Young Boromir

by Varda


Chapter 1: The Armoury

Boromir opened the great oak doors of the Armoury and walked down the long
light-filled practice hall. From spears set in sockets in the rough stone
walls hung banners, flags of Gondor and her seven city quarters, many torn
and smoke-stained from battle. All along the walls were racks for lances and
javelins. Shields hung in rows, red and black and white, bright colours
stark against the cold stone of the wall.

This was the Hall of The Rangers, and Boromir often came here for sword
practice. His father Denethor The High Steward of Gondor wanted him to
receive instruction from the masters of the Tower Guard, but Boromir
preferred the Rangers’ instructors, as the Rangers saw more fighting beyond
the walls of the City. Boromir did not want to be a soldier in name only,
relying on his high place for respect. He wished to win the hearts of
fighting men….

The high wooden ceiling echoed his steps as the Prince of Gondor made his
way across to the windows which looked out over the city. The young man,
hardly more than a boy but already tall and strongly-built with a proud,
confident bearing, leaned out of one of the embrasures and gazed down on the
roofs of the White City, smoke rising from a thousand cooking fires into the
winter morning. It was cold but Boromir did not feel it. He breathed in the
air and watched a flock of black birds circle far below on the river
plain….a door slammed behind him.

Boromir whirled round; another young warrior stood in the hall. He had
entered silently and walked forward some distance into the room. Had the
door not slammed after him Boromir would not have known he was there. He
jumped down from the window ledge, annoyed at being surprised in such a
manner. He studied the boy carefully; almost of his own height but not as
strongly built. Thin and bony, with a shaggy mane of black hair that fell
into his eyes. Cold and blue, these were fixed on Boromir as he walked
forward. The Steward’s son noticed that the other boy stood tense, as if
ready to fight or flee, and although he was thin he was wiry and his hands
were scarred from sword cuts. He noticed too that he wore a faded and worn
gambeson a size too big for him. Boromir smiled to himself; a poor boy.

Boromir walked right up to the stranger and said;
‘Who are you? I haven’t seen you before…’
‘My name is Cianda, and I am from Ithilien.’ The voice was soft and quiet,
and the blue eyes did not leave Boromir’s face. The Steward’s son smiled and
replied.
‘I did not think you were from the city…’
‘And what is wrong with that?’ Cianda broke in. Boromir looked at him in
surprise and asked;
‘You are in a great hurry to get into a fight. Don’t you know who I am?’
‘Yes, you are Boromir, eldest son of the Steward, and I am not impressed.’

There was a silence, broken only by approaching footsteps. Boromir's
green-grey eyes glinted but he shook off his surprise and anger and before
the door burst open he hissed at Cianda; .
‘Cheeky, aren’t you, bumpkin?’

‘There you are, Boromir!’ it was Coscair, the training master of the
Rangers. He strode across the wide paved hall limping slightly, a tall
weatherbeaten man with grizzled black hair and a scar down the side of his
face. Not even in the Tower Guard was there any with his skill in
swordsmanship, and he had the care of teaching Boromir and his younger
brother Faramir the arts of sword, broadsword and dagger. Denethor would
prefer them to learn from the masters of the Guard with their courtly style.
But he knew it was Coscair who could teach them what was needed to survive
in battle…

Coscair was accompanied by Beoga, the weapons master, and a skilled teacher
in his own right. They walked over to a chest and Coscair opened it, took
out a broadsword and looked sternly at the two boys. Another half dozen
young men wearing light leather armour entered the hall and stood waiting,
looking curiously at Boromir. The Steward’s son realised he was flushed and
bit his lip and tried to calm down, but his blood boiled with anger and he
longed to make some retort to the cool black-haired boy standing beside
him….
‘Calm down!’ he said to himself; ‘your rage will undo you….’

‘I see you two have met’ said Coscair briskly. ‘Good. I prefer it when young
lions are friends’ he looked sideways at Beoga and added. ‘it means less
blood shed, even by accident.’ He gestured impatiently to the two boys.
‘Here, come over here…’

Boromir and Cianda walked reluctantly over to him. They moved stiffly,
neither getting too close to the other. Beoga noticed and raised his
eyebrows, but Coscair went on without heeding;
‘This is Cianda, Boromir, although doubtless you have already met. He comes
from Ithilien, but then all good Rangers do…’
A laugh went up from the young men standing round. Coscair said;
‘In addition to that he has a certain skill, Boromir; from a tender age his
paternal grandfather taught him the art of the broadsword.’ He stopped.
There was silence in the hall. ‘It is almost a third arm for him’ the boys
looked with renewed respect at Cianda, evaluating him as a potential
opponent..
‘So I thought it would be useful for you two to spar. He might teach you
something, Boromir….’

Beoga brought the boys two broadswords. They were plain weapons, used for
practice by the Rangers for decades, but their blades were keen, a blue
light playing on the honed steel. Beoga presented them to the boys and
Cianda, without waiting for Boromir, seized one of the hilts and stepped
back to test the sword.

A broad beam of sunlight fell through the high window and glinted on the
blade as Cianda whirled and thrust. The other boys watched in silence but
Boromir stood feeling his heart race; how dare this upstart take the choice
of weapons before him! Coscair, however, had not noticed anything. He limped
to the end of the hall and seated himself on a high plain wooden seat from
which he was accustomed to watch the young warriors practice. He gestured to
Beoga.
‘You supervise the match, Beoga. Make sure the lads do not harm each other…’

But as the master settled down to watch Boromir took hold of the second
sword with murder in his heart; he had been slighted. His father had been
slighted. Some brat from Ithilien…..
‘Relax, Boromir’ said Coscair, noticing at last how tense the boy stood.
‘You’ll….’

But he said no more; Boromir took his sword in both hands and rushed at
Cianda, who barely had time to put up his guard. As the hall echoed to
shouts of warning the Steward’s son rained blows down on the slight
black-haired boy and forced him backwards down the hall.
‘This is not practice, Coscair!’ said Beoga to the master. ‘Boromir is
enraged…’
But Coscair did not move. ‘I know’ he said, almost to himself.’and he lets
his rage rule him. He must learn to rule it, or we will all pay. Let them
be….’

On the wide white limestone flags Boromir had now almost driven Cianda to
the end wall, but he had tired himself out. Seeing a chance Cianda caught
his blade and forced it down and there was a scuffle as the boys threw their
weight against each other, shoulder to shoulder.
‘How dare you insult my father!’ breathed Boromir to him.
‘I never meant to insult your father’ answered Cianda ‘I meant to insult
you..’

Boromir roared at him and pushed him away. Cianda leaped back lightly and
recovered his balance before Boromir. Now he had an advantage and sprang to
the attack, hewing and parrying with the great clumsy sword. Despite his
light figure he was strong and twice he beat Boromir’s blade down, and then
he locked hilts again and only Boromir’s greater strength kept him from
being thrown down. Boromir was tiring, but his anger burned only the more.
When next they locked swords, Boromir drove the hilt of his sword into
Cianda’s bony chest and took one hand away to shove him backwards.
‘Foul!’ shouted Beoga.
‘Shut up!’ snarled Boromir. The referees stood back; this had become a fight
in earnest. Cianda, still pale but sweating, smiled for the first time. As
Boromir charged him he hooked a foot round the taller boy’s leg and knocked
him flat on the ground.

Sudden silence fell. Few if any had ever knocked Boromir down in practice.
The other boys looked on in horror, but Coscair smiled grimly.
‘If Cianda had been an orc, you would be dead now, Boromir. Next time fight
with your head, not your temper…..’

But Boromir did not hear. It was as if something had possessed him, greater
even than anger. He jumped to his feet and snatching up his sword advanced
on Cianda. The other boy had stepped back when Boromir fell, and now kept
his sword lowered; as far as he was concerned the bout was over; he had put
his opponent on the ground. But he had to raise it again, as Boromir rushed
furiously upon him and began to batter his defence…

‘They are angry, someone will be killed!’ said Beoga to Coscair, who nodded.
‘Who will part them?’ he asked, and indeed the two figures were now almost
outlined by a shimmering hedge of flashing blades, none could approach
without danger.

As Boromir drove him back Cianda was looking closely at him. When they again
grappled briefly he said to him;
‘I think we have proved our points, Boromir….let us cease this…’
‘Never!’ gasped Boromir ‘I will take this match, as I take everything..’ and
he threw himself at Cianda one last time.

Borne down with fearsome energy Boromir’s blade struck Cianda’s next to the
guard. The steel shivered and cracked and shattered into many pieces.
Boromir’s sword was deflected upwards and tore Cianda’s jacket and bit into
the flesh over his collarbone. Before he could check his blow it had passed
over the shoulder and the hilt struck Cianda a stunning blow on the side of
the head and he fell backwards onto the cold stone flags….

For a long moment all was silence. The other young men stared open-mouthed
at the figure on the ground. Coscair stood up, but did not make any move to
approach. Boromir looked round wildly, then at Cianda…

His rage began to abate, and he felt sick. The black-haired boy lay without
moving and Boromir thought that he had mortally wounded him. He threw away
the sword in his hand and fell to his knees beside Cianda. Close to him,
Boromir saw that he did not wear leather armour but just a worn gambeson of
faded material spotted with bright orange rust spots from wear under old
armour.
‘Too poor to have chain mail and too proud to borrow….’ Thought Boromir, and
shame washed over him, and also bewilderment; what was this that rose up to
possess him when he desired something, or grew angry…the others were running
over; what would he tell his father?

Suddenly the blue eyes opened. Boromir gasped and snatching a rag he pressed
it to Cianda’s wound to slow the bleeding.
‘You’re alive!’ he cried. ‘I pray you pardon me…’
‘What for?’ Cianda said sitting up and holding the dressing to his
shoulder.. ‘It was me who picked the fight…’
‘But I could have killed you!’ exclaimed Boromir ‘I don’t know what came
over me…..’

Cianda turned to look at him. There was a glint in the blue eyes, the hint
of a smile on the pale face. He said, in a low voice that the others who
were crowding round could not hear;
‘I wanted to see what you were made of, Boromir…’
Boromir stared at him, adrift between anger and relief.

‘And now..’ Cianda added. ‘…I know.’