1. The boys who lived
Annúminas, Third Age 10
He must have heard me, but Nolondil does not stop or turn his head. I wonder at that, for though it has been years since we last met, we were once close in friendship, and our most recent parting had been cordial.
I walk faster, my boots on the pavement sounding oddly loud to me – it has been long since I have trod on surfaces other than soft earth – and so catch up with him.
Nolondil does halt, but reluctantly. "What is it, Estelmo?"
"What is it?" I echo his words. "Can I not greet a friend in the street in Annúminas?"
He snorts, saying nothing, though he does not walk off either. I am curious what it is that bothers him, for he looks almost haunted. He hesitates, looking down, then sighs, seeming to reach a decision.
"Come," he says at last. "We should… there is an inn just around the corner. We can talk there."
There is indeed an inn – The Laughing Boar – and as soon as we are inside, Nolondil orders two beers and points me to a table in a corner.
Nolondil waits until we have our beer, and after we have both taken a first appreciative sip, he sets his pint down with a thump.
"It is easy for you," he says, and I flinch at the bitterness in his voice.
"Easy? I do not understand." By now, though, I am starting to have some idea of what is the matter with him, and I respond more patiently than I might have done otherwise.
"Easy," Nolondil repeats angrily. "You at least fought in the last defense of the king, and it was only chance that you survived. No one questions your courage." He quickly looks away, then meets my gaze again. "When Marach and I left, I looked back. You stood there so proudly beside your lord, and I envied you your place, though I knew I was abandoning you to death."
It is my turn to look away now. Though I gave a good accounting of myself in that battle and may well have looked the part in Nolondil's eyes, I know well I was not the model esquire, intrepid defender of his lord. That lad never made it past our first battle in the Black Land, where he learned that war is blood, death, horror – not glorious banners rippling in the wind, no matter how fair.
Suddenly I hear the raucous yells of the Orcs as they draw nearer in the gloom of nightfall. Fear overcomes me, and I gaze after Nolondil and Marach as they disappear in the distance, envying them their escape. My hand grasps to hold on to my sword, but finds it not, and I look around in confusion.
I look at Nolondil again, and he smiles without mirth. "You too, then," he says softly, sounding almost satisfied. I can only nod in confirmation. We finish our drinks in silence, and leave to go our separate ways.
This story is based on Unfinished Tales – The Disaster of the Gladden Fields. Therefore, other than suggested in LotR, Appendix B, I've gone with the idea that 'Ohtar' is a rank, not a name, and I've had to find a name for him, as well as for his unnamed companion.
Also, despite the title, none of these three are referred to in the text as 'boys', but only as '(young) men', so I assume they would have been in their late teens, perhaps even their early twenties, when the armies of the Last Alliance left Imladris.
There were eye-witnesses of the event. Ohtar and his companion escaped, bearing with them the shards of Narsil. The tale mentions a young man who survived the slaughter: he was Elendur's esquire, named Estelmo, and was one of the last to fall, but was stunned by a club, and not slain, and was found alive under Elendur's body. (UT, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields, p. 275-276, Harper Collins paperback edition 1993; the notes quoted below are from the same edition)
Note 17: Ohtar is the only name used in the legends; but it is probably only the title of address that Isildur used at this tragic moment, hiding his feelings under formality. Ohtar "warrior, soldier" was the title of all who, though fully trained and experienced, had not yet been admitted to the rank of roquen, "knight." But Ohtar was dear to Isildur and of his own kin.
Note 18: In the earlier draft Isildur directed Ohtar to take two companions with him. In Of the Rings of Power (The Silmarillion p. 295) and in The Fellowship of the Ring II 2 it is told that "three men only came ever back over the mountains." In the text given here the implication is that the third was Estelmo, Elendur's esquire, who survived the battle (see pp. 288).
Timeline from Lord of the Rings, Appendix B
Third Age 2 […] Isildur and his three elder sons are slain.
Third Age 3 Ohtar brings the shards of Narsil to Imladris.
Third Age 10 Valandil becomes King of Arnor.
A/N: The story was written for both the February/March Nuzgûl of the Month at HASA and for the LotRGenFic March Challenge (theme: Lion and Lamb, prompt: fearful/intrepid).
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