In An Age Before – Part 25


Chapter Thirty-one

Calenglad i'dhaer(Eryn Galen)– The Second Age of the Sun


The years following the War of the Elves and Sauron had seemed to pass all too quickly to Helluin, and with every new decade some of the ancient nobility and spirit within Arda diminished or was lost. Yet day by day life had slowly advanced without dramatic traumas or the sharp turning points of doom. Beinvír and Helluin wandered the lands of Eriador and Rhovanion together, coming at times also south of the Ered Nimrais to the Kingdom of Belfalas. They were known in Lindon, Mithlond, and Imladris, and it was taken for granted that they would be together forever, whether in Arda or in the West.

Now in the years after the war concluded and Helluin retrieved Anglachel and delivered his remains to the Vanyar from Aman, few things of great renown came to pass in Middle Earth. Among those few events though were the first White Council of Imladris, and the love of Elrond and Celebrian, the daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel. Indeed the two events were linked, for when Galadriel had come from Lórinand in S.A. 1710 seeking Celeborn she had been accompanied thither by their daughter.

To that initial council no summons had come to Helluin. Indeed she was hardly surprised. Yet again she had been excluded from the counsels of her king. Gil-galad, Cirdan, Galdor, Glorfindel, and many other lords from Lindon and Mithlond had journeyed across Eriador to meet with Elrond and the leaders from the other Elven realms. Thither, as was said, had come Galadriel and Celebrian, and with them King Amdír of Lórinand, his son, Prince Amroth, and many of his advisors. There also went King Oropher of Greenwood, accompanied by his son, Prince Thranduil, and even an emissary from King Lenwe of Edhellond. Besides Helluin, those not invited included Tórferedir and all of the Laiquendi.

The meeting of the council was hardly a secret. In the forests 'nigh rebuilt Sarn Athrad upon Baranduin, the wood was thick with Green Elves. Never since the war had they seen so many of the nobles of the Noldor and Sindar riding together with purpose.

"Whither goes't yonder lords, riding hence so many and so fair, think thou?" AskedGwilolrán¹, Tórferedir's lieutenant, as he looked out from the trees at the passing assemblage.Beside him, the King's Hunter too looked to Helluin. ¹(Gwilolrán, Flying Moon= gwilo- (fly) + -l (act pres part suff) + rán (moon) Sindarin)

"I wager they go either to a council or a celebration well planned," she said, noting that the Noldor came with no great escort of soldiers, but with scribes and store of provisions, and they went not in haste, nor tarried as if at their leisure. "They art too many for a private holiday, and too few for a siege. They ride too fast for a lighthearted revel, and far too slow for an emergency. By their direction, I should say they make for Imladris or Lórinand, for Eregion lies in desolation and Ost-In-Edhil in ruins."

"And they doth seek not either thy company or counsels, Helluin?" Tórferedir asked.

"Tórferedir, they asked not my aid in the war, and when at last I arrived following our battle, thence to the Dúnedain was't I assigned. Nay, no word hath come to me, nor should I expect such," Helluin said, trying to stifle her annoyance with being yet again disregarded. "Yet perhaps I should go thither and arrive uninvited simply for the sake of embarrassing the hosts. Indeed I am curious as to what they intend. Art thou not curious as well?"

"If thou think'th that to a council they doth go, then yes, indeed I am curious," he said.

"Perhaps thou should come before them with some dire tidings known to none other then thyself aforetime," Beinvír suggested, "t'would be in character at the least."

"T'would make Gil-galad all the more resolved to ignore me until the end of days," Helluin said, "and leave me thence subject to some errantry unwelcome, I wager, for ever aforetime hast such been my reward." Still, she couldn't help but grin at the prospect.

"I should see thee not dispatched thither to Harad or Khand on account of my curiosity, Helluin," Tórferedir said, chuckling, "nor would I see Beinvír sent thither with thee."

"I appreciate thy concern immensely, of course," Helluin said, "yet I am tempted to hasten thither on my own account despite it."

"Perhaps 'tis time to let lay the dogs and leave them to scratch their own fleas," Beinvír said, "I should rather like to see again the Greenwood, but without enduring Oldbark's welcomes. Since no royalty accompanies us now, t'would be possible, would it not?"

She looked at Helluin hopefully. Helluin smiled back. Go whither I am not wanted, or go thither and abet my beloved's desire, Helluin asked herself, 'tis hardly a choice worthy of thought. And in truth I hath no desire to see Harad or Khand.

"Very well," she said, "to Calenglad i'dhaerwe shalt go."

Beinvír very nearly danced with happiness. As always, her enthusiasm and joy warmed Helluin's heart. She held out her hand and the Helluin immediately clasped it.

"I suppose we shalt be going," Helluin said to Tórferedir and Gwilolrán.

The two nodded to them expecting no further farewells. Amongst their people 'twas not uncommon for one to take one's leave informally and return whenever they chose, with neither schedule nor itinerary. By declaring their destination, Helluin and Beinvír had already supplied as much information as was customary. Their route and its timeframe was their own business, and in time of peace the Laiquendi would never think to constrain them or pry with further questions. It was simply against their nature.

So Helluin and Beinvír walked out of the forest hand in hand, the riding of the Noldor only recently past. Dust still hung in the air and hoof beats could still be heard drawing away into the near distance. Helluin and Beinvír ignored them and followed the road to Sarn Athrad at a leisurely pace. Once across the ford they immediately left the road and headed through the woods to its north, though they continued to follow its track. Their destination was the Sirannon and the West Gate of Khazad-dum. To reach it, they would cross the Gwathlo at Tharbad.

Now when they came to the ruin of Ost-In-Edhil 'twas a sorrowful sight to look upon. Broken walls and burnt masonry traced the line of the outer wall. Toppled stones and the twisted gates marked the entrance. Helluin shook her head as they passed and neither were willing to tarry amidst such a depressing landscape. Through a gap rent in the courses of stones lay the vista of a city leveled to the ground. Sauron's troops had spared nothing, as usual, consecrating their destruction with fire.

Star-blue eyes swept past the place where Helluin recalled the White Tower standing, but there was 'naught save more rubble to mark the site. A short distance away, only the steps leading up to the doorway marked the Hall of the Gwaith-I-Mirdain. Somehow the interval between the two seemed shorter than Helluin remembered it, now that no buildings stood between. For a moment, she wondered why even the steps had been spared, then came to the suspicion that they had remained as a monument to Sauron's triumph. Upon those very steps his soldiery had taken Celebrimbor prisoner. The thought made her seethe as she helplessly recalled his fate and Sauron's cowardice.

Bastard ran from me, she chaffed, unconsciously producing a low growl in her throat at the memory. Beside her, Beinvír cast her eyes at her partner. The Noldo was seeing with her mind's eye rather than what was before her. She shook her head.

"Helluin, the ghosts that haunt thee art only in thy mind, for the departed hath made their way across the sea," she said, "revive not their shades to assail thee, my friend."

"Hard pressed am I to thwart their cries, though they ring only from my fancy unto my waking mind," Helluin replied.

"The war is past, meldanya," Beinvír said, trying out the Quenya she had heard Helluin speak. It didn't translate exactly from Sindarin, a fact she liked very much.

"Yet the memories remain, meldis meldwain nin," Helluin replied.

"I know," Beinvír agreed, "longer than the fallen leaves."

Two days later they rounded a curve on the road to the West Doors and found the sentries numbering two dozen and already awaiting them in a wedge formation. Behind the soldiers stood several others of the Naugrim, one amongst them very familiar.

"Helluin of the Noldor, hail and well met," the captain of the company called out in Sindarin, "we rejoice that thou hast survived the war." He and the other guards offered the two ellith a bow.

"As do I of thee, O stalwart Captain," Helluin replied, bowing equally low. "Hail and well met."

She then shifted her attention to the others, her lips curving in a smile.

"Hail and well met, Narvi, Glad am I that thou hast survived the war," she said.

"Glad am I to see thou both, my friends," Narvi said as he came forward to greet them. Today the Elves felt a lingering sadness upon the vibrant craftsman. "So many hath been lost of many fallen. Oft in these last years I hath desired in vain that somehow we could hath done aught to amend that of which thou spoke at our last meeting. Alas, we could not. Now art Celebrimbor and all his folk lost, his city and lands fallen to ruin, and many others slain as well. The victory is tainted with bitterness and the world diminished." He heaved a great sigh and looked deeply into Helluin's eyes. "So must the kindred of Belegost hath mourned the loss of Azaghâl in the Nirnaeth at which thou fought. The memories of this war sadden us. However doth thou maintain thyself, Helluin, with all the memories thou hold?"

"Sometimes I know not, my friend," Helluin said, "and the weight of such should hasten my Fading. But for the Beinvír's love and the black rage of battle I should certainly hath become forever morose."

"And so thou still love thy place in Arda," he said, "and despite all that hast come to pass, thou art still attached to this world."

"Indeed so. In all Creation there art for my kindred only the Hither Shores and the Undying. Well did I explore the lands across the seas, and now their greatest attraction is lost forever. More call I doth feel to these lands and those living upon them still. I am not yet weary of it."

Narvi nodded in understanding and for a time was silent, but after a while he resumed, and those of the sentries listened intently to his discourse.

"My folk tell of the unseen enemy upon the enemy's flank in the years when they fought in Eregion. Some force marched there and fell bitter upon the Glamhoth. Yrch prisoners taken by our companies claimed that one there flung into their camps the heads of their slain fellows, and of that enemy did they feel great fear. I hath always thought that in their words I felt the echo of the darkness thou hast claimed. Thou marched not with Celebrimbor, Helluin; doth thou know aught of what I speak?"

Helluin sighed ere she answered. In the time spent while Beinvír healed in Imladris she had actually become surprised at how her conduct had evolved. Flinging the severed heads of the Yrch into their camps had been but the beginning and not the worst. She had fallen deep into the depths of her wrath and she had given free reign to her darkness. She was uncomfortable about it, yet not wracked with remorse. This in itself troubled her. That she could do thus, know it to be questionable, and yet not feel more strongly some revulsion o'er her deeds.

"'Twas as thou hath thought, Narvi. Upon the western flank of the Glamhoth did Beinvír and I wreck havoc upon the Glamhoth in support of the retreating Elven host. Ere Sauron turned to fight the hosts of Khazad-dum and Lórinand, we harried them about Bruinen. Then when they withdrew south, we followed."

At her words the Dwarves gave a great cheer.

"Unto the Ghosts of Mitheithel and Bruinen we doth give honor and renown," the captain of the sentries declared, "most fearsome enemy of the enemies. Thou hast spilt the blood of the Yrch in such plenty that all our warriors envy thy prowess. Hail to thee, allies of old. Thou shalt be held in high honor amongst our kindred until the last of days."

The company gave another great shout. Beinvír looked up at Helluin and the Noldo read much in her eyes. Surprise that their deeds were known and recalled waged with darker memories of what had come after. There too was yet more surprise that those she had ever distrusted had come to hold her in such high esteem. 'Twas far removed from her old expectations of being roasted and eaten by the Naugrim. She hoped they wouldn't ask what she and Helluin had done for the rest of the war though.

"We extend our hospitality unto thee both," Narvi said, "and I am sure that many in Khazad-dum shalt desire to honor thee. Many will be the feasts when word of thy deeds is spread. And indeed, I desire thy company and thy counsel. Will thou not enter into our halls and stay amongst us a while?"

Helluin looked to Beinvír, who gulped and nodded. The Green Elf still felt a residual discomfort at the prospect of being underground, but she was resolved to master it. Narvi at least, was a friend. And in Helluin's company, she had already wandered farther and seen more than any other of her people. And so she was excited to think of being the first of the Laiquendi to set foot within a mansion of her people's traditional unfriends. It would be yet another new experience to add to the tale of her years, and what more did one live for, save love and adventure?

"We shalt be honored to accept thy kind invitation, my noble friends," Helluin said, "for thy timely coming in aid to Eregion upset the enemy and thou bought with thy blood the preservation of many lives. We honor thy league of friendship and thy courage upon the battlefield, and we would honor thee as well as receive honor from thee."

The words of praise were traditional in spirit and greatly approved by all those who stood 'nigh. And so Helluin and Beinvír were ushered through the West Gates of Hadhodrond and into the deep halls of Khazad-dum. It was 17 Lothron, (May 17th) 1710.

"So I am now a Ghost of Bruinen as well as a Ghost of Drúwaith Iaur," Helluin whispered to Beinvír as they passed through the Ennyn Durin¹, "and thou with me." ¹(Ennyn Durin,Doors of Durin, the enchanted West Gates of Khazad-dum, built by Narvi and Celebrimbor. Sindarin)

"I understand now thy earlier claim, that titles art the wage of many miles trudged and many battles lost," Beinvír whispered back, "and I should gladly trade this one for the peace that was broken and the lives that were lost."

"As would I, meldis meldwain nin, yet such is not our choice."

By their fourth day in Khazad-dum, the two Elves had eaten so much of the Dwarves' fare that each felt as if they had gained a third again in body weight. The feasting had been very nearly endless. The speeches had become mind-numbing. The toasting and drinking and other celebrations had become well 'nigh revolting in their excess.

"I shalt find my demise here in the deeps more quickly than upon any battlefield," Helluin remarked. "I should doubt that my armor even fits me anymore. Galadriel shalt think me drinking enchanted waters yet again, though this time from a stream whose virtue increases only girth."

"Perhaps she shalt think thee with child?" Beinvír suggested. Helluin choked.

Beinvír was sitting beside her on a sofa, her hands covering her face and her legs sprawled straight out in front of her so as to reduce the experience of a lap. The pressure on her bloated tummy was distinctly uncomfortable.

"Thy friends torture us with merriment and banquets more surely than Sauron with his fires and black arts," she groaned. "Rather than my old fear of being eaten, I hath come to believe the Naugrim slay with excess of kindness and food. I shalt eat myself to death at their tables long ere they roast and eat me. 'Tis such a twist as never would I hath imagined. Yet through night and day they sit beside us supping as ones with bottomless stomachs. Indeed how doth they do it?"

"In all honesty I know not, my friend," Helluin said, "unless it be that the food goes directly to the increase of their beards." She couldn't help revisiting an unwelcome memory of Iarwain's beard chewing the crumbs split from his mouth. She shuddered.

Beinvír tilted her head and regarded Helluin with one eye.

"Say not that I shalt awake with hairy face and bulging belly," she begged. "We must be on our way ere we expire here in the dark. Without sun and moon all times seem as mealtime...'tis neither healthy nor right. We shalt become like Morgoth's thralls in Utumno; Elves ruined in his deep dungeons. Let us be on our way tomorrow, please..."

In spite of their greatest efforts at courtesy and their greatest restraint at table, 'twas two more days ere the pair made their way from Azanulbizar and into Nanduhirion. By then both felt glutted as never before in their long lives. The Naugrim had bid them a joyous farewell, replete with oaths of friendship and alliance, and invitations to return.

Amongst a people whose language held o'er 140 different words for slaying or being slain, the toll Helluin and Beinvír had exacted upon the enemy during the war was regarded as a wondrous testament to the depth of their wrath and their prowess in unleashing it upon their foes. That the enemies had been Yrch was regarded even more favorably. Indeed Helluin had never seen the Naugrim so jovial as when the slinging of the severed heads into the Yrch camps was recounted in the halls of Khazad-dum. The two Elves had become celebrities; very nearly icons of Dwarvish martial culture, and the apotheosis of the warrior spirit. The result was an almost embarrassing form of hero worship...along with endless overeating, drinking, and retellings of the slaughters. Helluin thought a month's starvation a goodly balance for their last week of overindulgence. Beinvír was contemplating begging Helluin to jog with her all the way to the Greenwood, despite her native distaste for traveling in imposed haste.

"No talan in Lórinand is sturdy enough to hold us now, I wager," Helluin muttered as they came 'nigh Celebrant the next evening.

"I cannot imagine climbing for at least a week," Beinvír agreed. "Our weight shalt surely insult the trees. Perhaps we should bypass Amdír's lands entirely." She looked at Helluin, and then off to the south.

"I am not sure I should trade Lórinand for Fangorn," Helluin said, warily eyeing the dark splotch upon the landscape to their south. It seemed to her eyes a blot of night shadow fallen upon the western slopes of the Hithaeglir leading down to the Vale of Anduin. "Besides, 'tis out of our way."

"Thou art correct, of course," Beinvír said, "nor would I favor the dark-hearted and groping trees there o'er the golden mellyrn. Very well, to Lórinand we shalt go, and anyway, our welcome is 'nigh at hand."

The words were fresh out of her mouth when the branches ahead parted and Haldir, March Warden of the Northern Borders, stepped from the trees. He smiled in welcome as he walked toward them.

"Ai! Mae govannen¹, Helluin en Rimb Finwe a Beinvír Laiquendi²," he said. "Many hundreds of years it hath been since last 'neath the mellyrn thou walked. I bid thee welcome on behalf of King Amdír in his absence." ¹(Ai! Mae govannen, Hail and well met, a traditional greeting. Sindarin) ²(Helluin en Rimb Finwe a Beinvír Laiquendi, Helluin of the Host of Finwe and Beinvír of the Laiquendi, gen. const., Sindarin)

As he came closer Haldir's eyes widened, for now he found himself looking up at Helluin more steeply than his memory recalled. He gulped and blinked.

"Greetings, Haldir, noble march warden of Lórinand," Beinvír said, offering him a smile. "I am glad to find thee well after the war."

Haldir gave her a smile and nodded to acknowledge her words, but his eyes soon flicked back to the Noldo.

"Hail and well met, Haldir," Helluin said, "and yes, I am again taller than when last we met in thy lord's hall. I am sure thou hast noted a similar effect upon Celeborn and Galadriel in the past as well."

She couldn't help smirking at him. Celeborn at least, had appeared taller when she had seen him in Eregion and Imladris during the war. She could only assume that the same was true of his lady and that the Sinda Prince had drunk from Oldbark's stream merely to keep up with her gains in height.

"I am sorry, but seeing again this effect indeed took me at unawares," Haldir said. "Taller thou art every time I see thee and sooth, such effect too was't in the lord and the lady seen. But that 'twas o'er 300 years past, and though 'twas shocking to us at the time, somehow since then familiarity hath bred...familiarity."

"'Tis so, yet glad am I for thy remark upon my height rather than upon my girth."

At this remark, Haldir was completely baffled and he cast his eyes repeatedly up and down Helluin's figure. She stood girded in her black armor and battle dress, the same as she had been when first she'd appeared before him 1,550 years ago, save that she was now a full hand's length taller. No change in her girth, either of gain or loss, had he marked.

"Art thou with child?" He muttered, but he could detect no trace of a second life within her. He looked to Beinvír in his confusion and found 'naught but laughing eyes and a furtive grin upon her lips. He shook his head to clear it. Ever had he found her beauty disconcerting.

"In proportion thou art much as thou hast ever been," he finally declared, "save only for thy increase in height. Neither stretched nor squashed doth thou appears't to my eyes, I am sure. Whyfore then should I hath remarked upon thy girth, Helluin?"

At this both Helluin and Beinvír couldn't restrain themselves from snickering, so seriously was Haldir regarding the dark Noldo. Their laughter confused him yet more.

"I am sorry, my friend," Helluin finally said, "for I should rather laugh with thee then at thee. We art come of late from the halls of Khazad-dum, wherein we hath endured a week of feasting and revels that hast left us o'erstuffed like fatted sows. Indeed 'tis a wonder that Dwarves art not taller, in light of how dedicated they art at table."

At this, Haldir did chuckle knowingly.

"Ah-ha, more plainly now doth I understand thee, for in the war and after, many times heroic feats of consumption by the Naugrim did I witness. For sooth, 'tis a wonder they doth stand not taller than the Tor, or at the least, as bulky. Come hither, my friends, hence to Caras Galadon shalt I be honored to convey thee."

With that, they made their way o'er Celebrant and through the golden woods, a small detachment of the border patrol joining them for the march. Through the afternoon and into the evening they walked, trading stories of the war and tales of their years apart. By nightfall they had come to Tuna-i-Aldoen, and Helluin saw that the central mellyrn had grown tall, forming a crown of trunks about the remains of the ancient central stump. Again, she noted the faintest of glimmers upon that parcel of land, as if some last remnant or fugitive memory of a Valier's touch still lingered there. Here perhaps Yavanna herself once lay down to rest from her first labors in Arda, and in her thought conceived the first mallorn in the days of Aule's lamplight long ago, she thought.

They stopped for the night a league further southeast, and despite their original misgivings, Helluin and Beinvír were soon ensconced together on a talan with Haldir, while the remaining guards took one in a tree nearby. Long they remained awake, and by the light of a single lamp, shared many tidings.

"Ill as was't the war, still in it, I deem, some good was achieved," said Haldir, "for in the years since Sauron's defeat, of Yrch 'naught hath been seen. Few and fearful they art, if indeed so far south of Gundabad and so far north of Mordor doth any still dwell."

"That is good tidings, Haldir," Beinvír said, "for we art making our way hence to Greenwood and shalt travel the more at ease for thy words."

"Another thing there is then of which I should speak," he said, "for in the last two years unto the banks of Anduin hath come Men. Settlers they art, living in homesteads apart from one another. They bother none and art courteous after their fashion, yet independent also and indeed somewhat aloof. And there is yet more. Upon a few nights in this same time, my guards hath marked the comings and goings of great bears such as in many long years hath not been seen. In the Vale of Anduin and up the slopes of Hithaeglir they doth roam. At times we see them sitting, gazing up at Ithil as with reverence, and sometimes at the mountain peaks. They too bother none and we hunt them not for they enter not the forest."

"Do not hunt them, Haldir," Helluin told him, "nor hinder the Men. Neither mean thy people harm, nor will they enter into the forest save only at great need. This pact they hath with thy folk from the days of Lenwin, and with the peace they hath returned to their ancient homelands. Doth thou know them not?"

"Nay, I do not."

"Then I shalt only say that they art enemies of the Enemy as art thou, and all fell creatures do they abhor. They art ancient, Haldir, though I know not the right tale of their origins. Like the Onodrim they look after their own, seeking neither alliances nor waging open war. Yet they were, in days long past, the allies and friends of the House of Durin, and call the mountains their home. I am glad they hath returned."

"Thou hath known then aforetime these settlers?"

"Indeed so. I hath fought in their company with the Naugrim at our sides. Long ago I called one friend. They art noble and shalt trouble thee not."

Haldir nodded, accepting Helluin's opinion. Of all those he had come to know from beyond the borders of his own lands, none had her breadth of experience. Indeed, the only one he had ever met who approached Helluin's range of travels was Galadriel, and she was strange to him, and had been even more so since shortly before the war. In the future she would become stranger still, yet eventually he would come to understand why.

In the morning they went on their way, coming to Caras Galadon in the early afternoon. There Helluin and Beinvír stayed as guests for two days, trading tidings with those of King Amdír's advisors who had not gone to Imladris for the council. On the third day they set out again, going forth from the forest, north toward the River Gladden ere they crossed Anduin. Perhaps it was mere sentimentality, but Helluin wanted to check something there for old times' sake.

At the verge of the mellyrn wood, thick trunks hid the forms of the two ellith. They stood together scanning the adjacent fields with their sharp eyes. From a short ways off, perhaps a furlong's distance o'er a low rise, came a thin thread of smoke. From yet nearer came the buzzing of bees, and ere the land topped the rise, they marked that the native groundcover had been replaced by tillage of wheat. Helluin smiledand with her friend, slowly moved from the border of the woods.

They moved forward slowly and in plain view, finding a narrow path around the low hill that led to a gate in a fence of split rails, much as one Helluin had seen before. There beyond it, 'cross a yard of clover and flowers, stood a thatch-roofed cabin of logs, from whose chimney, the column of smoke was rising.

"'Tis much the same as the home of Berlun and Grinda that stood close by here 1,500 years ago," Helluin told Beinvír, "and in it I see a way of life unchanged o'er many lives of Men. Glad am I to think that some distant son of my friend hath found a home on his ancestor's land, planting and sowing again, tending his bees and milk cows, and perhaps raising here also the next generation of his kind."

"In this place thou find some sanctuary of the heart, my friend, for 'tis a tangible bit of continuity with thy fond memories of a time long past. It makes thee feel less worn by the years, I wager, for it should certainly do thus for me."

"Indeed so, and all the more do I treasure such after the war," Helluin said, "that such might again find their lives in peace and keep to their ancient ways despite all the change that hath come. Yes, it does my heart good."

She recalled her moments of hysteria, while lying on the ground between the marked mounds of the graves of the couple she had known. Seldom had she felt more divorced from the world, from time, and from the mortal nature of all else in Arda save the Eldar. Her sense of displacement had been strongly triggered by the evidence that, while exploring the mellyrn wood for what had seemed to her but a short time, she had missed the passing of her mortal friends. They had grown old in a blink of her eye, their lives had waned and ended in her absence, and she had never really thought about it until confronted by their graves. Then she had been struck with regret.

"Berlun, the life of the Eldar, long as it is, becomes the repository of memories and sadness for those things dear that hath passed beyond recall. Would that I had bid thee farewell, my friend." She had whispered on that day.

Helluin shook her head. The memories remained of course; their imagery undimmed and their impact undiminished. Such was the Life of the Eldar...immortal.

Thou art lost and long gone to thy rest, my friend. Yet thy people continue, and one day they shalt know me as but a memory, fading and finally forgotten with the passing years. Therein lies the undeniable strength of the Mortal Life. In thy children and their children shalt thou live until the end of days, while we of the Eldar fade. With such a survival strategy, thou who art weaker shalt surpass all we hath wrought and come into thy own majesty one day, for time is on thy side, not against thee, whither thou believe it or not. Iluvatar is wise far beyond the ken of his Children.

"Come, let us go," she said. Then with Beinvír beside her, she made her way from the cabin towards the banks of Anduin the Great. Soon they crossed the waters and stood upon the eastern bank.

"Thou sense not Huorns upon the border?" Beinvír asked just to make sure as she glanced nervously towards the edge of Greenwood Forest.

Beside her Helluin was carefully watching the trees. Nothing moved save some birds flitting amongst the branches o'erhead. But for their calls and the whisper of breezes amidst the leaves all was silent. It appeared to be 'naught but a forest at peace.

"I sense little of the watchfulness I noted aforetime," she said at last.

"Think thou that we should sing?"

"Nay. I think that whatsoever watches o'er Greenwood remains some distance within. I feel no threat. Let us enter here and see what we may."

The two Elves walked 'neath the boles of the trees, Helluin watchful, Beinvír wary but slowly relaxing as time passed without incident. It seemed to her that more sunlight penetrated the canopy than on their previous visit and that the air passed more freely through the leaves. They saw nothing untoward, either of the olvar or the kelvar, and eventually they came to feel more at ease. The afternoon passed and they traveled some four leagues from the river ere evening fell.

"I should come first to Laiquadol, and there seek for Oldbark," Helluin said as they settled amidst the same quartz boulders where they had passed their first night with Celeborn and Galadriel...and the earthworms.

"I agree, though I suspect he shalt soon know of us by his own sources," Beinvír replied. "Was he not privy to word even from Lórinand aforetime?"

"Indeed so. The trees ever gossip upon the breeze and bring tidings to ears that know their tongue. I seek Oldbark as one would any sovereign when coming as guests unto his realm," Helluin said, "as a courtesy, and for sake of tidings such as he would share."

"Perhaps we should seek also the kingdom of Oropher while we art hither, for he too is lord of a realm within Greenwood."

"Hmmm, perhaps we shalt," Helluin said, a calculating gleam taking light in her eye to accompany the grin that curled her lips. At this, Beinvír nodded suspiciously. Her friend was planning something and she doubted that Oropher would enjoy it.

The night passed uneventful, with neither the unearthing of nightcrawlers nor the almost spiteful churning of the soil by the trees' roots. Indeed it was a peaceful rest the Elves had in the hours of darkness. When they arose the next morn, only minimal shifting of the nearby trees did they notice. None had wandered off or stalked about with pent up anger.

"Well, that was certainly a more refreshing repose than when last we stayed hither," Beinvír remarked as she folded her blanket of mixed pelts. Only once during the night had she briefly risen from her "dreams", and then only to pluck a large slug from her arm and shoo it off amongst the boulders. She had admonished it but briefly, while it regarded her with eyes on stalks, ere dismissing it, for it hadn't known any better.

Helluin nodded in agreement with Beinvír's words. For her part, she had rolled up onto an elbow once when a skunk had come sniffling past their camp, preoccupied, searching in the leafmould with its snout. She had given it a warning glare and it had retreated a couple yards. Thereafter they had ignored each other and she had returned to her rest.

They continued walking east towards Laiquadol all that day. The weather was quite fair, for 'twas early Nórui, (June). At one point in the afternoon, even did they see a forest doe with her two young, walking at a distance across their path. Their most constant companion amongst the kelvar of Greenwood was a mockingbird who flitted from tree to tree o'erhead, regaling them with the calls of every other bird in the wood. For her amusement along the way, Beinvír fell into a game testing his repertoire.

The bird would whistle forth, producing the tune of a robin. Beinvír would then answer with the call of a bluebird. He then would mimic her note for note, winning a smile of approval. She would then whistle the notes of a nightingale's song and he would respond in kind. It went on thus for a while. When it came time again for Beinvír's turn, Helluin laid a hand upon her friend's arm to still her, and then performed the quick trill of a lis ince¹. The mockingbird tilted its head to regard her as if in question. Helluin repeated the call. The bird tried it out, only faltering slightly upon the final crescendo. Helluin again repeated the call. The bird followed flawlessly. Helluin gave another call; that of an ambale, (yellow hammer bird), and this time the mockingbird mimicked it on the first try. A few more did the Noldo teach to the feathered singer of Middle Earth, warblings from the throats of species native to the Undying Realm across the sea. For a while thereafter the bird practiced his new tunes, seemingly proud of his enhanced repertoire, ere he flew off ahead of them to the east. ¹(lis ince, honey bird, = lis(honey) + ince(small bird) Quenya)

"I am sure that ere dusk, Oldbark shalt hath heard the call of the west from the throat of that bird," Helluin said, "and he shalt mark it, for he misses 'naught that comes to pass in his realm."

Indeed 'twas so. After passing their second night in the Greenwood, upon the granite outcropping where they had been o'errun by the spiders, Oldbark met them upon their path in the late morning.

"Hoooo-hooom. If it isn't Helluin called also Maeg-mórmenel of the Host of Finwe and Beinvír of the Laiquendi friend and companion on the road of Helluin," he said while beaming down at them. "It is good to see thee both again...and so soon."

Helluin smiled and Beinvír rolled her eyes. It had been 335 years.

"Greetings, my Lord Oldbark," Helluin said, offering a sweeping bow, "I am glad to see thee well. Thy forest seems at peace, and much happiness doth that bring me after the upheavals of recent years."

The Onod nodded and actually smiled at her sentiments.

"Much has come to pass in the lands beyond the forest's borders of late, or so I have heard," he said, nodding to himself, "and little of it good save the resolution. That miserable little outcast, Sauron managed to bring some of his foulness to the west, I hear. I am sure you can give me all the details I should care to hear...perhaps later though. His story is ever the same at heart and I am sure I have heard right down to the core of his evil aforetime."

"Thou hast heard true," Helluin agreed, "for he brought death and destruction to Eriador but was defeated in his war, though Celebrimbor was slain and all the realm of Eregion laid waste."

"So I have heard, um-hmmm," Oldbark said, shaking his head. "I hath also heard he fled thee at the end." He regarded her with a careful glance but his lips hinted at a grin.

"What?" Beinvír asked, looking at Helluin with wide eyes. "Thou hast said naught of this."

"Towards the end of the fighting things became somewhat confused..." Helluin hedged.

Oldbark chuckled. A look of disapproval shaded the Green Elf's features.

"Helluin, as much as any who fought, served to undo the plans of Sauron Gorthaur, young Laiquende, or so I have heard," Oldbark said to Beinvír ere he turned to Helluin and offered her a flick of an eyelid that might have been a wink.

Beinvír accepted his words with a chuff and a sigh, resolving to question her beloved more closely about the final battles of the war. Oldbark turned back to face them both.

"I have heard that many of thy kindreds hath gone o'er Hithaeglir to some great council. Oropher grumbled long ere he went forth, dragging his son Thranduil thither at his side. Word has it that the nobles of Lórinand went thither as well," Oldbark mused. "Soooo, why have you come hither rather than thither, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel of the Host of Finwe, eldest of the Noldor upon these Hither Shores? Surely your counsel is valued?"

"Indeed it is not," Helluin replied.

"Ever it seems the king doth seek to distance himself from her, though she is the most widely traveled of them all," Beinvír said in irritation. "Few in Lindon harken to her, heeding her counsels only grudgingly, and then most oft in times of threat. To my eyes they art pompous and ungrateful, great ones though they be."

Oldbark regarded the Green Elf's anger with a knowing nod. Helluin sighed.

"I am absent from them save when I bear ill tidings thither," Helluin said. "Such wins me scant thanks, and I deem the king regards me much as he would a storm cloud or a pestilential breeze. He hast come to question my wits as well, for I misplaced 82 years in his presence once upon a time, and ever from of old hast my battle fury discomfited him." She shrugged.

"Mmm-hmmmm, I see," said the Onod. "So instead you came to Greenwood to teach new songs to birds?"

"Indeed 'tis just so," Helluin agreed, "and by thy leave, I would show my friend the wonders of thy forest, now that it thrives in peace."

"We require no special welcomes," Beinvír added with a cautious glance up at the Onod.

"Oooh-hoooo now," Oldbark said, "it gladdens my heart to think that you wish to enjoy the forest for itself, and I believe I know you both well enough to expect no trouble to come of your new kingdoms or any of that nonsense. You are both wanderers after the fashion of Elves in the old days. Very well, you have my leave to explore to your hearts' content. Stay as you like; the forest will be here a very long time."

The two Elves bowed to the Lord of Greenwood, a gesture which seemed to kindle a light of mirth in his eyes, but he dipped his "head" to them in return. So began Helluin and Beinvír's stay in Calenglad i'dhaer. It was 3 Norui, (June 3rd), S.A. 1710.

'Neath the trees of Greenwood the years passed in peace. Following Sauron's defeat, not an Orch or Easterling was to be found in Rhovanion, and any who lingered 'nigh remained well hidden for many decades. Helluin and Beinvír enjoyed their travels, wandering as their fancy called them, east, west, north, and south. For a time they stayed as guests amongst the people of Oropher, who had settled in that time about the southern side of the Emyn Duir. The two found them surprisingly numerous.

Though Oropher and his son had come hither from Lindon by way of Eregion and were Sindar, most of his subjects were Tawarwaith, Silvan Elves related to the Galadrim, for they had chosen to follow Lenwe when he left the Westward March. In this time of peace they had few borders and little cause for wariness, and so many went hither and thither, following their hearts amidst the forest. Thus they lived much more the lives of Nandor than Sindar. Oft times Helluin and Beinvír would join with some company, wandering at liberty for a year or more ere returning to Oropher's halls. The lifestyle particularly appealed to Beinvír, being familiar from her home in Eriador amongst her own people. To Helluin the company seemed at times too numerous for her more solitary nature, yet 'twas still infinitely preferable to city life.

Once King Oropher even joined them with a number of his household, straying far south for a season during the summer. The two ellith found him never mirthful, for the weight of rule weighed on him even while at ease, but he was more relaxed under the sky than in his halls, able to smile, tell tales, and sing with a fine voice beside the campfire at night. And late on just such a night, he confessed that for him, such forays recalled his youth in Doriath long before. 'Twas for just such purpose he had come east o'er the Hithaeglir. For many years he had sought a way to distance himself from the culture of Beleriand and the concerns of the Noldor, ("No offense intended, Helluin," he had said), in order to reclaim a mode of life he felt now existed only amongst the Moriquendi. He wanted to get, "back to nature", and live an unfettered life as had the Sindarin Elves in the starlit years. In return, Helluin had smiled and told him of the realm of the Avari she had once known to the north of the Forest River. Oropher's eyes had lit up at the mention of the caves of KingTelpeapáro for they renewed his memories of Menegroth while times had still been good in the days of Thingol and Melian.

In her heart, Helluin found that she could hardly blame him. Had she the choices to make again...for a moment she fancied herself remaining in Aman another 650 years, and then coming to the Hither Shores just as the Host of the West was returning from the War of Wrath. She would hath come to Lindon and then made a beeline east into Eriador. She shook her head, dispelling the idle fantasy.

Helluin found that King Oropher's son, Prince Thranduil, was still possessed of the light spiritedness of youth, being but 11 centuries old at the time. The weight of memories and the cares of rule had yet to burden him as they later would. As such, he still retained his curiosity. He oft asked her for songs of Valinor and accompanied her on a harp as she sang, his nimble fingers giving the instrument a lilting voice as he played, his eyes closed in rhapsody. Both father and son became fast in friendship with Helluin and Beinvír during that time, and the two were ever welcome in their realm even when the days again became dark. So time passed.

'Twas a fine day in Gwirith, (April), S.A. 1847, when a mockingbird had flown down to alight on Beinvír's shoulder. The bird had hopped to and fro in excitement, drawn the Green Elf's hair through its beak as if grooming its mate's feathers, and even searched in her ear for lice. Beinvír had giggled at the tickling motions of its frantic beak. Finally it had seemed to recover itself, for it cocked its head and regarding her eye to eye ere it shifted its beady gaze to Helluin and recited all the songs she had long ago taught its sire. It seemed that through many generations of eggs, the birdsongs of Valinor had been passed down verbatim.

Helluin listened to the recital, nodded in approval and prepared to teach the bird another tune, but it flew up onto a nearby branch on the southern side of the clearing they were sitting in. She and Beinvír had been taking their ease, enjoying the afternoon sunlight that dappled through the canopy of fresh green leaves, and admiring the hypnotic dancing rhythms of the breeze thusly made visible. They were in central Greenwood, roughly even north-south with the confluence of the Gladden River and Anduin, and about 35 leagues to Anduin's east.

The bird stared down at the Elves, recited again its songs, and then flitted yet again a short distance south. There it stopped and stared back at them hopefully. When they simply stared back, it abandoned its perch and flew to their clearing, circling it twice at head level and producing a raucous scolding ere it returned to the branch on the south side. There it repeated for a third time its songs.

"'Tis clear enough it wants us to follow," Beinvír said with a sigh, "and here I was so comfortable." She rose to her feet. Helluin followed, picking up their travel bags.

"Wither doth thou lead us?" The Noldo asked. The mockingbird extended a wing pointing south, and then flitted again a short distance in that direction. "Thou art welcome to speak thy message plain, O Bird of Many Tongues," she added.

The mockingbird answered with a cacophony of various calls, all gibberish to the Elves' ears. It stared at them and bobbed its tail and head.

"It hath rhyme, but not reason," Beinvír said, appraising the bird's words. "Perhaps 'tis confused by a head filled with too many songs?"

"Perhaps 'tis the child of an addled egg," Helluin suggested less charitably as she followed the bird's flight south.

The mockingbird proved a relentless guide. Day after day they followed its chattering flight, and ever it led them south-southwest. After waking them at dawn, leading them hence through the morn, and stopping to groom its feathers at noon while they supped, it would then continue on till dusk. Upon the wing would it snatch its meals, taking flying insects unawares, and so it seemed to have little patience for the ellith's mealtimes, oft scolding them when they tarried in a glen to cook.

"A curse upon thy haste, O Beaky One," Beinvír chaffed one evening, "we hath followed thee thirty leagues. Pray grant us a moment's peace. Not upon bugs as thou does't can we sup." The mockingbird scolded the Green Elf more vigorously still.

"Indeed; still thy blathering at once," Helluin ordered, "else thou shalt adorn this night's pot thyself." She made as if to reach for the Sarchram.

The bird stilled its chatter grudgingly, puffed up its feathers in obvious indignation, and then glared at the Elves ere setting its head 'neath its wing for the night as darkness fell. In restitution, it roused them at the first rumor of Anor's rising. With groans and shaking heads, Helluin and Beinvír followed yet again.

Mercifully it seemed, their journey ended two days later. By then 'twas obvious to them that they were being led to Laiquadol, and sure enough, their feet trod the path to Oldbark's hall as the evening came down on 22 Gwirith, (April 22nd). There stood Oldbark and another Onod named Soursap. The mockingbird recited its songs one last time seeming well pleased with itself, ere it took its leave.

"Um-hmmmm, 'tis the two wandering Elves at last," Oldbark said. "I see you have successfully followed my herald hither. Very good. Now do come inside. There is some news you should hear."

"Helluin and Beinvír followed the Onod's beckoning gesture and passed within his wooded hall. They saw that all there was as it had been on their last visit; the encircling wood was as dense as ever, the enchanted stream glowed faintly in the gathering gloom, and the upper heights of Laiquadol were thick with healthy green.

The two Enyd turned to face the Elves and set their "toes" in the edge of the stream. Oldbark gave Helluin a glance that she knew portended a serious conversation. She gestured Beinvír to sit with her. Helluin had no intention of standing through a talk that might last several days. After pulling out ground clothes and making themselves comfortable, the two ellith gave the Enyd their full attention.

"Now word has come to me of some changes in the world beyond the wood," he began, "and while such is not my business, still I keep my ears open. Soursap here has come from Fangorn bearing word from yet further south."

The Elves looked at the other Onod and Oldbark paused. Neither Helluin nor Beinvír had really thought of the Onodrim trekking from forest to forest and crossing the lands between. Though there was no reason not to accept it, the thought had simply never been considered.

"Now the reason I summoned you to Laiquadol is that Soursap's tidings concern the kindreds of Elves and Men, and so they may mean more to you than to me," Oldbark said. He nodded to the other Onod, bidding him speak.

Soursap drew himself up and cleared his throat ere he began. He presented his tidings in a manner reminiscent of a young ellon charged to recite his lessons before his tutor, for he stood upright and still, absent body gestures and all but the minimum of facial expressions. He even held his "hands" behind his back.

"Upon the 28th day of Gwaeron, (March 28th), that being 26 days past, the whisper of the trees spoke to our lord Fangorn, bearing tidings from the coastal realm of Belfalas. It was declared that King Lenwe, long upon Middle Earth, had finally taken ship into the Blessed West, for he was at last able to commit the rule of his diminishing realm to others he deemed noble. With him went many of his folk and household; indeed, so many that their sailing comprised a fleet of 37 grey ships, all laden with Falathrim."

Helluin was amazed. She hadn't visited that land since late 1125, when she had met Falmandil and taken word of her first sighting of Mordor to Númenor. 722 years, Helluin realized...longer than the entire First Age. And it had been well 'nigh 1,250 years since she had been to the capitol city and visited the king's court.

So Edhellond now lay depopulated and bereft of its lord, she thought. Lenwe had gone across the sea at last. She recalled the old Nando fondly, for he had shown her kindness and demonstrated a daring and inquisitive spirit. And for her, that visit had led to so much more; in Aearben, a ship of Belfalas, she had met Veantur and sailed upon Entulessë. It had been her first trip to Númenor and the beginning of the marriage from which had come her only child. She smiled wistfully at the memories, and then noted Soursap eyeing her covertly and delaying the continuation of his report. She collected herself and gave him a nod to continue.

"King Lenwe only relinquished his rule after the remnant of his people declared their willingness to accept as their lord and lady, Celeborn son of Galadhon, Prince of Doriath, and Galadriel of the Noldor, Princess of the House of Finarfin."

Noting the jaw-dropped, blank-faced stares on the faces of his two listeners, Soursap again paused in his delivery. Helluin even managed to produce a soft gasp of surprise.

"Arriving with them in the year 1802 came their daughter, Celebrian, beloved of Elrond Peredhel," Soursap added, almost, it seemed, for shock value.

It was the first Helluin or Beinvír had heard of the budding relationship of their old friend. To his credit, the Onod betrayed nothing, not even allowing himself the merest hint of a smirk at their astonishment. Rather, he remained silent as the two ellith recovered and gazed into each others' eyes in silent communication.

How came this to pass, I wonder, Helluin asked, for never were either of them great wanderers? What put into their heads the notion to come thus to the sea so far from both Imladris and Lórinand? Did Amdír tire of hosting them perhaps?

Perhaps they sought a land untouched by the war, Beinvír speculated in response, or perchance the sea longing came upon them? Surely Galadriel yet longs for the Undying Lands of her birth and Celeborn to see them and his Telerin kin? For all we know, they could hath been sent thither by the council. She shrugged.

True...we know all too little yet of their counsels to make sense of their reasoning. I know that long ago Galadriel sought to rule a realm of her own. It seems that she hath now inherited one, if only one bereft of populace. Yet still strange to me it seems for them to hath wandered so far, especially Celebrian, if indeed she loves Elrond.

Perhaps there is more, Beinvír said, the world is wide and more than Celeborn and Galadriel act within the Circles of Arda.

To this Helluin nodded, and the two broke their contact to again shift their attention to Soursap. Almost, the Onod appeared to have been waiting for them to harken to him.

"From the south coast comes yet further word," he declared, and Helluin rolled her eyes. "At the havens of the Númenóreans upon Umbar are great works of stone begun, for that settlement is now being raised as a fortress with wall and sturdy gate, as if in preparation for war. Lond Daer too is reinforced. Word comes that since the war, the Men of Westernesse have become more stern of bearing, and their search for resources upon the Hither Shores is no longer for timber only. Now they seek metals and other sources of wealth, and they spend ever less time in aiding their kin east of the sea. Between the Dúnedain and other Men a darkening has taken hold, and those of Middle Earth perceive as less benign the presence of these mariners now than aforetime. Indeed it seems they are increasingly resented and in many places, even feared."

Now this news was disturbing to Helluin and Beinvír, not merely surprising as had been the words spoken aforetime. Indeed, they were hard pressed to believe it. In the past, the Men of Númenor had come amongst their sundered kin upon the Hither Shores with aid, and they had taken back to their island little more than timber for to build their ships and stories to enrich their lore. Yet now 'twas said they came seeking wealth to enrich their treasuries and conducted themselves more as prospectors? And in response, the Men in Mortal Lands had come to hold their presence less a blessing?

Helluin knew the strength of Númenor. She had seen it during the war and suspected that it had grown yet greater since. The Men of Westernesse could long before hath subjugated their hither cousins had they taken it upon themselves to do so, yet never before had they seen themselves as lords o'er their kin in Middle Earth. What could have changed them, Helluin wondered, and how far would the changes go? She was skeptical by reflex and searched her memory for some clue.

Ciryatur had been ever faithful to the cause of defeating their Enemy. He had been both a great warrior and an able commander, but also, he had been a noble Man. Helluin had come to know enough of his mind to doubt that one such as he would seek to enrich himself at the expense of other free people. The sea captains she had known in the past, Veantur, Falmandil, Ciryandur, and even Baragund of his Queen's Navy had in them not the desires of treasure hunters or conquerors. Their kings and queens, even Tar-Ancalime with all her self-concern and disregard for others, had never evinced any designs upon Middle Earth. Helluin reviewed her memories carefully. In the end, she could find only one that she felt disturbing.

In 1601, she and Beinvír had come in embassy to the court of Tar-Telperien the Queen. In Armenelos they had met the Queen's Heir, Minastir, Veantur's latter day look alike, and from him, Helluin had sensed some envy for the eternal Life of the Eldar. She remembered feeling that here was one subtly displeased with his lot, who yearned for a fate beyond his kind. Yet Tar-Minastir had ever devoted himself to aiding the Eldar and the free people of Middle Earth. At his behest the Númenóreans had practically rebuilt their navy in five years, and he had dispatched Ciryatur at once to save Lindon and all the Elven folk during the long-awaited war. He was a noble leader, a proven elvellon¹, and a good Man.Helluin wondered if he had made peace with his impossible desires, or if of them, some shadow had come to darken his spirit. She dearly hoped that such was not so, for where a king led his subjects would follow, and as a father to his children, his life was an example to his people. ¹(elvellon, elf-friend. Sindarin)

The desires of Tar-Minastir, balanced against his later faithful performance and all the prior history of the Men of Westernesse left Helluin doubtful that such a change could hath come o'er that folk. Yet whyfore would Soursap's tidings be false? She could only suspect that, having come of the whispers of trees, perchance they reflected the olvar's resentment of the Númenóreans' cutting of timber. They had done damage aforetime to the forests of Enedwaith. She could not accept the Onod's tidings outright.

"For myself I should see such change if indeed it hast come to pass," she said.

"Such as I know of the Dúnedain cast into doubt these reports for me as well," Beinvír agreed. "Shalt we seek confirmation of them with our own eyes?"

"Ere I believe in the avarice of Númenor I must," Helluin answered. "Ever hath that noble kindred been free of the Shadow. I shalt not believe untested that they art tainted."

"Then we shalt make our way hence to Lindon?"

"Nay, my friend. We shalt seek out an abode of Men, not their guest-quarters amongst the Noldor. We shalt go south, to Umbar."

Beinvír nodded her agreement and Helluin turned back to the Enyd.

"Many thanks I doth offer for thy summons and thy tidings. Indeed of great interest they hath proven," she said. "Yet some doubts hath I in light of past knowledge, and so I must seek after the truth of this matter. On the morrow we shalt make our way south down Anduin."

Oldbark and Soursap nodded to the ellith as they bowed to their hosts. Helluin's reaction was as they'd expected. Perhaps with her reputation and esteemed position she could influence those mortals somewhat for the benefit of all.

Soursap looked up at the sky and muttered, "Feels like rain...tomorrow or perhaps the next day."


To Be Continued

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