15. Fornost Erain, Norbury of the Kings
"We've never been here before either." Pippin said conversationally. Boromir looked at him in surprise and he explained. "No reason to. When Gil calls a council he holds it at Annuminas, like Strider."
"The gates are shut." Amrod, the captain of their escort, said suddenly eyes narrowing as he peered ahead.
"At midafternoon?" Boromir looked at Aragorn. "Something has happened."
The King nodded grim, silent agreement.
Boromir had grown up admidst the fading glories of Minas Tirith, seen Rivendell, the Great Hall of Moria, Lorien and the Argonath, (not to mention Avallone) but his eyes opened wide at the sight of the great gate of Fornost.
Four times the height of a Man it was and wrought of glittering steel with dozens of keen edged blades set lengthwise in a grille of massive metal beams, the uprights tapering to needle sharp points. As they approached the gates swung open for them and they rode into a stone paved court lined with low buildings. The gate was guarded by a company of archers in bright mail and grey surcoats, with seven foot steel war bows slung over their shoulders.
Aragorn beckoned their captain to him. "Why are the gates closed, Arallas?"
The Man gave him a small wintery smile, Boromir remembered seeing the like on Aragorn's face during the dark days of the Quest. "The Wolf-lord decided not to hide any more." he said, then, as the King's expression changed, continued reassuringly: "Never fear, Dunadan, we took little hurt. But we called in the herdsmen and shut the gates that we might keep it so. Let Gilvagor tell you the story."
"I will." Aragorn answered and led them on.
The five gates of Fornost had been made for the new King by the Elven smiths of Lindon, students of Feanor and Enerdhil. The first gate of steel was known as the Gate of Swords. It faced due south but like Minas Tirith the gates of Fornost were not set in line but at different points in the circuit of the walls so the traveller must zig-zag his way up the hill. The first circle was still ruinous with crumbling stone walls covered by thick grass and brambles and many trees. Here the sheep and cattle and horses who usually grazed the land around the city had been brought for safety, watched over by a few herdsmen.
The second gate, the Gate of Fire, stood open. It faced eastward and was wrought of red-gold culurin*1 engraved in a pattern of coiling flames and inlaid with gold and copper wire. It was guarded by a company of tall, swarthy Men, neither Dunedain nor Breelander, clad in scaled armor of culurin beneath scarlet surcoats and armed with great axes which they raised in salute as the King's party passed.
The second circle had been partially rebuilt. Though much was still ruinous and overgrown, here and there the encroaching plant life had been cleared away and new buildings raised on the ancient foundations. The people inhabiting them were, by the look of them, akin to the guards at the gate and the Men of Bree.
The third gate looked westward and was known as the Gate of the Sun for its great doors, overlaid with pure gold, were emblazoned with the setting sun. Its guard wore a livery of golden yellow over gold washed mail and were armed with long spears.
Beyond it the city proper began. The Third circle had been entirely restored to something like its ancient splendor with homes and shops and inns built of good stone and interspersed with parks and gardens filled with rare trees and flowers brought long ago from lost Numenor.
The fourth gate, the Gate of the Moon, faced eastward and was wrought in shimmering mithril, its great doors etched with the image of the rising moon. And the company that guarded it wore mithril armour under surcoats of purest white.
The fourth circle held many tall and splendid mansions adorned with colonades and carved statues. Each with its own extensive garden, not walled away as in Minas Tirith but enclosed in low fences of intricately wrought iron or bronze. The devices engraved above the doors of these great houses included some known only from ancient lists in Gondor and others well remembered in song and legend.
The fifth and final gate, like the first some five hundred feet below, looked south. Called the Gate of the Stars it was of gleaming black galvorn*2 inset with stars of mithril and adamant. Its guards wore a black livery, like the Citadel Guard of Minas Tirith, but ensigned with the seven stars and one of the North Kingdom instead of the white tree, over black mail of galvorn.
The Citadel itself looked much like the drawings and plans Boromir had seen of the seventh circle of Minas Tirith back when it was still Minas Anor. A massive white tower, some three hundred feet tall, was flanked by two great halls fronted by arcaded porches and facing onto a great court paved with colored stone and adorned with fountains and statues. It was enclosed by long, low buildings to the east and west; barracks and armories, stables and storehouses.
Gilvagor the King*3 reminded Boromir not so much of Aragorn as of Elrond. The eyes and the shape of the brows were the same but set in a younger, almost unlined face with sculpted, slightly hollow cheeks, squared jawline and a long pointed chin.
"They took us entirely by surprise." the younger king told Aragorn ruefully as they walked together down an alley of vardarianna trees in the gardens behind the formal forecourt, followed by Boromir and the Hobbits. "This is not the season for wolves - and indeed we've had little trouble from them for many years." a wry twist of the lips. "Which now I think of it seems suspicious in itself."
The High King waved that away. "It is easy to be wise after the event. Arallas said little harm was done?"
"That is so. We lost some livestock, and two of the dogs but no Men. Our people know this particular enemy to well to be easily overcome." Gilvagor shook his head. "We could make nothing at all of the sudden assault until your letter came two days later."
"I don't understand." Boromir said. "What did Draugoth expect to accomplish by such an attack?"
"Nothing save to sate his anger at being discovered." Aragorn replied. "For all his cunning and his power the Wolf-lord is still but a beast. His bloodlust often overcomes such reason as he has."
"But not his caution." Boromir observed.
The High King looked thoughtful. "That is true. It seems Draugoth still wishes to avoid facing the Dunedain in his own person."
"Certainly he did not show himself to us that night." said Gilvagor.
"What I'd like to know is where he is now." Merry put in.
"Gone to ground in the far north I would guess," King Gilvagor answered. "among the White Wolves."
"So what do we do about it?" Pippin wanted to know.
Aragorn smiled grimly. "An excellent question, my Lord Thain."
"To follow him into his stronghold would be unwise I think." Boromir offered hesitantly.
"I agree!" said Gilvagor emphatically.
Aragorn smiled again at his vehemence. "So do I."
"Perhaps if we attacked some ally of his, nearer at hand." Boromir continued, no less diffidently. "Force him to respond to us rather than awaiting his next move."
"A good thought." King Gilvagor approved and glanced at his overlord and cousin. "Turamarth tells me the Trolls of the High Fells have been troublesome of late." ****
*1 Culurin is a metal of my own invention, (though the name is Tolkien's Elvish) red-golden like copper in color but harder than steel. It is an alloy created by Mahtan, father-in-law of Feanor, in Aman before the Revolt of the Noldor.
*2 Galvorn (S. Shining Black) is canonical. It is a jet black alloy created by the Sindarin Smith Eol in the First Age.
*3 Gilvagor is the son of Armegil, brother of Arathorn and Gilmith sister of Gilraen. He is also brother of Aranel of Amon Sul, and so uncle to Turamarth of Rhudaur, her son.
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