutenant shouted, drawing his sword.  Faramir’s guards rushed forward, shoving the Steward aside as they reached for their weapons.

“We are both unarmed,” Boromir said loudly, this time in his own voice, the words ringing out like a command. He dropped to one knee and, grabbing Eldahil’s arm, dragged him down beside him. “I bear a message for the lord Steward.”

“This is no messenger! He is some foul deceit from the Nameless Land!”

“Let him speak, Lieutenant.” Faramir stared down at the dead Man, both horror and longing in his gaze.  Though his voice was steady, his breast rose heavily with each breath, and he caught at the wall with one hand.

“I am in truth a messenger. In that, there is no deceit,” Boromir said. His grey eyes were fixed on his brother’s face. “I bring tidings of a vision that woke me from a long sleep. I saw a wonder beyond all belief--a sapling of the White Tree. It had flourished and put forth fair leaves until a destroying hand left it twisted and broken. I know not what this vision means, but it fills me with foreboding.”

“How can you know of that dream?” Faramir murmured. “And you even have his manner of speech.” After a long silence, he said, “I will speak with this messenger alone.” His face was so pale that Eldahil feared he would swoon.

“Lord, do not hazard your life without need,” Hirluin said. “You know not who nor even what he is.”

Still looking at the dead Man, Faramir said, “I would meet with him alone. Bind his hands so he can do no harm. But do not treat him ungently. There are bandages at his neck, and his face looks deathly pale. Whoever he may be, he has been wounded and bled nearly white.”    He stumbled as he took a step forward, but one of the guards seized his arm before he could fall.

“What about Captain Eldahil?” the lieutenant asked. Eldahil had been hoping that, in the uproar, they would forget about him entirely.

“Hold him under guard until I send word,” Faramir replied. To Eldahil, he said, “Forgive me if I do you an injustice, cousin, but if I must err, it is better to be overcautious.”   Then he left, still leaning heavily on the guard.

Boromir quietly suffered them to tie his hands behind his back. “I fear I have brought you undeserved trouble,” he said to Eldahil.

“No trouble is too great for a kinsman and friend,” Eldahil replied, very much aware of the sword point pressed against his back.  Dead or alive, Boromir does stir things up, he thought.  Then, as he watched, they led the ghost away to speak with the Steward.

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