4. In the Shadow of the Birches
Glencoe has no melancholy except that which men bring to it, remembering its history.
--John Prebble, Glencoe: The Story of the Massacre
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East and a little south they rode in the first clear light, two days before loëndë, following the broad stream across the moor and up into the hills beyond. Tarain, who had traveled between Srathen Brethil and the coast several times with Halladan, was their principal guide, and Aniel accompanied them as well, for his huntsman's knowledge of the raugs and their spoor. Meagvir had been less willing to include Halpan in the party: though only a little younger than the other two, as yet he had no experience of the raugs or any affray grimmer than a stag hunt; but it was hard to deny his right as the ranking Dúnadan of that valley, especially when he insisted on going. In truth, they would not have taken any but Rangers, save for the value of a knowledge of the country.
For this was a trackless land, and once in the hills, it would have been easy to become mazed among the craggy ridges and small, moss-bottomed glens. Even the three Srathen Brethil men together were sometimes unsure of the way, and in the middle of the morning they had to double back nearly half a league when Tarain led them into a blind, cliff-sided corrie. An unpromising start. Whatever the weather had been in Girithron, Dírmaen marveled that no one had been lost during the flight to the coast. Under the shining Midsummer sun, the hills wore a fair face, flowers nodding in the breeze on every hand; but at heart this was a thrawn and pitiless place, stony as the Dwarves who dwelt beneath, somewhere.
Meagvir called a halt a few hours short of midday, after they had led their horses across a swift-running, knee-deep stream with a bottom of treacherously sliding stones. On the far side was an inviting patch of turf, sheltered from the wind by a thicket of hawthorn, and there, once they had hobbled the horses and freed their mouths to graze, they sprawled at ease, drying their feet in the warmth of the sun and eating their slender rations.
"I guess that we have covered near six leagues," Meagvir said discontentedly, "but I am sure it would come to no more than four, as a bird flies. At this rate, will we reach Srathen Brethil by loëndë, Tarain?"
"We should," the swordsman answered, grinning ruefully. "These are not the lands we know, and the quickest ways are crooked, here in the mountains. But we will reach our shielings when we have gone about as far again. Then, in our own country, we will be better guides."
"How long until we come to Srathen Brethil, would you guess?"
"Tomorrow evening easily, if no ill befalls."
Meagvir rubbed his chin. "I do not wish to arrive late in the day, since night is when the danger will be greatest. Is there a good place to camp, two or three hours away, where it would be hard to creep up on us?"
"I know of two," Aniel offered.
"Then let us aim to reach one by the end of tomorrow. If we have the time," Meagvir continued, "I suggest that we halt for some hours now, while the sun is high. It will rest the horses, and we will need less sleep during the darkness. Would you and your men," he asked Halpan, "watch now, while we sleep? We will return the favor tonight."
If Halpan had pressed his company upon them, at least he had the sense not to strive to match the Rangers. "Certainly. It is kind of you to give us the dark for sleeping." Looking around, he considered the ground. "Aniel, will you take the height? And you by that boulder on the far slope, Tarain? I will go down the burn a way, and between us, nothing should come near without warning."
Halgorn moved into the shade of the hawthorns and found a smooth hollow to lay in; Dírmaen retrieved his boots from the rock they leaned against to let the water drain and tugged them back on, unwilling to be caught bare-footed if something went amiss. Meagvir finished his strip of dried salmon, Habad-e-Mindon's contribution to their supplies, watching the three men head out to take up their positions. By the time Dírmaen found a spot without too many stones, Tarain had reached his rock and was putting his boots back on, having taken them off to wade across the rivulet; Halpan had settled on a dark stone that jutted out into the swirling water and was checking that he could see the other two from his chosen seat.
"If he nods off there," Dírmaen observed, "he'll be in the drink."
"That's why he chose it, don't you think?" Meagvir said, with a knowing smile. "Lest the Rangers catch him napping?"
Dírmaen chuckled. "Likely enough." Glancing around, he said, "The others are well-placed."
"He has some skill," Meagvir acknowledged. "And he is clever; yet I could wish his mettle more sternly tested." Laying back and staring up at the sky, he sighed. "I wonder whether any of his elders had served with the Rangers."
For if they had, that would be some measure of their foe, truer than the tales told by frightened farmfolk and bucolic men-at-arms, who thought wolves and reivers great banes.
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They made no better time in the afternoon, but by pushing on past sunset they reached one of the more distant shielings before the dusk grew too deep for safe riding. There was nothing there but a low cobble wall, the footing for a booth, and Tarain showed them a store of peats left under a slab of stone. Dírmaen still had trouble seeing the dense, earthy moss as fuel, and these, left from last season, were crumbling away, but it was reassuring that they could have fire at need.
Once the horses were picketed near to hand and they had gnawed another scant meal of waybread and dried fish, the men of Srathen Brethil rolled up in their cloaks within the wall, which broke the wind that had arisen, chill even at Midsummer this high in the mountains. The Rangers donned their grey cloaks and settled down to the watch: a quiet one, the only strangeness the way the sun's afterglow clung to the northern horizon, dimming the stars.
Dírmaen wondered how much light these raugs could tolerate. Were they like trolls, that must shelter between dawn and dusk; or the greater Orcs, who shunned the sun's brightness but could bear it at need? If they were pent by the sun's rise and set, they could hardly range more than a few leagues from their lair at this season; yet if they ranged for meat, they must have hunted the nearer lands out by now. Although, if they took refuge in water, there were pools and tarns enough in these boggy hills to offer shelter, should they roam further afield after their prey.
Though they took to checking the verges of such water as fell in their way, they saw no sign of unusual predator or prey until, after their midday sleep, they came across the scant remains of a long-dead cow. While the smaller bones were gone, gnawed away or carried off by natural beasts, not even a wolf could have broken the massive thigh bone in such a cleanly curving spiral. Halgorn got down from his horse and carefully examined what was left. He frowned over it with dissatisfaction. "This tells me almost nothing. We should fan out, where we can," he said, "and look for fresher sign."
Yet though Dírmaen's skin prickled at the emptiness of the land—plenty of birds and small creatures, but neither tracks nor droppings of anything larger than a fox—nothing more did they find before they reached the first of Aniel's campsites, a flattish mound in the hollow between three hills, somewhat sheltered from the wind and with good water to hand. Meagvir considered it, and consulted with Halgorn, before standing a while in thought, gazing at the western sky, where the sun hung low in the notch between two of the hills. "How far to the other place, Aniel?" he asked.
"Half a league: there is better shelter there, thickets of hazel around a spring."
"That settles it," Meagvir declared. "We camp here. I want a clear view around us tonight."
A wise decision, though a bone-chilling one. Perhaps an hour after the middle of the night, out of the corner of his eye, Dírmaen saw movement on the hill before him. In this deep twilight, it was useless to stare at what you wished to see . . . but by looking near, something might be made out. It was large, dusky as the gloaming, and came around the shoulder of the hill, moving their way. Not a deer or a cow, nor a bear . . . and not quite like a man.
His low whistle promptly brought Halgorn, who squatted beside him. "Where?" Dírmaen pointed, and once he spotted the shape, Halgorn watched intently as the thing began to cross the boggy rivulet below them. "Troll-like," he breathed, "but not the same. It does not shamble. We best mount and move; it might be swift."
"For short distances, yes," Aniel hissed at their shoulders, on point like one of his hounds. A light sleeper, as befit a huntsman, or one who had been hunted by fell creatures.
Meagvir took them almost two-thirds of a league before halting again, and they spent the little left of the night on the bare head of a high hill, with easy ways down in several directions. But no one slept, and they were in the saddle as the sun peered up over the horizon.
Chewing their tasteless waybread, they kept a close watch about them. The high hills and their shadows behind them, they trotted down a deeply worn droveway, a wooded valley coming into view beneath them. It had a kindly look: even from here you could see the level green of pasture and field, hinting where to look for house and byre.
But there were no threads of smoke rising in the still air, from hearths where breakfast was cooking; no beasts on the pastures; no windrows of hay drying on the lush meadows.
Halpan and Halgorn led abreast as they entered the broad belt of birchwood that gave the place its name. Dimness lingered under the leaves, though the slim boles shone fair and pale in the shadow. There had been much traffic here once, but Dírmaen, bringing up the rear, saw that green was invading the beaten earth. The only tracks were those of birds and small woodland creatures. Indeed, birds were plentiful in the wood, caroling the morning, seeking food for their new broods. A brock, waddling back to his burrow for the day, stared at them for a heartbeat before scuttling into the frothy whiteness of blooming woodruff.
The track came out of the wood and into a wide lea at the side of a small, swift river, the rippling shallows of the ford before them. On the right the water widened out into a pool fringed with yellow-flowering flags, and on the far side stood a cluster of buildings around a goodly hall.
Tarain suddenly spurred his horse past the others, throwing great sheets of spray from the ford, making for the hall.
They followed him.
Dírmaen found the silence unsettling: no children, no dogs, no lowing of kine or bleating of sheep. Even the harsh croak of carrion crows would have been something. They might have been in the Wild, and not in the dooryard of a prosperous-looking house, the porch pillars carved with intertwined ivy and rose. A sparrow nesting in the roof thatch cocked her head at them.
Coming around the end of the hall after Tarain, they saw that its stout corner post had been heaved outward and broken off; the heather of the thatch was torn and scattered, letting sun and weather into the hall. Halgorn paused to peer cautiously in, then shook his head and moved on. No other sign, only proof of monstrous strength, capable of snapping a trunk of seasoned oak.
The swordsman pulled up beside a heap of great boulders, his shoulders sagging with what might have been relief. Halpan joined him, staring at the stones in puzzlement. "Where did these come from?"
"We brought them from the river, to cover Halladan and the others," Aniel told him somberly, gazing at the stones.
That would have been no small labor. A great monument to their lord, given the fewness of their men, the shortness of those days, and the mountain journey before them.
"I feared the raugs might have shifted them," Tarain explained, glancing back at the broken hall. "But all is as it was when we left."
Meagvir looked around, at the hall and byre, storehouses and cotts. "I do not want to tarry, and we cannot burden ourselves with household gear, but is there anything of value you would seek and carry back?" he asked Halpan, whose stare had shifted to the horrified look of a man vividly imagining what had befallen a well-known place, dearly loved people.
When Halpan did not reply, Tarain shook his head. "All that was important we carried with us, save grain, and that will still be too great a burden. The rest can wait, raug-guarded, until we return . . . or we will do without."
"Is this—" Halgorn pointed to the pool "—the mere where the raugs lair?"
"No, that lies in a corrie off the northern end of the glen," Aniel reminded him. "Almost three leagues from here. But we should check for their spoor. They may have shifted their ground."
So they rode along the river, on the watch for some sign of their foes, passing steading after steading, good sturdy farmhouses standing silent: doors shut, yards rank with nettles, gardens wild with rotting kale stalks and weeds, mildewed ricks scattered by wind and beast, the fields untilled. Each one a family displaced, or a family dead. Dírmaen had seen broken settlements before, the work of Orcs or outlaws, but never one like this, where houses and byres were unburnt, unplundered. It was as if the people had died of some plague . . . except even then there would have been some foul whiff of corruption on the breeze, remnants of bodies dragged from houses by wolves, or foxes, or faithless dogs.
They were simply abandoned. Derelict. The fear had been so strong, people had fled from all they had. And they had had much. From the size of the byres, they had been good herdsmen. Where were the beasts? Some had reached Habad-e-Mindon, and many had doubtless gone east; all Dírmaen saw as they went were a few goats, staring warily as they rode by, quick to flee.
And the bones of cattle and sheep, here and there.
When they had covered half the distance Aniel named, a stream joined the river from the east, and the track forked beyond the ford, the left-hand way veering northwest and the right-hand running along the stream towards a low, birch-clad hill. As the rest of them followed Aniel, who more and more resembled a hound on a strong scent, head down and pressing the pace, Dírmaen saw Halpan turn off along the stream, heading east. "Where are you going?" he called.
Halpan did not answer, but Tarain pulled up his horse and came back. "His home lies there," he said gravely, gazing after the young Dúnadan with worried eyes. "His brother and nephew, now, too."
Meagvir paused, turning his horse, scowling. "Dírmaen, go with him, but do not linger. Catch up as soon as you may."
"Come with me," Dírmaen asked Tarain.
Some two furlongs from the ford, in the lee of the birches, was a well-built hall little smaller than Halladan's, undamaged, with the same air of eerie neglect. On the western edge of the yard, Halpan sat his horse, staring down at two short wooden posts. As they halted a respectful distance away, Halpan grated, "I was not here with them, as I ought to have been."
"Why not?" Dírmaen asked.
"I stayed at Habad-e-Mindon with Saelon and Gaernath," he replied bitterly. "Saelon would not return here with us, as her brother wished. One of the Dwarves had harshly reproached us for leaving her unprotected, yet Gaernath was the only one willing to remain. He defied his father to do so. The lad's steadfastness and courage shamed me . . . and it was a fair, fresh land, when this one seemed stale."
Honor had bid him stay by his kinswoman, and now it reproached him for having abandoned his brother. The demands of honor were ever so, like balancing on a sword's edge. Yet if he had chosen otherwise, there would probably be a third post here.
"Halladan was glad that you stayed," Tarain assured him.
Halpan sighed bleakly. "I know." He looked at Halladan's man. "And I was glad to serve him so. Then. I wish," he muttered, "that I had come back here, to serve in my brother's place, after Urwen came to us."
Dírmaen considered this. "Why didn't you?"
"Saelon advised me against it. She said she could not feed them without me. That Halladan had let them go because he knew I was there."
Two soft-handed women and five children would indeed have been too great a burden, even on so resourceful and indelicate a woman as Saelon, with only that great boy for help.
"She was right," Tarain confirmed. "Halladan was deeply troubled by Urwen's wild flight, but he took comfort from the thought that you were there."
"She is always right," Halpan declared with harsher bitterness. "Cold as the waves she takes her counsel from. I told her," he cried, wracked by guilt and grief, "that I feared for Halladan, but did that move her?"
"You could not have feared for him more than she did," Tarain bit back, fierce in his lady's defense. "Did any of you care for her, save Halladan? You admit yourself that you did not stay for her sake, but for your own pride. You did not see her face—" the swordsman's voice was thick with more than anger "—when I brought her the news of his death. He sent the helm into her hands because he knew that she would keep us all for love of him, and more wisely than you. Before you object to her harkening to the waves, you ought to give better counsel yourself."
"If Halladan thought the sea such an ally, why did he not lead you all there himself, instead of staying here to be slain?"
"Because he could no more bear to be near the sea than Saelon can bear to be from it," Tarain declared. "Did you not know?"
Dírmaen stared from one to the other. Halpan had told them that Saelon loved the sea, but this sounded like something more.
"I do not understand all this about the sea," Halpan grumbled despairingly.
Tarain looked to Dírmaen for support, and his expression grew uncertain when he saw the Ranger's puzzlement. "I thought it was a Dúnedain thing."
"Not so far as I know," Dírmaen said. "But this is no place for such a discussion, and no time for quarrels. Come—we must catch up with the others."
The sea: here in the North they had turned their backs on it, leaving it to the Elves, who could still find refuge beyond it. Naught but wrath lay that way for Men, or so the Downfall had taught them. For all his Númenorean blood, Dírmaen had felt nothing more than curiosity when he looked upon the waves. Could their call be so strong that a sensible woman would leave her kin to dwell beside them, alone? Could they be so daunting that a courageous man would face doom rather than flee thither?
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A raven was perched in the aspen that stood near the tarn, the tree's leaves trembling in the breeze as if it, too, feared this place.
"Ai!" Halpan cried, throwing up an arm to startle it to flight. "Get you gone, bird of ill-omen!" But the raven only hopped a little further along the branch, peering down at them.
"There are many tracks here," Dírmaen observed, staring down at the heather; but the scrub did not hold prints. He glanced towards the water. "That looks more promising, but we must leave the horses here."
"I will hold them," Tarain offered. "I am no tracker."
Stepping carefully on stone and heather, the rest of them approached the tarn. In its mucky verge there were many tracks—large and small, old and fresh—unlike anything Dírmaen had ever seen. They were near the shape of a booted foot, but only if the boots were very bad and the tracks had been blurred by age. Yet many were clearly fresh, their edges only beginning to dry in the sunshine.
"What are these things?" Halgorn muttered.
Halpan traced one of the small tracks with a finger and a look of fearful fascination. "Even the Dwarves don't know, and Saelon says they have dwelt here since the Elder Days."
"So stories tell," Meagvir agreed.
Aniel wore a look of contained hate. "There are more of the smaller prints than there were. Are these things spawning?"
Dírmaen could make out at least three sets of large tracks: one bigger than the slot of the largest troll he had ever seen, the others a finger's-length shorter. The smaller ones, man-sized or a little less, were more confused, circling and crossing over each other, often dug deep as if the things had leapt; but they had churned the peaty muck to such a mire that no clear pattern could be seen. "I make out at least five, perhaps as many as six."
The raven, which had swooped down to a nearby rock, hopped off and strolled towards him, watching warily with its beady black eyes. It paused on the lip of one of the largest prints, angling its head as if it, too, was trying to fathom it. Was the bird tame, an abandoned pet?
"There could not have been more than four in Girithron," Aniel asserted.
Behind them, Tarain cried in warning, "Ho! Someone on the hill above!"
Startled, the five of them looked up as one from the mud. Dírmaen glanced back to see where the swordsman was looking—towards a tumble of boulders to the left—when an answering bellow rolled down from that part of the corrie. "Tarain? Aniel?" A short figure leapt up onto a boulder and waved an axe over its head.
"Aye!" Aniel shouted back, fiercely glad. "Come down, Master!"
Not one but four Dwarves came down the slope to join them, and they were armed for battle: helms and mail, axes and short-shafted spears with keen, broad-bladed heads. "Master Rekk?" Halpan called out as the Dwarves approached, smiling for the first time that day. "And Ingi—well met! What brings you to this dreadful place?"
"What brought you, I guess," the brown-bearded Dwarf replied grimly. "At your service, Halpan. Do you not remember Oddi? This is his kinsman, Bileg, son of Balnir."
"Not in gear of war," Halpan apologized. "At your service, and your families', Masters. Oddi, you will not know Tarain, who was Halladan's man—"
Oddi, black-bearded, bowed politely. "I remember you at his right hand," he told the swordsman.
"And I remember your fair words to Gaernath," Tarain answered.
"—and Aniel, our huntsman. And these, my kinsmen: Meagvir, Halgorn, and Dírmaen."
The Dwarves bowed, in their stiff way, their eyes a steady gleam behind the guards of their helms. "At your service, Masters," Meagvir said, bowing in his turn. "You must be some of the folk who aided our kinswoman Saelon and her people."
"Some of us are," the one called Rekk replied laconically. He gazed down at the printed shore of the tarn. "Is this the lair of the fiends?"
The raven belled for attention, then hopped towards him. "Below," it said, in a hoarse voice.
"Under the water, Craec?" Rekk demanded.
They all—the Men, anyway—stood dumbfounded, staring at the bird.
It considered, then hopped to the nearest stone. Six times it struck the rock with its beak, then paused. "Nestling," it said, in strange sibilants, and pecked once more.
Rekk grunted in dour satisfaction. "Does your skill tell you different, Aniel?"
The huntsman shook his head, wondering. "Not with certainty. I would have guessed five or six."
Dírmaen reached into his pouch, broke a piece off of the dried salmon he carried there, and held it out towards the raven. It leapt into the air and came to his arm, cocking its head and staring at him with bright black eyes before taking the bit of fish.
"So you hunt these things, too?" Halgorn asked.
"One slew my brother," Rekk declared.
"And my son," Oddi added.
"Thyrnir is not with you?" Halpan was still frowning uneasily at the raven. Dírmaen wondered why it troubled him, if he knew the Dwarf well.
"No." Rekk was frowning at the tarn, fingers drumming on the shaft of his spear.
"Nestling," repeated Oddi, staring down at the smaller tracks. "They are breeding?"
"So we were guessing," Aniel growled.
"What did you mean to do, once you tracked the fiends?" Oddi asked. "You are ill-equipped for slaying such creatures."
"We are scouting," Halgorn explained. He was looking at those fearsome spears with interest. "I have never heard that Dwarves used spears, or seen ones like these before."
"Spears such as yours are unhandy in tunnels," Oddi observed. "These we use against trolls."
"Yes." Halgorn nodded, eyes gleaming. "That would be good for a troll. Or, good for the one who wielded it, not the troll!"
Oddi gave a clipped, wry laugh. "Have you slain trolls?"
"Orcs only. Bileg has, however, and Rekk."
Dírmaen considered the four small, heavily armed Dwarves. He had not heard that trolls came out of the Blue Mountains. Yet it had been only fifty years since the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs; chances were that some, if not all of them, were veterans of that long and dreadful quest for vengeance. If they would fight six years for the honor of a landless king, what would they do for their own near kin? "Do you mean to attack the fiends when they come forth tonight?"
"Rekk?" Oddi looked to the one who seemed to be their leader.
Tugging his plaited beard, Rekk made a noise like an irritated bear. "My heart says yes, but my head says no. How can we come at them, if they take refuge in the water? If we do not slay them, they will harry us as we retreat. And six . . . . I had not expected so many." He looked up at Halpan sourly. "Veylin has the right of it, I guess. Here, spearsman—" he tossed his spear to him "—would you like to carry that against a fiend?"
Halgorn watched enviously as the younger man handled it. "With a longer shaft . . . and more weight at the butt—" Halpan examined the steely edges of the point "—very much." He sighed sadly. "We cannot pay you for them, you know."
"The death of a fiend would pay for much," Rekk answered. "We will let Veylin and Saelon hammer out those details between them. All I ask is that I do not find myself on the wrong end of it. This is not that pig-sticker you pointed at me before."
"So long as you keep your hands off Saelon," Halpan replied, as droll, "you should be safe."
As the Rangers stared, Rekk gave a bark of a laugh. "Why did you not bring her, and that fire-haired stripling? We could have staked him out and given her the spear. If she will attack three armed Dwarves bare-handed, she is mad enough for anything." Oddi snorted in agreement.
Clearly, they were friendly with these Dwarves; very friendly. Yet what they were jesting about sounded as if it ought to have led to as bloody a feud as you would hate to try to bring to an end. This Rekk had laid hands on Saelon? Saelon had attacked the Dwarves? How was it that she was not dead? He suggested baiting the raug with Gaernath, the boy whose loyalty had so shamed Halpan. Had she fought in his defense? Dírmaen could imagine her fierce as a falcon protecting her eyass.
The raven tweaked his finger. "More?" it asked in that strange voice, staring at him with its unfathomable eyes.
Grinning, Halpan tossed the spear back to Rekk. "Are you heading back now? We would be glad of your company on the way."
"Back, yes, but not to Veylin's. We came from the north." The reserve Dírmaen associated with Dwarves was abruptly back, but after a moment Rekk offered, "If you would like to spend the short hours of the night in greater security, we will be stopping at an old dwarf-house on our way. You would be welcome."
"Is there room for our horses as well?"
"You Men and your long-legged beasts," the Dwarf grumbled. "No, you would not be able to get them through the door."
"Then we must decline," Halpan said regretfully. "But thank you for your offer."
"Look for us later in the summer," Rekk told him. "We can discuss the spears then. Fare well, and good luck on your road."
"And you on yours."
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Glencoe: a glen on the northern border of Argyll, known today mainly for its wildlife and splendid (though dangerous) rockclimbing. It is infamous, however, as the site of the massacre, in 1692, of the MacDonalds of Glencoe by their treacherous guests, Campbell troops under government orders to "extirpate that sept of thieves." Lest anyone think the flight of the survivors of Srathen Brethil across the Blue Mountains in December heroic, the Glencoe Massacre took place at dawn in a February blizzard, and half-dressed women and children were forced to take refuge in the high corries to avoid the slaughter. Some actually survived.
Dúnadan: Sindarin, "man of the west"; the singular and masculine form of Dúnedain.
Corrie: Scots, a cirque, or glacially eroded valley head; picturesquely described as an "armchair hollow."
Shielings: summer pastures for cattle and other livestock, usually on hills well away from settlements with their fields of grain. You don't need to build so many fences if you take most of the stock up to the shielings, and can cut the grass near the settlement for hay.
Reiver: Scots, raider, chiefly of cattle; a cattle rustler.
Droveway: a cattle track, especially one used to move herds long distances.
Brock (also badger, Taxidea taxus): a large, thickset, burrowing member of the weasel family.
Woodruff (Galium odoratum): a sweet-smelling strewing and medicinal herb.
Flags (also yellow iris, Iris pseudacorus): a wetland plant, with medicinal uses.
Byre: cow shed, building for housing stock. While many medieval and early modern Highland homes were byre-houses, where the people lived in one end and the cattle in the other, richer families and settlements often had separate byres.
Cott: small farmhouse; the residence of a cottar.
Downfall: the Adûnaic name for lost Númenor, Akallabêth, means "the Downfallen."
Aspen (or trembling popular, Populus tremula): in the Highlands, the sound of the wind in its leaves was thought to inspire foresight, or resemble the nagging chatter of women, but the tree was regarded with superstition and fear.
War of the Dwarves and the Orcs (2793–2799): Thráin's war of vengeance and quest for Azog, the Orc-chief who slew his father Thrór, the heir of Durin. Dwarves of other Houses joined with the Longbeards to destroy every den of Orcs they could find between Gundobad and the Gladden. It ended with the battle of Azanulbizar (which the Elves call Nanduhirion) in the valley before the East-gates of Khazad-dûm, where Náin (nephew of Thrór) was slain by Azog; Azog was slain by Náin's young son, Dáin Ironfoot (later King of the Mountain in Erebor); and Thorin earned the name "Oakenshield."
Eyass: an unfledged falcon (or hawk), taken from the nest for falconry. The female adult bird is a falcon, the male a tiercel. Falcons are larger than tiercels, and more desirable for hunting.
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