Part 118 – Northern Allies
Eleswith looked upon the hat of Helesdir. The brown, brim and base of the band were stained in dry sweat from the brow of Helesdir. The hat signified much more than just the clothing of Helesidr. It was the only material thing left over from him and Eleswith cherished it as an art collector would cherish a priceless piece of art. She kept it on a table, safe from anyone to steal it, and cared not to move it or harm it in any way.
She had to keep it in her possession though but was going away. Far up north she was going and the hat was too large to keep in any sort of bag. Her only option was to wear the hat, which she was afraid would ruin the sweet fragrance of Helesdir in his days of wearing it.
A flash came to her as she remembered him in his last few moments of life. She remembered him looking back at her and mouthing, “I love you,” to her as the door to the last room with the black sludge closed. Not much could she remember from then until they reached the village of Combe. It was like she had been in a trance those days and every voice and every move they made was just a terrible dream she wished never to return to.
She picked up the Helesdir’s hat and looked upon it as each side of it send her into memories of him. The cavern they went into, the valley of the worms in the North Downs, the lake of Nen Harn, the times she sat next to him just west of the gate of Esteldin. All those weeks she spent with him in the Lonelands. Those were memories that hurt so much to think of but did not want to stop thinking of them.
Eleswith then placed the hat on her head and almost immediately the smell of Helesdir wafted into her nostrils. It was almost as if she could feel him right there next to her. The warm and gentle embrace of his arms felt like they were wrapping around her and she could feel the chest of her former lover and hear his heart beat.
“We are prepared to depart,” Sergee’s voice came from behind and startled her. “Whenever you are ready, come to the stables by the west gate.”
Without turning, she called out to Sergee, “I’ll be there,” trying her hardest to not allow her voice to crack because of emotional turmoil she was falling into. Sergee left her alone again and she tried to get herself under control. But every time she tried to gather control, she broke down into tears. She wiped those tears away and new ones continued to gather in her eyes and fall as she tried again to wipe them away with her hands, then with her sleeves, then with her coat.
Finally, her tears stopped and she was able to gain control. She turned and wanted to leave but again the tears streamed down her face. She tried desperately to gather control but it was so difficult. She tried to purge the thought of Helesdir from her mind and think only of the task at hand. Finally, the tears stopped streaming out and she gained the control she was desperately needing.
She made it to the stables where Sergee, Eotheron and Estonethiel were standing beside their horses. Sergee noticed her face and asked, “Are you alright?”
For only a moment, she felt the push of a breakdown and a surge of tears but she managed to keep herself together as she just nodded. She feared that saying anything was going to bring out the tears she tried so desperately to avoid shedding.
“Then let’s mount up,” Sergee said. “We have a long road ahead of us and the day is getting short of light.” They mounted up as Sergee continued, “We should reach the gate of Trestlebridge by nightfall. We’ll stay there the night and by morning we should leave and make for the Kingsfell. With any luck, that dwarf should already be past Trestlebridge and be making his way toward Othrikar.”
They left the west gate of Bree and traveled up to the bridge that led to Bree-land. They turned north just before the bridge and made their way toward north on the Greenway, the one road that led from Bree to Dead Man’s Dike. It was quite green and nice. The ride felt calm, even though the ride was for a dire purpose. No cloud stained the blue sky as the sun had risen to its peak arch in the sky as midday had arrived. It felt warm, prime weather to have a long journey.
Heading north, the worksite of Thornley’s farmhouse began to pass on the left. The men working the job at the site waved to the four passing as Sergee waved back to the men. Among the men working was Thornley himself. He ran up beside the four and walked at the same pace as the horses the four were riding.
“’Tis nice to see you four journeying,” Thornley said. “But where is Magla?”
“He is staying back in Bree,” Sergee said. “He feels it is more important to aid the men and women of Bree.”
“More important than what?” Thornley asked, oblivious to what Sergee was referring to and the monumental task that was at hand.
Caught off guard, Sergee tried to come up with something to say to the farmer as Eotheron said, “Should we just say? It is important that he knows. It is nonsense why we are keeping this a secret.”
Sergee said as he and the rest of the group stopped their horses. “We are traveling north to gather allies to take back Annuminas.”
“What is the secret?” Thornley asked. “I had supposed you would do so anyway.”
Sergee looked at the others as he almost did not want to tell the rest. Eotheron and Estonethiel gave him a nod of approval to tell the farmer the rest. “It is not just the retaking of Annuminas,” he finally said. “We are preventing a much more powerful being from being summoned by those dark forces that occupy Annuminas.”
“Now who would be summoned?” the farmer asked with a laugh, “Sauron himself?”
“A much worse being,” Estonethiel said. “He is the meaning of evil. In ancient times he was the harbinger of death. His allies, the dragons, orcs, Balrogs and other creatures overran Middle Earth. In ruins Eriador would be if this being was to be summoned.” Thornley stopped laughing as his mouth dropped with fear growing in his eyes as Estonethiel explained who Morgothh was. “That is why we need to recruit as many as we can. To prevent that terrible thing from coming to this land.”
“Magla feels aiding Bree is more important than stopping this creature from coming to this land?” Thornley asked. “What good is helping Bree if it will be destroyed by such a creature anyway? We must stand with you and with your ally.”
“Such a decision is up to Magla,” Sergee said. “Not up to us. He believes, and rightly so, that Bree has been through too much in the past to be brought to another war. He believes that Bree needs help, not another fight brought to a war weary town. He wants to give Bree a chance to heal from its many wounds. Perhaps it is then that Bree can aid us in battle.”
“I don’t agree with this,” Thornley said, “but I can respect Magla’s decision. But if anything happens and you don’t succeed, I feel we may not be ready for a powerfully evil creature.”
“I feel none in Eriador, or perhaps all of Middle Earth, would be ready for such a terrible creature to come,” Estonethiel said.
“Then may luck be on your side,” Thornley said. “May you find your allies, as many as you can possibly get.”
“Thank you,” Sergee said. “We hope that too.” He pushed his horse on, “Good day.”
They continued along the road as Thornley waved goodbye on the road behind them. Trouble was in his face as he watched them leave. The last they saw of him, he had his head hung down as fear seemed to grip him just before he moved on to his men in the farm.
“Are you sure it was right to tell him?” Eleswith asked. “We unnecessarily brought fear into that man’s heart.”
“It was inevitable,” Estonethiel said. “If we are to tell all of the North Downs, do you assume news would not travel down to Bree? They will find out, and they will curse us for keeping word from them. It was best to tell him so they may prepare for the worst. Who knows, maybe news will travel to Bree and then Magla would then come to our aid. If we could not convince Magla to aid us, maybe the ones he is trying to protect will convince him.”
“I hope you’re right,” Sergee said. “I hate to be the blame for any rash decision by the people of Bree.”
“I do not see that happening,” Estonethiel said. “Magla made a wise decision as did we. Make the ones who were oppressed be the ones to want to go to war. Magla did not want to be the one to force his people to fight. Let it come from his people.”
The four, though the day and into the evening, traveled up the Greenway, past the Everclear Lake and the small Greenway Fort. They passed the road to Hengstacer’s farm that continued up into the hills east of them and then began the incline up the road that lead through the small valley that pushed up north to the boarder of Breeland and the North Downs. Pine trees began to line the road to the east and west just at the foots of the road and the hills that loomed over the road.
The road reminded Eleswith of the night she and Theomin took that road after they broke away from the imprisonment of Gerald in Bree. Such a long time ago that was, the feel of which felt like years ago because of all that had happened to her and Theomin. Such a terrible time it was but was the feel of a new beginning. She dwelt on that feeling so deeply that she lost track of time. Before she knew it, they had reached the summit of the hill. Down, a little further from the summit of the hill, rose the outer wall of the village of Trestlebridge.
The outer wall was manned by two armed guards who bore shields and spears. The lamps that stood beside just feet from the wall burned brightly, illuminating the two men, the wall, and the small guard house that sat beside the gate. The two guards did not seem to recognize the four as they approached the gate.
“Halt,” one of the guards yelled to the four. “Who goes there and what business have you with Trestlebride? Staying or passing through?”
“We are staying,” Sergee said, “but one has business with Trestlebridge while the rest of us are passing through the next morning.”
“If you cannot remember us,” Eleswith said, “ask Nora if she remembers us.”
“Nora?” one of the guards asked. “The little girl of Anne?”
“Yes,” Eleswith said. “If you can find her, bring her here and ask her if she remembers me.”
“But ma’am,” the guard said. “Nora…” he paused as Eleswith’s heart began to fall. “Nora has gone missing again.”
“No,” Eleswith whispered but almost cried out.
“Yes, ma’am,” the guard said. “I believe she is yet another victim of the fields.”
“We will go find her,” Sergee said.
“No,” Eleswith said. “You have business in the east.” She looked at the guards and then at her mates. “Go find aid. You must not linger here. The mission is more important than rest. You must take to your horses as fast as you can and call for aid. I will remain here and find Nora.”
“But my lady,” the other guard said, “We believe her to be in the Fields of Fornost.”
“I know,” Eleswith said already knowing. “That was where we found her before and I believe her to be there again.”
“How do you know she is there?” asked Eotheron.
“I can feel it,” Eleswith said. “I cannot explain it, but my heart tells me she is there. I will find her and bring her back.”
“Then may the luck of the Valar go with you,” the guard said. “Her mother should be with the apothecary. She had to be put to sleep for a while because of the panic she has had. If she is awake, she would like to know you are going to search for her.”
“I will find her,” Eleswith said as she looked at the other three in her group. “Good luck on your search for aid.”
“Good luck on your search for the little girl,” Eotheron said.
“Are you sure you care not for our help?” Sergee asked.
“I know I don’t,” Eleswith said. “I feel this is what I need to do. Only then can I secure aid from the town.”
“Then may luck go with you,” Sergee said.
“Be wary, though,” Estonethiel said. “Fornost is a haunted place. Do not journey there or you may fall and be counted amongst the dead and lost in Dead Man’s Dike.”
The rest of the company continued through the gates and through the town of Trestlebridge as Eleswith followed behind them. She saw the many tearful faces as they watched the three before her journey past them and onto the bridge. “Will you help us?” they asked her three companions as they reached out to them. Sergee, Eotheron and Estonethiel just looked at the men and women of the town but did not stop. The people of the town just looked upon them with tearful eyes, desperate for any help. “Please help us,” they said as they watched what seemed like their last hope leaving the town. They then looked back at Eleswith and with more tearful moans, they came to her.
She dismounted as they walked desperately to Eleswith. “Please, help us,” they said. “Please, we beg you. We throw ourselves upon you to help us.”
“I will,” she said. “Take me to Anne.”
“But she is asleep,” one of the towns people said. “She was put to sleep by the apothecary because of her terrible cries.”
“She and others who lost their family members have had a similar fate than Anne,” one said behind everybody. It was Nellie Boskins. “We lost maybe ten to those fields and it only seems to be getting worse,” Nellie said. “You should not have allowed your friends to leave like that.”
“I alone will do it,” Eleswith said.
“Then your confidence will be your undoing,” Nellie said. “You will go into those fields and will be counted amongst those missing.”
“No, I won’t,” Eleswith said. “I will find them and I will bring them back.”
“I will not keep you from doing this,” Nellie said, “I remember you from way back when. You brought Nora back from the fields. I thank you for that but I cannot expect you to bring her back again. She has been gone far too long. But by all means, go to the fields. Go there and never return for that is your fate. Go there, be the hero you think you are.”
“And if I return with Nora, will you aid me,” Eleswith asked.
Not believing what Eleswith said, Nellie shook her head and then just gave a shrug, “I cannot believe you would return from that forsaken place, but if you do we will aid you in whatever you need.”
“Then you will,” Eleswith said. “I will go there, I will find Nora and bring her back here. Take me at my word.” She then looked toward the bridge of Trestlebridge, and then mounted her horse. “I will soon return,” she said. She then road her horse as the rest of the citizens of the town watched in fear but with hope.
She then crossed the bridge and looked back at the city when, suddenly from the fields she heard a strange voice. It was a voice calling for her but she could not believe what she was hearing. From the north, toward the Fields of Fornost and Dead Man’s Dike, she heard a voice call for her. It was the voice of Helesdir.