The Sword that was Broken

by Linaewen
This is a tale that has been waiting to be written for a long time. I started it many months ago, thinking we were going to have an Aragorn Character Day, then put it aside. I finally decided it was time to take it out again. "The Stewards" in Appendix A, and "The Tale of Years" in Appendix B of LOTR were my main sources for this tale, as well as the excellent section on Minas Tirith in The Atlas of Middle-Earth (by Karen Wynn Fonstad), my own Chapter 18 of Son of Gondor, and a cassette tape of my very young son telling stories and reciting nursery rhymes!

THE SWORD THAT WAS BROKEN

The council session was over, and everyone had left the council chambers but for one man. That man sat quietly in his chair, eyes closed, his booted feet stretched out before him. He sat thus for a few moments, then pushed himself up quickly and left the room.

As he passed through the corridor and descended the stairs to the dining area on the lower level, Thorongil rubbed the muscles of his neck with one hand to relieve the tension that had been growing there for the past few hours. The council session had been long, for there had been much to discuss concerning the threats from the East and the South. He was pleased with the progress that had been made this day, but it had been a difficult one nonetheless. One man there was who supported him in all his counsels, yet opposed him on a personal level, though that opposition was subtle.

Thorongil was a captain held in high esteem in the City, and he had the favor of the Ruling Steward, Ecthelion; it was a hard thing for his opponent to accept, who was ever taking second place in the affections of his father and his people. Thorongil could hardly blame him for this feeling of rivalry, though it made things difficult at times. He did what he could to be seen only as the servant of the Steward, and no man's rival.

He wished there was more time, now, to build some trust between himself and Denethor, son of Ecthelion; but matters were moving in the East, and new danger from the South now threatened this land he loved, and there was no time left for niceties. Perhaps there had never been any hope of trust between the two men. Thorongil had often caught the sharp, questioning glance of the Steward's son upon him, and wondered if Denethor's shrewd mind had guessed the truth of his identity. That would be more than enough to explain his antagonism, setting aside any ill will he might also feel at the praises his father gave his favorite captain.

Thorongil sighed heavily and shrugged away his gloom. It will soon be time to move on, he thought; and then affairs will go on as they will.

He turned a corner and entered the dining area for the Tower Guard. Some of the men hailed him as he entered, and he nodded to each of them in turn. One of the Guard approached him, and laying a hand on his arm, the man stayed his progress towards the table where a late afternoon meal was laid.

"Someone is waiting to see you, sir."

Thorongil looked in the direction indicated by the guard, and saw a child sitting on a bench against the wall, swinging his legs and squirming impatiently. A plate of untouched food was set beside him. A guard stood at attention by his side, but the child ignored him. At the sight of Thorongil, a look of happy relief flashed across the child's face, and he waved a hand in greeting. Thorongil nodded to the guard and crossed the room to where the child sat.

"Frongil! I want to talk, but everyone says 'no time, too busy'!" the child announced plaintively. A scowl twisted his features briefly, but then he looked up hopefully at the tall captain. "Can you talk? Are you 'too busy'?"

He spoke with the slight lisp of a child only a few months past his second birthday, yet his voice was high and clear, and his speech was amazingly well-formed for one so young. Thorongil smiled; he expected no less from the son of Denethor, heir to Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor.

"No, Boromir," Thorongil replied, extending his hand to the child. "I am not too busy. I am happy to talk to you, if you wish it."

Boromir clambered down from his perch on the bench.

"Take me to the wall," he demanded. "Want to look out."

He reached up to grasp Thorongil's hand. "Please!" he added as an afterthought, as if suddenly remembering a lesson he had been learning; he grinned mischievously.

"Very well," Thorongil agreed with a laugh, and nodded towards the plate of food on the bench. "Bring those apples with you. The wall is a good place for sharing a meal."

He turned to the man who had been attending Boromir, as the child snatched up a couple of apples and stuffed them down the front of his tunic. "If anyone comes seeking the lad, let them know he has gone with me to the Embrasure."

"Aye, Captain, sir."

'The wall,' as Boromir had called it, had only one meaning for the child, and Thorongil knew what that was: the Embrasure, a recess along the wall of the uppermost level of the City that stood atop the spine of the mountain, jutting eastward like the keel of a great ship. From that spot on the wall one could look down over seven levels of the City of Minas Tirith, to the Great Gates seven hundred feet below... or look out, if one wished, to the East, across the gleaming waters of the Anduin to the darkness of the Mountains of Shadow, ever backlit by the red glow of fire that was never quenched.

As they approached the Embrasure, Boromir ran ahead, but the wall was more than three times his height, and smooth with no foothold, so that he could not climb it unaided to see over the edge. As Thorongil approached, the child turned and held up his arms.

"Up!" Boromir said imperiously. "Want to feel the wind."

Thorongil complied, and lifted the child in his arms. They stood together, looking out over the City, and the wind that snapped in the banners above them lifted their hair and blew it about so that it stung their faces. Boromir laughed and held his arms out to the wind, then leaned out in Thorongil's arms, so that he could look down at the City below. The wall was wide, so he could not quite see over the edge, and Thorongil would not allow him to lean too far out; but he could see the Great Gate far below, and men like insects on the road beyond the city walls, and further afield, the orchards and homesteads that dotted the countryside all the way down to the River. Boromir laughed again, and was content.

At last, Thorongil set him down. Boromir pushed his windblown hair away from his face with an impatient gesture, and sat down, leaning his small, straight back against the wall. Thorongil sat next to him, his long legs stretched out straight in front of him. Boromir dug out an apple for each of them, and they ate in silence.

"What did you wish to talk about, Boromir?" Thorongil asked, after a time.

"Wish I had a sword!" sighed Boromir. He solemnly contemplated the apple core in his hand, then stuck it in his tunic.

Thorongil looked at the child beside him, and tried to keep from grinning.

"You will have your sword, one day," he answered.

"Gran'fa says I get his sword when he is done keeping it," Boromir said proudly. "But I must grow more first."

Boromir looked at his short legs, resting next to Thorongil's long ones, and frowned. "Maybe nex' week I'll be big enough."

"Maybe."

There was another silence, broken at last by Boromir.

"Gran'fa told me 'bout a" -- here the child stammered on a new word -- "brok'n..." He looked up into the tall captain's face for confirmation. "Brok'n?"

"Yes, you said that well. Do you know what it means?"

"Yes, but it's just hard to say right."

"Try it again. Broken."

Boromir tried again. "Bro-ken."

Boromir beamed his pleasure as Thorongil rewarded him with a smile . "Very good," the man chuckled. "Please go on."

Boromir started over. "Gran'fa told me 'bout a bro-ken sword. A great King had it. He fought the Evil Dark Lord."

"Oh?" replied Thorongil slowly.

Boromir nodded earnestly, never taking his eyes from Thorongil's face.

"And what did he say about this broken sword?"

"He said it was... special." Boromir stumbled slightly over the last word, then wrinkled his forehead in concentration, as if trying to remember all that had been said about the sword in question. He looked up again. "Yes, special! He said 'twas the best sword ever!"

"Yes," Thorongil agreed, with a secret smile. "It is the best sword ever."

Boromir heaved another sigh.

"Wish I had the best sword ever," he said wistfully, then frowned. "But how? How can it be the best sword if it's broken? A broken sword's no good!"

Thorongil looked thoughtfully at the child next to him.

"I know of a sword," he replied with care, "broken, like the sword your grandfather told you about. It is a good sword, though it be broken. Someday it will be repaired... reforged; and then it will be a good sword."

"The best sword ever?"

"Perhaps; perhaps it will be such a sword."

"Will you show it to me?" asked Boromir eagerly. "I want to see it!"

Thorongil smiled at the eagerness in the child's eyes, but his tone was grave and serious when he spoke.

"I hope that I will be able to show it to you, Boromir, one day..."

Footsteps echoed in the recess where they sat. The two companions scrambled to their feet, and the child ran forward with a happy cry to meet the man who approached from across the Court of the Fountain.

"I was talking to Frongil," Boromir explained to his father. "He let me look over the wall!"

"Yes, my son," replied Denethor, barely glancing at Thorongil. He took Boromir's small hand in his, and with his other hand he smoothed the child's hair. "I see that you were speaking with the Captain, and that you have been looking over the wall."

Denethor turned and began to lead Boromir away.

"Come, Boromir," he said. "The Captain is a busy man, and he has no more time for you now. He has important things to discuss with your grandfather."

Over his shoulder, Denethor spoke to Thorongil.

"My father is asking for you," he said coldly.

Thorongil nodded and bowed.

"I will attend him directly, my lord."

Boromir looked back over his shoulder at Thorongil, as he trotted away beside his father; their eyes met and held. Then Boromir turned away, and was gone.

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

Boromir stood on a high terrace overlooking the river of Rivendell. The sound of the water rushing over many falls was loud, but not unpleasant. At times, a note in the water's music would remind him of Minas Tirith, remind him of the sound of the wind whistling in the Embrasure in the wall below the high tower of Ecthelion, and he was comforted amid the strangeness of Elrond's valley.

He had only just arrived in Rivendell, after a long, lonely journey through the wilderness. He had been alone for so long that he needed some time to himself to adjust to being among people again.

Having no desire to sleep, Boromir decided to wander through Rivendell to get his bearings. To know a place was to be confident in a place, and he would need all his confidence tomorrow at the Council, when he spoke of his Quest and his dream.

As he walked, Boromir recalled his meeting with Elrond upon his arrival, only a few hours ago. To his surprise, Gandalf had been there, too; he had greeted Boromir as he would an old friend. Though he had never been one to pay much attention to wizards and their doings, Boromir had been pleased to see Gandalf. He did not know him well, but he had conversed with him on occasion, during his visits to Minas Tirith. His brother knew him better, and thought very highly of him. Boromir had to admit it was good to see a familiar face in this place which was otherwise so strange.

Elrond had welcomed him; both he and Gandalf had listened gravely to his news of Gondor and to the words of his prophetic dream. Boromir was gratified to see that they took it all very seriously, but was disappointed that no answers were immediately forthcoming. Elrond said only that there would be a council called for the next day; Boromir would be asked to tell his tale, so that all present could ponder the meaning of the dream.

Ever since speaking with them, Boromir had been unable to get the dream's riddle out of his mind.

"Seek for the sword that was broken; in Imladris it dwells.
There shall be counsels taken, stronger than Morgul spells."


The first part was coming true, for he was here, in Imladris; on the morrow, counsels would be taken, and Boromir would be part of them. Yet he still wondered about the sword. Why had he been asked to seek a broken sword? He had pondered this same question over and over again throughout his journey to Rivendell.

Long ago he had come to the conclusion that the "sword that was broken" might refer to Narsil, the sword of Elendil, broken by the Dark Lord in the great battle. Legend told of how Elendil had been slain, but his son Isildur had wielded the broken blade against Sauron. So sharp had the sword been that it had cut the Ring of Power from Sauron's hand. The Ring had been lost in the downfall of the Dark Lord; now Boromir wondered if perhaps the sword had been saved. If not, and the sword of the riddle was only symbolic of something else, it still might be some kind of weapon, a powerful weapon that could be used in defense of Minas Tirith.

Boromir wandered through halls and passageways until he came to a large room open to the night and the moonlight. He passed through to a flight of wide stairs leading to a second level.

Glancing up, he caught sight of a mural depicting a battle scene; mounting the stairs, he approached the mural for a closer look. It was a painting of a man lying on the ground, propped up on one elbow, defiantly holding up a bright sword. The sword was broken, but a light shone from it. A dark figure loomed threateningly over the prone man, preparing to strike.

The very thing he had been remembering! This was a painting of Isildur at the battle of the Last Alliance, defending the body of his father from the evil Sauron. What a battle that must have been! he thought wistfully, as he gazed at the mural. If only I had such a weapon! How men would flock to the defense of Minas Tirith if Isildur's sword was at their head!

A small sound behind him caused Boromir to turn. He was not alone; a lean, dark man was sitting not far away, an open book in his hand.

"You are no Elf," Boromir commented, looking the man up and down.

The man smiled softly and made a courteous gesture with his hand. "Men of the South are welcome here."

"Who are you?" asked Boromir, curious.

"I am friend to Gandalf the Grey."

Boromir nodded, pleased that he had so unexpectedly found something in common with this stranger.

"Then we are here on common purpose... friend," Boromir said with a smile.

Boromir's eye was suddenly caught by the sight of a stone figure, arms outstretched in a gesture of offering, holding what looked like a shield. It was covered with blue cloth; the figure gazed sadly down upon a sword that lay upon the shield. From where he was standing, Boromir could just see the hilt above the lip of the shield's stone edge.

A sword! His pulse quickened. Could it be? Is it here? Have they reforged it, then?

He advanced slowly, almost reverently, and stepped up onto the pedestal beside the stone figure. The sword lay like a trophy on the cloth, the hilt and part of the blade still intact, but the rest of it in shards. The shards were laid out carefully, each piece separate from the other. They were all there, salvaged from the battlefield. Boromir reached out slowly and picked up the broken hilt. He held it up with both hands to admire it.

"The shards of Narsil!" he exclaimed aloud. "The blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's hand!"

He ran his finger up the blade to test it. The edge was keen; he felt it slice his finger, and blood welled up and stained his hand.

"Still sharp!" he exclaimed, surprised.

The pain in his finger, though slight, was enough to bring him back to reality. As he stared down at the broken shards of the now-darkened sword, his heart sank. Narsil was broken, its light extinguished. It had not been forged anew. A legendary sword, to be sure, but it was useless; its magic was marred. It was just a broken sword, enshrined, and now only a memory.

What a waste! he thought with dismay. A broken sword is no good!

Boromir felt upon him the gaze of the man with the book, and he turned his head slightly to look at him. Their eyes met again, and held.

"...It is a good sword, though it be broken," Boromir heard a voice say, but it was only a memory, distant and vague. "Someday it will be repaired... reforged; and then it will be a good sword."

No, thought Boromir, sadly. It will not be remade. It is useless to me; I must find some other way to help my people.

The man continued to look at him steadily; he did not speak, and there was nothing in his face to indicate what he was thinking. Boromir felt uncomfortable, as if he had been caught in some trespass or wrongdoing. Perhaps he does not like me touching the sword, he thought. Well then, I leave it for him! It is of no use to me!

"It is no more than a broken heirloom," he exclaimed bitterly, as sharp disappointment pierced his heart. He set the sword back on its shelf and turned away. As he stepped down from the pedestal, the broken blade fell to the floor with a clatter.

Boromir, hesitating, looked back, but his heart was heavy with disappointment, and he could not bear to look upon the broken sword again. Before he could change his mind, Boromir turned, and walked quickly away.

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

Aragorn sat, silent, lost in the memory of those eyes, that face.

He has the look of his father, he thought.

After a moment, Aragorn set down his book, and rose to his feet. He walked slowly to stand before the shrine; carefully, reverently, he replaced the fallen hilt beside the broken shards. He gazed at the broken sword and the shards laid out neatly upon the cloth, and remembered.

"...It is a good sword, though it be broken," he heard his own voice say. "Someday it will be repaired... reforged; and then it will be a good sword."

"The best sword ever?"
came the child's voice from out of the past.

"Perhaps; perhaps it will be such a sword."

"Will you show it to me? I want to see it!"

"I hope that I will be able to show it to you, Boromir, one day..."


Aragorn reached out and touched the hilt of Narsil, then grasped it firmly, once, before setting it gently down again.

"It is a good sword, Boromir," he said softly. "It can be reforged, when the time is right. And then, I will show it to you, I promise..."