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Solider Son

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It is in the starlit stillness of twilight that Aragorn ventures out into the slumbering city. Thin skeins of clouds glide across the full moon and so his path is purpled with drifting shadows, and it is an easy thing to pass unnoticed. Wrapping his dark green cloak about him and pulling up its hood, Aragorn moves soundlessly, sometimes trailing his fingertips along the smooth stone walls still warm from the autumn sun, now set. More frequently than he would like, Aragorn finds his path impeded by piles of broken stone tumbled onto the sloping avenue, and stacks of freshly cut blocks awaiting their placement. Wooden carts laden with tools add to the business of mending Minas Tirith; a business that will be a lengthy one. Even though over a year after the end of the war, there is yet still a King’s lifetime of work left waiting. Yet, it will be done.

Aragorn will see it done.

Navigating around the congestion of stones and carts, Aragorn continues on. Occasionally a scrap of conversation comes to him on the cool night breeze, and sometimes there is the high, ringing bell of a child’s laugh, or a dog’s warning bark, yet all are peaceful and Aragorn’s heart is touched with gladness. Gondor had suffered long without peace and the reality of it now in these small, ordinary things, makes it all the more dearly held.

Very near the heart of the city, close to his destination, Aragorn slows, observing that these sections are nearly fully repaired. The broken bones of wood and stone have been cleared, the walls rebuilt, columns and windows and roofs restored, all rising proudly into the night. Newly set blocks glowed in the moonlight like the breast of a fresh snowbank. Turning aside, he casually leaned against the column of a newly remade entryway allowing a pair of weary stonemasons to pass, their tool satchels slung over their shoulders as they ambled home, and then once more Aragorn was alone.

A short distance away, across the repaved avenue was a modest courtyard, a gentle alteration to what had stood there before the battle damage. The half-moon shaped plot bowed smoothly off the thoroughfare and the city wall curved outwards to accommodate it. A modest fountain, not yet water filled, commanded the middle space and by the starlight Aragorn could see stone pavers at its base forming a pattern. Reminiscent of the rays of the sun they radiated outwards toward the sloped, curved wall. Into this wall and set at even intervals were a series of simple alcoves, adorned on either side by modest columns, and above, by the crest of the White Tree, all now striped in shadows.

It was a place of memorial.

Faramir had been the one to approve the monument, to know the details of its fashioning, Aragorn having laid his trust, and the burden, upon his Steward. Aragorn had his own monuments, private places where his heart could turn its face fully to the past and remember. The people of Gondor remembered, Faramir had said, and they wanted a place to come to pay their respects. Aragorn had not doubted this for he’d lost count of how many times he'd heard stories recounted by servants in the halls, or by the hearths in the kitchens, or by soldiers in the field gathered around blazing bonfires about the Captain of the White Tower. Tales of their Captain-General, all told with a common sense of fondness and brimming pride, and at times the manner of the telling was as if Boromir himself was only long away, but would return, one day.

Once the tribute was completed Faramir had come to him one evening, drawing Aragorn close, saying, “My Lord, I would have you know that the memorial is finished, at least, for my brother. “ At the heart-worn look upon his Steward’s face, Aragorn had left any queries unvoiced. “Were I you, I would delay my visit until the evening, or perhaps just before dawn, when few are about,” Faramir had suggested, voice soft, eyes filled with a quiet warning.

Now having arrived at the memorial Aragorn lingered on its borders, remembering his Steward’s somber eyes as Faramir recounted his own visitation. He’d laid his hand on Aragorn’s arm, saying, “You should go alone, the first time, for the likeness is uncanny. It-it was my brother; it was like looking at a dream.” With a squeeze to Aragorn’s arm and a gentle bow Faramir had turned and left, saying no more.

Stepping forward Aragorn drew even with the empty fountain, resting his hand there for a moment. Faramir had told him the central alcove was the only one filled so far. Set into the stout stone wall, there was carved out an area large enough to afford a tall man to stand in. In the stillness Aragorn strained to see what Faramir had spoken of, of what had him, a King, stealing out into the night to behold.

In the tender darkness, there came a drifting pool of moonlight. A silvered edge came over the stone, the alcove, and the figure hidden within. Aragorn’s lips parted on a shocked exhalation, his fingers clenching hard about the lip of the fountain. It was as Faramir had said; it was Boromir.

Under the mantel of moonlight and starlight he stood tall and straight, fashioned from the finest marble, noble face tilted slightly skyward. His half-long hair was drawn back from his face and tucked behind each ear, and at his side hung his sword in its scabbard, one gloved hand at rest upon its wide pommel. At his waist hung the Horn of Gondor, whole and unblemished upon its braided cord, and in his right hand he held a delicate bloom, smooth of petal; it was a bloom of the White Tree.

Pushing away from the fountain Aragorn drew forth on unsteady legs. It was indeed, as if looking at a memory reformed in smooth stone, and every detail, from the embroidered sleeves of Boromir’s tunic, to the worked clasps of his surcoat, to the White Tree emblazoned upon the bracers, all were familiar and as Aragorn remembered. But it was the visage, so beautiful in its strength, in its peacefulness, is what Aragorn lifted trembling fingers to touch. He traced the noble nose, the cold lips, the close kept beard and gazed into those eyes that gazed steadily up, into moon-washed skies. Aragorn peered closer and discovered that some type of smooth jewel had been fitted within the curve of the statue’s eyes that reflected the moonbeams so that they gleamed, ever so slightly.

“My Steward,” Aragorn whispered roughly. Tears tracked unchecked down his cheeks as the world fell still and he stared into those eyes, shaped so familiarly, so near to what had been in life. The still fresh well of grief swelled up from its deep-rooted place, and flooded him anew. Memories folded about him in the vivid shapes of love, and friendship, and the ache of loss. Aragorn bowed his head and endured the close embrace and trembled, for even the most treasured, most beautiful pages of his memory were yet still edged in the bitter gilt of his own failure.

At length, Aragorn came back to himself. The sounds of the city settling into a night’s rest returned to his awareness as a door slamming, as a trumpet sounding announcing the changing of the guard in the circle below. Drawing his will around him like a cloak, he hauled in a deep breath and released it, and stepped away from the statue. The hour had grown late as witnessed by the lengthening shadows, as the moon flitted between the clouds and cast down intermittent moonbeams over Boromir’s peaceful City.

Wiping his sleeve over wet eyes, Aragorn noticed for the first time there were several bundles arrayed at the base of the statue. Curious, dropping to one knee, he carefully investigated. There was a demure wreath of prim roses, petals still white and fresh, and a handful of simple wildflowers, like a child might gather, bound with twine. A single red rose, thorns and all, lay across Boromir’s boot. Other things too, Aragorn discovered tucked deeper in the alcove as if to be kept secret until needed; a pair of silver daggers gleamed lethally, and a small collection of silver-chased badges trailing black and silver ribbons . Aragorn realized with a start these were honor badges, awarded to soldiers in recognition of bravery and service. After the war Aragorn himself had presented a handful of these Gondorian honors, most posthumously. Other offerings ranged from a child’s homespun doll wearing black and silver with a crude White Tree stitched upon its breast, to tightly folded pieces of parchment, some sealed and kept secret with wax.

Setting back on his haunches, Aragorn looked up at the statue, a great swell of pride and gratitude enfolding his heart. “Our people remembers, my love.” Reaching out, he laid his hand against the silent stone. “You are their soldier-son, and they honor you. I honor you, this day and every day, until my end, until next we meet.”

Pushing to his feet Aragorn wavered in place for a moment. He breathed in the night air and searched out those remarkable eyes once more. “We will meet again, and to this I hold.” More could be said, but there was only so much a stone could hear and only so much Aragorn’s heart could bear to part with, just then, so with a last long look he turned to leave. High above on the parapets the standard of Gondor stood out on the breeze, snapping proudly in the quiet night, the gems stitched into the white silk glinting. Struck still by the sight, Aragorn stared, then twisted and looked with new eyes at Boromir’s memorial. It couldn’t be by chance that the steward’s son seemed to gaze directly up at the unfurled banner. Aragorn wondered if this small touch had been Faramir’s idea, and felt glad to think it had been.

Facing the statue and folding his hands over his heart, Aragorn bowed his head, then lowered his hands, naked palms skyward in a blessing, in a King’s salute. Then having done so, he turned and headed back the way he had come. Each step lifted him higher, back into the King’s circle.

Below, in the heart of the city in the pooled moonlight, Boromir stood ever watchful, and would do so for a long count of years until one day, his name, and even that of King Elessar, would be lost in the memory of Men. Throughout his unfailing watch he would be visited often by the people of Minas Tirith, and Gondor herself, some citizens traveling from far distances to pay tribute to the fallen solider-son. He would be visited by a King, by a Steward, and even by an elven Queen and her children, and if in these moments some visitors sometimes wept, and sometimes spoke aloud to his statue, no citizen of Minas Tirith who happened to witness this ever spoke of it.