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"Oh!" Indis' breath was taken from her in an instant. Before her, in all its splendor, was the White Tower of Ecthelion, catching the westering sun. Never before had she seen it from this angle. Only from north or south, once or twice from the east, but never from the west. It just appeared; they had climbed a little hill and turned southward, and it burst forth before them, tall and brilliant and beautiful. The mountain and trees had hid it. The rest of the city was still hidden, but that white spike reaching up to the sky - it was unbearable, incredible. It proclaimed, 'I am Gondor. You are on hallowed ground.' Some would say it was only a tower, but it embodied everything that was good and pure and strong and noble of its makers. Tears stung her eyes.
Aldor was healed enough to ride for short periods, and so, two evenings ago, they continued their journey, leaving the safety of the cave. Shortly after that, the terrain changed and they left the snow and the cold behind.
"It should be two, if I am not mistaken, as the crow flies. We, unfortunately, do not fly. Therefore, I would think at least three. I am not certain as to where the door is, exactly." She creased her brow. "I do not even know what the terrain is like on that part of the mountain. Boromir said he and Faramir have used the doorway. We shall ask him, in the morning, when we rest."
Now they had arrived. The city itself, though they could not see it, blocked the winds. Another day's journey and they would be before the very wall itself.
"Or the best," Éomund said, puzzled. "Will not the Lords of Gondor greet Boromir as their Steward? They cannot hide the fact that Lord Denethor is dead. His body will be before them. They must then accept Boromir. Or am I green in the ways of Gondor? I know that there is likely an assassin there, or at least the one who commanded the deed, but will he dare to move with the whole of the Mark before him?"
"Do you think Théoden King will raise the alarm? I have reconsidered. He is wise, Éomund. When he realizes we are not there, he will most likely send out a party to find us, but secretly. I think he will make some excuse as to why Boromir is not with him. That would be the logical thing to do." She paused for a moment. "Our enemy is cunning. There are other ways, than facing an army, to take the Rod. Coin bought treason in Edoras; is Gondor any less vulnerable?"
Éomund flinched at the reminder of treason. "And if no one is looking for Boromir, the assassin is free to try to find him? So you deem it wise to prepare for any unforeseen event as we enter the doorway?"
"I do." Indis paused for a moment. "I must admit I am not filled with confidence. I would prefer to walk through the entranceway and see no one. Yet, I am not sure that will happen. There is no guard there. Only a few know of its existence, but still, as clever as the assassin was to destroy Denethor and his entire party, I do not trust to open doorways."
"Then we send a decoy and see what happens?"
"My thoughts exactly," she said excitedly. "We send Baldor and Grimbold. His arm will be near to strength by that time. If any attack, we assess the danger, and then either enter after them or flee."
"A sound plan, my Lady," he smiled. 'A sound plan indeed,' he thought.
At first morning's light, the company began the final leg of its journey to Minas Tirith. The terrain progressively worsened and they were forced to walk. Speaking only in whispers, they were soon near the wall. The mountain sloped down to meet it, the angle steep. By noon, the band had gone no further than a league. Treacherous rocks thrust out of the west side and the slope ended at the wall; huge spikes of steel stuck out from the ground, ready to impale any who were foolish enough to try to climb down.
"Are you sure this is the way, Boromir?" Indis wondered.
"Aye, 'tis. The corner lies ahead, and there the mountain meets the door. The Hallows and its wall are on this side. There will be no trouble once we move a little further along."
"You will know the door when we reach it?" Éomund asked.
"It is hidden. But Faramir and I have come this way too many times not to know it."
"Where exactly does it enter the Hallows?"
"Far above the House of the Stewards. There are small tombs near the gate, for the lesser families."
"How long till we reach it?" Théodred asked, for he was hot and tired. He had slipped further back, scraping his knee, and now was looking at it, scratching the thickened blood from it. It started bleeding again and Indis went to him.
"You know better, Théodred," she exclaimed.
He hung his head. "It itches."
She poured water on to a cloth and wiped the wound. "Leave it alone, for now. Once we enter the city, healers will tend it." She almost said, 'We have the best in the land,' but she decided it would be impolite. Arciryas had, however, endeavored to employ the very best. He never stopped teaching them either, and she was most proud of them, as he had been. She took a small breath to steady herself.
"We had best be on our way," Éomund rose. "I would prefer we continue this hike while the sun is still with us. Even now, it slips behind the mountains."
They rose as one. Faramir held Éomund's hand while Boromir and Théodred ran ahead.
"Slow down," Indis cried.
But Boromir was most anxious to show Théodred his city and he yelled back, "We will wait for you at the door. Hurry, we are almost there." Excitement tinged his voice. He was hard put not to run full out.
Baldor caught up with them. "My Lord," he chastised Boromir gently, "we should be whispering."
Boromir reddened. "Of course. I am sorry." He started forward again and stopped.
Suddenly, he ran back toward Indis. "It is here!" he whispered. Awe and joy filled his eyes. "We are home!"
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