5. Amontil of Lorien's Tale
The mood in Imladris could best be described as anxious. Haunted eyes followed the Lord of Rivendell about his daily tasks and conversations stopped abruptly when Lady Arwen entered the room. The citizens of fair Imladris were worried about their lord and the Evenstar and they mourned the loss of the young lord Estel.
Less than one month earlier Arwen was awakened in the night by shouts and horses' whinnies. Torches bobbed in the stable yard. From the upstairs balcony, she witnessed her brother Elrohir in traveling clothes already mounted on his horse, demanding speed from the others. Legolas and Elladan were still tacking their mounts. Her father, in trousers only, a sight seldom seen even by the family, gripped Elrohir's arm.
"May the Valar speed you; may you find him safe." He watched the three spur out of the gates, their rapid hoof beats dying away south in the night. Arwen met her father coming up the terrace steps.
"Ada, what's wrong?" Not since Celebrian's leaving had she seen such suffering in his eyes.
"Nothing. I just sent them on an errand." He recognized his poor lie.
"Is it Celeborn? Mithrandir?" She grabbed his arm as he tried to brush past. "Ada, don't evade me. Something is desperately wrong." Suddenly, she knew and her world pitched like a ship in a storm. Elrond caught her as she stumbled. "It is Aragorn! Is he hurt? Is he dead?" Only days before, she had sobbed through a long letter from him, telling her he was off to the Havens to battle the Corsairs. For a moment, her mind's eye saw him white and cold, drifting in the depths of the Great Sea. Arwen could barely hear her father's reply for the roaring like a thousand angry wasps.
"He's gone to Mordor." For the first time in her long life, Arwen Undomiel fainted into her father's arms.
So nearly a month had passed and there was no news from her brothers. Earlier that day, Elderin, an emissary from Lorien had arrived with messages from Galadriel and Celeborn. He had been shut up with Glorfindel and her father in the study ever since. Erestor, as always diligent in his role as seneschal, wished to provide comfort to all travelers to Rivendell and had produced a feast for the emissary and his entourage. Among them was one who Arwen remembered from her time in Lothlorien as a great teller of tales, almost as fine as Elladan. She sought Amontil out, finding him in the early spring gardens.
"My lord," she caught the green-eyed elf's hand. "I hope you found your journey easy." He smiled and nodded speechless, shy of the beautiful, sad lady and like all his kind, a little bit in love with her. "There will be singing and story-telling in the Hall of Fire tonight. Will you favor us with a tale, if you are not too fatigued? With my brothers gone, it has been so solemn here." When she smiled, very few in Middle-Earth could refuse a request from the Evenstar. Amontil was stunned.
"Y-yes, my lady. By your leave, I have a new story that the Hall of Fire will welcome. I-I hope it will bring joy to you."
"I fear there is no tale that will bring joy to me, Amontil," she said and left him staring after her as she walked away. The young band watched her go and vowed he would sing such a story as would take the tears from the beautiful lady's eyes.
The laughter and singing in the hall were subdued that evening. Arwen had done her best to act as cheerful hostess, but Erestor and Glorfindel often had to fill in conversation with the guests when both Elrond and his daughter would lose track of the topic and stare off in sad silence. Finally, Amontil took the story teller's seat and with soft background music, commenced.
"Ladies and lords of fair Imladris, I will tell you a tale of the South, a tale of the men of Gondor who face the Evil daily. This great adventure happened such a short time ago, it is more news than tale, but it is one that is reminiscent of the great stories of long, long ago. This is the Story of the Hero of Umbar…" Amontil's voice dropped and softened, encouraging the listeners to lean closer to him to hear the lyrics of the ballad.
"Black were the sails of the Corsairs' ships
Black were their hearts as well.
No town or cottage was safe from them
A plague on the land of the Men of the South
Along the Anduin from Belfalas north,
These minions of evil struck fear in all.
A plan was devised in the tall white tower
A plan of exceeding cunning was wrought
By a man of secret, dark was his past.
They said he was both Elf and Man,
He came forward with plan and sword
Thorongil, Commander, dark and bold.
In the Hall, Arwen gasped audibly. Her father was watching Amontil intently and Glorfindel's eyes were closed, his head resting in his hands. The quiet conversation that often continued during song or tale ceased. The entire hall stared round-eyed at the bard. Amontil gloried that he had the attention of the entire room but wasn't confident that was a good thing."The light of Elendii was in his eyes
The strength of Ereinion was in his heart.
The stars of old upon his breast,
A worthy foe to end the pirates' deeds."
As he came south, sailing from the White City
In a vessel, fey and swift.
And with him friends stout as Elf-kin of old,
And with him a sword of Elven-kind
Recovered from Gondolin's glory days.
He led his secret host disguised.
On the pirate ships at anchor there
In Umbar, flames filled the night.
Later, on the quay at Pelargir
Later there he met the corsair king.
The pirate sought death revenge in payment
The Gondorian commander stood tall and brave,
As like unto Numenor's kings
He silent stood, backed by his valiant host.
"As the sun was rising, death was the terms
As the raiders leered boldly, sure of his end.
Thorongil simply nodded, unsheathing his blade.
Justice in his heart, he saluted to his foe.
'For Gondor. For our women who weep, for our kin who have died.
He pledged to his men's wild cheers.
Red was the dawn as the pirate leader thrust
Red was the quay as blood freely flowed.
One last time, the pirate swung to attack
Deadly his curved blade, as wicked as his cause.
Thorongil coolly stared down its length, death swung in his hand,
The room as one lean forward as Amontil paused, holding its breath.
The corsair's head and sword lay on the docks
As the sun rose.
A gallant win for good and light,
A gallant knight to face the East,
So ended the reign of the scourge of the coast
Laid low by the commander of the White City
Like one not seen for many an age
A son of Elendil come again,
Thorongil, Hero of Umbar.
The last clear note hung in the air of the hall, the only other sound was soft weeping. Amontil looked up and suddenly felt anxious that his song had been a mistake and had greatly displeased Lord Elrond's house. Perhaps these elvish lords did not approve of songs of men, even those as heroic as this commander. Perhaps the telling had been too brutal for the ladies of Imladris. He wondered briefly if he should soon lose his head like the pirate in the tale had. The expressions on Lord Elrond and Lady Arwen's faces were unfathomable, and the powerful sword master Lord Glorfindel's cheeks were tear-stained. Amontil dropped to his knees before Elrond.
"I beg forgiveness, my lord. I did not mean to offend." The lord raised him to his feet. The wisest one in Middle Earth could barely speak. He tried to clear his throat of the strong emotion clutching it.
"Amontil, you have it wrong. You have offered no offense. You have made our hearts sing tonight." Shocked, he found himself strongly embraced by the Lord of Imladris. "Le hannon, le hannon," Elrond whispered and the hall broke into thunderous applause. Amontil felt wetness of tears on his shoulder and could still not fathom why Elrond and his house had such a reaction to this tale of men. But, if a worthless bit of balladry could bring such a smile to the Lady Arwen, then he would be willing to abide here and sing it to her daily.
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