Boromir shook his head stubbornly. "I am sorry, Mithrandir, but that I cannot and will not believe! We make our destinies we are not bound by them."

"For Men that is true." Gandalf explained patiently. "But the rest of us are more limited. We must follow the chords of the Music."

"So it was the Music that made you lay down your kingship, take mortal flesh and go into Middle Earth?" Boromir asked openly skeptical.

Gandalf blew out a sigh. "We are not puppets, my friend, we have Free Will, but we cannot change Fate as you Men can -" belatedly the full implications of Boromir's words registered. The wizard came to a full stop on the blossom drifted ground of the orchard, turned and stared.

Boromir, who had been waiting for it, smiled a little smugly enjoying the reaction.

It took Gandalf a moment to get his breath back. "How - Did the One tell you?"

"He didn't have to. I was permitted to hear the Powers debate my return and I have heard you quarrel with my father far to many times to mistake your voice raised in anger." he laughed aloud at the look on the wizard's face, recovered himself and made a gesture of apology. "Forgive me, but if you wish to be treated with the reverence due the Elder King you must not look like my old friend Mithrandir."

"As to that I have little choice. I am flesh now and will remain so until the End." Gandalf answered.

"A very great change." Boromir pointed out, suddenly serious.

"Yes it is." the wizard sat down on a bench beneath a great blossoming cherry tree. "I have known hunger and thirst, pain of wounds and all the other inconveniences of the flesh. I have known the Children as my fellows, not my subjects. I have been as one of them and I am changed." he smiled wryly up at the Man. "Your old friend Mithrandir is who I am now, who I have become."

Boromir sat down next to him. "The thought of my friend Mithrandir holding the fates of the world in his hands is not an entirely comfortable one." he said, a note of teasing in his voice.

Gandalf grimaced. "It has been a very long time since that was true. The Fate of Arda lies now with the Younger Children, including you, my friend."

"And that is an even less comforting thought." said Boromir.

"It makes me afraid." Gandalf admitted frankly. "And yet it also gives me hope. I have seen Men do great evil. Yet I have also seen them achieve great good against terrible odds - and recently too." he smiled quickly then turned grave again. "Arda is marred and I cannot mend it. But, you Boromir and other Men can. It is within your power not to restore the old Music but to make a new one; cleansed free of evil and richer and more varied then the first."

"Or to bring all down in Darkness forever." said the Man grimly.

"I do not believe that will happen." Gandalf said with fierce energy. "I have known Men and I believe in them. More importantly the One believes in his Children and trusts in them. He cannot be mistaken."

"No He cannot." Boromir agreed softly.

The One trusted Men. He trusted Boromir. Walking slowly back to the Hobbit hole the Man sighed and wished he dared trust in himself. Still so far the lessons, to which he had agreed only on condition he be allowed to end them at will with no questions or arguments, had been far from alarming; discussions of philosophy, discourses on history, much of it things he already knew but had never thought on having more urgent matters to give his mind to.

Truth be told he'd found his lessons rather pleasant than otherwise. They reminded him of the good times, after the children and come home to live and before Father and Faramir had begun their undeclared war. Of lively discussions over family meals and around the hearth in the evenings. Faramir and Father eagerly debating obscure points of lore while Idril listened, reserving judgment, and Boromir himself smiled indulgently not really listening but savoring the warmth of family companionship.

What had he been expecting? Boromir asked himself as he ducked through the round door and walked stooped down the passage to his room, spells and dwimmercraft? He wasn't that ignorant. He knew very well the arts his father had practiced were far more subtle. But his was not a subtle mind. Perhaps he'd been right all along, maybe he wasn't capable of learning what Gandalf and Elrond were trying to teach - in which case there was nothing to worry about at all.

"He's quick, far quicker than I had expected." Elrond observed.

Gandalf nodded a little ruefully. "He always had the mind, all he needed was the teaching."

"I begin to be angry with this father of his." Elrond continued. "What was he thinking?"

Gandalf sighed. "Denethor was wise and subtle but had no skill in war or with Men. He sought to make his heir everything he was not - and desired to be."

"A not uncommon tendency in parents." Elrond acknowledged and sighed. His children were lost, at least as long as the World lasted, mortal Men and Woman with Aman closed to them but ultimately free of the trammels of Arda.

Gandalf said nothing, there was nothing to say. After a moment Elrond continued. "Whatever his reasons he gravely wronged his son."

"He was not the only one." the wizard said grimly.

The Lady Galadriel was another of Boromir's teachers and he was far more wary of her than of either Gandalf or Elrond. She was alien, pure Elf with no tinge of Man, and no real understanding of them for all she was she was Finrod Felagund's sister. Perhaps it was because he was always somewhat on his guard with her that he first noticed the change while in her company.

They were sitting beneath the flowering boughs of the mallorn trees she had caused to grow around her airy, east gazing halls, the fallen leaves making a golden floor beneath their feet as she spoke of her rejection of the Pardon and her long years of exile. The words were cool and considered, the musical voice serene, but he could sense the pain of wounded pride, of homesickness, of anger, and of a shameful lust for power running beneath like an underground river

Moved by an old anger of his own he drew from that darkling stream the bitterest memories she had and gave them back to her clear and vivid as if they had happened yesterday rather than three Ages of the World ago:

The young Galadriel, then known as Nerwen, sitting at table with Morgoth, then called Melkor and fair and wise in seeming, the fire of ambition kindling in her heart as she listened to him speak of freedom and rule in far Middle Earth. An older Nerwen watching Aqualonde burn, a blade dripping with the blood of her Noldorin kin in her hands, grief and anger raging in her heart - but overcome by pride and the ambition that had become her guiding passion. And how that same ambition and pride had barred her from the Pardon of the Valar and forced her to pretend - even to herself - that she didn't desire it.

The Lady gave a little cry of pain and her eyes filled with tears, one crystal drop rolling down her smooth cheek. Instantly dismayed and remorseful Boromir apologized.

"My lady, forgive me. That was uncalled for."

She shook her head, wiping her eyes with a gossamer sleeve, suddenly vulnerable as any mortal woman. "It was not. Did I not once do much the same to you?"

"You did." he agreed. "But you meant it kindly, as I did not."

Galadriel smiled tremulously. "My intentions did not make the experience any less painful for you. I am glad you realize I meant well," she sighed, "but whatever my intent I succeeded only in increasing your torment of mind. I am truly sorry for it."

She was. Boromir could read her sincerity as plainly as he'd ever read a nervous recruit or soul shaken soldier of the Tower. Gently he said; "For what it's worth I doubt there was anything you could have done to help me as I was then."

She sighed. "There was one thing, but that was what we could not do."

"Send me away." he said and smiled faintly. "I wouldn't have gone."

"So Aragorn said." she sighed again. "He believed it was too late for that and preferred you under his eye."

Boromir nodded judiciously. "I would have said the same in his place."

"You are much alike in some ways." said the Lady. "And very different in others." she smiled apologetically. "Aragorn is the only Man I have ever known well. I was misled by the likeness and didn't see the difference until it was too late."

"Sheep seem much alike, save to shepherds." Boromir quoted lightly and was rewarded by the Lady's smile.

It wasn't until long after he had left Galadriel that just what he'd done dawned on Boromir, shaking him to the soul. Not only had he read the Lady's thoughts but drawn on them to place images in her mind - as she had done to him long ago in Lorien.

"How could I do that?" he demanded anguished of Gandalf. "How did I know how to do it, what have you done to me?"

"Very little. The potential was always within you, we but encouraged it to grow."

"You've always been able to read minds and hearts." Frodo pointed out gently. "You know you have."

Boromir shook his head helplessly. His insight into Men - and others - he'd accepted as a matter of course but - "This is different."

"Only in degree, not in kind." said Gandalf.

The three of them sat over their empty supper dishes in the Hobbits' little dining room, the air clouded with pipe smoke and the evening stars shining bright as jewels in the royal blue sky outside the round windows.

"Most Dunedain have such powers," Bilbo said soothingly, "it's as natural to you as a gift for cookery is to us Hobbits."

The tightness in Boromir's chest loosened a little. That was true, his father and Faramir had touched minds and memories with him many, many times. Perhaps it wasn't all that surprising to find a similar power within himself. Just uncomfortable.

"I am not accustomed to such things." he said.

"We know," Gandalf answered, "the purpose of our teaching is to make you accustomed."

"In which case we still have far to go." Boromir said dryly. Still he relaxed a little, not quite realizing he had taken the first step towards accepting his new nature - and its burdens.