Boromir and Faramir stayed in Edoras a week. They would have normally stayed longer, but Laramir had picked a most inconvenient time to “return to the land of the living”, as Boromir put it: less than a month before Boromir came of age. As second son, Faramir had to organize the preparations for the feast and other celebrations including a play, “Isildur’s Greatest Hour”, that told the story of the First War of the Ring when Isildur and his father had defeated the dark lord Sauron. Boromir also had his own preparations: a speech honoring Leilagonde (who had trained him in the Tower Guard), and his own comng-of-age speech on what it meant to him to be a Gondorian.
The week was not, by any standards, a relaxing vacation for either of the brothers. Faramir spent several hours every day in private conference with Théoden and Gríma Wormtongue, updating them on the state of affairs in Gondor. Boromir had the much more trying task of supervising Laramir’s shopping. Denethor gave his son very specific “suggestions” on what was acceptable dress for his daughter, ruling out most things that Laramir would have chosen given the choice (for example, breeches, men’s boots, and lancing gloves). After ten years living among the wild things of the woods, most if not all of Laramir’s clothes were outgrown, worn through, or permanently soiled. So Boromir took his sister to all the seamstresses, seeing that she bought proper skirts, tops, gowns, petticoats, overcoats, on and on. He had never imagined young women needed so many layers – and in truth, neither had Laramir. Thank goodness for Éowyn: she went with them to all the different shops and pointed out what Laramir would need.
Éowyn had her own incentive for shopping. She had suggested to her uncle Théoden that, after the freedom of Fangorn, Laramir might find palace life stifling. Théoden smiled at that, guessing his niece’s true motive, and proposed what had once been a small guesthouse not far from the palace that was now used for storage. Unfortunately all the furniture had long been taken away and used for other rooms, so Éowyn would need to find new furniture, everything from beds to oil lamps. The guest house had actually been Gandalf’s idea: he knew Laramir would need a release from court life, so Denethor had sent more money bags than the ones Boromir carried to cover the expenses. Gandalf had also suggested (in his letter to Théoden announcing Laramir’s arrival) that the royal carpenters begin work on shelves, as Denethor was also sending Laramir’s books, no small library. But Éowyn, Laramir, and Boromir didn’t know anything about Denethor’s and Théoden’s arrangement, and just thought the king was being extremely generous for the sake of his alliance with Gondor. One afternoon Éowyn had sent Boromir off with a cartload of shrubbery for the house and was measuring Laramir for a new dress.
“Your brothers certainly are something else. Very noble.”
“Oh, Boromir’s always been like that, at least since we moved to Minas Tirith. But Faramir… “
“He’s changed, somehow. He’s always been a perfect dear, but… well, growing up he was kind of a goof. Not in a bad way, but he was always in some sort of trouble, and you’d catch him, and he’d just give you this huge grin of his.”
“Surely not Faramir! But he’s so… serious.”
“That’s papa for you. It doesn’t surprise me a bit, that growing up under papa would turn a clown into a true stoic. Don’t get me wrong; he loves a song as much as the next sovereign, but laughter always seemed sort of out of place around him.”
But Faramir wasn’t the only one who’d changed: in his daily meetings with Théoden he noticed a change in Wormtongue, and not for the better. Not that he had much experience dealing with Wormtongue, but ever since he was old enough Denethor had often sent Boromir and him off to all the kingdoms of men, to test and strengthen the old alliances, and that of course included Rohan. Years ago, just after his twentieth birthday, when Faramir had visited Edoras for the first time, Wormtongue had been just one of many of the king’s advisors. Faramir hated him immediately: something about the man reminded him of a slithering snake. Unfortunately the king didn’t seem to feel the same way. Over the years Faramir noticed Théoden seemed to put more and more trust in Wormtongue’s advice. Now the snake went so far as to whisper in the king’s ear!
On the third day after the feast Théoden finally called the three chiefs back in, to discuss the question of orcs in the western villages. After hours of watching Gríma listen, whisper, and speak for the king, Faramir said, “A private word, my lord, if I may.”
“Yes, I believe we’re done here. Gentlemen, I’ll send guards to protect you, if you like. But without proof, I can’t risk open war, I’m sorry.”
“And a most graccciousss decision, my lord, and wise — “
But Théoden silenced him with his hand. “Master Faramir has asked for a private word, if you will excuse us.” All of the men bowed and left the room. “Now, what is it?”
“Gríma. He is a poison, my lord, and I fear – “
“You are mighty brave, Master Faramir of Gondor, and you speak forward. Is this the way in your father’s court?”
“No, but – “
“And it is most certainly not the way here, for strangers from distant lands to presume they know how to best run our country.”
“I am not trying to interfere, but this Wormtongue – “
“Is a loyal servant. I can see that you do not like him, but it would do you well to remember who is guest and who is king. I am perfectly capable of choosing my own advisors.”
“That is, of course your right, my lord, but – ” Faramir continued. Théoden looked at him disapprovingly. “That is all. Thank you for your time.”
Boromir and Théoden didn’t speak again until the day the brothers left Gondor. The ordinary people stayed at work that day, but Théoden’s household, his guard, and of course Laramir came to see them off. Boromir addressed the king: “My liege, thank you for your hospitality. And thank you for keeping my sister. You have my gratitude.”
Faramir also made his farewell. To the king he said: “Beware of serpents; Sauron is too wise to attack only on one front.” He then turned to Laramir and said, “Stay here; it’s safe, and a lovely country, so close to the woods. Stay away from papa.”
“Oh, I’m all right; he just scares me sometimes, but these are scary times. I want you stay here. Stay gold.” And with that, he mounted his horse and set off with his brother and company for Gondor.
After the guests had left, life in Edoras slowly returned to normal. Laramir’s and Éowyn’s daily lives settled into a sort of schedule. they woke early every day, Éowyn because she liked to walk before the rest of the city woke up, and Laramir to write the poetry: since she’d left Fangorn, everything she saw seemed to be screaming to be committed to verse. After a light breakfast the two went to the palace and sat in Théoden’s court all morning, listening to the complaints from distant towns and the merchants bringing gifts. In the afternoon the girls often went their own way, but twice a week Éowyn sat in the cottage with Laramir: Théoden had asked Laramir to teach his niece how to read. They joined the king for dinner and often some kind of play or musical act, then went to bed early, usually by the third hour of the night. Year after year this went on, until at last, Laramir had the dream that brought her back to Minas Tirith.