Chapter 106

Now when that company arrived upon the field andbeheld the combat they were struck at first to stillness and dismounted not, but simply stared with farseeing eyes, hardly able to believe the scene before them. Thither stood a lone warrior clad in black armor, slaying all comers. Nor did she await their onslaught as one backed to her defense, but rather she strode against them seeking for to slaughter, and 'neath her black blade an army was't being exterminated. To those few in that company who had seen its like aforetime, long ago in a forest far to the west, the swordplay was't unmistakable in its vicious perfection.

'Twas only by chance that Helluin happened to glance again to the east, and thither she saw heraldry that stopped her dead in her tracks, for 'twas not Lord Ërlick, but rather a lord of far greater lineage; the last prince of a great house of the Noldor, long forgotten and deemed lost from Middle Earth for countless lives of Men. By falling Ithil's sheen her farseeing eyes marked his standard, unfurled now and flying o'er the leading horse. Thither, upon a field of grey which in her memories had once been white, she saw clearly the emblem of a golden harp bordered by a diamond, itself composed of many radiating colors, like unto the gem upon the livery of the prince's fiery-spirited father, yet proclaiming this bearer by a token all his own. Helluin's mouth dropped open and she barely evaded the whistling axes of her foes, so great was't her amazement.

'Neath the standard she could see five figures dismounting now, and these glimmered as they drew swords and moved to join the battle. Amanyar! Calaquendi! Behind these five another fifty-five Elves dismounted, but these were Moriquendi and their dark figures cast no light as they set about preparing their bows. Indeed so dark were these warriors that once enveloped in their stealth, Helluin marked them not, even with her acute sight.

Though the remnant of the host of Emyn Angren stood embattled 'tween them, Helluin's eyes met those of the leader and greetings were exchanged without a sound.

Mae govannen, meldis nín gem, and han nant ir methen mín govannen!¹ the ellon said. ¹(Mae govannen, meldis nín gem, and han nant ir methen mín govannen. Well met, my (female) friend of old, long it has been since last we met. mae(well) + govannen(met)+ meldis( , sing)+ nín (1st pers poss pro, my) + gem(old (of things), sing), + and(long) + han(3rd pers sing dir obj pro, it) + nant(no-(be) + -ant(past v suff), has been) + ir(when, ver. since) + methen(last) + mín(1st pers pl pro, we) + govannen(met). Sindarin)

Mae govannen, meldir nín gem, andúr han noant!²she agreed. ²(Mae govannen, meldir nín gem, andúr han noant. Well met, my (male) friend of old, very long it has been indeed! = mae(well) + govannen(met)+ meldis( , sing)+ nín (1st pers poss pro, my) + gem(old (of things), sing), + and(long) + -úr(intensive agent)+ han(3rd pers sing dir obj pro, it) + noant(no-(be) + -o(imp) -ant(past v suff), has been!). Sindarin)

She quickly reckoned the years at close to 4,350. 'Twas all of the Second Age plus a thousand years of the Third since he and his brother had taken their leave to enter the camp of the victorious Host of Aman in one last doomed attempt to fulfill their father's oath, back in a time when there had been a treasure in Middle Earth sufficient to drive a people to defy their gods and embark upon a hopeless path of vengeance. How could it be that he yet lived, let alone had come upon the battle? The wide blade of a double axe whistled past her ear and Helluin returned her attention to the slaughter. With a sweeping slash of her blade a pair of soldiers from the Iron Mountains fell beheaded at her feet. She moved on and the black sword rejoiced anew.

For most of another quarter hour Helluin and her unexpected allies fought their way towards each other, and though the remnant of the Dwarvish army stood at first 'twixt them, the fell and incomparable prowess they unleashed could not be withstood by any skill of mortal kind. So in the last hour of the night, with Ithil set and Arien's coming close at hand, the warriors of the Noldor met at last.

"Maglor, iond Feanor tadui, non merenwain garad cin magol dan cyth nin. Im nauth cin gorth and!"¹ Helluin exclaimed, still utterly amazed at his presence. Despite her joy at their meeting, she stilled not her sword and her words were punctuated by the gurgle of breath round Anguirél's tip, sunk in a foe's throat. ¹(Maglor, iond Feanor tadui, non merenwain garad cin magol dan cyth nin. Im nauth cin gorth and! Maglor, second son of Feanor, I am most happy to haveyour aid (lit trans yoursword against my enemies). I thought you long dead! Magloriond(son) Feanor(genitive construc., son of Feanor) tad(two) -ui(ordinal suff, second, adj modifying proceeding noun) no-(be) -n(1st pers subj suff, I am) meren(lit. joyous/happy) -wain(superlative suff, happiest/most happy) garo-(have)-ad(infin. suff, to have) cin(2nd pers sing poss pron, your) magol(sword) dan(against) cyth(enemies, pl) nin(1st pers sing poss pro, my).\. Im(1st pers subj pro, I) nauth(thought) cin(2nd pers obj pro, you) gorth(dead) and(long)! Sindarin)

"Sui cin, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, non brondir,"² he answered as he swung his own sword.²(Sui cin, Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, non brondir. Like you (lit trans As you), Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, I am a survivor. = Sui(as) + cin(2nd pers dir obj pro, you), + no-(be) -n(1st pers subj suff, I am) + brono- (survive)-(d)ir(agent, m suff) Sindarin)

To that she could but laugh in agreement as they hewed her enemies. Though Maglor would ever be 'nigh on 1,400 years her junior, they were both now so old that the difference had begun to pale. Each had spent o'er 5,050 years in Middle Earth. More important still, they were both Amanyar who had lived in the Blessed Realm during the Age of the Trees.

"And having survived aforetime, let us survive this night as well," she declared.

To this the deposed prince of the Host of Finwë laughed.

"Helluin," he said o'er the clash of arms, "whensoever thou would hath the fighting cease thou need only speak the word."

"Pray share thy counsel, old friend," she asked, eyeing him askance past the arc of her blade, "for ever hath I found my best and strongest arguments at the end of my sword."

"Thou art a great warrior," Maglor replied, "and a better with the sword I hath not seen in all my years, yet thou art not alone."

"What allies save thee and thy vassals hath I now to hasten this end, pray tell? And what of the two score and fifteen Moriquendi who came hence with thee?" Helluin asked. "Bah…but another two hours, I deem, ere the field be still."

Maglor laughed and then brought his left hand to his mouth, and setting thither two fingers, produced a whistle of such a piercing note that it brought tears to Helluin's eyes. And then she saw again that illusion of a landscape coming to life that had first left her astonished as the Laiquendi of Ossiriand revealed themselves. For long moments she could only stare, as it seemed the tall grass rose upon two sides to fall upon her enemies. So focused by Maglor's whistle had those foes been, that 'twas many heartbeats ere the Naugrim reacted to this new threat.

Helluin watched the slaughter, hewing only such as approached her now, and no longer pursuing her foes. 'Twas with bows and arrows that the Moriquendi slew the Naugrim, having positioned themselves to create a cross-fire, that left the Dwarves in a killing ground. Like the Laiquendi of Eriador, they worked in loose ranks and with inhuman precision, each archer firing past the heads and bows of those standing before them, though all were in constant motion, rising to fire, dropping to move, and rising again in a new position. So effectively did this formation mow down the Naugrim that Helluin realized the last few hundreds of the soldiers from the Emyn Angren would fall in but a few minutes.

Now when those last lay slain, the archers stood down their ranks and they moved forward with knocked shafts and bows ready, surveying the dead and searching for any wounded. Indeed there were none of either in their own company for they had closed not within fifty feet of their foes during the fighting. Those few of the enemy they found still living they dispassionately shot point blank.

With the battle ended there lay many questions, yet despite Helluin's curiosity about these unknown allies and her thankfulness for Maglor's aid, her first and o'er-riding concern was't to retrieve Beinvír's body. Thus she made her way back 'cross the bloody field, retracing the steps of her rampage, and passing amidst the bloody work of hours in a few score shuddering and apprehensive strides. Thither did her unfailing senses lead her, seeing all too clear in her flawless Elvish memory, the fallen body of her beloved.

The place of Beinvír's fall she found straightaway. The Green Elf still lay crumpled 'neath the deadweight of her last slain foe, her blade still impaling his armored chest. The streak of blood that had flowed from the scalp wound inflicted by that enemy's helm had been partially washed clean by the rain, yet scarlet still bright and fresh could be seen slowly seeping. Looking down upon the Green Elf, Helluin was't struck by the look of peace that graced her face and stricken by a hundred memories that flashed before her mind's eye in the space of a few hitching breaths. Indeed she lived in two times at once and scarcely marked that Maglor came to stand beside her.

"Such bloodshed hath thou wrought in payment for her injury, old friend" the singer of the House of Feanor softly said as he shook his head in amazement. "I dare not imagine thy vengeance had she indeed been slain."

'Twas the slow turning of a lizard's head and the cold of reptilian eyes that met his gaze. The warrior was't still in shock and the blood-surge of the slaughter had yet to fully abate. At first she thought he jested.

"Say again, old friend," she grated out. "After I bring my beloved to her rest, I march east to visit my wrath upon the Dark Lord himself, wheresoever that craven master of thralls may skulk, for I am far from done. The darkness this Middle Earth now holds for me I shalt share, for her death I lay at his feet and add to the debt of blood he already owes."

The second son of Feanor regarded Helluin carefully for a moment ere he spoke, for the heartbreak and wrath that rolled from her fairly chilled his bones.

"That darkness thou see hast clouded first thy own sight, Helluin, and though few would rue Sauron Gorthaur's passing for whatever reason, for now thy companion lives still. Doth thou not mark the color of the blood from her wound? 'Tis fresh. I say she lives still, if just barely. Make haste to tend her."

Then in disbelief, Helluin fell to her knees beside the Green Elf, and drawing from its belt clip the bright Sarchram, she set it 'neath Beinvír's nostrils, and after a moment the faintest hazing from her exhalation could be seen.

So with the healer's skills she had learnt through long Ages in both the Mortal Lands and Aman, Helluin quickly treated Beinvír's wounds, first cleaning the cuts and then applying a poultice of herbs from their travel bags. A bandage held all in place and protected the wound, but from the shock that had come of the blow itself, such treatments would not suffice.

It took Helluin little time to realize that the cut upon Beinvír's scalp endangered her not and 'twas some other hurt that kept her from waking. Yet Helluin had seen not the cause of her wound and her beloved could tell her 'naught. So the Noldo laid her hands gently upon either side of her beloved's face, and bending low o'er her, brought their foreheads to touch. Then she closed her eyes and willed herself to meet that which could not be seen, for she sought for her lover fëa to fëa.

'Twas into a place of darkness that she came, blending the black of closed eyes with the black of unconsciousness. Softly she called Beinvír's name, over and over, in a whisper intimate and tender to be heard by the heart. 'Twas not as for another for whom she sought, for through their love and the connection of their fëar, 'twas more akin to seeking for a part of herself estranged for a time, yet known more intimately than the heartbeat of a mortal twin. She found the darkness restful and it held no fear. 'Twas empty, yet wholly familiar. In knowing it thus, Helluin could perceive it with her heart's eye, and seeing it thus, she formed a vision for reference sake. In the sight of her heart the blackness became less than pure, as though lit by one solitary glance of an ancient and unblinking star. 'Tis no darkness upon the face of Arda into which the Light of Varda cannot come. Áye, Héri i Elenion!¹ ¹(Áye, Héri i Elenion! Hail, Lady of the Stars! = Áye(Hail) + Héri(Lady) + i(def art, the) + Elen(star)+ -ion(gen pl suff, of stars)Quenya)

Beinvír, meldwain melien¹, Helluin softly called,úrenio! Tulo na nin!² ¹(meldwain melien dearest beloved = meld(dear) + -wain(adj. superlative, dearest) + melo-(v. love) + -ien(fem agent, verb as noun, beloved) Sindarin) ²(úrenio! Tulo na nin. wander not! Come to me! = ú- (neg. v. pref.) + renio- (wander) + -o(imp.v. suff) + tulo-(come) + -o(imp. v. suff) + na(to) + nin(1st pers. sing. dir. obj. pronoun, me) Sindarin)

Repeating those words, she moved through the darkness seeking for the Green Elf. Long seemed her search, yet 'twas without haste, as though time held thither no sway. I hath stepped out from 'neath the sun, she thought. And she recalled her night of visions long ago in the house of Iarwain Ben-adar.

As with all those blessed with the Life of the Eldar, she was't being bound to the world by the chains of her memories; she was't inexorably being drained, her fire sublimated by the substance of mortal lands and the passage of time. She was't diminishing…fading. Helluin recognized that her doom, the doom of all her people, 'twas to lose through gain. She had been so beautiful once, so free, and now…her failing would linger down the Ages and she would die more slowly than any mortal. She had been dying since her first breath of life. Ere Helluin felt the coming tears win their release, she gave her young self a wan smile and then stood and turned away.

She found herself back in her seat before the hearth in the house of Iarwain Ben-adar, and looking over at his chair, her eyesight blurred by tears; Helluin saw only a hazy figure wrought of swirling light. She didn't understand.

"Peace," she heard with her mind's ear, "sorrow for loss is the realm of my sister."

Again the blackness took her, but this time 'twas dreamless.

Though her body still lives and 'tis not yet her time, still a fëa fled from its lodgings in the hroa seeks for the sanctuary of our people in Aman, Helluin realized, in the Halls of Mandos. West…'tis to the Uttermost West that I must seek.

Through the darkness she passed in thought, o'er the waves of the Sundering Sea, 'til a Light glimmered far before her, and as if with the sight of the palantír, her consciousness leapt towards that curtain of silver rain. Swiftly did it grow to fill her vision, and brighter did it become, 'til 'twixt one moment and the next her sight swept through it into that far green country 'neath a swift sunrise. And now the way was't familiar to her. Century upon century she had trod these Undying Lands. Westward she sped, passing Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, and thence through the Calacirya where the Holy Mountain, Taniquétal, rose to the south. O'er the green hill of Túna her eyesight flew, looking down upon the white city of Tirion with the Mindon Eldaliéva, the Tower of Ingwë, jutting upwards in its midst like a spike of pearl. All these sights of wonder Helluin passed in the blink of an eye, still moving further westward. Now Valmar, with its golden gates flashed towards her, but she passed the City of the Gods without slowing. 'Neath her lay the many empty vats which had once brimmed with gold and silver Light, but the Wells of Varda had been dry and dark for o'er two Ages of the world. Amidst them stood a sad hill crowned with the lifeless trunks of Laurelin and Telperion. 'Twas Ezellohar, carpeted still with withered grass.

Onward did Helluin's sight take her, 'cross softly rolling hills and wide plains of green that she recognized from memories now six millennia old. She had wandered these lands for 'nigh on three and one half thousand years.

And finally a darkness grew in the distance far ahead, just as the Light of Aman had grown aforetime. By this she knew she was't approaching the boundary of Ekkaia at Arda's westernmost edge. Fast was't her approach, and to Helluin it seemed as only the span of a heartbeat ere she stood before the gates of the Halls of Mandos. Thither, as if awaiting her, stood Vairë the Weaver, wife of Námo. Helluin marked that behind the Valier, the doors to the Houses of the Dead stood closed fast. 'Twas the first time she had ever seen them thus.

To the west now hung the darkness of the Void, black as a king's finest velvet and hung with Varda's countless stars. Ever had it been a vision vaguely unsettling; a peerlessly night sky, clear and deep, abutting the brilliant, day-lit landscape with 'naught for gradation 'twixt the two. Helluin knew that if one walked to the very edge, thither was't a precipice of unfathomable height, soon undercut and quick to pass out of sight. And to any such as came thither, the Void called to the mind with seductive and insistent whispers, gently urging just one more small step forward.

"Istan man tye mére,¹" said the Weaver without preamble. ¹(Istan man tye mére. I know who you want. = ista- (v., know)-n(1st pers. subj. pron., I) man(who) tye(2nd pers. indep. pron, you) mére(v., want) Quenya)

"Masse nase?¹" Helluin asked, trying hard to control her impatience.¹(Masse nase? Where is she?Masse(interrog. pron, where) na-(is) -se(3rd pers subj pron, she) Quenya)

"Mintaúrye síno,¹" Vairë told her while stretching one pale arm outwards and pointing due south."Elat, mí Nienna i maro. ²" ¹(Mintaúrye síno, She did not enter here,minta-(v. enter) + (neg v suff, did not enter) -rye(3rd pers subj pron, she) + síno(here) Quenya) ²(Elat, mí Nienna i maro. (You) look thither, to the house of Nienna. = Ela(look there) -t(2nd pers subj pron, you) Niennai(def art, the) mar(home) -o(gen suff, of) Quenya)

With a bow of her head Helluin gave thanks to the Weaver for her tidings, and then she hastened south to the familiar abode of the Goddess of Lamentation. It had been o'er 8,700 years since the she had first met Nienna. The Noldo had been not even yenu¹ of age when, during her first wanderings in Aman, she had happened upon the house at the edge of the world. Thither she had met the solitary and nearly silent Valier, who was't staring off into the Void. Rather than blabber as most of her folk were wont to do, Helluin had simply sat next to her and stared off in the same direction. A day later she'd absently whispered to herself, as a lover it doth urge one to itself, remarking on the voice of the Void. ¹(yenu= yen(the long year of the Eldar) + -u(dual pl suff,2 years = 288 years of the sun) Quenya)

"Few art they who listen, and fewer still who hear," Nienna had replied another day later and so softly that Helluin had strained to hear her. "Tis little wonder we lament longings unmet, when such is even so from that which was't ere The Song," she had added a couple hours later.

Helluin had turned slowly to face her and asked, "'Twas ever so, indeed?"

The Valier had turned to meet her gaze with moist eyes and said, "Aye, 'twas ever so."

Helluin had found the thought and its affirmation quite depressing.

Now Helluin came again to the House of Nienna, and though it appeared at first deserted, (as it had ever appeared), 'twas thither that she did indeed find her beloved Beinvír. The tearful Green Elf was't seated upon a stone bench in the garden with the Valier, who was't consoling her in a manner that Helluin could hath sworn was't self-conscious if not outright embarrassed. At Helluin's appearance, Nienna met her eyes and graced her with an expression of relief, then cast her glance back to Beinvír and rose to her feet. Helluin hastened to join them, taking her beloved in her arms and wrapping her in a tight hug of joyous reunion.

"There you see," Nienna told the Green Elf as she excused herself, "'twas as I said, 'tis 'naught to lament, for thou art neither dead nor separated untimely."

To Helluin she said silently, mind to mind as she passed, Heldalúne Maica i móremenel, glad am I to see thee…rejoined. Thy melda hast been inconsolable o'er 'naught, I deem, for Námo was't forbidden to admit her to his house, and so she was't not meant to stay. Very nearly did she pass from the grief when from the wound she did not. She actually rolled her eyes ere taking her leave.

Helluin's sharp ears reported the Valier muttering to herself as she walked away, "T'would think 'twas to Cúma¹ rather than into a coma she had passed, for weeping aloud…" ¹(Cúma,Hell Quenya)

In their few moments of speech, the Noldo had heard more words from the Valier than she had sometimes received during entire visits in the past. She could but shake her head, yet the claim that Námo had been forbidden to admit Beinvír to his halls told her much. One only in Valinor could command the Keeper of the Dead.

Helluin returned to the battlefield with Beinvír in her arms, bringing all into focus in a swift recession from her lover's eyes. Returned to the Hither Lands, Beinvír was't subdued, but the Noldo had felt her happiness while'st they communed heart to heart. Still kneeling beside them, Maglor greeted them with a broad smile.

"Aderthad merenwain, mildis nín!¹" he said.¹(Aderthad merenwain, mildis nín!A most joyous reunion, my (female) friends! aderthad(reunion) + meren(joyous) + -wain(sup adj suff) + mildis(f friends, pl) + nín (1st pers poss pro, my) Sindarin)

To this, the ellith could but smile, for both were o'ercome with relief and happiness to be together, alive, and lying amidst the carnage of a recent battle and the reek of well 'nigh four thousands of corpses; Naugrim, Men, and the carcasses of slain horses.

Some hours later, after the storm clouds had been driven hence by a wind from the south and Anor graced the new day with a fine morn, Beinvír sat listening as Maglor and Helluin each told 'aught of their tales since their last parting in the final days of the First Age. They spoke softly o'er food and drink, as the four Noldor and the Moriquendi archers who'd come with the son of Feanor piled and burnt the bodies of the Dwarves, for no tomb would these hath, so far from mountain, rock and stone. The bodies of the Riders they laid in rows 'neath their cloaks with their weapons beside them, awaiting the return of the Norse Men to the battlefield to claim their dead.

"'Twas with hopelessness and embarrassment mingled that Maedhros and I made our way to the camp of the victorious army of the West," Maglor had said, "and sent to Eönwë a message demanding the return of those two Silmarils yet remaining, citing our oath and our father's title as maker of those gems. Yet the Herald of the Elder King pronounced our claim forfeit and demanded that we submit for judgment in Aman. I would hath submitted indeed, for my heart had long been full-tired of all that had been done, yet my brother persuaded me one last time, and so in stealth we came to the treasury and slew thither the guardians and retook at last the Silmarils. Yet we escaped with them not and were captured. Death I feared would be our lot at last and strangely welcome would it hath been, as we had fulfilled our wretched oath at last, for scorching each of our hands was't indeed a Silmaril.

Unsweet was't our success to me, for by that pain I knew Eönwë had indeed spoken true; the Silmarils would'st abide our house no longer. Yet in his mercy Eönwë would not hath us slain, just though it may hath been, and he sent us forth from the camp with our ill-got treasures and our shame.

Soon the pain of the burning became too great a torment for us. At the last my brother despaired and flung himself into a chasm still aflame from the battles, bearing with him to the depths of Middle Earth his treasure. I wandered still a while, the priceless gem held in an upturned helm and dangling from a stick like a drawn squab off to market. Upon a time I came 'nigh the new coast of the sea, and thither I was't o'erwhelmed with sorrow for all that had come to pass…all for a jewel and in service of my father's rash will. I cast the cause as far out to sea as I could, to thus rid myself of the constant reminder of a treasure fair and high, fallen from beauty into loathsomeness through lust, pride, and vengeance; that treasure being my own fëa and the spirit of our people, for the Silmaril was't but a cause and a symbol. In the end, 'twas worth not the taking of one life, let alone all the hundreds of thousands it cost."

Here the second son of Feanor, recalling all in perfect clarity, covered his face with his hands and sobbed. And Helluin, who had once loathed him as a mortal enemy and the killer of her brother Verinno, wrapped an arm 'round his shoulders and drew him to her side for to offer what comfort she could. She held him for a long time.

When he finally resumed, he said, "Long years I wandered, heedless of the times. Into the land of Eriador and thence to Rhovanion I made my way, alone and declaring not my name lest it recall all the dark deeds done aforetime. I partook not in the deeds of the present, being resolved to pass through time as a ghost. Wide berth I gave to battles and wars, to courts and kings, and to any whom I had known. Finally 'twas into the east that I roamed; into the lands of Rhûn, and thither I was't lost to all who knew of me. Finally I was't lost to history, for the histories of those lands counted not the deeds of Beleriand or the West. So the years passed…so an Age passed.

For a time there was't peace, yet slowly a Shadow grew upon those eastern lands and slowly did many folk fall 'neath its sway. T'would hath passed me unmarked save for a chance meeting with one who told a harrowing tale of liberation from long thralldom 'neath the Great Enemy's fortress in the land of Mordor. The knowledge of Him still working his master's evil, even after the victory of the Host of Aman, shocked me to seething. How could Sauron Gorthaur hath been left free to poison the Hither Shores after the defeat of Morgoth Bauglir? I could understand it not, any more than I could understand the mercy shown to me and my brother upon a time.

And finally I took notice of 'aught that passed about me. Tales I sought of times past, and tidings of the present, for to learn all I could, and I soon discerned that the wars I had fought were still being fought and would be fought again! No longer did lust for my father's gems or the fulfillment of a doomed oath obscure that which was't at the heart of the conflict; that struggle 'twixt good and evil that hast lingered down all the Ages.

Surely the fact that I yet walked offered the chance that I could again hath purpose, and perhaps the mercy of Eönwë be in some small measure justified and repaid at last. I dared to hope again…to live again…and I resolved to oppose Him. Slowly I met others like-minded and took counsel with them, and we began to form and train the militia of which thou hast seen a company last night."

Later, as Anor passed from zenith to afternoon, Helluin and Beinvír told somewhat of their adventures in the Hither Lands, of their forays to Númenor, and of the great wars of the western lands. And as evening fell and all their tidings had been shared, and as the Moriquendi gathered for their evening meal, some few astonished riders joined them at last, taking stock of their dead and setting a camp to await the arrival of Captain Ërlick's company.

"T'will be soon our time for parting once again," Maglor announced, "for we hath much to do in the east." He leaned then close and spoke to them in silence, mind to mind, For 'tis no longer without guidance that we fight, nor without foresight that we came hence. An outpouring of Light they sensed, and directed us hither to its source. At Helluin's questioning glance he explained, Two hath come to us of late, and these from o'er the sea for to contest with the Great Enemy who rises again. As Men of many winters they appear, yet those of us who hath come from 'cross the sea ourselves know them for what they art. Speak not of this, my friends, for they woulds't hath it so, yet take heart from the knowing of it, for 'tis as 'twas aforetime, we art not forsaken by the West!

Then with a nod of understanding, Helluin replied in kind, for to withhold would be failing to meet trust with trust.

Thou hast met the blue wizards Pallando and Alatar, she silently said, while'st we art in this land at the behest of Olórin, who is now clad in grey. Two others also there art in Eriador, brown and white. They too were known to thee upon a time.

Beinvír added, Hope we hath indeed in their presence upon the Hither Shores.

In response to her tidings, a broad smile graced the face of Maglor as he looked from one to the other.

"Aye, hope grows indeed, my friends! Though the days darken it grows with each day. Glad I am to hath met thee again, Helluin, and to hath met thee as well, Beinvír Laiquende. 'Twas from a meeting with thy folk long ago that the inspiration for my warriors comes. Now we must take our leave, yet I pray we meet again ere the Fading. May Eru guide and bless thee."

"Thou hast my thanks for thy timely aid, my friend. May the Valar bless thee as well," Helluin bade him in farewell.

Maglor stood and walked to where his horse was't held, and mounting, rejoined his company. Then with a raised hand, he bade his followers ride east behind his pennant. In another quarter hour the Elvish company had passed beyond sight, as if returning to whatsoever vision of ancient lore from which they had been conjured, while'st from the north, the ellith sensed the approach of many horses.

Now following the battle, the remaining North Men were bereft of lord and most of their warriors lay slain. Of those five hundreds who had ridden out to meet the Naugrim, fewer than fifty returned, some of them wounded, and none of them captains 'Twas not until the next day that Captain Ërlick himself arrived, for he had taken a leave of absence in his home village, and the cause was't of great importance. The evening ere the Elves had ridden back to King Lüdhgavia's city and burnt his hall, the good captain had ridden home and thither taken to wife Brekka, niece of the king. Their petition of this intent to Lüdhgavia had perished with all else in the firing of his majesty's hall, while'st the king's memory of the couple's betrothal had perished that night along with his sobriety. 'Twas a work of fate indeed, for the serving wench was't indeed the last of noble birth still living amongst all the Riders, and her new husband became the first king of the new line whose sons traced their descent from King Lüdhgavia's elder brother Lundhini. When the news of the slaughter was't known, the newlywed couple was't crowned king and queen of their people forthwith.

And a good sight better lord he shalt make than King Lüdhgavia was't, Helluin said silently to Beinvír.

The Green Elf nodded in agreement, An easy act to follow, I deem. So think thou our mission the closer to completion, meldanya?

Of that I cannot tell, meldwain nín, though I pray 'tis so.

Yet indeed 'twas not so. Of retaining the hard-won and unceasingly defended lands of their fathers, King Ërlick and Queen Brekka were adamant. The people too were of a mind to stay in the wide grasslands 'twixt Carnen and Celduin whither their horses flourished, for what art riders without horses? In private the ellith shook their heads in frustration. How were they to fulfill the mission of Olórin save by driving hence the North Men from their homes by force? 'Twas not the wizard's intention that they do thus, they suspected. So they stayed their hands and aided the Riders as they could, mostly by their strength of arms during those early years of rebuilding, and more subtly for the enrichment of their culture as the years passed, for the Maia had set no deadline upon their mission.

Of King Ërlick and Queen Brekka came three children. The eldest and youngest were sons, with a daughter 'tween them. Popular and respected rulers they remained all the days of their lives, and their eldest ruled after them when their lives reached their end. Ere those days failed, they saw their people returned in numbers to their prewar count. Flocks and herds increased as well. The kingdom grew in grandeur and power for many generations hence, and the North Men lived in Rhovanion still in T.A. 1255, when Vinitharya was't born of Valacar, the twentieth King of Gondor, who had taken to wife Princess Vidumavi, daughter of King Vidugavia. Vinitharya took his father's throne as Eldacar in T.A. 1432, the twenty-first King of Gondor, following civil war and the suppression of Castimir the Usurper, of which much lore tells.

For Helluin and Beinvír, the grasslands of Rhovanion remained home throughout the reign of King Ërlick and Queen Brekka, and they were held in high esteem while'st the years passed.

In the winter shortly following the passing of Queen Brekka, as T.A. 1055 was't ending, the king called the ellith to council and met with them alone in his chamber after the evening meal. No longer did they approach unmarked and unheeded. Sober guards hailed them at the gate of the city and at the doors of the hall, and they were accompanied hence to the king's chambers whither they were announced to the lord of the realm. Rather than passed out at table, the king sat at a plain desk of wood contemplating a map of his lands. At his hand stood a gilt goblet of ale, still 'nigh full. King Ërlick welcomed his friends with gracious words and bid them seat themselves facing him 'cross the desk. Somewhat stooped now with the years, his hair and beard pure white, he projected that regality so absent in his predecessor.

"Many years hath passed since first I met thee upon the trail west of the great forest, Helluin," he said, "and from the first thou aided me and my people. With honor thou had laid to rest the king's heir, Lundhini, 'nigh Dól Gúldúr, and thou gave me directions thither such that I easily found his cairn."

He turned to the Green Elf and offered her a smile.

"With thy skill and thy bow thou saved the life of my beloved wife and queen ere ever I met thee, and thou hast had my heartfelt thanks upon every day since."

For a time the three sat remembering that fateful day so long ago.

"Helluin Maeg-mórmenel, fifty-three winters hath come and gone since I met thee again in the great hall of Lüdhgavia," King Ërlick finally said, "and oft I hath recalled thy words to me and my queen upon that night." After a pause he recited, "Many kingdoms I hath seen rise and fall, of Men and Elves and Dwarves. Yet one thread passes from Age to Age, and that is the struggle 'twixt good and evil. In every land it hath birthed the lore of times past and lays the path of time to come, for it guides the deeds of those who live through those times. So 'tis the part of each to do 'aught as they can to better the days they see, to provide for those who come after, and to cherish the good deeds done aforetime that they not be forgotten and their lessons needs be learnt again. 'Tis the same for all good folk upon these Mortal Shores. 'Twas even so upon the Deathless Shores far 'cross the Sea."

In the king's aged eyes the two ellith saw unshed tears that made his eyes shine in the lamplight, and upon his lined face a look of wonder that they perceived had long abode in his heart.

"No one had ever spoken thus to me," he said. "'Twas as if at thy words a veil had been drawn back, revealing thence a nobility of spirit and purpose I had n'er known. Thither hung before my mind's eye a dream of things greater…and perchance of things to come. That thou, of such long years and unrivaled prowess could take, as thy guidance in life, so simple a truth was't a revelation to me. 'Twas so to my Queen Brekka as well."

Again the old king paused, collecting his thoughts and choosing his words.

"'Twas not that good and ill were ideas unknown aforetime, for ever had we fought against those who sought to do us ill. But ever were we within that moment of struggle, hot with our passions. Vengeance and the need to survive drove us. N'er had I thought our fight but a part of that which passes from Age to Age; that whole which makes up the way of things, yet having seen with thy vision I hath cloven to this belief, so to guide my actions all the days of my reign. For the sake of my people I hath striven to leave better than I found, and to do my part to tip somewhat that balance of good and evil that I shalt soon pass on to my sons and daughter and our people of their generation. I hath set thy vision in the minds of my children and hope that they shalt do likewise in their time."

King Ërlick looked closely at his two guests, comparing what he saw with what he had once seen 'nigh on a lifetime ago.

"Thou art unchanged to my eyes, while'st I am grown old," he said at last, "and all the years of my reign art but the blink of an eye to thee of the Eldar race. And yet, 'tis a lifetime well full to me that I shalt soon lay down. Before that day comes, I wanted to be sure thou heard from my own lips my deepest thanks, for thy aid and gifts to me, and to my people."

Mayhaps we hath failed of the mission Mithrandir set before us, Helluin thought, and yet our mission hither 'tis not wholly a failure, for the North Men hath learnt self respect.

"Short indeed the time may seem to us, O King," Helluin said softly, "and yet seldom hath so much been set to rights in one lifetime, for I recall well the kingdom as 'twas in Lüdhgavia's day. Thou hast uplifted thy people and much more strongly now shalt they stand, in both peace and war. This thou hast done…thou and thy queen…and if 'tis our place to feel 'aught about thy life's work, then 'tis pride and joy we feel for thy accomplishments, my friend."

"'Til thy reign ends and thou hath passed from Arda, we shalt remain in thy lands to be at thy service, King Ërlick," Beinvír said.

The old king breathed a sigh, as of relief, and smiled. Brekka, my love, we hath lived a good life.

Yet when the king's life finally came to its end, the soulmates bid the North Men farewell for that time and returned west to Eriador in hopes of obtaining further counsel from Mithrandir. 'Twas then T.A. 1057, for King Ërlick had lived to the age of 77 and was't king for 54 of them.

To Be Continued