Boromir sat quietly in the Elven boat and let it drift with the current. He had pulled well ahead of Aragorn and Legolas in the other boats without realizing it; it would be better not to get too far ahead. Merry and Pippin were both dozing, so he had some time to himself. He thought back on the conversation with Celeborn upon their departure from Lorien; he had warned them against becoming entangled in the Forest of Fangorn...
"...That is a strange land, and is now little known. But Boromir and Aragorn doubtless do not need this warning."
"Indeed we have heard of Fangorn in Minas Tirith" Boromir had replied. "But what I have heard seems to me for the most part old wives' tales, such as we tell our children. All that lies north of Rohan is now to us so far away that fancy can wander freely there. Of old Fangorn lay upon the borders of our realm; but it is now many lives of men since any of us visited it, to prove or disprove the legends that have come down from distant years. I have myself been at whiles in Rohan but I have never crossed it northwards..."
Now, as he watched the wooded banks of Anduin slip past, Boromir recalled that there had indeed been a time when he had crossed Rohan northwards, and that he had actually entered that great forest of Fangorn, so famous in legend.
How could he have forgotten? It had not been so long ago, fifteen years perhaps...Such a strange experience! He had put it out of his mind until now; even the talk of Fangorn there in Lorien had not recalled it until this moment. Though that was really not so surprising, now that he considered it; he had had much on his mind of late...
He had been twenty-five; young, but already experienced as a leader. He had taken a small group of his men on a scouting expedition to the borders of Gondor, across the Entwash along the southern border of Rohan. The purpose of the mission was primarily to tour the northern borders, to understand the lay of the land for the better defense of his people. There had also been reports out of Rohan of small parties of orcs in the eastern regions, raiding and slaying horses; though that was Rohan's territory, Boromir wanted to see for himself that his own borders were secure.
With him as his advisor was Madril, who had trained Faramir and himself in arms and combat. It had been Madril's suggestion that Faramir accompany them; their journeys together had not brought them this far north in the past, and Faramir was as eager as he to learn more of the land.
Boromir had allowed it, for he thought it would be pleasant to have his brother's company. It was unlikely that harm would come to him; the danger could not be that great. Faramir was old enough and skilled enough that he could certainly handle himself, but Boromir was still reluctant to have his brother placed in situations of great danger. He was too used to playing the part of the older brother, the protector.
The mission had gone well, until they had met Eomund's Riders. Eomund of Eastfold was the chief Marshal of the Mark, under King Theoden; his charge was the Eastern marches. He was a great lover of horses and a hater of orcs, and his anger burned hot when he heard of horses being slain in raids. It had been said, and was heard even in Gondor, that if he heard of a raid, Eomund would ride against the raiders and pursue them at all costs, even if his men were few.
The two parties had met by chance at the border; Eomund and his small group of men were investigating rumors of another orc raid, and Boromir and his party were traversing the mouths of the Entwash along the Rohan border towards Anduin. Eomund had welcomed the chance meeting, and asked the men of Gondor to join him in his hunt. After consulting with Madril and Faramir, Boromir had agreed.
It had not been long before the small band of orcs was sighted, heading towards the Emyn Muil; the chase was on. The orcs were fast and well ahead of the company, but they were no match for pursuers on horseback. The riders caught up with them on the very borders of Emyn Muil, and slew them easily.
That was when things had gone wrong. Even as they had turned away from the dark cliffs of the rugged hills, a cry went up that more orcs had been sighted; a strong force had laid in wait in the rocks, and were now attacking. The hunters suddenly became the prey.
Boromir winced at the memory of that battle. He had been foolish to let down his guard, foolish to believe that so small a band of orcs would be alone in the wastelands. It had been a fierce, desperate battle; a number of the Riders had been wounded as well as several of his own men. Eomund had been pulled from his horse and attacked with sword and spear, and Faramir...
Ah, Faramir! Even now the fear of that wounding returned to Boromir, so many years later. Faramir had ridden to the aid of Eomund, and had been pulled down with him. Boromir had not known of it until after the battle was over, after the orcs had been slain or put to flight. He had been gazing off to the northwest, following with his eyes a group of orcs which were fleeing through the long grass of the plains. He was wondering if he should pursue them, when he sensed someone at his side...
Boromir turned and saw that Madril was there; black blood stained his face and he had a cut on his cheek. Madril started to speak, then stopped short as he caught sight of the blood on Boromir's face.
"My lord, you are hurt!"
"Am I?" Boromir put his hand to his head and it came away dark with his own blood. "I had not noticed. I will have it seen to, but first, tell me quickly! Where is Faramir? How does he fare?"
Madril's face darkened, and Boromir's heart missed a beat.
"That is what I have come to tell you; he is wounded...badly wounded. The orcs took him when he went to the rescue of Eomund. Eomund is also severely wounded; I fear he will not live."
Boromir lept from his horse, and stood for a moment, shaking in fear, or anger; he did not know which.
"Where is he?" he said in a strangled voice. "Take me to Faramir!"
They had led him to the spot where Faramir lay, his eyes closed, pale from loss of blood. He had been stabbed several times in the chest; they had done what they could to stay the bleeding, but it looked very bad.
A fierce anger had overtaken Boromir; he blamed himself for allowing Faramir to come, blamed himself for not being at his side when he was needed, and for not being the one lying dead on the ground. For Boromir had been convinced his brother was dead; nothing they could say could convince him otherwise.
He sat with his head in his hands as they treated his head wound, and his anger grew until he could contain it no longer. Before they could stop him, he had mounted his horse and was riding after the orcs that had escaped, bent only on revenge.
The pursuit of the orcs was still dim in his memory. It must have been many hours and many leagues; the orcs ran swiftly and he followed them. Why they had been fleeing away from the Emyn Muil and not towards it was a mystery, but he had not cared. He had been ready to follow them wherever they led him. And they led him to the eaves of the Forest of Fangorn...
Boromir stared up at the towering trees in front of him, and hesitated. His head was throbbing with pain and he was beginning to feel feverish; he had been in pursuit of the enemy for so long he had lost all track of time. He knew the orcs had entered here, but even in his urgent need for revenge, he was cautious of entering the wood. He had heard tales...
"Tales for children!" he said suddenly and decisively, and dismounting, he plunged into the forest.
He immediately felt an oppressive weight upon him, and all sound was deadened. It was if the air itself was heavy with anger; it matched well his own mood. He went forward carefully, his sword at the ready in front of him.
Boromir heard strange shrieks coming from further inside the forest; was that the sound of orc voices? He pushed his way through the thick underbrush that grew under the gnarled trees and followed the sounds.
He was beginning to think he had imagined it all, and was considering turning back, when he came suddenly into a clearing and saw before him the bodies of the orcs he had been pursuing. He stared at them for a long time, unable to comprehend that the enemy he had been pursuing for so long was here in front of him, dead by another's hand. He felt cheated of his revenge. He shouted angrily, and, falling to his knees, he stabbed at the orc that lay closest to him.
As he knelt there, he heard a strange shuffling, creaking noise behind him. He jumped to his feet and spun about, sword raised to parry a blow. There stood a tall gnarled tree, where no tree had been before...but was it a tree? Boromir narrowed his eyes and looked up at the tree...or the creature...now towering over him; he could not see clearly; he felt faint. I must be imagining things, he thought. Does this tree have eyes...?
"Hoom, hmmm!" said a deep, musical voice. "Harraroom! It is long since Men have walked in this place. You are very young, very young indeed; but even one so young should know that it is a dangerous thing to walk about in my land with an unsheathed sword."
Boromir quickly sheathed his weapon.
"Do not fear; I am not so hasty that I cannot see the orc-blood that stains your brow, and feel your anger; you have been pursuing these bararum..."
A twiggy arm waved in the direction of the dead orcs, and Boromir watched the waving hand as if in a dream.
"You have been pursuing these orcs; that is why you have been given leave to pass this far into the Forest...but you must go no further."
"Who are you?" stammered Boromir, at last looking up and meeting the gaze of the eyes that were looking at him. They were like deep wells of water, and Boromir felt as though he was drowning in them. The eyes were sleepy, yet alert; kind, yet stern, and very, very old. Though he as yet sensed no danger to himself from this creature, Boromir felt very afraid.
"This is my country, Fangorn Forest, and I am Fangorn...or Treebeard, if you wish. Hoom, hmm, do you have a name?"
"I am Boromir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor." The stating of his name and rank calmed him, and Boromir felt his fear lessen. He stood a little taller and looked at the creature, at Treebeard, more directly.
"Did you slay the orcs, then?"
"Hmm, hooom! A son of Gondor! Hah, hrum! Yes, the orcs were slain by me, and by others. We do not love orcs, for they do not love us, and we do not allow them to enter our Wood. Why were you pursuing these orcs, all alone, Son of Gondor?"
"We were attacked near the Emyn Muil, my men, and some Riders of Rohan. My brother was among the wounded..." Boromir caught his breath, then went on more slowly. "I fear he is dead, and the Marshal of the Mark with him. I thought only of revenge...I have been following them for more than a day."
"Hoo, hrum, that is some distance from here; you are a hasty young man to come such a long way for revenge."
"It was a long way...but he was my brother."
"Humm, hoom! Yes!" said Treebeard after a moment. "Well, you have not had your revenge, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the orcs that slew your brother are dead. Let that be enough. Now you must go from here; your people are seeking you, and they must not enter the Wood, not now. My people are angry...the orcs have angered them. Harraroom!"
"It is enough," sighed Boromir. He swayed a bit, and the world grew dark for a moment. He felt a gnarled hand touch his elbow to steady him.
"Could you...could you show me the way out?"
Boromir had little memory after that of his return through the forest. He only knew that Treebeard went with him, until suddenly he was there at the edge of the forest; the grasslands of Rohan stretched out before him, and his horse whinnied a greeting. He turned to look back into the wood; there was no sign of anyone there, only trees which were nothing more than trees.
He had not ridden far before he was met by Madril and several of the men of his company. When they saw him riding towards them, they rode forward with glad shouts.
"My lord, you are safe!" cried Madril. "We have sought you long; we feared you had entered the Forest and were lost."
"I did enter the Forest, but I found my way out again. The orcs that attacked us are dead." Boromir gripped Madril's arm.
"What of Faramir? Eomund?"
"Eomund is dead," came the reply, "but Faramir lives."
Boromir bowed his head and could not speak for a moment.
"I thought he was dead!"
"His wound is severe, but he will recover. He is resting comfortably and is asking for you. We did not wish to return to Minas Tirith without you."
"Come then," said Boromir with relief, and a smile at the thought of his brother asking after him. "Let us go to him."
They rode in silence for awhile, then Madril turned to Boromir.
"There are many tales about the Forest of Fangorn, strange tales and legends. What did you see there, Boromir? Anything to prove the tales true or false?"
Boromir was silent. He felt dazed, and his memory was vague. Had he truly spoken with someone who had called the forest his country? Or had it been nothing more than a feverish dream, a result of his wound?
"No, I saw nothing," he replied slowly. "Only trees...and dead orcs."
Only trees...Boromir shook his head in wonder and in doubt, as he watched the water flowing past the sides of his boat. The water was deep here, but not so deep as those eyes...
Had he really seen those eyes and heard a tree speak? Had he actually conversed with such a creature? Almost he could believe it now, after what he had seen on this journey. And yet, his practical mind rebelled at the thought. It must have been his head wound...
No, he thought again; I saw only trees...and dead orcs, nothing more.
He noticed that his boat was drifting close to the eastern shore, and dipped his paddle into the water, guiding the boat back into midstream.
It is just as well that none of us will be going that way, he thought, gazing at the nodding heads of the hobbits in front of him. I do not wish to see that place again.