evocates: (Real: Sean - Solitary smokes)
• just another dreamer • ([personal profile] evocates) wrote2013-09-20 12:58 pm

[FIC] Lord of the Rings: The Captain and the Queen [3/6]

I have nothing to say here except that I hope you enjoy this part of the fic. 8D

The Captain and the Queen [3/6]

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: ~5300 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 [livejournal.com profile] 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: Violence in this part, eventual threesome, Arwen-centric.

Part II

The girls at the inn planned their first practice for ‘the day after tomorrow’, and that was all they had before darkness threatened the village.

Arwen shot awake deep in the night, hours after sunset and before sunrise. She narrowed her eyes, listening, and could hear the distant sounds of feet splashing in water, of foul voices whispering.

She found her feet on the cold stone floor as she dressed herself as quickly as she could. Some premonition stopped her from cleaning her face as she went to bed, and Arwen now knew the wisdom of that.

The orcs are coming.

Her arrows were precious few but the bow was ready. Or it would be. Arwen needed no light of lamp or fire to pull a strand of hair from her own head and string the bow. She tested the strength of the knots, and was relieved that her new mortality had yet to touch her hair – it was as strong as it had ever been back in Imladris, where Elven ladies would gift the warriors with strands of their own hair for their strings. Not merely because their hair was the strongest material suitable, but also in hope that it would aid them in battle.

There were some superstitions amongst the Elves too, though Arwen had always called it to lore.

Slinging her quiver and bow onto her shoulders, she padded down the steps of the inn silently, not wishing to alarm the inhabitants before the orcs came. They were still some distance away, and only her Elven ears had noted their noises.

Though, she thought wryly, there was one whose senses was just as sharp, or was well-honed to battle and war.

“I would have them dim all the lights, for surely they draw the orcs here,” Boromir murmured the moment she came up to him. “My blood will not rest this night, my lady.”

“You are a warrior still,” whispered Arwen in return, looking out towards the riverbank. “I hear them. Now they cross the river; ‘twill be an hour or less before they come.”

Boromir’s eyes were bright and startled as he turned towards her, and he gave her a quick grin. “Never do I envy the Elves for their hearing more!” he exclaimed under his breath. “Can you tell how many there are?”

“Nay,” said Arwen. “They are still too far for me to count their footsteps, though…” she tilted her head. “There is one whose footsteps are heavier than the others, and one whose voice is deeper. He groans deeply, Boromir, as if in great rage or distress.”

“That is like to be a troll than not,” said Boromir grimly. “I have known orcs to force trolls into slavery. ‘Twas in Moria that I last saw one, and he was a great beast indeed.” He looked around, eyes squinting in the darkness. “The village will not survive if the beast is set loose here, my lady. That much I am sure of.”

Arwen wished more than ever that there was no danger of orcs and troll approaching; that they were simply conversing, for then she would ask him of Moria and the journey that the Fellowship took together before they were broken. Yet now was not the time.

“Sadoc’s farm is closest to where these foul beasts will reach shore,” she said instead. “Let us head there. Though…” She looked back to the inn. “Some of the old soldiers’ eager students are still abed, and I know not if I should wake them.”

“The girls, I presume,” said Boromir. “I have seen their training, aye, and though they are eager, they are unskilled. Let us leave them be until there is need for them. I would rather that none else raised arms but me unless ‘tis of true necessity.”

Boromir made to go, but Arwen caught his sleeve, pulling him back until he stumbled and nearly fell onto her.

“I will not have you try to protect me during battle,” she hissed into his ear. “I am well-trained in battle, son of Gondor, though I dislike it greatly. ‘Tis my duty to protect my people as much as it is yours. You know as well as I that no one Man is match for any troll, much less a troll accompanied by orcs. Do not be foolish.”

She released him with a soft huff under her breath, and Boromir nearly fell on his face as he gaped at her. Arwen turned away, slinging her bow further up her shoulder as she redid her braid in an attempt to calm her temper.

“Aye, my lady,” said Boromir eventually, sounding wry. “I will not underestimate you.”

“I will hold you to those words,” returned Arwen. “Come now; time is running short, and we must go.”

For a brief moment, it looked as if Boromir had a remark on his tongue. Yet he only smiled, straightening as he followed her.

*

A fire blazed in the midst of Sadoc’s house, and as Arwen neared the place, she could hear low tones of conversation. Surely, she thought wryly, it was possible to remove the soldier from the war, but it was a nigh unmanageable task to remove the war from the soldier. There must be work found for good Men like these, Arwen decided to herself, so they would not be forced to stumble blindly and grasp for some form of work they were unsuited for.

Boromir rapped on the door with the top of his solid staff, made from a single branch of ebony wood that took much strength to cut. Inside, all sounds stopped immediately.

“Who is it?” a voice called out.

“’Tis a friend,” replied Boromir. “Though one who brings bad tidings.”

Arwen stepped closer, and heard a whispered hiss: “Come on, Sadoc! ‘Tis Dwyte. You know he’s on our side.” She hid a grin behind her hand.

The door pulled open and a stocky man scowled at them both. “Come in.” He jerked his head. “We’re keeping vigil, so you best tell us what bad tidings you bring.”

Lowering her head as she stepped over the threshold, she watched as Beranor raised his two-fingered hand in salute.

“Pleasant evening, Dwyte,” he said, voice full of irony despite the bright joy in his eyes and the sudden release of tension from his shoulders. Arwen found herself smiling too as the thought of Boromir’s company being so welcomed.

The man with the orc scar leaned forward, grinning. “And who have you brought with you?”

“That’s Ioreth from the inn,” answered one of the other old soldiers, looking up and grinning wide enough to tug at the scar at his throat. His name was Ric, Arwen remembered, and his companion was Hallam.

Arwen gave the Men a short curtsey, pretending her thigh-length tunic was a dress despite the breeches beneath. She swallowed her laughter for a woman of ‘Ioreth’s’ station would not be so free with men, and watched them beneath her eyes indeed.

“Your clothes are well-made,” said Sadoc unexpectedly. “Did you make them yourself?”

“Aye,” replied Arwen. “I am a seamstress by trade.”

“A seamstress who carries a bow and is willing to walk into battle with orcs?” asked Ric, scepticism clear in his voice. “I’ve never met one like that.”

“Now you have,” Arwen returned.

“’Tis best to not question her,” said Boromir, sounding amused. “Or you’d be given a good talking to, and I’d rather not go through that again.”

The old soldiers looked surprised, exchanging a swift glance amongst themselves. Arwen supposed that they were used to women of Minas Tirith, though those thoughts might be unfair as Dagmar hailed from that city, and she was as brave of heart as any man.

She heard the thumping of heavy feet on grass-spread ground, coming from afar and growing nearer. The orcs had reached shore minutes before she and Boromir had arrived at Sadoc’s farm, and now it seemed they were coming close. Arwen’s mind raced, trying to find a way to warn the Men to prepare for battle without giving away her identity.

Hallam spoke then, however, rubbing at his shoulder. “This old orc bite of mine is a useful thing,” he said, grinning. “It tells me when others of its ilk are coming. We better start gathering our weapons, lads, or else they’d start storming through our doors.”

Ah, so there was no need for her to speak, then.

The Men began moving quickly. The old soldiers drew their swords, long steel blades that shone no longer but were well-sharpened and strong still. Sadoc took a sword from the wall, and Arwen thought it was like as not to be an old heirloom, for Gondor’s armies no longer made weapons in that particular style.

As they stepped out of the door, Arwen approached Boromir, placing a gentle hand on his elbow before speaking.

“There are ten orcs,” she whispered, “and a troll follows them in chains.”

Boromir paused for a moment before he shook his head. “Never have I wished more to be wrong,” he told her. “There are too many for us, if your ears tell truth.”

“They do,” said Arwen. She spoke the next words quickly, for she knew the other men were glancing curiously at them. “My lord, I will suggest that all of us make as much noise as we can. Wake the village. If they cannot fight, then they might still run.”

Giving her a silent nod, Boromir stepped away from her and melded into the darkness. She watched out of the corner of her eyes as he appeared next to Beranor, muttering quickly into his ears, before he darted forward to the front of their haphazard line again.

Leaves rustled in the thin woods surrounding the farmstead. The first orc burst out of the clearing, and Arwen’s fingers were drawing an arrow the moment her eyes caught the light of the moon on its dark armour. The wooden shaft flew, embedding itself in the creature’s eye. He roared suddenly, writhing as he fell onto the ground.

There was no time for thinking, much less orders. All knew what they had to do for the sake of saving their own lives. The battle was upon them as orcs burst out into the clearing, screaming in their distorted speech, no longer caring about silence. Boromir dived into the fray, his staff held with two hands.

“For Elessar!” he cried.

The orc she had first shot was stumbling to stand, blood and drool mixing around his mouth as he growled, half-blinded. He grabbed the arrow and pulled it out from his eyes. Arwen saw her chance, diving forward and drawing another arrow from the quiver slung across her back. She did not fire it, however; instead, she took the sharpened tip and shoved it into the gap she could see between the creature’s armour, right into its throat.

Black blood splattered on her clothing. Arwen picked up the arrow still held in that gnarled, twitching hand, and turned to face the battlefield. All Men were fighting, and the orcs not engaged in the battle was turning towards the village in search for easier prey. Arwen found herself torn, forced to make a quick choice: to watch her people or the enemy. She was firing the bloodied arrow into the back of a running orc when the choice was made for her.

She heard the heavy sound of clanking chains, and a loud roar made the trees themselves tremble. The troll burst into the clearing right behind her, chained still to the last orc. The orc gave her a malicious grin before he let go of the chains and ran towards the village.

The troll, now freed, bellowed again.

“The Valar bless us,” she heard Sadoc mutter under his breath.

Arwen ducked before she knew what she was doing, barely avoiding a sudden swipe from the troll. She was dizzied from the volume of the roar, but she knew she was in the perfect position to kill it. Running around the creature, she grabbed hold of the chain.

“Dwyte!” she yelled, barely having sense enough to choose the correct name to use. “Help me!”

The troll turned to her, and it clutched at its own chain, shaking the metal links hard. Arwen felt her feet slipping, but Boromir appeared in front of her suddenly, gripping onto the links.

“Hold on!” he yelled. If Arwen had the breath, she would tell him she was doing precisely that.

But the troll was strong, immensely strong. It shrieked again, blinding them with spittle. Arwen gasped as she found herself literally swept off of her feet, sent flying by the back of one huge hand, and her shoulder burst with pain as she slammed hard into the soil, tearing out grass by its roots with her landing.

It was likely to be a mountain troll, Arwen thought as she got back to her feet. She shook her head hard, her eyes searching for Boromir immediately. He laid face down a little distance from her, and just as she was about to call for him, he pushed himself up with his arms, his entirely body shuddering as if shaking off dizziness as well.

The troll was heading for the village. Arwen started to run immediately, hearing but not acknowledging the shouts of the Men behind her. There was no time to reassure them, and Arwen reminded herself to apologise for her rudeness after the battle was done.

There had to be some weak spot behind the creature, she thought. She drew an arrow and let it fly, hissing in triumph as it sunk into the orc’s shoulder. Yet her smile faded quickly, for the creature did not even seem to have noticed the wound, and continued its storming walk towards the heart of the village. Arwen stood there stock still for a moment, her mind empty as to what to do.

“A troll’s skin is too thick for an arrow to be felt, Ioreth,” Boromir panted next to her, and Arwen nearly jumped at the sound, for she was too preoccupied to hear him. “Legolas killed one with arrows, but he had many and a Mirkwood bow.” He wiped at his mouth, still panting. “And that was a cave troll, not a mountain one.”

Arwen looked at him for a long moment, taking in the bright light that was in his eyes. You are no farmhand, she knew.

“How shall we take it down, Dwyte?” she asked instead.

“I have no idea.” Boromir barked a laugh, “We will have to chase it first.”

They started running after the troll in tandem. Was it strange to feel joy mixed with fear? Arwen knew not. She claimed to Boromir that she was well-trained, and had not thought of her own safety all this while. Yet now she was afraid even though she knew what had to be done. The skills she owned, aye, yet she had only met ‘battle’ in Imladris, in sparring against her brothers or her teachers, in a place where she knew beyond all doubts that she would be safe. Not even running from the Nazgûls was a battle, for she was running away instead of towards like she was now.

Truly, she was untried and untested. Arwen found herself laughing suddenly, gladder than ever to have given up her immortality. Surely she would not have felt this strange exhilaration in Valinor; surely she would have never realised how sweet the sound of blood pounding in her ears. Surely she would not have ever felt the excitement of a new experience, a new discovery.

“Dwyte!” she called, grinning helplessly. “I am about to do a foolhardy deed, and I would dearly like you to aid me!”

Without waiting for his answer, Arwen ran as quickly as she could. The hard soles of her leather boots hit the troll’s ankle as she leapt, and she caught hold of her own arrow. Grabbing hold of the wide, leathery neck, Arwen swung herself upwards until her feet balanced right on top of the troll’s shoulders.

The troll slowed down, turning its head up to look at her, clearly confused. Arwen took her chance – she yanked the arrow from its skin and shoved it into its eye. The shaft did not sink deeply enough to penetrate its brain, but it was certainly enough to agitate the troll: it roared, its huge hands swiping upwards. Arwen nearly fell before she swung herself to stand on one shoulder where the troll was blinded towards. She took another arrow, but the troll shambled sideways, and the wooden shaft fell.

Her quiver was empty.

“Ioreth!” Boromir’s voice had never given her more relief. Though, she noted a little distantly, he sounded horrified.

“Dwyte!” she yelled down at him, not even bothering to try to meet his eyes. The troll was spinning around itself, clawing at his own face and neck and shoulders as if trying to rid himself of a particularly annoying bug. Arwen’s ears rang from its constant howls. “Give me your staff!”

“What? What are you doing?”

“Give me your staff!”

“How—” Arwen didn’t hear what Boromir meant to say next, because the troll lurched forward suddenly. Her arms flailed, trying to hold on, and she gripped onto the very arrows still within the troll’s eye socket for balance. A huge hand caught her in its grip, but Arwen leaned backwards, pulling out the wooden shafts. The troll shrieked in pain, his hand releasing her, and Arwen swung herself back up on its shoulders.

Boromir’s staff headed towards her, flying like a lance, and Arwen caught it with both hands and nearly fell over again. She threw herself forward, using not her hands but some sort of instinct as she shoved the staff into the troll’s eye, tilting it upwards, and sank it as deep as it could until it surely reached the brain. She held on tight to the ebony, but the troll found her again, grabbing her by the collar and yanking hard.

The wood cracked; broke underneath her hands. Arwen squeezed her eyes shut as she felt herself flying through the air. She found herself thinking inanely of Frodo and Bilbo, and how they might have felt while riding on the back of the great eagles.

A pair of strong arms caught her, knocking all air out of her lungs. Arwen threw her arm upwards, gasping, but hands caught her wrist.

The face staring down to her was only recognisable from the bright green eyes, for Boromir’s red-gold hair was splattered with black blood that was dripping down, mixing with red from the gash on his temple. When he caught her staring, he tried to wipe his face, but seemed to realise that he would have to shift her in his arms, and stopped.

Behind them, a loud thud resounded.

“I need to sit down,” she said suddenly, and was surprised by the hoarseness she heard.

“Alright.”

When the ground could be felt from beneath her fingertips, Arwen pushed herself as far from Boromir as she could. She turned her face away and felt herself retching. Where was the battle-high she had revelled in but moments ago? Now there was only a cold stone in her stomach that had her shaking and trembling. Perhaps it was because of the smell – the sickly stench of dead troll and orc that permeated the air around them.

Boromir’s hand was warm on her shoulder, and Arwen let herself be pulled backwards, winding her arms around his neck as he wrapped his arms carefully around her.

“Is the village safe?” she whispered.

“Aye,” he chuckled, his breath ghosting across her earlobe. “All of them acquitted themselves well. You would’ve seen them, lady, if you had not been on top of a troll.”

Arwen tried to laugh, but could only cough instead, trying to swallow down bile.

“Forgive me,” Boromir murmured, his fingers warm on her neck. Arwen knew not what his apology was for, and she had no chance to ask because he continued immediately, “Was this your first battle?”

Was it? She was tempted to deny it, yet… “Aye.”

There was a short silence. Arwen shivered, feeling cold and trying to lean further into Boromir’s warmth.

“You did much better than I had during my first,” said Boromir, sounding amused. “I certainly didn’t take down a troll.” His knuckles rubbed gently against her cheek, and the soft kiss he pressed into her hair made Arwen’s fingers tightened on his shoulder. It was surely painful, but he made no sound of complaint.

They might be in the middle of the village at the moment. Arwen did not know and could not bring herself to care. She closed her eyes and focused upon Boromir’s scent from beneath the stench of orc and troll. Like sun and grass it was. Unbidden, she was reminded of Aragorn, for he embodied the snow and the stars for her.

Snow and grass; sun and stars; aye, perhaps there was a deeper meaning coded in the scents the Valar had woven into their skins.

***

If the village had its way, all would have hailed ‘Dwyte and Ioreth’ as heroes for defeating the mountain troll that so many shivered in fear just looking upon. Yet the supposed champions refused to admit their bravery, preferring to speak about the strength of all others instead, and eventually the village was convinced.

Still, Arwen was glad for the attention, if only because the village became rowdier than it had ever been, with constant celebrations. Though care was still taken to ensure that all would have enough to eat during the oncoming winter, there were feasts in the tavern and the ale flowed freely for the week.

Praise flowed as freely, even from the landlord’s lips. He protested against battle before it arrived knocking at its door, yet he spent days commending the servant girls to high heavens, for they had taken down one orc by themselves with naught but long knitting needles, heavy metal pans, and sheer bravery. Dagmar had led the charge; now even those who had once looked askance at her for her previous occupation was full of admiration, for, they said, it was surely her efforts that allowed the inn to remain standing.

The old soldiers were begged to stay, and Arwen noticed a new light in Beranor’s eyes as he gazed upon Sage. Sage herself was shyer in her affections, but Arwen had heard her protest fiercely to Dagmar that Beranor was made handsomer by his plentiful scars, and if he could wield a sword well with two fingers, there was surely naught of which he was incapable.

Perhaps there would be a wedding in the autumn, Arwen thought, and she wished she could witness it. Arwen knew she would not, for the morning before the battle she had begged a young dove a favour, and sent her flying eastwards with a small scroll tied to her leg. The soldiers of the capital were riding fast here, she knew, for she had sent the dove straight to Aragorn, with a coded message informing him of Boromir’s return. She knew not if the King could beg leave from his duties, but she would not have him rudely shocked by their arrival.

For Arwen had determined that Boromir would return with her to the city. It was not by foresight that she had so decided, but sheer will.

Boromir seemed to have gained some idea of her intentions, for it was only after the week’s revelries had passed that she managed to find him alone long enough to speak. It was in the stables, in the dark of the night when the village was asleep and all was silent.

Arwen leaned against the doorway of the stables. “You made me a promise, son of Gondor,” she said quietly.

Hands paused on the bridle, and Boromir turned to her. He seemed unsurprised to find her standing there. “I swore upon my honour, my lady, and I have none. What need have I to keep it?” he challenged her, his head raised in defiance.

Shaking her head, Arwen took another step inside the stables. Like a spooked horse Boromir was, she noted, amused, for he twitched at the soft sound of her slippers against the wooden floor.

“Even if your honour was lost years ago, you have regained it by once more defending those who could not protect themselves,” her voice was firm, brooking no argument. “You did so at a great personal cost, for surely the village will wish to know the true name of the one who took down a mountain troll.”

Boromir shook his head. “The troll was vanquished by your efforts, lady, not mine.”

“Was it, truly?” asked Arwen, cocking her head to the side. “You are quick to shift the credit, and slow to see the admiration your efforts have wrought you. ‘Twas your staff that sank into the troll’s eyes.” She paused, and knew there was no use in quibbling about such a small point; not when there was something far more important she had to make Boromir see. “’Twas you the villagers trusted in for their protection. I have seen their eyes as they look upon you. I daresay even the landlord would pick up arms once more if you promise to fight by his side.”

Hanging the bridle back up on its metal hook, Boromir sighed, his hands dropping to his side. “’Tis a trust based on false grounds, lady,” he said. “They will look upon me with different eyes if they know what I have done.”

“Do you think the minds of Men so fickle?” demanded Arwen, taking another step forward. Boromir’s stubbornness was almost too much for her to bear; how could he not see all the qualities of greatness that lay within his breast when Arwen saw them all so clearly? “Discount not the long years of service you have rendered Gondor, Boromir, for they will not, and have not. Of the Nine Walkers, ‘tis Boromir the Bold who is most greatly praised amongst Men.”

“They should not praise that name!” Boromir shouted, striding forward and grabbing her by the shoulders. “I am an Oathbreaker, my lady, no better than the Dead who used to haunt this valley. I broke my word! I attacked the Ringbearer whom I swore to protect!”

Boromir’s grip was tight on her shoulders, but Arwen barely noticed. She reached up, cupping his face between her hands, staring deep into his eyes.

“Did you, truly?” she murmured. “I remember the words you spoke at the Council, Captain of the White Tower. Gondor will see it done, you said. Your word was not broken; nay, it was fulfilled in full.”

“How do you—” Boromir gaped at her. “I did not see you—”

“I daresay that there was no Elf in Imladris who missed a word spoken at the Council, ‘secret’ though it might be,” said Arwen wryly. “All of you made such a racket that we heard every word even if we did not wish to listen.”

Arwen herself, however, had set upon listening with all determination. Her father might have kept her away from Council, but she would know the fate of her chosen beloved nonetheless.

“So now you know, Boromir,” she continued. “Gondor had seen it done. ‘Twere the armies of Gondor and Rohan joined that stood at the Black Gates to draw Sauron’s Eye away from Mordor. ‘Twas Gondor’s King who led them.”

She took a deep breath, steeling her voice. “Gondor saw it done.”

Boromir fell silent for a long moment, his head bowed. He stepped back, retreating to a corner of the stables with his hands tight upon his own elbows.

“You heard my voice in the Council, my lady. ‘Twas I who declared that Gondor needed no King, when Ara-” he choked, swallowing hard, “he was what Gondor needed most of all. My arrogance blinded me; it made me unsuitable and dishonourable.”

Stubborn, stubborn Man! Arwen was tempted, in that one moment, to reach out and grab him by the collar of his rough shirt and shake him hard until he saw sense. She seemed to be talking herself hoarse with no effect, for Boromir seemed absolutely determined to think the worst of himself. She could not understand it.

Arwen took a deep breath, calling upon the long centuries of life to calm the beating of her heart. She stared at her own hands, soot-covered as they were, and wished more than ever that Aragorn had trusted her with the tale of Amon Hen. The silence stretched out between them, like a thread pulled tight moments before it was bitten short.

There was one other she knew that was as stalwart as this Man before her, and Arwen suddenly found words on the tip of her tongue.

“Long years I spent with Aragorn,” she said finally. “Long years I tried to convince him that he would make a worthy King, all in vain.” She reached out for Boromir again, her fingers closing gently over his wrist. “He could not believe in the strength of Men, and believed them weak. I believe ‘twas partly due to my own father’s teachings.”

She shook her head. “I loved him for the very flaws and failings he attributed to Men, but I could not make him believe in his own strength ‘Twas you, Boromir, who found Gondor’s King and returned him to his rightful place. I know this to be true.”

There were words that Aragorn would mutter sometimes in the dead of the night, when he thought her full-asleep and unaware. He would leave the bed and walk towards the balcony, looking out towards the city that was now his. They were words he kept so deep within his heart that even Arwen could not reach them unless by device and deviousness. Aragorn kept them in a cold, locked room within himself, and Arwen had always allowed him to keep it close, for she knew the presence he missed.

Taking a step forward, she released those words, returning them to their rightful owner.

“Yes, there is weakness. There is frailty. But there is courage also, and honour to be found in Men.”

Boromir gasped, stumbling back. His back smacked hard against the stall, causing the stallion inside to whinny loudly. Arwen reached out for him, holding him tight in her arms as they huddled together like children seeking comfort in a storm.

“You taught him those words, son of Gondor,” she murmured, turning her head and pressing a soft kiss on the temple. She smelled salt in the air, and turned her head away so she could pretend to not feel the tears that soaked into her shoulder.

He loves you still, she did not say. He loves you in a manner that he might have loved me if I had not the courage to turn away from the ships. He loves you as one he thought lost, and I will return you to him. I do not begrudge his love: ‘tis far too clear to my eyes that you are deserving of it.

Aye, you deserve even more.

Boromir made a strangled sound, a half-sob, and Arwen stroked her hands through his hair.

“A single mistake does not rule the life of a Man unless he allows it so,” she whispered. “Do not allow it. Come home with me.”

Boromir’s hands scrabbled at Arwen’s arms, pulling her even closer, burying his face into her hair and taking a shuddering breath. It warmed and chilled her skin both.

“Aye,” he whispered, hoarse. “Aye, I will come home with you.”

To him, they both knew.

There was a strange joy, Arwen thought, of a heart’s pain as it split in twain.

Part IV

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