Many Guises and Many Names
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Rangers of the North: 9. A Legend of the Lost Realm
The southern road seemed surprisingly well peopled compared to the Fornost road. In four days travel they'd come across a goose girl watching her flock feed beside a waterlily choked pool, invisible in her grass green gown and kerchief until she'd spoken; a patrol of four Rangers who'd shared their fire for a night before vanishing again into the Wild; a mother and son on horseback, on their way to visit kin at another holding; and an old man fishing peacefully on the bank of a meandering stream. When Hurin commented on this to Ellenion the Ranger laughed.
"Any of our people who happened to be on the Old North Road would have taken good care to avoid you." he said, his gesture encompassed both the range of high rugged hills, some crowned by crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses, marching along one side of the road and the bog patched lowlands dotted with stands of alder and willow and fragmentry walls of long abandoned farmsteads sloping away on the other.
"This is old Endorien, the Midlands, once the most populous of all the ancient domains and still quite heavily settled as we reckon such things."
Hurin looked at him thoughfully. 'Our numbers dwindle,' Prince Armegil had said, 'but we are still much more than a few thousands.' "How many of our people are there here in the North?"
Ellenion shrugged. "I don't think anyone really knows. We can still field enough Men to walk patrol and guard the Line so the total cannot be much short of one hundred thousands all told, and could be a bit more."(1)
Hurin stared. It was unlikely there was even a third so many Men of pure Dunedain stock left in all Gondor.
As the sun began to sink westward, dyeing the land gold, the company came upon a stream barring the old road. It was shallow and easily forded but instead their guides turned the horses eastward, towards the hills.
"The Warden of the Weather Hills has his holding near here." Ellenion explained. "We will pay our respects and sleep under a roof again tonight."
The stream cut its way into the hills through a winding ravine that at times grew so narrow they had to walk the horses in the streambed itself. Suddenly they emerged into a small vale half filled by a shimmering mere. And floating upon the grey water was a rambling house of fieldstone and half-timbering linked to the bank by a rope bridge.
A pair of Rangers materialized out of the hillsides to take the horses and exchange a few quiet Sindarin words with the princes. Then they went across the gently swaying bridge and through the windowless cobble floored gate tower into a central court where they were greeted by a very tall golden haired Man in the now familar Ranger leathers who introduced himself as Galdor and bid them welcome to Mithaelin, the Greymere.
In Gondor fair hair was a sure sign of Northman or Rohirric blood but this Man had classic Dunedain features and his blue-grey eyes held the fugitive silvery glimmer the Gondor men now recognized as characteristic of the Royal House.
His hall was far larger than those of Gwathlad or the forester's holding, a lord's hall meant to seat hundreds of retainers, but this was no survival of lost splendour like the Chieftain's villa at Arnost. The flagstone floor was strewn with rushes and sweet smelling herbs, the plain plaster walls hung with woven cloths richly patterned in blue, green, gold and scarlet. Men in white and yellow livery were busy setting up trestle tables for the evening meal and a brace of wolfhounds dozed before the fire at the foot of the hall. There was a second fireplace on the dais, with three banners hanging above it; the star of Elendil, the new moon of Isildur, and between them a white standard emblazoned with a black sword beneath an arc of seven silver stars.
Hurin stared transfixed. This device he recognized, the Maglavorn (2) of the House of Turin. He turned to stare at Galdor talking with Cemendur and the two princes near the door of his hall. The lord of Mithaelin had his yellow hair from Hador Goldenhead and his name and height from Hador's son Galdor the Tall. A shiver went down Hurin's spine as he realized he was looking at the heir to the oldest Mortal line in Middle Earth, older even than the House of the Kings itself.
Only a handful of Ancient Houses had survived the Kinstrife and the Great Plague, and not one of them dated beyond the establishment of the realm. Hurin wondered how many truly ancient Noble Houses, tracing their lineages back to Numenor or even to First Age Beleriand, had outlasted the Lost Realm here in the North.
The lady of Mithaelin was not Galdor's wife but a sister, golden haired and nearly as tall as himself, either early widowed or never wed. Her name was Galadris. There was also Galdor's son, Ingloron, an old friend of the twins to judge by their banter and near to them in age; and an orphaned niece, Lorilas, some years his junior and that was all. A far cry from the five generations of the humble forester family. As in Gondor casualties ran highest among the nobility. The princes and lords of the Lost Realm had laid aside their titles and trappings but not their duty.
The company that sat down to dinner had more the look of a garrison than a noble household, most of the Men seated at the lower tables were dressed in Ranger green, but there were also a number of Women and girls who might have corresponded to his mother's waiting gentlewomen and maidens sitting near the high table, and the food was served by young Men in white and yellow like the pages and squires of his father's house.
Hurin had supped in many halls and even in the most decorous the noise was tremendous, the very rafters ringing with the babble of voices and laughter, but not here. The Rangers ate for the most part in silence. Those who spoke did so in voices deliberately pitched to carry no farther than their listeners' ear, Hurin saw a few smiles but heard no laughter.
Stern and silent and regal as kings these Northern kinsmen intimidated Hurin, seeming to him more like figures from legend and song than Men and Women of mortal flesh. And he envied them too, sensing they'd hung on to some elusive quality the Dunedain of Gondor had lost. Something he could not name but whose absence he felt almost as a pain.
"Elves love beauty," Ingloron was telling the little princess teasingly, "they will write songs in praise of yours."
"I don't like those kind of songs." she answered, a note of disgust clear in her voice. "Or love songs either. They're boring."
Ingloron concealed his amusement, barely. "You may feel differently when you're a little older, Niphredil."
"I won't." she said firmly.
"I prefer the lays of Elder Days myself." Hurin agreed quickly, adding with a sidelong glance at his host. "The Narn I Hin Hurin was a favorite of mine, because of my name no doubt."
"Turin was wet." Erien said calmly.
Hurin choked on a mouthful and Cemendur gave the little girl a sternly chiding look, but Turin's descendants(3) seemed unperturbed.
Ingloron smiled as he shot a glinting look at the young princes. "Now I wonder who told her that?"
Ellenion returned his gaze innocently. "Erien has a great deal of natural judgement, she didn't need to be told."
"Turin was brave, passionate, impetuous - and I'm afraid a bit of a fool." Galdor said judiciously, cracked a wry smile. "'Wet' describes him very well. The pity is he didn't live long enough to learn better."
After dinner Galdor took Cemendur, Hurin and Ereinion down a long flight of stairs to a small, bare, stone walled room. Deep niches had been cut in three of the four walls, closed by heavy ironbound doors. Galdor produced a key and opened one of them.
Inside was a great helm of grey steel bound and ornamented with gold. It had a snarling dragon's head crest, gilded masklike visor and strange runes carved upon the brow band. This was the Dragon-Helm of Hador wrought seven millenia ago by Telchar, master smith of Nogrod.
And on the shelf below it was a sword in a sheath of gleaming black galvorn inlaid with runes in mithril and gold giving the name and lineage of the blade within. The hilts too were of galvorn, polished and smooth, the grip molded to the hand, with stars of adamant upon the guard and a great adamant stone set in the pommel. Maglavorn, the Black Sword, wrought in the deeps of time by Eol of Nan Elmoth, born by Turin Turambar and Urin his son.
Galdor drew the blade smoothly from its sheath. It shone blue-black, the candlelight awakening a glitter of azure sparks down its length.
"So the Maglavorn survives," Cemendur said reverently, "which we'd thought lost these thousand years. The sword that will slay Morgoth and avenge the marring of the world at the End."
"So it is said." Galdor agreed, a little drily.
Cemendur looked at him sharply. "You doubt the prophecy, my Lord?"
"A sword, even such a blade as Maglavorn, is but steel." the Heir of Turin answered. "I find it difficult to believe the Evil of the World can be destroyed by so simple a means." He resheathed the blade and returned it to its place.
"Yet that does not mean the prophecy is false," Ereinion observed, "just incomplete. There may be more to the matter than we can now know."
"Doubtless all will be made clear at the End." Galdor agreed. "But that is not yet come, however black these present days seem."
It was strange, Hurin thought, that the Northern Dunedain who had lost all, found it easier to hold to hope than the Men of the south, clinging grimly to the tatters of their ancient glory. **********************************************
(1) I know this sounds like an awful lot but believe it's not, especially when spread over the nearly 250,000 square miles of Old Arnor. It must have taken a lot of Men to effectively police such a vast area, and when you factor in Women and children and the elderly you get a number in the high tens of thousands - at least.
(2) Maglavorn, the Black Sword.
(3) Yes I know Turin left no descendants, but this is an AU - besides as the Silmarillion was never completed, (by the Professor, who was in the process of some major revision at the time of his death) so I feel a fanfic writer has a lot of wiggle room here.
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