1: Drawing Straight With Crooked Lines
It was getting darker now, and harder... He had already confessed his crime and had heard words of forgiveness from the only person whose opinion mattered anymore, though he did not truly believe them. Still...
One more thing to do...
He tried to reach for his sword, but his strength was failing too fast for him. Then he felt the hilt of the blade in his hand. Now, just this last thing... He looked up into those grey-blue eyes, full of compassion and sorrow and... pride? In him? No matter...
"I would have followed you my brother," he gasped. "My captain... m-my king..."
There. He had said it. "My king." Now he could rest...
"Be at peace, son of Gondor," Aragorn whispered, but Boromir son of Denethor, Captain-General of Gondor and the Heir to the Steward's throne did not hear those final words of farewell, nor feel the king's kiss upon his forehead...
I failed... I failed.
It was the only thing he could think of in this place, wherever he was.
He looked about disinterestedly. It was a hall, though no hall he ever remembered visiting, it's walls covered with bright tapestries in which the figures seemed to move, or perhaps it was just the wind, though he could not feel any breeze. Banners hung from the beams above, and somewhere there was light, though he could not tell from where it was coming. It was also empty, except for him. And there seemed to be no end to it.
He wasn't sure how he had gotten there — one minute looking up into Aragorn's eyes, the next... here.
No matter... He had failed, and now he would pay.
"Are you so sure of that, my son?"
Boromir turned with a gasp, reaching for a sword that was no longer there. "Who... who...?" He found himself face to face with one who appeared to be a Man, tall and lithe, his dark hair long and flowing like an elf's, his eyes grey as those of the Sea Kings of old. He wore a plain black velvet tunic trimmed with black pearls under which there was a shirt of grey watered silk. A thin band of wrought mithril graced his head. But this was no Man, of that Boromir was sure. The light in his eyes spoke of another, older lineage... older even than that of the elves.
The stranger smiled. "I am a friend, Boromir," he said gently, "nothing more. You have no need to fear. Come, tell me why you think you have failed." He motioned towards two ornately carved high-backed chairs facing one another that Boromir was sure had not been there earlier. After a moment's hesitation he followed the stranger and they both sat — Boromir somewhat reluctantly.
"Who are you?" Boromir hissed with barely concealed anger, though he was beginning to guess, and his guesses frightened him. The recent events were beginning to catch up with him and he was suddenly feeling light-headed. He wondered, with the detachment of one who is ill and doesn't care, if anyone had ever thrown up on one of the Powers before.
As if his thoughts had been spoken aloud, the stranger smiled sympathetically, then reached out and gently placed a hand upon the warrior's forehead. Immediately, Boromir felt calmer and the sense of disorientation left him, though not the questions.
"I will answer your questions, son of Gondor," the other said with an amused look as he leaned back into his chair. "All of them, to the best of my ability. But you have not yet answered my question."
Boromir looked down, gathering his thoughts, feeling shame spreading through him again as he thought back. "I betrayed my oath," he finally said, speaking softly. Then he looked up, and repeated more firmly, "I betrayed my oath to the Ringbearer. I deserved death and more."
The other nodded. "Perhaps." Then he fell silent and for a long time neither spoke. Somewhere in the distance Boromir thought he heard singing, though the words were indistinct and even the music was so faint he was never sure he was actually hearing anything. Slowly the music faded, leaving the two of them again in silence.
"Now it's your turn," Boromir said with a quirk, a sly grin spreading across his face.
The stranger stared at him for a moment before smiling in return. "Have you not guessed, child?"
"I think you are one of the Powers, perhaps a Maia."
"I am Námo, Lord of Mandos and Doomsman of Arda." The timber of the Vala's voice deepened and a tremor ran through the hall. Boromir felt something that was less than fear but more than joy pierce his soul and suddenly found himself kneeling before the Vala, though he had no conscious memory of doing so.
"Forgive me, Lord," he stammered. "I did not mean to ... to—". Actually he wasn't sure what he did not mean to do, but felt that he should be sorry for it anyway.
Námo leaned down and grabbed Boromir's arms, raising him up until they were both standing. Boromir suddenly realized that the Vala was actually laughing.
"There is nothing to forgive, my son. Your manner is most refreshing. And I am not the one to whom you should kneel. Sit now, and be comforted."
Boromir nodded and resumed his seat, but Námo remained standing, looking down on him, his eyes bright with amusement.
"Tell me what you think might have happened if you had not, as you say, betrayed your oath. What would have happened to the Fellowship if you had remained true?"
Boromir hesitated, unsure where this was going. What would have happened if he had not followed the Ringbearer away from the camp at Parth Galen?
"We would have been together when the orcs attacked," he said slowly, marshalling his thoughts. "There would not have been the confusion—"
Námo shook his head, interrupting. "No, not all would have been there in the camp."
Boromir looked up, nodding. "Frodo. Frodo would have been alone."
"Alone. Yes." The Vala's expression grew grim.
"But he was alone when they came anyway," Boromir said in confusion.
"Alone, but not visible."
Boromir felt his breath catch at that. Could it be? Could his actions in forcing Frodo to put on the Ring when he did have saved the Halfling's life?
"Had Frodo not been invisible, he would have been captured before any of you knew of it and then you would all have died there at Parth Galen."
Boromir bristled and stood up, forcing the Vala to take a step or two back. "How can you say that?"
Námo merely gazed at the Man, a faint smile on his face. "I say it because it is true, or would be if things had gone otherwise." He placed his hands on the Man's shoulders. "Boromir, think. If the Uruk-hai had fallen upon you all without warning, do you think any of you would have survived? It was the fact that you were all scattered about Amon Hen that saved you. The orcs were too many."
"I wasn't saved," Boromir said grimly, sitting back down. "Neither were Merry and Pippin."
"Merry and Pippin are where they need to be," Námo said, resuming his own seat. "You need not worry for them. Their road will be harsh and they will not escape unscathed, for it is after all war, but they will do well and each will fulfill his destiny as he must, even as you did."
Boromir gave the other man a sharp look. "I? Fulfilled my destiny? How? By being a traitor and would-be murderer?"
"No, Boromir," the man said softly. "By giving Frodo the courage to leave the Fellowship before it was completely destroyed."
"Courage?" he asked in disbelief. "What courage could I give him that he did not already possess himself?"
"Your actions forced Frodo to face facts and to deal with them, something he was reluctant to do. Without you he would not have done what needed to be done and all would have been lost. You call yourself a traitor and would-be murderer, and perhaps there is some justification, but it was the Ring working on you, not your true nature. That became apparent when you risked yourself in defense of Merry and Pippin, even unto death."
"For all the good it did."
The other man laughed softly. "You little realize just how much good it will do, mellon nîn."
"But I failed to save them." Boromir protested.
The Vala nodded. "True, but that isn't what you were supposed to do anyway. Merry and Pippin were meant to be captured by the Uruk-hai, just as Frodo and Sam were meant to travel to Mordor alone, and you..." Here he sighed, shaking his head ruefully.
"I was meant to die." Boromir said softly, not looking up. He felt, rather than saw, the other lean over and place a hand on his arm. Looking up he saw nothing but compassion in the Vala's face.
"Faramir should have gone to Imladris in my stead as he was meant to," Boromir finally said. "He wouldn't have —"
"Had Faramir gone in your stead, Boromir, your brother would not have done half as well as you did."
"What?" Boromir leaped up again, ready to defend his little brother even without a sword.
"Peace, mellon nîn," the Vala raised a hand, but whether in command or in supplication, Boromir was not sure. "I speak only truth. Faramir is a worthy son of Gondor and he has an important role yet to play in this game, but he was not the best choice for joining the Fellowship. Frodo needed you, Boromir, at the time when that need was the greatest. Faramir could not have done what you did. But never fear, your brother's quality will shine forth before too long and he will be able to serve the Ringbearer in his own fashion when Frodo most needs his aid."
Boromir sat back down, unconvinced, but unable to marshal any contrary argument. He loved his little brother and grieved that their father did not appreciate Faramir's qualities. He did not regret that Faramir, and not he, would become the next Steward of Gondor after Denethor. There seemed to be a rightness to that that he could not readily explain, even to himself. Still...
"Would it help to know that Frodo has forgiven you, knowing that it was the Ring working through you, not you yourself?"
"I did not understand," Boromir said, almost to himself. "I did not see. All I wanted was to save Gondor, to save my people. I... I was afraid." With that admission he felt tears welling and suddenly he was weeping and found he couldn't stop. Námo made no move, but sat there in sympathetic silence, allowing the Man time to compose himself.
"Frodo forgave you, Boromir," Námo finally said, speaking softly, as one would to a distraught child. "And Aragorn. Can you not find it in you to forgive yourself?"
Boromir shrugged noncommittally, then stopped, caught up in a memory. He looked up at the Vala, his expression uncertain. "W-when I looked into Aragorn's eyes—" he stopped, not sure how to continue.
"Go on," the Lord of Mandos said encouraging.
"I saw something there that I did not expect to see."
"And what was that?"
"H-he was proud of me. I could see it in his eyes," Boromir said wondering. "Why would he be proud of me?"
"Can you not guess?"
Boromir shook his head, feeling much as he had as a child when his tutor asked him a question that stumped or confused him.
Námo leaned forward, his expression intent. "You were the first to swear fealty to him as your king. Aragorn will ever treasure that memory, even if he never succeeds to the throne. With your words you gave him hope."
Hope. Boromir breathed deeply, suddenly feeling the tension he had not known was there dissipating, and he felt more hopeful himself, unaware that he was smiling. Námo nodded, as if he saw the answer to a question in that smile, and stood. Boromir found himself standing as well.
"We have a saying among the Valar," Námo said, with a conspiratorial wink. "'Ilúvatar draws straight with crooked lines'".
Boromir shook his head. "I'm not sure what you mean by that, my lord."
The Vala smiled. "No matter. I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually."
Silence came between them and for a long moment Boromir wondered what else there was to say.
"What happens now, lord?" he finally asked, not without some trepidation.
Námo shook his head. "That is entirely up to you, my son. You may leave through that door there," pointing towards one end of the hall to a door that Boromir was sure had not been there before. "Or you may remain here until you are ready to move on."
Námo nodded. "Others will come through here on their way past the Circles of Arda. Some you will know, others will be complete strangers. Speak to them if you desire, or not. It does not matter. When you are ready to continue your journey this door will be there for you."
Boromir nodded, deep in thought. Then an errant thought struck him and he couldn't resist one last question.
"So, do you do this with everyone, my lord?" he asked teasingly.
Námo laughed, shaking his head. "Only with the more troublesome cases, impudent child."
Boromir blushed in embarrassment. "Sorry," he whispered, as if he were indeed a child caught in some mischief by an elder.
Námo looked upon this Child of Ilúvatar and smiled more deeply than before and the light in the hall seemed to brighten. He took Boromir's head in his hands and, gazing into his eyes, whispered, "Be at peace, son of Gondor," then gently kissed him on the forehead.
Boromir found himself alone.
For long moments that could have been years he stood there, not moving. Then he slowly sat, vaguely aware that the other chair was no longer there. He wondered if he should leave the hall after all, but something held him in his seat, and a decision formed within him.
He would wait and eventually the one for whom he waited would come. Soon or late, it mattered not. When the time came for Aragorn to take the final road and come into this hall, he would find at least one liegeman waiting for his king.
And suddenly Boromir son of Denethor, one-time Captain-General of Gondor and Heir to the Steward's throne, began to laugh, and the joy of it echoed throughout Mandos, even unto Ilúvatar's Timeless Halls.