As the Leaves Fall
1. Scattered leaves, Gwindor's words
She entered a deserted, but not empty chamber, for the room was filled with things that spoke of its owner: old and shapeless pieces of metal that he had used for practice; crystals and gems fashioned after shapes of flowers, drops and leaves, some which had rested on her hair once or twice; there were blades and helmets of such fine skill! Her fingers trailed gently over the shields and swords, and then lingered on a few pearls that had been carelessly scattered on a table near the window. The pearls reminded her of the foam in the river as it glittered under the sun, and her mind wandered to one day so long ago that the memory of it was now feeble, like an echo in the woods.
Like the gleam of foam
in the beautiful pools of Ivrin
Is the light in thine eye,
oh, my beloved Faelivrin...
She smiled at the recollection. Gwindor’s attempts at poetry had never been particularly successful. “Because,” he had said, “there is no craft, be it Eldar’s or Maia’s, that can capture your beauty.” Finduilas had to laugh at this while she fingered the pearl carefully. A gust of wind filtered through the leaves and into the chamber, blowing away her memories and a few parchment leaves that had been left on a desk. She sighed at the fickleness of both breeze and fate, and turned to collect the scattered papers when she discovered in them her own name, gracefully written in Gwindor’s hand, and could not suppress a faint cry. With the eagerness of a heart long pierced and suffering, she knelt,
For there were more papers scattered on the floor. Carefully, but with an unsteady hand, she began to gather them back, her mind a whirlwind of emotions, for she hoped to discover in them something of Gwindor’s that had been left behind for her eyes alone. What she found there was most impressing; she had never fancied Gwindor as a writer, and a writer of poetry, at that. With heart throbbing inside her chest and trembling fingers, she picked a sheet and read.
Oh, beauty fair that surpasses the sky
and seas, and heights-
Would that I could with my poor craft
as humbly paint
A sketch worthy of thy true magnificence!
She laughed, the lines of her ageless face smoothed by a gleam of mirth. Another page, and there were more words:
Nay, not all lines should begin with her name!
If ever a sunbeam could stray from its path
I’d be sure to run and attempt at a catch
For beams that glow golden like metal are fair,
but fairest of all is the glow of your hair.
Can I catch your love like a beam on a net?
Or gather your beauty in jewels and gems?
Oh, shine on forever, daughter of the sun,
Your kindness and radiance shall conquer the dawn.
As her eyes devoured the last word, her mind’s eye brought to her an image of Gwindor as he was before the darkness came to take him away from her, lordly, fair and kind. What had drawn her to him, she could not exactly know, for he seemed to her so wonderful that it was only natural that many ladies would vie for his attention. And they had, for many had tried to catch his heart; but Gwindor son of Guilin had not given it to any other... she sighed and looked away from the parchment and out into the world, for her thoughts were taking her through paths she wanted not to go. Away, the sun shone brightly, and she was glad of that, for days of grey only made her spirits sink and her sadness less bearable. She sighed once more, and unable to restrain herself from looking, she picked another sheet from the pile. The script was more firm and careful, checked even, tight and compressed. Her eyes eagerly focused on the words.
I shall not speak to her- How could I? I am not worthy.
And it ended there. What had he meant? When had he written that? Quickly she turned to the back of the page, and written in the same tight hand, she found a few phrases piled on top of each other.
It wrenched my heart to learn
Of my unworthy state.
But, I shall not make her pay
For mistakes she did not make.
“Gwindor!” she cried, and was frightened by the sounds her voice had created. She never knew that Gwindor believed himself unworthy of her. What mistakes did he speak of? Was it when he had opposed her father’s will in front of the council? Oh, but she had always admired him for the strength of his will and the depth of his convictions. Alas, that those things that made her love him the more also became those very things that took him away from her. She kept on reading, her heart racing inside her chest in delicious, yet dreadful anticipation.
There was another piece, this one written in a faded and battered sheet, marked all over and corrected much. She smiled as her mind conjured his image: Gwindor sitting, head bent and furrowed brow, lips pursed and gaze narrowed in concentration, the gestures he usually adopted when he was intent at a task. She had seen him thus as he worked on the forge, or sometimes when he sat at the council, or when he hunted in the woods. The thought of his silken hair whirling in the wind, of his broad back against the sun, or his skin glowing as drops of sweat trickled on it, or how his chest moved in time with his heart when he fought, hunted, worked, or was prey to intense emotions. That was Gwindor, her Gwindor! She bit her lip so hard to keep the tears from bursting, that a burning sensation came and she knew she’d cut herself, so deep and strong were the feelings that surged through her. Eager to get a piece of Gwindor’s heart when he wrote those words, and fearful that all the resignation and peace of mind she had so hard striven to achieve after the news of his loss came would be shattered, she read on.
For freedom and for brav'ry my heart longed;
I've traveled miles and miles its roots to seek
But in her arms I've found my spirit soars
And when I thought she'd put bonds to my feet
She teaches me that love's no selfish sport.
I've traveled miles and miles its roots to seek,
'But freedom,' says she, 'lies in our own love,
And brav'ry can be found within a kiss.'
She teaches me that love's no selfish sport
when openly she shares her smiles and grins
'There's light in our embrace,' I then report
'And brav'ry can be found within a kiss.'
Whenever we're apart, my world turns not
and cheerfully I rush back by her pleas
'There's light in our embrace,' I then report,
'A fool am I who deserves not such bliss.'
For freedom and for brav'ry my heart longed,
I have both! And I care not what I miss
But in her arms I've found my spirit soars.
Her heart was a flutter of emotions: delight, passion, fear, regret... Regret, that wretched thief of happiness that had haunted her nights and daydreams since they had parted! There had to be more! There had to be another poem, another letter from her love; though he was gone, he still spoke to her through his words. Her fingers anxiously groped for another poem, fumbling through papers and old things, until her eyes halted on a piece of yellowed parchment. It had a date on it. Her heart froze, and her breath caught inside of her throat when she read it: The evening of 10 Laire 473.
That evening she had come to Gwindor, aware that he would still be making ready for his departure. She remembered the night was so still she could hear the echo of her own footsteps; the footsteps of an Elf, which are so light they cannot be heard! It was as if nature itself was mourning for her children who would be lost. She had sought for him, hoping to get his words before he left, and before anyone else claimed him for some business or other that would carry him away before it was expected. As she approached his dwellings, the hushed sounds of his labor came to her: the opening of chests, the whetting of knives... until she got a glimpse of him, bathed in moonlight in all the glory of his being. And then he shifted and she caught the silver glint of his blade. She felt as though her heart had been broken in twain.
“Gwindor,” she called weakly, almost fearfully.
“Finduilas!” he rushed to her, and gathered her into his arms. “I knew you would come. And yet,” his strong hand tipped her chin, bidding her to look at him straight to the eyes, “you risk too much in your coming. Your father would not approve.”
“He knows I need to see you,” she said, forcing a light tone to her voice. “Most likely he knows I am here already. Nay, do not look at me like that! Did you truly think I would fail to come and bid my farewell and my wishes for a prompt and safe return? I could not let you go without taking in your face one more time, or knowing your heart at this moment,” she paused. “I could not let you go without telling you that I love you.”
At that moment his lips touched hers, and they kissed, slowly at first; but as the kiss deepened, its intensity burned her like a red coal that has been taken out of a bright fire. She felt his heart beating against her chest, the soft caress of his fingers as they grazed her throat and traveled upwards, curious and questing through her neck, then her jaw and her ear, to twine later on the tresses of her hair. Being so close to him, Finduilas could feel the strength of his arms around her, muscles that had been gained not only by working on the forges or on the field, but also by fighting and training; his manly scent filled her senses with a heady warmth and the way his hair brushed her neck and cheeks, so gently, sent wonderful tingles all through her body. Then, suddenly, he retreated and broke the kiss. His face at that moment was unreadable, but a flush had most becomingly appeared on his paled cheeks. His eyes were restless.
“I love you too,” he whispered into her ear, “more than my own life.” Then, after a few moments of hesitation, where he rested his head on her breast, he looked up again and it seemed to Finduilas that his countenance had hardened. “You know not what you do, Faelivrin. You should not love me. All I have brought to you is pain and unhappiness. And now I leave you behind! I do not deserve-”
“Hush,” she said softly, bringing her finger to rest on his lips thus silencing his protests. “I am here of my own will. Think not that you make me do this, Gwindor Guilin’s son. I do it because I so chose.” He laughed then, and the ring of his laughter was like chimes that signal the coming of day. It thrilled and delighted her.
“Aye, that is true; for Finduilas, daughter of Orodreth is a lady too self-possessed to do things other than what she deems right.” Here, she fancied that the bright flicker in his eyes dimmed, and his shoulders tightened; something in his mood altered, and she wondered why. “And, she is also too kind and good to let a poor beggar go away without a last glimpse of her beauty to nourish him ere he returns.”
“I wish I did not have to be parted from you,” she whispered, at length, and looked wistfully away.
“Neither do I, Faelivrin.”
“Please, do not call me that, Gwindor! Not now!”
“And why not? How else will I call you? For that you are to me, dearest and fairest than the stream, or the skies, or light itself! You are not now to learn of my feelings for you; they are writen plainly in my eyes for all to see!”
“That I know, but you leave me, nonetheless!” She had to regret that burst of unrestrained emotion, for it seemed to her that he became stiff, his shoulders taut and his jaw set. Although he still looked upon her with sweetness, something in his countenance was changed, stern and infinitely sad.
“We have talked about this before, my beloved. I cannot remain hidden behind the walls of your father, like a coward, while there is yet hope that our lands may be rid from the evil that Morgoth has brought. The safety of Felagund’s city will not endure for long if those who shelter inside her walls do nothing to defend it. Your father knows this; but he is too afraid to give battle! Think about our lost kin, my brother among them! Does he still live? Is he a thrall of Morgoth? I cannot lie idle and enjoy what few years of peace I can while my brother and so many of our people are and have been lost. I cannot!” He walked away from her and sat under the eaves of an ash-tree. “What kind of man would I be to you? Is that the kind of man you would wish for a husband, one who would let his own brother be slaughtered whilst having the means to save him? I could never look you in the eye again; I would not endure to meet the judgement of yor glance, the knowledge of my guilt written in the depths of your heart.” She took his hand in hers and pressed hard. His voice wavered, but nonetheless he went on, “You would be happy at first, or trick yourself into believing that you were happy, but you would scorn me for my cowardice and lack of firmness, and you would live to regret having married one so weak-”
“I love you,” she interrupted, and gave him the most radiant smile she could command. “I love Gwindor, strong-willed, stubborn, firm, loyal Gwindor! Forgive me, for I have been wayward, and have tried to sway you from your purpose. I could not live with the knowledge that I prevented you from being who you truly are, not even for my sake,” and she knew with great certainty that she was right, though it hurt her to see him go away. “I would not deny you that, no matter how much it pains me to see you leave.” Finduilas let her fingers wonder to his chest, tracing words and shapes in the way she had done so many times before. “I know you go, and I also know you will return to me; but, when? I almost wish... I wish...”
“Yes?” he asked, and she thought she heard hope in his voice, a pleasant eagerness that rang within her and settled on her stomach like butterflies. “What do you wish?”
“I wish there was a way for us to remain together,” she began timidly, but those were not the words she had wanted to utter.
“There might be a way for us to remain together,” he said, his hand stroking her throat gently for a moment, perhaps divining her thoughts, or perhaps because those thoughts had crossed his mind, also, and she trembled beneath his fingers.
“I wish I would bind myself to you,” she said softly, but was surprised by the vehemence of that need.
“Would you bond with me?” he asked at length, his voice wavering, but his arms wrapping tightly against her, unwilling to let her go. “Now? Without a proper ceremony, without a betrothal, a ring, without all those things you have for so long wished?” He paused. “Without your father’s knowledge?”
At that moment, she was ashamed of having asked, and knew not how to read his answer. Did he not want it? “Now?” was all she managed to say, repeating his former reply.
For a while they stood thus, looking at each other, feeling only their hearts as they beat together, looking only into each other’s eyes. In the impulse of the moment, she leaned to touch his mouth and upon feeling her close, his lips parted and she kissed him, strong and wild in a way that startled her, and reluctantly she had to break away to catch her breath, panting but deliciously afraid of herself.
“My love,” he said as he carefully and tenderly worked his hand through her hair, ordering the golden tresses he had ruffled in his eagerness, “would you bond with me now, when all prospects are dark against our happiness? Would you do this to yourself, and to me?”
“You wish not to be with me!” She struggled to release herself from his embrace.
“No!” he cried, holding her tighter, closer to him. “You well know that is not what I meant.”
“I know,” she said, smiling as he pressed her form against his strong body. “I understand that this would... complicate matters.”
“But it would not be the first time that such bonds are made in haste,” he added, as if arguing a case for himself. “It is not common, nor desirable, but if two people love each other, and they wish to invoke the Name as their witness... they could...”
“If we pledge ourselves to each other now,” he paused, only to take a shallow breath, while his fingers walked down from her hair to rest on a jewel that hung from her neck, “this bond no one could break. I would be yours and you would be mine, and nothing else would matter. Would it?” As he pressed the pendant to her skin, the cold of the metal in contrast with the warmth of his body sent a delightful shiver down her back; but, his eyes... they were strange, like she had never seen them: stormy and clouded, not the bright clear grey that they usually were. Were there doubts in his heart? How? Why?
“Nothing else matters now, my love. But, would it matter later? Would it matter to you?”
“Well, I would lose all hopes of ever becoming agreeable to your father.”
She had to laugh at that, and as the laugh relieved some of the tension between them, she allowed herself to be swept in his embrace. “My father would have to abide by my choice.”
“Yes,” he said, softly, but there was also sadness in the cadence of his voice, “he would. But, would you?” No answer came; perhaps those words had not been a question.
There was silence between them for a while and they remained as they were, Finduilas running her questing fingers against his chest, and Gwindor playing with one of her golden tresses, each one lost in their own thoughts as the night around them deepened. A few birds sang, but no tunes of mirth, only a sad chirping that went straight to the core of her soul.
“Would it be so terribly bad to bond with me without the rites? We are come of age, and have been for a long time now,” her voice was not as resolute as she had hoped. “We need no one’s permission, only His blessing.”
He looked into her eyes long and keenly. “All we need is His blessing, yes. We could pledge and still have time for our joining together ere I depart. I have more than a few moments before I am called to report at the gate, for we are to travel under the banners of Fingon by lord Orodreth’s orders.” He paused and his lips curled in a gesture that she knew not whether to read as a smile or a sneer, but the way his hand rested against the small of her back spoke of his tenderness toward her. He cocked his head, seeking for her eyes before he went on to explain the rest of what seemed to be his newly-contrived plan. “It would have to be done in haste; not as... carefully and... and playfully pleasurable as I would have hoped. But, we could; we could-” and he trailed off, but she felt his grip on her tighten, and a flicker of eagerness, of delightful hope in his glance that she found both arousing and despairing. “It would not be what you deserve, nor what your father or I would have wished for you, but we could do it, and it would achieve our marriage and then I would go as your- But, would it- would it not make the pain at parting more keen and unbearable?” He sounded as though he wished to convince himself, instead of her; yet at the same time he had drawn closer again, so that she felt his tickling breaths on her neck, prickling her skin. “If we lay together tonight, and then you found yourself with child... you would be alone. What would become of you both? You would need my strength during that time, and it is not known that any of the Eldar would beget children during times of strife, if they can prevent it. If you were to find yourself with child...” Something resembling terror must have crossed her coutenance, for Gwindor smiled and brought her to him, easing her head on his chest protectively. The thought of bearing his child, of nurturing it in her womb, of keeping a piece of him, set her heart in a flutter of emotions, some distressing but most of them pleasant. She wanted him, more than anything. Something inside told her that it would bring her much sadness, too; but, she wanted it, and the feeling of his pounding heart inside his chest made Finduilas think that he wanted it as much as she. “If we join our bodies now, and such a bond is formed between us, there would be no chance of your ever finding happiness again if I don’t-”
“You shall return,” she interrupted before he was able to voice a thought that had taken too many horrible shapes in her mind countless times before.
“Then,” he rose, taking her by the hands and urging her to rise also, “do you still want to bond with me?” Desire repressed threatened to burn her if she did not scream yes; and she would have. But, when she next looked upon him and encountered those stormy eyes again, her heart stopped. “Now?” he asked once more, and for a second, she wavered. What would it do to him, if he bonded with her and then was forced to endure those days without her, suffering as so many had suffered before, the bonding of their marriage sundered? Would she bear to inflict such unhappiness on him? What about her father? What would he say when he learned the truth? No, her father would have to accept it; but Gwindor... what if he returned not? He could promise her, but in the end, the song would decide their fate. Would she have him waste his final moments with thoughts of her and the sadness and pain that the severance of their bond would bring her? She wanted him not to carry such worries, so that he could focus on coming home to her. But, alas, for her thoughts took her too long, and before she was able to protest or utter a word, his mind was set. “No, my love, for I know you would rather wait. Such a bonding would not be fitting for a princess of the High Elves, nor would your father or any of your kin approve. I could not do this to you, and leave you more alone and lost to despair than you would otherwise have been. I would not have it so! And I will not.”
Her heart ached and she trembled as though a grave doom had fallen upon her, but she nodded, and kissed him once more. “Be sure to return, then, lord Gwindor, for I shall await you. I shall look to the stars every night, praying and expecting your return. And during the day my eyes will walk through the path where you have trailed, hoping to see your banner in the wind. May the Valar keep you!”
“I swear by those stars that shine now upon us that I will come back to you, Finduilas,” he said as he bent to kiss her brow. “No power on earth will keep me from you. I name the stars as my witnesses.”
“So be it,” was all she managed to say, and pressed herself hard against him, feeling every muscle of his body tremble at her touch. But then, they heard a voice calling him, and the precious moment they had shared was lost.
He looked at her a final time, and there was a slight hesitation before he said, “I go now, my lady, with the promise of my return.” And so he was gone, disappearing into the shadows of his house, the same house where she now sat, so many years later, with a piece of parchment that had kept, most likely, the last words he had written in Nargothrond before going away. Did she have the courage to read? Could she, at last, learn what thoughts crossed his mind that day? The parchment trembled in her shaking hands. Would she be able to endure life with what she was to learn? Unable to give answers to any of those questions, and certain that she would be lost either way, made an attempt to steady her pulse so she could read.
She will come to me, I know
Then another line
And I want her so! But no-
Or yes? Would she want it?
Perhaps; and yet-
I cannot bring myself to say,
to ask of her...
Would she think me worthless,
Would I make her suffer
under such deep cares?
But I shall, when at last she comes,
tell her of my love...
She heaved a deep sigh before going on, for she saw that on the bottom of the page, a few lines were hastily scribbled. The ink had run, smudging over the surface of the parchment, and the script was less graceful, but deliberately firm.
Now she is gone, and so am I
For so our fates demand
I to battle- foolish ways!
She to stay without my care------
And then the lines of poetry ended. Below them, she read:
‘Tis my fate, for I had not the courage to press my case. Alas, for I am a coward still! I had the chance to make her my bride, but- I could not bring myself to it. She is so good and beautiful, I could not go against her will. ‘Tis for the best, I am sure; and yet, will she think of me less, when she wanted me too? Unlucky chance of fate that made our paths cross when such fortunes are at stake, but I shall never cease to love you, Faelivrin, I
And then the flow of the script broke off and the words stopped. Tears streamed freely down her cheeks, and the sobs made her shake, prey to deep and strong emotions. He had wanted her, too, as much as she had wanted him. She may have doubted it before, but in her hands she found proof that he had wanted to be one with her. What had prevented him? Had she stopped him with her doubts? Had his own doubts clouded his heart, and stopped him? It mattered not any more; but, he had wanted her, as much as she had wanted him, and at last was she certain of it. They may have been joined that night! But, from now on, she would have to learn how to bear the knowledge that she had let him go, when she could have had him to herself, at least for one moment. After today, she would have to learn how to live with the curse of her knowledge. Stilling her sobs, and taking a final look around her, she folded the page carefully, put it inside her belt and slipped quietly away, her graceful golden form mingling with the falling leaves of Nargothrond’s autumn.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.