Where History Has Been Fixed
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Shadow of Himself: 5. V
Legolas and Gimli were stunned to silence, as much by this unburdening as by Boromir’s undisguised terror. At length, Legolas found words. “But it is not all darkness,” he said with gentle persuasion, “surely you must realize that it could not have been all so bleak?”
“Must I?” Now anger was seeping into Boromir’s tone. “I am told there was a war during those years I do not recall, and. I can only assume that I played some part in it, for I have many unexplained traces of battle on my body. But I have no way of knowing if that part was for good or ill, if I took part willingly or under some coercion, if I carried myself with honour or with cowardice.”
“You carried yourself with honour.” Gimli could not keep the emotional reassurance from escaping, and was struck with odd guilt when Boromir flinched.
“I do not want to know such things,” Boromir snapped. “This is what I have been attempting to tell you, Dwarf. It will do no good for me to hear, for it means nothing to me. My past is just that, and it has no bearing on what I do now.” His anger drained away, and he bolted the contents of the cup. “My life is here,” he told them. “It is the only life I remember, and therefore it is everything to me.”
Legolas had the urge to go to Boromir’s side, but restrained it. “There are those who would like to know that you are not dead --” he began, and Boromir cut him off with a shake of his head.
“Answer this truthfully, if you can,” he said. “What good would it do for them to know?”
“What good would it do?” Legolas repeated, rather confused.
“If you tell these people that I am alive, what good will it do?” Boromir said patiently. “If you were to tell them that I live, they would insist on seeing with their own eyes, much as you have.” Gimli and Legolas nodded in unison, for this was plainest truth. “How do you feel, knowing that I do not recognize you, knowing that you are strangers to me, and will never be anything else?” Boromir made a weary sound that was almost a chuckle. “I am clearly not blood-kin to either of you, and yet you look at me as if I were a brother found. If I have a brother, how would he take it, knowing that I do not remember our young days together, nor our parents, nor anything about our feelings toward each other? Would his pain at seeing that I do not know him, and do not wish to know him, be worth the knowledge that I am not dead?”
Gimli winced as if Boromir had struck him, a reaction that was not missed.
“Even when you do not speak, you tell me that I do indeed have a brother,” Boromir sighed, running a hand through his drying hair. “And yet the knowledge does not move me, nor does it shake my resolve in this.” He stood, rattling the tools that lay on the table. “I would ask you to leave now,” he said brusquely. “Imriel will be sick with fear that I have decided to forsake her, and I have caused her enough pain over the years as it is.”
Gimli and Legolas were both taken off guard by Boromir’s abrupt dismissal.
“You cannot expect us to keep this a secret!” Gimli exclaimed, outrage mixing with disbelief.
Boromir’s gaze was emotionless. “I do not expect anything from either of you,” he said matter-of-factly, “for you are unknown to me, and I have no hold over you to ask such a boon.” He crossed his arms over his chest, as if to shield himself, and aimed his next words at Legolas alone. “Although if I was ever your companion and friend, I would beg that you do not tell these people where I am, or that I still live. You two alone have already caused enough turmoil to me and mine -- I do not know that I could repair the damage that would undoubtedly be done to my life and my family if more like you were to appear on the doorstep.”
Tears stung Legolas’ eyes. “I do not know that I can keep such news to myself,” he warned. “I do not know that I could carry this knowledge, and not share it with those whom I see every day.”
“Then think on this,” Boromir suggested. “Why am I alive? If I was indeed dead, when you lay me out in a boat, how come I to stand before you now, breathing if somewhat scathed? How is it that in twenty years, you are the first to find me, and know me for who I once was?”
Gimli eyed the other two, not quite certain what Boromir was trying to say.
“There is only one conclusion I have come to,” Boromir said with unshakable faith, “and that is that it is the will of the Valar. Whatever their reasons, they have allowed me to live, taking my memories in payment. I am at peace with this, though it has been a long, bitter struggle. I am more than at peace," he amended. “I am happy. I have a beautiful wife who has loved me through times good and bad, two children who bring me more joy than I deserve, and a solid reputation as an honest craftsman.”
His eyes were pleading. “It has taken me years to build this life, and I do not want it disturbed. You have no loyalty to me -- you may do as you please. But if you send strange men to Pelargir looking for Randîr, I will know who they are, for they will have in their eyes the same longing for recognition that you bear; the grief that I see on your faces will be mirrored in theirs. And I will take my family, and we will move to another place, where we cannot be found. I cannot give these people what they seek, and I will not allow my family to be disrupted so that strangers may be comforted. I am not concerned with these people’s happiness -- my wife and children are my responsibility, and I will do what I must to protect them.”
Gimli’s heart ached at this gentle threat, at the idea that their companion of long ago would vanish and they would never know where he had gone, so soon after finding him alive, but he could see that Boromir meant every word.
No, he thought sorrowfully. This is not Boromir. Not any longer.
Legolas willed himself to calmness. “We understand,” he said, and lines of worry in the man’s face lessened. “But if you are ever uncertain --”
“I will not change my mind,” Randîr interrupted, stern yet not without compassion. “I have a life -- I do not wish to take on some other man’s. Now, please -- go.”
Unexpectedly, Gimli crossed the room and caught the startled man in a fierce embrace. “I am glad we stumbled upon you,” he said, choked with emotion, “even if you are not.”
He released Randîr, wiping at his eyes as he made for the door, and had it been another time, Legolas would have laughed at the discomfort on the Man’s face.
As it was, the Elf merely placed his hand on Randîr’s shoulder, for he understood Gimli’s impulse. “I am glad as well,” he said, marveling at the warm flesh beneath his, trying not to see in his mind’s eye that very flesh riddled with orc-arrows, “and I wish you nothing but continued peace, my friend.”
Legolas walked toward the door, and he had nearly reached it when Randîr’s quiet voice stopped him. “Is he well?”
Legolas did not turn. “Yes,” he answered, “your brother is very well.”
He stepped outside, pulling the door shut behind him. Gimli stood waiting in the lane, and neither spoke until they reached their lodgings.
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