Chapter 24 Synopsis
Saelon Langston Shaper, a scholar from the Fornost Atheneum and nephew of Mayor Gresham Shaper, was tasked by his uncle to put his education to use and discover everything possible about the Speaker. However, the more Langston researches the less he finds. These curious omissions eventually lead him to a folio written by the scholar Tarîkmagân of Númenor. Unfortunately, only noble members of the Atheneum are permitted to exam this rare treasure. Through his connections, Langston gains access through a friendly nobleman, who signs it out for him. Finding the folio is written in code, Langston spends the afternoon memorizing it and then that evening visits with an expert on the subject: Saelon Edlothior Ondonérion. Saelon Edlothior tells him he’s studied the folio and conclusively determined that it is gibberish.
The next morning, Langston is distressed to learn the nobleman who signed out the folio has died in a suspicious accident. Furthermore, the folio is now missing. Deciding he’s in danger, Langston immediately departs Fornost and makes for the Shire, but choosing to cut cross-country proves a mistake as he soon loses his way and that night is attacked by a cloaked figure. Luckily, his wits (and an alchemical concoction) save him. The would-be assassin leaves a poisoned dagger behind, which Langston appropriates for himself.
It takes more than a fortnight for Langston to arrive in Wibbleham. When he does, Gresham is alarmed by Langston’s news and convinces him that they must both travel north to intercept Ganoveth, who is traveling to Angmar. Gresham hopes that Langston’s find might assist in the fight against the Speaker, and maybe even save Ariunaa.
Meanwhile, Ganoveth has departed Rivendell with Altan six of Elrond’s best warriors and Elvish steeds. Following six days of snowy cross-country travel they arrive at the village of Nordstead, the last outpost of civilization before the Ettenmoors, the wild and lonely uplands to the north. According to the Súlor of Sirgalë, Zarak Dûm is located in the mountains of northern Angmar, and it’s there Ganoveth hopes to find his mother Shria.
Hoping to avoid unwanted attention, the Elves remain in the wilderness while Ganoveth enters Nordstead to barter for supplies. He soon stumbles upon his old friend Gresham in the common room of the town’s only inn and the two have a happy reunion. Gresham introduces the Easterling to his nephew, and Langston recounts his alarming tale over afternoon tea.
Suspicious as ever, Ganoveth suspects Langston is still being pursued and sets a trap. And indeed, that night Langston is attacked in his room. They capture and question the assailant, who admits being sent by Saelon Edlothior to return Langston to him in Fornost.
“You may go, but tell your employer anyone who harms a curly hair on this Hobbit’s feet will have me to answer to.” – Ganoveth
Langston is eventually persuaded by his uncle to continue decoding the folio while accompanying the party into Angmar. Ganoveth, for his part, swears to protect the erudite Hobbit. The next morning, Gresham leaves to return home to Wibbleham while Langston and the others trek into the frozen wilderness.
With the combined skill of the Elves and Ganoveth, the company manages to avoid trouble in the Ettenmoors and enters the domain of Angmar. The march the treacherous mountain paths for fifteen days, avoiding Orc patrols as they wind their way north. A fifteen days after their ascent into the mountains, they come upon an unavoidable Angmarrim watchtower, but instead of guards inside they find corpses and with broken manacles. The bodies appear to have been badly burned, though there is no other sign of fire. This is a frightening but promising sign. According to Altan, this manner of killing is a favorite of Easterling witches.
They come upon more bodies the following day and soon after spot a mysterious figure atop a stone outcropping. Ganoveth approaches without his sword and determines that it is his mother. Ganoveth pleads with her to help restore Ariunaa, but Shria tells him that this was never her goal. Altan, he discovers, is correct; Shria wishes to remove the barriers that dam the two portions of the Speaker’s spirit. She believes only then will true redemption be possible, and that the “good” will act as a sort of conscious for the newly whole Speaker. She also tells him that her mentor, Sumay, warned that Middle-earth will need the Speaker’s full power to battle an old enemy rising anew in the Far South. This has the ring of truth to Ganoveth’s ears, and he invites his mother to join the company to discuss their next move. She agrees, but demands Altan be sent away. She’s pledged to kill her husband for taking her children away. Altan agrees to leave, but warns Ganoveth not to trust her words, telling him because she’s clearly mad.
When Shria joins them, Ganoveth gives her the ivory hairbrush she used to comb his hair with. Together they sit by the fire, mother and son, lost in their own stolen memories.