Laramir was standing somewhere high – she wasn’t sure where, but probably some sort of a tower – looking out over the field. Suddenly the fields seemed to speed past her, turning into hills, marshes, then more hills and rocky cliffs. Up over cliffs, until at least she saw a circle of black boulders in the distance – approaching fast, now she was through them, looking out over a barren wasteland – solid sheets of rock and burned plains (or at least they would be plains if they still had grass), and trees rotting on their sides, torn up roots and all.
Straight ahead was a great tower, shimmering black, shooting straight out of the ground through the clouds. And then she heard popping sounds, saw bright purple streaks through a window. Heard screams. Suddenly she was flying, shooting through the clouds herself. And before she knew what had happened Laramir felt solid rock under her feet. She looked through and notice a hunched man packing across the floor. He turned in the moonlight. Laramir caught a raggly gray beard and a most distinctive nose.
Suddenly she heard footsteps behind her and ran over to the hunched man.
“Gandalf! Watch out! Gandalf!”
And then there was another voice behind her. “Laramir! Who’s Gandalf? Wake up.”
Slowly the Black Tower faded away. Laramir’s fists unclenched, and she felt the rich blankets under her arms. Warily she opened her eyes and saw Éowyn standing over her, concerned.
By the second hour Laramir was dressed and packed, her horse saddled, and she was waiting outside the King’s quarters. Not long after he and Wormtongue came out to go down to breakfast.
“Good morning, my lord. I’d wondered if I might have a moment of your time.
“Laramir! Of course, go on.”
She looked uneasily over at Gríma, but after a minute said, “I have to get back to Minas Tirith. Immediately.”
“Leave us? But why?”
“Only for a little while. I had a dream last night about Gandalf. He’s in trouble, or will be soon enough.”
“That is grave news,” Théoden said. “But two tragedies won’t make one right. The road is dangerous. You could be ambushed by orcs, or – “
“Or I could stay here and do nothing, and Gandalf could die, and this great business of his could fail. Who knows what the end price would be?”
“Lady Lara,” Wormtongue interjected, “your brother Faramir specifically told you to stay here, where you are safe. If you would but write a letter – “
“No, Master Worm. Gandalf would never listen to a letter.”
“Fine,” said Théoden at last. “You’re not our prisoner, and I won’t keep you here against your will. But I also won’t have you riding across the whole country completely unprotected. I insist you take a guard.”
“Fine. Éomer, then.”
Éomer came down to breakfast half an hour later, and Laramir turned him right around and marched him upstairs. “We’re going on a little trip.”
“What sort of trip?” asked Éomer, surprised but not altogether displeased.
“To Minas Tirith. I’ve had a dream, and I need to warn Gandalf.”
Éomer chuckled to himself. He didn’t put much stock in dreams – most people in Edoras didn’t – but if Laramir wanted to return to Minas Tirith, well, it was a good excuse to visit the White City, and probably a good solid week, several days by themselves on the road, in which to get to know Laramir. So he shook his head – but he also went upstairs, and started packing.
The journey wasn’t particularly eventful, unless you counted groundhogs, sparrows, and rain clouds as events; Théoden’s worries had been groundless. Nothing as sinister as a mountain cat, never mind wargs or orcs, bothered Éomer and Laramir all across the plains. Finally they saw the gates of Minas Tirith.
When the gates ddin’t open Laramir rode forward and shouted to the gatekeeper above, “In the name of Laramir, Daughter of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, open!”
At that the gates opened, slowly, revealing her brother Faramir. He rode out. “I told you not to come.”
“Not here. He hasn’t been here for many months, since early Spring. Why?”
“I had a dream. Why can’t we come in?”
“Not come in? Perish the thought! Minas Tirith is still your home, according to Denethor. Yes, we’ve had word of your coming.
“Our scouts saw you yesterday evening. Actually, there’s something going on you might want to see. Yesterday evening Boromir and I had the same dream. As we speak, Papa, Boromir, and their advisors are meeting to discuss what should be done. I should be there, too, but they asked me to come get you.”
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go.”
The council was taking place in a private chamber in Denethor’s castle, just off the throne room. He of course sat at the head, with Boromir by his side. On his other side sat two empty chairs. The other seats were full of old gray-beards, nine in all.
Suddenly a knock came at the door. “Come in,” Denethor bellowed. Laramir and Faramir entered. (Éomer had gone straight to the kitchen, and then planned to go to bed to catch up on his sleep; Laramir had made him ride through the night.)
“Ah, Laramir! Wonderful to see you,” Boromir said, relieved. They all set down. “Where was I? Oh, yes. The dream.”
“I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells,
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
“Well, that’s a bit of nonsense!” one of the advisors said. “We all know that! Of course Isildur’s Bane is always around us: orc-arrows, to our left and to our right.”
“Ay, but how does an arrow awaken, that’s what I want to know.”
“And what’s a halfling? Wizard’s mischief, more than likely.”
“Not wizard’s mischief. I can at least answer what a halfling is,” Laramir said. “Gandalf told me… they live far away. But I’ve also read about them in the ancient tales. I believe they’re called Periath. The Rohan have tales that mention them, though they don’t say much about the people.”
“Well, the dream has to be true; I had it too,” Faramir added. “And we weren’t the only ones to dream. Laramir?”
“Yes, I did have a dream a few nights ago, as a matter of fact. I was looking out over the land from Edoras, and suddenly I saw a tall black tower, and Gandalf – Mithrandir – was standing on top of it. He was in trouble. I came here to warn him.”
“Let the wizard take care of himself,” Denethor answered.
“Be he fool or wise,” Faramir suggested, “he was strong; you can’t deny that. And if he’s in trouble, then our current situation is more desperate than I at first thought. Let’s seek Imladris. But what is it?”
“Rivendell,” Denethor answered. The advisors looked at him in surprise. “Remember, I once read about elves. When Kaänawe was in Lothlorien. Anyway, Rivendell’s an Elvish city far away in the west. A half-man, half-elf lives there. Eldorn, I think his name was. No, that’s not right; anyway, it’s a city, and I’m sure a man could find it.”
“Then let me go,” Faramir said. “I’m the logical choice. Many say that I’m not a soldier fit for Gondor. And while I’d die for my country – and perhaps will, someday, if I read the signs right – my strength is in wisdom. If we’re to look for Imladris, and get wisdom there, then let me go.”
“No. I’m the older son. It’s my responsibility. Gondor will rise or fall on my word someday. My task starts today.”
So that was that. The men argued for another hour or so, but half-heartedly. Faramir’s words rang true, but Boromir’s rung truer. So the next morning Boromir set off, alone, for the last Elvish house of the West.
It took him 110 days to get all the way from Minas Tirith to Rivendell. It was a hard journey; he lost his horse along the way and had to make the rest of the way on foot. But at last he reached Rivendell, home of Elrond. As luck would have it, Boromir wasn’t the only guest in Elrond’s house at that time. For all the free people of Middle-earth who were being threatened and attacked by Sauron had come to ask Elrond’s advice. Glóin the dwarf and his son Gimli had come; there were also elves from Mirkwood who had been guarding Gollum, that hobbit who had the ring for centuries before Bilbo found it. And Gandalf had turned up as well. But perhaps the most interesting guest, at least to Boromir, was Aragorn. He had come with four hobbits away from the west, where he led a company of rangers in the area around Weathertop. Most amazingly, though, he carried Narsil, the sword that had cut the Ring off of Sauron’s hand! Could this possibly be Isildur’s heir, as he claimed? If it wasn’t, then how did he come by the sword?
The very day after Boromir arrived Elrond held a council so that all of his guests could hear each others’ stories. Glóin told how one of the Black Riders had come to his home at the Lonely Mountain and asked for information about Bilbo; he had of course refused, but the Rider had promised to come back, and the dwarves needed to know what to say. Then Elrond told about the First Alliance, where Men and Elves had fought together to overthrow Sauron, and how the Ring was lost when Isildur fell at the Gladden fields, away in the north. He thought that was the end of the story, as far as anyone still remembered it, but Gandalf said he had discovered more: he had found the creature Sméagol.
“Sméagol and his cousin Déagol,” Gandalf said, “found the Ring five hundred years ago when they were fishing in a river near the Gladden Fields, and Sméagol killed Déagol in order to get the Ring. Sméagol went back to his home but the Ring made him into a sneak, and finally his grandmother kicked him out of the house. He first got his other name, Gollum, from his cousins, because of the gurgling sound he made with his throat. After that he wandered around for some time, until at last he decided to hide from the bright sun away in the mountains. And he stayed there, in an island in a pond deep below the mountains, until Bilbo stumbled upon the Ring, and used it to escape – like all of the great rings, it makes the person wearing it vanish. He then took it back to the Shire, and when he decided to come back to Rivendell he left it to Frodo.” Gandalf then walked about how he and Aragorn had hunted for Gollum, but hadn’t found him; how Gandalf had gone on to other things but Aragorn kept up the hunt and finally found him, giving him to the Elves at Mirkwood.
“That was a mistake,” Gandalf admitted, “letting it rest. But I still trusted Saruman; I didn’t know then what I know now.” He told about being hold by Saruman, and finally learning that Saruman was a traitor and was working for Sauron. So it was decided at last: the Ring had to be destroyed. And the council decided to send out nine of their best, representing each of the races at the council: Boromir and Aragorn for men, Gandalf for the wizards, Legolas for the Elves, Gimli for the dwarves, and all four of the hobbits who had come from the Shire – Frodo, his cousins Merry and Pippin, and his gardener and friend Sam.