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Ten Thousand Years
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1

Outside, the rain splashed against the window and ran down the pane in thick drops. Boromir glowered at the rivulets of water running down the flagstone path outside. That struck him as uncharacteristically gloomy, especially for one such as him; captain-generals did not generally glower at orcs breaking down the gates, let alone at a little weather. Yet Boromir could not remember the last time he had so wanted to be out of doors. He had much to think about, and the very walls seemed to close in around him.

Turning from the window, Boromir continued his stalk down the hall. What he needed, he realized, was a new trail to conquer. Stones and roots to step around, creeks to cross, fallen trees to climb over until he was so exhausted he could hardly take another step. Only then would he be able to concentrate. It had always been so with him, and now more than ever he needed the constancy of nature to set his mind at ease.

He decided he would go to his rooms. At least there he could open a window to let the breeze in, and he could pace the room's perimeter without tripping over the servants who had a tendency to spring up unannounced in these halls. He started down the hall he thought led to his room. He saw the tapestries they passed—Meneltarma in quiet majesty; nine ships sailing east from a star-shaped isle; Sauron hovering over a dead king lying against the mountain slope, the white tree embroidered over his breast stained red with blood—but they barely registered except that they all concerned men, and that they were different from the ones he thought he had passed earlier. But Boromir was certain he had retraced his steps exactly, so he walked on.

Boromir realized that tapestry was not the first such depiction he had seen of Elendil in these halls. He had to remind himself that, though Elrond was an elf-lord, his brother had been a king of men. Why should Boromir wonder that he would collect relics of Númenor's sons? Somehow it was still odd to see that icon of his people's legends in this house so far from home. More disturbing, though, was the man who always stood at Elendil's side, the tell-tale silver star on his forehead glistening in the sun. Why should Isildur always be there, and never Anárion? Boromir remembered Aragorn's words at the council, and he scowled.

At last he recognized his door. Second from the end on the right side, dark cherry wood painted with the seven stars of Arnor. He opened the door, walked in, and leaned back against the wall, running his hands through his hair.

"May I help you?"

Boromir looked over by the fire where an elf-maiden sat, tying off the tasseled threads along the hem of a long length of black cloth. Not any elf-maiden, he realized, but the lady of this house who had offered him the greeting-cup when he first arrived. He stood up straighter. "My pardon, Lady Arwen. I thought to rest for a while before the noon meal, but it seems I am lost."

"This house does that to even the most sure-footed travelers," she said. "Even my brothers must search for the kitchens when they return from their errantries, and they have lived here since before there was a Gondor." Arwen smiled at him. "Would you like a guide?"

"I..." Boromir paused. Would he be any less frustrated alone in his room, truly? Something about Arwen's voice soothed his nerves. "I am not so in need of solitude as I thought. But would you prefer seclusion for your work?"

Arwen glanced down at the cloth in her lap, and Boromir would have sworn she blushed. Was such a thing even possible for the firstborn? She hastily folded the cloth and hung it over a bar along the wall. Retaking her own seat, she patted an empty chair next to her. "Will you sit?"

Boromir walked across the room and sat beside her. "What were you working on, if my asking is not too bold?" He looked up at the cloth hanging on the wall, then back at Arwen. "You must have seamstresses to see to what you need done?"

She looked Boromir over; her gaze was not harsh, but somehow Boromir felt pierced to the marrow by it. "You are bold, Lord of Gondor," she said. "Whatever sewing I see to myself, you may be sure it is not table-linens."

Boromir laid his palm flat against his chest and wondered if the gesture even signified the same thing in these lands as it did in Gondor. "I apologize, Lady Arwen."

Arwen took his hand in hers and pulled it off his chest, letting it fall into his lap. "I did not demand an apology, though I will gladly receive it. But before I tell you more of my art, first tell me this: what do you most fear?"

Boromir frowned. How much should he share with this elf he had met only days before? Indeed, Boromir doubted he would be completely forthright even with Faramir. Memory of childhood conversations had plagued him since the council, and he found himself searching for an answer to that question he had asked as a boy: how many years did make a steward a king?

It was no longer a matter of academic speculation. If Isildur was Elendil's heir, as the tapestries here seemed to suggest, and Isildur's heir claimed Elendil's crown, could Gondor refuse him? Should she? The matter had been settled long ago, in Pelendur's day, or so Boromir had thought. If Arvedui had no right to Gondor's kingship, then why should any later son have a greater claim? And yet....

"What do I fear?" Boromir mused aloud. "I fear, Lady Arwen, that I no longer know what to fear. For long years I was sure that if the Nameless One crossed the River and took the City, then all that I loved would crumble into dust. Yet if victory is bought with Elendil's blade, I do not know that that is so much better." A sudden thought occurred to him. "I fear the choice, milady. It falls to my house to judge your affianced's claims, yet even if we find Aragorn's contentions hollow, will we not be saying that Gondor still needs her king? What should I make of your Aragorn?"

Arwen chuckled softly to herself. "This weather must drive you positively mad. It soothes me, but my mind has been set for years." She looked at him more soberly. "We are not so different, Boromir uin-Dúnadan. Think not that in all the long years since I have pledged my heart to him that I have never doubted!" She glanced down at the silver ring she wore. "In a century or two I will die, and the world will go on. And all my family, save what I make with Aragorn, will be forever lost to me. Do you honestly think I would choose such a thing?"

Boromir felt his jaw drop a little, and he quickly closed it. What father would pressure his daughter into such a choice? "Lady Arwen, surely your father is not so desperate to make his daughter a queen...?"

Arwen looked at him coldly. "I know not the custom of Men, but Elves do not pressure their children to wed against their wills. If anything my father has counseled me against the match."

"But did you not just say you would never choose to marry Aragorn? If your father did not coerce you, then why did you pledge yourself to him?" Boromir asked.

Arwen squeezed Boromir's hand. "You misunderstand me. I said I would never choose such a fate, but the heart has its own reason, of which reason knows naught." She sighed. "You think you wish a choice had never been presented to you? I stand to lose much more. As much as I love Aragorn, a part of my heart wishes we had never met."

Arwen looked over toward the window at the rain pounding against the glass, and she sighed. "For all his power Lord Elrond cannot control many things. This weather, for one. Oh, Rivendell needs rain in due course, but Aragorn's presence his unnerved him as well, and I think he would prefer to work out his frustrations out of doors as much as you do." She looked at Boromir again and smiled conspiratorially. "The elf who cleans his office confided in me that he broke three quills yesterday. She was concerned for my father. But I know that this frustration cannot be helped. We are hurtling toward the end of the age, and have little more control than raftmen on the rapids."

She walked over toward the wall, took the cloth off its bar, and returned to her chair. "My father has declared that I will not marry any man less than the king of both Gondor and Arnor. That is Aragorn's birthright—" Boromir opened his mouth to speak, but Arwen held up her hand to forestall him. "I know you still must see signs and proofs, and it is your House's right and duty to demand them, but Arnor is satisfied with Aragorn's claim." She ran her hand over the folded black cloth in her lap and pinched her lips. "Which brings us back to your original question. Do you still wish to know what work I would not trust to just any seamstress?"

Boromir thought for a moment. Clearly he had not realized the weight of what he had asked, but he had no small measure of his brother's curiosity. He nodded, and Arwen unfolded the cloth. He saw the white tree embroidered in what he took for mithril thread—in flower once again, unlike her living counterpart!—and above it seven jewels for the seven stars of the North around a crown. Boromir's breath caught in his chest. For nigh a thousand years Gondor had prospered under the House of Húrin, and if they had ruled in the king's name instead of their own, still they had ruled well. And now Elendil's heir would ride south under Elendil's standard, and at Boromir's bidding. Would the Stewards now be brushed aside and trampled under foot?

"So if I bring Elendil's sword to Gondor, it must come with Aragorn's claim? My House's white flag must always fly below the one you have made?" Boromir felt his shoulders sag; his voice sounded lifeless to his own ears.

Arwen looked at him for a moment but seemingly could not think of anything to say. The answer was obvious to both of them, yet the question could not be so easily dismissed. At last she stood, laid the standard on her chair, and pulled Boromir to his feet. "Come," she said, pulling him to his feet and leading him over to the window.

"Everything under the sky has a master," Arwen said, "whether we would admit it or not. Even the greatest king must obey duty and fate. You are a captain-general, and all of Gondor's soldiers go here and there at your command, but do you not follow your father's orders?" Boromir said nothing, and Arwen pressed on. "Yet just because we have masters, it does not mean that we must be mastered by them. Of course, duty and rank must sometimes dictate what we do, but never who we are."

Something about the way she went on about inner nature reminded Boromir of his brother when Faramir had had a little too much wine. He felt himself reviving at that thought. "If all elves speak like you, it is no great wonder your kind are known for singing after stars."

Arwen laughed heartily. "Perhaps! We elves can be a bit whimsical now and again, but it does not make it less true. Aragorn would be a fool to try to dominate those who would stand by his side. And he is no fool." She pointed out the window at a dark cloud some ways off, the wintry sun breaking through to light the valley below. "Darkness, even darkness as black as the field of Elendil's banner, cannot kill the light. Even if Aragorn wears Elendil's crown, he could no more smother your house than a cloud can keep out the light forever. Is it not time Húrin's sons earned their honor for their own house, and not Elessar's long-lost line?"

Boromir glanced down at the white-gold signet ring on his finger. "Perhaps," he said simply.

Arwen patted him on the shoulder and walked back to her chair by the fire. She arranged the cloth in her lap but then looked back to the window. "Boromir? Is aught amiss?"

Boromir shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. "I was just thinking... well, I do not yet know what I think of Aragorn as king, but Gondor could do worse than to have you as queen. You are wiser than many who have sat in that seat, and Minas Tirith feels the lack of a lady. Though of course the decision is not mine in any case, and you would find my father harder to convince."

Her smile faded but did not falter completely. "You must only decide for yourself. That is burden enough."

Boromir nodded but did not look away from the window. Somehow, just being in that chamber as Arwen sang to herself soothed him. He stood there, watching the drops of rain fall from the tree outside the window and listening to Arwen's ancient songs.

~~~

*******
Note:
The line "The heart has its own reason, of which reason knows naught" is adopted from the Pensees, by Blaise Pascal. The titular "childhood question" Boromir remembers is the same one Faramir recounts to Frodo in "The Window on the West", TTT:

"And this I remember of Boromir as a boy, when we together learned the tale of our sires and the history of our city, that always it displeased him that his father was not king. "How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?" he asked. "Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty," my father answered. "In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice." Alas! Poor Boromir. Does that not tell you something of him?"


The description of Arwen's banner is from "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields", RotK:

Upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned towards the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond."


The idea that the House of Húrin is white is derived from this line in "Minas Tirith", RotK:

The sun was now climbing, and the mists in the vale below had been drawn up. The last of them were floating away, just overhead, as wisps of white cloud borne on the stiffening breeze from the East, that was now flapping and tugging the flags and white standards of the citadel.


Finally, the reference to Pelendur and Arvedui is taken from the Appendices:

On the death of Ondoher and his sons, Arvedui of the North-kingdom claimed the crown of Gondor, as the direct descendant of Isildur, and as the husband of Fíriel, only surviving child of Ondoher. The claim was rejected. In this Pelendur, the Steward of King Ondoher, played the chief part.


For a fuller account of their reasons see "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion" in Appendix A.

Technically speaking, Arwen is a half-elf, not an elf. However, I'm not sure Boromir just a few days in Rivendell would be aware of the distinction, and because the story is from his POV I referred to her and Elrond as elves.

This story was inspired by a request from Thevina Finduilas for her friend Licia. She requested a story around Boromir, dealing with the topic "burden of proof". Thanks to Agape4Gondor for the beta.


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