Steward and the King, The
Then on a day in May, tents were set up in the Pelennor a long distance from the walls, and the entrance to the city was closed. The guards would let no one in or out as preparations were made. Under the cover of darkness, Boromir crossed the gap and was taken to Aragorn’s tent, as he was expected.
“I have dreamed, Lord.”
Aragorn turned. Boromir didn’t know the sudden pain those words gave, the same words Faramir had spoken that morning on the river. “Yes?”
“My brother’s dream, to seek for the sword that was broken. It was gift from the West. They are pleased.” Boromir smiled sadly. “He gave me joy.” Then he made a bitter shrug, turning away to gaze at the pavilion wall. “Denethor again disowned me.”
“The night before his body died.” He carefully did not say “father.” “He cursed my brother the morning he left for Imladris, he cursed me the day we marched to the Black Gate. He entered my dream after the prophecy was done and said the same again to both of us. I do not know if he was always so cruel, but he died so.”
From the back, Aragorn put a hand on his shoulder. “That is hard, for memory.”
Boromir was weary. His sleep the last several days had been fitful. He found again a place where he could sit and speak without looking at Aragorn’s face. “It would have been better, if one of us must die, that I had died and he lived -- not only for Eowyn’s sake.” Once I put the crown on his head it would not be right for me to say such things. “Forgive me, this is not easy. He could have served you better.”
“Your blood wars against itself.”
“Yes,” he whispered.
“You have and you will serve with honor. I would rather have you both alive.”
His answer was laughter, a sound somewhere between longing and frustration. “I make my life hard. I could, like the city, be joyful. Honor is comfort.” He breathed in deeply. “What is to be done?”
Frodo had paced himself to complete his work in sufficient time, but he hadn’t counted on quite so many interruptions from the tailors and seamstresses so he was only now tying off the binding, and putting on finishing touches. The text was only a single quire of pages, luckily, so sewing and tying would suffice and no glue was necessary to make a proper hobbit smallbook. Anything larger he would not have attempted.
When Boromir had returned to Minas Tirith, he had sent a clerk, a sheaf of paper, a humble request, and Faramir’s book along with healers, kitchen and stable boys, tenting and supplies back to those who camped at Cormallen. He begged of Frodo that he would dictate to the clerk the translation he and Faramir had made of the elvish poem during their river voyage. Frodo was glad to do this, both for the sake of the brothers, and also because he knew Bilbo would want a copy of the elvish original. For the first step, he asked the clerk to make a copy of the elvish words with a wide space between the lines. He then began to tell the Westron words to put between. Within a short time he regained enough strength that he could do the writing himself. These worksheets he would bring back with him to Rivendell and then the Shire. He reserved enough sheets to make the fair copy for Boromir, and asked the clerk to have made a blue-dyed sheet of parchment cut to the needed size for the binding. He had finished the lettering before the camp was packed for travel. Earlier in the day they had arrived and set up tents inside the broken walls of the Pelennor, and Frodo made his final check of the text and folded the sheets and the parchment cover together. He punched holes in the crease and used a bone needle to thread in the linen cord. He had not yet met the Steward, knew him only from his brother’s stories, but he thought Boromir might have a hard day of it tomorrow and if he could put the two books into his hands, that might give a bit of comfort.
But Sam was of the opinion he had neglected his dinner and entered the tent awkwardly carrying a wooden plate filled with an appetizing selection of apple slices, cheese, and sweetbread. The plate and the tent flap required two good hands and he was losing food to the ground.
“Sam! What are you doing?” Frodo put down his work. “You should have asked for help.”
“Master, I don’t need any help,” he answered tartly, and then continued muttering. “I’m supposed to be helping you, fine help I’m able to give you, with all these people fussing over me, getting in my way. What do I want? I want peace and quiet.”
Frodo rescued the plate and the food before he scolded. He tried to keep it mild, but Sam’s obstinacy made him increasingly testy. “Don’t call me ‘Master.’ I’ve got two good hands, you should let me use them!”
“It’s not right. Don’t you do this, fussing on me.”
“Sam, you’re a hero, you’ve saved us all. You’re hurt, you shouldn’t keep fighting us about this.”
“I’m no hero, it was the Lady. It’s not right you should be serving me like you do.”
“I won’t stop. So it would be better for you to accept what won't change.”
Sam put the offending hand into as much of a fist as he could manage. “This is nothing. I’ll be fine. For months and years that evil Ring was gnawing at you from the inside out. You shouldn’t pretend it didn’t.”
Frodo eyes went dark and his voice became quietly intense. What Sam said was true; he would be soon healed well enough. It would take a longer time for Frodo, but it would be possible, if he did not let his thoughts stray. “Yes I was hurt. Yes, it still hurts. When I help you, that helps me forget.”
“Master -- ”
“Don’t -- ” He turned away. “You hurt me when you name me that, can’t you see? I wanted to be Master, I claimed it for my own.”
“You didn’t -- ”
“You tricked me. Like Bilbo tricked Gollum. But not alike.” He held to that. Bilbo gave It up, with help. So can I. “You did not take the Ring from me by force. Somewhere down in my heart I knew you were lying when you told me, ‘Take it off, keep it safe.’ I knew your intention was to unmake it. Deep down, I knew. If I truly wanted to keep the ring, I would have to fight you as well as the wraiths. So I didn't want it.” His whispered. “I don't.”
“It's evil, Mas-- Mr. Frodo.”
“Yes. It was,” he said forcefully. “Evil, and gone, and I'm glad, Sam. Thank you.”
Knowing Boromir’s good intent, Aragorn choose to let him find the path through tradition easiest for his heart to bear. Boromir would bring the crown outside the gate, and speak to those who watched. Aragorn would be crowned Elessar. Boromir confirmed Steward, and all lords ride up to the citadel.
Yet even those few words were more than he could gracefully deal with. In the middle of an awkward silence, unpleased that his voice was in rebellion, Boromir looked at the floor as he asked, “Do you yet want me, am I fit to be Steward?”
“You said you would stay, and I was glad. Where else in Gondor could Boromir be but in the seat of Mardil?”
He covered his face with his hands and said nothing.
Aragorn waited. Finally he stood, stepped close and put a hand on one shoulder. “Boromir?”
“ ‘The hands of the King are the hands of a healer’?” His breath dragged in, shuttering. “I need to be healed. I have not slept in days.” But he did not lower his hands nor look into Aragorn’s eyes, though Aragorn waited a long time for him to do that.
Sighing, he released Boromir’s shoulder and sat back on his heels, and he now looked up at the other man’s face, a few inches higher than his. At the moment the touch was removed Boromir lowered his hands and opened his eyes.
“I would do more harm than good,” Aragorn said. “You resist.”
Boromir licked his dry lips, then whispered, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to.”
“I know.” He stood and returned to his chair, and changed the subject. “I would I could give Sam his due,” he said ruefully, “but I fear he will run in terror and embarrassment if he is not well guarded. I will ride with Sam before me, and Frodo shall ride before Gandalf.”
== end chapter ==
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