Part 82 – An Unexpected Link
Lin Giliath, the ancient elf refuge at the southern tip of the North Downs, sat at the base of the high hills of Nan Watheren. It was boarderd by a bog that is home to old ancient ruins of Ost Ardulin and just south of the old elf refuge just north of Lake Nen Harn, which spans into the northern boarders of Bree-land. The bog was fed by fresh water from the small river that ran down from the north of the North Downs where the Warriors of Eriador crossed over by way of the old rickety wooden bridge that same day. The waters of the bog also ran down to Nan Hern then its faster waters fed a waterfall which then cut the huge gorge of which the bridge of Trestlespan now sits, forming a natural boarder which seporates the land of Bree from the land of the North Downs.
The four travelers, Theomin, Estonethiel, Magla, and Tydir, arrived at the elf refuge of Lin Giliath, tired and ready for rest. Their main priority was to find accomodations for their weiryness was far too much to handle. The reigns slipped from Theomin’s hands a couple of times on the way south and at times Teryndir’s head nodded with exhaustion. It was a long day’s ride from Trestlebridge to Lin Giliath and they were thankful to witness the welcoming arch of smoothly cut white stone and gold designs within that stood just before the elf refuge.
One elf approached the four travelers as they hobbled their way toward the elves. She was dressed in a tan outer coat with a tiel dress beneath. Her indifferent look betrayed no emotion as she looked at the travelers, “Mae Govannen, travelers, and to you Estonethiel, friend of the elves.”
“Mae Govannen, Dilath,” Estonethiel addressed the elf lady who had approached them. “It is always a pleasure to see you.”
“And the same goes of you,” Dilath said as she smiled at Estonethiel. “And how might we aid you this evening?”
“Theomin,” Estonethiel said, “perhaps it is best you explain.”
Theomin at first wondered why she tasked him with that burden but went ahead anyway, “We are searching for any information you might have in your collections of books that tells of a serpent inside the earth.”
“Serpent?” the elf questioned. “I know of no serpent save giant wyrms that inhabit some realms. None have been spotted here in Lin Giliath or for all of Eriador for that matter. I have heard of such serpents far to the east.”
“That is why we need to search,” Theomin said. “We may find what we are searching for in your expanse of books.”
“Then you are in luck,” the elf said. “Gildor Inglorion has come from Imladres. You may find him in the library here, though I am unsure of how long his stay will last. He arrived not five days past and wanted to wonder the sights of Lin Giliath and the green hills of the Shire again.”
“That is good news,” Estonethiel said and turned to Theomin. “He is a high elf and knows much of the earth on, above, and beneath it. If he knows not of what we speak, he knows where to find such information in the library.”
“Good,” Theomin said with satisfaction, “There are a couple other things that need addressing. Our companion here,” he motioned toward Teryndir, “He is a bit mischevious to say the least. We would like a little supervision on him for a time.” Teryndir roled his eyes and gave an exhale of disgust as Theomin continued, “We need eyes on him as much as possible, perhaps to keep him occupied.”
“Of course,” the elf lady said. “There is much here that needs doing.” She then paused for a bit and then, “Was there not more that needed saying?”
“Oh, right,” Theomin pause for a beat, “Is it possible to accomidate us for the night?” he asked with a smile.
“Welcome back, Neleghil,” one of the rangers happily said to Sergee. He was a strong man, deep in voice with a stoic sense about him, much like Magla. His cloth was much like rangers but with a more crimson tone to it. His head was bald and had a very slim mustache with hair receeding down from his lower lip to his chin. “It’s good to see you well again.”
“It is quite nice to return here,” Sergee said. “I forget the smell of Esteldin,” he said as he looked around the old ruins of the hidden ranger base.
“Yes, this smell here is quite particular. Like lilacs that have drifted into pine and horse dung,” he snickered. “Living here for so long I have, I lost the sense of its smell but always remember it upon my return.” He looked at Helesdir and said, “And Helesdir,” the ranger said, “It is always a good omen when we see you.”
“Thank you, Ferrif,” Helesdir said. He stepped aside to introduce Eleswith, “and this is Eleswith. She is our companion.”
“Eleswith,” Ferrif said, a suave sense started pouring though his rough exterior. He approached her and took her hand. Every so lightly he gave it the smallest of kisses as he continued, “I am Ferrif, the task master of Esteldin. I saw you only a month past but only in passing but it is certainly a pleasure to meet you in person. You were with another man before Athegdir took half our men toward Annuminus.” He stood back from his smooth gesture and continued, “I was quite dismayed to hear of his passing. Not many men were as great as he.”
“Yes,” Sergee agreed, “He has been missed.”
“And where is Teryndir?” Ferrif asked. “He has not accompanied you?”
The three looked at each other before Sergee spoke up, “He is with our other companions. They went to Lin Giliath for much the same business we have.”
“Odd,” the ranger said, “I would have thought he’d want to say his hellos to us. He never much cared for visiting other peoples, though I never had any idea of his reasonings.”
Eleswith and Helesdir looked at Sergee for a bit. They were unsure if he wanted to mention that his brother had gone a little mad since being gone. The ranger decided to continue, “Not to change the subject, but I know the purpose of this visit is not to speak of your father, nor is it to meet such a fare woman from afar,” he gave a wink to Eleswith. She blushed slightly with a mixture of embarrassment and flattery. Helesdir shot him a suspicious look.
“We wish to use the library here. There are books in that library that might hold the secret to a rather interesting riddle,” Sergee said.
“Of course,” Ferrif said. “The library is here yours. Everything here is here yours. If you seek accomodations, of course, we have planty of tents here and there. Use them as you need. Since only a quarter of our contingent is left, what with most of our men either heading south or west with you, we are only left with a few of us. You will find that there are many more open bed rolls left around.”
“Thank you,” Sergee said. “I will stay awake searching the books.” Sergee looked at Helesdir and Eleswith, “If you two would like to sleep, you are more than welcome to.”
“I am very pleased to see you,” Ferrif said, “and I would like to see Teryndir again. Perhaps he can join us here,” Ferrif said as he gave a wave and left.
Very quietly, Eleswith spoke to Sergee, “Are you not wanting them to know of Teryndir’s journey to the village of lunacy?”
“I am not sure we should speak of his actions. These men are his brothers, his family,” Sergee said. “To soil his name to the men he calls brothers would do much more harm to the group than it would do good.”
“A fare warning would have been welcome,” Eleswith said. “I knew not what to say.”
“But you handled it quite well. Now, I have studying to do while you two look quite tired. Get rest. There is much reading to do on the ‘morrow.”
The library of Tham Giliath looked ancient, though well preserved. The typical elvin structure was rounded with an inner portion beneath a rounded hollow canopy that was held up with two pillars that had carvings draped around each side. A series of windows also adorned a second story with arching canopies above and baring tan diamond-shaped tiles. Above, a small opening that housed a golden bell which sparkeled and reflected the brilliance of the morning sun as it rose in the east. The small bell-house held above it a peak with windows on each side of it. All about the structure were carved flowing designs, much like the elven dress that Theomin had become quite accustomed to seeing.
The library was the center piece of a whole courtyard of the elven refuge. A crescent shaped wall ran all around meeting the library at its flanks and branched out as it stopped only yards apart form each other, the ends possessing tall structures of their own. Tall they were but not as tall as the library itself. Along the walls were fenses where grapes were being grown, much like how a vineyard grows them. Theomin wondered if they were for wine and if they made wine there at the old refuge. It was a question he kept as he entered into the double arched doors of the library.
Inside was an almost empty room. Few shelves stood against the walls of the room, and carfully placed not to obscure the tall thin stained glass windows that stood about panals of the walls. Hung on golden rods were cloths bearing the devise of white four sided stars with a single larger eight sided star that stood out like a compass rose in the center upon a black field.
Stairs that lead from the front doors descended down only two steps to a lowered portion of the center floor where a couch sat at the other end. Chairs which contained rot iron-like metal were near the stairs as were two chairs along the outer portion of the oval shaped lowered level. Two benches sat beside them with shapes of swans looking out from the flanks of the benches.
In the center of the lowered portion stood an elf reading with no notice to Theomin walking in. To the left of the door was Estonethiel reading a book as she noticed Theomin walk into the room. “Theomin,” she greeted him, “I trust you rested well. Gildor and I have been busy looking for the serpent mentioned in the riddle.”
“Yes, Theomin,” the elf below said. “A most perplexing riddle this is. I have not found a mention of this serpent nor have I heard of or met any serpent in the earth. At my age, you would think I would have come across such a serpent or at least heard of one. I admit I am not as ancient as Middle Earth is but I am very old and if this serpent is even just slightly younder than I, it would still be ancient.”
Theomin sighed with disbelief. Even an elf of such age has never heard of such a serpent. “What do we do then?”
“There are still books that occupy this library,” Gildor said. “We have but look for such a mention and you will find your path.”
“If I may ask,” Theomin said, “Why are there so few books in such a library? Should it not contain thousands of books?”
“Tis not how many books there are, Theomin of Rohan, but what the books contain,” Gildor said. “They are ancient books, full of knowledge. From the talks of Arda to the Silmarills; all contained in these books. A treasure they are, more than any gold or silver or even Mithril. These books are worth more to the elves and all of middle earth, even more than the Arkenstone of Erabor for they contain knowledge that is even riveled to the library of the lore-master, the elf-lord Elrond. Yes, Theomin of Rohan, few they are but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in wisdom.”
“Hand me a book, possibly one in the common tongue, and I will start reading,” Theomin said.
Gildor walked over to a dark bookshelf, which held only about twenty books. He pulled out a book with his finger and walked it over to Theomin. “This book contains the history of Eriador and all of the realms here within. Take care when handeling it.” Gildor placed a smooth cloth on Theomin’s hand. The cloth was much like silk but far smoother. He wiped Theomin’s hands before handing him the book, “This cloth is to remove any oils from your hands and fingers. No oils of man should stain the pages of our celebrated books. Keep them safe and care for them as you would a delicate piece of glass. Take the book of Arnor and let it stay in your hands for a while.” Gildor gently placed the book in Theomin’s hands. It was heavier than it looked. The binding, cover and back felt rich with age. He never felt such a book in his hands and he then realized how important the book was. “I pass this book to you in the hopes you would keep it and its contents safe.”
“I will,” Theomin said. “Thank you.”
Gildor then walked away from Theomin as he opened his own book and returned back down to the lowered level of the room. Theomin opened it as it cracked and creaked. He tried to be as careful with it as he could. The old pages were hard and stiff, slightly warped due to dampness damaging the pages. Though the pages were damaged, the contents were still beautifully preserved. The lettering was old calligraphy, not smudged or damaged by any of the wetness that had invaded its pages. He marveled at its pages and then, when he realized he took too long with the amazement he had in it, he started reading it.
Eleswith and Helesdir entered into the library of Esteldin. Among all the books, shelves, tables, and chairs was Sergee. He had passed out in his chair, slumped over with his head on one of the books. Eleswith and Helesdir snickered at the sight of Sergee and snuck over to the table he was sitting. Eleswith picked up a nearby book and walked back over to Sergee. Right next to Sergee she lifted the book high above the table. She looked at Helesdir who was nodding his head in appreciation of what she was about to do.
She let loose of the book and it almost emmediatly slammed on the table just before Sergee’s face. The slap of the book onto the desk echoed in the chamber and sent Sergee jumping up in his chair and then back down, falling backward in his chair onto the floor, hitting his head.
With a laughing apology, Eleswith knelt down next to Sergee, “We are so sorry. We had to do it.” Helesdir laughed so hard he snorted a couple of times.
Sergee, slightly embarrassed, gave a snicker. “You got me,” he said. “I had it coming I suppose.” He stood up with the help of the still laughing Eleswith as Helesdir fixed the chair that Sergee toppled over in. “It must be morning.”
“It is,” Eleswith said. “We’re ready to read.”
“This stack here is what I already read,” Sergee motioned to a stack of five books. “There are another thousand books here. It will take more than two days to search through all these books.”
“Well,” Helesdir started, “You have two extra pair of helping eyes.”
“That’s good to hear,” Sergee said. “You can start anywhere but I noticed the books about Eriador are all in the rear corner. I’m not sure if they planned it that way but that’s the way they are.”
Eleswith and Helesdir both walked to the corner and started looking through the many books in the chamber. They each chose a book and sat down facing each other and read. They both read for a while as was Sergee but they could not keep themselves from only reading. One would tap the other’s foot. It escalated to slight kicks as they were messing around with each other.
Eleswith finished with one book and moved on to another while Helesdir was still reading his. She looked just next to Helesdir as she bumped him with her hip, which forced him to fall over just a little. He shoved back with his body as they both giggled.
“What is happening over there?” Sergee asked. He could not see what was happening because they were both on the other side of the shelf of books.
“Nothing,” Eleswith said, “just a little joke.”
“Okay,” said Sergee. “We have planty of books here to scan through. A little less jesting and a little more reading is in order.”
“Of course,” Helesdir said.
Through the rest of the morning, the three continued to read while in various spots and positions: One sitting, one standing. The other standing and the others sitting. All laying on the floor reading. One sleeping the others reading. One laying on the floor and the others sitting. Two sleeping while the other was reading. All three sitting at the table or none sitting at the tables. One on the book shelves while another sat on the table and another sat on a chair.
Afternoon continued on and all three were at the table. Sergee and Helesdir were on one side while Eleswith was on the other facing Helesdir. They both peaked over their book, giggled and continued reading. They then looked on the side of their books, giggled, and continued reading. One kicked the other’s boot and the the other would do the same. Eleswith picked up a tiny pebble from the chamber floor and tossed it Heledir’s way. It hit his head as he looked up.
“What?” he said. He could hear Eleswith’s silent giggles. “Was that you?” he asked her.
“I know not what you speak of,” she answered light heartedly.
“You two,” Sergee said with frustration. “I can hardly read.”
“Sorry,” Eleswith said as they continued reading. Helesdir kicked Eleswith’s knee. Eleswith kicked Helesdir’s shin. He shrieked in pain as silently as he could. The kick was harder than Eleswith had anticipated which sent her to laugh hard but as silently as possible.
“Please, you two,” Sergee said. “What good is it to read these books when you cannot keep from playing with each other.”
“This is a lot of reading,” Eleswith finally admitted. “I have never read so much in my life. We are just getting our giggles out and then we will read.”
“How about you two get out your giggles elsewhere,” Sergee said.
“My goodness,” Eleswith said. “Like my father,” she said in a low tone as if she was a teenager. She stood up and left.
“I think we do need a few moments of time and sunlight to keep ourselves from going mad,” Helesdir said.
They both left Sergee to read the books as they went to the forecourt.
Night had fallen on the North Downs. In the chamber of Tham Giliath, only the flickering of the candlelight illuminated the chamber as Theomin was asleep on one of the swan benches. He had placed a book on his face as he slept when he was suddenly awoken by Estonethiel.
“Hmm? Yes?” Theomin said with surprise. He did not know he had fallen asleep.
“It is time to retire for the day,” she said.
Theomin yawned as he continued, “Was there anything that was found in the books?”
Estonethiel shook her head in disappointment, “None but mentions of the tunnels underneath Eriador. But to elves, some rangers and a few select dwaves, that is already known. There was no menton of any serpent in those tunnels.”
“I see,” Theomin said. “I suppose we can all work on it tomorrow.”
“I am afraid not all of us will be here,” Estonethiel said. “Gildor is leaving for Rivendell early tomorrow. You and I will still be here but that is one less aid.”
Theomin looked down, “That is too bad.”
“On a good note, your friends helped in clearing the swamp of some large sickle flies that found their way nearby. I knew their talents would not go unused.”
“I suppose that is good news,” Theomin said as they emerged from the library. Theomin stopped Estonethiel to ask, “Say that we cannot find this serpent in any books here or in Esteldin; what then?”
Estonethiel looked stone cold. She then stared seriously into Theomin’s eyes, “Then we must face the reality that in order to find this serpent, we must first face the dragon.”
“That is daft,” Teryndir said as he heard what they were saying. “We cannot face a dragon. They are beasts with no match. Fierce, horrible creatures they are. Terrible fires come from within them. Only death comes from dragons. I care not to face such a creature.”
“And yet you care to find what is hidden in the tunnels,” Estonethiel said. “You cared so much that you were willing to come on this errand and willing to place your life in the hands of your fellow companions.” Teryndir said nothing. “I know of this dragon. I know what his weaknesses are and how to stop such a terrible beast. But before we can face such a terrible foe, all anger and hatred must first be buried far below. We must all harbor complete faith in each other. Only then can we emerge from this dragon’s layer safely with all the answers we need.”
Thoemin looked long at Teryndir. He could not read Teryndir’s face but for just a moment, he saw something that he never saw in his brother before: humility. “Okay,” Teryndir said. “My faith and life is in your hands. If we cannot find what we seek in the books, then face the dragon we all shall do.”
Dusk was finally upon the North Downs. The sun was falling down below the horizon and the air began to cool. It wipped through the rift in the mountains where Esteldin stood. Sergee emerged from the library, tired and frustrated. He could not find any hint of the serpent mentioned in the riddle of the scepter. He was wondering if there was any serpent at all.
He continued along toward the forecourt and then decided to catch the last rays of the sun settling down in the west. He did not see any sign of Eleswith or Helesdir. He had wondered if they were off somewhere else eating. He actually had hoped they were reading other books someplace else. He doubted it though.
Sergee knew of a nice camp on the outskirts of the western gate of Esteldin. He decided to find a nice spot there to watch the sun fall as he approached Ferrif. He greeted the kind ranger with a smile but there was something about him that was off a little. There was a tinge of a smile in the ranger’s look, as if the ranger knew something Sergee did not. He was quite taken back by the look from the ranger that it plagued him for a while.
He continued along through the gate and ended up walking up the hill toward the camp on the local hill. What he saw took him back, much more than the ranger’s look. At first he could not fathom what he saw, then it made complete sense. There, on the edge of the hill facing the setting sun were Eleswith and Helesdir. They sat close to each other, Eleswith’s head leaned up against Helesdir’s shoulder as they just watched the sun set on the western hills. All that day he wondered what had gotten into the two of them. He then understood.