Epilogue: The Hands of a King...
He lay among the scattered dead, his life bleeding into the ground beneath him, his eyes fixed sightlessly upon the sky above his head. Silence cloaked him. Pain filled him, pain in so many layers that it reached to his very soul and tortured him as no arrow could. The pain of wounds and approaching death were there, pitiless and cruel, but they paled before the agony of mind and heart.
He had reached the end of his long road, he knew, and in the suffering of failure and loss, he welcomed it. Only in the final darkness could he hope to blot out the faces of the halflings... of his friends, as the foul orcs dragged them, screaming, away from him. He had failed them, and now he would die, like the dozens of orcs sprawled about him, in blood and filth and pointless suffering. So fell Gondor's proudest son.
A figure loomed suddenly above him, blotting out his view of the peaceful sky. He blinked to clear his sight, and saw Aragorn bending over him. Sorrow welled up in him afresh, but even with his brother in arms beside him, he could not allow for hope. Hope was gone, as were the halflings and his honor and his life.
He drew in a ragged breath that sent pain lancing through him, and whispered, "They took the little ones."
"Be still," Aragorn murmured.
"Frodo... Where is Frodo?"
"I let Frodo go."
"Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the ring from him."
"The ring is beyond our reach now."
The words came easily to his bloodied lips, words that humbled his pride and laid bare the grief in his heart. "Forgive me, I did not see it. I have failed you all."
"No, Boromir, you fought bravely! You have kept your honor."
Aragorn laid a hand on the arrow that pierced his breast, but Boromir halted his movement with a whispered, "Leave it! It is over." He looked up into Aragorn's eyes - those eyes that spoke so eloquently of age and wisdom and sorrow. They gazed at him now through a sheen of tears, and Boromir felt answering tears gather in his own, as he wept for the death of hope. "The world of men will fall, and all will come to darkness and my city to ruin."
"I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the white city fall, nor our people fail!"
"Our people?" He gazed in wonder at the kingly face and repeated, "Our people."
A smile, twisted by pain but yet a smile, touched his lips, and he knew that even now he had found mercy. He would never see his home again, but Gondor would have her king. What grief was there in this? His hand reached for the sword that he knew lay nearby, needing to feel the cold strength of his weapon once more. He was a soldier of Gondor, Captain-General of her armies, and he would die with his blade in his hand as befit a soldier.
Aragorn placed the sword in his hand, and Boromir pulled it to his breast, clasping it with all his remaining strength. Then he lifted his eyes to Aragorn's face once more, content to take the image of his king into death with him. Aragorn leaned closer and rested his hand against Boromir's face. At the touch of his fingers, Boromir knew that he had found more than mercy. He had found forgiveness.
With the last of his breath, he whispered, "I would have followed you my brother... my captain... my king."
Boromir did not feel his brother's farewell kiss upon his brow or hear him murmur, "Be at peace, son of Gondor."
He had already found his peace.