Volume One - Who Were The Silent Minority?
Inevitably the source material extant regarding the part played by men, and indeed women, in the achievements of The Silent Minority far outweighs that of any of the other three races. Even in the latter years of the Third Age men heavily outnumbered the other Free Peoples, though not quite to the extent that they do today.
Each of the four main regions inhabited by men of the West were represented in The Silent Minority. Quite why this should be so, given that Gondor, Dale and Rohan faced a great deal of peril on their borders at that time, remains a mystery. For some reason Eriador became a magnet for travellers from all over Middle Earth early in the fourth millennium of the Third Age.
The following book is split in four sections, one for each of the main centres of population of Men.
The brim of his exuberant hat entered the Market Square first, closely followed by his exquisitely maintained moustache. The rest of Raiff followed a fraction of a second later, wares packed snugly into his finely stitched backpack, his raven, Ruell, fluttering behind. As he made his way towards his usual pitch he dished out pleasantries to anyone who would listen:
‘I say, Heathstraw! Lovely morning, what?”’
‘Ho! Boyle! Careful with that bow, there’s a good chap!’
‘Gadzooks, Master Nob! Late again? Butterbur will have your guts for garters this time for sure!’
While the raven made himself comfortable on his usual perch Raiff set to work placing his jewellery in meticulous fashion on his humble stall, arranging the items in three tiers; agates and amethysts set in copper at the front, bloodstones and opals set in silver behind them, finishing with rubies and sapphires set in gold on the top tier where he could keep a close eye on them.
As he was fishing around in his pack for the last of his ruby rings Raiff became aware of a presence above him. ‘Welcome to Raiff’s Choice Finery, Sir or Madam, I shall be with you shortly. Please, feel free to peruse the contents of my modest boutique. No cheap trinkets, baubles or gewgaws here!’
'It’s hardly a boutique now is it?’ chuckled a melodic voice, causing Raiff to bang his head on the underside of the stall, ‘But it is a fine collection of craftsmanship nonetheless.’
Raiff’s mind raced while his head throbbed ‘Unless I’m very much mistaken that sounds like an elf!’ he thought to himself. There had been a bizarre influx of travellers of all races to Bree of late, elves the most surprising of all, though none had approached his stall until now. ‘Why on earth would an elf be interested in my work? My studies suggest the elves lore in crafting far surpasses even the greatest efforts of us mortals, ever since Feanor was taught ringcraft by a dwarf named Silmarili in a far off land named Eregion over 100 years ago!’
The lore of Middle Earth fascinated Raiff. He spent every evening after work reading anything he could find on topics such as history, herblore and, his favourite, alchemy. The trouble was he wasn’t very good at remembering any of it, not that this minor detail was any barrier to him holding forth on a variety of topics to anyone who would listen.
The jeweller stood up in a hurry, rubbing his head. A tall, dark elf stood before him, a long bow and a longer spear strapped to his back. To Raiff’s surprise and delight he was examining an opal necklace with seemingly great interest. Raiff coughed politely.‘Those are real opals, don’t you know? Mounted on pure silver. Some of my best work, if you’ll excuse my immodesty!’ smarmed Raiff, beginning to overcome his initial surprise and settling into what he felt was his smoothest of smooth sales patter, ‘I gather all the materials myself, often at great danger to my own person. No risk is too great in the pursuit of my art – I’m pretty handy with a stout stick and some well-placed embers in a tight spot.’
‘Fancy ourselves as a bit of a Loremaster, do we?’ asked the elf, looking up at Raiff for the first time, ‘You do know the bottom of your beard’s fallen off, don’t you? I’m Maegnar, by the way, pleased to meet you’.
Raiff’s hand was halfway to his chin before he realised the elf was making a joke at his expense. ‘A-ha-ha-ha, very good Maegnar, my good elf! A learned gentleman should always sport handsome facial furniture, don’t you think? It lends gravitas to a chap.’
‘I wouldn’t know’ said Maegnar distractedly, his attention returning to the necklace in his slender fingers ‘my people don’t grow beards, well, Cirdan does but he’s a bit odd. Do you mind me asking how you go about making your, ahem, choice finery?’
This was starting to unnerve the jeweller now. Elves just don’t shop for necklaces in Breeland. And even if they did they’d surely go to a proper shop where a better jeweller plied their trade, rather than bothering with the cheap stalls in the Market Square. ‘Oh, the usual way. Chip, chip. Dink, dink. Rub, rub!’ laughed Raiff nervously, ‘I’m relatively new to the old jewellery game, but I fancy I have a talent for it. Business is positively booming!’ he lied.
‘And have any of your customers reported any odd sensations when wearing your handiwork, by any chance?’ asked Maegnar, setting the necklace back where he found it before picking up an earring from the tier above.
‘Now see here!’ Raiff began to protest at the implication that any if his craftsmanship was in any way uncomfortable to wear, until an odd episode from the previous week nudged its way into his mind and stifled his spluttering outrage.
‘Well, come to think of it, there was a chap a few days ago who swore that an opal necklace which he’d purchased from me was making him feel stronger, if you can believe such a thing? He came back to try out a pair of earrings to see if they had a similar effect. Beolaf was his name, if I recall – seemed a bit, well, simple, for want of a kinder word for the poor boy’s affliction. I’m not sure about the necklace making the lad feel stronger, but it certainly looked rather comical on such an overgrown, scruffy looking oaf.’
‘Ah, yes, Beolaf. He’s a friend of mine’ said Maegnar, glancing up again and clearly enjoying watching Raiff squirm at this revelation, ‘When I saw his new necklace I decided to come and pay you a visit myself.’
A look of sheer terror became apparent beneath Raiff’s facial topiary, ‘I assure you, sir, the boy was charged a fair price for the item. I have to make a living you know, taking into account the cost of materials, the time and risk involved in gathering them and working them, subsequent clothing repairs, then there’s the rental of this here pitch…’
‘Calm down, friend!’ came the melodious chuckle once again, ‘Beolaf and I are most impressed with your work, not to mention your competitive prices! In fact, so impressed are we that I’d like to introduce you to some good friends of ours. I think a knowledgeable gentleman such as yourself would enjoy their company immensely. At what time do you cease trading?’
‘Might as well knock off now’ said Raiff, clearly excited, ‘I have to admit I was exaggerating somewhat when I claimed that business was booming.’ He began stuffing his produce carelessly into his pack, startling the raven from its perch as he did so, ‘So, you’re an elf, eh? How fascinating!’ A small, battered book appeared in his hands from the depths of the backpack. ‘Mind if I take notes?
Don’t misunderstand me. Although I was frequently an object of discussion amongst my brother Captains and a danger to most people around me if left idle or curious, I was capable of holding the job down - just. A steady chap with iron nerves and a way with the troops, I displayed incomparable skill in banjoing the enemies of The Steward! Hurrah and Huzzah! Here I was in my element. An absolute rock on the Wall. Yah! Come, all you Mordor filth – meet me on the Wall if you dare! You’ll get it right up you! This is my Wall, my Tower and you shall have no part of it! Haghhh!
Tearing myself from my momentary lapse, I returned to my senses. I headed directly from my post and made the laborious ascent to the Citadel. Deeply concerned, I was conscious of an unusual recent occurrence where Testamir had reported to the Tower – perhaps even The Steward himself – and had subsequently vanished on a mission without even bidding me goodbye. Luckily the stout fellow left me 6 silver pieces he owed me from a game of pokiir, along with an enigmatic note saying ‘What The Steward wants, The Steward gets.... good luck, you chiseller’. Testamir? An officer with a similarly poor record to myself meeting with The Steward? Was there a connection to my current summons? And who was he to call me a bloody chiseller?
The guardsmen at the gate slapped their halberds noisily against the paving slabs of pure white stone as I passed, and I remember flapping a non-commital hand in their direction as acknowledgement. Blood pounding in my temples, I made my way past The Tree and, summoning as much confidence as I could muster, strode forward into the Great Hall to meet my master, Lord Denethor.
‘Approach. Lirond, is it not?’ ‘...Yirond, my Lord, Captain Yirond of the 4th Tower Guard’ I responded. Yes, it was clear that I was far beneath his normal sphere of operations. The chiseller. He looked me in the eyes, and then proceeded to inspect me with the same curiosity with which someone might regard a peculiarly mis-shapen insect. I felt my skin itch under his gaze. ‘Hmmmmm, as I thought.’ he sighed. ‘Report to Knight Captain Ferandir. I have a task for you which you must commence without delay.’ ‘A task, Sir?’ I blurted without thinking. Bloody hell - he's trying to give me some work. Damned cheeky if you ask me. ‘Yes, man. Ferandir has the details – are you deaf?’ ‘Sorry, my Lord. I’m not sure I understand my selection for...’ I managed to mumble before Denethor, Steward of Gondor speared me with his most disparaging glare yet and jolted me back to attention. ‘YOU don’t understand? You do not have to understand. The task is simple, hence why you have been chosen; I cannot afford to send an officer of quality, and will make do with you. It will also keep you from being underfoot – you, Sir, are an absolute bleeding shambles!’ Cheers, easy. Tell me something I don't know. Deflated and my cheeks burning with shame beneath my luxurious muttonchop whiskers, my eyes sank to the floor and I offered a meek ‘My Lord’ in response. ‘I… …see, my Captain. I see a great many things. But it has its limits.’ It? What the bloody blazes was the mad old coot referring to? ‘You will report to Ferandir and strike your colours, surrender your Gondorian arms and armour and head west into Angmar. You will claim no kinship with the Tower of The Guard. Travel as a commoner – that, at least, will be easy to you. You will find the trouble I am looking for eventually. You are that type,’ he sneered. ‘Most importantly, you will watch and listen. And, Captain Yirond, you will report to me. Ferandir has detailed instructions. Go.’
And that was what led me to this. A grey warrior who has travelled through strife and carnage as the forces of Mordor, The White Hand and Angmar have nursed their growing strength and hatred for man, elvenkind, the dwarves and halflings alike, ready to destroy Middle Earth. I still report to The Tower, using a complex system of messages routed through certain alehouses and lodgings, but that is where the loyalty stops. I have waited for a call to return to Minas Tirith, but none has come. I could get the horn about the whole thing, but that's not the way I roll.
Now, I have found new brothers and sisters : warriors; hunters; arcane loremasters and rogues alike. The Silent Minority we call ourselves. Shared values, which centre around putting it right up the Angmarim filth, Mordor scum and dirty Uruk Hai. As I keep telling anyone who will listen, 'They don’t like it up ‘em…'
I was born just beyond the old borders of Minas Tirith proper. My father a renowned craftsman of that once-glorious capital city, his shields were wielded – and certainly their exceptional workmanship lauded – by many brave soldiers in the army. Despite having grown up amongst the incessant reminders of Gondor's greater past, my youth recurs to my memory now not with that faded lustre of a culture in decline. Instead, I remember it as a truly idyllic time before I learned first-hand of the corruption that draws hard upon from Mordor, like some ever-lengthening shadow cast by a sun that never quite sets on the history of my homeland.
When we weren't being kept busy helping our parents in the shop, my brother Turambar and I divided the hours of our youth between sparring with one another and begging those soldiers who came to make purchases to regale us with tales of battle and of their glorious leaders. I believe it was around that time – though I misdoubt I recognised it as such then – that I began to yearn for a military life: a life away from home, where adventure and hard work combined to create a legacy for those who would follow. There may be those amongst my childhood friends who would add the name of Faramir to the reasons why I joined up, but I would be happy to set anyone straight on that score. Certainly, he and his brother are remarkable at what they do, and only a blind fool would deny they make a fine sight when leading their troops back into the White City, but I serve for other reasons. The Gondorian army had – and yet has – so many battles to fight, having been left stranded by many of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. I fear we must take care of ourselves first. Or so I believed once.
And yet, even as my thoughts turned towards serving Gondor, my heart was wrenched by the discovery that my own father, always dear to me until that time, was himself riddled with the taint of the Black Land. Not satisfied with the money he made from his craft amongst his own people, he had sought out the enemy to deal with as well. Alerted by an unusual mood darkening between my parents, I took to watching them closely, my father especially. Furtive meetings in strange locations caught my attention and I am almost shamed to admit that I snuck around and followed him until it became all too painfully clear what he was up to.
The next day, I reported my father to the authorities. Nor have I ever been the same person since that day. My mother and brother no longer speak to me – and from what I have heard from more distant relations and those mutual associates we still share back home, no longer speak of me either – and I have been forced to seek what solace I may in my military career and in friendship with my loyal herald, Aethelstan.
I joined The Silent Minority when I was first released from day-to-day army duties and in this kinship I have discovered a new and reliable family, and one with a purpose which remains dear to my heart. I am ever-wary of just what it is we fight for. Not just for ourselves or for our respective homelands, but as a stand against the corrupting forces that taint all that was once good in the world.
It was another dark and gloomy night, they all seemed to join together in one evergrowing Darkness, source of which was in the North, in Angmar! Yet here in Rivendell it seemed sometimes so far away. Songs and tales of Elves did a very good job letting one forget for a time all the pain and sorrows.
Some of the Silent Minority kinsmen sat together by the waterfalls, enjoying the ambience and talking merrily and quietly to each other.
Tirnêl cleared the throat, waited a moment until a few Hobbits ended their heated discussion of some new pie recipe and spoke in a plain baritone voice:
Hello again my friends! Thank you for the hospitality! It has been only a few days since you accepted me as one of your own and I already feel at home amongst you. You’ve accepted me without knowing anything about me, sure some of you have met me before, and have vouched for me before the other, Tirnêl smiles and nods to Miraniel, Shae and Levin continuing, but even they did not know my history. Truth be told is it a mystery to me as well. All my memory goes back only a few months at the most. I was in Archet as the Assault of the Blackwolds happened. Some say I fought valiantly and saved many a villager... than as I helped a family of Hobbits evacuate their house it collapsed and I was buried under the burning debris... They pulled me out, but I must have gotten a hit on my head. I can’t remember anything or anyone from my past. I spent some time in Archet helping rebuild it and hoping for the return of my memory, yet it didn’t happen. I know what I am or rather what I was... a Captain of Gondor. There was some token in my bag that indicated this to the scholars. And they were right, after visiting a few Captains in Archet and Staddle they were surprised at my natural ability to do things even before they finished showing them to me. So I know how to do things, that I do… but I don’t know who I really am anymore...
Tirnêl paused lost in thoughts, then continued:
Avalin, an Elven Minstrel of Evenstar Alliance healed me after the assault and named me Tirnêl – Star Gazer, for every night I would come out and gaze in to the stars as if in search of something. Avalin introduced me to the rest of Evenstar Alliance and I stayed with them for a time travelling here and there helping Free People in their needs, but I also started searching for my Identity. And this search lead me first to the house of Major in Bree looking for more information, that might give me a hint or clue, then to Ered Luin, where I visited both Elves and Dwarves and asked for their assistance. It was also this search that lead me away from the path of Evenstar Alliance, we parted our ways, but I still have friends in their midst. Finally I made my way to Rivendell, but even there I could find no clues and met noone that might have known me in the past. But the library kept me up through many a night and I’ve spent more time in libraries and archives then on the fresh air. Here I learned more about Gondor and Minas Tirith. Here also I started making preparations for my trip to Minas Tirith. But I cannot leave Eriador, not yet... It became a home for me and it needs me and my sword. And I will answer its call!
One last thing, some of you have asked about my last name... one scholar said to me after he heard my story that a man with no past is also a man without future. So to remind me of my Quest I took a name Úbennas – no past.
Now you know everything about me...Tarvalandil: Heir Apparent by sargoth_ethurienDawn. He wasn't too sure he'd see the day, but the day had come at last,the decision was his this time. It was time to leave this place. To let go of a scar that couldn't be healed here. All these thoughts about his father leaving his mother, for whatever reason... for what reason? and his mother? gone without a trace. These questions had turned into a weight of burden. Perhaps leaving was far the best? He once were a hot iron and they hammered him out here, he was strong enough now after leading groups into Ithilien and back out. Not that these walls here were some kinda protection, nor keeping himself busy defending it brought any comfort. More than once he had proven his worth here, but at last he knew that nothing here could heal the wounds. Osgiliath stood as a marker of these wounds. As much as he had tried, it just could not be healed. His herald stood behind him as he thought it over. The banner was shifting in the morning breeze, a black and blue with a bright star leaping over a field. Gilanor, his family crest, his family name. The only thing he knew, except for his parents names. The last few months had brought an increase of orcs attack. And although he was needed here, his mind was set on leaving. He never knew why his father left or where he went. But all that had changed. There were news from the west, mentioning his father, nothing more than a recognition for others, but for him a spark of hope.To think that a legacy could vanish without a trace, to know that you might be the last. What wouldn't you do just to get a glimpse of a star, a flicker of hope, to learn that your not the last, not alone. To get a chance to meet up with his father was a flame to guide him on. Now he could perhaps learn what happened so long ago, to understand the decisions of his father, and perhaps to learn why his mother abondoned him aswell.All his years weighted down upon him, ripples in his face to betray a lie. The reflections of a pond might have revealed more to him of his bloodline.As heir apparent, the road must go west."Get ready, Hamling!" he looked at his squire"My lord?" Hamling looked up"We're going west! First though we need supply for the journey, so first stop will be the white city and then on to Rohan"
Rain fell. Lightning flashed. Thunder echoed and droned across the plains of Rohan. It was the fifth day of storms, and the sky was as black as night. Day melted into night without notice; the cloud cover absolute and unfathomable. Gale winds whirled across the plains with unforgiving force, hurling anything not secured to the ground hurtling into the air.
The small village had stood up to many of these storms. Each storm grew darker and stronger, and fear began to take root within its inhabitants. The growing darkness of the world around them reached closer to their doorsteps with each day. Stories of the wild men of Dunlan attacking border villages were whispered in dark corners of the village, spreading fear into the very souls of its residents.
“Keldred,” his mother called, “go ask your father to secure the barn again- I can see the door flapping in the wind.”
Keldred smiled to his mother and ran to the top of the stairs. As he reached the top step, he glanced out of the small window to his right. Something moved in the distance, but what he could not tell. He shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way to his father’s bedroom. Opening the door, he saw him sitting by his desk.
"Papa, Ma asked if you could go and look at the barn door- it keeps slamming in the wind…”
Keldir turned to his son with a look of confusion. “But I bolted it tight last night… The wind could not have shaken it loose easily.” The older man smiled as he looked at his young son. He could not believe how fast the time had past. Was he already 8 years old? It seemed only yesterday that he was born. He shook the thoughts from his mind. “Well, boy, there is only one way to find out. Come and help me?”
Keldred cheered. He loved to help his father out it the barn. As he raced downstairs, he nearly tripped, but his mother caught him before he landed.
“Keldred, you must be careful!” Melewyn laughed, cuddling her son. She glanced up to see Keldir at the top of the stairs. He was looking out of the window, a look of horror on his face. “What is it, Keldir?”
The father’s skin went deathly pale as he turned to his family and ran down the stairs. “Get into the basement and lock the door..!” Melewyn began to protest, but Keldir pushed her towards the kitchen, picking his son up as he passed. “They’re here..!”
“The wild men, they’re here!” He grabbed open the door to the basement and pushed his family inside. Handing his son to Melewyn, he shut the door behind him and began to pile things in front of it. Turning, he reached up to the top shelf of the larder and pulled his sword down. It was old and rusting, but it was still sharp.
Noises came from upstairs. Something was banging against the front door of the house. Bang… bang… bang… and then a loud crash. The front door gave out and they could hear running footsteps upstairs. The floorboards creaked beneath the strangers’ feet. There was another noise. Another person entered the house. They muttered something to each other, what, the family could not hear. Smashing sounds echoed through the house.
Melewyn turned to her husband, tears of fear streaming down her face. “What do they want?”
“I don’t know…” He shook his head. “Look… I want you to take Keldred and get away from here. Climb out of the window and run.” He turned to the small window to the rear of the basement. He looked out and the way was clear.
“I’m not leaving you!” Melewyn began to cry.
Keldred sat on the floor looking to his parents in confusion. “Ma, what’s going on? I’m scared…” He began to sob, and ran to his mothers arms.
There was a sudden bang just outside of the basement door. The wild men were close. Keldir ran to his wife and took her by the hand. “Melewyn, you must go! Now!”
The basement door began to shake as someone tried to break it down. Keldred and Melewyn began to scream. Keldir ran to the window and broke the glass. He ran to Keldred and picked him up. “Keldred – climb out of the window and run. Don’t look back. Just run!”
Keldred cried as he lifted himself out of his father’s arms and clambered through the small window. He stopped and turned back. His mother was pulling herself up when there was a loud crash. The Dunlanders had broken through the basement door. He heard his father scream and the clang of metal against metal. His mother let out a shriek as she was pulled back through the window by her legs.
Keldred tried to grab hold of her outstretched arms but the rain made her skin slippery. He watched through the window as his father was slashed by blades as the wild men hacked at him with their weapons. His mother cried out for him to run, as one of the attackers threw her against the wall, and began to unbutton his trousers, a sick grin on his face.
Keldred ran as fast as he could. His vision blinded by the rain. All he could hear was his mother screaming. Keldred tripped and fell into a ditch. Crawling on his hands and knees in the sticky mud, he reached the low wooden bridge his father used to cross into the southern fields and hid beneath it. He closed his eyes and covered his ears, shivering in the cold, and utterly alone.
~~~~~~~~Keldred opened his eyes. The storm had passed and there was birdsong in the air. He tried to stand but could not move his legs, for they were buried in the sodden mud. Digging with his hands, he fought his way out of the ground and pulled himself free of his shelter under the bridge. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. But the air was thick with the smell of death.
Running over to his house he called out for his parents, but there was no answer. He ran inside. Furniture was strewn all over the place. He ran into the kitchen and gasped. His mother lay on the table, naked and pale. He went to her and touched her hand. It was cold. Her unseeing eyes stared deep into his, and a cold shiver ran down his spine. Her neck was shredded and her clothes and skin were covered in blood. He picked up her discarded dress and covered her naked body as tears met his eyes and ran down his cheek.
Tearing himself away from her, he walked down into the basement to find the crumpled body of his father. He turned him over and found him impaled on his own sword. Kneeling before his father, he wept and pulled the sword from his gut. He wiped the congealed blood from the blade and stood. He shook his head and turned, walking out of the room and out of the house. He looked over to the other houses in the small farming village. Most were destroyed; burnt or battered. His neighbours lay gutted in the road, some in pieces. Death was everywhere.
Something stirred within him. Anger, not grief, was now first and foremost in his mind. Anger… And revenge. He turned to the hills to the north and began to walk, his fathers sword in his hand, glistening in the sunlight.
Twelve years later…..
Keldred stumbled into the Prancing Pony, already intoxicated with a whore on his arm. The other patrons watched as he pushed his way to the bar and ordered a pint of ale. He downed the beer and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt. The whore next to him giggled and whispered something into his ear, making a smile grow across his face. Slamming his mug down, he winked at the barman with a knowing smile and walked out of the inn.
The whore pulled him into a nearby alleyway and began to unbutton his trousers. Just before anything could happen, Keldred heard someone clear their throat. It was a woman, standing by the entrance of the alleyway with her arms crossed. A raven fluttered by her heels, swarking. Keldred turned to face the woman. “Do you mind? Can’t you see we’re busy?”
The woman giggled. “Keldred… you haven’t changed a bit…”
Keldred pushed the whore away and began to walk towards the woman, doing up his trousers. “What? Who the hell are you?”
She sighed. “Your wife…”