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Author: Larner
Title: Talk of Paths to be Trod
Rating: PG-13
Theme: 2010 Yule Fic Exchange
Elements: A request: I'd be very happy to receive a story set in Rohan and featuring Eowyn.

Author's Notes: For Keiliss, who indicated she particularly likes Eleves and asked for something set in Imladris or Gil-galad’s court, or in Rohan and featuring Éowyn. I hope this doesn’t disappoint her. I’ve tried to work both into this tale, even though it is set within my In Empty Lands series.

Summary: In the days spent within Rivendell before the Fellowship departed on its quest, Boromir had occasion to dine with Aragorn and his brothers, all newly returned from their searches for signs of the Nazgûl. In the morning following Aragorn’s return final plans are set on when the Fellowship will leave the shelter of Elrond’s valley.

Word Count: 1,933





Talk of Paths to Be Trod


Boromir found that the Chieftain of the Northern Dúnedain was sitting alone at a table in one corner of the main dining hall that night. As he approached carrying his own plate, he asked, “May I sit with you this evening?”

The other Man looked up, obviously tired yet with a sincere smile of recognition. “Do so, and be welcome, Boromir. I am told that you have been schooling the Hobbits in the arts of weaponry, and doing a fair job of it, from the reports given me by Master Elrond and Glorfindel. That can only work to the good for us all on this journey, or so I’d hazard. I fear that the further south we go, the greater the chance that we will be forced to close with enemies.”

“You do not eat with Lord Elrond and his family this evening?”

“Another emissary has come from Mithlond and the wandering tribes in what remains of Lindon. I fear that all are closeted now with Gandalf regarding the latest threats to the coastline. We of the Dúnedain of Eriador have few people living in their territory, so I can have little enough advice on how to deal with whatever threats they face. I have been allowed a bit of time to myself this evening, and soon enough I shall be seeking yet another hot bath to banish away what chill still remains in my bones before I retire for a good sleep in a proper bed once more.”

“Tired, are we?” asked a voice, and Boromir looked up, startled to find that the twin sons of Lord Elrond stood behind him, each bearing a plate of food. Without further ado they settled into two of the other seats at the table and placed their meals before them. The one who’d spoken was considering Aragorn closely. “You went far and far, I suppose, Estel.”

“That I did,” the Man agreed. “And I traveled through snow and cold rain much of the time. And I must admit that at this time I feel every one of my years, and that I still feel cold through and through.”

The other twin looked to his brother. “And in the end he went alone, as is usual with him, sending even Halbarad in company with others that they be best defended while he took the harder path, trusting in his own skill and luck to protect himself from the cold and whatever enemies he might encounter.” He turned his attention back to Aragorn once more. “We tell you again, youngling—you do best to travel in company with others that you not render yourself unexpectedly vulnerable to wound, accident, or illness. Most hardy of Men you might be, but you are yet mortal.”

Aragorn made a most undignified snort. “Youngling, is it? As if your daernaneth didn’t call you the same.” He stretched and took a drink from the mug before him. “Youth,” he said, setting down his cup once more, “is a relative thing, as you well know. And I am no longer young in the count of mortals.”

The two Peredhil shrugged, and turned their attention to their own meals. After a time, Aragorn looked to his mortal companion. “Tell us of your journey here. We may well need to follow the same path backwards once more, although my heart tells me we ought to skirt far around the vale of Isengard, now that Saruman’s treachery has been laid bare. I travel oft enough to the ruins of Tharbad, but rarely beyond it, and have not set foot in the southern lands west of the Misty Mountains in more than two score years. What are the defenses that you have seen in the Dunlands or the plains of Rohan? How does Gondor seek to preserve its own borders within Anórien? How would such a group as we be likely to be dealt with should we be forced to travel through their lands?”

Boromir found himself shrugging. “Our defenses have been much weakened by recurring assaults by orcs and brigands who appear to have come south out of Dunland to the west, and from across the river where it is most passable near the Isle of Cair Andros. As for Rohan, there have been many strikes at their northern borders, and far more incursions through the Eastfold and into the Westemnet than have been seen in many generations. The lands just south of Orthanc have ever been in contention between the Dunlendings and the Rohirrim; but it isn’t just the odd Dunland incursion that has been happening in the past two years. More orcs have been seen now seeking shelter in the Ered Nimrais, and they often cooperate with those who come down from the north and east. And a new sort has been seen lately—great battle uruk-hai of unknown origin. Tall and muscular are they, and they have taken part in assaults throughout the Westfold and the Westemnet, even into the southwest portions of the Eastfold, which has been much depleted in population. And I must say that we have seen them east of the Mering Stream from time to time as well. They do not bear the Eye, and so do not appear to have come from Mordor. But what their origin might be we cannot tell.”

Aragorn’s face was thoughtful as he slowly ate the meal before him and listened to what the Gondorian had to say. “A new breed of uruk, eh?” he commented. “That is an unneeded thing—to bring about yet another sort to fight! And I wonder how the Enemy has managed to do this? Not, of course, that he has not had the whole of the past age in which to perfect his own Master’s corrupt vision.” He sighed, and took another sip of his drink.

The two Peredhil exchanged glances. “I like this not,” one said. “Yet another abomination to fight that the Shadow not overwhelm us all?”

“Nor I, Elrohir.” Elladan’s expression was dark.

Aragorn looked from one to the other. “And I make yet another who is not pleased by such news,” he said. He turned his gaze back to meet that of Boromir. “And how would we most likely be greeted by the rulers of Rohan?”

Boromir felt the muscles in his jaw tighten. “I cannot say. I remember when I was younger that we were ever welcomed within Rohan, and I was oft sent by my father as emissary between us to Théoden’s court. Never then did I feel aught but welcome and friendship. But this last trip----” He felt the words failing him.

“This last trip?” prompted the Man by him.

Boromir shook himself. “Things were not as they were before. Oh, the King was there and appeared alert enough, but it is as if he were much aged before his time, and as if there were some veil that hid the outer world before his sight. He is not blind nor deafened,” he hastened to reassure the others, “but it is as if he does not attend on all that is said to him, and ever he looks to his counselor Gríma ere he will answer what is asked of him, as if the half-Dunland wretch somehow must approve what he would say. His heart darkens within him as it has not since the death of his beloved wife many years since. His son Théodred, whom I once thought of as one of my closest friends, was distant to me this time, and his nephew Éomer stood in the back of the hall and glowered the whole of the time I was there, but not, I thought, at me, but at Gríma instead. Éowyn, Éomer’s sister, stood by her lord uncle and tended to his needs as if he were in need of a nurse, although I saw no signs he ought to be overborne by the weight of his years. She glanced at me warily, and then back toward Gríma, whom they privately call ‘Wormtongue,’ as if in warning.

“I do not understand what it is that happens within Rohan, but I like it not. It was Théodred and not the King who saw a better horse chosen for me than the one I rode from Gondor for the journey north, though he spoke little to me beyond letting me know he gifted this from his own herds. Not that I rode it long. For I was caught in a flood at the crossing at Tharbad, and almost lost my life there.”

“So they told me when I stopped among those who even now seek to ride out the winter in the village they are now building atop the ruins of the former city,” Aragorn told him. “They told me that the signs were that your horse was able to free itself of the current and made its way southward once more, scraping off much of your goods along the way.”

“Even so,” Boromir agreed. “Some of what he had borne was restored to me ere I parted from them to continue the journey north. Great of heart I found those who seek to rebuild Tharbad.”

“If a half-Dunlandish sort holds the King’s ear in Rohan,” Aragorn said consideringly, his gaze now fixed toward a distant window, “we cannot look necessarily for welcome should we find ourselves there. The folk of Dunland have no great love for either those of the Mark or for my people here in northern Eriador—too often have we all stood in opposition to one another across the battlefield, and the Enemy has always encouraged them to see those upon their borders as rivals rather than as potential allies.”

“You must go warily,” advised Elladan.

“And carry a large stick,” added his brother.

Aragorn gave them a wry look. “With Narsil forged anew and riding on my hip, I must suppose I shall indeed carry a stick large enough to impress the Rohirrim. Of course, that would be if we had reason to travel within their lands.”

“Think you that we will cross the mountains before we go that far?” questioned Boromir.

“As Gandalf has indicated, Saruman is not likely to ignore his presence anywhere within the vicinity of Isengard, and particularly if he comes in the company of the one bearing Sauron’s Ring. Too long has he sought It, or so we have learned. As he has declared Sauron his Master, even if in truth he seeks It for himself, Saruman must be seen by us to be as great a danger as any other servant of Mordor, and must be avoided at all costs.”

Boromir nodded his understanding, but in his heart hoped they would indeed travel that way once more. He had no wish to see any more Elvish lands, no matter how fair they might be; and the Redhorn Gate had a fell name in the tales of his people. It was said that once Dwarves dwelt in the mountains under it, but that long ago a great evil had erupted in their dark caverns and had slain nearly all who lived there, as well as most who had lived both east and west of the pass. He could not imagine any good to be found in the passage of the mountains over a place with such a dark history.

And that night, in his dreams, he saw Théodred, now King of Rohan in his father’s place, riding out to greet him, Éomer behind him as his trusted second, and the Lady Éowyn laughing with delight to see him leading the Fellowship into the land of Rohan on its way eastward to the defeat of the Unnamed One.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
clodia_metelli
Dec. 31st, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
//“You must go warily,” advised Elladan.

“And carry a large stick,” added his brother.//

Aha, oh, I do like that! Lovely use of the phrase. And I enjoyed this too; a thoughtful look at the difficulties ahead, and such poignant dreams for poor Boromir there at the end.
blslarner
Jan. 1st, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
How exactly Teddy Roosevelt managed to insert himself into this I'm not certain, but that he appears to have done--and obviously successfully!

What Boromir might have thought of Eowyn of Rohan is questionable, as is the full relationship between Boromir and Theodred, of course. It is likely that at the least the two heirs apparent saw one another as friends and equals; that they both died at about the same time, one neath Amon Hen and the other at the ford of the Isen, certainly makes what friendship they shared more important, somehow, as the futures of both lands became more uncertain with their deaths.

That Boromir might find himself seeing himself lauded both in his own land and by his father but also in Rohan seemed likely.
curiouswombat
Dec. 31st, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
I too liked the idea of going warily and carrying a big stick. And poor Boromir - it was a lovely dream to have, but poignant indeed, as Clodia says.
blslarner
Jan. 1st, 2011 03:40 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you feel that way, CW. How much of Boromir's dreams and visions at this time are due to the Ring's effects and how much are the result of his own fears for his land's future and his desperate desire to prove his father's hopes for his success true is hard to say; but having thought on Rohan, he had to have found himself also appreciating the possibility that he might also be lauded there as well as in Gondor.
keiliss
Jan. 1st, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
I don't know what to say. This doesn't read like a standard gap filler, rather it's a conversation that surely must have happened. I liked the sense of the twins -- I'm not sure if I can explain what I mean by that, other than they are elven and ancient by mortal reckoning and it shows. Boromir's memories feel very authentic, and I loved the little insight into the slow rebuilding of Tharbad. Aragorn - I liked the oh so human touch of him needing yet another hot bath and looking forward to sleeping in a normal bed.

I have a wise friend who says the best kind of story to receive is one the writer sees clearly and tells from the heart. She is so right --- thank you very much for giving my new year such a wonderful beginning. I truly loved this!
blslarner
Jan. 1st, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
I've been working on my "In Empty Lands" series for some time, and I've been working toward the departure from Rivendell for a while now. When I saw your request I suddenly saw this chapter forming itself; and even though it involves mostly the interaction of the two men, still Elladan and Elrohir insisted on being involved, and there was a way to also work in Eowyn and Rohan.

That this should please you in spite of not being particularly what you might have wanted originally is delightful. Thank you for letting me know!
lindahoyland
Jan. 1st, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
An interesting and thoughtful look at the how the problems in Rohan seem to Boromir and could affect the Fellowship. I liked the glimpse of weary Aragorn always taking on the hardest tasks.
blslarner
Jan. 1st, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
There had to have been at least a few questions aimed at Boromir about his passage through Rohan, or so I would think; although the answers couldn't have been exceptionally in depth, considering the concerns Aragorn voices in TTT. And I'm certain that Aragorn would reserve the worst tasks for himself whenever possible.

Thanks, Linda!
(Deleted comment)
blslarner
Jan. 2nd, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
It's too bad that Boromir couldn't have led the victory he'd so wanted to be able to present to his father and his people. But in the end the Ring failed with him, thank heavens!
ceshaughnessy
Jan. 1st, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC)
It always makes me sad for poor Boromir to not live to see his dreams fulfilled. This was a lovely, poignant conversation. Thank you so much for writing it, I truly enjoyed reading it!
blslarner
Jan. 2nd, 2011 01:37 am (UTC)
At least all he wished for happened--but it is too bad that he couldn't have been active in the final victory. Thanks so, Cathleen!
dreamflower02
Jan. 2nd, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
This was such a perfect conversation! I am sure that these four warriors knew it was as much a talk about strategy as it was about Boromir's journey.

Yet you still get a sense of comradeship in it-- true, Boromir still doesn't quite know what to make of all that he's become involved in, but he seems more comfortable conversing with fellow soldiers than he does with hobbits and loremasters and wizards.

And I quite felt for poor cold Aragorn, wanting a hot bath and having to put up with his foster-brother's teasing!
blslarner
Jan. 2nd, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you appreciate it, Dreamflower. Yes, in many ways an easier conversation with Aragorn and the twins than he'd had with some here. I've tried to carefully walk the line in his answering of questions, but still leaving the situation in Rohan sufficiently vague for Aragorn that he does not precisely know what to expect when he reaches that land.

And I certainly know how Aragorn feels here, wanting another good hot soak to get the last of the chill out of his bones! Thanks so!
mrowe
Jan. 2nd, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
A very likely conversation to have taken place; and I'm sure Andúril counts as a 'big stick':)
blslarner
Jan. 2nd, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes--Anduril tends to make a VERY large stick, doesn't it? Exactly how it was that Teddy Roosevelt managed to insert himself into this conversation I am NOT at all certain, but he did, obviously. And it was interesting to find myself able to write a story for Keiliss that managed also to move my series "In Empty Lands" forward as well. This is a gapfiller series mostly from Boromir's POV that tells his perceptions of the quest, from his leaving of Minas Tirith to his death at the foot of Amon Hen, and can be read on Stories of Arda, Many Paths to Tread, and the other archives where I post.
mrowe
Jan. 3rd, 2011 01:06 pm (UTC)
It always helps to fit a story into a series *g*

Actually, I think I've read one or more chapters of that, but I'm a bad commenter, so I probably haven't said anything. I'll put it on my reading list (if it isn't there already).
blslarner
Jan. 4th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
I have SO much on my own reading list at the moment, I find--as well as so much to finish writing!

Thanks for the comments.
kayleelupin
Jan. 3rd, 2011 06:36 am (UTC)
Anduril very much counts as a 'big stick'...you got Teddy Roosevelt from the "Night at the Museum" films in my head...LOL!

Poor Boromir...

Kaylee
blslarner
Jan. 4th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
I so agree--definitely a "big stick"! Boromir so wishes to do his best by his land and people and father.... Thanks, Kaylee.
someplacetobe
Jan. 4th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)
Poor, poor Boromir. And a conversation I thought might be had, to consider the dangers.
blslarner
Jan. 4th, 2011 09:31 pm (UTC)
They must have asked Boromir something about the journey through Rohan, but he does not appear to have given them a good deal to work with. Certainly in TTT no one appears certain what to expect from the Rohirrim bearing down upon the Three Hunters.
someplacetobe
Jan. 5th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
Certainly in TTT no one appears certain what to expect from the Rohirrim bearing down upon the Three Hunters.
No, no they don't. Which makes me wonder they don't know more sometimes ...
(Deleted comment)
blslarner
Jan. 4th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
I suspect that Boromir had seen Eowyn from time to time over the years during visits to Rohan, but precisely how he might have responded to Eowyn is iffy. We know that he and Theodred were much of an age, and died on the same day. There are a number of people who subscribe to the idea that Boromir and Theodred were lovers, although there is nothing in canon to support or deny such an idea. I don't necessarily fall into that party, but have to admit is is a possibility.

But there had to be a good deal of confusion in his own mind as to what was going on in Rohan during that last visit, as there is no indication that the Three Hunters were certain what to expect on their arrival there. That he managed to convey the uncertainty as to what might be going on in Rohan to Aragorn is likely.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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