Title: Alone and Burdened
Title, author and link to original story: Alone and Forsaken by Linaewen
Author's Notes: Alas, these are not my characters. They are Tolkien's and always will be. For this story, we must also thank Peter Jackson for bringing the movie to the big screen.
Summary: A lengthened vignette based on a movieverse scene from the extended edition of FOTR. An angry argument, bitter words spoken, and suddenly a man finds himself struggling with his conscience. Written from a different POV than "Alone and Forsaken". Mixture of movie and bookverse</ b>
Word Count: 2,003
Sleep would not come.
Hours had passed since the argument, but he could not put it behind him. His mind was filled with turmoil and doubt that could not be stilled or reasoned away. He lay wrapped in his blanket, feigning sleep, a skill he had learned at Rivendell. He had never been able to fool Elrond, but Elrohir and Elladan were more trusting, more easily gulled. If he lay still enough, they often got so caught up in their banter that they forgot he was there. He had learned much on many topics at those times. He resisted the urge to smile at the memory, and forced down the uncharitable wish that they were here instead of Boromir.
Of course he would feel safer with his foster brothers. He had known them from the time he was two years old. But if Elrond had thought they should be included in the Fellowship, then they would be here instead of Merry and Pippin. Perhaps if not for Gandalf's input, there would be more elves and less Hobbits on this journey, but no one could discount the morale boosts Merry and Pippin provided.
And no one could doubt that Boromir was a valiant man; a good man to have with you in battle. He was a commander of Men, and perhaps that was part of the problem. As the Steward's Heir, he was used to having his opinion seriously considered, if not followed. He had never challenged for the right to lead the Fellowship, but his constant insistence that they should go Minas Tirith was growing tiresome. To be fair, from Boromir's perspective, constantly having his opinion rejected was probably growing old, as well. Unfortunately, that hadn’t deterred him from repeating it again today.
As if unable to stop himself, Aragorn once again reviewed the heated words he and the younger Man had exchanged.
Boromir had insisted - again - that Minas Tirith was the safer road, and that from there the Fellowship could regroup and strike out for Mordor from a place of strength. He had also claimed that this was something that Aragorn knew. The hard truth was that Aragorn had not known that. Aragorn expected to follow Gandalf's lead in this quest, and while he had stepped into the role after Gandalf's death, he was not willing to abandon any direction Gandalf had given while the Wizard had lived. Gandalf had said the risk of taking the Ring that close to Isengard was too great. Aragorn believed that decision should stand. It was possible that Saruman's betrayal had influenced Gandalf, but in Aragorn's mind, there was also a chance that the Ring influenced Boromir.
The problem today was that Boromir had simply found the end of Aragorn's patience. Still, Aragorn had handled it badly. His own words to Boromir came back to him. 'There is no strength in Gondor that can avail us.'
In truth, there was no strength anywhere that could avail them since Gandalf's fall, but that was not what he had said, and it was certainly not what Boromir had heard. Boromir had heard Isildur's Heir – the last in the line of Kings - demean his own kingdom, the kingdom that the Stewards of Gondor had ruled in the absence of a king for generations. Worse, he had demeaned it's people, and had thrown Boromir's trust back in his face. In Lothlorien, Boromir had told him that Denethor's rule was failing, and that his father had placed the burden for reversing that failure firmly on Boromir's shoulders. How bitter must those words taste in Boromir's mouth after today's argument?
Lothlorien had been another argument between Aragorn and Boromir. It seemed no destination Aragorn or Gandalf chose appealed to the other Man. He had argued against Moria, but neither Legolas nor Aragorn had been eager to enter there, either. In the end, their loss there was great. And Boromir had found pain in Lothlorien, though its real source was further south. He could not see the hope that Galadriel said still existed.
No doubt that had prompted Boromir's next words. 'You were quick enough to trust the Elves. Have you so little faith in your own people? Yes, there is weakness. There is frailty. But there is courage also, and honor to be found in Men. But you will not see that'.
Aragorn *had* seen that. How could he travel all this time with Boromir and *not* see it? His failure had been in not making that clear to Boromir. 'No', his conscience whispered, 'it was in not acknowledging to yourself that Boromir is not Denethor.' Denethor had been a good Captain when Aragorn served in Gondor. Their advice to Echthelion was usually the same. But Denethor had never seen them as Captains working toward the same end. He had seen Aragorn as a competitor. Echthelion had done nothing to help the situation. Denethor would never have listened, and because he saw much of the father in the son, Aragorn had not made the effort with Boromir. He could see that now, could see in his mind's eye Boromir returning the Ring to Frodo simply because it was what Aragorn had told him to do. Denethor would have slipped it on his finger to spite the other Captain. No, Boromir was not Denethor, and in not thought this through earlier, Aragorn had allowed a division in the Fellowship that need not have been there.
Aragorn had been weary of leadership, weary of arguing the same point yet again, weary simply of decisions made and not yet made, so he had turned to leave, but Boromir wasn’t done tossing truth at him. The other man grabbed his arm and pulled him back. 'You are afraid! All your life, you have hidden in the shadows! Scared of who you are, of what you are'.
Aragorn hadn’t seen the other Man's fear for his people, or the weariness of months of traveling alone on the trail of a dream only to be humiliated at Elrond's Council. What he had seen was a man saying "You've been hiding while your people became battle fodder, and you've reached adulthood while boys have died in your stead in Gondor. All the while you took your rest in Rivendell with the elves.
Aragorn thought about his adulthood. He had left Rivendell and joined the Dunedain over 60 years ago. During that time, he had fought and killed many enemies. He had spent much time in healing after battle, and had buried and mourned those beyond his ability to heal. He had his fair share of battle scars, and was all too familiar with hunger and cold. Familiar enough with it that he would not have thought to carry wood on Caradhras to warm the Hobbits. Compared to him, Boromir was young, and somewhat impatient. But he was the one who had advised they each carry wood up the mountain. He had recognized the enemy's hand in the blizzard, and had led the way in clearing a path through the snow for the others. Speaking as matter-of-factly as he had about the cave troll in Moria, the younger Man had stated, "when heads are at a loss, bodies must serve".
Aragorn's face grew warm and he was grateful the darkness covered the flush of shame as he
remembered the last words he had thrown at Boromir in anger. 'I would not lead the Ring within a hundred leagues of your City!'
It was safe to say Boromir would ever suspect him to be the man who had come from Rohan to serve Gondor as Captain Thorongil when Ecthelion was Steward. A man who had commanded troops in Gondor for as long as Thorongil had would *know* that Mount Doom was less than 100 leagues from Minas Titith. Bad enough that the man Boromir would have as his king had portrayed such ignorance of the land Boromir loved so well and defended for decades without knowing it was Echthelion's favored Captain. It must have cost the other man every bit of his restraint not to toss that information back into Aragorn's face.
Aragorn swallowed the urge to sigh and was grateful for his restraint when he heard Boromir turn in his sleep. When he no longer heard movement, he turned his thoughts back to their argument, still seeking to see both sides of it as his mother and Elrond had taught him.
Boromir didn’t credit Aragorn's years sleeping under hedgerows, guarding the Northern Lands. He had initially seen him *in* Imladris, clean and rested. While it was true that Boromir had only fought for perhaps a third as many years as Aragorn, and had probably spent far more time in a real bed, it was also true that the darkness of Mordor did not hang over the elven lands or the Shire. And though battles were being fought in other lands, Aragorn could remember Denethor's heir as he had stood before the Council declaring 'By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe.'!
Boromir's heavy sigh was loud in the silence of the night. Aragorn did not stir. He suspected he knew what preyed most on the other man's mind. Boromir would not have missed Frodo's shuddering sigh, or how stiffly the Hobbitt was wrapped in his blankets pretending to sleep. Boromir knew as surely as Aragorn that Frodo had heard what passed between them, knew Aragorn's words would color Frodo's decision of the route he and the Ring would take to Mordor. The last night in Lothlorien, it seemed to Aragorn that most of the Fellowship had wished to go to Minas Tirith at least for a time to escape the terror of the enemy. Initially, he himself had planned to go to the White City with Boromir, but Gandalf's death had changed that. He couldn’t abandon Frodo if Frodo chose a different route. Having plainly heard the argument between the two men it seemed likely that that was exactly what the Ringbearer would do.
He heard Boromir move in his sleep again - no, not in his sleep. He heard a wakeful Boromir move because the man felt he would explode if he remained immobile. Unable to sigh without betraying his own inability to sleep, Aragorn settled for clamping his jaws tightly shut. With his eyes still closed he sensed the night grow darker. The wind quickened, and with it came a drizzle of rain. Not for the first time in his life, Aragorn wondered if the Valar somehow felt his frustration and sent the rain to cool him off. It was foolishness, he knew, but this time he almost welcomed it.
Aragorn's attention shifted to the campsite as Pippin strolled nearby. It was the hobbit's watch, and he was walking up and down to keep awake and warm in the rain.
Under different circumstances if he were awake, Boromir would likely take the remainder of Pippin's watch for him. Pippin would protest it, but Boromir could usually convince him of the logic of Pippin sleeping if Boromir could not. The problem tonight would be to do so without causing the Hobbit to worry about why Boromir was unable to sleep.
Of all the things he regretted from their heated exchange, perhaps the thing he regretted most was that it had robbed both of them of them of their rest. The river made for easier traveling, but they still all needed to be alert. They would need both strength and peace of mind in the days ahead. Aragorn must do his best at the first opportunity to reassure Boromir of his friendship – to undo the damage he had already done.
All his efforts this far had been folly. Tomorrow, he vowed to himself, he would set things right. Tomorrow would be a day of reconciliation instead of misunderstandings. Tomorrow, they would enter Boromir's land…their land…sail past the Argonath and he and Boromir would look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anarion. Their kin.