‘You must,’ I said.
‘Nay,’ replied Mr Elessar, ‘I am not worthy.’
Then King Théoden got up. ‘Very well then,’ he said oldly. ‘What should we do now, hmm?’
Just then a messenger came in from Gondor, covered in blood and dying from being stabbed. ‘Help,’ he said. ‘Mordor is attacking Minas Tirith, and Rohan must come to our aid!’
At that same moment, another Gondorian messenger also entered. ‘Help,’ he said. ‘The Corsairs of Umbar are raiding Lebennin, we need Rohan to help kill them!’1
‘Oh dear,’ said King Théoden.
‘So it has come to this,’ I said. ‘All the wicked folk of Middle-earth are now making their move to claim the Last Ring, and so we must kill them all. But now so it is so now that we must now make an impossible choice. And we must choose that choice immediately, now. Do we go and stop the Corsairs, or the Orcs?’
‘I think we should stop the Corsairs,’ said Mr Elessar. ‘I know them well,2 they’re brigands and ruffians like me and my Rangers, but from Umbar, and also they have a great fleet of boats and ships that they sail around in, taking prisoners and loot and so on.3 They’re very bad, and very dangerous, and I think we should probably stop them.’
‘But my army rides around on horses, and horses aren’t any good on water,’ argued King Théoden. ‘If we do anything, we should go to Minas Tirith and fight the orcs who are going there, and stop the wicked High Steward from betraying the city to them.’
‘A dilemma,’ I pondered wisely.
‘Also,’ added Théoden, ‘Maybe I won’t go to Gondor with my Rohirrim either way. It’s a very long way away, and I am quite old.’4
‘But the Corsairs have to be stopped!’ argued Mr Elessar.
‘And Minas Tirith has to be saved,’ said Éomer.
‘But what about the Corsairs?’ countered Mr Elessar.
‘Well, I don’t know,’ said King Théoden. ‘It doesn’t really seem like my problem at all, I think.’
‘What do you think, Lord Tallow?’ asked Princess Éowyn voluptuously. ‘Should we go fight the Corsairs, or the Orcs, or do something else?’
‘I must consider this problem,’ I said wisely. ‘Also we should probably bury Théodred, and get rid of Éodred too. In the morn, let us decide!’
So was it was so that we buried the good prince Théodred, in the ancient crypts of his ancestors, and there was much weeping and sorrow as he was laid to rest, because of how sad we all were, especially Éowyn. Also we tipped Éodred’s body into a ditch.
After that, I sought out Mr Elessar, who was brooding mysteriously in a high tower of Edoras, his thought troubled.
‘Hello Mr Elessar,’ I said.
‘Hello Lord Tallow,’ said Mr Elessar, sounding troubled.
‘I know what troubles you,’ I said. ‘You do not want to go to Minas Tirith.’
‘Aye,’ cried Mr Elessar. ‘Truly you perceive truly, Lord Tallow. I am afraid of what may come to pass. I am afraid of the power that I bear. I fear I am not worthy to become King of Gondor.’
‘It is a heavy burden to bear,’ I intoned gravely. ‘Yet bear it you must, Mr Elessar. Do you doubt me when I say that you are the best of men, better than many I have known?’
‘Nay. But I doubt myself,’ growled Mr Elessar sullenly.
‘You must not!’ I urged earnestly. ‘Someone has to stop Denethor and become King, and figure out what to do with this ring.’
‘I suppose so,’ countered Mr Elessar rejoiningly. ‘But what I said before is also true. Those naughty Corsairs have to be stopped once and for all, and I know their ways, being a rascal like them. I think it would be best to go and fight them.’
‘You may be right,’ I replied. ‘But do not abandon your destiny, Mr Elessar. You must become King of Gondor - it is your destiny!’
‘Maybe,’ he answered slowly. ‘Anyway, I’ll have to think about it a bit more.’
‘So be it,’ I declared, and left the Ranger to his deep dark thoughts.
Next I went to Théoden’s throne room, where the old king was sitting on his throne in speech with his advisors and not dying.
‘Leave us!’ I said, and the advisors left us.
‘What advice would thee have for me, hmm, Lord Tallow?’ asked King Théoden.
‘Well, this be how it be,’ I said. ‘Rohan is ready to go to war, and if we don’t, the city of Minas Tirith will be destroyed and Rohan might be next. Also, Mr Elessar, that man you met before, is the real king of Gondor, and he also has the Last Ring. We have to help him become King, and also stop anyone else from stealing the Ring from him.’
‘Hmm, hmm, I see,’ said Théoden in an old way. ‘But Gondor is very far away, it will take us a long time to get there. And I don’t really like Denethor, why should I help him?’
‘Because Denethor has betrayed us and Gondor and is working for Mordor,’ I revealed. ‘If we stop the Orc army, we’ll also stop Denethor from winning.’
‘Oh I see,’ rejoinded Théoden. ‘Well hmm yes, that is, ah, worth considering. Maybe I will take the Rohirrim to war, then. We can help out Mr Elessar and stop Denethor’s evil plans all at the same time.’
‘That, my king, would be wisdom itself,’ I said.
That night, we made merry and feasted merrily, eating and drinking and having all sorts of jolly times! The Rohirrim were gracious hosts, and their wines, though unknown to me were really rather good.5 The Rangers mostly behaved themselves, and the brigandishy hobbits drank several of the King’s guards under the table! Old King Théoden even danced a jig, and Éowyn’s breast heaved with passion every time our eyes met, or every time we kissed a bit.
Only Mr Elessar seemed disturbed, brooding with dark mystery in a corner, like someone who is trying to decide what to do next but cannot quite figure it out even though his best friend gave him some really good advice.
The next day, we gathered, and King Théoden announced his decision.
‘We will ride to Minas Tirith and to war!’ he declared. Everyone cheered.
However, as the Rohirrim got ready to leave, Mr Elessar came to me. ‘I will go to Pelargir and stop those rotten pirates,’ he said to me.
‘So, you have decided not to go to Minas Tirith and become king?’ I asked.
‘Maybe,’ he answered. ‘I still need to think about it a bit more. Anyway, those Corsairs need to all be killed, so I’ll take my Rangers there and do that. But I would be honoured if thou would join me, Lord Tallow.’
‘I will,’ I proclaimed. ‘For I foresee you will need my mind and wits and skill and sword, Mr Elessar. Also, maybe I can help you with your destiny.’
‘Maybe,’ he said.
So did it be that it was as it always was to have been as it must, and we did depart Edoras the Golden Castle later that day, the big army of the Rohirrim and the band of the Rangers alike, but we were sundered in our separation, and took different roads. The Rohirrim rode to Minas Tirith, as old Théoden said they would, and I wondered if I would ever see that old man again, or if he'd be horribly killed in the meantime. Meanwhile, the Rangers and I went towards Lebennin, and towards strange and great and terrible deeds, deeds that I will write down soon, when I feel like it.
1 It would appear that Nick Tallow did not fully grasp the fact that the Corsairs of Umbar were in truth operating under the command of the Black Land, rather understanding them to be fully distinct political entities.
2 Tallow’s inferring that King Elessar had some familiarity with the Corsairs is, amusingly, not wholly inaccurate, though the premise provided by Tallow is fully false.
3 Clearly some explanation of the Corsairs was necessary for Tallow’s rustic Northern audience.
4 There is no credible evidence to suggest that King Théoden Ednew ever considered forsaking the Oath of Cirion and refusing to ride to the aid of Gondor during the War of the Ring. Some within Gondor, though, did believe that the Rohirrim would renege upon their duty and fail to come to their aid, and it seems that Tallow spun these rumours and nonsenses into his tale. As with his characterisation of “Aragorn Elessar” as being unwilling to pursue the rule of Gondor, though, this is a fiction for the sake of cheap drama, and to grant Tallow credit for Théoden’s “choice” later within the chapter.
5 Nick Tallow seems to have spent little time in Rohan, either before or after the War of the Ring. Various secondary Northern sources record that Tallow likely found it to be a pleasant enough land, as he often spoke highly of the folk there. However, Tallow’s extraordinary skills for grifting and deceit were likely not easily practiced among the Rohirrim, which may go some way to explain the sparse record he left of his brief travels through their minor villages.
However, it seems extremely likely that it was in Rohan that Tallow took upon himself the name, and perhaps even the title, by which he would come to be known further North. The few records of Tallow that exist in Gondor invariably make reference to him by his right name, and often as a Northerner. However, in the North, he is exclusively remembered as “Lord Nicthalion,” and in the township of Harwick in Rohan, there is a ledger record (miraculously preserved) of a “
Nick Nicthalion Tallow, war-hero of Gondor” having stayed three nights in the town’s inn from May 20, 3019.
My guess is thus that Tallow, on leaving Minas Tirith, soon began to embellish his extraordinarily minor deeds, likely still travelling under his own name. Likely after leaving Gondor, he felt it served his purposes better to claim origin from that land, and (perhaps even in Harwick itself) he first tested the name “Nicthalion”, a bastardised and meaningless attempt at a name of Gondorian stock. Doubtless, soon after this he saw fit to include his invented noble appellation, thus beginning in earnest the dubious career of Lord Nicthalion.