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So Small a Thing Print

Written by Ithiliana

04 April 2004 | 66841 words

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WRITTEN AS: A birthday pressie for the seductive and deadly duo, savageseraph and caras_galadhon.
PAIRINGS: Boromir/Frodo, Boromir/Aragorn, Frodo/Faramir.
NOTES: AU. Boromir takes the Ring at Parth Galen. Since part of inspiration was costume fic lust, this fic is more movie than bookverse though I feel free to steal from book when necessary (especially chronology and some events that fit AU needs better).
RATING: Adult
FEEDBACK: Always Appreciated! Some explanation of what that means to me is here if you wish to see it
DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to the Tolkien estate. This series is written out of insane addiction to the book/movieverse, not for money, with no intent to infringe upon copyright.
WARNINGS: Interspecies & Man Slash. Dark elements but as this brilliant definition by Savageseraph makes clear, the story is not truly a Darkfic. I’m not sure that there shouldn’t be a “non-con” warning on it although once you start considering the Ring as a major character, the concept of “consent” becomes complicated. So you have been more or less warned.
ADDENDUM: Yes, another AU. I’m not giving up on Roads or the main principles I have for AU series in LotRFPS. The idea for this story hit me recently, and won’t stop, so I decided to share the burden addiction insanity joy!
POSTED: My lj, interspecies & sons_of_gondor & lotr_fanfiction
THANKS to the lovely and forgiving gotham_syren for brilliant fb as I was flailing around.


Part 1

The woods around them were silent. No sound of water or wind. No sound of bird or animal. The only sound Boromir could hear was his own harsh breathing. He knelt over Frodo who lay still on the damp ground, eyes closed.

Boromir touched the slim throat, seeking a pulse. He breathed out in relief as he felt the thready beat against his fingers. The pulse was faster than his own heartbeat normally was though the rapid beating in his chest now nearly matched Frodo’s. Boromir did not know what was normal for a Halfling, but the pulse seemed regular and strong.

Frodo had slipped and fallen on the hillside as they were speaking about what to do with the Ring. While gathering wood, Boromir had found the Halfling wandering alone among the trees on the slope of Amon Hen. Behind him lay the massive carven head of some early Númenorean King, fallen from a high pedestal. For a change, none of the other Halflings had been with Frodo. Boromir had been sure he could convince him of the need to go to Gondor, to learn more of what their Enemy was doing and to spend time recovering in a safe place before setting out for Mordor.

Now, all of Boromir’s attention focused on the still features before him. Long dark eyelashes shadowed pale skin. He ran a careful hand around and under Frodo’s head, the silky curls winding around his fingers. He felt no swelling or other injury. Perhaps the thick hair had protected Frodo when he fell.

Boromir breathed more easily. He could easily carry Frodo back to the camp if need be but he did not seem to be hurt. Merely stunned.

Reaching out, Boromir pushed aside the grey elven cloak and parted the jacket Frodo wore. Underneath, Frodo’s vest and shirt were buttoned close to his throat. He would breathe more easily if his clothing was loosened. The brass buttons of the vest were soon undone, and Boromir opened the vest to reveal the shirt, strained with travel. Biting his lip, breathing faster, Boromir undid the small wooden buttons with unsteady fingers. The garments he handled were finely made in weave and construction. Whatever else the Halflings did, they were near the equal of Gondor in the creation of cloth and clothing although they seemed to prefer plain fabrics and natural colours.

Frodo’s shirt fell open to show the Ring gleaming against the silver of the mithril chain mail which was woven fine as spiderwebs. The small chest rose and fell, Frodo’s regular breathing reassuring Boromir.

Mouth dry, Boromir reached out, his hand trembling, and laid his right hand over the Ring, pressing down, the round hardness warming under his touch. Closing his eyes, Boromir waited.

When he had picked up the Ring on Caradhras, he’d thought he had heard something. Voices in the air, perhaps, although who knew what uncanny spirits haunted that mountain. The mountains and forests of the North and West were foreign to the Men of Gondor. All had seemed haunted to Boromir after he had left Imladris with the Fellowship.

Now, though, he heard and felt nothing. He relaxed and raised his hand, then hesitated.

Boromir had watched Frodo suffer, his pain growing every day as they journeyed toward Mordor. Mithrandir had assured Boromir that the strange race from the North was stronger than they looked, but he had fallen in Moria. His leadership had brought the Quest nearly to disaster. Surely, Boromir had thought more than once, the Halfling’s role was to bring Isildur’s bane out of the deeps of time, to stand forth with the weapon and to deliver it to Gondor. The dream that had been sent to Boromir and Faramir, the command to travel to Imladris, must mean that one of them was meant to carry the burden back to Gondor.

Frodo turned his head slightly, sighing.

Boromir hesitated no longer. He slid his fingers under the fine gold chain, raising the Ring from Frodo’s chest, watching him carefully. There was no response.

Frodo’s fear of Boromir as they had spoken together on the hillside had hurt him. If the Halfling could no longer see that Boromir was his friend, then Frodo was in danger of losing his will to the Nameless Enemy. Boromir knew his life had been spent fighting the evil of Mordor. He had shed much blood, had seen many friends die, had watched his father grow old before his time, even had to force his brother from the path of books and lore he so loved to command the Rangers in Ithilien. Gondor had long stood against the blackness in Mordor, and if, in recent years, their guard had lessened, then perhaps Boromir was the one to restore the city’s strength.

If what he had gathered from chance words Mithrandir and Frodo had shared over the nightly fires before sleeping was true, then the Ring had some awareness, was a part of the Enemy. So the Ring could be aware of the threat Boromir was to its Master’s plans, and Frodo’s fear of Boromir was proof that the Ring was corrupting him.

The gold shone richly in a stray sunbeam that slipped through the trees. The clouds above were lifting. The Ring was beautiful. Minas Tirith, though fallen into decay, still held many beautiful things, all made by the hands of Men. But Boromir could think of naught he had seen in his life more beautiful than the simple perfect shape before him.

Frodo moved, his hand sliding from the ground to move up over his belly, groping toward his chest.

Boromir watched the pink lips parting, the slight movements of eyelids increasing. His grasp on the chain tightened. Frodo was weak. He needed help. Surely Boromir could help him bear this burden. No one else need know. It would be only for a short while.

Licking his lips, Boromir slid his left hand under Frodo’s head. It was awkward, but he did not want to release the Ring. The small head rounded easily into his palm, and Boromir tilted it off the cold ground to lift the chain up and over Frodo’s head. Gold leaves caught in the dark curls fell away. Frodo smiled slightly, Boromir was sure, as he laid him down, his freed hand moving to the chain so that he clasped it in both hands.

The chain hung from Boromir’s fingers, the Ring trembling at the end of it, gleaming, filling his vision. Shutting his eyes, Boromir bowed his head and slipped the chain over his head, around his neck. Finally, he closed one hand around the Ring, the warmth of it against his palm causing his breath to catch, and slid it under his clothing.

Frodo had always kept it hidden, and Boromir knew that was best. Under the layers of leather and mail and silk, the Ring caressed his flesh. Boromir knelt, eyes closed, waiting for his breath to even. Watching how Frodo had walked every day, his pace slowing, his shoulders rounding as the day’s march went on, Boromir had expected that the Ring to weight heavily. It had obviously burdened the fragile Halfing.

But as he straightened, he could feel no sense of weight. Just warmth and smoothness that was pleasant to the touch. As the Ring moved against his flesh, his nipples hardened. The air was chill. The lack of weight was another sign that he was the right one to carry the Ring.

Carefully, he buttoned the small shirt and vest over the mithril shirt, then pulled the layers of jacket and cloak tightly around the slight figure. The air this close to the water, in the shadow of the trees, was cold. Boromir felt the dampness of the ground soaking through his wool leggings.

He sat, cross-legged, thinking. Frodo’s eyes opened, and he murmured something too low for Boromir to hear. Without thinking, he reached out, sliding his arms under shoulders and back, lifting Frodo and pulling him onto his lap. Holding him in one arm, stroking his hair, Boromir waited for Frodo to wake fully.


Frodo felt ill. His mouth was dry. He struggled to sit. When he forced his eyes open, his vision was blurred. He blinked. The ground under him was oddly yielding, yet something was holding him down. He struggled to free himself.

“Frodo!”

Boromir’s voice struck deep into Frodo’s body. He realized Boromir was holding him and pushed against the broad chest with his one free hand. It was useless. Boromir was too strong.

“No!” Crying out made Frodo cough. He shook as the harsh spasms cut through him. The attack left him limp, breathless, and he collapsed back against the hard arm under him, eyes closed. Slowly, the world stopped spinning.

“Here.”

Frodo felt the mouth of a flask press against his lips and opened his eyes, struggling to sit. Boromir raised his head enough for him to swallow. Frodo opened his mouth and sucked greedily, the cool water soothing his throat. Finally, Boromir pulled the flask away, setting it down beside him.

“It’s all right, Frodo. You fell, but you’re all right. Don’t be too greedy though, or you may make yourself ill.”

His eyes closing, Frodo shivered as Boromir’s hand stroked his head. The touch was gentle but Frodo felt chilled.

“What happened?” Frodo asked, his voice hoarse.

“We were talking and you slipped and fell. The damp leaves make treacherous footing even for a Halfling.”

The rhythm of the stroking almost soothed Frodo.

“I could find no injury, so waited for you to wake. It took only a short time. I doubt the others will have missed us.”

Talking. They had been talking. Frodo tried to remember what they had been talking about when he fell.

He could not remember falling. He did remember Boromir reaching out to him, his voice raised in anger.

The Ring!

Frodo stiffened. Boromir wished to take the Ring to Gondor.

Opening his eyes, Frodo stared at the face so close to his that he could feel the warm breath on his cheek. Boromir stopped stroking Frodo’s head. The green eyes were serious, intent on Frodo, but Boromir’s face showed none of the anger Frodo remembered. None of the greed for the Ring that distorted his face and voice as he demanded it for his City.

But did Frodo remember truly?

Perhaps it was another shadow, a false vision sent by the Ring like the time when Bilbo had turned into a greedy and grasping creature when they first met again in Rivendell after so long apart. Frodo still winced when he remembered the tears in Bilbo’s eyes as he asked Frodo’s forgiveness for passing the burden of the Ring on to him.

The Ring lied.

Frodo had to remember that. Frowning, Frodo tried to think, tried to tease out the truth from the images jumbled in his head which was beginning to ache.

“What were we talking about?” Frodo reached up with his left hand, his right trapped between his body and Boromir’s, and rubbed his forehead.

Boromir smiled down at him. “Nothing important,” he said as he smoothed the hair back from Frodo’s face, beginning to stroke his head again.

Frodo felt his eyes drift shut, felt taut muscles loosening.

Boromir continued, his voice low. Frodo could feel it vibrating through the warm body that cradled him, protected him.

“I was collecting wood for a fire. I’m sure Pippin is hungry for a hot meal even if nobody else is. And Aragorn has decided we won’t risk moving until after dark. I warned him that Orcs patrol the eastern shore. So did Celeborn. It will be safest to continue our journey at night. So we have time to eat and rest before beginning the next stage of our journey. A hot meal would do you good as well.”

The ache in Frodo’s head lessened. He relaxed even more as the warmth from Boromir’s body surrounded him, the familiar scent of leather and mail overlaying the spicy scent of Boromir himself.

“We spoke of our plans. Nothing important, Frodo. We were turning to go back, to join the others, when you slipped and fell. I had to stay with you, to help you, to make sure you were not injured. You have borne so much for us, and so much depends on you.”

Frodo’s head tilted back, and he relaxed completely under the large hand. He was warm. Safe. Boromir would look after him. Would help him with the burden that was too heavy.

Arms and legs sprawling, Frodo breathed deeply, content to rest against Boromir. It had been so long since anyone had held him, helped him.

He felt Boromir’s lips against his forehead. In a voice so low that Frodo could barely hear it, Boromir spoke. “You are well, Frodo. But I will help you bear this burden. We should not burden our companions. They would worry if they heard of your fall. We should not speak of it to them when we return.”

Frodo nodded. It made sense.

“We will return and say nothing. You know I wish only to help you. You can trust me to do what’s best, Frodo. Let me help you. The Ring is very heavy.”

“Yes,” Frodo said, drowsy, his hand settling on his chest. The Ring was heavy. But somehow, when Boromir held him, the weight seemed less.

“It’s only for a short time.”

Even a short time would help, Frodo thought.

“Do you feel strong enough to return now?”

Frodo sighed, turning his head, feeling the smooth leather, the strong arm, beneath him. He did not want to move.

“Could we rest a while longer?” he asked. “I am so tired.”

“Of course, Frodo. Whatever you wish.”


Boromir watched Frodo’s face as the day around them faded into shadow. The slanting sunbeams seemed to linger on Frodo, his pale skin almost shining. Beautiful. They would have to return to their companions soon. But perhaps they could take a few more moments for Frodo to rest. The others meant well, but they so demanded so much.

The din of metal striking metal cut through the quiet air. Boromir’s head came up as cries and roars sounded in counterpoint. An attack. He had feared it. They had traveled too long unscathed. Their luck could not hold forever.

“Frodo!” Boromir stood, holding Frodo carefully then setting the drowsy Halfling on his feet.

Frodo blinked, his gaze unfocused, his lips parted.

Boromir laid his hands on Frodo’s shoulders. “Frodo!” Impossible to leave the dazed Ringbearer alone, vulnerable as he was to any attack.

“Frodo!” Boromir’s voice rose as his hands tightened on the slim shoulders, feeling the hardness of the mithril shirt beneath. Frodo had to respond.

Frodo winced and looked up at Boromir, the blue eyes focusing on his face, awareness sharpening his features.

“We must go. Our companions need us. Can you draw your sword and follow me?”

Licking his lips, Frodo shook his head, almost as if he were only now hearing the clamour. He frowned. The greater alertness of his expression and the way his eyes were tracking relieved Boromir of some of his fears. He released Frodo and stepped back.

Frodo drew the small blade he carried which was glowing blue.

“Orcs!” Boromir said. “On the western shore. These are evil tidings.” He drew his own sword and bit back a curse as he realized that he had left his shield in camp. No time to worry over that mistake. He turned to try to track the direction of the sounds.

The swelling noise rolled through the woods. Pivoting, the leaves crackling under his boots, Boromir was frustrated. Difficult to tell from which direction the sounds came among the smothering trees.

Frodo’s eyes narrowed as he gazed around, then closed as he tilted his head, mirroring Boromir’s movements without the noise of the leaves. He was smiling when he turned to Boromir, his eyes opening.

“That way!” he gestured down the slope of the hill, back toward the River.

Boromir frowned, then shrugged. Perhaps Halflings’ ears were keener than Men’s he thought. He could offer no better direction, so chose to run the way Frodo had pointed. Pacing himself, Boromir moved more slowly than he would like, knowing from their long journey together how to match Frodo to avoid leaving his companion behind in the woods.

The noises became louder as they ran and Boromir smiled as he saw the enemy through the woods. Orcs, he thought, but some new form. Larger, more fell, differently armed than ones he’d fought before.

Crashing through a thicket of brush into a clearing, he saw with shock that Pippin and Sam were standing back to back over a fallen Merry, the two Halflings fighting bravely despite being vastly outnumbered by the hulking orcs who surrounded them.

Grasping Frodo’s shoulder, Boromir pushed him back against a tree. “Stay here. Guard yourself,” he gasped, and plunged into battle.

As often happened in war, time seemed to stretch and fold around him, the sounds around him fading. He slew two from behind before the group, intent on the Halflings, realized he was there. Some turned to fight him, seeming clumsy and slow, while others moved closer to the Halflings. Bellowing a wordless challenge, Boromir tried to turn their attention to him but failed.

Despite the ones he killed, more were coming through the trees, splitting, some to fight him, others to stalk Pippin and Sam. They had been forced away from Merry who was slung over the shoulder of one of the orcs.

The stink of sweat and blood surrounded Boromir, a fog, as sweat ran stinging into his eyes.

Something was wrong here. The orcs seemed content to engage him one or at most two at a time. There were more than a dozen. Why were they not swarming him in a group?

It was impossible but Boromir thought they seemed almost reluctant to face him.

Pippin was knocked off his feet by one, the blade falling from his hand as he was snatched up by another and carried off, shrieking.

“Sam!” Loud and clear as a horn on an autumn hunt, Frodo’s voice rang out over the battle.

Slaying the orc in front of him, Boromir turned to see Sam grabbed by two orcs, one at each arm, and hauled up into the air like so much baggage. The orcs ran, the clatter of the pans tied to Sam’s pack sounding in their wake. The remaining orcs turned as one and ran after the ones bearing Sam.

Boromir realized the only orcs still in the clearing were dead or dying. He had never seen Orcs retreat from a battlefield as these had.

He stood panting, black blood dripping from his sword. The joy that took him in battle drained from his body, leaving him shaking.

Frodo ran after them, silent as a shadow under the trees.

“Frodo, you fool!’” Boromir nearly fell in his shock, stumbling forward, forcing himself to move as quickly as he could. Breath tearing at his lungs and his body aching, he ran. To lose Frodo now after all that had happened was unthinkable.

Frodo moved like quicksilver ahead of him, crying Sam’s name. Boromir began to fear Frodo might outpace him and catch the Orcs who seemed to wish to take Halflings prisoner rather than killing them.

Elven arrows pierced two of the Orcs and Boromir heard Gimli’s deep voice ringing through the forest.

“Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!”

The sturdy dwarf charged, hewing the legs out from under two orcs with economical strokes of his axe.

The flight of the Orcs faltered as several halted to fight Gimli. Others dropped in their tracks as grey arrows hissed through the air with fatal accuracy. Boromir could not even see Legolas.

Faltering, Frodo stood, sword falling from his hand, eyes searching the woods for his friends.

“Frodo!” Boromir saw that Frodo was apparently blind to the danger around him.

Then, as Boromir moved to defend Frodo, a final arrow flew toward the only Orc left standing. By luck or chance, the creature shifted so that its iron helm deflected the arrow which, as Boromir watched in horror, struck Frodo who dropped to the ground.


Frodo stood, Sting glowing in his hand, desperately searching the woods into which Sam and his cousins had disappeared. Taken by Orcs!

When Frodo had drawn Sting on the hillside, he’d felt warmth and strength flowing into his body from the glowing blade. His head had cleared. Whatever had happened with Boromir had slipped away. It wasn’t important. Aiding Sam and the others was.

But he had failed.

Frodo felt his strength draining from him, let the glowing blade, now darkening to mark his failure, rest on the ground which was rent from the battle and stinking of blood. Broken weapons and bodies lay around him.

He loved Merry and Pippin, and seeing them snatched from the ground by the clawed hands of Orcs had hurt Frodo deeply. But when Sam had been pulled away, the brown eyes under sandy curls seeming to stare into Frodo’s in accusation, Frodo had nearly fallen to the ground, screaming. Sam was the only one who could help—

“Frodo!”

Boromir’s voice tugged Frodo’s head around as if he was on a leash.

Stepping over and around the still bodies and parts of bodies, Boromir came toward Frodo, raised sword stained with black blood. His vambraces and leather tunic were splotched with more blood. A cut marred his cheek, and his hair was lank with sweat and blood. The green eyes watched Frodo closely as Boromir reached out to touch him.

Dizzy, Frodo tried to step back. He had to escape. Boromir would take the Ring. Stumbling on the uneven ground, he blinked as a dazzle of sun cut through the trees behind the warrior. The sun seemed blinding, striking Frodo like a weapon. He welcomed the darkness that rose to take him.


Darkness. Harsh voices cut through Frodo, pulling him from the haven of sleep.

“Will he recover?”

“I believe so. The wound is shallow. And Elves do not poison their arrows as Orcs do. Hand me that cloth.”

Frodo winced, crying out as pain blazed through his head.

“He’s waking!”

“Frodo, can you hear me?”

Turning his head, Frodo struck out, flailing, sweeping his arms wide and kicking as hard as he could. “No, no, you cannot have it,” he cried.

Strong hands grasped his wrists, pressed them to the ground.

Panting, Frodo twisted against the weight above him, his breathing shallow, rapid. He was lost.

He had lost his Precious!

He had failed. All would come to ruin.

“Frodo, please, let me tend you.”

Pulling as much air as possible into aching lungs, Frodo shrieked, arching up against his bonds. “Give it back!”

“Shhh, Frodo,” a deep voice soothed him. Gentle hands stroked his head, fingers trailing down his cheek, wiping away wetness. Frodo recognized Boromir’s voice.

“No one has stolen the Ring. You are safe. Let Aragorn heal you.”

Wary, Frodo stilled. The hands continued to stroke his head, but the other hands, the hard ones that pinned him down, released him.

Wrapping his arms around himself, Frodo shivered. He felt warm dampness on his face and tensed.

“I’m just cleaning blood away, Frodo. You were wounded. An arrow grazed your head.”

This time, Frodo recognized Aragorn’s voice and relaxed slightly. He reached up, blindly, seeking and was rewarded when the hand on his head, warm and strong, moved to clasp his.

“I’m here, Frodo, it’s all right.”

“There, can you open your eyes now?”

The warmth left his face and Frodo forced his eyes open, feeling as if his eyelashes were sealed together. He lifted his free hand to rub his eyes, then was able to see.

Aragorn knelt on one side of him, sitting back on his heels, holding a blood stained cloth in one hand. He too showed the marks of battle, blood matted in his beard, staining lips and chin, another wound showing on his upper arm through a rent in his sleeve.

On the other side, Boromir sat, leaning over Frodo, one hand resting on his head, the other holding Frodo’s.

Frodo swallowed, feeling the dryness in his mouth. He felt as if he had been beaten. Images jumbled in his head, Boromir, no the Orcs attacking him in the woods. They had fought. Boromir had hurt him. Boromir had defended him.

“What, what happened?”

“Hold his head.”

Boromir released Frodo’s hand and shifted to sit closer to his head, clasping it.

Aragorn dropped the bloody cloth and reached into a bowl next to him to pull out another cloth. He wrung the cloth out and laid it on Frodo’s head. He winced, feeling pain at the touch but recognizing the scent of athelas as water trickled down his skin.

“Orcs attacked.” Aragorn held the soft cloth against Frodo’s aching head, watching Frodo intently. “We were searching for you, in the woods, when the attack came.” Sighing, Aragorn shook his head. “Merry, Pippin and Sam had dashed off. They feared you were lost. I tried to keep them close to us, but it was as if some madness took them. They ran, shouting for you, into the woods. We lost them and were attacked ourselves. Later, although Legolas and Gimli found the Orcs who had captured them, it was too late. The Orcs escaped with our friends.”

Closing his eyes, Frodo gritted his teeth against the sorrow that threatened to burst from his chest. It was all his fault. He had failed them all.

The cloth lifted away. Frodo heard the splashing of water, smelled the freshness of the herb, and when the soft warmth was laid against his head again, felt the pain there begin to recede. Aragorn’s touch did nothing for the pain in his heart.

Frodo opened his eyes, stared into the blue ones above him. He had to know the worst. “Legolas and Gimli?”

“They are safe.” Aragorn smiled at him. “Although Legolas grieves that it was his arrow that struck you down. They are searching out the Orcs’ trail. Boromir rescued you in the woods and brought you here, where I found you both.”

Aragorn lifted the cloth away from Frodo’s head, dropped it into the bowl.

Frodo glanced to his other side where Boromir sat, hands warm on Frodo’s head.

Boromir smiled at him, releasing him, although one hand remained, stroking Frodo’s hair.

“You were wandering alone in the woods, Frodo. Do you remember what happened?”

“Not, not clearly,” Frodo wet his dry lips. So many nightmares since Gandalf died and Boromir had held Frodo back from the perilous chasm in Moria. So many dangers.

Boromir reached to grasp and hold Frodo. “If you would but lend me the Ring.” His sword dripped blood. He raised it over his head to kill the Orc before it reached Frodo.

Frodo shuddered, pushed the nightmare from his mind. Boromir had saved him. He swallowed, the taste of blood and tears catching in his throat.

“Is there water?”

“Here, Frodo.”

Aragorn uncapped his water bottle and held it to Frodo’s lips as Boromir lifted his head so Frodo could drink. The cool water flowed into his mouth, cleaning, soothing. It helped clear his head.

Frodo struggled to sit up. He felt trapped between the two Men, both covered in blood, swords lying close to hand. Their large bodies were too close, pressing against him. He could not move.

Warm hands supported him from behind.

Aragorn laid a hand on his shoulder, pressing down. “Wait, Frodo, let me bind your head first. The wound is not deep, but—”

Frodo jerked back, freeing himself from Aragorn’s grasp. It felt dangerous, somehow.

Behind him, Boromir supported him. “Wait a moment, Frodo.”

Relaxing against Boromir, Frodo shut his eyes. He felt the smoothness of salve on his skin, Aragorn’s touch gentle, almost hesitant. Then cloth wound around his head. A soft pat on his shoulder.

“There you go, Frodo.”

When Frodo opened his eyes, Aragorn was kneeling by the water’s side, washing his face. He stood, shaking his wet hair back, and went to his pack.

Boromir slid an arm around Frodo who leaned against him, suddenly deeply weary.

Aragorn pulled out another length of cloth, smeared salve on it, and awkwardly tied it around the cut on his arm.

Frodo and Boromir sat in silence until Aragorn turned back to them.

“We have to choose what to do,” he said. “Legolas and Gimli both believe we should pursue the Orcs.”

Frodo frowned. Of course they should. Sam and Merry and Pippin were taken. He opened his mouth to speak, but—

“Frodo should not be put in further danger,” Boromir said firmly. “He was nearly lost before. To drag him in pursuit of a company of Orcs who are behaving as these are would be folly. I have never seen Orcs fight in the light of day. These do. And no Orcs I have ever fought have taken taken captives, or retreated even when outnumbered, let alone when they have the superior force.”

Aragorn nodded. “This day is an evil one. I would not abandon the captives to torment and death, but I must guide Frodo to Mordor.”

“I think—” Frodo began, but was cut off again.

“We can do nothing until Legolas and Gimli return,” Boromir said, his arm tight around Frodo. “But I believe I can counsel you on what path we should take.”

Returning to where Frodo sat against the warmth of Boromir’s body, Aragorn dropped easily to the soft grass. “What would you have us do, Boromir?”


Boromir looked at Aragorn sitting in front of him, seeming ready to listen. He had expected Aragorn to retreat, as he had done before. The angry words they had exchanged the night before as the others slept sounded in Boromir’s mind.

I would not take the Ring within a hundred leagues of your city.

Aragorn had agreed to come to Minas Tirith at Elrond’s council, had sworn to bring the sword of Elendil to the defense of the city his fathers had founded. When Mithrandir had fallen in Moria, Aragorn had taken on the leadership of the company. Aragorn had changed since the wizard’s death. He had fallen away from his chosen task of defending Gondor to cleave more to Frodo. The change was ominous Boromir now understood. For was it Frodo that Aragorn cared for, or the Ring?

Feeling the warmth at his chest, Boromir realized that had the strange Orcs not attacked, the company would have followed Aragorn across Nen Hithoel to the eastern shore and started the long journey through the Emyn Muil. To assail the realm of Sauron by way of the Morannon, the great Gate that Gondor had built and allowed to fall into his hands, would have been folly even if they had ten thousand men.

Aragorn had not even considered the other road they might take, down the old portage way and further on the river, to Ithilien. He would rather take the Ring into the Dead Marshes than take the chance of drawing near to Boromir’s city. Aragorn wished to help Frodo, but Boromir realized that he would hinder him all unknowing. There was a better way.

“Boromir?” Aragorn’s voice pulled Boromir’s mind away from the picture of him and Frodo traveling toward Minas Morgul.

The glimmering of a plan surfaced. It was for the best, Boromir was sure.

“Think, Aragorn. The Orcs did not strive to take any of the rest of us captive. Why would the Orcs take only Halflings unless someone has realized they are important? The Orcs must be bringing them to someone who wants Halfings. And who would that someone be if not the Nameless Enemy or someone closely allied with him? Our plan has failed. What will Merry and Pippin and Sam endure before death if they are brought living before their captor? What will they reveal when their love and loyalty cannot stand against all the torment he can bring to bear on them?”

Frodo pressed closer to Boromir, grasping his arm, shaking him. “We must follow them,” he said, his voice urgent.

Shaking his head, Boromir continued. “Frodo, you are the Ringbearer. You were nearly taken in the woods. You cannot risk yourself. You must continue the quest.”

“You say that the captives must be rescued and that Frodo must go to Mordor. Must he go alone?”

Boromir felt himself turning red at the mocking note in Aragorn’s voice. “No,” he said shortly. “The Company has played its part. We must break our fellowship, some to follow the Orcs, others to continue the quest. It was never meant that all of us would travel to Mordor with Frodo, remember.”

Licking his lips, forcing himself to remain still, not to reach out as he had tried the night before, Boromir watched Aragorn closely. The intense blue eyes had left Boromir’s face. Aragorn sat at ease on the grass, but the movement of his hands, twisting the silver ring he wore, showed his tension.

“Much has changed since Rivendell,” Aragorn said. The mocking note had disappeared. His voice was low. “I do not know what Gandalf had planned. I had hoped that when I stood on Amon Hen I would see some sign that would guide us.”

“Did you see any sign?” Boromir frowned. He knew the old kings had set high seats on Amon Lhaw and Amon Hen to mark Gondor’s bounds and had kept watch there, but they had been long deserted. When he had stood on the hill speaking to Frodo, he had felt no connection to the land. All seemed a wilderness, the only signs of the past the scattered and moss-covered ruins.

But Aragorn might have the ability to see something more.

Aragorn shook his head. “Nothing save smoke. The skies were clouded. I had little time before I heard the cries of the Orcs. All our choices seem evil.”

The silence was broken only by the sound of wind across the water. Boromir breathed deeply, feeling Frodo trembling against him, then chanced all.

“We dare not delay. When Legolas and Gimli return, you should accompany them to save the Halflings. I will go with Frodo to Mordor.”

Aragorn’s head rose. He watched Boromir as a man watches an enemy over his sword blade. “No.


Frodo sat staring at Aragorn. Water trickled from his hair down his throat, down his chest, slicking the tanned skin where the green shirt gaped open. As Frodo watched, the water met the cloth, soaking into it, darkening it, the stain spreading toward Aragorn’s heart.

For the first time since Boromir had found Frodo in the woods, his mind was clear. His friends were in terrible danger, the two young cousins who had refused to allow him to leave the Shire alone, and Sam, dear Sam, the only one who truly knew him. The only one who—

“We dare not delay. When Legolas and Gimli return, you should accompany them to save the Halflings. I will go with Frodo to Mordor.”

“No.”

The single word cut Frodo like a knife. He gasped, felt himself falling forward, darkness towering over him like a huge wave. Pain crushed his heart, spread throughout his body.

As if through a distant window, he saw Sam’s broken body hurled from a high tower falling into a fiery abyss, watched from above as clawed beasts fought over Pippin’s bleeding flesh, chewing and slavering, while Merry, naked and tied to the ground nearby, writhed. One of the beasts lifted its head, attention caught by the frantic movements, then began to stalk him.

“Frodo.”

Warm hands held him, pulled him through darkness back into the light.

Opening his eyes, Frodo stared wildly, seeing Aragorn stooping over him.

“What happened?”

Frodo reached up, sinking his hands into Aragorn’s shirt, tugging him down, feeling the damp cloth over hard muscle. “You must save them, go, please, I beg you.”

“Frodo, what are you saying?” Aragorn tried to pull back but frantic, Frodo clung to him. He had to make him understand.

“You swore at the Inn that night to save us, by your life or death, you said. They’ll die if you don’t go. I saw.”

Aragorn’s hands covered Frodo’s and gently tried to loosen his grip. Frodo resisted until Boromir’s arms came around him, lifting him up and away from Aragorn to sit in Boromir’s lap.

“Let go, Frodo, please.”

Weeping, Frodo released Aragorn, who straightened, holding Frodo’s hands in his own.

“Merry and Pippin and Sam will not suffer torment and death,” Aragorn said. “Not as long as we have strength to save them. But Boromir could go with Legolas and Gimli while I—”

“No!” Frodo shuddered. The thought of Boromir leaving him drained all strength from his limbs. He felt as if he were dying as he fell back against the strong body behind him. “No,” he breathed. “Please.” Tears filled his eyes, and he pulled his hands out of Aragorn’s grasp to grip Boromir’s arm.

“Aragorn,” Boromir began only to be interrupted by a call from the woods.

“We have followed the trail which needed little skill to find.” Legolas came swiftly to join them, the great bow of Lotholorien in his hand, followed by Gimli who bore his bloodstained axe as if ready to strike.

Frodo wiped his face, feeling Boromir’s arm around him, watching Aragorn stand and turn to speak to the two hunters.

“They were moving west, swiftly. We must follow immediately or we will lose any chance to save them.”

“We must save the young hobbits,” Gimli growled. “I would have pursued them but Legolas refused.”

“I counted at least four dozen before they left our sight. More joined the ones who took the hobbits as they moved through the woods. There may be more still.”

“We could have taken them,” Gimli muttered into his beard.

“The hobbits were bound tightly and passed from Orc to Orc to carry. Their weight did not slow their captors.”

Aragorn shook his head, turning back, one hand reaching toward Frodo and Boromir.

“Boromir, will you not—”

Frodo felt Boromir’s body tense behind him. He hardly spoken since Aragorn had rejected his plan, and Frodo feared what he might say.

“You are the Ranger,” Frodo said as strongly as he could. “You are the only one who can save them from what will come.”

Aragorn frowned, but Frodo thought he was confused rather than angry.

“What did you see, Frodo?”

Shuddering, Frodo shut his eyes, but he could still see the pain and death. “I, it was, Sam burning. Pippin—” Frodo could not speak the unspeakable. Leaning forward, opening his eyes, Frodo tried again. “I saw what will happen if you fail. They will die. Please! Boromir will go with me. He knows the way!”

“We will rest a few hours, cross the lake under cover of darkness, and find our way through Emyn Muil,” Boromir said. “I do not know what hope we have to pass the Dead Marshes or the Black Gate, but by the Tree, I swear I will not abandon Frodo.”

Aragorn nodded. “I see evil in the wake of any choice I make,” he said. “But since you wish it, Frodo, I will try to save the captives. Come, then, Legolas and Gimli, if you will go with me. Leave all that can be spared behind. Carry only food and water. With hope or without it we will follow the trail of our enemies.”

Legolas and Gimli went to their packs.

Shakily, Frodo stood and went to Aragorn who knelt and set his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. Pain shot through him from the wound he had taken at Weathertop, but Frodo ignored it. “Thank you,” he said.

Aragorn kissed him on the forehead, lips warm. “Go with the blessings of all free people,” he said. Standing, Aragorn looked at Boromir, hands still on Frodo’s shoulder. “My heart fears what may come, Boromir. Keep your oath, son of Gondor.”

Boromir said nothing and, after a moment of silence, Aragorn turned and went to join Legolas and Gimli. Within a few minutes, bearing only food and water, the three hunters left. None looked back as they disappeared under the tangled branches of the trees.

Frodo shivered. The sun was setting and the shadow of Amon Hen crept over the grass moving toward the water. A chill wind seemed to rise. He stood, wondering what would come.

“Eat and rest, Frodo. We must wait for darkness.”

Boromir’s voice warmed Frodo. He looked up and smiled. The last light of the setting sun caught in Boromir’s hair, streaking it with gold, and the green eyes gleamed as he held out the leaf-wrapped lembas.

Frodo reached for the elven bread eagerly. He was not alone. Boromir was with him.

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