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Rangers of the North: 2. Fornost Erain

The ruinous mound of Fornost Erain, Norbury of the
Kings, onetime fortress and capital of the Lost Realm
looked very familiar to the eyes of the the Men from
Minas Tirith. Like their own city it had been built in
a series of circles terracing up the sides of a
mountainous hill to the stump of a mighty tower at the
crest. There were but five circles, for the hill of
Fornost was lower and less steep than the the knee of
Mindolluin, yet as he followed Cemendur up the
switchback road to the top between walls of crumbling
stone Hurin found it all to easy to imagine Minas
Tirith similarly thrown down and her people scattered
or dead.

Unpleasant thoughts and he spoke quickly to dispell
them. "Cemendur, don't the annals of King Earnil's
time say anything about the fate of our northern kin?"

"Oh yes. They say the Last King and his following
were lost in the icy seas of the north, but his sons
and the greater part of their folk took refuge with
the Grey Elves of the Havens. After the fall of Angmar
Earnur, Earnil's son, offered to take the surviving
Dunedain with him to Gondor. Aranarth, the Heir of
Isildur and king of a ruined realm, thanked him and
said any of his folk who wished might go with his
blessing but as for himself he would stay in his own
land. For though Angmar was fallen its evil lingered
and his sword would be needed in defense of his
peoples."

"And his men stayed with him." Hurin guessed.

Cemendur smiled faintly. "It is written not one man
or woman or child of the Northern Dunedain sailed
south with the returning army." sobered. "Many years
later, after King Earnur was lost, Aranarth sent a
letter to Mardil the Steward asserting again the
claims of the Heirs of Isildur and his rights as the
son of Firiel, daughter of King Ondoher. But both
message and messenger were dismissed with scant
courtesy. And no further word has come from the North
from that day to this."

"Nine hundred years."

"Yes."

They reached the great court before the doors of
the ruined tower, now little more than a pile of
masonry. Hurin looked down on the descending circles
of the city, a maze of roofless walls cloaked in
greenery. There were trees everywhere, from knarled
old giants thrusting aside the crumbling stonework
with their great limbs, to sleander saplings springing
up between the stones. And among the familiar birch
and beech and oak and elm Hurin saw other trees, never
seen outside of protected gardens in Gondor, brought
long ago from lost Numenor: Oiolaire, nessamelda,
vardarianna, yavannamire and the golden flowered
laurinque. And there were elanor and niprhedel and
lissuin blooming among the wildflowers in the long,
golden summer grass.

"They never came back here." he said softly. "But
the Witch King didn't hold their city long enough to
taint it with his evil."

"They did not return." Cemendur agreed, pointing,
"but they may have lingered near."

Hurin followed the direction of his hand to a
thread of pale smoke rising between the hills in the
west.
*********************************************

"There is a light there." Rumil agreed, staring
intently. "And not just a campfire, pale lamplight. A
house, maybe more than one."

The hint of pallor reflected off the distant
hillside would have been invisible to any but Elvish
eyes, or the keen sighted Men of Westerness.

"Master Butterbur said there were no settlements
north of the road." Hurin reminded his companion.

Rumil snorted gently. "As my Lord says, the
innkeeper was not the best informed of men."

And a third voice, soft but carrying, said quietly
behind them; "It would be wise to keep a sharper
watch. There are many dangers in the Wild."

They spun, swords sweeping from scabbards, to see
Cemendur standing straight and still beside their fire
and beyond him, at the edge of the light, a Man.

Very tall, dressed in worn, dark green leathers
with a gigantic bow slung over his shoulder. A tangle
of unkempt dark hair framed a face that might have
graced a statue in the Hall of the Kings, set with
clear grey eyes that held a piercing light.

It was Cemendur who got his breath back first.
"Welcome and well met. I am Cemendur son of Nardil,
this is Hurin, Beren's son, and Rumil son of Rhudan.
We come from Gondor seeking our long lost kindred of
the North."

"I am called Hawkeye." the stranger replied, "My
nephews are known as the Padfoot Brothers." And Hurin
saw there were indeed two other men behind and to
either side of him, still as the shadows that cloaked
them. "But there are no Men like you here in the Wild.
Only the farmers of Bree and the Angle, and Rangers."

Even Cemendur could only stare at this Man, clearly
Dunedain and of High Blood, coolly denying his own
existence.

"They lived in the ruined city long ago." Hurin
managed.

"Deadmen's Dike? That's haunted land, we don't go
there. The folk who built are long dead and gone. We
know nothing about them."

"It was the city of the Kings of Old." Cemendur
told him.

Hawkeye shook his head decisively. "I never heard
of any king. This is the Wild."

Hurin and Rumil exchanged an appalled look. Was it
really possible for Dunedain to fall so low as to
forget their own origins? Perhaps, if they'd been
decimated and interbred with lesser Men.

Back home in Gondor Hurin had seen families of
mostly Northman or Mountain blood occasionally produce
a child of the pure Dunedain type. Could this Hawkeye
be such a one? With the blood of Westerness in his
veins but none of its Lore?

"Go home, Master Cemendur," the Ranger said firmly,
almost commandingly. "you'll find none of your kinfolk
here."

"You are certain of that?"

"I am a Ranger, we know the Wild and all its
dwellers. There are no Kings or fine lords such as
yourselves in the North."

"Yet there is a houseplace west of here." Rumil
said suddenly. "We saw its smoke this afternoon and
now there's lamplight on the hills in the same
direction."

"Some other Ranger's cabin." Hawkeye said
dismissively. "To close to haunted ground for my
taste. As is this camp of yours. You should move."

"We are strangers in this land and ready to be
guided." Cemendur returned.

"That would be wise." the Ranger said with
emphasis.

"But late." the shadowy figure on Hawkeye's right
said suddenly. "Ware, Sergollim!"

What?

The answer sprang into the firelight, a stocky
dwarvish figure clothed in stiff garments the color of
old blood, beardless and hairless with iron teeth
gleaming in its head and long iron talons tipping
boney claws. The creature fell, a long black arrow in
its chest, but was follwed by a rush of similar
creatures. Three more were dropped by the Rangers'
arrows but then they were upon them and it was hand to
hand.

The creatures fought with teeth and talons making
Hurin grateful for his good mail coat, but he'd battled
Orcs and worse on the Marches of Mordor and was inured
to horrors.

There were a few moments of hideous confusion;
knashing iron fangs, grasping iron claws and black
blood fountaining beneath his blade. Then, as suddenly
as it had begun it was over with dozens of the creatures
lying in headless, handless heaps around the six Men,
back to back in a circle with the sinking fire at its
center.

Hurin's experienced eye noted the swords in the
Rangers' hands, similar in kind to those of the
Gondor, with long fluted double edged blades, but
slimmer and lighter. Definitely not hunters' weapons.

"They will come again and in greater numbers."
Hawkeye snapped. "Make for the city, they cannot enter
there."

"The horses!" Rumil cried, as if he'd just
remembered them.

"They'll be all right," one of the Padfoot
Brothers reassured him. "Sergollim have no interest
in beasts. It's Mens' blood they thirst for. And it's
not the time of year for wolves."

"Forget the animals," the other Brother said
sharply, "and run!"

They had almost reached the walls of Fornost when
one of the Padfoot Brothers again cried "Ware!"

Hurin checked and turned to see Sergollim pouring
over the hill crest behind like blood from an open
wound.

"Keep moving!" Hawkeye ordered, unslinging his
great bow. Still hesitating, reluctant to leave one
man to face that hord alone, Hurin saw how the pale
starlight slid over the bow like water and realized it
was made of steel not wood. One of the legendary
Numenorean War Bows, seldom used these days for lack
of men with the height and strength to draw them.

Hawkeye had both, and no little skill. Hurin and
the other two Gondor Men watched in awe as he fired an
almost continuous stream of black arrows into the
oncoming host, supported by his nephews using short
hunting bows.

The Sergollim faltered and, stumbling over their
own dead, began to retreat back over the hill. Hurin
remembered the foes of Numenor had feared the great
bowmen even more than the knights with their bright
swords.

"I said go!" Hawkeye repeated with an angry
sideways flash of those bright eyes.

One of the Padfoot Brothers slung his bow and
seized Hurin by the arm with one hand, Cemendur with
the other. "Do as he says."

Hurin risked one last look behind, to assure
himself the creatures were truly in retreat, and
obeyed. Running the last few dozens of yards and
climbing a slide of stones to pass through a gap in
the lowest curtain wall.

You're sure they can't enter the city?" He asked
the Padfoot Brother who'd herded them.

The other nodded. "Certain. Though we're not sure
why. Perhaps some virtue of the Elven trees. They say
not even the Witch King himself dared pass the gates
of Fornost. He sent in his Hill Men to burn and loot
while he camped outside, well away from even the
shadow of its walls.

Looking through the gap Hurin saw the other two
Rangers retreating at a measured pace, backwards,
their faces still towards the hill behind which the
last living Sergollim had vanished.

"They'll come pouring out again the minute Uncle's
back is turned." the Brother explained, "But not while
he's facing them with Belthronding in his hand!"

It wasn't until Hurin'd joined his companions,
sitting on a carpet of sweet scented golden petals
beneath a mighty laurinque tree, that it struck him.

"Cemendur, Hawkeye claimed to know nothing of the
history of Fornost yet his nephew there was just
telling me tales of its fall."

He couldn't see the Councillor's smile but heard it
in his voice. "Hawkeye was lying, Hurinya, and not
very well. But then I doubt he's had much practice."

"I noticed those swords, and that bow." Rumil put
in.

Cemendur nodded. "And I noticed despite his rustic
accent Hawkeye pronounced my name in the Elvish
fashion - and his nephew used a Sindarin word for
those creatures."

"But why try to decieve us?" Hurin asked,
bewildered.

"That we must discover." said the Councillor.

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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 02 Mar 14
Stories: 10
Type: Reader List
Created By: AngelQueen


Stories that go into the details of the politics behind many of the events of the various Ages.

Why This Story?

An outstanding look at the tangled web of the Third Age's politics - why Gondor rejected Isildur's heirs for a millennium, the loyalties of the Stewards, the fate of the Isildurioni in the North, Elrond's views, etc. Morwen Tindomerel's legendarium is perhaps my favorite AU of all. Brilliant.

 

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: Beta

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/05/04

Original Post: 03/22/03

Go to Rangers of the North overview

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Many Guises and Many Names: An on-going collection of stories that feature Aragorn in another guise (primarily but not exclusively as "Thorongil") as well as stories that include significant reflection or recognition. (C) means the story is connected to others an author has written; (SA) just means stand-alone.