[NB: I’ve been going back and forth on who exactly comes to Edoras… the point being that Eowyn and Faramir can’t know each other *too* well before ROTK. So I changed my mind about what I wrote before… it’s both Faramir and Boromir coming, contrary to what I wrote in the last part.]
Laramir had been laying on the large bed in the room Háma had shown her to, looking out the window at the trees on the horizon and wondering what Treebeard must be doing just now. But suddenly the horn call of Rohan sounded from some-where in the city, reminder her that her brother Boromir was coming from Minas Tirith, and would probably be arriving within the hour. She sat up and jumped off the bed, and walked over to the full-length mirror on the other side of the room. Her dress was still presentable. It had belonged to Éowyn, and since Éowyn was tall and lanky it fit her rather well. Like most of Éowyn’s dresses it was in very good condition: Éowyn only wore dresses when she couldn’t avoid it, and even then she usually used simple cotton or wool shifts, not the gown-style Laramir now wore. It was a golden yellow silk, and even with a fitted bodice and a flowing skirt falling to just above her ankles, with simple sleeves just covering the shoulders: perfect for an almost-summer late after-noon, and suitably fancy with the rose-colored lace that decorated the hem and neckline.
Her hair, however, was another story, Bed head, royally: her hair was sticking every which way. But then, Boromir was her brother after all, and was used to seeing her like that. She took a fine-toothed bone comb from the bureau and moved it through her hair several times, then shook her hair out so that her long auburn curls fell freely down her back. She laced up the light brown sandals – also Éowyn’s; she hadn’t worn shoes in Fangorn since she’d outgrown her old ones – and ran out the door.
And promptly ran into Háma. He had been coming to get her and frowned un-approvingly. “Your brother is arriving. We have to hurry.”
Laramir rushed with Háma through the crowd. For the first time in eight years she saw her brother. Boromir, now thirty-one had come into majority and was a man in his own right, with wide shoulders, the cloak of a man of Gondor – no longer an apprentice – and what looked like a shaggy beard.
Faramir rode a little behind his brother, on a new horse, a two-year-old Laramir had never seen before. (Boromir’s was the same old horse he’d had when she left Minas Tirith.) He wore a wool-and-Mithril tunic, the mark of one ap-prenticed to the Tower Guard; but Laramir almost missed him; there were so many other people around. Minstrels, soldiers, courtiers, and sages. But neither her father nor Gandalf were among the crowd. She felt a slight twinge of disap-pointment, but she hardly had time for any, because Boromir had dismounted and was approaching the king.
“My lord Théoden. I am Boromir, son of Denethor, High Steward of Gondor. His stewardship regrets that he could not come himself to offer you Gondor’s fairest jewel; I’m sure you understand, what with the current situation in the east, that it isn’t safe for him personally or for Gondor, for him to travel.”
“Of course, of course. We have prepared a feast, if you, your brother, and your company would care to join us?”
“That would be excellent. You have stable enough?”
For the last three days, since Théoden had received Gandalf’s letter announcing Laramir’s arrival, his servants had been cooking around the clock, fresh breads, all manners of roasted meats, fresh vegetables and casseroles, every summer fruit, and sweets – cakes, pies, puddings, candies, that sort of thing. And since early that morning stable boys, inn keepers’ helpers, blacksmiths’ sons, and all the other lads from around the city had been setting up table and decorating the square. It seemed that the whole city had turned out for the celebrations. Théoden, Théodred, Éomer, Boromir, Faramir, Éowyn, and Laramir climbed onto the new wooden stage that had been built the day before. Théoden turned to address the crowd:
“People of Rohan, rejoice! Years ago, in the days of Éorl the strong and Cirion the Twelfth Steward of Gondor, son of Boromir I, Cirion gave Rohan a precious gift: our freedom. Now his father’s namesake, Boromir II son of Denethor the current steward of Gondor, comes to offer us another precious gift: his sister. For the Lord Denethor has asked that the lady Laramir stay here as a companion to the lady Éowyn. And a treasure she is, if her looks are any indication; for I have not seen one so beautiful who still lives, save of course my own niece.”
Boromir stepped forward. He looked over to Denethor. “May I?” Denethor nodded, so Boromir continued: “People of Rohan, I thank you. You are a proud people, and with good reason. You are men, and warriors, descendants of the no-ble Númenoreans. And you now offer my sister a safe place to stay, safe from the approaching war. For that I thank you. My greatest prayer is that we may one day draw our swords together protecting all that is fair, and that some day I may come and claim precious Laramir from your hands. People of Rohan, re-joice!”
The people cheered politely. Éomer then stepped forward, produced a horn, and blew a quick call. He then hung the horn on his belt and said to the crowd, “That is the signal for supper!” The crowd went wild, and made for the tables. Faramir looked at the table hungrily (Laramir noticed he looked rather fam-ished), but Éowyn put his fears to ease.
“My lords, I have taken the liberty of having a private meal prepared, at Meduseld. If you will just follow me.”
That was a good meal: roast chicken and herbs, roasted potatoes, green beans cooked in pork fat, fresh bread, and a fine white cake with pieces of early summer fruit baked in. Éowyn poured all of the men a glass of wine – the best, in fact, in all of Rohan, though of course Éowyn didn’t mention that.
Théoden said between bites of chicken, “I was a bit surprised when your father Denethor didn’t come himself. He hadn’t seen his daughter in three years; I’d certainly want to see Éowyn if it had been my decision.”
“Well things aren’t going too well in Gondor, to be completely honest,” Faramir replied. “Where I’m stationed, in Ithilien, it’s becoming more and more obvious – what I’m about to say doesn’t leave this table, mind – it’s becoming more and more obvious that war is coming. Mount Doom belches great clouds of smoke. I’ve seen Orcs all along the Andúin, and so have the farmers and hus-bandmen who work in those pastures. People are frightened, and Papa didn’t want to leave them without their leader.”
“And what’s more,” Boromir began, “Denethor himself – “
“Boromir, don’t,” Faramir interrupted, grabbing his brother’s arm.
“She has a right to know, Faramir. He turned to Théoden and Laramir. “Denethor isn’t well. No, no his body’s fine; I wish it were that. But some-thing’s wrong with his mind. Most of the time he still looks the same, you probably couldn’t tell the difference if you weren’t around him all the time. I first noticed it two years ago. I’d been out campaigning for years, out in Ithilien. Well, I came back a few weeks before I came of age, to help make pre-parations for the ceremony and all, and he’d – well, he’s changed, Laramir.”
He paused a moment. “I really shouldn’t be saying this, but – Théoden, are you familiar with the palantír?”
“No. That’s the first I’ve heard that word.”
“Come now, I’d think you’d at least have heard the legends. Very well. I’ll start at the beginning.
“Seven stars and seven stones and one white tree.
“So the ancient rhyme goes. The seven stones are the palantír. They were made long ago, by the ancient elves, the Noldor they called themselves, and long ago were given to Gondor as a gift. The ancient kings put them all throughout the ancient kingdom. Let me see, now, there were three way off to the north, the most well-known being at Weathertop. And then there was one in Isengard, and one in Minas Tirith, and one in Osgiliath, and one in Minas Ithil. Now you know that Minas Ithil was recaptured by Sauron years ago, and that the Black Riders live there now – so Sauron has access to at least one of the palantír. And that’s not good at all: the name literally means that which sees far away, and that’s what they do. Through them someone standing at one of the stones could see what was happening and talk to people at the other stones. And if you were skilled, you could see what was happening in other parts of the world, hundreds of miles away, without there being a stone there or anything. Gondor used to use them to know what was happening in far away lands under the king.”
“Well, this is all well and good,” Éomer said at last, “but what does it have to do with today?”
“Ah, but I’m getting there,” Boromir said at last. “I’ve seen it, in the last two years since I’ve been home as Captain of the Tower Guard. Papa spends too much of his time alone. I mentioned that one of the stones was in Minas Tirith. It still is, locked away somewhere. I’m afraid Denethor might dig it out some day and use it. He may already have.”
“Well, what’s the harm in that?”
“As long as the palantír stays covered, then the people at the other palantír can’t see what’s going on too near to our stone – say, what’s going on within the palace. But if it’s uncovered… “
“If it’s uncovered,” Faramir finished, “papa can see out. But they can also see in.” He sighed. “I remember what Gandalf once told me: ‘No man should know too much, more than he can handle. But to know too little, that also is pure folly.’ I think Papa might do both at the same time. He knows too little to judge what might be shown to him – particularly through Sauron’s palantír. And if he is show too much, it just might crush him.”
Everyone was silent for a long time, before at last Boromir said, “But that’s sad news, and I didn’t ride all the way from Gondor to depress you. Laramir, tell us about Fangorn. Is it really as scary as the tells make it out to be?”
Later that evening, Éomer and Boromir were sitting on a bench atop the city wall, looking out at the land. Boromir took out the pipe he always carried with him in a bag on his belt, put in some weed, lit a spark with his flint, and be-gan to smoke.
Éomer looked at him in amazement. “Is this the latest rage in Gondor, then? To take grass from the fields and breathe it in?”
“Hardly the latest fashion. But it’s popular among the men of the North, or at least it used to be last I heard, and I do enjoy it – when papa isn’t around to stop me.” He looked over the wall to see Faramir and Laramir walking down below. “Ay, Faramir! Do you have your pipe?” Faramir tossed it up to his brother, and a moment later Boromir was handing Éomer a lit pipe. Éomer inhaled too deeply.
“Oy! That smarts! Doesn’t it burn your lungs from the inside out, though!”
“Lara seems to enjoy it well enough,” Boromir said with a smirk.
“If I was as beautiful as that, I wouldn’t worry about my lungs; I’d wa-ger there’s half a company of boys and men to fetch her anything she needs, whenever she wants it.”
“If she’d let them, I’m sure they would. But seriously, Éomer, it’s good stuff. Just don’t breathe so much in at once.” He paused. “You like her. I saw you staring at her all through dinner.”
“Can you blame me?”
“I suppose she is pretty. But then I’ve never paid much attention. She is after all my sister. If you give her the chance, you’ll find there’s more to her than just looks.”
“That’s what I’m hoping, Boromir. If only she’ll give me a chance.”