18. Chapter 18
Then the Black Captain rose in his stirrups and cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heart and stone.
Thrice he cried. Thrice the great ram boomed. And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground.
In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.
All save one. There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax: Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dínen.
‘You cannot enter here,’ said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. ‘Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!’
The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.
‘Old fool!’ he said. ‘Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!’ And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.
Gandalf did not move. And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.
And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.
The Return of the King. J. R. R. Tolkien
March 15th 3019
The Witch King vanished, and all around the square cheers rose in a growing crescendo. One moment his shadow had towered over Mithrandir, a merciless predator intent on pulling the entrails from his prey, and the next the space in front of the sundered gates was empty of all save the White Wizard.
Mithrandir’s shoulders sagged for a moment, as though the effort of confronting such awesome power had utterly overcome him. But then he raised his own sword in triumph, acknowledging the coming of Rohan with a mighty shout.
The surprisingly strong voice that came from those old lips stirred Amroth from his immobility. The horror of witnessing such a confrontation, even from a fair distance, had rendered his limbs almost useless, for no battle ever fought could be greater than that struggle between light and dark. Many of his men had fallen to the floor, burying their heads in their knees and covering their ears with their hands. Some had scuttled back up the streets that led down into the square, unable to bear even the sight of the evil wraith. Only fierce pride, and seeing his father standing upright, had kept him from doing the same. That and the need to stop his horse from fleeing as Erchi’s had done. Gilroch still trembled, and Amroth smoothed his hand down the quivering neck, whispering words of reassurance. A miracle that Shadowfax had carried his rider so close to the terror! Amroth knew his own skill with horses to be unsurpassed in Gondor, but none would have done that for him.
Mithrandir turned from the gate and immediately the halfling, Pippin, ran up to him, speaking urgently. Amroth saw his father join them, and as Mithrandir whisked Pippin onto his horse – what was all that about – Imrahil jumped up onto a stone plinth, issuing orders in a loud voice that cut through the mounting confusion. Men ran forward from their hiding places, struggling to pull the broken gates fully open, and others ran back up the streets to recover the horses. Within minutes his father mounted Sea-Lord, and those of his knights who had found their steeds were lining up for the first charge out onto the Pelennor. Amroth got up on Gilroch, summoning his men to prepare for battle. A look across to his brother confirmed they were ready to go. Erchirion had managed to calm his horse, although it still sweated badly. He caught Amroth’s glance, and twisted his lips into a grimace, mouthing just one word before he pulled down his visor – Umar!
Amroth raised his had in acknowledgment, and then fastened down his own helm. Whatever else happened that day, they would get the bastard.
“Don’t worry, lord. We’ve all vowed that slime will not see another dawn.”
Grateful for the support of his captain, Amroth looked around to check all were ready. Loyalty ran strong in Dol Amroth, and Umar’s treatment of his sister had upset more than just the family.
With a blast of trumpets the Swan Knights charged through the gate. Amroth would have liked to follow them, but he had to wait and go behind his brother. The delay chafed him, for already he could hear the clamour of battle, and the horns of the Rohirrim which still rang out their challenge. A tense few minutes, as fear churned his stomach. He’d be better when he was out there, and the action gave no time for thought. But watching Erchi’s company march out, the standards flying proudly, he thrust all worry away. It might be their last day, but it would be a great day. The men of the West would give all to defeat such darkness, and he would not falter.
They were pushed forward now, as the soldiers from the city formed ranks behind them. The moment had come. Amroth raised his horn and blew the advance. Recovered from his fright and eager to join the fray, Gilroch plunged ahead, snorting with excitement. Dol Amroth for Gondor! The battle cry filled the square.
Amroth ducked a few shards of broken wood, holding Gilroch in check until he could see what was happening. His men followed him, charging through the gate and whooping out their challenge. Great Ulmo! The plain to his left was covered with heaving clusters of battling groups. Like boils they swelled and burst, discharging the dead and wounded before the living moved on. Already the Rohirrim had hammered a wedge of green through the northern flank of the enemy, and had reached the road. Amroth saw his father amongst the war machines beneath the wall, where huge trolls flung stones at the horses. The Swan-knights were driving them into the path of a group of galloping Rohirrim, in an effort to assail the formidable opponents from both sides. But then his eyes were drawn to the scarlet-clad horsemen and the standard – black serpent on red - that proclaimed the whereabouts of their prince. There he was, the filthy sod, and Erchi was already leading his men in his direction, mowing down the orcs in his path like a scythe through dry grass.
Realising that he had the chance to take advantage of the trail his brother had carved through the foes that spread south-east from the gate, Amroth raised his horn again, but spluttered in astonishment before a note sounded. For a group of Rohirrim had galloped ahead of their fellows, driving all before them. Skilled with sword and spear, their mail gleaming in the sun and the tails of their horses streaming out like banners. But one out-rode them all – his golden shield glowing and his great, white horse shining. With sword raised high he fell upon Umar, slashing and hewing. An old warrior he might be, but the battle lust burned in him, and under the ferocity of his onslaught the Black Serpent of Harad was trampled to the ground.
Gone! Just like that! The King of Rohan had done what he and Erchi planned to do – remove Umar from the face of Middle-earth. The bane of Dol Amroth existed no more. Amroth wanted to laugh out loud, but celebration could wait, if ever there came a time they could celebrate. For now battle had overtaken him, and in a surge of wild exhilaration, he put lips to horn, blowing a great blast.
Lothíriel huddled behind a rock, head buried in her hands. She shivered uncontrollably, even though someone had thrown another cloak around her. The sound of men dying horrified her – the screaming and the ring of steel upon steel – she had never been so close to such slaughter. Then the blare of trumpets cut thought the clamour and she looked towards the gates of the city. They were opening, and a dozen mounted men rode out. She recognised Sergion in the lead. A few dozen more followed on foot, all the fighting men they had left in the city. Now the Haradrim were caught between two forces. Elphir had attacked just as it had got light, surprising the besiegers with the suddenness and unexpectedness of his offensive. Surprising Lothíriel too: she had no idea how or why he came to be there, and had had no chance to talk to him.
Pushed out of sight and told to keep quiet, she realised she was lucky not to have had her throat slit – the man who had netted her stunned when he had identified his catch.
Now she just wanted to get back to the palace, away from the smell and sounds of death. But she daren’t move, not even to scurry back down to the cove and up the secret stair, because she’d seen two men thrown off the cliff, scarlet splashing against the grey rock as they fell screaming.
Gradually she became aware that the sounds were lessening. The clash of weapons giving way to the moans of the injured. A few yards away a pair of terns scolded, their nest in the short grass on top of the cliff saved from the crushing, booted feet that must have destroyed a hundred others nearer to the carnage. Lothíriel stared along the sea-cliff, where the birds that had been disturbed swept along the edge, tilting their wings back and forth at lightning speed. Not so bad – this early in the year they had time to build again.
Drawing her eyes away from the screeching birds, she raised her head above the rock. No trouble picking out her brother, his breast plate and saddle cloth proclaiming his identity to all. Sergion rode up to him, sword still in his hand and some intense conversation ensued with lots of gesturing towards the small group of beaten Haradrim, who had been circled by Elphir’s men. Something must have been decided, and then her name probably mentioned because Elphir pointed her way. Sergion spurred his horse in her direction. Now she was in for it!
Lothíriel stood up, shaking from relief. Because facing Sergion and her brother would be nothing compared to what she might have had to endure from Umar. But whatever telling off awaited her, it wasn’t about to start. Sergion had sheathed his sword by the time he reached her. He looked unharmed, but blood was splattered over his chest, completely obliterating the Swan-ship device on his breastplate. Reaching down, he grabbed her hand, no expression other than resignation showing on his face. “Come on. There is work to do. Many are injured, including Elphir.”
“He’s hurt!” Lothíriel cried. Letting herself be swung up behind her protector.
“Yes, but the wound was treated at the fords. Although it is still giving him pain. He’s coming straight to your father’s study, so you had better get your things.”
The Pelennor Fields. Gondor.
Death! Death! Death! The anger overwhelmed him with its intensity, driving any rational thought from his mind. His head pounded, and the urge to kill, to slash and hack at anything in his path, became the only reality. Éomer spurred Firefoot on, away from his sister’s broken body. No longer caring whether he lived or died, he led his men on an orgy of destruction that took him far into the lines of the enemy, and nearly up to the Harlond.
With the first flush of his fury assuaged, Éomer realised he had cut his force off from his allies. Mad with himself now – his grief for his sister should not have let him put his men in danger – he needed to assess the situation coolly. A look around confirmed his fear: Grimbold’s company was on his left flank, way behind, and Elfhelm under the walls. And outpacing the rest of the Rohirrim had put his section beyond the help of Gondor’s forces. Even the elite warriors of Dol Amroth had no chance of supporting him anytime soon, their Prince and his knights way behind and under attack from the reserves hastening out of Osgiliath. But their footmen had fought through the Haradrim infantry and were now doing their best to break a way through from the side. Éomer watched for a moment as the young commander in silver and blue drove his men forward to try and come to his support. The Gondorian had lost his helm and his black hair flew in the wind as he hacked his way through a large group of scarlet clad warriors, but then, to Éomer’s dismay, the horse stumbled and its rider was pulled to the ground. Damn! But he couldn’t watch anymore because his own situation had turned dire and he needed to take some defensive action to try and hold together until aid could get to him.
King – Théoden had called him. King – his men had echoed. King…! Damn fool! At the moment it looked as though his reign might be the shortest in the history of the Mark. And then any stray thought they could last out until relieved, shrivelled and died, for coming up the Anduin he saw a fleet of great ships rounding the bend below the Harlond, black sails bellowing with the following wind. On they came, and the last lingering hope that he might survive the day came crashing around him in a great avalanche of despair.
“Morgoth’s balls!” Éothain sputtered, drawing alongside him. “Now we’re for it!”
Éomer stared for a moment. But grim determination took hold of him. “Set the standard on that hillock,” he ordered. “We will form a shield wall. Make a last stand the like of which has never been seen before. Songs will be sung of our deeds that will stir our bleached bones.”
“That’s if there are any bones left to stir,” Éothain quipped. “Those damn monsters are heading our way. I doubt there will even be dust.”
Dismissing the mûmakil, – bowmen already stood in their path – Éomer reached over and grabbed his friend’s arm. “Come; let us cry a battle chant to give heart to those who stand with us.” So they rode to the hillock where men gathered around the standard, and as the wind took the material and flapped it back and forth it seemed as if the White Horse was galloping across the plain. Éomer held his sword high above his head. “The last King of the Mark stood here,” he shouted, before blasting out a song of Eorl the Young in a voice that carried far over the battlefield.
“Out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!”
But then Gúthwinë flew into the air, and Éomer’s shout of joy drew all the eyes around. For from the lead ship a great standard unfurled, the White Tree upon Black, the colours of the sea-kings of Gondor, and the gems so lovingly sewn, glittered in the sun.
“He made it! He made it,” Éomer shouted, feeling a joy unknown before.
“Well. I’ll be darned.”
Éomer grinned. He’d rarely heard Éothain in awe of anything. Then, standing high in his stirrups, sword still raised, he cried in a mighty voice. “All spears to me!”
But Éomer looked at the ships as he shouted, and unsheathing his great sword Aragorn raised it in answer. Sunlight struck the legendary blade, and sharp steel flashed its warning. He put one leg onto the guardrail, ready to jump off the ship as it reached the dock. And behind him, crowded over every part of the deck, fighting men waited with swords drawn. Éomer kicked Firefoot forward, between him and Aragorn the enemy thronged in confusion, their captains whacking and cursing to rally their troops back to battle. But the Rohirrim were having none of it, heartened beyond measure by the sight of their champion who they had thought buried under a mountain, and gladdened by the blue and silver warriors cutting their way towards them, they advanced with awesome speed. Given no quarter, the hosts of Mordor fell beneath stamping hooves, or fled from the field in terror.
“Did I not say we would meet again, though all the hosts of Mordor lay between us,” Aragorn said when at last they met. They clasped hands, the grey eyes holding a deep twinkle that Éomer had thought he would never see again.
“So you said,” Éomer agreed. “And never have I been so pleased to see a friend. You have come just in time. It has gone ill with us, and we have lost much.”
“I can see the grief in you”, Aragorn said squeezing his arm “But let us avenge it, before we speak of it!”
Side by side they rode back to battle.
Even though Lothíriel had to fetch her healer’s satchel and scrub her hands, she got to the study before Elphir. Wanting her to attend to him there must mean one of two things: either the wound couldn’t be that serious, or he wanted to shout at her in private.
Both probably! Lothíriel sat down on the edge of a chair and eyed the corner cupboard uneasily – should she go down the stair and barricade the door, or just remind Sergion to do it? Perhaps it would be better if she secured it herself – she had been the one to leave it open. But in the few short steps it took to get to the handle, she changed her mind. Better not to go down with Elphir due to arrive, and anyway, she was not sure she could. Her previous courage had completely deserted her, and the thought of braving that dark passage started her shaking again.
She didn’t want to be here! Why couldn’t she just run to her room and hide! The relief of having Elphir back and the city no longer under siege, combined with the growing realization that she had acted like an idiot, threatened to have her crying like a milksop. Cross with herself for her weakness, she spun away from the cupboard just as the door from the corridor flew open. Meren tore in, looking as though she had dressed hastily, curls tumbling over her shoulders instead of being neatly tied back, and the neckline of her dress slightly askew.
“Sergion says Elphir is injured!” Her eyes wide with fright she looked frantically around the room as though expecting to see her husband already there.
Pushing her own distress aside, Lothíriel immediately stepped forward to hug her. “He’s on his way, Meren. And don’t worry. It can’t be troubling him that much because he got the injury at Linhir, and he’s been fighting since.”
Meren visibly relaxed, but shot to the window to look out, turning back when she saw nothing to interest her. “Oh, did he? Then you are right. I suppose if he’s not going to the Healing House, it isn’t too bad. He’d go if it were serious, wouldn’t he?”
“Of course he would,” Lothíriel reassured her. That was if her brother didn’t feel the need to shout at her outweighed everything else. But although she kept that thought to herself something must have alerted Meren because she scanned her eyes over Lothíriel’s outdoor clothing.
“Lothíriel, where have you been?”
“I…” But the door flew open again, with such force that it slammed against a misplaced cupboard.
Lothíriel flinched – from his anger, and the inevitable smell of sweat and blood. Perhaps removing his armour had been painful; Elphir had certainly worked up a temper. Ignoring his wife who put out her hand expecting him to acknowledge her, he glared straight at his sister.
“Lothíriel, I ought to tan the hide off of you, whatever do you think you were doing! I thought you learnt your lesson the last time you took off!”
Her mouth opened but nothing came out. And before she could collect her wits to make some sensible rejoinder, Meren grabbed at her husband’s arm.
“Elphir are you all right? Sergion said you were injured…”
“I am fine; it’s just a flesh wound.” He brushed off his wife's concern impatiently, and turned his attention back to Lothíriel. Instinctively she took a step away: she had seldom seen him so angry. And she knew he had good reason. Also, it had taken him weeks to get over her running away all those years ago. Shame made her drop her eyes, and then she noticed his feet. He had removed his boots. Somehow him shouting at her in his stockinged feet made her want to giggle.
That must have shown because he got angrier. “I have known you do some odd things, Lothíriel. But I never actually thought you were mad before!”
“Elphir!” Meren tugged at his sleeve again, getting mad herself. “Whatever she’s done there is no need to speak like that!”
He rounded on his wife. “You don’t know what she has been up to?”
“No, I don’t. But…”
“Oh!” That surprised him, and he looked guilty for shouting at her. “Then let me tell you that my idiotic sister was just about to give herself up to the Haradrim. Of all the stupid…”
“Oh, Lothíriel! You silly girl! Come here.” Meren dragged Lothíriel into her arms and hugged her tight. “I knew you were upset, but I never thought…”
It was too much; Lothíriel’s dignity crumpled and she sobbed quietly into Meren’s shoulder. “Now look what you’ve done.” Meren admonished her husband over her head. “How can you be so unfeeling when she’s already had so much to put up with?”
Lothíriel sniffed, and came out of Meren’s embrace. The last thing she wanted was the two of them arguing over her. Wiping a hand across her face she sniffed again, stammering out some kind of apology. “I couldn’t seem to help it. I am sorry, Elphir.”
Elphir drew in a deep breath, but his eyes softened slightly. “All right. Tell me why you did it.”
Why? Wasn’t it obvious why? “The Haradrim commander said he’d let everyone go if I gave myself up.”
That set him off again. “Go...! Lothíriel, just where do you think everyone would go?”
“Now don’t get cross all over again.” Meren said, taking hold of her hand. “She must have thought it through.”
“Thought it through!” But then he made an effort to lower his voice when he caught sight of Meren’s warning look. “In the name of all that’s good, Lothíriel. There will be nowhere to go!”
“I thought north,” Lothíriel stammered.
Elphir shot his eyes skywards in pure disbelief. “How far to you think our people, mostly women, the old and the young, would get with the hosts of Mordor pursuing them? Because that is what will happen if the West falls. They will be here in their thousands, and there will be nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. And all that’s assuming the Haradrim would have kept their word. Which I doubt!”
Lothíriel hung her head. He spoke sense of course. Whatever had she been thinking of? But surely that would be better than starving to death in a city full of disease. But as she hesitated to say that, Meren answered for her.
“She hasn’t been well, Elphir. Not since she killed those mercenaries.”
“Killed some mercenaries! What mercenaries?” Elphir snapped
“They were rude to me when I had Alphros in my arms. Quite vile in fact. Lothíriel got mad, and she shot three or four of them…”
He suddenly let out a guffaw of laughter. “Well, that’s the first sense she’s shown.”
He didn’t understand, did he! None of them understood how she had let herself down by losing her temper and killing. But that hadn’t been the worst. “They took revenge, Elphir,” Lothíriel said in a whisper. “Captured some farmers and cut their heads off. I couldn’t bear it.”
Elphir let out a long sigh, and his body slumped. He sat down in the nearest chair suddenly looking very tired. “Lothíriel, I can maybe understand that you thought it would help, but let me make it clear why it was exactly the wrong thing to do. Besides the horror you would have had to endure, once they had you they could have done anything – burnt down the port, poisoned the water supply or shot fire arrows into the city. Sergion didn’t have enough men to combat them, and keeping the situation calm until help arrived was the only course. On top of that, if I had been a day later, and you had followed through with your plan, they could have used you as a hostage.”
“But we weren’t expecting you,” Lothíriel said. “We had no idea help would come. How did you know?” A knock came at the door at that moment and Sergion came in. He stared at her with that enigmatic look of his. She felt about two inches high. “I am sorry.”
He jerked his head to the cupboard. “Did you leave the door open?”
She swallowed. “I locked it and put the key in a crevice, but it needs securing properly. And I disabled the alarm”
“Quite resourceful, then. You must know how foolish you have been, Lothíriel. But I also blame myself for not realising how disturbed you were by the death of the farmers. We will talk it all through later, when we are calmer. And you are going to have to see Master Nemir, I want to make sure that you never do anything like that again.”
“I have not lost my mind, Sergion!” Lothíriel retorted. “I can see I was wrong now, but I just wanted to do what was best for everybody.”
He drew his brows together, eyes searching her face. Lothíriel forced herself to meet his scrutiny. “All right,” he said, coming to a decision. “If Elphir’s finished with you then we will say no more about it. I will make sure everything is all locked up.”
“Thank you,” Lothíriel put in quickly. Relieved that she had got away so lightly, she changed the subject. “Elphir was just going to tell us how he knew to come home.”
Her brother looked as though he had more to say on her escapades, but for whatever reason he chose to follow Sergion’s lead. “It’s a long story, so do you think you could re-bandage my wound while we talk? And send for something to eat.”
“It’s coming,” Sergion said. “No one has had anything this morning.” As if to agree Lothíriel’s stomach rumbled, she’d hardly eaten for days.
“Where are you hurt?” she asked her brother.
Elphir didn’t answer because the food arrived at that moment. Meren loaded a plate for him, and then pulled up a chair so she could sit close to tell him about Alphros’ illness. He tucked into some bread and ham, nodding occasionally in response to Meren’s chattering.
Lothíriel nibbled at a piece of bread and butter, waiting until he had eaten something before she asked again.
“Your wound, Elphir. Where is it?”
“Oh!” He stood up, and now Lothíriel could see a rent in the material of his tunic just below his right arm. “I will have to remove my tunic and shirt. It was bandaged up, but the fighting with the Haradrim must have opened it again.”
Lothíriel ate some more bread while Meren helped Elphir take off his clothes. But before she could tend him she had to wash her hands again. Knowing she had given them a good scrub earlier, she used the water from the bottle in her satchel and then rubbed them with spirit. By that time Elphir was ready. He took a gulp of ale as she studied the bandage. It was stained where the wound had started to seep blood, but had been wrapped around his shoulder to give support extremely neatly. “Who put it on, Elphir? Someone skilled by the look of it.”
“His name was Aragorn.”
“A healer?” she asked.
“A strange expression washed over Elphir’s face, one of wonder and disbelief tinged with joy. “No, a king! Gondor’s king!”
He enjoyed that. Lothíriel knew her brother well enough to recognise the look of satisfaction at three stunned expressions. Sergion was the first to speak. “I think you had better tell us. The men said something about an army of dead souls, but I dismissed it as nonsense.”
With a gasp of astonishment, Lothíriel dropped the scissors. They narrowly missed Elphir’s foot.
“Now what!” Elphir picked up the scissors, handing them to her impatiently. “Are you trying to cause me another injury?”
“I saw them,” she said, her heart pounding with amazement. “I saw an army of dead men. They were marching to war.”
“Yes, and a damn good job they were,” Elphir replied, “or I might not be here now.”
Sergion threw up his hands, sounding unusually exasperated. “Start from the beginning, will you.”
Elphir took another mouthful of ale, and Lothíriel, recovering from the shock that her strange vision had been true, began to cut away the bandage. Wincing a bit, Elphir started talking. “I knew about the siege because a couple of our men were outside the city when the Haradrim arrived. Not knowing what else to do, they commandeered some farm horses and rode to Linhir.”
“Ah,” said Sergion. “I thought they had been captured.”
“No. They took a few days to get to me, but at least I knew what was happening. Although I couldn’t do anything. Not then. We were fighting men from Umbar and Harad who had sailed up the river, and not having an easy time of it, I might add. In the middle of some fierce fighting someone spotted what looked like a thick mist rolling towards us. As it got closer the noise was fearsome. We had no idea what it was, but even from a distance it made our flesh creep. Many fled almost straight away.” He grinned suddenly. “Not the Umbrians, though, because the tide was out, so their ships were stuck on the mud. Anyway, Angbor held his lot together and most of mine stayed. I was injured by then, so wasn’t going anywhere.”
Then the smile left his face and he shuddered. “The feeling was terrible, as though we were going to be totally annihilated. The mist thickened around us and from out of the shadow came a group of grey-clad men. They rode dark, rough-coated horses. Tall they were, and grim of face, wearing only one silver ornament to lighten their gloom, but as they approached I felt no evil from them. The one in the lead raised his sword and cried out something I could not understand.” Elphir shook his head and sighed. “I still find this unbelievable – but he led an army of ghosts. They fell on our enemies. And in their haste to get away, the men of the south stumbled and fell screaming, hacked down by swords wielded by phantoms! They were utterly destroyed.”
Lothíriel gaped; she had given up trying to get the bandage off. “What happened next?”
“Those of our forces that had not fled threw themselves on the ground in fear. Angbor alone stood tall before them, holding me up by his side. The leader came up to us and from that moment I felt no fear. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, he said. Elendil’s heir of Gondor. I ride to war and have need of men to follow me.”
“Of course!” Lothíriel cried. “I remember reading something in one of the old tomes. About the men of the mountains who broke an oath to fight against Sauron. They could never rest in peace until they fought for the King of Gondor.”
“Well, they will have fought by now. Aragorn led them away to Pelargir where the main fleet of the Black Ships were preparing to sail to the Harlond,” he replied. “But while they took an hour to rest, he bandaged up my wound, and advised me to come back to Dol Amroth.”
“You told him about the siege?”
“I did, but he already had some inkling. For riding with him were three elves.”
“Elves!” Meren and Lothíriel gasped together.
“Yes. Two were the sons of Elrond of Rivendell. Even I have heard of him,” he said in response to Lothíriel’s eyes opening wide with wonder. “A fierce light burnt in their dark eyes. Fell, yet handsome to look upon, they were. The other not less so, but fair of hair as well as face – a wood-elf from the far north. It was he who saw something of your plight when they crossed the Ringló. Evidently he looked down towards the sea, couldn’t actually pick out Dol Amroth, of course, but Aragorn knew its location. And Legolas, that’s the wood-elf’s name, said he saw a black cloud hovering. And also he heard someone in great distress calling out for help.”
“When?” Lothíriel shook his shoulder excitedly. “When was this?”
“Oh.” Elphir frowned. “I am not quite sure.” He counted back on his fingers. “They got to Linhir four days ago, so it would have been the day before that.”
“Sweet Elbereth,” Lothíriel leant against the desk, totally taken aback when Elphir confirmed her suspicions. “That was the day I had my vision. The day the farmers were murdered.”
“There, Lothíriel.” Meren’s face lit up, and she giggled. “You have snared an Elf.”
“Meren!” Elphir glowered at her.
Meren went bright red and her hand flew to her mouth. “Sorry.” But then she shrugged. “Well, she must have had some kind of connection with him.”
Elphir stared at his wife but luckily Sergion stepped in. “How did you get here so quickly?”
Elphir drew his eyes away from Meren, frowning. “Oh, by boat. We seized a couple of fast galleys, and with the following wind nobody had to row much. We were lucky, and managed to beach them yesterday evening just as the wind changed.” He thought of something else. “And that reminds me. There’s a dromund coming. We loaded all the wounded on board, so you will be busy, Lothíriel. Could you tell Nemir,” this to Sergion. “He’ll need to make preparations.”
Sergion nodded, but his attention was far away. “A king for Gondor,” he mused. “After all this time. Let’s hope he is not a lost to us before he can claim the throne.”
A king! What ever would her uncle say? Somehow Lothíriel couldn’t imagine Denethor being too pleased at having his power usurped, whatever oath of stewardship he took each year. Elphir must have been thinking the same because a smile tweaked the corners of his mouth, the cheeky grin making him look like a naughty boy.
“Even if he saves Minas Tirith single handed, I can’t imagine our uncle being too pleased. But it struck me that Aragorn has the strength to deal with anything. Even our proud Steward.”
“He’s certainly unusual if he has elves for company.” Lothíriel remarked.
“Oh,” Elphir’s grin widened, “I didn’t tell you, but besides the elves he had a dwarf with him.”
“A dwarf!!” came from all three.
To be continued.
Southward beyond the road lay the main force of the Haradrim, and there their horsemen were gathered about the standard of their chieftain. And he looked out, and in the growing light he saw the banner of the king, and that it was far ahead of the battle with few men about it. Then he was filled with a red wrath and shouted aloud, and displaying his standard, black serpent upon scarlet, he came against the white horse and the green with great press of men; and the drawing of the scimitars of the Southrons was like a glitter of stars.
Then Théoden was aware of him, and would not wait for his onset, but crying to Snowmane he charged headlong to greet him. Great was the clash of their meeting. But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest. Right through the press drove Théoden Thengel’s son, and his spear was shivered as he threw down their chieftain.
The Return of the King. J. R. R. Tolkien
List of Original Characters mentioned or appearing in this chapter:
Umar - Prince of Harad. Device – the Black Serpent on Scarlet. Obsessed with Lothíriel.
Princess Meren - Elphir’s wife. Rescued by him from Corsairs to whom she refused to give away the hiding place of her brother’s children in spite of being assaulted.
Sergion - Friend of Prince Imrahil’s. Was a Commander of Swan Knights but now the Captain of Lothíriel’s Guard. Injured when an attempt was made to kidnap Lothíriel. Charged with the defence of Dol Amroth during the Ring-war
Nemir- The Master Healer in Dol Amroth.
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.