DarkElf and the People of Hador

by Lothithil
DarkElf Inkletry: DarkElf and the People of Hador

Part One

"Who are you?" I noticed that the sword I had been carrying was now held comfortably in my hand; the hilt was warm and correct, as if made to fit the contours of my closed fist. The blade gleamed brightly though there was little light, as the sun had faded into the sea and twilight was upon us. Deliberately I lowered the weapon and then took it by the blade again, point-down between me and the two strangers, and spoke again, "Name yourselves."

"Do you not know me, Dínfaroth? I am Mirdan, of the House of Finarfin. Here is Inglorion, of the House of Finrod." The other Elf who had not yet spoken nodded, and I realized why I had found them familar. Both were dressed in the manner of the Telari, but bore accents and acoutriments such as were once made in Gondolin. "We are in service to King Ereinion. He has sent us and many others to seek for you." Mirdan eyed me over the sword I held, while Inglorion looked on with reserved curiousity. "That is the weapon of a prince, my lady. Where did you find it?"

I heaved a sigh and let my shoulders drop. "If I must come to Ereinion at this time, then the tale will be told before his court and not earlier. I have no desire to linger here until the last ship sails!" My temper soared away from me, and I gripped the sword tightly, ignoring the burning inside my fists.

Both Elves bow low. Mirdan says "There is no need for anger, my lady. Your safety is a great concern to Ereinion and those close to him. Your presence is requested but not demanded. Come if you will."

Inglorion stepped close to me and held out his hand. "You need not surrender the sword, but let us help you. You are weary. We will show you to a place where you can rest."

"Take me to the King," I said, my voice weak even in my own ears. I looked down at my hands and saw that they were clenched around Maglor's blade. My blood leaked down the bright arc of steel and flew off the tip like sweat. I blinked; the pain seemed to reach me slowly through a haze of darkness.

"Rest first, lady," Mirdan implored. He reached up to his shoulders and unfastened his cloak in a fluid motion. He placed the warm cloth over my shoulders, then spoke to Inglorion. "You will be welcome in any dwelling in Mithlond. There is an encampment nearby of the people of Hador. I bid you wait for me there. I will take a message ahead." He touched his heart with an open palm and bowed again. I watched him stride away.

Inglorion regarded me still with his curious stare. After a few moments, he gestured for me to come with him. We walked the distance in silence, but it was not uncomfortable. This Elf seemed to share my desire for quiet, or perhaps he listened for something. I was too tired to talk, as if my weariness had caught me up. I shifted the cloak about me closer, leaving a rusty stain on the fine material.

It was dark by the time we reached the encampment. Fires lit within the circle of tents flickered golden and red, and I was reminded of the burning of Gondolin suddenly. I stopped full in my steps, the cloak slipping from my shoulders. Inglorion said nothing. He picked up the cloak and draped it over me again, then took my elbow gently and led me forward.

Part Two: Bad Memories

"Water, please. And any food you might have ready."

I hear voices distantly. I am vaguely aware that I am sitting beneath a cloth canopy. There is a blazing fire in front of me, and Mirdan's cloak is still wrapped around my shoulders. My skin feels like ice, but inside I am burning, burning with the memories of Gondolin. There is singing and laughing nearby, but it comes to my ears as the shrieks of orcs drunk with victory... the searing roar of dragons... the crush of their weight on the Hill of Glass.... I know it is but a vision of the past; that is why I do not myself scream. I could not weigh the hearts of those around me by speaking of this, even if I could find the words, but if I were but a little less in strength, I would have let sound those cries that once I could not utter on that horrible day. Weak I am, but not wholly without control. Why do these visions come to me now, so long after that event and so soon after yet another terrible battle? Beleriand drowns, but Gondolin burns yet in my heart.

There is a cool weight in my hands. Maglor's sword. Amusing how it gleams beautifully even when stained with blood. I notice then that my palms are deeply cut. I lay the weapon across my knees and examine the streaks on my skin. I had not before realized how darkly blood dried, nor how vividly pale my flesh is now.

I hear then the sound of water singing in a basin. Musically dripping, drops of wetness fly up like sparks from an eager fire. Someone is bathing my hands, and they are very gentle. The smell of the water is maddening. I lift my right hand to my mouth, touching the cool liquid to my lips.

"No, lady. Drink this." A cup is held to my lips. The draught of water sends my head spinning as if it were strong wine.

The horrors of Gondolin fade back into the flames, and the shapes and shadows around me become clear. There are several Men near me. One of their womenfolk is kneeling next to me, binding my cuts with clean strips of cloth. I see now that the awning above is a wide circular tent, with a great hole in the center to permit the smoke from the fire to exit. Beyond the flames of that fire I now see the Elf who brought me here, speaking with two Men.

Inglorion's hair is pale gold, like the silk of corn-ears, and it seems almost silver in the light. He listens earnestly to the speech of the taller of the two Men. That one is almost equal in height to the Elf, and his bare arms are thickly muscled. His hair is yellow like straw, long and unkept. His rainment is martial, with armour covering his shoulders, neck, wrists, and waist. A mighty spear stands ready in his hand, its point gleams over his head like a star.

Part Three: The Folk of the Spear

The dreaming leaves me aware and with myself, sitting by a fire in the tent of Lórin, leader of the folk of Hador. Inglorion introduces me when he sees the mists cleared from my eyes.

To my surprise, this tall man bows and lays his spear on the ground at my feet. In a clear voice that says more of his strength than his sinewy stature, he welcomes me.

"This is my home, a humble tent adequate for the needs of my people but with your presence, Lady, it has become a palace." He touches his fingers to his brow and bows again.

"No finer structure have I ever been within, be it king's hall or mansion," I respond earnestly, "for not in graven stone or carved furnishing is comfort found, but in the answering of need and the gift of courtesy."

Rough though they may live, the folk are no savages; rather they are able and unpresumptuous, taking what they need from the land and showing no greed or excess. Their children are many, and run happily throughout the encampment, spreading their merriment with infectious laughter. They are each of them marked by the War we have all survived, but these badges are bourne with both humility and pride. The tents and campfires spread out in all directions, and I see that they seek no more permanent homes than their woven awnings.

"We have been promised a place of our own, a land of Gift that the Herald has sung of to us," Lórin sits next to me and tells the tale of his people. "Long ago my grandfathers followed Marach over the mountains, and there we swore the service of our folk to Lord Fingolfin. For many generations did we serve and though none now alive remember those days but in dreams of glory, we will ever serve those Powers which have freed us from the Enemy. One day of peace is worth ten years of war.

"When we reach that place promised to us, I will build a home for my family with a window that looks to the West, and upon every blessing we come to know we will send thanks to Those who delivered us from beneath Morgoth's heel. And we will have a view to the East as well, for we shall not forget this brave and raw land which birthed us. Nor the Fair Folk who have taught us much and allowed us to live and serve without yolk or tax."

Inglorion's head turned then toward the entrance, and he stood in a fluid motion. Mirdan had arrived. He bowed to Lórin, who returned this with a grace tha belied his girth and strength. Mirdan turned his eyes toward me, and I saw therein a glint of amusement and pleasure.

"Thou art recovered, my Lady? I could have been gone a year instead of a few hours, so much are you restored."

"Such is the comfort of Lord Lórin's palace by the Sea. I have found here all that need could beg, and kindness unlooked for. I am well." And I am, for I rise to my feet easily, my strength returned. "Loath though I am to depart from this restful place, I would go on and find my own Lord, for it is over-long since our last meeting."

"I have come with news for you to hear, Dínfaroth. Let us take our leave and go, and I will fill your ears as we walk. Let no shadow fall on your heart," he said quickly. "Fingol Glorfindel sends tidings I believe you will be pleased to hear."

Inglorion comes to me and offers me Maglor's sword, which he has guarded well. My hands are wound in cloth and clumsy, but I take the weapon from him and bow. "I will be glad to be departed of this burden, for this sword cuts the wielder as deeply as the opponent. But first I have other business."

To Lórin I offer a salute. "Would that I could repay your kindess, my lord. I will remember long this night, and perhaps I will come someday and see how your children have grown, and look out upon the view of your House in the Land of Gift."

"I will keep a place for you there, lady. Your grace is a gift to us."

And so I parted from Lórin's folk for that time.

Part Four:  DarkElf and the Halethrim

Inglorion's hand did not quite touch my elbow, but he strayed not more than a short distance as we walked. I was steady upon my feet, but my head turned back toward the city of canvas and the laughter of the little ones, playing their innocent games into the night. I recalled that once the Eldar once played so, in the night that held no fear, before Sun or Moon drew the designs of Time upon the world. Being among these mortals even for such a short time gave me the feeling of being both young and ancient. I let Inglorion guide me.

Once beyond the encampment, the hills became more rugged and adorned with thick groves of evergreen. We pressed landward away from the sea, but found it again spilling in an azure cloud to one side of our path. A deep bay had formed between the arms of the mountains, flooding far inland. Fires flickered like small stars along the waters and winked up on the heights. The land between groves and stretches of grass was pale under the moonlight. How it must gleam when the sun touches upon it.

As we walk, Mirdan speaks to me. "I have come in haste from a meeting with my Lord Ereinion. All efforts now are geared toward the building of ships for the sailing. The Herald has proclaimed that the Land of Gift is being made ready. When the time is right, Lord Cirdan will sail his fleet to bring them to that home. It will take many seasons to build so many ships, and many materials that will soon become short of supply." He touched the bole of a young tree as we threaded through a woody area. "It grieves me to think that so many trees will be cut for this building."

"It is an irony that so much wood that might have fostered many fleets of ships now cover the new seabed that was once Beleriand," Inglorion says softly. "If only we could persuade Lord Ulmo to pull back those waves for a time. I would not see this land denuded for I, like many, would remain for a time on this shore."

We walk through a grove of trees that tangle across our path. Instinct plucks at my mind, noting the shapes that lie in that darkness and the soft breaths that cannot be hidden. "We are being watched, Mirdan."

"Do not be alarmed. They are Halethrim. We must cross their encampment to come to... our goal. They will not harm or delay us." Mirdan leads on, but I cast my eyes about, noting the gleaming of starlight on wickedly sharp arrows, the silken sheen of moonlight caught upon a tightly drawn bowstring. The space between my shoulderblades begins to itch. I swallow and try to moisten my dry mouth, following Mirdan.

Inglorion notes my discomfort. "The people of Haleth have suffered much at the hands of Morgoth; it is hard for them to set aside suspicion. But I say to you that I know them well, having dwelt among them for a time. They will not fire upon us but will rather protect us. Fortune followed you into the wild, Dínfaroth, for not all these lands are utterly free of orcs and other ill-got creatures."

We continue on without further conversation. The shadows pace us, but my fear has passed. Now and then I glimpse them, these shy Men, dressed in forest finery and complimenting colours. Their skin is sun-touched dark, and their hair is black or brown. They are lithe and spare, though not less in strength. Like the Eldar they move, at home in the trees, and though they cannot tread as one of us, what trail is left is cleverly disguised. I wonder where they have learned their lore, and I feel a desire to come to know them better. What tales might they tell by their midnight fires?