THE TALE OF IZILBA
OF THEIR TRAVELS NORTH AND THE RECOVERY OF THE SWORD GURTHAND OUT FROM UNDER THE STONE OF THE HAPLESS,
AND THE FIRST HUNTING OF THE SIX UNDEAD.
[12 February 2017, early morning]
A small throng useful for the keeping of small beasts and birds and even fishes of exotic kind was the bearer of Zhera’ and Izilba, north away from the coast of Westernesse. The winds and waves took them withersoever, day and night, and by long store of provisions they were comfortably housed, if uneasy about their fates, to them known only dimly, but what was made known was this: Zhera’ would enlarge the girdle of Arda, and Izilba deepen the weights depending therefrom.
The throng drifted in a meandering northward, some distance from the coastline [of Middle Earth], but often within its sight. On a night after several small oared ships glided past in silence, lights were seen ringing shadows and crying silhouettes against the tall cliffs of Crissaegrim, through the night passing in the distance. Being without weapon, having only nets and ropes and small traps, the pair was not armed for even a sortie or silent exploration of the curious sights, though Zhera’ held in his heart that these were women of the villages and coastal towns, hoarded against their wills, and hurried to some doubtfully benevolent end. Of his fears, he said nothing to Izilba, while she pondered the meaning of many signs in Heaven, and of those silent oared ships that passed southward. The folk ringed in light of amber flame she figured were mere fisherfolk who suffered some common loss, a boat of men or the elderly to sickness, and this a rude funeral pomp.
The[n] before the dawn, when the ships and lights on the shore seemed less certain, and their interpretation more doubtful, a fog fell upon their throng, and covered all the land and waters along the coast. This fog in long patches concealed them from every eye, yet they heard sounds of small battle, and of burning, hither and yon, as the days passed and nights came, and the fog little yielded to vision of stars and heavenly figures.
The moon waxed, but not yet to its full; and on a morning as dawn was nearing the throng, it seemed to the pair, had ceased its motion; but upon peering out from atop the barges, Zhera’ could discern no ground they’d run upon, nor evidence of seaward movement. Izilba leaped from the rude raft, and naked stood in the sea, as a vision of Astarte and Aphrodite, to Zhera’ bewildering and bewitching, she rose and laughed, and scooped from the waves a handful of grey sand, foam laced, and tossed it at him.
“Sea farer, maybe, but I know land,” she said, and dove under the waves, heedless of the danger of rock and reef. So it was, in the pink early dawn, under the spreading gap of many fingers of fog, she disappeared from Zhera’, and not for the last time. He stripped and waded in, and diving low, swam after her, following the trail of green sea she cut into the foams atop the small waves. She called to him a warning to “stop, love,” as the fog cleared again, she was resting on a small shelf of black rock, as a maiden of pearl streaked in the colors of dawn. Before his face, nearly a body’s length away was as a jagged jaw of black teeth, ringing the face of a scalable cliff. To his left sat Izilba, and to her he waded in the waters calm, and it was revealed to the lovers they had as a throng drifted into a small harbor, yet one unknown, it seemed, to mariners or fishers. Rising high above the sea, they climbed hand by hand, roped at the waist as yoked they were, over the sea cliff, some sixty feet above the green waves.
Here the turfs were dry; the mosses that would soon render the lonely rock in the sea utterly un-graspable, were dried and yellowed, though it was treacherous to stand and walk without care. Having rested in each others embrace until their hearts beated in time with the slow waves leaping up the cliffs on the distant side of the rock-isle, the pair resolved to crawl atop the rock, to see what may be seen in all directions, and whether they were indeed harbored safely, but without hope of survival in its habitation.
Crawling, slipping, suffering small cuts on their skin, the entangled pair mingled the blood with black mud, and yellow mosses, and bright green slicks of water heather. No birds nested there, and the rock itself offered no views of land, nor in the rings and passes of fog, any signs of the right way. So they tarried, and rested at ease, being weary of Zhera’s rude throng. His sea wains were three, held as one by a lattice of ropelike webs, finely wrought, though of a weave and fiber unknown to Izilba. The middle wain housed their store of foods, meager but sufficient for a time, though Zhera’ reckoned not for another moon’s ending. In the right they slept in comfort, and in the left wain was found many chambers – now empty – for keeping the living prey.
Zhera’ rolled away from Izilba and slept, content that here they were safe, from the slavers and the oared ships that still slid by in the night’s dreams, if not by their own throng. She prostrate on her belly, chin on her hands, stared west across the rock into fog, and over the sea, and thought of Silmariel, first Queen of Westernesse. From the west flying in the wind came a spectre-shape, passing high over the rock, and the sun was nearing its descent. The shape made no sound, but grey against the pale blue sky it streaked, unhappy, and to a terrible end, loathing, it seemed to her heart its own shape, and lack of. Her hand reached out to Zhera’ while she watch[ed] this shape pass over, and a second emerge in the far distance. Her fingers traced cuttings in the flatness on which they had lain, and wheedling out the mosses and turf and soil, her thumb could trace other cuttings, carvings, letters of rune of the old world. She worked to uncover the entire carving of writ, and awakened Zhera’, standing over him, and pressing her heel into his side. He turned over and saw the new mound of turfs piled by, for Zhera’ as for his pillow, and winked; and on the turf laid his head. Deeper into his side she now dug her toes, and he jumped away, rolling, nearly pulling her from her feet. But she grasped their yoke, and tugged at it, until he had spun indeed to place his face over the writings. Then he pressed himself up and raise[d] on his knees, saw what Izilba had uncovered while he slept.
In your tongue it might’ve read:
TURIN TURAMBAR DRAGNIR GLAURUNGA NINIEL BELOVED TWICE LOST
AND MORWEN THEIR MOTHER
Yet neither knew these runes, though both guessed their meaning, having heard at times as “old tales” the NARN I CHIN HURIN. Plain it was that:
T—N T—M— G—–G- N—N— ————
M—–N [in our characters]
And yet maybe this memorial had been carved by a bored seaman or marooned soldier, and no true stone it be. The pair talked in whispers, as the sea below increased in urgency its leaps of green water, and sea foam their frequency, and the seeing of the wraith she kept in her heart.