Tales of Endilas: The Secret in the Tower C. 8



October 16, 2943 Third Age

     Belegond sighed as he sat in the barracks with Endilas and Numentir.

     “There is something wrong with those men of Turgon’s,” spoke Belegond suddenly,”I know this in my heart, yet doubt it in my mind. I feel as if I must seek proof to justify these thoughts; and also to show the Steward the falseness of his men.”

     “But how are we to do this?” asked Numentir, “Are we to wait for them to enact wrongdoings upon the people of Gondor? I do not think that even then would the Steward Turgon believe that they have evil purposes in this city.”

     “Then perhaps I can be of help.”

     At hearing this voice, all three jumped from their seats. Before them stood a young man clad in white robes and steel armor. He was Ecthelion, son of Turgon, heir to the stewardship of Gondor.

     “My liege!” cried Numentir, alarmed at his listening of their conspiracy, “You misunderstand what we said! We were just-”

     “Nay, I know of what you speak,” said the Steward’s son, and then, in a lower voice, “And I wish to help you. There is a long-kept secret in the Tower of Ecthelion, one that could show you where to look for your proof. But it is a perilous choice! You should use it only as a last resort, and then use it with great care.”

     “It is a last resort,” said Endilas, “I do not understand why Turgon would not see through these men, but we cannot find any other evidence without knowing the basic things that you say your secret will tell us! So, what is this thing you speak of?”

    “I dare not speak of it here with so many witnesses. In shall tell you later tonight in the tower. I cannot aid you into there, lest I be caught sneaking with you. I shall meet you in the highest room in the Tower of Ecthelion at midnight tonight. Good luck, and may you come to the tower safely!”

                             *     *     *     *     *

    The hour before midnight, Belegond and Endilas shed their blankets and cloaked themselves in grey. They swept out of the barracks noiselessly and sprang from cobble stone to cobble stone on the deserted streets of Minas Tirith. As they passed out of the tunnel to the seventh level, they moved into the shadows of one of the towers there and surveyed the area.

     The Stweard’s Men still had watchers posted in the Court of the Fountain clad all in red and white, but in fewer numbers. Only about half a dozen of them guarded the Court and none stood by the entrance to the Tower Hall.

     “This will be easier than I thought,” whispered Endilas.

     Then all the guards stood erect, spears poised for action. Their hawk-eyes darted about the place.

     “We know you are there,” one whispered with malice, “Come out and lessen your pain. No, then? Do not worry. We shall find you.”

     Two of the guards passed out of the Court into the Tower Hall while the remaining four searched in every corner and crack.

     Not daring to use speech, Belegond gestured that they should move around the perimeter to the southern edge of the Tower Hall. Cloaked by darkness, the pair crept ever slowly to the Hall, freezing against the ground whenever a Steward’s Man was nearby.

     At last they came to the Tower Hall, and, seeing that one of the Steward’s Men was holding the door, began to climb the Tower of Ecthelion. It was by no means an easy task. The solid masonry had hardly any handholds for them to use, and a chill wind blew from the north. The light of the Moon was hidden behind Mount Mindolluin, soon to disappear that night. They dared not look down. Neither could tell how long they were climbing. Whether it was minutes or hours they never knew.

     As they came upon the top of the tower, Belegond noticed a depression in the tower. The mighty stone brick could not be seen from below, and fit in with the rest of the tower, but come closer and one would notice something different.

     To Belegond’s surprise, the brick pulled itself inwards. He let his hands go but was caught by his foot. Hauled in through the window the brick had made, Belegond found Ecthelion at his side. Endilas climbed into the room and was awestruck. Beside Ecthelion was a table of black marble with a depression in its center. There a ball of black crystal lay, and an aura of greatness lay about it.

     “A palantir!” cried Endilas, “Long have I read of the Seeing-Stones in lore, but never had I thought to ever behold one!”

     “Yes,” said Ecthelion, “It is a secret long-kept by the Stewards, held in this room. In it can be seen many visions of far-off places, and even some of things that have already come to pass. But be wary! I did not tell you to beware it for naught! For it is feared that after the capture of Minas Ithil, now the dread-city of Minas Morgul, the Enemy has obtained the Ithil Stone and would spy upon our visions. He could even rob from us our own secrets! You are forewarned.”

     “I should not object the will of the line of Stewards, yet this is foolishness!” roared Belegond, “We could use this to our advantage! Yet you cower behind your throne and do nothing! We could learn all our enemy’s plans and rout them!”

     “And vice versa,” Endilas put in, “Do you not see the logic behind this? Many times the safest way is the secret way. The Stewards are wise men to not use this thing.”

     “They are cowards, not wise! One must take risks if one is to succeed, and this is one worth taking!”

     “But this risk will fail,” said Endilas, “Although we are forced into a position in which we must take the risk. But only this once! Which is one too many uses if you ask Lord Ecthelion or me. Since you are so eager to find the power of the Seeing-Stones, you shall use it.”

     “And that is to my liking,” declared Belegond.

     He walked up to the edge of the table and stared down into the palantir. Endilas, Ecthelion, and the chamber he stood in all were swept away from him as dye being washed away in water.

     Into the quarters of the Steward’s Men he looked. Only two stood there around an oak table with a map of the East of Middle-Earth, with Minas Tirith and Mordor on its western edge. They moved small figurines around the map: either a white or black tower. The white towers were mainly centered around Minas Tirith and the western shore of Osgiliath. But black towers were in far greater number; they were placed on the eastern shore of Osgiliath, Minas Morgul, Mordor, near the Sea of Rhûn, and in a bay far off to the north and east at the edge of Middle-Earth’s eastern shores. Also, a single black tower was placed in Minas Tirith. Then Belegond noticed the black tower actually printed on the map in ink. It was labeled Barad-dûr. Then an idea hit Belegond as hard as a brick. He saw for the first time a small emblem of a black tower sewn onto the shoulder of the Steward’s Men.

     He fell backwards.

     Endilas caught him, and reality was restored to Belegond’s eyes.

     “The Steward’s Men! They- they serve Sauron!”

     “What?!” cried Ecthelion, “That cannot be! True, they may have evil intentions, but they are still free men and would not consort with Mordor! In any case they would not know where Sauron dwells, or even whether he stills lives in Middle-Earth.”

     “Ah! But they had a map with all of the positions of Gondor’s armies and those of the Enemy! And one of the black towers of the Enemy was in the midst of Minas Tirith! They may not be free men either! For they may have come from Rhûn or Harad.”

     “I can assure you they are not of Harad,” said Endilas, “for none of my folk went North in such guises.”

     “We had always thought the black tower on their shoulders to be of Orthanc, Gondor’s last watch on Rohan until recently as Saruman becomes more guarding of it. Perhaps it is indeed of Orthanc, and they are Rohirrim?”

     “That is unlikely,” said Belegond, “If they are of Rohan, then what is the Enemy presence in Minas Tirith? I think they are Easterlings. So I look to Rhûn.”

     Belegond looked once more into the palantir. The room around him washed away as he strained himself to look into the east. Then he saw a great city of red stone before him. Its many magnificent buildings and towers were bedecked with jewels. It had great gates of iron studded with more gems. Two hunters were creeping along in the grass before it to avoid the keen sight of the guards.

     Belegond looked into the massive keep and found a great hall filled with silver candelabras. On a black marble seat sat a man in robes of black and red resembling those of the Steward’s Men, a straw, tasseled hat, and a gold mask. As he looked closer, Belegond saw a small tower-emblem of black iron fused to the forehead of the intricate, golden mask.

     Suddenly, all turned black. The shadows seemed to gather around him and whisper threats and warnings. Belegond saw two keen, fiery eyes staring out from the darkness.

     Then a voice spoke with a terrible malice that crept into the heart of the most iron-willed man, “I am Sauron. And I am your bane, fool.”

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Gallamir’s Log: The Secret Way C. 7

 

October 16, 2943 Third Age

     Gellwen awaited Gallamir, Idwen, and their guides at the tunnel entrance into Alwegroth. As only three crawled out of the small passage, she started in surprise.

     “Where is your other guide?” she inquired.

     “He is dead, Lady Gellwen,” said the surviving one.

     “Dead? How can this be?” she asked incredulously.

     This time Gallamir answered. “The mines you sent us to were not abandoned. They were overrun. Overrun by the Meciltarï.”

     Gellwen shook her head grimly. “These are terrible times indeed if the Meciltarï’s reach extenmds this far west in Rhûn. But that is why we sent you to find the ore in the first place. Your guide will not have died in vain. We shall soon have this smelted down and turned useful for us. Thank you.”

     Mekilmir, the grey-robed leader of the Dinnwé, appeared behind Gellwen. “Good, Gellwen. Send word to the smiths. I must speak to our friends, Gallamir and Idwen.” She nodded acknowledgment and left with their other guide.

     Mekilmir beckoned for Gallamir and Idwen to follow him. Passing out of the main hall of Alwegroth, they journeyed for a few minutes through grey tunnels until they found themselves in a small chamber dimly lit with three candles on the wall. In the center of the room was a table fashioned of oak with a map spread over it.

     Four men stood around, discussing some matter in quiet voices. As Mekilmir entered the room with the two strangers, they bowed.

     “Good morning, sir,” said one with a whispy, white beard, “What brings you here today?”

     “I have brought with me two from the western lands of Middle-Earth. They will help us in our struggle against the Meciltarï and aid us in our upcoming battle. I thought you might need some assistance in planning a strategy.”

     “We already have a basic strategy planned out, though we will need some volunteers to scout out the city where the western headquarters of the Meciltarï lays. It is named Harneled and is five miles along the road from the village, Falreg. Its walls are of thick, red rock from the nearby hills that border the Desert of Sands Uncounted.

     “Within it the Common Folk of Rhûn make their abode, but so too do the Meciltarï in a great keep. It is the capital of Rhûn’s Western Front and is normally the organizing point of Rhûn’s armies for attacks on the West, but luckily for us Rhûn is at a sort of peacetime for the moment.

     “So with only the Meciltarï there, it will be much easier to scout out and also much easier to attack. But still, with as many Qatil agents there as there are, our diminutive forces will not be able to face them head-on. Instead we have decided that we must find a different way into the city, a secret way. Any gap, weak spot, or passage will do, but we must find one if this attack is to be successful. Do you two agree to scout the place out?”

     Gallamir pondered this for a few seconds. This matter did not concern him, no matter how much this place was hurt. His place was elsewhere, and he had been here long enough with Idwen. It was about time they-

     “Of course we’ll do it.”

     Gallamir looked at Idwen, surprised. After regaining his composure, he studied her. She was truly valiant, and seemed as if she truly cared about these people’s doings as much as her own affairs. Her face was set in a determined line, something to respect the ranger thought.

     “Excellent!” cried the strategist, “If you set out now, you should probably reach Harneled by nightfall, which will be all the better for your purpose. Now go swiftly, and return with this vital information!”

                              *     *     *     *     *

     The sun was setting just as they washed ashore near Falreg. The village was burnt to the ground, some wood still smoldering in a protected hollow of ash. Then they noticed that someone was there, watching. They dropped to the ground, hoping that he hadn’t seen them. In his silhouette one would notice the conical straw hat and fluttering robes. A Qatil spy.

     His eyes glowed in the failing light, scanning the area for anything out of place. The two skilled hunters stealthily crawled their way along the ground, making no obtrusive movements or noises. They made their way along like this for what seemed an eternity, or at least long enough for the light to fail altogether and the night to set in. At last, they were almost out of eye-shot. The last look they had of the Qatil was his figure silhouetted against the rising moon.

                              *     *     *     *     *

     The city of Harneled loomed up before them, a solid block of red stone. Magnificent towers rose high above its walls and were adorned with silver and gold and other precious metals. Its massive black gates of iron were dotted with sapphires and rubies. Tall guards dressed in breastplates of steel and silver, skirts of chainmail, and small, conical helms with white cloth flowing from the back of the helm to the bottom of the neck. Fine spears and scimitars armed their hands, dark, keen eyes arming their defenses.

     Gallamir and Idwen laid down on their stomachs, slithering through the tall grasses that swept through the landscape. The lanterns the night-guards held on their spears were to no avail to protect their city from the two shadows in the night.

     They crept along the wall, dancing with the shadows of night. They simply became part of the scenery, mingling with the sounds and movements of the dark hours. Then they came upon a hole in the wall. It was no more than a mouse hole, but Idwen slipped her hand into it. There was a minuscule click and the ground gave way beneath them.

     They tumbled down for two meters before landing heavily on a slick, stone floor. They heard voices which they did not understand, but the message could be no clearer: What was that crashing noise? I think it came from over there!

     Gallamir glanced above them, finding a trapdoor above them, swinging on hinges attached to the edge of the hole they fell through. He closed it with small creaking and another click.

     Then it was dark. Pitch-dark.

     Idwen heard Gallamir fiddling with something, then saw a bright spark in the blackness. Gallamir held a small oil lamp in his left hand, his right unconsciously touching the hilt of Aranaeg.

     “It’s the lamp from the mines,” the ranger said, answering her unspoken question, “So, where are we?” He turned and faced a passage lit only by his lamp. It seemed six meters tall and wide enough for five Men to walk abreast. The walls and ceiling were made of red stone, but the floors were neatly paved in white marble.

     “The Meciltarï,” he whispered, eying a few bits of straw lying on the ground, “They must use this passage when they want to leave the city unseen by their governors of the Common Folk. But we can’t be sure of that yet. We have to investigate a bit further before we leave, but be careful about it too! We can never be sure if a Qatil spy is around the corner….”

     They looked about warily in the impenetrable dark.

     Their soft footsteps padded silently along the polished stone, but in their heads they echoed as if they were their footsteps were those of giants. The dim light of the oil lamp did nothing to lift their spirits. Darkness crowded around their small circle of light, oppressing them. The winding passages went on for what seemed like eternity. At last, light crept in through the cracks of a trapdoor above them.

     Gallamir gestured for Idwen to stay quiet, and she nodded her understanding. He motioned for her to climb onto his shoulders and extinguished the lamp. Opening the trapdoor as noiselessly as she could, Idwen poked her eyes over the edge.

     “I can’t see anything,” she whispered to Gallamir. A pillar of black stone was blocking her view, probably meant so the Meciltarïcould slip out or in unnoticed. Unfortunately for them, it also worked for intruders. “I’m going to have to climb up.” Gallamir gave her a boost, and she slipped over the trapdoor and behind the pillar. Idwen took a glance at the room behind the pillar. She held back a gasp.

     They were behind the last pillar in the first of two rows of pillars. They held up an enormous, vaulted ceiling painted with depictions of the Meciltarï in battle, and their glorious victory after, the bodies of their enemies strewn about them. The place was the size and shape of a cathedral carved of black marble. Many passages led off to separate chambers, probably for training and scheming.

     This seemed to be some sort of audience hall, for at the front of the hall there was a gold-plated dais carved into the black walls. Silk pillows lay in a half moon around the dais with Qatil agents sitting on them. Silver candelabra were placed all about the dais and cast an eerie yellow light across the hall. On the dais there was a seat, not quite a throne, not quite a chair, but somewhere in between. It was carved of either black marble or ebony and had straight sides that turned at a forty-five degree angle to form a top point that curled elegantly into a graceful design. In it sat a Qatil in robes of black instead of sand like the common agents tinged with red at the cuffs, neck, and bottom. He wore a belt of silver with a thin, cruel sword tucked in its sheath there. He had daggers hidden in many places. He wore the standard conical straw hat but with a few simple, red string tassels drooping from the apex. He wore an intricate golden mask that had slits for eyes, no nose or mouth, and was carved to resemble a crown at its forehead.

     “This definitely belongs to the Meciltarï,” whispered Idwen down to Gallamir.

     “Shouldn’t we explore some more before we leave?”

     “No, there’ll be too many Qatil agents about. We should leave now while we still can.”

                            *     *     *     *     *

     As the two fled the scene of Harneled, the moon was sinking low in the sky. As they passed the ruins of Falreg to the Sea, they sensed more than saw a pair of eyes staring at them. They found their canoe and paddled out to Alwegroth with an instinctual fear in the back of their minds.

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Tales of Endilas: The White City C. 6

October 16, 2943 Third Age

     The great city stood tall and proud, having borne generations of strong and noble heroes uncounted. At the seventh of all those levels, the fairest sight was beholden. A tall white tower speared out of the stone, glimmering in the morning light. There had great Kings of ages past held their councils and courts; now the Stewards resided there, though it still glowed in its previous splendour.

     As Endilas and Belegond approached the Great Gates of the city, a guard came to face them on the battlements. “Who comes before the gates of the White City?” he called from above.

     “‘Tis I, Belegond!” replied he, “I have returned from my scouting of the forests with a guest to the city.”

     “Then perhaps you may tell me who this guest is, eh?” answered the gate-keeper.

     “That is for ears that are not your own, gate-master! Now open these gates so we may speak to them!”

     The man grunted a reply. “Open the gates!” he barked.

     A great groaning noise came and the solid wall of metal began to open until it was just ajar.

     The two men walked through the small gap and into the city. It was roughly closed behind them. The people of the city that bustled through the streets would sometimes give them a passing glance, wondering what sort of business Belegond(though they knew him not by name) had gotten into with this foreigner.

     “We will make straight for the barracks,” said Belegond to his acquaintance, “where I will introduce you to my captain and vice versa. From there we will have to introduce you to Steward Turgon as all proper newcomers should. But that is a bit ahead of us. For now, we walk in the streets to the barracks. Come.”

     Walking at a relatively moderate pace, they reached the sixth level in just under half an hour. The winding pathways had been constructed in hopes of slowing any invasion, but unknowingly also slowed the denizens of Minas Tirith.

     But at last, they passed the stables and lodgings and the Houses of Healing until they came to a great building carved into the wall of the seventh level under one of its tall towers. Two men in identical shining armor guarded the entrance with their spears. They stood perfectly still as if they were statues. Perhaps they were….

     Suddenly as the pair edged closer, the spears were thrust aside. “Lieutenant Belegond! Come in, sir!” said one, “Do you wish for us to escort this one away for you, sir?”

     “No,” he replied, “That need not be necessary. He is an esteemed guest under my protection; therefore he comes with me.”

     “Of course, sir.”

     Inside was a long hall meant for lounging and dining. Behind it was a sleeping chamber, but none resided there at this early an hour. Only a few men sat about since their were posts to be taken throughout the city. Those who were there, however, were conversing loudly in their leather garments, their heavy armor lying nearby. As they saw Belegond enter, they greeted him warmly, then went back to their own business. Although one man still in his armor swept over to meet them. He had on a winged helm of silver or some greater metal. His black robes covered his silvery brestplate of steel. He had dark, shoulder-length hair along with a moustache and beard that adorned his cordial smile.

     “Welcome back to the city, Belegond,” he said in a friendly voice.

     “Thank you, Captain Turandel. This is a new ally I had found on my scouting mission, Endilas.”

     “Good morning,” spoke the Haradrim.

     “Good day to you, Endilas,” spoke Turandel.

     “Now I must tell you, sir,” began Belegond, “As you have probably noticed, he is a foreigner, of Harad in fact.” A few of the warriors looked up from their conversations. “But I assure you he is of no threat to us. He saved my life on our journey here, and he only came this way to find a better life away from his land.”

     “I believe you, Lieutenant.” The man smiled grimly and turned away thoughtfully.

     “What is wrong, Captain?” asked Belegond.

     “Oh, it’s those blasted men that came to offer their service to the Steward a few years back. Lord Turgon has grown very trusting of them. In the few weeks you were gone, he replaced my men and I with them as the Guards of the Citadel. But if the Steward thinks so highly of the Steward’s Men, then I shall not protest.”

     “I am sorry to hear that, sir, but we must be going to introduce Endilas to Lord Turgon.”

     “Ah! Then I shall accompany you. It has been a while since I have spoken with the man, and it would be best if someone of higher authority than yourselves asked for his audience.”

     “Thank you, Captain Turandel.”

     “I wish that you would simply call me by my first name and not my last. I tire of the formality of it all.”

     “Of course, Captain Numentir,” responded Belegond.

     The trio walked to the great rock outcropping that jutted out from the hill Minas Tirith was built upon and into tunnel that led to the seventh level. After Numentir whispered a password into the guard of that gate, they were allowed passage. Endilas gasped in wonder.

     White stone paved a beautiful court with a fountain twinkling in the sunlight and a dead, withered tree of silvery white. The Tower of Ecthelion grew out of the Tower Hall where the King once dwelt and now the Steward dwells. But there in the court stood three dozen tall men in robes of white and red and helms and spears of silver and steel.

     These men were fair to look upon and seemed both strong and wise. When they saw the three men they were neither rough nor hostile. They ushered them in with smiles of greeting and honeyed words.

     Endilas wondered whether these were the Steward’s Men that Numentir had spoken of. They did seem very trustworthy… yet there was something not quite right about them. He gazed into their icy blue eyes and, like the rest of them, they were warm and fair. Although when you would continue your gaze for long enough, you could see through their outward appearance. In the corner of their eyes, they stared back. They looked around like an eagle searching for prey. For weakness. And then their fair guise would be broken. He shivered.

     Endilas glanced away and followed his companions into the Tower Hall where the Steward would sit. He could see and hear nothing, but through some sixth sense Endilas knew the eyes of the Steward’s Men were there, watching, boring into their backs.

     At the door, Endilas was relieved to see that it was not the Steward’s Men that held the door to the Hall, but two of the previous Guards of the Citadel and a white-cloaked, steel-armored young man.

     The two Guards of the Citadel saluted Numentir. “Captain!” they cried in acknowledgment of his presence.

     “At ease, soldiers,” Numentir responded. He bowed to the youth. “Master Ecthelion.”

     “You be at ease now, Turandel,” replied the Steward’s son. He seemed good-natured, valiant, and wise beyond his age. “You wish to speak with my father?”

     “Yes,” replied Belegond, “We have come to inform him of Endilas here, a newcomer to Gondor.”

     “He is of Harad, is he not?” asked Ecthelion suspiciously, “I would be more careful in the choice of friends if I were you, Lieutenant. But I need not be prejudiced. Welcome to the city, Endilas, and may you soon show your worth to myself, my father, and the people of our city.”

     The doors were opened into the Hall. It was quite magnificent. Pillars of black marble stood gracefully on either side of the chamber. Between them were tall windows and statues of the old Kings that seemed to look at them sadly, sorry of the fate that befell their treasured lands.

    The Steward Turgon sat on his chair of black stone below the dais of the King’s throne. His gaze was cool and observant and he noticed the three men the second they entered.

     “Had you three requested an audience with me?” he asked forgetfully.

     “No, my liege,” answered Numentir, “Your son, Ecthelion, let us in. We have come to introduce a newcomer to the city that Belegond found, Endilas of Harad.”

     “Harad?” said Turgon, looking distastefully at Endilas, “I would prefer you stay there, though I will not reject you. You may stay, but since you and Lieutenant Belegond seem to be acquainted, it would be my wish that you accompany him on any tasks assigned to him in the city and in turn he will keep watch on you.

     “Now be off! I have important business to attend to. The Orcs look like they’re planning another raid on Osgiliath, and my captains have work to do!”

     They walked away from the Tower Hall and the Fountain Court, the eyes of the Steward’s Men forever watching.

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Gallamir’s Log: The Mines of Forgotten Dwarves C. 5

October 14, 2943 Third Age

     Gallamir and Idwen followed Mekilmir and his grey-cloaked allies down a wide tunnel of glittering black stone. The passage was somewhat carved so that the ground was flat and passable. A small stream trickled away downwards in the center of the passageway. The Man and Elf eyed the entire place suspiciously, still not convinced of the loyalty of the Dinnwé to them.

     Suddenly the cave widened into large chamber where the stream flowed down another tunnel about half a meter tall. Though this was not what caught their attention. About two score men and women in assorted armor and clothing were arranged around the room training with swords, clubs, and shields as their primary arms, though with several other weapons here and there.

     A tall woman in leather armor with her black hair tied into a bun, an iron sword by her side, stood before them. “Ah,” she said with a friendly smile on her face, “You two must be the ones that defended against the Meciltarï! ‘Tis an honor to be in the presence of any that noble.”

     Gallamir and Idwen shuffled their feet awkwardly. “Do not humble yourselves; you deserve praise even if you were not successful! But I am afraid we must get to business. Oh! I did not introduce myself, did I? My name is Gellwen, the trainer in weapons and battle among our settlement.

     “You have met the Meciltarï firsthand,” she said grimly, “and I am sorry that you have faced them so soon. But we are warring peoples, and we must use every opportunity we can to apprehend them. But they also use every opportunity to apprehend us. In recent years, our numbers have dwindled while their own has seemingly doubled. We must stay on guard, and have an acceptable guard at that!

     “Which brings me to my point. Look around you. Do you see fine armor and weapons? Nay. We lack the quality of ancient crafts; even the quantity! This place was once a mine of strong metals, but of late we are low on supplies. The closest mine that is not in enemy hands is the Mirroth, what the dwarves who once dwelt there called Kibil-Gunud. Many metals are still to be found since its abandonment, or whatever happened those many centuries ago, especially iron, copper, tin, and silver. Many priceless jewels also lay in its halls, but these do not concern us, along with the silver. We have no need of silly ornaments. What we want is iron for steel, copper and tin for bronze-really any metal that will last longer and bite deeper than our current weaponry.

     “Now we cannot trust you wholly yet, so two of our own will accompany you on this mission. They will show you the way out.” She called over two moderately-built men in leather and broken chainmail. Many scars adorned their faces.

     “Good afternoon,” one said evenly, “Now come. We will show you the way out.” He gestured towards the tunnel the stream flowed out of. Before any objection(or in fact any response) could be given, he and his companion began crawling downwards.

     Gallamir looked distastefully at the slime that lined the passage. He was then roughly pulled down.

     The way down the stream was uncomfortable, dank, and most of all tight. The stench of mold and old water penetrated Gallamir’s nostrils no matter what he tried to do. After what seemed an eternity, the Dùnadan fell, unaware that he would, unceremoniously down a small waterfall.

     He remained underwater for several seconds before arising, spluttering, gasping, and coughing like a madman. Gallamir was soaked to the core, his cloak and cowl hit the worst.

     Casting the covering aside, he looked about him and saw they were surrounded by water. The waterfall formed a stream that flowed down the wooded isle out into the Sea of Rhûn.

     “How are we supposed to get anywhere from here?” Gallamir asked, annoyed, to his guides.

     “We sail,” one replied, throwing him a heavy paddle.

                             *     *     *     *     *

      Their going was slow as the four of them paddled their way to the southwest, never allowed rest from their hard labor. The sun was falling low in the sky when the western shore of the Sea appeared to them. Soon, their canoe beached on wet sand, her crew swiftly abandoning her.

     “We must make camp for the night, sirs,” spoke Gallamir.

     “You are right,” one replied, “We have hard work for us tomorrow, and toiling without rest would do us no good.” All of them looked at the five mountains towering above them. They stood dark and menacing.

     Two tents were soon erected along with a small fire made of the ranger’s kindling. An unlucky water fowl sat roasting above it. They sat around the fire, eating their food in silence. One by one, they walked away to their respective tents.

     Gallamir was the last to be out. The fire was now reduced to naught but a few glowing embers. Gallamir lay down on the cold, hard ground as he stared thoughtfully at them. Being this far from home was one thing, but getting into all this? Completely different. Idwen was the closest thing he had to home, he realized. Then his heavy eyelids shut, and he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

                               *     *     *     *     *

     “Come, Gallamir!” cried Idwen, “We are off!”

     The Dùnadan promptly awoke and stood up, not quite aware of his surroundings yet.

     “That’s it,” she cooed, “Come along, then! We have a hard day of work ahead of us!”

     With their camp packed away, they strode purposefully toward the mountains. The light of morn now shone upon them, and they no longer had a menacing look. Though they all knew that it was there, tucked away in an unobtrusive corner.

     Their trek up the mountains was a treacherous one, an ancient path having faded into nothingness. A clear blue sky was above them, the sun beating its rays down upon them. It was almost noontime when they found the doorway.

     The Man and Elf from the west were hard pressed to keep from slipping and falling on the red rock. Their two companions, however, were somehow used to this and, because of this, were the first to spot the hole in the mountainside.

     “Here!” one cried, his voice echoing across the mountain, “The way into the mines!”

     Gallamir and Idwen climbed a few more meters and found the ground leveled out. A gate of iron and granite stood before them, two meters tall and another wide. Carved into it was a depiction of a strong dwarf with a beard that touched his feet. In his mighty grip were two items. In his left hand was a pick axe and proudly displayed in his right, a true axe for the tearing of flesh.

     “It’s locked,” said one of the Dinnwé guides.

     “Of course it is,” responded Gallamir, “And its key is here in my sheath.” He drew Aranaeg from it and rent the hinges of the great gate off.

     “Ha! Even the metal of dwarves cannot match the skill of Men.”

     The gates tottered slightly and one fell in front of the other. The four of them crept over the newly-made opening.

     The light of day dare not enter those ancient, forgotten halls, and deserted them. They tore an old, rusted lamp from the wall and lit it. They stood in a hexagonal passage of grey stone. Oil lamps long extinguished were on every wall. And at the end of the passage, a corpse sat in a rotting chair.

     Walking towards the figure they noticed more details. The long, white hairs of a beard were falling off his chin. The dwarf was in a chainmail coat, now rusted and broken. Only a few of his yellowed teeth had survived. He was now naught but skin and bones and would soon be much less. Then the strangest thing happened.

     The corpse moved.

     Idwen shrieked as his eyes, the seemingly largest part of his decrepit body, turned on them. He groaned painfully.

     “The light!” he croaked in a voice that seemed to always be out of breath, “The light! It burns my eyes!” He turned away and brought a hand over his eyes.

     Gallamir quickly shielded the lamp with his hand.

     “Thank you, sir,” said the dwarf, “My name is Sverga the Watchful. It is(or was) my duty to guard the gates of Kibil-Gunud. And you are obviously thieves.”

     “That is not true!” cried one of the Dinnwé.

     “Then what, may I ask, are you here for?”

     “Your ore,” he grumbled, “But we had no idea that the dwarves still lived here!”

     “That’s because they don’t.”

     “Then why are you still here?” inquired Idwen.

     “They call me the Watchful,” said Sverga, “and I intend to stay that way. A more proper title for me now would be Sverga the Ancient. Five-hundred and seventy-two am I, and for four-hundred and seventy-one of those years I have guarded these gates. All of our folk died when the Men came all those centuries ago. Except me.

     “I was the only survivor of their vicious attack, having slain thirty of their men. And I will not give up vigilance against another attack until my dying breath. Which may not be so long from now.

     “Either way, you seem like decent folk. Go down and gather all the metals and stones and gems you need. Just do me one favor.”

     “And what might that be?” asked Gallamir.

     “Tell of the bravery of my people and myslef in our downfall.”

                              *     *     *     *     *

     “That dwarf was wonderful,” said Idwen as they walked down a tunnel to the heart of the mines. “He was so kind to let us use his ore even when he has guarded it for so long.”

     “He should have died along with his people a long time ago,” spoke one of the guides, “And who were these men that attacked them? How do we know he isn’t allied with them if he was the only one to survive?”

     “What a terrible thing to say!” retorted Idwen, “Try to see the good in people once in a while.”

     He grunted a response.

     “Look!” said Gallamir, “The main chamber is ahead! Come on!”

     They came out into a huge chamber that fell into a black abyss. They found themselves at a crossroads of mining tracks with many other tracks leading off to the sides. But what caught their attention was the miners there. Ba’id Qatil.

     A deafening shout in some foreign tongue was heard echoing through the mines. They might not know what it meant, but the message was clear. They were intruders.

     A captain stood among them at the crossroads in robes of black instead of sand. And under his conical hat was a mask of gold. In a second, he had unslung his loaded crossbow and fired. One of their Dinnwé guides was struck in the shoulder, and in his pain, tumbled off the mining tracks and into the black abyss. They never heard a sound of his landing.

     A mining cart full of sacks of iron ore manned by two Qatil agents was heading straight towards them. They wielded their scimitars in a rage. Gallamir and Idwen quickly reached for their bows. They took aim and fired. Idwen’s arrow struck one in the neck and Gallamir’s in the heart. Both fell into the abyss.

     They quickly started the cart again as swift pursuit came. The cart halted where Sverga sat.

     “You’re back!” he cried, quite startled, “But you should be dead!”

     “And so should you, betrayer,” said Gallamir grimly. Aranaeg claimed another victim that day.

     The three escaped out the gateway with each carrying a bag of iron ore. Sprinting down the mountain and out to the Sea, they fell into their canoe and paddled with all their might. The Meciltarï assembled on shore and brought up their crossbows.

     “Fire!”

     A hundred crossbow bolts blotted out the sky as they fell. But they did not find their marks that day.

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Tales of Endilas: In the Land of Gondor C. 4

October 13, 2943 Third Age

     The point of the steel dagger chilled Endilas to the bone. He dared not move, but his eyes bulged out, as if threatening to fall from their sockets.

     “Thou should have stayed in thine own kingdom, Southerner,” said a strong voice above Endilas, “Dost thou not expect to be opposed in a country that is not thine own?”

     “I do not come to bring harm upon you, if that is what you think,” said Endilas, “I come here peacefully, looking for a new life away from my home.”

     “I suspect this is only a clever ruse, but I suppose I cannot kill thee if thee claim to in peace; that is until I find evidence of thy treachery.”

     As soon as the dagger was removed, Endilas rubbed his neck and stood up. A tall, strong man stood before him in an odd assortment of armor. His black, cloth pants were tucked into his steel boots. A black leather shirt was covered by a chainmail vest with leather gloves encasing his hands. A winged helmet covered his nose, ears, and hair in bright steel. His deep blue cloak fluttered in the evening breeze.

     “I suppose we must make introductions, then,” said the Man, “I am Belegond of the White City, son of Ondotahr the Brave.”

     “My name is Adàntur of Harad, though you may refer to me as Endilas. I am the firstborn of Handrid II.”

     At the mention of Endilas’ father, Belegond perked his eyebrows. “The firstborn of Handrid, are you?” asked the Gondorian, circling around Endilas as if inspecting him, “Handrid is the name of the Northern Emperor of Harad, is it not? Ah, but your father’s name must only be that by coincidence… or is it?”

     Endilas did not respond, but only gazed at the ground.

     “I must bring you to Minas Tirith at once,” said Belegond, “If you truly come peacefully, then you will comply. Come along then.”

                           *     *     *     *     *

     The two journeyed silently for about an hour and a half before the sun had set, and they decided to rest for the night. The breeze became a wind, and they huddled around a warm fire. They boiled a vegetable broth over this, and after quickly eating their meager supper, they extinguished the fire and slept under the stars.

     When Endilas awoke, he found that both his hands had been tied to an oak tree. As he struggled to free himself, the shadowed figure of Belegond stood before him, laughing at him in the morning sun.

     “Good morning, Southerner,” snickered Belegond, “I see you have woken.”

     “Why have you chained me to this tree?”

     “I do not count you as a companion, but as a prisoner,” said Belegond, “That is unless you can prove otherwise. But I will not give you much opportunity to do so.”

     “Do not worry, Belegond, son of Ondotahr,” said Endilas, “I will prove to you my worth, one way or another.”

     “You must be quite trustworthy if you are to gain mine in two days.”

     “Two days?” asked Endilas incredulously, “We have not even reached the River Poros yet, and you expect to reach the Tower of the Guard within two days? Are you mad?”

     “No,” replied the Gondorian, “Only swift. And you will have to be too if you wish to arrive in the White City.”

     “I do not wish to go there!” cried the Haradrim, “I wish to settle somewhere quiet in Gondor, not to face your cruel judgement in that city!”

     “Well then,” said Belegond slowly, “I suppose that I shall have a different consequence. Ah, if you lag behind too far, then I shall leave you to die.”

     “I still have food and water in my pack, and warm clothes to wear. I can survive without your taskmaster-y.”

     “Then I shall carry your load,” said Belegond as he took their satchels, “You see, this would slow my pace and increase your own. I am not as cruel as you depict me to be.”

     “Your intentions are still quite as cruel as they seemed,” muttered Endilas.

     Belegond began to jog away to the north. Endilas could not be sure whether the Man had simply not heard him or had chosen not to respond, but had to run forwards to keep up either way.

     Endilas could not find Belegond for the rest of the day. He could barely hear him treading ahead, though he could always find some sign of his passing. He ran over root and bush, bridge and path, berry and bramble, yet he did not actually see the Gondorian until night had fallen and he sat around a fire, warming his hands.

     The next day, the two stayed at the same gait, but were much closer together. As the sun was on the last leg of its westward journey, Belegond turned off the road to the northwest. Endilas followed, but tripped over the root of a mighty oak. Looking upwards, his captor and companion had disappeared. He stood and stumbled in the direction he thought he had gone. He searched desperately, but could not find him.

     Just as he was about to give up all hope, Endilas happened upon a clearing. Three men in black hoods and masks stood around a bound and gagged Belegond. They spoke in a tongue strange to the Man, but familiar to Endilas. They were of Harad.

     It translated as, “What are we to do with this one? He refuses to speak of the whereabouts of Prince Adàntur, but we have seen him with Handrid’s son.”

     “I say we kill him,” said the second one, “If he refuses to tell us anything, then he is no use to us. If we wait to torture him to speak of the prince, Adàntur will have already been captured by another of the Gondorian scum.”

     “I agree,” said the third, “Let us do so now.” He grinned evilly as he drew a wicked dagger from its sheath.

     Endilas leaped from his hiding place. A swift punch to the third Haradrim’s wrist sent him recoiling and his dagger flying. Endilas caught the weapon and bashed the heads of the third and second Men. The first stared at him in wonder and confusion.

     “Lord Adàntur!” he cried, “What are you doing? Your father has sent us to-”

     He was cut short as he too received a quick hit to the skull.

     Endilas kneeled down and severed Belegond’s bonds.

     “Well, Southerner,” said Belegond, “It seems you have earned my trust, but what are we to do with these three? Surely they will follow us.”

     “Unless I was killed while they were unconcious,” said Endilas, “I have a locket given to me by my father that symbolizes my status in the Royal House.” He drew out a stained glass rendering of the Oasis of Talkellon.

     He lifted it up and smashed it on the ground.

     “What did you do that for?” asked Belegond, “That was all the evidence I had to prove that you were an important hostage!”

     “I thought I was trustworthy.”

     “Well…umm… I suppose… fine.”

     “Then let us be off,” said Endilas, “I shall go to Minas Tirith with you as you wished as long as you do not expose my true identity.

     The Gondorian grumbled a few unintelligible words and continued in their northwesterly direction.

                              *     *     *     *     *

     The next morning, they woke to find two white cities before them. One stood abandoned by Men and Orcs and was divided in two by a Great River. The other stood tall with seven levels of white stone. Behind it stood mountains as pale as the city, glittering in the sun of the morn.

     “This is the White City of which I spoke,” said Belegond.

     “I have heard tales of the Tower of the Guard, but nothing compares to the sight of it,” said Endilas.

     “No, tales would never compare to the sight of Minas Tirith.”

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Gallamir’s Log: The Men of the East C. 3

October 14, 2943 Third Age

     Tall, dry grasses blew in a warm easterly breeze over long, rolling hills while the morning sun glittered over the Sea of Rhûn. Long-legged water birds flew overhead and dived into the sea to fish, disregarding the two figures below, trekking the hills.

     A single bead of sweat rolled down Gallamir’s brow. Wiping the perspiration from him, the ranger looked at the low sun. It was only an hour or two past dawn, and already the land was growing warm. ‘T’was not to be a cool day,’ he thought.

     “Do you hear that, Gallamir?” asked Idwen, stirring the Man from his thoughts.

     “No, Idwen,” he replied, “Your ears are more keen than mine. What is it you hear?”

     “The sound of people, of inhabitance. The rolling of carts and the baying of hounds and the shouting of vendors. And many voices speaking. I hear a village nearby.”

     As they came closer to the settlement, Gallamir too began to hear the things which Idwen described. They warmed his heart, for he had not heard these things since he had left his hometown of Esteldín.

     As the duo crested the tallest hill they had encountered so far, they stared in wonder at the quaint hamlet nestled in a small combe made by the hill they had just mounted. Many sights, sounds, and smells soon were brought to them. Sweet aromas of burning cedar wood and freshly caught fish smoking over it wafted towards them. About two dozen thatch houses and a larger public building in the center of town made up the village. People of dark skin and hair walked about in light-colored clothing, buying from the many vendors of food or unnecessary trinkets, going to the public building, or walking to the eastern edge of town where a small plot of farmland stood.

     Among the bustling crowds there occasionally stood Men in sand-colored robes. They wore simple, conical straw hats on their heads that almost completely shadowed their faces. The locals seemed somewhat afraid of their seeking hawk-eyes watching them from their concealed faces. But whenever Gallamir or Idwen saw one and tried to look closer, when they looked again, the Man would have vanished. There was something strange about those Men… something ominous.

     As the two walked into town, they received suspicious glances from the locals. Upon entering the town square, the movement and commotion came to an altogether standstill. Gallamir spotted one of the strange Men out of the corner of his eye. A sour-looking fat man pulled his attention as he spit by their feet. Activity in the square went back to normal as people went to their business. When he looked again, the strange Man had disappeared.

     After haggling with a fruit vendor(who spoke little Common Speech) to trade an Elvish coin(all-around worth much more than the local ones) for two handfuls of almonds, the foreigners sat at the edge of town, contemplating what to do next as they ate the nuts.

     “I really don’t understand what we can do here,” said Gallamir, “There doesn’t seem to be any trouble; in fact if there is ny trouble it is us! The locals don’t seem to appreciate our presence here at all.”

     “No, they don’t,” said a voice from the shadows.

     Gallamir stood up immediately and grabbed the hilt of his sword, expecting one of the strange, robed Men. “Who are you? Speak quickly or face the cosequences.”

     “Do not worry, friend,” said one of the villagers as he stepped out of the shadows who appeared to be middle-aged and was of moderate height, “I do not wish for harm to come upon you.”

     Gallamir relaxed his grip on the sword.

     “My name is Lairen of this village, Falreg. And,” he added in a whisper, “of the Dinnwé.”

     “The Din-” began Idwen.

     “Do not speak that name here!” hissed Lairen as loudly as he dared, “There are too many folk about. And too many of the Ba’id Qatil around.”

     This time it was Gallamir’s turn to speak. “The Ba’id Qatil?”

     “Yes,” replied Lairen, “The Men that watch over this village, though not in a good way. They wear robes of sand and hats of straw and walk silently in the streets. You have probably seen them, and they must have seen you.”

     “But you still haven’t explained who they-”

     A Qatil turned the corner and saw the three speaking. “Good morning gentlemen, lady,” he said in a raspy voice, what could you be speaking of?”

     “Nothing much, sir,” responded Lairen swiftly, “These two were just asking me if I could lend them money for food.”

     “But of course,” said the Qatil, “‘Tis the most laughable thing. The others of the Meciltarï had found that one of the villagers here is of the Dinnwé. Any idea who it is?”

     “You’ve got the wrong person, I swear on my life.”

     “Then you forfeit it.” The robed Man knocked Lairen to the ground and forcefully brought his elbow upon the back of his neck. A cracking sound came from Lairen’s still body while Idwen and Gallamir uttered gasps of horror.

     The Qatil stood from the bloody form and drew two identical daggers. “You’re next.”

     Tripping Idwen, the Man assaulted Gallamir, stabbing and slashing with his knives. Gallamir, his training saving him, quickly dodged from left to right, barely evading each blow. Out he drew Aranaeg, his blade of Westernesse, and cleaved off his attacker’s hands. The Qatil fell to his knees but made no noise to suggest pain.

     Instead, he cried, “Meciltarï! My fellows! Destroy this place and its people!” The Man smiled as Aranaeg was brought upon him.

     Idwen stood up, and ran into the village with Gallamir. The Ba’id Qatil bore sharp daggers and deadly swords to smite the people of Falreg. But to attack the people, they would have get past their defenders. Gallamir and Idwen stood outside the public building as the townsfolk rushed inside. The two locked blades with the blades of the cruel Men, but they could not hold out forever. Finally, the last of the townspeople were inside. But one of the Ba’id Qatil came forward bearing a torch to burn the public building. Idwen put an arrow to her bow to shoot the Man. Suddenly, darkness overcame their eyes, and they felt themselves being carried away. The smell of burning thatch was overpowering.

                           *     *     *     *     *

     Gallamir and Idwen had no sense of time by the time they came to a stop. Their blindfolds were torn off and they found themselves in a cave chamber of glittering stone. Six tall, strong men stood before them in grey clothing. The lead one cast off his hood to reveal a broad, stony face and a drooping mustache and beard.

     “Welcome, friends, to Alwegroth, home of the Dinnwé,” he spoke in a deep and commanding, yet friendly, voice.

     “Why have you brought us here?” questioned Gallamir angrily, “We could have saved that town!”

     “If we had not saved you both you and village would have died. We did you a favor.”

     Gallamir scowled. “Who are you anyway?”

     “Did you not meet our fellow, Lairen?”

     “Yes,” said Gallamir, “But he did not have enough time to explain before the attack.”

     “Then let me. My name is Mekilmir, the leader of these people. We are of the Dinnwé, a people resistant to what the locals call the Ba’id Qatil, the Killers of Far Away. But they were not always the evil Men you saw today.

     “We have histories dating back to the Beginning. In the Age when Men awoke for the first time, they were known as the Meciltarï, and they still go by that name, though it is too noble a name for them now. When Men awoke, there were five houses. The Edain went west, and one house passed out of our memory went south. The Dinnwé, Meciltarï, and Common Folk stayed in the east. The Dinnwé and Meciltarï modeled their languages and traditions after the Elves, but the Common Folk made their own. The Meciltarï were allies of the Dinnwé in ages long past, but then they went far away into the east, and have only recently returned in all their dark glory.

     “Now, let me tell you what we wish for you to do.”

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Tales of Endilas: The Flight of Endlias C. 2

October 12, 2943 Third Age

Adàntur woke to the first rays of morning light and the singing of birds. His door opened and his seven servants knelt before him.

“Good morning, Master Adàntur,” said the eldest among them, “We are glad to see you well on the eve of your coronation. I am quite sure that all will go as planned tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Lundar,” replied Adàntur as he drew back the fine curtains from the canopy of his bed.

“We have brought you your robes for today, Master,” said the youngest of the servants, presenting a pile of folded white silk.

“Thank you, Landur, son of Lundar” said Adàntur as he stepped down and retrieved his clothes, “You may go now. Enjoy your day; I do not think I should require your assistance today.”

“I give you my thanks, prince,” said the second eldest, “Your kindness is received greatly among us.” The servants smiled, and Prince Adàntur smiled. When his servants left, he sighed deeply.

“Why must they wait on me hand and foot?” he murmured to himself.

*     *     *     *     *

The oasis city of Talkellon was the crown jewel of Harad. It was the center of trade and culture in the whole of Near Harad. Located along the Harad Road, it often received travelers(especially corsairs) and many of its inhabitants spoke the Common Speech. A fountain was in the middle of the city that was the original pool where the city was founded. It was counted as sacred among many, and was often bathed in. Nonetheless, it was often purified and used as drinking water. A square was built around it that was filled with many shops and vendors. Palm trees swayed in the warm breezes while houses of red stone kept cool. Walls guarded by those Haradrim that did not go in secret to Mordor protected the metropolis from Gondorians or others of the Enemy. Although, the walls were not entirely needed, seeing as they were surrounded by a harsh desert and a guarded road.

A stone’s throw from the Oasis Square was the Royal Palace of the Handrid Empire.  The empire stretched across the entire River Harnen, from Umbar to Mordor. The empire started near the beginning of the Third Age. Handrid I was the chief of a wandering people when they found the Oasis of Talkellon. Talkellon was the capital city of the Handrid Empire, and Handrid II, father of Adàntur, was the ruler of its people. The Royal Palace was made of a central building of sandstone and two spires on either side. The spires were the quarters of the Royal Guards and Royal Servants. The quarters in the spires were furnished decently, but nowhere near the quality of the main building.

The first chamber had a rumbling fountain in it, and was an audience chamber for any guests. Behind it were seven chambers. Six of them were for the sons and daughters of the Emperor. They were fashioned so that the youngest were farthest from the center, and the eldest were nearer. Adàntur, as the eldest son, was one of the two closest to the center. The other child of the king closest to the center was his brother Kor-Sot. He was greedy and lusted for battle and death and trusted Sauron as a friend of Harad. Nearly all that knew him despised the young man, except for his esquire that bore no name. The esquire had come from the northeast out of Rhûn, and the locals had nicknamed him Qatil in the languages of the East. It meant “killer” for Qatil was similar to Kor-Sot and was rumored to have stolen the children of the Royal Guards and Servants in the night and drank their blood. He was stealthy and secretive, and spoke only to Kor-Sot.

Above the center chamber was the master bedroom of Emperor Handrid and his beloved wife. A marvellous selection of furnishing adorned the room with a balcony looking out upon the Oasis Square. Beneath the bedroom was the center chamber that was the mighty throne room of Emperor Handrid II the Bold. A throne of gold adorned with many jewels and a silk pillow looked out at large room of marble filled with tall stone statues of the emperors before him.

Now Adàntur read in his private study and library behind the throne room. He was a lover of nature and lore, and constantly read of the Elves and Men of the West. He studied their languages and customs and kept them all stored away in his mind. The prince would often go off in disguise throughout the city and go to the gardens there and speak with those he met. Talkellon was such a peaceful place in his mind. It was alienated from the rest of the world, and no one could touch it.

But when he thought of this, he was reminded of Sauron and his wars with the Men and Elves he learned so much of. And the next day his father would retire and he would rule the Handrid Empire. There were so many thoughts running through his mind. If he was emperor, then he could dispose of Sauron’s seed of war among Harad. No, that would be too great a task that one person could not do alone, not even a king. Even if he could dissuade Harad from Sauron’s grip, he would be putting his nation in jeopardy. There was the fact to consider that all of the Handrid Empire would rely on him as well, and look up to him. He could not lead these people….

That was it. He made up his mind to go. It would be soon and secret. Adàntur would travel to the West to Gondor or further and blend in there and make a new life. He would have to make a new name for himself. Artaur….? No. Tarmecil….? No. Endilas! Perfect. He would leave that very night, the eve of his coronation. He thought about how Kor-Sot would succeed him, but it was a passing thought. His mind was made up.

*     *     *     *     *

Hours after the sun had set and the people of Talkellon had gone to sleep, a single eye of Endilas peeped open. He tore his blankets off and stepped silently out of bed. He discarded his night robes and slipped on a grey cloak and tunic. Tying on traveling boots, he leaped out his window. Landing on a rooftop a few yards below, he spotted the city gates less than a mile away. He skipped from roof to roof, unseen by any.

At last, as he began to tire, Endilas came before the gates. He looked up ten meters and saw torches lighting the battlements far above. He climbed many steep stairs, skipping three at a time, his shadow flickering in the firelight. Going by a sleeping guard, he leaped over the walls. As he fell, Endilas realized that he should have thought this through more. He landed with a thud, but he felt fine.

He took one last look at his beloved city, and then fled out into the starry night.

*     *     *     *     *

Endilas woke, the sun standing almost at its highest. His skin felt as if it were about to catch fire. He found that when he had fallen asleep, he had not seen the River Harnen nearby in the fallen light.

The southerner stretched his cramped joints and walked off to the Harnen. At the banks, he noticed how swift the current was. He put one leg inside, and was swept off into the water.

Less then a quarter of a mile away, the Harad Road crossed the Harnen on a tall, arching stone bridge. Ten armored Men stood guarding the way, spears by their sides. Tired of his undisturbed shift in the unbearable heat, one of the Haradrim men gazed to the mountains in the east from where the source of the river lay. His eyes looked down towards the river itself and saw a flash of grey. He called the other guards to his side, but there was no sign of grey besides the mountains.

“Don’t waste our time, fool,” said one of the Haradrim to the guard that called them.

“But-” said the guard, “There it is again on the western side!” A cloak-less Endilas fled the scene  to the north as the distracted guards kept their gaze to the west.

*     *     *     *     *

As the sun kept sinking, and Endilas kept his course northern, the air became cooler and a breeze became more apparent. The desert became to moisten and transform into a wood. Tall ashes mingled with junipers, the forest floor covered with mosses, ferns, herbs, and hundreds of tiny flowering plants. The border region of Gondor and Harad was becoming more and more akin to graceful Ithilien to the north.

Statues of old stood occasionally on the Road, watchers of ancient times, bringing safety to travelers. Though some would stand taller than others, grander than others. They were made of the hardest stone and had not been ruined by the wind or the water. They were erected in the likeness of kings long passed, from life and  from history.

The Road here was moss-covered and had fallen into disuse over the years. Endilas knew this was no reason to relax his guard. Though Gondor knew not of Sauron’s return to Mordor, they were not known to relax their own guard.

But soon the songs of birds and the call of the wind and the sweet scents of grass and sea overcame the senses of Endilas. He lay down in grass and moss and herbs, feeling the soft, wet plants in his fingers. He sighed contently as the sun sank to the west and sea breezes brought their freshness with them.

Endilas was roused sharply back to reality as he felt cold steel being pressed against his neck.

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