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07/18/18 09:27 pm
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The trails of Nan Elmoth by Chiara Cadrich

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The trails of Nan Elmoth
Part 1 –The White Lady of the Noldor

At the Sign of the Drunken Goose…
The great hall was purring with seasonal conversations.
The regulars greedily delighted in the new beer with its aromas of dried fruit, endlessly comparing it with the previous vintage and its flavors of warm bread...
The goat of master Crook, an old brig that snarled even more than her master, and kept watch on his yard like a dog, had laid down two fine goats. Would these unexpected births soften the bad mood of the old couple?
Father Armcoat had finally yielded his daughter's hand, but for which dowry amount? That would clear up next summer, when the wedding preparations would begin...
The rainfall that had been flooding the country for a moon would cease one day. But in the meantime, so much water was no too good for the tatters...
Agricultural news and timeless speculations were exchanged under the centuries-old ogives, these idle conversations being carried out in a detached tone or with conspirators looks, sometimes interrupted by the creaks of logs in the immense chimney.
The heavy door of the inn opened.
A rumor of ripple and the bland smell of wet pavement entered in the great hall, as a hooded figure stood out against a curtain of fine, tight rain.
The stranger advanced gracefully under the great candelabrum. His coat, indecisively gray, did not seem wet, but glistened from time to time with a satiny luster. The hood bowed towards Master Finran, who answered likewise, under the attentive glances of all the audience.
But the landlord did not move to meet the stranger and welcome him. In a great silence, the foreigner put his sack to the ground and drew a harp from it. The instrument looked like a hundred-year-old ivy, patinated root wound on itself, the rootlets of which were the strings.
Without leaving his hood, the figure gracefully settled on a chair, and intoned a lay, in a high, clear voice, with his fine hands on the bewitching chords.

In the first age of the world, in Beleriand ...
The rider encouraged her exhausted horse, as a red sun was sinking behind the lugubrious hills of Nan Dungortheb. Close by, too close, the pack howled a frightning call to kill. The proud palfrey, bloodless, hoisted itself to the top of a hill, for love for its mistress. Hunted and relentlessly harassed from ravines to thickets, they had been fleeing and fighting tooth and nail, decimating the pack of elven-blood thirsty creatures.
By now, her quiver empty and her horse exhausted, the elven rider had reached a high point and dismounted. She was quickly gathering branches to light a fire, when the furtive furs popped up. In a rush, the slender white figure leaned towards her hearth, exhorting the fire to spread its gleams of hope. The next moment, the stout elven maid held a firebrand burning with fury, slashing the flanks of the filthy creatures with her Gondolin blade.
Too late.
Nimroch the valiant had succumbed in protecting Aredhel’s back. All night long, with rage in her heart and tears in her eyes, the mighty princess of the Noldor defended herself, repelling the cruel wolves under the pale moon.
In the early morning, Aredhel succeeded in slaying the pack leader, a small beast with pupils of fire, snarling and fast. Her elven blade flashed as the princess beheaded the monster. Then she raised its remains before throwing them in the middle of the pack, which moved aside, amazed.
Thus Aredhel was able to escape. The pack, after devouring the steed’s corpse, followed the elven woman at a good distance before renouncing to avenge its leader. The White Lady of the Noldor, exhausted but valiant, faithful to her vows, turned eastward in search of the sons of Fëanor, crossing vast expanses of silent forest , before reaching a river.
She drank long in the pure wave, savoring the echoes of the power of Ulmo which still irrigated at that time, all the tributaries of powerful Sirion. Taking hope again, the princess followed the river downstream, towards the south, and at length found a ford.
Aredhel rushed into the cold wave. On the eastern bank she set up her camp and dived into a restless sleep.
Her brother, King Turgon, had not been able to keep her in his dependence. His law had been imposed on all his followers - no one could leave the hidden city, under penalty of death. The King, deaf to the calls of his cousins at war with Morgoth, had buried himself in his citadel, and feared treachery. But Aredhel had defied the authority of her brother, pleading the union of the Noldor and denouncing his timid policy. Tired by her admonitions, Turgon had let her go against the promise of keeping Gondolin's site secret. Once at a safe distance from the hidden city, Aredhel had wayled her cumbersome escort, imposed against her will. Born as valorous as the mighty princes of the Noldor, enamored of high deeds and liberty, she wished to join her forever friends, the sons of Fëanor. Formerly in Valinor, she preferred the siblings’ athletic games, to the art competitions practiced in the house of Fingolfin.
And here she was, where her pride had led her: even her page, wounded and terrified, had had to turn back. And her beloved steed had paid with its life, the temerity to leave the hidden city. Now she could only go forward, for the nameless horrors that dwelled in the foothills of Ered Gorgoroth she had just crossed, would not let her go back.
But the White Lady of the Noldor would not let herself be defeated. She plucked some herbs from the riverside, gleaned autumn berries, and turned her steps towards the deep forest, to the east. A gentle gloom bathed the thickets. Mildew scents fermented under the careful peace of a motionless canopy. Her heart warned her that hostile eyes were watching her - still she had no choice but to pass.
Winter had settled beforehand in these desert lands. The road hesitated between the black trunks, under a canopy of lean branches and pale lichens. The icy breath of Morgoth repressed the vitality in the heart of the trees and bit the living who ventured there. From time to time, a peeled rodent scurried, disturbed by the slender elven princess who tried to follow the strange trail, overgrown with brambles and cluttered with cobwebs.
A deceptive silence oppressed her journey eastward. Every day duller, every evening stiller, every night colder, Aredhel traveled through these desert moors, passing from bushes to bogs without noticing any trace of any road. Some trees, twisted by sickness, wore strange shreds of creeping lianas, waving in the air like ghosts uttering silent warnings. The dried earth now had nothing to give but dry roots and black mushrooms. The stormy skies hid the sun and the stars, but poured no beneficent rain. Sometimes a furtive faint startled the Lady of the Noldor, but the rumor was soon extinguished, and nothing came to shake the athletic elven maid’s stubbornness.
One evening, Aredhel discovered the dried corpse of a deer. All that remained was the skin on the skeleton. The animal seemed to have been abandoned there, as thrown from the trees after being emptied of its substance. The princess walked away and found refuge for the night in the hollow trunk of a dead tree, lying near a large black pine forest.
The gray dawn barely pierced the dark clouds, when Aredhel was awakened by strange scratches. Jingling clicks succeeded hopping chirping, seeming to answer each other in an atrocious and unintelligible language.
With horror, the princess realized that she was a prisoner: a network of intertwined cords blocked the entrance to the trunk. She kicked hard in the lace. But their elasticity resisted her assaults, and the sticky cords now hindered her ankles.
Panic-stricken, Aredhel heard clacking and chirping accelerate, like two sinister laughter guffawing at a victim. Terrified, she grabbed her elven blade and managed to clear her legs. The odious snickers gave way to horrible irritated interjections, and the trunk began to pitch, as if a fierce mass was rocking at the edge.
The Lady of the Noldor caught sight of a hideous pair of claws wriggling in front of the entrance, oozing out a sticky and disgusting drool. Repugnant muggers assailed her, but before the canvas was restored, the princess gave a violent sword-thrust. The gleaming weapon sank into a viscous abdomen which started with pain and retreated quickly, almost tearing the precious blade from Aredhel's hand.
A violent whistle of agony arose, accompanied by ignoble gurgles, whilst Aredhel was clearing out the entrance.
At last the trunk ceased to move. As the plaintive chirping faded away, cautiously, she threw her bundle out of the trunk. Immediately, something enormous leaped from the trunk to throw itself upon the piece of cloth, and reduce it to a lint.
The valiant Lady of the Noldor sprang forth from her refuge.
A gigantic spider, the size of a calf, was spitting the elvish tissue. Apparently the silk of Gondolin was not to the taste of the ugly weaver. The monster turned on its hairy legs and turned to its prey. But, surmounting her terror, the valiant princess appealed to the hatred of the Noldor for the offspring of Ungoliant. An implacable gleam, recalling the flame of the silmarils, burned the Gondolin blade, which fell upon the monster’s eyes clusters.
Shaken by horrible spasms, the spider curled up and rolled inert over the gray leaves. Farther away her sister was dragging her pierced abdomen, leaving behind a trail of greenish gall.
Aredhel shook her torpor and, proudly brandishing the Noldorin steel, quickly finished off the creatures. This is what awaited anything that would stand before her ...
Her head turned, weighed down by the stench of bowels and death. The princess walked away, seeking to reach a height towards the indecisive gleams of the morning sun. The rising star scarcely pierced the dull nocturnal vapors of this cursed place. Aredhel took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure.
But the respite was short. Around the mound, gray hills undulated, bristling with shapeless specters, twisted trees bearing livid canvases. The pale glow of the morning threw menacing shadows beneath the groves, where the swarming armies of Angband seemed to stir. A tenuous rumor rose from the ragged heath, an inquisitive rattling spreading from the north, descending the slopes of Dorthonion.
Understanding her peril, the White Lady of the Noldor, a flickering flame of light in those gloomy forests, swore by the honor of all her people, never to give up, and fled to the south.
On the first day, the valiant princess ran ever through dense valleys and desolate ridges, distancing the rumor of clawed paws on the arid rock, which seemed relegated to the confines of her nightmares.
On the second day, the vigor of the thickets which sheltered some pure pond, revived her declining strength. A malicious murmur pursued her relentlessly, running over the carpet of dead leaves in pursuit of the rapid pulsations of her valorous blood.
On the third day, the hoarse rattling of the hungry mandibles approached. The Lady of the Noldor veiled her escape under some psalmodies of secret, awakening fireflies to blur her tracks and to divert the hunt.
But the pursuit stomped on her white stole, exhausting the vigor of her body. In Aman, Aredhel had competed with the most powerful princes of the Noldor, her cousins, in every body exercises and athletes games. Then she shed her failing hopes under the brass of her determination, and continued to advance.
Henceforth rapid scouts discovered her sometimes. Aredhel struck the assailant before its sisters came by, and fled further south and east. But her vigor and the flash of fury that animated her elven blade slowly bent.
Driven to the bottom of an abrupt ravine, the Lady of the Noldor had to face a strong party of arachnids. Her vivacity and the sharpness of Gondolin made a marvelous last stand, but the blade broke in an enormous swollen chest, the venomous gall of which spread over the monster, burning with a twilight flame.
The Princess took advantage of the disorder in the ranks of her enemies. She fled, climbing the scree to a desolate plateau. A high stone, lifted there like a warning, glistened with unreal reflections, as if the rock had been forged in another world.
In the slope behind her, the mandibles slammed, eager for her flesh, ripe for a blood bath. The monsters climbed the scree. Aredhel, exhausted, leaned against the raised stone. She could not go any further.
A tear of vexation fluttered along her pale cheek as she turned her thoughts to the king, her brother, for the last time. The hour had come, to pay the price of her emancipation - she would now go into the songs, along its very last verses. It was now time to earn the exaltation of the former moments of proud liberty. Repressing a regret, she uttered a silent farewell to her people, brandishing before her, the derisory shard of gray blade, no longer than a dagger.
But when the first spiders reached the top, a muffled hum was heard. The monsters seemed to hesitate, twisting and choking to the edge of the abyss. The erect rock roared with bronzed reflections which seemed to bruise the multiple eyes of the assailants. The arachnids returned, the first attacking the following ones to go back down the scree.
In a few moments the battalion of hunters had turned into a timid and blind herd, decimated by the sharp edges of the ravine. At length calm returned to the plateau - the assailants had turned back, tamed by the mysterious power of the ore of another world.
Aredhel took her breath. But overwhelmed, she sank into a deep sleep at the foot of the megalith.

[1] Indeed, one even wondered which animal could have circumvented the temperamental goat, and some dirty tricks had even evoked hypotheses of outrageous audacity.
[2] White Horse
[3] In Valinor, she was called Írissë, which gave « Íreth » in sindarin. The name « Aredhel », also sindarin, means « noble elfe ». Ar-Feiniel means « white lady».
[4] Dor Dinen
[5] The river Aros
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