Next when Zhera’ was brought before Janus-chief, overseer of the Gorges between Esk-ah-Tel, where once it was held in their ornaments and hangings that the land had been fruitful of its own, without compulsion by man, and a living soul giving and taking no life; when next he sat before their lord, the man told of a dream, in it, fattened bulls from the sea flowed in and drowned ones ^made lean by famine, whose corpses were trod upon into a mire by the bulls from the sea, and from the mire rose a star that went and departed into heaven.
Zhera’ was no interpreter of dreams, and puzzled at his own; and so offered no guess to its portents, meaning, or counsel. The lord then removed his mask, and astonished all in the court, revealing his face, and he was a man, eager to understand; knowing that in the keeping of this stranger he breached his own law, and yet did so being compelled to comprehend these dreams, fearing for his land and its people, should he misjudge or construe amiss.
“I know not, Lord good and wise-enough to withstand the darkness overwhelming all else; and it is plain you keep my family guard here, when we would ask leave, to find our lost homes, before all turns under day into night. I perceive that elves are not welcome here, nor have been heard from in your past, that of the Powers in the West, your people say nothing. I cannot give you dreams, nor their truth to guide; for these are given to you, and upon your head they shall rest, sealed or no.”
“Then you have my leave, but should you come to see into my night-visions what is now veiled, I ask you to return, and again be welcomed, though more freely housed and happier boarded. For now men cannot walk about as before, the shadows take us, and our fathers and sons vanish; only to be discovered half-consumed, burned, and otherwise mutilated. Yet no dreams come to warn any man, nor to direct my hand to the removal of the cause of our dismay and daily, nightly terror. Blood we paint about our doorways, to ward off these thieves, and some make offerings to the darkness to fill it before consuming all our grown men. If I have kept you more guarded than I would, I have done so to keep you from our miseries, and ending here a noble man as victim of what we know not; and we are ashamed,” and the king wept, saying he had no strength of mind now to foresight, and his own brother was lost, and dreams only remained in the night to trouble, not to comfort.
The chief replaced his mask, and hardened his heart; commanding food and protection be given this man’s family, as far as requested, for it would not be said by any that among the folk of Kiliath a rude people are, led into darkness, ungenerous, where the stranger is greeted by chains, as in Thitherlands, where the Primal Dark reigns.
As he rose to thank the lord, Zhera’ halted, and it came to his mind to inquire of their lore concerning the First Man, and whether powers greater were, or are today; and of their manner. The king replied thus:
In our tales much has been lost, for holes we mark, and keep without filling in; and I in my day have received the lore of my house, that of Judas renown we descend fifty generations, and before him was fifty generations, until the First Man, as you say. He being grown in the soil, cultivated in speech and number, herblore and much else you see here, rose up in a quarrel with his gardeners, of greater might; but being more cunning, and nearer the earth, Man slayed his master, and broke his body, and with it made earth to grow him a woman, and this pair our old women hold, first grew old here at Kiliath and when they died, buried one another in the soil, and from them came all the peoples of the earth.
Of greater powers, our lore tells now little, save the chief of our house, who makes the land good, and the wind warm, delighting in the turning of the stars and wearing masks of every kind. But now a sickness unto death surrounds our valley, and we see no power to counter its covering. If that darkness of shadows ever hungry be one of these Powers, we wonder now why it has come, and for how long it will tarry.
“I know not, lord. But this sickness is not of the Powers Western Residing, being in truth their Enemy, a rebel against the True King, Aman called by elves, Manwë, the Great Spirit of Eru, his vice-regent upon Arda.” And Zhera’ told then all that he had learned of the Powers, their coming into the world, its fashioning by them, and the Great Eru they serve, making for him an abode to house his children, and these are Men, and Elves. He told somewhat of that host of men brought to earth, and deposited in diverse places, to learn governance rightly, sometime to take up seats among the Powers, but this was not so, and perhaps shall not now be, and of the plans of the Powers for Men, who can say?
“I myself seek only this: a spouse long separated, a son firstborn, missing in the mountains north, and to deliver these daughters to the lands of their birth. The Powers I leave to themselves, the elves I would live among until death, for in them is both kinship and greater, and dreams have brought mostly woe, if sought out for counsel.
“I am a trapper, yet traps and snares also I escape, and this I do give as counsel from one ensnared to another: flee. Find the West, where gardeners of Men cultivate yet, for in your veins is a silver rare, precious to them, and by them alone assayed without alloy, refined. Your lore survives despite untruth, for this land – though ancient indeed, has life to give, but against the sea of Dark Evil it cannot stand. And into the holes wormed through your tales of old, will that sea fill lies cunning, and then your people will be bound to eat its harvest, and to fish as one in darkness, without net or wire.”
Now the king set aside his mask, and stood, and placed it upon his chair, never to wear again; nor to speak through it the decrees of his house. Though understanding he sought in keeping a guest captive, he repented to Zhera’, that peace better he received, his mind and heart at one accord in the choice long denied the making.
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