Chapter 24: Gift of Life
"Boromir!" I all but shrieked, equal parts shock and relief.
He was alive. He was still alive.
He drew in another ragged breath, his chest heaving with the arrows still protruding, one in his lower torso, and the other just under his right collarbone. I could hear how painful and difficult it was becoming to breathe, but I was too thankful he was still breathing at all to be anything but relieved. Had he not been so badly wounded I could have kissed him.
Instead I placed as firm and steadying hand as I could on his unwound shoulder, trying to keep him from moving and making it worse. He shuddered and choked on a cough. Red stained his bottom lip as his hand came up and clutched my arm in a grip far weaker than I knew he was capable of.
"They took them!" He rasped frantically. "Merry and Pippin, they took them—"
"Lie still! Don't try to move!"
"Frodo," he got out weakly as I started carefully unbuckling his pauldrons without jarring the arrows. "Where is Frodo?"
"He's gone. Aragorn let him go," I answered quietly, trying to focus on keeping my hands and his shoulders steady. Boromir tried to exhaled in what seemed like relief, but it was difficult to tell his breathing was so strained.
"Then he did what I could not," he mumbled, stilling as I felt his eyes find my face. "Eleanor, you're bleeding…"
I felt the shaking touch of a thumb run over my lower lip, his fingers coming away red. Only then did I finally notice and feel the blood running down my chin onto my tunic. The Uruk-hai must have split my lip at some point in the fight, and I hadn't even noticed. I would have laughed were I not one tiny slip from breaking into hysterical sobs.
"Forget me! There's a bloody arrow in your chest, you chivalrous idiot! Two of them!"
"What you did… you should not have. You should have run… left me…"
"I'm sorry," I choked out quietly, trying to pretend I hadn't just heard him say what he had about himself. "I should have remembered sooner. I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," he spoke in such calm softness that if it weren't for the blood on his hands and mouth I might have believed he was ok. His pauldrons unclasped and moved clear of the arrow shafts, I immediately went to examine the wounds. His hand suddenly caught on my wrist, gentle but awfully unyielding at the same time. "Eleanor, please, leave it. It's over."
Footfalls appeared behind me, more than one set. I knew immediately who it was, even before I saw Boromir's gaze track to the person who's just stopped right behind me.
"Frodo, he…. I-I tried to take the Ring from him," he rasped, just as Aragorn dropped down onto his knees on the other side of him to me.
"Be still," he commanded, and it was only the sound of his voice that seemed to galvanise the fact that he was actually there to me.
For a sickening moment I wanted to hit him, claw at him, scream at him, demanding where in hell he hand been when the both of us had needed him — but the feeling died as quickly as it had come upon seeing the anguish in the other man's face. His eyes tracked from Boromir's strained face, to his wounds, and then finally to me. My jaw clenched around a choking sob as I read the same understanding in his eyes that I'd come to moment before he's arrived too. Those two wounds were likely fatal. Even if by some miracle the arrows hadn't perforated any major organs or blood vessels, they were likely barbed. Removing them without nicking something crucial and causing internal bleeding would be a fools errand, even for a healer who trained under Lord Elrond.
It was all for nothing. I'd gone through all this, we'd both gone through all this. And for what? Just so Boromir could just die right in front of us and I could do nothing but sit back and weep?
'No dammit! If there's any purpose for me being here at all, this is it!'
Boromir's hand was still on my wrist, and my entire body wracked with the urge to cry again as I felt him give my arm gentle squeeze — a ridiculously selfless act meant to try and comfort me. Me.
I felt suddenly as if I was back in that stupid stairwell in Rivendell again, standing outside the apothecary, a silly lonely young woman fumbling for words with an armful of books, relieved to simply be in the company of another of my own kind — even if he had no idea it was true. He had been kind and genuine to me in a way that no one else had up till then, honestly kind without expecting anything in return. Even after falling to the Ring, I could still see the flickers of who he really was underneath, who he still was…
A good man, and a friend. My friend.
Damn the story, and damn the consequences. He wasn't just some character in a book anymore, and I couldn't let him go like this. I wouldn't.
I forced my shaking hands to steady, taking hold of Boromir's wrist and very deliberately moving it out of the way. I felt him and Aragorn both give me near identical strained looks of confusion as I start going to work examining the wound again, biting my tongue hard and blinking my eyes to keep them clear.
"Eleanor…" Aragorn started softly, his voice painfully gentle.
"Shut up," I said quietly, not stopping.
"Eleanor there's nothing you can—"
"I said shut up!" I screamed at them all, my voice ringing like a lunatic's shriek through the trees and through my head.
Aragorn flinched. Actually flinched, and I didn't care. I whirled to see him, Gimli and Legolas, all of them staring at me in silent shock.
"Either help me, or shut up!" I hissed, my voice trembling, unsure whether I was closer to rage or tears. Probably both.
I could sense more than see Boromir looking up at me with a stunned, half pleading look through his pain — an expression that I couldn't bring myself to meet with my own.
"No," I interrupted sharply, but my voice didn't sound quite so steady anymore. It trembled with the onset of frustrated tears I couldn't hold back anymore as I kept working. "Don't you dare order me to sit here and watch you die. Damn you and your honourable death, I wont do it!"
He drew in another ragged breath to say something — probably tell me to spare myself the pain of trying to save him when he was already dead — but a hacking cough took hold and more blood appeared in his mouth. I did my best to hold him and myself steady, but it wasn't until another pair of weather-beaten hands came to help that I was able to keep him still enough to minimise the damage to his already dire wounds. As the coughing slowed I looked up to find Aragorn had chosen to do as I'd ordered, holding the other man by the shoulders until he finally stopped convulsing.
I hadn't been expecting him to do that, but I felt a swell of gratitude nonetheless.
He didn't speak, but something in his expression shifted into even deeper worry, and it was only when I found the strength to look Boromir properly in the face that I saw it had contorted in even more pain than before, the rattling sound of his laboured breathing getting louder.
If I was going to do anything to help, I needed to do it fast.
"Aragorn, I-I need my medical satchel, and the salves I mixed in Lothlórien…"
I'd barely finished speaking before he was on his feet. I looked up and met his gaze with damp eyes for a moment — a brief momentary flicker of dread and worry shared — before he was running back down towards the boats without a word.
Boromir choked on a hacking cough again, though this time he didn't strain as much — which I wasn't sure whether to be relived of terrified by. I had barely realised that Legolas and Gimli were still there in the clearing with me until I felt more than heard one of them approach and kneel carefully next to me.
"What can I do?" Legolas asked me gently.
My hands were still trembling a little against Boromir's blood-stained chest as I began cutting away his tunic with one of my clean throwing knives. There were tears clouding my eyes again, but I sniffed and beat them back enough to see what I was doing.
"I need clean water and bandages. As many as you can find. Tear up my spare clothes if you have to." I ordered, my voice quiet but firm, barely thinking about what I was saying beyond that it was what I needed right now.
"I'll get them," he answered unquestioningly, and before I could turn to look at him, he was gone from my side too.
I was left there with only Gimli at my back. I turned back down and concentrated on clearing as much space around each wound as I possibly could. I knew I should have been focusing on keeping calm, to keep my hands from shaking so much at the sight, try to distance myself and focus on what I was going to do with detached clarity — but I just couldn't.
This wasn't some cadaver, or a wounded rabbit I was practicing on in the Rivendell sanatorium. This was Boromir.
My eyes filled with tears again, and I bit down hard my tongue in frustration. No more crying, it wasn't going to help.
"Gimli," I choked out.
His huge gloved hand appeared on my shoulder, steadying and strong.
"I'm here, lass."
"I need your whiskey flask," I said, giving up trying to keep the tremor out of my voice. I didn't avert my eyes from Boromir — who was mercifully still a for the moment. He didn't respond for a second and I turned to find him shifting uneasily while looking at me, clearly hesitant about handing me such strong alcohol in my current state. I forced the frightened lump in my throat down with a slightly hysterical laugh. "Not like that. I need to clean these wounds and my hands, and I don't have my sterilising spirits."
Understanding dawned on his grizzled face, and he handed me the worn metal flask without question.
I unstoppered it and poured the whiskey over my hands first, wiping them down as best I could with the clean handkerchief I had stashed in my tunic — the same one Sam had given me back in Lothlórien to dry my homesick tears with. It wasn't anything close to ideal, but it was all I had, and it would have to do. When that was done there was a little left in the bottom, so I cleaned around each wound as best I could without causing him even more pain. I'd managed to remove all the extraneous leather armour and belts and cut away the fabric of his tunic around both wounds, leaving them both bare and as clear as possible.
The one in his lower torso wasn't as quite bad as I'd first feared, though it was bleeding quite a lot. It had hit just shy of any serious zones, and at an angle directing away from any major organs. It was also struck (I noticed with a surge of macabre humour) in almost the exact same place as my own had been when I'd been hit the goblin arrow back in Moria. Except his had gone all the way through and out the other side.
It was the second just below his collarbone that was an entire different story.
If the blood in his mouth and the ragged sound of his breathing was anything to go by, the arrowhead had clipped the top of his lung. Not only that, but it had also hit close to where I knew there were major blood vessels running down his shoulder to his arm. Unlike the first one, this shaft hadn't come out the other side — which mean the arrowhead was still in lodged in there, literally centimetres and one bad convulsion away from puncturing his lung entirely, or nicking an artery.
Boromir took in another strained breath, more painful and strained this time, his face contorted as he did, and I knew it couldn't wait any longer. I needed to staunch the bleeding and deal with those arrows now before they could get any worse.
I rested a hand on his shoulder, prompting him to look at me.
"Boromir, I'm going to get these arrows out. It's going to hurt, but I need you to stay awake," I told him as calmly as I could manage through my own trembling voice. There was no point pretending that I wasn't struggling to hold it together, but there was also no sense in making his trauma worse with my waterworks. I wasn't sure at first he'd heard me clearly over his own breaths, but he nodded once, his eyes clenching shut again.
I gritted my teeth and made myself breathe steadily, fixing my focus on the most serious wound — the arrow in his chest.
"Gimli, I need your help."
I could feel Gimli freeze behind me, hear his gloved hands tense on his axe handle at my words.
"Lass, I can't—"
"I need you to hold him still while I get this top arrow out," I cut him off, refusing to take no for an answer. "I can't do both on my own."
Gimli shifted uneasily behind me, but I didn't turn to look at him — afraid that if I lost focus for even a second I'd go to pieces right there and then. I wasn't sure he was going to move for a moment, but then there was a soft thump and a clank of metal, and the dwarf had knelt opposite me on Boromir's other side, divested on his axe and helm.
I didn't have any numbing agents on me, and unless Aragorn spontaneously developed the ability to teleport, he wasn't going to make it back in time for them to be of any use. I hadn't been lying when I said it was going to hurt — I knew from experience — but all I could hope for was that Gimli would be strong enough to hold him still just like Legolas had me.
Carefully, I took hold of the arrow that had pierced just under his right clavicle, and braced a hand flat against where the shaft protruded from the wound so it wouldn't move. Boromir hissed in pain and his hands clenched into fists in the dirt, but he didn't otherwise move. I swallowed my nerves.
I snapped the arrow in half an inch from the skin in one sharp move.
For all his other injuries and trauma, he took the pain miles better than I had when I'd been shot. His strangled cry of pain only lasted for three seconds, and Gimli and I both worked to pretend that the sound hadn't made us both winch. I tossed the fletched end of the black arrow away as Boromir's jerk of pain subsided, and reached for a small, underused pouch clipped to the back of my belt beside my knife sheath.
Lord Elrond had made me keep a secondary smaller medical pouch of limited surgical tools on me at all times, with just in case I ever needed to treat myself in a real emergency while out riding or running. I'd never really needed it up until now, but had I been in any state to do it, I would have sung thanks for my mentor's constant nagging which had resulted in the habit. Despite the most of my paraphernalia being in my larger medical satchel, I had kept some things that were light enough to carry easily in the smaller pouch I had on me.
Some small tools, a scalpel, some gauze, and a small strip of leather to bite down on…
It was enough. It would have to be enough.
I tugged it open and began pulling out various instruments — a small scalpel, long pair of surgical tweezers, the strip of leather, and a few folded pieces of gauze. I could feel Gimli watched me with a mixture of trepidation and confusion as I started tearing off my cleaner, un-shredded sleeve at the elbow.
"I tried to take it… I tried to take it from him…" Boromir had started murmuring over and over to himself through short, painful breaths, as if I wasn't there to hear him.
"I know, I know," I murmured back, only half listening as I worked, tearing off my other sleeve too at the upper arm. I needed to keep him talking, keep him awake. Gimli was too focused on trying to stay still and keep calm to try, so I scrambled mentally for something to keep him from focusing on the pain, anything…
"Boromir, you mentioned your brother, before we left Lothlórien," I said suddenly, remembering him, Legolas, Gimli and Celeborn all arguing by the docks. Boromir's pained face flickered recognition, and his voice came out scratchy as he answered me.
"Faramir," I agreed quickly, setting out the tools I needed as fast as I could. "Tell me about him."
Boromir's face drew in an expression of pain that had nothing to do with his injuries.
"I… I only wanted to protect him, protect them all. He never deserved it… how my father saw him, treated him. He was always better than I. Kinder, wiser… better."
I was only dimly aware of what he way saying, more focused on what I was about to do than what best to say, but the bone-deep sadness it his voice made my movements falter just a little. I shook it off quickly.
"I'm going to need to make an incision to get this arrow head out. It's going to hurt but I'll work as fast as I can," I said, unsure of whether I was addressing Boromir, Gimli or myself anymore. Gimli's face had gone white enough as it was behind his beard, so I directed my gaze down at my patient. His breathing was getting steadily worse, though more through pain now than anything — but he was still able to meet my gaze clearly with his own.
I found myself hesitating in the wake of that look.
He swallowed and choked on another strained breath. His blue eyes flickered to the scalpel in my hand, and his teeth ground in unexpected determination.
"Do what you must," he rasped out.
I nodded without thought, taking the strip of leather and holding up to his face with mercifully steady hands.
"Bite on this."
He obeyed, and I took up my scalpel. It felt heavier, and sharper than I remembered it ever being before…
"Two incisions either side," I told him, my voice quiet and strangely calm despite myself. I aimed a short look at Gimli. "Hold him steady."
He did, and I lifted the scalpel to the corner of the arrow wound.
I'll be kind for a change and spare you the details of those few seconds it took to make the small puncture wound large enough to remove the arrow head — but suffice to say it would not be a memory I'd look back on with fondness, or pride. Boromir was a seasoned warrior, his pain threshold high to begin with, but a man's resistance to pain only stretches so far. I had to fight not to sob with guilt and horror as Boromir's howls of pain rattled my bones as I worked. I found myself whispered apology after apology under my breath as tears tracked down my face, but I didn't stop.
When the wound was finally wide enough and I could lift the bloodied scalpel away from his skin I almost wept with relief. He was breathing hard, too hard. His face had gone ghostly, but he was mercifully still conscious, one had gripping Gimli's steadying forearm while the other clawed at the dirt beneath us. I immediately put down the scalpel and took up the surgical tweezers, nausea roll through me at the thought, but I shoved it to the back of my mind along with the rest of my own injuries and fears and for later.
"Ok, now the arrow head," I heard myself say quietly, voice somehow still steadied than I felt inside. Boromir had his eyes clamped shut, his teeth clenched on the leather strip, but he had obviously enough presents of though to give one short nod.
I didn't let myself indulge my sudden urge to wretch, directing my attention to the incision I'd just made that was now theoretically wide enough remove the barbed arrow head. Again, I will spare you the details of exactly what happened next, but I will freely admit that neither Boromir nor I managed to hold it together after that.
Imagine playing the board game Operation, only the board is constantly moving in short pained jerks, and instead of hearing a buzzer if you twitch the wrong way, you hear the sound of one of your best friends screaming in agony right into your hypersensitive ears.
If you can imagine that, then you're pretty damned close — and I'd recommend seeing a psychologist.
The whole ordeal couldn't have taken more than three minutes, but it felt like hours, and by the time I'd pulled the wicked arrow tip free and dropped the tip into grass Boromir's throat had gone hoarse from screaming, and I was sobbing through clenched teeth.
"It's done," I found myself saying over and over, my hands taking the gauze I'd prepared and pressing it over the wound to stem the moderate but still manageable bleeding. "It's gone. Boromir it's done, the arrows gone."
He didn't try and speak through the ragged breaths, but he did roll his head in my direction as a weak assurance he'd heard. Honestly I couldn't quite believe he was still conscious, but I was relieved nonetheless. He still had one more arrow in him — admittedly a far less life threatening one — but I wouldn't be able to start treating him properly until both were out and the bleeding was tended to.
We were almost there. I could do this…
"Ok, last one," I told him, turning my focus to the final arrow shaft in his midsection, my own voice croaky from crying but hard from determination. Boromir made a weak sound, and my eyes flicked to his heavy-lidded eyes and slackening features. Without hesitating I smacked his cheekbone with just enough force to make a sound and cause a sting, just as Aragorn had done to me. "Boromir! Boromir, you need to stay awake!"
His eyes didn't immediately fly open, but he came back at least alert enough to stare up at me, as if I was just a part of a really bad dream. He was turning God awful pale, likely from shock and prolonged pain, but he was still conscious.
"Keep talking. What about Minas Tirith? Tell me, what else?" I demanded, fear making my voice harsh. He slowly going delirious, but at least he was still awake and alert enough to form words as I quickly returned to his last arrow wound.
"I couldn't stay… I… couldn't bare it… not after…" He sucked in another rattling breath, the sound going suddenly weak and slurred. "She deserved better too… they all did…"
My hands faltered as they prepared to snap the second arrow.
He didn't answer me. My stomach sank.
I looked up in a blur of panic to see him lying very still with his eyes half closed but still moving as if in a dream. His slightly bloody mouth was ajar, and his features gradually relaxing. I didn't try and slap him into consciousness this time, knowing it wouldn't work, but I did press two fingers into the space just below his jaw and to right of his throat — finding only a faint pulse there that was fast becoming weaker by the second.
"Lass…" Gimli's already gravely voice sounded choked, and I looked up to see the dwarf's face had paled still further and his brown eyes had gone wide. I followed his gaze down to where my left hand was still holding the gauze against the wound under his collarbone.
The fabric had soaked through entirely, trickling a bright stream of red down the side of his chest to stain his tunic.
Not waiting to let the sudden panic take hold, I pulled the saturated gauze away to see the wound — though I already knew with a sinking feeling what had happened. More blood than before had started to well and spill from the wound, and I only needed to look for half a second to know what had happened. The arrow head must have nicked a blood vessel when I was removing it, and I hadn't seen it.
Quick as I could I covered the wound with and pressed down hard. I'd barely held the pressure down for several seconds before the fabric soaked through entirely, and I was tearing off the bottom section of my tunic to replace it. Gimli was trying to say something in a frantic tone but I couldn't make out the words.
Legolas and Aragorn should have been back by now, and I cursed the both of them. What the hell was taking them so bloody long?
More blood started to soak through the shredded hem of my tunic.
'Shit!' I cried inside, hiding the panic and fear I suddenly felt stirring again at the sight of the blood welling under my hands.'What do I do? What do I do?!'
No one answered me. Not Tink, not my own instincts, nothing.
Nausea rolled through my stomach and a knot appeared in my throat. I tried to force it down like I had before but it wouldn't go. I'd failed. I'd screwed up, I hadn't been observant or quick enough, and it had cost Boromir his life.
A choking sound found it's way out of my throat, and I raised a hand instinctively from Boromir's chest to cover my mouth — either to cover a wretch or a sob, I wasn't sure anymore. I froze at the sight and scent of my hands, stained scarlet from my makeshift surgery and trembling terribly again. The blood seemed to glare up at me from my palms and fingers, highlighting every scratch and scar I'd acquired on them over the past few months. But the one my eyes abruptly fixed upon was the one in the centre of my palm — the one I'd got from healing myself during the last day of training in Lothlórien.
I stared at it hard as the world slowed down around me.
The gears in my head wired back to life as the idea I'd just had began to take shape. It was a long shot, a really long shot, and I wasn't even sure if I was capable of doing it, but it was the only thing I could think of left to try. The only chance left.
Without warning I reached out and seized Gimli's wrist with my blood stained fingers, yanking his hand over the wound.
"Hold this down, keep pressure on it," I instructed, my voice strained and hoarse. He did so but didn't look at all sanguine about Boromir's condition or what I was asking him to do.
"What are you doing, lass?" Even his voice sounded like it was turning green with nausea.
'Something my Master would expel me for, if he only knew,' I thought with grim certainty, knowing not only that it was true, but that he would likely be justified in doing it too.
What I was about to attempt wasn't so much risky, as it was bordering on insane. I was about to do the exact same thing I'd done when I healed my palm after scratching it during training, using my own hröa's* energy to speed-heal the wound — only on a much, much larger scale. Not just that, but when a healer preformed that same technique on another person's body it became something very different — an uncommon healing technique called an antacuilë**. And to put it lightly, there were very good reasons why the technique wasn't widely practiced, even among elvish healers.
Excluding all the complicated Quenya words, biological and physical implications, the basic principle of the procedure was fairly easy to understand. All power comes from life, and every living creature has a set amount of power stored up within it's hröa that sustains it — keeps its heart beating, keeps its organs and brain alive and functioning etc. When a person is wounded they instinctively devotes a fraction of that power to healing the injury. It's why most people — be they Man, Elf or Dwarf — get tired when they are recovering from serious wounds or illnesses. It was also how I'd been able to speed up the healing of my own small cut, by simply diverting more of that energy into closing the wound and stopping the bleeding. For small things like bruises and shallow cuts it wasn't usually a problem, because the portion of energy devoted to healing it was smaller too. The issue came when the injury is so severe that the person simply didn't have enough stored energy to heal the wound and keep themselves alive at the same time. Say for example; when you were sporting two arrow wounds, one of which had nicked a major blood vessel.
That was where the antacuilë came in, and where I could help. In theory, if I got it right, I'd be able to share just enough of my own energy with Boromir to keep his heart beating, and speed up the healing process — enough to safely stop the bleeding and begin closing the wound. It was one of the many things I'd learned about through books, but simply hadn't been a healer or apprentice nearly long enough to be allowed to practice. I knew the concept, and had studied the theory enough to know the steps. I knew I could do it, but that wasn't what I was worried about.
Energy wise, getting the faucet running was easy. Getting it to stop once I'd started? That was the dangerous bit.
Master Elrond would have howled bloody murder if he knew what I was considering. Performing a supervised limifea*** on Frodo was one thing — but this was entirely was different. I didn't have a safety net this time, and if I screwed this kind of link up I could potentially flood Boromir's already traumatised body with an influx of more power than he could deal with. It would be the equivalent of giving him a shock from a defibrillator that was set a hundred volts too high. I could stop his heart, stop his breathing, or stop all his brain activity with one tiny slip-up. Not only that, but if I left the link open too long, I could potentially drain myself of all my energy, leaving me just as bad off as him.
However, I also knew that if I didn't do something to help now I'd never leave this forest.
Oh I might leave physically. I'd have Aragorn, and Legolas, and Gimli there to tell me that I'd done all I could, and that it wasn't my fault, but in my heart of hearts I would know that it wasn't true. I'd be back here every time I shut my eyes, seeing Boromir bleed to death right in front of me, and knowing that I stood by and let him…
My choice already made, I didn't bother to give warning before snapping the second arrow off, rolling Boromir just enough so I could pull it through and out, throw it away and pressing another wad of torn fabric over the bleeding. There couldn't be any obstructions in the way — once this started there was no stopping.
Recalling the words I'd read describing the steps, I slipped my right hand past where a confused Gimli was still putting pressure on the bleeding wound in Boromir's chest as I'd instructed, and rested it of where I could still feel a very faint heartbeat. My left hand found his, and took a gentle but firm grip on his hand, forcing my whole body to go still and relaxed — every muscle still buzzing with adrenaline from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and fingers. It was difficult to calm myself. The last thing I wanted to do was sit still doing nothing, trying to block out the rest of the world enough to concentrate on finding what I was looking for deep within myself.
I found it after maybe a minute's steady breathing, on slowing the pace of every life-supporting reaction in my body, and the sensation of what I'd just started happening inside began in the pit of my stomach. It began as faintly uncomfortable warmth that steadily growing into what felt like a fever the more I made myself focus, spreading slowly up my body, lingering in the left side of my chest over my heart, before creeping down my arm towards where my hands. As it did, the uncomfortable feverish heat began to subside, leaving a cold, numb sensation creeping in to take it's place.
My heartbeat was beginning to slow a fraction, and I could feel myself going a bit lightheaded as my blood pressure began to fall — but nothing else happened.
Was it working? Was I too late?
Suddenly Boromir sucked in a ragged breath of unexpected shock, his back arching off the ground into a bow. I felt his heartbeat surge under my palm and he choked and wheezed, his hand unconsciously locking around mine — as if he could sense the lifeline I was trying to providing him with.
If I hadn't been so focused on what I was doing my jaw would have hit the forest floor.
I'd done it. I'd actually done it. It had beens such a long shot, a desperate stab in the dark I honestly wasn't sure if I'd really believe it was going to succeed.
But I also knew I couldn't keep it going much longer. The coldness in my limbs was getting stronger. I was getting weak, and my arms going sluggish as my body swaying like a reed in a gale. I could dimly hear Gimli's confused utterance of awed shock, but couldn't draw enough focus away to pick out the exact words. His hand had slipped away from the wound a little with Boromir's sudden animation, and I could see the bleeding of the wound subsiding, and the tissue of his chest wound slowly beginning to knit itself together from within.
I surge of triumph and hope momentarily eclipsed my shock, and I tried to give a cry of elation, only to find my voice wouldn't work.
As I stared down at what was happening under my hands, the sight began to blur, colours and shapes of everything I could see spinning together into a constantly shifting mess.
At first I had no idea what was happening. The more I looked, the faster the blurred shapes began to move, and it was only after a couple of second that I realised I was seeing things that shouldn't be there. Silhouettes of people and places I didn't recognise, little flashes of faces and I didn't know, and voices I'd never heard. They flew by, vivid and fast as rapids flowing down a mountainside. At first I thought all the trauma and exhaustion had triggered another surge of memories, but in a rush of confusion, I realised I could feel — on the same fundamental level that I had when I first heard Rávamë's name — that whatever I was seeing didn't belong to me. They were indeed memories, those blurred images flashing past me, but I didn't recognise any of them.
They weren't mine, I could feel it. None of them were mine.
Which meant they could only have been…
A smiling human boy with sandy auburn hair and no more than seven was suddenly before me, swinging a wooden training sword at me. I easily parry the strike away with one of my own; though not as hard as I knew I could have. The boy's sounds of effort mingled with two sets of laughter — his and my own. We laugh easily, and without fear of repercussions or criticism, knowing and trusting each other entirely. It was a simple happy moment, and one I knew was all too rare, and wouldn't last as soon as out father returned…
Then I was holding the hands of a young woman, barely into her late teen, but lovely far beyond her years. She smiles up at me through dark eyes, her delicate tanned hands clasped timidly in my calloused ones — hands that felt far too crude and clumsy to be holding something so beautiful. I told her so, and she disagreed with me, with a smile as warm and sunlight, and a gentle brush of her lips on mine…
Then I was in a hall made of intricate arches and tall statues made entirely of solid black and white marble, their regal faces blank and hard and seeming to stare down at me in judgement. I stand before two thrones, one grand, white, and raised high on a dais — one that has remained empty for far too long. The other is grey, less imposing and sits at floor level, seating a man who is as unsettling as he is familiar. A middle aged man worn away with years of grief and neglect to look older than I know he is. He speaks to me in a stern, unyielding tone, with hard grey eyes and no willingness relent. I hear my own voice argue with him — familiar but far younger than I ever remember it being — no older than a teenager. The outburst is only met with a roar of sudden anger from the man on the throne, his thin veneer of calm vanishing and then returning just as quickly…
Then I'm standing at the top of a high white tower, leaning heavily on a supporting pillar, looking down as a wedding precision takes place far below. I'm too far up to pick out any faces, but I spot her anyway — dressed from head to toe in white and gold, her dark hair spun up atop her head in an elegant coil. I can't see her expression, but I see the hesitant, stiff way she moves on the arm of her new noble husband, more than a decade older than she. I don't need to be able to see the face I'd grown to know and care so much for to know the same anguish on my own face is mirrored on her own far below…
Years pass in seconds, though I refused to think on exactly how many, and finally I am standing opposite the boy who had been play fighting with me all that time ago — now grown almost as tall as me. He has the same auburn hair as mine though he wears his shorter, but where I know I bear our mother's blue eyes, his are stormy grey like our father's — though infinitely kinder. I'm so grateful for that. He wears the hardened leather armour on the captain of the guard, with the white tree insignia pressed into the breastplate and pardons. His face looks saddened and uncertain as he clasped hands with me, the both of us pulling into an embraced of farewell. I recognised the feeling pulling as my insides as homesickness that I know will grow and never fade the moment I leave the White City's walls.
"Remember today, little brother."
Faramir says nothing, but he doesn't need to.
"I will return," I hear myself say quietly, and continued saying it silently to myself as I ride out of the city without letting myself look back. "I will return."
Then the hallucinations dissolved back into another confusing flurry of random shapes and colours that make no sense, all moving too fast now to be distinguishable.
Enough. This was going too far, becoming too much. I could feel myself being pulled down, slipping away. I couldn't keep this up any longer. I had to let go, now.
But I didn't have the strength left in my hands to pry Boromir's fingers from around my wrist. I tried, fumbling at his grip on my wrist, but my hands had gone clumsy and weak as a newborn's, my head spinning until the world stared to rock like the deck of a ship. Gimli was calling my name frantically now, asking what he should do. I tried to speak, to say something to convey what was happening to me, but my tongue was like a wad of cotton in my mouth.
Two sets of running footfalls appeared suddenly behind me, dim and fussy among the blurs of the waking and dreaming worlds all swirling all around. One was light and swift, while the other was heavy if no less hurried.
Aragorn and Legolas. Better late than never I suppose.
"Eleanor?!" Legolas' shocked voice pierced through the rising haze. I tired to drag up enough will and concentration to speak, but Aragorn got there first.
"What is Iluvatar's name are you doing?!" He yelled, his voice horrified and echoing around the inside of my head as if I'd heard him from the bottom of a well.
There was a gust of moving air, the crackle and rustle of displaced leaves, and the next this I knew the ranger had seized me non-too gently but the forearm and jerked me back, my arm coming away from Boromir's death-grip on my wrist.
The connection broke in a cold sharp shock up my arm, and I fell backwards as the forest cartwheeled over me. The waking world snapped back into focus again but didn't stop moving, and for a long moment I just lay there, able to see again, but unable to move or speak. It was a strangely claustrophobic feeling, having my mind still running at full speed while my body couldn't react. I tried to move my arms so I could roll over and see him, to see if he was ok — but I didn't have enough energy left in me to twitch my fingers.
My heartbeat had stabilised again, though it was still far too slow. My head felt light, as if had been filled with cottonwool. On some base level, I knew I was alright, I was still breathing and my heart was still beating, though just barely. Another few seconds and I might have…
Darkness was starting to creep in at the sides of my vision, and I knew that any moment I was going to pass out from sheer exhaustion.
"Is he alive?" I managed to rasp near silently, not enough strength left to speak any louder. than that
A familiar face with grey-blue eyes and blond hair appeared in my line of sight half a second later, hefting me up off the forest floor to rest supported against his knees. A bizarre look of shock, confusion and awe was etched onto his face as he searched me for life threatening injuries. I wanted to shove him back, but I couldn't manage anything beyond a pathetic twitch of my head.
"I'm fine… I'm alright…"
The shock in Legolas' perceptive eyes didn't relet and they flicked between a dozen different places around us — to where Boromir was, to the Uruk-hai corpse lying several feet away, to the deadened wood around the body, all of what I had done in an effort to save my friend's life. I could hear Aragorn and Gimli's raised voices as near where I knew Boromir still lay but couldn't hear them clearly enough to know what was going on.
A surge or frustration gave me the strength I needed to raise my voice.
"Is he alive?!" I choked out more forcefully, the effort taking almost all I had left.
Legolas' face was pale as he looked slowly from the man back down to me. He opened his mouth to answer his lips moved, I felt his warm breath on my face, but no sound came out. I realised then, that it was because the creeping darkness had taken my hearing as well.
The shadowy haze around the corners of my vision crept in, and with no strength left to keep me there, I willingly let myself fall backwards into the blackness.
* "hröa" — the body (Quenya)
** "antacuilë" — the sharing of energy that makes up the entire body to heal another. Extremely dangerous for both involved, and only ever used by experienced Elvish healers (lit. "give life" in Quenya)
*** "limifea" — a soul link (Quenya)