The Golden and the Black

The Summons

The first two days of our journey home are silent.

My first foray to the outskirts of Eldamar in five years has unsettled me… that glimpse of the Halls of Aulë from afar, mocking me with something both my firstborn and I yearn for but can never have… the unexpected appearance of the elves of Eldamar triggering our sudden and hasty flight back into the forest. We had hoped to enjoy at least another day in the company of dear friends not seen since our arrival at Avallonë.

But this is our life now. A life of hiding, ever fearing discovery, and it has hit home now as never before. As we canter south through the woods, I am more sour and bad-tempered than I have been in a century. “Oh, stuff it,” I snap, when Laurefindil suggests we could invite our friends from Ennor to our lakeside home. The thought of all of them having to make a journey of a thousand leagues through the wilderness for our sakes somehow makes it even worse.

Laurefindil understands. Unperturbed by my foul mood, he rides peacefully at my side. In his place, my Amil would coax then pester me to talk about it, tell her how I feel. He lets me be, taciturn and withdrawn as I am. I feel his comforting presence at the borders of my being, like a cloak resting on the shoulders. We have talked of this matter often enough before. He knows there is naught else to be said.

On the morning of the third day, he senses the worst is over and begins to sing—his way of saying, Come now, love—enough brooding—time for joy again! The beauty of his voice harmonises with the birdsong that awakens the forest. In the canopy above, faint celestial voices chime in melodiously, for the forest is full of maiar great and small, mighty and lowly. Finding a minor maia lurking in every other tree and rock and stream and flower had at first disturbed me greatly, but one soon grows habituated to it. If I do not yet see them as allies and friends as Laurefindil does, at least I no longer jump and screech a curse if a stone I am admiring begins to talk to me.

His song done, Lauro dismounts, looks at me with a smile—a wordless invitation—and begins to walk. Without a word, I slip off Gilroch and do the same. Neither we nor our horses are weary; we walk for no other reason than the sheer pleasure of it… the motion of our limbs and bodies, lithe and full of strength… the feel of moss and earth and grass beneath our light leather shoes as our feet eat the miles… the pulse of life in the forest, coursing through the earth, beating in the trees, singing in the wind and the stars and sun. Within an hour, all thoughts of Eldamar—of what I and mine are denied—fade away. Seventy leagues of forest now lie between us and the lands of the Eldar, and my fëa begins to expand once more as I again rejoice in all I do have—this freedom of the forest, this nér at my side. My child and my mother who await us at the journey’s end, and my sons in the lands yet further south.

I find I rarely tire in Aman. Sleep is mostly for pleasure, as food is. The night country of Lórien has at last become, for me, not just a realm of rest, but of delight. Lauro and I at times awaken and smile into each other’s eyes, knowing we have dreamed the same dream—met and travelled together in that strange, wondrous terrain of Irmo’s kingdom. In our night adventures, we meet and speak to fantastic creatures, scale mountains and float down waterfalls, soar like eagles through rainbows.

As we journey south through the forest, sometimes our hands reach out to clasp, and we run. Faster and faster, till we are one with rushing wind and birdsong, one with leaves and branches, sky and shadow and sunlight, till we are heartbeat and speed and the blood rushing through our veins. Sometimes we overtake our horses as they walk, sometimes they overtake us as they break into a canter. We leap over logs, duck beneath boughs, barely marring the mossy forest floor as our feet lightly fly across it. Running can turn into dancing, and dancing back into walking, and song to silence, and silence to talk. There is a solemn and deep speculation about where the periain and other fírimar go when they die, and then about how we might all be reunited at the Second Music. There is merry talk of the next feast at Oromë halls; mundane talk about harvesting the silk and the honey at our home, and planting herbs. He suggests an improvement to our system of irrigation that elicits a snort of derision from me. I immediately describe an elaborate and intricate irrigation system that would put to shame anything ever devised by the House of the Tree. He raises an eyebrow at me. “Oh, come on—for our little patch of land?” But I declare loftily that it should be done just because it is amazingly brilliant and beautiful, and he cuffs my head affectionately and we both laugh. I suggest sowing some rye. He would prefer oats. We squabble a little over it, amicably, then he breaks into song again and my voice joins his as naturally as I draw breath. At moments I am so giddy with fullness and lightness of spirit that I laugh for no reason at all—just as he has always been wont to do. How I once hated him for it, in Gondolin. At such moments, I know myself truly transformed, and can no longer tell where my blackness ends and his goldenness begins.

In this manner the day and the leagues slip swiftly by. Night falls. Dappled with shadow and silver moonlight as we tread lightly over the forest floor, Asfaloth and Gilroch walking ahead of us, our auras shimmer silver and golden in the night. The moon sets. The stars wheel overhead as the sky lightens a little towards the east. Within an hour, another dawn will be upon us. We come to an exceptionally large clearing and slow to a stop. A myriad tiny golden lights flash around us, both in shadows and moonlight, and though we have seen this many times before, we are spellbound as we watch the thousands of fireflies dance about us, their lights winking in intricate patterns of gold. Our eyes meet in joy. At certain moments such as this, it is as though I am seeing him for the first time, and I am overcome by his beauty. The grace and strength of his lithe body, the glory of his golden hair, the perfection in the line of his jaw and his throat, the curve of his lips inviting kisses. I pull him to me and it is not long before I want more than kisses, but as my hands slide down his torso and feel him through his breeches, he speaks to me in thought: “Uh uh. Not now, melmenya. We are being watched.”

I freeze with my lips on the hollow of his throat. There must be a dozen minor maiar all about this clearing, but I know he does not mean them.

He has been following us the last nine hours,” Lauro adds.

And through our bond, I understand who he means. I pull away hurriedly. “Why did you not tell me earlier?”

“You were in such good spirits once again. I did not wish to upset you.”

My eyes dart over the woods surrounding us. It is true. I can sense him there now. And I had not thought it would upset me. Had thought myself at peace with him. There have been times I remember him fondly, even. I am unprepared for the surge of emotion that grips me—a surge that feels very much like anger.

“Where are you?” I call with ringing voice into the shadows alive with the sounds of night creatures. “I know you are there. Show yourself!”

And I sense it though I do not hear it. He is turning. He is running away.

“Nay!!” I cry sharply. “Come back here, damn you! Come back, you damned coward!”

A flash of gold at the corner of my eye, and I turn my head to see Laurefindil disappear into the trees. There is the sound of bodies crashing through a thicket. Even as I sprint into the woods, I hear a familiar deep voice shouting, and another crash of twigs splintering. Then a stream of curses defiles the pure air of Aman. If he was cleansed when he walked at long last out of the gates of Mandos, he is fast undoing the work of six-and-a-half millennia.

In the dim light of a thick stand of trees, my father lies face down in the undergrowth, pinned down by Laurefindil. Very much as it had been millennia ago in a throne room in Gondolin.

“He tried to hit me, melmenya,” Lauro says apologetically to me, even as my father thrashes violently and utters a flood of profanities so foul that I imagine any maiar in the vicinity must be blushing.

I realize that our horses have rushed here, drawn by the commotion. They stand some distance away to my left, peering through the trees with curious eyes, ears pricked forward.

Adar!” I shout above the cursing. “Adar, stop that struggling. He means you no harm.”

“Êl síla erin lû e-govaned wîn, Adar of my love,” Lauro says most courteously as he sits astride his law-father and holds the Moriquendë’s arms behind his back. “And may I say, Adar, how good it is to have you back among the living.

“Call me that again, you gorn-faced golodh, you hoithol whoreson, you gwib-less frilly-brained flowergirl, and I will—” and my father proceeds to detail quite graphically the violent end to which Lauro’s manhood would come.

Díheno nin, Hîr Eöl,” says Lauro, quite unruffled. “I regret deeply that we started on the wrong foot. Let bygones be bygones!” Beaming sunnily, he pulls my father up, sets him on his feet, and gives him a friendly clap on the shoulder. He is half a head taller than the stockier Moriquendë—a golden creature of morning whose willowy grace always belies his strength and his power. “Please do not try to hit me again,” he says lightly, “or with all due respect, hîr-nín, I will have to restrain you once more.”

I sometimes suspect that after two cosy conjugal centuries of me, Lauro is not completely the paragon of virtue all think him. Behind that warm, dazzling smile and that sincere, limpid gaze, I swear there lurks a secret smirk. As I look on in silence, I become guiltily aware that I am smirking too, and I quickly wipe it from my face.

I step forward as Laurefindil attempts to brush bits of earth and vegetation from my father’s hair and clothes. With a glare and a snarling curse, the erstwhile Lord of Nan Elmoth steps away from the warrior. Then his dark head turns towards me.

Suddenly I am nervous. My palms are clammy. “Adar-nín,” I say coolly, with a calm I do not feel.

My father wears a light-grey hooded robe of fine linen and leather sandals—a far cry from the dark colours and leathers and boots he had always worn in a first life. It must be the standard garb the Rebodied are issued with ere they set forth from the Gates of Mandos. Apart from that, he looks just the same. Black hair falling in strong, dark waves to his waist. Black eyes smouldering. Pengolodh unjustly described him as stooped. Lauro and Rauco had cracked a couple of ribs and wrenched a shoulder bringing him down in the throne room. He went to his death at Caragdûr bowed with pain. He stands straight and proud before me now, still powerfully built, a virile, handsome specimen of manhood if ever there was one, even if his shoulders and arms have lost some of the muscular bulk once gained through a millennium of smithing. His face, though not grim and shadowed as before, is yet set in stern lines. His bronzed skin glows in the shadows.

How I had loathed my pale, sickly complexion as a child, and yearned for the dusky tones of my Avarin father and his tribe… yearned to belong. I never did. As I came of age, I embraced my Noldorin heritage with a vengeance. I was better than these barbarians. I was born to great things and a wider world…

I wonder how I look to him. I happen to be wearing white, as Lauro is. One of my mother’s riding dresses. She oft braids her hair when she rides, but mine falls loose to my hips. His eyes take me in from my head to my toes. He avoids looking at my chest.

One marked difference I note in my father now. Despite the scowl on his face, he looks… sheepish. Shamefaced.

It is not only my chest his gaze avoids. He cannot meet my eyes.

The last time in life I had seen him was when he had been cast off the Caragdûr. The last words I had uttered to him in life had been the slew of profanities I spat at him as I held my wounded mother in my arms. A moment before, his eyes had met mine in murderous hatred, and he had hurled a poisoned javelin at my heart.

The tentative step we had taken towards reconciliation whilst in Mandos had only affirmed one thing to me—his pride that he had… a son. How bitter must be his disappointment with the creature that stands before him now. I wonder if he did not curse Námo when the vala broke the news to him. That might have gotten him another century in Mandos.

“Know you not who I am, Adar?”

“Am I a father? Have I a child?” he says gruffly, arms folded across his chest, eyes on the thicket at my right shoulder. “I had a son, once. He cursed and disowned and forsook me.”

“I had a father, once,” I say coldly. “He sought to kill me, but killed my mother.”

“Long, long ago in another world, and in another life,” says Laurefindil soothingly to us both. “Have we not all passed through the Halls of Mandos, and the slate been wiped clean? Meleth-nín, have you naught else to say to your Adar?” And he looks at me meaningfully, eyebrow lifted. You spoke to me of this before. Remember?

Sod off. I glare at him.

“Maeglin has aught to say to you, Hîr Eöl,” says my beloved to my father.

“Shut up, Lauro! Stay out of this!”

“You married this?” says my father, jerking his head in Laurefindil’s direction, his mouth sneering.

At that I explode. “You stiff-necked arrogant gwib! Why did I imagine that you would have changed? Yes, I married him. A far better choice than that my mother made.”

“Your mother… how is she?” he mutters stiffly.

“She is well,” I say curtly.

“She misses you, Hîr Eöl,” adds Lauro.

“You have… such a great look of her,” says my father to me, awkwardly, ignoring the golodh.

“I always did.” My anger is ebbing away.

Nine hours my father followed us through the forest. Listened to our laughter and song. Witnessed the bond Laurefindil and I have, even in silence, even when we do not touch. Did he think of the days he walked with my mother in starlight, hand in hand? Did he wonder how it all degenerated into anger and hurt and violence? Or did he merely wish to see with his own eyes the thing his son had become, to sneer at the weak, soft thing I now was?

“Why were you hiding and spying on us?” I demand.

My father pulls himself up proudly and looks down at me, his hooded eyes somewhere at the level of my chin. “I learned you were wed. I wished to see if all be well with you.”

“It is well,” I reply shortly.

“So it would seem.” Eöl gives his glowing, golden law-son a dubious glance. No accounting for taste. Lauro inclines his head towards my father respectfully. My father looks back at me. “Cuio vê.” He straightens his robe, awry from the tussle with Lauro. “I shall be on my way.”

“No!” I block his way as he turns to leave. “Where do you think to go?”

“Anywhere. South. Away from the accursed golodhrim and Sindar.”

“What of my mother?”

He shrugs, a pretence of indifference. “Tell her she has her freedom. Send my regards.”

“She is waiting for you,” I say sharply. “She never gives up hope of your return. She refuses to even leave this forest lest you return whilst she be away. She looks for you every day.

Lauro gently lays a hand on my shoulder and speaks to his law-father. “Hîr Eöl, Hiril Aredhel has built her home on a site with vast trees, by a pool that reminds her of Gladuial.” It was little over an hour’s ride from our home. “She has even had a forge built for you—”

There is a strange expression on my father’s face. “She has?”

“Yes, Hîr Eöl. It is almost ready. Maeglin and Aredhel work still on it.”

“We have spent the last four sodding years preparing the damned place for you,” I growl. “But you don’t give a gorn, do you?”

My father is silent. But there is a softness in his gaze that I have hardly ever seen before.

Lauro points at the stars glimmering through the spreading branches of the trees around us, unperturbed at being cold-shouldered. “Two hundred and eighty leagues south and east lies her home—there where lies Wilwarin—where the leftmost star of Gwilwileth now dips over that hill.”

My father acknowledges his words by turning his head to look at the stars. His eyes rest on the glittering butterfly of the heavens and the tip of its wing, then on the lands that lie below it.

“Journey with us, Hîr Eöl,” says Lauro.

My father looks from me to Lauro, and back to me, his face inscrutable. His eyes meet mine at last, briefly, before looking away.

“Why would he wish to journey with us?” I say rather sharply to Lauro, my eyes still on my father. To the Moriquendë I speak in a level but steely voice, “I know what you are thinking: I want no daughter. You have naught to do with me.”

“Those are not my thoughts,” he mutters gruffly. “Do not presume to know my thoughts.”

“You told Emel the night you conceived me you were glad it was a son. You had no use for a girl.”

“I did!” he barks angrily. “Because I did not yet have a daughter!”

Our eyes hold in the silence that follows. I feel Lauro in my mind, urging me. Go on, tell him—‘Forgive me, Adar—and I forgive you’. Go on. You have been waiting to do this for years.

My father clears his throat. “Iell…” he begins, awkwardly, gruffly. “Daughter…”

Then there is a roaring sound, and the forest is illuminated with white light, and a being with flaming hair and eyes leaps down from the trees above into our midst, crackling with raw power.

“Eruchîn,” says the Herald of Manwë in his resonant voice, speaking in Sindarin for the first time in the few years I have known him. “Children of the One, his peace be with you.”

If my father is overawed or petrified, he does not show it. Lauro and I bow. “Peace with you, Hîr Eonwë,” we say almost in unison, likewise speaking Sindarin for the sake of my father.

“A summons, Eruchîn,” says the Herald. “Come with me. The time of secrets is past. What was hidden is now known.”

Lauro and I exchange a look. We know Ecthelion should be back in New Ondolindë by now. It does not surprise us that he has had to tell our story and reveal all.

“Come? Where to, Hîr?” asks Lauro.

“Is there not all the more reason for us to remain hidden here now?” I add.

“It is time, child, to be justified before the rest of the children, those whom you knew in the former life,” says the Herald to me. “Come with me to the shining city, to Alcarinos the Fair.”

No. Absolutely not. Are you insane?? I want to shriek at the maia. “That is the last place in Arda I would ever wish to go to. Forgive me, Hîr. I decline.”

“Your presence is required. Your sons went there in disguise, but their identities are now exposed. And,” the maia adds calmly, “one is this very moment a fugitive at large within the city, the other taken into custody by Turgon.”

“What?!” sputters Lauro, stupefied, even as I am stunned into silence and probably blanch as white as my riding dress.

My father asks, “How many grandsons have I?”

“Two,” answers Lauro. “And a granddaughter.”

I at last find my voice. “Hîr Eonwë, how could this be? Our sons are far south.”

“They lied to us!My beloved is stunned. “They were disguised? What manner of disguise?”

“How could they do this?” I cry, aghast. “Have they no brains?”

Behind me, my Adar is darkly muttering something about lack of brains being a golodhrin trait, about retribution for lying to your father and leaving home against his wishes, and about the evil fates that befall those who go the cities of the golodhrim. I ignore him.

Lauro says, “I alone shall come with you, O Eonwë, and bring my sons home.”

“I am under orders, young one. Both the Lords of the Golden Flower and the Mole am I asked to bring thence, and with both the Flower and the Mole shall I leave this place.” He speaks placidly, with no hint of threat or intimidation. But there is no question that he will do it, whether we say ay or nay.

“Very well. Let us go, then.” I have a week to think, then. A week on the ride north to gird myself like a warrior, and prepare for the dreaded event.

The maia smiles, like a flash of lightning. “We depart now. Come, Eruchîn.”

There is a huge rushing wind that sends our hair streaming and leaves flying from the trees. My skirts swirl wildly, and I reach out to steady myself against Lauro. The horses neigh and rear a little. Then through the trees I see a large hill with wings land in the clearing Lauro and I had kissed in not long ago. The earth shakes.

Sorontar the Great lowers his head and peers through the trees, fixing me and Laurefindel with a golden eye the size of a large plate. Hammer of Aulë, I had forgotten how huge he was.

I shrink back against Lauro’s chest, and my stomach lurches. “Fly?” I gasp weakly.

I had thought my fear of heights a thing of the past. But it is one thing to climb up and down a mallorn, one thing to fly in one’s dreams, and quite another in real life to get on an eagle the size of Vingilótë and fly so high that the clouds crawl below like tiny sheep. To my beloved’s mind I am shouting, “The LAST thing in Arda I ever want to do is FLY. I am NOT flying with any sodding eagle!!”

“I have done this in days of yore, melimë. There is naught to fear.”

“You were DEAD!!”

“Nay, I mean I flew once on Sorontar here in Aman, after my re-housing. I guess he was making up to me for not catching me at the Cristhorn.”

“Eöl of Nan Elmoth, you mayst ride with us if you so choose,” the mighty Herald is saying graciously to my father.

“I choose not,” my father replies shortly. The expression on his face says it all: Absolutely hoithol not, you hoithol maia. Given that we all fell to our deaths in our first lives, it seems to me and my father that of the three of us only Laurefindil is not in his right mind.

“Melmenya,” Laurefindil is saying to reassure me, “so broad is Sorontar’s back that you will not even be able to see the earth below!”

“That is the very thing—if we may not even straddle his back, what grip do we have?—what if we slide off?”

“We could lie on our fronts and hold on to his feathers.”

I have no idea if eagles can read minds, but the King of Eagles now says in a thunderous voice, “I shall not let you fall, little she-elf.”

“What if we slip off?”

“Then I shall catch you.”

Thus speaks the bird who did not save my beloved from plummeting to his death.

“I ride with you, and I shall not let you fall off, Lómiel Eöliel,” says the Herald of Manwë. “Let us away.”

“But Asfaloth and Gilroch—”

“—shall lead your father to your mother’s home,” says Laurefindil. And the horses neigh an assent.

My eyes meet my father’s. “Gilroch shall bear you, Adar.

My father is eyeing Sorontar rather nervously. “Are you travelling on that bird, Iell? Are you mad?”

“In case you have not noticed, I have no choice. Novaer, Adar-nín.”

From his gloomy expression, I can tell that he thinks I am on a course back to Mandos. “Galu, Iell-nín,” is all he says.

“I am going to need it,” I mutter, as we set foot into the clearing and Sorontar lowers his great head and neck to us.

Eonwë grows to four times his height and picks up Lauro and me as though we are kittens. As he climbs onto the eagle’s back, he says, “Fear not. ’Twill be a flight of mere minutes.”

Minutes? My mind spins with an indescribable horror. A millennium would not be enough to prepare for such a meeting. And the Ainur give me minutes. More time, I need more time!

Perhaps the less time you have to think of it, the better, vesseya, says my beloved.

Eonwë seats himself on Sorontar’s back, at the base of the eagle’s great neck, and places us between his thighs. As Thorondor unfurls his wings, thirty fathoms wide, the Herald encircles us gently with his now-huge hands. Lauro holds me close to him, and I squeeze my eyes tight. I feel the force of the eagle’s upwards thrust as he launches us up into the sky, the wind rushing past at tremendous velocity as he powerfully cleaves through the air. How can a creature so massive be so swift? My brain is a blank of numbing fear as the wind rushes against my face. I hear Laurefindil catch his breath.

“Look, melimë,” he urges me. And he shares what he sees to my mind. “Is that not beautiful?”

I slowly open my eyes against the cold wind. Over the secure cage of Eonwë’s fingers I see the back of the eagle’s great head. Above us, the cold, bright stars are fading in the lightening sky. Around us, before us, the vast realm of Aman lies spread in all its glory. To the east, the towering Pélori mountain range, beyond it a glimpse of the infinitude of Alatairë, the Great Sea. To the west, a huge continent spreads—plains and hills and woods yet unknown to me, and distant in the west, ranges of mountains less lofty than the Pélori, blue and shadowy and mysterious in the pre-dawn light.

Lauro laughs and I am smiling, lost for a while in delight at the beauty and splendour of these far horizons, lost in the wild exhilaration of wind and speed. Too quickly the world and the minutes fly by. We swoop past Taniquetil, glide across the Calacirya, and suddenly, ahead, is a glimpse of white towers gleaming through the mountains ahead. The city’s lamps wink like myriad stars, its pearlescent stones and crystal stairs and spires shimmering softly in the night. My stomach ties itself in a knot.

“Lord Eonwë—I beg you—let us descend now—approach the city on foot,” I shout in a panic to the maia.

But already we are over the city, and I squeeze my eyes shut again, stomach lurching as the eagle falls in giddy swooping circles and descends. My head spinning, I see the city only through Laurefindil’s eyes—the banners, the glittering spires, the market square, the temple, the King’s House, the King’s Square, the Great Fountain. My ears are assailed by the cries of many voices lifted up in Quenya and Sindarin: The eagle! The eagle! Sorontar! Thorondor!

Sorontar lands next to the Great Fountain. There is a huge wave of murmurs and exclamations as Eonwë slides off the eagle’s back and gently sets us down. So weak are my knees that they almost buckle as I land, but Laurefindil holds me up. There is a wild turbulence in the air around us as Thorondor takes to the skies again.

Then I stare about me in a daze. How surreal it all is… it must be a dream.

The sun is rising behind the mountains east, and in the soft dawn light a figure in grey stands at the centre of the Square, hands behind his back, as though he has been awaiting us patiently for some time.

“Well met again, Glorfindel and Lómiel. And was it a pleasant flight? Journeys by eagle. Always the best way to travel.”

“Olórin! What happens next?”

“We wait. Ah, here they are.”

Before us rises a long flight of stairs to a palace—sixty glittering white stone steps broken by two landings. And running down it, five familiar figures.

“Atar? Milyë?” Lauro gasps in shock as Finrod then Amarië envelops him and me in a hug. “What are you doing here? And what are you doing?” He is appalled by the very public display of affection.

“Good to see you again, yonya,” says Finrod with a grin as Amarië kisses his son on the cheek.

“Suilad, mellyn!” cries Legolas cheerfully. “What an entrance!”

“Aren’t you two supposed to be in hiding?” says Gimli, huffing and puffing from the run.

“How I wish,” I mutter.

And behind them all, Aryo, shamefaced, “Atto, Ammë…”

“Why did you do this?—”

Where is your brother?—”

“How could you lie to us?—”

“Nairenya… I am sorry…”

And so contrite and stricken does he look that we say no more but embrace our firstborn.

Then, over all their shoulders, I see the King.

My King.

Tall and majestic in his dark crimson robes, Turukáno is slowly descending the steps, the long skirt of his robe trailing behind him.

Close behind him walk all the Lords. Why are there two Penlods? Oh… the twin who died early, whom I never met. Galdor looks frighteningly grim. Ecthelion looks solemn, but as he catches my eye he smiles reassuringly.

Finrod takes me by the hand, and leads me forward as though I am a child. Laurefindil grips my other hand tightly, and the others follow close behind.

To the sides and behind us, the crowd is gathering more closely in the Square now, pressing forward for a better view. “The traitor...” “Golden Flower!…” “Mole…” “…they look well…” “…that is Lómion?…” “…traitor…” “…so like Írissë…” “…traitor!…” The murmurs, the exclamations are loud in our ears.

For the briefest moment I wonder how I look, with my wild, windblown hair, and my travel-stained clothes—my mother’s white riding dress, taken up at the hem—and my shabby, oldest boots. Are you enjoying the show, good people? What is expected of me? Should I rend my clothes? Crawl to Turukáno’s feet? Cast myself down from the King’s Tower and strike these steps thrice as I fall? Dash out my brains on these flagstones to appease you?

As we ascend the palace steps, the Herald of Manwë remains at the centre of the Square by the Fountain. He declares in a booming voice that must surely reverberate through the whole city: “Ela! Lómion Eölion is no more. In Ondolindë did the traitor die, and his transgressions with him. Let Lómiel Eöliel, she who has been sent forth from the halls of Mandos, who has been released by the grace of Eru Ilúvatar, be forgiven and received among the living.”

It is all happening so fast. Too fast. Turukáno approaches, his stern gaze piercing me. I release Finrod and Laurefindil’s hands and climb the steps by myself. I must do this alone.

But I am not alone. I feel all of them still with me—Lauro and Finrod, Amárië and Legolas… and further away, to my great wonder, Galadriel and Elrond and Arman. Their presence and their love are warm upon my fëa like sunshine. I wish it gave me enough courage and strength to meet Turukáno’s silver eyes. My gaze is fixed somewhere between the sash at the King’s waist and the embroidery on his robe’s hem.

My brain tries to scramble words together. Words... they are too little. They are too much…

I have imagined this moment now and again, over the years. What might happen if I ever faced those I destroyed… what I could possibly say. I would occasionally find myself thinking of it as I wielded my hammer at my anvil, as I held my children in my arms, as I lay against the warm curve of Laurefindil’s sleeping body in the comfort of our bed. But any of the words I crafted then are nothing now, empty of meaning as the Timeless Void.

Against you, O King… against all the people of Ondolindë…sinned… betrayed… of all who have ever walked the earth, the most vile… most reprobate… heinous wretch… my crimes…

The hollow fragments fall into the yawning abyss of my fëa’s guilt like snowflakes into a furnace.

As I reach the first landing, I at last raise my eyes to the penetrating grey stare of the king, and transfixed by it I falter to a halt. My eyes flinch away from his, and my legs are paralyzed. We are five steps away from each other.

… I expect no forgiveness… deserve no forgiveness… unutterable sorrow… everlasting regret…

Words, sodding useless words. I open my mouth. My anguish and remorse grip my throat, and strangle me silent. Where is my former eloquence? One word. One word will suffice. Say it. Say it, damn you. Say it! My lips shape one word. I strain my vocal cords. But just as in dreams where my voice is stolen, not a sound comes forth.

He walks across the landing, stands an arm’s length away from me. I crane my neck to look up at him, and for another moment, our eyes lock. And suddenly it does not seem so long ago that we had stood thus before the assembled people of Gondolin, and he had declared me the Prince of his kingdom and conferred honour and authority upon me.

I fall to my knees upon the glittering white stones, less by design than that my strength deserts me. And to my utter horror, I give way to uncontrollable weeping. Not pretty tears. Hard, choking sobs that tear themselves from some deep, unexcavated place within me. Strong hands take hold of mine and raise me. My head remains bowed, my tears soak the front of a crimson damask robe. Very gingerly, the King wraps his arms about me. My head barely reaches his sternum. My salt tears ruin the silk, and my voice at last manages to choke out one word. “Nairenya,” it says. “Nairenya.”

And as if in a dream, I hear his low voice murmur softly: “Apsenin-tyë.”


Glossary

Apsenin-tyë [Q] – I forgive you

Cuio vê [woodelven Sindarin] – Live well

Êl síla erin lû e-govaned wîn [exilic Sindarin] – a star shines on the hour of our meeting

Eruchîn [S] – children of Eru

Gorn [Gnomish] – crap/shit

Gwib [Gnomish] – penis/prick

Hoithol – a present participle form created from Gnomish hoitha, meaning “to have coitus”. You get the idea.

Iell [S] – daughter

Nairenya [Q] – I am sorry

Wilwarin/gwilwileth [Q/S] – butterfly. I visualize this as the constellation Cassiopeia.

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