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2
March 9

I'm not sure if this technically is appropriate for the challenge-it's not mentioned in the entry for this day, but the entrance of the Captains of the Outlands is in ROTK.


~~~

March 9, 3019, late afternoon--”Hail and well met, Prince Imrahil!” a booming voice greeted me. I smiled despite my sorrow, and sent Caerith cantering forward, past the long lines of wains and handcarts escaping the city, to where Lossarnach’s standard flew. My men waited to the rear, taking advantage of the pause to rest. We had kept to the rear throughout this journey, to keep the infantry from choking on our dust, and were now perhaps two miles from the City Gates.

“Hail, Forlong! How’s the feasting in Lossarnach these days?”

“Passable, my lord Prince, passable!”

“So I see!” Forlong had certainly not wasted away since our last meeting.

Another booming laugh from the old, fat man. “I see you brought some friends with you!”

“Yes. Anfalas, Lamedon, Morthond, Pinnath Gelin, the Ethir--they’re all here.”

Forlong cast his eye back along the road, to where the Captains of the Outlands rested their troops along the verge, so as not to block the refugees, who looked at them with wide eyes. I was glad to see the women and children leaving, but was unable to drive from my mind the adage about rats and a sinking ship. And since during my sea-going youth, I’d seen sinking ships and their attendant rats more than once, it was even more difficult. “They did not bring enough to satisfy old Steward Stone-face, you know,” the Lord of Lossarnach said.

“They brought all that they felt could be spared, and what they had promised in Council. There’s rumor of a Corsair fleet off the coast. You did not bring all that many yourself, Forlong.”

“Ah well, there’s places other than Tirith that will be attacked. As lord, I have to have a care for my people as well as the White City.”

“As do I,” I acknowledged, and he looked down the road at the ranks of my assembled Swan Knights and men-at-arms and whistled.

“So you say, but it looks as if you stripped Dol Amroth, Imrahil!”

“Oh, I left a few behind.” More than a few, in point of fact, for the Corsairs threatened my demesne greatly. Forlong’s shrewd old eyes widened as he did the math, adding the number of men I had brought to the number he estimated I would consider sufficient to keep Dol Amroth safe.

“I had no idea you had so many men under arms! You command as many as the Steward does.”

“I doubt that, Lossarnach.” I didn’t really, but I did not want to enter into that sort of speculation--it led to nothing but trouble, and rumors of empire-building. “So--in what order should we enter the city?” Forlong laughed.

“Age before beauty, so I should precede you and Hirluin. And you have all those horses! For the sake of our shoes, you should go last.” I laughed in my turn, agreed to take the rear-ward position, and started back to my men, passing the men of Pinnath Gelin upon the way. Hirluin, who, like me, labored under a reputation for legendary comeliness, rode out to greet me.

“What news, Prince Imrahil?” I grinned and clasped his arm, for we had often had cause to work with each other in our efforts to keep western Gondor safe.

“Forlong fears to soil his slippers, so I shall bring my cavalry last. And he says that as he is so ancient, he should have precedence over our beauteous selves. What say you?”

“I have but one concern--will there be aught left in the larder for the rest of us if we let him into the City first?” We shared a laugh, and Hirluin raised a hand. “I will dispose myself somewhere in between the two of you, and tell the others to do likewise.” I nodded, and returned to my men. Andrahar greeted the not surprising news with a snort.

“Saving the best for last. It is as it should be.” And he rode off to start chivvying everyone back into formation. I rode down the lines on the opposite side.

“Step out proud, lads, and give them a song when we come in,” I called to my men, and they were more than willing to do so, for we had a tradition of excellence in both war and music in Dol Amroth. I then returned to head of the line--only to be attacked by swirling swarm of esquires with brushing and polishing upon their minds. Once rendered properly respectable, I commanded that the march to the Gates begin.

The Sun was sinking rapidly into the West as we approached the walls of Minas Tirith. City folk lined our path up to the Gates, and cheered us loudly, but under the cheers I could hear dismayed murmuring about the small number of troops come to aid them. Their faces were fearful of the rising tide of Darkness that threatened to engulf us all, and I wondered, as I passed through the archway--how many of us, if indeed any of us, would live to pass through the gate the other way, and return to our sea-side home? It was almost as if we were condemned men passing under the gate of the prison in which we were to be executed.

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