One Hundred and Ten Days

by Linaewen


He ran over in his mind the inventory of his pack as he tightened the straps of his saddle. It would do, at least for this first part of his journey. He knew not what would be his situation once he passed out of the lands of his knowledge, but for now his supplies were sufficient for the task. Satisfied, he mounted and rode out of the courtyard. He had said his farewells to his loved ones and was eager to depart before they thought of more reasons why he should not go. It had been a difficult task to convince them that the quest not be given to another; it was his alone. He would allow no one else to attempt such a dark and uncertain journey.

He rode out from the city just before dawn. The guards at the gate saluted him as he passed, as was their custom. They knew little of his errand, but then, he knew little enough himself; only that it could prove to be a hopeless journey. His heart thrilled in anticipation of the adventure. Hopeless, perhaps, but worth the attempt. Unknown dangers lay ahead on a long, lonely road, but he was not afraid. He would find that road if it could be found.

He paused briefly at the outer defensive wall and looked back across the field at the city behind him. The light of the rising sun was beginning to warm its walls and high towers. He turned in his saddle and put his hand to his belt. Lifting the horn that hung there to his lips, he gave a great musical blast, as if to signal to friend and foe alike that he was setting forth on his Quest. Boromir, son of Denethor, was riding forth, determined to seek in the distant north the answer to a strange riddle and to bring aid to his City, or die in the attempt.

The sun rose behind him as he spurred his steed to a gallop and passed into the mist on the road to the west.

Chapter One

The day passed quickly, and the next, and the next. The road was well tended and he made good time. The Druadan Forest was now well behind him; though the road passed through it for only a mile or so, he still recalled the strange stillness in the air as he passed. He had thought he had heard the sound of distant drumming, but it had ceased as the edge of the forest fell away behind him. As he rode, on his right he could see the plains of Anorien sloping down from the level of the road northward to the banks of the river Entwash. On beyond the river he could just make out the distant rolling grasslands of Rohan. Hie eyesight was good, but even when standing tall in the stirrups on the high crest of the road, at this distance the grassy plains seemed to him little more that a vague impression of movement, as if waves of the Great Sea were tossing on the horizon.

On his left, the White Mountains reared up sharply, towering over the road. In their shadow, on the foothills skirting the mountains, climbed woods of oak and beech and birch. On these hills the kings of old had set beacons for the defense of Gondor. He counted each hill with its beacon-tower as he passed: Amon Din... Eilenad... Nardol... Erelas... seven in all. The beacon-towers were set in a line all the way to the borders of Rohan. It had been many years since the signal fires had been lit to call Gondor and its allies to war. Perhaps such a day was coming soon. Boromir's face set grimly. He did not wish for full scale war to engulf his beloved City, but when it came he did not want to miss it. The High Warden of the White Tower must be there to lead the defense of the White City.

He rode fast, but not hard. No point at this early stage in wearing out his mount. He planned to change his horse in Rohan and replenish his supplies. Perhaps someone there would have some advice to share about the road north beyond the Gap. Boromir felt under his tunic to be certain his maps were still there. The crinkling of parchment reassured him. He smiled to himself. The shifting of the maps in their oiled packet under his glove made him think fondly of his brother. Faramir it was who had searched long and hard in the libraries of Minas Tirith to come up with maps accurate enough to be of use to him on his journey, all the while muttering of the sad state of the archives. The libraries were vast and contained many manuscripts from days gone by, but it had been many years since anyone had traveled northwards beyond Rohan, and the maps were out of date. Faramir had not minced his words on that subject! Boromir laughed out loud at the thought, and the sound of it echoed in the silence around him. The road was deserted and the sound of his horse's hooves pounding its surface was loud in the stillness. Faramir had insisted that he have some kind of map to guide him and would not let him go until he had researched and gathered as much information as he could on the areas through which he would be passing. It was little enough, and out of date, but Boromir accepted it gratefully. Faramir had threatened to withhold his blessing on the journey if he did not accept the map packet from him. Boromir doubted he would have gone that far if it had come to it, but he was glad to take the maps, and glad to accept from Faramir the fruits of his extensive labor. He owed his brother that courtesy, since Boromir had put himself forward and had taken the quest from him.

Faramir had first heard the prophetic words in a dream the night before the fierce battle at the bridge in ruined Osgiliath. For many nights after the dream had returned to trouble him. Boromir, too, had seen it one night as he slept. In the dream, he had been standing on a high wall of the City, looking outwards. The eastern sky began to grow dark and the sound of thunder growled in the distance. To the west, a pale light could be seen, but faintly, and out of that light a voice spoke:

Seek for the Sword that was broken: In Imladris it dwells; There shall be counsels taken Stronger than Morgul-spells. There shall be shown a token That Doom is near at hand, For Isildur's Bane shall waken, And the Halfling forth shall stand.

Their father had seemed reluctant to commit himself when they went before him for counsel. He knew little that was helpful except that the place named was a northern dale where lived Elvish lords, the chief of whom was named Elrond. If he had any thoughts about the broken Sword or Isildur's bane, he did not share them. Faramir had been eager to follow the dream, to be the one to undertake the mission to find the answer to the riddle. But Boromir would not allow it. Boromir had no doubts about Faramir's ability, nor did he question his right as the one who had received the dream-message. He would trust his very life to Faramir, but he would not allow Faramir to risk his own life if he himself were still able to undertake such a mission. Boromir would allow no one else to undertake the quest. He was the elder, it was for him to go. Though it went against the grain for him to seek aid outside of Gondor in their time of trouble, Boromir was wise enough to know that Gondor desperately needed help in its fight with Mordor and its minions. That help was being offered, in some mysterious way, and it would be a fool's policy to ignore it.

The thought of Mordor brought a chill with it, and Boromir looked around warily. He had been lost in thought and had not been paying attention to his surroundings. He had better keep his mind on the road ahead. He would soon be coming to the border of Gondor and Rohan and he would have to be on his guard. He had heard that all was not well there with the King; he hoped it was not true. The road passed through that area of Rohan known as Eastfold, under the leadership of Eomer, Third Marshal of the Riddermark. He was known in Minas Tirith as a valiant man and leader, so the road ahead would be safe enough for awhile. Still, it was never a good idea to let one's attention wander when traveling far from home. Boromir reigned in his horse and stood up in the stirrups to get a better look at the road and the plains around him. Dusk was darkening the fields ahead but he could still see off in the distance the glimmer of the last rays of the sun on water: the Mering Stream, it must be, the River Glanhir as it was called on his old maps. That river marked the border of Gondor and Rohan. He would be there before night fell if he rode hard; surely there would be a border patrol there to guide him to a place where he could change horses, renew his supplies, and show his map. Patting his horse's neck, he urged him on to a gallop, and riding hard, left the land of Gondor behind.