7. The Adraefan
Join them, son of Denethor! Join the adraefan and be as one of them four exiles to complement each wind, each point on the compass whose needle swings to and fro with influence… Mordor moves now it is swelling with evil, the malice will soon pour out over the tops of Ered Lithui and Ered Duath and all that is cruel will shift, awakening like a demon in the filth. From Isengard into Edoras from Dol Guldur into Mirkwood from Barad-dûr into Minas Tirith Easterlings, Haradrim, Wild Men, trolls rattling their arms-weapons ready to tear away the good from Middle-earth. Do not think, son of Denethor, …good-bad Boromir… …ai, me… that you can avoid fate. We Valar have something in mind for you an exile of sorts, a change, a journey a few victories and One Big Defeat a weakness, a torment another change and then… No. We cannot give everything away But whisper, whisper soft We can: Follow the adraefan.
First One enjoyed teasing his companions. His arrogance had not faded in three millennia with them. Quite the opposite, it had inflated. He never failed to remind them that he was the leader, the noble elf, the better one. In the first years of exile, the other two elves had greatly disliked him, and he them. There had been numerous quarrels, and many years of wandering alone. The three elves would walk together, argue over something, disband with vows never to seek each other out again, only to reunite perhaps a hundred years later by accident. Eventually, they had settled down into a rhythm of three hundred years together, a century apart, and so on. In the thousandth year of their exile, the three elves had inadvertently met at the Ice Bay of Forochel. There, they had decided to wander together, since company – even the arrogant kind – was better than solitude. First One’s arrogance was, of course, largely a façade. He was certainly proud, but up to a point. The other elves soon learned that his demeanor would mellow as he grew more comfortable with them. They learned to tolerate his superficial insults and imperious attitude. It was clear from what it derived. For even though all three suffered the same shame of exile, First One was perhaps the most humiliated by it. He did not allow for Second One and Third One to discuss their punishment, nor did he wish ever to speak of Thranduil’s kingdom. When they encountered other Men or dwarves, First One was so full of disdain that these meetings never lasted long. And thus no Man or dwarf knew they had just met the Exiled Elves of Mirkwood, and eventually the adraefan were forgotten by all. His initial reaction to Boromir, therefore, was not surprising. First One had rather enjoyed abandoning the Man on the banks of the Anduin. He had relished provoking the others and had guessed, correctly, that Boromir was resilient enough to survive alone. They had tended his wounds well, Boromir could have picked his way back to Gondor. First One never imagined the possibility of Boromir following them, much less challenging them to a duel. It had all worked out into a very humorous situation. Apart from the amusement, First One had to also admit a growing respect for Boromir. Few would have ventured to track three elves into unknown lands in order to regain their honor. Especially if they were so wounded. Thus when First One learned from Second One that Boromir desired to join their merry band of exiles, he was almost pleased. Finally! A new face! Surely, this Man would have interesting tales to tell. Yet after a sennight travelling together, First One revised his opinion of Boromir, and decided that the Man was brave but unbearably dull. The group had left the forest and entered the Brown Lands without a single word from the Man. He would simply walk at the end of the line, glaring and breathing hard, pretending not to be in pain, ignoring the elves. Sometimes they asked him of Gondor, or of his general past, but he never answered. If Third One, in his ludicrous compassion, offered Boromir some lembas, the Man would snarl some insult and move away. On the seventh day since the duel, First One was leading the group up a shallow incline when a familiar form caught his eye. Over the numerous, anonymous Brown Land mounds, a tiny speck was flying towards them. Lopsided, graceless, flapping its wings frantically. First One smiled. “Brothers!” he called down without turning. “Ragwing the Robin arrives!” A joyous laugh erupted from Second One and both elves hurried up the slope to stand beside First One. Boromir was still struggling at the base, but he arrived moments later, curious to see. The elves laughed and beckoned the bird forward. Ragwing was screeching madly as it saw them. The robin landed clumsily on Third One’s outstretched arm. His feathers had mostly fallen out, and his beak was broken at the tip. He seemed entirely overcome by weariness, for he flopped down against the elf’s arm with a whimpering twitter. “Ah, welcome, good Ragwing,” Second One grinned, “what news of Radagast?” A tiny roll of parchment was tied to the robin’s shivering leg. First One slipped away the string and unrolled it. He smiled as he read: “Friends, Much is happening in the world of Men and elves, and I have news from your kingdom. War will soon be upon Mirkwood, the threat from Dol Guldur grows. I send this letter on the sixth of March, and I do sincerely hope it reaches you before I do, though one can never be sure with old,” First One paused, smiled, “Brothers, Ragwing’s elvish name is ‘Old Wing.’ We were very close,” he continued, “As for your supplies, I will bring you the usual elvish trinkets. Gwaihir has agreed to bear me south so that I may hasten to you. I expect to meet you on the twelfth of March. And the owl tells me you three are moving northeast of Emyn Muil. I will therefore meet you in the Brown Lands, estimating your travel. There is much to discuss, and there may yet be a role for you three in the events to come. I do not know, we shall see. As usual, travel with stealth and caution. Now, more than ever, the lands around Mordor and Dol Guldur are ripening with evil, and so I urge you to keep a wary eye. Until the twelfth, Radagast.” “Brothers, what day is it?” Third One looked up. “I have lost track.” “It is the eleventh,” Boromir growled from behind them. All three elves looked back, startled. In their distraction with Ragwing and Radagast’s letter, they had almost forgotten of the Man’s presence. Now, seeing him standing a few paces off, they acknowledged him with a curt nod or raised eyebrow. But Boromir shifted his weight slightly. He was obviously in discomfort, and hoping for a rest, but First One vowed not to stop until the Man asked for it. “Who is this Radagast?” Boromir asked, attempting to appear only casually interested. “A wizard,” Second One replied. “He dwells in Rhosgobel, on the western edge of Mirkwood. He is of the same council as Gandalf, and he is our friend and benefactor.” “Do not worry,” First One added, smiling. “He is on our side.” This satisfied the Man. He looked towards Third One and Second One, ignoring First One. All three elves noticed the compulsive grasping of his stomach. Yet First One had little sympathy. “Very well, brothers,” First One said, looking towards the other elves. “Let us make haste, for I am eager to see the Brown Wizard. Come, if we go quickly, we may arrive before Radagast to the meeting spot.” Third One and Second One both gave Boromir concerned glances, but the Man raised his chin and adjusted his shoulder strap. The elves shrugged, nodded to First One. And so they moved quickly down the slope and up the next one. They sent Ragwing on his way after the tiny bird had regained his strength. With a tweet and a chirp, the robin flew off, north. After several hours of near-jogging, First One finally held up his hand to stop. The elves slowed their pace, turned around. Boromir stumbled after them, hugging his torso and sweating. As he noticed the elves had stopped, he slowed to a walk. First One noticed his legs were trembling. “All is well, Boromir?” he called. “Do you desire a rest?” The Man squared his shoulders, straightened his back. “Only if the others desire it as well. I can yet continue.” First One smirked. “You fool no one, Boromir,” Third One shook his head. “Come, we shall have a meal and a rest. It is nearly time for dinner. Very well, First One?” “Very well,” First One nodded. The elves set about making camp on the crest of the mound, and Boromir unrolled his blanket several paces away from the group. Second One had firewood in his pack, and so they made a fire and set water to boil. Third One retrieved some dried vegetables from his bag, causing the other elves to smile. “Where did you find those, Third One?” Second One asked. “I gathered them from Eastemnet. They have surely lost their flavor in the days they spent in my pack,” Third One chuckled. “But they will serve. Mayhap as a change from the usual lembas.” “Indeed, good,” First One crouched over the water, watching as Third One added his vegetables. “Second One, have you any remaining Umbar spices?” Second One sat next to the fire. He dug through his things, searching. “Aye.” He retrieved a small bag and handed it to First One. The sky dimmed. A cool breeze passed. The elves busied themselves with the cooking. When Third One turned to Boromir to offer him some of the soup, he found the Man asleep. The other two elves looked over. The Man was on his side, facing away from the elves. His chest rose and fell evenly. His things lay forgotten, strewn about the ground. “He is exhausted,” Third One murmured, concern plain in his voice. “We should have stopped earlier.” He looked back up to First One. “Had he asked,” First One shrugged, “I would have let him rest.” Second One raised an eyebrow. “Ah, but you know he is too proud to ask.” “It is his own fault, then,” First One crossed his arms. “Did you not see how he has finished the miruvor?” Third One asked, turned back to look at the sleeping Boromir. “I fear for him. A man in such condition should not journey so far on foot.” “It was his decision to come with us,” First One said. “Still. I worry. I have also seen that he sometimes drinks the acquavita. That is a harsh drink.” “Third One, you over-worry,” First One chided. “Nay, I am also concerned,” Second One said slowly. “He has eaten little to nothing since we found him.” “Why, Valar, why am I to travel with such softhearted and ever-pitying companions?” First One looked up into the night sky, asking loud. He turned back to the others. “Brothers, enough. Your concerns are womanish. I am tired of hearing all this mewling sympathy!” The other elves tensed, clearly offended, but did not comment. First One stood and walked away from the group towards the crest of the hill. The sky darkened to the south. As it reached Mordor, it cracked open with red lightening. First One shuddered. Often had he passed the Dark Land and looked upon its borders, and every time it sent a chill down his spine. And to think the Last Alliance had crashed upon those mountains, fighting on Morannon itself, defeating the Dark One, so many years ago. And Mordor had been silenced. Yet it was now reawakened, and First One could perceive the malice even from this far away. He was about to turn back to the camp when something caught his eye. Movement to the south. Tiny shadows creeping along the horizon, at the base of Ered Lithui. First One squinted. It was dark, but he could see them well enough. A group of fifty, sixty creatures – Men, perhaps. Walking slowly west. First One scanned the vista. He picked out another group moving perhaps five leagues behind the first. “Second One, Third One,” he whispered harshly. The other elves joined him immediately. He indicated the horizon, and they followed his gaze to Ered Lithui. Second One inhaled sharply. “Easterlings.” “How do you know?” Third One asked. “They bear the long spears of their people. It is their typical weapon.” “I had not noticed them before,” First One admitted. “But I see now the lands around Mordor are full of them.” “They go west,” Second One said. First One exhaled in irritation. “We shall meet them as we continue east. What foul fortune! It will slow our journey past Rhûn.” The elves were silent. As it grew darker, they could see less and less. Yet that one faint image was enough to chill their hearts. If the Easterlings were on the move, the elves would have difficulty passing unnoticed through Eastern lands. They would be forced to hide, to travel by night. First One was doubly irritated since, in all their recent wanderings through the realms of Harad and Gondor, they had traveled in such a way. The elves had looked forward to Rhûn, since there, they could usually walk openly. “Shall we tell the Man?” Third One asked. The three elves looked at each other. Finally, First One shrugged. “If you see fit.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.