Change One Thing, See What Happens

Steward and the King, The

23. Inheritance

Having returned to the city, Boromir emptied his quarters and put it all in Denethor's suite, packing what little amount of personal belongings his father had into one large trunk to be sorted later. When he realized how far Pippin's quarters were from the citadel apartments, he reassigned him to his own old rooms. "Make it ready for Frodo and Sam to join you. It can be honored guest quarters for hobbits and dwarves."

He also had the King's quarters opened and prepared, along with a guest suite for Theoden and Eowyn. Boromir was grateful that as the heirs of Mardil had not claimed the royal title of 'King,' neither had they usurped the royal chambers. Rather they had been left empty and then, over the centuries, the delicate artworks were packed away, and the bed chambers sealed though the larger rooms continued to be used, respectfully, but only as council chambers. In the time when the Kings reigned the rooms' uses had varied at royal whim. And now, Boromir mused, what had been carefully unchanged might be, would be, changed, and changed again.

-*-


"Where is his staff?" Boromir asked Beregond, at the end of an errand.

They went then to the carpenter's workshop near the citadel's stables. The carpenter showed the new staff he had made, freshly painted white. He apologized that the broken staff could not be mended.

Boromir assured the carpenter he had done right. "I would not use Denethor's staff even if it were whole. It was foresworn."

Beregond had thought he had come only to check it was ready, but Boromir took the white staff in his hand, and said solemnly, "Until the King return" and brought it with him.

There was no more ceremony. But word of his words spread quickly and Boromir was often gladly hailed as he made the city ready. "He took the new staff," each man told the next. "He named his father's oath false and had the broken wood burned."

All in the city were caught between speech and keeping silent. They wanted him to stay, both Boromir as much as Elessar, Elessar the King, and Boromir his servant. Boromir almost made a jest of it, avoiding any answer. Then people were afraid and stopped the questioning, as if they had forgotten and only now remembered that until a short month before Boromir had walked among them as presumed Heir. From childhood to manhood, that had been his future.

The newly returned populous was confused, for they could tell there was something amiss, though they could put no words to it. Those people of the city, who had only briefly left or who had stayed throughout the siege and who, with Boromir, had endured the shadow and Denethor's cold rule feared for their new Steward. Would it be that he would do right but his heart also break, as his father's heart had broken? Boromir himself did not know, he realized. So he tried not to think on it.

-*-


He sat often with Theoden or Eowyn, and he sat without speech. The future was soon to come, but Boromir was paused, caught -- uncertain.

It seemed to Theoden that Boromir wished his advice and counsel, though the words were difficult to find. Therefore the older ruler spoke first. "Your family ruled the land in trust, until the King's return," he asked, and Boromir nodded. "You also hold the crown?" he continued.

"It is in the care of those who tend the tombs."

"Should you not see to that matter yourself?"

"Yes." Boromir's head lowered a moment, then he met Theoden's eyes with his own.

There was a pause, then Theoden smiled. "That is a first step. The next will be easier."

-*-


Early the next morning, Boromir summoned Pippin. He pointed down the stairs and outside. "I have a task for you. You will come with me and keep me honest."

Boromir was pleased that Pippin had arrived wearing his guards uniform. He kept his pace slow so the hobbit did not need to hurry. They passed through the guarded doors of Rath Dinen, the first unlocked by the warden, the others by the street's silent guardians. At the street's end, under the precipice of the mountain, was the mansion of the Kings, and there was held the crown last worn by Earnur. For more than nine hundred years it had lain in wait but the jewels and metal had been kept well polished. When he lifted it, it weighed less than it seemed it should. In the dim light of the tombs, his fingers could feel detailing his blurring eyes could not see.

Pippin did not need to touch the ancient metal to be awed. He had meant not to speak at all, but it was too much. "That's to be Strider's crown?"

Boromir smiled as he hushed him, glad to have his company. He set the crown back down, and, in a quiet voice, ordered a box to be made that he might carry it to its owner when the time came.

-*-


Thereafter Boromir took breakfast most mornings with Theoden. One morning, when Pippin and Eowyn entered to give greetings, Theoden said to Pippin. "There are matters to see to."

"I have to bring Merry's body home," Pippin answered.

Theoden then said to Eowyn "After the coronation, you will accompany Pippin to the Shire, to answer his family's questions and to explain the happenings of this war, which has only lightly touched that land. You and he disobeyed my orders and rode to battle. This, I will forgive you for you saved my life, and more -- you helped kill the King Nazgul that no man could have done and so made a great blow against the Enemy. Yet, as yours was the responsibility, you must carry the news."

She agreed quietly, but Pippin stirred and, at Theoden's look sputtered, "Not dressed like that!" and then struggled to explain. Eowyn was wearing a borrowed gown and looked more to be a lady of the court than a warrior. Esmeralda, Merry's mother, was quite a proper lady. The idea of war was not going to be easy for her. How could she accept a lady telling her she was in the battle that killed Merry?

Eowyn stood, and would have left the room, but Boromir motioned her to stay. "You'll have a sword" he told her, then said to Pippin, "court clothes are not riding clothes."

Pippin apologized, seeing the steel in her eyes. "I'm sorry. I don't want to do this. I have to." He looked at the floor and hugged himself. "Esmeralda will believe," he muttered.

It was a grim satisfaction to Eowyn in her sadness to have a reason to keep a sword. Boromir ordered traveling clothing to be made for her that was women's dress, but also in a warrior's style. 

-*-


What happened across the river in on the field of Cormallen was rest and healing, and waiting for ample time for the news to spread so the proper actions could be made with the proper witnesses.

After many days of strengthening sleep, Frodo woke to find Gandalf beside him. He thought he had gone beyond the circles of the world. Therefore, when the wizard told him Sam was there his remorse was great. His own death was of no matter for him, but Sam had done no wrong and deserved no punishment. "I killed him -- " Frodo confessed, bitter tears flowing from his eyes. "I failed you."

"No, my friend," Gandalf answered gently. It took him a long time to convince Frodo they all three lived.

-*-


The next day, with Aragorn, he was told of the deaths of Legolas and Merry. It hurt too much to speak of Merry at all. He found more words for Legolas.

"Gimli didn't know Gandalf had returned," Frodo said. "He didn't know Legolas had died."

"Did he speak of him?"

"Occasionally. He wanted his elf eyes and nimble feet to find a path down the hills by Rauros. Then ... he said he was bored and wanted his company. Did Legolas talk of Gimli?"

Aragorn sighed sadly. "Once, as he died, a greeting. He hoped for all of your safety. He was unhappy, at Parth Galen, to say goodbye. Had he survived the orc attack I think he would have spoken more. But he was dead before sunset. I'm sorry."

Frodo sniffled, and then shuddered with sad memory. "His eyes burned."

"Gimli?" Aragorn asked.

He nodded. "He said his axe was hungry and impatient. Was that battle lust? I think so. Faramir -- " His eyes filled again with tears. "He -- " He couldn't find the words. "... not the same."

"His blood was cold, not hot?"

Frodo nodded, looked back at Aragorn and pushed the words out. "But he still -- Isn't it? I'm not a warrior, but I've heard it said. Isn't it that hot blood makes a wound's hurt less, or not at all? The fire is so strong that it obscures all else?"

"The fire has its own pain, the loss of control," Aragorn spoke gently. "The rage has been in me many times this last year. Such burning leaves deep scars, and is difficult to exit. I can understand why Faramir might not have wanted to die in that mood. To regret what he must do, rather than rejoice in a last act well done."

"He forced himself. Gimli walked ahead, eager. He helped him, I think. Something shone gold on the side of his head. I don't understand that. It was Faramir's decision, but at the last, Gimli took the lead. Faramir needed his example."

"We recovered Faramir's horn and Gimli's ax. They were killed not captured, or you would have been stopped. They both fought hard, by the marks that were left."

"We heard the alarm. That's when Sam and I ran. The plain was empty, silent, ash choked. We heard it, orc laughter. They laughed."

-*-


When Sam woke, Aragorn and Imrahil were there, as well as Gandalf and Frodo. After Gandalf convinced Sam he was, indeed, returned, he asked questions. Frodo didn't remember much of the run across the bridge, but Sam might know more. He explained about the gold braided into Gimli's hair; it had been the use the dwarf had made of Galadriel's gift. "It gleamed, like a star. Like the glass the Lady gave Master Frodo. He shouldn't have ..." Sam paused, then his eyes filled again with tears. "No. It didn't matter. He wanted to be seen, didn't he?" He held tighter to Frodo's hand and turned his head into his pillows.

"Did Faramir give you any message?" Imrahil asked quietly.

Sam blinked, looking toward the voice. "I don't know you."

"I am kin to Faramir."

"Oh. No. I'm sorry, Lord. They said no words to us when we parted, for friends or family. We all thought we would all die. Frodo wouldn't've let them do it otherwise, would you Master Frodo?"

"Don't call me 'master.' No."

"I understand," Imrahil murmured. "A small hope," he smiled sadly. "He ..." he began, but stopped himself. There was a long pause, then he took his leave.

Gandalf placed a hand gently across Sam's bandaged hand. "My dear hobbit." He stared a long moment, then looked away. "You should rest."

Frodo also moved to leave, but Sam took his right hand with his left. "I want to see the others," Sam said, and his eyes went wide when Frodo stiffened, counting who was not present.

"Pippin is fine," Gandalf said firmly, but he could give no comfort about Merry or Legolas.

"I wish you could have waited till after another sleep to ask that," Frodo said as he hugged him, being careful of his bandaged hand.

-*-


Imrahil was the next courier, and he brought to Boromir, with other papers, a letter from Aragorn concerning what he had learned from Frodo and Sam. In a quiet voice he said, "This is family business," and had Boromir clear his afternoon. Imrahil started towards the steward's quarters, but Boromir halted in the court and motioned for the letter. His uncle handed it over reluctantly, repeating that he had been there when Sam spoke of the path from Henneth Annun and Faramir's last hours.

Boromir broke the seal on the letter. It was written in Elessar's hand. After a brief greeting and expression of sorrow, the lettering changed, as if the writer had paused for several moments choosing the words. The guardcastle was at full strength, the message began.

He pushed down the images and could read no more. Brother! Shaking off his uncle's hand he walked blindly forward. He knew the euphemism for what it was, even if Elessar had not used the traditional words. There is no way to be sure, the grieving family would be told, but the circumstances suggest -- Thus it had been for too many of the fallen, the long years of this war. The Guardcastle was full, and they died. Quickly, as was their intent, but in the presence of too many orcs, in a place that was a dessert of stone. Bones, it must have been: shattered and burnt. Up to the citadal walls he went, gazing South, not East, and he searched in vain for healing memories.

-*-


Eowyn and Pippin came looking for Boromir, for they heard a rumor he was pacing the walls in great distress. Imrahil sat in guard at the sole entrance to where he was and would not let them enter.

"He does not want company. When he is ready, he will ask. He would have given everything for his brother's safe return. He died. Still he must give all."

Eowyn then asked Imrahil if Sam had relayed any messages, and Imrahil had to say there were none, for no one had expected for any to live to bring such messages out. Faramir had prayed for Frodo and Sam to be rescued, so the Eagles reported, and that was the last of what could be known of the two who died. Galadriel had sent the Eagles to Mordor after she heard Faramir's prayer in a dream.

The conversation was difficult for Imrahil to say and it looked to be that he also wished for solitude, but would have no one else guard the last of his sister's family. The manner of Boromir's reaction had an equal effect on the prince, for he loved his nephews dearly. And he well remembered how he had felt at the death of his sister, their mother. Until Boromir found his voice, lmrahil likewise lost his. Silently Boromir paced the citadel walls in the places the older residents soon recognized as the haunts the brothers had walked as children. He occasionally spoke to his uncle, and once to Eowyn, but he was mostly alone. It was two days before people other than his staff could dare approach him.

=== end chapter ===


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.

In Challenges

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Author: julifolo

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/05/14

Original Post: 06/26/02

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