Aldamir's Journey

by Frodo Baggins

Chapter 34: Pelargir

When Aldamir awoke to Aragorn’s horn-blast, he thought for a moment that he had not fallen asleep at all, for the sky was still covered in darkness. But as he got to his feet, he realized that it was no ordinary darkness of night. This was a great, dark cloud which came out of the East and spread itself over the sky, blotting out the light. He gazed at it in mingled dread and hate. It seemed to seethe and boil like poison, like the bearer of a great storm, but no rain fell from it and no thunder sounded from its depths; it was a sorcerous black cloud put forth by Sauron to darken men’s hopes. It filled him with a sort of dreading fear, but his resolve grew in a strange way.

They rode forth that day under the deadening darkness, punctuated with blood-red streaks of lightning. Aldamir glanced backwards as they rode. The Dead host had become clearer and more terrible in the darkness; the shadowy shapes seemed to have gained strength. Now they swept after Aragorn’s company at a great pace. Aldamir could see that some rode on grey horses and some strode with long steps, but all moved at the same swift pace.

Then on the third day they reached Linhir above the mouth of the river Gilrain. As they rode down they saw a great seething mass at the fords, and shouts and cries and the clash of steel floated up to them. A great battle was taking place; as far as they could see, the men of Lamedon were engaged in desperate battle with strange, foreign men of Umbar and Harad. Their ships, upon which they had sailed North to assault the forces of the West, rested nearby on the river.

Aragorn drew his sword quickly, and cried in a loud voice to his company to go to the aid of the defenders. As one they drew their sword, and rode down towards the battle. But none crossed blades with an enemy that day, nor even drew near one, for as they rode down like the wind with the Dead in their wake, both defenders and foe cast away their weapons and the foe fled in fear, crying, as others had before them, that the King of the Dead was come.

The corsairs fled to their ships and were away before Aragorn reached the site of battle, but the defenders stood firm, though they were pale with dread at what they thought was their doom approaching. When the corsairs had scattered they had gathered together, those that remained, and now stood strong with their leader at their head. He was a tall man, with dark blue eyes and black hair; a bloody gash stained his forehead with red, but he stood fearlessly as Aragorn approached. The Dead hung behind him as he rode up, misty and grey, and though the man paled, he stood his ground.

“Be at peace, my friends, I will do you no harm,” Aragorn assured them, lowering his sword. “I wish only to speak to your leader. Where is he?”

The tall man stepped forward and gazed sternly up at Aragorn. “I am their leader, and my name is Angbor of Lamedon. Who are you, and why do you ride across our lands with these ghosts in your wake? Why would a living man ride with the Dead?”

“I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to the throne of Gondor, and I am riding now to the defense of Minas Tirith,” replied Aragorn. The men’s eyes widened, and they whispered among themselves. Angbor looked stunned.

“Then it is true?” he said at last. “The sword has been reforged, and Isildur’s heir has come?”

“He has, and he has need of your aid,” said Aragorn, and he dismounted, extending his hand. “I ask only for your friendship and aid, and I will give you the same. I ride now to Pelargir, to thwart the corsairs on their march to bring down the White City. If you dare, I bid you to gather your men and ride after me when the Grey Company has passed. At Pelargir the Heir of Isildur will have need of you.”

Angbor was still gazing at him in astonishment. Reaching forward, he grasped Aragorn’s hand. “You need only ask and I will do it, Lord Aragorn,” he said. “When you have gone I will gather my army and we will ride with all speed to Pelargir. Look for us there!”

“Thank you, my friend! I cannot tarry now, for I ride in the greatest of haste. I will look for you at Pelargir!”

And with that he leapt upon his horse, and wheeled about, calling to the company. Sheathing their swords they leapt after him, and then they were gone from that place.

And so the Company rode onwards and onwards, and crossed the Gilrain. There they rested a while, but Aragorn urged them to continue soon again, saying that already then Minas Tirith was assailed. He feared that it would be too late if they did not hurry, and so they mounted again before the night was over and rode as fast as their horses could manage over the plains of Lebennin.

In this way they rode down to Pelargir, after a day and a night of hard, unrelenting riding. Aldamir had grown very weary when finally the Great River came into sight.

Then suddenly, he saw the river and heard a sound he had heard only in troubled dreams before; the crying of the sea-gulls. He forgot all else as they rode down toward the great shining expanse of water, and for a moment he thought they had come to the sea. He experienced a strange sensation, as if he were waking from a dream into a reality he never knew existed. The gulls’ cries filled his ears, and his heart jumped in a strange way. The sea.... the water!

But when they reached Pelargir all thought of the Sea was banished for a short while. In the harbor there and great fleet of fifty black ships rested, their black sails bound at the masts. Smaller vessels lay about them beyond count. Some of the corsairs that had fled before them at Linhir had reached the fleet before them, carrying tidings of a grey terror pursuing them and coming to utterly destroy them. Now some of the ships had put off, seeking to escape down the river, and many smaller craft were afire. Trapped now, the Haradrim stood at the bank, but they laughed as Aragorn rode down, for they were still a great army.

Then Aragorn turned to the Dead, and called to them in a powerful voice. “Now come! By the Black Stone I call you!”

Then the shadow-army, which had hung back, rushed suddenly forward, drawing their pale blades. All about Aragorn’s company they swept, and Aldamir felt something like a cold wind blow through him. He wondered if the shadowy blades could cut, but he never found out, for they needed no other weapon than the fear they carried for every living man. All fled before them; none would stand against them.

To every ship they went, a ghostly shadow of a dreadful army. The men aboard the ships were seized by a mad terror and fled in all directions, many throwing themselves heedlessly overboard, trying anything to escape. Not one dared to stand and fight, and when the Dúnedain had ridden among them, driving them away, and the Dead had rushed through every ship, there were none left save for the terrified slaves at the oars, who were bound to their seats. Their cries of terror filled the air, until Aragon sent one of the Dúnedain to each ship to calm them.

Then the Dead stood arrayed on the shore, a terrible, grim army, and their eyes shone red in the firelight from the burning ships. Aragon spoke to them in a loud voice. “Hear now the words of the Heir of Isildur! Your oath is fulfilled. Go now back and trouble not the valleys ever again! Depart and be at rest!”

To Aldamir it seemed that they bowed, and he saw their King step forward and break his spear on his knee. His army cast their weapons away, yet nothing remained on the ground where they threw them. They turned, and like a grey mist that is blown away like the wind, they dispersed and were gone.

To Aldamir, standing on the deck of one of the black ships, it felt as though he awoke from a strange dream. He became aware of pain in his side and shoulder, and a great weariness overtook him. Almost stumbling, he grasped at the railing of the ship to keep his balance.

“Aldamir! Are you all right? What’s wrong?” Lindir was at his side in an instant, supporting him, his eyes anxious.

Aldamir shook his head. “I’m all right, don’t worry about me. I’m just tired.”

Lindir looked worried, but didn’t press the matter. He too looked pale and tired. Glad that he did not have to tell Lindir about his wounds and burden him with another worry, Aldamir leaned against the railing and tried to relax.

Aragorn chose the largest of the ships for himself, and set the slaves free. In a frenzy of joy they cast themselves at his feet and praised him. And though they had been set free, they offered now their service, and as free men took again their place at the oars. Also a great gathering of men from Ethir and out of Lebennin came to look upon Isildur’s Heir and aid him, for now the fear of the Dead was removed, and the rumour of his name had run like fire. Many of them had a great knowledge of the sea, and Aragon gave them places on all the fifty ships of the fleet.

That evening Angbor of Lamedon rode into Pelargir with all the horsemen he could muster. Aragon welcomed him as an old friend and spent some hours in council with him. It was decided that Aragon would sail as swiftly as possible to Minas Tirith in the black fleet, and that Angbor would ride after him with his men, hoping to arrive soon after.

And so that same day they set forth, even though it was forty-two leagues from Pelargir to the landings at Harlond near Minas Tirith. Aragon would not start later, driven by fear that he would be too late. “We must come to the Harlond tomorrow, or it will be too late and we will fail utterly.....”

Aldamir, too weary almost to stand, had stumbled to a small room on the ship and lain down in exhaustion. Now he lay there, eyes closed, rocked gently in the swaying motion of the ship. When the ships drew away from the harbor and set out on their race up the river, he lay tired and worn in the small room, his side aching as he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep....

Chapter 35: Night on the Anduin

Aldamir awoke while it was still dark. He felt rested, though his side still ached dully, and got up to go out on deck. There he found Lindir, standing by the vessel’s side and looking anxiously northwards through the darkness.

“What is it?” asked Aldamir, startled to see him looking so worried.

Lindir turned, and his face brightened. “Aldamir! Glad to see you back up. Are you better?”

Aldamir nodded. “Much better. But what is wrong?”

Lindir gestured into the darkness with his hand. “There is hardly any wind at all, and with the progress we are making now, even with the rowers working as hard as they can, we will hardly make it to Minas Tirith in time. Perhaps not for days.”

A frown creased Aldamir’s brow. This was indeed serious. “How far are we?”

“I don’t know.” Lindir shook his head. “But we’re not nearly far enough. It is forty-two leagues from Pelargir to Minas Tirith, but by my guess we have hardly covered nine or ten as of yet. We need a wind to speed us along.”

The two stood silent for a while, listening to the waves slap against the sides of the ship in the darkness. There were few on deck at the moment; most were below rowing. Those who could find no room to row beneath were stationed on deck as watchmen. Lanterns swung from various places on the ship, casting a warm but small circle of light onto the deck.

Looking northwards, Aldamir felt his heart grow hot with anger. A red glow hung sullenly beneath the sky, staining it red as if with blood. “Minas Tirith... it is burning...” he murmured.

Aldamir walked over to the railing and leaned against it, gazing down into the watery darkness below him. The velvety-black waves lapped against the ship’s sides, back and forth, back and forth....paddles dipped into the water, rowing, rowing..... what if it had all been in vain? The Paths of the Dead, the ride to Pelargir, capturing the fleet.... maybe it was all for nothing, and Mordor would win....darkness would cover the world so swiftly that not even the Elves could escape....

Sighing, he turned away and walked restlessly up and down the ship’s deck, waiting for a wind to spring up. If only it would.... it was their last hope. His feet, in their soft leather shoes, thudded almost inaudibly against the wood as he paced.... a wind, there must be a wind... please....

The night was chilly, and he pulled his grey Elvish cloak tighter about him as he paced. His weapons still lay in the room where he had slept an hour before; he found himself wondering if he would ever wield them in victory again. Maybe only in defeat....would they be broken then, made useless? It seemed likely that soon he would be meeting his own end, and the hands of Mordor..... like Haldir.....

He clenched his hands as the painful memory welled up in him. No! Mordor must not encroach further on the lands of the free peoples of Middle-earth.... it was Mordor that must be destroyed.....Mordor must fall, dwindle to dust, become only a ghostly memory of the power it had....

But was that possible?

It was drawing close to midnight; clouds were drifting across the sky, intermittently letting a beam of moonlight shine out, which would disappear as soon as it had come. In these moments, Aldamir could see a some ships ahead of them and one beside them on the wide river, all struggling up the river, moving by rowing alone. Moonlight quivered on the water, silver streaks, like mithril glimmering in black rock, quick to vanish. The black sails of the fleet, hoisted in hope and hardly to be seen in the darkness, hung in limp folds, lifting every now and then in useless, weak rustlings, as if they too were despairing of a there ever being a wind.

Suddenly a small breeze brushed across Aldamir’s face, and he lifted his head, stiffening. What was that he smelled? Not something he had smelled was sharp, sweet, fresh....

In a moment he was climbing the rigging to the mast’s top, that little place they called the crow’s nest, his heart quickening in wild hope. Once up there he wrapped one arm around the mast’s top and hung there, searching for that fresh little breath he had felt...where was it? He could not sense it, and his heart sank. It was gone, it hadn’t been anything....nothing....

No! There it was! It wasn’t nothing... it came from behind them, so very small, but a promise...

“Súrë!” he cried, falling into the Elven tongue and forgetting in his excitement that the men on the ship could not understand him. “Súrinen aurë!”

He heard Lindir beneath him, calling eagerly. “What? Is it true? Aldamir, can you feel it?”

“Come up here! There is a wind!”

Then finally the confused men below understood him, and they shouted in excitement. They ran about, securing the sails and peering eagerly into the darkness, though the breeze had gained but little strength yet. As it grew stronger, they too felt it, and cries went up from all the ships about them, behind and ahead of them. Aldamir and Lindir stood on the mast’s top, gripping the pole and letting the wind blow through their hair and refresh them.

“Now all we need is for it too grow strong enough,” said Lindir, closing his eyes and savoring the wind’s cool, fresh caress. “If it doesn’t, then I don’t know what will happen....”

But it did. It grew to a fine, strong wind, blowing from right behind them. It filled the sails so that they grew taught and billowed into that finely curved shape that speaks of a ship well under way. The men still rowed, but they need not have; the wind was enough as it sped them onwards up the river. Hope filled every man’s heart that night, so that spirits rose and they spoke confidently of coming in time and defeating Mordor utterly.

Aldamir, swinging down onto the deck, spent the rest of the night there, no longer pacing in suspenseful anxiety, but waiting hopefully for the sight of the White City, which would come the next day if the wind stayed as it did. He lost track of time, and did not care; he was waiting now for battle. Fetching his weapons, he donned the shirt of mail he had carried from Helm’s Deep, girt his sword by his side and bound his quiver full of arrows on his back. His cloak he wore still, but threw it back to keep it out of the way of his hands.

Laying his knife across his knee, he sharpened it, as Lindir beside him fitted a new string to his bow. When the blade was gleaming again in the torchlight, he slipped it into his sheath by his side. Then he took his quiver-knife, a long, grey-handled blade he kept fastened on his back by his arrows, and sharpened it as well. Finishing, he slipped it back into its scabbard and looked toward the sky.

The East was lightening slightly, and the sun struggled to pierce the darkness of Mordor. Then he knew that dawn was coming, and slowly he began to be able to make out the landscape around them. The surface of the Anduin turned from deep velvety blackness to grey; whiteness foamed around the ship’s prow as it rushed onwards before the wind.

Then dawn came with a sudden rush of pure air and wind, and in some strange way it drove back the cloud of Mordor, so that the sun shone out in blinding brightness and the waters of the Anduin turned to sparkling blue, with golden points of light dancing on the waves. Cries of joy went up from the ships; every man’s heart lifted with the banishment of the darkness.

And so, as the morning drew near to its third hour, they saw the white tower of Minas Tirith drawing near.....

Chapter 35: The Pelennor Fields

A great cry of joy went up from all the ships as Minas Tirith's white spires rose up before them, but the cry was replaced by angry shouts. Dark red flames burned on the lowest level and clouds of black smoke billowed up. The gate was broken; fierce fighting was taking place everywhere on the field of the Pelennor, but it seemed that the Enemy had the upper hand. Everywhere on the Pelennor desperate skirmishes were taking place; the men aboard the black ships could see the wild, dark masses of orcs wildly battling the armies of the West.

As the black ships came into sight of the Pelennor, Aldamir knew that the men of the West must be gazing at them in despair, believing that now the Corsairs had come, the last stroke of doom, and that now all was lost. But Aragorn raised the black standard which Halbarad had carried from the North, and it broke out from the mast: a great black banner upon which the White Tree flashed out like sunlight. Above it, the Seven Stars and the Crown, wrought of mithril and gold, glittered like stars, the standard of Elendil which no man had borne since Isildur fell.

The black fleet, led by the flying standard of Elendil, came swiftly to the docks at Harlond and moored there. Aragorn formed his troops as they disembarked, putting the cavalry, consisting of the Dúnedain and the Elves, in the front, to fall upon the enemy's infantry and clear a way for the men on foot. Halbarad rode by his side, bearing the great standard, and like the West wind they swept down onto the battle field.

Fearán's hooves pounded like thunder beneath Aldamir as they rode down; he drew his sword and gripped it as the wind blew through his dark hair, tossing it wildly out behind him. Beside him Lindir drew his sword as well, and the two exchanged a glance and a determined nod. Then Aldamir turned his eyes forward, taking in the scene before him.

Enemies were thronging about the shattered gates of Minas Tirith; the men of the city were struggling desperately to drive them away. Mordor's forces were scattered everywhere on the fields, cutting through the armies of Minas Tirith and Rohan. Aldamir could see that Éomer had gathered his Rohirrim together for one last stand, but now a shout of joy went up from all the forces of the West at Aragorn's arrival, and a shiver of dread ran through their enemies.

The captains of the Haradrim, those closest to Aragorn's advance, were rallying their men. They had almost no time to do so, but still there was a considerable force gathered to meet Aragorn and his army when he rode onto the battlefield.

Aldamir saw it all in the few seconds he had before they rushed into the enemy's ranks; the hard, scarred faces of the enemy, their standards of red and black, their stained swords and their long spears, pointed toward the advancing force, and the arrows on their bows, ready to fell Aragorn and his comrades....

Then they plunged into battle with a shout and a clash of arms, and during the next few minutes Aldamir had no idea how he managed to stay both alive and on Fearán's back. He barely had time to draw breath as he battled the Southrons, whirling this way and that as he dodged their spears and swords and strove to keep Fearán unharmed. Wild shouts and cries were all about him, filling his ears, blended with the hard, clear clashing of steel against steel. A Ranger at his side went down, pierced by an arrow; Aldamir saw the blood stain his tunic as he fell, the light fade from his eyes, and the sword fall from his limp hand. In wild fury Aldamir cut his way through to the Southron who had shot the dart. He engaged in a short, desperate battle with the man, and after a few moments cut him down. A fury like he had rarely known before came over him, and he fought as one possessed.

Then a Southron sword slashed across Fearán's flank, and he reared wildly. Aldamir was thrown to the ground, falling lightly and rolling quickly out of the way. Fearán was gone, charging through the enemies, wild with the pain of the wound, and Aldamir was left on foot to fend for himself.

Before he had gained his feet, a laughing Southron loomed over him and shouted something in a southern language which Aldamir could not understand. His sword came whistling down through the air, but Aldamir rolled away at the last second and the blade thudded into the ground, barely missing him. It stuck there, and the Southron was caught off guard. Leaping to his feet, Aldamir finished him with a quick blow.

Now, however, he no longer had the advantage of being on horseback. He found himself at that moment separated from his companions, surrounded by dark-skinned southern men whose eyes gleamed dangerously as they saw him standing there alone. Shouting to each other in their unintelligible language, they closed in around him, and he wondered if it was the end.

He readied his sword as the first man approached and blocked the blow with a quick parry, then disarming the man with a lightning swift move and finishing him with a quick stab. It was easy enough when only one fought, but now three or four were closing in, angry at the death of their kinsman, and Aldamir was hard put to fend them off. He felt a sword strike his left shoulder from behind, and staggered slightly as it cut into his flesh, drawing blood. That split second where he was caught off guard was enough for a Southron; he sent Aldamir to the ground with a heavy blow of his gauntlented hand.

Aldamir tasted blood in his mouth as he raised his head, just in time to see a spear stabbing down toward him. Once again he rolled aside, but it caught in the rings of his chain mail. He was unharmed, but pinned to ground, almost defenseless. The Southron jeered at him, and raised his sword...

But the blow never came. Something thudded into the man's back from behind and he fell forward, dead. His body landed on top of Aldamir, knocking the breath out of him. He struggled to free himself, but in the next moment the body was wrenched off of him and Halbarad helped him to his feet.

"Thank you!" gasped Aldamir. "If it hadn*t been for you I'd have been dead by now!"

"It's nothing!" replied Halbarad, and noticed his bloody shoulder. "You're hurt -- will you be all right?"

Aldamir nodded breathlessly. "It's not bad -- don't worry about me. I'll be fine."

Halbarad clapped him on the shoulder and the two turned back to the battle.

For several more hours they fought unceasingly, advancing steadily across the Pelennor. When the sun had begun to sink toward the western sky, they had vanquished most of the foes, but in some places the Haradrim had gathered together to make a last desperate stand and slay as many as they could. The greatest force of these men stood near the northern end of the field, and it was them who gave the armies of the West the greatest trouble. They would not give ground, and fought with an undimmed fierceness. It was here the Dúnedain were fighting towards the end of the day. Most of the men of the North remained, but some had fallen to the enemies' blades.

Aldamir was in the thick of the battle, fighting side by side with Lindir, when he saw Halbarad, desperately battling a tall Haradrim, go down.

"Halbarad!" he shouted, and fought his way heedlessly to the fallen Ranger's side. He lay face-down on the ground, motionless and limp. Aldamir turned him over, and grief wrenched at his heart. Halbarad had been stabbed in the heart; blood drenched his tunic, and his face was deathly pale. His eyes were closed, but he opened them briefly as Aldamir gripped his shoulders.

"I will not live..." he murmured. "Tell Aragorn...I am sorry...cannot serve him anymore..."

Aldamir shook his head, tears stinging his eyes. "Do not be sorry, Halbarad Dúnadan, you have served him better than any of us..."

Halbarad smiled slightly. "Farewell, Aldamir of the have been a noble companion...."

His head fell back slowly, and his eyes closed as life and breath left him.

A tear fell from Aldamir's cheek onto Halbarad*s bloodstained tunic and cloak. "Hiro hyn hith ab 'wanath, noble man," he whispered. "May Eru grant you everlasting peace and rest, Halbarad Dúnadan...."

Something hit Aldamir with a great blow in the side; he was thrust violently to the ground. Again an enemy man had tried to slay him with a spear, but again the chain mail had foiled him. Jerking away from the spear-point, Aldamir rolled over and got to his feet quickly. Dropping his spear, the man whipped out his sword and charged at Aldamir. The Elf caught his first blow with a parry, feinted, and dodged as the man lunged again. Seeing an opening, Aldamir drove his sword beneath the other's quickly, piercing the man's garments and flesh. As the enemy toppled, he yanked his sword out.

But a piercing, burning agony in his ankle made him stumble and cry out with pain. His enemy was not dead yet, and had drawn his knife and stabbed Aldamir's ankle as he fell. Staggering, Aldamir lost his balance and fell to the ground, his sword flying from his hand as he flung out his arm. He was out of his enemy's reach, but there were several other Haradrim around him who welcomed the chance to strike down a nearly defenseless Elf.

In that moment Aldamir thought with a certaintly that it was all over; the journey ended here, in another second a blade would pierce his heart and he would lose his chance to see Lorien ever again....neither would he see Uruviel. He slumped backwards on the ground, resigned, giving himself up, waiting....there was no way out.

A shimmering, blood-stained blade swung up above him and he saw it descend....