Promises and Pledges: 1. Joust

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1. Joust

"Why aren't you married, Legolas?"

The query seemed innocent enough. Though elves lived tens of dozens of human lifetimes, they usually married relatively young, so most of the kin of Legolas had wives and families. Whenever the hobbits could not persuade Boromir to train them in the use of weapons, they clamored for stories from Legolas and Gandalf about other races and ages long gone. Such tales existed only as legends in the Shire.

"Good question, Merry. Aren't you ever going to marry?" demanded Pippin. Though Boromir sat with Aragorn on the periphery of the discussion, he tensed to hear the banter. His father, the Steward of Gondor, had asked him the same question repeatedly in the past few years, becoming increasingly impatient with any excuses his son offered. Boromir did not know whether the elf's reasons for shunning wedlock were the same as his own, but he hoped that Legolas was not called upon to make apologies so often as himself.

The son of the King of Mirkwood was immortal; he did not need to worry about providing an heir for his kingdom. Legolas tilted his head toward Pippin and for a moment Boromir thought the elf would smile before his usual sobriety won out. "I have not yet met the one to whom I wish to bind myself for all the ages," he said gravely. "You do not have a wife, either."

"I'm much too young!" Pippin objected with a squeak as Frodo, Merry and Sam burst into laughter and jokes about the likelihood of any woman ever being foolish enough to marry Peregrin Took. Desperate to divert attention away from himself, the smallest hobbit looked around. "What about you, Boromir? Why aren't you married?"

Boromir waved a hand in dismissal, but everyone had glanced in his direction; even Gandalf was listening. Beside him, Aragorn's head lifted expectantly. "I have no time for women," the man of Gondor scoffed, then instantly knew the choice of words had been in error; he should have said that he had no time for a wife.

Just as he feared, Merry demanded, "No women at all then?" and the small band laughed about Boromir's virtue. He attempted to smile with them, plotting to turn the question onto Sam if they kept at him. Yet he could not repress the unease that always rose in him when the talk turned to marriage -- the sense that his true desires must be evident to anyone who questioned him on the subject.

"Perhaps he has been too engaged in manly pursuits," said a quiet voice by his side. Boromir whirled to see Aragorn gazing speculatively at him, half a grin twisting the side of his mouth that was not occupied by his pipe. The words and the look on the Ranger's face made Boromir feel as if Aragorn had punched him, all while pretending to be joking. Challenge loomed beneath the surface of the calm blue eyes, telling Denethor's son that Isildur's heir knew the secret he would not speak...

"While you gossip like court ladies, it falls to a man to fetch your dinner!" Boromir snarled, surprising himself with the vehemence of his voice as the laughter of the others fell away. At once he felt shamed, but he knew that if he spoke again, he would only reveal himself further. He had meant to hold his bitterness in check, but on this journey rage sometimes welled in him without reason, particularly when the Ringbearer was present. Turning, he stalked away from the rest of the Fellowship, climbing up the side of the hill toward the trees.

"Boromir." Knowing that he would look more the fool by striding away than standing to hear what Aragorn had to say, he planted his feet and turned, waiting for the other man to reach his side. "I meant only to jest with you. You have been so somber of late." The gentle smile encouraged response, but Boromir did not return it. "I would not mock a man for..." It was rare for Aragorn to falter, yet he paused, shrugging awkwardly. "...not wishing to marry."

"A ruling Steward's eldest son must marry if he wishes to follow his father," Boromir retorted. "As must a king, to produce an heir. That is duty, son of Arathorn."

The other man held his eyes, refusing to accept the implied challenge. "Perhaps we would do well to learn from the elves, who bind themselves for love above duty."

"The fates of the kingdoms of immortals are not bound to the beds of their rulers," replied Boromir. "Nor do the laws of Gondor place duty over love. Though it is uncommon, a lord may wed a tavern maid."

"Yet he could be held in chains for bearing too much love for a soldier."

The frankness of the statement sent ice shooting through Boromir's veins. Was Aragorn going to dispute his right to serve as Steward? "As the captain of Gondor's armies, I have more pressing concerns than love between soldiers," he said angrily. "In the camps of war, we fight terror and despair. I do not waste strength hounding men for taking comfort where they will."

To his surprise, Aragorn dropped his eyes. "Nor would I. A man's love is his concern alone. He may yet be a great warrior or a great king." The son of kings looked up at Boromir once more, and his expression held no ridicule, only understanding.

Now Boromir hesitated. Aragorn did not seem to be speaking of him at all, for he had not said steward but king. In Minas Tirith, Boromir had heard many rumors about the failings of the line of Numenor -- mostly from his father, who had little respect for Isildur's blood. Perhaps Aragorn had heard similar stories about his family history. With a toss of his arm suggesting that it was no great matter, Boromir asked, "You do not believe that some pairings are unnatural?"

"Men sometimes commit great evils and call them love," said Aragorn. "It is unnatural to force a woman or befoul a child, to use sorcery to turn a lover's affections or to destroy a rival."

Those were statements with which no man of honor would disagree, yet they avoided the previous argument. Carefully Boromir added, "Not for a man to bear too much love for a soldier?"

"That is no more unnatural than for an elf to love a man."

Boromir raised his eyes past Aragorn's head, studying the hills beyond their camp, for he did not want to reveal the relief cresting in him. "You should be careful of your speech," he muttered. "In Gondor, even rumors may destroy a warrior. It is well for you that you are promised to Lord Elrond's daughter, for I think none would question your love for an elvish princess."

"Lord Elrond will not permit us to marry until -- unless I become King of Gondor," Aragorn replied. "I have fallen in love with a woman I can rarely see. Even among the elves, there are those who wonder why I have chosen such a grueling fate." The Ranger sounded as though he expected Boromir to ask him that question. Boromir very nearly did so, but the voices of the others carried up to them, and Aragorn turned.

"It grows late. Let me get my bow, I will hunt with you."

The proud warrior of Gondor stared uneasily at the retreating form. He knew Aragorn had guessed his most dangerous secret, yet did not seem repulsed, nor pleased to have discovered a flaw in his rival. Perhaps he was plotting to use the secret to turn Denethor against his son. But then why claim that the loves of men were the concern of no one else, not even their king?

Perhaps, like many of the elves, Aragorn believed that all men were weak. Their loins could awaken at the slightest provocation -- the sight of a joust or the smell of clean linen. Lord Elrond might have his own reasons for wishing Arwen separated from her mortal lover, but that did not explain Aragorn's unexpected sympathy.

By the time Boromir reached the others, Aragorn had collected his bow and quiver and was strapping a knife to his belt. "Stay and mind the little ones, we will go in search of food," the Ranger told Legolas. And indeed, as they hunted and skinned the meat, they spoke of routes around the lake and the need to replenish their arrows, and Boromir very nearly forgot to keep his guard up.

"It has been long since I had a companion on my travels," Aragorn said softly, pressing a hand to the shoulder of Boromir, who glanced at him.

"Now you have eight."

"It is not the same. I have escorted many through the wilds, but most of my time is spent alone, outside the company of my own kind." Boromir stared in amazement, unsure of the warmth in the other's flickering gaze. "I know you do not trust me," added Aragorn. "You think I would stand in your place in Gondor. In truth, Boromir, I covet nothing that is yours save your esteem."

"You have that already," the warrior replied brusquely. And realized as he spoke the words that they were true.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Cruisedirector

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 12/06/03

Original Post: 05/15/03

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