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Hearts and Flowers
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[Index]

1
Hearts and Flowers

An almost eerie silence had descended on the city as well in the aftermath of the final battle. Not total silence, of course, but the sounds of Osgiliath at night that now assailed the hearing were most welcome. The grating sounds of the clash of steel on steel and the agonised shouts and cries of the wounded as the battle between Gondor and Mordor raged had ceased, only to be replaced by enthusiastic chatter and merry laughter from both taverns and homes as everyone celebrated the retaking of the city from the forces of the Dark Lord.

The sons of the Steward had eagerly done likewise, sharing in the glory of victory, and more than a few ales, as they spent time at every tavern where their men were to be found. Boromir dutifully accepted the praise and accolades offered to him as the leader of Gondor’s army, but his heart had burst with pride at the depth of loyalty, respect and even affection, shown towards Faramir. Their father may have little confidence in his younger son’s abilities as a soldier and a leader, but judging by the rousing cheers and tankards raised in toast to the skill and bravery of their Ranger Captain, not so those under his command.

By the time they reached the last tavern, both were deeply in their cups, and Boromir decided that a walk in the night air might serve them both well. He knew it would certainly clear his light-headedness, and he turned to suggest the same might apply to his younger brother, only to find Faramir, head slumped on arms that rested on the table and snoring loudly. Several attempts to rouse the sleeping man proved unsuccessful, leaving Boromir resigned to taking a stroll alone. A quick exchange assured him that the rangers would see their captain safely back to his chambers, so after placing am affectionate kiss on the tousled hair of his brother, the elder son of the Steward left the tavern.

As he walked alone through the ruins, Boromir took a deep breath of the damp yet refreshingly cool air, tainted no longer with smoke from burning buildings or the choking dust caused by stone walls crumbling beneath the enemy’s onslaught. Night had long since fallen on Osgiliath, and for the first time in unnumbered days, the city was blanketed only in the shroud of the mists rising from the river.

In the pale moonlight, only the jagged outlines of broken stonework of buildings damaged beyond repair could be seen, and as difficult as Boromir found that to look upon, he knew there was worse yet to come. The cold grey light of dawn would reveal not only the extent of the destruction, but also darkening stains on the walls and cobblestones made by the blood of the fallen. Every soldier fought fiercely and bravely to defend their home, and many had paid the ultimate price. As a hardened warrior, Boromir had learned to accept this painful truth, but as the leader of his men, he mourned each and every life that had been lost.

And those that were yet to be lost, Boromir realised sadly as he made his way unthinkingly to the ruins of the bridge. The battle had been won, but as much as he was loathe to even think it, he was warrior enough to know that the war was still far from over. As did many others, advisors and soldiers alike. In terms of the sheer numbers alone, Gondor’s army was no match for the hordes of the enemy. Yet even outnumbered, Boromir was not afraid to face his foes in the battles to come, what he feared was the loss of hope and faith in Men he was beginning to sense throughout the land. Something was needed to turn the tide, but he had no idea what. All he knew was that he would do whatever was needed to see his people and city remain safe.

The reclaiming of Osgiliath had been made easier because Sauron’s forces had chosen, or been ordered to retreat. No doubt another assault would be made and once Osgiliath was taken, Minas Tirith would be next. The thought of his beloved city falling to ruin was overwhelmingly painful, and in the privacy of the shadows of the night, Boromir bowed his head and allowed his eyes to fill with tears for the sorrow yet to come.

The sound of light footsteps behind him roused him from his melancholy mood, and drawing his sword, he turned to face the intruder. Eyes widened with alarm set in a sweetly innocent face met his, and he quickly sheathed his weapon when he saw there was no danger.

“Forgive me, I did not mean to frighten you,” he apologised as he bent to pick up the flower basket the maid standing before him had dropped in her fear. He handed it back with a warm smile that was returned after a few moments hesitation.

“There is nothing to forgive, my lord, you merely startled me,” she replied, accepting both the basket and the apology.

“Do you not realise the danger you might be in, ‘tis not safe for a pretty young maid to be wandering alone at night,” Boromir’s voice was filled with concern, and a hint of reprimand that passed unnoticed, but the compliment did not. A faint blush coloured the pale cheeks and Boromir found he was captivated by the maid’s beauty.

“Perhaps ‘tis not safe, even for a great warrior such as yourself, my lord Boromir, but this is my home, and I will walk its streets whenever I chose,” she countered boldly but also with a sincerity that touched Boromir’s heart. Not only was she pretty, but delightfully defiant and probably strong willed, but also she was becoming more intriguing by the minute.

He was not surprised she knew his name, for the Steward’s eldest was well known in all of Gondor, nonetheless he was flattered and that did surprise him. It had been longer than he cared to recall since he had been so attracted to a maid, especially one he had not met in his father’s court. Denethor thought his son was more than ready to take a wife, and often arranged for Boromir to meet ‘suitable’ young ladies.

However, as dutiful son that he was, in this matter, Boromir refused to bow to his father’s wishes. He fully intended to marry one day, but only for love and only after the war was over. He had no wish to leave a grieving widow, should such come to pass, although he felt as if his resolve might sorely be tempted by his current companion.

“You know my name, will you tell me yours?” He asked in his most charming manner and with the smile in his eyes that Faramir often claimed the ladies found impossible to resist.

“Mirieth.” The response was simple, but spoken with a softness that seemed to suggest Faramir might have been telling the truth.

“I am very pleased to meet you, Mirieth,” Boromir said, gallantly taking her hand and lightly brushing her knuckles with his lips. Liking very much how soft her skin felt against his, he held her hand a little longer than propriety allowed, and was elated to be permitted to do so.

“Now tell me, what brings you here at this hour? And why the flowers?” Boromir asked, his curiosity piqued by both the maid and the reason for her presence at such a late hour.

“I… I… lost both my brothers and my father…all the family I had… I have come to say bid them farewell,” she said, her voice thick as tears started falling freely. Boromir’s heart broke and he drew the now sobbing maid into his arms, all thoughts of flirtation fading away in the face of a shared sorrow.

“I am so sorry for your loss. I did not know them, but I am certain they fought and died with courage and honour,” Boromir whispered against her hair, offering what comfort he could with his words even as his own tears ready to fall.

“I know they did, and they were proud to defend our city, and very proud to fight under your banner,” she replied, drawing far enough out of Boromir’s arms to study his face intently. “You feel each loss as if it were one of your kin,” she said, reading his heart in his eyes as if they new each other well.

“Aye, and I shall mourn with you,” he replied.

“Come,” Mirieth said, taking his hand and leading him to the edge of the bridge. Without speaking, she took three posies of flowers from her basket, kissed each one offering them to Boromir to do likewise. In an act that reminded him of the tradition of strewing the path of warriors riding to battle through the streets of Minas Tirith with flowers, Mirieth cast them into the inky blackness of the river. “Be at peace, my father, my brothers,” she whispered reverently.

Allowing Boromir to place his arm around her waist, Mirieth rested her head against his chest as the two silently watched as the fast moving current carried the tribute towards the sea and beyond.

“Thank you,” Mirieth said, reaching up to tenderly caress Boromir’s cheek when the moment of wordless comfort finally ended. For a heartbeat he was tempted to take the lovely maid n his arms and kiss her as she seemed to expect, but with great reluctance, he allowed the feeling to pass. A shadow of disappointment could be seen in her eyes, but was quickly replaced by reluctant understanding. Now was not the time to explore the possibility of a future together.

“I will still be here when the war is over,” she said simply, reaching up to steal a brief kiss.

“And I will seek you out when I return, but for now, I will see you safely home,” Boromir replied with a sad smile, offering his arm, and secretly his heart.

*************

On another dark, misty night, the current of the Great River swept a grey elvish boat bearing a cargo precious to many, along. It floated silently towards the sea it’s passing dreamt of by a grieving brother and marked by a single posy of flowers lovingly cast from the ruins of a bridge.

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