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23
Embassy to a New Age

It is an honor to dedicate this to my faithful beta-reader, RiverOtter, for her birthday. It follows "The King's Time" by a few days.


~~~

Embassy to a New Age


As the ship from Umbar was being secured in its berth at the Harlond, one of the members of the embassy commented to Lord Adúnil, who had followed his father and grandsire as primary ambassador to the court of Gondor and Arnor, “I do not think that I have ever seen those who work the docks here so solemn and quiet.”

Adúnil nodded his agreement. “All appear somber. And I vow it appears that one has been weeping.”

They all looked to the Man who was even now wrapping the bowline about one of the great cleats, automatically setting a proper half-hitch to ascertain the current of the river should not pull the Umbari craft back southwards again untimely. His face was pale and strained, and his eyes were somewhat red and puffy. Yet he went about his work willingly and competently enough.

The Harbormaster was arriving, and his attitude, also, was solemn. They noted the strip of white cloth he wore about his left arm, just above the elbow. Mourning band? And the two soldiers who accompanied him, as two always did when their ships were greeted, sported the same--white bands of cloth bound about their upper left arms, shining against the black of their tunics and the steel of their hauberks.

“Welcome to Gondor, my lords,” they were greeted as the gangplank was set into place. “I grieve you must come at such a time of general sadness for our people, but hope that your business will find favor in the eyes of our Lord King.”

“So we hope as well,” agreed Adúnil.

The Harbormaster continued, “Word of your coming has been taken to the Citadel, and even now a carriage approaches to carry those of you who will enter the city to the Gates. You know the restrictions regarding your crew--only three of their number may go ashore at a time, and they must remain together while they walk abroad, and all must be within the same building should they enter any of the inns or shops surrounding the harbor.”

These were indeed the common terms. “They have been so advised.” Adúnil turned to the captain, who stood now beside the group that comprised the embassy. “It will be your responsibility to see to it our Men behave honorably while they are ashore, and that they bring no shame to Umbar during our stay.”

“Aye, my lord,” said the captain. “They shall not make fools of themselves while under my command, sir.”

With that, the embassy, their two servants and the two guards permitted them by the treaty laid upon them by the King of Gondor well over a century past following them, went ashore, surrendered the required list of those who’d sailed upon the ship to the Harbormaster, and entered the open carriages that had been sent for them.

The early spring day was chilly--far cooler than they were accustomed to in their own lands. Grey clouds covered much of the sky, although a gentle breeze was slowly blowing them eastward over the dark green heights of the Ephel Dúath. About them they saw the folk who lived upon the Pelennor going about their business--saw fruit trees being pruned, farmers and their children examining the springing crops planted in their fields, wives and daughters airing bedding over hedges or lines hung between trees or posts, small children picking up litter along their paths and walks. But all continued to be subdued, as if their minds were distracted by other thoughts; and everywhere they saw signs of mourning. A maiden here could be seen weeping as her mother held her; two boys, uncharacteristically quiet and thoughtful, had their arms about one another, apparently seeking comfort in one another’s presence. And as the carriages approached the city they realized they were not the only ones coming to the capital this day, for great coaches with the symbols of Lebennin and Lamedon upon the doors were ahead of them, and there was a great troupe of horsemen coming toward the gates from the northern openings of the Rammas Echor.

“Rohirrim!” noted Erenthor. “And led by their King, apparently.”

Adúnil looked closely. Yes, that was indeed Théodred King, who’d become lord of Rohan at his father’s death some ten years back; and he noted that Elfwine’s son’s expression was stern and thoughtful. And the members of Théodred’s party also sported mourning bands--Gondorian mourning bands.

“The Queen, perhaps, is dead? Or does Gondor again have a new Steward?” suggested Marendil.

They dismounted at the outer stable and turned to enter the gates with the others. Most who crowded the area were speaking in subdued tones in Sindarin or Rohirric as they awaited their turn to pass the Guards to the City.

“Why can’t they speak a civilized tongue such as Adúnaic?” muttered Lavandas. Adúnil shot him a warning look, and then it was their turn before the Captain of the Guard.

“Welcome, Lord Adúnil. I was asked to tell you that your guest house will be readied for your party once you reach the Sixth Circle. Our Lord King, however, will not be able to meet with you before tomorrow. It is the time of Honor for the one we have only just lost, you see, and he is busy dealing with the needs of his family today. Tomorrow morning he must meet with the Council over the last questions dealing with the succession, but he does have a public audience set for the afternoon, to start an hour after the noon bells ring.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Adúnil answered him for his party. “We look forward to that time, then.”

The Captain gestured forward the guard of honor, and they were allowed to enter the White City at last.

Never had Adúnil seen Minas Anor so subdued, or the citizens of Gondor so solemn. Mourning bands were on all arms here. Children played, but without the usual cries of glee or shouts of argument common to them. Haggling in the market places seemed abbreviated, as if the activity gave neither buyers nor sellers any pleasure today. Wreaths of bare twigs hung on many doors, denoting the private grief felt by those who dwelt there. Even those Dwarves to be seen about the city, and there were more than Adúnil had ever seen within King Elessar’s lands, were uncharacteristically dignified and quiet.

“Has the Lord Eldarion died or something?” Erenthor asked thoughtfully.

As Adúnil shook his head to indicate his lack of knowledge on the object of the city’s grief, he considered. If that were true, then that could possibly work to Umbar’s benefit. Young Valandil was yet a child, but far less dour toward the folk of Umbar than his father had ever been, according to the stories told him by Adúnil’s own father and grandsire. Wasnior had ever insisted that from his childhood Eldarion Elessarion had looked upon him with consistent disfavor; and certainly Adúnil’s father had repeatedly said that he found both Eldarion and his sister Melian to be equally suspicious of Umbar’s intents and motivations. As formidable as was the Lord King Elessar, his two older children were even more so in the eyes of Umbar’s past ambassadors.

So far Armenlos had remained quiet, and none had appeared to give the Man much notice. Adúnil gave this member of their party a sideways glance. Had none within Gondor recognized that the current Lord of Umbar himself had entered their capital? Apparently not! Perhaps it was best that way, as Armenlos had insisted before he overruled the Council of Lords to come upon the embassy himself. It was too important a mission this embassy sought to accomplish this time, he’d sworn, to be left to even as experienced an ambassador as was Adúnil.

Armenlos was in many ways remarkable, and particularly as he was unexpectedly unremarkable, as had been his father. Skillful swordsmen and keen strategists, yet both Armenlos and his sire had exhibited the skill to remain unobtrusive. Allow others to talk and plot and create grand schemes: Lords Armanthol and Armenlos were more committed to doing. They often acted quietly, eschewing fanfare and grand exhibitions of deeds that appeared equally grand; but when they realized a task needed doing, they simply saw it executed and then turned with equal purpose to the next item of business. Aqueducts had been quietly but skillfully repaired and new ones built; the sewage system for their city had been thoroughly remodeled and upgraded; the ancient quays and dry-docks on the harbor had been cleansed of the rotting, blackened stone that had remained from the night of terror when the folk of Gondor, led by Adrahil of Dol Amroth and the Lord Captain Thorongil of infamous memory, had destroyed Umbar’s planned navy of invasion by setting fire to the ships in their own berths and blocking the harbor entrance by sinking in its opening another great ship taken from the Haradrim. And when one lord of the land suggested that a marketplace be built over the site where the Red Temple had stood in which terrible sacrifices had been offered to Sauron that such worship be forgotten as soon as possible, instead the folk of Umbar had awakened one day to find that overnight a statue had been erected there--a statue of a youth with a terror-stricken expression on his face, his arms bound as had been the arms of those intended for Sauron’s altar. In time it was joined by others--a weeping woman who could have been the youth’s mother, reaching for her son, and a Man with a lascivious expression on his face dragging at the arm of the victim. It was later learned that Armenlos’s father had been apprenticed for a time to a sculptor....

That Armanthol son of Landrion had followed Marcipor as Lord of Umbar had surprised everyone. Certainly, had he ever realized the young captain of his personal guard who’d married his daughter Enid and was set to follow him in his office had been the son of a Man Marcipor had tortured to death for having had the intention of assassinating him, it was unlikely that that particular past Lord of the land would have allowed the captain to live.

As the High Lord among the lords of Umbar, Armanthol had brought to the office two qualities that had graced it rarely in the past--integrity and an enhanced sense of responsibility; and both he and his son had made a point of demanding the same qualities in those who worked with them. As a result many, including Adúnil himself, found themselves actually proud to serve under the Lord of their land. And now--now the need to protect Umbar was so great that the Lord of Umbar himself had come to beg the Lord of Gondor and Arnor for the assistance needed. Adúnil only hoped that the Lord Elessar was aware of just how much honor was due Armenlos of Umbar!

They were allowed to break the climb through the city in the Fourth Circle to receive refreshment awaiting them outside one of the inns at that level--a courtesy that had been offered for most of the last century, Adúnil understood. And when they finally passed the gate into the Sixth Circle all who’d made the journey before gave sighs of relief as Armenlos began looking about, as if comparing what he saw with what had been told to him by others. They were brought to the guesthouse ever given to the folk of Umbar and shown in. A housekeeper awaited them there, her face pale and saddened, although she was obviously doing her full duty in spite of her personal grief.

“A meal awaits you now, lords,” she said, “and all bedding is fresh that you might rest well, as well as the boilers lit within the bathing room. There are supplies in the kitchens for meals for the rest of the day and through tomorrow, at least; and once it is clear how long you shall remain you may speak with the Seneschal for the Citadel about more, or arrange to purchase your own in the markets. If you will excuse me--my hours of service are now over, and I would return to my family at this time to know the comfort of their presence.”

They’d moved up through the City in company with others who had turned southwards just inside the gates, and a few who’d continued upwards toward the Citadel itself. “Where are they going?” asked Armenlos, looking out a window toward the line that skirted the Houses of Healing.

“I know not,” answered Erenthor.

“The Hallows are that way,” murmured Lavandas.

“Then apparently there has indeed been a death in the royal family,” Adúnil observed. “I must suppose it is the Lady Arwen--it is said she was prodigiously old.”

“Of course she would be, the daughter of Lord Elrond as she was,” Armenlos said impatiently. “She told my father she was only a few centuries short of three thousand years, after all. However, that is not to be wondered at, as she had lived as one of the Eldar for all that time.”

They examined the meal left upon the still-warm cooking hearth in the kitchens; its scent filled the room tantalizingly--a great baked sturgeon from the river, wild rice, greens such as were preferred in their own land, and a compote of stewed fruit. A fresh loaf of bread lay covered within a basket; and there was olive oil such as folk of their land preferred to dip their bread within. There was a basket of duck eggs, again such as their people favored, and jars of preserved fruit. A small cask of wine, a second of mead, and a third of Haradri beer were stacked on a side table; jugs of juice of the orange fruit were found with a slab of smoked pork in the small cold room. There were stores of grains sufficient for several meals and a small store of root vegetables undoubtedly brought to the city from the southern coast.

“Well,” commented Lavandas, “At least they do not seek to starve us.”

The rest nodded their agreement.

Leaving the two servitors to see the board properly laid and one of the two guards on watch, the five lords went upstairs to each choose his own room. Adúnil took the room at the front he’d always slept in, and after setting his belongings in order he stood briefly watching the lines of people snaking their way down the lane to the Hallows and back again, and the second set of lines going up to the Seventh Level and returning down to the lower city. After a moment Armenlos joined him. “This is plainly the death of one greatly beloved by the populace,” he said quietly. “I wonder when it took place?”

“I know not, Lord Armenlos,” Adúnil said, concern filling him. “I only hope that the Lord Elessar will not be so distracted he fails to appreciate the import of our proposal.”

Armenlos gave a concerned nod, and Adúnil noted that the furrowed brow his Lord sported must match his own.

In the morning there was a horn call from the havens south of the Pelennor; looking out the Umbarian delegation saw a great vessel docking at the quays of the Harlond.

“Haradri,” identified Marendil, who was one of the rulers of the main harbor in Umbar. “Royal standard--that is the Farozi’s own vessel.”

They all looked at it with even more interest. Gondor had honored its treaty with Harad for over a century now, and relations between the King’s household and that of the Farozi had been amicable. Once Barad-dûr had fallen An’Sohrabi had been swift to cleanse his land of those who’d most closely allied themselves with Mordor’s policies and interests; his son and grandson had been equally devoted to Elessar, for it was said that he’d saved the lives of both. Even An’Ramosiri reportedly held great respect for the King of Gondor and Arnor. Had he come upon that ship, they wondered?

The five members of the embassy carefully prepared for the coming audience. As they met again within the sitting room the guard not on duty before the place reported, “The party from Harad is now perhaps a third of the way across the Pelennor to the city gates. It took some time to disembark and set themselves in array for the journey.”

“I hope that we are not set behind them,” Erenthor fretted. “It is likely that Elessar will seek to welcome emissaries from his allies within Harad before he welcomes us, who have ever been at odds with Gondor.”

Armenlos took a deep breath and held it, then let it out in a loud sigh. “We will not know how we will be greeted until we have come into his presence. Let us go up, my lords.”

With a nod at the guardsman they went out and headed for the ramp, finding themselves having to join the line of those going up to the level of the Citadel, most carrying sprays of greens and early blossoms. Expressions were solemn, and often tearful. When Lavandas would have used their guard to clear a path, Armenlos shook his head. “We will not win the favor of the king by being rude to his subjects,” he warned quietly. “He will be more respectful of us should we be respectful toward his people. So my father learned of him.”

And so they slowly made their way up the ramp to the Court of Gathering, and at last they stood where they might see the Citadel of Minas Anor and the Tower of Ecthelion through the almost bare branches of the White Tree. Adúnil paused as he always seemed to do, feeling the awe that this combination of Tree and building always seemed to evoke. Then they moved forward, still slowly, until they came even with the memorial to the four Halflings. Armenlos paused now, his eyes examining the cluster of statues avidly, his eyes alight and pride in his expression. He murmured quietly to Adúnil, “Did you know that my father assisted in the carving of the statues and the preparation of the memorial? And now I see it for myself!”

The chief ambassador from Umbar looked on his Lord with a feeling of amazement. How was this?

There were wreaths and clusters of flowers and greenery laid before the figures of the four Pheriannath. And now they could see that the line they followed circled the White Tree, and that most of those who carried sprays of flowers and greenery were laying their tribute there, leaving a carpet of such things that must now be two spans deep and ten paces out from the trunk of the tree. They continued to follow the line, and watched as those they followed knelt to leave their own offerings, then rose to continue around the tree and then back toward the ramp leading downward again.

At last as they passed the tree the party from Umbar broke away, heading for the doors to the Citadel itself. A party of three Guardsmen approached and examined them, then their leader nodded, and the three bowed before turning, their leader before them and the others behind, to bring them out of the press to the steps. The door was opened and they were led within and into the Hall of Kings.

The Rohirrim were very visible, and all could see Théodred King speaking with the Lord Prince Steward Barahir near the dais. A herald met them and bowed. “Lord Adúnil? Welcome to you and your party. Our Lord King has asked you be taken immediately to the lesser audience chamber and that you be offered every courtesy and refreshment while you await him. He does not wish to begin the public audience before the Haradrim arrive, and has indicated he will see you therefore while all await their arrival. If you will follow me?”

They were led back out, down a corridor and then another, and brought to a room fitted with couches and chairs, with a fine, heavily carved and polished table against one wall. There servitors awaited them, and food and drink was offered them. At last most withdrew, leaving only two to attend on them as they waited. The five Umbarians sat or stood, all wondering what this private audience might lead to.

Then the door opened and a tall figure entered. The hair, however, was not white but still dark, although with silver at the temples. Nor was it mostly straight, but instead hung curling about the fair, beardless face, the cleft chin strong, the grey eyes remarkably clear. And about his brow he wore no visible diadem or crown, yet the royalty of this one could not be mistaken. All arose rapidly, examining his face, which was guarded.

“My Lord Eldarion?” Adúnil breathed, surprised. “But we’d thought to see your father!”

“If you would see him, then I fear you would need to visit the Hallows,” the reply was given.

“Then your mother is--there?”

“Yea, my mother is there, as she has been for most of five days now.”

The Umbarians exchanged looks. “Her body would be brought away from there?” Armenlos asked.

The heir to the King Elessar examined their faces in turn, and a reluctant small smile could be seen. “I see--then you had not heard, and none thought to tell you on your arrival?” His lip twitched slightly. “We have had, as I believe you could divine, a death--in the family. It was not wholly unexpected by us, but by the will of the one dying the populace was not advised of the impending death until it was accomplished. So it is that I am here to greet you. My father sent word to your Council of Lords, but I doubt not it arrived after you five had set sail up the river.”

Again the five Umbarians exchanged looks. Adúnil licked his lips and straightened. “I am sorry--then we obviously intrude on your grief and the mourning of your people. So--this explains the gathering of so many to the White City at this time.”

“Indeed. Then, tell me, my lords, why you have come if not in response to the news of our loss?”

“We would speak with your father if we could--it is a matter of possible war.”

“I fear it is impossible for you to speak now with my adar. Believe me, Lord Adúnil, I am fully empowered at this time to make decisions in the King’s name. But, please, if you will all be seated and take your ease--even you, Lord Armenlos?”

Armenlos paused, searching the eyes of the Gondorian. “You recognized me?”

Lord Eldarion smiled, much the same slightly feral smile for which his father was famous. “Do not doubt that your visage is known to me, my lord. Your name did not particularly stand out in the list given our Harbormaster, but I did know your father when I was a child, before he returned to Umbar from his exile to offer his service to your daeradar, and our officials there within Umbar have sent us portraits of you, you know. You do markedly favor Lord Armanthol as I remember him.”

Armenlos smiled, much of the concern he’d felt smoothing from his face. “Indeed? I must say your appearance is much like that of your father, save for the curls and the lack of beard.”

Eldarion’s face also lost a good portion of its weight of care. “Adar always commented that I resembled Lord Frodo more than I did him, though, what with the curls and the beardlessness. I fear that my mother being Lord Elrond’s daughter has left me bereft of notable facial hair--too much Elvish blood in me, I must assume. Please, gentlemen--sit!”

Once all were sitting he asked, “Now--what is this about threat of war?”

Adúnil looked questioningly at Lord Armenlos, and at a nod of assent turned to the King’s heir and explained, “It is the Essanis of Khand--they have been harrowing our eastern borders for three years now.”

“Yes, I know. My lord father sent word to you that he would send troupes to your support, as I remember it. However, your Council of Lords rejected his offer.”

“Even so. However--however, now our need is dire. They have managed to take a good portion of the lands where we grow the majority of our grain, and have destroyed six major towns. They come ever closer to our city, and are close to our mines now. We cannot afford to lose any more land. We will fail without our mines. And this side of our mines are our major forests on which we depend to provide timber for our ships. They have threatened to burn them out.”

Eldarion’s face was now serious and alert, and slightly guarded. “And what would you have of Gondor and Arnor? Support?”

“Gondor and Arnor offered it to us before, as you have just noted.”

“Indeed.”

Armenlos cleared his throat, and all turned to him. “Yes, my Lord Eldarion, we would ask for support from your lands to aid us to throw back the invaders.”

“But what about when they decide in another twenty years to try again? That has been their pattern, has it not--the Essanis threatening your eastern borders every two decades?”

“Yes, so they have ever done,” admitted Armenlos. “So it has been for most of the past three centuries.”

“And what kind of favor would you offer us in return?”

Again the Umbarians exchanged looks. Lavandas’s expression was almost mutinous, but at last he looked away, shrugging his shoulders, his form deflating. Armenlos turned again to his host. “We have made a hard decision. We are the oldest center of Númenorean settlement within Middle Earth. We have ever resented the later-comers led by your ancestors Isildur and Anárion and their father Elendil, and particularly your land’s insistence that you hold precedence and rank surpassing ours. Again and again your armies have overwhelmed our land and sought to annex it, and again and again we have won our freedom anew.”

“While again and again you have allied yourselves with Sauron and the forces of darkness, have allowed the black arts to flourish within your borders, and have supported those who, as did Castamir, sought to remove our rightful kings and institute dictatorships over our people. From your people have come how many assassins and slavers? As for your other grandfather----”

Armenlos’s face darkened. “I would remind you that your father stole away mine to protect him from the vengeance of my mother’s father when it was learned Landrion had sought to hire assassins to slay Marcipor. I will admit I do not particularly admire either of the fathers of my parents.”

Eldarion’s face softened. “So it is. I beg your pardon. My grief has perhaps left me short-tempered. Your proposal, then?”

“We----” Armenlos stopped and took a deep breath. “Now I must beg your pardon, my Lord Eldarion. This is a hard thing to say, after all. We--we would see ourselves made a part of your lands.”

The Gondorian’s face went white with shock. At last he said, as if in wonder, “You would become a part of Gondor and Arnor?”

Again Armenlos took a deep breath, then nodded solemnly. “We would wish, however, to be seen as our own land, even as Arnor is seen as separate from Gondor. We have no wish to lose our identity as Umbarians, or as the oldest of the Númenorean kingdoms.”

“Your Council of Lords has agreed to this?”

Lavandas almost glared at him. “Reluctantly, but yes--we have agreed to this. Would you wish to see your land overrun by such as the Khandri, and particularly the Essanis? They are barbaric in nature, and have no respect for other cultures.”

Erenthor added, “We have found that since the fall of the Eye there is no more power to be gained from seeking to master the black arts--it is as if much of the magic with which we were conversant failed along with Barad-dûr. Ever we have held the Essanis at bay in great part through such power as we could raise through such practices, until, of course, your father was crowned King here. We have had to actually fight to protect our borders since; but our numbers fail as the Essanis grow in population. Our greatest strength has ever been in our ships.”

Eldarion searched his face, then nodded. “Your family was ever involved with the invocation of the Enemy’s power, was it not?”

Erenthor’s look was defiant. “Yet for five generations or more my father’s line had forsworn it, and we had to go into exile in Rhûn to hide from Sauron’s vengeance. Lord Armenlos allowed my father to return to Umbar, and gave our ancestral lands back into our hands once our kinsmen were exposed as rebels against the Council of Lords.”

The Gondorian turned thoughtfully to Marendil. “What of those who have wielded the power of Umbar’s ships--your captains and merchants? Will you truly allow yourselves to fall under our laws? No slavery or piracy will be tolerated, or trafficking in women, children, and youths for the sake of satisfying perverted lusts.”

“Much of that has already been halted, sir, Why do you think we have been so depleted in population beyond the losses inflicted by the Essanis? Harad no longer traffics in slaves, while your coastlines are too well protected by your navy; and so we have had to take such from among our own. And now that has returned to haunt us as households are torn apart from within as former freedmen wreak vengeance on those who have stolen their freedom.

“Our navy is again strong, but it is powerless against Khand. The invasions come upon us not from the sea, but from the deserts east of us. I and those under my command cannot assist in the defense of our own lands.”

Lavandas spoke: “My lands were taken by the invaders six months ago. My wife was repeatedly raped and then tortured to death before the eyes of our son and daughter, and then they murdered my boy--my beloved boy! He was only three years old! We have my daughter back--my seneschal escaped with her; but her heart and mind have been darkened by what she has seen done. They--they did unspeakable things to my children, Lord Eldarion.”

Eldarion looked down at his own hands, which lay folded in his lap. “I see.” He looked up again. “And you would subjugate your land to me as King?”

“When that day comes,” agreed Armenlos.

Again the lip twitched. “When that day comes.... And you would ask for self-rule, for the most part, such as is known within the Breelands and the Shire, as long as your laws do not conflict with those of Gondor and Arnor?”

“Even so, my Lord. Will you speak with the King for us?”

Eldarion rose to his considerable height. “Know this--the King’s will shall indeed follow my own--I promise you that, I must go forth now. A page will bring you before the throne shortly--speak as you have to me here, and your suit will be accepted.” He bowed to them. “My lords.” They rose to watch him go.

Not long after there was a knock at the door, and a youth looked in. “I am to bring you now to the Hall of Kings, my lords,” he said.

They were led back much as they’d come, and the doors to the Hall of Kings were opened to them. The King of Gondor and Arnor sat upon his throne, the Winged Crown on his head, the Sceptre of Annúminas in his hand. He was speaking to Théodred King of Rohan and Farozi An’Ramosiri of Harad. “And I thank you,” he was saying, “for your words of comfort offered to us in our time of grief, as my sisters and I struggle to deal with the loss of so beloved a parent. But I ask your forbearance as we deal with a request made of us by the embassy from Umbar.”

The folk of that embassy stood, shocked into near-paralysis, as they looked up into the beardless visage of King Eldarion Telcontar.

Adúnil’s voice was rough as he managed, “Then, it is not your mother who has died?”

“Indeed not, Lord Adúnil--or not as yet. How long she might remain past my father I cannot say, of course. But five days ago, on the first day of the month, on the day of his two hundred tenth birthday, our father offered back his life, and it was accepted from him. He gave the Crown into my hands himself, and gave me his blessing. It was he who first named me King of Gondor and Arnor--and apparently now, Umbar as well. For hear this, all of you--Umbar has offered itself back into union with the other two kingdoms founded by the folk of Númenor, as an independent land in league with Gondor and Arnor, and subject to its laws only as far as are any land under such protection.

“Behold--this day is the new age confirmed before your eyes.”

“The King Elessar is dead?” demanded Lavandas. “But he’s ever been the King!”

The Lord King Eldarion’s smile was sad, and filled with compassion, “My father was yet a Man, and mortal. And he did not rue his ending. How glad he would be to see the beginning to the Fourth Age take such a turn!”

A new age--a new King--a new circumstance for Umbar. Adúnil took a deep breath. He wondered what other surprises he might know in the coming days.

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