1. In Defense of the Light
She felt him nearby, as she often did in sleep. But his dreams seemed troubled of late, and the unease spread and rippled into the calm water of her dreams as well. The fear had returned, touched with urgency, as she waded through the dream world and felt unrest swirling around her, the confusion of warning insufficiently conveyed.
She saw his ship then, white spars shining, and a great black dragon erupting in thunder and flame. A blinding light burst between beast and ship as harsh cries pierced the air. Elwing woke, shaking.
Why was she so fearful for her lord now? She loved him well indeed, and sorrowed at his absence, but the vague terrors and half-grasped visions were new these past days; she had not been so troubled before, not during all his years at sea. What evil was drawing nigh to him?
My love, fair lord, I beg you return to me and your land, for I fear the dark while you are gone.
* * *
In the light of morning, the fear could be controlled, diluted in the comforting ebb and flow of her daily tasks. Her sons sat at her feet, laughing as she amused them with stories she wove about the deeds of the great; the subjects chosen from the paintings which hung between the tall windows on the library walls. This room, with its cheerful light and beloved books, was for her the heart of her house and Sirion's Haven; and the time she spent here with the children was the sweetest. Her unease receded with the children's laughter and wholesome presence, and the ritual of tales of Aman and Middle-earth.
"Naneth, who is this strange one? Tell us a story about him."
"No, Naneth, tell us about the King instead!"
She smiled indulgently, and with a hand on each child's shoulder, told them a tale of Círdan and Ossë before ever the sun rose in the sky; and another of the young King, Gil-galad. Awed eyes in the soft, childish faces, and astonished gasps rewarded her efforts, and she gazed on their dark hair and delighted smiles with content.
Almost, in her joy of her sons, she forgot the dream's warning; but her foreboding returned when Egalmoth stepped through the doorway. In the past his face would light as the children begged tales of him about his time as a lord of Turgon's court. They would all laugh together at his stories, for always they wished to hear of their sire as a child in Gondolin. Today there was naught but concern writ upon his face as he spoke.
"Lady, your pardon, you must come, for a messenger has arrived from the North."
His words stirred the uneasiness within her, and she felt the strings of her heart tighten as if to a hard knot. But surely no word of her husband, whether ill or good, would come from the North.
Rising from her place, she summoned her childhood nurse, Evranin, to tend Elrond and Elros, and walked slow and stately down the few stairs from the white-pillared hall to the central square, there to meet whatever fate had sent. The visitor stood, ignoring the trees and tower framed against the sea, and the gardens that bordered the square, looking only at the dwellings and folk of the town of Arvernien. She turned to face him.
She saw first the device he bore, with the flames and eight pointed star of Fëanor prominent, and it made the fear in her heart leap and burn the brighter. It was not one of the four remaining sons of Feänor that had come, but a messenger; who smiled, and behind the smile she could sense cool reserve, even arrogance.
She nodded politely. "Well met, messenger of my distant cousins. None has come to us from your house in many years; come now and be welcome among us." She kept her voice even, and she stood straight and tall though she felt herself pale against the dark of her hair.
"My lords, the sons of Fëanor, tender you their regards and wish that their house and yours may be at peace as is fitting for kin. To further this, they send tokens of affection, and also bid you return to them what is theirs."
"I do indeed wish that our houses may be at peace. The world has grown dark, and we should together resist Morgoth's forces which ravage Beleriand."
"Aye, Lady. Maedhros and his brothers have suffered greatly from the shadow over Beleriand, driven from their home and lands. Their dearest wish is to defeat the Dark Enemy. They desire nothing from you but peace, and the return of their father's jewel." He paused, expectant.
She hesitated, then continued, "I cannot call what they desire theirs, and Manwë has declared that it is forever forfeit to them." Her voice softened and was low with sorrow, "My father's mother won this at great cost from the crown of Morgoth, and my father's father gave his hand and life to keep it. Three generations of my kin have suffered grievously defending the Silmaril. My family has paid for it with blood and pain."
The messenger's voice was harsher now, as a sword scraping stone. "It belongs to the sons of he who crafted the jewel. No other may rightly keep it. This they have sworn."
She breathed deeply and called on her courage and her guile. "The Lord of Sirion is sea-faring. Without his wisdom to guide me, I must speak with his counsellors. I bid you rest and take refreshment for a time while we confer."
His eyes revealed his displeasure, but he said, "Very well, Lady. Council not overlong, for I will hear from your lips this day what word I must convey to my Lords." And he suffered himself to be taken to a room with soft cushions where the Lady's servants offered fragrant wine and sweet fruits.
Elwing felt the fear of the doom of the Noldor as she called upon the wisest of Sirion, that they might take counsel together. She sent for Voronwë, faithful guide of Earendil's father Tuor, who had ever watched over her husband from childhood to manhood; and Egalmoth, lord of the people of the Heavenly Arch of Gondolin. Gereth, whose wisdom and courage had helped her escape the Sons of Feänor in Menegroth also came, and Ailios and others of Doriath as well. Elfriniel, son of Voronwë, who knew all the ways of the land around the mouths of the Sirion, she also bid come to council and bring his keenest scouts.
She turned toward the council chamber, then stopped - arrested by a sight at the shore. Most was calm, but around the only deep water ship in harbor there was motion and haste. As she watched, sails were moved and belled by the wind, ropes cast off, and the deceptively serene glide began as the ship headed south. At the hall outside the chamber door stood Egalmoth, and he also watched from a window as the boat departed, sails winging toward the isle of Balar. His eyes met hers. "I have sent word to the High King, my Lady. Forgive me if I have done ill, but I cannot but think that he would prefer to know sooner than later. Eärendil bid me call upon the King at any need to protect his family or folk."
"You may be too quick to your concern, but I would have sent tidings to him soon. I know not that it matters, but only the fishing boats now remain."
"The courier will return swiftly, my Lady; such is her speed that her sails will again grace our harbor by dawn two days hence." She did not feel reassured.
In the high-ceilinged council chamber with cold white walls the wise were gathered, and there she stood before them; the terror held in check so that her voice would be steady. Her words rang out, hollow-sounding against the great empty space.
"Now, my lords and friends, our path must be chosen. The sons of Feänor have sent an envoy this day, and he has demanded of us that we yield the Silmaril to them. He speaks of peace and friendship if we will do their bidding. Before I answer this summons I would hear your wisdom. What reply would you have me return to the sons of Fëanor?" She seated herself in the hard high-backed chair, and listened as debate swirled around her.
The talk went this way and that, and some spoke of the evil and swift swords of the Kinslayers. Others recalled the blessings of joy and prosperity that their folk had found by the Light of the Silmaril.
Egalmoth motioned for silence, his blue mantle with its broidered stars falling from his shoulders. "Even now Eärendil seeks the Blessed Lands to plead the cause of Middle-earth before the Vala. How shall he so plead if we, his people, go against their wishes, and cast into stained hands that Light which they cherish?"
Gereth of Doriath replied, "But if we return their messenger to them with no pleasing answer, the kinslayers will march from the north, and slay all who would keep from them the jewel. Have we the strength to withstand them?"
She watched the council consider this. All there knew the truth; evil threatened, and they were ill-prepared. In the first months and years the defenses of the Haven had been maintained, and the watch had been sharp. But the folk of Sirion had come to fear Morgoth and his evil creatures most, and those could not come close without heralding their coming, the dread of their shadowed presence felt long before their arrival. So as the years had passed, she, like others of Sirion, had assumed this other enemy softened; come to the senses they would, in fact, never possess. So we rested among the willows and the shores, and our defenses grew thin. Though some there were skilled with sword and bow, their position was weak.
Voronwë spoke out. "I was there when Tuor spoke Ulmo's words to Turgon, King of Gondolin. And because of Turgon's pride and love of the city, he did not heed Ulmo and prepare, and so betrayed his people, unwitting. I would not see Sirion fall to that deadly error. Let us tell this messenger that when Eärendil returns, he shall have his answer. We will ask of the High King his protection, and should the sons of Feänor return, they shall find then that our defenses are strong."
"Will they stand by and wait?" asked one of the scouts. "Or will they march and come upon us before help can arrive, or before we can flee? We would need many ships to take our people to Balar, and a day's jouney before the ships could arrive to our aid."
So it went, with some speaking of defense, others of flight; few spoke of surrender. At last Elwing stood again, and looked at her counsellors. "A messenger has already been dispatched to Balar to beg aid from the High King. But I will tell you of what I have Seen, ere we choose our path." Gereth nodded, for Elwing was of the line of Melian the Maia, and he remembered well the foresight of that kin .
"I beheld Eärendil, my beloved, and he stood at the prow of the great ship Vingilot, which sailed into the West. Upon his brow was bound the Silmaril, and it gleamed ever brighter as he drew near to Aman. Then he bid all aboard the ship stay behind, and walked alone into the Blessed Land. The last glimpse I was given was of the hosts of the Valar come into Middle-earth, and they fought the foul creatures of Morgoth. Vingilot sailed above them in the sky, surrounded by the great birds of heaven, and Eärendil was at the helm, and the Silmaril shone from his brow." She paused, caught in the memory of her vision.
"My lords, whether it avails us best to yield or keep the Silmaril, we must not consider. Rather, say that we must follow what the Valar would have of us. I fear the wrath of the Kinslayers, even as you. But shall we yield up to them the last remnant of Yavanna's creation? That which Luthien and Beren bought with their suffering and grief, and Thingol and Dior defended with their lives? Shall we now say that it is unworthy of our defense? For I fear if we do, than the life of Eärendil, our Lord, will be forfeit; there will be no respite from the shadow in Middle-earth."
Many in the chamber tried to speak at once, only to quiet as an elf of the household entered the chamber to convey the words of the Fëanorian envoy: that he would wait no longer, and sought the courtesy of a reply. Elwing swept from the council chamber, steeling herself to face the arrogant messenger of pitiless masters. At the foot of the stairs she paused, gathering her strength. "We still discuss this, for it is no light thing you ask. I would speak to my lord about this matter, ere a decision is told to you. But bide here a while yet, and when you return to your lords I will send tokens of friendship."
The messenger's face soured. "You have said he is at sea, and none know when he will return! I much doubt whether there is any token you might send that will declare friendship if it be not the Silmaril."
"Can your lords not leave us in peace?" she cried. "There is little enough of it in this shadow-menaced land, but at Sirion there is prosperity and haven. Together we should fight the evil of Angband, not each other!" Her voice dropped near to a whisper as she said, "There is no honor in that."
"My Lords know best what their honor requires," he said stiffly, then his voice grew colder. "Very well, lady, I will tell them of your… request," he said, and strode off to the path that led from the Haven of Sirion. She did not know whether to be glad that he did not continue to argue, or to be sorry she had lost a chance to further her plea for time.
Those in the council fell silent as she returned, and faces were bleak as she told of the exchange. In few words it was agreed how all should make ready against the evil they feared would come, though none could say if their strength would then be sufficient to meet it.
Egalmoth came to stand beside her when she came into the square, he bearing now his weapons, and arrayed in the armor of Gondolin. His skill with the bow had been celebrated above all others who had lived in the City of Stone, and alone among them he could use also the curved sword. He had ordered the people of Sirion to keep what weapons there were at hand, and even now elves and men alike were piling cut logs for breastworks.
Elwing watched the preparations. "You fear they will come so soon?" she asked, and brave as she was, her voice trembled. Is what the Valar would have me See, the threat not to Eärendil, but to me and the children? And no answer given as to the course I must take. Only that she was sure she must not surrender the Silmaril.
"Lady, I do not trust the Kinslayers, as who would? Should I desire to attack Sirion, I would do it now, unheralded. My host would be within a half-day's march, and I would be upon my enemy while the people were yet unready." He sighed. "My heart says that their oath will drive them to kill their kin yet again. I have sent scouts out, and I dread what they shall find."
In the hours of noon when the sun was brightest, Egalmoth and Voronwë chided, urged and cajoled; persuading the folk of Siron to prepare for the onslaught they hoped never to face. Many did not see the need so near, but did as they were bid for love of their lord and lady. Weapons were brought from store-chests, bows were strung, arrows fletched. Those who had seen battle discussed and debated, choosing positions and strong points. Those who had not, listened, and steeled themselves for what might lie ahead.
Elwing walked among the people, encouraging and praising, the Silmaril shining from her breast. She dreaded to hear the messages from each scout that returned, but could not keep from the square where preparations continued. Elrond and Elros were too young to understand well; they carried arrows as requested, and played amid the barriers when no task was set them.
And it was not long before one of the scouts ran up, breathless and disheveled. "My Lord, they come!"
"How many? How soon?" asked Egalmoth at her side. The scout steeled himself against the ill news he bore. "Three hundred, Lord, well armed and in good array. We have a few hours at most. They are closing the net, and there is no escape but by sea." Egalmoth began to order such warriors as there were, and set the townspeople to ready themselves. When the stroke fell, the archers must be in place, and all who could bear arms behind the breastworks.
Elwing looked toward her sons, and her heart was sore. Thoughtful Elrond, ever questioning why and how; brave Elros, first to act, heedlessly exploring; how can I best protect them, who own my heart?
Am I right? she wondered. Could we give them the Silmaril even now, and escape bloodshed? Fear burned in her breast for herself, for her people, but most of all for her children. Perhaps she should simply do this thing and leave it to Mandos' curse to right the wrongs?
But the vision rose up before her of her husband at Vingilot's prow, and a dragon-host before him, and only the white flame from the Silmaril kept them at bay. Shall I trade the life of my husband for that of our sons? The Valar deliver me from this cruel uncertainty. But I must do as has been foreseen, and trust that they shall survive. Surely none of our kin would harm a child! But she feared that under the accursed vow, none could say into what evil a Kinslayer would fall. Elbereth, protect them when I cannot!
"Lady, what shall we do with the children?" Evranin asked, breathless, as she hurried to Elwing's side.
Word has gone to the High King at Balar, begging aid, but I fear the time is too short. Had we ships enough and time enough I would send all the children and others unable to fight to Balar, that they might be spared whatever the day shall bring." As she spoke she urged them up the steps and through the door. "The house is stone, at least that will not burn."
"They must hide. Elrond, Elros, you must stay here. No matter what others shall do, you must stay hidden. Do not follow me! For love of me, and your father, keep you hidden in this cupboard, whatever you may see or hear." She loomed over them, an intensity about her they had never seen. "Swear this to me, as your mother and in the name of your father who is your liege lord!"
She could see they understood, although strange it seemed to them to hear from their mother. From the youngest age they could remember, there were those who swore loyalty to their father, and the twin's tutors had spoken of the importance of this bond.
Elrond knew not why all seemed to him so grim and sad, but he swore. "I vow to you, my mother, I will not follow unless you bid me." His voice broke then, and with a child's bravado he went on, "but as soon as you tell me to, I will come to you and destroy whatever makes you fear!" He had put his hand on the hilt of what he called his sword in play, and her heart was wrung at the sight of it: a knife, suitable to cut one's meat. She held him fiercely and kissed him, and turned to his brother. She took his hands in hers.
"Elros, you too must swear this."
"Nana, how can we stay behind if you go? How will we find you again?" he cried, anguished.
She steeled herself. "So it must be if I ask it of you. Stay hidden until all are gone. Trust none that you do not already know well, no matter what they say." She showed them again the mural on the library wall, with the bearded elf standing beside the young king. "One of these two shall come for you. Go with him if I am not here. I will know where to find you in the King's hall."
She took the twins up at last in her arms, and embraced them, and her face was set and hard against her tears. Evranin took the frightened children to the cupboard and bade them sit on their cloaks, and laid water flasks, dried fruit, and bread beside them, and closed the door. Then Elwing turned to Evranin, and sent her to hide and save herself if she could. As the aged nurse fled, Elwing closed the door upon what had been her haven, where had dwelt all that she most loved. There must be nothing to draw the Kinslayers' attention to the house; she walked toward the knot of defenders clustered among the flowering gardens in the square.
Egalmoth joined her. "Lady, I know you are unpracticed with sword and bow. I would have you in the tower, where your defense may be more sure."
"Shall I leave my people to die, and hide within?"
He compressed his lips. "I took oath to my lord to protect you. Would you have me foresworn? I would have given my life in Gondolin to protect your husband. Shall I do less for his wife?"
Chastened, she turned toward the stone tower at the edge of the cliff, but Egalmoth stopped her, and took from his side a smaller straight sword. "Take it, my Lady, for if you are captured they will keep you as hostage, and their handling of you may be… ungentle." She understood, but there was no time to tell him to fear not for her fate at the hands of the Feänorians. She took the sword with its sheath; she had no intention of being taken hostage to be used as a hold over her husband. And she wished the Kinslayers to have no reason to harm the children, if by ill-fortune they should be found.
Elwing climbed partway up the tower, stopping at a room set about with windows on each wall. The archers were arrayed within the buildings closest to the tower, and many stood behind breastworks at the tower's base. From the north window she watched as the sons of Fëanor and their warriors came upon Sirion.
Brave and bright were the defenders of Sirion, but they could not withstand the might arrayed against them. She watched, grieving, as Voronwë struck at Amrod who led a group of warriors. Amras was behind, and would have jumped ahead to stab Voronwë as he fought; had not one of the folk of Himring, sickened by the slaughter, stepped to Voronwë's side and fought his own lord. So it was that Amras fell, but Amrod slew Voronwë and was slain in turn. In battle the only lord was chaos, as some stood aside and would not fight the lightly armed defenders, and others slew without remorse and overwhelmed the folk of Sirion.
Elwing watched, and wept for her people. So many slain, so brave and doomed. Her sons should be safe, but her life she must count as lost. To surrender the jewel was to doom her husband, and this she would not do. She could but wait, surely help would come from the Light upon her breast!
Despite the bravery of the folk of Sirion, the warriors who wore the star of Fëanor had gained the steps to the tower. Egalmoth and others still stood before the door, and archers of each side took their toll from the living.
Breathlessly she ran, panting as she climbed the stairs, until she came to the small room at the tower's top. She stepped within and slammed and bolted the door. A few minutes only would this give her, but it would suffice. She heard the heavy thuds behind her as the door was forced, and she stepped onto the windowsill and stood, back to the open window, the Silmaril in one hand and the sword in the other.
When the door burst open, the sword was a poor defense in her unpracticed hand. But still in her mind she held fast to her determination- to protect the Light from the hands of the accurséd.
"Hold," she cried, "or I will cast the Silmaril into the sea and let Ulmo determine its fate!" The ones before her hesitated. Another, with the badge of captain, pushed through the warriors at the door. No pity showed in his face, and his voice was cold as the steel of his sword. "We have found your sons, Lady Elwing. We will trade the children you have hidden in the stone house for the jewel that lies on your breast."
"No!" she wailed. Elbereth, Lady, keep them safe! "You shall not defile the Light!" When Maedhros' warrior reached out to her, she leapt from the tower and cast herself into the sea. Will they hold memorial festival for me as they do for brave Glorfindel? But the harsh impact did not come.
Those who watched saw the flash of white that was the Silmaril sinking toward the waves and merging with the foam crests; then it seemed the white light ascended, as if a sea bird had chanced to skim the waves, and drawn to the bright jewel, had plucked the shining thing from the foam, and then flew away to the west.
The last she saw of Sirion as she was borne upward was a warrior, with red hair and redder sword, and the bloodstained hand that reached down toward her precious sons. She sobbed, and flew on toward the western waters.
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.