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The adults had spoken in whispers, but Boromir woke. "Is it evening, yet?"
"Nay, 'tis at least an hour before the sun sets. Go back to sleep."
"I have slept enough, Éomund. May I step outside?"
The Rohir nodded and Boromir rose from Faramir's cot. His brother still slept; Boromir left his side and walked through the door.
Théodred was sitting on a water barrel outside the door. He smiled. "So Faramir is well?"
"He sleeps deeply now. I suppose he needs it," Boromir sighed.
"I need some time walking. My legs are stiff." Théodred motioned for Boromir to join him. "Let us go up by that rock. I'm sure we can see far if we stand upon it."
Boromir looked up; a smile lightening his face. "Race you there!" He bolted forward. Théodred was hard-pressed to keep up with him. By the time he reached the rock, Boromir had climbed up, his eyes turned eastward. "I will be most happy when we finally enter Minas Tirith," he said quietly, the laughter washed from his eyes.
Cold, wet snow hit him in the neck and fell inside his tunic, making him gasp with shock. Looking around, he saw Théodred preparing another missile. Quickly jumping off the rock, he scooped up a wad of snow and threw it hard and fast at his friend, but Théodred ducked. Boromir scrambled further from him, lunging towards another rock to hide as Théodred's next throw almost caught him again.
Boromir had missed twice now and was beginning to regret leaving the hut. Another shot struck him full in the face. By now, a little angry, he jumped behind another rock, scooped up more snow, packed it tighter than before, and then, peeking around the stone, located his quarry. He found Théodred only paces from him. He threw the ball of snow at the surprised boy, finally hitting his target. Théodred sputtered as the snow covered his mouth and nose. He lunged forward, grabbed Boromir and the two boys went tumbling down towards the rock. Hitting it hard, Boromir grunted, and then laughed as Théodred's motion propelled him into the same rock. They sat there for a moment, both trying to catch their breath.
Indis' call wakened them to their mission.
"We will continue this another day, my friend," Boromir said as he quickly stood up and brushed the snow from his tunic.
"You are now the Steward of Gondor?" Théodred asked softly.
Boromir stared at him. A shiver ran down his arms, his spine and to his toes. "I suppose I am now."
"Then we will probably never do this again." Théodred looked wistfully at his friend. "I will miss these times."
Boromir finally understood why his friend asked the question. " Théodred, I am not dying. I am not being held prisoner. Indis will be Regent while I train. It will be hard work, but I know we will see each other again, and still be able to laugh. Do not think this way, afore I yield to sadness." While he spoke, he reached down, pulled another wad of snow into his hands, shaped it, and threw it at Théodred. It hit the lad with a whack, much to Boromir's delight. He turned and ran as fast as he could to the hut. Théodred never caught him.
The frown on Éomund's face stopped him as he ran into the hut. He closed the covering behind him and walked towards Faramir's cot. Touching his brother's forehead, he sighed. No fever. "He still sleeps?" He turned towards Indis. "Is he well?"
"Aye, Boromir. But he needs his rest. We have pressed him too hard. We have all been pressed too hard. I have decided to stay here another night and day. The warden is an old and dear friend of your father's; he can be trusted." She smiled at the question in his eyes. "Did not your father ever tell you of his days as beacon-watcher?" He shook his head. "I will tell you one day, but not now. I do not think anyone knows of our whereabouts. We would keep it this way. Théoden King should be passing our position on the morrow, according to Baldor. I have decided not to use the North Gate. We will go through the Drúadan Forest and come in behind Minas Tirith. There is a small entranceway where Rath Dínen and the mountain touch. We will enter there, find Théoden King and, come what may, place you as Steward."
"I know the entrance well, Amma. Faramir and I…" he paused, his face red with embarrassment as he realized he had been found out by his own admission. "We oft snuck out that way to play on the mountain." At her look of shock, he tried to explain. "It is so much faster than going all the way down to the Great Gate, across the Pelennor and back to the mountain. I am sorry."
She smiled tiredly. "You should know all the secret places of your city, my Lord, but I had not expected you to find that one. It gives me grave concern to know its whereabouts are so easily discovered."
"Nay, Amma. It was well hidden. We were kicking stones and discovered it. We were most careful when we used it. No one saw. I promise."
She did not want to ask him why they were kicking stones in the Hallows. Her head suddenly ached. While Boromir had been gone, a debate had raged between her and Éomund.
Boromir looked at her quizzically. "What have you been discussing?"
Éomund glanced quickly at the lad, then turned his face away.
"As you know, Théoden King asked me to invite Prince Imrahil to take the Rod of the Steward - just till you reached adulthood." She stared hard at Éomund. " Éomund believes I gave my word to Théoden King, but I did not."
"You promised me, my Regent."
"Aye, Boromir, I did. That was after Théoden King offered me his council."
"Then it is settled," Boromir stated flatly. "When we reach Minas Tirith, I will be named Steward. You will pass the Rod to me, and I will name you Regent. I will then begin my studies as squire. Does not this seem wise to you, Éomund? I value your thoughts."
"I… My king suggested a different course. You must do what you think is best for Gondor." He paused. "I am concerned, as is Théoden King, that your people will not accept you as Steward."
Boromir's face dropped. "How can you believe this? I am the rightful heir. Do you think the people will not follow Gondor's traditions?"
"I believe there are those who wish you dead!" he said vehemently and instantly regretted his words. He had not meant to frighten the lad.
Indis, shocked, sputtered, "How could you…?"
"I only speak the truth, my Lady. You know that." He turned towards Boromir. "I am sorry, my Lord, but you know the situation. Have you already forgotten?"
Théodred, who had been listening quietly in the doorway, turned towards his uncle. "Your speech is harsh. You speak to the Steward of Gondor."
Éomund turned and looked at the prince in surprise. One look at the scowl on the lad's face convicted him. "Forgive me, my Lord," he bowed to Boromir. "I misspoke."
Silence descended upon the little hut. A sob from the cot caused all four to look towards Faramir.
Boromir ran to him. "What is wrong, little one? Do you hurt? Do you feel ill?"
Faramir flung his arms around his brother's neck. "I dost not want thee to be Steward, Boromir," the boy whispered, slipping into the old tongue. "Thou wilt be too busy to play with me. Thou wilt always scowl, as Ada did.. Please, do not become Steward!"
Boromir laughed. "I promise thee I wilt not scowl. I promise. But whether or no I become Steward, Faramir, I must leave thee."
His little brother's arms tightened further. His breath caught.
"I am to be a squire. Dost thou not remember?"
"I dost not want thee to squire either."
"Faramir.'Tis the rule, the tradition of Gondor.'Tis Ada's wish. Wouldst thou have me disobey Ada? Especially now?"
"Nay," his brother said quietly, shuddering. "Wilt thou visit me now and again?"
"Oh, Faramir. I wilt visit thee every day, if I am able. Now, art thou not hungry? And didst not Ada ask us not to use the old tongue when with the Rohirrim?"
Faramir's face reddened. "I forgot."
"Well, you have been sick enough to forget. I will get you some food. Lie back on the cot and I will bring it to you."
Faramir did as he was bid. Indis watched as Boromir walked away, his tears spilling upon his face. He wiped them away, filled two plates from the little oven where Aldor had prepared supper, and took it back to Faramir. They sat and ate together and Théodred joined them.
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