1. A Strange Welcome
The morning breeze blew cold and Boromir's brow furrowed. He walked slowly up the granite steps, looking to right and left as he felt myriad eyes upon him. His skin crawled; he could not tell why. 'It is July. Though the mountains are close, I recall Edoras being warmer at this time of year. I hope this portends no ill.'
Then - he saw her. Eyes opened wide in shock as he watched her run into Meduseld. She was dressed well and - this was the shock of it - she walked about freely. He closed his mouth as Háma called to him, putting aside all wonderment at the sound of a friend's voice.
"My Lord Boromir!" the Doorward spoke quietly, but in obvious delight. "What brings you to Edoras? The love of our mead?"
Boromir strode forward, arms opened wide for a warrior's embrace; however, he noted the alarm that quickly encompassed Háma's face and made as if he were merely stretching, lowering his arms. He gave Théoden King's captain a salute. "Háma, old friend," he kept his voice as muted as the Doorward's. He took a step back. "You look terrible. Has some illness assailed you?"
"Nay," the eyes that met his were guarded. "I am well. I had no mention of your coming."
"It was a last minute decision, though I would have thought my father's errand-rider would have arrived before I did. I hope naught untoward has happened to the man. You have not seen an errand-rider from Gondor?"
Háma turned to the guard next to him. After a moment's speech, he turned back to the son of Denethor. "I have not and it seems no rider has been reported as arriving." The Doorward looked around him, as if searching for someone, then said in a low whisper, "Meet me tonight in the stables. And mind your tongue."
Had he really heard that last request? Boromir checked his surprise. "Would you announce me to Théoden King?"
"If you would wait here, I will speak with his advisor."
Boromir had to stifle every impulse not to raise an eyebrow, but he succeeded and merely nodded. "As you wish." He turned away as Háma entered Meduseld, and looked out upon the city. There was hardly any activity, though it was late morning by now. 'Is not today market day?' he thought in surprise. Soldiers walked the streets, hands lightly placed on sword hilts, doors were closed and windows were shuttered tight on the homes that faced the square; silence ruled.
"My Lord Boromir," he turned quickly to face the returned Doorwarden "Théoden King has many duties to attend to today," Háma's face reddened with what Boromir guessed was suffused anger. "He will see you in two days time at the sixth hour."
Boromir did not flinch at the insult; however, every hair stood on end as he finally realized the sense of unease that had overcome him the moment he stepped inside Edoras' palisade was, in truth, a sense of danger. "Might Théodred be available?" he asked crisply.
"I am told Théodred Prince will be in conference all day. "Háma's face reddened even further.
"Then, Captain Háma, I will take my leave. Might you offer the name of a good hostelry?" He nodded as Háma pointed down a side road. "My thanks." Turning without a backward look, he strode down the steps, feeling a thousand eyes watching his back, and hoping an arrow would not pierce it.
Once he had taken care of his horse in the stable attached to 'The White Hawk,' Boromir stopped in the inn's common room and bought a mug of mead. Háma was correct in this; Rohan's mead was indeed fine. Gondor's son sprawled in the chair, his long legs thrust out before him, his eyes hooded but alert, perusing the few patrons seated about. After a half hour, the innkeeper came forward with another mug of the brew. This time it was warm and Boromir looked up in surprise. The innkeeper lifted his eyebrows and Boromir decided some kind of message was being passed to him - what it was, he did not know. As Boromir handed the man a coin, he found a many-folded missive in his hand. Gondor's Captain-General took the mug, drank deeply, and retired to his room.
Latching the door behind him, he waited no further, but quickly opened the missive. Sighing in relief when he recognized Théodred's hand, he read the note quickly, shook his head in puzzlement, then slipped out of the window.
Thankfully, Faramir and he had spent many summers in Edoras and he easily enough found his way to the street and the stable noted in the missive. Surreptitiously looking about to make sure none had followed him, he opened the door and slipped inside. A hand clamped across his mouth and hot breath whispered in his ear, "Be quiet." He nodded, as well as he was able. The hand moved away and he was warmly embraced.
"Boromir! It is good to see you."
"Théodred! What is this about? Why are you skulking in stables? And what was that woman doing," at the remembrance, fury unleashed. "Why is she free?"
"Who? Oh! The leech. I did not realize you saw her."
"I did. I had your solemn word that she would, at the least, be imprisoned."
"I am sorry, Boromir. She has become the right hand of my father's advisor, Gríma."
Boromir exhaled sharply. "I remember him. The Wormtongue?"
"The same. Come and sit with me." They walked towards a bench in a far corner of the stable. Háma stepped out of the shadows.
"Ah!" Boromir cried. "Thank you for the warning."
"It will be my everlasting shame that I had to put you up in a hostelry instead of your old rooms."
"Never the mind. You were only obeying orders."
"It is a disgrace that the Steward's son should be left to sleep in a... "
"Háma!" Théodred warned. "The very walls have ears, Boromir. I know not how the snake knows so much of what goes on outside of Meduseld, but he does. None dare speak openly anymore. Treason is used as a catchall for any imagined crime. One merely has to look askance at any in the snake's employ, and they find themselves in my father's dungeons."
Boromir nodded. "I am sorry to hear it."
"That is not the worst, Lord Boromir," Háma's face pinched in pain. "Théoden King is but a shadow of himself."
"Illness?" Boromir asked in alarm.
"Nay. I almost wish it were," Théodred sighed. "It is as if he lay down and died. There are days when I think the man on the throne is not my father."
"I am sorry, Théodred. Do your healers offer any hope?"
"They say it is no malady they have encountered before."
"What think you?"
"I know not. I am to be sent to the Fords of Isen sometime in the next few weeks to command the men there, so I will not be able to help him. This greatly troubles me, though Éowyn will be here and will care for him."
Boromir shook his head. "This is ill news indeed. And at the most inopportune time. I am sorry; that sounds crass, Théodred, but Gondor has been under attack. Black Riders came from Mordor; we felled the bridge, but they had already crossed it. Faramir and I barely escaped with our lives. Fell creatures." His shivering emphasized his horror.
"Why are you in Edoras, Boromir? Hope you that Father will send men to Gondor?"
"Nay. I am on my way to some place in the wilds of the North. Faramir and I both had a dream that our rescue might come from the North."
"I would go with you, but I cannot." Théodred lowered his head. "You have hope, then?"
"I do, but I would take none other with me. The route is tenuous at best; the outcome unsure. The dream spoke of doom, but there seemed to be a promise there too. If I can do aught to save Gondor, I will do it."
"Of course. Now, why seek you an audience with my father?"
"Courtesy - and hope. I need more information for my quest. Father thought Théoden might have such information. Háma said the king would meet with me in two days, but I chaff at the delay; I have not the time to sit around here, waiting. I must be gone and soon."
"I think you cannot leave without causing a bit of a stir, now that my father knows you are here. Nay, not now that my father knows you are here, but now that Gríma knows you are here."
Boromir shivered. "It is still upsetting to know that woman is free."
"Excuse me, my Lord, what woman does Captain Boromir speak of?"
"She poisoned me after I had been wounded by Orcs last year. Left me for dead. If Éomer had not rescued me, I would have died." Boromir scowled.
It was Háma's turn to shiver.
"There is naught that can be done now. I am sorry I have failed in my promise to your father, Boromir. Gríma holds sway over court here and my hands are tied."
"I understand, Théodred. Let us not discuss it further. Suffice it to say, it was a bit of a shock, but I am well recovered now. I would take my leave of Edoras this moment, but you are right; I must stay until I am granted audience with Théoden King. I will fare you well, before I leave."
Both men smiled. It was decided Háma would leave first, then Théodred, and then Boromir. The two young men embraced, wished each other kind fate, and soon the stable was empty. Except for Hathawyn, who sat in the loft and smiled.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.