Boromir rose at last from his knees, and wiped his hand over his face to dry his tears. He began to search the hill methodically, starting from the point where he had last seen Frodo, and moving out in an ever-increasing circle. He had little hope of finding the hobbit, but he felt he had to try. He called until he was hoarse, but no answer came.
He searched for close to an hour, but at last he was forced to admit defeat. Boromir heaved a great, shuddering sigh, and sat down heavily on a mossy log. There was little point in searching further; if Frodo still wore the Ring, he could be anywhere by now. No doubt he had returned to the Company, and had told them everything. Boromir's heart quailed at the thought.
I am a fool! Boromir berated himself bitterly. I sought to counsel Frodo, but instead I have driven him away; I vowed to protect him, but see how I have repaid his trust in me! I was angry that no one was listening -- but I was the one who did not listen.
Putting thought to action, Boromir raised his head to listen. All was quiet; there was no sound but the distant thunder of Rauros, and the creaking of branches as the wind sighed in the trees. The silence was so complete he could hear his heart beating loudly in his ears. Slowly it dawned on him that he no longer heard the pulsing, the whispering, the Voice in his head; his mind was clear, at last!
Boromir felt a great relief at the realization, for he could not recall how long it had been since he had begun to be plagued by that incessant whispering Voice. But his joy was short-lived.
It is gone because Frodo is gone! he realized in dismay. It was the Ring ... the Ring, speaking to me...and I listened! The Ring did its work, and I was taken in, as easily as that! 'True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted!': so I believed! Yet when it came to the test, I was the one who who failed...so easily! I was certain I could take the Ring and use it for good...but instead it took me, and used me. I believed myself to be strong; I knew my ability to be sufficient to any task! My pride -- my need -- made it right. I called Frodo a fool, but I am the fool, not he. Nothing but a weak fool...
'You are not yourself,' Frodo said to me -- he tried to tell me; and he was right! I was used -- controlled -- yet the blame still lies with me. Why did I listen to that Voice? Why did I not listen to the others? They all warned me! Even a Halfling who knew little of Sauron and the Rings of Power understood more of this matter than I! I am surely to blame! I let it guide me... I let my pride guide me. I allowed Evil to work through me, and now Frodo runs from me in fear...I have failed...
Boromir covered his face with hands and wept; his whole body was wracked with sobs. "What have I done? What have I done?"
His sobs eventually stilled. After drying his eyes with the edge of his tunic, Boromir rose to his feet and began to pace.
So! he reflected solemnly. It seems I was wrong to think I was strong enough -- wise enough -- to use the Ring without harm. Could I have been in error about all the rest of it, as well? Have I then been wrong all along in believing that the Ring should not be destroyed? Is there a chance that this absurd plan to carry the Ring into the heart of Mordor might actually succeed? Is it indeed the only way?
He sighed heavily as he recalled his impassioned warning at the Council. 'One does not simply walk into Mordor! Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep, and the Great Eye is ever watchful...a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, ash and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this! It is folly!'
Folly? Boromir repeated to himself. I believed it to be folly then, but now? I do not know -- !
The memory of the Council meeting brought to Boromir's mind another warning, one that had been spoken by Aragorn, and echoed by Gandalf and Frodo: "You cannot wield it! None of us can! The Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master!"
Boromir shook his head and angrily struck his open palm with his fist.
Now I understand, but too late! The Ring cannot be used, least of all by Men -- least of all by myself! Any attempt to use it against its Master instead turns to Sauron's benefit.
There is nothing left, then; all is ruined! There is no help for my City now; the weapon I hoped to bring them will instead bring only harm! But how can we possibly succeed in putting the Ring out of the Enemy's reach? How can we possibly succeed in destroying it? Sauron's power is too great, even without the Ring! Surely he will stop us...
Boromir bowed his head and fought with despair. The future looked bleak indeed. There seemed to be no hope left; the Ring could not be used to save his City, but to take it to the Fire meant to risk it being retaken by Sauron. Was there even any point in continuing such a useless struggle against such a powerful enemy?
In that moment of dark despair, something in Boromir rebelled at the possibility of giving up. He still had an oath to fulfill; he still had a responsibility to see things through to the end, whatever end that might be. He had fought too long and too hard to give up now.
No! he said firmly to himself. I must carry on -- I choose to carry on! My people lose hope, but I cannot. It is not yet time for the final despair, for the ending is still in doubt; while we have breath, there is still a chance we may fight this Evil! Such a small chance, but a chance, nonetheless. Perhaps...perhaps it is not too late. I can still accomplish some good, now that my mind is clear, now that I understand the truth...
My pride is broken, but there is still honor to be answered. There is still work I can do, to save my oath. Now that I understand better, perhaps I can aid the Quest...I see now that the Ring cannot be used.
Boromir stopped his pacing and looked up through the trees at the sky above. It was approaching midday, and the sun was now filtering through the leaves of the old forest all about him. He took a deep breath and resumed his pacing. There was much to ponder, much to consider...
There is so little hope that Frodo will succeed in destroying the Ring -- yet at the very least he must try. This thing cannot come to Minas Tirith; it would destroy her! Would even my father, whose pride and care for our City is greater than mine, be strong enough to resist its power as a weapon? I think not! I cannot allow him to be put to that test.
Boromir shuddered at the thought of his father falling to the lure of the Ring. No! It would be better by far to see the Ring gone forever, than to see his father or his brother reduced to this madness!
He halted once more in his pacing, and turned to look back down the hill towards the shore.
I must return to the Company, Boromir decided, even if Frodo has told them everything. I shall confess what I have done. They will be angry with me, but I shall do what I can to make amends. I will repair my evil, if I can. Frodo will forgive me...surely he understands the madness...
He started down the hill, moving slowly at first, then quickening his pace until he was almost running.
I hope I am not too late...I hope they have not gone without me...
As Boromir approached the shore, he was relieved to hear the sound of voices; he could distinguish Pippin's clear voice above the others. They had not left without him! He paused hesitantly, and tried to hear what was being said.
"...the fate of the burden is on him," Aragorn was saying. "It is not our part to drive him one way or another, nor would we succeed if we tried. There are other forces at work here, far stronger..."
"Well, I wish Frodo would come back and let us get it over!" Pippin interrupted. "This waiting is horrible. Surely the time is up?"
"Yes," said Aragorn. "The hour is long passed. The morning is wearing away. We must call for him."
Frodo had not yet returned?
Boromir was suddenly dismayed and his resolve wavered. If that were true, the others would not be so understanding. It would not be so easy to confess what he had done. But he would not turn back now. He would face them.
Boromir drew in a deep breath and stepped forward out of the trees. He tried to school the expression on his face, but he had no doubt he looked grim and sad, for that was his present mood. He walked towards the others without speaking. As they looked up at him, he paused, as if to count those that were present. It was true; Frodo was not here. He sat down aloof, with his eyes on the ground, and waited for someone to speak.
"Where have you been, Boromir?" asked Aragorn. "Have you seen Frodo?"
Boromir hesitated. "Yes...and no," he answered slowly. "Yes...I found him some way up the hill, and I spoke to him. I urged him to come to Minas Tirith and not to go east. I grew angry and he left me."
Boromir shook his head at the memory of Frodo's sudden disappearance.
"He vanished!" he said in wonder. "I have never seen such a thing happen before, though I have heard of it in tales. He must have put the Ring on. I could not find him again. I thought he would return to you."
"Is that all you have to say?" said Aragorn, looking hard and not too kindly at Boromir.
"Yes," Boromir answered quietly, after a long pause. "I will say no more yet."
"This is bad!" cried Sam, jumping up, and eying Boromir angrily. Boromir looked away. "I don't know what this Man has been up to! Why should Frodo put the thing on? He didn't ought to have; and if he has, goodness knows what may have happened!"
"But he wouldn't keep it on," said Merry. "Not when he had escaped the unwelcome visitor, like Bilbo used to."
"But where did he go? Where is he?" cried Pippin. "He's been away ages now."
"How long is it since you saw Frodo last, Boromir?" asked Aragorn.
"Half an hour, maybe," he answered. "Or it might be an hour. I have wandered for some time since. I do not know! I do not know!" Boromir put his head in his hands, and sat bowed with grief.
"An hour since he vanished!" shouted Sam. "We must try and find him at once. Come on!"
"Wait a moment!" cried Aragorn. "We must divide up into pairs, and arrange -- here, hold on! Wait!"
It was no good. They took no notice of him. Sam had dashed off first. Merry and Pippin had followed, and were already disappearing westward into the trees by the shore, shouting: Frodo! Frodo! in their clear, high hobbit-voices. Legolas and Gimli were running. A sudden panic or madness seemed to have fallen on the Company.
"We shall all be scattered and lost!" groaned Aragorn. "Boromir! I do not know what part you have played in this mischief, but help now!"
Boromir rose quickly and stepped forward to stand before Aragorn, awaiting his orders in silence.
"Go after those two young hobbits, and guard them at the least, even if you cannot find Frodo. I fear for them, there may be Orcs about."
Boromir caught his breath in sudden fear.
It is my fault! he thought wildly. I cursed them to death and darkness! I will be the death of them!
"When you find them, come back to this spot," continued Aragorn, not noticing Boromir's terror. "And look for any traces of Frodo; bring him here, if you find him. I shall return soon."
Boromir nodded wordlessly, and leaped to obey. Dashing into the woods, he ran in the direction taken by Merry and Pippin.
Ah, my little ones! he lamented desperately as he ran. What have I done to you? Let me not be too late ...