Slowly, ever so slowly, Boromir came up out of darkness into wakefulness. He lay quietly for a moment, trying to gather his scattered thoughts, recalling with disquiet the mounting tension of the day's journey upon the river, Dirhavel's sudden shout of warning, and the blow that had knocked Boromir forward into oblivion.
When the blow came, he thought at first that an arrow had struck him, but even as he fell forward, he realized it had come instead from a firm hand behind him, pushing him forward and down. Linhir! he thought, as cold fear settled in his heart -- for now he also recalled the heavy weight of a body slumping down upon his legs as he had lost consciousness.
Boromir sat up suddenly, now fully awake. His head swam dizzily, but he gave it a sharp shake, and his vision cleared and the tilting world settled. Grithnir, who had been standing close by, stooped quickly and knelt at his side.
"My lord!" he exclaimed with hoarse relief.
One look at Grithnir's face confirmed Boromir's worst fears.
"Tell me what has happened, Grithnir!" he demanded sharply. "Tell me -- who lives and who has fallen?"
Grithnir replied without hesitation, as if he had been waiting impatiently to relay the news and be done with it.
"Henderch and I are unharmed," he said, his voice strained. "Arthad also escaped unwounded. But Dirhavel is lost to us, taken by an arrow to the throat. Linhir..."
Here Grithnir sighed, but then pressed quickly on.
"Linhir lives -- but his wound is mortal. Arthad tells me that he bleeds slowly, but there is no staunching the flow. Linhir has forbidden us to remove the shaft, lest the flow of blood take him away before he is ready to depart. His time grows short."
Boromir closed his eyes; it was a long moment before he found his voice again.
"Is... is he awake? Able to speak with me?"
"Yes. He awaits you."
"Alas!" Boromir cried, struggling to his feet. "Why did you not wake me sooner?"
"He would not allow it," replied Grithnir with a shake of his head, placing a steadying hand under Boromir's arm. "He said you would wake when your head had cleared, that you should not be disturbed until you returned on your own. He was very firm, in spite of his weakness."
Boromir sighed with heavy exasperation, then smiled grimly.
"Even on his deathbed, he sees to my need first!" he exclaimed. "Very well, then; he need wait no longer. Lead the way, Grithnir, I will go to him quickly."
Linhir lay quietly peaceful, the moonlight bright upon his pale face. The arrow which had pierced his side and given him his death wound had been broken off at the shaft so that he could be wrapped warmly in blankets. His breathing was shallow, but not labored, and his eyes were closed. As Boromir knelt beside him and kissed his brow, he slowly opened them and smiled.
"Linhir..." said Boromir gruffly, his voice catching.
"Ah, good," Linhir said faintly, ignoring the look of pain on Boromir's face. "You are here. I am glad. Let me look at you -- are you well? Is there any dizziness from your wound? Your eyes seem clear and steady... a good sign..."
"Fear not for me, my healer," replied Boromir gently. "I have survived with little more than an ache in my head, it would seem, thanks to your quick thinking and my own hard skull. But look at you! You put yourself at risk to protect me, and see what has come of it!"
"I suspect I made an easy target in any case," replied Linhir calmly. "But I could not let all my care for the healing of your body go for naught, could I?"
"Perhaps not," Boromir agreed mournfully. "But I wish it had turned out otherwise!"
Reaching out, he smoothed back the hair from Linhir's face and tucked the blanket about him more securely.
"I do not regret that it has come to this," Linhir continued after a time. "My hour has come; I am ready to go. But you, Boromir? No... not you... Your part is not yet finished... which is why it was important for me to see you safe and well; there is much yet to be done that only you can do, my friend."
"I feel the same -- thanks to you and your lecturing, my friend. Yet I regret that my future will no longer include you."
"Ah, but it will, Boromir -- if you do not forget me once I am gone."
"Never!" exclaimed Boromir. "Never," he repeated, more softly.
"Very well, then..."
Linhir fell silent and closed his eyes. Boromir watched him intently, marveling at the peaceful expression upon the healer's face.
"You should not have let me sleep so long!" Boromir said regretfully, when Linhir had once more opened his eyes. "I might have missed you, and I could not have borne that. I should have been awake, to sit with you and comfort you in your waiting... Now our time together is shortened!"
"It was comfort enough, knowing you lived and would awaken in time, when your body should allow it," answered Linhir. "I had sufficient strength in me to hold myself back from the long journey, while I waited to take leave of you..."
Linhir paused for a moment to gather his strength, before continuing his speech.
"Take care for a day or two..." he went on. "Head wounds are tricky, even for captains with hard heads such as yours... and mind those stitches..."
"I will take great care," grumbled Boromir, trying to sound light-hearted, and failing. "And since I see Arthad hovering nearby with a critical eye upon me, I suspect you have given him orders to see that I do indeed take care."
"I have spoken with him," smiled Linhir. "He will provide aid as you need it. But you have no more need of a nursemaid, my captain; the remainder of your recovery is in your own capable hands."
"I am glad to hear it," Boromir answered. "Would that my weakness had left me sooner, so that this injury of yours might have been prevented! I want you back, safe and whole, pestering me with your needles and your stitching, and your admonitions to have a care."
Boromir lifted Linhir's hand and placed it gently in his own, gripping it tightly. Linhir answered with a smile and a weak squeeze of Boromir's hand.
"I fear that is no longer a possibility," Linhir responded. "Even Boromir of Gondor at the peak of his strength is not strong enough to keep me from going where we must all go when that time comes. My final journey draws nigh, now."
"My life will not be the same without you," sighed Boromir.
"Fear not, my captain... We shall meet again."
Boromir could only nod in response, for his sorrow was great and his throat had closed with tears. He continued to sit in silence, Linhir's hand in his, until he heard a soft sigh from Linhir's lips.
"It is time..." he heard the healer say faintly. "Give me your blessing..."
Leaning forward, Boromir kissed Linhir reverently on the forehead, and on both cheeks.
"Farewell, my father," he said softly. "You shall not be forgotten. Rest you well, now; you have earned your peace!"
"My lord..." breathed Linhir, drawing Boromir's hand to his lips. "My son..."
His eyes closed, his face relaxed, and he was gone.
Boromir slowly released his grasp of Linhir's hand, and placed it carefully upon his breast.
"Farewell..." he murmured softly.
He rose stiffly, slowly, and walked away to the edge of the stream that flowed past their shelter towards the River. A tall willow tree drooped out over the water, its long leaves trailing mournfully in the current. Leaning against the tree, Boromir gave himself over to silent, bitter weeping.