It had been a year. One year since Boromir had fallen; one year since they'd consigned his body to the Anduin. One year since the ranger Aragorn had promised a dying man to protect the city they both loved.
That year had been full of terror and fear. Battles had been fought and fearsome enemies encountered. More than one friend had been lost, though no loss had been so keenly felt as that of the Steward's son.
And yet there had been wonder in the past year as well. The war had been won and Gondor had begun down the path of a new golden age, her people safer than they'd been in generations. With Arwen at his side, King Elessar had vowed to restore the city to its former glory, to fill its streets once more with families and laughter, to make its borders secure from all threats.
But if the future seemed blessed, Elessar would not have the past forgotten. He had already seen the signs of forgetfulness in his people.
Those that had fallen in battle were fading from memory, their faces grown hazy with the passage of time, their sacrifices spoken of barely at all. This forgetting of those who had given the most for their people saddened Elessar. He considered for many weeks how to stave off this loss of memory, finally settling upon a day of remembrance, a day when the sacrifices of so many could be recalled and proper honour rendered.
There were many dates that he could have chosen: the day that the Rohirrim emerged victorious from Helm's Deep; the day of the battle of the Pelennor Fields; the day that the free people of Middle Earth attacked the Black Gates. But in the end, there was only one date that seemed right: the day Gondor lost one of its favoured sons; the day Boromir breathed his last. Today.
Elessar awoke before dawn. Leaving his lady wife sleeping in the warmth of their bed, he dressed in plain breeches and a linen shirt, a simple cloak and well-worn boots completing his attire. Quietly, he made his way out of the Citadel, moving through the levels of his city, enjoying the luxury of passing through the streets unnoticed by all but a very few early risers.
The sun had just crested the horizon, bathing the city in a rich golden light, as Elessar reached the gates of the city and the new statue he had ordered raised in the public square. The stone visage of the statue was Boromir as he'd first encountered him in Imladris: determined and resolute, every inch the hero.
What that impassive countenance could not show was the gentleness of the man. It could not reveal his humour, or his vulnerability, so unexpected in a man of such strength.
"It looks very like him, does it not?"
Elessar started at the voice, pulled from his reverie. He turned to find his Steward at his side. Like him, Faramir had not yet donned the formal attire that would be expected of him at the day's ceremonies, but instead was clothed in leather breeches and tunic.
"Very like him, indeed," Elessar said, smiling. "Our stonemason's have done a fine job."
"They did their best. Boromir was well loved by the people."
Elessar could see the fond regard for an older brother in Faramir's eyes.
"And by his brother."
"And his king," Faramir added.
Elessar sighed. "His king wishes that he had the man before him instead of a statue.
"So do I," Faramir said, melancholy overtaking his features.
"What is your best memory of Boromir?" Elessar asked, hoping to steer Faramir's thoughts to happier times.
Faramir chewed on his lip a moment before answering. "I think it is perhaps the first day that I was allowed to attend sword practice with him. He was fifteen and I was only ten, but he made sure to take me very seriously. I thought he was the best brother in the whole world." Faramir paused to swallow hard. "I still do."
"I'm sure he was."
"And you, my king? What is your favourite memory of my brother?"
Elessar had to stop and think, for he had so very few memories to choose from. They had known each other such a short time and under such trying circumstances. But one memory did stand out.
"The day I first saw him smile." In his mind's eye, Elessar could see that stern face light up in amusement at one of Pippin's sillier jokes, green eyes crinkling at the corners, head thrown back in laughter. "He was always so serious. For days, I wasn't entirely sure that he could smile."
Faramir laughed at that. "Oh, I know what you mean. Some of our soldiers were terrified of him. But I always knew better."
"I'm sure you kept him from taking himself too seriously."
"He claimed I undermined his authority. But he always laughed when he said it."
Elessar laughed himself, and once again the image of brilliant green eyes came to him, piercing his heart with memories both happy and sad.
Not wanting to be overwhelmed by melancholy himself, Elessar clapped Faramir on the shoulder. "Come, my Steward. We should return to the Citadel. We both must prepare for the coming day."
Faramir nodded, and arm-in-arm, they strode through the city streets, sharing more memories of the brother and friend that both had lost. But the King could not tell his Steward everything. There were other secret memories that were too precious to share, memories that he held close to his breast, and only took out in the dark of night.
By the time they reached the seventh level of the city, the whole Citadel was awake and bustling with the final preparations for the celebration of their fallen brethren. Advisors and knights, ladies and pages swirled around them, a brightly coloured whirlwind threatening to engulf them both. Elessar allowed himself a single sigh before surrendering himself completely to the chaos he had wrought. For this cause, he would submit to all the stultifying formality the court had to offer.
The day passed in a blur of parades and speeches, dedications and feasts. Many were the times the King found reason to be proud of his people as each shared stories of sacrifices made and brothers lost. Memories of men dead this past year were resurrected and cherished. Eowyn's tribute to the noble Theoden brought tears to more than one eye, as did Faramir's memoriam of his brother.
But the day saw more than tears. There were smiles and laughter too, as better times were remembered. By day's end Elessar could see a new kind of healing in all his people, and knew he had been right to decree this celebration.
Their honoured dead would be remembered, but all Gondor would forget what it was to live in perpetual fear of attack. Wives would forget the need to surrender their husbands to the gaping maw of war. Children would grow up with no memory of living constantly under threat of war, would never experience the grief of losing fathers and brothers in clash of battle.
It was late indeed when the last guest left the feasting hall. Elessar watched as the servants extinguished the torches one by one, leaving the hall in solitary gloom. Arwen had removed to their bedchamber an hour earlier, after bestowing a loving kiss on her husband's lips and admonishing him to make his own remembrances.
As the night flowed inexorably to midnight, Elessar left the darkness of the feasting hall. A single candle lighting his way, he wandered through the Citadel, through main halls and narrow stairs and finally to a corridor that had been deserted this year past. From around his neck, Elessar drew a thong holding a single iron key. Touching the key briefly to his lips, he placed it in the lock of the door before him. Key turned in lock with a satisfying click, and Elessar passed across the threshold.
He had never before set foot in this place, the chamber of the Steward's eldest son. After his coronation he had seen to it that it was sealed, its contents undisturbed. The pain had been too fresh then, the loss too near. After a year, he was ready to face his grief.
The chamber surrounding him was as forsaken as the corridor, dust accumulating on all surfaces, an aura of abandonment permeating it. In the candle's guttering light, Elessar could see a tapestry of the White Tree hung on the far wall, a constant reminder of Gondor's heritage to the room's inhabitant. A tunic lay discarded on the bed and a pair of fencing gauntlets awaited their owner's return from a dresser. Elessar ran a finger down the spine of two books on a nearby shelf: one, the expected volume of martial history, the other, a collection of tales of ages past.
Setting the candle on the nightstand, Elessar sat on the bed. The day had been for his people, to let them make peace with their past, to preserve their memories of loved ones lost while they found healing for their future. This night he must take for himself, find his own peace, his own healing.
Breathing in deeply, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to remember everything.
He remembered his first meeting with the Steward's son in Imladris, the spark that had flared between them from the start. He remembered the unconscious grace of Boromir in battle, the economy of his movement, the elegance of his attack. He remembered Boromir's concern for the Hobbits and his amusement at their games. He remembered green eyes hardened with determination and clouded with pain.
And he remembered more, so much more: the feel of a calloused hand caressing his cheek; the taste of sweat-salt skin on his tongue; the sound of Boromir's breath, panting as they joined their bodies together in passion.
A shuddering breath wracked his body, and he wondered why his cheeks were wet. He opened his eyes and blinked several times, roughly wiping the tears from his lashes with the back of his hand.
He drew another breath, and was amazed at its steadiness. Another breath still and he could feel his heart lighten. These new tears had lanced the wound of his loss, releasing the festering poison that threatened to consume him. The pain was still there, an ache in his very centre that would live with him always, but it would not now overwhelm him.
"We will remember you," Elessar whispered. "I will remember you."
Taking the candle in his hand, he stood to leave the chamber. A breeze kissed his cheek, making him turn. His eyes saw nothing, but he felt a tickling at the back of his neck. As he moved back toward the door, a voice whispered in his ear.
"Be at peace, my brother," the familiar voice said. "Be well, my king."
Elessar tried, but he saw nothing in the chamber that had not been there before. The air was still and the beloved voice was now silenced forever.
"Farewell my love," Elessar said.
King Elessar strode forward to meet his future, while vowing never to forget his past.
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