The Fellowship of the Palantíri | Chapter 4

Flight to the Fjord

Thus spake Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur’s heir, King of Gondor and Arnor:

In year 1974 of the Third Age, one thousand fifty-six years ago, the power of Angmar arose once more, and the Witch-king came down upon Arthedain before winter was ended. He captured Fornost, and drove most of the remaining Dúnedain over the Lune; among them were the sons of the king. But King Arvedui held out upon the North Downs until the last, and then fled north with some of his guard; and they escaped by the swiftness of their horses.

For a while Arvedui hid in the tunnels of the old dwarf-mines near the far end of the Mountains, but he was driven at last by hunger to seek the help of the Lossoth, the Snowmen of Forochel. Some of these he found in camp by the seashore; but they did not help the king willingly, for he had nothing to offer them, save a few jewels which they did not value; and they were afraid of the Witch-king, who (they said) could make frost or thaw at his will. But partly out of pity for the gaunt king and his men, and partly out of fear of their weapons, they gave them a little food and built for them snow-huts. There Arvedui was forced to wait, hoping for help from the south; for his horses had perished.

When Círdan heard from Aranarth son of Arvedui of the kings’ flight to the north, he at once sent a ship to Forochel to seek for him. The ship came there at last after many days, because of contrary winds, and the mariners saw from afar the little fire of drift-wood which the lost men contrived to keep alight. But the winter was long in loosing its grip that year; and though it was then March, the ice was only beginning to break, and lay far out from the shore.

When the Snowmen saw the ship they were amazed and afraid, for they had seen no such ship on the sea within their memories; but they had become now more friendly, and they drew the king and those that survived of his company out over the ice in their sliding carts, as far as they dared. In this way a boat from the ship was able to reach them.

But the Snowmen were uneasy: for they said that they smelled danger in the wind. And the chief of the Lossoth said to Arvedui: “Do not mount on this sea-monster! If they have them, let the seamen bring us food and other things that we need, and you may stay here till the Witch-king goes home. For in summer his power wanes; but now his breath is deadly, and his cold arm is long.”

But Arvedui did not take his counsel. He thanked him, and at parting gave him his ring, saying: “This is a thing of worth beyond your reckoning. For its ancientry alone. It has no power, save the esteem in which those hold it who love my house. It will not help you, but if ever you are in need, my kin will ransom it with great store of all that you desire.” In this way the ring of the House of Isildur was saved; for it was afterwards ransomed by the Dúnedain.

Yet the counsel of the Lossoth was good, by chance or by foresight; for the ship had not reached the open sea when a great storm of wind arose, and came with blinding snow out of the North; and it drove the ship back upon the ice and piled ice up against it. Even the mariners of Círdan were helpless, and in the night the ice crushed the hull, and the ship foundered. So perished Arvedui Last-king, and with him the palantíri were buried in the sea, or so it was thought. It was long afterwards that news of the shipwreck of Forochel was learned from the Snowmen.

— from Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Celebaur, Galenion, and Saradoc set out from Annúminas with a number of other parties sent to encounter the Snowmen. Their goals were threefold. Learn what the Snowmen’s legends said about the shipwreck and the fate of Arvedui’s two palantíri. Find out how the orc’s mistress had gotten a palantír. And find out who “she” was—for no clue to the threat’s identity was to be found in Annúminas.

As the company progressed north through the tundra, the weather got colder. The ground was covered with snow, which grew deeper the farther they went. Periodically, small groups peeled off from the original group, so as to cover the most ground. Several days after they themselves had left the main column, as afternoon was lengthening and snow fell around them, Galenion and Celebaur heard howling off in the distance. It seemed more than just wind. Although Saradoc voiced an interest in heading away from the sound, Celebaur pointed out that if the howling meant ill, better to meet it on their own terms. So they veered off their course and headed more westerly. Soon the howling separated, some to the north, some to the west. Since north was their original heading, they rode on toward those grim sounds.

Visibility dropped as the sky dimmed and snow swirled around them. Suddenly, wolves attacked! One knocked Galenion from his horse and set upon him on the ground. The elf was able to draw his knife and slash at the wolf, rolling clear of it. By the time he had regained his feet, though, he was surrounded. He had space to draw his sword but saw that his companions could not come to his aid.

A wolf had leaped at Celebaur, who had sidestepped his horse clear. The Ranger got off a few arrows at the wolves around him, and his horse suffered a few scratches in the process. But then he had to put his bow away because Saradoc was knocked from his pony, which took off running. Celebaur whipped his horse around, grabbing up the hobbit. Sara held on for dear life while Celebaur urged his horse to kick at the wolves.

Meanwhile, Galenion and his horse were both in distress. One wolf had gotten a hold on the elf’s arm; he slew it with the other. Another got a bite in on his side. Celebaur moved his horse over to Galenion’s to grab the reins. Sara threw his knives at wolves, scoring hits. Finally there were just two wolves left around the horses. Celebaur slashed one, but at that moment, he felt behind him a wolf knocking Sara off the horse. It latched onto the hobbit’s shoulder.

Galenion by this point was finishing off the last of his wolves, having taken another bite for his efforts. Celebaur jumped down, and when the wolf reared back, he grabbed its fur and reached around to slit its throat. The hobbit was rather unsteady and a little shocky. Celebaur bandaged the injuries, and Galenion dispersed invigorating elven nourishment. While gathering firewood, Celebaur tracked down the pony. When he spied it, there were wolves feasting upon the poor creature. He shot them from afar and recovered Sara’s gear.

The next morning, they decided to put Saradoc and the gear on Celebaur’s horse. Galenion’s horse had been injured somewhat by the wolves, so it would just carry the lighter elf. Celebaur stayed afoot, leading the horse Saradoc was on to keep them at a slower pace for the injured. They traveled further north that day, into more hilly country. Even the flat stretches of land were marked by small snowy tussocks. The travelers were startled when some of those little mounds jumped up around them.

Fast as wolves, Snowmen surrounded them, armed with bone weapons. Celebaur held his hands up peaceably and introduced the group, sharing that they came on an errand from the King. But the leader scoffed at that, refusing to give his name and saying that these lands knew no king. Celebaur tried to explain that they came in peace, but the leader rebutted that peace too had deserted these lands. When Celebaur requested an audience with the elders and expressed interest in a shipwreck, an older Snowman moved in to say something quietly to the leader. The leader then ordered the travelers to accompany his men. The Snowmen formed up a circle around the horses. No one spoke, although the older Snowman did occasionally look over at the travelers interestedly.

It was a long day of traveling, and Saradoc would have been miserable from his discomfort had he not taken a keen interest in the strange shoes these men wore, which enabled them to stay above the snow. They were like circle frames crisscrossed with some sort of string. Also of interest, in the distance, they saw some sort of wheelless cart moving swiftly, pulled by small animals in front of it. Sara had never seen such things in the Shire, and his mind taken from his injuries a bit, he watched all about him, fascinated.

That night the leader called a halt, and the Snowmen dug themselves little burrows to sleep in. Two Snowmen were set on watch at a time with rotating shifts to proceed throughout the night. As everyone quieted down, Celebaur went over to a younger Snowman who seemed less hostile than the others to inquire about the strange shoes. However, it was soon clear that the man did not want to talk to him, so, desirous of causing no trouble, the Ranger left him alone.

As an Elf, Galenion required no sleep. He decided to conduct his own watch, and slipped through the perimeter, doing a patrol further out than the Snowmen. In the morning, when the camp stirred, Galenion walked right back in. This caused much commotion. On seeing someone approach, Snowmen grabbed their weapons, brandishing them at the elf. The leader stormed over. Celebaur saw trouble brewing and rushed to intercept the leader. The Ranger tried explaining that Galenion had just been out patrolling, but the angry leader ordered Celebaur to go back over to “the child”. Celebaur requested that he be allowed to accompany the leader to speak with Galenion. The Snowman turned to the Ranger and said that if he was to accompany him, he would have to hand over his sword. Celebaur paused, then unbelted his sword and gave it to one of the leader’s attendants.

The leader of the Snowmen stormed over to Galenion, demanding to know what he had been doing. Galenion crossed his arms non-threateningly and calmly replied that he had simply been keeping patrol further out than the Snowmen. The leader told the elf, “If you are to travel, give me your sword.”

Galenion replied, “My father gave me this sword and for six thousand years I have not parted with it. I shall not do so now.”

The leader gave an ultimatum: either Galenion hand over his sword, or “the child” would be traveling up front with the leader for security purposes. Galenion let everyone wait a beat before handing over the weapon. Travel that day was even more uncomfortable than the day before, but as they were packing up their things, Celebaur found a snowshoe with his gear, so he had some hope that not everyone was as cold as the leader. Galenion noted that several pairs of Snowmen got a tongue-lashing from the leader for letting him slip past them. For their part, as they traveled, the Snowmen kept a sharper eye on the strangers.

As the second day of travel with the Snowmen drew on, Saradoc spotted another of those wheelless carts in the distance. It approached the column, and the hobbit marveled to see the creatures pulling it were actually wolves. A newly-arrived Snowman talked to the leader and the older man who had first interceded for the King’s representatives. The leader of the scouting party got angrily on the sled and headed north. The new arrival approached the elf, bearing Galenion’s sword. He held it out and asked where it came from. Galenion said where it had been made for his father. The man introduced himself as Feredin, asking, “Who are you? Who do you serve; who is your mistress?” Galenion and Celebaur replied that they had no mistress, that they served the King. Feredin granted them their weapons back. He led them on to a village full of strange round homes built from the very snow around them. They were given one of these rooms to rest in.

In the morning, a young Snowman came and announced that Galenion and Celebaur were called to council. Saradoc looked a little downcast, and Celebaur asked, “Well, what are you waiting for? We have a council to go to.” When the three met up with Feredin and a few others, including the patrol leader and an ancient man, they explained that Saradoc was not a child; that hobbits are smaller folk. And so he was allowed to attend the meeting.

The travelers explained that they were interested in Arvedui’s wreck and the legends about him, and that their concern grew from orc activity in the south. “What are orcs?” Feredin asked. The King’s folk were at a bit of a loss on how to describe them and finally settled on cruel, vicious creatures that attack without mercy. Galenion spoke of how the orcs had seemed to have a lady who led them, and that they were concerned the north might face the same dangers. Celebaur asked why Feredin had wanted to know if they had a mistress.

Feredin explained that the “Winter Queen” had been sending creatures to attack the Snowmen clans for the last seven or so years. He used a word, faneffa, for the creatures that none of the southerners knew. When asked to explain, Feredin said that they had teeth and claws, were strong and deformed, had ratty hair, and were totally white. To the southerners, they sounded like Uruk-hai designed for winter warfare. The aged Snowman told them the story of Arvedui’s interaction with the Snowpeople. He did not tell them anything they had not already heard from Aragorn, though they noted he made no mention of the ring the King had left with the Snowmen.

The travelers requested directions to the “seamonster’s skeleton”. Feredin said that a hunting party would be back in a couple days, and that they would wait for them to return because the area around the skeleton had a strong faneffa presence. The scout leader was sour and uncooperative throughout the meeting, and afterwards, Celebaur asked Feredin whether he had had bad interactions with southerners before. Feredin explained that Regda came from a tribe that was almost totally wiped out by faneffa, so he found it difficult to trust any outsiders.

With a few days to pass in the village, Saradoc and Galenion rested to heal from the wolf attack. Celebaur sought out someone who could explain to him the construction of the snowshoes. He found a building full of women making them and asked if someone could show him how. A clever young woman asked why and offered to fix his. The Ranger explained that he desired to learn the craft. The women were all atwitter at this. The young woman explained it was because the men never came into the craft hall, they just gave the women things to repair. Celebaur told her that he did his own crafting and mending, and showed her his cloak and the knife sheath he had made. She in turn showed him how her people made the shoes from bent bones and seal gut.

As Celebaur worked in the craft hall, the women grew more comfortable with him and spoke more openly. He explained that they were going to the shipwreck. A wizened old woman asked if he had been told the story of Arvedui’s visit. Celebaur said he had, but that he had thought that their people had been given a ring. The old woman cackled and said the menfolk were too proud to tell the real story. And so she shared the full tale.

While most Snowmen have no use for gold or gems, there were some whose heads were turned by Arvedui’s pretty trinkets. After he gave his ring to the chieftain, those Snowmen decided they wanted more, and that night they stole a large, spherical blue gem from Arvedui’s sled. After Arvedui’s ship had been destroyed, some of these people repented of the theft, because they feared Arvedui’s ghost would come after them. Indeed, the rest of the tribe grew angry at the theft and drove the thieves away, to the east.

Galenion meanwhile spent some time talking to the tribal elders, but he did not learn anything further in aid of their quest. He did inquire of Feredin why the other had asked about Galacharn, and the other admitted that he had never seen such writing before. When the Snowmen do mark things, they use runes, not the flowing script that runs down the middle of the elven sword.

When the travelers reconvened, Celebaur and Galenion engaged in heated debate over whether they should head east, where it seemed one palantír had gone, or if they should go to the Uruk-hai infested shipwreck on the chance of finding the other palantír. Galenion pointed out the Winter Queen must not have the second palantír yet, since she had had minions searching Annúminas for it. Sara just watched them argue, taking note of their discourse. Finally, the Big Folk reached agreement that since they were right near the shipwreck, they would investigate it before going east.