Thanksgiving by My Blue Rose

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 Chapter One: Hallow

And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, offer it of your own free will.” ~ Leviticus 22:29

7th of Ringarë, 3019th year of the Third Age, Steward’s Reckoning:

The Sun was just beginning to rise as Aragorn son of Arathorn, King of Gondor and Arnor, stood on a southern foothill beneath Mount Mindolluin. The half dozen Citadel Guards that had come with him from the Tower stood nervously at the base of the ancient path Aragorn and Gandalf had discovered a week before his wedding last Loëndë. The Guards’ armor gleamed in the light, black surcoats fluttering in the chill late autumn breeze.

“Are you certain you wish to go alone, Sire? We could wait outside the High Hallow for you,” the tallest of the men implored.

Aragorn had been King for only seven months and his Guards were loath to leave him unattended in even the smallest of duties. He hoped that time would dampen their enthusiasm.

“It might surprise you, Captain, but I somehow managed to survive in the Wilds of the North for decades without your assistance,” he replied dryly.

“You should at least take a sword, Sire. You may borrow mine,” the Man responded, undaunted by his liege’s tone. He reached down to untie his sheath from his belt but Aragorn stayed him with a gesture.

“Nay, Amdir. It is forbidden to take weapons of war into the High Hallow, nor are there enemies on the way to warrant it.”

“If you say so, Sire,” Amdir replied unhappily. “We will remain here and await your return.”

Aragorn nodded and picked up his pack, adjusting it until it was placed comfortably on his back. It was heavy, nearly five stone, and he was glad that it was only about three leagues to the High Hallow near the top of the summit. He checked his waterskin hanging from his belt, and, without another word to his Guards, set off on the faint trail toward the top of the mountain.

He stopped at midmorning for a break.

The trail was composed of switchbacks and was steep and overgrown. He was close; about a quarter league ahead, Aragorn could see the ledge that, according to what he had read in the Archives, should be the entrance to the High Hallow. Looking down the slope far below him, the City’s towers appeared as distant white trees, and the Anduin a blue ribbon against the fallow brown fields of the Pelenor.

Taking a sip from his waterskin, Aragorn wondered what Faramir was doing. It had been his Steward that had reminded him of Eruhantalë. Long ago in the Second age, it had been one of three holidays called the Three Prayers to Eru that had been celebrated in Númenor of old. Three times a year the King or Queen of Númenor would ascend the Meneltarma, the holy mountain, and offer sacrifices to Eru on behalf of their people. When Númenor fell into darkness, the Kings had stopped this practice, and the Island was drowned not long after.

Aragorn had not known that Isildur and Anárion, while ruling in Gondor, had the High Hallow built on Mount Mindolluin and reestablished the holiday of Eruhantalë to fall on the day of last full moon in autumn.  However, since Eärnur, the last of the Kings of Gondor of the House of Anárion, had perished at the Witch-King’s hand in 2050th year of the Third Age, observance of Eruhantalë had ceased. For it was decreed that none but the King and his heir may enter the High Hallow, nor may any weapons of war be brought inside, the punishment for both being death.

Faramir, who had been invaluable in searching the records in order to find out the historic duties of the King of Gondor and Arnor, had informed him when Eruhantalë was to fall this year.

“We have much to be thankful for this year. It seems appropriate to continue the tradition to demonstrate our gratefulness and devotion to Eru and the Valar,” Faramir had said.

His Steward was right. They had much to be grateful for. Still, he felt nervous for reasons he did not understand. He wished that Faramir or perhaps Gandalf could have joined him, had he not departed with the Hobbits two months past. But his forefathers had decreed that the King must go unaccompanied, so, shouldering his pack once more, he headed up the mountain alone.

It was just before midday when Aragorn found himself on the bare granite ledge that was the entrance to the High Hallow. He was above the treeline and the air was thin. It was strangely silent as he paused for a moment to regain his breath. No bird could be heard, only the soft rustling of the wind. He drew his cloak tight about him. While the walk had kept him warm, it was cold here, and the ledge was covered in a thin layer of snow. In another month it would be impassable.

The entrance to the Hallow was a doorway set into the mountain itself. It seemed an ordinary doorway, except it was a hand taller than was normally seen in Gondor. But then, like himself and most of the Northern Dúnedain, the Men of Númenor had been tall. He took off his pack, stretched, and walked to the edge of the ledge, squinting in the bright light.

He looked out at the Anduin Vale below. Off in the distance, Aragorn could discern the glint of sunlight upon water, and he realized it was the Sea. As cold as it was up here, the lands below were free of frost. He had forgotten how much warmer it was in the South. In the Wilds of the North he would have been buried in knee-high drifts by now.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Aragorn picked up his pack and went through the doorway. Inside was a short and narrow hall, only about two rangar across and three rangar long. The walls were rough cut, and it was clear that this was no natural cave. He made his way to the end of the hall where there were two columns, carved to look like trees. In between them, set into the wall in silver, was the device of the White Tree with seven Stars arrayed above it. Aragorn touched it briefly, wondering how the silver had remained untarnished, and realized it was made of mithril.

The door was spell-sealed, like the one in Moria had been. It would not open unless the password was spoken or powerful sorcery assailed it. Aragorn wondered if this door was Dwarf work too. Perhaps not; the Men of Númenor had been great workers of stone, as Minas Tirith and Orthanc attested. Aragorn spoke the words Faramir had found in an ancient manuscript in the Archives pertaining to the High Hallow.

“Valar valuvar ar nai Eru orava messë ilye.”

For a moment nothing happened, and then the door swung inward on silent, unseen hinges.

Aragorn found himself blinking rapidly, momentarily blinded. While the hall behind him had been dim, the chamber inside was brightly lit. Looking up, he saw that the room’s high ceiling had shafts cut into it, allowing the Sun’s light to illuminate it. That was not all they let in; Aragorn noted that the floor was wet and the room smelled like damp stone. He wondered how the chamber drained, for surely there would be a flood of water in here if did not.

This room was larger than the previous one. It was square, about six rangar to a side. In the center of the room was an altar of built of undressed marble, about waist high. The walls were the dark granite of the mountain and Aragorn gasped as he saw that they were carved in bas-relief.  

On the wall to his right were images of the Sun, Moon and Stars. On the wall to his left there were depictions of trees, flowers, horses, deer and other creatures. On the wall before him was a representation of what must have been Osgiliath in its glory, straddling the Anduin River with Minas Anor and Minas Ithil visible in the distance. Aragorn turned around so he could see what was on the wall with the door behind him.

On the wall to the left of the door was a map of the Star Isle. Above it was written in High Adûnaic, the ancient tongue of Númenor: “Remember Our Past Follies”. On the wall to the right of the door was a map of Gondor and Arnor, and above it was written in the same language: “Remember Our Hope for the Future.” Aragorn stared at the map of Númenor. He had seen similar maps in his youth in Imladris but such things were rare in Gondor. Most of those whom had survived the Downfall had desired to forget about their past, and much knowledge was lost.

Yet here was a reminder of where they had come from, preserved by their first Kings.

Shaking himself out of his musings, Aragorn approached the altar. Divesting himself of his pack, he placed it on the floor and opened it. He removed several fagots of wood and kindling, carefully arranging them on the altar. On top of them he placed several handfuls of wheat and barley from fields in Lamedon, as well as some of the choice fruits and vegetables from the Northern fiefs of Anórien. Over the offering he poured out two small flasks containing the first presses of wine and olive oil from the Southern fiefdoms in Anfalas and Dor-en-Ernil.

After saying a silent prayer of thanks for the bountiful harvest that they had sorely needed after the deprivations of the War, he doused the pile with a skin of naphtha. He took out his tinder box and was about to strike the flint with the steel when Aragorn jumped in surprise. The flint and steel striker fell to the floor with a clatter that sounded loud in the stillness of the chamber.

Someone was standing in the corner of the room opposite him.

 


Chapter End Notes:

 Glossary

“7th of Ringarë, 3019th year of the Third Age, Steward’s Reckoning”: November the 27 on the Gregorian calendar. The day Thanksgiving falls on this year (2014).

Loëndë (Quenya): ‘Mid-Years day’. June 22nd on the Gregorian calendar.

Eruhantalë (Quenya): ‘Thanksgiving to God’.

Eru (Quenya): ‘God’.

Stone (English): Fourteen pounds.

Hand (English): an old measurement equal to four inches, now exclusively used for measuring horses.

Rangar (Quenya): A measure used by the Númenóreans and their descendants in Middle-earth. One ranga was defined as the length of the stride of a man walking at ease or 38 inches. A height of two rangar was conventionally referred to as 'man-high', meaning that the average height of a Dúnadan was 6 feet, 4 inches.

“Valar valuvar ar nai Eru orava messë ilye.” (Quenya): ‘The will of the Valar be done and may Eru have mercy on us all’.

Imladris (Sindarin): ‘Rivendell’.

Naphtha (English): A word that refers to a number of flammable liquids used since ancient times, normally made of crude oil.

Note: Eruhantalë really is one of Three Prayers to Eru celebrated in Númenor at the end of autumn and the High Hallow on Mount Mindolluin is a real place in the books. However, the idea that the holiday was continued in Gondor by Isildur and Anárion is my idea that probably stems from my love of all things Second Age.

 



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