In An Age Before – Part 31

  After packing their meager belongings, Helluin and Beinvír followed the messenger south across the downs, and as they had aforetime, and found a mounted company awaiting their arrival with spare horses.  Again they rode to Harlond and thence sailed to Forlond.  Upon 12 Narbeleth S.A 2994 they arrived at the court of Gil-galad.

  As before Helluin followed Beinvír through the halls of Lindon, carefully watching as the Green Elf’s eyes skittered o’er everything.  As during their visits aforetime she was marking all the strange and unnatural furnishings and the curious behaviors of the courtiers.  Beinvír regarded the court as unwholesome and bizarre while Helluin regarded it as theater.

  At the door to Gil-galad’s study the very same herald announced them.  The very same chamberlain admitted them.  The High King sat in the very same chair before the very same desk, and directed them to the very same seats in which they’d sat while meeting Celebrimbor the newly returned Lord Glorfindel.  They both found the familiarity as uncomfortable as it was comforting.

  “Why art thou here?”  Gil-galad asked of Helluin as he examined her closely.

  “I hath come hither in response to thy summons, my King,” Helluin replied after bowing and stifling her surprise.  “Thy messenger was most dutiful in the execution of his errand.  Still he claims thy summons is now 52 years old.”

  Gil-galad regarded her as an item ‘till but recently misplaced. 

  “Ahhh,” he said finally as if recovering a memory, “I hath an errand for thee.  ‘Tis unfortunate thou was’t so difficult to summon, yet perhaps the errand shalt still bear fruit.”

  And why am I not surprised?  Helluin asked herself.  I should indeed hath slain the messenger, poor example or no.

  “Word hath come to me of the ever increasing hostility of the Númenóreans toward our folk,” the king declared, “and this remains as true today as 52 years ago, I deem.  I hath need of firsthand knowledge of the situation there.  Such as I hath comes from those few elvillyn who still call at Mithlond and these art disregarded at home.  I hath therefore decided to send thee hence to Númenor upon a scouting mission.  Conduct it in such ways as thou see fit.”

  “My King, I hath been long upon the southern coast ruling a realm ‘nigh that of Umbar.  O’er the course of the centuries there I hath indeed marked the increasing hostility of the Dúnedain.  Well ‘nigh a thousand years ago I was’t forced to slay a prince of the ruling house who sought to claim the Realm of Lebennin as a province of Númenor.  Since that time, the avarice and pride of that people hath grown ever more o’erbearing.  Many Men suffer ‘neath their yoke and for their gathering of tribute.  I need not sail to Númenor to mark this.  In that land ‘tis now illegal to teach our tongues and such that speak them still do so only in secret. 

  Those Elendili¹ of which thou doth speak art known amongst themselves as The Faithful, for ‘tis not merely the friendship of the Eldar in which they persist.  Rather art the greater numbers of the Dúnedain now fallen from their love of the Valar and we art seen as their spies.  All possessed of unending life doth reap their hatred, for ‘tis born of jealousy and the fear of their own deaths.  Neither can’st we amend.  I deem the Shadow of old hast crept upon them, and that which they escaped aforetime is now renewed.  And there is worse, my King.  ¹(Elendili, Elf Friends, =  elendil(elf-friend) + -i(pl.)  Quenya)

  He whom I slew was Tindomul, second son of Tar-Ciryatan their twelfth king, and he wore a Ring,” Helluin said, to which Gil-galad blanched.  ”Yea, ‘twas indeed one of the Nine of Celebrimbor!  In dying he vanished before my eyes and ‘naught that I could do would stay him.  He is a wraith, my King, one of the nine Úlairi who hath arisen.”

  “These things we hath seen, O King,” Beinvír said, “and we hath no need of passage to Númenor to confirm them.  In Númenor the last king claimed his throne naming himself Lord of the West.  Surely such speaks somewhat of their mood?  Going thither, especially for Helluin, t’would be as one going into the maw of Morgoth himself…indeed t’would be little more than a sentence of death.”

  Gil-galad sat before them in silence, unmoving, with horror etched upon his face.  Númenor was fallen far deeper into the clutches of the Enemy than he had imagined possible for that once noble folk, long his peoples’ staunchest allies.

  As if addressing his very thoughts, Helluin said, “Save for those Elendili known long to thee I should trust none of the Dúnedain nowadays, for the greater part hath harkened unto the wisdom of the Enemy and art fallen.  I should sooner go to the Black Land than the Land of the Gift, for from Mordor is flight possible, but Númenor is surrounded by the sea.”

  She had laid a last choice before her king, and if he proved one more time that he valued her not, than no longer would she serve the House of Finwe.  Helluin had found in Arda something to eclipse even her loyalty to her people.  Until the end of days, the one to whom she’d bound her heart and soul would o’ershadow for her all other ties.

  The king struggled to regain his composure and for long moments said ‘naught to them, yet finally, as they waited for some word he spoke.

  “Of these matters must I hear all that is to be told for they art matters grave beyond the expectations of any in Lindon.  Speak thy tidings, I pray thee, but first wait so I may call hither my counselors, for I deem ‘tis better for all to hear the telling once than for thou to repeat thyself.”

  Helluin and Beinvír nodded.  It would be some wait.  Amongst the counselors Gil-galad summoned thither were Cirdan from the Havens of Mithlond some 188 leagues up the Firth of Lune, Galdor and a  number of others from Harlond 44 leagues south across the firth, and several Men who had gone to hunt in the lands ‘nigh the southern arm of the Ered Luin.  These were indeed Dúnedain, Faithful from Andunië in the west of that land.  Of those already in Lindon, Glorfindel was the one most familiar.  Helluin and Beinvír were assigned guest quarters in the citadel, there to await the gathering.

  The two felt a mixture of irritation at their delay as well as relief that the king had decided against sending Helluin to Númenor.  They were glad he hadn’t bid them wait on a summons of Elrond all the way from Imladris.

  “Would thou hath indeed ceased in thy service to thy king?”  Beinvír asked Helluin.

  “Most certainly.  I hath no intention to step foot again upon Númenor for any reason, and least of all for a king’s whim.  I know not for how long that land shalt be.  Indeed I should be little surprised if the Valar sank the Meneltarma ‘neath the waves in answer to the insolence of the Dúnedain.”  After a pause, Helluin mused, “I shalt be most curious to see these Faithful.”

  “They art most likely much akin to those who hath settled in Pelargir,” Beinvír said.  “Much like the Men of old.”

  “Perhaps, save that now they art regarded at home as nary more than sympathizers with the enemy and art forced thence to secret their heritage.  Yet still I hath some hope for them.”  Though why that should be, Helluin did not say.

  ‘Twas a full day ere all the counselors arrived at court and the council met not until the nightfall of 13 Narbeleth for many needed rest from the haste of their journey.  The gathering began with a meal taken together in the feasting hall, following which the group adjourned to the same great hall in which Helluin had first introduced the Dúnedain of Veantur’s crew well ‘nigh 2,400 years aforetime.

  The great hall had been set with a long table and many chairs, and about it sat Helluin and Beinvír, Gil-galad, Cirdan, Galdor, Glorfindel, another dozen and a half Eldar, and a party of eight Dúnedain.  These included Eärendur¹, the Heir of the 14th Lord of Andunië, his wife Almáreaenne², their elder son, Astalwamir³, and five others of their household.  ¹(Eärendur, Lover of the Ocean, = earen(ocean) + -ndur(agent in names, 'expert of') Quenya) ²(Almáreaenne, Blessed One, = almárea(blessed) + -enne(feminine agent) Quenya)  ³(Astalwamir, Valiant One, = astalwa(valiant) + -mir(agent in names) Quenya)

   Earlier, at the meal’s start, Helluin’s elbow had nudged Beinvír’s ribs and with a cant of her head she’d directed the Green Elf’s attention to the second woman in the party of the Faithful.  She was young, perhaps no more than 25, and had been introduced as the niece of Eärendur, who had come to attend the Lady Almáreaenne, and yet ‘twas obvious that blood shared long aforetime still ran true.  Her name was Inzilbêth¹ and she was a spitting image of Helluin as she had once been, upon the westward march in her younger days.  Beinvír had gulped and reflexively bit her lip; even having seen Tar-Telperien long before had not prepared her for seeing this woman now.  And sure enough, she had the same blue eyes.  For her part, at her first sight of Helluin, Inzilbêth had choked surprisingly gracefully on a mouthful of grilled fish ere composing herself.  She had nodded to Helluin when their eyes met and had thereafter stolen glances at the dark Noldo at every possible opportunity during the meal.  ¹(Inzilbêth, “Flower of the Fallen”(?), = Inzil(flower of) + bêth(the fallen) Adûnaic.  Best interpretation based on known root words in Inziladûn, “Flower of the West”, and Akallabêth, “The Downfallen”.  Like Arwen Undómiel, she was the evening star of her people.  This author ascribes Inzilbêth this role based on the suggestion in her name, rather than according it to the hapless Queen Tar-Míriel.)

  For Helluin, ‘twas almost as if she saw with her waking sight the vision from her first visit to the house of Iarwain Ben-adar, in which she’d confronted her younger self in the forest of Eriador across a gap of many thousands of years.  This stranger was striking in her familiarity, and that was a testament to the blend of blood in her veins though well ‘nigh 2,400 years had passed.  Helluin had no doubts that her ancestry could be traced back to her own daughter Almarian through her granddaughter, Almiel.

  “We must speak,” Helluin had said to her softly as the company had walked from the dining hall to the meeting chamber.  Inzilbêth had nodded and then followed the lady of her house to their places at the table.

  Helluin and Beinvír had sat upon Gil-galad’s left with Glorfindel across from them and Cirdan at the king’s right.  The council had begun immediately.  And then it had dragged on and on and on.  It seemed to the two ellith that for every year they had lived in Lebennin, they spent an hour reviewing and answering questions.  This of course was after an hour spent on their bad day in Umbar and their short stay in Edhellond.  By the time they came to the attempted claim of their realm by Tindomul, Helluin was on her seventh cup of wine and Beinvír on her ninth seed cake.

  “My Lord, I should certainly hath recognized that Ring were it five thousand years since last I saw it.  ‘Twas one of the Nine upon Tindomul’s finger that day.  He had made a pact with Sauron and upon his death he was taken from the world,” Helluin said, her patience wearing thin at the relentless and repeated queries.  It had begun to remind her of conversations with the Enyd.  “’Twas just as Celebrimbor had described of his fellow jewel smiths in Ost-in-Edhil ‘neath Sauron’s assault.  Tindomul is surely now a wraith.”

  “I too saw of what we speak,” Beinvír added, “and if ‘twas that generation to whom Sauron appealed with his temptations, then t’would go far to explain why the Úlairi arose sometime ere 2250 as hast been reported.  ‘Twas only by the threat of Tar-Calmacil that with their master they vacated the Black Land and hath not been seen since.”

  “My Lord Ereinion, Murazor, or Tindomul as he was’t also called, was’t in his day a swordsman of great renown,” Eärendur said, “and about 1880 did he sail for Umbar.  Many years passed, yet whensoever he came thence again to Armenelos his prowess was’t increased and ever more fell did his mood become.  ‘Tis reported that in the Hither Lands he acquired some power that ruled him ever the more closely.  Helluin’s tale explains much that hath been long wondered at amongst my people.  Surely a Ring of Power would confer just such.  Indeed so great had he become that I am surprised that any could o’ercome him at arms.”

  “Helluin is…” Gil-galad began in response.

  “Bah!  In 2003 he fought like a child,” Helluin asserted ere she quaffed the remainder of her cup, “I regret only that I beheaded him not with the Sarchram and instead granted him a second reprieve from death.  His spirit would thence hath been relegated to the Void and troubled us not again.”

  “Thrice did Helluin grant him mercy during their combat,” Beinvír said while Helluin poured herself a eighth cup of wine, “citing their kinship from afar, yet upon the fourth opportunity she slew him indeed with a thrust of her sword.  ‘Twas then as he lay dying that he faded and ‘naught could stay him, for his spirit had been claimed by the Dark Lord.”

  “And from afar did I hear his laughter as he reveled in his triumph,” Helluin said, adding under her breath, “yet aforetime that craven slug fled from me.”  She gritted her teeth and clenched tight her jaw.

  Beinvír laid a calming hand upon her thigh ‘neath the table and slowly Helluin relaxed the set of her shoulders and finally took a sip of wine.

  “I should ask thee after the state of things in Númenor,” Gil-galad asked of Eärendur, “I pray thou can’st shed some light upon the thinking of thy folk.”

  The Heir of the Lord of Andunië sighed.  His homeland was fraught with tension and caught up in an ever hastening whirlwind as all sought after grandeur, thus to assuage their terror of their coming deaths.  ‘Twas folly, anyone could see, for whether one died rich or poor, still one died at the last.  Yet his people had leapt aboard the runaway cart of their kings while looking not to the crash that awaited them at the bottom of the hill.

  “My Lords, ‘tis much as hast been said,” Eärendur began, “for whither the king leads, his people for the most part follow.  So it hath been for many lives of Men.  Amongst the Faithful ‘tis deemed that the Shadow first came upon us in the reign of Tar-Minastir, for he, though remaining true and faithful to thee and the Valar, yet coveted the Life of the Eldar.  Wistfully is he said to hath gazed for long into the West from Ormet, a tall hill ‘nigh Andunië, whereupon he had built a tower of watch to ease his longing.

  Since his time each king hath vied with the memory of his sire, to outdo all others aforetime in grandeur and power and the acquisition of treasure, and thereby to balm the fear in their hearts.  And so they hath come to hate those of life unending, and the Valar most of all, for by their Ban they deem, is everlasting life from them withheld.  The Eldar they name spies of the Valar, and thus do they vent their jealousy for the Elder Children of the One, denying contact with them and the knowledge and aid they would give.  T’would be unsafe in these times for any of thy folk to go thither.

  As hast been told, in the reign of Ar-Adûnakhôr ‘twas proclaimed illegal for the Elven tongues to be taught, and for some time they hath not been heard in public, for by their use art Men deemed the sympathizers of our enemies.  Thusly art thy folk regarded nowadays, as enemies of the king.  Long it hast been that few hath come, even to our faithful houses, from Tol Eressëa, and yet longer still from the Hither Shores.

  Now Ar-Zimrathon, son of Adûnakhôr, rules Númenor and he follows in his father’s steps.  Those who follow the false wisdom of the kings we call the King’s Men, and these art ever bolder and more antagonistic to we who still hold reverence for the Lords of the West.  ‘Tis but a matter of time, I deem, ere we art subject to sanctions at law and even physical attack.  And so I hath brought hither my family and my sister’s daughter Inzilbêth in particular, for as thou can’st see, she reflects our connection to thy people most clearly.”  Here he glanced at Helluin and gave her a sad smile ere he fell silent.

  ‘Twas only after another two hours and with dawn approaching that the council adjourned for the night.  All were saddened at how the situation had degenerated in Númenor, for though Eärendur had indeed spoken aforetime of the growing persecution of the Faithful, ‘twas only after Helluin and Beinvír spoke that the trend became unarguably clear.  With their perspective, gained by observation over many hundreds of years, the slow fall of Númenor into shadow was obvious.  Of them all, only Helluin and Beinvír were unsurprised.

  As the company walked from the hall to their chambers, Beinvír excused herself to their rooms.  Helluin sought Inzilbêth for a word after the young woman had seen Lady Almáreaenne settled for the night.

  “Lady Inzilbêth, though I know the hour hast grown late, t’would greatly please me if thou could but grant me some moments of thy time,” she requested.

  Inzilbêth, though tired from the long hours of discussions, was also deeply curious about Helluin and wouldn’t have said no so long as any vestige of her awareness remained.

  “I should be glad to share a moment’s company with thee, Helluin, and indeed I feel a need of fresh air. ‘Tis a fine night and t’would do me good to walk in thy king’s gardens.  Might I coax thee thither to accompany me?”

  “I should enjoy greatly the open air as well.  I should be honored to accompany thee thither,” Helluin said. 

  The two made their way through a number of passages and thence down a flight of stairs, nodding to surprised sentries and servants as they passed.  Soon they came to a terrace set above the walls of the citadel, where a colonnade surrounded a garden planted with many fruit trees and fragrant flowering vines.  Paths led amongst the plantings and there were benches of stone set ‘neath cupolas where hung glowing lamps.  They made their way to one of these and seated themselves, and for some moments simply breathed the air scented by honeysuckle and jasmine, lavender and wisteria.  O’erhead Ithil shone down from the heavens a few days shy of full.

  Inzilbêth reached out and cupped the pale blossom of a night blooming angraecum and its tendril-like petals quivered to the pulse of her heart transferred through her fingers.  Helluin absentmindedly observed this, thinking, ‘tis indeed impossible for one of mortal blood to be completely still.  The slight shivering of the flower wafted its fragrance to their nostrils.  Inzilbêth inhaled deeply of the sweet scent and then sighed as she exhaled.

  “Think thou that ‘tis too late for our people,” the young woman asked, “and that those in the West shalt reward our folly by forsaking us?”

  “My Lady, I know not, truly, but the Powers art merciful and even my people were not wholly forsaken, yet great was their suffering ere they were forgiven.”  Helluin paused a moment and inhaled the scent of the flowers.  “I believe that though some doom may indeed find thy people, yet still shalt some survive it, for I cannot believe that the One would abandon his Children utterly.  In the end we must each walk our own path and keep hope.”

  To this Inzilbêth seemed to give thought for she sat silent looking down at her hands as they lay now in her lap.  When she finally looked back up she found Helluin’s eyes.

  “Know’th thou that my father, Gimilzager¹, was the son of Gimilzagar, the younger son of Ar-Belzagar, whom thou call Tar-Calmacil?”  ¹(In UT, Pt 2, Ch III TLoE, pg 223 and Note 12, pg 227, Inzilbêth’s father is listed as Gimilzagar, b. 2630, the second son of Ar-Belzagar.  Since Inzilbêth married Gimilzôr and bore their first child in 3035, this is highly unlikely.  In UT and the Sil, Aka, pg 321, Inzilbêth’s mother, Lindórië, is the sister of Eärendur.  This is acceptable time wise, since Eärendur was Lord of Andunië during the reigns of Ar-Sakalthôr and Ar-Gimilzôr.  Hence I have called Inzilbêth Eärendur’s niece and invented Gimilzager, son of Gimilzagar to help make her paternal lineage plausible.)     

  “Nay, my Lady, I knew it not.”

  “Indeed ‘twas so, and he a man o’er 100 years my mother’s senior.”

  Helluin couldn’t hath anticipated that the leading house of the Faithful would hath married into the leading house of their antagonists.  Yet who knew the hearts of mortals or the fates of those upon Arda?  Perhaps Gimilzagar had kept his faith with the West in spite of his royal family.  Perhaps some great and unlikely love had flowered between him and Inzilbêth’s mother, but the vast difference in their ages left her suspicious.

  “Within a few years, perhaps a very few years, Lord Eärendur’s father shalt call him home, for he is aged and shalt soon resign his lordship.  Unlike the House of Elros, those of the House of Valandil art still true to the old ways, passing on their rule when they feel their life failing.  When that time comes, I shalt return as well, for like my mother Lindórië, I am betrothed to the royal house.”  At the mention of this Inzilbêth shuddered as if she felt a chill draft upon her back.  “Unlike my mother’s generation, the current king’s Heir Sakalthôr hast but one son, Gimilzôr.  He is ten years my senior, already a respected mariner, and forward at arms in his father’s service.  He is handsome and strong, but alas, he is a King’s Man, and this is not unexpected in one who shalt be king.”

  Helluin watched as Inzilbêth’s composure began to fail.  The young woman’s hands clenched and twisted and a heavy sadness showed upon her features.  Helluin was moved to sympathy, for ‘twas as if she saw herself at a younger age facing a life abhorrent from which there was no escape.

  “Like my mother I shalt be trapped at the court in Armenelos, and thence surrounded by the worst of the blasphemers and those who hate my house.  For some generations now it hast been thus; that the kings keep the Lords of Andunië ‘neath their influence with ties of marriage.  I am to be the insurance of my generation’s submission.  I feel already as a prisoner awaiting sentence, and I know my sentence shalt be for life and that it shalt b-be served amongst m-my enemies…” Inzilbêth’s lips quivered and when she looked back up a tear freed itself to trickle down her cheek.  She sniffled and then a choking sob broke free and she forced out the last, “and w-worst of all, f-from my body shalt I be forced to b-bear yet another heir to the line of fallen kings.”

  Helluin caught Inzilbêth in her arms and held her as she cried o’er the bitterness of her fate.  In fact she was but 24 and had perhaps 225 years in Udûn awaiting her.  The present sojourn in Lindon was her last grasp at freedom, her last chance to openly be one of the Faithful, to dwell in peace with her heart, and to live in the company of Elves.  For one of mortal blood, in no way would she ever more closely approach the West she loved.  Helluin held her close, slowly rubbing her back and softly kissing her brow.  As Inzilbêth continued to sob, she began to hum a gentle song, singing no words, but letting the rumbling of the notes in her chest vibrate and sooth the body of the brokenhearted young woman.  Long she continued, for Inzilbêth showed no sign of stilling from her upset, and Helluin understood that in her company the lady had spoken fears she would never voice to another mortal.  Like the purr of a great cat the humming slowly eased her tension, and in her arms, Inzilbêth cried herself to sleep.  It had taken a long time, for her sorrow was profound and long accumulated.  It very nearly broke Helluin’s heart.

  My poor, precious, distant daughter…how I wish to free thee.  How I long to forestall thy doom.  For thee and the Faithful of thy house, upon this day I would sink the Isle of Fallen Kings ‘neath Belegaer if I but had the power.  I fear I am less merciful than the Lords of the West.

  But she didn’t hold such power and no other answer could she find to free Inzilbêth from her fate.  True, the lady could run from it, and Helluin could hide her forever in Middle Earth amongst friends.  But Helluin knew that were Inzilbêth to refuse her fate, t’would trigger the wholesale oppression of her people.  Long had the kings taken what they desired and done as they saw fit.  None would stay his hand from redressing such an insult, for it would be perceived as an act of rebellion and the retaliation would be harsh.  ‘Twas this threat that kept Inzilbêth shackled to her doom like her mother before her, and Helluin could see it as clearly as she.

  Twice the sentries had passed and each time Helluin merely nodded to them and allowed Inzilbêth to rest.  ‘Twas indeed an hour ere she passed into a comfortable sleep untroubled by anguished dreams and nervous tics.  Helluin watched the moon westering and knew the night was old; dawn would find them in under an hour.  When at last the dew began to form she rose and stood, carrying Inzilbêth and leaving behind the fragrant garden whose air had offered its own succor to the tormented maiden.  Helluin brought Inzilbêth to her chamber and laid her upon her bed, and after pausing a moment to write a note, kissed her forehead and took her leave.

  A scant two hours later, when Inzilbêth was awakened to break her fast, she felt rested and yet more, as though a great weight had settled, uncomfortable still, but bearable at last.  On the bedstand beside her lay a folded page and upon it in calligraphy pleasing to the eye were words for her in the Sindarin tongue.

   Ir ni elu e-choth e-mbandril notulant.¹  Min en elu e-choth e-mbandril turo drammo.²

¹(Ir ni elu e-choth e-mbandril notulant, When to the heart of the enemy the prisoner is brought.)  ²(Min en elu e-choth e-mbandril turo drammo, Within the heart of the enemy the prisoner can strike.)

  The council continued through much of the following day, but at the break for the noon meal, Inzilbêth came to where Helluin sat with Beinvír.  The Noldo had told her beloved of all that had transpired the night before and of the young lady’s fate, and so when Inzilbêth joined them the Green Elf drew her into an embrace and shed tears in sympathy for her plight.  To Beinvír, being forced thus into marriage to the enemy reeked of the doings of Morgoth, for she herself had long before declined to be courted and had found the mate of her fëa a thousand years later.  Her outpouring of emotion cemented the more strongly upon a personal level the young Númenórean’s love for the Eldar kindred.  She resolved to act upon Helluin’s advice, for in doing so she could fight back against an abhorrent system and retain some measure of hope.

  Inzilbêth wrapped Beinvír in her arms, noting how petite the elleth actually was, and without thought for the irony of the situation, offered her own comfort much as what Helluin had offered to her in the garden the night before.  After some moments she released the Green Elf and looked into her reddened eyes, her own gaze traveling o’er Beinvír’s features with a visceral wonder.

  She is so very beautiful, Inzilbêth thought, so strong in feeling and so fair of face and form.  And in all her years she hath wisdom, yet no stain upon her heart hath grown though those years hath surely brought the knowledge of great evil.  Oh how I love thee, and how I love thy people.  Never hath I been so sure that my love for those in the West is right, for any power whosoever could bring forth such a one as thou surely deserves the adoration of those such as me.

  She looked from Beinvír to Helluin and was captured in her eyes; eyes so like her own, yet with a depth and wisdom borne of the millennia she could never endure.  In them were power and darkness and Light, and an endless well of feeling such as would consume her spirit.  And she saw there too the life she herself would hath cloven to had she been not of mortal kind.  All of which she had ever dreamed, the freedom to find her course and order her days, all of it lay in Helluin’s eyes.

  Now Helluin felt as she looked into the eyes of her distant mortal daughter, the innocence and the native strength she had once felt while looking into her own eyes in a vision.  Therein was the will to endure and the resolve to meet unbowed her fate.  She could ‘naught but confer upon Inzilbêth what virtue of strength she could transfer, for Inzilbêth had won a place deep in her heart.

  Helluin reached out and caressed the young woman’s cheek, cupping it thus and holding steady her head.  Then to Inzilbêth it seemed as she were falling into a pool of dazzling blue, wherein the light of the ancient West coalesced with that of the younger sun.  It entered her and filled her, and became a part of her that she would be able to draw strength from in the dark days ahead.  And when it was done, for a fugitive moment her own eyes glowed with a ril of sapphire ere they faded to mortal blue at last.  She blinked and shook her head.

  “I feel…” she began, but then fell silent.  She had no words to describe what had happened.  Elven magic perhaps, she thought, and if ‘tis so, then not so foreign is such, for rather it felt as an outpouring of love that might flow betwixt two of mortal kind, yet more so, but still not a thing apart.

  But Helluin in those moments had felt come o’er her again the sense of vision as she had felt long aforetime while’st standing naked ‘neath the Two Trees at the Mingling of the Lights, and to her had come a vision of days yet to be.  Indeed such had not befallen her since she had come first to Armenelos in the company of Veantur and had seen there for the first time Nimloth the Fair, the White Tree of Númenor.  And the vision confused her, for ‘twas a vision strange, hinting at violence and salvation according to her own wish of the night before, and in it had stood Inzilbêth, or one like unto her in form.  Yet this woman had been the wife of a Lord of Andunië, not a King of Númenor, and she had birthed a son, and of him had come a son as well, and as had Earendil in an age before, of him had come hope and a strain of ancient nobility, to be preserved in Middle Earth unto the Ages.  About the vision, one thing further had she marked.

  “Lady Inzilbêth, doth the White Tree of Númenor grow still in the Court of the King?  Is Nimloth still tended and doth she still flower as aforetime?”  Helluin asked.

  Inzilbêth looked carefully at Helluin ere she answered, for the question seemed disconnected from all other concerns.  Yet she answered as best she could.

 “Yea, when last I saw, still did Nimloth the Fair flower and still was she tended, though in these days more for fear of her failing than from genuine love.  ‘Tis said long ago was’t a prophecy spoken foretelling that the decline of the land is tied to the decline of the Tree.  Therefore from superstition is Nimloth still held in a wary esteem, for ‘tis also still remembered that from Tol Eressëa did she come, and her ancestor from Valinor, and his from the hand of Yavanna herself.  I believe the Kings resent her, yet fear to do her harm.”

  To this Helluin nodded.  She knew the prophecy; indeed she had spoken it herself well ‘nigh 2,400 years before.  So, Nimloth flowered still.  Then this vision spoke not of the present day, but rather of some day yet to come.  ‘Twas just as well.  The knowledge of it would darken the thought and hopes of any who heard it.  Helluin would not give Inzilbêth yet further cause for grief.

  The pealing of a silver bell called the company back to council.  Helluin and Beinvír walked Inzilbêth back to the chamber and to the company of the Númenóreans.  Again the chamber filled with debate and the discussion of tidings.  When it finally ended, just ere the evening meal, Gil-galad rose and addressed the council.

  “My Lords and Ladies, much hath been said and much become known.  Greatly am I disturbed at those things that hath come to pass.  I fear for the days to come and for the fate of the Dúnedain.  Ever were they our allies and friends in days of yore.  Yet now though ‘twas known aforetime that some sought treasure and power, the kings hath strayed far further than ‘twas suspected.  They follow a path at odds with the Lords of the West, and such a course can only lead to ruin. 

  Long ago our people sought their fate in despite of the Valar, going against their commands and gainsaying their counsels.  For that did we suffer the loss of all we sought.  I fear that for the Dúnedain a similar fate shalt befall, and yet not all art at fault.

  Thou who art present art the friends of our people and art strong in thy reverence for the Valar.  The Faithful shalt always be welcome in Lindon, and in all the realms of my people.  And if some great doom should indeed find thee, then hither shalt thou find succor and such aid as we can give.  No less did thy forefathers do for we who dwell here upon the Hither Shores, and in token of this thou hath our friendship and support until the end of days.”

  Gil-galad’s words were fair and none doubted the sentiments behind them for his heart was true in his resolve to aid the Faithful of the Dúnedain.  Unto days far and long to come would the promise spoken by the High King be honored, until the High Elves held no longer any realm upon the Hither Shores.  All there nodded in agreement, yet Helluin wondered what indeed the Eldar could do for Men if the Valar decreed a doom upon them for their blasphemy against the West.  Would it bring the Noldor once more into conflict with the Powers?  Would the Sindar and the Nandor too fall under some new Ban or Curse?

  And yet the plight of Inzilbêth and her kin demanded no less, and already had not Helluin wished for a Vala’s power to lay waste the Isle of Kings?  ‘Twas just so, and if for lack of power that vengeance came not from her hand, then it would indeed come from the Lords of the West.  Helluin was sure of it.  She had foreseen the hint of it in her vision.

  Now when the counsel adjourned Helluin and Beinvír took their leave of Gil-galad and all the others gathered there in Lindon.  Especially warm was their farewell with Inzilbêth and many were their wishes for her future.  Yet the lady seemed resolved to meet her fate and there was new strength now in her and she met their eyes with a glance unwavering; queenly, they thought, and fitting for one who would wrest some order for herself and her children though she walked all her days amidst the heart of her enemies.

To be continued

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