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 the sound of the wind whistling around the high stone tower of Ecthelion in his city of Minas Tirith, and he was comforted amidst the strangeness of Elrond's valley.
He had taken a light meal alone, not wishing to join the crowd at Elrond's table; he had been alone for so long that he needed more time to feel settled here. Boromir felt restless and had no desire to sleep. He left his room and wandered 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 presented before all his dream and his quest.
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. Boromir, strangely enough, had been pleased to see Gandalf; he had never before been one to pay attention to wizards and their doings. He did not know Gandalf 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 that it was good to see a familiar face amidst all this strangeness.
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 matters were now coming to a head, and that there would be a council called for the next day; he would be asked to present his story there so that all in attendance could ponder the meaning of the dream.
Ever since speaking with them, Boromir could think of nothing but the riddle in his dream.
"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. He did not yet know what it meant, but it was coming true. He was here, in Imladris, in Rivendell; there was to be a council, at which all would be made clear...at least Elrond had suggested as much. It seemed there were other messengers who had arrived in recent days; Elves, Dwarves, and Men from lands far away. He wondered briefly if the lost travelers sought by Erestor had arrived safely. He would be interested to hear what these others had to say, and how the situation in their lands would affect the safety of his City.
The sword...why would he be asked to seek a broken sword? He had asked this same question over and over again throughout his journey to Rivendell. He had long ago decided that the "sword that was broken" might refer to Narsil, the sword of Elendil that was broken by the Dark Lord in the great battle. Elendil had been slain, but his son Isildur had wielded the broken blade against Sauron. So sharp the sword had 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, but perhaps the sword had been saved. Even if the sword 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.
He walked along a passageway that was open to the night and to the moonlight. It led to a large balcony, at the back of which wide stairs led up onto another level. Boromir, glancing in, caught sight of a mural at the back; it seemed to be a battle scene. He went up 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.
Boromir almost laughed aloud. 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. Boromir looked closer; the sword in Isildur's hand fascinated him. What a battle that must have been! he thought wistfully. If only I had such a weapon! How men would flock to the defense of Minas Tirith if Elendil's sword was at their head!
He smiled at his fancy, and turned away. His eye fell on a figure holding out what looked like a shield, covered with blue cloth. He realized it was a statue; the stone figure was gazing 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, amazed that the sword was even here, reached out and picked up the broken hilt. He held it up with both hands to admire it.
"The shards of Narsil!" he exclaimed aloud, his voice filled with wonder. "The blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's hand!"
He ran his finger up the blade to test it. The edge was keen; so keen that it sliced his finger, and blood welled up and stained his hand.
"Still sharp!" he cried in amazement.
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. Where before he had felt admiration, he now knew only dismay. Narsil was broken, and 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!
A small sound behind him made him turn his head slightly. He saw that he was not alone; a lean, dark man was watching him from a corner alcove. He must have been there all along; he had an open book in his hand, from which he had been reading. The man 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!
Sudden, sharp disappointment pierced his heart. He set the sword back on its shelf.
"It is no more than a broken heirloom," he said bitterly, turning away. As he stepped down from the pedestal, the broken blade fell to the floor with a clatter. Boromir, hesitating, looked back at the legendary blade, but his heart was heavy with disappointment, and he felt he could not be bothered to go back to set it up in its place. Let the man in the corner deal with it, if he wishes!
Boromir turned, and walked quickly away. Had he looked back, he might have seen the stranger stand and walk over to the shrine, carefully and reverently setting the dropped haft back in its proper place amongst the broken shards. He set his hand to his breast and bowed his head slightly. A strange look was on his face, one that would certainly have set Boromir to wondering.
Boromir was up and ready early the next day, in anticipation of the council session. He felt vaguely depressed, but he tried hard to put away his disappointment of the night before. He felt apprehensive rather than eager, which was strange for him; he was usually so confident. He hoped he was presentable. His long journey had left its mark; though he had cleaned his clothing as best he could, he still had mud stains on the hem of his rich red tunic and on his leather surcoat, and his boots were in need of a good polish.
The morning was fresh and cool, and the rays of the sun shone brightly through the mist that hung over the waters. Boromir did not notice. He strode along the terrace towards the council chamber with his head down. Many were already there when he arrived. He stood back for a moment before entering, watching the group and trying to sort out who was there. He turned as a tall Elf came up beside him. It was Erestor.
"Welcome, my friend," Erestor greeted him with a smile. "I see you found the way to Rivendell."
"Yes," said Boromir, attempting a smile in return. "And you have returned as well. Did you find your lost travelers?"
"They were found," replied Erestor, "but not by me. That tale will be told, along with many others. Come, take your seat." He indicated a chair set between two important-looking Men. "The Council is about to begin."
Boromir seated himself, nodding to the Men on either side. They returned his nod, introducing themselves as Erland, the advisor to Brand from Dale; and Hugin, an emissary from Laketown. They had come with a group of other Men from that area, some of whom were also in attendance. Boromir, in turn, told them who he was, but said nothing about his quest. He would save that for the actual council session. He listened respectfully as Erland pointed out some of the others attending the council.
The Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain were led by an elderly Dwarf named Gloin. He was accompanied by his son, Gimli, a rather surly-looking fellow with a braided red beard. Some of the Elves had come from Mirkwood, attending Legolas, son of King Thranduil. The other Elves were unknown to the Men of Dale.
Boromir's glance strayed around the circle of chairs. To his left, beyond Hugin, sat several of Elrond's people, and beyond them sat a Man. Boromir was startled to see that it was the Man he had encountered the night before, at the shrine of Narsil. He leaned over to Hugin.
"Who is that Man?" he asked in a low voice.
"I am not certain," replied Hugin. "I do not know his name, but I have heard that he is a Ranger of the North, and that he is often here in Rivendell."
"A Ranger!" said Boromir, thoughtfully.
The clear chime of a bell ringing sounded over the murmur of conversation in the council chamber. Those who were still standing took their seats, just as Gandalf entered, accompanied by two small people. Boromir thought at first that they were children, but soon realized his error. One was elderly and looked frail; the other was young and strong, but Boromir thought he looked pale and troubled. Gandalf treated them with grave respect as he indicated their seats. Boromir wondered who they were, and why they were here. A thought stirred in the back of his mind. Halflings...
His thoughts were interrupted by Elrond, who had stepped over to stand beside the small ones.
"Here, my friends, is the hobbit, Frodo son of Drogo," said Elrond, laying his hand on the shoulder of the young hobbit. "Few have ever come to Rivendell through greater peril or on an errand more urgent." Elrond nodded to the elderly hobbit, with a hint of a smile on his face. "And this is his kinsman, Bilbo Baggins, who is known to some of you here." The elderly hobbit bowed to several of the council members, as if well acquainted with them.
Elrond proceeded to introduce those who remained. One of the Elves was Galdor, who had come from the West as a representative of Cirdan, an important Elf lord at the Grey Havens. Several of Elrond's counselors and advisors were present; a tall Elf named Glorfindel, and Erestor, Elrond's chief advisor. Erestor smiled at the surprised look on Boromir's face when he realized the importance of Erestor's role in the household of Elrond.
"And here is Boromir, a man from the South," said Elrond at the last. "He has traveled far, and seeks for counsel. I have bidden him to be present, for here his questions will be answered."
Much news was shared of events in the world outside, especially in the South and in the lands east of the Misty Mountains. Boromir listened in wonder to the tale of Gloin the Dwarf, who spoke of the establishment of a new settlement in dark Moria, and of black horsemen from Mordor.
"About a year ago," said Gloin, "a messenger came from Mordor: a horseman in the night. His message was that the Lord Sauron the Great wished our friendship. Rings he would give for it, such as he gave of old, if we could tell him what he wished to know. He asked urgently concerning hobbits, of what kind they were and where they dwelt; Sauron knew that one of these was known to us at one time. We were greatly troubled and gave no answer."
Gloin paused as a rumble of dismay passed around the circle. Boromir shuddered as he remembered his encounter with the black riders.
"The messenger went on to ask that, as a token of friendship, we find this thief, as he called him, to get from him a little ring that once he stole; a trifle that Sauron fancied, he called it, and an earnest of our good will. We asked leave to consider the message; twice the messenger has returned, and gone unanswered." Gloin sighed. "Heavy have the hearts of our chieftains been since that night. We did not need the fell voice of the messenger to warn us that the words held both menace and deceit; for we knew already that the power that has reentered Mordor has not changed, and it has always betrayed us. And so we have been sent to warn Bilbo that he is sought by the Enemy, and to learn, if we can, why Sauron desires this ring, this least of rings."
Gloin sat down, with a nod and a smile to the hobbit, Bilbo.
"You have done well to come," said Elrond. "You will hear today all that you need to know in order to understand the purposes of the Enemy. There is nothing you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone."
Elrond stood and addressed the assembly. "A ring, sought by Sauron; a trifle, according to his black messenger. What shall we do about this ring that Sauron fancies? That is what we are met here to decide. Strangers from distant lands, friends of old! You are summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor; summoned I say, though I have not called you to me. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world. For Middle-earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom. Now, therefore, things shall be openly spoken that have been hidden from all but a few until this day. And first, so that all may understand what is the peril, the tale of this ring shall be told from the beginning even to this present, and I will begin that tale, though others shall end it."
Elrond went on to tell the tale of Sauron and the Rings of Power, and their forging in the Second Age of the world long ago. Boromir sat sprawled in his chair; he was weary after his long journey, and he was impatient to get to the heart of the matter. Why were they going on about this ring? What did it have to do with Minas Tirith and his quest?
Elrond went on to speak of the forging of the One Ring to rule them all, in the depths of Orodruin. Now this is more interesting, thought Boromir. He listened more closely as Elrond spoke of the Elves who learned of Sauron's treachery, and hid the Three Elven rings, so that he could not find them. He spoke of the last Alliance of Elves and Men, and the long battle with Sauron that ended in death for Gil-galad and Elendil.
"...And Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father's sword, and took it for his own."
"So that is what became of the Ring!" cried Boromir, sitting up straight at this revelation. "I have heard of the Great Ring of him who has ever been our enemy; but we believed that it perished from the world in the ruin of his fall. Isildur took it, that is tidings, indeed!"
"Alas, yes," said Elrond. "Isildur took it, as should not have been. It should have been cast into Orodruin's fire close at hand where it was made, but Isildur would not listen to my counsel; he took it as a weregild for his father. In the end, he was betrayed by it to his death, and so it is named in the North Isildur's Bane. From the ruin of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur perished, only three men returned to tell the tale, bearing the shards of the sword of Elendil, its light extinguished."
As Elrond returned to his great chair, Boromir glanced quickly at the Ranger. Their eyes met briefly, but Boromir could not read what the man was thinking. He stood quickly and bowed before Elrond.
"Since you speak of the Sword and of Isildur's Bane, give me leave, Master Elrond, to say something of my dream and also of Gondor; for it is from the land of Gondor I am come." Boromir turned slowly to face each member of the council as he spoke. "And it would be well for all to know what passes there. Few know of our deeds, and therefore guess little of their peril, if we should fail at last. Believe not that in the land of Gondor the blood of Numenor is spent, nor all its pride and dignity forgotten. By our valor the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay. Thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West. But if the passages of the River should be won, what then?
"Yet that hour, maybe, is not far away. The Enemy has arisen again. Smoke rises once more from Orodruin that we call Mount Doom. The power of the Black Land grows and we are hard pressed. We are outnumbered, for Mordor has allied itself with the Easterlings and the Haradrim. But we fight on, holding all the west shores of Anduin. Those who shelter behind us give us praise, if ever they hear our name: much praise but little help! Only from Rohan now will any men ride to us when we call.
"In this evil hour I have come on an errand over many dangerous leagues to Elrond: a hundred and ten days I have journeyed all alone. But I do not seek allies in war; I have come to ask for counsel and the unravelling of hard words. On the eve of a sudden assault at Osgiliath by the forces of Mordor, a dream came to my brother in a troubled sleep. Afterwards the same dream came to him many times, and once to me. In that dream I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice crying:
Seek for the sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells; There shall be counsels taken Stronger than Morgul-spells. There shall be shown a token That doom is near at hand, For Isildur's Bane shall waken, And the Halfling forth shall stand.
We could not understand these words, so we spoke to our father, Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, who is wise in the lore of Gondor. He told us that Imladris was the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond dwelt, greatest of lore-masters. My brother was eager to heed the dream and seek for Imladris; but since the way was full of doubt and danger, I took the journey upon myself, though my father was reluctant to give me leave. I have wandered by many forgotten roads, seeking the house of Elrond, of which many had heard, but few knew where it lay."
Boromir bowed to Elrond and to Gandalf, and returned to his seat. Elrond was silent for a moment.
"There shall be shown a token that doom is near at hand, " repeated Elrond slowly. He turned to the young hobbit and spoke to him. "Bring forth the Ring, Frodo, so that Boromir will understand this part of his riddle."
The hobbit Frodo slowly stood and, walking to the center of the circle, placed a golden ring on the pedestal there. Boromir thought he saw relief on the young hobbit's face as he sat down again. Whispers and mutters of excitement broke out at the sight of the ring.
"Behold Isildur's Bane!" said Elrond.
"The Halfling!" said Boromir in wonder, staring at Frodo. "So it is true! But how came it here? How did it pass down the long years, to be brought here by so strange a messenger?"
"That shall be told," said Elrond.
Gandalf took up the tale, then Bilbo, and finally Frodo. Boromir listened with growing excitement, as he heard the tale of how the Ring had passed from the hand of Isildur, to be found by the creature Gollum, only to be lost and found again by Bilbo as he wandered in the darkness under the Misty Mountains. Frodo then told of his dealings with the Ring from the day he had inherited it to the day he arrived in Rivendell.
When at last they had finished, Boromir could contain himself no longer. He jumped to his feet and approached the pedestal on which lay the Ring. As he gazed at the Ring, his despair fell away, and he saw in a flash that here was the weapon he had sought. This was a weapon of power; what was a broken heirloom in comparison to this? He did not touch the Ring, but when he looked up, his eyes were shining, and his voice was filled with excitement.
"It is a gift!" he cried joyfully. He paced around the circle, gesturing in his agitation. "A gift to the foes of Mordor! Why should we not use this Ring to fight the Enemy who seeks to destroy us? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of my people are your lands kept safe!"
He did not see the Ranger roll his eyes, as if in exasperation at his words.
"Give Gondor this weapon of the Enemy; it is indeed a gift! Let us use it against him!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Boromir saw the Ranger stirring in his seat.
"You cannot wield it! None of us can!" the Man said forcefully. "The Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master!"
Boromir was irritated at this sudden interruption. He looked the Man up and down, mystified as to why he would say such a thing. What was this fellow so upset about?
"And what would a Ranger know of this matter?" he asked. He could not keep a note of scorn from his voice.
One of the Elves jumped up and approached Boromir. It was the Elf King's son.
"He is no mere Ranger," the Elf said indignantly. "He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, descended through many fathers from Isildur Elendil's son. You owe him your allegiance!"
Boromir felt the world stand still for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, but words did not come. Descended from Isildur? Allegiance?
"Aragorn?" he said, with doubt in his voice. "This... is Isildur's heir?"
"And heir to the throne of Gondor."