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The Vault of the Dead
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You Shall Send Us the Dreamer

Lathron is the Sindarin name of the month roughly equivalent to our Mai. Tolkien remarked that the Dúnedain – unlike the Elves of Rivendell – generally used the Sindarin names instead of the Quenya ones, and as this story takes place in Gondor, I followed suit.

A few lines of dialogue are quoted from ROTK – The Steward and the King. It was inevitable for this particular chapter to work. I am sure you will all recognize them.

Mbelekôro is Primitive Elvish for Melkor. Barathî is the same for Varda, according to the Ardalambion website.


Part 02 – You Shall Send Us the Dreamer

When the One Ring was finally destroyed, the battle of the Age won, Sauron defeated and the darkness of the world lifted, for a while the heroes of that battle rested in Minas Tirith, trying to rearrange their lives now that the greatest threat for all life was gone. On the eighth of Lathron, however, the Riders of Rohan left to return home and to prepare everything for the proper burial of their fallen King and for the proper crowning of their new King. With them rode the sons of Elrond, with a secret mission known only to them and the King of Gondor himself.

The longer they were gone, the more impatient and short-tempered the great King Elessar Telcontar had grown, and even his closest friends, the companions of the Ring, began to wonder whatever might ail him and what was going on that they knew not about. With the exception of Gandalf, of course, who was privy to all counsels of the King, and that of Legolas who had known certain secrets for almost as long as Aragorn himself, albeit from a different source.

The poor Steward had a hard time, balancing things between the easily insulted courtiers, the understandably bewildered nobles and the King himself who was just as secretive towards him as towards everyone else. Nonetheless, he was grateful for the distraction. As long as he had his hands full – and then some – he needed not to think of his losses. Aye, the King had returned and the Kingdom had been reunited and resurrected, but the price the House of Mardil had to pay for it had been a gruesome one.

For his part, Faramir was content with being but the Steward instead of having the responsibility of the whole realm bearing down on his shoulders. He also owed the King his life and that of his lady, thus he had no true resentments stepping back into the shadow and working from there on the well-being of his beloved land. And yet there were days when he wished that the deeds of his father, mislead as he had been around the end of his long life, would have been more duly appreciated… and that people had mourned Boromir properly.

One could have said much about Denethor’s harsh methods ruling the Realm in the name of a King he never truly wanted to return, but one could not deny that he had protected Gondor ‘til the very end, regardless of his personal losses. A life of his own and the warmth of his family being the first casualties of that long, twilight struggle. Faramir had understood at a very young age that he could never compete with his brother for the love of their father – not that he wanted to; where Boromir was considered, he and Denethor were in complete agreement – yet that did not mean that he would fail to understand the late Steward’s greatness, despite his flaws. One might have a hard time to like Denethor, albeit love not always requires that, yet one could not help but respect him.

And still it seemed that one desperate act at a truly desperate time had been enough to make people forget all the good he had forged during an entire life to protect them and their city. It seemed that Faramir was the only one who truly mourned him. And mourn him he did, despite the fact that in his despair Denethor had tried to take his only remaining son with him to the death.

He wanted to kill him, people said. Faramir knew that was not true. In his madness, his father had tried to save him, the only way his tormented mind could find. That did not keep the nightmares of lying on a pyre, surrounded by flames, away from Faramir, but he saw the sad truth behind that seemingly horrible deed: the twisted love of a desperate father who had not wanted to leave his son behind in a world that was about to fall into everlasting darkness.

And so, despite the nightmares, despite the painful memories of the recent weeks, Faramir truly missed his father, albeit he had the sad feeling that he was perchance the only one. Gondor would not have been there to welcome the King Returned without the wisdom and strength of the Ruling Stewards, of whom Denethor had been the last and mayhap most sorely tested. And Minas Tirith would not have been there to greet the new King with the sound of silver trumpets had not Boromir, who had been meant to be the next, spilled his blood many times on the battlefield to protect it.

Yet people seemed to have forgotten their once beloved Captain-General who, just like his father, had given up everything and lived married to his sword to keep his city and its people safe. Boromir had died on some bizarre quest, following a dream that had been meant for Faramir, not for him, and there was not even a resting place for him on the Rath Dínen, so that people could have honoured him in his death. ‘Twas deeply unjust.

But what pained Faramir most was the fact that he could not speak his farewells properly. True, he had seen the strange boat floating down the Great River, but he could not tell to the present whether that had been true sight or merely a vision. The absence of his brother was like a dull pain somewhere deep within his heart, ever-present and beyond healing. And though he was glad to be alive and to have found a lady who would fill his life, he sometimes pondered if coming back had truly been such a good thing.

Gondor would prevail under the rule of its new King, he had no doubts about that. He just did not know whether he could ever get used to a White City without its Captain. Boromir, albeit he spent most of the recent years in Osgiliath, had belonged to Minas Tirith like few had before him. With him dead and forgotten, the city was but an empty shell – or so it deemed to a grieving Faramir.

Sometimes he feared that his strange mood would be somehow related to the madness that had taken his father from them in such a horrible manner. The two of them were more alike than people would have known, and that frightened him sometimes. So aye, burying himself in the mundane daily tasks of the realm was a helpful distraction.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In the meantime, the King of the Reunited Kingdom had his own worries, and he shared them with no-one but Gandalf. After having listened to him patiently for quite a while, the wizard finally took him out from the City – during nighttime, no less – and brought him to the southern feet of Mount Mindolluin, showing him a narrow path that had been made in Ages past, by the look of it.

“What is this?” asked Aragorn. “It seems old, ancient even, and I deem that few have treaded it in all this time.”

“Right you are in that, my friend,” answered the wizard. “This is the Path of the Kings that leads up on to Mindolluin to a high hallow where only the kings had been wont to go. ‘Twas forgotten by the peril of death for anyone else to tread it, and thus it was forgotten by most, save the Stewards of Gondor. Come; if anywhere, there you might find the answers you seek.”

And thus up they went, climbing the steep path, ‘til they came to a high field just below the border of everlasting snow that crowned the lofty peaks. Standing there, they looked down over the precipice that stood behind the city, surveying the lands laid out below, bathing in the pale light of the rising sun. ‘Twas a clear morning, clear enough for them to see as far as the Rauros on the North, twinkling like a star far off, and as far as Pelargir in the South, and beyond that the glimmering light on the southern horizon that was the Sea.

“Look at your realm,” said Gandalf quietly, “for now that the Age of Men has come, ‘tis your task to order its beginning and preserve what may be preserved. You might find that it will be less than we have hoped for. For without the power of the Three Rings, much that was fair and wondrous will now wither and die, and you shall have to find new ways to shape a new world. The labours of the Elder Kindred have ended; they no longer have duties in Middle-earth, and though some of them will remain on those shores, many of them, the most powerful ones, shall fade or depart.”

“That I know all too well,” sighed Aragorn, “but can you not stay with us for a while yet? I would still have your counsel.”

“Not for long, I fear,” answered Gandalf. “The Third Age was my age; I was the Enemy of Sauron, and my work is finished. I shall go soon, and rest – and, to be honest with you, I look forward to it. My labours have been long and hard;’ tis time for me to go home and become once again whom I used to be. The burden must lie now upon you and your kindred. That is the order of things.”

“But I shall die,” reminded him Aragorn. “For I am a mortal Man, and even though the blood of Westernesse is unmingled in my veins, I shall only live longer than other Men, not forever. Who then shall govern Gondor when I am gone if my desire be not granted? The Tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren. When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?”

“You must learn where to seek,” replied Gandalf. “Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!”

Aragorn turned around obediently, looking at the stony slope running behind them down from the skirts of the snow. And indeed, among all that barren rock, he spotted something rusting above their heads… something living. He climbed up hurriedly to see what that was, and as he reached the very edge of the snow, he found a sapling tree, barely three foot high. Yet small though it might be, it had already put forth slender young leaves that were dark green above and silver beneath; and upon its delicate crown it bore one small cluster of flowers with fragile petals that shone like the sunlit snow.

For a moment, he stood as if rooted in the rock himself, then he waved to Gandalf to follow him and cried out in joy. “I have found it – a scion of the Eldest Tree! But how comes it here? For it is not itself yet seven years old.”

Gandalf, too, climbed up to join him, looked at the sapling, nodded and smiled. “Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. Here it has lain, hidden on the mountain, even as the race of Elendil lay hidden in the wastes of the North. Yet the line of Nimloth is older far than your line, King Elessar. Is this the sign you have been waiting for?”

And Aragorn smiled, too, hope now renewed in his heart, and said. “Yea, it is.”

Yet as he wanted to lay his hand to the sapling, a clear, ringing voice called out to him from somewhere among the rock walls. It spoke Sindarin, but with an accent he had never heard before. “Hold your hand, King of Gondor, for you have not yet paid your debt to the one who had to die to make the way to the throne for you free!”

Aragorn whirled around, looking for the source of that voice. Gandalf followed suit, and it was he who, in the end, found it. ‘Twas and Elf – yet one the likes of it neither of them had seen before. The Elf – obviously a male, despite the fact that he wore his long, raven hair in a topknot, of which the feathers of some very short arrows were peeking out – wore shadow-grey clothes that blended with the rock around them. He had a pale, fine-boned face, with angular features and coal-black eyes, had a blowing pipe in one hand and throwing knives on his back, those of Legolas not unlike.

“We have protected the sapling for the last seven years,” said the Elf, “waiting for the one who would take it to its rightful place. For though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake. If ever a fruit ripens, it should be planted, lest the line die out of the world. We were here when the last fruit was planted and guarded the place ever since. But you cannot take it away, King Elessar, not yet. Not ere you have sent us the Dreamer.”

“And just who would be you to tell me what I may or may not do?” asked Aragorn, mildly annoyed.

“I am Spanturo, head of the mountain scouts,” replied the Elf.

Needless to say that the name had no meaning for Aragorn. In truth, despite having grown speaking Sindarin and being fairly fluent in Quenya as well as in various Silvan dialects, he even had difficulties understanding it.

The Elf gave him a grim smile. “I am certain that Olórin will be able to tell you the meaning,” he said.

Gandalf froze. His true identity was not widely known, no even among Elves, and he was reasonably certain that he had not met any Elves in this part of Middle-earth – even less ones with black eyes. However, the name sounded vaguely familiar.

“Spanturo,” he murmured. “I believe it means Lord of the Clouds… but it must be an old dialect…”

“A very old one,” agreed the Elf with a sardonic smile. “The same one that we spoke at the waters of Koiviê-néni, under the newborn stars of Barathî.”

The ancient names finally pointed Gandalf into the right direction.

“Ilúvatar!” he whispered. “The rumours were true, after all! You are Morwê’s people!”

The Elf inclined his head. “That we are, indeed. We are from the same stock as those who later became the Ngolodô… the ones you call the Noldor. Unlike our brethren, though, we have chosen to remain in the lands of our birth.”

“And you have been here all the time?” asked Gandalf in awe.

“We have been here all the time,” replied the Elf, “ever since the first sundering of our people. We have wandered from Koiviê-néni to the West, along the northern shores of the Inland Sea of Helkar, together with our cousins, Nurwê’s people. They went to the North, to the Greenwood, we came to the South and settled in the White Mountains.”

“How is it possible that no-one has ever found you?” asked Aragorn.

“We have done our best to prevent that,” replied the Elf with a shrug. “I must admit, though that we did have some help with the hiding.”

“What kind of help?” asked Gandalf, truly intrigued now, for unlike that of their northern cousins’, the fate of Morwê’s people had remained unknown, even for the Lords and Ladies of the West – and it was no small task to keep anything hidden from them.

But the Elf shook his head. “’Tis not my tale to tell,” he said. “I am but the messenger. I was sent to wait here for the King of Gondor and to deliver him the message.”

“And a riddled message it is, hard to unfold,” said Aragorn.

“Then you are not allowed to remove the sapling,” replied the Elf.

Gandalf gave him a piercing glare from under his enormous eyebrows. “Do you truly believe you can hinder him in taking what is rightfully his?” he asked, the hidden power concealed under his modest fana coming to the surface all of a sudden.

The Elf did not even flinch. “I can try,” he answered simply. “Waste not your time with trying to intimidate me, Olórin. Greater powers than yours have been dwelling in our city since the Dark Years – I am well used to them. As for you, King of Gondor,” he turned to Aragorn, “I have no personal quarrel with you. But I have been ordered to keep you from taking the sapling, unless you send us the Dreamer, and that is what I shall do.”

“Ordered by whom?” asked Gandalf sharply.

“By Ómar, who sent the dream to him,” answered the Elf. “By Akairis, who has guarded the fruit of the Eldest Tree ‘til the time of ripening has come; or how, do you think, could it have remained unharmed for this long? And by Salmar who watches over the rivers of Gondor.”

Aragorn, whom those names said nothing, looked at Gandalf in askance and saw the wizard turn deathly pale all of a sudden. Apparently, the names did sound familiar for him.

“We never knew,” whispered the Maia, visibly shaken. “So that is how your people managed to survive, against all odds.”

“As I said: we had help,” replied the Elf simply.

Despite being knowledgeable in Elven lore, Aragorn was still completely in the dark.

“Would you mind to explain me the meaning of such riddled speech, Gandalf?” he asked, but the Elf cut off the wizard, not giving him the chance to answer.

“Nay, he cannot; not now, not here. Some secrets are too… delicate to be spoken of without due precaution. And some of them are not yours to know. They are for the Dreamer alone. The Dreamer is the key.”

“The key to what?” asked Aragorn, now completely bewildered.

“To everything,” replied the Elf. “Or do you believe we could have sent the Dream to someone who had no kinship with us at all? Nay; only the children of Mithrellas were within our reach.”

That name finally awoke the wizard’s comprehension.

Faramir!” he said in awe. “They want Faramir!”

The Elf inclined his head. “You are wise indeed, Olórin, in spite of the restrictions of the fana you are wearing.”

“But why is Faramir the key?” asked Gandalf. “Why not the King, Isildur’s Heir, who descends from Eärendil himself?”

“So does the Dreamer, from his father’s side,” answered the Elf. “But you will learn, Olórin, that while we respect Eärendil greatly for getting those in the West finally make their move against Mbelekôro, his wife is held in great contempt among our people.”

“Elwing?” said Aragorn in surprise. “Why that? After all, was she not the one to save the Silmaril from the Kinslayers?”

“For the price of leaving her own children behind in their hands, yea,” riposted the Elf in obvious disgust. “Should, by some miracle, Makalaure not have found one last spark of pity in his darkened heart, you would not be here to argue with me now, King Elessar, for both Elrond and Elros would have been slain with the rest of Tol Sirion.”

That was unquestionably true, albeit Aragorn had never thought of it from that particular angle. Nor did he feel particularly inclined to discuss the topic right now.

“What do you want from Faramir?” he asked instead.

“That is between him and us,” said the Elf.

“You want me to send my Steward to you without telling me what you want from him?” asked Aragorn.

“Nay,” said the Elf. “’Tis not I who wants him to come to our hidden city and see what no mortal Man has seen before. Yet come he must, or else the dreams cannot come to full circle.”

“More riddles,” said Aragorn with a scowl.

“Indeed,” agreed the Elf readily. “And I fear you shall not be allowed to learn their meaning, for they are fort he Dreamer alone,” he turned to Gandalf. “Olórin, you know the ones who have sent me. You know they mean no harm.”

“’Twould convince me if I had the chance to speak to them,” said the wizard warily.

The Elf nodded. “That can be arranged. Ómar had foreseen your request, and they are willing to allow you into our city. Come with the Dreamer to the Stone of Erech, and you shall be escorted to our gates.”

“When are we supposed to be there?” asked Gandalf.

The Elf shrugged. “’Tis up to you. The Stone of Erech is watched all the time. Whenever you come, somebody will be there to escort you to our city. You should not tarry too long, though. The Dreamer must come, as soon as he can.”

“Why?” demanded Aragorn.

“He has still much healing to do,” replied the Elf simply. “You have called him back from the Grey Lands, and that was no small feat; yet his heart is not hale, not yet. The healing he needs can only be found in our city.”

“What kind of healing is that?” asked Aragorn.

“’Tis not mine to tell,” replied the Elf.

“Aragorn,” said Gandalf quietly, “you should listen. Or, at the very least, allow Faramir to make his own choice. I am fairly certain that there will be no peril for him.”

Fairly certain?” repeated Aragorn incredulously.

‘Twas Gandalf’s turn now to shrug. “There are no absolute guarantees, and you know that. Faramir must make the decision for himself – you have no right to take that from him.”

The Elf nodded in agreement. “So it is.”

“Besides,” added Gandalf, “I shall accompany him. If you cannot bring over your heart to trust them, you surely can trust me, can you not?”

“Of course I can trust you, Gandalf,” replied Aragorn impatiently, “that is not what I mean. All I wish is…”

“… a chance to come with us,” finished Gandalf for him with twinkling eyes. Aragorn shrugged with a helpless smile. But the Elf shook his head.

“I fear that is not possible, King Elessar,” he said. “We do not allow entrance to anyone who has no kinship with us – and you have none. Speaking of which,” he turned to Gandalf again, “could you bring our northern cousin with you when you come?”

“Your… cousin?” frowned Aragorn.

“I believe he means Legolas,” said Gandalf quietly. “His mother was a descendant of Nurwê, as you know yourself. ‘Tis reasonable that the people of Morwê would consider him as kin.”

Aragorn had to admit that the consideration had its merits. He was still wary about the true intentions of these Dark Elves, though – and did not like the fact that they would refuse him the entry to their city at all.

“Lord Elrond of Imladris and the Lady of the Golden Wood had no doubts about allowing me to enter their realm,” he said pointedly.

The Dark Elf shrugged. “Their choices are their own and concern us not,” he said. “We have been here longer, and secrecy has always been the way how we endured. We would not have broken it, were it not for the children of Mithrellas, to whom we still have our obligation. See it this way, King Elessar: you have got everything else. ‘Tis only fair that there should be a little something reserved for them.”

“I have not got everything,” said Aragorn. “Indeed, the ultimate goal of all my struggles seems still out of my reach.”

“But only for a short time yet,” replied the Elf. “And you may even take home your long-sought-after sign with you, if you give me your word that you shall send us the Dreamer.”

“I can promise to deliver the invitation,” said Aragorn, “yet I cannot make him accept it.”

“He will, if you tell him that this is important for his House,” said the Elf.

“Is it?” asked Aragorn doubtfully. “Important for his House?”

“It is,” said the Elf. “More important, perchance, than aught else that has happened for quite some time.”

Aragorn thought about that for a moment, but it seemed that he was not going to learn what those words meant, unless Faramir told him their meaning – after his visit in the city of the Dark Elves.

“Very well,” he said. “I shall tell him what you said. By my word as the King of Arnor and Gondor.”

“And I accept,” the Elf stepped away from the sapling. “You may have your prize.”

And thus Aragorn laid his hand gently to the sapling, and to his surprise, it seemed to hold only lightly to the earth, for it was removed without hurt. He carefully wrapped it into his cloak to bear it into the city, but when he looked up to thank the Dark Elf, there was no-one else but Gandalf and himself.

“Do you understand what just happened?” he asked the wizard.

“Part of it I do understand,” answered Gandalf, “and I shall tell you what I know, once we are back in the City. Spanturo was right; some things should not be discussed openly without precautions. Besides, I believe Faramir and Legolas would be interested, too.”

That was certainly right, and so Aragorn decided to hold back his curiosity ‘til they were safely back in the Citadel.



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