Written for the May 2016 Challenge at the LOTR Community, which asked for work on the theme of "Waiting".
The particular prompt for this story was the following quotation:
From The Silmarillion:
Now Felagund learned from Bëor that there were many other Men of like mind who were also journeying westward. 'Others of my own kin have crossed the Mountains,' he said, 'and they are wandering not far away; and the Haladin, a people from whom we are sundered in speech, are still in the valleys on the eastern slopes, awaiting tidings before they venture further. There are yet other Men, whose tongue is more like to ours, with whom we have had dealings at times. They were before us on the westward march, but we passed them; for they are a numerous people, and yet keep together and move slowly, being all ruled by one chieftain whom they call Marach.'
(Chapter 17: Of the Coming of Men into the West)
Author's Chapter Notes:
I tried to write this piece as much as possible from the point of view of the Haladin themselves, who are actually a very interesting people, especially when you take into account some things reported about them in the Unfinished Tales.
I hope to add a second part eventually (see end notes), but for now the story can be read on its own.
They had waited in the valleys of the eastern slopes, while those who were more numerous or less slow off the mark advanced into the unknown, into new territory. Balan, who was later called Beor, was in the vanguard with his kin, ever courageous, ever hopeful, waving aside doubt and fear. He would send back news, he promised, he would send them good news, for surely these mountains would be the last barrier on their way to the Sea. It was their generation, he said, that would finally see the Gods.
And so the people waited in anticipation, but not unsceptical of Balan's promises, practising their woodcraft, watching out for Servants of the Enemy, hunting and gathering food. So many miles lay behind them since first they had begun their long flight, many lives of men ago, that the journey itself had shaped them. They had fallen into patterns on the way, had become the people they were. They knew well how to travel, but they wished for the chance to learn again how to arrive.
Then one evening, when the shadows of the Blue Mountains fell long across the valleys and the foothills, the messenger Balan had promised them came. And as they watched Balan's messenger approach, it seemed to the people that surely the news must be as good as Balan had promised for the messenger's face was wreathed in smiles.
'We crossed the mountains without losses and, descending, we came into a fair land of woods and streams,' the messenger reported, as soon as all the people had assembled around the council fire to listen. 'We could perceive no signs of the presence of the Enemy; all seemed peaceful. Rejoicing, we made camp in a clearing and celebrated with what food and drink we had and with song.
But that arrival and that feast was as nothing compared to our awakening! For in the dark hours of the night we were raised from sleep by the sound of music such as we had never heard and found an Elf in our midst. But such an Elf! He was unlike any of the Fair Folk you have ever seen. There was a light in his face and his hair shone like bright burnished gold. But his singing was more marvellous than that for it conjured in our heads visions of the land beyond the Sea--visions of peace and beauty we had never imagined--and it was clear that he had been there himself and indeed hailed from there.
Then he stopped singing and spoke to us! And when he spoke, it was as if Wisdom itself had gained a voice and was speaking. So many things he taught us in within the space of a few days!
But make haste now and do not tarry! Come and join us, o ye Haladin! For I tell you the land beyond the Blue Mountains harbours wonders beyond our wildest hopes.'
He fell silent and the people thought on what he had said.
The eldest among them spoke first: 'Let us do as he says! If the land beyond the Mountains holds such wonders, I would see them before I die.'
But another of the elders, who was the head of a large family, spoke and said: 'We have indeed heard many wonders. But I listen and I doubt. Are we certain the Enemy is not in the land beyond the Mountains, too? If we are able to cross, why should not he? And, moreover, if indeed this Elf has confirmed that the rumoured Land of the Gods exists that is great tidings, but did he tell you how far it is and how we can get there?'
The headman of the Druedain among them growled: 'If there are Servants of the Enemy to be found on the other side of the Mountains, what of it? Drughu will fight them this side or that side, east or west.'
And the First Spear among the women said: 'Have we come all this way to be daunted by imagined dangers? I would hear the words of Wisdom if I could, even if he should have no more to tell us than that the way to the Land of the Gods is barred to our kind.'
Thus some said yea and others nay and the people were swayed back and forth, but in the end they decided to go. And what moved them not a little was the impatience of Balan's messenger, who, it was evident, could hardly wait to return to Beleriand and hear more of the words of Wisdom.
Thus the people left Eriador and climbed the mountain passes. It was not an easy crossing but the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains did not hinder their going; they rather assisted them by showing them the safest paths, even if only to speed their passing out of Nogrod's territory.
Only--when the people came down into the land of woods and streams, they found it fair indeed, but the high elf called Wisdom was not there. And the elves of the land they did encounter were secretive and unfriendly, more ready with their bows and arrows than to dispense words of wisdom.
'Where then is Wisdom?' the people asked Balan's messenger. 'And where are your kin?'
And he stood pale and uncertain and said: 'I do not know. I truly do not know. It was here. He was here, but now almost it seems a dream.'
Chapter End Notes:
The Haladin eventually did meet Finrod Felagund (the elf Men called "Nom", that is "Wisdom") after all, but not until two generations later, considerably farther west and in rather different circumstances.
I hope to write a second part to deal with that meeting, and possibly also an epilogue set at the end of the First Age. But I only managed to write the first part in time for the challenge.