9. Chapter 9
The Sell-sword and the Prince.
Dol Amroth TA 3021
Leaning over, Elphir topped up his father's goblet. "And that was the last you saw of Thorongil until he turned up on the Pelennor as our long lost king?"
Imrahil took a swig before answering, his mouth dry from so much talking. "Yes, he was swallowed up by the mist and the next time I set eyes on him he came on a very different boat."
Elphir fixed his eyes speculatively on his father. "Are you going to tell me how you greeted each other when you met after all those years?"
"Very sparsely." Imrahil chuckled. "A long day of fighting does not make one garrulous." But Elphir waited for him to continue, so he cast his mind back to the Pelennor…
The noise had been nothing like he had ever heard: the terrible screams of dying horses; the awful cries of men spitted by swords and gisarmes; the bellowing of the Mûmakil – he shook his head to clear the memory away and started on the facts.
"Éomer had cut a great wedge through the Southrons, but he had outdone himself and his situation was dire. I urged my knights forward to try and go to his aid, but a new host came out of Osgiliath and cut me off from him. As my men cleared the enemy from around me, I paused on a hillock and looked over the battleground to try and form a new plan. Thankfully, I saw that Amrothos had managed to drive his foot soldiers towards Éomer's right flank and so give him a little time." Imrahil sighed. "I don't need to tell you what I thought when I watched Amrothos being pulled from his horse into a cauldron of fighting men."
Elphir smiled. "But he got up and carried on."
"Amazingly, he did," Imrahil said, not hiding his pride. "Helm gone, he led his men magnificently. They barged through the Haradrim to try and reach Éomer. But then, even over the noise of the battle, I heard the bells tolling disaster." He stopped, remembering the numbing hopelessness he had felt at the sight of the Corsair fleet.
"When I saw the Black Ships, my spirits sank; I thought it was over for us. Then, unbelievably, I saw Éomer cheering his head off, and the banner." Imrahil looked over to the small display of ancient heraldry at the end of the hall. Treasured and preserved, ragged and fragile – the banners of the old sea-kings of Gondor, given to his illustrious ancestor, the first lord of Belfalas, to keep safe in case those in Minas Tirith were ever lost. Now, with Aragorn in residence, a bright new one hung alongside.
Elphir followed his eyes. "You must have been surprised when you saw it."
"Well, I knew to expect something from Gandalf. He hinted at his hope of help being borne to us on a wind from the sea. Besides, Denethor was in a foul temper, castigating Gandalf for plotting against him and reviling Théoden for harbouring a usurper."
"I don't suppose Denethor would have accepted being displaced by a king easily," Elphir speculated with a frown. "But when Angbor and I saw Aragorn appearing out of the mist at the fords with the army of the dead at his back, it was a legend coming to life." He smiled, prompting his father to continue. "But your astonishment didn't last for long?"
"No. Although I had no time to question the whys and wherefores, only to be thankful that a chance had been given to us. And the tide of battle swept over me, so I didn't realise that Isildur's heir was none other than Thorongil for quite some time. I witnessed him greeting Éomer only from a distance, and they were both soon in the thick of it again. I caught sight of our deliverer on one more occasion and remember thinking he looked familiar, something about the way he held his sword. But at that moment he was really just another black-haired warrior, and there was no time for introductions."
"Who did introduce you?" Elphir asked grinning.
"Well, there was no one to conduct formalities. I hadn't even met Éomer face to face at that time. But at the end, when the fighting stopped, I made my way towards the banner." He shook his head at the memory. "What a sight that was, one I thought I'd never see. The white tree sparkled red as the gems lit with the sinking sun."
"You must have been so excited to think you were about to meet our lost king," Elphir said.
Imrahil smiled. "I might have, had I not been so weary. But in spite of that I naturally could hardly wait to study him closely. Already he had wrapped himself in his grey cloak, which should have given me a clue, I suppose. But my mind was so far from expecting to see Thorongil, that it was not surprising I didn't recognise him at first. I saw a man not in his first youth, but whom I considered to be at an age with myself, holding the reins of a rough-coated horse. The horse's head hung in exhaustion, and its master was smoothing its brow and talking into its ear. One of his men saw me approaching and drew his attention. He looked up, and smiled. And something about the smile pulled at my memory. But don't forget, it had been thirty-nine years."
"Who spoke first?" Elphir asked.
"He did. He passed the reins of his horse to another and took a step towards me. I dismounted and when I faced him, he stood up straight in spite of his obvious tiredness. Pride flashed in his eyes and they bored into mine as he addressed me: 'I am Aragorn son of Arathorn and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Will you welcome me, Prince Imrahil?'
Startled, as much by some elusive familiarity in his features, as by the words, I answered cautiously. 'I cannot but welcome one who comes so unexpectedly to give us victory, lord.'
His smile deepened, and he came close, clasping his hand on my upper arm and speaking softly. 'I once expressed the hope that when we met again you would look on me with favour, remembering the deeds we shared.'
'Thorongil?' I uttered, the years rolling away as I gazed on his face. He nodded, amusement sparking in his grey eyes. 'And perhaps, Prince Imrahil, you will now forgive me for my long ago reticence.'
Maybe it is an overstatement to say that enlightenment came in a blinding flash, but although I didn't expect Ecthelion's favourite captain to turn out to be Isildur's heir, I was not astounded, as many others were. And I suppose I'd thought of Thorongil over the years, wondered what had happened to him. I always had the notion I might see him again."
"Did he mention your long ago hostility?"
"Not then, not until much later when I tried to apologise." Imrahil put the goblet up to his mouth, taking another long draught. He slanted his son a sideways grin. "We have sorted that out between us. Late one night at Cormallen just before the coronation, we talked about those times."
Elphir smiled and pondered for a moment. "I'm glad you told me the story, it has made some things become clear, especially why you accepted Aragorn from the beginning. But also Jibran, I often wondered where he came from, but never liked to ask. He became a knight when I was only a child."
Imrahil sighed, as a wave of sorrow washed over him. So many lost, but some he regretted more than others. "Jibran…"
"That's a name I haven't heard for a while." Sergion interrupted him. He had Meren on his arm, and Elphir immediately stood up and pulled out a chair for his wife. With a nod of thanks, she sat down next to him, her pretty face thoughtful.
"Jibran? Wasn't he one of the knights killed when Lothíriel was attacked?" she asked.
"Yes, I am afraid so," Imrahil said, sadness causing his voice to break. He looked up at Sergion. "I have been telling Elphir of the time we raided Umbar."
"Ahh…" Sergion nodded.
"It couldn't have been easy to go from slave to knight," Elphir mused.
Sergion acknowledged the truth of that with a wry smile. He sat down opposite Imrahil, stretching out his damaged leg to get it comfortable. "Jibran had a lot of help, but well repaid everything your father gave him. He fought like a demon to stop Lothíriel being taken. The possibility of the Haradrim snatching her horrified him."
"I regret all who have died in my service, but Jibran I feel more than most." Imrahil sighed. "I can only be thankful that he had many good years with us."
Meren frowned, "Where did Jibran….?"
"I'll tell you later." Elphir put his hand on his wife's arm, and leant close to her. "Father is going to recount how he met my mother. You will want to hear about that."
Only because Aragorn had more or less forced him into telling the story! Imrahil took a deep breath, knowing Meren would especially appreciate the tale. He turned to Sergion. "Do you mind, it concerns you as well?"
"No." Sergion laughed and sat back in his chair, "but I will interrupt if you get anything wrong. Strangely the memories are clearer now than they have been for many years. I still recall your anger when you found out what your father had done."
"So do I!" Imrahil responded, turning with a frown to Elphir. "You have accused me over the years of being high-handed, but compared to my father…" He shook his head, finding it hard to understand, even now, why his father had been so sure that his wishes would be heeded. "See what you make of this – we arrived at the Harlond to find an escort waiting to lead me into the City. Six knights – fully booted and spurred – a chattering clutch of esquires, plus a standard bearer. But worse than that, he had sent our horses."
"But you'd told him you weren't going to the City," Elphir interrupted.
"Exactly! And if Thorongil hadn't intervened by asking me to see Ecthelion, Blade would have undergone a sea journey for nothing." Imrahil waved his hand towards Sergion. "Father trusted Sergion to persuade me to go, but he'd misjudged badly."
Elphir looked across the table expectantly. Sergion chuckled. "Before we left on the raid Adrahil charged me with making sure your father would go to Minas Tirith to try his hand at courting. But I chose to ignore those orders and did nothing to try and sway him. "
"That was brave of you," Meren said, frowning.
"Not really." Sergion's eyes gleamed amusement. "I thought it worth risking Adrahil's wrath, as his lordship over me was likely to be of short duration in comparison to the friendship with his son. Which I hoped would last a lifetime."
And it had! Imrahil smiled. "As it turned out he risked nothing."
"I can understand why you were mad," Elphir sympathised. "It must have made your arrival in the City rather noticeable."
"You could say that," Imrahil agreed ruefully. "My intention had been to slip in quietly, pass the message to Ecthelion, see my sister and get back to Dol Amroth. But I told you about the reception in Pelargir – well, Minas Tirith was worse. We had to run the gauntlet of the disappointed crowds – there was no getting away from them with that rig-out. Hundreds had gathered to welcome the returning heroes, but they felt let down when they discovered their champion had disappeared."
He stopped and took another sip of wine. "Ecthelion blamed me. The only one with a smile on his face was Denethor."
"Yes, I bet he was glad to get rid of Thorongil," Elphir agreed. "But I can't see why Ecthelion would blame you."
"I don't think he did, until I told him I had no intention of staying in the City, and even less of calling on any ladies. He threw everything at me after that. I stalked out, saying I would see my sister and return home."
"But it didn't work out like that." Sergion chuckled.
"No. But it could have. Once Finduilas started on me, I'd really had enough." Not that she had kept it up. One thing about Finduilas – honesty shone out of her."
Gondor TA 2980
"Now I know why you sent Boromir away with his nurse-maid," Imrahil accused his sister, "so that you could add your voice. Well, you are wasting your time. I've made it plain to Ecthelion that I am not ready for marriage, and when I am, I shall find my own wife!"
"But you could at least take a look at her," Finduilas pleaded. "She's very lovely. Somewhere in her ancestry there is Rohirric blood, I think, which gives her unusual colouring."
"No! I'm too young," Imrahil barked, moving away from her. "Whatever's got into you!"
Finduilas wrung her hands together nervously and turned to look out of the window. She sniffed.
Imrahil knew she hated being shouted at, and he took a deep breath to regain his temper. Relenting, he took a few strides back towards her and gently placed his hands on her shoulders. "Fin, I am sorry, but I hate being pushed." She didn't answer, and he squeezed her shoulders. "I suppose Denethor put you up to it."
She nodded, but didn't look around.
"Why? Why are they so keen?"
Finduilas slowly turned, letting out a long sigh, but still didn't say anything. "Come on, you might as well tell me," he coaxed.
His sister's face fell in defeat, she could never hold out against him for long. "Her mother was a relation of Ecthelion's, but it's more that they owe her father, Lord Glavror, a favour. I am not sure what it's about."
"Owe him a favour! And they are expecting me to pay their debts!" Imrahil's ire rose again."You can tell that husband of yours that I've no intention of marrying to get him or his father out of some hole."
"No, of course, I understand that," she put in quickly. "But Denethor asked me to speak to you, so I did. I told him it would be no use."
Imrahil folded his arms. "Good, then he won't be disappointed."
Finduilas nodded, biting her lower lip nervously, her big grey eyes glistening. Imrahil studied her –she still looked as pretty as ever, but perhaps more drawn. The cherry red dress certainly accentuated her pale skin; didn't she get any fresh air? But no doubt dealing with a lively toddler took its toll, that and trying to play her husband's subtle games. He sighed, and drew her against his chest, kissing the top of her head.
"You can tell Denethor that you tried to influence me, but I'm a lost cause."
A little gurgle of laughter escaped, and she looked up and tweaked his collar playfully, more like her bright self. "To be honest, Imrahil, Mirineth is very sweet and good natured, but I think you would soon become bored, however beautiful she is."
Imrahil chuckled. "In that case I can forget all about her. We can enjoy a few days, and I will be away before the end of the week."
"Oh!" Her disappointment showed straightaway.
"Now what?" He cocked one brow. "Do you relish my presence so much?"
"No, I mean yes," Finduilas dithered, her colour rising. "But if you go so soon you'll miss the dancing… and," she gave him a lopsided smile, "well, there's another lady I have in mind …"
"Fin, no!" Imrahil pushed her away irritably. "I won't put up with this!" Her face blanched, and he moderated his voice, fearful he'd have her crying again. "Why this obsession with finding me a wife?"
She hesitated, but Imrahil fixed a determined gaze on her until the answer quivered on her lips. "Father wrote to me. He's keen to make sure of the succession. He wants me to introduce you to other suitable ladies if you reject Mirineth. His worst fear is that the title will go to his dim-witted cousin."
"Tarandor? But why should it? What does Father think is going to happen to me?"
Finduilas stepped forward and clutched his arm. "Imrahil, we live in dark times."
"Oh, for all that's …."Imrahil swore under his breath. His father had never baulked at steering him towards dangerous ventures like raids on Umbar, so why suddenly bother about the consequences. "I'm going, I have something to do."
He slammed the door behind him. It was not often he got cross with his sister, but she had never tried to steer him towards a woman before.
Once outside Imrahil took some deep breaths to calm himself and spent a moment considering if he was overreacting. He liked women; in fact he liked them very much. And normally they liked him. But now was certainly not the right time to find a permanent one. And definitely not one of another's choosing. No, by all custom he had years to go before he needed to think of a wife. Chuckling, humour restored, with the thought that whatever pressure they put him under he'd do as he pleased, he left the King's House and headed across the courtyard to the wall. At least he'd got his sister to admit that Lady Mirineth was not an option, however lovely looking she might be. And that decided him – he wouldn't go near her. He'd get the book as promised, but his esquire could deliver it. That way no hopes would be raised.
He'd discovered that Thorongil's quarters were in one of the small dwellings built into the wall of the citadel. They were kept for favoured visitors and high-ranking officers, so with luck a servant should be around to show him the exact direction. He could retrieve the book, organise its delivery and then, after a bite to eat, take Blade for a gallop. It looked like being a fair afternoon: rain clouds on the horizon, but he doubted they'd amount to much.
In answer to his enquiry, a passing laundry-maid pointed to a door in the end building, one that would have a particularly fine view over the Pelennor.
"We got word an hour ago, and I've just been clearing out, lord." She sniffed, heaving the bundle of linen higher in her arms. "It's a real shame. Captain Thorongil had better manners than many a nobleman I have to work for. We'll all miss him."
Imrahil smiled, he could believe that. "I promised Captain Thorongil I would collect something, is anyone there?" He didn't like to walk straight in.
She nodded. "Old Cúnir. He looked after him. But I'll warn you, lord, he's pretty cut up."
Weren't they all! Thorongil clearly was out of the ordinary, but Imrahil shoved aside more speculation on his ancestry, thanked the girl, and made his way to the door she had pointed out. It opened onto a small windowless hall, but light flooded through from a room on the left. He heard mumbling coming from it.
"Anyone there? I am looking for Captain Thorongil's quarters," Imrahil called out.
The mumbling stopped and he heard the shuffling of feet. A wispy-haired old man appeared in the open doorway, his lined face grey with misery.
"Good day," Imrahil greeted him. "I am Imrahil of Dol Amroth. Captain Thorongil asked me to return a book he had borrowed."
Cúnir stared at him with undisguised hostility. "Captain Thorongil read lots of book, lord. I'll return them to their proper places. No one need think I'll neglect my duty."
"No one will think that. Captain Thorongil spoke highly of you, Cúnir." The white lie came easily to his lips, the man looked distraught.
His face brightened for a moment. "Did he? Well, I've served him ever since he was given quarters up here and a nobler man you couldn't wish to meet." He paused as realisation dawned. "You was the one that went on that raid with him, weren't you, lord? Did he say why he was leaving? No one's told us anything."
"I am afraid I have no more idea than you, Cúnir. But when we said goodbye he asked me to do him a favour. The book he wants me to return is the personal property of a lady…" Imrahil stopped, realising he had never been told her name. "She's a companion to Lady Mirineth."
Cúnir nodded. "Lady Aearin, she lent the Captain her set of books, the last one is by his bed." He shuffled back into the room, flinging his displeasure over his shoulder. "I'd have returned it. I know how precious it is to her."
Imrahil followed him. The room was small and sparse, but filled with light. The deep window cut through the citadel wall, he could see right down to the Harlond. A good place for a soldier to lodge.
Cúnir picked up a small book, wrapped in a linen cloth, which rested on the top of a chest and held it out to him. "I can't read the old script, but the Captain was much taken. He said it's very old, written by one of Lady Aearin's ancestors, about the battles long ago."
The book was worn, bound in what had probably once been blue leather, but it had aged to an iron grey. He supposed he could get Cúnir to return it, but he fancied a look. If it interested Thorongil it would probably interest him. Imrahil glanced at the first page, struggling a moment with the faded ink. Yes, definitely worth more than a glance. "It's a soldier's memoirs."
"All her family were soldiers," Cúnir replied. "That's why she had to go as a companion. Her brother was lost a few years ago, and then her father, not three months back. He was leading one of Captain Thorongil's companies in Ithilien, when they tried to drive marauding orcs back across the river. The Captain took his death bad because it left Lady Aearin on her own. They got to know one another quite well after that."
Imrahil choked back a comment. Had he stumbled on a romance? After all, Thorongil was not so old, and could look quite favourable on occasions. Those being the times when he smiled. Maybe a woman was responsible for his sudden leave-taking. But Cúnir would have known, servants knew everything.
"Always concerned about those left behind, was the Captain," Cúnir interrupted his deliberations. "Especially Lady Aearin, with her being in straightened circumstances."
"So he arranged a position for her?"
"I believe that was Lord Ecthelion, my lord. Lord Glavror brought his daughter to the City after the raids on Linhir. She needed someone to show her how to go about things."
"I see." It sounded as if he could dismiss his suspicions, not that it was any of his business anyway. He wrapped the book back up carefully. "Well, perhaps you could put me in the way of finding her."
Cúnir pointed out of the window in the direction of the stables. "Lord Glavror has rented a house on the fifth level, the big one just below the Healing Houses, on the corner. You'll find it easily, lord."
"Thank you, Cúnir. I'll make sure the book gets back to its owner." He'd just read it through and then arrange for it to be delivered.
In Imrahil's opinion there were only a handful of good reasons to come to Minas Tirith. One was that he could see his sister – although he could shove that particular one aside for the present. The libraries were always worth a visit, but mostly, if he came at all, it was because he liked the family house built high up on the sixth level, just along from the stables. It had belonged to the Dol Amroth princes for generations, and his great-grandfather had sensibly purchased the house next door to provide more accommodation for knights and horses. The view from most of the windows was stupendous, and the courtyard profited from the shade of one of the few large trees in the City.
Another benefit to be considered was that their cook, Niram, made the best raised mutton pies he had ever tasted. It was a bit of a tossup whether to start on the book or the pie, but the pie was better when still warm. Imrahil put the book aside – too valuable to risk getting grease on it – and sat down with Sergion. A relay of his spat with Ecthelion, and his subsequent conversation with Finduilas, told over the meal, sent his friend's black brows soaring skywards.
"Allow me to congratulate you," Sergion said with no more than a flicker of a grin. "It seems that we'll be celebrating your nuptials in the very near future."
"Watch you don't get posted to Tolfalas!" Imrahil growled, pushing his plate away. He got up abruptly and washed his hands in the bowl left by the servant, but found himself on the edge of laughter. "You don't think I'm a match for them?"
"The odds are against you – your father, sister, our venerable Steward, Denethor…"
Imrahil glared at him again. "I won't even answer that!" He picked up the book, went to the chair by the window and started reading. A little while later he put it down, full of amazement. "Do you know, this is the recollections of one of Eärnil's captains. It starts with Eärnil riding to claim the kingship, and it's the last of a set, so the others should be about the battles."
"Written by someone who was there?" Sergion's face lit with interest.
"Well, it was scribed some time later by another, but from original writings. I have ancestors who were at the Battle of the Camp, but not many of the firsthand accounts have survived, and nothing so personal. No wonder Thorongil wanted to make sure the book was returned. It should be kept in the library."
"And copied by the look of it. It's not in prime condition. Though I suppose one would hardly expect it to be after all this time," Sergion conceded.
"I would like to read the others," Imrahil mused. "And suggest the books are kept somewhere secure." He came quickly to a decision. "I'll take it back myself, maybe find out a bit more. You'd better come with me."
"Why me? With all those days at sea, I had every intention of going for a ride," Sergion protested.
Imrahil glanced out of the window, it had started to drizzle. "It won't take long, we'll go riding later. I'm not going into the lion's den on my own."
"The beautiful Lady Mirineth, you might have to save me from her."
Sergion chuckled. "A lioness then, rather than a lion."
"Exactly! And they hunt by instinct. But with you there, she won't know which one to go for."
"Imrahil," Sergion flashed him a wry look, "unless she is a complete fool, she will know exactly who to target."
How true that was. "Well, since I've come of age I've had a little practice sidestepping the odd predator; just don't let me overdo it on the wine."
"I doubt there will be much on offer in the early afternoon," Sergion remarked.
Imrahil had a thought and it started him chuckling. "If I feel threatened, I'll ask her father to get out his best red, imbibe heavily, and he will think I'm a sop. That should make me an undesirable catch."
Sergion twisted his lips into a sardonic smile. "I feel you'll have to do a lot more than get drunk to counter the lure of a princedom."
Grinning, Imrahil stood up. "Come on, we've never faltered in the face of the enemy yet."
They found the house easily, large and imposing, it had obviously been recently cleaned up. No weeds poked from between the stones and here and there Imrahil saw the signs of fresh mortar. The door had been oiled and the iron knocker blackened; he rapped it sharply.
A few moments later they were greeted by a lavishly dressed retainer, the embellished tunic more suited to a formal feast than an unremarkable afternoon. The man weighed up their worth in an instant, and bowed low. "My lords."
Imrahil introduced himself and Sergion. "Is Lord Glavror at home?"
"He will return shortly, my lord," the man said with a lofty air. "If you have business you are welcome to wait."
"My business is with Lady Aearin." Imrahil said.
That brought a flicker of surprise, but he opened the door wide, inviting them in. "She is with Lady Mirineth, my lord's daughter. Lady Mirineth is receiving visitors in the solar."
Sitting around waiting for the legions of suitors to call, no doubt. Imrahil nodded, and he and Sergion followed the man into the flagstoned hall, divesting themselves of their damp cloaks. He looked around: the floor was the only bit of stone to be seen, and that was mostly covered by richly woven rugs that could only hail from the East. Every wall had been hung with tapestries, and dark carved furniture overcrowded the space. A great silver candleholder, held up by a pair of huge ornate dancing bears, sat on top of a tall coffer that guarded the stairs. Imrahil's lips twitched as he glanced at Sergion, his friend eyeing the monstrosity with undisguised loathing. They hesitated, expecting to be asked to wait, but the man beckoned them up.
The stately figure ascended at a dignified pace. Reaching the top he led them along a passage, heavily rugged, and tapped on a door at the end.
"Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and Lord Sergion," he announced and stood back to let them in.
Imrahil stepped into the room and stopped. Facing him was a lady of extraordinary loveliness. Of good height, her trim figure sheathed in a sapphire gown, she looked pretty enough to eat. Delicate features, a peaches and cream complexion and rosebud lips were framed by a mass of burnished curls. Quite devastating. But as he drank in her beauty he got a big shock. Fright! No mistake: the huge blue orbs shrank from his gaze in fright.
He'd no chance to think what this might mean as a movement on his right drew his attention. A lady rose from a chair in the shadows and moved towards him and the light. She bowed her head when he looked her way, but when she levelled her gaze again he found himself under the candid scrutiny of a pair of cool grey eyes.
To be continued.
Jibran died at about forty-five years of age in the summer of 3015 when Lothíriel was attacked by a force of Corsairs and Haradrim. Two knights and four men were killed, Sergion was badly wounded. The account of the attack appears in Chapters 9 & 10 of Tide of Destiny. LBJ
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.