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User:Narfil Palùrfalas/Fanfictions/Wind of Fire, Oath of Blood pt 2

Wind of Fire, Oath of Blood pt 2: The Return of the Noldor


[edit] The Helcaraxë

And so the host of the Noldor pushed northward. All were bound up tightly. Though used to the cold climate, they were a stern and tough people, and suffered in silence.

It grew steadily worse. At last they reached a place where the ground was covered with ice and snow.

“I am half dead of cold,” said Turotulco to Alcawë, his breath visible in the icy air under the stars. “I hate Fëanor all the more for suffering us to endure this.”

“He probably expected us to turn back in shame,” said Alcawë, who spoke more calmly, though he was as pained as his cousin. “But he shall have a surprise when we arrive from the north.”

“Indeed,” said Turotulco, and he forced a laugh, though it turned into a cough. They spoke no more for a long while.

As they marched the mountains to their left curved inward, until finally there was only a narrow strip of icy beach for them to walk on. Several days later they reached where they could see great hills rising before them, some seemingly as tall as mountains.

“Where do we go through?” asked Alcawë, shivering as he looked upon the frozen hills.

“I am not sure,” said Mistatelmë, and he was of like mind to Alcawë. “It appears that they are edge to edge, and far too icy and rocky to travel across.”

“Yet there is a way,” said Fingon, who was standing near. “See! There is a path!”

“A black path,” muttered Aegnor. “And not even the course shrub grows there.”

“But it cuts its way through the hills, and neither snow nor ice lies upon it,” replied Fingon.

“Who made it, I wonder?” asked Mistatelmë. He looked darkly at it. “Neither elf nor man come up here.”

“But is it not said that the Valar passed over the Helcaraxë?” asked Fingon. “Perhaps they made this path!”

“Perhaps,” said Mistatelmë, but his brow was in a frown.

Fingolfin and his sons had spotted the path also, and after a brief consultation Fingolfin moved forward. The Noldor followed him silently, but a sudden dread was upon their hearts, and the icy wind froze their bones. Perhaps fear stirred in the heart of Fingolfin also, but if it did it did not show, and his eyes were filled with wrath for his half-brother.

The path gradually became more of a slope as they went up. Soon they were high in the hills. To their right was a great cliff that went down into a deep gully. To their left the hill sloped upward steeply.

Suddenly there was a scream. Some rocks had come loose on the path. Alcawë whirled, and saw a Noldo slide off the edge as the ground crumbled under his feet. The Noldo gave a last cry, and disappeared into the white mist below. Alcawë held his breath in horror, and the entire host stopped. Two elves ran to the edge where the elf had fallen, and gazed vainly down into the mist below. No sight could be seen of the elf.

“Throw a stone,” ordered Turgon. One of the elves obliged. They waited what seemed a long time before it finally bounced off a rock far below with a thud.

“None could survive such a fall,” Mistatelmë said, and Alcawë saw that sweat had broken out on his face despite the cold.

“Let us move on,” said Turgon after a moment. “There is naught we can do.”

It grew worse. The path became far narrower. Every now and then they were here cracking and a scream, sometimes more than one, and an elf or elf-woman would disappear far below. Once five perished in such a way, and that part of the path had to by crossed by placing a plank of wood from a wagon across the gap.

Alcawë had a narrow escape. In front of him was a large Noldorin man dressed in full armor. His feet slipped, and flew out from under him. He stepped on a loose spot near the edge, and the pathway suddenly crumbled before his foot. Down he fell, taking much of the ground with him, and clawing the cliff desperately for a hold disappeared with a cry. Alcawë felt the ground beneath his feet crumbling also, and leaped. He only barely made it, and was just able to grasp the edge of the path where it was solid. Mistatelmë pulled him up. By now all were breathing hard, and breaking out into cold sweat.

As they passed on they lost altitude, but the dangers increased. One of the horses in the train pulling a wagon screamed and would not move, leaping up and down in terror. A landslide was loosed above them, and it crashed down from above upon the terrified horse and its owner, taking them over the side with twenty others, screaming in the mass of boulders and bodies. This was the last time the train halted on that march, for it was becoming so common that no more would they heed the cries.

It was even worse when the clouds covered the stars, and they were soon blundering about in the darkness. Alcawë had a scare when he suddenly felt nothing under his foot, and wildly grasping at the air caught hold of a firm rock in the side of the cliff. He gasped in relief, and suddenly wondered if Turotulco was safe. He then envied Ranyar, knowing that he was safe in the ships. Fingolfin had no choice but to call a halt, and they spent an uncomfortable night on the edge of that cliff, in the absolute cold.

After the clouds cleared they passed the terrible hills and came upon a plain of ice. It was indeed ice as far as they could see. Few of the Noldor had ever had any experience with ice, for winters were not cold in southern Aman. But Fingolfin soon guessed its nature.

“Rarely do we have ice in the south,” he said. “But we do know that it remains on the surface and does not sink. Some of you may remember the Great Winter, when I was a youth. We played and had sport on the ice. But there was one youth who ventured near the edges, and the ice cracked beneath him. He nearly drowned. If the entire ocean sits beneath us tossing and turning, I would imagine this ice to be very thin in some parts. Therefor we shall send scouts out ahead, and they will test the ice. Try and stay in small groups, therefor decreasing the risk of cracking the ice under our weight. If you have ropes take them out, just in case.”

“But we could spend days crossing the ice,” said Fingon. “And then we do not know how far we should go until we turn south. We might wander for months!”

“We must take the risk of marching near the edge,” said Fingolfin. “It is less cold there, and we daren’t chance passing our destination. It shouldn’t get much more cold as we go.”

“If anywhere can be more cold than here,” grumbled Turotulco to Alcawë, “I don’t know how I’ll survive.”

They had been on the ice less than twenty hours with no fatalities, when suddenly an icy wind picked up. Alcawë could not see anything in front of him, and was frozen to the bone. He heard Fingolfin’s shouted orders to stay together and halt, lest they be separated, wander off, and freeze to death. He was blinded, and in the cold began suddenly to wander. Mistatelmë grabbed his arm and pulled him inward to where Fingolfin and a group of elves were huddling. For an instant the wind decreased and Alcawë saw other such groups. But then it picked up again and everything went white.

How long they sat there Alcawë could not guess. But by the time it lifted he was tired and cold enough to collapse onto the heartless ice. When he finally raised his head and turned, he saw that the elves were beginning to pick themselves up again. He stepped out of the circle, wobbling a bit on his legs. Suddenly he gasped. Just inches from his feet was the frozen body of an elf. Ice coated his face, and no breath came from the open mouth. He was dead.

A few other bodies lay about, in like condition to the one Alcawë found. But Fingolfin raised them up and urged them on, telling them to mourn for the dead as they went, or else others might be added to their number. Alcawë was relieved to see Turotulco hobble up to him, a weak grin on his face. He saw how haggard the face was, and wondered if he looked the same.

“The storm is over,” he said hoarsely. But they did not realize how fortunate they were that the storm was so short, or else all might have perished.

Ranyar was glad to be back on solid ground again. Maitimo had taken a great liking to him, and Ranyar was permitted to walk alongside him. He gasped in wonder and delight as he saw the mountains.

“They are taller and more rugged than any I have seen in Aman,” he exclaimed.

“I wonder what they are called,” said Maitimo. “Or even if they have a name.”

“How will we cross them?” asked Ranyar.

“We’re following that river,” said Maitimo. “Eventually it should lead us through the mountains.”

“And what is on the other side?” asked Ranyar.

“That I do not know,” replied Maitimo soberly.

Alcawë shivered. He clasped and unclasped his fingers slowly. They were very numb.

“Do you hear something?” asked Turotulco. “You have the sharper ears.” Alcawë listened for a moment. He thought he heard a cracking sound to their left. He guessed in an instant what it was. He turned. Cracks were appearing around the feet of a small group of elves.

“Run!” yelled Fingolfin. “Split up!” Even as they began to run the ice suddenly broke under their feet. Some of the elves with wild cries of terror were plunged into the icy waters. A few that had escaped the first crack were pulled under as the ice around the hole split. Other elves started running toward them, not hearing Fingolfin’s urges to stay back. Some of those elves in the water most heavily-laden went under instantly, and never came up again. Others clutched at the ice, or attempted to tread water. Some of those that grasped at the ice about them felt it crack as they leaned on it. One of the elves that went out to rescue them slipped and slid forward. The ice cracked beneath him. He fell and disappeared.

The others halted, wondering what to do. Fingon and Turgon leaped forward, throwing out ropes toward the endangered. Some were able to grab them, but slipped back as they were pulled up, exhausted and frozen, never to come back up. Only three were rescued by the first ropes; two elves and one elf-woman. Others were soon imitating the brothers, casting out lines. Only a few more were saved before the last went under. Out of eighteen elves, only three elf-women, four elf-men, and one child were saved.

This happened two other times during that part of their journey. When rest time came Fingolfin counted his followers. To his grief he found that since the start of their journey they had lost almost a fifth of his people.

The next march he had them arranged so that a thin-strung line of elves went out ahead to test the ice with spears. This aided them greatly, so that by the end of the period they had no fatalities.

“How far do you think we are?” Alcawë asked Mistatelmë.

“I have never crossed the Helcaraxë, or indeed been to Endor,” said Mistatelmë. “I do not know.”

During the next march the scouts ahead halted the people, declaring that there was thin ice ahead. They went up and down for a while, seeking a safe place to cross. Then they finally pointed out a direction to head.

Alcawë suddenly had a very bad feeling as they went. He was at this time near Turgon, who stood with Itarillë and his wife Elenwë. Then it happened.

He stepped on a place in the ice that didn’t feel right for some reason. He began to turn away when suddenly he heard cracking over to his left. Where Turgon and one of his retainers stood the ice cracked. It spread to where Elenwë and her daughter stood, and to Alcawë and many others around. Alcawë paled and tried to run.

Then the ice broke. Alcawë did not go under at once, but was able to scramble a little way before the ice beneath his feet collapsed. He went down into the water. It was cold, very cold. He could not breathe. Suddenly his arm went up out of the water and caught the ice. He pulled himself up, filling his lungs with air. But it then cracked beneath his hands as he put more weight on it. He fell back into the water.

He saw in the corner of his eye two soldiers pulling Turgon out of the water. He also saw Mistatelmë running toward him with a rope. As his head went under again he felt the rope fall into his hands. He held on tight. He no longer felt the cold; he was numb all over. But his chest was filled with pain. He was being pulled up, and again he emerged from the water. He at last was pulled up onto thicker ice.

“Are you all right, Alcawë?” asked Mistatelmë.

“Yes,” said Alcawë, gasping for breath. Suddenly he hurt all over. But the feeling soon passed, and standing up he turned. Just in time to see Turgon with a cry throw himself back in the water toward where a group of women and children were attempting to stay above the water. One of them was Elenwë, another was Itarillë.

The two retainers that had stood near Mistatelmë reached for the rope, when suddenly the ice cracked beneath their feet and they went under. Alcawë suddenly knew that Turgon would drown if something didn’t happen.

Most of the others were helpless, for the cracks had spread like a rabid dog across the ice, and those within a quarter mile not in the water were helping those who were.

Turgon reached Itarillë and his wife, and grasping Itarillë tried to pull up his wife from the water. But he could not carry both. Alcawë ran toward Turgon, making sure that he was light on his feet. Mistatelmë was over helping someone else. He picked up some rope someone had left on the ice. He threw it out to Turgon, who taking it in one hand with Itarillë in the other, pulled himself toward Alcawë.

“Take her,” he said, gasping for breath, pushing Itarillë up on the ice. Then he turned around and went back for his wife. Alcawë doubted that any but the stern and strong Turgon could make such a perilous and strength-sapping swim. He grasped Itarillë’s hands and pulled her all the way up. She lay there, spitting out water. Then, raising herself off the ground, she and Alcawë turned to look back at where Turgon swam.

But he swam in vain. Elenwë had disappeared. Turgon swam in circles around the spot where Elenwë had vanished, but it was no use. At last he was too weary and cold to swim any more. He began to slip under, but Alcawë threw him the rope again. He was pulled to the edge of the stronger ice.

“Thank you, Alcawë,” he said, breathing heavily. “Alas for Elenwë! O fairest head of golden radiance!” Then, exhausted from his swim, he passed out. Itarillë looked at Alcawë, thanking him. But Alcawë saw all too clearly the sorrow behind them. Elenwë, daughter of the Vanyar, would not return from the waters that had taken her.

A moment later a group of retainers came out cautiously and, lifting up Turgon, led them back away from the ice that had claimed a score of their companions.

“Alcawë saved Turgon!” exclaimed Turotulco half an hour later, as Mistatelmë told him the story. “Surely ye are in jest!”

“Nay,” said Mistatelmë. “In truth, he saved both Turgon and his daughter.”

“Ranyar would be pleased,” said Turotulco. “He seemed so… close to Lord Turgon, and though he never said so, his daughter. After all, he was his courier. But it is strange. It seemed more than respect and even love for a great lord. It was almost like friendship.”

“Turgon is a man great of heart,” said Mistatelmë. “Your brother Ranyar was wise, solemn, and kind. Turgon liked him for what he was, and Ranyar felt the same way about Turgon.”

According to the calendar they had been marching for the equivalent of eleven days at the death of Elenwë since the treachery of Fëanor and their abandonment. It seemed to Alcawë so much longer; that he had been staring at the unmoving ice forever. But at the same time he felt strongly that they had endured beyond hope. Their rations were scanty, as their food was beginning to run low. The accidents were becoming relatively common. He wondered how much longer they could last.

Many hours they plodded on. The star-calendar was all they had to mark the time. The equivalent of ten days passed. Then twenty. Alcawë had no more narrow escapes, but many more of the Noldor were lost. From afar Alcawë’s nose caught a strange scent that had not been blown away by the wind and the ice. It was stinging and foul. When he commented on this to Mistatelmë, the elf replied “It is blood. Our brothers are at war.” And he would say no more.

By the time an estimate of thirty-seven days had passed on the ice since the treachery of Fëanor, over a third of the group that had started out on the perilous crossing were gone. And the ice still seemed endless. Then Fingolfin reluctantly gave the order to kill all the horses. They had brought nothing but meats and dried fruits, and their rations were depleting rapidly. Several had died already. But the horses’ meat would serve their purpose.

On that day something rose up from the horizon against the stars. Mistatelmë beside Alcawë made a strange sound; either a sigh or a gasp.

“There it is,” he said. “Endor, the land we once forsook.”

“Than are we out of danger?” Alcawë asked in relief.

“No,” said Mistatelmë. “For we are still far north of the lands which we wish to be in. As soon as we reach those hills we shall undoubtedly strike the coast and head south along it until we reach better lands, where I hope we shall meet up with Fëanor’s followers.”

“And give them what they deserve,” muttered Turotulco, gripping his sword hilt just a little tighter. Mistatelmë silenced him with a look.

There were expressions of relief all throughout the host. At last, they felt, they were there. Their stride quickened, and a hopeful look was again on their faces. They made better time that period, and reached the hills without resting along the way. There they camped and slept, feeling hard earth beneath the ice. Further off, they could see from their vantage point where the ice diminished and finally disappeared to soft fluffy snow.

“Good hard earth at last,” said Turotulco. But Alcawë said nothing, for he had a queer feeling, one that he couldn’t quite define; as if something was nearby, or as if a cloud of foreboding was passing through. He noticed that several of the others were tense also. Alcawë woke up about an hour before it was time to march again. It suddenly occurred to him that the Noldor had not posted sentries. He felt an urge to rise and go look around the borders. Climbing up from his mat (due to the cold he slept in his clothes), he rose, strapped on his sword-belt, and walked out near the edge of the camp. The wind blew, and he shivered, though it did not bite anymore. He suddenly heard an noise, and his hand strayed to the hilt of his sword. The jewel on the Súrlindë gleamed with blue fire.

Two other elves, one Aegnor and the other one of his house-carls, were suddenly at his side.

“You should not be alone in this land,” said Aegnor softly.

“I’m sure I heard something,” said Alcawë.

“Where?” asked Aegnor. “I did not hear anything, though I felt that another presence was in the area.”

“Over near that upright boulder,” said Alcawë.

“Draw your sword,” said Aegnor tensely. “Move forward. Nornyatwë, go around to my right. You, squire, head around to the left. Wait for my signal.”

They went forward cautiously. Suddenly a dark figure raised itself up to be silhouetted against the star-studded sky. Aegnor suddenly gave a loud shout, and hurled himself forward. He landed on top of the figure, and the both went rolling down across the ice. The house-carl ran to their side, and helping them soon Aegnor was on top. A short knife of bone lay a little to their right, apparently belonging to the person, whoever he was. “Who art thou?” asked Aegnor hotly. His sword was ready in his hand. He turned over the quaking figure. It was a man, wearing thick fur garments that did not seem to cling to the bits of snow and ice. His face was pale, though his features were rough, carved like the landscape. Alcawë was startled, for he had never seen a man before. He wondered who this was. The man babbled something in a tongue completely unknown to the elves. Aegnor, finding no weapons on him, raised him up, and asked him with hand motions who he was.

Inuk,” he said, pointing to himself. “Ek Ilikin.”

“I wonder,” said Aegnor, “Is Inuk his name and Ek Ilikin his people? Or is Inuk his name and Ek Ilikin his title?”

“The real question is,” said Nornyatwë, “If he is a servant of Morgoth.”

“How can we ask him that?” wondered Aegnor. By this time several others that had been sleeping nearby gathered around.

“Melkor?” he asked. Suddenly the Inuk’s eyes widened.

Edhil?” he asked. “Thingol?”

“That sounds like elvish,” said Alcawë in surprise. “He recognized the name Melkor. But what is Thingol?”

“I wonder,” said Aegnor. “It is like our own, yet not quite. It sounds almost like Singollo, for th often replaces s.”

“But that doesn’t mean anything but greycloak,” said Angrod, who had come up. “It probably isn’t related at all.”

Aran Doriath,” the man said.

Aran is very distinctly king,” said Aegnor. “But what is doriath?”

Elu Thingol,” said Inuk.

Elu,” said Aegnor. He thought a moment. “I believe I know what he is saying!”

“What?” asked Angrod.

“Do you remember?” asked Aegnor. “One of those that set out to Aman long ago was named Elwë. He never reached Aman. Lord Fingolfin believes that he remained in Endor with his elves. You know that languages change. If Thingol is related to Singollo, than Elu might mean Elwë.”

“In that case,” said Angrod. “Elwë is alive and a king of some sort. Still, it is a rather large presumption. And how does this mortal (at least, that is what I presume him to be; I have never seen one) know any form of elvish at all?”

“Perhaps some of the elves that remained here have communication with his people,” said Aegnor.

“But what does edhil mean?” asked Alcawë.

“He was clearly asking us something,” said Aegnor. “He must have been inquiring as to who we were. Edhil must mean someone who follows Elwë.”

“Or perhaps just an elf,” said Angrod. He looked at Inuk. “He would make a useful guide.”

“He would,” said Fingolfin, who had stood off a little ways listening. “If only we could communicate with him better!”

Forodwaith,” said Inuk, pointing to himself, and then reaching down drawing stick figures in the ice with his recovered knife.

“He must be saying that his people are the Forodwaith,” said Fingon.

Fingolfin drew out his own knife and cut a stick figure into the ice. He then drew a long arrow, and placed other stick figures behind the first. He pointed to the leading stick figure, and pointed to Inuk. Then he pointed to the other stick figures, and waved his hand around to his companions. Then he drew more arrows facing away from the first figure.

“I think he understands,” said Aegnor after a moment. Inuk rose and sheathed his knife. Fingolfin pointed southward, and pointed to Inuk, then pointed southward again. Inuk nodded solemnly.

“Lead us to Elu,” said Fingolfin in Quenya, speaking slowly and clearly, hoping it was close enough to Inuk’s elvish. But at the same time Alcawë felt sure that Inuk was not accustomed to speak in the strange elvish, and his later words certainly did not sound like his first ones.

They continued on a bit later, and Inuk, who had fully understood, began to lead them out. They progressed rapidly with his elvish, and soon they learned that he was one of a group of men that lived far north of where many other elves lived. He was one of the few of his people who could speak, if only roughly, their tongue. He said that there was a great king who lived in a forest of tall trees. Fingolfin felt sure it must be Elwë.

Suddenly there was a hiss, far off, yet very loud in their ears.

Iskirokk’nirin,” exclaimed Inuk, though his voice was quiet. Then he reverted to elvish. “Lhûg.”

“What is lhûg?” asked Mistatelmë.

“Some sort of wild animal that lives up here, I guess,” said Fingolfin. Inuk leaned down and taking out his knife drew a rough picture in the ice.

“It looks like a serpent,” said Fingolfin after a moment. “But at the same time not like a serpent. Its eyes are different, for one thing, if I can judge it from this simple drawing.” Then Inuk drew a stick figure, and it was very small beside the serpent.

“What terror is this?” asked Fingon. “If this is meant to tell us something, than I don’t believe that I like it.”

“It is clear to me,” said Fingolfin. “He is showing us a creature great in size.”

Brokenly Inuk attempted to tell them of some sort of creature. He mentioned a word that must have meant metal, for he was placing his finger on Fingolfin’s sword, and then on his mail.

“What, is this beast made of metal?” cried Argon. They all became silent.

They traveled on. The air grew a bit warmer, though it would still have been considered very cold in their old home in Tirion.

“I wonder if Ranyar is all right,” said Turotulco once as they walked. “I have often envied him for his safety, but now I’m not sure.”

“What do you mean?” asked Alcawë.

“I mean that he is probably in danger,” said Turotulco. “Fighting battles, and things like that.”

“I thought you were eager to go to battle,” said Alcawë, wondering at the sudden change in his cousin’s mood.

“I would far rather stand against a thousand demons than endure again the Helcaraxë,” said Turotulco. “But I do worry about Ranyar. He has never liked fighting. He often said if he had a choice he would be a loremaster, or a stone-carver and an artist.”

“But he was almost as skilled with his sword as either of us,” said Alcawë. “He could hold his own in battle.”

“Turotulco,” said a voice near them. They turned to see Mistatelmë. “I wish to talk to Alcawë for a moment. Alone.” Turotulco nodded regretfully and went a ways off.

“Alcawë,” said Mistatelmë, and his voice was in a strange tone, “There are some things I must talk to you about. One of them is this.” He suddenly drew out of a pouch hanging from around his neck a large and beautiful gem. It flashed with white-green fire, shining under the stars.

“What is it?” asked Alcawë, and his voice sounded weak and quaking, in contrast to the great beauty of the jewel.

“It is one of the gems of Fëanor, when his art was matured, made shortly before the creation of the Silmarils,” said Mistatelmë. “It belongs to me, for though Fëanor loved not the children of Indis, still many of his jewels found their way into their hands. This jewel is precious; its like was never made before. My mother, Findis daughter of Finwë, received it somehow and gave it to me long ago. It is called the Alcarmir.”

“Why are you showing me this?” asked Alcawë in wonder.

“This has not ‘magical’ powers, so to speak,” said Mistatelmë. “But the light in it is that of the stars over Aman, and therefor the lesser evils will flee from it and the greater ones will hate it. I show you this for a special reason. I speak to you truthfully: I will not be with you much longer.”

“What, are you leaving?” asked Alcawë, now in astonishment.

“In a way,” said Mistatelmë. “I am not going to survive this journey. I feel it in my heart and my head, and my eyes are opened even as the hour of my death approaches. Much has been revealed to me. Much about you, among other things. When my soul departs, take this gem. There is another thing I must tell you that only few know.”

Alcawë did not say anything. If it were not so cold tears would have come into his eyes. He knew that Mistatelmë was not in jest.

“A long time ago, when I was still not much over fifty years old,” continued Mistatelmë, “I was betrothed to a Telerin maiden. After I came of age I married. But not long after you were born to my dear friend Cemendil, she went on a ship with her brother. At that time a storm blew up, and the ship crashed against the Narmocarcar. You know what happened. None survived.” His voice broke. “But she left me with one child, a daughter. I was at that time working for Lord Fingolfin in the jewel-mines, and she lived with the Teleri under the protection of her surviving granduncle on her mother’s side.”

“And who was that?” asked Alcawë.

“The Lord Gaialindue son of Olwë,” said Mistatelmë. “I, grandson of Finwë, married the granddaughter of Lord Olwë. Upon returning years later I found that she was happy with Teleporno, and therefor I left her be as it was, and it was only told to her as she grew older that her father ‘was away’. I saw her only occasionally. The last time was during the speech between Fëanor and Olwë. You were there. You saw me looking at her. She came on this march because of her friendship with Teleporno her cousin, though I would have willed it otherwise, but did not learn it until it was too late.”

“Yes, I saw her,” said Alcawë. “So what would you have me do?”

“You are not of such low parentage either, Alcawë,” said Mistatelmë. “You were born as Séretur, which means ‘peace-ruler’. And your mother called you Alcawë, ‘radiant-one’. Rightly were both titles given. Your father, Cemendil, was the son of Eruanno. And do you know who Eruanno is?”

“The standard-bearer of Lord Fingolfin!” exclaimed Alcawë. “But why was I never told this? I thought father was no more than a Captain of the House.”

“He is indeed,” said Mistatelmë, “And that in itself is no lowly title. But your parents did not tell you because they hoped that you would prove yourself as a squire of Fingolfin first. Now they are not here, and I am leaving. Yes, you are the only descendant of Eruanno.”

“But I have never spoken with Eruanno even,” said Alcawë.

“He did and does not know that you are even a squire,” said Mistatelmë. “Your father thought it best that you were just a simple squire, and were not known to be the grandson of the standard-bearer. Turotulco and Ranyar are cousins on your mother’s side and therefor unrelated to Eruanno. My time is coming soon! Therefor take this, and bear it forth wherever you go, after I am dead. But I would hold it still in the last hours of my life.” Then he looked at Alcawë, and smiled, and there was much in his eyes that he did not say, and much Alcawë did not understand.

[edit] Blood and Tears

The hours passed slowly and silently. There was a brief wind-storm, but it didn’t develop into anything serious. They had passed the edge of the ice-crust not long ago when they heard the same sound as before. A distinct hiss. And quite obviously nearer. Inuk placed his ear to the frozen ground, and when he raised his head back up there was fear in his eyes.

“What should we do?” asked Fingon.

“Form them into their companies,” said Fingolfin. “Finarfin’s folk on the left.”

Eruanno (for it was indeed him, though Alcawë had never thought about it before) sounded the silver horn, and the wearied Noldor, still remembering their old signals, fell into squares. Each of the sons of Fingolfin and Finarfin had a company, except Angrod and Aegnor, who shared a company. Fingolfin had his own house about him, his squires and personal retainers. Fingon had the largest, but Turgon and Fingon were not far behind. Teleporno stood with his folk and Artanis, who herself wore a sword. The Vanyar, who had until now lagged far behind, now stood in a shimmering square, led by the proud Anganáro. Alcawë fell in near Mistatelmë.

“Continue the march, but keep your hands on your sword-hilts,” said Fingolfin, not at ease. Eruanno blew the horn for them to march forward.

They had gone on for about half an hour, retaining strict military formation, when suddenly there was a loud hiss and a growl. A terrible creature, like a snake of colossal dimensions, reared itself up from behind a great hill front-right. Its head was, however, less triangular than a snake’s head, and instead of just two fangs it had two glistening rows of teeth. The head was indeed about twelve feet long by seven feet. Its eyes were far larger than those of a snake, and they had two bony ridges above each one. The scales were thick and shimmering green, though as its muscles rippled at times they seemed blue or black.

“Archers, shoot!” cried Fingolfin. But due to the coldness and the shaking of hands most of the shots went wild. But the Vanyar shot two flights of well-aimed arrows that struck the scales full. But most bounced off, and those that stuck there were harmless.

“Fingon,” cried Fingolfin. “Lead the House of Finarfin around to the top of that hill over to the left. Try and distract him, so we can strike at him when he is fully laid out before us.” Where Inuk was none could tell, but he must have been in hiding.

Fingon with his brothers and their companies went out to the left, toward on of the bare icy hills. Meanwhile, the Lhûg with another hiss brought itself down toward the Noldor. Fingon’s squares charged at it. The great tail came around from behind the hill, and in one swing knocked a great number of the Noldor down, stunned or unconscious. Then came the terrible teeth.

Turgon charged forward, aiming for the head, while Argon and most of the other Noldor, went to join Fingon in attacking the long body.

Alcawë ran forward with Fingolfin and his House toward the section behind the head. He suddenly heard the whistling of the heavy tail coming through the air toward them.

“Flatten!” cried Fingolfin. Many leaped to the ground. But Turotulco was not among them. The tail struck him in the back of the head, and he flew several feet before coming to rest motionless on the ground.

The Lhûg’s head was swinging back and forth among Turgon’s soldiers. Turgon sprang forward, and gave a mighty stroke to the neck just behind the head (though where the neck ended and the body began none could tell). The sword bounced off the scales, leaving only a dent or scratch in the scales, but not piercing all the way. The Lhûg’s head snapped toward him, and in a moment he was sprawled out on the ground.

Then Finarfin’s sons threw themselves down toward the Lhûg. The monster advanced on this coming threat, the great folds of its body crushing many beneath it.

Then the Vanyar charged, their bright swords naked under the stars. They came upon the serpent, and their blows hacked against the scales. But none pierced all the way. Around came the head of the Lhûg, and it snatched up several of them in its great jaws. Then Anganáro raised up his sword, and stabbed it like a dagger into the side of the Lhûg, where he had once before struck. His blade this time pierced all the way through the scales, and entered the flesh beneath it. The Lhûg’s head went around again, and a great hiss or scream of pain echoed throughout the hills. Anganáro was only barely able to draw his sword out.

“We must strike it in the neck,” said Fingolfin to Mistatelmë as they stood there, waiting to charge again. “Even when our blades pierce the side of the creature they do it no serious harm.”

Then again the company of Fingon charged, and their swords were drawn. They attacked the side of the monster. Fingon hacked at the side of the monster, but with no impression. At last he threw away his sword and lifted up a battle-axe from the hand of a dead or unconscious Noldo. Raising it up he brought it down hard upon the side of the Lhûg. The force of the blow cut a deep wound in the side of the beast, but even this was not enough to cause it any serious damage.

The creature was getting infuriated. Many of its scales were now scored, and several times their blades had pierced them through. It was lashing around with its teeth and its body, and both were equally devastating.

Then Fingolfin charged. Alcawë felt a thrill of excitement and terror pass through him as they attacked the terrible head. Fingolfin and his elves cut and stabbed at the neck and head. Many were flung away. Alcawë managed to miss the monster’s blows. Mistatelmë was suddenly struck down beside him, and Alcawë saw the beastly neck moving toward him. He threw himself down, and there got a full view of what happened next.

The great body came down toward where he lay, and to his horror he saw that it was coming down right on top of Mistatelmë. He would surely be crushed. But Mistatelmë suddenly opened his eyes, and looked at Alcawë. “Remember,” he whispered. His sword suddenly flashed point upward. As the hulk of the Lhûg fell upon him it landed directly upon the blade. Alcawë heard a scream of terror, and found it was his own. Mistatelmë disappeared beneath the serpent’s coils.

But suddenly the serpent gave a great bellow of pain. Mistatelmë’s sword had gone true. It was not to far below the head where the sword had struck. The serpent began to writhe; it had received a blow in the windpipe.

Alcawë felt a burning passion, a hate for this monstrous being, well up in him. He leaped forward, his Súrlindë shining. He vaguely saw Fingolfin off to his right calling something to him that he could not hear. He landed on the neck just behind the head, and gave a stab. He was thrown off, but landed on his feet and charged directly at the foul head. The great red eye was looming up before him, and suddenly Alcawë raised Ristatëa. He stabbed for the eye. His eyes were almost closed as the sword went in, in, and in. With a writhe the serpent threw him, and Alcawë was forced to let go. He flew through the air and landed with a thud about ten yards away. He was stunned and hurt in many places, but raised his head up to see Fingolfin give a cry that seemed far, far away, and landing on the top of the Lhûg’s head stab his sword through. It pierced the skull and entered the brain. For what seemed like many minutes the monster writhed. Then it lay still. Alcawë passed out.

He woke what seemed like only minutes later. He started when he saw a shape directly above him. But he felt a firm hand on his shoulder, and as his vision cleared he discerned the form of a dirty and bloodied Fingolfin.

“Rest easy, Alcawë,” said Fingolfin softly. “The evil beast is dead.”

Alcawë sighed and lay back. “What happened?” he asked.

“Much,” said Fingolfin. “You did well. You killed the monster.”

“But it was not me,” protested Alcawë. “It was you, and Mistatelmë. He stabbed it as it came down upon him, and you struck it through the head.”

“Yet your wound was mortal,” said Fingolfin. “And if you had not done what you did, many others might have died before we slew it.” He looked to Alcawë’s side, and Alcawë followed his gaze. There was his cleaned Súrlindë.

As Alcawë began to wake more, he realized there were several others about him. Two were pages of Fingolfin, tending wounded about him. The third was Eruanno. Alcawë turned to him.

“Lord Eruanno,” he said. Eruanno looked at him questioningly. He was tall even for a Noldo, and his face and eyes were wise. “Grandfather,” he said. “I am Alcawë, son of Cemendil.”

Eruanno’s face changed suddenly to wonder. “It is indeed the face of my son that I saw in you. Alcawë, my heir.” Suddenly he reached down and embraced him, kissing him on the forehead. Fingolfin stepped back. When Eruanno released Alcawë, his eyes had tears in them. “I did not know that you were here, or even that you were a squire. Why did you not tell me?”

“I did not know you were my grandfather until Mistatelmë told me some time ago,” said Alcawë. Suddenly he paled. “Mistatelmë.” He rose from where he lay on a blanket, and before Eruanno could restrain him began to walk quickly toward where the dead serpent lay. A little ways off lay a bloodied body facing upward, with a sword covered in black blood. Alcawë knew the face.

“Mistatelmë,” he cried. He fell to his knees beside the body. He began suddenly to weep, as he had never done before. He did not notice the snow begin to fall, nor Eruanno walk up behind him.

“Mistatelmë was a brave man,” said Eruanno. “I have spoken with him many times, and seen his conduct. Come now, we must bury him. We cannot stay here, or if the snow picks up we may be lost.”

Alcawë nodded blindly. While Eruanno turned away he suddenly saw a faint gleam between the fingers of Mistatelmë’s clenched left hand. He reached over and gingerly opened the fingers. There, glittering as if made of ice, was the Alcarmir.

The storm passed, and the snow stopped. The casualties were high; almost two hundred elves were dead or in serious condition, and few that had been in combat were not wounded in some way or another.

But there was nothing left to do but to keep marching southward. Eruanno now spent much time with Alcawë, who found him a friend and father like none other he had known, save only Mistatelmë, who no longer dwelt within the realms of the world. Alcawë was glad to learn that Turotulco was not badly hurt, though it was believed he had broken a rib. As elves do he was mending fast.

It was a while before Alcawë remembered in full what Mistatelmë had said. He wondered if he should approach the maiden, to tell her of her true father, and that he was dead. After debating this long, he decided that it was necessary to pass the gem to her.

Eventually he edged away from Eruanno and the head of the column and went a ways back, to where the Lord Teleporno and his Telerin followers were. He walked boldly up to Teleporno, who looked at him kindly.

“Lord Teleporno,” said Alcawë hesitantly.

“I am he,” said Teleporno. “And I believe I have seen your face, though it was bloody at the time. You were the brave youth who stabbed the Lhûg through the eye. I helped to carry you off the field.”

“Yes, I am,” said Alcawë. “But that is not what I have come to talk to you about. Perhaps you have heard of one named Mistatelmë.” Teleporno’s face took on a troubled look. “He acted as my guardian during this passage. He is… dead. The serpent killed him.”

Teleporno lowered his eyes. “I feared in my heart it was so. But how do you know of my connection with Mistatelmë?”

“He told me,” said Alcawë, “That you have in your protection his daughter, Alatelen. I have something to give to her, and perhaps to tell her.”

“It is best,” said Teleporno, “Though I had wished that someday she might learn the truth about her father before fate took him. Do you wish to tell her, as a ward of Mistatelmë?”

Alcawë was taken aback, but he answered steadily “I suppose I should, my lord.”

“Alatelen is over there, talking with Artanis,” said Teleporno, pointing. Alcawë grasped the gem tightly in his fist, then walked forward firmly. He felt a sickness rising in his stomach.

Artanis turned to him, and the girl did also. He stood, embarrassed, before them.

“I have a message,” said Alcawë hesitantly. Artanis looked at Teleporno, who nodded. They both drew off, leaving Alcawë and the girl alone.

“I am Alcawë,” said Alcawë. “I believe you know an elf named Mistatelmë.”

“Yes,” she said steadily, “He was one of the Noldor who would come down occasionally to Alqualondë to visit my family.”

“I was his ward,” said Alcawë. He paused. “Mistatelmë perished in the battle with the monster.”

Several tears sprang into Alatelen’s grey eyes, though she wiped them away. She began to walk from him.

“Wait,” he said, grasping her by the arm. “That is not all of my message” She turned to him inquiringly.

“Mistatelmë revealed to me, before he died, that he was more than a friend of your family,” said Alcawë. He wondered how he should say it, and several sentences formed in his mind, none of which sounded right. After what seemed like a long time it came out. “He was your father.”

The girl looked at Alcawë in astonishment. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, stepping back.

“Alas, I’m afraid you do,” said Alcawë. “Your mother perished on the Narmocarcar. Your father wanted you to grow up happily, in a good home, and left you be under the care of Gaialindue. Now he is dead.” He suddenly turned away and buried his face in his arm, for the tears were coming fast despite the cold. He felt a hand gently take away his arm.

“If indeed what you say is true, I have lost much,” she said. “But still I see that you have also. Who are you? Are you not the one who slew the monster?”

“I helped to,” said Alcawë wearily. “I am Alcawë son of Cemendil, the son of Eruanno.”

“Eruanno, Lord Fingolfin’s standard-bearer,” said Alatelen. “You look like him, but you also look like one of my people, the Teleri.”

“Indeed,” said Alcawë, “For my mother was a Teler, even as yours was. But by being the daughter of Mistatelmë, you are descended from Lord Fingolfin himself, whom I serve as a squire.”

“I am Alatelen to my own people, but the Noldor call me Ainë,” she said.

“You are also the heir of this.” Suddenly Alcawë drew the Alcarmir out, and it shone brightly, so that others all around turned their heads to see it.

“What is it?” asked the maiden in a slightly quavering voice.

“The Alcarmir,” said Alcawë. “A gem of Fëanor. It belonged once to Mistatelmë, though he told me to take it from him after his death.”

“I do not want it,” she said. “Did he not give it to you? I have no use of it, but you may bear it into battle.”

“Perhaps,” said Alcawë. His heart suddenly felt a little lighter as he pressed it to his chest. “When we reach Endor, I shall avenge his death.”

“Was it hard for you to leave Aman?” asked Alatelen.

“My father is still there,” said Alcawë, “And I dearly miss him. Still, he would not come to Tirion, and so was not able to go on the quest. But my cousins are here, or at least one of them. The other was wounded and placed in the ships. I do not know if in his treachery Fëanor killed him, or whether he is alive and in battle now.” Suddenly the light died in his eyes. Alatelen looked at him closely.

“You seem to have a strange fate woven about you,” she said.

“So do all who have departed from Aman’s fair shores, I fear,” he said.

“Is that not a Súrlindë you bear?” she asked. “For Teleporno carries one, given to him by Artanis.”

“Yes,” said Alcawë. “It is.” He wondered if he ought say anything else, for he had delivered his message, and knew that the recipient as well as himself felt the sad news deeply. But he had a strange reluctance. He sat down on a rock.

“I will revenge Mistatelmë,” he said. “I know I shall die, and I would wish it no other way than in battle against Morgoth.”

“The monster was not evil, Alcawë,” said Alatelen. “And how do you know we shall die? We are diminished, but not destroyed.”

“Foresight, perhaps,” said Alcawë.

“But sometimes our own feelings will confuse themselves with foresight,” replied Alatelen. “Do not mistake one for the other! But I do have foresight for you, since I saw behind your eyes. You were not born to die in the Helcaraxë, but to live a noble and valiant life. I do not think, Alcawë son of Cemendil, that you are as the others. Nor shall your name ever be spoken without praise, for what you have done and what you will do. Eru has willed it.”

“We have forsaken the Valar, and reaped blood and tears,” said Alcawë. “Surely the Father of All will not give his pardon to kinslayers, and they who disobey those whom he appointed.”

“If he is the Father of All, then he will not forsake his children,” replied Alatelen. “Not if they truly repent.”

“But will the Valar accept us again?” asked Alcawë.

“I cannot speak for the Valar,” she said. “But lose not your hope. You may yet see white shores again.”

So saying she walked off to where Teleporno and Artanis stood waiting, and Alcawë watched her go. Teleporno nodded his head to him in thanks, and Alcawë left, back to the head of the column, his mind full.

Turotulco met him there. “I heard all about Eruanno being your grandfather and all, and about the death of Mistatelmë. Alcawë, I am truly sorry.”

“That is all right,” said Alcawë, and he made an effort to smile.

“I wonder how far we are from where we’re headed,” said Turotulco. “We have already passed the Helcaraxë, but we are not yet out of the cold wastes.

“How long have we spent in this dreaded land?” asked Alcawë.

“The star calendar says forty-two days, if we still had the trees to shine for us,” said Turotulco gloomily. “But it matters little now.”

“No,” said Alcawë. “Still, I wonder how much longer.”

They toiled on. The star-calendar marked the days as they continued on. Forty-eight days after the treachery of Fëanor and their march into the Helcaraxë, they noticed that they had begun to veer south. They had suffered no fatalities since the encounter with the monster. They began to see shrubs, and then grass. Two days later they found a bush with little berries. They were eager to eat them, not having had fresh fruit or vegetables in a long time. Their horsemeat was all that had kept them alive. But Fingolfin forbade them.

“We did not know pain in Aman,” he said. “We do not know what sort of fruits here can be eaten.”

Nevertheless one elf did eat from the shrub. He sickened and died within a day. After that the elves did not touch the berries they found.

They continued on south. Inuk led them well. But that day Alcawë felt uneasy.

“Do you not feel it?” he asked Turotulco. “Something lurks around here. Something evil.”

“I do,” said Turotulco. “See how all are wary.”

“Loosen your sword,” said Alcawë grimly. “Be ready.”

As Alcawë walked, he several times thought he spotted something along the slopes. He felt increasingly nervous. Fingolfin’s eyes were alert, and Eruanno walked with his sword out of its sheath.

Suddenly Alcawë spotted something. For sure. He grabbed Turotulco’s arm.

“I saw a figure up there,” he said. “I’m sure of it.”

Suddenly Inuk, who was up ahead, whirled to them.

Innikkin!” he cried, and drew his knife. “Orch!”

“What is it now?” cried Turgon, drawing his sword.

“Up on the ridge!” exclaimed Eruanno. Swords were out. The Noldor in the lead charged up the ridge. Suddenly a flight of black-feathered arrows came down at them. One of them struck Fingon in the shoulder. He fell with a cry. Two of Fingolfin’s retainers fell, one pierced through the eye, the other struck in the arm. But the elves in their fury covered ground with speed that seemed amazing to Alcawë; as if their feet hardly touched the ground. He and Turotulco followed.

As they reached the top of the ridge they saw in amazement and terror about twenty strange two-legged creatures. They were short and squat, and their faces were drawn and sallow. Their weapons were short bows and swords, as well as crooked daggers stuck in their belts. Their clothes were thick and black, and their mail was blackened. One of them glanced up, and its eye locked with Alcawë’s. Alcawë saw much in that single glance. He saw pain and terror, and yet cruelty and lust. But there was also something that reminded him, to his shock, of an elf such as he used to see walking in Tirion. Then the wrath came suddenly up within him, and he charged down upon the evil creatures. He cut one down with Ristatëa, and as he did so he realized that the last was dead. It had been over in seconds.

Yrch,” said Inuk again, pointing to them.

“I wonder what sort of creatures these are,” said Argon, leaning down to look at one.

Um,” said Inuk. “Ûn Melkor.”

“So they are servants of the enemy,” said Fingolfin. “That much I guessed.” He turned away soberly. “We must now always be on watch.”

Fingon was wounded, but not dangerously. However, he found it difficult to walk, and in the cold climate it might not heal for a good while. The dead retainer they raised a cairn over. The live one survived with only a flesh wound in the arm.

The wind began to pick up, and the coldness that froze their bones returned to them. They also noticed when the sky was cloudless that the stars had dimmed; diminished in size and brightness.

After a while Inuk led them toward what appeared to be a collection of huts. It was a village of Men. They stared at the newcomers in wonder.

Inuk was soon among them, babbling in his own tongue. He turned to Fingolfin and said in the broken Quenya he had picked up “Say you edhil,” pointing to himself. He then pointed to the villagers. “Say you star eyes.”

“What does he mean?” asked Turgon.

“I believe,” said Fingolfin, “That he has told them we are of another race, the edhil in his strange elvish. And they said that we have star eyes, whatever that means. He picked up both those words while we traveled.”

“Star-eyes,” said Turgon, nodding. “If I had a name for them, I might call them Eyes-without-stars. Their eyes are dark, giving no passage to their minds. They seem dull and faded.”

“They do,” said Fingolfin. He turned to Inuk. “Where are the other edhil?”

Inuk frowned a moment, then guessing his question said “Harad. Carry you.”

“By carry, I suppose he means to show us,” said Fingolfin. He nodded and bowed to Inuk, who returned the gesture, and smiled roughly.

Suddenly a woman stepped up to Inuk and spoke quickly to him. Inuk turned back to them, and a spark of hope and curiosity was aroused in his eyes.

“Come,” he said simply, and turned into the village.

Fingolfin ordered Fingon to stay with the host, while he and several members of his household would come with him.

“I’ll have Eruanno, Turgon, and Alcawë my squire come with me,” he said. Alcawë had become his favorite squire, even before he helped kill the Lhûg, and Fingolfin liked his quiet way, as he had none other of Alcawë’s age save his own sons.

They followed Inuk through the village, until they reached a large hut somewhere near the center. They entered.

It was a single room, with a wooden cot in one corner with some sort of animal skin tightened to serve as a comfortable bed. Lying upon the cot, covered by a skin blanket, was the figure of a man, but the sight both horrified and fascinated Alcawë.

His face was shrunken. His skin was wrinkled about his face, and his eyes were pale. His hair was snow-white with grey at the roots, and the hand laying upon his breast was rough, and the skin hung in folds.

“What is wrong with him?” asked Eruanno. “I have never seen such a disease.”

“The disease is called death,” said Fingolfin grimly. “For in Aman we were told that Men grow old and die, even when less then a hundred years of age.”

“It is horrible,” said a quiet voice, and Alcawë suddenly realized it was himself who spoke. The others hardly glanced at him.

Then Fingolfin walked up. The old man turned to look at him, his eyes feebly watching the strangers. He coughed, a horse, scratchy cough, and closed his eyes.

Then Fingolfin reached out and touched the man’s forehead. The old man’s eyes suddenly lit up, and Fingolfin’s hands seemed to strain.

“I feel it,” he gasped suddenly, so that the others looked at him, amazed at this display of weakness. He took his hands away. “I felt power leaving me,” he said queerly. “It was as if I was beginning to lose something I did not know I had.”

He turned back to them. They suddenly saw that the light in his eyes had been diminished to a small degree. But the light gradually returned.

But the old man suddenly sat up. The feebleness had faded from his eyes.

“He is healed!” exclaimed Turgon. Inuk grasped Fingolfin by the shoulder, and his eyes told his thanks. He pointed to the old man, then pointed himself.

“I believe this man was Inuk’s father,” said Fingolfin at last. “The power of the Valar flows in me still.” And he smiled, but he raised himself slowly, as if he had suddenly lost much strength.

Alcawë walked out of the hut, and watched as several of the young children threw snowballs in a mock battle. If Alcawë had not known better, he might have said they were all between the ages of ten and forty. But he realized that the difference between the years of men and elves were different, so they were probably much younger.

As he watched, a young boy, about seven or eight years old, received a ball in the face and fell down hard. The boy gave a cry, and Alcawë saw that his arm had come down on a sharp rock beneath the snow, for it was all bloody. His first thought was noting how frail men were. But then he began to be drawn to the boy, and walked slowly up. None of the others noticed him leave.

He reached the lad and kneeled down beside him. The boy looked at him at first with fear, but when their eyes met he strangely relaxed. Alcawë grasped him by the arm, and tenderly touched the wound.

He felt something seep out of him through his hand. He wouldn’t have been able to explain it, but it felt as if it came from his whole body. The wound, to his amazement, closed and healed suddenly, leaving not even a mark, save the blood that had left the wound earlier. He drew his hand away. For the first time in his life he felt a little tired; an unnatural exhaustion, as if it was in spirit rather than in body.

But it was only to a small degree, not as great as Fingolfin’s, and Alcawë drew himself up. The boy was examining where the wound had been, wiping away the blood with his sleeve. Then he looked up at Alcawë in amazement. The lad rose.

Ish,” he said, then turned and rejoined the others. Alcawë stared after him.

Suddenly he turned to see Eruanno approaching him.

“Poor is the lot of man,” said Alcawë. “He is more fragile than the petals of the Niphredil. He lasts only a little while, and then leaves Arda to be forgotten.”

“You have seen much,” said Eruanno, “But I have seen more. One day, Alcawë, the last of the Children of Ilúvatar shall live, and we shall fade. Weakness do I see, even as you do, but strength also.” He watched the children playing. “Their descendants a thousand generations hence shall rule. In that day the elves shall be no longer.”

Alcawë marveled at Eruanno’s speech. He spoke it quietly, but confident that he was right.

“Still,” he replied, “They will not live to see it.”

“Their lot right now is, perhaps, happier than ours, Alcawë,” said Eruanno. “You have penetrated deep, but not to their hearts. They are at peace with the world. It is for us to always seek perfection; seek and never find. Cuiviénen was not perfect. Neither was even Aman. We must bear the blows of the enemy, until we surrender our place as the masters of free Arda to men. They may be weak or greedy, they may throw each other down in their whims, but they shall one day be fit to master. When the last of the servants of Morgoth fall, then our time shall be over. But we, perhaps, will not live to see it come.”

Alcawë stood and still watched them. At last he turned to his grandfather.

“And do you think it was a good thing that we left Aman?” he asked.

“It was not wise, but in the end good shall come of it,” said Eruanno firmly. “Even if we perish in Endor, we shall perish knowing the hope we have brought. And knowing that the future is secure with Ilúvatar, the Father of All.”

They left the village and continued south. Fifty-three days after Fëanor had burned the ships, they reached a ridge where the hills ended, and great plains of grass peeping out of the snow stretched out endless before them.

“We made it!” cried Argon in sheer joy. “We are out of the Helcaraxë, and in Endor!” Some cheered and laughed, others looked at one another with tears of happiness in their eyes. Turotulco could hardly retain his excitement, while Alcawë stood as still as stone.

“Sound the trumpets!” cried Fingolfin. “And may the host of Morgoth flee!”

Then the trumpets sounded, clear and ringing, across the plains of Endor. Then, as the echoes died away and all stood silent, a bird began to sing sweetly. It was alone, but the song was clear to all the host of the Noldor. Suddenly there was gasping among the elves, and they saw slightly to their left, due east, a great silvery white globe, coming up from the edge of the world. It was larger than any of the stars, and shone brighter.

“It is a sign that the Valar have not abandoned us,” said Fingolfin. “By the new light given us, let us go forward to glory and conquest!”

“And return the wrath of Fëanor unto his own head,” added Fingon, his eyes flashing as brightly as his golden hair.

Then, like a cloud of silver, the Noldor came unto Endor, passing over the ground like white fire in the lea. They were the Noldor. They had returned.

[edit] The Return of the Noldor

Ranyar woke cold again. He groaned softly, then opened his eyes and raised himself up.

The small fire in front of him snapped and cracked, sending sparks up into the gradually lightening sky. Maitimo stood there, with Maglor, throwing sticks into the flames. Several other soldiers sat around it, warming their hands.

“At last, you have waken, Vinyahero,” said Maitimo, smiling, using his own name for Ranyar.

“Yes,” said Ranyar, yawning. He climbed off of his mat. “I suppose it is venison for breakfast again.”

“Correct,” said Maitimo. “This one was shot by Makalaurë the last night.”

Maglor sat down on a log and picked up his harp. He began to sing softly in Quenya.

O Noldo, Noldo, what troubles thee?
Thou marchest onward, to valiant war.
O harper, harper, what troubles me
is the blood we shed in days of yore:
in white Alqualondë’s noble port
we felled our kin, yet we felled ourselves.
Noldolantë will the harpers sing
ever after, the fell curséd elves.

“A little rough,” Maglor admitted, “But only a part of what I intend to write.”

“It is beautiful,” said Maitimo. Then he paused. “Still, it might be more exciting if you would write a song about glorious battle, rather than death and doom.”

Maglor smiled faintly, with a tinge of sadness. “I fear that there will be little of grandeur in battle fighting Morgoth. I remember sadly the day father first wrought a sword. I entered his forge at night, and saw him hammering something bright. There were several of them by the wall. I grasped the blade of one of them, and cut my hand. I cried out to father, and he said ‘These were made to hurt, not heal, Maglor. One day you may wield one, but while you are still young do not touch their sharp edges.’ So I did not for a long time. I know in my heart that much evil will come. But there are times when we must wield the blade. Among them is now. Still, a song of battle I might compose.”

He thought a minute, muttered some words, then suddenly began to sing sweet and clear, so that images flashed before their minds.

The red blades flash, the sky darkens,
swords sing in the desolate land;
the ravens croak, the lord hearkens
to watch the growing shadow’s hand.
Then fire from Taniquetil high
comes down to fill his stricken eyes;
the shield is split, black death in nigh,
and hearts are pierced by darkness’ lies.
The horns are blowing in the deep,
the elves are singing to Varda;
unbroken rows of steel they keep,
shield upon shield defend Arda.
“To war, my lords,” the captain cries
the trumpets sound, the host moves forth;
while still as elf falls down and dies,
they fight and war to prove their worth.
The beaten helm, the downfallen sword,
the arm that broke, the shield that was crushed,
the bloody elf, the brave toppled lord,
the black laughter, the joy now hushed.
Then white silver rings the swords again,
the banner raised up to touch the sky,
the great war-shout of a thousand kin
raises up to the immortal cry:
“To death! To death! And Morgoth’s dark fire!
To life beyond our deaths we now go!
May our swords the hosts of darkness dire
cut down, and bring the light we did know!”

Maglor played the last note, and glanced at Maitimo. “Was that better?”

“It still was about darkness and death,” complained his brother. “I would not want to go into battle singing that!”

“No, perhaps not,” said Maglor soberly, “Yet in time, perhaps, it shall be all they shall sing.”

Then the party around the fire fell silent, contemplating the future. They had followed the firth, which soon became a river flowing into the sea. Mountains were on either side of them, but Fëanor hoped that the river would have a clear pass through the mountains, which would be easier than climbing them, for they did not know how far back the mountains went. By the look of it already, they were pretty deep, and it might have been their deaths to try and cross them.

Ranyar glanced at the Teler, Fernaráto. He constantly looked back over his shoulder, westward, longingly.

“What are you thinking of?” he found himself asking. Fernaráto turned to him.

“Alqualondë,” he said, and he smiled distantly. “I have a wife there, and a young lad about your own age. He was turning into a fine sailor. I wish I could return.”

“Perhaps someday you shall,” said Ranyar.

“No,” said Fernaráto, and he turned away. “In my folly I wished to save my ship rather than myself. I have paid. I shall not return.” He grasped at a small clear blue jewel that hung around his neck, and looked again wistfully to the west, where they could still see the white gulls mewing.

“My brother and my cousin I left on the hither shore,” said Ranyar. “I am not of the House of Fëanor, but of the House of Fingolfin. I may never see them again. But they are safe in Aman now, perhaps even rejoicing in Tirion.”

He did not know how wrong he was yet.

At last the ground began to slope upward, and the mountains on either sides became cliffs, so that they were soon in a ravine. They could climb out by neither way, and still the river led them inward.

At last they saw the end of the ravine, for they could see cliffs rising ahead of them. Some of them moaned that they had marched for days, but must now return all the way back to the coast. But Fëanor’s determined spirit drove them on.

“If we must crawl like a spider up cliffs we shall,” he vowed, “Or if we must swim across the waters of the Narmocarcar, then we shall.”

But as they neared the end they saw a beautiful sight. There was a great waterfall, shimmering silver in the starlight. It poured out of a great hole in the cliff a good two hundred feet above them. As they came to its edge, some of the elves began to sing to Varda, forgetting all about Fëanor’s ban. But Fëanor did not forget.

“Enough of this,” he cried, and his voice echoed in the mountains, so that birds stirred on their perches, and the deer raised their heads. “We have not defied the Valar and come all this way to turn around and sing to them! The Valar have no authority over us here! This is the realm of freedom! It is Eru’s will.”

Suddenly Fernaráto called out boldly “Eru appointed the Valar over us, Lord Curufinwë. We defy him by defying them, whether we are in the right or not.”

Fëanor strode over to him, and struck him hard in the cheek, so that Fernaráto almost stumbled and fell over. But some of the elves looked uneasy.

“Has Ilúvatar hindered us?” he cried. “Has he halted our steps or forbidden our march?”

Suddenly a young elf-boy standing near Fëanor spoke up. “Lord Fëanor, has Ilúvatar abandoned us?”

This question seemed to jerk at Fëanor, and for a moment weakness seeped into Fëanor’s eyes. To Ranyar’s amazement he saw the fire flicker, and Fëanor turned away.

“We will camp here,” Fëanor said, quite obviously with great restraint.

Ranyar watched Fëanor closely as they rested. He saw him leave the camp, heading back down the firth. And he was alone.

Ranyar crept away from Maitimo and the others and followed him. They did not travel far; just so that the fires of the camp were far in the distance.

Ranyar saw, to his amazement, Fëanor drop to his knees. He heard a voice, soft at first, talking as if to the blackness of the night, while the stars blazed like white fire above.

“O Eru Ilúvatar, father of all things,” he said. “I have turned against thine servants. My son, Ambarto, is dead, by my own hand. Why, O Eru?” and his voice began to rise. “Have I truly turned against thee? Have you abandoned us here to die?”

Suddenly his voice rose, and he gave a great shout that echoed throughout the endless night. “No! It cannot be!” He fell to the ground as if he had been struck, weeping and cursing.

“I defy you, Eru,” he said suddenly and loudly, and even in the darkness Ranyar could see the flashing of fire behind his eyes. “I shall avenge my father – and myself as well! You would see wreck and ruin fall on your creation, and the end of the free peoples, but I shall fight to the end.”

Ranyar withdrew in horror. Fëanor had defied Ilúvatar. He felt suddenly more than ever the cold fingers of the night air touching near his heart. He fled the scene.

He found Maitimo waiting for him, while most others around him were sleeping.

“Where did you leave to?” he asked. Then he looked hard at Ranyar. “You’re as pale as niphredil!”

“It must be the cold,” said Ranyar hesitantly. “I just took a walk.” Maitimo gazed intently at him, but said no more.

After they rose, Fëanor sent Celegorm to check for a way over the cliffs. Celegorm returned to report that there was a winding path that led up to the cave out of which the waterfall flowed.

“But it is narrow and treacherous, not meant for the feet of elves,” he added. “Several times we had to leap over breaks, or cling to the rock. We might be able to get to the waterfall, but not any higher. I fear we must turn back.”

“It will greatly dishearten our followers,” said Maglor cautiously. “My father, I fear that they might soon… revolt against your leadership.”

Fëanor’s head snapped up, and laid his eyes upon Maglor, one of the few who could gaze into them for long. Then he shook his head slowly, and released him from his eyes.

“We shall not turn back,” he said quietly but resolutely. “Maitimo, give the order to march up that path of which your brother spoke.”

“But father!” exclaimed Maitimo. “It would be hard for the women and children to walk up such a road. And what is at the top? Just a cave. There is no way through the mountains.”

“Nevertheless we shall march through the cave,” said Maitimo. “There is room to walk, is there not, Tyelcormo?”

“The water is great and fast-rushing,” said Celegorm, “But there is room for walking along both sides.”

“That is all we need,” said Fëanor. Then, half to himself, he added in a soft tone that his sons had not heard before “Perhaps Ilúvatar will show his mercy to us in this.”

Ranyar was at the head of the narrow column, just behind Maitimo and the other sons of Fëanor, as they began the ascent. Once he almost lost his footing, but managed to catch a snag in the cliffside with his hand and regained his balance. Once he heard a scream, and saw an elf-woman fall. The body struck the sandy ground below and lay still.

There were still the majority of the Noldor on the ground, and several ran up to the elf-woman’s motionless form. One of them raised himself up a moment later, and shook his head sadly. She was dead.

They continued up. Several places Ranyar was able to walk with ease; other times he had to jump or cling to the rock like a spider. There were several other falls, but fortunately only one other death – that of a young elf-child. Death had indeed come to the followers of Fëanor, even as to the north their kin toiled amongst the grinding ice. But they did not know that.

At last Ranyar and Maitimo reached the cavern. As they were at the head of the line, they saw Fëanor take a torch from his pack and light it swiftly.

“If only father had taken the time to unload the supplies,” grumbled Maitimo. “If this cave is very deep we shall not have enough to last us.”

Ranyar nodded dumbly. Then he took a step forward, and the stars disappeared above him. He entered the cave.

The cave was wide for a good ways back. Then they passed through a narrow place, through which only the river and two elves could walk at a time. The underground river was huge, and angry. Ranyar was in sight of Fëanor’s leading torch, but more than once he felt the urge to flee and go back to the opening, back under the light of the stars.

Suddenly Fëanor entered a great chamber. There was suddenly a great rustling from inside. Fëanor suddenly threw himself back and out of the chamber.

A great number of black things poured out of the chamber. The elves threw themselves down as the swarm passed over them. Then the sound of their wings died away.

“Cave-birds,” suggested Maglor.

“Perhaps,” said Fëanor. He then entered the great chamber. Maitimo followed.

When Ranyar came in, his entire fear of the cave left him. The torch shone off of a thousand pillars, like diamonds. The river was wider and slower here, and in several places there were little pools that reflected the torch and the twinkling of the ceiling like glass.

“It is marvelous,” said Maglor, and Ranyar saw his hand creep over to his harp.

“No time,” said Fëanor, and he marched forward.

The cave narrowed again at the other end. On they went, and soon they were moving upward. Fëanor’s first torch went out, and he lit another one.

Ranyar saw many other wonders in that passage, but he began to weary of the journey. How many hours had they marched? He could not say.

Suddenly Ranyar saw a light up ahead. Fëanor aimed directly for it. There was an opening up ahead, through which Ranyar could see the stars and the blue sky. An eagerness overtook all the Noldor who came within sight.

As Ranyar left the cave, he sucked in the fresh air generously. He saw that he was come out onto a flat, grassy plain, with scattered trees here and there. He thought that he had never seen anything so soft and welcoming since he left Aman. As they walked into the plain he tumbled down, and sat with his back against a tree.

The others seemed to have had the same idea. They sat or lay in the grass, feeling good again. Fëanor looked impatient, but saw that it was not a good idea to force them into rising now.

Eventually they raised themselves up, and continued the march, much heartened.

“Something is strange here,” remarked Maitimo as they walked.

“What is it?” asked Ranyar.

“Well, we were all expecting to see the kin of Elwë here,” said Maitimo. “But no-one has welcomed us or denied us passage. I fear that they might have been destroyed.”

“But we have seen no creature of the enemy, either,” said Ranyar. “They may be in hiding, but I do not believe that they were destroyed.”

But Ranyar spoke too soon. After several rests the report came to the head of the column that several strange creatures had been slain attacking them with crude swords. Fëanor went with several of his sons to examine the bodies.

“They’re not elves, that’s for sure,” said Celegorm.

“They must be servants of Morgoth,” said Fëanor. “Burn their bodies. Keep a look-out for any more of these creatures.”

It was a good while, heading east, before they spotted mountains again. Ranyar guessed it had been about nine or ten days since they left Fingolfin’s host. He marveled at their speed. With Fëanor heading them they seemed almost tireless. Of course they needed rests, but never was there a sore foot or a downcast eye. Morale was at its peak.

Ranyar suddenly grasped Maitimo by the shoulder and pointed forward. Maitimo followed his finger and saw far ahead a mounted figure riding toward them quickly.

“Draw your swords,” he called to those around him. Fëanor repeated the order, and they stood on the ready.

As the figure approached, it slowed down, and the person dismounted and walked forward with a drawn sword.

Daro!” he said sharply. “Pedo enith.”

“It is an elf!” exclaimed Amrod. The figure came closer. Seeing their faces, wonder came into his eyes, and he bowed.

Mae govannen, Palanrandír,” said the elf.

Manë sana,” replied Fëanor cautiously in Quenya. He pointed to himself. “Curufinwë, yondo Finweva. Finwë. Noldor Amano.”

The elf’s eyes took on a startled look. It was then that Ranyar noticed how strangely dull and opaque his eyes seemed. “Finwë.” He pointed to himself. “Faechim. Bŷr Elu Thingol. Elwë.”

“He said something about Elwë,” said Caranthir.

“We shall take him with us, and attempt to learn his tongue,” said Fëanor after some thought. He pointed to the elf and motioned to him to follow them.

The others took to the new tongue rapidly. They pointed to various things, and the elf would tell them the word in his own language for it. Sometimes the elf would draw figures in the dirt. Before long they had gathered that his name was indeed Faechim, and that he was a follower of Elu Thingol, or Elwë. He dwelt in a forest to the south of them. He was surrounded and besieged by a black enemy, presumably Morgoth. His army was made up of creatures called yrch. Maglor, having the greatest patience, then attempted to tell their own story. He had skill with drawing, even if it was only a stick in the ground. He depicted trees and mountains, and a great city. Then he drew a picture of Morgoth as he was seen by the Noldor, and then showed him killing the trees and taking the Silmarils. Then he drew Morgoth crossing the sea, and them following with ships and many armed warriors. He pointed to the warriors he had drawn, then raised his arms to the elves about them. Faechim soon understood.

Eventually Faechim left, probably to report to Elu Thingol. They continued on, passing over a northward-facing mountain branch. Soon after they came to a great lake, so large that the other shore could hardly be seen in the distance.

“We will make camp here,” said Fëanor. “Here we shall be able to have fresh water, game, and food. Then we shall learn where Morgoth skulks, and draw him out at the point of our swords.”

Far to the north, deep in the roots of the Iron Mountains, there was a throne. Upon the throne was a fearsome form; black as night, mighty and terrible. Three figures, orcs, stood before it.

“Othrod,” said the figure.

“Yes, Great One,” said one of the orcs.

“Some time ago we saw fire to the south and the west,” said the Black One. “And we heard shouts and cries. I am told your spies have returned. What did they find?”

Othrod hesitated. He was one of the first of Morgoth’s orcs, and his greatest captain. “They said that a great many elves have landed on our shores. Their ships were white, but they burned them at Losgar. But there are more than five thousands, and their eyes burn with terrible fire. They have passed unhindered into Hithlum, and now camp on the north shore of the Lake of Mithrim.” He braced himself.

“I knew as much,” said Morgoth calmly. “Five thousands. We have fought three times as great a number in our wars against Thingol. Five thousands is nothing to us, Othrod. I do not know their purpose here; they may have been sent as spies from the Valar. But none shall return to report to the Valar. Rally twenty thousands, Othrod. You may take all the provisions you need. I wish you to appoint Laikmeg in command of them. I want full destruction of them. Bring back those of their leaders that survive in chains, and we will find something particularly unpleasant for them.” He laughed, and the room trembled. Othrod bowed before his master.

“It shall be as you say, God of the World,” he said. “Ash Burzum!

Some time passed on the north shore of the lake, and Ranyar found he greatly enjoyed the rest. Some of the Noldor were taking wood and stone from a nearby pine forest and building rough houses. Fëanor’s mind had already mapped out how the city would be, seemingly even in his first glance. He had several master masons in his train, though not nearly as many as with Fingolfin, and with them designed a circular stone house for himself, his sons, and their body-servants. Then construction began.

Ranyar noticed how much more rainy it was. When the clouds came the light of the stars was blocked out, and it was pitch black. Soon after came the rains. One of the first structures they made was an open-sided stable.

There were enough Noldor that the work went quickly. Ranyar aided Maitimo in building the palace. It was not the equivalent of five days before many dwellings were built.

The wind howled, but it was a warm, southern wind. Ranyar sighed wearily as he looked out across the golden fields and sparkling blue sea. On the other side he saw the mountains, almost as great as the Pelóri, but less green.

Ranyar sighed as the wind struck his face, and wondered how long they would stay by the lake. He was wearing mail lent him by Maitimo, as he had brought none of his own. He drew his sword and gazed at the blade long. He had still kept the one he received in Tirion. He wondered how long it would be before it tasted… blood.

He was on watch at that time, and drearily did the hours pass. Suddenly he frowned, and sniffed at the air. Did he smell something foul?

Ranyar scanned the horizon. He suddenly heard a sound near him and whirled. Something had moved in the grass. Ranyar might have dismissed it as a rabbit or other animal, but something in his head warned him that there was danger nigh.

He kept the sword in his hand and advanced cautiously. When he was only about ten feet in front of where the sound had come, suddenly an orch sprang up, and struck at Ranyar’s head with a black-bladed sword.

Ranyar ducked, and the blade passed over his head. He drew himself up swiftly and dealt the creature a blow that was parried. The orch made a thrust for Ranyar’s chest, but Ranyar knocked the stroke away and in a single movement cut off the foul creature’s head.

Maitimo rushed up to him and looked at the creature.

“A scout,” he said. Ranyar felt the hairs on his neck rise at the tenseness of these words. “Armed for battle.”

Suddenly they heard drums in the distance to the east. Deep, evil-sounding drums that chilled Ranyar’s heart. His eyes, keen even for an elf’s, looked hard across the plains. He spotted a great mass moving at full speed toward them, approaching… from the east.

“An army!” he shouted.

“Where?” asked Maitimo.

“Over there!” said Ranyar, pointing. He watched intently. “There must be tens of thousands!”

Maitimo suddenly reached for a small silver horn at his side, and lifting it to his lips played a quick three notes three times. Ranyar knew it – a warning of danger and a summoning to arms.

Instantly horns began to sound within the unfinished city. The Noldor were hurrying out to where Maitimo stood, soon joined by his brothers. The captains were getting them into lines. Soon, five thousand elves were lined up with sword, axe, and spear on the ready.

The orcs surged forward, but about two hundred yards away halted uneasily.

The Noldor of Fëanor were divided into six companies. The first was commanded by Maitimo, the second by Maglor, the third by Celegorm, the fourth by Curufin, the forth by Caranthir, the fifth by Amrod, and the sixth, the smallest, was under Fëanor’s direct control. Celegorm had the lightly-armed elves, Caranthir the heavies, and Amrod and Maglor the archers. No horses had been taken on the ships, and there were therefor no cavalry usually commanded by Curufin. Maitimo held the main portion of the infantry.

The orc-captains were getting the wretches organized, and charging at will. At first Ranyar, standing beside Maitimo, wondered how they could ever conquer such a large force. He saw the Teler, Fernaráto, beside him, ready with his long knife. He saw the grimness of Maitimo, the calmness of Maglor, the fury of Celegorm, the calculating mind of Curufin, the readiness of Caranthir, the anticipation of Amrod, and the face of Fëanor, which combined all of these. Then a grim fierceness came over his whole body, and his limbs hungered like never before to engage the enemy, and to march even to the throne of the Killer of the Trees himself. As he looked around him he saw that the eyes of his comrades were on fire, and looking at his reflection in the blade of his sword, he saw flames behind his eyes as well.

Then suddenly Fëanor cried out for the army to hear “Now, my friends, we are marching to death – death for us, though we bring death to the Lord of Hate and Blackness, Morgoth! Let not an elf among you lay down a sword until Morgoth is brought out on his knees! And if one among you dies, let him die in the knowledge that never again shall the Great of the Valar look upon us in scorn, nor shall our deeds ever be lost from the lips of our descendants, even though blackness cover the world, and the dawn die! Now forth, forth the death!”

Then Fëanor sounded his horn loud and clear, raising his sword. Then the Noldor clashed sword on shield, and sang out “Forth to death! And hail the sun’s rising!”

Then Fëanor charged, his blade shining under the flaming stars. The Noldor charged with a loud voice, the sound of their feet echoing across the fields like the tramp of those doomed. Loud and clear did the voices ring, and the words of the song of Maglor echoed in Ranyar’s voice as they readied themselves for Death and Glory.

“To death! To death! And Morgoth’s dark fire!
To life beyond our deaths we now go!
May our swords the hosts of darkness dire
cut down, and bring the light we did know!”

The earth passed beneath Ranyar’s feet. He saw Maitimo raised up his sword with a yell that shook the ground. He saw himself raise his own blade, as the two lines came closer together. The sounds vanished from Ranyar’s mind, and he became a spectator – of his comrades, of his enemy, and of himself. Then the two lines struck, and the noise of their clash echoed across the plains. Ranyar came out of his trance, and his blade went up and down, each taking the life of an orc. They seemed invincible, for each was glowing brightly, and their eyes flashed fire. The orcs went down before them like chaff before a wind of fire. Ranyar was all over in blood, but it was not his own. He hardly seemed to be controlling his actions, as orc after orc fell before him. To his utter amazement, soon the enemy was in flight. In a matter of minutes, the Noldor had slain over a third of them, and lost not one.

The orcs fled in terror. Fëanor led the way, his sword singing and flashing. The orcs could not escape, as the Noldor covered ground faster than horses. The carnage was not over for another half hour. Then all the enemy lay dead at their feet. Not one had escaped.

But no-one noticed a black form wheeling overhead, then turn and fly away to the northeast.

Then Ranyar suddenly felt a weariness come over him. His arms drooped at his side, and he wanted rest. He saw that the fire in the eyes of his comrades had died, and almost with one movement the Noldor turned around to return to the partially built city.

Ranyar wiped his blade off with his cape, not caring about the black blood that stained it. He had suffered no wounds, and saw very little on the bodies of his companions. Yea, now, truly, these brother soldiers were his companions.

[edit] Second Intermission

Ulmondil looked at Rúmil eagerly, waiting for the story to go on. But the loremaster just looked at his wide-eyed listeners and smiled.

“I’m afraid I have been going on for over an hour,” he said. Noting their disappointment, he added “But I shall tell you more tomorrow night, and unless you get your sleep you shall not grow up tall and strong like the heroes in the ancient stories such as this one.”

They gradually drifted out of the room, but Ulmondil lingered back. Rúmil eyed him keenly.

“What do you want, Ulmondil?” he asked.

“Well, said Ulmondil, “We know that this gem is the Alcarmir, and I know that Alcawë was my grandfather. But who were the other characters, such as Ranyar and Turotulco? Have I ever heard of them before?”

“Perhaps,” said Rúmil, with an amused smile.

“And what happened to my grandfather eventually?” asked Ulmondil. “Did he die in the First Age? Is he now living in Aman, or has he remained in Middle-earth?”

“One of the purposes of my story is so that you may learn these things,” said Rúmil, his bright eyes glinting. “And you shall, in time. Tomorrow, I hope, I shall finish my tale. Until then, I must bid you a good night.”

Ulmondil bowed and left the hall. Rúmil waited, and the same elf came up to him.

“Your listeners find your story quite entertaining, Master Rúmil,” he said.

“I hope indeed that it is more than that,” said Rúmil firmly. “Some stories are tales of laughter, but this is not one of them. I hope all of them learn well from this story, about oath-taking, and betrayal, and the deeds of their forefathers.”

Rúmil reached into the chest and drew out an old and tattered book. “Thank you for the information you have given me, however hard it was – Nathernil.”

Ulmondil went to bed pondering his questions. His father, Naurhen, came in to bid him a good night.

“Are you liking Rúmil’s story?” asked Naurhen, sitting beside where Ulmondil lay.

“Yes, very much,” said Ulmondil. “Only I have so many questions!”

Naurhen laughed. “They shall be answered, my son! So peace, go to sleep.”

“Father,” said Ulmondil presently, “What does our name mean?”

“Well, Naurhen means ‘Fire-eye’, and Ulmondil means ‘Lover of Ulmo’,” said Naurhen.

“No, I mean Bregolharn,” said Ulmondil. “After all, if I am Aglaru’s heir, I am Bregolharn as well, am I not?”

“That you are,” said Naurhen, smiling. “Bregolharn means ‘fierce stone’.”

“How did he get that title?” Ulmondil wanted to know.

“That is another story,” said Naurhen. “Now pass on to sleep, and worry not about what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Sleep, and be at ease.”

Ulmondil yawned and sank back into his pillow. He was soon deep in sleep, dreaming about the trials of his brave ancestors.

The next night Rúmil was ready and eager to finish his story. “Now,” he said, “We come to the final chapter in the tale of the Noldor. This is, perhaps, the darkest and yet the most hopeful. It shaped the history of Middle-earth. Now, let it begin where we left Alcawë. While this happens quite a bit later than where we are at with Ranyar’s story, I think it is best to insert it here. You shall see what I mean. Now, the conclusion.”

[edit] Go on to Wind of Fire, Oath of Blood pt 3: The Doom of the Noldor