They had passed a pleasant afternoon in the sun, sitting with their backs against a great oak tree in the sheltered part of the healers garden. They were becoming firm friends, but both still ached too much for questions and deep conversation, so talk had run to gardening and wines, organizing a library, music and favorite foods.
When Faramir suddenly shifted, Merry thought he was preparing to take his leave, so he was surprised to find the Captain looking intently into his face, biting at his bottom lip as though to keep himself from speaking. But the question won out in the end.
“Merry,” he said, “There are many things I long to ask you, but I am not sure that either of us is ready. But if you can, will you tell me one thing of my brother?” Faramir’s serious grey eyes were clouded with unshed tears. “Did he…”
Merry lost the end of the question to the roaring in his ears as he forced himself to stand again for a moment in the cold chill of a February afternoon, his back pressed against the rough bark of another oak as though it could protect him by hiding him within… but the earth could not protect him.
As he slid to the ground, he saw the fury of his companion stepping between him and the orcs, standing himself in the place of the shield he no longer carried. His sword flashed bright, then dark with crimson rain falling every time he raised his arm. Already his shoulder was fletched with black feathers no raven ever shed.
“Run!” he screamed, but Merry was rooted to the place where he stood. “Run!” he implored, turning to counter the next blow and raising the great horn to his lips.
Aid from Gondor was impossibly far away; there was no chance of the answer his heart yearned for, but he blew the wild high call in defiance and summons and defense of his two small companions.
Merry had been caught out of time, standing as in a dream near the great gates of Imladris, and Boromir was winding the great horn to bless their journey.
“Now let all the foes of Gondor flee!' he cried, and the horn answered his call, echoing against the rock walls that sheltered the valley.
“Slow should you be to wind that horn again, Boromir,” Elrond had said “until you stand once more on the borders of your land, and dire need is on you.”
Boromir had replied. “Always I have let my horn cry at setting forth, and though thereafter we may walk in the shadows, I will not go forth as a thief in the night.”
Struggling with his captor, he saw Boromir overwhelmed by the sheer number of their foes. He watched the warrior sink to his knees, and knew that he had taken the first steps on another journey, one that would take him even farther from his family and his home.
Merry shook off the memory and met Faramir’s anxious look with a calm he thought he would never feel again.
“He was brilliant; a blazing star as he fell,” Merry began. “He refused to go forth like a thief in the night….”