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