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Legacy

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Legacy

"I will take the Ring to Mordor."

A month had passed since those fateful words had been pronounced by the child-looking creature, the halfling, as legends of Gondor called them. The Steward-Prince of Gondor still believed it was absolute insanity for anyone to believe the little one would ever be able to do something like take the Ring all the way to Mount Doom, especially with the Dark Lord's minions shadowing him, as they were.

But the Gondorian had made up his mind. It would be a few weeks yet at least before the group, named 'Fellowship of the Ring', by the lord of Imladris, Elrond, was to depart. For whatever the reason they insisted on waiting for some messenger from the Lonely Mountain to return with a special delivery. Boromir thought they should instead be taking advantage of the time and move out as soon as possible, but he wasn't the leader of the company; and for whatever the reason half of it had agreed on waiting.

He planned on using that time to convince at least the reasonable (or so he hoped) elven and possibly dwarven members of the Fellowship that the halflings needed to be left behind, they were likely to become a liability, and they had no time for such things on a quest such as theirs. He even had the perfect opportunity, as they were to gather in that moment, looking to help said halflings learn some self-defense. Boromir was sure that once the others realized how defenseless the small creatures were, everyone would agree with him it was better to leave them behind. He could have never expected how that 'training session' went in the end.

At first things seemed to be going as expected. Sam Gamgee, the self-named gardener of 'Mr. Frodo', was no good with any weapon they tried to offer him. He could defend himself pretty decently, but was no good at attacking, he simply seemed to have no instincts for it.

Merry and Pippin, the two youngest, were pretty atrocious, though their persistence and good cheer as they kept trying, no matter how many times they were thrown down, were certainly to be commended. And they were not afraid of fighting dirty when losing the small blades the Ranger had gotten them (Boromir refused to refer to that man as his prince, or any kind of royal, even inside his mind).

A couple of hours later the Gondorian would admit to being surprised by how long the hobbits had kept at it, even after being hit and thrown enough times that they were probably black and blue beneath their simple clothes. Though as much as he might admire their tenacity, none of that changed Boromir's mind about what he believed needed to be done.

"What about our Ring-bearer?" He asked.

Merry and Pippin finally looked like they wouldn't be getting up again; Sam had shown no interest in keeping at it. Yet it was the last hobbit that had shown no ability thus far.

"What?" Everyone seemed surprised by Boromir's words.

"He's the one who carries the greatest burden, the true burden." The Man stated rather bluntly. "Shouldn't we make sure he's capable of defending himself, and what he carries?"

For a second there was nothing but silence, and then the excuses started.

"I really don't think that's a good idea." Legolas murmured quietly.

"Mr. Frodo cannot fight right now!" Sam called loudly.

"We are about to embark in the most dangerous of journeys." Boromir declared. "We need to make sure everyone involved in this can fight."

"I agree it's a good precaution to take." Aragorn murmured hesitantly. "However, circumstances being what they are right now..."

"It's alright Strider." Frodo interrupted softly. "I knew this was coming."

"You really don't need to do this, lad." Gimli began.

"But I think I do, Gimli." The halfling replied with a half smile. "Lord Boromir is in his right to want to make sure we all won't be liabilities. He's risking his life to help me, and I respect that." His expression turned somewhat wistful. "It's like what Uncle Bilbo said happened when the delegation of Stiffbeards stayed in Erebor, remember?"

"I don't need to remember any stories, lad." Gimli said with a huff. "I was right there for that one. Can still remember how close that came to becoming a Clan War, and it would have, weren't it for our dear Royal Consort... Those Stiffbeards." He cursed under his breath in khuzdul. "But I understand your point. I don't agree with it, and am quite sure your uncles wouldn't either, but if that is your choice."

"It is." Frodo nodded serenely.

Boromir could only watch the conversation in silence. There was something odd about that conversation, the way the dwarf seemed to defer to the halfling's authority. And the way they spoke about the uncle... how would a dwarf know him? Just what was going on?

"Will you be testing me then?" Frodo asked as he got on his feet.

He reached for his belt, for a weapon, only there was none.

"Oh..." He breathed. "I'd forgotten. I lost my knife at Weathertop."

Boromir cursed under his breath, and that was the hope for Middle-Earth? A child-like creature who lost his knife and then forgot about it? The Gondorian would bet the halfling had found it uncomfortable when sleeping, took it off and then forgot about it...

"Here lad." Gimli pulled a dagger (short for a man, but a bit long for the halfling). "You may use this until we get you something better."

That was when the Gondorian got his first surprise (or the first he would admit to), as he watched the halfling take the offered blade, unsheathe it slowly, careful not to let the edge press too much into the scabbard, like one who knew such actions may blunt it on the long run. Then he raised the blade, balancing it on his right hand, swung it a couple of times, testing its weight and balance like an experienced fighter. It was the first time Boromir doubted his own assessment of a situation or a person.

"This will work." Frodo declared after a minute of careful tests, returning the dagger to its sheathe and tying it to his belt. "Thank you, buhel (friend of all friends)."

Boromir heard the dwarf reply under his breath in a language he couldn't understand, but didn't pay it much attention. Though maybe he should have; then he would have noticed that Frodo needed no explanation of what had been said, for he knew khuzdul, it was one of the languages he was fluent in (along with Sindarin, Iglishmek, and of course Westron). If he'd paid attention to that maybe he would have realized Frodo was no common hobbit.

Aragorn let out a breath, he could see that Boromir was pushing Frodo, but the Steward-prince just had no idea of the can of worms he'd just opened. Aragorn himself wouldn't know if it were not for people like Arwen and his cousin Halbarad. Also, the name Baggins had been a dead give-away once it was given; practically everyone on the other side of the Misty Mountains knew who Bilbo Baggins was, the Royal Burglar, Consort to the King Under the Mountain; and a great many knew Frodo Baggins, Prince of Erebor (nevermind that the hobbit spent more time in the Shire than in the Lonely Mountain), as well. Still, he worried, it was one thing to know the hobbit had been raised, at least partially, by dwarves, but that was no guarantee of anything.

Gimli's smile was almost predatory. He, unlike Aragorn, had known Frodo since the hobbit was but a fauntling (his first long, solo travel, once he finally became off-age, had been to the Shire; and after Frodo had been adopted by Bilbo the red-haired dwarf greatly enjoyed spending time with the fauntling).

Legolas had not known the hobbit personally, he'd hardly returned to Mirkwood since the Battle of Five Armies, after which he'd spent several seasons in Rivendell, recovering from the mess his feelings had become in the aftermath of such a debacle. Eventually he'd met Strider, just like his father had intended, and chose to join his men. They'd been good friends since. Still, the elven prince had known Bilbo well-enough, and if the hobbit whose songs had been sung in Rhovanion for the last sixty years had been the one to raise Frodo, there was no doubt the hobbit would be something special as well. Especially if he added to his considerations the looks their red-haired dwarven companion kept giving the hobbit, and the other details that made it obvious the two knew each other, and quite well.

Finally, the three remaining hobbits didn't say a word, though it was obvious in their eyes that they were quite eager for what was coming. Something Boromir noticed as well. Though he chose to chalk it up simply as halflings looking up to the oldest of their group and wanting to cheer for him. He could have never imagined the truth... (and while mostly the things that were said about Baggins uncle and nephew around Hobbiton weren't the nicest, Merry and Pippin were Brandybuck and Took respectively, and so quite odd for hobbits themselves; and where it came to Gamgees, the Baggins of Bag-End could do no wrong in their eyes).

Not a word was said by anyone, as Frodo went to stand before the Gondorian, exactly where his hobbit friends had been before. Once in place Frodo unsheathed the dagger again, holding it in a careful basic grip, crossed before his chest. It was a simple stance, but Boromir didn't pay it much attention (in his head, the halfling could simply be copying it after seeing the men teach all his friends the last several hours). And then the fight began.

The spar was like none Boromir had ever been involved in. He'd begun with a downwards slash in the direction of the hobbit's left shoulder. His intention was to test his reflexes and his block, though he was making it easy (or so he thought). And yet, rather than raising his sword to block the strike, Frodo had taken a step to the right and bend backwards a bit, just enough for the man's blade to go down beside him.

And that was just the start. While there were some strikes that Frodo definitely had to block, mostly he kept sidestepping them, and the Gondorian when possible. The more he did it, the more angry the man got. Still, Frodo was agile, and had quick feet, so it wasn't too hard for him to keep up. There were a handful of near-misses, a couple of scratches to a leg and an arm, though nowhere near enough to make either of them stop; at least not until Boromir finally lost it.

"Fight me!" He demanded.

"Why?" He wasn't expecting the halfling's question.

"What do you mean why?" The Steward-prince snarled. "This is meant to test your ability to fight, not to dance."

There were several snickers, but Frodo himself just smiled.

"Not really." Frodo shook his head, still dodging strikes. "You yourself said you wanted to make sure I could defend myself, and my burden. That doesn't necessarily mean I need to fight. As long as I keep myself and the Ring out of Sauron's hands... that's all that really matters."

"He's right." Aragorn offered.

"The halfling needs to fight!" Boromir snapped.

"I am a hobbit!" Frodo retorted, sounding unusually annoyed. "And I am half of nothing!"

In an unexpected move he stepped into the man's guard after avoiding his latest swing, using his dwarven dagger to make a small but deep cut into the wrist of his dominant hand; before backing away just as fast as he'd approached. Boromir snapped then, getting even more vicious, until finally Frodo couldn't fully evade a move, the Gondorian's blade making contact with his hip with enough force to throw the hobbit several feet aside and to the ground.

Cries of Frodo's name coming from the hobbits and Ranger echoed in the training grounds; however, one call, in two voices, broke through Boromir's angry-haze the most:

"Little prince!" It was the elf and the dwarf calling him that.

"It's alright, I'm alright." Frodo panted a bit as he sat up; adding some reassuring in khuzdul and sindarin for extra emphasis. "He hit me with the flat side of his sword, so there was no cut."

"He threw you at least three feet!" Sam cried out, horrified.

Gimli couldn't seem to help himself, he snorted, as did Frodo, which actually surprised almost everyone present.

"Frodo?" His young cousins called, confused by Frodo's lack of worry about himself.

"Dwalin hits harder." Was the hobbit's simple answer.

"Dwalin?" Merry called, his mind beginning to make the connection.

"You mean like Mr. Dwalin, from Uncle Bilbo's stories about the mountain?" Pippin asked, suddenly very eager.

"Exactly that Dwalin." Frodo nodded with a small smile. "He helped train me. As did Nori, Kili, Tauriel, Bofur, Bifur..."

"My dad..." Gimli piped in.

"Practically every single member of the Company, and a few others." Frodo summarized.

"Just what are you talking about?" Boromir asked, confused.

The haze caused by his anger was gone, but that didn't change what had been done. He watched Frodo get on his feet slowly, unable to fully hide the pained grimace and low groan as he pulled on his bruised hip.

"You, insane man, just tried to kill a Prince of Erebor!" Gimli snarled at the Gondorian.

Boromir could only stare wide-eyed, not understanding.

"But he's a halfling!" He blurted out in shock.

"I am half of nothing!" Frodo repeated. "I am a hobbit, from the Shire, as is my uncle... who's also the Royal Consort of Erebor, in the Lonely Mountain." He signaled to Gimli. "That's where Gimli's from. And where Uncle Bilbo lives now... He left the Shire for good last year, decided I was old enough to be on my own, and I know he missed uncle Thorin... It was a good thing he left when he did, cannot imagine what would have happened if those Riders had found him before he made it to the Lonely Mountain." He seemed to think of something right then and turned to Gimli. "Did they go there?"

"Did who go where?" Gimli didn't understand for a moment.

"Dark riders, in black horses." Frodo told him.

"Ring-wraiths." Aragorn qualified.

"Ah... aye." Gimli nodded. "One did. I wasn't present of course, but I heard the gossip going 'round. Of a cloaked figure, who offered the King to return the Rings of Power to the dwarves, to ally Mordor to Erebor, if information was given regarding Bilbo Baggins and the One Ring... of course the Royal Consort wasn't in the Throne Room at the time."

Everyone stared at Gimli wide-eyed.

"What happened?" Sam asked quietly.

"The King told him where to stuff it of course!" Gimli stated proudly. "As if he were ever going to agree to anything that would endanger our Royal Consort, or the little prince..." He shook his head, still cheerful. "It was after that that my father and I were sent out, to warn our allies and find Frodo before the Riders did."

"And that's how you found us..." Aragorn murmured in understanding.

"They went looking for me in the Shire." Frodo added quietly. "Sam, Merry, Pippin and I almost didn't make it to Bree..."

"And that's without considering what happened in Weathertop..." Sam added quietly.

Merry and Pippin just flinched, the mere memory of what had happened that night...

"Weathertop?" It was the second time that location was mentioned and Boromir still didn't understand what they were talking about.

"I joined the hobbits in Bree." Aragorn decided to be the one to explain that part. "Gandalf was missing and Frodo needed to get to Rivendell. We were traveling cross-country, avoiding the roads in hopes of staying away from the riders. But they caught up with us on Amon Sûl. We were ambushed by five of them, a fight broke out. I was away in that moment, patrolling the area; I got back in time to scare the wraiths away, but by then the damage was done. Frodo had been stabbed on the shoulder."

The hobbit reflexively reached for the scar beneath his clothes.

"It's where I lost my knife." Frodo added. "The weapons Strider got us did not seem to be enough, I thought a dwarven-made blade would work better."

"And it did!" Pippin exclaimed. "The monster was hurt."

"And it screeched something awful." Merry added for good measure.

"And that's what made them angry enough to stab me." Frodo deadpanned.

He was right, of course, no one knew what else to say after that. Boromir was just trying to process everything that had been revealed: the halfl... hobbit was prince of a dwarven kingdom, he'd been trained to fight, he'd fought the dark-riders, and he had been stabbed... Apparently that was why the others thought he shouldn't fight, yet he still had, and Boromir had still lost (his last move did not count, what he'd done wasn't right and he knew it).

He also would eventually find out how after that Frodo had almost died, and only the prompt intervention of Lady Arwen, Elrond's daughter had saved him. She'd managed to outrun the Riders and make it to Rivendell in time for her father to heal the hobbit. Aragorn and the other three hobbits had met with Gimli and his father Glóin, who'd left Rivendell after warning Lord Elrond to go looking for Frodo when learning that he'd yet to arrive. The two dwarves had helped the Ranger make sure they all made it safely to the elven safe-haven.

The brooding was interrupted right then, by Gandalf's arrival. If he knew anything of what had just transpired he didn't say. Instead he went straight for Frodo."

"Frodo." He called quietly. "Your uncles are here."

That was enough to make the hobbit react. In a second he'd returned Gimli's knife and he was half-running, half-tripping down the path, in the direction Gandalf had come from. The wizard stared at the Gondorian for a handful of seconds, long enough that the man couldn't help but feel cold inside, then he turned around and left as well.

"Come now boys, I'm sure Frodo and Bilbo would love to introduce you." The wizard called as he was leaving.

"Yes!" Merry and Pippin called excitedly. "We're gonna meet a King!"

xXx

It was until days later that Boromir got to meet at least one of the visitors. He'd seen the old hal... hobbit, in the distance: with his whitening hair, somewhat wrinkled skin, sturdy clothes and the dark-blue coat. He looked nothing like a King, or like royalty at all, except for the gems in his hair, beads that adorned a few braids on his head; made him look just a bit like a dwarf.

The one he actually got to meet, was the other one.

"You're the man of Gondor, I presume." A voice called from his side one morning.

Boromir could barely hold back his startled reaction. He'd never known a dwarf to be able to move to quietly...

"Boromir, son of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor." He introduced himself politely. "Though I think you already knew that."

"Indeed." The dwarf was looking up at him, yet his attitude was the one of one looking down upon someone he didn't think the best of already.

"Then you have me at a disadvantage, Master Dwarf." Boromir declared.

"Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, King Under the Mountain." The dwarf declared proudly. "I hail from Erebor, northeast of Esgaroth."

Boromir had heard of Esgaroth, the whispers regarding how the mighty realm had fallen once, upon the arrival of Smaug to the Lonely Mountain. But then things had changed, the dragon was slayed, and Dale had risen once again; and Esgaroth once more had taken its place as one of the great realms of men in Arda. And it wasn't only Esgaroth, there was also its ally in the mountain, the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor... though of them little was known. And yet to have the king standing before him in that moment.

"My apologies if I startled you, young steward-prince." Thorin said then, though he didn't sound the slightest bit apologetic. "My spouse is quite good at walking here and there unseen, it would appear he's taught me well."

"So it would seem." Boromir murmured, a bit baffled by the whole conversation. "Did you just call me young?"

"Of course." Thorin nodded with nod and the slightest hint of a smile. "I might seem small in size, compared to you, even if I am quite tall for one of my kind. But I'm quite sure I surpass you in age considerably." He made a pause before adding. "I am well over two hundred, after all."

Boromir almost tripped over his own feet at that. Yes, the dwarf was most definitely older than him. He was as shocked as he'd been when finding out that the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins, was actually 51 years of age... He kept forgetting that no race aged the same, even those who were not immortal like the elves.

The two warriors, different as they might be from each other, walked together in silence across the halls of Rivendell for a short while; until they eventually reached a terrace on the second level, and from where they had a perfect view of one of the gardens bellow, where the hobbits were seating together. The man turned to look at the dwarf, wondering if he'd been intentionally lead there for some reason.

"Have you ever wondered what your legacy will be, once you've left this world?" Thorin asked his companion unexpectedly.

"What...?" Boromir hadn't the slightest idea how to respond to that.

"Perhaps you're too young for that..." Thorin murmured, as if to himself. "But you've chosen to go on a quest that might claim your life, so it makes me wonder, if you've ever thought about it. I remember when I myself set out on a quest, maybe not as noble, for I was not looking to save Middle-Earth, just my own people; and while a dragon is certainly less dangerous than the Dark Lord of Mordor, he was certainly enough of an evil to go against, enough danger of death."

"And did you think of your own legacy when you set out?" Boromir couldn't help but turn the question on the dwarf, even as he thought of his own possible answer.

"I thought I had." The dwarf admitted. "I saw my sister-sons, Fili and Kili as my legacy. Even if I did not live to see Erebor reclaimed, they were my heirs, they would finish what I'd started. And our people would have a mountain to call their own, would have their home, once again..." He shook his head. "Then the quest happened. And I lost so much, and gained as well. I lost Fili to death, yet Kili has become more than I could have ever expected either of them to be. He's married now, to Tauriel, former inhabitant of Mirkwood..."

"A dwarf married to an elf?!" Boromir could barely handle the shock.

"Kili is King now, has been so for a year." Thorin went on. "And he's a good King. With Tauriel there to help balance him out when necessary, to support him. They make a good pair and will do right for Erebor. As will their own son, when his time comes." He let out a breath. "And then there's Frodo. He's always been such a special lad, a bright light... much as his uncle, my Bilbo... my life wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for them. If there is one thing I regret of being as old as I am is that I cannot go along on this quest, try and keep him safe. I know Bilbo feels the same. But Gimli will do right by him, as did his father in our own quest. And Legolas... well, I certainly have higher hopes for him than I ever did his father. Mirkwood might be our ally, but there are some wrongs I shall never forgive Thranduil for."

Boromir was so shocked, he couldn't even let out a gasp anymore. At first he'd thought he'd heard wrong, the idea of two men being together... he wouldn't say it wasn't done; he wasn't as naive as to think it never happened, but he'd always thought it wasn't right. Still, maybe others races just saw things differently. But that wasn't all. Finding out that a she-elf was Queen of a mountain, she was married to a dwarf and had children with him... Frodo was indeed prince of Erebor... and Legolas was the son of Thranduil, the King of Mirkwood?!

"I always knew Frodo would do great things in his life." The dwarf went on, as if not seeing the shock in the Gondorian. "Both Bilbo and I did. I just wish it wouldn't come at such great cost to him... though I suppose after my own experience, I shall be satisfied as long as he comes back to us. I know that's Bilbo's greatest fear, that our nephew might not come back."

"He has good people looking after him." The Steward-prince spoke before he was fully conscious of his own words. "We will look after him."

"Will you?" There was doubt in Thorin's voice, hard as stone and as sharp as a blade. "I have seen you, son of Denethor, have seen the way you look at Frodo. Except... you're not really looking at him, are you? No, when you look his way, all you see is the thing hanging from his neck!"

"Pardon me?!" Boromir most definitely was not expecting that.

"I look at you, Steward-prince, and I see myself." Thorin admitted with some hesitation. "When I was... well, not exactly young, though certainly foolish enough. When I thought myself so strong and wise, that nothing could take me down. Always repeating that I was not my grandfather, that the sickness that took over his mind, that destroyed him in so many ways, would not take hold on me. Yet it did... oh how it did! So much that for a short time, a short, most terrible time, I believed a jewel, a cold, mere stone, to be more important that my love, my heart, the light of my life." He let out a breath, misty-blue eyes meeting the Gondorian's grey ones. "I was incredibly fortunate, in ways I will never stop being thankful for, even if I also will never believe I deserved. I lost a sister-son, yet got to keep one; got the chance to re-earn the trust and gain the love of a hobbit, and with him yet another nephew. Yes, I was quite fortunate indeed..." He closed his eyes briefly, before focusing again. "But that is not really my point."

"What then, is your point, Master Dwarf?" Boromir asked, a bit harshly.

"The point I was trying to make was and is, in regards to yourself, not me." The Son of Durin declared. "For I have been under the thrall of gold, of treasure, and can recognize it in yourself. The Arkenstone had no dark-magic in it, no power beyond the remnants of a drake who laid on it for too many years; yet the One Ring... everyone knows the power and the darkness in that thing, and the way it seeks to return to its matter. It will corrupt and destroy anything and anyone in order to achieve its purpose."

"I can withstand it."

"But can you? I seek not to deal you insult, Steward-prince, but I assure you, no one is truly immune to the whispers of evil. And in my experience, believing yourself to be above such weaknesses, will only weaken you all the more. You need to be aware of the risks, and above all, need to accept already that the One Ring is a weapon that ought to be destroyed, not used."

"You say you've felt a thrall, of this Arkenstone, would you have destroyed it?"

"Lost as I was back then, no I wouldn't have. But it wasn't in my hands anyway. Bilbo took the matter into his own and..." He closed his eyes tightly, pained. "I did not take it well. Even if I were to live eternally I could never regret anything more than I do my words and actions of that day. The screams, the accusation, the banishment... so close I came to killing the one person I've truly loved... and all for a stone..." He shook his head. "Had I gone through with it, it would have destroyed me completely. And had I been forced to face my forebears after taking such actions... The shame probably would have destroyed whatever might have been left of me."

"What makes you so sure I will fall?"

"That you're so sure you won't. I was the same. Like the saying goes, pride goeth before doth fall." Thorin let out a breath. "Learn from an old dwarf's mistake. Don't let pride be your downfall."

Boromir did not know what to say that; thankfully, Thorin wasn't really waiting for an answer. He simply left the Gondorian where he stood and walked to the nearest staircase and down it, to the garden where his kin awaited.

xXx

"What do you wish your legacy to be?"

Three months later Boromir couldn't help but keep asking himself that question. He wasn't sure if it had been the morose tone in the dwarf's words, or his own fear that he might be right. He hadn't antagonized Frodo again during their time in Imladris. There were times during the journey when he was sure he could hear a fell voice in the air, or perhaps it was inside his own head. He kept fighting it off, kept telling himself he wouldn't fall, he was strong...

Boromir, son of Denethor and Finduilas, older brother of Faramir, captain of the guard and future Steward of Gondor was a proud man. He knew himself well-enough to accept that. He was well educated and had trained for many years to become a man his father, brother, his people, could be proud of. He'd thought he knew everything there was to know about the world... until he arrived to Imladris and everything was turned upside-down. When he learnt that halflings existed, though the right name was hobbits (and they were half of nothing), that one of them was Royal Consort in a dwarven kingdom and another its prince; that a she-elf was queen in that same kingdom; that realms of elves, men and dwarves in Rhovanion were allied and had been for sixty years. He realized then that he'd known nothing at all.

The day also came when he realized he wasn't quite as strong as he'd believed himself to be... as he wished he was... He'd tried his best to ignore the dark voice inside his head, the voice whispering to him to take the Ring, to kill the hobbit and take it... but he was so afraid: for the people of Gondor, for his father and brother fighting so hard to keep the shadow of Mordor at bay, for the Company he did not want to admit he truly cared for, for the man he was slowly beginning to respect and might one day willingly call his King and, most of all, he feared for himself (though he would never admit it, not even in his own head).

Ten days had passed since leaving the peace in the Golden Woods, they'd just reached Parth Galen, and decisions needed to be made, regarding the path to take to the dark realm. Their Ringbearer had gone for a walk and Boromir didn't fully realize when he ended up going after him, with the pretense of collecting wood for the fire.

Eventually he found the hobbit, wandering silently near the remains of an old stone statue. The moment he got near, Boromir began hearing the dark voice again, he did his best to ignore it even as he approached Frodo.

"None of us should wander alone." The Gondorian tried his best to sound at ease, though he was anything but. "You, least of all. So much depends on you." He made a pause. "Frodo? I know why you seek solitude. You suffer, I see it day by day. You sure you do not suffer needlessly? There are other ways, Frodo. Other paths that we might take."

"I know what you would say." The hobbit replied even as he backed away slowly. "It would seem like wisdom but for the warning in my heart."

"Warning?" Boromir took offense to that. "Against what? We're all afraid, Frodo. But to let that fear drive us, to destroy what hope we have, don't you see that is madness?"

"There is no other way!" Frodo exclaimed, his eyes willing the man to see reason.

"I ask only for the strength to defend my people!" Boromir yelled in anger, throwing the gathered wood to the forest ground. "If you would but lend me the Ring…"

"No!" The hobbit cried out, stepping back more obviously.

"Why do you recoil?" Boromir asked. "I am no thief."

"You are not yourself." The Ringbearer kept trying to make him see the truth.

"What chance do you think you have?" The Gondorian demanded. "They will find you. They will take the Ring. And you will beg for death before the end!"

The halfling... hobbit... Frodo, stared at Boromir right then, blue eyes wide with a mix of despair and horror. And in just that instant, everything changed. Looking into those eyes, for a moment the Steward-prince could remember a very different set of blue eyes, those of a certain dwarf-royal, in a terrace in Rivendell. He remembered Thorin Oakenshield, remembered his words.

"Don't let pride be your downfall."

It was as if a switch had just been flipped. Slowly, Boromir lowered himself to his knees. Frodo, who'd been poised to run away looked at the Gondorian with sudden confusion. Yet when he made to approach Boromir immediately raised his hand to stop him; and as he did his eyes laid on the small scar on his wrist, yet another reminder.

"No." He called in a hoarse voice. "Don't... don't come any closer Frodo."

"Are you yourself again, Boromir?" The hobbit asked quietly.

"I think I am." The man said hesitantly. "But I cannot be sure how long that'll last if you bring that thing any closer to me again. I..." His eyes were full of shame as he forced himself to look at the Ringbearer. "I'm sorry Frodo... I'm so, so sorry... Your uncle, King Thorin... He warned me this would happen. And I didn't listen. I was too proud... too stupid. I almost..." He didn't even dare finish the sentence, all he could do was keep apologizing, even as he knew he deserved no forgiveness. "I'm am so sorry..."

"It's alright Boromir." Frodo told him, not moving from his spot. "There's nothing to be sorry for. You did not hurt me."

"I could have." The Gondorian admitted. "I almost did."

"But you didn't." The hobbit insisted. "And that's what counts in the end. You did not hurt me. You pulled yourself back to sanity. You are a good man Boromir..."

The man could have cried at those words... he really, really wasn't a good man.

"I need to go." Frodo murmured after a minute in absolute silence.

"Yes, I think..." Boromir gestured to himself, too afraid to move, least he end up going after Frodo and not be able to stop again.

"No, it's not you... or not just you." Frodo admitted hesitantly. "I think I need to go, to leave everyone." Once he began he couldn't stop. "It was you now, but who's to say it'll stop there? Next time it might be Aragorn, Legolas... maybe even Gimli! I cannot take the risk. I cannot keep pulling you into this darkness, it's not right."

"And what about yourself?" The man couldn't help but ask. "It's not like you chose to be the one to carry the One Ring like this..."

"But I did." Frodo reminded him quietly. "In Lord Elrond's Council... and even before that, when I left the Shire... For many years I've known I was meant to do something. My uncles explained it to me. Lady Eleana, the Guardian, who saved Uncle Thorin's life in Ravenhill during the Battle of the Five Armies... she saved my uncle's life, when he was supposed to be beyond all hope. She changed his Fate, and with his, uncle Bilbo's as well." He made a pause before adding the rest. "She had to go, after that. But before leaving she wrote a letter. She'd seen things, in the future, she let uncle Bilbo know that he was meant to be part of the life of another, one who would one day have to fight for the freedom of Arda... My uncles did not know what they meant, but did their best to be ready and then... and then Mama and Papa died, and Uncle Bilbo adopted me..."

Boromir's eyes widened, as he, finally, began to understand.

"I was raised on stories about Uncle Bilbo's adventures." Frodo went on, for once getting the chance to get it all out. "Have been traveling here and there from the time I was halfway through my tween years. Uncle Bilbo began taking me to Erebor when I became off-age. Seventeen times I traveled all the way from the Shire, across the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, Esgaroth and to the Lonely Mountain. Uncle Thorin, Aunt Dís, and the rest of their Company trained me. I'm no good with a bow, and barely decent at knife-throwing, but I'm pretty good with different lengths of swords, spears, and can even handle small axes; could never train with war-hammers, though, none were light enough for me." He shook his head. "When I turned fifty and Uncle Bilbo left without me, to go back to his spouse, leaving the Shire for good... I thought that was it. I wasn't going with him anymore, I wouldn't be trained. I thought it meant my time had passed... maybe my uncles were wrong and I wasn't the one Lady Eleana spoke of... and then Gandalf told me that the ring Uncle Bilbo had found in the goblin caves and left with me when he departed for the last time, was the One Ring, and envoys from Sauron would be coming after me to get it back." He let out a breath. "It wasn't really a hard choice to make in the end. And it truly was my choice. I left the Shire with Sam before my fifty-first birthday. Pippin and Merry joined us along the way. My intent was to meet Gandalf in Bree. Instead I found Aragorn and he got all of us to Rivendell. The rest, of course, you know."

Boromir did not speak, what could he have said? The hobbit before him had just revealed a tale such as he could have never imagined, there simply were no words.

"So you see." Frodo went on after a little while. "I do carry the One Ring by my own choice. It's a choice I've made twice already... and I suppose for the third time now."

The Steward-Prince did not ask him what choice that was, it was evident enough. He did not offer words of comfort, attempts to dissuade him or useless platitudes, for he knew better than that. Instead, he had but one thing to say:

"May the Valar watch over you, Master Baggins." He said in the most heart-felt tone.

"Friends call me Frodo, Boromir, and I still consider you my friend." The hobbit said with a small, gentle smile.

Nothing more needed to be said. The two were at peace; and with that, Frodo walked away.

Boromir made no attempts to follow him, he did not even get back on his feet until much later, not wanting to risk losing his mind to the will of the Ring again. And then the Uruk-hai were there, and in the rush of battle, everything else was pushed aside.

Boromir of Gondor would die that day. He knew it was coming almost from the moment the battle began; and yet the thought did not make him despair. Instead, an odd calm settled over him. Even as he fought with everything he had for his companions, for his people, for his King... He'd done his part. He had been part of a Fellowship representing the Free Peoples of Arda, one meant to save the world... and even if his life was lost, he'd gone down fighting for what was right. In the end, even when things had become so hard, when the darkness had pulled at him in such a way he was sure he would fall, he stood strong, he stood in the light. That was to be his legacy, and no man could ask for more than that.