Young Boromir

by Varda

Chapter 3: Betrayal

‘Wake up! Cianda, wake up!’

He struggled upwards through an uneasy fever-ridden sleep to find himself
dazzled by the wildly flickering light of a candle. By its yellow flame
Cianda saw two of his fellow cadets in the Rangers’ hall, Galán and Siamsa,
bending over him as he lay in bed in the turret room…

‘Cianda!’ said Galán, called Longshanks because of his great height and long
legs. ‘They are sending you home!’
‘What?’ Cianda almost shouted, struggling to sit up despite the searing pain
in his chest.
‘Hush!’ said Siamsa, looking over his shoulder. Nicknamed The Joker because
he took very little seriously he now saw nothing to laugh at. He said in a
low voice;
‘Be quiet, we are not supposed to be here…but we overheard Coscair and Beoga
talking in the refectory. They are sending you back to Ithilien, as soon as
you can walk. They are throwing you out, Cianda…’
‘Denethor himself has ordered it…’ added Galán.

Cianda lay back and closed his eyes against the light. A black wave of
despair washed over him; all his life he had not imagined that he would be
anything other than a Ranger, and now he was to be banished from their
ranks. His father had been a Ranger, killed before Cianda had known him, and
his grandfather who had reared him. Anger woke in him, and he thought of
Boromir. What a liar he was! Coming to him offering friendship then
betraying him, asking his father to send him away from Minas Tirith. How
could he have been such a fool as to trust him…?

‘We’re sorry, Cianda’ said Galán. ‘It is a desperate injustice; you beat
Boromir fair and square, then he attacked you. It is you who was wronged….’

Cianda looked at the two boys in the wavering light. He had only been with
them a week, but to them he was a comrade whereas Boromir would only ever be
an outsider, one who lived in the Palace….

There was a footfall outside in the hall and the two boys raised their heads
like hunting greyhounds. Siamsa blew out the candle and said urgently;
‘Come on, Galán! If we are caught here we will be sent home too….’ And they
got to their feet and each giving Cianda a quick clasp of the hand and a
supportive arm round his shoulders they hurried out and closed the heavy oak
door behind them….

Left behind in the dark Cianda’s thoughts whirled like angry bees and
gradually resolved themselves into a single thought; he would find this
prince who had no honour; he would find him and this time the blade would
bite into Boromir’s flesh, not his own.

He raised his head and looked about the little room. A long beam of
moonlight shone across the white flagstones, creeping slowly from wall to
wall. Carefully, sweat breaking from every pore at the effort, Cianda put
one leg over the side of the bed, then the other. The moonlight swam round
him and by now the sweat was running down his pale face, but he forced
himself to walk towards the door. After the first step or two he felt
slightly stronger and then his eye fell on a wooden chest at the bottom of
the bed. He reached down and with some effort pushed up the lid. He smiled
grimly; his clothes were there, and his dagger. He picked it up and drew it
out of its sheath…

‘He did what?’ said Boromir in astonishment. ‘Banished? That can’t be, he
ordered me to apologise to Cianda…’
‘That was to teach you a lesson’ said Coscair sternly. ‘this is to safeguard
your life. He has been ordered to go back to Ithilien’ the man’s
weatherbeaten face showed only a desire to be done with this matter. ‘…and
he will never serve as a Ranger. He might get some work as a skirmisher or
scout….’
‘But that is not fair!’ exclaimed Boromir. ‘He did nothing wrong!’
‘Think, Boromir!’ said Coscair, looking about then going on in a low intense
voice.
‘You nearly killed him. He is wounded, perhaps maimed. After a while he
might brood on his hurts, and decide to revenge himself on you. Your father
has a duty to protect his heir…’
‘No! Cianda would not do that….’
‘Anyone can do anything’ snorted the old soldier bitterly.

But Boromir was not listening; he was wondering what Cianda would think. He
would believe him to be a wilful deceiver. For Boromir that hurt more than
arrows. Coscair was speaking and he forced himself to attend.
‘Let this be a lesson to you, Boromir, to keep your temper in check and not
assume you can have anything you want, certainly not victory at any
price….Boromir!’

The young man had turned on his heel and was striding away down the Great
hall of the Ranger’s barracks, not heeding the Master of Rangers…

Up the steep streets into the Citadel he went, moving quickly through the
late evening crowds to the Palace. He showed his signet ring, a copy of the
Steward’s, and was admitted at the Citadel gates. He crossed the yard
scattered with soldiers of the Tower Guard in their black uniforms
emblazoned with the white tree and stars. He entered the building which
housed the Great Hall of Minas Tirith and strode towards the door…

The guards were not allowed to admit anyone to audience with the Steward
without permission, but this was the Steward’s son. They glanced at each
other uncertainly, but before they could stop him Boromir had pushed the
doors open and marched into the great hall. What he saw stopped him in
mid-stride, and the doors drifted shut behind him….

His father was not alone; Boromir’s heart sank. It was late for an audience
but Denethor was in council with some stranger, and he had burst in on them,
something strictly forbidden by his father.

The Great Hall was dimly lit by torches set in sconces along the rows of
pillars which divided the vast high-ceilinged room, and by a great iron
brazier which barely took the chill off the air in this hall of stone
unrelieved by tapestries or floor coverings. In alcoves between the pillars
stern statues of the kings of Gondor seemed to come alive in the wavering
shadows and as Boromir started forward, his mouth dry with nervousness, he
saw his own pale face reflected in the shining surface of the great marble
pillars.

He walked forward and stopped before his father, a thin hawk-faced man with
silver in his long black hair and dark eyes glittering with anger. His fine
white hands gripped the hard wooden armrest of a simple chair set at the
foot of a high, empty throne, its fretted canopy throwing a great looming
shadow in the dim light. For some seconds there was no sound but the low
crackle of the brazier then Denethor burst out angrily;

‘What do you mean by this? Interrupting our councils….’

‘This must be your son, Boromir’ broke in a voice dark and calm as the shade
under cedars. Boromir turned round and saw the visitor rise from the chair
which had been set for him before Denethor. The boy’s mouth fell open in
surprise; it was Gandalf, the Wizard.

He wore a long grey robe stained at the hem with mud and dust. He took a
gnarled wooden staff from across his knees and placed it on the tiles to
lean on, but he rose to his feet with a swift movement that belied his long
grey hair and beard. Although his face was ageless, his eyes were bright and
sharp as steel. He swept Boromir with a piercing gaze that took in his
warrior’s bearing, broad shoulders and direct, fearless stare. But he saw
too the richly embroidered tunic and gold brooch shaped like two coursing
greyhounds, their eyes blood-red garnets..

‘The last time I saw you, Boromir, you were only a child. Now I hear you are
the most skilled swordsman in Gondor…’

Flustered, Boromir bowed deeply and said;
‘My service to you, Lord Gandalf….’ The wizard broke out into a hearty
laugh, his grey eyes twinkling.
‘Nay, I am no lord, merely an old man on a long journey….’

At this Denethor snorted.
‘I find that hard to believe’ he said drily, but Gandalf had turned aside
his anger at his son, and Boromir shot the wizard a quick look of gratitude.
Gandalf gave him a conspiratorial wink….

‘Now leave us’ said Denethor.
‘But father…..’ protested Boromir. The Steward turned a cold imperious stare
on his son but before he could reply Gandalf spoke;

‘It is not my place to intervene, my Lord, but it seems to me that this
young man has an issue of some importance to bring to your attention. I am
quite happy to wait until you have heard him out….’
Denethor’s eyes flashed in annoyance but he turned to Boromir and said
calmly;
‘Very well, what is it?’

‘You have banished Cianda!’ blurted out Boromir. Denethor closed his eyes
and sighed.
‘Is that all it is?’ He asked in a weary voice. ‘Kindly do not question your
father’s judgement in this matter, Boromir….’
‘But I have spoken to Cianda, and reached a peace.’ replied his son.’ He
knows nothing of this. He will think I have betrayed him…’

The word betrayal hung in the dim air between father and son like an
unsheathed sword. Denethor’s eyes sparkled in the firelight. Honour,
especially that of the House of Denethor, was ever dear to his heart.
‘There is honour but there is duty too, Boromir’ said Denethor. ‘I have a
duty to protect you. This man could seek revenge, and your life is precious,
you are the heir…’
Boromir replied angrily;
‘I can take care of myself, father. All the cadets will despise me, I will
be foresworn….’

‘Boromir is right’ said Gandalf in a quiet voice, thoughtfully laying his
hand on the hilt of a great sword that Boromir only now noticed hanging at
his side. Glamdring, made by the Elves!
‘Ithilien is not that far away to deter an assassin..’ the wizard was
saying. ‘…and by banishing this young man unjustly you certainly will make
him a enemy. Unless….’and Gandalf looked closely at Denethor ‘…you put him
to silence.’

‘I am not a tyrant!’ said Denethor, aghast. He sighed and turned to his son.
‘Very well’ he said. ‘the cadet can stay. But I wish to hear of no further
fighting between you, or worse will befall you both….’

Boromir bowed low, unable to disguise a smile of joy. He bowed also to
Gandalf, who inclined his head with a gleam in his eye, then the young man
hurried out of the hall. Before he closed the door he glanced back and it
struck him how similar his father and the wizard were in bearing and dignity
. He caught part of their conversation as it resumed;
‘Well, Gandalf, I have no objection to your studying in the Library of The
White Tower, and if you can spare the time please give some instruction to
my younger son Faramir, who has outstripped his tutors and desires to
learn …..’
Then the heavy oaken door slammed shut and Boromir heard no more.

He hastened out of the Citadel yard, through the Gate and down the city
streets to the Rangers’ barracks, anxious to bear the news to Coscair
himself. How fortunate that Cianda himself did not yet know!

He took a short-cut which led out into the walkway above the wall of the
Third Level of the City. It ran across a little-used court and down a
covered alley. Boromir knew it well and picked his steps surely even though
the alley was unlit and like a dark tunnel. Below it were steps leading down
to the gate of the barracks. Boromir saw the end of the alley like a moonlit
circle and had quickened his steps to reach it when a dark figure hurtled
out of a doorway and threw itself upon him.

Boromir had the swift reflexes of a warrior and caught the glint of a knife
in the moonlight and grabbed his attacker’s wrist to prevent him from
stabbing him. Although he moved with the speed of a striking hawk he was
lucky to catch the man’s wrist in the darkness. Finding his hand trapped the
dark figure hurled himself against Boromir’s shoulder knocking him off
balance and they both were borne backwards, tumbling down the short flight
of steps, kicking and clawing and trying to gain possession of the knife.

As they fought, Boromir felt his attacker weaken, and pushing him back he
looked at his face in the moonlight.
‘Cianda!’ he breathed. The other boy responded by taking the dagger from his
imprisoned right hand and with his left he drove it hard into Boromir’s
chest under his heart. But his grip was weak, and the point of the steel
became entangled in Boromir’s thick cloak which had wrapped itself about him
in the fall. Still it cut through and scored the flesh over Boromir’s ribs.
He gasped and taking hold of the dagger handle wrested it from the hand of
Cianda, whose strength now failed altogether, and he could not stop Boromir
pinning him down and pushing the tip of the knife into his throat.

‘I should have killed you in the practice hall, traitor!’ he said in fury.
‘Go ahead.’ said Cianda bitterly ‘death is better than exile…’
Boromir paused. He drew back the dagger and said breathlessly;
‘I had nothing to do with that…’
‘Liar!’ spat out Cianda. Twisting his hands in the boy’s clothes Boromir
lifted him and slammed him back down on the stone flagstones. Cianda coughed
and blood seeped from his torn stitches.
‘Listen to me!’ Boromir said. ‘I knew nothing of that till Coscair told me.
Then I went to my father to plead for you. The order has been revoked, you
are not banished, Cianda. You can stay in Minas Tirith. Do you hear me? You
will be a Ranger, like your father….’

Boromir felt Cianda cease to fight his iron grip on his wrist. The blue eyes
were staring up at him, torn between anger and hope.
‘Do not deceive me, Boromir …’
‘I promise I am not deceiving you, and I always keep my promise. The wizard
Gandalf interceded for you. You are free to stay.’ Boromir smiled wrily; ‘my
father thought if you were banished you might try to kill me….’
Cianda looked ashamed. After a long moment he said;
‘I am sorry, but I …’
‘Don’t speak any more of it.’ Boromir looked around. ‘We have to get you
back to the barracks…’
‘How will we explain this?’ asked Cianda as Boromir struggled to get him to
his feet; his tunic was soaked with blood from his wound and Boromir’s
embroidered cloak was torn and the garnet brooch bent and scratched.

‘Oh’ said Boromir vaguely ‘I will think of some lie…..’