Format: short story
Characters: OMCS, Aragorn, Ecthelion,Adrahil
Creator's Notes;Aragorn's Aunt is a healer in my universe.
Summary: Thorongil visits Dol Amroth for the first time.
Thorongil made his way to the Steward's private chambers. He had only dwelt in Gondor a few months, but the old man had quickly befriended him and invitations to dinner had become a weekly occurrence. He surmised that the Steward was lonely. His daughters all lived far away with their own families and his son and heir was a cold, proud man who had no time to listen to his father's stories. Thorongil enjoyed listening and entertaining the Steward with tales of his own, mostly concerning his adventures in Rohan.
The servant set out a sumptuous meal before them. Thorongil ate with less relish as was his custom. Ecthelion's table provided far better food than anything the barracks had to offer, but today he felt weary. Usually, the Steward only picked at his food, but today he ate heartily.
“The yarrow tincture you recommended has done wonders for my appetite,” Ecthelion remarked. “Why did my healers not tell me about it?”
“The uses of some herbs are still remembered in the North that have been forgotten in the South,” said Thorongil. He sipped his wine. “My Aunt was well versed in herb lore as was my foster father.”
“Truly? I thought the North a wild and desolate place.”
“There are desolate places in the North, but also much that is beautiful. We value lore and preserve it, much as you do in Gondor.”
“I have heard rumours of a house where a master of lore dwells,” said the Steward. He cleared his plate and called for a servant to bring dessert.
“There are many rumours about my homeland,” said Thorongil. He swiftly changed the subject. “Would you like me to mix you more tincture of yarrow, my lord.”
“I would appreciate that, my friend when you have time. You look tired today and have hardly touched your food.” The Steward's voice was filled with concern.
“I have not been sleeping well of late, my lord. As you recall, I recently lost a man under my command during a skirmish. Such losses always give me nightmares.”
Ecthelion nodded sympathetically. “Well I remember the pain when I was commanding men in the field. Every loss gnaws at your soul even though you could not have prevented it.”
“The Southrons ambushed us, I berate myself for allowing it to happen.”
“I have heard rumours they are taught to hold their breath so that no man, however skilled is aware of their presence. Do not blame yourself, my friend, a lesser captain would have suffered far greater losses. You emerged victorious. Now tell me, have you ever seen the ocean?”
“The Ocean?” Thorongil wondered why the Steward suddenly wanted to talk about the sea, “Not for many a year, my lord. It is vast and beautiful and soothes the spirit.”
“Then I have an errand that might be to your liking. I need a confidential message delivered to Adrahil of Dol Amroth. I would like you to deliver my message.”
“Gladly, my lord. I would enjoy the errand.”
“Excellent, Thorongil. Come to my study on the morrow and I will give you the letter. Take your time with the errand, once you have delivered the message there is no cause to hurry back. The countryside is especially beautiful in autumn and you can behold the sun going down beyond the sea. The change will do you good and perhaps calm your nightmares. I used to enjoy visiting Dol Amroth in my youth.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
Ecthelion began telling Thorongil a tale about a visit he had paid to Dol Amroth when he was a young lad. Thorongil listened intently, trying to learn all he could about this new place he was bidden to visit.
Thorongil set out on his journey the next morning. It was a crisp autumn day and he enjoyed the feel of the wind in his hair as he rode. It was good to be away for a while from the barracks and his men mourning their comrade. He passed fields of sheep grazing peacefully and their shepherd's herding them. The sight made him nostalgic. There were many sheep in the North and the Rangers often helped to herd them.
He kept Ecthelion's message secure in a pocket inside his tunic where none might see it. He surmised it must be something of great import for Ecthelion to send him on this errand. He rode at a steady but not over hasty pace as not to tire the horse and stopped at inns on the way for rest and refreshment. Ecthelion had given him a bag of coins for the purpose along with the letter.
When he first glimpsed the ocean, he had reacted with almost childlike joy at the vast expanse of blue spread out before him reaching further than any eye could see. It was from far across that ocean that Elendil had led his forebears to Middle-earth. He still felt the call of the sea, long ago though it was that his forebears had dwelt on an island. He felt an absurd desire to take off his boots and stockings but knew he must deliver the message before such frivolity.
Thorongil thought he would have to ask for directions as to where the Prince of Dol Amroth dwelt , but the great castle set high above the town made asking unnecessary. A guard clad in blue and silver greeted him at the castle gates and asked him to state his business.
“I bring a personal message for Prince Adrahil from the Lord Steward,” said Thorongil.
The guard called a servant over and Thorongil was led inside the castle. It was every bit as splendid as it looked from the outside. He was taken to wait in an anteroom and cakes and wine were brought to him. The furnishings were more to his taste than those of Ecthelion. He had heard tales that the royal house of Dol Amroth was of Elven lineage. Maybe they had inherited their good taste from the Elves?
He had only had time to sip his wine and eat one cake before a servant appeared to lead him into Adrahil's presence. He was a tall man with dark hair and eyes of clear grey. He was clad in the same colours as his guards, albeit in silk and velvet. There was a light in his eyes and air about him which convinced Thorongil the tale of his Elven ancestry was true. He greeted Thorongil cordially.
“I bring a letter from the Lord Steward of Gondor. I am Captain Thorongil, my lord. I was commanded to deliver it into your hands.” Thorongil reached inside his tunic for the letter and presented it to Adrahil with a bow.
The Prince broke open the seal and glanced at the letter, then said, “I thank you, Captain Thorongil. Will you accept our hospitality and stay here for a few days and dine with me tonight?”
“I would be honoured, my lord.”
Thorongil was shown to a chamber where he was able to bathe and try to tame his unruly locks before the meal. Rather to his surprise, the table was set for only two.
Adrahil plied him with questions while they dined on freshly caught sea fish amongst other delicacies. The Prince wanted to know about the state of affairs in Minas Tirith and Ecthelion's health. Then he asked, “Are you a man of Gondor, Captain Thorongil? I have not heard of you before.”
“I came but lately to Gondor from Rohan,” Thorongil replied.
“You are no Rohir though.”
“I come from the North, my lord.”
“Ah, I have heard many strange tales of those parts.
“You have, my lord?”
I hear that all manner of strange beings dwell there including a witch who presides over a golden wood.”
Thorongil almost choked on his wine. The Rohirrim often spoke of Arwen's Grandmother thus but would have expected more of the Prince of Dol Amroth. He thought carefully before answering. “A great Elven lady does indeed dwell within the woods, but she is no witch, rather a mistress of lore with the power to read Men's hearts.”
“So Elves did dwell upon these shores? I thought they would all have sailed by now. I had thought my line was the last with Elven lineage.”
“There are many undreamed-of wonders in the North,” said Thorongil carefully. “You have children, my lord?” He abruptly changed the subject.
“I have three, Thorongil and they pressed me to ask you if tales of the North be true.”
“You can tell them, my lord, that we do not have two heads and no witch dwells there to my knowledge.”
The rest of the meal passed pleasantly enough but Thorongil was weary and was glad to retire to his comfortable chamber. He was awakened by a vivid nightmare of Arwen scolding him for calling her beloved grandmother a witch. Then he dreamed of an old crone in a long black cloak threatening to turn him into a toad He only just managed to escape before thankfully waking up.
He was glad when morning came. A servant told him he was free to do as he pleased and he spent most of the day walking barefoot along the beach and dipping his toes into the ocean. At sunset he watched the sun go down beyond the sea and his heart soared at the beauty of the sight. That night, he slept well untroubled by nightmares.
He did not see Prince Adrahil again but enjoyed his hospitality for the next three days before thinking it was time for him to return to Gondor. He took his leave, wondering if there would be a message to deliver to Ecthelion but there was none.
He travelled back the way he had come, but when he passed the fields of sheep, instead of calm and order, there was chaos. A gate was open and sheep were everywhere, wandering up and down the road. A frantic shepherd was trying to shoo them back in the field. Thorongil dismounted and tethered his horse to a tree. “Can I help you?” he asked the shepherd.
“You have knowledge of sheep?”
“There are many in my homeland that all men there have some knowledge of how to tend them.” He broke a suitable branch of a tree to fashion a makeshift crook and together with the shepherd after much running hither and thither, managed to return the sheep to their field.”
“You have a way with sheep, Master?”
“Thorongil is my name. I was happy to be of service.”
“Then share a bite to eat with me, Master Thorongil. I have cheese and crusty bread. I thought I would be chasing sheep all day after some fool left the gate open. Your arrival was most welcome.”
Thorongil enjoyed a leisurely meal with the shepherd then went on his way. He arrived back at the Citadel just as dusk was falling. A servant ushered him into Ecthelion's presence.
“You look better, my friend.” The Steward greeted him.
“I delivered your message into the hand of Prince Adrahil as you ordered,” said Thorongil. “Prince Adrahil sent no reply, my lord.”
“ I expected none. As long as the sparkle is back in your eyes, my friend. Now go and rest, it grows late.”
Thorongil made his way to his lodgings, his head reeling. Was the depth of Ecthelion's regard for him such that he would send him to experience the beauties of Dol Amroth on the pretext of delivering a message? He had expected to dislike the Steward, who ruled in his place, but he was coming to love the old man almost as a father. He suspected the regard between them was mutual. He doubted he would ever know for certain what Ecthelion's message contained, but the visit to Dol Amroth had restored his spirits. He was now eager to return to his men the next day and continue the fight against the Dark Lord.