Legacy YM

Canto 13 - Canto 13


Thus twelve alone there ventured forth

from Nargothrond, and to the North

they turned their silent secret way,

and vanished in the fading day.

No trumpet sounds, no voice there sings,

as robed in mail of cunning rings

now blackened dark with helmets grey

and sombre cloaks they steal away.

Far-journeying Narog's leaping course

they followed till they found his source,

the flickering falls, whose freshets sheer

a glimmering goblet glassy-clear

with crystal waters fill that shake

and quiver down from Ivrin's lake,

from Ivrin's mere that mirrors dim

the pallid faces bare and grim

of Shadowy Mountains neath the moon.

Now far beyond the realm immune

from Orc and demon and the dread

of Morgoth's might their ways had led.

In woods o'ershadowed by the heights

they watched and waited many nights,

till on a time when hurrying cloud

did moon and constellation shroud,

and winds of autumn's wild beginning

soughed in the boughs, and leaves went spinning

down the dark eddies rustling soft,

they heard a murmur hoarsely waft

from far, a croaking laughter coming;

now louder; now they heard the drumming

of hideous stamping feet that tramp

the weary earth. Then many a lamp

of sullen red they saw draw near,

swinging, and glistening on spear

and scimitar. There hidden nigh

they saw a band of Orcs go by

with goblin-faces swart and foul.

Bats were about them, and the owl,

the ghostly forsaken night-bird cried

from trees above. The voices died,

the laughter like clash of stone and steel

passed and faded. At their heel

the Elves and Beren crept more soft

than foxes stealing through a croft

in search of prey. Thus to the camp

lit by flickering fire and lamp


they stole, and counted sitting there

full thirty Orcs in the red flare

of burning wood. Without a sound

they one by one stood silent round,

each in the shadow of a tree;

each slowly, grimly, secretly

bent then his bow and drew the string.

Hark! how they sudden twang and sing,

when Felagund lets forth a cry;

and twelve Orcs sudden fall and die.

Then forth they leap casting their bows.

Out their bright swords, and swift their blows!

The stricken Orcs now shriek and yell

as lost things deep in lightless hell.

Battle there is beneath the trees

bitter and swift; but no Orc flees;

there left their lives that wandering band

and stained no more the sorrowing land

with rape and murder. Yet no song

of joy, or triumph over wrong,

the Elves there sang. In peril sore

they were, for never alone to war

so small an Orc-band went, they knew.

Swiftly the raiment off they drew

and cast the corpses in a pit.

This desperate counsel had the wit

of Felagund for them devised:

as Orcs his comrades he disguised.

The poisoned spears, the bows of horn,

the crooked swords their foes had borne

they took; and loathing each him clad

in Angband's raiment foul and sad.

They smeared their hands and faces fair

with pigment dark; the matted hair

all lank and black from goblin head

they shore, and joined it thread by thread

with Gnomish skill. As each one leers

at each dismayed, about his ears

he hangs it noisome, shuddering.

Then Felagund a spell did sing

of changing and of shifting shape;

their ears grew hideous, and agape

their mouths did start, and like a fang

each tooth became, as slow he sang.

Their Gnomish raiment then they hid,

and one by one behind him slid,

behind a foul and goblin thing

that once was elven-fair and king.

Northward they went; and Orcs they met

who passed, nor did their going let,

but hailed them in greeting; and more bold

they grew as past the long miles rolled.

At length they came with weary feet

beyond Beleriand. They found the fleet

young waters, rippling, silver-pale

of Sirion hurrying through that vale

where Taur-nu-Fuin, Deadly Night,

the trackless forest's pine-clad height,

falls dark forbidding slowly down

upon the east, while westward frown

the northward-bending Mountains grey

and bar the westering light of day.

An isled hill there stood alone

amid the valley, like a stone

rolled from the distant mountains vast

when giants in tumult hurtled past.

Around its feet the river looped

a stream divided, that had scooped

the hanging edges into caves.

There briefly shuddered Sirion's waves

and ran to other shores more clean.

An elven watchtower had it been,

and strong it was, and still was fair;

but now did grim with menace stare

one way to pale Beleriand,

the other to that mournful land

beyond the valley's northern mouth.

Thence could be glimpsed the fields of drouth,

the dusty dunes, the desert wide;

and further far could be descried

the brooding cloud that hangs and lowers

on Thangorodrim's thunderous towers.

Now in that hill was the abode

of one most evil; and the road

that from Beleriand thither came

he watched with sleepless eyes of flame.

(From the North there led no other way,

save east where the Gorge of Aglon lay,

and that dark path of hurrying dread

which only in need the Orcs would tread

through Deadly Nightshade's awful gloom

where Taur-nu-Fuin's branches loom;

and Aglon led to Doriath,

and Fëanor's sons watched o'er that path.)

Men called him Thu, and as a god

in after days beneath his rod

bewildered bowed to him, and made

his ghastly temples in the shade.

Not yet by Men enthralled adored,

now was he Morgoth's mightiest lord,

Master of Wolves, whose shivering howl

for ever echoed in the hills, and foul

enchantments and dark sigaldry

did weave and wield. In glamoury

that necromancer held his hosts

of phantoms and of wandering ghosts,

of misbegotten or spell-wronged

monsters that about him thronged,

working his bidding dark and vile:

the werewolves of the Wizard's Isle.


From Thu their coming was not hid;

and though beneath the eaves they slid

of the forest's gloomy-hanging boughs,

he saw them afar, and wolves did rouse:

'Go! fetch me those sneaking Orcs,' he said,

'that fare thus strangely, as if in dread,

and do not come, as all Orcs use

and are commanded, to bring me news

of all their deeds, to me, to Thu.'

From his tower he gazed, and in him grew

suspicion and a brooding thought,

waiting, leering, till they were brought.

Now ringed about with wolves they stand,

and fear their doom. Alas! the land,

the land of Narog left behind!

Foreboding evil weights their mind,

as downcast, halting, they must go

and cross the stony bridge of woe

to Wizard's Isle, and to the throne

there fashioned of blood-darkened stone.

'Where have ye been? What have ye seen?'

'In Elfinesse; and tears and distress,

the fire blowing and the blood flowing,

these have we seen, there have we been.

Thirty we slew and their bodies threw

in a dark pit. The ravens sit

and the owl cries where our swath lies.'

'Come, tell me true, O Morgoth's thralls,

what then in Elfinesse befalls?

What of Nargothrond? Who reigneth there?

Into that realm did your feet dare?'

'Only its borders did we dare.

There reigns King Felagund the fair.'

'Then heard ye not that he is gone,

that Celegorm sits his throne upon?'

'That is not true! If he is gone,

then Orodreth sits his throne upon.'

'Sharp are your ears, swift have they got

tidings of realms ye entered not!

What are your names, O spearmen bold?

Who your captain, ye have not told.'

'Wrath and Hate and warriors ten,

so we are called, and dark our den

under the mountains. Over the waste

we march on an errand of need and haste.

Boldog the captain awaits us there

where fires from under smoke and flare.'


'Boldog, I heard, was lately slain

warring on the borders of that domain

where Robber Thingol and outlaw folk

cringe and crawl beneath elm and oak

in drear Doriath. Heard ye not then

of that pretty fay, of Lúthien?

Her body is fair, very white and fair.

Morgoth would possess her in his lair.

Boldog he sent, but Boldog was slain:

strange ye were not in Boldog's train.

Fierce is your chief, his frown is grim.

Little Lúthien! What troubles him?

Why laughs he not to think of his lord

crushing a maiden in his hoard,

that foul should be what once was clean,

that dark should be where light has been?

Whom do ye serve, Light or Mirk?

Who is the maker of mightiest work?

Who is the king of earthly kings,

the greatest giver of gold and rings?

Who is the master of the wide earth?

Who despoiled them of their mirth,

the greedy Gods? Repeat your vows,

Orcs of Bauglir! Do not bend your brows!

Death to light, to law, to love!

Cursed be moon and stars above!

May darkness everlasting old

that waits outside in surges cold

drown Manwë, Varda, and the sun!

May all in hatred be begun,

and all in evil ended be,

in the moaning of the endless Sea!'

But no true Man nor Elf yet free

would ever speak that blasphemy,

and Beren muttered: 'Who is Thu

to hinder work that is to do?

Him we serve not, nor to him owe

obeisance, and we now would go.'

Thu laughed: 'Patience! Not very long

shall ye abide. But first a song

I will sing to you, to ears intent.'

Then his flaming eyes he on them bent,

and darkness black fell round them all.

Only they saw as through a pall

of eddying smoke those eyes profound

in which their senses choked and drowned.

He chanted a song of wizardry,

of piercing, opening, of treachery,

revealing, uncovering, betraying.

Then sudden Felagund there swaying

sang in answer a song of staying,

resisting, battling against power,

of secrets kept, strength like a tower,

and trust unbroken, freedom, escape;

of changing and of shifting shape,


of snares eluded, broken traps,

the prison opening, the chain that snaps.

Backwards and forwards swayed their song.

Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong

Thu's chanting swelled, Felagund fought,

and all the magic and might he brought

of Elfinesse into his words.

Softly in the gloom they heard the birds

singing afar in Nargothrond,

the sighing of the sea beyond,

beyond the western world, on sand,

on sand of pearls in Elvenland.

Then the gloom gathered: darkness growing

in Valinor, the red blood flowing

beside the sea, where the Gnomes slew

the Foamriders, and stealing drew

their white ships with their white sails

from lamplit havens. The wind wails.

The wolf howls. The ravens flee.

The ice mutters in the mouths of the sea.

The captives sad in Angband mourn.

Thunder rumbles, the fires burn,

a vast smoke gushes out, a roar

and Felagund swoons upon the floor.

Behold! they are in their own fair shape,

fairskinned, brighteyed. No longer gape

Orclike their mouths; and now they stand

betrayed into the wizard's hand.

Thus came they unhappy into woe,

to dungeons no hope nor glimmer know,

where chained in chains that eat the flesh

and woven in webs of strangling mesh

they lay forgotten, in despair.

Yet not all unavailing were

the spells of Felagund; for Thu

neither their names nor purpose knew.

These much he pondered and bethought,

and in their woeful chains them sought,

and threatened all with dreadful death,

if one would not with traitor's breath

reveal this knowledge. Wolves should come

and slow devour them one by one

before the others' eyes, and last

should one alone be left aghast,

then in a place of horror hung

with anguish should his limbs be wrung,

in the bowels of the earth be slow

endlessly, cruelly, put to woe

and torment, till he all declared.

Even as he threatened, so it fared.

From time to time in the eyeless dark

two eyes would grow, and they would hark

to frightful cries, and then a sound

of rending, a slavering on the ground,

and blood flowing they would smell.

But none would yield, and none would tell.

Canto10 - Canto 10
Canto11 - Canto 11
Canto12 - Canto 12
Canto13 - Canto 13
Canto14 - Canto 14
Canto15 - Canto 15
Canto16 - Canto 16
Canto17 - Canto 17
Canto18 - Canto 18
Canto19 - Canto 19
Canto20 - Canto 20
Canto21 - Canto 21
Canto22 - Canto 22

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