Politics of Arda
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Rangers of the North: 10. Imladris
The land beyond the ford of the Bruinen seemed to slope gently up to the feet of the Misty Mountains looming high and jagged on the horizon, rough with heather and tumbled stone outcroppings, streaks of green showing the tracks of streams and brooks. But the ground was more treacherous than it seemed, riven with unexpected gullies and deep valleys cut by rushing rivers fed by snow melt, and dotted with green and flowering bogs capable of swallowing both horse and Man. Without their guides the Gondor Men were like to have come quickly to grief.
Ereinion led them off the road just past the ford heading north-east, threading his way between the hazards with a confidence that suggested he had covered this ground many times before.
The valley of Imladris at first seemed no different from the others they had looked down into, tree filled with inumerable falls streaking the steep walls feeding the small, swift river at valley bottom. It wasn't until they'd come more than halfway down the steep, winding path cut into the cliff face that they saw the house of Elrond Half-Elven, a cluster of steep roofed halls and short towers linked by airy open colonades standing on a rocky knoll above the river.
The grooms who came running to take their horses as the party rode under the gate arch were the first living Elves Hurin had ever seen. Tall and willow sleander, dark haired and bright eyed with slightly pointed ears and unnaturally smooth features - at least to Mortal eyes. He tried not to stare too obviously at the Elf who took his bridle.
Rumil was not so inhibited. He stared openly, round eyed and with mouth slightly agap, until a pointed look from Cemendur caused him to close his mouth and nervously lower his eyes.
A small, slight person, black hair flying and white sleeves and skirts whipping around her sleander limbs streaked down a curve of steps to fling herself into Ereinion's arms, musical Sindarin flowing in an excited stream from her lips. Hurin had to look carefully at her ears before he could be quite sure she wasn't an Elf.
She tore herself from Ereinion to embrace Ellenion with equal enthusiasm, talking far to quickly for Hurin's book knowledge of the tongue to follow, but he did catch the word 'muindor', brother. A little sister perhaps?
A small boy, perhaps ten or so, with a mussed thatch of thick black hair above delicate features and a pair of wide grey eyes greeted the little princess and her companion almost as eagerly. "You have come to stay haven't you, it's not just a visit?"
"Oh yes," Niphredil assured him, "we're staying. It's time we were educated Naneth says."
"I am glad!" the boy said with emphasis. "Gilya and Lilit are no fun at all anymore," shot a dark look over his shoulder at the pretty girl embracing the twins, "and Iril is almost as bad."
Erien saw Hurin looking at them and nudged her foster sister. Reminded of her manners Niphredil made the necessary introductions. "This is my cousin Gelion, Lord Hurin of Gondor."
The boy bowed with a quick mumbled "At your service." Then whispered urgently to his cousin. "They aren't supposed to know about us!"
"I know," the princess whispered back, "they just found us out. Ada says they won't give us away." ***
A silent but smiling Elf escorted Hurin to a spacious chamber with one wall open to the air, screened from the terrace outside by no more than a row of sleander columns which struck him as a drafty and insecure arrangment but it was not his place to complain and a curtained dressing room adjoined it so he could wash and change in reasonable privacy.
Afterward he wandered out onto the terrace, uncertain what to do next and found Cemendur there before him, thoughtfully rereading the scroll of instructions Ecthelion had given them.
"It cannot be said we have failed in our mission," he remarked without raising his eyes, "we have indeed found our surviving Northern kin." let the scroll roll closed. "But alas, the alliance our Lord hoped for cannot be."
"Cemendur, there are one hundred thousands of them at least!" Hurin said desperately. "Think of it, an army of ten thousand Men of pure Dunedain blood with the strength and hardihood of the Kings of Men of Old. Men like Thorongil! There must be some way we can help them - free them to aid us against our common foe."
"I would that there were." the councillor said wearily. "But I can think of none."
"There is one." a ringing voice declared emphatically behind them, making the Men start and turn.
A man with a Woman on his arm came towards them across the terrace. He was certainly of Elf kind but very different from those who had welcomed them for his face not smooth but lined and seamed with power and memory, sorrow and strength, reminding Hurin startlingly of his own grandfather. The Woman with him was as clearly mortal but enough like to be closest kin. Her face similar in shape, if not so furrowed, with the same wide, wide-set eyes, deep grey beneath winged brows.
"There is a way." The Elf continued. "Accept your rightful King, let the Heir of Elendil unite the Dunedain and the Men of Middle Earth under the banner of the Kings of Men!"
"Elrond!" the Woman said sharply and he turned those piercing eyes on her. "It is not that simple."
"It can be." he told her. "It will happen, Ellemir, I have seen it - and so have you."
"I have seen my grandson habited as the High King of the West and riding under the banner of Gondor." she answered. "But I have not seen when or how this is to come about - nor have you!" she turned her brilliant eyes on the Men from Gondor. "A thousand years of tradition and precedent cannot be overturned in a moment." she told them with a kindly smile. "One would think an Immortal Elf would understand that better than any." slanted an almost mischievious look at the Elf lord beside her. "But then my kinsman *is* half Man - and so impatient."
Hurin's head was spinning. This was Elrond Half-Elven, herald of Gil-Galad and twin brother of Elros Tar-Minyatur first King of Numenor? And this Mortal Woman, so like him to the eye, was Thorongil - the Lord Aragorn's - grandmother?
"Prince Armegil asked only for our silence." Cemendur was answering. "He believes an open alliance between our peoples would bring disaster on us all."
The Lord Elrond made an impatient gesture. "The Heirs of Isildur have lived in hiding and fought in secret for too long. Now they fear to emerge from the shadows."
"Or perhaps we simply sense the time is not yet come." The Lady Ellemir said calmly, seating herself on the bench from which Cemendur had risen. "And that decision is not yours to make, Elrond, nor mine, nor Armegil's. Aragorn is our Chieftain and Lord of the Dunedain. It is for him and no other to decide if this is the hour to raise the sword of Elendil and demand the allegiance of Men."
"And if he should do so, would Gondor follow?" Elrond demanded.
Cemendur could only shake his head helplessly. "My Lord I cannot say. As Thorongil the Lord Aragorn is both loved and trusted by the Steward and by our people. But if he should try to claim the crown as Heir of Isildur -"
"The Heirs of Anarion were the Kings of Gondor." Hurin said, finding his voice at last. "It is to them we owe our allegiance." so he had been taught, like every other son of the House of Mardil the Good Steward.
"The right of the Heirs of Anarion to claim any allegiance -" Elrond began grimly.
"Is a very ancient controversy that we need not enter into." the Lady Ellemir interupted crisply. "Aragorn is as much the Heir of Anarion as he is of Isildur by right of his descent from Firiel, daughter and heiress of Ondoher the last King of the direct line."
"My Lady, I am inclined to agree with you." Hurin said a little desperately. "But I cannot speak for my grandfather the Steward, nor yet the Council of the Realm."
"Nor can I." Cemendur agreed. "My Lord Elrond, my Lady Ellemir, all Hurin and I can do is support the Lord Aragorn's claim before the Steward and the Council should he present it. I can say that there will be many others willing to support him - but there will also be those who oppose."
Led, Hurin thought grimly, by his Uncle Denethor who would by no means be willing to suffer his longtime rival as his King and master. ***********************************************
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