In An Age Before – Part 30

Chapter Thirty-five

Eriador and Lindon – The Second Age of the Sun

"Thou hath been long away, my friends," Tórferedir said in greeting as he strode towards them amongst the trees. A smile was lit upon his face. It had been 1,284 years since they had parted 'nigh Sarn Athrad in 1710. "How stands Calenglad i'Dhaer?"

"The Greenwood was well tended when last we tarried 'neath its boughs," Beinvír reported. "There the kingdom of Oropher prospered, yet that time too is long past."

"Indeed so," agreed Helluin, "for we took our leave of Lord Oldbark in 1847."

At this, Tórferedir's brows were gathered in confusion. Whither had they gone for the next 1,147 years? 'Twas considered impolite prying amongst the Laiquendi to ask any to give an accounting of themselves save at some dire need and so he wouldn't ask. Knowing this, Beinvír volunteered the information.

"We came first unto Umbar, finding there disappointment with the conduct of the Dúnedain. Thence to Belfalas did we go, where we were conned by the Lady Galadriel into assuming the rule of Lebennin 'till this Lothron past. Indeed we art but newly returned to our lives as wanderers and proper Elves."

It had been worth it, Beinvír thought, simply to see the expression of amazement on the old hunter's face. 'Twas many moments ere he could utter even a gasp.

"Fear not, Tórferedir," Helluin reassured him, "for she soon had them all cloaked as art thy people, schooled them to proper stealth, and even perfected their archery. I taught them sword play after the fashion of Eonwe. Others of the Tawarwaith taught aught else needed by a people to prosper in a fine and fertile land."

"The Tawarwaith taught…? Taught who…?" He sputtered at last.

"Why the Men of Lebennin, of course," Beinvír said.

They caught him and eased him to the ground when his eyes rolled up in his head and he went limp. Later, around their campfire, they assured him that his hearing had not fallen prey to some enchantment and he had indeed heard them aright. Still, it took them long into the night ere they convinced him that the Younger Children of Iluvatar could indeed learn the ways of the Green Elves in so far as they were able. No, they had not been perfect either at concealment or in the aiming of their bows as were those of the Galadrim¹, but far better were they than Men unschooled. They had become more than capable of foiling the sight of other Men and unobservant Elves. Tórferedir finally sat shaking his head in wonder, but he could not gainsay their claims save by going himself to Lebennin, and that he had no intention of doing. He had come to Eriador just shy of 3,000 years ago and was finally confident in his knowledge of every stream and tree as they now stood 1,300 years after the war. 'Twas finally feeling like a proper home. ¹(Galadrim, lit. Green Elves, but more properly used later for the Elves of Lórien in the 3rd Age. Sindarin)

"What then shalt thou do next?" Tórferedir asked boldly.

"We hath an annual rendezvous long unkept to attend in one week's time," Beinvír told him, "though we greatly fear the hosts and daren't enter their home. Perhaps if thou hast no pressing business elsewhere thou would care to accompany us thither?"

Helluin chuckled and Tórferedir eyed them suspiciously.

"Thou go not forth to a city?" He asked just to make sure. They shook their heads 'no'. "Indeed I hath no business and no destination at present. Very well then, I shalt join thee for thy…umm, rendezvous."

The evening of 23 Ivanneth, S.A. 2994 was fading and Anor had fallen to the horizon beyond the forest to the west. The three stood upon the downs staring at the laughing falls and marking the Withywindle as it flowed away into the forest in the dimming light. There too below them again was the enchanted house of Iarwain Ben-adar

"I see it, but I feel not the strangeness with which 'tis ever surrounded," Helluin stated.

Beinvír shrugged, her eyes wide. "Perhaps the effect shalt become more plain 'nigh the river? Perhaps more easily marked at night?"

"Whatever doth thou mean," Tórferedir asked, "'tis but a homestead 'nigh a stream."

He walked the few paces to the trailhead and began descending from the downs in the fading light. Helluin and Beinvír hastened to join him, still looking carefully all 'round. Everything appeared normal, and yet they knew that nothing they saw was. They were visited by shivers as they drew closer. There lay the lawn, the house, the barn...even the coneys nibbling upon the grass. The sky darkened and Anor sank further still. Before them the shadow of the trees extended its hand toward them like a creeping plague. The noon sharp front edge of the shadow met the front wall of the house and o'erhead the first stars burned. Beinvír nudged Helluin's side and tipped her head up. Helluin looked.

"'Tis just as before, sure enough," she said, clutching Tórferedir's tunic and drawing him to a halt. "Look thou at the stars as they once shone ere the sun and moon."

He looked up and gasped. They twinkled not but grew ever brighter as the heavens fell to black. When he looked back down he marked the flatness of the forest ahead. Indeed it looked unreal and threatening and he would not hath entered it for anything.

"Timeless it is and yet not from any time," he whispered, "or not from any time within the years of my life." He glanced up again. "Perhaps they look thus in Cuivienen?"

"I should wonder not if they reproduce that which was seen in the Ages of the Lamps, long ere the Quendi awoke," Helluin guessed, "for not even upon the Westward March did they burn so bright."

"And indeed many known well to us appear not," Beinvír said studying them closely. "Helluin, thy star shows not its light…nor Menelmacar, nor Valacirca, nor Wilwarin."

"Nor Earendil," Tórferedir said with a tremor in his voice. He turned to Beinvír and asked, "What spell goes forth to make thus the night sky? What sorcery here doth turn back the years of Arda?"

"'Tis the doings of Iarwain Ben-adar," she said, "and each year we could, upon this night hath we come hither, hoping against hope to see this deadly mirage and seeking to perhaps find liberated, Dálindir and his company. Come, the night is full."

They walked across the lawn following the rabbits to the door, and as before the windows were lit from within by a golden light. A sharpness lay upon everything, subtle, yet horrifying. The door opened and Goldberry appeared, and as before, she stepped into her bunny slippers. Tórferedir marked this and gasped. They were now but two fathoms from the door, standing in plain sight, but Maldiaving marked them not.

Then the silhouette of Iarwain filled the doorway eclipsing their view of the room beyond. He was as he had ever been, short, thick, and ludicrous in his garb. With a gentle hand he ushered Maldiaving back within the house and then stood upon the threshold eyeing the three Elves.

"Ick, ack, so thou art back," he uttered in a sing-song voice. He offered them a smile that chilled their blood. Tórferedir choked. Helluin seethed. Beinvír spoke.

"Return to us our friends, Iarwain," she said, "for 'tis not right that thou should keep them ever here. They hath lives and friends and they art sorely missed. Whither comes thy right to hold them so, year after year? This fate thou hast forced upon them is not just, 'tis not in accord with their place in Arda; 'tis not the fate gifted them by the One. Thou hast great power, true, but to use it thus? Such usurpation of another's freedom smacks of the ways of Morgoth himself. Thou should be ashamed."

Iarwain stared at Beinvír in silence, but he had harkened to her appeal and his eyes were turned within. For the first time he appeared old! The moments lengthened as he stood still and undecided.

"She speaks the truth and thou know'th the truth of it," Helluin said softly, "and be thou Maia or Vala, or some other spirit of an order great, to force thy will thus upon those of lesser kind is wrong. It hath deprived these innocents of their voice in the Song. Thou hast made them thralls."

Iarwain cast his glance upon Helluin, then upon Beinvír, and last upon Tórferedir, and there was conflict and sorrow in his eyes.

"Thou should use thy gifts to aid those thou find, not to harness them in buckets and stay their path to their rightful doom," Beinvír said. "There is peril enough in the world."

"They were already thy friends, Iarwain," Helluin added, "and hither they would hath come at times, for already they enjoyed thy company. Thou needs not hath trapped them thus as skins."

Iarwain sat down hard upon the threshold and looked up at them, a heartbreaking expression upon his normally jovial features.

"But my friends in whom I delighted kept passing from the world," he said, his voice hitching with sorrow, "and in but a few days as it seemed to me, they would come never again. And I…I missed them."

From 'neath his tall conical hat he drew a violet handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes, then blew his nose with a loud honk.

"All changes upon Arda, my friend," Tórferedir said, "and many art those we hath come to miss. Yet such hast ever been the way of the world and to accept one's place within it is to accept that all is as it should be, even though it may not be as one would wish it. All seek to hold ever their joy, yet such cannot be. 'Tis but our place to treasure the day as it stands and hope for as good on the morrow. If thou be within Arda and cleave to it with love, then thou too art bound to its fate."

Iarwain nodded slowly and again blew his nose. He then gave the handkerchief a snap that flung from it the moisture gathered there ere he replaced it 'neath his hat.

"Thou speak the truth," he admitted at last. The sorrow upon his face was heartbreaking for it spoke of accumulation through many long Ages…far longer then the wearying store in the memory of any Elf. "I hath slipped somewhat of late, I fear. I shalt release them."

He rose and turned to reenter his home and beckoned to those within. Shortly there stood upon the doorstep, Dálindir, Celegaras, Gérorn, the Dwarf of Nogrod, the Man, and Maldiaving. Iarwain waved a hand before them and a scintillating dust of light washed o'er their figures. They shook themselves and blinked and then looked all about them.

"Poopy-pee, thou all art free," Iarwain said. "Now thou can'st take thy leave of me."

The three Green Elves stepped forward and greeted Tórferedir, Beinvír, and Helluin. The Dwarf and the Man looked around in confusion. Maldiaving looked at Iarwain.

"Greetings, my friends," Dálindir said. "Beinvír, Helluin, whither came thou upon this old scoundrel?" He moved forward and wrapped Tórferedir in a hug that the hunter joyfully returned.

Gérorn and Celegaras smiled at the long maintained kidding between the young king and his much older general. Then Gérorn came forward and tried to greet Beinvír with a kiss, but she turned her head from him and the big ellon looked at her in confusion.

"Much hath changed, my friend," she told him, "and indeed the explanation shalt take some time, yet all shalt be told and thou shalt understand what hast come to pass." He could but nod and accept her words though he understood them little.

Upon the threshold Iarwain and Maldiaving were still facing one another.

"Thou hath now thy leave to follow thy heart," Iarwain told the Riv-er Daughter, "and to thy streams and brooks may thou return. Of all here hath I done thee the greatest harm, for thou hast been with me since ere the fall of Illuin and Ormal, and I fear thou shalt find all 'bout much changed. Ever did I desire but to hath thy company, for bereft of thee my heart falls cold and lonely as the Void, my ancient home. I am so very sorry, my love."

Helluin was shocked by Iarwain's words. Not a thing he'd said had rhymed.

Maldiaving looked about the house, out at the forest, the Withywindle, the sky, and the lawn. She looked down at her own feet and wiggled her toes within the bunny slippers, and then she stepped out of them and bade them be on their way. The coneys regarded her for a moment with twitching noses ere they hopped off across the grass.

"Freed now, I suppose they shalt find some warm burrow and many tender shoots, and so shalt call this place home," she said. "For myself I choose as hath the coneys. I shalt stay ever where I hath found a home and more."

And with that she took Iarwain's hand and led him back inside the house. The door closed behind them. In the next moment, the house and all about it wavered, faded, and was gone. The path upon which the company stood flickered and vanished, leaving the bare grass 'neath their feet. Above them Ithil and the stars they knew were restored. The Dwarf's eyes were wide in shock. He stared at the space where the house had stood, then up at the sky, and seeing Ithil, he recoiled in amazement. The Man screeched and leapt repeatedly as if trying to divorce his feet from contact with the enchanted ground. Helluin shook her head at his antics. He really was a primitive. A tug at her sleeve drew her attention.

Whatever shalt we do with them, Beinvír asked silently, giving a cant of her head to indicate the Dwarf and the Man. Helluin groaned.

The Dwarf I should think shalt find kinship with those in Khazad-dum, and there we should convey him, she said, then she looked at the Man, (who had finally ceased his St. Vitas dance), and shook her head, of him, I hath no idea.

Perhaps some amongst the Men about Nenuial art his kin long sundered, Beinvír suggested hopefully.

Very long sundered, Helluin said with a mental grimace. Could not Iarwain hath returned them from whence he took them?How, pray tell, doth we ever find ourselves saddled thus with the dregs of Arda's doom?

The giggles of the Green Elf continued off and on as the company made their way up onto the downs. There they built a camp and about the fire spent the night in a bizarre state of combined rejoicing and confusion. Indeed 'twas one of the stranger nights any had experienced, even Helluin and Beinvír.

They could only guess what the Man thought, for while the three Laiquendi had friends and the Dwarf could converse a bit with Helluin in an archaic dialect of Khuzdul or halting Sindarin, the Man had no tongue in common with them. He had no inkling of later history, he had never seen an Elf or a Dwarf save those in Iarwain's house, and upon him the Shadow of old out of the east lingered much like a coat of dirt upon a waif. By his dark looks, Helluin guessed him some scion of the folk of Bëor, and indeed when she spoke the name of Balan¹ he nodded vigorously. But no more than that could she ascertain with words and he eventually fell into a brooding silence. ¹(Balan, the true name of the Adan who came to be called Bëor after taking service with Finrod Felagund. Bëor was the word for "vassal" in the ancestral tongue of the First House of the Edain. The Sil., Ch. XVII, pg. 166)

"In the time in which his people came unto Beleriand was I already in the Hidden City, and what little I doth know of the coming of Men I hath learnt as lore," Helluin said later after the Man had fallen asleep. They had given him much wine and this he had consumed with gusto, finally falling into a stupor and then passing out. It had been a questionable measure at best. Helluin shook her head. "Wish I could command him to wash," she muttered, wrinkling her nose, "for 'naught save his feet art clean."

Of the Dwarf, (when he could but for a while tear hence his eyes from the moon to answer), she learned that all that had been spoken in the House of Iarwain had come to his ears in his own tongue. It seemed that the strange host had arranged for each guest to speak in his own language and hear the others in his own tongue as well. None had learnt the speech of the others. Helluin sighed. Two Ages to learn and the Man knew not a word of Sindarin. She wondered too how the tidings of the Battle of the River Ascar would be received by the Dwarf…how the Laiquendi of Ossiriand had annihilated his folk, and how he had been joyfully sharing company for centuries with the king of his exterminators. She strove to appreciate the irony.

At last Beinvír came and joined Helluin. She and Tórferedir had been updating their king and his company about all that had come to pass in their absence. It had taken hours and was far from complete, but they had voted to cease for the night and continue on the morrow. Beinvír wrapped her arms around Helluin's shoulders and gave her a squeeze. Helluin turned her head and brushed her lips across those of her partner. She rejoiced to see the bright light of joy in the Green Elf's eyes.

"Thou hast finally achieved thy desire," she said, "thy friends at last art free."

"And none more surprised than I,' Beinvír admitted. "Yet I hath long had my desire." Here she batted her eyes suggestively at Helluin, "Though what hath transpired this night is indeed the fulfillment of a long held wish."

"It hast been a special day, meldanya," Helluin said with a smile, "indeed for more than one cause."

"So it is indeed, meldis meldwain nin," Beinvír replied doing the math, "to the day 'tis 1,733 years we hath spent together." Her eyes were bright with joy and Helluin sought to memorize the look deep within them and to forge thence a memory to last her 'till the end of days. "I should spend thus with thee my days 'till Arda fail and all art called home."

"And then I should spend with thee all my days in bliss," Helluin said, "for whether in Arda or in Aman, or in some place yet to be, 'tis thy company I shalt crave."

They spent their anniversary wrapped together in their bedroll of many, many mole skins, lost to the world without as they gazed eye to eye through the remaining hours of darkness. In that time a glimmer enveloped them, the dim and mundane reflection of that blazing fire within that surrounded their joined fëar, and seeing this, Gérorn understood more clearly than words could tell and he was happy for his friends.

Upon the morrow, (and only thence after repeatedly assuring the Dwarf that Anor signaled not the world's ending nor would it fall from the sky to smite them dead with fire), they continued their discourse and the conversation was broken only for a time when Tórferedir and Dálindir and Celegaras slipped away into the forest to hunt something for supper and for old times' sake. They soon returned with a pygmy forest deer, already dressed and skinned. The Dwarf capered with joy at the sight of it and the Man's mouth watered. Beinvír and Tórferedir set to work at the butchery while Helluin built up the fire.

Later they decided that Helluin and Beinvír, having been known aforetime to that kindred though 'twas long ago, would convey the Dwarf hence to Khazad-dum. At the same time, Tórferedir would join the company of his king, indeed intending not to let him out of his sight for some time, and they would somehow bring the Man to his distant kin who dwelt 'nigh Lake Nenuial. There lingered some Men whom Helluin had long before discerned were akin to the House of Bëor, and amongst whom this Man might find welcome and a few words in common.

Now the Dwarf, who declared his name to be Ishkabibúl, was indeed quite happy to be going hence to the halls of Durin, for all the Khazad regarded Durin the Deathless as the father of their race. During his life in Nogrod thus far, (and he was considered young, being but 51 years of age), Ishkabibúl had only heard myths telling of the mansions of Durin's folk far to the east.

"Ahhh, to see with mine own eyes Kheled-Zâram and such lofty peaks and such deep mines as art hinted at in our lore," he rhapsodized. "I was a prospector in the Ered Luin and a minor craftsman of fine metals, thou know'th. Oh, to practice again my trade, but in the mighty Hithaeglir. I should come then before the Lord Durin himself to offer my service and proffer tidings of my people in the Ered Luin."

Durin IV or Durin V perhaps, Helluin thought.

Now Helluin, noting that he had scarce grown accustomed to the sun and moon, realized how very tardy would be any tidings he could possibly share and shook her head. He had certainly come into Iarwain's house when but the stars shone o'erhead. And yet he spoke some few words of Sindarin, probably learnt secondhand from those craftsmen of Belegost who had labored on the delving of Menegroth for Elu Thingol.

"Tell me I pray thee, what event stands most recent in thy memory," Helluin asked, "for the time of the stars is now long past."

Ishkabibúl regarded Helluin and then sat thinking, chin in hand absently scratching his beard. After some moments thus he brightened and offered, "That 't'would certainly be the coming of many new Elves o'er the Ered Luin…ever secretive they were, but good singers. They went not far into the lands west of the mountains and indeed came to inhabit the country downslope from Tumunzahar in the north, south to Gabilgathol."

He recalls most recent the coming of Denethor and the Laiquendi to Ossiriand?

"Perhaps thou should first listen to those tidings proffered unto thee," Helluin hedged.

He regarded her curiously for some moments.

"Surely thou hath marked the sun and moon," Beinvír asked, to which he nodded, and cast again a wary glance at Anor. "They hath been aloft a very long time…time during which thou hath been confined within the house of Iarwain, while without, the world hast moved on."

"I am sure that some years hath passed, 'tis true," he conceded, "and perhaps as thou say a long time indeed." At his words Beinvír began to relax thinking Ishkabibúl to be uncommonly accepting of strange news. Then again, he was Naugrim. She raised a drinking skin to her lips. He said, "They art fine work and wholly unfamiliar to me. I am sure it took our craftsmen a long time to forge them." She spewed water o'er both he and Helluin.

They decided to tarry upon the downs yet another day for both water and food were now in plenty. Helluin and Beinvír spent that time trying to acquaint Ishkabibúl with the doings of the last 4,100 years. The Man they kept drunk for they could think of aught else to do with him. As a drunk he was jovial after his fashion, or at least he spent little time morose and confused. This they deemed good. 'Twas Dálindir who first had somewhat to suggest for his rehabilitation.

"Helluin, my once and present friend," the King of the Green Elves began, "I hath given some thought to the plight of our…companion." Here he gestured toward the besotted mortal. "I hath heard that in the first meeting of the Eldar with Men 'twas one of thine own who made first contact. Indeed 'twas Finrod son of Finarfin who taught much to the people of Bëor. 'Twas also he that led them hence to Estolad from Ossiriand ere we stooped to tormenting them."

To this Helluin nodded for him to continue though she little liked where she believed this conversation was headed. In fact she doubted not that 'twas Dálindir himself who had beseeched Finrod to remove his new vassals from Ossiriand, "hewers of the trees and hunters of beasts"¹ that they were. ¹(Partial quote from The Sil., Ch.XVII, pg. 166)

"'Twas told afterwards that indeed Finrod was gifted with the understanding of tongues, and that ere long he was able to hold converse with the Men of Bëor's tribe. Thus were many secrets learnt by the Eldar, such as the coming of yet more Men o'er the Ered Luin. Now I wonder if thou too art gifted likewise with an understanding of tongues, for came thou not also from across the sea?"

Helluin groaned. Yes, she had come from across the sea and yes, she was gifted with the understanding of tongues after the fashion of her people. In Middle Earth she had learnt the speech of Ents, different Elves, Dwarves, and half a dozen dialects of Men. She understood some of the Black Speech of Sauron's creatures and from her time in Aman, even somewhat of the speech of birds and beasts. Given time she could probably come to understand the tongue of this Man as well, for 'twas said that even at first the speech of the kindred of Bëor had been influenced by the tongues of the Avari. Still, 'twas the last thing she was interested in…learning a dead tongue of mortals long dead.

"She can talk to birds and even certain trees," Beinvír asserted helpfully to her king.

Oh thank you so very much…dear, Helluin said silently.

Dálindir nodded to Beinvír while retaining a grave countenance ere he continued.

"'Twas said that in the beginning Finrod son of Finarfin harped and sang to them and thus brought pictures to their minds. Also he was deemed capable of perceiving their thoughts without spoken words," Dálindir said.

With a growl Helluin went o'er to the collapsed Man and looked for a moment into his bleary eyes. She was assailed by such a confusing jumble of thoughts that she reeled. All in his perception was crooked and unsteady. She returned to Dálindir and Beinvír.

"In the morn I shalt delve again into his mind, for at present his inner voice is slurred," she said. She deeply suspected that Dálindir was foisting off the Man on her and would be only too happy to not take him to Lake Nenuial, but rather go hunting with Tórferedir and the rest of his company. "I shalt do what I can, but I deem t'would be best for him to be amongst his own folk."

Dálindir nodded. Helluin was welcome to him for the duration.

"Pray tell, will't thou also sing?" He asked innocently. Helluin gave him a dirty look.

I should hath thee explain to Ishkabibúl the Battle of the Rathlóriel, Helluin thought, in verse and unaccompanied,for art thou not king of a host of singers? But she held her peace.

O'er the next week, Helluin worked dawn to dusk learning the Man's speech, conveying to him visions of all that had gone before, and teaching him the rudiments of the Sindarin tongue. For Helluin 'twas a tiresome labor, for him awe inspiring, and for the others, entertaining. She partook not of their mirth. During the course of her 'lessons', Helluin sang many songs, recited many poems, and presented many images. At the end of that week, upon 2 Narbeleth, (October 2nd), Helluin was astonished and disturbed, and the Man full afflicted with hero worship. Indeed he followed Helluin about like a puppy.

'Twas only due to her acquisition of stealth from Beinvír that she was able to slip away just ere evening and hunker down 'neath her cloak in a hollow upon the downs to rest her mind in peace. 'Reading' the Man's thought had been bizarre, to put it charitably, for so filled with odd and unseemly images had it been that Helluin desired to launder her brain.

In part 'twas his uncontrollable and pervasive inclination to meditate upon sexual possibilities that unsettled her. Perhaps 'twas that these were wholly divorced from any emotional connection that confounded her the more. And almost anything seemed to trigger such…lapses. In the midst of a vision of Laurelin's flowers eagerly parting and opening their swollen and glistening petals to flow with copious and luminescent moisture of gold, here came another erection. Helluin was baffled. It had been even worse when she'd presented the image of herself naked 'neath the Two Trees, aglow and drenched in the Living Light. The reaction to that…she didn't want to think of it.

Then there were the memories of the Man's journey and the years in the east; the fear of the dark, of the stalking shadows, of the cold, of starvation, of death, and of the cannibals. It had been a litany of pathos, that journey west from Hildorien.

But there had been other details yet more disturbing still, and for them, Helluin wanted to wring Iarwain's neck like a chicken. Scant wonder the Man had recognized the name of Balan. This Man's name was Balar…Balar son of Balan, and he had been born in F.A. 284. Men had first come to Ossiriand in 310, and in the succession of the First House of the Atani, the lordship had passed from Balan to Baran, eldest living son of Bëor the Old. No mention had come into any tale of Beleriand of a son lost and presumed dead ere that people had crossed the Ered Luin. Iarwain had kidnapped the rightful Heir of the First House and all the subsequent history of that people had been set askew. And yet it had led to Beren upon one branch, and upon another through Rain to Tuor and Earendil. Could it hath been wrong? Had Iarwain known what he was doing? Or did the Song unfold in spite of him? And yes, Helluin acknowledged, Iarwain certainly could not hath returned Balar to his rightful time now. All that she had known would hath changed.

Helluin had learned that despite Balar's compulsive reactions, he was as noble a Man as she could hath found amongst those wholly unlearned and retaining their primal state. In the single week she had worked with him, he had reacted again and again with disapproval when confronted by her memories exemplifying ill deeds done long in the past. He had a conscience and a native system of ethics encompassing the honesty, faithfulness, and courage that had won the praise and love of the Eldar long aforetime. He was just extremely ignorant. Still, he would hath been a good leader of his house in his own time.

'Twas only after some hours' search and as dusk approached that Beinvír accidentally strode onto Helluin's back and tumbled thence into the hollow with her when Helluin recoiled 'neath her cloak.

"I hath been looking for thee," the chagrined Green Elf said.

Helluin quickly cast her cloak o'er them both after chancing a suspicious look about the hollow. 'Naught was to be seen yet of the others.

"Thou hast found me indeed," Helluin replied. "What goes forth at the camp?"

"Well, they all seek thee," Beinvír said, "for in thy absence hath come a messenger." At Helluin's groan she added, "from Lindon."

"Howsoever hath they contrived to find us hither? 'Tis not as if we hath been 'nigh these lands for centuries," she said in amazement. "Hast this messenger declared aught of his errand?"

"Indeed he hath said little save that he seeks thee on behalf of thy king."

Helluin sighed. "Better would we hath been perhaps to remain in Lebennin, retaining our sovereignty, and thence plundering and pillaging all that land, nay, even further, to Umbar as well. Whatever can'st Ereinion want of me?"

"Oh come now, surely 'tis not so bad," Beinvír said with little conviction, "at the worst he shalt contrive for thee some dire errand, claiming thence that only thou can achieve it." She fought to maintain a straight face as her partner grimaced.

"Indeed I fear just such may come to pass and I hath not the time to indulge it," Helluin said ere she fell silent as she seriously considered slaying the messenger and ignoring the summons. Having spent so many years together Beinvír easily perceived her mind.

"Helluin, thou can'st not wantonly execute thy king's errand rider. 'Tis wrong, and besides, what example shalt that serve for the Man or for Ishkabibúl? Even Dálindir and Tórferedir should thence condemn thee. Nay, my friend, we must heed the summons." She let a small grin shape her lips and suggested, "We can always retreat beyond Gil-galad's realm should his business be unpalatable."

"Indeed thou art correct," Helluin admitted, "I should not find myself craven when faced with my king's commands. Yet perhaps we can'st contrive to slay them all ere we disappear for an Age. Save for Tórferedir, the others art deemed dead anyway, or art unknown. Had I only the bodies of a company of Yrch to leave beside them I should be too sorely tempted."

Beinvír's eyes widened a moment in shock ere they narrowed as she perceived her partner's jest.

"Thou art most horrible, my love," she said.

"Indeed so," Helluin agreed. "Come, let us go thither and hear this messenger."

Upon their appearance at the camp, the messenger stood forth and recited his rede. 'Twas the same as ever before, or perhaps even more grandiose.

"Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, thou art summoned by the command of Ereinion son of Fingon, High King of the Noldor, to appear forthwith at his court in Lindon with greatest haste. If thy companion be Beinvír of the Laiquendi of Eriador, then she too is summoned thither, save without word of command."

At this Dálindir threw up his hands. Despite his best laid plans he could see that he was to be warder to the Man and the Dwarf for some time. Tórferedir scowled.

The messenger looked around at the group of unfamiliar faces and fell silent. He had obviously expected to find Helluin and Beinvír alone, yet here they sat with several Green Elves, a Dwarf, and a Man costumed as one of the Atani of yore. Finally with a self-conscious swallow he concluded with, "I am to lead thee thither."

"Yes of course," Helluin said in resignation, "thank ye kindly. How long hath thou sought us, pray tell?"

"Indeed this summons is now 52 years unfulfilled. I hath searched for thee dutifully and in earnest," he said, "yet I am sure Gil-galad shalt be wroth with me for the delay."

"I am sure t'will be excused," Beinvír said to comfort him, "indeed we art but recently returned to Eriador. Thou would hath found us not aforetime. Thy king shalt come to understand that thou art blameless."

The messenger sighed in relief.

Dálindir looked to Beinvír in question.

"I regret that I must heed this summons, my friends," she said, "for I can'st hardly leave my beloved to tread hence into such certain jeopardy alone." To her credit she said it with a straight face.

"I regret to leave thou with both Ishkabibúl and Balar," Helluin said, though her tone was uncontrite, "We shalt rejoin thee if we art at liberty to do so, otherwise I should pray thee proceed as planned. Convey Balar to the folk about Lake Nenuial. He now speaks somewhat of the Sindarin tongue. Convey also Ishkabibúl unto Khazad-dum."

At the last, the four Green Elves blanched. Helluin had forgotten about their beliefs concerning the Naugrim. She shrugged; there was naught that she could do for it now. For their parts, Balar was disappointed and Ishkabibúl sullen.

To Be Continued

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