Down the Esgalduin they paddled and floated, unwitting to the dangers behind and before them; for the Six Undead had divided, three searching west again along the coast and then southward, to join their companions waiting at the bay where Esgalduin-Aros merged with the sea. These lands were for the most part nearly all under their dominion, and served the darkness of Thû, gathering shades and spirits to Udûn in preparation of a war upon Valamar in the Far West, and Elvenhome Eldamar in their bay protected. These six were, it is now understood by the wise, recognized by Noldo as their own kin, indeed here it is told a terrible truth: these six were Fëanor’s sons, who age before called upon their heads the darkness in boastful lust to fulfill an oath without hope of completion; so reborn a second-flesh to man, they gathered in time before Sauron in his day of beauty and gifting, and each succumbed to his chain; of Maidros it is not said nor thought he was among these Six, nor yet come to his second-birth, having repented of his oaths and evil deeds to its fruitless attempt at completion, he rested awhile with his father in bonds at Mandos’ Halls. Of the other three, who come not into this tale until its final battle, little is surely known, but that of Numenorean race they were said to descend, and among us some tell that Eol the dark-smith of Anglachel and Anguirel, with his own son Maeglin, to whom promise was made by Melko aforetime, in trade for treason greatest, and the destruction of Gondolin of the Rock; that realm of his own mothers-brother was he given, indeed, and yet master of that place burns eternally therein, Gothmogu, to whom Melko had made oaths unbreakable, of heirship to his realm.
Thus the heats of Udûn withered the green from the land, and murked it into a mire surrounding; where in days future to those here told many a golden soldier of elf and men would be consumed, and preserved to haunt the noxious fens that breed the pleasures of Melko and his servants.
Into the clasp of three waiting, the blessed throng paddled, furthering from Thingol’s realm and overwatching power; now yielded mostly to a child that played with toys given in his halls, even as Izilba peered into the darkness under the scant moon, silvering the river before her. The sword forged of two she often grasped, and it assured her of steadfast protection, and wisdom uncanny.
Her stone, the sea-glass of Silmariel, had gone dark, and would not hearken to her call. In Miriam she believed her safe passage carried hope of concluding as foreshown in vision, and with Miriam now went the Brin-sil-Beriand, blue formed crystal as a butterfly, with filets of silver and white stones at its wings, and though not of the elves, and quiet, it carried to Miriam’s heart and mind assurance; and if warranted, warnings and wise-counsel, having repented of its service to the coven-whelps of Thuringwethil.
Both mothers rowed in silent contemplation of the majesty of Eru, how it was made Arda, a place for free kinds, and whether in the end these two might make upon its lands beauty to match his designs before them; above them remote, and below flowing. Miriam sang at a whisper over the suckling face of Samuel, and continued her song as she set him to rest in robes at her feet. Dyacôm seldom slept, though he rested now silently, his breath keeping time with his mother’s rowing through the velvet waters. Before dawn they would hear, and being forewarned by vision of mind and misgiving in the heart, they beached the small crafts, east through the marshes, tugging through mud and reed until more solid turf offered its landing. Covered by the wains light upon land, and easy to wheel and pull with a rope, they camped for the day, attending to the children, and resting until twilight. Now south was closed to them, for the falls – even if descended well – ran through narrow tunnels of earthstone, from which opened in a rushing spray winding through marshy reed waters until finding the sea. Eastward they walked, seeking for a stair south through the Andram, a high wall of rock from which they could look for many leagues south, over rolling hills broken by settlements and smokes rising of chimney- fires, and other farm-burnings.
And further east they continued, until in the distance rose Amon Ereb, to them unknown, but dreaded; for it was surely well- garrisoned, and an outlook for evil men that held the lands thereabouts as in their hands.
Less than a week they walked thus, pulling the small wains well stored by Thingol’s decree, watchful under starlight, and concealed during the day.
A small path came up their left side, worn but not recently trafficked upon, as the early threat of winter sent good men to store, or southward to supply their households, and sicklier sort to harass the coasts, and to seek desperate trades when force of arms would not serve, to stock their vessels with slaves. As they camped, and while pulling the wains, Miriam told of her own capture while young, having strayed into cattails to cut reeds at a watersedge, when she was netted and bound, but not blinded to the sight of the village’s burning and ruin; and the scattering of her kin to the four corners of the land, then over horizons, all in misery, forlorn and without hope of salvation. She was sold in many markets, traded and sold again, being profitable as a future-bearer of more in chains, youthful and spirited.
In those days men were often kept from speech, branded and naked worked as beasts, and beasts they became, even subject to breeding in that manner, monstrous to behold was the corruption in that day, as ever-smaller settlements failed to resist the threats and inevitable slaughter descending from the sky in the night.
In the dim before dawn the throng took the path northward bending near the hill, hoping to turn at last south, to the regions recalled by Miriam as friendly to her clan. Yet as they rounded the eastern bulge, naked on a high shelf, a small escarpment rotting in the wind, they saw weeping, a grey-shade, and further down the slope, a scattered remnant of the corpse of bat-witch Thuringwethil, dragged to this hill but [by] some daunted party, and overwatched by what Dyacôm observed to be the shade of Earnu [Eanur]. A smolder of her parts curled here and there down the bare slope, and ran out to drain in the underworld. Dyacôm nearly called to his friend, but was stopped by Izilba who beheld in his countenance high up a burning wrath, bellowed by vengeance unsated in the mutilation and mockery of the pleasure of Thû; given by his master an age long ago. Where the smoke ran aground, as the dawn unrolled light grey overhead, a black reek-stench grew from the soil, and into this cloud- fog of black-poison walked the spirit of Earnu.
Dyacôm gasped and covered his eyes, and the mothers ran northward upon a trail to seek the cover of a stand of trees. As they entered columns of trees rattling dead leaves in the blowing of a cold north wind, the ground around Ereb cried out, and divided, swallowing the eastern side whole – grinding stone upon stone, pierced with shrieks and “kgreshku” cries of the hill’s bowels, defiled in this setting of foul parts of one that spread sickness and terror upon the ranges east and north.
The mothers held one another, their children between them, as the trees, oak and shorter tangles of alder, bent and were lifted by the land’s rising and falling; amid a howling breath like a death rattle in the lungs of a dragon, until the sun’s struggle to climb to its high rest had been achieved, and then fogs crawled up from the south, around Ereb’s breach, and in this cover, and stillness, the little family at last slept.
Hours after the falling of the sun in the west they awoke, ate, and prepared the children for another hike, now northeast, making for the Dwarf-road (by Miriam) reputed still held against the sickness of the lands west.
Along a lifted hill-works they travelled, with a river to the right in the distance, dividing the highlands before the Blue Mountains from the rolling broken, patchy wooded lands west. In a few days they came to an ancient path, and east-walking, to the ruins of a ferry crossing, in the dry side-channel of the rushing river that none could now pass by ferry or ford. Here the family camped and waited for counsel to come, heart and mind. In a few more days they [if persisting] would come to Sarn-Athrad, as it was later called, to pass east in the Blue Mountains, whither neither woman knew.
Zhera’ could not be expected to have come so far upstream the torrent before their camp, nor could they now put in their wains here, and paddle south to its unknown (to them) end. Nor did they desire to recall the scene at Ereb thither; stone and sword likewise silent contemplated the choice, while alone in the camp Dyacôm talked and laughed, for a kind spirit has found this toddler-king, and in prostrations and declarations of fealty, and reports of services rendered, a marvelous game seemed to open before the boy; and though his playing at king before a jester threatened to bring upon any nearby passing ruffian or bandit, Izilba stayed her tongue, and opened her ears to his voice, while she reached for the small hand of Miriam, and she (Miriam) laid her head upon the grey mother’s shoulder, soon to sleep, snoring amid the play and laughter, a camp without cover, nor sure counsel, and out of food.