Boromir in Rohan

by Linaewen
The last light of day was dying in the west and gloom lay heavy all around as Boromir approached the first point on the road where he expected to be challenged. Yes...there ahead. They were there, he could hear a horse's harness clinking lightly in the darkness. The Riders did not as a rule have guards posted on the road itself, but their patrols watched it constantly in an ever-changing rotation. He had no doubt been observed from afar as he approached the border, and they were now waiting for him to draw near. Two horsemen only, mounted, one on either side of the road; they did not bar the way, but they were obviously prepared to do so if he should prove to be unfriendly. No doubt others waited within call in the event that two riders were not sufficient to deal with a solitary traveler.

Reining in his horse, Boromir held out his hands, palms upward in token of friendship. His voice rang out strongly as he announced himself to the guard patrol. "I am Boromir, son of the Steward Denethor of the city of Minas Tirith. I go forth on a quest in behalf of my city and my people, and I seek counsel from the Rohirrim, our ally against the Darkness. May I proceed?"

Even before he had finished speaking, the Riders had relaxed their vigilant stance and were moving forward to meet him. One of the Riders greeted him with a traditonal salute. "Welcome, Boromir, son of Denethor. You honor the Mark with your visit and the opportunity to aid you in your quest. Our camp is nearby; if you are willing, we would have you accompany us there. Our captain and lord, Eomer, is there and he will welcome you and hear of your quest." Boromir inclined his head in agreement. "I am willing," he said.

The camp was indeed not far, as the swift horse travels, but far enough away that the large group with its many fires could not be observed from the road. As he rode into camp, Boromir automatically tried to estimate how many Riders were present, but could not in the darkness. Judging from the number of campfires, it looked to be a fair-sized group. As a captain of his city, he had learned what he could of the fighting formations and battle strategies of Gondor's allies. He knew that a unit of Riders serving under a captain was called an "eored" and that it was usually comprised of not less than 120 men. "Good allies to have beside us if it comes to open war," thought Boromir, "if they can be mustered." He then shook himself a little to rouse himself from his thoughts of battle. Men were coming forward with torches, while another waited for him to dismount so he could lead his horse away to be fed and watered.

As he dismounted, a mail-clad man strode forward from behind the torch bearers. He was very tall, taller than the others, and his braided hair was long and golden-pale. His face was young and stern, but his eyes were bright as he smiled at Boromir. "Welcome, my lord Boromir. I am Eomer, son of Eomund, Third Marshal of the Riddermark. I greet you in the name of my lord and King, Theoden, who sits at court in the Golden Hall at Edoras. Forgive us that we cannot offer you here in the wild any better hospitality than a place by the fire and a soldier's fare."

"Nay!" replied Bromir, shaking his head. "That is noble enough fare and housing for any man. I am not a lord here; I am a warrior like yourself, a servant of Gondor seeking answers to a riddle."

"Come then," said Eomer as he led him away. "Tell me of this riddle. Though the season is warm, the air is cool here in the grasslands near the river. We will warm ourselves by the fire and I will hear the tale of what brings Boromir away from his battles on the eastern borders."

The tale was soon told over a simple meal taken beside the fire. Eomer was thoughtful for some moments after Boromir had finished speaking. "These words of prophecy that speak of doom and broken swords are dark to me; I cannot understand what they could mean. Has no one an explanation? Are there no wise men in Mundberg that can interpret your dream?"

"There was no one who was willing to commit themselves to an interpretation," said Boromir ruefully. "The words could mean so many things. Even my father said little except to tell us of Imladris and Elrond. My father is very wise, but he keeps his own counsel, and thereby forces his sons to make their own decisions." Boromir sighed, and then shrugged. "My brother and I discussed it many times, but we could not agree on an answer. It is said of Islildur that he was slain by orc arrows. But there must be more to Isildur's Bane than a black arrow from an orc's bow."

"And what of the halfling?" asked Eomer. "The name brings to mind a tale we have in the Mark of a little people who live in the north, the Holbytlan; does your riddle refer to them?"

"I know not," answered Boromir, "though I too have heard similar tales." Boromir chewed his lip as he thought. "How such strange words can help us I know not. Yet it is my hope that the dream is a sign that aid will come for Minas Tirith in her time of need, and that the counsels taken might reveal some way that the Dark Lord may be overthrown."

Eomer sighed. "I would wish that such a sign of miraculous aid might come to the Lord of the Mark as well. We have great need of such a hope in these dark days."

Boromir looked keenly at Eomer. "Is all not well with Rohan?" he asked carefully. "I had heard that the King is ill."

Eomer looked embarrassed, as if he had said too much. He paused before answering. "I have spoken without thinking. Forgive me. Yet...all is not as it should be with us. I do not know..." His voice trailed off. He looked at the fire for a moment and then looked up at Boromir. "I will say no more about this, now. Perhaps we may speak of it again, if you come to Edoras and meet the King." Eomer reached over and laid his hand on Boromir's arm. "Will you come with me to the Golden Hall and speak with Theoden King? He should hear of your dream and your quest. Though we have no answers, we can still advise you in other ways. There are men in our halls who have traveled outside our borders and might advise you on the road you should take to this hidden valley in the north."

"I will come," said Boromir. "It is fitting that I pay my respects to your King. Advice I need, at least for the road ahead, and a horse worthy of a long journey." He smiled at Eomer. "Though I am ever ready to defend my city and my country as being foremost in all things, I concede that Rohan has the mastery when it comes to horses!"

Eomer laughed and gripped Boromir by the shoulder. "You honor us with your words, son of Denethor! A horse of the Mark you shall have, then, for your journey to the North! Now we will sleep, for we will break camp at dawn, and go to Edoras, where the King awaits our tidings."

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It was a small number of Riders that set out at dawn for Edoras, Eomer having left the remaining eored in the charge of Eothain, his lieutenant. Boromir now rode beside Eomer at the head of the group. The day was bright and clear, and the horses were swift. Mile after mile of green, fresh-smelling grassland passed smoothly under the hooves of their horses as they rode. Before them, the fields of long grass lay open and unbroken, except by thickets of sighing willows that grew along the Snowbourne River where it flowed into the Entwash. The mountains on the left drew closer as they approached, and a spur of the hills jutted out into the sea of grass. The road from Gondor lay at its feet, and crossing the Snowbourne, wound around the other side to Edoras and Meduseld where sat Theoden son of Thengel. This area of Rohan was called the Folde; it was here that Eomer had his household, where of old Eorl had dwelt and his descendants, before the building of the Golden Hall.

They now followed the road, and turning the corner of the mountain’s foot by the white River Snowbourne, they beheld Edoras on its green hill and the mountains towering behind. The sun glinted on the golden roof of Meduseld. Boromir nodded in approval at the sight of the great wall and dike and the fence of thorns that surrounded the hill. No city could compare in his mind with the stone heights and towers of Minas Tirith, but this court of Rohan was well fortified. Before the walls of the city rose many mounds, row after row; seven on the left and nine on the right. These were the burial mounds of the ruling lines of the Rohirrim. They passed respectfully between the mounds and coming to the gates of the city, entered in.

The other Riders remained below in the town while Eomer and Boromir mounted first a broad stone path, then many flights of stone stairs to a terrace on the crown of the hill. Word had gone before them of their arrival. They were met at the door of the Hall by the Door Warden.

“Greetings, my Lord Eomer!” he said, bowing. “You come unexpectedly.”

“Yes, Hama,” replied Eomer. “I bring with me Boromir, son of the Steward Denethor of Gondor, who is traveling through our land on an important quest. He wishes to pay his respects to the Lord of the Mark, and to tell him of his mission.”

Hama inclined his head to Boromir. “It is long since a friend from Gondor has walked in our halls. We welcome you, my lord.” Boromir acknowledged the greeting with a slight bow.

Eomer looked toward the closed and barred doors behind the Door Warden. “Is the King in the hall?” he asked. “Will he see us?”

Hama glanced quickly at Eomer and looked away again, an odd expression on his face. “He is in, my lord, but he is in conference...with Grima, my lord. He asked not to be disturbed.”

Boromir was surprised at the flash of anger that crossed Eomer’s face. Eomer made an impatient gesture, then stilled it. “What of the King’s son, Theodred?”

“He is gone, lord. He rode out yesterday to patrol the Western borders of the Mark, and will return in a few days.”

Eomer frowned. Glancing at Boromir, he drew a deep breath, as if to steady himself. “My lord Boromir is here on an urgent matter that concerns the security of Gondor,” he said tightly. “We must go in. Please request an audience with the King...and his counselor.”

Hama bowed. “As you wish, lord.” Other guards came forward to lift the heavy bars of the doors. Hama entered and the doors were closed behind him. Boromir wondered what could be amiss that seemed to anger Eomer so, but refrained from speaking. Eomer was obviously not going to enlighten him just yet; he was staring at the doors, still frowning.

Hama returned after some moments. “He will see you,” he informed them. He motioned to the guards, who opened the doors to the hall widely to admit them.

They passed into the hall. Boromir blinked at the sudden change, for the hall was very dark compared to the brightness of the terrace. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw richly carved pillars supporting a lofty roof and a long, wide expanse of inlaid stone floor. The walls on either side were covered with tapestries and a great hearth in the center of the floor warmed the room. Beyond the hearth was the dais; Theoden sat there, a staff laid across his knees. He looked weary and ill, and very old. A pale man with hooded eyes stood at his side, speaking into the ear of the king as they approached. The man smiled at Boromir, but his smile was cold, and he pointedly ignored Eomer.

As Boromir looked on Theoden slumped in his great chair, a sudden sharp fear gripped his heart. So old! What was wrong with him? How had he come to this pass? And his own father! He could not help thinking of him, who also seemed to be aging faster than was normal for one of Numenorean blood. He was by no means weak, but he had changed so much recently, and his burden seemed so heavy. Was he too in danger? Could it be that there was something evil at work here, some curse from Mordor, perhaps? The burden of ruling kingdoms in these dark times was heavy, but Theoden and Denethor both seemed unduly weighed down; were these two vital warriors being taken away before their time? And what of Rohan’s promise to aid Gondor in her fight, would this weak old man be able to muster the forces needed when the time came?

Boromir struggled to get a grip on his fear. No, it would be all right. Theodred, the son of the king, was a strong and respected leader, and had the aid and allegiance of Eomer, nephew of the king. It would be all right. And his father...this would not happen to his father! Never! He would prevent it! He would fulfill the quest and bring aid to Gondor in her time of need, and his father’s burden would be lightened.

He turned his glance away briefly in order to collect his thoughts, and caught the gaze of the pale man. For a moment he thought he saw anger there, and hatred, but the moment passed as Theoden struggled to stand. The pale man turned to him and soothed him.

“Do not trouble yourself, my king,” he said smoothly. “I am certain that this great lord will not mind if you remain seated to greet him. You are unwell today, and should not greatly exert yourself.”

“No, no, Grima,” said Theoden. His voice was thin and tired. “I wish to honor the son of our friend and ally, it is fitting. And I am weary from sitting during our long discussions.” Eomer stepped forward and gave the king his arm, helping him to rise.

Boromir bowed before the King. “I thank you, my lord, you do honor me. I bring greetings from my father, the Steward, and news of the kingdom of Gondor.”

“Ah, yes, Gondor,” said Theoden. “Though I am weary and unwell today, I will hear your news and your tale. Help me to my seat again, Eomer, and then bring seating for our guest. And Grima, speak to someone about some refreshment.”

Theoden sank into his seat with relief as Eomer set chairs about the throne where they could sit at ease and yet be heard easily by the weary king as they talked. Grima joined them, standing behind the throne, as Theoden indicated to Boromir that he should begin. Boromir strangely felt ill at ease; perhaps it was the sharp gaze of the king’s counselor, Grima, that was putting him off. He seemed more eager than the king to hear his tale. He must have been mistaken about the glance of hatred he had seen earlier. Still, he did not like this man. He had a whiney sort of voice and an ingratiating manner that made him feel like kicking him. Yet the king seemed to trust him. He would have to speak to Eomer later about this fellow, he had a feeling there was a problem here. He looked over at Eomer, who was just serving the king something to drink, pointedly ignoring Grima’s attempts to intervene. Eomer handed Boromir a glass of wine and smiled at him encouragingly.

“Come then, Boromir, my friend. Tell my lord king of your journey, and of your strange dream.”

Boromir shook off his odd feeling, and drawing a deep breath, he took up the tale.

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Boromir groaned and rolled onto his side. Sleep would not come. He had been tossing and turning all night, but he could not rest. What was wrong with him? Why did he feel so disturbed? He thought back over the day. Why, only a few hours ago he had ridden confidently through the gates of Edoras on his way to the next stage of his journey, and now he was fretting in his bed like a child afraid of a nightmare! He must have been more troubled than he originally thought by the old king and his illness. It was hard to put the fear out of his mind that had stabbed him so suddenly and mercilessly: fear for his father, fear for his City, fear for the allies of Gondor. But not fear for himself, at least, nor fear of the journey. He took comfort in that, and pushed the other fears away.

The king had listened respectfully enough to his news of Gondor and of the skirmishes on the borders and at Osgiliath. He was mystified by the dream and could offer no insight into its meaning. He had actually turned to his worm of a counselor and suggested he might be able to interpret it! That fine fellow had certainly been paying close enough attention to every word said, no doubt about that! He had drunk in every word, as if he were memorizing it. He had nothing to offer but a few excuses clad in ingratiating and flowery language.

Boromir grit his teeth. Worm! A good name for him. He didn’t even know the man and here he was thinking up names for him! But really...that man gave him the shivers. He was a good reader of men and their quality, and he sensed that this fellow was not trustworthy. He now regretted that he had been so forthright in his report to Theoden. Still, what could Grima do with the information, except to brag of his inside knowledge before other men and thus increase his own perceived importance? Boromir suspected that the king’s illness and his total reliance on the pale Grima was a bone of contention among many at Meduseld, but Theoden’s subjects were too loyal to their king to speak out against him, no matter how much they disliked his chosen advisor and the way he ordered them about. Eomer refused to speak of it, but Boromir could see the evidence before his eyes, and he had no doubt he was interpreting it accurately.

Boromir sighed heavily and gave up the struggle. He might as well get up, there would be no sleep tonight. A poor way to begin a journey into the unknown, but there it was. A long look at his maps might take his mind off others’ troubles. He had a decision to make about the road he would follow and now was as good a time as any to make it.

He wrapped himself in his cloak and lit several candles. Spreading his maps out on the table by the bed, he reviewed in his mind what he had learned from some of the more well-traveled men of Rohan. It was not very encouraging. After much discussion and reminiscing, the consensus among them was that yes, there was an ancient road that took you north, but it was now so decayed and overgrown that it had disappeared entirely, and was really no road at all. There were few landmarks to guide a traveler in the lonely wasteland, and fewer people. The men waxed eloquent in telling of ancient floods and disease that had decimated the population of those lands.

Boromir did not fear such a trek in the pathless wilderness, but he was beginning to feel a sense of urgency about the quest, that he should seek the shortest route possible north to regions where he might find the dwelling place of Elrond. The first part of the journey would be simple - follow the road to the Fords of Isen and across, through the Gap of Rohan by the skirts of the White Mountains and then...north.

Boromir paced the room, thinking, then returned to the maps on the table. Should he try to find what was left of the old road? It showed on his map, leading in a northwesterly direction. The town of Tharbad was marked as a place to ford the River Greyflood. Yet would it not be better to try a more direct route? Imladris was said to be a northern dale, which implied a valley in some northern mountain range. It would be simple enough to follow the line of the Misty Mountains northward through Dunland and Eregion, called Hollin one of the maps Faramir had prepared. He might find more populated areas there where he could ask after Elrond and Imladris. His map showed no major obstacles or rivers to cross as far north as the River Loudwater. And the mountains on his right would serve as a guide to keep him heading in the right direction.

He tapped the map with his forefinger, then straightened. His decision was made; straight north after the Gap, along the western edge of the Misty Mountains. The way would be rough and pathless, but he was confident that the most direct route would prove to be the shortest.

He folded the maps with care and replaced them in their oiled pouch. Blowing out the candles he lay down again. Having made his decision and put away his fear, he was able to relax. A few hours of sleep before dawn would be sufficient to prepare him for his journey.

As he closed his eyes to rest, he smiled with a sudden thought. “Faramir, my brother,” he said aloud into the darkness, “I trust your maps are accurate!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A golden dawn was breaking in the east as Boromir approached the gate where Eomer waited with his men and their horses. Eomer's own steed was behind him, and he held the reins to a second horse in his hand.

"Good day, my lord Boromir," he greeted him. "Did you sleep well?"

"I slept well, when I slept!" answered Boromir. "Sleep came late, but in the end, it came. I am rested, thank you. Is this the horse you would send with me on my journey?" He laid his gloved hand on the neck of the horse that stood quietly waiting beside Eomer. "A fine animal indeed! I am honored!"

"The Riders of the Mark are ever ready to aid their brothers of Gondor, and you honor us with your trust in sharing with us your quest." Eomer handed the reins to Boromir. "Treat him well and he will serve you faithfully. His name is Surefoot, for his feet always find a path. Perhaps he will aid you as you seek the hidden road."

Boromir bowed to the Riders and then to Surefoot. "I vow that I will treat you, Surefoot, with all the respect due a fine horse of the Rohirrim!" The Riders smiled with pleasure; this man was not a Rider of the Mark, but he knew the proper way to honor them and their beloved horses!

Eomer laughed. "You see, Boromir? You are accepted, you have answered well! They will trust you with this child of theirs, though none of us know what your journey will hold for either of you."

"How shall I return him to you?"

Eomer dismissed the question with a wave of his hand. "Do not trouble yourself with that. You will return him when you are able. You have decided on your way then?"

"Yes," answered Boromir. "I will follow the line of the mountains northward, with the hope that I may find the hidden valley. The language of Gondor has changed over the years and many no longer understand the meaning of names, but the meaning of the name of Imladris is at least clear to me. It means 'Deep Dale of the Cleft,' which might also be called Rivendell. My brother has heard this name used, so I will be enquiring after both."

"It is a good plan," Eomer said with approval. "Is there anything more we can do to aid you before you ride away?"

Boromir shook his head. "Thank you, no. I have what I need and I am ready to take my leave." He looked Eomer straight in the eye. "Is there anything I can do to aid you in return?"

Eomer smiled sadly. "No, my friend, but I see you understand our dilemma. It is enough that you have seen and heard how things stand here in the Mark. We ask only that you bring back aid for both our peoples."

"That I will promise!"

"Farewell, then, Boromir, my friend." Eomer embraced Boromir. "I am glad we met! I look forward to your return and to another meeting."

Boromir mounted Surefoot, and saluted first Eomer, then the Riders. "Eomer, my friend, I, too, look forward to our next meeting. Until then, farewell!" He clasped his great horn and raised it to his lips. As he rode out of the gate, he gave a great blast that echoed in the mountains behind the Golden Hall.