Sorry for the long delay everyone, my pesky muse had decided to work on things other than this, but here it is now, and hopefully she will decide to focus on this for a little while.
Starry Twilight – Chapter Nine – The Black Enemy
Disgust filled Elladan at Eldacar’s words. No people with any honor could behave in such a manner. Legolas echoed this feeling, saying, “They agreed to treat and then attacked?” “My father has never been so attentive to me as he was that day,” Eldacar said, and Elladan heard the desperate bitterness in his tone. The son of Elrond had not seen his great nephew in many years, but it had been obvious even then that his father had little use for his sons, preferring to ride out at the head of the army. Eldacar especially was left much to his own devices, and actually Legolas had seen to much of the boy’s education.
“One heir was lost to him, it was time to groom another,” Eldacar paused, and Elladan could see the effort he was making to banish his feelings for his father. “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.” Elladan was much confused by this. How could the army of Gondor be called small? Legolas voiced his thoughts before he could, and Eldacar responded.
“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.” His worry was plain to see. He may have resented the fact that his father’s concern with duty led him to ignore his youngest, but Eldacar knew also his own duty to his people. Elladan was filled with pride in his young relative.
“They must have been near to defeat if they requested aid!” Gimli cried in dismay, and Elladan nodded grimly in agreement. Dwarves were very prideful creatures, though Gimli was better than most. They would not request aid until there seemed no other hope.
“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.
Elladan looked closely at her, wondering how like her sister she was, for he had decided immediately that she was Zandra’s sister. The resemblance was uncanny, and he had known the golden haired lady for too long not to recognize the shape of her face when he saw it on another. It was that recognition which had led him to greet her much more warmly than was his wont. But now he figuratively stepped back and realized that she might be completely different from his good friend. Zandra would indeed have asked about the Haradrim culture, but she had a reason for not knowing, she had lost all memory of her past. How could this lady be so ignorant?
“The people of the South are from two groups, the Haradrim, who are nomads of the desert . . .” Haldir answered her question quietly and seriously.
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?” Elladan found her response very interesting. Obviously her ignorance was not from stupidity if she could sum up the entire culture from so little information. But it was also bewildering, she must have lived a reclusive life to not know of the Haradrim, but how then could she glean so much from so little? There was a piece to this puzzle that he could not yet see.
“If you knew why did you ask?” Haldir said in confusion, “I thought that you had little knowledge of our world.” “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 said, asking the question that Elladan would have liked to ask himself. Haldir’s words also pricked his attention. I thought that you had little knowledge of our world. They seemed to carry much more significance than might be imagined. Could it be possible that there were worlds other than this?
“Our Jaessa is a very unique person,” Gimli said, laughing, no doubt, at Eldacar’s confusion. Elladan hoped that Eldacar would not take offense at the dwarf’s manner. Then he recalled that the Gondorian Prince, no . . . King, had grown up with the dwarf. “She is much more than she appears. However, we must leave it up to her to explain when she wishes.” Elladan nearly snorted at the understatement the dwarf had just made. “More than she appears” indeed. With a sister like Zandra she would have to be, he recalled fondly.
“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. Elladan examined her face intently, trying to decide if she were trustworthy or not. He did not know what Zandra had remembered of her family before she had left Gondor to search for them. He did know however that there had been no sign of them in the years she had lived in Rivendell, and presumably not in the four-thousand years she was imprisoned in Dol Guldur. He would not decide one way or another rashly.
Eldacar broke into the silence impatiently, “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.” Elladan sighed at Eldacar’s words. The heir to the throne might despise his father, but there was definitely something of Eldarion’s manner in him. Then Elladan saw the agony in his young relative’s eyes, and promptly forgave the abruptness in his manner of asking. Eldacar was too much like his grandfather to stand the possibility that Gondor might be lost, but he did not have the sobering influence of Aragorn’s years as a Ranger.
“To aid Gondor was in part our design in coming South.” Jaessa said softly, and strangely Elladan was not surprised that it was she that answered. “So we will accompany you, I can speak for Legolas, Haldir and Gimli,” she turned slightly to Elladan, Elrohir and Tinel, “Can I speak for you as well?” “Of course we will come!” Tinel said immediately, and all thought of Eldacar or Jaessa or anything was momentarily driven from Elladan’s mind. Fear lanced through him as she continued, “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.” Anything might happen to Tinel in a war such as this. There was very little hope of success, or even of survival. And yet, he could not say her nay.
“I had not meant the ladies,” Eldacar said slowly, and Elladan wanted to applaud him, “especially you Lady Jaessa, with your baby . . .” “True, Jaessa!” Tinel cried out, “You cannot come! You must stay with your baby!” Elladan’s eyes were drawn reluctantly from Tinel to a blushing Jaessa, “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.” There was a quality in her voice which drove away all the doubts he had harbored about her.
“Your sister wouldn’t happen to be Zandra would she?” he asked quietly, though he was already certain of the answer.
“You’re Zandra’s sister?” Elrohir cried, and Elladan nearly laughed at him, amazed that his brother had not noticed the resemblance before now.
“Yes,” Jaessa said quietly, “Am I to assume you knew her?” “I thought you must be, you look much like her,” Elladan said, not revealing the doubts he had moments ago held.
“Aside from the coloring that is,” his brother added candidly, tilting his head to one side.
“We knew her when she came to Rivendell after the Battle of the Five Armies,” Elladan continued, thinking back to that time. She had seemed so frail, naught but skin and bones, and shadow. Especially shadow. He had thought that the shadows would never be banished from her lovely green eyes. And he had been right, at least they had not been when last he saw her.
“I helped her to remember her name!” Elrohir contributed.
This shocked Jaessa out of her composure, and Elladan wanted to hit his brother for putting it so bluntly. There had to have been a reason that so caring a person had not searched out her sister before now. And obviously she had not known of her sister’s pain. Learning it so bluntly would be a terrible shock. “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.” Elladan watched the pain in her silver eyes grow with the Mirkwood Prince’s every word, then abruptly she wiped all expression from her face. Bravo my Lady, he thought, silently admiring her strength. Take the time you need to handle it in your own way. That is all there is to do. It was how he had to face Arwen’s death, and the departure of the rest of his family into the West.
“Jaessa? Are you all right?” Tinel asked softly, hesitantly.
“Of course,” she responded, her voice calm and 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.” There was a slight faltering in her voice before she continued briskly, “But that has little bearing on what we must do. Morgoth told me that Zandra is in Gondor,” she turned again to Eldacar, continuing as though she had said nothing unusual, rather than just calmly mentioning the worst evil Middle-earth had ever known. “How far have the Haradrim advanced? Have you a map?” she questioned the three Imladris Elves. Elladan answered, though his mind was awhirl with questions. She had spoken with Morgoth, the Black Enemy. Perhaps she was not to be trusted after all.
“Yes, shall we go up to the cave?” he said, careful to keep his renewed suspicions out of his voice, “There is plenty of light, and we can talk there.” *****************************
Tinel trailed after the others in uncommon abstraction, pondering the dark haired lady who walked at Elladan’s side. She had not failed to notice the intentness with which Elladan had been watching Jaessa, and it made her uncomfortable, both his intentness, and the fact that she noticed.
She wrenched her attention to the map that Elladan was now unrolling, determined to focus only on the business at hand. Now was not a good time to ponder these strange emotions for her dear friend. 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.” Tinel looked up at him sharply, confused by his words. They were heading towards the Greenwood? Such a move was complete foolishness, and went against everything she had ever heard of the Haradrim.
“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. Tinel nodded her agreement, looking in awe at the other lady. Curiosity crossed the elven maid’s features. Where had this lady come from that she knew so little of history, yet managed to understand everything she was told? She looked over at Haldir and Legolas. Both of them she knew to have left for Valinor. How were they here now? The Valar had decreed that once the Elves left Middle-earth there was no returning.
“Yes, they have been our enemies since before the time of Elendil,” Eldacar agreed, “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.” Tinel looked at the map, then looked back up at Jaessa in amazement. How had she seen that so swiftly? All of the elves present, save herself, had seen much of war, and they had not pointed this out. What was it that made this lady so different?
“You are right,” Eldacar said softly, “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. Tinel looked around at the pensive faces, feeling very young and untried. Aside from a few sorties against the scattered minions of Sauron, she had seen little of battle. These were all tried and true warriors, even, apparently Jaessa. For a moment her heart quailed. Perhaps it would be best if she remained here after all. She might be only a hindrance to her friends, and that she could not stand.
Suddenly Jaessa cried out, drawing Tinel’s attention from her woes, “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.”
Tinel stared with dreadful fascination at the point on the map which Jaessa now pointed to. Angmar, the one time kingdom of the Witch-king. Aside from the two abodes of Sauron there was no land remaining in Middle-earth more evil. But had it not been destroyed? Could it be that the evil which raised the Orcs again had its source in that land?
“Angmar!” several voices cried at once, in various stages of incredulity and horror.
“It can’t be,” Tinel whispered aloud, but as she spoke she knew it was true, and a quick survey of the others told her that they knew it too. “But why?” She asked fearfully, gazing earnestly at Jaessa, seemingly the only one who could give any answers, “Why Angmar? What is there that our unseen enemy wants?”
“That makes no sense!” Eldacar objected over Tinel, “Angmar has been destroyed, and my grandfather sent many groups of settlers to the North, as that land is part of our dominion.”
Jaessa’s face was shuttered, and she merely shook her head, “I know only what I have been told, and what I have seen,” she said quietly, “I do not know the machinations of the Black Enemy.”
“Angmar is silent no more,” Haldir said, and Tinel’s gaze darted to him, “The villages have almost all been razed to the ground,” he paused significantly, “by Orcs.”
Was that then the source of the Orcs which had attacked her home? Tinel wondered, a fire starting in her bosom, stronger than it had been knowing only of the attack on Gondor. To know that the enemy on both sides was one and the same, filled her with a determination to see that he was stopped. She would see Angmar cleansed once and for all. It would be her great adventure, and perhaps then at last she would be willing to cross the sea.