The journey with Bran to his home by the river was a true test of Boromir's endurance. His leg was swollen from the bite wound and each step was agony. He was dizzy and sick with the pain in his head, and his body was burning with fever. Bran supported him on his right side, but even though he was careful, he could not help jostling Boromir's wounded arm as they trudged along. Even with Bran's help, he would have fallen, had he not had the support of the wooden staff to lean on. The dog trotted ahead of them, as though to lead the way. Boromir kept his eyes fixed on the small form, concentrating on putting one foot before the other. His world became a haze of pain, heat, thirst, and a little wire-haired dog.
Finally, when he was certain he could go no further, they came to a clearing in the woods, near the bank of a river. The sun was bright and hurt Boromir's eyes. As though through a fog, he saw a small house surrounded by a hedge, and a smooth path down to a pier on the river. A woman was standing at the door of the house, looking out; she seemed to be waiting for them. The woman gently removed the staff from Boromir's clenched fist, and taking his good arm, led him inside. The room they entered was dark compared to the sunlit yard outside, and Boromir welcomed it. Before he had a chance to take note of his surroundings, he felt himself being led onwards into another room, where he was helped carefully to lay down on a soft bed. A cool arm raised him up and put a cup to his lips. He drank greedily. Boromir tried to express his gratitude, but all that came was an unintelligible mutter, and before he could say anything further, he was asleep.
Sometimes he slept, and dreamed strange dreams of holding a broken sword and battling wolves or black riders; or of searching frantically for Faramir, until he fell into dark water and sank like a stone. Other times he was awake, but delirious with fever and pain. Bran was often there, changing his bandages, or lifting him up to feed him, as if he were a child. The woman, too, was constantly by his side, bathing his forehead with cool cloths, urging him to drink, and humming soothingly. Olwen, her name was; he had caught that much during one of his lucid moments. Bran's lady, she must be, who was skilled at caring for the sick and injured.
Boromir awoke one morning, suddenly, and knew that he was better. He felt weak, but no longer sick, and the pain in his head was no more than a dull ache. He stretched out his arm and flexed the stiff muscles. He smiled in relief. There was no lasting damage -- he would have full use of his sword arm again. He shifted his leg under the blanket. It was still a bit painful, but the swelling had gone down.
He looked up as the door to his room opened, and Olwen came in, carrying a pitcher and a cup on a tray. She was a tall woman, and strongly built. Her face was lined with age, but her back was straight and she had a twinkle in her eye that made her seem very young.
"Well, well," she said, cheerfully. "You're awake, now! I was knowin' it would be soon that ye'd be wakin', what with the fever gone, and yer wounds almost healed. How are you feelin', then?"
"I am well enough, I think," Boromir replied. "How long have I been ill?"
Olwen considered for a moment, as if counting the days off in her head.
"Bran brought ye here ten days ago, now. You were very ill for a week, but mendin' well now for the last few days. "
She set the tray down by the bed and poured some water from it into the cup.
"Ye haven't been feedin' well of late, I see," she said as she handed him the cup. "Now that yer up and awake, would ye be wantin' a bite of somethin' to eat?"
"Yes, I would indeed," Boromir answered. "I am quite hungry, in fact."
Olwen laughed. "A good sign, that is, when a man feels hunger. I've somethin' on the stove all ready for ye. I'll bring it right along, but first I want to see ye drink that water. You'll be dry after your long sleep."
Boromir laughed at the mothering tone in her voice, and drank obediently. Satisfied, Olwen took the tray and went out of the room, humming as she went.
As Boromir watched her go over the rim of the cup, a strange feeling came over him. Perhaps it had been the tune she was humming as she left the room, or maybe it was the woman's smiling face above him as she urged him to drink; something about her made him think of his mother.
Boromir set the empty cup down and laid back on the pillows. His mother, Finduilas, had been a beautiful woman, much loved by her husband and her two sons. She had been a good mother to him and Faramir; comforting and loving when they were young and wanting mothering, but also willing to stand back when they wanted to be young men. Boromir remembered that she had often sung to him when he was small, to help him sleep, and to comfort herself when she was homesick for the city by the sea where she grew up. She was often homesick, but she hid it for the sake of her family. He remembered how he used to lean against her arm as she cradled Faramir in her arms and sang him to sleep. One of those songs came to him now, as he lay in bed. It had been his favorite; she had always sung it to him when he was afraid to sleep because of the dark:
Close your eyes, my small one, Rest your weary head. Do not fear the darkness Here around your bed.
I am here, my small one, Ever at your side. I will never leave you, Here with you I bide, Here with you I bide.
Sleep now, dream now; Valar bless your sleep. Weep not, fear not; Safe they will you keep. We are watching, watching as you sleep.
Close your eyes, my small one, I am at your side. Sleep in peace, my dear one, Here with you I bide, Here with you I bide, Always at your side.
The tune was haunting and sad; in later years his mother had often sung songs that were sad. She had come to fear the darkness, and no amount of singing could keep away her fear. In the end, she could not bear it, and she withered. She was unable to keep her promise to always be at his side. Boromir was ten when she died; his first vow as a young warrior had been to pledge his life to fighting the Shadow that had taken his mother's joy.
His thoughts were interrupted by Olwen's return. The smell of fresh bread and meaty broth filled the room as she entered. Boromir put aside his bittersweet memories and brought his mind back to the present. He was very hungry. He was eager to be up and about; once his strength returned he could be on his way again. The fight against the Shadow went on, and the answers to the riddle he sought still awaited him.