Obediently he urged his horse forward to ride beside his King. Aragorn looked at him. "So, you believe you were not meant to be a member of our Fellowship?"

Boromir smiled. "You've been talking to my brother." the King didn't smile back and he continued more seriously. "The dream came many times to Faramir but only once to me. He was meant to go, not I. No doubt that is why I brought nothing but ill fortune on the Fellowship."

Aragorn looked at once appalled and exasperated, an expression Boromir had never seen on his face before - or anyone else's for that matter. It took the King several moments to answer.

"Boromir, when do you think we first realized the Ring was affecting you?"

He considered. " After Lorien. The Lady Galadriel saw it I know."

But Aragorn shook his head. "You're wrong, my friend. Gandalf, Elrond and even I saw it as far back as Rivendell."

Boromir stared. "Then why -?"

"Why did we accept you into the Fellowship?" Aragorn smiled, a little grimly. "Because we also forsaw, all three of us, that the quest would fail were you not a member of the Company."

"But you were wrong, the quest nearly failed because of me!" Heads turned up and down the line of horsemen and Boromir flushed in embarrassment.

"No." The King answered calmly. "Had Frodo not fled from you he, and the Ring, would have been taken by Saruman's Uruks."

"So I have been told, many times." Boromir said impatiently. "Yet surely the same result could have been achieved with less danger. What if Frodo had not escaped me?"

"And now we come to the heart of the matter." Aragorn said softly. "How did Frodo escape you, Boromir?"

"He put on the Ring and fled." the other man answered warily.

"I had no difficulty tracking Frodo to Amon Hen. You have more than enough skill to have done the same - but did not. Why?"

"With the Ring at a distance its influence lessened, I came to my senses."

"No, Boromir. That is not the way it works." the King frowned. "Can it be you still do not understand?"

"Understand what?" the other Man asked helplessly.

"That the One Ring had a will of its own and that that will was working on us all from the moment the Fellowship set out." Aragorn answered quietly. "I felt it, and Gandalf, and Legolas. By the time we reached Parth Galen it was troubling Gimli and even the young Hobbits."

"But it was I who succumbed." said Boromir.

"Say rather you were the first. It would have destroyed us all in the end." the King sighed. "That is why I let Frodo go, I realized I could no longer answer even for myself." then he looked piercingly at the other Man. "But had you not been slain I would have sent you after him."

Boromir could only gape.

"Sam's humility and his love for Frodo saved him in the end," Aragorn continued. "but of all the Fellowship only you were proof against the Ring's power."

"Aragorn, I was the last who could be trusted! You know what happened." Boromir sputtered.

"Yes, but I don't think you do." The King's steady regard was becoming unnerving. "The Ring's power did not lessen, Boromir, you broke free of it. A great deed, I have never heard of the like. The call was meant for you and none other. Faramir could not have done what you did; first frighten the Ringbearer into flight, just in time to save the Ring from Saruman, and then free himself from the Ring's spell so Frodo could go safely."

Suddenly Aragorn smiled like the sun breaking through clouds. "The only thing you did ill was get yourself killed, but I forgive you for that."

"Thank you!" Boromir managed, head whirling. He seemed to remember Gandalf saying much the same, but somehow it seemed more convincing coming from Aragorn. Could his weakness have been a necessary part of the pattern after all?

Note: Gimli and the Hobbits would have been the most resistant. The Dwarf because his people were bred to be proof against outside influences. And the young Hobbits were protected by their innocence and lack of ambition.