Part 96 – Awakenings
Noon approached the compound of Esteldin. The rangers had been busy with their many tasks as they had been day after day. By this time, some took to practicing their fensing skills in a group as their masters looked on. Others took to their bows and shot at targets that stood beside the Library of Esteldin.
It was warm in the North Downs. Heat seemed to creep its way into the valleys and dales of the lands. Clear skies there were with only a few clouds adrift, floating eastward by the trail of the winds high in the sky. The sun beat down on the lands as some other rangers took to their stools and patted cloths in buckets of water and placed them on their brows for comforting cool. Others just dabbed the sweat off with their brows with their sleaves as they continued working, swordplay or shooting at their targets.
Among the rangers were Theomin, Magla, Eotheron and Helesdir, who was waiting impatiently for Estonethiel to emerge from where Eleswith was being held. Teryndir sat outside of the Esteldin library, waiting patiently but staying away from Helesdir, for his anger was frightening. He did, though, have a concern for Eleswith’s well being, though he knew she would not take to Teryndir very kindly.
Theomin stood there waiting for the perfect time to explain what he found on the map but wanted the perfect time to tell the whole group. He wanted not for the excitement of Eleswith’s return to be marred. It was exciting to see her again, especially for Helesdir who believed she was dead and just gave up hope.
“My goodness it’s a warm day,” Helesdir said as he removed his hat and wiped his brow. It seemed his spirits were lifted with the return of Eleswith, though he had not a chance to talk with her. “Much hotter a day than I can remember in the Lone Lands. Don’t you agree, Magla?” Magla only shook his head in agreement. “Once again, my friend, you speak too much.”
“You have not felt the heat of Rohan,” Eotheron said. “Much hotter and sweat almost pours from your brow.”
“You have to be joking,” Helesdir said. “No amount of heat does that to a person.”
“It is not the heat,” Eotheron said. “It is how wet and sticky that heat is. The humidity is what drives it to be so hot. It is almost like it pulls the moisture from your body and dumps it on the ground.” He looked at Theomin, “Do you not agree, friend?”
Theomin looked up as if being distracted from something. He looked at his friends waiting for him to answer. He was not listening to the conversation being had. He only looked at them and with a quess he just said, “Yes?”
“What is the matter, Thoemin?” Eotheron said. “Since you returned with your friend from Dale you seemed a little distracted.”
“A little?” Helesdir said, “He has not spoken since he returned.”
“I have had something on my mind,” Theomin said. “I do not want it to distract the return of Eleswith. This is her moment.”
“Might as well tell us,” Eotheron said. “We are waiting for your elf friend to tell us how she is doing.”
Theomin sighed. He looked at the others with excitement but a little bit of trepidation. Finally, he spoke up, “Before I saw Eleswith, I took the map to the eastern pass to Esteldin. There, I pondered the meaning of the serpent and tried to tie in what Naglangon said about it being a series of tunnels. I knew if there were tunnels, there had to be an enterance. But where was it?” He looked at his friends as they looked at him with anticipation.
“So where is the entrance?” Helesdir asked.
“While placing the picture of the serpent above the map of Eriador and look at both maps using light in the background, I am able to see both together. The entrance to the serpent tunnels is the hill of Weathertop.”
“In the Lone Lands?” Helesdir asked with shock.
“Yes,” Theomin said. “The entrance is somewhere in or near the tower of Weathertop.”
“Impossible,” Magla said. “I have been all around that ruin. Tis nothing there but old stone and ruins. No entrance is visible there.”
“I remember it said something saying the words to open the door. I believe it is not seen,” Theomin said. “In addition to the map, I have also had two dreams that related to the tower of Weathertop. In that tower, a dragon not unlike Nanglengon, was flying toward it. I also remember something in the riddle about a tail of seeing eye, though I am not sure what that refers to.”
“It means the Palantir,” Estonethiel approached the group.
“Estonethiel!” Helesdir was excited. “What…how is Eleswith?” he said stammering with excitement.
“She is resting. She has lost a lot of weight and is dehydrated. She seemed to land in some sludge on the bottom of the valley. The sludge was, in my opinion, the waist of the drakes and worms there in the valley. So I gave her a draught of disease just in case she caught some bug. She is resting now in the but I have felt no perminant damage. Her legs will mend soon. She says a giant drake fell on top of her. I’m wondering if it was Nanglangon.”
“We saw a drake nearby a small pond,” Helesdir said. “Did we really pass by that pond and not see her?”
“Worry not, Helesdir,” Eotheron said. “I did not see her either.”
“Going back to what you said, Theomin,” Estonethiel said, “That ‘seeing eye’ refers to the Palantir. The ruins of Weathertop is also called the Watchtower of Amon Sul. There was kept a seeing stone that is opened up to other seeing stones, the Palantir. After the fall of Arnor, there was the point where all three other realms that spawned from Arnor connected: Arthadain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur. It makes sense that a door such as that would open at such an important junction of realms.”
“Then that is where the entrance to the serpent tunnels are,” Helesdir said. “It was right there in our own land,” he said to Magla who nodded in amazement.
“So what do we do now?” Theomin asked. “At last, we have our answer. We now know where the serpent tunnels are. They are so close.” He looked at the others who in turn looked at each other. None seemed to want to say anything.
“Theomin, this may just be a fool’s errand,” Helesdir said at last. “We know where the entrance is, yes, but we know nothing about how to get inside or what is in there if we do open the doors.”
“We can figure that out when we get there,” Theomin said with positivity.
“And who do we ask? Another dragon? From what I remember, looking for an answer proved ill for our group,” Helesdir objected.
“We will not need to seek a dragon or in Nanglangon’s case, a drake. We know where it is. It is not in a particularly rough part of the Lone Lands. We can rest in one of your ruins at night. We have all the time we need. We are going to your homeland, Helesdir. You know all the places we can rest. You know all the people who can help. Please, do not abandon our company. Not when we have been through so much together.” He paused for a moment to allow that to sink in when he thought of another argument. “Besides, yesterday I asked you what it would take for you to stay. You told me the return of Eleswith. Do you remember that?” Helesdir nodded slightly.
“I must think on the matter,” Helesdir said. “If I may,” he looked at Estonethiel, “I would like to see Eleswith now.
Estonethiel gave a slight nod allowing him to go, “Just do not disturb her. She needs her rest. She has been through much in the last few days.”
Helesdir left toward where Eleswith was kept. Theomin looked at the remaining warriors that accompanied him. “I hope I have your support, Magla,” he said. “If Helesdir was to return home and not accompany us there, would you still come with us?”
“Tis a complicated matter, Theomin, and I doubt I can say without much thought behind my answer. On the one hand he is a bitter man, and for good reason. Teryndir is still part of our group. I have no trust in that man, much like Helesdir. I also have guilt.”
“Guilt for what?” Eotheron asked.
“I have guilt for leaving him in the Valley of the Worms while I trotted off with Theomin toward the exit. He is my best friend and I felt I betrayed his friendship since then. I have not felt we have the same relationship we had before then.
“On the other hand I feel an obligation to provide aid for this fellowship. Again, I feel I let down the fellowship by my cowardace when confronting that drake. I want to prove myself again to you and this fellowship. I want to prove myself again to me. No other time have I slinked back in fear. I did so in the valley and will prove to never do that again.” Magla stopped in deep though. “So you see, it is not just a simple answer. If I go I will betray the group. If I stay with the group, I betray Helesdir. I want not to do that. My only hope lies with Helesdir.”
“No,” Estonethiel said. “Helesdir’s heart lies with Eleswith. If anything, that decision lies with her as he will follow her to the ends of the earth.”
“Eleswith,” Helesdir whispered gently to Eleswith. He removed his hat as he sat down next to her with as much silence as he could. She slept very soundly and calmly. He looked at her as he smiled such a caring smile that he almost wept. “I felt you would never return. I’m sorry I never came to you. I tried, Eleswith, I tried. I went after you. When everone else escaped from the valley I stayed. I went after you and could not find you. And I cried for you. I cried for I felt so alone. I knew not what to do. I faught with Magla. I faught with Teryndir. It was Teryndir’s doing. He left us at the most cruitial moment. He abandoned us. Theomin says that he can be trusted but I have not an ounce of trust in such a dishonorable man. I wish only death upon him.”
Helesdir frowned and said, “I’m sorry. I mean not to bring so much hate like that to you. I missed you so much and have had not but feelings of because of what they did contempt to you. I tried to do what you did for Freidrich. I tried to just believe you were dead and move on. I could not. I had not as strong a will as you have. I care too much for you because…,” he paused. He had not said he loved her before and almost did not want to say it because she would not hear it. She had not said it to him before but he felt such a strong feeling for her that he had to. “…because I love you, Eleswith. I cannot stop myself from saying that or feeling that. I just have to.” He laughed for a moment. “I never told you about the day you left with Theomin. You left the company with Theomin and a few days after I could not do anything. I spent hours obsessing over those times I spent with you; the talk we shared when we first met; the time we spent teasing each other over the smallest of things. All that time, I looked into your eyes, I smelled your hair, I obsessed over your presence. So many nights we spent coming back from raiding orc camps and for those brief moments, I remember stairing up at the rising moon and looking upon you and how your skin had that gentle glow about it. Those times were the most precious to me and then suddenly I didn’t have them. Though you tried to play like you had a rough exterior, I could see your vulnerabilities. I dove into them and tried to show you that there was a person out there who cared deeply for you, especialy your vulnerabilities because that was what made you more human to me. Though I cared deeply for you, the rest of the group could see how much your attitude was affecting me. They decided to let you go and sent me to have you part ways. To me, you were always welcome. That was why I felt I had no purpose after you left. Sergee took the role of the leader and did a good job at it. I acquiesced my authaurity to him. Magla was fine with that as Sergee was a fine leader. I knew he was a ranger and was proud to have him aiding us.” He looked off in the distance as if his stair was a thousand miles, “A fine leader he was. My hope is that he will continue to be a fine leader.”
Helesdir layed his head next to Eleswith. He closed his eyes as he began to drift off with contentment in his heart, “Thank you for returning to me. Thank you,” he said as he slowly drifted off to sleep next to Eleswith.
It was late afternoon when Estonethiel walked into the dorm where Sergee slept. She sat down next to him and ran her fingers through his hair. He seemed to be slightly awake, but did not open his eyes. She removed some poultice and slowly and gently slathered it on Sergee’s face. It seemed to be doing some good and the infection, that seemed to give be terrible, was going away.
She ran her hands on the tunic that Theomin provided. The cloth of the white stag was smooth but a little rough. It was stitched together thoughfully with each piece loosly overlapping the stitched portion from neck to foot. It was very well crafted. She was impressed and saw it worked well for Sergee’s body. It had almost completely healed from the burning, though it was not too badly damaged in the first place.
Again, Estonethiel cast her hands through Sergee’s hair and gave a smile. “I have thought much of what has happened over the past few days,” she whispered to Sergee as he lay there. “Very fond I have grown of you of late, very fond indeed. I could see Helesdir’s love of Eleswith and feel I have that same feeling for you, though I do not want the rest to see it. I know it is not a feeling I should have for man. Man is mortal. I am not. But I feel my heart beating so fast when I am around and I cannot stop the feeling. Though you are asleep, I am nervous every time I step into the room. I only wish you could share the same feeling I do. But how could you? You sleep so soundly you cannot hear.”
“But I hear everything,” Sergee suddenly said.
“Sergee!” she sprung from her chair.
Sergee grabbed her hand and continued, “Every word I heard.”
Estonethiel sat down again next ot Sergee, “Then you heard what I had to say about how I feel?”
“Every word,” he said as he smiled and sat up. “I must tell you that there were times I pretended to sleep while you spoke to me. Though the pain was a little too much to bear, I still stayed awake to listen to you. Your soft voice and care soothed my pain in the hours when I most needed it. When you hummed your beautiful songs, it brought peace to my heart and even though I had no concoction to help sleep, your songs aided me to sleep.”
Estonethiel gave a tender smile. She then moved away as she wanted to tell Sergee all that transpired. “Much has happened to our group since our return. I am not sure what you know or do not know.”
“I know of Theomin’s friend from Rohan,” Sergee said. “I was drifting in and out of sleep during that time. I know Helesdir wants to return home to the Lone Lands. I do not know much else.”
“Back in the valley, when you were badly hurt by the drake’s fire, I was blinded. I am not sure you knew that. Theomin’s friend brought Helesdir back but not Eleswith. She came back on her own but in a bad way. She was starved and dehydrated. She was also injured terribly. Theomin went looking for Teryndir but wound up in the orc valley of Nan Wathren. He returned from there with Teryndir but Teryndir suffered poisoning.”
“Is Teryndir all right?” Sergee asked.
Estonethiel smiled sincerely, “You still believe in your brother, don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” Sergee said. “I know he has not done right by any of us, especially when he abandoned us when Nanglengon was upon us, but I can see he is struggling on the inside. He cannot choose between his former life and what he has now. He is confused.”
“Well he might not be confused anymore,” Estonethiel said. “Theomin said Teryndir freed him from the orc valley. Since then, I have seen a change in Teryndir. A weight has been placed on his shoulders as if he has taken himself to task for all of the hardships he put his friends and family through. I believe he has changed.”
“Let me see him,” Sergee said.
“I believe you need more rest…” Estonethiel was cut off.
“Let me see Teryndir. I need to see him.” Sergee had a fire in his eyes. He was seriously needing to see his brother.
“Okay, I will bring him to you,” Estonethiel said.
Soon, Estonethiel came with Teryndir but others followed: Magla, Theomin and a new face to Sergee, Eotheron. Sergee furrowed his brow when he saw Eotheron come in to the room. “Who is this?” he asked nodding to Eotheron.
“Sergee,” Theomin said, “I would like to introduce you to Eotheron. He is my friend from Rohan.”
“Rohan?” Sergee said with disbelief. “How is it this man came to Eriador?”
“He followed Theomin,” Magla said.
“He has been that mystery person in black we saw a few times in Evendim,” Theomin said.
“So, this is the man of mystery we were wondering about all this time. And all the entire time it was a friend of Theomin’s,” Sergee smiled. “Rohan is a realm of many stalwart men, Theomin.” He looked around, “Where is Helesdir?”
Magla spoke up, “He is with Eleswith. She is resting after her ordeal in the valley.”
“It looks like we took a hard hit,” Sergee looked at Teryndir. “If I can,” he looked at the rest of the group, “I would like to speak with my brothers.”
Estonethiel looked to the rest of the men, “Okay, gentlemen, let them have their talk. Let us leave them be.” She brought them outside as the Theomin, Teryndir and Sergee stayed.
Sergee gave Teryndir a long sturn look. He sighed with disappointment seething through his being before he spoke. “I was your advocate for a long time, Teryndir,” he finally said. “For much of the time in Esteldin to the retaking of Annuminus and even after I was your ally. I was the person who apologized for you and your behavior and even believed in you that your attitude would change.” Theomin tried to interject when Sergee hushed him down, “Ah, let me finish, Theomin.” Theomin quited down as Sergee continued. “After you abandoned the company horrible things happened to everyone. I, as you know, was set on fire and suffered terrible burns, some of which still are horrible. Estonethiel lost her sight. Eleswith went missing and could have died. Same with Helesdir, though his wounds were much less severe than Eleswith’s. Through your actions, you tore this company apart and damaged it beyond repair. I know that Helesdir does not trust you. When Eleswith awakens, she would not share trust in you. I know not whether our new friend from Rohan trusts you. I know not if Magla trusts you. I fear he would stay on the side of Helesdir and remain doubtful in you.” He looked sadly at Teryndir, “As will I. I cannot find myself trusting you. Not after what you have done. You took my trust in you away from me. That was you doing that.”
Teryndir looked down with shame. “Is there any way I can earn that trust back?”
“I am not sure,” Sergee said.
“He has earned my trust. I know he had not an ounce of trust from me before a few days ago. But I now feel he has mine. What he showed me in the orc valley I never expected to see from him. It may take some time, Sergee, but I believe we can trust him.”
“I hope you’re right, Theomin,” Sergee said with some doubt in his voice.
Suddenly Eleswith burst through the doors. She looked straight at Terynidir and marched over with him with fists ready. As she walked she angrily punched him in the face. Theomin held her back as she yelled to him, “Let me go!” She tried to push forward further as Theomin tried to hold her back. Nobody else held her back as Teryndir rose up again. He did nothing but wiped the blood that started running from his nose. “Let me go!” she yelled again at Theomin. His grip could not hold her back and she kicked him atop Sergee. Sergee moaned in pain and that was when Eleswith was held back by Estonethiel and Magla