1. The Song of the Dark Bird
A man entered the balcony. He had golden hair and shining eyes. He smiled often and his laughter was like music. Even now he was smiling, as he greeted Moriel.
'Ah, there you are, Moriel. I was looking for you.'
'Pray what for, Glorfindel?' she asked.
'For a decision only my best friend can make.'
He showed her two golden rings, one plain, the other ornamental.
'Which one shall I give to Quesseriel?'
Moriel barely managed to prevent tears streaming from her eyes. So it had become this serious.
She pointed at the plain ring.
'This would suit her better, I believe, for Quesseriel likes to wear plain clothes.' Indeed, Quesseriel the bird-maiden would not wear velvet and pearls even to any high celebration; her clothes were always light and airy.
'Thank you. I suppose it takes a woman to know a woman. Take this in return of your advice.'
Glorfindel tossed the ornamental ring at her and departed. Moriel put the ring in her finger and started daydreaming.
In her dream she lay on Glorfindel's strong arms, as the elf-lord promised her his undying love. The ring was now a token of the promise, not just a piece of jewellery in which Gondolin was so rich. After a while, however, her dreams vaporised, as a familiar voice called out:
'Moriel! Have you seen Glorfindel?' It was Quesseriel, clad in a garment white as a swan's wing, her white hair flowing open. Bird-maiden she was well-named, for her feathery hair and slender bones.
'Yes I have. He was here but a moment ago. And I think he is looking for you, little sister.' The maiden departed, going to find her loved one. Quesseriel was Moriel's younger sister, younger by over six hundred years. They were as different as day and night. Moriel was filled with poetic longing, indeed she was a poet. Quesseriel was light-minded in many ways, for she never worried about tomorrow. Moriel and Glorfindel were of age, and had been best friends all their lives. But it was Quesseriel that he loved and adored, for Moriel's grief, for she had begun to love Glorfindel in a new way that was more than friendly.
Moriel looked thoughtfully at her ring. It was engraved with tiny filigree feathers. Of course; it had been intended for the bird-maiden. Must everything remind her of what she could not have? She started composing a sad poem.
Birds have wings and they fly
High in the open sky
Lovers give rings and they fly
No-one can reach them though they try
The wise know things and they fly
They think of things like how and why
I have no wings and I cry
Alone under the starry sky.
Moriel sung the sorrow-filled words in her beautiful, dark voice. A raven flew to the railing of the balcony.
'Creeh! Pretty song! Now will you give me nuts?' The bird spoke in a cracking voice.
Moriel smiled one of her rare, glorious smiles at the little winged creature. She had named him Erec, the Lonely One, for he had fallen from his nest as a fowl and been abandoned by his mother. She had taught him to speak, and he had indeed learned well, smart animal as he was.
'Here's for you, my faithful friend. Never find a girlfriend, do you hear me, never!' She took some nuts from the little velvet bag she was carrying and fed the bird from her hand.
'Creeh! Men give trouble?' Erec asked.
'Well said, my friend. Men give trouble.'
'You are my songbird, Moriel.' This was Erec's old compliment, which he had invented when he had first heard of Quesseriel's nickname. This time, Moriel did not smile.
'Birds have wings and they fly...' Erec tried to sing. Moriel gently caressed her friend's black feathers.
Some years ago, Erec had gained lordship over all the ravens of Gondolin, for he was a wise bird though he sometimes behaved like a jester. The raven King was old, but he never forgot the kindness of the elven maiden who had saved his life. Nor her nuts.
Some days later, when the engagement of Glorfindel and Quesseriel had been publicly announced, Moriel was sitting in the chambers of princess Idril Celebrindal. She was one of her favourite poets and also a trusted friend. Now she had been singing old love songs, accompanying herself with a harp, as Idril and all her ladies-in-waiting listened.
'Something troubles you now, Moriel, or else you would not have chosen all those tragic stories', Idril said.
'You know me, my lady. Am I not called Moriel Sorrow-Eyes?'
'I think there is more this time. Why don't you tell me?'
'All right, since you insist, my lady, but I would like to talk to you in privacy.'
'Leave us.' She gestured at the ladies.
'It is about Glorfindel. I cannot help but love him.'
'I see. Is that why you have turned down so many proposals?'
'My heart is mine no longer, my lady.'
'And now he is engaged.'
'Yes, and all is lost to me.'
'Does he know about your feelings?'
'No, but I know about his feelings for my sister. He tells me everything.'
'Why don't you tell him everything?'
'I dare not spoil our friendship.'
'And what does Quesseriel know?'
'Nothing. We are not very close, what with this age-distance and all.'
'I think you should tell them. Otherwise, they will hurt you many times unintended.'
'Maybe you are right, my lady.'
Moriel started looking for an opportunity to speak to Glorfindel in private. Most of the time he was either in the company of Quesseriel, or seeing to his duties as the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower. Finally, however, Moriel met him alone walking in a garden.
'Glorfindel, I must talk with you.'
Moriel suddenly found no words for her feelings, a new sensation to a poet.
She kissed Glorfindel on the mouth.
'About that. I love you.'
The look on his face was incredulous. Almost automatically, his lips had answered the kiss. He dared not believe that it had really happened, that Moriel would have such feelings for him, Moriel, his trusted friend.
'You know my heart, Moriel.'
'I know. But I had to try.'
They looked at each other in silence for a long time.
Then Glorfindel ventured:
'Let us be friends.'
'Yes. Friends', said Moriel, her heart in pieces.
Some weeks later, Moriel was sitting on a courtyard, next to a fountain, practising her harp. A tall, dark-haired man approached.
'Poet, I wish to speak to you.'
'Yes, my lord?'
'Call me Maeglin, please.'
'As you wish, my... Maeglin.'
He smiled wryly.
'I wish that had not been a slip of the tongue.'
'Ah, how should I speak to a word-weaver, that she would not think me rude and unlearned? But try I must. Moriel, the song you sang was one of Tilion yearning for Arien. But what if the moon would turn his face from the sun and look at a tiny star that wishes to be noticed? Your songs are a wine that has made me drunk. A dry, strong wine, so full of noble sorrow. You are the moon I reach for. Moriel, would you marry me?'
Maeglin, the lord second highest in the kingdom, knelt down at Moriel's feet.
And Moriel stood up and was silent. But she smiled. It was a dark smile full of a sentiment altogether new to her: it was not love, but desire. For Maeglin was handsome to look at, and full of the passion of youth in all his doings. Moriel began to desire also for power; maybe it would soothe the raw wounds in her soul, and offer her life a new meaning. She feared to wither in loneliness, becoming hollow inside, a shadow, an echo. With Maeglin, she might escape that fate.
'I will. I will indeed.'
And Moriel laughed. Maeglin stared at her in disbelief. In front of him stood a strange Moriel, her heavy dark green dress flowing majestically as she lifted her arms high in a gesture of - what? Joy? Worship? Or something else, something darker, dark as her name. The Black Lady.
Their wedding was a grand event. All Gondolin celebrated it for a week. Maeglin gave Moriel a ring with a black diamond in it. The ravens danced in the air. The last day of the week Glorfindel and Quesseriel also got married.
One night Moriel lay in bed beside her new husband. Suddenly Maeglin began to speak in his sleep.
'Idril, oh Idril, finally I have you!'
Moriel was shocked. She had thought Maeglin was hers, that he loved her or at least desired her. But all the time he had loved another. Moriel slapped him hard on the face. He woke up with a start.
'Ouch! Who did that?'
'You filth! You love her more than me! You were moaning her name!'
'So what? I know whom you love, my wifeling. That golden-headed nothing, Glorfindel!'
'And is Idril's hair any less golden? And your feelings less than mine?'
'Yet you married me.'
'And you married me!'
'So... we are married.'
'And the pot is calling the kettle black.'
Suddenly, the tension snapped like a strained harp-string. Their embrace was a fiery one for it had much frustration to quench.
Nine months later their son was born. Eru Iluvatar must have a sense of humour, for the hair of the child was like spun gold. But his eyes were his father's, dark and deep. They named him Malor, the Golden One.
Malor was an easy child. Quietly he played with the colourful jewels his father brought him from the mines under the mountains. Smiling, he listened his mother sing merry songs of butterflies and flowers, forests and waterfalls. Moriel became a devout mother, motherhood was indeed the only solace she had. Her husband loved her not, and power had turned out to be the most hollow thing of all.
One golden afternoon Moriel sat under a silver-leafed willow, with her son playing nearby. Suddenly a bird landed to the ground next to her. It bowed.
'Creeh! and triple creeh for the Black Songbird, Raven-tamer, Lady Moriel of Gondolin!'
Moriel stood up and curtsied with mirth in her eyes.
'Hail, King of Ravens, Erec the Wise, The Lonely One!'
Little Malor toddled to watch the strange exchange.
'May I present my son, Malor, the Golden One.'
'Greetings, young man! Do you know your mother is the fairest songbird in all Gondolin?'
Malor stared at Erec with a serious face.
'I have not seen you for a long time, Erec. Not after my wedding, in fact.'
'I got married too, to the prettiest little raven ever born.'
'Married? You? Congratulations, then.'
'Did you miss me? Oh, please say you did!'
'I missed you. I had to feed my nuts to squirrels, and they don't give thanks half as politely.'
'Creeh! Squirrels, by my tailfeathers! Speaking of nuts...' Erec cocked his head to one side.
Smiling, Moriel helped Malor feed the bird.
Suddenly a change came over Maeglin. It happened after he had been away from home longer than usual. He began to look at his son like he had never seen him before, or like he would never see him again. And suddenly he was all too gentle towards his wife. Moriel could not help thinking he was apologising for something.
And the days passed and the people of Gondolin were gathered waiting for the sunrise on the day of Summer's Gate, a great celebration. But a red glow topped the mountains in the north, not in the east. And too soon all the realm was full of the troops of Morgoth, balrogs and dragons, and orcs too numerous to be counted.
The Gondolians did not give up without a battle, however. Many deeds of great valour were done that day. Dragons were slain by knights in shining armour, the bright blades of Gondolin were smeared with the slimy blood of orcs. The ravens of Erec flew to battle too, plucking out the eyes of orcs, too fast to get caught, too small to get hit.
And the women and children were caught in the middle of all this. Malor was four years old then, and he clung to his mother in despair, for the two of them were surrounded by a group of orcs. Maeglin was nowhere in sight to save his family. Moriel had no weapon but her harp, and what was she doing but playing it, trying to calm her son so that he could at least die happily asleep. This puzzled the orcs so that they did not move for a moment. And a moment was enough: there came a warrior in the most wonderful of armours and slew all the orcs. He was none other than Tuor himself.
Moriel began to seek for Maeglin and Tuor for his wife and son, and at the same moment they found them, for Maeglin had captured Idril and Eärendil. Moriel stared at the scene in horror, even as Tuor fought Maeglin and the traitor fell off the city wall, and little Malor watched also, and remembered always what kind of a man his father had been.
Tuor and Idril then gathered all the people they could find, and led them to the secret escape route they had prepared.
The mountain path was troublesome and should have taken Moriel's full attention. Nonetheless, she found herself thinking about her marriage. She had supported Maeglin in his opinion of not leaving Gondolin. She had abandoned Idril's friendship because of both politics and jealousy. And now Idril and Tuor helped her, the widow of the traitor.
Suddenly the people walking in front of Moriel halted. She looked up, and saw terror embodied. A balrog blocked the path. It had orcs with it, too.
A musical voice called:
'Begone, foul spirit! Your heart is empty and your fire is but a mockery of light! You were of a glorious house but you gave it up for drinking the vomit of Morgoth! Go now and take these mountain-worms with you, or take eternal death from my sword!' It was the voice of Glorfindel, but at the moment he looked more than elven. He was like an ambassador of the distant west, with the power of Eönwë the weaponsmaster, as he lifted his great sword, Orcrist.
Then spoke the balrog:
'What have we here but a withering flower to be plucked and burned! Fear, you powerless one, for I will take pleasure in your death! All glory to Morgoth!'
They attacked each other. It was a grand battle. Their weapons moved faster than eye could see, they danced a dance of death, forgetting all else, forgetting, indeed, that they were at the edge of a cliff.
They fell together.
Too late came Thorondor to save him, but his eagles killed all the orcs, and he brought Glorfindel's corpse from the depths. The elves buried him at the cliff and continued their journey to safety.
Many a song was sung of brave Glorfindel, most of them by Moriel the Harper. Quesseriel was mad of sorrow, she tore at her beautiful hair and refused to eat. Little Malor had turned so inwards that no speech, no joy, no touch could reach him. He stopped speaking. They lived at Nan-tathren by Sirion at that time.
One night Moriel met Ulmo in a dream. He was a whisper of the waves, a song of the sea, and he spoke of a way for things to be better. Moriel could heal her sister and save her son from the gloom in which he lived.
The following morning Moriel took Quesseriel and Malor to the seashore. She put Malor in her sister's arms and told them to take care of each other. Then she climbed a cliff, singing, and threw herself down into the waves. Quesseriel screamed, but Malor did not say a word.
They waited. It started to rain. A raven screamed: 'O Sorrow! O Loneliness!' They waited for Moriel to return. She was their only link to sanity. She had fed them like babies, she had washed them and dressed them and always helped them in their shared madness. Finally, a body floated to the shore. But it was not Moriel's.
Moriel had gone to meet Mandos. She had an appeal to make. A trade, a soul for a soul. Herself to sing songs of eternal night in the halls of the dead. There was one who had always been able to arrange matters. One who had never failed her, save once. But now she was beyond those selfish feelings. Moriel had grown to be a light in the night during the years of sorrow at Nan-tathren. But she was more than willing to give way to the sun of the day.
Glorfindel stood up on the sand. The clouds parted and allowed the sun to make a halo of his golden hair. He embraced Quesseriel and looked at Malor with puzzlement, for his memory was hazy.
'Is he our son?'
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.