Boromir lay quietly in the dark, trying to relax, but sleep would not come. He turned on his side and closed his eyes, listening to the sound of the wind rattling in the reeds by the water's edge. After a few moments, his eyes opened; it was no use. There would be no sleep this night.
He rose and stepped carefully to the edge of the camp, where Merry sat keeping watch. The hobbit was doing his best to stay awake, but even as Boromir approached, he nodded and his head dropped forward. Merry jerked his head up and shook himself, then looked up as Boromir knelt beside him.
"Go take some rest," Boromir said gently. "I shall take this watch."
"Are you sure?" asked Merry, eager to lay down and sleep, but not quite ready to leave his duty to another.
"Yes, I am certain," replied Boromir. "I cannot sleep, so I may as well take the watch, and let others rest who need it more than I."
Merry smiled gratefully and headed straight for his bedroll, while Boromir patrolled the perimeter of the camp to make certain all was secure. After stoking the fire, he wrapped himself in his cloak against the chill of the night, and settled himself on a stone near the shore of the river.
Boromir knew why he was unable to sleep. His conversation with Sam about Minas Tirith was fresh in his mind, though it had taken place the previous night, as were his memories of Faramir and the strange visit to the forest of Fangorn; they brought to mind other memories he was reluctant to recall. Too many memories had plagued him in recent days, memories which made him feel sad and lonely, and served only to fuel his anxiety and his doubts about the choices he saw before him.
He recalled something he had said to Sam the night before, almost as if he had just finished speaking the words:
"I am afraid for him, Sam; afraid for my father. If I were there, he might listen to me, let me help...but I have taken on this Quest, and now I am delayed! I should have let my brother come, as he wished...as they both wished! But no! What am I saying? My brother is where he needs to be; he will do what needs to be done; I know that. He is wise, and stern enough for the task ahead..."
Faramir had wanted to come -- he had claimed the quest as his; but Boromir had not allowed it, even though his father had seemed willing to let Faramir go. But it had been for himself to attempt, not Faramir...
Boromir pushed the thought away and tried to think on other things, but everything that came to mind brought him back to this: his father's need, his brother's concern, and the dream that had changed their lives.
With a sigh, he rested his chin in his hand and let the memories come...
"Seek for the sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells; There shall be counsels taken Stronger than Morgul-spells. There shall be shown a token That doom is near at hand, For Isildur's Bane shall waken, And the Halfling forth shall stand."
Denethor's eyes glittered, but he did not speak, as Boromir recited the words of the dream that had come to Faramir and himself.
"We had hoped you might be able to shed light on the meaning of the dream," said Boromir, in the silence that followed his recitation. "Faramir has searched the archives for answers which might aid us, but to no avail. We cannot interpret the meaning of the dream."
"You are wise in ancient lore, Father," added Faramir. "We thought you might have some knowledge which would help us decipher the strange words."
"You surprise me, Faramir," Denethor answered coldly. "I should have thought that with your knowledge of the archives you would have found a clue to this riddle. Unfortunately, its meaning is dark to me."
Faramir fell silent, and after a moment, Denethor relented.
"I do know this, though the knowledge may be of little use: Imladris was of old the name of a valley in the North. It is said that Elves dwell there, and with them their lord, Elrond the Half-Elven."
Faramir's face brightened and he stepped forward eagerly.
"This proves the dream to be true, then! If only we knew the meaning of the other words! Isildur's Bane...the sword that was broken..."
"A broken sword," mused Boromir aloud. "Could the dream be speaking of some kind of weapon that will help us in our need? Though I like not the reference to 'doom near at hand'! What do you think, Father?"
"A sword that is broken!" scoffed Denethor, and Boromir was surprised at the sharpness of his tone. Denethor's eyes glittered again, and Boromir wondered if his father knew, or guessed, more than he was saying.
"A broken sword?" Denethor repeated. "Useless! Absurd! This riddle is of no help to us! You will do well to forget your dreams and think more of the need of your City and your father."
"I do think of our need, Father, and you are wrong to dismiss this so quickly!" argued Boromir. "It is clear that this is important. Faramir has had this dream many times, and now I, too, have had this vision. It must have some meaning. You know I am not one to rely on such things, but this is different. We need to learn more of this matter."
Denethor frowned fiercely and sat glowering at Boromir. It was not often that Boromir opposed his father, but he stood his ground.
After a time, Denethor nodded reluctantly.
"What then do you propose?"
"Let me go seek out this place," pleaded Faramir. "I will find the answer to this riddle!"
Denethor looked at Faramir, considering, then shrugged.
"Very well, if you wish it. Perhaps it would be prudent to look into the matter, though the journey will be long and hard."
"No!" he said suddenly. "The way will indeed be difficult. Therefore, it is for me to do this. Faramir should not go."
Faramir turned quickly to face him.
"No, Boromir! The dream came to me; I should be the one to go!"
Boromir gripped Faramir by both shoulders and gave him an earnest, searching look.
"I know the dream came to you. I am not disputing that; but it came to me also. One of us must go; we have been chosen. But I am older and stronger, better suited for such a long journey; this task is mine."
"Of course you are better suited, I know that," Faramir sighed. "But I, too, am capable, and well able to take on such a quest. You are our Captain -- your strength and your wisdom are needed here in Gondor! Let me be the one to go!"
Boromir shook his head, and started to speak, but Denethor interrupted him.
"Your brother is right in this at least, that you are needed here, Boromir. There is no question of you going; I cannot spare you."
"Why not, Father? Faramir is fully capable of leading here, but for this journey, I am the better choice. I am the hardier, and I am the eldest; and it is fitting that the Heir of Denethor make this embassy."
"This is not an embassy!" Denethor responded angrily. He frowned at the staff in his lap, then waved his hand dismissively.
"What need have we of help from the North?" he said shortly. "That kingdom is no more, and if any still live of that line, they would still have little claim here. The Elves remain hidden and have no interest in giving aid to any of our race, should we even have any desire to ask it of them. No; I have changed my mind. You must forget this. It is not for us."
"Come, Father! I am the Captain General, I know what we need, and I tell you, we need help! You see far and know much; surely you know that we cannot go on much longer alone? You have been working my brother hard for just such a time as this, for a time when I am no longer here. I tell you, he is ready! Do not fear for our war with Sauron. Faramir will lead in my stead, and I shall go."
Faramir stepped forward and laid a hand on Boromir's arm.
"Boromir..." he began, then faltered.
"You are ready," said Boromir firmly. "You know you are."
He lowered his voice so that only Faramir could hear his words.
"What other chance will there be for you, my brother?" he said quietly. "You know Father will always choose me over you, as long as I am here; but if I am out of the way, you can show your strength as you take your place as the Captain of our men. You should make the most of this opportunity."
"I do not want you out of the way!" growled Faramir fiercely.
"I know that, dear brother! But this task is for me to do -- I know it in my heart! I must be the one to go. Do you understand?"
Faramir looked unhappy, but at last he sighed and nodded.
"I understand," he said heavily.
Boromir smiled encouragingly at Faramir, then turned back to face Denethor, who was watching the two of them closely.
"So, Boromir," his father said sternly. "You say not to fear for our war with Sauron, and that Faramir is ready to lead. Perhaps you are right; but again I say, what need have we of help from afar, offered in a dream? We need Rohan and the help of our allies! We need men who can fight, who are willing to lay down their lives for Gondor, who are willing to obey without question! What will these strangers know of our trouble here?"
"I do not know," replied Boromir shaking his head, "but it is not good to spurn help when it is offered, though it be offered in enigmatic dreams. And why should we not seek such help? You have men who will lay down their lives for you, and Rohan will come if the Riders can be mustered. But it will not be enough!"
"He speaks the truth, Father," said Faramir. "We are hard-pressed, and the men begin to lose heart. Help from any quarter would be welcome."
Denethor was silent, observing his sons from under lowered brows; then he stood abruptly.
"Do as you wish, since you will not be stayed," he said to Boromir. "Go North and seek this Imladris. You know our need; bring me what aid you can, whether it be weapon or army. Yet I fear your quest will be in vain, for I fear there are none left who will deign to aid us."
He turned to Faramir.
"I trust your brother is right, and that you are ready for this responsibility. The fate of Gondor will be in your hands until your brother returns."
Denethor strode from the chamber. Boromir watched his father go, then turned to his brother. Faramir was looking at him, a sad smile on his face.
"So, my brother," said Faramir. "You are to go, and I am to stay. So be it! I do not begrudge you this task; I only hope you will find what you seek, and return to me safely. I shall be Captain in your absence, and your faith in me will be justified; but my hope will ever be for your speedy return."
"I fear my journey will be long, and my return delayed, but I will come as swiftly as I may." Boromir put an arm around his brother's shoulders. "The truth is, we are both needed here. We are indeed hard-pressed. Let us hope, Faramir, that my seeking is not in vain, as Father suggests; let us hope that I find the weapon we need to end this interminable war once and for all!"
Boromir sighed, then gave his brother a little shake.
"Come, help me get ready for the journey. I want you with me until the last moment..."
Boromir sighed, as the call of a night bird broke into his thoughts, and the memory was lost.
Ah, Faramir! he thought, as he watched the glittering of the moon on the waters of the Anduin. What would you do in my stead? What would you do if you were here? I have found what we sought, the answers to the riddle. I have found the Sword that was Broken and the weapon we need; but will it all be in vain, as Father feared? Will the Sword come to Minas Tirith? Will the Ring? They seek to destroy it...
Boromir shook his head, as if to free himself of that thought.
Soon! he thought. Soon we will have to choose which way we shall take. What will that choice be, I wonder? I will do what I can, Father, to bring the help I promised. Then perhaps your burden will be lifted...
Boromir's eyes strayed to the jumble of blankets around the campfire, to where Frodo slept beside Sam.
"You carry a heavy burden," Boromir murmured; and he did not know whether he spoke of his father, or of Frodo -- or of himself.