Chronicles of Celegal - Andrast-Chapter 2
After a while we rounded a small ridge and could see Edoras in all of its glory. It sat on top of a hill in front of the Ered Nimrais. Looming up in front of the sky, it was green and had a bit of snow on it from the first snow of the fall. We entered the gate, and rode up the hill through the rows of houses. Men were in their shops, or serving for the King in his army. The womenfolk were cooking or drying clothes. Dogs and children ran through the streets, laughing and playing. I smiled and kept on up the hill, towards Meduseld, the Golden Hall of Rohan. The doorward stopped us, and asked us to hand over our weapons, to be returned as soon as we left. I handed him my bow and sword. Reluctantly, Thorongil did the same, but not before warning the guard, Haleth: "Do not let anyone besides the two of us to lay a hand on them." THe guard nodded in wonder.
We entered the King's throne room, full of majestic banners signifying leaders before our time. Brego and Eorl, Folca and Beor, all of their majestic pictures looked down on us. The King was old, but strong. He was a kindly man, and loved nature and all of its marvels. Though he was old in years, he could wield a sword well. He smiled as we entered.
"Celegal! Thorongil! How are you? Welcome to Edoras! I hope that your stay here goes well, and I will meet you in the Hall of Banquets at noon. Now, how did your travels to this grand place go?"
We related our travels to him, and he listened closely. When we were done, we left to find some food. That was when Thorongil and I parted ways. Eventually I headed for my room at a noble's house near the palace. That night I laid on a much more comfortable bed than the one in the Lucky Fortune, but it didn't feel like home.
Morning came quickly. I dressed and washed my face, nervous to be at a council with so many important men. I donned full armor, with a breastplate of green and gauntlets of steel. The armor was suprisingly easy to move around in, and was not as heavy as I expected. After I had slung my sword over the right shoulder and wrapped myself in a cloak, I walked through Meduseld's majestic arches and breathed in the scent of freshly cut hay and wheat. The brisk walk uphill towards the Golden Hall was a bit chilly, so I wrapped my coat tighter. Closed doors and the same warden awaited me at the front of the palace, and I went through the same procedure. I had arrived right on time, for the food was about to be served. The dining was excellent, with every imaginable food in front of my eyes. When everyone had eaten their fill, the Council began. It was a more of a briefing than anything else. The man talking was the leader of my company, Gamling. He was young and strong, able to lead an eored of scouts.
"You are going to be guarding the King on a trip to Rivendell. He will be attending a council of war there. The utmost secrecy, loyalty, and endurance will be required. Your reward will be a promotion of one or more ranks in the King's service, and extra pay for the duration of your service."
I looked around. There were about 500 horsemen in the room, including my company of scouts, which numbered about 30, around 100 archers on horseback, and the rest were armed with spears or swords. They were mostly lead by Theoden, the son of the King, but some were led by Eotrand, who had a son that I was acquainted with, Elfhelm.
Gamling continued. "The journey will be difficult and long. Perhaps it will even be dangerous. But the very reason you have been chosen for this trip is because you are courageous and hardy, noble men of Rohan." This seemed to put in the men a sense of courage. "We will leave tomorrow at dawn."
I woke just before dawn the next morning and got dressed. It was a bit chilly, one of the first signs of fall, which would be here in about a week. I walked out of the room I was staying in and headed to the stables. They were warm and filled with the smells of hay and oats. The groomsmen kept the place neat, I noticed. Mounting Felarof, I looked around for the rest of the riders. They were gathered in a square about halfway down the hill from were I was. Just about everyone was ready, so our commanders ordered us to form up. The regular riders were up front, with the King in the middle. The archers were just behind them, and our company of scouts was last. We were spread out in ranks of 10 deep, so that we formed a long line. This would be good for any wandering orcs that we met, for we could quickly surround them and enclose them in a circle. After that it would be easy as a quick jab and our job would be done. We made our way east and a bit north over the wide, grassy plains of Rohan. The scenery was unchanging, with mountains on one side and seemingly endless plains on the other. By this way we passed the Lucky Fortune, and eventually my home, though it was not visible through the trees that grew on the hill. That night we camped at Dunharrow, under a steep mountain. The men were merry, and they sang and drunk. I chuckled. They would pay for their drunkenness in the morning. And indeed they did, for the next morning men sleepily drooped in their saddles. I had spent the night, however, walking through a few of the mountain paths that I remembered from my childhood. The next night we camped in a little vale, surrounded by enormous cliffs. We were about 10 leagues or so from Isengard, and I was glad a little to be one step closer to Rivendell, for once we had passed the Gap of Rohan, as the narrow gap between the Misty Mountains and the Ered Nimrais was known, we would only have to head north until we reached the elven haven. As I walked back to my tent, I heard a debate from the King's tent. Though I knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, I couldn't help but listen. The conversation was between Thengel, his son Theoden, and a Marshal of the Mark, Iltyran.
Iltyran: I beg thee, Sire, do not seek shelter from Saruman. He is a wizard, and they are queer folk.
Thengel: He has not done us wrong so far, Iltyran. I do not think that he shall harm us in any way.
Iltyran: But, Sire, when he hears of the King of Rohan, along with his son and finest men, will his heart not think of malice? He will either be exceedingly kind or trap us, a risk I do not wish to take.
Thengel: What do you think about this, my son?
Theoden: I do not think that Saruman is pure good, or that he is pure evil. I believe that we must camp by the river Isen, and keep as far away as possible from Orthanc. There is something I don't trust about Saruman.
Iltyran:Think of it, my lord. He has possesion of one of the Palantiri of old! Therefore, he is either friend or foe, for there are only two that he can talk with: the Steward of Gondor or the Dark Lord himself.
A cold wind blew through the branches of the overhanging oaks and pines.
Thengel: You are right, Iltyran. I will follow your advice this time. We will keep as close to the southern side of the Gap of Rohan as we are allowed. We may just hope that night does not fall on us while we are in the middle of it.
Theoden:Then, my father, we must rise early tomorrow and make haste to the Isen river. Once we are west and a little north of Isengard we will rest. We must not trust Saruman. He is too powerful to make any kind of treaty with.
Iltyran:There have already been reports of orc-like things ravaging the countryside and robbing the people of the far Westfold.
Thengel:I have made my decision. Send word throughout the camp. We start before dawn.
Theoden's servants rushed out of the tent. I stood up as close to the tent as I could, to avoid being seen. Thoughts rushed through my head as I ambled back to my tent. Iltyran was obviously suspicious of Saruman, and on a good pretense, it seemed. But Thengel was not so sure for some reason. But at any rate, I believed it was wise to avoid Orthanc, for I had strange stories concerning him during my stay at Imladris. He had alienated himself from the rest of the Wizards, or Istari. On one occasion he had gone into the far west with two other wizards. Only he had returned. What happened on that journey is a mystery, for Curunir, as he is also called, has not spoken of it to anyone. I supposed I should not worry myself with the King's problems. The tent was cold that night.
The next morning we woke about an hour or two before dawn and started getting ready. We even managed to depart from camp right at dawn, but not before cleaning it, for we did not wish to be tracked by anyone. Quickly we went towards the Gap of Rohan, going over plains that were growing a bit more rocky. Few people lived here, partly from the rocky ground, which was not good for crops, and partly from the ravaging bands of orcs that came down from the Misty Mountains. But, according to Iltyran, that was not the only place they were from. Eventually the rocky ground grew into small hills, but perhaps that was because we were keeping as close to the Ered Nimrais as possible. By four hours after noon we reached the Gap. When we were there, the King told us to gallop as fast as we could to the west, but staying together, trying not to break apart or lose anyone. We did so, and everyone seemed to keep close together, until we reached the banks of the Isen. Once we had crossed the river, we decided to set up camp for the night. It was not an easy night, for all around us we heard wolves. We all took turns on guard, and there were a few of us at a time, for the wolves sounded like many.
When we awoke the next morning, we found that several of our companions were missing. No one from my company, but about 20 others had disappeared from their tents. Their tentmates said that they had stepped out for a little walk and had never returned. What to do was undoubtedly a big question on the King's mind. If we kept going, we furthered the chance of our friends being in danger, but if we stayed behind we could be caught in a trap or be set upon by our enemies. In the end, Thengel decided to leave about five scouts, including me, behind to search for them. After 5 days, or at the first sight of enemies, we were to report back to the King as quickly as possible. We started up the river on the west side, and figured to stay with it until we got into some hills. On the third day, after going up a hill a few hundred feet, we saw a trail of blood flowing into a small vale. We hurried down the vale and saw a man, sorely wounded. There was blood coming from his side, and he appeared to be a Rider, for we saw the remains of a horse in some bushes. We rushed over to him. He was gasping for breath and was on death's doorstep. I and another rider bandged his wound, one man gave him some water, and the other two set up camp, for we could not leave tonight. The man tried to speak, but one of kinsmen hushed him, saying, "Silence, friend. Relax and do not worry yourself, for things will be all right soon."
The next day, after he had slept for a good length of time, he related his story to us: "I am named Aravaeth, and I was in the company of archers. I had gone out for a stroll along the river when I was hit in the back of the head by something hard. When I woke up, I was being dragged northward, but where I didn't know. The orcs had not frisked me well, and there were only three, so I grabbed a knife that was in my cloak and stabbed the neck of the one that was carrying me. The others whirled around and rushed at me with their swords drawn. The swords were of a curious kind, with flat long blades that were as black as night. The orcs themselves were strange also. They were strong, tall and covered in black armor. THey were not little hunched over things like the orcs of the Misty Mountains. I killed the second one with a quick thrust, but the last one was a challenge. He created the wound in my side that you kind folk are treating. After he did that, I kicked him onto the ground and stabbed him. I dragged their bodies over behind that tree. I have been here, eating the last of the food from my haversack, waiting for an ally to come along."
"Do you know what has happened to the others?" one of my fellow scouts asked.
"There were others?"
"Yes," I said, "almost a score more of others disappered from their tents the same night you did. We haven't seen them since. Do you have any idea what happened to them?"
"Well, when the vermin were talking, I picked up a bit of their conversation. I guess they thought I was still knocked out. They said:
Orc 1:Where are the others?
Orc 2:We were going to meet them at the pass.
Orc 3:We had better get there soon. I'm getting tired of carrying this rat on my back.
Orc 2:Stop your moaning, idiot! We'll get there soon.
Orc 1:Why don't we have a bit of fun with him before we get there, eh?
Orc 2:The orders were to keep him alive so the man in charge can "question" him.
Orc 3:We can say we lost him. That the horse-filth came and rescued him.
Orc 2:Shut up, scumbag! I'm in charge here!
"They probably would have killed each other then, if I hadn't slashed the throat of the one that was holding me."
"Any idea of who their ringleader was?" one of my companions asked.
"No, they didn't say anything about that."
We spent another night there, and after further discussion came to the conclusion that the other orcs had taken care of our companions. We decided to head back to the King, though. Leaving the camp, we headed northward along the west side of the Misty Mountains until we came to the farthest reaches of Dunland. From there we turned westward, for the Dundlendings do not take kindly to the Rohirrim. On the second day after reaching the Dunland border, and the fifth day after leaving the find of Aravaeth, we reached the King.
He greeted us, saying: "What news of the soldiers? Where there any to be found?" My horse, where the still wounded Aravaeth sat, was hidden from his view.
"Yes, my lord," my compaion in the front of our group said, " only one, but we have returned him to you. He is a bit wounded, but we will take care of that in Rivendell. "
"I am glad that you have found one, but my heart still grieves at the score of others that were lost mysteriously." The King hung his head in silence as he walked back to the royal tent.
We rode through rocky and somewhat barren land, what was once the rich nation of Cardolan. We passed few people here, only outcasts of Dunland, living in small huts with little money or food to speak of. They regarded us with caution, and kept as far away as possible. They called us foul names, for they considered Rohan to be their own, and that the steward of Gondor had betrayed them when he gave us the land after we helped him in battle. But, we treated them with kindness nonetheless, and were careful to keep our camps away from their settlements. We did not go a night without a stolen pan or a pilfered saddlebag, though, and we rode through that country in haste, eager to get away from the foul Dunlendings. The country became a bit more hilly now, as we rounded the northern curve of the edge of Dunland and neared the Misty Mountains, which we could see to the left. I remember one day in particular fondness. We had come over a hill, and were famished from the low supply of food. We looked down on a forest straddling a brook that came down from a cliff. When we came to the stream, we found berries in plenty, game everywhere, and the water as clear as crystal. You can imagine that we slept soundly that night. On the start of the second week after coming to the southern border of Dunland, we reached the river Glanduin. It was a small and slow river, but the water was sweet and we quenched our thirst. We had no need of meat, for we had slung the remains of the stags over our horses and still had plenty to eat. The choice of where to go was a mystery at this point. We could go east, and come that way to swamps that ran into Bruinen, or the Loudwater. Bruinen ran up into the very heart of Rivendell. Some, including me, suggested that we go north, avoiding the swamps, but coming to Bruinen further upstream. Still others wanted to skirt the edges of the Misty Mountains and come directly north to Rivendell. In the end, though, we decided to follow the plan which I had reasoned was wise from the start. First, we would be near the river, unlike the third plan, and second, we would not have to go through the mysterious swamps, which were sure to be festered with midges, and which strange stories were told about. The next day we set off on our journey, going into Eregion, an esoteric, rocky, and barren place that was once the rich Elven-kingdom of Hollin. I felt a sense of adventure as we rode through the hills and across knolls. Our archers even killed a company of about 10 orcs that had wandered down from the mountains. There was excitement in the camp as we neared Rivendell. A week after crossing the Glanduin we could even see the very vale where it lay. The day after that we found ourselves entering the city of Imladris.