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other powers and realms that you know not

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The woman is the first thing Boromir sees when he reaches the clearing in the woods. It is twelve days since his horse drowned at Tharbad and he abandoned the North-South Road, striking off north-northeast through the wilds of Cardolan, and this is not what he expected to find when he first turned away from his path of travel (if one could call such trackless wandering a path) to investigate the faint smell of wood smoke and cooking fish being carried on the breeze.

She is alone and seems so much like an elf maiden stepped out of a story of old that for a few moments he thinks he may have finally reached his goal of Imladris. She is oddly dressed and stands straight and tall, with an ethereal glow about her. By pure chance, he has approached her from behind, seemingly unnoticed, and he has a perfect view of the play of the muscles of her arms and shoulders as she pulls back the string of her bow, lets her arrow fly at an unknown target out of his line of sight, then reaches to draw a second arrow from the quiver on her back, nocks it, and lets that one fly as well, all in a single interrupted flow of motion.

The woman is already reaching for a third arrow before he can hear the first one come to rest somewhere with a muted thud. She nocks it and pulls back her bowstring just as swiftly as before, but she does not let this one fly. Instead she continues to hold the string pulled back taut long after the second arrow makes impact. Boromir can see the faint motions of her breathing, slow and deep by the looks of it, but the bow remains steady as an ancient foundation stone. She stands like that for far longer than Boromir would have expected from anyone who was not a soldier following a commander's orders, but she is not indefatigable. Eventually, her arms begin to tremble ever so slightly from the strain, and he expects her to finally release the arrow at its target or ease off on the draw and return the arrow to its quiver.

Instead, she surprises him again by suddenly pivoting on her heel and aiming the arrow straight at his heart, saying, "Are you going to stand there and stare all day, or are you going to introduce yourself?" He can see now that she is no elf, but he knows that disappointment at having not yet reached his journey's end is no excuse for poor manners, so he does as she suggests and introduces himself.

Thus Boromir son of Denethor meets Susan Pevensie.

Most days, they do not say very much to each other as they walk, for these are hostile lands, and silence is prudent. Today, in addition to avoiding any potential enemies, their lack of conversation has the added benefit of allowing them to happen upon a deer without alerting it to their presence. Their provisions have been running low ever since the course of the trout-filled stream they had been following turned away to the west, forcing them to abandon it. Boromir is gladdened by the prospect of easy meat, and he is sure that Susan is as well, because lately she has started looking leaner and more weary than when they first met, though she never makes any complaint about the hardships of travel. However, when he glances to Susan, he sees that though her bow is drawn and at the ready, she looks far from eager for the kill.

With some trepidation, Boromir realizes that though Susan's aim is as keen as any master archer he knows, he has never seen her shoot anything other than dead logs. Even the fish she catches is always obtained by wading into the water and tickling them out. Susan continues to hesitate.

The deer continues its grazing, but it cannot remain oblivious to their presence forever. Boromir comes to a decision. He has avoided touching Susan's bow at all costs ever since hearing her tale of being brought to this land by sorcery (though Susan always insists that she did not travel between worlds when she picked up the bow and quiver but instead when she passed through the stile in the fence against which the objects had been leaning, and even then it was truly a matter of who had brought her here rather than what, whatever that meant), but right now he has an even greater wish to avoid another night of tightening his belt and making due with an unsatisfying meal of whatever meager amount of edible plants they can gather while they walk. In this unpeopled wilderness the very earth seems stingy with what it is willing to provide for a traveler, to the point that turning down any potential food risks future starvation. He is about to offer to be the one to kill the animal when Susan appears to come to a decision of her own.

Still holding the bow at the ready, Susan steps straight into the deer's view and calls at the top of her lungs, "Speak if you be a Talking Beast, and you may depart as a friend!" Boromir winces at both the sudden shout and the inevitable loss of many future hot meals as the deer springs away at full speed, but Susan does not notice, because she is still calling after the deer. "Say something if you can! Anything! Please," she begs.

The deer gives no reply as it runs ever further into the distance. For an instant, Susan allows her body to droop in defeat, and Boromir expects her to turn away from the retreating animal, but instead she squares her shoulders again, fires her arrow into the air, then takes a few running steps to one side, draws another arrow, aims it at a lower angle, pauses, and fires that one as well. The first arrow cuts a high parabola through the sky and plunges into the ground directly in front of the running deer, causing it to rear and turn aside, presenting its flank to them instead of its rump, just in time to catch the second arrow in its heart and tumble down, dead before it ever knew what hit it.

Only then does Susan turn away from the deer. The tears trickling over her cheeks are all Boromir needs to know that congratulating her on such an amazing shot would not be appreciated. Instead, he places a hand on her shoulder and whispers a sincere, "Thank you," in her ear, then goes to begin cleaning the carcass. Eventually, after the ugliest part of the butchering is over, she comes and sits beside him as he works. She has already told him a little bit about her life before, of growing up in a time of war, of her many years alone in the world after losing all of her family in a single senseless tragedy, and of the so-called 'holiday in the country' which led to their meeting, but now she tells him a story of a land called Narnia and its Talking Beasts.

Though the details of this story seem as foreign to Boromir as the lands of London and England, and he doubts any noble lion will help them along on this journey unless they stumble upon some strange cousin of the Beornings, he takes comfort from hearing a tale of a land freed after spending untold years under the shadow of evil. It gives him hope for Gondor. When Susan reaches out and places her hand on his own still blood-stained one, it gives him a more personal kind of hope.

They continue to trade stories as the days wear on. She tells him more about her time in both Narnia and England, though he is still unclear on when exactly in her life she was living in either place or why she would emigrate from one country to another and then back again. He knows she is intentionally vague in parts of her retellings, but it seems to be more for the sake of maintaining simplicity in the narrative rather than to perpetuate any deception. He does not worry that she may have possibly oversimplified her tales to an excessive degree until they reach Imladris and Gandalf sees her, bows deeply, and greets her as, "Queen Susan."

Later, once he gets her alone again and manages to sputter out something between an apology for not realizing and a demand for an explanation, she tells him, "I did not mention it because it isn't important."

"How could such a thing as you being a queen possibly be unimportant?"

"Because I was told by my kingdom's creator in no uncertain terms that I will never see it again," Susan says.

Boromir has no answer to that, but his heart breaks for her, because regardless of how vague she has been in her storytelling, the smile on her face when she talks about Cair Paravel and Narnia has always been the exact same smile which Boromir knows he wears whenever he talks about Minas Tirith and Gondor.

Susan takes some time to warm up to Gandalf, but Boromir does not know if that is because she distrusts wizards on general principle or resents his disclosure of her status as queen. Her manner is free and easy with all the rest of the Fellowship. She pits her archery skills against Legolas's and talks mining and craft with Gimli. She shares poems and songs with Frodo, recipes with Sam, and political tips with Merry and Pippin, both of whom Boromir is surprised to learn are eldest sons being groomed to become leaders of their lands as much as hobbits have any leaders at all. With Aragorn she discusses healing lore, though she always insists that her younger sister, Lucy, far excelled her in many areas of expertise but in the healing arts most of all.

In the early days of the Fellowship's journey together, Boromir suffers a twinge of jealousy every time he sees Susan together with Aragorn, even as he tells himself that it is perfectly logical for the queen to be matched with the long lost king. He tries to distance himself, to step aside for Aragorn as a Steward should step aside and relinquish his temporary position to the rightful ruler, but it is not long before Susan notices and begins taking measures to ensure that he cannot pull away from his close association with her without first giving a reason for his withdrawal. Then, when he tries to explain himself, she laughs long and full as he had not known she was capable of doing. When she laughs like this, she is so full of life and humanity that it makes her radiantly beautiful, even more so than usual, even though she is most likely laughing at him and not at the general absurdity of the situation as she tries to insist while gasping for breath between peals of laughter.

"Stepping aside to ease Aragorn's way with me?" she finally says once she has reined in her mirth to speak in full sentences again. "Heavens, but the ridiculousness of men is the same, regardless of what world they were born in. What makes you think he would have me or I him? Even if I had any interest in competing for a man's affections against a woman who is said to be the fairest and most talented elf maiden to have been born in the past thousand years, I still would not seek to pair myself with one who seems as if someone took both of my brothers and combined them into a single amalgamated being." She gave a shudder that did not seem to be entirely in jest. "Such a union would feel unnatural enough to be unholy."

Boromir cannot bring himself to ask if he reminds her of her brothers as well, not when he knows he should not allow himself to dwell on such a question in the middle of a quest to save his home and possibly the whole race of Men from the evil of Sauron, but the way Susan has been interweaving her fingers with his own as she always does while they converse, a way which he now realizes he has never seen her do with Aragorn, suggests that she does not. The thought fills him with silent joy.

As the Fellowship departs from Lothlorien, Galadriel gives him a ring for a parting gift. It holds no power that he can feel, not like the Ring that Frodo carries which Boromir knows could vanquish all enemies of Gondor if only he can make the halfling see enough reason to let use it, but this ring is truly beautiful where the other is plain. It is delicate mithril wrought into intertwining vines cradling a single bright diamond cut in the shape of a flower blossom, fine as only elven craftsmanship can make, and it is too small for any of his fingers. At first, Boromir thinks the Lady of the wood is mocking him, but when he looks from the ring to her eyes, she pins him with her stare as she did the first time he saw her, and he feels no malice or even a possible test of his worthiness like she had given him before.

When she speaks, her voice is clear but so quiet that Boromir wonders if he is the only one who can hear her. "It is true this ring holds no power," she says, "save for the weight of any promise you choose to make with it, but sometimes that is all that is needed. It does not fit you because not all rings are meant to be kept by their owners. Do not wait too long to give it away, for time is short, especially for a son of Man." At his look of confusion, she gives him an enigmatic smile but says no more on the matter. Then she gives him a second gift in the form of a golden belt which awes everyone with its beauty and craftsmanship, and Boromir agrees it is a very fine gift, but mostly he wonders if the others even noticed the ring at all.

Then it is Susan's turn, and Galadriel gives her a small crystal phial on a golden chain, saying, "To you, Queen Susan Pevensie, I give you the light of a star which has never shown in the skies of Middle Earth but was instead carried here by the first elves when first this world was peopled. I cannot tell you its name, for it is unknown even to my eldest of kin, but I have reason to believe you will recognize it as starlight you have seen before."

Susan gasped. "I do recognize it, My Lady," she said, receiving the phial with a look of reverence both for the gift and for the giver. "It is starlight from a star that shone over people and places I loved well. I long ago stopped daring to hope that I might ever see its like again, and I thank you for it with all my heart." She puts the chain around her neck and clutches the phial in her hand as if she worries it might slip away like sand through her fingers if she does not hold it tightly enough.

Galadriel smiles gently and says, "May it remind you that not everything that is lost must be lost forever, and even that which perishes may sometimes be found again by those blessed enough to pass between worlds, though all ways seem shut."

Boromir blinks, and Galadriel has already turned her attention to the hobbits. Susan is still holding her phial of starlight in her hand, though no longer so tightly. She stares at it for a moment longer, seeming both contented and mildly bemused, then tucks it inside of her shirt. As she does so, sunlight and captured starlight both reflect off of what looks to be a large silver ring sharing the chain, just a flash before the lot is hidden from view. It does not seem important though, and he has already forgotten the imagined trick of the light before their departing boats pass the first bend in the river.

Susan is the last thing Boromir sees as his sight fails him. He thinks she may have taken his hand in hers, but he cannot be certain. She is weeping again, and he is once again struck with wonder that someone so easily grieved could also have such strength of spirit. He regrets having succumbed to the temptation of the Ring and thinks that if he were somehow to survive these wounds he should carry that shame forever. He regrets not being able to save Merry and Pippin. He regrets knowing he will never see his beloved homeland again. He regrets a thousand missed opportunities. However, at this very moment Boromir's greatest regret of all is that his beloved Susan Pevensie is weeping on his behalf, and he hates being the one to cause her pain.

Aragorn is asking him another question, and Boromir knows that he should answer, knows that answering could be the difference between life and death for the hobbits, but he can't force his mouth to move. Darkness is crowding in around the edges of his vision, and even the pain from his wounds is ebbing away to numbness. Susan leans even closer than she already is and presses a kiss to his forehead. His last conscious thought is a wish for a chance to hold Susan and kiss her as he has long dreamed of doing but has never been brave enough to try. Everything goes black.

Thus Boromir son of Denethor dies.

Susan is not the first thing Boromir sees when he awakens, because when he opens his eyes he finds himself flat on his back and staring up at tall green grass leaning down around him and framing his view of clear blue open sky. He can hear her, though, muttering a stream of profanity the likes of which would make an orc blush. At first Boromir worries that he is the subject of her ire, but some of her descriptions include visiting creative wrath upon someone's mane and tail and doing anatomically improbable things to wizards with their own staffs, so he figures he is safe from harm for now. In fact, now that he thinks about it, he distinctly lacking in bodily harm given the fact that his last memories are of being shot full of arrows and bleeding to death.

He levers himself into a sitting position and looks around to find himself sitting at the edge of a field, with both his body and clothing surprisingly free from any damage. He sees Susan kneeling several yards away with her back to a zig-zag stile passing through a rough wooden fence which stretches off in either direction. Her hands are clutching clumps of the same tall grass he is sitting in, as if she has been interrupted in the act of ripping them out by the roots in anger. She is frozen in place and staring at him with a look of shock. The sun is high, and the air is warm and heavy with the scents of summer, and Susan still is not moving. She looks different, he realizes, younger and less careworn, exactly as she did when they first met.

"Susan, do you know me?" he finally asks, because he has the sudden gut-wrenching fear that he has somehow gone back in time to before their first meeting and is now a stranger to her. The idea of his beloved Susan not knowing him is even more terrifying to him than the prospect of immediate death has ever been.

Luckily for him, his question seems to break whatever uncertainty has been holding her in place. With a cry of, "Boromir!" she staggers forward and throws her arms around him, holding him tight and planting kisses all over his face as if the two of them were the long lost lovers which they had never had the chance to become. In between kisses, Susan unleashes a flood of words, telling Boromir of the fate of all the Fellowship, and of the destruction of the Ring, and of the fall of Sauron, and of Faramir marrying the woman who slew the Witch King of Angmar, and of the beauty of the White Tree blooming, and of a certain meddling formerly-grey wizard telling her he needed to talk to her and then pushing her through the ruins of a stone archway and back into her own world just moments ago.

She is sobbing now, but this time she is shedding tears of joy, and Boromir begins returning as many of her kisses as he can, until he kisses her full on the mouth, long and deep, for as long as she will let him (which turns out to be for a very long time indeed) because it is the one place on her face he has not kissed her yet. And somehow in the middle of it all he remembers the ring Galadriel gave him and realizes what it has always been meant for. Deciding he has wasted enough time already and will not waste this unexpected second chance, he fumbles the tiny ring out of his pocket and, with a question he does not get to finish asking before Susan says, "yes," slides it onto her finger. It fits her perfectly.

There will be time for questioning and planning later. Right now they are both too distracted by the joy of being alive, together, in a land free from the shadow of evil with the certainty that whatever the future holds will be brighter than the past.

Thus Boromir son of Denethor and Susan Pevensie begin the long and complicated but very enjoyable process of living happily ever after.

The End