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.