Part 60 – A Shot in the Dark
The land of Evendim had fallen dark. The distant hills across the lake were black amongst a starry backdrop and not but a few illumines lights hung floating just above the ground like fireflies on a humid mid-summer’s night. The path of Men Erain was dark, only a few feet could be seen but the only lights were off in the distance away toward the city. The lights of the great white city on the hill eliminated the darkness of the land and reflected as it glittered and twinkled on the waters of the lake. Torches lit the city, showing it was inhabited by the free peoples again, shining brightly and was a beacon for all descent folk instead of the dreary darkness it was when the men of Angmar held it.
The two guards that manned the outer door of the Men Erain entrance, like usual, did not look Theomin’s way. They did not greet them in any way. They only kept their gazes past the group returning from the hunt, unmoved, unfazed like statues adorning an outside pavilion. As the group of hunters entered, they were finally greeted by some wardens whom were quick to gather the deer and hauled them away toward their make-shift kitchen they had erected.
A dog ran up to the cart, happily wagging its tail and barking with great pleasure. Herion jumped off the wagon to greet his dog with a hug as the dog forced him to the ground and licked his face over and over. Herion just laughed and took the licking with a smile that only a master could give to his dog. “That’s a boy!” he said while he rubbed the dogs coat and took his face in his hands. “Did you miss me, huh boy, did you miss me, Herelhu?” Herion said to his dog as if he was speaking to a baby. Herelhu just barked and wagged his tale more excited that his master had returned.
As Theomin dismounted from Bragga, Sergee approached him with concern. “Only five,” he said sadly. “Five deer will not be enough to feed the whole of the city.”
“That was all we could get,” Theomin said in defeat. He felt a bit dizzy as hunger started to steel his balance. Sergee kept him steady while Theomin thanked him and continued, “We were attacked by orcs. Feleslon fell while Taidir and Herion tried to escape. We barely made it out with these five deer. The orcs are becoming more brazen and they worry more every day.” Theomin looked toward Eleswith, who shot him a disapproving glance.
“And with fewer men now, we cannot spare anymore. It happened again today,” Sergee said. “It’s the third time this week. I am unsure who is firing the arrows, but I fear there is something foul afoot.”
“I think I know who it might be,” Taidir said. “There is some masked man up in the hills. Herion said he saw him at the docks while we were fighting the Angmarim a few weeks back. Eleswith said she saw him too, but close to Bree.”
“But I cannot see him being the shooter,” interjected Theomin. “Whenever we saw the man, he had been helping, not hindering us.”
“Or he wants to give that impression.” Taidir said. “We know not his motives for helping us, and who is to say he is not the one firing the arrows. So far we’ve lost ten to stray arrows. The shafts are of light brown with fletches of black crow feathers and heads of sharp steel. We have all seen them.”
“Do we know they are from him, though?” Asked Theomin.
“We do not,” answered Sergee. “We only know of the arrows being fired. We know not of the ones of this masked man.”
“Perhaps if we searched them out we would know,” Theomin proposed. “Two orcs were felled by him on the path through Men Erain. If those arrows are still embedded in those orcs, we could determine if they were his or not.”
“That sounds like a good plan,” Eleswith said. “I’d like to join you.”
Soon after, Amathwyn ran to Theomin, she gave a loud and obvious cry of relief to see Theomin. “I was afraid for you. You were gone so long,” Amathwyn said as she ran to Theomin and took him in her arms, giving him a warm and tight hug. Eleswith rolled her eyes and gave out a sound of disgust, “I am always afraid for you when you go out.”
“I am here now,” Thoemin tried to comfort her.
He met her eyes but looked down, “I am. We need to find who is shooting these arrows and killing our people.”
“Can you not let Teryndir deal with it? Is this not a problem for the guards to handle? And he is in charge of the guards, is he not?” she suggested.
“She is right,” Sergee said. “Your roll is for food and to arrange scouting parties. If you were to do this, you would be working outside of your duties.”
“This would be a good time for you to talk with your brother about other matters of import,” Eleswith said. A slight smirk was on her face. The knowing smile told Theomin that she knew of what other matter he could talk about with his brother.
Theomin shut his eyes. He knew he had no excuses. He had to speak with him. “Alright. Where is he?”
“Where he always is,” Sergee said. “Up in his tower. Doing what? I know not.”
It did not take long for Theomin to make the trip from the entrance of the city up to Ost Elendil. He remembered it taking much longer to trek from the entrance up to the top of the city when they first took it. He took the road up to Tyl Annun so many times that it became like just walking from his farm in the Wold to Langhold. Even the Ariant, the bridge that joined the Isle of Tyl Annun to the city of Annuminas, was not as long anymore.
Theomin breathed in with the gnawing feeling of trepidation before he exhaled and entered the great hall of Ost Elendil. He called out for Teryndir, hoping he was not there but soon his brother responded, “Here, Brother. What do you need?” Theomin found him, staring out on the city through the glass window.
“I have come because we have a security situation that needs your attention. Sergee said ten men of ours has died and we need some of your men to investigate if they belonged to a certain person whom has been seen about the city.”
Teryndir turned his gaze to Theomin. “Is this matter outside the city?”
Theomin nodded. “It is. He was last seen on the road through Men Erain.”
“I believe it is a security matter, not for scouts or hunters. It is a breach of security on this…”
“If it is outside the city,” he raised his voice and articulated his words almost so as to mock Theomin, “it is your matter, not mine, Enedion,”
Theomin nodded. He did not want to argue as he knew the purpose would be all but a distraction. He moved on to the matter Eleswith needed to speak with him, “Another reason I needed to speak with you was the matter of the food.”
“And what matter would that be?”
“Do you have a point, brother?”
“We need other means of finding food, other than hunting. Perhaps if we asked Ost Forod for aid…”
“Not with one little thought would I trust Ost Forod with anything we are in need of. Their defiance to myself and my father was more than just disrespectful, it was disloyal.”
“I am asking merely for food…”
“Do NOT approach them. Just going there will be considered an act of treason,” He sneered at Theomin. “Do not forget. They gave no aid to us when we needed it. They sat high up on their hill and pleasantly looked on and did nothing. Not one ounce of energy will I spend asking for aid from them again. Do not forget that.”
Theomin nodded. He felt small as he always does when he meets with his brother. He turned and left the presence of his brother. While he left, though, a large table passed by him. Four wardens carried it by the four corners. It was covered over with rich cloth with the devise of white stars before laid over a field of violet. The table was brought before Teryndir who Theomin could hear scolding the four men who brought it, saying it was about time. He did not hear the rest as he had quickly left the building.
Outside, Eleswith had been waiting for Theomin to come out and give her news of their meeting. She came to him but he was afraid to say anything, “What news have you of your meeting?”
Theomin just passed her while saying, “None.”
“None?” she said as she jogged up to him and matched his pace while he left the building. “You mean none for the issues with the arrow,” she hoped to reason it away.
“I mean none. Not for the arrows not for the food problem. None,” he said, defeated and frustrated.
Eleswith grabbed Theomin’s arm and stopped him. “He will not meet with Ost Forod?”
“He will not meet with them and he will not allow anyone else meet with them. He says it is an act of treason.”
“There is no telling him anything. He cannot and will not listen to reason. I know not what is happening with him but he cares not for problems of the city. I am wondering if he cares much for this venture at all.”
“You’re mistaken,” she said, almost sounding as if she was trying to reassure herself. “He cannot be like that.”
“Before I left the building,” he said, “I saw a table being brought to him covered in rich cloth. I could not see it but my guess was that it contained large portions of our food and it was covered so as to not draw attention to what he has been doing.” With that, Theomin left her as she stood there.
He hiked back down to one of the few dining areas about the city. The tables were all empty. Not one person sat at the tables nor did the tables have any food on them. They were empty and they looked like they had been empty for a long time. No food was reaching the cooks and he was partially to blame. The sad state of the food problem started to hit Theomin. He felt the bighting pain of hunger aching in his stomach. He never knew he could be as hungry as he was. If he felt that way, he knew the others in the city were feeling that way too. It was as if the city was under siege and the enemy was just waiting for them to become weak enough to take the city with little effort.
Theomin knew the lack of food was also a security issue. If they had no food, the city would be taken once again by the enemy. A little light headed because of the lack of food, he leaned in on the table and thought about what to do. His only thought was for Ost Forod. If his brother said it was treason to approach that city on the hill, then his brother was wrong. It could not be treason if it aided the city. He had to do what was right. He pushed himself up and decided, he would meet with the Arbiter of Ost Forod.
But it was not much longer than when he pushed himself that an arrow landed just in front of him, imbedding itself in the wooden table top and scaring Theomin to the point where he jumped back. He looked about the hills for the shooter but the hills were too far off for that arrow to have come all the way from them. He then came to a chilling realization, the shooter was not outside the city but someone inside the city.