In An Age Before – Part 73

Chapter Sixty

Eriador – The Third Age of the Sun

Now in TA 1015 Ciryaher took the crown of Gondor as the 15th king of the line of Anárion and when, in 1050, he decisively defeated the Haradrim of Umbar, he took the name Hyarmendacil I, which signified "South-Victor". This great king ruled for 134 years, and in his time the realm of Gondor extended its borders, west from the Sea of Rhûn to the River Gwathlo in Eriador. From Celebrant in the north, south to Harnen, and thence along the coast so far as Umbar did Gondor hold sway, and 'tis told that in those days the princes of the Haradrim lived in Osgiliath as hostages against the conduct of their fathers. The grim fortresses of Durthang, Cirith Ungol, and Nargil far to the south were garrisoned to keep watch o'er the empty land of Mordor.

In the splintered north kingdoms of the Dúnedain, Mallor was't crowned 3rd king of Arthedain in TA 1029.

Thither in Eriador, in the very same year that Ciryaher o'ercame Gondor's enemies in Umbar, a smallish group of settlers first entered the lands of the northern Dúnedain, though none marked their arrival at that time, nor for many years thereafter. These immigrants were the tribe of the Harfoots, cousins of the Fallohides whom Helluin had met in the Vale of Anduin, but these tended to be yet slighter in stature and swarthier of complexion. 'Twas later ascertained that they had held some familiarity with the Naugrim of Khazad-dûm, for they later claimed to hath lived long in the eastern foothills of the Hithaeglir and they had come o'er the Caradhras Pass. 'Twas perhaps the Dwarves who had finally convinced them that Eriador indeed existed and was't bountiful, rather than a scorched wasteland. So, as was't their habit, upon reaching Eriador the Harfoots set about farming, and quietly grew in numbers as they spread westwards.

In TA 1100 the Wise again met in council in Imladris, for new reports of a dark menace in Calenglad-i-Dhaer had been heard, and once again these reports centered upon the dark fortress of Dól Gúldúr. At that time the Council suspected that the malefactor was't again Tindomul or another of the Úlairi, creeping back to Greenwood to again take up his evil. Messengers were dispatched from Imladris and they rode the tracks 'cross Eriador seeking for Helluin and Beinvír, for now Galadriel deemed the time for her appeal to them ripe, yet the riders found them not, nor any rumor of them. Disappointment greeted the errand riders' return and no decisive action was't taken at that time. Instead, the Wise chose to wait and watch. 'Twas o'er 200 years ere they learnt more.

Now in the years that followed, Celepharn ascended the throne as the fourth king of Arthedain. This came to pass in TA 1110. His counterpart in Rhudaur ruled a realm containing many crude Hill Men, cousins of the Dunlendings who dwelt further south, and unknown to him, a growing number of Periannath. Rhudaur included The Angle, that rolling land south of the Ettenmoors 'twixt Mitheithel and Bruinen, and thither came, (as hast been said aforetime), the Harfoots in TA 1050 and the Fallohides in TA 1150. These latter crossed the Hithaeglir north of Imladris just as Helluin had recommended, yet such was't their stealth, indeed their paranoia, that they passed the Hidden Valley unmarked by the Elves. Indeed it may also be true that the Hidden Valley was't simply too well hidden for them to find, or they may hath shied away from an abode of strangers as 'twas their wont to do. Due to the renewed darkening of the Greenwood, both groups had earlier crossed to Anduin's west bank, but this had not sufficed to give them safety. Finally they had fled their homes in Rhovanion.

Also beginning in TA 1150, a third group of Periannath began to make their way into Eriador. These were the Stoors, and they followed in the footsteps of the Harfoots, entering Eriador by the pass o'er Caradhras. Like the Noldor long aforetime crossing the Helcaraxë, the Stoors lost many to the daunting and frigid heights, yet by drawing upon some native reserve of hardihood, they persevered and survived. Like their more northerly cousins, they settled quietly into the landscape.

In those days one further succession is noted. In TA 1149 Hyarmendacil I, the "South Victor" of Gondor, passed on his crown to his son, Atanatar II, who took the name Alcarin, the "Glorious". Atanatar was as dissolute as his father had been resolute. He cared nothing for Gondor's navy. During his reign the realm's sea power was't neglected and its captains disregarded, much as the Guild of Venturers had been 'neath the rule of Tar-Ancalime in Númenor. Little more did he care for the kingdom's armies, being concerned only with his ease and splendor. Maintenance of the borders fell mostly to the captains and lieutenants whose lives were at stake on the frontiers and whose sense of duty was't instilled by nobler family traditions. 'Twas widely said of Alcarin's reign that, 'precious stones are pebbles in Gondor for children to play with'¹, and all took note, friend and foe alike. ¹(Quote fr TLoTR, Appendix A, GatHoA, pg 1021).

With Atanatar II the decline of Gondor began in earnest. Perhaps most egregious was't the cessation of the watch upon the Black Land, a vigilance which was't never resumed. Yet in the following years, Alcarin did Gondor a more visible disservice. Two sons he sired, both of like temperament unto himself. These were Narmacil I, who died in 1294 as the 2nd childless king, and Carmacil who ruled after him, having usurped the crown from his brother's appointed heir and regent, his own son, Minalcar.

During the 155 years of neglect 'twixt the passing of Hyarmendacil I and the ascension of Minalcar, but one action of note was't taken against Gondor's enemies. In TA 1248 Minalcar defeated and drove the Easterlings from their strongholds east of the Sea of Rhûn. For this he took the crown in 1304 as Rómendacil II, "East Victor".

A statesman too was't Minalcar, for he favored his North Men allies and sent his son as ambassador to the King of Rhovanion. Thither, in the court of Vidugavia, Valacar of Gondor fell in love and married Vidumavi, Princess of Rhovanion. In so doing he introduced a strain into the royal house that came not of Númenor. His son and heir Eldacar, being but half-blooded Dúnadan, focused the hatred and racism of his people, and upon Valacar's death in 1432 civil war broke out in Gondor. Kinslaying, until that time a particular curse of the Noldor, was't taken up by their distant relatives, the sons of Elros. Yet ere that time much else came to pass in Eriador and in Rhovanion, and thither led the adventures of Helluin and Beinvír.

Now following their departure from Imladris in TA 1002, the two ellith made their way west, and in the forest of Central Eriador 'nigh the peaceful waters of the Baranduin, they came upon the company of Dálindir. With him as ever were his general, Tórferedir, the lieutenant, Gwilolrán, Celegaras the scout, and the ever-friendly Gérorn. Warm was't the welcome they offered their two wandering friends. The King of the Laiquendi harkened to Helluin and Beinvír's tidings with great disquiet, and indeed the only good word was't of the budding love of Thranduil and Inthuiril.

"So Helluin, that doom of which thou once spoke draws 'nigh, and short to us shalt the time be ere all lands fall 'neath the Shadow of the Great Enemy once again," Dálindir said, "or so it shalt seem to us.  Alas, for the doom that Isildur wrought."

"So it seems indeed, O King," the dark Noldo said.  "Yet again shalt we be called to defend home and heart against the darkening of the coming days.  Alas indeed for Isildur and his house.  Alas for Lord Oldbark and Calenglad."

"And so as we resolved aforetime, our readiness and our watch upon these lands shalt we maintain, and perhaps our hope too, for what else can'st we do?"

"I know not," Helluin answered, "for the Fading continues as 'twas fated to do."

For some moments the company silently brooded upon the days to come.  The certainty that Sauron would arise again filled them all with foreboding.  Having seen proof of his continued malice in the deeds of Tindomul left them no doubt that it would come to pass.  It would be only a matter of time.

"Taur nín, er tula¹," Tórferedir reported, tilting his head to the west. ¹(Taur nín, er tula. My King, one comes. = taur(king of tribe, ar.) + nín(1st pers sing poss pro, my) + er(one) + tulo-(come) + -a(3rd pers pres indic v suff) Sindarin)

Shaken from his contemplation, Dálindir asked, "Er gwaith vín?²" ²(Er gwaith vín? One of our folk? = er(one) + gwaith(folk) + vín(3rd pers pl poss pro, our) (gen construc, one of our folk) Sindarin)

"Baw." (baw, no Sindarin)

"Feir?" The king asked. (feir, a mortal, indef n. Sindarin)

"I am not sure," the King's Hunter reported with a shrug.  He seemed surprised at his own uncertainty. All stared at him, turning hence their senses whither he canted his head.

"I wager 'tis no mortal who comes 'nigh," Helluin said with certainty ere she moved quickly forward towards a figure only barely to be seen approaching 'twixt the boles of the trees.  'Twas little enough to see even with her flawless eyesight, save the movement alone, for the newcomer was't clad in grey as a wandering Sinda. 

While the Laiquendi bent their bows and set an ambush, the dark warrior rapidly closed upon the interloper, and though she did so in utter silence, she drew no weapon.  Beinvír trailed behind her, cloaked in the complete stealth of her people. They had come 'nigh three fathoms from the walker when he raised his head and eyed them directly from 'neath his hood without searching. 'Twas as if he had marked them from the first.

"So, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, would thou deny thy welcome to an old friend?"

Though the Green Elf was't at first surprised to be marked so easily, the Noldo dipped her head in respect and then smiled her welcome from the heart.

"Mae govannen, Olórin," she said in greeting.

Beinvír came up beside her and bowed to the old man. To her surprise, he dipped his head in return. When he looked back up and met her eyes, 'twas with a gentle smile. The Green Elf was't charmed by his manners and complete lack of pretension, and she smiled warmly in return. He came close to them and whispered in confidence.

"Pray call me Mithrandir as I hath come to be known in Eriador, my friends. I deem the fewer who know 'aught else, the better."

They nodded, for to them, the Maia's request carried the weight of a command.

"T'will be as thou wish, old friend," Helluin assured him.

"Then shalt thou introduce me to those hidden yonder?" The wizard asked, and though 'twas 'naught to be seen by eyesight, he indicated the company hidden amongst the trees ahead with a cant of his head and an arching of one bushy eyebrow. "I deem it a proper and fitting courtesy to come before the kings of these lands. Already I hath met Beleg of Arthedain and Mallor, his Heir. Círdan and Elrond, of course, I hath oft held counsel with, but the King of the Laiquendi hast been more difficult to meet."

So 'twas thus that Mithrandir at last made the acquaintance of the King of the Green Elves, a thing which his hosts in Mithlond and Imladris had failed to do in all their years upon the Hither Shores. More surprisingly, he was't accepted amongst that secretive folk so easily that even Helluin was't astonished. Perhaps to those who had been ever upon the Hither Shores his veiled Light, inherent in those come of the Immortal West, soothed their spirits and belayed any suspicions. Perhaps it drew them to him, just as the promise of the Light of the Two Trees and the Bliss of Aman had once done for all the Eldar. Perhaps too 'twas the virtue of Narya which he bore. Yet for whatever reason, Dálindir and his company named him a friend ere their first day together was't done.

Now for his part, Mithrandir had claimed to be only a wanderer and an enemy of Sauron. He did mention holding counsel with the lords at Annúminas. So naturally the Green Elves assumed him to be an emissary from Arthedain, from the court of Mallor, though he never claimed any office. Still he appeared as a mortal to their eyes, and being a friend of Helluin and Beinvír, and certainly no Dunlending, they assumed he was't of Númenórean descent. He never dissuaded them of this for it served his purposes.

They found him curious concerning their history, of which little was't known in Imladris or Mithlond, and authoritative upon points of lore regarding the Noldor, Sindar, and Edain. He was't sharp of mind, direct in speech, and sincere in his enmity for the Dark Lord, yet his animosity was't tempered, (as Helluin's was't not), and he showed sympathy for their plight. On that first day he shared much unknown to them in counsel. Yet more than these things, when in his company all felt an uplifting of their spirits and an increase in their hopes for the future. Without consciously marking or understanding its source they felt a subtle inspiration. 'Twas the Influence of Narya, the Red Ring of Fire.

Late in the night, as the Laiquendi took their repose, Mithrandir came to Helluin and Beinvír where they sat 'nigh the fire sharing tea, and after accepting a warm cup, sat and did what Galadriel had failed to do. He enlisted them in a mission for the welfare of the western lands.

"Well, my friends, we art again upon the threshold of a door long open, and before us lies another chance to be rid of the Shadow," he looked at them carefully o'er the rim of his cup. "Yet such chances art built as one doth build a sturdy wall, one stone placed with care atop the one below. So too the events of this Age shalt be; one deed built upon another while'st the Enemy seeks ever to upset that work with the strategies of his malice."

The two ellith nodded in agreement. His words were clear to them as they might not hath been to mortal ears, seeming more oft a riddle with meaning obscure.

"As thou say," Helluin replied, "each deed sets itself upon those already done and paves the foundation for those yet to come. Already that foundation is long a-building, with the loss of the One Ring and Sauron's survival. A great stone the Dark Lord set by driving hence the Onodrim from Calenglad. Another was't laid in the taking of Laiquadol and the building of Dól Gúldúr. I hath done what I could to undo it ere the mortar set."

"So I hath heard tell from Elrond," he said, nodding. "Gallant was't thy assault upon the Nazgûl. Gallant too was't thy rescue of Thranduil's beloved. Now too I hath heard of these Periannath, and of the North Men thou met. I deem they shalt each play many a part in the days to come, for east of Hithaeglir, Gondor shalt not stand ever untouched. Many wars the southern Dúnedain shalt fight in defense of the western lands. They shalt hath need of sturdy allies."

"Aye," Beinvír agreed, "and we hath already seen 'aught to presage their decline…cats and queens possessed and war mongering kings the foremost."

The Wizard raised a bushy brow in curiosity, but he deigned to pursue those tales.

"Aye, many signs art to be seen, no doubt, and much needs doing, now and in the days to come." He looked down at his wrinkled hands and with a sigh continued. "I find myself limited in this body," he said, "yet this burden hast been decreed for me. Even so there is much to be done and the days pass."

The two Elves quickly looked past him at each other.

"Helluin," he said, drawing back her attention, "one thing that must somehow come to pass is the migration of some houses of North Men. From their lands 'nigh Celduin and Carnen they must make their way to Rhovanion. Yet I hath work too that demands my presence in Eriador," he shook his head in frustration. "The north is weak and grows weaker through dispute. I fear for the Dúnedain of Arnor and the House of Isildur."

Helluin cast her eyes down and watched her toes scuff the leafmould. A mission had been set before her at the request of an immortal spirit of Aman, and though she doubted that Olórin would stoop to command her, she felt his need almost as if 't'were her own.

'Tis the influence of his damn Ring…I just know it. Yet how am I to deny his request? Foresighted is he and he begs my aid in time of need. And his cause is just. He seeks to build a foundation for the future, and woe shalt come to us if that foundation lies not sturdy upon the day its walls must stand. I must accept his task.

When she looked up again her blue eyes met his sharp glance and she nodded her head. Beside her, Beinvír watched the exchange but said 'naught, neither yea nor nay.

"I do not ask this lightly, my friend," Mithrandir softly said, "yet too, 'tis known to me that thou was't offered the friendship of the captain, Ërlick. I urge thee to him ere he pass." With a sigh that spoke of sympathy the Maia said, "The life-days of Men art short to our eyes, Helluin; those of the North Men yet the more than those of the Men of the West. Make thy journey while'st thou art still recalled by living eyes and memories, rather than only in the songs of their sons. The father of the fallen thou buried is a great chieftain. Seek for him, Helluin."

Helluin turned to her beloved and they spoke in silence, eye to eye.

'Tis a grave mission Mithrandir lays upon thee, meldanya, the Green Elf said.

I know, and yet I see the necessity of it. On some day to come the House of Anárion shalt need succor and aid against their enemies, for Sauron shalt inflame all the East against them. I must go thither.

And I with thee, for whither thou go I shalt go as well. 'Tis not to battle, nor to the lair of the Shadow that we make our way, but rather to those who hold thee in esteem. The threat is much less than when thou went thither, alone, to the Sorcerer's tower.

Indeed so, anamelda. 'Tis decided then. We leave on the morrow.

The Green Elf nodded in agreement, happy not to hath needed further arguments, and Helluin turned back to Mithrandir.

"In the morn we shalt take our leave. If it be our fate then we shalt meet the North Men and urge them to remove west, to the Vale of Anduin."

Mithrandir nodded in appreciation of the soulmates' aid. No others upon the Hither Shores could he hath approached with such hope for success. Since the Westward March so long before, few enough of the Noldor had ever ventured east of the Hithaeglir, save during their prosecution of the War of the Last Alliance. None knew its lands and peoples as did these two ellith. Nor would any others hath been so swayed to take up his mission by that combination of understanding its need, readiness to act, and reverence for the West. Had not Helluin already twice accomplished the will of Ulmo unquestioned?

Yes, Mithrandir knew of Helluin's actions. 'Twas a part of his duty to know the heartbreak of Ilúvatar's children, and through the Ages they had been great indeed. But especial to him had been that primal pain that had assailed his old friend at the loss of her brother upon the Helcaraxë. From afar he had felt her helpless pain, her self-condemnation, and the resulting efflorescence of her hatred, first for the House of Feanor, and thereafter for Morgoth's lieutenant, Sauron. The dark rage that had arisen within her was't foreign to her nature and foreign to the original nature of the Eldar…and she had ever been the Noldo most unaltered by the developing cultures of the Eldalië in Aman. Her outlook, her desires, and her deeds had been Helluin's alone. Whither her darkness might lead, none could say. So he had feared for her, having only his faith in the Song for comfort. 'Cross all the years since the Exile of the Noldor he had been aware of her to some degree, looking upon her with his Sight from time to time, and ever hoping that someday she would find peace.

Ahhh my friend, he thought as he watched the two ellith make their way east in the next morning's growing light, a fool's errand 'twill seem to thee for many lives of Men, yet thou shalt hath thy success eventually, though the fruits of thy labors now shalt not come to ripeness for 'nigh on 1,500 years. I hope thou hast patience.

"Anta mí estel ar sére, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel, ar as aistassenya,¹" he whispered softly to their retreating backs. ¹(Anta mí estel ar sére, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel, ar as aistassenya. Go in hope and peace, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, and with my blessing. = auta-(go away) + (in) + estel(hope) + ar(and) + sére(peace) + Heldalúne Maica i móremenel + ar(and) + as(with) + aista-(bless) + -sse(n on v suff, -ing) + -nya(1st pers poss pro suff, my). Quenya)

Standing beside him Tórferedir canted his head. The Quenya was't strange to his ears.

"Sui anirol maer tó thioant, meldir eden nín.²"²(Sui anirol maer tó thioant, meldir eden nín. As well-wishing that seemed, my new (male) friend.= sui(as) + aníro-(wish) + -l(act pres part v suff, -ing) + maer(good) + (that) + thio- (seem) + -ant(v past tense suff, seemed) + meldir(m. friend) + eden (new) + nín(1st pers poss pro, my) Sindarin)

"So 'twas indeed, my friend," the Wizard answered the King's Hunter, "and few need such wishes more." He continued watching Helluin and Beinvír until they were out of sight amongst the trees.

Maia though he was't, Olórin knew not all that was't to come. Deep though his knowledge went, many were the days of doubt ahead with many deeds unseen. Yet he had glimpses of many things far away; of places, people, and actions to come, hinted at, half-remembered, or half-forgotten. The cloak of flesh he was't now compelled to wear shrouded the clarity of his mind and his understanding of Manwë's will. 'Twas tiresome and weighed heavily upon him with the possibility that some small miscalculation could deliver the Mortal Lands to ruin. Sometimes no clearer is my Sight than 'twas aforetime 'neath the shadowed fume of Ungoliant, and my course and counsel no surer than that of the Valar upon that day when the Trees died. Alas for our plight and the plight of all free folk. There is so much to accomplish and so little time, and here am I, still learning the ways of my own new self…the limitations of the flesh.

Olórin turned to the King's Hunter. He had much to discuss with this general and his king. Into their lands would soon come a small and inconsequential seeming folk, yet a hazy imperative compelled him to arrange for them some protection. From amongst their number, upon some long awaited future day, would come great deeds. Alas, of that time no more could he remember or see with certainty, save that the road ahead was't hedged by a dark name. The death of a little one then would seal the fate of all who came after, and when he contemplated failure his spirit quailed in fear. No! Such must not come to pass! And the days in this land shalt soon darken. Aye, they shalt be dark indeed. One mischance shalt spell the ruin of us all, when the Kingdom of Angmar arises.

To Be Continued

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