4. Hope Lost, Renewed
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and he moved to brush them away, but he could not lift his hand to his face, he was so very weary. He hated the thought of anyone seeing him cry, for he did not want to appear weak. But there was no one to see him here, and his weakness or strength no longer mattered.
Is this how it feels to come to death? he wondered fleetingly. Somehow, I thought dying in battle would be more glorious than this -- more noble. Such glory must only be reserved for those who die well, saviors of their people whose oaths are unbroken. It is not for such as I, who have failed utterly and have no hope left! It is fitting that I die alone...
Tears burned him once more, and again he moved to wipe his eyes clear, but there was something in his hand weighing it down. He blinked until his vision cleared, and saw his sword was still gripped in his hand. The blade was broken and dull, stained black with Orc blood. It took him a moment to recall what had happened.
"Harthad!" he cried, but his voice was only a whisper. "Alas that you are broken! Now my hope is indeed gone. My grandfather's faith in me has proved ill-founded. If I could not even stem the tide that threatened two small companions, what did I think I could possibly do against the full force of Mordor? It was folly to think that there was ever any hope..."
He closed his eyes and began to drift away into darkness, but was drawn back by the sense that someone approached at a run. Boromir opened his eyes slowly, and saw Aragorn bending over him.
"Ah, you have come, Aragorn," he whispered. "At least I shall not be alone at the end. That boon is more than I deserve!"
"What are you saying?" Aragorn replied gruffly, trying in vain to keep fear and dismay from his voice. "You deserve great honor! You have won a great victory here, conquering many foes..."
"Nay," interrupted Boromir. "I have failed and my honor is broken. Let me tell you what I have done!"
"Tell me then," said Aragorn. "Tell me, if it will ease your heart. But I promise you, I will take exception, if you belittle yourself and your deeds beyond what is your due. And while you speak, I shall see to your wounds."
"What use in that?" Boromir sighed. "I am not worth healing. My end is near. Let it come!"
"No!" answered Aragorn sternly. "If it comes, so be it; but I will not let it come unhindered, without any attempt to slow or stop it. What kind of healer would I be if I let the wounded one make such a decision for me? Particularly one who carries such a burden of hopelessness in his heart. I see that much, at least!"
"A burden? Yes, it is a burden indeed. Perhaps... perhaps it will be lighter for the sharing..."
Aragorn listened as Boromir haltingly poured forth his anguished confession -- his succumbing to the lure of the Ring, his attack on Frodo, his inability to save the Halflings from capture. As Boromir spoke, Aragorn sensed an even greater despair lay behind the warrior's lament, one that had been growing unchecked for many days -- if not for months and years.
"So proud I was that day my sword was given into my hand," Boromir murmured. "So proud to be called worthy to carry the hope of my people, to bring them through the darkness into the light. I knew I was the one to save them, to bring them help and hope beyond what they had imagined possible. But what have I brought them in the end? Nothing! Worse than nothing -- I have brought dishonor! I have failed. It would have been better if I had never taken up sword and shield in defense of Gondor, if all I accomplish in the end is failure and defeat!"
Aragorn leaned forward and kissed Boromir's brow tenderly.
"You have indeed been carrying a heavy burden, Boromir," he said sorrowfully. "Forgive me for not seeing how it weighed you down and sapped your strength; I should have been there beside you to help bear it -- and I was not. I have failed as surely as you in this! But does our failure make all that we have done or attempted useless or worthless? I think not. Your choices have not all been wise, but does that make you any less valiant? You have served well and faithfully all your life, and accomplished much for your people..."
"What good is my service if I fail in the end?" Boromir interrupted. "I am no more use than a broken sword, fit only for discarding."
"A broken sword can be mended, Boromir, and mending does not diminish it. Who should know that better than I?"
Boromir made no answer.
Aragorn looked at him thoughtfully for a long moment.
"Are you familiar with the Ballad of the Sword, Boromir?" he said at length.
"I know it not," replied Boromir faintly.
"It is a song I used to hear sung in one of the halls of Men where I once served. It tells the tale of a warrior who lies dying after a great battle, lamenting his sword, which has broken in his hand. The sword speaks to him and comforts him in his despair."
"What... what does the sword say?" Boromir asked, his eyes straying to the broken hilt in his hand.
"These are some of the words in our tongue, as I recall them."
Aragorn continued inspecting Boromir's wounds, as he began to recite:
Once I was bright and keen,
Leading the charge into the midst of the enemy,
Finding my honor in dedicated service.
Now, notched and broken, I lie on your breast,
A warrior's blade, light extinguished.
Once I was your favored tool
Used mightily in defense of our people.
We fought for those under our protection;
We gave all we had to serve them.
Even now, you do not release me, though I am broken.
Have I failed you by breaking?
Is the war lost because of my weakness?
Nay! For no blade wielded so
Could ever regret its accomplishment!
If I be damaged, broken,
What does it matter?
I have done the task I was called to do,
Completed that for which I was made.
No failure mine, but victory,
Though the battle rage on without me.
Brokenness brings pain,
But that was my duty and privilege.
What use to our kingdom
If I had remained in the sheath
Safe, but useless?
There is no service in safety.
Better to be in the field
At the forefront of the battle,
My brightness stained,
My sharpness dulled by combat,
And not by disuse.
For even a broken sword can still serve;
If not for the battle, then as a rallying cry.
Even a broken sword can still stem the tide,
Resulting in victory,
Though blade is spent.
I am broken, but for a reason;
I am damaged, but not in vain.
I am content to pay the price,
If my sacrifice may make others bold
To take up their swords and fight with all their might.
Yes, other blades there will be
To take up the cause, when my part is finished.
Take heart, my warrior!
Though in the end, I am broken,
My brokenness is honorable!
To break in good service is to finish well.
Aragorn fell silent.
"Harthad..." whispered Boromir. It was as if his own sword had been speaking to him.
"Do you understand what I am trying to say to you?" asked Aragorn quietly.
Boromir nodded wordlessly.
"Brokenness can be honorable," Aragorn went on. "To break in good service is to end well. It is not failure, nor should you lose your hope because of it. You are not alone -- other blades there are to take up your cause."
He laid his hand on the hilt of Andúril and smiled.
"Your sacrifice will not be in vain, Boromir. My sword and my oath shall see to that. Minas Tirith shall not fall!"
"Other blades there will be," Boromir murmured. "Other blades to take up the cause, when my part is finished..."
"Think not that your part is finished just yet, my friend," replied Aragorn sternly. "I have not given you leave to go just yet. I believe there is yet hope for you, even amidst such brokenness. So put aside your despair, if you can. You carry a burden of failure that cannot be forgotten, but there may still be a chance for you to make things right with Frodo. You have done much already to redeem yourself!"
In spite of his pain and grief at his failing, hope stirred unaccountably in Boromir's heart. He had indeed failed; nothing could change that. Yet if there was a chance he might live to see Frodo again, that was something worth hoping for. He did not know if Aragorn was consoling him simply to ease his final moments, or if there truly was a chance he could be saved. Nevertheless, he was comforted, for the promise of Aragorn still rang in his heart.
There will be no failing! he thought, and a great weight of care was lifted from him. The White City will not fall, and aid will come to my people! Aragorn will see to that. If I live to aid him, and fulfill my oath to my people, that is good; if I am lost, no matter. I am no longer alone in this; the full burden of the task is no longer mine alone. Aragorn is here, he is with me -- he has sworn it! The battle is not yet lost, though I no longer be a part of it.
Boromir looked at the hilt and broken blade of Harthad, and blinked back a tear as he recalled how bright the sword had been that day he had taken his oath upon it.
'Remember your sword's name, Boromir; it is Hope,' his grandfather had said. 'The hope of your people now lies with you. May your own hope remain unbroken.'
His hope had been broken, slowly but surely, over the long years of toil and striving against the Enemy. Yet perhaps that hope might be restored, even as his broken blade might be repaired and made new. Time would tell, if any time remained to him.
Boromir closed his eyes and let darkness take him. Yes, time would tell...
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.