1. Withouten Song
In a solitary house a solitary candle flickered as if in sympathy with the wind-shivered leaves outside. Except within the circle of that fragile glow, the night was dark, cloud-scudding and chill. Among the threads of sound that the Northwind spun about the eaves, one was unlike to the others, more bitter, more plaintive and more wild, and when the other threads raced on to tangle in the trees and stir the huddled feathers of the owl and rook, this one stayed, and lay along the windowsill, and ceased its keening, and looked inside.
The room, though not large, was well-appointed and well-kept. A worktable stood at one end, and at the other a desk and a pair of chairs. The rocking-chair was occupied by a young woman, tall, thin and dark-haired, wrapped in a warm shawl. The Houseless One, for such was the being that had ridden thither on the wind, clutched at the sill of the window with insubstantial fingers, and bored its gaze into the quilted bundle in the woman's arms.
Hunger rose within the spirit, pushing outward from its lonely core. Darion, strange tongues on the wind, Ai, Darion, my little one, the creature keened, and the night lapped up the sound, whither didst thou go? I fled my doom for thee, but the Dark One took thee ere I could return to thee! The Houseless pressed against the windowpane, and then through, and the glass broke not, but the wood fibers tugged a little, and sighed with the passing of the ghost.
The Houseless never took her eyes from the two living beings in the room. What was mine was taken from me; why should I not take also? So simple it would be to drive this mortal spirit from her body. None should know it. Me, the child would love, even as Darion loved. I should be the home it runs to when it cries in loneliness and fear. The ghost watched the long line of the woman's neck as she bent her head toward her child, watched the slow, easy flex of muscle that kept the chair in motion, watched the love that shimmered in the air between them.
The candle guttered, and a thin curl of smoke rose. It hung suspended in the air like a question, then the blackness of the room gathered it in. The woman glanced toward it, but let it be, seeming not to mind the dark.
"Ga-- ga--," fussed the child.
A fey smile crossed the face of the ghost. "Aye, beautiful one, that's right," she crooned soundlessly, drifting closer to the human warmth.
The Houseless drew up behind the woman and extended an icy hand as if to brush along her throat. The woman stilled, and the soothing rhythm of her rocking-chair eased to a halt. She looked up, and intelligent grey eyes searched the darkness. In her arms the child whimpered, then broke into a low, unhappy cry. She shook her head a little, then stood up, tucking her bundle closer against her. She stepped to the window, brushing past the unseen threat, and stared out at the dancing shadows, and beyond them to the murky hills.
Her lover is out there, the thought came to the Houseless One, but then its attention turned abruptly back to the child, for it had ceased to cry. Instead, it stared, its pupils huge, rimmed only thinly with grey, straight at the place where the shade hovered. A tiny wrinkle appeared on its forehead, but still it made no sound. The Houseless wavered, caught in the focus of the child's eyes, unable to move. It – he – knows me, and will know me whithersoever I am, though it be inside his own mother's eyes. The creature felt a despairing howl coil within her until it burst forth, tearing her soul's dim fabric like gauze. The trees outside shuddered, and the infant's small face puckered in fear. The woman did not move, but only began to hum, wordless, very low, in response to her baby's cry.
Ai, Darion, whither shall I find thee? cried the ghost. Not here, not here. Thou art lost, and thy mother's tender songs are lost, and I am nothing but a bitter noise on the wind. I would rend a mother from her child for jealousy.
The spirit left the house where the quiet tune kept back the frightfulness of dark and wind, and floated away, searching, searching ever and again, for Darion.
Wist I nevere yet more of thee But Gabrieles gretinge.
Lullay, lullay, la, la, lullay my dere moder, lullay.
The song is Gabriel's Greeting, anon. 14th century. Here's the piano score, easy enough even for me to play: page 1 , page 2.
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.