1. Hope Born, Tested
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and he rubbed them away angrily. He did not want his father to see him weeping and think him weak or childish. Resisting the urge to sniff, he instead wiped his nose with the back of his hand. Setting his face stoically, Boromir pulled back his shoulders and stood tall, hoping it would help him control his emotion -- but to no avail. Another tear rolled down before he could stop it. Beside him, Denethor made no sound, nor gave any indication he saw Boromir's sorrow. What his father's feelings were now, Boromir could not tell.
Boromir's grandfather Ecthelion was dying, and Boromir was desolate. It was only a matter of time now; chamberlains waited respectfully in the shadows while the family took leave of him and spoke their final words together. Soon now, preparations would begin for Ecthelion's journey to Rath Dínen, the Silent Street, and to the House of Stewards, where he would be laid to his final rest.
The old Steward now lay propped up with many pillows, weak and ill, yet still alert, master of himself and master of his own end. He was dressed in his best tunic, surcoat, and cloak, and though he could no longer bear the weight of his mail armor, he had girded his sword about him for this last farewell. He would not go until he had said all he had to say to those he loved. Boromir stood near his father, and watched as Denethor leaned close to listen to a few murmured words. His father's face was still and stern, but Boromir thought perhaps he could see the glint of unshed tears in the lamplight, and he took comfort in the knowledge that he was not alone in his grief. Further beyond, in the soft shadows cast by the light of the lamp, he could see his mother sitting, cradling his little brother in her arms as she wept silently into the blanket that covered sleeping Faramir.
"It is not evil to weep, child," said Ecthelion softly, as he reached out and drew Boromir close to his side. "Even a grown man can be forgiven a few tears when bidding a friend farewell."
Ecthelion stretched out a weak and trembling hand to wipe dry the fresh tears that spilled down Boromir's cheek.
"Do you remember when I told you I would give you my sword when you were old enough and I had finished with it?"
"Yes," replied Boromir, swallowing his tears. "I was too small then, but now I am six."
"Yes," said Ecthelion, with a fond smile. "You are six, and that is old enough to have a sword of your own. You may have my sword now, for I am finished with it. Your father will not need it, for he already has a fine blade. It will comfort me here at the end to know that my sword goes to the hand of a warrior who will care for the people of Gondor as I have cared for them. Though you are young, I believe you are ready to take on that burden of service to your people."
Boromir nodded wordlessly, his tears forgotten in the solemnity of the moment. The old Steward lifted his hand briefly to Denethor, who reached forward silently and unfastened the sword belt from around his father's waist. Gently he slipped the sword and belt out from beneath the frail form. Kneeling, Denethor held out the sword to Ecthelion, who grasped it by the hilt and drew it slowly from its sheath. The sword glinted brightly in the light of the lamps as it was laid lengthwise beside him on the bed, and Boromir caught his breath in wonder at the sight of the blade that was to be his.
"Can you lift it, Boromir?" Ecthelion asked.
Denethor rose and returned to his place at the head of the bed, leaving Boromir to stand alone at his grandfather's side. Boromir gazed at the bright blade longingly, wondering if he would be strong enough to lift it, for the sword was as long as he was tall. Yet he did not hesitate. Grasping the hilt carefully with both hands, Boromir lifted the sword from the bed. It was very heavy, and the blade tip dipped and struck the floor before he could bring it up again to hold the sword upright. It took all his strength and effort to hold it steady without dropping it, but Boromir flushed with pleasure when he heard his father's murmur of pride. He dared not look beyond him to see what his mother thought, for fear that if he took his eyes from the sword, he would let it fall.
Denethor nodded once to his son, then stepped up quickly, respectfully lifting the blade from his hands. Boromir let it go with a mixture of reluctance and relief. He watched as his father replaced the sword at Ecthelion's side.
"Well done, child," said Ecthelion. "You handled the sword well, though you are yet small in stature. You shall be a great warrior and will wield this blade mightily in defense of your people."
"Does the sword have a name, Grandfather?" Boromir asked, as he reached out to stroke the flat of the blade.
"Yes, Boromir," Ecthelion answered. "It is called Harthad, a name which means hope. It is not perhaps the finest sword ever forged, nor the most ancient, and it has no magical qualities, other than that magic that comes when a sword is wielded in might for a good cause. But it is a good blade, and has served me well. May Harthad serve you just as well, and be a sign of continuing hope for our people as you lead them. For you will be a great leader of your people, Boromir, when you are fully grown; a captain such as Gondor has not seen in many a year. May you wield Harthad with strength and honor, and together may you prove to be the tool that stems the tide from the East that threatens to engulf us all."
Ecthelion laid a feeble hand over Boromir's as the child ran his small fingers along the unsheathed blade.
"It is a heavy burden to lay upon a child. Are you ready for it?"
"I am ready, Grandfather. I will grow tall soon, and learn how to fight and I will be a good captain, I promise."
Ecthelion nodded gravely. "Very well, then. Take the hilt and speak after me, Boromir."
Boromir set his hand on the hilt of the sword and spoke solemnly after Ecthelion.
"Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Boromir, son of Denethor of Gondor."
"I hear your oath," said Ecthelion, "and I acknowledge it. But I am not the one to whom you will swear, nor am I the one to whom you owe your service."
He turned his face to Denethor, who laid his long white hand over Boromir's small one and spoke the remainder of the oath.
"And this oath do I hear and acknowledge, Denethor son of Ecthelion, now Lord of Gondor and Steward of the High King; I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valor with honor, oath-breaking with vengeance."
When the oath had been taken, Harthad was returned to its sheath and placed in Boromir's arms. He hugged the sheathed sword to his breast as his throat tightened with tears -- not tears of sorrow now, but tears of wonder and pride and excitement. Ecthelion gazed at him, and nodded his head in understanding.
"Remember your sword's name, Boromir; it is Hope. The hope of your people now lies with you. May your own hope remain unbroken."
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and he rubbed them away angrily. His sorrow was very great, but this was no time to show weakness. He must remain strong if he was to provide support for his bereaved father and his bewildered brother.
His mother was dead. Her fear of the darkness and the Shadow in the East had worn away her will and desire to live, so that she had withered. No strength had remained in her to fight the illness which had finally carried her away. Finduilas was gone, leaving her men alone and lost.
Boromir stood within the Embrasure of the wall that edged the uppermost level of Minas Tirith. He liked to stand here and look out over his City, feeling the wind on his face as he imagined himself a great captain leading his men through the Gates to do battle with the Enemy. But now, he turned his face away from the City, and looking eastward to the land of Mordor looming on the horizon, he drew his sword.
"My hope is lessened now, though not yet broken!" he cried aloud to the Shadow. "I can still fight you! You have taken my mother from me, and brought great hurt to my father and my brother. I cannot bear to see them in such pain! I hate what you did to my mother, darkening her days and stealing her joy. I will fight you with all my strength and be avenged for what you have done to us -- I swear it! I will not rest in my pursuit of you until the shadow is gone from my land!"
He was only ten years old, but he would see it done.