They rode hard. They rode as if the entire host of Mordor was behind them, but it was not enough. When Sanorë ran, breathless, into Osgiliath’s House of Healing, it was too late. Her father was gone.
She stood in the doorway, frozen to the cold stones of the floor, watching in stunned silence as they took her father’s body away to prepare it for burial. Watching as her mother sobbed without restraint.
The world felt unreal, as though she was in the middle of a horrible dream and would be woken up at any moment. She slowly became aware of the lump growing in her throat, and the terrible ache in her heart. Tears slipped slowly down her cheeks and dripped to the floor like a salty rain.
Her mother wrapped shaking arms around her, and together they cried, one for a husband lost, one for a father.
Vaguely, Sanorë noticed a rough, uncertain hand on her shoulder, and through the tears blurring her eyes, she saw Boromir standing beside her.
Sanorë’s mother was the first to regain some semblance of composure. “I have to go, darling.”
Sanorë nodded. It was common for the wives to assist with the plans for burial and the preparations involved. She let go of her mother and heard the familiar sound of her mother’s skirt rustle away down the hall. An exhaustion she couldn’t explain settled on her shoulders, and she let herself sink onto the now-empty bed.
“Oh, father,” she sighed. The hot tears still stung her eyes, but she tried to hold them back. At least for Boromir’s sake. He had to be tired of seeing her cry.
She looked up at him with red, swollen eyes, and said, “I was too late.”
Boromir’s eyebrows lowered almost imperceptibly. What was a man to say?
“I was too late,” she repeated. “I didn’t even get to kiss him goodbye. I didn’t get to see him.” Her voice trembled.
Boromir sat down beside her and placed an arm around her shoulders, trying to offer what comfort he could. He racked his brain trying to think of something to say that would not sound stupid or upset her further. He’d never been confronted with a girl that was facing loss of this magnitude, and he didn’t know how to deal with it. Did you simply hold her and let her cry? Or did you think of clever things to say that would make her feel better?
He hoped he could just hold her. He wasn’t very good at thinking up witticisms, especially not in times like these.
He tightened his arm as Sanorë shivered. “I’m sorry,” he finally whispered. “I know it hurts.”
Sanorë sat stiffly beside him for a second, and then finally gave in to his hold. “It hurts more than anything I’ve ever felt before,” she said, the tears falling again. “I just want it to go away.”
Boromir knew about this. This was one thing he knew too much about. He’d lost his mother, and though he’d been very young when she had died, he still remembered clearly how much it had hurt him. Though his child’s mind had not understood death then, he had still known that his mother was gone, never to come back, and he had cried for her.
“It will go away, Sanorë, it will. It doesn’t feel like it, not now. But slowly you’ll learn to remember the good times you had with Belegnor, and you’ll forget this moment, and all the pain it brought you. The ache will fade away,” he promised, hoping that he had helped.
A woman walked past the door and looked in on them suspiciously, as though they were doing something illegal and should be reported to the authorities, but when she saw the Steward’s Heir staring coldly at her, she moved on.
“And someday,” Boromir said, now that the woman was gone, “you’ll be with your father again, just as I will be with my mother. It’s like Belegnor has gone for a journey, and you’ll be joining him at the destination later.”
Sanorë sniffed shakily. “I need to blow my nose,” she said, wiggling loose of Boromir. A clean cloth lay on the bedside table, and she wiped her eyes and nose with it.
Feeling a little better, she faced Boromir again. “Thank you, my lord,” she said quietly. “You have done much to comfort me, and I will not forget it.”
Boromir smiled at her. “It has been my pleasure.” She sounded like a grown woman when she spoke in that tone and manner, not a girl of sixteen years, and it amused him. He felt irreverent to be thinking of humor when he sat on the bed of a man not yet cold.
He stood, after having that thought, and offered his arm to Sanorë. “Shall we go then?”
Sanorë hesitated. “What about my mother? She will not know where to look for me, and I don’t want to worry her.”
“She knows you’re with me. And we will only go as far as the front courtyard. I think fresh air will do you good.”
Sanorë nodded and took his arm.
* * * *
Dorel finally reached the cover of a forest that extended as far as the eye could see in both directions. His feet were blistered and aching. The mare was limping, and her head hung low to the ground. A fly landed on her flank, but she did not even bother to swing her tail and flick it away.
After a moment of searching, Dorel found a slow-moving stream, and knelt down to drink, not noticing the dirt and leaves floating in it. The horse stumbled forward and plunged her nose in, lapping it greedily.
When at last his thirst was quenched, Dorel stood up shakily. He tied the mare’s reins to a tree near the stream and a patch of lush green grass.
“I think we will stay here tonight, eh?” he rasped, speaking to the mare. The volume of his voice startled him. He didn’t think he’d spoken that loud. But then he realized that it wasn’t that he was too loud. It was that these woods were far too quiet. There were no birds singing, no crickets chirping. No peaceful rustling of the tree leaves.
Dorel looked around nervously. He’d never liked being out of doors at night, especially alone.
It was on his third look at the gnarled, ancient trees that he realized exactly which forest he was in.
* * *
Guys, I’m so sorry this took such a long time, and that it’s pretty short! My birthday came up, along with a trip to my grandmother’s house, and I’m studying for the SAT, so life’s been pretty busy. :
I hope everyone likes this chapter, and I promise I’ll get the next one out sooner! :
Thanks for reading, and extra thanks for reviewing!