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Old 11-10-2022, 08:55 AM   #1
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,170
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
The Oath of Baldor by Lady Aerin, First posted December 8, 2004

The Oath of Baldor
by Lady Aerin
First posted December 8, 2004

“But how shall a man discover whether that time be come or no,
save by daring the door?”
-Éomer book V, chapter III

It couldn't be said that he hadn't been warned. An ancient seer, old beyond the telling, had told Baldor that the way was shut and the time for opening it had not yet come.

“It was made by those who are dead, and the dead keep it. The way is shut.” “But what time will it be? When can the door be passed?” Baldor asked. The seer died before Baldor could receive an answer.

*****

The night was clear and frosty, and the sky blazed with stars. In the city of Edoras, there were people out and about, laughing and singing. Brego, the King, was having a feast! A banquet to commemorate the recent completion of Meduseld. Meduseld, known as the “Golden Hall” was long in the building, but undoubtedly worth the hard work. It was tall and beautiful with inlaid gold and the Rohirric emblem of the running horse to be seen on every side. It was a work for which Brego would be renowned in song for generations. And now it was complete! Brego's son Baldor led the Mark in a toast to the King that night.

It was a fine night. Baldor stood in the courtyard and talked and laughed with the guests, especially Harding. Harding was a good deal older than Baldor, but the two had been close friends since Baldor was small. Baldor was listening to Harding tell hair-raising tales of orc ambushes and warg attacks and smoke rising from Isengard in the moonlight. It made him all the more eager to go out and do the same things. He begged Harding to take him along. Harding took a good look at Brego. He was tall and strong, but young and willful. In the end he agreed.
“I lead my éored out again in a few days. We are going to inspect the stores and fortifications in Dunharrow. You could come along then.” Harding agreed, thinking quietly to himself that there was not likely to be much action and it would be better for inexperienced Baldor than border-battles with Dunlendings or orcs. “In five days then,” Baldor said with eyes glowing.

Five days passed and the morning arrived. The éored left Meduseld in the early dawn and rode hard for the Folde, the lowlands before the mountain paths. Suddenly, as they rode, Harrowdale opened out before them, and they saw the winding mountain path to the stronghold of Dunharrow. That night, camped in the plains at the foot on the mountains, Baldor and Harding discussed what lay ahead.

“So, ahead there is a fortress, with its back to the mountain and only this other road up into it. No enemy can come upon us without our seeing it, though it is necessary to keep it stocked with supplies,” Harding explained. “And the only way in or out is by this road?” Baldor asked. Harding replied, “Yes, and it is narrow and winding. Getting an army here would be nearly impossible for an enemy.”

The wind blew cold and damp, and Baldor could hear the restlessness of the horses. It was then that he noticed just how quiet everything was. The men were silent and the horses uneasy.
“Why is the camp so quiet? Even the horses sense that something is not right here. What is it on the wind that brings such unrest?” Baldor asked. “It is the mountain,” Harding replied in a low voice. “The Dwimmorberg. The Dimholt road leads through the Paths of the Dead.”

“The Dead? A Door? Was it this door that the ancient seer spoke to me of?” Baldor’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, I am surprised that you remember it,” Harding exclaimed. “You were very small when you were here last. Your father went to see the door, and there he was. An old man that spoke the western tongue. You wanted to go back because you were afraid, but you were just as curious. He talked to you.”

“I remember. He said that the time had not yet come. I thought you said that Dunharrow had only one road in and out and that that was its great strength. There seems to be two roads now,” Baldor mused. “No! Don't even consider that dark road. No living man has ever passed it. Not since the days of Isildur's curse. It is impassable, the dead will not allow it.” By now Harding's voice was little more than a hoarse whisper. “I will pass it,” Baldor said quietly. “What? I tell you, you cannot!” Harding exclaimed. “I will. Perhaps the time has come. How will we know unless we try? Will you come with me? Two may strengthen each other along the way,” Baldor replied. Harding shook his head. “But if the time has not yet come? Will you throw your life away like this? Think of your father! I for my part cannot walk on such a path,” Harding retorted.
“You will not persuade me. I will pass it. I vow to try at the very least. If I cannot then I shall at least make a song worthy of remembering,” Baldor resolved.

At this Harding fell silent. There was doubt and worry in his eyes. He knew that arguments would do no good now. Baldor was willful and difficult to persuade.

The next day, Baldor arrived at Dunharrow. He and Harding left their horses with the men and stood at the head of the Dimholt Road. Perhaps it was only in their imaginations, but the way ahead through the narrow rocky pass seemed darker, misty and ominous. With a glance at his rueful companion, Baldor took a step and led the way. The road wound about for nearly a mile, then began to plunge down. Soon Baldor and Harding found themselves walking through a dark forest of black trees. The gloom and pervasive uneasiness only grew with every step. At last, the road came to an abrupt halt at a wall of stone, the side of the mountain Dwimmorberg. The darkness of the cavern before him was impenetrable.

“The Door is said to lie at the foot of these steps” Harding whispered. Baldor looked down and saw a shallow flight of stairs descending into the darkness.

“Will you not reconsider, my lord? Think of your father,” Harding urged. “He will be grieved to learn of your choice, for there is little to no hope of your coming out again.” Baldor smiled, grimly. “No Harding. I have vowed to go through. Will you not come with me? No? Then help me to light my torch and give me yours. I may need it. Goodbye my friend.” With those last words, Baldor descended the steps and was lost to Harding in the gloom.

The flight of steps was much shallower than Baldor had thought, and the darkness less close. He looked back and saw Harding peering into the gloom with such a look of grief, that Baldor nearly turned back. He made an oath, and he must keep it. As he turned back to the door, he saw that it was made of lebethron, a black wood loved by Gondorian woodworkers. It was engraved with runes of a type that Baldor could not read, but it seemed to tell him to turn back. The words of the seer echoed in his mind. “The way is shut, the way is shut. It was made by those who are dead, and the dead keep it. The dead keep it, the dead keep it.” He reached forward and turned the handle. To his surprise, the door swung opened easily. He stepped inside and was instantly struck with a blindness, he could see nothing but the torch in his hand. It illuminated nothing in that impenetrable gloom. Even the brightness of day was lost behind him. Had the door swung shut?

Baldor began to admit to himself that he was afraid. He reached back for the door, but where was it? He took a few steps, but his outstretched hand met with nothing. Only the dead blackness of the cavern beneath the Dwimmorberg, the Haunted Mountain. He couldn't find the door! He must have gotten turned around. Baldor decided that there was nothing to do, but try to get all the way through, as he had intended. Things were definitely getting lighter now, there was a circle of torchlight on the floor around him, but he could still see nothing of what lay ahead. Who knows how long Baldor wandered in those timeless paths? But little by little, Baldor became aware of noises around him. The cold clinking of his mail and the steady thud of footsteps were no longer the only sounds in the dead silence. The words of the seer were echoing around him, not just in his mind. And there were eyes, what eyes! The glitter of the eyes was like the reflection of stars on the waves of a lake. They were surrounding him. Eyes and voices whispering words of doom. The Way Is Shut, It was made by those who are dead---and the Dead Keep It! How long had he been underground? Minutes? Hours? Lifetimes? With a sick realization, Baldor understood that he was lost. He did not know where he was or in which direction to go. In a moment of panic, he began to run. Caught in the mazes of the dead, their trap sprung, Baldor ran in a frenzy. He felt the madness of terror sinking in.

Stop it! Think clearly! Don't let them get to you! Breathe and look around!

The torch began to flicker out, so Baldor used it to light Harding's torch. In the few moments in which there was light from two torches, Baldor caught a brief glimpse of something ahead, but no-- it couldn't be! Surely it was only the phantoms about him playing tricks with his eyes. The murmur of the Dead and the glitter of their terrible eyes still swirled about him, but ahead was a door! Not the dark wooden door he had entered in, but a heavy stone door. Perhaps it was the way out! Or was it only an illusion? Just then his old torch flickered and died out and he was left with the clear light of Harding's torch. With only a moment of uncertainty, Baldor rushed forward, and this time felt his outstretched hand meet the cold hard stone of the mountain. He held up his torch, it was a door! The murmur or the dead seemed only an echo now. Baldor searched for the handle, here it was! But either it was locked, or so heavy that Baldor could not move it. Panic began to seep in again. He would not make it through the mazes behind him again. This door was his only chance. He tugged and pulled at the door until his hands were blistered and the sweat poured down his face. The echoes of the dead grew louder, and the glitter of the eyes grew brighter, with a cunning look of satisfaction in their twinkle. Where were the hinges of this door? Perhaps he could break them away and open the door that way. Baldor pulled out his sword and hacked at the door, but the sword snapped and broke. In a final spell of terror and madness, Baldor fell to his knees and clawed at the door with his fingers, knowing in the back of his mind that this was a useless measure. What was wrong with the torch? Why was it flickering already? How long had he been in this accursed place? The torch sputtered; it was dying.

No! Don't leave me here alone! Not with them, not with the dead! What will happen to me? Harding was right, why didn't I listen? The Door! I can't open the door! Their eyes! The torch will leave me alone with their eyes!

The torch sputtered, darkness.

“A rash vow he spoke... and he came never to the high seat of which he was the heir” -Théoden: book V, chapter III
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