Crossing the Sea: 4. Nargothrond

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4. Nargothrond

A silvery drizzle filled the sky, bringing an autumnal chill to the city. On the branches, in the air and on the ground, the wet leaves glistened, red and gold. Passing under a white stone arch, I stepped out into the courtyard, where Eärwen and her companions were dismounting. My daughter greeted me with a smile, throwing back the hood of her traveling cloak. Her hair, so bright like her mother's, shimmered in the rain. We embraced.

"How is my son-in-law?" I asked.

"He is well, dear father."

"He should come with you next time, you know."

Eärwen glanced up at me, and lowered her eyes again. "Yes, father," she replied.

A familiar twinge stirred my heart. For far too many years now, we have had this exchange, always in nearly exactly the same words, every time she came to Alqualondë. Pausing for a moment, I turned and took a good look at her.

"Have you taken good care of yourself, little girl?"

Reaching for my hand, Eärwen squeezed it without a word, then pulled close and embraced me once more. We went into the building together in silence. When she finally spoke again, I detected a trace of nervousness in her voice.

"Father? I have heard...that someone has come to Alqualondë? From across the sea?"

"That is true, my dear,"

Eärwen nodded pensively. "They have summoned Finarfin to Valmar," she added, trying to sound as if it was nothing important at all.

"This is news indeed. You have certainly given me food for thought, daughter."

However, there was no time to consider the news, for another worry soon preoccupied me. Immediately after her arrival, I noticed something different in my daughter's demeanour, some feeling of anticipation, signs of suppressed tension. And I noticed her watching Elwing. She did this quietly and cautiously, with a look almost of fear in her eyes, but there was also a light in her face, which I had not seen for many years. Elwing must have sensed it, too, for from time to time she would glance in Eärwen's direction, and she seemed afraid. Yet my daughter never met her gaze, but would always turn away quickly, and start to talk of other inconsequential things. Nevertheless, the cause of her increasing agitation was only all too painfully obvious to me, and to her mother. She was watching Elwing as if the other woman held the answers to all the questions in the entire world.

"I will ask her," said Eärwen that night when we were alone. "For so many years, I thought that I had no more hope, but now, now that she has come, everything has changed somehow. And somehow just by looking at Elwing, I feel hope again; I feel it--alive in me again. After all, my children, my sons and young Nerwen--they are so good; they have to be alive. They have to be well..."

My poor girl was looking at us with unnaturally bright eyes, trying hard to convince herself of the truth of her own words.

"Do you believe this, my child?" Sílaniel asked at last, gently and carefully.

"Oh, I know what you will say, mother, I know what they say about the chances, about the Enemy, and about...about the Curse. It is true that I have had the dreams--nightmares, and I would see them, and I would see--terrible things. And sometimes such a blackness came over me, that I thought I could not go on living..." She had to stop for a moment, then collected herself. "But those are only dreams in the end, and visions, is that not so? Oh mother, father, I simply cannot give up hope. Please, please do not tell me to brace myself, because I do believe..."

A note of desperation crept into her voice, and my heart sank further. I knew the things that my daughter had seen in her nightmares, for I had seen them also: visions of fire and swords, and of dark places. Monstrous creatures. Knowledge of death.

And my girl had always been so strong, so brave, in the time of Darkness and in all the long years after. But now...Perhaps this hope, even now and in defiance of everything, was but a sign of her heart's strength. A strength that I could no longer find in myself. How many times had I told myself that my grandchildren were alive? How many more were the times I told myself that they were dead? And each time I heard that dark voice within me, each time my heart struggled to keep faith, another small piece of my hope had crumbled away, night by sleepless night, year by wordless year. Unlike my daughter, I no longer had the courage or the foolishness to believe.

And so the next day, Eärwen came into the little library where Elwing and Sílaniel were sitting. Giving us a weak smile, she crossed the room to Elwing. The young woman started at my daughter's approach, rising quickly to her feet. Her eyes widened, and she looked as if she would have run away, if there was any place for her to go.

"Elwing, I wanted to ask--Do not be frightened, I mean you no harm, please," Eärwen paused, taking a deep breath, then continued softly. "I have five children, you see. Four sons and a daughter. Their names are Finrod, Orodreth, Angrod," her voice lingered tenderly over each name, "and Aegnor, and Nerwen--or perhaps you know her as Artanis? They are my children, but they went away, to Middle-earth, and I have not had news of them since...Tell me please, if you know anything of them. Are they well? Are they happy?"

The two women faced each other. I realized that Sílaniel was standing next to me, her hand on my arm, and I could hear her heart pounding. Across the room, Eärwen's gaze bore intently into the other's face, searching for a hopeful sign, but Elwing seemed transfixed, as if she did not wish to meet my daughter's eyes, yet could not look away either.

"Lady Eärwen," she began, then said no more.

"If you know anything of them, tell me--Please, you see, for so many years I have not known if my children are alive, my own children, I have not known for so long..."

Elwing went pale.

"If you know anything, anything at all..."

My daughter's voice caught in her throat. Elwing gave a little gasp.

"Lady Eärwen," she said quickly, sounding fearful, "I did know the Lady Artanis. She is living. I have seen her, and I knew her, the Lady Galadriel--for that was the name given to her by Lord Celeborn, her husband."

Suddenly, I found myself breathing again. My granddaughter was alive. She was alive. Eärwen closed her eyes, her shoulders trembling with relief.

"She is wedded then...She is wedded, and I never knew...Galadriel, maiden crowned with a radiant garland..." she whispered. "And my sons? What of them? Finrod? Orodreth, and Angrod? And Aegnor?"

Elwing did not reply. She just stood there in front of my daughter, staring at her, unable to speak a word. Pity slowly filled her eyes. Time stopped, and the room was utterly and relentlessly silent. A remote part of my mind registered the pressure of Sílaniel's hand on my arm, clutching hard. I felt panic, Eärwen's increasing panic, and a terrible agony that was starting to rise in great waves, from somewhere deep inside her, threatening to overwhelm everything, merging with my own. Knowledge of death. Dreadful monsters wreathed in flames. A field littered with corpses. A place without light.

Eärwen swayed slightly on her feet. But then she straightened again, and rallied impossibly for one last time.

"Please, if you know them...They are my sons..."

I took a step forward to go to my child, to make all this stop and take her away, I knew not where but just far away, but Sílaniel's fingers were dug desperately into the flesh of my arm, keeping me back. My daughter's sons. My grandsons--

"Tell me, I beg you! Take pity on a mother's heart!"

She looked like she was about to sink to her knees. Frightened, Elwing reached out as if to steady her, but still said nothing. Silence. My grandsons, my golden-haired grandsons, so strong and merry, so full of joy. Silence. Finrod. Orodreth. Angrod. Aegnor. Silence. It went on, and on; it was going to last forever. Nothing was left but the hopeless weight of the silence, taking my heart with it down, down, down...

With a low, choked cry, my daughter turned abruptly, and stumbled out of the room.

***

I caught Sílaniel by the shoulders. With a visible effort, she pulled herself together, forcing back the tears. Something in me I noticed that Elwing, too, was gone.

"Eärwen. Oh Eärwen..."

We ran from the room and through the halls. Outside, the cool air struck me in the face: only an instant had passed. We found Eärwen a little distance ahead, in the courtyard; to my surprise, Elwing had reached her first. She held Eärwen in a tight embrace, and my girl, my brave, stubborn girl, who had refused to give up for so long, clung to hope so fiercely for so long, was weeping brokenly in her frail arms.

"I should never have let them go...I should never have abandoned them...I abandoned them..."

My daughter was shaking uncontrollably, racked with convulsive sobs. It was as if the whole world was gone from her, everything was gone, and I knew she was once more in that Night of horrors, back in that one awful moment, many years ago, when her children had stood before her, and she had not seen them. Elwing's arms were around her, supporting her weight, comforting her. Yet the younger woman's face, too, was covered in tears.

For the first time since she came to us, I saw Elwing weep.

Rapidly Sílaniel went across the courtyard to them, and I followed. Very gently, we parted Elwing and our daughter, took their arms, and slowly led them--both of them--back to the house.

***

In my memory, I saw Laurelin's golden light, and young leaves fluttering and flashing like a canopy of emerald in the sea-breeze. The air was filled with the fragrance of flowers. Swallows and larks called out to each other, chirping and trilling, cutting swift arcs across the azure sky.

I saw my daughter and her husband sitting in the garden down below, in the distance, beneath a great lairelossë tree; the branches above their heads drooped low with silver blossoms. Eärwen whispered something in Finarfin's ear, and he turned to her, fingers lightly touching her hair. Their lips met in a kiss.

I saw a young Elf sitting cross-legged on the white stones of the terrace, gazing out towards the blue horizon. He looked up at me and smiled, his grey eyes full of dreams.

"Do you remember all those stories you used to tell me, grandfather? Stories of Middle-earth?" he asked me. "The sea always makes me think of them, of Cuiviénen's waters rippling and shining under the stars, and of all those distant lands, all those forests and hills and great wide rivers, which I shall never see..."

"Finrod!" A small child came running up, yellow hair streaming out behind him. "Come along! You promised to go down to the shore with me!"

Laughing, my older grandson leapt to his feet.

"I am coming, Orodreth!"

He gave me a last bright grin, then turned away. Together, the two boys ran off, and disappeared down the path that led to the sea.

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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