Part 75 – Friend of Birds
Noon drew swiftly through Evendim. The cold winds blowing from the north gave a chill to the air around the lake. The breeze rippled the normally calm water and as the afternoon drew on, the winds increased. The wind was bitterly cold the further north the three in the boat drew to the Evespires, the elven glade in the northern reaches of the lake.
The other two who were with Theomin, Eleswith and Helesdir, looked at wonder at the lake. “The last time I was on this lake,” Eleswith started,” was to help the city from that orc attack that never came.” She looked at Theomin sadly, “Things seemed so different then. Taidir was still alive. We were hunters back then, which meant we had a worthwhile duty to the city. We had not these conspiracies swarming around the city like we have had. It felt I was contributing to something.”
“You were contributing to something back in the Lone Lands too,” Helesdir said. “Do not forget you were our captain. A pretty good one too, despite being as angry as you always were. I can see, though, things have changed in you. You have a certain calm that you did not have when we were in the Lone Lands. I saw that anger briefly last night but it subsided rather quickly.” Helesdir looked at Theomin, “I saw the same anger in you that I saw in Eleswith back in the Lone Lands. Last night and today you have been on the edge of a precipice of anger. Though you are keeping yourself from falling off into that precipice, you are right there on the edge. That is not who you are. At least not the person I met in the Lone Lands.”
“It is very difficult to forgive a person who is set to murder you or to trust again those who are close to me,” Theomin said as he continued to row the boat. “I do not know if I have it in my heart to forgive Teryndir for what he had done. I only hope leaving him in Annuminus with Magla is a good idea.”
Helesdir gave a slight snicker, “I believe you have not to worry. Magla is many things. Any lover of orcs he is not. I left Magla with Teryndir because he is strong willed. It takes much to persuade him to do anything but kill orcs. Teryndir will not convince him to have any love for orcs.” He looked around at the approaching trees of the north shore of the lake. “Tis a beauty, this place. A far cry from the dry waists of the weathered hills of the Lone Lands. It’s greener, cooler,” he looked at the lake, “wetter.” He looked around then at Eleswith, “Tis much more beautiful here.”
Theomin looked at Helesdir, then understood why he wanted to come. He kept silent as they rowed the boat into the glade where the elves were. The gentle stream of the waters of the running tributary into the lake were not difficult for Theomin to row up as he said, “Here we are. I believe I heard them say a wizard came to this lake when last I came here. If anyone in Evendim would know where he is, the elves here would.”
They all three disembarked from the boat. Theomin checked to see if he had the parchment that contained the riddle the wizard left. He did as he and his companions approached the lead elf. With a welcoming smile Lithuifin greeted the guests of his glade. “Ah, the man named, Theomin. It is a pleasant sight to see you so well this day,” he said happily. “I was saddened to hear of your friend’s death in Ost Forod. And at the hand of a man no less. Not of an orc or a goblin but a man. And after all the toil you and Estonethiel went through to no avail.”
“It was a dark day indeed,” Theomin sadly acknowledged, “though I remember not what happened after my friend died.”
“You do not remember?” Lithuifin questioned, shocked. “Estonethiel told me it was you who kept the men and women of that town alive.”
“I did?” Theomin said. “How did I do that?”
“I am very sorry for interrupting,” Eleswith butted in, “but we are here for the wizard.”
“Oh, I apologize. I suppose I will hear it another time,” Theomin said, hoping for answers. “We are actually here to find a wizard. Radagast The Brown.”
“Ah, you are here for the Aiwendil, friend of birds. He is here on this side of the lake but further south. He is taking his time high up from the shores of Lake Nenuial removing the corruption from the trees that had grown so evil there.”
“That is what it means,” Theomin said with sudden realization as he looked at the riddle on the piece of parchment from Ost Guruth in the Lone Lands. “’Corruption has plagued its ranks,” he said as he read it. “There was corruption that was brought upon the trees south of here.”
“Yes, much there was but the wizard is working hard to end it. Some brave warriors have traveled here and removed the main conspirator behind the corruption with the help of Longbough here. But much had to be done to restore the ranks of trees to their former beauty and no sword nor any weapon of any kind will work. It is he that must remove such corruption.”
“Goodness,” Helesdir mouthed in awe, “I had believed that was a tree there,” he said looking at Longbough. “That is an actual living creature that looks like a tree. Never in my travels have I seen such an amazing creature.”
“Yes,” Lithuifin said with pride, “he is descended from the ents. Many old forests reside here in Middle Earth. Longbough is a protector and herder of the trees. But skilled in magic he is not. We are pleased now that our call for help has been answered by Aiwendil, whom you know by his name, Radagast the Brown. We thank him for fixing the glade that has been so filled with corruption.”
“And how do we reach this glade of corruption?” Eleswith asked.
“Perhaps you may ask your guide,” Lithuifin diverted their attention to Estonethiel.
Glad to see her, Theomin’s face turned bright, “Estonethiel,” he said happily.
“Hello, Theomin,” she said beautifully, “It feels good to see you well again.”
“You will take these three to see Aiwendil, south of here. I believe you have seen him on occasion,” Lithuifin said.
“Yes, on many occasions. We have spoken little but he is always a gracious host when I find my way down there. If you would like, we can make our way now,” Estonethiel said.
“Yes,” Theomin said, “Thank you for guiding us.”
“It is my pleasure,” the she elf said.
“Theomin here,” Lithuifin said as they were leaving, “cannot remember what happened the night his friend was killed. It may be a good time to reveal what he cannot remember.”
“Is this true?” Estonethiel asked. Theomin only nodded. “Then we can leave now and I will tell you of that night in Ost Forod.”
They departed south from the elven glade along the shore of the lake for a ways with the steep slopes of Emyn Uial kept to their right while to their left was the waters of the lake. The light of day slowly started to fall into the hills of the west but gloaming was still far from starting. The blue sky was just as blue as ever with the brilliant clouds rolling along.
“That night,” Estonethiel started, “your works saved both the men and women of Ost Forod as well as my own.”
“What do you mean by that?” Theomin asked, “I remember nothing other than my friend dying in a pool of his own blood.”
“But there was so much more than that. If you remember, your friend was in great agony. His screams grew so loud we could hear him from outside the town. Once his cries were silenced and he fell to his death, all around the town we heard grumbles and laughs from hundreds of foul mouths outside the town. At first we knew not what they were but all too soon I came to realize it was no man or beast. It was orcs. Maybe hundreds of orcs descended upon the hill around the small town of Ost Forod. You ordered those without arms and those who could wield bows to the level above the small market and to fire down on the orcs. Those of us who were skilled in melee would fight down below. You carried the Arbiter up to the second level by yourself while I the others engaged in the orcs. You saved the Arbiter’s life, a noble deed.”
“What else did he do?” Eleswith asked. “Just carrying that Arbiter is not enough to say he saved the town of Ost Forod.”
“By any measure,” Estonethiel said, “that would be enough, but that was not the end of the story. He then joined in on the fight, always taking the front and the lead wherever the fight was. Once the upper area was cleared he ordered the archers to come down and we then engaged the orcs on the bottom levels, always keeping the higher ground. We fought the main group of orcs on the east and north sides of the city. The larger group of orcs were on the east side but your strategy was perfect. Just to the east of the town there is type of arena. You placed the archers on the upper portion of it and you and a few others ran down the hill taunting the orcs. Many orcs followed you into the arena which is where the archers cut down the whole group of orcs. They all went in to an ambush that you fashioned yourself. Once the orcs on the eastern side of the town were all but finished, we all finally rushed to the north side of the town. You fought bravely and lead the charge to clear the hill of the orcs. The final charge saw the end of your leadership as it was then that an orcs blunt hilt hit you in the head. We saw as you fell in battle and once that happened, all seemed lost once you fell. The remaining men and women of Ost Forod barricaded themselves around you and me. I held you in my arms, hoping you were not dead. You were not. At the news of your life not being taken, we finally rallied together and finished the last of the orcs on the hill. The whole battle took the entire night and through the morning. After that, I knew not where you were. We scoured the whole hill around the town. You were nowhere. Most of us wondered if you had just returned to Annuminus.”
“Did I fall near a circle of stones?” Theomin asked.
“No, you did not. It was halfway up the hill that you fell,” Estonethiel answered.
“That makes no sense,” Theomin said.
“Why is that?” Helesdir asked.
“When I finally awoke, I was inside a circle of stones at the bottom of the hill. The stones were next to that statue of the Canadiac at the crossroads. I know not how I ended up there and who brought me there.”
“I know none of the people of Ost Forod did it. After we searched for you, I returned to the Evespires, saddened for the loss of you. That was why my heart felt lighter once I set my eyes on you again.”
“I was gladdened to see you there once again as well. I can see now why they offered their provisions to our city.” Theomin was silent as he looked toward the city of Ost Forod in the distance. “I am both glad and saddened to not remember what happened that night. Where there any deaths in Ost Forod that night?”
“A few,” Estonethiel said, “but many more deaths were avoided because of your leadership. Those orcs would have destroyed that town and went on to destroy your precious city. You stopped them there.”
Soon, the hills were becoming steeper. There was no path to speak of on the way south. No path but the one Estonethiel walked on as she continued. “Is it much further?” Helesdir asked.
“Not very far. It is a curious thing you wanted to come to see the wizard, Theomin,” Estonethiel said.
“Why is that?”
“I was not sure but I know it now more than that night. It sounded like you said the wizards, name, Radagast. I was puzzled as to why you said that but I feel you have many questions. I can see it. Right now you are very confused. A darkness has since covered your heart. A darkness you feel may be brought to light by Radagast.”
“I am only seeking an answer to a riddle, nothing more,” Theomin said.
“That is not the only reason you are seeking the aid of Radagast. You have been searching for him for a while, have you not?”
Theomin looked at Helesdir and Eleswith, “I have but how would you know this?”
“I can sense it. Your heart is longing for home. You feel the push to return home but also you feel the pull to stay. You are torn in two, hoping to leave but needing to stay. You are hoping that Radagast will guide you on the right path.”
Theomin was silent. He felt an increasing weight on his heart. It was as if she could see right into him and see what he truly needed. “I…I do not know.”
They soon stopped. The red sky was pushing all the color out of the surrounding land and the lake was blood red. Estonethiel pointed toward a small rise in the distance and beyond were many trees as if a forest was hidden there. “There you will find him,” she pointed to the rise to the south. “But only Theomin must meet him. He is a recluse, only communing with nature, not much with men or elves or dwarves. He prefers it that way. Beyond that rise you will find him.”
“Good luck, Theomin,” Eleswith said as she saw him off.
Theomin looked at the rise, thinking of the new questions that he had for a long time but never knew it. He walked toward the trees, feeling every step as if each step he took was harder and heavier as he got closer to the glade. As he got closer he could feel the weight of the land bearing down on him, as if the air was pushing him down harder and harder. He climbed up the small rise, tough as it was, and descended down into the glade of trees.
A glade of mystery there was all around Theomin. The air was thick with the smell of humidity filling his senses. Some trees looked damaged and corrupt. Some looked just as pristine and beautiful as the others that surrounded the lake. As Theomin made his way through the trees as the red hue of the sinking sun gave the glade a crimson look about the land. Strange glowing lights appeared and dissipated out of the thick heavy air. As Theomin looked closer at a seemingly corrupted tree, its damaged slowly healed before Theomin’s eyes. It was healing itself. The feel of wonder but of anxiety filled Theomin’s heart as though a constant struggle was being waged within the wood itself.
Finally, at the edge of the glade, looking outward toward the lake, was the dark figure of a person, standing there alone but flanked by trees, silhouetted by the light of the distant sky. Theomin stopped. He just looked at the dark figure staring out at the lake. He slowly walked closer to the person and stopped a few yards away from him. “Radagast,” Theomin called out.
The figure turned his head up slowly. He did not turn but said in a clear voice, “Enedion.”