The King's Spirit
by Chris J. Ueberall
Summary: Boromir died in battle, but sometimes the dead come back.
Notes: Written before the third part was shown.
But in dreams I still hear your name
"I would have followed you, my brother. My captain. My king."
The words were echoing in his mind as he leaned over the dead body of Boromir, the second companion to die in their quest to destroy the Ring. Tears blinded his eyes as he kissed the warrior's forehead.
"Be at peace, son of Gondor."
He felt a heavy weight on his heart and a darkness settling over his soul as he stood. He hadn't allowed the fellowship to mourn Gandalf's loss, hadn't given them the time to deal with their grief. And even though he felt like giving in to his sorrow, he knew that mourning was still a luxury they could not afford, he could not afford. There were still deeds to be done, friends to rescue, a promise to fulfill.
They didn't even have the time to bury the steward's son. The river would become his grave.
"Farewell," he whispered, his misty gaze locked on the boat that carried the still form away from him. "I will miss you dearly, my friend. My brother. My lover. May we meet again on the other side."
Only when the boat was lost from his sight as it passed over the waterfall did he turn to seek the gazes of his remaining companions. He knew what they had to do, what Boromir would expect them to do. He had a legacy to uphold, a cause. And though his heart was heavy, it was also filled with memories of an undying love. Putting on Boromir's bracers, Aragorn sighed. It had to be enough.
I would have followed you, my brother. My captain. My king. My love. Keeper of my heart and soul. Forgive me. Forgive my weakness, my failure. I pledged myself to you. I should not leave you. I belong at your side.
"It looks quite good."
"Why did they throw it away?"
"It has only three holes in it."
"It's a he. A man. Not an it."
"So it is a he. Why was it ... he thrown away?"
"I don't know. Humans do strange things."
"Can I keep it? Him, I mean."
"No. We have to take him to the Lady."
"She has to decide. Now, help me, he's much heavier outside the water."
"Why should we?"
"I don't want to drag it along if I can't keep it."
"I told you it's a he, and you can't own a human."
"That's no reason."
"Because the Lady said so. Now help me."
"We could just put it ... him back."
"No, the Lady knows we found him, she will want to see him."
"He's really heavy."
"You sure I can't keep it ... him?"
What does he want? What does he think of me now?
'I'm grateful that you decided to go with us.'
'This fellowship needs you. I don't believe we could accomplish our quest without you.'
I defied him, I betrayed the oath that my family swore to his so long ago. How can he even look at me without disappointment and anger? But there is no anger. And his eyes are still looking into my soul.
'I know Gandalf well enough, and I know I can rely on Legolas and his arrows. But still, even if Gimli is as good with his axe as Legolas is with his bow, I know I will need another warrior at my side. Someone to back me up, someone who's able to take care of the Hobbits. I need you.'
The quest needs me. He needs me. Why does that lighten my heart, why do I feel proud of this?
'I will not take Gondor from you, Boromir. Your family has taken good care of Gondor and its people. It is your land as much as it is mine. I don't ask you to swear your allegiance to me now, all I ask is that you trust me as you would your fellow kinsman, as you would a brother.'
He won't take Gondor from me. Why would I believe him? But I do. I see into his eyes, blue like the darkened sky, and cannot find any fault in them. I have known him only for a brief time and already I trust him more than I do most of my kinsmen. Trust him like a brother? I can do that. I believe I could even love him like one.
"I told them he is a human, but they don't listen."
"Can I keep it ... him?"
"Hush children. There is still the feeling of life about him. His body is dead, but his soul is still clinging to it. Someone or something binds his spirit to the mortal plains. An injustice maybe or a task unfulfilled."
"What does that mean?"
"A soul that clings to the mortal world becomes a spirit, damned to wander the plains until all time ceases."
"That sounds lonely."
"Can you help him?"
"I will help him, children. You brought him to me in time. His soul and his body are still one. I will heal his body and so give his soul a place to live in. Now I send you out to find me the flower of light, the flower of strength and the essence of a firetree. Go and be swift, my children, we have no time to waste."
He laughs. Laughs about me and the Halflings. His eyes are like sparkling sapphires. Oh, could I but capture this moment for eternity, I'd never be without hope again. What is it about him that makes me feel this way? What kind of spell has he woven around me?
"We found the plants."
"I brought the essence, Lady."
"Put the flowers into the water and wait until it boils. Bring the essence to me, child."
What happened, what did I say? I was just wondering about the Ring. So small and yet so powerful. So plain and yet the most precious thing in Middle-earth.
His hand is on the hilt of his sword. Did he expect me to steal the Ring? I would never ...
What am I thinking? This is not me!
Yes, look at me. Look at me, look into my soul. I could never betray you. It would pain me to see disgust in your gaze. To disappoint you. Watch over me and I will be able to withstand the Ring. The whispers I hear vanish whenever I look at you, whenever I feel you gazing at me.
"What happens now?"
"What will we do next?"
"I need to free his body of the poison, only then can I begin with the healing. Take his clothes off and bring me the water."
"I do it!"
"No, I do it!"
"We must do it together anyway, he is heavy outside the water. Don't you remember?"
"Hold his head steady, and be careful with the water, children."
"It ... he doesn't swallow."
"The medicine will find its way into his bloodstream, do not worry. The flower has its name for a reason: life is what it gives."
"Is his soul still here?"
"Yes, it is. He is holding on."
I'm still trembling, because of this creature, this demon we could not fight. I saw the quest at its end. I saw your death when the stairs swayed. And now I show my weakness by speaking out in anger when I should see the wisdom of your actions and support you. Forgive me, Aragorn. You've proven today that your blood is truly that of the old kings. As I have proven to myself that I'm not worthy of Gondor's throne. May I be worthy to be your steward.
"What is happening?"
"The medicine is fighting the poison, burning it out of his body. We can begin to heal his wounds."
That he would think of me amidst all of this Elven beauty. Am I on his mind, then, as he always is on mine?
'I shall find no rest here. I heard a voice inside my head.' That Elven witch cut into my soul and laid bare all of my fears. 'She spoke of my father and the fall of Gondor.' And of me being the weak link in the fellowship, bound to fail, to betray.
'She said to me, even now, there is hope left.' But did she mean for Gondor or the fellowship? 'But I cannot see it. It is long since we had any hope.' I had hope when I came to Elrond, yet I lost it when you decided to destroy the Ring. How can we not fail?
'My father is a noble man, but his rule is failing, and the people lose faith. My father looks to me to set it right, and I would do it, I would see the glory of Gondor restored.' Why do I tell him? Why is he listening? I am not used to people listening to me. Obeying my orders, yes - but listening to me, my thoughts, my feelings? Never. Except for Faramir, maybe, but I never allowed myself to show any weakness in front of my younger brother. Oh, how I wish for you to be my brother, to be at my side.
'Have you seen it, Aragorn? The white tower of Ecthelion glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze. Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?'
'I have seen the White City, long ago.'
There is a wistfulness in his voice - does he long for the homestead of our fathers like I do? Yes, there is a longing in his eyes, the yearning of a man who has no place to call his own, who is alone among strangers. But that is not right. Gondor is as much his home as it is mine; it is lying there waiting for him. As I was waiting for him. 'One day, our paths will lead us there, and the tower guard will take up the call, the lords of Gondor have returned!'
I grab him as I speak and I can see hope flaring in his eyes, but he does not speak, makes no promises. He vowed not to take the throne from me, but I could not care less now. I am not meant to be king - he is. And he is the one of whom the prophecy speaks, the one to rescue Gondor. I know it. I feel it in my heart.
"Are you all right?"
"Is there anything we can do?"
"I am well, children. The healing takes time and I am not as powerful as I was once. But I will succeed."
He looks surprised as I kneel before him. 'I said that I cannot see any hope and I lied. In front of the council I said that Gondor needs no king, but I was wrong. The people need hope, hope that neither my father nor I can give them. But you could. The return of the king would give them hope.'
He stares at me, shakes his head. 'I am a mere man, Boromir. What could I do?'
'You are no mere man, Aragorn.' Can he not see what he is? How he inspires those around him? 'A mere man would not have brought us as far. A mere man would not have forsaken his throne for such a deadly quest. You are much more, Aragorn. Much more. You are my lord.'
Now he looks almost stricken. But a truer word was never spoken. He has become my lord, the lord of my sword as well as of my heart.
I reach for my weapon, but his hand on my arm stops me.
'Don't,' he says almost pleadingly. 'I don't want your allegiance. I don't want the wall between king and steward to separate us. I beg you not to take the brother I have come to love from my side.'
How can I go against his wish? I cannot. I grab his arm and for a time out of time we stand still in the greeting of brothers-in-arms, our eyes locked, our souls touching.
Then my heart speaks out and binds me to him forever more.
'I pledge my life and soul to you, Aragorn. To you - not as a steward to a king, but as a warrior, one brother to another. And I swear on my honour that I will be your brother and friend until the day I die. For I have come to love you more than my own blood and your welfare is most precious to me.'
"What do we do?"
"Is it supposed to do that?"
"Yes, he is. It is a sign that life has returned to his body. Now hurry and bandage his wounds. He cannot afford to lose much more blood."
'Brothers?' he asks, and I can only nod.
'Lovers?' His voice is barely above a whisper, but it echoes within my chest like the thunder on the Caradhras.
'Everything,' I answer, and take his hand to kiss his palm. 'I am yours. My heart, my body, my soul are yours.'
He swallows, and then he leans forward and kisses me.
My spirit soars, my body comes alive. This is what I have yearned for all my life.
He leads me to a secluded place and takes my clothes off me. I am barely aware of what I am doing to him. All that seems to exist is the feeling of his body against mine: his hands that burn my very flesh, his mouth that devours me. And like a man starving, I make a feast of him. He is mine. Well honed muscles, velvet over steel. His power burns so brightly, lighting my soul, melting my being. He takes me, fills me. Steals my breath and frees my heart. We are one, and I am his. His alone.
"Can we stay?"
"You will have to be patient. And yes you may remain. But don't disturb him. And see to it that some clothes are at hand. He will need something to wear when he wakes up."
He has come. 'They took the little ones.'
He looks so pained. 'Frodo. Where is Frodo?'
'I let Frodo go.'
And that makes you more than a mere man. 'Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the Ring from him.' How could I do that? It was me and yet it was not. I watched and listened to myself threatening Frodo, grabbing him, and yet it was not me. I wanted to stop and I could not. As if I was possessed by an evil spirit. You were right after all, Aragorn. And I was too weak.
'The Ring is beyond our reach now.'
'Forgive me. I did not see it. I have failed you all.' I failed you.
'No, Boromir. You fought bravely. You have kept your honour.'
Are those tears for me? Your eyes are bright no longer, there is so much pain. Because of me? I never meant to hurt you. 'Leave it. It's over.' There is no point in pulling out the arrows, you know that. As you know that the fellowship failed. Two of us dead. Frodo gone. The others taken by Orcs. Everything is lost. We will not see our home, Aragorn. No trumpets, no return of the lords of Gondor. I am sorry for giving you hope where there was none. You are alone again.
'The world of men will fail. All will fall into darkness, and my city to ruin.' I try to hold on to you. Need to touch you one last time. Feel you ...
'I know not what strength lies in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail.'
'Our people.' You said it, you mean it. Thank you. 'Our people.' They will welcome you, they will love you. As I do. You are their king. As you are mine. Now it is time. My sword, I need my sword.
Thank you. You know what I am doing, why I must do this, don't you? This is all I can give you. This is my heritage. Do what I cannot anymore. Lead our people.
'I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.' My love. Keeper of my heart and soul. Forgive me. Forgive my weakness, my failure. I pledged myself to you. I should not leave you. I belong at your side.
He did not know where he was. Who he was. All that he was aware of was the cold. Cold in his body, silence and darkness in his soul. And then pain, blinding agony in his chest. He cried out, opened his eyes, wildly looking around, his body spasming from the pain.
"It... he's awake!" a voice said, but it wasn't like any voice he had ever heard, somehow childish, somehow like clear bells ringing, not human at all.
He looked to the side to see what he would have believed to be two statues of small children, if they had not been moving. One made of amber and gold, sparks of fire pulsing within, the other a crystalline statue with sapphire lines rippling through it, blue like the summer sky, like a hidden lake. Like the eyes of his king.
He gasped as memory returned. Aragorn. Gondor. The Ring. The battle. His hand went to his chest, to his shoulder. There were scars, barely healed, still aching. Still ...? He should be dead. He had been dead. He was sure of that.
"I think he's hurting. We should give him the medicine."
"Maybe he's just freezing."
"You ask him."
"You found him, you ask."
The banter of the living statues called him from his musings. He had to smile at their antics; there was no doubt, whatever they were, they were children.
"You are so embarrassing," a new voice said, sounding irritated, and as he looked for the speaker, he found another of those creatures, this one a deep emerald, standing at the cave's entrance. It held a bundle of what seemed to be clothes in its hands, and finally his circumstances fully registered. He had been dead! He had died on the battlefield, pierced by Orc arrows. And now he was alive, almost healed, naked in a cave that was lit up brightly, though there was no source of light he could see.
The emerald one came to him and put the clothes down. "Are you in pain?" it ... no, she asked; he just knew that the green one was a female.
"Yes." He nodded.
At that the sapphire being moved closer, and now he could see that it held a small vial in its hand.
"This is against pain," it said, holding the small bottle out to him.
He believed to see a shy smile on its chiselled features, and suddenly he was sure that this one was also a girl. Looking at the third, he nodded to himself, they were all of the same kind. Three living girl-statues.
He took the vial and drank what was in it without hesitation. He was not afraid of them, or of his situation. There was a strange peace within him, one he had never known before. A calmness of his mind that gave him patience and let him trust, attributes which had not been strong in the man he had been before.
The medicine tasted like honey and it eased his pain almost immediately. Putting the vial aside, he grabbed the clothes. They fit him perfectly, but were of a material he did not know. Strong like leather, yet smooth as silk.
"Thank you," he said, smiling at the three beings.
They mirrored his smile and bowed slightly.
"The Lady said you would like the clothes," the one he thought of as Amber told him. "Do you?"
"Of course he does," Sapphire chided. "The Lady is always right."
"Who is this Lady, you are talking about? Is she the one who saved me?" he wanted to know. It seemed fairly obvious to him that these girls could not have wakened him from the dead.
"I saved you," Amber said.
"You did not," Emerald and Sapphire contradicted at once.
"You found him," the green one amended, "that is not the same. The Lady healed him."
Amber was not giving in that easily. "She could only heal him because I found him."
"And we helped you getting him out of the water and to the Lady," Sapphire reminded her.
"I have to thank the three of you then, young ladies," he interrupted them.
All three giggled in the highest tones.
"We are no ladies," Emerald said. "We are just we. And we are supposed to take you to the Lady when you are awake."
"Are you awake?" Amber asked.
"Of course he is. He's talking, isn't he?" That from the crystal-blue girl.
Emerald just shook her head at her sister, then took his hand and pulled him to the cave's entrance. "We shouldn't let her wait," she explained.
He nodded, following her into a labyrinth of tunnels. He was very curious about their Lady.
Where the Elven queen was tall and fair like a beautifully cut yet cold crystal, this one had the colour of rich earth, her shape all round and soft. She sat in a web of mighty roots that came from the cave's ceiling and grew on even deeper into the ground.
"Step closer, son of Men. Let me see you now that your soul and body are once more one and strength has returned to you."
Her voice was low and warm, the voice of an old woman full of knowledge and understanding.
He stepped closer, noticing only now the silver lines in her thick dark brown hair and then he was captivated by her eyes. Golden pools that seemed to measure him even more deeply than the Elven queen had. And yet he felt not as exposed or found wanting as he had then. Somehow he knew that she was not weighing his worth or looking for faults, but rather she was trying to see if he was truly healed and if there was anything still amiss or bothering him of which she should know. She looked at him as a mother would look at her son.
He knelt in front of her and bowed his head. "My Lady, I owe you my life. It is yours to command." He meant it, knowing somehow that she would not ask the impossible of him.
"No, it is not." There was laughter in her voice. "But I appreciate your words. Now stand up or even better, sit down and talk to me. I haven't had any visitors for a long time."
He looked up and around and then sat down on a branch - no, a root - next to her. Their eyes were almost on the same level and since she was sitting higher than he, he realized that standing she would be only as tall as Gimli.
"Of what should I speak?" he asked her.
"Tell me about yourself," she answered. "What has bound your soul so strongly to this world that you would rather walk it as a lost spirit than move on to the light beyond? What troubles you so?"
'Aragorn.' The name echoed through the cave, although he had not spoken it aloud. Stricken he looked at her.
She smiled and gently touched his arm. "This hall only echoes the deepest of feelings, not all of your thoughts, don't be afraid. So this Aragorn has captured your heart and soul. Is he worth it to travel this world again, to feel once more pain and sorrow?"
"Yes." The word danced around the walls. "He is my king and I bound myself to him freely. My life or death has no meaning without him. And yet I failed him, I ..." he faltered.
"Don't," she shushed him, "don't torment yourself. You are a mortal creature and bound to make mistakes. Thus the world has been made. We learn from our failures, they hurt us, sometimes break us, but even what is broken can be mended or forged anew. Your will to stay shows that you are not broken."
'And even a broken sword can still destroy the enemy,' he thought, thinking of Isildur and how he had cut the Ring from Sauron's hand. He smiled at her, accepting her wisdom.
"I should be with him," he said. "He might need me and I promised I would follow him." He wondered where Aragorn might be now. How much time had passed since the battle at Amon Hen? From somewhere he heard Frodo's voice 'But I don't know the way.' He smiled despite the pain the memory brought.
"But I don't know how to find him," he admitted, looking at her for advice.
She smiled and waved with her hand towards the living statues, who were standing at the cave's entrance. Now all three of them came forward, Sapphire and Emerald spread a blanket on the ground, while Amber offered him a wooden cup filled with a white liquid.
"I have anticipated your wish and while I cannot tell you about your friend's fate, I can give you the means to find out for yourself. This potion will let your spirit walk on the path of time. You will see what has been, is and may come. Your heart will be your guide. But remember, although this path does exist it may not be followed to the end. The future is always changing."
He was not sure he understood her words fully, but he realized that whatever he would see might at least give him a clue as to where he should begin his search. So nodding, he took the cup and drained it. The potion tasted bitter and burned in his throat and guts, and for a moment fear surfaced, fear of magic, fear of the unknown, then it was gone and he lay down on the blanket.
Looking at the strong roots he could see above him he felt a bone deep tiredness sweep through him, then his eyes closed of their own will, sending him into darkness.
A second figure joined the ranger. A dark haired Elf-maid, Elrond's daughter.
"Your eyes are drawn to the son of Gondor again, my love," Arwen said and Boromir knew somehow that she spoke Elvish, though he understood every word.
"You are right, yet I cannot tell you the reason," Aragorn answered in the same language. "Strange feelings assault and confuse me whenever I look at him and yet I cannot stop watching him."
"What do you feel?" she asked, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Her betrothed closed his eyes for a moment, then spoke without opening them. "Guilt, I think. And a pull ... a longing which I have never felt before."
"And what do you believe it means?"
Aragorn opened his eyes again. "I think I feel guilty, because he takes on the duty which I am shunning. I am Isildur's heir and yet it is he who protects Gondor."
"And the longing?" Arwen asked quietly.
"Maybe I wish to call Gondor my home?" It was a question, and as he turned to look at the Elf it was obvious that he expected her to have an answer.
She smiled at him, then shook her head slightly. "I might agree with your words, had I not seen Boromir look at you with the same light in his eyes, although if possible even more confused. His gaze lingers on you whenever your paths cross. And he does not know who you are yet. Don't try to betray your heart, my love."
Stepping back a little Aragorn's hand moved towards his chest. "My heart chose you," he said almost sharply.
"As my heart chose you. But your soul might still be yearning for its other part. Someone to share a different part of you, someone to fulfill a different need." She waved in Boromir's direction. "Boromir came to ask for help, a sign of weakness in his eyes, yet for his people he swallows his pride. He is young and angry, a warrior with a duty. He is a kindred soul of yours, he might be even more to you. Do not cast the possibility aside lightly. It is a dark time; every love found in such a time is a love worth the risk."
Suddenly Boromir felt himself lifted from the scene. He was back amidst the clouds, then he found himself on a misty road. Images and memories of the fellowship and their journey appeared and disappeared before his eyes, most of them too quickly gone to behold more than the barest of glimpses. Then one was as clear as the scene in Rivendell had been. And again he seemed to hover nearby, unseen, yet able to see everything clearly.
It was after the battle at Amon Hen. Aragorn was leaning over his dead body. Tears brightened the blue eyes of his king, as he leaned forward to kiss his forehead. "Be at peace, son of Gondor," Aragorn said, and Boromir could hear the pain in the beloved voice.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, but knew that Aragorn couldn't hear him. He looked around and saw Gimli and Legolas, the Dwarf's features showed pain and sorrow, while the Elf had a thoughtful expression on his handsome face.
'He wonders what I meant to Aragorn,' Boromir guessed, looking back at his lover. 'And he will know when he looks into his eyes.' He sighed, staring at his corpse. 'This is still the past. I need to know what happened afterwards!'
As if his thoughts commanded his flight through time he was suddenly amidst the clouds once more and looked down at a group of riders, who surrounded three of his companions.
'Rohirrim,' he acknowledged. 'Éomer.'
He could hear their voices and nodded at Gimli's proud words, agreeing with them, even though he could see that Aragorn thought the Dwarf's attitude unwise. But Gimli was of noble birth; his honour did not allow for humbleness.
'Aragorn is still thinking like a ranger; he has yet to learn to act as the king that he is,' he realized, as he watched the scene below unfold. Somewhat amused, he noticed Legolas' protective behaviour, wondering if there was more to it than an Elf prince supporting his Dwarven shieldmate.
The scene vanished and he found himself beside a river. Something was floating in the water. A man. 'Aragorn!'
Before he could really comprehend what that might mean the image was gone again and he flew over Helm's Deep. Fear crept into his heart as he saw how thousands of Orcs - all of them as strong as the one who had killed him - ran against the fortress, spilled into it.
He looked for his companions and found Gimli and Legolas amidst a crowd of enemies. The Dwarf's axe was singing with bloodlust and the Elf's knives were dancing in a deadly rhythm. Then he saw Aragorn, fighting side by side with ... Elves in dark armour.
'Elves at Helm's Deep? Lord Elrond must have sent them, or the Lady Galadriel.'
The Elves around Aragorn fell and the ranger found himself in front of an Orc blade without a chance to escape the blow.
Boromir heard himself scream in helpless fury, but the deadly strike never came. Instead the Orc fell to the ground - dead. Behind the fallen stood a hooded man, who lifted his sword towards his face and bowed slightly. Aragorn mirrored the gesture, then turned to take on another enemy.
'Who was that?' Boromir wondered as the winds of time carried him away to another place.
He did not recognize the area and did not care, for the sorrowful look on Aragorn's face cut deeply into him. His beloved stared at his arm, the right hand slowly following the markings on his left bracer.
'He's wearing my bracers!' he noticed with surprise and awe.
"You seem troubled, my lord," a low voice said, and as Aragorn turned around to face the speaker, Boromir looked up to see the hooded stranger again. He was wearing a sword, a knife and slung over his shoulder bow and quiver, but no armour. And although he looked at Aragorn his face stayed hidden.
"I am," Aragorn admitted. "Here I am, about to raise an army of the dead to fight for Gondor, and yet the one spirit, the one soul I know who would want to be at my side in this battle I cannot summon." He looked at his bracers again. "I'm afraid I might fail him."
"You won't!" the stranger said sharply, though he did not raise his voice. "You are no mere man, you are destined to become Gondor's king. As long as you stand fast there is hope left." The last was spoken almost gently and it was then that Boromir realized who the hooded man was.
"And I wouldn't be too sure that the spirit you were thinking of is not here with you. If it meant so much to him, how could he not be at your side at a time like this? Have not other miracles happened? Do not despair, my lord."
Aragorn looked at the stranger for a moment. "I thank you," he said finally. "You are right, stranger things have happened, miracles even." A small smile lightened his features. "Like people saving my life and disappearing before I could thank them."
The hooded man bowed in acknowledgement, but stayed silent.
"I don't even know your name," Aragorn admitted. "Will you not give me a name to go with the deed at last?"
"My name belongs to someone who died awhile ago, I am not the man I was before. Today I'm merely a spirit walking these plains."
"Following my king."
Aragorn seemed to be surprised at that admission, but didn't question it.
"I will call you Spirit then, if you don't mind. It isn't any odder than being called Strider and it seems to fit you."
The stranger nodded, turned and walked away, but halted after some steps. Not looking back he spoke again.
"You will hold to your promise. You won't let the White City fall, nor your people fail." Then he was gone.
Aragorn looked startled at his words and prepared to follow him, but at this moment Legolas and Gimli appeared and he turned towards them instead.
"You shouldn't stray so far from your friends, laddie," the Dwarf said by way of greeting. "Dangers and enemies are lurking everywhere."
"You are probably right, but I needed to be alone for a while."
"But you were not alone," Legolas reminded him. "The one you spoke to, he is watching you all the time."
Smiling Aragorn laid a hand on the Elf's shoulder. "There is no need to be concerned. Whatever his reason, I'm sure he has no ill will towards me."
"What makes you so sure?" Gimli wanted to know. "He might try to get close to you to slit your throat."
"I know he won't hurt me, because he already saved my life, at least once. And he came here to soothe my troubled mind. I trust him. With my life." Aragorn looked at the spot where the hooded man had stood, remembering his words. "Though I admit that there is something about him that is ... confusing me. He seems to know a lot more than he should. Still ... I trust him. He reminds me ..." he did not finish that sentence, but Legolas did.
"Of Boromir. The way he moves, walks, though his step is lighter."
"Boromir wore armour," Gimli reminded them, "that stranger does not. Maybe they are related. He keeps apart from the other rangers. Maybe he is a ranger from Gondor, who doesn't want to be recognized?"
Whatever Aragorn thought of this idea Boromir did not hear for he was swept away again and for a long time it seemed as if he would only see misty images of events or pictures too fast in their coming and going to really be understood. Then, all of a sudden, he stood on a battlefield. Men and Orcs fought around him. Horns sounded.
He turned around, knowing what he would see, but unable to not look at the city that stood there proudly. Minas Tirith, the White City, his home. He swallowed. Surely this was the battle that would decide the fate of Middle-earth. He looked for his friends. He found Gimli and Legolas fighting side by side, and Éomer not far away. Then Aragorn came into his view and he felt his heart jump at the sight, for his beloved looked magnificent, truly a king of Men.
As the battle faded away his last glimpse was of the hooded man, protecting Aragorn's back.
Yet the next image showed the same field, but where before had been the sounds of swords and other weapons clashing and the cries of warriors in the air, there was now an almost deadly silence, though now and again cries of pain and distant voices could be heard. The battle was over and healers and women of Minas Tirith walked over the field, separating the wounded from the dead.
'Did we win?' Boromir wondered. Seeing his kin taking care of their soldiers seemed to indicate that the city had not fallen, thus the battle not been lost. 'But at what cost?' How many had survived the battle and who had given their life for the freedom of the rest?
It was then that he noticed three well known figures roaming the battlefield, every so often stopping to take a look at a fallen or to help a wounded, but never staying for long.
"He has to be around here somewhere!" Aragorn's voice held more than a trace of worry and anxiety.
"He could be everywhere," Gimli contradicted, following the Man. "He might even wait for you in the city. You said yourself that you didn't see him fall."
"But I felt that he was no longer with me. No, Gimli, he was wounded, he wouldn't have left my side otherwise."
"He might be dead then," the Dwarf's tone was rough, remembered loss heavy in it.
For a moment Aragorn's step faltered, his face pale he turned towards his friends. "I will not believe that, but if it is so, then at least I shall give him the proper resting place to have him remembered as he deserved."
The three companions exchanged a look of understanding. Then Legolas and Gimli nodded and returned to their search.
"Boromir," he whispered, kneeling beside the hooded man, his hands moving over the chest judging the wounds. "Please, open your eyes. Please. You cannot have left me again."
A painful moan could be heard.
Hope blossomed on Aragorn's expression as he gently lifted the wounded man's head, letting the hood fall back so that the face was revealed.
"By Durin's axe! He was right. It is Boromir!" Gimli looked at the companion he thought lost and then smiled up at the Elf. "And I thought it was just wishful thinking. Another of the fellowship rising from the dead. Now I have no doubt that Frodo and Sam will come back to us also."
Legolas nodded, but his eyes never left the Men. "How is he?" he finally asked.
Aragorn just shook his head, as if he didn't know or didn't want to know the extent of the wound.
At that reaction Boromir drifted closer, looking down at his own face. There was something different about him and he noticed that his future self was only wearing a beard's shadow. He was about to reach for his own face when he remembered that he was not really there.
"Boromir," the voice of his king was gentle and yet urgent. "Spirit, open your eyes, come back to me."
Slowly grey-green eyes, misty with pain, opened, and for a heartbeat Boromir met the gaze of his future self, certain that he could see him as well. The spell was broken when Aragorn called his name again, and turned his head so that he would look at him.
"My lord," the wounded whispered, "you did it."
"Yes. Gondor is safe and Sauron destroyed. The Fellowship has not failed." While he spoke Aragorn shifted his friend into his arms. "The White City awaits the return of their lords."
Boromir/Spirit smiled in relief, but then he shook his head slightly. "The trumpets will sound for their king only," he whispered, gasping ever so often in agony.
"No!" Aragorn shook his head. "You will not die!" His voice became a plea as he continued. "Don't leave me, I beg you. I could not bear to lose you again." Gently he caressed his lover's face.
Somehow unable to stand the pain on his beloved's expression, Boromir turned away to look at Gimli and Legolas, who were both watching the scene in front of them unfold. The Elf stood behind the Dwarf, sympathy on his features, while Gimli's eyes were bright with unshed tears. As he took a closer look, Boromir realized that Legolas' hands were on his smaller companion's shoulders and that their left hands were intertwined.
'So there is more between them than friendship,' he thought, somehow not truly surprised. 'I wonder what their families will say.' His train of thought was interrupted, as his future self cried out. His gaze returned to his king.
"Boromir, hold on!" Tears were running down Aragorn's cheeks. "I need you. You are a part of my soul. My ... spirit." The last was said with obvious reference to his new identity. "Don't leave me."
"I won't," the wounded man promised between gasps. "I pledged my life and soul to you. But Boromir is gone, leave him be in peace." He raised a hand and grasped Aragorn's arm. "I will stay with you, my king, my love ..."
His perception changed again as he was taken away from the battlefield into a chamber he knew very well. His room in Minas Tirith. The scene in front of him warmed his soul for he saw his future self in a close embrace with his king, they were kissing and their hands were roaming every so often up and down their backs.
'We are saying farewell,' he realized, as his gaze lingered on the naked body of his beloved that stood in contrast to his own fully clothed status. He was wearing the ranger outfit again, even the cloak, and his weapons were lying close at hand. Obviously he was preparing to leave the city.
"I wish you would stay," Aragorn said, breaking their kiss. "Or that I could go with you."
"I know. But that cannot be. You are the king; your duty lies here."
"You could stay. You could take your place as my steward, as it is supposed to be." Aragorn's fingers played with the clasp holding the cloak. "This is your home, your heritage."
Boromir grabbed the hands, pulled them to his lips and kissed each finger before he guided them to their sides again. "Boromir's heritage. But the people believe him to be dead. They would smell dark sorcery if he was to return suddenly. And that is not a good omen for the beginning of your reign."
"Gandalf returned from the dead also, and everyone is full of praise for him. Why shouldn't the same apply to you?"
"Oh, but Gandalf is a Wizard, I am just a mere man. And falling into an abyss while fighting a creature of the ancient world is a death surrounded by myth. There is nothing of that sort surrounding my death. There was no magic involved, only Orcs. And many of those whose kin were killed by Orcs would resent my coming back for the simple fact that their husbands and loved ones will not. No, believe me. I know my people and it is best that all they know is that I died in battle."
Aragorn sighed. "So I cannot keep you here."
"No, you cannot." Boromir shook his head. "But I will return. And I will tell you of what I found. I will travel through Gondor and even as far as the Halflings' Shire to see how the people are faring. The Orcs are scattered now, but they are still far too many to be left to their own devices. Every ranger is needed out there to restore the peace."
The king smiled at that. "Who would have thought that our roles would be reversed like this."
"I doubt even Gandalf has foreseen this." Boromir nodded, grinning. "Though I am certain that Strider was the better ranger, I promise that Spirit will do his best to be a worthy substitute."
"I have no doubt about that. After all, are you not my spirit?" Aragorn leaned forward and kissed him again. "I still wish you would stay, but I know I shall not hold you. So promise me at least that you will be careful."
"I don't wish to leave you, either, but I also feel the need to go out again and do something. Besides, I have a promise to fulfill. But I will come back, do not fear."
Their embrace was almost desperate, as their kiss seemed to be. Then they broke apart and Spirit put on his weapons.
"Where are you heading?" the king asked.
"Towards Fangorn first, maybe Gimli and Legolas are still there. I would not mind their company, if they were so inclined."
They looked at each other again. Then reached out simultaneously to grab each other in the way of brothers-in-arms.
"I love you, my king," Boromir said, a sad smile on his face.
"As I love you, my spirit." Aragorn's expression mirrored that of his lover.
Once more their lips met in a kiss.
And once more the invisible watcher was swept away to another scene. Even before the sight fully registered, Boromir knew that this was the last part of his journey, and somehow finding Aragorn looking old and lying on his deathbed didn't come as a surprise, though it hurt to see his beloved so weak.
Arwen was beside her husband, unchanged by time. Tears brightened her eyes, yet a gentle smile was on her face. She held Aragorn's hand and spoke softly to him.
"There is nothing to forgive, my heart. I chose this life and do not regret it. You leave me alone, but you leave me with bright memories of an everlasting love. Do not burden your heart with my fate. Rest now and do not let fear trouble you. I will be here and you know that your other love is waiting for you on the other side." Looking away from her husband the Elf's gaze travelled through the room to come to rest on Boromir, or at least that was how it seemed. It was a strange feeling, and he shivered despite his bodiless status.
"You are deeply cared for," Arwen went on, once again looking at Aragorn. "And you will always be remembered."
As the Elf leaned down towards the king, the world began to darken and then Boromir was engulfed in blackness and cold.
There was the sensation of falling and instinctively his arms flailed to grab for something to hold on to. But there was nothing.
And then he was back in the cave.
"Eat!" she ordered, her smile widening. "A journey on the path of time takes its toll of the traveller's strength. This meal will give it back to you quickly, for I can feel that you wish to be on your way already."
He nodded while obediently emptying the bowl. When he finished, he put it aside and took a look at the cloak that was draped over him. He had seen it before. Remembering something else from his ... vision, his hand went to his face, finding his chin as smooth as it hadn't been since his childhood.
A question in his eyes, he looked up. The Lady shrugged, a gesture so human that he felt a grin spreading over his face.
"The children wanted to see the man beneath the beard," she said, mirroring his grin. "Oh, and they cut your hair, too. But undoubtedly both will grow back again."
Since she had mentioned them, he looked for the living statues but they were not around.
"I sent them to fetch something for you," the Lady explained, reading him with ease. "You like them, do you not?"
He nodded. "They are ... unique," he said, groping for a better word, "intriguing."
"That they are. They were gifts from the King of the Mountain, a long time ago, even for me. Of course they were just beautiful statues when they were brought to me, but even then I could feel a spark of life within them. So I nurtured it until it became a flame, burning as brightly as the fire in every living creature. They have brought me nothing but delight since."
He gazed at her in awe, only now fully realizing what kind of power the Lady held in her hands. A chill travelled down his spine. He had died. He had been dead. Not just mortally wounded - dead. Witchcraft had brought him back.
She looked at him and laughed, the sound of a tower bell, of horns welcoming a traveller back home. "You look as if you just found out that your best horse is a cow. Why are you so surprised? The Elves taught the trees to speak. So why should I not teach statues to walk? There is life within everything, my son. In stones as well as in trees. You do well to remember that."
"I shall." He nodded. As before her voice soothed him, warmed him like a fire in a cold night. So different from the Lady Galadriel, although the memory of Lothlórien would always burn within him. The touch of his beloved, his strength surrounding him.
'Aragorn.' Again the name of Isildur's heir echoed through the cave. He could feel the blood rushing into his cheeks.
"Young love," she commented teasingly. "Always impatient. But do not worry, I shall not keep you against your will."
"How long have I been here?" he asked, wondering which of the scenes he had seen were already part of the past.
She shrugged. "Down here time is not measured in days nor does it run as fast or slow as in your world. Thus I cannot answer your question. I can only tell you that the children found you not far from the great waterfall."
Her words were of little help, but somehow he was not surprised. He remembered their rest in Lothlórien, and although they had had no time to spare, it had seemed as if they stayed there for days. This place held the same otherworldly feeling.
The 'children' chose this moment to reappear, and he rose to greet them. All three carried weapons - Emerald a bow and a quiver full of arrows, Sapphire a sword and Amber a knife - giggling, they held them out in front of him. He reached for the sword then hesitated, not certain he was worthy of such gifts.
"These weapons were given to me over time," the Lady explained as if reading his mind. "Strengthened and preserved by magic they lay here and waited for a warrior to take them up and wield them. They were made for battle, not for lying around. You are in need of weapons, for your own were lost to the river, and these weapons are in need of a master. Will you wield them for me?"
Instead of answering he took the sword and unsheathed it. It lay perfectly balanced in his hand, as if forged for him alone. The thought crossed his mind that this sword would not have broken under Sauron's assault. He reached for the knife and nodded in appreciation: another piece of excellent Dwarven work. The bow and the arrows on the other hand were obviously Elven craft.
He donned the weapons and secured the cloak around his shoulders. "I hope to wield them with the honour they deserve," he said, bowing towards the Lady.
"I have no doubt of that." She smiled.
"I will forever stand in your debt. How can I repay everything you gave me?" he asked.
Her golden eyes glowed in amusement. "Forever is not such a long time for a mortal," she chided. "And gifts are worth nothing if they come with a price attached. But if you feel the need to grace me with a gift of your own then I shall not stop you. Stay alive for as long as your mortal body allows it, and take the time to visit me when your quest is done. And if you should bring friends along then you would gladden my heart."
"What about an Elf and a Dwarf?" he asked, remembering some parts of his journey through time.
Now her eyes truly shone like twin stars. "Then, my son, it is I who will be in your debt." She looked at the statues. "Did you find one?" she asked.
Amber nodded. "He is beautiful and he said it would be his joy to help."
"We already put a halter on him, he is waiting outside," Sapphire added.
Questioningly Boromir stepped forward, meeting the Lady's gaze once more.
"A last gift," she told him. "A horse is waiting for you, so that your impatient heart may reach its destiny as quickly as possible." She smiled at him, the warm smile that he had come to cherish.
"Thank you." He knelt before her, his eyes never leaving hers. "I promise I will return."
Gently she laid her hand on his head. "Farewell, my son. May the earth under your feet be true and your road safe."
He stood and followed the living statues into the labyrinth of tunnels.
Sapphire stood beside him and handed him a blanket and a waterbag.
"The Lady says this will give you strength and fill your belly," Emerald explained pointing at the bag.
He nodded in understanding. Strapping the items to his back, he said good-bye to the 'children', then mounted the horse which had waited for him near the tunnel's entrance.
"You have to tell him where you want to go," Amber told him, when Boromir looked around wondering where he was. "He will know how to get there."
Smiling at the golden girl, Boromir leaned forward and gently patted the beast's neck.
"Rohan," he said after a moment of thought. He had seen the hooded stranger - himself - fighting beside Aragorn at Helm's Deep. If he wanted his visions to come true, he had to be there.
"Yes, Rohan it is," he repeated and at once the horse moved northwards. He looked back one last time to remember the place, then looked forward ever on. His king was waiting.
Something about the place struck him as familiar, though he was not sure why. Of course he had been in Rohan before, but somehow he doubted that to be the reason. His gaze was involuntarily drawn to the river. A dark shape floated in its midst.
"Aragorn!" he shouted, remembering at last. Spurring on his horse he all but flew towards the water, jumping into it. He grabbed his beloved and pulled him onto the shore.
The ranger lay still under his hands.
Leaning forward, Boromir laid his mouth over Aragorn's and breathed for him, then he pressed his chest, trying to get the water out of his body.
A twitch under his fingers, a gasp. Quickly he turned Aragorn onto his side, holding him as he spit out two mouthfuls of river. Feeling tremors running through the other man, he drew him against his chest.
"Boromir?" It was barely a whisper.
He looked down into weary eyes. A hand tried to reach for his face, but never made it. His king was as weak as a newborn.
"I failed." Pain and guilt so evident in two quiet words.
"No." He stroked along the wet cheeks. "You have not failed and you will not."
Blue eyes widened in surprise. "I ... dead ..." Aragorn asked, fighting to stay awake. Obviously - seeing his lost companion - he believed he had died.
Boromir shook his head. "Death is not yet upon you, my love." Lifting his king's head, he kissed him. "Sleep now, I'll keep watch."
Obediently Aragorn closed his eyes and fell asleep.
For a while Boromir did not move, other than to wrap his blanket around his beloved. He was content with holding him close, to feel the beating of his heart under his fingers, his breath against his neck.
But eventually he realized that Aragorn's breathing was shallow and a cold breeze reminded him of the fact that they were both wet and that they couldn't linger here for long.
Gently settling the sleeping man on the ground, he stood and went to fetch the horse.
"You brought me this far, now you will take care of him," he told the beast as he led it towards Aragorn. "Take him to Helm's Deep."
Retrieving the blanket he secured it on his back again, then pulled the cloak's hood over his face before he reached for the waterbag, opened it and held it against his companion's mouth.
"Drink this," he said, wetting Aragorn's lips with golden liquor. "It will give you strength." Still half asleep Aragorn swallowed.
Boromir smiled in relief.
One last look at his king's face, then he rose and walked towards a group of rocks. From there he could watch but would not be seen.
No matter how much he wanted to stay with his beloved, he knew that today was not the day for a reunion. Their time would come.
Aragorn awoke to someone nuzzling at his face. Surprised he looked at the horse standing next to him. 'Where did it come from?'
For a moment he could not remember what had happened, various images running through his mind. Wargs - Orcs and a battle - Boromir kissing him - Gimli and Legolas - a hooded figure - Gandalf - water surrounding him ...
And then everything came back.
He had fallen over a cliff into the river. He had drowned. Or nearly drowned. Someone must have saved him. Looking around he saw no one, but he could see the traces of another person in the sand beside him.
A voice inside of him whispered that it had been Boromir, but he knew that this part of his rescue had to be a dream. Or a visit from the other side. Maybe his lover's spirit had been there to send him back to the living, because his task was not yet done. But surely he had not dragged him out of the river. A living man had done that, probably the hooded stranger whom he could vaguely recall giving him something to drink.
Slowly Aragorn rose, one hand grabbing onto the horse to gather his balance.
He could feel eyes upon him, but as his gaze followed the direction of the footsteps, all he could see were rocks. Either the stranger had a very good hiding place or he wore a cloak not unlike the Elven cloaks Galadriel had given the fellowship.
"Thank you!" Aragorn said loudly, certain that the man would be nearby. After all, you did not rescue someone from drowning to leave him unprotected from any roaming wild beast afterwards.
"I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn. I'll be forever in your debt."
There was no reaction to his words and he hadn't expected one. The man was probably a ranger, as he himself had been, and many of them did not care for the company of others. They helped if help was needed, but preferred to be left alone if possible.
He nodded towards the rocks, from where he still could feel eyes watching him, then mounted. As he urged the horse forward he cast a last look around, but his rescuer remained invisible.
Trusting the horse to find its way, he tried to stay awake by thinking about the future. He was afraid that Theoden's decision - to run for Helm's Deep instead of meeting the Orcs head on - had been a mistake, but he had to believe that time would prove Théoden right. He had to believe that there was hope left.
For if Rohan fell then he - Aragorn, Isildur's heir - would very likely die before he ever reached Gondor. But that could not be his fate.
He had promised to protect the White City; and by his love for one man, he swore he would not fail.
May it be shadows call will fly away
The song parts of *In Dreams* and *May it Be* were quoted from the 'Fellowship' soundtrack.
© 28 February 2003