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He had not seen anything like this in his year of service with the Ithilien Rangers. It was a most sanguinary affair in point of terrific fierceness and stubborn persistency, a scene in which a single glance comprehended all that in battle is sublime, grand, and terrible. Dark masses had crossed the Anduin and rolled forward to the onslaught, adding their clamor to the hell of sound. Their missiles formed a perpetual sheet of flame causing the very air to writhe. Unable to hold the ground in the face of overwhelming odds, he retreated with Captain Faramir to the Causeway Forts, which also fell to the hordes of the Dark Lord.
Orcs bearing torches fired houses and splendid farms, the glow lighting the deepening gloom. The wanton destruction of structures out of a thirst of vengeance and a licentious desire to sack and burn was deplorable and disgusting and filled the lad with sorrow and anger.
It was the bloodiest place the young ranger ever saw. The field everywhere bore marks of the extreme severity of the contest. On all sides, he could see both his comrades and the enemy lying together in bloody pools, their bodies and countenances twisted in pain and agony.
They were swept away as chaff thrown from the hand on a windy day. What had started as a retreat became a rout with the appearance of the Nazgűl and their piercing screeches of death. With the rearguard, the youngster could see men fleeing wildly, falling to the ground, and tossing aside their weapons. Amidst the chaos, his beloved raven-haired captain sitting tall and proud atop his dapple grey steed desperately tried to rally them.
“I am so afraid, but I cannot disappoint him! I will not break and run!” The lad silently swore to himself.
And then a trumpet rang out across the murderous plain of the Pelennor.
“Amroth for Gondor! Amroth to Faramir!”
Denethor had finally unleashed the sortie led by his brother-in-law, Prince Imrahil. On they came, mounted on fierce thundering horses, bearing the silver and blue colors of the swan knights of Dol Amroth.
And Gandalf the wizard came with them atop Shadowfax, the great white steed bearing him swiftly upon the killing field. Raising his hand skyward, he released a beam of light at the Nazgűl, sweeping them away.
The youngster, his sword stained black and red with blood, felt his spirits lifted, and he let out an exuberant, deep howl.
He had barely released his vocal fury when his horse fell beneath him, pierced by multiple arrows. The lad stumbled to his feet and saw Captain Faramir, engaged in a perilous struggle with a mounted Haradrim champion, reel in his saddle and fall to the ground.
“Oh please no!”
Like the dart that had pierced his captain, the youthful ranger sped towards him, hoping to reach him in time before he was hewn where he lay. Running headlong towards the enemy with sword drawn and death in his eyes, he challenged the Southron. The murderous foe smirked at his easy prey and spurred his horse forward, blade raised for the death strike. But the youngster was too quick. Just before the horse reached him, he quickly stepped to the other side and stabbed deeply into the abdomen just under the rib cage ere the enemy could completely shift the position of his blade and bring it fully to bear. At the same time, the foe sliced the lithe Gondorian down the forearm, dislodging his leather gauntlet in the process, the glove falling to the ground. But fortunately for the lad, he did not feel the full blow since the force of his mortal stab had unhorsed his enemy.
Panting from exertion and grasping at his bleeding arm, he immediately shifted his attention to the fallen Captain Faramir. As he turned to make his way to his side, the swan knights charged by, dealing death and fury. They had divided their line upon reaching the retreating men and enveloped their kinsmen to hit the enemy pursuing them. The hunters had become the hunted. And now it was the Orcs and their allies who scattered in disarray.
Cradling his injured arm, the lad knelt by Faramir and immediately noticed the nasty dart protruding from his shoulder. The side of his captain’s handsome face was pressed to the ground, his black hair plastered to his smooth cheek and neck with sweat and grime. With a trembling hand, the youngster slid his slender fingers under Faramir’s head and gently turned it towards him so that he could look fully into his fair face. Pain was etched there, his breath came in gasps, and his lips trembled as if he were trying to form words. His lids fluttered open revealing piercing grey eyes that desperately searched the face of his soldier. But then his breathing slowed, and he closed his eyes once more.
“Oh no, no, no, no, NO!!!” Grabbing the dart, the youth gently drew it forth causing Faramir’s chest to heave. The captain gasped, and his eyes briefly fluttered open before closing again. The lad momentarily wrenched his focus from the injured man to the arrow in his hand, which he quickly examined. It was one as the Southrons use, and he cursed the foe that had felled his captain as he hurled it away. The act stung his arm and he gasped in pain. After recovering, he placed his hand over Faramir’s wound, his blood now mingling with that of his captain’s. Time was stealing away with his life, and the lad needed to get him to the healers in the city quickly. Scooting around behind him, the little ranger attempted to raise him.
“If I could just get him to his horse….”
He tugged, pushed, and pulled as gently as he could, but he couldn’t budge Faramir’s still form beyond a sitting position, the captain’s head tipping backwards. The youngster was too small and weak from the physical exertion of the battle to try to lift him. And his arm was throbbing. Dejected, he finally resolved to sit on his heels, legs folded underneath him, knees digging into the ground behind the injured man. He lowered Faramir’s torso to rest upon his thighs and his head upon his chest. He stroked the raven hair and placed his hand over the wound. That’s all he believed he could do at the moment. Never had he felt so helpless. Desperately, he looked up and surveyed the landscape for something…..anything…..anybody. He couldn’t think. What was he supposed to do?
“Oh, please help me!”
And then his vision, blurred with stress, sweat, and blood, momentarily cleared by virtue of his frustrated tears, and he noticed a ranger nearby moving among the fallen to check for survivors.
He didn’t answer.
The ranger straightened up and looked his way.
“CAPTAIN FARAMIR IS HURT! PLEASE COME!”
Damlind immediately abandoned his task at hand and hurried to the youngster’s side.
“How badly, Halon?” He breathed as he bent over their esteemed captain.
The lad removed his hand to reveal the bloody hole.
“Poisoned?” Damlind asked as he tore off a piece of his tunic under his leather hauberk, which he shoved under Faramir’s clothing and leather armor, and pressed it down onto the wound. After a moment, he withdrew his hand, leaving the piece of cloth, and straightened Faramr’s trappings.
Halon gently swept the captain’s sweaty hair away from his face, felt his brow, and frowned. “Likely. He seems to be growing warm with fever. Damlind, you must help me get him on his horse. I will ride back with him to the city.”
Damlind nodded and calmly walked over to Faramir’s grey steed, standing wide-eyed nearby. He put out his hand, and the animal reached out his nose and snorted, his nostrils flaring.
“Easy,” Damlind coaxed as he grabbed hold of the reins and led him to his comrades upon the ground.
Momentarily dropping the reins, he straddled his captain’s legs, bent over his still form, grabbed him under the arms, and gently began to pull him up while Halon, rising to his feet from behind, supported his back. Moving to Faramir’s side, Damlind lifted his arm and wrapped it round his shoulders careful not to aggravate the wound. Meanwhile, Halon slid his arm around his waist for support. Faramir moaned, and his head drooped forward, but he was up and attempting to shuffle his feet as the trio made their way to the steed’s side.
“Come, Captain,” Halon whispered. “We’re taking you home after great deeds.”
Straining, the youngster and his comrade managed to seat Faramir onto his charger, the captain slumping forward onto the steed’s neck. Halon was just about to mount up behind when an arrow whizzed by his cheek and struck Damlind square in the eye, making a sickening, cracking sound. Blood sprayed everywhere. The ranger fell dead without a sound, his stiff body thudding upon the earth.
Horrified, the youngster looked around to see what he thought were pockets of slain Orcs rising up to renew their assault.
“The filth! They feigned death!”
Terror gripped Halon as he desperately attempted to slide his foot into the stirrup to mount Faramir’s horse. But he was shaking and the stirrup wouldn’t remain still, resulting in several failed attempts to gain a foothold. Finally, with his boot solidly braced, Halon quickly raised and straightened his knee to swing his other leg over the horse when he felt it. Like a bolt of lightning made of solid ice, the arrow struck him in the lower abdomen just above his belt on the right side. He heard his breath escape him as the force of the blow doubled him over, and he instinctively grasped at the dart with one hand while grasping the cantle with the other to stabilize himself. Meanwhile, the steed, sensing the danger, began to snort, stamp, and prance, his ears flitting nervously forwards and backwards, awaiting commands from his master. The horse’s dance rendered mounting even more difficult, but Halon managed to slide over the charger’s rump and seat himself behind the cantle. The youngster then attempted to envelope the larger man’s body with his own in an effort to offer protection, while ensuring that he did not bump the arrow protruding from his body. The world began to slow and dim. It seemed like an eternity before he took up the reins. The great grey steed needed little urging as he sprang forward.
“We’re away, Captain Faramir! You’re going home! To the White City!” What he thought were strong words of encouragement managed to escape his lips as only a whisper. His strength waned.
No sooner had Halon uttered those words when three arrows struck him almost simultaneously in the left leg. One cut deeply through the calf. Another pierced the knee, and a third sank into the middle of the thigh. The young ranger yelled in pain. And then he fell silent as he felt a profoundly heavy, blinding blow strike him squarely on the back of his helmet-less head. He swayed but managed to stay mounted by virtue of his death-like grip upon the charger’s mane and reins, or he surely would have been unhorsed.
The world became a dizzying blur to Halon. He slumped forward, laid his cheek against Faramir’s back, and joined him in oblivion.
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