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In Empty Lands
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On Swords and Swordsmanship

For Elvses birthday, and with special thanks to Kitty for suggesting the topic of this chapter.


On Swords and Swordsmanship

“I’ve agreed to teach the Hobbits how to handle their swords,” Boromir confided to the Elf Erestor, apparently one of Lord Elrond’s advisors and aides that he’d encountered in the smaller library. “But I am uncertain as to where we should work. Is there a salle or training ground that we would be permitted to use?”

The Elf glanced at a nearby window, glazed with colored glass down which rain was sheeting at the moment. “There are several places where our warriors train, of course. Most of our greatest warriors are out on patrol, making certain that the Nazgûl were indeed swept away in the flood raised by Lord Elrond and Mithrandir; but Lord Glorfindel has returned this morning and is making his report at this time. He is the captain of our defenders, and can both direct you to a protected area where you might work and provide you with appropriate practice equipment. I must say that this will likely prove a prudent move. Estel has indicated he sought to give the Hobbits some instruction during their journey, but with the concerns for the wound the Ringbearer suffered he was unable to give them more than the basics of how to hold their swords that they not wound themselves.”

Boromir found himself nodding in recognition as to how the Man would most certainly have focused his attention during the journey from Bree. “It does sound to have been a most difficult time,” he noted.

Erestor indicated his agreement. “If you desire it, I will take you to Lord Elrond’s door, where you might await the coming forth of Glorfindel.”

In minutes they were outside the room in which he’d seen the shards of Narsil shaken out and examined, and the Elf indicated a bench where he might wait for the Elven warrior to come forth. The wait did not prove particularly long, for Glorfindel emerged within a quarter of a mark, or so the Man judged it. He paused, acknowledging Boromir’s presence.

“Is there aught that you would ask of me, my lord?” he asked.

Quickly Boromir explained his needs, and the Elf smiled. “Most wise of you. The Ringbearer will need to be able to protect himself, as is true of those who may accompany him. And it will be good for all who will be part of the company to become aware of the capabilities of those they will most likely fight alongside. There is a practice salle along the northwest corridor that should suit you well enough. It is adjacent to one of our armories where we keep practice swords and foils….”

After luncheon Boromir led the Hobbits to the salle suggested by Glorfindel, finding the golden haired warrior already there and in the act of searching through a chest. “We have here a selection of padded garments that have been used in the past by various children who had begun training with weapons here in Imladris. I hope we will find garments that can be used by you as you begin to learn how to wield your weapons properly,” he said, glancing briefly at the Hobbits. Frodo Baggins leaned against a wall, his arms crossed against his chest, looking uncomfortable with the entire situation. Sam Gamgee had his hands in his pockets, and also appeared uncertain. Merry and Pippin, however, came close to peer into the chest at the garments through which the Elf was rummaging.

“We’ll have to wear those?” Pippin asked.

“It is wise, when one begins learning to use weapons, to wear practice garb to minimize the chance of being hurt.”

Pippin nodded, a gesture echoed by his cousin. Sam and Frodo exchanged glances, Sam’s slightly alarmed and Frodo’s apparently resigned.

It took some time to find practice garments suitable for each of them. Frodo and Pippin were rather quickly garbed, but there didn’t appear to be anything that would fit either Merry or Sam without alteration. At last Glorfindel left the room, returning a short time later with a second chest and Meliangiloreth, who carried with her a stick of charcoal wrapped in cloth and a number of pins. In this chest apparently were kept parts of such garb that had been fashioned but not sewn together. “We can have these sewn together tonight and ready for your use tomorrow,” the maiden promised them. “But as you are not proportioned precisely as are either children of the Eldar or the Edain, we would do best to make these particularly for you.” Once she had the two garments pinned together and marked, she left with a smile for all of them.

“As that is taken care of,” Boromir announced as she disappeared toward the main section of the place, “we should now look to find appropriate practice foils for you to use as you begin. It is usually best to match the foils for weight and balance to those weapons you will use every day, so if you will produce your swords we will see if we can find foils that you can use.”

He was pleased to see that the four of them each had brought his weapon, and smiled as they were laid side by side upon a bench. “These are beautiful!” he breathed as he unsheathed one of the blades laid there, then noted that Glorfindel had gone still as he also examined it as Boromir held it up to the light. “Do you detect aught wrong with the blade?” he asked the Elf.

“No,” came the reply, and Glorfindel held out his hand to take it from him, turning it at an angle to the light to better see the runes engraved upon it. He had a peculiar smile upon his face as he examined the pommel next. “Indeed, there is nothing I can detect that is wrong with this weapon, and a good deal I foresee as particularly right with it. Which of you carries this blade?”

“It’s mine,” volunteered Merry.

“And how came you by it?”

“Tom Bombadil gave it to me. It was from the barrow where we were captured by the wight. After Frodo cut off the wight’s hand and repeated the song to call Tom to rescue us, Tom brought out these four long knives and gave one of them to each of us, saying they would do for swords for us. Only Frodo’s was broken after he crossed at the ford. That one—“ he nodded at the odd sheath lying on the bench, “—is Sting, the one Bilbo found in the trolls’ hoard during his own adventure. He gave it to Frodo yesterday so he wouldn’t have to have a sword specially made.”

His attention caught, Glorfindel gently laid the blade he held upon the bench by its sheath, and reached to take up the other blade. Boromir was intrigued, for it appeared to him that the Elf was treating these weapons with particular reverence. “The sheath is of Dwarf make,” Glorfindel remarked as he examined it, “as is this shining belt. But the hilt—that was made by Elves.”

“Lord Elrond told Bilbo that Sting was made in Gondolin, as were Orcrist and Glamdring,” Frodo said, having quietly stepped forward to see the weapons more clearly as Man and Elf examined them. “The belt was given him by Thorin Oakenshield from the armory in Erebor, and the sheath was presented to him by Dáin Ironfoot when he visited the Lonely Mountain after he left the Shire and before he returned here to live.”

“Oh, I know the tale of the blade well enough,” agreed the Elf as he drew the weapon from its sheath and turned it to look it over carefully. “It was made for a prince of the city, who gifted it in time to Elú Thingol of Doriath. He in turn gave it to his Edain ward, Túrin Turambar. When Túrin left Doriath he did not take it with him, and so it came, I am told, into the keeping of the Lady Lúthien, and through her to her children. It was last in the keeping, I have been told by Círdan of Mithlond, of the Lady Elwing of Sirion, as were other weapons carried from Gondolin by Lord Tuor and Idril, his wife. They were lost when the city was sacked by the sons of Fëanor. Here—here is the mark of the smith of Ecthelion of the Fountain, who ordered the blade to be made.”

“You would recognize such a mark?” Boromir asked, feeling skeptical.

“Who better?” asked Glorfindel. “I saw the blade given to its first bearer, after all. And I have had occasion to examine Glamdring for Gandalf and to tell him of its history.”

Boromir felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle at the thought of it.

Pippin was leaning forward eagerly. “And these swords of ours—do you know about them, too?” He patted the sheath of his own weapon.

Glorfindel returned Sting to its sheath and laid it upon the bench before taking up the second barrow blade. His face grew more solemn. “They were made for princes of Cardolan, long before the Periain came out of the valley of the Anduin. Two of the King’s sons died in the wars against Angmar, and the King, his remaining son and wife and their youngest son were all slain by enemies, and buried together in the same tomb. These were buried with them, apparently.

“Great was the anger of he who wrought these against Angmar and its fell lord for the evil long practiced against the lands of Arnor, and particularly against the kingdoms of Arthedain and Cardolan. It is particularly fitting they should have come into the hands of those who have been threatened by that one, I would think.”

“By the weaponsmith who wrought them?” asked Boromir, confused by these revelations.

Glorfindel gave his peculiar small smile as he returned Pippin’s sword to its sheath with a snap of the metal hilts against the wood. “No—the Witch-king of Angmar. It was his hand that held the blade that pierced the shoulder of Master Frodo here.”

Frodo’s face had gone pale, and he was clutching at his left shoulder as if it pained him. His eyes were wide with horror and distress. The Elf’s face softened with compassion as he leaned forward to place his hand over Frodo’s and looked into the Hobbit’s eyes. “Do not fear, small master, for you are freed of his influence and are, I deem, stronger than he in your fashion. He sought to take you for his own Master; and it brought both of them nothing in the end.” He leaned further forward. “You shall prevail,” he declared, softly but with certainty.

Frodo gave a reluctant nod, his color slowly returning, and they returned again to the finding of suitable foils for each of them.

As he began instructing them in the forms commonly used in the handling of blades, Boromir thought on what the Elf had said about the blades carried by these four. Could this Glorfindel indeed have seen the blade borne by Frodo Baggins crafted and given to its first bearer?

There was a clatter as Pippin stumbled forward and dropped his weapon, and uncomfortable laughs from Merry and Sam. But Frodo had immediately stopped his own practice to retrieve the foil Pippin had dropped, a reassuring smile given his young kinsman. The chagrin faded from the youngest Hobbit’s face to be replaced by an expression of determination. One thing was certain—Peregrin Took intended to become competent with his sword even if it should kill him!

Boromir found himself smiling as he watched the four of them start anew. This should prove most satisfying, seeing these four become competent with their weapons.


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