Politics of Arda
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Rangers of the North: 12. An Exchange of Hostages
The Lady Ellemir wished the assembled company good night and commanded the escort of her new liege man to her chambers. Hurin was delighted to oblige and so put off the inevitable difficult conversation with Cemendur for another hour or two.
The Lady led him out the open wall of the chamber, across a terrace and down a flight of steps into a sunken garden overlooked by several halls. Turned down a stone flagged path that wound its way through stands of trees and stone grottos to a lacy domed pavilion overlooking a sparkling cascade.
Then she took a small pipe with silver bowl and ivory stem from her sleeve, filled it with dry crumbling leaf-like stuff from a tiny leather pouch and lit it from the lantern illuminating the pavilion. Took a deep breath of the smoke, caught Hurin's fascinated gaze and laughed.
"Of course our southern kin know nothing of the special virtues of sweet galenas."
"The flowers are esteemed for their scent but I've never seen their smoke breathed before." he admitted. "It seems a strange custom."
"Invented by the Halflings, where they got the idea from I cannot say." Ellemir took another breath of smoke and blew it out softly. "It's very relaxing, and soothing to the nerves. You might consider taking it up yourself now you've decided to spend some time with us." She looked at him straight, the light of those deep grey eyes piercing him like silver lances. "Let us speak frankly, Hurin. You fear for my grandson's safety once his identity is known, and so you offer yourself as a hostage."
"Yes, my Lady." he admitted as frankly. "Though what I said about repaying Thorongil's service was also true."
She nodded. "One may have many motives for choosing a particular course. You seem to me a Man of good judgement for all your youth, Hurin, doubtless you have valid reasons for your fears."
The casual compliment warmed him clear through, just as Thorongil's rare praise always did. "Denethor has always hated and resented Thorongil." he explained. "His judgement cannot be trusted where the Captain is concerned - but he will do nothing that might endanger me."
Winged brows lifted questioningly. "Denethor?"
"My uncle, the Steward's Heir." Hurin answered, continued almost pleadingly: "He is by no means an evil Man, my Lady, I have always loved and honored him almost as a father. He is devoted to our House, and to Gondor."
"Which might well make him my grandson's enemy, even without this grudge of which you speak." she said thoughtfully.
He nodded unhappily. "He has never been rational about Thorongil. I don't know why, but it is so."
"It is not always easy to explain the motions of one's own heart, much less that of another." the Lady said and puffed pensively at her pipe before continuing. "Needless to say you are safe with us, Hurin, whatever may happen in Gondor. But your kin cannot know this for certain. It may be they will be reluctant to let Aragorn depart while you remain with us."
He bit his lip, chagrined. "I didn't think of that."
She smiled a little. "Never fear, there is a simple solution." *** Cemendur looked slightly and uncharacteristically bewildered. "You would have the Lords Ereinion and Ellenion come with me to Gondor?"
The Lady Ellemir nodded. "To take messages and news of our people to Aragorn." smiled at the Councillor. "A letter cannot answer questions."
"Beruthiel's leave must be asked." Lady Gilraen objected.
Ellemir raised an eyebrow at her daughter-in-law. "Naturally. But I think she will consent."
Gilraen sighed resignedly, clearly ill-pleased.
The Lord Elrond on the other hand heartily approved. "An excellent thought, Ellemir."
"If the young lords are willing naturally I would be most pleased to have their company." Cemendur conceeded gracefully.
The words 'exchange of hostages' went unspoken but were tacitly understood by all.
Cemendur, having had a moment to think through the implications, was well pleased. He had no fear at all for young Hurin's safety among the Northern Dunedain and Ecthelion would trust his judgement in the matter, but the Lady Emeldir might be harder to convince.
The reasons for the Lord Elrond's approval became clear when the twins appeared outfitted by their Elvish kinsman for the journey in long tunics of glittering galvorn(1) mail, flexible as fine cloth, covered by surcoats of supple black leather hems and armholes banded by wide borders worked with a pattern of stars and niphredil flowers in mithril thread. They wore also gorget and vambraces of dark blue vidrin(2) overlaid with mithril chasings and set with great stars of adamant. And over all long cloaks of glimmering black velvet, lined with silver tissue and fastened at the shoulder by great golden brooches wrought in the form of eagles and set with green elfstones.
The company assembled to see Cemendur and his party off could only stare. The twins looked back faces fixed in Ranger impassivity but eyes twinkling suspiciously. Then the Lady Gilraen rolled her eyes upward, and the Lady Ellemir gave the Master of Rivendell a darkling look that reminded the Gondor Men strongly of her grandson.
The twins' attire all but shouted their lineage ornamented as it was with the niphredil flowers of Luthien and the star of the North Kingdom. But the eagles continued to baffle Hurin. He leaned towards Cemendur. "I can't remember, who bore the eagle and the star?"
"The Sorondili." the Councillor answered, a dry note in his soft voice. "That must be their father's house."
An ancient House as royal as the line of the Kings, being descended from the second son of Tar-Minyatur. In Numenor they'd been lords of Ondosto in the mountainous north and friends and guardians of the Great Eagles who nested in the high peaks. When Sauron was brought as a prisoner to Numenor by Ar-Pharazon the Eagles of Manwe abandoned the Land of the Star and returned to Middle Earth followed by the Sorondili who, so it was said, settled in some remote valley at the foot of the Misty Mountains near the Great Eagles' new eyries. Another legend of the North Kingdom still remembered in Gondor.
Hurin held Cemendur's stirrup for him as he mounted. "Take care, Hurinya, and good luck to you." the old Councillor said kindly.
Rumil snorted gently. "With due respect m'Lord, we're the ones who'll be needing all the luck we can get when we break the news to Lady Emeldir."
Cemendur winced. Hurin grinned a little. "Don't worry about Mother, she'll know who to blame."
"Yes, but you'll be safely out of reach." Rumil pointed out. ***
They left Rivendell by a different path then that they'd entered by, climbing the eastern wall of the valley. But the fells were just as treacherous and once again Cemendur silently thanked the Valar for their guides.
"As we are not yet of age we must have our mother's consent to go with you to Gondor." the Lord Ellenion was explaining. "But we would have stopped at Cristhoron in any case before venturing into the passes."
"Conditions in the mountains are always changing," Ereinion agreed. "Mother will have the latest news and help us choose the safest road." ************************************************
(1) Galvorn is the black metal alloy created by Eol in the First Age.
(2) Another Elvish alloy, of my own invention, this one blue in color.
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