23. Before the Battle
The two Hobbits stood on the steps of the Keep, watching the army march out. Merry gnawed his lip considering.
"You don't like being left behind." his cousin reminded him.
"And the last time I disobeyed orders I nearly got myself killed." Merry responded.
"And saved Eowyn's life and were there to say good-bye to King Theoden." Pippin argued.
There was that. Merry opened his mouth to answer and a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, turning he and Pippin found themselves looking up into the dark, heavily bearded face of the Warden of Caur Amrun. His brown eyes held a definite twinkle. "The Dunadan warned me about you two. He said you'd be considering disobeying his orders right about now."
The Hobbits looked at each other. "Strider knows us too well." Pippin sighed.
"Believe me I understand, I don't much like being left behind either but I am not Dunedain. We Men of the Hills can't fight all night and all day, nor I guess can Hobbits."
"We can if we have to!" Pippin said defiantly.
The Warden nodded. "Oh indeed. If there were need we would do so - and pay the price." he hunkered down, putting himself at their eye level. "Weary Men - and Hobbits! - make mistakes and die for them. Aragorn cannot afford such losses. Even a few hours rest will make a difference so he gives them to us. If all goes well ours will be the final blow. If it goes ill then perhaps we may amend it. In either case we will be far from useless."
"So it's back to bed." said Merry.
"With a sentry at your door in case you should change your minds again!" the Man grinned.
"We might!" said Pippin. And all three laughed.
"You're very philosophical about all this." Merry observed to the Warden as he accompanied them up the stair.
"My people have lived cheek by jowl with the Dunedain for nearly three thousand years," he explained. "we learned long ago to accept the differences between us and not to indulge in the folly of false pride. We do not measure ourselves by the Dunedain any more than by the Elves or the Dwarves. Nor do we hold ourselves of lesser worth. For all their gifts they could not have defended the North this thousand years without our help," he smiled down at the Hobbits as they reached their door, "any more than the Lord of the Rings could have been defeated without the courage of Hobbits."
That had been mostly Frodo and Sam's doing, Merry reflected, but he and Pippin had done their bit too. "I don't think I caught your name, sir." he said out loud.
"It is one fairly familiar to you; I am Boromir son of Borgil." he laughed at their startled faces. "Such names are common among my people, in memory of the House of the Faithful." 1* ****
Boromir had been mildly surprised by Aragorn's decision to meet the enemy outside the protection of Caur Amrun's walls - until he saw the ground the King had chosen. It was a place where the road to Minvorn Erain, northern stronghold of the Kings of Rhudaur, climbed a steep slope between tall hills crowned with outcroppings of jagged rock. Aragorn arrayed his army along the crest of the slope. Companies of the City Guard, dismounted knights and Men-at-arms alternated with ranks of archers, armed with the legendary great steel bows of Numenor. The Rangers melted silently into the landscape, hiding themselves among the rocks on the hillsides to discourage any attempt at flanking the line. Then there was nothing to do but wait.
There were things Boromir wanted to say to his brother, now while he had the chance, for however the day went there would be none later. But it's not easy to start a private conversation when one is surrounded by people. He looked pointedly at Gimli, Legolas and Arandil. "Shouldn't somebody be watching over Aragorn?"
The Dwarf and his nephew had the grace to look embarrassed, Legolas just smiled.
"Captain Amrod and his Men will look after him." Faramir said calmly.
"I do not need a bodyguard." Boromir said bluntly.
"Don't you?" his brother took him by the arm, drawing him to a place well behind the lines, out of even Dunedain hearing. "Boromir, I accept that you are here to slay the Wolf-lord in place of King Elessar, but why must you die accomplishing it?"
"Because Mithrandir forsaw it." he answered simply and felt his brother's dismay. "Faramir, I would not have distressed you all so were I not sure." then he turned abruptly to the thing he needed most to say. "Father is all right."
Denethor had died in the grip of Shadow inspired madness, Faramir had never dared let himself think what that might mean for his father's soul. A shiver passed over him as he remembered his own brother, standing here before him, had been to the Dark Halls at the Edge of the World and seen and spoken with their father's spirit. Boromir would know how it was with him.
"He sees his mistakes and he is sorry for them." his brother went on quietly. "Mother waited for him, with her help he will find peace." his voice grew even more gentle. "Father never truely wanted to hurt either of us. When he did it was out of his own trouble of spirit not malice."
Faramir swallowed. "I know. And the fault was not all on his side. We were not kind to each other after you were gone." he blinked back tears. "Father blamed me for being alive and I blamed him for sending you to your death."
Boromir snorted. "You should both have blamed me. I insisted on going," he sighed, "well I have paid for my presumption."
"Presumption?" Faramir wondered.
His brother looked at him. "The dream came first and many times to you, only once and late to me. Clearly you where the one intended to go." he shrugged. "I didn't want you making such a dangerous journey." then smiled wryly. "Or rather I couldn't face the long months of worrying about you. So I went myself - and came near to ruining us all. I am sorry."
"But you didn't," Faramir argued, "far from it. If Frodo had not run from you, both he and the Ring might have fallen into Saruman's hands. And Elessar would never have come to Minas Tirith if not for the promise he made to you."
Boromir rolled his eyes upward in mild exasperation. "So I have been told by Another. Even wickedness and folly can serve His ends." his eyes dropped to look steadily at Faramir. "I am truly sorry, Brother, I should have had enough faith in you to let you follow your destiny." ****
1* The Warden is refering to the faithful Easterlings who fought beside the Edain and the Elves in the First Age against their close kin, The House of the Accursed, who served Morgoth. Their chief was called Bor, which means 'faithful' in Sindarin, his sons were were Borlach, Borlad and Borthand. The Hill Folk are definitely descended from the Easterlings of the First Age. The Men of Rhudaur's belief they are descended from the House of the Faithful and their enemies from the House of the Accursed is less certain - yet true enough in a spiritual if not physical sense.
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