2. Chapter 1
As they passed beneath the silver boughs of the Mallorns, with golden leaves floating about their heads and feet, they spoke mirthfully among themselves and tried to lay aside their woe, if only for a little while. They were thinking of returning to the pavilion to take their supper and rest when abruptly, Haldir and Legolas halted. They held their hands aloft signaling the others to do the same. Misunderstanding the Elves' intent, the company drew their swords.
"Nay," Legolas said to them. "There is naught to fear. Only be still and listen."
When all were still and silent, a lone voice and the gentle strumming of a lute could be heard, though only faintly. The company cautiously followed the music until it could be heard clearly by all.
Frodo imagined that if tears could sing, this might well be the song, and the voice they would choose. To Aragorn it was the sound that his heart had made, when he learned that his mother was dead.
They peered through the trees and there, on the bank of the Silverlode, they spied a maid. The sun's dimming rays seemed to grasp at her dark, auburn hair wishing to dance there but a moment longer. She sat with her back to them; legs crossed beneath her and sang to the river a haunting and sorrowful song.
Samwise had never heard such a voice; not even in all of his time with the Elves. First lilting and low, then ascending to a visceral and cutting flow of grief--and defiance; only to fall once more to a mournful, weeping whisper. It pierced his heart to its core and his eyes welled with tears. "Why does she grieve so? What happened to her?" he whispered to Legolas who looked as if he too wished to weep.
It was Haldir, however, who answered him. "She is one of our most beloved minstrels. She also is The Lady's champion."
"Champion!?" Boromir whispered loudly. "But she is a maid!" He looked saddened and troubled.
A half-grin emerged upon the Elf's face as he spoke to the man of Gondor. "I see," replied Haldir, "that naught escapes thy glance, Boromir. Aye, it is quite true as you say. She is a maid. But I say to you, friend, that even I would be loath and foolish beyond measure to provoke her wrath be there bow and quiver at hand; for that maid can shoot the wings from a flitting midge at two hundred paces—on a moonless night."
Aragorn looked at her intently, for although he had not yet met her, he now knew of whom the Elf spoke. Haldir continued in earnest. "She is Ethuiel, daughter of Ecthelion. The lament she sings is to her father and of the fall of Gondolin." No futher explanation was necessary. This company knew that story only too well and thus they all understood her anguish and grieved for her, each in his own way.
Legolas closed his eyes and leaned on Haldir. Nothing could now hide his sorrow, for he had been there on that horrific night when all the city awaited the Gates of Summer, but in their stead received fire and death at the hands of Morgoth's hordes. He had witnessed the valiance of Ecthelion and had watched his fall into the deep basin of the palace, following Gothmog, captain of the balrogs, whom he had slain. His thoughts turned once more to Gandalf and he reeled with the memory.
It seemed to Legolas that after nearly two ages had past, the fall of Gondolin was again about him. He could feel the heat of the drakes' breath; hear the wails of sorrow and death and the blowing of horns in his ears. Oh! The panic and dread! The hideous beasts hewing down women, running with babes in their arms! Young maidens being dragged with chains about their throats into enthrallment, and naught to be done but protect those who were near at hand, and run.
It had been Legolas who had lead the few surviving Gondothlim across the pass of Crishorn in the terrible night, for none could see in the darkness as could he. He had wandered with them for many months in the wilderness in fear and despair.
He remembered Ethuiel as she was then. A maiden-child of no more than nine years, and even then tiny for her age. He recalled that a woman of her household had carried her through the Secret Way of Escape and bore her all through the vale and the mountains, for Ethuiel's mother and father had perished. She very nearly met her end there as well.
Although he had not witnessed it, Legolas had heard of the ordeal. She had been badly burned on the foot, lashed by the balrog's whip. There she fell in the street at the feet of a hulking orc. The monster swiftly snatched the terror-stricken child up by her braided hair, but as he swung his blade at her neck, her mother, who was but a step from her, sprang at the beast and pulled the child backward. Thus, when the blade fell it hewed away the braid, but spared the child. The frantic woman flew with her child through the city, but alas, fell with an orc’s dart in her back. It was then that Brynowen had lifted Ethuiel and made at last to Idril's secret escape.
Legolas remembered vividly what had taken place when Ethuiel was told of her father's fall. All had expected to comfort a wailing child; newly orphaned and utterly alone. She, however, did not outwardly break.
She bit back so hard on her crushing despair that she swallowed it whole. In only a matter of moments the tears that begged to escape from behind her eyes were squeezed into salt and thus transformed her sorrow into a smoldering hatred and malice that would consume her for an age. Ethuiel hoisted herself upon a rock, now immune to the searing pain in her foot. There before the company, this tiny maiden-child with shorn head, in the tatters of her raiment and covered with the soot of the most rabid filth ever before seen in Middle Earth, stood and swore an Oath. "I shall become a great warrior." she said. "An archer I shall be and upon my bow shall be my father's name drawn in silver and my mother's beside his in gold. And every dart in my quiver shall bear the words 'For Gondolin'. I shall seek the wicked creatures that did this deed where so ever they may go. To their very dens I shall seek them if I must. And if any one of them should ever again look upon my brow, he will have looked his last in Middle Earth; or will have I. The Archer of Gondolin will be their terror and their bane. I swear this before Elbereth Gilthoniel and I shall NEVER cease!"
Such words from the mouth of a child would have been heard with pity and not considered wholly seriously, for all those about her understood her despair. There was, however, such a deadly seriousness in her face and the malicious intent that flashed in her bright, Elven eyes shone not of a wounded foundling, but of one far into adulthood and with a cold hatred, more intense that any mere child could know. Thus, all those refugees of Gondolin and the Encircling Mountains heard that Oath--and all who heard believed.
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.