Boromir, Thou Shall Live
By Priscilla Stafford
Author's Note: Can you believe how long it's been since I updated! It's quite embarrassing and I must apologize for keeping you guys waiting for so long. I hope you've all been having a great summer! I've been keeping myself pretty busy though I won't bore you with details. Enjoy this new chapter; I'm quite interested to hear about your reactions to it.
P.S. I apologize beforehand for any erros, misspellings, and typos as this hasn't been beta-ed yet. :D
Chapter Forty-five: Even Shadows Cannot Conceal All
Merry's curiosity was piqued as soon as Elfhelm made mention of the Wilde Men of the Woods. At first he had not liked the talk of wild men and poisoned darts, but now for him, the waiting was unbearable. He longed to know what was going to happen.
One part of him warned that if he should try to sneak upon the meeting of the king and the Wild Men, there was a very good chance that he was going to get caught. And he winced to think of what harsh words would follow if that should ever happen.
Yet another part of him was tired from having ridden four days on end, the ever-deepening gloom slowly weighing down on his heart. There was a need in him to have someone to talk to; Dernhelm was no comfort for the man never spoke to anyone and everyone else tried to pretend that Merry was not even there.
Perhaps by actually doing something, like finding out the king's plans, would he find some way to calm the restlessness in him.
He got up from ground and soon was walking warily in pursuit of the last lantern before it disappeared among the trees, the lights of which the kings men were leading one of the Wild Men headmen to the king. As he walked, he wondered what exactly had made him decide to come when he had been given every excuse, even his lord's command and Boromir's words, to stay behind.
Perhaps he was becoming just as thoughtless as Pippin.
The thought of Pippin increased his restlessness. Poor Pippin, shut up in the great city of stone, lonely and afraid. Merry wished he was a tall Rider like Eomer and could blow a horn or something and go galloping to his rescue.
Presently he came to an open space where a small tent had been set up for the king under a great tree. A large lantern, covered, above, was hanging from a branch and cast a pale circle of light below.
As Merry strained his eyes to see, he made out that there sat Theoden and Eomer. Before them on the ground sat a strange squat shape of a man, gnarled as an old stone, the hairs of his scanty beard straggled on his lumpy chin like dry moss. Though sitting down, Merry could see that the man was short legged and fat armed, thick and stumpy, and clad only with grass around his waist.
Wanting to get a closer look and deciding that if he actually wanted to hear anything he have to go closer, Merry crept as quietly as he could towards them. The Wild Man began to speak, in answer to some question, it seemed.
"Lo, father of Horsemen," he spoke, his voice deep and guttural. Merry was surprised that the man spoke the common speech though in a halting fashion, uncouth words mingled in. "We fight no. Hunt only. Kill gorgun in woods, hate orc-folk. You hate gorgun too." The Wild man pointed a finger at Theoden to emphasize his words. "We help as we can."
"Our need is for aid in battle," Eomer said. "How will you and your folk help us?"
"Bring news," said the Wild Man, head held high. "We look out from hills. We climb big mountain and look down. Stone-city is shut. Fire burns there outside; now inside, too. You wish to come there? Then you must be quick. But gorgun and men out of far-away." He waved a short gnarled arm eastward. "Sit on horse-road. Very many, more than Horse-men."
"You say that Mundburg is on fire." The voice came not from those sitting and as Merry watched, Boromir emerged from the shadows to stand just within the light from the lantern. It was hard to see his face, but to Merry the Gondorian seemed pale and tense.
"Yes." The Wild Man eyed the newcomer for a moment before saying, "Let Ghan-buri-Ghan finish! More than one road he knows. He will lead you by road where no pits are, no gorgun walk, only Wild Men and beasts."
As the man spoke, the hobbits eyes were on Boromir and saw that the Gondorian was suddenly very attentive as Ghan-buri-Ghan spoke. Something about a different path, another road, which had caught Boromir's attention.
"Many paths were made when Stonehouse-folk were stronger," the Wild Man continued. "Road used hunters is forgotten by them going through Druadan to Rimmon with great wains. But forgotten by Wild Men."
All of a sudden, a hand clamped over Merry's mouth. Stunned at first, Merry couldn't even struggle as he was carried off a ways from the king tents. His instincts soon kicked in, and literally. As the heel of his foot connected with his captor's knee, he heard the person curse under his breath before.
Dropped like some sort of baggage, Merry moved to reach for the hilt of his sword when the man spoke. "Now, Master Hobbit, you have proved beyond doubt how resourceful you can be. Not only can you find away to join the Rohirrim army, but you can hold your own against an assailant."
Peering through the night's darkness, Merry could finally make out the familiar, smiling face. "Bawuer! Merry exclaimed.
"Aye, tis me," Bawuer remarked with a cocky smile.
"You didn't have to sneak up on me like that," Merry said, though there was no real annoyance in his tone as he was just happy that his captor was the amiable Rohirrim.
"No, my friend, you were the one doing all of the sneaking. Besides, did you really want to create a huge spectacle and have Theoden and Boromir knowing that you are here?"
Merry, guilt of how he would feel indeed if it should ever happened seemed evident on his face as Bawuer said, "I did not think so. You were lucky that I was the only one who saw you."
"What… what are you going to do?" the hobbit asked timidly, getting up from the ground and dusting himself off.
Bawuer became serious and crossed his arms over his chest, looking intently into Merry's eyes. "Did you really have every intention to continue on this trip without letting your presence be known?"
When he was answered with a silent nod, Bawuer sighed and looked away, indecision all over his face. "Merry, from what little I have gathered, I have a feeling you have been through some battles where it is a miracle you survived."
Here Bawuer sharply turned his head to face Merry. Taking a few short steps, the man crouched down so that their eyes were level. "But believe me, little one, when I saw that we will be facing one of the greatest battles ever to take place on Middle-earth. So many of us will not make it alive. Do you understand what I am saying?"
A chill of fear stole through Merry as he took Bawuer's words to heart. He had known the risks but to be told in such a earnest tone, with the Rohirrim soldier's eyes grave with a hint of apprehension
It unsettled him that such a man was exuding such a quiet, acceptance of what lay ahead for him. Whether he was heading for victory or death, Bawuer had already accepted the fact.
But was Merry ready for such an acceptance?
Then he remembered the many names and faces, all of whom had made the same decision as Bawuer had as to their fate. Aragorn, Gandalf, and the rest of the Fellowship. But most of all, he remembered Frodo's face at Amon Hen, just as Frodo had been heading for the river. Heading onwards to continue a perilous quest to destroy the one thing which could save them all.
In Frodo's face, Merry had seen the other determination of accomplishing the impossible for the sake of Middle-earth.
And Merry decided then and there that he would do no less.
The hobbit finally answered Bawuer's question in a firm voice. "I understand what I'm getting myself into."
Regarding him carefully, Bawuer finally broke out into a smile. "There's a lot of mettle in you, that there is. I am beginning to have a great respect for your kind."
"I never though I would be the one who would representing my kind in any way," Merry said with a modest shrug of his shoulders. He didn't think himself brave in any kind of way; he had known too many brave people along the way of his journey that he still felt rather small and insignificant to be compared to the ones he would respect.
"Well, I have only met you and Pippin," Bawuer said with a wink. "Yet the both of you are quite the representatives." The man stood up and thoughtfully looked down at the hobbit. "I think however, that you will need to inform the king and Boromir that you are here."
"I do not wish to worry them or be a burden," Merry insisted.
"But are you not being a burden to someone right now?" Bawuer asked, curiosity showing in his eyes. "Who is it that you travel with now?"
"A young Rohirrim soldier by the name of Dernhelm," explained the hobbit. "He offered me to ride along with him, as he is light and his horse finds no difficulty in carrying the two of us. So you see, I am well taken care of."
Bawuer, still looking unsure, said slowly, "I admit it seems you are taken care of. But you must know that sooner or later, you will be found out."
"And it seems it shall be sooner, rather than later."
Merry and Bawuer stiffened and turned sharply around to see a figure approach. The figure being none other than Boromir himself.
Knowing that there was no use trying to make a run for it, Merry meekly stayed where he was, carefully meeting the Gondorians eyes. Fortunately, the man didn't seem angry.
But he didn't seem exactly pleased to see him either.
"Meriadoc Brandybuck, somehow I am not too surprised to see you here," Boromir said, stopping to stand right in front of Merry as Bawuer moved to stand aside for the two.
Not knowing exactly what to say, Merry could only wince at the formal tone the other had taken.
There was a deafening silence before Merry almost felt, rather than heard, Boromir sigh and release whatever it was that had kept the man silent. "It was wrong for me to leave you behind, Merry, and I apologize," Boromir began, his tone relaxed and some good humor now in his eyes.
The unexpectedness of the apology, especially since he was awaiting some kind of reprimand, caused Merry to stutter as he tried to make sense of what Boromir had said.
"You, you are apologizing to… to me?"
Boromir smiled. "Aye. I'm apologizing because I know from all that you have been through, what we have been through in our journey together, did not leave any room for your being made to stay behind. It was wrong.
"However," Boromir continued before Merry could say anything, a stern look returning in his eyes, "it was wrong of you to hide the fact that you are here from King Theoden." At the hobbit crestfallen look, Boromir said, "I have spoken to the king about you and he has told me of his admiration for you. I know that he was hoping and trusting you to watch out for the Lady Eowyn."
The words stung more than anything as Merry did recall the king mentioning that the hobbit would watch over Theoden's niece. He had not thought about it but as he did so now, there was a sinking feeling in his stomach. And there was only one way he knew of it to go away, albeit it one which caused him to feel all the more nervous.
"I will go and see the king right now," the hobbit whispered.
Boromir laid a comforting hand on Merry shoulder. "That would be the best thing to do, my friend. But you will not be alone and I shall be with you. And this time I will not hesitate in standing up for you in your decision to want to come with us."
"You will vouch for me? Merry queried hopefully, knowing that if Boromir were to be on his side, perhaps the king would not be so reluctant in the hobbit joining the army.
"Even though I may be a burden?" he asked again.
The Gondorian chuckled. "Even so."
Still worried about the upcoming meeting, Merry shifted his feet uncomfortably. Boromir called his name and Merry was forced to meet the man's eyes which looked down at him not unkindly. "You are worrying too much, Merry; you forget that the king is a kind, and fair, man. If I may hazard a guess, I would say that he will greet you most kindly and will not be sending you back."
"That will be because it would be even more troublesome to try getting me back," Merry pointed out, though his good humor was returning and he allowed himself to smile. It was returned as Boromir agreed.
"If I may add," Bawuer spoke after remaining quiet to let the two talk for a while. "One of the main reasons Theoden did not allow Merry to come was the reason that none of the Riders could bear him along. But isn't that already taken care of?"
Boromir nodded in understanding. "How did you manage to procure a ride?"
"It was not I who sought the soldier out; it was quite the opposite." Thinking of Dernhelm, Merry unconsciously turned towards where he had last seen the soldier. "In the past four days, he has barely spoken to me and he has left me on my own. Yet…"
Thinking carefully over Boromir's question, Merry finally said, "I'm not really quite sure. Just a feeling that I should know who he is. There are times when he speaks which makes me wonder if I know him."
His words didn't make sense in his own ears and Merry was not surprised that Boromir and Bawuer were giving him confused looks. It was only a feeling; there was something more to Dernhelm than what appeared on the surface.
Eowyn wove through the tents, campfires, and men to find a place to rest for the remainder of the time the Rohirrim army would be camping. She had just gone to check up on her horse and seeing him looking well rested, ready to move out when the time came, had been satisfied enough to find her own rest. No heads were turned or looked up as she walked by; nobody noticed her presence and greeted the king's niece.
The reason might have been for the fact that she was not really Eowyn, sister-daughter to the king, Shieldmaiden of Rohan. She was simply Dernhelm, a lowly Rohirrim soldier, heading off to battle among the army of Rohan.
And that was the way she wanted it to be.
Finding a secluded spot at the farthest reaches of any of the campfire light, yet not far enough away to attract any attention for being too far away, Eowyn dropped her saddlebag and what little of the hobbit gear she was keeping down on the ground and set about to lay down a blanket. There would be no sleep for her but she would sit down and rest her tired body from riding almost nonstop. She saved one of her blankets for Merry; that is, if he returned.
She sighed, thinking of the hobbit. She had not told him of her true identity; she couldn . There was a great devotion from him towards her uncle and knew that if he ever knew that Dernhelm was Eowyn, he would immediately feel an obligation to reveal her true identity.
Or perhaps she was just making excuses to remain completely Dernhelm.
For the first time, she strangely felt free. No, not completely free, perhaps it was the wrong word to describe how she was feeling. Eowyn only knew that in her heart, she felt that she was finally doing what she needed to do; she was fulfilling her destiny, finally reaching out with her own power to do something, to accomplish something.
Yet on the other hand, she felt strangely empty.
Arguing within herself, Eowyn struggled to put her feelings in order. Yes, she was glad that she had come. But at the same time, there was a nagging suspicion inside of her, saying that there was nothing waiting for her at the end of this journey. Trying to shake away the feeling of dread as to what her fate was, Eowyn could only like back and stare into the dark and gloomy sky. Ruefully she came to the conclusion that it would perhaps be easier to find some answers up there than anywhere else.
Though uncomfortable to still be wearing her helm, for fear of being seen kept it on. She longed to be rid of the helm but was determined to keep up her disguise until
Disturbed that she had not thought about anything beyond going off to fight, Eowyn gritted her teeth. She was truly hopeless, aimlessly making plans and aimlessly following through without any real thought.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she noticed a person jogging towards her. She saw that it was Merry. She had learned early on to not speak too much to the hobbit for there were times whenever she spoke that he would give her a look and she saw him thinking, trying to place the voice. Afraid that he would figure out who she really was, she had altogether stopped talking to him, silently encouraging to leave her alone. She knew he was lonely and hated being the one to alienate him from any sort of companionship, but there was too much at risk.
She let him speak first, wondering at the bright look in his eyes which had not been there for the entirety of their journey so far. "I have come to get my gear," he said, indicating his helm, sword, and gloves he had left with her.
Merry's announcement caught her by surprise as she tried to make sense of what he meant. Before she could question his actions, she saw that two men had been following right behind Merry, though at a slower pace. Beginning to have a very bad feeling over what was happening, Eowyn jumped to her feet, hand resting on the handle of her sword, nervously running a thumb along the pommel. Who were these men? She had managed to keep away from all others this long, what had happened…
Her heart seemed to stop for a moment as she recognized the men. It was none other than Bawuer and the Steward's son himself. And for one startling moment, for the first time since she embarked on this journey, she had the feeling that perhaps she would not be able to hide her true identity without being caught. As they drew closer, her eyes drawn to those of the Gondorian's, she willed her heart to calm its wild beating, a nervous chill going up and down her spine which filled her with dread.
"Perhaps you would care to introduce us," Boromir said as he came closer. When he stopped in front of her, their eyes met and Eowyn almost stopped breathing. His eyes were assessing her casually and she tried her best to keep herself from turning on her heel to run away. She kept telling herself that he could not, would not recognize her. Yet there was a nagging doubt inside her as she beheld his stately figure, intelligent eyes, and confidence stance. Eowyn, unsure of whether she could manage to speak for fear he would recognize her voice, could only break eye contact to look down at Merry.
Thankfully, there was no awkwardness from her silence as Merry made introductions. Eowyn nodded when he used her alias, trying hard to avoid the others' looks while trying to maintain an air of disinterest.
It was Bawuer who explained what exactly had happened that Merry had come forward to reveal himself where he was not to have been. "We quite by accident stumbled on Merry here," Bawuere began with a smile towards the Hobbit. "We have convinced him that it would be for the best if he were to approach King Theoden and be forthcoming as to his presence here."
"I am sure the young one greatly appreciates your aid in getting him this far," Boromir spoke next, his low, soft tones which drew her eyes to his. There was slight, almost undistinguishable crease in his forehead which there hadn't been before. "Yet I believe we will further require your services."
Eowyn could almost feel the blood drain from her face. His next words confirmed her fears.
"Would you care to join us as we seek the King's Counsel in this matter?"
What could she possibly say? What could she possibly do?
With the realization that she was inexplicably trapped into a predicament she would never have even dreamed of, Eowyn tried to remember to breath. In and out. Evenly, normally; act as if the request had not bothered her in the slightest.
They seemed not to notice her inability to speak since their introduction as Merry went on to speak. "I hope you will not mind coming with us at this late hour."
Eowyn searched her mind for some way to stall the inevitable yet try as she might, there was no way out. So she nodded slowly and before she knew it, Bawuer and Merry began to walk away towards the king's quarters. Yet it was not her that caused the two to stop when they realized they were not being followed. Boromir had remained standing where he was, staring hard and intently at her. More from wanting to get away from him than anything else, Eowyn began walking to move past him.
She kept her eyes on Merry and Bawuer, willing herself not to look upon the man who had turned as if into hard granite. Aware of his presence as she moved past him, she held her breath afraid that the closer she got to him, the better chance of him knowing who she was…
Not one step had she taken past him when he finally moved… to grab her upper arm.
It didn't hurt but it startled her that she forgot her resolve not to look at him and snapped her head towards him, their eyes meeting in one split second. And even before his mouth opened to speak, she knew that he knew.
Unable to give up her carefully guarded identity so easily, she turned away and tried to pull her arm away only to have him forcefully pull her to his side so that the whole length of her one side was pressed against him. An indication that he was not letting go.
"My lady" he whispered. "You would do well not to fight me."
Eowyn couldn't understand her stubbornness for though she no longer tried to escape, she kept her head turned away, feeling a rising anger within her at this man. He who was ruining everything…
Boromir slowly let go of his hold on her arm, as if making sure she wasn't going to run, before he began to tug at the chin straps of her helmet. Knowing that any resistance would be foolish, Eowyn stood still yet refusing to make it any easier for him. When the straps were finally separated, he gently turned her head so that she had to face him. Unwilling as she was, Eowyn allowed him full control of the situation. When he pulled the helm off her head, her hair came free to fall down past her shoulders.
She vaguely heard Merry's and Bawuer's gasps as there was no more hiding who she really was. Feeling decidedly uncomfortable, Eowyn pushed some wayward hairs which fell onto her face. Still not having met his eyes, Eowyn stared intently at her boots, awaiting him to make the first move.
There was a soft sigh which seemed to encompass her senses, the simple action making her aware of his chest which was inches away from her face, the smell of riding gear and leather, and the sound of his soft breathing, his very presence unnerving her.
"Bawuer," he finally spoke, his tone quiet and pensive, "the lady and I need a moment alone. See that we are not disturbed." With that he held out Eowyn's helmet which Bawuer took and handed in trade the lantern he had been carrying. With a bow towards the two, Bawuer gestured for Merry to follow him to the edge of the camp site.
"As for you," Boromir said pointedly to Eowyn, "come with me unless you wish for me to bring you to your uncle."
The threat was no idle one and Eowyn nodded though still refusing to meet his gaze with a childish stubbornness. She followed him, all the while casting wary glances at the way the lantern cast eerie shadows in the midst of the trees and odd bushes.
Finally, unable to take his silence anymore and refusing to go to far away from the camp, Eowyn stopped and placed her feet firmly to the ground. There was no doubt that she was in for some words from him and though she didn't know him well enough to expect cold words or words full of anger, she knew it wouldn't be pleasant. Eowyn hated waiting; if she were to have to endure some sort of scolding, she wished to endure it sooner than later. "My lord, I refuse to be led away by you like some tame pet. If you wish to say something to me, I demand to hear it now."
When she had stopped, he too had stopped though with his back kept to her, even as he bent down once to place the lantern on the ground. But now he turned to her and she took a step back, not prepared for the furious look on his face. In the dark, unfamiliar forest with a single lantern to be relied on for the only light for the moon was hidden from sight, Boromir seemed large and unfamiliar.
"You are demanding something of me?" he said in mock politeness. "No, this is not the time for you to be demanding anything of me. This is where you tell me what in Valar's name you were thinking to be traveling to battle!" With each word his voice seemed to grow both louder and softer, moving towards her step by step until he was towering over her. The light played against his features, sharpening the contours of his face, his eyes seemingly burning with green embers within its grey depths.
Speechless at the ferocity and intensity of his gaze, Eowyn could only focus on breathing. He seemed not to even realize just how suffocated she was feeling by his presence as he continued to speak. "At just what point were you thinking of revealing yourself? After you triumphed victorious?" His tone took on a sarcastic note with his last words, making Eowyn cringe.
He reached out to grab her by the shoulder, bending slightly so his face was close to hers and she saw him looked pained as he finally said in a defeated voice, "Or were you planning on your identity being discovered when they pulled the helm off your lifeless body?"
At the horror of his words, Eowyn wrenched away, pushing away her timidity of him to the back of her mind, allowing all the anger and frustration she had kept inside to become evident in her face and voice. "I do not regret my choice in traveling with my uncle's army and nothing you say will make me regret it… nor will you dissuade me from doing what I started out to do! You are neither my uncle nor brother, my husband nor liege-lord and I will not – "
"Then allow me to remind you who I am," Boromir interrupted, the dark look in his eyes cooling down to a cold glint. "I am Captain-General of the Gondorian Army, responsible for countless soldiers who are under me, who look up to me for my leadership. For years I have held this position and I will tell you right now, long ago I have learned the difference between those who go to war because of duty and honor… and those who go to war with spite and hopelessness in their heart, foolishly believing that they can prove a point or worse, decide to throw their life away. Or is that you want to catch a particular someone's attention?"
"Stop it," Eowyn whispered in a hushed fury, his words hitting too close to home.
"No, my lady, I will not stop until you realize just how foolish you are being."
Most definitely not wanting to hear what he was going to say, Eowyn turned on her heel, determined to return to the campsite and simply disappear from this man. But before she had taken two steps his words stopped her. "Unless you want me to throw you over my shoulder and deposit you in front of your uncle and brother, you will remain where you are."
She hesitated, calculating the distance between the two of them and wondering if he would indeed do such a thing. There was no doubt that he could, even with his recent injuries and his one arm still in a sling. More than anything, she was reluctant to be brought before her family for she knew what would happen. She would have to face their disappointed looks and she could not bear the thought of having to endure it. She would rather…
Eowyn's hesitation was enough for Boromir to walk up behind her so that escape was no longer an option. "Eowyn… why must you fight against those who only want to protect you?"
"Protect me?" She turned to face him. "They wish to put me in a cage and pretend everything is all right… that they will come home and that I needn't worry over the fate of my country. But here is the truth, lord Boromir; I am a grown woman and I know what fate awaits those who travel to Minas Tirith. You, too, know what awaits us."
"Aye, I do," the Gondorian said, "However, there is one important factor that separates yours and my reasons for traveling east."
She stiffly lifted her chin, daring him to say the reason.
Accepting her challenge, Boromir shook his head sadly. "Do not dwell on what cannot be, my lady. You are only heading for a hopeless and heart breaking end. By going to battle you will not secure his favor nor love – "
"You do not know what you speak of!" Eowyn shouted but to her dismay, tears spilled out from the corners of her eyes, belying just how much his words had stung her. She saw him wince and almost guiltily reached out as if to brush her tears away. But she would have none of it; she stumbled back and repeated her words softly. "You do not know what you speak of."
"You say I don't?" Boromir looked away and sighed. "Contrary to what you may think, I too foolishly believe and wanted something so much that I forgot everything else. Forgot enough to overlook the entire picture." He gave her a pointed look. "I made a choice which cost a great deal, endangering the very thing which I wanted to protect."
The shield-maiden stared at the man, unaccustomed with someone baring his thoughts so openly. The fact alone made her listen, really listen, to what he was saying. Perhaps she was wrong to try and secure a love from such a man as Aragorn. But was she really so unworthy to not seek his favor? Was it wrong to prove not only to him but herself and all those around her that she was not a mere woman to stay quiet at home?
"Whether you do not… approve of all my reasons," Eowyn said slowly, she herself trying to put her thoughts in order, "the fact remains that I am here and am resolved to be in Minas Tirith when my father and his men confront the dark forces. If I am to die, then I shall die with my sword in my hand."
"This is folly – "
"Why is it that it is folly for me but duty for you and the others?" Eowyn bit back. "I will fight!"
"You wish to experience something which I would not wish for anybody to experience. Battle is nothing more than chaos for one who first encounters it." Boromir was now looking at her hard, gauging her reaction to his words. "It's hard to discern who is friend or foe. Then before you know it, the stench of blood and death fills your nose, your mouth, your very lungs. Each time you breathe it in, it is with the certainty that the taste and fumes will haunt your dreams."
The vividness of his descriptions made Eowyn struggle to keep the bile from rising in her throat… or was it the expression on his face as he seemed to relieve the horrors of war.
"After a while you'll find a rhythm… not only in fighting but a way of casting your eyes about, catching your brothers at arms in their last moments. You lose count of how many fall as you become numbed by the initial shock of seeing the first man killed. If you're lucky, you won't meet their eyes before they close forever."
There was no stopping the tears now as Eowyn struggled to compose herself, to become as hardened as the warrior before who spoke with such deadly calm. "With a guilty relief you'll be unable to place the names for every face, yet the faces take a long time to fade away. Yet it is when…"
Here Boromir finally paused, as if steeling himself for what he was about to say. "The… heaviness you feel when surrounded by death is nothing compared to when someone you know… someone you love, falls to the ground. And there's nothing you can do to save them."
Eowyn shook her head furiously, refusing to even think of what he was suggesting. "You will not, cannot dissuade me…"
"Your own uncle and your brother, Eowyn," Boromir said firmly.
"Do you think the upcoming battle will be any different from the times they have left the sanctity of Meduseld to fight?" Eowyn snapped. "I have lived with the fear of losing a loved one all my life! Both of my parents, my cousin… I know what it is like!" Her strong words emboldened her to close the distance between the two, daring him to challenge her. "But this time, I will not stay behind. I will not wait at home in my room, waiting anxiously yet at the same time dreading to hear the outcome of what is to come. I know the importance of defending Minas Tirith from the Enemy, I wish to be a part of whatever happens.
"And," Eowyn spit out, "the Enemy need very much fear me for if they were to take my uncle or brother away from me, I would avenge their deaths a hundredfold and would not stop until I see every last one of them dead. This I swear."
"Do not swear such a thing, my lady," Boromir said after a pause, causing Eowyn to take a step closer to him, anger coursing through her at his words. Did he think she was making an oath with not truth behind it?
Ready for an argument, Eowyn hissed, "And why should I not swear such a thing?"
"Oh, Lady Eowyn," Boromir said, a sad expression on his face which even seemed to cause his eyes to appear more grey. "In the very midst of battle, if you were to lose your uncle or brother, you will not fight… you will mourn."
His words stung her and she could not speak, could not turn away from his gaze which seemed to understand her more than she did herself. And she could not bear it. She tried to escape his look, to escape anywhere rather than remain here, but his hand stopped her when he held onto her shoulder.
"My lady, cannot I persuade you to return back to Edoras?"
Eowyn resolutely shook her head.
She felt more than heard him sigh. "Unlike Merry, I have my doubts that you will at least reveal your presence to Theoden and Eomer. Am I right in my assumptions?"
"I will be no cause for worry for them," she said firmly.
"Aye, but you must know Lady Eowyn that you have now become a cause for worry for me." She heard the smile in his voice and curiously looked up into his face. She had expected him to still be angry and frustrated with her, to actually not allow her any say in what was to become of her. To perhaps as he had threatened to throw her over his shoulder and bring her to the disappointed looks of her uncle and brother.
But no, here he was, smiling at her! Not for the first time, the very fact that it was impossible to anticipate his next move made her feel off balance, unsure of how to act. Perhaps it was because he was a foreigner; in truth she had not much chance of being in the company of the Gondorians.
Her musings were cut short when Boromir broke the silence. "We should return to the others."
"And what… what will you do with me?"
He raised his eyebrows inquiringly, a play of a smile on his lips. "What do you wish me to do with you?"
Taken aback, Eowyn pursed her lips and felt a blush rise in her cheeks. How dare he make her react in such a way… "Play no more games with me, I beg of you."
"This was never a game," he said quietly, squeezing her shoulders encouragingly. "I will allow you to continue to Minas Tirith… but my way, not yours."
He smiled, obviously reading the confusion in her eyes. "All will be revealed, but first, we will go with Merry to see your uncle. And before you try to protest," Boromir interrupted before Eowyn could indeed protest, "you will be given your helm back, I promise. Your secret is safe for the present. Now, we are wasting time."
She stood firm as he went to retrieve the lantern, mulling his words over. "What if I refuse to take your way, what then?"
He straightened and met her eyes. "If you mistook my meaning, then let me make it absolutely clear." Boromir went to stand in front of her and as he peered down at her said, "There will be no refusal for I am not making any room for refusal, is my meaning very clear?"
Not even expecting, nor requiring an answer, he abruptly drew away and began walking back towards camp. Eowyn stared at his retreating back, unsure of whether to follow him or not. She refused to be told what to do, especially by such a man as he, the very kind of man she wanted to scream at in frustration; just another man who made her feel smothered by protectiveness and superiority over her position as nothing more than a woman.
And yet… there was a nagging thought in her head that this Gondorian was trusting her more than any other man had. Boromir was trusting her enough to not send her home, trusting her enough to turn his back on her now though she had not in exact words said she would do as he said.
He was trusting her more than any other man had… not even Aragorn.
And because he trusted her, she would trust him.
She had to jog to catch up with his long strides but soon was walking beside him. She looked at him only once and she thought she saw him smiling. But he didn't look at her so she kept her eyes trained forward. As if on cue, the both of them seemed to walk closer together, not as strangers, not quite as friends…
With a smile of her own Eowyn realized she was walking next to him like a comrade at arms. And he the same.
Boromir let out the breath that he had unconsciously been holding since Merry had knelt before the King. Yet he should have known that there would be nothing to worry about for the little Hobbit; as Boromir had reminded Merry, the king was a kind and fair man. Though surprised to see that Merry had been with the company the whole time, Theoden accepted Merry's presence with but a few stern words about Merry's keeping his presence a secret.
"And it seems that you have a very powerful friend in that Boromir assures me that he vouches for your continued presence in our journey eastward," the elder man said with a nod in the Gondorian's direction. "Is that not so?"
"It is, King Theoden," Boromir replied. "We have traveled together through many dangers and I would hope to have him nearby if even for a short while longer."
"I trust this man, Dernhelm, still agrees in sharing his saddle with the Hobbit?"
Merry stole a quick look at Boromir before nodding. At the mention of Dernhelm, or more truthfully to be Eowyn, Boromir cast his eyes to the edge of the king's tents.
There she was, once more wearing her helm, blending into the surroundings as just another Rider. She seemed focused on her uncle, unwavering in her stiff stance. Boromir assumed she wanted nothing more than to go at once back to Elfhelm's company which she had joined secretly, though Boromir had a feeling that Elfhelm knew more about the young 'soldier' than he was letting on. But Eowyn was very much aware of Bawuer who stood next to her, seemingly watching events unfold among the leaders of the army yet Boromir knew better that he was keeping an eye on the lady.
Lady, Boromir thought wryly. He knew of no lady who would dress herself up as a man and willingly join the ranks amongst those heading to battle, perhaps death. He remembered her pale face as she spoke passionately about wanting to fight. Wanting to fight…
Mentally shaking his head, the Gondorion once more felt a weighing sadness for the confused woman. He understood Aragorn's very presence which inspired genuine loyalty and faithfulness; he too had had become those who would die for the King and see him returned to his throne. But Eowyn had seen something else in Aragorn. Perhaps it was her wish to be free from the oppressive spirit of Grima Wormtongue's hold over the courts of Meduseld which had made her look for anything, anyone, who could provide her with that freedom. And Aragorn had seemed to fulfill everything she had ever wanted when she had first set her eyes on him; freedom, a fierce independence, and a strength born of kings.
Boromir felt strongly that this must be so; such a truth that made Eowyn turn to despair and leave hope behind when Aragorn would not choose her.
He sighed. What was he going to do with her… He had promised the Ranger that he would look after her. Yet he had not expected for the job to have extended all the way back to Minas Tirith.
He had naturally been angry at first; though he had tried not to lose his temper, upon hearing her first heated words he had not been able to control himself.
As he mused about it now, he grudgingly admitted that he admired her courage in standing up against him. He willingly admitted he had no experience with women. The only women he had known were those who would not dare show anything but respect and submission to the Steward's son.
Eowyn was a proud, stubborn… most complicated woman he had ever known. Complicated in an almost sad way. For one so young, and admittedly beautiful, to so hate her position in life as a woman…
He hoped fervently that a kind and satisfying fate awaited her. He couldn't bear the thought of her living the rest of her life stretching out for something just out of reach…
Or throwing her life away in despair.
Grimly, he swore that he would not allow, if it were in his power to do so, for such a future for her.
Realizing that the king was addressing him, and had probably been so for some time, Boromir stepped forward and bowed. "I apologize if my mind was elsewhere."
"It has been a long night, promising to become a long day," Theoden said in understanding as he looked up into the sky. "The Wild Man assured us that the day has in reality begun, but…"
Boromir could understand the elder man's grim look as he, too, wondered at how dim what little light there was in the sky.
The king soon sent everyone away to prepare for the upcoming ride through Stonewain Valley, assured safe passage by the Wild Men. Merry stayed with the king while Eowyn remained nearby though hidden in the shadows. As Boromir left the clearing he passed by Bawuer and no words spoken as the Rohirrim soldier knew what Boromir wished of him; he would stay with her until asked to do otherwise.
Boromir kept his back to the Rohirrim host as he walked purposefully towards the edge of the pine forest. His arm hurt, his chest hurt, and he wanted nothing more than to rest for a while. Yet his plans had to be sorted out if he wanted to carry them out.
If it were possible to carry them out…
Out of earshot from any of the Rohirrim soldiers, Boromir stopped in the midst of the trees. All was dark and shadowed; the Gondorian carefully flexed the healing muscles of his injured arm. The careful, meticulous manner in which he tested the extent of how much had healed calmed him down somewhat.
He knew not how long he stood there but only when he felt his thoughts come to order and felt almost part of the landscape did he speak, addressing the darkness. "Ghan-buri-Ghan."
Boromir felt rather than saw some of the shadows shift before him. He remained still, unsure if perhaps this was one of his best ideas…
A figure suddenly materialized before him and Boromir recognized the short, gnarled figure.
"Man of Stone-city wants something of Ghan-buri-Ghan," the headman of the Wild Men said more than asked, his tone sounding even deeper and guttural in the shadowy forest.
Boromir didn't question how the Wild Man knew he was a 'Man of Stone-city.' Instead, knowing instinctively and from hearing Ghan-buri-Ghan speak with King Theoden chose to get straight to the matter which had brought him before the short man.
"I wish to know of the many paths your people know of. I wish to know if there is a path to where I wish to get to."
Author's Note: I hope this wasn't an altogether, entirely terrible chapter. :S VERY hard to write; one of the reasons why it took so long to update. I had to get the Boromir/Eowyn scene just right and I played around with so many outcomes. I hope the one I decided on satisfies all my readers who enjoy my characterizations.
Just to give a heads up, this story is turning out MUCH longer than I had expected so have decided to kind of 'speed' things up. Instead of 'bouncing around' into the heads of different characters, I'm going to try hard to stick to ONLY what has been changed since Boromir is alive and well. I hope this is all right with you, especially those who have been enjoying my characterizations. Let's get Boromir to Minas Tirith soon, shall we say?
All feedback/reviews/e-mails will be greatly appreciated and will help spur me on in my writing! Truly though, I would love any comments you have on my story. Until next time!
Next Chapter: What exactly is Boromir's plan? Where does he wish to get to? How does Eowyn fit into his plans? All will be answered in the upcoming chapter! Like I said, I'm going to try and 'speed things up'… things really get going once Boromir gets to Minas Tirith!