Chapter Five is all about Balfrith's training under the Elefdar. He ages five years, and gains a bit of maturity, in the process. He learns some things that he never thought he would, some things that he would have rather not learned, and some things that he had always wondered about. It's basically a transition period for Balfrith, a time of growing up and learning more about the world than he otherwise would have, had he remained at home.
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Balfrith sat on a sward on the lower slopes of Fanyamar, in a garden of sorts. A group of about ten young Elefdar males and females sat in a circle with him, listening to their history teacher tell the lore of the coming of darkness into Aerde, and the Long War. Their teacher walked about in the midst of the circle, catching their eyes with his own when he turned to face them. He had a lively face, energetic, and he was clearly passionate about this topic, as he told the story with an unexpected but stirring vigor. Balfrith was just glad that he spoke the common tongue of Men, as he’d had some difficult lessons with other teachers who only spoke their native language.
“Our people dwelt here in Fanyamar, and elsewhere in the West, for long years before the Darkness came - or at least, before we encountered it. No one knows whence came the goblins, trolls, and their ilk, for we had no lore or knowledge of them before our first meeting. They came from the East, driven as by a wind at their backs, or as if they fled from an even greater threat than they posed to us. Perhaps it was the Men of those lands, who were known to be fierce and war-like, who brooked no trespass into their territories. Perhaps it was simple drought or famine that drove them into the West. Whatever the case, they came as marauders and thieves, cutting and burning our forests, killing the trees and animals, and stealing whatever and whenever they could. Our brethren in Illumïel drove them out of their forests, and sent messages to those of us in the further West, warning of their coming. The goblins weren’t a great danger to us, but they were a threat to our work, and to the animals and trees under our care. They could harm the Elefdar as well, for even then they were adept with the forging of primitive iron weapons, and were not afraid to use them against us. We learned quickly to kill them on sight when possible, or to lead them into traps and ambushes when our numbers were too small for a direct confrontation.
“Thus began the Long War, for we have ever been at enmity with all goblin-kind and troll-kind, and I do not believe that will ever change unless the goblins and trolls themselves are removed from this middle-earth and taken back to the lower world, whence they came.
“In the third Aeon, the goblins and trolls of the Troll-home mountains banded together under a daemon prince, Sharrapu the Burner. It was never known to us whether they had summoned him to their aid, or if he had somehow opened a gate to enter our world, but come he did, and once here, he commanded their obedience and called them together to begin a great assault upon our combined peoples.” Here, he looked at Balfrith. “The Elefdar were friends of Men in those days, and for long thereafter, and together we fought the daemon prince and his armies, in battlefields scattered across the lands from the Ironpike Mountains in the east, all the way to the western shores of modern Sildara in the West. The invaders never came across the Sea to our home in Illithëon, but we sent warriors there to fight on our behalf.
“Our war-leader was the lord Felaranthir’s own father, Cullorínen, already a powerful lord in those days. On his brow rested the red-gold crown, and at his side he wore the legendary blade Cammethor. With that sword he was never defeated, and he even fought toe to toe with Sharrapu. In that battle he was wounded near to death, but he struck down and banished the daemon prince from this world, never to be seen again, and the armies of goblins and trolls fled in a panic at the defeat of their master.
“Lord Felaranthir was his father’s squire in the great war, and earned his own renown for acts of bravery too numerous to list.”
That got Balfrith’s attention. He interrupted, asking “Lord Felaranthir fought in the great war of the third Aeon? But how long ago was that?”
Their teacher responded with a question of his own, “What Aeon are we in now?”
Balfrith said, “Oh, that’s easy - this is the fifth Aeon.”
Balfrith was stumped for a moment, until he remembered and said, “An Aeon is one thousand years, so that would mean Felaranthir is… over two thousand years old?”
“Indeed, master Balfrith. But I wouldn’t mention it in front of the lord, or in mixed company. It’s not something we Elefdar usually talk about.”
“But why not? Surely he would have wisdom beyond a Man’s imagining, with all those years behind him?”
Now the teacher turned and glared at him, hands on hips, and responded testily, “Oh you think so, do you? Perhaps he does, indeed. And yet, to me he is still young, in the prime of his strength. And to a few in Fanyamar, I am yet a young man, for I wasn’t even born when my people left our birth-place and ventured east, to this little island, and thence to the lands further east. There are some still among us, Balfrith, who came of age on that island, who were among the first to take up our great Work in this middle-earth, and who have not faltered over all these long years. Age means little when the years grow as long as we have seen, master Balfrith. And yet, I find that somehow I have little patience for the foolishness of youth. Therefore put an end to these questions. Take it up with lord Felaranthir, if you wish, though I would advise against it.”
The lesson continued, but Balfrith found his mind wandering, wondering what it would be like to live for such a long time. Wouldn’t it get boring after a while?