Steward and the King, The
21. Of Those that Live
Sam swallowed one more time, then Aragorn let him down, back to the healing sleep. Those on horseback had taken the wounded quickly away from the battlefield. On the morrow they would ride further back to Ithilien and fresh water.
"Have you learned how they died?" Boromir asked, his voice tightly controlled.
Aragorn considered the words of the parley, what had and had not, apparently, been known by the enemy. "Faramir and Gimli died drawing the watch away when Frodo and Sam entered into Mordor."
"How are you sure?"
"That is what I would have done."
There was a pause before he answered. "If Faramir had not taken your place."
"It was his place, not mine. I would have taken it, but he refused, and well for us all that he did." Aragorn looked in sorrow at Faramir's horn. "This is all that remains; yet it was a joy to me to see it. Can you forgive me?"
Boromir's breath caught.
Aragorn traced the pattern, dark against the silver and ivory, his voice wistful. "Can you forgive the manner of my words? I saw his blood and rejoiced. I still do -- to have some part of him. Every sign that I was given seemed to show that Pippin alone, of the Fellowship, would survive to tell our story."
"My blood also burned, Elessar. I, too, rejoiced." He also had expected die, to follow and find his brother in that other place. He made a small bow and gestured outside the shadow of the tent, to the brightly-lit stone field. Sorrow entered his voice, though he tried to disguise it. "... Yet the sun shines and we both see it. It is now time for those who live." They left the tent together, and this was noted by many.
They climbed to a private place, apart from and above the camp, on sloping ground. They were still in a desolated area of bare rocks. Boromir found a place to sit. Aragorn sat next to him. Boromir covered his eyes with one hand, then pulled the hand down.
"I'm sorry we could not save him," Aragorn said.
There was a long pause. What Boromir wanted to say, he could not put voice to. He said instead, "We saved my people. We saved Gondor."
And all the countries of the West, Aragorn amended silently. "Yes."
"I do not want to leave my home. His home, their home."
"I would not ask that of you."
"What now, then, Lord?"
"The King," Faramir had said in Rivendell, before there had been any sign of hope. Boromir had said "Lord" before, but that had been to the commander of armies. This was something much more. Aragorn shrugged. "The next action is Denethor's."
"No." Boromir said firmly. The name had angered him. "He will not decide. He shall not survive the news that you still live. And it should not be his decision, he who would look at death as a triumph." His jaw was tightly clenched. He took a pair of breaths and loosened it. "I spoke with Pippin ere we left. He said Faramir had spoken to you about Osgiliath and civil war, and this troubled you." Boromir looked to Aragorn, who nodded agreement. "Well it should," he continued, keeping his gaze as it was, "and well it should be on my mind who has been raised -- as you were raised, so it seems -- to be ruler of this land.
"I say to you Elessar of the White Tree, that you have displayed that tree and have made that claim. I understand that you used the tree for a weapon, yet you did use it. My father, who swore an oath, will die rather than be bound by it. He looks to me to oppose you for he thinks that as I have not sworn I am not bound to acknowledge you, but I look to my people and see that I must, even as my honor tells me the same."
The words were difficult, and at last Boromir had to turn away, and he sat on the sloping ground, looking across to the distant horizon. "This civil war that Faramir feared will not happen if you take the crown, only if I give it not."
"This is my land; I stay. You will be my king."
The voice was much as his brother's had been. Aragorn doubted that he would often hear this tone, but the searing ache for Faramir unbound in an instant from bitter wounding need into deep sadness. This man would be no enemy. In time, in as much as was possible, he could become a friend. He had found a place for his pride which said "I am as I should be," and if the ghost of Denethor should come to assail his son and bring him into a dark mood, yet he could trust Boromir to put the anger aside. And if they, in the future, disagreed on a thing, he could be content that it was true advice and not rebellion.
Aragorn looked also outward and said in formal language, "Then I will say to you, Lord Boromir, that I am pleased with this, but I will take a while before I shall come for my crown. There are many wounded here. I do not desire to put myself between you and your father. You say he will die soon: you should go to him."
His heart wished to do so, but his honor called it unwise. "I dare not."
"I say that you must. You, as his son, may go to your father. He has but one sword, if you bring none. You will make no war." Boromir bowed his head. Aragorn sat beside him. "I have called you brother, and in the manner of men who are sons of their fathers we are as if kin, and I will say this to you as if you were indeed my brother -- though I have none -- or if you were a dear friend -- and this war has taken many dear friends from me, Faramir not the least: I did not know my father."
Shocked, Boromir turned his head. After a moment, Aragorn's eyes met his. What he saw there made him quickly turn away.
Aragorn let the silence be for a time, and then continued softly, "I had dreamed long ago of a place bathed in the white light of peace, made hazy by sorrow, and fear for a darkness to come. A tall, sad man stood there, against the darkness. He had long, dark hair and a face beyond my memory to know. He held me in his arms for I was but a child and he spoke to me gentle words of farewell." He sighed. "That is all the memory I have of my father, who died before I learned to say his name. If memory it be, and not wholly a child's fancy. I did not know his name nor my own until my twentieth year."
Aragorn said this easily, the pain long gone and not renewed in the telling. Boromir only stared in silence, unable to imagine such an orphan's life. What could it be to be nameless? No, he must have had a name ... a false name. A false name he had not known was false until he was told the truth. Boromir shivered. I have always known who I was, who I would be, what I would never be. He remembered a day when he was seven years old, and Faramir still a toddler. Always he, or the nurse, or Father would hold his hand to keep the young child from running curious where he should not go. Mother had a difficult night -- she was sick again -- and, exhausted, she had fallen asleep in her chair. Father quietly lifted Faramir from her arms into his own and, to give her peace, they had left the room. That was the earliest time he could remember the throne room, for that is where Father had walked. "This will be your duty," he told him. But when he asked why they should sit in the lower chair and not in the throne at the top of the stairs, his father's eyes had turned cold. "We are Stewards, not Kings." Boromir's eyes closed. Faramir was gone, and Denethor was lost to him.
"I envy your memories," Aragorn said. "Do not abandon him."
"Do you command me, Lord?"
"As you will."
As they returned to the camp, Boromir said that he would bring Faramir's horn with him to lay in the House of Stewards, and asked if he should also bring Gimli's ax. Aragorn agreed and said to sent to Edoras for Legolas' bow. "For Meriadoc is even now waiting in the silent street. The four may lay together for a time until we know their families' wishes."
When Boromir mounted to leave, Aragorn, standing by, held him a moment and said quiet words that none standing near could hear. "If his pride has not yet killed your father, give to him my greeting. Tell him that as it is between us is sufficient with me and I will in no way order him save that I will take the crown."
Boromir's mouth set and he looked outward. "That is fair said, Lord. Yet I doubt that he will hear."
"As always, Boromir, he is a grief to me. I wish you good speed and fare you well."
Boromir nodded, then signaled his horse to a trot. Aragorn watched briefly as Boromir rode toward the river, then walked back to Gandalf, who had been watching the exchange. "It is well?" he asked.
"Well indeed," Aragorn smiled. "He was born to be steward and so he shall be."
=== end chapter ===
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