by Sasjah Miller
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"... The hobbits had been nearly two months in the House of Elrond, and November had gone by with the last shreds of autumn, and December was passing, when the scouts began to return. Some had gone north [...] and others had gone west, and with the help of Aragorn and the Rangers had searched the lands far down the Greyflood, as far as Tharbad, where the old North Road crossed the river by a ruined town. ..."

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring, book 2, ch.3: The Ring Goes South.


"... filthy Rangers; ruffians they are if you asks me. Who says they haven't gone over to the shadow from the East, eh? Always sneaking around in the wilderness, they are. And those soldiers from the White City? If you wants my opinion they're just too frightened to ..."

The rest of the insult drowned in raucous laughter, but Boromir had heard every word and rose from his seat in the corner of the inn where he and Aragorn had seated themselves, hoping to find out more about the Black Riders. Boromir fumed with anger, slamming his mug down hard, foam and ale sloshing on the table, rivulets of beer dripping slowly on the floor. Aragorn rose with him, putting his mug down next to Boromir's and he held the younger man, hand on his chest, staying him, warning him wordlessly.

"Leave it, Boromir, leave it be," he said, with more calm than he felt, the other man's rage trembling against his hand, radiating from him in righteous waves through the worn leather garment. The rage threatened to engulf him too, pulling him down, rekindling feelings of anger and resentment he had managed to keep carefully hidden for so many years.

"But I cannot let this insult pass, Aragorn," Boromir hissed, teeth clenched, shoulders stiff and square in anger, his right hand reaching for his sword.

"You can, and you will, Boromir," Aragorn whispered and he led him away from the boisterous group of drunkards towards the bay window in the farthest corner of the inn. Filtered autumn light fell through its squared windows, the late rays of the sun playing over Boromir's silveren tresses, fading sun framing his head in flames, setting his blood red tunic on fire. His breath came hard, wrath marring his words, his voice harsh and unforgiving.

"But they insult us, Aragorn, they mock the White City of Gondor and make light of you and your companions' hardships. Have you no honor? Do you not feel the need to set those ignorant fools straight? Show them who is King?"

There now, it was out in the open, the thing that had kept them apart since the Council of Elrond, that had ridden between them on the road to the Greyflood, followed them on the long way back and now was there with them in The Forsaken Inn, a day's journey from Bree.

"This is not Minas Tirith, my friend," Aragorn said, his hand still lying on Boromir's breast, feeling oddly and precariously balanced on the edge of the abyss that he had carefully stayed away from all these years. Boromir had voiced his innermost thoughts for him, so that he might look down over the edge of the cliff and see what was there. But still he did not know the answer to the question Boromir asked of him. He spoke slowly, his voice soft, his words soothing in all their cruelty.

"Boromir, in here you are not the Captain of the Guard sworn to defend the White City's honor against slanderous words; in the Forsaken Inn you are not the Steward's son. Nor am I King, not even in my dreams."

He sighed softly, his hand subconsciously caressing the worn, skinwarm leather under his fingers.

"Boromir, we are months away from the White Mountains. To these people, you and I are just men, filthy Rangers even, not one bit worthy of their attention. And neither should we be. My friend, they named this place aptly. The people here feel they have been forsaken by the realms of Gondor and Arnor, that history has passed them by and that they have been left with the dredges of all things glorious and wonderful. They do not count it as their blessing that they lead uneventful lives, wanting to be part of that great and glorious thing they consider history. Disgruntled by everything, they do not care to remember that Gondor's deaths and the hardships of the Rangers are buying them the freedom to defile and deride their protectors so easily. It is the price we have to pay, my friend. It is the price of those who were born to serve and protect their fellow men. So be seated and leave it be, we are drawing enough of attention as it is with our insistent queries about the Black Riders."

He still would not sit down, although Aragorn felt his anger subside just a little at his last words and he truly felt sorry for his companion. Despite all his experience as a leader of his men, despite his heroic battles against Sauron and his armies, Boromir had led a sheltered life. Cosseted by the love of his people, engulfed by the unswerving loyalty of his men of the Guard, the younger man had never firsthandedly experienced the thoughtless degradation of people who knew no better, nor cared about anything except themselves. It had taken Aragorn years before he could finally let the thoughtless insults slide off of him and not feel the hot flare of anger take over his thoughts. And even now he would occasionally feel the need to strike out, or worse, to run away from it all. He bowed his head slightly and spoke softly, seeking for a way to help Boromir with this hard lesson.

"Do you remember the ancient oak tree we saw earlier today, Boromir, standing a mere ten miles outside Bree? Do you remember its massive trunk, its bark scarred by lightning and winter storms? Yet its crown was wreathed in green leaves, and it dominated the forest around it. Such a tree may hold out against the heavy winter storms coming from the North, giving shelter to the wood life that has taken refuge there, but it did not grow to such magnificence by being strong from the start. Had it stood like that in its youth, it would have been ripped from the ground by the first fierce gusts of wind, its roots not yet gripping the earth strongly enough. It could only have survived by having bent with the wind, bowing to the storms that whipped its branches until it grew strong and tall enough to withstand the storm, letting itself be scarred, its youthful, smooth bark becoming gnarled and weathered. And even the tallest tree still is wise sometimes to bend its branches to the wind, lest they break and fall. Bow and grow we must, Boromir. That is the fate we must fulfil and our failure to do so may prove to be the ruin of us all."

Boromir grumbled, angry still, but he seemed to see the wisdom of Aragorn's words and he seated himself again, staring morosely at the wooden table, his hands clenched around his empty mug. Aragorn put his hand on Boromir's, gently, a mere touch of palm on skin. Boromir looked up as laughter surrounded them again and rough drunken voices were raised in a bawdy song. Their eyes met and slowly his fists unclenched as Aragorn beckoned the bar maid who came over in her own good time and changed their empty mugs for full ones.

The End