The other man, at that moment, was wandering aimlessly in the woods, blind to the beauty that surrounded him as he bitterly contemplated another beauty. What had ever made me fall for her anyway? Boromir asked himself sullenly. The answer came far too easily to his mind. There had many girls that had pursued him, openly or otherwise, but none of them had the inner strength of the swordswoman. The steward’s heir would sooner take a wooden practice blade into battle than cosign himself to one of those sniveling vixens. They were blunt, easily broken, insubstantial, and utterly worthless to a solider such as Boromir. Even worse, most tried to hide themselves under a layer of false innocence, a pretense that further shortened the man’s temper. Boromir knew that despite his father’s extensive political training, he was at heart a very simple, direct personality, and social subtleties of the court only bored the steward’s heir.
There were the shield-maidens of the neighboring kingdom of Rohan, of course, and while Boromir generally approved of the fighting women, they simply seemed to lack the inner turmoil that drew the warrior like a moth to a candle. There was nothing about the Rohan women that required his protection, nothing to strike the spark of love. While the horse-lords’ warrior maids were certainly weapons, their balance was unfamiliar to him, and left him feeling useless.
And then Chev’yahna had entered his life. She had immediately reminded Boromir of her weapon: a thin, curved blade that was strong enough after its fashion, but one that required a careful handler if it was not to break and poison its bearer as well as his enemies. The woods woman had an amazing amount of hidden reserve, but she needed the aid of one who would fight by her side and love her without question in order to find it. There was a time when Boromir had thought he could be such a one, but the revelation of her true name had caused him to turn away from her. He knew he should return to the city and beg her forgiveness for his burst of temper, but his pride would not allow him to do so.
“An unfamiliar forest is no place to walk alone, Boromir,” a voice he knew too well came from above and behind him. He stopped but did not turn as he told her to leave him alone. Continuing on, he heard the crackles of tree branches occasionally overhead as he walked through Lothlorien.
“Tasana, let me be!” he spun and shouted angrily when he couldn’t take it any longer. There was no answer but a few birds singing in the distance. Then Boromir heard another noise, one to which he would have preferred the elven witch’s cold voice.
A raspy breathing issued from the treetops, punctuated by a soft gollum, gollum every few breaths. Boromir drew his sword, scanning the treetops for the maddened old ring bearer. He thought he saw glowing yellow eyes reflect the late morning sunlight in a tree limb along the path. He hacked at the offending branch with his sword, but only a sparrow flew from the tree.
The hissing noise continued, now moving away from him. His eyes widened in fear. What if Gollum was after Chev’yahna? Boromir flew back down the path, wishing he had paid better attention to his surroundings. He called her name until he was nearly as hoarse as Gollum. He heard something drop softly from trees, landing behind him. He turned, brandishing his sword and fearing the worst.
“Why didn’t you just say you wanted to duel, Boromir?” Tasana’s voice was silken, tempered with bitterness as she reached for her scimitar, but she found herself wrapped in a giant bear hug before she could get a hand to her leather scabbard.
Boromir’s sword lay dropped and forgotten on the ground as he kissed the welling tears from her face. Tasana wrapped her arms about his neck, stroking his hair as he murmured indistinct, heartfelt apologies for his earlier burst of temper. She traced the salty path of his tears with openmouthed kisses, needing no words for either apology or forgiveness.
* * *
[Author’s Note: In order to keep this story clean, I had to leave out the next three and a half paragraphs and abandon you, gentle readers, to your own sick and twisted imaginations. I won’t give away too much, but let’s just say that some serious vows of love were exchanged, but Tasana isn’t lying to Aragorn when he confronts her later in this chapter.]
* * *
Boromir kissed her deeply. Tasana was willing to wait for the promise contained in that kiss. Boromir cleaned and sheathed his blade as Tasana rebuttoned her shirt and shook the leaves out of her hair. “Forgive me for not lending you an arm as is befitting a lady, but I fear I would likely forget a platoon of orcs right now, much less Gollum, if I were to touch you.” His smile made her knees weak.
They headed back to the elven city, speaking very little for a completely different, though not unrelated reason as to their silence upon leaving it. They never made it to Tasana’s room, however. Aragorn caught the two young lovers as they entered Lothlorien, demanding to know their whereabouts. Tasana attempted to hide Boromir’s condition from her brother, but the ranger was not fooled by her explanation of how she had “convinced” Boromir to return to civilization.
Strider could not quite hide his understanding smile as he told Boromir to leave his sister alone. “I trust you know about the uses of Maiden’s Fancy and Sheeproot, Tasana? I have some in my pack if you need it,” he offered. A mock-horrified expression came over the healer’s face as she watched him dismiss her lover.
“Of course I know the uses of those, Strider! But what is a man doing carrying around birth prevention herbs?”
“Sheeproot is an effective painkiller and Maiden’s Fancy helps against disease when brewed correctly, if you must know,” he answered smoothly, not allowing the young woman to knock him off balance with words or playful shoves.
“I don’t need them, Aragorn,” she said more seriously. “Boromir is a man of true valor.”
Her brother nodded, stroking his beard. “So far. Do you still smell treachery on him?”
“No. Yes. Maybe.” She sighed, heady with new memories. “All I can sense in his arms is his manliness, and what it does to me. I love him, Aragorn. It confuses and dulls my senses to the outside world, but heightens them where he is concerned. And yet I still can’t know half of what’s going on in his mind. I can’t say one way or the other about Boromir right now, not with any certainty. I’m just too crazy about him.”
Strider was once more convinced of the futility of his efforts, but the ranger had never let impossible odds get in his way before; he was not about to let it start stopping him now. “Try to wait until he proposes at least, Tasana. For me?” He wasn’t any good at begging. He had tried everything else he could think of already, though, so it was worth an attempt.
“All right, Aragorn,” she shook him off with a dry laugh. “At least if we coordinate our efforts, you’ll have me married off by the time we reach Gondor.” She didn’t sound as thrilled about the prospect as Strider would have expected.
“And what would be so wrong with that, my dear sister? You don’t have to say anything for a fool to tell that you’re in love.” He kept his tone carefully casual, hoping to find out why she was so surprisingly uneager about the logical action to take, considering her feelings for Boromir.
“I’m just not ready yet, Strider…” she trailed off, tucking a stray raven lock behind her ear. “It isn’t really anything I can explain, but the she-Warg knows her time and nothing the hound nor her brother wolf does can rush her in her proper course.” It was something she could explain, after her fashion.
Just as Aragorn had been scared of entering Moria, Tasana was deathly afraid of a serious relationship. While the abandoned dwarven mines had taken Gandalf from them, the woods woman feared her loyalites, already stretched thin between her father, her homeland, and the Warg pack, would snap her mind if they were extended any further. She did not trust her ability to shoulder another role in life, and she could not bear to fail those she loved. Better to let them find another way than for them to come to trust her with a responsibility she could not handle, even if Tasana risked disappointing her loved ones.
“I’m not going to force you into anything, Tasana, but I don’t want you abandoned in the woods with a newborn.” He caught her hand in his, giving her an understanding squeeze.
“Hey, I can always count on the King of Gondor, right?” She gave him a cavalier smile that he could not help but return as he nodded. “Plus I’m never truly abandoned. The Wargs and I look out for each other.”
“True enough.” He held his sister tight a moment. “Just remember I’ll be watching you two.” Aragorn let her go.
* * *
That night after Boromir returned to the room he shared with Aragorn he started pacing restlessly. Again. “At least pretend to sleep until I go to bed.” The ranger threw back the sheets on his bed exasperatedly. Strider tapped the younger man gently on the shoulder. “What’s troubling you?”
“It’s a little bit of everything, Aragorn. Your sister. Gondor’s peril. Mostly it’s my inability to really do anything about either of them.” The steward’s son paused, sitting down heavily on his bed as if collapsing under his hidden burdens. Strider sat down next to him with a sympathetic look, not saying anything, but waiting for Boromir to unload. “Have you ever seen Minas Tirth in the morning? The silver and snowy white towers reflecting in the sunlight while the pennants snap in the early western breeze? Ever heard the great silver trumpets welcome you home, Strider? That memory is just about the only thing besides Chev’yahna that keeps me going anymore. But often I fear it is only a memory; I fear I can never return to my home. Have you ever seen it, Aragorn?”
“I’ve been there once.” The wistful, flowery way the steward’s son described the White City made Aragorn wish he remembered more of that trip. He had stayed with his kin in the South Woods during that time, just outside the city. He had been no more than nine or ten years old when his mother had taken into the city, with its crowded streets and noisy people. He would have bolted the first time he bumped into someone, had he known which way to run. His mother’s survival laws had rubbed off on him though, so Aragorn had held on to her hand for dear life, probably half crushing it in the process.
Strider had been quite overwhelmed by the gigantic buildings and dusty cobblestone roads filled with more people than he had ever seen before in his life. Surely there couldn’t ever be that many people in one place, he had thought in childlike astonishment, even if all the Dunedain clans had gathered together. Yet even the sheer mass of people had not bothered the young ranger as the absence of trees. A huge old elm near the center of Minas Tirth stretched its limbs over the gate, as if reaching for its kin beyond the city.
The only other tree that Aragorn had seen was the dead White Tree, the tree planted by his ancestors during their kingship. It was the only one of its kind, found on a snowy mountaintop and planted in Gondor with the founding of the line that had brought about Isildur, according to one old Gondorian legend. It had wilted and died with Isildur’s death, and was no more than a dried husk when Aragorn had first seen it. It was said an offshoot of this tree would be found with the return of the king, in the wilds where the first one had been discovered.
Places with a scarcity trees still bothered the ranger, but he had become more comfortable with the other aspects of city living over the last thirty years. “Don’t worry, we’ll get there yet, Boromir. I’m sure of it. How’s your family holding up, you think?” He nodded as the steward’s heir continued on.
“My father is a good man, Aragorn, but the people don’t trust him as they once did. He looks to me to put things right. My people need me to protect them.” He paused, staring pensively into the nothingness in front of his steepled hands. “My brother offered to come in my place to Rivendale, but Fairamir is still too young for this journey. Sometimes I wonder if any of it really matters, though. The more I learn about Mordor, the further I go with this company… the less I can truly hope to do on my own.” His eyes, still focused upon nothing, widened slightly as a shiver of went down his spine. His thoughts were evidently no longer on his family in the White City, save perhaps what their fates would be if the quest were to fail.
“You’re not alone, Boromir. Legolas, Gimli, the hobbits, my sister and I, we’re all doing what we can to help save Gondor.” Strider reassured him.
“I know.” He sighed, leaning back with all the gradualness of a felled tree. “And yet how will we ever get the Ring to Mordor in time to cut off Sauron’s attack? Even with an army at our back we have no hope of defending Minas Tirth from his forces.”
“We’ll just have to sneak Frodo into the Black Tower faster then, won’t we?” Aragorn gave him a half smile.
“To his death, you mean. To all our deaths. And nothing will hold that hobbit back from his path save his own death.” Boromir was gravely serious. He sat up and looked the Dunedain in the eye. “I swore I would go with you, but this is pure folly, Strider! Pure madness!” He leapt to his feet, beginning to stalk the room restively once more. “If Frodo would but lend me the Ring I could defeat Sauron once and for all. Why won’t you let me use it to help us? The One Ring causes us so much pain and suffering now, but in the right hands-” it wasn’t hard to imagine whose hands Boromir spoke of. “It is a gift.” He smiled, and a slightly insane light glinted in his hazel-gray eyes.
“Don’t speak to me of madness when you talk like that, Boromir.” The sympathy that had shown in Aragorn’s eyes was now clouded over with a darker, more menacing look. His voice was soft and dangerous, a sword dipped in ice as he stood looming over the younger man. “You are not the bearer of the Ring because you would not be able resist its temptations.” Neither man wore a sword, but Strider could not have been any more intimidating if he were armed to the teeth. The Dunedain ranger was gone. In his place stood the King of Gondor. “Don’t force me to separate you from it further because you cannot control your temptation.
“I have been very lax about guarding my sister’s honor so far because you have shown self-control. If you lose that self-control — around anything — I will kill you with no regrets. Don’t count on Tasana’s love alone to save you from me.”
Boromir’s eyes went very wide. He shook himself, whimpered “yes, my king” timorously, and bowed quickly and stiffly before backing a hasty retreat to the door. He went as fast as he could without breaking into a run, but Aragorn’s long stride cut him off.
The Dunedain dropped his fearsome mask at the apparent rout of the younger man’s pride, revealing the weary, burdened countenance beneath before returning to the facade of the wise, sympathetic friend. “Now go to bed, Boromir. Else I shall become really angry.” He gave him a self-conscious half smile, which Boromir sheepishly returned.
“I was sounding foolish, wasn’t I?” He didn’t quite meet Aragorn’s eyes.
“Yes. I’ll attribute it to your lack of sleep if you don’t ever do that again.” While Strider hoped that all there was to his sister’s warning had passed with today’s outbursts, something in the young lord’s refusal to meet his eyes told him this latest topic would return, not necessarily with Aragorn.
“I won’t. I don’t think I could stand another shock to my system as great as that one was.” Somehow the ranger did not believe him.
* * *