A Morning Star ~ Chapter 5 of 18 - A New Home
Chapter 2: The Road West
Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
Chapter 4: The End of a Quest
Chapter 5: A New Home
Recap: Ariya has learned that her father's ring was made by Lómion, an elf servant to Sauron many years ago. Lómion used the ring to rival Sauron but was quickly defeated and killed, and after many years the ring somehow made its way to her father's hand. Now Ariya has returned to her brother Lein's home in Ridden.
Ariya stayed in Ridden for several weeks, her thoughts no longer dwelling on her father's ring but on her brother. She moved into Lein's house, and she soon took over the household duties while he spent more hours in his smithy. She often spent the afternoons wandering through the streets of Ridden, stopping in the small shops and socializing with the people of the city. One day she discovered a jeweler's shop, and asked him to mount the tinsar given to her by the hobbits on a chain. He placed the stone inside a silver locket, to keep its light hidden until the tiny latch was undone. Ariya soon took to wearing the locket around her neck every day.
During another one of her afternoon strolls, she happened upon a potter's shop. She had done a bit of sculpture work in Rivendell, and decided to take a look at the potter's wares. When she walked in the door, she saw several shelves and tables in the front of the room, filled with displays of cups, bowls, and pots in many colors. In the back of the room, behind a low railing, she saw an old woman intently painting a bowl in vibrant shades of blue and green. Scattered about behind the railing were the tools of the woman's trade: stores of clay, bowls of water, paints and glazes, metal tools for sculpting, and brushes of all sizes. Behind the woman a door stood partly open, and Ariya could see through it to the woman's living quarters.
Ariya slowly walked from shelf to shelf, admiring the woman's work. She was obviously very skilled. Suddenly the woman realized that she had a customer, and looking up she asked, "May I help you?"
Ariya turned toward her and replied, "Thank you, but I'm just admiring your work. I have not seen such skill since leaving Rivendell."
"Ah, you must be Lein's sister," the woman replied.
"Yes," said Ariya. The woman fell silent, and Ariya lingered in the shop.
Finally the woman spoke again: "Do you have an interest in the craft?"
"Oh yes," Ariya replied. "I have a little experience with sculpture, carving statues out of stone and such, and I have always been fascinated by the art of pottery. To be able to shape the clay with your own hands must be much more rewarding than simply chipping away at stone."
"Would you like to learn how?" the woman asked with a smile.
Surprised by the question, Ariya answered, "Of course, I would love to."
"Good," the woman replied. "I am getting old, and it is time that I trained an apprentice to replace me after I am gone. Are you willing to make such a commitment?"
Ariya thought for a moment. She knew nothing about Lein's trade and could not help him at his work, and there were never enough chores to keep her busy for even half a day. She could think of no reason to turn down such a generous offer. "Yes," she simply replied.
"Very well," the woman said, returning to her work. "I will expect you here tomorrow morning."
"May I ask your name?" Ariya said when she realized that woman intended to say no more.
"Helna. And I have heard your name is Ariya."
"Yes, it is."
With that, the eccentric woman turned away from Ariya to sort through a large supply of paint brushes. Ariya could see the conversation was over and left the shop.
Over the next several months, a routine began to form in Ariya's life. She woke up every morning just before dawn to practice her archery. After her encounter with the highway robbers on the East Road and the orcs in the mountains, she knew that she needed to further develop her skills. There was a long, narrow grassy area between the smithy and city wall which was perfect for shooting, and she began to improve by the week. Lein soon became interested in her archery practice, and before long she was teaching him the ways of the longbow. He did not acquire the skill as quickly as his sister, and his progress was much slower.
About an hour after sunrise, Ariya would then prepare a quick breakfast and hurry off to the pottery shop. She began to learn the skills of pottery nearly as fast as those of the bow, and she could see that Helna was impressed even though she would not admit it. At the end of the day she would return home, and she and Lein often took turns preparing supper. Duran continued to come over for supper nearly once a week. Only occasionally would they go to Duran's house for a meal, for he was less than apt at cooking. Sometimes Duran's younger brother Deilen would invite the three of them to his house, where they would dine together with his young wife.
One morning during their archery practice, Lein asked Ariya if she would like him to teach her to use the sword. She was surprised that he would make such an offer. Despite the fact that she was already skilled with the bow, she was still a woman, and did not believe there were many women in Ridden trained with the sword. She quickly agreed, and thus they added sword-fighting practice to their morning routine. Lein proved much better with the sword than the bow, having been taught by Duran at a very young age. In fact, he was only twenty, and Ariya was surprised by his skill. It was not long before Ariya took to wearing men's trousers for these morning practices, for she found it more difficult to dodge her brother's sword while wearing a dress. However, she always changed back into a dress before going to the pottery shop, not wanting to attract too much attention.
One morning Ariya was already on the grassy strip when Lein arrived. He was carrying a sheathed sword that she did not recognize. He walked up to her and said, "You have become very skilled with the practice swords, and now it is time for you to start training with a real sword. I made this for you; it is slightly lighter than a normal broadsword, but very strong." He handed the sword to her, still in its sheath.
As she held it in her hands, she saw that he had carved many intricate designs along the sheath. They were unlike the elven patterns on her knife handle, but she found them beautiful nonetheless. She slowly unsheathed the sword. It was a bit lighter than the broadswords she had held, and it fit nicely in her hand. Upon closer inspection, she saw that there was an Elvish script engraved upon the blade. She recalled that Lein had learned some Elvish from his father's records.
"Cul-Rômen," she read, "Golden-Red Sunrise." She looked up at her brother.
"The perfect complement to a morning star," he replied.
She smiled, and looking at the blade once again she saw that it reflected the brilliant orange and yellow hues of the rising sun. She carefully sheathed the sword and laid it on the ground, then reached for his hand. He took it and she hugged him briefly. "Thank you," she said, letting him go.
"It was nothing," he lied, a sheepish grin on his face. Ariya could tell that he had put many hours into making the sword but was too modest to admit it. She was thrilled that he not only loved her as his sister, but considered her his equal. Lein walked away, stretching his arms above his head. He then grabbed his bow and an arrow, and Ariya ran over to him, anxious to begin practicing before she had to leave for the shop.
After Ariya had spent three years working in the pottery shop, Helna passed on. She had no family, both her husband and son having died years before, and Ariya and Lein were the only people present to mourn her death. Ariya soon moved into Helna's room and ran the shop by herself. She had learned all the skills that she needed; indeed, she was nearly as skilled as Helna and the business did not falter.
Life soon returned to normal. Ariya continued to practice with Lein in the early morning. They often invited each other for supper, with Duran sometimes joining them. Another two years passed, and things remained the same in the small city of Ridden.
Then Ariya began to notice a change in Duran. He still joined them for meals, but he seemed unusually quiet. She could tell that something was troubling him, and finally one night she asked him what was wrong.
"I am not sure if I should tell you," Duran replied. He had used this excuse before, and Ariya and Lein never argued with him; after all, he was the advisor to King Renya of Ridden. But this time Ariya felt that he truly wanted to tell them what was on his mind.
"It's all right," she said. "You need only to say the word, and we will not tell a soul."
"All right," said Duran. "It is probably not necessary that you remain silent; there are already rumors flying at the inn." He took a sip of ale and continued. "Have you heard of the Northern Tribes' recent marches?"
The Northern Tribes were a group of people who lived to the east of the city-kingdoms, the descendents of a band of Easterlings who had migrated to the north of Middle-earth generations ago. They lived in a few small villages and did not have formal governments based on kings and laws. Rather, they were ruled by many chieftains who enforced rules at their whim. The lack of government was normally not a problem, since the people were often too busy hunting and farming to break many rules.
"I might have heard something," Lein said, "But please, tell us what you know."
"It seems that the Northern Tribes have grown in numbers and in strength the past few years. They have tired of tilling their unfertile soil and have become jealous of their western neighbors. Today I heard news that they have already attacked the city-kingdom of Eomas and run its people out."
Ariya was taken aback by the news. Despite having lived outside of Rivendell for the past six years, she had never been exposed to battle or war. War always seemed to be something that occurred in far-off lands, with valiant warriors whose deeds were remembered in ancient scrolls. To hear that there had been fighting nearby and that an entire city of people (albeit a small city) had lost their homes came as a shock to her.
"The king is concerned that the tribes will continue their advances and will soon reach Ridden," Duran concluded. Now Ariya could clearly see why he was so troubled.
"What evidence is there that the Northern Tribes intend to attack us?" Lein asked.
"None," said Duran. "But it is a possibility that we must be prepared for." With that, Duran returned to his meal, and said no more about the threat for the rest of the night.
During the next few days, Ariya felt a sense of uneasiness in the small city of Ridden. The news of the Northern Tribes' success in battle quickly spread. The people of Ridden were unaccustomed to fighting, most of the men being farmers or craftsmen. However, the people went about their normal business, placing their trust in their king and in the strength of their city walls.
One morning, Ariya awoke with a strong foreboding in her heart. Since leaving Imladris, she had become even more aware of her elven intuition and foresight, and feared what this feeling might mean. As she prepared for their morning practice, putting on her trousers and braiding her hair, she could not shake the foreboding. If anything, it grew stronger, and coupled itself with a sense of fear.
She quickly grabbed her weapons and went outside. Her sword she wore on her back, underneath her quiver, and this morning she also strapped the elven knife to her belt. The sun had not yet topped the distant mountains and the streets were deathly silent, lit only by the grayness before the dawn. There were two or three people walking down the streets; farmers mostly, feeding their few animals before leaving to tend to the crops outside the city walls.
As she stood there in the street, she thought she heard a distant noise. She listened closely, trying to determine what she heard. Suddenly she realized that it was the pounding of hundreds of horses' hooves. The farmers heard it too, and one of them ran to the center of the city and rang the large bell normally used only in the event of fire.
"The Northern Tribes are coming!" he yelled. "The Northern Tribes are coming!"
The people of the city quickly awoke and ran outside. Men grabbed whatever weapons they could find and yelled at their wives and children to stay indoors. Ariya ran across the street and soon found Lein, also carrying a bow and a sword.
"What's going on?" He nearly had to shout to be heard over the commotion.
"The Northern Tribes are coming," Ariya yelled back. "The men are going to try to fortify the city wall, in hopes of keeping them back." The two of them joined the crowd and ran toward the eastern wall of the city. The Northern Tribes had already reached the wall and were trying to break through. Some of the men of Ridden piled rocks against the wall or wedged boards and logs between the wall and the soil. Others stood back, ready with their weapons should the tribesmen break through. Scanning the crowd, Ariya saw that most were armed with knives or tools of their trade--axes, pitchforks, fire pokers. She could see no one other than Lein with a bow. They both fitted arrows to their bowstrings and fired over the wall of the city.
The arrows of two bows and the thin wooden wall were no match for the many axes and swords the Northern Tribesmen carried. They soon crashed through the wall. Many tribesmen were mounted and they rode through the city swinging their weapons at anyone who stood in their way. Lein and Ariya realized that their bows were worthless in such close quarters, and quickly drew their swords and began to fight the tribesmen on foot. Ariya soon learned that she was more skilled with her sword than she thought, and deflected blow after blow. She could hear the sounds of battle and the screams of the fleeing women and children all about her.
She suddenly realized that Lein was no longer beside her. She looked about her, trying to concentrate on the soldiers attacking her while simultaneously searching for her brother. She finally saw him, several yards away, valiantly fighting against three tribesmen. Suddenly as she watched, an arrow flew through the air and struck Lein in the back. He fell to his knees and Ariya quickly lost sight of him behind the many tribesmen.
"Lein!" she yelled, trying to fight through the melee and reach him. She could see that the battle was nearly over even though it had barely begun; the men of Ridden were already fleeing through the gaps in the city wall. She finally reached her brother as the last tribesmen to enter the city ran past her. The invaders knew that they had won and paid little heed to the fleeing residents of Ridden. She knelt down beside Lein, hoping that he was alive but already knowing in her heart he was gone.
She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. "Ariya, we must leave now!" She looked up to see Duran standing above her. A few tribesmen saw him and quickly ran up with swords drawn. He expertly fought them off, all the while yelling at Ariya. "We must leave! There is nothing more we can do here!"
"But what about Lein?" Ariya screamed, with tears running down her face as she held up her sword to deflect a tribesmen's blow.
"Leave him! It is the only way we can escape!"
Ariya knew he was right; she had not come to Ridden to die. As more tribesmen ran up to attack them, Ariya and Duran quickly fled through the crumbling city walls. They could see the other refugees heading for a forest about two miles to the north. As they ran towards the forest, she turned to look at her home one last time and could see flames rising above the city walls, the columns of smoke glowing orange with the light of the rising sun.
List of Names and Places through Chapter 5
- Ambilë: Ariya's mortal father. Chapter 1.
- Arelen: "Morning Star"; Ariya's Elvish name. Chapter 1.
- Ariya Alayah: Translated as "Morning Star" in an ancient tongue of men; the heroine of our story. Chapter 1.
- Beredhel: "Bold Elf"; Ariya's maternal grandfather. Chapter 1.
- Cul-Rômen: "Golden-Red Sunrise"; the name of Ariya's sword. Chapter 5.
- Deilen: Duran's brother. Chapter 5.
- Duran: Advisor to the king of Ridden. Chapter 3.
- Eomas: The first city to be attacked by the Northern Tribes. Chapter 5.
- Isilmë: "Moonlight"; Ariya's maternal grandmother. Chapter 1.
- Land of the City-Kingdoms: A land northwest of Rivendell, consisting of several small cities of men, each ruled by their own king. Chapter 2.
- Lein: Ariya's half-brother, son of Ambilë; a smith in Ridden; killed in the Northern Tribe's invasion. Chapter 2.
- Lómion: "Descendant of Dark"; maker of Ambilë's ring. Chapter 4.
- Melwen: "Kind Maiden"; Ariya's elven mother. Chapter 1.
- Peramac "Perry" Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Tanagrim. Chapter 2.
- Renya: King of Ridden. Chapter 5.
- Ridden: A city in the land of the city-kingdoms. Chapter 2.
- Tanagrim Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Peramac. Chapter 2.