Morthond of Gondor

Ancestor of Feygil and Moramarth.

The Man Morthond was born to a poor blacksmith In the City of Minas Tirith in TA 2039. He was a clever and headstrong child, and disliked hard work. As he grew, he proved himself a disappointment to his father and a rascal to his mother, who, despite his flaws, loved him fiercely. Once grown, he garnered a reputation as an impish rake with a talent for charming folk into schemes of the disreputable sort, always aiming for financial gain.

One evening, a traveler, a Northman of Dalish descent by the look of him, stopped at a hostel in the City. His unusual garb, his silence, and the flakes of gold ore with which he paid drew Morthond’s attention, and using all his skill, he plumbed the Northman for information. Only after much mead, and much prying, did the Northman reveal that he had discovered a thick vein of gold running through the White Mountains in a place so remote, none but one who’d been there could find it.

Morthond, having heard all he needed to hear, waited until the man was asleep in his cot, stole his gold and all his maps, and left the City that very night. For two years, he searched and scoured the Ered Nimrais, but to no avail. Slowly, Morthond changed. Living afield, he toughened, and became skilled at hunting and surviving. There were few people about to con, and those he did meet were invaluable provisioners; Morthond could not afford to sever ties with a scheme. For the first time, people were valuable in and of themselves.

An early fall snow, high on the north face of Nardol, proved it. Having been scouting a deep, narrow vale for the ever-elusive gold vein, Morthond was caught ill-prepared for the storm, and was quickly snowed in. For a week, he huddled in a shallow cave and waited for a thaw, or for death.

On the eighth day, soft footfalls broke the silence of the mountain valley. Peering out from his cave, Morthond beheld a creature the like of which he had never seen before. Quick and softly she moved, her jet black hair rippling like a raven’s wing behind her. At first, Morthond thought she was a child, for she was small, and her face was round and sweet. Her skin was dark, a honeyed chestnut, and she wore crudely sewn animal furs against the cold. Her feet were dressed with strange, broad shoes that allowed her to walk atop the snow.
When she finally beheld Morthond, she stood as a stone and watched him, as though she had half expected him to be just there. Her eyes, a bright crystalline blue, shone against her dark skin, and from their depths, Morthond knew this was no child. This was one of the Woses, the Wild Folk rumored to inhabit the Druadan Forest.

The Wose woman smiled at Morthond, and he felt himself half enchanted. She gave him food and water, and called herself Ghan-dula-Tam, though Morthond could understand little else. She spoke a strange language, which at times flowed from her mouth like water and at others fell hard as stone from her lips.

Ghan-dula-Tam fashioned a pair of snow shoes for Morthond from slender tree limbs and snow-buried grasses and led him from the valley. Deep into the forest she took him, and as darkness fell, they came into the winter village of the Woses. The people there looked much like Ghan-dula-Tam, with shining black hair and dark skin, but all others, save for a stooped, wrinkled old woman, stared at Morthond with dark brown eyes.

Ghan-dula-Tam greeted the blue-eyed old woman with a hug, and Morthond understood them to be granddaughter and grandmother. The old woman, crowned with an elaborately woven grass diadem and bedecked with ropes of wooden beads, greeted Morthond with polite reserve and bid him sit by the fire.
Morthond spent the rest of the winter in the Woses’ village, slowly learning the language under Ghan-dula-Tam’s tutelage. She told him that she had foreseen his coming in a vision, and thus had known just where to look for him. From the Wose men, Morthond learned much of wood-craft and hunting, and with the people he observed feasts and ceremonies, honoring the spirits of the Forest, which gave them life.

While the Woses began to accept Morthond as a brother, Ghan-dula-Tam’s grandmother, the Seeress, spoke to her granddaughter of a vision of her own: the tall Gondorian would betray them, he would sell the secrets of the Forest for gold, and the trees would fall by axe and flame. Ghan-dula-Tam refused to believe her grandmother, for she had grown to love the Man Morthond.

Morthond, in turn, had begun to love Ghan-dula-Tam. He called her Dúlin, for she often sang for him, with a fair and clear voice, of the creation of Arda, the lives of the birds and foxes, and the history of her people. In the spring, he asked for her hand. The chieftain, Ghan-dula-Tam’s uncle, granted Morthond’s request, against the Seeress’s council, for Morthond had ever been upright in his eyes, and made his niece happy. They were wed at the base of a high waterfall hidden deep in the mountains, and the spray gleamed gold in the evening sun.

When Morthond’s and Ghan-dula-Tam’s hut had been completed, and the spring snows were thawed, Morthond traveled to an outpost he had often passed through during his search of the mountains. He carried with him a letter to his mother, telling of his marriage and his intent to stay with the Woses. But at the outpost, he came face to face with the Northman from whom he had stolen gold and maps of the mountains.

The Northman immediately recognized him, and demanded to know if Morthond had discovered the gold vein, and who he had told. Morthond swore to the man he had never found the vein and promised to repay the stolen gold any way he might.

But the Northman, furious, beat Morthond, saying he had seen many footprints at the base of the waterfall which marked the site. He would have killed Morthond, but for the intervention of two men. They paid Morthond’s debt to the Northman and bid him return to his business, while they tended Morthond’s wounds. One was a Rohirrim, and called himself Deoward Stormhelm. The other Man’s heritage was hidden behind his hood and mask, and he called himself only the Bard.

They spoke to Morthond of the growing threat in the East, and of their search for good men to defend the Free Folk and their lands. Morthond’s heart was kindled by their words, and reflecting on his love for his Dúlin and his home unlooked-for in the Forest, he pledged to fight with them when the time came, if they would leave word for him at the outpost. The two men agreed, and Morthond returned home.

Morthond told Ghan-dula-Tam of the encounter at the outpost, and she wept for fear of the Northman. But she kissed him and, though she feared for him, was proud of his desire to defend their people. The summer slowly passed, full of good hunting, fishing, and gathering, and as it drew unto autumn, Ghan-dula-Tam told Morthond that she bore his child.

When the Seeress heard of Morthond’s doings at the outpost, she warned him against returning there. She told him he would endanger her people and the Forest which sheltered them with his business with Outsiders. Morthond promised her he would be careful, but affirmed that he would keep his word to the Bard and the Rohirrim Stormhelm and pay his debt to them.

With the first snowfall of autumn, Morthond made his last trip to the outpost until spring would thaw the paths. While he traded furs and wood carvings for a gift for Ghan-dula-Tam and their child, the Northman, who had laid in wait the whole summer, led a posse of Men and followed Morthond’s tracks back up the mountain and into the Forest. As Morthond read the missive left for him by the Bard, calling him to action, the Northman and his men burned the Wose village to the ground.

Almost as soon as he began the trip back to his village, Morthond knew something was wrong. His tracks, clear as day in the fresh snow, had been trampled by the boots of many Men. He ran home, clutching tight the gift for Ghan-dula-Tam and his baby, calling out her name. “Dúlin! Dúlin!!”

The Northman stood in wait for Morthond. “Your Woses are gone. Now you and they cannot steal my gold. Get off this mountain and never come back, or die here and now.”

Enraged, Morthond threw himself at the Northman. “My wife! Where is my wife?!” he asked, but the men laughed as they beat him and dragged him all the way back to the outpost.

The next day, Morthond snuck back onto the mountain and searched for signs of escape by the Woses. But he knew that if they did not wish to be found, there would be no trace. For a fortnight, he searched, scouring the mountain for that which now was far more precious to him than gold. But he hoped in vain. There was neither sign nor sound of Woses in his Forest.

Broken, and bereft of purpose other than his debt to the Bard and Stormhelm, Morthond left the White Mountains to fulfill his duty.

Ghan-dula-Tam, with her grandmother and most of the other villagers, had indeed escaped the Northman’s attack. They snuck away, using all their wood-craft to remain unseen, and took shelter in a fortified cave high on Nardol. There they stayed the winter, few of them leaving, and only to hunt.

And there, as the winter began to give way to spring thaws, Ghan-dula-Tam gave her life in birthing Morthond’s son. Looking down on the child, the Seeress, bitter with anger, used her granddaughter’s still-warm blood to lay a curse on Morthond.

In the water-and-stone tongue of the Woses, she cursed the line of Morthond with death by duty, far from love and far from peace. Knowing that the Sight would be passed down from Ghan-dula-Tam, the Seeress twisted the gift to awaken only to protect those around the Accursed, not himself, and bound looming Death tightly to it so that, if he chose honor, at least the Accursed might save the life of another by sacrificing his own.

Thus did the Man Morthond, his honor late-born in the Forest of the Druedain, fall. His camp ambushed by Warg-Riders, he stood long, holding the line so that the women and children might escape. And after the last of his allies had fled, he died alone, never having seen his son or his beloved Dúlin again.

The line of Morthond, assured somehow of perpetuity by the very curse which doomed them, struggled on, one generation to the next bound to sorrow, pain, and duty.

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