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'A Little More
Part Six -
details, naval rations – Forlond. Compare Mithlond standard
Discuss nutrition - ? someone.
Palace cook? Healer?
Itinerary for Pathenien – inspection, border posts,
Decrypt signal - Captain Balien. Send response.
Put up thank you note re. donations.
Letter - Lord Glorfindel.
Kitchen scraps – kittens.
Look over: Harad, 2nd matriarchy.
Language exercises 156 –
Decide essay topic: Harad - myths and customs? The role of women in
Your written Sindarin is far superior to my Quenya, so I would be
the one in need of practice. I had thought to begin this letter with
a few paragraphs, but you will be relieved to find I soon abandoned
the attempt as it looked embarrassingly stilted and formal.
Firstly, belated Midwinter greetings. I have no idea whether you
celebrate the Festival of Hope personally - Brennil tells me some of
the older elves in her company still regard it as an eccentricity
completely unsuited to good, Aman-born Noldor. Still, I’m sure there
was some kind of celebration in Imladris, and hope you enjoyed it,
even if the holiday was unfamiliar.
Your description of early morning Imladris was wonderful. Reading it
was almost like being there, particularly your mention of things
like the smell of wood smoke and the sound of the river. I can see
the similarity to my own sense of connection to elves lighting their
lanterns here as darkness falls. I imagine you are no longer able to
sit outside to write, as the courier tells me the snow now lies
thick on the ground, and that it was extremely cold while he was
with you. He also spoke of the kitchen/dining area with affection
and appears to have spent some time there.
We are in the midst of a three day break from work here, because so
many of us have family visiting for the holiday. My sister is
staying with me and will remain for another week. So far we have
enjoyed one another’s company, although I suspect a week will be
quite long enough for us to amicably share a room.
Last night the traditional bonfire to mark the Longest Night was lit
in the square down near the public harbour, and there were dancers,
musicians, and some novelty performers like jugglers to entertain
us. Last Midwinter I had only recently arrived here and knew hardly
anyone, so passing the night with the friends I’ve made in the past
year – and my sister - made a pleasant contrast. Food and a
seemingly endless supply of wine were provided, and dancing followed
the more formal activities and went on till late. I discovered that
dancing with one’s sister becomes less embarrassing as the night
I gave Brennil some ladylike earrings, (which were a joke between us
for the whole evening, though they do suit her), and her gift to me
was a beaded wrist guard - a bit unexpected as archery is not a
strength of mine, but much appreciated. His majesty surprised me
with a book of Haradaic poetry, the cover of which has a very
colourful picture of a man/god with about fifty arms wrestling a
crocodile. I have not yet had a chance to read the multi-page epic
Brennil will convey your good wishes to Gildor on her return. You
were half right, she was persuaded to become one of the wanderers by
a close friend, not a potential lover (so far as I know). She and
Aravilui grew up together and planned this when they realised our
parents had grown serious in their talk of sailing. Like many of us
born over here, myself included, they wanted more time to travel and
explore before crossing to what is a strange land, known only from
our parents or grandparents' tales. Since then, she has seen places
I can only imagine and seems content with her choice.
I think 'Imladrian style' has quite a ring to it. Over time it might
even become a trend, one which would render the décor in my rooms
almost fashionable. I think limestone for the main entrance could be
quite interesting, although I have a hard time visualising it
combined with logs and dry stonewalling… stone pillars to front the
entrance might look rather impressive, of course? I suppose building
activities have been curtailed by the weather, and that life is
currently rather slow and quiet for everyone save the patrols?
I will wait until after the spring thaw to send the mules. I recall
the problem you had getting them down the trail in fine weather and
imagine it would be significantly more awkward now. Work horses will
have to wait until then, too - young ones, I suppose, although I
will need to take advice there. Like you, this is a subject about
which I know little. I'm sorry Amalek feels as he does about goats
–I have always liked the look of them. Still, there might be some
wild ones in the area? In which case, if they were ‘encouraged’ to
settle in Imladris, he would just have to put up with them.
The courier has agreed to take three extra horses this time instead
of two and will convey a few items it occurs to me could be useful.
These include bolts of cloth suitable for clothing, coils of good
rope, and a quantity of string – there can never be too much string,
my mother used to say. And, finally, full instructions on how to
build a loom. I realise your flax crop will take time to establish,
but I hope the spring shearing of the sheep will provide you with
sufficient wool to weave into blankets or possibly even robes. Pure
wool against my skin makes me itch, though I know it does not affect
everyone in this manner.
In your letter you mention spending time tightening up security. You
will be pleased to know we received a report originating from one of
Lord Elrond's patrols, which speaks very highly of the measures you
have put in place. Apparently they made several attempts to enter
the valley unnoticed, and on all three occasions were spotted and
turned back. Lord Elrond is apparently well satisfied, as is His
Majesty. I thought I should pass that on.
The border post I commanded was not a major crossing, so most of the
time there was very little to do. I had previously served under a
commander who left us to our own devices when we were not on watch
duty, and, recalling how lax discipline had been, I tried my best to
keep everyone busy. It made for an interesting challenge.
Mountains – I like climbing them, I like the sense of achievement
that comes from conquering a difficult slope, but being in the
middle of nowhere in the Ered Luin was a bit monotonous at times.
Rocks, scrubby bushes, and no view to speak of. The experience has
proved very helpful though, as I currently have to oversee a couple
of similar watch stations. That is in addition to my new assignment,
which appears to involve standardising naval rations throughout the
Fleet. I was volunteered by Lord P. on the grounds that it will make
us both look good when I sort this out to Lord Círdan’s
satisfaction. He says it will be interesting, and I will learn all
sorts of new things about diet, food preservation and the like.
Supposedly, knowledge is never wasted.
I was in two minds about sending you the book. I was worried it
would make you feel a little like I do when people who have never
encountered a dragon speak dismissively of them. We saw one once,
near the end of the war - it flew overhead breathing fire and was
the most immense and terrifying sight I have ever seen. There are
several accounts of the War that reduce them to nothing more than
big lizards, and it always makes me very angry. To be charitable, I
suppose Demmion just got carried away and wrote what he thought
people would like to read?
Having first heard of your battle with the Balrog from someone who
witnessed it at first hand – most of the survivors of Gondolin
settled in Sirion, after all - I know there was no long speech
exhorting everyone to flee and ‘carry the spirit of Gondolin and her
fallen to all the corners of Arda’. I cannot get your almost casual
mention of knowing you were about to die out of my mind – I think
the truly brave are those who do what they have to even when hope is
gone. I would love to ask you about the Balrog, also about some of
the other heroes of that last day, but have no wish to pry if you
would prefer not to discuss it. At first I assumed they would have
taken the memory from you, but I suppose, terrible though it must be
to remember, its loss would have made you – less, somehow, than who
I hope you do not find that as forward as I suspect it is.
Due to the holiday, everything is very quiet here, which is why this
letter contains so little formal business. Even the war seems to
move slowly, thanks to the foul weather which hampers the Enemy's
forces as much as our own, possibly more so as many of them are Men
from the east and unused to the rigours of a northern winter. I
cannot understand why so many Men march under his banner? All those
I have known were always honorable and decent, the least likely to
ally themselves to the forces of darkness. It seems very strange and
more than a little sad.
I’m glad you received the cloak in good order and that it pleases
you. I hope all is well, and that everyone has been able to keep
warm and dry. How are the sheep dealing with the cold weather? And
are the cows thriving. Three bulls, you said? That must be chaotic.
Is there much fighting? Does Háran like snow any better than he did
the east wind? I still smile at the image of him lying with his tail
over his nose, singularly unhappy with his circumstances.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Midwinter greetings to you as well, belated though they are. Your
holidays are all so new to me that when someone asked if we should
slaughter one of the cows for the community feast, I had no idea
what they were talking about. In Gondolin we recognised the shortest
and longest nights and the equal days, but used the knowledge mainly
as a guide to the seasons. There were no festivals like those with
which we marked the beginnings of summer and winter.
I learned the meaning of the Festival of Hope by eavesdropping on
Sael’s wife as she reminded the children that we exchange gifts to
remind us that all elves are part of one large family, and that the
passing of the longest night signals the lifting of darkness and the
promise of hope and new beginnings. Emotionally I am still close to
the events of Alqualondë and our early years in Middle-earth, so the
original intent of the Festival speaks directly to me, while its
deeper symbolism is, I think, not lost on anyone here in Imladris…
we are again living through a time of great darkness, but after the
rigours of winter comes spring.
I think that anyone who looks down on ideas originating on this side
of the Sea as being somehow unworthy of the Aman-born should stretch
his or her tired old mind back and try to remember how they felt
when they witnessed another ‘new innovation’ -- the first moonrise.
Setting aside certain times of the year to encourage introspection
or gratitude, and using the journey of the Valar’s gifts of Sun and
Moon to mark those times can only be a good thing, surely?
I'm glad Brennil was able to spend some time with you. You must be
missing her now that she has gone back to her people? I remember my
friend Ecthelion saying much the same about dancing with one’s
sister - and insisting it bore only a passing connection to how much
wine had been consumed. Of course, festivities in Gondolin were
fairly staid and formal affairs, and very unlike your description,
which I must say appealed to me.
Spring’s approach seems very far away when I look around. I was
surprised the courier got through, because we are all but snowed in.
She said had she not carried gifts and season's wishes, she would
have turned back – we were all deeply grateful for her dedication.
Yesterday the whole of Imladris was blanketed in white, the trees
bowed down beneath their load and the few small paths invisible, but
today we live in a sodden, dangerously slippery mess because it has
been raining since last night. Still snow everywhere, but now we are
that much wetter and colder.
The usual passage of elves back and forth across the river has
slowed in recent weeks. The Bruinen is high and the wind
treacherous, making the bridge largely unsafe. Sael wanted to track
the water levels after the thaw before beginning work on a stone
bridge, very wisely of course, so we are still using a contraption
of ropes and planks. Your promise of mules and horses in the spring
will hasten our efforts - we will need to get them down to the main
valley and, as not even the most optimistic amongst us thinks it
likely that anyone could persuade a mule to attempt the present
crossing, we will at least need to strengthen and expand what we now
Liked your thoughts on Imladris as a stylistic trend setter.
Limestone pillars would lend dignity and authority, I agree. And it
could serve as flooring for the entrance, too, I thought. Sael just
shook his head when I mentioned it and said this will be the
funniest looking garrison he's ever seen. Having spent years
surrounded by pristine buildings and carefully manicured gardens, I
think I might be ready for something less 'planned'.
I thought the winter months might be very quiet and that, like you
in the Ered Luin, I would need to search for ways to keep my men
occupied when not on patrol, but we seem busier now than previously.
Building and activity on the land took up almost everyone’s time
before, and now we can finally attend to things like general repairs
and other time-consuming tasks that can be pursued indoors, like
carpentry - we already have a growing assortment of tables, chairs
and the like.
You might be surprised to learn that the winter’s primary leisure
occupation is basketry. During autumn we collected and set reeds and
grasses to dry, and now everywhere you look you find people
attempting to weave baskets and containers of various shapes and
sizes – no one is exempt, including the ‘warrior class’, and when I
tried my hand at it, I found it unexpectedly relaxing. Háran seemed
puzzled at first – I suppose I seldom spend much time in one place,
at least not during the day. The children help plait the basic
materials into broader strips, and do their part by weaving seats
for chairs, a simple task not requiring a complicated frame.
The cloth you sent vanished almost as soon as it was unloaded, and a
sewing circle now exists beside the community hearth. Many arrived
here with little more than the clothes on their backs, although some
managed to salvage a few things before fleeing, all of which have
long since been shared out. Winter was already seen as a good time
to patch and repair, particularly the children’s garments, and now
of course new clothing can be added to the communal wardrobe. As far
as I can ascertain, there is a list of those most in need, and they
We are all immensely grateful to you for your wonderfully intuitive
grasp of our needs here. Your gifts – rope and string – were
perfectly timed for the season’s repair work, and the template for
the loom was greeted with a great deal of excitement. The first one
is already under construction in the tent where I normally debrief
my men or inflict motivational speeches on them. I have put a group
of convalescent warriors to work as loom builders, and they work
with a degree of oversight from a couple of the older ladies who
naturally know what they expect of a good loom. More than one
has compared this to
being supervised by his mother.
Your mention of wool set me to wondering - I hope someone here
actually knows how to shear a sheep.
Before you ask, no, no one wanted to kill one of the cows for the
Longest Night gathering – they all have names by now and histories.
The sheep would have been even more traumatic as they live right
next to our camp, but two of my men impressed us all by not just
finding and bringing down a boar, but also managing to wrestle it
down into the valley. It spent several days cooking over the
firepit, during which time we had to make do as best we could for
We all gathered around the hearth - in this case our cooking fire -
and ate a rather unconventional meal of onion soup, roast boar,
winter squash, cabbage, fresh baked bread, nuts, berries, apples,
and dried apricots. Then, over the wine, we took turns to share our
memories – either about family no longer with us, or of Midwinters
past. When it was my turn, I told them about my mother. It felt so
strange to speak of her in the past, Erestor, but - comforting too,
because now all these people know her name, and that she loved her
garden, and that she, not my father, taught me to ride.
It was a very special experience, to sit under shelter with the snow
falling outside and share precious moments out of our past with one
another. I hope we can keep this as a tradition here in future
years. It also feels good to tell you about it. Háran was allowed to
join us, but had to lie very quiet, which he seemed to understand.
After reading your letter, I rather wish I had thought to mention
dragons, too – talking as though they are nothing more than giant
lizards takes no account of their immense intelligence and their
malice, and makes small the efforts of my friend, who fought their
lord to the death. I am starting to realise that the end result of
not sharing the things you have lived through is that people make
things up because they know no better. That was probably the case
with Demmion too. He might well have imagined what he saw at court
was the way people such as myself dressed and ate daily in our own
homes, and reported it as such.
Gondolin was home to me and to those I loved, of course, our haven
in a darkly dangerous world, if you will - but comfortable and
opulent, it most assuredly was not. Some things about life there
were far from perfect. I would so much rather the truth be known
about it than this type of fantasy. It diminishes the difficulties
we endured while trying to make ourselves into a force strong enough
to confront the Enemy. I never thought properly about that till your
comment about dragons.
I rather assumed Lord Námo felt there was a lesson for me either to
learn or to pass on to someone else, and that was why I retained
full memory of the fight and how it ended. Perhaps though you are
right, and it has a part in shaping who I am. I don’t think I was
especially brave. I stood between the balrog and everyone Idril had
managed to help escape, someone had to try and stop it or at least
hold it up, and that someone had to be me. I think it may have been
tired – I never for a moment expected to kill it.
What happened in the end – was my own fault. I was too busy
marvelling that I was still alive to pay attention to what was
happening behind me. Lesson learned.
Anyhow, no, you were not forward, and yes, please feel free to ask
anything that comes to mind. I will do my best to answer, though I
know less about what happened on that final day than I should.
Thank you for passing on the commendations following the security
check. I would have appreciated it had Lord Elrond sent us some kind
of official comment, which I could have passed on to my men. They
work hard to keep our borders safe and were wondering why that same
patrol kept turning up in such unexpected places. I assume it will
be in order for me to mention this to them? I'm sure you know the
effect this kind of praise has on morale.
Indirectly related, I was approached by a small group of warriors
with a question I am unable to answer and therefore pass to you, as
has become my habit. As this is now officially a settlement and not
just a garrison, they were wondering if their families would be
allowed to join them if their posting here is to be long-term. I
said I seriously doubted anyone had given this much thought up till
now, but that I would get back to them when I hear from you. Curious
to hear your thoughts on the matter.
I was intrigued to hear about your new career as a rations expert.
Do you feel as scathing about the assignment as you sound? There was
a distinct edge to your sharing of that piece of information. I
suppose volunteering the best and brightest on one’s staff is a
universal bad habit of those in authority. What precisely does the
job entail? I had no idea the navy and army fell under one authority
(other than His Majesty, of course) Do you have experience with
You enjoy climbing mountains? That was unexpected. In Gondolin we
went up into the mountains on patrol, nothing more, and were not
allowed past certain points, and Tirion did not lend itself to
mountaineering. I wonder if I would like it?
I find you make me think about things that would not otherwise have
occurred to me, like why Men would be so willing to march under the
Enemy’s banner. I know very little about Men, but perhaps because
they are so short lived by our terms they might be more open to fear
and - anger? Envy? Emotions that could be played upon, even
encouraged. Having so little time, they might see this as a way to
build something for their children to inherit? And of course, to
them the Maia must be a glittering, god-like being – giving them yet
another reason to follow him perhaps? I don't know - those are the
only things that seem to make sense. As you say, puzzling and very
Háran is unimpressed by snow, but truly hates rain. When necessity
calls, he stares out of the tent at the water coming down out of the
sky for the longest time, then rushes out, does what has to be done,
and comes charging back in again. He then shakes himself violently,
wetting everything in range if I am not quick enough to grab hold of
him and dry him with a cloth. He also smells less than pleasant, but
that is hardly his fault and no reason to banish him to sleep with
the horses as someone suggested. None of us is any too clean at the
moment - we just get along as best we can.
I think I have just painted you a less than charming picture of the
other side of life in Imladris - cold, wet and malodourous.
I have seen goats in the area, by the way, in fact I suspect there
are a few within the valley itself. Do you suggest I risk Amalek's
wrath by encouraging them? What do goats particularly like to eat?
The bulls are doing--- as well as can be expected, I think would be
the correct term? We only have a pair now, the third was driven off
by the other two. They seem to get along and possibly started life
in the same herd, but the Silvans tell me - darkly - to
wait until spring
The sheep seem permanently miserable – I think they hate winter. And
the smell from their pen means we intend moving them further away as
soon as the weather improves.
One final question --- Haradaic is the language of the people in the
south-east who are currently allied with the enemy, correct? I
wondered what made you decide to study their language? Which brings
me (smoothly, I hope) to His Majesty’s gift. Have you read the epic
poem about the many-armed being and the crocodile yet? I confess to
an irresistible curiosity --- who won? And why were they fighting?
I have no doubt this finds you drier, warmer and cleaner than I have
been in some time, and I hope the new assignment proved less
troublesome than expected.
Enclosed please find one very ineptly woven trinket container, the
lid decorated with a sprig of ‘holly’ made from round stones painted
red, and wood-carved leaves, rendered (bright) green by Sael’s son
Lindir. Happy Midwinter, Erestor.
Beta: Red Lasbelin