A/N: Who knows when a new chapter of this story may strike? Certainly not I.
A New Hope
Dull Amroth didn't look too bad, all things considered. It was the first real human settlement Harry had encountered. Oh, there had been Lake-town and a few other villages and hovels, but Amroth, dull as it may be, was undoubtedly a city.
Maybe that was getting a little over-enthusiastic. It was still only really a town, but the buildings were actually made of stone. That, apparently, was the height of technological development for Men in Middle-earth.
Tall, white walls protruded over high cliffs, with proud banners bearing swan-ship sigils in silver and blue, draped over every available surface. Harry was willing to give them some point for style, at least.
Even if the swan sigil was a bit… sissy.
Horns were blasting out across the city's walls, and Harry's sharp eyes could make out much bustling activity on the dockside. Perhaps belatedly, he realised that many of the panicked looking Men high up on the cliff-top walls were pointing directly at Howard, who was undulating through the calm waters in the lee of the headland.
Best nip that in the bud. Howard was a fairly forgiving sort, but all bets would surely be off if someone tried to shoot at him on his way into the harbour. Harry whistled a command at the living ship, and moments later a spray of water pattered over the deck as he submerged beneath the waves.
"Where has the abomination gone now?" asked Glorfindel, his eyes scanning the waves. He had completely failed to warm up to Howard, much to Harry's surprise. "Is it leaving us at last?"
"No need to worry," said Harry easily as he leaned on the railing at the prow. He was getting pretty good at the lingo after a few days at sea. "He's around somewhere. Just told him to keep a low profile while we approach. Don't want him getting riled up again, after-all."
Glorfindel's eye twitched just slightly. That really had been a shame about what had happened to that Elf. What was his name? Harry couldn't remember, which he figured was probably fitting, giving the chap didn't seem to remember his own name either after his transit through Howard's somewhat unusual digestive tract.
That had been the first and last attempt by any of the Elves on the boat to attack Harry's pet. He'd really shown an admirable amount of restraint, Harry thought. The unfortunately unnamed Elf would surely recover some day.
"What will Howard do once we make land-fall?" Tauriel asked. Of all of the Elves, she'd taken best to the mere fact of Howard's existence, but even she was not completely sold on the idea of a partially sentient ship-abomination. "The journey from here onwards will be over-land."
Harry shrugged, unconcerned. "Up to him I guess. I'm sure he could have a grand old time hunting down some more pirates. Just imagine: The swashbuckling tales of Howard, Champion of the High Seas!"
"Does it truly please you to create such abominations?" Glorfindel asked, turned at last away from the sea again. "What worth is the suffering of these people to you?"
"I think he's cute," said Harry. He caught sight of one of Howard's long flagella, slipping beneath the keel. The eyeballs on it had eyeballs on them, he noted. "In that cute-ugly way. Like a pug."
That answer didn't seem to get much traction with Glorfindel, who simply maintained his overly serious gaze.
"Look, I'm not doing this for my benefit, you know," said Harry with a sigh. "I'm just trying to teach you all the lesson you apparently failed to learn when the little trinket trying to burn a hole in my pocket was first made. Ugly bastards can have a heart of gold, and the prettiest tosser alive can still be a right wanker underneath."
"I think it simply amuses you to see our discomfort," said Tauriel, once again managing to see through Harry's hastily made-up cover story.
He grinned, flashing his all-too-perfect teeth. "Got me there," he admitted, "but you have to admit if he wasn't so horribly ugly, he'd actually be pretty fun. Like a really big dog. With tentacles, and far too many eyeballs and oozing orifices."
That did somewhat raise the obvious question in Harry's mind. Just how many oozing orifices was the right number?
Actually, now that he came to think of it. He was coming into a proper human port at last. A port meant sailors, and sailors, if his somewhat spotty memory of period piece clichés was to be believed, meant women.
More specifically, it meant women of, lets say 'negotiable' affections.
Feeling suddenly and inexplicably buoyed by that realisation, Harry turned his gaze back towards the quickly approaching docks.
They'd been built at the base of the cliffs on which the main city perched, and Harry could see some winding stair-cases cut into the stone leading all the way to the top. There weren't all that many buildings in the port itself. Just a load of big sheds, probably meant for storing whatever produce the ships brought in before it was transported up to the city proper.
There was also a fairly large welcoming party forming up. It included a lot of heavily armed men in very shiny armour. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they all had swans on their helmets. Harry would have to have a word with them if that was how they were planning to go into battle. Not the most intimidating animals, swans.
Shortly, the ship drew up at one of the open spaces on the largest pier. Before they were even fully tied up, a voice called out to them: "Greetings, noble Elves of Lindon. Our sentries saw the beast that was hounding you on your approach. Are any among you wounded? The houses of healing will receive any who are in need of aid."
"Hail to the Knights of Dol Amroth," Glorfindel called back. "There are no injuries, but we have a great need of council with the Prince."
A gangway was extended from ship to pier, and the first over it was a very tall Man with dark hair and grey eyes that put Harry in mind of Elves more than men. Really, it was only the thick beard and conspicuously unpointy ears that identified him as a Man.
"Then you are in luck," he said. He was obviously not a young man, but his voice was strong and held much authority. "I am Angelimir, Prince of Dol Amroth. What matters have you that require my attention so urgently. It is rare indeed in these days to see a ship of Lindon in our docks."
"We are on a quest most urgent," said Glorfindel. "I am Glorfindel of Rivendell, and with me are Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond of Rivendell, and Tauriel of the Woodland Realm."
Harry glanced around and was surprised to see he wasn't talking out of his arse. Elladan and Elrohir really were there. Where the fuck had they been? Did he want to know? Both of them looked the worse for wear though, which was a surprise. Harry didn't think Elves were capable of that particular look.
"Where the hell have you two been?"
Neither of them responded, but it didn't take a genius to interpret the rapid glances they were shooting the water, as if they expected it to rise up and consume them at any moment. Really, what use were they going to be if that Pigflee guy was as bad as they all said?
Glorfindel, continued as if Harry's interruption hadn't even happened: "Finally, this is our charge, Bronduíst Amoron. We would speak with you in secrecy, if you would allow it."
The Dull Prince of Amroth glanced between the Elves present, and it was obvious he recognised some of the names that had been given. After a moment, he sent his guards back to the shore.
"Many of those names are known to me. What important business brings so many Lords of the Eldar to my city?" he asked, his voice serious.
Glorfindel didn't waste any time. "A great Weapon of the Enemy has been found, and we are tasked with bearing it to its destruction, to the Sammath Naur itself. We would ask you for your aid in this quest. Guides and supplies to see us into the realm of our mutual foe."
Arge— Anjillie— Angie the Swan Guy was silent for a long time, evidently unsure how to take the news. Understandable, Harry supposed. It was probably a bit of a surprise, all things considered.
"These things will of course be supplied to you," said Angie after he'd worked out which way was up. "Indeed, I shall send a company of my Swan Knights with you unto the Black gates of Morannon themselves if you would ask it of me, Lord Glorfindel. If you would but delay a short time, the might of Gondor could go with you on your quest. Such a small company as you are would surely be unable to cross the plains of Gorgoroth. It is said that Barad-dûr is under construction once more, and that the passes of the Ephel Dúath swarm with his servants."
"No need to bother," said Harry with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I'm sure we'll manage."
Angie turned towards Harry, and for the first time regarded him properly. "Child, the servants of Darkness swarm almost without number within Mordor, and there are whispers that black riders are abroad, carrying his word to his old allies. Already, the Corsairs attack our shipping, and the Haradrim probe the defences of Harondor. Great Lords of the Elves your companions may be, but I have read the histories. The might of Sauron has felled mightier many great Lords."
At that moment, and with a remarkably prescient sense of timing, the sea on the other side of the pier began to boil and bubble. From the broiling waters, Howard emerged.
Long appendages, woody in appearance, and yet almost gelatinous in motion, rose from the depths of the bay. The men there panicked, but were swept aside with lazy ease. Eight of the huge limbs, each unique and unfamiliar, set themselves upon the cobbles and with an ease that belied his sheer mass, Howard raised himself from out of the water.
His form was an ever changing flux. Thick, almost mucousy liquid ran off his titanic form in great waterfalls, soaking those unlucky few who still remained on the pier. They tried to flee, but it was slippy, and all they could do was crawl away in utmost terror.
As his hulking form was placed gently down atop the pier, the limbs, tentacles and flagella which adorned his entire length melted away into his body. The many-faced eyes, and madly dancing tongues slid across his form until a large patch became free of them, smooth, with swirls of wood-grain twisting languidly in its fleshy depths.
A great rift opened upon that smooth flesh, and Howard's huge, toothy mouth was revealed. An immense purple tongue, adorned with suckers and human-like eyes, flopped out onto the pier.
Then, slowly, uncertainly, a small group of people walked out from within his unseen, fetid depths. The oar-slaves, Harry realised somewhat belatedly. He hadn't even considered them.
As each of them left, they patted Howard in obvious gratitude, and his immensity vibrated with a low noise that Harry told himself could not possibly be purring.
Once all the slaves had been released onto the dock, Howard's mouth closed up again, and his ligneous flesh knitted itself back together to leave an unbroken surface once more.
Then, as everyone stared at what had just happened in the absolute silence of incomprehension, Harry turned to Angie.
"Sorry. Where are my manners. Please, meet my favourite pet; Howard. I hope he addresses your concerns?" he asked as he clapped his hands together in his most business-like way. "Now that that's settled. Can anyone point me to a brothel? I have some personal business that is long overdue."
A/N: I've had a bit of a busy couple of months. Holidays, and completing my draft of Toppling Heroes, and doing the necessary editing took up a lot of time. I've been really enjoying the change of pace in writing my HP/DC series, and this is a change of pace from that. Also, new chapter of Shadow of Angmar is on the horizon. Just getting a final edit before it gets posted!