Disclaimer: The characters herein are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien, his estate and heirs, and of New Line Cinema. Not mine, no money.
Flames leapt up all around him, reaching above his head, blinding in the darkness. They cast tall flickering shadows in every direction, surrounding him, and he felt like a child again, cowering before some imaginary terror.
The cacophony of sound around him slowly resolved itself into the clash of steel on steel, the screams of dying men, the howls and gibbering of orcs; the noise of battle. Dazed, he looked down, found his sword gleaming black with blood.
He turned, and discovered he was in the courtyard before the Great Hall. Fire licked up around the roof of the hall, the house of Stewards. It backlit the White Tree, making it seem even more gnarled and ancient and dead.
He realized then that Minas Tirith was burning, a slow-dawning despair in his soul. He had failed. The enemy had taken the city, had invaded to its very heart. The knowledge was a mortal blow to him and he reeled, falling against the trunk of the Tree, feeling its rough dead bark against his cheek as he panted.
It cannot be! It cannot! But now he heard women shrieking above the crash of metal, the triumphant sound of orcish laughter as they slaughtered without hindrance.
He pushed away from the tree, stumbled toward the steps of the hall. As he drew closer, what he thought were shadows revealed themselves to be soldiers, sprawled carelessly on the hard stone where they had fallen defending their lord. Their faces were horrible to behold in the uncertain illumination of the fire; familiar and strange all at once, twisted by death.
The unsteady light glinted briefly red-gold on one figure’s hair, and a cry ripped from his throat. He staggered, fell to his knees by his brother’s still body. Blood had gushed from the wound in his side, and made the marble steps slick; his eyes stared blindly up into the starry sky.
The flames roared higher, and he could feel their heat against his face, drying his tears even as they fell. I should have done more, he thought, unable to move, unable to stop weeping. There must have been more I could have done to stop this! I should have fought harder! I should have been able to save them . . .
Save them . . .
Yes! I want to save them!
Only one way . . .
The fire looked different now; it didn’t seem real any longer, a mere reflection, as if in a glass . . .
Or gold . . .
“Boromir?” Someone was shaking him.
If you don’t . . . they will die . . . Boromir . . .
“No!” And he opened his eyes.
Leaves still clung stubbornly to the tree limbs above, despite the lateness of the season; they were not thick enough to obscure the light of the moon, and created mottled patches of shadows on the ground. He blinked in the darkness, breathing heavily for a moment, trying to reconcile where he was with what he remembered, trying to push the vivid nightmare away. Hard ground beneath him, roots and stones digging into his back, a canopy of branches and stars overhead; a small warmth curled up close to his side—ah, yes, that would be Pippin. Then, sensing someone behind him, he twisted carefully around until he could see that it was Legolas.
The Elf knelt a hand-span away, both hands curled now around the upper limb of his bow. The moonlight gilded his fair hair silver, threw the rest of his face into shadow, but Boromir could feel the weight of his eyes.
Forgetting himself and where he was, he sat up, disturbing the Halfling at his side.
“Bor’mir?” Pippin’s sleepy slurring of his name drew Boromir’s attention. “S’m’thin’ wrong?”
He couldn’t help it; Pippin reminded him so of Faramir at that size that he smiled. “Nay,” he whispered, tucking the hobbit’s cloak more closely about him, “‘tis Legolas, waking me for my turn at watch. Go back to sleep.”
Pippin muttered and rolled to his other side, snuggling up to Merry’s back instead, and Boromir climbed stiffly to his feet. Legolas had already stepped away, back toward the edge of the trees. As Boromir settled his sword back onto his belt, Aragorn emerged from among them. It seemed he glanced in Boromir’s direction, but he said nothing, and lay down, rolling himself into his cloak to sleep.
Boromir took up a position on the far side of the tiny stand of trees, looking out into the wilderness, and hoping, as he had for the past several nights, that the evils of the world would continue to pass them by.
It had almost become a ritual between them. Legolas would awaken him when his nightmares became too loud or too violent. Once awake, Boromir would take Aragorn’s place upon the watch, for there was no returning to sleep after such dreams as he had been having.
He could not bear to think of Minas Tirith burning, yet he saw it in flames nearly every night.
It will not happen, he vowed, repeating the words over and over, trying to drown out the doubts in his heart. It had little effect.
He had been standing there for perhaps an hour when Legolas spoke softly, almost in his ear. “You take good care of them . . . Merry and Pippin.”
Boromir started and turned; he had not heard Legolas come up beside him. Then the words registered, and he gave a deprecating little half-smile that he knew the Elf would easily see even in the gloom. “I guess I do.”
He was a bit surprised that the Elf didn’t move away immediately; they had spoken but little after Elrond’s council meeting, and only on necessary matters.
Legolas had been the one to wake him that first night, though. He had been the one to start the ritual; seeing that Boromir had not been able to go back to sleep, he had suggested that standing watch for a while might help.
But from that night until this, they had not spoken; there had been no words between them, and he wondered what had changed.
“Why do you so?” Legolas asked quietly. He was not looking at Boromir as he asked, though; he stared out past the trees, looking, searching.
Boromir looked away from his companion, returning to his study of the wintry landscape around them. “Why would I not?” he replied in the same tone. To him, the answer was self-evident. “If I did not do what I could to protect those who need it, who are smaller or weaker than I . . . what kind of man would I be?”
“What kind of man indeed.” The words were spoken so softly that Boromir thought he had imagined them. He glanced at the Elf out of the corner of his eye, and saw that he had wrapped both hands around the upper curve of his bow again, the butt of it against the ground as if he would lean against it.
He had had no real experience with Elves before Rivendell, but somehow . . . he had the odd feeling that whatever objections Legolas had to his presence had just been laid to rest.
And really, he knew it should bother him more than it did—that he had to pass some kind of unknown test.
But the dreams of Minas Tirith in flames overrode nearly everything else, leaving little space in him for any other feeling.
He jumped when Legolas spoke again. “Among the Elves, it is said that a burden shared is a burden halved.”
Boromir nodded. “We also have that saying.”
“Perhaps, then, if you were to share your dream, it would trouble you the less.”
He stood silent for a long moment, watching his breath crystallize in the chill air. “I fear it will trouble me the same whether I share it or not,” he whispered at last, closing his eyes.
“It cannot hurt, even if it does not help.”
Slowly, Boromir nodded; the sense in the Elf’s words was undeniable. “My city burns, overrun by orcs,” he said, forcing all emotion from his tone. “Her people are put to the sword, and I know none will survive . . . I know that there must have been something I could have done to save them, that I failed them somehow . . .” He felt his voice wavering, about to break and stopped before it could.
There was only silence by his side, and he turned to see if he was alone once more . . . but no, Legolas still stood there. The moonlight shone on him brightly; he seemed almost to glow. Boromir was amazed at the immeasurable sadness he could suddenly see in the Elf’s eyes, and he was ensnared in the dark gaze.
“That is a sorrow that few indeed could bear alone.” Then Legolas clasped his shoulder, and the strength in his grip was such that Boromir felt it despite his leather armor and heavy cloak. “But you are not alone, my friend. And though it may pain you to be so far from your home when it may be in need, what you do now may serve as the best shield for your homeland that you can provide.”
Boromir simply looked at him, and there must have been doubt in his eyes, for Legolas gave him a tiny smile. “I realize that my words cannot truly offer you peace,” he said, and released Boromir’s shoulder. “But they are the only comfort I can give you.”
Again, Boromir nodded, though he did not return the smile. “I know. And I . . . I do thank you.”
Legolas inclined his head. Boromir returned to his watch a few moments later, and knew when the Elf melted back into the trees, though he heard no sound of passage.
And while he stood solitary on the edge of their camp, the ritual and the knowledge that he was not alone sustained him until the dawn.
May 5, 2005
© randi (K. Shepard), 2005