Caethir rode into the refuge of Tinnudir, his tattered black cape billowing out behind him, after thwarting another raid of the local tombs by the robbers and brigands. A seemingly relentless tide of a people bent on looting the dead for their own enrichment. It wasn’t so much the loss of valuable items that caused the Wardens of Annúminas the most concern – it was the desecration of their forebears and the overwhelming lack of respect for the history of the people of Evendim. But it seemed every time such a raid was carried out that the looters returned, or relocated to a different site to carry on their crimes.
On top of that he had felt a growing darkness that threatened to penetrate the Elf’s very soul, giving him headaches and encroaching at him from all sides. The Wardens knew and now some of the locals had started to mutter among themselves; he threat from Angmar was seeping into the beautiful lands that they inhabited. What the Enemy hoped to achieve in Evendim was still very much unclear, though there was a constant war being waged in Annúminas, the City of Kings itself, with no end in sight.
Caethir dismounted and tied his horse up at the stables, giving some coin to the local stable hand to cover some food and care for his steed. The sun was setting over Lake Evendim, casting beautiful shades of pink and purple over the glassy waters.
The beauty of this place is almost too deceiving. the Elf thought to himself.
His legs hurt from his recent excursion and his arms, though strong, bore marks from his repeated Bow use and scars from the Tomb Robbers’ blades. His wounds would heal soon enough. They always did. He never sought help from the healers, it was the last thread of pride he had left. Scars were a reminder of battles survived and, sometimes, battles won. And when they faded, which was a quickened process for the Elf, new ones had been carved in their place.
He collapsed next to a camp fire over which the carcass of a deer was cooking on a spit. Wearily pulling out his knife he cut off some of the sizzling meat, suddenly aware of how hungry he was. One of the Wardens (or “Rangers” depending on who you asked) wandered over and sat down next to Caethir, offering out a small cob of bread. Nodding in acknowledgement Caethir took the bread with gratitude, and gnawed off a large chunk. It was a manner of eating that other Elves would have been appalled to witness! But need over-rode decorum.
It was the Ranger who broke the silence.
“Well done brother,” he started, for that is how they viewed the Elf after months of working to solve Evendim’s problems.
The Elf just nodded. Swallowing down more meat and bread, Caethir lifted a nearby tankard of water and drank thirstily, splashing his armour as he did. The Ranger continued.
“We have made immense strides forward with your aid. We’ve been able to place guards near some of the most treasured tombs and they’re holding the looters back. It will not be many weeks before we can focus on Annúminas and the Angmarim themselves.”
Caethir rubbed his tired eyes and locked eyes with the Ranger. Sensing something amiss, his friend’s brow furrowed.
“What is it my Elven friend?”
The Elf took a deep breath.
“I…can’t stay.” he started.
That took the Ranger aback and he had to struggle to retain his composure.
“But we need you, you are kin with us. The people of Evendim need you…and us.”
“I know brother, but something’s not right within me. I knew about the robbers, and the sudden influx of Salamanders. But I was unprepared to face the Great Evil that surrounds this place.”
“It’s because of Angmar that we need every willing warrior of the Free People we can muster! This is Evendim’s hour of greatest need!”, the Ranger exclaimed, fearing that Caethir’s departure may cause others in their band of warriors to lose heart.
“And you know I am willing. But I am not able. I’m not the Elf I was those months ago and my change has not been for the better. I need time to regroup, find my strength, re-find the Light I arrived with.”
The silence descended once more, but was slightly more uncomfortable than before. The Elf wondered how to voice his next thought.
“I have another warrior on the road to Tinnudir to take my stead. I see her as a sister and we have fought together. Her determination far outweighs my own and her shield technique and inner hope will serve you better than my bow. She should be with you within the week.”
Which means you have been planning to leave for over a month, the Ranger thought but didn’t say. His mind was searching for the memory of a rumour he had heard a few days ago.
“Is her horse armoured, and her armour of black and red?”, he asked his Elven friend.
Caethir managed a smile. N’wyn had done her job properly, creating the impression he knew she could. Which meant his parchment letter had arrived.
“That is her.”, he replied simply
“Then there is hope, for we know of her growing renown. She has also been facing our shared dangers on her journey.”, the Ranger replied. “Will you…?”
“Return?”, Caethir completed the Ranger’s question. “Of course. A battle incomplete is a battle not yet won. I will return, I just cannot say when.”
The Ranger let out a sigh of obvious relief.
“I feared we would lose you forever, but your bond to us is stronger than even I had considered. Where will you go?”
Caethir nearly didn’t answer, but what kind of family would he be to them if he didn’t bear his soul?
“I must walk and ride the path to Rivendell. Some feel the Elves there live isolated from the realities of Middle Earth. I must seek refuge and purge my mind of this bleak darkness. I will not fight evil with evil. I have not spent more than a fleeting evening with any other Elves for over two years and that is far too long. But I will not abandon you to Angmar either.”
Knowing that a new warrior was arriving, and that Caethir would return, calmed the Warden’s spirit. Reaching to his own neck he untied one of his adornments and held it out to the Elf.
“This is an ancient coin, but I have fashioned this one to be worn around my neck. It is of little material value and contains no enchantments. I wish you to take and wear this as a sign of our kinship – and as a reminder of your promise to return.”
Tears formed in the eyes of the exceedingly tired Elf and he reached out gently and fastened it around his own neck. It would be a daily reminder.
“I promise”, he assured placing a firm hand on the shoulder of his friend.
For a moment they kept their brotherly eyes locked before retreating each to his own roll mat as the stars shone in a peaceful Evendim night.