Scattered and lost, because of me! thought Boromir hopelessly, as he darted into the trees at the edge of the lawn by the lake.
What was I thinking? Why did I not tell them what I had done, as I had intended? Why did I hide the full truth about my attack on Frodo? I should have spoken plainly and been done with it. When shall I again have a chance to explain? They will think the less of me for not speaking plainly at the outset.
Despite his despair and his anger at himself, Boromir found himself automatically checking his gear, thinking ahead, preparing himself mentally and physically for possible battle. He wondered if it were possible for Orcs to have managed somehow to cross the River without being seen. He remembered the wary unease of Legolas, and the flickering light of Sting that had been revealed the evening before; proof enough to Boromir that the danger was very real.
Boromir suddenly pulled up short.
Fool! he thought, and cursed himself angrily. I have forgotten my shield! What use will I be to anyone if I go off unprepared?
He hesitated, but only for a moment, before dashing back to the lakeside to retrieve the shield.
The campsite was deserted; Aragorn had already gone in search of Frodo. Boromir caught up his shield and slung it onto his back. Glancing quickly round the campsite, he noticed no one had thought to put out their small fire, in the frantic rush following his announcement that Frodo was missing. Boromir grabbed a pan of water and dashed it on the flames, then kicked sand over the wood to keep it from smoking. If Orcs should be on the hillside, they would eventually find the campsite, and then it would not matter; but until then, no smoking fire would call attention to the presence of the Company. Then Boromir wasted no more time in setting out after the hobbits.
His legs were long and strong; Boromir knew without any doubt he would be able to catch them up quickly enough. He kept his ears open as he ran for any sound of the hobbits or of the enemy; at intervals, he could hear a call of 'Frodo!' floating down the hill on the wind, but he could not yet see Merry or Pippin.
Boromir tried not to think of Frodo, but as he neared the spot where he had met and struggled with him, an image unbidden arose in his mind of the look on the hobbit's face and in his eyes when Frodo had first realized Boromir meant to harm him.
For I did mean to harm him, admitted Boromir. I would have done anything at that moment, to have the Ring... All my years of service to my people, and my talk of duty and honor, valor and stewardship! It led me to this -- that I was prepared to murder a defenseless friend -- yes, as defenseless as a child, even with his sword -- whom I had sworn to protect!
And for what? For a magical trinket, a piece of jewelry! No matter that I thought it a weapon of great power, that I thought it would give me what I needed to save my City and cast down Sauron! At what price that power?
Another image flashed clear before his eyes, as if he were seeing himself as Frodo must have seen him in that moment -- his eyes burning with desire for the Ring, his face twisted with anger and hate.
I saw myself as a ruler of men, benevolent and wise...but a ruler of men must protect his people, not harm them! What is the good of it, if I am changed into something I do not wish to be? I wish to be a leader...a good leader. Always I have expected to one day take up the Stewardship, always I have prepared for the time when I would take my father's place. It is what I have wished for, what I have trained for, fought for. I am strong, even masterful; it will take such a man to rule Gondor in these troubled times. I would have ruled well...I would have done right by my people.
But now what have I done? In my pride, and convinced of my right, I have used my strength to try to gain the advantage over a small one, one who trusted me!
Boromir's pace slowed to a jog, and then to a slow walk, and finally, he stopped and stood still, lost in thought.
I have seen death and defeat and fearsome battle, but nothing compares to that look of bewilderment on Frodo's face... and the terror in his eyes!
Boromir shook his head, as if trying to shake free that image.
He trusted me, and I failed him... I have failed as a steward, for it is the steward's part to care for those entrusted to him -- for their good, and not for his own. I would do anything, now, to erase that look of fear, to make it as if it had never been. If only...
Boromir passed his hand over his face and sighed heavily.
No...it happened; I cannot change that. I hurt him, and the others. I cannot restore the trust we had before; I can only do my best to make it up to him...to all of them...by doing what I can now to serve.
Boromir set his jaw and squared his shoulders as a sense of resolve grew within him.
I shall find Merry and Pippin and keep them safe, he vowed. And, if I am permitted, I will find Frodo and tell him how sorry I am...
A sudden noise in the trees startled him; Boromir whipped around, his hand on his blade, but it was only a falling branch, dislodged from a tree by the wind. As the echo of the branch's fall died away, Boromir listened carefully for any sound of voices on the breeze. Was that Pippin's voice, calling, further on up the hill to the west?
Boromir leaped forward through the trees and sped towards the sound.
Enough debate, he said firmly to himself. My course is now clear. Though they reject me for what I have done, I am bidden to protect the hobbits. If I can succeed in that, at least, I shall have accomplished something worthwhile.
The terrain grew rougher, even as the trees grew thinner. Boromir ran swiftly but with care, watching for signs of the hobbits' passing. He was not the tracker that Aragorn was, but he could read the signs well enough; hobbits traveled almost silently, but their feet still left a mark on twig and leaf. They had passed this way; he was on the right path...
The sound of Rauros was loud behind him, but now he began to hear faintly from above him on the hill the sounds of battle. Though he had been expecting it, Boromir was still startled, and suddenly afraid for his friends. He heard the harsh cry of Orcs, and distantly, the clash of sword on shield. He stopped to listen. It was hard to pinpoint the direction from which the sounds were coming. It was imperative that he not make a mistake now; if he ran to the battle, and missed the hobbits, he might be leaving them to their deaths instead of saving them.
The battle was above him, it seemed, near the crown of the hill; yet something else was approaching as well, from straight ahead. He could hear a crashing in the trees and the hoarse grunting sound of Orcs in pursuit of prey.
From further up the hill came the call of Merry, drifting through the trees ahead of him. It seemed far away but clear:
"...you! Here...over here!"
Then Pippin's voice: "This way!"
Were they calling to him? Were they being pursued by Orcs? Boromir's heart caught in his throat as he ran towards the sound. He cursed as he turned his foot on a mossy stone and stumbled, but he caught himself and hurried on. He heard no more from Merry or Pippin, but the Orc voices were louder, drawing closer. He thought he could see dark shapes moving towards him through the trees.
Drawing his sword, and gripping his shield, Boromir ran to meet them.