Chapter 1: Treasures from the Earth
Linner Wormwood, a self-appointed enchanter and treasure finder from the wilds east of the town of Lamedon, led a farmer and two of his older sons to a corner of the man's farm near the River Gilrain. He had convinced them that gold and other valuables lay buried nearby and would, for a nominal advance fee, show them where to dig it up. They arrived at a slightly overgrown meadow which featured, to Wormwood's practiced eye, a series of low, scarcely visible, grass-covered mounds.
He removed a medallion with a small elfstone mounted at its center from his bag of enchanter's paraphernalia. Holding the gem up to one eye, he muttered incantations as he walked in a circular path around one of the mounds. The gem briefly turned from pink to blue.
"This is the spot," he announced. "There's treasure within this circle." Unbeknownst to the farmer's, however, he had surreptitiously paid more attention to the lay of the land than the stone's emanations.
The farmer's eyes lit up greedily as he and his sons frantically went to work with pick and shovel. For about twenty minutes they excavated a wide, shallow hole. All the while, Linner eyed the other shallow mounds across the meadow, as well as the best possible escape routes.
"Dad, I found some iron!" exclaimed one of the boys.
"I told you so!" cried Wormwood as the youth pulled a corroded sword from the ground.
The three diggers now concentrated on this one spot, soon unearthing bones and more ancient weapons. Pieces of brass and a few rotten copper coins came to light, but nothing of enough value to reimburse the farmer for the fee he had paid the enchanter.
"Let's take a break, boys," the farmer said after two hours of work.
They drank thirstily from a water bottle and each took a bite from the loaf of bread they had brought for lunch. Wormwood could see the disappointment in the eyes of his marks, but he was a practiced charlatan and knew how to reassure his clients.
"You've been digging in that one spot too much," he told the farmer. He tried to sound authoritative as possible. "You must move over to the left a few feet."
They shifted their excavation to the indicated spot. Within half an hour they had unearthed more bones and pieces of encrusted iron. Suddenly, the farmer uttered an unintelligible cry of exclamation. Shakily, he showed his discovery to the boys. They both gasped in delight. A small gold coin gleamed brightly in their dad's palm.
Wormwood breathed a sigh of relief. The unusual discovery had saved him the trouble of seeding the site with a few old coins of his own before his clients became too impatient or suspicious. He glanced at the sun, now low in the sky.
"It would appear as if you've hit just one of the valuables I suspect are here. I'm confident that you'll find much more over the next few days." He picked up his bag of tricks and gave the farmer a disarming smile. "Well, I've got to get going. I have a long walk ahead of me and I've got to cover a good deal of ground before dark."
He hastily walked northward, climbing over a stone wall at the corner of the meadow and disappearing into the woods beyond. He grinned in amusement as the dry leaves rustled beneath his feet. The farmer had paid him five times what that ancient gold coin would fetch from a money changer.
Wormwood knew that this whole area had been the sight of several major battles in olden days and some minor ones during the War of the Ring. Low, nearly invisible mounds were scattered throughout the woods and meadows. These marked the shallow graves of those unfortunate soldiers who had received hasty burials on the battlefield. Other low rises marked the spots were unclaimed corpses or battlefield debris had been simply covered over by nature.
Usually, nothing of any value could be found among the bones. Looters and other two-legged scavengers had long ago rifled most of the grave sites of money and jewelry. Yet, the worthless or low-value relics that could still be readily found were sufficient bait for Wormwood to tempt ignorant or greedy country rubes into searching for, what they thought would be, an easy fortune──for a small advance fee, of course.
Linner Wormwood was originally from Dunland, where he had eked out a meager living as an enchanter, magical healer and merchant of dubious herbal remedies. Several years ago he had sensed an opportunity when the Istari wizard Saruman had allied himself with the Maia being Sauron to conquer all of Middle Earth. Deluded and overconfident in his own abilities, the mundane enchanter had offered his services to the Wizard of Isengard, only to be laughed at and rudely given the bum's rush from Orthanc.
At about the same time he had fallen in love with a charming River Woman by the name of Merryweather who dwelled near the River Glanduin. She had not been impressed by this odd-looking fellow of questionable reputation and contemptuously resisted his advances several times.
Angered by rejection, he had spent weeks devising a love spell to cast upon her, only to have her immediately escape his clutches with a counter-spell. Her smug laughter at his amateurish scheme still gnawed at his being years later.
These defeats hadn't discouraged his ambitions in the slightest bit, however. He was firmly convinced that he had the abilities to achieve recognition and power. He simply lacked the tools, wealth and opportunity. The fact that he had no immediate plan of action didn't discourage him either. Such ideas would naturally spring up in a mind as clever as his, just as soon as the first three necessities fell into his lap.
And why should a nondescript enchanter, such as himself, receive the wealth, tools and opportunity needed for success merely by wishing for them? Why, simply because he deserved them, or so he thought.
His choice of occupation necessitated a frequent change of abodes, as irate clients soon brought charges of fraud and misrepresentation. It was often rumored that he sold cures for ailments he had secretly caused beforehand. This was especially suspected in cases involving farm animals which had been left untended in isolated areas at night prior to his being hired to treat them.
Shortly after the War of the Ring his reputation as a quack began to discredit him, even among the most naive of country folk. King Elessar's program of restoring law and order to the countryside made things even more precarious for the slippery enchanter as dozens of his marks flocked to the newly appointed magistrates seeking remuneration.
Warrants were soon issued charging him with practicing injurious magic, malicious mischief, fraud and imposture. Wormwood decided that the local rubes were undeserving of his talents and fled from Dunland just one step ahead of the constables during the fourth year of Elessar's reign.
Over the next few months he furtively worked his way southward to Lebennin. Fearful that news of his whereabouts might be leaked to the authorities should he resume his former profession, he now devised a new mode of living. He would offer his services as a crystal-gazer and treasure finder.
Wormwood soon gained somewhat of a reputation, albeit mundane, as a locator of minor valuables. However, most of those who had the sense not to engage in the folly of treasure-seeking thought of him more as a finder of junk. Although he demonstrated a knack for locating battlefield relics, the value of the dirt-encrusted objects always tended to be initially inflated by his clients. It was hard for many of them to admit that they had found nothing more than items of dubious worth after hours of hard digging, often under a hot sun.
Part of Wormwood's success was due to a lucky find he had made a year earlier at the weekly farmer's market on the outskirts of Calembel. As usual, he had been doing his weekly shopping for meat and vegetables, when something caught his eye at a nearby peddler's booth. Among the array of cheap baubles, trinkets, used crockery and other second-hand trash was a large medallion with a pink, translucent stone at its center.
"That's a rare find," claimed the peddler. "As you can see, the chain and disk are solid gold!"
Wormwood wasn't so easily fooled. He had peddled his share of junk like this in the past and recognized cheap jewelry when he saw it. He could tell by the artifact's weight that the medallion and chain were made of inexpensive base metal, cunningly plated with a thin veneer of electrum.
"How much?" he asked, sounding genuinely impressed.
"Ten shillings," the peddler replied hopefully.
Now it was obvious to the enchanter that the peddler was deliberately trying to fob off a fake. If genuine, the item would fetch ten or twenty times that price. Linner knew, however, that the medallion's actual value lay not in its metallic contents.
"Nuts! All I've got is six. How about some other stuff in trade?"
"What have you got?"
Wormwood uncovered his basket. "I can throw in a fresh turnip, a dozen carrots and two dozen eggs."
"Is that a bag of pipe-weed you have in there?" the merchant asked, leaning forward to peer into the basket.
"You drive a hard bargain, peddler," the enchanter said, in feigned exasperation. "Alright, I'll throw in the pipe-weed too. But I keep my shopping basket!"
"Done!" grinned the peddler.
Wormwood eagerly held his purchase up to the light as soon as he was out of sight of the peddler's booth, although this was more of an act of mirth rather than a confirmation of the object's authenticity. The medallion stone glowed with an eerie light that the average person probably wouldn't recognize. The enchanter, however, had immediately known its true nature and worth. The gem had, no doubt, been mounted in its cheap setting by an ignorant tinker who hadn't recognized a genuine elfstone when he saw one.
Wormwood quickly put the medallion away in his empty purse. He would assess its actual value and magical properties later. Meanwhile, he took out a second purse and examined its contents, pleased to discover that he still had enough money left over to buy that week's groceries. As an experienced haggler, he knew that it was sometimes a good idea to have sellers think that he had less money than he really did. Also mindful of pickpockets, he knew that it wasn't wise to carry all of one's funds in one pouch.
Queen Evenstar sat in a reclining chair, taking in the sun on the balcony of the royal summer apartment. A few feet away, under the shade of the veranda, her second handmaid nursed the Queen's newest princess at her breast.
"Little Galadriella is such a beautiful child," doted the handmaid. "King Elessar is probably still beaming with pride as he goes about his daily business."
Arwen smiled wanly. "Yes, Gilda. Some of the ministers have told me that he can't help talking about her for several minutes before each official meeting. I only wish that I could have given him a son this time. Now my constitution may be too weakened for more children."
"Lady, surely you will regain your strength after a time. Was Doctor Mirkmir really sure that another pregnancy would endanger your life?"
"I'm afraid so, Gilda. You were there when I gave birth. I nearly died. Even now I am too weak to nurse my own child. Maybe it was due to my acceptance of a mortal life."
"But, Lady, your first pregnancy was also hard. Nevertheless, you had your strength back within two or three weeks. I'm sure that you'll be alright soon. You'll probably be back at weapons' practice with Master Barkstripper within the next month."
Arwen sighed wearily. "I hope that you're right, Gilda, but Doctor Mirkmir seemed convinced that my reproductive organs have been irreparably weakened."
"Heavens, Lady! It's too soon to worry about this sort of thing now. Believe me, you'll have your hands full enough with two daughters. Certainly, the King won't mind if you wait a decade or two before having another child. Mark my words, you'll be strong enough by then."
At that moment, Arwen's first handmaid Elweena glided silently on bare feet through the archway of the veranda.
"My Lady," she said, curtseying daintily, "Lady Luthillia wishes to visit with you."
"Show her in, Elweena."
"It would appear that the little Princess is done feeding," Gilda said as Elweena skipped daintily from the balcony. "Would you like to hold her for a while, Lady?"
"Oh, yes. Let me have her," Arwen cooed, holding out her arms. "Oh, my sweet little pea! What does history hold for a daughter of the great King Elessar? What future prince will proudly take you as his wife?"
Arwen cuddled the child against her breast, doting happily over her as Luthillia entered. The Elvish lady was dressed in grey robes of traditional design. Her facial form and raven tresses resembled that of the Queen's so closely that many mistook her for Arwen's sister.
"You've given the King another beautiful daughter," said Luthillia. "She'll be starting school before you know it."
"Please sit down," Arwen said to her friend. "Gilda, take Galadriella to the nursery and ask Muffet to bring us some tea and lembas."
"Arwen, I've had such a marvelous time here," Luthillia said, taking a seat on the sofa in the shade of the veranda, "but after two months I'm afraid that I might be wearing out my welcome."
"Nonsense, Luthillia. You're welcome to stay for another two months or longer. I probably won't get to see you again for another five years after you leave. At least stay until I've finished my recovery."
“Well, I'll stay, but no later than the end of summer. Surely, you'll be well before September. Celeborn will miss me too much by then. I also have to get back to Caras Galadon in time for the fall chores."
"I imagine that things have changed a lot since my grandmother left. Galadriel's magic made spring almost endless. There was no fall or winter and the rain fell only at night. The Galadrim who chose to remain there must miss her very much."
"Most of them went with Celeborn to build the new settlements in East Lórien. Only a couple hundred of the diehards stayed with me in Lothlórien. Well, you know all about that from my letters."
Muffet and Elweena soon arrived with a tea tray and folding table.
"I've had enough sun for a while," Arwen said, joining Luthillia on the couch. "After we have our tea and a light lunch, I think I'll take a nap. Would you like to join me?"
"Of course," Luthillia replied, leaning over to kiss Arwen's cheek.
Elweena and Gilda soon returned, silently taking their places on a nearby bench to await their mistress' next command.
The Elvish Ladies' girlish prattle continued unabated for the next hour. It was late May in the fourth year of King Elessar's reign. Little did Evenstar realized that it would truly be over half a decade before she saw her friend again.
Luthillia Celebrant was born in the year 241 of the Third Age, sharing the same birth date as Arwen Evenstar. Some believed that they were born within minutes of each other. The two girls met as youngsters. A strong bond quickly formed between them. They became friends for life, exchanging frequent letters whenever separated by distance.
Lord Elrond disapproved of the relationship, at first. Luthillia was, after all, not of royal blood. But her parents both had distinguished war records, enhancing their social status. Mindful of her daughter's happiness, Celebrian admonished her husband not to interfere with Arwen's friendship.
In 2510 of the Third Age Celebrian was forced to depart for Valinor, the result of an unhealed wound she had received in an Orc ambush the previous year. At about that time, both of Luthillia's parents fell in battle on the Fields of Celebrant during the Balchoth invasion. Elrond, moved by the valiant deaths of Luthillia's parents, as well as by the separation from his wife, arranged for Luthillia to be made his mother-in-law's protégée.
Under Galadriel's tutelage, Luthillia became an adept enchantress and took the surname of Celebrant in honor of the place where her parents fell. Unfortunately, she played no major role in the events surrounding the War of the Ring and has been mostly lost to history. During the preceding centuries, however, she became greatly endeared by Galadriel and Celeborn, who increasingly treated her as a surrogate niece or daughter.
Luthillia seldom left Lothlórien after establishing her residence there and was a constant companion to Arwen during the Princess' frequent visits to the Golden Woods. She became the self-appointed warden of Caras Galadon and Cerin Amroth after Galadriel departed Middle Earth.
Wormwood arrived back at his cottage by early afternoon. His first order of business would be to cook the chilled venison that he had purchased before it spoiled. He scarcely glanced at the newly-acquired medallion, leaving it on the kitchen table. It took him nearly an hour to get the wood stove going, the venison in the oven and his vegetables and eggs stored in the butter cellar. Exhausted, he sat down at the table to have a smoke.
Linner's cottage was a ramshackle, two-room cabin in a remote, wooded area twenty miles northeast of Calembel. It was just over an hour's walk from one of the town's many outlying villages. The cottage had obviously been unoccupied for a few years before Linner had purchased it plus the surrounding property during the previous autumn for a surprisingly cheap price. The yard was overgrown with brush and the surrounding woods thick with fallen branches.
All of this suited the enchanter well enough. A man hiding out from the law
needed a dwelling which attracted little attention, as well as appearing to be
uninhabited. Few of the villagers knew about it, much less its exact location.
Thick woods and brush shielded it from the view of those traveling the nearest
cart path. He had spent the winter and spring here uneventfully.
The aroma of roasting venison began to fill the kitchen, despite the open windows. Wormwood cleaned his empty pipe, deciding to brew some tea. It was at that moment that the medallion's elfstone caught his eye. The gem gave off a soft, pink glow in the room's semi-darkness.
"This thing surely has some useful properties," he muttered.
He consulted a few books of magic and spells, rare and illegal tomes which he had acquired years earlier from the black market. By mid-afternoon he had discovered that he could bring about subtle color changes in the gem when it came into the proximity of different metals. Thus, began his career as a treasure finder.
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