Part 55 – Twenty and Twenty
The company of ten departed Esteldin. It was midday and the sun was hot and beating down on the travelers. The air was still, an oppressive feeling hung in the air of the company as they marched west. The sentry, upon leaving the compound, gave a hail to everyone departing and asked for word to be sent of the coming victory in Annuminus.
At the front of the company was Teryndir and Amathwyn, whom Theomin had not yet had the aquatence. Then it was the two training rangers, Taidir and Herion, followed by Athegdir and Theomin and behind was Eleswith. Bringing up the rear of the march were Sergee, Helesdir and Magla whom seemed unseperable since they were brought together a one day before.
Despide the oppressed feeling of Theomin, Eleswith seemed to be in quite the good mood. Since she met Theomin, she had been without a horse to ride. She had been walking or riding behind Theomin, which was a real pain. Tired whe was of having to ride behind Theomin for many soars were born out of having to sit behind him. The saddle he had was not built for two. Now, leaving the compound of Esteldin and riding toward Evendim, the rangers provided her with a riding horse, which they fondly called, “Tuia,” which is sinderan for Sprout. They said it had been the runt of all the horses. Small she was and not much muscles on her bones for many years. It was not until the past summer when she gained muscles and grew like a sapling with vigor.
“Ah,” he said dismissively, “let Terydir lead this time. I have lead many times into battle while Teryndir stayed amongst the company of men behind me. This time I did him a favor.” He looked at Theomin, “Besides, I wanted to finally talk with my son.”
To that, Theomin smiled. The man who was great and mighty, like a warrior of old, was wanting to talk with Theomin. “Thank you. What would you like to talk about?”
“Well, you already told us how you knew where to go, but you never told us of your journey here,” he said while clopping along through the Kingsfell in the caravan of horses heading west. “Tell me what your journey was like.”
Through the rest of the journey through the Kingsfell and passing the stream over the recketty old wooden bridge and on up the hill back up toward the Greenway, Theomin told of his journey through Rohan and the sights he saw there. He told of the Norcroft and Garsfeld and Woodhurst. He finally talked about Helm’s Deep and the poor family that lost their mother. He told Athegdir about the quest to find the mother and the sacrifice Keymel gave before returning to Helm’s Deep.
“That took true courage, Enedion, true courage. You did what was right by that family but I am sorry you lost a friend while doing it,” he said sadly. “I too have lost many friends throughout my life. More then ever in just the few recent months. Angmar is a cruel place and there are few places of which we can find rest there. It is a wasteland of death. Orcs are rampant there and hillmen and Angmarim haunt the land. During the day, the sky looks cracked as if the earth itself wants to be rid of the place. By night its red skies yield not but death and decay. The smell of brimstone is all you smell in that vile place. That is where we lost a good friend of ours, Lorniel, the daughter of another ranger, Golodir. After her passing, he fell into a depressed state of which there has since been no return for him.” He looked down, saddened by the tale he told. “Sorry, Enedion. I am sure there has been no place such as that.”
“Well,” Theomin started, “I have had my share of haunting places. The southern and northern boarders of Dunland are particularly haunting. A forest, deep and dark, covers the land of the southern boarder like a pitch black cloth. The northern boarder is different. The path between Enedwaith and Dunland is haunted by some evil force, frightening and menacing. In those two places, I have never been more afraid in my entire life.”
“I care to never go there,” his father said, with a slight chuckle. “And what of the Dunandings? I hear they are not too fond of people from Rohan.”
“Mostly they are not,” Theomin started. He continued his story of the Dunlandings of Avardin and the aid they offered. He told of the girl Eva who helped him recover and the inadvertent aid he gave in the return of the prisoners from Isenguard. The story of his took them all the way to the crossroads that led to the Kingsfell, Breeland, and Fornost crossroads. At that point, Teryndir turned right, northward toward Fornost.
“I thought we were to never go that way,” Theomin questioned his father.
“Normally we would not set foot in the fields of Fornost but it is the only way to reach Evendim without trekking far around Breeland and through the Shire. This way, though very dangerous and as frightening as your path out of Dunland, is the only way we can reach Evendim by nightfall.”
A strange mist engulfed the company. It was dark, even in late afternoon when the sun should still be quite bright as it decended into the western sky. Mounds upon mounds were seen on the road as they headed north. Sparce trees and small batches of grass dotted the lands as they trecked futher and further north.
Soon, an intersection lead north toward the ruined fortress and west toward Evendim. The company continued along westward further through the oppressive lands of the Fields of Fornost. Nobody in the company was talking. All were quiet and scanning their surroundings. The mood of the company was unlike before when all were loud and sometimes boisterous. They just listened as distant howels could be heard. At times, Theomin thought he saw things move in the darkness of the fields just out of sight as he turned, it was gone. At other times he could hear the thudding of small feet hitting the earth as it ran away or along with the company.
The fields reminded Theomin of a dream he had long ago of him standing on a mound with aparitions all around. The mounds looked almost the same. He remembered seeing Eleswith and then suddenly waking up in fear. A sudden fear gripped him much like the dream he had. He was almost tempted to look at Eleswith just behind him but did not want to. They found their way up a winding road approaching pillars of stone that rose up to the sky like the great teeth of some towering dragon. As they continued, something continued to tell him to look behind at Eleswith. His hands grew numb and his heart raced as he slowly turned to look at Eleswith. He saw her and then from in front, “We made it!” startled Theomin almost to the point of falling off his horse.
“You startle easily my son,” Athegdir chuckled. “Fear not. That trek always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I am glad we are through it.”
Theomin looked about. The fog had not yet lifted. Their trek had only taken them to a small fire surrounded by some old ruins. “But I thought we were to make it out of the fog.”
“No,” Sergee said. “Not tonight. We will rest and by mid morning tomorrow, the fog would have lifted.”
“You mean we are camping out here?” Theomin panicked.
“Of course we are,” Teryndir said. “It is late, though we cannot tell by the looks of it. We will start our trek early tomorrow. Each person will be on watch for the remainder of the night.”
“I will take first watch,” Eleswith volunteered.
“Fine,” Athegdir said. “It will then be Enedion, Neleghil, Teidir and Herion, Amathwyn, Teryndir, and Helesdir and Magla, and then I will take the final watch. We will leave early tomorrow so each will only have a half hour on watch. That will give us planty of time to sleep.” Athegdir looked over at Helesdir and Magla, “Preparing us a meal, we can eat and then have some sleep.”
Helesdir and Magla easily and quickly killed a deer and prepared a meal of venison. It was a quiet meal as most of the company still had the oppressed feeling from the Fields of Fornost. Theomin mainly felt that but the fear of the impending battle still loomed up on him. He stood up and sat next to Sergee, who was laying down next to a fire that was prepared for the company.
“How are you?” Theomin asked, hoping to skip all the plesant talk and discuss the fear he felt.
“I am well,” Sergee answered, “I have a bit of anticipation for tomorrow.
Theomin’s heart rose when he heard that, “Are you afraid?”
“Well, funny thing fear is,” Sergee said. “Yes, I do feel a little fear as I think most of us do. If you are a veteran of combat you still may feel fear, but it may be less.”
“I have never been in something like this. I am not sure what to expect,” Theomin confessed.
“Well, you know my story. You now I fled in fear from the cave of the oathbreakers. I have fear too but this time I will not let it take me. You did a brave thing staying with us knowing that we were soon going to fight in this war. Not everybody could make that choice. But I see something in you that I did not have back in Enedwaith.”
“What is that?”
“You are brave. More brave than you realize. Certainly more brave than I. It took a lot of to take this journey here in the first place, half a world away. And then to stay, you are a braver man than I and I wish that bravery was passed to me.” Theomin did not feel brave. He did not have that same sense in himself as Sergee saw in him. “Now get some sleep. Your watch will soon come.”
And come it did. Theomin did not have a chance to sleep. He only lied down in his mat for a small bit when Eleswith woke him up to for the next watch. Through the next hour, he continued to look into the black sheet of night. The stars were vailed and the land was dark. Only the flickering light of the fire gave light to the things surrounding them. Not much else was seen. No howling, no shapes in the blackness. Nothing. The silence gave time for Theomin to think of what happened the night before.
Close was it that he was almost caught by Gerald and his men. He seemed just as ruthless as ever, breaking the jaw of Thanncen and going as far as the North Downs to track him down. It was almost like a dream that it happened. His family did have his back and his father seemed a gracious man to let him live after threatening to take him in. Though his father did not know the whole story about Bree. A sudden need to tell his father washed over him. He wanted to tell his father everything, even Bree. It felt he was warming up to the father he had never known his entire life. It was good the whole incident happened with Gerald at Gadson’s Farm. At that moment, he trusted his father. It was set, he would tell him about Bree.
It was time that his watch was done. He woke up Sergee and found a comfortable place to lay down. He looked up and thought he could see some stars through the dense fog which made no difference as soon he was asleep.
Morning came a bit too fast. He and all the others awoke to Athegdir telling everybody, “Wake up, we will complete our march today.” He walked to Helesdir and Magla, “Make something fast. We will need to leave soon.”
All they prepared was some meat they did not finish the night before. Helesdir cooked it while Magla prepared the seasoning for it. Under the circumstances it was pretty tasty, if not a bit dry. The seasoning added a nice flavor to the meat but it lacked salt and moisture.
Not long after each person finished their meal, they were off on their horses again and continued along their trek westward. It was still gloomy for part of the morning. Athegdir rode with Teryndir at the front of the company and Eleswith rode next to Theomin. He really felt he wanted to tell his father about Bree but he was too far up in the caravan. Besides, Athegdir and Teryndir had been conversing since they departed their camp.
By mid morning the sun poked its shining rays out from behind the thick clouds. It was a welcoming feeling having the sun beating down on him again. The sky was beautifully blue as only a few clouds drifted along. It was not long when up in the distance a monument could be seen on the road. A group of four statues looking upon a crossroad. Each one face four directions, one back the way they came, one facing south, another facing north, and the last facing west.
“This is where we depart the company,” Athegdir said as Teryndir and a few of the others joined him. “I will meet up with my men in the Barandalf. When we first strike, I will have an archer send off a single flaming arrow, which I am hoping the Angmarim think nothing of. Enedion and Neleghil, when that arrow is shot off, you will strike on the western entrance of the city. Any earlier and you may draw the whole of the garrison against you. Do you understand?” Both Theomin and Sergee nodded. “May all blessings be upon you on our recapturing of Annuminus.” He rose his sword up high, “For the Marshalls!”
Athegdir then started to ride off south with all speed until Theomin yelled out to him. “Father, I would like to speak with you when I see you again.”
“What of?” asked Athegdir.
“When I see you again. I would like to discuss about Bree.”
“Alright,” he started. “So be it.” He looked to others. “Let us ride!”
“Come,” Sergee said, “we must make it to Tinnudir before dusk.”
The rest of the company rode west past the monument and past some hills to the south. Ruins dotted some of the landscape along with other ruins high up in the hills in the distance to the south and north of them. The grass was very green and soon, off to the west, a lake could be seen. No small lake it was but an enormous blue lake that streatched far to the distant hills.
As the southern hill revealed, as they continued further west, an island rose out of the lake on the eastern shore, just a few yards from it. A white bridge of concrete spanned the length between the shore and the island baring two pillars on each with curved peaks on each as if it bore an archway on each that had since crumble to the ages. Its widgth was enough for multiple riders traveling shoulder to shouder to pass over.
Near the western shore of the island stood a great stone structure rising high up in the air. Spires pushed up far into the air, giving it a look of rich prominence above anything else on the island.
“This, my brother,” Sergee said to Theomin, “is Tinnudir. The camp of the Wardens of Annuminus.”
Eleswith was in awe at the enormity of the structure. It was unlike anything she had seen since living in Dale and the sights of Erabor. “I am in awe of the beauty of this place,” she said with her mouth wide open.
The smell of pine brought Theomin back home. The feeling of home hit him, perhaps in a cruel fortune that he was so far from home and the one smell of the island was the sweet scent of home. He was sure his family was not going to believe what he was doing, even if he told them.
Further to the south, across the great blue lake was another place of great beauty. Up from the shores of Twilight Hills, down from the doors of Even-rills, across the lake where birds call, across the lake Nenuial. The city shines with weathered rock, upon the banks up from the docks, Isildur found for Numenor, Annuminus was the name it bore.
The city shone like a pillar of prominence and excellence. Its peaks spiked high and clear up into the deep blue of the sky. Its walls pushed up out of the lake as if great guardians held their shield stedfast out, warding off all foes who would come near the great city. Its turrets upon which were born from the walls stood as more than just stone watch towers. Its architecture cheated no sence of any other place than the great city of Annuminus as it was only in Annuminus such stone turrets could exist.
And exuding from the lake, high on a rise of great white stone rock stood a castle. Not so much in the fashion of Annuminus, it did not match the archeture of the great white city as its only similarity it bore was of the white stone of which it was made of and the towering points that scraped the sky. It looked of a great house or mansion of some high king, rich beyond measure. It bore two large buildings, one on the east and one on the west only joined in the center by an archway stretching from one stony house to the other.
“And that,” Sergee said, “is our quary. That is the city of Annuminus,” he pointed to the city across the lake. “And that great building is Ost Elendil on the isle of Tyl Annun.”
Such an imposing sight, the city of Annuminus and the isle of Tyl Annun was that Theomin’s started to rethink his decision to stay. “How could such a small group of men take such a massive city?” As they closed in on the great keep of Tinnudir, Theomin’s thoughts turned from the difficult question of the retaking of the city to the astonishment as he did not expect to see the sight close to the great keep, a mass of men standing shoulder to shoulder in rows of five across and four deep and six in the first rank with one standing before them, facing away and watching Theomin, Sergee, and the rest of the company arrive. “Attention!” the man standing before the group of men yelled.
“Sir,” the man standing before the group said, “this is twenty and twenty with one sergeant in charge, bringing the number to twenty-one each. There are no shortage of men who want to retake that city. They are all good men, anticipating the battle. Boats are ready for us to ferry them across the lake.”
“Good,” Sergee said to the man. “We will be leaving with the first group of men. How many boats do we have available?”
“Five boats we could secure. The other three are too warn to use. That would mean we would have about eight trips to the other end of the lake and each trip takes quite a while,” the man said to Sergee.
“Hmm,” Sergee said, “that is cutting it a bit too close. Begin sending them now. There is no time to delay. We will be off on the boats when we are ready.”
“Yes sir!” the man said to Sergee. He then yelled to his men, “File out to the boats. Four per boat. When your have arrived, keep your silence and keep your distance…” the man continued to yell to the men as Sergee brought Theomin into the keep of Tinnudir.
Inside was a small chamber of an entryway leading to stairs further into the keep. They scailed the stairs up for a bit until they reached a much larger chamber. Light beamed in from the outside onto a great statue sitting at the center between two pillars and stairs heading up to the left and right wings of the keep. Behind the pool and futher back in the chamber was an unassuming wall.
“Long ago this keep was constructed. It is much younger than Annuminus itself, but its has long been around well into the second age.” He took his sword and reflected light onto a portion of the wall. In fastly appearing blue lining, a notch appeared in the wall surrounded by the reflecting blue light. “Our ancestors believed this keep would be pillaged by some tomb robbers. They looked to the elves to construct a way for the door to be hidden.” He took his necklace, his amar calad, and placed it into the notch where the light was. A second later, a slab of wall, like a door, sprang outward from the wall. A hidden passage appeared. Sergee pried open the wall and they both walked into the passage way.
“Our armor,” Sergee started as if he had gone down the passage a hundred times, “has been passed down since the second age. We have not warn it since it was last layed down but our great ancestors who finally abandoned the city to decay. They were the last to leave that city.”
“Why did they leave?” Theomin asked.
“Nobody wanted to live there anymore. It stopped being a place of trading and arts and culture. When the dwarves left for business of their own, people just left. It took quite a few years but finally, when the last citizens left, the Marshells left too. They tried to help in the retaking of Fornost and they stayed there for a while but when it was retaken by the enemy, the Marshells went into hiding.” Sergee pulled out a piece of armor from a chest that was long collecting dust. “This is the chest piece of the Marshells. It is much heavier than that tunic you are wearing, but you will get used to the weight.” He placed it in Theomin’s hands.
“Heavy is right,” Theomin said, “I am going into combat with this?”
“You are. Like I said, your body will get used to it. Your arms can move quite well in it. I have tried it on myself.” He gave a slight laugh, “I was a little younger. I wanted to try on our ancestor’s armor, just to see. It was quite heavy for me back then, but I got used to it. It was a nice piece of armor but then father saw me with it. He snatched it away from me and told me, ‘That armor was to be reveared above anything else not tried on like a costume. Put it away and never touch it again.’ Well, here I am touching it, finally, with the approval of my father, of course.” He looked at it with a smile, “It is amazing that we are to retake our ancestor’s city.” He looked up at Theomin, “We are making history, you know.”
“I know,” Theomin said. He slipped on the chest piece and finished off with bracers, pants, and boots. “If it is okay with you, I would like to keep my shoulder wrap for now. It is…” he gave a slight smile, “it reminds me of home.”
“That is fine with me. Father may have a different opinion.”
“We will see.” Theomin started to place the helmet upon his head.
“Best you keep that off,” Sergee said, “at least until we reach the beach.”
“Is this all?” Theomin asked.
“Take this,” Sergee gave Theomin a sword. It was a basic sword. “Your other looks to have aged quite a bit and may damage easily. This westernese sword was forged with of ancient iron and forged steel by our ancestors. It will serve you well.” He patted Theomin on the shoulder. “I believe that is that. We should get to the shore. It is time our boat has returned.”
They ventured back out to the main hall of the keep. Sergee and Theomin pushed shut the door and took the walk down the stair out of the keep. By then, a couple of the boats had returned and the hour had grown later. The sun was just about to begin dipping down behind the western hills. Sergee and Theomin reached a boat and boarded it. They then made their long row to the other side of the lake.
“It is a very long story,” Theomin said.
“It will be planty of time before we reach the other side of the lake. Might as well make the time count,” Sergee said.
Theomin grunted a little. He did not want to be reminded of the time in Bree but he did want to tell his father. “I have not told father this but I plan to. Perhaps when all is done here I can tell him what happened in Bree.” As they rowed slowly to the other side of the lake, he told Sergee of his capture in the ruins outside Bree and his captivity there. He told of Gereld and the beatings he endured for many days. He also told of his escape and the luck of the elf, Thanncen, who broke him and Eleswith out of jail in Bree.
“Eleswith,” Sergee said. “I knew she was apart of it.”
“What do you mean?” Theomin questioned Sergee. “She had nothing to do with our capture. I know not what Gerald meant when he talked about the man she loved, but it makes no difference. In my mind, she is innocent and was falsely imprisoned, like me.”
“If you believe she has nothing to do with it, then fine. I believe I may know her a little more than you.” By then, they were already at the other side of the lake. Many of the wardens had already gathered on the far side of the lake. It was not quite fourty wardens, but it was close. Only a few more boat rides were needed for the rest of the wardens to be on that side of the lake.
The path rose up to an arched gate and behind, the city lomed like a great giant ready to pounce on them. It was an ominously intimidating sight to see such an enormous city ready to be taken by them. Theomin was not sure of what the night would hold but he was afraid. Very afraid, in fact, but he could not go back. He could not return back to Tinnudir, back to Bragga, back home. His fate was tied to the city, for some reason, and he needed to be there. For good or bad, he needed to be there.
Another boat arrived baring Helesdir, Magla, and Eleswith. Thoemin was glad to see his friend, Eleswith. Eleswith’s dress was much different than what she had on earlier. It was a long tunic, white with dark leather straps and silver buckles down the center. Her sleeves down to the mid of her upper arm bore chainmail as was the neck piece above the white tunic. Though her outfit was much different, her face reminded him of the journey and simpler times when all he wanted to know was who his family was. He finally knew and things began to get complicated. He walked over to Eleswith and took her hand. She gratefully accepted and Theomin hoisted her ashore.
“Thank you, Theomin,” Eleswith said. “I was just reminiscing with my old friends,” she said, not a drop of worry on her face. “Do you remember the day I left with you? Magla and Sergee regretted letting me go. They were worried for me. Is that not nice?”
“I am glad to hear that. The last we spoke to Helesdir he seemed glad to be rid of you,” Theomin said gladly.
“I remember. It broke me but I feel that being with you really changed me. It had been only a couple weeks but felt like a very long time. I missed them but I am glad I spent my time with you,” Eleswith grinned. “I know I thanked you, but I mean it when I say thank you for taking me with you on our adventure. It has been a journey of discovery for you, but it has also been a journey of discovery for me as well.”
Only an hour had passed, the sun had sunk below the hills in the west and the air was cool. There were still rays left over from the setting sun, but not much. It was beginning to be difficult to see everyone when finally the last of the boats had come ashore with the last of the Wardens of Annuminus.
“Is that all,” Helesdir asked Sergee.
Sergee looked at them, “Twenty and Twenty,” he said, confirming it. “I guess Magla and Helesdir are coming with me.”
“I’ll be going with Theomin,” Eleswith said.
“That is it, then. We should make our way at least half way up the road and wait for the signal,” Sergee said. He turned his gaze to Theomin, “Perhaps it is a good idea to tell father about what took place in Bree. Right now he just thought that man and his two thugs were ruffiens out looking for weak pray. It would benefit him well but he may not like it at first. He may not like it at all, you being in prison. But choose wisely the time to tell him. You will know when that is.”
A light from above flamed up over the great city. It was a single flaming arrow, shot from the eastern side of the city like a shooting star from the heavens above. Sergee gave a sigh and looked at his men and nodded. They quickly formed into ranks as he then looked at Theomin. “It is time.”