One second Boromir was examining Vimes' badge intently, to distract himself from the uncomfortable new experience of hiding from orcs. Well, there's a first time for everything, he thought to himself, turning Vimes' badge over between finger and thumb.
The next second, the world went strange.
First, everything around him – the badge, the trees, the sky, the orcs rushing past - stretched. The world became a smear of colours; the heavy treads and harsh cries of orcs sounding tinny and distorted in Boromir's ears. The noises were almost drowned out by a fierce rushing and pounding, as if he was underwater in a particularly aggressive river. If Boromir had known what a washing machine was, he would have felt like a dirty sock.
Then reality pinged painfully back into place. He was as winded as if he'd just been kicked in the stomach. The whole experience was as confusing and tiresome as a lazy author's over-reliance on bad similes and breaking the fourth wall.
The second after that, Boromir was standing in a city street. His ears were back to normal and he no longer wanted to be sick. There was shouting. There were interesting smells. There were people, brandishing weapons and dressed in a uniform that made him think of the guards of the citadel back home. Was he home? He wasn't sure. He tried to get his bearings, took a deep lungful of air which he instantly regretted. More shouting. Looking around, he could see men, women, dwarves, and – was that – was that a tr-
'They have a cave troll!' he said.
Something went thud. He staggered, and looked down. There was a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest.
It was going to be one of those days.
'What the BLEEP is going on!" demanded Ridcully, retrieving his hat. The burst of green light from damn silly Ponder's damn silly relocation machine had blown it off his head so hard that it had dented the wall. He straightened the brim, and fished the broken shards of what had been a rather fine bottle of whisky out of its secret lining before mournfully replacing it with a squelch.
Ponder muttered frantically to himself, tripping switches, switching trip-wires, wiring circuits and short-circuiting wires.
'Who?' said Vetinari. The others gaped at him.
'Er – someone in the object's locality-'
'Clearly,' said Vetinari.
'Wait – what's going on here? What d'yer mean, 'who'? What the hell happened? Where's Vimes?' Ridcully blinked trickles of whisky out of his eyes, and glared at Ponder.
'You're saying that we picked up someone else?' said Gandalf. An evil thought occurred to him. Maybe if they'd accidentally picked up Frodo – the Ring would have to stay in Ankh Morpork. Such a shame; nothing to be done about it. Unfortunate. Most unfortunate.
Deep in his beard, he grinned a secret grin.
'It would have to be somebody of the same approximate dimensions and mass,' said Galadriel through the Palantir, as if, or perhaps literally, reading his mind.
'Damn,' said Gandalf. 'I mean, that's interesting.' Vetinari looked at him expressionlessly, which would have caused a lesser individual to sweat in fear. Gandalf merely twinkled unrepentantly.
'Ponder,' said Ridcully, tapping a heavy foot impatiently. 'I'm sure you're about to explain to all of us here, soon, now, what the bloody hell went wrong, and exactly what you are doing to fix it.'
Ponder looked at everyone. Everyone glared back. Ponder whimpered. It was enough of a strain on his nerves dealing with Ridcully. But to throw in that terrifying woman, the mad old coot with the beard, and Vetinari – well, it was too much for anyone.
His nerves were already strained to breaking point. It just wasn't fair.
Ponder took the coward's way out. He sagged. His knees gave out. He collapsed, prone and twitching, in a small puddle of his own drool.
Gandalf sighed and stepped over him. 'Well, you know what they say,' he said. 'If you want something doing properly, you have to emotionally blackmail a hobbit to do it.'
'Idiot came out of nowhere!' said Angua, stuffing the torn end of her sleeve into the wound and trying not to inhale the scent of blood. Her brain was trying to ignore what her nose was saying; that this man wasn't from around here. Wasn't from Ankh-Morpork. Maybe not even from the Disc.
The Night Watch was chasing down the last few members of the gang now. They'd been trying to round them up for months. What was it they called themselves again? The Criminally Criminal Criminals, that was it. Stupid, yes, but vicious. Fortunately, the Watch had suffered only a couple of minor injuries. In fact, before this armed ruffian had appeared right in the middle of the skirmish, Angua would have said things were going quite well.
Where had he come from?
A shout came from up ahead. Angua shoved thoughts of the Dungeon Dimension to the back of her mind and sprang into action. 'Igor!' she yelled, and dashed after the fleeing man who was now the last undetained member of the Criminally Criminal Criminals.
Back in Middle Earth, when Boromir disappeared, almost simultaneously, an orc's war cry had risen from the direction of the Fellowship's abandoned camp, and everyone – everyone who wasn't in the process of mysteriously disappearing, that is – had turned towards it.
The cry was bloodthirsty and uncomfortably close. It was joined by a clamouring of goblin voices; whether they conveyed triumph or anger, Vimes wasn't sure, but he didn't like it.
'Frodo!' Pippin cried, working on the reasonable assumption that if there were evil creatures attacking, Frodo was likely to be their target and probably wasn't doing much to defend himself. Pippin sprang to his feet and raced towards the shouts, followed by an exasperated-but-concerned Merry, and the rest of the non-disappearing Fellowship.
The war-cry had come from an Uruk-hai at the river, who had spotted something moving on the opposite bank which he had wanted to attack. Vimes wondered briefly if it was Sam and Frodo he'd seen, before he was fighting for his life and cursing himself for missing a perfectly good opportunity to stay sensibly hidden in the undergrowth.
They didn't realise that Boromir was gone until after a short pitched battle with several massive Uruk-Hai. Luckily for the remainder of the Fellowship, they'd only had to fight a fraction of the hundreds of orcs swarming around Amon Hen. The other orcs, and their captive blanket, had disappeared into the distance, having been distracted and infuriated by the rustling of a small rabbit. Vimes felt sorry for it.
'What now?' Vimes asked.
Aragorn furrowed his brow. 'I'm not sure,' he said. 'I feel suddenly purposeless, as if there's something I ought to be doing…'
They hunted urgently for Frodo, Sam, and Boromir, until Aragorn, adopting a carefully unreadable expression, showed the others the marks where Frodo and Sam had pulled one of the boats off the bank. 'Frodo's fate is no longer in our hands,' he said, again. 'He and Sam have gone on alone. But I can find no sign of Boromir. At first I'd feared he was hurt, but we would have found something by now.'
Never play poker with Aragorn, Vimes thought, impressed by his default noble expression which never gave anything away.
'Then what?' asked Merry. They were gathered around the strewn remnants of their camp. 'Could he have followed Frodo and Sam?'
Aragorn stood in thought for a long moment. 'No,' he said finally. 'I think he left,'
'Faithless is he who says farewell at the loss of a blanket,' said Gimli, frowning. 'I would not have believed it of him.'
'And I do not believe he is faithless,' said Aragorn. 'My guess is that he left for noble reasons: he was worried that he presented a danger to the Fellowship, and for that reason he left us.' He fell silent, and Vimes guessed there was more that he was not saying. He noticed that none of the Fellowship seemed surprised: he was obviously not the only one to have noticed Boromir's sleepless mutterings and covetous glances at Frodo.
'It's still a riddle,' said Aragorn, 'but I can think of no other explanation.'
'Could the orcs have taken him?' Gimli asked anxiously.
'I mean this as a compliment,' said Vimes, 'but I don't think they'd want him. Alive.'
'Well, we have to follow Frodo!' Pippin burst out. 'That's why we're here! What are we waiting for?'
But it was now fully dark, and they were exhausted. Even Merry and Pippin conceded that it was far too late to catch up with Frodo and Sam tonight. 'For now,' said Merry darkly, clearly unconvinced that Frodo was better off without the Company's company (so to speak).
They sat around the (unlit) campfire in the dark and the cold. Nobody was talking much, but nobody felt like sleeping either. Pippin was uncharacteristically silent. All they could do was wait until it was light, whereupon everyone knew there'd be another huge argument over whether to follow Frodo and Sam or not. Merry was already glaring obstinately at Aragorn in preparation.
'They're safer this way,' said Aragorn for the fortieth time.
'I can't help but worry…' Gimli said. 'The boats gone…. And neither of them could swim.'
Pippin sniffed and rubbed his eyes frantically. Merry switched his glare to Gimli.
Eventually, one by one, they slept. Pippin was on watch, and Merry was keeping him company, because, in Merry's words, 'We can't sleep while our friends are missing'. Vimes fell asleep to the sound of the hobbits whispering about their lost cousin and friend.
There was a shimmer in the air, which no-one saw.
When they woke, the hobbits were gone. All the hobbits were gone.
Their packs remained, but there was not a sign of Merry or Pippin. Not a shred of abandoned pipeweed, not an apple core, not a footprint.
The only sign was the faint smell of fireworks, and an elvish rune, the letter G.
'G', said Legolas suspiciously, narrowing his eyes at Gimli, who erupted.
Aragorn sighed and strode into the fray, wearing his most diplomatic face and Boromir's abandoned shield.
Vimes, though, was distracted. He ignored the shouting behind him ("Why would I wantto use elvish runes?! Dwarves have a perfectly good alphabet, thankyouverymuch, which doesn't look like earthworms mating!' 'Well, who else was it? Garagorn?' 'Come on, you two, you can't really suspect each other… I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation… Put that knife down!') and scanned the sky. A bird was flying South, an eagle, perhaps. Not that Vimes was very good at recognising birds. All he could really be confident about was that it was some species bigger than a pigeon.
'Do you think they went after Frodo and Sam?' Vimes asked, once Gimli and Legolas had been separated and were ignoring each other at opposite ends of the clearing, and Aragorn had stopped muttering under his breath about how 'running a kingdom will be a breeze compared to this'.
'No,' said Aragorn. 'They would have told us.'
'Then what happened?'
'I don't know.'
'How can you not know?' Vimes asked.
Aragorn took a deep breath. Then another. He seemed to be counting slowly to ten. Then he jumped to his feet, his face drawn with shock.
'Look,' he whispered.
Lying by the campfire, where Merry had been sitting the night before, was a blanket. A blanket they all recognised.
'A blanket!' said Legolas, trying to be helpful.
'Blanket orc,' whispered Gimli. 'They've taken the hobbits!'
Boromir came to. This was the worse hangover ever. Then he saw the bleeding mess his torso had become. A face swam into view. Something was wrong with it.
He'd never before met anyone so… so stitched-together looking.
He only had a couple of seconds to focus on it. There was the interesting line of sewing across the nose, the lopsided ears…
Bu then the face faded. Images of his life flashed before his eyes. Aragorn was right, Boromir thought woozily, as unconsciousness took him, My father has got some serious issues.
At this point, Schrodinger's Narrative tells us that Boromir could be in of two states. He could be alive, or he could be dead.
In fact, he occupies a third state: Confused but Furious New Zombie.
He doesn't know this yet.