Part 127 – The Cold Winds Blow
The morning was bright and busy were the workers all about. Waving goodbye to the travelers heading out was Herion. The travelers were the Warriors of Eriador and it was the day they departed from Annuminas. As they departed, Herion waved goodbye as he had a sudden feeling of the weight of the entire city of Annuminas on his shoulders. What a great and heavy burden it felt to him as he turned back to his people who waited for him at the other end of the bridge.
“It looks as though we have quite the burden on us,” Herion said. “Seeing as how we have the aid of Ost Forod providing us with food, we need not spend as much time out hunting.”
“You like not to hunt, do you?” Ferion said to his friend.
“I like not leaving the safety of the city,” Herion said. “Only a few weeks ago, there used to be six of us hunting for Annuminas. Then only Theomin, Eleswith and I. Now, there is only me. Taidir’s death is still fresh on my mind.”
“Perhaps having some slices of those sweet pieces of bread will calm your heart,” Ferion suggested.
“I have not the feeling of eating,” Herion said. “I feel the weight of the whole city on me.”
“It is all our burden,” Ferion said. “But that was not really the reason I wanted to have that sweet bread.” Ferion smiled with a smirk, “You know who I’d like you to see.”
“Of course,” Herion said. “She is quite the sweet rose in a hot desert, is she not?”
“Yes, she is,” Ferion agreed. They walked toward the kitchen as they continued talking, “I have seen the way you look at her. I see you have more of an affection toward her than do I.”
“Now, why would you say that?” Herion asked as they arrived at the kitchen and Herion saw the object of his affection.
“Tis that look that I am talking about,” Ferion said. “It takes not an expert in love to see that you have some for her.”
“I care not for her,” Herion whispered in a wistful voice as he stared at her.
“Are you sure?” Ferion asked. “I have held my finger at the side of your head and you knew not that I was holding it to you.”
Herion looked over at Ferion’s finger and indeed it was there, pointed at him. Herion pushed Ferion away playfully as said, “Why did you do that?”
Ariel turned and looked at the two with a smile. Herion and Farion turned in embarrassment as they tried to play like they were not even talking about her, “So, uh…those boxes of…uh…many are coming in two days.”
“Yes,” Ferion said. “Boxes…two days…and stuff.”
They turned and left the kitchen.
Over the next week, Herion continued to go to the kitchen. Each time, he would go to Ariel to receive his meals. They would exchange glances and smile but not once did Herion show any sort of affection, other than his face turning red as he looked at Ariel. She just smiled gave Herion his food.
The city of Annuminas continued to improve as the mess of the ruins of the city was continually cleaned up by the wardens of Annuminas. Herion was involved in most of the clean up as was Thavron, the warden who was appointed by Theomin and Sergee. They finished cleaning the upper reaches of the city and wanted to work on the middle level.
Every now and again, Nethdir, who oversaw the guards of the city, would ask how the guards were doing. His management style was a far cry from Teryndir’s, which Herion was glad of. On numerous occasions, Herion would tell Nethdir that he was a much better master guard than Teryndir.
“I saw what the guards needed as Teryndir was the head of the guards,” Nethdir said. “This brings much more comradery within the guards and promotes better ones.”
“You know that cannot happen,” the young warden said. “Teryndir is the one of the Marshells and therefore is bound to this position. This is only temporary.”
“It is,” Herion said. “Perhaps there is another way you can stay on as master of the guard. Maybe make the Marshell’s position only a ceremonial position. The guards are so much happier with you as their head.”
“I appreciate that,” Nethdir said. “Perhaps that is something we can discuss when they arrive back here.” He paused and then asked, “Did they tell you how long they would be away?”
“They didn’t,” Herion said. “I know not if they even knew. They were in such a rush to leave, I doubt they spent time talking about how long they would be gone or where they were off to.”
The week passed and Herion and Ferion continued their duties in Annuminas. Each day, three times, Herion would receive his food from Ariel, each time blushing as he received his food from her and left. Ferion always asked when he would talk to her. He wanted to not tell him as he was too embarrassed to even speak with her.
“Come now,” Ferion said. “You faced greater dangers than talking to a girl. You fought to gain control of Annuminas. You battled your way through a huge horde of orcs up there in the ruins, at least by your account it was a huge horde. Why not talk with a girl?”
“I know not,” Herion said. “When I am away I feel the confidence to speak with her. I want to know how her day is going and about her family. I want to know about her likes and dislikes. I want to know where she enjoys being when she is not serving food to us. I want to ask: ‘Do you want to go to the hills and feel the soft grasses all the hills of Evendim.’ I know I want to talk to her and talk to her as soon as I see her. I have dreams of being a suave man and speaking to her as if I had not a care in the world. But when I see her, all of that leaves my head and I fear I may say something ridiculous or drool when I speak to her. So, I just smile and turn, then I kick myself later when I don’t say anything.”
“You need help, my friend,” Ferion said. “Come, let’s go back to her.”
“No,” Herion said but it was too late, Ferion was already pulling him by the hanging leather on his shoulders.
“You need to speak with her. If you are not, I’ll speak with her,” Ferion said.
“You would not dare,” Herion said flabbergasted.
“Well if you don’t, it’s a shame to let that beauty go to waste,” Ferion said. He pulled Herion all the way back to the kitchen. “Now, go,” Ferion said. “Go on. Talk with her.”
He saw Ariel handing out food to others. She smiled at them just like she had done time and again. It was as if he was no different than any other person. He approached her as she continued working. Each step felt like a step further to his doom. Each time he walked closer, he felt like his legs were about to collapse. A sudden shove from Ferion drove him closer to Ariel and she noticed him. Herion just waved and smiled nervously. She gave him a smile and a wave. “Don’t be a dumb goof, don’t be a dumb goof, don’t be a dumb goof,” he continued to repeat to himself as he came closer and closer to her. Finally, he was at her table but instead of speaking with her, he just nervously smiled as she noticed and furrowed her brow. She had not a clue what he was doing.
“Are you okay, Harion?” she asked. He just nodded nervously. “Haven’t you already received your food from me today?” Herion did not know how to respond to that. He just slightly nodded. “I have a question,” she said as Herion waited in anticipation. “Why do you always come to me for food but not anyone else? You know there are others you can go to get food, right?” Heroin looked over. There had to be five others who were dealing food to the other wardens.
“Oh, right,” Herion said still too nervous to say why he always went to her. “I’ll just do that then.” He turned so embarrassed that he could not think of what just happened. Ferion looked disappointed as he wanted to see something from Herion, some kind of solution to Herion’s relationship woes.
“But that’s okay,” Ariel said as Herion began to leave. “You can continue to come to me for food if you’d like.”
Herion turned. He looked at her as if a door had been opened and fear began to unravel, revealing a slight bit of confidence. “Do you…” he began to say but did not know why he stopped. He had it all the words planned out in his head. “Do you want to go to the hills and feel the soft grasses,” Was what he wanted to say. But it came out as, “Want to lay your grass hills and feel it?”
“Excuse me?” she asked, confused.
“Wait,” Herion said stunned. “How…?” he could not think of why the words came out like that. “I mean, do you want to go to the hills with me?”
“Yes,” she said with a smile.
Saddened, Herion turned as he expected to be turned down. “I underst…” it began to come to him that she said yes. “You said yes?” he asked. She just nodded. “Okay. We can go. In the night. Err, evening. When sun go down,” he said as he did not know what to say.
“Okay,” she said with a smile.
“Okay,” Herion said.
“Okay,” she said to end the conversation.
“Okay,” Herion said.
“Okay,” she motioned to the others waiting for food.
“Oh,” Herion smiled and giggled like a little boy. “Okay.” He left and smiled over at Ferion. Ferion only looked like a nervous wreck as he watched the entire conversation, on the edge of insanity.
“My goodness, Herion,” Ferion said. “You’re going to make me a nervous wreck.”
That evening, Herion came the kitchen but she was not there. For a moment, he panicked when he did not see her serving. Did she just leave so she did not want to see Herion anymore? He stepped back and was about to leave in a hurry. He turned and almost cried as he ran into Ariel. “Sorry…” he saw her. She was dressed in a very nice dress blue dress as if she was there for a party. Her face was made up with her hair down and combed. “You’re,” he said with gladness, “You’re Ariel,” he said with glee but had nothing else to say as he was both surprised and wordless.
“Yes, I am Ariel,” she said as she smiled from Herion’s apparent flushed look.
“Hill?” was all Herion could say, hoping she knew what he was speaking of.
“Of course,” she said.
The two walked the common way through the bottom level of the city and headed toward the path that lead up into the local hills. They continued up the path as they did not speak at all. Herion did not know what to say, even if he had all of the questions in his head. He just did not know how to start asking questions.
Half way up the hill, Ariel asked, “How much further?”
“We’re close,” Herion said.
As they approached the local ruins, Herion parted from the path and lead them over to the closest ruins that overlooked the city of Annuminas. He knew he want to bring her there because it was a beautiful sight.
Finally, he had enough gumption to speak, “I wanted to bring you here so I could see two beautiful things.”
“Thank you?” Ariel said but knew not how to take that.
“I’m sorry, that sounded bad,” Herion said.
“Yes, it did. And a little creepy,” Ariel said with a nervous smile. “I’m glad you realize that.”
“I’m so sorry,” Herion said as he did not know he sounded creepy. “I’ve been nervous to actually meet you. I have wanted to talk with you for a long time but never knew what to say,” Herion admitted.
“That’s okay,” she said. “I’ve seen the way you look at me. Since we had Annuminas, I’ve seen you looking fondly at me and just waited for you to say something.”
“Why did you not tell me you noticed?” he asked.
“I wanted to see how long it took you to say something,” she said. “It took much longer than I had imagined. Almost a month longer it’s been. But that’s okay.”
“I’ve been wanting to know you a little bit more,” he finally said. “I’ve just been too nervous to ask.”
“What would you like to know?” she asked.
So, the rest of the evening, the two told about each other, Annuminas and Esteldin. They spoke about their families and what they enjoyed doing. Together, they both admitted they enjoyed the sweet bread they received from Ost Forod and they were very happy to learn they had both roamed all over the North Downs. They both talked about the retaking of Annuminas and talked about the horrors of Teryndir. Neither of them liked Teryndir very much and Herion explained that Teryndir made Herion’s job much more difficult. There both were glad Teryndir left.
By the time the moon rose to the peak of its arch, they both left the hill and continued down toward Annuminas. The night was a success, in Herion’s standards. They were glad to speak with each other and Herion and Ariel decided to have the same evening up in the ruins in the hill the next night.
Over the next two weeks, Herion and Ariel became closer with each other. They began to hold hands, eat supper together, and Herion introduced Ariel to Ferion. “A funny and curious person that Ferion,” she said as they were up on the ruins overlooking the city again.
“Yes, and he almost has the name that I have. Except his name starts with an ‘F’ and mine starts with an ‘H’” Herion said with excitement.
“I’ve had a dream maybe three times,” he said. “It’s disturbing,” he said.
“What dream have you had?” she asked.
“A dragon was flying overhead,” Herion said. “I watch it from the top of the city, on Tyl Annun. I watch as it circles above as other enemies come into view. A troll there is and a whole army of orcs and men from Angmar there were. Then, the dragon lands at the edge of the cliff and breathes a breath of fire at me. That is when I wake up and know not the rest of what happens.”
“My goodness,” Ariel said. “Since when have you had that dream?”
“Since my encounter up in the ruins in the hills where we battled the orcs I have had that dream,” Herion admitted. “Last night was the last one I had.”
“Worry not,” she said. “Dreams are only that, a dream. No harm can come to you,” she said. “Here,” she pulled out sweet bread. “I snuck this from one of the boxes of goods from Ost Forod.”
“Thank you,” Herion said as he happily took the food. They bit into their food and happily shared a moment of joy with each other. It was about then that a curious cool wind blew in from the north. Very odd that was as it had been getting warmer the closer they were coming to summer.
“That is very odd,” Ariel said as she wanted to bundle up. Herion wrapped his cloak around Ariel.
“This is a very curious cool wind that is blowing,” Herion said. “Maybe we should end our evening early this night.”
“Good idea,” Ariel said.
Over the next two days, the air around Evendim became colder and colder. The sun was vailed behind dark clouds that came in from Forochel. Such a frost was about in the air that even a warm campfire was not enough to keep warm. The wardens needed to huddle up along with each other, and come as close to the fires as they could. They almost knew something was afoot and as a result Nethdir doubled the guards at each of the entrances of the city.
“A foul breath is coming from the north,” Nethdir said to Herion.
“I have felt it for two days now,” Herion said. “It is an air of evil that is coming. I hope Thoemin and the rest return to the city. We really need them now.”
“Yes,” Nethdir said, “Even Teryndir would be a welcome sight.”
With the slight feel of a jest, Herion chuckled a bit. “Yes, he too would be a welcome sight.”
The day decayed into darkness earlier, way earlier than usual as the clouds were only increasing and the cold air was bighting at the wardens of Annuminas. Herion needed to see Ariel again and so quickly went to her at the kitchen.
“Herion,” she happily said as she saw him coming. “What brings you here? Food isn’t ready yet.”
“I just needed to see you,” Herion said. He then looked with fear at her as she saw that fear in his eyes, “In fact, I needed to see you about this queer weather we’ve been having. If anything happens here in the city…”
“If anything happens,” he insisted, “and you had the ability to escape, we’ll meet at our overlook,” Herion said. “Please, be safe. Hide if you can.” He began to leave.
“Wait,” Ariel said. “Where are you going?”
“I am on guard ,” Herion said. “Nethdir is employing as many wardens as he can. He feels not safe with this odd cold in the air.”
Ariel just nodded in agreement but with a meloncaly look. Herion began to leave, when she called for him, “Herion,” she said, “be safe.” They both embrassed and kissed.
Herion feared it might be their last kiss as he parted from Ariel. His eyes began to moisten and he felt weaker the further he went from her. He felt the duty to leave and to join the guard at the eastern gate. The sense of dread poured over him as he saw others with a similar feeling all around him. He finally joined his companions and hoped to see Ferion there. Herion knew that Ferion’s jolly look would do his heart well. But alas, Ferion was not there. He was amongst another ten wardens there at the gateway to the pathway to Men Erien.