Chapter 1: Prologue | Of Sweet Reminiscence
Before me, the candle was flickering, casting shadows like phantoms upon the walls. There were ninety-three names upon the list, ninety-three candles I would have lit if I had them. Quietly I recited them, the words a mere susurration of reminiscence, like an incantation, as if it could bestow some other fate upon me. The pane of the window was bestrewn in frost, the terrain outside veiled in shadow, and creeping vines climbed the walls all about the chamber. A bird flittered amongst the trees, sprinkling a few leaves upon the ground, then faded away.
Then I finished whispering the names upon my lips, and the candle’s light guttered then sputtered out. No tears would come to my eyes, however innumerable my sorrows were; after all, they were only memory now, and I had said farewell long ago. But it almost mattered not, for the flame was dead and encased with ruin, the ghost of wrath littered about it like the scatter of stars in the night sky.
All that was before me now was the misty candle smoke drifting in the still air, like a spectre awaiting to be at ease in vast, lonely halls. My smile was grim and mirthless, and I watched the smoke until it strayed away and vanished.
—594 years before—
I was born late in the year of 4999 upon the precipice of a wide, yawning sea. The terminology was not known to me then, but I had been begotten a bastard child, and I lived in a small cottage with my mother in isolation of all others. In truth I remember little of the beginning of my days, though sometimes I still dream of the calm, lapping waves upon the pebbled strand and the soft lights that shone from across the sea, like lanterns far away, out of reach. It was the time that they called the Years of the Trees, the time they believed for the world to have been young and untainted by malevolence, although secretly it was always there, always waiting for a rift to plant their dark seeds in, always ready to fester evil in the hearts of people.
My mother was a kind elleth, and now as I think of it, her face always looked wan and sad as if she held some concealed memory that she dared not speak of nor recall. I can remember the hue of her eyes; they were brown as burnt umber, and they held a certain depth to them. She would never speak of my father, or where he went, but sometimes she would reminisce of her old life in a place called Eldamar. It was a place far away from our little home, where she once had people she could trust. But now I have you, she would say, and she would smile like tomorrow would never come.
At times she would go to a place she called the village, which was many leagues away (for we lived in Lammoth, which was to the north of most things) to trade her handwoven tapestries for supplies when we exhausted them. I used to go with her, until some of the others began to shout and shoot scornful looks at her when she tried to trade with them. She would usher me out as she finished her business with them, so I hardly ever knew what it was all about, and the other time there was a boy from the village that attempted to seize me—after that I never went back again.
I was seven the night she didn’t come home. It was a few days after the appointed day of her return to our little cottage, and I remember settling to sleep in the lonely shadows of night, awaiting her return in disquiet. When I awoke, expecting to see the lights of Telperion and Laurelin, there was nothing, as there had been nothing for about a year or so, but I was still alone.
After slipping into my raiment, I wandered outside then down the path to the pebbled shore, feeling the crisp coldness of the water upon my skin as they lapped around my feet, as if dancing. For a while I stood there, then seated myself in a bed of grass, dangling my feet in the water. When I was smaller, my mother would tell me about the beauty of the light of Telperion and Laurelin, and sometimes I would squint into the horizon, as if I could see them from across the sea. I was so enamoured by her descriptions of them that I composed a song of my own, but barely do I remember the words now.
Sensing something amiss, I stood from my lounge, and looking about, beheld the smoke of a fire arising from the distance, in the direction of the village. Ears twitching in attempt to discern more of what was happening, I ran back up the hill to my mother’s cottage only to find the plundering feet and shouting that was steadily growing closer with my every breath. My breath caught in my throat as I darted into the house, not knowing where else to go, and my feet carried me up, up the stairs until I reached the attic. With shaking fingers, I locked the door and barred it as best I could, then pulled back and waited.
But as the noises grew louder and the stairs creaked under the pounding feet of the invaders, my fear waxed wildly, and seizing a crumbling spear from a dusty corner, I hurled myself out of the window and onto the roof. The wind whipped my hair into my face like a tempest as I beheld the terrible sight; orcs were pounding through the twisting paths in which I knew so well, ravaging the beauty of my home. For a moment I stood rooted to the ground in horror, then tightened my grip on the spear.
In the attic there were hisses and crashes. My eyes searched around the roof, for I knew if I stayed, they surely would find me here, but I had no time, for shards of glass flew out of the window. With nothing else to do, I launched myself off the roof, stabbing my spear into the shoulder of a fleeing orc, the weapon piercing its skin from the base of its shoulder straight down its arm, the point sticking out of its hand.
I would never forget the orc’s roar of agony that came bursting into existence; it was the first time I had experienced such brutality. I tumbled off the creature, leaving the spear in its arm, and staggered away, past the falling shadows around me. My arms throbbed from the impact of the fall, yet I barely noticed it as I ran and knew nothing but to run, to flee away, away. . .
I don’t know how long I hid the dark shades of the trees, but it was then that a new time of my life began, for Finno found me hiding there and brought me back to the Noldor’s camp in Hísilómë. I indeed must had been an odd sight—a little elf-child hiding in the bushes of a dark forest after a bloody battle; it was, in fact, the time following the Battle of Lammoth, which had taken place in the first year of what had become known as the First Age. He was an odd sight to me also, for I had never before seen another Noldo besides my mother and I, and instead of mistrusting him he became a brother to me, especially in the coming years of my life.
“I’m Findekáno,” he said slowly and softly, as if afraid of frightening me. “What is your name?”
“Híthriel,” I told him, using the Sindarin name my mother had given to me for the others. My Quenya name was a secret for myself.
He was confused by the name, for the roots of that name were not of anything in Quenya that he was familiar with, but we had no time to falter; peril still lurked in the shadowed trees around us, and so he extended a hand. “Come, we must go quickly.”
I looked at the hand for a moment, unsure of what I should choose, yet I had nowhere to go, no one to trust. So I took it and we ran.
When we reached the camp, a golden-haired ellon greeted us hastily and spoke quietly in the High Eldarin speech to Finno. I was able to catch some of the hushed words; something about his little brother. . .to go quick, quickly, and I watched in apprehension as his countenance paled and a cold sweat formed upon his brow.
“Take care of her until my return,” he said and hastened away.
The ellon’s name was Laurefindil; he was a kind part Noldo (and part Vanya) and reminded me of my mother in a way as I now find. At the time he looked to be as naive and young as my mother had once been, a child of summer untainted by the fruits of winter, and he seemed to be surprised when he found that I could indeed speak Quenya as he tried to exchange quiet words of reassurance with me, yet for a long time I never said a word; when I did the voice was so faint he had to strain to hear. The memories of the all that had just occurred—the destruction of my home, the spear I had stabbed through the orc—was still fresh and haunting in my mind.
“Is your arm all right?” Laurefindil asked, for I was holding onto my forearm protectively.
“It hurts a little,” I admitted, and let him examine the arm. Then I was young and ingenuous, and scarcely mistrusted others.
“It looks like the bone is fractured,” he told me. “I need to bind it in order for it to heal.” He was holding back on asking what I had one to receive this hurt, and would most likely tarry his questions until morning for Finno.
I nodded subtly and remained unmoving as he bound the arm. He spoke to me often, although I only listened, and told me why Finno had to leave; it was because Arakáno, his youngest brother, had been killed in the Battle of Lammoth. I wanted to say that I was sorry, and I knew how he felt, yet I did not know how to put them into words the way it was supposed to be. So I said nothing, and gazed up at the pale stars in the sky, hoping they would not vanish like my mother had done.
The first rising of Rána, the Wanderer, came that night, as the Noldor called it, but you would know it to be the Moon. Rána was devised from one of the last dying flowers of Telperion from the Darkening of Valinor, carried by Tilion, a Maia; and through the power of Nienna and Yavanna, Vása, which you know to be the Sun, was made from Laurelin, which produced a single fiery fruit ere it died. It was with the rising of Rána that marked the beginning of the First Age of Arda, for the Trees were dead and a new epoch must begin.
That night I settled into a restless, troubled sleep, and many times awakened screaming from the haunting memories.
That was one of the first remembrances I can recall from my younger days. In time, I was received into the House of Ñolofinwë as a daughter of their own, and Finno became my closest friend and brother. Then I only knew little of the sudden appearance of a large host of Noldor in Endor, across the sea from Eldamar where they dwelt, but in due course I learned of all that had occurred—the Darkening, the Flight of the Noldor, and the Hiding of Valinor.
There was something peculiar about the way I aged—I grew at a strangely swift rate for an Elda. For those in the latter days like you, it may be said that the Eldar grow at the pace of trees, quite slow for you, I daresay. Laurefindil seemed to know something about it, but I never knew what he suspected until later.
Then by the time I had turned eleven, I wanted to become the commander of the army of Hísilómë next to Findekáno, yet it was all a silly dream. Although ellith were permitted to pursue such things that were ‘meant for ellyn’, very few ever did so. Thus as I grew older, the dream waned ever more.
In the fifth year of the Sun, Finno left suddenly on an expedition, and when he returned I met my eldest cousin for the first time, yet to me it was not so sudden, for I had sensed his unease and disquiet long before. To you, I would have still been a mere nine-year-old, but only in appearance, for it was told that the Eldar grew in bodily form slower than the Atani, but in mind more swiftly.
His name was Nelyafinwë, the eldest son of Fëanáro, the deviser of the Silmarilli. The only one of Fëanáro’s entire host of Noldor that had stood by at the Burning at Losgar, yet also taken part in the First Kinslaying of Alqualondë. For the past twenty or so years he had, strictly speaking, been the High King of the Noldor after his father’s death, but when an embassy from Morgoth had come feigning defeat, he had been captured and taken to Angband, and had been hung upon the precipice of Thangorodrim by his right hand—until now.
I was fourteen at the time, and vividly remembered the sight of Nelyo draped upon Finno’s shoulder, his countenance so pale and ghastly and the blood leaking so significantly that he seemed a corpse already dead. All eyes that looked on traveled to the stump of his hand even as Thorondor, the First Eagle of Manwë to be seen in Endor, descended from the air; to release the hell-wrought bond from him, Findekáno had to cut off his hand at the wrist, for he could not free the bond upon his wrist, nor sever it, nor draw it from the stone.
Irissë, Findaráto, Turukáno and a few others rushed over to help him but most stayed back. I myself was frozen in shock, having had seen little of these occurrences ere this one, save the casualties in the Battle of the Lammoth, fought when I was a mere seven-year-old. It reminded me of an instance when I was nine, and Finno and I had been waylaid by orcs and nearly captured.
They carried him over to a tent and disappeared into the folds, gone like the scarcest trace of wind. I barely heard the soft chatter that had broken out among the Noldor as I headed slowly over to the tent and waited quietly, wanting to give them the seclusion they needed.
It was a long while before Finno came out, with Turukáno and Irissë behind him.
“Are you all right?” I asked softly, unsure of what to say.
Finno glanced at me, as if just realizing that I had seen all that had just occurred. “I am,” he said at last. “I’m all right. Why don’t you come help me clean up. . .there are some things I would like to tell you.”
I nodded and followed him through the maze of tents. At first we walked in silence, but finally he spoke. “I haven’t told you everything that happened; I haven’t told you much, actually.”
I said nothing.
“The Elda I just brought back—he is my cousin. His name is Nelyafinwë. He is the oldest son of Fëanáro, the creator of the Three Silmarils. The Silmarils were made long before you were born, after the unchaining of Melkor, the most powerful Ainu. They are the great gems crafted of silima, which Fëanáro had devised, and they were named after it, but their greatness has fallen. In the Silmarils is the light of the Two Trees, and Varda, Queen Elbereth, hallowed the jewels so that no evil hands could touch them. Yet the lies of Melkor festered darkness in the heart of Fëanáro, and a greedy love for the Silmarils was kindled. Fëanáro hated his half-brothers, especially my father Ñolofinwë; he was not in favor of his father Finwë—my grandfather—marrying Indis after the death of his mother Míriel. At one instance in a Noldorin council when he marched in with his full armor and held a sword at my father’s neck.
“And that, of course, is strictly prohibited in Valinor and so he was exiled, and lived in Formenos with his father and seven sons, Nelyo being the eldest one. But Fëanáro was permitted to return for the festival in Valmar, although his father stayed behind to guard the Silmarils in their chamber of iron. However there came a great storm out of the west, and it was Melkor and Ungoliant, an evil spirit of a spider-form succumbed to his will. Arriving in Valinor, Ungoliant came to the Two Trees and drained the light from them. With each breath she grew bigger until the Trees died and the world was enveloped in darkness. Then Ungoliant and Melkor escaped into shadow.
“The Valar asked Fëanáro to extract the last light of the Two Trees from his Silmarils, but to do so the jewels would be broken and could not be made again. But even as Fëanáro refused, riders came hestening and told that Melkor had stolen the Silmarils from Formenos and that Finwë was dead. Fëanáro in utter sorrow and rage cast aloft his sword, for he had loved his father more than anything, and naming Melkor Morgoth, the Dark Foe, he swore a terrible oath to retrieve the Silmarils at whatever cost. His seven sons leaped faithfully to his side and sore it alongside him, and now they are forever bound to it.
“I was there on the day of the festival when the oath of Fëanáro was sworn, and I followed my father as he came with Fëanáro and much of the Noldor here to Endor. I was unsure of what I should do at the time; Fëanáro was a very convincing Elda—manipulative, almost. After Finwë’s death he gave a passionate speech, and nearly all the Noldor followed him, fleeing Aman for Endor. Atarinya told me he didn’t want to abandon the people to Fëanor, and that was why we were leaving also. But my mother Anairë would not leave with us. Yet here I am, on the other side of the ocean, far away from Valinor.”
“What happened to Fëanáro?” I asked.
“Oh, he’s dead,” Findekáno said. “His recklessness didn’t last him long.”
“And where are the Silmarils now?”
“Set atop Morgoth’s crown. Although they withered his hands black in pain unbearable, he would never part himself from them.” He sighed. “So Nelyo, when he came to Endor, feigned to treat with Morgoth, but the latter sent a force greater than was agreed. All were slain save Nelyo, who was captured and taken to Angamando. I went to rescue him, but I didn’t think I would come back, I didn’t think I would ever find him, yet I found him, and now he’s back, and I had to. . .I had to cut off his hand at the wrist, I couldn’t release the chain. I don’t—I almost gave up and it’s been more than twenty years since I last saw him. . .”
I knew not of what to say, so I merely continued to scrub the dried blood off his arm, but I felt that I should say something—something useful that would make him feel better, to show him that I cared. With his other arm, he wiped away a fugitive tear, yet he would not let me see his face.
“I’ll go visit him when he gets better,” I said softly. The voice sounded weak and reluctant, but lifting his head Finno smiled.
“Hantanyel,” he murmured, and the word made me feel better more than he did. “You’re the best I could ever have, titta nettë.”
Who could find any rest in this unending tunnel? The torment did not simply end here; the aftermath perhaps was longer and more painful. There was no beginning, no ending to it; even the diaphanous curtains wandering aloft from a light wind breezing in through the flap of the tent had gone unnoticed. I drifted in through the fluttering folds, looking barely any more than a wisp of wind, quite likely, and watched him as I walked in quietly, holding a glass of water, and I carried the glass in a reverent way with one hand holding in place a cloth to the rim. As I approached the table next to the bed, I slipped off the cloth and placed it under the glass.
I slid into the chair beside the table and studied the room. “Findekáno said I could visit you when you were better,” I said in explanation of my presence, noticing how he had gone abruptly tense.
He tilted his head in understanding. “Vandë omentaina.” His voice was hoarse and I lowered my eyes in an almost apprehensive manner.
“They say your name is Nelyo,” I murmured.
Something in his gaze shifted a little. “Indeed.”
“The people talk. I hate it when they do that,” I said. “They doubt what they don’t know—who they don’t know.”
He turned to look at me. “Man esselya ná?” he asked.
I opened my mouth, closed it, then opened it again. “Hithríel, yelya i Ñolofinwë.” The words still sounded odd—sounded wrong after so many years. He wasn’t my father. I was still my mother’s child, and she could not be gone; even now I refused to admit it.
“Yelya i Ñolofinwë?” he repeated in wonder and astonishment.
“I am his. . .foster daughter,” I said slowly, somewhat uncomfortable. Reading his expression, I smiled slightly, suppressing a laugh. “Yes, it means we’re kind of cousins, but not really.” I bit my lip. “Findekáno—he found me in the ruins of a village soon after Lammoth.”
His eyes were filled with something different that it had in a long time. “Lammoth?” he faltered. “How‐how old are you?”
“Fourteen,” I said quietly, and as the dark shadow of revelation dawned upon his face and enveloped him, I lowered my head again. “We’re in the fifth year of the sun. I-I figured you should know.” I inhaled deeply then let it out shakily. “But we should not dwell on what has passed,” I said, letting the hope in my voice extend and ignite a new candle. Reaching into the folds of my coat, I produced a small book and flipped it open. “Finno told me you like to read. This was one of my favorites when I was little.
“‘The Tale of Aelindë,’” I began. “‘It has long been told among—’”
“Nanyë nyérinqua—Hithríel?” he said.
“Yes?” I said, peering out from behind the book.
“Áni apsenë,” he said apologetically. “I was unwell—”
“You still are,” I said, interrupting him. I dragged my chair closer to show him the drawings in the book. “Now listen carefully,” I said, and the fruits of winter began to wither and turn into spring. “‘It has long been told among the Nymphs of Southern Belegaer that there were mystical beings out there that walk on feet and fly on wings. . .’”
And so we passed the morning together. For a fortnight and more I returned to him, reading glorious tales of youth and joy until he was healed, yet the wounded can never completely heal from their hurts, and their scars will remain with them to the end of their days.
One morning before my training began I went to Mae—I had begun to call Nelyo that, for he preferred that name to any of his others; it was the Sindarin form of his name. He had recovered much more by now; he could walk without support nor hindrance. Usually in the mornings I would go to teach him some Sindarin with Finno, but the latter had not come today. I remember when he asked me to translate his ataressë, amilessë, and epessë to Sindarin, and he settled with the name Maedhros, a combination of two of them, not including his ataressë. He did not desire to be a king, nor a ruler.
But now I had a burning question in my mind that I had been reluctant to ask, yet I felt that not knowing had impeded my knowledge of many things. Therefore as I sat down facing Mae, I laced my fingers together and rested my chin on them, voicing my disquiet before I decided against it.
“I always hear people talk about the ‘seven sons’ of Fëanor,” I began. “But I’ve only seen six of you.”
Mae sighed. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard from the gossip.”
“As do I.”
He did not speak for a lengthy pause, and cast his gaze downward to the table.
“Will you not tell me?” I said quietly.
He was still looking down when he spoke. “He was killed in the journey here. You’ve heard of the Oath that my father swore, haven’t you?”
“People have already died for it. After we left Aman, we needed ships to get to Endor, so my father asked the Teleri in Alqualondë for some. They refused, so in the night he began to take the ships by force, and fighting broke out. At first the battle was evenly matched, but then the second host arrived. Thinking that the Teleri had attacked the Noldor, the host joined the fight, and in the end, many of the Teleri were killed and the ships were taken.”
I was taken aback with horror. Eldalië killing each other—it was more terrible than I could imagine. And Mae—
“I have more fault in that than I should have taken,” he said. “Then my father thought that the hosts of Ñolofinwë and Arafinwë, his half-brothers, were unfaithful, and so in the night he slipped away with those he deemed true to him. When he arrived at the other side, Losgar, he burned the ships. I had always known that my father could be somewhat mad but I had just left Findekáno on the other side, and the host had to either return to Valinor in shame or endure the bitter cold of Helcaraxë.
“As the rest of my brothers joined in the burning of the ships, I confronted my father, but he merely laughed. There Pityo, the elder of my twin brothers, died. He was still on one of the ships as it burned.” He sighed. “And that is why I find myself unfit to carry on the role of High King of the Noldor. I am giving the crown to your father, Ñolofinwë.”
The words sounded lilting upon his lips, yet I still found myself thinking, he’s not my father.
Elleth. (S) Female Elda, plural ellith.
Ellon. (S) Male Elda, plural ellyn.
Atarinya. (Q) My father.
Hantanyel. (Q) Thank you.
Titta nettë. (Q) Little sister.
Vandë omentaina. (Q) Pleased to meet you.
Man esselya ná? (Q) What is your name?
Yelya i Ñolofinwë. (Q) Daughter of Ñolofinwë.
Nanyë nyérinqua. (Q) I am sorry.
Áni apsenë. (Q) Forgive me.
*Morgoth's Ring, Part III. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: The Second Phase: Laws and Customs among the Eldar.
**Chapter XIII, "Of the Return of the Noldor," The Quenta Silmarillion.
Chapter 2: Part One | Of the Thorned Rose
Crossings of Teiglin, 51
My ears twitched as the gale swept our scent downwind, and I inclined my head, turning to the direction where my ears strained to hear. “A river flows about a league away. We should reach there by nightfall.”
“You have sharp ears, my Lady,” Narwalótë said. “I can barely pick up the slightest trace.”
“I can scarcely hear it, if truth be told,” I returned, “but I can feel the presence of it.”
“A good gift to have,” the Noldorin ellon acclaimed. Narwalótë tended to talk just for the sake of it, and seldom ever ceased to express what he thought of matters at hand.
“Why I thank you, Lord Narwalótë,” I said, dipping my head slightly. “But we must be going, or it would be dark by the time we reach the river.”
Tingilindë was standing a little ahead of us atop an eminence commanding the terrain of the forest before us, a slender bow slung across his back. Quite the opposite of Narwalótë, he spoke little, only when he had to; I had been told that after his wife had been slain in the crossing of Helcaraxë, he had never been the same.
As I approached him, I felt not the need to repeat what I had told Narwalótë, for he had doubtlessly heard what I had said, even from the distance. Thus with scarcely another word, we continued to head across the terrain, being certain to conceal our presence beneath the shadows of the trees.
My sixtieth begetting day had not long ago passed, and for the first twenty-nine years of my life, I had stayed mostly in Hísilómë, training. When I was around thirty, I accompanied Ñolofinwë, Findekáno, Turukáno, Iríssë, Findaráto, Laurefindil, and the others to the Mereth Aderthad at Eithel Ivrin, and upon meeting so many different cultures was intrigued to learn more, and thus set out to wander the wilds of Beleriand. I went first to Himring to see Mae’s realm and the lands to the east which I had not been to before; although I had always liked music when I had studied it in Hísilómë, Káno brought out my true passion for it when he taught me of the art.
Yet of these I remember little, for now the years past are like faded scrawl upon brittle parchment, and so much had happened since then that I must strain to remember the blissful days. At this time I had returned to Hísilómë to celebrate my begetting day, for I had not returned for my fiftieth one, which marked the midpoint of an Elda’s first cycle. There Findaráto had told me of the dream Ulmo, Vala of the Seas, Dweller of the Deep, had sent him, and now planned to construct a hidden city which is now known as Nargothrond. Thus Narwalótë, Tingilindë, and I were travelling to the prospective stronghold upon the banks of River Narog to assist in the establishment of the city.
“We make camp here,” I said as Tingilindë swung his bow upon the ground so it rested upon the bole of a tree. “Tingilindë, you take the charge of fetching the water, if you will; Narwalótë, prepare the aliment, if you so please. I’ll scout the overlooking terrain.”
“Don’t venture too far,” Narwalótë cautioned, handing Tingilindë his canteen as he reached for it. “It would be best we stay together.”
Don’t talk to me like I don’t know these things. “That I am aware.”
With nothing more, I stalked away, slinking into the shadows of the trees. Finno had taught me to conceal my presence when I trained with him—silent as a cat, fast as an adder, he would say to me. Sometimes he would have me watch the animals of how they moved, how they acted, so that I would learn their strengths and blend them all into my abilities.
An hour after I had returned, and Tingilindë a little before me. Dimly I remembered reporting to them of what I had found, yet there was not much; nothing I could remember now. That night I volunteered to take the night watch, for I sensed that my sleep would have been restless if I did.
My gaze was distant and faraway although it seemed as if I was merely looking at some long lost memory through the trees as I sat with my back resting against the bole of one, my mind wandering and unfocused. I had been thinking of those days in my childhood (although I was still considered quite a child in Eldarin society) and how they had always doubted me for who I was.
Unlike most of the Eldar, I did not grow at the pace of trees, and in fact fairly swiftly; when I was training with the ellyn my age, they had always thought I was one of the dull-witted ones who never worked hard enough to proceed onto the next class. And indeed, I trained with the ellyn, for although I still learned the duties of ellith, since I was eleven, I wanted to become the commander of the army of Hísilómë next to Findekáno.
I can remember a particular incident when I was around twenty (to you the ellyn would have looked to be seven, and I perchance thirteen), and even then I was a quiet one, and scarcely spoke. Most of the time I preferred to keep to the shadows and mingle myself amongst the others, yet still they noticed me, for an elleth amongst a pack of ellyn was not too hard to notice.
Sometimes I think your tongue had been severed off, Lady Híthriel, one of the ellyn would ridicule, the tone mocking along with the title. You seldom speak.
Most times I would snap something back at them just to prove that I could speak and try to pretend that nothing had occurred as the training resumed. Oft the instructors had their own favorites, and generally they would have the strongest of their favorites spar against me. Sometimes I would prevail, yet most times not.
“You’re not sleeping,” I noted, speaking to Tingilindë.
His eyes flickered open. “I’m not.” The ellon sat up and stared into the twilight as I had been doing, and only after a little while he spoke again. “You’re young, aren’t you?”
“I would say so.”
“My son’s that age and a little more,” he told me. “I would say double that, actually.”
Tingilindë looked only a few years older than me in appearance; I was glad that my appearance in age had only been swift in my days of adolescence, for by the time I had turned thirty-seven, I had aged the slowest one could ever be. At this time I looked to be what you would see as fourteen or fifteen.
“What is his name?” I asked, to make conversation.
“His amilessë is Tindómë, but he uses that name regularly like an ataressë. It might as well be his epessë,” Tingilindë said. “He loved his mother very dearly, as I had.”
“I’m sorry,” I murmured.
“Don’t be. That was not what I meant to say with those words,” he said. “Regardless, that time is too far long ago for us to keep chasing it.”
The ghost of a smile played upon my lips. “My mother used to tell me that.”
“I heard you are Lord Ñolofinwë’s foster daughter,” Tingilindë said.
“I am,” I told him. “My mother had gone when I was a child, and of her I remember little.”
“I see,” he said. “Perhaps you and Tindómë would be fine friends.”
“Perhaps,” I echoed.
The dialogue ceased for a moment, then picked up again.
“Are you a friend of Findaráto’s?” I said.
“Indeed; I knew him in Valinor,” Tingilindë told me. “And you? How do you know him?”
“He’s always been a childhood friend to me. He knew I wanted to learn of the worlds out there and requested my company in Nargothrond for that reason. Really I know nothing of building a settlement.”
“You have time to learn,” he said, almost musing it to himself. “It’ll be all right.”
Eventually I jerked my chin to the sleeping Narwalótë, saying, “You should get some rest. My watch isn’t over for many hours yet.”
“All right then, if you must,” Tingilindë said, settling back down. I appreciated how he didn’t address me with those mocking titles, namely Lady Híthriel; I was no lady, only a bastard child taken in by the House of Finwë, and all knew it.
A few hours passed in watchful silence, and sometimes I felt the bonds of energy shift around me, yet only suspected them to be animals and trees. Since I had come to Hísilómë, my ability to feel the presence of things from merely feeling the energies pulsing around me had grown stronger, but I told no one save Finno and Mae. I worried that the others would reject me more than they already did now, and would mistrust me.
Suddenly I felt a coldness upon the nape of my neck and stiffened, my ears twitching to detect an energy of some sort. Then without warning, there was something slim and sleek flying toward me, so fast that I could barely see or comprehend it—
I jerked away, but too late. The dart pierced my arm and I gasped as the pain rushed suddenly to me. Narwalótë and Tingilindë were instantly jolted awake by the abrupt movement.
“What happened?” Narwalótë hissed.
“Shit—prepare yourselves, you fools!” Wincing, I grasped the shaft and jerked it out with a sharp breath.
They wasted no time. Unsheathing our weapons, we stood back to back in a circle and waited in the darkness, silencing every breath, every movement.
“What do you think it is?” Tingilindë murmured.
“Seeing the dart, it’s a band of orcs,” I said. “How did they find us? The point of travelling in small groups is to stay unseen.”
“We know,” Narwalótë muttered. “Quildë!”
We were smart enough to do so. My heart thumped in my chest like a dead beat and the scarlet blood dripped from my elbow, ominously synchronized to the former. I breathed in as quietly as possible then exhaled slowly, attempting to calm myself. When I was uneasy, it became difficult to detect the energies; it was better when I was composed and calm yet I could do none of that now.
In the shadowed trees, I could see the distant stars reflecting in Tingilindë’s eyes as he scanned the area once more. Nothing. I could tell Narwalótë was holding his breath as he fingered the hilt of his sword. . .
There was a sudden bellow to my side and a shadow of movement—then Narwalótë was fiercely engaged in a duel with a giant orc. I swiveled around to find that we were surrounded by orcs leaping toward us with jagged swords in their hands, and had barely comprehended what had happened before I was slashing wildly at the attacking orcs, needing to end this quickly with all of us alive.
While Tingilindë moved like a shadow, eluding attacks and relying on the element of surprise, Narwalótë was a raging fire, using brute force to conquer his enemies; I was a mixture of both, although I leaned toward the eluding side. I struck them down with quick slashes of two long daggers, but the orcs seemed to be innumerable. We were forced over the ravine and back until we were standing back to back, bent over and gasping, again at the initial place. Narwalótë, bleeding from a gash on his leg, leaned against Tingilindë and glared up at the orc commander that stepped forward.
The commander said naught and gazed down at us, waiting for us to beg for mercy, for our ends to come swiftly—
But we gave him no response. I ground my teeth together to keep from screaming and prayed to Elbereth that we would come out of this alive. . .
He raised a fist and spoke a word of doom that vibrated into my bones with the level of malice it contained. “Vras.”
A black arrow hurled through the air and thumped dully as it hit its target. I was struck with horror at the shaft that was protruding out of Narwalótë’s shoulder and the roar of pain that came as a spasm out of him, but there was no time to comfort nor to recover; for they charged mercilessly at us, the echo of their pounding feet vibrating the ground like drums in the deep.
Tingilindë and I fought desperately to shield Narwalótë from the onslaught but somehow he struggled up and plunged his sword into what orc skin he could, breaking flesh and bone altogether. Nonetheless the orcs raged on, attempting to drive us apart. I hissed at the commander as he advanced and thrust his sword at me. I parried the blow, stumbling back, as the attack had been unexpectedly strong. He wasted no time, taking uniform steps forward and swinging his blade brutally at all in his path. I scarcely had time to retreat and evade his blows—too late did I realize that he was drawing me away from the others.
There was a shrieking cry in the night and I twisted around only to see the orcs still hacking viciously at Narwalótë buried under a mound of collapsing bodies. My scream of lamentation and terror was cut off as the orc commander slammed his sword into my body. Where was Tingilindë? Where had he gone? Please, please let him still be alive. . . don’t let me be the only one left—
I would have looked around for him if the orc commander had not leaped forward for the last blow. Anger so terrible it kindled into rage flamed within me and I vanished away from the attack, stabbing at his back. Roaring, he wheeled away from me and the other orcs launched themselves at me. I was a storm of destruction, of torment; I knew nothing but to slaughter and to waste countless breaths on anguish. I became mist, and gale, then screaming wind. I became storm, and thunder, then lightning. I became shadows, and shade, then darkness.
Two orcs held Tingilindë roughly by the arms and two others held his legs down. The commander sauntered over and dug a short knife under his chin. He turned his merciless gaze toward me and jerked his chin at my dagger. I stared in horror at Tingilindë. He could not speak nor move his head, for the knife was too ruthlessly pressed against his neck, but in his eyes there only one word yielded: no. I dragged my gaze away from him and turned my eyes toward the orc commander, who forced the knife harder onto him, breaking skin, deep scarlet blood gushing out—
My only defense thudded to the ground.
Some of the orcs shifted, but the commander gave no order to attack. Gradually, baring his teeth, he removed the knife from Tingilindë’s throat and let it fall to the ground. He growled and I held my hands up, slowly.
Suddenly, as quick as an adder, he seized a sword at his side and rammed the blade clean through Tingilindë’s chest. I let out a sputtering cry as he slumped over, dead.
The orcs had already closed in on me. I struck out with all the power I would muster with merely my arms and legs, and managed to take out some of them, but was soon overpowered. At last they held me in the same way as they had Tingilindë, and forcing me on my knees, the commander stood directly in front of me. He examined me, and as he walked behind I tensed with an illimitable pressure.
“Nar vras,” he said, coming in front again. “Losog.”
I knew not what that meant but I could guess well enough. The orcs, jeering, struck every part they could get their hands on. One thrust a filthy cloth around my mouth and another tied something around my eyes. As some bound my hands, others were still laughing vilely amongst themselves, and they kept me awake only to force me to walk so they would not have to bear me as a burden.
And in my mind, the emptiness of Narwalótë and Tingilindë locked themselves in the deepest caverns of my heart and wilted to cinders.
Elleth. (S) Female Elda, plural ellith.
Ellon. (S) Male Elda, plural ellyn.
Amilessë. (Q) Mother-name.
Ataressë. (Q) Father-name.
Epessë. (Q) Chosen name.
Quildë. (Q) Quiet. Yrch. (Q) Orc.
Yrch Camp, 51
I try not to remember what happened that night but the truth is undeniable. The beginning of it was nearly cold, so severely cold that it made all feeling dormant, and the pain grew to a throbbing numbness and burned through flesh and bone as an endless tunnel of torment. I craved warmth with the deepest crevices of my heart; I would do anything—anything just to be warm again.
That night the lieutenant of Morgoth came to the orc camp for an inspection. He was not what I expected to be.
In truth, I know not what I expected; the last time I had thought of this was when I was fourteen, when Mae spoke to me of Angband. As a young child, I had imagined more of a veiled, gnarled figure of darkness, yet I found that reality was much more brutal. The lieutenant was beautiful beyond measure; it was a cruel, sharp beauty that seemed more prominent than even the beauty of the Valar. And part that I most hated was the warmth—the utter warmth that arose with his coming like the unveiling of the sun on a fogged day, for it was what I most craved, and now most hated.
The next day he dragged me to Angband and toyed with my mind, surprised to find it resilient. He managed to break in but I grew stronger and a fierce battle was born. Anon I became his favorite to play with. After nine years—
Of this I remember very little, for it was all crashing waves of tormented emotion, but the hallucination that began the explosion comes somewhat clearly to my mind. In a dark corner of the room, I saw a bent figure, chest heaving with forced breaths, the noise like a hiss and a cough fused agonizingly together. Slowly, the figure turned around, and the wheezing grew deafening until the face was finally revealed—
The guard tore in through the door and the vision vanished as abruptly as it had come. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to destroy the memory from my mind, and slowly opened them again. My blurred vision was still fogged, and as the ringing in my ears ebbed at a painfully slow rate, I could barely make out the shadow of the guard in front of me.
“Do not make me say this again,” the guard said, unfeeling and commanding, his face too close to mine. “What—”
I lashed my loosened chains at the guard, and tightening it around his neck, I grasped his throat and threw his head against the wall so that the skull cracked audibly against the unyielding stone. I stared straight at his frightened, terrified eyes as the life dimmed and he slumped over, then let the body fall to the ground in a sickening thump. An uncontrollable flame hummed in my blood, desiring so much to burst out and slaughter all in its path—
Taking a bone sword from the guard’s body, I exploded out of the room, an uncontrollable amount of power bursting from me. Orcs fell dead at the swift strokes of my blade, yet I never expected to escape; I only wished for an end to come for this unbearable pain.
Subconsciously I had climbed the steep passageway to the summit of Thangorodrim where Mae had been hung. The bone sword clattered to the ground behind me. Stepping to the edge of the cliff, I gazed down at the thundering water and shut my eyes, yet felt a presence stir behind me, and glanced backwards.
Although I beheld the lieutenant standing there, as clear as the light of day, I felt nothing more. No pain, no fear, no bewilderment. I simply turned around and let myself fall from the precipice of Thangorodrim.
A part of my mind felt nothing; it was simply accepting the fact that my life was about to end in a matter of seconds, and there would be no more pain, no more joy, no more despair, no more love. It was all simply a fact, a mere fact that was barely a star in the entire wide firmament. There were more stars out there, stars that were stronger, brighter, not stars about the wink out and die, forever abolished from the world.
Yet the other part was screaming, screaming to not give up, not perish in the merciless waters thundering below. The body always wants to survive; it was built for that purpose. It wanted to keep itself alive.
As I fell nearer to the water, I could see several individual droplets spring out of the water in perfect blue spheres the shade of ice. It made me think of Artanis and her mirror—the basin of water clearer than polished glass. The memory of her let my thoughts swim to Findaráto and the golden radiance that he always brought me, then Findekáno, the kindness and wisdom he always gave me, then Mae, the strength and life he granted me, and atto, Káno, Moryo, Curvo, Tyelko, Telvo, Artanis, Turukáno, Lúthien, Melyanna—
I didn’t know what I was screaming for, but suddenly every part of my body was shrieking to survive, to live again. Not to simply survive, but to live.
Something was happening, something unfurling—
The moment before I hit the water, the wings that had unfurled from my back came into existence and I knew of nothing else but to, push, push up into the air so I would not fall again. My legs grazed the water and I struggled to beat the massive wings; there were new muscles that had never been used and already my core and back were sour with excruciating agony, screaming with the effort. My hands clenched into fists and I clawed the air desperately as if that somehow could help me end the endless battle.
I crashed into a protruding branch, and even as the blood pooled from my stomach, I pushed on. I forced myself to climb higher into the air until I was above the summit of the trees, and went to the only place I could go—Himring. Through the fall I had forgotten of the lieutenant watching from the brink of the jagged cliffs of Thangorodrim, but I cared not, for the time. I didn’t even care for why I suddenly had the ability to skin change to have a form with wings upon my back. Nothing mattered except that I would finally get the chance to live again.
The stars—the stars overhead were so beautiful, so beautiful and fair. I hadn’t seen them in so long. . .how long had it been? It seemed like eternity, like a complete age of the world.
I heeded naught even as the guards’ eyes flew open wide at the sight of me although the wings had faded. They knew who I was; they would not stop me from entering the city. I ran through the gate and past the pale structures and suddenly I found myself standing atop the balcony of my room.
My fingers rested lightly on the rail as I tilted my head up and gazed at the stars, feeling the free wind of the cool night air brushing against my face. There was nothing like stars; they were their own, pure beings that scintillated like a promise in the shadows of the beautiful night.
Yet my fingers began to clench the rail, the hurts stabbing my body growing unbearable, and chest heaving, fighting the pain, I sank to the floor, my gaze still cast upward to the stars. . .
Scarlet blood seeped onto the ground, creating a small pool until it was merely drip, drip, dripping like a heartbeat, a faint heartbeat; or maybe like tears falling off someone’s face unhindered because they had been too sorrowful to wipe it off; maybe like raindrops dripping from a sodden roof at dawn after a midnight storm.
The stars were so beautiful. . .
The darkness was a clawed chain with bleeding thorns like a tunnel of a spiraling spears, an endless passageway of nothingness; it was the end, yet the beginning, for the torment was written in it also; it was not the lovely enveloping darkness, but the restless fury of the shadows engulfing me ill at ease. Something was digging into my wrists, scraping them. I tried to move my arms and wrung my hands on my wrists to be rid of the feeling. Something shifted in the gloom and my heart was seized with a terrible weight, tensing all of my nerves and muscles. It was silent and still for a second, but suddenly drew up again, closer to me.
I lashed out with all my strength and tackled the person to the ground, letting punches fly into their face unrestrained. My breath was still coming in quick gasps and my eyes wide with fear and panic. I must get out of this endless darkness—I needed to get out. Waves were howling into my ears; I could hear nothing but the ceaseless roars of impending doom.
But there was something at the end of the tunnel, something different that wasn’t simply darkness. A voice calling something in the distance, like an echo of a time before. It nearly drowned into the depths of the ocean as the waves crashed about the tunnel viciously. I tried to reach for it but my hand fell short. No, I must not, I must not reach for it; it was a trap, an illusion of the past that had died and would never be alive again.
The light at the end of the tunnel flickered again, and the movement caught the attention of my eyes. I peered at it this time, scrutinizing it. Was it really an illusion? If it was, then it must be a good one. . .what harm was there if I fell into it and was lured into its swirling pools? Gradually I began to release my guard and sink into the illusion. The howling waves diminished and the shadowed tunnel began to fall away. Then at last the voice came more clearly to my ears.
It was someone, someone repeating my name softly, quietly, gently. What a beautiful illusion to fall into. The voice was familiar, of a place somewhere far away that I thought I could never reach again. Who was it? Where was it? I couldn’t remember anymore. . . I fought to think, to feel that fogged reassurance I had once felt so long ago. The name, the name, the name, what was it?
The room was still dark but the curtains were open, revealing the starlight shining softly through the window. Yet it was not so dark anymore; my senses had been cleared somewhat to focus and hear the voice that was still calling my name.
I looked around, my body still tense, realizing for the first time that the smell of the room wasn’t the same and there were no chains wrought around my wrists and ankles. But if it were an illusion, that would be a definite thing to do, for it would manipulate mercilessly and all memory of joy and trust would vanish like a candle blown out by a cold gale. I heard the voice again. . .it was so pure, so beautiful. How could it be simply an illusion?
“Hith, Híthriel,” it murmured in distant undertones. “Can you hear me? Please, it’s me. Hear me. Please.”
This could not be an illusion; could it be? Slowly I turned from the one I had flung to the ground and to the voice. I listened as I saw, and the sight of my long lost friend seized the breath out of my lungs. It was Mae, but could it be Mae? I would find my answer soon enough. I placed one foot in front of the other until I was close enough to touch him. The voice was still murmuring my name as I reached out and touched his shoulder. . .
It was real. Solid, and real. Not an illusion. What happened yesterday? Yesterday. . .
Suddenly the memory of it all came flooding back into my mind and I looked at my hands in disbelief.
“Mae?” The shivering voice came uncertain, mistrusting.
I glanced back at the one on the ground and as the moonlight fell on his face at last I could see that it was Káno. In despair yet consolation I fell to my knees. Slowly, Káno got up from the ground and them both came back to me.
It’s been so long. . .
Yrch. (Q) Orc.
—2 seasons later—
The sky was darkening when I wandered out of my chambers to observe the sunset. My eyes looked west for a while, then my gaze turned north to Ard-galen and what was beyond. After a few moments I averted my eyes and turning away, I began to head down the hill to the old spot by the stream.
I passed by the grey shapes of trees, the silhouettes of rocks, the shadows of hills over painted vales. Now the stars were scintillating overhead as I kneeled down by the stream and looks down into the water. The night seemed colder now—darker and more silent than it was before.
But suddenly this vigilance was broken, for I felt breath and the dull thumping of a heart nearby. Every muscle in my body tensed. I was not alone.
Warily I lifted my head to glance into the trees on the other side of the little stream, my breath coming in short gasps and my heart thundering in my chest. The energy around me seemed to pulse—pushing forward and pulling back, and soon the movement melded into one. I stepped onto my feet, controlling every small, calculating movement carefully like a leopard slinking in the ferns, preparing to leap onto her prey.
Suddenly there was a vicious growl and a flash of movement and I was barreled to the ground by a giant werewolf. Grunting under the weight, I slashed my dagger across the werewolf’s belly. He roared and reared backwards as I threw him off. Leaping to my feet, panting, we began to circle each other.
The werewolf growled, baring his teeth, and I growled in return, speaking in the dreaded tongue of Angband.
“Why have you come, servant of Morgoth?” I hissed, curving the ends of words with a sharp edge like a snake’s tongue that flicks out before she strikes.
And the werewolf laughed a cold laugh that made me feel as if I had no flesh, and I was standing naked as a skeleton with only bones chafed by long numberless years.
“I know who you are,” he said, every bit of the sentence tinted with malice and deceit. “I’ve seen you—deep in the depths of Angband. You’re the—”
“Enough,” I commanded, the voice distant and cold, unfeeling, although it shook a little.
As if he caught the weakness in my voice, the werewolf laughed again. “The hour is late—too late. The storm is coming.”
“What do you mean?” my voice wavered.
The circle became ever tighter and I could feel the foul breath of the creature before my face.
“Your city will fall,” he breathed.
With a cry, I threw myself at the werewolf and with wings unfurling from my back, I used the force to push the creature to the ground, forcing him to yield.
“Tell me,” I snarled, hissing through my teeth, “What devices of cruelty shall the Dark Lord fling on us now?”
The werewolf’s look of astonishment ebbed and he began to thrash about but I pushed my blade down on his throat. Then suddenly the creature laughed and dark, sticky blood trickled from his throat where the blade mercilessly pressed.
“You know it all, elleth,” he drawled. “You have seen it in the depths of Angband.” Then the vile laugh became a cough as he choked on his own blood, lifting his head so the skin broke on the blade and black blood gushed out of the wound. Gingerly I let go and turned away as the throbbing energy of his life force ebbed into nothing. When I turned around again, lying there was a small raven-haired ellon with a deathly pale countenance. Inky black blood surrounded the body, but crimson blood rolled out now, and shrouded the former.
I dived into a descent, feeling the air under my wings tense as I beat them and let them vanish as I landed atop Mae’s balcony, plummeting from the sky. Grunting, I threw the covered body of the werewolf upon the ground and came upright, facing Mae. His hands were behind his back and he had a disapprovingly calm expression.
“Care to explain yourself?” he said in the most normal voice as if we were talking of science, which was an unstudied field back then.
I stood up then, and spoke quickly. “I was out, and attacked,” I said, gesturing at the hump on the ground. “A werewolf—the last spy before the storm.”
Although his eyes did not widen, I could sense the slight bit of dismay in his voice. “You think it’s happening now?” he said, turning his back to me.
“Here is the evidence,” I said without pointing to anything.
Mae bent down and uncovered a bit of the body. When he stood up again we met each other’s eyes, exchanging a knowing look. He nodded once and was at the door when I spoke again.
“I broke into his mind to make sure,” I said without looking at him.
“I know,” said Mae. Then he was gone.
I stood there for a moment but left promptly, heading through the doorway with hardly another glance back.
One night I was wandering
‘Round and ‘round the waters
A man approached me
Unsure of my existence
Was real or not
‘Are you lost?’ he asked.
I looked up.
‘I’m looking for an escape.’
—Are you lost?
Mae prepared the soldiers that night for an onslaught and a rider was sent out to bring the news to Hísilómë and to others, although we did not expect it to be anytime anon; perhaps at least a season or two. It was a few hours after midnight when I came upon him in the corridor after the majority of the devising had ended. His gaze was cast upon the ground as he strode down the corridor and he nearly ran into me before he realized I was in front of him. When he saw me, he sighed and put a hand on my shoulder, leading me to my chambers.
“Túlë,” he said. “We have much to speak of.”
I settled in the wooden chair by the table, gazing out of the windows lightly veiled with frost, and he sat across from me, leaning his chin against his hand. We kindled no lights but lingered in the near darkness, the stars reflecting in our eyes.
“So it comes to pass at last,” he murmured. “What we have long awaited. Do you remember when, in the Mereth Aderthad, I told you that it would be more than thirty years that anyone thinks of war?”
My lips barely moved. “Yes.” It seemed so long ago; then I was only a naive Elda of twenty-seven.
“It’s an odd feeling, knowing that the time has finally come. It has been sixty-two years since the Dagor-nuin-Giliath, sixty-two years since my imprisonment to Angamando, sixty-two years since Finno found you in Lammoth and brought you to Mithrim.” He paused. “And it has been two seasons since you returned here, to Himring. I don’t want to make you feel obliged to ride out to Angamando. I would rather you stay and defend the hills of Himring.”
I laughed, a scornful sound. “I do know that, Mae. Do not think I have not already thought of this. My fears have been conquered now; I will not be afraid when our host rides forth to Angamando.”
“For that I am glad,” he said, but he looked down.
“You lie,” I retaliated.
“No.” He glanced out the window. “I am glad that you have thought of this, yet I know that your fears have not yet been conquered.”
“You have no right to speak of that,” I hissed.
“All right,” he said in resignation. “I agree. But you asked.”
“I did not.”
He sighed but said nothing.
“Your silence annoys me,” I said.
“It would annoy you more if I spoke.”
“What were you going to say?”
His eyes glinted in the starlight. “You’ve changed.”
“Why, of course. Am I to stay the same after sixty-nine years? Am I to stay the same after Angamando?”
“Am I to stay the same and pursue that ridiculous ambition of wanting to be Findekáno’s second-in-command? Am I to still do that after I know the true meaning of why people reject me? Am I to stay the same when I cannot ever sit down without thinking someone is behind me? Am I to stay the same when I cannot return home to Hísilómë because the people who knew me before would mistrust me and call me a—a whore? Am I to stay the same when I feel all of this?” I shook my head in despair, to yet it all away from me, the terrible emotion rushing up like a tsunami crashing down upon the distant shores. “Why is something as simple as sitting in a chair so difficult? I won’t ever stop listening—listening for some sort of nonexistent terror, something that’s not even there. Wherever I go, the first thing I do is look for all the exits. I remember when I used to feel at ease, when my heart could be content and I could rest. That feeling is gone. It has vanished. Completely. They are always watching.”
I barely noticed the tears streaming down my face; I wanted so badly to feel peaceful again, I wanted to feel alive. . .
When I looked up at Mae, his lips were parted, as if he were about to speak. The scar stretching down the left side of his face seemed to be white in the moonlight and I saw in his face the same pain that I felt, the same grievous pain that haunted us every moment of our existence, no matter if we knew it or not.
My gaze went to the vase on the table, its flowers orchids of pale white, and abruptly I noticed something was off. “Why—why is the table trembling?”
Mae immediately shot out of his chair, his eyes wide with dismay.
I got up reluctantly, bewildered. “What’s going—”
He leaped for me suddenly, dragging me away from the window. “Get away from the—”
And the land was seized with a violent convulsion, only the prelude to the assault. The windows exploded with the sudden strain and the shards flew across the room, raining atop us as we were thrown off our feet. The blast was followed by a few smaller tremors that shook the halls mercilessly.
I hissed and wrenched a shard of glass out of my arm then jerked my chin at Mae. “Guess we were wrong.”
He was taken aback by my sardonic humor but didn’t linger on it long as we stumbled up, the ground still shaking beneath us. We staggered across the corridors, staying close to the walls and the ground to aid our balance. Mae went to call forth the soldiers as I hastened outside.
Looking from atop a slope, I saw as the Iron Mountains vomited flame and fire came from fissures in the earth and Orcs poured forth across Ard-galen. Many of the warriors lingered in Himring to defend the city and its outskirts; they made a wide perimeter around the land, and as Mae gave these orders I approached him.
“Orcs have already come forth across Ard-galen. We must ride out swiftly; some smaller Orc bands stray near,” I said, gesturing to the north.
He nodded briskly. “The main host will go through the Gap then north to Ard-galen,” he said to the commanders, who dipped their heads and retreated to their groups.
Mae began to stride forward. “Knowing Ñolofinwë and Findekáno, they will probably go through the Pass of Sirion then push north. It is best we mirror them so we may corner the Orcs and destroy them there.”
“I am going with the main host,” I said.
“So be it.” He sprang onto his horse. “Ride with me?”
The corners of my mouth tilted upward. “Absolutely.”
We rode east from Himring through the March, and as we drew near we came upon a band of Orcs plundering the Gap. They were many and armed, and some had wolves as steeds; but they were few compared to the riders beginning to advance upon them. Without hesitation we rode them down, and circling around slaughtered the rest. Then we rode northwest through the land of Lothlann, towards the fortress of Angband.
Indeed Mae’s speculation had been correct; we came upon Morgoth’s main host from the east as it was assaulting Dorthonion and the host of Hithlum advanced from the west. They were caught, between hammer and anvil, and we pursued them across Ard-galen, destroying them utterly, to the least and last, within sight of Angband’s gates.
I had lost my steed by then, and stood in the fields of Ard-galen, staring ahead at the land of Dor Daedeloth and the gates of Angband. All around the corpses of the servants of Morgoth lay in the ruined grasses, spears and arrows protruding out of them. The evening sun seemed to glare down at me though it was small; the blaze of the light reflected against the daunting Gates, a menacing admonition. The fortress towered over me, transforming me into something so small, so weak, so helpless. I was inches from the massive shadow it cast upon the ground, and gazed down at it then at the unmoving beady black eyes of the carcass of a wolf.
I started, springing into a stance and drawing my daggers. But it was only Mae.
Sheathing the blades, I tried to relax but my muscles were still stiff with trepidation. He walked over the wolf’s body and put a reassuring arm around me, turning to face Thangorodrim.
“I haven’t been this close to it since my imprisonment,” he said, unflustered. I was slightly astounded by his cool demeanor; he sounded so calm, so confident—something that I would never be sure of for myself. He paused for a moment then, and in the same voice he spoke. “It makes me afraid.”
“Does it?” My voice was faint.
“Yes,” he said. “It does.”
“Ironic,” I muttered, and he smiled. No more was said then, and the barren grasses trembled in the oncoming gale as Vása retreated in the west.
Thereafter it was named Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle, the third great battle of the Wars of Beleriand.
A victory it was, and yet a warning; and the princes took heed of it, and thereafter drew closer their leaguer, and strengthened and ordered their watch, setting the Siege of Angband which lasted wellnigh four hundred years of the Sun. For a long time after Dagor Aglareb no servant of Morgoth would venture from his gates, for they feared the lords of the Noldor; and Fingolfin boasted that save by treason among themselves Morgoth could never again burst from the leaguer of the Eldar, nor come upon them at unawares.
Yet the Noldor could not capture Angband, nor could they regain the Silmarils; and war never wholly ceased in all that time of the Siege, for Morgoth devised new evils, and ever and anon he would make trial of his enemies. Nor could the stronghold of Morgoth be ever wholly encircled: for the Iron Mountains, from whose great curving wall the towers of Thangorodrim were thrust forward, defended it upon either side, and were impassable to the Noldor, because of their snow and ice. Thus in his rear and to the north Morgoth had no foes, and by that way his spies at times went out, and came by devious routes into Beleriand. And desiring above all to sow fear and disunion among the Eldar, he commanded the Orcs to take alive any of them that they could and bring them bound to Angband; and some he so daunted by the terror of his eyes that they needed no chains more, but walked ever in fear of him, doing his will wherever they might be. Thus Morgoth learned much of all that had befallen since the rebellion of Fëanor, and he rejoiced, seeing therein the seed of many dissensions among his foes.
But in Himring I lived in disquiet, for after the flight from Thangorodrim and the unveiling of my peculiar abilities I indeed wondered who my father had been and how this had suddenly been revealed. I knew that Findaráto could do some similar things, yet I knew also that he could not alter his form to sprout wings. In fact, it was quite unheard of for any known individual to be able to do so, yet withal I was angry at myself to have been so weak, to have succumbed to the darkness and given information at such a free will. Thus I trained rigorously, and at times I would catch Mae watching me, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Yes?” I said at last, turning to face him.
“You’ve improved considerably well,” he told me, his hazel eyes showing nothing but sincerity, something I had not seen, had not felt in so long that it felt alien.
“Thank you. Will you spar with me?”
He appeared to be incredulous. “That wouldn’t be fair,” he said, mock pouting, even as the steel of his word glinted in the setting sun.
“For you, or for me?”
“For both of us. For my part, I only have one hand.”
“The world doesn’t play fair in its games,” I said.
He smiled faintly, and began pulling his hair into a frizzled bun. “Well said.”
The ghost of a smile played upon my lips. “That I hope.”
By the time we had finished, the light of Vása had vanished beneath the horizon, and the innumerable stars speckled the night sky. We had both been quiet for a while, each immersed on straying thoughts of our own. In the distance I could see the bare boughs of the lone tree in the fortress of Himring as we rested upon the grass in the hills of the March, and farther beyond I could see the Mountains of Dorthonion to the west and Mount Rerir, in the lands of Thargelion where Moryo dwelt, to the east.
At last I sighed, a faint cloud breezing before my lips as I did. “I’m leaving for Menegroth tomorrow morning.”
“Why?” he asked softly.
“Maybe Artanis and Melyanna can help me hone and control my. . .abilities,” I said. “I don’t think I can stand this much longer. I feel so. . .” I broke off, for I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s all right,” he murmured. “I know how you feel. . .you are not alone in this.”
I said nothing.
“When I. . .when Finno came for me at last atop Thangorodrim, I asked him—I asked him to end my life.” His face was veiled in the shadow of night, and although I could have turned to watch the emotions mixed in his expression, I did not; I could have imagined it well enough. “I thought there was no way out. We were so lucky Thorondor came before—before. . .” He drew in a shaking breath, turning to me. “I wish you luck on your journey to Menegroth.”
I turned then, studying the look upon his countenance. “Thank you.”
Elleth. (S) Female Elda, plural ellith.
Túlë. (Q) Come.
Vása. (Q) Noldorin name for Anor, the sun.
*Chapter XIII, "Of the Return of the Noldor," The Quenta Silmarillion.
“Artanis, you have to help me,” I said, keeping my voice as steady and demanding as I could.
She looked at me for a moment, then opened her door wider. “Tell me. What do you need?”
So as she ushered me in a seat and handed me chamomile tea, I told her all that had changed since I had last gone to Menegroth, and of the curse of doom that was now etched into me, then at last: “I want you and Melyanna to train me. Please.”
She poured more tea in my cup although I had not touched it. “And it’s only been twenty-one years,” she said. I watched as slowly she set the silver kettle down. “I will.” She rose from the seat. “I’ll go to Melyanna.” She had begun to head out of the room when I stood up swiftly.
“Artanis?” She paused in her steps then looked at me. “May I ask you to not tell of this to anyone else?”
She nodded and disappeared out the door. When I had been sure that her footsteps had receded beyond the corridor, I sunk into the chair and covered my face with my hands.
In the next years I trained vigorously with Artanis and Melyanna, but in secret. I learned to control the use of my wings quite well and the abstract arts of sairina, however we did not uncover the reason why I had them, or who was my father, although Melyanna guessed that it was a Maia.
Sometimes I still think if I were as powerful as Artanis, I would throw down the walls of Angamanado and make them bleed; and if I were as strong as Melyanna, I would create a girdle so powerful it would crush Angamando to a thousand broken pieces. Yet I was neither—at least not thus far.
My existence was curiously interesting to Melyanna; I knew I reminded her of Lúthien her daughter, yet instead of being Moriquendi I was Calaquendi. Although I was not completely sure of all of my heritage, I was probably mostly Noldor.
But in the year sixty-seven the Elu Thingol had learned of the terrible deeds of the Noldor—Fëanor, the Silmarils, the Kinslaying, and banned the language of Quenya in Beleriand. He still proclaimed himself to be the King of Beleriand, although he only controlled a small part of it. Although he permitted the House of Finarfin to venture into Doriath, the House of Fëanor and of Fingolfin were strictly prohibited to enter. As a result of this he became increasingly rude to both Artanis and I, even though neither of us has participated in those events. I was born after and Artanis had merely been a silent onlooker.
Then soon Thingol’s insolence went too far and I snapped, finally leaving Doriath two years after the banishment of Quenya. Artanis would not go, for she had her husband in Menegroth. My training was finished anyhow; my abilities had grown much since I had first gone.
I left Doriath in a flurry and had no definite destination until I reached the River Mineb. I stood atop the rock overlooking Dimbar, and swept my gaze across the land, then I knew at last I must return.
I had not been to Hísilómë in eighteen years. . . it wasn’t a very long while, but it seemed like ages of Arda since I had last seen atto and Finno.
Circling around my old chambers, I gently ran my fingers along the bookshelves, brushing the dust off of them. It was lit dimly by the shadowed dusk; all seemed to be washed away, as if a grey curtain had been drawn over them and I was peering through the other side but could not return. My eyes swept over the books scattered on the ground, pages fluttering in the light breeze. I picked one up and dusting off the cover, I flipped it open. It was a journal of my own, filled with my adolescent angsty poetry. I read through the pages slowly, trying to remember what it felt like to be young and naive again. . .
Dusk retreats over the shadowed hills,
Dimly lighting the candles of the past.
The flicker of fire is faint
Like it was just about to vanish.
Everything seems so different now;
The world is veiled,
As if a diaphanous grey curtain
Had been drawn over it all.
In the fire I can see the old times,
And I can almost remember them
As if they were yesterday. . .
Yet I don’t feel the same.
Sometimes I wish I would,
Though I know I never can again.
I heard Finno’s soft footsteps in the hall before he had even come through the open door. Quietly, I set the journal down but did not turn. I heard him take a few more cautious steps forward.
“Híthriel? Titta nettë?”
I turned then. “Findekáno.”
It was reluctant at first, but at last we embraced long, savoring the time in this world we had left.
“I’ve missed you so much.”
I knew of the rejection and contempt I would receive from the people, but really knew nothing of what it was like until it actually happened. I stayed in Hísilómë only to be with atto and Finno, but I wouldn’t last long there; after six years I knew the only place I could return was to Himring. Therefore I went to Finno and told him thus:
“I’m know,” I murmured. “I know, Finno. But I don’t belong here anymore.”
In the following years I dwelt mostly in Himring, and made occasional trips to other realms. Nargothrond was finally completed in 102 and Turukáno’s Gondolin in 116. I went to visit both of them but the trips were short, for I was still mistrusted there. In Gondolin I was reunited with Laurefindil, Ecthelion, Irissë, and Turukáno, however there they went by their Sindarin names; Irissë’s was Aredhel, Turukáno’s was Turgon, and Laurefindil’s was Glorfindel—I liked to tease him by calling him Glorfy or Glorfo or Glorfyo. There was an endless combination of nicknames I could configure.
This, for me, had been quite a humourous, relatively lighthearted time, I think, or perhaps it is because my memory of this grows dim, but somewhere around 172 all in the House of Finwë gathered in Hísilómë for a family reunion, which included the sons of Fëanor, House of Fingolfin, and House of Finarfin. Although it was greatly opposed by atto and Mae, Tyelko brought out about a hundred bottles of Sindarin wine for around twenty-five people, going to about four bottles per person, which absolutely no one but himself could finish.
Fortunately I couldn’t down more than a few sips and Tyelko knew that; he didn’t try too hard to make me play their drinking game, probably because I threatened to smite him all the way back to Himlad, but he did make me play a game of poker with the rest of his brothers.
Káno was pouring himself wine in a vase, and Tyelko was making peculiar and consistent hand gestures and muttering something to Tyelpe, who was nodding dully and repeatedly and occasionally giving me nervous glances. Moryo was scribbling numbers on a piece of paper, and as I peered closer I could see that he was calculating probabilities. Curvo was dramatically tossing grapes into his mouth, never missing one, while eyeing his son suspiciously; Telvo was politely stealing Káno’s vase wine. Glorfy was expertise spying on Moryo’s probabilities as Ecthelo glared at him with an unreadable expression. Findaráto came in the room, and glancing nervously about, decided to join in because I gave him a chin jerk. All the while, Mae was pretending to be bad at shuffling with his one hand.
I sat with my arms crossed at the edge of the table next to Mae, watching them all. Finno sat across from me, his hands also crossed, so we were like mirror images of each other.
At last Moryo slammed his writing utensil down, which was who knows what, and simultaneously stabbed a cheese knife into the table so hard that it rocked.
“Nelyo. You’re done shuffling. Pass out the fucking cards.”
Mae smiled in an impossibly helpful way. “As you wish.” Impossibly smooth, he slid the cards over to each. Findaráto was beginning to regret he had come into the game already, so I teamed up with him, which didn’t seem fair to Tyelko, but it didn’t exactly matter. Tyelpe stood behind his chair, for he was not playing; he was just there for moral support. Moryo watched silently, intently, at Mae’s every movement and Mae grinned at him.
Whenever Tyelko was losing, he shouted at Tyelpe to get out of the room but when he was winning told him to stay by his side. Moryo began issuing death threats to friends and family and almost bet his entire house. Inspired by his older brother, Curvo began threatening to kidnap everyone as Telvo glared at everyone, bored, while Káno nearly lost his pants to Moryo. Finno ended up going on impulse and betting on things he should not have. Glorfyo and I ended up standing on the table and yelling at each other as Ecthelo and Findaráto tried to get us to calm down, however that made me start to dance on the table, which was actually a trick to win.
After everyone grew tired of Mae talking shit about philosophy while winning consistently, they began to arm wrestle each other. Tyelko ended up dislocating Curvo’s shoulder at one point and Artanis had to come in and put it back, which meant that she and Teleporno were joining in the fight. It became an arm wrestling tournament, a competition for the grand championship.
Mae played nice on everyone; very few were able to move their hands from the initial position. After watching Artanis cheat and use a bit of sairina to slam Curvo’s hand to the table, I smashed Ecthelo’s hand with a bit too much sairina that Mae noticed and beat me. It all came down to atto, Finno, Mae, Tyelko, and Tyelpe. Finno and Mae were both too nice to each other and didn’t feel like winning, so they ended up drinking more than should have been done. Tyelpe beat Tyelko to the latter’s unsuppressed rage, and he also beat atto. Thus Tyelpe became the unexpected, triumphant winner of the grand championship of the prestigious House of Finwë arm wrestling tournament.
However Tyelkormo’s defeat led to a unsystematic fight in which he provoked, of course. He tried to slap Tyelpe for disobeying him and betraying his moral support so I flipped him over the table. Mae tried breaking it up but unfortunately he got too drunk with Finno so he couldn’t do anything correctly. Of course, I won because I only drank a few sips of the dizzying Sindarin liquor.
The next day, everyone acted like everything was all normal, which it was.
Yet in this year a new creature was unleashed into the world. It was told that the creature, called a dragon, was created by Morgoth in the very depths of Angband, and it ravaged Ard-galen, though it was young and scarcely half-grown, attempting to push forward to Ered Wethrin and Dorthonion and destroy all in its path. I expected Findekáno to lead a force to combat this onslaught, and so arming myself, I rode out to Hithlum (which is Hísilómë in Sindarin) to join him. I craved more of a family reunion than a victorious field, although the hour was dire, and thus our paths met in the very north of Ered Wethrin.
“Greetings, titta nettë,” he said as I approached.
“Greetings, Findekáno,” I replied, glaring at him pointedly; there were many others around us, making it improper to call me that especially at this time.
“Have you come to raise hel—”
“Yes, I have come to help with the drag queen incident—forgive me, I may have gotten the word wrong; it’s probably dragon. Yes, I believe the word is dragon. Both words are alien to me, so it matters not. Anyhow, I believe we should get going before the drag queen—dragon—gets to Dorthonion, because it will get there soon if we do not begin to get going.”
“Indeed, we are leaving right now,” he said.
“Right now? I just got off my horse.”
Finno crossed his arms. “All right, just what do you want to do, titta nettë?”
“I did not refuse to leave right now, I merely complained,” I said.
“Very clever,” he drawled, and unsystematically fist-bumped my shoulder.
Among the Eldalië there were many of Hithlum’s most valiant archers on horseback. I recognized a few of them but most hardly remembered me, which I supposed was good. We set off as quickly as we had come, hastening to the field of Ard-galen, and there we hemmed the dragon round in a ring and made swift advance with our many arrows.
“Leithio i philinn!” Finno shouted, and a tempest of arrows flew as a dark wind at the dragon, who bellowed and swished its tail to and fro, forcing the horses to swerve.
“It’s a young one, by the looks of it,” he said.
I notched another arrow on my bow and took aim. “How do you know?”
“It’s alone, without backup, which makes it seem that it came out against orders. Therefore it is not here by Morgoth’s will. He is too thickheaded and ludicrous for such deeds as experiments. Behold, its armor is still underdeveloped.”
I let my arrow fly. “Behold? Interesting vocabulary to use.”
The dragon, still with underdeveloped armor, fled back to Angband.
There was much rejoice over the defeat of this unforeseen attack, and Findekáno won great praise. Many were ignorant of the potential danger this new creature of Morgoth’s creation would be later on, including Findekáno. I warned him of this, but he was busy. I do expect it was a misdeed on my part to tell him this while we were celebrating and much more half of us were very un-sober. I myself am a terrible drinker so I tended, and still tend, to avoid alcohol even though the new access of Sindarin wine tempted me greatly.
After a few days I returned to Himring, however, for I would never stay anywhere else for long anymore. And in the following years there was a time now known as the Long Peace, which lasted wellnigh two hundred years. Numerous towers and dwellings were built; architecture was a thriving art especially for the Noldor, and many fair things were made in those days—poems and histories and books of lore. The Eldar in those times wandered far and wide, fearing naught in the Long Peace, yet the beautiful must always die.
About a hundred years after the appearance of the first dragon, which we found was called Glaurung, Findaráto sent me a letter, inviting me to visit Nargothrond again, yet he had urgent news that he also had to tell me. I left soon after I received the message and wondered what could be so pressing.
Titta nettë. (Q) Little sister.
Sairina. (Q) Sorcery, magick.
Atto. (Q) Father.
Leithio i philinn. (S) Release the arrows.