In An Age Before – Part 62

Chapter Fifty-four

Eriador – The Third Age of the Sun

Now following their frustrating debacle in Gondor, Helluin and Beinvír returned disgruntled to Eriador, for more than any other place in Middle Earth, the two thought of it as home. Thus in the autumn of T.A. 870 the two ellith and their two cats came again to the rolling green lands 'twixt the Hithaeglir and the Ered Luin. As was't oft the case upon their returns, they soon found themselves in the company of the Laiquendi. Though they had been gone little more than two seasons in the south, it had been some years since last they had seen these old friends.

"Greetings Beinvír and Helluin, 'tis good to meet thee once again," Dálindir said in welcome. The two ellith had come upon the King of the Green Elves and his company 'nigh a wooded hill in the midlands of Eriador, beside a pleasant tributary stream that led east to the growing river Baranduin. 'Twas now 27 Narbeleth, (October 27th), TA 870.

"Our greetings to thee, O Dálindir," Beinvír replied with a warm smile. "How hath the time passed in this pleasant land? Art thy people well? I see that thy general and thy captain and many other old friends still travel with thee. I am glad."

Tórferedir, Gwilolrán, Gérorn, and Celegaras returned her smile. Others whom Beinvír had long known were present as well. Indeed she could not recall ever seeing her king in so large a company in times of peace. About them were encamped well 'nigh four dozen Green Elves. Dálindir noted her glance.

"Of late we hath taken to wandering in larger companies," he explained. "Times hath changed and art changing yet the more. As ere the last war, the kingdom of Men expands. More tillith and larger hamlets hath spread 'cross the lands. 'Tis less easy to roam without contact, and in those places were Men art few, the land supports larger companies as easily as smaller. Of late, with the partition of Arnor, territories art held the closer, indeed almost jealously, especially in Cardolan and Rhudaur. Thither we hath oft seen soldiers patrolling, and these we avoid on principle. We deem 'tis but a matter of time ere anger flares o'er the disposition of Amon Sûl. Still, Arthedain at least conducts itself much as was't the way in Arnor aforetime, though for how long that shalt be, we know not." Dálindir sighed and shook his head.

"My friend," Helluin said, "in these deeds thou hast seen the wages of the opening moves of Sauron's return. Alas! For all the blood that was't spilt in the last war he survived and now exercises again his malice."

To this the gathered Laiquendi harkened with undisguised horror. The king looked from Helluin to Beinvír and the Green Elf nodded her agreement to her king. Seeing the company's shock and yet too their curiosity, Helluin continued with her tidings.

"We hath come of late from Osgiliath in Gondor. Thither doth the Dark Lord stretch his hand in preparation for some coming evil. Already, I wager, he hath abetted the splintering of the north kingdom. He hath infected the Dúnedain of Isildur's house with contentiousness. In the south he estranges the people from their lords and preoccupies them with petty intrigues. Thither we hath seen the madness of the queen and the war-lusting of the king. Even now he grooms his brother-son to assail Umbar. When The Abhorred One returns, he shalt face but fractured resistance from the Men of the West who were aforetime his mightiest foes. I deem he seeks to devour them piecemeal ere they can stand against him united."

"Again thou live up to thy name, Mórgolodh," Tórferedir said, "and alas, as aforetime thy ill-tidings art no doubt true. We hath seen the disunity of the Dúnedain and increased unrest amongst the Dunlendings. Know thou 'aught of the Nine? Surely they hath regained their strength o'er the years since thy combat?" The old general looked closely at the Noldo.

"'Naught of them hath I marked either hither in Eriador or in the southern realm. Of them I know 'naught, though I deem thy words well founded." Here Helluin dipped her head in acknowledgement to the old general of the Host of the Laiquendi. "In adding one newly corrupted to their company, and by healing long in Shadows, the Úlairi hath surely by now recouped much of their lost power. Alas, t'would that Isildur had destroyed the enemy's Ring."

To this many heads nodded in agreement. For a time all were silent with foreboding.

"I deem we shalt know them by their acts," Gwilolrán finally said, "for such terror as they art rumored to spread shalt surely not be long hidden."

"Aye," said Helluin, "the wraiths art not themselves if stripped of the fear they conjure. 'Tis their first weapon against mortals. When they arise we shalt hear of them."

"Then 'till that time we shalt remain vigilant," Tórferedir said. "Though Eriador hast long hosted the kingdoms of Men, 'twas longer still the home of the Nandor, even in the days of Ossiriand. We hath a stake hither and 'naught of evil shalt escape our eyes."

Again the company nodded in agreement. They would keep a careful watch upon Eriador. Unfortunately that time of watching proved less long than many amongst them would hath hoped. Indeed the time was't to be short as the Elves reckoned it.

Now thereafter the days passed in a watchful peace and the years came and went. As Helluin and Beinvír had feared, Eärnil I succeeded Tarannon Falastur in TA 913. 'Twas but a decade later that the animosity 'twixt Gondor and Umbar increased. At first 'twas skirmishes amongst seamen, proxies of their parent kingdoms, but soon the realms fought openly and war was't declared. The ships of Gondor then blockaded the Firth of Umbar and shortly thereafter a siege was't laid to the city itself. An expeditionary force from Ithilien came south of the River Harnen. Thence by ship and by land the soldiers and sailors of the southern realm pressured their ancient foes. Many battles were fought, but the might of King Eärnil's army and navy prevailed. In 933 Umbar fell.

Thereafter the occupation of Umbar proceeded, and while'st some lords amongst the Black Númenóreans were subjugated, many more fled inland to the kingdoms of Near Harad. Thither they rallied the Southrons against the northern invaders, allying themselves more closely with the Haradrim, and continuing to contest the country north and south of Umbar and inland from the coasts. For decades to come they persisted in a low level conflict, building alliances and strength for a campaign against the kings of Gondor.

In those early days of the occupation of Umbar, Eärnil I strove to strengthen his grasp in the south, and like his predecessor, he was't oft upon the sea. Thus 'twas aboard ship that he lost his life in 936, when a great storm blew in off Belegaer and sank his flagship along with many other vessels off the coast of Umbar. Eärnil I was't succeeded then by his son Ciryandil, who continued his father's warring against the Southrons. Fighting continued off and on for a century and more. Yet in 1015 the Black Númenóreans and their Haradrim allies laid siege to Umbar, surprising the Men of Gondor with their numbers and ferocity. Thither did Ciryandil fall in battle, though 'twas on land rather than at sea. He was't succeeded by his son Ciryaher. 'Twas then by Gondor's great sea power that Umbar survived in Gondorian hands, for to the defenders did ships bring reinforcements and supplies unopposed.

Slowly the city endured the siege and indeed slowly the see-saw fighting outside the walls drew back until a buffer existed about Umbar. At last in TA 1050 did Ciryaher's forces drive the Haradrim back with a great counterattack, breaking their leaguer about the harbor lands. Thither were many of the remaining Black Númenóreans slain. The strength of the Men of Harad faltered. Gondor finally broke the resistance of the natives and took possession of Near Harad. Then the southern kings sued for peace and laid down their arms, and thereafter for many generations did the Haradrim acknowledged the Kings of Gondor as their o'erlords. Thence did Ciryaher take the title Hyarmendacil I, signifying Victor of the South.

Now these things came to pass in the southern realm of the Dúnedain and tidings came thence to Eriador. Yet as aforetime word came by way of messengers while'st the palantíri remained silent and dark. Lord Amlaith ruled Arthedain 'till 946 ere he passed on the scepter to his son, Beleg. Neither lord acted upon the message of 870 that Helluin had sent through the palantír of Osgiliath. 'Twas known that war raged in the south and a claim upon the throne in such times was't sure to be refused. Neither Amlaith nor Beleg sought to bring divisiveness amongst their southern kin. Then too each had more local relations to consider, for how could they rightly claim the rule of Gondor when they ruled not the whole of Arnor? Thus the rule of the south kingdom passed from the direct line of Anárion unopposed. Perhaps 'twas best for all in those days, for soon enough trouble would come to the north. 'Twas during Beleg's reign that the first great evil came to the north and west, manifesting itself in the darkening of Calenglad i'Dhaer.

In those days after Beleg took the throne in Annúminas, a dark spirit came upon the hill of Laiquadol. 'Twas some sorcerer perhaps, most thought, deeming him the powerful lord of some fell tribe of Easterlings out of the far lands east of Rhûn. Yet 'twas soon found that this power cloaked in shadow held great potency. The resistance of the Onodrim and their Huorns was't o'ercome and the people of Oldbark were driven hence, northwards within the wood for a time. From the mid-900s did Men come thither from the east for to fulfill the commands of this conjuror, and they did his bidding as if he were a god, raising for him a tower thither upon that height which became known as Amon Lanc. 'Twas the fearsome fortress of Dól Gúldúr. Ere the ending of the century, the Men of Rhovanion whispered in growing fear of the Necromancer.

Now early in TA 1001, while'st the air held still its winter chill and the days were yet short, a messenger came by horseback and in haste to Eriador from the northeast, and ever he sought thither for one Helluin Maeg-mórmenel. Bright armor he wore and upon his pennant was't the device of Imladris. He was't one of the Eldar, a young appearing lord of the High Elves, and he traveled openly amongst the settlements of Men. Because such was't rare in those days, first the people of Rhudaur and then the folk of Cardolan were amazed. These Dúnedain honored the messenger, indeed holding him in reverence for the place of his people in their own histories, but they could tell him 'naught of she whom he sought save for some old tales that he knew better than they.

Amongst the other free peoples of Eriador he fared little better. Wandering companies of Sindar he met after some months upon the roads, but they too could tell him little of the dark Noldo, save that she was't known to them, though not seen in many years. From amongst the Dunlendings he received 'naught but sullen denials of any knowledge. To and fro he rode 'cross the rolling green hills, from the foothills of the mountains in the east to the downs of the west. Even to Mithlond did he finally come at last in the waning of that year, and to the Lord Círdan he presented himself, voicing thence his quest.

"My Lord Shipwright," he said while'st bowing deeply to the ancient Sinda, "'tis known by my Lord Elrond that thou knew this Helluin Maeg-mórmenel aforetime. Indeed I know 'naught of her save the words of my father and what some ancient tales tell, for I myself was't born in the Hidden Valley in this Age of the Sun and hath never laid eyes upon her. I pray thee then, Lord, hath thou any knowledge of her whereabouts?"

The bright-eyed Sinda looked o'er the young messenger and knew that this quest was't one of great gravity to his lord. Elrond Peredhel would scarce hath sent thither one of such importance save when the loremaster of Imladris deemed the message and the summons dire. He found himself troubled by the timing. But a year aforetime he would hath known Elrond's need at once. Communication had been curtailed 'twixt their realms of late.

"Give first my greetings and regards to thy father, young Elladan" Círdan said gravely. "'Tis nine hundred years since we hath met, he and I. For many yeni we knew each others' minds, yet of late, no longer. Say then that I wish him well in this time of fading and I miss our conversations of old, when at the High King's court in Lindon we would meet. My blessings too I doth send thither to thy brother and sister, and to thy mother, the lovely Princess Celebrian.

Now as for thy errand I shalt tell thee this; thy father must deem his need great for to seek after Helluin, and in sending thee hence he hast offered thee a chance to meet one of the most mighty of our kindred yet upon the Hither Shores. Thou should deem thyself fortunate to walk in her company should thou be successful in thy quest. Know this too; she is doubtless already aware of thee, and if thou should meet, then 'twill be 'naught but by her leave."

Elladan raised his bright eyes in question to the Lord of Mithlond. At the edge of his sight he marked the two elderly robed Men with whom the Shipwright had been holding counsel at his entrance. They had withdrawn somewhat to comfortable chairs 'cross the room and bided thither their time in patience, watching all, but speaking not. From them Elladan felt the hint of great power well suppressed or hidden. 'Twas…perplexing.

"Helluin travels in the company of one of the Laiquendi," Círdan continued, "and though thou hath marked them not, thou hath surely passed many of that people in this land. They art the unseen eyes and ears of Eriador, and most of that which comes to pass herein is known to them. Helluin they hath come to regard as one of their own, and this alone should tell thee somewhat of her, for even I would travel in ignorance of their presence in these lands. Tidings they hath surely shared with her and her companion." Then, with a brighter glint in his eye, he added, "Indeed thou hast most likely been trailed for many weeks, thy mind subtly searched, and thy errand known."

A slight grin shaped Círdan's lips at the shock that grew upon the face of Elrond's son. Behind the two Men a tall shadow separated itself from a deeper shadow cast upon the wall and moved into the center of the room. Elladan felt his heartbeat pounding. Even with his clear Elven sight he had marked not that any others were present, and save for the figure's choice to reveal itself now he would hath remained at unawares. Such was't as the sorcery of a wraith!

The shadow came to stand with him before the Lord of the Havens, and drawing back the hood of her cloak, revealed a long fall of jet hair and sapphire eyes kindled with such Light as he had never seen. 'Twas as if she had drawn back a cloak of the spirit as surely as that made of cloth. Save for the Lord Glorfindel, none he had met shone forth such Light of Aman from their being. The power hidden 'neath her shabby raiment of mixed greens beat upon him as a great wave. For a moment he met her eyes, and thither he was't constrained.

Mae govannen, Elladan iond Elrond¹, Helluin said silently in Sindarin, then switching to Quenya added, Maquetta atartyallo?² ¹(Mae govannen, Elladan iond Elrond. Well met, Elladan son of Elrond = Mae(well) + govannen(met) + Elladan(Elf-Man) + iond(son) + Elrond. Sindarin) ²(Maquetta atartyallo? What word from thy father? = Ma-(interr pro pref, what) + quetta(word) + atar(father) + -tya(2nd pers poss pro suff, your) +-llo(ablat suff, from)Quenya)

At first Elladan blinked in surprise. Few were the times upon which he had heard Quenya spoken, for in Imladris, indeed in all the west, that ancient tongue was't now reserved for 'naught but lore and ceremony. Still, the lessons of his father came to his mind and he answered haltingly in kind, for now he found he could withhold nothing.

Atarnya yala tye anta ngolwe ar tercen nyárane quettarnnar aistaiva Taurellon¹. Eques tana Fuine loaie tar². ¹(Atarnya yala tye anta ngolwe ar tercen nyárane quettarnnar aistaiva taurellon. My father calls you to give counsel(lit. wisdom and insight) related to the words of fear from the Great Forest. = atar(father) + -nya(1st pers poss suff, my) + yala(call) + tye(indep 2nd pers pro, you) + anta(inf v, to give) + ngolwe(wisdom) + ar(and) + tercen(insight) + nyára-(relate) + -ne(imperf past suff) + quetta(word) + -r(pl) + -nnar(allat suff, to) + aista-(fear) + -iva(assoc suff, of) + Taure(great forest) + -llon(ablat suff, from). Quenya) ²(Eques tana Fuine loaie tar. 'Tis said that a Shadow grows(lit. is growing) thither.= eque-(say) + -s(3rd pers neut sing subj pro suff, it) + tana(that) + fuine(deep shadow) + loa(growth) + -ie(verbal n suff) + tar(there). Quenya)

Now 'twas Helluin's turn to blink in surprise, for these tidings she deemed quite grave. Elladan's choice of words said as much. He had used the word fuine, 'deep shadow', rather than mordo, avása, or lumbe, all of which signified a normal shade. Fuine held the connotation of a darkness associated with evil, a dimming of the spirit's hope as much as the world's light. Long aforetime after the Dagor Bragollach, the land of Dorthonian, whither Morgoth had laid deep sorcery and horror, had been renamed Taur-Nu-Fuin, the Forest Beneath Night. Thither in that accursed highland that faced Angband 'cross a scant 50 desolate miles, none save a few of heroic courage had ventured; Barahir's desperate band of survivors, Beren Erchamion, Beleg Cúthalion, and Turin Turambar. And in the 3rd Age there was't but one Taure, or Great Forest…Calenglad i'Dhaer.

With a blink Helluin released Elladan and he took a deep breath to steady his heart. She had turned to face Círdan, and beyond him, the two old Men.

"By thy grace, my lords, I take my leave, for I am called thither to Imladris."

The Lord of Mithlond dipped his head, both in acknowledgment and acceptance of her decision. Elladan saw one of the old Men, the one robed in grey, also nod, somehow conveying warmth and hope in his sharp, blue-eyed glance. The other Man, robed in white, merely gazed at them with a studied detachment that thinly veiled a burning curiosity about their business. The son of Elrond felt a vague disquiet while'st the subject of his attention.

After bowing to the three, Helluin turned, and with a cant of her head signaled the young ellon to lead her hence. Elladan bowed again to Lord Círdan and began to step away.

Linna as estel ar eruanna, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel¹, the old man in the grey robes whispered softly. From 'cross the room his voice came clearly to their ears, though Elladan thought it projected somewhat unnaturally. The words brought a smile to Helluin's face and the hint of an expression 'nigh a sneer from his companion in white.¹(Linna as estel ar eruanna, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel. Go with hope and grace, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel =linna(go) + as(with) + estel(hope) + ar(and) + eruanna(grace), Heldalúne Maica i-móremenel Quenya)

Helluin and Elladan had come to the door of the chamber when Helluin paused, bringing Elrond's son to a halt beside her. For one moment he looked to her with questioning eyes, but at that moment an unfamiliar voice spoke softly at his side.

"So we art bound now for Imladris, meldanya? I shalt rejoice to greet again my friend and healer Lord Elrond and the Princess Celebrian, and at last, young Lady Arwen."

Elladan had turned sharply in surprise and now he beheld for the first time Beinvír, who stood inexplicably at his elbow smiling at the him and Helluin. In that moment his heart was't stricken by her beauty. The fugitive light that flickered in the depths of her clear, grey eyes held him as surely as had the radiant blue of Helluin's, but no words in any tongue could he find to speak. Indeed his tongue felt suddenly dry in his mouth.

"Elladan, meet my meldafëavesse¹, Beinvír Laiquende," Helluin said. ¹(melda fëa vesse, beloved soulmate(lit. spirit-wife) = melda(beloved) + fëa(spirit) + vesse(wife) Sindarin)

Elladan gulped and as he nodded his eyes found Beinvír's hand and marked the ring upon the third finger of her left. Thither a band of mithril and gold in the form of the Two Trees of Valinor with a joined canopy carved of adamant was't wrapped about her slender finger. 'Twas a ring of marriage if ever a one he had seen. He felt then the stab in his heart at a meeting with someone who would long claim his devotion, yet whose heart was't long spoken for and her own love long given to another. Hopeless love and an enchanted ring, he sadly mused as they filed out the door and into the hall. Alas, no more lucky am I upon this day than was't Lord Celebrimbor at his first meeting with my grandmother, Galadriel.

'Twas long ere Elladan realized that while'st he had marked with shock Helluin's first appearance from the shadows, never had he marked 'aught of Beinvír's approach 'till he heard her words spoken 'nigh his shoulder. Her stealth had been complete. Such was't his first meeting with a Green Elf, and thereafter he believed all the Lord Círdan had said.

To Be Continued

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