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Old 09-02-2022, 01:04 PM   #1
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,202
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Withgisl's Tale By SharkŻ

Withgisl's Tale
By SharkŻ

First posted February 24, 2004

The noise and business on the square had died down along with the light of day. Only scarcely could the neighing of horses, anxious before the upcoming battle, which dominated the Eorlingas' preparations that day, be heard now.

Wecdha looked around the square where the muster of the Hornburg had been held some hours ago. From the moment he had heard his lord's speech, reminding the warriors of their duty tomorrow on the field of honour, when they would assault the Isengarders who tried to cross the river at the Fords of Isen, a metallic taste remained in Wecdha's mouth. For the first time in his life he would use his sword and spear against an enemy, not just a training partner. He had had enough time to get over this; now a restlessness had overcome the remains of fear in him.

Wecdha perceived the tall and proud silhouette of his father to his right. Withgisl, old and grey, but yet as vigorous as a man in the mid of his life, was gazing at the black shroud of heaven lit with the bright stars of winter. The chilly and crystal-clear air made the them shine even more radiant. Wecdha stepped up to his father.

"Father", Wecdha asked, "may I disturb your silence for a moment?" Withgisl replied with a short gesture of his right hand. "What do you see in the stars that you gaze upon so often?" - "Too many tales lie on the sky to tell them on but one evening" Withgisl said, "but did you not notice, son? Tonight I am watching the north especially. For behold, there he stands, as bright as I have never seen him in the whole of my life, not since the day I took it as a portent - the day before my father died. These stars", Withgisl drew some connections with his hands between some of the bright points, "form Menelvagor, the Swordsman of our skies. In his right hand above his head his shield, in his left his brilliant blade with a blooddrop almost dancing at its tip. His story you will learn from me now, for the time is apt for it."

Withgisl drew a deep breath and with a low, yet firm voice he always used when telling stories, a voice which he tried to fill with all awe and reverence for older times possible, and the enthusiasm of a lover of tales, he began.

* * *

"In the Elder Days, long before even »orl the Young, our oldest ancestors, of which only the Elves are said to now still know tales, according to the legends have fought alongside the fair and immortal legendary Eldar, the Elves-folk. One Elven Lord was said to be in whose retinue there was a young and valiant warrior of one noble house of man which is long forgotten in our reckon.

Very tall he was, strong-limbed, his hair as golden as honey which reflects the sun, and his skin so fair that it shone! Nimble as a fox was he, skilled with the sword and as strong as a bear in the rage of Autumn. Soon he rose to honour in the service of the Elf-King, and was granted a noble shield clad with black sable, a brilliant armour the colour of copper, and a sword only the most gifted of the Eldar could forge; never would its blade grow rusty or blind, or chips or cracks appear on it, and with it steel could be cut like the wood of a dead tree. But he was not born into a fair time, for the Black Foe of all living had risen to power immeasurable and in the war he brought then upon Middle-Earth he could only be defeated by the intervention of the Gods. In this War of Wrath the Swordsman led a unit of men of his own house. Just before they set out, his Elf-Lord gave him a belt with three crystals set into it, and told him the full tale of the three Gems of Unmarred Light of the Eldar, which those crystals could only pitily imitate. Over the successive weeks, the brave men fought many a battle against the assaulting tides of orcs of the Dark Lord, and to the men's misery, they got surrounded again and again, and could only ever retreat northwards, directly into the claws of the Enemy.

Then one night they drew near to the camp of an evil lord, who was said to be a high captain of the Dark lord's forces; some say that it was the same lord of Evil who reigns now in the Black Land to the east, some even claim that it was the Black Foe of the World himself. Whichever it be, he immediately drew out of his camp and with his army challenged the fatigued small unit of the Swordsman. Man after man fell under the black arrows and scimitars of the orcs, and orc after orc the Swordsman slew like a scythe that reaps a field of foul wheat. Then the Evil Captain himself stirred, and terrible was he to behold - clad in clack iron, with a huge weapon he wielded with both hands. None could withstand his frenzied assault to crush the brave men, for he was as tall as a tree, and his hide twice the hardness of stone. Knowing that his own doom had drawn upon him, the Swordsman challenged the Black Captain alone. A laugh which sounded like the collapse of a ridge of mountains shook the earth as the Black Warrior turned towards the Swordsman.

Yet, in that moment, the black clouds withdrew from the nightly wintersky, and the stars shone most brilliantly upon the battlefield. Helluin pierced the night with its light, and in the three crystals on the Swordsman's belt it was caught and brought into the stones to a fair shining as if they were made of a burning blue ice. This the Black Captain saw, and for a brief moment he was filled with bewilderment and fear, for he deemed the crystals to be the Gems of Treelight themselves, which he thought to still be in the possession of his side, save that one which the One-handed wrestled from them. Before the evil warriorlord could see his error, the Swordsman raised his shield towards the sky to block both blow and view of his opponent, and with his brilliant blade he lashed out against his enemy's face and hit him right in the eye which then stuck on his blade. The roar of agony and anger of the Black Captain shook the area like a whole cacophony of a million thundercracks at once and, blinded on one side, he stumbled backwards.

The Swordsman gazed in amazement at the evil captain, who rose now taller and more dreadful than before, and with the voice of grinding avalanches he spoke. "Tell me your name, warrior." The Swordsman answered, no longer caring for either life or death. "Then", said the Black Captain, "this was the last time this name shall ever be heard in the circles of this world or beyond. I curse thee and thy kin forever, and never shall thy name ever be remembered in any song or tale, or even the minds of men or elves. Thy deed will never bring thee any glory, mortal worm, and thy death will now make you forever nameless and forgotten. This shall be your punishment for your insulting attack - my curse of wrath and agony will stand forever!" And as he spoke the last word the Black Captain smote the Swordsman under his weapon with a blow that sent all bystanders prone to the ground as it struck the earth.

Many an hour the final War against the Black Foe and his minions raged on, and only the actions of the Gods could defeat the Enemy once and for all. After the battle was over, and the host of the Gods was about to return to their Land of Bliss, the remaining elves and men celebrated their victory calmly and solemnly, in remembrance of the numerous fallen of these days. Many a sad and many a proud song was written and presented which told the names of the heroes of the Final War. But when the herald of the Gods turned southwards, back from the barren and battle-struck lands of the War, he came upon the remnants of a battle where many brave men lay dead, and yet nobody among the elves or men was able to recognise the leader of the fallen, whose dead body no doubt proved that he was a noble and high lord and warrior. As the Herald saw his blade, at the tip of which a still maliciously gleaming eye was pierced, he raised that blade and spoke aloud that this nameless fallen warrior was a hero beyond reckon, and that the blade with the eye of an enemy lord, and the belt with crystals that were filled with heavenly light, should raise him among the highest of all heroes for his deeds and brilliance.

Yet many men who heard these words grew doubtful and asked: "But how shall we remember our hero and hold him in reverence if he does not have a name known to us?" To this the Herald replied that he shall take the body and the items of the Swordsman with him to the West, and that soon then men shall see what becomes of the honour of the nameless fallen. And only some nights later, when the stars came out, did the men behold what the Herald had meant; for at the wintersky there gallantly shone the Swordsman of the Sky, his brilliant armour made of bright stars, the jewels on his belt being three stars next to each other; his sword raised with a big, red, pulsating tip, and a curve of his shield above his head. And inspired by their Hero's ascension to the heavens as a constellation, they decided to name the Swordsman anew by the title of Menelvagor, Swordsman of the sky. From then on warriors would pleadingly gaze to this constellation in their need, for Menelvagor promises posthumous glory even for the nameless and those no longer recognisable." With these words Withgisl ended his tale, and would then say no more about what he told to his son.

* * *

Time was now long due for rest and sleep when father and son went to their straw-beds that night, and there they passed into Balthin the Fell, a broad warrior and a remote relative of Withgisl. "Your son looks worried!" yelled Balthin unsuitingly loud. "Did you trouble him again with the old wives' tales you make up, Withgisl? How can you think he believes one hair more of it than we do!" "Pay that drunkard no heed", said Withgisl to Wecdha. "The stars will show what comes of it."

* * *

The silence of victory lay heavy on the battlefield. Many orcs of Isengard were decapitated, and the »orlingas enthusiastically celebrated their victory. Rikimer noticed two fallen men whose faces were charred beyond recognition by some devilry of Orthanc. They lay with their hands holding each other's, as if they were close brothers or father and son. Rikimer could not stand this sight. He rather drew his glance upwards to the sky. "Praise the nameless fallen", he muttered, "no less is their glory that that of others."
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