A journey through the Merrill Valley
Part 2: Welcome to Rivendell
In the thirty-three centuries since Elrond led the survivors of Eregion here the hidden realm of Rivendell has become the subject of many tales, told wherever Men of faith comfort themselves in troubled times. Yet the true story of Rivendell is stranger than any of the legends of Men.
Of old the Naugrim came out of the north to the broad plain upon the mountains' western knees. There they met an aged Elf who named the place Dor Lindiriel, Land of She-Who-Sings.
He claimed it unto his own people and bade them boldly to depart. A dread power, so he told, lay hidden beneath the cloven plain, a power that had taught him the fates of Elves and Men and would protect the high road into the mountains for all of honest heart. Such was the strange Elf's authority that the Dwarves bowed low and departed.
In time the story came to Celebrimbor of Eregion and Gil-galad the High King. Lore-masters they sent forth seeking the truth of the tale and with them went Elrond Half-elven. For above all else he thirsted for lore concerning the Eldar and the Atani, whose brother Elros elected the way of mortal Men. But Elrond is counted amongst the Eldar.
The aged Elf was not found but wandering alone Elrond came upon a silver stream that tumbled into an abyss. And in the thunder of the waters below it seemed to him that he heard singing.
Long after, Elrond led the survivors of Eregion from the wreck of Ost-in-Edhel north beside the great river, pursued hard by Sauron's yelping hordes. Overtaken below the Bruinen Ford they turned with little hope beyond making the Enemy pay dearly for their lives.
Then amongst them appeared an unknown Elf and all were amazed, for he seemed aged and weary beyond years. The stranger named himself Ioron, the Old One, and spoke with Elrond, offering aid and charging to him guardianship of the valley beyond and the awesome power it contained. Elrond took his people to higher ground and with Ioron invoked the power of the land unto their aid.
image by the author
... those that fled were struck with dread magics that rose like vapours from the ground
Then the waters of the river arose and fell upon their pursuers and those that fled were struck with dread magics that rose like vapours from the ground about them. As the waves subsided Elrond led his host into the vale beyond. None following marked the spot wherein they passed nor did one escape to reveal to Sauron the secret of Dor-in-Imlaid, Land of the Riven Valleys.
Three thousand years on, Imladris is a place of wonder, contrast and contradictions. After the fall of Eregion it was established as the prime Eldar stronghold and haven west of the mountains. Noldo forces out of Imladris took part in the expulsion of Sauron from Eriador and marched in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
Now Elrond actively aids the Men of Arthedain and Cardolan against the dread lord of Carn Dum and his sons lead patrols all across the wide lands, both east and west of the Towers of Mist. Yet whilst Rivendell boasts the flower of those Noldo who remain east of the Sea their numbers were never great and have decreased down the years.
Alone they are too few to overthrow the power of Angmar. Even with the aid of the Dúnedain of the north Elrond would be hard pressed to defend the valley against an all-out assault, should its precise location ever become known to the Enemy.
Yet - so the old tales tell - there is power here that if harnessed could sweep Angmar from his throne, flush the high passes free of the hated Orcs and dispel the Shadow growing in the east.
Elrond was charged by Gil-galad to investigate and exploit the magical forces which - with the aid of Ioron, the mysterious 'aged one' - he invoked below the Ford. Beside Elrond, Rivendell is home to some of the greatest Eldarin mages remaining east of the Sea - and the lady Celebrian.
The energy of Water flows in the river and waterfalls and the ceaseless cycle of rains and mist
Together, they explore, channel and direct the magical energies flowing into and within the valley to its defence. The energy of Water flows in the river and waterfalls and the ceaseless cycle of rains and mist. This is the element governed by the Elven ring Nenya, held in secret by Celebrian's mother Galadriel of Lórien and the Mistress of Imladris is well versed in the mysteries of Ulmo's realm.
She works to balance the varied energies flowing into and within the valley, which with the waters of the river are gathered into Nen Andon, the Long Lake. Celebrian also maintains the magical enchantments with which the woods of Rivendell are mazed.
Bearer of Vilya the sapphire ring of Air, Master Elrond himself manipulates Rivendell's climate and can so enchant the atmosphere that the settlement is all but invisible to casual or unfriendly eyes. His is the lore which holds the ward-stones alert along the Rhumbad and can cause Nen Andon to arise and fall upon the Ford.
The Mirnethryn, Noldo Brotherhood of the Jewel-healers, are wise in all the properties of stone and gem. They have long studied the walls of the cleft valley in which the story of Ages may be read and by their arts they divine the life-pulse of the earth throughout the entire region.
Angmar is a cold ache in the roots of the mountains to the north and this they attempt to heal - but they have also detected something far to the south, moving beneath the roots of Caradhras.
With Celebrian the Mirnethryn study the crystal Chamber of Singing Lights, focus of the valley's power and the legendary site of the Song of Lindiriel. Year on year Celebrian attempts to sing into Being the Great Music which is entrapped in the light and the crystal and the falling waters; thus far in vain.
Some few claim the attempt itself is folly, for if the Music ever were evoked there might be no containing the energies that were released. Yet still Celebrian works in the Chamber alone, or with Arwen her daughter seeks the keys to unlock the secret of Lindiriel's Song.
The element of Earth is the realm of Yavanna, Giver of Gifts and the valley is as much a haven for the flora and fauna of the region as it is for the folk of Elrond's house. The seclusion, the freedom from human predation and the moderated climate combine to make this one of the richest natural habitats - or, rather, collection of habitats - you will find anywhere.
These are husbanded by the Gwaith-i-Tûn Galadhad, People of the Lodge of Trees, an Order of mostly Sylvan Elves established two hundred years ago by the Wizard Radagast to protect the living things of Arda from the destruction being wrought by Angmar in the north and the Shadow growing in the east.
But Rivendell is most - and rightly - renowned as a house of lore, counsel and healing
But Rivendell is most - and rightly - renowned as a house of lore, counsel and healing. Elves, Istari, Men, Dwarves and Halflings; each in their turn make the journey here at need to consult with the Master, ask some boon or debate the future of the Free Peoples and the defeat of the servants of the Enemy.
The gardens of Vilyadhol, Elrond's chief herbalist, contain every curative and magical plant known and there are several here - Master Elrond above all - wise in various of the healing arts.
The Mirnethryn in particular use crystals and gemstones to diagnose and heal a variety of ills. In past years many of the folk of Eriador - high born and commoner alike - have been succoured from the dread effects of the southern plague: some within Rivendell itself, though mostly Elrond will send a healer to provide assistance where it is most needed, preserving the secret location of his house.
The Noldo of Imladris include several formerly of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain of Eregion, who with Celebrimbor their lord wrought the lesser and the greater Rings of Power, before they were betrayed. As bearer of Vilya Master Elrond is well aware both of the Rings' power and vulnerability. All that is and has been wrought by the Three will fall should ever the One Ring return to Sauron's hand. Should the One Ring be destroyed, maybe the Three would be free again - or perhaps their power would fade, as some suspect. But if the One were found by the enemies of the Enemy ...
Elrond has made special study of all lore concerning the unwinding of the fates of Elves and Men. This lore is of particular relevance and poignancy to the Master for the different paths laid before the Twin Kindreds have been a source of separation, uncertainty and loss. The Choice of the Half-elven sundered Elrond from his brother Elros, who chose the Gift of Eru and became as mortal Man.
The strange tale of Lindiriel and Ioron has driven Elrond down the centuries to plumb the secrets of the Crystal Hall, in which, it is said, something of the future of Arda and the sundered fates of Elves and Men may be glimpsed.
But lore and insight bring their own pain. The search for the Song of Lindiriel has wearied Celebrian, though few but Elrond would notice the subtle change, and the Mistress - first for love of her lord but also for her own reasons - will not cease the Singing.