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Son of Gondor

by Lineawen

Chapter 51

After their meal on the lawn by the Silverlode was finished, and Celeborn had told them all he desired about their journey, Galadriel rose from the grass, and offered a cup to Celeborn.

"Now it is time to drink the cup of farewell," she said. "Drink, Lord of the Galadhrim! And let not your heart be sad, though night must follow noon, and already our evening draws nigh."

After Celeborn had drunk from the cup, she brought it to each of the Company, and bade them drink as well; then she stood aside, as Celeborn came forward with Haldir and other Elves of his house. They unwrapped and gave to each of the Company a hooded cloak, made according to his size, of the light but warm silken stuff the Galadhrim wove. It was hard to say of what color they were; the cloaks seemed to be grey as the twilight under trees, and yet if they were moved, or set in another light, they were green as shadowed leaves, or brown as fallow fields by night, dusk-silver as water under the stars. With quiet ceremony, the Elves presented the cloaks to the travellers, and fastened each one with a brooch like a green leaf, veined with silver.

"Never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people," Celeborn said. He drew his thumb over the brooch as he fastened it at Boromir's throat. As he stepped back, he looked at Boromir intently. "May these cloaks help shield you from unfriendly eyes."

Boromir returned his gaze steadily, but inwardly he felt dismay; he swallowed to relieve the sudden dryness in his throat.

Does he mean more than he says? Boromir wondered. Why are these Elves so cool towards me? They are the ones who seem unfriendly!

"We have drunk the cup of parting and the shadows fall between us," said Galadriel, as she stepped forward. "But before you go, I have brought in my ship other gifts which the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim now offer you in memory of Lothlorien." Then she called to each in turn.

"I have no greater gift to give you than the gift you already bear," she said to Aragorn, touching the gem at his throat. "But here is a useful thing, a gift of Celeborn and Galadriel to the leader of the Company." She gave him a long curved knife in a dark sheath. Aragorn slowly slid the knife from its sheath and held it up for all to see; it was an ancient blade, inscribed with letters in a flowing Elvish script.

"The inscription on the blade reads in your tongue, Foe of Morgoth's Realm," said Galadriel. "May this weapon serve you well in your fight against the servants of Morgoth."

Aragorn bowed low and turned away, as Galadriel beckoned to Boromir.

"Boromir of Gondor, there is little I can give you, that you do not already have -- a sword of high lineage, a dagger given in love, a cloak to replace the one you left behind in battle well-fought. Yet a gift I have for you, as a remembrance of your time in Lorien."

"I thank you, Lady, but I need no gift to remind me," Boromir replied proudly. "I will not forget my stay here."

"Even so, you would honor us by accepting this," said Galadriel with a gracious smile, as she handed him a fine belt of gold, fashioned like linked mallorn leaves. "My gift for you is of little use as a sword belt, or as a weapon for battle; it is a token of our esteem only, befitting your station."

Boromir took the belt; it seemed slender and frail in his hand, but the links were strong and well-made. The gold flashed in the sun and his eyes were dazzled momentarily.

"Thank you, Lady," he said again, inclining his head respectfully.

Go in peace; do not lose hope. Boromir thought he heard the words echo in his mind as he turned away. He turned back quickly, but Galadriel only smiled; it seemed she had not spoken. He nodded again and returned to stand beside Aragorn.

Galadriel turned then to Merry and Pippin and gave each of them a dagger on a silver belt with a clasp wrought like a golden flower.

"These are daggers made by the Noldor in ancient days," she explained. "They have already seen service in war. I fear that you two will have need of such weapons ere your journey is over."

She smiled down at the two hobbits, as they admired the blades with expressions of awe, and not a little anxiety.

"Do not fear," she said to them, as they bowed and stammered their thanks. "You will find your courage."

Calling Legolas forward, she greeted him as kin and presented him with a bow such as the Galadhrim used, longer and stouter than the bows of Mirkwood, and strung with a string of elf-hair; with it went a quiver of arrows. Legolas lost no time in testing the bowstring, listening raptly to its faint music as it was drawn.

To Sam, Galadriel gave a small box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for single silver rune upon the lid.

"In this box is earth from my orchard," she said, "and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril, but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Few gardens will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lorien."

"And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?" said Galadriel kindly, turning to Gimli.

"None, Lady," he answered. "It is enough for me to have seen the Lady of the Galadhrim, and to have heard her gentle words."

"Let none say again that Dwarves are grasping and ungracious!" Galadriel cried to those around her. She turned back to Gimli and smiled down upon him.

"Yet surely, Gimli son of Gloin, you desire something I could give? Name it! You shall not be the only guest without a gift."

"There is nothing," said Gimli, bowing low. He hesitated, then spoke again quickly. "Nothing, unless it might be -- unless it is permitted to ask, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine!"

The Elves stirred and murmured with astonishment, and Celeborn gazed at the Dwarf in wonder, but Galadriel only smiled.

"None have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous! How shall I refuse, since I commanded you to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?"

"Treasure it, Lady," Gimli answered, "in memory of your words to me at our first meeting, and as a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days."

Galadriel in response cut off three golden hairs, and laid them in Gimli's hand. "These words go with the gift," she said. "I do not foretell, for all foretelling is now vain: on the one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope. But if hope should not fail, then I say to you, Gimli son of Gloin, that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion."

"And you, Ringbearer," she said, turning to Frodo. "I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this." She held out a small crystal phial; it glittered as she moved it and rays of white light sprang from her hand. "In this phial is caught the light of Earendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out."

She leaned forward and kissed Frodo lightly on the forehead. He took the phial silently and bowed. Boromir thought he saw tears in Frodo's eyes as he turned away.

***************

Galadriel accompanied them to the landing, where Boromir and Legolas finished loading the boats with the last of the parcels. Aragorn moved to help them, but Galadriel drew him aside.

More secrets! thought Boromir, but before his mood could turn sour, Legolas in passing slapped him on the back in a friendly manner.

"We will be on our way soon," said Legolas with a smile. "You must be pleased to be starting again towards your home; I know you have chafed to be away."

"Yes, I am glad," replied Boromir with a broad smile, forgetting his irritation. "I do not wish to offend you, Master Elf, but I must tell you that I have had enough of this place! There are too many trees here! My heart yearns to see the wide plains of Rohan and the Pelannor, and to feel stone under my feet again instead of leaves."

"Ah, that is a pity!" exclaimed Legolas. "I had hoped to persuade you to visit my Mirkwood home after our Quest together is finished. But I am afraid there are trees there as well."

"No doubt," laughed Boromir. "Well, I will consider it, but only if you first come with me to my City. You will not have seen the like of it before, of that I am certain."

"I will come," agreed Legolas.

***************

At last they were ready. Legolas helped Gimli into the first boat; they had become good friends and had requested to be allowed to be together in a boat. Sam and Frodo were to go with Aragorn in the second boat. Frodo waited patiently to take his place, while Sam gathered his courage to clamber in; he was very nervous about the whole prospect of boats and being out on the River.

Boromir was to take Merry and Pippin in the third. He conducted one last check to be certain they had all the baggage, before he climbed carefully in behind the hobbits, who were already settled. Boromir picked up his paddle and pushed off towards the center of the watercourse. The boat glided forward and caught the current, and Boromir turned the boat to follow Aragorn.

The Elves of Lorien stood on the banks and called farewell to them as they passed. Galadriel stood alone and silent under the trees, watching them float by. As they drew level to her, she raised her hand in blessing and farewell.

The Silverlode passed out into the currents of the Great River, and their boats turned and began to speed southwards, down the wide hurrying waters. The River suddenly swept round a bend and the banks rose upon either side, and Lorien was hidden.

***************

The afternoon sun shone on the water on both sides of the boat, and glinted on the silver belts of the hobbits who sat in front of Boromir. He glanced down and saw his own golden belt gleaming and flashing in the bright light. His heart missed a beat; it was too much like the sun shining on that other golden thing that he was trying so hard to ignore...

"Merry," said Boromir suddenly. "Take the paddle for a moment."

Merry willingly reached back and took the paddle, and dipped it into the water; it was large for him and a bit awkward, but he managed it with little trouble.

"What are you doing, Boromir?" asked Pippin, craning his neck to see behind him. "Why are you taking off the belt the Lady gave you?"

Boromir had removed the golden belt, and opening his tunic, he refastened it about his waist. He closed his tunic over it, and tightened his leather belt with a strange feeling of relief. He caught Pippin's worried glance and patted him reassuringly on the shoulder.

"The sun on the gold is bothersome to my eyes," he confessed. "Besides, it is safer inside. I do not quite trust the catch."

"Ah!" replied Pippin, satisfied.

"Do you want to take over, Boromir?" called back Merry.

"No, no, you are doing well," said Boromir. "Carry on."

As they proceeded down the River, Boromir gazed over the top of the curly heads of the hobbits, contemplating Aragorn's back in the boat ahead of him. He recalled the argument he had had with Aragorn before entering the Golden Wood.

Few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed, he had warned, but Aragorn had disagreed. It is perilous, Boromir had warned again; and Aragorn's response had not been comforting: fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.

Boromir sighed, and he knew not if it was with relief or with dread. Well, he thought, I have escaped; but not unscathed. Something has changed in me; I do not know what, but I am different now. I only hope no harm will come of it...