Eofor was used to open country, to wild winds, and the steady beat of
horses hoofs -- Arahn was not. He did not know which was worse:
the drugged stupor or the stomach-wrenching shifts that his horse
made as it kept up with Eofor's well-trained steed. Happily, for Arahn,
Eofor had anticipated this possibility, and had made sure Arahn had
a patient and good horse beneath him. It was of the same line as Shadowfax
of old, and had been given a name which meant, Windwalker. It was almost
true: Arahn's horse seemed almost to fly along the ground as gallop upon it.
There were nights of bewildering encampments. It was life almost wholly
new to Arahn. Eofor's skill helped them both. At dawn's breaking, they were
off again. Finally, as they crested a familiar hill, Arahn's heart leapt in him:
it was Edoras -- the Golden Hall. It was a place he had heard of only in tales
and ballads. Now, here he was, ready to be greeted by its wise king, distantly
related to Eofor.
The horses no longer galloped, but slowed to an easy walk. Arahn was surpremely grateful for the change in speed, not knowing that this was almost a law in
Rohan. One did not race up to the gates of Edoras, unless the message was dire
and the mission urgent.
Eofor sighed and turned to gaze at Arahn, who seemed more at ease on his
horse. "We will be given rooms, a meal, a bath, clothing, and fresh horses to take you to Tharbad, for word has reached us that your father is there, Arahn."
"Yes," Arahn responded with a flat, dull voice.
"You are not happy that you shall be re-united with your beloved father?"
"I will be re-united, but what love there is between us has yet to be seen."
Arahn was surprised at the formality and weightiness of his words. They were
true, though, nonetheless.
"I still do not fully understand... ."
"...and this is not the time to explain, " Arahn broke in.
"Well, you have been through much, and expect it will take you longer to
find yourself on a good road again."
Arahn simply nodded agreement. He knew that he had much to answer for, but
he wondered, still whether there would be a welcome for him in his father's heart.
Parm, he knew, was swift to forgive, but not as swift to return to old alliances and
pick up business where it had been left. In that, Arahn knew, it would be unwise
to guess which direction his father's heart would go. He would have to see.
Willum was being silly.
He had learned how to imitate a number of voices, thanks to the innkeeper's
daughter, who had a rare gift of voice mimicry, and now they were trying to
figure out Parm.
The two of them laughed each time they tried to sound austere and solemn...
it sounded too formal to be believable until they heard the actual voice, which
"I trust that this diversion will have some value in our futures?"
"Ma...Master Parm!" squealed Willum. " Just some innocent fun, sir, all innocent!"
Parm raised an eyebrow and his normally inscrutable face began to show hints of
bemusement. There was no smile...yet.
"And are our bags packed and bundles ready for our journey to Minas Tirith?"
"Oh, all ready, Master Parm. All the horses need is us."
Willum excused himself from the innkeeper's daughter, and pulled Parm
away to a side booth, his voice lowered.
"There is a letter here for you. Came with the morning supplies. You had not
returned from your walk when it got here. So...here it is."
Patting Willum's head paternally, Parm took the carefully wrapped message,
and noticed the seal. It was one he had not seen in many years: the King of Rohan.
After the expected salutations and pleasantries, Parm read on...and his face
"...For some days, we have been host to your son, Arahn. Our ward, Eofor,
risked many perils to rescue him from the lair of Leonir, to bring him here
to us. He is not well, Master Parm, though his body looks hale, thanks to our
air, mead, and good food, but his spirit is all but broken. I have tried to
elicit from him what had transpired between you and what had taken place
after you had parted, but he could even muster the words, almost choking on
them as if they were loath to be formed.
"You must come, as soon as you are able, to help him. I know he is under severe
chastisement from Rivendell, but all imprisonments must end, and the convict
released into the now forgiving world, knowing that all debts have, in some
measure, been paid. Make haste, Master Parm. I sense that a new quest lies
before, and that you will have begun it once you come to our doors."
Parm had read in mutters and half-whispers, so that Willum could barely
distinguish what Parm had read. Thus, when the Master Bard raised his face
to look at Willum, the Hobbit started at how profoundly agonized Parm looked.
"Is...is it as bad as all that?"
"No. Not bad, but difficult, very, very difficult." Parm went silent, and then
taking a deep sigh, spoke again.
"Willum, we will still need to travel, but we are bound for Edoras. The King of
Rohan has called for me to come to him. Arahn... is... is...found."
"Glory be!" Willum whistled. "After all these...".
"Yes...after all this time." Parm interrupted, knowing full well what time had passed and how it had lashed at him with each passing hour and day.
"Take care of our bill with this," Parm instructed, placing a heavy, jingling bag
into Willum's hands. "Take three silver pennies as well, and give them to the
boatman for his care. I will meet you at the stables."
Parm strode off. Suddenly the air became wintery chill...his mind seemed
pierced like the thrust of a sword... He knew that feeling and he heard the
voice within him.
"Parm. Parm. Parm.
You are not free of me yet. I may have allowed my prize to have been
mislaid, but it is not lost...at least, not yet...nor shall it be, given my powers...
vastly greater than your own. Go. Travel. Be a father again. Enjoy the briefest
of tender embraces...but it will all be snatched from you again...mark me."
Parm reeled from this invasion of his soul, and barely recovered himself
upon reaching the stable, so that he could ready their mounts for a journey,
that would be, far more perilous upon arriving than the journey itself.
Spring...hmmm....I've seen that word before...