The Son of Gondor

by Linaewen

Chapter 50

On the bank of the Silverlode, at some distance upstream from the meeting of the two rivers, there was an inlet of smooth, calm water. Many boats were moored there; some were brightly painted, and shone with silver, gold and green, but most were either white or grey. A towering mallorn tree stood at the water's edge, its long roots reaching out into the still water to provide a moorage for three small grey boats. Several Elves stood waiting beside the boats, ready to help stow the goods they had brought for the Company's use.

"These boats have been prepared for you," said Haldir, with a slight flourish of his hand, as they drew near the moorings. "We have also prepared supplies for your journey, and other goods you might need along the way."

Boromir reached down and picked up a paddle from where it lay in one of the boats; the blade was shaped like a broad leaf with veins of raised wood. He knelt and moved the boat about in the water to get a feel for the weight of it.

"Very light," Boromir observed, looking up from his inspection, "but it seems sturdy enough."

"Yes," replied one of the Elves. "They are unlike the boats of other folk. They will not sink, lade them as you will; but they are wayward if mishandled."

"A boat that will not sink?" said Boromir with a wink at Merry. "That could prove useful!"

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The Elves had provided many gifts of food and supplies for the journey, including several coils of slender rope, three for each boat, made of some kind of strong, silken material. Sam was quite interested in the rope and its making, and seemed very pleased at the gift.

"Come!" said Boromir, eager to be away. "There is much gear here to stow, but there are enough of us to make quick work of it."

Putting action to words, Boromir removed his horn, sword and scabbard, and laid them atop his shield in the third boat; stooping, he began sorting through the pile of goods beside the mallorn tree. Gimli and Aragorn came over to lend a hand. Legolas, too, set to work with eagerness, while the hobbits hovered nearby, waiting to be given tasks to do. Boromir saw this and called them over. He set Frodo and Sam to help with the sorting, and sent Merry and Pippin to work in the boats. Back and forth they went, Boromir, Legolas and the Elves, stepping over the roots of the tree, as they laid the goods in each boat. With everyone helping, the work went quickly.

Opening one of the packs to see what was inside, Legolas fished out a thin honey-colored cake. Merry and Pippin watched him from the boat, where they were binding up bedrolls.

"Lembas! Elvish waybread!" exclaimed Legolas happily, as he nibbled at a corner of the cake. "One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown Man; it is greatly sustaining, the more so if not mingled with other foods. The cakes keep sweet for many days, if they remain unbroken in their leaf-wrappings. One cake will keep a traveller on his feet for a day of long labor, even if he be one of the tall Men of Minas Tirith."

Legolas turned a cheerful eye on Boromir, who was loading the boat behind Merry and Pippin. Boromir smiled back, but looked at the cake doubtfully; he hoped he would not have to rely solely on lembas for many days to come. He could not quite believe a morsel of that size could be as sustaining as Legolas claimed. As he turned away, Boromir noticed Merry and Pippin whispering together and he shook his head, chuckling to himself. He would not be surprised to learn that those two little ones had been doing some sampling on their own.

A touch on his shoulder made Boromir pause, and he looked up. Aragorn stood by, but he was not looking at Boromir; he was looking out over the water to where a ship sailed steadily towards them. The ship was wrought in the shape of a swan of great size; two Elves clad in white steered it with black paddles. In the midst of the vessel sat Celeborn, and behind him stood Galadriel, tall and white. The swan boat halted at the edge of the inlet beyond the tree where their boats were moored, and several Elves leaped forward to help the Lord and Lady to shore.

"We have come to bid you our last farewell," said Galadriel, raising her hand in greeting, "and to speed you with blessings from our land."

"Though you have been our guests," Celeborn went on, "you have not yet eaten with us; we bid you, therefore, to a parting feast, here between the flowing waters that will bear you far from Lorien. When all is made ready we will call you to us."

The Company bowed in acknowledgement of the invitation. Galadriel continued on past them, but Celeborn turned to Aragorn.

"I would speak with you," he said, drawing Aragorn away.

Boromir watched them as they walked away into the trees, and again as they returned to stand at a short distance from the landing. He was curious as to what Celeborn had to say to Aragorn, but they spoke in low voices and he could not hear what they were saying. He shrugged, and returned to his packing.

No matter, he thought, though he felt more than a little irritated that Celeborn did not care to share his thoughts with the whole Company. Aragorn will tell me if there is something I need to know.

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The parting feast was held upon the green grass under the trees that overlooked the Silverlode. After they had eaten and drunk, Celeborn spoke to them of their journey; lifting up his hand, he pointed south to the woods on the banks of the River beyond.

"As you go down the water," he said, "you will find that the trees will fail, and you will come to a barren country. There the River flows in stony vales amid high moors, until at last it comes to the tall island of Tol Brandir. There it casts its arms about the steep shores of the isle, and falls with a great noise over the cataracts of Rauros, down into a wide region of sluggish fen where the stream becomes tortuous and much divided. There the Entwash flows in from the Forest of Fangorn to the west. About that stream, on this side of the Great River, lies the land of Rohan. On the further side are the bleak hills of the Emyn Muil, that look out over the Dead Marshes and the desolate lands towards the black gates of Mordor."

Boromir nodded as he listened to Celeborn; he could see the land laid out before him as if he were looking at a map. Celeborn turned to look at him, seeing his nod.

"Boromir, and any that go with him seeking Minas Tirith, will do well to leave the Great River above Rauros and cross the Entwash before it finds the marshy fen. Yet they should not go too far up that stream, nor risk becoming entangled in the Forest of Fangorn. That is a strange land, and is now little known. But Boromir and Aragorn doubtless do not need this warning."

"Indeed we have heard of Fangorn in Minas Tirith," Boromir replied. "But what I have heard seems to me for the most part old wives' tales, such as we tell our children. All that lies north of Rohan is now to us so far away that fancy can wander freely there. Of old Fangorn lay upon the borders of our realm; but it is now many lives of men since any of us visited it, to prove or disprove the legends that have come down from distant years.

"I have myself been at whiles in Rohan but I have never crossed it northwards. When I was sent out as a messenger, I passed through the Gap by the skirts of the White Mountains, and crossed the Isen and the Greyflood into the north. It was a long and wearisome journey! Four hundred leagues I reckoned it, and it took me many months; I lost my horse at Tharbad, at the fording of the Greyflood. After that journey, and the road I have taken with this Company, I do not much doubt that I shall find a way through Rohan, and Fangorn too, if need be."

"Then I need say no more," said Celeborn. "But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know."

Boromir looked back out across the water at the dark trees that marched southwards.

"Legends or lore, it matters not," he repeated quietly. "I shall find a way."