Théodred stirred in his sleep. Uneasy dreams plagued him, and had done for the last few nights; dreams that on waking he couldn’t remember clearly, but which hovered tantalizingly close to recall. There was something of battle and black war-crows… he could remember their hoarse cries, but that was all he could recollect. He always woke with the feeling he should have seen more, that he had missed something among the trees that surrounded him in his dreams. Rolling over to make himself more comfortable, half-waking from fitful sleep, he looked up into the face of a ghost. A tall figure in grey, pale-skinned, whose braided silver hair hung forward about his shoulders, bent over him - and smiled. Théodred threw off his bedding, reaching for the dagger under the saddle that was his pillow. He was on one knee and rising, blade at the ready, when the stranger showed his empty hands and stepped back.
The cry on Théodred’s lips woke the camp. His men scrambled to seize swords and daggers, a few rising to lunge at the silent strangers standing amongst them. The figure raised his hand and the dozen grey-clad figures threw back their cloaks; those that were attacked, swiftly disarmed the Rohirric warriors with surprising ease. Théodred snatched up his sword and had it at the man’s throat. But… it was not a man… it was… an elf? Théodred shook his head in disbelief. No, it was no vision: their camp was host to a dozen of the fey creatures, each equally tall, nearly a head above the Rohirrim, pale and beautiful, graceful in their obvious strength. They stood at ease with drawn weapons and notched bows, but only to avoid attack rather than to inflict damage to the men waking around them.
Théodred didn’t understand the words but the polite greeting was unmistakable as the Elf bowed his head, hand on breast. Théodred nodded curtly; he chopped his hand across his body, palm down, a signal for his men not to attack. They stared from him to their unearthly visitors and back; wary, but content to follow the Marshal’s lead. A sentry dived into the circle, lance held high: the nearest elf caught his arm, twisted the lance away as if from a child’s grasp and bowled the man over so he sprawled on the floor at their feet. The man stared up, open-mouthed and weaponless.
“I… I saw nothing,” he stammered to no one in particular.
Théodred waved him away; his second-in-command hauled the shame-faced sentry to his feet. This was something the man wouldn’t live down in a hurry.
“We bring you a message and a warning,” the Elf said in Westron, turning his attention back to Théodred. Théodred held his sword steady, keeping it pointed at the base of his visitor’s throat.
“Would we have woken you if we meant you harm?” the Elf said with a faint smile.
Théodred lowered his weapon a fraction. The Elf stood in silent composure, waiting, refusing to speak further. With some reluctance Théodred dropped the point of his sword. The Elf inclined his head and spoke a few brief words; his companions put away their weapons. He smiled encouragingly at Théodred.
“I am Haldir, Marchwarden of Lothlórien, the land you call Dwimordene.”
The Rohirrim muttered, but the Elf ignored their disquiet.
“I am sent by the Lady of Lothlórien. She has seen events and dangers that concern all of you, but you in particular, Prince Théodred, she has a message for. One who has urgent need of you travels in the east, on a quest that stands on a knife-edge. Should it fail, a darkness will roll over the world that none will be able to turn back. In five days time you must be at Nen Hithiol, or events shall occur that will have grievous consequences for the world of Men. Do you know the lake above the great falls?”
Théodred nodded. “I know it, but we travel west, not east. We are charged with defending the Fords.”
“You, Prince of Horses, must use your arms in defence elsewhere. Your men know what they must do at the river – do you think they will fail you?”
“Of course not; I have no doubts as to my men’s loyalty…”
“Good!” Haldir interrupted him. “Then you can travel east with all speed at first light.”
Théodred stood open-mouthed for a moment. He snapped his head up and squared off to the Marchwarden, staring him in the eye.
“No. I cannot.” he stated firmly.
The Marchwarden took a step closer and lowered his voice. “The lord of Gondor has need of you. Without you, he may well fall into shadow,” he said softly.
Théodred started, “Boromir? But…”
The elf held up a hand to silence him. “My Lady looked into his heart, she saw what may be his fate; she knows he is a noble man… a man of destiny… but men are weak and can be tempted.”
Théodred frowned, “It is not your place to accuse him, or to divert me from my duty to my King!”
“It is of your duty to your King that I am here to speak of…”