Heart of Earth, Heart of Stone - Chapter 13 - Information Gathering - Chapter 13 - Information Gathering
This part of the story is paralleled in Starry Twilight, this one does stand alone, but if you wish the points of view of the people from Rivendell, you have to read that story.
"Wrong direction love!" one of the twins called, "We're more down than you are!"
Eldacar looked up the hill, and felt his hopes fall even farther. He had been bitterly disappointed to find Rivendell empty, but had allowed himself to hope again when Elladan and Elrohir had come, telling them of a secret place farther up the valley. But if all that remained of the great community of Imladris was two Elves and two ladies, then all was lost. He could not hope to achieve victory over his foes with so little. His kingdom was irreclaimable.
He leaned heavily against his horse, fighting the urge to give in to his despair. He would continue to fight until they claimed his life. There was nothing else he could do. He would not bring dishonor on his grandfather's house.
Eldacar became aware that he was staring blankly at the ladies, or at the lady, for one of them had run lightly down the hill, and was now chattering with Elrohir and the other Elves. The dark haired lady was gazing at him curiously, as though questioning his own steady gaze. She was lovely rather than beautiful, though serene and calm as any lady that Eldacar had met. As they drew near he saw that she had grey eyes, like his, though of a hue that seemed more like silver than mere grey. He realized with a start that she was human. What was a human lady doing alone in company of Elves?
Gimli had protested leaving Imladris, which had been a meeting place assigned to meet a lady. Eldacar had been surprised that they had brought a lady along, until he had seen the baby, of course they would not separate a baby from its mother. Though why they both were here still perplexed Eldacar, almost as much as the sight of the surly dwarf holding the child so tenderly. Gimli had mentioned the lady's name, Jaessa, yes that had been the name. It suited her, he thought absently as they arrived at the edge of the pool.
"Elladan, Elrohir, this is Jaessa, though I am certain Haldir or Legolas has already mentioned her," the Elvish lady said, laying a hand on Jaessa's arm as she joined the group.
"Actually, it was Gimli who mentioned her," Elladan said, moving to take Jaessa's hand, "It is an honor to meet you," he continued.
"Well, we have all been introduced," Tinel continued, turning to Eldacar, "Except you." Eldacar moved to introduce himself to her, but Elladan spoke first.
"This is Eldacar, Tinel."
"Eldarion's youngest?" she said, again incredulous, "Here? How is your father? And your brother? The kingship was sitting well upon Eldarion when last we were there."
"I am sorry to bring you tidings that my father and brother are both dead." Eldacar said, stiffly. He did not like talking of his father. And his sense of impatience was growing. His people were battling without him. If there was no aid to be had, he needed to return himself.
"I am sorry for your loss. It is a hard thing to lose a family member. You must have loved your father," the silver-eyed lady said. The words were polite, not so different from the several insipid ladies of court when his grandfather had died. Her voice was quiet and sweet, but certainly not stirring, and her face was still expressionless. Why then did he get the feeling that she meant them more sincerely than did any of the ladies with whom he spent time in court?
Though he could not say that he agreed with her words. He loved his father as any loyal subject would love the heir to the throne, and eventually his king. He could not bring himself to think of his father as a member of his family. He made some appropriate but noncommital response, and was rewarded by a narrowing of those silvery eyes.
He expected her to make some other polite remark, and so was very surprised by her comment.
"What people is it that have invaded Gondor?" her question was quite brusque, very different from her polite queries. It made him sit up, so to speak, and examine her anew. Her expression was bland, and he suddenly had the idea that if she would smile she would be quite beautiful.
"It is the Haradrim," he turned his gaze to Legolas, "I don't know if you recall, but my grandfather sent a peace envoy to them just before his death. Those men returned full of hope for peace, and assurances of good will from the Southron King. He claimed to wish for an end to the generations of strife that came about due to Sauron the Deceiver. My brother went to arrange the treaty. They sent back an emissary with his head. The army followed the following morning."
He saw his mentor's shock, "They agreed to treat and then attacked?" his tone was disgusted, a sentiment into which Eldacar entered fully.
"My father has never been so attentive to me as he was that day," Eldacar said bitterly, "One heir was lost to him, it was time to groom another." He paused, trying to force away his bitterness, or at least to hide it. "He fell the next day. No one can claim that he was not a good king. He was at the forefront of the small army that we had left in Minas Tirith."
"Small army?" Legolas asked incredulously, "I have never heard the army of Gondor termed small."
"Not when they were all present of course. However the Easterlings had attacked the Iron Hills and the Lonely Mountain, and the Dwarves requested aid. So our army was sent there. Now I am cut off from them, and I know not how they fair."
"They must have been near to defeat if they requested aid!" Gimli cried in dismay.
"From all accounts they were hard pressed indeed," Eldacar said grimly.
"So these Haradrim, what sort of people are they?" Jaessa's quiet voice asked.
Eldacar nearly sneered. He had almost been taken in by her serious question of earlier, but such a question showed the same sort of ignorance as the ladies of court. He was very surprised when Haldir turned and answered her very seriously.
"The people of the South are from two groups, the Haradrim, who are nomads of the desert . . ."
Jaessa cut him off swiftly, "Nomads, . . . so they have slightly darker skin, mostly from continual contact with the sun, black hair, black eyes, use curved swords. They produce extraordinary horses. They probably don't like to stay in one place long, and despise enclosed spaces. They can have multiple wives, who are not allowed to be seen by other men, and have a very strict, though strange, sense of honor?"
Surprise was a mild word to describe Eldacar's feelings at that moment. At every turn this female seemed to contradict everything he'd ever known of women. One moment she showed typical court ignorance, the next a few words were enough for her to analyze an entire culture.
"If you knew why did you ask?" Haldir said in confusion, "I thought that you had little knowledge of our world." Our world? Eldacar thought, What is that supposed to mean?
"Then I am right?" she smiled, "When you have traveled as much as I have you begin to notice certain patterns in cultures. Nomadic cultures are all especially similar, they have to be to survive in the deserts that they make their homes."
"Traveled? Nomadic cultures?" Eldacar asked, bewildered, how could she be well traveled but not know about the Haradrim, and where were there any other people like the Haradrim?
"Our Jaessa is a very unique person," Gimli said, laughing, no doubt, at Eldacar's confusion. "She is much more than she appears. However, we must leave it up to her to explain when she wishes."
Our Jaessa? Gimli's attitude towards her was almost more bewildering than her words. The surly Dwarf very seldom approved of Ladies. Eldacar turned his gaze back to that Lady, she was looking at Gimli, and for a moment an expression of exasperation crossed her features, before becoming again serene. So the lady did not wish to reveal her secrets, very interesting. Eldacar was becoming more and more intrigued as time went on.
"Haldir, you said that they were of two peoples?" Jaessa invited the Lothlorien Elf to continue his intruction.
"The Lords of Umbar are a fierce warrior class, ruling the seas, though in the past they have not had enough strength to overcome Gondor," he replied.
Jaessa's face remained blank as she thought over this information in silence. Eldacar caught himself thinking again that if she would smile she would be very pretty. He shoved this thought away urgently. They had spent enough time talking. Every moment they delayed was perhaps another life lost.
"I apologize for my haste, but I must know, will you come to my aid?" he turned back to Elrohir and Elladan, taking Legolas, Gimli and Haldir into his request as well. "I had hoped that there were more here, but we will make do as we must. I will not lie to you, I see little hope of victory. The Southrons greatly out number us, they have not been idle in the years since Sauron fell. And I believe that there is some other power aiding them." He made his request with dignity, hoping for their aid, but resolving to return and fight til the last even if they did not come.
Jaessa raised her eyebrows in admiration. This man felt that his cause was without hope, and yet he made his plea with great dignity.
"To aid Gondor was in part our design in coming South. So we will accompany you, I can speak for Legolas, Haldir and Gimli," she turned slightly to Tinel and the twins, "Can I speak for you as well?"
"Of course we will come!" Tinel said immediately, "An enemy taking over Gondor is not an event that we can look upon with any sanguinity. Our people were allied with you before, we shall be again. And it may be that you will find our aid to be more than you obviously expect."
Jaessa nearly laughed at Eldacar's expression upon hearing his request agreed to by the two ladies of the company, and at the fact that Tinel had obviously also noticed his hesitation.
"I had not meant the ladies," he said slowly, "especially you Lady Jaessa, with your baby . . ."
"True Jaessa!" Tinel cried out, "You cannot come! You must stay with your baby!"
Jaessa blushed, "Much as I love Cherry, she is not truly mine, we found her in Fornost. I hope, when this is all over to keep her with me, but, much as I will miss her, this is more important. I came here to find my sister, and my love for this baby cannot stand in my way."
"Your sister wouldn't happen to be Zandra would she?" one of the twins asked quietly, Must be Elladan Jaessa thought, since Elrohir had been the one Tinel had called flighty.
"You're Zandra's sister?" the other one, Elrohir cried.
"Yes," Jaessa said quietly, "Am I to assume you knew her?"
"I thought you must be, you look much like her," Elladan said.
"Aside from the coloring that is," the other, louder one, added.
"We knew her when she came to Rivendell after the Battle of the Five Armies," Elladan continued.
"I helped her to remember her name!" Elrohir contributed.
This shocked Jaessa out of her composure for a moment, "Remember . . ." she turned to Legolas, her eyes wide, "She didn't remember her name?"
"I . . . I told you . . ." Legolas's voice sounded choked, "She was imprisoned in Dol Guldur for four-thousand years, when Mithrandir freed her, she could not remember anything, not even her name."
Jaessa's horror increased with each word. Her baby sister, trapped in the darkness? Imprisoned with no memory? She realized that her shock and pain must be plainly writ upon her face, and with an effort she smoothed her features, though she knew that her cheeks held no color.
"Jaessa? Are you all right?" Tinel asked softly, hesitantly.
"Of course," she said forcing her voice to be composed. "It is quite silly of me to be shocked in this way. We knew something of the sort must have happened else she would have returned home. It is merely painful to have our fears confirmed. I had so wished her disappearance had some other cause than something so grievous as this." She grew brisk, pushing the remaining pain to the back of her mind, to wait with the mounting pile of horrors that she had not time to face. "But that has little bearing on what we must do. Morgoth told me that Zandra is in Gondor," she turned again to Eldacar, "How far have the Haradrim advanced? Have you a map?" she questioned the three Imladris Elves.
"Yes, shall we go up to the cave?" Elladan said, "There is plenty of light, and we can talk there."
This was agreed and they climbed the slippery path behind the waterfall. Gimli nearly slipped, and swiftly Haldir removed Chearra from the Dwarf's arms, admonishing him to be more careful. Jaessa merely laughed at this. It was incredible really the effect that young children had on people. The stuffiest, gruffest men, and Dwarves, turned out to be softies, and sometimes the most charming gentlemen were revealed to be nothing but self-centered jerks. This reflection removed the smile from her face. Children had always been the source of the joy in her life. Back home, before Zandra disappeared, she had been a teacher, teaching children about healing, and in turn healing them when they needed it. Then she had gone to Avendor.
She wrenched her attention back to the map that Elladan was now unrolling. Eldacar quickly pointed out the path of the Haradrim invading army.
"They came through Mordor, while the Corsairs sailed up the river, and cut right through Osgiliath to Minas Tirith. Their numbers were far too great, and with the larger part of our army in the North, we had no chance to hold them back. From there they have spread along down to Dol Amroth, here and here, and around the mountains they are pressing Rohan near to Edoras, from King Eodram's reports they have conquered all of East Emnet, and are swarming across the Wold towards the Greenwood." He pointed to a large forest which was marked as "Mirkwood" on the old map.
"The Greenwood?" Legolas said, his eyes snapping up to Eldacar's grim face. "What could they be thinking? Why should they go towards the Greenwood?"
"It does not make sense," Jaessa whispered, interrupting Eldacar's response to Legolas's query.
"What does not make sense?" Gimli asked, when she did not continue.
"They're too spread out. Nomadic armies don't work like this."
"What do you mean?" Eldacar asked impatiently.
"From what I know of nomads, they carry grudges for a long time, feuding among their families for generations, long after the original reason is completely forgotten," she said, and she looked at Eldacar for confirmation.
"Yes, they have been our enemies since before the time of Elendil, one of the forbears of the Lords of Umbar was a Númenorian with some claim to the throne of Gondor, and as the Lords of Umbar rule the Haradrim, their feud has become the Haradrim's. They were allies with Sauron, and have never ceased to be blinded by his lies. My grandfather, Elessar, had hoped to make peace at last, but this is the result."
"Yes, so it would make sense that they attack Gondor, even if they had no apparent reason other than tradition. However, nomads are also fiercely loyal to their homelands. They do not normally wish to take over a foreign country. If, as you say their lords have some claim to Gondor, invading there makes sense. But this has me puzzled, why are they making such an effort to invade three different countries at once? They cannot think they can hold what they have overtaken, they will be far to spread out. Indeed, they are too spread out now. It would be child's play to cut through their rear and surround them." She lapsed into thoughtful silence, staring broodingly at the map.
"You are right," Eldacar said with surprise, "with the way they are going it would be easy to cut them off." But his words belied his tone, "Why would they make so foolhardy a move? It is true that the Easterlings are distracting the Dwarves, so we have not their aid, nor the aid of the Men of Dale, but they cannot think that the Elves would allow them to invade their wood!"
Everyone lapsed into silence, trying to understand this foolhardy move.
Suddenly Jaessa cried out, "Of course! It is madness, but whenever has evil been wise!"
"What is madness?" Haldir asked.
"Its quite simple," Jaessa said, speaking softly, and, tracing a line from Harad to the Greenwood, continued, "They are clearing a path to Angmar."