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The Vault of the Dead
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Death is a Powerful Experience

Disclaimer: Middle-earth and its inhabitants belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. The concept of the Moriquendi living in the White Mountains belongs to me, as well as the individual charcters.

“Death is a powerful experience” is a statement Glorfindel often makes in my various stories. So I guess it is my trademark, too.

Erikwę is a somewhat contorted – and most likely grammatically incorrect – version of the Primitive Elvish word erikwa, which means lonely or single. Arâmę is the oldest version of the name that became Oromë in Quenya and Araw in Sindarin.


Part 01 – Death is a Powerful Experience

“But in (g)Ondor was long recorded in song that the elven-boat rode the falls and the foaming pit, and bore him down through Osgiliath, and past the many mouths of Anduin, and out into the Great Sea; and the voices of a thousand seabirds lamented him upon the beaches of Belfalas.” (HoME 7: The Treason of Isengard – Boromir’s Departure, P. 382)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He woke up to the loud wailing of sea-birds, the low, insistent murmur of the waves rolling out onto the shore and the salty scent of sea-water and tang. Opening his eyes, he looked around him in confusion. He was lying at the feet of some rocky hills, on the westernmost tongue of a long peninsula. On the West and the North, he could see naught but the endless, foam-crowned waves of the Great Sea. On the East and the South, he recognized the familiar coastline of the Bay of Belfalas. The hilly landscape behind him seemed abandoned and void of life, save from some far-away buildings among the hills… perchance the ruins of a long gone fortress.

Andrast, he realized, I must be on the long cape of Andrast. ‘Tis the peak of Ras Morthil as it thrusts into the Sea, separating it from the Bay of Belfalas.

Yet he had no memories how or why he had got there… and where that diffuse, ghostly pain in his chest had come.

He struggled onto his feet and walked to the shore, to look into the water, in the vague hope that he could discover any singn on himself that might have caused the pain. He did not remember having been injured… in truth, he did not remember much at all, not even his own name. The water on the side of the Bay was usually calm and smooth enough for one to see his uncertain mirror image in it, like in a distorting mirror.

He knelt down and looked into the water. What he saw instead of his mirror image, however, was a boat floating the water, glimmering in a pale light; a small grey boat with a high prow. There was no-one to row it. It waded deep, as I it were heavily burdened, for it was filled with clear water to the rim, and from the water the shimmering light came; and lapped in the water a warrior lay asleep.

Seeing the warrior’s face was a shocking revelation; for the face was his own, and his motionless body bore many wounds. A broken sword lay across his knee, yet his horn was missing – indeed, it seemed to him as if he could hear the blowing of it from afar. From northward it seemed, but dim, as if it were but an echo in his mind. And there was something on his body that seemed unfamiliar: a fair belt of linked golden leaves.

As he was watching in confusion, the boat turned into the underwater stream, floated around the long tongue of Ras Morthil and out into the Great Sea. When he looked into the water again, he could see naught but the lapping water. He had no mirror image at all.

How could it be? he wondered. Am I dead?

“Yea, I fear you are,” answered a fair voice with strange, sing-song overtones. “’I know ‘tis confusing at first, but worry not – after a while, you shall get used to it.”

He whirled around and, to his astonishment, he saw a slim, shadowy shape sitting atop of one of the nearby hills. He was fairly certain that a moment earlier it had not been there.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “How did you come here?”

The other one shrugged and rose gracefully, walking down from the hill. He could see now that she – for some reason he was certain that she was female – was small and slender and most likely very lightweight. On the rocky floor not even a heavily-built man like himself would have left any footprints, but it seemed as if not even the short winter grass would bend under her feet.

“My name is Erikwę,” she replied casually, “though I do not believe that would tell you much. And I have been there, waiting for you to awake, for quite some time. ‘Tis just so that you could not see me before. It takes time to get used to being dead, and you have just died a few days ago.”

As she was coming closer, he saw that she had a pale, oval face, finely drawn, thin eyebrows, long, elegant eyes, dark as the night, and raven hair, worn in a tight topknot. Finely pointed, leaf-shaped ears peeked through a few loose tresses of her hair. She was very fair, in a slightly ominous way, and that called back forgotten memories in him.

“I know you!” he cried out, recognition drawing on him. “I have met your kind before – your people saved my life, many years ago, when the trolls nearly killed me. You… you are one of the Dark Elves of the White Mountains, are you not?”

She nodded. “We are the ones called Mori-kwendî or the Dark Folk, yea. The one who healed you was our chieftain, First Huntress Morwęndi.”

“And do you always talk to dead people?” he asked sarcastically.

She laughed. “As a matter of fact, we do. But in my case it is rather natural, if you take a closer look at me.”

He did so… and realized with a shock that he could see the rocky hills through her half-transparent body. He felt vaguely ill… which was strange, considering that he was supposedly dead.

“So you are…” he trailed off.

“Dead, too?” she asked, clearly amused. “Yea, I am… have been for more than six thousand years, give or take a few, in truth.”

She seemed to… solidify her body somehow again, for he could no longer see through her. Of course, having been dead for so long she had had ample time to learn how to handle her… condition.

He frowned, remembering something he had been taught in his youth. “Hold on, are you not supposed to go to the Halls of Mandos in case you get killed?”

She shook her head. “We are the Avari – the Refuser, as our Kala-kwendî cousins like to call us. We prefer the name Faithful. For as we once rejected to leave the land of our birth to follow Arâmę to the Undying Lands, we have ever since refused to leave the lands that have long become our home after our death. I am certain that you, as the Heir of the Steward of Gondor, have had a thorough education in Elven lore; more so with your father being the scholar that he is.”

“How can you know so much about my family?” he asked in suspicion. She gave him a shrug and a smile.

“When you are dead, you have a great deal of time to spend,” she replied. “We do not meddle with the affairs of mortal Men as a rule, but we keep a close eye on you. We do not wish Men to find our hidden dwellings; in truth, we do not wish them to know about us at all.”

“If that is so,” he said slowly, “why would your people save my life then?”

“You are from the line of Mithrellas,” she answered, “and she was one of our northern cousins. We have kept out of the struggle of Middle-earth, but we do not wish for Mbelekôro or his servants to remain victorious in the end. We are few, but we do what we can to prevail.”

“But I am dead now,” he pointed out. “I cannot be helped. All I can hope for is that I have died a good death, although I still cannot remember.”

“You have,” she said. “Worry not; the memories will return, eventually. Death is a powerful experience, and you are still under shock. Things will become more clear, given enough time… what?” she asked, seeing his grin.

“’Tis what you said,” he explained. “About death. Glorfindel used to say that when the halflings nagged him about his lives in Rivendell.”

She grinned back at him. “Well, he ought to know it – he was the first to return to tell the tale, so far.”

He looked at her… then another piece of forgotten memory resurfaced. “I remember your name. Glorfindel mentioned it. You are the Herald of the Dead, are you?”

She nodded. “I am. When one of us dies, I am sent to lead those who do not wish to follow the Call of Mandos to a place where they can rest.”

“So the tales about Elven wraiths looking for a body to take over are true?” he asked. “Had it the Rohirrim right all the time?”

She gave him a chilly look. “Those are foolish tales of foolish, superstitious Men,” she said. “Why should the Unhoused wish to have a mortal body, just to go through the same torment every few years? Nay, we prefer to remain with our own people, thank you.”

"But what could this have to do with me?” he asked. “I am… well, I was... but a Man I cannot go to the Halls of Mandos, can I?”

“I know not,” she admitted. “No-one knows where mortal Men go when they die, and if you had died in the fullness of your time, we would never have met.”

That shocked him a bit again. “What do you mean?”

“Your time in Middle-earth has been cut short prematurely,” she explained. “The Dream was sent to your brother. He was supposed to make the journey to Rivendell. You were meant to remain in Gondor and protect your realm from the armies of the Darkness.”

“Was it a mistake, then, that I have insisted to go myself?” he asked, shaken to the bone. “All I wanted was to protect my brother. Faramir is strong, but a journey like that… he could have died.”

“He might have died, even though he was better suited for a journey through the wilderness,” she agreed. “Yet you most certainly have. That was a mistake, yea. You were meant for Gondor; you should have stayed there.”

“I do not regret having gone,” he said quietly. She nodded.

“And I know and understand your reasons. Yet your death has changed the balance of power greatly… and that can still have terrible consequences. Gondor will feel your loss keenly.”

“They will have their King Returned,” he riposted bitterly. “What could they possibly need me for?”

“For a moment, they may be blinded by the glory of the resurrected kingdom, assuming that it will manage to prevail against the Dark Lord,” she admitted. “But the King will only be their ruler. You, on the other hand, are Gondor. You always have been. This simple truth has motivated all your deeds… even your mistakes. After the first euphoria, they will understand that.”

“’Tis cold comfort that you offer me,” he sighed.

“’Tis the only one the dead have to offer,” she replied. “But we have tarried here long enough. Follow me.”

“Follow you… where?” he asked in bewilderment.

“You cannot go to the Halls of Waiting before your time, wherever that might be for mortal Men,” she explained. “But there is a place where you can wait for your time to come… and watch the great events of this Age unfold before your eyes.”

“And where would that be?” he asked.

“High up in the White Mountains,” she said. “In our hidden city is the Vault of the Dead, where all the Unhoused dwell ‘til the end of Arda.”

“Elven wraiths?” he asked.

She nodded. “You will be the first Man among us – ‘til your time comes.”

“And what if I choose not to go with you?” he challenged her.

She shrugged. “’Tis up to you. But believe me, roaming the world of the living as a houseless spirit is not a pleasant thing. You have already had an encounter with the Ringwraiths as Man alive, and I deem it was bad enough. Imagine what it would be like to meet them now, that you are part of the spirit world yourself.”

Boromir shivered with remembered terror. Nay, he did not wish to meet the Ringwraith again, even less so as a ghost in a ghost world. He would follow the Herald to the Vault of the Dead, whatever that might be, stay there ‘til he would be allowed to move on – and watch.

“Lead on, then,” he said, and the Herald grinned.

“Come,” he called cheerfully. “You shall see that being an unhoused spirit does have its advantage. For starters, it makes travelling easy – and really fast.”

She became transparent again and soared into the air. After a moment of hesitation, Boromir tried to follow her… and was surprised by the ease he managed it. ‘Twas all deeply confusing. He was dead, yet he was still in Middle-earth, following the ghost of some long-dead Elf to some ghost gathering or whatnot.

And who would have thought that a six-thousand-year-old Elven ghost could be so… cheerful.

Truly, all this was beyond strange. But he had not many other choices than to follow.



Lots of background stuff to the Moriquendi of the White Mountains have been posted to the Otherworlds discussion board.


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