Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ilerra, Hero of Gondor

Ilerra's father’s father’s father hailed from the southern lands.  He came to Gondor an enemy, yet his heart overruled his temper and ultimately he set his great might upon defending the lands. In honor of his great bravery for Gondor, he was offered position as Captain of the Stewards of Gondor, yet once more his heart overruled.  Many men, women, and children had come from the southern lands. Some had joined the enemy, yet others were much like he and desired to live peacefully and freely.  Instead, he requested a small piece of land to govern these peoples so they may have a future, and in exchange offered their arms to battle should the need ever arise.

Many great leaders followed from the first, and Ilerra’s father was no different. He was Halerr, governor of his people just as his great-grandfather.  In his youth he had dreamed of glory in the heart of Gondor, to take up the offer his great-grandfather once denied.  Yet when his brother was crippled in battle, and no other could lead, he took his great-grandfather’s calling upon him.  The dreams of glory died.  Soon he dreamed only of prosperity and peace.  Many years passed and Halerr was content, though grey speckled his beard and aches plagued his joints.

One day a strange woman stumbled into the village. She was badly injured, and her eyes wild.  She was beautiful like the beasts of the forest — her eyes the color of new leaf, her hair thick, wild and dark on her shoulders like the brambles in the woods, and her skin pale like the moon.  The village tended to the injured woman kindly, in spite of the threat she might pose.  When her fever broke, Halerr visited her to see what had caused such unease among his people… and was instantly struck by her beauty, her strength, and her fire.  She introduced herself as Sable.

Their romance progressed as slowly and mysteriously  as the turning of the seasons. Sable stayed in the village until she was well, then made plans to set off again.  Halerr asked her to stay longer, until the harvest was over at least as the plentiful crop required extra hands, and she agreed. The harvest ended. He asked her to stay until the winter solstice celebration in honor of her work, and she agreed.  Then spring came, summer, and fall again. The seasons once more repeated, and the woman remained, though her excuses for doing so had become thinly veiled. She made strict plans to leave the day she had arrived in the village two years ago. But Halerr offered her a single lily and his heart.  Her excuses ran short; she agreed to stay.

Shortly thereafter they were wed, and for a time deeply happy.  Within the year they had a child, a baby daughter, and it seemed his father’s father’s father’s legacy would continue… yet with the birth of their daughter, Sable grew more distant.  She looked to the forest where she hadn’t before, she grew colder, somber, and older of spirit.  On Ilerra’s third birthday she left, leaving the girl with only the memory of her leaving and the stories her father would tell of her after.

Ilerra grew to be a rebellious child and desired nothing more than to leave the valley.  Halerr taught her every corner of their valley so she might grow to love it, but the fire in her heart could not be tamed. Just as he had, she dreamed of battle and adventure, and no words could deter her from it.  On frequent occasion she fled his watch, and Halerr was forced to send his best men to fetch the girl before she fell into harm. Age somewhat tempered her heart, though it was still a wild thing that yearned yet for more.

Shortly after she turned 16, darkness found the innocent valley.  Rumor told of the orcs, wolves, and otherwise that now lurked their forest — though many struggled to believe it.  Ilerra never let the rumor rule her and continued to walk along the forest as she had as a girl.  Some nights she stole her father’s battle axe from the mantle for some sense of security as she crawled in all those dangerous, unseen corners of the woods.  One night such danger did befall her — a hideous orc appeared, advancing menacingly.  Yet rather than fleeing, she took the axe in hand, prepared for battle.

She was untrained and undisciplined.  By the first strike of the axe, too heavy in her tiny trembling palms, it was clear this would not be a fight she would win. Yet, she did not flee; stubbornness forced her to take down this evil that would harm her beloved home, even at the cost of her own life. It was by happenstance a stranger came upon her at this desperate hour, and slayed the orc before it managed to do the same to her.  He brought the injured girl to the village. At first Halerr thought the stranger had caused her this harm, yet once his story was confirmed, he was instantly welcomed to the village as a hero.

This stranger stayed many nights, soon days, then weeks, and subsequently months.  The girl continued to run off into trouble, and the stranger could not in good consciousness allow her to be hurt.  When it became clear he would not always be there to defend her, he trained her to wield her father’s axe she so frequently stole - in spite of her father's wishes she never learn the arts of battle.  In those few years she grew talented with the weapon, though never once told her father where she spent her many days.

As Ilerra grew stronger with age, Halerr bowed before it. Halerr had his daughter late in life and knew their time together would be short.  The time had come to set his affairs into order. One night over dinner, he removed the battle axe from its position on the mantle and pushed the handle into her palms.  ‘Take it,’ he said, ‘If you insist on wielding it, then do so with a blade freely given.  It will be more dependable than a stolen weapon’. He named another successor in the event of his death, liberating his daughter from any obligation of leading their people.

As the valley became overran with dark forces, Gondor requested all able-bodied forces to defend the capital.  Those that left knew that the valley would be overrun once they left; and so the entire village moved alongside the fighters. That was the last Ilerra ever saw her birthplace, as well as her father.  The man died shortly before the town’s departure, his heart too weary to leave his beloved valley behind.  She buried him amongst the flowers so she would always know where to find him.  She and her protector fought for Gondor, and their bravery made a mark in the hearts of the freed peoples.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Returning to the Book of Riddles

~Raechal Middlebrooks

The following is a collection of riddles translated from the book I acquired all those many months ago in Bree Town, Tuckborough, and Rivendell respectively. The writer is known by one name, which, having never been brought up again in any other conversation or word of history, must be assumed to be a false name, and the title "Dawn-Bringer".

* I am certain that the third paragraph speaks of the changes and disturbances in the land that consequently led my friends, Unora, Gladwine and I to the Shire.

** When I stumbled upon this manuscript in the library in Bree-Town, it was this fifth paragraph that somehow caught my attention. I felt some queer connection to it, as if the author had written about myself... but I, of course, realize that such a notion was silly of me to believe.

*** The sixth paragraph contains an error, I believe the correct translation to be "are" rather than "were" ; in context, "Those who are watching will know the trick."

**** I was seeking some modern application of the seventh paragraph when Gladwine received a broken nose, and Unora was nearly run over by a horse. I had some foolish idea that this paragraph was foretelling of the redemption of a madman we met on the road.

***** There is mention of one, "Malgamorie," in the tenth paragraph. Even though the whole manuscript seems to be referring to a number of individuals, this is the only name specifically noted in the text.

****** The final paragraph of the manuscript, I have no doubt, speaks of an allegiance between the races of the world. The friends of the mountain, are of course dwarves; I believe "eave" to mean the trees, in which case the elves are mentioned here; Of the fountain, I have wondered a great deal, but I have at last concluded that this refers to the water maids, of whom there are many Gondorian tales; and lastly, there exists only one race that makes friends with bees - the people descended from that monstrous figure of legend, "Beorn." 
Try as I might, I can't elude the feeling that the entire third piece of the manuscript refers to the kinship with whom I have lately been acquainted... If this Book of Riddles has any modern application at all, where else in the world might one find such a diverse cast of characters?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Echoes from the Mountains

"Either we've clawed and battled our ways through thick and thin, or else we've stood at the wayside, not knowing what's going to happen.
Each one of us has had to come to terms with some weakness or another...
And we've found fault in others, though sometimes this reflection has been misplaced.
We've had to tolerate people who are our complete opposites.
Yet here we are.
We're still alive.
We're still able to smile.
We are more adaptable, more understanding than we ever thought possible of ourselves, or of others.
And while I'm not saying that anything in life will be easy - nay indeed - this new journey into the Misty Mountains will bring with it a new set of challenges, fears, weaknesses...
We will always be better for what is given to us!
I have no doubt in my mind, that no matter what is to happen, we are victors!
Some of us are away from our homes, some of us speak languages unfamiliar to others - but we are the Children of Justice, and it is my greatest honor to lead the second fellowship into the Misty Mountains.
Thank you all, for lending me your hope, your strength, your kindness. I would not be here if not for you."
~Tarvhos Bartholomaus, January 17th

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Once as He is Who Forgot

These last few nights I have slept without rest.

 In melancholy vision I have sat in conversation with old friends who have long since passed from this earth. We have talked of smoke rings and the trout in good years, and the change of the seasons. We spoke of the days in which we knew, and the days that have since come and gone.

In vivid memory I fight again the battles of the past with new strength and new eyes. I see myself as if from the outside, young and fierce, fighting with all the energy of soul to prove his just cause, vengeance on his brow and blood in his heart.
 No longer. 
I see these battles again before my face and do not distinguish one enemy from another, neither the troll from the dwarf nor the goblin from the brigand. Now, with the understanding of many years, all are alike unto me; sons and daughters, blinded and bound by the devices of the one Enemy to us all.

I have awoken to find myself gazing into the sky as waters rush over me though not hem nor hair be dampened by the wet, and up through the waves I behold the sun.

Many days ago, having been warned in a dream, I went down into the mansions of my fathers of old and sought my wandering son in the dark places of Khazad-Dum. In the depths I found him, stumbling as if in a drunken stupor but seared as with a deadly fever, the icy blood of the mountain upon his feet.
 He did not know me when I came to him and he fought me in great determination, but I prevailed over him and at last laid hold on him that I might administer life back into his body.
As tending I discovered the cause of fever. I learned that he had encountered the infested Globsnaga in the halls. They are creatures bearing a wicked disease of the flesh, conjured by the enemy in the latter Third Age to drive out the dwarves from reclaiming their ancestral home. Its purpose is to work in the body and mind a corruption, to make of a living creature a slave to madness, disease, and pain.
A simple washing after encountering the affliction is know to sufficiently rinse the plague from the body, yet after the fungus has taken root it is all but impossible to remove.

The infection had been introduced by means of a wound which was not tended, thus my son has struggled greatly in body and mind these many days, notwithstanding I have used all the knowledge of lore and herb to remove the infection. I have kept him in a stupor that he may not recall these days of torment, yet he will be wroth to wake and find I have carried him from the halls of my fathers.

His days are not yet done that he shall fall in Moria and be buried, though it was meant for him a greater part on the road ahead, I cannot allow him to return until his mind and spirit are whole once more, so I have set those over him who will watch and turn him away, lest by the same or a different path he again disobey me.
  Whether our work be fated or blessed he will be well in their keeping until the time is again right, and he will have a road left to walk in Moria though ours lead us through a shadowed valley, and if in the end we have laid down our very lives, yet all will be well, and we will see each other again.

Skalithor Mountainzephyr

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kinship Challenge: The Vines of Time

Have ever you passed a home, where vines all through had grown?
Crept through windows, garden and door, where residents resided no more.
Or have ever you seen a tree, where wrapped around like twine,
twisted, turning and ensaring thither, was indeed a great vine!
What thoughts then stirred in your mind? Do you ponder the life left behind?
For where the vine creeps, life surely sleeps; what was has been claimed by time.

Might then you consider this dear friend, for the vine itself is not the end.
Do you see it bud and blossom? That beauty might be born again.
For the end of one thing is not the end - nay - without the end there is no begin.
The last page of the book must be turned, old fields in time may be burned;
A pleasant day with the sun will set, and still time is always turning yet.
The last goodbye, the first hello, all these things we must forgo.
For to take the next step the last must pass, else we find ourselves a hapless mass.

Likewise we ourselves must die to us, lest our souls corrode and rust.
For the things of this earth are but things of dust, and them to our King we must entrust.
So when you see what the vine has borrowed, let not your heart be sorrowed.
Find joy instead, that life is not dead, and consider what lay in the morrow.

Written by Dez ~ Illustration by Kaq

Kinship Challenge: The Life of Water

Still and cold, I sleep. Gently I fell from the sky, oh so long ago. Now I sleep, seemingly forever. Days, weeks, months, and years go by. Then one day the sun breaks through the heavy clouds over me.
She makes me stir. I'm full of life and I want to break away. Her touch is warm and unrelenting, I feel heavy.
Still cold, but heavy. I'm sinking, loosing my grip on the stones. Slipping, slipping.. Then I fall.
Suddenly I have the strength to move again! I start to follow the path down. As I go, I feel stronger and stronger. I run faster and faster.
Soon I am flying down the mountain, gathering and roaring for all to hear.
The white fades away, the stones become bare and surrounded by green. I now carve my own path toward the valley below.
On I go!

A drop awaits me up ahead, but I am not afraid. I charge forward. I know I can fly!
So I fall, I fall past the trees, past the arch, past the lights, now the balcony.
I have gone under, my glimpse was brief, yet still I continue on.
There is more to see, more to visit.
On I run!

Forever I run, gathering more strength and roaring louder as I join others who are like me.
We will continue on forever until we reach the big sea!
Then, one at a time, we will ascend again to the clouds.
I will join the sun in the sky that first gave me my desire to run.
Then I will fly back to where I began and softly descend again. The circle will not end.

Written by Cat  ~  Illustration by Mae

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Contents Of My Head: "My Story"

"Take care of her... She shall not soon find love beyond yours."

Those were the words my mother spoke the night she left me with the caravan; a caravan of half-bloods and outcasts. She gave no other explanation. She merely returned to the blackness of night from which she had come so suddenly, vanishing without a trace as though she had never existed at all.

I was given to a loving couple who changed my name to Dekota. My birth mother became a faceless figure I resented. Ma and Pa, however, always expressed gratitude for my mysterious mother. Ma was so weak that she was unable to have any children of her own.

The woman I called 'Ma' had come to the caravan as an outcast. Since the days of her youth she was plagued by an illness that the healers could not cure. She worked as a seamstress until she became so sickly and frail that she couldn't walk to work anymore. Her muscles slowly degenerated, and soon she lost the use of her legs altogether. She was considered nothing more than a crippled beggar in the eyes of so-called "decent" society. But Ma never begged. She lived under the fallen stone in Beggar's Alley for years, then brigands and mean Southerners started becoming more frequent and her friends feared she might come to harm. They had heard about the caravan sometime before and took Ma to it when it was passing. All my life, I considered Ma the most beautiful woman in the world. Though her face was haggard, it was a face I loved. She had long white hair draped about her shoulder and noticeably fragile bones under a thin layer of skin. She was mostly bed-bound because she didn't have enough strength to stand, but sometimes Pa would carry her outside to a chair in the middle of camp, where she could sit and read to the younger children. I remember her hands were always shaky; more especially as she tried to teach my to write and sew. She had such a sweet laugh. It was a little scratchy but filled with such sweetness that you didn't care.

The man I called 'Pa' was half-orc. He had deserted his rank under the White Hand before the end of the war and worked a farm near Esteldin. He was eventually discovered and driven out. Prejudice men burned his farm and hunted him even though he had fled without a fight. Pa traveled by moonlight in search of a place he could live and eventually found refuge in the caravan. Others, more willing to fight, stood to defend him when the men came. I remember Pa being a strong man and a hard worker. He was often helping other campers by repairing their caravans, reining in the auroch when they became unruly, or carrying the heaviest animal when the hunting party returned with food. He was never angry or violent, always very kind and patient.

As a youth, it seemed I didn't appreciate the wisdom and guidance I received from them. At first I was too young to pay them any real heed, then word of my being a "Wraith Child" began to make our caravan (which already struggled for peace and acceptance) even more unwelcome than ever before. I was twelve years old, my powers started to manifest, and I became angry. I didn't appreciate the home I had or the care I was given anymore. I didn't want to live where I was judged, nor with people who were hated. I was angry that my birth mother had left me. I was angry about the way everyone looked at me. I was angry because of the names they called me and the thing they said I was. The world was my enemy and so was everyone in it. I got in fights, I held grudges, I yelled at people and destroyed things, and I wasn't sorry for any of it. At times, perhaps, Ma and Pa were too timid to handle my outbursts of anger. Nevertheless, they gave me all the love I could ever want and all the comfort they could afford.

Enter the third biggest influence in my life's story:
My birth mother hadn't spoken her cryptic message to the wind that night, nor to a crowd. The woods they were in were menaced by wild wargs, thus a few men kept night-watch. One was an Elf named Fahlion; the only of the fair folk who traveled with the caravan.

It was into his arms that she gave me before disappearing, and it was he who chose to place me with the couple who would love me most. When I began to lash out against everything and everyone, Fahlion took charge of me. Sometimes he would take me away from camp and talk with me as we wandered under the boughs of trees. He didn't make excuses or try to convince me that I was wrong, but he would tell me stories or recite poems that made reevaluate my outlook on life. I was mad at him sometimes. I often yelled at him, but he never yelled back. When it was just the two of us his patience seemed endless, no matter what I did. There were times, however, when I would lash out at people in the caravan; in front of everyone. Then, depending on the severity of my tantrum, he would reprimand me. I tried to fight him, once or twice even physically and he would have to restrain me until I settled down-- I can only imagine how scary those moments were for my sweet Ma and Pa, and for everyone else in camp... Perhaps even for Fahlion too.

Now that I am older, I consider what it must have been like to hold a screaming child; whose scream was so inhuman it caused hearts to freeze-- A child who could summon fire and fought viciously with it, fully intending to burn something... I thought him cruel at the time, but he once threw me headlong into a nearby pond. It was not deep enough to be of any danger me, only enough to quench the flames I had enveloped myself in.

My bravado was instantly shattered and I went sobbing to Ma. She lovingly consoled me until evening when my tears of self pity were spent and guilt had begun to set in. Then Pa came and told me why Fahlion had done it: I was so consumed by rage that I'd actually burned him and hadn't noticed. He was worried that if he just endured the pain, I would continue until I hurt someone else or even myself. Pa strongly encouraged me to apologize to Fahlion and went with me to do so. We found him with the healer, and though he forgave me, I can still remember the horror and shame I felt when I saw his wounds.

That was the last time I tried to hurt someone.

After that, I became afraid of myself. I swore never to use my fire again. Yet Fahlion found ways of urging me to use it when the caravan needed light or warmth. I suddenly had a purpose that was good, and much of my anger at the world went away. I began to realize that I wasn't the monster everyone thought I was, or I didn't have to be at least. My temper was still hard to control at times, but Pa, Ma, and Fahlion each helped me find ways of letting off steam: Throwing a fireball into the air, putting my thoughts on paper and burning it after the feelings were past, or jumping into yet another body of water if the anger was too severe-- They never told me what to do, but somehow the things they would say gave me the idea.

They helped me understand that while rumors and scorn from outsiders fueled my childhood bitterness, it also helped me to accept who I was and stop caring about what others thought. If it hadn't been for Ma, Pa, and Fahlion, I might not have been prepared me to meet Raechal, Unora, and Gladwine later on after leaving the caravan. They most certainly wouldn't have become my friends, I know that for sure!

Now as a young adult on good terms with the world and at peace with myself, I can look back on my life and see where things were fell into place.

I don't know what my life would be like if my birth mother chose to keep me; maybe it would've been better, maybe it would've been worse. Maybe I'll learn more about my birth mother someday. Maybe I'll figure out if she had abilities like mine. Maybe I'll discover of what race I am. Maybe I'll learn about my birth father too... I don't know, and it doesn't matter. Whatever the future holds, I wouldn't trade these experiences or these people for all the answers in the world.