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And clean, he received clarity in the night of dream, foreseeing much here that is told, not yet revealed. He saw a great tower under a red sky, blue and wide of base, where labored men in thrall dragging inside carts of bricks and stone to mortar, a watchtower of Sauron’s citadel further north under excavation and reconstruction, built of the corpse of Thangorodrim’s slag heaps and high hills. From this building his eye turned east, to see a dwarf home razed, ruined by Nazgul – now he named the shadows of dreadful torment unto death, thralls of spirit bound by rings pure; contrived for beings greater than themselves, crooked in the wearing thus.
He saw the lands all in movement of peoples, some to war; some to refuge of war; others here and there a-hunting lost things or beings, in hope to make war, or take refuge in their strength. He saw many stars fall, and one remain, while from the earth blackened by slag arose a red star – small and brilliant – terrible to look upon, and it saw all that was done before its high glance. Northward the eye moved, and he followed its gaze to dead marshes, golden in mire, spreading filth from the gatehouse of a tower without measure of height, into the clouds – a reek and fume spewed of Gorgoroth – it pierced, as hunting for the lone remaining star, green in the blue sky above the grey-black airs it maintained; the scene flew westward, over the seas, to a silent island, great and ancient; filled with light amid the darkness, and the reaching shadows from the east, gilded at their tips, stretching forth tendrils upon the land; half the land these black hands pulled into the seas’ raging wrath, and were lost; yet another half [of land] split upward, and ascended out of view, passing a ring of moon blown red in the fire of the seas’ burning.
Two shadows he saw on the east horizon, sailing west, and suddenly turned back by the plume of mist, and a mountain-wave drove them, far into the east of the world, where they planted a sapling white, and lowered into the soil a column of rock, black- polished. In the sun’s rising, Zhera’ saw the one in the East dazzling, as though robed in iridescent wings of silk, as butterflies in flock beating out every color of the sun’s concealed white light. The being to the South of the stone he perceived carried in a satchel two stones, of the same glory to dazzle as the other’s robes achieved; and as he looked upon these stones, all the heavens were opened, and he perceived amid the void, light; in which was found light without end, spirals and stars wheeling out to colonize what was not, in the southward stones he saw this; as a plan for seeds to scattering an infinite harvest, always white, always beyond the darkness, until the dream concluded with that green light, a twinkle in the sky blue, now a blue without glimmer, flat as a curved arching wall over head. From the blue emerged two wings of a glittering butterfly, edged in adamant and silver, and it landed upon a great tree, on which were written many hidden things; then Zhera’ perceived this tree’s roots drew from whence came his own root’s strength, and flying upward above the two trees, one in the East and his own in the West, between them grew the light of a star, surrounded by seven lights gathering, being driven forth by a spume of black smoke that chased out all light surrounded the trees, that grew about the stars.
When he awoke, all was recalled, and written, and despair fled from his heart, and he sat upon a seawain, and wept; for the comeliness of Eru Iluvatar, to ensnare the living, to keep not, but neither to set wholly free a wild thing, distrustful.
Taking no thought for safety, Zhera’ paddled his wain to the throng, and he was watched, and soon beset by strong men wearing spike- studded canvas (body armor?); threatening the women with all violence, and likely planning their own before the day concluded, these creatures carried Zhera’ and Mahah, for it was a superstition among them that twins brought evil air, and only by sacrifice of leaving to death would the plague abate – so Zhera’ and his ^son were carried in chains and cast into a stone dungeon, passing the coastal village, its habitation of brick houses set upon stilts, for the sea’s wroth in those days was without accounting, irregular; and thus did they seek to end the plague, waiting for the sea to take the twin in watery burial, and the father, too, if should be; leaving the women to aid in their conquest of neighboring clans, said to suffer a patrilineal weakness, a proclivity for foreign girls: thus a trade was perhaps planned.
Zhera’ was chained to a small boulder in this dungeon, and the little boy too was chained, wailing, echoing his fears to the delight of the keepers; for the sea could they hear in the distance, discern his growling reply and consent to take the twin from their midst. As night came in shadows reaching through the grated window-opening, chanting and drumming set a rhythm to the sea’s rising and withdrawing, nearing the openings at the roof of the dungeon, soon to pass through, and cover the floor in icy black waters.
Pouring in, then pausing, the tide also sent shelled creatures, and small stones on the floor, and fish swam about Mahah, whose cries were now swallowed in the din of crashing seas about the walls.
Then outside the window they heard in the brief silence, a call, and saw the face of Umma, her hands grasping the bars, to pry them apart, her large and powerful shoulders blocking now the incoming sea collecting its bounty. She was pressed and sucked back many times, until exhausted, the sea pulled her from the window’s bars, and threw her down, thrusting her body from the wall, suddenly in a last blast of waves, a huge stone was thrown against the bars, and they were destroyed; the roof failing, Umma dove into waters of the dungeon and lifted the boy above the blackness swirling, reviving him; then she slipped him from the chain that held his arm and leg, and swam to Zhera’.
“You must flee now, before the next wave,” he insisted, “leave me to work out a way from this trap.” But Umma would not, and she gave the boy into his lifted arms, and dove underneath the pool, to wrench free the chain from the boulder’s hold, forcing on the pin badly rusted, breaking it; and the three swam out, even as the next wave landed, and folded in the roof, in a violence never before seen in this land, and slow the tide withdrew, and the stars glowed red and white above.
All the townsfolk huddled atop the flats in the beech trees, and in brick rooms atop stilts, for the seas had sent forth upon the land, crashing stray logs and carts against trees; yet these people often expected Ossë’s wrath and petulance, so channels had they dug to drive the water out into salt marshes, drained in the heat of summer to give them salt to sell inland, and soon the flood passed.
Zhera’ and Umma, holding Mahah, descended from a high branch, and ran to the wains, where the cheers of the daughters greeted them far off the coast, as Umma whistled in signal of joyous success, her first and last intrepid endeavor.
“Wait! Please! Do not leave us to perish as thralls here,” a beautiful woman crept from the tall reeds at the shore nearby, and crawled to them, sobbing. Showing her wrists, and the scars and chafe, “Please help us, for I have fled from thralldom inland, southeast, some nineteen leagues inland, I seek a way north.” And Zhera’ aided her to stand, offering his hands, lifting her to sit with him on a driftwood bench, sure of their safety, for the townsfolk feared the sea, and more so they who obtained liberation in its despite. Though from afar they looked upon the shadow-shapes in fear and wonder, different than the fear and awe spreading out from the day-shadows that had passed through and gave order to blockade.
The tongue of the woman was pierced, and with it she spoke a form of Zhera’s own native language, though heightened in beauty and melody, interchaining breath with the gasps and rushes of the seas, and it quieted.
“If you would follow, I would lead to that place whence I fled, for if you seek,” and she paused, “if aid to thralls you would give, I will against any desire return thither, where among these after- freed, you and your daughters be taken as king and high-ladies, my own father the king being slain,” and she sobbed leaning to him. So he held her, and his heart opened, and his mind saw scenes as she foretold. She kissed his hands, then stood before him, outlined against the stars on the purple night, breathing heavy, and turned away, saying, “You have errands southward, I understand, and will not return me whence I fled,” and Umma thought this just, but Zhera’ paused, and took her hand, asking her name, and she was called Ifariel u-Hazad.
He turned her wrist to look upon the wounds, and saw she had bound about her arm a catch and resting stand for light falcons. He bid her wait awhile, to sit and rest, then spoke to Umma in whisper he did, though she was much disquieted, and unpleased. They would come with her, though not hence, further south downcoast, if she knew this way, to come upon her lands in a way north, rather than ^entering from the west.
So to the crowded wains they added one more foundling, who directed from his side the course Zhera’ steered the wains, until after a few days, he deemed the way east open. The wains they wheeled, and made baskets for the boys to ride along in, or be carried as if lords on a bier, “or a spit,” Umma cackled. They passed along a broken path into the eastern lands, the broken hilltops familiar to Zhera’, their coloring burnt tawny and brown as an auroch’s hide, the trees stunted, the shrubs thornier, and the sun hotter. Food enough they had preserved, and their guide uncached many stores, hidden by travelers of her clan; and they camped in tents, though often Ifariel overstayed the others’ visits to Zhera’s tent, holding the boys with Umma, and delighting in their play.
Her beauty stung his heart, though little of her compared to Izilba; in face and stature, she was of his lands, earthy, thornier, spineful, easy to laughter, and ready to dance; clothing she held a burden, mostly, being wrapped scarcely, and mostly, it seemed, merely to not shame Zhera’ and her “sisters,” as she named them, when absent from them.
On the final night of their travel, as they planned to come at the place of thralls by next evening, these two spoke long, and Umma watched and listened, holding the boys in her wide arms, feigning sleep. She saw the woman come to Zhera’, whisper to him; but Zhera’ smiled and turned, walking into the darkness of his tent’s corner, to lie down and sleep. Though the woman slept nearby, upon her carpet, in the night she moved near Zhera’ and thus they awakened, before dawn, by the wails of the twins. Ifariel called him her “Falcon,” and did not stir, though Zhera’ arose, and departed, to wander the falling hills that spread into a valley, before the pink dawn brought him back to the tent. He had been walking back with Doral, speaking quietly, and they were as one in this matter.
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