*The Twilight of the North
- From the Journal of Aethor the Crimson Elf, Early Autumn, 1409 of the third age of this world.
I travel with dwarves.
Autumn seems to come earlier and earlier each year of late. The winds bear the cold from the northeast, and I fear the illness that seems to infect them.
Currently, I am surrounded by dwarves. Fjorin and his Mirmaedhim are remarkable, however, not the uncivilized savages Master Elrond and the other learned lead me to believe. Sure they are loud, they eat like trolls, and the smell—but they bear a nobility. I am eager to travel more with these comrades. Vindal, Hannar, and Bildr chatted casually amongst themselves in the dwarf tounge—the Khadzul, I think they refer to it, and I gathered their chatter regarded out newest companion, another dwarf (will I ever meet anyone else?). Azthrozil is his name and he claims to be of the First Age. Though his name seems to indicate that, and I have never heard of a dwarf with his manner, except in some legends of the dwarfs, he is wholy unusual. We found him in what they call a deathless door. The dwarfs are fascinated by him, and I am curious as well. What can he tell us of that age than to even we elves seems legend.
Aha! Finally, someone over five feet tall. We have encountered a human, a Dunedain no less. My close friend, Mirodon, the holder of the contract. I think some men might refer to him as a spy master, but I will not denigrate his noble blood nor my friendship with that pejorative. He directed us to make for Amon Sul, the watchtower of the three kingdoms of men, the broken kingdom of Arnor.
Weary, we arrived at the Sarn Ford, a common crossing point of the Baranduin, called the Brandywine by some common folk; the Sarn Ford is near a small turn in the river; clusters of young trees on either side of the river; the road becomes quite overgrown with thicker scrub brush as we draw closer to the river; it is late in the day; the crickets serenade us. I felt as though Fate were creating something for us, some token of its note, a point for us, perhaps? A mere passing fancy. I sore desire to sing the traveling song of my people, but the short ones will not endure a singing elf. More’s the pity.
Across the ford, we notice a man leaning against tree. Is he another man to join our company? Dressed in leather armor, later one of the dwarves (Vindal, I think—the plaited beard one) comments that the armor is cheap and in disrepair of Cardolan , but all human armor seems, well, a bit cheap. Regardless of his dress, I approached him, quite eager to meet another of the younger race.
“Hail! And well met, fellow traveler!” This behavior was what landed me in trouble with the masters of Rivendell. Rash. Youthful, a epithet the others intended as insult, but I take as badge of honor.
The man seemed quite drawn back a bit by the appearance of an elf in this wilderness. I confess I do have that effect. He stumbles and tries to give me an impression of a smile, but there lurks the wolf in his looks. Quickly, I see him as charlatan trying to con us as he asks for “donation to his cause to protect the ford," seeing our relics and the well-equipped nature of the company.
Mirodon, the excellent fellow, asks him for his writ of command, but the scoundrel hems and haws, clearly lying about the nature of him and his companions—a small suspicious group, lurking hooded watchers, up on the rocky outcropping to the northeast. I ask him about them, but he dodges me.
“Orhad’s my name; I am well-known in the local villages."
Mirodon drops his name quite clearly; Orhad is clearly impressed and perhaps fearful.
Fjorin steps up close nose-to- belly and claims his right to pass the ford and his right to hospitality and gifts from Orhad in the service of the king and the Valar! May the Valar bless the brass of this dwarf.
Orhad keeps glancing behind him atop the rocky outcrop
I move close, near enough to smell the wine and garlic on his breath.
“My friend, of what are you afraid?”
My glance is drawn to the figures on the hill, robed fig—*suddenly all I see is a smooth, black throne; the figures, they are now kneeling before it and are chained; they reach out for a black orb—a palantir?! But prowling, unseen, a malevolent presence lurks. I am unsure of what happened for several moments.*
Later I am told that suddenly, several men approach from the south east. What follows is almost unbelievable to me, I,who have seen the wonders of the elves, can scarcely believe that Azthrozil wades into the river, using his shield of the dwarves in an almost impossible way, even defying the power of the river, and destroying the composure of the group approaching the company.
Mirodon watches Azthrozil’s opening volley and turns to Fjorin. “Lieutenant, your new recruit will serve the Mirmaedhim well,” he says wryly.
Still in the fear of the vision, I heard Words of Westernesse, but the black Númenóreans’ speech. I feel the fear clutching at me as the scoundrel Orhad turns back to me, filled with a blind, almost supernatural hatred as his hand drops to pull his sword
The approaching group attacks Azthrozil and he deflects with his mighty shield, arrows flung back at the bandits who flee. Azthrozil bellows, and this is a rough translation of the dwarf: GO HOME TO YOUR MOTHERS WHILE YOU HAVE A CHANCE!
Mirodon’s normally calm expression suddenly shows surprise as Azthrozil deflects the attack. “Quite well indeed.”
The bandits line the shore, shooting at the company, and noble Fjorin is hit by arrows.
Meanwhile, Orhad draws his weapon, and Mirodon recognizes that it is out of place with the rundown guard gear—this sword though is of clearly older and finer make. He,, taking advantage of my phantasm, stabs me, jarring me out of the vision
Fjorin moves into the unsteady footing of the fjord lets loose his mighty battle cry! And demands that all “KILL THEM, YOU FOOLS!” And the Mirmaedhim join him, raring to attack
Mirodon moves to defend me, later saying he’s has seen this vision state before, and interposes himself.
Azthrozil moves to attack the bandits, a sort of domino knocking one head into the others “KHAZAD!”
What I had feared in the vision now becomes real as the hooded watchers chant and gesture! The Baranduin, separating our company, becomes choppy, raging against the dark magic; the river rises. The ford becomes near unpassable. Fjorin calls his troops to hold!
I trust my longtime friend Mirodon to handle Orhad as I swings out my Crimson Bow and shoot a flaming arrow through one of the hooded watchers, catching a second villain on fire. As a minion stumbles backward out of fear, he loses his footing, falling to his death.
Orhad swings to attack me, yet Mirodon, true to his word and intent, moves to take to attack. The ferocity of the attack throws Mirodon off balance.
Fjorin, the river raging against him, orders his men to link arms, pulling themselves out of the river; they become ready for action!
Azthrozil and those that have crossed the river see tents and wagons; he rushes to attack the southern group of bandits with his mighty shield. One is decapitated; the shield bounces off, breaks another’s arm, and returns.
“KHAZAD!!” echoes through the land.
The bandits, fearing for their lives, frightened of the dwarf standing in the middle of their camp, flee into the trees and rocks.
Azthrozil, though mighty, feels the weight of the ages, the bones of stone now slow his pursuit.
The bandits, with no sense of honor or goodness, attack Azthrozil but to no avail. Azthrozil’s armor is too mighty, but now they have revealed themselves.
I see Mirodon attack, and shift and swings his bow, now aflame with my talent, into Orhad’s face, singeing his hair and temporarily blinding him.
Orhad attacks again, enraged. Mirodon is hurt
Fjorin moves to the wagon, an oddly undersized wagon, and sees the bandits are up in the tree; ramming the cart into the trunk of the tree, causing the tree to lurch out of its roots, dropping the bandits like so much rotten fruit into the raging Baranduin, sweeping them to the west.
Mirodon commands Orhad to throw down his arms and surrender.
The company regroups with Orhad in tow on the other side of river. Mirodon asks Fjorin to bind Orhad; Orhad acts as though he’s surrender, but Mirodon notices that it is a ruse. Fjorin ties him tightly, I stands with his sword ablaze providing light and a bit of fear.
The sword of Orhad is old, possibly early third age; Azthrozil dismisses it as poor dwarf make, but Mirodon knows that it is an artifact of Númenórean make; a blade from Annúminas The scabbard is more recently made, marked with a rune, near the top, Awarthannem Alurin, meaning “we have forsaken but not forgotten”
Upon consulting Fjorin’s passages from the liriphant are in reference to fallen kingdoms and some refer to Númenor. These passages (and the investigation of the bodies of the hooded watchers) indicate that the makes of the scabbard are Black Númenóreans —those who believe that the mad king of Númenor who offended the Valar was right to do so. Fjorin finds a signet ring, (a Malzayan? signet ring). That Fjorin believes the company can possibly forge. Cirith runes are on the ring, but they are indecipherable.
In the camps, tents, and the wagons, we find a pile of trash and bones (some humanoid) and we find two young hobbits, slightly older than children. The two seem traumatized and hungry, I feeds them, fascinated by this almost legendary race. Their names are Hildegard and Rudigar, a boy and girl. Sweet children from a clearly noble race. They were passing this way with their family moving to Arthedain. How can I tell them that their parents were cannibalized? We determine (under Mirodon’s leadership) to find a fitting home for the children. Azthrozil frightens them. Fjorin demands time to bury the remains, out of a mixture of respect and fear. My desire to help the other races of Middle Earth, and, honestly the novelty of hobbits, causes me to take special interest in the children, creating both small light a fire shows and tricks to amuse them.
Orhad is of that ilk of man who has no confidence in the weakened Númenor governments, those losing control of the fracturing of Arnor. He refuses to talk about the black Númenóreans —we can glean that they promised him to help Make Arnor Great Again.
Mirodon wants to help Orhad see the error of his ways—that there is trouble but that solving it through the black Númenóreans is wrong. Fjorin and Mirodon work Orhad over—the good guard and bad guard routine—Orhad begins to crack, seeing how Arnor could be saved and that his actions were wicked. Azthrozil invokes Durin the Deathless, placing the shard of the crown, compelling him to REPENT! Orhad breaks down and weeps. Finally Mirodon comes to Orhad, trying to push the redemption of Orhad, wanting to teach him a nobler path.
Fjorin and Mirodon push to keep moving, though I favor setting camp to care for the children. As we travel, we discuss my vision, the memory causing me to become nearly sick: the chained figures, the empty throne, the palantir —we piece together that Sauron caused the fall of Númenor by tempting them to worship Melkor; the evil presence seems an echo of a great evil, a servant of one of these defeated dark lords? The black Númenóreans seem to have some allegiance to Melkor or his followers.
Orhad listens with interest, but adds that these people have been going up and down the Greenway, traveling from village to village, making promises to the poor or oppressed; promises for restoration and prosperity. Mirodon dispatches men carrying news of a reward about rumors or leads on these cultists
As we travel the Greenway, we decide to cut across on advice of the dwarf Mirmaedhim (is it Vindal the scout with the braided beard, I think that’s the one), passing through the South Downs, rough hills. We come to a narrow road passing through some cliffs. A tall tree has collapsed and blocked off the road. I thought about shooting a flaming arrow into it, but Fjorin and the Mirmaedhim investigate the log. Azthrozil begins to make his way up the cliffs.
The log, as Fjorin pokes it, begins to move, snake-like, and a hissing voice, “Ahh! Vissitorsss…”
It didn’t look like this, actually. We’re so very dead…..
Ugh. I knew I should have set it on fire.