The last light of day was dying in the west and gloom lay heavy all around as Boromir approached the first point on the road where he expected to be challenged. Yes...there ahead. They were there, he could hear a horse's harness clinking lightly in the darkness. The Riders did not as a rule have guards posted on the road itself, but their patrols watched it constantly in an ever-changing rotation. He had no doubt been observed from afar as he approached the border, and they were now waiting for him to draw near. Two horsemen only, mounted, one on either side of the road; they did not bar the way, but they were obviously prepared to do so if he should prove to be unfriendly. No doubt others waited within call in the event that two riders were not sufficient to deal with a solitary traveler.
Reining in his horse, Boromir held out his hands, palms upward in token of friendship. His voice rang out strongly as he announced himself to the guard patrol. "I am Boromir, son of the Steward Denethor of the city of Minas Tirith. I go forth on a quest in behalf of my city and my people, and I seek counsel from the Rohirrim, our ally against the Darkness. May I proceed?"
Even before he had finished speaking, the Riders had relaxed their vigilant stance and were moving forward to meet him. One of the Riders greeted him with a traditonal salute. "Welcome, Boromir, son of Denethor. You honor the Mark with your visit and the opportunity to aid you in your quest. Our camp is nearby; if you are willing, we would have you accompany us there. Our captain and lord, Eomer, is there and he will welcome you and hear of your quest." Boromir inclined his head in agreement. "I am willing," he said.
The camp was indeed not far, as the swift horse travels, but far enough away that the large group with its many fires could not be observed from the road. As he rode into camp, Boromir automatically tried to estimate how many Riders were present, but could not in the darkness. Judging from the number of campfires, it looked to be a fair-sized group. As a captain of his city, he had learned what he could of the fighting formations and battle strategies of Gondor's allies. He knew that a unit of Riders serving under a captain was called an "eored" and that it was usually comprised of not less than 120 men. "Good allies to have beside us if it comes to open war," thought Boromir, "if they can be mustered." He then shook himself a little to rouse himself from his thoughts of battle. Men were coming forward with torches, while another waited for him to dismount so he could lead his horse away to be fed and watered.
As he dismounted, a mail-clad man strode forward from behind the torch bearers. He was very tall, taller than the others, and his braided hair was long and golden-pale. His face was young and stern, but his eyes were bright as he smiled at Boromir. "Welcome, my lord Boromir. I am Eomer, son of Eomund, Third Marshal of the Riddermark. I greet you in the name of my lord and King, Theoden, who sits at court in the Golden Hall at Edoras. Forgive us that we cannot offer you here in the wild any better hospitality than a place by the fire and a soldier's fare."
"Nay!" replied Bormir, shaking his head. "That is noble enough fare and housing for any man. I am not a lord here; I am a warrior like yourself, a servant of Gondor seeking answers to a riddle."
"Come then," said Eomer as he led him away. "Tell me of this riddle. Though the season is warm, the air is cool here in the grasslands near the river. We will warm ourselves by the fire and I will hear the tale of what brings Boromir away from his battles on the eastern borders."
The tale was soon told over a simple meal taken beside the fire. Eomer was thoughtful for some moments after Boromir had finished speaking. "These words of prophecy that speak of doom and broken swords are dark to me; I cannot understand what they could mean. Has no one an explanation? Are there no wise men in Mundberg that can interpret your dream?"
"There was no one who was willing to commit themselves to an interpretation," said Boromir ruefully. "The words could mean so many things. Even my father said little except to tell us of Imladris and Elrond. My father is very wise, but he keeps his own counsel, and thereby forces his sons to make their own decisions." Boromir sighed, and then shrugged. "My brother and I discussed it many times, but we could not agree on an answer. It is said of Islildur that he was slain by orc arrows. But there must be more to Isildur's Bane than a black arrow from an orc's bow."
"And what of the halfling?" asked Eomer. "The name brings to mind a tale we have in the Mark of a little people who live in the north, the Holbytlan; does your riddle refer to them?"
"I know not," answered Boromir, "though I too have heard similar tales." Boromir chewed his lip as he thought. "How such strange words can help us I know not. Yet it is my hope that the dream is a sign that aid will come for Minas Tirith in her time of need, and that the counsels taken might reveal some way that the Dark Lord may be overthrown."
Eomer sighed. "I would wish that such a sign of miraculous aid might come to the Lord of the Mark as well. We have great need of such a hope in these dark days."
Boromir looked keenly at Eomer. "Is all not well with Rohan?" he asked carefully. "I had heard that the King is ill."
Eomer looked embarrassed, as if he had said too much. He paused before answering. "I have spoken without thinking. Forgive me. Yet...all is not as it should be with us. I do not know..." His voice trailed off. He looked at the fire for a moment and then looked up at Boromir. "I will say no more about this, now. Perhaps we may speak of it again, if you come to Edoras and meet the King." Eomer reached over and laid his hand on Boromir's arm. "Will you come with me to the Golden Hall and speak with Theoden King? He should hear of your dream and your quest. Though we have no answers, we can still advise you in other ways. There are men in our halls who have traveled outside our borders and might advise you on the road you should take to this hidden valley in the north."
"I will come," said Boromir. "It is fitting that I pay my respects to your King. Advice I need, at least for the road ahead, and a horse worthy of a long journey." He smiled at Eomer. "Though I am ever ready to defend my city and my country as being foremost in all things, I concede that Rohan has the mastery when it comes to horses!"
Eomer laughed and gripped Boromir by the shoulder. "You honor us with your words, son of Denethor! A horse of the Mark you shall have, then, for your journey to the North! Now we will sleep, for we will break camp at dawn, and go to Edoras, where the King awaits our tidings."