In An Age Before – Part 63

Chapter Fifty-five

The Council of Imladris – The Third Age of the Sun

  Now the year 1001 was’t old when they set out from Mithlond with the month of Hithui, (November), fading.  Girithron, (December), passed as they made their way ‘cross the miles of Eriador.  So ‘twas upon the very first day of the new year, TA 1002, when the company crossed the Ford of Bruinen and ascended the path into the realm of Imladris. 

  At the return of Elladan many thither rejoiced, for he had been afield upon his father’s errantry for well ‘nigh a year.  Straightaway the three were conveyed to Elrond’s study wherein they were met by the Lord of Imladris, Glorfindel, Erestor, Lady Celebrian, and most surprisingly, Lord Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel.  Helluin and Beinvír bowed to the gathering of nobles and they were welcomed warmly by their old friends.

  “May the stars of Elbereth ever shine upon thy footsteps, my far-wandering friends,” Lord Elrond said.  “’Tis good to meet thee once again.”

  “’Tis good to meet thee again as well, my friend,” Helluin replied.

  “Indeed ‘tis good, and ever shalt I be thankful to thee that we art able to do so,” Beinvír said with a dip of her head and a smile.  Then her eyes lit afresh as she turned to the Lady Celebrian.  “Thou and thy lord hath been blessed since last we met.  Thy noble son hath led us well, while’st another such and a daughter too thou hath of whom we hath heard.”

  Elrond and Celebrian nodded and smiled with pride.  Warm smiles too graced the faces of Celeborn and Galadriel at the mention of their grandchildren. 

  “And thou, old friend, ‘tis good to see thee again,” Helluin said to Glorfindel ere her eyes swept the others gathered thither, “indeed ‘tis a fine surprise to be met by so many friends of old.  Yet what goes forth?  The words that Elladan brought to Mithlond were dark.”

  Elrond sighed as if a weight had been laid upon his shoulders and the others looked troubled as well.  For a moment ‘twas only silence, then Galadriel set her sharp eyes upon Helluin and asked what seemed an unrelated question.

  “Thou art new-come from Mithlond, Helluin.  I pray thee, hast thou seen ‘aught thither of…unusual nature?”  She raised a brow in question, though Helluin suspected that she had some foreknowledge of the events that had come to pass ere they had left the Havens.

  “Indeed I hath seen ‘aught of ‘unusual nature’, as thou hast called it,” she said, “and if thou deem such tidings fit to be spoken hither, then I shalt proffer them to all.”

  Both Elrond and Galadriel answered her with a nod ‘yes’. 

  “Upon midsummer last did a ship come thither from the West,” Helluin said, “and ‘twas no ship of the Lonely Isle, but rather it sailed from the Swan Haven, Alqualonde.  In her rode such as we hath not seen upon the Hither Shores in an Age and more; Maiar of the Blessed Realm numbering five, but ‘tis said that when they set foot upon the mortal lands, at once were their beings cloaked and their Light hidden, and thereafter in the guise of old Men did they appear.  ‘Tis upon a great errand of the Valar that they hath come, I wager, yet of its nature they would speak to none.  Still, ‘tis not so hard to guess their purpose.  Three had made their way thence from the Havens, while’st two yet remained in Mithlond when we took our leave to come hither.”  (In UT, Pt IV, TI, pg388, it is said that “…none save maybe Elrond, Círdan, and Galadriel discovered of what kind they were or from whence they came.”  Further, it is said that for long, only Círdan knew that they came from over the sea.  I have obviously departed from canon on this point and hope you will excuse my liberty here.  I feel that such secrets would have been of the utmost interest to the Wise and that some inklings would hath been sensed by the Keepers of the Three Rings in Imladris, particularly the change in guardianship of Narya.) 

  For long the gathering fell silent.  Helluin’s news was’t well ‘nigh unbelievable, and yet to the two who bore Rings of Power, for two seasons a feeling had been lodged in their minds of something potent moving to their west.  ‘Twas not a threat, yet presaged one, and ‘twas a blessing not unmixed with danger.  Neither they nor their advisors had guessed what the true cause of that feeling was’t.  And worse, at about that same time their ability to sense and converse ‘cross Eriador with Círdan had failed.

  So then, thought Galadriel, perhaps these Maiar of the Blessed Realm hath come hither to contest with Sauron, should he arise.  Many such did I know in Aman, yet I wager many more did Helluin know, for in those days she wandered the lands and met well ‘nigh all.

  She was’t not alone in her thought; Lord Glorfindel too guessed shrewdly.

  ‘Tis my hope that Manwë hath sent forth His agents to our succor in the coming days, Glorfindel thought, and much shalt we be in need of courage and inspiration should Sauron arise again as of old, for our allies art diminished and grown estranged since the Last Alliance.  Yet but five hath been sent hither and they walk in the guise of elders of the Younger Children.  I wager then that these art meant not to be warriors, but rather counselors perhaps?  I wonder who the Elder King hath sent?  Perchance Helluin doth know.

  “Were these Maiar known to thee, Helluin?”  Galadriel asked, speaking the thought of both.  Celeborn, Celebrian, Elladan, and Erestor looked at her in surprise.  The idea that Helluin might hath known these Maiar from long aforetime in Aman had not occurred to them.

  “Indeed so.  All were familiar to me upon a time.”

  “Can’st thou tell us ‘aught of them then, Helluin?”  Elrond asked with the intense curiosity of one born in mortal lands.

  Helluin sighed.  Of the five, but one had been a friend.  One further had been for a short time an instructor in craft.  The other three had been only passing acquaintances.

  “They art charged as an Order by the Elder King,” Helluin began, “and Círdan and the folk of Mithlond hath come to call them the Ithryn¹.  In the Days of the Trees I first met in the House of Nienna, the Maia Olórin, and oft later did I find him in Lórien.  He is deep in wisdom, yet deeper still in understanding, and I value him greatly as a friend.”  ¹(Ithryn, (pl of Ithron), Sindarin translation of the Quenya Istari.  Ithron is given in UT, pg 388, and does not translate precisely as wise(istui) or wizard (curunír)  Sindarin)      

  Indeed Helluin had been both glad and apprehensive at their recent meeting, for she knew that Olórin would hath been deeply disappointed in her many acts of rage, in the atrocities she had committed in Eriador, and in her unamendable hatred of Sauron and his minions.  Yet the Maia had greeted her with fair words and not a trace of condemnation.  As of old, he had accepted her as she was’t.  In a rare episode, the dour Noldo had been moved to tears by the absolution of her friend.

  “Too I hath the long acquaintance of Maitemir¹, whom the Sindar now call Curunír, and whom I first met amongst the people of Aule,” Helluin continued.  “Much I learnt from him of artificing and of fabrication.  Yet ever was’t he intrigued with knowledge, indeed a more curious one I hath never met, and of that knowledge, the more arcane ‘twas, the better it appealed.  He is deep and mighty in concentration, yet I hath some reservations about him.  I recall he was’t of old unpleased by Feanor’s mastery, as it were a challenge to his own, and he is proud and stern, and not above anger.”  ¹(Maitemir, Skilled One = maite(skilled) + -mir(agent in names)  Quenya.  This name is not canon, but approximates the meaning of the Sindarin name Curunír, Skilled One .  In UT, pg 393, the name Curumo, Inventor or Wright in Quenya, appears.)

  Helluin had not been happy to see him.  Their relationship had soured quickly in Aman, for few of the Noldor had learnt so effortlessly as she, and none had valued so little what they had wrought.  Helluin had attained to much of Maitemir’s craft, yet regarded it as if t’were but a folly, for in those days she had been even more profoundly unimpressed with works of skill while’st even more greatly enamoured of the Valar’s living creations.  Her attitude had insulted his pride.  She had perceived the Maia’s resentment of her and had soon taken to avoiding him whenever possible.  He in turn had considered her an anachronism, an ingrate, a vulgar commoner, and a waste of his time.  She was’t hardly surprised to hath found him attired in raiment of white, as leader of the Ithryn.

  “In Aman, Nilmo Celvariva¹ was’t of the Maiar of Yavanna, and one of the few with whom I shared converse with the creatures of the Blessed Realm.  He in fact spent great tracts of time in their company and learnt much of their experiences.  The folk of Tirion called him Aiwendil¹ in those days.  He is a gentle soul and if this order is to contest with the Great Enemy as some suspect, then I dare question the wisdom of sending him hither.  I still recall him upon all fours, barking in the company of the hounds of Orome and chasing his absent tail.  The Sindar now call him Radaghír².  He went forth into Eriador but a fortnight after landfall and hast not returned to Mithlond since.”  ¹(Nilmo Celvariva, Friend of Animals = nilmo(m.)(friend) + celva(animal) + -r(pl suff) + -iva(pl assoc suff, of)  Quenya.  Of note here is material on pgs 393 and 401 of UT, telling that in Aman, Radagast bears the name Aiwendil, Lover of Birds(?) in Quenya.)  ²(Radaghír, Beast Lord = radag(beast, animal) + hír(lord)  Sindarin, and again, not canon, but the very similar name Radagast is said to be Mannish in origin.)

  “Two others there were also, Maiar of the following of Orome,” Helluin said.  “They art Pallando¹, a skilled hunter, and Alatar², an archer of grim prowess.  Both were tall and strong when in Aman, yet hither they too appear as Men of many years, clad in robes of sea-blue.  They left Mithlond but a day after landfall, even ere the Sindar had named them in their tongue, and whither they hath journeyed since, I know not.  ¹(Pallando, (untranslatable) = palla(wide, expansive) or palan(afar) + -nd(?) + -o(n on adj agent or possibly gen suff) Quenya.  This name appears in UT, pg 393.)  ²(Alatar, Radiances  = alata(radiance) + -r(pl suff)  Quenya. This name appears in UT, pg 393.)

  Of them all Galadriel remembered most Maitemir, for he had early on discerned her distrust of Feanor and had sought her confederacy.  She had, in turn, come to distrust him as well.  She’d had little interest in practicing the work of craftsmen and could fathom not his interest in her save for the advancement in standing amongst the Noldor that association with her might confer.  Such a consideration should hath been ‘neath the concern of a Maia, she had thought, and therefore she had become suspicious of his motives long ago.

  Alatar and Pallando she knew from hunts ridden long aforetime in Valinor.  The two hunters had been friendly and good company on a few occasions, but not close, for she had seen them only infrequently.  Nilmo Celvariva she had never met, and though she enjoyed birdsong much like any elleth, Finarfin’s daughter had cared less for the creatures themselves in those days.  Olórin she had met in Aman in the early years, for her grandfather Finwe had valued his counsel.  She remembered him as highly sensitive, perceptive, and all too serious for her tastes in company.  Now that so much time had passed, she thought they might hath more in common.  At the very least, she suspected that he would divine her custody of a Ring of Power whensoever they met.  So too would Maitemir if she weren’t very careful, and that thought troubled her.  Galadriel sighed.

  “So then this great thing hast come to pass in Mithlond,” Elrond said, “and we hath had some inkling of it, yet whyfore, I wonder, hath Círdan sent not any word to us?”

  “Word shalt come to thee in its time,” Helluin hinted, “but I deem the days of knowing such at once art past.”

  At Helluin’s words, Galadriel gave her a sharp look and then a moment later both she and Elrond nodded in understanding.  Círdan no longer wore the Ring of Fire.  Their link with Mithlond ‘cross the miles of Eriador was’t undone.  At once they wondered to whom it had been passed.  They stared at Helluin by reflex and she twitched her eyes side to side rather than shake her head ‘no’.  The others seated in the study noticed not her subtle gesture nor discerned the subject of their silent communication.  Then the two Ringwearers sought to sense the Ring and at this too they failed.  They felt it not at all.  That alone told them much and now they knew a fresh doubt.  He who held it was’t powerful enough to shield it even from their eyes.  Galadriel in particular hoped that Narya had come not to the hand of Maitemir.  The silence grew prolonged and the other counselors were looking from face to face in growing confusion.  Helluin spoke to return the group’s attention to less sensitive topics.

  “We hath still to speak of that for which Beinvír and myself hath been called hither,” she noted.  “Elladan hinted of a Shadow that hast grown in Greenwood of late.”

   To this Lord Elrond swallowed hard and shook his head sadly.  From yon Hithaeglir just o’er a year aforetime had come messengers from King Thranduil.  His folk had suffered great upheaval.  Not for the first time did the Lord of Imladris rue the months it had taken his son to find Helluin and Beinvír.

  “A Shadow indeed hast grown in Greenwood,” he said, “and it lies o’er a place well known to thee.  ‘Tis rooted upon Laiquadol, the very home of thy friend, Oldbark.”

  “I feel it ever growing in my mind,” Galadriel added, “ever darkening.  ‘Tis said a great and fell sorcerer abides thither.  We fear rather ‘tis one of the Úlairi.”

  Not a mortal sorcerer but a Ringwraith!  Helluin gritted her teeth.  If only she had been able to slay them all in Orodruin, but alas, they had fled her and only one of their company had fallen.  She felt that just as Isildur’s folly had open the door for the return of Sauron, so too had her failure opened the door for this invasion of Greenwood.  Now ‘twas her old friend, the Lord of the Onodrim who had suffered.

  ‘Twas a chilling thought.  If indeed Oldbark had been driven hence from Laiquadol, how had Thranduil and his folk fared?  The Onod commanded countless Huorns, indeed even the trees as well, and the Enyd themselves were powerful.  If they had been worsted by this sorcerer or wraith, what had become of the Nandor?  Surely they were now badly o’er matched.  They had but their bows and their wits for defense, and after following her advice to march to war with the Last Alliance, that people were diminished and less fit to meet so potent an enemy.  The dark Noldo held her breath and an icy fear grew in her heart for what tidings had come from Calenglad i’Dhaer.

  “What hath been told of the Greenwood?”  Beinvír asked, seeing her partner’s silence and steeling herself for what Elrond might say.

  “From Thranduil hast come tidings of a stirring of evil Men out of the east who hath made their homes in enclaves amidst the southern fastnesses of the forest.  Some of them claim to hath fled wars in their homelands and do ‘naught but hunt and farm and bother no one.  Yet there art many others, of whom ‘tis said that their numbers increase with each passing year, and these art quarrelsome and destructive and hardly better than Yrch.  Then too there hast been noted an increase in the spiders and that they art more bold; yea, even so bold as to assail some of Thranduil’s folk when they art wandering one alone or a few together poorly armed.  The people of the wood say that they feel evil upon the breeze and sense it in the shadows ‘neath the trees, and ever the more so the further south they go.

  In these last years ever fewer of that folk chance their way south of the Men-i-Naugrim, and then only in companies well armed.  Thither they go to trade with the settlers ‘nigh Anduin to their west and also to meet the merchants journeying east through the forest to do business with those who live about the River Celduin, for these peddlers barter works of Khazad-dûm.  These traders too hath grown fearful.”

  “Yet all this pales beside the doings of the sorcerer at Laiquadol,” Galadriel said, “for he hast driven hence the Onodrim from their halls.  What great sorcery he hast employed in this, we know not.  Yet I see thither in my mind a dark tower upon the heights whereat I once restored the olvar while’st in thy company long ago, and I feel the Shadow emanating from it.  Creatures and good Men and Elves flee from it and it reaches out with tendrils of fear ‘neath the trees.  By this do I reckon it to be one of the Úlairi, for such fear proceeds them and none but a few can’st resist it.  Fewer still might fight it.”

  “This sorcerer we cannot see,” Elrond told them, “nay, not with any sight.  Neither hath any of Thranduil’s people seen ‘aught of him, and this too favors our suspicions.”

  And now Helluin clearly understood their call for her aid.  Few enough even amongst the Amanyar could walk with safety in those darkening woods.  And though none had said so, they all knew that fewer still might successfully resist should there be not one, but nine Shadows thither in the tower upon Laiquadol.  Her jaw tightened with the gritting of her teeth.  Indeed Helluin alone could walk into a den of Úlairi with impunity and challenge them in their lair; indeed she would relish that opportunity.

  Like a hound of the Valar shalt they loose me upon their foes, she thought, and thither shalt I go full-willing.  ‘Tis but by my failure in Orodruin aforetime that such hast come to pass.  Ahh, Oldbark, I would beg thy forgiveness, my old friend, that my past conduct hast brought this darkness to thy realm.

  “Thither shalt I go at the request of this council,” said Helluin, “for to seek after the truth that lurks in yonder wood.  If ‘tis indeed one of the Úlairi, then with the Valar’s blessing I shalt destroy him as I did not aforetime.  If ‘tis a mortal, then perhaps I shalt slay him too for his crimes upon my friends of old, the Onodrim.”

  At Helluin’s words, Beinvír stared at her with an expression of horror, her mouth frozen in mid-protest.  Rather than voice out loud her reservations before the company, she spoke in silence to her beloved.

  Thou go into great danger to assuage thy guilt for the outcome of thy combat aforetime.  I fear for thee, meldanya, for what if ‘tis indeed a great sorcerer and thou come’th under some enchantment, or art wounded by some fell weapon hitherto unseen, or art taken in some trap he hast devised.  How can’st thou know he shalt not see thy coming?  Then too wilt thou face as well the gathered Men of the East, mortal yes, but great in numbers and inflamed with hatred of our kind?  Many should go with thee, my love, Beinvír said, even if ‘tis thee alone who enters the tower.

  If many were to go, then with trumpets and heraldry they may as well proceed, Helluin answered.  Nay, ‘tis better that one alone should go in stealth.  If ‘tis indeed one of the Úlairi then I fear not.  Indeed if ‘tis all the Úlairi, then still I do not fear.  Rather should they fear me, and rather doth I expect they shalt flee me ere they fight.   Yet such a quest is not without danger, thou speak true in this, but not for danger’s sake can’st I remain idle.  If danger there is now, then worse shalt it become if left to fester unchecked.  Indeed the sooner the better ere we face a realm of evil long entrenched which hath called to itself many allies.

  For some moments the Green Elf weighed Helluin’s arguments in a growing state of unhappiness.  Not for the first time had Helluin refuted her fears with strong reasoning. 

  Thy points art well considered and I find I hate them every one, Beinvír said silently, and I know thou hast made up thy mind to venture thither.  I wish t’were not so.  Yet if by stealth thou shalt go hence, then two can’st go in equal stealth.  I shalt accompany thee upon thy quest this time, as I did not the last.

  But Helluin again dissuaded her from that act as she had ere her invasion of Mordor, while’st as before begging her aid in an enterprise of lesser jeopardy.

  My love, into that danger I cannot take thee, for just as ‘twas aforetime and for the same reasons, thou woulds’t be liable to come to great harm.  Such a pass I could not accept.  Already hast thou come ‘neath the Shadow and borne a wound from a mórgúl blade.   Indeed I would level the whole of the forest to ash ere I chance thy life to the jeopardy of chance unneeded.  Rather I would beseech thee, come with me to Calenglad i’Dhaer, to bring thither and hear such tidings as art timely to King Thranduil.  Like thee he is Nandor, and of him thou may find still such welcome as I deserve not.  To him I cannot go.  Since the outcome of the war I feel I hath no right to welcome amongst that people, for by my counsel is Thranduil deprived of his adar and his people of their king.  I pray thee, anamelda, accept this part in the efforts of this council.  Helluin looked into her lover’s eyes, knowing she would be unsatisfied, but hoping that she would accept.

  Beinvír fairly stamped her foot in frustration and clamped shut her jaw lest she speak ill in haste.  Helluin held her breath.  ‘Twas some time ere she heaved a sigh and replied.

  Ever thou seek to protect me, the Green Elf said at last, and for that amidst so many things I hath come to love thee.  Yet here again we art to be separated as thou go’st into peril, and I am left to worry for thee.  Almost as bad is thy self-condemnation for the fortunes of battle that befell Oropher and his warriors.  Yes, they went to war upon thy counsel, but they refused much of the benefits thou offered and fought more with pride than with tactics.  This thou know well, and Thranduil too, whatever his love for his father might say.  Aforetime he welcomed thee despite thy Noldor heritage.  I am sure he holds thee blameless in his heart even now, for thou did all thou could on his folks’ behalf ere the war.  He is wise after his fashion and not likely to condemn thee wrongfully.

  Much as Helluin wanted to believe her lover’s words, she just couldn’t absolve herself.

  My love, though forgive me he may in his wisdom, I deem that even the sight of me shalt renew the sorrow in his heart.  I cannot do thus to him after all else.  Nay, to Thranduil I shalt not go.  But I beg thee again, meldanya, make thy way thither on behalf of this council.  Hear what he hast learnt and tell him what we know.                 

  Now the Green Elf searched Helluin’s eyes and thither did she perceive the Noldo’s resolve.  Helluin would go alone to Laiquadol whether she protested or no.  Dissuading her was’t as hopeless as aforetime when they’d stood upon the Ephel Duath, staring down into Mordor.  Helluin would not be swayed from her purpose.  At last Beinvír lowered her head and sadly nodded in agreement.  She would go to King Thranduil.  For her silent concession, Helluin leaned o’er and gently placed a relieved kiss upon her lover’s lips.

“We leave for Rhovanion on the morrow,” Helluin told the council.  “I shalt investigate the Shadow upon Laiquadol.  Make ready all such tidings as thou woulds’t hath King Thranduil know and Beinvír shalt convey them thither.”

Helluin, Elrond said silently, catching her eyes, neither I nor any other here beseech thee to engage at this time such enemies as art thither.  Rather we ask thee for confirmation only.  If ‘tis indeed as we suspect, then t’will be the gathered strength of many who shalt drive him hence.  ‘Tis not for thee alone to do thus, my friend.

Helluin nodded to acknowledge the Peredhel’s words, but they both knew that if fate begat the opportunity, she would fight.  If an Úlairi showed itself, the Noldo would pursue and engage him.  She would not waste the chance to finish what she had started a thousand years before.

  The response of the others ranged from well-wishing to relief to modest guilt.  They would send forth their hound to harry the Sorcerer of Greenwood.  So ended the first Council of the Wise in that Age, unnamed, unrecorded, and unremembered by history.  ‘Twas 1 Narwain, (January 1st), TA 1002. 

To be continued

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