Our rescued knight, Ecthelion of the House of the Silver Wolf, Knight of the Moon, could remember little of his ensorcelled sleep: it was a nightmare that swiftly faded. He told us he had come to Chay on a mission from his prince, Irimon of Ciriatanore, who had dreamed of an elf-maiden, the River King's daughter, and had fallen hopelessly in love with her, despite never having met her.
We were a bit alarmed by this and united in tutting about the potentially disastrous consequences of unions between the Firstborn and the Aftercomers, except, obviously, in very specific and fated situations, and indeed about the unwisdom of falling in love with women via dreams - but he just looked at us. He's descended from Beren (must remember to ask Sirithglor if he looks like him) , so I suppose the idea seems more feasible to him. He remains utterly determined to find this River King's daughter for his prince (although, again, I never met Beren myself, but sitting at home and sending out knights to search for Luthien for him? Really? Doesn't seem likely. )
What to do? Ecthelion had been entrapped, it was clear, at the command of the Emperor's Left Hand, Fang Chau, who, it seems quite likely is either the wielder of the Ninth Ring, or perhaps is being manipulated by him. If the Ninth is not with Fang Chau, it may be with this Ren the Unclean in Ang-renn province.
We could not let Ecthelion be seen openly in Chay, unless we wanted to risk removing Fang Chau and destabilising the whole empire, and if we let Ecthelion go off alone, it seemed likely that he would be captured again, and held, for some purpose that is unclear, but can't be good. To distract him from charging straight off across Chay, Sirithglor and Thrandin told him about the rumours of Elves in the Forest of Myr (safely outside Chay), and suggested that this might be a good place to look for the River King's daughter. He was keen to be off at once.
At this point, the blue wizard Paparimo popped up again. He had been wandering around Chay (probably meddling) and had dropped in to warn us that the evil in Ang-renn province might be beyond us. Obviously this made Thorofin want to go there all the more. Paparimo offered to go there first and collect information: a generous offer, I suppose. However, last time we came across a Blue Wizard unexpectedly he was trapped in a cage and we had to rescue him. So none of us were overly convinced that Paparimo was going to be successful in Ang-renn without us.
We agreed to meet him on the shores of Lake Thenn (among the Thennish Men) in a few months time anyway. If he doesn't turn up, I suppose we'll know what to do...
While all this debate was going on, I had a dream. I dreamed that the King of the Betrayers (who, much to my surprise I had managed to talk into not slaying us previously) angrily berated me as an oathbreaker, because I had not returned as promised to release him and his people from their endless watch under the mountain.
I was taken aback by this accusation. Admittedly, I'm not really in a position to put a high price on honour, after the whole Havens of Sirion thing.... Not to mention Doriath.... But it's not as if those were my decisions. Nobody had ever accused me personally of breaking an oath before; in fact, I'd done a lot of distasteful things to avoid that. Once I start oathbreaking, I might as well just pop my early prototype ring on, call Sauron and ask if he needs an assistant with ring-making expertise.
In order to break the imprisonment of the Betrayers (and the Betrayed), we needed the aid of a descendant of Bëor the Old. And now we had found one. Clearly it was vital that we should return at once with Ecthelion, and keep our word. After we showed him on the map how close this would take him to Myr, Ecthelion was keen to join us.
(This was in no way an obvious plot device because the GM hadn't expected us to get quite as far as tackling Ren the Unclean this week :-D)
We retraced our steps across the steppes, North on the purple-sailed ship across the Sea of Helcar, across the Plains of Alcar, to the Deadwood where the Dead awaited us; The Betrayed in their green mound and The Betrayers beneath, in the fearful tunnels of the Dead Roads, bound to the service of Morgoth. Ecthelion had a bit of a crisis of confidence when we got there, (causing Thingolodh to speculate tactlessly about how sure Men could really be about their ancestry given how many generations had intervened and their promiscuous natures...).
But Ecthelion managed the job very competently in the end, offering his forgiveness to the King of the Betrayers. The dead flew away all in a shower of falling petals, all save six.
The Six that remained swore allegiance to Ecthelion and his descendants in gratitude for his freeing the rest of them.
I have quite taken to Sirithglor as a valuable travelling companion during our long journeys, as it has become clear that she is one of the Sindar of whom you can actually say she is wiser than she is tall, but I get the impression she doesn't feel the same way about me. I suppose the whole 'Fall of Doriath' thing is hard to move on from.
Anyway, the unusual multi-racial blessing of the land was a huge success: the streams ran clear and the trees burst into bloom, all the way down the river out of sight, across the hills. Sirithglor named the new land, Engirdôr ('This Land'. Sirithglor has many fine qualities, but linguistic experimentation... perhaps not). She hopes to settle the land with many different peoples, and build it into a place that will be a stronghold against darkness in the future.
Myronimair asked for news of the world, and ever eager to educate, we began to tell her an abridged and somewhat edited version of the Silmarillion. It turned out that Myronimair and her people had left Cuiviénen before ever the Valar came there, so they were not so much Avari; Unwilling, as Ilmaquentë; Uninvited. Everything that had happened since then was a mystery to them.
We seemed to be getting on quite well until we got to the part about Melkor being Morgoth, the Black Enemy of All the World. She just wouldn't have it. In fact, when we insisted that Morgoth was a Bad Person, she and all her people vanished, leaving us sitting there looking foolish and surprised on treestumps.
Looking more closely at the food and the wood, we discovered that not only was the whole place trapped in perpetual starlight, it was also under a glamour of incredible force, to make it appear a much less damp and unpleasant spot than it really was. Here is a picture of the wood, showing both the version that we saw at first (on the right), and the true version.
Near the wood, but outside the darkness that surrounded it, we found caves: empty caves, although they appeared to have been inhabited, a very long time ago. You could still see furniture and even a few bowls and plates of unimaginable age, set out as if waiting for their owners to return.
We came out of the caves and looked across the valley, where we saw a solitary figure on the hillside. It was a very ancient, thin and ragged Elf.
Tuirak had been one of the Elves who had followed Myronimair in the very early days. Most of the Elves were afraid of Myronimair, for she had been taught by Melkor in the darkness before the Sun and Moon, and had become one of his early allies. But some, the Hwenti, followed her, and she led them away to Myr. But then Melkor took her away, on a long visit to Utumno, and some of the Hwenti decided she would not return. They moved out of the forest and began living in caves. Later, when Myronimair returned, she commanded them to return to the Forest, and they would not.
Then Myronimair went to Melkor and asked for his help. He came to the Elves of the Caves, and promised them great things, and he led them away to Utumno, where he imprisoned them in torment, and they became the parents of the Orcs. All but one. That one, he returned to this place, telling him that he had seen enough, and now would see no more. He cursed Tuirak to blindness, and to remain here forever. And he bound him to tell anyone who came here of the very beginnings of the Orcs, to spread fear and despair among Elves, that they could be so twisted out of shape - and to show the power and terror of Melkor Morgoth.
We were all much moved by this tragic account, and wondered what we could do to help Tuirak: surely we could not ride off and leave him there alone. But he was bound by a curse of Morgoth and none of us could come close to freeing him.
We saw that his ragged clothes were made of sealskin, and he told us that traders of the Bead People had come past that way occasionally, and sometimes gave him food and clothing. We therefore resolved to send messages to the Bead People (who we got to know well last time we came this way, and owe us a favour) and get them to send regular supplies to Tuirak. The Wise Girl of the Bead People will visit him every year, and take counsel with him.
Ecthelion asked after the River King's daughter. Tuirak had news of her! An elf calling himself the River King had visited Myr, and had, in a most unheard of manner, slept with the Queen Myronimair and left her with a daughter! I don't remember ever hearing of such a thing happening before. Perhaps it is the influence of Morgoth. The daughter had lived for many years in Myr, but had left only a short while ago - perhaps a hundred years or so - to visit her father, the River King, in the land of Ralia in the distant East.
In future, Sirithglor plans to set up a town here on the hillside, which lies inside the new land of Engirdôr. That way we can ensure that Tuirak is properly cared, at the same time as creating a place that will stand as a stronghold against the activities of Sauron, here in the East. It is an exciting idea. I'm considering whether it I should return to Rivendell to ask the last ragged remnants of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain who still linger there, if they can be persuaded to one last try to build something new... On second thoughts, I'm not sure I'm the Elf to lead such an attempt: someone younger and with less... history might fit in better. Perhaps it would be best to send word to them by letter. Then I can find out a bit more about what Sauron is up to while they decide.
We called in briefly to visit the Asdriags on our way back South. They are moving their entire tribe inside the borders of Chay, where they will provide protection to its northern borders. Master Lee is going with them. I said they were brave, these Men: I'm not sure you'd catch me going back to a land where I had been blinded and mutilated, but I suppose he is not going back to the capital of Chay, but to the remote lands that will be alloted to the Asdriags.
Hidek the skinchanger, who has been having something of a difficult time among the Asdriags now his secret is known by all, was most interested when we told him about the foundation of the land of Engirdôr.
He and Sirithglor have set off North to visit it, and it seems likely that he and his family will set up their homes there. Sirithglor will go on from there, to visit Motsognir, the Dwarf King of the Iron Kingdom. The Iron Kingdom is known to be prickly about its borders, and so establishing diplomatic relations early seems wise. I have sent letters with her to be sent on to Rivendell.
THE END (for this year...) PHEW.
(The drawings of Ecthelion releasing the Dead and of Tuirak on the hillside were ones that I had in my head that I wanted to draw but I only actually scribbled them hastily on paper yesterday evening. )
In 2017, we went on!