In An Age Before – Part 23
The Restoration of Peace, Eriador - The Second Age of the Sun
To the camp of the Allies Helluin had come, a dour figure in her black armor, bespattered with drying blood and stinking of a slaughterhouse. The Dúnedain reveled in her presence. Partially because of her past association with the royal house of Westernesse and partially because of her recent overwhelming mastery in battle, they accorded her more respect and esteem than even the High King. This was evident in the way the Men thronged about her in the camp, the praise of their toasts at the victory banquets, and the frank adoration in the eyes of very nearly every soldier. Such was not lost upon the High King, and he felt both unsettled and somewhat guilty in his heart for his past treatment of her.
Gil-galad had been cordial when she had come before him to present the pennant of their defeated enemy, traditionally a great token of war, but he had been at a loss for what to say to her. He had slighted her many times since the war began and yet she had unwaveringly served his cause. She had engineered the northern victory upon the Lune, led the charge to relieve his encircled cavalry, and taken the pennant of the enemy. She had followed those few orders he had given her, but she had accomplished far more on her own initiative. And most tellingly, despite the fact that she had commanded none, Helluin had inspired those who fought beside her more thoroughly than any other. She had led by example and were popular acclaim to rule, she would now command this host.
"Helluin Maeg-mormenel, great and steadfast hath thou proven thyself in battle," he had said, though that had been obvious to all and she had proven both in Beleriand long ere his birth, "and upon the field no other hast achieved more by prowess of arms. I am honored to count thee amongst the Noldor and I am honored by thy allegiance to the crown."
It had been lame and they had both known it, but Helluin had handed him Sauron's pennant then bowed and withdrawn, seemingly with little concern. Two things she had wanted most and neither was his praise; the first was a long hot bath and the second, her return to Beinvír in Imladris. One was beneath the king's station to grant, the other beyond it had he even known. As ever, Gil-galad simply didn't understand her.
In the end she settled for a quick scrub and a cold drenching and then joined in the festivities of the host. Many casks and kegs had been tapped and much fare provided. At least she could slake thus her thirst and hunger.
"I felt thy wrath amidst the battle, my friend," Glorfindel had said softly as they'd taken a quiet moment together over cups of wine, "and it was terrifying. And I heard thee repeatedly cursing and challenging the Dark Lord himself."
"He fled before me, Glorfindel," Helluin had said in disgust, "leaving behind aught but a few lackeys, his pennant, and Celebrimbor's body." Her demeanor had grown morose.
The Lord of the House of the Golden Flower looked over at her. They had won a great victory this day. Had she really been so eager for single combat with Sauron that she felt naught but disappointment now? Most would hath welcomed deliverance from such a confrontation. Glorfindel recalled Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, who had ridden alone to Angband and challenged Morgoth to single combat. He had died before the gates of Thangorodrim.
"Had he but left a horse, I would hath brought Gil-galad his head, not merely his heraldry," Helluin muttered into her cup, recapturing his attention.
Glorfindel half believed her. She might actually be capable of prevailing.
"Maybe 'tis just as well," he said, "I feel his doom lies far ahead and beyond the hands of the Eldar is his fall."
Helluin looked him in the eyes for a moment, pondering the veracity of his prophecy. In Gondolin he had never spoken with foresight, but since then he had died, spent time in Mandos, and had returned from Aman. Who really knew what he was capably of now.
"Perhaps 'tis so," she said at last with a sigh, "he hath still his Ring and his head. He shalt visit war upon us again I deem."
To this, Glorfindel had nodded in agreement. He wondered how long she'd tarry.
The celebrations continued for a week. Great was the feasting and ubiquitous was the drunkenness. Many came to congratulate her, becoming ever more effusive with the amount consumed, until after three days Helluin had finally had enough. She slipped quietly from the encampment, wrapped again in her cloak of subdued greens, stealthy as one of the Laiquendi, and none marked her passing.
I am sure they shalt find some other cause for oratory and song besides my deeds, she thought as the sounds of mirth faded into the night behind her, for indeed so oft hath they been recounted of late that I scarce care to remember them myself. She headed north.
In the lands west of the Mitheithel she saw evidence of the passage of those of Sauron's soldiers who had fled the Battle of the Glanduin. They had left many tracks and the remains of poor camps. They too were marching north, though to what destination, she knew not. Now despite their defeat they still comprised a force of several thousands, easily large enough to threaten battle to any but a host, and they were desperate and no longer under the command of their master. Much evil could they bring to the land while the victors ate and drank to the south. Helluin hastened forward in stealth.
After a fortnight Helluin stood again outside the slot canyon that pierced the red sandstone cliff upon the western walls of the northern Hithaeglir, and proceeding hence through it, heard again the challenge of the Guards of Imladris.
"I am Helluin Maeg-mormenel of the Host of Finwe, newly come from the war with tidings of victory," she declared, "I pray thee convey me hence to Lord Elrond."
In truth she couldn't hath cared less about seeing the Peredhel. 'Twas to find Beinvír that she had come. That reunion occurred rather quickly after Helluin's presence was reported in the valley.
Helluin was indeed conveyed straightaway to Elrond to present her tidings. Unlike the High King, the Lord of Imladris greeted Helluin warmly, meeting with her in his study and rising from his chair to envelope her in a hug.
"Glad am I to see thee again, Helluin," Elrond said with a wide smile, "and newly come, safe and victorious from the war. I hath sent word to Beinvír to come hither, and in the meantime, pray tell me of thy days since thou left us."
"Well, my friend, the days hath been long with toil and filled with bloodshed, but also with victory hoped but unlooked for," Helluin said.
Ere she could continue the door burst open and Beinvír leaped into the room, laughing gleefully and launching herself into Helluin's arms as she rose from her seat. The Noldo barely caught her flying form, but couldn't stop them from crashing o'er backwards. Beneath them the chair splintered, dumping both ellith onto the floor in an undignified heap. Helluin found herself staring briefly up at Elrond's ceiling, ere her vision was eclipsed by the face of her beloved drawing closer. She closed her eyes and met the Green Elf's lips with her own. Absence and the horrors of war had made them softer and sweeter than she remembered. For timeless moments she was lost in the kiss, but eventually she came to her senses, prompted thus by the chuckling of the Peredhel. Elrond was reclining in his chair watching their reunion with a mirthful glance.
Helluin struggled to maintain her composure, lifting her head and meeting Elrond's gleeful eyes. She had seldom felt so chagrined.
"I doth sincerely apologize for the casualty of thy furnishings, my Lord Elrond," she managed to choke out ere Beinvír recaptured her lips.
"I suppose the loss of a chair is but a small impropriety compared to thy compromising position and thy propensity for making out upon my floor," he cackled, "art thou oft so shamelessly inclined?"
To Helluin's mortification, Beinvír turned to him and asked, "Art thou always so shamelessly inclined to watch?"
To her credit, she had said it with a straight face, only breaking into a grin when she turned back to face Helluin and suck on her lower lip, effectively constraining any apologies on her part.
Eventually they reclaimed their dignity and got to their feet, finding Celeborn leaning against the doorframe and suppressing his chuckles. Later the four sat upright in undamaged chairs, enjoying some refreshment while the remains of the first chair crackled in the hearth. Elrond had waved off all their words of apology and expressed 'naught but joy at their happiness.
Now that Celeborn had joined them they spent the remainder of the afternoon in counsel and Helluin's revelations brought them both wonder and joy and sadness. But her final detail left Elrond unsettled. Several thousands of the enemy still roamed the land, probably now nearer to Imladris than to Tharbad. Ere the four went to the Dining Hall he had ordered the watch upon the pass doubled and the valley's level of preparedness increased. That night, after the evening meal, the tale of the defeat of Sauron was recounted through the hours of darkness in the Hall of Fire.
Now it came to pass that Elrond took counsel with Celeborn and his advisors, and the next day he ordered his people to prepare themselves for battle. Too long, he deemed, had they hidden. Two weeks later, when the scouts beyond the pass had reported signs of approaching enemy companies, he marched forth with his warriors to meet them. As later stories hath told, the last of Sauron's northern army was destroyed, caught between the forces of Elrond and Gil-galad.
After the week long celebration, during which the king had become increasingly bored and Glorfindel increasingly worried, Gil-galad had ordered the Eldar north to complete the war. The Lord of the Golden Flower had reminded him that many of their enemies had escaped the battle and fled north and thither had Elrond taken refuge. And though Glorfindel mentioned it not, there too had Helluin probably gone. So it was that the two Elven armies converged upon the remnant of Sauron's army and utterly destroyed it. At last the victory was complete and for many years the lands had peace.
Now when the armies met, Glorfindel greeted Elrond, whom he had not seen since ere they parted ways in Lindon when the Peredhel rode off to war, and he asked after Helluin and Beinvír, for neither of them did he see amongst the warriors of Imladris. But Elrond shook his head and admitted that he knew not whither they had gone, for though Helluin had come indeed and Beinvír had long been amongst his people, they had left upon some errand ere his folk had marched to battle. Where they might be now, he had no idea, for neither had named a destination.
To Be Continued
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