15. Closing In
Middle Earth, Rhudar Wilderness, Third Age, fall 2861,
Iorlas found himself the focus of much interest among the rest of his traveling companions. While the majority remained unaware of the alleged connection to Lord Hador and his lady, they knew that some kind of information had been discovered that hopefully would lead to the discovery of their fate.
Glorfindel spent most of the evening reading the first of the two journals of the Lady Silalin. He sent out search parties the next morning under the leadership of Elladan and Elrohir indicating an area to the northwest of the ruined hut they should concentrate their search on. After their departure he returned to his study of the journals. Iorlas watched him with interest.
“Have you learned anything useful my lord?”
Glorfindel shook his head in the negative. “So far I have covered their travels three weeks after their original departure. There is some indication Lord Hador was concerned over some unusual sightings by their scouts. But there is no clarification as to what they might have been.”
Iorlas nodded and turned back to the campfire where he helped with the cleanup after the morning meal. Afterwards he carried several armload of wood from the remains of the pile next to the burned out hut.
“I am surprised any remain after the orc finished with the destruction of everything.” Kiril commented as Iorlas dropped the final load.
“Father always insisted that the pile be far enough away from the hut so as to not allow any creatures to move from the wood to our quarters. Luckily the winters were never so severe that it was difficult to reach it when we needed it for the hearth.”
Over the next week the elves crossed and re-crossed the area to the northeast of the ruin hut with little success in their search. They quickly discovered the glade where Iorlas’s mother and human father were buried but there was nothing there to direct them anywhere else. After clearing some of the fallen trees and scattered brush, they paying their respects and resumed their search.
Elrohir paused on the ridgeline overlooking a series of small narrow valleys running parallel to each other like the fingers of a hand. With a sigh he pulled out a skin of water and quenched his thirst and then waited for the rest of his fellow searchers to catch up before dropping down into the first of the valleys to continue their hunt. His attention was suddenly caught by the flash of something moving through the brush towards him in one of the valleys. With an exclamation of warning to his companions, he drew his sword and took a defensive stand just below the ridgeline. With a bark of laughter he relaxed when the golden wolf Celldae emerged from behind a low brush carrying something in his mouth.
Celldae raced up to him and bowled him over in his excitement. Dropping his prize at Elrohir’s feet he danced about barking and whining his joy at finding the elf. As the elf righted himself laughing and pushing the wolf aside so he could stand up he paused when he saw what the wolf had been carrying. Though partly covered with rust and encrusted with earth it was easy to identify. Elrohir picked it up and brushed the dirt off revealing a metal binding and tip at the bottom. It was a piece of an elven knife sheath bearing the stamp of a closed fist, the symbol identifying the House of Hador.
Kneeling in front of the wolf that now sat quietly with a tongue lolling to one side and a grin on his muzzle gazing at him expectantly, Elrohir hugged him and grabbed hold of his and gazed into the liquid brown eyes.
“Well my friend it appears you have found something we seek. Will you lead us to it?”
Celldae sat there as if considering the elf’s request then stood and retreated back down the slope into one of the narrow valleys, stopping to look over his shoulder to see if they were following him. Elrohir called to the other searchers and plunged down after the wolf.
*Dan, Celldae is here and appears to have found what we seek. Even now he leads us down through the finger valleys towards the east. *
*That is good news, Roh. We are on our way. Where shall we meet you? *
Elladan stopped and glanced around. *There is a large grey rock shaped like a flattened egg with a number of small bushes growing out the top. You can pick up our trail from there. I do not know how far we will have to follow Celldae. *
*We will join you as quickly as we can. *
For several hours the wolf weaved his way through a strange landscape of rocks and brush. Elrohir had not seen its like before and frowned. Had the Hador party become lost in this labyrinth and perished? Finally the wolf sat down and waited near the opening of a narrow chasm that led in a twisting pathway barely wide enough to allow a horse to pass. Elrohir stopped by the wolf and absently minded rubbed its head and ears and chuckled as the wolf leaned heavily in to the caress. He studied the terrain for some clue as to what might have happened and waited for his brother and the others to catch up. As the various elves arrived he dispatched them to survey along both sides of the top of the chasm to determine what dangers lurked below. He would not enter unknown terrain blindly and risk a similar disaster that may have hit the lost party.
It was another hour or so before Elladan and his search team joined them and Elrohir held out the recovered sheath to his brother for inspection.
“It looks like Celldae has indeed found signs of that which we seek. Well done my friend, well done.” Elladan too kneeled at the wolf’s side and hugged him before rising and ruffling the fur on his head in approval. He looked about and studied the terrain, as had his brother. “Have you entered yet?”
Elrohir shook his head. “I have sent out scouts to check from the rim before we do so. I do not intend to fall into any traps the missing party may have encountered.”
“Excellent. We should let Glorfindel know, Roh.”
Elrohir shook his head again. “Let us wait until we find something more solid before we do that. This may be only the only thing we shall find.”
They both turned as one of the scouts trotted up an excited look on his face.
“Young Lords, there is a strange looking site about three hundred feet into the chasm and the rim shows unusual damage as if something went over it a some time ago and tore out brush and trees. There has be no new growth to cover it.”
As the other scouts came in, the gwanur set sentries from those elves that had arrived with Elladan wanting to leave no opportunity for unexpected attacks. With that accomplished, they set out to traverse the chasm until they reached the site. There were strange little piles covered over with rock that had fallen from the cliff side above. Celldae who had followed them started nosing one of the smaller piles and dug out what appeared to be a grey stick.
Elrohir crossed to where the wolf stood wagging his tail slowly and removed it from the dirt. He looked at his brother. “It is bone, Dan.”
He knelt and pushed aside more of the rock and removed first a helmet then a skull. With a sigh, he settled back on his heels, “It is an elvish helmet.”
One of the other elves had been checking out another pile and extracted a horse’s skull along with pieces of bridle leather and cloth.
Elrohir stood and dusted his hands then stood studying everything. “I would guess that they either were slain elsewhere and thrown over the edge up there or they were driven over the edge before they realized what happened.”
Elladan looked up and mentally recreated both of the suggested scenarios. “Either would be an effective way to hide their remains. We had best let Glorfindel know what we have found. After that we can start searching through here for any remains and finally seek justice for Lord Hador and his people.
Grimfaced Elladan called a halt to further investigation. “We will have to go through all of this. Perhaps we will finally understand what occurred.
A/N - Celldae-pronounced Kal-de, (Running Shadow (Sin))-one of the golden wolves of Imladris who occasionally chose to accompany Elladan and Elrohir in their travels. Normally the wolves remained within the borders of Imladris and it was unusual for them to appear so far outside them.
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