Boromir prepared to set out early the next morning. Bran and Olwen had provided him with food, drink, and blankets for his journey. Olwen had also prepared medicines and salves for him to use when his wounds gave him trouble. He was deeply touched by their simple kindness and generosity, but their only response to his gratitude was, "'Tis our duty and our pleasure!"
Olwen walked with him to the pier, the little dog at her side. Before stepping into the boat, where Bran waited to ferry him across the river, Boromir turned and took Olwen's hand in his.
"Thank you, my lady, for all that you have done for me," he said. "You have been most kind!"
He bent and kissed her hand. Olwen blushed, and squeezed his hand briefly before releasing it.
"Blessings, m'lord, and a good journey to ye. Find yer answers, and keep safe."
Boromir bowed to her and stepped carefully into the boat. Bran pushed away from the pier and the current quickly carried them away. The river was wide and the current was strong, but Bran skillfully steered the boat across to the opposite bank. He remained in the boat as Boromir stepped out onto the shingle at the water's edge. Boromir turned and looked at Bran solemnly.
"Thank you, Bran," he said. "Without your aid, my quest would have come to naught."
Bran nodded, then lifted his hand in farewell.
"On yer way then, son," he said with a smile and a wink. "I wager ye'll be dinin' with the Elf lord himself before the week is out. Give him me greetings, and say he's welcome here anytime!"
Boromir laughed and bowed to Bran.
"I will, indeed, my friend."
He bowed again and saluted Bran, then turned and strode away into the trees.
For the next several days, Boromir traveled with as much speed as he could manage without putting too much strain on his leg. He rested frequently and used Olwen's salve liberally to reduce the ache that invariably came after a long trek. He followed the river closely; the further north he went, the more densely wooded the terrain became. He was thankful for the blankets Bran and Olwen had given him, as the weather was quite cool now, especially at night.
It had been six days since he had parted from Bran and Olwen. Boromir was resting at mid-day, with his leg stretched out before him. It was not troubling him as much as it had been, but it tended to stiffen up after several hours of walking. He was just finishing a light meal of bread and fruit from his wallet, when he heard the unmistakable sound of horsemen approaching. He drew his sword and struggled to his feet, as two riders came out of the trees. They reigned in abruptly at the sight of him, and with a swiftness that defied the senses, one of the riders had an arrow cocked in the bowstring and drawn, aimed at his heart.
The riders were obviously Elves, there was no mistaking them. They were dressed in subdued colors, and wore no armor. Their locks were long and dark, and flowed loose about their shoulders. Their features were almost beautiful, but Boromir saw that there was hardness behind that beauty, and in the depths of their eyes, he saw ageless wisdom. He lowered his sword slowly, then sheathed it. He held out his hands in a gesture of peace.
"I am Boromir, son of the Lord Denethor, of Gondor, " he said. "I wish you no harm."
Even as he spoke, the Elf was lowering his weapons. The taller of the two, who carried no weapon, dismounted and approached Boromir.
"I greet you, man of Gondor," he said, touching his fingers to his forehead briefly in greeting. "We ask your pardon; we also mean no harm, if you are not a servant of the Enemy. We saw only your weapon, and assumed you were our foe. You are far from home. What brings a man of Gondor so far north in such perilous times?"
"I seek..." Boromir began, when suddenly his leg buckled and he almost fell. The Elf stepped forward and caught him by the arm. He helped him over to a rocky outcropping.
"You are wounded?" he asked with concern, as Boromir lowered himself carefully into a sitting position.
Boromir grimaced and rubbed his leg behind the knee.
"It is a recent wound that is healing," he explained. "It troubles me still, after too much walking."
"I see," said the Elf thoughtfully. "So you have been attacked on your long road from Gondor?"
"I have seen a few battles," Boromir said grimly.
The second Elf dismounted and came forward, leading the two horses. He said something to the other Elf that Boromir could not understand. He turned to Boromir and bowed.
"I ask your pardon a second time," he said. "You have freely shared with us your name and yet we have withheld ours from you. Forgive me. I am Erestor, and my companion is Soronume. We are sent by our lord Elrond of Imladris, that men call Rivendell, in search of some travelers who are lost in the wilderness without guidance. Though you are not the ones we seek, we would aid you if we can, and if you wish it."
Boromir stared at Erestor in amazement.
"Elrond?" he gasped. "Imladris? You come from that place?"
Erestor nodded, looking puzzled. Boromir pushed himself to his feet so he could stand at eye level with him.
"You asked me what brings me so far north. I was given a dream and a quest, to seek for that place, for Imladris! Three months and more I have been seeking the road to the place where Elrond dwells!"
"Three months!" exclaimed Erestor. "You have come far on foot, in three months! Had you no horse for your journey?"
"I had a horse, a fine horse of Rohan. I lost him at the fording of the Greyflood." Boromir could not repress a shudder as he recalled under what circumstances he had lost his horse. "My horse fled when I was set upon by black riders at the crossing."
It was Erestor's turn to look at Boromir in amazement.
"Black riders! You have seen them, then? We received word that they were abroad, which is why Elrond sent out such as could stand against them, to aid the wandering ones."
What kind of wandering travelers lost in the wilderness would warrant such attention from Elrond and his household? wondered Boromir. They would need such aid if the riders overtook them!
"You ask if you can aid me," he went on. "I ask only that you would show me the path to your city. I wish to come before Lord Elrond and tell him of the riddle that has been given me. I wish also to report to him of our situation, there in Gondor. You spoke of the Enemy; Gondor is not his servant, but he seeks to bring us under his sway, and the battle goes hard with us. Perhaps your lord would wish to hear such tidings."
"He would indeed," agreed Erestor. He turned to Soronume and spoke briefly with him in their own tongue, before addressing Boromir again. "I will aid you as I can. I cannot go with you now, to show you the way. I am still bound to seek the lost ones, but I will give you my horse, that you may finish your journey with some ease, and I will explain to you the way you should take. It is a journey of no more than 3 days, less if you ride hard. For myself, I will ride with Soronume. His horse will bear us both until we return from our own quest."
Boromir accepted Erestor's offer gratefully, and listened carefully as Erestor described the way to Rivendell. Erestor then spoke quietly into the horse's ear as he handed him over to Boromir.
"His name is Nahar, after the great steed of Orome the Huntsman. I have told him who you are," said Erestor. "He will bear you safely to the Fords of the Bruinen and across. He knows well the way and he will be your guide. The path to Rivendell is a difficult one for the newcomer."
"Nahar," repeated Boromir, smiling. He allowed the horse to nuzzle him, while he stroked his neck.
"I see you know horses and how to treat them," Erestor said with a smile. "Do not fear my people when you come to Rivendell. They will know that I have sent you there, when they see you come on my own steed. He would bear no one if I did not allow it. They will welcome you."
Soronume brought Boromir's gear to him and he secured it on the horse's back. He then mounted, with some difficulty; his leg wound was throbbing with dull pain. Erestor had mounted behind Soronume on his horse; they were eager to get on with their search.
"Farewell, Boromir, man of Gondor," he said. "May we meet again soon in the halls of Elrond. I would hear more of this quest of yours."
"I look forward to such a meeting," replied Boromir. "I would hear more of your search, and of these black riders."
"I fear we will all learn more of them soon," said Erestor gravely. "More than we care to know."
With a wave, they turned south and galloped away. Boromir reached for the reins, and at his light touch, Nahar sprang forward, heading in the opposite direction. The horse knew well where he was going, and he had his orders to bear this rider safely. It was a relief to Boromir to be able to ride again, and to finally be sure of his way. His heart was lighter than it had been for many a day, as the horse Nahar bore him swiftly away to Rivendell.