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Lay of Aegrothond III: Edrahil and the Dragon

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In the ancient, gnarled deepwood of Aegrothond, among elder stones which tell whispered tales of ages long past, a tome is laid upon a great pedestal- a volume of richly embossed leather, bound with fine golden clasps and bearing upon it the embossed seal of the Almenodrim, the great smith-elves of yore, and their seat.

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Resplendent it sits, this volume of elder times, open to a page of painted illumination- an artwork of great beauty, depicting a great dark dragon coiled above a painted scene. Below it, as translated from the Elder Speech, is rendered the following text.
 

 

 

 

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Edrahil and the Dragon

Which is the third part of the Lay of Aegrothond,

in which the deeds of Edrahil are told.

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             In the elder ages of the world, when the Sun and Moon were bright and untarnished by years uncounted, a fair realm was spread between the mountains and the sea. In those days the paths of the Elves were greatly sundered and broken, and not least of all these rifts was the breaking of faith between the Almenodrim and the Crown of Malinor, of which the Song of Dagnir tells. By this virtue most who departed Tavule had come to follow the Great Houses, which had come together in order for to be known as the wider realm of Aegrothond. For a time they were guided by Sylvaen the Everflame, of whom many a tale is told- but by the time of this telling he had passed into oblivion, and led no longer.
             Now Prince Aegnor the Starfinder ruled over the holdfasts which had been his father’s, and he took upon his own shoulders the mantle of Lordship of the Almenodrim and the stewardship of the land and the people. Six brothers remained to him, left over from exodus- and each was possessed of a craft and mastery so that their holdfast flourished and grew.  Thus they together spread their princely wisdom, and all the lands were glad for it. One among them was foremost in martial skill and ability, and it is he that will feature most prominently in this tale.Lord Edrahil was his name, which is well-remembered, and he was the fourth son of Sylvaen. Great faith he kept in the Oath of his House, and a will indomitable to purge the darkness from the fouler places of the world; to this end he traveled often beyond the far bounds of the realm of the Almenodrim, to seek out all evils and break them beneath the power of his bright will. Thusly were the lands of the Elves kept safe from harm, to grow and be fruitful.
             Now in the northern mountains in those years the dwarf-manses were in constant strife with all manner of dark creatures which grew and multiplied, having been left behind by the wraths of Iblees and other, older evils which have no name. Chiefest among these at that time was the wyrm Ankar, which had fled to those parts after the first breaking of the Deceiver. From the high peaks this beast commonly ventured to terrorize the peaceful Dwarves- a terrible wrath incarnate, borne upon a sudden wind and a gout of freezing breath. Ere long it came to be that the wyrm’s hunger was not sated with dwarf-flesh and gold, and it began to hunger for the far sweeter meats of the south.
             The first settlement beneath his wrath was called Myrdaen, a village known for its refining of fine wool and ornamented cloths of all kinds. It came like a cold wind from the north, and tore the land asunder- feasting upon the sheep and cattle, and driving aside the stones of Elvish buildings with brutal force. Of all who dwelt there, few survived- and in great clamour the Lord himself was felled by the snapping jaws of darkness incarnate. Some managed to escape, and hastened to the shores of the Sea where the Court of Prince Aegnor was held. There the beleagured Elves made their plea, and were received in dour mood by the Prince and his lordly brothers.
             So it came to pass that Edrahil heard of this grey terror of the high mountains, and his mind at once was set with fateful purpose. “By what right doth Ankar claim the mastery of the skies, who was made in mockery of Creation?” he cried aloud, and his eyes shone with a sudden flame. “Too long have we allowed this danger to play upon our borders, and done nothing! Give me leave, brother, and swiftly shall Ankar’s monstrous head adorn your mantel-piece.” And his Company of friends struck their spears against their shields twice with great clamour, calling their assent.
             But Prince Aegnor sat a while in deep thought, causing even the rowdiest Elves of the Court to fall silent. “Cheaply valued is thy own life, brother, and the lives of thy Company,” he spoke at last, and his eyes grew dark with foretold doom. “Great danger lies upon the paths of the northern mountains, and small comfort will pride be to thy widows if thou art slain in pursuit of this beast. If thy hearts do not know fear, let them at least know wisdom. Death and grim fate shalt thou find in the North, and naught more.”

             All eyes were upon Edrahil then, who was silent, his eyes aglow behind his golden mask. But it was Erendriel the Bard who spoke, and stood forward from the other nobles with hand upturned- whereupon glimmered the ring of blood-silver, bound and sealed with the Oath of Seven. “Hearken to the rings of our brotherhood, if thou shalt not hearken to the pride of thy brother! For we are not of those who step back from perdition, and stand idly by, while brother-Elves are so cruelly put upon.”

             And the Prince was given pause, saying- “Rightly dost thou speak, Erendriel, though calamitous doom of one kind or another I presage of you. Wyrms do not tire easily of Elven silver, or turn away from simple cruelty.” Then he stood, and upon his brow the flames of the Seastone Crown glimmered with a ruddy light. “Go forth, then, ye twelve Companions, and as a token of hope take with you the Helm of our Father, who is perished.” And Edrahil received the Helm, and bowed deeply, for it was a high gift. Within the fortnight he set out north, and thusly began the great quest from the citadel of Tamun.
             Here it will be noted that this citadel was at the very edge of the realm of Old Aegrothond- that is to say, at the juncture shared by the mountains and the lowlands which swept down towards the Great Sea. This was because the Almenodrim (and indeed most Descendant Peoples of that time) kept to the ancient laws set forth by the Four Brothers, who demarcated all the lands of creation for their descendants. Therefore Men were granted dominion over the plains, Orcs over the deserts, Dwarves over the high mountains, and Elves over the broad forested lands wherever they may be found. In keeping with this practice Tamun was raised upon a wooded foothill, not far from the true mountains of the dwarrows, and served as a border-fort for general purposes.

             In any case, as the northernmost fortress it had been first to receive news of Ankar’s attack on Myrdaen, and thus the mood was high when the crimson banner of Edrahil was seen approaching from the south. Twelve there were in total, alongside their Lord- the aforementioned Company of heroes, and Erendriel the Bard who chose to ride with them. Hardy Elves were they, who had seen many a trial in their time and had sailed west with the Seven when the call was sounded. They had participated in the wars of the old homeland, and knew well the sting of dragon-breath.

             The keepers of Tamun received them gladly, and informed them of the state of the Northlands. In the time of their marching it seems the wyrm had grown bolder, so that even the fortified cities were no longer safe, and feared him. But Edrahil only smiled, and called for more mead, saying: “It is he who should be trembling, good Elves. Soon, we shall make a fine powder of his ancient bones.” And so it was that the final night in warmth was passed, and there was little trepidation (far less, as you shall soon see, than there should have been.)

             The dew lay heavily upon the path into the Vale of Tamun as the Company of Edrahil set out, and clung to their scarlet cloaks in silvery droplets which shone in the morning sun like so many stars in a crimson firmament. Well-armed and armoured they were, for each among them bore a sword and a spear, and a shield rendered by the highest arts of the Almenodrim. Upon their faces were fearsome mask-helms of gilded steel, but beneath them the Elves smiled and were merry- for Edrahil led them whom they trusted, and Erendriel seldom ceased to sing and jest.

             “A score of red-breasted robin-fowl we look!” he laughed in melody, and the songbirds sang along with him in lilting tones. “To pluck the worm from the northern mountains, hear hear!” And a great shout of mirth and joy rose among the Company in march, for they did not know fear. Edrahil ordered then the banner to be lifted, and together the voices of the Elves rang farewell in ancient song as the town sank into the hills behind them.

 

“Again they come, and swift they ride,

“For Elvenesse, for Elvenesse!”

Their voices rise with ringing pride.

And trumpets high above them soar,

for elder fathers, dispossessed

for many kin, who fought and died,

And nations torn and rent by war.

 

For fear is foreign to their hearts,

and blades with gladness strike and reave,

Through forest air grown thick with darts,

And long-spears wrought by Elven arts,

Which forest-cloth like needle weave.”

 

             And so forth they sang in joy beneath their seven-starred banner of scarlet, as the road turned northwards and the foothills began to grow great and dark to either side. Ere long the heads of the mountains became hidden in the clouds, and the forests of Elvenesse gave way to stone and fallen gravel. As the last great tree faded beyond a ridge the group made camp, and settled in for an unhurried sleep.

             When the sun rose upon the second day the Company of Edrahil set out once more, though they sang less and spoke sparsely to one another; for the path had become difficult, and in places it wavered and fell into sudden crevasses which had doubtless been the death of many a reckless explorer. All about the road were tall crags of grey stone, interspaced atimes by small springs of clear water too cold for drinking- they had flowed down from the glaciers which crowned these mountains, too high above to be seen.

             The band stopped for short luncheon at noon, having brought with them a wealth of provision from the grateful Elves of Tamun, and set up a way-camp to rest their weary feet. Some jested that they hoped that the greater part of the journey was finished, but most remained silent- marveling at the broad tallness which was arranged about their fellows.

So it was that one of them spotted a small creature crawling upon the rocks far below, which were woven with mists. He called to his companions, and Erendriel nocked a swift arrow in his heartwood bow.

             “Hark!” the Lord Edrahil cried into the abyss, and the astute Elven eyes of the Company discerned that the creature was in fact a particularly hairy dwarrow of auburn mane and pale complexion. “What business have ye here, in the lands between the forest and the mountain?” But the Dwarf did not reply, instead waving his short arms and swiftly scurrying from sight.“How odd,” remarked Edrahil, “I did not recall the Dwarves to be so fearful of Elves, especially in these parts. I wonder what it was that caused him to flee?” But no sooner had the Lord spoken, than a warbling cry pierced the air alongside many black-hafted arrows.

 

[To be Continued]

 

 

Edited by Fid

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