Bog's World

Altogether elsewhere

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The Temple of Hannali1

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return

Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge

They had ridden for several days into the Vesve along the Tîrgu Road. This was the forerunner of the imperial causeways, a dwarf built road driven through the forest on a compass bearing to speed the passage of men and material from Perrenland to Westil. Of course, that was over a thousand years ago. This far into the forest, the modern Tîrgu Road was a single cart track winding its way along the parts of the dwarf road that were still in the best condition. Much of the rest of it was beginning to disappear under the encroaching forest as it slowly took back what it had once given up. The large mile square encamping stations along its length were now usually just a few hundred yards across and hemmed in with young trees.

Previous travellers, taking this route in high summer and through the autumn had stacked dead wood at each location. It was understood that people who could, would do this, so that people who travelled in bad weather or the dead of winter would not freeze to death or starve for want of a hot meal during their journey.

They were well provisioned and of course had the letter of introduction from Alu Canath Nhi himself to the Carnc of Ulria. It was on the strength of this eight folded piece of paper that ilin travelled the empire from one appointment to the next without fear of being hung as bandits. Most of their treasures were in storage in the catacombs under Aranost, destined to follow in the summer. After all, there have to be some advantages to almost any situation.

The culverts that guided the streams and small rivers under the road remained largely unfrozen. Thranduil had followed one of these streams to fill up their water-skins2. As he walked on he felt a strange inner calm. Frost clung to the declivities in the bark of the oaks he passed. Thin winter sun illuminated the odd leaf still on the tree, highlighting its amazing capillary structure. Flowers of rime blossomed on the rocks of the stream.

It was very quiet and very peaceful. He found that he’d entered a particularly tranquil glade (he’d felt the sense of the place wash over him as he’d entered) at about the same time as a Galadhrim entered from the other side. The other elf held out his arms and Thranduil tentatively crossed over. The trust emanating from the Galadhrim made Thranduil suspicious to start with, but he was lost in the wonder of this place, pale and beautiful in its gown of winter white.

Releasing Thranduil from his embrace, but keeping hold of hands, the other welcomed him. “This glade is a place sacred to Hannali Celanil.”
Thranduil nodded. That made sense.
“Your search is nearly done. But it does not end here. Hannali will never forsake you, Thranduil, but your path is that of the Sword, not of the heart. Love your art, for it is the reason the Seldarine shaped you the way they have. It is an ancient purpose, a religious duty.”
Again Thranduil could only nod. It seemed that at each turn, each priest of the Seldarine was gradually telling him more and more of what he wanted to hear.
“Remember that the best way to travel is towards heaven.”
He pressed a carved billet into Thranduil’s hand.

The stranger kissed him on the forehead and slowly walked back into the forest, leaving Thranduil stood in the glade, revelling in his unaccustomed wonderment. After what could have an hour, but was most likely only a few minutes, he shouldered the now miraculously full water-skins and made his way back to the camp.

[1] Hannali is the Elven goddess of beauty and love. Thus she is responsible for half of the Elven moral code, a very important deity for the elves.
[2] These would tend to be goat skins, usually fairly complete, able to hold about 20 litres of fluid and fitted with a brass neck and stoppered with cork imported from Udas. Ilin are supposed to carry one to water themselves and their rocca and to use as a floatation aid during a river crossing.


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