Twilight of the North

Dwarvish Dilemma
Fjorin in Rivendell

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A haven of elves despite its lavishnesses is no roosting place for a dwarf. And so it was that Fjorin itched for adventure beyond the sharp steep moss-laden ravines of Rivendell. It was not as if Lord Elrond was keeping the intrepid Longbeard from leaving. On the contrary, he had been very hospitable to his guest’s accomadations. Fjorin simply felt—stuck. Despite his fearless character (a result of the protections the Three Fëanturi gave to him when they fused his soul with the sacred book of Eregion, the Lîriphant) Fjorin had somewhat of a superstition passed down through the blood of Durin that ran through his veins preventing him from crossing the threshold of Elrond’s Gates. His irrational belief was based in a Khuzdul saying that no solo dwarf should ever go into the world alone save until the Great Eagle, also called Soronúmë in Quenya tongue, seizes Durin’s Crown rising it above the Peaks of Durubath. This is to say—never. This superstition was reinforced the day before he came to the Grey Haven when Molorath the Lindwirm laid waste to his kinsmen. So each night the young child of Aulë would watch the twilight skies and stare at the nigh motionless stars of the Great Eagle waiting for the constellation to swoop across the sky to converge with Durin’s Crown. It was a hopeless cause for an adventurer needing a companion to be surrounded by a hive of indifferent isolationists. But a warrior never gives in to doubt, and a pious dwarf never gives up hope. Fjorin was both. He did not know how, but he knew the Fëanturi had a plan for him.

After an odious day of studies trying desparately to learn Quenya and Sindarin so that he could transcribe the words of the Lîriphant imbedded in his skin, the young dwarf needed some fresh air. Some real fresh air away from all the wispy rose and wafty mirrh scents that aided in elvish meditation. Fjorin desired to smell the earth, the wet musky odors of fresh mud and brisk sweet bitters of ferns and moss. He wanted to hear the stern crushing sounds of broken rocks and fractalized gravel beheath his boots. And he longed to feel the crisp fuzz of morning dew that settled in from the groves of nettled pines. No more elvish chamber music, but to hear the far distant echoes of nothingness harmonizing with the stark shrills of a love-struck morning dove.

Fjorin burst out of Elrond’s hall of academia and bolted up the flagstone path for the Gates. His body flung into a lurched stop dead in front of the threshold of Rivendell. His heart beat hard and his pulse pound through his temples. The words of the Khuzdul warning coursed through his mind. Beyond the Gates he could feel the world and all of the intricacies and creations of Aulë’s hand pulling at him to leave Rivendell behind. He closed his eyes and prayed for a sign from the Valar. As he stood there torn between these two worlds, it seemed as if the whole world of Middle-Earth were passing away around him. There was silence—utter silence. He felt peaceful. Suddenly, off in the distance with his eyes still closed Fjorin heard the soothing shrill of a male morning-dove. He opened his eyes ready to take the step, but found that he was no longer at Elrond’s Gates, but somewhere just off the Grey Path and up the way from Rivendell. He was surrounded by hidden creatures revealed only by the gentle noises they made. He could feel the closeness of the spirits of the trees and the elements as they moved with the sweet mist-filled breeze swirling through the deciduous leaves and needles of nettled pines. His mind felt free.

Why had I not done this before? Thought the dwarf as he soaked up every essence of revelry. He took a few steps up a steep grass-flocked hillock when he spotted an elk. As he studied the grace and power of the creature from a distance, he tried to recall its elvish name—belenaras—wait no, belegaras. That’s right belegaras. He recalled the story of Raissuithoron, taught to him by Elrond himself:

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Raisuithoron whose massive antlers grew and grew. He was a prize that all wanted to capture. Many of the Avari elves tried to hunt the great stag to no avail. They scoffed and said the beast was unslayable, even the skillful Oromë could not slay the beast. Hearing this, Oromë felt his honor as the Huntsman was in jeopardy and took to the trail in search of Raissuithoron. It did not take long to find the massive elk. Oromë notched his arrow and let it fly. The great elk attempted to evade the hunter’s arrow by sprinting into a bramble of dense thorns and out running it through an open meadow. But the arrow followed the beast where ever it went. Soon, the beast tired of running. The arrow caught the great elk in the breast piercing its heart. When Oromë found the elk, it lay dying in the meadow. It was at this point Oromë was grieved for having maimed this magnificient creature. He pled with Yavanna who chanced to be walking the meadow, asking the forest Vala to give life back to the fallen stag. Yavanna had compassion on the repentant huntsman, and blessed the stag. From the elk’s horns grew a grove of tall oaks, that later became know as the Ivory Oak Grove a part of the Old Forest near the feet of the Blue Mountains. From the blood which poured from the beast’s chest came a spring which flowed a stream of pure water. The waters became known as the Faronîr River and the spring the Pool of Aelinaras.

Fjorin watched the gentle elk eat a patch of sherry green clover and stalks of sweet lissuin. Suddenly the graceful beast erected its neck as if startled by something. Fjorin intentionally minded his breathing and movement so as not to scare the creature away. The elk’s ears stood straight up and turned toward the dwarf’s direction. The dwarf noted the breeze was against his face signifying he was down wind from the elk. What then was alarming the beast? At that moment Fjorin’s arm stung with pain. His forearm burned as if a hot iron had crawled up his sleeve and proceeded to smelt his flesh. His first thought was it was a nasty beetle or nagdeleb. He pulled the sleeve of his tunic back to reveal what had stung him. But instead of an insect, the dwarf saw only a word forming in the mystical ink of the Lîriphant. D-R-E-G-O…if only he could instantly recall the teachings of Elrond and his retinue. Was it the Sinadrin word for ‘Battle!’…no, that is Dagro…drego?, drego?…what was the translation?! What was the Lîriphant trying to tell him. The pain intensified on his forearm. The mighty elk at that moment bolted for the cover of the wooded draw of the hillock. Fjorin suddenly remembered the Sindarin word! It meant ‘Run!’ Run?! Why run? Why did the Lîriphant want him to know this word?

A deep guttural growl emanating behind the puzzled dwarf immediately sent a chill down his spine like putting on a cold shirt of mail direct upon his warm flesh. Fjorin’s flight or fight emotions kicked in. Had he not immediately came from the academia hall, he may have been carrying his bladed mace, Horn-Cleaver. In fact, he may have been even clad with the fairings of some dwarvish chainmail, good for most occasions of battle. But, as it was he was merely dressed in a coarse cotton tunic, a twill woven jerkin, leather breeches and a broad leather belt. The words of the Lîriphant were now quite resolute—RUN! He bolt over a fallen pine and made a voracious sprint to the Grey Road down the hillock.

Its a good thing dwarves are natural sprinters, thought the dwarf. Without his armor and heavy melee weaponry, he actually wasn’t doing too bad. He could hear something massive and snarling pounding the trail behind him. He darted under a leaning log just before a huge maw full of teeth snapped his ear off! The low log forced Fjorin into a half crawl. He scrambled back to his feet as the log cracked and wained under the weight of the colossal predator. It was at that moment that Fjorin looked back to see what was trying to devour him. Atop the leaning pine he saw what looked like a mix between the body of a wolf, the head of a shorn lion and the shoulders and haunches of a bear. Fjorin had never seen this creature before, but it did not mean he did not recognize it. He had heard tales and stories from dwarves of Khazad-dum who had travelled the Grey Mountains in the north, tales of the vicious wargs. The warg leapt from its perch sending the log crashing down from the powerful force of the beast’s upward ascent. Fjorin rolled to his right narrowly missing the beast’s landing. The collapsed log lurched into a dangerous roll behind them.

Fjorin again fought to get his feet under him and get into a run. Clawing the roots and shrubs with his hands for more traction he managed to get himself vertical and running down the hill again. An out cropped root caught his foot sending the unlucky dwarf cartwheeling head over heels painfully down the hill. As the world was spinning dizzily round and round, Fjorin thought he saw more than one warg surrounding is inimical tumble down the hill. Though he was unsure if this was the same warg seen distortedly over and over as he reeled in a headlong plummet. His descent agonizingly continued till he rolled into a barrow pit hitting the opposite bank with an abrupt stop knocking out his wind. The rolling log nearly took off Fjorin’s head as it rolled right over the pit and took flight over the Grey Road with a distant smash and further crashing down the continued slope on the other side of the road.

Fjorin was completely disoriented struggling to breathe. A sharp ringing was in his inner ear, and the world kept spinning. He fought the urge to black out, as he feared he would never wake if he lost consciousness. He found himself again trying to get to his feet. This time his arms and legs were beginning to swell with pain and bruises. He felt a large gash on his right arm with sticky crimson blood pouring from the wound. The knowledge of losing blood caused his stomach to turn, his head became light and uneasy. He collapsed back to the ground from his half succesful stand. From his crumpled position he watched as four hungry wargs’ heads appeared over the barrow pit with rows of sharp teeth dripping with saliva.

Unable to move and hear, struggling to see and breathe, Fjorin lay helpless to defend himself as the wargs drew closer. The blackness taking over his vision increased. Before he could see no more one of the four wargs lunged at him. Yet, to his surprise as the blackness took over, he felt nothing. He still felt all the aches and bruises about his body, so he couldn’t be dead. But he had no idea what came after the warg attacked, due to the ringing and pounding in his ears and head. He just lay there motionless pondering what could be happening. Gradually, the ringing lessened, but only enough to allow him to recognize some sort of commotion happening. At one point he felt a great heat near his face. He swore he heard a henious yelp just before a flesh-like mass collapsed heavily on his left leg and hip. The trench became embroiled in an acrid noisomeness of burning hairs and charred flesh. The waft of unpleasant fumes caused the dwarf to awake from his deprecation of senses. His awareness returned. He now could see one of the wargs lying lifeless on top of his leg a blackened arrow with flaming fletching still on fire prodruding from the beast’s right lung. Flashes of light burst from just out of direct sight over the bank of the barrow pit’s ridge.

Fjorin with renewed strength managed to push the dead warg from his leg. He began to crawl out of the trench to get a look at the commotion. Upon peaking his head over the ridge, his hand grasping the outcropping roots blistered with pain. The ink of the Lîriphant formed the Sindarin word danno!, duck! Not wishing to be insolent twice in not heeding it warning, Fjorin fell back into the pit just as a lithe blade bathed in fire careened through the air narrowly missing his scalp.

Breathing heavy, and not knowing whether to move after nearly losing his head to a flaming sword, Fjorin anxiously looked around for anything he could use as a weapon. His fingers pawed a large loose root which he broke free. Under his heavy breathing he counted to three after which he planned to spring from his trench and lay seige upon this new threat. 1-2-3! He leapt up, club in hand only to be apprehended by a tall elf.

“Whoa there little man! Are you always so agressively rude to your saviors?” The elf easily disarmed the dwarf’s makeshift club, then freed the dwarf so as to show that he was not a threat. Fjorin relieved but still confused looked around to account for the four wargs.

‘Do you inquire of the draugrim?’ The elf asked. ‘If so, they are dead. You are welcome. Excuse me.’ He reached around Fjorin to take hold of his blade now embedded in the chest of a dead warg no longer flaming.

Fjorin still was too exhausted to speak, though he managed to get out something that sounded like a grumble.

‘I apologize for nearly taking your head there. I truly had no idea you were there. I had been tracking this pack that had come down from the north. It is unusual for draugrim to travel so near Rivendell.’

Fjorin still speechless.

‘You have little to say, dwarf. I like that! I am Aethor.’

‘You of Rivendell?’

‘Ah! So it does speak! And Elvish at that!’

Fjorin grumbled again starting to regain his strength and sense of pride.

‘In short, yes’, continued the elf. ‘But it has not been permanent nor will it be. I go there now, is that where you are headed? You know they don’t quite welcome the Stunted Folk. But, I will accompany you the way if you wish. Wouldn’t want another draugrim to pick up your scent.’

Somewhat annoyed by the elf’s arrogance, Fjorin mumble some disdain. But Fjorin was used to this behavior from the elves from living many months in Rivendell. He knew that given time, most elves were honorable and had good intentions. Unfortunately, many dwaves didn’t have the lifespan long enough or the patiences strong enough to wade through the years of arrogance. But Fjorin was not a normal dwarf, he was freakishly covered in elvish tomes and spoke Sindarin and bits of Quenya. Furthermore, the Fëanturi gave him an uncanny ability to inspire people, even when he was being a brooding dwarf. Elves were no exception. So, Fjorin accepted Aethor’s invitation to walk the Grey Road to Rivendell. Along the way, he learned that Aethor was orphanned and sent to Rivendell, too. Aethor was ready for adventure to leave Rivendell.

As the unlikely pair walked, Fjorin looked down at a tingling pricking on his hand near his left thumb. He saw the word mellyn written in the mysterious ink of the Lîriphant, Sindarin—for friend. Fjorin knew at that point that all of this craziness was all to answer his prayer to the Valar. He knew he now could leave Rivendell and quest for adventure. The Fëanturi had sent a travel companion so he would not have to wait for the Great Eagle to traverse the night sky. And even though he was heading back to the elvish haven, he felt freed.

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A Prime Introduction
The Acquaintance of Mirodon and Nimari

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Nimari sneered as she watched her target, certain that she had found him only after he opened the sealed parchment delivered by the dwarven soldier. She knew at once that the man was Mirodon Bergilion by the suddenly noble bearing on his countenance and the decisive answer which he gave to the dwarf once he had finished reading the message’s contents. Her target clapped the dwarf on the shoulder and the two exchanged words and a laugh. This was him, then. Three wasted days.

She would have hardly believed this man was her target had she not seen it with her own eyes. A trusted functionary as she assumed? Yes. A Merchant-Prince? Hardly. He didn’t dress in the ostentatious finery of the merchants of Tharbad, nor in the more subtle courtly attire of Ost Erindyrn. He hardly looked any different than a common traveler. He seldom gave orders to those around him, but instead made polite requests. He acted the role of a guest in this town rather than the owner of several of it’s more lucrative enterprises. Her target was not haughty, arrogant, cruel, nor entitled. He did not command respect, but it was given to him freely. Why?

She had found the man easily and had been following him for several days now, sure that he would lead her to his cowardly master hiding away from his enemies. She had watched him as he met with various craftsmen, oversaw work on a small dam along a nearby waterway, bartered goods in the local market, all while she waited for him to lead her to her true target. Now she felt a fool. She had wasted precious time. She felt as if she had been tricked. Anger welled up inside her. For that, Mirodon Bergilion would die slowly.

The message she had had delivered was a false one, sealed with a stolen signet ring that it’s previous owner had died to protect. It would lead her target straight to his death. Her sneer shifted to a scowl at how easy it had been. Disappointing. How could this man be the one causing her father so much vexation? Lord Ilkhor had been clear: Mirodon Bergilion must die. Her father’s will would be done.


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“Ohtar, I have come. What is so urgent that…” The fool must have sensed something because he began to draw his sword. It didn’t matter. She was on him before he could react. In three quick strikes he was on his back with his sword spinning harmlessly along the floor. Pitiful. She raised her blade to deliver the killing stroke.

An armored barrel crashed into her with jarring force and she just managed to avoid an axe blow which would have separated her jaw from the rest of her face. The dwarf had overextending himself. He had missed his opportunity. She would not. Nimari spun using the momentum of her dodge and slid her blade deftly between the gap in the armor underneath the dwarf’s arm. The dwarf gave a painful scream and crumpled. He wasn’t dead, but he would be momentarily.

“No,” her target shouted as she raised her blade to finish the dwarf. “No! Not him. Me. You came for my life. Take it, but spare his.”

She turned to catch her target’s eyes with her own. She wasn’t sure why. Everything she had learned in her life told her it was a bad idea, but she did it anyway.

His eyes held no fear. He did not cower, or beg. He did not offer riches for his life as all men did, though he had much more than most. He met her gaze defiantly. Hurried footsteps rumbled like thunder from nearby. The fool would get his wish if only due to necessity.

She crossed the room into two quick strides, snatched his head back with her gloved fist, and placed her blade at his throat.

He continued to meet her gaze. She had to give it to him. He played the noble soul right up until the end. But he wasn’t so noble. He was a madman and a fool. Who else could squander such power? This man who had been given so much and earned more? He didn’t lord his power, his status. He…shared it. She had seen it with her own eyes. Such a man didn’t deserve what he had been given…did he?

“You don’t want to do this,” he said calmly. He was not pleading. He said it as plainly as one might report the weather. But he was wrong. She did want to kill him. He had to die. For being such a fool and because it was Ilkhor’s will. Her father’s will must be done. It didn’t matter how warm this man was on her skin. Nimari glanced down. His left hand rested on her right. When had he moved? Why could she feel the warmth of his touch even through her gloves? He didn’t grip her or try to pull the sword away from his throat. Her grip on the hilt tightened. He did not look away. Outside the footsteps continued to thunder. Now was her last chance. He had to die.

Nimari screamed in anger and drove her boot into the man’s stomach with as much force as she could muster. He doubled over and very nearly vomited. She added one more kick for good measure just as a tattooed dwarf with a gleaming axe charged through the door. Nimari bolted for the window and disappeared into the night, but not without one final glance behind her. Not at the dwarf hot on her heels, but at the man lying in a heap trying, defiantly, to rise.


“Been sharin’ sheets that you shouldn’t ’ave?,” Fjorin asked him later.

“Excuse me,” Mirodon replied caught off guard by the question.

“Play innocent if you want, laddie, but there’s only one reason a woman looks at you like that,” the dwarf answered.

Mirodon shook his head hardly believing what the dwarf was implying, “Even with the mask, I’m sure I’ve never met that woman before.”

“I’d be willing to bet you’ll be meeting her again,” Fjorin added.

Mirodon placed a hand protectively over his bruised ribs and abdomen, “I think I am going to take you up on that mail coat you’ve been trying to get me to wear.”

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Prologue
Last Days of Arnor

Annuminas

Five hundred and forty-eight years ago, our nation was broken.

Earendur, tenth and last king of Arnor as a united realm, died. Annuminas, city of the kings of the North, lay decaying and forsaken. Amlaith, the true heir, was betrayed by his brothers, who shattered the kingdom into three lesser states.

Today, the wounds of that civil war still bleed.

Cardolan in the south is overrun by petty merchant-princes and mercenaries. Rhudaur in the east is lost to the Hill-men under the sway of Angmar.

In our heartland, Arthedain, the line of true kings rules from the citadel at Fornost. Despite the strength of our walls and towers along the Weather Hills, and the valor of our captains who stand against the pressing darkness, few would say that our lands are safe.

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