Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and the Middle-earth mythos is the sole property of the Tolkien Estate. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series that Game of Thrones is based upon, are the properties of HBO and George R. R. Martin. I derive no profit from the writing of this work, it is a fan project intended just for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. Blah

Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien.

Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta!

Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come

In this place I will abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world

-Elendil, Lord of the Numenorean Realm-in-Exile in Westeros, 30 A.L.

Chapter I

King's Landing

The hall of the Red Keep of King's Landing was filled with the heavy scent of burning incense as the Silent Sisters prepared the body of Jon Arryn for his state burial. Jon Arryn, Hand of the King, Lord of the Eyrie, Defender of the Vale and Warden of the East, the man who had raised King Robert Baratheon from childhood, the man who had started Robert's Rebellion and fought with courage and skill. The King's closest friend and chief advisor. All that, all laid low by a fever.

'The world is cruel sometimes', thought King Robert, looking over the burial preparations from a balcony above the hall. He was not a good King, he knew that himself. He needed a good Hand to keep the Kingdom running, for Robert knew he was a warrior, not a statesman. Robert took a long drink from his almost ever-present goblet of wine.

"A great tragedy, Your Grace. I understand that Lord Arryn was close to you" said a smooth, diplomatic voice from behind Robert. The King glanced over his shoulder to see Lord Varys, his Master of Whisperers, approaching.

"How is it that you do that?" the King asked, and took another sip of wine.

"Do what, Your Grace?" replied Varys.

"Walk around without making a single noise at all" said Robert.

"It is a talent I have honed, Your Grace, and a rather useful one considering my... position on your Council" Varys said.

"Aye, I suppose it would be that." Robert paused as he stared down hard at the body of Jon Arryn.

"I couldn't spare him, Varys, anymore than I could spare a million gold dragons or ten thousand knights or my own left nut. I will need a new Hand now, and who can I trust?" he said at last. The King rubbed his brow, closing his eyes hard. Maybe it was just the headache that the smell of burning incense gave him, but he was beginning to wish that he had never taken the bloody Throne in the first place.

"I believe Your Grace already knows the answer to that question" Varys replied in his smooth, soft voice.

"You would be right. Lord Eddard Stark. Ned, my old friend. A good man, an honourable man, if a little severe. He was a good comrade" the King said, smiling a little at the memory of his old friend from the North.

"Yes, no man could doubt Lord Stark's courage or loyalty but, if I might speak plainly Your Grace, I wonder: Would he be a good Hand?" said Varys

"Oh? And who can I trust that would be a better one?" Again, there was a long pause between the two. Robert glanced up from Jon Arryn's body towards Lord Varys. It looked as if the Master of Whisperers was very carefully considering his next words. All was silence, except for a quiet conversation going on across the hall. Robert looked and saw that it was his Queen talking to her twin brother. 'Those two always seem to be around each other, isn't Jaime Lannister supposed to be the Kingsguard, not the Queen's?' Robert mused to himself.

"Your Grace, what do you know of the Dunedain?" Varys said at last. Robert gave a start at Varys' words, almost spitting up his mouthful of wine.

"The Dunedain! The Numenoreans! Those self-righteous High Men?" Robert said, scorn in his tone.

"Yes, Your Grace, the Numenoreans. What do you know of them?" replied Varys.

"Only what everybody knows: They're all wise and strong and honourable, taller than anybody, can build anything, outfight anyone, see into the minds of lesser men. Masters of horses, unrivaled archers, and great sailors too, and apparently they live for-bloody-ever. Do you know that the Lord Elendil that landed here during the rule of Aegon the Conqueror is still alive and still ruling his people? There's something unnatural about that!" Robert spat, beginning to rave, before calming himself with another sip of wine. His sentiments were not rare in the Seven Kingdoms, many felt inferior to the Dunedain, many felt threatened. Maybe the whole Kingdom did.

"Some would say so, yes. Your Grace, have you ever visited Annúminas?" Varys asked.

"I've heard of it. 'The White City of Elendil', 'The Jewel of the North', blah blah blah. Full of naught but Numenoreans, jabbering on in that 'Queenya' of theirs, basking in how great they all are. I hear they don't even have brothels in Annúminas, what sort of city doesn't have brothels!" snapped the King.

"Your Grace, if I may be so bold to ask: What do you think of the Numenoreans? Really?" asked the Master of Whisperers.

"I think they're a bunch of self-righteous twats who think they're better than us, just because they're all seven feet tall and nearly immortal. They don't worship our Gods, and they don't speak our language unless they're speaking to us. No, they've got their own flowery little language. And that accent of theirs, ugh, always makes it sound like they're talking down to us," said King Robert bitterly. Varys nodded in understanding.

"Wholly understandable objections, Your Grace, but are they not the best of allies? Is there not a reason Elendil is called 'Kingmaker'?"

"Oh aye, they're fierce as direwolves in battle, on land or on the sea. Let me tell you something, Varys: These Numenoreans like to act like they're the noblest men in all the world, but if you wrong them, they cast all that nobility aside and they come after you like an angry bear. Just look at what they did to the Greyjoys" King Robert said with a rueful shake of his head.

"Yes, a very unfortunate business that was, Your Grace, though it must be said that Elendil served your purposes in that war" Varys replied

"Maybe, I still think the White Fleet only sailed because Elendil had been wronged, not because the Greyjoys were rebels. And that wasn't war, that was an extermination" said Robert.

"Perhaps. Your Grace, if I may be so bold, I would suggest that you visit Annuminas in the wake of Lord Arryn's tragic passing"

"Visit the White City? For what, Varys? To make Elendil Kingmaker my Hand? I will not." Robert said, with a tone of finality. He drained his goblet, and then thrust it towards his page Lancel Lannister, who stood to the side of King Robert and Lord Varys. Immediately, the nervous golden-haired young Lannister quickly refilled the goblet with dark red wine for his King.

"Elendil the Tall, Elendil the Longlived, Elendil the Faithful, Elendil Kingmaker. Elendil, Elendil, Elendil! Ever since I was a boy I've heard that name, heard the stories told about him. We all did, stories about their wisdom and great feats of arms. By the Gods I am sick to death of hearing about fucking Elendil and his fucking Numenoreans!" King Robert swore, and then took another deep drink of wine.

"Your Grace, perhaps there is one Numenorean that would be acceptable to you" Lord Varys said silkily.

"Eh? And who would that be, my Master of Whisperers?"

"Isildur Elendilion"

Shafts of golden light streamed through the stained glass windows of the Red Keep, while King Robert regarded the harsh grey Iron Throne that had become the scourge of his life since he had been crowned King. 'Isildur as Hand of the King? Now there is an idea,' Robert thought. He remembered Isildur at the Battle of the Trident, cutting through the Dornish ranks like a scythe through a field of wheat. There was some strange power in Isildur, for no matter how badly a battle went, wherever the tall Numenorean lord stood, no foe could withstand him, and the hearts of his allies were gladdened wherever he went, and his enemies quailed and fled before him. And of all the lords that came to join Robert's Rebellion, Isildur was one of the most wise and clever of all of them. He could've been King if he had wanted to be.

"Of all the Numenoreans, he's the only one who seems a normal man like the rest of us. He's the only one I like. And he fought for me, alone of all his kin. Aye, Lord Varys, he could be a great Hand. But, still, I want my friend Ned by my side. We were meant to rule together, Ned and I" said the King.

"Perhaps there is a way, Your Grace, to have both Lord Isildur and Lord Stark by your side. The other night, Your Grace, you mentioned something" Varys began, but was cut off.

"The other night I was drunk, Lord Varys" King Robert said with a chuckle.

"Yes, quite, Your Grace, but your words were still wise. You said that the Kingdoms' great weakness was that every great house has its own army, that there is no Royal Army for you to call upon, only your own Baratheon bannermen. If I may be so bold as to propose something, Your Grace: You could create a Royal Army, and bring Lord Stark here to train it and command it, as the Marshal of your Army." Lord Varys continued. Suddenly, the idea that had been hatched in drunken revelry seemed plausible, even desirable. Despite himself, King Robert smiled and clapped Varys on the back.

"I can see why the Mad King kept you around, Varys" King Robert laughed. "Aye, a noble proposal. And I will see it done! Isildur shall be my Hand and Eddard my Marshal. Send ravens with messages to Winterfell and Annúminas. I shall ride north!" the King finished, and then he drained his goblet once more and tossed it to Lancel, who clumsily caught it and almost dropped it.

The fat King strode off down the corridors, and Varys watched him go with a calm, complacent look on his face. The eunuch looked down again to the hall, where the Silent Sisters have finished the last rites, and an honour guard of Goldcloaks was bearing Jon Arryn to the carriage that would take him on his final journey, back to the Vale that was his home, to be buried in the land that give him birth. Varys spotted the Queen and the Kingslayer, still talking in low tones on the opposite side of the hall. 'There is something about those two Lannisters', Varys thought, 'I shall have to have my little birds take a little peek at them'

"Ah, all for the Realm" Varys sighed softly to himself, and then turned and walked away noiselessly.

The lands of the North were bleak and grey, but they had a certain rugged beauty to them. Or so thought Tyrion Lannister as he rode along the Kingsroad, part of the vast entourage of the King. The land was rough and hardy, much like its native people, and trees were few and far between as the long line of mounted men wound its way down the Road. The whole land seemed stony and hard and cold, as icy winds blew down from the blue peaks of the mountains to the north of the Road. Yet, despite all that, Tyrion found himself compelled by the landscape. All of the southern lands of Westeros had been conquered and cultivated by men, and were dotted with farms and towns and bridges and the myriad other little additions of civilization, so that true wilderness was a rarity south of the Neck. However, here in the North, Tyrion truly felt that he was in a wild and untamed land.

Despite that, however, the Kingsroad here was not the mere dirt track that it was in most parts of the North, for the Road had been remade with the art of the Numenoreans, and it was broad, paved with rectangular slabs of the North's native stone, and marked with milestones along the side. There was a regular stream of travellers along with the King's company on the Road, Andals mostly, merchants and farmers on their way from or to Annúminas. Of all the travelling groups on the Road that day, the Royal Procession was the largest. At the front of the column were the heralds, bearing fluttering standards with the crowned stag sigil of House Baratheon, and behind that was the golden lion on red of House Lannister, Tyrion's own House, but more importantly the House of Cersei Lannister, the Queen and Tyrion's sister. All about the column were mounted men-at-arms in Lannister red or Baratheon yellow, but around the King himself rode men in white, the famed Kingsguard. One of the Kingsguards rode beside Tyrion.

"I continue to be marveled by the ingenuity of these Dunedain," said Tyrion to Jaime Lannister, his brother, the Kingsguard and the Kingslayer.

"Is that so?" said Jaime.

"Quite so. Aegon the Conqueror gave them the bleakest, most barren land in the Kingdoms, and out of it they carve great cities and roads better than anything else in Westeros. It really is quite remarkable" Tyrion replied.

"It's a road" Jaime stated, unimpressed by the workmanship.

"It's an incredible road, especially for so far north. Inns placed almost exactly a day's journey apart from each other, markers for every mile, maps and itineraries at the major junctions, even service stations to repair carts, carriages or replace horseshoes. Why, you remember yesterday, when our sister's carriage broke a wheel and there was a wheelwright's station not too far away to repair it. And their relay posts for mounted messengers is really quite a sensible idea. I tell you, if we let the Numenoreans redo the whole Kingsroad, travel in the Kingdoms would be quite easier" explained the Dwarf.

"I suppose you're right. Though, you know what I have noticed" said Jaime.

"And what would that be? That all the people working at those inns and service stations and relay stables are all Westerosi and we haven't seen a single Numenorean since we crossed the border into the Realm-in-Exile two days ago?" said Tyrion

"Indeed, it is rather strange as we are in the Numenorean Realm"

"Many Westerosi live under the lordship of the Dunedain. As for the Dunedain themselves, I hear they prefer to live in their many towns and cities by the coast. They are very attached to the sea, the Numenoreans are. We are inland right now, thus we see mostly the Northerners who dwelt here before the Dunedain came across the sea." said Tyrion, retrieving a skin of wine from his saddlebag and taking a drink before offering some to his brother, who declined. They were near to Annúminas now

"Tall ships and tall lords, three times three

What brought they from the foundered land, over the flowing sea?

Seven stars and seven stones, and one white tree" Tyrion said softly to himself as the column began to ride up the final hill of their journey.

"What was that?" Jaime asked with a raised eyebrow, however Tyrion did not answer him, for at that moment did they come to the crest of the hill and their breath was taken away.

Before them lay Annúminas, the White City of Elendil and the gleaming Jewel of the North. Constructed all of white stone, it seemed to glisten like a pearl in the noonday sun. The townlands that surrounded the city were rich, even so far north, and they were well-irrigated from canals that led to the River Evendim, and the fields were tilled and there were many orchards rich with fruit. The fields were golden with wheat, and there were many herds of cattle. From their vantage point on the hill, they could see the Haven of Annúminas, with its great wharfs and shipyards, where countless ships were harboured, the famed White Fleet of the Dunedain. They saw dromunds and mighty galleys of many oars with swan or eagle figureheads, and amongst the sleek warships were merchantmen of great draught, bearing the trade wealth of the Seven Kingdoms into the greatest port of the North.

It was the city itself though, that caught and kept Tyrion's eyes. For such was the nature of Annúminas that it had been carved into a hill, so that the city's centre was raised above its edges, and all was constructed of the same white stone. The King's column rode through the farmlands and approached the mighty Gates of Dawn, wrought all of steel, which stood where the Kingsroad entered the city from the east. Tyrion now gazed upon one of the city's famous features: The Walls of Anarion. A great layer of fortifications that surrounded the city in a mighty circuit running from the shores of the sea to the west and the banks of the swift Evendim to the north. Around it all was a deep moat, fed by the waters of the sea, and at the Gate it was crossed by a strong stone causeway. The Outer Wall was of great height and thickness, rising over thirty feet, and it was black and smooth and hard, built by the art and power of the Numenoreans, and it was dotted with many strong towers, and the banners of the Dunedain fluttered in the wind atop the wall, and there was the glitter of arms and armour atop the battlements. The Gates of Dawn were guarded by a strong gatehouse at the end of the causeway across the moat, and the shod hooves of the King's procession echoed in the tunnel as the huge steel gates opened, and King Robert Baratheon entered his city.

They passed through a courtyard between the two walls, and then came to the second of the Gates of Dawn, set in the Inner Wall, which rose even taller than the Outer Wall, so that an archer on the Inner Wall could fire at foes who assailed the Outer Wall. And then, as they emerged from the darkness of the gatehouse into the sunlight, they were met with the blowing of trumpets and the cheering of thousands of voices. The main street of the city was lined with cheering men and women and children, and they bowed as the King himself passed them by. No longer was the procession surrounded by fellow Westerosi, now did Tyrion truly see Numenoreans for the first time. Tall, they were, even the women were over six feet and most of the men seven feet or more, with dark hair and grey eyes, and their voices were fair as they cheered and sang aloud at the coming of their King. Soldiers of the Realm-in-Exile lined the streets as well, and they had tall helms adorned with the wings of seabirds, and they carried long spears with kite shields and wore mail of black steel rings. On each soldier's chest was a surcoat of black, with a white tree sigil, and above the tree were seven silver stars.

It felt to Tyrion that he was trying to look everywhere at once, but it seemed as if Annúminas was too full of wonder to be real. The mansions were tall and stately, and even the smallest and meanest of houses in the city seemed homely and fair. Songs were sung by the joyous people, and music was played. At one corner, two young girls even ran up and gave flowers to King Robert, who was taken off-guard by the gesture, but seemed touched despite the fact. As they rode further into the centre of the city, the buildings grew grander and even more beautiful, and even Jaime looked impressed as they approached the Walls of Isildur, which ran through the centre of the city and rose even higher than the Walls of Anarion. For Annúminas was not just a fair city, but also a strong citadel, and it seemed unlikely to Tyrion that any foe of the Dunedain could seize it by force of arms if any remained within to defend the Walls.

At long last did they come to the Citadel of the House Elendil, at the very top of the City's hill, where the Tower of Elendil stood, tall and shapely like a spike of silver and pearl above the White City. At the gate, they dismounted, for no horses were allowed within the Citadel, and the Gates were guarded by men in the sombre, proud garb of the Guards of the Citadel. Passing beneath the shadow of the Citadel Gate, King Robert and his entourage came at length to a courtyard at the foot of the Tower, and in its centre was a fountain, beside which stood a white tree in full blossom, healthy and beautiful. All around the courtyard were the Citadel Guards, and they were on their knees before the King.

Standing before the fountain were three men, clad in finery of black and silver. The man in the centre was the tallest that Tyrion had ever seen, and though he had an ageless look about him, the glint in his grey eyes reflected his ancient age and wisdom. As King Robert came to stand before them, the three dropped down to their knees and bowed their heads before the King of the Eight Kingdoms.

"Rise" King Robert said, gesturing upwards with his hand, and Elendil, Lord of the Realm-in-Exile, stood up, nearly two full feet taller than his King. Elendil the Tall was a powerfully built man, with broad shoulders and a short dark beard flecked with grey to match the long hair upon his head.

"Welcome, Your Grace, to Annúminas. The Dunedain greet you, and Iluvatar smiles upon your visit. We were surprised to receive your raven from King's Landing, as no King has come to visit our fair City since the days of Tar-Aegon" Elendil said, his voice deep.

"It is my pleasure and honour then to be the first King to visit your magnificent city, Elendil" Robert said. 'Unusually diplomatic for him. Perhaps he's been practicing' thought Tyrion as he watched Robert extend a hand towards Elendil. However, Elendil did not shake Robert's hand in the Andal fashion, instead he clasped the King's forearm in the traditional Numenorean greeting, bowing his head as he did so.

King Robert turned to the left of Elendil, and was greeted by Anarion, shorter than his father and fairer-haired, with a pleasant, wise face, and he clasped forearms with him in the same fashion as he had with Elendil. He then turned right and was greeted by a very old friend.

"Isildur, my old friend you... look the same as always" Robert said with a chuckle as he looked up at the tall Dunedan. Isildur, who had the dark hair of his father and was almost as tall, broke out in a smile and embraced Robert. Tyrion had to bite back a chuckle at the amusing spectacle of Robert Baratheon, King of the Eight Kingdoms, embracing a man like Isildur, who was so tall that Robert's head only came up to Isildur's chest.

"And you, my friend, have gotten fat in your old age" Isildur responded.

"Fat? Is that how you speak to your King!" Robert said with sudden seriousness and intensity, and all was quiet and tense in the courtyard for a moment. Then the tenseness was broken as the King and the Lord of Minas Ithil broke out in peals of laughter, Isildur's great booming laugh echoing about the courtyard.

"Come, Your Grace, you must be weary. There shall be a feast and you shall join us in great merriment tonight, to celebrate your visit." Elendil said, as the three Lords of the Dunedain turned and walked towards the door of the Citadel, King Robert and his court following, and Tyrion Lannister feeling smaller than usual amongst the tall Numenoreans.

Everything the Dunedain built was magnificent, Tyrion realized as he sat at the head table in the feasting hall of the Citadel of Annúminas. The hall was no exception, with a high domed ceiling, great black stone pillars and stained glass windows depicting images from the history of Westeros and Numenor.

The 'great merriment' Elendil had spoken of, on the other hand, had no materialized. Though the Dunedain seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly, the feast seemed, so far, a very low-key affair. The wine was excellent, Tyrion admitted, but it was served by sombre footmen in black tunics, not by saucy wenches with full bosoms, as he was used too. The food too was exquisite, though they had not yet come to the main course of the feast yet.

"What this feast is lacking is entertainment" Tyrion said aloud after a sip of wine.

"My Lord Tyrion, you do not enjoy song?" said the Numenorean lord who sat to Tyrion's left. He struggled for a moment to put a name to the face, but finally recalled it from the numerous introductions earlier in the evening: Meneldil, eldest son of Anarion, who shared his father's fair hair and kindly features.

"No, Lord Meneldil, I rather enjoy song, but I like a song with a tune you can whistle too, something a bit... happier than this. This is very beautiful, but it sounds like a funeral lament. And I would prefer a song in a language I can understand" Tyrion replied.

"Alas, I understand your complaint, for all our songs have been sad since the fall of our homeland, and all of them are in the tongue of Elves, we do not make songs in the tongue of the Andals, and the effect and rhythm of this song would be lost if we sung it in your tongue" Meneldil answered.

"What is the song about, if you would be kind enough to translate the tale?" Tyrion asked.

"It would be my pleasure. The minstrel sings of Luthien Tinuviel, an immortal Elf-maiden, and how she fell in love with-"

"Beren, a mortal man" Tyrion said softly, cutting off Meneldil. The Dunedan was confused for a moment, before he broke out in a wide smile.

"It appears we have a scholar of the old lore amongst us!" Meneldil laughed, and Tyrion smiled at him.

"I have read what little I could find that had been translated from your language. Alas, the history of the Dunedain is a rather niche field of knowledge in the south" Tyrion replied.

"Ah, then if you are interested, I shall have my personal copyists translate several volumes of our history into your tongue, to be mailed to you for your own study" said Meneldil with a smile. Tyrion was flabbergasted: No scholar in all of the Kingdoms outside of the Realm-in-Exile had ever had a chance to study the whole history of the Numenoreans.

"I am... honoured, my Lord Meneldil" he said, to which the kindly Dunadan only smiled.

"Ah, the main course, you shall want to watch this" Meneldil said then, as the doors at the end of the hall were flung open with a chorus of trumpets.

Split between two poles, and carried by six straining men, came a whole roast ox, steaming and hot from the fires, and the six men laid it upon a flat board in the wide, open space in the centre of the hall, where all the guests could see it. One of the men who had born the ox into the hall unsheathed a sword from his side, and a murmur ran through the crowd of guests, as King Robert watched the man closely. With a flourish, the servant slashed into the ox and split it's belly open. Sausages spilled out like entrails, and there were many hot, steaming onions and herbs stuffed in the animal as well. Two men then rushed to the split belly and pulled out a whole sheep, roasted inside the ox. With another swing of the sword, this sheep's own belly was split, and the servants pulled out a roasted pig. The swordsman turned to the guests with a knowing wink and a sigh of mock exasperation, and then swung his blade again, and out of the pig came a cooked kid goat and many baked apples stuffing the empty spaces around it. Again and again the sword swung, and out of each animal came a smaller one, a fat goose, a chicken, and finally a partridge.

Then when the whole mouth-watering meal was laid out, the six servants sprang to work with knives, and soon every single guest was tucking into a favoured joint or slice from a favoured animal. There was fresh, warm bread and heaps of vegetables, fruit both fresh and dried, roasted fish, and the wine flowed from fountains. The musicians, at a word from Meneldil, launched into a merry tune and soon the hall was filled with laughter and the sounds of merry-making.

It was that night that Tyrion Lannister realized that, like everything else in the Numenorean Realm, their hospitality was magnificent.

The white stone of Annúminas almost seemed to gleam dully in the pale light of moon and stars as Isildur stood, overlooking his father's city from a balcony of the Tower. The skies were clear, and the stars shone brightly in the darkness alongside a slender crescent moon to match Isildur's own heraldry. A cool breeze was blowing in from the sea, through Isildur's dark hair, as the tall Dunedain lord sighed and drained his goblet of wine. Down the hall, Isildur still heard the sounds of merrymaking from the feast, but for once Isildur was in no mood for revelry. For one very near and dear to the Lord of Minas Ithil was absent, and his absence was sorely felt. Leaning upon the stone railing, Isildur began to hum a soft tune to himself.

"Ah, there you are my old friend" said a familiar voice, less slurred than Isildur would've expected at this time of the evening. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed Robert Baratheon standing in the doorway.

"My king," Isildur said, quickly turning and dropping to a knee.

"Oh come off it Isildur, you High Men have always been too damn formal" Robert said with a chuckle as he walked out to join Isildur by the railing, a jug of wine in one hand and a goblet in the other. Refilling Isildur's goblet, they clinked their cups together and then drank deeply of the rich Numenorean wine.

"You have something important to tell me Robert" Isildur said as he lowered his goblet, regarding the King with his seemingly ageless grey eyes, eyes which seemed to reflect long years far beyond the age of Isildur's appearance.

"Gods, you know I hate it when you do that to me!" Robert said, swearing under his breath.

"It's all in the eyes Your Grace; you Andals always give it away with your eyes. But I must be very careful around your people, for I could leave many of them broken in mind and spirit if I am not careful. Do not worry, my friend, the very fact that you are standing here today means I have never done that to you" Isildur said with a gentle smile.

"You seem a bit off Isildur, speak your mind. You know I was your friend before I was your King" said Robert. For a long moment, Isildur was silent, staring at the stars, contemplation in his grey Numenorean eyes.

"It is my youngest son, Valandil. He has left, gone into the East, to the Free Cities, struck with wanderlust" Isildur spoke at last.

"I always told you that you should've just taken him all about the Kingdoms and made the Nine. Get all that young stupidity out of his head, make him into a man" Robert replied with a laugh and another slug of his wine.

"Valar Above, not everything can be solved with fornication Robert. Besides, Valandil is old enough to make his own decisions. He can travel where and when he pleases, but his brothers and I… He is dearly missed" Isildur answered, exasperated at first.

"Fornication? You mean fucking? Gods, you Dunedain are too bloody grave. No wonder you always got along so well with the Starks. Come on Isil, you know those Riverlands girls would go mad to have a Dunedain princeling like your son between their legs. Hells, I'm surprised you never took a whore to your tent during the War"

"Because I, unlike all your southern lords, am an honourable man" said Isildur, rolling his eyes, then continued: "I know you didn't come all the way out here to feast and reminisce on old times. You can speak plainly with me Robert, I am not my father. What do you need to ask me?"

Again, all was silence on the balcony, broken only by the sounds of the feast from within the hall. Now it was Robert who stared out at the stars, deep thought clear on his bearded face. He turned and looked up at his tall Numenorean friend.

"Jon Arryn is dead" he said at last, darkly.

"And you want me to be the new Hand?" Isildur answered, clearly perceiving Robert's intentions.

"Aye, that I do. I need you Isildur. I'm not fond of you damned Dunedain, but you are cannier and wiser than any in the Kingdoms, and you are the only one of the Dunedain that I can stand and I know I can trust." said the King. Immediately, Isildur dropped to his knee again, bowing his head and placing a closed fist on his chest.

"You honour me, Your Grace" Isildur said. Robert laughed again, and drained the wine from his goblet in one long swig.

"Gods' sake Isildur, it's not an honour. I'm trying to get you to run my kingdom for me while I eat, drink and whore my way into an early grave" Robert said with a great booming laugh, and as Isildur stood up again he soon joined in and the unlikely pair stood there and laughed together.

"There's only two people in this kingdom I can truly trust: You and Ned Stark. When I leave this city tomorrow, you're coming with me Isildur, to Winterfell. We need to talk Ned into coming south with us" said Robert as his laughter died.

"Ned will not come, he is settled and happy. He fought your battles, made you King, let him grow old in the bliss of his marriage bed" Isildur replied, pouring himself more wine from the jug.

"That's a damn shame because he will have to come. I am the King after all" Robert answered with a laugh.

"If I may ask, Your Grace, why do you need both Ned and I, if I am to be Hand?" Isildur asked.

"I have realized something Isildur. Maybe I realized it when I was drunk, or maybe that eunuch Varys just told me, but I realized it still. This kingdom is too divided, all these damn noble houses and their private armies. I want to build something new, something to unite Westeros. I want to be remembered as more than the drunken Usurper" said Robert with a rare seriousness for him.

"Maybe drink less then?" Isildur replied drolly.

"Is that how you speak to your King!" said Robert, in mock outrage. A long moment passed before he burst into laughter, and Isildur's great booming laughter joined him.

"No, no, I don't think I'll be able to do that old friend, but I will be remembered as more than the brute who killed the damned Targaryen prince. I need something to unite the land, to secure the Throne for my heirs, to defend the land from civil war or foreign invasion" Robert continued.

"You mean to create a royal host? A King's Host?" Isildur said, again perceiving the King's mind.

"Aye, that I do. Ned must command it, and you must be my Hand. It was the three of us that struck the Targaryens down, we were meant to rule together Isildur" Robert said, speaking with surprising sincerity.

"You do me a great honour Robert, I only hope I can repay you as your Hand" Isildur answered, and he topped up both of their cups with the wine, and together they drained their goblets in toast.

"Now come on Isildur, I think they must be noticing that their King and Isildur Moonlord have been absent so long" said Robert, clapping his friend on the back as the curious pair turned away from the railing and the short King of Eight Kingdoms and the tall Lord of Minas Ithil walked off the balcony and returned to the warmth and festivity of the feast.

Neither of them noticed the dark shadow that passed across the pale silver crescent of the moon.

In the small hours of the morning, with the noise and the revelry of the feast having died away, the Tower of Elendil seemed unnaturally quiet as Isildur walked the long stone corridors. A pleasant breeze blew in through the arrow slits on the left wall of the hallway. Behind him, the Great Hall was filled with the sounds of snoring men as the numerous guards and servants who had come north with King Robert slept upon the rush-covered floor. The King himself and his family had been led to their own private bedchambers, though; Isildur remembered with a smile, Robert had seemed a little disappointed to be going to bed without a whore on both arms.

As he walked, deep in thought, Isildur heard soft music, the sounds of the strings of a lute being strummed by a skilled and experienced hand, and a fair and clear voice singing. It was coming from the open door of the Tower's library, at the end of the corridor. Isildur smiled, that could only be one person. Quietly, he pushed the oaken door open further, and looked into the room.

The Tower Library was much smaller than the Great Library of Meneldil that Isildur's nephew had constructed for the city, and a much more cozy and personal place for Elendil and his sons. It was a circular room, with a fireplace set opposite the doorway, and stuffed and cushioned chairs near the fireplace, wooden desks and tables, and book shelves ringing the room. There was a ladder that led up to a second level, a mere walkway around the walls which supported more book shelves, for Elendil and his sons had always been voracious readers and over the centuries they had accumulated many favourite books from across the Kingdoms in this place.

In one of the chairs by the fireplace sat Anarion, a lute in his hands, the music of the stringed instrument blending with the music of his voice into a single, soft melodious song.

"You were always more the musician than I" Isildur said as he walked into the room. Anarion stopped his playing, looking up at his older brother with a smile and stood up to greet him.

"Not that it ever won much favour from Father. Ah, let us not speak of that, how are you my dear brother?" Anarion said as he embraced Isildur.

"Much troubles my mind. Anarion, I must ask for your counsel" Isildur replied. Anarion looked at him strangely as they released each other.

"You've never asked for my counsel before, Isildur, and you have always kept your own. Pray tell, what troubles you?" Anarion said.

They sat down by the fire and Isildur was silent for a long moment, eyes closed and his hands clasped together before his face in thought. When he finally reopened them, he spoke

"Jon Arryn has died. Tar-Robert wishes for me to become his new Hand"

"This was bound to happen sooner or later, Isildur, you are noble and wise. The King has made a good choice" Anarion said "What then is troubling to you?"

"What good am I in that pit of snakes down in King's Landing? They're vicious backstabbers down there; they've always been like that for as long as we have dwelled in this land" answered Isildur. "And after the things that the Troll did to Rhaegar's wife and children… I don't know if I can serve in such a place"

"All the more reason for you to go to King's Landing. As Hand to Tar-Robert, you can bring the Troll to justice. What Ser Gregor did was monstrous, befitting the name we give him, and he must pay. I know the King is not fond of our people, he'd only ask if he truly trusted and needed you"

"I cannot help but feel ill at ease taking up such an office, brother. King's Landing is full of plots and intrigues, and the last time we dealt with such things, we lost our home…" Isildur said, staring hard at the hearth, the light of the fire reflected in his grey eyes.

"That was the Enemy, and no one's fault but his!" Anarion said immediately, his face stern.

"Yes and his ruin pulled our homeland and so many of our countrymen down with it. Oh, forgive me brother, I am melancholy tonight. I do not relish this task that Robert has appointed to me" said Isildur.

"That much is clear, but the honour is great, and Tar-Robert is a friend who clearly feels that his need is great" Anarion replied.

"What is the King's need?" said another voice. They looked to the door to see their father, Elendil, entering the library.

"Father, Robert has asked me to become the new Hand of the King" explained Isildur. His father's face was unreadable as he stood by a bookshelf, and chose himself a favoured book, before pulling up a chair next to Anarion, and sitting with the book open in his large hands. There was a moment of long silence, broken only by the crackling of the fire, and eventually the idle strumming of Anarion's lute.

"Has there been any word from Valandil?" Elendil asked at last.

"He was in Braavos when he wrote us the last letter. We have had no word since then, nearly two months now. Nothing…" Isildur answered.

"You are worried for him?"

"Of course I am; he's my youngest son. He's only in his eighties, and never been so far from home before" Elendil looked up from his book at his eldest son and he smiled.

"I remember a certain member of our house who stole his way into the Royal Palace back home when he was in his mere teens,"

"Well, that was a different time, a different place. And I had a good reason!" Isildur stammered, scratching the back of his head as his brother and father chuckled at the memory.

"You're always the same: Rushing off, headfirst into danger, never a thought of failure or defeat in your mind. It's been that way since we were boys" Anarion said.

"Let me share a secret of fatherhood with you two: No matter how old your children get, some things always stay the same. How fare your families these days? Tell me of all my grandchildren" Elendil said, smiling through his short beard.

"Miriel is pregnant again, she and her husband are very happy; they hope it'll be a little girl. You know Indis and Almarien, no man is ever good enough for them, and I'm beginning to despair that they'll ever find husbands" Anarion laughed, and his father and brother laughed with him. "As for Meneldil: He was happy to come with me to visit you, father, last I saw him he was discussing some point of lore with that little man who came with the King's retinue" Isildur spoke next:

"Almiel is also pregnant, Ciryon is so excited, he hopes for a third son. Elendur is beginning to speak of moving to Orthanc, the citadel of Minas Ithil is becoming crowded with all of the children about. He says he should like to enlist Meneldil in helping him enlarge it to accommodate his family and to further guard our northern frontier. Aratan has yet to find a woman; his chief pastime has always been in the practice of arms, the hunt and the sailing of ships from our havens" Elendil smiled at his two sons, fatherly love warm in his glinting grey eyes, the eyes shared by all of his house.

He set down his book and stood up from his chair and walked to the heart, staring into the blazing fire, deep in thought.

"Family comes first, that was what my father said to me, and his father said to him, and all of our line going back to Earendil himself, and I have tried to pass it on to you as best I can" He said at last. Isildur and Anarion exchanged glances.

"If you were to turn the King down to stay with your family, I think he would understand. It would be an honourable reason. But, like all the kings of this land, he takes what he wants, and he wants you. I know the distrust and distaste that Tar-Robert must feel for we Dunedain, Valar Above, I have seen that from every great king and mighty lord of Westeros except the Starks. I know that if he is asking one of us to be Hand, he must feel that his need is great. I have tried to be a shield for our people against the scheming and plotting in the rest of the Kingdom, especially of those Lannisters, but I fear we cannot be isolated forever, and more than that I fear that you becoming Hand would drag us into the feuding"

"Father, he is my friend, and he is the King" Isildur said.

"You are noble, my son, and it is a noble thing to wish to help your friend. You have always been a man to take your own counsel and to chart your own course, but all I ask is that you consider my words, and consider the effect that taking up the station of Hand could have on your family and your people. We are the only Dunedain left in all the world, we must protect ourselves, and keep the Faith" Elendil said, turning away from the fire and regarding each of his sons in turn.

"That may not be true" Anarion said darkly. Elendil and Isildur stared at him hard, their expressions demanding him to explain.

"Word has reached my ears of a growing power in far Essos. It could just be rumours, but it could also be whispers of a nameless fear. Always it seems that the dark and terrible things of the world creep up out of the east. There have been rumours of black ships raiding amongst the Free Cities, raiding merchant ships and coastal villages, killing the men and carrying off the women and children as slaves. They are tall men, with grey eyes, and the rumours say they are sailors without equal, and that they take their slaves to a hidden haven, far to the east of Slaver's Bay." He said. There was a dark hard gleam in Elendil's eyes.

"But what worries me father, what keeps me up at night, is this: They sail in black ships with black sails, and their sails bear a single badge: A lidless red eye, with a cat's pupil, wreathed in flames"

"He was destroyed. Undone and overthrown in the wreck of Numenor" Isildur said, clenching his fists.

"Is it even possible to kill one such as him?" Anarion replied.

"If he has followed us even here, I will travel to the East to slay him myself and find out. And if he rises again, I shall slay him again, and again, and as many times as I must until the Enemy learns to stay dead" Isildur said through gritted teeth.

"Calm yourself my son; your valour is not needed yet. We must be prudent, for we do not have the answers yet. If we act with too much haste, we may panic the Andals, and panic and fear lead to foolish action and much regret. Anarion, have you told anyone else of this?" spoke Elendil.

"No Father, I have kept it to myself until know"

"This is good. We must keep this to ourselves, let our people enjoy these golden days of peace, for they may be our last. Dark have been my dreams of late, and I had vainly hoped that all of the Black Numenoreans had been sunk with our home. If these are indeed the servants of the Enemy and the worshippers of the Dark Power, they will come for us as certainly as winter follows fall" Elendil said, his face ashen. In one moment, the two sons saw their father in a new light: The ageless Elendil seemed transformed before them into an old man, full of weariness. Yet that belied that wisdom in his eyes and the strength still left in his mighty limbs.

"What would you have us do, my Lord?" Isildur asked as both and Anarion stood. The three stood close together, and Elendil put one hand on the shoulders of each of his sons.

"Isildur, you must go to King's Landing and take up the office of Hand. Take a palantir with you, secret and safe, so that we may speak across all the miles between here and King's Landing. You must begin to prepare the Kingdoms for this, if these are truly our ancient enemies. Tell no one of this, I have no doubt that certain nobles would seek to profit from this threat somehow. The lust for power is deep amongst some of the Andals, and many of them are short-sighted fools because of it. Take Aratan and Ohtar with you, in a place like King's Landing it is best to have comrades at your side. Do everything you can to prepare, and avoid the scheming as best you can. If these are the Black Numenoreans and the houses of this land cannot put aside their differences, great ruin will come upon us all"

"And me, Father?" Anarion asked.

"Your skills as a builder have only grown over the years, my son. Begin an inspection of our borders, and start enforcing the most vital of the defenses, especially at our havens here and at you and your brother's cities. Your son-in-law Earnur, and his son Earendur, I have seen the great ships they build. Give them as many resources as you can and have them build many more ships of war. Increase our production of weapons and raise as many more companies of men-at-arms as you can without arising suspicion or panic. And start storing food for sieges at our principal strongholds. Isildur must prepare the whole of Westeros, you Anarion must prepare our own Realm. All of us have some part to play in this, great or small" answered the Lord of the Dunedain.

"There is a dark storm coming, I can feel it" Anarion said. Elendil drew both his sons together into an embrace, and the family held each other there for a long moment. When they broke apart, there was a dark hard gleam in Isildur's eyes to match his father's. He spoke then, resolute and determined:

"They took our home from us once, they shall not have it again"

The sun rose early over Annúminas the next morning, golden light bouncing off white stone to give the city the gleaming and glowing appearance. The people of the city rose with the sun, soon filling the streets with the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the busiest port in northern Westeros. The sun reflected off the white stone gave the city a stifling heat not often found so far north, and the streets were filled with the clatter of carts' wheels on the cobblestones, the laughter of children and the exasperated shouts of their mothers and nurses, the harking calls of storekeepers, musicians, actors, scribes, fishwives, bakers, cooks and merchants and traders of every description, and the ever-present background noise of thousands of people talking and laughing together. They were the sounds of the happy and industrious citizens of a vibrant city starting another day.

Out in the havens, the air was filled not with the sounds of a city, but the sounds of seabirds, and the splashing of oars. The great dromonds of the White Fleet were ever coming and going from their berths in the havens of Annúminas, their banks of oars propelling them swiftly through the harbour before they could get out of the bay to the open sea where the skilled Numenorean sailors could set their square-rigged sails, for the White Fleet was ever –vigilant and ever in the exercise and training of its sailors. Amongst the warships came cogs and longships and merchant vessels of every size and shape, trade and wealth flowing freely between the Realm-in-Exile and the other Seven Kingdoms.

All this Isildur watched from a high balcony of the Tower of Elendil, and he smiled at his people's happiness and prosperity. Then he turned away from the railing and walked into the keep with long, purposeful strides. As he turned a corner in the corridor towards the great hall, he found Anarion, his fair-haired younger brother already on the way to break his fast in the hall.

"Ah, good morning brother," Anarion said as his dark-haired older brother fell into step beside him.

"And good morning to you Anarion, how fared your sleep?" Isildur replied

"Well enough. I have almost everything prepared for the gift-giving and the King's departure. The artisans had to work all night, but they have prepared some very fine things. Have you packed for the journey to King's Landing?" said Anarion

"Yes I have, nursemaid" Isildur said wryly "I don't believe anything could be left behind on Ohtar's watch," he added.

"Too true, I have never known him to be a lazy squire!" Anarion replied, and then added: "I am having some trouble selecting a parting gift for Lord Tyrion"

"A book surely? The little Lannister is quite an avid reader I am told," Isildur suggested.

"Alas, Meneldil has already promised Lord Tyrion several volumes of our people's history, translated for his benefit. He's got his entire team of scribes working on it already, in addition to just about every other scribe in the tower!" Anarion ranted, eliciting a laugh from Isildur.

"Like father, like son," the older brother said, clapping Anarion on the back as the two of them turned a corner and, opening a heavy oak door, came into the great hall.

Isildur cast his eyes around the hall that he and his family had built together. Rays of golden light streamed into the great hall from stained glass windows set in deep alcoves along both sides of the hall. Monolithic black pillars rose to support a high vaulted roof, painted with great frescoes of scenes from the history of the Dunedain: The discovery of Numenor, the prayers on Meneltarma, Numenorean mariners charting the world, Elendil and his nine ships escaping the Downfall, the landing on Westeros, the construction of Annúminas, the pledging of allegiance to Aegon the Conqueror, Elendil slaying the dragon Vaelion. Between the mighty pillars were fine marble statues depicting every King of Numenor and Lord of Andunie that had kept the faith in all of the long history of the Dunedain. At the westernmost end of the hall was a raised dais with three stone thrones upon it, one in the centre raised above the others. One of the thrones had a sun carved into the back, and the other had a crescent moon, while the central throne was decorated with a carving of a single many-rayed star. The floor was a polished white, inlaid with patterns traced in gold. There were no tapestries or woven things in the Hall of Annúminas, and the only things of wood were the long tables were presently sat King Robert, his family and many of his men, eating a morning meal.

"The usual if you please," Isildur said to a footman, who saluted in the Dunedain fashion with clasped hand on chest and head bowed before turning to his errand.

Isildur and Anarion walked down the line of long tables, past the numerous Baratheon men-at-arms who had come north with the King. Isildur eyed some of their guests, for he knew that many Lannister soldiers were accompanying the Royal retinue as well. They came to the head table, where the Royal Family sat.

"Good morning Your Grace, I hope you passed the night comfortably," Isildur said as he sat down.

"Seven Hells Isildur! Doesn't your family ever wear anything other than black and silver?" the King replied in an exasperated voice as he swept a critical eye over the brothers. Isildur exchanged a look with Anarion.

"They are favoured colours Your Grace, without a doubt," Anarion said. The footman returned with plates of food for Isildur and Anarion. Their plates were heaped with bread, pastries, cheese, fillets of fish, rashers of bacon and fried eggs. Then Isildur and Anarion both turned and faced west, towards the head of the hall, and bowed their heads and were silent for a moment, while members of the Royal Family exchanged confused glances at the unfamiliar custom. Without a word, the two Numenorean lords turned back to their food and began to eat.

"I saw you and your people do that at the feast last night, I must ask: Why do you do that?" asked Queen Cersei Lannister. Isildur quirked an eyebrow at the Queen's question, he hadn't expected a Lannister of all people to be curious about Dunedain customs.

"It is in memory of our homeland, Your Grace," Anarion said quietly after swallowing a mouthful of food.

The point passed, and conversation returned to the high table. Isildur was quiet as he ate; speaking little and observing much about the family that he would soon live alongside in the Red Keep. He was a lord of the Dunedain-in-Exile, and he could see much that a lesser man would miss. Isildur noted that the looks between the King and Queen were cold and unloving, and he also noted that seemed good-natured in Isildur's estimation. However, there was something in the eyes of Prince Joffrey, the eldest, which Isildur did not like.

"I hear you are to join us in King's Landing," said a voice which drew Isildur out of his reverie. He looked across the table to see a blond, handsome man with flashing green eyes, in the white armour of the Kingsguard. 'This could be none other than Jaime Lannister' Isildur thought.

"That we are, it is my honour to travel to King's Landing to become the Hand," Isildur replied.

"I'm sure we shall have a tournament in your honour after we return, it will be good to have you on the field, the competition has been becoming stale lately," Jaime said.

"I'm not a tourney fighter," stated Isildur.

"Too good to dirty your hands with the lesser mortals?" Jaime said, his voice almost snide.

"I'm not a tourney fighter because Numenorean knights train to kill, not to knock their friends off horses," Isildur answered.

"Well said," Jaime replied with a wolfish grin.

When all the men had broken their fast, preparations began for the departure. Ohtar, Isildur's energetic and burly squire, was everywhere, overseeing the shoeing and tacking of horses, the packing of provisions, clothing and gear, and the preparation of carts and wains.

Aratan, Isildur's third son, was energetic too, lending his expert eye to the selection and equipping of the fifty Numenorean men-at-arms that would accompany their Lord Isildur to the south. Weapons and armour were to be packed as well, wrapped in oiled cloth and stored in weatherproofed barrels and bags to prevent their rusting. They chose swords and daggers for themselves, and long lances for use from horseback. Each man took a steelbow as well, for every Numenorean took pride and joy in the practice of archery, and none ever wished to depart without his people's ancestral weapon. Every member of Isildur's personal guard was given a hauberk of black steel rings, and black surcoats with the silver tree, moon and stars that was Isildur's personal sigil, and kite shields emblazoned with the same device were provided. And each took a helm, high-crested and decorated with the wings of seabirds. The Baratheon and Lannister men that accompanied the King looked with jealousy to the fineness and beauty of the Numenorean arms that Isildur's men would carry.

As the long procession finally drew ready to depart, Elendil met with the King and the Royal Family, the Kingsguard, and Isildur himself in the Great Hall. Elendil and Anarion stood, in fine black robes, with silver circlets upon their brows, before them all. Isildur, on the other hand, had discarded his fineries for the simpler clothes he preferred to travel in, and he noted that most of the company had done the same.

"Your Grace, my King, honourable Tar-Robert, First of Your Name, you have honoured us with your presence and your visit to our fair city. Annúminas shall always stand ready to welcome you, Your Grace," Elendil said, with a courtly flourish and a bow to the King.

"Elendil, Lord of the Dunedain, your hospitality was magnificent, and your son has done me a great service by agreeing to become my Hand. He is a true friend, and the friendship of the Dunedain shall not be forgotten," Robert replied courteously. 'He's not too bad at this courtly stuff when he tries at it. Too bad he rarely tries' Isildur thought.

"Nor shall Your Grace's favour be forgotten amongst the Dunedain. May my son serve you with honour, and may he be returned here safely when his duty is done" Elendil said.

"In our homeland in ancient times, the Elves bequeathed to us a tradition: When a guest departs from our halls, he must leave with a gift from his hosts. To that end, we have prepared gifts for you, Your Grace, your family and your followers," Anarion said. As he spoke, servants in black came forward from the end of the hall, carrying the gifts. The first one approached Robert and knelt before the King, holding before him a black scabbard with a small stag sigil inlaid in silver near the throat. More servants came forth and presented each member of the Kingsguard with a similar scabbard in white.

"To you and your Kingsguard, Your Grace, we present Dunedain scabbards. No blade drawn from these scabbards shall ever blunt or break or fail in the heat of battle," Elendil said. Ser Barristan Selmy looked at Elendil with some skepticism of this claim, but took the beautiful scabbard anyways.

Next the footman bowed to the members of the royal family and presented each with a gift. To the Queen they gave a necklace adorned with precious stones, Prince Joffrey received a wide belt of gold, Princess Myrcella a beautifully made doll with dark hair and grey eyes, and to Prince Tommen they gave a short, curving dagger which he looked at with some trepidation, while his elder brother gazed at it with jealousy in his eyes.

"Tyrion Lannister," Anarion said to the dwarf, who stood by the side of the hall watching the ceremony with some interest.

"Yes my Lord Anarion?" Tyrion said, standing up from leaning against a pillar.

"We have a gift for you as well," Anarion said with a kindly smile.

"Surely not my Lord, your son Lord Meneldil has already promised me a magnificent gift," Tyrion replied.

"That is true, but it shall not be ready for many months, and you leave today. Perhaps your stature will prevent you from ever becoming a great warrior, but nonetheless every man must be ready to defend themselves at some point in their lives. Therefore take this, a short sword from our Armouries, it is light and will suit you well," Anarion said, and gestured forward with his hand. A servant came and presented Tyrion with the weapon, in a black sheath not dissimilar, though less ornate, than the one the King now carried. He drew out the sword; the blade had a gentle leaf-shape to it, and was inlaid with flowing characters in red and silver. The whole weapon felt marvellously light and well-balanced, and it was short enough for a man of Tyrion's stature.

"You are right my lord: I will never be a great warrior. To speak plainly, this would be better used in the hands of another, but I shall bear it with pride nonetheless," Tyrion said with a grateful bow.

A footman came to Elendil then and handed him something long, wrapped in cloth. He held it with a certain fondness and a smile on his face and walked over to his son Isildur who stood next to the King. He unwrapped the cloth to reveal a sheathed sword, with the sword belt wrapped around the scabbard. The sword was long, with a steel crossbar, the hilt was wrapped in leather which was inlaid with narrow lines of silver and gold, and the pommel was engraved with elvish runes. Isildur's eyes widened, he recognized that hilt, and he recognized the sword.

"Narsil," Isildur said reverently. Elendil held it out towards his son.

"Take it Isildur," Elendil said. Isildur's eyes widened in shock.

"No, father, I cannot take this. It is the Sword of the Lord of the Dunedain, it is yours by right," Isildur said, shaking his head,

"And you are my heir, and it is mine to give to my heir when I wish. Bear it with you with honour, may it always defend the Realm," Elendil replied, and held it out further towards Isildur.

"Thank you father, there is no gift that could equal this," Isildur said. He unbuckled his belt and removed his own sword from his side, wrapping the belt around it and handing it to Ohtar, who stood behind his lord. Then he took Narsil and secured the belt around his waist. Narsil was a little longer than his own blade, and felt unfamiliar at his side, but Elendil smiled to see his son wearing the sword. However, Isildur did not miss the bitter look on Anarion's face as he saw his older brother already carrying Narsil.

With each man and woman having received their gift, great or small, the King's company turned and filed from the Great Hall, footsteps clattering on the marble floors. Together they came to the courtyard with its fountain and the White Tree standing beside, and all their horses waiting for them with servants holding the reins. As the King mounted, the whole company mounted in unison, but Isildur remained standing beside Fleetfoot, his huge black gelding, while his father and brother stood near to him.

"You're the best man I know," Anarion said to him, the bitterness was gone now from his face and sincerity was plain in his tone.

"Do your duty Isildur, and then come home safely, that is all I ask my son" Elendil said. Isildur embraced them each in turn, and then swung up into the saddle of his horse.

"Farewell to all of you! May the blessings of Illuvatar and all the Valar be with you, and may the good wishes of Dunedain and Andals and the First Men and all people of the Eight Kingdom follow you on the Road" Elendil cried in a voice loud and clear enough so that the whole procession could hear him, and he raised his hand in farewell. Robert swung his arm forward, and riders spurred their horses onwards, while there was a cracking of whips as the drivers of carts and the Queen's carriage sprung their vehicles into motion.

Raising his hand to his father and brother one last time, Isildur set the spurs to Fleetfoot and trotted forward, beneath the Citadel Gate, and onto the road that would take them east, out of Annúminas and onto the Kingsroad. With a great clattering of hooves on cobbles, and the groaning of wains, and the sounds of wooden wheels on the road, the King's great company departed from the Tower of Elendil. Elendil himself stood there, beneath the White Tree, and watched them leave, and after they were gone he stood there in thought for a long moment. Then he sighed, and turned, and walked back into his hall.