1. Cold light
The roots of the trees of Aulë go deep, and so does the memory of his children, especially in the Blue Mountains, where Dwarves dwell on ruins of great cities renowned in the depths of time, and where the Foam-riders sail their elven ships to islands which were peaks of great mountains once. Generations unnumbered have lived and died since Beleriand sunk under the sea, but Dwarves of Ered Lindon never have forgotten the Western land and its people. They still live in their songs and tales. Or not only in them. Hear this tale, and judge for yourself.
Many went from the Mountains of Lune to the Great War, and only few returned. Among those who were not left to burn in the dim valley of Azanulbizar, there were Frár and Hár, two brothers, great miners and redoubtable warriors. Anar their father who led them to the War had met his death already under Gundaband, but Frár and Hár, though wounded more than once, fought fiercely in every battle from Gundaband to Azanulbizar, and always emerged victorious.
At last, when the war was over, Frár and Hár, weakened and wounded, resolved to go back to the Mountains, though winter was near. But winters in the north of Eriador are not to be trifled with. Though at the time of which I speak, the kingdom of Angmar was no more, the frost was as biting and the snow fell as heavily as if the Witchking was still governing them. And there were worse enemies than frost and snow. Not all orcs had perished in Azanulbizar, and many of them, vengeful and desperate, haunted the mountains, allied with white wolves and wargs more fierce still.
And such a band set upon Frár and Hár in the darkness of a snowy night. Though heavily outnumbered, the brothers fought bravely, and many orcs and wolves fell under their axes. When Hár thrust his spear through the large orc-chieftain, the band withdrew for a moment, and the warriors made their escape. But when they were looking back, they kept seeing in the distance dark shadows and glowing eyes. The enemy was still pursuing them.
Their pursuit had a purpose, as it became clear before long. Snow and wind were blowing in the brothers' faces, and Frár and Hár soon lost their way in the maze of the mountains. In the end, they found themselves on a narrow spur, with bottomless pits opening on both sides and in front of them. Behind them there were only the glowing eyes of the wolves and mocking laughter of the orcs. There was no escape.
Of high house were Frár and Hár, last of the blood of Azaghâl Dragonhelm, lord of Belegost in the depths of time, and, though they were still young, their battle valour would not have shamed their forefather. They did not fear death, since such is the fate of all Dwarves since Durin awoke, and those dying in a battle come with glory to the halls of the Valar. But Frár and Hár were unmarried, and neither of them had begotten children. If they had fallen there, Azaghâl's line would have perished with them.
Thus seeing the enemies swarming against them and no hope of escape, Frár suddenly turned to Hár with strange look in his eyes, and spoke to him:
'Shade your eyes, brother. I will call.'
He raised his axe to the sky and cried in a deep voice: 'Maedhros! Maedhros! Maedhros!'
A flash of lightning torn the sky thrice. The wind, the roars of the Orcs, the howls of the wolves, all ceased, and dead silence fell. And Maedhros came.
Blinding light shone in front of the brothers; and swift as a hawk falling on its prey the elf-wraith fell on the orc-band, a giant form with white face and hand shining like stars on a frosty night, with long red hair burning like dragon-fire. His eyes and sword cast a beam of light before him bright like new sun rising in the morning, yet cold and dreadful. Wolves, howling, fled before his face. Some, heedless, cast themselves in the pits. Orcs, equally blinded and mindless from fear, fled too, often slaying one another in their fright, crying that a demon of light was upon them. Before long, the band was gone, and none of them was ever seen afterwards.
When the enemy was no more, the elf-wraith advanced slowly towards the brothers, and fixed on Frár his terrible eyes. Few dwellers of Middle-earth of any kindred would not fly from such a form. But Frár who knew no fear stood undaunted, and looked straight into the piercingly shining eyes.
'The heirs of Azaghâl Dragonhelm thank you, Maedhros the dwarf-friend, whose deeds are still sung in stone halls of the Mountains,' he spoke in courteous words. 'Your sword has made the way home swift and safe for us; may you find your way home equal in swiftness and safety in the end.'
On these words, the terrible light diminished, and for a moment Hár saw his brother standing before a tall elf with maimed hand, of face drawn and tormented, looking with sad longing towards the West. Moved with pity, Hár stepped towards the vision, but Frár shook his head.
'The foretelling is not for our time yet.'
A sound like a stifled lament echoed in the mountains, the wind blew anew, darkness returned, and the wraith was gone. Silent, the brothers collected their weapons, and moved swiftly from the place. They reached their mine before the new moon appeared, for no more danger threatened Frár and Hár on their way home.
For such is the gift of Azaghâl's heirs as long as the line lives, and such is the fate of Maedhros the Kinslayer. Woe to those who would call on the One-handed in jest or out of cowardice, for they could bring terrible danger on themselves: Maedhros does not forgive fools or cowards. But whenever the line of Azaghâl is in deadly peril, a Dwarf of his blood can summon the Elf-warrior, and Maedhros will come to aid him. For a blood-debt between the two warriors lasts beyond time or death.
Some say that one day Azaghâl Dragonhelm himself will return, reborn in his line. And when he dies the final death, Maedhros the Kinslayer will at last find his way from the depths of Earth to the Halls of Mandos, guided there by Azaghâl.
* It was given by Azaghâl to Maedhros, as guerdon for the saving of his life and treasure, when Azaghâl was waylaid by Orcs upon the Dwarf-road in East Beleriand. (Unfnished Tales, Túrin in Doriath)
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