Cry Not for the Moon
Dark. Everything is so
dark. And cold.
I reach out, grasping the damp air. A harsh silence answers my trembling breath. I am alone.
The darkness shows no mercy. I have always sought solace from the moon; the pale, cold moon, my only company and guide for many a year. Without the moon, I am lost.
He would always tell me that I am as cold as the moon. You must bring down your eyes and look around at people, he used to say. But I had only scoffed. Loving the moon is much easier than loving people.
I know he is right. His breath, roughened with the winds of the plains, was ever breathed upon the people. Not upon a cold and distant moon in a lonely night. His amber hair always did shine more warmly than mine.
But alas, I lack that warmth. Perhaps I seek that which I seek because my heart is as cold. It is moments like this that I desperately wish that my breath would be warmer, my hair more wild, my voice more passionate. That I had been blessed with coarse warmth instead of elegant coolness.
Eomer. How I long to see him again.
I lift my eyes onto the unforgiving night, a ragged breath rising from my throat. For the first time in a very long while, I am very much alone. My uncle had held us, Eomer and I, and rocked us back and forth, letting us cry our tears onto his robe as they took Mother and Father's corpses away. I would wake up screaming from nightmares, night after night, and cry in my cold white bed under the moon. I was forever running, running from the dreams that haunted my rest with fervent screams. And my dear cousin would rush into my room, and hold me tight, rocking me back and forth until the break of dawn. And he would chase away the demons of the night. But alas, those warm lips upon my forehead had become cold with the kiss of death, and hands that had stroked my hair had frozen with the messenger's pale touch. The chest that had held me firmly for many a night, now locked in death's cold embrace. Watching my cousin fight a losing battle, I had wept for the first time in a very long time. Yes, a very long time. And yet I was not yet lost, for I still had my brother, who walked in quietly into the dark, and seated himself behind me – and I had cried, biting my lips in the dark, I had cried. Leaned my pale cold head upon his warm, wind-burned chest, and cried in the dark while my brother held me, had wrapped his arms around me and rocked me back and forth until the break of dawn, whispering in my ears that it would be all right. It would be all right.
But once again the nightmares return, and I am once again running. There is no moon to shine down upon me on my cold white bed. There is no longer an amber-eyed boy to chase my demons, no arms to hold me and rock me back and forth – and my pale cheeks tremble with cold tears, and no strong chest is there to catch them when I turn around in the desolate halls. I am alone; even the moon has deserted me.
I gasp, and trudge blindly through the dark. My heart mourns, my soul weeps. The glistening tears on my cheeks are cold, so cold.
Alas, he is gone – gone, far and away; my brother, my dear brother. He is gone. He is gone. Gone.
I feel so young. I want my older brother back again, to hold me and tell me –
A broken sob escapes my throat. The night is unkind.
Treachery, death, exile, liberation – and then a man, a man with stormy eyes that looked into mine, those unfathomably deep eyes that looked straight into my soul. And then – exile, and death.
What was it all for?
I wrap my arms around myself, praying that this is a nightmare, that this would end soon and I would wake up and run to Eomer to seek comfort. That the man had just been a dream, that his death had never happened. And here we are, here I am, exiled from my own land, trapped in a cage. Waiting for uncertain doom. How I wish I had my sword.
I fear neither death nor pain.
My footsteps gain pace, as I turn and begin to run through the maze of stone. The labyrinth looms dark and foreboding in the night; this is to be my grave.
What do you fear, my lady?
The riders are coming. They are swift and merciless; I can hear the hooves thundering in my ears. They close in on me, on the people who crouch here in fear – and they come to kill us all. We have spelled our doom by trapping ourselves here. But what other way did we have? Perhaps we were meant to die. I laugh bitterly. The curse of men. Ah, sweet death.
I run. Soon I find myself gasping for breath, clenching my dress tight as my bare feet tap soundlessly against the cold stone. I know not where I am headed; I only run, flee from the darkness. To breathe the air, and know that I am yet alive. Though I may not be for long.
You are a daughter of kings. A shieldmaiden of Rohan.
What am I doing here? My ragged breath rises shrilly into the still darkness. Why do I run? Why do I fear? I only shut my eyes and run, driven mad by the wild beatings of my heart pounding in my ears.
I do not think that would be your fate.
I no longer know.
I inhale deeply, the drumming of my heart pounding against my ears as I step into the night air. Under the darkness of the clouded night, I shiver; the cold against my feet are welcoming to my heated mind. Goosebumps rise at my arms as hair whips around my face in the gust of wind.
I walk toward the edge of the stone lanai, only to be startled to a halt by a figure already standing there. So someone else has also sought solace under the moon. But the moon yet hides behind the alter of clouds, and the figure is shrouded in darkness. I watch in silence, wondering at the stillness of the person. The body under the dark cloak is slender and tall, still and erect – not a single sway in the harsh wind. The hood covers the person from my view; I feel a detached calm that permeates from the figure, a mysterious call that I dare not answer. So I stand still, and watch on in silence.
The clouds shift as the figure turns slightly. I am startled once again; clear blue eyes glitter toward me, the distant orbs watching my every move. So he knew that I was here all along. I brace myself and bow my head. It is the elf.
"Forgive me, my lord. I did not intend to disturb you." My voice is a hesitant whisper, a frail willow that scatters quickly into the vicious wind.
He does not answer. A fleeting nod is the response I am to settle with; I do not mind. He has lost a companion today. I watch him as he watches me; he does not turn away. I suck in my breath. Accepting his silent invitation, I approach him slowly, pushing back the hair that lashes my face.
The elf does not speak. He watches me a moment, and then turns away to look once more down at the plains below. I take the moment to take in his features. I had seen him since he first entered the Rohirrim castle, but he was always here and gone. Never at one place, never stopping to speak to anyone. He was a shadow, a silent companion that rarely made his presence known. Seemingly the youngest of the company, even younger than I. And yet the man's presence vibrated so silently, so powerfully, in the company of this glowing beauty. Wherever the man went, he followed; he stood behind the man, silent and unmoving, as the mortal gave out directions and conversed with the king. A bright shadow, with glittering eyes that coolly pierced into all who dared to oppose the man. A shadow that flashed with the darkest of deaths when danger crossed his path. And so I take this chance to study him, to see him for the first time. His still figure betrays nothing, the fair smoothness of the limbs as expressionless and calm as stone. The only breaths of life I see in him are the icy blue eyes, the pale slates of expressionless smoothness. I did once hear his voice; the voice was also a smooth slate, light and clear. His golden hair flaps wildly in the wind as he looks down upon the vast stretches of land.
The silence bears heavily upon me. I know not how to speak to the fair race. I clear my throat.
"Does sleep elude you, my lord?"
A shadow of a smile appears on his fair face. I am surprised to find that I had somehow expected this elf to not respond to me at all.
"An elf finds no peace within stone walls."
Aye, I have heard. And I also know that elves are not humans. They do not belong in this battle; they are granted eternal peace elsewhere, a paradise where no other can go. I raise my eyes to look boldly up to him.
"Why, then, do you stay?"
What do you possibly hope to accomplish, standing alone amongst a sea of frightened men? What has brought you here, and whither now will you go? Will you stay with us, stand behind us and cloak us with your mighty shadow? Will you stand before us, and shine bright upon the eyes of despairing women and children? I dare not hope. I dare not wish. For that would be a foolish hope, a selfish wish. And yet I hold my breath and await the answer.
The elf turns to return my gaze. I dare not breathe. He has answered my challenge – what a foolish child I must have seemed to him! For I tremble upon his gaze, and wish to look away. This is something no mere mortal can dare to see. This is different from the deep, unfathomable storm I have seen in Lord Aragorn; no, this is entirely different. For he bares himself before me, daring me to look into his eyes, waiting for me to see and recoil. No malice, no humor, no condescension lingers in his even gaze, and yet I regret issuing the challenge. His eyes are a tumbling sea, a maelstrom of howling waters that crash against themselves and melt into the storm. He does not withdraw to watch the world around him, as Lord Aragorn had – no, he shows his expressive eyes without hesitation, shows every tumbling emotion fleeting across his soul. I cannot catch any of them, the myriad of swirling colors, for they are so deep, so inexpressibly deep and powerful, so ancient. I cannot dare begin to comprehend the ages his eyes have seen. And I am ashamed; feeling like a lost child, I look away breathlessly, my body swaying in the clutches of the wind.
At last, the pale lips open, and cold breath glides softly under the dark sky.
"I was bound by duty to embark on a journey."
The voice is nonetheless smooth; a serene calm, as an undisturbed lake – and yet I know the roar that erupts with a fury and crashes so violently under the quiet waters. I await his next words.
"Now the quest is out of my hands, and I am bound by love."
Love. The word seems so foreign, so distant, coming from the fair elf. Are elves capable of loving? Of course they are. I curse myself for my absurd stupidity. What made me think that the word was preserved for humans alone? The bane of humans, this conceit.
The elf looks away, a pale smile once more gracing his lips. Relieved, I will my eyes to look fearlessly at his dark blue silhouette. A gentle glimmer dances in his eyes.
"I go wherever Aragorn goes."
A harsh laugh escapes my throat. It is strangely reminiscent of a strangled sob. I choke on my heated breath; the wind is vicious against my skin. How dark the sky is. How I wish the moon would appear.
"Then you have lost your way, as have I."
I curse inwardly as he turns his eyes toward mine. Tears spring up to my eyes; I swallow hard, and yet I hold his gaze. I do not want to be standing here. I do not want to be answering to these indiscernible storms again, do not want to face the blue vortex that holds me rooted in my place. I do not want to look into those eternal eyes and weep for the sorrow that flows gently within. But I cannot look away. For the fair creature is smiling.
"I have not lost my way."
I tear my gaze away, a newfound sob threatening to spring from my raw throat. I never should have looked into those eyes. I never should have tried to face the infinite lifetimes pulsating within this creature. I never should have dared. Curse the immortal elf.
"And you are merely running away."
The wind has changed direction. The elf's golden hair now flows toward me, the soft strands brushing against my neck and bare arms. It is soft, much softer than my hair. My ungentle hair, roughened by the wind in the plains of Rohan, soiled with blood and sweat; my cold hair, pale as the moon. Gentle fingers take the caressing touch away, tucking it neatly behind pointed ears.
I gaze up at him defiantly, my blood heating into a frenzy of denial and anger. No one has dared to speak to me in this manner, aside from my brother and uncle – no one has contradicted me so bluntly, so forwardly, and told me what I was, which I wasn't.
I do not know. I do not know why I am angry, I do not know why I continue to hold his gaze, why he looks at me so distantly and yet so kindly, so expressionlessly, so mournfully. I do not know.
I feel like a child, a child who has just been told that she is a child, who feels indignant because someone has dared to say that she is a child. A half-grown, prideful child who refuses to look into the mirror lest she be something she does not wish to be. No one had ever placed a mirror so firmly before me when I did not wish it. It is I who will decide whether to shatter the glass and wound myself, or to look into the glass and shatter my pride.
But deep in my heart, I know that there is no choice.
Exhaling deeply, I lower my gaze and look away. You have defeated me – you have shattered every layer of what I made myself to be, simply by gazing at me. And I am at your mercy.
But the elf does not go further into the subject matter. Instead he tilts his head – his expression shifts into something akin to childlike innocence – and smiles under the dark skies. A silver sheen frames the gentle trickle of gold framing the contours of his face, and I wonder where the light comes from.
"Hold your grief, Eowyn of Rohan. Greater sorrows face you still."
It is the first time he addressed me. It is the first time that I have seen a smile along with such words. Such a surreal sight, a smiling elf under the dark skies, a mysterious silver shimmer flowing about his hair, like the glistening trail of a tear. I hold my breath.
The air is tranquil. Despite the howling winds, there is a strange calm, some otherworldly peace that emanates from this fair being. The immortal creature that calls a man and dwarf his friend, and will fight by our side to his death. But alas, humans are weak.
"Is there no hope then," I dare raise my voice, a trembling tightrope of fear and despair, "after all that has been sacrificed?"
Ai, why did we come here? Why did we send off our young men to fight the wargs, so that we could come to find our doom in this stone grave? Did I lay my eyes last on a noble man of valor, only to send him to his death days before ours? I clench at my dress tightly. I want my answers, I want my doom cast clearly above my head, I want death to surely raise its blade before my eyes. I cannot bear this waiting, this trembling in fear. I wish to mourn in surety.
The elf does not answer. Just when I want my answers, he gives me none. Instead his eyes rest afar, watching the wild dance of the never-ending fields of grass. And he lowers his head.
"There is always hope." A self-reflective utterance.
"Aye, my lord." My voice rises with a harsh edge; I care not for your wise and ageless riddles. "I know of what you speak, but my feeble human eyes see none. I wish to see hope for mankind, not the one reserved for the immortal race."
I realize too late, with grim satisfaction, that I was insolent. I swallow the apology that threatens to rise from my throat. I resent his eyes that look down upon the human world from such a high distance; I resent the hope he is allowed to have, the hope that is denied to the wretched mortal lives below. Let me have my insolence. I shall cry in despair and writhe in ugly pain as he watches from his pedestal of promised bliss.
The elf is silent. His hand moves slowly and, as I watch sullenly, it pushes back a strand of platinum hair behind his ear. His eyes are once again the smooth slates of expressionless blue; his voice is slow, even.
"Forgive me if I have given offense. I fear that my inexperience with your kind must suffice as an excuse."
Indeed. Was it not a man I saw traveling with him? But I do not answer; Lord Aragorn and this elf have a bond that I have seen to be unusual. A long, deep bond that stretches beyond spoken words. I keep my tense silence as he bows in apology. The elf, the blessed one of the chosen race, offers no reasoning, no self-defense, no condolences. With a weary longbow and a bleeding knife, he stands silent, and brings down his head.
And as I see his tall figure bend humbly toward me, the weak and bitter child of humans, I am suddenly tired. My body breaks into a million pieces; he has defeated me yet again. I am so very tired. I bow my head in shame.
"Forgive me, my lord." I hang my arms limp at my sides and let out hoarse, jagged words. Suddenly I realize that all this while, the winds of the plains have been howling about us. "Forgive me. I had let weakness overcome me." My voice is a feeble whisper.
A gentle flutter sweeps the ground. I watch as the gray cloak moves past my bare feet, bathed in the tender embrace of the night. The darkness that is to me so unkind, that whispers to him with such love. I lower my head wearily, and see his hand hanging by his side. In the pale palm rests a sparkle – a crystal brilliance under the mysterious sheen of silver light that flows about him like a rain of tears. A silver chain hangs delicately among his fingers.
The words swirl about my ears dizzily, until a crash enters my head and my eyes shoot up higher. But the silent figure is moving away, the darkness of the cloak swaying gently in light gait. I watch in silence, the thin white fabric of my dress whipping out around me, hair flying around my face. The dark velvet of the skies deepen into a crimson streak, and yet I stand alone in the darkness, the biting cold forgotten, as the figure disappears from view – leaving behind a whispering echo that rings quietly from within the depths of the dark corridor.
"Rest, daughter of Rohan. Hope is coming."
For the first time, I look up to the sky and realize the source of his sheen of silver tears. There is yet no moon, and yet there is no darkness in the night. The distant stars smile kindly down upon the world of Men.
Standing amid pale sunlight, I straighten my back from tending to a group buzzing refugees – my ears awakened to life by a melodious twinkling of a golden bell, shimmering lightly in the dance of gentle blue waters.
"You look terrible."
And a silver smile.