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To Tell a Tale  by Lindelea

Part 4: Elendiari's Tale

Chapter the Fourth: Watchman, What of the Knight?

in which the youngest of a series of storytellers commanded by the King performs his duty

contributed by Elendiari22

Bergil opened the door and peeped into the room. A curly head lay at the foot of the big bed, hairy feet resting on the pillow. Pippin was staying abed, Bergil saw, but he was not doing it willingly.

The curly head twisted when the door hinges creaked, and Pippin smiled over at Bergil, coughing slightly. " 'Lo, Bergil," he said, raising himself onto an elbow. "I suppose you've come to keep me in check?"

Bergil grinned. "Yes, sir. Sir Merry asked me to."

Pippin laughed; it turned into a racking cough. The hobbit doubled over, and Bergil hurried to hand him a glass of water. Pippin drank it and settled back against the pillows, right way around, this time.

"Don't ever tell anyone that I admitted this to you, but I don't mind being waited on hand and foot," Pippin said. He tugged the covers up, making himself comfortable. "Do you have a story for me? Every one has been telling me stories today. It's been wonderful!"

Bergil nodded. "I have one, but I don't know if you'll like it. It's rather silly."

Pippin grinned, looking delighted. He settled more firmly into his pillows, taking a smaller one to hug to his chest. He wheezed only slightly, but Bergil took care to fill a mug with water and set it close on hand. Then he sat down in the armchair next to the bed.

"The King said that you might like a story that is native to Gondor," Bergil began. "I asked him if any tale would do, and he said something lighthearted. When I asked him if I could tell you this one, he asked to hear it, and when I was done, he looked like he wanted to hit his head against the wall." He paused, gauging Pippin's reaction. The hobbit looked terribly curious, and Bergil grinned. "Shall I tell it?"

"When you lead it in on such a rope?" Pippin replied. "Yes! I can scarcely wait to see the rest of the beast!"

Bergil nodded. "All right. Well, once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a captain who came out of the North to Gondor…"

Thorongil was a great captain, whom everybody loved. I never met him, because he was born long before myself, even before my father, but there are songs about him. His name is elvish for ‘Eagle of the Star', because he wore a silver star on his cloak and was very swift. When Lord Denethor's father was Steward, Thorongil came from Rohan to serve him. He thought that the Corsairs of Umbar were a terrible threat to Gondor, and after a lot of badgering (I'm just repeating what I've heard other storytellers say, Sir Pippin!), Thorongil was allowed to take a fleet of ships and go attack the Corsairs, so that they couldn't attack the fiefs to the south.

They came to Umbar by night, and no one saw them because it was so dark. Or so they thought. A small sailing vessel hailed them, and not wanting to begin a fight when they were so far from the Corsair ships still, Thorongil disguised himself and hailed them back.

They were Corsairs themselves! They invited the captain to join them for a party, and because he knew he could get important information out of them, Thorongil and his closest captains went onto the little ship.

There was a party going, and it was very lively. Thorongil kept his men close to him and bade them not drink the home brew of the Corsairs.

‘We are travelers, much like yourselves,' Thorongil told the captain of the vessel. ‘We have spent the last few years sailing the coast South to North, but this is the first we have seen of this land. Are you land warriors?'

The corsairs laughed--they were becoming quite drunk, you see--and told him that no, they were pirates. They sailed on big ships and were going to raid Gondor some day. He seemed to be a competent sailor; would he like to join them? Perhaps, Thorongil said, and thank you. Could they tell him who their captain was?

The corsairs all laughed again, and a big man stood up.

‘I am the Captain! All these-here men are under my command!' he said, and all of the corsairs cheered.

Thorongil looked at the man curiously. He was a big man with wild black hair and a black beard. Both had beads woven in, and he wore very colorful clothing. He engaged the captain in conversation for a long time, and when he and his men left, Thorongil was very happy.

When they got back to their ship, Thorongil told them his plan. It was quite wicked! You see, the Captain of the Corsairs was very sup-super... he was afraid of things he couldn't see or touch...

"Superstitious," supplied Pippin.

"Yes, that's the one!" said Bergil. "He was very superstitious."

The Captain believed that a sign would tell him when to fight and when to stay. No one could make him sail his fleet unless the time was right, you see. The sign, he said, would be momentous and terrifying, but he just "knew" it was coming, for an old fortune teller had told him to "watch out". He was waiting, but if it did not come soon, then he would attack the fiefs of Gondor like he was planning to do.

Thorongil's plan was to provide the captain with his sign. They would burn all of the Corsair ships, but they would also need something a little more personal, so that the captain would be frightened enough not to attack when his fleet was built up again.

It was decided that as well as burning all of the Corsair ships, they would dress one of the younger soldiers up as a lass, and pretend that she was a spirit come to tell the Captain not to fight.

They prepared swiftly. The Corsairs were planning to sail to battle the next day, and so Thorongil and his fleet needed to be swift. They dressed the lad up as a girl, and sailed into port. The Captain and his friends had just reached their dock when they attacked! A great number of the fleet set the Corsair ships on fire, and Thorongil and the young soldier hurried to intercept the Captain.

As luck would have it, though, the young soldier fell and sprained his ankle. Thorongil had no choice but to put the lad in a safe place and don the girl's clothes himself! Well, the dress didn't really fit him, so he wore it like a skirt and put the mantle around his shoulders. He wore a big Corsair lady's hat with a veil to hide the fact that he was a man, and went out onto the docks.

The Captain, who was watching the fleet burn in shock and fear, gasped when he saw the young woman come onto the dock, moving as silently as a ghost. There were no girls at this port; it was the last stop before going out to war. He was certain that this was a ghost.

‘Hear me, O Great Captain!' Thorongil said, pitching his voice to make him sound like a girl. ‘The time is not yet ripe to attack Gondor! Go home and do not attack there, for it would be your doom!'

The Captain stared at Thorongil, and suddenly, he cried, "Florella! I knew it was you!"

Thorongil was startled. The Captain was hurrying towards him with his arms open, like he wanted to hug him.

‘I'll go back, darling! Just let me kiss you again!' the Captain cried.

‘No, no! That's not allowed!' Thorongil replied. ‘Go home!'

But the Captain persisted in chasing after Thorongil, thinking he was the spirit of a girl named Florella. Meanwhile, everyone else in Thorongil's fleet had done their job and were waiting outside of the port to go home. Thorongil knew he had to get back to them, and continued to try eluding the Captain. At last, though, the Captain grabbed him by the mantle! Thorongil jerked away, and was forced to pull his sword out. The Captain, seeing that he had been tricked, was furious, and they fought like two wild things. In the end, though, Thorongil was triumphant, and he succeeded in sending the Captain into the sea. I don't think he actually killed him, but I don't know for sure. In any case, Thorongil sheathed his sword, picked up his injured soldier, and hurried back to his ship.

Gondor had triumphed! (But then, Gondor always triumphs. It's Gondor.) The fleet had managed to sack the Corsair port without firing a shot, and they sailed home victorious.

When the men saw Thorongil in a skirt, they tried not to laugh. On the young soldier it had been all right, but Thorongil was their Captain, tall and grim, so he looked very funny. Thorongil went and changed immediately, but someone that very night wrote a song called "Captain Thorongil and the Corsairs".

Captain Thorongil never went back to Gondor. He was supposed to, but he said he had other things he needed to do. Some think he left because he was embarrassed!

Bergil stopped and helped himself to a glass of water. "I don't know if that's the full story," he said. "But that's all of it that I know. My father never let the men tell me the parts that were funniest. Did you like it?"

He looked up at Pippin again and jumped slightly. Pippin was laughing so hard that tears were leaking from his eyes and he was wheezing. Bergil jumped up and handed him a cup of water, patting him awkwardly on the back.

"That was brilliant, Bergil! Thorongil the Pirate! Who would have thought!" gasped Pippin, when he could talk again. He wiped tears from his eyes, coughed a little, and laughed again. "D'you want to know the funniest thing about it all?"

Bergil nodded, curious. "What?"

Pippin looked at him, eyes dancing with mischief. "When I was in Rivendell, I learned what King Elessar's other names were. Thorongil had other names too, among them Elfstar, Strider, and Aragorn...!"

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