Part 66 – Down Orthrond Thurin
Orc after orc was felled on the dirt road. From one man, arrows downed some of them and man another swatted at the rest with his great club he had been wielding. A line of the orcs had been felled upon the road, scattered one after the other for more or less than half a mile. The orcs had been chasing someone since the last bridge. Unfortunately the one who gave chase did not survive. He had been struck twice in the back by arrows and finally bludgeoned in the skull by a dull object.
One of the men bearing a bow approached the slain quarry of the orcs. He knelt next to the dead man and found it was not a man at all. It was an elf who had been chased. In his hand he held what looked like a walking stick, but unlike a walking stick it was much more ornamental with strange writing about it. In a bag fastened about his hip was a note, scrolled in elf writing.
“Magla, come look at this,” the man said to his mate. Magla came to his friend, half with interest and half weary of any other travelers on the road. “Have you seen this writing before?”
Magla looked upon it a long while and finally said, “No.”
“You are man of many words, my friend,” the man jested. “You see here?” the man said. He pointed to a writing in the common tongue. “Sons of Athegdir”. He looked up at his friend. “This scroll and item here must be for Sergee and his two brothers.” He looked at the scroll deeply and said to Magla, “I bet you Sergee can read this writing. He spent much time in Rivendell.” Magla only nodded before the man continued. “It looks like it’s time for us to head back to Evendim.” Magla only nodded. The man, Helesdir, took up the strange stick and scroll and the two headed west.
“Who are you?” Theomin asked the man on the road. The man approached Theomin. With every step, Theomin felt more fear but had no way to defend himself from the approaching person in the distance. “Come no further,” Theomin yelled out to him.
The man stopped. He held out his hands, palms out, and said aloud, “I am no foe of yours. I’m Saeredan. Remember me? I aided your escape from Bree and also helped your father retake the city. We are on good terms, Theomin of the Wold.”
Theomin calmed himself. He breathed in easier and approached Saeredan. “You gave me a good fright, my friend.”
“I meant not to. I had been searching for you since last night,” the ranger said. “Things have gone ill in Annuminus.” Theomin gave an inquisitive look as Saeredan continued, “Your friends have been taken captive.”
“So,” Theomin said without surprise, “The orcs attacked.”
“No. Orcs did not attack. Your brother imprisoned your friend from Dale, a girl with hair of auburn and another ranger. A few more rangers have also been captured and questioned. One day past I had witnessed this happen. I had come to Annuminus in search of you but needed rest. After seeing Teryndir take your friends prisoner, I had to search you out right away. Your brother is angry with you enlisting aid from the town on the hill. So much so that he has called your going there an act of treason.”
“Where are they now?” Theomin asked, panicked.
“Through light steps, I tracked them from afar up the road and across that forsaken bridge across to the island of Tyl Annun. They were taken to the eastern tower. None of your friends have come out since. This only means they are held there as prisoners.”
“I need to save them,” Theomin exclaimed without thought.
“Wait,” Saeredan said. “There is another matter, which I must address now before it is lost in the rush to save your friends. I came not for niceties or conversation. My good friend and your rescuer, Thanncen, died.” Thoemin’s mouth dropped. Before Theomin could say anything, Saeredan continued. “His account of his findings on the one who murdered the Mayor’s son is all in this journal.” Saeredan pulled out the journal. It was not very thick. It was plain with no writing on the front or back. It was bound in blue with golden trim about the front and back. “Take this journal. It has everything you will need to know. Also, I have been able to secure your saddle bag. Ask me not how I came by it. At least, not yet.” He handed the book over to Theomin who looked on it with wonder but slight trepidation. “Now comes the choice. Do you read the pages in the book that will give you a greater understanding on things, or do you help your friends?”
There was no hesitation when Theomin answered, “Help my friends. I cannot see how there is any other option.”
Saeredan smiled a smile of pride in Theomin. He then became serious. “Then we have much work to do. We cannot enter the city through the front gate. There exists many secret passages hidden about this region for centuries. I know of a few but none will take us into that island. There are a few that will lead right next to that bridge that connects the mainland to Tyl Annun. We just need to find where the entrance is. Come, we must reach the entrance before nightfall.”
Through the rest of the morning the two trekked up the hills of Parth Aduial and down toward the Colossus. The entire time Theomin spoke of the food issues and the problems with Teryndir and the Arbiter of Ost Forod. Saeredan just listened quietly the entire time, allowing Theomin to release frustrations he had on his brother.
Soon, they reached the hills between Men Erain and the Barandalf. They hiked up the hills and continued up through the hills, which was an exhausting hike for Theomin. His leg was in pain and his breath was short. Saeredan suggested a pause in their trek, seeing as how exhausted Theomin appeared. Theomin happily sat in the shadow of a tree while Saeredan kept a watchful eye on their surroundings.
The first thing Theomin wanted to do was look at the massive statue at the mouth of the lake but when he looked, he saw a figure all in black staring at them. He sat back and looked at Searedan, “Saeredan, look atop the colossus!”
He looked but saw nothing. Theomin too looked but nothing was there. “What did you see?”
Theomin thought for a moment. He then looked down as he almost felt crazy. “Nothing. I suppose I saw nothing.”
“I would like to ask what brought you to that resting circle,” Saeredan asked.
Theomin looked down, half in a haze of thought. “I remember not. After my good friend and fellow hunter was slain I woke up here. That was the last memory. The next thing I remember was reviving in that circle of stones with an aching body and throbbing head.”
“Your good friend died?”
“Yes,” Theomin regretfully said. “A man of Ost Forod slit his throat. I believe that the elf, who was there to aid me, shot an arrow into the man’s throat. I cannot be too sure about that, though. My memory seems foggy from that point on.”
“I suppose your brother was right, then. I hate to admit it but they cannot be trusted.”
“He did not seem like a man from Ost Forod. He was a ruffian. A brigand, or something like that. The people of Ost Forod seemed to want to defy him and his people but those brigands were too strong. The people of that town are not a bad lot. I saw it in their eyes and their acts of kindness.”
Saeredan looked toward the sun, arching down toward the west. “Come, we should make it to the door before nightfall,” Saeredan said while pulling Theomin up by the hand.
As the two continued on toward the door, Theomin had to ask, “Why, if you knew about the door, did we not use it to assault the city?”
“It was too risky a move,” Searedan said. “The tunnels of Eriador are old. Much older than some of the most ancient cities. None of them have been maintained for hundreds of years. Many have already collapsed. In truth,” he paused, “I have not a clue whether this one is caved in or not. Such caves are forgotten in the history and lore of this land. As such, no effort is placed on surveying them and fixing them. This one, like many of the others, may be a complete loss to the ages.”
Time passed for a while as they continued on up the western hills when Theomin continued his questions, “I have to ask,” Theomin changed the subject, “This has been on my mind for a long time. Do you know who killed the mayor’s son?”
“Oh yes,” Saeredan exclaimed.
“Then why have you not told me who it was? Why do I need to read it in the journal?”
“It is best you see the full story, then ask the questions later. A great many things can come out of reading the full investigation into the murder. Not only learn about the one who did it.”
“But why is that more important?” Theomin prodded. “If you know, you can just tell me.”
“In truth, I have not read it. Thanncen’s last wishes before he died was for Theomin to read it and find out all he knew. That way you would know everything there was to know about his murder and all the circumstances around it. What led certain people to do what they did. It does not just tell who murdered him. It tells the story around why they did it. All involved except for you and the mayor know who it was. I have not approached the mayor because of the horrible lockdown the city of Bree is in.”
They finally approached the southern hills of Evendim. About the hills was an ancient ruin, much the same as those found in Annuminus and Tinnudir. An old metal door, the color of green, stood at its center. “Is this the door that leads inside?”
“It is not. This door was used for other purposes. We have more secretive ways of creating our paths. Thanncen told me you used such paths to escape from Bree. When Bree was built, it was one of our ancestors who designed the room it was in. Just an inconspicuous room of no importance in an alley way that bore no great significance.”
Saeredan turned northward from the door but Theomin stopped and looked upon the sight of Annuminus from the hill. He took in the splendor of the city on the lake and shook his head in silent grief. “Tis a sad fate that such a splendid city such as that has fallen in so many ways.” He lowered his head and continued, “I wanted so desperately to return home and after the city was finally established and strong, I was going to. So much has happened that I am unsure if I will see my home in Rohan again.”
“I wondered that as well when I left from my home in Breeland. I wondered that too. But I returned. I saw my home again but things were different. I felt not like I did when I left. Part of me is still with my kin in the south. Sometimes I feel guilt and wonder what has become of them.” He looked at Theomin, “But this is my charge now. I have you and the rest of your men to aid in your time of need. That is what it is like now. I am not sorry for it.” He cheated a smile as he looked at Theomin. “Come, we must continue. They ran toward a wall that had been almost all weathered down. Saeredan kicked some of the ruins rock that had eroded away and collected on the ground and kicked and dug away some of the dirt that had layered itself on top of the door. After some time of the two using their hands to dig away in the dirt, at last they came to a rotted wooden hatch. The wood was almost all decayed away and the rope that had been tied to it as a handle was almost completely dissolved away. Only very thin threads remained of the pull rope.
“This is our path. Orthrond Thurin is its name,” Saeredan said with some reluctance. “Amazingly, it is still here, but the state of the tunnel is unknown to me.” He tried to pry open the hatch but to no avail. At last, he just sliced through the rotten wooden boards, which was quite simple. The air that came up from the tunnel smelled dank and stunk of old dampness of the hundreds of years of decay that filled in the horrible hole. It was also dark, black as if a vial of ink had been poured into the hole. “This is our only option. If we cannot make it through the tunnel, I fear we may not be able to return. I know not the depth of this hole. It may be a few feet or it may be hundreds of feet. I know not.” He looked at Theomin. “Regardless, you first.” He gave a smirk to Theomin.
Theomin cringed at the thought of entering that hole, “Exciting,” he said sarcastically. He lowered himself to an old wooden ladder just inside the hole. As he lowered himself, they heard a call from elsewhere to the west. “What is it?” he asked suddenly.
“It is some of your brother’s men. I hoped they would not come this way but they have. Go!” he said to Theomin. “I shall draw them away.”
“How do I know where to go?”
“Follow the largest tunnel. The ones leading toward the great cities always had the larger tunnels.” The noises of the people came closer. “Go. And take this.” He handed Thanncen’s journal to Theomin. You may need it.” He then rose up and ran toward the sound of the men. Soon, Theomin could hear the clanging of swords and men yelling as he lowered himself down the rickety ladder.
He continued down, hoping to get out of sight but what he did not expect was his feet to slice through the old wooden ladder like a warm knife on butter. The sudden lack of footing forced Theomin to let go of the ladder. He had to have fallen several feet when he landed with a thud on his bottom. A sudden pain came from his back as he must have fallen on a sharp rock or something. He moved only to find the sharp edge of broken bone on the ground. A sudden terror came to Theomin as with the dim light he found the whole cavern was filled with the bones. Whether they were of dead men or animals he could not tell. He crawled back to the edge of the pit, breathing in the stale air and the dust that was disturbed by his fall. His lungs filled with the dust as he coughed deep coughs. He fanned the dust away from his mouth and breathed in through his nose. It was still a terribly thick mat of dust in the air but at least is was not going straight to his lungs.
It took a little while for his eyes to adjust to the darkness of the tunnel. There was not but old air, dust, and bones that filled the cave. Nothing more. Some of the decay had swords amongst them. Old rusted swords that had seen many years without care. Regardless of the quality of it, he picked it up place it in his belt. As his eyes adjusted more, he could see the marks of the tunnel continuing westward. With reluctance, he continued down the path, hoping the tunnel had not caved in.
The tunnel looked carved out only with basic tools. It did not look like it had ever had much care given to it as the scratch marks from old basic tools could still be seen on the walls. There was faint light that came from ahead. There must have been some kind of skylight that was allowing light to pour in. Without that hole, it would have been impossible to see anything. It was not long before he came to some old torches and an old basin of fuel with a couple of rocks of flint. Convenient, he thought, but did not want to question the gift from the old Numenoriens. He dipped the torch in fuel and clacked the flint stones to spark a flame. The sparks easily lit the torch and Theomin was able to continue on.
For a long while he continued on through the tunnels. It was quiet. Only the sound of his footsteps in the rock dusty rock at his feet, the sound of the flame, and his breath could be heard echoing through the tunnel. It seemed to go on for a very long time. Too long, in fact. Before long, the long stretch of tunnel suddenly ended to what looked like a slide, of some kind. The floor of the slide was smooth, having scrape marks here and there where items were placed to slide down into a lower shaft. Theomin squatted down and tried to go down slowly but it did not take long for him to lose his footing and start sliding uncontrollably. He slid further and further down without being able to hold on to anything. He started to pick up speed before it abruptly stopped and he entered, through the ceiling, into a massive cavern. He fell through the air, not sure of what he was going to land on.
With a sudden splash, he fell into water. He quickly pushed himself to resurface and found himself in the wet flooded cavern. It looked as though it was a cistern of some kind. He hoped it had been for Annuminus but he could not be sure. Theomin was unsure about everything. His torch had since been snuffed out by the water but that seemed to be okay. Far far above was light pouring in through some kind of skylight. Theomin swam himself toward the closest piece of land. It was then that he remembered he had the journal, which must have been getting wet and damaged. He went as fast toward the land as possible and got out. He opened the book with all speed. It had been drenched with the water of the cistern. Luckily, some pages of the journal were still legible with some of the beginning pages and ending pages seeming to be a total loss. Being that the entire book was not a loss, a sigh of relief soaked over Theomin as he placed the book away and looked around the large cavern.
The smell of water filled the air. It was hot and humid in the cavern. Around the flooded cavern were many ancient structures which were still preserved, for the most part but warn away from the continuous beating away by the constant water. It seemed as though the light that came into the cavern was concentrated on one point, far above. Though it was interesting for Theomin, he cared more about finding a way out of the cavern.
For the good part of the rest of the day, Theomin searched and searched for a way out of the cavern to no gain. He could not find a way out. Nowhere was there even a hint to a way out. He removed his old rusted sword and tapped on the walls of the cave, hoping to hear a hollow of some kind. All through the rest of the day he tapped everywhere he could reach. Not one sound of a hollow tunnel could be heard. There was not even any signs of any cave in. It was all solid rock all throughout. Not only was it solid rock, but the light from above was beginning to fade. The cavern started darkening. It was not long before even his hand could not be seen.
But there was something on the other side of the cavern. Something was giving light to part of the cavern. Theomin made his way over to the light like a moth to a flame. It was a bioluminescent bug that was crawling about. The bug was not too large, only a few inches across but it was all the light Theomin had. Theomin sighed. His hope of getting to his friends was beginning to fade away. In his mind, he felt he let them down, not being able to save them. He then started to think of his brother and wonder why he was so difficult. It was almost as if he was acting like Gerald. “Gerald,” Theomin said aloud in a sudden realization. “I can read the journal.”
With care he removed it from his bag, hoping not to rip the already damaged book. It was starting to dry off and the pages began to harden and bend. The beginning of the journal was barely legible. The ink used started to bleed and blotch but it could still be read. In it, it said, “Herein this journal lies my investigation into the sudden death of the son of Mayor Graeme Tenderlarch.”