2. Hope Tested, Waning
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and rolled down his face, but he let them fall unchecked. He cared not who saw him weeping; a grown man could be forgiven a few tears when bidding a friend farewell. Leaning forward, he kissed the cold brow of his comrade in arms -- his friend --- who lay dead in his arms.
The battle had been fierce, and many lives had been lost. Boromir, as captain of his men, felt each death keenly and the burden of each loss was heavy. But this loss was especially hard to bear -- Amdir, his companion from childhood, was dead, lost defending his captain from the enemy.
"Amdir!" he lamented aloud. "You were fond of reminding me that your name meant 'hope' and that your task in life was to make me smile! You looked at life with joy, always; what will I do now without you to remind me that there is some hope in the world? My hope is diminished, now that you are gone from me!"
Boromir bowed his head and let his tears drip down upon the torn tunic of his friend. At length, his weeping was spent and he released the body, setting it down gently. With a sigh, Boromir reached for the sword which lay beside him, cast down in the agony of the moment of finding his friend dying upon the battlefield.
Harthad, another word for hope... he thought fleetingly, gazing at the sword in his hand. May I never lose you, for then my despair will be complete!
A gentle hand upon his shoulder caused him to look around. It was his brother.
"Here is Amdir's mount, Boromir," said Faramir quietly. "We shall carry him home where he will be entombed with all the honor due him."
"Thank you, Faramir," replied Boromir heavily, as he rose to his feet. "I... I shall miss him!"
"I know," answered Faramir, compassion in his voice. "Do you need more time with him?"
Boromir shook his head.
"No. I have let him go."
"Have you?" queried Faramir sternly. "You are our captain, Boromir, and you carry the weight of great responsibility. It is right and fitting that you mourn our friend and all those who were lost today -- but be careful you do indeed let go the weight of the dead, in time. If you do not let it go, the burden of all you have lost will become too great to bear, even for your strong shoulders!"
Boromir heaved another sigh and smiled sadly.
"As usual, you speak the truth, my brother!" Boromir declared, turning to face Faramir. "I have lost my friend, but I still have you, my best friend, and for that I am very glad! There is still some hope in the world while we are together!"
He gave Faramir a quick, hard embrace, then turned away from the body of his friend. "Come, let us take him home."
Panting for breath, Boromir wiped blood and sweat from his eyes. He had a moment to breathe in the midst of battle, but only a moment; it was not going well, for he and his men were surrounded and outnumbered. Boromir struggled vainly to quell the fear rising in his heart at the thought that it might be too late to retreat back to the western shore.
He gripped his sword Harthad more tightly, as the glancing moonlight shone bright upon the blade. Out of the darkness he could hear the words of memory speaking, the words of his grandfather upon his deathbed:
"The hope of your people now lies with you, Boromir. May your own hope remain unbroken."
Hope! he thought with a grimace. What hope can there be today?
He looked out over the moonlit hill upon which he stood, as if seeking a sign that would give him some hope, yet nothing was to be seen but the teeming armies of Mordor and the dead bodies of soldiers of Gondor littering the ground.
What hope can there be today? Boromir thought darkly. We are outnumbered! There is no hope that we can defeat this foe! It is over. I have little hope now that we shall see the light of day...
Boromir was suddenly knocked aside by a blow to the head, and his sword flew from his hand. As he lay momentarily stunned, a huge form loomed up and a spear glinted in the moonlight. A Southron spearman towered over him, poised to strike. Boromir rolled to avoid the blow of the spear, and the Southron fell sprawling atop him, knocking the breath from his lungs. Mailed hands were suddenly at Boromir's throat; he grappled with the man as he gasped for air. Boromir kicked out furiously, and his boot made contact with flesh. The Southron grunted and his grip shifted, just enough that Boromir was able to pull away and roll free. As he rolled he felt Harthad under him and grasped at the sword desperately. He thrust the blade upwards as he came out of his roll, and the Southron, leaping to grab at his foe, fell full upon the sharp point of the sword.
Boromir rolled free of the body and wiped his blade clean on the robe of the dead man.
A hand under his arm pulled him to his feet at the same time that a voice in his ear spoke; it was Grithnir, his lieutenant. Boromir felt an overwhelming sense of relief at the sight of him alive, and a bit of hope returned to lighten his heart.
"My captain, I fear we are outnumbered!" Grithnir gasped. "We are losing ground, even as fresh reinforcements arrive to swell the enemy's ranks! Should we stand or fall back?"
Boromir had already made the decision; he needed only enough breathing space to give the order.
"Fall back!" he cried. "Fall back to the bridge at Osgiliath! I shall sound the retreat! Get you away and tell as many as you can to make for the bridge with all speed. I shall follow directly. We will regroup and make another stand there! There is still hope that we can delay them long enough to defend the bridge and throw it down."
"Yes, my lord!" cried Grithnir, and he sped away.
There is still hope, thought Boromir as he grasped his horn and set it to his lips. Not much hope, it is true; but there is a little. And a little is enough for this day...