March or April, III 1982
Stonehill, in the former Arthedain
My Dearest Nyssa –
I do not know if you’ve been receiving my last letters, the Gondorian army officers with whom I dispatch them assure me that their couriers never fail, but the sea is perilous this season, and Gondor so far off.
Once again, I’ll recount a bit of my voyage for you. Though I know you counseled me not to follow Maester Brand into the wild north (you called Arthedain “the land of courtly savages, uneducated and rough, nearly as uncouth as the Angmarians”…) I must say that the voyage has been invigorating. I trust I shall catch up with Maester Brand within a month or so; then I hope to join him and help him as he compiles his histories of this strange northern folk. I had recently learned from a southbound traveler (a travelling agent of a dyer from Belfalas), that a man bearing resemblance to the Maester was seen in Stonehill during the week of the last full moon.
In case my last letter did not reach you, you should know that I disembarked at Mistalondë, on the Greyflood River (which the locals would call “Gwathlô”), and I briefly flirted with the idea of travelling overland toward Lindon. But alas, I have learned that the gates are somedays closed to unknown voyagers, and without a guide or the gold to purchase one, I may not be admitted to the Grey Havens. It appears many of the fairer race are seeking a walled solitude, in order to contemplate the future of this land after the great and terrible defeat of Angmar.
I could find no overland guide to Stonehill (which lies on the shores of Baranduin), and so was forced to take another boat upriver to Tharbad (the sea-sickness was less punishing on the river, but I am still no mariner). The former storied glory of Tharbad is hard to imagine when you see it now. You may not have received my letter from Tharbad, in which I spoke at great length about the mustering and exfiltration of Gondorian troops (it seems never-ending these 7 years past, they say)… but I’ll not go into it again.
Suffice it to say, I did not meet a single local resident in that town; all seemed to be Gondorian army engineers concerned with the logistics of an eventual and complete withdrawal of our King’s forces from the North. The Greyflood appears filthy: it is no more than silt for miles downstream from Tharbad, roiled by the deep draft galleys and troop transports that come and go unceasingly. The dismantling of Angmar’s fortifications is largely complete, I’ve learned. And while some work is done in limited capacities by Gondor, the soldiers have no interest in truly rebuilding the ruined North… and why would they? Apparently the Northerners will be left to fend for themselves and rebuild what they may.
At Tharbad I was able to join a supply train returning to Thalion, on the southern edge of what was truly the former Arthedain… the two week journey really impressed and surprised me by how depopulated the territory appears, and from time to time I could sense the great expanse of the wild North stretching out ahead and above me, like a tangible sense of solitude—or rather true and utter loneliness. There are buildings (mostly ruins) aplenty throughout the countryside, but people are so scarce I wonder if the villages were ever real. Apart from the occasional Shepherd, or military unit, we came across no souls until Stonehill.
Now of course, I’ve travelled the road to Stonehill… but alas, I have found that my mentor has already departed. The last man who saw him said he was travelling north – but nothing more specific. And so, I have a choice, to go upriver on the Baranduin (I heard a man call it the “Brandywine” this morning, which I found charming), or take the road. For now, I’ll likely take the road North through a small tucked away vale I keep hearing tell of, known as the “Shire Grant”. People say it is inhabited by miniature elves, but I’m sure that must be a myth. I figure that if Msr. Brand is on foot, I’ll have a better chance of asking after him; and if he is on the river, I may never catch him anyway… besides, one more water voyage might kill me.
Now I’m off. I’ll write when next I can. Give my love to Lady Corthû and her children.
Your faithful servant,