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1

Inspired by a detail from the end of the FotR movie, combined with a detail from the book:
"He [Boromir] was cloaked and booted as if for a journey on horseback; and indeed though his garments were rich, and his cloak was lined with fur, they were stained with long travel. He had a collar of silver in which a single white stone was set; his locks were shorn about his shoulders." (Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond)
Thanks to Cairistiona for beta reading. *hugs*


~~~

Loss. Bitterness. Pain. Yet another defeat.

Each life lost took a part of him with it. Each death was a wound whose scar could never entirely heal. Aragorn gazed toward the lake and the distant statues of the Argonath, but he could not discern them. Scenes from the past few weeks flashed before his eyes: moments of conversation with Boromir, sitting by the fire; the enraptured expression on his face as he spoke of his homeland, father and brother; the zeal with which he trained the Hobbits; the devotedness with which he always defended them. Until the very last moment.

One more death. One more defeat.

The pain inside him struggled with anger, hope wrestled with sorrow. For he knew well that this was only the beginning. All those he had lost so far, all the victims of the Enemy both in his own Arnor and here in Gondor, whether strangers or friends close to his heart all that, regardless of the depth of his pain, was no more than an overture to what was about to ensue: the great war that will change Middle-earth irreversibly, the great wheel of death that will take many more lives... and cause his heart to bleed again and again. Sometimes, while burying those he was not able to rescue, he wondered how much more he could take.

But then he met Legolas and Gimli's gaze and the understanding in their eyes was sufficient to restore his resolve. Regardless of how dark his paths were, he must not and he will not lose hope. No matter how heavy the burden on his shoulders, he will make it through. Anything else was out of question; it was simply his path. He had to endure. For all those who needed him starting with his family, friends and acquaintances, up to the last, smallest child in the most distant corner of the Middle-earth.

And now his friend needed him; Boromir, a proud son of Gondor, was about to embark on his last journey. They laid him into one of the Lorien boats. His face was tranquil, as if he were sleeping. I hope you shall find peace now, my friend, no matter where you may be. And may the Valar watch over you on your voyage. He would give anything if only he could have reached Boromir and the Hobbits earlier and saved them; he would give anything if only he could have changed the last ill-fated quarter of hour. He blamed himself for having let Frodo wander off alone, as well as for not having noticed Boromir's inner struggle. The Ring never rested, it always tried to seduce those around it. I am sorry for not realising it earlier. It was more difficult for you than for the rest of us; it assailed you harder than it did any of us, Aragorn thought bitterly. It lured you with false promises because it felt how desperately you wanted to save your people.

"I will save them for you," he said quietly, with both sadness and resolve in his voice. "I'll honour my word. I will not let Minas Tirith fall."

They folded Boromir's hands around the hilt of his sword, and laid his shield and his split horn next to his head. Their place is next to you, forever. May they be with you in the distant home of human souls as well. "Carry them with pride. You fought bravely and preserved your honour."

Then he leaned forward and unclasped Boromir's necklace, the heirloom of the house of stewards. The white jewel glistened in the sun, bright and cold. "I will return this to your family. I know you would like Faramir to wear it after you." But at the same time he knew that for Faramir it would be the most painful gift he had ever received.

Legolas and Gimli were waiting anxiously, knowing they had to leave soon. But Aragorn was not ready yet. He still hadn't said his last goodbye to his friend. "I cannot head straight to Gondor just yet. First I must save the Hobbits," he said to Boromir quietly. "I know you understand, because you would do the same. But as soon as I do that, I will come to Minas Tirith." And then, while speaking those words, he felt a new resolve being born inside of him. Gondor was waiting for him. And he was ready; it was his destiny.

His gaze fell upon Boromir's vambraces. They bore a representation of the White Tree of Gondor and seven stars the symbols of Elendil. It had been a long time since he last wore the symbol of Gondor as if it were in another lifetime, he thought. He was Thorongil then, a captain of Gondor, and the White Tree was engraved into his leather armour of an Ithilien ranger. Now he was Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the leader of the Dunedain and Isildur's heir, arriving into Gondor to defend it from the tide of Sauron's evil and to become the King. The Tree of Gondor was his own symbol as well, he realised, it was a part of his destiny. Too much time had passed since he last wore it; too long had he been away from his second homeland. And now the time had come for the whole world to know that Gondor was where his fate lay. He leaned over and unbuckled the vambraces, fastening them onto his own forearms. In that moment, as if a part of him, which he hadn't even realised had been missing, was completed and he became whole again, and looking at the outline of the White Tree he felt pride and honour to be able to wear them. But at the same time, once again he was shaken by the pain of loss.

"I wish you could be the one who would keep wearing them. I wish you were still with us and wish you could see Gondor free, someday," he said, with sadness written over his face. "I will wear them for you, for Gondor... for our people." He bowed lightly as a sign of last farewell. "Goodbye, my comrade... my friend... my brother."

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