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Section XCI-Aragorn

I catch my breath and relive everything, every moment since leaving the lake’s shore. What could I have done differently?

Left the Company sooner... I am sorry, Boromir...

I startle at the sound of my name.

How did he find me? Boromir?

No... Aragorn. Reminiscent of a flash of lightning, I breathe a sigh of relief and regret the fleeting distrust.

Before I can stop myself, I blurt out the truth.

“It has taken Boromir.”

Do I see Boromir’s madness mirrored in your eyes as you demand the whereabouts of the Ring?

“Stay away!”

As if to show you, I step back.

Protect me? Boromir swore a similar promise... didn’t he? No matter. The Ring cares not for promises...

“Can you protect me from yourself?”

I watch the play of emotions across your face.

Bitterly, I wonder...

“Would you destroy It?”

My tightly clutched fingers gradually uncurl, revealing the golden treasure...

Do you hear It whisper? Suddenly I understand it is you who holds the greatest claim to It. You are Gondor’s rightful King: Isildur’s heir. Even so, do you recognize the danger Boromir did not?

Fear is swallowed; my desire to trust you stronger. An ache, deep within my breast, reaches for you, holding my opened hand steady, as you approach and slowly kneel to me... to me... or to the Ring?

My heart soars as you gently fold my fingers over It, pressing It to my chest, withdrawing your open hands, freeing me... and freeing yourself of Its claim...

Your words touch the very center of me, confirming what already I know of you. It would ease my weariness to have your aid. Yes, you would come with me... and yet, how much longer will you be able to resist Its call? My decision is made.

“I know. Look after the others, especially Sam. He will not understand.”

The sympathy in your eyes changes. Confused, I follow your gaze to Sting. I draw the blade from its scabbard already knowing it glows blue...

I understand your insistent command, yet I hesitate. Your voice grows more urgent.

What can I do in the end? Instantly I realize if I am away, then you, my protector, may attend to the battle at hand without wondering if I am underfoot or about to be cut in two or run through... and the Ring claimed by the servants of the enemy...

Will I ever be able to thank you for your service, and friendship?

No time. I run...