The Gift Horse

By Evendim

This is a not for profit work of fan fiction based upon the works of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien

For Ithil-Valon; inspired by Chapter 46 of her tale: 'To the King'

(You asked Cindy; I wrote!)

ooOoo

"My Lord, a rider beyond the city gates!" called the eagle-eyed sentry.

Ancir, Officer of the (soon to end) Watch, stumbled from the Guard Room, his left foot part way into his boot and wedged there, neither going all the way in, nor coming all the way out. Ancir swore extravagantly as he 'step-thunk-ed' his way over to the wall, and peered out into the newly awakening dawn. Baldric bit back a snigger to note the 'cat flap' of the officer's drawers was undone. Gawd, to get caught with one boot half on was a trial, indeed; to get caught out whilst on the 'dunny' was infinitely worse!

"Be hush, Baldric!" Ancir growled, no need to even verify the sniggerer's identity, he'd know that wheezing chortle in a packed barracks without aid of either finger tip search or candlelight.

"Chest cough; my lord," Baldric lied consummately.

"'Tis your funny bone that is tickled, knave, not your chest!" Ancir retorted. "Tell me that is not the White Horse of Rohan upon that pennant!"

"Well…if you insist…that is not the White Horse of Rohan upon that pennant, sir, 'cept it is, o'course…heh!"

"Bollocks…!" Ancir hissed.

"Erm…speaking of such, yer Honour," Baldric reminded his Watch Commander that his posterior was flapping about almost as much as the man himself.

"Damn his timing!" Ancir growled as he corralled his tail, and shucked the boot with Baldric's assistance. Tearing back inside the Guard Room he could be heard tripping over stowed gear as he dragged on one trouser leg and another volley of curses rent the air.

"Remember to take off the other boot first, sir, trousers won't….go over it!" Baldric set down his pike and went to aid the man before he dashed his brains upon the walls. "Bloody gentry, I blame them 'valley' thingies, they never let them learn to dress themselves! Here Baldric is, sir, have a care, soon have the nasty boot off, eh?"

"Send to the Citadel," Ancir gulped oxygen into his tortured, air-starved, lungs, "…have the Captain-General roused, he has a guest, Teddy Ro…His Highness, Prince Théodred of Rohan approaches, the bloody pestilence, who comes a' calling at this vulgar hour?"

ooOoo

"Brother!" Faramir, bleary-eyed, sixteen, and none too thrilled to be awoken on his day away from the barracks by a newly installed Page who mistook his room for Boromir's, shook his brother roughly by the shoulder, and announced: "Up, sluggard! If I am to have my beauty sleep wrecked, you may safely bet you shall be up treading the boards with me!"

"Ooh, come here lovely, I was just dreaming about you, when here you…gah! Shave, do, hairy wench!"

"Moron, it is I, your brother!" Faramir growled. "Get up…! Arise…!" each new instruction merely drove Boromir deeper into a paroxysm of laughter. Choosing his words with greater care, Faramir now ordered "Leave that bed, you…dolt!"

"One apologizes…mistaken identity…mistaken gender!" Boromir chuckled.

"Rohan comes a' calling!" Faramir announced around a yawn wide enough to take down an entire guinea fowl!

"Rohan Senior," Boromir asked around an answering yawn, "or Rohan Junior?"

"Theo…move…no-one else wishes to roll out the red carpet at this ungodly hour, he is come to see you, you may do the meet…" yawn, "…and greet!"

"Where shall you be?" Boromir asked, still be-fuddled from a deep, and almost satisfying, dream of his lady, Amaryllis Morthond.

"Withering in my bloom," Faramir mumbled. "…In solitary gloom."

"Good ho; join us for break of fast, do!" Boromir invited.

"You jest! You and Rohan the younger jabbering like crows about a gibbet, and Ancir with a face as long as a horse's because he feels excluded, you have not a snowflake's chance in Mordor of me being present!"

"That would be a 'no', then?" Boromir called towards the closing doors.

Raiment, anything he could fasten for himself, and yet still not scare the horses, would suffice. Leggings, tunic, high boots, big smile; Teddy Rohan had come to call!

ooOoo

Ancir, barely into uniform, leaned over the wall of the first circle and called down to Théodred: "State your business, rider of Rohan!"

"I am come bearing a gift for my Shield Brother, Boromir of Gondor!" Théodred called up, and sure enough, viewed by the struggling light of dawn, by his side on a leading rein was a docile looking strawberry roan. Wonderful; Ancir's unimposing chestnut gelding, Beren, would love this long-legged jack-a-napes! The brute had trouble written all over him. It was festering there, behind the unfocused, sleepy, eyeballs.

"I would ask a moment's indulgence, your highness, while I order the gates to be opened!" Ancir said, and then he turned to Baldric and muttered: "Tea, hot, strong, and sweet, it shall be one of those days!"

Boromir was now jogging his way down through the circles of the city, he and Theo rarely had the opportunity to meet socially, and they were as close as brothers, were in fact pledged as Shield Brothers, for they each wore a token bracelet, plaited leather, one with the white tree of Gondor cast in gold, the other the White Horse of Rohan, worn about the wrist of their sword hand; for many seasons before they had pledged an oath, upon the Halifirien*, to ride to one another's defence in time of extreme need. Well, Boromir may not exactly be in need, but any excuse to meet with Theo was most welcome.

"Open the gate, man, one may not keep the son of a king dangling by the outer wall!" Boromir chided a slow-witted sentry at the third circle.

"Yes sir, no sir, thank you sir," said the confused man as he leapt aside, as the Steward's heir raced by with blond mane flying.

"Not like us, are they?" A second guard mused. "The gentry…?"

"Mad as March hares all of 'em!"

Boromir skidded to a halt just as Ancir was swallowing his last mouthful of tea.

"Well?" Boromir asked, taking the mug and pouting to discover it was drained.

"Extremely, thank you for asking, yourself?" Ancir replied.

"I meant well, question mark, as in why have you not opened the gates?" Boromir enquired.

"One was awaiting your arrival. You did fetch the key?" Ancir deadpanned.

Boromir stood there like some lack-wit sheep for a full minute before it dawned upon him there was no key!

"Do not start, open the gates this instant, you…ninny!" Boromir despaired over how Ancir and Theo would vie for his attention. Faramir had the best idea, for he let them get on with it from the remove of his bed!

The huge gates were drawn wide, and Boromir went out to greet his 'brother' with a warrior handclasp.

"Well met, Boromir of Gondor!"

"Westu Théodred hal…!" Boromir replied.

"Too many moons, brother mine!" Théodred said.

"Too many moons have waxed and waned 'ere we met, indeed! What have you there?" Boromir enquired.

"Why, a hound of Rohan," Théodred said straight-faced. "Pick of the litter, your birth day gift, a little late in the delivery, but one could not come sooner!"

"A hound, eh? A good thing you did not fetch a horse! It would take a whole troop to drag it past the gates!" Boromir laughed.

"Well, take the rein, southerner, let me see you master him, he is called Fedranth," said Théodred.

"Northern…?" Boromir tried to translate this name, but the beast beneath the Gondorian gave a cough as the man settled upon his back, and distracted his rider.

"Dusty ride, he needs watering," Théodred said straight-faced.

"I suspect he needs gelding," Boromir replied.

The great head swung about, and green, slimy, tombstone-teeth clamped down upon the man's thigh.

"Eru…!" Boromir gasped.

"He is young, playful, he soon shall settle when you ride him out as a war horse," Théodred assured his friend with the watering green eyes.

"Shall we go inside, before the entire city turns spectator?" Boromir was sensing trouble in the air.

"Who goes there, friend, or foe?" Ancir challenged.

"Found the key, yet?" Boromir asked as he rode through the gates in Theo's wake.

"Advance, friend, and be recognized!" Ancir said as he gestured rudely with his middle digit.

Boromir fought back his laughter, Ancir hated to be 'Officer of the Watch' at the best of times, but when it went pear-shaped on him, to boot, he became irascible.

Up through the circles of the city they progressed, riding close, exchanging pleasantries, and when Fedranth was confronted with a window box he made a bee-line and was half way through the display of marigolds when a besom broom slapped his maw!

"Madam…!" Boromir was about to apologize to the elderly, short-sighted, Dame when she broom-slapped his head also!

"Who dares to call me a Madam, and me a respecterble widder-woman?" she demanded.

"I shall send you replacement blooms from the king's gardens, mad…my good woman," Boromir promised, and then he dipped his head politely, and kicked the horse onwards. "Dunce…! Just look at what you have done!"

The marigolds had provided a mere titbit, but ahead there was the Bakery, and something wonderful caught the flaring nostrils, before Boromir could prevent it, the beast had his muzzle around a cinnamon pastry cooling upon a rack, and the drooling and the chomping had fetched out the Baker!

"Hoi…!" The man roared, and then he noted the rider was the Warden of the City in person!

"I shall send the cost directly to you, Master Baker, good morning," said Boromir in as dignified a tone as his twenty one years could command.

Onwards and upwards they trekked, and the absence of a suitable bit on the leading rein made the control of the great oaf more of a ramble than a controlled ride. Boromir fixed a smile in place and rode out the indignity of being pitched from side to side and back and forth at Fedranth's discretion.

"Where did you get this thing?" Boromir hissed.

"Usual place; a mare's rear end," said Teddy.

"She must have been relieved to be rid of it!" Boromir concluded.

ooOoo

The heightened level of activity in the Citadel precincts woke Lord Denethor from his sleep. He donned a robe and made his way out onto the balcony of his bedroom and there he met his secret half-brother, Caranthir, Warden of the Houses of Healing.

"Have you resorted to touring; seeking trade, Leech?" Denethor asked with a wry grin.

"One is gainfully employed, Lord Steward, I came here for a better view of the spectacle to come!"

"Spectacle…? Is one missing some un-scheduled event?" Denethor asked as he joined Caranthir by the stone balustrade.

"Rohirrim bearing gifts…!" Caranthir chuckled.

"Say it not!" Denethor chuckled. Oh, this was history re-living itself. "Do you recall that roan Théoden 'gifted' to me?"

"Strawberry, seventeen hands if he was an inch, and a bag of tricks just waiting to explode into action; but looking as lively as a low fed dray horse." Caranthir replied.

"That would be the one. I suspect he and that brute yonder have the same bloodlines," said Denethor.

Boromir was turning the stallion into the barracks on the sixth circle, and so far, bitten thigh, mangled marigolds, and savaged cinnamon buns aside, all had gone with minimal fuss.

Théodred reined in Brego, half-brother to this maniac, and waited for the finale.

Boromir was about to dismount when down went the great head, and the Captain-General went straight into the horse trough before the watching daily muster!

Théodred slapped his thigh, and then he offered Boromir his hand to lift him from the trough. Boromir shook the water from his eyes, took the proffered hand, and tugged the Prince of Rohan in beside him! Meanwhile Fedranth and Brego forced the soaked humans aside in order to drink from the trough, all in all, a scene of great hilarity!

"What was that brute's name again, Thor. The one whose presence you were plagued by?" Caranthir enquired.

"Feoral," said the Steward. "Feoral by name…"

"…and Feral by nature…!" Caranthir concluded.

The end

A/N: *Halifirien,

Amon Anwar, or the 'Hill of Awe', stood at the centre of the old kingdom of Gondor, upon whose summit was the tomb of Elendil. After Eorl rode to the aid of Gondor, Cirion the Steward granted the land of Calenardhon to him and his people; and by Elendil's Tomb, Cirion and Eorl swore an oath of abiding friendship between their two countries. Eorl's people would become the Rohirrim, and their land came to be known as Rohan. They gave the 'Hill of Anwar' a new name in their own tongue, and at that time it became known as the 'Halifirien', the 'hallowed mountain'.