The Captain and the Queen [2/6]
Characters/Pairing: Gradually-building Boromir/Arwen; established Aragorn/Arwen and Aragorn/Boromir; leading up to Aragorn/Boromir/Arwen. Also featuring: Faramir and a literal village full of OCs.
Rating: PG in this part
Words: ~5800 in this part
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to the Tolkien estate. I’m just playing with them.
Summary: Three years after she was crowned the Queen of Gondor, Arwen finds Boromir in a small village near the Stone of Erech. Finding him seems easy when compared to her new Quest of bringing the Son of Gondor back home. Sort of fulfils this Arwen/Aragorn/Boromir prompt on hobbit_kink.
Notes: Subtitled “An Exploration of the Problems of a Postwar Gondor”. By the way, the fic is done – I’m just posting it part by part due to the length.
Warnings: Eventual threesome sex, politics, Arwen-centric.
The next morn that rose would be a rest day for all in the village; hence this night, the tavern was crowded and noisy, filled with men who came not only for ale but for conversation as well. When Arwen was still new to the village, she had been shocked by the sheer level of noise and rowdiness a group of Men could create; yet now she had learned to love these nights, for it was when she could listen and learn the most.
Boromir, as his wont it seemed, had hid himself in the farthest corner of the tavern where the light from the roaring fire in the grate could not reach. The hood of his cloak was pulled up over his head, but Arwen could still recognise him, and earlier in the night she had placed a mug of warm ale by his side without allowing their gazes to cross. Their conversation in the stables was but hours ago, and she would leave him to his thoughts and watch the rest of the tavern instead.
The landlord waved her over. “Keep a sharp eye on those men over there,” he whispered over the counter. “They’re strangers passing through, and I don’t like the look of them.” He gave her a worried look. “Will you be alright? I can get Dagmar to serve ‘em instead; she’s good with these rowdy sorts.”
Dagmar was one of the other serving girls in the inn. Arwen knew she used to work as a prostitute on the first level of Minas Tirith; after the battle when the city was half destroyed from the first to third levels, she left and took her belongings with her, travelling to a place where her past would not be looked askance – most here knew what women whose lovers, brothers, and fathers died during the war would have to do to eke out a living.
“I’ll be alright,” said Arwen, giving him a gentle smile. “Thank you, Master.”
“You sure ‘bout that?” The landlord frowned, giving her an uncertain look.
Arwen looked over to the group of men again. They looked like the Rangers of the North in the few times she had caught sight of them in Imladris before they had the time to dress better to appear in her presence: well-worn travelling cloaks, ragged breeches and old boots that seemed that be near falling apart. She gave the landlord another smile before picking up the three tankards and moving across the tavern.
“Elessar’s rule has been bad for business,” one of them was saying, shaking his head. “Time it was when old soldiers like us could find some coin in the guarding of traders’ caravans on the road, but now all think the roads to be so safe that they need no guards!”
“We have no choice but to become farmers or some such,” grumbled another. “Well, I’ve never learned how to wield a rake or a shovel, and I don’t plan to do so now.”
“So what are you planning to do, eh?” the third snorted. “Starve? Come now, there’s still need for hands ‘round here. I’ve been asking ‘round – they’d be glad to have some people come in for the autumn harvest.”
Arwen chose the lull of conversation to step in, her arm blocking the third man from the second’s belligerent glare. “Your ales, sires,” she murmured. Up close, she realised that the men were all war-wounded: one had a long scar that peeked through the collar of his rough cotton shirt; the second had only two fingers left; and the third had a great wound nearly fully-covered byhis shirt.
The third man caught her glance, and he grinned. Lifting up the tankard, he drained half of it. “You’re interested in me war wounds, lass?” he laughed, shrugging off his coat. He tugged the shirt down, revealing old, white teeth marks. “An orc took a bite out of me once, but I got lucky ‘cause I was quick enough to jab me dagger into his throat to stop him from doing more. It hurts whenever the wind comes, so I gained a pretty trusty weather-teller along with a good story.”
She could not help staring. Of course, she had seen wounds aplenty in her time, for she often aided her father in healing any and all who came to Imladris in need of such aid. Yet it was not the scar itself that drew her attention but the man, for he spoke of danger with such careless joy, as if it was simply a practice bout gone awry rather than a time when his life was in danger.
Once, Elrohir had told her that he thought Men to truly be the bravest creatures who lived in Arda: Elves knew that they would be reborn even if they died in battle, but Men knew no such thing; many of them were often afraid of their destination after death, yet they dove into battle and risked their lives nonetheless, and often defended their homes with greater passion than even the Elves. She looked upon these Men now, remembering Éowyn Wraithsbane, and vowed to tell her brother that he was right.
“Now you’ve gone and scared her,” the first man scolded, reaching over the table and smacking his companion lightly on the head. He glanced at her, giving her a small smile that twisted the scar at his neck. “Don’t worry ‘bout what he said, lass. I’m sure there ain’t no orcs anymore.”
Arwen made to reply, but any word she could say was immediately cut off at the sound of hands slamming against a table. She turned, startled, and saw a young man – little more than a boy – who was trembling.
“I ain’t lying, I say!” he yelled. “I told you I’ve heard news of ‘em. They said there are orcs coming from the White Mountains, and they’re heading for us! Me own uncle saw ‘em himself, further up north! Are you calling me uncle a liar?”
Out of the corner of her eyes, Arwen saw Boromir jerk suddenly in his seat, his spine turning warrior-straight. Beside her, the three men were stiffening as well, and a two-fingered hand was creeping towards the bread knife and gripping it tight.
“Calm down, Aelred,” one of the boy’s companions chided. “We’re not saying that your uncle were lying; just that maybe he might have been drunk when he saw ‘em.”
Aelred shook his head hard, seeming to wish to speak again, but another of his companions stood. “Look, it don’t matter if his uncle was drunk or not,” he said, and Arwen recognised him to be Sadoc, one of the farmers whose lands were on the outskirts of the village. “If there have been whispers of orcs, I think we better start arming ourselves.”
His words started up a flurry of whispers, so many voices speaking at once that not even Arwen’s Elven hearing could separate one voice from another. The three travellers next to her had their heads bent together, conversing rapidly.
“Oh no, we’re not going to have talk about arming ourselves here, not in this inn,” the landlord’s voice snapped out suddenly, silencing all others. “It’ll be a jinx, that’s what it will be. The moment we start trying to buy swords and such will be the time when the orcs come chasing us, whether they be Aelred’s orcs or not.”
Arwen did not know how to feel: she was proud that they trusted Elessar’s rule so much that they would place their safety wholly in his hands, but at the same time, she did not think the landlord’s words were entirely motivated by the knowledge that he was safe. No; it seemed motivated by suspicion and fear; by strange thought that weapons were harbingers of danger instead of tools for defence. She caught Boromir’s eyes, and saw him shake his head quietly.
“There’d be no sending of messengers to the Rangers of Ithilien or some such thing either,” the landlord continued, his eyes narrowed in warning. “We ain’t going to bring the attentions of lords down on us either, ‘specially if this all turns out to be nothing.”
The murmurs in the tavern had died down somewhat, and most were nodding in agreement. Perhaps they were afraid, Arwen thought. These were war-weary folk; Men who could not wield a weapon but who were destroyed by the consequences of weapons still.
“Well, that sounds like an invitation if I’ve heard one,” the two-fingered man muttered under his breath as he hefted himself to stand. He cleared his throat loudly, knocking his knuckles on the table.
“Alright, I know many of you prefer to do nothing, but for the some of you who wanted to learn arms and such, you’re in luck. My companions and I,” he waved towards the two men with him. “I’m Beranor.” He took a theatrical bow. “And these are my companions.”
The man with the orc bite still showing on his unclothed shoulder stood and took a deep bow.
“We’re old soldiers from Minas Tirith,” continued Beranor. “Aye, we fought in the armies during the war,” he said, and Arwen watched as a shudder went through all at the mention of the War of the Ring.
“If you want to know which end of an orc to stick a sword or even a shovel or rake into, we’ll be staying in this tavern.”
Beranor drained his tankard, setting it hard on the wood before all three left towards the stairs of the inn. The landlord seemed to wish to protest, perhaps to chase them out, but he kept silent for Sadoc stood and followed them immediately. Aelred made to leave, but the woman sitting next to him placed a hand on his arm, shaking his head. A kinswoman of his, perhaps.
The tavern was silent after the old soldiers’ announcement, and Arwen watched the few familiar faces who looked interested in their offer. Three years it had been since Mordor was destroyed, yet the wounds of six hundred years of war were far too deep to be healed over such short years. She turned slightly, glancing at Boromir out of the corner of her eyes.
The hand of the Man who should have been Gondor’s Steward was bunched around his cloak. The warrior missed his sword, Arwen recognised, for her fingers ached in the same way.
For the first time since she had left Minas Tirith, Arwen felt the deep ache of Hadhafang’s absence by her side.
Mortal she might now be, yet Arwen still kept her Elven senses. When she heard the rustling and soft cursing from the storage shed west of the tavern, she smiled to herself and dressed quickly, striding on quiet feet towards the shed.
She pushed the door open quietly, blocking the moon’s light with her body so as to not alarm the inhabitant. Boromir stood in the darkness, his face half-lit by the lantern as he hefted first one rake then another, swinging them through the air as if they were swords instead of farm tools.
“A farmhand you might call yourself, yet you are still a warrior, Boromir of Gondor,” murmured Arwen as she stepped into the shed, allowing the light in.
The Man spun around immediately, hands tightening on the rake he was holding. When he recognised her, however, he only sighed.
“Nay, lady, that is no longer my name,” he said.
Arwen suspected that might be his response; he had deliberately avoided using his true name the last they spoke, leaving the topic to rest for the moment. Now it seemed to have awakened, and Boromir’s eyes were dark even to her Elven sight.
“’Tis your true name,” she murmured.
Boromir snorted, turning from her to place the rake gently back in its place. Arwen took his actions as an invitation, closing the door of the barn behind her as she moved towards him.
“That name is for Gondor’s Captain of White Tower; a corpse long dead and given a better send-off than he deserved,” said Boromir, voice bitter. “Now I am nameless. The villagers call me ‘Dwyte’ – and so had you, lady. ‘Tis a name with little nobility and even less ties to Gondor; fitting for a man who has lost his honour and betrayed his country.”
Arwen took another deliberate step forward, placing her hand on his wrist – not merely for comfort, but to keep him from leaving as she knew he wished to.
“Have you, my lord?” she asked gently. “Have you lost your honour?”
Flashing eyes fixed upon hers, and Boromir growled low under his breath: “Do not mock me with false ignorance, I beg you!” He seemed to sag immediately after the outburst, and continued without any vehemence.
“Surely you have heard the tale of my failure at Amon Hen?”
So it was true, then, the tale she had heard from Legolas and Gimli. Yet it seemed that Aragorn had made a mistake in placing Boromir in the Elven-wrought boat, for how else would the Man be standing in front of her, tormented and alive?
“Aye, I have heard the tale,” said Arwen. She raised a hand, silencing Boromir. “Yet I find your wording strange, for I did not hear a tale of lost honour. Nay, the tale I heard was that of a noble, honourable Man driven to desperation by the love of his country; a Man lured into darkness by an object of pure Evil.”
She watched Boromir, noting carefully the surprise and raw despair she saw in his eyes, and continued softly, “I heard the tale of a Man who died saving the lives of two small Hobbits, seemingly inconsequential and weak, and how his efforts had helped to save the world entirely.”
Arwen released her fingers, and Boromir stumbled backwards immediately, his back hitting bags of grain with a quiet thump. “From whom did you hear this tale?” he asked hoarsely.
“The Ringbearer himself,” she answered.
“Frodo?” Boromir blinked, and his mouth opened and closed without a sound escaping. He swallowed hard. “Is this a jest?”
“Nay.” Arwen shook her head.
It was the truth: after Frodo’s recovery, she had pressed him for the tale about the missing member of the Fellowship; about the Man mourned by all of Gondor and his friends. She would wish to hear Aragorn tell it to her, but he had never done so, and Arwen suspected that the space of time that had passed after Amon Hen was still insufficient for her beloved’s heart-wounds to be scarred over. Nay, she had seen rawness in Aragorn’s eyes at the very mention of Boromir, and she saw it now again.
Boromir’s eyes had gone distant, staring off into space as if dwelling on an unpleasant memory. Arwen cupped his face with both hands, tilting his head forward until the clouds cleared and he was looking at her.
“I would not have found a dishonourable man here this night, my lord,” she said. “A man without honour would not wish to find any possible way to protect this defenceless village against the evils that are portended to arrive.”
“You assume much, lady,” said Boromir wryly, though he did not protest her use of the title. “How know you that my true plot was not to find ways to attack these villages? Or to steal these stores,” he waved an arm around himself, “for the landlord was fool enough to leave the shed door unlocked?”
Arwen stared at him uncomprehending for a moment before she chuckled, shaking her head. “You are as terrible a liar as you are a judge of your own worth,” she chided gently. “If you are here as a thief, then I would have found you amongst the grains and herbs instead of the farm tools.”
Boromir closed his eyes. His hands closed around her wrists, but he did not push her away. “You are kind,” he murmured. “Yet if I am truly an honourable man, I must tell you that you paint a far sweeter portrait of me than I deserve.”
“’Tis not I who painted such a picture,” corrected Arwen. “’Twas those who knew you best: your brother, your friends, and your King.”
A shudder went through Boromir at the mention of Aragorn, and he squeezed his eyes shut as if to keep himself from weeping. Arwen could not stand such a sight, pulling him into her arms by instinct, her hand stroking through strands of red-gold. His hair had grown long since Imladris, she thought, for it now brushed his shoulders.
“Why are you consumed by despair, Boromir of Gondor?”
Boromir did not answer; Arwen suspected he could not. He only clutched at her shoulders, gasping harsh breaths that ghosted cold across her now-mortal flesh. Arwen wrapped her arms around him, trying to give him comfort, but he flinched from her fingers as if they were brands, stumbling backwards with wild eyes.
“No,” he whispered. “I cannot- you- no.” He shook his head hard, his shoulders trembling as he groped blindly for the stable’s door. “If you knew, you would not-”
The sound of Boromir’s breathing was harsh, scraping at Arwen’s hearing. Yet she could not help but reach out for him, knowing her own eyes were wide and uncomprehending. Her lips were forming silent Sindarin words, trying to calm Boromir down as if he was a horse startled by the crack of lightning.
“Boromir,” she tried. “Dwyte, please, stay.”
Boromir stilled suddenly, his hands clenched by his side. “You were wrong, lady,” he said, his voice rough as sandpaper and filled with unshed tears. “I am a dishonourable Man, and ‘tis you I have dishonoured most of all.”
He yanked the door open and fled into the darkness, leaving Arwen gaping at the space where he was but a moment ago. Her mind whirled over his words, trying to understand. He had dishonoured her? There was naught that Boromir had done that had harmed her and hers in any way; in fact, she owed him a debt of gratitude, for she knew that it was Boromir’s loyalty that gave Aragorn the final push to claim his destiny.
What could he have done to dishonour her?
The cold winds slipped through her cloak and thin nightclothes, chilling her, and Arwen shivered. She picked up Boromir’s lamp, hiding the light behind her hand as she stepped out of the shed. He was headed towards one of the farmsteads in the south of the village, she knew; he bartered for shelter in their barn in exchange for his services. Arwen thought to follow him, yet a sudden image came to her mind of Boromir’s eyes at that last moment before he ran. It was such a desperate look, so filled with self-loathing that Arwen’s heart ached deep in her chest and she shivered once more.
Throughout her time with Men she had realised that many of them carried raw wounds caused by the war beneath their smiling miens. Yet she did not think that any other she knew had a wound that had festered like Boromir’s had; festered until it reached to the depth of his very soul and threatened to twist all the good he owned until he was naught but a shell of a Man.
She wished for the warmth of the morning more than ever. At the first light of the sun, she would stop shivering; when dawn came, she would find Boromir and speak to him once more.
The next days passed in a strange, heavy peace that was akin to Arwen’s first few days in Minas Tirith, when all seemed to be unable to help looking constantly to the East as if to reassure themselves that Mordor was truly destroyed and they were safe. The villagers were quiet and tense, and business at the tavern fell especially when the old soldiers kept their promise and began training those interested in an untilled field nearer to the river, near Sadoc’s farm. They would have done so closer to the village, but the landlord had refused their money, and it was with Sadoc that they had found refuge.
Boromir had been absent from his daily visits to the tavern as well, and as each day passed, Arwen’s frustration and anxiety had only grown. Though she knew his whereabouts, she was reluctant to approach him after his outburst, especially since she still could not understand the reasons why he had reacted that way. He would have to come to her first, she decided; any attempt to cross the boundary lines that he had set up would only alienate him from her further.
She had gone through the night’s chores distracted, and almost missed the hissing whispers of her assumed name until one of the other girls touched her shoulder. Whirling around, Arwen stared wide-eyed into Dagmar’s face before she let out a breath.
“You were pretty deep in your thoughts, weren’t you?” asked Dagmar, looking amused. “Well, if it was up to me, I’d have stopped thinking long ago and chased him down. I’d even break down his door if he refuses to see me. With men, there’s no use in waiting for them to come to you.”
Arwen laughed, shaking her head. “You are quite a scourge of Men, then,” she teased back.
“I’ve never hidden what or who I am.” Dagmar shrugged. “If they are interested in me in the first place, they’re probably waiting for me to break down their door.”
She would not have a chance to meet a woman like Dagmar if she had stayed in Minas Tirith, Arwen thought as she laughed. Such brash and unashamed women were unheard of amongst the Elves she knew in Imladris, and she knew that despite Dagmar’s words, she would not be so free with herself if she knew that it was to the Queen of Gondor she spoke. No, such faces were shown only to friends and those who knew were of the same station as they.
“I’m not here to talk about myself, however,” Dagmar said, sobering quickly. “Not entirely, anyhow.”
Cocking her head slightly to the side, Arwen asked, “What is it?”
“Look, the girls and me have been talking.” Dagmar leaned forward, her tone earnest. “We figured that if we put our money all in the same hat, we’d be able to convince those old soldiers to teach us how to fight. We’d have asked after that night in the tavern when we were all thinking ‘bout it, but you weren’t in your bed. So we’re inviting you now.”
Arwen’s heart warmed at the inclusion; she had been here for mere months in comparison to their years, but the girls had invited her into their circle so quickly that it seemed that she had lived here since the village’s beginning. Yet there was darkness too in her thoughts, and she frowned slightly.
“Do you truly think the orcs are coming?”
Dagmar leaned against the wall, eyes cast down as she tugged at the washcloth in her hands. “Even if they’re not, it’d be a good idea for girls like us to learn how to fight,” she said quietly. “The men here are all decent sorts, aye, but you never know when it comes to travellers.” She shook his head. “But aye, I believe they’re coming. I’m sure of it, even.”
A chill ran down Arwen’s spine, and she found herself stumbling forward, grasping the other woman by the wrists. “How are you so certain?” she whispered fiercely.
“You know Sage has a brother-in-law down south on the other side of the river, aye?” Dagmar said, still refusing to meet Arwen’s eyes. “He’s a fisherman, that’s what he is. She got a letter from him recently, saying that he’s seen some orcs coming through that old Path of the Dead near dawn one day. His village stayed up all night in the dark waiting for ‘em, but they were lucky ‘cause the orcs missed ‘em. But he says that they’re coming northwards, towards us.”
Arwen stumbled backwards, a hand to her mouth. Her horror was entirely sincere – though she might not worry for her own safety, she could barely imagine the damage that would be done to the village if the orcs attacked. She worried not merely for their bodies and their land but for their minds as well. So many had lost their past livelihoods and nearly their lives to the evils of Sauron’s dark armies; surely such an event would be a nightmare turned flesh to them.
She shivered slightly. “Have you told anyone else?” she whispered.
“We tried to tell the landlord,” Dagmar answered, twisting the washcloth in her hands even harder. “Sage even showed him the letter, but he refused to even look at it. Just a matter of overactive imaginations, he said.” She shook her head. “The people here are afraid and I ain’t blaming ‘em for that, but I’m not going to be left helpless again.”
Looking up, she met Arwen’s gaze with eyes darkened by determination. “So will you come learn with us, Ioreth?”
Could she? Would she not be exposed if she pretended to learn? Arwen had been taught in the arts of martial valour for most of her life, though she preferred not to fight. Yet she would to protect her people; yet she would not risk the villagers’ lives for her acceptance amongst them.
“Aye,” she said quietly. “I will.”
Dagmar brightened up immediately. “That’s great to hear, that is. I’ll tell the girls and we’ll work out how much money each of us will fork out, and we’ll tell you. Hopefully we’ll get to start with the old soldiers the day after tomorrow – there’s never anyone in the tavern then, and the landlord can handle it all by himself.”
She gave Arwen another small smile before she left for her chores, and Arwen returned to wiping down the countertop. There was more she would do as well, she thought. No swords were there in the village, but it was surrounded by the woods at the foot of the White Mountains, and her hair would do well enough to serve as bowstring. No metal arrowheads had she, but if she could sharpen strong wood into points and if she chose the wood for the bow well, it would pierce through orc flesh well enough.
“I thought I would find you here.”
Arwen raised a hand to shield her eyes from the bright light of the burning torch. She had no need for sight, however, to recognise the Man standing in front of her, and she gasped quietly.
“Dwyte,” she acknowledged cautiously, using the assumed name for she knew not how Boromir would respond to her after the storm of their last conversation.
“Ioreth,” returned Boromir with the barest twist of wryness on his lips. He shook his head, sobering far too quickly. “You have heard the news, then.”
“Aye, I have,” said Arwen. She hesitated for a moment, and Boromir took the chance to take a careful step forward.
“I wish to apologise for my behaviour the last we met,” he said, his voice so stiff and formal that Arwen fancied the dark woods changed into a cold courthouse. “I treated you abominably and…” he trailed off, looking frustrated. Arwen had a distinct, almost amused feeling that he was not a Man used to apologies.
“’Tis no matter,” she replied, shaking her head. “Give no thought to it.”
Boromir looked as if he would protest, but Arwen continued, interrupting him before a single sound could escape his lips, “Will you raise your sword once more?”
He turned thoughtful at the question for a heartbeat’s worth of time before snorting. “Nay, for I have no sword to raise,” he said, chuckling under his breath. “My longtime companion now rusts lonely at the bottom of the sea. I will fight with farm tools and sturdy sticks, my lady, if there is a need, though I know not if my efforts will be enough.”
“To that I have no answer,” replied Arwen. The matter of apologies seemed rested, replaced by more important matters. “I have thought to call upon the armies of Minas Tirith for aid,” she said, “but before that I will have your sworn word that you will not disappear from my sight the moment they arrive.”
Something flashed in Boromir’s eyes, passing so quickly that Arwen could not tell what it was. He turned away from her, laying the torch safe against a patch of bark, making sure that the tree would not catch fire.
“The White City is far from here,” he murmured, refusing to meet her gaze. “’Twill be of no use to call them; they will not be here in time.”
“Perhaps not,” replied Arwen almost immediately. “Yet if we call upon the army, the King will know of the need for soldiers and guardhouses in this remote corner of Gondor. We now look towards the future, Boromir, for ‘tis what I am here for.”
“You ask more of me than you know, my lady,” said Boromir. “Long years have passed since the last I had looked upon the future instead of the past.” Arwen noticed his hands shaking, and though she wished for naught more than to take those rough fingers into her own, she stilled herself, listening.
“Yet I do not understand.” He turned to look at her, and the shine of his eyes resembled tears. “How have you the stomach to look upon the face of a Man who has dishonoured you so?”
Arwen saw her advantage, and though she knew it cruel, she took it. “I will answer your question,” she told him quietly, “if you will answer mine.”
Boromir bowed his head, placing his fist upon his breast. “Aye,” he whispered. “I swear upon my honour that I will not run.”
Aye, Arwen thought, he might claim himself to be a plain Man, yet his every gesture showed his nobility. He had given her his fealty in that one Elven gesture, and Arwen reached out for him, grazing his stubbled jaw with the tips of her fingers.
“A man without honour would not use it as wergild as you have done,” she murmured, coaxing him to look into her eyes once more. “Let me confess, my lord: you spoke those words to me nights ago, yet even now I find myself confused, for I know not your meaning. You have done no dishonour to me as far as I know.”
Boromir parted his lips to speak, but Arwen merely laid her thumb upon his lip, silencing him for that moment. “I know my words will not move your heart, for you hold the belief of your dishonour tightly. Let this then be a test. If the orcs come, let me see with my own eyes if your words or the words of those who love you are true.”
Silence reigned between them for a long moment, their gazes never leaving each other. Finally Boromir chuckled, shaking his head. “You drive a harder bargain than any crone I know, my lady,” he said, teasing her about the meaning of her assumed name. “Through staying put you have determined that I will regain my honour in your eyes, but what if the winds favour us and the orcs do not come? What if there is indeed no need to call upon the armies for aid?”
“What then indeed?” Arwen cocked her head, a smile blooming on her lips haplessly at the sight of the upward curve at the sides of Boromir’s eyes. He was charming beyond words when he smiled, and she suddenly understood part of the reason why her beloved was so captured by this Man. “I suppose that I will device another test. I do not have the gift of foresight, my lord, and I wish not for it. I only wish to make good of whatever time I have upon my hands.”
“A wise philosophy indeed,” said Boromir, smile fading. He pulled away from her, bending down to pick up his torch. “Why waste time thinking of what might come, or what might have been or could be?”
The words were not directed towards her, Arwen knew, and she swallowed the ball of frustration aimed at herself in her throat. She had awakened another of his demons with her carelessness, and Arwen knew not what she could say to exorcise it and bring back his joy. Surely Aragorn would know the right words, she thought, if only due to his greater knowledge and love for this Man.
Yet Boromir was right, and Arwen looked towards the dark woods again. The trees here were strong and old, nigh untouched by the hands of Men throughout the long years when Tarlang’s Neck and the Stone of Erech were greatly feared. She reached upwards, pulling down a branch.
“We must prepare,” she said instead. “’Tis not a glorious war that will come upon us if it comes, but a battle that must be won as quickly as we might.” Looking back, she met Boromir’s eyes again. “I wished to find a yew tree for the body of a bow, and perhaps branches of any ironwood for arrows. If there are none, then ebony, cherry or oak will do well enough.”
Boromir ducked his head, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I was well-versed in naught by the art of war,” he said. “And a farmhand needed little of plant lore than to know what soils grains and fruit trees deserved.” He met her eyes for but a moment. “Truth to be told, my lady, I had hoped to meet you here for I wish to carve a sword out of what we have, and yet I do not know which tree to ask.”
Arwen stared at him for a moment before she laughed. It was nigh unthinkable to her, the daughter of Elrond the Healer, for anyone to not have a full knowledge of plant lore. Yet here was something new! She leapt forward impulsively, grasping Boromir’s wrist and tugging him forward.
“Forgive my laughter; you caught me by surprise,” she apologised, still grinning. “Hold up your torch, my lord, and I will point out the trees for you. For a sword I daresay any one of the woods I have chosen for my arrows will serve you well.”
“Aye, my lady,” said Boromir, stumbling forward. His eyes were fixed upon her, a burning brand at the back of her neck even as she turned deliberately away to search the wood as best she could. “Aye, I see now why Aragorn loves you so,” she heard him whisper barely loud enough for even her Elven ears to hear.
She hid her pleased smile with a hand before walking into the darkness of the woods with the surety of Boromir’s steady footsteps behind her.