The first teasing light appeared from the East, bathing the world in shades of grey. Nothing could be seen in the still of the dawn as nature kept sleeping, waiting for the rays of the sun to stir everything back to life; the only thing to be heard was the slight groan of the wooden boards of Agannâlô as it swayed gently, the water stirring at her passing.
Aboard the schooner itself everything seemed serene and peaceful, there was hardly a creature stirring yet. However, there was one man that paced up and down his room restlessly, his gaze so piercing as he was lost in thought that it seemed a hole would open in the boards at any minute.
Sador was getting quite weary of the Dwarf and that was a fact. He tried to make his captive talk more than once, and yet the latter wasn't willing to give up! All his punishment and torture seemed to have been in vain as that fool kept denying him repeatedly. This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen! After all, he was the Terror of Anduin, a name that he justly earned, and he wouldn't allow a petty Dwarf oppose him in such a way. For one thing, he desperately wanted to get his hands on the booty that would ensure his retired life and he saw that chance slipping away more by the hour.
But there was something else that concerned Sador more. He feared that he was losing face to his crew. Whenever he interrogated Gimli, he was in fact having a match with him, a test of each other's strength of will, which every member of the crew watched with interest. If the Dwarf won that match, then the men could easily assume that their captain was becoming weaker, resulting in mutiny against his person, a fate Sador wasn't willing to accept. Even if his captive refused to comply in the end, he would make sure to show everyone that he could still prove cruel and ruthless.
Sador looked outside from the small window and saw the sun rising in all its glory. It was now high time to see what the captive's intent was: to co-operate, or face a slow and painful death. So, he went outside and spotted one of his crewmembers sleeping nearby, exhausted from his night watch.
"Get up, you lazy sea-rat, and fetch me the Dwarf! Now!" barked Sador, kicking the rogue hard.
The Corsair woke up instantly with a small cry and, still trying to sort his thoughts after his slumber and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, went mechanically to his errand. When he returned with Gimli, the captain was leaning against the rail, holding the whip he usually used for punishing his crew.
"Well, Dwarf? What do you plan on doing?" asked Sador, his face serious and threatening. "You've seen how I treat those that dare stand up against me; I can assure you that this is only a sample of what I'm actually capable of doing! Tell me the name of your clan and I promise you the suffering will end. Otherwise, once I'm through with you, you'll wish you had never been born."
Gimli looked up at the captain through weary eyes, his face looking haggard. He had hardly been able to rest because he had started feeling sick again after so much time aboard the schooner. He was even glad that he hadn't eaten anything for the last couple of days, for his stomach was churning violently and it took him all his will power to disregard it, just the way Legolas had advised him to the previous time he had been on a Corsair ship. On the other hand, it was with great difficulty that he registered what his captor was telling him, since his head felt as though it was swimming and he could hardly think straight. But there was something that he still knew deep in his heart: one cannot have dealings with the enemy. So he cried out defiantly and with finality:
"I'll never tell you!"
Sador shouted out his rage at once and slapped the Dwarf hard. Gimli was feeling so weakened at that moment that he didn't even put up a fight, but landed in a heap on the ground.
"You just condemned yourself to death," growled the captain and then turned to the crewmember who was still standing by. "Tie him to the middle mast. The way you were tied yesterday!"
The Corsair nodded and quickly grabbed Gimli so to see to Sador's command. As soon as the Dwarven prisoner was tied securely, the captain shouted for all the men to come and witness the captive's punishment.
Gimli felt all the crewmembers' eyes locked on him and yet he couldn't bring himself to bother about it. He leant his head against the mast tiredly, shuddering only slightly as Sador unclasped the Dwarven armour and tore the shirt that was hidden underneath to reveal Gimli's back. It was then that the lashing began.
Gimli immediately bit his lower lip to drown the cries of pain that threatened to leave his lips every time that the whip cracked on his back, and yet his torment was too much to bear for long. His hands had quickly clenched into fists and his whole form trembled. Soon enough, Gimli felt something trickling down his back and he knew that it was his blood. It took him a great effort, but he didn't shout once, for he wasn't willing to give that fiend of a captain that kind of satisfaction.
Finally, Sador stopped, looking pleased with the red marks that marred the captive's back, and he signalled his men to untie him. Gimli collapsed onto the wooden boards.
"Is that the best you can do?" he asked hoarsely, grinning weakly. He wanted to have the last word, his stubbornness still strong.
The Corsair actually laughed, and sat on his heels, forcing his captive to look up at him.
"On the contrary, Dwarf. This is merely the beginning of what awaits you!" he hissed near Gimli's ear.
Even though his tone softened at the next words, what he had to say was most terrible.
"Do you know what happens to anyone that stays under the sun? Of course it is pleasant at first. Warmth cloaks you and acts as a soothing balm to your pained muscles and bones. But that warmth changes slowly to discomfort. You sweat, your body trying to fight the heat and yet it's not enough. Your breathing gets shallower in your attempt to rid more heat, but this only results to your mouth drying and your slowly cracking lips begging for a little water to quench the thirst that now starts tormenting you. And then it starts: your skin becomes red and it feels like burning, while the slightest of touches can cause great pain. However the rays of the sun continue to shower you relentlessly and soon the first blisters start to show. The wounds in your back ache as though you're stabbed repeatedly and yet there's nothing for you to do, but try to shout your pain, only to see that your throat is too dry to do even that. But wait, the sun will have to come down, surely? The heat will become less and so the torture will be over, right? Oh, no… it's then that the insects appear. Care to feel their sting?"
Gimli shuddered at this, his blood freezing in his veins as he understood what the captain's intent was. Sador, however, ignored his captive's look and turned to his men.
"You know what to do, scum! Put him up on the mast!"
Several pair of hands grabbed the Dwarf's broken form and started tying his hands, while others swiftly climbed up the mast with the rest of the ropes that would hold the captive up. As they climbed down, they dragged the ropes with them so they could lift Gimli more quickly. They tied the end of the ropes around the base of the mast and they left the creature hanging, exposed to the fiery element of the sunrays.
"One last thing, Dwarf!" shouted Sador up at his captive. "You will remain there, suffering the same fate every day till your last breath; even though it will please me to hear you begging me to end your torment, I'll never offer you that pleasure!" With that final word to the short creature, he turned to his men. "Turn the ship around! If we can't have any Dwarven treasure, we'll settle for the cities' coffers in the South!" the cruel Man barked, then left for the lower decks.
Gimli watched the captain disappear and then looked at his bonds. He knew he wouldn't be able to free himself, not even if he was in his best shape, which wasn't the case now. What was worse, the sun was already fairly up, so the rays proved merciless as they fell on his back. Soon enough, he couldn't take it any more.
"Legolas…" he murmured, just before blackness surrounded him and he fell to a swoon, his last thought straying to his companion and friend. However all his hopes of being saved were now almost gone.
Legolas awoke with a start as a cry pierced the air. He sat up at once and quickly spotted Erthang, who was thrashing wildly in his sleep. In an instant, the Wood-elf rose and rushed to the Corsair's side.
"Erthang…" he said, grabbing the young Man by the shoulders and shaking him in the hopes of waking him up. But that only made the lad shout again at the top of his lungs the same cry his lips let flow out before:
"Corsair, wake up!" shouted back Legolas, shaking Erthang more violently. He didn't like to startle the Man that way, but there didn't seem to be any other choice left.
Erthang snapped his eyes open, clearly in confusion until he met the Elf's calming gaze.
"You were only dreaming," said the Firstborn in an assuring tone, answering the Erthang's puzzled look. "There is nothing for you to fear."
Legolas watched how the lad sat up, his eyes sparkling with realisation. And yet, strangely enough, there was no relief discerned there, only utter sadness.
"I wasn't dreaming," said Erthang, his voice hoarse with emotion; and before he could control himself, he hid his face in his hands and started weeping bitterly.
Taken aback by that reaction, Legolas watched Erthang, baffled, until in the end he did the only thing he could think of: he wrapped his arms around his form in comfort. Erthang didn't fight against it, so he indulged him to let out his grief. The rising sun was the only witness to this unusual scene.
A few moments passed before the Corsair seemed to have finally calmed down, but Legolas didn't let him go. He still stroked the Man's back gently in comfort, like he would have done to his little brother had he one. After all, he'd had his own share of grief in the past and he didn't like to watch others suffer in that way if he could help it.
As for Erthang, he didn't seem to mind that kind of attention at all, surprisingly enough. Finally, however, he gently pulled himself away and wiped his tears.
"Have you known me before, Legolas, I would have been ashamed of this weakness," he said.
"What made the difference?"
Erthang sighed. "You remind me a lot of him."
"Who?" asked Legolas, puzzled.
"Déor. Not so much in appearance, mind you, but more to his notions and actions."
The Elf's gaze locked on Erthang, raising an eyebrow in mild curiosity.
"He was kidnapped by Sador, at about the same time I was taken away too," explained Erthang. "He was two years older than me… although I suppose there isn't much difference between the ages of eight and ten.
"And yet, there was something different about him, especially in the eyes. The only way I can explain it now, at this age, is that it seemed they didn't sparkle with the care-freeness of youth but with aged wisdom. Back then though, he seemed as a vague mystery to me: not in any dark manner, but as something full of light. I was drawn to it like a moth and I wanted to be at his side, despite the fact that the other children avoided him. And it wasn't long before we became good friends, even comrades. I don't know what made him see in me a companion; nevertheless I was glad he did, for I saw in him the brother I never had.
"Still, Déor wasn't happy aboard the ship and that was a fact. Even worse, he never tried to hide his loathing from Sador, something that the captain was aware of. He tortured Déor the most because of that, even for mistakes that the other children happened to make. Until one night, Déor decided that he would bear it no more. He woke me up, we grabbed some food and we tried to get off the ship, in the hopes that we would have swum away to safety before we would be missed. But luck wasn't on our side. The clouds that protected us from the eyes of the lookout moved away and the moonlight betrayed us just when we were ready to climb off the rail. Before we had any chance to dive, the men had captured us and brought us before Sador, who had just the right punishment for us."
"What did he do?" asked Legolas.
"He gave us a knife each and ordered us to fight each other to the death, his men that circled us forming an arena for the tasteless sport that was to follow. Under the vigilant eyes of everyone, there was nothing left for us to do but attack. Déor was calm, but I wanted so desperately to burst into tears that my vision was too blurred to hit anything but thin air, while Déor avoided my knife swiftly and surely."
"And yet you won, apparently," noted Legolas softly.
"No! That's just it!" exclaimed Erthang, a new set of tears breaking forth. "I got pinned on the ground, but he just threw his knife away! It was then that I pulled my knife and killed him. I can see his face when he got stabbed, even now, whenever I close my eyes, because the moon still shone on him when he fell!"
Legolas's heart wrenched violently at the terrible story that the Human told him and at that moment he felt truly sorry for the Corsair.
"You are young and back then you were even younger. You wanted to live. Nobody can blame you for that…" he said, trying to comfort the Man.
"Nobody can blame me for living at someone else's cost?" replied Erthang with a wry chuckle. "To cut a long story short, in the end I managed to make myself believe that I lived because Déor was weak, just like Sador told me after my 'victory'. But you helped me remember that it's not true. Déor was stronger in heart not to betray his beliefs and ideals. Not to betray our friendship while I…" Erthang paused, not daring to continue. He only added with a sigh as he bowed his head: "I'm a monster."
That made Legolas place his hand on the lad's shoulder and lock his blue gaze on the brown one.
"No… you are human," he corrected Erthang, a small, assuring smile tugging on his lips. "And do you want to know what I think? It seems to me that Déor had faith in you and that is why he wanted you to live, even if it meant his own death. He cared for you so much that he wanted for you to find the opportunity to do something with your life and make amends for the wrongs you have done."
"Judging by the fact that I'm still a Corsair, I've wasted that opportunity."
Erthang looked at the Elf, puzzled. But, as he understood what his new companion just told him, he nodded slowly, his face set in determination.
"I'll help you find your friend. You won't have to mourn him, I promise you."
Legolas smiled broadly at that oath.
"And I will help you rebuild your life. Minas Tirith is a great city, but I am sure its king will accept one more man who is ready to offer his services."
"Thank you," said the Corsair, deeply touched. Just then, he remembered himself. "We have to set off soon."
"We set off now," said Legolas, rising on his feet. "Pour water on the ashes of the fire, I will call Arod."
And with no other word, they both made all the arrangements and started their pursuit once more, this time as a team.
Both Elf and Man never slackened their pace, not even when the sun went down, for such was their haste. Too much time was lost amid the stops and the trouble the young Corsair had caused, and now that time had to be recovered if Gimli was to be saved. Legolas ran ahead, his Elven sight proving most valuable now; Erthang followed closely behind, running without error, his once-injured ankle now forgotten; and last was Arod, loaded with the Firstborn's pack. The moon had risen high up in the dark sky, illuminating everything in its silver light, when, all of a sudden, the Wood-Elf froze in his tracks.
"What is it?" asked Erthang, also stopping.
Legolas didn't answer at once, but crouched behind some bushes and signalled to the Corsair to come close to him. The Man complied at once and turned his gaze to where the Firstborn pointed. He gasped as he saw a ship anchored near the western shore, not too far away from where they lay hidden.
"It's Agannâlô," he finally said.
"Are you certain?" asked Legolas.
"I'd recognise that fine, sturdy outline of hers anywhere. What troubles me is," replied the lad, "why does the prow point southwards? I could have sworn I heard in your conversation with that old man that she was heading to the north."
"That is what Dírhavel said," argued the Firstborn, his hands clenching into fists. "It seems the Valar are on our side this time. They have even stopped sailing for the night."
It was indeed quite a fortunate chance for the two pursuers. Sador had ordered that the ship could drop anchor every night, since the Corsairs were no longer in the haste they were before. Moreover, the rogues were once more approaching the realm of Gondor and extra caution was necessary for any patrolling enemy ships. So they had found a secluded point at the riverbed with the intention of resting and setting off again by dawn. In fact, with the exception of three crewmembers that kept watch, everyone else was sleeping. Legolas could clearly see the three Men pacing back and forth, and he pointed them out to Erthang.
"I saw them too," the lad said.
"Do you know where they could possibly keep Gimli?" asked the Elf, when his sharp eyes caught a most pitiful sight, which made his heart miss a beat.
Up in the middle-mast of the schooner was the Dwarf, the ropes still holding him in place and his beard swaying gently at the whim of the night's breeze. Gimli's form, however, wasn't moving at all.
"Ai, law…*" breathed out Legolas before he could help it.
Erthang looked at the Firstborn in wonder and then towards the bound Dwarf. Understanding what Legolas feared, he clasped his Elven shoulder reassuringly.
"He's alive," he said, "I don't know what your friend did to receive the worst punishment one can get upon Agannâlô, but I know Sador would never leave him up there dead."
"There is no reason to leave him up there alive either," replied Legolas, still abhorred by what he saw.
"I know. That's why I have a plan."
"A plan?" echoed the Elf incredulously.
"Do you trust me?"
"You heard me. Do you trust me?"
Legolas pondered on the question for a few moments before he finally answered. "I must trust you for Gimli's sake."
"It's a good enough answer for me," he said. "Now listen carefully."
The lookout went up to the prow, yawning widely. There was nothing to be seen or heard on such a peaceful, moonlit night, so it was beyond him why the captain insisted on the watches. Still, orders were orders and he didn't want to face Sador's wrath if he so much as thought to disobey him, especially after what had happened to that Dwarf.
A plank creaking under some weight made the pirate almost jump. He grabbed his knife and looked around nervously.
"Who's there?" he demanded as bravely as possible. To his surprise, somebody chuckled heartily.
"For shame, Morleg! Is that how you greet another Corsair?" said a voice mirthfully and a form stepped out of the shadows.
"Erthang?" exclaimed Morleg in a surprised tone. "I thought you were dead! How did you get here?"
"No time for that. I'm afraid there's some bad news. It seems your 'prize'," and at that Erthang nodded in Gimli's direction, "will bring you more trouble than you think. His friend, an Elf, is planning on reclaiming him."
"An Elf? How did you--?"
"Wait, there's worse," interrupted the young Corsair, stepping closer, "That Elf has already found the ship and he's ready to climb aboard."
"But how do you--?" started Morleg again.
"And you want to know what's the worst of news?" said Erthang once more. What followed next happened in a heartbeat. In the blink of an eye, the twenty-year-old lad had punched Morleg in the stomach, leaving him without breath, and then wrenched the knife out of the latter's hand, only to use it to cut the lookout's throat.
"I'm helping him," he finally said tonelessly, watching his adversary's life ebbing away. In moments, Erthang had tied his former comrade's body in a rope and lowered it with a gentle splash into the waters of the Anduin, just as he did with the other two watchers.
With that done, he rushed to the rail and looked for the anchor rope; on the end that disappeared beneath the water he could discern Legolas, waiting just under the surface. Using his knife and the moonlight, he signalled to the Firstborn to climb on board quickly and then they both went up the mast to Gimli's side. Seeing the lad climbing with an ease that could only be compared to an Elf's made Legolas understand how well adapted Erthang was to the life of the sea; and he was certain that Aragorn would be able to find a good position for the defector on the Gondorian ships. Erthang's knowledge would prove most valuable.
When they finally reached the top of the mast, Legolas bit his lower lip in order not to exclaim his sadness and pity. The Dwarf's face and chest were red and felt hot to the touch, whereas his back and shoulders was marred with whiplashes, covered with dark blood-crust.
"Gimli…" whispered Legolas to his friend, but there was no answer. His heart contracted violently, he helped Erthang to cut his companion's bonds and lower him to the deck. As soon as they were down again, Legolas wetted a piece of cloth with a gourd the Corsair gave him, and gently wiped Gimli's face. At that moment, Aulë's creation stirred and lolled his head sideways.
"Lu… lu…**" he moaned, but Legolas grabbed his friend's hand in assurance.
"It is me, Gimli," he whispered near the Dwarven ear. "Please, open your eyes."
Slowly drawn out of his unconsciousness and with a great effort, Gimli complied. He had recognised that voice even in his current state and he needed to know that he wasn't dreaming. As soon as his tired orbs focused on his Elven comrade, he actually smiled, despite the pain his cracked lips caused.
"What… took you so long?" he asked, his voice coming out with a rasp.
"I had a small problem to handle," admitted the Wood-elf, looking meaningfully at Erthang. Gimli was ready to protest at the Corsair's presence, but Legolas added quickly: "Everything is all right now."
The Dwarf nodded wearily in a sign that he understood, but then looked around as if in search of something.
"Armour… and hatchets."
"I'll get them," volunteered Erthang immediately and, turning to Legolas, he said: "And then we leave as quickly as possible. We've lingered here long enough."
"Agreed," replied the Firstborn. "We will wait for you here."
Erthang nodded a bit and rushed to the schooner's storeroom, for he was certain that he would find the Dwarf's belongings there. He picked them all up swiftly and immediately hurried to find the Elf, who was still kneeling beside Gimli.
"I got them. Let's move out!" said the young Man. But at that instant he noticed how tense Legolas was and how protectively he held his friend against him.
"What is it?" Erthang asked in wonder, but the tip of a dagger suddenly resting dangerously close to his throat was more than enough answer. Looking around, he saw more men in the shadows, already aiming at the Firstborn with their crossbows, and among them was Sador, clearly displeased with this turn of events.
"I never expected to see you again," he said, walking up to the defector. "Much less helping our enemies."
"Surprise," came the grim answer. That only earned Erthang a backhanded slap from the captain.
"Is this how you repay me?!" screamed Sador at the top of his lungs. "Turning against your own people?!"
"Just against the one who made me what I am."
Sador turned and glared at Legolas.
"What nonsense did you fill his head with, pointy-ears?"
"Nothing that was not already there, if only drowned by your malice," answered Legolas defiantly.
"He made me remember, Sador. Nothing more, nothing less," seconded Erthang.
"Really?" said the captain scornfully, drawing his own crossbow and pointing it directly at Legolas's head. "Let me remind the two of you how easily an immortal can die!"
Legolas hardly flinched, but awaited the hit to fall patiently. However, at that very moment, one of the Men cried out: "Ship closing in on us!"
All the crewmembers turned around in their surprise to see a great battleship sailing towards the schooner at great speed. The Elf's sharp vision quickly identified the banner of the attacking ship: it was the White Tree of Gondor, crowned with seven stars.
"Aragorn…" he whispered, scarcely containing his joy.
It was indeed the King of Gondor sitting by the prow of the battleship and ordering his men to fire the ballistae.
The aim was without error and Agannâlô shook at the hit in protest. She was no match for the Gondorian ship and that was a fact.
"At your posts, maggots!" cried Sador. "Pull down the sails and manoeuvre in the direction of the wind!"
The men rushed to comply at once, their captives forgotten. As another hit broke the ship's hull, Erthang seized the opportunity and ran to Legolas.
"We'll have to jump," he cried, "or else we'll go down with her!"
Legolas had nodded his understanding and started carrying Gimli away when the Dwarf cried with whatever strength was left in him: "Behind you!"
Sador, seeing his foes ready to escape and blinded by vengeance, had fired his crossbow. Legolas crouched protectively over Gimli, expecting the arrow to land in his back at any minute. It was at the sound of two thuds that he raised his head in surprise to lay his eyes on a sad sight: he saw Erthang on his knees, the projectile sticking out of his chest. Sador was lying flat on the deck, already dead, the Erthang's knife still in the cruel man's heart.
"He taught me well," murmured Erthang bitterly, his breath coming out in gasps.
"Erthang…" started Legolas, extending his arm to the lad. Erthang's pained look stopped him though. They both knew it in their hearts that this wound couldn't be mended.
"Go," whispered Erthang.
"What about your life as a free man?" asked the Firstborn, his eyes glistening in sorrow.
"I'm already free," Erthang assured him, a ghost of a smile appearing on his features. "Go."
Legolas smiled back weakly, nevertheless, he didn't move yet. He remained frozen, watching Erthang's eyes losing their sparkle of vitality. In a matter of moments, the young Corsair's kind heart had ceased to beat, and his lifeless body had collapsed on the deck too.
"Hiro le hídh ab 'wanath***," whispered the Mirkwood Prince sorrowfully, saying in this way his farewell. He picked up Gimli's belongings and then the Dwarf.
"I can walk," the stout creature tried to protest.
"I can walk," the stout creature tried to protest.
"Only we will not walk," replied the Elf. "I am sorry, Gimli."
"For this!" answered Legolas, jumping instantly into the water. Such was his speed that his companion's exclamation of surprise came out underwater.
But swimming proved more difficult for Legolas than he thought. Gimli's things were slowly sinking him lower, while the Dwarf was becoming desperate for air. The noble Elf did his best to swim to the surface and breathe into Gimli's mouth some of his own air, but it was of no use. Just when things were turning for the worse, the Firstborn's eyes saw a rope, thrown from the battleship. He grabbed it without hesitation and soon he felt himself being pulled up.
"All the survivors of the sinking ship are to be placed in the lower decks," commanded Lord Elessar to his first mate, who swiftly went to see to his lord's order. At that moment, another of the sailors approached the King of Gondor.
"Sir, we fished out something mighty strange: an Elf and a Dwarf, who claim that they know you. In fact, they wish to speak with you."
Aragorn's eyes shone brightly at this.
"Take me to them."
And so it was that Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, the Three Hunters, were re-united. Lord Elessar, as the Man was known now among his people, put aside his kingly demeanour and hurried to his friends, who were equally glad to see him as well. Aragorn saw the bad shape that the Dwarf was in and he carried the sunburnt creature with Legolas to his quarters, where the king could tend to him personally.
"I am glad you found us," said Legolas, while the Man was placing some cooling salve on Gimli's body. "I feared you would not get my message in time."
Surprisingly enough, that made Aragorn chuckle in amusement.
"I never got it," he said, answering his companions' puzzled look.
Legolas and Gimli actually gasped in surprise. "Then how did you…?" they both cried, dumbfounded.
But they never finished their sentence, since Aragorn quickly started explaining.
"I received news from one of Gondor's outposts that a Corsair ship was roaming on the river three days ago. So I prepared Galaearon and the very next day I sailed to find out matters for myself. On my way northwards, I came across a village that was attacked by the enemy schooner, the one that you two had helped in fact. Upon asking, a man by the name of Dírhavel told me what had happened to you, and so I knew there was no time for me to lose. Having faith in Galaearon's speed, I sailed on, keeping my eyes open for the schooner or you, Legolas. Just when I was ready to lose hope, one of my men saw Arod by the river bank – we brought him aboard and he is anxious to see you, my friend – and, soon enough, we came across the Corsairs too. You both know the rest, more or less, although I would like to hear your tales also."
Gimli told his story first, followed by Legolas. When the Elf had finished, both the Dwarf and the Man shook their heads sadly.
"I am sorry he had to die. He sounded like a truly penitent man," said Aragorn.
"Aye, I wish I had come to know him better," seconded Gimli.
"Here is an idea," stated the king. "I will send people to enquire about Erthang, to see if his family can be located. If it all goes well, we will go to his village and place an honorary tomb there, lest he is forgotten."
"And if nothing is found?" asked Legolas.
"Then we will come back and build the tomb here."
The Mirkwood prince smiled, approving of the idea.
"I am sure Erthang will appreciate this, wherever he might be."
Lord Elessar and Aulë's creation smiled back, but Aragorn grew serious once again.
"You both need your rest, you have been through enough. I should let you sleep."
"Frankly," commented Gimli, "I'll feel better once I do this." And with that, he quickly cuffed Legolas on his arm. "Ow!" he cried out, and instantly held his hand protectively. He had forgotten his sunburn.
"What was that for?" asked Legolas, raising an eyebrow. This was the last thing he had expected Gimli to do.
"For dragging me into the water, of course!"
At this, both Aragorn and Legolas laughed out loud heartily, and soon their Dwarven companion joined them too, as Galaearon sailed towards Minas Tirith, bathed in the golden rays of the rising sun.
*Ai, law…: Oh, no... (Sindarin)
**Lu… lu…: No... no... (Khuzdul)
***Hiro le hídh ab 'wanath: [May] you find peace after death (Sindarin)
****Galaearon: Light of the seas (Sindarin)
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.