Cirdan broke through the tree line and froze, horror spreading across his rugged, dark features. Eorhast of Gondor burned! The main gate was barred from the outside, and he could see the blood-and-body lined main street from the hill he stood upon. The fire was reflected in his grayish eyes. His teeth clenched, and he gently set the boy on the ground…there would be no one in the village to mourn him. Turning away to the southeast, Cirdan headed for Minas Tirith and his father’s house.
The guard on the walls of Minas Tirith was a very watchful group. They had always trained to be as alert as possible, and this time was no different. They spotted Cirdan on his stormy-gray charger from a few leagues away and had the gate wide open, waiting for him. He came fast, plunging swiftly through and heading straight for the gate to the Second Level, then the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and finally the Seventh level, calling out the passwords to each one. Not like he needed them. Nobility was allowed through the gate no matter what the reason. It was only the peasants that were required to have the special passwords, since each level was higher up in rank than the level before. The High King outlawed the separation, but the people had had that tradition too ingrained by the Stewards to do anything but continue living the way they had been for a thousand or more years. Cirdan noticed nothing until he reached the Seventh and final level, the Level of the King. It sat on a high precipice in the mountain, the Hall of the Throne and the Tombs of the Stewards sat on this level, as well as the Royal Library, the White Tree of Gondor, and the Hall of the King, where the Royal Family slept. He jumped off his horse and ran to the gates of the Hall of the Throne. He flung them open and raced in, ignoring the protests of the guards. His voice rang in the large stone room as he cried, “Goblins! Goblins in Gondor!” Shocked, the men gathered around a large stone table stared at him open-mouthed. He threw the arrow onto the table, not caring that he knocked over a mug of sweet wine in the process. “Sir!” the nobleman cried, upset. “Oh, shut up, will you?” he shot back. “Why don’t you shove it up your arse?” “Why don’t I shove it up yours?” Cirdan returned, red-faced. “Gentlemen!” cried a tall, muscled man with slightly graying hair and a large sword buckled at his waist. He wore his battle armor, his breastplate shining like a mirror. This was the High King. “Your majesty! Orcs have burned Eorhast!” King Elessar looked shocked. “What? In Gondor? I have only heard reports of Goblins in the South, but never have I heard of them in Gondor for many years!” Cirdan snatched up the arrow and shoved it into the king’s face. “Then what do you make of this? These…orcs…burned a village, killed a multitude of men, women, and children!” His voice broke on “children.” Elessar’s expression changed from one of shock and horror to one of anger and fire. “Children, you said?” “Children, and I do not exaggerate when I say burned. It was more than scorched, it was decimated. Razed to the ground. The only thing left standing was the gate, and it had been barred from the outside.” “Yrch.” A fair voice whispered nearest the king, and Cirdan looked to his left to see the Prince of Mirkwood in his normal finery: A silver vest with white lining, a dark green leather jerkin, embroidered with gold Elven symbols and weavings, and Black leggings tucked into tight, soft, grey leather boots. “Well, Prince, looks like you’ve been traveling, judging by the mud covering your boots.” Cirdan smirked. Legolas never was the cleanest Elf. He sobered quickly. If anyone could tell who he was, it was Legolas. Better not give too much of himself away. Elessar gestured to an empty seat and then addressed the Council. “Thank you, gentlemen, for attending my meeting, but I must speak to this man quickly. Do not speak of this matter outside of this room, I don’t want panic-stricken streets.” The nobles all silently nodded and filed out, save for Legolas, Cirdan, and a stocky, bearded Dwarf. When the High King even suggested something, it was done, no question. Except for the case of Cirdan. He remained standing. “Sir..er..Your Majesty, if I may say, we need to send troops after these murdering pigs! If I could just have 50 men, I could rid Gondor of them once and for all…” Cirdan was interrupted by the Dwarf. “And just who do ye think ye are, laddie? First ye shove an arrow into His Majesty’s face, then ye yell and scream at ‘im. I don’t like it, lad. I don’t remember ever hearin’ of you! For all we know, ye could be a spy!” Legolas coolly asked the Dwarf, “A spy for whom, Gimli? Sauron?” Elessar quickly muffled the name with a quick and stern, “Legolas. That name is no longer spoken of in these Halls.” Turning towards Cirdan, he continued, “Although I am curious as to the identity of our…esteemed guest, as it seems. Sir, the way you speak betells of your high upbringing. Pray, what is your name, and who is your father?” Cirdan struggled to answer. He hadn’t thought this far. “Sir, my name is Cirdan Surian, and my father’s name is…uh…” Gimli interrupted, “Who cares who yer father is, laddie! I still want to know what yer business is here at Minas Tirith.” Legolas shushed Gimli again. “Cirdan, if I may?” Cirdan nodded his assent and handed the arrow to the Elf, who inspected it closely. His brow furrowed, and repeated, “Yrch…Aye, Aragorn, this arrow is most certainly of orc-kind; poorly wrought and bent.” Cirdan impatiently took the arrow back and turned towards the King once more, who had grown silent and morose, as he often did. “Your majesty. I need men to defeat these goblins. I am not a military man, but we need a swift, well-trained force to launch a counter-attack. These orcs may still be on the move.” The king shook his head. “No. If what you say is true, then we need to keep the special forces inside the City. Minas Tirith has become over-crowded during the last 40 years and I need the crowd-control. The people refuse to move onto the Fields of the Pelennor. They claim that the ghosts of battle still reside there, and indeed I can relate…” The king fell silent again, a faraway look in his grey eyes. Cirdan grew angry. “But sir! You need to take action against these evil creatures! They will most surely burn another village, if they haven’t already!” Aragorn leaned against the table, looking weary. He waved his hand dismissively. “Take a detachment of 30 enlisted soldiers. They are less specially-trained, and that creates room in our over-crowded barracks. You can find them in Osgiliath right now, across the field…” Elessar’s voice trailed off, and he continued looking down at the table, and didn’t raise his head, even as Cirdan stormed out, cursing. Gimli commented as soon as the door shut, “Well, that lad is a bit hot under the collar, eh? Reminds me of someone I knew about 10 years ago.” Legolas gave him a reproachful look. Aragorn needed no reminders this day. He had too many issues weighing on him lately, this latest one was no more important than the rest of them. Even if his judgment was poor, he needed to think, not be reprimanded; by the dwarf or anyone else. Still, it worried the Elf.
Cirdan visited the Captain of the forces at Osgiliath, a tan, balding man with piercing brown eyes and lean muscles. His name was Branson, and he was the King’s closest advisor and confidant, next to the Elf and the Dwarf, of course. Branson was stocky and somewhat short, but then Cirdan was tall. He strode in on his long legs into the crowded, smoky inn, spotting the solemn man sipping ale in his corner. It was his day off today, his captain in training had offered to take the rounds today, and Branson had readily agreed, his bones aching for an uninterrupted mug of something warm. Cirdan plopped down across the table from him. Startled, Branson choked for a moment on his ale. Cirdan laughed a harsh, rolling laugh that sounded like drums. Branson’s face grew red in anger, then utterly white as he recognized the face underneath the heavy beard and tan. Cirdan held up his hand and whispered, “Not yet, you old fool!” The poor man’s eyes held sheer terror, and he visibly trembled. Cirdan leaned forward and stated his business. “Branson, I need a detachment of around 30 men to take into Gondor. There is a pack of orcs loose on the plains. I don’t know how many, but I am only authorized to ask for 30. I would that you not speak, and just accommodate me as best you can. I was never here, you never saw me. Understand?” He nodded, his eyes now filled with amazement. Cirdan relaxed, and Branson silently signed the needed documents and returned them. His old, rough hands grasped Cirdan’s in a warrior’s salute, and his eyes reassured Cirdan that his presence would never be known but by him. Cirdan whispered, "Branson, I’m not a ghost. I really am here. But no one is to know. Not a single person." Branson nodded.
Cirdan left swiftly from Minas Tirith with his 30 men, hoping that no one else had recognized him. Branson had been his friend from birth. Cirdan didn’t know why he thought the man wouldn’t recognize him even under all that beard and tan…
Later that week…
“Bloody stupid orc!” Huor exclaimed, slaughtering an imp who had tripped him. He whirled around and caught another of the filth in the ribs, slicing it in half. The creatures numbered almost twice the small band of soldiers, and even then, the !@#$%^&s had picked of about 10 before they fully engaged in combat. They weren’t a particularly strong type of orc, either. More like the small, troublesome kind, but still deadly. These wore a lot of armor, which slowed them down quite a bit, and it had only taken the men a few days to track them down, especially since they couldn’t move during the daytime. Ultimately, however, it was the orcs who had sniped off about 10 men before they engaged in this bloody skirmish.
The 10 men he lost left Cirdan with 21 men, including himself. That was not good against 30 or forty odd orcs. Cirdan accidently backed into Huor, and almost got it in the head, but he held the man’s hand fast in his own. The warrior looked startled and then apologetic. Cirdan nodded and then slashed at another few imps who jumped near him, their own blades ringing harshly. He looked around him. About half the orcs were dead and the other half fighting fiercly. His men were holding their own. Good. He needed to bring home those men to their families and sweethearts. He had no time to mourn those he had lost, which included a mere boy of 17. He knew….well, used to know….the poor boy’s father. He had been a good boy. He would be sorely missed.
Cirdan kicked an orc off his sword and looked around for a new opponent. This battle wouldn’t last long. Either they would win or he would. Either way, he knew he’d have to disappear when or if he brought home these brave men.