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Disclaimer: this story is non-profit and was written for purely entertainment purposes. All recognized characters and places are property of Tolkien Estates and New Line Cinema.
**Very Important Author’s Note:
It is understood that the Silmarils, unlike the Rings, cannot exert power over those around them. They were not created for such a purpose. However, it can be argued that the Silmarils cause the most base of emotions (pride, lust and geed) to surface in even the greatest of souls.
When Fëanor wrought the three, he did so out of his own pride. He did not have to make them, but he did anyways because he could. All lusted after them and wished to own them, leading to bloodshed and hatred (Thingol at the hands of the Dwarves, the Noldor oath that cost many a life, to name a few). Perhaps the most telling of all was how Morgoth/Melkor (i.e. The Valar God Who Went All Satanic On Everybody) coveted them. Morgoth is the epitome of evil, and it only makes sense that he of all the Valar would fall victim to the Silmarils’ charm.
Imagine, then, what the price would be if they were to fall into the hands of Man—Man who is the greatest victim of pride, greed and lust.
“But what of Beren!” you cry. “Why was he not overpowered by those emotions when he was sent to retrieve a stolen Silmaril?” And here is my answer to that: Beren desired Luthien above all else. His only concern was to win the hand of the one he loved; he wanted nothing more than that. Therefore, the jewel did not affect him. His intentions were pure.
It would seem fairly easy for Aragorn to overcome such obstacles due to his love for Arwen. However, Aragorn already has Arwen’s heart and has no reason to fight for it.**
Right. Kudos to you if you just read that whole ramble. Now, onto the story!
* * *
~ Chapter 3: A Fish Out of Water ~
It had been a practice instituted shortly after their marriage: once a week the King and Queen would open their doors to the citizens of Gondor and listen to the various complaints, suggestions, and problems of the people. Though he knew the routine served to endear he and Arwen to the people, Aragorn could not help but view the task as somewhat tedious.
“It does not sit well to greet the morn with such a sour look upon one’s face.” Arwen smoothly ran a brush through her long hair and watched her husband’s face in the mirror.
“Yes,” he replied, fiddling with a button on his tunic, “but I fear what I may do if I am forced to listen to another stolen cow story.” Incidents of last week’s fiasco flashed before his eyes: two peasant farmers had nearly come to blows when each refused to let the other present his version of “his” cow’s lineage. A shouting match ensued, and ultimately the palace guards were forced to physically restrain the two.
“Peace, my King. Peace.” Arwen laughed lightly as she began pinning up her hair. “We should be thankful that stolen cows sit atop the list of Gondor tragedies. I can think of far worse disasters—stolen pigs, for instance.”
Aragorn shook his head at his wife’s rather pitiful joke and smiled in spite of himself. “For Middle-earth’s sake, I sincerely hope that remark would be found amusing among Elvish circles.”
Arwen merely smiled again, and Aragorn felt his spirits lift a bit. As if on cue, a shaft of sunlight broke through the morning clouds and streamed through the chamber window, bathing the Queen in soft golden light. Dust motes sparkled and swirled hypnotically around her as they were hit by the sun’s warm rays. ‘It is amazing,’ thought Aragorn as he watched the scene unfold before him in awe, ‘that we spend all our life straining to reach greater and loftier things, when the true happiness we seek is nothing more than fleeting moments of purity such as this.’
Overwhelmed by the sudden and simple beauty of the moment, Aragorn sighed and moved to stand behind her. “I do not know where I would be without you,” he declared, planting a quick kiss on her cheek.
“Hmm, alone and wandering about the wilderness with that dreadful group of Rangers, I suppose.”
“Perhaps,” came the reply, “but at least I would not be plagued with stolen cows.”
The couple’s light banter was interrupted by a knock at the chamber door. “Please enter, Bergil,” called the Queen as she fastened a final pin into her hair.
Bergil, still sporting a black eye from the tussle between the two peasant farmers, opened the door at his Queen’s command. The young palace guard had ceased to be surprised by Arwen’s uncanny awareness years ago, and now simply accepted the fact that the Queen would know it was he at the door. Walking into the room, the dark-haired young man bowed respectfully and delivered his message. “My Lord and My Lady,” he began quickly, “a messenger has arrived from Dol Amroth. His Lordship Prince Imrahil reports that a great fleet of Corsairs is beached upon the sands of Belfalas by last month’s storm. The Prince has seen to it that they are under constant surveillance, but he wishes to inform King Elessar of the matter.”
Aragorn’s brow furrowed as he rubbed his chin and frowned. “Corsairs? They are from the South, I presume…” The cruel men of the sea had not been heard from since their terrified flight at Pelargir almost eleven years earlier, when fear of the Shadow Host had driven them from their prized ships. Their sudden resurgence did not bode well for Gondor.
Bergil’s clear grey eyes glowed with barely contained excitement. “Yes, real pirates,” the young guard blurted out, “Corsairs of Umbar! What a battle this will be!”
Aragorn turned a severe eye on the enthusiastic youngster. “Bergil,” he lectured, “do not be so rash to draw your sword. It is a very foolish and a very dead man who charges straight into battle at the slightest hint of trouble.”
Bergil fidgeted uncomfortably and blushed. “Forgive me, My Lord,” he mumbled.
“Have they shown any signs of aggression?” interjected Arwen, wanting to spare the guard further embarrassment.
“Nay, My Lady,” Bergil gratefully replied. “They have confined themselves to several small fishing villages along the coast. But Lord Imrahil reports that their significant numbers are somewhat alarming.”
“Yes, I am inclined to agree with him on that thought.”
Aragorn frowned. “What exactly does Imrahil believe to be a ‘significant number’?”
“I cannot answer, My Lord,” said the young man with a shrug.
Aragorn shook his head, attempting to clear it. Something felt amiss. “One must wonder how Umbar was able to regain her power and strength so quickly—and quietly. Imrahil is right to be suspicious of the Corsairs. Still, we cannot be certain of their motives.” The King folded his arms across his chest and sighed deeply. “Bergil, inform the messenger that I wish Imrahil to keep me updated on the situation. I, in turn, will pass this information on to Eomer and Faramir.”
“Yes, My Lord.” Bergil bowed again and turned to leave.
“Oh, and Bergil,” called Aragorn, “as punishment for your undisciplined outburst—“ He watched the young guard’s face fall. “—I sentence you to act as messenger of Gondor. Ride to Ithilien and relay Dol Amroth’s news to Faramir and, if you can find him, Legolas.”
Aragorn stifled a chuckle as Bergil’s face lit up in pleasure. He was quite fond of the son of Beregond, who at the tender age of ten, had informed him that he intended to be one of Aragorn’s personal guards when he grew up. Though Bergil had the propensity to be somewhat rash on occasion (after all, he was a high-spirited young man), he had proved himself to be loyal, quick thinking, and skilled in the art of swordplay. The King was often struck by how similar Bergil was in appearance to his father, even more so as the boy had grown to adulthood. ‘I expect great things from you, my young friend,’ mused Aragorn as he watched Bergil exit the room, his chest puffed out in pride and his head held high.
“Think you these are the tidings foreseen by Legolas?” Arwen asked when Bergil had left. The previous week, Gimli had paid the King and Queen a visit while on a return trip from Ithilien, and the Dwarf had mentioned Legolas’s foreboding moodiness.
“The Elf is moody, and not in his usual arrogant way,” Gimli stated, stroking his beard and trying unsuccessfully to sound as though he cared not. “He says the trees speak of ill omens. When I asked him what he meant by this, he would not answer. It was not a passing dark mood, either. He was constantly reclusive and distant. I could do naught to break through.”
The Dwarf snorted angrily. “I have no desire to accompany a self-indulgent, haughty Elf who enjoys wallowing in his own misery. Good riddance, I say to that.”
Both Aragorn and Arwen had been at a loss to explain the Elf’s behavior (though Aragorn had originally attributed it to Legolas’s sea longing). Noticing the concern and hurt in the Dwarf’s eyes, Arwen assured him that he would be the first to know if they learned what troubled the Elven Lord of Ithilien so.
* * *
Mortsdil roughly set down his beer mug and wiped the foam from his lips with the back of a tan and weathered hand. Shoving aside the rather thin wench attempting to charm him with her liquor-enhanced flirtations, he growled angrily as he looked about the rowdy tavern. ‘Had that accursed storm not destroyed my fleet, we would have set sail days ago,’ he thought furiously. Unfortunately, the storm had caught the Corsair unaware as his ships sailed back to Umbar, and now he and his massive crew were hopelessly stranded. As one who lived on the rolling waters, Mortsdil prided himself on his almost intimate knowledge of the Sea. It embarrassed him to know he had been caught so off-guard. To make matters worse, they had ended up on the coast of Belfalas—dangerously close to Dol Amroth. The Master would not be pleased.
After the battle of Pelargir, the Corsairs had been left to stew and lick their wounds—that was, if they first managed to survive the wrath of Sauron. Gondor was avoided like the plague; to even speak its name was akin to treason. Well did Mortsdil remember the events at Pelargir so many years earlier, for he had been there. Luckily, he had been but a sailor of lower ranking at the time, and therefore did not suffer the same fate as those of higher positions. Nonetheless, the humiliation of the defeat stung worse than the hardest of lashings—and Mortsdil had taken a few of the latter as his punishment. ‘It couldn’t even be called a defeat,’ he thought bitterly, ‘for we didn’t bother to fight. We simply fled to the shore and ran, as rats swarm the deck of a sinking vessel.’
No less than fifty of Umbar’s large ships had been seized during the confrontation, not to mention the innumerable flotilla of smaller boats. It had taken years to rebuild the lost fleet, yet the sea had destroyed all in a matter of hours. Ten years of plans so painstakingly carried out: the labor of constructing new ships, the recruitment of new sailors, all done with the greatest secrecy…
The tall, brawny pirate glanced at the small band of Dol Amroth soldiers, which had become a permanent fixture ever since word of the Corsairs’ arrival spread. ‘So much for secrecy,’ he thought dryly. ‘The whole realm probably knows of our presence by now.’ That Prince Imrahil was a smart one, no doubt. Mortsdil would have to be careful. Smiling sarcastically, he lifted his mug to the soldiers and offered a mock toast.
A slight commotion from the tavern corner caught his attention. A few of his crew had begun having a bit of fun with one of the drunken locals, and the situation was dangerously close to becoming out of hand. Watching the soldiers at the door stiffen and reach hesitantly for their swords, Mortsdil let fly an impressive array of oaths and rose from his stool.
“Stop that, you salt-brained imbeciles!” he bellowed as he strode over to the hapless victim, who was blubbering pathetically on the floor. The group, encircling the drunken man as though they were a pack of sharks about to engage in a feeding frenzy, backed off reluctantly.
“Aw, we were just having a wee bit o’ fun with the little fishy.” The ragged group leader grinned maliciously as he licked the blade of his dagger.
‘Nagihcim,’ thought Mortsdil as he sized up the muscular, wiry mariner, ‘I should’ve known. He’s becoming far too much trouble.’ Nagihcim reminded him of a snake, and not just because of his slippery tongue.
“I’ll give you a ‘wee bit o’ fun.’” The pirate captain growled dangerously. “See those soldiers over there? They’re just waiting for us to slip up. One stupid move is all they need.” He glared at Nagihcim.
“Captain Mor—“ Mortsdil cuffed the short, portly pirate who tried to intervene.
“How many times must I tell you,” hissed the Corsair, “do not call me captain or by my name! I have no desire for our enemy to know of my rank or identity.”
“Yes, sir,” stammered the man, rubbing the ear Mortsdil had hit.
“Go back to your drinks, you filthy idiots,” ordered Mortsdil, not missing the sullen flash of disobedience that danced across Nagihcim’s face. ‘I’ll deal with him later.’
The Corsair captain cast a disgusted glance at the whimpering drunk by his feet. Grabbing the man by the collar of his tunic, Mortsdil hauled him to the nearest barstool.
“You’re quite a mess,” he said. “Don’t hold your liquor too well. What’s your name?” ‘Drunken sop,’ he added mentally.
The drunk pushed back the un-kempt hair from his face, sniffled loudly and regarded Mortsdil through red, bleary eyes. “Tegiron,” he slurred.
“Tegiron, eh?” Mortsdil caught the man as he swayed backwards. “Ho! Ho! Careful there, matey. Tell me, Tegiron, what’re you doing in a place like this?”
His tongue loosened by ale, Tegiron began his sad tale. He told Mortsdil of the storm that destroyed his boat, of his wife and beautiful daughter, and of the stone his beloved Muriel found on the beach and how it killed her.
Mortsdil leaned in a little closer and companionably placed an arm around the man’s shoulders. “Tell me, Tegiron, what do you know of this… stone?”
Had he been in a normal state of mind, Tegiron would have noticed the greedy glint in the Corsair’s sea-colored eyes. As it was, he was far too drunk to notice—or care.
* * *
A good old-fashioned character list (I did not create characters with * by their names):
Muriel: the child who found the stone on the beach. Daughter of Tegiron and Bitaliel.
Bitaliel: Carrying the stone to Gondor to Aragorn. Mother of Muriel, wife of Tegiron.
Tegiron: A fisherman and the drunken man at the tavern. Father of Muriel, husband of Bitaliel.
Mortsdil: Leader of the Corsairs of Umbar.
Nagihcim: A lesser pirate, under Mortsdil’s command. Has superiority issues.
*Bergil: One of Aragorn’s guards. During the War of the Ring, he was the ten-year old boy who keeps Merry company during the siege of Gondor. Son of Beregond, who was the Guard of the Citadel who would not let Denethor burn Faramir (well, he tried). Aragorn later “exiled” Beregond to the White Company of Faramir in Ithilien for his refusal to follow Denethor’s orders.
*And shame on you if you don’t know whom Aragorn, Arwen, Gimli, Legolas, Imrahil, Eomer, and Faramir are!
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