12 - Old treasure of Arnor
The tall Tinnudir tower impressed them, with its white stone shining afar. The waters around were sparkling and crystal clear, truly in a picturesque way. The contrast of strictness and beauty, well guarded by the rangers.
„So, you know Halbarad and Aragorn. Nice. But anyone can say that.”
Tarnon was taking a breath to answer him in same tone, but Calenglad raised palm to silence them.
„We rely on deeds rather than words. Go and get rid of some of the thieving riffraff. They usually like to keep some fancy talismans and tokens. Bring us some those as a proof that we can trust you.”
„Not a typical recruiting, I tell you,” said Kor.
„I see,” said Tarnon with the understanding in his voice. “They would have sent us to kill some grave robbers anyway. Come, lets open my sack. I told ya it would become handy.”
Tarnon put down his loot bag and started to sort out peculiar amulets and brightly colored scarfs. It created quite a pile.
Calenglad whistled, impressed.
„We met those hostile bums on the way on the hill. They needed a lesson.”
„Good. I didn’t expect somebody will pass the first trial within a minute.“
„First?“ Kor turned his eyes to Plusheila and then looked back at him with suspicion.
The ranger grinned at them and nodded.
„Well, let me at least get our poor brave horse some fresh water and oats,“ said Kor and took Brownie to the small Tinnudir stable.
Then Calenglad described them the meeting point with the ranger patrol.
Kor and Tarnon needed to cross the water to the south. The remains of Annuminas, with its immense white walls and towers were visible from many miles. The numerous kings’ tombs were lining the main road to the ruined Arnor city.
Two figures with grey hoods were awaiting them at one of the pompous tombs put into the steep slopes of the lake shore. After Kor showed the secret gesture, they introduced as Helechír and Nimbellas.
„New faces. But you look like you can handle a serious fight. Good.“ said Helechír.
The second briefed them about the situation.
„According to the tracks, this ancient grave had visitors recently. Several times. Most probably they will come again – and maybe the interlopers are still inside.“
Anyway, it is strange. Some people only want to get some unused gold. Why not let them? Everyone has to eat.
Helechír turned to him, because the last two sentences said Kor aloud.
“Simply. Because we know they sell the loot to the Angmarim. And the enemy is looking for any ancient artifacts to use in the war against us. Those miserable looters wouldn’t recognize cast iron from elven steel.“
Kor started to scratch his head, embarassed.
„I thought you were more clever, old man,“ smirked Tarnon at Kortheod. Also the mentioning of Angmar ignited unhealthy red sparkle in his eyes. “Remember, their buddies tried to cut our throats up the hills near the Kings’ monument.”
Kor shrugged. „Well, what can you expect from rohirrim redneck.“
Tarnon hit him friendly with a fist in the shoulder.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Kor.“
Plusheila gestured skewering an enemy with her spear.
„Yes, my dear. They chose their path. So they need to accept the consequences.“ said Kor.
Then they just waited in a hideout nearby.
Eight of them came. And surprisingly out of the tomb. They carried a few shapeless clinging bundles.
“Lay down your weapons and leave, and you will survive,” sounded a clear, strong voice from somewhere near.
The bandits bunched up and drew their swords, everyone checking different direction. Then one of them pointed at a crumbling pillar.
“Do what you’re told. You’re surrounded,“ spoke another voice from another side. Then something faintly hissed in the air.
The nearest bandit recoiled, as the warning arrow delved into the sand only a few inches before him.
One of them dropped his blade and turned around to run. Another one, who looked important and had widest shoulders of them all, tried to reach and jab him. He failed, the fleeing man was faster. So he could only shout: “Traitor! We will find you anyway!”
A few moments, silence reigned. The bandits were waiting, eyes open, ears vigilant.
“You have been warned,” pronounced another voice, nasty and hoarse. It was followed by a thrown dagger that hit the robber would-be-boss in the leg.
Two bowstrings sang its deadly song. At the same time, Kor, Tarnon and Sheila jumped out of hiding.
The robbers had predominance. Well, only in numbers. Regarding skill, it was the other way around, and it was clear soon. A good opportunity to show their fighting art. The two rangers had put down only one bandit each, leaving the rest to the new triplet.
It was over soon.
“Good work, rookies,” grimaced wryly Nimbellas. Kor nodded and the ranger read in his eyes, that neither he enjoyed it. But it was inevitable.
“So, we off to Calenglad now?” rasped Tarnon. “Or should we help ya move the rubbish somewhere?” he pointed at the bundles of loot.
“We’d appreciate it, man,“ smirked Helechír. „Every pound less to carry is good.“
"In fact…“ started Kor," I would borrow a new blade from it.“
Both greyhoods turned to him.
"We already spoke about that with Lothrandir and Torogethir. You have just a few both men and weapons. A long forgotten sword can do some good work yet, in the right hands,“ explained Kor.
Helechír slowly nodded, then looked with question in his eyes at his comrade. Nimbellas didn’t say anything. So Helechír turned back to Kor and spoke for both:
„Your name is not unknown anymore, Kortheod. Your deeds go before you, from the Blue mountains up to Esteldín. If you find anything, we are sure it will serve the righteous side in the war. But…“
He frowned and raised finger.
„…it is your own business. You know how dangerous this is. We cannot be involved anyhow. So we will bring back all this, and only then, you’d choose whatever suits you. But alone. I think it is clear enough.”
Nimbellas added with worry:
“Let’s just hope, that anything you choose will truly be long forgotten. The curses of buried things are too common.”
After some sweaty effort, the stolen things ended back in the tomb. Everyone returned to sunlight.
Only Plusheila stayed at Kor’s side. The rangers understood, it was not their concern anyway.
The crypt was dark, except for one torch the others left them. The interior looked empty and silent. Anyway, the bandits went in, spent some time here, and came back alive, so it had to be safe. But Plusheila still cowered a bit, startled by the echoes of their own footsteps.
Kor unpacked the canvas and started to sort out the loot.
Apart from chalices, coins, sceptres and mostly decorative stuff, there were also several weapons. Out of the three big bundles, Kor put aside a few swords and a dagger.
He looked at the assortment. The swords were mostly short and light for his taste. His hand was used to heavy cavalry sword. Only two of the little pile were bigger hand-and-a-halfers.
The one on the right looked nice and in better condition. It was shinier than the other one. Kor reached hand and took it, examining the blade. There was a green gem put in the middle of the cross-guard. The weapon looked pretty, maybe too much pretty. Kor couldn’t explain, but he put it back. There was something strange about it.
He turned to the other, common looking sword. He took it and inspected it in the light of the torch. At first glance, he recognized that this weapon was several times used in battle. Though every little scratch and tooth was perfectly honed, it was visibly worn.
Kor swung it a few times. It was a good weapon. And as heavy as he needed.
Suddenly something flashed. Maybe it was just a flicker of the torch… But it looked like the blade itself produced a reddish glimmer. It lasted only a wink of an eye.
Kor held the sword in front of his face, watching it closely, carefully. His hand felt only cold metal and old leather grip.
Then he started to speak to it in his mind.
The sword was not his property. He needed to ask.
He didn’t know whom, but still he tried. Ghosts, ancestors, Valar… in the end it was not important who.
A question. A plea. And he told about the work that needs to be done.
It was only a few words, but important ones.
When it was done, he changed stance in the guard position, pointing the sword forward, to imaginatory enemy. Then he looked around in the shadows.
He didn’t know what he wanted to achieve. To know about possible disapproval…
No spectral silhouette appeared. Nothing happened. At least nothing visible.
The only disapproval came from Plusheila, who was gesturing they should speed up before the torch would go out.
But Kor already knew. He found what he was looking for.
They returned up. The others were waiting for them at the entrance, ready to seal the tomb for good.
They all looked at Kor, holding a tarnished, but still mighty one-and-a-halfer.
Tarnon whistled. “See who returns from the grave…”
Nimbellas walked towards them.
“Can I have a look?”
There was no negative answer to this. Kor handed him the sword with strange mixture of shyness and pride.
The ranger didn’t grab it, he just held the pommel and supported the edge with forearm of the other hand. He examined the edge shortly, then returned it to Kor with a smile, saying nothing.
Kor was looking at him with question in his eyes. But the ranger only said: “May it serve you well against our enemy.”
Then they rolled a few large stone blocks to the entrance.
Back in Tinnudir, Kor asked the rangers about a few elvish words.
“So… spike is carag. Fire is úr,” repeated Kor for himself.
It was already gloaming. He and Plusheila both sat on the soft beach sand, enjoying a little serenity in the gentle splashing of waves.
Why fire? asked she, leaning at his shoulder.
He pulled the sword out of new sheath a bit. Then pointed to faint lines on the blade, near the cross-guard.
It was not scratches. It was a scuffed engraving. A few curved lines were forming a flame and some ancient runes below it.
Plusheila’s eyes widened.
„I will call it Urcarag.“