Disclaimer: I own no one, get no money, and generally waste a great deal of my time thinking and writing this stuff!
Thanks: To Princess Faz for inspiration and sugggestions, and to Benji for beta-ing and great ideas.
Note: This story takes place approx. 15 years before LOTR. Boromir is 25, Faramir is 20. It is based on movie-canon, because as long as I am going to lust after Sean Bean and Princess Faz is going to lust after David Wenham, we are going to write stories about them. Besides, we needed the green/blue eyes for the story to work! I made up all the stuff about the Haradrim because JRR Tolkien doesn't give much info about them in the book. I always picture them as being like the Arabs at the time of the Crusades – tough, scary, mean and smart. I made up all the other stuff – names, places, etc.
In the Hands of the Haradrim
"Khan-jook!" A booted foot buried itself in Boromir's stomach, forcing his breath out and causing him to fall forward yet again. With his hands tied tightly behind him, he had no way of breaking the fall and landed heavily in the sand, turning his head at the last minute to avoid hitting face first. He lay with his eyes closed, trying to keep from breathing sand in through his open mouth while his nose coursed blood, staining the ground beneath him. It had been hours since his capture and he felt the aching heaviness of exhaustion in every muscle. Even this was a chance to rest for a few seconds and he was content to lie still for the moment.
But the Haradrim officer was not finished with his – interrogation? No, an interrogation meant questioning, soliciting information, promises and threats. This was nothing more than a beating, carried out for the enjoyment of the officer, and the amusement of the troops who now encircled the soldier of Gondor, jeering and laughing. Reaching down, the black-haired Southron twisted his fingers into Boromir's long blond hair and dragged him up again, forcing him back into a kneeling position, no easy task with the screaming agony of the arrow jutting from his hip. He gritted his teeth and managed to stay upright, trying to ignore the pain clawing at him. Raising his eyes, he met those of his tormentor.
A mistake; it served only to inflame the man's anger, and with another curse in his native tongue he drew back his hand and sent it crashing across Boromir's face for at least the tenth time, the decorative beading on his gloves leaving a new set of scratches on his cheeks. The young Gondorian captain reeled, but stayed where he was, and again sought the eyes of his captor. Foolishness, he knew, everything he had ever been taught said he should keep his head down, avoid angering the enemy that held him. But it was hard to fight his natural inclination to resist, let them know he was not broken, not yet. His green eyes held a challenge as he stared up at the soldier of Harad. The dark-eyed man raised his hand again.
"Shantaq!" The commanding voice of a superior officer interrupted the completion of the stroke. The new arrival was finely dressed, his pants and robe richly decorated with embroidery and beading, his headpiece adorned with small discs of metal. The swarthy face beneath it was lean and haughty, partially hidden by a well-kept beard, above which were black eyes glinting in the harsh sunlight. The sword that hung at his side was a huge, curved thing with Haradrim designs etched into the blade. He had been watching from further back, but now stepped forward frowning, his obsidian eyes piercing his subordinate. The other man merely stared back in silence until the newcomer ordered him away so that he might study the captive. Even as the displaced officer retreated with reluctance, he was voicing his objections quietly under his breath. He was ignored, save for a quick command. "Jekarr, silence."
Al-jur Dhan looked down at the young warrior for a long time, weighing his usefulness. Usually he had his men take no prisoners, and on the rare occasion when they did capture an enemy alive, he soon ordered him killed, seeing no point in slowing down his own men simply to drag along someone who served no purpose. But this one…he couldn't shake the thought that something about this one was different. He was not just a regular soldier that much was clear. The arrogance in those foreign green eyes came from a lifetime of leadership, of telling men what to do and seeing them do it, not just the few years of military command his age could have allowed him. He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. "Jekarr," he called his second in command to him. "Go find Mohem, bring him to me." The other man frowned, but then bowed and instantly disappeared on his errand.
Dhan turned his attention back to his captive. He saw the fair head droop wearily for just a moment. When it was raised again, the face was held carefully neutral, staring straight ahead. He put out his hand and grasped the pale-skinned man by the chin, forcing him to look up. The eyes that met his were full of defiance, anger and hatred, the raw intensity of emotion causing them to gleam. Dhan smiled a knowing smile. He had seen that look many times before. It would not last. His eyes roved over the soldier, noting the knife wound scored across the ribs, the arrow that pierced his hip. Casually reaching down to grasp the shaft, he gave it a vicious twist, causing the Gondorian to cry out and collapse back into the sand. He lay there, gasping for breath as little sobs of pain escaped him. Al-jur Dhan smiled again. He was already making progess.
Boromir lay still in the dust, his leg muscles jumping and his breathing ragged as the torment in his hip died back a little to match the dull ache in his head. His chest burned as each breath stretched the torn skin across his ribs, the small scratches and abrasions from the sand and the beating itched and stung, and the weariness that had been steadily growing as the hours passed now lay on him like a weight. He had known the moment he saw the Haradrim general that his situation had suddenly changed and not for the better. The man walked with the measured tread of authority, one who had total control and would use it however he chose. The cruel look in his eye gave the Captain of Gondor a clue as to how he would exercise that power. Boromir had lowered his head and tried to wipe any emotion from his features. He could not mask his eyes, however, and when the dark hands lifted his face, he knew his true thoughts were easily read.
The cold smile on the General's face sounded a warning inside Boromir's head. This man would kill him with no thought or emotion. The offhand way in which he had handled the arrow, the impassive expression as he had watched his captive writhe in anguish on the ground, made it clear that here was one to whom suffering was merely a tool to be used for his gain. The first Haradrim had merely been enjoying inflicting pain for pain's sake, but this one would do so for his own reasons and to achieve his own goals. Boromir had a feeling that would be worse.
Al-jur Dhan waited until the young man had quieted before calling forward two low-ranking Haradrim from the group gathered around to watch. "Pull it out," he said quietly, gesturing to the arrow.
The unintelligible Southron speech sounded harsh to Boromir's ears and he anxiously wondered what had been ordered. In a moment he found himself being flattened into the hot desert soil, while calloused hands pulled at his breeches and the arrow buried there. The Haradrim were tall and wiry and although he struggled, he was soon immobile, his mouth choked with sand and dirt, the gash in his side flaming with pain as it was ground against the rocks beneath him. His vision was obscured by the robes of those holding him, so his first clue to their purpose was a firm grip on the protruding shaft of the arrow. It was agony, and he couldn't quiet the groans that came from him as it was pulled and twisted, the metal point grinding deeply within him. He felt consciousness swimming away, and struggled to stay awake, refusing to allow himself to slip into the comfort of insensibility. The men holding him pressed his head into the dirt, striking the tender spot there and darkness rose before him like a mist so that he heard those who held him speaking to their general through a noisome hum as he fought against oblivion.
"It will not loosen, master." As he spoke, one of the Haradrim tried a different tactic, trying to push the arrow through to the other side. This caused such a crescendo of pain that Boromir found himself frantically trying to pull away, screaming at them to stop, stop, little caring by that point if they understood his words or not. Just as he heard the sharp crack of splintering wood, the gripping pain in his hip tore through his body to transform into a murky black haze in his head. He passed out, his body limp and his mind unaware when they withdrew the shaft, leaving the arrowhead behind.
"Jekarr and his metal arrowheads," grunted Dhan under his breath in disgust. He ordered them to leave the soldier on the ground and waited for the arrival of his requested man, who soon appeared beside him. "Tell me about the son of Gondor's Steward, Mohem," the dark-eyed General commanded him.
When Boromir came to minutes later, he was lying on his back with his hands still tied behind him, while the Haradrim general and another man stood off to the side and looked him over. They spoke with quiet urgency, the general shooting several appraising glances at him. Boromir rolled heavily onto his side, feeling the stickiness of drying blood across his breeches, his bleeding ribs protesting his position. All his accoutrements, his cloak, his sword, his knife; even his shirt, had disappeared when he was first captured, stripped from him by screaming Haradrim, and he had been left covered only by his breeches. Now the fierce southern sun beat down on his bare skin with blistering heat, increasing his feeling of light-headedness, while the pain in his hip pounded with hammering intensity, leaving him feeling sick and dizzy. He licked some of the sand from his lips and lay still.
"Is it him?" Dhan asked, his black eyes shining in eagerness. "I want to be sure."
"I cannot be sure, my master." Mohem's face was contorted with indecision. His pinched features and darting eyes made him resemble a desert rat. "It has been many years since I traveled to Gondor." He cast a sidelong look at the young man prone in the sand. "It could be him."
"I do not care for 'could be,'" Dhan's expression turned icy. He stroked his short black beard. "I myself have never set eyes on the Steward's whelp, but I have heard stories of him." He paused thoughtfully. "However this one is of no use to me if he is not the son of their leader. I may as well kill him now." He sighed and glared at Mohem in disappointment.
"It was many years, sir," whined Mohem again. "I do not know…it could be him." He hastily went on as he saw his master's patience fading. "The boy I saw resembled this man, blond hair, green eyes…but, I do not know…I never knew his name, I only saw them the one time."
"Them?" Al-jur Dhan pounced on the word.
"There were two." This was one thing Mohem apparently was sure of. "Two boys, there in the White Tower."
Dhan considered this news, turning the information over in his mind. "Can you speak the Westron tongue well enough to question him?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," Mohem nodded eagerly. "What does my master wish to know?"
With a sharp command from the general, Boromir was hauled onto his knees again. He bit his lip to keep from crying out, and kept his head down this time. Once more pitiless hands grabbed his hair and pulled his head back, forcing him to look into the general's face. He tried desperately to keep his expression blank. The smaller, nervous-looking man smiled ingratiatingly at him.
"Greetings, my lord." His accent was strong, and he clipped the words off, making them sound strange, but Boromir understood. He waited, not answering. The little man continued. "My Master wishes to make your – um –" he hesitated, searching for the correct word. "Introduction." He gestured towards the general. "He is Al-jur Dhan, general of the Great Army of Harad, favored cousin of Tal-man Kith, King of Dalania, of Near Harad." He presented this bit of news with a flamboyant wave of his hand and bowed. He turned to Boromir. "And you are…?" His voice rose at the end of his question, anticipating a response.
The son of Denethor said nothing, merely concentrated on keeping all emotion from his face. He would not answer, remaining stony-faced even as the hands in his hair kept his head pulled back to the breaking point. He had long ago realized his value as a prisoner, a piece of negotiating capital, and the thought that he might one day be used to betray his father or country had always horrified him. Boromir had always promised himself if captured he would not reveal his name or position.
The general roughly yanked the hair he clutched in his fist, smiling as he watched those insolent eyes water in response. Without loosening his grip, Dhan began steadily pulling, forcing Boromir to lean back at an unnatural angle. His thighs trembled with the strain. "Ask him again," Dhan said softly to his interpreter.
Mohem leaned his face closer to Boromir's, his breath hot and rank. "My lord, he merely wants to know your name. We wish you no more harm."
Boromir closed his eyes, feeling his already exhausted muscles protesting as he was forced backward onto his heels, the blood from his injuries running freely down his side and leg. He tried to remember if he had ever been so tired. He tried to remember if he had ever known anything other than the hot desert sun, pain and exhaustion. Hoping for some respite, he allowed himself to go limp, crumpling into a heap at the Haradrim's feet.
But relief did not come. The Harad general jerked him back up onto his knees, driving his own into the small of Boromir's back to keep him there. He spit out something in Haradrim and slapped Boromir across the face. The young captain opened his eyes and saw that his captor was watching him closely. Under his tiredness, he realized his eyes were smoldering with anger and resentment, and to his surprise, it seemed to please the general. He released his hold on the blond hair.
"Where are his things?" he asked. "I want to see them." Quickly Boromir's possessions were brought forth and laid before the dark general. He looked them over carefully.
These were not the belongings of a regular fighter. They were expensive, finely made, as would be expected for the son of a great leader. The traveling cloak was heavy and richly embroidered, the scabbard embossed with the tree of Gondor motif. The sword was large, its heft being such that only a strong man might wield it. He gripped it in his hand, feeling its weight, examining the pommel and hilt.
"Ask him again, Mohem," he instructed him, a small smile of anticipation playing across his lips as he experimentally brandished the sword. Once more the question was put to the Gondorian soldier, once more he kept silent, only his visage betrayed his feelings. Without warning, Al-jur Dhan swung the sword, using the flat side of the blade to strike his prisoner, the blow landing on the exact spot the arrow had pierced. Instantly the young man buckled, grinding his face into the sand as he tried to swallow his scream, locking his jaw so that only moans escaped.
With a nod from the general, Mohem dragged Boromir back up, holding his sagging frame erect as Dhan leaned back, continuing to swing the sword from side to side, its passage through the air making a wicked swooping sound. "Ask him again," he hissed.
Again the question was posed, again there was no answer, again the sword found its target and transformed the soldier into a quivering form in the dirt. Choking back the sound of his suffering, Boromir shuddered as he was forced upright once more.
"Please, my lord," Mohem's lips were only inches from Boromir's ear. "Tell him your name, if you value your life."
The blood was thundering in Boromir's ears as he tried to concentrate on remaining conscious. The blows from the sword had sent the pain in his hip radiating throughout his entire body, and once again darkness beckoned. He fought it off, trying to fix his mind on home, on Gondor. Mustering all his strength, he straightened as best he could and met the gaze of his oppressor.
The Haradrim general stopped his exercise with the sword and rubbed his hands together. "I know it is him, Molem. I feel sure of it." He stood before his prisoner and regarded him thoughtfully. "Look at his face, he is not afraid, not of you, barely even of me, although if he were wise, he would be." He scowled down at his underling. "THAT is a prince."
Dhan raised the sword again, noting with satisfaction the shadow of fear that leaped across the green eyes and was quickly hidden. It almost persuaded him that he might receive an answer if he asked again. But only almost. He had to be sure, had to be certain of this one's identity, and right now fear and pain were his greatest weapons. Putting all of his strength into his arm, he brought the flat of the sword crashing down onto the injured hip a third time. This time Boromir went down weeping with agony, his body convulsing as the pain rose up and engulfed him. He lay nerveless in the sand crying brokenly, chest heaving, his hands grasping uselessly behind him.
Dhan gave him an appraising look. He was exactly where the general of Harad wished him to be. He leaned down on one knee and took the young man's face in his hands, feeling the muscles recoil faintly at his touch. He cupped the bloody cheeks between his palms, examining the tear-filled green eyes closely, brushing his thumb across the cheekbone with the tender touch of a lover. Without shifting his gaze, he spoke to Mohem. "Tell him," he thought for a moment. "No, ask him if he wants to see his brother, before I kill him and send the body to his father."
Mohem showed no reaction to his General's command, merely posed the question to the man twitching under his superior's hand. As he spoke, Al-jur Dhan's black eyes never left his captive.
Boromir heard the strange voice speaking the words through a roar, his mind only half listening as he struggled to overcome the pain washing over him in sharp waves. He let the weight of his head rest in the dark hands as the jilted speech of the Haradrim translator slid through his ears, letting it pass without notice, until the word 'brother'. A hot jolt of fear shot through him then. Did they have Faramir, too? He breathed in sharply, a gasp of alarm, pain-fogged eyes suddenly clearing and searching those of the man kneeling before him.
Dhan smiled then. He had been right. This WAS one of the Steward's brats. He felt a warm thrill of pleasure course down his spine. This would be quite a prize to take to his King. "Aha, you have revealed yourself," he said with satisfaction, his hand patting Boromir's cheek in a strangely gentle gesture. "Your name is not necessary, now that I know who you ARE."
Boromir did not need to understand the words to know he had been tricked. Guilt and shame flooded through him, momentarily taking his mind from his physical state. They had known nothing for sure, but their deception had worked, and he had let them know who he was. He had hoped they did not suspect his identity, but they had, at least the general had, and exhaustion, pain and fear had made him vulnerable, just as the Haradrim had known it would. His involuntary reaction to the terrible thought that his beloved brother might be suffering his same fate had been enough to expose him, reveal his lineage and give them the answer they sought. He was angry with himself, but at the same time the knowledge that it had been a lie, that Faramir was safe, left him weak with relief. He collapsed into the sand as the dark hands released his face, and let the tears of both pain and gratitude slip from behind his eyelids.
Dhan straightened and wiped his palms on his robe. "Bring him," he said abruptly, turning toward his tent. He was intercepted by Jekarr, who had been watching the proceeding ever since being relieved of his captive. "My master, surely you do not believe him to be the Steward's son? The Lord of Gondor would not be so foolish as to send his heir so near our lands without an escort." He snorted in disbelief. "He is merely some clever pretender, a nobleman, perhaps, who would let your own error prolong his life." Jekarr eyed Boromir, motionless in the sand before him.
"I think not," said Dhan humorlessly. "You would kill him for pleasure, Jekarr, and while I admire that most of the time, I am convinced he is indeed the Steward's son, and a worthy prize." He studied his subordinate officer. "That is, if I can get him back to Dalania, without him dying when that arrowhead in him turns foul."
Jekarr shrugged. "I am not usually interested in keeping my enemies alive, Sir."
Dhan stared at him for another moment before he resumed walking toward his tent, barking an order for Mohem to follow. The smaller man tried to heave Boromir to his feet, but the Gondorian was beyond walking under his own power. Calling to another Haradrim for assistance, the two of them each grabbed an arm and dragged him along behind the general. Entering his tent, he gestured toward one of the main support poles. "Tie him to that," he ordered, before seating himself on a large cushion. Before him was a short-legged table covered with manuscripts and maps.
Without comment, Mohem and his partner lowered their burden to the ground, dumping him onto one of the rugs the carpeted the sandy ground beneath and leaning him against the thick pole. They quickly loosened the ropes, pulled the semi-conscious man's hands around the pole and retied his bonds tightly. Bowing, they exited the tent.
The tent was large and well-furnished, and even in the middle of the day the heavy material it was made from kept it cool and dim. A small chime hanging at the entrance flap tinkled softly as Dhan busied himself with reading reports, intermittently glancing up to study his captive, now slumped against the wooden post.
He guessed him to be in his mid-twenties, which would be the correct age for him to belong to the Steward. He was strongly built, broad-chested and well-muscled, with thick arms that the Haradrim General was sure could handle his heavy sword quite efficiently. The blond hair that now hung in a tangle before his face was long and thick, the color striking the dark-headed Southron as strange and unnatural. Those odd green eyes were blurry with pain and fatigue as they sporadically wandered unseeing around the room, his weariness and disorientation so complete he did not even realize the general sat only a few feet away. Dhan watched as the heavy head alternately sank down and was jerked upright as he fought off sleep. At last, his eyes fell closed and his head drooped for the last time. As his battered body went slack against the pole behind him, Boromir of Gondor slipped into an uneasy slumber.
TO BE CONTINUED