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Boromir strode with a sure step and high head into the Tower Hall of the Citadel. The cavernous room was as he remembered it: stark with its black pillars, white marble, and gold paint, shafts of light shining between the columns. His boots echoed quietly. “Greetings, Father.”
“Boromir! My son! You have been sorely missed.” Dismissing his advisor, the Steward rose from his Chair and walked quickly to embrace his son. His fur-lined cloak was rough on Boromir’s face.
“I missed you among the heraldry.”
“I apologize, but I was called upon to resolve an urgent matter with my councilor. I must say I prefer this quieter greeting where a father can embrace his son as he wishes.” Leaning back, he said, “You look well. What news do you bring?”
“War follows my footsteps, but I escaped the Anduin to bring a promise of victory for Minas Tirith.”
“War?” Denethor nodded. “I know of the stirrings in the East. How long until they are at our doorstep?”
“A matter of weeks, I judge.” His father’s fingers clutched his arms firmly.
“There is time, then, to send a messenger to Rohan. Their spears will be welcome.”
“The Orcs will not be long in arriving, but Rohan will be long in answering. Hordes of fell creatures attack their fields even now. We may soon hear their call for aid.”
“So Gondor will face her darkest hour alone,” Denethor said grimly.
Boromir’s pride overflowed into his voice and his smile. “You need not fret over Gondor’s solitary stand. With such a gift as I have received, victory is assured, Father. You must trust me.”
“None can promise victory in war,” Denethor answered sternly, finally releasing him. “Death and destruction, valor and sacrifice, these we can promise. Victory? I am sure I have taught you better than to give away such promises so easily.”
Boromir looked at his father with narrowed eyes. He looked older, more tired, than when he had last seen him. “Shall I return this precious gift I bring to you?”
Denethor’s answer was not swift. As his father studied him, Boromir watched as knowledge and memory merged and his father’s eyes widened with new understanding. “Such a promise is a mighty gift.”
“Indeed, Father, it is.”
Boromir greeted his brother as he walked through the courtyard, ignoring the dead tree to his left. “Faramir, I have returned!” He surrounded his brother in a rough but heartfelt embrace.
“Well met, brother. How were your travels?”
“Long and wearisome, but I learned much that was remarkable. And received gifts more precious.” Boromir smiled broadly as he led them through the Tunnel out of the Seventh Circle. The unusually strong smell of the stables reached him even at the entrance and he sped up to reach open air more quickly. “This is the moment Gondor has long looked for. All our lives we have been trained and schooled for this moment, Faramir. And now we will step into our glory. For the mystery of the riddle is no mystery at all. I have long known the Stewards need not await a lost heir to arise and claim the throne of Gondor. The Stewards of Minas Tirith have always had the power, the wisdom, and the nobility to sit upon that throne. It is time for us to arise and claim what we have earned.”
Faramir did not respond to their old argument of Stewards and Thrones. “Master Elrond read our riddle to say this?”
Boromir looked calculatingly at Faramir. The sharp clicking of their boots echoed on the stone walls and seemed to drown out even his thoughts. He knew his brother was content with Stewardship of Gondor. But why must Faramir seek the approval of Elrond on this matter? “What concern have we for an Elf of a distant land who knows nothing of our trials and our triumphs? I have received much counsel on this matter and a gift that reveals all clearly. We need only to show our Enemy what we already know. You will see. Or do you not trust me, Faramir?”
After seeming to weigh warring thoughts, Faramir nodded slowly. “I do trust you, Boromir. You know that.”
Boromir smiled. He knew his brother’s loyalty to him would override any doubts he had in the end. “You shall see, Faramir. And soon. For Mordor marches to war on us as we speak. We must gather all our strength to face our fiercest Enemy.”
“Yes. It will not be long ere they are on our doorstep.”
“Mordor? Have we the strength to stand against such a foe? Shall we call on Rohan for aid? Or Rangers from the North?”
“We do not need Rohan or Rangers, Faramir, and they shall soon have their own worries,” he said impatiently. His clenched fist shook in the air. “I tell you now, we have the strength, the power, and now the means to prevail. It will be a battle to be made into song.”
“Indeed. Perhaps you should tell me more of your journey and your plans for using our means to defend Minas Tirith against Mordor.” Faramir hesitated before adding, “And mayhap you can tell me more of this gift of which you speak.”
Boromir’s news of war had spurred the City into action and Faramir spent many hours assessing Minas Tirith’s readiness for battle. As Faramir returned to the Citadel, his thoughts returned to Boromir, and once more he tried to push away the rising doubts and ignore the feeling that something was different about him. Faramir had not been surprised over the excitement in his brother’s voice as he declared the approach of war. He had always anticipated such a moment with enthusiasm and an eye on future glory, while Faramir longed for it to pass quickly and as uneventfully as possible.
Remembering his brother’s face, he knew that beyond the challenging look lay something that he did not recognize. Even in Boromir’s confidence and pride, always such a part of him, there was a difference. His surety was well beyond his usual. Faramir could not say what had changed, but neither could he rid himself of the disturbing notion that this was not the same man who had left Gondor months ago. He set aside these thoughts once more to focus on current concerns. In time, he would find the meaning behind the shiver that ran down his spine.
As Boromir crossed through the Hall of the White Tower, something caught his eye. He glanced at the Chair in which his Father had sat as long as he could remember, then looked past it. Steep steps led up to a long-empty Throne.
Boromir turned slowly to face the Throne. Its silence was louder than his steps as they echoed against the marble. Without a word, the chair reminded all who passed for whom it waited and that the Stewards were always to be found wanting. But no longer.
The line of Stewards would come into its own, now that he possessed the weapon to overthrow Sauron. He strode to the stairs that led to the seat of Gondor’s King, and then he continued, walking up steps no foot had trod in many centuries. It created the odd sensation that he was rising above the floor, floating on some level to which mere humans could not reach. In too few steps, he found himself before the Throne. Did he dare? What was to stop him now? It was his right, he knew. Without questioning himself any longer, he turned and dropped his body onto the marble chair. Hard and cold, it seemed to be molded to his frame. As he looked upon the Hall, so small and distant from his perch, he was gripped with a sudden possessiveness. His. It was time.
At the sound of footsteps, he jerked, his fingers clenching around the armrests as his father’s eyes fell upon him. For a moment there was silence.
“Boromir,” Denethor started slowly. “I see you have been considering a change of rank.”
Boromir hesitated for a moment, trying to determine the best reaction. Then he laughed loudly. “Father, do not jest so. I merely wanted to see how the Hall might have looked to the Kings of old.” He looked down, appearing contrite. “I was… I was… only curious, Father. Forgive me.” He quickly descended the steps and walked out the side door.
“Curious,” he heard his father repeat behind him. “Indeed.”
It did not occur to him that he had not risen for his father until he was long gone.
Denethor took the long way to the Conference Chambers where he was to meet his councilor. He needed a bit of time to think.
Boromir had sat upon the Throne.
Not a soul – not even the greatest of Stewards, not even Denethor himself in his moments of despair over the future of Gondor – had ever taken the seat of the King. And yet his son had sat upon the Throne as if it were a seat at the dinner board. ‘Curious? Boromir, you have been curious about many things. This is a presumption even you would not make. It is unlike you. Or perhaps it is not – any longer.’
He had watched his son carefully since his return. The authority and confidence exuding from him was palpable even on the first day. A progression of subtle changes had confirmed his initial suspicions. Denethor was a learned man, familiar with lore as well as the myths that had fueled their concern over the riddle for which his son had gone in search of answers. Boromir had returned with more than answers, Denethor was sure of that. His son had said as much, though never more in words than the reference to his gift on that first day. And now he had sat upon the Throne of Gondor. His intentions were not as veiled from his father as he might think.
If his conclusions were correct, he ought to demand that Boromir turn over his find at once. Such a weapon as he carried should be used by only the strongest of wills. Even so, as Mordor marched to Minas Tirith, his son pledged victory, a foolish declaration from any other. Yet this was no ordinary war that approached, and Boromir’s was no ordinary offering. He could be patient. In the aftermath of battle, he would question his son. Now, he would take what gifts were given to him.
“Faramir, we must make a strong stand now,” Boromir said, raising his voice above the wind that seemed bent on drowning him out. “The Enemy does not expect such a show of force at such distances from our Gates. Fewer of their army will be prepared. Some could be turned back and improve the advantage for us when the battle reaches the City.”
“It is a sound strategy, Boromir. I am simply questioning whether we have enough men to take such a measure.”
“Well, perhaps you ought not to question me!” In the sudden muting of all the sounds of the city around him, Boromir calmed himself as quickly as his outburst had come upon him. He was well aware of the watchful glances his younger brother had given him of late and had no patience for his suspicions. Faramir was not a simple man, but one used to careful study and shrewd analysis of a problem. Once Faramir deciphered the riddle of Boromir’s gift, he would not be of the same mind regarding Its use. When that time came, Boromir had to be prepared to take whatever action necessary to ensure that Faramir was not a danger to his plans – or his possession. Until then, he would try to arouse as little suspicion and doubt as possible. “I apologize. My weariness got the better of me. I am merely trying to build a defense that will best protect our City and our people. We fight a battle from the West and the East. It will be a trying day when the armies of Mordor reach our lands.” The sounds of people and horses milling around them came back to him, bringing him back to their place at the Gate. “Lose not your hope, brother. Gondor will vanquish her Enemy.”
“Forgive me, Boromir, for all my questions. But I need to give my men more than vague assurances. While your men trust you –”
“You do not?”
“I do not say that.” Faramir wished to assure his brother that he did indeed trust him, but he feared Boromir would see the lie in it. Over the past weeks, Faramir continued to be confounded by the cryptic words his brother had offered upon his return. Yet he heard more in Boromir’s words than perhaps Faramir was meant to know. Boromir might believe he had a weapon of sufficient strength to defeat Mordor, but many years of study granted Faramir enough knowledge to see the darker hues such a gift often held and he feared his brother had fallen prey to a more sinister intention. Boromir would give his life for his City and for Gondor. In the end, they all might do so. But Faramir would not have such sacrifices made in vain. Though his heart wavered, he forced his voice and eye to remain steady. “I simply need a sound reasoning to counter my men’s questions. They wish to know the means by which you plan to overwhelm the approaching army, because to all of us, it is clear we are a poor match. We have not enough men, Boromir.”
“And so you question my judgment, even as you admit you have not all the information. Yes, it is true, I have not revealed all to you. In due time, you will know all.”
“And until then, you wish me to send men to the far reaches of Gondor, because from what you say, you alone will be strong enough to defend her.” Faramir paused, giving Boromir a steely look. “No weapon is strong enough to enable one man to defend a city.”
Boromir hesitated but a moment before answering quietly, “We have discussed this already. Even Father has agreed to the strategy.”
“Yes, I know this. I am asking now of those who remain. How will they defend the entire City?”
“As I said, brother,” Boromir said between his teeth, “leave that to me.” After a moment, he seemed to come to a decision. “I want you to take the men back to Osgiliath.”
“Osgiliath? To defend what? There is nothing left of the city.”
“It is an important strategic post. We must defend it, regardless of the cost.”
“How many will you sacrifice, Boromir, for your – strategy?”
Boromir gave him a hard look. “Do you doubt your ability to accomplish this?”
Faramir returned his expression, allowing the silence to lengthen, then closed his eyes in grief. “No, brother. I will do it.”
As he walked away, Faramir knew then it was time. Unable to match Boromir’s seemingly blind faith in his plan for victory, Faramir had struggled to keep his trust in his brother. Increasingly, he was left only with his waning patience and rising doubts.
And so, in whispers in the dark over the last few weeks, he had pieced together a plan, always with the hope that it was only the excessive caution of which his father had often accused him. Oh, for his caution to be too great today! Prudence had forced him to gather a small group of men whom he trusted utterly and who would answer to his command above all others. Tonight the soldiers would receive the awaited signal to set out on their seditious mission. After reporting to their assigned post, they would continue on, for the sake of their City and for Gondor, to seek what aid they could find in lands beyond.
Faramir knew he should accompany these brave men and lead them in their search. But he could not abandon his brother, his father, his City. Theirs would be the more difficult task, as they left behind all hope, for those who remained would likely be lost. He would remain at Osgiliath and defend her to the end.
Boromir and the few men still surviving the onslaught clashed swords at the gate to the Seventh Circle. Throughout the day and night, the Orcs had breached each Gate. While the forces of Gondor had given their all in defending their City, for every Orc they had cut down, another had taken its place. And now they stood at the Gate to the Citadel. In all its great history, Minas Tirith had never been breached. Never had foul Orcs stood on the threshold of the Tower.
But finally, Gondor’s strength and numbers diminished. The Steward himself had fallen with many men at the Fifth Gate. Many more followed as the Orcs reached the remaining gates. They did not have the strength to overcome them, because the men Boromir had sent to defend the outer posts had not returned. Including Faramir.
As his men fell around him, Boromir knew it was time to do what he had looked forward to with anticipation and trepidation. He slipped on the Ring. And vanished from sight.
Boromir took his advantage and ran to the doors of the Citadel. He knew why the Orcs had come and in such overwhelming force. But he would not allow the Dark Lord to obtain his gift. He could not. All of Middle-earth depended on his strength now. He alone stood between the Enemy and Gondor. He dared any Orc to attempt passage.
Orcs stilled their battle a moment as their enemy escaped them. Without an enemy to attack, they turned to the Tower that was now within their grasp. As one they ran to the doors, only to be struck down on its steps.
Now that he wore the Ring, Boromir’s power far exceeded that of the Orcs. He swung his sword and it sliced through two heads in succession. His return swing took down two more. The eyes of the Orcs widened with fear as they saw their fellow soldiers fall to an invisible foe. They wavered.
Then one large creature looked around and said, “You know where he is – follow the dead ones!” After a moment’s hesitation, they realized the truth and surrounded Boromir.
The Orcs continued to drop. And the Orcs continued to come.
Boromir’s strength did not wane. His heart soared, knowing he would have victory. Minas Tirith would be his.
The Ring, however, had other plans.
Suddenly, the Captain of Gondor appeared before his enemies. As the Orcs stood still in shock once more, Boromir looked about wildly. He knew immediately that the Ring had left him. He spied It soon on a marble tile in the foyer behind him. His heart clutched. If he ran back for It, the entrance to the Citadel would be left unguarded. But if he left It where It lay, It would surely fall into the Enemy’s hands. He turned back to the horde of Orcs still staring at him.
“What is he?”
“Is he an Elf? Is he a Wizard?”
“He ain’t an Elf! He ain’t got them pointy ears!”
“He can’t be no Wizard. They’re always old.”
“He’s not so old, if he was a Man.”
“He’s just a Man, then!” The rest came to fast agreement that he was indeed just a Man.
Boromir fought them desperately, slowly coming to understand the situation into which he had put himself. He had sworn to protect Minas Tirith and Gondor. He had promised his father victory. He had asked his brother to trust him. And now, it was all for naught. All his family, his people, fallen. And his fall was next.
There was one promise he did not break: He had sworn that the Enemy would claim the White Tower of Minas Tirith over his dead body. This promise he kept.
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