The vision of his father was gone, replaced by frightening reality. The Uruk captain stood before him, watching him, growling with savage pleasure at the sight of Boromir kneeling in the dirt like a slave.
Boromir raised his eyes slowly, until they rested on the face of his enemy -- a face that held nothing but hatred, ferocity, and contempt for humankind. There was little hope that anyone would come in time to save him; even now a black arrow was set to the string, and the Uruk captain was hefting the bow as if to taunt Boromir.
Someone will come, Boromir thought, desperately clinging to his last shred of hope. I blew the Horn, help will come...Someone must come! It is too late for me, perhaps... yet there may still be time to rescue the little ones... If only someone would come...
But now there was no time left. The captain had finished his gloating and now slowly laid his hand on the bowstring. He drew the bowstring back, deliberately prolonging the motion, grinning and snarling all the while.
I never thought it would end this way! Boromir thought with sadness. I am alone at the end, with nothing left! My pride and my sword, both broken... my horn, silenced; my friends, gone... my brother, far away. Even my honor is diminished...
He looked his enemy full in the face; one cat-like eye squinted along the rough-fletched arrow aimed at his heart; the other gazed upon him with a yellow gleam of fierce triumph. Boromir drew in a deep, shuddering breath that seared his lungs like fire.
I will not go with my head bowed! he thought, straightening and pulling back his shoulders. He blinked the sweat out of his eyes and met his enemy's gaze proudly. The Uruk captain growled, or laughed, in response; he could not tell which. The bow creaked, the arrow drew back...
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a figure came leaping, falling full upon the Uruk, knocking him to the ground. The arrow was loosed, but the shot went wide. It was Aragorn, coming just in time, to save him from this final indignity.
Boromir lowered his head and tears stung his eyes.
You came, my friend! You did not desert me; you came at my call...
His head spun, and suddenly he was overcome with great weariness. He wanted to rest, but he could not give in just yet; he must try to remain alert -- though it would not be easy... he was so tired! He must remain until he could tell Aragorn of the fate of the hobbits...
Boromir struggled to his feet, but he could not keep his balance. He stepped backwards, then fell. He lay still for a moment, trying in vain to catch his breath, but he was wracked with a fit of coughing, making it even more difficult to breathe freely. He could hear the battle between Aragorn and the Uruk captain above him on the hill, but he could not turn his head to see them. The taste of blood was in his mouth.
Rolling onto his side, he dragged himself forward to the base of a nearby tree, being careful of the protruding arrows. He lay back against the soft loam at the roots of the tree, exhausted from the effort, and fighting for breath. He could go no further.
Was this where it would end? Here, against a tree, on the very borders of his country? He had faced death before, countless times, and had sometimes wondered when and where it would finally end. It was hard to think that the end should come in such a lonely place, and not on a crowded battlefield, or before the walls of his City...
Boromir felt his wounds with careful fingers. He considered plucking out the arrows, but he did not have the strength; even a light touch caused him great pain and sent waves of weakness washing over him. So... I am not indestructible after all... he thought sadly.
After a moment, Boromir lifted his head, straining to see what was happening on the hill above. The sounds of battle were distant; he could see movement, but it was difficult to focus.
He remembered his vision of his father, and his heart ached. "Indeed, Father...it is over," he sighed aloud. "I am finished...I have failed...but I cannot go yet...I must tell Aragorn...that the hobbits were taken..."
He heard the sound of pounding feet; looking up, he saw someone approaching at a run. His heart leapt in relief when he saw that it was Aragorn. He stretched forth his hand in entreaty and struggled to sit up, as Aragorn knelt beside him.
"They took the little ones!" he cried desperately. "The enemy...the Uruk-hai have taken them. They are not dead... not yet..."
As he said it, fear for his friends gripped him, and he tried again to sit up. Aragorn laid a hand on his chest, and pushed him back.
"Be still," Aragorn said gently. Tears glistened in his eyes, but Boromir barely noticed. He could not see well, for a darkness was growing behind his eyes. Boromir felt a wave of grief and despair at the thought of the little ones taken by the enemy. And Frodo, what of Frodo? He felt an icy touch of fear, mixed with shame. He had been thinking of nothing but Merry and Pippin, and had forgotten about Frodo. How could he have forgotten Frodo? If he should have been taken as well...
"Frodo!" he rasped, grasping Aragorn's tunic. "Where is Frodo?"
Aragorn shook his head slightly as he spoke. "I let Frodo go."
Boromir closed his eyes. So...he would not see Frodo again... no chance now of making his peace. If only he could have seen Frodo one last time, to say he was sorry, to seek his forgiveness! But...at least Frodo was safe for the time being; the Uruk-hai had not taken him. And the Quest continued -- it had not yet failed because of him.
Boromir groaned at the memory of his attack on Frodo, and suddenly he knew what he must do. He would tell Aragorn everything. Even if he was not forgiven, at least he would feel free of the guilt.
He opened his eyes again, with an effort. "Then you did what I could not...I tried to take the Ring from him."
Aragorn nodded, as if in understanding; there was a look of pain in his eyes. "The Ring is beyond our reach now."
Ah! He knows! thought Boromir. He understands! Frodo must have spoken of it! Perhaps... perhaps Frodo understands, as well...
Hope sprang up in his heart, but only briefly, for a wave of grief and bitterness washed over him that was far stronger than his small hope. I have been a fool, he thought; such a fool... What was I thinking? How could I not understand? Why did I listen to the Ring? I fell so easily...made all the wrong choices...I am a failure...
Boromir looked up at Aragorn; his failing eyes were dark with sorrow in his pale face. "Forgive me... I did not see it." He choked back a sob. "I have failed you all!"
Aragorn leaned closer, and spoke urgently. "No, Boromir! It is I who have failed you! I did not see what was happening. I should have understood you better; I should have listened. I sent you into danger, alone...I am sorry!" He laid a hand on Boromir's cheek. "No, Boromir; you fought bravely! You have kept your honor, and you have conquered! Few have gained such a victory!"
Now Boromir could see the tears rise in Aragorn's eyes. He heard the words, but took little comfort in them. What good was honor to him now, here at the end? All his vows of loyalty to friend, family, country -- broken in a moment. It was useless...
All sense was fading, but still Boromir felt the slight touch, as Aragorn fumbled at the fastenings of his tunic.
"Leave it!" said Boromir roughly, stopping Aragorn's hand with his own. "It is over."
Boromir knew that nothing now could stop the approaching darkness of death which was slowly creeping over him, even as nothing could stop the Darkness of Mordor creeping across the land towards his City, his people. If only he had been able to bring help to his father...to his brother...
At the thought of Faramir, all hope left him, and his heart turned to stone. His despair was complete.
"The world of men will fail," he moaned bitterly, "and all will fall into darkness...and my City to ruin!"
In his pain and sorrow Boromir reached across and gripped Aragorn's shoulder. He felt as though he were adrift on a dark sea; if he could just hold on to Aragorn tightly enough, perhaps the dark waters would not overtake him so quickly.
Aragorn placed his hand on Boromir's arm and held it tightly where it lay on his shoulder. He spoke, and his voice was thick with tears.
"I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you, I will not let the White City fall..." Boromir's eyes widened as the strength of Aragorn's vow broke through his despair. Aragorn caught Boromir's gaze and held it as he continued without pause, "...nor our people fail!"
Could it be...? Hope stirred in Boromir's heart and the threatening darkness receded. Aragorn was answering the call of his people at last -- his people, Boromir's people! Perhaps there was hope, after all. He had lost hope for a while, but now it returned with Aragorn's promise.
"Our people..." breathed Boromir, in wonder. Aragorn nodded, and Boromir smiled weakly; so it was true, then.
"Our people!" he said again, proudly. Aragorn nodded emphatically, and Boromir acknowledged the vow with a nod of his own. Aragorn would take on the burden; he would take up his duty and acknowledge his blood. Gondor would see it done, for Aragorn was a son of Gondor...
Boromir could rest now; his people would receive the aid they so desperately needed, and the little ones...ah, the little ones! They would be safe; Aragorn would see to it...
And he was forgiven! Aragorn would not have spoken so if he still held any blame against him. He looked into Aragorn's face, and what he saw there confirmed it. A great weight of care fell away from him. Forgiven!
Boromir gazed at Aragorn for a moment more, and gladness shone from his eyes. He laughed, though he had little enough breath left for it; his heart felt lighter than it had for a long time. He turned his head and put out his hand for his sword, which lay just out of his reach. No matter that it was broken; it had served him well, and he wanted to depart with it in his hand, as befitting a warrior. Aragorn placed it reverently in his hand, and helped him close his fingers around the hilt.
Boromir sighed with contentment as he clasped the hilt to his breast. He could not feel Aragorn's hands gripping his, but he knew they were there. He heard the sound of running feet, dimly, as if from far away; the sound of running feet that faltered and stopped, somewhere on beyond Aragorn. Boromir tried to sit up, but his strength was gone.
"Aragorn!" he said urgently, in a low voice.
"I am here," replied Aragorn.
"Tell the others...Legolas...Gimli...it was an honor to serve with them."
"Of course. They are here now; they are with you."
Boromir nodded but he did not take his eyes from Aragorn's face.
"And tell Sam...I am sorry... I wanted so to show him the gardens of my City..." Boromir smiled weakly. "We spoke of that, one day..."
Aragorn smiled in return, but the smile was forced, and he struggled to control his expression, as tears welled up in his eyes. Boromir attempted a deep sigh, but it turned into a fit of coughing; when he could speak again, Aragorn had to lean forward to catch the words.
"Tell my little ones when you find them...Merry, and Pippin...tell them I am proud of them. They fought bravely, Aragorn!"
Boromir's gaze slid away from Aragorn's face; he looked off into the distance, as if remembering something that had happened long ago.
"Is... is it not strange?" Boromir was smiling faintly as he spoke. "Always we speak of them as a unit... Merry and Pippin! We forget they are individuals...I shall not do them that discourtesy... not now. Tell Merry, my brave one...he should not take my death to heart. He will try to take the blame to himself! He did what he could...
Boromir paused, to garner his breath. Please... he thought. Just a little longer...
"And Pippin...He made my heart light with his mischief!" Boromir sighed, and was wracked with another fit of coughing.
"My small worried one! It bothered him that you and I had fought... tell him... I am no longer angry with you..." Boromir's voice trailed off as he blinked away the tears. "I wish...I wish we had had more time together..."
Aragorn tightened his grip on Boromir's clasped hands and his lip trembled. There was silence between them for a time, but then Boromir spoke again, urgently.
"Frodo..." Boromir's face crumpled with pain; though he knew Aragorn no longer blamed him, Boromir still felt deep sorrow at the memory of his betrayal. He struggled to force the words out. "Ah, Frodo! I am so sorry... tell him, Aragorn... make him understand..."
"I will tell him," said Aragorn, touching Boromir's face softly. "He will understand; do not fear!"
Boromir smiled and nodded. It was painful to speak, and his breath was almost gone, but there was one more message; he could not leave until it was spoken.
"You go to Minas Tirith," he said, and it was a statement, not a question. "I... I do not know if my father will listen... but tell him... tell him what has happened here. I have done what I could for him..."
Boromir's words were becoming more labored, but he pressed on.
"And tell my brother...tell Faramir..." He stopped and could not go on for a moment, as his throat tightened in grief. "Tell Faramir I love him... Tell him that! Do not allow him to take on any blame for this. Though I have failed, it was for me to attempt this quest... right for me to come... so that he might remain safe..."
"If he were here," answered Aragorn with a shake of his head, "he would say to you as I have: you have not failed; you have triumphed!"
"Tell him, then," said Boromir softly, and he smiled. "He is a good man, and wise; he will not fail you. He will follow you and be faithful."
"Be at peace, Boromir," said Aragorn gently, a tremor in his voice. "It will be done."
Boromir nodded; he was ready now, at peace. All was growing dark, except for the face of Aragorn, who leaned over him. That kingly face was his whole world now. He smiled up at Aragorn, and love was in his smile and respect was in his eyes. No more words were needed, he knew; all they had to say to one another was evident in their eyes, but Boromir longed to say it, nonetheless. He spoke with an effort, his voice little more than a whisper, each word a small test of his will.
"I would have followed you, my brother...my captain!" Aragorn smiled sadly; Boromir took a deep breath and his own smile was full of joy; "My king!"
Aragorn bowed his head. Boromir's sight dimmed further, and the roaring in his ears engulfed him; but as it grew dark, he saw Aragorn's tears fall, felt his hand on his face, and heard his gentle voice give the blessing.
"Be at peace, Son of Gondor!"
I am at peace! he tried to say, but his voice was gone. He felt the faint touch of Aragorn's kiss on his forehead as the darkness closed in. Yet even as his spirit was freed, Boromir thought he could hear, faint but clear, the ringing of silver trumpets, and he turned towards the sound. He was going Home...
Farewell, my friend, he thought as he went; Farewell...until we meet again...