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Songs from the Hall of Fire

Chapter Text

The clear and cold midwinter sun through snowy branches fell;
The Bruinen lay under ice now silent in the dell.

A human girl on dappled horse rode to the snowy bank;
With reassurances she spoke and stroked Samara’s flank.

She crossed the river’s icy run and found the dale’s rift;
She cantered down its sloping sides ‘mid falling water’s drift.

As she approached the portico of elven Rivendell
She tied her reigns to balustrade and rang the silver bell.

There came a dark-haired elven-maid ‘mid fire’s flickering light
Who said, “Welcome to Imladris! What would you have this night?”

“Sophia I am, a traveling scribe; I wish for shelter here,
And by your leave to copy down your songs and poems dear.”

The elleth smiled graciously and gestured in the door;
Sophia shook her cloak and stamped her boots on tiled floor.

“My name is Norwen,” she remarked, “I hope you stay here long;
Will you now rest, or listen to the Hall of Fire’s song?

“For as a scribe I know you will expand your writings here.”
Sophia said, “Yes please!” her joy made plain for all to hear.

The elleth sweetly laughed and led her down the passageway
Unto a carven door from which the sweetest strains did play.

An ellon met her now, said, “Welcome to the Hall of Fire!
I hope you ease your heart here with our songs that light inspire.

“If you should wish to write them, ask each poet; he shall tell
You all you wish to know of elvish songs in Rivendell.”

Sophia smiled, wondering at the lighted torches’ blaze
And stepped into the music-room of ballads, songs, and lays.  

Chapter Text

In Númenor the Isle of Gift beyond the flowing Sea,
The Westernmost of mortal lands, once haven of the free,
Where darkness first its shadow cast by pride and folly driv’n,
And many now forgot the One whose blessing they’d been giv’n.

A lovely maid of Forostar in Óndosto did dwell,
The daughter of the city’s lord, a King’s Man high and fell;
But Lestilwen was taught by those who’d known his Faithful wife
And grew to grace in knowledge of the One she owed her life.

But by the King’s decree this lord the Faithful ever sought,
And by his guile a huntsman, Altamir, he once had caught;
His daughter, now a lady, learned of this through servants’ ears,
And for her father’s sins she sorrowed long with many tears.

In wavering heart she wondered what the One would have her do
And prayed for wisdom, wishing she were not but one of few;
And yet she saw the righteous way, bring it her father’s ire
For captured Faithful soon were burnt to Morgoth in the fire.

With stern resolve she set her plans and settled on her course;
With wit and charm she righted what by might she could not force;
And when the board was set in this elaborate game of chess
She moved her pawn—and showed the spirit true of Westernesse.

So now she worked her plan that Altamir his doom avoid,
And when he learned she’d help him flee he thanked her, overjoyed,
For he’d thought to escape alone to Elendili find
But doubted the success of every plan that’d come to mind.

So shopping at the market she supplies and horses bought;
Stayed home Midwinter’s Day by claiming she was “overwrought;”
The guards she sent on tasks she’s planned before that they could tend
Assuring them with woman’s laughter she’s replacements send.

So Lestilwen and Altamir stole in the darkest night
Away from Óndosto, her father, and the King’s dread might;
At last they came through many guises to Andúnië
And met the Faithful there who to the One alone would pray.

When Atalantë’s downfall Pharazôn’s great pride had wrought,
And through the Sundering Sea’s upheaval ships the Faithful brought,
Among them Altamir the huntsman, Lestilwen his wife,
There on the shores of Middle-earth they thanked the One for life.

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In fair Beleriand of old,
When sun was bright and moon was young,
An elven-lord with hair of gold
Ruled Nargothrond, and there he sung
The light-filled songs of Valinor
And told the tales of elven lore.

Three youths once lived there in that realm
Who much admired their lord and king;
And heroes’ tales of spear and helm
They often begged he’d say and sing;
With merry laugh he’d smile and tell,
And soon in lands afar they’d dwell.

These three remained true friends through all
Their childhood joys and sorrows keen:
An ellon, first, bright-eyed and tall,
A man of young and fearless mien,
A dwarf-lad there to learn his trade;
A such unlikely trio was made.

But then their much-loved lord and friend
Was called by honor to a quest,
And they, too young to join his end,
He bid to stay, protect the rest;
So Finrod said farewell and left
And tales seemed hollow to those bereft.

Then came unrest to elvish court,
So men and dwarves sought other lands;
And thus the friends were forced to part;
Through heartfelt tears and clasps of hands
They swore to one day meet again,
These youths of elves and dwarves and men.

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When time had passed, the elf now thought—
And Magalad his name is told—
To ask his lord for leave; he sought
His youth-companions, friends of old;
He searched from pastureland to mere,
Through valleys far and mountains near.

The man, now in his prime and free—
As Halin known by in that part—
Did also wish again to see
The childhood brothers of his heart;
He left his settlement to find,
Through moor and waste, those in his mind.

The dwarf grew restless of his trade—
His name was Falk, by that he went—
And wanted he to see replayed
The blesséd moments they’d been sent
Of friendship’s joys, so he too left
To search from plain to mountain cleft.

They knew it not, but drew they near
Into each others’ wandering paths,
For fate decreed there ways would here
Converge, and much would come to pass
Within that stony mountain dell
Of which hereafter I shall tell.

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There once was delved a dragon-lair,
Its entrance in this rocky vale,
And Halin first took shelter there
To break the rushing of the gale;
But Daust the Mighty took offence
And waited, kindled wrath and tense.

A whish of smoke in morning pale,
And Halin stood at what he saw;
A single blow of dragon’s tail
And he was drug in mountain’s maw;
He woke again to blazing fire
And armed himself ‘gainst dragon’s ire.

Another dragon also dwelt—
The golden Flauka, mate of Daust—
When she saw Magalad’s mithril belt
She sought to fell him with a blast;
He stood, undaunted by her flame,
But fell beneath its heat the same.

And Falk his way through mountain sought
The winter’s weather to avoid;
But soon he found those of his thought
There trapped; the three met, overjoyed,
And planned now to escape the cave;
“To friendship!” cried the brothers brave.

So with the axe of Falk the Dwarf,
The arrows keen of Magalad,
And Halin’s sword, with greatest stealth
They found the dragons seething mad,
Preparing to consume each prize
Which now sprang forth with battle-cries!

A well-placed thrust, the twang of bow,
“Take shelter, quick, from burning blast!”
An axéd strike, a fisted blow:
The battle many hours did last,
But finally the day was had;
Victorious friends stood, fair and glad.

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So many times through passing years
In elf-realm, dwarven-hall, or town
A youth there many tales hears
Of dragon-slayers of great renown;
The Hunters Three who ever sought
To mar the works that Angband wrought.

Their final end at last they knew
In Nirnaeth Arnoediad
Where sword and axe and bow would hew,
Where enemies no warning had
Before they fell before the Three,
The friends, the brothers, fair and free.

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O gentle hearer, harken now to me,
And learn of happenings of long ago,
On Hither Shores of endless Sundering Sea,
When Fëanor the King his death did know.

His firstborn, Maedhros, rode with parley sworn—
As this you know, I shorten now my word—
And he was taken, rage returned with scorn;
But he was not alone as you have heard.

His captain brave was also seized alive:
The faithful Feingon, loyal to his lord,
Who for his sake at kinslaying did strive
With his once-innocent, now-bloodied sword.

In Angband’s might the Dark Lord’s threats were sown,
His lord, defiant, taken now to dread,
And Feingon left to Morgoth face alone
With grief that Maedhros as he thought was dead.

He stood before the Dark Lord’s throne of might
And said, “I will the shadow e’er defy!
My lord and I both laugh at you in spite;
We will not break, we never will comply.”

With that, he thrust his hand into the fire
And stood unmoved though burned his flesh away;
He stared at Morgoth, kindled wrath and ire,
“You will not win, for treachery you will pay!”

The Dark Lord, wrathful, stood in terror’s shroud,
With blazing eyes threw Feingon to the ground;
He raised his sword to kill the elf, unbowed,
And death took who by pain could not be bound.

And so I sing whom history forgot,
Whose sins were not assuaged by bravery;
For love of lord he killed, he worked, he fought,
And pray I that in death he now is free.

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Oh hear my song and I shall tell
Of darkest days when shadow fell,
When Noldor learned they’d been deceived
By Sauron’s guise, and now perceived
Eregion’s fall, and so they fled,
And followed where Half-elven led.

The remnant northward quickly drew,
In skirmishes their foes they slew;
But still they knew not where to go,
Where they could hide from greatest foe;
At last their scouts a valley found
Both fair, defensible, and sound.

With all speed now they hastened there
And hoped to find the dale fair
Before by forces they were caught;
They knew by what cost time is bought
And warrior’s lives refused to pay
To safe-guard those now on their way.

In council a young captain brave
Had spoken not; he wished to save
The remnant of his people left,
And if of life he was bereft
He did not care so long as they
Would reach the haven by his pay.

He told his soldiers what he planned
And offered they to join his band,
For all their lives they’d gladly give
That others may have time to live;
In dead of night they stole away
To follow Captain Gilnor’s way.

They earlier that day had crossed
A narrow pass where time they’d lost;
At this steep point the warriors stood
To foes delay there all they could:
These thirty soldiers gleaming led
By Gilnor Fire-star at their head.

That evening did their foes appear,
They stood their ground, they showed no fear
Though orcs and trolls came bearing down
To slaughter knights and buy renown;
But though they strove with all their might
They could not break through elven light.

For three days fought the elves alone;
For three days sword and shield shone,
There spear was thrust and bow-string rang,
And through the battle long they sang
Of Valinor the fair and bright
And long-enduring songs of light.

But now at dusk on final day
But one was left, their captain fey,
And stood he till the sun’s last light
In shadow fell and came the night;
Now thirty knights in elven-grey
There dead mid starry fields lay.

By freely given blood was bought
The elves’ safe-passage, thus was wrought
The saving of the light for all
Those spared from elven-kingdoms’ fall;
Thus as you sit here on this day
Remember who the price did pay.

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Upon the Helcaraxë in eternal winter’s snow,
When ice in driving, blinding shards on freezing wind did blow,
By pale starlight naught was seen upon the ice-bound hills
And naught was heard but howling wolves on wind that never stills.

The Noldor came there, valiant ones but foolish in this quest
As in the shadowed night they turned their backs on light of West;
Abandoned by their kin they followed on with burning heart
And dared the path that only bitterest need could force to start.

In icy chasm many died on that despairing road,
Through cold and hunger pressed though many fell beneath that load;
But now I tell from all the dead of one who gladly gave
His endless life in sacrifice that he his brethren save.

Amid the ice-slag cliffs a gaping gorge the Noldor crossed,
A narrow snow-bridge all that kept the host from ending lost,
But as the last contingent waited ere the gap they spanned,
They heard the howl of hunting wolves upon the icy land.

The sole three warriors left on thither side their weapons drew,
And two of them with whistling swords their adversaries slew;
The third, however, stayed the bridge’s entrance to defend
And stood while remnant crossed the icy esker to ascend.

The wolves grew more ferocious, and the other ellyn, brave,
Before increasing numbers fell and gave their lives to save
The few now left upon that side who rushed to span the bridge
While Tirithion stood alone, the last to hold that ridge.

And when his might was well night gone, his vigor nearly passed,
The final elves now crossed what he defended to the last,
Then with the end of strength and desperation he it broke:
With mortal wounds he tumbled down the gorge, and never woke.

Still those remaining kept upon their brave though foolish way
In sorrow cursed his name who’d left them with this price to pay;
And yet beneath the ice-bound cliff did Tirithion die,
To there amid the starlit snow for ever ages lie.

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Beneath the shadowed sun of once-fair Númenor
When Elendili lived but in Andúnië
The King’s Men ever called them rebels, sought them more
To on the altars kill them for their Faithful way.

One King’s Man named Imladan did by guile expose
What he then called a treasonous plot against the King:
One night beneath the darkness ‘ere the Sun arose
He caught a Faithful man for Morgoth’s offering.

Outside the prisoner’s door he stood to guard the cell
Lest in escaping make Imladan pay instead;
And sang he Eru’s praises though the hours fell
And soon to fiery execution he’d be led.

Imladan heard and wondered in his hardened heart
What strength of faith the Faithful martyrs truly had,
That he in such a time should by his song impart
In such a place what hope could make him truly glad.

And when Imladan led the prisoner to his end
And saw he now the altar with its fire prepared
The man, before the flames could silence, cried, “Attend!
In death I trust the One alone whose love I shared!”

With such brave words Imladan’s soul the Faithful drew
And ‘ere the end he begged his pardon, seen by all;
Thus in his turn the priests of Morgoth also slew
And burned him as with faith he to the One did call.

So one man’s witness in the hour of death may be
A saving grace to pierce the one who hears it raised,
For even hardest heart and blindest eyes may see
That One alone should worshiped be by men and praised.

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In Greenwood long ago,
Amid the elvish court,
A warriors’ band did grow
Of courteous, noble sort;
And from this company
Of comrades brave and true
Against an enemy
For help could any sue.

There came an elven-maid
With plea about her woes:
To render to her glade
Their help against her foes,
The spiders who so sought
To slaughter and destroy,
That helpless she could not
Restore her forest’s joy.

From ranks of noble band
Sprang Thoron young and true,
Who sought with clasping hand
The quest he might pursue.
Thranduil granted this—
Alone he should proceed,
To serve with humbleness
All that the maid should need.

But Mithriel, at his youth
And rashness, as she thought,
Rejected him, aloof,
And scorned the help she’d sought;
Yet Thoron kept his word
And followed after her,
Though she his courage slurred
And anger sought to stir.

“A knight you call yourself?
You’re but a kitchen-lad!
I sought a warrior-elf,
But you they sent instead!”
Yet still he would reply,
“My pledge to help you heard.
I at this quest will ply
My strength despite your word.”

Though she in slander railed
Remained he by her side;
Thus when they were assailed
His sword at once he plied:
The spider, seething, fell
In death to forest floor,
And Thoron in the dell
Full calmly cleaned his sword.

Said Mithriel with disdain,
“See, Fortune’s favored son!
But will your luck remain
When facing more than one?”
“My lady,” he returned,
“I took this victory
By skills that I have learned
From Greenwood’s mastery.”

Again more spiders dropped
With hissing to the ground;
Again their plans were stopped
By Thoron’s sword-play sound.
And Mithriel showed the same,
But started she to doubt
The justice of her claim
‘Mid angry spiders’ rout.

And when right narrowly
He saved her from a sting
And slew the enemy
His promise honoring,
Then she with tears did turn
And humbly begged that he
Forgive her maiden scorn
As youthful foolery.

And Thoron smiled and said,
“If I did stay with you
Through insults to my head
And slandering anew,
Of course I now with joy
Will help you on your quest
And any other ploy
You seek among the rest.”

So Mithriel spoke and sung
With Thoron as they rode,
Till came they where there hung
Their enemies’ abode;
There Thoron lustily
His lady’s foes he slew,
And fighting mightily
He cleansed the glade anew.

They rode back to the court
In amity and peace,
And told the King their sort
Of courage and caprice;
And in due time they wed
At Thranduil’s full consent;
With joy they ever sped
On quests that they’d been sent.

Chapter Text

Upon the Mouths of Sirion
When final Kinslaying was done,
When Fëanor’s sons had rode away
And smoke and ruin claimed the day,
In haven-town a silence fell,
An eerie quiet in the dell
Where battle-noises loud had raged
As elf on elf this war had waged.

Among the smoldering debris,
By now red-tinted lapping Sea
There many warriors wounded lay
Who’d fought on both sides in the fray;
But no one could their hurts attend:
All fled or killed before the end,
Yet little sound the Sea-wind bore:
All silence by that horror of war.

There on the shore two soldiers lay:
One came with the attackers fey,
Gilthoron, following his lord,
Had struck the other with his sword
Who also languished by his side
As slowly, endlessly, the tide
Now washed away the bloodstains red
From sand where kindred blood was shed.

Now Glorthon the defender brave
Could see Gilthoron’s thirst so grave
That without water he would die
Before their rescuers could draw nigh;
But Glorthon knew that his own ill,
‘Ere Sun had set, himself would kill
With or without the water he
Still bore, there lying by the Sea.

So Glorthon turned to Gilthoron
And stared into his features wan;
He roused his enemy with a touch
And did a deed of mercy such
As few have seen beneath the sky:
He said, “You need it more than I,”
And held to him the water-skin
With life-renewing drops within.

In gratitude and deep surprise
Gilthoron stared in Glorthon’s eyes,
Then tentatively took the skin
And drank the water found within;
With stuttering voice he thanked the elf,
Now dying, wounded by himself,
And begged his pardon for the wrong
He’d done that day at Sirion.

But Glorthon died ‘ere he could say
The words his deeds made plain that day:
So ever yet Gilthoron knew
He’d been forgiven by one he slew;
From that day, in repentant heart,
He turned away from bloodier part,
And ever was he grateful for
The elf who’d shown him mercy’s door.

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In light of Aman’s noontide lived an elven-maid:
Amarië the Vanya, lady fair,
Her eyes of blue, her face and temper sweetly laid,
And light-reflecting shone her golden hair.

In Tirion’s fair court a festival was planned
And so she was invited to its days;
Alone but for her maid she travelled ‘cross the land
And sang in golden light her lovely lays.

Her maid, however, jealous of her lady’s place—
Named Elwen, she did wish to meet the lords—
Was trained in songs of pow’r by which she did erase
And flip their features by her lilting words.

She worked it so Amarië could not herself
See changes Elwen to their forms had made
But that, on being seen by any other elf,
Unknowingly he’d mistress take for maid.

So when they’d reached the palace set on Túna’s crest,
Were nobly greeted by Prince Finarfin,
Then Elwen to a lady’s rooms was sent to rest,
Amarië, confused, to serve within.

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Prince Finrod, so beloved and fair of Noldor court,
Had just returned from hunting glad and free;
Within the palace rumors heard of strangest sort:
A maid a lady claimed to truly be!

In curiosity he sought the source to find,
And so her mistress found and to her spoke,
But Elwen, feigning sadness, said her maiden’s mind
Was damaged from the day she first awoke.

But Finrod, unconvinced, sought out Amarië—
Remember that he too knew songs of pow’r—
He saw through Elwen’s wrought disguises right away
And with his song reversed them in that hour.

Amarië, now knowing what’d befallen her,
Soon laughed and thanked Prince Finrod for his aid;
From then on by each other they entrancéd were:
So strangely never-ending love was made.

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When once again the darkness grew
And Mordor Gondor’s warriors slew,
Then Umbar with the dark allied
And raised a fleet of ships so plied
To plunder coastlands, and they swore
To bring to Gondor ruin and war.

Ecthelion had a captain brave,
Great Thorongil who wished to save,
So sought his liege-lord’s leave to fight
Corsairs who wished to fell the light;
Prepared he sailed Dol Amroth’s fleet
That Umbar’s ships their end may meet.

With stealth they stole in harbor’s lee
And there with fire took victory;
The Corsair lord the captain sought
And long they on the gangway fought;
The pirate fell, and Gondor’s best
From harbor slipped without arrest.

They soon had reached Pelargir’s quays;
Inhabitants their joy now seized
And celebrated Umbar’s fall;
One soldier, on the city’s wall,
Enthusiasm heard and thought
To tell the Steward of triumph bought.

From city’s gate he took his flight,
He ran from dusk through moonlit night,
Though field and wood he kept his pace
Full steady in his chosen race,
Till came at last to end of way,
Saw city gleam in sunlight’s ray.

Yet still he ran through city’s tiers,
On wind the chiming bells he hears
And unproclaimed ran into court
Where Steward did day’s business sort;
The nobles, startled with surprise,
And suppliants, fix on him their eyes.

Now Angrod cried, “The victory’s won!
The threat is gone, the battle done!
The fires burned, and now need we
Not fear Umbarian victory!”
As soon as he his news could tell
In death he by exhaustion fell.

The city joyed in victory
For now no Corsair fleet they’d see;
So Angrod duty had fulfilled
Though in completion it him felled;
Though he be dead, yet lives he long
Within this minstrel-poet’s song.

Chapter Text

In Gondolin the Fair before the day of fire came,
Upon a tower white there stood a post of greatest fame
Where chosen youths of elven-kin in times of feasting’s call
Would sound the bugle’s song to echo from the highest wall.

One lad by name of Celegil this honored post now stood:
On Gates of Summer’s dusk his call he blew, at dawn he would,
But e’er he sounded Morn for all who waited Anor’s ray
The light rose from the North instead and fire took the day.

This Celegil in horror watched as elves sought to defend;
In fear he took his trumpet and from tower would descend,
But then he thought of proffered joy that none could now partake
And glanced up to the East: lo! Light now shone and Day would break.

Afraid he stood and knew his duty, done, would be his last,
But thought of all below who’d hope be giv’n by bugle’s blast;
So as the Sun began to top the mountains in the East
He put his trumpet to his lips and blew the Morn of Feast.

King Turgon heard its sound and, strengthened, called defiant word;
In city panic stilled and Tuor’s guiding could be heard;
A moment Idril paused and knew that day would come again
Before her worries forced the flash of foresight from her ken.

But ‘ere the song was ended now the bugler’s calling broke
For he’d, defiant, drawn the angered eye of every orc;
With many arrows in his breast he, pierced, fell from the wall,
Yet never could the darkness break his Song of Daylight’s call.

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When Morgoth held his stronghold long ago
And elvish warrior kings opposed his might
The Dagor Bragollach its flame did throw
O’er all the lands to cast its ruinous light;
Thus on the Noldorim now fell the night—
Or seemed it so to High King Fingolfin—
For great courageous legions gone to fight,
And elvish clans, and too his bravest kin,
Were slaughtered on a battle-ground they did not win.

In wrath and great despair he took his horse
And from his final bastion blazing rode;
Toward Angband’s might he ever set his course
And in Anfauglith’s ash Rochallor strode:
As wind through choking dust he took his road.
A light Valarin-fell now filled his eyes;
As Oromë he seemed as power flowed
And flashed about him in his furious cries
To echo in his raging madness to the skies.

To Angband’s brazen gates he came alone;
His horn he sounded, smote upon the door;
He made a single combat challenge known
And Morgoth called to settle now his score.
The craven lord of slaves could not ignore
His insults and his horn-calls keen and clear:
Before his captains’ faces set to war
With this great elf whose flaming eyes so near
Did set the Dark Lord’s teeth on edge in wretched fear.

Came Morgoth, iron-crowned, with blackened shield
And Underworld’s Hammer Grond the great;
Beneath him, as a star in darkest field,
Stood Fingolfin in glittering silver’s weight,
Blue-crystal guard, blade ice-keen, gleaming straight.
So challenged came like thunder from his lair
When challenger’s bright fury set his fate,
For to assay great enemy he’d dare
That all his evil works to him he might repair.

With thunderous voice aloft he hammer sent
Hurled toward the elf who from it sprang away;
A chasm pit in rocky earth it rent
From whence there darted smoke and fire’s ray.
In battle-prowess lunged the elf-king fey
And, wielding Ringil, wounded Morgoth sore;
He fought as lightning rending through the day,
And in dismay fell Angband’s hosts galore
As seven times its lord he gravely wounded more.

Yet finally weary grew the warrior king
And Morgoth his great shield on him bore down;
Thrice to his knees was crushed, and thrice did spring
Again with stricken shield and broken crown.
The earth in pitted ash was rent around,
And stumbled he and fell at Morgoth’s feet:
With one his neck he forced into the ground:
The elf with final strokes it hewed and beat,
And black blood filled the pits, there smoking in their heat.

So died great Fingolfin the Noldor’s lord,
News of whose death the Eagle brought to kin:
As body took he Morgoth’s visage scored
So ever after scarred his face’s skin
And limped he did where blade had pierced within.
The orcs were ever wary to assay
The mountains past the grave of Fingolfin;
And men and elves indeed recall that day
When he, their great High King, had stood unmoved and fey.