Eriador - The Second Age of the Sun
In the years following their embassy, Helluin and Beinvír roamed Eriador as they had aforetime and the decades passed in a tense peace over which hung a pall of encroaching doom. Only once ere the war were they summoned to Lindon, and this was in Ivanneth S.A. 1675, when a messenger found them camped amidst the wooded uplands that would be later called the Emyn Beraid, the Tower Hills of Arnor.
"Helluin Maeg-mormenel, thou art summoned to the council of the High King, and at thy own discretion thou art invited thither as well, Beinvír of the Laiquendi," he had said, adding, "I am instructed to lead thee thither at once."
With a groan they had packed their things and followed him down out of the hills, finding again a company on horseback. 'Twas but twenty leagues to Mithlond, and from there they had gone by boat to Forlond and the king's court. Indeed, Gil-galad met them in the courtyard.
"Helluin, Beinvír, I am glad thou hath come," Gil-galad had said without a trace of irony, though the glint in his eye gave Helluin cause to be apprehensive, "it so happens that there is a matter I should present to thee both."
He had led them straightaway to his study, the very same room in which they had met Celebrimbor 74 years before. This time the visitor who awaited them was even less expected. Indeed upon seeing him, Helluin had gagged and felt the floor lurch. Beinvír had steadied her with two hands and given her a worried look. He's tall, cute, blond…ex-lover perhaps, she had wondered. But the truth was even more incredible.
"But…but…you're dead!" Helluin had croaked. Beinvír gasped. The ellon Helluin was slowly backing away from had chuckled and risen to greet them, or more rightly, greet Helluin. He and Beinvír had never met.
"Aunten andave," he said, barely able to keep from laughing at the expression of disbelief on Helluin's face. He added in his musical voice, "Utúlien at¹."¹("Aunten andave", "I went away for a long time", past imperf. "Utúlien at", "I hath just come back", past near perf. Quenya)
"But…you fell…" Helluin stammered, still not believing her eyes.
"And a long way down it was too," he confirmed, "Thorn Sîr…yes, I remember the fall but thankfully not the landing. I was surely dead by then."
It took some time for Helluin to regain her composure, but eventually she had been able to introduce her old friend to Beinvír, though still not fully believing he was present.
"Beinvír, this is Glorfindel, Lord of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin," she had said, "or at least he was when last I knew him. Glorfindel, this is Beinvír of the Laiquendi of Eriador, ar meldanya¹." ¹(armeldanya, "and my beloved" = ar (and) + melda (beloved) + -nya (my, 1st pers sing poss suffix) Quenya. Note:melethril, femalelover, is the Sindarin equivalent of the Quenya, melisse, whereas melda doesn't signify a specific gender)
Beinvír thought she was doing well to have clasped his hand in greeting without passing out. Glorfindel appeared disturbingly normal. His hand felt warm and solid in her own. But he was returned from the dead, his fëa released into a reconstructed hroa after 1,780 years in the Halls of Mandos.
I swear he looks unchanged from the Gates of Summer in F.A. 510 ere the city fell, Helluin had commented silently to Beinvír, I still cannot believe it.
Eventually they had sat and the king had said, "Lord Glorfindel comes hither from the Undying Lands to aid in our struggles against the Lieutenant of Angband. The Powers hath only recently granted him dispensation to cross the Sundering Sea. I hath given him what background I can, but thou, Helluin, hath more firsthand knowledge of the Enemy than any other. Also, thou were once comrades in arms long ago. I hath summoned thee hither to brief Lord Glorfindel and to provide any assistance to him thou can."
It made sense. Whereas Gil-galad and Glorfindel had never met, Helluin had known the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower in Aman, ere the Exile of the Noldor. They had both lived for centuries in the city of Gondolin, serving Gil-galad's uncle, King Turgon. And they were more nearly contemporaries, whereas the son of Fingon was millennia younger than either of them, High King though he was.
And so Helluin spent many days in Forlond, at the court of the king, speaking with Glorfindel and poring o'er maps. Oft times Elrond would join them, ever curious and ready with a question. He came to be comfortable with them both in that time, spending thus more hours in Helluin's presence than ever before. Having known him off and on all his life, she was impressed at his font of knowledge and wondered if he had indeed read every book in Lindon, as Gil-galad had once claimed. The king had spoken thus in jest to Helluin one afternoon, but she had perceived the pride in his voice for the young Peredhel's growing wisdom. Following the short time spent with Maedhros and Maglor, Gil-galad had taken Elrond into his house, treating him as the son he'd never had. In the coming years, the brother of Elros would carry heavy responsibilities on behalf of his king.
Beinvír came to like the reincarnated Elda¹, for Glorfindel was noble and kind, with a sharp sense of humor and a strong sense of duty. He treated her ever with respect, and at times told her stories of the Hidden City, of Beleriand, and of the Undying Lands. These tales were oft as not of Helluin, much to Beinvír's delight, for coaxing them from her friend was much like squeezing gold from a Dwarf. In return, Glorfindel also asked her many questions about her people, whom he'd met only briefly, once early in the 1st Age at a great feast, yet had heard much about from the Sindar in Nevrast. Days passed into weeks, and then a month came and went. Now 'twas Narbeleth and the leaves were changing. ¹(Elda, Elf, particularly one of the Calaquendi, sing. Quenya)
"The years grow short and war will soon come," he said one afternoon as the three sat in a quiet garden in Lindon, "and ere all these lands host the ruin of battle, I should like to see them while still green and free. I should like to breathe the air of Middle Earth and walk in forests far beyond Beleriand that I knew." He looked from Helluin to Beinvír with a clear and steady gaze. "Would thou consent to take me upon a short excursion, a tour of sorts, about Eriador? I know thou art accustomed to traveling together alone, yet for a short time, a month perhaps, could thou endure my company? I should prefer it ever so much to a mounted escort of two dozen from Forlond," he confessed.
"In truth we hath abided here longer than ever before," Beinvír admitted. "Autumn is a fine season in this land and I feel myself yearning for open spaces and forests."
"And I as well," Helluin agreed. "I should like to be gone ere the king discerns some embassy or errand to lay upon me such as he deems no other so fit for," she said with the hint of a grin. "And I should much enjoy thy company, Glorfindel. We hath not had leave to walk the land since ere we left Vinyamar, you and I, and I would hath thee gain thy first impressions of Eriador in my company. What say thou, meldanya?"
"I too would enjoy thy company, Glorfindel," Beinvír said. She glanced up and eyed the westering afternoon sun. 'Twas already too late to comfortably take their leave that day. "Shalt we set out then on the morrow?"
They quickly agreed on that course, planning to be gone a month.
"I shalt go thence to the king and explain our plans this evening," Helluin said.
"Nay, perhaps 't'would be better if I were to do thus," Glorfindel offered, "for 'tis at my request that we go forth, and in any case, Gil-galad still seems willing to grant me somewhat of his indulgence. I do believe he remains awed at my circumstance." He grinned.
"So be it then, my friend," Helluin said, and Beinvír nodded in agreement.
They set out the next morn at sunrise, walking first to the quays to board a boat for Harlond. After crossing the Gulf of Lune, they paid their respects to Cirdan and Galdor and others of the Lords of the Sindar there, and then set out again afoot to the east. They walked Harlindon in peace, following the Ered Luin northwards until they passed into Eriador near the very hills where Helluin and Beinvír had first been summoned to Lindon.
There they made a camp and spent several days, for riders came from the Havens of Mithlond that lay but 35 miles west. In that company were Sindarin Elves, some of Cirdan's people, and some mariners of Númenor, enjoying their hosts' hospitality for a time of hunting. The once Elf of Gondolin was highly impressed by the lordliness of the Dúnedain, for in Beleriand, he had met very few Men. The Númenóreans were completely astonished at him. Gondolin was a legend to the Dúnedain, the home of Tuor and Idril, the grandparents of their first king, and Glorfindel's tale was known to them. They stayed two nights 'nigh the trio's camp, forgetting entirely their search for beasts in favor of tales and lore told first-hand. All of them harkened to his words like schoolchildren, though great mariners they were.
When they left the hills the trio traveled east, passing o'er rows of downs and entering a central land of green and rolling hills mixed with open woods. This land, (which would one day comprise the Shire), was populated in those days only by a few Men of Eriador, and wandering companies of Laiquendi. One of these they met, a group of about two dozen, encamped in the lee of a low hill beside a pleasant stream.
The Green Elves greeted them with a warm welcome, crowding around Beinvír at first to hear tidings of her adventures. Indeed some of this company she knew from long before, and others had acquaintances in common with her, so there was much news to share. The biggest revelation though, was Beinvír's account of the fate of Dálindir, whom none had seen in centuries. She recounted the tale in full, with Helluin adding details and Glorfindel listening in amazement. The Green Elves were shocked. Some wept and all were sorrowful. They unanimously agreed that the falls of the Withywindle should remain afterwards unvisited. When they left, they would spread the word. And that night they sang laments for their lost king until the sun rose the next morning.
Late in the night, with the melancholy strains of the Laiquendi floating on the cool air, Helluin and Glorfindel walked away from the gathering around the fire, climbing up over the hill to its far side where the firelight could not be seen. There they sat in the drying grass looking up at the sky. After a while, Glorfindel lay back, the easier to see the stars o'erhead, and he lay there for a long time in silence as if counting those stark points of light. Helluin too lay down, one ear listening to the faint sounds of singing from o'er the hill, the other waiting for her friend to speak. From of old she knew he tended to silence and contemplation when the mood came upon him, and though it had been a long, long time since she had last awaited his words, she had not forgotten.
"Helluin, the sky looks to my eyes faded from when I really saw it last in Middle Earth," he declared softly, "and though I saw it every night in Lindon, I never truly saw it until tonight. There is something about being in the open, in free and wild lands, which makes all the world come alive to the senses. 'Twas not the same in Aman. Here 'tis only Varda's lights that kindle in the sky above, not some radiance of the Undying Realm, or some luminosity of the Valar that lies upon the land. I think the same was true in Gondolin. I last truly saw the night sky from Nevrast ere we came to the Hidden City. Doth thou remember that night?"
"I do," Helluin replied, recalling the memory. "'Twas on the third night returning to Vinyamar from the Mereth Aderthad nigh Eithel Ivrin; a night much like this one when Tilion came not bearing Isil to light the heavens. Those of us who had accompanied Turgon had crossed the Ered Wethrin, but had remained in the highlands above the Marshes of Nevrast, south of Linaewen. That night we walked away from the camp, just the two of us, higher up into the hills to see the stars. They were so bright then, still undimmed by the passing years, each with its own color and brightness."
"And the sky, like inky velvet one could almost reach out and feel," Glorfindel said wistfully, "so deep and so dense, as it had weight and a texture and a presence. 'Twas majestic." He fell silent again, looking upwards. For a long time he remained so. Indeed Helluin wondered if more was forthcoming, but he had just begun.
"Thou know'st how a fire burns, my friend, catching quickly, burning fierce, then passing to embers and finally to ash?" Helluin nodded. "So too doth Arda progress Age unto Age in its life's story. I feel 'tis progressing now from a blaze to a bed of coals, the flowering of all things wilting, its high tide ebbing with time, and its slow decline begun. The intensity of all things is diminished; the depth of the darkness, the brightness of the stars, the purity of good and evil, the strength of our spirits. In the slow passing of the years is the vitality of the world sapped, and it happens so subtly that even to such as we, it creeps upon us at unawares, save at times of reflection such as these when, comparing what is with the memories of what was, we note a difference at last. Never again shalt the stars possess the poignant wonder they once had, riveting the attention in awe of what the Valar had wrought. All things dim and ever further shalt they fade." He sighed.
"I had noted the dimming of the stars, my friend. Upon the sea I gazed again up at them and found not their first brilliance. It saddens me, to think the morning and noontime gone and the afternoon passing eventually to dusk. Yet we art immortal," Helluin said, "and we shalt endure the fading of the world."
"Yes, we art immortal and yet no different," Glorfindel agreed, but he saw the same truth in a different light. "Since the coming of the sun and moon we hath entered upon a path of fading. You see, I deem we art experiments; created to answer the question, whether 'tis better to live as a few with immortal life like the Eldar, or as many constantly renewed through death and birth as art Men. The time of our part in the experiment is passing to its close. The weight of memory becomes ever more a burden, crushing us eventually. The very act of living drains the fëa, but quicker still, it sublimates the hroa. We cannot stay ever in Mortal Lands. We shalt pass either into the West, or into oblivion."
"I had thought only about the gradual tiring of the spirit, deeming the body a house immortal," she said, "and thou believe rather that the hroa is more at risk."
"The hroa is a physical entity, made of the stuff of Arda and subject to the effects of time. Thus ‘tis subject to being drained…to fading. The fëa is undying, a creation of the One, and I myself am the proof. As such, ‘tis subject to being weighed down and o'erburdened. Yet 'tis the way things were meant to be, Helluin. In the First Song was all presaged, and so the world runs on to its conclusion, the struggle's final end in the Dagor Dagorath, which, mind thou, shalt be championed by a Man avenged."
At this assertion, Helluin raised an eyebrow in question, but Glorfindel passed on to another topic without elaborating.
"I came back to aid in the struggle that hath continued from of old, for 'tis the same war. Nay, not the same enemy, but certainly the same goal; always there shalt be a new face or a new name upon it, but the malice and evil, and the disregard for the lives of others is unchanging. Did not dissension mar each movement of the Song? Ever shalt there be contention arising anew, but one day we shalt not be here to fight it, for it shalt no longer be our fight, just as this shalt no longer be our world. The Firstborn's time is passing and shalt find its end in the ascendancy of the Younger Children of Iluvatar. This is known."
"Yes, 'tis known, and yet the when is not. And I know that there art some forces that tie one to the world. I still hath a fondness for the Hither Lands, or perhaps an affinity for the change that comes here. Ever hath my spirit sought adventure, yet I know not from whence such an impulse arose. I know I felt it all the days I passed in Aman. It keeps me here still. And now there is yet more…"
Glorfindel chuckled. "I believe I shalt be able to discern the proper time of my leaving. I hope thou shalt not overstay thy welcome in the world, Helluin, for thou hast long been drawn to combat, and combat shalt go on forever. The desire to fight one more battle or right one more wrong shalt tempt thee to stay indefinitely so long as the anger that drives thee yet lives. Thy wanderlust I deem thou were born with, and that shalt tempt thee too. And I fear yet more for thee for another reason."
Helluin turned to him and again quirked an eyebrow in question. Now Glorfindel turned from the stars to look into her eyes ere he continued.
"Helluin, I knew thee in Gondolin and ere that in Aman. I knew thy brother too. You know I understand the source of thy darkness and what drives thee in battle. I see thee now with Beinvír and I am happy for thee both. But I cannot imagine what would come to pass should some doom befall her and leave thou alive, tied then to the world by yet another bond of heartache and memory."
Glorfindel's words very nearly made Helluin choke. It was her worst nightmare.
"She refused passage to Tol Eressea to stay with me," Helluin whispered. And after a pause, she added even more softly, "I would bathe this world in blood to avenge her."
After this they again fell silent, each thinking and staring up at the stars, and so the night passed away into memory.
The trio wandered Eriador for three more weeks, going as they wished, without schedule or destination. But finally Helluin and Beinvír brought Glorfindel to Harlond on 11Hithui, and then they took their leave. They spent the next 20 years roaming Eriador and expecting war.
In early Gwaeron, (March), S.A. 1695, the first warnings came from a wandering company of Sindar in southern Minhiriath 'nigh Glanduin. The season for campaigning had begun with winter just past, and now as of old it was the time of the year for war. The Sindar had seen clouds of dust rising in the distance toward the pass between the Hithaeglir and the Ered Nimrais. It had made them suspicious and tense with foreboding, but when they'd gone to investigate, the reality had been yet worse than anything they had imagined. Rather than companies of Enedwaith as they'd expected, they had seen a host of Yrch, the Glamhoth vanguard of a great army of invasion. They had fled in terror lest outriders or scouts catch them and they become a meal.
Splitting into two bands allowed the Sindar to report to both the nearest Elvish settlement and to their lord, Cirdan. Their words had come to Eregion a few days later. Within a week the tidings had been heard in Mithlond and Lindon as well. In Ost-In-Edhil, Celebrimbor immediately sent word to Khazad-dum, and from there the alarm passed to King Amdír in Lórinand, where Celeborn and Galadriel had stayed after returning from Greenwood.
The warning spread too amongst such other free peoples of Eriador, Men, other wandering Sindar, and the scattered Laiquendi as could be found. Sauron was invading! His armies had left Mordor and come northwest at last. Reaching Lindon at almost the same time as the hastening Sindar came mariners, Nandor out of Belfalas, telling of a great march of at least two hosts out of the Black Land. They had issued from the Morannon, marching from Udûn with great store of weapons and gear, and wagons loaded with provisions, crossing Anduin at Cair Andros and making their way thence westward through the open lands just north of the White Mountains. The vanguard of Glamhoth alone had numbered 25,000. The main host was at least twice that count, and in it marched many Easterling Men. And they came on as if the whips of Mordor were at their backs.
Having known for a century that Sauron would attack still left the peoples of Eriador unprepared for the swiftness of the onslaught. In Lindon, Gil-galad franticly called for all his people to assemble, already knowing Eregion would be besieged ere he could come to their aid. In desperation he dispatched Elrond thither to aid Celebrimbor, leading every warrior who could be horsed within two days. It was scarcely two thousand cavalry that went, and they had a ride of nigh on 265 leagues ere they came to the battle.
The same night he heard the news the High King took pen and parchment, and he wrote the plea he had long anticipated sending. A rider delivered the missive to Mithlond in greatest haste, nearly running three horses to death to cover the 70 leagues from Forlond. At noon the next day, Gil-galad stood with Gildor and Glorfindel, watching as a grey ship plied the waters of the Gulf of Lune, heading west for Númenor. Well 'nigh a fortnight sailing to reach Romenna, he thought, weeks to mobilize, and then at least a week for their armada to return. Then they too must ride east to Eregion. We must hold the Enemy for closer to a season ere their strength can avail us in battle. Rather it would be five long years ere the King's Ships landed in the Hither Lands.
While Gil-galad worried about strategy and allies, Glorfindel wondered where his old friend might be. War had come again, and amongst the Host of Gondolin there had been none so fell or so fearsome to the enemy as Helluin Maeg-mormenel. Deep down the high king feared her; Glorfindel had sensed this, and though Gil-galad seldom mentioned Helluin, that fact alone proved his point. With a war looming, she should have been a regular member of his counsel and certainly a part of his army. She was neither.
The Lord of the House of the Golden Flower suspected that Helluin and Beinvír were wandering Eriador somewhere as was their habit, and he hoped they were far from the invasion force. And most of all he hoped Beinvír was safe. Much as he had come to like the elleth, he feared for her safety because of what her death would do to his old friend.
I would bathe this world in blood to avenge her.
More than 300 Yrch and a dozen Tor had died at her hand in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and that on the fourth day and half the fifth, the only span in which the Gondolindrim had fought on the field. There the darkness had possessed Helluin, driving her to a level of violence previously unimaginable to the Eldar. She had neither rested nor supped and she had ignored all orders. Lost in the depths of her wrath, she had known only her bloodlust, her sword, and the enemy. All because the malice of Feanor and his sons had led to her younger brother's death 490 years before. 1,840 years later her own king feared her because of the old stories about her mania. Glorfindel shook his head and went to his chambers to check again the arms and armor he had brought from the Blessed Realm.
In fact Helluin and Beinvír had been camped upon the South Downs, and from those heights they had espied the hastening Sindar bearing word of the invasion to Eregion. Such a thing, eight Grey Elves fleeing east as if pursued, was not to be ignored. Helluin and Beinvír had quickly marched to intercept them. On 10 Gwaeron, (March 10th), they met the band upon the road, 50 miles northwest of the confluence of the Mitheithel and Glanduin. The Sindar were very nearly in panic and they shied at seeing the two Elves standing before them in the middle of the road. Helluin hailed them when they stopped 30 yards away and reached for their weapons.
"Hail and well met, my friends. Wherefore doth thy haste take thee?" She asked.
"Stand not before us, nor stay us from our urgency, stranger," the foremost of them called out as the others fitted arrows to their bows, "our errand cannot wait."
Helluin moved her armored figure before Beinvír, making herself a shield in case they fired, but the Green Elf had an arrow in her own bow trained on the leader's right eye.
"I seek not to stay thee, only to ask whether any assistance I may offer," Helluin replied, "therefore I pray thee, stand down. If thou art pursued by foes we may aid thee. I am Helluin Maeg-mormenel of the Host of Finwe, friend to Cirdan and Gil-galad and Celebrimbor. Thou know me or know of me, I wager. But if thou fire upon us I shalt surely slay thee all and thy errand shalt die with thee."
The Grey Elves quickly whispered amongst themselves and then relaxed their bows but lowered them not. Again the leader spoke.
"I hath heard of thee indeed, but none here know thee. Yet if thou truly be Helluin Maeg-mormenel, show us thy weapons, for by them we shalt know thee."
Here Helluin drew Anguirel and lifted the Sarchram from her waist. The black blade spoke as she held it up, its heartless voice ringing across the distance to the ears of the Grey Elves who shuddered to hear it.
"Doth thou offer me the blood of these Sindar? I hath tasted naught of it since Avernien and gladly shalt I drink of it now."
And the Grave Wing said, "And so too shalt I drive their spirits unto the Void."
So horrified were the Sindar that one even dropped the arrow from his trembling fingers. The leader lowered his bow and the others followed.
"Indeed we art pursued, but so too art all in this land, and no aid can thou give against this enemy's numbers. We hasten to Eregion to bring tidings to Celebrimbor. The armies of Sauron art come upon us and we hath seen their vanguard not two days ago. I pray thee, delay us no further from our errand."
At his words Helluin replaced her weapons and Beinvír lowered her bow. Both were shocked by the words they'd heard. So Sauron had come at last.
"Wither did thou see them? In what direction did they march? Of what kind were they? By thy guess, what was their count?" Helluin asked by reflex.
"We saw legions of the Glamhoth of Morgoth entering Enedwaith, issuing from the pass betwixt Hithaeglir and Ered Nimrais. They were turning north, skirting the foothills of Methedras and moving fast. ‘Tis a host as of old…as in the Elder Days."
"Two days ago," Helluin mused to Beinvír, "and now they art perhaps 65 or 70 leagues from Ost-In-Edhil. An ten-day march and another day to order their companies for battle. They shalt first assault Eregion. Sauron comes for the Rings." She turned to her friend who was wide-eyed at the Grey Elves' tidings and said, "Come, let us stand aside for these messengers. No aid against such numbers can we give such as would change the final outcome."
Then she called forth to the Sindar, "Hasten thou on thy way for thy tidings must be heard. Thy pardon I beg for delaying thee thus. Pray tell, hast word been sent hence to Lindon as well?"
The leader called out in answer, "Indeed the other half of our company even now hastens to warn those in Lindon. They should come to Cirdan in Harlond in four days."
Helluin and Beinvír had moved to the side of the road and the Sindar approached them warily. The Elves nodded to each other in acknowledgment as they passed, but none on either side smiled in warmth or greeting. Soon the Grey Elves were out of sight and the quiet peace of the land resumed. The two friends stood alone as if the meeting had been but a dream.
Now would be a good time to be in Númenor, Beinvír said silently to Helluin as she caught her eyes, perhaps thy king has such an errand upon which to send thee?
No doubt, Helluin replied, but t'would be to Eregion, I wager, or perhaps to Mordor as a spy. I think I shalt keep well clear of Lindon for a century or two, meldis nin. Sauron shalt assault first Ost-In-Edhil, then Lindon. He hast come for the Three, no doubt. Only an idiot would look elsewhere, and Gorthaur is no fool.
So then whither shalt we go?
To Ost-In-Edhil, of course, Helluin said with a glint in her eye. Beinvír's eyes widened in alarm. Helluin gave her a reassuring grin. We shalt be there a few hours at most, days ahead of the enemy, and only to convince Celebrimbor to leave. I am in part guilty of setting him on his course towards ring making and the empowerment of objects, for the Sarchram was the first. I cannot leave him to Sauron. You see, Celebrimbor will think himself safe so long as he withholds the secret of the disposition of the Three, and he might even believe Sauron values his mastery of crafts. But Sauron shalt slay him, for he values him not, having already exceeded him in craft, and of the Three, he shalt soon guess where they reside. He goes only to make sure they abide not still in Eregion.
Helluin and Beinvír came to Ost-In-Edhil in the evening of 13 Gwaeron, and found it in a panic. The gate was closed tight and the guards held them at arrow point, demanding their names and business from the ramparts above the gate arch. When they were finally admitted they discovered they had been preceded by the Sindar only two hours before. These were in the White Tower, speaking with Celebrimbor. Helluin demanded audience with the Lord of Eregion, but had to be satisfied when the Captain of the Guard sent a messenger thither.
If he doth not make haste I shalt slay him myself and no worries of facing Gorthaur shalt he need, Helluin fumed silently.
Peace, my friend, Beinvír said, trying to sooth her.
If we cannot see him this eve, I shalt take thee and make haste northwest. I shalt not tarry here while Sauron's army draws nigh. This city is a death trap. If these guards try to constrain me I shalt wash these walls in their blood.
She got up and began pacing to and fro, making the guards yet more nervous. Beinvír sighed and sat still, closing her eyes and letting her mind float off into a memory of the land of Nisimaldar in far off Númenor. She remained thus absent for some time. Finally, after another hour, during which Helluin had taken to upsetting the guards yet further by performing sword drills on the causeway outside the guardhouse, the messenger returned with word from Celebrimbor, summoning Helluin and Beinvír hence at once.
About damn time, Helluin chaffed as she strode through the streets toward the White Tower. Beside her, Beinvír hastened to keep up and the guard accompanying them was practically running. When they arrived, Helluin pushed her way past the herald at the door, at this point caring nothing for protocol. It seemed Celebrimbor was of like mind.
"I know who she is," he called out in a harried tone. "Helluin, never hath I been so glad to see thee. Thy arrival is too timely to be coincidence. I wager thou know'th our peril?"
"I know thy peril," Helluin began while still some yards away, "and Eregion would likely be ignored were thou absent. Sauron comes for thee and thy treasure. 'Tis time to leave, son of Curufin."
She had made her way to face him, Beinvír a step behind, and the two Noldor looked each other in the eyes, speaking their secrets in silence.
Thou know I cannot leave, Helluin, though thy counsel be sound. Were it not for the Three, Sauron would assail Lindon for to deprive our people of their king. And there he should recover two whereas coming hither he shalt recover none. I find I am the decoy.
Thy ploy shalt buy but scant time, Celebrimbor. Surely thou can see that? He need only find thou hast them not ere he slay thee and make thence his war upon Gil-galad. Thy life and the lives of thy folk shalt buy the king a month at most. Weeks more likely. Hardly worthwhile.
Helluin, I hath four, maybe five days ere Ost-In-Edhil is laid under siege and Eregion invested. 'Tis not time enough to evacuate all. Some at least must stand and fight, delaying Sauron so the rest can make good their flight. Surely thou can see that?
I do not! Thy folk, all who would consent, can hasten to Khazad-dum and thence to Rhovanion and Greenwood should there be no welcome for so many in Lórinand. The West Gate thou wrought with Narvi stands but a day's march east. Thou hast friends there who would admit thee, and beyond Hithaeglir yet more friends who would succor thee and thy people. Go, I pray thee.
And bring down Gorthaur on those innocent realms yonder? Nay! I shalt not lead the Cruel One to the Doors of Durin! I hath too great a love of its people. Nor shalt I lead him thither to the free realms of Amdír or Oropher. His war is upon the Noldor…and upon me.
His war is upon all in Middle Earth who bow not to him! Hast it not always been thus? So it was with his master in Beleriand! Thou art the start; the thralldom of all is the end. He shalt come against all realms in his time whether thou live or die this day. Choose life! Flee, Celebrimbor, live to fight another day.
Helluin, I cannot. At last all the logic and reasoning went out of the argument and finally they spoke of the real reasons for the decision he had made. Would thou leave behind all the achievements of thy life to prolong it yet a while? Would thou leave behind that which thou love and which shalt not be again? Would thou live on in a world diminished by the loss of all thou hold dear? I shalt not. Rather would I die defending my own and bow not to Sauron by giving him leave to separate me from my heart without contest. Helluin, thou know some things made once cannot be made again, even were the same hand to assay the task, for the heart of the creator is in them and can only be given once, much as to each child in a family is a measure of love given unto that child alone. I understand at last my grandfather's doom.
And he was wrong, Celebrimbor! Feanor brought doom not only upon himself, but also upon all his family, nay, upon all his people, for that love of which thou speak. Join him not upon that path, my friend! I pray thee. Despite irreplaceable loss, thou shalt craft great works in the years ahead, and thou shalt not save those thou hast made here by staying. Please….
But Celebrimbor shook his head. He looked once more into Helluin's eyes and said, A long road we hath come from that day thou threatened to slay me should I betray thy friends 'neath the mountains, eh, mellon nin? We hath come to know much of one another in the last millennium. Fear not for me, Helluin. My life hast been in the works of my hands. My spirit hath flowed hence and I am thus diminished. To me, all else appears now grey, no longer bright and fresh; for me, Arda hast paled. I know thou feel some responsibility for the path onto which I hath ventured. Much of my later direction was presaged in the creation of thy Sarchram, was it not? He gave her a sad smile.
At this, Helluin could only nod in agreement and lower her eyes in shame. But Celebrimbor reached out to her and lifted her chin so she again looked him in the face.
No fault do I ascribe to thee, Helluin, though Gil-galad may deem it otherwise. He chuckled. As for me, I honor thee for all thou hast done. Thou paved the way for my friendship with the Naugrim, my allies and brothers in craft, and thou inspired the creation of my greatest works. No craftsman could ask more of a patron. And yet thou tried to warn me of Annatar too, and now thou hast come hither, despite thy own peril, to try to convince me to flee…to save my life though I hath led our enemy to us with war. I bid thee flee, Helluin. Save thyself and thy beloved. Thou hast yet many battles to fight.
In that moment, Helluin knew Celebrimbor would never leave Ost-In-Edhil alive. She would find no argument to sway him. More like to his grandfather in the end was he than had any suspected. The thought made her sad. Perhaps in another world, she would hath felt such sympathy for Feanor too. Yet whereas Feanor had been violent in his passions and had cared little for others, his grandson was even-tempered and considerate, though no less decisive. He was much easier to like and much more deserving of respect. Helluin nodded to him, accepting his decision and he sighed with relief.
"If there art any ready to take flight from the city, I would beseech thee to lead them hence, for few know the ways of Eriador as do thou," Celebrimbor said, "but tarry not here awaiting their preparations, my friend. Convey hence only those already prepared to leave."
"I shalt do so, my friend," Helluin said. For the last time she clasped his hand and found his grip firm and steady. "Perhaps we shalt meet someday upon the Further Shores."
He offered her a smile, saying, "I shalt await thee, for I deem thy tale shalt be long and interesting to hear." Then he turned to speak with others concerning the defense.
Helluin and Beinvír ended up spending the night in Ost-In-Edhil. At first light they led forth three hundreds of the citizens who desired to flee to Lindon. They hastened from the walls on that spring day and no clue to the coming bloodshed could any discern in their surroundings. The air was warm, the breeze pleasant, and the sun shone bright upon the peaks of Caradhras, Fanuidhol, and Celebdil that stood o'er Hadhodrond. Birds sang in the branches of trees along the road. The Elves spoke little for they were o’erborne with uncertainty and fear, but they kept order and proceeded at a good pace. 25 leagues to the south, the army of Sauron closed in at a rate of 30 miles a day.
At the crossing of the Glanduin their company was joined by another five hundred fleeing the lands of Eregion outside the city. They too were an ordered group with few carrying more than necessary. These, Helluin thought, were the smart ones and those most likely to survive. Later would come the indecisive, those unable to leave behind their goods, and those who had first chosen denial of the threat. Their choices might hath cost them their lives. Helluin had no way of knowing how wide a front the enemy maintained, or how far afield their scouts moved. In another day or two, refugees might well be harried or taken by the advance companies of the Glamhoth. Helluin pitied such unfortunates, for they would most likely be tormented for sport, cruelly slain, and then tossed to the troops as rations. Knowing this, she drove the refugees forward for the next three days until she could overhear them cursing her. It brought a smile to her lips. They hath yet the energy to curse, she thought, and so I know I am not pushing them beyond their means. By then they were a week and 175 miles from Ost-In-Edhil, upon the road and midway between Glanduin and Baranduin. She let them slow to 20 miles a day.
Three days later, as the eight hundred refugees drew nigh the River Baranduin, a rising cloud of dust was sighted in the distance, coming down the road from the west. Helluin gathered all those with any arms and brought them to the front of the column. The rest of the refugees she bid hide themselves in the woods north of the road. Then with 150 archers, she arranged a thangail pengorin him gwilorl ecthelingin¹andwaylaid the road against whatever might assail them. ¹(Thangail pengorin him gwilorl ecthelingin, lit.trans. Army of bowmen constantly shooting arrows" A formation (thangail, army in wall-formation) of archers, four or more ranks deep, sufficient to produce a continuous volley of arrows directed at a target. Sindarin)
It was against a thicket of bowmen that Elrond rode with his cavalry, and seeing them from two furlongs blocking the road four ranks deep, he called his column to a halt a furlong from their lines and dismounted to parley with those ahead. It was traditional procedure, but unnecessary, for he rode forth under the banner of Gil-galad.
"Echádo tovon i-pengath!¹" Helluin ordered, and her troops stood down. ¹(Echádo tovon i-pengath!, lit trans. "Make low all the bows!", ver.trans. "Lower all the bows!" Sindarin)
Helluin and Elrond met at the midpoint between the cavalry and the lines of archers. It was the first time she had seen the Peredhel in a full suit of plate armor, gleaming like polished silver in the spring sun. He was girt with a longsword, but had left his spear with his horse. By contrast, Helluin was dressed in a travel stained grey-green cloak that covered her black battle dress and armor. Very nearly the only bright metal she carried was the Sarchram, and that was hidden 'neath her dingy fabric. She looked very much like a beggar.
"Helluin, I should hath expected that were anyone to form an army so soon after the invasion of Sauron it would be thou," Elrond declared with a smile. Helluin laughed. "Pray tell, where did thou recruit them and whither doth thou march?"
"In Ost-In-Edhil, my Lord Elrond. Indeed these art those of the refugees who hath their hunting bows with them. Another 650 art hiding unarmed in the woods north of the road. We art bound for Lindon. Doth thou ride to Eregion?"
"Indeed so," Elrond said. "What can thou tell me of conditions there?"
"We art ten days out from the city. When we left, the enemy was but five days away. By now, I deem, Ost-In-Edhil stands besieged by an army of 25,000 or more. Thou shalt not break the siege with thy cavalry. I wager the city shalt stand but a week or two."
"No more than 3,000. Perhaps 1,800 archers upon the walls. The rest swordsmen."
"He refused to flee."
Elrond sighed and fell silent. Ost-In-Edhil might well fall ere he could even arrive. By now the way thither was probably held against him in force across a wide front held by many enemies with yet more to arrive soon. According to the reports from the Nandor of Belfalas, his cavalry was outnumbered by over 35 to 1. His wry sense of humor did not miss the fact that he had been halted upon the road by 150 refugee archers. Helluin's voice broke him from his brooding.
"Lord Elrond, where art Glorfindel and Gil-galad and the other lords and knights of Lindon? And hath word been sent across the sea to Númenor?"
"Word hath surely been sent thither, Helluin. I came with the vanguard; all who could be mounted in two days. The king waits on the mustering of Lindon and then he shalt come with greater force as soon as may be."
Helluin nodded. The strength of Lindon, both Noldor and Sindar, would probably comprise no more than another 12,000 on horse and afoot. Mostly infantry, they would be slower to muster and slower to travel. It might be another two weeks or more ere they stood here.
Elrond felt his errand a doomed cause, and yet he had his orders. And every moment he stayed his ride but made the situation worse.
"We must be on our way, Helluin," he said, "and perhaps to do little more than harry the enemy's flanks. Yet they should not take all of Eregion uncontested, and many shalt be occupied in breaking the city. We must ride."
Helluin stood aside with her archers and Elrond returned to his horse. Then taking up his spear, he gestured his column forward. The refugees stood along the side of the road as the cavalry of Lindon thundered past by at a canter, a shining river of valiant knights, their armor gleaming silver in the sun. Yet they ride unto their doom, Helluin thought, and in numbers insufficient to do aught but worry the enemy's companies and die by attrition of battle. Amidst the Host of Fingolfin they would hath been but a company.
When they had passed away down the road leaving naught but dust in their wake, Helluin and Beinvír urged the refugees on. After another fortnight they delivered them to the Grey Havens at Mithlond. They had not encountered the rest of the army.
Now when they had arrived, Helluin had found that Cirdan was indeed at the Havens rather than in Harlond. There he was awaiting boats that would bring the infantry from Forlond, for t'would be faster to send them by water than march them hither by land. Gil-galad would ride with his knights to meet them, and thence together they would march upon Eriador. Therefore she came to Cirdan to ask tidings of the king.
"My lord Cirdan, Lindon musters and indeed we hath met Lord Elrond upon the road a fortnight past. Hath the king conveyed any orders or summons for me?"
Cirdan had looked at her, one of the few in Lindon who did so without nervousness or fear, and simply told her no. He had heard nothing from the king naming her in any capacity. Indeed he thought this understandable. The king considered her ungovernable in battle, fey in her wrath, and very nearly as much a danger to friend as to foe.
Cirdan had chuckled at her shocked expression adding, "Ereinion hath never seen thee at war. Avernien was already decided ere we came thither, but tales abounded and the bodies of Amras and Amrod and many others hewn by thy hand did he see. Thence from the survivors of Gondolin came stories of the great battles of Beleriand, and these but confirmed his impressions. He knows not what to do with thee, Helluin; indeed he fears thee. Were I thou, I should go thither ere he comes, for he is greatly uncertain and might well dispatch thee hence to Khand or Rhûn, simply to be done with thee."
Helluin gritted her teeth but thanked the Lord of the Havens, gathered Beinvír, and departed. She found herself intensely aggravated by her king's dismissal in time of war.
"C'mon, meldanya, let's get out of here ere by the king's grace I am sent to Udûn."
They departed Mithlond even as the first of the boats filled with soldiers were drawing ‘nigh the quays. Rather than head east, Helluin took a path north up the River Lhûn until it joined the tributary running down from the Emyn Uial. This they followed eastward to the Twilight Hills where stood towns and settlements of Men. To these they passed word of the invasion of Sauron, and they bid them marshal themselves such as they could for the defense of their homes or for flight south to Lindon.
Afterwards they made their way yet further eastward, until one afternoon they stood in the same lands in which she had spoken with Glorfindel. There they came upon a great conclave of Laiquendi, well nigh a thousand with more arriving by the hour. 'Twas the first time the Host of the Green Elves had assembled in an Age.
"By the Valar, what goes forth?" Helluin asked of Beinvír.
"They know of the war, my friend, and they marshal to defend their lands, what else?"
"How many shalt come?"
"I hath no idea," Beinvír admitted, staring around in obvious surprise at the numbers of her people already present, "Indeed, I doubt not that they hath no idea themselves. I myself hath never seen so many together. I am sure that such a gathering hast not been since we dwelt in Ossiriand."
Helluin looked around again, recalling the absolute stealth with which Dálindir's host had tracked and met the sons of Feanor returning from Avernien. She had never known how many there had been around them in the woods. She had never heard any count of their people. She had never known any of the Noldor or the Sindar who had. Even now a visual count was difficult, for many sat motionless and seemed to vanish into shadow or the green of plantlife, only to move and become visible again. With their present numbers the effect was disturbing, as though the landscape were uncomfortable in its skin and twitching, first here and then somewhere else.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, and then all through the night the arrivals continued. In the dark a count was impossible.
"How long shalt this continue?" Helluin asked.
"'Twas the way of our people to mass on a given date at a given place, rather than to linger for days in a place while stragglers arrived. I should wager that by morning all who art to arrive shalt be here, and Helluin, many will arrive by dark, favoring the cover of night."
In the morning's first light the surrounding landscape came alive, for the Green Elves shed their cloaks and stood. Amongst them moved a small cadre of their lords, and these would command them for the king was absent and likely dead. The leadership had passed in time of war to the king's general, Tórferedir¹, an ellon of three millennia in age, who had served in Ossiriand under both Dálindir and his father Denethor, the last time in which his people had stood in posture of war. ¹(Tórferedir, King's Hunter. Sindarin)
Helluin stood beside Beinvír as the commanders moved through the ranks towards them and she noted by the sidelong glances cast their way, for they had marked her as not of their kindred. Indeed Helluin had sensed more welcome in Khazad-dum. After what seemed like hours, the commanders at last stood before them.
"Who art thou? From what company doth thou come?" Tórferedir's lieutenant asked.
"I am Beinvír and for a time kept company with Dálindir, but he is long lost and since his passing I hath roamed with my friend, Helluin of the Noldor," Beinvír answered.
The general gave her a long, appraising look, but Beinvír met his glance without wavering. He nodded to her and then looked at Helluin with the slightest indication of a sneer.
"What aid can'st thou hope to give save to reveal our presence untimely? He asked.
"In truth I had no thought of aiding thee at all," Helluin said, "and I shalt certainly not serve thee. I came hither with my friend but by chance. Indeed neither of us sought thy muster and knew not even of its being called."
Tórferedir fairly gaped at her. For all practical purposes this Exile had dismissed him! He turned back to Beinvír, who nodded her agreement with Helluin's words. To Beinvír he ordered, "Thou shalt join this host either by thy choice or in constraint and under probation, for thou art still of our people."
Last he returned his attention to Helluin, but now he appeared openly hostile.
"I should slay thee as a spy or perhaps take thee in bonds to Lindon for the bounty offered on the head of a deserter. The Noldor hath been called to Lindon to serve their king. Thou art a renegade and a coward, I deem."
But Tórferedir had made the mistake of accusing Helluin while looking her in the eyes and ere he could withdraw his gaze, her wrath at his words flared and the blue fire kindled. Then his will was dominated by her power and he was restrained, bound and unable to move. Into his mind came both Helluin's voice and the pictures of many battles, images of fighting that froze his blood and filled him with terror. No hidden assault upon an enemy unaware were these, but rather tireless slaying face to face. Blood spraying and the screaming of the wounded, the falling of bodies and the clash of arms. He saw what Helluin had seen in the Dagor Aglareb and the Nirnaeth Arnoediad; his mind walked in her footsteps and watched her blade hewing her enemies. It lasted only moments to those who stood by watching, but it shook the general more than all his years at war. Then she blinked and released him and he staggered until his balance returned.
Ere he could compose himself, Helluin snatched him by the collar and hoisted his feet off the ground. She held him thus, ignoring the rush of bows drawn all around her, and she pressed the Sarchram tight against his throat.
"For his trespass shalt I gladly slay this thy enemy," the Grave Wing declared.
Helluin's rage was kindled; Tórferedir accusations, Gil-galad's rejection, and Sauron's invasion all fed her anger, but without the outlet of battle it took an even more frightening form. Now though her mouth didn't move her words came into the minds of all nearby, bearing wrath, indignation, and a promise of fell retribution.
"By craven devices doth thou and thine slay from hiding, and thou presume to call me coward, spy, renegade, and deserter? I should not only kill thee but send thy fëa beyond the Halls of Mandos and into the Void. I hath taken such measure of the blood of the Enemy that my own king now fears me and disdains my service. Thou would fear me as well were thou but wiser. Neither shalt thou take me nor lay me in bonds, and should thou constrain my beloved I shalt hunt thee down, nay, not just thou alone nor those who lay hands upon her, but all thy people unto the last though it take unto the end of days."
Then it seemed that to those who stood nigh, that Helluin's whole body ignited with a brilliant light, and scarcely could they even cast their eyes upon her figure. Soon no target could they discern amidst the brilliance and no clear outline could they perceive through the glare. For if one who hath lived in the Blessed Realm stands as a phosphor and at once upon both shores, what then of one who had bathed for a millennium in the very source of the Light Undying? She flung Tórferedir from her and reached out to encompass Beinvír in her radiance, drawing her into the cloud of light. At her feet the turf smoldered and burst into flame.
Ere Helluin mastered her rage and diminished her manifestation of power, the Laiquendi had fled.
To Be Continued
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