In An Age Before – Part 32
Upon 15 Narbeleth, (October 15th), Helluin and Beinvír boarded a boat crossing the Firth of Lune, and coming thence to Harlond, took the road northeast into Eriador that evening as their shadows lengthened before them.
Now it had been ‘nigh a fortnight since Helluin and Beinvír had taken their leave of Dálindir and his company at the messenger’s summons to Lindon. They had left Ishkabibúl and Balar in the reluctant custody of the Green Elves, and though a naughty sense of irresponsibility had caused them to chuckle o’er their friends’ predicament, they could not in good conscience leave things thus. Therefore Helluin and Beinvír debated how best now to find and rejoin that odd collection of fellows.
“I hath some suspicions that Dálindir headed thither to Nenuial shortly after we took our leave,” Helluin said as they sat beside their campfire that night, “thence to rid himself first of Balar.”
“Think thou that he would make his way thus, 68 leagues west, bringing Balar to the Men of Nenuial while retaining the company of Ishkabibúl yet the longer? I know the Dwarf made him nervous, for the history between our peoples, though far in the past, is one of unresolved conflict and great discomfort.”
Helluin thought on this a moment. There were reasons both yea and nay for disposing first of the Man or the Dwarf.
“I should think he perhaps deemed it the lesser of two evils,” she replied at last, “for otherwise would he hath been forced to confront all the Naugrim of Khazad-dum, and wherefore one Dwarf would make him nervous, a realm full of them would surely cause him hives.”
Beinvír giggled at this, recalling her own nervousness during her first trip to Hadhodrond long years before. She had still half-believed that the Naugrim would try to roast and eat her at the first opportunity despite Helluin’s assurances to the contrary.. Dálindir would hath no such intermediary as the dour Noldo, but rather full suspicion of dire consequences ahead and a personal acquaintance of the Naugrim as enemies in battle. The ambush of the Host of Nogrod upon the banks of the River Ascar was personal history for her king, Tórferedir, and the others.
“Very well then,” the Green Elf agreed, “unto Nenuial we shalt make our way, and we shalt see then if indeed my friends hath all acquired hives.”
The next morning they made their way north, much as they had ere the war, passing up the eastern bank of the Firth of Lune to the River Lune and thence eastward to the Emyn Uial where Helluin had first met Tórferedir. Their way was long; well ‘nigh 100 leagues to the west banks of Lake Nenuial, and even in haste it took them a fortnight of walking.
Along the way they met some others of the Laiquendi, and to these they brought tidings of the return of the king, and all rejoiced to hear their tale. Indeed when it became known that Helluin and Beinvír sought him and his company ‘nigh Lake Nenuial, word went out to seek for them, and some companies of the Green Elves joined them or followed in their footsteps. Thus by the time they reached the shores of the lake and the homes of the Men upon them, scarce fewer than three hundreds of the Laiquendi shadowed their march. These remained well hidden and unseen by mortal eyes lest they be mistaken for an invasion force, yet oft they came, a few at a time, to the camps Helluin and Beinvír made, to trade tidings and greetings. The two found themselves getting very little rest.
“T’would seem we again hath visitors, meldanya,” Helluin remarked on the evening of 30 Narbeleth. She had long since become able to sense the approach of Green Elves as she had not been able to long before. Beinvír had taught her to stop trying to “see” them and rather to “feel” for them as they did to sense each other and Helluin had found that this method worked well.
“Then at least we shalt hath no lack of victuals,” the Green Elf remarked, for ‘twas the custom amongst that people for uninvited guests to offer somewhat of provisions to their hosts when possible. She cocked her head a moment and then added, “Another grouse shalt be welcome.”
Helluin wondered how Beinvír could tell they were bringing a grouse. She deemed herself to be doing well to hath marked the Green Elves at all, and better to hath discerned that they were three who approached. She shook her head in wonder. After 1,733 years together her companion still amazed her.
In short order there appeared three Laiquendi bearing a grouse, a skin of wine, and a sack of apples. Helluin and Beinvír greeted them and bid them sit by their fire. A jovial trio I should say, Helluin thought, yet I discern not the cause for their mirth at hither campsite, one bit of forest being much like another to them and all long familiar. But t’was not the place that was the cause of their light mood…’twas rather their tidings.
“Word hath come to us this day,” began the first, a slender ellon named Cúran¹, “from some of our folk to the east, speaking of the march of a contentious company that includes Dálindir. ‘Twas a company most strange indeed, they said, for with them marched Tórferedir our general, and both a Dwarf and a Man.” ¹(Cúran, Crescent Moon, Sindarin)
“Yet these strangers marched not as prisoners, but rather as ill-mannered guests,” said the second, an elleth with hair and eyes of grey, named Hithui¹. ¹(Hithui, Misty, Sindarin)
“Indeed so, and they had driven the others to distraction,” reported the third, a mischievous ellon named Iáúr¹, “such that some bickering was evidenced, and this only abated at the unanimous cursing of a twain of villains who share the same names as thee. Quite a remarkable coincidence, I deem.” ¹(Iáúr, Mocking One, = iae(mocking) + -úr (intensive agent), Sindarin)
Both Helluin and Beinvír groaned as one. The three Green Elves chuckled.
“Perhaps we should make our way thither, back to Lindon,” Beinvír said as if she had forgotten that it was a city.
“Perhaps we should make our way hence to Mordor,” Helluin suggested, “for ’tis a land now empty, safe, and ripe for the taking, or so I hath heard of late. Even is there already standing a great dark tower in which to abide. With our reputations we should do well there, I deem.”
Beinvír nodded in agreement. The three Laiquendi looked away into the darkness.
“How far to the east marched this dour company?” Helluin asked.
The three Laiquendi spoke not and indeed shuffled their feet and squirmed as they sat, appearing greatly unnerved. Helluin cocked a brow at them in question. Cúran nervously cast his eyes repeatedly o’er his shoulder. By the time the meaning of his charade became clear to her, ‘twas too late for evasive action.
“Thou shalt not flee our wrath thou miserable knaves!” the unmistakable voice of Dálindir called out from a few dozen yards away. His company was stomping through the underbrush with no thought of stealth. “I doth see thee hunkered thither in comfort by thy fire, feasting and drinking, and no doubt recounting with mirth the suffering thou hast saddled us with!” He came to the campsite and stood with arms crossed and breath huffing. Beinvír actually shrank down deeper into her cloak and edged into Helluin’s shadow.
“Iyam hungary,” Balar ground out in poorly enunciated Sindarin.
“And I am weary of bone and foot! Were I to tread even another mile in this company my beard should go white long ere its proper time!” Ishkabibúl clamed through gritted teeth. He actually stomped his feet and stood with clenched fists, glaring at the others.
“Never hath I made so dismal a trip,” groaned Tórferedir as he cast himself down upon the ground beside the fire, “for in war could I at least shoot those who afflicted me.”
Gérorn and Celegaras stood a few paces off, embarrassed by this display and casting apologetic glances at Helluin and Beinvír. Cúran, Hithui, and Iáúr made a halfhearted attempt to slip away into the shadows, but it did them no good.
“Stand ye fast thou craven revelers!” Dálindir demanded, “Thou hast been discovered ruddy handed, accosted while’st lounging hither and sharing food and shameful delight o’er the ill-fate of thy fellows, I wager. Surely thou art as guilty as they.”
“But my Lord, we hath arrived but shortly ago,” Iáúr protested.
“Indeed so, for see, the grouse we hath brought hither is yet unplucked,” Hithui added.
“Bah,” Dálindir said, dismissing their protests with a wave of his hand. “Thou was’t surely the messengers of such tidings as gleefully recount our sufferings, and I find I am short of patience with messengers of late.”
The three fell silent and contrived contrite expressions.
“Art weto yeat? Ever?” Balar managed to ask.
The entire situation struck Helluin as ludicrous, and with Balar’s question all came to a head, leaving her in hysterics. She was soon doubled o’er in the throes of her mirth, while Beinvír looked on aghast and Dálindir in amazement. The king could hardly believe that she would discount so wholly his tirade and display so unrestrained her glee. Celegaras and Gérorn very nearly cowered in expectation of their king’s wrath. Ishkabibúl regarded her askance as one with wits fled, (though she was an Elf and perhaps such was normal), while Balar simply shrugged and looked as ever to the cooking food.
Dálindir drew himself up to deliver yet further expressions of his indignation, but at that moment their company was joined by a convergence of the Laiquendi who had followed Helluin and Beinvír thither in hopes of meeting again their king. Drawn hither by Helluin’s laughter and anticipating a scene of rejoicing, they had drawn ‘nigh at last. In groups of a few or a few dozen they appeared, materializing from the surrounding darkness to stand in a great conclave about the small camp. A score of dozens they numbered all told, and these in silence bowed to their lost lord and then stood silent, awaiting his address. In the face of the traditional demands for a welcome to what had become, de facto his camp, Dálindir was’t obligated to replace his coming invective with words of greeting. Shaking his head in amazement at the timing, he set aside his wrath and began.
“In friendship do I greet thee and in heartfelt welcome do I offer thee the comfort of this camp. Thy presence honors me and in thy company do I rejoice. Come ye hither then, those of kin and company and those from fellowship long sundered. Share with us thy tales and thy tidings. Share with us our provisions and fire, for in the morning even though we may part, still we shalt long hath our memories of good company shared this night.”
Having finished the customary sentiments, Dálindir looked at those around the fire and sighed. Helluin was wiping her eyes, Beinvír huddled behind her with but her eyes showing from ‘neath her hood. Tórferedir was lying on his side ‘nigh the fire suppressing with difficulty his cackles at the irony of the situation, while Celegaras and Gérorn as ever stood protectively beside their king watching all those nearby. Balar and Ishkabibúl had attacked the food and wine with barbaric gusto, wholly oblivious of the social graces he had been forced to perform. Dálindir couldn’t help but shake his head.
“My Lord, I pray thee share thy tale, for somewhat of its wonder hath reached our ears aforetime. We doth rejoice in thy return indeed, for greatly hast thy leadership been missed, and that in peace as well as in war. Our people would know aught of thy trials and whether indeed the jeopardy into which thou and thy company fell is still a threat.” This plea was spoken by an elder lord of the Green Elves, one who had seen the coming of his people to Beleriand long before. Because of his honored position and the unusual circumstances he was able to ask the questions all held yet hesitated to voice, for ‘twas a request for a personal accounting from none other than their king. Dálindir could hardly refuse such a request, for his tale did indeed concern the safety of his people.
“Adar Ifant¹, I understand thy concerns and they art well founded,” Dálindir said, “for indeed hath I and my friends been long held as captives in a house fell and strange. In the company of Helluin did Beinvír and Gérorn and Celegaras accompany me as guests ‘neath the roof of one Iarwain Ben-adar. Thither did we repair as we had done aforetime, yet we were then constrained in that time from exit. Indeed ‘neath Iarwain’s roof did we pass 1,733 years. That time seems to us as but a few nights, though many memories we hath of that time. Still ‘naught of change came upon us, whether of age or of the fading.” ¹(Adar Ifant, Old Father = adar(father) + ifant(old). In this case an honorary title of respect, not an actual acknowledgement of kinship. Sindarin)
Dálindir continued on at length and as he did, so too changed his mood.
“Now come’th the end of our tale, for but a moon past did Beinvír and Helluin yet again return upon the night of our disappearance, just as they had done through many fruitless years. There they prevailed upon our strange host, and by appealing to his goodwill and demonstrating forth his shame did they at last win our release.. Brave and steadfast hath they been. I owe them great thanks. None foresaw our return to the world and yet ever did they hope for just such.
I hath been wroth with them, ‘tis true, for in having obeyed a summons from the Golodh King in Lindon were they forced to leave in my company, a Man of the kindred of Bëor named Balar, and a Dwarf of the Host of Nogrod named Ishkabibúl. They too were granted their release through the efforts of Beinvír and Helluin, and for lack of other courses, hath joined us upon the road.”
Here he indicated the Man and the Dwarf with a gesture. The assembled Elves eyed them directly now, though they had marked them aforetime. Balar grunted and continued chewing, but nodded at the host and dipped his head to the king. Ishkabibúl merely stared back at them and then returned to quaffing his wine. Dálindir shook his head in consternation and shrugged. Then at last and to their great relief, he cast a much hoped for smile upon Helluin and Beinvír.
To be continued
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