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The Green Knight  by Le Rouret


            Faramir and his men crashed into the clearing, swords and spears at ready, prepared to fight an army of men to protect the ones that had gone before; but as they looked about the clearing all who stood before them were four good knights and an esquire, flanking an Elf and a Dwarf, and hovering about the Elf’s waist was a tiny perian, white-faced but defiant.  Beregond’s company stared in amazement at the Elf, and Faramir at the bodies of the soldiers; for a moment none spoke.  Then Mardil sheathed his sword and stepped forward with a smile.

            “Hail and well met, Prince Faramir of Emyn Arnen!” he said.  “We thank you for your kind offer of assistance, but as you can see we have no immediate need of it.  The Green Knight has disposed of this motley assemblage of dissenters himself.”

            “You slew them all?” asked Faramir in amazement, turning to Legolas.  The Elf flushed deeply.

            “Nay, my Lord Faramir; I had with me my brave and noble esquire, and he and I dispatched them between us two.”

            “I only killed one of them!” protested Bandobras in surprise.  “You killed the rest of them, Master, all by yourself.  And really I only killed the other fellow by accident – he was going to stab me, see, and I was just trying to defend myself.”

            “The fact remains there are none to question,” said Gimli.  “Do not blame him, though, my Lord of Emyn Arnen; had I been here I should have done the same, so great was my wrath and consternation.”

            “Very well!” said Faramir, smiling at Legolas and dismounting.  “There is no help for it; we must make do with what we have.  Beregond, take you your men and gather up the slain; identify them if you can, though I fear me it must be a task either painful or futile, depending whether they are our men betraying us, or unknown strangers.”  Beregond spoke to his men and they too dismounted and put aside their weapons, and began lining up the bodies, searching the armour and piling up the swords and shields.  Faramir walked towards the knights and smiled down at Bandobras.  “How are you, friend perian?  You are unhurt, I hope?”

            “Yes, sir – I mean, my lord,” said Bandobras.  “At least not much hurt; I’ve got a knot the size of a goose’s egg on my head and a cut on my cheek, but I’m all right, thank you.”

            “And you, Lord Elf?” asked Faramir with a wry smile.  “Are you perchance wounded, or have you survived your revelry of wrath without injury?”

            “I am unhurt,” said Legolas stiffly, still blushing.

            “Well!  At last I understand the estimation of my brother-in-law, the king of Rohan!” said Faramir.  “He said to me that with Aragorn upon one side and Legolas at the other, none would dare stand against him, and it seems to me he spoke truthfully.  Never have I seen such valor rewarded with victory, Prince of Mirkwood; you harvested your enemies as wheat mown with a scythe.”

            The four knights and Hador looked at Legolas in surprise and Mardil said, “Prince?  We did you a dishonor, then, your highness, for doing no obeisance to you.”

            “I neither require nor crave it,” said Legolas.  “I beg you, my friends, to forget both my name and my rank these next few days; we have much to do and to discover, and it will aid us not to bruit abroad my position.”

            “As you wish!” said Araval.  “But with your leave we shall feel ourselves doubly enriched by your friendship.”

            They were interrupted by a cry from one of Beregond’s men; the captain hurried over, and when he saw what his man had uncovered he ran to Faramir.  “My lord,” he said, his face full of dismay, “we do indeed know one of the men here.  Look!”

            They all followed him to the body by the cart.  Faramir looked upon it and exclaimed, “Fenbarad!”

            “Alas, yes!” said Legolas.  “It grieved me to strike him down, for I knew he was one of your trusted men.  He came to me on horseback, and at first I thought he had come to my aid, but he cried aloud to his soldiers to kill me quickly, and my esquire too; and when he rode up to me he assailed me, so I slew him though with a heavy heart.  I know not what became of his unhappy horse; it bolted from my destrier’s fearsome countenance.  I hope you find no more familiar faces here, for this loss is dire enough.”

            “Worse still,” said Beregond grimly, “now we shall have to question all his work, for we cannot trust his deductions. He was placed in charge of investigating the throwing of the caltrops, and now we must renew the inquiry upon a trail long cold, for I am now certain the impasse he reached in his inquiries was due not to lack of suspicions, but his especial knowledge of the perpetrator.”

            “So we must also be wary of others in his confidence,” sighed Faramir.  “With whom did he foregather, Beregond?  Do you know?”

            “He was talking to Targil when I left the Tent City,” piped up Bandobras.  “He told me it was his job to watch over me, and he asked me where I was going.  He also told me to run to his soldiers if there was a problem – “  He gestured to the dead bodies with a shudder  “ – but that turned out to be a mistake, as they were in on it, too.”

            “I did not charge Fenbarad with that commission,” said Faramir, his face full of misgiving.  “Therefore I must conclude some other master gave him that task.  Now tell me, Bandobras son of Reginard, all you heard and saw concerning this matter.”

            “Must I, Master?” asked Bandobras, looking up at Legolas in dismay.  “It’ll make me look no end a fool, for I was silly and impractical, and I oughtn’t to have been captured at all.”

            “Tell him, Little One!” said Legolas.  “Everything you can recall may aid us in arresting these skirmishes.”

            “O very well!” sighed the Hobbit, and with a very red face he outlined his afternoon, from meeting with Hallas to his falling out of the cart and knocking himself upon the head once more.  “And don’t you go suspecting evil things of Hallas or Híldaf,” he cautioned Faramir, shaking his finger at the Lord of Emyn Arnen, much to the chagrin of the Dwarf and the secret amusement of Beregond.  “I’ll lay you any odds they had nothing to do with it, either of them.”

            “For now we must act as though we suspect all,” said Faramir with a smile.  “Though I am certain Híldaf could not have willingly inflicted those wounds upon his own body, just for the sake of verisimilitude.”

            “What about Hallas of Lossarnach?” asked Beregond.  “We have been warned of his connections with Orodreth of Linhir.”

            “I know of no black mark against Baldor his sire,” said Mardil.  “And although Orodreth of Linhir is an unpleasant man, I have heard of no collusion with the King’s enemies or detractors.  Also Hallas is a destitute knight, and gravely crippled; how could he move such events from the confines of his sick-bed, with naught but a pitiable, half-starved esquire in his service?”

            “I know not,” said Faramir, “but now I must distrust all who have ties with the Anduin, for so the Southrons creep up the coast, sowing their discord.  Save you men here, who have proved yourselves honorable and worthy of my confidence, I must treat all in the Tournament grounds with suspicion.  We must hold a council, all of you, with Queen Undómiel and Éowyn my wife, seeking to determine our next step.”

            “Up until now the moves have been in our enemy’s favor,” said Legolas.  “I am spoiling to deliver an offensive thrust, for it is certainly my turn to move some pieces upon the board.”

            “As it stands you are one of the primary pieces yourself, O Prince Goat!” said Faramir.  “I know you chafe beneath the yoke, but you must have patience, my friend.  Until we know the face of our enemy we do not know where to strike next.  But for now we shall continue our strategy of watching and waiting.  Noble knights, shall I extract from you a vow of silence concerning the Green Knight’s true name?  I need not tell you that I shall be muzzling my own men here.”

            “You have no need to ask,” said Cirien, and the other men nodded.  “We too understand the importance of such secrecy.”

            Meanwhile Hador also was searching the bodies, and coming up to Lord Araval he said, “My Lord, here is a man whose face I know; also look you upon the brooch of his cloak; I recognize that coat of arms.”

            Araval looked as well, and turning to Faramir he said:  “It is as I feared!  This man was a vassal of Eldacar of Lebennin; Ingold was his name.  And here beside him is Sangahar his brother.  These two men left their father’s house after Elessar was crowned, proclaiming they would not bow before a king but only a steward of the house of Denethor.  Long did Eldacar search for them, for he did not trust their intent, but now it seems they found others who believed as they did, and having fostered their discord decided to stop speaking and start troublemaking.”

            “A man named Húrin called the King Elessar the Usurper,” Bandobras said.  “Yes – that’s him, over there.  I forgot to tell you -- he told me he’d cut off my fingers unless I told him who you were, Master.”

            “O my Bandobras!” murmured Legolas, laying his hand upon the Halfling’s head.  “It shall be late indeed before I forgive myself the misstep that brought you here.  I am all the more aggrieved that my amusement has brought you so close to death and danger!  Aye, Faramir, I fear these men are loyal to you only inasmuch as you defy your King.  For the soldiers I overheard in the forest some nights past spoke also of Elessar as one who has no right to the throne.  They said he was only the heir of Isildur, not of Aníron.”

            Araval shook his head, and the other three knights made noises of disbelief.  “Fomenting dissention!” exclaimed Mardil.  “We have all heard such ignorant yelps from unschooled dogs as these.  They would make a mockery of the Stewards’ duty.”

            “Indeed!” said Faramir.  “Do they not see the blood of Elendil has a right to the throne of Gondor and Arnor together, and that the Stewards held the rule of Gondor only in the rightful king’s stead?  I only hope these soldiers are but the larger part of a small group of dissidents and that there are no more rebels knocking upon the gates of Minas Tirith.”

            “Lord Aldamir!” exclaimed Legolas suddenly, turning to the Red Knight.  “Remember what we were about to do, ere news of my esquire’s abduction drove all other thought from my mind!  Disclose to Lord Faramir the tidings sent you from your seneschal.”

            “Why, what news from Amon Din?” asked Faramir in surprise.  “Nothing ill I hope!”

            “It may be ill indeed,” said Aldamir grimly, “for the notion has taken me that these men are part of the same faction haunting my own fields.”  And he told Faramir and Beregond all that his seneschal had written to him.  Faramir, Beregond, and the other knights all listened in silence, expressions of apprehension upon their faces.  When he was finished Faramir shook his head.

            “News; I need news!” he muttered.  “Where are the King’s patrols, and why have they given no word of these men?  Yet if your people fear them that may be enough for me.

            “I weary of waiting,” he said after reflecting a moment.  “The next strike shall be ours, even if it does nothing more than delay the larger plot.  I am expecting a messenger from Pelargir today, giving tidings of the King’s campaign in the South.  If he requires no more men of us we shall ride to the Druadan Vale and see what these soldiers are about.  If they surrender we shall have many men to question and perhaps discern the hand behind them; if they fight us we shall know indeed they are our enemies, and we shall deliver them such a blow that the man behind this shall sting from it for years.”

            “We are with you, Lord Faramir!” said Araval.  “But speak the word and we shall rally behind you.”

            “Let us wait until the end of the Tournament, my Lord,” suggested Beregond.  “When the knights are through with their play-acting and the winner has been announced, there will be a lull and a feeling of melancholy at the cessation of the festivities, and then they shall be more than willing to follow you up the Stonewain.  Indeed at that point I doubt you would be able to stop them, and they shall so swell the ranks of your Rangers that victory may be all the more certain.”

            “Can we afford to wait that long?” asked Gimli.  “These men may start moving at any time.”

            “The patrol is due back tomorrow,” said Faramir.  “Should they fail to reconnoiter I shall know something is truly amiss in Amon Din.  Then it shall take at least a day to muster all the knights who are faithful to the King to add to my Rangers.  Were I assured of the safety of the roads I would send a message to King Éomer, requesting his aid, for then we would surely crush these men in the vise.  As it is I do fear me we shall have fewer than a five score swords.”

            “Fear not, my Lord of Emyn Arnen!” said Legolas.  “A hundred such men as I have travailed against shall be more than mighty to assail these trespassers.  For myself I would rather have more archers, for then we could rake the foremost line and run them down.”

            “That can be arranged,” said Faramir; “there are many fine marksmen in my old company.  Well, brother knights, friends all, let us quit this sad place and return Master Bandobras to his duties!  My Lady will be anxious to know his fate, and also I am certain Híldaf of Rohan frets and pines for news in the leeches’ tents.”

            “Duties!” squeaked Bandobras, putting his hands to his hair in dismay.  “The lamb!  The roast lamb, Master!  It is too late to put it in to cook now!  You shall have no supper!  O what am I going to do?  And we were going to have peas in cream – and taters -- this is all my fault – and now you will have to go hungry because I have nothing else to give you – O, I am so sorry, Master!”

            The knights hid their smiles behind their hands, for they saw the little Hobbit was truly distressed.  Legolas however dropped to one knee and took Bandobras into the circle of his arms once more, his face serious.  “My dear Bandobras, do not worry yourself over such trifles,” he said gently, kissing his esquire upon the crown of his curly head.  “Such is my delight in having you safe by my side once more that lamb and lembas would taste alike to me tonight.  And anyway you have sustained a great blow upon your head; I would not allow you to prepare my meal until you have rested and regained your strength.”

            “Lady Éowyn and Queen Undómiel will also desire your presence at their table, I am certain,” added Faramir smiling.  “They will make you to sit between them, and they will comfort and soothe and pamper you, and croon over your injuries and feed you whatever cakes and trifles you like, and my good Ardún shall prepare the evening repast in your stead.  You have certainly earned a respite from your duties today!  Fear not, good esquire, for tonight it is your turn to be indulged.”

            “He is plenty indulged already,” muttered Gimli, but Legolas shot him a look and he subsided.

            “Shall we hold council tonight or tomorrow, then?” asked Aldamir of Faramir.

            “Tonight,” said Faramir.  “Come you also to my mansion, my friends, and we shall eat and drink, so that all shall think this is but a celebration of the Halfling’s safe return.  However after our meal we shall discuss all we know, and determine how best to lay out our next move.”

            “We shall inform our servants to bring food and drink, then, so your stores are not unduly depleted,” said Cirien, and at that Bandobras, whose face had fallen, brightened considerably.

            “Oh!” he exclaimed.  “Will any of them have any mushrooms?  I tried and tried to get mushrooms this morning but I couldn’t.  Do you think your esquire Gilmir managed to buy mushrooms from the greengrocer today?  I hope that he has for mushrooms are such an important part of the meal.”

            “I shall ask him, Master Perian!” smiled Cirien with a bow.  “Perhaps Gilmir shall bring mushrooms to your feast.”

            “I hope not!” said Gimli under his breath, and though Legolas tried to frown at him the Dwarf noticed his friend’s eyes were twinkling all the same.

            So it came to pass that Hador of Tarlang rode upon his hackney post haste to the Tent City, bearing aloft a lance from which fluttered the token of the White Lady of Rohan, and he cried aloud to all he met that the Green Knight, aided by four mighty men of Gondor, had overcome the abductors and punished them with their due, and was riding back in triumph with an escort of Prince Faramir’s personal guard.  Great was the rejoicing in the Tent City and its environs, for Lasgalen of Dale was greatly respected, and Bandobras his esquire so congenial all were amused by him, and all had been in a fever of worry about the perian’s disappearance, and the knight’s flight to rescue him.  Many remarked at the great love borne between knight and esquire, and the deep affection that lay between those two, and others of the valor and courage of the Green Knight, who could with naught but four other knights save his esquire from a large group of armed dissidents.  And all mused upon the mystery of the abduction itself, wondering what had been the reasons behind it, and pondered the many interruptions the Tournament had already suffered, between caltrops and lovelorn rivals, certainly aimed at the Knight of Dale.  Some said he had brought the trouble with him, for few knew aught of the Men of the North, but most scoffed, and said rather his great courage and nerve had stirred some base knight to jealousy, who sought to detract him by diverse malicious means. 

            And when Lasgalen of Dale rode at the head of a column of men, obscured as always in his glorious intaglioed armour, and flanked upon one side by the Lord of Emyn Arnen and upon the other by Aldamir of Amon Din, bearing behind him Gimli the Dwarf; a great throng gathered upon the roadside to greet them, waving banners of green, and of red and dun, yellow and silver, the colors of the knights who had gone out to sustain him.  Bright were the pennants that fluttered from the knights’ lances, gay were their colored caparisons and surcoats, brilliantly did their armour gleam and flash in the setting sun, which bathed the fields of the vale in mellow gold.  High above in the violet sky a large flock of starlings wheeled, chattering noisily amongst themselves and flowing in black clouds to settle upon the tree branches.  All the people, villagers, knights, esquires, armourers, servants and lackeys alike, jostled forward to see if the perian was indeed rescued unarmed, and all who saw his curly head and wide brown eyes, peering out around the manifers of his Master’s long arms where he sat before him upon the saddle, cheered and cried aloud with delight, for they rejoiced to see the weak defended.  And with the names of Faramir of Emyn Arnen and Lasgalen of Dale were chanted the names of the four other knights, Red and Dun, Yellow and Silver, to do them the honor fitting their noble and selfless actions.

            So the column rode to Osgiliath to the celebration of the perian’s return, and none begrudged the knights the company of the Lord of Emyn Arnen, for they saw the deeds were great, and worthy of such a tribute, though if some had chanced to listen, they would have heard the Green Knight’s esquire say to his Master, “Really, Master, all this fuss just for bringing me back here!  It makes me feel quite shy, it really does.  After all if I’d just done what you told me at the start none of this would have been necessary at all!”

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