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The Shadow Queen

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Not much remains known of the harrowing journey of Lúthien Tinúviel except in songs which praise her heroic deeds, with Huan at her side and Beren ever before. Much is made of her beauty and the power of her song, as if these were things that marked her unusual. Less is made of the magic she wields, a power that dances from her fingertips and lines her dark cloak, that dulls the senses of any but her who touch it, a power that makes her voice enough to be heard through stone and earth far below the surface of the world.

Nothing is said of that which she endured, as a prisoner herself and in the darkness of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, what darkness thereby took root in her and gave her gifts beyond those which are sung of even today. The songs do not mention how she claimed the knife Angrist for her own, and wore it even as she wielded weapons far more fearsome, nor do they recall the fates of those freed in her name, even if they did not wish it.

The Elves of the time wished for hope and they crafted it from Lúthien's human soul, when she no longer lived to remind them of the shadow that gave her light its brilliance.

 

It was said of Lúthien that the hound Huan deserted his master and henceforth served her out of love; this great love that led him to many dangers and even to his doom fell upon him as he met her, before her great deeds had come to pass. It is not, therefore, unlikely that any of those who served in Tol-in-Gaurhoth would not have fallen prey in a similar way, for Lúthien appeared to Huan as a shadow, and to us, she appeared as the sun. She was the light that appears unlooked-for between winter storm clouds, pale and harsh and unforgiving, and which left a chill in its wake as it passed from view. She was the first thing many of us saw as the stone walls fell, as she stood on the bridge, her arms raised and her hair streaming behind her as if she wielded the wind itself. She was the only clear thing in a shadow world, where we were as wraiths in thrall, suddenly free but without purpose.

I pledged myself to her before she saw me, and to this day I do not rue my choice.

 

She walked among us, like a conquering queen surveying her new lands, a likeness not too far from the truth, though she never laid claim to the waste she left behind. The place that had been our home for years uncounted remained in disarray and ruin, marked only by the fair green of death until the breaking of the world, when it fell below the sea with even the graves of the fallen heroes of that time, so that all reminders of that time were lost such that we would not know the way to return to the light, not without her to guide us. And guide us she did, though all knew that her mind was set on one much further in. The ones we had watched over and cared for fled towards her, the space in the shadow, and found their way out from under our gaze; where they went henceforth I do not know, for I was not one of those who left with them, afeared that our Lord would return and punish us for our weakness. Many were not grateful to be freed, for we did not know where we would go, or who would accept us; we had found our way here because we were not accepted outside, by Elves or Men, or even the among the pure creatures of Yavanna's making. We huddled in small groups, watching the edge of the darkness creep closer as our Lord's influence faded, his enchantments breaking. Some had been in thrall for so long that they did not know their minds and they ran, seeking a new darkness in which to hide. They were the fire monsters and the witches, the vampires and the shifters, those whose fëar had been twisted and no longer remembered who they once were, or who had evil in them from the beginning, crafted by discord and dissonance in the making of this impure world. I longed to feel the sunlight as I had in my youth, before I crossed the Sea for adventure and found only war, and so I stayed, though it was not a conscious choice. As she walked close, with Huan at her side, it became harder to breathe and my body felt as if the very air was weighing on me, forcing me to my knees to bow before her.

She stopped in front of me, and I raised my face to the light.

 

She was as beauteous as the stories say, that much is truth. They say she wove her black cloak from her own hair as she lived in a captivity forced on her by her own father, but in that place it glittered as if she had taken the stars and stitched them in as she wove, and it near blinded me. Her eyes were as grey as the twilight, but they seemed to be lit from the same blue as her dress, torn and stained though it was. She looked at me and it was as if she looked into my heart, and, out of shame, I turned my head away.

She did not speak, but she lowered herself to reach out to me, and with her touch it was as if all impurities fell away and no longer mattered, yet it felt like I was shattering, falling apart as if I was made from the same stones as the fortress that lay at our feet. It was as if I had never left Valinor, and still I knew all that had happened and would yet come to pass, as if Varda Elentári guided her hand; I did not doubt it, for the stars began to reach through the mist and for one moment blazed with the intensity of daylight.

"You will need this, milady, in the days to come," I said, and I took the cloak from my back. "It will hide you from those who mean you harm." She smiled, and the moment seemed to stretch, as if the fabric of time was being crafted around this meeting. I held my cloak up to her and she lifted it from my hands.

"You have my gratitude, Thuringwethil," she said, and she stepped away, back to Huan, back to the shadow.

 

In her life, I never saw her again, though I tried to follow her; she went further in, where the shadows became darkness, and it seemed to me as if it would dishonour her to reject her gift to me, more than I could serve her. But I could not bear to be without her at all, and when her great deeds were finished, I lived in the shadows of Tol Galen, protecting her from all who would enter until her doom came upon her at last, and when it was time, it was I who guided Dior from that green land, and I who buried her and sang the lament at her grave.