King Comes Home, The
11. The King Comes to Annuminas
The Gate of Twilight was much like that of night
save that it was made of grey stone, polished to a
silken finish, rather than black. Beyond it the forest
changed from a threatening tangle of darksome trees
knarled with age, smothered in underbrush and kept at
bay by a wide sward and files of Elven trees to an
open wood of well spaced ash, birch and beech, slim
and wand straight, supporting a rustling canopy of
green with little glints of golden sunlight flashing
through, growing right up against the road.
"This is the Elven wood." Beomann told Hirgon.
Pointed to a mossy track winding away between the grey
and white boles: "That's the path to Rhuath Uial, the
palace of the King and Queen of the Lake."
Soon after they saw the lake itself, sparkling in
the sunlight, and the fair white villas surrounded by
gardens and orchards, and little towns and hamlets
built upon its shore. To their left the forest changed
again, now to dark, well grown trees of pine and
hemlock with the tended look of a park or hunting
close rather than a wild wood.
At nightfall they left the road to claim the
hospitality of the two nearest villas and the little
town in between them. The folk dwelling there seemed
quite unperturbed at the invasion, though housing so
many guests strained their resources to the limit,
conducting themselves with the silent efficiency and
intimidatingly perfect manners characteristic of the
The company started again at the second hour of the
morning and by the seventh had reached the Gate of
Sunset. It was of red stone and emblazoned with the
sun and curling chasings like sunset clouds all in
culurin(1) and gold. As with the two earlier gates it
seemed to open of itself, without touch of mortal
hands, to reveal to the dazzled Gondorim a view right
out of a pageant of the Elder days.
A splendid city stood on the shores of the Lake,
its domes and towers sheathed in pure gold that
glittered and flashed in the bright afternoon
sunlight, surrounded by green townlands dotted with
farms and and walled pleasure gardens, all cupped by
dark wooded hills
And, directly in front of them at no great distance
from the Gate three ladies, tall and beautiful with
dark hair streaming unbound down their backs, sat
their grey horses in the middle of the road.
She in the center wore a night blue mantle winking
with stars over the black and silver of the Kings, and
a star of adamant blazed upon her brow. The lady to
her left was cloaked in dark and shining green over a
gown of scarlet and gold and was crowned with a
garland of golden holly leaves. And the lady on the
right had a spotless white mantle over her glimmering
robes of white and silver, with a circlet of mithril
glittering upon her long black hair.
The royal ladies, they could be no less, were
attended by a bevy of women clad in white or blue or
green and by a body of knights, some threescore
strong, cloaked in the same colors. Their winged
helmets like, and yet unlike, those worn by the
Fountain Guards; more graceful in design with the
wings set snug against the head rather than fanning
out. Their armor glittered brightly and pennants of
white and black flew from their spears.
The cavalcade ground to a halt. Beomann looked at
the stunned faces of Hirgon and his Men and was
satisfied. However grand they might be down south they
clearly had nothing to match Annuminas the Golden.
Gilvagor went to greet his kinswomen. "A bit much
wouldn't you say?" he murmured to Ellian in her starry
"We must do honor to our new niece and credit to
our King." his aunt replied coolly, but with a glint
of humor in her eye.
"Not to mention make up for the poor impression you
must have given them." Aranel added drily, luminous in
"I'm not sure what kind of impression I've made."
Gilvagor admitted ruefully. "They're too polite to
"Stiff with etiquette as Barahir said." observed
the lady in green, Aragorn's foster sister Region. "No
doubt you've shocked them silly with your unroyal
"Very likely." he agreed. "Well come and give your
greetings to our little princess."
The King's barges did not stop at sundown of their
fourth day on the river but continued on as dusk
deepened, the stars came out, and a thin new moon rose
in the east. It was between dinner and suppertime by
Rosie's stomach when their boats passed between two
high bluffs and out onto a wide, still lake.
Reflected stars danced on the dark surface of the
water and the western shore, directly ahead, was
jeweled with lights of silver-blue and green-gold.
"Those are our dwellings," one of the Elven maids
told the Hobbits, "the Dunedain have their city and
townlands on the southern shore."
Then they rounded the point and saw Annuminas
glimmering white and gold, like a city of moonlight,
against the dark hills behind. The entire lakefront
was lit up bright as day and the marble piers crowded
with people. Rosie saw Big Folk, both Men and Elves, a
few Dwarves and then she saw some Little Folk and
tugged excitedly at her husband's arm.
"Look, Sam, Hobbits! but surely they can't live in
such a place?"
"Nobody lives in Annuminas anymore, though the
Dunadan means to change that." Thain Paladin told her.
"Those must be Hobbits from Bree or the River Villages
come to see the King."
Whoever they were it comforted Rosie to see some of
her own kind among all these strange and grand folk
and made her feel a little less out of place. To her
delight their barge headed directly for the pier with
the Hobbits. There were Men there too, but of a
different kind than the Dunedain; not so tall and
brown haired and homely looking in their country
"I say, that can't be Old Butterbur can it?" Mr.
Pippin said suddenly.
"Surely not." said Mr. Merry.
"It certainly looks like him." said Sam.
As the Elves helped them ashore and began unloading
their baggage a plump Man with a bald head and bushy
side whiskers came forward to greet them. "Welcome to
Annuminas m'Lord Thain, m'Lady Took and Master and
"I don't believe it." said Mr. Merry. "Whatever are
you doing here, Mr. Butterbur?"
"I came with a delegation of folk from Bree to see
the King," the Man answered, "and to tell the truth I
don't quite believe it myself." he glanced down the
waterfront to where the King and Queen were being
welcomed by a number of tall, grandly dressed, dark
haired folk who looked to be kin. Shook his head a
little, muttered "Who'd a' thought?" under his breath
then turned briskly businesslike. "You're to stop with
us, Little Masters and Mistresses, we've got a nice
Hobbit-sized cottage at the bottom of our garden all
fixed up for you."
Aragorn had never in his life seen all his kin
gathered together in one place, nor was he seeing it
now - not quite. Belegon and the twins Ellenion and
Ereinion were missing but everybody else from Aunt
Ellian to Belegon's new twins was there to welcome
him. Including his little Aredhel, cradled in
Beruthiel's arms and stretching out small hands to her
parents, voicing both welcome and reproach in her
barely intelligible baby speech.
"But where is my mother?" Ellian asked.
He tore his attention away from his daughter with
an effort. "I asked Grandmother to stay in Gondor. I
fear our enemies might try to take advantage of my
absence. Should that happen her advice will be of
great value to Prince Faramir."
Ellian nodded, accepting his answer. And why not?
it was true enough if not the whole truth. Telling
that would mean going into plans and policies he knew
would be deeply objectionable to his kin - and to his
people in the North. He had no intention of spoiling
his welcome and his ensceptering with anger and
strife, there would be time enough for that
"Belegon and your horse train should arrive
sometime tomorrow." Aunt Ellian was saying. "We will
have the ceremony the day after that, unless you have
"None at all." Aragorn answered.
1. Culurin is a red-golden alloy created in Aman by
Feanor's father-in-law, a famous smith.
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