8. On the Quay
Revenge ran before a strong wind. Oromë smiled on them; overhead the stars were dazzling: Menelvagor the hunter guarded their path north. Behind them, a glow lit the stern horizon until the dawn bleached it away. The ships in the Havens were burning to their waterline, slowly slipping under the cooling sea, fouling the harbor so that it would take years to make the landings useable again for anchorage. The rising sun found Revenge still fleeing north, slicing through the waves on their way home, their mission complete. Thorongil was not as certain as his crew hey had escaped unnoticed and stood tensely on deck through the day, calling to his watch high atop the mainmast for sign of pursuit. They seemed to sail alone in the vast ocean, skimming along the southern coastline. Alone it seemed, away without the loss of a single man, until mid-afternoon when the watch called out a topsail on the horizon behind them.
Kindrel crowded on all sail until the creaking of the mains under the strain was like the crying of tortured souls. Thorongil stood on the stern looking back into the open sea, fighting the headache that threatened to blind him. He knew what followed them, but he was unable yet to sight her. The race was on. Only one craft survived the fire; only one craft was capable of such speed needed to catch them. It was Sea-wolf and she was the fastest craft Kindrel had ever seen. Finally, in the orange-lit sky of sunset, the watch called out "sail!" again and Thorongil saw the smoke smudge on the horizon. Night fell and the watch strained his eyes into the blackness. Near midnight, Thorongil called Gilmeldir up from the cabin and asked him what he saw. The elf's keen vision cut through the darkness.
"It is a three-masted ship and she grows ever closer," he announced. The young elf stayed on deck with Kindrel who worked mathematically to figure how quickly Sea-wolf closed the gap between them. Fallon watched his commander stagger under the stress and exhaustion and caught his arm.
"You've had little rest for three days." He gestured to Quillion who had not left his master's side, head laid against the gunwales of the stern deck, looking back. "Quillion is sleeping on his feet. Take him below and sit at your desk for a bit. I am sure he will sleep." Fallon used the pretext of the boy to convince his commander to rest. Thorongil exhausted in battle was better than most men fully wake, but Fallon wanted the odds balanced a bit more in their favor. In his heart, Fallon knew Sea-wolf would catch them and there would be a battle, the odds not to his liking for he was sure Toradan had herded as many pirates aboard as he dared and still make speed.
Below, out of the cold wind, Thorongil sat at his desk and bade Quillion lie in his bunk. Quillion made as if to protest and Thorongil interrupted sternly, in no mood to argue with his squire over a simple command.
"I understand clearly you have no love for me but you will follow my orders." Thorongil ground out through pain-gritted teeth. "I promise I will wake you in an hour's time and we shall see what progress Ascabar has made." The boy flung himself on the bunk and turned his face away, sniffing a few times in a way that made Thorongil feel he was indignant at such treatment, but Quillion fell asleep almost immediately, breathing deeply. Thorongil sat in his chair, one booted leg propped against the desk, and watched the boy. He reached out and smoothed back the unruly hair. This boy he cherished as he would a son should not be here. The feeling of impending doom still haunted him. Since leaving Pelargir, he had felt this would not end well. This boy he had tried for so long to keep safe would likely die at his side before the next sunset.
Thorongil shut his eyes a moment. He saw Arwen's face, heard his promise to be with her by Midsummer, heard her whisper 'Sleep.' 'For just a moment,' Thorongil thought, 'perhaps this headache will go away if I listen to my love for just a moment.'
"Commander," Fallon spoke quietly and Thorongil started up. Gray light filled the cabin. It was dawn and Thorongil heard the scraping of the sweeps in the oarlocks. He bounded up, grabbing his coat. Quillion stirred on the bed and blinked sleepily.
"Has the wind died? How far behind is Ascabar?" Thorongil thundered up the stairs. On deck, what met his eyes was a very welcomed surprise. Somehow, Kindrel was a wizard in disguise. They were maneuvering into the quay at Pelargir.
"It was the wind," Kindrel said simply at Thorongil's amazed look.
On the dock, Bainon caught a line thrown from Revenge's bow. He had an entire company lined up there. Just as they tied up, the sun burst over the Shadow Mountains and turned the silver on the Gondorian uniforms to fire.
"Welcome home, Commander!" he called. "I trust you were successful." The Corsair Captain CaunNor's crew leapt to shore for the last time and joined their mates, shedding their pirate garb and pulling on their regulation uniforms. Thorongil quickly ordered Quillion and Gilmeldir to the mansion, and for once, the boy did not wish to stay for the fight. Thorongil stripped out of his glorious pirate coat and tugged on his uniform jacket. He briefly explained to the Lieutenant what they faced.
Sea-Wolf entered the harbor mouth unchallenged. She scraped into the jetty next to Revenge and the pirates, led by Toradan and Ascabar, swarmed onto the quay. Their complement was near one hundred, all volunteers from the burned ships seeking retribution. Toradan's dark eyes narrowed at the scene before him. The man he knew as CaunNor sat nonchalantly on the dockside cargo, wearing a Minas Tirith City Guard uniform. Spread out behind him was an entire troop of Guardsmen, swords drawn.
"As military governor of Pelargir, and Commander of Minas Tirith, I arrest you in the name of the Steward for atrocities committed on the people of this land. Lay down your weapons and you will be granted mercy," Thorongil ordered loud enough for all to hear.
"The governor!" Toradan nodded, astonished for only a moment. "You have duped me and that is a personal affront!" The pirates behind him growled. "You, arrogant one, are who I have a fight with. You have burned my ship, which is worse than if you took my woman. But I am a fair man. Let us, you and me, fight and the winner take all. If you lose, your men are forfeit and will labor for me or die by my hand. I will burn this city to the ground and sack Minas Tirith at my leisure." Thorongil nodded his acceptance.
"And if I win?"
"Then the world will be at an end and it won't matter to either of us." The pirates laughed at the bravado of their captain.
"The two of us then to the death," Thorongil agreed. "I make no promises for after." As Toradan prepared, giving Ascabar a few covert directions, Thorongil handed his coat to a protesting Fallon and leaned in to his captain, whispering. "No matter what happens, send the men against them immediately. Show no mercy. They will have none for you." The commander drew Agawaen Nor, checked the dagger in his boot, and, not waiting further, turned to his opponent.
The pair traded blows, the Gondolin blade throwing sparks from the cutlass in the charged air. Finding this commander was a true swordsman, Toradan stepped back, circling warily. He realized sheer strength and skill would not win this battle alone; it was time to employ another strategy.
"I am Toradan, Captain of the Havens. A descent of Castamir himself. My lineage is the highest of the West; I claim Eärendil the Mariner as my forefather," he bragged, pointing his blade at Thorongil. "Do you think to beat me? You are a mongrel dog of Gondor, probably a mercenary bastard born of a street whore. Did you know who your father was, dirt? Did your mother?" Toradan laughed, and he charged again, expecting a rage-infused response from his opponent.
Thorongil maintained his position, watching the pirate's lunge until the last instant. The bright Elvish blade slid under Toradan's guard and skipped a trail of red down the billowing white sleeve of his left arm. He looked at the wound, and bowed to Thorongil, shook his arm to get rid of the sting, and acknowledged the hit.
"That, Captain of the Havens, is for insulting my father who is a son of Eärendil." The Commander swung Agawaen Nor easily, backing Toradan along the quay, both his men and the pirates hemming in the fighters. "What do you fight for, Toradan?" he decided to engage in banter also. For the first time in all the battles since his youth, Toradan looked into his opponent's steady grey eyes and felt dread.
"Myself. I bowed to no man, not governor nor Steward, nor King if he came. And you, milord," the pirate said with bravado and charged forward. His cutlass scythed dangerously near Thorongil's face, but each time Agawaen Nor was there to defend the blow. "you fight for your pay?"
"Nay," Thorongil swung his blade and stepped forward strategically, again forcing the captain to move with each swing until Toradan's men had to separate and mingled with his own to allow the combatants fighting room. "I fight for all the men you've slaughter, the weeping women along the Anduin, the orphaned children of Gondor. I fight for a dead child I found wrapped in your bloody flag."
"You fight for the poor, the weak, the pitiful; you fight for ghosts and soon to be ghosts." The pirate swung his cutlass offensively once more. Heavy blows that would have brought a lesser man to his knees rained down on the commander. Slowly, the toll of days without rest seemed to be affecting him; his responses became erratic. The group of men tightened, like wolves anticipating a kill, pirates standing shoulder to shoulder with the troopers, eyes intent on the fighters.
Each swing of Toradan's sword seemed to sap more of Thorongil's strength; he switched his grip, clutching the sword's hilt defensively with both hands. All at once, Agawaen Nor dropped at his feet. A cry came unheeded from Fallon and the troopers tightened their grips on their drawn swords. Panting heavily, Thorongil staggered back and away, seemingly to avoid Toradan's next mortal swing. And, quickly as a snake striking, in one motion, he spun in a circle, pulling his dagger from his boot, and stepping inside the reach of his sword, buried it to the hilt in the base of the pirate's throat. He lifted Agawaen Nor from the ground, the bright blade scythed, and the Captain of the Havens' head rolled on the bloody docks.
Thorongil did not hesitate a moment but cut down the pirate standing next to him, who was still dazzled by the speed of the kill, and charged forward into the milling mass. Several minutes of fighting left the docks running with gore. The regular troopers, well trained, held fast against the rabble. Fallon was locked in deadly combat with Ascabar who brandished both a cutlass and a long slim dueling dagger. Laughing wildly, the pirate lunged, pushing aside Fallon's blade and pinned his sword arm to a crate with the dagger. Fallon stood straight, looking the pirate in the eye, knowing death was moments away. Ascabar drew another long jagged blade from his belt.
"Watch me cut out your heart, whoreson." Madness glittered in his eyes. The downward stroke of the blade was stopped abruptly.
"Not this day." The bright tip of Agawaen Nor blossomed from Ascabar's chest before Fallon's astounded eyes. Thorongil kicked the pirate's lifeless body from his blade and levered the dagger from the wood, freeing Fallon. With the last of their leaders dead, the pirate crew quickly threw down their weapons, preferring surrender and perhaps mercy to an assured death. The commander ordered Bainon to have the survivors bound. Fallon lean against the cargo boxes, cradling his wounded arm, and watching the aftermath of the battle. The docks were slick with blood and the medic treated several of their own troopers' grievous wounds. Satisfied that the pirate ship was secure, Thorongil, no longer the fiendishly hacking demon from the fray, returned to Fallon and the captain realized he was half-fearful of the man.
"You ended that with Toradan quite suddenly," Fallon observed, his hand pressed to his bleeding arm as they surveyed the bloody scene.
"He grew tedious." Thorongil pushed Fallon's hand away and bound up the wound with his scarf. Fallon was still awed by the deadly actions of his friend. He had fought in countless battles with his commander, but he had never seen Thorongil fight with such cold calculation.
"My lord, you are the best swordsman of the age. And, by the Valar, you never cease to amaze me." Fallon smiled ruefully. "But you are a dirty fighter."
"I was trained by two of the dirtiest fighters in all Middle Earth."
Fallon sat in the military governor's offices in Pelargir, stitched and bandaged and assigned by his healer and commander to light duty only. Following that command, he was kicked back in the commander's chair still feeling the elation of their victory. He was also a bit giddy from Thorongil's healing potion. It was three days after the defeat of Toradan on the quay. Thorongil and Kindrel were meeting with the Council to report that the harbor should be safe for sometime from corsair attack and to root out the last of the collaborators and justly punish them.
Gilmeldir and Quillion came into the office. The elf was booted and spurred, a bow and quiver on his shoulder. His saddled horse waited him outside. He was off north to Lothlorien and home. Thorongil suggested he wait a bit and ride to Minas Tirith with them but Gelmeldir was insistent. The need to see his home and family was too strong. Fallon had grown fond of Gilmeldir in the few days they had spent together and he had been impressed at the elf's fighting skills displayed on the docks. The youth had dispassionately dispatched several of the pirates with a pair of daggers.
"Good journey, my friend," Fallon told the young elf. "May our paths cross again in the peace of Lothlorien."
"Peace to your soul, Lord Fallon. You will always be welcomed by my people in the Golden Wood." As he and Quillion watched Gilmeldir ride away, a cantering horseman passed the elf at the gate and reined in at the steps. The rider was a herald from Minas Tirith with dispatches.
Thorongil rode patrol that evening in place of his captain. He reflected on the afternoon's council meeting in the quiet streets of Pelargir. After loudly protesting all were innocent of supporting Toradan, the Lord Mayor finally gave up the three collaborators, members of noble families. With their arrest, the safety of the harbor town and the surrounding lands was guaranteed. To ensure the peace, Thorongil had enacted the curfew to keep sympathizers off the streets until the three could be tried, and to be sure there were no other pirates that had slipped away from the docks and sneaked into Pelargir to cause mayhem. He instituted regular patrols of the deserted streets. The only movement in the city seemed to be other Gondorian troopers, though Thorongil suspected a few of the seedier taverns retained their patrons.
Later in the evening, he sent the patrol on with its rounds, and stopped by the mansion to see how Quillion and Fallon fared. Thorongil found Quillion alone, working at his desk. Quillion leaped to his feet, standing straight and saluting in a very military and impersonal way.
"Where is Fallon?" Thorongil asked, feeling a resurgence of the dread that had haunted him for weeks.
"He left," Quillion murmured. "He left swearing violently and threatened to cuff me if I told you where he went, my lord. He is gone to the tavern. The messenger from Minas Tirith had some letters for him. He opened one and that when he swore and went off." Thorongil, blazing angry, thundered out into the night to find his second in command, who now had desertion under martial law to add to his list of crimes.
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.