sábado, 15 de marzo de 2008

The Hope of the North: Dwarves 9

Tharkun’s tales
as recorded by Dwoin II, son of Dwalin
in ‘The Iron Hill Sagas’, book Seven

Two events dominate the history of Dol Guldur, as far as the Free Peoples are concerned: the two times that Tharkun the Wizard, whom the elves call Gandalf and men Mithrandir, entered the dark halls of the Necromancer. Here is the account made by Dwoin II, written by his own hand, as heard from his father Dwalin, who was told the tale by Tharkun himself many years after it happened.

The First Tale: Tharkun explores Tumun-gabil.

After years of endless pondering and speculation, Tharkun determined that the only way to discover the true identity of the Necromancer of Dol Guldur was to venture into its perilous halls. For the entire summer of 2063, using Rhosgobel as his temporary abode, he gathered knowledge concerning the Necromancer and his servants. Radagast’s winged friends proved quite helpful, explaining the movements of the garrison of the Hill of Sorcery.
Of all the things that Gandalf learned during the long summer, the most precious and helpful information came from an elf called Narindel, a scout who had spent many years spying on the minions of the Necromancer and labouring tirelessly to assist Tharkun. After trailing a patrol of orcs deep in the forest and piecing together snatches of their conversations and movements, he surmised that the northernmost outpost within the Nan Lanc provided access to a labyrinth of tunnels that eventually led into Dol Guldur itself. With this knowledge Tharkun finally prepared to travel south. Both Narindel and Radagast offered aid and companionship, but he refused.
‘At least, then take this,’ said Radagast, producing a small glass vial. ‘For though you are a master of fire and may be able to stand before many orcs, you have no means to hide yourself from the watchful eyes that guard the borders of Nan Lanc. Unlike you, I employ more subtle powers, being a master of shapes and changes of hue. When you drink this, you will be able to appear as you wish for a short while, and this may allow you to enter that dark domain without drawing unneeded attention.’
Tharkun accepted it and set out alone several days later. Armed with his new knowledge and Radagast’s elixir, he seemed strangely sanguine. Nonetheless, the Brown Wizard sensed the dire nature of Tharkun’s journey and bade him an emotional farewell.

Tharkun spent many days avoiding orcs and spiders and travelling through the densest parts of the forest so as to remain unseen by the soaring fell-beasts and damned crebain. Eventually, he reached the southern end of the Emyn Guldur and strove toward the ever-present black storm-clouds hanging over the Nan Lanc. There he found the Men Uruk, the Orc-road, which traversed the Naked Valley, and he concealed himself in a copse of fir trees to await his quarry.
Finally, as the greyish light of day began to fade into utter darkness, a patrol of orcs came marching down the road from the north, as they did every day at that time, just as Narindel had told him. Heedless of danger so close to their master’s stronghold, the orcs grunted and barked their peculiar sense of joy at being near their destination. Then Tharkun gently withdrew a pine cone from his robes, spoke some soft words of incantation, and drank the elixir provided by Radagast. As the orcs passed by, hacking at nearby saplings with their scimitars, Tharkun stepped onto the road just behind them and said in the orcs’ speech: ‘So, you worthless snagi are late again!’
His exclamation instantly halted the orcs, who wheeled about in fear. What they saw was not a wizened old man in grey robes, but a huge olog chief glaring at them. Though the drartul of the patrol did not recognise this black troll, his armament and gear clearly denoted his rank, and he seemed reluctant to risk asking, in particular when the olog made it plain in a harsh, insulting fashion, that he was not pleased with the captain’s performance and that his actions would be reported.
In a few short moments, the orcs resumed their march with their newly-acquired leader. Soon they passed through the line of the Evil Trees that guarded the Necromancer’s realm and entered the barren desolation of the Nan Lanc. Dol Guldur loomed over the vale like a giant spire of gloom and hatred. A dark and evil presence hung in the air like an eerie fog.
Just as he had expected, the orcs’ destination was not Amon Lanc. Rather, they were bound for the small tower which guarded the northern entrance into the valley and served as a gate for many of the patrols returning from the north and northwest. The party of orcs left the Men Uruk and turned west to follow the pummice-covered trail that slowly ascended a rocky slope to the tower on the nearby hill. As the orcs drew near the gate, their ‘chief’ lagged a few paces behind and casually dropped a pine cone in a scrawny bunch of bushes growing by the roadside. None of the weary orcs noticed as the pine cone began to quietly spark and sputter. As they reached the tower, the gates were opened and the patrol lumbered into the outpost, forgetting the presence of the ‘troll-chief’.
Once inside, Tharkun grew worried that his form would start to fade, but fortunately, his device worked, and just as the chieftain of the tower confronted the ‘olog’ as to who he was, a shout came from the staircase leading to the second floor: an excited orc then leaped into view yelling that a fire was blazing in the underbush nearby. In the brief but frenzied confusion that followed, no-one noticed the ‘troll-chief’ quietly descend the stairs to the lower chambers, slipped through a half-hidden door he saw, and into a dark passage beyond.
After following the short corridor, Tharkun descended a spiralling staircase deep under the earth until it came to a stop at the end of a long and crooked tunnel that seemed to run in the correct direction towards Dol Guldur. A foul stench drifted out of the darkness, confirming his suspicions. Tharkun then summoned a dim glow from the end of his staff and headed down the tunnel.
He followed the crooked passage for a long time, surmising that he must have passed beneath the valley and must now be close to edge of Amon Lanc. Then he saw a light in the distance. He quickly extinguished the light of his staff and walked forward, seeing two of the Uruk-hai in the passage, standing guard just behind a lowered portcullis. Tharkun thought it unlikely that a pair of warriors and an iron gate was all that stood in his path, and dared not proceed without careful preparation. Then he caught a glimpse of a row of dark slots cut into the wall of the passage, and a similar row on the opposite wall. He knew then that the place was some intricate trap devised for uninvited guests.
Now Tharkun heard the dreadful sound of many heavy footfalls hammering down the passage behind him. He had to do something quick or he would be trapped, so he quietly crept closer to the torchlight, pressed himself closer to the wall and waited for the approaching group. Soon, as the sound of steps grew closer, the leader of the oncoming orcs called out to the uruk-hai beyond the portcullis. Before they could respond, though, a blinding flash filled the hall and in the next instant all the torches were extinguished.
The approaching orcs fell into disarray and confusion. Some halted, while others blundered forward in their momentary blindness, shouting and shoving at one another. While chaos filled the passage, a dark grey figure bumped his way through the disorganised mob of dazzled orcs, finally stopping several paces behind the last one.
After many shouted orders and the re-lighting of the torches, the troops regrouped in front of the portcullis. Tharkun remained just beyond the edge of the torchlight. The captain of the orcs convinced the uruk-hai to raise the gate, and as the first half of the orc-party passed beneath the portcullis, another explosive flash extinguished all the torches again. Once again, shouts and curses filled the passage. Tharkun quickly pushed his way through the tumult beyond the gate and the orcs, running ahead into the gloom, leaving his still-startled foes to search in vain for their assailant.

A loud knock on his door brought Oi back from his absorption into Dwoin’s book. A booming voice came through from outside. ‘Oi, are you there?’
‘Yes... yes, master Himli.’
‘We need you at once, Oi. Make your way to Master Dwoin’s Writing Halls as soon as possible. Understood?’
‘Yes, sire.’
‘All right then. Do not tarry.’
Oi closed the book, and by force of habit was going to put it with the others, but he thought that its wonderfully reduced size would allow him to carry it, and so he hid it in a pocket. Come to think of it, he didn’t feel like leaving it anywhere at all. What a wonder! And Tharkun’s story! As he hurried from his room, he wondered why he had never heard details of his famous visit to Dol Guldur before.

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