A Blade for the Battle
For acknowledgements, I have taken portions from other stories and used
them in this one; most of those stories are my own Boromir inklings,
but the oath taken on the sword is from the ROTK chapter "Minas Tirith".
A Blade for the Battle
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and he rubbed them
away angrily. He did not want his father to see him weeping and think
him weak or childish. Resisting the urge to sniff, he instead wiped his
nose with the back of his hand. Setting his face stoically, Boromir
pulled back his shoulders and stood tall, but to no avail; another tear
rolled down before he could stop it. Beside him, Denethor made no
sound, nor gave any indication he saw Boromir's sorrow. What Denethor's
feelings were now, Boromir could not tell.
Boromir's grandfather Ecthelion was dying,
and Boromir was desolate. It was only a matter of time now;
chamberlains waited respectfully in the shadows while the family took
leave of him and spoke their final words together. Soon now,
preparations would begin for Ecthelion's journey to Rath Dinen, the
Silent Street, and to the House of Stewards, where he would be laid to
his final rest.
He now lay propped up with many pillows, weak
and ill, yet still alert, master of himself and master of his own end.
He was dressed in his best tunic, surcoat, and cloak, and though he
could no longer bear the weight of his mail armor, he had girded his
sword about him for this last farewell. He would not go until he had
said all he had to say to those he loved. Boromir stood near his
father, and watched as Denethor leaned close to listen to a few
murmured words; his father's face was still and stern, but Boromir
thought perhaps he could see the glint of unshed tears in the
lamplight, and he took comfort in the knowledge that he was not alone
in his grief. Further beyond, in the soft shadows cast by the light of
the lamp, he could see his mother sitting, cradling his little brother
in her arms as she wept silently into the blanket that covered sleeping
"It is not evil to weep, child," said
Ecthelion softly, as he reached out and drew Boromir close to his side.
"Even a grown man can be forgiven a few tears when bidding a friend
Ecthelion stretched out a weak and trembling hand to wipe dry the fresh tears that spilled down Boromir's cheek.
"Do you remember when I told you I would give you my sword when you were old enough and I had finished with it?"
"Yes," replied Boromir, swallowing his tears. "I was too small then, but now I am six."
"Yes," said Ecthelion, with a fond smile.
"You are six, and that is old enough to have a sword of your own. You
may have my sword now, for I am finished with it. Your father will not
need it, for he already has a fine blade. It will comfort me here at
the end to know that my sword goes to the hand of a warrior who will
care for the people of Gondor as I have cared for them. Though you are
young, I believe you are ready to take on that burden of service to
Boromir nodded wordlessly, his tears
forgotten in the solemnity of the moment. The old Steward lifted his
hand briefly to Denethor, who reached forward silently and unfastened
the sword belt from around his father's waist, gently slipping sword
and belt out from beneath his frail form. He knelt and held out the
sword to Ecthelion, who grasped it by the hilt and drew it slowly from
its sheath. The sword glinted brightly in the light of the lamps as he
laid it lengthwise beside him on the bed, and Boromir caught his breath
in wonder at the sight of the blade that was to be his.
"Can you lift it, Boromir?" Ecthelion asked.
Denethor rose and returned to his place at
the head of the bed, leaving Boromir to stand alone at his
grandfather's side. Boromir gazed at the bright blade longingly,
wondering if he would be strong enough to lift it, for the sword was as
long as he was tall. Yet he did not hesitate; grasping the hilt
carefully with both hands, Boromir lifted the sword from the bed. It
was very heavy, and the blade tip dropped and struck the floor, before
he could bring it up again to hold the blade upright. It took all his
strength and effort to hold it steady without dropping it, but Boromir
flushed with pleasure when he heard his father's murmur of pride. He
dared not look beyond him to see what his mother thought, for fear that
if he took his eyes from the sword, he would drop it.
Denethor nodded once to his son, then stepped
up quickly, and respectfully lifted the blade from his hands. Boromir
let it go with a mixture of reluctance and relief. He watched as his
father replaced the blade at Ecthelion's side.
"Well done, child," said Ecthelion. "You
handled the sword well, though you are yet small in stature. You shall
be a great warrior and will wield this blade mightily in defense of
"Does the sword have a name, Grandfather?" Boromir asked, as he reached out to stroke the flat of the blade.
"Yes, Boromir." Ecthelion answered. "It is
called Harthad, which means hope. It is not perhaps the finest sword
ever forged, nor the most ancient, and it has no magical qualities,
other than that magic that comes when a sword is wielded in might for a
good cause. But it is a good blade, and has served me well. May Harthad
serve you just as well, and be a sign of continuing hope for our people
as you lead them. For you will be a great leader of your people,
Boromir, when you are fully grown; a captain such as Gondor has not
seen in many a year. May you wield Harthad with strength and honor, and
together may you prove to be the tool that stems the tide from the East
that threatens to engulf us all."
Ecthelion laid a feeble hand over Boromir's as the child ran his small fingers along the unsheathed blade.
"It is a heavy burden to lay on a child. Are you ready for it?"
"I am ready, Grandfather. I will grow tall soon, and learn how to fight and I will be a good Captain, I promise."
Ecthelion nodded gravely. "Very well, then. Take the hilts and speak after me, Boromir."
Boromir set his hand on the hilt of the sword and spoke solemnly after Ecthelion.
"Here do I swear fealty and service to
Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be
silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in
peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my
lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Boromir,
son of Denethor of Gondor."
"I hear your oath," said Ecthelion, "and I
acknowledge it; but it is not me to whom you will swear it, not me to
whom you owe your service."
He turned his face to Denethor, who laid his long white hand over that of Boromir's and spoke the remainder of the oath.
"And this oath do I hear and acknowledge,
Denethor son of Ecthelion, now Lord of Gondor and Steward of the High
King; I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given:
fealty with love, valor with honor, oath-breaking with vengeance."
When the oath had been taken, the blade was
returned to its sheath and placed in Boromir's arms. He hugged the
sheathed sword to his breast as his throat tightened with tears; not
tears of sorrow now, but tears of wonder and pride and excitement.
Ecthelion gazed at him, and nodded his head in understanding.
"Remember your sword's name, Boromir; it is
Hope. The hope of your people now lies with you. May your own hope
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and he rubbed them
away angrily. Though his sorrow was great, this was no time to show
weakness; he had to remain strong if he was to be a support to his
bereaved father and his bewildered brother.
His mother was dead. Her fear of the darkness
and the Shadow in the East had worn away her will and desire to live,
so that she had withered; no strength had remained in her to fight the
illness that had taken her away. Finduilas was gone, leaving her men
alone and lost.
Boromir stood within the Embrasure of the
wall that edged the uppermost level of Minas Tirith. He liked to stand
here and look out over his City, feeling the wind on his face as he
imagined himself a great Captain leading his men through the Gates to
do battle with the Enemy. But now, he turned his face away from the
City, eastward to the land of Mordor looming on the horizon, and drew
"My hope is lessened now, though not yet
broken!" he cried aloud to the Shadow. "I can still fight you! You have
taken my mother from me, and brought great pain to my father and my
brother. I cannot bear to see them in such pain... I hate what you did
to my mother, darkening her days and stealing her joy. I will fight you
with all my strength and be avenged for what you have done to us; I
swear it! I will not rest in my pursuit of you until the shadow is gone
from my land!"
He was only ten years old, but he would see it done.
Tears stung Boromir's eyes, and rolled down
his face, but he let them fall. He cared not who saw him weeping; a
grown man could be forgiven a few tears when bidding a friend farewell.
Leaning forward, he kissed the cold brow of his comrade in arms -- his
friend --- who lay dead in his arms.
The battle had been fierce, and many lives
had been lost. Boromir, as Captain, felt each death keenly and the
burden of each loss was heavy. But this loss was especially hard to
bear -- Amdir, his companion from childhood, was dead, lost defending
his Captain from the enemy.
"Amdir!" he lamented aloud. "You were fond of
reminding me that your name meant 'hope' and that your task in life was
to make me smile! You looked at life with joy, always; what will I do
now without you to remind me that there is some hope in the world? My
hope is diminished, now that you are gone from me!"
Boromir bowed his head and let his tears drip
down upon the torn tunic of his friend. At last he released him,
setting the body down gently, and reached for his sword. It lay beside
him, cast down in the agony of the moment of finding his friend dying
upon the battlefield.
Harthad, he thought fleetingly. Another word for hope... may I never lose you, for then my despair will be complete!
A gentle hand on his shoulder caused him to look around. It was his brother.
"Here is Amdir's mount, Boromir," said
Faramir quietly. "We will carry him home where he will be entombed with
all the honor due him."
"Thank you, Faramir," replied Boromir heavily, as he rose to his feet. "I shall miss him."
"I know," answered Faramir, compassion in his voice. "Do you need more time with him?"
Boromir shook his head.
"No; I have let him go."
"Have you? You are our Captain, Boromir, and
you carry the weight of great responsibility. It is right and fitting
that you mourn our friend and all those who were lost today; but be
careful you do indeed let go the weight of the dead, in time. If you do
not let it go, the burden will become too great to bear, even for your
"As usual, you speak the truth, my brother!"
he said with a smile. He turned to face his brother. "I have lost my
friend, but I still have you, my best friend, and for that I am very
glad! There is still some hope in the world while we are together!"
He gave Faramir a quick, hard embrace, then turned away from the body of his friend. "Come, let us take him home."
Panting for breath, Boromir wiped blood and
sweat from his eyes. He had a moment to breathe in the midst of battle,
but only a moment; it was not going well, for he and his men were
surrounded and outnumbered. Boromir struggled vainly to quell the fear
that rose in his heart at the thought that it might be too late to
retreat back to the western shore.
He gripped Harthad and raised the blade to catch the moonlight, remembering the words of his grandfather upon his deathbed.
"The hope of your people now lies with you, Boromir. May your own hope remain unbroken."
Hope! he thought with a grimace, as he looked
out over the moonlit hill at the teeming armies of Mordor and the dead
bodies of soldiers of Gondor littering the ground. What hope can there
be today? We are outnumbered; there is no hope that we can defeat this
foe! It is over; I have little hope that we shall see the light of
Boromir was suddenly knocked aside by a blow
to the head, and his sword flew from his hand. As he lay momentarily
stunned, a huge form loomed up and a spear glinted in the moonlight. A
Southron spearman towered over him, poised to strike. Boromir rolled to
avoid the blow of the spear, and the Southron fell sprawling atop
Boromir, the weight knocking the breath from his lungs. Mailed hands
were suddenly at Boromir's throat; he grappled with the man as he
gasped for air. Boromir kicked out furiously, and his boot made contact
with flesh. The Southron grunted and his grip shifted, just enough that
Boromir was able to pull away and roll free. As he rolled he felt
Harthad under him, and grasped at the sword desperately. He thrust the
blade upwards as he came out of his roll, and the Southron, leaping to
grab at his foe, fell full on the sharp blade.
Boromir rolled free of the body and wiped his blade clean on the robe of the dead man.
A hand under his arm pulled him to his feet
at the same time that a voice in his ear spoke; it was Grithnir, his
lieutenant. Boromir felt an overwhelming sense of relief at the sight
of him alive, and in his heart, a little hope returned.
"My Captain, I fear we are outnumbered!"
Grithnir gasped. "We are losing ground, even as fresh reinforcements
arrive to swell the enemy's ranks! Should we stand or fall back?"
Boromir had already made the decision; he only needed enough breathing space to give the order.
"Fall back!" he cried. "Fall back to the
bridge at Osgiliath! I will sound the retreat! Get you away and tell as
many as you can to make for the bridge with all speed; I shall follow
directly. We will regroup and make another stand there! There is still
hope that we can delay them long enough to defend the bridge and throw
"Yes, my lord!" cried Grithnir, and he sped away.
Boromir sat alone, dejected and utterly spent
after a long bout of weeping. He felt empty and confused, unable to
reason or form a coherent thought. The Ring... Gondor's fall... his
father... He heaved a sigh as the tears began again; the breeze blowing
through the mallorn trees of Lorien was cold on his wet face.
Caught up in his own anguish, Boromir did not
hear the soft footsteps from behind, until he saw Aragorn appear in
front of him. Though in his heart he had been crying out for someone to
help him, Boromir kept his head down, hoping he would not have to speak
with Aragorn. He did not want to appear weak and foolish, and he hated
for anyone to see his tears. And yet... it would be a relief to be able
to tell someone what had happened, what Galadriel had said to him;
perhaps if he spoke of it, he would be able to forget...
"Take some rest," said Aragorn as he passed
by; he had not noticed Boromir's tears. He stood at the edge of the
hollow and looked out into the trees below. "These borders are
"I will find no rest here," said Boromir
hoarsely; his voice betrayed his agitation, and Aragorn turned,
startled. Boromir lifted his head to look at Aragorn; then he dropped
his eyes and stared at his hands.
"I heard her voice inside my head," he
confessed, drawing in a deep breath, and letting it out again shakily.
"She spoke of my father and the fall of Gondor."
Boromir regarded Aragorn’s face solemnly, and
saw mirrored there the same shock and disbelief that he himself felt.
His own grief at the revelation was still fresh, and he could not bear
it; Boromir dropped his gaze and wrung his hands as they lay in his
lap. A tear glistened on his face as he spoke again, haltingly.
"She said to me... 'even now there is hope
left!'" He bit his lip and drew a shuddering breath. "But I cannot see
it!" Boromir closed his eyes for a moment, and shook his head wearily.
"It is long since we had any hope."
He frowned, and unconsciously, his hand
brushed his sword Harthad. Hope! he thought fleetingly. If I as Captain
lose hope, than what hope is left for my people?
Aragorn came and sat down nearby; he said
nothing, but Boromir felt a little comforted. He sniffed and attempted
to regain his composure.
"My father is a noble man," he said,
struggling to put his feelings into words. He glanced back briefly, but
he could not look at Aragorn for long; not yet. He looked down at his
hands with a sigh. "But...his rule is failing, and our...our people
lose faith." Sorrow threatened to overwhelm him; Boromir pressed his
lips together to hold it back, but he could not stop the tear that slid
down his nose. Father...
He went on with difficulty. "He looks to me
to make things right, and I...I would do it! I would see the glory of
Boromir felt Aragorn stir behind him. Yes, he
thought, Aragorn does understand. He knows of Gondor... of its
importance... The thought of Gondor at the height of its glory was
soothing, and a faint smile lit Boromir's face, even in the midst of
"Have you ever seen it, Aragorn?" He
swallowed as a lump rose in his throat. "The White Tower of Ecthelion,
glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver...its banners caught high
in the morning breeze..."
Blinking away tears, Boromir gazed off into
the distance. A vision, a memory of his City came to him; almost he
could see the White Tower and hear the horns blowing...
"Have you ever been called home by the clear
ringing of silver trumpets?" Boromir asked wistfully, as he focused on
that vision, straining to hear the distant horns.
"I have seen the White City," answered Aragorn quietly. "Long ago."
Hope flared, and dark whispers were forgotten; Boromir turned to Aragorn and grasped his shoulder.
"One day, our paths will lead us there," he
vowed, his voice low and full of passion. "And the Tower Guard will
take up the call: 'The Lords of Gondor have returned!’"
Aragorn smiled and nodded, but gave no
answer. After a moment, he looked away uncertainly. As he watched him,
Boromir recalled his grandfather's words once more.
"Remember your sword's name, Boromir; it is
Hope. The hope of your people now lies with you. May your own hope
His hope was almost gone, but duty remained,
and that duty was clear; his people relied upon him and he must do what
he could to bring them aid. Aragorn was yet unsure of the road they
should take, that much was obvious. But Boromir knew in his heart they
must go to Minas Tirith, or all would be lost.
I shall have to persuade him, vowed Boromir, lest all hope of help for my City be lost.
Tears stung Boromir's eyes and he moved to
brush them away, but he could not lift his hand to his face, he was so
very weary. He hated the thought of anyone seeing him cry, for he did
not want to seem weak. But no one was there to see him, and his
weakness or strength no longer mattered.
He was dying; Boromir was certain of it. He
had fought with all his might to defend the little ones, to free them
from their captors, but it had been for naught. The hobbits were taken,
and he was wounded to his death. Fresh tears came at the memory of
Merry and Pippin being carried away through the trees; he had tried to
follow, but he had not the strength to even stand. He had failed them;
his honor was broken and no hope was left.
Again he move to wipe his eyes clear, but
there was something in his hand that was weighing it down. He blinked
until his vision cleared, and saw his sword was still gripped in his
hand. The blade was broken and dull, stained black with Orc blood.
"Harthad!" he cried, but his voice was only a
whisper. "Alas that you are broken! Now my hope is indeed gone. My
grandfather's faith in me has proved ill-founded; I could not even stem
the tide that threatened two small hobbits! What can I do against the
full force of Mordor? It was folly to think that there was ever any
He heard the sound of pounding feet as someone approached at a run. Boromir slowly opened his eyes as Aragorn knelt beside him.
"I thought..." he spoke haltingly, for the
pain of his wounds was great. "I feared you were all dead... No one
came. I sounded the Horn and no one came..."
"I am here now," said Aragorn.
"Too late!" moaned Boromir. "They have taken the little ones... I think they are not dead... not yet..."
He struggled to sit up, and Aragorn pressed him back gently.
"No! Be still!" Aragorn touched one of the
arrows that protruded from Boromir's side, then fumbled at the
fastenings of his clothing.
"Leave it!" said Boromir roughly, stopping Aragorn's hand with his own. "It is over. I have paid."
"Paid?" Aragorn said, a frown furrowing his brow. "What do you mean?"
"I tried to take the Ring from Frodo... I am sorry."
Aragorn bowed his head in grief; taking Boromir's hand, he gripped it tightly and pressed it to his lips in sorrow.
"Forgive me..." sighed Boromir. "I did not
see... I did not understand until too late." Boromir choked back a sob.
"I have failed you all!"
Aragorn leaned close and spoke urgently. "No,
Boromir! It is I who have failed you! I did not see what was happening.
I should have understood you better; I should have listened. I sent you
into danger, alone...I am sorry!" He laid a hand on Boromir's cheek.
"No, Boromir; you fought bravely! You have kept your honor, and you
have conquered! Few have gained such a victory!"
Boromir shook his head feebly.
"The world of men will fail," he moaned bitterly, "and all will fall into darkness...and my City to ruin!"
"No!" said Aragorn firmly. "There will be no failing. The White City will not
fall! You and I -- we will not allow it." He stretched out his hand
again and gently lifted the edge of Boromir's surcoat. "Let me look;
there may be something I can do for you. Perhaps I can ease your pain,
if nothing else." He attempted a smile. "Yet it may be that once again
you will prove indestructible!"
"Do not waste time on me," said Boromir,
weakly pushing Aragorn's hand away. "I am finished! Go now! Go after
the little ones!"
"You are not finished, Boromir, and I deem it
time well spent if I can do something to ease you," Aragorn gently
chided. "I will work quickly; there will still be time to go after the
hobbits. We will not forsake them, I promise you."
Seeing the stern resolve in Aragorn's eyes, Boromir relented.
"Very well, then," he said with a sigh, "but I fear your attempt to save me will be in vain."
"You let me be the judge of that," replied Aragorn firmly.
Aragorn wrapped his hand around Boromir's
tightly clenched fist, still gripping the hilt of the broken sword, and
squeezed it reassuringly.
"Do not regret the loss of your blade, my
friend," he said soothingly as he opened Boromir's hand and took the
sword from it. "A broken blade is an honorable thing, for to break in
good service is to finish well. Yet if we can find the broken shards,
there is hope your sword can be reforged. You shall wield it again."
Boromir shook his head. "No! There is no hope or honor in brokenness! What good is my service if I fail in the end?"
Aragorn was silent for a moment, and paused
in his examination of Boromir's wounds. Boromir turned his face away,
but Aragorn gently touched his face and turned him back to look into
"Are you familiar with the Ballad of the Sword, Boromir?"
"No, I know it not," replied Boromir faintly.
"It is a song I used to hear sung in one of
the halls of men where I once served. It tells the tale of a warrior
who lies dying after a great battle, lamenting his sword, which has
broken in his hand. The sword speaks to him and comforts him in his
"What... what does the sword say?" Boromir
asked, his eyes straying to the broken hilt that now lay beside him
where Aragorn had set it.
"These are some of the words, as I recall them."
Aragorn continued inspecting Boromir's wounds, as he began to recite:
Once I was bright and keen,
Leading the charge into the midst of the enemy,
Finding my honor in dedicated service.
Now, notched and broken, I lie on your breast,
A warrior's blade, light extinguished.
Once I was your favored tool
Used mightily in defense of our people.
We fought for those under our protection;
We gave all we had to serve them.
Even now, you do not release me, though I am broken.
Have I failed you by breaking?
Is the war lost because of my weakness?
Nay! For no blade wielded so
Could ever regret its accomplishment!
If I be damaged, broken,
What does it matter?
I have done the task I was called to do,
Completed that for which I was made.
No failure mine, but victory,
Though the battle rage on without me.
Brokenness brings pain,
But that was my duty and privilege.
What use to our kingdom
If I had remained in the sheath
Safe, but useless?
There is no service in safety.
Better to be in the field
At the forefront of the battle,
My brightness stained,
My sharpness dulled by combat,
And not by disuse.
For even a broken sword can still serve;
If not for the battle, then as a rallying cry.
Even a broken sword can still stem the tide,
Resulting in victory,
Though blade is spent.
I am broken, but for a reason;
I am damaged, but not in vain.
I am content to pay the price,
If my sacrifice may make others bold
To take up their swords and fight with all their might.
Yes, other blades there will be
To take up the cause, when my part is finished.
Take heart, my warrior!
Though in the end, I am broken,
My brokenness is honorable!
To break in good service is to finish well.
Aragorn fell silent.
"Harthad..." whispered Boromir. It was as if his own sword had been speaking to him.
"Do you understand what I am trying to say to you?" asked Aragorn quietly.
Boromir nodded wordlessly.
"Put aside your despair, if you can," urged
Aragorn. "Your broken oath is a burden that cannot be forgotten, but
there may still be a chance for you to make things right with Frodo.
You have done much already to redeem yourself!"
"Little chance to make it right... if I am dead," murmured Boromir.
"Your death is not yet certain, my friend.
But it will be, if we go on arguing... and if you give in to despair. I
say again, put aside your despair and let hope return; I am here now
and we will continue this fight together."
In spite of his pain and grief at his
failing, hope stirred unaccountably in Boromir's heart. He had indeed
failed, and broken his oath to Frodo; nothing could change that. Yet if
there was a chance he might live to see Frodo again, that was something
worth hoping for. He did not know if Aragorn was consoling him simply
to ease his final moments, or if there truly was a chance he could be
saved. Nevertheless, he was comforted, for the promise of Aragorn still
rang in his heart.
will be no failing! he thought, and a great weight of care was lifted
from him. The White City will not fall, and aid will come to my people!
Aragorn will see to that. If I live to aid him, and fulfill my oath to
my people, that is good; if I am lost, no matter. I am no longer alone
in this; the full burden of the task is no longer mine alone. Aragorn
is here, he is with me -- he has sworn it! The battle is not yet lost,
though I no longer be a part of it....
Boromir looked at the hilt and broken blade of Harthad, and blinked
back a tear as he recalled how bright the sword had been that day he
had taken his oath upon it.
"Remember your sword's name, Boromir; it is Hope," his grandfather had
said. "The hope of your people now lies with you. May your own hope
His hope had been broken, slowly but surely, over the long years of
toil and striving against the Enemy. Yet perhaps that hope might be
restored, even as his broken blade might be repaired and made new. Time
would tell, if any time remained to him...
Boromir closed his eyes and let darkness take him. Yes, time would tell...