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Friends in Small Places

My Brother. My Captain. My King. by Amarok


Friend or Foe 

Summary: A few insights into Boromir’s thoughts, fears, and hopes during the journey of the Fellowship – movie-verse, with some added ‘missing scenes’. Inspired by and written for the Teitho-challenge ‘Friend or Foe’.

Disclaimer: They all belong to JRR Tolkien and Peter Jackson. The title is taken from the movie. No money is made with this story.

Competently beta-read by Chris – many many thanks!

Warning: Well, I assume everyone knows how the journey ends for Boromir…

Rating: T





My thoughts are troubled, while I trudge through the almost blinding white snow. I can still feel Aragorn’s penetrating stare on my back. Would he really have raised his sword against me, if I had refused to give the ring back to Frodo?

For a moment, narrowing my eyes in protection against the bright almost blinding sunlight, I question my motives. But then an almost pleasant shadow seems to fall over me. My eyes hurt less, I can see better now and I feel how my agitated mind calms.

What I said to Aragorn is true. I do not care about the ring.

I am not under any spell. It can not be. I am stronger than that. Isildur’s bane shall never become Boromir’s curse.

+:+:+:+:+

Again we are at a crossroad in the dark caves and tunnels of Moria. Once more Gandalf is not sure of the way. The four hobbits sit huddled together nearby. Merry and Pippin try to make light of the situation and their fears by easy banter, about food, as usual. With a fond smile, I encouragingly nod at the youngest member of our group before my eyes stray to the ring-bearer, and darker thoughts occupy my unquiet mind.

I loathe being in these caves. The darkness I mind not, but in my eyes heading for the Gap of Rohan would have been the best choice by far. Why have they given in to personal feelings of fear and predomination, instead of following reason? Why do they not listen to me?

The quiet sounds of pacing feet disrupt my musings. Aragorn restlessly prowls just at the edge of the circle of light Gandalf’s staff illuminates. Tall and proud he keeps himself; nothing of the almost shy man I first laid eyes on in Rivendell is visible now. A ranger he truly is, completely in his element on this journey, out in the wild, out in danger and peril.

But in a city he would fail, a small voice whispers in my mind. Different talents are needed to survive political manoeuvres in endless treaties than if one is out hunting or tracking. Once more I quiet this line of thoughts, though. When deciding to join the Fellowship, I also decided to become part of them, befriend them if possible. All of them.

But this time bonding comes not as easy to me as it normally does. Perhaps the reason for that lies in our diversity. We are people of several different races, after all. I see Gimli and Legolas struggle with each other also. Or perhaps I am just tired from the long journeying and from the many worries over my homeland, so I judge some of my companions harsher than I normally would.

Getting to know the hobbits is easy enough; my offer to teach them the basics of sword-play has been well received, and we had many a happy hour while exercising. Only Frodo's eyes sometimes show any distance, and I am equally hurt and concerned by that. Concerned for reasons I do not dare to explore further. So I try to ignore both feelings.

My eyes turn to Gandalf. His staff shines in the darkness. It is our only source of light. We have prepared a few improvised torches but will use them only in dire need. The wizard sits as if frozen, and the only thing I can see at this moment is an unsure old man. Surprised I frown at that thought. I truly like Gandalf, and I have seen his power at work. I know Faramir holds him in high regard. My father not, though, he thinks of him as a manipulating greybeard only.

Next to Gandalf sits Legolas. I am not sure yet if the elf feels drawn to the only source of light we have, or if Gandalf has positioned the mighty archer near him in case Goblins will find us. Never shall I understand how an elven mind works. To be honest, they frighten me. As fascinated as my little brother is with them, I never held any interest in meeting one of the firstborn. Legolas' forceful defence of his friend at Elrond's council has done nothing to change my attitude towards elves for the better. Still, I have to admit, Legolas is a very valuable warrior, loyal almost to a fault, extremely skilled with his bow - and he has a great voice. Thinking of the long humorous song he has gifted us with only last night still makes me smile. The complicated ballad and the many references to food in it have even managed to relax our most anxious member, Pippin.

With the dwarf, who sits next to me, I have bonded well enough though, to my surprise. We share a love for ale, and even while we have not brought any along, we spend hours talking about different brands we both have come across during our lives. He is silent now, and it is easy enough to guess where his thoughts have gone. What we so far have encountered in Moria is not at all what he expected. And yet, he still holds out hope, refuses to give in to his fears of what else we might find.

Suddenly, Gandalf speaks, “Aragorn, would you travel down one of the paths for some length, and bring back tidings of what you find?”

The pacing abruptly stops. Aragorn turns his head like a dog who finally manages to catch the scent he so desperately was searching for. His eyes glint, and he gives a sharp eager nod. Legolas is at his side in a moment.

But Gandalf speaks again, “Legolas, Gimli, I would ask the two of you to seek out the other path, if you will. Boromir can go with Aragorn.”

I see several confused faces and know my own brow is furrowed in surprise as well. Aragorn recovers first, winks at Legolas and whispers something into the elf’s ear that none of us, save perhaps Gandalf, can understand. Legolas chuckles softly and walks over to Gimli. More hesitant, I also move. Wordless, I grab one of the torches, light it, and then I follow the ranger down the pitch-black path.

+:+:+:+:+

For half an hour we walk in almost oppressive silence. My thoughts are dark, even darker than the unyielding rocks at our left side, and the deep bottomless abyss to our right. Suddenly, I slip and tumble against Aragorn. I try to counterbalance, and at the last moment I manage to grab a hold and steady myself. But Aragorn is gone. Before me is only the dark chasm.

For a moment I stand frozen. Then I hear a soft grunt. Hastily, yet careful, I kneel next to the cleft and look down. Fingers of one hand pressed into a tiny fissure in the rock, Aragorn is dangling just a few feet below me. With his other hand he frantically searches for something, anything, to hold on to, but he has the presence of mind to keep his body still, to not struggle as to lose his precious hold.

Then he gets aware that I am watching him, and his eyes, huge and frightened, seek out mine. For long moments, we stare at each other. Even though not I am at the brink of death like he currently is, a thousand images run through my mind wildly. Gondor in flames, betrayed by Isildur – or is it Isildur’s heir? The white tree, as I have never seen it, in full blossom. Osgiliath, overrun by orc forces once more. My father, who once more tells Faramir and me how important it is to be a good steward - to be a better steward than a king could ever be.

And an image of the ranger flashes through my tumbled thoughts. I remember when I saw him first. Back then he was clothed in finest elvish gear, with a book in his hands, and a superior air around him that belied his almost shy behaviour. He was judging me then, I know it. As he is judging me now. His eyes burn through my soul, and I feel how I shrink before his scrutiny.

Who is he, to stare at me thus! A mere ranger only, despite what Legolas said at the council. If he falls to his death now, there will be no king of Gondor. My father will continue to rule, and I after him. With the aid of the ring even, if I could convince Frodo...

A violent shudder runs through me, and I feel as if a black cloud casts its foreboding shadow over me. Aragorn breaks the eye contact and continues his urgent, yet hopeless search for a better hold. His breath comes in desperate gasps by now, and his bloody fingers tremble from the strain it takes to support his whole weight. Still he says naught, does not voice the obvious, asks nothing of me.

And then Faramir’s face appears before my inner eye. My beloved brother. My one bright light in an ugly and harsh world full of battles. I love life, I love to fight and to drink with my men, but I love my soft-minded and yet strong brother most. If I am truly honest, I love him even more than I love my father. What would Faramir think of me, if he could see me now?

I lie on my belly, and reach out.

Grasp my hand, Aragorn!"

His head jerks up again, and his face betrays his surprise. He has not expected me to come to his aid. Anger at the momentary betrayal – his or mine, I am not sure – mixes with a surge of joy within my heart. Inappropriate as it is, I can not suppress a proud grin. Have I indeed managed to shake this seemingly untouchable ranger, to truly surprise him? Did he really think I would let him fall without offering help? Have I come that close to it? The notion frightens me, and I push it away, concentrate on the rescue instead.

Moments later he is lying next to me. Still he sucks in air in urgent loud gulps, and he shakes from head to toe. Minutes pass. We speak not. After a while, he sits up and takes care of his bruised and injured hand. Then we both climb to our feet, intent on returning to the others, but suddenly he stands before me and puts his hand on my shoulder. His eyes are still wide and he allows me to see into his heart.

Thank you, son of Gondor.”

We never talk of it again, but during the next night a man and an elf keep a silent vigil over me while I rest, and I am touched by the gesture.

+:+:+:+:+

We fight and we are victorious for a while. In combined effort we manage to defeat the huge horrid troll and kill a seemingly endless amount of Goblins. Even the hobbits defend themselves valiantly. But our enemies are too many. In the end, we have to run.

And then Gandalf falls.

Pain and shock at the unexpected loss numb me, and I feel nothing while I hurry on, with Frodo in my arms. We are out in the sun at last, but its warming rays no longer can touch me. The world has become a gloomier place. And Aragorn leads us now.

+:+:+:+:+

I sit in the boat and for a moment feel too desolate to move. The others are already making camp at Anduin’s western shore and try to seek what little rest they can. Tonight they will cross the water and travel on at the eastern side.

Around me is only darkness, even though the day has not given way to night yet. Hope is lost. Galadriel was wrong. Why I ever considered trusting in the words of an elf witch, as Gimli named her so aptly, is beyond me now. But the emotions she evoked in me, when she held me in her gaze, were undeniable. As was the surge of trust she implanted in me. The faith did not abide past the borders of Lothlorien though; it could not survive in the bleak reality of the last days of travel.

Still, I almost can hear her words, her melodically soft and yet strong voice. Her parting gift was a promise, communicated to me from mind to mind. She also said, “Do not give up on hope.”

I know I am missing something. Perhaps she means hope that Aragorn will aid me in the end, and that together we would manage what one of us alone might not be able to accomplish. And yet, I can not stop to wonder if perchance she refers to the ring. In my eyes the solution lies in Frodo, in what he carries. But Frodo will follow Aragorn wherever the ranger will lead him, even into Sauron’s waiting hands.

How could there be hope left if Aragorn refuses to even consider accompanying me to the White City? He has made his position clear last night, and I still feel the burning anger that has not left me during this day.

When we neared the Argonath, I almost lost reason to the velvet cloak of hate that is consuming me almost whole by now. How dare the other man look upon them with such awe in his face, such love shining in his eyes? He is not worthy to enter the realm of Gondor if he is unwilling to give the capitol all the aid it deserves in its time of urgent need.

It was then that I resolved to take action on my own.

+:+:+:+:+

I speak of Frodo’s suffering, but what I really mean is that of my people. Or my own? After that I remember not much; dark madness claims me.

When I come back to my senses, I lie on the ground in the wood and stare at brown and golden leaves that seem surprisingly bright.

What have I done?

I stumble to my feet. I need to find Frodo.

But no, I should not. Finally I realise that I must keep away from him. For Isildur’s bane has become Boromir’s curse. I was not strong enough.

+:+:+:+:+

Long have I asked myself if Aragorn is friend or foe to Gondor, to my people, to my city, and to my family. Now, for the first time, I realize that I raised the wrong question. In the moments before my death, my eyes eventually are opened. The ring I thought of as solution led to my downfall, and the man I feared to be enemy is a dependable companion, and more.

Even when I admit my betrayal to him, the only thing I can see in his eyes is concern for me – and love. Bloodied, dirty, tears he would not let fall brightening his eyes, he is leaning over me, and for the first time I truly see him as all that he is. Ranger, friend to elves and men and all the other free races, even a brother to those who could accept this gift. A great leader. He came to my aid, even though I am unworthy. Even more, he forgives me. And he promises me to take care of Minas Tirith and our people. Finally, I understand Galadriel’s words. He is Hope.

A bright light is beckoning me, but there is one more thing I need to do before I pass on. He interprets my movement correctly and places my sword in my hand. So, I swear loyalty to my king.

Boromir’s curse is broken. My strength no longer matters and his is more than sufficient. I am at peace.

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