Govadmiluin Sarianu- A Tale of Tempered Iron

​And so it was that plans were made. The sun had departed from the lands, leaving dwarves and men to make camp in the darkness of night. As the dusk fell deeper, the winds howled a little louder, a little more ominously- only the stars and moon above were gracious enough to shed their little light upon the world.

For fear of alerting any ill-intended passerby, no fires had been raised- meals were made of bread, dry cheese, and salted meats. Water had been gathered from local springs near to the east, and as soon as the food was finished a watch plan was set into motion. Man and Dwarf, Dwarf and Man- all were to keep watch, for the Darkness was deafening this night, and evil things were surely lurking about.

​Mablung, the Gondorian spearman who had thrust himself into dwarven legend with the recovery of Durin’s relics, had set off just outside of camp to investigate something he believed he saw in a patch of shrubbery. Bugs chittered and nocturnal foul hooted, but it was a metallic glint that caught his eye- the moon had reflected something, and he intended to see it. Kemlek raised his eyes in time to witness the worst- he grasped his two-handed axe and opened his mouth to give warning, but it all happened too swiftly.

​All at once, arrows came in from the north and the south, a deadly dance of death that saw splintered wooden shafts plunge into shields, and off of the nearby bridge. Mablung cried out-

​“AMBUSH!! Now for Gondor, and the Iron Hills…”

​No sooner had Mablung given his shout than the bushes came alive, golden armored figures revealed themselves and brought down the warrior through weight of number- he stood no chance. Kemlek stared in disbelief as he saw the warrior quickly dispatched, his silver armor quickly disappeared as he was dragged back with a knife to his throat.

Unhelmed, brow busted and bleeding, Mablung attempted one last shout before a sack was roughly shoved over his head, muffling his warnings and fears. The men of Rhun had made their appearance- and with this opening strike, they made a cruel statement.

​“Ready up lads!! Shields to the North!” ordered Mhulo.

​Kemlek turned to see Duk, Dolvin, and Khain form a shieldwall with a pair of rangers and a warrior- they were facing down a teeming horde of goblins! It was a two-pronged attack, an attempt to neutralize the armored advantage of the Dwarves and Men. Kemlek roared his approval- if battle was to be met, it would be met with vigor! Mablung would be avenged this day, at the edge of his mattock.

​“Form up men! Spears behind, support our allies!” shouted Ondoher from his horse behind the front line. He then rode to Mhulo and continued- “These are the Easterlings we faced some time ago! They wish to see my head on a pike!”

​Almost by plan, the southern enemy fully revealed their power in time with Ondoher’s words. Out from the tree line, a small host of Rhunish warriors formed a gleaming shieldwall, supported by archers on each flank, spears, and even pikes! Their golden helms bore the very same features as the one that Cooper had laid before them in the Halls of Gold.

Indeed the stories had their truths- Kemlek bore witness as the enemy advanced methodically forward, testing the patience and mettle of the armored alliance before them.

​“Aye, they might friend, but tempered Iron bends not so easily! As long as there is one dwarf here who yet draws breath, you’ll have an ally the likes of which they sing of in the halls of Old!” retorted Mhulo, brandishing his gleaming runic mattock. “Nasek! Form up alongside Ondoher, ride them down on the flanks!”

​With that, Ondoher fell in line behind Nasek and his bleating war goat, cutting wide to the left flank.

To the north, a warrior named Malbeth had dug in on a ledge adjacent to the shield brothers, defenses up and spear lowered to accept any blows the Goblins might give.

Upon the stairs of Govadmiluin Sarianu, two rangers by the name of Turgon and Hurin returned fire at the enemy, trading precise shafts of fate with the ill-trained minions of Evil. Beside them Thoif and Thalrir, the dwarves own archers, drew level their crossbows, and attempted to bring down the Easterling archers that were intent on ending Ondoher’s existence.

​Closer the men of Rhun came, and Kemlek itched for their blood. His ire was up, and after seeing Mablung taken so cruelly, he intended to repay that blow in full.

​“Hold brothers, the right moment needs come!” commanded Mhulo as the Easterlings closed on their defenses.

​Kemlek glanced to his left and saw an arrow strike true to Ondoher’s mount, sending the Gondorian tumbling from the saddle behind Nasek. The mounted dwarf turned heel to assist Ondoher back onto the ledge defenses, then in the blink of an eye waited no more- Nasek broke full speed toward the Easterling flank. Sensing the tides of battle shifting, the Rhunish leader broke rank and charged forward.

​“Come meet the end of Jandol’s blade you stunted Dwarf-child! This is the day you die, little one!” shouted the caped Easterling leader, now known as Jandol, as he brandished a curved blade hilted in gold.

​A return insult? Mhulo gave none. Kemlek’s superior gripped his mighty mattock, donned his helm, and let roar the fury of the Iron Hills in one bellow.

“BARUK KHAZAD!!”

And with that, Kemlek leapt forward, swinging his axe with all his mighty strength.

​The counter offensive proved successful to an extent. After stagnant melee, the servants of Evil found a way to rid themselves of Ondoher, and knocked him unconscious with an arrow to the shoulder. Like retreating water upon rocks, the Easterlings and Goblins slipped away into the night once their deed was done, taking with them Mablung the Heroic. Despite heavy casualties, the evil alliance snatched victory from the closing jaws of defeat, and the unhurt Dwarves all swore their undying grudges.

​Soon after the dust had settled, a Numenorian Ranger happened upon their camp at the stairs and told of a nearby tower housed by the allies of men that needed tending to. Promised medical care and shelter, the Gondorians agreed it was the best course of action to move along- despite missing one of their own.

​Mhulo thought it prudent to return to the Iron Hills, if only temporarily, to give the Loremaster Torvim the prize he sought. They would be welcomed as heroes, but Kemlek would tell them all of Mablung of the White City. And so they made their long journey back, stopping along the way, once again, to dine in the Halls of Gold with their kin in the Misty Mountains.

Drinks were on Mhulo, one and all. For victory was had with the recovery of their heritage.

But as in life, the sun sets on every day.
Evil will always take root in the dark, dank places of the world.
It will not rest.

Govadmiluin Sarianu

​So here they were in northern Rhudaur. Further north, Mhulo could make out the Ettenmoors, and the Coldfells to his east. Memories returning, he lifted his armored gauntlet to rest on his chest plate, still feeling the Orcish sword that had somehow penetrated his defenses that day, tearing into the upper torso near his shoulder. Aiwendil, the Brown Wizard, had worked miraculously to mend his ailments, and here Mhulo stood this eve- awaiting the company of Men that sought him.

Though the sun was still setting, the moon was already visible in the eastern skies. Amber and violet hues danced across the heavens, and pinholes of light that were the stars had just begun to make their nightly appearance. Soft, warm winds lifted the limbs of the scattered woodlands surrounding Mhulo and company, creating a distant rustle that reminded the dwarves of an ocean break.

The rock formation they inhabited was an arch of stone, and steps had been carved onto the ascending sides that led to the flat platform at its apex- which is where Mhulo took his watch. Patches of green weeds and sparse grass sprouted here and there through the cracks in the mineral, as father time had settled the conglomeration into the soft dirt. Govadmiluin Sarianu was its namesake, Mhulo believed. The letter he had received from the Gondorians, delivered to him by Cooper the Dunedain Ranger, had stated as much.

For the time being, it seemed as if the letter was accurate- Thalrir, the newest member of their battle company, keenly spotted a throng of armored figures eastward making their way to the stone arch, and gave alert. Soon enough, the Tree of Gondor could be seen enameled across the broad shields of the foremost warriors as they made their approach. Mhulo counted nine men, one of them mounted, and two of them were carrying what looked to be a heavy crate between them- his heart skipped a beat.

So it was true…Torvim shall be pleased indeed.

From the throng of visitors came a deep voice, and Mhulo discovered it belonged to the mounted warrior Ondoher, their leader as described in the letter.

“To be sure, I did not believe you’d have arrived so soon Master Dwarf. It is good to see friends in these cursed parts indeed!” exclaimed the man, dismounting his steed.

“We Dwarves are natural sprinters, dangerous over short distances! A few breaks were had along the way, however.” chimed Duk. Some chuckles rumbled through Mhulo’s company at the jest.

“Well met, Gondorian.” Came Mhulo’s meted reply, hand on his sword belt. “It seems we have crossed paths most fortunately. If all you say is true, you and your men have done a favor large to the folk of Durin’s lineage.”

The Gondorians approached, and the setting sun gave a muted glow to the steel they bore across their engraved bosoms. A few were covered by cloaks, rangers perhaps? Nasek leapt his goat down from the steps onto the rocky dirt below and dismounted, his mount’s hooves *clopping*. Ondoher’s mouth gaped briefly at the sight of such an animal, incredulous, but was shortly able to compose himself.

Two of the men ascended the rocky base and laid the Dwarven chest beneath the bridge. Mhulo descended the stairs of the archway to lay eyes on the contents of the chest.

“It was most favorable that my Lord Beren got word of it!” stated Ondoher. “Assuredly, we would be more than happy to pass on these relics to you folk of the Iron Hills. They are of gorgeous make, indeed, even more beautiful than we could have ever guessed in the South. We’ve had such little dealings with Dwarves ourselves, forgive our manner.”

“Aye, and for good reason, meaning no offence. Our people are most solitary. Now, our Loremaster sent us leagues from home for such a gift. Let’s see what that gift be…”

Duk and Dolvin followed Mhulo, shields slung, and even Nasek’s curiosity could not be sated. Speaking in Khuzdul, the three quietly and excitedly conversed as their leader opened the crate, and removed the contents within. Nasek’s war goat bleated, hopping back up the archway to feed on a patch of green leaf.

“By the beards of the Old…” whispered Mhulo.

A cloak of impeccable make fell like water over Mhulo’s armored hands. A brilliant blue the color of the Great Sea shimmered and shone, the cloth soft as a newborn calf. Furs lined the rim and shoulders of the cape, but all such features were simple compared to what appeared suddenly on the back-

As Mhulo stood to measure the cloak, holding it out before him, there shone a beam of starlight from the skies lighting up the cloth and showing its true nature. Silver lines grew along its face, crawling and curving until the final embroidery was revealed- a vast and intricate family tree that went all the way back to a single name at the top.

“Durin the Deathless!” exclaimed Dolvin. “Aye these Gondorians deserve a round of ale on our coin, at least. Kingly make, suppose it could be from the reign of Brilo the Blue?”

Nearly breathless from wonder, Mhulo took great care and handed the cloth to Duk, who stood motionless and quiet, seemingly afraid he would scare the cloak away simply by looking at it. Mhulo reached further into the chest and withdrew the final contents.

A set of three bound, leather tomes revealed themselves, plated in dark iron and bejeweled with dazzling sapphires in the spines. Shining Dwarvish runes framed the bound books, and they were all locked.

“Indeed, these are work for the Loremaster.” Mhulo said softly.

Placing his hand on the front of the first reader, Mhulo closed his eyes and meditated shortly. After a minute or two, when the Men of the West begun to murmur in the background, Ondoher silenced them curtly, and Mhulo finished his musings. Nasek had climbed back to the stairs of the bridge, shouting in Khuzdul, as his goat was curiously approaching the Gondorian warhorse, causing a ruckus. Nasek wrestled his goat away from the bystanders and remounted.

“Ondoher, my friend, wordless I stand.” Mhulo spoke as he approached the man.

Mhulo reached out to Ondoher and together the leaders clasped forearms, a show of solidarity and brotherhood.

“Indebted to your cause, we Dwarves of Durin be, leader of these free folk. These gifts will further enrich our history and culture, cementing an alliance between our people. Where we failed in our mission to retrieve these artifacts of old, you were victorious. How would you have us repay such a gift?” Offered Mhulo.

With a wide wave of his arm, Ondoher motioned towards one of his men.

“Mablung! Quick, lad.”

The warrior stepped forward, spear in one hand, shield in the other.

“This is the man to whom you owe gratitude, Master Dwarf. He went to grievous lengths to retrieve what you sought, and here we stand. He was mighty valorous in fighting off many a servant of evil, and to that end, he is your hero.” praised Ondoher. “Otherwise, simply provide what aid you can to our Northern kin.”

Mhulo looked over the boy (compared to the Dwarves, he was young at least).

“Ne’er a finer example of bravery in the face of such adversity, I’m sure.” beamed Mhulo. “Mablung, a noble name indeed. You are forever welcome in the halls of our people young pup. Mead or meat, gold or glory- If you seek it, I will lay myself down to ensure you have it. Nasek! To me! Reach into that saddle bag of yours, I wish to reward this man in the moment”

The war goat bleated as Nasek spurred it forward, still munching on some grass it had found earlier. Mablung stood tall, chest out- he was clearly flushed, but proud he was indeed. Mhulo reached into the saddle bag and pulled out a scabbard, flourishing the fine blade then sheathed it.

“Here my boy. This is no broad sword by your folks standards, but the smiths at home in the Iron Hills rival all those across the land. This should be by your side for as long as you wish, a reminder of how you’ve done us a great service. A good short sword it will make for you.” offered Mhulo.

Mablung bowed and took the sword graciously, with a smile as wide as the River Running.
“Many thanks, my lord.” replied Mablung.

“Songs will be sung of you Mablung. You are a hero to our people.” ended Mhulo.

And with that, the Dwarves of Mhulo’s company and the Men of Gondor set watch as their leaders pulled together privately. Gaieties aside, plans needed made, for there were evil winds stirring behind every hill and every bush.