Headcanon: Before the Fall (of Numenor) Part II
//alright, this has taken me ages - Part II of a headcanon I was writing as Hou Xin´s backgroundstory set in the Tolkien verse for a great SL with my dear Airi (an Avari Elf) - For this setting Hou Xin was made Dunedain.. with a past going back till before the Fall. - How he is still alive ages later (even for a Dunedain an unusual life-span) in the storyline and how he came to be who he is in the story - a blind, human living with a clan of Avair Elves being a Scholar and the caretaker of their Library for them... Part one can be found here, if you want to catch up first: https://www.roleplayer.me/view_blog.php?id=0000507749 /
It was about to end… he felt it, he knew it. There was nothing more he was able to muster, no strength, no life left. Seemingly endless torture and eventually his refusal to accept any of the meager pieces of stale bread and sips of bilgy water brought his body to the point of breaking down.
He eagerly was waiting for this to happen – this was his way out of this hell, out of this cycle of humiliation, pain and suffering.
Maybe his former king – Hou Xin by now refused even to think about the corrupted leader as anything near what he understood a king to be – and Sauron, the corrupting, poisoning voice in the leader´s ear, the former prisoner made advisor, actually had lost interest in tormenting an almost dead man… or maybe there were other things on their minds, things like the conquest of Valinor.
The Edain warrior and former counselor shuddered, he really hoped that the Valar knew how to prepare against such veil deeds – especially as, as far as he knew, it was forbidden to them to actively take the lives of other beings of Arda.
Slowly he sat up, one more time he told himself, tried to motivate his sore, weak body to comply – at least he would not give them the pleasure to find him curled up on the ground like a newborn. Ultimately he managed to maneuver his fading body into a sitting position, crossed legs, shackled wrists resting in his lap, upright, calm; a last display of dignity even despite torn clothes, naked skin and open wounds.
A tiny sigh escaped his lips, a thin smile playing round them while he invited death to take him – the sigh caused by a brief wave of defeat and failure washing over him. He knew he had failed her. Had not been able to keep his promise.
“Remain strong – your place is here – promise me to not allow kindness leave these lands” – his wife´s last words, her final request spoken under dying breath while bleeding to death in his arms.
They took her from him, made him watch powerlessly how his former king´s sword struck her violently – only after they made him, forced him to witness this gruesome scene they bothered to take his sight.
And though the pain when the black blade was pulled across his face followed by the iron grip of Sauron the Necromancer casting his spell to erase even the idea what it meant to see was nothing less than searing agony, it was trivial in comparison to the pain of losing her.
The moment Morgoth´s right hand warrior let go of him, driven by mad determination, seemingly almost unfazed by the horrible deed done to him he´d crawled forward to where he remember her lying.
There was still life left, fleeting though, running out quickly – that was the moment he made the promise to be strong, to stay, to make sure that darkness would not take the upper hand… - he would have to apologize for his failure.
Maybe she would understand… he dearly hoped she would.
The cold blackness surrounding him seemed to go on forever while he waited for his inevitable fate – until the deafening crunching and a noise as if earth itself was moaning interrupted the silence. Tremors as deep as the rocky abyss underneath him followed, made stone crumble and splinter, opened up cracks inside the cave walls and allowed the whole force of the surrounding sea come barging in. - So not a peaceful death then, of course not.
His seemingly weightless body was carried away by tempestuous currents after another powerful quake caused his chains to break lose from where they had been fixed to the ground.
Like a puppet his lifeless form was tossed about by waves, carried upwards and away – nothing of this was noticed by Hou Xin any more.
Neither when strong yet gentle hands reached down to lift the dying man out of his wet grave.
His wounds treated and being bedded softly underneath silken sheets – that was what the afterlife felt like then? The difference to what he went through during his final days could not have been more striking.
Slowly Hou Xin stirred, then paused in astonishment when he noticed that he was clad in what felt like silken robes – the pain was gone, his body though still weak felt whole again.
Yet when he opened his eyes darkness lingered, his sight still gone. Did that mean that Sauron´s evil spells even reached him in the realm beyond, couldn´t be broken even by death… that or…
“Gi suilon, Nin hir ! (Greetings my lord) – At last, you woke!” a voice, calm, ageless … and vaguely familiar. If it hadn´t been for the use of Sindarin Hou Xin would have needed longer to identify the speaker, apparently situated next to his bed.
“Lord Elrond?!”, it was question and statement both at the same time.
“Your gift of perception is not praised without reason, Master Hou”, came the response, the words lined with a genuine smile,
Lord Elrond – so, he was not dead but very much alive and as it seemed had been brought to Rivendell… but...
“How..?”, Hou Xin was unable to hide his confusion, sitting up more or less straight while trying to get a grasp of the whole situation.
Almost as if he needed to reassure himself that what he was experiencing right now indeed was real his hands brushed over the formerly torn and bruised skin of his wrists where the shackles had left deep, blood traces – nothing but soft skin, and only a faint hint of thin scars prove of freshly healed wounds - not that this came particularly as a surprise considered that his back mauled by endless whipping also felt whole and healed again.
“What happened? - Why I am still here?” Hou Xin´s growing uneasiness and confusion probably was visible by now
The bed softly moved when the Lord of these Lands made himself comfortable at the side, allowing one hand to soothingly rest on one of the beaten Edain forearms.
“A lot happened, and the fact that you are still here and not with the others buried under the sea in a cold, wet grave is to be owed to none less than the Valar and even Iluvatar himself….”
The story that eventually followed about the complete destruction of his homeland, how the All-father himself intervened to stop the madness of Ar-Pharazon controlled by Sauron by drowning the Island of Numenor together with the royal fleet, how whole Middle Earth was re-shaped in the process left the former inhabitant of the destroyed island not short of astonishment but also awe and terror.
When the Elf-Leader had finished it took Hou Xin some time to digest the information – not even noticing hat he had been listening with closed eyes he turned further towards his current host.
So his warning had been taken seriously, the Valar, not allowed to defend themselves saved after all – yet in what manner and to what cost.
“So… everyone of my people is dead?… But, why save me then?”
“No, not everyone is dead, some made it out alive – most of those faithful to Elendil and the Ban of the Valar survived, and so of course you. Ulmo, the Lord of the Sea carried your body to safety and some of my warriors were instructed to bring you here”
Hou Xin bowed his head in gratitude “I must thank you for your good care, my Lord, as I assume it was you and your people to tend to my wounds?”.
“Oh, no that praise is directed to the wrong person – what little of your life was left was re-kindled by the fairest of Ladies, Esté the greatest of healers. - she stayed with you until it was sure that life would not leave you after all and that your wounds would heal without complications… - except… you probably noticed it already…”
“Hm…” - instinctively Hou Xin´s free hand went up to brush across closed lids, nothing felt out of the ordinary though, except from the fact of course, that he still could not see.
“She was able to heal your eyes – yet unable to restore your sight – the dark magic which was used to take it from you is too strong and the spell irreversible – I am profoundly sorry, Master Hou.”
For a moment silence settled, again Hou Xin need a few moments to come to terms with the heard – yet less the fact that he still was and would remain forever blind, rather the very idea that one of the Anui herself had been the one to tend to him, and that it was no one less than the honorable Lord Elrond to take care of further nursing was something he would not have expected in a thousand years.
“There is nothing to be sorry about – I must be grateful and honor the blessing I received when I was sure that I had reached the end of my days…. I might only be a mere human, but still the time I have left I will make sure to honor a pledge I made and the gift I received”
“Oh, talking about gift and mere human – there is something else. Do not consider yourself a mere human, not any more. - Honoring your loyalty, your bravery and the sacrifices you made the Valar and the All-Creator himself decided to grant you the Gift of the Valar – meaning you are now endowed with the same characteristics as we, the Quendi – so, do not worry about given time, there is plenty of it for you now – and maybe some of your newly gained traits might help to compensate your loss. - I am indeed pretty sure that in the shortest of time you will rise to your former expertise as a warrior, if not even surpass it.” the amused but also encouraging chuckle which accompanied the final statement of the elven Lord proved that he very well remembered the former Dunedain Lord and his silent determination and discipline.
A thin smile played round Hou Xin´s lips when he slightly shrugged, “This is a lot of premature praise… and yet will I be nothing more than a homeless vagabond once I am released from this sick-bed”
Suddenly a noticeable hint of indignation rang with the instantly incoming retort
“What are you talking about, Master Hou – I must insist that you are nothing of this kind. Not aiming to trivialize the tragedy of the destruction of your homeland, but please, do not consider yourself homeless. Be assured that you have a home, a family and friends among our people whereever you go – and especially here in Imladris. There will always be a place ready and waiting for you, no matter what you decide to do, where you plan to go next.”
Moved by a wave of deep gratitude but also relieve, knowing that he was no stranded loner in a world without purpose for him Hou Xin put his hand over the elf´s one still resting on his one forearm.
“This means more to me than words can explain, my Lord. - So, when would you think might I able to get up and maybe start doing some exercise again, even some training, should one be found willing to train with a crippled man.”
Another squeeze to his arm was returned, again accompanied by a few, this time genuinely amused, chuckles.
“Master Hou, please, you just barely escaped death, taking a little more time to rest and recover surely will not cause ill thoughts or make others consider you slacking – and let me assure you, the moment you are up and out of this bed and back to train there will be a long row of volunteers eager to spar with you. - And should you be tired of wielding a sword, I´d be more than happy myself to step in for an invigorating exchange of knowledge; as as far as I remember there is no shortage of wits and wisdom to be found with you, my dear brother – that said, may I ask for the honor to address you on a more familial level?”
There was no way Hou Xin would reject such offer and request coming from Elrond the Lord of Imladris. When the renowned elven warrior and healer left him to get some more rest he suddenly noticed how tired he was indeed – and yet his fatigue was still bested by a feeling of utter relieve, gratefulness, joy even. Even despite a lingering sense of sadness, which would never leave him again.
Though despite all loss the fact that he now was able to keep his promise was more than he ever dared to hope during the past months filled with torture - to not allow kindness to leave these lands, he would to anything in his power to stick to these words.
A faint smile playing round his lips the recovering warrior, scholar with a newly gained identity and purpose leaned back and slipped into deep, healing slumber.