Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 13. Cristhoron
another holding tucked away in a deep riven glen, like
the three they had guested at on the journey from
Imladris. He was wrong.
Like the Kings' villa at Arnost the stronghold of
the Sorondili was a relic of the Ancient Days. From a
distance it seemed a natural formation, a tall spire
of grey stone rising from an outlying spur of the
Misty Mountains. It was only as they drew closer
Cemendur saw it had been worked by Men's hands with
spiral galleries, hanging terraces, and many tall
windows carved out of the living rock. Behind the
tower a deep cleft opened between two peaks, veiled by
the glistening mist of a towering waterfall, a streak
of silver and crystal against the weathered stone.
They followed a winding path up the side of the
mountain spur coming at last to a gate carved into the
rock, its stone doors engraved with the Eagle and the
Star of the Sorondili. They parted, the heavy slabs
swinging ponderously outward, and the party rode into
a tunnel that sloped gently upward to a second archway
closed by a grill of black iron adorned with golden
eagles spiralling inward to a great mithril star.
This was opened for them by a Ranger in green,
whose eyebrows rose expressively at the sight of the
twin's finery but the habitual silence of the Northern
Dunedain was not broken by questions or explanations.
They dismounted in a green garth at least as large
as the Citadel of Minas Tirith. Silvery streams fanned
out from the base of the great keep to cascade down
carven steps and fill pools and watercourses where red
and golden carp swam. Horses, cattle and sheep grazed
peacefully upon the sward, shaded by the evergreen
boughs of Elven trees. Doors and windows, stairs,
balconies, oriels and turrets had been carved out of
the cliff walls surrounding the garth giving it the
look of a city park.
As they climbed the long straight stair to the
great doors of the Keep Cemendur saw an eagle, larger
than a Man, spiral downward to land somewhere near the
peak of the tower.
"We've chosen our time well." Ellenion commented.
"That will be Gwahir's messenger with the latest
The tall doors, emblazoned like the gates with the
Eagle and Star, opened onto an aisled hall its rows of
pale grey stone pillars fancifully carved with strange
beasts who combined the head and wings of an eagle
with the limbs and tails of lion or horse or clawed
serpent. The twins led their guests through a great
arch framed by a frieze of knights and ladies riding
upon great eagles, then up a broad stair past many
landings until Cemendur's legs ached and his breath
Finally the stair ended in an open archway leading
to the first of a succession of curving, tapestry hung
halls and chambers each a short flight of steps above
the other, lit by tall windows inset with the devices
of ancient kings and heroes in jewel colored glass.
The series of antechambers, watching chambers and
reception halls finally ended in a circular council
chamber taking up the entire top floor of the keep.
Great oriel windows looked north, south, east and
west. Paintings depicting the mighty Deeds of the
Eagles of Manwe; the rescue of Maedhros, of the body
of Fingolfin, of Hurin and Huor, and of Beren and
Luthien, hung on the walls between the window
embrasures. The domed ceiling glistened a sapphirine
blue with a great golden sun spreading its glittering
rays from the apex.
A massive carved onyx table stood at the center of
the chamber, its polished surface inlaid with a many
pointed star of mithril and nacre, surrounded by a
number of high backed chairs emblazoned with the Eagle
and star in gold. Otherwise the room was entirely
Cemendur and Rumil had barely time to exchange a
bewildered look before the twins headed purposefully
towards the western window embrasure. Following them
the Gondor Men passed through a narrow door tucked
into a corner of the oriel and onto a tiny open
gallery threading its way up the outer wall of the
Keep. It ended in sort of chamber, roofed but open on
all sides, hewn out of the pinacle of the stone spur
that made up the Keep. Most of the rough stone floor
was taken up by a tangle of old tree limbs, an eagle's
eyrie, overlaid by a layer of fresh, spicily scented,
green boughs from the Elven trees far below.
The great Eagle was settled comfortably in the nest
with a Woman perched on the heaped branches near him,
both turned piercing, unblinking eyes upon the
intruders. The Eagle's blue as the skies of Manwe, the
Woman's grey with the by now familiar quicksilver
Then the great curved beak opened and a harsh voice
said, in perfectly comprehensible Westron: "You two
are very fine."
Rumil's mouth dropped open and even Cemendur
blinked. Of course they knew the Eagles of Manwe spoke
to the heroes in the old tales, but that was quite a
different thing from hearing it with their own ears
under the bright sun.
"This is our uncle's idea of suitable garb for
princes of the Isildurioni on an embassage to the
Steward of Gondor." Ereinion replied, an undertone of
amusement audible in his voice. "And these are the
Lord Ecthelion's Men, sent to discover the origins of
a certain mysterious captain in his service."
"Ah." the Woman's eyebrows lifted in a way that
made her look startlingly like the Lord Elrond. "I
sense an interesting story." her penetrating gaze
passed over the two tired Men from the South. "But our
guests must be allowed to rest while I hear it. What
were you thinking to drag them all the way up here
after a long day's ride, Ereinion? Ellenion, show them
to nearest guest chambers and see hot water and
whatever else they need is brought to them."
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