In An Age Before – Part 70
Author’s Note: at the suggestion of a reviewer I am trying a compromise approach in presenting my Elvish language translations. The direct translation is presented immediately following its usage in the text. For those who are interested, the full translation is presented at the end of the chapter.
Nightfall found Helluin shackled by the wrists and ankles to the damp stone wall of a fetid cell, deep ‘neath the tower of Dól Gúldúr. Upon the irons a binding spell had been laid by the Ringwraith. Beside her a forgotten carcass remained supported by its manacles, draped in flail-rent shreds of cloth and armor tarnishing with rust. Upon the cadaver’s shriveled scalp clung a mat of dirty golden hair. A North-Man from ‘twixt Celduin and Carnen, I wager, Helluin had thought upon her first regard of the white horse head emblem still to be seen upon his breast, and whyfore so far from home?
The cell held few other surprises. The air was’t putrid, the floors clotted with fungus, and stalactites of reeking grey mucous hung pendant from the ceiling o’erhead. Threats, cruel laughter, and sounds of torment, muted and distorted, carried ‘round corners and echoed through the labyrinth of passageways. ‘Twas bit one of many cells in the Sorcerer’s underground precincts. Helluin regarded it all with boredom; compared to the dungeons of the Barad-dúr, ‘twas a virtual jolly haven, and to her, the spell-strengthened bonds were feeble at best.
At times Helluin marked more clearly the muttering of the guards on their rounds, Yrch who incessantly carped and cursed as they were wont to do. To these sporadic utterances she harkened close, and from them she had gleaned some valuable tidings. For example, the strange elleth was’t held in a similar cell down the hall, and thither she awaited the Ringwraith’s torments, or so the guards gloated. Occupying a cell all their own were Helluin’s weapons…fearsome and accursed, the Yrch claimed. The longsword and mithril Ring spoke ceaselessly, threatening the Ringwraith and promising him a second death. (Indeed they contested for the honor ‘twixt the two of them). He lorded and blustered o’er them while’st remaining loath to touch them. Anguirél he feared to even draw from her scabbard for he had felt that blade in his flesh aforetime at Pelargir. The Sarchram he had bound with an enchanted chain and locked to the wall of the cell, so terrified was’t he of it. But more important, rumors of the future ran rampant amongst the soldiery, with anticipation growing by the moment. The Nazgûl had sent word to his master that he had taken prisoner Helluin Maeg-mórmenel and Beinvír Laiquende, and he awaited orders for their disposition. Unspoken was’t his anticipation of great rewards. Speculated upon was the expectation of great rewards for the soldiers as well. In light of this, a spontaneous feast was’t underway in the tower above. Many bottles of a tar-colored and acidic wine had already been consumed and those on duty had all the more reason to grumble at their exclusion from it. With certainty, Helluin knew that the brawling would commence ere long. No few would be discovered upon the morrow, absent from duty and slumped in dark corners with knives in their backs.
The Wraith shalt be fortunate to preserve his un-life when Sauron discovers his mistake, Helluin gloated in a dark revelry, and his soldiers shalt be fortunate to preserve their miserable existence. Such art the wages of failure in the service of the twice-defeated Master of Lies. Indeed should the chance arise, I shalt taunt him o’er the quality of his servants, for herein doth the sightless lead the thoughtless.
Similar things did Helluin think and mutter as the hours passed, yet long ere dawn she discerned some disturbance approaching. Voices mumbled in the Black Speech, iron-shod feet shuffled, and steel clanked. A short distance down the hall a key turned in a lock. A cell door grated open on squealing hinges while’st dragging ‘cross the floor. She heard the strange elleth cry out in fear, followed by a wheezing hack that signified the Ringwraith’s cruel laughter. After some moments the cell’s door clanged shut and the steps proceeded closer. Through the cracks betwixt the iron-banded boards of the door, Helluin could see the flickering light of a torch stopping outside her cell. From down the hall the Elf of Greenwood was’t softly sobbing in despair.
Now the keys clanked and the lock turned. The door of Helluin’s cell was’t shoved open wide and a black shadow stood thither, backed by yellow and wavering torchlight. ‘Twas the Wraith, accompanied by a single Easterling gaoler, so drunk as to be unsteady upon his feet. In annoyance the Nazgûl cuffed him, slamming his body against the doorframe to steady the light. A moment’s flash of hatred lit the Easterling’s eyes ere the fear of his master o’erpowered it and he slouched, clutching at the door post to remain still. The Ringwraith approached, striding ‘til he stood but a fathom before Helluin.
“Sí noathoch neithant estelail, melethail, a lethianail. Annathon melethril na Sauron a elu cin na dimb daerwain,¹” the Ringwraith taunted in Sindarin, knowing the Easterling understood him not. For a moment Helluin looked up to meet his stare with dulled eyes, and then she let her gaze fall to the floor as her shoulders slumped. ¹(Sí noathoch neithant estelail, melethail, a lethianail. Annathon melethril na Sauron a elu cin na dimb daerwain. Here you will be deprived of hope, of love, and of freedom. I will give your lover to Sauron and your heart to despair(lit trans greatest sadness). Sindarin)
She felt the weight of his phantom glance lingering upon her, ‘til with a final whisper he withdrew.
“Im Murazor no túreb,¹” he gloated. Then he turned on his heel and the door slammed shut behind him. ¹(Im Murazor no túreb. I Murazor am victorious. Sindarin)
Helluin heard his gargling chuckle as his footsteps receded, those of the drunken guard staggering along behind, and again she was’t alone in the darkness. Thus she passed the remainder of the night.
Now upon the morrow, (discerned only by the voices of different guards, for no natural light penetrated to that place), ‘naught had been heard or done regarding the query of the Nazgûl for his master’s orders. No word from Sauron had yet been received. Helluin regarded no news as good news, and she bided her time with her memories.
Around what she reckoned to be mid-afternoon, the shuffling steps of guards came to her ears and she marked them drawing ‘nigh her group of cells. Though ‘twas muffled, Helluin could hear an Easterling and an Orch arguing in the Black Speech. They sounded painfully hungo’er and mean-spirited. ‘Twas little camaraderie ‘twixt them, Helluin noted, wondering if one would murder the other ere nightfall.
Now first to the strange elleth did they make their way and the door of her cell creaked and scraped as it opened, just as it had the previous night. The Orch laughed cruelly as the elleth whimpered in fear. There followed a rending of fabric and more laughter from the Orch and the Man ere the door grated shut with a crash. The soft sounds of the elleth’s sobs made their way to Helluin’s ears o’er the renewed bickering of the guards.
Typical, she thought in disgust, no Orch can resist tormenting one helpless before him, yet at the least they spent not enough time to defile her.
A moment later she heard a grunt, a gasp, and the thud of a body falling to the floor. ‘Twas followed by a cackle of self-satisfied glee. Then a cell door grated open. Something heavy was’t dragged within and the door rebolted.
The remaining guard’s torch came ‘nigh her door and a key shook in the lock. After some moments of cursing, the mechanism clicked and the door ground open. The Orch stood thither with a torch upraised in one hand, staring in at her through its flickering light, a ludicrously large ring of keys in his other fist and a malicious leer upon his features. Helluin noted that he was’t scored with scars, bald, and his left eye was’t cloudy with blindness, but he wore a death’s head emblem in white upon his ragged brow. Perhaps this was’t burnt into his flesh, perhaps tattooed, or perhaps scored thither by the touch of an acid or caustic sap, Helluin could not say which, but from the collar about the crudely drawn skull’s neck, she knew he was’t charged as a captain of the gaolers of Dól Gúldúr. Too, had there been any remaining doubt in her mind, the death’s head claimed him as a servant of the Ringwraith.
Now first the Orch tossed to her feet a damp loaf of grey bread crawling with weevil larvae, as if she had any chance of reaching it with her wrists manacled tight to the wall behind her. Then, having done his assigned duty of feeding the prisoner, he chuckled and advanced into the cell for some sport, which was’t also understood as his privilege. Ominously Helluin noticed that he pulled the door well ‘nigh fully shut behind him, save that he was’t careful to prevent the lock from sealing him in. Right up to her he came, and thence, (after jabbing the torch ‘twixt the collar bone and neck of the cadaver beside her so that it did duty as a macabre sconce), stood before her and examined her closely with his one good eye. His eyelid twitched with a nervous tic from the effort.
Helluin looked from him to the loaf upon the floor, then back to his eyes as she twisted her lips in disgust.
“Skrat! I’d gut myself ere eating that loaf of wormy mule dung too,” the Orch agreed, hawking up a mouthful of black phlegm and spitting it square upon the bread. He chuckled, and then without warning slammed his fist into Helluin’s stomach.
Now while’st the blow drove the air from Helluin’s lungs, impacting the mithril mail ‘neath her cloak broke his hand, and the snapping of a bone in his palm was’t like a song to the dark Noldo’s ears. Had she not been seeking to regain her breath, she would hath laughed hearty as he howled in pain, cursing and clutching his damaged paw.
“A gaoler of more wisdom would hath known his prisoner better,” she finally chided a moment later, “and a bully of more perfect cowardice would hath assured his own safety ere bringing harm to another.”
At this the Orch straightened up and regarded her silently for a moment, his rage vying with his struggle to understand her words. Again he spat, as if to clear his head, and he came forward again, though more warily now. With only a grunt to satisfy the pain of his broken hand, he used both to clumsily explore ‘neath her cloak, finally rending it to reveal the armor she wore. Upon seeing its form and complexity, an even more evil grin shaped his lips, as though some contemplated malice had driven all recall of his injury from his mind. Predictably, Helluin thought he intended to steal her armor.
Now as hast been told aforetime, when Gneiss son of Gnoss had wrought that armor in Khazad-dûm ‘nigh on 4,200 years aforetime, he had shaped it as a short battle dress, with ring mail and plate o’erlying a thin shift and the whole o’erlain by a leather dress of the same fashion. To this had been added greaves to protect Helluin’s shins and full coverage of her arms and shoulders, but the lower portions of her upper legs were bare. Thither, to Helluin’s complete surprise, did the Orch slide his hands, stroking upwards upon her inner thighs.
“Know my prisoner better I will,” he rasped with foul intent, cunning but twisted, “and become a wiser gaoler in the doing.” He feared ‘naught, for his prisoner was’t shackled wrist and ankle and could neither strike nor kick him in protest. He grasped a handful of smooth, warm flesh and squeezed, while’st chuckling at his own joke. “Nazgûl-glob won’t even notice if you’re not completely…fresh.”
Helluin, far more used to blatant attacks wherein jagged blades whizzed past her head and bloodcurdling screams rent the air, was’t now for several heartbeats paralyzed with amazement. So alien to her was’t this form of assault that she had to blink herself to comprehension of it. Indeed it took her some moments to actually realize that she was’t being molested by an Orch. By then his hand had cupped her and was’t massaging her roughly ‘neath her skirt. Similarly, it took him several moments to mark that the heat of her body had risen to an unnatural level that had nothing to do with his stimulations.
A moment later he shrieked and jerked away his hands. His reeling mind marked both the blazing pain and the foul-scented tendrils of smoke that arose from his charred flesh. He leaped back from her, howling curses, eyes starting from his head, and thus he failed to hear Helluin’s cold chuckle or see the predatory look upon her face. Failed too did he to mark at first the rise of light in the cell by which he could now clearly view the nature of his marring. For one moment he stood thus, petrified before her and oblivious to all save his shock and his pain. Now no longer did the flickering of the torchlight cast dancing shadows upon the walls. Thither was’t all eclipsed in a leaping radiance of silver and gold.
In that moment the hallway outside Helluin’s cell was’t lit by the glare-slivers of a flare that escaped through the cracks ‘twixt the wooden beams of the door. ‘Twas like unto a blinding flash of lightning, so brief as to be missed in the reflex blink of the eye, yet so intense as to burn its image upon the eye’s canvas. Within the cell the Orch fell back, blackened upon his fore-side, with roasted orbs staring sightless at the ceiling and his silhouette preserved as it were a shadow cast upon the scorched wooden planks of the door. His steaming, flash- roasted corpse fell lifeless upon the floor.
Into the hall strode Helluin a moment later, her figure still illuminated by the aura of Light, from the midst of which blazed her fiery blue eyes. Behind her the fungi upon the cell walls was’t blackened and crisped, the feeble chains and manacles partially melted. In one hand she carried the gaoler’s ring of keys. Her face was’t set in a mask of rage.
“Drego nin, Tindomul…tulon anich,¹” she hissed. ¹(Drego nin, Tindomul…tulon anich. Flee me, Tindomul…I come for you. Sindarin)
Past cell after cell she openly stalked, no longer with thought for stealth, lighting her own way with the ril projected from her fëa. Her wrath now ruled her for ‘twas time for vengeance. For the blighting of Laiquadol, the disenfranchisement of the Onodrim, the darkening of Calenglad, and her own captivity woulds’t she demand redress. ‘Neath the tower of Dól Gúldúr Helluin sought for two things only; her weapons and her enemies.
When she first came upon the latter of these, another Orch gaoler, she stove in his skull with an armored fist, cackling with glee as she did so. The sounds of the confrontation and the unfamiliar Light banishing the familiar darkness as it passed through the hallways alerted those unfortunates held prisoner that something unexpected went forth. They took up an ever growing tide of cries and curses, questions and demands, calling desperately for tidings, for aid, and for freedom. She ignored their howling. In those moments she even forgot the strange elleth from Greenwood. Indeed Helluin harkened not at all, listening only for two voices, neither born of a living throat.
“Sínoye. Mirima ni,¹” a familiar voice rife with irritation demanded from a cell she was’t just passing upon her right. ¹(Sínoye. Mirima ni. I am here. Free me, Quenya)
Helluin’s head whipped ‘round to an iron door and she hauled out the ring of keys. After several tries she felt the lock turn and she shoved open the door. Thither ‘cross the cell was’t the Sarchram, bound to the wall by lock and chain, the cirth upon it edged with a wavering red-orange fire. Helluin groaned. She could clearly feel its spitting rage. Upon a table in the room’s center lay Anguirél, still in her sheath, and Helluin’s daggers.
“Nia lúas!¹” The blade groused from within its scabbard. Helluin rolled her eyes and lifted her sword. ¹(Nia lúas! About damn time! Sindarin)
“Hush, thou,” Helluin admonished, “and aid me in freeing thy sister.”
The blade hissed its approval as it cleared the sheath, and Helluin slashed it in a whistling arc that clove the chain holding the Sarchram to the wall.
“And now for blood,” Helluin said in a menacing whisper, to the enthusiastic agreement of both her weapons as she replaced them upon her belt.
So ‘twas thus that Helluin came fully armed from the dungeons of Dól Gúldúr, and all such minions of the Sorcerer who beheld her fell to their doom. She slew them to a one. Well ‘nigh two hundreds died at her hand in that afternoon’s rampage, for never did she cease as she advanced through the tower. ‘Twas an orgy of bloodletting in which she reveled, bespattered and well ‘nigh hysterical. Orch and Man she hewed mercilessly, counting them not in her wrath, but ever seeking for their master. Yet he whom she sought that day she never found, and though she laid low his companies, (at least all those who fled not), the Ringwraith had fled indeed. Toward sanctuary beyond the Sea of Rhûn he escaped, with the fading sound of Helluin’s maniacal laughter dogging his way.
Back into the east did Tindomul escape, as a dark vapor and a shadow ‘neath the trees, and coming eventually to his master, reported his ill-fated imprisonment of his Lord Sauron’s greatest enemy. For his part, the Abhorrent One couldn’t decide whether to punish or reward his Ringwraith. Murazor had done well enough in capturing Helluin and Beinvír. Yet he had failed utterly in holding them. Somehow, the Lord of Lies was’t hardly surprised, though he was’t truly impressed that the Úlair had taken from her the Sarchram and her sword. In the end, he neither rewarded nor punished his Nazgûl, deeming the final outcome an instructional draw. The loss of o’er two hundred soldiers bothered him not at all. Bought and spent, ever had the lives of such been cheap.
One thing further did Sauron gain from Murazor’s report. Helluin had come thither to Dól Gúldúr seeking for the source of the spreading Shadow. She was’t, therefore, the emissary of choice for the allies to the west. Yet more, she had come with her beloved, (or so Sauron thought, having indeed no reports to the contrary), and what had happened once could be cultivated to happen again, for did not history oft repeat itself? ‘Twas not a simple melodic phrase the building block upon which a song, even The Song was’t raised? Upon some future day, he would himself go to the tower upon the Bald Hill, and thence like a spider, await the falling of his prey into his web. He dwelt then upon that possibility to the exclusion of ‘aught else, and the reek of his concentration arose from his vaporous being, more putrid than the most foul of bowel gasses, for to torment the Úlairi to whom the sense of smell is paramount. Had Sauron been aware of such, he would hath chuckled.
Well done, my sniffling hound, The Dark Lord finally whispered to his Ringwraith’s mind, now attend me, for soon as the Elves reckon it, thou shalt take up a new campaign upon my behalf, and thou shalt lay low for all time the western kingdom of Men.
Now when all was’t done and no more enemies came forth to meet her, nor coulds’t she find any living foe within the tower, Helluin sat down in the Sorcerer’s chair. Thither she took her ease and collected her wits for a time in his study. The threat of Dól Gúldúr she coulds’t now report dispelled and more.
Yea, my lords and ladies, she gloated to herself as the incandescence of her aura faded, ‘twas indeed one of the Nine as thou suspected. Nay, my Lord Elrond, ‘tis no need of thy coming against him now. He is fled, his thralls freed of their torment, and his soldiery slain. All that’s lacking is the return of the Enyd, though mayhaps some amongst thee might take it upon themselves to go thither and raze the tower. Yea, I am wholly safe and unharmed. So too is that impetuous subject of the Woodland King, whom that stupid, sniffling shade proclaimed to be my beloved Beinvír…hahahaha.
‘Twas only after some further moments of mirth that Helluin fell silent. Thranduil’s subject…she groaned. To her chagrin, Helluin had remembered the strange elleth only now. She had been held in a cell just down the hall from her own, Helluin recalled. ‘Twas time again to venture into the dungeons. Indeed there were many captives languishing thither to be freed and many less fortunate prisoners to be buried. With a sigh, Helluin got to her feet and began to retrace her steps.
To be continued
¹(Sí noathoch neithant estelail, melethail, a lethianail. Annathon melethril na Sauron a elu cin na dimb daerwain. Here you will be deprived of hope, of love, and of freedom. I will give your lover to Sauron and your heart to despair(lit trans greatest sadness). = sí(here) + no-(be) + -atho-(fut v suff) + -ch(2nd pers sing subj pro suff, you) + neitho-(deprive) + -ant(past v suff) + estel (hope) + -ail(genitive agent, of) + meleth(love) + -ail(genitive agent, of) + a(and) + letho-(free) + -(i)an(object suff) + -ail(genitive agent, of). anno-(give) + -atho-(fut v suff) + -n(1st pers sing subj pro suff, I) + meleth(love) + -ril(fem. agent) + cin(2nd pers sing poss pro, your) + na(to) + Sauron + a(and) + elu(heart) + cin(2nd pers sing poss pro, your) + na(to) + dimb(sadness) + daer(great) + -wain(superlative suff).Sindarin)
¹(Im Murazor no túreb. I Murazor(Adûnaic translation of Tindomul) am victorious. = Im(1st pers sing subj pro, I) + Murazor + no(be, am) + túr(victory) + -eb(-ous) Sindarin)
¹(Drego nin, Tindomul…tulon anich. Flee me, Tindomul…I come for you. = drego-(flee) + nin(1st pers sing dir obj pro, me) + Tindomul + tulo-(come) + -n(1st pers sing subj pro, I) + anich(prep with 2nd pers sing pro, for you) Sindarin)
¹(Sínoye. Mirima ni. I am here. Free me, = síno(here) + -ye(1st pers sing subj pro, I) + mirima(free) + ni(1st pers sing indep subj pro, me) Quenya)
¹(Nia lúas! About damn time! = nia(about) + lú(time) + -as(n intensive suff) Sindarin)
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