Crossing the Sea: 3. Gondolin

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3. Gondolin

Where is your brother? The voice asked out of the shadows.

I stood atop a hill, in Middle-earth. The sky was overcast, without stars, and it was very cold. Behind me loomed the mountain-range, vast and oppressive, without break; before me there was no more road. And the air was heavy with the portents of storms, and with harsh unseen voices asking me:

Where is your brother? Where have you left him?

I could not find my brother, and I was alone.

In every direction, the lands of Middle-earth stretched on forever, yet I was in a narrow and constricted place, and the black sky pressed down upon me. And I could go forward no more, for the road was lost amid the tangle of thorns. The mountains were draped in darkness, and the valleys were filled with thick, murky fog. Somewhere in the darkness and the fog lay my brother, but I could not see him, and I was alone in the world, except for the voices ringing out of the valleys and the hills, and out of the dank, bramble-filled woods, accusing me:

Where is your brother? Where have you abandoned him?


"I wish Elwing's sons would come," said the child. "She would not be so sad then, and it would be fun to play with them."

"I have told you so many times, Annairo," the girl sighed. "Do not say things like that."

"Why not? You wish it too, Eärlinde, don't you?"

"In any case, just do not speak of it in front of Elwing, do you hear?"

"It is true, though. They are alive and well," the little boy returned, pouting at his sister, who in turn glanced up at me.

"He says that all the time," she muttered apologetically.

We were on the terrace above the gardens. Annairo skipped about, running in circles with merry cries, while his sister walked next to me, a serious expression on her young face, trying to look all grown-up. The late afternoon sunlight reflected off the massed leaves below us, flashing and sparkling, and there was a new coolness in the air.

"Lord Olwë?" Eärlinde asked after a silence. "Do you think--do you think they are alive? Elwing's sons?"

"Do you, my child?"

She hesitated, crinkling her brows slightly. "Sometimes, I would imagine that those boys are here, and that she is happy...I mean, those Elves who hurt Elwing--I know they were bad people, but still--her sons were only small children, right? They could not actually...right?"

I looked at the girl and her bright-eyed little brother. And I could not tell them; I could not explain any of this to them. Not the sons of Fëanor, nor the Jewels. Nor the deaths of children.

"Your sister is right, Annairo. Elwing misses her sons very much; that is why she is so sad, in part. And--" I lied, gazing into the boy's eyes, "we all hope greatly that they would come to find her, but it may be a long time, years and years, before it happens. But in the meanwhile, if you speak of them, it will just make her miss them even more, don't you see?"

"Yes, I suppose..." Annairo nodded, though he did not seem to truly understand.

"Go on now, find Elwing,"

The children ran off, and I turned away. More than a month had passed since Elwing first came to us. Thanks to Sílaniel's tender and tireless care, signs of health were returning to her, at least in body, and it seemed that she was beginning to struggle out of her dark solitary world. Recently, she had even been able to eat, most of the times, without needing to be constantly reminded of the food before her. Yet it was a painful effort; she was easily frightened and often withdrawn, and on the bad days she would cry out for her sons, repeating their names again and again in helpless terror. And her sleep remained troubled and fitful, plagued with ceaseless nightmares.

After the first night, I had talked with her several times, slowly piecing together most of her strange and heartbreaking tale--the burning city, the howling waves, the wind roaring and rushing through her desperate wings. The long lonely wandering upon the sea's margin. But beyond the sudden attack on Sirion, I had not asked Elwing any more about her previous life.

And I had not asked her for news of my grandchildren, nor of my brother. I told myself that she should be spared all such questions, in her state, but the truth was simply that I could not bear to think of it. Not yet. Even though I knew now, and I could no longer delude myself with hope.

Perhaps I had known, all along.

And the dream was coming nearly every night. It was the same dream as always, except now more vivid than ever. In the dream, I stood atop a hill, in Middle-earth, and I was young, and I could not find my brother. And there was no other living being in the entire world.

I shook my head. Trying to not think of the dream, I walked out beyond the gardens, past the lavaralda hedges thick with flowers, and onto the path going down to the sea. Slanting sunbeams filtered through the trees overhead, lighting up the dark moss at my feet, gilding the early asters and the late lilies. As I neared the rock-hewn steps at the trail's end, the breeze carried over the sound of a young voice.

"...and Beledir is so clever, and brave too; when he takes us sailing, he always tries to make the boat go as fast as it can, and he can make it go so fast! But Calion has been my best friend for--for always; I can tell him everything, and he never laughs at me..."

I could naught but smile. The innocent child was prattling on about boys. Passing under an arch of shining leaves, I came out onto the open beach. Eärlinde and Elwing were sitting together, on a great smooth boulder, the girl keeping up a quick stream of soft chatter, and Elwing seemingly listening attentively. But little Annairo appeared to have lost interest in the conversation, and was a short distance away, with his feet in the foam, playing with a flock of white seagulls.

The young women rose at my approach. Eärlinde grinned, and there was something close to a smile on Elwing's gentle face. She looked almost well this evening, and in the light of the setting sun, there was even a touch of colour in her cheeks.

"Yes, I also had a best friend, when I was a girl--even younger than you," she was replying to some question that the other had asked. "And we, too, used to sit on the beach and watch the waves, together. And he would be there for me, whenever I felt sad or afraid; his mere presence would always make me better..."

"What happened after?" asked Eärlinde.

"I wedded him, after we grew up," answered Elwing. "But he had to go away, to plead for pity from the Exalted Ones. For he believes that the hearts of the Valar are ever merciful, and though great are the sins of Middle-earth's people, so are their sorrows."

"When will he return?"

Elwing was silent for a while. Turning her face away from the sea, she gazed into the sunset. "I know not," she said at last. "I want so much to hope that he will return, for it is the last hope left to me, but I know it not."

"What is he like?" asked a new voice. Annairo had come close again quietly, without our notice.

"He is very brave, very kind, and very good. And he is a child both of the Hildor and of the Firstborn: for his father was Tuor of Dor-lomín, and his mother Idril, King Turgon's daughter."

"What is the Hildor?" asked Annairo.

"King Turgon?" asked his sister. "But I know that name! My grandmother--"

She stopped dead in mid-sentence and blinked, biting her lips.

Yes, I knew that name, too.

"Your grandmother is of the Noldor?" I tried to make my voice as gentle as I could.

Eärlinde wavered for a moment, then nodded. "I only overheard it once, my lord, that all her family went away with the Lord Turgon. And she...she was just wedded to my grandfather at the time. I think she misses them awfully, though she does not speak of it."

"Tell us his story, Elwing," piped Annairo suddenly. His eyes never left her face.

Eärlinde made a little sound, glaring at her brother. But Elwing looked up at me, and the light of her eyes was sorrowful and fair, and there was something else in them, something more.

"Will you tell us the story?" I asked her.

So she told us the story, as we walked together there on the beach, with the surf lapping at our feet, and the white sea-birds fluttering about us in the sunset. Her voice was low, and she often struggled with the words, often faltered and fell silent. But every time, when I was about to tell her that she did not have to go on, she would pull herself back to the present, and continue to speak, though the effort it cost her was clear. At times Annairo would interrupt her with a question, and Eärlinde would hush him. Yet as her tale went on, an uncanny feeling came over me, that she was telling it not to the children, but only to me.

It was a story of desperate hardihood and fiery pride, and of bitter suffering lit up with flashes of joy. It was a story of many deaths and innumerable tears, and it was a love story.

"...and so they pressed on, braving the frozen wastes of the uttermost North. The endless snow cut their feet like blades, and the cruel wind lashed them, and in every direction, for as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but mountains of ice, clashing and grinding. Many fell, and did not rise again; the fair Elenwë was one of them. But they still pressed on..."

She told us the story of a kingly hall by the strands of the Sundering Sea, and of a voice deeper than the ocean's deeps, that spoke of Fate, and Fate's defeat. She told us of a lost road through dark places, and of a green plain surrounded by mountains of snow, covered with white simbelmynë flowers that changed not with the seasons. She told of banners of silver and blue, and of a high crown of diamond, and seven gates, and a song of stone.

"... and Maeglin watched Idril, desiring her light, yet without hope. And as the years passed, his love for her turned into a festering curse, to a darkness in his heart..."

She told of a battle, of blood like rivers and tears like rain, and of one last hope. She told of a betrayal, by one who was the lord's own kin, one who was honoured, trusted, and deeply loved. And on a eve of festival the Darkness fell.

"...and in the square of the King Ecthelion stood facing the Demon. Above him, the bright towers of the city burned, and all around him the fair fountains of the court were withering in the dragon-flames, turning to a heavy fog. The Balrog was lit up with a fierce red light, huge and monstrous, and he wielded a thong of fire. But Ecthelion stood firm; amid the dense steam and the fumes of the burning, his shield glittered like a field of stars. And he lifted his sword, and its light shone out, piercing the black shadow..."

She spoke on, and more than once her voice caught in her throat, more than once it sank with fear and sorrow. And each time she would struggle out of the past, shuddering, yet with her face lifted to me, and go on with the tale, as if it was her own. And there was love, too, in her voice, and she spoke of this Noldorin people as if they were her own.

And they were. By adoption and by the ways of her heart. And as this realization dawned upon me, something strange happened. I started to remember the Noldor. I tried hard to fight against the memories, to force them back, but a door was opened by her words that I had long held shut, and I could not help but remember.

"...and on the narrows of the pass, high up among the cold mountain peaks, the watchers of the Enemy fell upon them, and their plight was desperate. But Glorfindel the valiant stepped forth and fought the Demon upon the rocky pinnacle, and he sacrificed himself..."

"...and by long weary marches they came at last to the Vale of Sirion, and met the sea. There they rested, and healed their wounds, though their sorrows remained. And there, upon the banks of the River and the sands of the Sea, they dwelt at peace. For a little while."

A part of me knew that the memories were real, though I wanted to believe that they were only illusions and ancient dreams. But they had to be real. They could not hurt so much if they were not real.

I remembered the sound of laughter by jewel-sparkling pools, and the sound of many voices singing. I remembered the radiance of the Trees flowing out through a green gap in the mountains, and fair streets and stairs of crystal, shimmering with pearls. I remembered starlight at a long road's end, and my heart was filled with a deep yearning, for our friends and kin had gone from us, across the sea...I remembered Finwë.

I remembered two tall dark-headed youths, Fingon and Turgon, Fingolfin's sons. They were standing atop Alqualondë's walls. The light of Laurelin was bright in their faces, and the breeze from the hills lifted their hair. Turgon called out to his brother in a clear voice, pointing with an outstretched arm, and they grinned with enthusiasm. They were going to build a shining white tower, by the city's north gate, and--so they said--a garden high in mid-air.

I did not wish to remember these things, but the images came against my will, mixing with Elwing's words, burning me inside. There had been such love, once upon a time--yet the memories of it were more terrible to me than the memories of blood and flames, and more bitter than even that long dark night.


Eärlinde lingered beside the garden gate. By the newly-lit lamps, I saw that her dark blue eyes were full of tears.

"What shall I say to my grandmother, lord?" she asked me in a small voice.

Once again, I had no answers to give her.

"Speak of it to your mother and father. Tell them the story, as Elwing told us, and perhaps they will know how to tell her."

She sighed, and nodded slightly. "Come along, Annairo,"

"Return with your brother to see Elwing soon, Eärlinde," I added. "And bring some of your friends, too, if you wish. I think she would like that."

The girl looked up at me questioningly, then nodded again, and slipped away.

Back in the garden, I found Elwing sitting alone beneath the spreading boughs of a great oak tree, staring out into the night. The light had faded from her face, and she seemed lost and despondent, slipping back down once more under the weight of her grief.

"The hearts of the Valar are ever merciful," I told her. "Try to be well, for his sake, for he will come back to find you."

"Do you believe it?" Her voice sounded hollow and distant now.

"I do," replied I. "Absolutely."

And I did believe it. Absolutely.

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.

Story Information

Author: alena

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/31/03

Original Post: 09/22/03

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