1. Prologue: The Tale of Melia
In truth the Ranger Melia had not left the Sunlands as much as she had fled from it.
For most of the ages, the lands of Far Harad, Rhun and the Sunlands had been a mystery to the races of the north. Most surmised that it was a place of great evil since its people bowed to the will of Sauron. This was not as much a conscious decision made by its people as it was an unfortunate fact of their existence to which they had little choice but to accept. Thus, as much of the northlands were shaped by the noble hearts of Imladris and Minas Tirith, the people of east and the south took their lead from the greatest kingdom in their sphere, which unfortunately was Mordor.
Because of their allegiance to Mordor, the Easterlings had little to do with the lands beyond its border other than to wage war. What little Middle earth knew of them was scarce and garnered from the experience gained whilst warring with them during the War of the Ring and the battles preceeding it. Together, with the Balchoth Variags and the Easterling barbarians called the Wainriders, they were as fierce in battle as Orcs and they were found to be almost as treacherous, giving no quarter when they launched their savage assaults. Physically, they were different from the fair folk of the north, being dark skinned and swarthy, sometimes riding chariots while fighting their enemies astride huge tusked animals called mumakils. Their weapons were composed of curved daggers, scimitars, spears, pikes and crossbows.
This estrangement continued until the conclusion of the War of the Ring. King Elessar, in an effort to unite his kingdom and create a real atmosphere of unity amongst all peoples of Middle earth whatever their past origins and affiliations, had extended the hand of friendship towards the Easterlings. Those that were not destroyed at the battle of Pelennor accepted the hand of friendship uneasily but nonetheless did so with the same desire for an end to the wars that had defined their existence for so long. For the first time since their very creation, all the races of men could know peace.
However, not all the tribes of the Easterlings were the enemies of the northlands under the yoke of Sauron. Some had fought for the elves in the First Age, the most notable being the Easterling hero Bor. Though he died in that war, his surviving kinsmen who had not fallen with him had traveled farther south than any other race in Middle earth. Journeying into what was known as the Sunlands, the kindred of Bor established a nation of their own; separate from the Haradrim and the Easterlings and all those races who were loyal to Sauron. Through the ages, they remained free of his evil but their freedom came at a terrible price for they were almost always at war with their neighbours who could not accept their refusal to bow to the will of the dark lord.
It was during the interlude of one of these endless wars that the Easterling Hezare left his tribe to explore the lands of the north. A warrior, who had spent more than half his years fighting one battle after another, he had wanted to see something of the world before he faced yet another conflict with his neighbors. To this end, he left the lands of his birth and continued northwards with the intention of seeing the great cities of the Eldar and the other races so despised by Sauron while he was still alive to do so. Although Sauron and his fortress at Baraddur had remained silent since Isildur cut the One Ring from the dark lord’s hand, there were whispers in the wind and dreams of a lidless eye among his people that gave him suspicions that Sauron’s time was coming again.
The journey north had taken the better part of a year and it had been fraught with danger as he sailed the western sea and eventually arrived at the Bay of Belfalas. By making the journey by sea, Hezare was able to begin his exploration by sailing the length of the great Anduin River. As he sailed up the mightiest waterway of Middle earth, he was to see Pelagir and Minas Tirith. When he chose to travel by land for a time, he was able to see Isengard and the Orthanc. After passing Rauros Falls and returning to the Anduin, he was able to stare in wonderment at the Argonath and wish that in the Sunlands, they had will to inspire such magnificence instead of endless war.
He had even grazed the outskirts of Mirkwood though it was never wise to traverse the great wood alone, especially when so much of it was occupied by foul creatures of darkness. He met the dwarves and marveled at the skills of their smiths in being able to mold precious metals to suit any purpose. From their war masters, he learnt ways to fashion better weapons which he could take home to his people. Of the Eldar he saw little. Though he had wandered the wood of Lothlorien, he came away only with the feeling that he was being allowed passage but under great sufferance.
He did not blame the First Born for their indifference to him for he was from a race of men known to be allies of Sauron and he forgave them their suspicions. They had no reason to trust him since they knew nothing of him or the people. How could they when he was most likely the first Easterling that had ever ventured this far without the thought of conquest? A lesser man might have been disheartened by their rejection but Hezare was not a man to dwell on things he could not change and so he resumed his journey, preparing to follow its entire length before he turned back for home.
He might have well spent years sailing Anduin if not for the occurrence of one singular event that changed the course of his life.
Her name was Ninuie and she was the loveliest creature he had ever seen. Her folk supposedly dwelt along the river although he never saw them because when he happened upon her that midsummer’s eve, she was living alone in a cottage by the banks of the river. She called herself a River Woman, though he did not fully comprehend what that meant. In truth, he was not eager to meet her folk if she had any, for he feared they would reject him because he was an Easterling and he could not bear to lose her. Everything about her was a dream and he was lost the minute he laid eyes upon her. He did not know why she loved him but he rejoiced that she did because they were married within the month of their first meeting. Although he knew she had her secrets, he dared not question them for she was the single light of his existence and he feared that questioning the dream might diminish it.
For the year that she was his wife, Hezare knew happiness unlike any he had ever experienced. She showed him things about the river, about the wood where she lived, she taught him to cherish life and find beauty in places one would never think to look. When she told him that she was carrying his child, he thought he might die from sheer joy. All his life, he had only ever known death and blood, to know that he had created something that lived and breathed, that would be to him as beautiful as its mother was more than he had ever dreamed.
She was born under the light of a full moon and her mother named her Melia after the Maiar spirit who tended the Dreamland of Lorien and was attendant to Vana the Youthful, and Este, the healer. They lived happily in their cottage, far away from the eyes of the world until Melia had reached her second year. Then, Hezare who had been away from his homeland for far too long felt the stirrings of his native lands and yearned for home. He announced to Ninuie that it was time for him to return and he expected her to be at his side when they left Middle earth forever.
On the eve of their journey, Ninuie disappeared.
He waited for days for her return, praying that her disappearance had to do with a desire to see her fair folk but in truth, he knew that she was not coming back. She had never showed her unhappiness by his desire to return home, merely reveal a resignation that what must be must be. A month after her disappearance, Hezare knew he could no longer wait and with the only thing that mattered to him in the face of his despair, he took Melia and made the long journey home to the Sunlands.
Once home, he fell again into the pattern of combat, often going away for months to fight new battles and returning to her so that he could lavish upon her all the love and affection he was denied showing her mother. He taught Melia skills that no woman of Far Harad should have, for it was the custom of the Easterlings to have their women be cloistered away and forbidden to touch weapons or speak out of turn to men. They were married by the will of their father’s choice and had very little say of their fates. Until Hezare had journeyed to the northlands, he had never imagined there could be any other way and though it was folly to do so, he raised his daughter in the ways of her mother’s land.
By the time she had reached her sixteenth year, she had become accustomed to being an outcast among her people. Her mixed heritage had ensured she did not completely resemble most Easterlings and her skills with a crossbow and a sword were certainly frowned upon by all who knew of it. Her father was a respected member of his tribe and so little was said in his presence but Melia could hear the whispers behind her back. She bore them silently, telling him nothing of it because his defense of her would only worsen the situation. She bore her loneliness in silence and pretended that it did not matter when in truth, it mattered a great deal.
It was inevitable that there would be a day when he did not come home from battle.
His death devastated her but not even Melia suspected how much things would change now that he was gone. At the age of eighteen, she was still unmarried, a thing unheard of by the standards of her tribe and well meaning relatives moved immediately to rectify the situation. Within a month of his death, Melia learnt that she was to marry a man twice her age, whose sole interest in her rested upon how many children she could bear him. Her refusal was met with indifference for it was not her place to refuse what appeared to be a fine match. With a heavy heart, Melia came to the understanding that there was only one course left to her.
In the dead of the night she had left, an escape that would have earned her death if she had been caught. A woman breaking a marriage arranged by her family was considered no less than a criminal and she had little intention of being branded as such for desiring to choose her own destiny. She did not even know where she was going until she had found herself hiding in the galley of a sailing vessel travelling the Inland Sea. She was alone and she knew no one who would help her.
It was only during this voyage of terrible uncertainty that the purpose of her life would take shape. If her father was gone then it was time to find her mother.
The scope of what she had chosen to do had not dawned upon her yet. That would come later when she realized just how little she did know about the woman who bore her. Her father had told her next to nothing and Melia had always believed his reluctance to speak of Ninuie was because of his own heartache at losing her. Only when Melia reached the lands of Gondor and began the search herself, did she understand that his lack of explanation was due to the fact that he himself knew little about the woman he had married.
Her mother was a River Woman but Melia had no idea what that meant.
The Gondorians spoke of such women being spirits, not entirely of the flesh. Melia knew that this could not be true for a spirit does not conceive and deliver a child. Yet if they were to be believed, that her mother was some creature beyond the understanding of men, what then did that make her? The greater the mystery deepened, the more insistent Melia became in finding out the truth because she carried a secret she told no one, not even her father in all the years of his life, that when she slept she dreamed of her mother.
And in every dream, Ninuie was screaming.
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.