Politics of Arda
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Rangers of the North: 12. An Exchange of Hostages
night and commanded the escort of her new liege man to
her chambers. Hurin was delighted to oblige and so put
off the inevitable difficult conversation with
Cemendur for another hour or two.
The Lady led him out the open wall of the chamber,
across a terrace and down a flight of steps into a
sunken garden overlooked by several halls. Turned down
a stone flagged path that wound its way through stands
of trees and stone grottos to a lacy domed pavilion
overlooking a sparkling cascade.
Then she took a small pipe with silver bowl and
ivory stem from her sleeve, filled it with dry
crumbling leaf-like stuff from a tiny leather pouch
and lit it from the lantern illuminating the pavilion.
Took a deep breath of the smoke, caught Hurin's
fascinated gaze and laughed.
"Of course our southern kin know nothing of the
special virtues of sweet galenas."
"The flowers are esteemed for their scent but I've
never seen their smoke breathed before." he admitted.
"It seems a strange custom."
"Invented by the Halflings, where they got the idea
from I cannot say." Ellemir took another breath of
smoke and blew it out softly. "It's very relaxing, and
soothing to the nerves. You might consider taking it
up yourself now you've decided to spend some time with
us." She looked at him straight, the light of those
deep grey eyes piercing him like silver lances. "Let
us speak frankly, Hurin. You fear for my grandson's
safety once his identity is known, and so you offer
yourself as a hostage."
"Yes, my Lady." he admitted as frankly. "Though
what I said about repaying Thorongil's service was
She nodded. "One may have many motives for choosing
a particular course. You seem to me a Man of good
judgement for all your youth, Hurin, doubtless you
have valid reasons for your fears."
The casual compliment warmed him clear through,
just as Thorongil's rare praise always did. "Denethor
has always hated and resented Thorongil." he
explained. "His judgement cannot be trusted where the
Captain is concerned - but he will do nothing that
might endanger me."
Winged brows lifted questioningly. "Denethor?"
"My uncle, the Steward's Heir." Hurin answered,
continued almost pleadingly: "He is by no means an
evil Man, my Lady, I have always loved and honored him
almost as a father. He is devoted to our House, and to
"Which might well make him my grandson's enemy,
even without this grudge of which you speak." she said
He nodded unhappily. "He has never been rational
about Thorongil. I don't know why, but it is so."
"It is not always easy to explain the motions of
one's own heart, much less that of another." the Lady
said and puffed pensively at her pipe before
continuing. "Needless to say you are safe with us,
Hurin, whatever may happen in Gondor. But your kin
cannot know this for certain. It may be they will be
reluctant to let Aragorn depart while you remain with
He bit his lip, chagrined. "I didn't think of
She smiled a little. "Never fear, there is a simple
Cemendur looked slightly and uncharacteristically
bewildered. "You would have the Lords Ereinion and
Ellenion come with me to Gondor?"
The Lady Ellemir nodded. "To take messages and news
of our people to Aragorn." smiled at the Councillor.
"A letter cannot answer questions."
"Beruthiel's leave must be asked." Lady Gilraen
Ellemir raised an eyebrow at her daughter-in-law.
"Naturally. But I think she will consent."
Gilraen sighed resignedly, clearly ill-pleased.
The Lord Elrond on the other hand heartily
approved. "An excellent thought, Ellemir."
"If the young lords are willing naturally I would
be most pleased to have their company." Cemendur
The words 'exchange of hostages' went unspoken but
were tacitly understood by all.
Cemendur, having had a moment to think through the
implications, was well pleased. He had no fear at all
for young Hurin's safety among the Northern Dunedain
and Ecthelion would trust his judgement in the matter,
but the Lady Emeldir might be harder to convince.
The reasons for the Lord Elrond's approval became
clear when the twins appeared outfitted by their
Elvish kinsman for the journey in long tunics of
glittering galvorn(1) mail, flexible as fine cloth,
covered by surcoats of supple black leather hems and
armholes banded by wide borders worked with a pattern
of stars and niphredil flowers in mithril thread. They
wore also gorget and vambraces of dark blue vidrin(2)
overlaid with mithril chasings and set with great
stars of adamant. And over all long cloaks of
glimmering black velvet, lined with silver tissue and
fastened at the shoulder by great golden brooches
wrought in the form of eagles and set with green
The company assembled to see Cemendur and his party
off could only stare. The twins looked back faces
fixed in Ranger impassivity but eyes twinkling
suspiciously. Then the Lady Gilraen rolled her eyes
upward, and the Lady Ellemir gave the Master of
Rivendell a darkling look that reminded the Gondor Men
strongly of her grandson.
The twins' attire all but shouted their lineage
ornamented as it was with the niphredil flowers of
Luthien and the star of the North Kingdom. But the
eagles continued to baffle Hurin. He leaned towards
Cemendur. "I can't remember, who bore the eagle and
"The Sorondili." the Councillor answered, a dry
note in his soft voice. "That must be their father's
An ancient House as royal as the line of the Kings,
being descended from the second son of Tar-Minyatur.
In Numenor they'd been lords of Ondosto in the
mountainous north and friends and guardians of the
Great Eagles who nested in the high peaks. When Sauron
was brought as a prisoner to Numenor by Ar-Pharazon
the Eagles of Manwe abandoned the Land of the Star and
returned to Middle Earth followed by the Sorondili
who, so it was said, settled in some remote valley at
the foot of the Misty Mountains near the Great Eagles'
new eyries. Another legend of the North Kingdom still
remembered in Gondor.
Hurin held Cemendur's stirrup for him as he
mounted. "Take care, Hurinya, and good luck to you."
the old Councillor said kindly.
Rumil snorted gently. "With due respect m'Lord,
we're the ones who'll be needing all the luck we can
get when we break the news to Lady Emeldir."
Cemendur winced. Hurin grinned a little. "Don't
worry about Mother, she'll know who to blame."
"Yes, but you'll be safely out of reach." Rumil
They left Rivendell by a different path then that
they'd entered by, climbing the eastern wall of the
valley. But the fells were just as treacherous and once
again Cemendur silently thanked the Valar for their
"As we are not yet of age we must have our mother's
consent to go with you to Gondor." the Lord Ellenion
was explaining. "But we would have stopped at
Cristhoron in any case before venturing into the
"Conditions in the mountains are always changing,"
Ereinion agreed. "Mother will have the latest news and
help us choose the safest road."
(1) Galvorn is the black metal alloy created by Eol in
the First Age.
(2) Another Elvish alloy, of my own invention, this
one blue in color.
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