King Comes Home, The
5. The King's Ships Arrive
The North Kingdom was remembered in the histories of Gondor as a poor and precarious realm which had declined rapidly after Elendil's death. Its Dunedain population steadily dwindling as they were assailed by Wild Men, and fragmented into minor princedoms decimating each other in endless dynastic quarrels. Until finally the last, sad remnant was all but anihilated by Angmar nearly a thousand years before.
The few surviving Dunedain in the North were said to be a rustic folk. Brave and hardy but primitive, living after the fashion of the Fathers of Men before the Eldar taught them wisdom, forgetful of their high heritage.
King Elessar and his Rangers had given lie to the latter tale at least. Soon the Gondorim who had accompanied him north would have a chance to judge for themselves the accuracy of the rest. ***
There were nine ships in the King's flotilla. The first carried the King's Grace, his Queen and their little daughter, also their Royal Guard and a numerous retinue of attendants, although modest compared to the state kept by the Ship-Kings of Old.
Three vessels carried skilled artisans; builders, stone masons and the like recruited to help rebuild the fallen fortress cities of the north. Together with their wives, children, apprentices and servants.
And the remaining five ships carried each a company of soldiers, four hundred strong, to assist the Rangers of the North in clearing the Lost Kingdom of enemies and establishing its borders.
Hirgon of Minas Tirith, captain of the second company, stood at the rail of his ship along with most of his Men watching the green coast of the gulf of Lune glide past. Two dots of white, twinkling like stars against the misty green caught his eye. He continued to watch them and as the ships drew nearer they slowly resolved into colossal figures carved of shining stone. Statues of Kings, like those that guarded the Argonath, their crowned helms overlaid with mithril and gold that glittered in the sun, as did the star and mountain of the Kings of Numenor emblazoned upon their shields.
The colossi stood on either side of the opening to a wide channel leading inland. The King's ship turned into it, and one by one its consorts followed.
"Who are they?" Hirgon's old sergeant asked, staring up in awe as they passed beneath the colossi's shadow, "Elendil and Isildur?"
"No." the captain answered, voice muted with wonder. "These must be Tar-Minastir and Tar-Ciryatan. The Kings who built the first permanent havens for the Men of Westerness in Middle Earth. And this must be the canal leading to Ost-en-Dunhirion."
"But surely that city and its harbors would have long since fallen into ruin!" his young kinsman, Angrod, one of his lieutenants protested.
"Apparently not." said Hirgon.
Behind the Kings the canal widened into a great pool, almost a lake, with three tall columns of weathered stone at its center. Two greenish blue and one, somewhat higher, of greenish grey. All the Men recognized this at once as a fane dedicated to the Lords of the Sea, for the like stood in the harbor at Pelargir, and touched brow, lips and heart in reverent salute as their ship rowed past.
The channel was wide enough for two great galleys to pass abreast, oars fully extended. And its green banks were lined with pillared and towered villas surrounded by orchards, gardens and parklands. Hirgon could see tall Men and fair Women walking their grounds, and the occasional horseman or carriage on the road behind. It seemed a strangely civilized and peaceful landscape to find in a long fallen realm. One that could scare be equalled anywhere in Gondor.
Suddenly his sergeant clutched at his arm. "Captain, look there!"
The white battlemented walls of a city rose before their ship's prow, pierced by many gates standing open to a steady traffic of Men and animals, carts and carriages. But the canal entered the city beneath a great stone arch framed by two trees carved in high relief and with the mountain and star emblazoned in gold and silver upon the high keystone.
They passed beneath it, the splash of oars echoing off the stone walls of the short tunnel, to emerge into a bustling harbor that put poor, half ruined Pelargir to shame.
The canal curved away, north and south, its outer shore lined by white stone warves with tiers of warehouses, counting houses, sailors' inns, ships chandlers and the like rising above them to the city walls. The inner bank was thick with the rich houses of merchant lords and shipmasters some extending on piers over the water, each with its quay, and flights of water steps running up into the city between them.
The King's ship had turned northward, the rest of the flotilla following in its wake, manuevering with care between grey ships of all sizes, and numerous small boats darting between the two shores. Soaring bridges, high enough for ships in full sail to pass beneath them, spanned the distance from the gates in the outer wall to the inner shore.
Ships and bridges, warves and streets were all thronged with Men whose height and coloring proclaimed them to be of the pure blood of Westerness in far greater numbers than their kin from the south had expected, or indeed ever seen gathered together before.
Hirgon, his sergeant and Angrod exchanged bewildered looks. "Forgive me, my lords both, but this looks like no lost nor fallen kingdom to me!" said the sergeant.
"Nor to me either." Angrod agreed. "Far from needing our aid it seems they could have spared far more to us than a mere thirty knights."
"And King Elessar himself." Hirgon reminded them. But he was troubled too. Why had so little aid come from the North? Was the memory of their wrongs at the hands of Meneldil and Mardil so bitter as to shut the hearts of all but the most magnaminous of the Northern Dunedain to the need their kin? And if so - what kind of welcome could he and his Men expect? ***
The young folk of Bree and their Ranger hosts sat on the green bank of the canal behind the Breelanders' guest house, eating bread and cheese and fruit, feeding crumbs to the swans and getting better acquainted.
"So many Rangers!" May exclaimed, looking at the people passing over a nearby bridge.
"A lot more than we realized," her brother agreed, "but many of the people here in Annuminas are Dunedain from Lindon, the Elvish country over the Blue Mountains." she looked her puzzlement and he explained. "You remember how we always thought the King's Folk had either died or gone to live with the Elves? Well we weren't altogether wrong. A lot of them, having no homes to go back to after the last war, did settle in the High Elven kingdom of Lindon and have been there ever since."
"But have always considered themselves exiles and guests and are very glad to be able to come home at last." said the fair haired Ranger girl, Emelin.
"Only Lindon belongs to us now too." said Beomann. "The last Prince turned the whole country over to the Dunedain, lock, stock and barrel!" grinned. "You should have seen Gil's face."
Lusey blinked. "You mean the Elves *gave* their kingdom to the Rangers! But why?"
"Because most of them have sailed west to the Bright Land," her brother answered, "including all their royalty. But *our* royalty - Strider, Gil and the rest - are descended from the great Elven Kings of Old and so are their natural heirs now all the full blooded Elves are gone."
"Not to mention the fact that there are now far more Dunedain in both Lindons than Elves and it is they who've defended the coast and Havens all these long years as the Elves couldn't be troubled to!" Sorcha's brother Conegund, a handsome swarthy skinned young Man with a burning eye, put in acidly.
Beomann's Ranger friend Dan shook his head. "You're too hard on them Con." to the Bree girls. "Elves, or rather the High Elves of the West, make poor warriors. It's not that they're cowards but they instinctively shun strife, hiding behind walls of spells -" "Or the arms of Men." said Conegund.
"That too." Dan agreed calmly. "The work has to be done, better it be done well by those best suited to it than poorly by those who are not." glanced sidelong at the Easterling. "Look what a mess the Noldor made of the Old Wars." "And remember who paid the price of their folly." Con retorted. "The problem with the Dunedain," he continued to the girls, "is they're far to generous *and* soft hearted for their own good. It's a wonder they've managed to survive as long as they have."
"But..but they have their magic." Lusey ventured.
"True." the Easterling conceeded. "And their long lives and all kinds of arts and knowledge we have not. Yet for all that don't you start thinking your folk or ours are any less than the Dunedain, Miss Lusey."
"Now you've done it." Beomann told his sister resignedly.
Conegund grinned at him, and continued with the air of a Man mounting a favorite hobbyhorse: "Measuring your folk or mine by the Westerners is like measuring cattle against horses or sheep against cattle."
"We're the horses." Dan told Emelin.
"I suppose I can live with that." she said.
"Strong and spirited but far too loyal and brave for their own good." Con agreed. "We Men of Rhudaur are cattle -"
"You don't remind me at all of a cow." May told him.
He grinned again. "I'm not talking about your little Milch cows now, Miss May, but the fierce auroch of the northern hills."
"Nigh on twice as big and very nasty." Beomann put in.
"And willful and hard to control." the Easterling added, with some satisfaction.
"We're the sheep." said Beomann.
"Oh, now I resent that!" May glared at Conegund.
He laughed. "Miss May have you *ever* tried to make a sheep go where he does not want to go, or take his fleece from him? Meek and mild they may seem while grazing quietly upon the hill but they are both stubborn and fierce when interefered with."
"Just like us Breefolk." Beomann grinned.
"Exactly like." His friend agreed.
"Well, I guess that's not so bad then." May conceeded.
"Good," Con smiled at her, "I wouldn't like to have so pretty a lady angry with me."
May blushed pink. Her brother gave Conegund a look of undisguised astonishment and opened his mouth to speak.
"Beomann," Dan said warningly, "this is a good time to keep quiet."
"Yes." May agreed with some emphasis.
Beomann looked from one to the other, and very wisely followed their advice.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.