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The Műmak by Armariel

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Eldarion and Lúthien were excited out of their minds, as they themselves expressed it. They had heard all manner of stories about the műmakil that the Haradrim had ridden during the War of the Ring, and now they were going to get to see one. The ambassador of Harad was coming to renew relations between Gondor and his own country.

"I hope I'll get to ride it," Prince Eldarion said. He was almost thirteen years old and a bit of a daredevil, yet there was a small twinge of fear in his voice. His sister Lúthien, two years younger, was a lover of creatures, even ones girls did not usually like. She could scarcely wait to see the great beast of legend.

"I SHALL ride one," she declared, as she and her brother hung over the balcony of the great hall watching the crowd in the streets of Minas Tirith, her long dark braid of hair nearly catching in the rose vine that twined around a column below. Their governess, Giluen, had forbidden the children to go down, fearing to lose them in the great crush of the city. "Like Legolas did. Perhaps I shall ride two. One foot on each back, like Uncle Elladan did with two horses that time. I'm not tall enough yet, of course, but I shall be in a couple more years, I think. Nana says I'm shooting right out of my clothes."

"Ada said that story about Legolas and the műmak wasn't true," Eldarion said.

"Piffle," she said. "I don't believe it. Ada just likes to pull our leg."

She never would believe anything bad about Legolas. Eldarion rolled his eyes.

"You'll believe any daft tale you hear about Legolas," he said. "You'd believe he killed a thousand orcs with one arrow if someone told you he did. I suppose you're going to marry him when you grow up. Ugh. Love is the most disgusting thing in the whole world."

Before she could retort, a cry arose from the crowd. More like a roar, and trumpets and bagpipes and drums began to play a marching tune in the distance. Lúthien bounded from her seat.

"It's HERE!" she screamed, and both children fairly leaned so far over the rail of the balcony, that the long-suffering Giluen had to seize them by their belts and make dire threats about what she'd do to them if they were to fall and be killed.

It was several minutes before the mammoth beast became visible far down the lane, amid deafening cheers and screams.

"Look, it has a tent on top," Lúthien said barely above a whisper. "A red one. Someone lives on top of a műmak. I think I'm going to faint."

"I never saw anything so huge in all my life," Eldarion said in awe. "If that thing ever stepped on anybody, they'd be naught but a flatcake. Can you see the ambassador up there?"

"I see many people up there," Lúthien said craning her pretty neck once more. "Perhaps some of them are his wives and children. I heard one of the servants say Easterling men have about twelve wives each. I should think one would be enough. But then, perhaps there aren't enough men to go around. They all died in the War."

"I wonder if Father would buy one for us if we asked him," Eldarion said softly. "A műmak, I mean, not a wife."

"Let's beg him on our knees," Lúthien suggested. "Isn't it MAGNIFICENT?"

The great beast plodded along, its burden swaying back and forth atop, and the children's dog began barking madly behind them.

"Don't bark so, Faxi," Lúthien pleaded as she stroked the animal's ears soothingly. "You'll frighten it."

Eldarion snickered, "Oh, of course he will. I just know that huge thing will be frightened to death by a mere dog! Look, it's fairly trembling, poor creature."

Now it was much closer. Some dark-skinned men in strange-looking outfits were walking along beside with drums, very big ones, marching very solemnly.

"I would give anything to be one of those men," Eldarion said with a sigh. "On the other hand, I'm rather glad I'm not. I wonder who cleans up after it. I suppose they have slaves for that."

"Well," the Princess said, "shall you go down and ask if we can ride him now?"

"I'll wait for a bit," the young Prince said softly. "I'm sure it's very tired from its journey now. We should let it rest for a while. Perhaps a week."

"So we should," his sister said. It was rare indeed, for her to agree with him about anything. But she did this time. However, she couldn't resist tossing a rose from the vine that grew up over the balcony to it.

"If I ever die," she murmured, "I want one of those to lead my funeral procession. Perhaps two of them. But I'd settle for just one."