Chapter 19 Synopsis
Winter, T.A. 1640
The Finding of Wilyador, as told by Brógan of Lórinand…
Well! Near a fortnight has passed since I joined my new mellyn in Lórinand, and if ever I feared journeying with these Naugrim would prove less exciting than their tale promised, I need not have! Prince Thélor and Thegn Azagri attract excitement like Yrch attract flies.
After departing Lórinand, we took a Woodmen trail north through the Lower Vales of the Anduin. Rhosgobel is forty leagues distant, requiring at least sixteen days of travel. Thélor claimed no experience with wagons, but proved himself an able driver while I scouted the way ahead. Azagri, meanwhile, had the unenviable task of trudging through the snow alongside Zak, encouraging the auroch when he became stubborn – which was often.
That evening, Thélor was surprised to discover King Bain had secreted treasure into the supplies they’d purchased in Khazad-dûm. A note from the King Under the Mountain called it recompense for Thélor’s great service to the realm. However, it seems gifts between Naugrim royalty is considered impolite, as it insinuates the giver is far wealthier than the receiver. It is, I suppose, akin to giving table scraps to a guest. Even so, Thélor harbors no intention of returning the gems and gold.
For three days, the snowy landscape rose and fell around us. We passed through copses of elm trees untouched by the Necromancer’s evil and crossed little streams feeding into the great Anduin. By day we were serenaded by the frosty north wind and by night the hooting of owls.
“Zag, you’re a thegn now. You must learn to conduct yourself as one.” – Prince Thélor
Unfortunately, our pleasant journey was shattered on the sixth day. The north wind’s serenade became a war horn, and a terrible blizzard assailed us. Though the wagon is warm, our concern was for Zak. Azagri did an impressive job fashioning a shelter from the little lean-to Zak carries with him, and Thélor managed to light a sputtering fire despite the fearsome wind. I attempted to keep the Zak calm, but he did not appreciate the Lay of Luthien as much as I hoped. Fortunately, Zak survived the snow, but the storm buried the wagon and it took most of the morning to dig ourselves free.
We soon came upon an idyllic valley dotted with farmholds. Here, the Naugrim studded Zak to the farmers for a goodly price. This took several days, but earned a fair amount of coin, which always puts the Naugrim in a better mood. The only problem arose on the last evening when Azagri attempted to woo a farmer’s daughter and instead ended up exiled out into the cold – along with Thélor, who expressed his displeasure the new thegn.
“You have the beginnings of a lovely beard.” – Azagri
It was on the tenth day (and behind schedule) that I spotted something most curious in the sky. One of the Great Eagles! It wheeled about, searching for something. I watched for hours, but I eventually lost track of it as thick clouds rolled in. Come noon, though, we heard a great screech! Ahead, the eagle battled a troop of Yrch on a knoll. The eagle dived, lifting the Yrch and throwing them with its talons, or biting off their heads with its great beak. The Yrch shot arrows and threw spears, but seemed wonderfully overmatched.
Even so, Thélor and Azagri could hardly sit out a battle with Yrch and call themselves Naugrim! Thélor and I charged the hill – Thélor screaming a battle cry so fearsome that it scared the evil right out of several of them – and went to work with his axe. The Eagle realized he had allies and swooped in to lend a wing. Azagri, meanwhile, stayed low and shot the chief Yrch with his mighty crossbow from near two hundred paces. Remarkable!
I have done my fair share of fighting, but quickly found myself overwhelmed by foes. There must have been a dozen up on that knoll. Luckily, Thélor is an impressive warrior and he slaughtered several that were pressing me hard.
Just as victory seemed assured, the Eagle swooped low again – but this time cried out in pain! It climbed skyward, then reeled and crashed into the snow. Thélor and I finished our work on the hill, but before we could celebrate Azagri shouted for us. I rushed to his position near the Eagle, where he stood amidst a trio of slain Yrch. The Eagle – drifting into unconsciousness – revealed his name as Wilyador. He’d been poisoned by an arrow.
(Curiously, the Yrch with the great bow was clothed in Eagle fathers dipped in tar. Is it possible these Yrch comprised a hunting party searching for Great Eagles? Stranger still, Thélor recognized a banner amongst the Yrch that belonged to the Uruk-Marzguram, a tribe he battled in his home kingdom.)
Unhappily, though I easily tended the wound, the poison proved beyond my skill. Yrch haven’t the skill to brew a poison potent enough to fell one of Manwë’s Eagles, so this must be the work of the Necromancer. We are not too far from his lair of Dol Guldur.
We certainly could never leave such a mighty warrior to die in the snow. Thélor and Azagri went about constructing a litter for Wilyador while I tended his wound. This took the remained of the daylight, but we set out in haste despite the growing darkness in hopes of finding the Great Eagle the help he desperately needed. By morning, we reached the end of the first leg of our journey: A dozen ramshackle longhouses sheltering survivors of the Great Plague that ravaged Rhovanion so terribly.
I ventured within to seek out the village elder, but once the man realized the Eagle could talk he became convinced it was inhabited by an evil spirit and would offer no succor. He did, however, reveal the legend of a golden tree within Mirkwood that could save Wilyador. A single leaf of this tree, he claims, is able to heal virtually any wound or ailment – and seekers are allowed three. However, the vale where this tree ‘lives’ – the Cor Tauraglor – is concealed by powerful charms.
We debated our options. The Healing Tree might be a folktale, but it is also Wilyador’s only hope. Radaghast might help, but Rhosgobel is yet twenty-five leagues away. Moreover, a leaf from the tree might aid Ganoveth, should he ever be found.
So, we have a quest!
Yet, the wagon cannot enter Mirkwood and the folk here are starving, making Zak a tasty target. I will have to stay behind and look fearsome.
While Thélor haggled for half-starved horses, Azagri set out to find a guide to Mirkwood. He conversed with several women who had fallen on desperate times and found fortune was with us. An able huntsman lived on the village outskirts with his ailing wife, and also sought the Healing Tree. Thélor struck up a partnership with him.
Before anyone could blink, the Naugrim, the huntsman, and a companion of the huntsman in set off in search of the Healing Tree. May the Vala Nienna guide them in their hunt! Though Wilyador is strong, he is worsening. I fear he will live only days.