Thorongil being injured can’t help Faramir
Chapter 6: A Meeting of Old Friends?
This section beta-read by Gloria Lancaster.
Possible squick: nasty death of animal.
Faramir realised he was alone in this battle: Thorongil would have heard him, but this creature could swallow him before any help came. He parried further attacks, and hacked at the slimy tentacle around his leg with his sword; the creature's blood spilled and stained leggings already dirtied by its slime. Cut through at last, the tentacle dropped to the ground and flopped around like a fish out of water, and he backed away as fast as he could. Another reached for him, and he dodged it with difficulty; he nearly dropped his sword as it struck him a glancing blow. He moved back still further, as far as the rock wall behind him would allow.
The creature didn't seem to be reaching for him in particular; it sensed movement and attacked anything it sensed. This Faramir realised when its target became the horses they'd tied and hobbled to graze, and which were by now crazed with fear. Faramir watched helplessly as the creature used two then three tentacles to lift one high. The rope cut in to its flesh and Faramir was sprayed with blood. The horse screamed as it was dropped into the creature's gaping maw, there was a wild thrashing from the water, another scream from the horse, then sudden silence. In the last of the light before darkness fell, he saw that the water had turned black with blood.
The whole encounter had taken seconds; he turned at a sound behind him to see Thorongil, sword in hand and his shirt open. Faramir said, "I might have been safer had I stayed in Ithilien."
"You might," admitted Thorongil, which was more than Faramir had expected. "At least you don't lose your head when faced with the unknown."
"Is that praise?" Faramir could feel shock setting in, and knew he had to do something.
"What was that thing?"
Thorongil looked grim, "I have no idea." He moved to check on their remaining horse.
Faramir shook his head. He crossed to his pack and opened it, "We cannot move on tonight," he said. "We shall have to trust that the creature is like a snake, and does not eat often. How long would it take for something like that to digest a horse?"
"At least a night, I'd suspect."
Faramir briefly considered going upstream to collect water, but decided against it. He used what was in his water skin to begin the soup; they'd refill them from another part of the stream tomorrow. The simple task calmed him: soup he could cope with.
While he did this, he watched Thorongil create a poultice from a mixture of dried herbs he produced from his pack and hot water, also from his water skin and heated in a small pot, and a length of linen scrip. He moved with calm assurance, this was clearly something he'd done often. Faramir noticed the cut on Thorongil's side was red and puffy around the edges. He wondered if the orc's knife had been poisoned, not that there was a great deal they could do about it here in the wild if it was.
He tried to avoid being seen looking at Thorongil too avidly, but that body had been haunting his dreams for over a year now. In the dreams it had been so easy, there had been little talk, none of the strange non-conversations they had as they travelled, the questions that were not answered, the openings he offered but which were not accepted. If anything, he preferred the dreams to the man himself; those at least had an end and more often than not a gloriously pleasurable end.
He could not imagine throwing himself at this man the way he did in his dream world. That Faramir he knew only too well: that Faramir outshone his brother, that Faramir gained his father's respect and affection, answered him back. That Faramir wasn't real.
The soup ready, he handed Thorongil a strict fair share - that had been agreed between them within six hours of their first meeting - and drank his own. He didn't bother asking where they were going or when they would get there. There wasn't much point.
Next morning was depressing; he was filthy from his fight with the unknown creature, the one bright spot that much of the blood had dried and caked. He wiped off what he could, changed into his spare leggings and shirt, and rolled the others into his pack. His jerkin and leathern armour he had to retain, these were the only ones he was carrying, he couldn't afford the space in his pack for more. He thought, briefly but longingly, of his chambers in Minas Tirith and hot baths, and remembered how Boromir had teased him about his preference for cleanliness.
Travelling with only one horse was going to slow them considerably; they could both ride, but then what would they do with their packs? Or one could ride, or they could both walk. Faramir was irritated to note that Thorongil did not ask for his opinion, he piled the packs onto the horse and looked at Faramir questioningly. The bay mare shook her head, snorted, and Thorongil patted her shoulder.
"You should ride," said Faramir. He was thinking of the cut.
"I'm well enough," Thorongil led the mare away from the cave and along the bank of the stream.
"If you say so," murmured Faramir under his breath as he followed, though a glance from Thorongil told him that he probably hadn't been quiet enough.
"We should be on the southern edge of Lórien some time tomorrow," said Thorongil. He sounded as if he intended this to be some kind of peace offering.
"Oh, good," said Faramir, again under his breath. He wasn't yet ready to be placated.
Faramir noticed that as they followed the Anduin upriver, Thorongil became a little more cheerful - he took to humming some ancient tune between his teeth as they walked. It wasn't one that Faramir was immediately familiar with; he gathered it was one of the oldest of the several versions of the tale of Beren and Lúthien. He wasn't as familiar with them as he would have liked to be, his father didn't encourage the singing of that lay in Minas Tirith. Faramir had never asked why; it didn't do to question the Steward too closely.
Without warning, Thorongil stopped and held up a hand. Faramir looked around in puzzlement. He could see no sign of enemies but Thorongil was alert, watchful in the evening light, then as suddenly as if they'd dropped from the trees, there were three people, arrows nocked and ready. At least, Faramir counted three, there could easily have been more among the trees, waiting unseen.
They were elves, quite definitely. Faramir had never seen any before, but he had heard and read enough about them to be sure. They spoke in some language he didn't immediately understand, but which sounded similar to that of Gondor if oddly accented. Thorongil answered, and the elf turned to Faramir. "Aragorn tells me you are the son of Denethor."
"He knows me as Thorongil."
Had the elf been a man, Faramir would have been certain that the expression which crossed his face was impatience. What the elf said was, "I see. We have been told to expect you, both of you."
"Oh," said Faramir. He glanced at Thorongil, who looked as impassive as ever.
The limpid light of a soft evening turned to dusk around them as they walked deeper into Lórien. Faramir looked around, curiously; they were in a great forest, the trees of a type he had never seen before. He could hear birds and insects, the ground between the trees clear and open and strewn with flowers. The boles grew larger as they walked, and after a time he could distantly see lights showing. The elf stopped. He said, "From here you must be blindfold, for we do not permit strangers, not even Aragorn, whom you call Thorongil, to see the secrets of the Naith."
"Very well," said Thorongil. The elf blindfolded him first, then Faramir. It was very strange to be led; he could hear the sound of the horse's hooves on the grass, the soft soughing of the leaves around him and the distant calls of birds returning to their nests but had no idea where he was. It was almost like floating inside his own mind.
They stopped, and the blindfolds were removed. It took him a moment to adjust himself to the light, for after so long in the dark it was an unbearable brightness, and he looked around. Ahead of them were a pair of great gates; these they passed through into a city built among the trees, the like of which Faramir could never have imagined.
The way was not short, but at last they came to a massive platform on which stood a hall, and outside, as if waiting for them, was an elf as tall as Thorongil with long, silver hair. "Long has it been since I saw you, Aragorn," he said. "I did not think you would return once my wife, daughter and granddaughter left for the undying lands."
"I hope I am not unwelcome, Celeborn. I need your help."
What happens next?
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