Back on the road
Now far ahead the road has gone
Thranduil did not begrudge Forgileill the three-day delay at Imladínen. He well understood the need of any Nostir to seek out spiritual guidance as they moved into adulthood. He even attended her rocca of his own volition. It should have been one of her ilin who did this for her, if ever she was indisposed thus. Thranduil took on this task and the others left him to it.
He felt the Galadhrim1 mourners moving parallel to them, through the forest, before they showed themselves to plain sight. They stood tall and dignified, garlanded in yellow, motes playing in the sunlight as attendant small folk flitted about. Gwedhion hailed them and they answered him in song. For all that day as they rode at walking place along the road the lament followed them, performed by shifts of Galadhrim (and possibly more than just sub-tribes of the Asrai2 , thought Thranduil).
That last night under the boughs of the Vesve, their camp was made and meal readied for them as they arrived. All through the night, different Galadhrim elders and holy men, peasants and poachers, came to Gwedhion and Forgileill and expressed their regard for and love of Celegorm. All night the barely familiar cousins sat and graciously accepted the condolences of the citizens of the greatest forest in the empire.
Thranduil had expected the prince and princess to abrogate themselves from their duties and take it in turns to represent their house. It would have been perfectly in keeping with their performances to date. He decided that it was probably fear of what Kcasamenzay would do if she found out that kept them both where they were expected to be. Or maybe they were just facing up to their responsibilities.
Tûd and Kamilata rode at the back of the short train. There was perhaps no real need to maintain their eagle eyed watch with their escort of lamenting Galadhrim mourners, however, this tactical discipline had been drilled into Tûd since the age of nine. Most of the time with the patrols he was on in Amburn, his brother led and he would be honoured with the very responsible position of rear guard. A light dusting of snow continued to descend upon the bare branches of the oaks and chestnuts through which they rode, their horses carving deep, dark scars through the leaf litter and its icy highlights.
Not being relied upon to guard the rear the two ilin sought glimpses of the Galadhrim who accompanied them. They were there and quite often in plain sight. However their normal mode of dress was so well camouflaged that if they stood unmoving, then they were easy to miss. Of course the yellow garlands helped identify the chief mourners amongst them from the forest background. Kamilata’s enquiry about the origin of such generous garlanding this close to Yearsend, in the first throes of winter, went unanswered by any of their small party.
The trees began to thin and none of them was surprised to find another party waiting for them on the causeway. Thranduil rode forward to go through Lyio, Clan and bow with an outrider from the other party. Just a formality, as all could see the banner of Sharifika. Jadhrim, Forgileill’s elder ‘cousin’ was with the Carnc of what had been until two years ago, her wilya. They all bowed their heads in first obedience to Mankh Adfel Nhi as they joined his party. This he returned to all of them, greeting Gwedhion and Forgileill by name. They repeated the bow to Jadhrim, who smiled at seeing her kin, but did look a little sadder, after all, she had been the Carnc of Celegorm’s greatest province for over a century, as well as a favoured niece.
Tûd noted that Mankh had not acknowledged Klogoh as he had the Gwathló cousins. Kamilata thought that this would be entirely normal. Klogoh was one of his ilin anyway and had received the return of the bow offered - the appropriate level of recognition on the road like this. Anything more would be favouritism of his youngest son and therefore a disservice to all his other ilin. As the newcomers and ilin of the least of the Lords in this train, they rode at the rear with Thranduil. A position of honour, indeed3 .
Klogoh rode with his father’s ilin for a short while before rejoining them. The Gwathló cousins still rode with Jadhrim and the Carnc. However, the news was that the emperor rode only a day behind. Normally, anyone wanting to visit Westil would sail up the Westilakken. However, to ride there was obviously more penitent and therefore the mode of transport everyone used to reach the Jukp?dhar of a Lord of the Celebrinoth. This was the longest leg of their journey, but one of the fastest.
The imperial road was, across much of the Flanaess a causeway topped with a wide paved road. It was the reason that ilin shoed their rocca. In Hisra, reflecting its history as the cradle of the Celebrinoth4 , there were wide regular grassy campsites a mile or more square. These occurred every ten miles or so, they were flat, watered and sheltered from the worst of the weather. Ancient dry stone walls divided the space up into regular useable areas. Setting up a camp was a routine that was swiftly accomplished along the shores of the Westilakken.
The skies were grey and the Westilakken was more or less an inland sea. Following the geese in the weeks before, flocks of swans now bobbed at the Lakeside, where they would over-winter. Most days were just cold and damp. Occasionally there was rain, sleet or snow. The trees were loosing their leaves much faster now; winter was racing across the land. Wolves left tracks in the morning frost, but didn’t bother any of the ilin caravans.
Gradually, their train caught up with someone else’s. Even at the back the four end-markers had word passed back to them they had caught up with the Gefeothan Lord of Bissel and the Gûl Lord of Furyondy. Tûd looked west at the skeletons of the trees silhouetted against the afternoon sky. He smiled to himself at the familiar sight of the gigantic rookery. They couldn’t see the next train behind them, but it was mid afternoon and the outriders from that train would be selecting camping sites by now. But estimating their position by the rookeries that extended all the way up past the city; he judged that they would rest indoors tonight.
Being very large, the city of Westil was soon in sight. They could see fisherman, still plying their trade. With this many people flocking into the city, fresh food would sell for a premium. Canny merchants who saw an opportunity had over paid boat owners to brave the wintry weather on the lake to ferry goods and empty coin chests from Crockport to the city. They too stood to make a handsome profit, if the funduq had enough space for them and their goods. The weather was dull and overcast, more snow fell. It was still falling as they eventually entered the city, feeling quite small as they rode in between the two vast limestone griffins who stood before the gates. Gongs sounded, loud at the gate and then repeated, along the wall, in decreasing volume until those in the Citadel could be heard, muted as if by the twilight.
 Wood Elves