Many Guises and Many Names
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Thorongil: 6. Chapter 6
meeting with Finduilas and the rumours of the courtship. Someone had heard
that Adrahil was encouraging his daughter, someone else that he was not.
Denethor himself was in an uncharacteristic good mood as they packed their
bags and saddled the horses, laughing a little and even attempting a joke.
Once they were ready, Adrahil and his family and court came out to bid the
party from Minas Tirith farewell, and he spoke for a few minutes with
Denethor. The exchange left both of them smiling, and whatever the
Steward's son said to Finduilas as he kissed her hand made her blush.
As they left Dol Amroth behind, Denethor rode up beside Aragorn, their
horses falling into step with each other.
"Thank you for delivering my message yester eve."
"It was my pleasure, lord," Aragorn returned. "I trust the interview went
Denethor smiled. "Yes. I believe it did. It is strange, is it not, how the
sight of a fair lady may change an otherwise dull day for the better?
Enliven a tedious misson?"
"Or fix an already memorable moment in your heart forever," said Aragorn.
"Aye, it is strange. And if the lady can love you in return, you are twice-
"And if your father agrees to a match," Denethor added, "then you are
"I am sure the lord Steward will find no fault with the lady Finduilas,"
Aragorn said, "for indeed what fault could be found with such a jewel? The
blood of Dol Amroth runs true and fair even in these twilight days."
"That is true," Denethor said, nodding. "Nay, my father will be pleased of
the chance of an heir to follow me." He glanced at Aragorn. "As the King
will never return, we must continue the Steward's line."
"I believe," Aragorn said slowly, "that the Stewards will always have a
part to play in Gondor's future, whether the King returns or no. Surely no
man would reject such faithful servants?"
Their eyes met. After a moment Denethor shrugged.
"I would trust not."
They rode on in silence. Soon the talk fell to their business in Dol Amroth
and in Pelargir to come, and other members of the company joined the
Their road took them around the bulk of the Hills of Tarnost, and they
slept that night in the open, taking turns to be on watch. In the late
afternoon of the fourth day of their journey, they saw at last the
buildings of Pelargir; tall masts of ships and the glint of the waters of
There was an outpost of the White Tower here by the river, manned by a
company of Guards, and Denethor was welcomed warmly by the commander. A
meal was hastily laid out for the party from the City, and they ate before
being shown to a long communal chamber with beds and simple furnishings.
Someone suggested a game, and quickly most of the party had settled down to
it. Aragorn watched for a moment, and then slipped out.
He made his way down to the docks and walked along, watching the ships
which had arrived that day unloading their goods. Here there were elegant
vessels of Pelargir, and small fishing-boats, and Aragorn noticed also one
or two great black ships: the Corsairs from Umbar. There was little
conversation between the dark-eyed sailors on these ships and the men from
Pelargir who were carrying away the crates from them. Aragorn made a mental
note to tell Denethor of the presence of the Corsairs, and continued along
His attention was caught at the end of the dock by a ship smaller perhaps
than some of the others, but built of a pale grey wood with creamy white
canvas sails, now neatly furled. The prow was curved upwards, and there was
an air of simplicity and grace about the vessel. Aragorn, half-concealed by
shadows, watched as several large cases of the same pale grey wood were
unloaded. A tall hooded figure was directing the operation, and Aragorn's
eyes narrowed as he felt a tug of recognition watching the figure's
movements. Then, it turned, and gazed directly at Aragorn, and he caught a
direct glance from shining eyes and saw a lock of dark hair escaping from
under the concealing hood. He smiled, wryly, and received a brief nod in
Now the cases were being hurried away into a warehouse, and Aragorn turned
to retrace his steps back to their lodgings. Halfway there, someone pulled
at his cloak, and he turned, hand going automatically to his sword-hilt. A
small boy clutching a piece of paper stood there; he grinned and thrust the
paper into Aragorn's hand before running off again.
Aragorn unfolded the note and read, written in Westron in a flowing hand
clearly more used to Tengwar, "Swan and Star, half an hour." It was
unsigned. Aragorn tucked the note into a pocket, and walked on.
Twenty minutes later he was seated with a tankard of ale in a dark corner
in the 'Swan and Star', which had proved to be a sailor's tavern and busy
at this hour. Nobody took much notice of him, and he stretched out his legs
and wished he had a pipe and some tobacco. Shortly, the tall figure from
the quayside appeared, weaving through the crowds, and joined him without a
word. Aragorn put down his tankard, and waited.
"I had plans to come to Minas Tirith to visit you, Estel," his companion
said after a moment. "You have quite spoilt my hopes of seeing the White
"If I had known you were to come," Aragorn returned, "I would have made
certain to be absent. It's been a long time, Elladan."
"A mere eighteen years," the Elf said, smiling. "Yet you look much older."
"I am older," Aragorn said, "as well you know. But this is not the time for
jokes. Why are you in Pelargir?"
Elrond's son dropped his smile. "Running errands for my father, and for
Círdan," he explained. "Círdan wanted some goods delivering in exchange for
certain items he needs at the Havens - some Men still are willing to trade
with the Eldar. My father wanted news from the South, and news of you. And
of Mithrandir, if you have seen him lately?"
"Not for a twelvemonth," Aragorn said. "He did not say where he was
"He comes and goes as he pleases," Elladan nodded. "And you? How goes it in
Aragorn gave him the news and explained why he was in Pelargir. "And I
believe Denethor has found a wife, if Ecthelion approves, which he surely
will. I am glad of it. The line of the Stewards must continue."
"Even if ." said Elladan, raising an eyebrow.
"Even if," Aragorn agreed. "But this is neither the time nor the place,
brother. Tell me of the North."
"The same, or nearly," Elladan said. "My father is well, though concerned
about any rumour he hears from the South. Elrohir has remained with Círdan
for the time being; we rode to the Havens together. Our sister is in
Lórien, no doubt learning suitable arts and wisdom from the Lady. We see
her if we pass by."
Aragorn gazed into his ale. "And my mother?" he asked in a low voice.
"Is well," the Elf replied, smiling gently at his friend. "Elrohir and I
halted briefly on our way to Mithlond. She sends her love and her support
to her son, and bade me tell you that the Dúnedain have noted some
Southerners in Breeland, but that the Shire remains a haven. Be sure to
tell Mithrandir, should you see him."
"The news about the Southerners is concerning," Aragorn said. "I wish I
could warn Ecthelion. But it is not safe ." He paused. "If you pass that
way again, Elladan, send her my greetings."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each occupied with their own
thoughts. Elladan broke it, softly.
"It is a lonely life, I see. I fear you are not happy, Estel."
"Happy?" Aragorn let out a short laugh. "That is not my lot. I am content.
Thengel is a great lord and the Rohirrim are generous people, I liked
riding for them. In the same way, Ecthelion is a strong leader. The White
City is a beautiful place. He who was ill at ease there would be a fool
indeed. But you must surely know my heart's desire, and no doubt like your
father are unhappy for it; yet will I never be truly happy until that
desire is fulfilled."
"I hold both you and her amongst those dearest to me," Elladan said. "I
wish you both joy, even if that joy is not found together. Make of that
what you will."
Aragorn nodded, and drained his tankard. "I must go. Be sure to pass on to
your father the news, and keep a watch out yourself. We must be wary in
"Be safe, brother," Elladan said.
Aragorn nodded, and left the inn without a backward glance at the Elf. On
the way back to their lodgings, he kept alert for signs of anyone following
him, and was reassured that this seemed not to be the case.
In the morning, he found Denethor sitting alone reading a sheaf of reports
from the Pelargir guards.
"What is it, Thorongil?" Denethor put down the papers, and glanced up at
Aragorn. "I hear you went out walking last night."
"To stretch my legs and see the city a little," Aragorn said. "I went to
the docks. There were three Corsairs, my lord Denethor, all with full
crews. Is it not possible that these are used by those coming north to act
as spies? The Corsairs are not averse to working against Gondor,
particularly if it is to their own benefit."
The Steward's son frowned. "It is true we are not friendly with Umbar," he
said, "but neither are we currently at outright war with them. They trade
"They are a naval power to be reckoned with," Aragorn said firmly. "They
hate Gondor and will do aught to bring her down. They should not be
permitted into Pelargir or any other Gondorian harbour, my lord."
"So as well as being our expert on the Rohirrim, Thorongil," said Denethor,
"you are also an expert on the Corsairs? I did not know."
"Thengel once granted me leave to travel," Aragorn explained briefly. "I
went South, and learned much about Umbar and Harad. You may see them as in
Gondor's control, but they do not. If Saruman has taken a path deviating
from that of Gondor and her allies, my lord, Umbar will be with him. I beg
you, trust me."
Denethor shrugged. "I will consult the Steward, Thorongil. It may be that
he sees fit to heed your counsel. Now, I wish to finish these reports. You
and some of the men, go and ask those guards stationed here what unusual
activity they have seen, and report to me before the evening meal."
"My lord." Aragorn bowed, and walked away to carry out Denethor's orders.
He and five others of the company from Minas Tirith spent the day
interviewing the Pelargir guards, who proved sociable and happy to talk. It
became clear that they viewed their posts as easy ones, and their duties
consisted mainly of patrolling the docks and quays and inspecting the
occasional cargo. They had had few problems with the sailors from Umbar.
"They don't drink liquor, not like our folk," one grizzled old guard said,
with a laugh. "If there's any who choose to fight, it's those who take in
too much on arriving safely at home. The Corsairs keep themselves to
Aragorn noted this. The guard watched him write, and added, "I know we
don't get many, but it's the Elvish ships that cause the greatest trouble."
"In what way?" Aragorn asked, pausing in his notes. The old man shrugged.
"Well, they're different, aren't they? Folk feel that the Elves feel
themselves superior to us Men. They don't provide any trade in the hostels,
and their goods are of no use to ordinary people."
Aragorn glanced down at his page, and after a moment nodded. "I understand
this," he said, "but what happens?"
"Nothing happens, as such," the guard said. "We don't talk to them and they
don't talk to us. But it creates an uneasy atmosphere, you understand?"
"Try and make it clear to the people that the Elves are our allies,"
Aragorn said. "We need them, and not only for trade. Their wisdom and
knowledge could be Gondor's greatest prop in times to come. Antagonism can
only lead to ill."
"We can try," the guard said, frowning.
"Thank you," Aragorn returned. "Have you aught else that may be of use to
the lord Denethor?"
"I think not," said the guard. "But it's good to see him here, to know that
the City still cares for her land. He'll be a good Steward, when the time
As they were walking through the corridors to the next guard's post, one of
Aragorn's companions remarked casually, "I did not know you were such a
supporter of the Elves, Thorongil."
"I meant what I said," Aragorn replied. "They are our allies. And though it
may now be greatly diminished, there is still some of the blood of Elros
flowing in the veins of Gondor."
"I'd wager they take little interest in us these days," someone else
Aragorn said nothing.
By the end of the day, they had gathered enough information to satisfy even
Denethor's rigorous standards. It seemed there had been a slight increase
in traffic from the South, but until the arrival of the party from Minas
Tirith, little attention had been paid to it. Now the commander of the
garrison promised to keep a close eye on any newcomers to Pelargir, and to
report their presence to the City. Aragorn agreed with Denethor that
Thengel would be grateful for and satisfied with the news.
He went out to the docks again before retiring to bed, and arrived just as
the grey Elven-ship was setting her sails and casting off, lanterns hung to
port and to starboard. Gracefully she moved out into the wide estuary, and
slipped away westwards towards the sea. Aragorn watched from the quayside
until her white sails had faded into the twilight, and then turned away.
* * *
Author's notes: I've taken a few liberties here. But the whole point of
this fic is to fill in the vast gaps left by Tolkien, who, after all, was
far more interested in developing the earlier history of Middle-earth than
telling us about Aragorn's wanderings. From this period all we know is that
officially Gondor and Umbar were at war. I have no idea whether there would
be trade between Men and Elves - my reasoning is that there must have been
things manufactured by each race that would be useful to the other; and
things from the north useful in the south, etc. I wanted Aragorn to have
some contact with the north, and Gandalf's already visited twice! Hence the
appearance of Elladan. Clearly, with the possibility of spies, the
conversation in the inn was a risk, but I think they were vague enough.
Anyway I don't think I've contradicted anything Tolkien said, merely added
to it. I hope you enjoyed this instalment, so long in coming - any
constructive criticism is more than welcome.
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