Osgiliath, soldier’s quarters, before dawn
“Men! Wake up!” a voice commanded in an urgent tone.
The quarters were pitch black, and the men were confused. Why was there no light? And who in Gondor was disturbing them at this hour?
“Wake, I say! There is no time for laziness and a long sleep this day! Wake up!”
The owner of the voice made his way into the barracks and began yanking covers off beds and men as he went. Squawks of protest were put forth, and then were silenced as the rude visitor found his way to a torch and lit it, revealing him to be Belegnor, their captain.
A youthful-looking young man broke the sudden quiet. “G-good morning, sir.”
Belegnor didn’t acknowledge him, and didn’t even crack a smile, as many of his subordinates did. “Get ready, at once. Full battle armor. A drove of Orcs are advancing on the city, our scouts saw them. They will be within range of our bows in a matter of minutes. They do not outnumber us, though it will be a fight to challenge us.”
The men came alive, scurrying in every direction, fastening on their clothing and weapons.
Belegnor continued, “They must be eliminated! Not a single Orc can be allowed to escape! Move out!”
Boromir raised his hand and knocked urgently on his father’s door. A dusty, sweaty messenger stood behind him, breathing heavily. There was a long, deep scratch under his eye, and his cheek was coated in dried blood.
“Father? It is Boromir. May I come in?”
“Yes,” came the answer.
Boromir opened the door and beckoned for the man to follow him.
The Steward sat at his desk, bent over a long parchment. He raised his head and looked at the messenger.
“What is it?” he asked, turning his eyes to Boromir.
“Word has come from the garrison at Osgiliath. The city was attacked again.”
“I assume they withstood it.”
“Barely. The scouts miscounted, and Belegnor’s men were outnumbered, even with archers on the walls. The orcs were taken care of, but there were men lost,” Boromir said.
“How many?” Denethor’s voice was still even and calm, and Boromir found himself wanting to shake his father, make him realize that this was serious, no matter how much Denethor didn’t want to see it.
“No less than thirty, but many more were wounded and may not survive the night.”
“What says Belegnor of this?”
“Nothing, father. He was badly wounded, and has not regained consciousness since the battle. He may not recover.”
This elicited a stronger reaction from the Steward, who considered the Osgiliath captain a close friend. Denethor rose out of his chair, a deep frown etched into his features.
“How did it happen?” he asked, voice shaking.
Boromir placed a hand on the messenger’s shoulders, signaling that it was appropriate for him to speak.
“H-he took two arrows to the chest, my lord. They were poisoned.”
Denethor’s frown intensified. “Is there anything else I should know?”
“No, my lord,” the messenger answered quietly.
“Very well. Boromir, tell your brother to take this man to the Houses of Healing. That cut on his face needs tending. When you finish that, return to me. There is something I need to discuss with you.”
Once Faramir was in charge of the messenger, Boromir returned to his father’s office. He had a feeling that he knew what was coming, and it was nothing he looked forward to.
He didn’t knock, because the door wasn’t closed. His father was still sitting at the desk, though he had a quill in hand, and an inkpot placed nearby.
“Father? I’m back.”
Boromir took a seat near the wooden desk and waited.
Denethor laid the quill down and faced his son. “Boromir, I think you know what I want. But if you don’t, I need you to go to Osgiliath and take charge of the garrison, either until Belegnor heals, or, in the event that he doesn’t, permanently. Will you do it?”
“Father..” Boromir said hesitantly. “You know I will carry out your wishes to the best of my ability, but more is needed in Osgiliath than a captain. Yes, I will go, but I request permission to rework the defenses of the city.”
Denethor raised an eyebrow, and Boromir went on.
“Belegnor is an excellent man, and an excellent captain, but he thinks in terms of fending off trouble as it comes, not looking ahead and preparing in advance for it. I think I could solve many of the problems that seem to plague the garrison if given leave.”
Denethor smiled tolerantly. “My son, you know I think very highly of you and your abilities, but Belegnor is a seasoned soldier with more battles fought and won than you have even heard of. He has held the city and kept her defenses intact for many a long year without changing anything.”
“I know, father. He has held the city, but at great loss to Gondor and himself! And has he been able to ever come out of a battle unscathed? You know that these attacks have grown stronger and more frequent. Believe me when I say that Belegnor’s hold on the city is slipping. At this rate, there will not be a city in two years’ time.”
Denethor sighed. “Very well. You have my leave to do as you think best. Be ready to leave at dawn.”
“Yes, sir.” Boromir stood from his chair and began to walk towards the door, but stopped. “Father, Belegnor’s daughter is here in the city, staying with her cousin. Should she be informed of her father’s condition?”
“Do you know the girl?”
Boromir smiled. “A little.”
Denethor looked knowingly at his son and smiled as well, despite the gravity of their conversation. “Then I trust your judgment, and I will leave it to you. Go now and get ready to leave.”
Hey, sorry it took me such a long time to get this written, and I know this chapter was a little boring as it was just talking, mainly, but I promise the next one will be much more interesting.
Thanks for reading, and extra thanks for reviewing!