The Family Line Part 147 – Was Like a Dream

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Part 147 – Was Like a Dream

Through the canyons up and down hills the three walked as early morning turned to midmorning. Eva led Theomin and Eleswith through the safe paths that led out of Dunland and into the Gap of Rohan. Not a cloud occupied the sky but the dust through the canyons obscured the distant hills so that none of the three travelers could see what was out of the canyon. Like a maze it was, turning this way and that as paths branched off going one way and another.

Quite a few times, Theomin wondered if Eva really knew where she was going, or if she was just as lost as he was. He dared not talk to her as he did not want to distract from her path finding, twisting and turning from one way to another. He feared distracting her with conversation would force her to make a mistake and get them lost. So he stayed quiet, not even to speak with Eleswith or make any kind of noise.

Through the remainder of the morning they all stayed quiet as they made their way through all the twists and turns of the valley before at last, near midday, they reached the opening of the valley, and the entrance to the Gap of Rohan.

“How could you remember such a difficult path?” Theomin had to ask as could not believe they were out of such a maze.

“It is an old poem my ancestors passed on from generation to generation,” Eva told Theomin. “We have been saying that and using it to pass through the hills and valleys and each of us know how it goes. All of the land, no matter if there are hills, trees, snow or grass, all of it has a song or a poem that goes with it. The land has its own personality and getting to know it through song and rhyme helps us remember and begin to get close to it.”

“I am only beginning to get to know your culture and the more I know of it, the more beautiful I see it,” Theomin said.

“I wish we can get to know the men of Rohan someday,” Eva lamented. “I am sure that such a culture also has a rich and beautiful history.”

“Goodbye, Eva,” Theomin hugged Eva as did Eleswith. “You have been a true friend to me and all my people. Have a safe journey home.”

“As should you, man of Rohan,” Eva said. “And Eleswith, you also have a safe journey to Dale. I know not much of your lands, only what I have heard in tales of dwarves. Be well and have a safe journey.”

The two left the company of Eva as the Dunlanding turned back toward the valley and they did not see her again. It took a few hours until the reached the first encampment of the Rohirrim. Theomin could see it off in the distance, flags flew high on their staffs inside the palisades of the outpost. The telltale signs of the shields of a white horse upon a green field began to come into view as they were the signs that Rohan was very near.

Once they reached the outermost edges of the outpost, Theomin felt uneasy about what he heard. Nothing could he hear. When there was supposed to be at least some chatter amongst his Rohirrim brethren, he heard not a sound from the inside. Furthermore, no sentries were posted on the watch towers above. They reached the gate of the compound and it was exactly as Theomin feared. It was completely deserted. Not a single man from Rohan occupied the place. It looked as though it was abandoned long ago as not even the smoke of a dying flame from the camp fires were lit. Water logged they seemed be from a long time ago as they were already dried out from the heat of many days of sun.

“They have not been here for a long time,” Theomin said. “It was as if it was abandoned.”

“Do you think they were attacked?” Eleswith asked.

“It would not seem it was,” Theomin had noticed. “All the tents are in good shape. The bedrolls are still intact and there is not a single sign of a fight. It is as if they just left.”

“But left where?” Eleswith asked.

“I know not and I feel not safe here,” Theomin said.

“Nor do I,” Eleswith agreed. “Let’s leave from here.”

The two continued from the Rohirrim outpost of Forthbrond and continued eastward until they could see signs of ruin in the distance. Blackened charred hills there was and the true signs of devastation began to show itself to them. The outpost that once had been set on a hill overlooking the River Isen had been completely and utterly destroyed. The tents were burned beyond recognition. The wooden palisades that ran the length of the perimeter of the outpost were broken down, burned and shattered. The ground that was once clean dirt with grass occupying only patches of the grounds of the outpost was all but grey and ashen. It was a waste, dead, devastated and Theomin as torn.

“What manner of terror did these people go through?” Theomin asked in an astonished whisper. “It is as if it is completely overridden.”

“I know not what could have done this,” Eleswith said just as astonished. “Not even an army of a hundred could have done this. This is not just from a small skirmish. This was a great battle and it looks like your friends lost.”

Theomin looked in the distance and as it did so, something there caught his eyes. It looked as though fear had gripped him as he ran down the hill and quickly mounted Bragga.

“Where are you going, Theomin?” Eleswith asked quickly. He did not answer so Eleswith did the same. She mounted Dale and rode off to catch Theomin as he rode his horse up across the river and up on an eeyot in the middle of the stream. There, amongst large rocks and shields of Rohan sat a memorial for a fallen king. But of who?

“Who is this for?” Eleswith asked.

“I know not,” Theomin said. “I know of the fall of Theodred as a rider told me of his demise. It cannot be of Theoden King as he was killed in battle in Gondor. I know not who this memorial is for.” Theomin looked up at the sky as the sun had already begun falling toward the westward sky. Evening was coming and with it, darkness. “We must continue eastward. Rohan on the other side of those hills there,” he pointed east toward a small gap between two hills. “There, we will find the fortress of Helms Deep. I hope her greatness still stands.”

They continued toward the gap between the two hills and out of the bleakness of the River Isen. Such terrible fates that befell on those men of Rohan but he feared that such a fate might have also fallen on the kingdom of Rohan and his home. Though in the dark pit of despair that his mind was going to, he had a light of hope that the King of Gondor’s words never mentioned the fall of his beloved home. Yes, he heard the death of the king of Rohan and the succession of Eomir, but that was all that he heard. So maybe, just maybe the land that he loved so much was spared from the terrors of evil.

At last, a year after he departed from his home in the Kingdom of Rohan, he took his first step on the soil of Rohan, his home. He breathed in the air of his land, smelled not yet like that of home. The pine smell that reminded him of home, was not yet the scent in the air yet. The scent of the land was more of the scent of a forest, tall trees that could have been uprooted and placed here on the lands. But that could not be.

The smell was not all that he tried to take in. He took in the flat green fertile lands of his land that was so common in Rohan. Sparse hills here and there occupied the land here and there surrounded by the White Mountains in the south, the Misty Mountains in the West, and the Anduin in the east. “The Anduin,” he thought to himself. Many a day was spent with his family fishing on the shores of the mighty river. It would soon be that he would again share in the love for his hobbies with Eleswith before she departed for home. But his reminiscing and wonderment of returning to Rohan had to come to an end. He and Eleswith needed to reach Helm’s Deep before darkness overtook them.

The sun was still showing its light in the sky when they reached what looked like Helm’s Dike. But it could not have been. The great statue of Helm Hammer Hand that stood atop the Dike was gone. The towers were gone and the gate had been burned down to nothingness. A terrible fate had befallen this place too as they crossed the once fortified hill of Helm’s Dike and faced a bitter truth. The fortress of Helm’s Deep had been attacked.

The first thing the two could see was the Deeping Wall that had stood and was a strong wall, was taken down nearby the Hornburg. Such a huge battle had to happen there. So terrible a fight it must have been. What could have destroyed that length of the Deeping Wall, so strong and thick a wall that it was, it seemed it should have been impenetrable. Not with a thousand of his small bombs could he blow such a hole in that wall.

The grounds of the Deeping Coomb, once filled with grass had become vacant of all life. Barren and dead it was. Small gusts of wind through the coomb blew loose top soil up into the air, only to signify how bleak it really was. It was as if life was torn from the land itself, ripped out from the soil so it would not be able to bear life again. What happened there?

As the two approached the gate, even that had been torn asunder as it was smashed open as some army of some kind had invaded the keep. Then the memory of the terrible blast that night in Forthbrond came into the mind of Theomin. The horrible sound that forced awake himself and all the others with its loud blast. It had to be the destruction of the Deeping Wall. The sounds of war were the sounds made by the invading army as it had thrust itself upon the Hornburg and tried to invade the keep.

Only a few remained as a garrison of the stronghold. A few were cleaning the keep grounds and repairing the fallen buildings. All who worked did so in silence. No women or children were present. All were men, soldiers who were apart of the garrison before.

“What happened here?” Theomin asked one soldier who was carrying a bundle past them.

“Can you not see, traveler?” the soldier said. “Helm’s Deep was attacked. We are now all that is left to tend to her wounds.”

“But was it not attacked long ago?” Theomin asked.

“Yes it was,” the soldier said, but suspicion flooded his face. “How do you know of the attack? Are you a servant of the enemy or a friend to Rohan?”

“I am no servant of the enemy,” Theomin said kindly. “I come from the Wold.”

“Why have you not been conscripted by Theoden to fight in the war?” the soldier said. “Most of the men of Rohan have gone.”

“I traveled north to Eriador for my own reasons,” Theomin said. “Why have you not gone to the war?”

“I and the others here are all that is left of the garrison after King Theoden and Aragorn left for war,” the soldier said. “It has been a long slog trying to repair Helm’s Deep. Not a soul has come and most of the men have left. Even the women and children have left for Edoras as that is now the safest place in this land. Its gates are now more secure than Helm’s Deep.” He looked around at the fortress, the walls and structures that lined the main concourse of the bottom level. “But she will once again be a great fortress again. She will again stand tall and proud, just as she has for the past ages. We will mine her blocks from Wid Isenmor and Mate Isenmor. Once it is mined, we will seal the walls and make her the great fortress that she was. I promise you.” He looked at the two travelers and came to his senses, “I am sorry, where are my manners. You must be starving if you have been traveling from Eriador. Go to the back of the keep. You will find the dining area there. You may have what ever you find there, which is not much. Our hunters will return soon with more food. For now, I believe we have a few baskets of bread and some water out of the Deeping Stream. Please, partake in our food as much time has passed since travelers have come through this land.”

The two walked the small walkway toward the rear of the Hornburg. Much reminded Theomin of the first time he came to the fortress. He remembered Keymel and the family he helped reunite. He remembered the girl who aided him in his quest to find the mother of that poor little girl. “Eashae was her name,” he said under his breath. It was as if it was not long ago yet a year had passed since his last visit to the fortress. All seemed like a dream from the time he passed into the Gap of Rohan.

His mind then went to a dark place. He remembered what the soldier said about the conscripting of soldiers for the battle. What of his family? What of his father who was still of age to serve in the king’s cavalry. What would come of all those who were strong enough and had a willing heart to serve? He had to ponder that for the remainder of his journey home.

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