In An Age Before – Part 52
by PhantomBard

Chapter Forty-nine

The Fall of Sauron and the Taking of the Ring – The Second Age of the Sun

Now of the deeds that followed, much hast been written and many tales told. Many scrolls of lore were long preserved and much knowledge was't held by the Wise. Yet much too was't forgotten, of deeds and heroism, and in the recounting of the grave events of that time, the tale of a solo warrior of the Noldor faded from recall. Few enough even in that time knew ‘aught of her private battles, and in comparison with the grand armies and the high drama of the final resolution, her deeds became invisible. And so history remembered little of Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, of her strategies, her tactics, or her impact upon the eventual victory. Yet the doings of that time laid the doom of all the Third Age.

Upon the barren land of Gorgoroth was't the most historic battle of the Second Age fought. In coming forth to answer Helluin's challenge did the Lord of the Black Land empty his tower. All his minions and soldiers, all his servants and allies, all came forth save only the shadows of the eight remaining Úlairi. Sauron drove them all to war with but one commandment, Clear my way to the Sammath Naur! Drive thy enemies hence unto their deaths or to thine own deaths shalt I deliver thee! My enemy awaits me! And Sauron's soldiery fought with every desperate measure of viciousness and ferocity within them, for the fear of their master 'twas the greater and lay heavy upon them.

Now at first they swarmed ‘cross the iron bridge as a tidal wave surging from the gate of the Barad-dûr. Yrch, Easterling, Black Númenórean, and Tor, they came forth and won free of the causeway. Thence outwards they spread their front, driving back the Host of the Alliance, for far greater in numbers were they than had been expected. The Dark Tower had hosted a multitude of foes, and now all these were deployed and marshaled to the battle. Men, Elves, and Naugrim desperately fought to stem their advance.

For seven days the fighting spread as the allied armies pulled back and sought to regroup. In that time Sauron's Host gained ground, yet as the front of battle widened, their momentum decreased. With the passing of that week their advance stalled. Battle lines held, trenches were dug, and the armies maintained their positions through a continuing series of contests.

Now in all these doings, Helluin took no part. Though the offensive from the Barad-dúr was't instigated of Sauron's rage against her, Helluin had been removed from the war. Quite against her wishes, she was't absented from the conflict; indeed she was't absented from Mordor itself, dragged kicking and screaming from Orodruin and deposited beyond the Ephel Duath. There she was't constrained and returned not for Sauron's fall.

Upon the very night when she had issued her last challenge to the Dark Lord, Helluin had awaited his coming upon the threshold of the Sammath Naur. She intended to tempt her enemy to do battle against her within the fiery mount itself. Thither upon the causeway o'er the lake of fire, whereupon she had battled the Úlairi aforetime, she intended to engage him and befuddle him, and by degrees degrade him, until such time as she could contrive to throw him down and bring about his ruin with a fall into the lava far below.

T'would consume his miserable carcass, his foul spirit, and his One Ring forever. By investing thus his trinket with such a measure of his spirit and his will, Sauron had invited the same vulnerability upon himself. Were the Ring to perish in the fires of its forming, he too would perish thither as well. He had debased and demeaned his once Imperishable Flame by binding it to the flames of Orodruin.

Having bound herself to the Sarchram, Helluin had come to viscerally understand this spiritual linkage where even the Elven Wise had not. In his folly, Sauron had wrought his Ring of gold, not of mithril . Pure gold was't soft whereas mithril was't not; gold and its alloys could be melted and poured into molds, while'st mithril , once refined from its ore, melted not under any fires to be found in Arda. It could be annealed, drawn, hardened, tempered, polished and quenched; it could be forged, but not cast. Alloying of mithril was't done either in the initial process of refinement or by the laborious folding and refolding of an annealed ingot. Great indeed had been the craft of Gneiss son of Gnoss.

Not in that time did Helluin deem ironic the shift in her purpose o'er the years, for she had come thither unto Mordor with no intent of facing Sauron Gorthaur.

Not to face Sauron do I go, meldanya, nor to exact vengeance upon him. Long ago our friend Glorfindel spoke with foresight saying that not from the hands of the Eldar would his ruin come. This I believe, for somehow I feel the truth of it. Nay, I seek not the root of the evil, but rather its servants. Thus had she spoken to her beloved in the fall of 3433, and indeed for long, such had been her mission. Yet o'er the years she had again been caught up in the fighting and the needs of prosecuting most expediently her campaign. And so now she had come to her current state; eagerly awaiting a confrontation any other upon Middle Earth would hath fled. Beinvír, of course, would hath been wroth with her.

Now in the fourth hour past nightfall there came up from the south a rush of wind in the darkness. Helluin turned thither her eyes and beheld a shadow blotting out the stars and making its way towards her. ‘Twas vast and soaring high, and for one moment she saw its silhouette against Ithil's face, wherefrom came an argent beam that glanced upon a pearled beak. A Great Eagle of Manwë , she thought, come as witness to the combat. ‘Tis not oft that a Maia shalt fall.

Though he flew too high in the dark for even her eyes to see for to reckon his name, she bowed her head. She was't not surprised that his course brought him hither so that he circled Orodruin on silent wings, spiraling down from the high airs.

The Eagle landed and perched upon the lintel stone o'er the doorway, while'st Helluin stood before him beyond the threshold with head bowed in reverence. The Eagle regarded her as he settled his feathers, tilting his head slightly to favor each eye in turn.

“Áye, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel,” said the Eagle, “Lúmetya ohtatyára tellenás an sí. ¹ ¹ (Áye, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel. Lúmetya ohtatyára tellenás an sí. Hail, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel. Your time to make war (it) is finished for now. = Áye (hail!) + Heldalúne Maica i móremenel . Lúme (time) + -tya (2 nd pers poss suff, your ) + ohtatyára (inf v, to make war ) + tele- (finish) + -lle (imperf past v suff) + ná- (is) + -s (3 rd pers sing obj pro, it=time ) + an ( for) + ( now) Quenya)

At his words, Helluin's head jerked up in astonishment. She simply stared at the Eagle in disbelief, her eyes wide and her mouth frozen partially open. ‘Twas absolutely the last thing she had expected to hear. Had he not been a holy messenger from Aman she would hath considered slaying him and going back to her waiting. Yet indeed he was't just such a messenger, and worse, not just any such messenger. For many moments she could contrive ‘naught for a reply. When she finally spoke, she began with a protest.

Áye, Sorontar! Aiquen ni hequa ná tyára i atalante Saurono, san man? ¹ ¹ ( Áye, Sorontar! Aiquen Ni Hequa ná tyára i atalante Saurono, san man? Hail Sorontar! (lit trans) If anyone excluding me is to cause the downfall of Sauron, then who? (ver trans) If I am not to slay Sauron, then who? = áye (hail!) + Sorontar ( soron , eagle + tar , king) + aiquen (if anyone) + ni (1 st pers indep pron, I, me ) + hequa (excluding) + ná- (is) + tyára (inf v, to cause) + i (def art, the ) + atalante (downfall) + Sauron + -o (gen suff, of ) + san (dem pron, then ) + man (int pron, who ) Quenya)

“Úquen, ¹ the great Eagle said. ¹ ( úquen (nobody) Quenya)

If Helluin had thought it possible for him to chuckle with his beak he was't surely doing so at her shocked expression.

He rose up as if to take wing and Helluin thought his embassy done, but rather than flap off, back to Aman, he seized her up in his talons and suddenly the ground was't falling away, dropping off ‘neath them at a sickening rate. ‘Twas totally unexpected. ‘Twixt Thorondor's ¹ ascent and the slope of the mountainside, the Noldo was't two furlong up ere she could even think to resist. ¹ ( Thorondor, Sindarin translation of Quenya Sorontar )

“What art thou doing? Let me down! Sorontar, he is coming, Sauron is coming at last and I alone can'st send him unto the Void!”

Helluin accompanied her pleas with such struggles as she could muster, but she was't pinioned in the great talons of the King of the Eagles and could scarcely move. When she became too active he merely gave her a squeeze and drove the breath from her.

“Thou art kidnapping me, O thou great buzzard! Return me thither, I demand it!”

All the while they were rising through the night, high up into the sky ere they wheeled to the west. The miles of Gorgoroth passed below. Helluin deemed he was't taking his time, making many circles and riding such thermals as he could find. Wheresoever they were headed, he was't obviously in no hurry.

“If thou doth not return me straightaway I shalt surely pluck thee bare! I shalt stuff thee like a capon.” The Eagle was't unimpressed and Helluin knew her threats were empty.

Thus upon the night that Sauron finally resolved to come forth from the Barad-dúr, the great Eagle winged his way west clutching a vigorously complaining Noldo. She kicked and cursed like sailor. He chuckled. ‘Twas a sight denied to all other living things, but one he would not soon forget.

Eventually, as the night grew old, Thorondor wheeled down in graceful spirals, and Helluin could discern ‘neath them the great river, Anduin, scintillating with Ithil's kiss. For all their hours spent aloft, he could hath flown to Eriador. Instead, Cair Andros passed below and they followed the river south, gliding ever lower.

Finally, but an hour ere dawn, the Eagle swooped down, barely clearing the bridges spanning Anduin ‘twixt either bank of the city of Osgiliath. He made his way slowly now, wobbling just above stall speed, past quays and warehouses, past public parks and many homes. Thence to the precinct of the palace he flew and once circled the Citadel of the Stars. The tips of his wings well ‘nigh brushed its dome. ‘Neath them the soldiers on watch remarked upon their passing with excited cries and much pointing and waving. ‘Twas not oft they saw an Eagle.

“Take me back, O thou o'ergrown squab,” Helluin demanded, “Still there is time for me to meet the Lord of Lies and rid forever this world of his evil.”

The bird wheeled back o'er the river.

“Art thou deaf? Hath thou heard not a single word I hath said?”

Namárie ,” the Eagle said as he released her and flapped to regain his altitude.

Helluin fell like a stone and with a great splash, landed in the river.

She came up sputtering and furious and shooting daggers of blue fire from her eyes, but by the time she marked the path of Sorontar's flight, he was't little more than a black speck disappearing into the south. From the shudders of his wings she knew he was't ruled by hysterics.

Although frustrated beyond all measure and having arrived in the most undignified of manners, Helluin's appearance, bearing tidings and the palantír of Minas Ithil, 'twas cause for great celebration. The Dúnedain rejoiced in her. She could barely refrain from chewing off their heads. She was't hoisted from Anduin soaking wet and seething. They carried her upon their shoulders to the palace.

In place of any royalty to greet her, she found Lord Aerandir, the Captain of Gondor, and Ragnor, the Chief Guardian of Lebennin. Thither too were many other officers of Gondor and Lebennin. She huffed and chaffed at first, finally presenting her tidings of the war o'er steaming tea and some seeded cakes. When she set out the sodden rag containing the palantír , they dispatched messengers. Neither of them woulds't touch it.

Perhaps an hour later, as Helluin's patience grew ever thinner, the King's Custodian entered the chamber to take temporary possession of the Seeing Stone ere it could be returned to the City of the Moon. To her amazement, he insisted upon writing her a detailed receipt. She stared at him; she was't still soaking wet and had not a dry pocket to her name in which to stow it.

“Whatsoever should I hath need of such as this for,” she groused, holding up the parchment and waving it back and forth. “'Tis not as if I were a merchant selling thee a trinket at market. ‘Tis by all rights the property of the king; I merely return it to him.”

“Even were thou but a messenger I should proffer thee proof of the exchange,” the custodian said, “but as thou hast recovered at great risk a thing of great value taken by the Great Enemy as a spoil of the great war, thou art due a great reward, O Helluin.”

The elleth rolled her eyes. ‘Twas ‘naught but what any soul with a shred of decency would do. Aside from this, she was't out of patience with messengers that night.

“In lieu of a reward, I should like a change of dry clothes,” she said, “then I should like a bath of heated waters, and I should like word sent thither to Beinvír, Laiquende, should she still remain in these lands. Thereafter I should be grateful for some cloth and oil for to attend to my weapons and armor.” She looked inquisitively to those about her.

The Men first stared at her in surprise, then hastened to fulfill her requests.

Some time later, submerged in a voluminous steaming bath scented with rose petals and with ‘naught but her face above the surface, Helluin muttered to herself as she brooded.

“All of Aman shalt be rolling upon the floor with laughter at what hast come to pass this night, I wager. If not with the direct sight, then I am sure the tales of that buzzard upon his return shalt make me the laughing stock of all Valinor. Indeed I should count myself lucky now to be saddled with my doom. For all the Ages shalt I escape the snickering of the Blessed Realm. Ahhh well.” She was't as deeply immersed in her angst as in her bath.

Scarcely ‘twas Helluin prepared for the immense splash as a body dove into the tub beside her. For the second time that night she came up sputtering and choking, with nose and throat filled with water. She desperately blinked to clear her eyes as she hacked up a mouthful of suds and a couple of rose petals.

Ere she could clear her vision, Helluin found herself snatched into the arms of the slender elleth who burst up out of the bath beside her. ‘Twas Beinvír, slinging water o'er the floor as she shrieked with joy and actually lifted Helluin clear out of the bath in the circle of her embrace. She was't bouncing and sloshing and plastering Helluin with kisses. If the Green Elf had ever been so happy she couldn't remember when. The Noldo found herself more thoroughly immersed in the aura of love that surrounded her than she had been while'st submerged in the water a moment before. The warmth that penetrated her heart outshone the heat of the tub, for it warmed her from the inside. If Helluin had been morose aforetime, she was't ecstatic now. She twisted around and clasped her arms ‘round her partner; Sauron, the Eagle, and the war completely forgotten.

With a splash the two crashed back down into the tub, Helluin stark naked, Beinvír completely clothed. Neither noticed. ‘Twas for them in those moments no world save that which existed in each other's gaze. Almost a line of fire connected the two, eye to eye, heart to heart. After almost 7 years apart, their meeting was't as a flaring of Anor upon a morning of summer. Without even being aware of it, their lips met in a kiss, long familiar and long missed. Eyes slipped closed and their spirits communed. The fire inside them blended in a ril of silver and gold that glowed forth from their forms upon the physical plane, while'st upon the plane of the spirit, their fëar joined, renewing an eternal union. ‘Twas as if without conscious touch or thought, they drove each other to the heights of climax and remained in that state as time disappeared. About them the water shone with a glow that reflected the luminescence in their hearts…indeed small bubbles formed as the temperature rose from the outpouring of their energies, and soon ‘twas too heated for either to abide thither in comfort.

Still clasped together in their embrace, they fled the tub as steam rose from the now ‘nigh scalding water. Then long they stood thus, arms entwined about each others' bodies, lips locked together. So long did they remain thus, that the bath cooled again to an acceptable level.

With fingers graced by Elven deftness, Helluin quickly divested her lover of cloak, tunic, leggings and boots, then lifted her back into the tub and settled the Green Elf sideways across her lap. There she held her, letting her lips rest upon the crown of her head. In utter contentment, she slowly became aware of their synchronized breathing and the beating of their hearts. Sometime much later she flirted with the idea of forgiving the Eagle, while'st Sauron she would deal with another day.

Now in the days that followed, great events went forth in the land of Mordor. There was't a battle fought upon Gorgoroth and upon the slopes of Orodruin that determined the course of the next Age. Yet for Helluin and Beinvír the world beyond them faded to grey and they heeded it little while'st rejoicing in each other.

The Host of the Alliance fought on and eventually they had the mastery. Yrch, Easterling, Tor, and Black Númenórean, all fell before the armies of the allies. Elendil and Isildur and Prince Meneldil inspired their Men to great feats and prowess. The Eldar fought as they had in the First Age while engaging the minions of Morgoth in Beleriand. The Naugrim marched forth in their companies, hardy and ferocious, and they drove before them all their foes. Soon it seemed, the forces of the Dark Lord would be broken and their numbers slain or scattered. Perhaps one more great victory lay between the Alliance and conquest.

Then at last Sauron came forth from the Barad-dúr. Whether to meet Helluin or for redress of the slaughter of his soldiery, none can tell for sure. ‘Tis known that after his initial onslaught with his black mace, he drew after him the greater number of the allied forces, and he led them hence from the precincts of the Barad-dúr unto his goal, the fiery mountain Orodruin.

Thither upon the slopes of the quaking volcano he fought, and in combat he worsted the heroes of the alliance. Thither was't Ereinion Gil-galad slain and Elendil too, and the sword of the High King of Men, broke ‘neath him as he fell. Long the principals contested, wielding first their weapons, Narsil and Aeglos against the Black Mace, and then wrestling afterwards with bare hands. Many were the wounds they bore, from gash of sword, puncture of spear, impact of mace, and scorching from contact with Sauron's body. Many other brave warriors of the Eldar and the Edain fell upon that day, their bodies broken and their blood spilt. Great upon that day was't the heartbreak of the Host of the Alliance. Yet in the end, as so many stories hath told, ‘twas Isildur who, coming to the comfort of his fallen father who had taken fatal hurt while'st throwing down Sauron upon his face, took up the hilt shard of Narsil and hewed from the Dark Lord's hand his One Ring. Rather than rising again from his knees to do battle, his black armor fell into scales of rust and his spirit dispersed in a flash of exploding vapors.

With that loss was't the power of Sauron broken, and in the separation from it was't he diminished for that time. Down fell the empire he had created by its power, for its power ‘twas his own. Yrch, Tor, Easterling, and even such of the Black Númenóreans who still survived felt themselves bereft of will and purpose. Some slew themselves in despair. Some fled in terror. And some few fought on to their deaths, without hope, but retaining some shred of their honor and pride as warriors. But Sauron, their base master, was't dispersed as a foul scent before a strong breeze, for with the loss of the power of his Ring, his form was't riven to dust and blew away upon a cold wind. And yet he was't not destroyed at the last, nor was't his spirit commended unto the Void.

Isildur then claimed the One Ring, for in his ruin Sauron's armor had fallen away, crumbled and empty and hollow, ‘nigh where the Elven king and his father had fallen. Isildur clasped it in his hand and felt a searing pain as it burnt his mortal flesh, but also in that first moment, the flaring of a desire already kindled long aforetime. Even ere he separated it from the black gauntlet that had sheathed Sauron's hand, it called to him with a fell whisper that touched his heart. And as he had long aforetime in an encampment ‘nigh Calenglad i'Dhaer, when first the question of the Ring had been discussed, he pondered the possibilities its possession might confer.

Now Isildur held the One Ring in his hand, and though the pain was't a constant torment, ‘twas he that had slain Sauron, and ‘twas he that had taken it as spoil of combat, not Helluin. Whether she had indeed come to battle with the Dark Lord in his tower, she had not o'ercome him thither, and in the final battle she had not appeared. Indeed like many in the host, he believed her fallen before their Enemy. It saddened him, for greatly had he admired her; her courage, her prowess, and her beauty.

Thereafter, though he followed Elrond up the climbing road and into the Sammath Naur, Isildur had already been greatly tempted to retain the Ring. When it came to the moment of truth in which he was't forced to decide that trophy's fate, he made up his mind, and though he claimed it as weregild for his father and his brother and as a spoil of war, he had become enamoured of it for its own sake. He was't resolved that he would possess it until his dying day, for unto him, it had become precious.

In that time the Eldar, and the Lords Elrond and Glorfindel most, felt a dark prescience fall upon their fëar , for they reckoned an evil had been allowed to endure. So long as it persisted, there existed the chance that some other of evil will might arise to wield it. Of all the host, only Durin deemed Isildur right in claiming such a mighty talisman of his victory, and he too would come to doubt his feelings.

Now as the highest ranking Dúnadan still living, King Isildur remained for some months in Mordor, and with Glorfindel and Elrond and the wrights of Durin IV of Khazad-dûm he o'ersaw the razing of the Barad-dúr. To convey the tidings of their victory, he sent back to Gondor most of the army and his nephew, Prince Meneldil.

Now great was't the rejoicing in Gondor upon the return of the prince. Men throughout the kingdom celebrated, yet their celebrations were tainted with sadness, for fallen were Elendil the High King, and Anárion, their own lord. There too had fallen many knights and men at arms, and many families were now bereft of a son or a father.

Helluin and Beinvír too could take little joy in the celebrations. Though she had ever been at odds with him, and he ever suspicious of her, the loss of Ereinion Gil-galad, son of Fingon, struck Helluin more deeply than she would hath expected. Perhaps ‘twas that in his death there came in Middle Earth an end to the direct line of the Noldorin High Kings of the House of Finwe, her first lord.

By right of descent the chief of that house 'twas now, Elrond Peredhel . He would never be a High King to Helluin. Though some measure of the blood of Finwe indeed flowed in his veins, he was't much too far her junior in all respects. A great loremaster and healer he had become, Vice-regent of Eriador and Herald of Gil-galad upon Dagorlad and Mordor, and she would ever consider him a friend, but she had seen the Light of the Two Trees and lived o'er 4,500 years ere his birth. Helluin was't Amanya, a true Calaquende or Elf of Light, and the eldest of that kindred now living in Middle Earth ¹ . What Elrond knew as lore, Helluin had lived. Serving Ereinion had been stretching a point; she would not serve Elrond. Now, at the age of 7,957 years of the sun, Helluin was't for the first time without a lord. In her heart it brought home yet again the fading of her people. ¹ ( Indeed of all the Quendi upon the Hither Shores whose names hath come down from that time, only Círdan could claim a greater age.)

For Beinvír too there was't sorrow and loss in Prince Meneldil's tidings. The death of King Anárion, who had welcomed her and accepted her service as Commander of the Rangers of Ithilien, was't a hard blow. The younger brother of Isildur had been a Man she had come to like and respect. He had been less brash and apt to seek after glory than his elder brother, but he had been no less courageous or determined. Ever he had treated her with respect though she be Moriquende. He had valued her counsel, her wisdom, and her honor, and though ever a gentleman, he had always been subject to her charms and beauty as well, oft softening his tone when they spoke or offering her good-natured compliments. At the same time, he had never acted in a patronizing fashion. Despite her stature and gender, he had been from the first well aware that in a duel she would hath easily bested him; he had respected her as a warrior while knowing that that role had been distasteful to her. Even though Beinvír had long before accepted that one day Anárion would die, she had hoped to enjoy his friendship for many more years.

And both of the ellith felt the loss of the High King Elendil. In him Helluin had seen again the nobility of the mortals she had befriended and respected millennia before, Hurin, Huor, Tuor, and Eärendil. In him the honor of the Edain of old had been reborn before her eyes. To the two Elves, Elendil had recouped the losses of the kindred of the Dúnedain through all the generations of the fallen kings of Númenor. He had been the resurrected promise of that people. But aside from his role as a symbol, Elendil had welcomed and honored them from their first meeting. He had conducted himself as an ally, a friend, a gracious host, and a thankful benefactor. Never in all his years had he slighted either of their peoples, the High Elves or the Green. He had ever treated both with honor so far as his knowledge had allowed, for he retained that reverence for the Elder Children of Ilúvatar that was't first formed in the days of old when Finrod Felagund had taken the First House of the Atani under his protection and their chieftain Balan had taken the name Bëor and served him as a vassal.

Never in this Age shalt his like come again, Helluin thought sadly, and yet, in this belief she was't wrong, though tall grew the trees and many kingdoms fell ere her error was't proved.

Now when the initial celebrations had finished and Prince Meneldil had brought order to the realms of Gondor and Lebennin, Beinvír relinquished command of the Rangers to Ragnor, and with Helluin the two took their leave of the south kingdom wherein they had fought. Sauron was't defeated and they had seen enough of war for that time. And so in the year 1 of the Third Age of the Sun, they made their way again to Eriador and home.

To Be Continued

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