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Son of Gondor

by Lineawen

Chapter 62

There were Orcs ahead of him, among the trees; Boromir could hear them crashing about in the underbrush as he drew near. He suddenly broke through into a clearing and there they were before him: five Orcs, large and well-armed. They stopped cold in their tracks, taken off guard and surprised, as if they had been expecting to encounter small Halflings fleeing, instead of a tall warrior, approaching at a run.

He gave them no time to recover from their mistake. Without checking his forward motion, Boromir crashed into the group. Those Orcs which were not knocked to the ground fell back at the unexpected attack. One of them, an archer, had raised a black bow to shoot an arrow at Boromir, but not quickly enough; Boromir slammed his shield into the Orc's face as he passed, forcing it back. He swung his sword in a wide arc in front of him, and an Orc fell headless at his feet.

Boromir turned quickly, and struck again, before the stunned Orcs could recover themselves. A stab and a thrust were sufficient to kill another, and a backhanded swing of his blade found the throat of a third. The Orc that had taken Boromir's shield to the face now rose to its feet and attacked from behind, but Boromir was ready. He ducked and turned sharply, parrying the Orc's blow. Ramming the hilt of his sword into the Orc's face, he then reversed his sword and stabbed downwards, and the Orc fell heavily. Boromir twisted the blade free and turned to meet the next attacker.

Only one Orc remained, wielding an axe; Boromir was barely able to get his shield up in time to ward off the blow. The massive axe struck the shield with a dull thud that made Boromir's ears ring, and sent a shock of pain up his arm. The axe blade stuck fast; the sudden added weight of the shield threw him off balance, and he stumbled. The Orc growled in triumph, but Boromir turned his fall forward into a lunge, and bringing his sword up in time, he drove the blade straight through his enemy. They fell together. Boromir rolled aside and scrambled to his feet, yanking his sword free for another strike, before he realized the Orc was dead. This skirmish, at least, was over.

Boromir stood for a moment, panting, catching his breath. He flexed his arm and his hand to relieve the pain from the blow to his shield, and sighed with relief; his arm was undamaged. Even now the pain was receding. He picked up his shield and uttered a sharp oath. The heavy axe had pierced the metal-bound shield and was firmly embedded in the wood beneath, so firmly that it would take time and effort to dislodge it -- not much time, perhaps, but every moment was precious if he were to find the hobbits and protect them from harm. The shield had served him well through many a battle and was an heirloom of his house; but he had no time to struggle with it, and now its strength was compromised.

Boromir threw his shield aside with an exclamation of regret, and ran on up the hill without a backwards glance. He felt a sense of urgency, and wondered if he would be in time. It seemed certain the Orcs he had just killed had been part of a group pursuing the hobbits. Merry and Pippin were not here; he had heard their voices coming from further up the hill. Even now they might be captured or killed...

He must go to them, quickly.

The hill was steep, and strewn with moss-covered relics of Gondor from days of old. Boromir spared no glance for them; they meant nothing to him now except as obstructions in his path, a hindrance to his progress. Fear drove him up the hill, fear that he would be too late to do anything except take his revenge. He no longer thought of redeeming himself in the eyes of his companions, or of fulfilling his vow to the Ringbearer; his only thought was for Merry and Pippin, and for their safety.

He paused only once, briefly, to listen for sounds of pursuit. All was quiet; he could hear nothing on the breeze. No, wait...what was that? Boromir jerked his head up and tried to catch the elusive sound; could it be light feet running on matted leaves? A cry of "Run?" Whatever the sound, it was swallowed up by another, which quickly grew in intensity as it came ever closer -- the sound of myriad Orcs, grunting, growling, and squealing hoarsely, and the crashing of heavy feet under the trees. Boromir leapt forward and ran with all his might, grimly pushing away the thought of what he would see when he topped the next rise of the hill.

Suddenly, the trees opened up, and he could see clearly ahead; his worst fears were realized. Merry and Pippin stood at bay, watching stunned as hundreds of Orcs swarmed towards them, down the hillside from one direction, and through the trees from another. They were pinned down and had nowhere to run. The hobbits stared helplessly as a huge Orc ran straight towards them, brandishing an ugly axe with a long curved blade. Boromir's heart gave a great leap of fear as he realized he would not reach them in time -- but he must! Though his muscles burned and his breath caught in his lungs, Boromir lengthened his stride and pumped his arms in a great effort to close the gap between himself and his friends.

He was closer now, close enough to see the hobbits' faces, and the fear in their eyes. Pippin stood as if mesmerized, hardly believing he was about to be sliced in two by an Orc blade; Merry stood irresolute, as if he wanted to act, but did not know what to do. Merry's eyes darted this way and that, looking for a way out. His eyes met Boromir's, suddenly, unexpectedly, and they widened; then Merry looked away quickly, so as not to give Boromir away.

Feet pounding, cloak snapping behind him, Boromir ran; his face was implacable, set with determination. He would reach them in time -- he would not fail! He saw as he ran that his sword would be of no use in stopping the Orc with the axe. As he drew level with Pippin, he tossed his blade aside; it stuck quivering in a pile of leaves. He reached out with both hands just as the Orc swung the axe downwards, blocking the blow. All his pent-up fear and anxiety rose in his throat, and Boromir gave a great bellow of defiance as he wrested the axe away from the Orc. At the same time, he brought his knee up sharply and kicked out with his foot. The Orc fell back with a cry, and twisted sideways in pain. Boromir swung the axe up and down again with all his might, striking the Orc squarely in the back. Air rushed from punctured lungs with a strange sound like wind, and the Orc fell dead.

Boromir dropped the axe, and, crouching, scooped up his sword. As he came out of his crouch, he reached behind and beneath his cloak, where his knife in its sheath was fastened. Drawing it quickly, he took aim and threw hard; the knife flew straight and true, impaling an Orc full in the throat.

Merry and Pippin had not been idle; they had their swords drawn and leaped to the attack. Their skill and ferocity was unexpected and took the Orcs by surprise. In a matter of moments, the Orcs in the first wave of the attack lay dead around them, and they had a moment to catch their breath.

"Well done, my hobbits," panted Boromir, sparing a quick glance and a proud smile for each of them. "We fight well together, I think. But I fear we will need help if we are to take on any more of these foul creatures."

He grasped his Horn and drew it to his lips. He blew three great blasts which rang among the trees, and echoed like a shout that could be heard even above the roaring of Rauros. The Orcs were dismayed, and drew back, but only for a moment. As the echoes of the Horn died away, and no help came, the Orcs advanced, growling fiercely.

Boromir's face set grimly.

"Listen to me, Merry, Pippin," he said, without taking his eyes from the advancing enemy. "We shall prevail if we do not panic. Do as I say; if I tell you to stand, then stand. If I tell you to run, then run. If you run, do not look back."

Boromir turned to face them. "Do you understand me?"

The hobbits nodded wordlessly.

"Good." Boromir looked each hobbit in the eye. He nodded once, briefly, before turning back to face the Orcs, now approaching at a run.

"Then we are ready. Let them come."