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The Struggle Nought Availeth  by perelleth

Chapter 2: Ever the East Wind Swells.

Recurring OCC:

Taurlong: Captain of Gil-galad’s personal guard. An Exile, survivor of Nargothrond. First appears in “They Did Not Take Root in That Land.”

Hîrdawar: informal leader of all the wandering companies of Green-elves, Nandor and Avari, both sides of the Ered Luin. First mentioned in "In the Woods of Osssiriand"

Taenben, also known as Lalf: The Hîrdawar’s son and heir. First appears in “In the Woods of Ossiriand.”

Hîrvegil: Commander of Gil-galad’s army. A Teleri. “They Did Not Take Root in That Land.”

Maentêw: One of the survivors from Doriath who went to Sirion carrying Elwing. He joined into Gil-galad’s army. First appears in “In the Woods of Ossiriand.”

Miluin: A Sinda from Mithrim, a relative of Círdan, arrived in Balar with Annael and his Grey Elves, the ones who raised Tuor. She became Círdan’s housekeeper. She is first mentioned in “They Did Not Take Roots in that Land.”



Eastern flank of the North Downs.

The mournful wail echoed closer. With a soft whistle Ereinion signalled for the Hîrdawar to slow down and allow Taurlong to catch up with them.  He needed not look back to feel the weight of his annoyance. The captain of his guard was definitely displeased with their little escapade.

“Wait here, Gil-galad. Let Amathar go ahead. We know not what danger lurks over there.”

Ereinion knew the tone and manner. Had they been alone, Taurlong would have upbraided him unsparingly —and with reason. After hearing the sorrowful lamentation in the distance, he had left the hunt and his companions, chasing the Hîrdawar deep into the forest with no thought for his guards. It had taken little effort, it seemed, for Taurlong to notice and follow in all haste.

“Nothing to be afraid of,” the Hîrdawar interrupted, allowing Amathar to run past him in his silent, swift gait. He then raised a hand to stem Taurlong’s complaints. “Nothing to fear from them, either” he added, “only their sorrow and their grief.”

Ever since they had first met in the woods of Ossiriand, Ereinion had admired the calm manner and soft voice of the Hîrdawar, the understated way in which he exercised his authority as the acknowledged leader of the wandering clans of the Avari. That those unruly people would recognize someone as the ultimate authority -east as well as west of the Ered Luin as they had found out after the fall of Beleriand- had come as a great surprise to the Sindar, Telerin and Noldor from Beleriand.

Taurlong subsided —no doubt he, too, affected by that subtle power the Hîrdawar seemed to effortlessly ooze. But then, Ereinion noticed, what had at first seemed to him the cry of a wounded beast now sounded closer and clearer —a doleful dirge steeped in deep sorrow. Perhaps the Hîrdawar had known from the very beginning, and Taurlong had understood right now. Those were people, most probably elves, and they had nothing to fear from them.

“What ails them?” he asked, stirred by the grief that echoed in their voices. They now walked toward the sound at a slower pace, their footsteps light on the carpet of fallen leaves that covered the forest floor, careful not to disturb the singing.

“They mourn their loved ones who departed,” the Hîrdawar whispered as he went.

The undergrowth grew thicker there, forcing them to choose their path more carefully. Soon they found Amathar waiting for them behind a massive oak that stood up amidst the russet beeches, deep awe on his face. From his hurried signalling to Taurlong, Ereinion gathered that there was a group of elves ahead, less than twenty -or was it thirty? - and poorly armed. Then the Hîrdawar’s words caught all of his attention.

“We are close to the Sant Dolen.”

Ereinion gasped.

Life in Balar, before and after the fall of Sirion, had not always been miserable. Even in Eglarest, and to distract himself from his isolation, Ereinion had been an eager listener, pestering Círdan’s friends for tales of the lands before the Shadow. Later, the mixed crowd of refugees in Balar had offered an unexpected opportunity for him to increase his knowledge of the besieged lands that peeped through the northern mists. Of all the tales that he never tired of, the story of how Singollo had met Melian in the forest of Nan Elmoth, and how he had been deemed lost by his people only to reappear in his full glory many turns of the stars later, had been amongst his favourites since he had first heard it. Not just because it was the foundational tale of the Eglain, the people who had adopted him and become his to serve and protect, but also because of the enthusiastic descriptions of the many magnificent wonders treasured behind the Girdle of Doriath. Those tales, which grew in the telling, had inflamed his imagination as much as Celebrimbor’s accounts of Tirion and Valinor.

Having once heard Erestor praise the Sant Dolen north of Nenuial, placing it second only to the glades of Nan Elmoth in his esteem, he had inwardly vowed to travel there sometime. Finding himself now at the threshold of that fabled glade filled him with trepidation as they pushed ahead towards the voices.

Here, the beeches had not yet lost their leaves, and were still changing into their autumn golds and purples, mingled with yellows and tired greens. Even as they made their way with sure feet on the forest floor, muddied by recent rains, and the trees grew closer to the path, to Ereinion it seemed that their branches swayed back as they walked past, as if making way for the Hîrdawar. The keening had wound down to a single voice that floated over the rustling leaves. Before them, the path a took a steep descent through what looked like a narrow tunnel that allowed one person at a time. Mirroring the Hîrdawar ahead, Ereinion tucked his chin in and ducked as he reached through the blackthorn-encircled gap. Slipping on the wet ground, he stumbled down the slope to end up splayed on his face at the bottom.  

“Elbereth Gilthoniel!” The exclamation was one of deep awe, as he scrambled to his hands and knees, looking up in wonder.

“This is the Remmenrond,” whispered the Hîrdawar, a hint of amusement in his voice as he dragged Ereinion up to his feet. “Welcome to the Sant Dolen”

“It is aptly named,” he breathed. They were in a round clearing in a dell that was split by a sparkling creek. The beeches down there were taller, their long arms entwined in a tight lattice that seemed a vaulted ceiling of intricate designs, from which the leaves flapped and swayed in the cool autumn breeze, glimmering in their reddish glory like the festive lamps the Teleri hung from the trees in the winter celebrations.

“Gil-galad!” The way Taurlong’s whisper mingled with the growing rumour of voices dragged Ereinion from the contemplation of the flaming red vault, and forced him to take in their surroundings. Scattered groups of elves in Laegrim greens and browns had noticed their arrival and hurried to greet the Hîrdawar. Ereinion nodded. It was a regular source of wonder for them how the Hîrdawar was recognized and greeted with the same respect and awe wherever he went. Taurlong claimed that it was one of the many adornments on his body that signalled his position, while Ereinion believed there was some kind of gesture they were not privy to. Here, even the trees seemed honoured by his presence, if the way they shook their leaves and bent their lower branches towards him was any indication.

“What is all that?” As the elves -mostly ellith and youngsters- strove for the Hîrdawar’s attention, Ereinion followed Taurlong into the line of trees to their right. The clearing seemed to be a kind of hallowed place, judging by the many objects laying around or dangling by the lowest branches of the accommodating trees. All around lay figurines and statuettes, modelled, carved, fired or woven, of clay, of stone, of bronze, of wood, of wool, showing warriors, weavers, hunters, gardeners, potters, smiths…There were mementos and personal belongings in gold, silver, crystals, leathers or linen, pottery, tiles; quivers, scabbards, brooches, pendants, cloak clasps, sword belts, jars, cups, each carefully wrought, threaded, woven, embroidered, glazed …And, most heart-wrenching of all, words, of farewell and of comfort to loved ones: carved, etched, scratched, painted; written down in parchment, wood, bark, leather, stone… All consigned to the benevolent care of the trees. He picked up a handful and started reading aloud.

“It is not that I love you not, my children, but that I cannot live like this...”.

“The Sea drums restlessly in my ears, drowning the song of the trees...”

“I will wait for you in the West, my love. Tarry not, for even now my fae aches for you!”

“This bleakness is unbearable,” he sighed, shaking his head. He placed the messages back where they had been and, picking up what looked like a wooden toy canoe, turned it distractedly in his calloused hands. “How can this be intended for us who remain?” he wondered aloud, looking up to Taurlong from where he still crouched, overcome, it felt to him, by the anguish of those who had left their last traces there. This, too, had become a recurring conversation between them.

The Hîrdawar cut his captain’s reply. It mattered not, for he knew what that would be. “Gil-galad, come. You should hear what she has to say.”

Exchanging rueful shrugs, they walked back to the group surrounding the Hîrdawar. A path opened before them as a sudden silence blanketed the concurrence.

“Speak your mind, Deriel, “the Hîrdawar prompted. Ereinion felt the measuring glance the tall elleth who stood with the Hîrdawar cast him and nodded his most encouraging smile. “Trust me,” the Hîrdawar added. “He is one of the Eglain.” The familiar warmth he felt every time he was acknowledged as one of Círdan’s people did not prevent him from noticing the incredulous expression on the elleth’s face.

“I trust you, Hîrdawar. Well-met, stranger,” she said at last, fixing him in her keen grey gaze. “We hail from the wooded valleys beyond the mountains, many days to the south,” she began in a voice that was stern and low. Fleetingly, Ereinion wondered if she had been the one doing the wailing before. “We now flee two evils preying upon us for some time. A darkness with no name arises whenever the east wind sweeps, that spreads everywhere; it rots trees, sends wild creatures from the clearings they have inhabited for ennin, taints our waters. And our people are sick, too, stepping up and wandering away prey to an unquenchable desire for the westernmost shores. Whether these two ailments are related, I know not. We,” she added in strangled despair, waiving around to her travel companions, “we know not, for we are not wise in the ways of such Elven lore as it is said was passed down by the ones who came from the West. But we listen, to the trees and the birds, who carry the messages from the wandering companies, and so we have learnt of a city by the sea, where our kin find comfort, and safe passage beyond the waters to a place where their longing is healed… Do you know, perchance, of such city?”

“I surely do, Deriel,” he said, putting his right hand to his heart and bowing before her as if they were in his halls and he were welcoming her to some formal celebration. “For I do come from that city. Mithlond, it is named, by the gulf of Lhûn, and there Círdan the Shipwright and his people provide those who so request it with swift crafts to sail west.”

“Then this encounter is not by chance but rather design!” she exclaimed; her stern countenance lightened up in joyful surprise as she looked around to her fellow travellers. “See, friends? it was not a fool’s journey after all! Who are you, kind stranger, and what are you doing in the company of our Hîrdawar?” she asked, hugging a child not yet half way to his majority, who stood defiant by her side.

“Gil-galad I am named,” Ereinion offered, nodding to the concurrence. “My companions and I will be happy to guide you to Mithlond, friends, whence many of our kin have set sail in the past long years while others tarry still, fighting the song of the waves and, perhaps, awaiting loved ones that might join them there.”

His offer was met with excitement and jubilation, their clear voices mingling in the glade with the softer, approving song of the trees. All at once they wanted to know who had arrived in Mithlond, and who remained still. They offered names, dates and descriptions in such an excited clamour and fuss that Taurlong had to step up and place himself between Gil-galad and the eager party, while the Hîrdawar smiled to himself, arms crossed over his chest, a few paces away from the commotion.

“Listen! Listen now!” Taurlong called out in that powerful voice of his that had always comforted Ereinion in the battlefield. “There is little we can do for you, now, for we know not the names or details of all those who have sought passage, but there is a record kept in the shipyards. The scribes there will be glad to help you find out if your loved ones were there!”

The thought of Pengolod voluntarily abandoning his scholarly work to go run through his records for that band of bedraggled Laiquendi made Ereinion snort, until a rough voice brought his attention back to the discussion.

“…make sure you do have provisions. We have barely enough for ourselves,” an ellon was complaining. “There is little prey to be found since we came down the mountains, and the forests are no better. The eastern winds and the darkness they bring in seem to have crossed the Hithaeglir, too,” he grunted.

To Ereinion’s relief, the Hîrdawar stepped up with a nod. “Fear not, there is a food forest not half a day from here, and Gil-galad’s party will reach us with supplies before that if he sends for them now. Meanwhile, we better try and settle for the night, let us know if there are wounded amongst you who may need attention!” he said, sending the company into an ordered buzz of activity.

Ereinion patted Taurlong to get his attention and waved to Amathar, who had remained close to the entrance of the glade. “Do as the Hîrdawar says. These people have travelled a long way and are in need of rest and food. Also let Erestor and Elrond know, they should be rejoinning us today, if I am not mistaken...What?”

 “And leave you here, alone?” Amathar looked dubious.

“There are a handful of able-bodied hunters amongst them, Amathar, and both the Hîrdawar and myself are armed. We should be able to defend them for a day or two if…” He paused and bit his lip. Amongst his childhood memories there were a few treasured moments in which Fingolfin would look down on Fingon with the same kind of fond exasperation Taurlong sported in that moment.

“Amathar worries not for them, my lord.”  

He nodded, chastised. “I understand. But this is as safe a place as there is now in these lands of the north. Hurry back to us, if you must, but forget not to leave word for Elrond and Erestor if they are still abroad.” The silent contest of wills that followed was mostly for show, Ereinion knew, for Taurlong needed to state his concern and impress in him the need for caution —lest he might forget.

And then the Hîrdawar stepped into the conversation. “I will guard the High King, Taurlong,” he said. That was all that Taurlong had needed, apparently, for he bowed to the Hîrdawar, cast Ereinion a last warning look and, with a nod to Amathar, started back in the even lope his troops used when not under dire pressure. Ereinion watched them until they disappeared into the gap then sighed and made to help with the preparations, when someone kicked him hard in the shin.

“Leave that! My father carved it!”

It was the child who had stood to Deriel’s side, an angry bundle of tangled brownish curls framing wind-whipped cheeks and flaming brown eyes. Momentarily uncomprehending, Ereinion saw that he still held in his hand the canoe toy that he had picked up before from amongst the letters and offerings. On close inspection, he noticed that there were two figures on the canoe, one larger and one smaller, both equipped with painstakingly detailed fishing gear.

“This? I apologize, child. But how do you know it was your father who carved it?” he asked, curious, handing the light toy back to the child.

“It has our names on it,” the child said, pushing forth the bottom of the canoe so Ereinion could read the carefully scratched cirth.

“Brassen!” Deriel’s voice whipped out sharply. Swift as lightning, the child pulled the toy back and looked behind. Deriel waved to them, her tight braids swinging against her shoulders as she nodded towards the centre of the clearing. “You two,” she admonished. “There is plenty to do to help settle down for the night!”

Ereinion nodded meekly and, with a conniving wink, he pushed the child before him and followed them.


The crackle of the fire was the only sound that could be heard over the deep breaths of the slumbering company, yet Ereinion could not find rest.  It was too long since he had slept in the open, he reckoned, and he wanted to enjoy the experience of being in that magnificent clearing, watching the playful courtship of the uruin up amongst the leaves, which rivalled the sparks from the fire, while pondering what had been shared that night.

He had met Eredher, the powerful singer whose sorrowful lament after learning of the death of her husband had reached them out there, in the grass-covered hills. He had learnt of Deriel’s brother, who had started west some sun-rounds ago, and whose family, except for Deriel and her niece Brassen, had later been killed in a skirmish with a band of orcs. He had learnt of dried rivers and poisoned winds, and sickness and darkness taking over large swathes of forest to the east, which had forced Ordil, a Nandorin elf as old as the oldest wood, to at long last undertake the trek west with what remained of his family. He had learnt all their names, and listened to their sorrows, and watched as the Hîrdawar comforted them and instructed them about the forested lands around Nenuial and western Eriador that were still safe for them to settle. They had all talked and sung and exchanged tales and food and drink by the fireside until well late into the night, brought together by the feeling of kinship that all the Eldar shared, gladdened, amidst their grief, that they were welcome wherever a child of the stars dwelt.

Their stories were not new, but only too familiar in the last ennin, Ereinion reflected as he lay there listening to the soft murmur of the trees, waiting for the first rays of sun to light up the reddish canopy. Still, they were the first wandering company he met that came from beyond the Hithaeglir and had chosen to march north, rather than crossing south through the gap at Calenardhon, and this worried him. That Aldarion’s mighty stone works at Vinyalondë by the Gwathló had been half-abandoned by his successors, more interested in shipping wood for their fleet, they had long known. It never ceased to surprise him how fickle Men were, how lightly bound to their past, even those of such noble descent as Elros’ heirs, that they found it so hard to continue what their ancestors had begun, to uphold ancient promises and alliances signed by ancient hands not theirs. That a wandering company would choose to march through the northernmost passes, though, made him fear for the state of the south. But then, even if the Longbeards still held the passes south of Mount Gundabad, these Nandorin and Silvan elves who fled the mighty forests of the East had no quarrel with dwarves —since neither Celeborn nor Oropher had reached them yet. But the tales they brought about orcs and wargs and tracks of other -more worrisome- creatures across those northern passes filled him with unease.

Lulled by the trickling, rippling, wistful verses of a lonesome robin heralding dawn, he drifted briefly into the path of elven dreams, hoping, as he often did, that in his slumber he might tread those lands he yearned for though he had never seen; the pleasant springs of Nan Tathren, the joyful summers by the pools of Eithel Ivrin, the fiery glory of the autumn beeches in Neldoreth or the forbidding snowed pine-forests in the highlands of Dorthonion before the worm…

All those lands lay now under the Sea, and the relentless pain of their absence could only be appeased in sleep.



Sant Dolen: Hidden Garden, a meeting point for wandering companies located in a secluded glade at the north eastern side of the North Downs.

Remmenrond: Red-vaulted chamber

Uruin: fire creatures, fireflies.

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