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I

 

‘Beleg,’ Haldir cried out, surprised and delighted: ‘You came after all!’

‘If I had known, we could have waited for you,’ he added. Then he caught himself, looking uncertain. Beleg supposed Haldir was wondering whether he might have preferred not to travel with Edain. It was true Men could be a bit noisy but Beleg could easily think of certain elves he would be much less happy to travel with than with the Haladin of Brethil.

‘I could not let you know,’ he apologized. ‘I had to wait for King Thingol to give permission first. That took some time. Then we made haste to catch up, Mablung and I, but you had a long head-start.’

‘Mablung is here, too, then?’ asked Haldir, overjoyed. ‘Both the leaders from the Battle of Brethil? Then indeed we can be sure of success.’

Haldir had hoped to be guided by his father in their current venture, Beleg thought regretfully, remembering Halmir’s death the preceding year. Not that Haldir was young anymore himself, by the standards of the Edain. But the Battle of Brethil had been the greatest battle the Haladin had been involved in yet. The battle that loomed now promised to be a much greater one. It was no wonder Haldir found the sight of his father’s old allies reassuring.

He caught Haldir’s hands in his.

‘Not leaders, this time,’ he said. ‘We came alone, Haldir. Just the two of us.’

A shadow passed over Haldir’s face. But his hands returned the pressure, gripping Beleg’s fingers firmly.

‘I am still glad to see you,’ he said. ‘We are not so many either, we Haladin. But it will not do to underrate us, counting only our numbers, as others have found before!’

‘Indeed not!’ said Beleg. ‘Well, do I know your valour, yours and your people’s!’

Haldir smiled again.

‘You must meet Hurin and Huor, if you have not done so yet, since you arrived!’

‘I have not seen them since the time of the Battle, when they vanished and were afterwards found again!’

‘In truth? It has been so long?’

‘I sent messages north when I heard from you in Brethil that they had mysteriously reappeared alive and well, and what is more, reappeared at their father’s house, nowhere near to where they were lost! It was a great relief to me, for your sake and theirs. Their loss had been a bitter blow, in the midst of victory. But I had not been here in the North for a long time, Haldir, not since before your people arrived in Beleriand. Yet I have heard that those two boys are now become great warriors, especially Hurin!’

‘They have grown a great deal, my nephews, and not only in body. You could even say, in Hurin’s case, less in body, than otherwise! For he is still somewhat short for one of his house. Maybe he inherited his stature from my sister, although he does not much look like one of us Haladin otherwise…’

‘You are proud of him?’

‘I’m proud of both of them! But Hurin is accounted a hero, and not only among Men.’

Haldir gave Beleg a slightly challenging look. But Beleg remembered the boy Hurin had been and had no trouble believing he had grown up to be the man his reputation made him out to be.

‘So I had heard,’ he said, smiling, and wondered at a sudden feeling of unease, almost a foreboding, but of what he could not say.

 

II

 

‘Your name is Haldir?’ asked the elf Haldir had just been introduced to. ‘I knew another Haldir, once.’

Haldir ought to have got used to by now to finding himself in the presence of heroes of ages long past in Valinor, but this was Beleg Cuthalion. Reports of Beleg's skill and tales of his deeds had been passed down among archers since the First Age and had been an integral part of Haldir’s early training.

‘You knew him?’ Haldir asked a bit uncertainly, trying to make sense of Beleg's use of the past tense.

‘He was an Adan.’ Beleg paused. ‘He died.’

If this Haldir had been an Adan of the First Age, Haldir supposed that stood to reason, given his life span. But by the way Beleg had said it, it sounded as if there was more to it than that…

‘They all died,’ said Beleg. His gaze was remote, as if looking back across the millennia to the disasters of the First Age.

Haldir had no idea what to say. But it turned out that it was not necessary to say anything all, for after a moment Beleg began to speak and all he had to do was listen.

‘He spoke to you about the Dagor Nirnaeth Arnoediad?’ said Celeborn to Haldir, later. ‘I’m surprised. He doesn’t do that often, to anyone…’