‘…From helm to sea they saw him leap,
As arrow from the string,
And dive into the water deep,
As mew upon the wing.
The wind was in his flowing hair,
The foam about him shone;
Afar they saw him strong and fair
Go riding like a swan.’
To the untrained eye, the Elven maiden upon the shoreline could have been a carved figure. Aside from the folds of her cloth that flew in the breeze she was as still as a Drúedan. Sat upon the grains of sand as if in meditation, it was into the impenetrable west that she stared; Nerellas of Lothlórien, handmaiden of Galadriel and companion of Ivriniel. It had been thirty-five years since she had travelled from her home and kinsfolk to Dol Amroth, and her welcome had never been outstayed. Her status as a guest of honour to the court of the Princes had long-since evolved into a permanent residence in Dor-en-Ernil. Like today, her time was mostly occupied by her greatest pleasure – wandering alone upon the shores of Belfalas. And so, like an avatar of the legends of the city’s founding, she had stayed – sister of Mithrellas the mother of Prince Galador, first of the line of the Princes of Dol Amroth. Like the ruins of the Nandorin harbour of Edhellond which she sat beside, she was the remainder of a legend in a modern land.
And yet, though she loved her home here, she was still torn. For to her, Dol Amroth was but a rock in the centre of the tide, halfway between the Golden Wood and the passage to the Undying Lands. Her knowledge that one day she would take the Straight Road was resolute – Nerellas knew that she would have to let go of her hold on Dol Amroth, and let the tide of fate take her to the home she had never seen, but had always been promised.
The sun vanished behind the swell of the horizon, leaving fading light as a trail of its descent. As she disappeared, the jewel upon Nerellas’ neck flashed once more in a comforting radiance of autumnal gold, before too fading. Yet still it was very beautiful. The Bársarn she had named it – the Home-Stone – the gift of the White Lady, forged long ago in Gondolin by Enerdhil, along with his more prized works. It was both a piece of deep Elvendom and a relic of home – what had once been home. Call Dol Amroth her land she could, but Nerellas knew that she was but a houseless wanderer between Lórien and Valinor. Like the Bársarn upon her breast, she was embroidered upon the face of Middle-earth – a flower of great beauty and grace, but misplaced in accordance to its time. Nerellas sighed in acceptance at the dying light of Arien. Like the setting sun, the ending of the Elves on mortal shores was immeasurably sad, but even in their downfall, beauty was left in their wake. In time, Nerellas too would rise on a face of the world she had not yet seen.
Suddenly, she noticed a form which sent a shiver into her nerves. Against the striking backdrop of the dull heat and encroaching night, like a tear in a canvas of resplendent art, she saw black sails. The sight of Man would not yet see them for perhaps hours, but there Nerellas saw them, clawing further into the vulnerable heart of the Bay of Belfalas. The arrayed, picked ships of the Fleetmaster Mirgal, harbinger of his Lord Sulezôr, Captain of the Fleets, were closing on their destination.
And then, very slightly, she heard a tautening. An arrow whistled in warning before smacking on the sand beside her, sending the Elf leaping up in shock.
‘You had better come with us, or the next shot might be a little more painful,’ shouted a voice far behind her. Nerellas surrendered in terror. The Corsair vanguard had already arrived, and Nerellas had become their first prisoner.
The watchtower of Barad Gilmith rose high against the mountain pass which it defended. It was here, now long ago, that Princess Ivriniel and Captain Orophir had first met one another. In that time, Baranir still watched it, but he was dead, slain on the borders of Harad far to the south. In his place had come Môrathol, and he felt honoured to take such a position. Not only was he honoured because Baranir was the father of his great friend and kinsman Maethor, but the watchtower seemed to resonate in him like a shard of his history. His grandfather Galador lay buried here, his parents met here, and so now he commanded here. Yet in many ways, this history made Môrathol anxious. His ancestors had carved great names for themselves, and won much valour and renown – even Maethor had found fame in the realm, and they were the same age. How could he even begin to follow in their footsteps?
Stationed with Captain Môrathol were nine noble Knights of Dol Amroth – two of whom were especially noble. These were Erchirion and Amrothos, the middle children of the gallant Prince Imrahil. Although both were around a decade younger than the Captain, they too were both eager men, ready to make their country and their father proud. Môrathol tried not to listen when the brothers spoke of their fatherly love. Môrathol’s fatherly love had been cut down, deep in the havens of Umbar, all in the name of vengeance…
‘Beacon! A beacon! Away to the west!’
The cry from the top of Barad Gilmith stunned Môrathol immediately. All the villages of Dor-en-Ernil possessed a beacon, in the event of a Corsair attack. But why was there one lit so close to Dol Amroth?
The Knights of the watchtower were gathered about the bottom of Barad Gilmith now, incredulously hearing the watcher’s cries.
‘How far away is it?’ shouted Amrothos.
‘About two miles. It looks as if it is coming from the village of Imrath!’
‘How?’ pondered Erchirion. ‘It doesn’t make sense… Could it be a false alarm?’
Môrathol was still ticking all the facts over in his head. He could scarcely think what to do; until Erchirion grabbed him by the shoulder.
‘Captain Môrathol, what are your orders?’
Shaken from doubt, his resolve and duty shone through.
‘Even if it is a false alarm, I would not have us risk it. Arm yourselves, men! Ready the horses! We ride to the salvation of Imrath, no matter what the danger is!’
As the Knights rode along the forest road, it became apparent that this was no false alarm. More smoke could be seen – not that of a beacon, but that of pillagers’ fire, rising from a homestead. And before they entered the clearing, they could already hear the cries and clangs of battle.
‘Erchirion, take five other men and dismount. Find and protect the villagers as a unit. Amrothos, Tarannil, Adrandor, ride with me into the heart of the enemy!’
The trees ended, and the battle for Imrath began.
The villagers were beset by the greater part of a Corsair crew about their village hall. Many folk were taking shelter inside, whilst their Men-at-arms boldly defended the structure. Erchirion and his five Knights on foot raced to them, and the Corsairs, unexpecting such a quick reprieve, were quickly forced back from the hall by the combination of the Knights and the Men-at-arms.
Meanwhile, small groups of pillagers were ransacking the houses, and once they had found plunder, they burnt the homes and made good their escape. Môrathol would not let them flee so easily. Lowering their lances, his Knights turned on each group, and, one by one, rode the villains down.
The battle was nearly won. What was left of the Corsairs were either already fleeing far into the north of the forest with what little booty they had won, or still engaging Erchirion’s group about the village hall.
The Captain of this group, a bold and fierce looking specimen, noticed Môrathol and his mounted Knights, and, with a cry, ordered his archers to open fire on them.
‘Take cover!’ ordered Môrathol, his men drawing up their shields and wheeling away. Most arrows missed their marks, and those that did bounced off the thick shields and armour of the Knights. Apart from one. As Adrandor fell from his steed, a dart piercing through his neck, Môrathol ordered their charge.
With the mounted Knights at their back, and the unit of swords and spears before them, the Corsairs lost heart, and their Captain could no longer control them. Môrathol rode down the best part of them, until all but their Captain and a couple of raiders remained. These two surrendered, but their master was a much prouder man. Roaring like a beast, he charged at Môrathol, who leapt from his saddle and raised his sword to engage him. Bold as he was, Môrathol had the accuracy, and swerving from a mighty stroke, pierced his sword through the Corsair Captain’s torso.
Môrathol’s strike was mortal, but his foe was not yet dead. Kicking away the Corsair’s weapon, he gazed sternly down at him.
‘What is your name, renegade?’
‘Captain Andacar,’ spat the Corsair.
‘Amroth’s justice is done on you, Andacar. Tell me if this was all your raiding party, and I shall give you the burial rites of your people. If not, more agony may be inflicted on you, before you die.’
‘What is your name?’ asked Andacar stoically, drooling blood from his mouth.
‘Captain Môrathol of Dol Amroth.’
‘The Black Sails are coming for you, Môrathol. Savour your victory here, because it shall be your last.’
With a last curse at the Knights, Andacar’s wound finally destroyed him.
An hour passed as Môrathol evaluated their situation. The Knights were helping the villagers put out the fires of the Corsairs, and tending to their wounded. Five in total had been killed – two of whom were Môrathol’s Knights; one dead by an arrow, and another by the steel of Andacar himself. They had been placed on a cart, to be taken back to Barad Gilmith for an honoured burial in the graves of the houses of Dol Amroth. Although Andacar had not yielded information, the other two captors were more daunted, and openly spoke of a much larger force abroad. Counting their own crew, there were eight other vessels.
‘Nine black ships,’ mused Amrothos. ‘That is enough for a Fleetmaster’s command!’
‘There are four different Fleetmasters at Umbar, but let us hope it is not the Fleetmaster we fear it to be,’ said Erchirion. For the dread of Dalamyr, Captain of The Shrike, bane of Prince Adrahil, was rank across the coastlands. After more questioning however, it became apparent that the leader of the assault was one Fleetmaster Mirgal – a slight relief to more than just Erchirion.
Brave villagers knowledgeable of the surround had gone into the woods, seeking for this alleged larger force. Before any of them returned, Môrathol already knew that his paltry numbers had no hope against the host of a Fleetmaster.
‘Amrothos, I value your skills, but you are the swiftest rider among us,’ ordered the Captain. ‘Ride to Dol Amroth with all haste. Tell your father of what has transpired, of the apparent threat of the Fleetmaster. Request reinforcements. We shall defend our garrison at Barad Gilmith. Erchirion, take the villagers. The Men-at-arms will be placed under your command. Take them to Barad Gilmith, and fortify it further against attack. Send word to the outlying villages – tell them to retreat to your position.’
With the orders of Môrathol relayed, the two brothers took their separate ways – one galloping with all speed to the city, and the other moving the refugees back to the watchtower.
Very soon, the village of Imrath was silent, with only Môrathol, the five Knights left to him and their horses making a sound.
The woodsmen sent out to look for the enemy force were away for many hours, but when they returned at dusk their faces were ashen and afraid.
‘Captain Môrathol,’ they reported, ‘we have located a large encampment of unfamiliar, warlike men only a few miles away, concealed in a clearing within the woods. It looks like their ships have landed nearby, and they are swelling the numbers of the camp with every passing hour.’
As night fell, Môrathol became more and more troubled by this news. However, it was certain in his mind that he would strike a pre-emptive blow against the enemy. Breaking this plan to his five men, they hatched a plot to throw the enemy plans into chaos before they could bring their huge numbers to bear. With oil, pitch, and burning brands, the mounted Knights followed Môrathol stealthily into the woods, preparing to torch the enemy camp, and to begin raiding the raiders.
Upon the brink of the Corsair camp sat the six men upon their steeds. Staring stoically at each tent, and memorizing the possible escape routes, Môrathol turned to his men.
‘Burn as many tents and supplies as fast as you can, and get out of there. If we are lost in the woods, return to Barad Gilmith with all haste. Ready yourselves, men… Now, charge!’
Like a ghostly surge of vengeful spirits the Knights flowed amongst the tents, setting each alight with dedicated ease. As the village of Imrath had burned, so too did the encampment of Umbar become a pyre. The sentries were mowed down by the swift steeds of Môrathol’s men, and it was only until the flames spread across the camp like wildfire that a great alert went out. Even as this was sounded, the Knights were ready to quit the field.
Môrathol raised his command of retreat above the din, but, even as he himself wheeled about to seek sanctuary from the camp, now buzzing with Corsairs like a nest of insects, he caught a cry above the roaring fires. This voice was strange in such a place – cool and gentle like the waves, or the rippling of wind through the trees, and Môrathol recognised it almost instantly. Thankfully outside of the tents, bound to stocks, was the Elven companion of his mother.
‘Nerellas!’ cried Môrathol, jumping from his steed to free her. Through her tears of fear and joy, she could not bring herself to say anything but frightened gasps.
Shedding the bonds from her, Môrathol took her in his arms and sat her upon his horse, before leaping into the saddle himself. With his steed bucking in the flames, the noble Captain shouted and charged through the ash into the woods, Nerellas clinging to her saviour with weary sanctuary. Into the dark night they sped, as the shouts of the despairing Corsairs echoed through the brush like fragments of a nightmare that clung to the waking mind. But Nerellas was safe, and Môrathol was victorious once again.
Dawn rose over the charred encampment when Fleetmaster Mirgal came up from the anchored ships with the better part of his men. Although it was a great honour to be a Fleetmaster, it was a greater honour still to be tasked with assaulting Gondor with such a force, and in such respects Mirgal had taken much care. His fleet had sailed far from the sentries of Dol Amroth, before landing without detection in the very heart of the Swan Princes’ land. Such care and such timing were necessary, for his master Sulezôr, one of the Seven Lords of Umbar, needed the great victory that Mirgal could offer. And now, for all his care, and all his timing, he had been discovered prematurely, and his base-camp razed to the ground. Someone was to blame for this disaster, and he would discover them.
‘Carcadan!’ Mirgal called, spotting the Captain of The Hammerhead. Busying himself with orders attempting to salvage what he could amongst the ashes, Captain Carcadan turned to his Fleetmaster with a reserved disdain.
‘Carcadan, what has happened here?’ snapped Mirgal.
‘My master,’ begun Carcadan, wincing at the word, ‘there were riders in the night – Swan Knights, by the look of the one man we cut down -‘
‘One man!’ roared Mirgal. ‘Where were the sentries? Why was an alarm not raised to stop them?’
‘They had speed on their side, as well as the gloom, my master. The sentries were dead before they even knew what had happened.’
Mirgal cursed in frustration. ‘And I suppose you were in charge of this catastrophe? Why are you giving orders, anyway? Where is my lieutenant Andacar?’
‘I believe it was Andacar that undid us, my master. He went raiding yesterday with his crew, but never returned. I assume he was stopped by the same Knights that came here. With all respect to your choice of lieutenant my master, but Andacar completely gave away our secrecy.’
Mirgal cried again, and Carcadan could barely keep the smirk in his mind from reaching his face. Soon enough, the Fleetmaster calmed, and a wrathful resolve formed behind his dark eyes.
‘Andacar’s loss is no matter,’ he stated. ‘We have a much better replacement for him. Another Fleetmaster has joined us – he says, however, he does not seek much authority, but battle only – and some plunder, of course.’
‘Another entire fleet has joined us?’ questioned Carcadan.
‘No, you idiot – not a fleet, just the Fleetmaster and his ship. It’s The Shrike.’
‘The Shrike?’ mused the Captain. ‘But that must mean-‘
A dark-robed, imposing figure stepped from the Corsair crowds to join Carcadan and Mirgal. As the Captain inspected his garm – the assortment of prized knives, and the strange small pouches, renowned to create smoke at will, he knew this was him.
‘Greetings, Captain, I am Fleetmaster Dalamyr. The scouting parties have discovered the garrison where the Swan Knights have retreated to. I suggest we march on them with all speed.’
Out of the woods Nerellas, Môrathol and his four Knights rode. Only one of their number had fallen in the ambush – Tarannil, slain by cruel arrows as he retreated. His death was meek, but his fellows remembered him with high esteem.
As the company galloped towards Barad Gilmith, they passed several groups of villagers, carrying provisions in wagons. Erchirion had done his job well – the evacuees were converging at the watchtower.
When they reached Barad Gilmith itself, they found the garrison busy with activity. Villagers were being camped about the base of the tower and in its lush gardens, whilst many Men-at-arms watched the road and reinforced the palisade wall about the grounds, with some help from the more able-bodied evacuees. Môrathol found Erchirion at the palisade gate, thickening it with more timber and steel.
‘Captain Môrathol!’ the son of the Prince exclaimed. ‘I am glad to see you return so soon. What transpired after I left?’
‘We found the Corsair camp, and razed it to the ground in the night, though Tarannil fell in the struggle. Luckily, we were able to rescue the Lady Nerellas from capture. She has told me that many more Corsairs were coming up from the beaches about Edhellond, and we could expect an attack as early as today.’
‘Very well, Captain. So far we have forty-eight able Men-at-arms from the villages, all equipped and prepared – but their numbers may swell, as we are awaiting the arrival of three more settlements.’
‘Good work, Erchirion. We can now only hope that your brother has reached Dol Amroth in time.’ Even as Môrathol finished the sentence, he felt his heart curl up in doubt. What if Amrothos had not succeeded?
After overseeing the preparation of defence, Môrathol had wandered into the gardens of Barad Gilmith, to the graves of Dol Amroth. As he moved amongst the headstones, he found himself gravitate, as he always did, towards the resting places of his grandfather and his father – Galador and Orophir, side by side. He wondered what they would do, such great men as they were, in a time like this. Môrathol dearly hoped it was the same thing as what he was doing.
‘This is the spot where your mother and your father first met,’ said the cool, graceful voice from behind him. ‘Is that why you come here – to see where the love that created your family was born?’
Môrathol sighed. ‘It is not for that reason I often come here, Nerellas. I come here to see the graves of my ancestors.’
‘Men dote too much on death,’ stated the Elf maiden. ‘It is why Númenor fell. It is why the Kings of Gondor declined.’
‘Easy for you to say, you are immortal,’ retorted Môrathol. Amidst everything, they both broke out laughing at the comment. As the radiance of their smiles began to fall from their faces, he continued; ‘I come here, Nerellas, because I think of what Galador or Orophir would do in my stead. They were both great Captains of much renown. I cannot hope to be greater than them, but I will follow their example.’
‘It is right that you should honour your lineage,’ said Nerellas, ‘but do not let the weight of their ascendancy oppress you. Do not judge yourself in their eyes.’
‘You make them sound like they are not the men I think them to be.’
‘The past is veiled by longing. Your father was not as great a man as you.’
‘What?’ Môrathol flashed, a little shocked. ‘Why do you say such things?’
‘He sailed into the heart of Umbar on a suicide mission, all in the name of vengeance – your mother Ivriniel told me herself.’
‘Do not speak of my father like that!’ the Captain cried. Nerellas seemed to be submersed into silence by her guilt, and Môrathol, too, grew abashed when they realised Erchirion was close by, watching them.
‘Sorry to disturb you, Captain,’ he began, ‘but our woodsmen have returned. The Corsairs are marching – they will be here soon.’
Môrathol gathered himself – the importance of his defence outweighed any grievance. ‘Thank you, Erchirion, we shall oversee the defence is ready.’
He was about to walk away when Nerellas stopped him, and kissed him on the cheek – meaningfully apologetic, but truthfully, passionately. The touch of her lips seemed to take seed, and bloomed into Môrathol’s heart. The Elf maiden kept his stare. ‘I never, truly, thanked you for rescuing me. I would be dead if it were not for you. No matter how this battle goes, you have shown you are as brave as your ancestors by riding into that camp,’ she said.
‘Thank you for your kind words, Nerellas. Yet, before I go, you must understand what I have come to fear. If reinforcements do not come, it is likely that we will die here.’
‘Put your reason aside on that matter, Môrathol, and trust to hope.’
‘Hope… You are right, Nerellas. I will not give into despair. But now we must ready ourselves – for I am afraid I have to try and save you a second time.’
Through the centre of the Prince’s lands the Corsairs marched, passing the abandoned villages of their foes as they went. Little plunder did they find in them, but that was no longer their true purpose. The incensed Fleetmaster Mirgal wanted the heads of those who had disrupted his camp and killed his lieutenant, Andacar – and it seemed to have blinded his reason. In the midst of the marching column, the assisting Fleetmaster Dalamyr and the Captain Carcadan shared their concerns.
‘You must know, Carcadan,’ said the infamous rogue, ‘that if we crush this garrison, we have no chance of causing the chaos the Council of Umbar expected. The fool Andacar saw to that. Very soon, the wrathful army of the Swan Prince will be upon us. Even if we kill every single peasant cooped up in that garrison and capture it, the scouts report it is little more than an ancient tower with a palisade about it – it could not be defended against any prolonged attack.’
‘Then why are we here?’ the Captain of The Hammerhead asked. ‘Why not retreat?’
‘That is a notion we cannot allow your Fleetmaster to consider,’ hissed Dalamyr. ‘If this army engages in combat, there is still something we can gain.’
‘Indeed,’ sneered Carcadan knowingly. ‘And I can expect you will keep up your part of the bargain?’
‘It is an opportunity I cannot miss. Until then, attack the garrison, do whatever that pompous cretin Mirgal says. And maybe I can kill enough Swan fools on that palisade wall to get a little pleasure from this excursion, too.’
Even as the two had finished their scheming converse, the Corsairs came into sight of the defence. Readying their siege ladders and their battering ram, the Fleetmaster Mirgal sounded the charge. The Battle of Barad Gilmith had begun.
As the raiders pounded against the palisade like a reckless tide, Môrathol and Erchirion withstood them. Staged on separate parts of the wall were the Captain’s four remaining Knights, each commanding a portion of the Men-at-arms; their long pikes skewering the Corsairs from atop the wall. Arrows whistled in both directions, but the warriors of Mirgal had more bowmen, and several fearsome Arbalesters with crossbows. But the armour of the defenders was thick. Môrathol withstood them.
The battering ram hammered at the gates of the palisade. Whenever it seemed ready to break, strong men mounted more material against it, and the doors were held. Ladders were raised against the walls, and the Corsairs’ most fierce warriors mounted them first – the maddened Reavers. Their berserk rage was ravenous, but their armour was poor. The ladders were thrown down, but every time they were, it cost the defenders the lives of a few good men. Môrathol withstood them.
In the midst of the assault stood the Fleetmaster Mirgal. With the Captain Carcadan pressing the walls, Mirgal remained away from the front, ordering his troops against the palisade obstinately, and directing the aim of his archers. In truth, he was just happy to be away from the killing grounds that the walls had become.
And then he felt a strange sensation. Something protruded into his neck. He tried gasping for breath, but instead a spray of blood came out. And then his world went dark.
Dalamyr let the corpse of the Fleetmaster fall. No-one had seen him stick the Dol Amroth arrow into Mirgal’s throat, and so his deception was complete. Command of his fleet would now fall to Carcadan, who was under the employ and control of Dalamyr himself. In secret, the rogue now had the control of two entire Corsair fleets. But now, he looked to the walls. Although his true mission was accomplished, he would see to it that he continued to spread his reputation among the Swan Knights, by painting Barad Gilmith in their blood.
Sending another ladder hurling back, Môrathol wiped the sweat from his brow and searched the walls for where his aid was most needed. As he looked, he saw, just for a second, a grappling hook thrown up – and then it vanished in a cloud of smoke. Suddenly, the Captain remembered the words of Boromir after his defence of the coastlands; ‘he carries devices which release smoke when thrown, blinding our men and making his movements unseen. He is a worthy, but very, very dangerous foe.’ Môrathol’s blood ran cold. Dalamyr, the bane of Adrahil, was here. And indeed, out from the smoke came a dark form, slashing to and throw with keen knives, throwing men from the walls with his swift martial skills. As one of the Knights was coldly cut down, Môrathol gathered his courage. He must face the notorious Fleetmaster himself.
Taking up his sword and shield, the son of Orophir charged. Dalamyr anticipated his arrival, and leapt sublimely from his stroke. In return, he jabbed his daggers at the Captain, who blocked the murderous attack with his shield and knocked it into the Corsair’s face. Dazed and angered, Dalamyr pressed back with savage intent, but for all his legendary swiftness, he could not penetrate Môrathol’s defence. And then, the thought came into the Captain’s head – if Prince Adrahil fell to this villain, and the mighty Boromir barely countered him, how can I prevail? This moment of doubt flashed into pain as a knife pierced his arm. Dropping his shield in anguish, Môrathol gathered his countenance and fought back. He would not give into despair.
This new attack disheartened Dalamyr. The Captain was stronger than he believed. Not wishing to waste any more time in the battle, he let off another smoke bomb, clouding Môrathol’s vision, and leapt from the walls. He and his crew quit the battle, hoping that Carcadan would have the same sense. But for now, Môrathol rose from his duel and led the defence in new vigour. He had prevailed against the fell Dalamyr.
And then he saw a sight which made his eyes well in relief. Into the rear of the Corsair army thundered the hooves of Dol Amroth, with the valiant Prince Imrahil at their head. With the banner of the Princes held high, Captain Carcadan soon realised his plight, and the Corsairs scattered into the woods, fleeing desperately back to the coast. Môrathol was victorious.
It was some hours before Imrahil had asserted Barad Gilmith – piling the Corsair dead into a pyre and burying the fallen heroes of the defence. The villagers were soon ready to go back to their homes, for the Knights of Dol Amroth would check the Corsairs were scoured from the area.
Nerellas came to Môrathol soon after his victory, embracing him lovingly. ‘You have prevailed! But your arm – let me heal the wound!’
The Elf maiden, taking the Captain’s heavy armour from him, bound the hurt in cloths, and it was not long before Môrathol no longer felt the pain of Dalamyr. The magic of Lorien was truly in Nerellas’ methods. ‘The blade was coated in fell poisons,’ she said. ‘You are lucky to have me here to cure you.’
‘I am very lucky indeed!’ smiled Môrathol. Then something passed in their gaze, an intimacy, that he had not felt before.
‘And so you have saved me for the third time,’ she said enigmatically. As they began to draw together, Môrathol stopped, for he saw someone he had least expected.
‘Mother!’ he cried. Embracing her son, Ivriniel burst into tears of joy to see both him and her friend Nerellas safe.
‘Once Amrothos brought the news, I had to ride with Imrahil. No matter the danger, I would not let my son be consumed by the Corsairs as well.’
After the three walked through the soothing gardens of Barad Gilmith, they came across the Prince, talking to his two middle children. ‘Erchirion, Amrothos,’ he said, ‘though neither of you may be my heir, you are both worthy of the honour of our house. Long will the defence of Erchirion and the ride of Amrothos be remembered in the annals of Gondor.’
As the two parties intertwined, Imrahil drew Môrathol aside, speaking of their next plan of action.
‘The Corsairs have a good head-start on us in their retreat,’ said the Prince. ‘Although my mind is set, I would seek your opinion. Should we give them chase?’
‘It is not an honourable way to die, to be chased down by mounted Knights,’ mused the Captain. ‘But history has shown that they will attack again. For the sake of the future, and the villages still in potential danger, we should ride.’
‘As I had myself thought. Very well. Prepare the Knights immediately – we ride against the Corsair ships.’
In hot pursuit, Imrahil, Môrathol, and their mounted Knights galloped through Dor-en-Ernil to the coasts about Edhellond. As they passed the recovering Imrath, and the charred remains of the enemy’s former camp, Môrathol’s mind drifted back to Nerellas, who had remained at Barad Gilmith to heal those wounded in the assault. He thought lofty and hopeful things – for it was Nerellas herself who told him to trust in his hopes. His mind, however, had to be with Imrahil, and any combat they may come across. Beside her son rode Ivriniel, who was here in case any of the Knights had to be cured of hurt. Môrathol mused at what his mother must have thought of him, of romancing with the companion she had brought back from Lórien.
Soon they came to the beach, having seen no sign of the Corsairs. As they arrived at the shore, to their despair, they realised they had arrived minutes late of their quarry – the landing vessels of the Corsairs were already boarded, and the crews were rowing back to their anchored ships.
As Imrahil sighed in resignation, his sister Ivriniel came to the front of the Knights. Môrathol saw something different in her – a peculiar anger, a wrath even. It was the look of vengeance.
‘The power of Galadriel flows in me more than I have shown,’ stated Ivriniel, a change coming into her voice. ‘I have shown you my skills to heal, but I have not shown you my ability to destroy.’ At this, a strange aura surrounded her, and her eyes became a regal blue. Môrathol wondered at his mother, but soon he was aware of her effects. The waves of the sea were becoming larger. He knew what she intended.
‘Mother, it would be dishonourable to kill these men so unprepared, Corsair or not.’
‘They killed your father, Môrathol. They would have killed you and Erchirion today. They butchered your unarmed grandmother, your grandfathers Adrahil and Galador; and so many more of our blood, besides all the other innocents. They do not deserve better.’
‘There are innocent slaves on their ships. Would you have them die as well?’
‘Many innocents die in the name of vengeance.’
‘You will be no better than them!’ cried Môrathol. The fury of Ivriniel was becoming uncontrollable. The crews of the landing vessels started shouting in anxiety.
Môrathol knew he must stop her. Not just for the sake of those she would kill, but for her own. Laying a hand on her mother’s shoulder, he said to her, gently; ‘The Corsairs did not kill Adrahil or Orophir. Their vengeance consumed them. Nerellas taught me that we should not judge our actions through the eyes of our parents, mother. Do not let vengeance consume you as well.’
At this, Ivriniel stopped. The wrath fell from her face, and the knots in the Knights’ hearts loosened. The waves began to calm. Collapsing from her steed, Ivriniel wept in realisation and grief.
As Imrahil and Môrathol dismounted to comfort her, the Prince looked at them both sternly. ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ he questioned.
Ivriniel wiped the tears from her eyes. ‘Môrathol is right, my brother. My son and I are similar in that our fathers have both been destroyed by vengeance. It is that what we should hate – not the Corsairs. We must show we are better than them, so that we may be distinguished apart.’
Imrahil understood. Calling his men to return, he helped Ivriniel back into her saddle.
As her son and her brother rode away with their Knights, the handmaiden of Lórien thought of Môrathol’s apparent love with Nerellas, and a vision came to her. She saw the Half-Elven son of a returned King, wedding the Half-Elven daughter of her son – her granddaughter.
Ivriniel smiled to herself. Perhaps, if she had let vengeance take her, this future might not be so. And then she thought of Finduilas, and her grave in Minas Tirith, and how she had not visited for many long years because of her argument with the Steward. Thinking of her deceased, fair sister, Ivriniel resolved to travel there, and apologise to the Steward, for her sake. For she knew that she had to honour her ancestors and the dead; but not always go by their example. There would always be a new generation in the lineage of Amroth, and like Môrathol, it would find its own individual greatness in the world.
The lineage of Dol Amroth will return in ‘Maethor’s Tale’.
Coming next – ‘The Serpent Lord – Book Two: The Helm and the Sword’ and ‘The Chronicles of Khand’.