One Hundred and Ten Days

by Linaewen

Chapter 5

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 there, 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. "Noble Surefoot, I vow that I will treat you with all the respect due a fine horse of the Rohirrim!" The Riders laughed with pleasure; this tall, fair man not only resembled one of the Riders of the Mark, but he also spoke as one; 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.

**********

It was forty leagues and more from Edoras to the River Isen, and it would take him well into the afternoon to reach the Fords. Boromir felt exhilerated to be on the road again on such a fine morning. As the sun rose behind him, the day was brightening and the rolling fields of Rohan glowed with a pale green light. The fears that had plagued him since coming to the Golden Hall were stilled; instead, Boromir felt a rising sense of confidence that all would be well. He had many, many leagues yet to travel, but he was well prepared: he had food and water for many days, maps to guide him to his destination, and a strong, swift steed to take him there.

Before him, he could see in the distance the opening vale of the Gap of Rohan and the very end of the Misty Mountains that rose up sharply against the horizon. There, he knew, was the enclosed valley of Isengard, and the high tower of Orthanc that stood watch over the mouth of the Isen River and the Gap. He had never been there; it was now the dwelling place of the wizard Saruman. He knew the wizard after a fashion, since Saruman had been welcomed to the City by his father many times. The libraries and archives of Minas Tirith were full of scrolls and histories that were of interest to Saruman and to that other wizard that sometimes visited, Gandalf. Boromir had little interest in the things that interested wizards. As the High Warden of the White Tower and Captain of the City, he had other duties to keep him busy, but Faramir had taken an interest in such things. He had often accompanied Gandalf into the dusty archives in search of a scroll or an old letter.

As always when he thought of his brother, Boromir smiled fondly. Well, the wizard's influence was helpful, at least in this, that Faramir had known where to find the information he needed for his journey. Not for the first time, he wished that Faramir were with him on this quest. But that would have been unfair to their father, to leave him alone to guard the City, and would have put Faramir in danger as well, which was the very thing Boromir had been determined to prevent.

As he gazed ahead, trying to make out whether or not he could see the pinnacle of Orthanc in the distance, he realized that the whole area where he supposed Orthanc stood was wreathed in grey clouds, or smoke. Strange to have such a localized storm, even for the Misty Mountains, that were known for their fog and sudden storms. It didn't look very inviting. He had had a half formed thought to stop at the fortress, if the day's journey brought him to the Fords at dusk, but seeing how uninviting the area looked, he decided to press on. If there was a storm brewing he wanted to be well on his way across the river before it hit.

It was late afternoon before Boromir came to the Fords. Here the River Isen was broad and shallow, passing over a stony shelf and splitting into two channels that surrounded a small island in the middle of the River. A very strategic position, he thought to himself, as Surefoot waded carefully across the River. This was the only place where mounted troops could cross. It was fortunate for Rohan that the tower of Orthanc was close by, guarding the Gap and the Fords from any wildmen that might decide to come from the west to plunder the folk who lived in the Westmarch. Boromir looked to the right to see if he could see the Tower. The valley there looked dark and gloomy in the fading light, and there was no sign of the fortress in the mist.

As Surefoot scrambled up the opposite bank, Boromir urged him forward to a gallop. He wanted to put more distance between himself and the brewing storm. It made him feel uneasy somehow. Not much farther ahead the mountains ended and he would turn northward -- new territory for him. Then the adventure would begin in earnest! He laughed with delight at the prospect as he rode into the setting sun.