In An Age Before – Part 78

Chapter Sixty-four

East of Rhovanion – The Third Age of the Sun

Now 'twas not 'til Anor had set and Ithil risen that the two ellith came again to the Great Hall of Lüdhgavia.  Thither they had been summoned by grimy and o’erly serious youth of perhaps ten summers who was’t entrusted with his king’s errands as a page.  Helluin and Beinvír followed this urchin forthwith as was’t commanded, finding the hall more noisesome and no less aromatic than aforetime.  Indeed the board was’t set, the mead a’flowing, and the gathered Riders raucous in their cups.  Loud were their revels, with much boasting, yapping dogs, atonal singing, and drunken laughter, all attesting to a boisterous celebration in progress.  The stench of sweaty Man-flesh was’t so strong as to make the Elves wish for a company of Yrch to spit-roast them all for to offer mercy to their senses.  Atop this stench lay a reek of wood smoke, a miasma of clotted grease and burnt meat, and the sour aroma of stale spilt mead.  'Twas enough to set their entrails to flight.  Thankful were they for the tavern’s fare, for neither deigned to eat a bite all night.

In the torch light they made their way after the page, finally coming to stand before the high table and the seat of Lüdhgavia, he being already wild-eyed and drunk.  About him were clustered his most favored knights, hoisting mugs and jesting amongst themselves.  Helluin spied Captain Ërlick seated thither and gave him a nod of greeting when she caught his eye.  For his part, the captain choked on his mead in surprise at seeing her, then noticed Beinvír and stared all the harder, his glance flicking 'twixt the two of them.  He rose and seemed about to speak a greeting, but his king beat him to it.

"Welcome, my…unusual guests," he proclaimed after belching long and hearty.  ""Thou hast saved my brother-daughter from certain death this day," he said, nodding at Beinvír, who gracefully bowed to him.  He hawked and spat a mouthful of phlegm upon the floor, ere wiping his lips upon his sleeve and continuing with, "and I heard 'twas thou that hast lain my brother to rest with honor," he said to Helluin, who dipped her head but bowed not, being more than a little appalled at his lack of gentility.  He struck her as the least regal lord she had met in many a century.

Indeed for her part the ancient Noldo was’t given to wondering just how her old friend Finrod had felt when he’d encountered the people of Bëor, at the coming of the First House of the Atani to Beleriand in the First Age of the Sun.  The Edain had been little more than savages in those days, and though mostly noble at heart, still savages none the less.  Thence did Helluin recall the disorienting imagery she’d discovered within the mind of Balar son of Balan, whom she and her beloved had rescued from the house of Iarwain ben-Adar.  Ugh, she thought, only now can I fully appreciate the patience and charity of my old friend Felagund.  Whereat one Man alone was’t confusing even while’st sober, this whole culture is well 'nigh abysmal in its lack of refinement.  Whyfore should Olórin desire them to come west?  With a sigh of resignation though she thought, Ahhh well, 'tis hardly my place to question the wisdom of a Maia.  I only pray 'tis not his newfound mortal raiment that hast addled his wits of late.

"…hath heard the tale of Captain Ërlick," King Lüdhgavia said, gesturing to the captain.  The king was’t just concluding after Helluin’s lapse of attention.  A few nearby Men applauded by stamping their feet and spilling their mead.

Having missed his words for the most part, Helluin could only nod in agreement, expecting such to suffice as a response amidst such drunken company.  'Twas apparently sufficient, for the king then reclaimed his seat and his mug, spat again, (this time striking a passing dog), and thereafter paid the Elves no further attention.

Shortly later Helluin and Beinvír shared speech with Captain Ërlick, who for some reason seemed less inebriated than the rest of the gathered riders.

"Hail and well met, O captain," the dark warrior offered.  "’Tis good fortune to see thee again and well."

"Aye, and for my part too," Ërlick agreed, "and I hath heard tell that thou hast again aided our folk, thou and thy friend," he added, nodding to the Green Elf, "and this time in battle but a week past.  No love of the Yrch hast thou…this I know from aforetime.  Now t’would seem again true that the enemy of our enemy is our friend.  I rejoice for it, for our enemies art many."

"Indeed?"  Asked the Green Elf.  "Some Yrch we hath seen east of the Greenwood.  Art there others hither to vex thee?"

The captain sighed and took a sip from his cup.  It seemed an astonishing exhibition of restraint amidst the prevailing company.

"Aye, our enemies seem many and seem the more with each passing year.  Yrch, Easterling Men, and even the accursed fire-worshippers from beyond Rhûn.  Though a long way off, still we hath seem them at times.  Some even came hither in the service of the Sorcerer, or in flight from unrest in their on lands, to make their mischief in the forest.  We must needs be vigilant these days, looking ever to the safety of our herds and those of our folk who live in scattered holdings south and east."

The two Elves nodded in understanding.  Ërlick’s mention of, the accursed fire-worshippers from beyond Rhûn confirmed 'aught that they’d long suspected.  The cadres of enemies that Sauron had mustered in the War of the Last Alliance had included the ancestors of many who had survived, festering in their homelands to the east whither they preserved their hatred of all free peoples and their allegiance to the Dark Lord.

 "Indeed we art the enemies of thy enemies, Captain Ërlick," Helluin assured the Man, "and hath been so for many thousands of years.  So long as we walk thy lands thy folk may count upon our aid should the need arise."

The captain nodded seriously in gracious thanks.

"Thy offer I value most highly," he said to Helluin, "for after meeting thee aforetime we took our way south at thy direction and my company passed into the precincts of Dól Gúldúr.  We found it silent, save for the crying of crows, the squabbling of vultures, and the snarling of dogs.  Feasting they were," he said appearing pale at the memory.  "We came even to the gates of the Sorcerer’s tower and in the courtyard counted no less than forty-odd of the enemy fallen.  It seemed they had been slain while’st in flight."

Helluin nodded in agreement with the captain’s count.  Her perfect Elvish memory deemed his tally quite accurate.

"N’er into the tower did we venture, and yet from thither came such a reek of death as would draw every carrion fowl for a hundred miles.  No doubt the count within exceeded the count without.  And all these, I deem, fell by thy hand."

Here he looked Helluin in the eye more closely, and she held his gaze.  For a heartbeat he was’t constrained by her will.  Thence did she confirm his suspicions with a short vision, and a soft gasp escaped him as he shuddered at the sight of it.  Down dim and dismal corridors far 'neath the ground had she taken his sight.  Thither had the slaughter proceeded, the bodies of Yrch and Easterling falling before her blades as if stricken by an enchanted plague.  Blood sprayed up in the flickering light of torches and the flaring ril of her own rage.  In the vision their screams were silent, the slain deprived of sound to accompany their gaping mouths, yawning wide in shrieks of pain and terror like the faces of the mummified dead.  With a blink Helluin released him and the Man stood shivering and grim of face ere he mastered himself of the horror, hardened soldier though he was’t.

"What ails thee, captain?"

The serving wench, niece of the king, had approached while’st Ërlick’s attention was’t held by the Noldo, and the girl had marked his pallor with visible upset.

"’Twas 'naught but a vision, Brekka, a gift of my friend, Helluin," Ërlick told her.

"’Twas a gift indeed?"  She asked him doubtfully.

The girl turned and looked at the Elves, with a flash of resentment directed at Helluin which was’t quickly squelched 'neath her renewed curiosity.  Then, recalling herself, she curtsied to them, for they were guests of the king and to the shorter one she owed her life. 

"M-my th-thanks," she stammered to Beinvír, "f-for saving my life, this afternoon."

The Green Elf nodded to her and offered a small smile, trying to set her more at ease.

"Glad was’t I to save thee," Beinvír told her sincerely.  "’Twas an ill-fate that set you before Borhtan’s arrow."

The girl gulped, recalling all too clearly how close she had been to joining her ancestors.

"I too am glad thou hath survived," Ërlick told her gently.  He was’t rewarded with a broad smile which lit Brekka’s eyes and transformed the girl’s face from plain.  Indeed the Elves marked how the expression made her beautiful.  They marked too the fond look that passed 'twixt the captain and the king’s niece.

Hmmmmm, thought the Green Elf, so, their hearts art turned towards one another, and a handsome couple they make.

For her part, Helluin noted that Captain Ërlick was’t the first to speak the girl’s name.  Save for the king’s reaction that afternoon he seemed the only one to regard her favorably at all.  'Tis good to see that not all hither deem her 'aught but a burden to their lord’s house.  Her situation is scarcely her fault and the sorrow of her father’s death must still remain close to her heart.  Alas, 'twas I who hath gifted her that dread news…though for once not with the words of my own mouth. 

"I am Helluin, of the Host of Finwe," the dark Noldo said, "and thy savior is Beinvír Laiquende.  We hail from Eriador, west of the forest and the mountains that lie beyond.  I too am glad thou fell not so untimely upon this day."

Again the girl curtsied, more formally this time, adding a dip of her head.  Despite her flash of anger at Helluin for the vision that had so upset the captain, she felt the warrior was’t due the respect of a knight.  She seemed unnaturally tall and powerfully built for a woman, and dressed in her armor and girt with her longsword the Noldo projected a harder and more fell presence than the Green Elf.  And better than most, she knew Captain Ërlick’s tale of Dól Gúldúr.

"Thou art Elvish folk, I hath heard tell?"  She hesitantly ventured, unsure of how her curiosity would be received.  Still she couldn’t keep from asking Helluin, "’Twas thou who found my father in the Sorcerer’s dungeons?"

And once begun, the questioning continued with growing enthusiasm for most of that evening.  While’st Beinvír was’t willing to indulge Brekka, Helluin was’t reminded of Inthuiril and her interrogation following her liberation from the dungeons of the Sorcerer.  Helluin let her partner answer most of the queries.

For his part, Ërlick paid close attention.  Little enough did he or any other amongst the riders know of Elves.  Indeed thankful to Brekka was’t he, for she asked much without the shame or self-consciousness he would hath felt and he too learnt from the answers.  Through it all he scarcely emptied a mug, and while’st the revels were reduced mostly to staggering and slurring, the four speaking together thither remained upright and sober, alone amongst those within the hall.

"I hath passed 17 cycles of the seasons, and the good captain twenty-three," Brekka said, "yet lore tells that Elves live forever…"

"Elves may be slain in battle," Beinvír told her seriously, "and they may pass from grief.  Yet the passage of time wears upon them but slowly, and of disease they hath no worries. I am now 4,411, while’st Helluin is 8,959 years of the sun in age."

For many long moments neither mortal spoke, but rather stood silenced by awe.  Such spans were incomprehensible to them.  Though they knew it not, the whole race of Men counted their time at 5,059 years since the first of their fathers had awakened in Hildorien with the coming of the sun.  A few centuries only populated the lore of these riders, ere their memory was’t eclipsed by the Shadow and the darkness of their ignorance.  

"’Tis beyond me…such spans of time," Ërlick said at last, "and indeed it makes me feel small.  All the days of my life shalt pass like one breath only to thee…indeed all the days of my king and my people…"

"Many kingdoms I hath seen rise and fall," Helluin agreed, "of Men and Elves and Dwarves.  Yet one thread passes from Age to Age, and that is the struggle 'twixt good and evil.  In every land it hath birthed the lore of times past and lays the path of time to come, for it guides the deeds of those who live through those times.  So 'tis the part of each to do 'aught as they can to better the days they see, to provide for those who come after, and to cherish the good deeds done aforetime that they not be forgotten and their lessons needs be learnt again.  'Tis the same for all good folk upon these Mortal Shores. 'Twas even so upon the Deathless Shores far 'cross the Sea."

Beside her, the Green Elf solemnly nodded her head in agreement.

Helluin’s earnest words kindled a fire in the eyes of the captain and the maiden, as if for the first time they knew for what they strove; as if for the first time they had a reason beyond self-defense or vengeance to oppose those who would slay or enslave them.  'Twas the light of inspiration, the realization of a higher calling…and though perhaps not unknown aforetime, for honor was’t not wholly foreign to them, 'twas still rare to hear such words spoken aloud and sincere.  They marked that in these most ancient of folk the most basic values were embraced, clear and uncomplicated, as the guiding principals of life.  About them the drunken revels seemed now a shallow and cynical departure from a purer and better life’s purpose.  In Helluin’s words they found a reflected glimmer of that same hope which had once driven the Eldar into the West, following the promise of something higher and fairer, and more noble than 'aught that they had known aforetime.  Somewhere within their hearts, unconscious and unspoken, the captain and the girl were both moved to cleave to that same purpose.  'Twas a lesson neither would forget 'til the failing of their life’s breath.

Now thereafter the two ellith long remained in the land of the riders, and they built for themselves a homestead some seven leagues from the king’s city, 'nigh the settlement which Captain Ërlick called home.  'Twas little more than a cabin much like those built west of the Greenwood by the descendants of Berlun, save that they kept no livestock nor tended any hives.  About it ran a thick hedge enclosing a small meadow of wildflowers.  They had chosen the site because it hosted a spring in a shallow hollow just downslope from their house, which sat upon a hillock of whispering grass 'neath the only two trees for miles around.  'Twas a concession to their mission they made, for Beinvír was’t still loath to be tied to any one place, and Helluin too, though both acknowledged the desire for winter shelter and to be available to their neighbors at need. 

Now the settlement was’t one of several, and it lay some two furlongs to the west, 'nigh a running brook and astride a well traveled track leading to the King Lüdhgavia’s city.  Thither, aside from some craftsmen, the people mostly bred horses and sheep, though a few farmed poorly and some others mainly hunted for their livelihood.  The area as a whole was’t rolling grasslands, prime country for raising herds of the steeds beloved by the riders, and so the breeders were esteemed by the city folk and the soldiers. 

Much traffic moved 'twixt the city and the outlying villages, and these were regularly patrolled by the companies of the king’s riders as they went about the land, safeguarding their borders from the occasional marauding bands of Yrch or evil Men.

Now in that land there dwelt too many wild horses, the ancestral sires and dams of the herds so loved by the riders.  These were fine animals, sleek of coat, strong and fleet of foot, and wise in the ways of their lands.  'Twas told amongst the peoples 'twixt Celduin and Carnen that these were, at least in part, descended from steeds once brought to Mortal Lands by the Gods. 

Of this the Elves had their own opinions, for though Orome and his host had oft ridden in the wide and untamed lands of Middle Earth during the Age of the Stars, all who came thither returned to Valinor.  In those days Orome had ridden his stallion, Nahar, hunting down the dark monsters of Morgoth, but oft were things other than they seemed.  All mortal horses had come at the first of some equine stock upon Arda, perhaps back in the days when the Valar had dwelt thither ere the Fall of the Lamps, while’st Nahar and his kindred of Aman died not and spoke at whiles when it pleased them to do so.  These things Helluin knew from her many meetings with the noble steed during her years in Aman.  And one thing more she knew well from this; Nahar was no horse!  Near as Helluin could reckon, he had been well o’er 30,000 years of the Sun in age at the time of her own birth.  Indeed he might hath come to Arda with the Valar, the Maiar, Manwë’s Eagles, Melkor’s Balrogs, and all the rest.  Such was’t not the life story of 'aught but an immortal spirit in Orome’s service, sheathed by its will in the form of a horse.  And yet who was’t to say whether or not, upon some long forgotten hunt in the Age of the Stars, he had or had not sewed some wild oats of his own in the Mortal Lands. 

Whatever their pedigree, the wild horses were fine beasts and even Helluin and Beinvír thought them majestic.  The Men called them Maeras, and though mortal, thought them magical; to be admired for their own virtues, their bloodlines treasured when mingled with their herds, but never to be tamed or ridden by mortals...nay, not even by kings.

For the most part the wild ones roamed the grasslands at their leisure, keeping away from the settlements of Men, but from time to time one would deign to join a domestic herd for a while, usually during the mating season when the stallions would vie for access to the mares.  The appearance of wild horses was’t regarded by the Men as a gift from their ancestors and the influx of fresh blood was’t welcomed for to enrich the lines of their steeds.  So 'twas that in late Lothron, (May), of TA 1003, that the two ellith first made the acquaintance of the Maeras.

Now it came to pass that in the late spring the two ellith took to the fields, roaming and wandering as they were wont to do after the heaviest of the spring rains abated.  So 'twas that upon that time they were many miles from their home, out east and but a few leagues from the banks of the River Carnen.  The weather was’t warm and pleasant, for the full heats of summer were yet to come, and the waving grass was’t green and growing tall.

"’Tis nice to be in new lands, meldanya, and I find these fair," Beinvír said as she traipsed in an exaggerated fashion, well 'nigh skipping with arms outstretched to swish amongst the tall stems of grass. "I feel Anor close and Manwë’s gentle breath in the sweet breeze.  Doth the scent of this land not seem sweet?"

"Indeed, meldis nín, 'tis just so," Helluin agreed with a smile as she watched her lover capering, so obviously joyful, "a fine day in a fine land."

She herself was’t happy; happy to roam freely in unfamiliar surroundings that were pleasing to the senses.  She was’t especially happy to be free of the ever present stenches and crowding of the Mannish settlements.  Indeed the dark warrior felt somehow more Elvish, as if her present state satisfied more fully her sense of identity; a free wandering adventurer…an explorer of the Host of Finwe.  From what she could see, 'twas as if the later Second and Third Ages might n’er hath been. 

How may centuries hath passed, she wondered, since last I actually explored a new land in peace, with 'naught for a mission?  And how long since I did so in such wonderful company? And after a pause, she answered herself.   It hast been long indeed.

She allowed a broad smile to grace her features as she looked east, out 'cross the leagues of grass to a far line of trees that marked Carnen’s banks, and thence, sweeping her gaze north, through league upon league of clear air, so far that even that clarity gave way to a subtle haze, where stood the hint of the Emyn Angren, the Iron Hills.        

Beinvír twirled about like a dervish, finally coming to face her partner.  Thither she froze in silence, a look of awe upon her face. 'Twas some moments ere Helluin noticed her stillness, and then she looked thither.  She cocked a brow in question.

"I can recall not when I hath seen thee so," the Green Elf whispered with eyes still wide, "so fair and so content.  Behind thee stands bright Anor, casting a golden glow about thee to rival thine own inner Light, and upon thy face a smile to warm the hearts of even Morgoth’s thralls…and the Light of thy eyes, it fairly makes me swoon.  Aye, in thy eyes I see thy love for this world and for thy place in it…’aught that I hath seen for long given to 'naught but myself.  I know what great fortune the world feels in this moment, for I hath long reveled in that feeling myself.  Thou art beautiful, meldis meldwain nín, beautiful beyond the measure those who dwell upon these Mortal Shores.  Would that thou could more oft show this side of thyself, Helluin."

Her lover’s words brought a blush to Helluin’s face and a giggle to Beinvír’s.

"Thou rewards me with treasure upon treasure this day, anamelda," the Green Elf teased.

"And 'naught of it can’st thou bequeath or spend, but rather only hoard in the treasury of thy heart," Helluin replied in an attempt to recover her composure.

"Thus I account myself richer than a king of the Naugrim enthroned upon a mountain of gold," Beinvír said, and then holding up her left hand, added, "I hath even a Ring that I value above any in all their kingdoms."

Thither upon the third finger of her hand shone the Ring of mithril and gold, carved by the wrights of the House of Ishkabibúl of Khazad-dûm into the forms of the Blessed Trees of Aman, their joined canopies blazing with Anor’s rays, refracted through the adamant gems of Hithaeglir, the love-gift of Helluin’s promise, given in the cavern of Henneth Annûn o’er a thousand years aforetime.

At the sight of that symbol Helluin stepped forward, without thought or intention, drawn thus by her feelings, and Beinvír did likewise 'til their arms entwined.  Eyes slipped closed to revel in fair memories and the feeling of each others’ bodies clasped so near their own.  Then, as the feelings of their love built, came again that melding of their fëar which surpasses any intimacy amongst the mortal Children of Ilúvatar, that blending of souls so rare even amongst the Elder Children of the One.  Upon the plain 'nigh Carnen did a golden Light flare, as of a star come hence to ground in the bright, full light of day.  Thither, for moments that seemed to stretch out for an Age, two became one and the grass steamed and withered and threatened to burst into flame.  Together they rose upon the wings of their love, the Light building, the blending complete, until at last 'twas as if they had ceased to be, yet never could they hath been more complete.  The Light flared, so intense as to eclipse Anor’s radiance, and then it gradually faded, leaving the two ellith gasping and struggling to recover their breath.  And even in this, they supported each other until their hearts calmed.

Now 'twas in fine mood and great contentment that the pair traveled north.  A closer look at the distant Iron Hills did they desire, for curiosity and exploration ruled their hearts for that time.  So they made their way thither, passing 'nigh the banks of Carnen for some fifty leagues, and so coming in late Lothron to the last bend north.  Thither the river turned for its final thirty leagues ere entering the hills, and thither, upon the 26th day of that month, did the two ellith find adventure.

Now that day dawned bright and clear as had so many aforetime on their journey, and they broke their fasts and took up the trail in good spirits.  'Twas 'nigh noon when they felt the helpless rage and sadness of one before them, and hearing no sounds of battle to accompany it, made their way forward intending to render whatsoever aid they could.  

They made their way some half-furlong east from their trail, the feelings growing ever stronger with each step, 'til they were greeted with soft snorts and the sounds of one nervously pacing, and louder still, the labored breathing of another in pain.  Now they hastened forth, thinking the quicker to be of service, and so they came upon a clearing wherein the grass was’t trampled flat, and whereat waited a maddened horse standing sentry o’er another fallen upon the ground.

Immediately the guardian reared and pawed the air, and he whinnied a warning that the Elves understood. 

Halt and come no closer!  Thou hast been warned.  Return upon thy way or I shalt surely be thy bane.   The stallion’s eyes fairly blazed with protectiveness.

The two ellith came immediately to a halt, Helluin standing before her partner, but they drew no weapons for both saw that the fallen was’t indeed a mare, and that she was’t heavy and full in her labor…a labor that had obviously gone awry.  They marked now the pain and fright in her eyes, her fast and shallow breathing, and the sheen of perspiration upon her sides.  Indeed the mare’s strength was’t ebbing from the struggle; she was’t losing her life while’st trying to give life.

"We mean no harm to thee or thy mate," Beinvír said in a soothing tone of voice as she stepped 'round Helluin’s side. 

She spoke the same words silently as well while’st looking the stallion in the eyes. It seemed to give him pause, for he settled from his rearing, but he still breathed heavily and pawed the ground.

"She speaks the truth," Helluin added, "no ill do we bring to thee, but rather felt thy pain and anguish from afar and came hither with offer of aid."

The horse snorted in disbelief and asked, What aid can you fair ones bring to such as we?  We art not Elves, and such Elves as we know ride seldom and know little of value to us.  Indeed our greatest thanks to thy people is for thy teaching of speech, and that a gift now so old that we count it less than the estrangement 'twixt our kindreds that hath come to be.

"There may be truth in thy words," Beinvír answered, "and t’would hold for our folk of these eastern lands, yet Helluin hails from 'cross the Sea, and great store of lore and knowledge hast she from the Blessed West."

At this the stallion quieted somewhat and stood carefully looking at the Noldo for what seemed a long time.  His attention finally shifted at a wheezing gasp from the mare.  She had turned her attention to the Elves and her terrified eyes begged a single word; Please!  When the stallion looked back at the two ellith his eyes were softened with a glimmer of hope.

For any favor thou may gift to my mate I would hold myself forever in thy debt.  This birth shalt be the death of her and bring the breaking of my heart.  The loss of the foal shalt end my line which hast come down even from the Days of the Stars.  I beg thy pardon.  I knew not that any from the West still lingered upon these Hither Shores.

"Few enough of us there are indeed," agreed Helluin as she moved carefully forward, "and none others save myself art known to me east of the Misty Mountains."

She reached the mare and knelt beside her, placing a gentle hand upon her brow and concentrating for several moments.  Then she leant low and softly sang in the Quenya tongue, some sweet verses in the mare’s ear.  The mare seemed to calm and breath more easily, and a bit of the wild fear left her eyes.  When Helluin looked up to the stallion she said, "I shalt do 'aught as I can, and I believe I may save at least one or the other, mother or child…perhaps both." 

'Twas the confidence in her eyes that finally set the stallion at ease for the first time and he ceased his pawing and stood quietly by, looking down as Helluin worked.

Now Helluin had Beinvír kindle a small fire in a trench, and o’er it she heated water with herbs to make an infusion.  This the Noldo laved the mare with, brow and belly, and her sweating ceased.  For hours Helluin labored in her healing, putting forth her power and singing softly while’st awaiting the proper time.  The hours passed and Anor lowered in the west.  The stallion stood by in silence, barely breathing, and clinging to his newfound hope.  Helluin’s power strengthened the mare’s body while’st the songs strengthened her heart.  But 'twas finally by manual ministrations that the dark warrior succeeded in turning the unborn colt while’st still within its mother’s womb, so that in the early evening he made his way forth into the world without tearing his dam or strangling himself.  Then as the first stars winked to life in the heavens and Eärendil rose o’er Arda’s rim, the new colt staggered to his feet, took a shaky step, and promptly collapsed again beside his mother, nuzzling her and searching for her teat.  Helluin and Beinvír gave sighs of relief and contentment.

Skilled art thou, Helluin of the Host of Finwe, the stallion said, dipping his proud head to her, and great is my thanks.  'Aught that I might offer is yours for the asking.

Helluin nodded in understanding and she gave a considered pause ere answering, for though she deemed there to be little she would want of a horse, she sought not to name her reward too quick lest she seem to value it not.  In that time she looked o’er the two horses carefully yet again.  While’st the mare was’t golden, with a pale mane and tail, (a coloration called in later days palomino), the stallion’s coat was’t of a hue that seemed to shimmer like quicksilver.  'Twas in truth neither white nor grey, but rather 'twas a coat that Helluin knew would seem dark in shadows and light in sunlight; a turncoat hide familiar to her from Aman and the herds of Valinor, but seldom seen in Mortal Lands.  Having known many a horse, (and indeed many spirits who wore the forms of horses), she nodded to herself, knowing  what boon she would ask.

"Noble ones, I ride not save at the greatest need, and that hast not been in the lifetimes of thee or thy sires.  Water and food and shelter we can find well enough for ourselves such that to this land’s bounties we hath no need of guidance.  One thing only can I mark that I would hath of thee, for we hath forged hither a tie of life."

The two horses looked at her with their full attention.

"Declare to me thy right names," Helluin asked.

To this request, the mare whickered and the stallion snorted.

Shrewd thou art, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, the stallion said, yet I grudge thee not thy fee.  I am called Dágeleb¹ in the Sindarin tongue.  ¹(Dágeleb, Silver Shadow = dae(shadow) + celeb(silver)  Sindarin)

And I am called Celegield¹, said the mare.  She looked then to her newborn, and after exchanging glances with her mate that spoke of agreement, she told Helluin, Our son we shall now call Aduia², for by thy grace he came to us with the of first stars.  ¹(Celegield, Swift Daughter = celeg(swift) + ield (daughter) Sindarin)  ²(aduial(evening twilight) Sindarin)

After detecting a sentimental sniffle from the Green Elf, Helluin bowed her head a moment at the honor.  'Twas full dark now.

"Half a furlong north we hath seen a spring," Beinvír said, "and thither shalt we camp this night…far enough to give thee thy peace, yet close enough to bring aid at need in this most vulnerable time."

"Aye," Helluin agreed, "for though this land seems all at peace, still none knows what the darkness shalt bring."

To this the stallion nodded in agreement with their prudence, and 'twas with honor that they parted for a time.

Now Helluin and Beinvír quickly retraced their steps and found the spring, and thither they made their camp.  A supper they cooked of simple stew based on dried meat that they took from their trail rations.

"I am glad thou thought to give us good reason to take our leave of them, meldanya," Helluin said, while’st hungrily inhaling the scent of the stew.

"Aside from giving them their privacy, I marked that we hath 'naught left of our stores save this horse jerky," the Green Elf replied, "and t’would hath been poorly received, I deem."

"I agree," the Noldo said, "for even while’st in Aman I found little enough of humor in horses."

To Be Continued

Return to the Academy