Where Was Imrahil When Grond Hit the Gate? by Stefaniab

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Story Notes:

Rating: PG
Theme: Adventure
Elements: stonecrop
Author's Notes:

An actor was reportedly cast as Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, but never was used in the film "Return of the King." The screen writers explained that Imrahil appears so late in the story that his inclusion would further confuse movie firsters who were wrestling with Tolkien's similar sounding names. So I decided to "fix" the films by dropping Imrahil and the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth into the movies in a location where they might logically be...and give them a bit of action.


Imrahil of Dol Amroth was an optimist. Generally. And why shouldn't he maintain a positive attitude, even in the most dire times? His birth into the leading house of Belfalas state was fortunate, to be sure. As a young man, he survived numerous battles as a Swan Knight, and many more nautical battles as a mariner aboard his family's ships. In recent years, Imrahil's successes as a trader and merchant were the source of his greatest satisfaction, far more than the hereditary obligations of a Prince.

To be sure, being the Prince of Dol Amroth was thoroughly enjoyable and gave his folk advantages far beyond comfortable homes and lovely clothing. The blood of the ancient Numenoreans and the Silvan Elves gave Imrahil a long life span, acute perception, and ability to see objects at a far greater distance than lesser men. Nevertheless, being prince also endowed Imrahil with grave responsibilities. This was why he stood on the hill overlooking the decimated harbor, scaning the horizon for signs of activity.

In his early 60s, Imrahil, son of Adrahil, remained smashingly handsome and youthful. He still wielded a sword and bow with skill and accuracy, though his physical strength had marginally diminished over the years. Imrahil's greatest strength, in his own estimation, was his ability to strategize, whether to plan a new trade route or to plan for the security of Belfalas.

The next hours would see whether his strategy could indeed save his land.

For well nigh a month, the towns and harbors lining the Bay of Belfalas had repelled the attacks of the Dark Numenoreans and their allies among the Haradrim. Reports from Minas Tirith predicted that these isolated skirmishes were actually part of an impending invasion by Mordor and its allies. According to the messages from the Steward, the Dark Lord prepared to strike Gondor before the end of March.

The coastal regions of Belfalas state were especially vulnerable, Imrahil concluded. He drew a hand through his graying, cropped hair. His brother-in-law had ordered the Swan Knights to Minas Tirith within the fortnight.

Imrahil stood beside the dry garden planted on the slope behind him. For a second, the new blooming flowers and thick, succulent leaves of the stonecrop plant diverted his attention from his grim task. His wife Idris grew smaller versions of these plants in her garden.

The stonecrop will thrive on this hillside, even if my family and the entire coast is overrun, Imrahil thought defiantly. He picked the flower and placed it in the inner pocket of his tunic, next to his heart. Idris, their daughter Lothiriel, and their eldest son Elphir camped in the hills with an elite division of the Swan Knights. They were ready to install and defend Elphir as prince should Imrahil's wild plans go awry.

He wrenched his eyes to the half-charred slips lining the protected coves of Dol Amroth and began the short walk to the piers.

Not quite two weeks ago, a pirate raiding party had attempted to enter the harbor and lay siege to the port of Dol Amroth. The day before the attack, word of the pirates came overland from Imrahil's ring of "observers" posted high along the sea cliffs of the penninsula. The Swan Knights, joined by sailors, traders, and ordinary folk of Dol Amroth port fended off the would-be invaders. Surprisingly, the brigands fled not back out to sea but up the River Morthond, leaving the slips and most of the trading fleet of Dol Amroth aflame.

At that time, Imrahil had sent messengers to the towns along the Morthond and the Ringlo with the warning to prepare for pirates. A few trackers went out over land to tail the pirates in secrecy. However, the Prince kept his Swan Knights at home, just in case.

Then he sat back with the captains of the crippled ships and the leaders of the Swan Knights, to plan their "just in case" response.

Yesterday afternoon a mounted messenger came from Minas Tirith with Denethor's new directive. Minas Tirith's situation was precarious. The Steward ordered the Swan Knights to sail up the Anduin as soon as possible. But last night, one of Imrahil's trackers returned, reporting that ten pirate ships sailed down the Morthond. They would soon arrive at Edelhond at the river's mouth. Blast the Steward, Imrahil thought upon hearing the news. He would not leave his home shores undefended.

Imrahil approached the blackened slips, sadly noting the significant fire damage to the harbor. Some of the piers were burnt beyond usefulness. Some slips had collapsed. The sails and hulls of many knarrs and cogs needed significant repairs before they could be used for much more than dockside storage. Luckily, dockside storage of a sort fit into his desperate strategy for the day.

Only Imrahil's two sailing caravels were untouched among the port's fleet. A standard trading run had taken them off to the north when the raid occurred. Two fine new sailing ships would make appealing bait for the large Corsair fleet Imrahil suspected would head their way from the mouth of River Morthlond.

The sound of hoofbeats interrupted Imrahil's thoughts. A second later, a rider bounded over the hill where Imrahil had stood moments ago. He recognized the man as the ranger Caliando, usually stationed on the hills below the convergence of the Ringlo and Morthond. "The Corsair ships passed Edelhond at dawn this morning," the man bellowed as he pulled his horse up to the docks.

"How does the town fare?" Imrahil asked.

"Untouched this time," Caliando said. "I guess there was nothing left to take after they sacked Edelhond on their way up the Mithlond."

"There is a cave just over yonder hill," Imrahil said. "Bring your horse there and wait with the others for my signal." He turned and started down the piers.

The two caravels were berthed beside each other. Imrahil climbed aboard the first, the Angelimar. His son Erchirion was the captain of the larger ship, the Nimrodel. Erchirion already stood beside his pilot at the Nimrodel's wheel.

His aide de camp waited for Imrahil on the ship's deck, bearing the prince's full set of armor. The prince's herald stood at the bow of the ship, waiting. Imrahil touched his eyebrow and then gestured first to Erchirion and then to the herald. Seconds later, a blast of calls resounded from the herald's horn.

Fifteen sailors climbed onto the deck from the Angelimar's hold. They unfurled the ship's sails and prepared the vessel for what might be its last journey. Imrahil joined Hendrich, captain of the Angelimar, at the ship's wheel. "The folk respond," Hendrich said. His hands held the wheel, but his eyes rose to the sea cliffs above the port.

Scattered among the folds in the cliffs were tiny bursts of light, now here, now there. "Idris and Elphir are ready," Imrahil agreed. His family members and the warriors hidden in the hills now signaled their readiness by flashing mirrors to reflect the morning sun. Imrahil's aide de camp helped him into his armor. "The sight of this will put fear into the hearts of those brigands," he told the aide. "Or their hearts will lust simply to get their hands on all this plate!"

The crew released Angelimar from her moorings. The wind was fairly brisk. They would have to fight a head wind on their journey northward. The two caravels quickly sailed into the Bay of Belfalas. Imrahil, now fully armored save for his helm, opened the door to the hull. "We are under way!" he yelled to the sailors and archers crammed below. "Listen for the horn call before you come forth, as planned."

One of the deck side crew ran the pennant of Dol Amroth up the main mast of the Angelimar. Let them know that the Swan is not yet defeated, Imrahil thought to himself. Denethor will have to wait.

******************************************

Aragorn, son of Arathorn, stood on the long, narrow deck of the largest galley captured at Erech from the overwhelmed Corsairs. Four pirate ships had ventured up the Morthond to Erech, only to be swiftly annihilated by a dwarf, an elf, a Northerner, and army of diaphanous green specters.

After pledging themselves to Aragorn, the oath breakers remained loyal, following his orders and never questioning his judgement. Not even their grisly king sought to challenge Aragorn's decisions. The king simply stood a few feet behind Aragorn, watching and emiting wispy streams of breath. The stalwart Gimli stationed himself at Aragorn's elbow, distrustfully fingering his axe. The forever unflappable Legolas positioned himself at the ship's bow, scanning the horizon for irregularities.

The green fellows had proven surprisingly helpful. Some must have been nautical types who might have sailed the seas between Middle Earth and long-drowned Numenor. Without being asked, these ghosts seated themselves below decks at the oars of the captured galleys to begin the ships' journey down the Morthond. Four worthy green pilots positioned themselves at each ship's rudders. This was fine by Aragorn, who had some experience on the great sailing ships of Dol Amroth long ago, but never learned to pilot a galley. As for his living companions, Legolas had never set foot on a galley, and Gimli had never seen one.

For several days they sailed down the Morthond, passing villages that seemed deserted and, in some cases, leveled--proof enough of piratical activities, Oddly though, they encountered no boats of any sort, not even a simple fisherman's craft. Could it be that rumor of the ghostly army had caused all folk, good and evil, to desert the waters and shores of the Morthond as quickly as they could? The sight of his four ghost-manned galleys, followed by what appeared to be a green cloud floating over the waters, was enough to terrify most anyone. He personally found the army from under the mountain difficult to get used to.

Several hours past dawn, they sailed by the large town of Edelhond at the mouth of the Morthond without seeing a living creature at the docks. Then the ships passed into the great Bay of Belfalas, followed by the dead army, floating above the waves like a deadly green fog. As the sun rose in the sky, they were far beyond the shoreline, heading southwest to Dol Amroth.

"Wait, what's that?" Aragorn started. He saw bumps on the horizon ahead to his left. The King of the Dead hissed. Gimli shook his head.

"I see ships ever so faintly," Legolas agreed from his position in the bow. "Shaped like this one."

"How many?" Aragorn asked.

"I can't tell yet," Legolas grumbled, shoulders strained.

Aragorn turned to his ghostly companion, "Have your warriors pick up the pace. And Gimli, fetch my pennant and have them run it up the ship's mast. Let's give those Corsairs something to think about before we deal with them."

The dwarf grunted to his friend, "I hope those green scrubbers will listen to me. Scrubbers is what they are. They do have one good aspect. They make burning the bodies unnecessary." Strengthening his resolve, Gimli turned to go below decks. The ship started to roll beneath his feet. Steadying himself at the stair rail, he headed into the ship's keel just in time to see the entire crew of dead oarsmen abandon their positions and fly out the windows.

Astonished, the dwarf steeled his nerves and scrambled among the packs on the floor. He found Aragorn's quickly. When he pulled out the sable pennant bearing the seven stars and white tree of Gondor, the ship lurched forward, tossing Gimli onto his back. Quickly he got to his feet, clutched the pennant to his chest, and ran up the stairs. There he stopped at the deckside in horror. The green cloud that had tailed the galleys since Erech now surrounded the ship on three sides. In the vapors Gimli could distinguish the shapes of thousands of dead soldiers surrounding the galley. Their strong but wispy hands grabbed the ship rails, pushing the galley toward the horizon at a speed Gimli had never previously experienced. He shivered, then staggered forward toward his friends.

Only the king of the dead remained on board with Aragorn and his companions. The remainder of the dead army floated at top speed along the waters of the bay, pushing the small fleet inexorably toward the Corsair ships that steadily grew larger on the horizon--as did the cliffs above the city of Dol Amroth. The waves churned and roiled about them, but the ships' passage was incredibly smooth, as if they glided on a calm lake.

"Aragorn, look! The pirates are following two huge ships toward the shores," Legolas cried. "I've never seen the like. They must be of Mordor."

Aragorn joined his friend at the ship's bow. His vision was much clearer now. The pirate ships did seem to follow two tall sailing ships with dark sails unfurled. "I'm not sure if Mordor has great ships like those. They could be from Harad. Can you see the color of their sails clearly, Legolas?"

"They are dark," Legolas said.

"Do their sails have a white design in the middle? Can you make out their pennants?"

Legolas strained his eyes as their captured galleys flew closer to the pirate ships. "I can't make out the pennants. The sails are dark blue with some white blur in the middle."

"Does the white bit look like a swan?" Aragorn asked eagerly.

"So far it looks like a dot," Legolas said and squinted with exasperation."

"By all the Valar, those ships are caravels of Dol Amroth," Aragorn declared impulsively. "Either the pirates have commandeered them or they are traders fleeing the pirates."

*****************************************

An hour or so after leaving port, Imrahil first discerned the shapes of the Corsair galleys on the horizon. He signaled to Erchirion on the deck of the caravel Nimrodel. It was time to offer up the caravels as bait. The two sailing ships headed their vessels directly into the paths of the oncoming Corsairs.

"Don't approach too closely," Imrahil warned Captain Hendrich. "We want them to think we didn't expect to find them in the bay." In the distance, the galleys appeared to quicken their pace. As if in response, the waters of the Bay of Belfalas began to swell. A fierce wind blew up from the East, helping the pirates to gain on the Dol Amroth ships. The oarsmen of the pirate galleys stroked the waters with a mighty rhythm. The caravels had no oars and must rely on the power of the wind.

"Turn! Now!" Imrahil screamed. Hendrich struggled against the wheel in his effort to manouever the Angelimar south west back to Dol Amroth. The ship's bow dipped wildly into the rough waves as it changed direction. Several ship lengths from the Angelimar's portside, the Nimrodel challenged the waves as her crew fought to alter her course to match the Angelimar's. The strong wind battled the ships' great sails. Corsair archers launched volley after volley of arrows at the caravels. But the strong current that gave the pirate galleys their immense speed also pushed the Gondorian ships out of the range of their enemy's arrows.

The pressure of the wind and the speed of the waves was terrifying and unnatural. The Angelimar swerved side to side, causing light cargo to roll along the floor boards. Wind force and the size of the waves drove the caravels inexorably toward their home shores.

The Nimrodel suddenly veered from its course and slipped dangerously close to the Angelimar. The crew of the latter ship screamed in horror, fearing that they would be rammed. From the decks of the heaving Nimrodel, Erchirion cried out, "Father, to your stern. Beyond the pirates lies our doom!"

Both Imrahil and Hendrich grabbed the ship's wheel in a desperate attempt to swing the Angelimar out of the path of the Nimrodel. The two men used the strength of their arms and the weight of their bodies on the wheel, pulling the Angelimar out of the way of its sister ship. Sighing with relief, Imrahil sped to the back of his ship, where he joined the entire deck crew to form a frozen tableau. The sailors' frightened voices whispered:

"That fog brings doom."

"They say Mordor releases great clouds over Ithilien."

"Green clouds bring sickness. Look. Those pirates are jumping ship."

The pirate ships surely were closing in on them. That was frightening enough. Yet above the Corsair fleet a great green fog rose high as a hill on the rolling plains. Tongues of fog rolled over the pirate decks and tossed bodies into the bay. Or were the terrified pirates abandoning ship before they were seized by the fog.

Imrahil had never seen such horror in his life. All he knew told him this must be the work of Mordor, but why were the forces of Mordor ravaaging its allies?

His aide de camp and herald were close at hand. The fierce winds had carried the caravels nearly to the port of Dol Amroth. The green cloud was less than a mile away. Now Imrahil could see the the shore. The half destroyed vessels of the city tossed about precariously in their moorings as the tumultuous waves crashed against the docks. "Send out the call," Imrahil ordered the herald as the Angelimar flew closer to the port.

The herald set forth a blast from his horn, and then staggered behind Imrahil to the ship's bow. On the previously deserted piers, hundreds of armed soldiers and sailors climbed out of the charred ships and raced down the boards to the shoreline. The herald blew forth a second and a third blast.

50 feet away, the Nimrodel had ceased its tempestuous rolling. Angelimar's deck had leveled, as well. The shallow waters of the port were flattening as the caravels drew close to home.

"Drop anchor," Imrahil screamed to the crew. "And launch an oar boat." He ordered his aide to bring him the helm of the Prince of Dol Amroth. Then he returned to the ship's stern to stand with the crew.

In the Bay of Belfalas, the green fog ended its relentless onward pace to boil silently above the calming waters. Several pirate galleys floated out from beyond the cloud's perimeter. They were eerily devoid of life.

The aide placed the silver helm on the prince's head. Imrahil drew strength from the magnificent emblem of his family's power and its responsibility. He motioned to the crews of the Angelimar and Nimrodel, and then shouted, "I'm going ashore. I will speak to whoever commands these vapors, if such a thing is possible."

Through the thinning fog, one pirate galley floated forward. At its bow stood a single, ghostly green figure. From the ship's side an oar boat was lowered. Its occupants appeared to be an elf, a dwarf, of all things, and a tall man. The elf held a pole, from which flew a black pennant bearing a symbol Imrahil had only seen in history books: the seven stars and white tree of Elendil himself. How could that be? Imrahil thought as he scrambled into his own oar boat. For a moment he watched the other small boat head toward the beach. The dwarf rowed. The elf carried the standard. The man stood upright in the center of the boat. On his brow, a bright jewel glittered in the afternoon sun.


********************************

The pirate fleet was completely decimated. The armies of the dead pooled over the bay in a swirling mass. When the winds carried Aragorn's ship toward the shores of Dol Amroth, he commanded the king of the dead, "Your warriors are not to touch the two tall ships or set foot on the beach."

The green figure was silent.

"I am leaving you in charge of this craft," Aragorn continued. "If any of you touch the Dol Amroth ships or stray onto the shore, I consider your oath broken. You will dissipate on the spot and return to the haunted mountain."

"We stay here, Elessar," the dead king hissed his first words of the day.

Shortly afterward Aragorn launched his oar boat and set off across the harbor with his friends. The bay was quiet, friendly, now that the dead remained in place. Aragorn was able to stand in the little boat, although his balance was precarious. He must be visible, hopefully to ensure the folk of Dol Amroth that they would not be harmed, that the pirates were routed and the dead army held in check.

Ahead of them, an oar boat was launched from one of the caravels. Streams of armed sailors poured from the bowels of the moored ships that previously seemed deserted. Lights flashed from the slopes of the nearby sea cliffs. Horns blared signals and warnings. Then, over the top of the cliffs, mounted figures descended to the shores. The armor of knights and horses gleamed brilliantly in the sun.

"The Swan Knights," Aragorn said to this companions. "They are coming to the defense of the harbor." His voice was unsteady. He had not seen the Swan Knights in many decades. The other oar boat had gained the shore. Its four occupants got out of the boat. One had a horn and loosed a series of resounding calls.

"Is that their king?" Legolas asked. He gestured toward a man fully garbed in magnificent armor, who stood but a foot from the water's edge.

Aragorn recognized that armor. Adrahil had worn that armor, or a suit like it, many times in the dim past. "That must be the Prince of Dol Amroth," he said, but he knew that the man couldn't be Adrahil. Aragorn had received word of his former commander's death years ago.

The little oar boat skidded onto the beach, and Legolas jumped out to steady it. Instantly, the archers that lined the shores drew their bows. Their arrows were poised in the direction of Aragorn's throat. In contrast to this hostile move, the crowds of unarmed people on the shore were not afraid. Aragorn could hear their whispers in the silence that surrounded his arrival. The people were doubting. They were hopeful.

The armored man strode toward Aragorn and his friends. He took off his helm and handed it to the youth behind him. When Aragorn last saw Adrahil's son, the boy was thirteen or so, possessed of a cheery confidence only exceeded by his boundless abilities. The boy had become this handsome, undeniably powerful man who stared at Aragorn in disbelief.

"I am Imrahil, son of Adrahil," the Prince of Dol Amroth spoke, drawing a fist over his heart, and then extended the hand of peace to Aragorn. Aragorn noted that tears formed in Imrahil's eyes. The archers lowered their bows. Folk on the shore cried out all matter of conflicting speech: "Is he the king who has returned? The king is only a legend--who is this man who commands ghosts?"

Aragorn shook Imrahil's hand. "I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Chieftain of the Northern Dunedain, and Elendil's heir." Then he withdrew an enormous sword from the scabbard on his belt. "Here is Anduril, the sword that was broken, now reforged and come to Gondor's aid."

Imrahil's eyes glittered. "I remember who you were, though I was just a boy when I last saw you by my father's side."

"I remember that boy," Aragorn grinned and returned Anduril to its scabbard.

********************************************

The harbor of Dol Amroth was surrounded by a protective wall of green when the Swan Knights arrived from the hills. Thousands of people who had hidden in the sea cliffs descended to the town, rejoicing that their homeland was saved. Two hours after their tumultuous reunion, Aragorn sat in Imrahil's large town home, surrounded by the prince's wife Idris and his four adult children. Aragorn explained Gandalf's strategy and his own mission, to bring the dead army up the Anduin in the defense of Minas Tirith.

"The Steward's messengers told us that Pelargir on the Anduin was overcome by Corsairs and Haradrim troups moving north," Elphir, Imrahil's heir, said. "I did not see your army at work--only the results. Can it take on the great fortress of Pelargir?"

"My people, including myself, have great fear of the dead army," Imrahil added. "I think you could use some help from the living, just to ease the poor folk whose lands you have to pass. Elphir and Amrothros, tomorrow you will take the Swan Knights over land to aid Aragorn at Pelargir. I will send our caravels and whatever undamaged river craft we still have down the Anduin in the dead army's wake."

Aragorn breathed deeply. Gandalf once hinted that the fellowship might find allies where they least expected them. At the Erech stone, Aragorn gave little thought to the peoples of Belfalas state. Now their prince pledged mounted knights and warships to his aid.

"Will you go, Imrahil?" his wife Idris asked.

"I'll be on the decks of the Angelimar," Imrahil answered. He fished the partially squashed stonecrop blossom from the inner pocket of his tunic and handed it to Idris. "I will follow," he said, "in Aragorn's wake."


*********************************

The next morning Aragorn, his companions, and Imrahil boarded the pirate galley where the king of the dead patiently waited. The galley continued down the Anduin, followed by ten river-going war ships, and the fearsome cloud of the dead. The Swan Knights headed inland, driving roving bands of enemy forces before them. All met at Pelargir on March 13 of TA 3019, where Aragorn and his allies soundly defeated the Corsairs and Haradrim who had taken over the city.

Upon leaving Pelargir the next day, Aragorn requested that the Dol Amroth fleet stay one more day and help the remaining townspeople deal with the aftermath of the recent battles. Thus it was that Imrahil and his ships, which now transported the Swan Knights, appeared on the Pelennor Fields on the evening of March 15.

The great battle was over. The Rohirrim did come. The Steward was dead. Ordinary folk proclaimed that the king had returned. Perhaps, Imrahil thought, as he rushed to the side of his fallen nephew. At least Thorongil had returned, after going missing all those years. And Imrahil took great comfort in that.




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