In An Age Before – Part 74
Rhovanion – The Third Age of the Sun
Now Helluin and Beinvír made their way through Dunland to the Vale of Anduin by way of the gap to the south of Methedras that lay north of the Ered Nimrais. Thither, in an Age before, they had made their first acquaintance with the Drúedain, but none of that wary kindred did they see now. This surprised them ‘naught, for indeed but twice in all their years had they held converse with that race of mortals. So they came, after a journey of three fortnights, to the land of Calenardhon which was’t the westernmost province of the realm of Gondor.
Thither, in the Tower of Angrenost, which later Men called Isengard, Helluin had long aforetime usurped the privilege of the King’s Custodian, and by enchanting both he and the garrison captain, she had used the palantír housed in the tower’s highest room to challenge and deceived the Dark Lord Sauron ere the War of the Last Alliance.
Now she was’t troubled as they approached that sheltered vale, for though the memories of Men were short-lived by Elvish standards, the Dúnedain paid more attention to their lore than most. Had Captain Barahir recorded ‘aught of his visit from the two ellith back in the spring of SA 3430? His ‘lapse’ of conduct made such unlikely, yet who could tell? Still, ‘twas o’er a thousand years past, and perhaps long forgotten. One thing was’t sure; ere they traveled the lands of the southern king, they were bound by courtesy to present themselves to such agents which that king had deployed upon his western border. So ‘twas that upon the afternoon of 4 Urui, (August 4th), TA 1002, that Helluin and Beinvír approached the sentries stationed at the arched gate in the ring-wall of the Tower of Angrenost and announced themselves.
“Hail and well met, noble soldiers of Gondor,” Helluin called out. “We art two wanderers out of Eriador, making our way east to Rhovanion. We seek the leave of thy king’s grace to travel these lands, meaning thee no harm and obeying thy king’s laws.”
The surprised guards had straightened and their captain eyed the two ellith with acute focus. Save for errand riders of their king or troops replacing them at the end of their tour of duty, few came thither, and strange wanderers almost never, and yet of late, these were not the first. Now though the two wayfarers standing before him were dressed in shabby, travel-stained cloaks, yet with his heart he felt a faint but uplifting aura about them. Unlike many, he made no quick or superficial judgments, but studied them until their strangeness fell into place.
“If my eyes deceive me not, thou art Elvish folk,” he said with a tinge of awe as he approached. He was’t of powerful build, dark haired and grey-eyed and somewhat short of stature for a Dúnadan, the top of his head being o’er a hand’s width lower than Helluin’s. “Thy people hath been allies and friends of the Dúnedain since the days of long lost Númenor. ‘Tis the policy of the House of Anárion that thou art welcome hither, though I must confess, not expected in these latter days. Indeed none of us hath met aforetime any of Elven kind. Pray tell me thy names.”
The captain had made his way close to them and now looked back and forth ‘twixt the two ellith, marking their attire and their weapons. His glance settled upon the Green Elf, drawn thither almost unconsciously by her bewitching beauty.
“I am Beinvír of the Laiquendi, and my companion is Helluin of the Host of Finwe,” she said, offering a smile. “Indeed we hath been allies of thy realm aforetime, for we went to war on thy peoples’ behalf a thousand years ago.”
For some moments the Man stood silently digesting her answer. He knew from lore that the Elves died not of old age and showed the passage of their years but little, yet to be thus confronted with such a claim was’t still a shock. To hath borne arms a thousand years past could mean only the War of the Last Alliance, a page of history now blending into legend. It had been in the time of Anárion and Isildur…and Elendil.
“A dozen kings hath ruled since those days,” he slowly said, “and yet thou look to my eyes as a maid of some twenty-five winters.” After a thoughtful pause he added more softly, “‘Tis hard indeed to fathom, the passage of such time. Still, to our allies of old the realm of Gondor extends its welcome. Thou art free to go thy way in peace.”
“I thank thee, captain of Gondor,” the Green Elf said, “and indeed in peace we hope to pass. May the same find thee and thy company ‘neath Eru’s blessing.”
Now the captain, having satisfied his duty, sought to stay their departure for more selfish reasons, for since boyhood he had listened with rapt awe to the tales of his people out of the vanished years. Before him stood two who had lived those days, seen the great deeds done in that time, and perhaps long aforetime as well. Therefore he eyed the westering sun and the peaceful lands about the ring-wall of the tower. Little of interest did his post present day to day, and so as Captain Barahir a thousand years before him, he valued the presence of his visitors.
“I mark how Anor sinks now in the west and the day seeks its ending. Though ‘tis but a frontier garrison of Gondor I would offer thee the hospitality of Angrenost this eve. Pray join my company for its board and take such rest as the wilderness affords not to travelers…meat, bread, and passable wine, a warm fire and ears eager for tales. I offer thee both shelter and sustenance this night. What say thou?”
Beinvír looked to Helluin with bright eyes and a warm smile. If she suspected aright, her partner would be begged for many a story ere the evening ended, and should she prove reticent, she herself would play bard as she had long aforetime in many inns and taverns. Besides, a meal and wine and friendly company for a night were not so common in their wandering lifestyle.
The captain’s offer strikes my fancy, meldis nin. We hadn’t planned to walk this night. What say thou?
I should say that I recall that upon past times thou was’t ever sorely vexed at the prospect of spending time within a tower of stone encircled by a wall, Helluin chided with a smirk. For a moment she held Beinvír’s eyes as if weighing the pros and cons, though she had already decided in favor of humoring her lover’s fancy. I suppose t’would do no harm, entertaining these soldiers of the House of Anárion this night. Pray ask me not to sing.
With a broad smile and flashing eyes the Green Elf answered for the two of them.
“T’will be our pleasure to accept thy kind invitation, O captain of Gondor. Thy hospitality shalt be welcome this night.”
The captain smiled happily and announced to his Men, “We art blessed this night with guests, my friends. Beinvír and Helluin shalt join us for such mirth as we can’st contrive after our duty, and they shalt join our board for the evening meal.”
The two Elves looked at the company of sentries and saw nodding heads and uncertain smiles of welcome. Like their captain, the soldiers were oft times bored at their posting and most counted the days ere they returned to the more civilized parts of the realm. T’would be long, this last hour of their watch, ere they could relax with their visitors. In the meantime they made the best of it, gathering in a group and introducing themselves ere returning to their posts. When their watch ended they formed up and marched back to the tower with their guests walking alongside their formation, all of them looking forward to a treat. Indeed none of them had ever seen or spoken aforetime to an Elf.
Now Helluin and Beinvír were shown to a room near the doors of the tower ‘nigh the rooms of the officers of the tower guard, for some few spaces were indeed maintained for guests and messengers of the king. Thither they repaired to wash and relax ere the bell summoning the companies for the evening meal was’t rung.
“’Tis refreshing to be not constrained upon the threshold, nor banished to a guard house for once,” Anguirél’s voice commented from her scabbard as Helluin doffed her belt and set her weapons upon the bed. “T’would seem the Men of Gondor accord their arms a fitting measure of honor.”
“Aye, so they do,” Helluin answered. “Hither, in an abode of warriors rather than a palace of kings, I am little surprised. No soldier would set his blade amidst the elements and chance compromising its edge. In high honor doth the Dúnedain hold their weapons; weapons of far lesser lineage than thyself.”
“Any weapon that serves its wielder faithfully in battle is deserving of honor,” the Sarchram said. “’Tis wisdom for any soldier in his own house.”
Beinvír resisted rolling her eyes as she set aside her bow and quiver and her two long fighting knives. Centuries ago she had become accustomed to her partner’s weapons speaking their peace, though she found them somewhat single-minded.
“In Middle Earth the kings of Westernesse possessed but one blade of the highest renown, and that sword was’t shattered long ago,” Helluin mused, thinking of Narsil, the sword forged in the First Age by Telchar of Nogrod. That smith’s other great work had been the dagger Angrist, which Beren had taken from Curufin and used to cut a Silmaril from the Crown of Morgoth in the throne room of Angband. “Alas.”
Some time later the two Elves were lying atop the bed, silently staring at the ceiling, Helluin resting her mind and Beinvír searching hers.
“Helluin, doth ‘aught seem familiar to thee regarding this captain?” Beinvír asked.
Helluin blinked herself back to the present and concentrated on the Green Elf’s question. She scrunched her brows, seeing the Man in her mind’s eye ere she shook her head ‘no’. He looked nothing like Captain Barahir whom she had enchanted to sleep a thousand years aforetime in Angrenost. He didn’t remind her of anyone in the armies of Gondor that she could recall during the last war either.
“Nay, I mark not any familiarity in him. Doth thou?”
The Green Elf shrugged, uncertain. For some moments she chewed her lower lip.
“I find I am unsure,” she finally said. “I place his likeness not amongst the Rangers of Ithilien, nor amongst the soldiers of the Last Alliance, yet a flash of some recollection I felt at our first meeting. Huh. Mayhaps t’will come to me.” Again she shrugged.
Now after a short time more a bell was’t rung, summoning the soldiers to their evening mess. Helluin and Beinvír followed the instructions given them earlier and made their way to a large hall ‘neath the tower. Thither were set many long trestle tables and benches whereat were seated the companies of the soldiery of Angrenost.
At his insistence the two ellith took seats flanking the captain they had met aforetime, at a table where sat he, his lieutenants, and three watches, each of a dozen Men-at-arms. In that company they shared fellowship and good fare ‘till all had eaten their fill. Thence commenced the jests and jibes of a company of soldiers relaxing at their ease; conduct far less grim than in times of war. Many flagons of wine were drunk and many mugs of ale as well. Tales of past deeds were told, and from other tables ‘cross the hall, voices were lifted up in song. Helluin drained her seventh cup of wine as the captain watched, and as she moved again to pour her fill, he deemed the time proper to beg a tale.
“Helluin of the Host of Finwe, my esteemed guest,” he began. “I am named for Galdor, son of Hador the Golden-haired, the father of Húrin and Huor…a name greater than my station deserves, I wager, yet borne with honor for he of that distant time. Of those days ‘naught but ancient lore is known to us, and yet I mark the name of thy folk, for thou art numbered amongst the Noldor, art thou not? If indeed ‘tis so then perhaps thy memory stretches back unto the First Age of Middle Earth? Perchance even further still? And if so, then mayhaps thou recall the noble House of Hador?”
Helluin finished pouring her wine and then eyed the captain.
“Great indeed is the honor due thy namesake, for of him who bore it aforetime two great lineages came. Steadfast allies of my people were they…mighty warriors and enemies of the Great Enemy of the World. Alas, I knew not Galdor the Tall in his time, for my own service was’t given to King Turgon of the Hidden City of Gondolin. Thither did Húrin and Huor once make their way by the Lord Ulmo’s mercy and the wings of Thorondor’s vassals. In those days I came forth from Gondolin but twice only, with Turgon’s host in times of war. Yet upon just such a time accursed, I met again Lord Húrin, and his brother Huor as well.”
For some moments Helluin’s eyes were turned inwards, seeing the horror of those days afresh in her memories. It had been the fifth great battle of the First Age of the Sun.
“Truly? Thou knew Húrin and Huor in time of war?” The captain asked in amazement.
For a moment he had hoped for a thrilling story of battle, but then as he reviewed his knowledge of ancient lore the color drained from his face. Helluin regarded him silently, and as she saw realization make him blanch, she nodded. In that moment she read his heart with the sight gifted to her people.
“Aye,” she whispered. “‘Twas in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad; the heartbreak of Beleriand wherein many hopes of the Noldor and the Edain perished. Thither did that noble twain sacrifice themselves upon my lord’s behalf, shedding their blood in the rearguard against countless hoards of our enemies and in token of things to come. In so doing they won the undying honor of my people and ransomed the hopes of all.”
Captain Galdor sat silent for some moments, reflecting on the horrors and the deeds of renown that the lore of the Dúnedain still recounted. He knew enough of history to understand that much had been lost in the Whelming Of the Númenor. What remained to his generation was’t surely incomplete, the tales of events shading into the uncertain haze of legend, for even to the long-lived Men of the West, a thousand years was’t a long time indeed.
A few skirmishes he had fought against the Men of the South, but the battles of old had been fought against enemies he could barely imagine; Tor, Valaraukar, Urulóki, and the multitudinous Glamhoth. To stand against such foes was’t well ‘nigh inconceivable to him. And save for some terrifying tales from the War of the Last Alliance, even the Yrch seemed unreal, the phantasms of a nightmare only, and not flesh and blood creatures to be found ‘neath the sun and moon. Though Captain Galdor was’t a stalwart soldier of Gondor, neither cowardly nor shy of battle, still thankful was’t he to not face such tests.
And thither at his side sat one who had fought in those days; one who had come forth from fallen Gondolin, whose majesty was’t recalled only in tales from the earliest days of the sunken Isles of Kings. More than ever did he feel unworthy of his name.
“At first I had hoped for tales from thee for to entertain my Men,” he said, “yet now I feel myself shamed. I pray thee think no ill of my company on my account. I would not ask thee to relive such horrors as thou surely saw, for I hath heard that for those of the Elder Kindred, recounting is akin to reliving, for thy memories live ever undimmed within thee. I pray thee excuse my ignorance, noble lady.”
Helluin shook herself free of those very memories as had begun to impinge upon her and she looked deeply into the captain’s eyes. She saw sincere regret and understanding, and a sense that to this Man, the unending Life of the Eldar was’t not a thing to be coveted. He whom she had known for but a few hours only perceived more deeply than many accounted wise; indeed more deeply than many a king of the Line of Elros. If anything, she recalled now the wisdom and love of Veantur, the Captain-Admiral of King Tar-Elendil of Númenor, who had been her husband for ‘nigh on 400 years.
“Thou hast a thing more dear than lineage or a royal name, O captain,” the dark Noldo softly said, “and if the days were such as pressed upon us so dire as in those days of old, then I would want thee beside me, to face such enemies as assailed us. In war much else besides strength of arms may decide the day, for battle is waged as much within as without. Hope, a true heart, courage and love; these count as surely as a heavy hand, for they partake of the blessings of the One to His Children.
I hath seen hosts laid low by armies who never showed themselves in battle and I hath seen companies annihilated by only one or two. I hath known a Man who defied an evil mightier than any that now exists upon Arda and even the Great Enemy of our Age was’t defeated by one mortal warrior wielding a broken sword.
For my part thou hast earned not thy shame, O captain. Perchance the blood of the ancient houses of the Atani runs in thy veins, and perhaps ‘tis their kindred heart that beats in thy breast. It matters not. Thou art thy own Man with thy own fate. Do ‘aught as thou can in thy own time and let fear not stay thee. No one, whether Elda or Adan can do more.”
Captain Galdor sat transfixed. The blue of the Noldo’s eyes was’t deeper than ‘aught else he had seen, whether in the deeps of Belegaer or the cloudless sky o’er Mindolluin. In their depths he marked a Light that was‘t no reflection of the fire upon the hearth grate. It burned amidst a Darkness blacker than night. In her words he had found sympathy, hope, and absolution. What he felt at that moment was’t awe, such as comes upon one in the vistas seen from the high court of Minas Anor while’st looking down upon Osgiliath in the evening, or from the high talan upon the mainmast of a great ship running before a storm at sea. ‘Twas a Man’s confrontation with a natural power, akin to those known aforetime, but immeasurably greater. Thither did he seek for understanding of the unfathomable, as mortals art wont to do, hoping that by apprehending a timeless mystery he could touch for a single precious moment a merest wisp of the divine.
I shalt show thee that for which thou cannot ask, for as thou hast said, my memories live undiminished within me. Harken to me now that thou know’st for what thou stands.
Then in a flashing instant Captain Galdor stood seeing through Helluin’s eyes. He came upon a battle by night in a deep wood whither two warriors of Elven kind stood back to back fending off a company of Yrch. One warrior stood notably tall, crowned with hair of flaming red, and Galdor marked the cup-hilted dagger affixed to the stump of his right wrist. The longsword he bore in his left hewed his enemies with inhuman skill. The second warrior bore a sword in his right and no less skilled was’t his swordplay. Many of the Glam fell before him, yet ever more came ‘nigh. ‘Twixt those warriors stood twin youths armed with sword and axe, and these the Elvish warriors viciously defended as if they were their sons. The Glam closed in, ever greater numbers pressing forward with malicious resolve, and the warriors barely repelled them.
Then his point of view was’t moving and about him bodies fell. A swift black blade he wielded, whirling in deadly arcs about his person ‘till it smoked with the black blood of the Yrch. Astonished he was’t at the carnage, for never had he imagined swordplay so deadly. Amazement greeted him upon the faces of the two ellyn¹, though thankfulness he saw thither as well. No words did they speak and ‘naught but the whistling of blades and the cries of stricken enemies were to be heard. And he perceived that deadly as the two warriors were, she through whose eyes he saw was’t deadlier still, for she felled her enemies faster, and within her heart he felt joy and bloodlust that celebrated the slaughter to appease a burning wrath. ¹(ellyn, pl of ellon, a male Elf. Sindarin)
As the blade slashed yet again his eye chanced to glance above and through a gap in the all encompassing foliage he marked a patch of dark night sky. For but a moment did the vision last, of a starry canopy far brighter than any that now burned o’er the heavens of Middle Earth, and for a single instant only, perhaps as some breeze shifted aside a leaf, a star of Holy Light winked down upon him. Even from these diminished latter days he knew its sheen. Eärendil! No other could it be! At the sight of it his heart sang with hope to last a thousand years.
In an instant the scene changed and he was’t within a great cavern, lit flickering orange by a lake of lava that flowed swift and unquiet below. From his bow leapt three bright bolts, and they struck down three foes clad in black upon the left. Ere a breath passed another three arrows found their mark upon the right, but now the enemy was’t upon him.
Cold light glimmered upon their rusted blades. Three only now remained, but from them flowed a mortal terror, pressing chill upon the heart. Thither stood figures from the nightmares of his childhood, for they could be none others that the Úlairi of Sauron. And yet he felt no fear. From the fëa that hosted his sight came a surge of resolve to destroy those arrayed before him. Indeed rather than terror, he felt only contempt. Then a voice cried out from his throat in words of the Grey Elven tongue, a battle cry it took him a moment to translate. Beltho Huiniath! “Kill ‘Em All!” The words rang out, coming alive from ancient tales of Ages past. They were known to him from lore of the days of war wherein came the might of Númenor to Eriador in the reign of Tar-Minastir the king.
In his right hand the black blade slashed and thrust as if possessed of its own dark will, while’st in his left a ring-bladed weapon parried and threatened, more feared by the Wraiths than the lethal sword. And though he faced three undead and accursed, those servants of the enemy most feared by his people, he assailed them without hesitation. Soon he came to understand that ‘twas they who feared!
With a blink Helluin released him and Captain Galdor shivered, and he shook himself to recover. He knew her now by her weapons and her battle cry, which one only of the Eldar had ever uttered, ere ‘twas taken up by the soldiery of her mortal allies. Yet for another reason more recent did he know her, and this was’t for her weapons, glimpsed in a moment of chance upon a road to the east and south.
“For thy visions I thank thee,” he said at last, “and I place thee now aright. One only came to liberate the sons of Eärendil from the sons of Feanor, and one only laid low the Úlairi in battle. One only inspired the warriors of Ciryatur upon the fields of Eriador with her battle cry long ago. And yet I know thee too from later days, for did not thou and thy friend come to Gondor in the last generation?”
Helluin thought back. In TA 870 she and Beinvír had indeed made their way to Gondor for to investigate the strange rumors surrounding Queen Berúthiel. She sighed and nodded to confirm the captain’s words.
‘Cross the table she met her beloved’s eyes and they spoke in silence.
The crazy cat-queen banished us from the southern realm forthwith, Helluin said, and now I must wonder if her edict was’t widely published and outlived her reign.
The Green Elf groaned at the memory.
Think thou that this captain shalt withdraw his welcome, meldanya, and thereby force us to make a long journey to the north and o’er the Hithaeglir?
I pray such shalt not be the case, Helluin replied. Yet if her commands survived not in the lore of Gondor, how doth this captain know ‘aught of our visit?
To this, Beinvír could only shrug. I deem it best to ask, for what shalt be shalt be.
Helluin nodded. Sometimes a simple plan bore the same fruit as a complex one, and with but a fraction of the effort.
“Few knew of our visit to Osgiliath,” the Green Elf asked, “for ‘twas of short duration. How came thee to know of it?”
“Indeed I know of it only by a chance meeting upon the road to Minas Anor,” Captain Galdor said, the hint of a grin shaping his lips.
At the looks of surprise on the two ellith’s faces he allowed himself a full smile.
“Nay, I met thee not myself, for I hath passed but 47 winters and thy visit was’t 132 years aforetime. Yet the Men of my family hath served Gondor at arms for seven generations; indeed since the War of the Last Alliance.” He chuckled ere he continued. “‘Twas my father who chanced upon thee while’st walking from Osgiliath to take up a new posting in the Tower of the Setting Sun. Thither upon the road were words exchanged ‘twixt he and thee.” He smiled at their continued confusion.
Immediately Helluin and Beinvír replayed their recollections of their journey to Osgiliath and the dark Noldo groaned. Thither she had met and threatened a Man who had spoken ill to her beloved. Beinvír looked at the captain and her earlier feeling of familiarity made sense to her now. She could both place this captain’s father and imagine Helluin’s thought as well. The hint of mirth brightened her eyes.
“Take thou thy stature from thy father, O captain?” Beinvír asked.
“Aye, that I do,” Galdor said, “and much else besides. Indeed of his legacy to me I doth count both my profession and my love of lore the greater. To him thy appearance presented a mystery and thereby sparked a thirst for knowledge within him that he bore even to his grave…and this love he passed on to me in my childhood.”
Helluin reexamined her first impression and now recalled the other soldier with whom she had very nearly collided, the one called Basthent. He had been shorter and far more civil than his taller companion. She suppressed a sigh of relief.
“I said ‘aught to him save a greeting, yet he spoke with courtesy to common strangers,” she recalled.
“Good soldier of Gondor thou called him,” Galdor said, “and thy friend spoke to honor him before his comrade. My father recalled thy words and all that came to pass at thy meeting, and he saw thou hold his fellow soldier in thrall for to chastise him. Thy weapons and armor he glimpsed for a moment only as thou passed, yet none of this did he forget so long as he lived. Common strangers indeed!
In the years that followed he searched the records of Minas Anor and questioned the learned Men of the city until he satisfied his curiosity and knew of whom he’d met.”
The captain looked on as Helluin shook her head in amazement. It had been but a small incident to her, but a life changing one to the soldier of Gondor.
“Understand, my friends, that it had been many lives of Men since any of thy folk had last been seen in Gondor. To come upon thee by chance ‘twixt Osgiliath and Minas Anor was’t remarkable to him. ‘Twas a reminder to him of the past friendship our peoples shared; of great deeds and greater days gone by. So he learnt all he could of thee and of thy people, and of history as well. Much did he teach to me ere his passing and this learning may bear fruit in this latter time.”
At this Helluin raised a questioning brow and Beinvír regarded him with complete attention. He looked back and forth ‘twixt the two of them and took a deep breath. Though dressed as wayward and weathered travelers, both were beautiful beyond the most comely ladies of Gondor. Helluin was’t tall and majestic as a Valier in his dreams, with chiseled features and glowing eyes so blue they seemed condensed from the very sky above, while’st within her Light and Darkness coexisted in constant flux. Beinvír was’t fair of face and form, and from within her the living spirit shone forth more strongly than in any of the Younger Children. In her was’t nature itself reflected, beneficent and enduring, accommodating, and yet not to be challenged. And they were ancient of years beyond the reckoning of mortals. He leaned forward and spoke softly.
“Some 14 months past I hath seen two who looked to be Men of many years. Blue robed and hooded they were, and they walked leaning on staves. I spoke to them when they passed hither upon their journey and strange did they strike me, o’erly vigorous for their ages, as though both were other than they seemed. Now while’st I felt them not evil I know not their true natures, yet perhaps thou doth know them, for were any to hath encountered their like aforetime, I wager t’would be thou.”
“Whence came these two old…Men?” Helluin asked.
“From Eriador, they said, indeed from the Elf Havens upon the Gulf of Lune.”
“And wither were they bound?”
“Upon wandering travels, they said, yet they were making their way well ‘nigh due east, to Anduin and beyond.”
For some moments Helluin said ‘naught. ‘Twas almost sure that the captain had met Pallando and Alatar, in Ithryn Lúnin¹. Of them she could not speak, especially to a mortal. ¹(in Ithryn Lúnin, the Blue Wizards Sindarin)
“I deem thee right in thy suspicions,” she allowed, “and though we art come of late from Eriador, we hath seen no blue robed elders wandering the lands. If ever we come upon them, thy words we shalt recall.”
Captain Galdor regarded the Noldo closely, but could discern no lie in her words.
“Fair enough then,” he said at last, “but be thee ware. I wager they hath some power unknown to me and that sets me ill at ease. I pray I hath not done ill in granting them leave to travel through Gondor.”
The two ellith nodded in agreement.
For some time they fell silent contemplating what mission those two robed Men might hath undertaken, and then Captain Galdor surprised them yet again.
“One thing further I would tell thee,” he announced softly, a glint in his eye attesting to his anticipation of sharing unexpected tidings. Helluin and Beinvír harkened to him. “In Minas Anor is kept, amidst heirlooms and tokens of the great war, a bow and quiver that came out of the very heart of Mt. Doom.”
At his words the dark Noldo gave a soft gasp. The weapon could be none other than her own bow and quiver that she had borne to her challenge of Sauron in the land of Mordor. She had last seen them fallen upon the rocks above the lake of lava where one of her foes had kicked them beyond her reach ere the battle with swords had begun.
“How came they to Gondor?” She asked in frank amazement.
“They were won from the fiery cavern by none other than Prince Cemendur, son of King Meneldil, in his youth, long ere he took the throne of Gondor. ‘Tis said that he did thus in the early years of the vigilance of Gondor o’er the emptied Black Land, when the fortress of Cirith Ungol was’t newly built and our patrols kept a tighter watch thereon. ‘Twas perhaps folly upon his part, and yet he had heard the tales of thee and thy battle with the Úlairi. Thus perhaps to prove his mettle to his father who had known thee, he undertook to retrieve this token from the source of power of his peoples’ greatest enemy. So ‘tis that to this day, in the deep chambers of Minas Anor, there is stored that bow and quiver which thou bore to battle.”
Helluin sighed. Cemendur she had never met, for he had been but 10 years of age when the war ended, but she remembered Meneldil and his bravery in battle upon Gorgoroth. He had ridden onto the great iron bridge to Sauron’s door, heedless of the falling bombs from the Barad-dúr, and he had recalled his knights after the death of his father, Anárion.
“Verily would I revel in the slaughter of all those in league with the slayers of my father,” he cried out in a great voice, “yet not upon this day shalt we hath ‘aught save a measure of vengeance, and this we hath already achieved. Hear me, O valiant Men of Gondor, not with such force as is marshaled hither shalt we win the gate or force the way into the Barad-dúr. Back thither hath we sent the foul servants of Sauron. To our own lines, I order thee now to retreat. Our day shalt come indeed, but ‘tis not this day.”
It seemed to her that Meneldil’s son had inherited the bravery of his father…though perhaps also a measure of the bravado of his uncle, King Isildur as well. Had it not been the elder son of Elendil who had once saved from the fires of Sauron’s temple the fruit of Nimloth whose seedling bloomed to this very day in the court of Minas Anor? She nodded to Galdor.
“Valiant indeed was’t the prince, for I recall the place whereat my bow and quiver fell,” she said. “‘Twas far ‘neath the causeway and subject to the heats and fumes of the fiery lake. ‘Tis a wonder to me that he reclaimed them and survived.”
“Aye, ‘twas a great deed, true,” Captain Galdor agreed, “yet ‘twas reckoned a great prize too; a true relic of a heroic deed done aforetime. Indeed little less esteemed was’t thy bow than that of Bregor which is lost now in the deeps whence Númenor was’t toppled.” After a short pause he continued. “No less a wonder was’t thy quiver, Helluin. And in it to this day art still three white arrows unfired, with heads of gleaming mithril. No one, not even Cemendur, though he became the 4th King of Gondor, dared string thy bow or fire thy arrows. I tell thee this so that should the days darken and thy need be great, thou shalt know of a weapon thou may bear again for the benefit of the free peoples of Middle Earth.”
‘Twas little Helluin could say after hearing those tidings save offer her thanks to both Galdor and to Cemendur whom she had never known. And I hope not that the days shalt darken such that I shalt hath need to reclaim or bear that bow…yet war shalt come again…I just know it. I wonder, art those arrowheads still aglow with a ril of Light from the Two Trees of the Blessed Realm? And what virtue might they still possess?
Now on the morrow Helluin and Beinvír took their leave of Captain Galdor and the Ring of Angrenost, and they made their way east through Calenardhon, fording the Onodló after a march of seven days, ere they turned their steps north. To their west the dark and forbidding shadow of Fangorn Forest lay at the feet of the southern Hithaeglir. They passed it by amidst the rolling downs of the Wold, until they came to the River Limlight upon 18 Urui, (August 18th).
To be continued
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