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The Heirs of Haeron

Chapter Text

Grim and dark had grown the days for those who dwelt nigh the Misty Mountains in the waning years of the Third Age as the hand of the Dark Lord spread ever closer to the lands of the free peoples. In a region called the Angle, where most of the remaining Dúnedain families sought refuge from the growing threat, the man who led the Rangers of the North prepared to return to his watchpost nigh the Great East Road. "I must depart soon," said Halbarad to his wife, "for the evil of Mordor rests not, and my brothers are in need of me." After that he turned his gaze to the north and added, "Not since the days of Arassuil did those vile creatures dare to reach so far into our lands."

As he concluded his last remark, he heard noises coming from the nearby woods and stepped out of his tent to have a look; and at that moment, out of the trees to the north, he saw four rangers come forth and walk with haste towards the encampment. As they came nigh the edge of the settlement, the man at the front stopped to give instructions to the rest and thereupon continued alone towards Halbarad. “I bring important tidings,” he said as he came close.

"What is it Maegorn?" said Halbarad.

"I have learned," replied the ranger, "that our Lord Aragorn has returned from his long journey to the South."

"Aragorn!" cried out Halbarad unable to hide his excitement. "Which way has he taken?"

“It appears,” said Maegorn, “that he travelled north along the eastern edge of the Misty Mountains, then crossed into Eriador through the High Pass, whence he set course for Imladris. I was told further that he was preparing to leave the House of Elrond shortly and should be arriving here within a few days.”

"A joyous message this is, indeed,” said Halbarad, “I shall postpone my departure and await my kinsman."

A few days later, after nearly three and twenty years away, the Chieftain of the Dúnedain was come again amongst his people. Upon arriving he went to Halbarad’s tent, and after greeting him warmly, turned to serious matters. “Tell me about our situation,” he said.

“It is well that you have arrived in this hour,” said Halbarad, “for the orcs are becoming bolder and there is talk of a sinister alliance between the Dark Lord and the Nameless Terror that the Dwarves awakened in Moria.”

"Tell me not of The Enemy's designs, Halbarad,” said Aragorn, “for I have not been idle and know them well."

“Forgive me; I forgot whence it is you come,” said the ranger. “Much must you have learned of Sauron’s plans in Imladris.”

“Not only in Imladris,” replied Aragorn, “but also in Lórien and in the White City far to the south. For his malice touches all of our allies, and he seeks to bring dread and despair upon each of them ere he unleashes his full might upon the strongholds of the West.”

"Come," said Halbarad. "I will show you the distribution our men." And with that they went inside a tent to have a look at the map.

Later on that evening, as Maegorn walked back towards his family’s abode, he came upon a tall elf who had just stepped out of Aragorn’s tent and stopped to have a word with him. At the end of their brief conversation, the ranger continued on his way and was soon joined by a boy who had been waiting for him a few feet away. “Who is that, father?” asked the boy.

“That is one of whom I have spoken to you on many occasions, Aldanur,” said Maegorn. “He is the elf-lord Glorfindel, who journeyed with our Lord Aragorn hither from Imladris.”

The boy at once turned his head and gazed in awe at the golden-haired elf whose eyes seemed to shine from within with the light of a thousand stars. He had seen elves before, but none such as the one who stood a few paces from him, around whom so many great tales of might and valour were woven. But of all the accounts that told of Glorfindel, one had stood out ever in the boy’s mind for the majesty and grandeur of its settings; and he found it hard to believe that he looked now upon an elf who had stood against the great horror that issued from Angband in long ages past to bring forth the ruin of Gondolin.

On the third day after the return of Aragorn, young Aldanur was sitting near the edge of the River Bruinen preparing a rabbit trap when he heard noises coming from the opposite shore. He lifted his head to look for the cause of the tumult and in that instant witnessed with dismay the sudden appearance of a large force of orcs on the east bank of the river. Without delay, he picked up his things and rose to his feet to go alert the others of the presence of the ghastly host, but he would soon find that there was no need. For the rangers had been expecting the creatures, and before the boy had taken a step, a hail of arrows came down on the orcs from all directions causing them to break ranks and flee back east.

With nightfall fast approaching, Aldanur decided to begin to make his way back to the encampment. As he approached the tail end of the eastern forest, he heard the voices of several men coming from a clearing a few yards ahead and decided to hide behind the bushes and listen in. He soon realised that the voices belonged to his father, Halbarad and a few other rangers, who were having a discussion about the events that had taken place earlier.

"... for this attack was no coincidence,” said Maegorn; “Sauron’s lieutenants must have received word that the Chieftain of the Dúnedain has returned."

“Aye,” said Halbarad, “this move was not planned, but made in haste. It is likely that an orc captain sought to take advantage of the opportunity to gain favor with his master by slaying our chieftain, for it is said that it is our leader whom the Dark Lord appears to fear most.”

“That may account for the timing of the attack,” said one of the other rangers, “but it explains not how they discovered our location.”

“Many spies are there in the service of the Dark Lord,” replied Halbarad, “and despite our measures, a settlement of this size is hard to keep hidden for long. Indeed, I believe it is quite possible that they have known of our location for some time and decided to move now because of Aragorn’s presence here.”

“We cannot stay here,” said another ranger. “Even if they can in time discover our new location, this place is at this moment too dangerous for our families. We must make haste and relocate further south.”

“I disagree not,” said Maegorn, “yet I would counsel against any move until it is certain that the orcs have gone away and can pose no threat to us while we relocate.”

“Indeed,” said Halbarad. “We need to make sure that they have left the area ere we come to any decision.” Then he turned to face Maegorn and said, “I need you to take a few men and go find out how far the creatures have gone.”

When Maegorn returned to his tent he went to his wife and sat down next to her, and the expression on his face was grave. “I must speak to you now,” he said taking her hands, “for a dark foreboding is in my heart. I leave soon to track a band of orcs that lurks east of the river; should I not return, ever you must remember that at the bottom of the large chest lies a small box of fine carved wood. It is of crucial import that you keep it safe and pass it on to Aldanur when his sixteenth winter has come.”

As Maegorn walked out of his tent, Aldanur came running towards him and grabbed hold of his cloak. “Do not go, I beg of you,” said the boy with great distress, for he also seemed to sense that the decision to follow the orcs had come in an evil hour.

Maegorn crouched down and put his hands on the boy’s shoulders. "Son, great strength is required of you now,” he said, “for you are the heir of Haeron, and one day it will be your charge to uphold the sacred vow made by our forefather long ago."

Many days passed and no word of Maegorn’s party came back to those at the camp. It had been more than a fortnight since their departure, and hope had all but vanished in the hearts of the families of those who had gone to search for the orcs. Young Aldanur was sitting alone with his head down near the edge of the forest when Glorfindel came to him. "You mourn for your father," said the elf.

The boy did not look up, but nodded his head a few times.

The elf-lord then sat down next to the son of the ranger. “I know not what the doom of Man is,” he said; “yet this I can say to you, for alone of the elves of Middle-earth I have seen the Timeless Halls, death in this world is not an everlasting parting.”

Aldanur did not find Glorfindel’s words reassuring. “But you speak of the doom of the elves, not men,” he said without lifting his head.

The elf assented with a slight nod. “Different are our paths, indeed,” he said, “and yet not so unalike may be our fëas.” At that moment Aldanur lifted his gaze, and Glorfindel could see that the boy was doubtful of his remark. “These are not idle words to offer comfort,” continued the elf, “nor are they uttered without reason. For I, by the grace of the Valar, was returned to the Blessed Realm and can say to you that one walks now with the elves in Aman who was once counted amongst the Edain of old.”

Aldanur’s eyes were open wide as he looked up at Glorfindel. “A man lives in the Undying Lands?” he said with astonishment.

“One I love like a brother,” replied the elf. “Tuor son of Huor is his name. And if he could follow the path of the Firstborn, then it seems we are not so different after all.”

"Do you think,” asked the boy, “that I will see my father again after I die?”

“That I cannot say,” replied Glorfindel.

Several days later, as he ran an errand for his mother, Aldanur heard that Aragorn and his companion were about to depart for Imladris and at once began to run towards the northern edge of the encampment to look one last time upon the great elf-lord. When he arrived he found the elf and the chieftain having a few last parting words with Halbarad and stopped several yards from them. After a moment Glorfindel noticed the presence of the boy and walked towards him. “I go now my young friend,” said the elf, “but we shall meet again in this world ere I depart these shores. Farewell.”

Chapter Text

Following the loss of her husband and with an ever colder and fouler wind blowing down from the mountains, Aldanur's mother decided that she and her son would leave the North. The two crossed the Mitheithel on the eve of the Ethuil Feast and for several weeks travelled southeast through the shadowy woodlands of what had once been the Dúnedain Kingdom of Cardolan. At length, weary and ragged, they reached the ancient river-port of Tharbad, and great sorrow came then over the boy as he beheld the ruins of the once formidable bridge that had stood proud in the springtide of the House of Elendil. Nothing remained at all, he thought with regret, of the great realm in those ancient tales that his father would recount to him by the fire in the days of his bliss.

Through great hardship and peril, Aldanur's mother led her son across the Gwathló and down the remains of the Old South Road until at length they reached the Gap of Rohan. And taking care not to draw attention to themselves, they continued west and in time arrived at the Fords of Isen, whereupon they crossed into realm of the Rohirrim and followed the Great West Road that led to Gondor. Nigh on twenty weeks after leaving their home in the North, Aldanur and his mother arrived at last in Anórien and took abode in a small village in the foothills of the White Mountains. But the shadow of the Dark Lord arose ever as a menace to those who dwelt nigh the Great River in those days, and the Northerners soon set off again and in time came to settle in Calembel in the region of Lamedon.

As the son of Maegorn grew into adulthood, talk of all out war grew louder among the people of Gondor, for the forces of Mordor had begun to stir once more east of Anduin. In the year T.A. 3015 Aldanur journeyed to Minas Tirith and joined the City Guard to take part in the fight against the Dark Lord, for though many years had passed, in his heart burned yet a fierce hatred for those who had taken from him his father. The prowess shown by the new soldier soon gained the praise of the captains, for he was strong and steadfast, and after a brief period, the Northerner was chosen to ride with the elite Mounted Guard of the White City.

Over the following years, the power of Mordor continued to grow in the East, and by the winter ot T.A. 3019 the forces of the Dark Lord were at last ready to launch their assault on the West. As reports began to arrive of large enemy forces issuing from Minas Morgul and the Black Gate, the Steward of Gondor ordered his captains to ready the city's defences; and so all available men were told to help put in place war machines at high points around the city in preparation for the imminent attack.

Up by the battlements, Aldanur was assisting a Guard of the Citadel named Beregond with the assembly of a catapult when a white rider galloped by them in haste.

"Do you know why he is here?" said Aldanur. "People say that he is a harbinger of ill-fortune."

"People know not of what they speak," replied Beregond; "the wizard comes with counsel in this dark hour, for much he knows which is veiled to us of the ways and schemes of the great powers."

Aldanur wondered for a moment what sort of secrets might the wizard know that could affect the outcome of the struggle that was upon them. Then he remembered the tales he had heard from the men who had recently returned from Ithilien and said, "Like the purpose of that mysterious halfling who roams east of the Great River, perhaps?"

Beregond quickly lifted his head and looked at the other man with eyes widened. "Dangerous talk that is!" he said. "Whatever be the halfling's plan, it has remained concealed for a reason. And this matter in any event is not for men like us to discuss; it is the concern of only great lords."

Aldanur was irked by that remark. "The great lords have not all the answers," he said crossly, and following a short pause, added enigmatically in a low voice, "Astonished they would be to learn of the secrets held by common men."

The hour of the great battle drew near. The forces of Mordor breached the outer walls, and the last units that defended the eastern gate of the Rammas began to fall back towards the city. Word of this soon came to Warden Húrin, who at once summoned the captain of the Mounted Guard and told him to prepare to ride out, for the Lord Denethor had ordered a sortie to assist the retreating out-companies.

Once they had made ready, the riders of Gondor issued from the city gates at full gallop to bring relief to their companions. As they came within a few hundred feet of the fleeing soldiers, however, they heard a shrill and terrible cry, and at that moment a sense of utter dread, as Aldanur had not known before, filled the Northerner’s heart. All of the horses balked in terror save one, and the White Rider continued forward at full speed, reaching the harried soldiers far ahead of the rest.

As if loath to confront the wizard, the winged creature that had hovered above the men wheeled and flew away, and the fear vanished. The knights of Dol Amroth arrived next at the site and at once charged at the approaching enemy forces with great ferocity, checking the advance of the Southrons and providing respite to the retreating soldiers.

Aldanur reached the area shortly after the knights and ahead of the bulk of his companions. He was astonished to find Mithrandir standing alone between a squadron of orcs and several wounded men and rode at once to assist him. The creatures of Mordor hesitated to engage the wizard, ever mindful of the tales told about his power, but Aldanur could see that a number of them had gone around a nearby barn and were preparing to attack the injured men from the opposite side; and without hesitation he spurred his mount forward and rode at them with great haste. The fury of his thrust and the strength of his sword knocked back the orcs, and with great courage and skill he managed to hold them off until the rest of the horsemen arrived, at which point the fight turned and the enemy was forced to withdraw.

Once the orcs were gone, Mithrandir turned his head and directed a piercing glance at the tall, grey-eyed soldier who had come to his aid. After a moment he began to move towards the Northerner, all the while continuing to gaze intently at him, as if trying to make sense of what he saw. "There is more to you than that outfit reveals," said the wizard as he came close. "Húrin is fortunate indeed to have such men as you in his service."

The siege of Minas Tirith was approaching its twentieth hour when the forces of Mordor brought forth their great battering ram. Despite coming under heavy fire, they soon reached the great portal, and after only a few tries, with a thunderous burst of black sorcery, Grond threw down the gates of the White City. At that point the riders of Gondor climbed on their mounts to await their lord’s command to charge at their assailants, but ere any orders arrived, the forces of the Dark Lord unexpectedly began to retreat away from the city, leaving the horsemen bewildered.

Aldanur quickly dismounted and went off to try find out what had befallen. He soon came upon a small group of soldiers, and grabbing one of the men by the arm, pulled him aside and asked him if he knew why the enemy had withdrawn from the city.

“Did you not hear the horns? The riders of Rohan have come,” answered the man, who identified himself as Damrod of the Rangers of Ithilien.

“A fortunate turn, this is,” said Aldanur. “Perhaps we ought to press our advantage and go after them.”

“Nay,” said Damrod, “this is but a brief respite. Many more enemies wait by the river, and larger forces yet gather behind the Black Gate. No hope is there through arms; our only chance, small though it may be, lies not with our warriors, but with a most unlikely hero.”

Aldanur held the other man’s gaze for a short while and then said in a disdainful tone, “You refer to those silly tales about the halfling who wanders east of Anduin.”

“Those are no idle tales,” replied Damrod, “for I saw him myself in the woods of Ithilien and know that he carries with him an item of great import, something they referred to as Isildur’s Bane.”

“An illuminated plan, indeed,” said the Northerner with a sarcastic smile: “to place our hope in a little halfling, who will walk into Mordor and throw down the Dark Tower.”

That comment irritated Damrod, who said raising his voice, “And what does a mere soldier know of the subtle threads that bind together the schemes of the high lords? The task of the one called Frodo was appointed to him by a great elf-lord in Imladris, far off in the North. And though I heard not all that was said, I know that Faramir thought the halfling very important by the manner of his treatment in the grot of Henneth Annûn that is now lost.”

Hearing the word Imladris took Aldanur back to a different time, for it was a name that he had not heard since the days of his dwelling among the rangers in the North. The memory of his father’s description of the haunting valley of the elves, with its majestic terraces and soaring waterfalls, came to him then, and for a moment he was amazed that wonders such as this remained yet in the world. But his mind soon returned to the matter of the halfling, for the words of the ranger of Ithilien had intrigued him. “That may very well be so,” he said, “but how____”

“Your disdain,” interrupted Damrod, “for the mission of the humble traveller from the North aroused my anger and weakened my restraint, and I have now said much beyond that which is wise. Of this matter, I shall speak no more.”

Soon new enemy forces began arriving from the east, and in the fierce fighting that followed King Théoden was slain and the host of Mordor regained control of most of the Pelennor. Once again the cavalry of Gondor was told to prepare to ride out to battle, for the men of Rohan were now in need of help.

Under the dark and foul cloud that hovered above the White City, the horsemen of Gondor climbed on their mounts and hastened out to assist to the Rohirrim. But ere they could reach their allies, the riders were waylaid by a group of Easterlings and forced to veer sharply to the north; and in the ensuing tumult, Aldanur’s horse was grazed by an arrow and bolted at great speed, taking the Northerner away and separating him from the rest of his unit.

As he regained control of his beast and turned back to look for his companions, the son of the Maegorn espied a knight of Dol Amroth, unmounted and swordless, surrounded by a number of Easterlings, who closed in on him with their blades held high. Without hesitation, as ever was his way, Aldanur rode hard at the enemy fighters, and leaping from his horse, crashed into them knocking down three. And ere his foes could react, he swiftly picked up a fallen sword and tossed it at the knight, and the two tall Westerners then stood back-to-back against the encircling foes.

Long they held off the Easterlings under the lengthening gloom, and their valiant stand might have been numbered amongst the remarkable deeds of that day, if their companions had been there to see it. But the hour grew late, and it soon became clear to Aldanur that no aid would come to them now, for the warriors of Mordor appeared to him countless as stars on a winter’s night. In his mind, he began to accept that victory for the West was now beyond reach, and the thought that Sauron would go on ruling in the Dark Tower, while his father lay dead long years, filled his heart with dark loathing. A fey mood took him then, and abandoning caution, he launched himself at his foes attempting to cut down as many as he could while he had yet the strength to hold a sword in his hand.

But as the son of the ranger swung his blade furiously at his enemies, a deep loud sound was heard coming from the south, and at that moment the struggle came to a halt as all fighters turned their heads towards the river to look for the meaning of the blast from the great horn. Soon the Eastern leaders began ordering their men to head south to lend support to the forces caught between the Rohirrim and the newcomers from the hinterlands, and unexpected respite thus came to the two Western warriors.

With the enemy fighters gone, Aldanur decided to head south to rejoin the rest of his unit, but as he started to walk off, the knight with whom he had stood against the Easterlings held him back. "Your name, soldier," he said.

"Aldanur son of Maegorn, sir" replied the Northerner.

The knight acknowledged with a nod. "We shall speak again once this war is over," he said, "should we both live to see those days."

As Aldanur approached the southern gate of the Rammas, he espied a company of men whose raiment he recognised at once and at the front, carrying the standard, one whose face he had known since his earliest days in the forests of the North. Grey hairs now covered much of Halbarad’s head, and the lines on his face were deeper than he remembered, but the ranger’s unbent frame had lost none of its portly presence, and he seemed as vigorous as the man he had known in his childhood.

The Grey Company, along with the Gondorian host from the hinterlands, made their way north, pushing back the enemy as they advanced. At length they reached the South Gate of the Rammas, but as they moved across the remnants of the old watchtower, tragedy befell their flag-bearer. Aldanur, who was now within thirty feet of the Northerners, watched with dismay how Halbarad's eyes suddenly widened as his body stiffened with pain. The ranger's expression then turned to anguish and at last to horror as he began to perceive the evil sorcery in the black dart that had pierced his neck. After a moment, a dark spot like the shadow of a spider began to spread across his neck and onto his face, and as his strength left him, Aragorn’s kinsman toppled from his mount and collapsed to the ground. Thus passed Halbarad Dúnadan, Captain of the Grey Company and bearer of the Banner of Elendil.

In the turmoil that followed, Aldanur noticed that several rangers were pointing at something to the west, and so he turned his gaze in that direction, and the scene he witnessed then struck him as unreal. Alone atop the wall that encircled the city, stood a tall figure wrapped in a long cape and clad all in black save for a red mask that hid his face. He remained motionless, like a dark statue against the white peaks of Mount Mindolluin in the distance, an image betrayed only by the movement of his cape swirling in the breeze. In his right hand the shadowy figure held a long shaft that terminated in the head of a dragon, and which appeared to Aldanur as some sort of weapon.

Several rangers ran then with great haste towards the stranger, but before they could come near, the masked assassin turned around and leapt onto a spot behind a fold in the wall, disappearing from sight. The rangers reached the place only a few seconds later, but despite a thorough search, they could find no trace of Halbarad’s slayer. At length they returned to their companions frustrated and puzzled, for the mysterious figure seemed to have vanished, as if by magic.

Chapter Text

It has been told elsewhere how at the end of the Third Age the periannath named Frodo cast the One Ring into the pits of Mount Orodruin, and in so doing destroyed the great fortress of Barad-dûr and the power that dwelt within. The downfall of the Dark Lord dissolved the spells that bound his thralls to his will and weakened the resolve of the rest of his vassals, and soon led to a complete victory for the armies of the West.

With the threat from Mordor extinguished, many of the soldiers of Minas Tirith were given leave to return home to see their friends and relatives or take care of long-neglected personal affairs. Aldanur was himself preparing to return to Calembel when a messenger came to the barracks and told him that he had been summoned to the headquarters of the City Guard. Upon arriving at the gate of the command center, the Northerner was approached by a tall man whom he did not recognise. "It is good to see that you made it to the end of the war in one piece," said the stranger.

The man’s friendly tone confused and intrigued Aldanur, for he was certain that this individual, who was clothed in fine garbs, was not one with whom he had had a close relationship in the the past. After a moment a slight smile appeared on the stranger's lips. "Is my life of such little worth," he said, "that you should so soon forget saving it?"

Aldanur again examined the other man’s face closely as he searched his memory for clues. At length he began to nod his head slowly, for he now realised who the man was who stood before him. "An appalling lapse on my part, this was,” he said. “Forgive me, sir, for failing to recognise the knight by whose side I faced countless foes in battle."

The man introduced himself as Thannor of the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth and offered Aldanur his thanks for his actions during the battle for the White City. The two men then sat down on a bench in the front square among the many blooming trees and recounted to one another all they had done and seen on the battlefield after they had parted company. At length Sir Thannor stood up and told the Northerner that it was now time for him to take his leave, then he paused for a second and his face took on a more serious expression. "You came to my aid at a crucial time,” he said, “and I can never hope to repay this debt, but I shall try to compensate you nonetheless. Please come back with me to Dol Amroth and be the head of my guard."

Aldanur’s first impulse was to turn down what he regarded as an undeserved offer, but something held him back. In his heart he had the strange feeling that this was a course which he was somehow meant to follow, and with naught tying him back to Calembel since the passing of his mother save a small plot of land, he decided to accept Sir Thannor's offer.

"Good," said the knight. "Prince Imrahil has asked us to remain in Minas Tirith for a while longer. After that, the Swan company will set off for Dol Amroth and you shall come with us."

Nigh on three months after Sir Thannor and Aldanur’s meeting at the headquarters of the City Guard, on Midsummer’s eve, the knight came to the Northerner’s quarters. “Tomorrow is the King’s wedding,” he said, “and I want to you to come with me to the Great Hall.”

“I appreciate the invitation, sir,” replied Aldanur, “but I do not think that such an event is a place for a common soldier.”

“No, no,” said the knight. “You brought this upon yourself when you pledged your services to me, for as head of my guard, it is your duty to escort your master.”

The Northerner’s expression was dubious. “Surely,” he said, “you do not think that it is necessary___”

“Come, come now,” interrupted Thannor as he put his hand on other man’s shoulder. “It will be a unique experience, and all you need to do is sit and watch.”

On the morrow, the union of King of the Faithful and the daughter of Lord Elrond took place in Minas Tirith. Following the saying of the vows and the proclamation of the marriage, the parties attending the wedding moved into the Great Hall and took their appointed seats. At the main table on the dais, along with the King and his bride, Aldanur saw a dark-haired elf to whom was accorded much honour and whom he presumed to be the Lord Elrond of Imladris. Seated next to them were a few more elves, followed by Mithrandir, a dwarf and four halflings, whose seats had no doubt been propped up for them. In the table to the left he saw yet more elves, and among them, one of great majesty in whom the light of Aman shone brighter than in any other save the Lady of the Golden Wood. And Aldanur’s heart was glad to look again upon the face of that mythical hero of so many legendary tales, that great elf who had once come to him with words of hope during the darkest days of his childhood years.

During the banquet Aldanur hardly said a word as he felt woefully out of place among the noblemen and the foreign dignitaries, who seemed to speak only of courtly politics or the size of their estates. After the last of the speakers had finished, the Northerner stood up and headed towards the balcony to seek a bit of quiet, but as he reached the doorway, he heard a knock behind him and turned around at once. Much to his surprise, just a few paces away, he found the grizzled figure of the White Wizard looking back at him. "A strange place for a mere soldier, the King’s wedding, is it not?" said Mithrandir. Then he moved closer to the Northerner and added quietly, "But then, an ordinary soldier you are not."

"I know not of what you speak, sir," said Aldanur.

“Do not take me for a fool,” said Mithrandir raising his voice. “I am Gandalf the White, and I can see much farther than even the greatest amongst your race . There are many brave men in Húrin’s service, but none such as you, for any of the Wise can see that in your veins flows the blood of Westernesse.”

“Wise you are indeed, wizard,” replied Aldanur, “but for all your knowledge you have not understanding of the souls of men. For you claim that the traits passed on to me by my forefathers set me aside from the ordinary, yet I ask, what attribute could be deemed beyond ordinary that provides not wealth or bestows not honour upon its bearer?”

Mithrandir let out a tired sigh and then said in a lower voice, “There are things more important than wealth and honour in Manwë’s realm, but on this I do not expect we shall agree.”

Aldanur, however, was reluctant to accept the claim even as a matter of opinion. “That may be so in the Undying Lands, where cares are few,” he replied, “but here in Middle-earth naught is there more important.”

But Mithrandir gave no heed to the man’s last remark, for something else occupied his mind. "Your lineage is a puzzle to me,” he said as he looked keenly into Aldanur’s eyes, “but that is not the only mystery about you, is it?"

The Northerner was stunned and unsettled by that statement, but he quickly regained his poise and remained silent.

The wizard continued to examine the man for a short while as if searching for clues in his eyes. At length he said, "I am not allowed to interfere in the affairs of Men any longer and know not what secret you carry, but my sight has been greatly enhanced since the passing of the Shadow, and I can see in you a link to something long forgotten."

Aldanur’s demeanor remained stony.

Mithrandir then leant on his staff and gazed for a while pensively at the man before him. “Twisted indeed are the ways of fate,” he said after a moment, “that great gifts should pass to those who seek their riches elsewhere or that the dearest treasures should fall to the care of most unlikely keepers. Many are the mysteries about you, son of the North, and I do not claim to know what your purpose is in this world, for Eru alone can see all the cadences of the Great Music; but I suspect that your part in the tale of the Faithful is not yet ended. Farewell, Dúnadan.”

Greatly troubled was Aldanur by the words of Mithrandir, for he knew that the wizard had peered too deep into his heart and got a glimpse of something that none ever should see save his heir. He felt suddenly that with all those wise individuals and lore-masters in that hall, his family’s long-held secret was not safe, and a burning desire arose then in him to flee that place. But the Northerner mastered that impulse and after a moment stepped out to the balcony and took a seat on a large window ledge to await there the end of the royal event.

As the son of the ranger sat with his face to the south, with the bright full moon as his sole companion, he heard two men walk out of the Great Hall and move to within a few paces of him. From their position the men could see not Aldanur, and thinking themselves alone, went on with their conversation.

"Have you informed the King of this?" said one of them.

"I have not, Lord Faramir," replied the other. "It does not seem like the appropriate time."

"No, indeed," said Faramir. "But you are certain it is the same man -- that mysterious black figure who slew the King's kinsman?"

"It is my belief that it is the same individual," said the other man. "but of his race, I dare not speak."

“This is most disturbing,” said the prince. “I shall speak of this to the King following the festivities. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention, Lord Filegaer.”

Aldanur knew at once to whom the two men were referring and wondered what matter concerning the shadowy black figure could be of such import as to require the attention of the King.

Chapter Text

Despite rumours of a heretofore unknown enemy scheming to undermine the dominion of the Faithful in the West, the first years of the reign of King Elessar were a time of peace. In those days Aldanur served as chief of Sir Thannor's guard in Dol Amroth, a post which required him to oversee the security of the members of the knight’s household during their journeys along the treacherous roads of the Southern Kingdom, a legacy of the Dark Years ere the fall of Barad-dûr. Of greatest concern to the knight, was the safety of his impetuous daughter Limwen, whose inquisitive nature often caused her to stray from the course; and so he asked Aldanur, his most able guard, to personally lead her escort on her travels far from home.

Nigh on six months after his coming to the Land of the Prince, on the eve of Wintertide Festival, the Northerner was asked to accompany Sir Thannor's daughter to the citadel upon the Rock of Dol Amroth. It was a place that was very dear to Limwen, and she journeyed thither time and again, for ever and anon the desire arose in her heart to climb to the top of Tirith Aear that stood tall above the waters of the bay. And gazing at Cobas Haven from that lofty tower, she would try to picture in her mind the haunting scene oft beheld by the men of Belfalas in the Elder Days, when swan-ships sailed those waters silently in the twilight to carry the elves into the Ancient West. For of all the epochs known to Men, none was dearer to her than the time wherein her forefathers had dwelt alongside the Firstborn on that shore, those mysterious days of wonder and enchantment when the realm was young.

On her previous journeys, ever she had chosen to climb alone to the top of the tower, but on that day she asked Aldanur to accompany her to the lookout spire. "Have you heard the tale of Amroth?" she said to him as they gazed out at the sea.

"I have not, my lady," he replied.

"He was an elf-king who came from the North long ago," she said, "and it is said that he drowned in these waters trying to swim back to shore to seek his beloved."

Aldanur felt uncomfortable with the topic of the conversation. "Unfortunate," he replied dryly.

The young lady turned her head to look at him. "You care not for these sort of tales, I see," she said.

"I do not," said the Northerner.

Limwen was bothered by his insensitive tone. "I suppose there is no place in the heart of a mighty warrior for such nonsense," she said bitingly.

"No, ma'am," he replied starkly, and Limwen said no more.

After that day the two did not interact at all save for the occasional polite remark. Aldanur stopped accepting Sir Thannor's invitations to dine at the main table on special dates, and at times it seemed as though he was trying to avoid spending time at the manor house altogether.

The years that followed were mostly uneventful, and few threats were there to the members of Sir Thannor's house, as the brigands and outlaws who had flourished throughout Gondor during the Dark Years had now all but vanished. But the peace enjoyed then by the knight’s family would soon be disturbed, for in the summer of Fo.A. 2 Sir Thannor was seriously injured during a hunting trip, and despite a stout heart, he could recover not from his wounds and passed away shortly after returning home.

In accordance with the laws of Dol Amroth, Thannor's landholdings passed to Bardhil, his eldest son. And the new master, who greatly admired Aldanur’s skill as a soldier, went to the Northerner soon after assuming lordship of the estate and asked him to remain as head of his guard, but the latter turned down the offer. "Your father's invitation,” he said, “I accepted in payment of his debt to me, but to your obligations I hold no claim."

On the eve of his departure, as Aldanur prepared for the long journey ahead, Limwen came unlooked-for to his small abode. "I hear that you turned down Bardhil's offer," she said as he opened the door.

After getting over his initial astonishment at seeing her there, he noticed that her hair was somewhat dishevelled and thought that she looked as lovely as anything he had ever seen. "I did, my lady", he replied trying to sound impassive.

She hesitated anxiously for an instant, unsure of what to do next, then walked hurriedly past him and into the small living area. After that she began to amble about the room and leisurely scan the furniture, as though visiting an exhibit. "What will you do now?" she said at length as she examined the contours of a chair and fidgeted nervously with the small pendant that hung from her neck.

"I do not know," he replied.

She continued to stroll around the room. "I am sorry that we did not have a more cordial relationship," she said, "and that you found my company so burdensome."

He shook his head slightly. "I find your company anything but burdensome," he replied in a tone much gentler than he had intended.

Limwen stopped at that moment and turned her head towards the Northerner, and looked at him for a short while with her head held low and eyes open wide, as a young girl would. At length she said, “Your words push me away,” and following a brief pause, added softly, “but your eyes tell me otherwise.”

Aldanur said nothing, and after a moment Limwen took a step forward and said to him, "Take me with you."

He cast down his eyes for an instant. "That I cannot do," he said, turning his gaze back to the knight’s daughter, "for I possess no lands or titles to offer to so fair a lady."

She fell silent for a moment, seemingly trying to grasp the significance of what the Northerner had just said. "Is that it then?" she asked at length, but Aldanur could not bring himself to give her an answer, and a few seconds later Limwen turned and walked hastily away.

Upon leaving Dol Amroth, Aldanur headed north and arrived in Calembel a few days later. The town seemed to him somehow smaller than he remembered, but after many years of constant martial bustle, he found the quiet of its mornings soothing and was content there for a while. Restlessness nonetheless soon arose again in his heart, for questions were there yet unanswered that weighed upon his mind; and so by early autumn he was ready to depart once more and make for the North. To those around him, he said that his heart desired to walk once more in the land of his forefathers and behold those mythical places of his childhood tales, but the true purpose of his journey he told no one.

After three years away Aldanur returned home. Of his journey he spoke not, and said only that he had decided to spend the rest of his days in Calembel, tilling his small plot of land. And this he would have done indeed, if change had come not, for he had learned to quiet the desires of his heart and wished now only to forget the past. But things did change, and a few short weeks after his return to Calembel, Limwen appeared unlooked-for on his doorstep. Time and again the Northerner tried to convince her to go back to Dol Amroth, saying that there was naught there for her, but she would heed not his words.

In the days that followed Aldanur remained steadfast in his decision that she should return to her family and often stayed away from home for long hours to avoid her presence. But in time his resolve began to weaken, for his feelings and wishes he could quell not, and nigh the end of the third week after Limwen’s coming to Calembel he said to her, "I can fight the desires of my heart no longer; I shall make you my wife, if that be your wish."

In the winter of the 9th year of the Fourth Age, a boy was born to them, whom they named Thelron, and they saw that he was hardy and fair, and were glad. But the joy they felt then was not to last, for shortly after delivering her son Limwen fell ill, and one night she said to her husband, “My time draws near,” and at that moment darkness fell on Aldanur’s heart. “Do not be sad for me,” she continued, “for I have been happier at your side than I ever allowed myself to hope. Soon I shall face the doom that Eru has appointed for our race, and it is my ardent wish that we meet again one day beyond the Circles of World.” That night Limwen daughter of Thannor, knight of Dol Amroth, passed on quietly in her sleep.

Several years after his wife’s death, Aldanur travelled with Thelron, who was yet a small child, to Dol Amroth and to the top of Tirith Aear; for his heart desired to behold once more the waters of the bay of Belfalas, which he had seen but once long ago in the company of the only woman he had loved. As they walked back towards the city gates, the Northerner heard a voice call to him from several yards away; and joy arose then in his heart as he realised that it was the voice of one of great might and valour, whom he had met long ago in the forests of North. He quickly turned around and walked towards Glorfindel, and after exchanging cordial greetings, the Northerner asked the elf about his purpose in Dol Amroth.

“I journeyed south,” answered Glorfindel, “to call on a dear friend who now holds the scepter of Elendil; and upon leaving the White City, knowing not for what purpose, I followed the South Road and came at length to this shore.”

“A strange turn for one who dwells far in the North, Is it not?” said Aldanur.

“It is well that my path has brought me hither,” replied Glorfindel, “for gazing upon this haven, whence many set sail for the West in the days of the might of the Dúnedain, I have come to see that naught remains for me in Middle-earth. And so I must depart soon, for Aman is my home and thither I shall return.”

A profound sorrow came over Aldanur on hearing those words, and he immediately sought to move the elf from his decision. “Must you leave now?” he said. “Many enemies of the Faithful remain yet in the East and in the South; your strength and counsel would be of great help in the struggles to come.”

Glorfindel held Aldanur’s gaze for what seemed like a long while, then turned his eyes slowly towards the sea and said, “From Lammoth that is no more to the vales of Anduin, and from the gates of Angband to the barren fields of Mordor, I have fought the servants of the Enemy since the Day before the days. But the Dark Lord was vanquished, and my task here is now ended; and I hear the voice of Ulmo call to me from the sea to return to the land prepared for my kin in ages long past.” Then he turned his gaze back towards the man and continued, “For the time has come for all men, elf-friend or not, to choose their path without the meddling of those who no longer call this land home.”

Aldanur fell silent, for he understood in that moment that the world he had known was truly gone and that something profound, beyond the struggle for dominion of Middle-earth, was changed with the fall of Barad-dûr.

The elf could sense the Northerner’s sorrow and sought to offer him solace. “Last I am of the High Elves to leave these shores,” he said, “but not all bonds with the West will be severed with my parting. For the strain of the half-elven was passed to the noblest amongst the Dúnedain, and has been renewed in the royal house, and many days shall yet be when glimpses of the majesty of the Elder Days are seen in this land.”

“Yet little comfort I find in your words,” replied Aldanur. “For whether by the work of the Enemy or the folly of Men, a bond was broken that should not have, and those glimpses of which you speak will serve only to remind us of something much greater that was lost.”

“But brief is your time in this world,” said the elf. “Brood not overmuch on what was lost and revel instead in the great deeds that await your seed,” then he turned his eyes towards young Thelron and continued, “for a doom lies upon your house, and not unsung shall the days of this boy end.”

Aldanur did not know what to make of the elf’s last remark. As a child he had heard tales about the foresight of the elves, but the words of Glorfindel sounded to him too outlandish to accept. In the end all he could do was smile slightly and look down at his son.

The elf then lifted his gaze back to the Northerner and said, “I must now take leave of you. We shall not meet again ere all the ages of this world are utterly spent and the One proclaims his doom upon all that lives or ever has. Namárië.”

As Aldanur watched Glorfindel walk away, it seemed to him as though a part of his own past had begun to fade; for the elf-lord was the last remaining link to the childhood he had left behind in the forests of Eriador, where he had touched but briefly the world of Eldar. It was a world of mystical valleys and enchanted woods, of fabled cities and mythical heroes, and one that would henceforth begin to feel with each passing day ever more like a dream.

Chapter Text

The peace that followed the War of the Ring lasted but a few years, for the enemies of the Faithful were yet numerous and a fierce hatred of the West burned ever in their hearts. By the spring of the 27th year of the the Fourth Age, hitherto dormant bands of orcs had begun to raid the villages on the eastern border of Ithilien. In the East, a powerful warlord had reunited many Easterling tribes and was now said to be preparing to march against the allies of the Faithful in the North. And in the South, the men of Harad, who yet lay claim to the land of South Gondor, had begun to threaten the new Gondorian settlements on the southern bank of the river Poros.

In early summer, King Elessar decreed that a military unit be established to go after the orcs and appointed Captain Hérion of Cair Andros to lead this force, which was to be comprised of newly recruited men from all regions of Gondor. Following that the King turned his attention to the conflict in South Gondor, which some called Harondor, and after taking counsel with the captains of the realm, he decided to push the Southrons away from the banks of the Poros. To carry out this task, he directed Elboron son of Faramir to lead an expeditionary force south and engage the Haradrim.

Meanwhile back in Calembel, the son of Aldanur had now come into adulthood. Unlike those around him, the young man was tall and of noble bearing, in the vein of the Men of the West; but despite his appearance, he had no inkling of his heritage and considered himself in every way an ordinary villager. For Aldanur spoke not of the past and showed naught but disdain for the affairs of the crown.

Now a few weeks after his eighteenth birthday, on the eve of Sauron’s Fall Day, Thelron became involved in an argument with a man who accused his father of having served the Dark Lord in the past. The claims greatly angered the young man, who unable to rein in his rage, launched himself at his opponent and smote him with great force, nearly causing his death. To avoid the dungeons, the town official offered Thelron the option of joining a company of new recruits from Lamedon that was to go east to help eradicate the orcs that hid in the Mountains of Shadow. This the son of Aldanur accepted, knowing not that his chosen path was but a vehicle that would, long years thence, take him to meet the fate whereof spoke an elf-lord to his father many years before by the shores of Belfalas.

When Thelron told Aldanur of his decision, the older man seemed displeased. “Do what you must,” he said curtly.

The Northerner’s reply upset the young man. “At least I’ll be fighting to defend the realm,” said Thelron, “and unlike you, I’ll have some purpose in my life.”

At that moment Aldanur stopped what he was doing and turned to look at his son. "One day," he said in a harsh tone, "you will learn the true purpose of the House of Haeron," and walked away.

Thelron was astounded by his father's remark. He could not recall hearing Aldanur ever show interest in aught beyond his small plot of land, and to hear him speak now of blood lineages and grand purposes left him bewildered. For the young man knew naught of the sacred treasure in his family's keep, nor could he have imagined the solemn vow made by his forefather to a monarch long ere his time, in days of turmoil untold.

In the years that followed, despite his headstrong character, the young Lamedonian rose quickly through the ranks of the orc hunting force, for he was a superb fighter and a strong leader, and the commanding officer soon took a keen interest in the young soldier. In the year Fo.A. 33, following the death of one of the three captains under his charge, Commander Hérion summoned Thelron to his office and told him that he had been chosen to replace the fallen officer as new captain of the force. After that he instructed the young man to concentrate his efforts on the southern half of the mountain range, where to date little progress against the orcs had been made.

Without delay, Thelron led his men deep into the mountains, and over the next two and a half years, one after another, each of the orc bases in the region fell to his sword and was laid waste. The surviving orcs soon fled towards the east in fear, and the southern half of the range was a concern no more. The speed and effectiveness of the campaign led by the new captain impressed Hérion, who asked the young man to come to headquarters. "We are extremely pleased with your work captain, even the prince has said as much," said the commander. "I want you to know that your record has been cleared and you are now free to do as you like; but I would like to encourage you to stay with us, for there is still important work to be done, and we could certainly use one with your skills."

On the way back to the base, Thelron considered his options. He could remain with Hérion for a while and see what the commander had in store for him, he could offer his services to a feudal lord, or he could seek opportunities in the North. He decided to postpone the decision and ask for leave to go and see his father.

The young captain arrived in Calembel late in the afternoon and went straight to his childhood home. He knocked on the door, and seconds later a woman he knew not came to answer the call. "I'm sorry," he said. "I am looking for Aldanur."

The woman looked carefully at him for a short while, then arched her eyebrows and smiled broadly. "Thelron," she said, "is it you?"

"I'm sorry. Do I know you?" he asked with a bewildered expression on his face.

"Yes, you do," said the woman; "you just don't remember me." Then she invited him to come in and sit down, and as he did, she continued, "I am your aunt Alassëa. I lived here till you were three years of age, then got married and moved out west. Two years ago my husband passed away, and I decided to return to my childhood home."

“Wait, you were here when I was born?” said Thelron excitedly. “Then you must have known my mother.”

“Why of course I knew her,” replied Alassëa.

Thelron looked then at his aunt with an awed expression, for there at last was someone who could tell him about his mother. “How was she?” he said softly after a moment.

Alassëa searched her memory for a short while and then said, “Well, she was tall, slender and very beautiful; it was even said by those who had been to Minas Tirith and seen the queen that Limwen had an elvish air about her. Aside from that, I would describe her as kind but also a bit haughty, which is natural for a woman of her birth, I suppose.”

“Her birth!” cried the young man. “What do you mean?”

Alassëa looked confused. “Limwen was the daughter of a knight of Dol Amroth,” she said. “Thannor was his name, I believe. Didn’t you know?”

Thelron stood up and began to pace slowly around the room. “No, I did not,” he muttered.

At that moment Aldanur walked in through the front door. He stood motionless for a second looking at his son, then walked briskly across the room and embraced him. After that the two went outside to sit on the front porch. There they spoke at first about the young man's journey and other trivial matters, but after a while Thelron hesitantly began to tell his father about the campaign against the orcs. Aldanur listened politely to his son, nodding on occasion, which gave the young man the confidence to go on. Finally, with a touch of pride in his voice, Thelron told his father that he was now a captain.

"Really," replied Aldanur without much enthusiasm.

The young man was disappointed by his father's indifference. "I bet my mother would have been proud of me," he said.

That comment irked the older man. "What do you know about your mother?" he asked rhetorically.

"Not much thanks to you," said Thelron raising his voice. "Were it not for aunt Alassëa, I still would not even know where she came from or who her father was."

"Good,” replied Aldanur. “Now you can go to her family and ask for a handout."

Thelron stood up. "I cannot understand why the daughter of a knight would marry a man with no ambition such as yourself," he said. "How did she even come to meet you?"

Aldanur took a gulp from his cup and ignored the question.

"You know what, I'll go find out myself," said the young man and walked away.

Thelron left for Dol Amroth on the following morning and after a fortnight arrived at the estate wherein his father had served many years before, and then he went directly to the manor house and requested an audience with the master. There he learned of his father’s deeds during the battle of the Pelennor Fields and of his coming to Dol amroth, and was astounded. For he found it hard to believe that that unadventurous and unaspiring man who dwelt now in Calembel had long ago ridden with the Mounted Guard of Minas Tirith, saved a knight from certain death and served afterwards as head of that nobleman’s guard.

He then remembered that enigmatic remark that Aldanur had made years before about the House of Haeron and asked himself how much did he really know about the man by whose side he had grown up. But after what he had just heard, one thing was clear to him: his father's life had been far more significant than he had imagined; and he wondered what had caused Aldanur to abandon all that and retire to live in obscurity in a forgotten corner of the realm.

As the young captain pondered these things in the Land of the Prince, far off in South Gondor, after several years of continuous engagements, Elboron’s men pushed away from the banks of the Poros the last of the Haradrim mobs. The removal of the Southrons brought peace to the territory, and for several years thereafter, the colonies in that region thrived and developed into prosperous farming communities.

But the wrath of the Southerners was quelled not in their hearts, and in the spring of Fo.A. 36, out of the bowels of the desert, their great host came forth; and with massive numbers in their ranks, they soon overwhelmed the Gondorian defences and reached the margins of the Poros. Dread and despair descended then on the settlers as one by one each of their villages fell prey to the vicious hordes from the South.

As is told elsewhere, Elessar at once gathered an army, and marching south, met the Haradrim in early summer and vanquished their host on the banks of the River Poros. But despite their ruinous defeat, the leaders of the Southern tribes refused to accept the presence of the Western colonists in South Gondor; and deeming that no other course was left to him, the King of Arnor and Gondor decided at that point to move against Harad.

And the king called to his banner many lords of Gondor, like Elphir of Dol Amroth and Alfinglor Steelshanks of Lossarnach; as well as lesser commanders, like Hérion, the man who had driven away the orcs. And once his forces had made ready, he set off for the land beyond the River Harnen to bring to an end the struggle in the South. For many leagues, Elessar’s army trudged south through the sweltering Southern wilderness until they reached at length the gates of Umbar, and after vanquishing the Haradrim once more, they laid siege to the mighty fastness from land and from sea.

Thus it came to pass that on Midsummer’s Day in the 39th year of the Fourth Age, Elessar entered Umbar and so brought it once more under the crown of the West. The banner of Elendil was then raised in the tower, and it flew anew above the ancient fortress that had once seen Sauron the Cruel sail away a vassal of the King of Númenor. And the men of Gondor rejoiced, and the barons went to the King and urged him to take the name Hyarmendacil III, as the kings of old had done to mark their great victories in the South; but Elessar declined, and said to them that his work was not finished until peace in the South had been attained.

And so he continued his march towards the heart of Haradwaith. But ere he could reach the great bastions of the Southrons to the east, a herald came to him with an urgent message; and on the following morning, the King departed for Gondor taking with him half of the men. The rest of the army remained in Harad to continue the campaign under the command of Elboron, but the diminished force was unable to subdue the Haradrim. And three months after Elessar’s departure, the two sides came to a stand-off, wherein Gondor controlled the coast and the southern bank of the River Harnen, while the Southerners ruled the inland plains.

Chapter Text

After two years of quiet in the South, in the winter of Fo.A. 42 the Haradrim arose again in the hinterlands, and with great strength of men, marched on the main Gondorian base nigh the fords of the River Harnen. Their terrible onslaught forced the men of Gondor to retreat in haste; and in the ensuing turmoil, Elboron’s cavalry became isolated from the rest of the Western force, cast asunder by a hail of arrows from a whole battalion of enemy archers.

Word of the commander’s plight, however, soon reached Captain Hérion, who turned to Thelron at once and ordered him to ride without delay to assist the Ithilien fighters; for he trusted none but the young Lamedonian to lead his horsemen on so crucial a task. Riding at a weak point in Haradrim’s line, the son of Aldanur succeeded in splitting the Southerners’ formation; and once past enemy lines, he swiftly circled back and fell with a thunderous charge on Elboron’s assailants from the rear, putting them to flight and relieving the commander’s cavalry.

Having thus lost their initial advantage, the Haradrim decided to withdraw to their camp; and the opposing forces resumed their stand-off, which continued for many long months thereafter. But one day in the winter of Fo.A. 44, Elboron summoned his captains and said to them, “I have been informed that the King has come to an agreement with the chieftains of Harad.” After that he unfurled a map of the region and added, "According to the treaty, the people of Gondor will be allowed to settle the territories south of the Poros down to this point, while Harad will assume control of some of the land north of the Harnen and west of the main road." And so, over the following weeks, the men of Gondor withdrew from all of the territories they held in Haradwaith save one; for the great haven of Umbar would remain a part of the Reunited Kingdom until the arrival of the fearsome gray-necks, long past the reign of the Elfstone of the House of Elendil.

Upon reaching South Ithilien, Elboron directed his aides to set up camp where they stood and then bade Thelron to come with him to Emyn Arnen. When the two entered the council room at the palace, they found a handful of men clad in fine garbs sat about a great oaken table. “Father,” said Elboron, once the room had quieted down, “as you requested, I have come to Emyn Arnen and brought with me Captain Thelron of Lamedon, who is with the 3rd Provisional Unit under Commander Hérion of Cair Andros.”

Faramir turned to Thelron. “You may take a seat over there, captain.” said the prince, pointing to a chair near the doorway. Following that, he told Elboron to take his place at the table and then said, “Lord Filegaer, you may begin.”

The nobleman from Pelargir leant forward in his chair. “Over the last few months,” he said, “I have grown increasingly certain that a single sinister hand guides the actions of all of our enemies. Of late, I have come to suspect that the agreement with Harad is naught but a ploy devised by this dark figure to have us relax our watch in the South.”

“And you believe this dark hand,” said Elboron, “to be the same man who slew Halbarad of the old Rangers of the North. Is that correct?”

Lord Filegaer nodded once and then said, “Indeed, if man he be.”

“If man he be! ” said Lord Alfinglor of Lossarnach. “What do you mean?”

“My words could be no clearer, Steelshanks,” replied Filegaer. “I can assert naught of his race, for the rumours that have come to me speak of one who is skilled in the dark arts and has been on this earth for many lives of men.”

The room fell silent at that moment as the participants looked at one another in astonishment. “But what makes you think,” said Faramir, after a short while, “that this one person or entity is coordinating the actions of our enemies?”

Filegaer took a moment to order his thoughts and then began, “For long years I have had dealings with merchants from Pelargir who move their trade along Anduin. They are ever wise to all that befalls nigh the shores of that river, for much they hear and see during their travels; and recently they revealed to me that leaders from the East and the South had been seen in the wilderlands to the south of the great forest of the Green Elves.” He then paused and looked around the table to examine the reaction of the the rest of the participants. “No aim,” he continued after a short while, “other than to take counsel with the dark figure who dwells in that land can account for the presence of the chieftains therein.”

Lord Alfinglor Steelshanks nodded his head slowly. “It would appear that the actions of this figure warrant indeed greater attention on our part.” he said.

“If we know where he makes his abode,” said forcefully an old man with a great scar across his forehead, whose identity Thelron ignored, “why have we not gone after this schemer?”

Filegaer looked towards Faramir for an instant and then turned his gaze back towards the scarred man. “As the Steward can confirm to you,” he said, “soon after the orcs began to raid our eastern villages, the King sent forth a party to that area to search for the dwelling place of his kinsman’s slayer. But as these men moved deeper into those wilderlands, their minds, it is said, grew ever more bewildered and muddled; and they were only able to find their way back after long weeks of wandering aimlessly through that land.”

At the end of the discussion the Steward called for a vote from the participants, and after that had taken place, he said, “As it is the judgement of this council, I shall recommend to the King that a force be deployed to the neutral zone to watch the movements of the Haradrim and guard the settlements.”

After the meeting was adjourned, Faramir went over to Thelron and sat next to him. From the start the prince showed much interest in his guest's background and seemed surprised to hear that he hailed from Calembel. "You have not the appearance of one who grew up amongst peasants,” he said. “Are your parents also from Lamedon?"

"My mother was from Dol Amroth, my lord," replied the captain.

"From Dol Amroth, I see," said the prince. "What was her father's name?"

Thelron furrowed his brow, confused by Faramir's interest. "Her father's name was Thannor, my lord," he said.

The Lord of Ithilien nodded his head slowly. "Ah, Sir Thannor," he said. "Of course."

Thelron found Faramir's comment odd. "Did you know him, my lord?" he asked.

Faramir then explained to the Lamedonian that as a young man he had spent some time at the court of his late uncle Imrahil, Lord of Dol Amroth, and had met many of the knights of the Princedom. Then the Steward asked the captain about his father, to which the young man simply replied, "My father does not say much, my lord."

After the banquet, the steward asked Thelron to join him for a stroll around the palace garden. They spoke at first about various military matters, especially those related to the young captain’s exploits during the recent campaigns, but after some time the prince’s face darkened, and following a long pause, he said gravely, "I believe we enter a dangerous age. One wherein it will be harder to tell friend from foe, for our enemies no longer pursue one purpose or answer to a single master. And with our ties to the Ancient West growing ever weaker, our people could soon be led astray, especially now that our sight is diminished and the Númenóreans are all but gone."

The prince’s last sentence struck Thelron; for he was surprised to find in the words of this high lord of Gondor such great esteem for those mysterious men from a bygone age. Of Númenor the Lamedonian knew little, only that it had been once a great kingdom beyond the sea, whence came the founders of Gondor; and yet, for reasons unclear to him, the mere mention of the word had stirred ever in him a sense of awe and wonder. Ever and anon he dreamt of the long-lost realm. And in those dreams he beheld endless rows of mighty ships, tall and proud; and majestic palaces, white as snow, atop gentle hills of green and gold; and many more things fair and wondrous, the likes whereof had not their equal in Middle-earth. And in his heart he knew that the wonder that was Númenor would be seen not again in this world. After a moment he said softly, “I wish I had known them in their might,” and then both men fell silent.

As they approached the doorway to the palace, however, Faramir resumed, "But though we now grow feeble and seem but a shadow of the mighty realm we once were, forget not that the Flame of the West has not yet perished in this land; and it shall remain alight as long as the children of the Faithful remember the past." Then he stopped, and turning to look into the young man's grey eyes, added, "It is my belief that each of us is meant to play a part in this struggle, especially those in whose veins the blood of Númenor runs true."

Thelron understood not the meaning Faramir’s last remark and remained silent. Then the prince put his hand on the captain's shoulder and said to him, "You are a magnificent soldier and a strong leader; I foresee great things ahead for you. Farewell."

 

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After long months of campaigning in the East, King Elessar returned to Gondor in the spring of Fo.A. 44. He took counsel with the Steward in Minas Tirith and decided that a unit would be assigned to keep track of the activities of the Southrons in the neutral zone. This group, to be known as the Desert Watch, was to be headed by Captain Doron of Pinnath Gelin, a kinsman of the late Hirluin the Fair.

But these measures were not enough to set the monarch’s mind at ease. “More must be done, Faramir,” said the king. “Advanced warning alone cannot ensure the safety of our settlers.”

The Prince of Ithilien, who was studying a map containing Gondor’s troops distribution, let out a sigh and said, “It appears we have not enough men left to deploy a significant force to that region.”

Elessar at that moment stood up suddenly and barked in a loud voice, “It is to me these people look for protection. I will not see them butchered again.”

Faramir looked up at the king for an instant with eyes widened, stunned by his reaction. Then he bowed his head and said, “I shall find protection for the settlers, my lord, or relinquish my charge.”

After a moment the king walked over to the steward, and putting his hand on the other man’s shoulder, said quietly, “What befell our settlers eight years ago haunts yet my sleepless nights. Together, my friend, we will find a way to make certain that the blood of the innocent is spilled not again.”

After further deliberations, it was decided that a bridge would be built at the Crossing of Poros and a permanent garrison would be stationed there to guard the pathway and protect the settlers. To lead this force the king chose Hérion of Cair Andros, who was to be aided by captains Thelron of Lamedon and Horngîl of Lebennin, both of whom had been with him in Harad, as well as a man from Lossarnach named Handir.

Despite the measures ordered by the king, however, trouble soon arose again in the South. On a late spring afternoon in Fo.A. 48, nigh on four years after the signing of the agreement with Harad, the commander of the garrison at the Crossing of Poros called his captains to a briefing and said to them, "I've been informed that there is a breakaway group of Haradrim who are opposed to the treaty signed by the Tribal Council and are bent on driving the settlers out of South Gondor. Reports indicate that these men, who called themselves the Barkum, are led by a man named Ublayr and have established their base of operations near the Black Falls, where the River Harnen pours out from the Mountains of Shadow."

In the autumn of that year Western scouts spotted a Barkum force moving north through the dry plains to the southwest, apparently headed for The Hook, the largest of the Gondorian colonies in South Gondor. Commander Hérion at once ordered his captains to march west and stop the Southerners, and a few days later the two forces met a half mile to the south of the settlement.

The Southrons advanced at once towards the Westerners; but as they came within one hundred yards of their opponents, out of a patch of woods to the east the Gondorian cavalry, led by Thelron, came forth and charged at their flank. Surprised by the appearance of the horsemen, the leader of the Southern force sounded the retreat at once, and with the enemy in full flight, the riders of Gondor halted their charge and turned back to join with the infantrymen.

But after some time, sensing a chance to deal the Barkum a crushing defeat, Thelron chose to press the advantage and ordered his men to ride with him in pursuit of the enemy fighters. At that moment he heard Horngîl call out his name from several yards away and drew reins, and following that he turned with impatience towards the man from Lebennin, who shouted out to him, "Beware Thelron; we know not what lies ahead." But the Lamedonian hearkened not to his words, for he knew not fear and a lust for glory was in his heart. With a yank, he swiveled his mount around and thereupon continued at full gallop after his foes.

The Barkum fled towards a large rocky outcrop to the southeast, and upon reaching it, turned to the left and disappeared gradually from sight behind the large boulders. Some of the Western soldiers wavered at that moment, wary of what lay beyond; but Thelron's will was as iron, and he pushed his men to continue the pursuit until they too had moved out of view of their companions. As the riders reached the bulk of the fleeing Barkum fighters, they began to go after them with abandon, for they could see that the enemy’s ruin was now close at hand. Alas, they were mistaken, and the Lamedonian captain soon realised that something was terribly amiss as his horsemen started tumbling to the ground all about him -- they had fallen into trap!

Thelron made it back to the others with fewer than half of his riders. He and the other two captains remained on alert for a while, waiting to see what the enemy would do, but after a short time they learned that the Barkum had started to head back south. With the threat now gone, Captain Horngîl went to one of Thelron’s horsemen and asked him what had taken place beyond the rocky outcrop, to which the soldier replied that the Southerners had dug up hidden pits to snare the Western riders.

Irate, the man from Lebennin immediately set out in search of Thelron. As he passed nigh a patch of woods, he heard a loud thump coming from within and soon realised that it was the Lamedonian, who had pounded with his fist the hollow log whereon he sat. A second later he heard him whisper loudly to himself, "Why didn't I see it?"

Horngîl walked towards Thelron. "That's an easy one," he said bitingly; "your pride and arrogance blinded you." The son of Aldanur, however, remained with his head in his hands and said not a word.

Upon returning to the Crossing of Poros, Thelron went to Hérion and told him that he had failed his men and wished to resign from military service. In response, the commander told him that he would hate to lose a man of his quality and advised him to take a few weeks to think it over.

A few days later, Thelron was at the docks in Osgiliath to await the arrival of the ferry that would take him across the river. As he beheld the imposing new bridge being built a hundred yards to the north, the memory of the painful events of a few days before receded in his mind, and standing there alone, by mighty Anduin, he felt some peace at last.

"Suilaid Dúnadan," said a voice behind him.

Thelron had not heard anyone approach. He turned around quickly and saw a man almost as tall as himself standing in front of him. But there was something peculiar about him; his skin seemed faintly luminous and his voice oddly melodic. Then he realised it: he was standing before an elf. "Who are you? What do you want?" he said in a rude tone.

The elf stiffened, taken aback by the man's confrontational attitude. "Enemies we are not," he said, "and yet with hostility I am met."

Thelron was not sure what to make of the elf. "Is it your custom to sneak up behind people?" he said.

"If I startled you, I apologize," replied the elf.

The captain was a little annoyed; he found the elf's demeanour condescending. "So what do you want?" he said.

The elf held the man's gaze for a few seconds. "I am Elrohir of the House of Elrond," he said finally.

Thelron had heard the name Elrond before, but could not remember where. It seemed to him that it must had been in one of those legendary tales from the early years of the realm.

"Will you not tell me your name?" said the elf, interrupting the captain's pondering.

The man twisted his mouth slightly and said, "I am Thelron son of Aldanur, if you must know."

Elrohir then examined the man's uniform for a few seconds. "You are a soldier, I see," he said.

The elf's innocuous comment hit Thelron like punch on the stomach, for it reminded him of his misfortune. The memory of what had taken place near The Hook came rushing back into his head, and again he felt terrible, as if the air had been sucked out of him. "Not for long," he muttered, mainly to himself.

"What do you mean?" inquired the elf.

Thelron immediately regretted having made that remark. He did not want to talk about his troubles with a stranger, and so he became uneasy and turned away. "Nothing," he blurted out. After a moment, however, he looked back at the elf and found his eyes staring straight at him. He felt as though Elrohir could see right through him, and he cast down his gaze.

The son of Elrond continued to scrutinise the man for a short while. "You have suffered a setback," he said at last.

Thelron did not answer. Instead, he leaned against one of the pillars that supported the platform and stared down at the floor.

"Whatever happened," said the elf, "I am certain that the next time will be different."

"There will be no next time," muttered the captain.

Elrohir's eyes expressed dismay. He took a deep breath and then said admonishingly, "Many a man of your stock I have known since Valandil held the Scepter in Annúminas, and not once I heard a Dúnadan speak this way."

The captain was not pleased with the elf's reproach. He began to utter an angry response, but something held him back: he suddenly remembered that he had no right to attack Elrohir, or anyone else – he deserved the rebuke. Then man and elf fell silent for a while. Elrohir appeared to be expecting some sort of response, while the captain prefered to just avoid the subject altogether. After a while, Thelron sought to change the direction of the conversation. "What do you mean by men of my stock?" he asked.

The elf nodded slowly as he understood that the man didn't want to talk about his woes. After a few seconds he responded to the captain's question. "I mean the Dúnedain, of course," he said, as if stating the obvious.

Thelron had heard the word a couple of times before, but had never bothered to ask for its meaning. He was under the impression that it referred to an ancient order of knights or something similar. Now, however, the elf had associated him with those men, and this naturally made him want to know more. "Who are the Dúnedain?" he asked.

The elf seemed baffled by the question; it made no sense to him. "You do not know of them?" he asked incredulously. Then he waited a few seconds until he realised that Thelron, as men often did, did not think it necessary to give an answer; and so he proceeded to assume that the man was indeed ignorant of the Dúnedain and said, "The word means Men of the West in the common tongue, the greatest amongst the men of Middle-earth."

The captain let out a sarcastic chuckle; he found it ironic that the elf should say that to him after the recent events. "And you think I'm one of them," he said.

Elrohir's eyes narrowed, as if trying to decipher a riddle. "I know not whence you hail or what be your lot," he said, "but by some chance the blood of the Dúnedain runs through your veins."

Thelron looked at Elrohir in silence for a moment. His heart told him that the words of the elf were true. But how was that possible? Those outstanding men, whoever they were, seemed so very far from him. "And these Dúnedain you speak of, where are they?" he finally asked.

Elrohir continued to gaze into the captain's eyes for a short while, still puzzled. At length he said, "The Dúnedain are found now only amongst a few noble families scattered sparsely throughout your realm." As he uttered the last few words his expression had turned contemplative, as if becoming lost in thought. Then his eyes drifted slowly towards Anduin the Great as a deep well of memories flooded his mind. "But they were once numerous," he continued in a low voice, "and I remember the days of their great splendour in the North, ere the rise of Angmar."

When the ferry arrived, man and elf boarded it together and continued their conversation. Thelron asked Elrohir what he was doing in Gondor, and the latter replied that he had business to discuss with the King in Minas Tirith. Elrohir in turn asked the captain about his military career, and his interest piqued when the man mentioned that he had taken part in the campaign against the orcs in the Mountains. “Those vile creatures,” said the elf, “caused untold suffering to one very close to me.”

When it came time to part ways, Thelron told Elrohir that he hoped their paths would cross again someday.

"Cuio ar no mellon nîn!" replied the elf.

Chapter Text

After parting with Elrohir in Osgiliath, Thelron followed the South Road and several days later arrived at his former dwelling place in Calembel. That night, after dinner, the young captain came to sit next to his father in the small parlour and told him that he knew what the older man had done during and following the War of the Ring. The Northerner remained silent, and after a moment Thelron added, "Why did you not tell me about it, father?"

"It was not important," replied Aldanur.

"How can you say that?" said the younger man. "You defended the kingdom against the greatest foe it's ever faced."

Aldanur shrugged. "And now we are ruled by the Lord of Minas Tirith instead of the Lord of Barad-dûr. What difference does it make?"

Thelron was astonished by the comparison; it seemed extreme, even for his father. Something must have happened at some point, he thought, that had caused Aldanur to drastically change his attitude towards the realm. He sat back, brought his hand to his chin and looked at his father pensively for a while. "What happened to you, father?” he said at length. “What are you not telling me?"

Aldanur turned his eyes towards the hearth and stared absently at the burning logs for what seemed like a long time, then without lifting his gaze, he said quietly, “My father was a Ranger of the North - one of the men who followed the Lord Aragorn, whom we now call king.” After that he recounted to his son all that had befallen following the return of the Chieftain of the Dúnedain to the North and up to his and his mother's coming to Gondor.

The revelation awed the young captain; for the tales he had heard about the old Rangers of the North often ascribed to them an almost mythical status, and he felt then a mixture of pride and sorrow. Nevertheless, he knew there had to be more to the story, for naught he had heard so far explained his father’s cold attitude towards the realm. “But that is not all, father, is it?” he said.

Aldanur looked at his son silently for a few seconds, then stood up, walked towards the window and gazed at the hills in the distance. "A few months after the end of the war," he said, after a moment, "the King announced that all titles and possessions of the old kingdoms of the North would be returned to their original owners, as long as their descendants had fought on the side of the heirs of Isildur. Upon hearing this, I went to Sir Thannor and told him about my family, and he said that he would be happy to look into the matter."

The Northerner's eyes rested for an instant on a picture of a ship in stormy seas, the only decoration in the house, but then he quickly looked away, as if disgusted by it. After a moment he walked towards the fireplace and began to rearrange the burning logs. "A few months later," he resumed, "Sir Thannor told me that my father’s name appeared indeed in the heritage records, which had been kept in Imladris since the fall of Fornost; and that according to them, Maegorn, for that was my father’s name, had been in life the rightful heir to a large fiefdom in the old Kingdom of Arthedain.”

The enigmatic remark made long years before by his father about the House of Haeron came then to Thelron’s mind. “This Haeron you once mentioned,” he said, “was one of the lords of that estate, was he not?”

On hearing that name, Aldanur suddenly turned his head and cast a stern glance at his son; for the Northerner wished to speak not of his ancient forefather, nor reveal yet to his son the sacred task placed upon their house in a time long past. “That he was,” he replied in a tone that conveyed to Thelron that talk of Haeron was at an end.

Despite a burning curiosity, the young captain decided to drop the subject and return to the matter of their inheritance. “So, with your father gone,” he said, “would you not then have become the rightful heir to that land?”

“The rightful heir I am,” replied Aldanur, “but the lands and titles have gone to another man.”

“I don’t understand,” said the younger man.

Aldanur then started back towards his armchair, took a seat and fixed his eyes on his son. “After my father died,” he said, after a short while, “and we moved to the South, they assumed that the line had ended." He sneered. "The next time they updated the records, the man with the next highest claim was put in as heir to our family's land."

Thelron thought about his father's words for a moment. "Did you not try to set the record straight?" he asked.

The Northerner clutched the mug handle in his hand until his knuckles turned white. "Before you were born," he said, "I traveled to the North to claim our inheritance, but failed to win back that which was taken from us."

"What happened?" asked Thelron.

Aldanur twisted his mouth and said in a callous tone, "I told him to lay down his claim and return the lands to their rightful owners, but he snorted and called me a charlatan, so I drew my sword and killed him." He paused for a moment and then added quietly, "Then I fled the land of my forefathers to return never again."

A fortnight later, on the eve of Thelron’s departure, Aldanur came to him holding a large object in his arms. The Northerner laid the item on the table and began to unwrap it carefully as Thelron looked on: it was a magnificent sword. "This is Beldram," said the older man. "It was given to me by Sir Thannor, and it is said to have been forged by the great craftsmen of Dor-en-Ernil in the days of Imrazôr the Númenórean, ere the last of the elves of Edhellond departed our shores.” After that he handed it to his son and said, “I want you to have it."

Thelron was utterly amazed. "Thank you, father, " he said, "This is an invaluable present; it will be my most cherished possession." And Aldanur quickly looked away, uncharacteristically.

 

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In the summer of Fo.A. 51, commander Hérion summoned his captains to an urgent meeting. “I have been informed,” he said, “that Captain Doron’s scouts have discovered a large fortress under construction to the south of our main settlement.” Following that he ordered Thelron and Horngîl to march to the area and drive out the Southerners.

On the day following the departure of the two captains, quite unexpectedly, King Elessar arrived at the Crossing of Poros accompanied by a small guard. The king’s intention was to visit the settlements at The Hook, and his journey, for security reasons, had been kept secret from all but a handful of important men. It soon became apparent, however, that the enemy had somehow received word of the coming of the king, for on the very next day a dire threat appeared in the south: three thousand men with curved swords and fierce faces of red and gold marched towards the crossing under a banner bearing an image of three entwined snakes.

As the sun neared its peak over the plains of the Harondor on that forenoon, the Southerners reached the edge of the river. They then moved onto the bridge and marched silently towards their opponents; but as they came within a few dozen yards of the defenders, with a thunderous warshout, they drew out their blades and rushed at the Westerners. The small Gondorian line soon began give way in the face of the onslaught, and overwhelmed by the superior force, Elessar was forced to order the men to retreat behind the walls of the fort and prepare to withstand a siege.

Ignorant of what was taking place back at the crossing, Thelron continued his march towards the Barkum building site. At length, he came upon a troop of scouts from the Desert Watch who were making their way east, and beckoned to them. As the watchmen came near, the Lamedonian asked them about the status of the enemy fortress, to which the leader of the group responded that construction on the building had ceased and that the adjoining fighter’s camp had been recently abandoned.

Greatly puzzled by the actions of the enemy, Thelron and Horngîl began to discuss at once the significance of these new developments. At one point the Lamedonian remarked that this may have been a ploy by the enemy to draw them away from the crossing, and on hearing this the scout leader muttered to himself, “So that’s the reason...”

Thelron turned to look at the watchman. “Explain yourself,” he demanded.

“I was thinking of those reports about the Barkum movements, sir,” replied the scout. “If this was indeed an attempt to lure you ___”

“I know of no reports of Barkum movements,” interrupted Thelron.

The scout then told the Lamedonian that the enemy had, over a period of several weeks, moved three thousand men to western edge of the Mountains of Shadow; and this new piece of intelligence staggered the captains. “Why were we not informed of this?” demanded Thelron.

“That I do not know, sir,” replied the watchman.

Thelron decided to return to the fort at once, but knowing that it would take his foot soldiers too long to reach the crossing, he ordered his horsemen to ride ahead at full marching speed and leave the infantry behind. Upon reaching the low hills to the south of the crossing, the Lamedonian cast his gaze towards the fort and saw that Ublayr’s men had started to breach the western wall. And knowing that he had not much time, he immediately drew out his sword and turned his mount around to face his men; thereupon he cried out to them, "Men of Gondor," and lastly, pointing his blade towards the Barkum, roared, "to them!"

The violence of the ensuing charge split the enemy lines and allowed the horsemen to reach the south-end of the bridge. They continued to fight their way through to the other end, at which point Horngîl turned west with half of the horsemen, while Thelron continued to ride northeast until he came within a few hundred feet of the fort's tower. Seconds later the Lamedonian raised his hand to signal to the tower guard that his men were in position, and it was at that moment that he saw the stranger.

Several dozen yards to the east stood a lone rider, who watched the struggle in stony stillness. He was clad all in black and wore what appeared to be a red mask over his face; and as Thelron watched him, an odd sense of timelessness came over him. The Lamedonian continued to gaze at the mysterious individual for a few seconds, enthralled by his ghostly presence, the same mystifying aura that had so puzzled his father long years before on the fields of the Pelennor. Then the captain heard a loud noise to the southwest and took his eyes away from the rider for an instant; but when he turned back his head, the black horseman had vanished, as if it had been naught but a vision.

A short while later the tower guard returned to his post, and the scheme was set in motion: at a sign from Thelron, Horngîl charged at the Barkum from the west, following that the Lamedonian did the same from the north, and finally the fort's gates opened and Hérion's cavalry, led forth by the Lord of the West, fell on the enemy from the east.

Faced with mounted foes on three sides, the Barkum fell into disarray and soon began to fall back towards the bridge. As they did so, they blocked the advance of their comrades, who had regrouped on the other side of the river and were now coming to their aid. And with his fighters crammed and unable to manoeuvre, Ublayr ordered his men to retreat to the southern bank and assume a defensive stance.

Then the men of Gondor, lined up along the northern shore, watched in amazement as Ublayr removed his top and began to walk alone across the bridge. As he came within a few yards of the soldiers, he stopped, pulled out a small dagger and dragged the tip across his chest, drawing a trickle of blood. After that he pointed the dagger at Thelron and said in the common tongue of the West, "You will die." He then turned around, walked towards the Banner of the Three Snakes, grabbed hold of it and led his men back to their base.

A few weeks after the attack, Hérion summoned Thelron to his office for a private word. “There is some new information that I wish to share with you,” said the commander. “Until it has been reviewed by the Council of Gondor, this information remains confidential and must not leave this room.”

“I understand, sir,” said the Lamedonian.

The commander then told Thelron to take a seat next to him. “Lord Filegaer,” he said, “who as you know is tasked with overseeing the activities of the men of the Desert Watch, stopped here this morning on his return journey from a visit to their headquarters.” Then he leant closer to the Lamedonian and continued in a low voice, “He told me that Captain Doron has betrayed the realm. After withholding critical information for many weeks, the Head of the Desert Watch and a handful of his aides abandoned their posts and fled towards the east, in all likelihood to the Barkum camp near the Black Falls.”

 

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Four years after the attack on the fort at the Crossing of Poros, Thelron received word that Aldanur was unwell. He asked for leave to go and see his father and then prepared to depart for Calembel, unaware of the profound significance of the revelation that awaited him there.

When he told Horngîl that he was worried about leaving his post, the latter replied, "Go to your father and be not concerned about the Southerners. Things here are under control."

Thelron shook his head slightly. "I don't like it; Ublayr's been too quiet," he replied. "And there's this dark foreboding in my mind."

"Another vision?" laughed Horngîl. Then he continued in a more serious tone, "What can he do? He already tried to take the fort and failed."

"Nonetheless," said Thelron, "he's proven quite cunning in the past. We must remain alert."

Thelron arrived in Calembel early in the evening. The sky was covered with dark clouds, and he was certain that a storm was imminent. When he got to his childhood’s home, his aunt told him that Aldanur was lying in bed, and he went at once to see the old man. With a tender smile, he told his father that he was certain that his old legs would soon be up and going about their chores as usual, but Aldanur looked earnestly at him and said, “Long have I walked under the sun by the reckoning of the common man, but little joy my eyes have seen along the path. It is time for me to depart.”

Thelron laid his hand on his father's forearm and bowed his head in sorrow. A second later he heard the sound of thunder roaring in the distance and saw through the window that rain had started to fall. "It will be a wicked storm," he said.

“But ere I go,” said Aldanur, after a moment, “there is one task left yet for me.” Following that he turned his gaze towards his wardrobe and looked at the worn-down cabinet for a short while with mournful eyes, as one who witnesses the departure of a dear friend. He then asked his son to retrieve a small box of fine carved wood that was hidden behind the old piece of furniture. After Thelron had done so, the old man set the box down on the bed next to himself and said, "There is something that I must give to you; It is an item of great value." Thereupon he opened the box, pulled out a medallion and handed it with reverence to his son.

Thelron examined the item and saw that it bore an image of a tall, slender tower overlooking a harbour. After a moment he said, "It is an exquisitely crafted silver piece; it must be very expensive."

The old man shook his head. "Its value cannot be measured in coin," he said; "it represents something much more important."

"And what is that?" asked the younger man.

Aldanur ignored the question. "This medallion has been in our care for a very long time," he said. "It has passed from father to firstborn son for many generations, and from this day on it will be yours to guard."

"In our care?" said Thelron with a baffled expression. "Who does it belong to?"

The old man took a small scroll out of the box wherein the medallion had been, handed it to his son and said, "Read it. It will tell you all you need to know."

Thelron heard a blast of thunder at that moment, looked to the window and saw that the storm had grown fierce. He then unfurled the scroll and noticed that the first part was written in strange characters that he did not understand, but which appeared to him similar to those he had seen on some old Elvish artefacts. Below that, however, there was text written in the common tongue:

 

Fornost Erain, Third Age 1973

I am Beriedir son of Belefaer, Baron of Arthedain and keeper of the medallion that accompanies this scroll. Given the importance of the ancient Sindarin text above and the dire situation in which our kingdom finds itself, I have decided to add the following translation of the text into the common language. I have done this in the hope that the information it contains may endure even if our kingdom is destroyed and our ways forgotten.
__________________

 

Annúminas, Kingdom of Arnor, year 3327 of the Second Age of the Sun.

My name is Haeron son of Faelon. My mother Eliedis was Lady-in-Waiting to Tar-Míriel of Númenor. The medallion that accompanies this note was given to me by Her Royal Highness on the day I left the city of Armenelos to join the Elendili at the haven of Rómenna. In the following account I describe all that befell, as well as my own impressions, during my meeting with the last Queen of Númenor.

~~~

As I prepared to leave the city, I was summoned to the drawing room in the western quarter of the Royal Palace. When I entered I saw the Queen standing alone in the centre of the room holding a small box in her hands, and in that instant she seemed to me like a delicate flower, fair and fragile. She bade me approach and then said softly, "There is an object that is very near to my heart, and it is my wish that it survive the evil that approaches." She hesitated for a second and then continued, "There are few now I can trust, and though your eyes have seen not eighteen winters, my heart tells me that it is with you that I should place my hope." After that the daughter of Tar-Palantir opened the box and pulled out a medallion, and as she did her hand seemed to tremble slightly. Then she held it up and looked upon the image for the last time.

After a moment the Queen put the silver piece back in the box, handed it to me and said, unable to hide the sorrow in her voice, "This medallion bears an image of the Tower of Avallónë in Tol Eressëa, and it was blessed by Tar-Minastir upon the hallowed grounds of the Meneltarma. Take it with you to the new home of our people in the East, keep it safe and hold it in great reverence, for it portrays the land of undying bliss as it was once beheld by the eyes of mortal men." And I vowed to her that I would guard it with my life. Then the Queen walked over to the balcony and gazed at the gathering gloom above. And it seemed to me that her eyes darkened as she looked towards the West, for her heart told her that many fair and noble things were at an end and the world would soon be changed forever.

And though I witnessed the breaking of Arda and saw thousands cry out in anguish as the sea swallowed the Land of the Star, the image that yet haunts my dreams and rips my heart is the quiet despair in the eyes of fair Míriel.
-----

 

Thelron was dumbstruck. He found it hard to believe that he held in his hand an item that had belonged to the last member of the royal line of Elros. He tried to imagine what Haeron might have felt as he left the palace and walked the streets under those ominous clouds, as he saw the turmoil of a mighty race about to meet its fate, or as he experienced the eerie calm that preceded the last days of Númenor.

Thelron also thought that it was amazing that his forefathers had been able to keep the medallion safe throughout the convulsions of the Third Age and felt suddenly that the piece was too important to be guarded by anyone other than the King. "Now that the Kingdom is strong again", he said to his father, "perhaps we should inform the King so that ____"

"No!" cried Aldanur. Then he gripped his son's forearm and said forcefully, "This is not the Ring of Barahir or any other heirloom of the Royal House and belongs not to the realm. It was entrusted to us and shall endure beyond the days of the House of Elendil." Thelron started to say something, but his father continued, "This is a symbol of what once was, and preserving it is our family's purpose. They may take away our lands and titles, but they cannot make us forsake our vow to the Queen of Númenor."

Thelron remained silent for a moment as he looked pensively into his father's eyes. The words of the old man had aroused a strange feeling in him, a sentiment that went beyond king and country. He had somehow begun to feel a personal bond with the Lady of a realm that had passed into legend long ago. At length he said, "I think I understand you, father. The fate of the medallion is bound to our family, and so it must remain."

A few days later Thelron was ready to return to the Crossing of Poros. He said goodbye to his father with a heavy heart, for he knew that he would not see him again.

Chapter Text

Upon reaching the Crossroads of the Fallen King, Thelron alighted and sat by the monument to get some rest and regain his strength. As he gazed at the red sun setting down in the west, he recalled his last conversation with his father; and it occurred to him then that it was quite strange and sad that Aldanur, a distinguished soldier, the heir of great lords, and a keeper of the medallion of the Queen of Númenor, should end his days alone and unremembered in an obscure corner of the realm.

A few minutes into his repose, he heard the sound of hoofsteps to the north and turned his head at once in that direction. A smile soon began to draw itself on his lips as he watched the approaching rider: it was the noble elf he had met years before in Osgiliath, on the banks of Anduin. After exchanging cordial greetings, the captain asked the son of Elrond about the purpose of his journey to Gondor, and Elrohir’s face at that moment turned grave. "I ride now to Emyn Arnen,” he said,” to discuss with the Steward a matter of great import; for I have come upon disturbing information about that mysterious black figure who hides behind a red mask.”

On hearing those words, Thelron’s brow furrowed; for the image described by the elf was not unfamiliar to him. Then he remembered: it was that of the strange rider he had seen years before during the Barkum attack on the fort at the Crossing of Poros.

“You must know of whom I speak,” continued Elrohir, seeing the puzzlement in the man’s face, “that enigmatic entity who is said to be working in secret to undermine the reign of King Elessar.”

At that moment, a look of astonishment came over Thelron’s face, as a connection was made in his mind. It was now clear to him that the black rider espied at the crossing and the shadowy new enemy mentioned during the Council of Emyn Arnen were one and the same. At length he lifted his eyes and said to the elf, “I have seen him, though I knew not who he was at the time.”

”You have seen the masked figure?” said Elrohir with amazement.

“Indeed,” replied the captain. “He watched us from several dozen yards away as we fought off the Barkum during the King’s visit to our outpost.”

“Things in the South are even more twisted than I feared,” said the elf. “Perhaps you should come with me to Emyn Arnen."

They arrived at the Prince’s Palace on the following morning. As the two entered the council room, they found Faramir seated at the table along with Elboron and Lord Filegaer. The newcomers soon took their places, and following that Elrohir began, “I come to this house in great disquiet,” he said, “for I have reason to believe that one inside the realm is in the counsel of our dark foe.”

“Perhaps,” said Filegaer, “the one to whom you refer is Captain Doron, the former head of the Desert Watch, who was found to be in fact an agent of the enemy.”

“Perhaps,” replied Elrohir, unconvinced. After a moment he added, “May I ask what led you to conclude that the captain was a traitor?”

The nobleman assented with a nod and then said, “A few weeks ere the King set off on his journey to the South, I began to notice inconsistencies in the reports provided to me by the captain; wherefore I sent forth an envoy to summon him to Pelargir for questioning, but Doron disregarded my orders.” He paused to have a drink from his cup and then continued, “Upon returning home, my emissary informed me of the construction of an enemy fortress a few miles from our border, a fact that was deliberately omitted from the captain’s reports.”

“I see,” said Elrohir. “And did you not warn the King of the enemy’s plans?”

“Unfortunately, this information reached me after the King was already come to the Crossing of Poros,” said Filegaer; “but my envoy, captain Faenuir, did alert the commander of the garrison ere His Majesty’s arrival.”

Upon hearing the last remark, Thelron turned suddenly towards Filegaer and gazed at the nobleman for a moment with a furrowed brow. A few seconds later, ere Filegaer had finished his recount of the events that preceded the King’s visit to the crossing, Thelron interrupted him abruptly, “So it was your man, and not Captain Doron’s scouts as I had assumed, who informed Commander Hérion of the Barkum fortress.”

Surprised and irked by the interruption, Lord Filegaer turned towards the captain with a look of contempt. “And why I ask,” he said, “is this matter of such import that I should be shown so little regard by a common soldier such as yourself.”

The Lamedonian gazed keenly at the nobleman for a moment, and then said sternly, “Because the report of the Barkum fortress was naught but a ruse to draw us away from the crossing ere the arrival of the King.”

“I share not your conclusion,” replied Filegaer; “but if that was indeed the case, my envoy, I am certain, had no part in that ploy save that of an unwitting instrument of the enemy.”

Thelron then stood up and walked towards the man from Pelargir. “Tell me Lord Filegaer,” he said as he came close, “when Captain Faenuir told commander Hérion of the construction of the enemy stronghold, why did he not also reveal to him that the Barkum had moved three thousand men to the western edge of the Mountains of Shadow?”

“It is obvious,” said Filegaer dismissively, “that he was unaware of their troop movements at the time.”

“I find that quite unlikely, my lord,” replied Thelron; “for the watchmen I came across as I rode towards the Barkum building site were well aware of this when I spoke to them, and had been so for weeks.”

Filegaer remained silent, and Faramir’s eyes at that moment narrowed with suspicion.

“It is my believe,” continued Thelron, “that you and Faenuir were very much aware of the movements of the Southrons and kept that information from the rest of us.”

“Nonsense,” replied Filegaer, raising his voice. “Your beliefs and opinions are of no concern to me.”

At that moment Elrohir stood up and walked towards a map on the wall which contained the area to the south of the Green Forest, and as he approached it, he began, “At the request of King Elessar, I journeyed east last spring to inquire about the activities of our black foe. The elves of East Lorién revealed to me that they were aware of contacts between members of the Traders Guild and the dark presence that inhabits the wilderness south of Eryn Lasgalen. And so, seeking to learn more about the activities of the merchants, I went to the shipmasters who bear my grandfather’s folk back and forth across Anduin,” At that point he paused and turned his eyes towards the nobleman from Pelargir, and then concluded, “and learned from them that one fitting Lord Filegaer’s description was seen several times riding with the traders east of the Great River.”

As the elf finished, Filegaer struck the table with the palm of his hand. “Ah, the truth at last,” he said in a loud voice. “The purpose of this meeting and the presence of the commoner at this table are clear to me now. This has been naught but a scheme to ensnare me, to use my candour against me and thus bring forth my downfall.”

Faramir exhaled loudly. “Believe as you will, Lord Filegaer,” he said, “for it is your wont to see evil intent behind every deed; but the report provided by the Queen’s brother, along with the information and arguments put forth by Captain Thelron, make all of this highly disturbing and in need of further investigation. I shall forthwith summon Captain Faenuir as well as the new head of the Desert Watch to the palace for questioning.”

Filegaer sank back in his chair and for an instant looked like a man defeated, but after a while a sinister grin began to draw itself onto his countenance. “Too late have you uncovered the truth,” he said. “I no doubt erred in coming hither and may now ride not hence, but my master shall see to it that our plan is carried through to its fulfilment. And in time not only will your presence in the South be over, but the days of the Northerner on the throne of Minas Tirith shall come as well to an end.”

Thelron at once drew out his sword and pointed it at Filegaer’s chest. “Speak what you know,” he commanded.

Filegaer at first raised his eyes and looked defiantly at Thelron, but after a moment the expression on his face began to relax. At length he said, “And why should I not; doom in the South has already been cast.” He then turned his dark gaze upon Faramir and continued, “Soon you shall see of what I speak, for at this very moment five thousand Barkum fighters sail towards the Mouths of Anduin to bring ruin upon your people.”

Elboron stood up, walked towards his father and told him that the fleet at Pelargir needed to be alerted of this; but ere Faramir could reply, Filegaer cut in. “I would bother not with the ships, were I you,” he said, grinning darkly, “for I have made arrangements that would make it impossible for the fleet to set sail on short notice.”

The prince then laid his hand on Elboron’s shoulder and asked him if it would be possible for him to ride south and stop the Southrons, but the latter responded that his men were stationed far to the north to counter the threat from the Easterlings. Upon hearing this Thelron walked briskly towards the steward. “It appears we are the only ones in a position to stop the Barkum, my lord,” he said. “I must make haste and ride to the crossing to inform Commander Hérion.”

Faramir summoned an aide and told him to bring a few items to him, and after his servant had returned, the prince wrote something down on a piece of parchment and then handed it to Thelron. “Take this note with you,” he said, “that you may be given a fresh mount at each guard post along the way. Farewell and godspeed, captain.”

 

Upon hearing Thelron’s account of the meeting in Emyn Arnen, Hérion at once ordered his captains to prepare to march. "We leave for The Hook at dawn,” he said. “Thelron, Horngîl and the bulk of the men will be coming with me; Handir and two hundred infantrymen shall remain here to defend the crossing as best they can."

As the full moon neared its peak over the Harondor on the fifth night of their journey, the soldiers arrived on the eastern edge of the settlement. Hérion was told that the Barkum were now within a half day of The Hook, and the commander at once ordered all of those settlers who dwelt nigh the margin of the Poros to forsake their homes and seek shelter to the east.

In the last hour ere noontide, a large host, marching under a banner bearing the image of the Three Snakes, reached at last the edge of the settlements. Like a swift tide, their onslaught overwhelmed the Western line and forced the soldiers to give ground; and hoping to stay their advance, Hérion commanded his horsemen to follow him against the enemy's wing. To counter the opposing cavalry, however, Ublayr had placed several hundred pikemen on his flanks, and the charging Western riders were forced to turn back at once with heavy loss.

Shortly after the ill-fated charge a messenger came to Thelron and informed him that Captain Hérion had fallen during the attack on the Barkum’s flank, and the son of Aldanur in that instant felt his heart quicken; for the words of the herald meant that he was now the new commander in the field. Long had Thelron dreamt of the coming of this day, and yet, in his mind, evil were the tidings that told of his old mentor’s demise. Nevertheless, the Lamedonian knew that he could dwell not on what had befallen the commander, for the hour grew late and swift action was now needed.

After surveying the battlefield and seeing his men forced back relentlessly towards the settlers, he said to Horngîl, "There is but one thing left to us." Following that Thelron summoned one of his lieutenants and told him to gather the horsemen; and once these were in position, he sent forth orders directing the soldiers at the centre of his line to move aside and create a gap.

As the new commander waited for the soldiers to execute his orders, he began to ponder on the magnitude of the weight on his shoulders. He turned his eyes towards the settlers camp and gazed gravely at the young families huddled together by their makeshift tents. It was hard to believe that these people’s future, their very existence, hung on the outcome of this battle. Up until this point, the burden of their guardianship had fallen to another man, but now it was his to bear; and even though he knew not a single one of the settlers, he had become their protector in that hour and would die defending them.

And what about the kingdom, he asked himself. Although a Barkum victory on that day would not critically compromise the security of the realm, it would nonetheless give Ublayr immediate control of the territories beyond the Poros; and this would in turn bring more Southron tribes to his cause, giving Gondor a strong adversary in the South and furthering the designs of their black foe. All of a sudden he found it strange that he, Thelron of Calembel, should be given so great a responsibility. Was it odd chance, he wondered, that had brought that willful young man from Lamedon to this point?

Then he recalled the words that Faramir had spoken to him so many years before: It is my belief that each of us has a part to play in this struggle, especially those in whose veins the blood of Númenor runs true. If this was indeed the case, he thought, then it was not chance which had decided that he, a common man by birth and a Dúnadan by blood, should be the one to lead the men of Gondor in that hour. This was in fact the task appointed to him in the great struggle of the Faithful, and this day would reveal to him what strength was truly in his blood.

Once the centre of the Gondorian formation was vacated, Thelron prepared to head the charge. He drew out Beldram and gazed at the magnificent blade shining in the afternoon sun, and wondered if it too had a part to play in that struggle – if it was meant to be there. Then he thought about the men who forged it, men who had not yet wholly forsaken the lore and craft of Númenor, and for an instant he could almost feel their strength in his hand. Finally, he raised his sword, spurred forth his mount and led his men into the heart of the fray.

The charge at the centre of the enemy formation quickly turned the battle into a disorganised melee. The Gondorian horsemen attempted to chase down the Barkum regular fighters, while the pike-wielding Southerners came after the mounted men. Thelron soon realised that in order to gain an advantage, the pikemen had to be destroyed; and so he dismounted, ordered a group of foot soldiers to follow him, and then began to walk briskly clutching his sword in his hand.

After a short while, he caught sight of a distressing scene - the piteous figure of a bloodied soldier wavering on his knees with his head down. After a moment he raised his eyes to look behind the injured man, and lo! there he was: Ublayr, holding a dagger in his hand. The chieftain at that moment, noticing the presence of the Lamedonian, took a step forward, grabbed hold of the broken soldier's hair and pulled back his head. It was Horngîl!

The leader of the Barkum held Thelron’s gaze for a short while; and then, ere anyone could react, with a sweeping motion slashed Horngîl's throat. The Gondorian commander stood motionless for an instant, but his fists were clenched and his eyes were as flames. Then he roared to his men, "With me!" and started walking briskly while looking straight at Ublayr with the expression of one possessed. A handful of Southerners attempted to stand in his way, but were quickly hacked down; and fear grew great then in the hearts of their comrades as they beheld the grim warrior and his mighty sword. The Barkum fighters soon began to retreat hastily in the face of the fell Westerner; and at that moment, in his wrath, Thelron appeared to his men a hero of ancient lore, tall and terrible.

The emboldened soldiers of Gondor ran to the side of their leader, and the southern fighters were soon pushed out of the way until at last none stood between Thelron and Ublayr. The latter threw down his sword and removed his top, and the Lamedonian in turn dropped his own blade and began to walk decidedly towards his foe. As Thelron came near, however, the chieftain jumped up in the air, spun around and kicked him in the head, knocking him to the ground. The commander nonetheless got up at once and with unabated determination continued towards his opponent. This time Ublayr got low and swept his leg across the captain's feet, causing him to hit the ground a second time.

As Thelron lifted his gaze to his opponent, the chieftain mockingly arched his eyebrows, slid his hand across his chest and said, "You will die," as he had done several years before on the bridge at the Crossing of Poros. Then, taking advantage of the captain’s vulnerable position, the Southerner quickly pulled out a hidden dagger and swung it at his rival's neck; and at that moment a grimace of raving delight twisted his countenance as he could almost feel the blade run through the Westerner’s flesh.

But the doom that lay upon the keeper of Tar-Míriel’s treasure was altogether different, as has been told, and ere the chieftain’s blade could reach its target, his hand was stayed. Dread soon fell on Ublayr's face as he realised with dismay that his arm was caught firmly in the other man's grasp. He strove frantically to reposition the dagger in his hand, but the pressure on his forearm caused him to drop it. Once again he tried to kick the Lamedonian, but his attempt was blocked, and he nearly fell to the ground. At that point the captain of Gondor began to rise to his feet, slowly and deliberately, as the Southerner looked on with eyes widened. And once he had raised himself to his full stature, the imposing Westerner put his right hand around the chieftain's neck and said coldly, "No, you will die."

Ublayr once more attempted to throw a kick at the captain, but the latter was expecting it; and as the Southerner raised his leg, the Lamedonian slammed him to the ground and thereupon began to apply pressure around his neck. Feeling the vice-like grip crush his throat, the chieftain hacked repeatedly at the captain's arm to no avail, and after a few seconds his body went limp. Thelron then dragged his foe whither his sword lay, picked up the blade, and with a single blow severed Ublayr’s head.

After a moment the Gondorian commander stooped over his enemy’s ruin and reached for the parted head, then lifted it above his own and cried out, "Behold your leader!" Following that he tossed the head at a handful of pikemen who stood nearby, and these immediately jumped out of the way, as if afraid to touch it. And seeing the fear in their eyes, the Lamedonian began to walk resolutely towards them with Beldram held high before him, whereupon the Southerners dropped their pikes and ran hastily away.

Thelron and his men continued to seek out the pikemen until most were killed or put to flight, which in turn unleashed the Western horsemen, who were now able to freely isolate and destroy the enemy's regular units. As time passed, it became increasingly clear that the Gondorians had attained a decisive advantage; and as the sun began to die down in the west on that day, the remaining Southrons abandoned the fight and fled south towards the desert.

The Battle of The Hook, as it came to be known, was a devastating blow to the Barkum; for it is said that not again was such strength as seen on that day gathered under the Banner of the Three Snakes. In the years that followed their survivors continued to attack merchant caravans and harass those settlers who ventured too far south. But as time passed, their numbers dwindled; and not five years after Ublayr’s death his people had disappeared and their deeds had become a distant memory.

 

-------- §§§ --------

 

Nigh the end of the 55th year of the Fourth Age, Thelron was summoned to Minas Tirith. Upon arriving in the city, he was ordered to attend an event in the Great Hall of the Royal Palace, the very room wherein his father had witnessed long years before the last union of Eldar and Edain, ere the parting of the Wise. When he entered the chamber he was directed to a table and told to remain there until the reading of an important announcement.

Many noblemen and other people of import came into the large hall as he waited, among them the Steward of Gondor, who, to the captain’s astonishment, walked straight towards his table and took a seat next to him. Moments later the heirs to the two great princedoms of the old South Kingdom, Alphros of Dol Amroth and Elboron of Ithilien, came into the hall and joined them at the table; and at that moment the Lamedonian wondered whether there had been some sort of mistake, but Faramir assured him that all was as it should be.

Many military matters were discussed at their table while they waited for the crown’s announcer, but after a few minutes the topic of conversation settled on the treason of Filegaer; and Alphros asked Faramir whether any progress had been made on the investigation into the nobleman’s betrayal.

“It seems that Filegaer was not the first of his family to conspire against the realm,” answered the prince. “From what we have been able to uncover, his grandfather was in the service of the Dark Lord and provided him vital information about our fleet at Pelargir in the years that preceded the destruction of Umbar’s naval power by Ecthelion, my grandfather.”

“It would seem then,” said Elboron, “that his evident bitterness towards the kingdom has to do with something in his family’s past.”

“Indeed,” replied Faramir. “On being questioned about his motives, Filegaer steadfastly maintains that he is a direct descendant of the usurper Castamir, which I suppose is possible though not very likely. And so he believes that it is he who should sit on the throne of Gondor and not the heir of Isildur from the North.”

After a few more minutes had passed, the topic of discussion moved from the fallen nobleman to his mysterious master, whom they now referred to as Herumor, though no one was really certain where or how the name had first surfaced. “What have you been able to find out about him, father?” said Elboron.

“Not very much, I’m afraid,” replied the prince. “It is clear by the way they describe him that he is not of the race of Men, at least not one unaltered by the dark powers. Some speculate that he is one of the Ringwraiths, who somehow escaped the destruction of the One; others surmise that he could be a dark elf, unaccounted for in the records of Imladris; and others yet believe that this being may be in fact one of the two Istari who went into the East long ago.”

The discussion about their mysterious new enemy extended for several more minutes that night in the Great Hall; but in the councilrooms and high chambers of the West, talk of the dark figure would continue for long years thereafter. Yet for all their ruminations and counsels, the lords of the Reunited Kingdom could check not the rise of their black foe; and his schemes would bring great evil upon the realm in the centuries to come. But of the one they called Herumor no more shall be said here, for of his deeds and ultimate ruin is told in another tale.

Nigh on one hour after Thelron’s arrival in the Great Hall, an official came into the chamber to read the royal proclamation. He announced to all those present that in order to better protect the settlers, the territories on the southern bank of the River Poros would be made into a new fiefdom. The region would be given the name March of Hartalf, and upon recommendation from the Steward of Gondor, King Elessar was awarding Thelron son of Aldanur lordship over the new fief.

Much pride and joy the King's decision brought to Thelron's heart; and yet, among them he felt a pang, for his father had not lived to see the House of Haeron restored to a position of honour. He built a city on the banks of the Poros, which he named Gwestrîn, and the banners that flew above it bore the image on the medallion; and because of this, the people of the march soon began to call it ‘the City of the Tower’, and then simply the Tower. But of the treasure in his care he told no one save his heir.

After the founding of the city, Thelron sought to gain wisdom about his forefathers. Once a year he journeyed to Minas Tirith to study the scrolls in the Great Treasury and learn there of the Númenóreans and of the deeds of the Elendili in their new home in the East. But more frequent yet were his visits with the Prince of Ithilien in Emyn Arnen, where a great friendship arose between the two men. And Faramir’s heart was glad, for in the Lord of the Tower he found a kindred spirit, with whom he could discuss the lore of Gondor and the legend of that great realm that existed once beyond the sea.

The southern banks of the Poros were also transformed greatly during Thelron's time. Under the Lamedonian’s lordship, part of the river was diverted to irrigate large portions of the land, bringing in many more settlers and in time turning the march into an important bastion of strength in the South. And in the centuries that followed it is said that the Lords of the Tower came to be regarded among the most prominents captains of the realm, garnering praise for securing the south of Gondor and achieving great renown for coming to the aid of the king in times of need.

But twenty-three hundred years after the death of Thelron, the city was sacked. And when its banners were burned and the last heir of Haeron cast the medallion of Míriel into the depths of the Poros, the image of Avallónë at last passed out of the memory of Men.

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