But a Day From Home – Part Five

But a Day from Home – Part 5

When he was told that there was no way the Rangers could possibly assault Rantost until nightfall, Calenglad had needed to stop Celebarad from attempting to swim across the lake on his own. It was impossible to call an elf young, but occasionally a certain recklessness in Celebarad’s manner that made it hard to believe he was at least several centuries old.

There was no real guessing at the age of an elf; they had a certain sameness about them, a quality of being perfectly youthful and strangely ancient. Even as accustomed to the Fair Folk as the Dunedain were, and even surrounded by the ancient history of one of the once-great Kingdom of the West, it was somehow slightly unsettling to hear an elf speak about events long lost to the ages of the world. Around the fire, the evening before, Celebarad had mentioned offhandedly that the sword at his side had been his father’s, wielded when Sauron had made his war on the Elves in the Second Age. Calenglad had felt oddly sad at the sight of the blade, as bright and keen and ageless as the elf who carried it, while Arnor lay in ruins around him, and everyday they struggled to keep thieves, like the men of Rantost, from the graves of their fathers.

Rantost was a problem. But, Rantost was also at the heart of a solution to a larger problem–the renewal of the alliance between the Dunedain and the men of Ost Forod. It was an old pact, the vigilance of Ost Forod on the northern road, in exchange for supplies and allegiance with the Rangers against the forces of Angmar. In these turbulent days, it had fallen by the wayside, with both parties more concerned with their own troubles than with what they owed each other. The robbers who haunted Evendim were a problem for both of them, though, and through a careful showing of good faith, they were drawing near to a renewed union against the threat, with Rantost being their target. Basil Gummidge, the arbiter of Ost Forod, had sent his own men, faithful and trusty, into the camp as spies, but lacked the force required to assault the tomb raiders’ stronghold. The Rangers were too distinctive to pass themselves off as thieves, but had the requisite strength of arms to make the assault. All of the relics and treasures that the thieves stole from throughout Annuminas and the surrounding ruins came to Rantost eventually, and when the first inventories had been delivered to Tinnudir from Basil’s scouts, the Rangers had been devastated by the thought that so much could have been taken, in spite of their vigilance.

But trying to explain the politics of the situation to an agitated, impatient elf was proving to be a strain on Calenglad’s ability to be diplomatic. To rush into an attack before Basil’s scouts were prepared would be to put their safety at risk, and sour the alliance that had been tendered thus far. Brassica’s capture was a new threat to their plans, for surely the tomb robbers must have thought her a spy, and Celebarad’s insistent haste might cause the scheme to unravel entirely. Already things were moving quicker than the Rangers had hoped, preparations being made in a hurried fashion, with less attention to detail than Calenglad would have wished. Boats were being readied, weapons assembled and sharpened, and review being made of the layout of Rantost and its ruins. Everyone had questions and every time Calenglad turned around, there was someone else at his elbow with some new matter demanding attention. To make matters worse, lacking anything else to do with himself, Celebarad was stalking the camp, fretting incessantly, and providing a substantial distraction.

Master Elf,” Calenglad finally called to him exasperatedly, when he found a spare moment in between the hustle and the bustle of marshaling the assault on Rantost, to summon the elf to his side. “You are wearying yourself to the bone, and we have yet to even set foot on the island. You have many long years to your name, and the Fair Folk are known the world over for their wisdom and their patience. A few more hours will pass quickly–more quickly than I’d like–and then we shall set out for Rantost. There will be blood and battle and you had best be ready. Is your blade sharp, is your armor oiled? Have you found a shield to carry? Your eyes are sharper than the eyes of my men, but do you know what to look for? When we land on the shore of Rantost, it will be for you to find your young companion and safeguard her back to the boats. If it is not in your heart to prepare, then at least find some place to sit yourself, and stay out from underfoot.”

Calenglad almost immediately regretted his sharpness, for Celebarad clearly took the chastisement keenly to heart and stopped pacing, with bowed head and shoulders. “Then I am a poor example of my people, for I am neither wise nor patient, and not one of all my years has ever passed so slowly as these hours.”

Peace, my friend,” Calenglad said, by way of apology. “I spoke without care, you are sick at heart and I know it. Speak to Orchalwe, he will tell you of the ruin, and where they are likely to have kept the young hobbit. I am sure they will not have harmed her, not if they believe she carries any of our secrets. For now, be easy, and do not worry yourself overmuch. You do great credit to your people by your loyalty to your friend.”

It was at least helpful that Celebarad was as easily moved by words as by deeds, and that once given a task would set to it with a will. Calenglad took several of his men aside, and advised them to find ways to keep the elf busy, and to forgive him his restlessness. It was in this way that they passed the next several hours, until dusk began to darken the skies above, and the boats were made ready at the dock. Half a score of his men would be part of the assault, slipping quietly into the ruin, to seize certain points of control, and rout the bandits from within their own camp. The plan was fixed, and well known by the men who were to be part of the attack, and the elf who would be joining them.

When he saw Celebarad next, Calenglad felt much better about the elf’s inclusion. The Lady Beldrieth had been fairly forthright about the fact that the younger elf was not much experienced in battle. Indeed, when Celebarad had ridden into camp, glittering in cerulean-dyed leather and lightly gilded scale, all laughter and gaiety, Calenglad had privately been certain that there was nothing of the warrior in him. Now, armored more seriously in fine, grey-enameled steel mail, jointed at the seams with pale, supple leather, and carrying a shield bearing a device of ancient Westernesse, a ship and seven stars, Celebarad seemed at least to look as though he were prepared. He wore a cloak, pinned at the shoulder to cover his chest, and hide the faint gleam of his sword in the dark, but it was now thrown back and he stood still and silent at the waterside, as the Rangers loaded up the boats on the dock nearby.

Hail,” Calenglad greeted him, drawing his own cloak about him in the chill of the wind off the water, as the sunset stained the water crimson and gold. “I see the hours have passed well for you, my friend. You spoke last night of your father, of his war and his blade. You have been made anew for battle now, perhaps made in his image?”

I think I know now that I was never made for war,” Celebarad answered solemnly. “Whatever my father’s deeds, surely none of his courage has come to me, for I fear to cross the water, and find death on Rantost’s shore. And my enemy not the black hoards of Sauron, but only men! Men at their worst, in their smallness and their greed. Wicked they may be, but they are only men, and how short their lives! They shall be made shorter still, tonight, and it shall be by my hand.” He sighed deeply and looked up at the stars, just beginning to shine as the night spread across the sky. “And how short my life, if so much can yet be new to me. How grim your men are, what steel must be in them, for their hearts to be hardened against such dread. My heart has not been tempered so, and it cries inside me its fear. No, Dunadan, I have not this night been made for battle, only made to miss my home, and to wish I had not taken Brassica from hers.”

Not for nothing was Calenglad regarded as the chieftain of the Rangers in Tinnudir–he had a way of listening and of knowing the heart of any who spoke to him. It was a gift that served him well when it came to where he placed his trust, but it also a quality that led those around him to seek his counsel. Whether it had been stated outright or not, Calenglad could tell that the elf sought his counsel now. “We are none of us made for war, not truly,” he said, looking up at the stars himself. “We all fear to lose our lives, and there is nothing but sorrow in taking the lives of others. But these are men who have made their choices, your friends and your foes alike, some to guard the innocent, others to cause them hurt. Where these choices meet, there must be conflict. Listen when I tell you, you are not alone in your fear. Hardened my men may be, and their faces may not show it, but their hearts know the same fear of death, the reluctance to kill, and the wish that there could instead be peace. It by knowing their duty that they are tempered, and I think that you know yours. Let it be your steel.”

He had brought with him, from among the belongings of their guests, the small silver sword that the hobbit lass had carried, and he presented it to the elf now. Celebarad stared at it for a long moment, before taking it in hand, and securing it at his side. He thought a moment. “Thanks to you,” he said finally, slightly hesitant, and then quickly to be certain he’d been understood, “Is that correct, in your tongue? Thank you?”

Caleglad smiled and bowed. “It is. The boats are ready, and my men wait for you to join them. May the Valar keep you, for your cause is right and just. Go well.”

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5 Comments

  1. really enjoying this 🙂

    Reply
  2. robamb2002

     /  February 17, 2012

    Just came back to this since the first post. I love how you write! I love the characters and especially love how you captured the true nature of hobbits with the way brassica laments missing breakfast. Ha!

    Reply
  3. Okeg of Dwarrowdelf

     /  February 17, 2012

    me too, so far so good

    Reply
  4. The slight envy of Calenglad for Celebarad’s immortality is interesting. Not on a personal level but more in terms of his nation fading while the elves never have to lose anything. You say it very well.
    Very insightful speech by Calenglad about war.

    Reading your stories feels much like reading Tolkien. Only difference is, you can actually write decent female characters!

    Reply
    • preludeinz

       /  April 25, 2012

      Reading your stories feels much like reading Tolkien. Only difference is, you can actually write decent female characters!

      Wow, talk about the best possible compliment you could have paid me! It’s challenging to stay in keeping with the spirit of Tolkien’s writing–I’m lucky to be so immersed in the game, and lucky that lotro does the same so well.

      Reply

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