Promises and Pledges: 4. Breaking

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4. Breaking

He raced through the trees, the cries of orcs crashing in his ears, yet not loud enough to silence the horror in his own mind. He had tried to take the Ring from the Ringbearer whom he had sworn to protect. He had attacked Frodo. Worse, he had accused the little one of working for Sauron and called down curses upon him and the other halflings. And now, it seemed, his foolish utterings were being answered.

Even if he found Merry and Pippin in time, he had doomed their quest and damned himself. Galadriel had said that hope remained as long as the company held true, but Boromir had betrayed them. He had been unable to return to the others after Frodo fled; he could not face the Fellowship.

He could not face Aragorn.

Boromir could no longer feel the presence of the Ring, but he could still hear the words it had murmured to him, growing ever louder since they had left Lothlórien. It had called his name and promised power, safety, strength. It had offered him the means to protect Minas Tirith, the redemption of the land, the pride of the people, the Stewardship of Gondor. All this he might have resisted. Then it made another promise.

Frodo had tried to warn Boromir that he was not himself, just as Aragorn had tried, that day on the mountain when the Ring placed itself in his path. He knew now that Frodo's stumble had been no accident; the Ring had sought him out, inflaming the suffering of his icy feet and stiff muscles even as it whispered of triumph, protection, salvation. Such a small thing. Yet in the end it destroyed him with a vision of something even less substantial. The dawn of a new age, the end of all the suffering Boromir had known, all that he had witnessed in his father and had seen throughout his land, arising from a single, shining source.

Gondor's King. At his side. Forever.

It had been the furthest thing from his mind when he encountered Frodo in the woods. But seeing the little one's suffering brought back his own pain from the day before, when he and Aragorn had argued bitterly about whether to bring the Ring to Minas Tirith. Before Gandalf's fall, Boromir had been certain that he could convince the man to turn west with him, to defend Gondor at his side in the coming battle. He had as much as told him so, in Lothlórien, but Aragorn had said nothing, and Boromir realized that the Ranger might intend to accompany Frodo into the fires of Mount Doom rather than to fight for his birthright. Then he tried to persuade Aragorn to convince the others to rest in the White City before going to Mordor, but Aragorn would not hear of it.

Boromir thought only of his home. When they passed the Argonath, Aragorn had sat straight in his boat, the semblance of the kings of old overlaid on his features. He should have been Gondor's king, yet he followed a halfling on a fool's mission planned by an elf. Boromir would have served him gladly in Minas Tirith, would have commanded armies and won victories in Aragorn's name, but the man held stubbornly to the charge placed on him by Elrond and Gandalf, serving other people, other lands.

Among the trees, Frodo shrank away from Boromir, looking around for Aragorn as if the man were his guardian. It angered Boromir, as did the hobbit's wide eyes and pinched mouth, the sorrow, the fear. Frodo had no right to expect Aragorn to escort him to Mordor, no more than he had the right to bear the Ring, save by chance. *Boromir*, a voice whispered to him as he spoke to Frodo, at first calmly, then with growing anger. The dark visions of Galadriel replayed themselves in his mind. The White City shrouded in darkness. His father mad. His brother dying.

Then a surge of brightness, eyes like blue glass, a mighty sword. The hand of deliverance. The prophecy fulfilled. Gondor's king at his side. Forever.

Now that dream brought a surge of bitter despair. Boromir had been raised to place duty and pride before his personal desires; thus he had always served Gondor with an undivided heart. He did not expect to find happiness beyond what victories he might win, in the gratitude of his people, and most of all in his own honor.

Then he met the only man who had ever inspired in him a will to serve. Isildur's heir had won not only the loyalty of the Steward's son, but his passionate devotion. Boromir could no longer divide his feelings for his home and its rightful liege. The evil had seen his weakness and preyed upon it. Aragorn had tried to warn him, but foolishly, he had not not wanted to understand the danger. So he betrayed the oath of fellowship and the kingdom he was sworn to serve.

Perhaps he had guessed before that it must end like this. Perhaps he had even begun to hate Aragorn at the moment when he first began to love him.

He could see Merry and Pippin now, surrounded by orcs and even more loathsome creatures. Raising his weapon, he charged, but he did not have his shield -- he had left it on the ground near the boats when he had followed Frodo into the woods. The first of the vile foes fell in a bloody heap. In the heat of battle, Boromir could not hear the voices in his head, but he was badly outnumbered. And something was wrong -- these orcs were not fighting the weaker enemy. In fact they hardly seemed interested in fighting. They were circling the little ones.

Aragorn! He wanted to cry out, but knew he had no right to summon that name. Instead he blew the Horn of Gondor, unsure whether his profane lips could call the armies, now that he had forsaken his quest. "Gondor will see it done," he had promised Frodo, but Gondor had failed. He had failed. He could not protect the hobbits now.

Where were the others? He had not come far since they came ashore. Merry and Pippin could not have run great distances on their small, brave legs. A sea of orcs rose before Boromir, threatening to drown him. He swung his arm. One orc was stabbed in the belly, another downed by the backthrust of his blade. Screaming, falling all around him, there were too many of them, too much blackness. Blackness that he had brought inside himself, and hence among them all. But he could not think of that, not now. The Horn again. They would come. They must.

Another orc down. The Hobbits swung their smaller blades. Boromir grasped at hope, at the dream to which he had no right: Gondor's King, at his side, forever. He would have tried to spare Aragorn this battle, but he was afraid, not for himself but for the little ones who stared in terror as they watched him spin and duck under the filthy metal of the enemy. He jabbed one orc in the eye with his elbow but had no time to kill it, caught one more on his sword and tossed it aside. Too slowly. Something slammed into his shoulder. He thought at first that it must be another orc and moved to shake it off. He choked in agony.

An arrow. When he did not try to inhale, it was like a fierce kiss...the taste of blood in his mouth and painful pressure against his chest. Boromir could not stop to think about it, could not even take the time to nod assurance at Pippin's stricken face. He took up his sword again, kept swimming through the sea of orc though he could no longer breathe. Another dart knocked him to his knees. He gasped, and his chest caught fire. It was like the pain that had assaulted him in the inn when Aragorn first gazed at him.

Gondor's King. At his side, forever.

Aragorn had not stopped then and he would not stop now. Boromir could do no less. With a roar he swung his sword again, clashing against metal, slicing into orcs. When the final arrow dropped him, he thought at first that one of the jagged edges of the enemy weapons had cleft him in two. From his knees, he could only watch as orcs swarmed by him, siezing the valiant hobbits who tried to raise their swords in vengeance.

Boromir knew that he would never rise again. He looked up into the eyes of a vast dark creature -- a beast of earth and rot, aiming at his head. Now he would die among the orcs on the soil of the land he had failed.

A crash, a cry. Like an eagle, the shape of a man flew into the beast. Gondor's King, at his side, though the foul creature nearly took Aragorn's head off before he could regain his footing. Boromir's vision clouded while he sank back against the hillside, unable to stay upright though he was frantic to shout warnings. It was already too late for himself, he knew; the thought of Aragorn dying needlessly in battle for him hurt him more than his wounds. Each breath was torture, more difficult even than resisting the Ring. He forced his eyes to stay open, focused on the shapes swinging past the blurred tips of the arrows protruding from his torso.

A cry, a crash, and the beloved face came into sharp focus above him. Blood leaked from Aragorn's lip and from a gash in his forehead; sweat shone on his face, his eyes glittered with tears. Gondor's King. At his side. But Boromir had a duty, the last thing he could ever do for the Fellowship, and though he wanted only to plead for forgiveness with his last breaths, he forced out the necessary words: "They took the little ones!"

"Be still." The faint pressure of the well-loved hands, barely perceptible above the force crushing his chest, moved from his shoulder to his face. He felt more pain from that gentle touch than from the sharpness buried deep in his lung, for it reminded him that he would never again feel the welcome weight of Aragorn's arms pinning him down, embracing him as they had in Lothlórien, offering solace and joy. He had given up any claim on Aragorn earlier when he attacked the Ringbearer.

"Frodo...where is Frodo?"

Though time had expanded for Boromir, with each breath a new trial, it seemed that Aragorn hesitated, choosing his words with care. "I let Frodo go."

"Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the Ring from him." The confession did not surprise the other man, who like the Elf-Queen seemed to read Boromir's thoughts. "Forgive me," he implored, knowing that it would change nothing. "I did not see it. I have failed you all."

"No, Boromir. You fought bravely. You have kept your honor." They were words he might have hoped to hear, but he did not believe them.

Gondor's king moved a hand to remove one of the arrows buried deep in Boromir's body, but the warrior stopped him with a gesture and a groan. "Leave it!" The wounds draining his life offered the only peace left to him, the dark nothingness where knowledge of his guilt and shame would die along with him. "It is over." He would not live to see the destruction he had wrought, the suffering that would be Aragorn's inheritance. "The world of men will fall, and all will come to darkness, and my city to ruin."

Aragorn gripped Boromir's fingers tightly between his own, refusing to allow him to slip away. "I do not know what strength is in my blood," he admitted. "But I swear to you, I will not let the White City fall. Nor our people fail."

The pledge pierced Boromir as deeply as the arrows. It stunned him that the other man would offer such an oath, after Boromir had broken his vows, betrayed his Companions, shattered the Fellowship and brought the shadows to his beloved land. His eyes swam with tears that blurred Aragorn's features, the last image he wished to see as a living man.

"Our people." Every word brought sharp new anguish deep in his body, blood in his throat, numbness in his legs. Yet he repeated, "Our people." A promise for the Fellowship, for Gondor, and for all the race of men.

With the very last of his strength, Boromir reached for his sword, and Gondor's King placed it in his hand. It no longer mattered whether he died a soldier, but he would not pass without swearing loyalty to the man who had come so close to his own darkness yet had not yielded. He drew the hilt of the weapon to his heart, unable to feel his own fingers, scarcely able to sense Aragorn's breath on his face and the warmth of his palm against his skin. The world contracted until it held no pain -- only steadfast eyes that held an undying promise.

"I would have followed you, my brother." That for the many small acts of kindness, the quiet talks and shared concerns, the hand extended in friendship and the heart shared in love. "My captain." For Aragorn had become their leader, the hope of the Fellowship and the race of men, the head of Gondor's armies and of the White Tower now lost to Boromir. He had but one prize remaining, not a gift, but something earned and given freely, with no trace of the darkness that had gripped him for so long as he had known Aragorn. With it he gave his world into the other man's keeping, in dawning trust and faith that his devotion had not been misplaced.

"My king."

He would have offered a vow of love as well, but his battered lungs refused to draw another breath, and the veil of peace fell over him. Boromir surrendered to it with Aragorn's majesty filling his vision and arms holding him fast.

Gondor's King. At his side. Forever.

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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