Drabble - Arrival at Ard-o Ñoldor
// this drabble is based on not only one but several 1x1 SLs I got going with Airi in the LoTR verse, exploring Airi´s , her parents´ and Hou Xin´s story and relationships - this one is set around the time when Hou Xin is about to come across Airi´s parents, at that time still young elves and students at Ard-o Noldor //
Arrival at Ard-o Ñoldor
Fast, swift steps stirred up a few dry leaves strewn across the white, marble platform overlooking one of the impressive waterfalls of the valley, a vigorous swipe with the long, flexible bo-staff sent them tumbling down towards the glittering depth.
One last strike, a few more graceful strides then the fighter came to a stop, leaving the state of deeply focused concentration – only to be rewarded by the sound of clapping hands.
“A very impressive demonstration, Háno Xin (Quenya: Brother Xin) – your skill and grace are nothing short of that of the Eldar, indeed if I didn´t know better but was nothing but an unassuming spectator I would harbor no doubt that you were inherently one of us… - given you hide your ears”, the final, amicably teasing remark did nothing to dampen the genuine respect shown by the lord of these lands, Elrond himself.
A small yet warm smile playing round his lips the addressed, Hou Xin, turned to face the speaker, answering the praise with a respectful bow of his head.
“Hîr-nya (my lord)” – he still used the title demanded by official etiquette, even after a decade of close friendship bonded the two men, elf and Dunedáin. For him it was an expression of gratitude and deep friendship all in one, and thus Elrond accepted it for what is was meant to be a respectful and still amicable moniker. “I´d never dare to compare myself with the grace of the Eldar, yet will do everything to honor the gift of the Valar by making the best of what I was granted so generously in order to utilize it in the service of the free people or Arda.”
“Oh, don´t you sell yourself short, Háno – you easily keep up with the best of my warriors, best them even – this is no easy task…”
“I am sure they went easy on a pitifully, blind human…”, the objection was washed away by a stream of highly amused laughter – “I don´t think so – they looked rather beaten… - anyway, speaking of service – there IS indeed a favor I would like to ask you for, Háno, and actually the reason I came to seek you out today.”
On their way back to the living quarters of the elves Elrond explained that he answered a request sent by their distant elven brethren, one of the Avari Clans, more precisely the Wisdom Clan for aid in their quest to collect as much information as possible about the culture of Numenor and its destruction in order to create a precise and at best complete chronicle of the lost people.
“… so I told them that we have an expert on this topic among us and that he most certainly would be happy to share his knowledge in order to preserve it for the world… - please apologize my anticipation in that matter.”
Hou Xin waved off the apology, reassuring the elven leader that it would be an honor to share all he could about this world and people gone, yet could not hold back a little concern, “… as much as it would be an honor and pleasure to aid in this task, tell me, Hîr-nya, am I wrong about what I know about the Avari as such and the Wisdom Clan in particular. As far as my knowledge goes your elven brethren are rather reclusive and the Wisdom Clan with their abode high up in the mountains even more. As far as word has reached me due to their past and history they are very reluctant to open up already when it comes to their elven brethren, even more to all other races and no other than elves are allowed in Ard-o Ñoldor (Mountain of Those with Knowledge)?”
The chuckle which came in return vividly transported the mischievous smile lighting up the elven Lord´s face even to Hou Xin.
“Well, they asked for help, and I got them the most competent probably available – you are part of our community, so consider yourself an honorary Eldar - also technically as you were granted the gift of the Eldar by the Valar you are more one of us than you are still human by now.”
This time it was Hou Xin´s part to come back with a series of heartfelt chuckles while shaking his head, “You know very well that this is mostly bending reality in your favor – but of course I will accompany you and offer my council. It is on them then to decide whether it is welcome or not.”
Already the next day the two men set off – Elrond considered it his task to accompany and introduce the former royal Dunedáin counselor himself, not only due to their strong bond of friendship and mutual respect but also as he considered it his part to counter any possible objections sparked by the human nature of Hou Xin as it had been his idea to present the human as his expert in that matter in the first place.
Also, only few knew the secret pathways leading up to the lofty abode of the reclusive Avari-Clan located in the icy heights of the Misty Mountains.
For Hou Xin it also was the first time since the Fall of Numenor, since he so miraculously escaped death, saved by the Valar themselves and placed into the care of the Elves of Imladris to venture further than where the elves´ Scouting units he occasionally joined patrolled.
Indeed, besides the fact that was someone with a wide knowledge and insight of the fallen Dunedain people he also suspected that Elrond´s motives to task him with this matter were guided by the attempt to lure the human out of the shell of his self-imposed exile which by now lasted already almost one entire decade.
As happy and content Hou Xin appeared to be and also how eager to overcome the tragedy of the past and its effects on him and his life these days it also was rather obvious to one getting to know him better that he still felt guilty about what happened, that he had not been able to prevent all this, that he considered himself unworthy of the gratitude he received and very much deserved the state of irreversible, eternal blindness. Latter however also still feeling to him not only as the rightful punishment for his past failure but also as a burden for everyone around him. A feeling which both made him train and work hard to utilize his new abilities coming with the granted gift of the Eldar in order to overcome any possible hindrance in his way of being the warrior but also scholar he once was but also on the other side left him rather self-conscious and withdrawn, still after 10 years fearing he was not good enough.
This journey now besides everything else also seemed to be supposed to drag him out of his hiding from the world, apparently was Elrond´s stubborn and resisting while friendly nudging to allow him to see and explore his own potential.
And indeed, challenged like this Hou Xin notice that due to his own work and constant training but also thanks to the benefits the granted abilities of the Valar provided he did well, more than that – often enough those they met needed a second or even a third glance to identify the human part of the illustrious duo as unseeing.
About a week later at the end of a climb arduously even for their formidable steeds they crossed the threshold to what was know only by few outside the Avari community as Ard-o Ñoldor, the place of those with knowledge.
They had just descended from their horses and the animals in tow passed the huge, vaulting gateway leading towards the center and main hall of the academy mostly built into the rocky surface of the summit range when they where abruptly stopped by some guards. It was obvious that they were conflicted between offering the demanded respect upon facing one of the most renowned elven leaders and feeling the urge to tell the human at his side that this was not a place he was welcome, or even allowed to be.
After a little to and fro mostly spoken in Quenya, presumably as the guards assumed that the human was not able to understand the not so flattering demands the little squabble was interrupted by yet another group of Avari elves, the headmaster of the academy himself and a few of the scholars – yet whispering in the background announced that the ongoing arguing attracted the attention of a lot more, scholars and students alike.
A polite yet reserved greeting immediately was followed by the still calm but rather blunt hint that this was an exclusive elven place, a remark being both, literally showing the door to the human and also the inquiry why Elrond in the first place had been bold enough to even considering bringing Hou Xin.
Latter felt how his elven companion took two steps towards their unwilling hosts, and when the elf spoke up it didn´t need eyes to notice how barely restrained impatience and growing annoyance resonated within the usually so calm and soothing voice of the Elf Lord.
“I... no, WE came her to aid your cause – to answer your call for scholars able and willing to create and complete a chronicle about the Dundeain, Numenor and its fall – Did I not promise you the most competent scholar. Therefor I ask you who could be more competent than one of the Dunedain themselves?!” – Later remark caused a murmur going through the crowd that by now was filling the aisles and hallway next to them – “The Dunedain are gone, all that is left are some strewn Rangers – and we already received much information from those willing to leave their secluded life and to answer our questions – so what would your friend here be able to add? – Especially given his… situation.”
Hou Xin did not care much for the final remark, he had come to terms with the fact that others either pitied him or faced him with disdain, sometimes both – he considered it part of his punishment for the failure to lead his people, his former king away from darkness and evil. Yet the way Elrond drew his breath clearly gave away that his indifferent façade was only this, a rather quickly crumbling mask.
“You judge before you even know who you are talking to – Your people has a reputation of being wary and extra cautious, and surely not for nothing. Still, do you really consider me a lighthearted fool enough to bring any random stranger to your doorstep. – This man here, one of the last remaining Dunedain is not just any random Ranger – this is Hou Xin, former advisor of the last King himself. The one who tried to stop the madness imposed by Sauron and his subtle, poisoning evil that eventually destroyed the mind of his King and that of most of his people. He tried to warn the Valar about the planned attack, and for that he was imprisoned, his family murdered in front of his eyes before they blinded him and set him for death through torture… - So, do you still think I just caught you any random person that crossed my path and appeared to be Numenorean? … He…”
At that point Hou Xin could not hold back himself any more – the whole “being made special”-thing went entirely against his nature, even though he could see Elrond´s point and what he tried to achieve with it. He stepped forward to bring himself at least back side to side with the Lord of Imladris, then, intentionally falling back into etiquette of his past, took up the stance used to officially greet higher ranking individuals.
“Thank you Hîr-nya (my lord) for the elaborate introduction – I am sure the noble lords of this place did have their reason and cause to set up the established rules – and I am surely not in the position to question them or even more, to demand special treatment, even less for what I once was. – However, I hereby humbly offer my services to help with this task you and your scholars have taken upon you. Indeed, I am beyond grateful and honored that my former people are interesting enough to have sparked such undertaking.”
He briefly touched his hands with his forehead before going on
“Yet if my presence here is unallowed and unwanted I will make sure to leave this place this very hour and I deeply apologize if I caused inconvenience or even insulted you and your people.”
// maybe continued with a part 2//