Of all Elven legends, the Miloren Cycle is certainly the most fascinating. It not only plays a pivotal role in the history of the Elves, but is also remembered in such great detail. If you ever happen to meet an Elvish storyteller, you will find that he could speak for hours about Alenvars first journey alone. You could listen for days and hear no more than a part of the Cycle. After spending most of my life with the elves of Forenor, I feel that I should pass on some of my knowledge to those of my people who haven’t had the good fortune to be welcome among the Fair Folk. This is the story of Alenvar I wish to tell, and although we will meet other key figures of the Miloran Cycle as they cross his path, they must remain in the background. The same is true for many of Alenvars deeds, as I do not wish to simply recount the numerous battles with his foes, but the inner struggles that determined his, and in the end his peoples, fate.
When after the long odyssey Menagond of the Wood-elves and the wise and beautiful Telimae found one another, they had a son and they named him Alenvar. He grew up to become a skilled hunter and soon surpassed his father in strength and might, and of his mother he learned much of the great lore of old. His journeys took him far to the north and long he wandered unseen in the lands of Men, where he became aware of preparations as of war. And being uneased and roused by these tidings, he went to Elgilad, the Elvish chief city at the river Elenstroem, and spoke before the Council. His account bore no great surprise however, for Men were already entering the realm of Elves in large numbers, although most of them were simple folk that kept away from Elvish settlements. ‘Ever since Men first crossed the mountains, we have given way to them’, Alenvar said. ‘But now we have to stand and fight ere we are washed into the sea!’ There the Wise learned of the fire that was in him and Marglir Evenstar, First of all Great said: ‘More war has been waged by those of Elven lineage than most of us know, and no good came of it. And I sense a bad end coming upon you, if you do not rein your hatred.’
But the Wise also knew how great a warrior Alenvar was, and they feared that he would not listen to reason, but rather go and fight the battle on his own. To prevent him from such foolishness, they chose to give him an occupation to his liking in the hope that the task at hand would calm his restless spirit. He received command over a score of rangers and was sent north to watch the borders and drive away any trespasser. But unforseeable are the ways of fate, and on this errand he was, when the shadow befell him and he became estranged to his folk and its customs.
They had made camp in the fair country around the Foroduin, the river marking the northern border, where still many Elves dwelled; and from there, alone or in pairs they went about their business. It was so that Alenvar met Andomiel and, although he did not know her, like a fair summer day she seemed to him as she walked among the trees, and his heart was filled with delight.
But even before he could step onto the path to greet her, he became aware of a faint sound as of swift and light footsteps, and from the brush came a horde of filthy men, their eyes glittering with lust as they approached their prey. They wore ragged furs and carried long daggers, but some of them had bows also and their bare feet made hardly any noise on the soft ground.
Andomiel froze as she saw her doom ahead, but out of the trees came Alenvar and with a mighty stroke of his sword, he beheaded the nearest foe. Then the remaining villains came upon him. Yet, with a few hews, he drove them apart, and those still on their feet turned and fled into the forest.
But perilous are Men even in their defeat, and just as Andomiel turned to meet Alenvar, full of strange and wondrous feelings, an arrow came flying from under the trees. Though it was badly aimed and only pierced her shoulder, she fell where she stood, for an icy poison was entering her body, and she died in Alenvar‘s arms. But at the moment of her doom she gazed into his eyes and so deep her love for him was, that her soul went not beyond, but straight to her heart’s desire. And so eyes met eyes, and souls met souls, and deep within Alenvar, a part of her lived forth.
His companions, stirred by the din of battle, found him kneeling besides Andomiel, who even in death was fair to look at; and Isgil, who was friend with Alenvar, recognised her and cried: ‘Unfortunate Andomiel! Your curse is broken, but only short was your luck.’
Now they were bewildered and curious and they began to question Alenvar and there they became aware of the change that had befallen him. For he stared ahead with lifeless eyes and would not answer, and his spirit remained closed to them. So they took them both back to the camp and laid Alenvar to rest in his tent. Andomiel they buried under a lonely tree in the centre of the clearing. Then they held counsel, for they knew no advice and none of them had learned how to tend wounds of heart or mind. But even greater was their surprise and confusion, when they returned to the tent and found Alenvar gone, with no trace or sign showing them the path he had taken, and it was a long time, ere they heard of him again.
Long wandered Alenvar in darkness. He ate when he felt hungry and slept when he was tired, but his mind was clouded with pain and anger and a steadily increasing hatred of Men and their evil doings. Although he went where chance might take him in this pathless country, guided only by Andomiel‘s spirit, he travelled mostly southwards and was not far from Elgilad when he finally reached the Elenstroem. And there, the merry tinkling of the water as it ran with much haste along its stony bed, chased his dark thoughts away, and for the first time since Andomiels death did he come to senses. And there at the waterside, against all Elvish traditions, he swore an oath to free his people from the menace of Men.
With this intent he came to the High City and people looked at him with wonder, for a fire was gleaming in his eyes, and although his clothes were ragged and hung in pieces from his dirty skin, his steps were firm and steady, and like a king he walked the streets, not like the beggar he seemed to be. Straight to the Council he went and great was the surprise among the Wise. It was not his appearance which drew their attention, for they could see deeper, but the shadow in his heart and the fierceness in his eyes. ‘We had news that Alenvar, son of Menagond, is lost’, Marglir spoke, ‘and alas! now that I see you before me, I must confess tis true indeed.’ But Alenvar replied ‘Then your need has to be truly great, if the lost return to save you’, and there they fell silent while he spoke long of battle and war. Of the human nature he told them, for much he had learned about their ways and thoughts on his journeys through their realms. And of the errors of the Wise whenever dealing with Men, he accused them. Men would never renounce a thing they could easily take, and to them, the Elvish land seemed such a thing. ‘And once their soldiers come to plunder and pillage, many of our folk will perish on the battlefield and even more will be slain in their homes or taken to slavery. But bring the war to them and they might realize that we are not an easy prey at all!’ Thus spoke Alenvar.
There Marglir said: ‘Can’t you see that violence is not the way to deal with Men? Or did your resistance prevent Andomiel from her fate?’ and so Alenvar learned how great a loss he really suffered and this only added to his obsession. And Marglir saw that he himself had lead up to Alenvars fall, and he was sad and full of compassion; and he finally said: ‘To send our folk to war lies beyond the Councils authority, but if this is your wish, you may bring forth your request and lead those willing to follow you against Men.’ But deep within his heart he hoped that others would see the errors in Alenvars way and bring him back to senses.
But Marglir did not know how much Telimae had taught her son, and when Alenvar spoke before his people, he recounted many tales of old, where Elves had striven for peace, but the chieftains of Men never kept their oaths for long, and peacefulness always turned out disadvantageous. Andomiels spirit gave him the strength to reach into the hearts of those who listened to his words and so many amongst the crowd were willing to accompany him. But some said: ‘Who are you, to speak against the Council?’ and there Isgil, who happened to be in Elgilad at that time, stood up and told of Alenvars great deeds in the northern mark, and so the remaining doubts were cast aside and all who were skilled in the use of weapons followed Alenvar out of their free will; and after that, Isgil was made second in command. But those who could not follow Alenvar into battle spread the news of his plans. And so, many more came to his aid and when he left he led a host of 1000 fighters, armed with bows and spears. But some carried swords of steel and were clad in dwarvish mail, and those were led by Isgil.
On secret and hidden paths they came into the north and no message of their intention came to human ears. Now Elvish scouts told Alenvar of many armed Men gathering near Farandale, a human city not far from Aerengist, where the Foroduin was calm and shallow and a ford crossed the river. And during a dark and moonless night Alenvar led his men across the river and with the first light of dawn they came unseen to Farandale and there more warriors where encamped than Elves were following Alenvar; but surprise was on his side and none of those Men ever left the battlefield again, and only few Elves fell. And when the people of Farandale saw what happened, they fled in terror and Alenvar laid fire to their homes. There Isgil said: ‘Is it not enough that we slay their kindred and put fear into their hearts? You are the man no longer that won kind Andomiels love.’ But Alenvar in his anger swore at him and after that their friendship grew cold.
Soon the chieftains of Men learned of the Elvish battalion and the defeat of their army at Farandale and they were more watchful in their own lands. But Alenvar was familiar with the country from his previous wanderings and little news of his movements reached the warlords. For now, they had to give him free hand and many more settlements shared their fate with Farandale. There was little fighting though, since only few could withstand the sight of Alenvar and his fellow Elves approaching, with stern faces and in absolute silence. But what first appeared to be easily won victories turned out perilous for Alenvar.
By driving the people away instead of killing them, and by laying waste to their homes, so they had nothing to return to, many refugees went further north, where it was easy for the warlords to gather willing soldiers for another, even larger army. Now Isgil, fearing that Alenvar was no longer guided by the aim to aid his people, but had given way to his own, dark obsession, made a final approach to soothe his friend: ‘Have you not fulfilled your oath’ he asked. ‘If there are Men left that have not learned to respect our kind, you will never teach them. Retreat now and the lesson will be well remembered, but let them defeat you and all your efforts will come to nothing.’ But in his pride, and because his hatred of everything concerning Men was now unbound, Alenvar despised the warning and so Marglirs prediction began to fulfill itself. For Isgil, driven by some strange, inner voice, began to speak in secrecy against his former friend, and many were willing to listen, and they watched Alenvars mood with disquiet and no longer trusted into his leadership. So far, they had suffered few losses and caused much damage, but every new day put them into greater danger and most of them had already enough of their destructive business and of the harsh and desolate land.
Then accounts of another army of Men marching southwards reached them, and they sat together to make plans. Isgil and many of his secret followers shared the opinion that the warlords were not interested in battle if not confronted and that it would be best to retreat over the Foroduin. Alenvar however was not so faithful. He knew the hearts of Men best, and to him it was obvious that they would seek vengeance and such he told them, and also where the best location for an ambush was in this country. But, already spoilt by Isgil, weary of further battles and anticipating the return, most Elves overheard the truth in Alenvars words and few took his doubts serious. Instead they made his well known temper responsible for the intention to launch another attack and in the end, Alenvar had to give in to them.
So they returned, save a few trusted kinsmen that were left behind by Alenvar to watch the warlords’ doings. There was much joy among the Elves as they crossed the Foroduin and came into their own country again, and there they rested and all dark thoughts and sorrow fell from them. Only Alenvar found no peace, for he feared that Men would not be so merciful once they brought the war to the Elvish realm. When finally messengers arrived, with news of the nearing enemy, he was fully consumed by his obsessions, and he could not bear the thought of Men setting their foot on Elvish land. And when his fellows, alarmed by the unexpected development, and still remembering Alenvars words about the human thirst for revenge, asked him what to do, he decided against all common sense to hold the ford of Aerengist against the foe. He and his fighters would guard the entrance to the ford, but Isgil should remain hidden to attack the enemy from behind. This time, Isgil did not argue, for he was eyed with suspicion now, but deep inside his heart he was worried and fear grew in him. So they parted, and while Isgil vanished into the nearby hills, Alenvar took position at the riverbank to await the assault.
It came after dawn, when mist that had risen from the Foroduin still hovered over the valley and clouded the opponents’ sight. But Isgil, out of his elevated position, could see how numerous the enemy was: row upon row filled the valley from one end to the other, and there all courage left him and, sure death in his eyes, he took his men and fled and it was much later ere he found forgiveness. Only one of his warriors, Thalin by name, withstood Isgils order and went to his peoples aid, and a few of his kindred went with him. When they came near the ford, the battle was already against Alenvar, and only with much effort and under great losses he could hold back the enemy. Now they made haste and fought their way to Alenvars banner, and little harm they suffered for their armour was strong and of high craftsmanship. So they met in the midst of battle, and as Thalin told of Isgils treachery, sadness came upon Alenvar and the darkness fell of him at last and he saw that the battle was lost. There he ordered retreat, but he and Thalin and those with him remained to hold back the hordes of Men. Suddenly the first sunbeams broke through the mist, making water and dewdrops in the grass gleam in all the rainow’s colors, and within the circle of light stood Alenvar with his companions, and such an impressive sight they were, that the attack came to a halt. So many of the Elves would escape across the river and into the forest before the humans recovered from their frozen awe and threw themselves at the remaining defenders. And in the end, only Alenvar stood, and many more he slew before his death and when the warlords finally came into the realm of Elves, many of their fighters lay dead at the ford of Aerengist and only little mischief they caused before they were scattered and driven back.
So ended the greatest of Elvish warriors of this age, but from then on many Elves learned the art of warfare and although they never became a warlike folk, they could defend themselves much better against any assaults and this they owe to Alenvar.