Many Guises and Many Names
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Best Sword Ever, The: 1. The Best Sword Ever
As he passed through the corridor and descended the stairs to the dining hall on the lower level, Thorongil rubbed the muscles of his neck with one hand to relieve the tension that had been growing there for the past several hours. The council session had been long, for there had been much to discuss concerning threats from the East and the South. Thorongil was pleased with the progress the Council had made this day, but it had not come easily. One man there was of the highest ranking who supported him in all his counsels, yet subtly opposed him on a personal level in such a way that even the most successful outcome of a discussion seemed bought at great cost.
Thorongil was a captain held in high esteem in the City, and he had the favor of the Ruling Steward, Ecthelion. This was a hard thing for his opponent to accept, who seemed ever to take second place in the affections of his father and his people. Thorongil could hardly blame him for this feeling of rivalry, though it made matters difficult at times. He did what he could to be seen only as the servant of the Steward, and no man's rival.
He wished for more time now, to build some trust between himself and Denethor, son of Ecthelion -- but matters were moving in the East, and new danger from the South now threatened this land he loved. There was no time left for niceties. Perhaps there had never been any hope of trust between the two men, though he wished it could be otherwise. Thorongil had often caught the sharp, questioning glance of the Steward's son upon him, and wondered if Denethor's shrewd mind had guessed the truth of his identity. That would be more than enough to explain his antagonism, setting aside any ill will he might also feel at the praises his father Ecthelion extended to his favorite captain, rather than his own son.
Thorongil sighed heavily and shrugged away his gloom.
Soon it will be time to move on, he thought. Then affairs shall go on as they will.
He turned a corner and entered the dining area for the Tower Guard. Some of the men hailed him as he entered, and he nodded to each of them in turn. One of the Guard approached him, and laying a hand on his arm, the man stayed Thorongil's progress towards the table where a late afternoon meal was laid.
"Someone is waiting to see you, sir."
Thorongil looked in the direction indicated by the guard, and saw a child sitting on a bench against the wall, swinging his legs and squirming impatiently. A plate of untouched food was set beside him. A guard stood at attention by his side, but the child ignored him. At the sight of Thorongil, a look of happy relief flashed across the child's face, and he waved a hand in greeting. Thorongil nodded to the guard and crossed the room to where the child sat.
"Frongil! I want to talk! But everyone says 'no time, too busy!'" the child announced plaintively.
A scowl twisted his features briefly, before he looked up hopefully at the tall captain.
"Can you talk? Are you 'too busy?'"
He spoke with the slight lisp of a child only a few months past his second birthday, yet his voice was high and clear, and his speech was amazingly well-formed for one so young. Thorongil smiled; he expected no less from the son of Denethor, heir to Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor.
"No, Boromir," Thorongil replied, extending his hand to the child. "I am not 'too busy.' I am happy to talk with you, if you wish it."
Boromir clambered down from his perch upon the bench.
"Take me to the wall," he demanded. "Want to look out."
The child reached up to grasp Thorongil's hand.
"Please?" he added as an afterthought, as if suddenly remembering a lesson he had been learning. "Please!" he said again, and grinned mischievously.
"Very well," Thorongil agreed with a laugh, and nodded towards the plate of food on the bench. "Bring those apples with you. The wall is a good place for sharing a meal."
He turned to the man who had been attending Boromir, as the child snatched up several apples and stuffed them down the front of his tunic. "If anyone comes seeking the lad, let them know he has gone with me to the Embrasure."
"Aye, Captain, sir."
'The wall,' as Boromir had called it, had only one meaning for the child, and Thorongil knew what that was: the Embrasure, a recess along the wall of the uppermost level of the City that stood atop the spine of the mountain, jutting eastward like the keel of a great ship. From that place upon the wall, one could look down over seven levels of the City of Minas Tirith, to the Great Gates seven hundred feet below. Or, one could look out across the gleaming waters of the Anduin to the darkness of the Mountains of Shadow in the East, ever backlit by the red glow of fire that was never quenched. Boromir faced either vista with the unquestioning bravery of a child who as yet had not learned fear.
As they approached the Embrasure, Boromir ran ahead, but the wall was more than three times his height and smooth, with no foothold, so that he could not climb it unaided to see over the edge. As Thorongil approached, the child turned and held up his arms.
"Up!" Boromir said imperiously. "Want to feel the wind."
Thorongil complied, and lifted the child in his arms. They stood together, looking out over the City, and the wind that snapped in the banners above them lifted their hair and blew it about so that it stung their faces. Boromir laughed and held his arms out to the wind, then leaned out in Thorongil's arms, to look down at the City below. The wall was wide, so he could not quite see over the edge, and Thorongil would not allow him to lean too far out. Yet still he could see the Great Gate far below, and men like insects on the road beyond the city walls, and further afield, the orchards and homesteads dotting the countryside all the way down to the River. Boromir laughed again, and was content.
At last, Thorongil set him down. Boromir pushed his windblown hair away from his face with an impatient gesture, and sat down, leaning his small, straight back against the wall. Thorongil sat next to him, his long legs stretched out straight in front of him. Boromir dug out an apple for each of them, and they ate in silence.
"What did you wish to talk about, Boromir?" Thorongil asked, after a time.
"Wish I had a sword!" sighed Boromir fervently. He solemnly contemplated the apple core in his hand, then stuck it in his tunic.
Thorongil looked at the child beside him, and tried to keep from grinning.
"You will have your sword, one day," he answered.
"Gran'fa says I get his sword when he is done keeping it," Boromir said proudly. "But I must grow taller first."
Boromir frowned as he looked at his short legs, resting next to Thorongil's long ones. "Maybe nex' week I'll be big enough."
There was another silence, broken at last by Boromir, his small brow furrowed in thought as he tried to find the right words to speak his mind.
"Gran'fa told me 'bout a" -- here the child stammered on a new word -- "brok'n..." He looked up into the tall captain's face for confirmation. "Brok'n?"
"Yes, you said that well. Do you know what it means?"
"Yes, but that word is just hard to say right."
"Try it again. Broken."
Boromir tried again. "Bro-ken."
Boromir beamed his pleasure as Thorongil rewarded him with a smile . "Very good," the man chuckled. "Please go on."
Boromir started over. "Gran'fa told me 'bout a bro-ken sword. A great King had it. He fought the Evil Dark Lord."
"Oh?" replied Thorongil slowly.
Boromir nodded earnestly, never taking his eyes from Thorongil's face.
"And what did he say about this broken sword?"
"He said it was... special." Boromir stumbled slightly over the last word, then frowned in concentration, as if trying to remember all that had been said about the sword in question. He looked up again. "Yes, special! He said 'twas the best sword ever!"
"Yes," Thorongil agreed, with a secret smile. "It is the best sword ever..."
Boromir heaved another sigh, and Thorongil could sense the child's regret at not having such a sword for his own. Boromir's next words confirmed it.
"Wish I had the best sword ever," he said wistfully.
Suddenly Boromir frowned.
"But how?" he asked plaintively. "How can it be the best sword if it's broken? A broken sword's no good!"
Thorongil looked thoughtfully at the child next to him.
"I know of a sword," he replied with care, "broken, like the sword your grandfather told you about. It is a good sword, though it be broken. Someday it will be repaired... reforged! Then it will be a good sword."
"The best sword ever?"
"Perhaps; perhaps it will be such a sword."
"Will you show it to me then?" asked Boromir eagerly. "I want to see it!"
Thorongil smiled at the light in the child's eyes, but his tone was grave and serious when he spoke.
"I hope that I will be able to show it to you, Boromir, one day..."
Footsteps echoed in the recess where they sat. The two companions scrambled to their feet, and the child ran forward with a happy cry to meet the man who approached from across the Court of the Fountain.
"I was talking to 'Frongil," Boromir explained to his father. "He let me look over the wall!"
"Yes, my son," replied Denethor, glancing briefly at Thorongil. He took Boromir's small hand in his, and with his other hand he smoothed back the child's windblown hair. "I saw you speaking with the Captain, and it is quite clear you have been looking over the wall."
Boromir grinned happily and gripped his father's hand tightly.
"Come, Boromir," said Denethor as he began to lead the child away. "The Captain is a busy man, and he has no more time for you now. He has important things to discuss with your grandfather."
Denethor turned slightly and spoke to Thorongil.
"My father is asking for you," he said shortly. "You will find him once more in the Council Chambers."
Thorongil nodded and bowed.
"I shall attend him directly, my lord."
Boromir looked back over his shoulder at Thorongil, as he trotted away beside his father. As the child lifted his hand in a goodbye wave, their eyes met and held. Then Boromir turned away, and was gone.
Boromir sat quietly in the Council session, listening carefully and with interest to all that was being discussed. Now and then his eyes strayed to the others who sat with him on the porch -- the Wizard Gandalf, with whom he was somewhat acquainted from his visits to Minas Tirith over the years; several Dwarves from the Northern Lands, and a number of Elves, not all of whom were of Elrond's house; the Halflings, whom he still regarded with wonder; and a tall, lean Man sitting alone, clad in a Ranger's travel-worn clothing. Elrond had implied that it was not chance which had seen them all gathered here on this day, and so, though he had been told their names, Boromir pondered who these others might be, and what tidings they brought: of war, of strange dreams -- or of approaching Darkness.
Even as he listened and observed and pondered, Boromir was aware of the constant rustle of the trees in the valley of Rivendell and the faint singing of Elves in the distance, and the music of water rushing over many falls. At times, a note in the water's music would remind him of Minas Tirith, remind him of the sound of the wind whistling in the Embrasure in the wall below the high tower of Ecthelion, and he was comforted amidst the strangeness of Elrond's valley.
He had only just arrived in Rivendell that morning, after a long, lonely journey through the wilderness. There had only been time to speak briefly of his errand to Elrond, who had assured him that answers would be forthcoming. Thus far, there had been much talk of the Ruling Ring and its history, but his questions remained, and as yet there were no answers to the riddle of his dream and the Sword that Was Broken.
Thoughts of the dream and the sword of which it spoke had scarcely crossed his mind when he heard Elrond begin to tell of Elendil's fall and the breaking of Narsil beneath him. Boromir's interest quickened. Now they were coming to matters which held more import than the mere recounting of interesting history; here was news, indeed! A broken sword in the hand of Isildur, a weapon still sharp enough to cut the Ring from Sauron's hand and thus overthrow him -- what a great wondrous sword that must have been when it was whole!
He heard a slight sound, as of a soft sigh of released tension, and his eye was drawn to the Man sitting alone in the corner. Glancing his way, Boromir saw that the Ranger was watching him closely, with a thoughtful expression upon his face. Their eyes met and held for a moment, then Boromir looked away as Elrond began to speak of things which touched upon him closely -- of Gondor and her long struggle in defiance of the Enemy.
"... to our sorrow the One has been found. Others shall speak of its finding, for in that I played small part."
Boromir stirred as Elrond ceased speaking. He stood up tall and proud before the assembly and raised his voice to speak.
"Give me leave, Master Elrond, first to say more of Gondor; for verily from the land of Gondor I am come. And it would be well for all to know what passes there. For few, I deem, know of our deeds, and therefore guess little of their peril, if we should fail at last."
He spoke then of the strength of Gondor as a bulwark of the West, keeping the terror of the East at bay. He spoke also of the need of Gondor, hard beset as the dark power of Sauron grew and continued to press them until they were swept away. And he told of the dream which had sent him upon a long quest for answers and counsel to serve Gondor's great need:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Even as Boromir ceased telling the tale of his desperate journey and his desire for counsel and clear answers to his riddle, the Ranger arose from his chair and stepped forward. Drawing his sword from its sheath, he cast it upon the table set before Elrond. The sword was broken in two pieces.
"Here is the Sword that was Broken!" he said in a calm, clear voice.
Boromir looked in amazement at the Man before him, wondering what this weathered Ranger could possibly have to do with him and his City.
"Who are you?" he asked doubtfully. "What do you have to do with Minas Tirith?"
An odd look of pain passed over the Man's face, but he said nothing. Instead, Elrond gave the answer.
"He is Aragorn son of Arathorn," said Elrond; "and he is descended through many fathers from Isildur Elendil's son of Minas Ithil..."
A wave of memory passed over Boromir as he heard the name Elendil and gazed upon the shards before him on the table. He heard in his mind the sound of a child's lisping voice, speaking of a king and a battle and a sword that was special:
"But how? How can it be the best sword if it's broken? A broken sword's no good!"
Indeed! Boromir thought with dismay. What good is a broken sword to me, though it be the sword of Elendil himself? Can it regain such strength as it once had, even if it were to be reforged? And will the hand of the one who makes this claim be sufficient to the task? I wonder...
"The Sword shall be reforged," he heard Aragorn say with calm assurance. "I will come to Minas Tirith."
Boromir looked at the Ranger keenly and at the broken sword upon the table, and he could not hide the caution in his eyes nor the doubt upon his face.
"...It is a good sword, though it be broken," Boromir heard a voice say; but it was only a memory, distant and vague. "Someday it will be repaired... reforged; and then it will be a good sword."
Perhaps, thought Boromir, with a slight shake of his head. But how will this help me? Can a sword such as this truly return from the shadows and stem the tide of war? I fear it cannot...
The eyes of the two Men met and held; then Boromir turned away.
Aragorn stood silent for a moment, lost in the memory of those eyes, that face.
He has the look of his father, he thought. So stern, so committed to seeing Gondor safe and strong! Boromir!
Aragorn watched as Boromir slowly returned to his seat, his heart still stinging from the sad shake of Boromir's head and the doubt in his eyes. He sighed as he recalled the boy who had once sought him out and hung upon his every word with wonderment and firm belief and trust. But Boromir did not turn back to acknowledge him; instead he sat heavily and turned his attention to Bilbo, who was speaking of his finding of the One Ring.
Aragorn silently took up the broken sword he had cast upon the table and returned it to the sheath at his side.
"...It is a good sword, though it be broken," he heard his own voice say, and though the words had been spoken many years before, they rang clearly in his ear as if they had been spoken but yesterday. "Someday it will be repaired... reforged; and then it will be a good sword."
"The best sword ever?" came the child's voice from out of the past.
"Perhaps; perhaps it will be such a sword."
"Will you show it to me then? I want to see it!"
"I hope that I will be able to show it to you, Boromir, one day..."
Aragorn touched the hilt of Narsil lightly as he turned and walked towards his own seat. He felt once more the doubtful eyes of Boromir upon him, and a sad smile briefly touched his lips.
"It is a good sword, Boromir," he said softly, so that no one else could hear. "It shall be reforged, for the time is now right. And I will show it to you as I promised. A sword repaired and whole, and mighty to stem the tide of war -- a good sword; the best sword ever!"
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