In An Age Before – Part 29
Now despite Helluin’s denial of Lebennin to the Men of Númenor at that time, many other lands fell under their dominion and many peoples were laid under tribute to the King of Men from across the sea. In the time of Tar-Ciryatan resentment of Númenor grew stronger in Middle Earth, and so unto the realm ‘nigh Anduin came many refugees fleeing oppression. These were for the most part welcomed by the peoples of Lebennin, though they were required to obey the laws of that land and keep the peace. Most took up their new lives with joy and prospered, for the land was bountiful and at peace.
Yet as always there were some few of evil disposition who sought to conducted themselves in imitation of those whom they had fled, desiring to take more than their due and reap the earnings of honest folks’ labors. These would not be tolerated and were either deported from the borders or fled into the mountains to join with others of their ilk in enclaves in the Ered Nimrais. And those who fled thence were hunted down at times by the Guardians of the Realm, but some persisted through the years, joining themselves to those who had lived there from of old, and they became a people apart, the Men of the Mountains…and they were not to be trusted.
In 2029 came word from Númenor of the ascension of Tar-Atanamir to the throne. By then the schism of the Dúnedain was well recognized by the Eldar in Middle Earth, and as with much else in Westernesse, this trend but increased as the years lengthened. Atanamir was resolved to be a greater king than his father; more powerful, more wealthy, and his name longer remembered. And ‘neath all this was increased his resentment of the Eldar and of the Ban of the Lords of the West. No small part of his hatred came from the slaying of his brother by an Elda in Pelargir, the very same Elda who had polluted the blood of his house yet conferred not unto them the blessing of her immortal life.
Soon the king had gathered sufficient courage and self-regard to speak openly against both the Eldar and the Valar, and the most part of his people followed him and subscribed to his wisdom for they had become a great people, wealthy and powerful. Now the greater numbers followed the King and were called the King’s Men, but there too were a smaller number that still honored the Lords of the West and kept their friendship with the Eldar. These alone came yet in peace, to Lindon and to Belfalas, and sometimes to Lebennin. There they met with their friends, and the Elves welcomed them, for few of the Elven folk would any longer sail to Westernesse, and these came to Eldalondë or Andunië only, for no welcome did they receive now in Romenna or Armenelos.
The reign of Atanamir the Great, as he was come to be called, lasted for 192 years, and when at last he relinquished the scepter to his son Ancalimon in 2221, ‘twas only death that insured the succession. For the first time a king had withheld the rule from his Heir until death forced him thither, enfeebled, fearful, and bitter despite all the wealth he had raped from the Hither Lands during his long years upon the throne.
Tar-Ancalimon as ever clove to his father’s ways, and so to Atanamir’s greed and lust for power was added his own bitterness for the delay of his kingship. He had not the eternal Life of the Eldar and his father had stolen from him many years that Ancalimon thought rightly his. In retaliation he levied ever greater tribute from the Men of Middle Earth and made ever harsher his rule, for he too sought to be a greater king than his father. Despite his late coming to the throne, he ruled for 165 years. Those were long years of increased misery for his subjects on the Hither Shores, while in Númenor many amongst the King’s Men ceased speaking the Elven tongues and taught them not to their children.
‘Twas during Tar-Ancalimon’s reign that the Havens of Umbar, already strengthened aforetime, became a fortification of great renown, indeed the strongest city in all the Haradwaith. This was done beginning in 2280 in response to a new threat out of the east. In 2250 the first conflicts with armies commanded by previously unknown servants of the Enemy were fought off with great loss, and these fearsome beings Men and Elves came to call the Úlairi¹. They were nine in number, like unto the figures of Men, but were ever cloaked and hooded in black and fear preceded them. They seemed to communicate betwixt themselves with screeches torturous to the ears. They themselves had no scent, but ever they sniffed at their surroundings. None saw their faces ‘neath their hoods and most fled them in terror. ¹(Úlairi, lit. Ghosts = úlaire(wraith, ghost) + -i(pl suff) Quenya. The Úlairi were robbed of their physical presence and were the incorporeal servants of Sauron. Nazgûl is their name rendered in the Black Speech of Sauron, Ringwraiths is 3rd Age Westron.)
The King’s Men of Ancalimon’s time came as conquerors to the folk dwelling in those lands and even upon the Faithful of their own people was their disregard and degradation visited. Thus when in 2350 Dúnedain of Andunië and others who still reverenced the West came in supplication to Helluin and Beinvír, they were granted welcome and leave to found a settlement and refuge in Lebennin at Pelargir, the very place that Tindomul had sought to take by force ‘nigh on 350 years before.
Ancalimon proved like his father in yet another respect; he quit not the throne until death forced him from it, for he would desperately grasp each day given to him in power. His son Telemmaitë thought likewise and so a tradition was established. No longer did a king surrender the scepter to his Heir when he felt his time come ‘nigh, but rather held greedily the reins of his rule until death took him, oft sickly, incontinent, despairing, and bereft of his wits. The conduct of elderly kings oft demeaned the ruler in his people’s eyes and added to the collective fear of death that ever grew stronger upon them.
Tar-Telemmaitë took the throne in S.A. 2386, upon the death of Tar-Ancalimon, though he had wielded the power in his senile father’s name for some time. He had become disgusted with his sire long ere Ancalimon passed beyond Arda, and from the first day of his rule feared his coming end yet more acutely even than those who had gone before. As if in answer of this, he lived 390 years and ruled for 140. ‘Twas a long life and yet shorter than those of his house aforetime, while after him the spans of years in the royal house shortened yet further. ‘Neath the shadow that had come upon Elenna, the gifts of the Valar to the House of Elros waned, and as they honored less those of immortal life, their own longevity was sapped from them.
In 2526 came Tar-Vanimeldë to the throne, the third ruling queen of Númenor. Word of her ascension came to Lebennin and Helluin was at first hopeful, recalling warmly Queen Tar-Telperien of a thousand years before. But tidings soon came to her from the Faithful that this queen was unlike those aforetime; neither bitter like Ancalime, nor duty bound and noble as had been Telperien. Rather, she was vapid. Helluin wrung her hands at the news and Beinvír had turned away saddened. Their sole consolation was that from descriptions proffered by the elvillyn, they learnt that Vanimeldë bore no resemblance to Helluin. During Vanimeldë’s reign the power came to be exercised by her husband, (and cousin), Herucalmo, a greedy usurper who became so accustomed to his station that he withheld the crown from his son Alcarin, the rightful Heir, and declared himself Tar-Anducal. This pretender sat upon the throne for 20 years, until his death in 2657.
King Tar-Alcarin came to the throne in 2657 and ruled Númenor until 2737, a reign of but 80 years. Indeed he had the distinction of being the first Númenórean king to live less than 350 years. His son Tar-Calmacil lived but 309 years and was the first king to be known most widely amongst his people by his Adûnaic name, Ar-Belzagar.
Now Ar-Belzagar had in his younger days been a great captain of ships and a mighty commander of Men. At Umbar he widened the influence of Númenor until it encompassed well ‘nigh all of Harad and threatened even Mordor. In those days all deemed him unstoppable.
Then fearing an invasion through the Nargil Pass upon the River Harnen, Sauron, who was yet filled with hate for the Dúnedain, disengaged his Úlairi and withdrew his armies, and he vacated the Black Land in 2731, marching thence to Khand and Rhûn wherefrom of old his master’s Easterling allies had come. There, and in the lands still further east, dwelt Men who had worshipped Melkor in the Elder days, and amongst these Sauron came in might and seduced with his majesty those he could not cow, until well ‘nigh all took him as both king and god. And so despite the oppression that Ar-Belzagar brought to those in the western lands, this singular good he achieved ere he sailed west and took the throne; that Sauron and his Ringwraiths were for a time driven back.
‘Twas during the reign of Ar-Belzagar that another turning point was reached, though ‘twas unknown to well ‘nigh all in Middle Earth. In the year 2724 Helluin and Beinvír had come upon the eve of the Re i Anaro to the feet of Mindolluin upon the northern borders of their realm. There they followed a track made by the goats and sheep of the Ered Nimrais, up from the Vale of Anduin, ascending the steepening heights to the feet of the snow line. Thither lay a hollow, a small sward of green turf upon the mountainside, and long ago had Helluin first cast her glance upon it from afar.
Surely the eyes of Manwe art upon this high place, she had thought, for ‘tis in Middle Earth that place closest facing in spirit to hallowed Taniquetil that ever I hath found.
In latter days that same sward would again be regarded as hallowed by the Men who would one day come thither to found their mighty city. And even in that time, though great builders they were indeed, still as at the Hallow atop the Meneltarma of Númenor no structure did they build there, but upon certain days would the kings go thither, alone and in grave contemplation, to commune in hope and reverence with those in the Blessed West.
Now Helluin and her beloved stood in that high place looking far out across the land, past the green fields to the silvery river, and beyond it to the darkling walls of the Ephel Duath. As they watched, Anor rose, lofted hence by Arien to light the firmament upon the Day of the Sun which is mid-year and the day of longest light. And Anduin was kindled to a ribbon of fire that burned to a flush of gold, and the fields below were lit to reveal their bounty, miles of waving green grain and orchards with trees laden in fruit. Behind them the majesty of the Ered Nimrais thrust snow capped peaks to the heavens, twinkling and sparkling like towering crested waves of pearl and silver in the sun.
“’Tis a beautiful land and to Arda hath I ever cleaved,” Beinvír said in awe of the view, “and upon this day I doth know indeed somewhat of the love for it that brought hither even so great a company as the Ainur.”
Then Helluin said, “Upon this day I hath now passed in Mortal Lands, a span equal to that which I spent in Aman. No longer is the Blessed Realm my longest home, and the days henceforth draw me ever further from it. Now unto the Hither Shores doth my life cleave, and though the final home of all our people is indeed in the West, the home of my heart now is here.”
3,620 years had Helluin dwelt in Aman, and now an equal span had passed, when to the westward march were added the days since she had accepted exile and returned to Middle Earth. Upon that day Helluin was 7,240 years of age. It would be long indeed ere she came ever again beyond the Sundering Sea.
Now Tar-Calmacil died in 2825 and he was followed by his son and his grandson, and the years lengthened even as the lives of the kings shortened. Yet all the while their wealth and their majesty increased so that each outdid his sire and each grew prouder, and ever further in their hearts from the Valar and the Eldar did they move.
By 2962, when the twentieth king, Ar-Adûnakhôr died at the age of 253, the teaching of the Elven tongues, Sindarin and Quenya, had been forbidden and no longer were they heard publicly in Númenor. Only amongst the Faithful were they taught in secret, and only to those families in Andunië did rare visitors from Tol Eressëa come in secret as well. Upon their last visit they brought to the House of Valandil seven stones of great virtue, for the Eldar foresaw that in future days speech between them would fail.
Now the Faithful held their king to be in open contempt of the Valar, for he had taken his crown in his Adûnaic name, and this they deemed blasphemy. Only in official scrolls locked in the palace was his name, Tar-Herunúmen, inscribed in Quenya as tradition and superstition dictated. Yet this was counted a blasphemy still, for Tar-Herunúmen in Quenya signified “Lord of the West”, a title deemed fitting only for Manwe, the Elder King. Surely now, thought the Faithful, the kings courted some fell doom.
In that year Helluin was 7,679 years of age. Beinvír had been her beloved companion for 1,619 years, and together they had ruled Lebennin for 1,115 years. In that time they had assured the defense and continuity of Lebennin, shepherding it from a fading realm depopulated and ripe for the taking, to one strong, prosperous, and proud. Here Eldar and Men coexisted to their mutual benefit as they had of old ‘neath the rule of Lenwe, and yet more than in any other mixed realm, ‘twas more nearly a partnership of transition, teacher and student working in preparation for the doom of later days.
Ever had it been the belief of the Chief Guardians that Lebennin would become a realm of Men. The Eldar were leaving and their preeminence in Arda waned yet further with each passing year. Helluin and Beinvír had long recognized this. In token of their faith in the future they had taken no titles save those of Chief Guardians of the Realm. They had built no capitol city and held no court. What structure of governance they maintained was but to keep order within the realm and stand to defend it against its enemies. Most of the affairs of its people were decided at the local level, by the leaders in the towns, villages, and hamlets where they lived. There ‘twas Men who ordered their own lives. The Eldar who yet dwelt in that land had been charged to teach what they knew of lore and craft, language and song, the tending of animals and plants, and to act ever as guests, for someday they would pass o’er the sea to their true home in the West.
As the years passed and this came to be more and more true, fewer and fewer of the people of Lebennin ever set eyes upon their sovereigns. Like the Eldar as a whole they faded from the collective consciousness, and this was by design. When they wandered the lands they dressed as guardians, called to themselves no attention, and watched as the society of Lebennin evolved.
In time some Men came to stations of high esteem within their communities and rose to become lords. Helluin and Beinvír saw this as a normal state indicative of the maturing of society and hindered it not save for when a lord acted against the law on his own behalf and threatened his people or his neighbors. Thence to that locale they would come, oft only to o’ersee the actions of the Guardians they sent. Then a new lord would be installed after the old was removed. Those of noble class knew this, and indeed the vast majority sought but to elevate their folk, yet perhaps once or twice in each generation would action by the Guardians become necessary. This safeguard was the primary domestic duty Helluin and Beinvír gifted to their realm. Beyond this, they kept the peace and watched the borders as Galadriel had beseeched them to do so long before.
And so, o’er the course of a thousand years and more, there grew up upon the southland ‘twixt the White Mountains and the Sundering Sea, a prosperous and peaceful land of independent communities, tied together in a greater whole to which all gratefully felt an allegiance. There folk spoke many dialects of Men, evidence of the inclusion of refugees from many lands who had come hither fleeing the oppression of Númenor, yet well ‘nigh all spoke also the Elven tongue, and oft Sindarin was heard amongst travelers and traders.
When at last in Lothron, (May), of the year 2994, a conclave of the lords of Men met to offer their eternal fealty to the Realm of Lebennin and to create for it a heraldry and a national council, then Helluin and Beinvír felt their work had at last come to its end. The peoples of their realm had grown to desire for themselves to undertake the ordering of the greater whole they had long safeguarded. So to that conclave, held upon a wide, grassy sward ‘neath the sun and moon and stars as had the councils of the Hosts of the Eldar of old, they came to meet with their folk and to pass on the reins of power. The two Chief Guardians appeared together, walking into the pavilion that had been set, and spoke to the gathering for the last time as sovereigns, and for most gathered there ‘twas the first and only time they would be seen and known for who they were.
“Thou art grown, O Men of Lebennin, and come’th now to thy maturity as a people,” said Helluin, and all harkened to her words for the Light of Aman was in her face, “and pride of thy achievements do we feel who hath watched through the generations thy struggles. In the days to come, forget not thy purpose. Treat well thy fellows and find thy course together, for greater art thou as one in league of friendship than shalt thou ever be as many sundered. Fall not into the shadow that hast taken thy brothers in Númenor. Dim not the light thou hast kindled in this fair land betwixt the mountains and the sea. Thou art blessed by the Valar, and so long as thou art thankful and treat with honor thy gifts, they shalt come to thee renewed all the days of thy lives.”
Then Beinvír spoke to them also and they were moved by her words as much as by her beauty, dark and mysterious and Elven fair beyond the measure of mortal blood.
“In the days of thy fathers of old was this land the east portion of Belfalas, a realm of the Nandor since ere the sun and moon, and long ‘neath the rule of King Lenwe did it prosper. Yet in Arda, ever do the days bring change. Lenwe long ago passed into the West and the greater part of his folk as well. Now this land is the realm of the Men of Lebennin and by thy efforts shalt it too long prosper. ‘Neath Anor and Ithil the land and the sea art the same, yet those upon it hath changed, and still, the blessings of this land remain, a legacy from those in the West to be held in trust by thee for those yet to come. Fail not in thy earnest and keep strong thy hope, for the Valar indeed love both kindreds of the Children of the One.
Know thou then that with the authority and power to order thy realm on thy own behalf comes also the responsibility to offer praise to Eru. Go thence to the high hallow upon Mindolluin, for that place is within His sight, and there offer thanks for thy harvests, the fertility of thy land, the fecundity of thy flocks, and thy safety upon the sea. Offer thanks for the rains of spring, the sunlight of summer, the bounty of autumn, and the renewing rest of winter. Iluvatar is generous to those who honor Him.”
When Beinvír was finished she turned and met Helluin’s eyes and she silently asked the question she’d wished to voice for o’er a thousand years.
Whither now, meldanya?
Wheresoever thou would go, meldis meldwain nin, Helluin answered.
To Be Continued
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