Lots and lots of thanks to anyone and everyone who read. It is difficult getting back into a certain writing style, but I'm working on it. I hope it's at least somewhat all right at the moment.
If anyone is interested, also, I am quite desperately in need of a beta for this.
It took little more than a minute.
Faramir was behind him as he ran to join the fray, of that Boromir was certain. He had glanced back, had noted with a swell of guilt that his brother stood weaponless and confused, and he had done nothing. There had been no time. The camp was on fire.
Within five paces, Boromir had cleared his way through to Harald. Five paces. By the time he turned again, Faramir was struck, his mouth gaping in shock. And then he was gone.
The act of raising the horn to his lips had been instinctive. Anyone within miles would be aware of them, of their need. Friend or foe - it hardly mattered. Important was only Faramir. To find Faramir. To bring him to safety. Alive.
Even as he crouched, his nose nearly bathed in the muddied Earth, Boromir could not fight off the pressure that settled in his chest. Worry birds have laid all the heaviest stone eggs in my stomach this morning. As clear a warning as any - why had he ignored it? His brother knew then just as he had all those years before, and now just as then, Boromir had played the fool. Pretended for the better.
His brother was dead. With a grunt and a kick at the twitching form before him, he sheathed his sword. The camp was beyond saving. What had not been burnt lie bloodied in the mud. Worse - the tracks he was searching had been obscured by the scuffle of other feet, by the stiff corpses of other dead, someone's else's brother. Only the disappearance of Faramir's horse, Einfari, gave him hope.
But, Faramir would not have ridden like a coward from battle while brother still fought. With his injury, the act of mounting a horse alone would have been a near-impossible feat.
His stomach seized. Faramir was dead. Fallen into the River Poros - or thrown - during the scuffle. His horse stolen. Would they find his body, mottled and bloated, bobbing alongside the docks in some foreign town? A drunkard, they would say. Tug him out. Dry him off. Toss him into a shallow grave and laugh at the follies of youth.
No amount of ale could have slated the thirst he felt then. Ankle-deep in the muck, in the dead, the ashes of his camp and his men, he called Harald to his side.
"You are certain that your brother is capable?"
"A trained hunter. If Halfdan cannot find him... "
Boromir nodded slowly, ignoring the slick taste of iron that settled across his tongue at the implication. Not for the first time, he cursed his position. As captain, he could not search for Faramir himself. There were troops to be put into order, injuries to be tended to, provisions to be sought after, plans to be made. To be able to forget all of that, to chase the clumsy trail until the end of the Earth, if that was what it took! The very muscles in his chest seemed to tug in that direction, urging him to forget his responsibilities for a moment, to return his brother into the arms of those who cared for him as he had so oft gone looking for a shy child want to hide in broom cupboards when certain relations came to visit.
"I cannot return to Minas Tirith until I have found him, Harald."
Harald studied his soiled boots. " I know you cannot bear to wait here until my brother returns. It is early enough yet - "
"I cannot - "
"I am your second-in-command. I, too, can ask the survivors for the names of the fallen. I, too can send hunting parties across the Poros, but you have seen the tracks. Faramir was dragged in the opposite direction. You have until dusk, I should think."
Little more need be said; Boromir was already on his feet, his nose pointed in the direction of the stream by which he had last seen his brother. A great hunter he had never been. That had been Faramir and his father's specialty. They, unlike Boromir, were able to wait for hours on end in utter stillness. They moved swiftly and softly in ways that he could not imagine, for no sooner had he set a toe on the ground came the great rustle of fowl and small rodents on the run. Now, there was no need for silence. No time to wait. He would find his brother - living - and return him to the Citadel, where his father would have to recognise the folly in his actions.
o o o
The world that he saw was no longer the world that he had left behind at the camp.
Faramir lay on his back on a grassy hill, enjoying the cool of the breeze on his face and chest, the soft grass beneath his fingers and bare feet. He wiggled his toes, appreciating the warmth of the sun upon them, upon his cheeks, his forehead.
Somewhere near him, just out of sight, his mother sighed. "We shall have to return soon."
Protests rose like gas in his chest, bubbling at the back of his throat, ready to burst from his lips the moment he opened his mouth. He kept it shut.
"Faramir, gather your things. I am to dine with your father and your Uncle Imrahil tonight, and you must be bathed before Beatha puts you to bed."
Why could he not see her? His mother? He had always loved to see her, her soft, pale skin and grey eyes. Her hair, black like the feathers of a raven. How he had loved to run his fingers through the tips of it while she swatted at him.
"Come now, Faramir, we are running out of time."
Dinner. A bath. Beatha. The old crone would pinch and prod at him like she did on every visit. Snort and compare him to his brother, who could only giggle and cry out in dismay, "But, Beatha, Faramir is my little brother! He is supposed to be smaller than I am!" He had no desire to see Beatha today. No desire to do anything but lie here in the grass, with his mother's voice and the breeze to cool the heat that had settled within his chest.
This is what it is, to die, said a small voice in the back of his mind. Yes, this was death. A far green country. Rolling hills. Nana. It could have been much worse, said the voice. Yes, it could have been.
o o o
The last time he had heard that horn sound, he was standing next to the young blower - a stern, foolishly proud creature. Too stubborn to call for help, because Thorongil bade him do so. Denethor had ever hated to show himself for the weaker of the two, especially when his father was there.
This boy was not Denethor, but he might have been. At any rate, he carried much of the blood of his ancestors in him, the blood of the Westernesse that had set Denethor - and Thorongil - so very far apart from the majority of their comrades. A stern, high forehead, beaded with sweat. Nose as straight as an arrow, sign of a strong will. A will to live? He hoped so.
Great, gasping breaths. A fleeting pulse. If the hole in his chest could not be closed, the boy was as good as dead. Thinking quickly, Thorongil sprang to the nearest tree with flat leaves and, chose the broadest he could find, then drew a dagger from his side. He drove it quickly and without passion into the thin bark, disliking the sensation, the thick, red sap that seeped like blood from a paper skin. The sap he collected onto one of the leaves, fell to a kneel again at the boy's side, where clouded, grey eyes met his, bloodied lips parted: "Gwannon." It was not a question.
"You may die, yes," said Thorongil softly, his hands ceaseless in their work, spreading sap across the uninjured skin, pressing leaves into a criss-cross pattern to cover the hole and hopefully keep most of the air inside the injured chest. "But, you live yet. I will do my best to help you, but you must try to stay awake." Faint and crooked, the nod. Wide eyes, too shocked to spill a tear, fixed themselves on his own. Feeling suddenly uncomfortably close, he focused on the wound. Stem the blood. Keep the air in. "You are learned in the Elven tongue - no, do not try to speak. Lie still. Yes, as still as you can. We must be silent here; the woods of Ithilien are no longer safe for our kind."
Every blink of the fading, grey eyes seemed to stretch on for eternity, convincing him once and again that the boy had given into the struggle. But, he was not dead. Dazed and in pain, he gasped as quietly as he could manage, his eyes flitting back and forth after the movements of Thorongil's hands, from the pouch at his belt to the tender leaves that he chewed and pressed, moist and warm, against the torn flesh.
"Law íron gwannad."
No one wants to die, he almost responded. But, the boy's eyelids had fluttered together. "Sleep." He finished dressing the wound and sat back on his heels, at last able to release the breath that he had been holding. "If you do not die today, maethoreg, I should be very much like to learn your name."
My Sindarin is awful at best, but just saying "he said in Sindarin" seemed too lame, so I tried with the fail-skills of a wannabe linguist.
Gwannon - "I am dying"
Law íron gwannad - "I do not desire (want) to die"
maethoreg - "maethor" = warrior, with the diminutive ending "eg", meaning "little warrior". Maybe slightly cheesy, but I imagine it having been said almost ironically as a note of Faramir's youth and the art of his injury, not in a sappy way.