1. Waiting by the Water
He tarries by the water, though the greatest of those ships awaits him. He should be giving the order to depart, for time is of the essence; dawn approaches and with it, a new day of fear and battle. He is needed in Minas Tirith, needed by his people -- yet still he tarries, for the water calls to him. Something holds him here by the shore; something draws him to sit beside the the water, and wait.
He gazes upstream and thinks of Minas Tirith. He thinks, too, of Boromir, whose only thought had ever been for that fair City and her people. He heaves a deep sigh -- how he misses that Man! Though their time together had been short, Boromir had made his mark upon Aragorn's heart, and now a part of him echoes empty and hollow when remembering his friend and companion.
Aragorn casts his mind back to the day of Boromir's death, remembering all that took place as if it had happened only hours before -- how they had made a rough bier with their cloaks upon a frame of branches, and carried Boromir to the shore, with trophies of his battle with the Orcs and his own weapons found broken upon the field. He recalls how they laid him in an Elven boat, combing out his hair and arranging his clothing neatly, laying upon his lap the cloven horn and the hilt and shards of his sword. At his head they had set his shield, and at his feet, the swords and helms of his enemies.
Smiling sadly, Aragorn remembers how they drew their friend out into the water, casting loose the funeral boat so that the River would take him over the Falls.
"They will look for him from the White Tower, but he will not return from mountain or from sea," he had said. Boromir had taken his road, and they had chosen their own.
Aragorn sighs again at the memory. He has made his choice, and it has taken him upon many a strange road since that sad day. He knows he should make haste now, for his journey is far from complete and uncertainty still clouds the end of the road -- yet still he waits.
Dawn approaches -- or such dawn as there can be in the midst of the oppressive darkness that continues to flow from Mordor. The mist on the River begins to pull back in wisps and tendrils, and the sea birds can now be seen, dipping and wheeling over the wide waters.
At last he sees it, something approaching on the water from the north. It is a boat, but not one of the craft they have freed from control of the enemy. This is a small grey boat with a high prow, nearly invisible in the greyness and the mist of the morning. The boat draws near, and with a leap of his heart, he knows it, and understands why he has been waiting.
He wades out into the River in an attempt to draw closer to the boat as it floats by, but at the touch of his foot upon the water, the boat stays its course and turns toward him. He can see it clearly now: the smooth greyness of the wood, the high prow carved in the likeness of a fish leaping from the waters, and the Man lying at peace within.
It is Boromir. Aragorn gazes upon his quiet face with wonder, amazed at the peace and beauty he sees writ there. He reaches out a hand, then hesitates, and draws it back slowly, reluctantly.
"So it is you!" he says with a smile, but it is a smile that has tears of longing behind it. "I had no thought of meeting you again so soon, Boromir! You have tarried on your way to the Sea, have you not? Have you been saying a slow farewell to the lands you loved? Looking one last time upon the white walls of Minas Tirith, or perhaps taking your leave of kin you may have met upon the way? Were you waiting for me to come, so that we, too, could say one last farewell, before the long parting?"
Aragorn smiles fondly, as the tears he has been holding back begin to roll down his cheeks.
"I am glad you have met me in time, my brother," he says softly. "Be at peace! I go now to fulfill my vow to you. The White City shall not fall!"
It seems to him that Boromir smiles, though perhaps it is only a trick of the dawn upon his face, or the pale light that seems to shine from the boat. The Elven boat bobs and tosses upon the waves, hesitating, reluctant; a breeze freshens and stirs Boromir's hair.
Aragorn lifts his head as he feels the breeze on his face, cool against the dampness left by his tears.
"It is time for me to go, my friend," he says, "if I am to take advantage of even the lightest breeze for my sails."
Bowing, he presses his fingers to his brow, then kisses them and holds out his hand to the figure in the boat.
"Farewell, my brother," he whispers. "May you find the Mouths of Anduin safely, and the beaches of Belfalas, where even the sea birds will lament your passing. The Great Sea under the night stars awaits you, and my destiny awaits me. But I promise you this, Boromir; we shall meet again, one day, upon another shore..."
The boat turns, and drifts back out into the center of the stream, where it is caught by the current. Aragorn watches as it speeds away, watches until the boat is nothing more than a dark spot on the water in the distance. He watches until it disappears into the mist that still hides the River downstream.
He bows his head and sighs.
"Go in peace, Son of Gondor," he says solemnly, turning away. "We shall not forget you."
* I had the joy of being able to observe closely Boromir's funeral boat, when I attended the LOTR Exhibition in Indianapolis. That was where I noticed the carving of the fish on the prow of the boat, something that is not even apparent in any of the pictures I have seen -- though I have searched high and low for a visual image to remind me of that detail. I have been waiting for the opportunity to write it into a tale!
* The words of Aragorn as he says farewell to Boromir are suggested by a passage from HoME (vol. 7, "The Treason of Isengard"), which was not included in the account of Boromir's departure and journey to the sea as given in The Two Towers:
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