The Adventures
of
Frodo Gardner

Volume II
Through Shadows to the Edge of Night
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 2, Part 32
Edoras
(November 21, 1451)

Frodo expected to have the same reaction to Edoras that he'd had at Bree, and in truth the buildings did seem smaller than when he'd passed through in his youth. But after months in the wild, the sight of not just a village, but a full-fledged capital city of human beings came as something of a shock to his system. After miles of open grasslands, the buildings pressed in on him, the wares of merchants overwhelmed him, burnished metals glared in his eyes and the flap of brightly colored laundry startled him.
 
A great bustle of noise closed in upon Frodo, all the groaning wheels and creaking ropes, the clangor of so many blacksmith's hammers in a city where everyone needed horseshoes, still more hammers pounding on roofs for the last repairs before the winter storms, the uproar of animals dragged to market, the slamming doors, the barking dogs, the furious or friendly shouts in the street and from window to window, the laughter of children and the crying of babes, and every other possible sound of human beings crowded together and vigorously alive--all of this clamor crashed over him in auditory waves that threatened to drown him. Even their own entourage sounded louder in this place--hooves clattered on cobblestones instead of the soft, green earth, every ring and rattle of their gear echoed off of walls, and it didn't help that the riders kept shouting "Make way! Make way for the Lady Eowyn of Ithilien, Sister to the King!"
 
On top of all that, after the free and wild air the city-smells choked the hobbits--the smoke and the clash of different recipes all cooking at once, the chamberpots and manure, the dye-pots and leatherworks, the fresh and spoiling fruit of the marketplace, the blood and offal of the butchery, and uncountable packed bodies of man and beast crammed into the streets that Eowyn and her guardsmen pushed through. At first Frodo fought down panic just to keep moving forward; he felt his good beast twitch and skitter beneath him as Billie-Lass had ideas of her own along the same lines.
 
But then something shifted. As Frodo looked at all the Big Folk engaged in their daily business, his heart swelled with love for their humanity, their weathered, homely beauty, and the family lives that each one strove to cherish in every act. With such feelings all thought of panic loosened from Frodo like a stain lifted in the wash, and the exuberance of Edoras started to reach him. The noise became the music of excitement and the smells a kind of musty coziness enwrapping him. What a concentrate of life, what a heady distillation! He caught a rhythm in the cacophany, and his heart matched step. All around him people moved in time to the rowdy music in a city-dance as pervasive as breathing; he joined the dance simply by riding into Edoras.
 
After all, they had dressed for their parts in the dance before they even reached the city borders. Eowyn had braided her hair into a green-ribboned coronet and covered most of her chemise under a respectable overgown; with the severed head and empty Nazgul-robe hidden under yards of emerald velvet, only the embroidered cuffs poked out to betray a hint of her history. Not that anyone could doubt who she was, judging from the heads popping from windows to watch her passage.
 
Frodo himself wore the glittering mithril coat over his weskit, feeling a little less travel-stained and a little more confident for its presence. And indeed, some of the older folks pointed at him, whispering to their juniors, surely recognizing the mail of the Ringbearers, wondering why Samwise Gardner had sent forth his son. Then Frodo noticed that they pointed even more at "The Lord Holdwine" in his old Rohan livery, riding so proudly beside his comrade-in-arms, the Lady Eowyn. Of course the smallest child of Rohan knew by heart the tale of their great deed together, though few had seen the halfling in the flesh. Frodo laughed at himself and thought, They must figure I'm the honor guard, the unproven child of a hero, sent as a courtesy to escort the real thing. He felt he could relax more with that perspective, anyway.
 
When they reached the palace a host of horns announced them; Billie-Lass neighed in fright and tried to rear up on her stubby legs, but the horses all around her hemmed her in. Frodo patted her neck and soothed the pony till the grooms could come and tend to her. Then, legs stiff with travel, he climbed up the long flight of stairs with Merry and Eowyn. "Do you know," he whispered to Merry, "these steps actually help to work out the riding-kinks--do you suppose that's why the horsemen built so many of them?"
 
"Don't you ever stop speculating?" Merry whispered back, out of breath.
 
Inside, the tapestries took his breath away, even though he'd seen them before--memory didn't do them justice. A body could spend years reading the stories in all that goldwork and bright-dyed wool; last time he'd been here, he recalled, Mama had sure tried. She'd especially loved that one over there, where scenes of a terrible winter gave way to the triumph of spring, blooming into flowers of shimmering silk, while all the silver-threaded snowflakes turned to drops of rain; the Fell Winter featured as much in hobbit legend as in the tales of Rohan. The storytelling continued on in the carved and gilded pillars of that hall, in post and beam and rafter, so that Frodo felt like he walked through music, like all the songs of men had solidified around him into one great dwelling. Is that what life is like for the Rohirrim?" he wondered, like living, perfectly at home, in a song?
 
"Eowyn!" Waiting on no ceremony, the King of Rohan pushed through his servants and swept his sister into his muscular old arms, much veined and scarred by years of fighting beside the Dunadan to free the East from the last of Sauron's minions. He spun her in the air, a swirl of green, and set her laughing down again. But Frodo could hear him wheezing with the exertion. Then the siblings chattered rapid-fire in the tongue of Rohan, interrupting each other, chuckling at every other word, arms around each other as they led the way through the Golden Hall. Once or twice Eowyn nodded towards Merry or Frodo and said something that ended in a burst of giggles, which made the hobbits exchange glances, but whatever she said couldn't have been too bad because the King looked on them warmly.
 
"Far-Travelers, forgive me!" Eomer cried of a sudden, slapping them both on the back simultaneously. "The sight of my sister drove all ceremony from my mind."
 
"All courtesy, you mean," said Eowyn. "Our guests are tired."
 
"Indeed, for hobbits have little liking for the ceremonies of men, if I recall--but courtesy applies to all peoples everywhere." Then he drew himself up and said, more formally, "The King of Rohan honors and gladly welcomes emissaries from the Land of the Holbytla, but most especially Lord Holdwine of the Mark and Frodo Son of Samwise." The hobbits bowed.
 
Eomer gestured over a guardsman. "Beordred, son of Beorthain will show you to your quarters, where you will refresh yourselves before we confer with you in about an hour." Then Eowyn whispered in his ear, and he said, "Let us amend that--we shall confer in private with Lord Holdwine and Lady Eowyn in one hour, and let Master Frodo find what entertainment he pleases, with such aid as my servants may provide, until we reunite over supper." Again the hobbits bowed, and followed where the grizzled veteran led, leaning on his spear; the man limped at a sprightly pace, almost jaunty in his uneven gait.
 
As soon as they'd passed a turn in the hall, Beordred paused to bend low and grin in Frodo's face. "So, you're the young colt of that Samwise fellow, are ye?" He traced a fat scar across his own cheeks and nose. "I got this before the Morannon, fightin' to give your daddy a chance to kick the Dark Lord in the shins--and worth every drop of blood, I tell ye, proud to wear it as the honor that it is!" Then, as they resumed walking, he winked and whispered, "Don't hurt none with the ladies, neither--thought they'd see me as ugly, I did, but they gets a thrill out of scars bravely won."
 
"What'd I tell you, Frodo?" Merry said with a nudge to the ribs. To Beordred he said, "An orc along the way gave Frodo a little memento of the day they met--a big one on the upper arm." As Frodo blushed, Merry went on, "We thought for sure he'd bleed to death, but you know how we hobbits are--hard to kill."
 
Beordred laughed. "Is that a fact? Well, it looks like the ol' warrior's blood runs true in your veins, don't it?" He ruffled Frodo's hair as he guided them through a maze of hallways.

 "Or out of them," Merry drawled.
 
To Frodo Beordred said, "I couldn't've been much past your height and less'n half your age when I first rode to battle at Helm's Deep, meself--too young for a soldier, really, but times were desperate." His face saddened for a moment. "Lost me Dad in that battle, ye know. Vowed to carry on in his place. Rode on from there to the Battle of Pelennor Field, with blood on me mind. Made a lot of orcs pay for the death of Beorthain, I can tell ye." Frodo trotted to keep up with Merry and Beordred's longer legs, the man's lameness notwithstanding. "Then on to the Morannon--some of the Rohirrim turned back before then, but I warn't one of them; they hadn't lost fathers like I did. I didn't care how ugly it got up ahead, I wanted to march right into the teeth of hell and yank 'em up from the roots! I was young, I got reckless; a scimitar took me out of action--would've died if it warn't for them elf twins, the Queen of Gondor's brothers. I never did find out whether it was Elladan or Elrohir who patched me up, but I felt mighty grateful, I can tell ye--never looked at elves the same way since."
 
Beordred smiled. "Strange folks, elves--I'd been scared of 'em me whole life before that, and small wonder, the way they spook about the woods, casting spells and things; ye never know what they might be up to. But after they patched me up, I decided to give 'em a chance. Good thing, too, because after we won the war, and held Tar Elessar's coronation and wedding and all, we had to march back to Rohan side by side with elvish warriors. I tell ye, it took less courage to face the Morannon! D'ye know, they glow in the dark? And sleep with their eyes open, too--runs shivers up your spine to see it! And they just plain don't move the same as human beings do--it's even creepier because I can't quite put my finger on the difference, but man, they are not us! But hey, they came out on the good side in the end, so I'm not faultin' them, just observin'--ye can't expect a deer to be a horse, after all, they's what they is, bless 'em." He shook his head fondly, like the differences between species amounted to eccentricity.
 
"Anyway, once we got to Rohan, we held King Theoden's Wake, and all the fine folk went up here to Meduseld, the rest of us settin' up our tents all around in the parade-grounds out back. Then our generals rolled out the barrels for us common folk, and lo and behold, we found out that elves like wine the same as we do! Their soldiers filled up their mugs side by side with our soldiers, and next thing ye know we're all arm in arm, singin' songs to each other like we was brothers, teachin' each other our tunes and never mind the words--words get in the way sometimes, anyways. Maybe there's some things that all folks everywhere hold in common, and it don't matter whether or not ye shine like moonlight in the dark. All I know is (may Theoden's ghost forgive me!) that was the happiest night of me life, and a long time comin' after so much grief." He sighed and smiled over the memory. "Y'know, I think I'll always have a soft spot in me heart for elves, spooky or no."
 
Beordred led them down a flight of stairs to a lower wing, into what looked like a more domestic corridor than the rest, with skylights warming the way, and simple tapestries figured with field flowers between each door. He sighed. "Ah well, me fightin' days ended in Umbar with a spear through the leg. The King lets me stay on as a guard--with a nice bit o'pay--as a thankee for services rendered, but I don't do much in the way o' strenuous duties nowadays. Anyway, here's your quarters, Lord Holdwine, Master Frodo, an' I hope ye find 'em to your likin'. His highness says always quarter the holbytla on the ground floor if ye can help it--they like it better that way."
 
They each had a room to themselves in blessed privacy. King Eomer had added this wing years ago, in admiration for the individual quarters enjoyed in the citadel of Minas Tirith. Frodo relished the chance to toss the celebrated mithril mail to the floor, sluice off the dust of travel in the sunwarmed basin by the window, stuff a couple complementary scones into his mouth from the plate on the nearby table (not bad for human fare) and (with an enormous sigh) sprawl in solitary luxury on a bed designed for beings twice his size. He had no idea he'd fallen asleep till a click of his door awakened him. He half-opened his eyes enough to see Beordred lay a letter on the table and tiptoe out again, arms full of what looked like business mail for Merry. Next door he heard the old soldier say, "The King will see you now, Lord Holdwine." As their steps went down the hall, Frodo got up and checked out the letter.
 
"It's from Papa!" he whispered. Eagerly he broke the seal and read:
 
"October 4, 1451
 
"Dear Frodo,
 
"I hope to heaven your all right, lad! Im going to assume that if your reading this, you are. Im sending this letter on to Edoras on the assumption that youl get where your going just like you planned, and hope for the best."
 
Frodo shook his head, smiling. Papa never could catch on about apostrophes, because the elvish writers Papa loved best had no use for them.
 
"I dident hardly have time to get off my pony and set foot on the good Bag End sod before Rosie comes running up with her eyes all bugged, saying Bleoboris had a horrible message for me and that I had to turn right around and fetch you back again from Bree--seems that poor old Legolas has gone clean off his rocker and issent the Kings messenger after all. Your Mama says that he knocked the real messenger cold and stole his uniform. That Tom fool Bleo should of just handed me the message right there at the Prancing Pony the same day he got it! Then I could of stopped you both from going any further. But no, he had to carry the Hobbiton mail all the way to Hobbiton without checking till too late to see who it all went to. Only reason he gave Merry his mail was that Bleo always checks out the Buckland packet first thing, in case one of his girlfriends writ to him.
 
"I did ride back, of course, on a fresh pony. Your Mama tossed me up a bag of food in the saddle. I switched ponies at Brandy Hall and rode all night, reaching Bree next day. Butterbur wanted me to take a lie-down while he sent out a search party of his own, but nobody searches like a father or a mother can, so I just told him to saddle me up another pony, and I went out with the rest. But you warnt on the main road, and we couldent find any trails off it that led anywheres usefull. Even so, I kept searching on foot so as to see better, sometimes even on hands and knees, looking by the side of the road for some clue as to where you folks entered the woods--a thread, a snapped twig, a hoofprint, anything like thatd do for me, just give me a chance. After the third dawn, tho, I looked at all them dead leaves blowing into the trail behind me like I hadent even passed through a minute before, and I broke down and cried right there, couldent help myself, because I knowed better than any of the Bree folks that you cant find elf paths lessen you got elves along with you--but I couldent give up, neither.
 
"That evening Gimli and the Lady Eowyn showed up. Eowyn threatened to hit me with some kind of sleep-dart if I dident go quiet with them back to the Prancing Pony for a bite and a rest. I felt so tuckered out that I gave in, but I felt like every step of my pony dragged me away from you, and it tore at my heart, Frodo, it tore me something fierce! They made me sit down to a full meal and a mug by the fire. I dont think I finished the meal--it only took one beer to knock me out, then I woke up in bed the next day. Cant say as I dident feel better for the rest; I guess it gets harder to go days without sleep when you get to be my age.
 
"Gimli and Lady Eowyn told me whats up over breakfast, then. Theyd hoped to get to Bree before Legolas did. Well, they had no better luck than Ive had so far, but Gimlis got another plan. He figures its no use tracking Legolas in the wilds, but hes got a pretty good idea where the elf will head to sooner or later, so he and Eowyn aim to get there first. They dont think Legolases lead will make much difference, on account of him haring off after every impulse that pops into his scrambled brain, but Gimli seems darn sure where hell end up anyways, and hed know best. I hope. Even so, they told me Id better go back to the Shire in case you folks showed up there, because Legolas had a bee in his bonnet about hobbits when he hit the King's messenger--that could well be his next impulse.
 
"So here I am, writing this letter while your Mama cries her poor little eyes out in the next room. The Kings got a post faster than ours. This should get to Edoras ahead of you. Write back fast, Frodo, please! Rosies shivering with fear for you, when shes not yelling at me for sending our eldest son off on "another stupid adventure!" (That woman says "adventure" like a cuss word!) I aint none too happy, myself. I should of seen with my own eyes that Legolas wasent hisself. And I keep thinking that maybe I should of gone with Gimli and Eowyn looking for you, because I keep waiting here but I havent seen you walk through that door just yet. Your brothers and sisters keep asking if weve had any word. Last night May cried herself to sleep. So please write back!"
 
"Love--
--Papa"
 
Underneath, his mother's round hand wrote, "Come back alive my sweetling, my dear, dear baby, or Ill never forgive you! Love always, your Mama who dident raise you to die by the side of some road."
 
Beneath that a child's scrawl said, "Plese be okay, Frodo!!!!!--May Gamgee"
 
Somewhere in the distance he could hear the King shouting and his sister shouting back, but Frodo didn't care. He kissed the letter, laid it down on his pillow, and then took out his own. On the last page he wrote,
 
"November 21, 1451--Well, we made it safe and sound to Edoras. I'm settled in the lap of luxury here in Meduseld, and my travels should pass uneventful after this. Edoras is a whole lot bigger than I remember. No more details for now--I can't wait to get this letter mailed. More will follow. I love you all more than dragon's gold or rings or silmarils or ANYTHING! Take care!"
 
Then he folded together all the pages into a fat bundle, sealed it up soundly with the wax he found in a drawer, addressed it to "Mayor and Mistress Samwise Gamgee, Bag End, Hobbiton, The Shire, Arnor", and then, on the other side, wrote in the biggest letters he could, "I AM ALL RIGHT."

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