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An Autumn Fair in Halabor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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24
Epilogue

For disclaimer, etc., see the Prologue.

Author’s note: If you want to know about the individual fates of the townsfolk, ask. I will be happy to share all my little secrets with you. :))


~~~

EPILOGUE

In the early morning, after this year’s Autumn Fair had ended, the Elves of the Wandering Company gathered in the Infirmary garden to set off on their never-ending journey again. Their packhorses had been laden already, and they only tarried to speak their farewells in the proper manner.

Tinthellon and Erinti, the two healers, paid poor Delbaeth a last visit, and while her husband was going through the instructions with Mistress Angharad, Erinti took the girl’s hand in her own and looked into her eyes, long and deeply.

“People will say that you are damaged,” she said, “But know that you are [I]not[/I]. We healed your body. ‘Tis up to you to allow your heart to heal, too. I can see that there is enough strength in you to be hale and happy – even though it may take a long time. Promise me, that you shall not give up on yourself? That you will seize happiness when it comes your way, no mater what people might say?”

None of the Eldar would speak thusly to a wounded who had just come back from the brink of death and was still severely traumatized, But Erinti, wise-woman of the Silvan folk, was a Wood-Elf, full of strong will and wild magic. And for the first time, the girl came forth from the shell she had retreated when the unspeakable happened to her, blinked, and gave the Elf a weak smile.

“I… promise…” she whispered in a voice so breathless only an Elf could hear.

“And never forget about your promise,” warned Erinti, kissing her brow. “May the blessings of the forest and the running and falling waters and the soaring winds be with you, child. Be brave and be strong, whatever fate may throw at you. For you have it in you to beat fate.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The news that the Elves were leaving spread across town like fire. People who had made business with them came to Nurria’s Gate to say farewell… and to take one last glimpse at them. For no-one truly believed that they would get another chance to see Elves in their lifetime.

“One can rarely foretell what the future might bring,” said Gildor Inglorion to Lord Orchald who had come in his august person to see him off. “Yet I do not believe that we would return to this place any time soon, lovely as it might be. Our way leads to the South, to Dol Amroth, where my ship lays in the harbour, to sail into Edhellond across the Bay of Belfalas. We have been away from home for many years. ‘Tis time for us to return and rest for a while.”

“And what after then?” asked Lord Orchald. Will you set sail to the West, like so many of your kind have done? Edhellond has always been the Elf-haven of the South, from where the grey ships left for Elvenhome, has it not?”

Gildor Inglorion shook his golden head. “It has, yet I cannot leave these shores yet. I have sworn a solemn oath to stay here ‘til Sauron is defeated. To aid Men in their long twilight struggle against the falling darkness. To fight alongside them – and to die alongside them if I have to.”

Lord Orchald shuddered. The Men of Gondor never spoke out loud the name of their chief Enemy, for they believed that there was power in one’s name, and unleashing the black power of the Dark Lord by simple invocation would have been a grievous mistake. It seemed that one had to be an Elf-lord to allow oneself such a careless manner of speech.

“Have you fought against him before?” asked the old lord.

Gildor gave him a grim smile. “I know you are well-versed in lore, my lord, so let me tell you this much: I have fought in the War of the Elves in Sauron that raged all over Eriador in the Second Age. I reached Eregion too late, when that fair city was already in charred ruins, and its lord, the fiery smith, murdered. I fought on the battle plane of Dagorlad and saw our pointless victory, when Sauron was defeated – for ever, as we believed then; for a while, as we know now. I shall stay in Middle-earth ‘til I can witness his final defeat… or die trying.”

Lord Orchald remained silent for a while. The ever-present threat from Mordor had hovered upon their horizon as long as Men could remember. They were well used to it. But the Elf-lord’s cold hatred was something different. Something personal.

“’Tis a very long war you are fighting, Lord Gildor,” he finally said.

The Elf-lord nodded. “Six thousand years… give or take a century,” he replied with a mirthless grin. “But I have time… and naught else to do.”

“And a bleak existence it is,” riposted Lord Orchald, “if all one can see forward to is vengeance.”

The Elf-lord shrugged. “I had the bad fortune to be born when Elves no longer had realms to rule,” he said, “thus being of royal blood is of little importance. There is not much for us to build anymore. The only Elven kingdom that still exists is Northern Mirkwood, and honestly, can you imagine me living in the trees?”

Lord Orchald gave that a thought – and shook his head, laughing. “Nay, I think not. I could rather imagine you as the Elven counterpart of Prince Adrahil – an independent monarch, sworn fealty to his king, yet his own master in all that matters.”

“Which is perchance the reason why we have got along so well in all these years, the Princes of Dol Amroth and I,” replied Gildor, his smile this time genuine. “And with your own ancestors as well, my lord. Small your lands might be, but you have always been remarkably independent in spirit – all of you.”

“’Tis strange to imagine that you have seen the founder of our House leave Anárion’s ship – and known every single one of his descendants, down to my own son,” said Lord Orchald thoughtfully.

“Not each and every one,” corrected Gildor. “Although the blood of Westernesse runs deeper and truer in your family than in most other noble Houses in Gondor, your people tended to die rather frequently, and I did not visit this place often enough to meet all of them. But yea, yours is a noble and ancient and honourable House, and I enjoyed the time I have spent in your town… and in your company… something I rarely do with mortal Men.”

“Will we ever meet again, do you think?” asked the old lord.

Gildor shrugged. “That I cannot tell.”

“Cannot or will not?” insisted Lord Orchald.

“I truly cannot,” said Gildor. “Foresight comes to me in short, unexpected glimpses, like the one concerning the silversmith’s son. I cannot steer it. And Irmo, Lord of Dreams, has not shown me aught about your future – or that of your House.”

“Would you tell us if you had foresight about our fate?” asked Herumor.

Gildor considered that for a moment – then he shook his head.

“Nay, I would not. I do not believe that it would be good for mortal Men to know their future, unless the Valar decide to give them foresight of their own. And even that is a much too harsh trial on mortal flesh. But all this matters not anyway, as I have no insight at all when I look at you – and perchance ‘tis better so.”

“Perchance it is,” agreed Lord Orchald. “I for my part have no wish to see the future, as there is little I could do to change it, should I find it not to my liking. Well, my lord Gildor, I wish you a safe journey. Give my regards to the Prince of Dol Amroth when you see him. I wish I could meet him again, but Adrahil rarely comes to Minas Tirith in these days, and I cannot afford to leave my town unprotected for such a long journey. My son is dedicated to his duties, but he is still too young to fill my place.”

“He will have to learn fast, I fear, as times are darkening already and will become even darker,” said Gildor. “May Elbereth protect you and your House and town, my lord. Let us hope that when my path turns this way again, I shall find one of your descendants leading and protecting this place, as you have done all your life.”

With that, he took his leave and led the Wandering Company out through Nurria’s Gate. They all san as they left town, and the townsfolk had never heard anything quite that beautiful before – or ever afterwards. And the visit of the Wandering Elves became a tale frequently told in Halabor for the next ten years or so.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
But the Elves never returned to the little town. For ten years later, a great army of Orcs crossed Anduin on rafts, and the town was besieged. Lord Orchald held it for several days, hoping against hope that help he had asked for would arrive in time, and the townsfolk fought the beasts of Mordor ‘til the last man or woman who could wield a kitchen knife or a hay fork.

Yet it was all in vain. For the Orcs attacked in unexpected numbers and threw the fire of Minas Morgul over the walls, so that the wooden upper stores of the houses went up in flame. They hoped that seizing the town would give them a foothold from where to lead a deadly strike against the garrison of Cair Andros and get into the back of Minas Tirith itself. So they would not turn back, regardless of the heavy losses that they had suffered from the hands of the brave Wardens, the Castle Guard and all the craftsmen of the town.

When the troops from Osgiliath finally arrived, led by Boromir, the Steward’s son himself, all they found were charred ruins, dead bodies and pillaging Orcs. Lord Orchald had fallen by then, slain on the crumbled walls of his Castle, and with him most of the people who had lived in the oldest town of Gondor. Boromir’s troops slew the surviving Orcs to the last one, but for the town, there was no help.

The handful of survivors, mostly elderly people and small children who had found refuge in the stone cellar under the Infirmary, were sent to Lossarnach to live under the protection of Lord Forlong. Boromir ordered the bodies to be poured over with oil, friend and foe alike, to prevent a plague to break out and sweep over Anórien. There was naught else for him to do. Halabor was no more, his people dead, and never again would any-one live among its fallen walls.

And yet, as little would have thought, in that last, terrible night of the dying town, a new hope and a great gift for Gondor was called into life, even though it would take a decade – or more – for it to be revealed.

~The End – this time really~

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