Part 81 – Shrouded Memory
Night came and passed over the town of Trestlebridge. No strange happenings occurred in the town, save the occational sound of a crow passing over throughout the night. The small bands of orc raids on the northern part of the bridge, which seemed like a regular event, ceased with the ending of the major raid upon the gate, which with the help of Helesdir, Magla, and Sergee, was thwarted the evening earlier.
Nora’s mother layed next to her on a bed between she and Aggy. The injary sustained by Aggy were on life threatening but with the aid of the healer, her wounds were not infected. A large gash she had on her side and a blow to the head caused her to pass out in the battle for the bridge. Next to Aggy was Nellie Boskins, sleeping soundly; her hand clasped with Aggy’s as it had been the night before.
Estonethiel watched over all three laying there. Her eyes gazed upon the three and then out at the great expanse of the gorge that sat there separating the south side from the north. Light from the east was just beginning to rise up and lighten the sky when Theomin approached the watchful elf.
“How are they?” Theomin asked.
“They are okay for now. In my sleep I watched as the little girl wandered into the fields, alone, fearful. Her father was nowhere to be seen. I have had little rest as those dreams disturb me.” She looked at Theomin, “I feel the same presense that called for this little girl also called for you.”
“I have no memory of leaving our camp that night,” Theomin said.
“I knew I sensed it the previous night,” the elf said. “A malignant spirit was wandering the fields, looking for a victim. It got hold of you and drove you to the fields.”
“Last night, I had strange dreams too. I felt I was out in the fields again but this time I saw the tower of a great fortress. I believe it was Fornost, though I know not for sure. Dark is that fortress. I care to stay as far away from it as I can.”
“Dark as that fortress is now, it was not always that way. A bastion of hope it was in an ever increasingly dangerous world. The marshels, your ancestors, helped many times to retake that fortress. Successful they were but in the end, it was all for not. They were driven out, the last line of the king was dead, and your ancesters fled. The north kingdom rotted under the absence of the king. Sinse then, dark things have dwelled the fields. But this new figure that takes people is new to me. It is as if a new dark power was taking victims for evil plans.”
“Leaving,” Estonethiel said. “That would be wise. I have been pondering the journey we have embarked on,” Estonethiel said. “Perhaps it is wise if we continue on it. We need you to stay as far away from that fortress as we can. That spirit may be able to call you again. I also grow tired of Teryndir’s moaning. That story of the elf refuge is cleaver but will only last so long. Teryndir will realize the truth soon, which means you will need to soon reveal the truth.”
Theomin looked down in a deep sigh. “I know this. I only fear what he is capable of if he were to take the ancient weapon for himself. This sword, or what ever weapon it is, will be used for ill I fear. Oppression and division will be how he rules the city. We must not let that happen. To give him the weapon that will decide the one who rules is unwise.”
“Unwise it may be, but to continue to lie to him is even more unwise. Give him the chance to trust you and in turn may give you the chance to trust him.”
“Trust in him I do not have. My feeling is that if he becomes trustworthy, it will only be because of his lust for this new weapon. He will take it for his own.”
“To have no trust in the heart of men is folly, Theomin. He is your brother. He is flawed with a sense of having the right to rule, I see that in him. But if he is given just the slightest chance of redemption from his brothers and his companions, is that not worth the having a companion you are always looking over the shoulder at?”
“I suppose,” Theomin said but full of doubt. “I just wish I knew what the right path was. I wish I knew how best to approach Teryndir about it.”
“It will come,” Estonethiel, “In time it will come. But know that you will have the support of all of us.”
“Thank you,” Theomin said as he looked at the horizon. By then, the sun had already risen over the distant mountain and lit the sky a dark blueish color. “Now, maybe it is best we woke the others. I would like to make our journey east as early as possible.”
The two went to Nellie’s house. Eleswith and Teryndir had been staying there while Nellie was out sleeping next to Aggy. Eleswith had the bed and Teryndir slept on the nearby couch. Theomin first woke Eleswith who looked so peaceful. He hated to wake her but had to. “Eleswith,” he whispered as he shook her shoulder. “It is time.”
“Is it morning yet?” she asked, slightly groggy from the late night. “It feels as though I’ve had no sleep.”
“Aye,” Theomin acknowledged. “It was quite the night but morning has arrived. We will make for Esteldin today.”
Eleswith gave a welcoming smile to the news as she rose up and placed her boots on. “Upon our arrival to Esteldin, I propose we send some rangers to help guard this town. I thought of that last night but had not the strength to tell you.”
“We should do that,” Theomin said as he went over and shook Teryndir awake. “Get up,” was all he said to his brother as he made for the door.
Teryndir started to rise up and asked, “Is it morning already?” when Theomin and Eleswith had already left. “Okay, suppose it is,” he said while placing his boots on and left.
Estonethiel made her way to the small guardhouse just on the southern side of the bridge. They stayed there just incase they were needed that night. As soon as Estonethiel opened the door, the light arose the three men who had been sleeping and drooling the night away. Their heads rose up and welcomed the light as they squinted their eyes to the bright light pouring through the door.
“It is time,” Estonethiel said. “We will be making for Esteldin today.”
The news aroused the men’s spirit. Just after hearing it, they sprang to their feet and gathered their weapons, buckling them around their waists and coming out of the small guard house. By then Nellie had been woken up. She went to the foot of the bridge, just as the warriors started for the bridge.
“There is no need to depart like thieves in the night,” she said with a slight jest in her tone. “Our debt of gratitude is more than you can possibly know. You returned our lost daughter. You saved our town from invading orcs. You helped save the one girl who is as strong and brash than any man I have ever known.” Her head lowered as she continued, “It is not a welcome site to watch you leave but your path did not lie here. It lies out there. Please, upon your return to the city of Annuminus, return to us first.”
“We will,” Eleswith happily said. “And we will send a group of what ever rangers are left to aid you in your struggles. There may be few left in the North Downs, but they are all true fighters and will serve you well.”
“Again,” Nellie said, “I thank you for the aid you brought to us. It was much more than any have ever given us, even the village of Bree.”
Theomin shuddered at the name. It was a dark time for him when he was there. He had a feeling he knew why Bree had not aided the town of Trestlebridge, but he did not want to tell her. Bree was a lost cause with Gerald there. “We will keep this town in our hearts,” Theomin said at last. He then looked at his companions, “Shall we depart?” The rest nodded.
“May the blessings of all of Trestlebridge go with you,” Nellie finally sadly said. She moved out of the way and the Warriors of Eriador passed over the bridge and on to the other side. Nellie watched with a tear falling down her cheek.
The morning was fresh. No cold snaps were felt from the north. It felt like a new day and almost a new life for all of them. The seven were off again with Estonethiel and Theomin in the lead, Eleswith and Helesdir behind, Sergee and Terynidr following behind and holding up the rear was Magla. They traveled north for some of the morning around bends and large boulders fallen from the nearby step hill to their west. They rounded corners and small ponds, passing by a small empty camp toward the crossroads, silent but full of thought.
It was not until later that Theomin could see the distant ruins of Fornost through the haze of the fields in the midday sun. A strange pull he felt as his gaze met up with the tower amongst the old ruined walls and destroyed battlements of the old fortress. It was a weak pull and yet beyond that pull was more of a yearning to want to continue on toward the city, as if invisible hands were gripping his soul, tugging at him to enter the old ruined city.
“I can feel your struggles, Theomin,” Estonethiel said as her voice snapped him back to the present. “I see the fortress too and I know now that it is a dark force inside that fortress that is calling for you. I belive that Nora had that same feeling and that led her to the city. That night we left the city of Annuminus, I could feel that presence in the field beyond.”
“What is it? Have you felt anything like it?” Theomin asked, eager to hear an answer.
“I have not,” she said which dismayed Theomin. “It is a new feeling I have never felt before. Dark things wander those ruins and the fields they lay in. Shadows that are new to these lands. I do not want to venture through there any time soon.”
Theomin did not want to either, but he also knew of the alternative route. The only other way to avoid Fornost was to travel through Bree again. Such a gamble to travel through Bree would be too great a risk. Though traveling through the fields would also be too great a risk. The options were too much for him to weigh at the moment as his head was starting to spin with the choice between a bad option and an even worse option. He knew not which one was bad and worse.
As they finally reached the crossroads, Estonethiel stopped. She looked around as Theomin asked, “Do you see another traveler, Estonethiel?”
“I see nothing. No trace of anyone else,” she said with disappointment. “I had hoped to find the girl’s father here, perhaps among the brush or just north of here. I see nothing.”
“It’s best that way,” Teryndir said. “We’ve delayed long enough.”
“Delayed what?” Eleswith frustratedly asked, “a little girl might have lost a father. You don’t believe so but we did that town a great servous yesterday. Hope they had none of but hope they had came the evening.”
“Hope I am losing,” Teryndir responded with vitrial. “The longer we delay the longer it will be before we return to the city. That is where we belong.”
“Have patience for only a half a day was taken,” Helesdir said.
“Patience was lost long ago,” retorted Teryndir.
“Patience?” Eleswith said. “You never had patience. You never possessed it.” She shook her head, disgusted, “You are much like a spoiled child.”
“Enough, Eleswith,” commanded Sergee. “We have not the time to disguss issues conserning each other. If we were to rely and have faith in each other we need to remain together. What is happening here is a group torn apart.”
“He is right,” Helesdir said. “If you remember back in the Lone Lands, the time we spent working as a tight fellowship, we were an effective force. We were unbroken, strong, true of heart. Force the group to bend too far and you will break it. Be weary of such a force because it will cause our doom.”
The others nodded. Eleswith looked at Teryndir, trying to bury her anger in him. “I will bury my anger,” she said at last. She then looked at Sergee as she muttered, “but know not how long it will last.”
Sergee gave a frown and a sigh to go along with it. He then said to the group, “Let us continue. We have a ways to go before we reach Esteldin.”
They traveled up the path that led past many old ruins, up and over the hill on to some old farm lands that were already abandoned even before Theomin and Eleswith first passed. They rounded their way by the farms and descended down toward the valley of the Kingsfell.
Again, much like Theomin had the last time he made his way toward the Kingsfell, he had the feeling of Rohan. The distant hills and the grasslands that lay between them had the same setting as Rohan and the long stretches of grassland that made Rohan such a beautiful and majestic place. And yet there was an uneasiness to it.
The distant windmill sent Theomin back to the night he last saw Gerald. A dark night it was when he was confronted by Gerald, the terrible man who imprisoned him for so long. His pleasant thoughts of home were marred by the terrible doings of such a terrible man. He felt the scars return on his face and his head. Pain grew in his chest and for a moment, he could picture himself stuck in the cell again with no one to talk to. Nobody to help him. Comfort seemed so distant then that even the thought of home felt a lifetime away.
Dispair set in and a tear began to form in his eyes as they passed by the windmill and the farm it occupied. He knew he was changed, but the extent he had changed he had not fathomed yet. He would not know that for a long time to come.
It was just after the farm the crossroads were at. The group stopped and Sergee announced, “It is here we must split up. I would take Teryndir to Esteldin but I fear he may know too many people there.”
“Now wait a minute,” Teryndir protested. “I know people there, yes, but do you expect me to do something foul to you? Did Helesdir not say that we should not bend the group to the point of breaking?”
“Very well,” Sergee said, “With a show of hands, who votes that Teryndir should not go to Esteldin?” All but Teryndir voted for him not to go to Esteldin. “There you have it, Teryndir goes to Lin Giliath with Estonethiel, Magla, and Theomin.” Teryndir groaned in his saddle as Sergee continued, “Eleswith, Helesdir and I will proceed to Esteldin. If there is any news of serpents or the like inside the earth, let us know right away. We will do the same.”
“Very well,” Theomin said. “We should have a time to meet if we cannot find what we seek.”
“Two days should be enough time to find we we seek,” Estonethiel said. “The library in Lin Giliath is extensive but if we can secure support in our efforts, it may take a short amount of time.”
“Two days it is,” Sergee said. “We will meet back in Esteldin. Hopefully our endevours will not be in vane.”
With that, the company of seven split in four heading south to the elf ruins of Lin Giliath and three heading east toward the hidden base of Esteldin.