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Son of Gondor

by Lineawen

Chapter 58

Boromir's watch that night seemed to him to last forever; Aragorn's silence behind him was as loud as a shout, and his own feelings of anger had not abated. At last, in the small hours of the night, they were relieved on their watch by Gimli and Pippin. Aragorn and Boromir were careful not to look at one another as they settled themselves for sleep.

But sleep would not come to Boromir. He lay staring up at the stars as he relived the argument over and over again in his mind. At first he had felt ashamed at the way he had lost his temper, but the bitter memory of Aragorn's words made him forget his shame in fresh waves of anger.

Your City, you said! thought Boromir resentfully. 'I would not lead the Ring within a hundred leagues of your City!' You claim to be our king, yet you disown us! Is it not your City as well, if you are king? You could have been the one to save us; did I not try to tell you that? Did you not listen, even then? You have turned away from us, even as you turn away from me! Now what hope is left?

Boromir rolled on his side so that he could see Aragorn where he lay wrapped in his blanket. Tears pricked his eyes and he rubbed them away angrily.

'There is no strength in Gondor that can avail us!' he fumed silently. You are ever careful to remind me of that, Aragorn! I have done what I could...spent my life for my people against an impossible foe...and you belittle those efforts! Of course there is no strength in Gondor! What strength is left in a kingdom that has been beaten to its knees? You were my last hope, you and the Sword you carry...

Boromir's heavy sigh was loud in the silence of the night. He glanced quickly at Aragorn, fearful he might awaken him, but Aragorn did not stir.

Why do you turn away? Boromir fretted sorrowfully. There is nowhere left to turn...no one left! You are a Man; I thought you would understand the needs of Men. But no! You seem to care only for the ancient things, Elvish things...we are nothing to you! Why? Why are you afraid to accept your duty to your people? Are you only strong when you rely on others for leadership? Gandalf? The Elves? Surely not! You are a descendent of kings -- perhaps -- perhaps even the heir of kings...Why, then, can you not accept your duty to us? Why do you leave me alone?

Turning away once again, Boromir rolled onto his back and stared up into the darkness. High up in the sky, clouds blew across the stars, and blotted out their light. The wind quickened, and with it came a drizzle of rain. Boromir let the misty rain fall on his face, and it mingled with his tears.

Now what hope is left? he thought again. The Sword will go East, and with it the Ringbearer. My last hope, walking straight into the arms of the Enemy...the Sword lost...the Ring taken! If only they would see that it is folly...folly to throw away...

Boromir lay suddenly still, as Pippin strolled nearby; he was walking up and down to keep warm in the rain. Sleep, Boromir thought. I must try to sleep! I will need my strength and my wits about me in the coming days...if the decision goes against me...

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As soon as it was fully light they set off, keeping as close as they could to the western shore. The rainy drizzle continued, but even through the rain the travellers could see the dim shapes of the low cliffs rising ever higher, shadowy walls with feet planted deep in the hurrying river. By mid-morning the clouds had drawn down lower, and it began to rain heavily. They drew the skin-covers over their boats to prevent them from being flooded, and drifted on; little could be seen before them or about them through the grey falling rain. They might, after all, be able to slip past any enemy that remained on the eastern shore.

The rain, however, did not last long. Slowly the sky above grew lighter, and then suddenly the clouds broke, and their tattered fringes trailed away northward up the River. The travellers could see more clearly now; before them lay a wide ravine, with great rocky sides to which a few twisted trees clung.

Boromir's mood had not been improved by the coming of morning, nor by the rain. He paddled in silence, ignoring the quiet chatter of the hobbits in front of him. He watched Aragorn out of the corner of his eye, frowning fiercely. Never once did Aragorn look in his direction! He was being ignored, and he did not care for it.

The channel grew narrower and the River swifter. Now they were speeding along with little hope of stopping or turning, whatever they might meet ahead. Over them was a lane of pale-blue sky, around them the dark overshadowed River, and before them, the dark hills of Emyn Muil, in which no opening could be seen.

Looking up, Boromir saw in the distance two great rocks approaching; great pillars of stone they seemed, tall and sheer and ominous upon either side of the stream. A narrow gap appeared between them, and the River swept the boats towards it. Boromir's heart skipped a beat.

At last! he thought, and suddenly his displeasure was forgotten. The borders of my country at last...

"Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!" cried Aragorn, at the same moment. "We shall pass them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as you can! Hold to the middle of the stream!"

In spite of their efforts to keep the boats apart, the current brought them together briefly as they sped towards the vast grey figures; close enough for Boromir to hear Aragorn speaking to Frodo.

"The Argonath, Frodo!" Aragorn was saying, as he laid a hand on the hobbit's shoulder. "Long have I desired to look upon the kings of old, my kin!"

Kin, you say? thought Boromir sadly. And what of the people descended from those kings? Are they not your kin, as well? Yet you turn away...

Boromir blinked away unexpected tears, as he gazed upwards. He had never before seen the Argonath for himself, but he knew of their existence; at the sight of the great pillars rising like towers to meet him, he could not keep from smiling for joy. Still to this day the towering pillars preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn: two great kings of stone, Isildur and Anarion, standing upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters. Forbidding they were, and yet Boromir felt a sense of being welcomed; he was a son of Gondor, and they were come now to the ancient borders of his land.

With blurred eyes and crannied brows the Argonath frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown. Great power and majesty they still wore, silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. The Company gazed in awe as the boats sped by, frail and fleeting as little leaves, under the enduring shadow of the sentinels of Numenor. Boromir could not take his eyes from them, craning his neck to keep them in sight as he passed beneath them into the dark chasm of the Gates.

Sheer rose the cliffs to unguessed heights on either side. Far off was the dim sky. The chasm was long and dark, and filled with the noise of wind and rushing water and echoing stone. It bent somewhat towards the west so that at first all was dark ahead; but soon they saw a tall gap of light before them, growing steadily, drawing ever nearer; suddenly the boats shot through, out into a wide clear light.

The sun shone in a windy sky. The pent waters spread out into a long oval lake, the misty waters of Nen Hithoel, fenced by steep grey hills clad with many trees. At the far southern end rose three peaks. The midmost stood somewhat forward from the others, an island in the waters, about which the flowing River flung pale shimmering arms. Distant but deep there came up on the wind a roaring sound like the roll of thunder heard far away.

"Behold Tol Brandir!" said Aragorn, pointing south to the tall peak. "Upon the left stands Amon Lhaw, and upon the right is Amon Hen, the Hills of Hearing and of Sight. In the days of the great kings there were high seats upon them, and watch was kept there. But it is said that no foot of man or beast has ever been set upon Tol Brandir. Do you hear the roaring? That is the endless voice of Rauros calling."

The Company rested now for a while, drifting south in their boats on the current that flowed through the middle of the lake. They took some food, and then they set their paddles to the water and hastened on their way.

Aragorn led them to the right arm of the River. Here upon its western side was a smooth shingle of beach, where an ancient landing for boats could still be seen. A green lawn ran down to the water from the feet of Amon Hen; behind it rose the first gentle slopes of the hill clad with trees, that marched away westward along the curving shores of the lake. A spring of water fell tumbling down from the hills, and fed the grass.

"This is the lawn of Parth Galen," announced Aragorn, as their boats drew near. "It is a fair place; we can rest here until we decide our course. Let us hope that no evil has yet come here!"

Now we come to the final choosing! thought Boromir grimly, as his boat scraped up onto the beach. He laid his paddle across his knees and looked about him. He felt a strange sense of dread as he watched Merry and Pippin clamber out of the boat.

What am I going to do? he thought in despair. I do not wish to go on alone, but what if the decision goes against me? If the others should agree with Aragorn and decide against going to Minas Tirith...

Boromir turned his head slowly to look at Aragorn, who was standing in preparation to step out of his boat; Frodo had already stepped onto the beach and was standing irresolutely at the edge of the water.

Ah, Aragorn, my friend, Boromir sighed inwardly. Why do you not listen? Why must we part ways here after so many days together?

Folly....whispered the Voice in his mind, then again louder: Folly to throw it away...

What is wrong with me? thought Boromir. He shook his head slightly as if to clear his thoughts, but to no avail. He heard the whispering Voice again, and this time it was his own voice speaking, like an echo.

Valor needs first strength, and then a weapon...it is a gift...let us use it against him...

Boromir let out his breath suddenly in a gasp almost of pain, hunching his shoulders and bowing his head.

"Please...help me...what must I do?" he groaned, but no one heard him.

In his anguish, Boromir did not notice Frodo, who had drawn up sharply, with a small gasp; it was as if he, too, had heard something, felt something. If Boromir had looked up at that moment, he would have seen Frodo pause, and glance back; first in the direction of Boromir's boat, then in the direction of Aragorn, before moving slowly away.

But Boromir sat alone in his boat with his head bowed almost to his knees, and he did not look up.

The tenth day of the Company's journey from Lorien was passing. Wilderland was behind them. They could go no further without choice between the east-way and the west. The last stage of the Quest was before them.