SERIES: "Boromir's Elves" (6/WIP)
Volume Two of the Chronicles of Aster, found in the great and ancient library of the White City, Minas Tirith, tells a story of one of the heroes of Gondor and his adventures before, during and after the War of the Ring. This hero was a member of The Nine who went out from Rivendell to destroy the One Ring before it could fall back into the hands of Sauron. He was Boromir, son of Denethor, and he was believed killed during the journey to Mordor while trying to defend two hobbits, members of the Fellowship, from marauding Orcs who bore the mark of the white hand.
The traditional tale has Boromir felled by Orc arrows and his body set upon the Great River Anduin in a boat holding his shield, his sword and the Horn of Gondor, which had been split in two during his final battle. When members of the Fellowship last see Boromir, his boat is headed toward the cataracts of Rauros.
The Chronicles pick up the tale after Boromir has been set adrift, when his body is discovered by a group of elves who live in a cave beneath the falls. These elves are rarely found in any of the histories of Middle Earth, and their very existence holds a sense of legend.
The Elves of Rauros were descendents of the Nandor who had taken to the woods and settled near Lorien. At the beginning of the Third Age, several dozen of these sylvan elves had broken off and founded a colony of their own, which became a sort of elven cult later spoken of in whispers as the Worshippers of Man or Man-Loving Elves. Gifted with the secret of male procreation, they were known to take a man as their king and to mix their blood with his.
Before they found Boromir, their number had dwindled greatly, many having been killed by Orcs or dangerous beasts in the surrounding woods. Several had pined away and died after the loss of their most recent lord many years earlier. Without a new Manlord, the Elves of Rauros would soon cease to be. When one of their number found the boat containing the son of Gondor, their fate was left to be decided by he alone.
They were forevermore to be known as Boromir's Elves.
Part Six, First Chosen
Himmion bent to his work, gathering dandelions from the floor of the forest clearing, filling the large basket beside him. It was only recently the flowers had started to bloom again, and the elves were anxious to stock up in case a late freeze came. The dandelion wine made by the Elves of Rauros was not only one of the staples of their diet, it was an important medicine and a valuable facet of their commerce, carrying a significant value for trade.
Newly-opened blooms were best, and Himmion took the stalks as well as the blossom, although they were rarely used. Brogadan actually preferred a brew that included some of the greenery, as it added a bite to the sweet wine, so sometimes a special batch would be made for him. Alone, the stalks were bitter, unless they were gathered before the blossoms themselves appeared. Today Himmion was disinterested in anything but stock for wine-making, so he ignored fresh greens and other growing treasures on the forest floor.
The elves, especially Gellamon and Lothon, the best winemakers, were anxious to begin a new season of brewing. Their first recipe would be mixed with figs, to add body and flavor. The new Manlord seemed to like this taste best, and stores of the wine were already running low before Boromir's boat was found.
It was late morning, the best time to gather the dandelions. As he worked, Himmion hummed to himself in a surprisingly deep base tone that belied his youthful face. While his rich speaking voice was found pleasing by the other elves, Himmion's singing was not the best of the group, which bothered him more than he ever admitted. In the nearly two weeks Boromir had been living in the cave, Himmion had been working on a special elfsong in honor of his discovery; that song would soon be heard for the first time at the celebration being planned to honor their new lord.
Himmion's basket was nearly full, and he was happy to sit back on his heels for a minute and give his shoulders and neck a rest. He had been so intent on his gathering and his song, he was completely unaware of the creature that crept up behind him, its shaggy belly hugging the tall grass. The mountain cat had gone far from its normal hunting ground, and it was hungry enough to consider the elf a good prospect.
The scream that echoed through the woods was not that of Himmion, but of Berion, who, on his daily run with Boromir's sword in hand and shield strapped to his back, had seen the cat and was trying to warn his friend.
"Himmion, look out!" he yelled, running forward, the heavy sword in his right hand. When the cat leapt toward Himmion, Berion tore the shield from his back and tossed it like a whirling disk; his aim with the left hand was poor, and the shield whizzed past the cat.
Himmion cried out as the cat's forelegs hit him, and he went down on his back. Berion yelled even louder, expecting the cat to go for Himmion's throat. But Berion's charge gave the beast no time to do more than glance off Himmion's chest and turn to prepare for his noisy attacker.
Remembering Boromir's instructions, Berion came sideways toward the snarling animal, trying to offer no easy target for a lunging claw. He used the sword to back the creature away from Himmion, and as he did so he talked loudly to it, cursing it and urging it to go away.
The animal was hungry enough to challenge Berion, and although it backed up, it didn't run. Berion realized he would have to kill the beast, because merely wounding it would render it even more dangerous. He drove forward, aiming for the mid-section, and the cat sprang at him, claws flailing. As the sword thrust home, one paw raked Berion's bare chest. His right arm vibrated as the struggling cat was impaled on the blade.
In a moment the struggling ceased. A panting Berion pulled the long sword from the carcass of the cat and turned to check on Himmion.
The elf was shaking his head, wavy blonde hair in disarray around his usually pleasant face.
"Berion! He would have killed me!" Himmion's eyes widened as he looked at his friend, and he cried out again. "Berion! You're hurt!"
Berion looked down at himself, shocked by both the quantity and the bright color of the blood streaming from his chest. His skin had been rent by the big cat, and in three places pectoral muscle was exposed. "He scratched me," Berion said, looking disbelieving. "I'm bleeding."
"Let's get you back to the cave!" Himmion insisted. "I'll carry you."
"No! Get the lord's shield. I'll carry the sword." He looked at the weapon, still stained with the cat's blood. A wave of nausea hit him, and he fought it off, swallowing. He couldn't give in to fear or pain. He needed to show Boromir how brave he could be. How many Orc arrows had it taken to fell the Manlord? At least three. One cat scratch could not overcome the Protector!
Himmion picked up the shield, walking past the shaggy cat. "This fur will be good, once the musk is cleaned from it." He made a face. "That was a stinky cat. I'm surprised I couldn't smell him coming."
"He smells worse now," Berion said. "We'll get someone out here to skin him immediately, before another animal comes along and carries him off or ruins the hide. Let's hurry."
Himmion glanced down at his basket; it had toppled over, spilling red-speckled dandelion blossoms everywhere. He shuddered, sensing an evil omen. "Yes, let's hurry," he repeated.
They both ignored the red streaks running down Berion's midriff and legs as they made their way to the opening of their underground home. Berion knew he'd require stitching -- the cat's claws had gone deep. He couldn't help thinking about the wound, imagining the worst. He hoped he would be spared a fever, but if the lacerations festered, he might be laid up for days, which would not suit him.
"I need wine to wash these scratches," he said to Himmion. "Go in the cave and get it for me, along with a cloth. I'll scare everyone if they see me like this."
Before Himmion could move, Brogadan emerged from the cave; when he saw Berion's condition, his eyes widened, but his face stayed calm. He quickly assessed the damage and issued the same order to Himmion that Berion had, adding a request to find Elnestor, the healer. Himmion barely nodded, then ran past them to comply. Berion was surprised at how glad he was to see the leader; he breathed deeply as he handed over the sword.
"A cat," he said. "I killed it before it could get Himmion."
Their eyes locked for an instant and a silent understanding went between them. Although the Elves of Rauros did not possess the skill of talking with their minds, at certain times of high emotion or stress, they were able to reach accord without verbal communication. Berion now knew that Brogadan valued his skills and approved his actions. A flowery tribute was unnecessary.
Boromir stepped outside the cave, followed by Elnestor and Himmion. He took his sword from Brogadan, noting the bloodied blade and nodding to the leader. Elnestor carried his healer's pouch; inside he had the implements necessary to mend the rents from the cat's claws. Himmion had a small jug of wine, which Brogadan took from him and doused on Berion's chest. The young elf grimaced, but kept himself stoic in view of Boromir's scrutiny. Elnestor directed Berion to be seated on a log near the cave entrance, then quickly and neatly stitched the three deep scratches. Each was two and a half inches long and perfectly spaced just a half inch apart. The wound started just right of Berion's left nipple, and made a diagonal downward swath on his chest. "This will leave an interesting scar," Elnestor commented. "It's like the tribal tattoos our last lord spoke of."
Brogadan, Himmion and Boromir stood watching as Elnestor worked. Boromir nodded at Elnestor's observation. "You've now been marked by the cat, Berion. You'll take on his speed and his ferocity."
"And hopefully his patience," Brogadan added.
Berion smiled, happy at the thought of the mark on his chest; it would give him a special significance and definitely add to his appearance. He was always conscious of being shorter than most of the elves.
"You saved my life," Himmion said softly.
"We'll drink to you both tonight!" Boromir said, his tone jovial. "And we'll dance."
Elnestor glanced at him disapprovingly. "I'm not sure you're quite up to dancing, Lord."
Boromir reached over and ruffled the surprised healer's reddish-brown hair. "I am, Elnestor! I intend to drink and to dance tonight. I'm back among the living!"
Brogadan looked meaningfully at Elnestor. "Our lord is much improved, and that's due, in part, to our fine healer. Tonight we'll celebrate and test his seed for the first time."
There was an awkward silence among the elves. "Oh, I know what he's saying," said Boromir, laughing at the sideways glance Elnestor sent his way. "Supposedly you'll be able to tell if I'm potent enough to re-populate your race. Believe me, I've been paying attention to the talk."
"Have you agreed, then?" asked Berion. "Will you stay and be our Manlord?"
Brogadan cleared his throat. "He'll announce his decision tonight. And if Lord Boromir agrees and his seed is found to be ripe, I will then officially announce which of us will be the first to take it."
Himmion smiled. "Elsand, I wager. I've seen him in our lord's bed enough. He knows how to nurture a man's seed."
Boromir let out a braying laugh. "He's a sweet elf, but he hasn't been seducing me, if that's what you think."
"Why not?" Himmion said, looking surprised.
They all laughed then and moved toward the cave entrance.
"I was composing an elfsong in Lord Boromir's honor, but now I think I need to include Berion in tribute to his wonderful courage," Himmion told them.
"Indeed. Good idea," Boromir agreed, throwing an arm around Himmion.
Berion felt his face flush.
The leader and the protector followed the other three inside. Brogadan let his hand drop softly on Berion's shoulder as the two bent to enter the well-disguised portal to their underground world. He squeezed gently, holding the younger elf behind for a moment.
"I've decided already who will be first chosen, Berion," he whispered, his voice husky in the dark passage just inside the cave door.
Berion held his breath, awed to be made privy to one of the leader's most important decisions. There was a pregnant pause.
Brogadan spoke again. "It will be you."
The End, Part SixPart Seven
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