Where are you, my brother? In my mind I could still hear your voice. You told me that you would go on ahead, to seek out our kinsmen; you said that you would return soon. If I only had known. If I only had thought for but a moment, for Finwë was far away, and the woods were dense and trackless, and there were many prowling creatures, monsters red of tusk and wicked of claw...
Where are you? The echoes returned.
Oh Elwë, we came such a long way from home. Why did you abandon our journey, the hope you instilled in us? Why did you abandon your promise of light?
"Leaving his people behind, my great-grandfather came alone into the wood of Nan Elmoth. There, beneath the pale stars blossoming in the firmament, amid the woven shadows of the great trees, he suddenly heard the sound of nightingales singing. And beyond the music of the nightingales, from the far distance, came faintly the song of another voice. And his heart was filled with enchantment and desire."
"Following the song, my great-grandfather passed deeper and deeper into the forest. Ahead, the birds fluttered, calling, calling, and around him the trees became ever taller and darker. And as he went on, the music grew in sweetness and power, until at last he came into a small clearing open to the sky. In the midst of the glade stood a fair maiden, and in her face was a light, not of Middle-earth."
A light moved over the waters, a star streaked across the sky. The clouds broke, the dark Mere rippled into liquid silver. All the stars drooped and trembled, white fire in a deep blue field. In the distance, a hidden shore-bird called, shrill and clear. An answering cry from the rushes, and a fluttering of wings.
A thousand streams flowed into the Mere; they came singing from the heights, falling over stone, leaping down the slopes. A thousand waters flowed into Cuiviénen, but only one flowed out. A single wide river bent south, then westwards, away, disappearing past the hills. To what places? What end? Where would it lead?
"I do not know where the river leads, little brother; it goes away and does not return," replied my brother. The glow of the campfire flickered across his face, reflecting in his eyes. "Maybe there are lands like these beyond the woods, on the other side of the mountains, where the river goes. Maybe beyond them are more strange and wonderful places, though I cannot imagine them. But we must not stray far."
Behind us, the forest rose like a black wall. Its shadows reached nearly all the way to the Mere's bright edge. Far away, some wild fearful creature howled, a long lonely wail. I sat up. My bow and quiver lay next to me. Holding still, I listened, but all was silent again, except for the soft crackle of the fire burning low.
"Do not fear, little brother." Elwë's voice was gentle. "Go to sleep now. I will keep watch."
"The people gathered about him in amazement and joy. For a new grace and power was about him like a mantle, and the starlight was in his face. With Melian his Queen he dwelt in bliss, in Beleriand, and the wisdom and gladness of his people grew, the rivers and fountains flowed, and the white niphredil sprang from the earth. Yet the greater part of Middle-earth still slept in the twilight."
"But in Arda times of peace and joy lasted not forever. The shadows lengthened, and evil things crept back into the forests of Middle-earth. Out of the West the Enemy returned, and in pursuit Fëanor and his sons came in the white ships, crossing the sea. Battle was joined."
"Thus the King learned of all that had passed, of the withering of the Trees, and of the coming of woe. Great was his grief and anger at the tidings, for the blessed land of Aman was stained with the blood of his kin."
"An unstained land, that I have seen with my own eyes, a land without fear and sorrow, a land without the hideous monsters that stalk the shadows and prey upon your children, a land without wolves, without demons..."
My brother stood on top of a large boulder, in a field just outside of the little village, making a speech to the crowd. He spoke of exalted and beautiful beings, the Lords of the World, whose lands lay to the uttermost west, beyond the great water. He said that they loved us, that they made war upon the darkness for us. And they would deliver us from the grief of the earth and the deceits of the dusk. He spoke of their summons, and of the great wonders and happiness to come, if we but followed. And he spoke of light. Always, again and again, his words returned to the light of two great trees, brighter than starlight and the light of the waters, pouring out over the mountains, turning all the land green and fair. He spoke of hope, and his voice rose with passion; his eyes flashed upon their faces.
It was a speech already familiar to me. Before coming here, he had spoken like this in another village, and another one before that. Turning from him, I scanned the faces in the crowd. Some seemed hopeful, ready to be swayed; most looked doubtful. I caught sight of a boy standing on tiptoes, craning his neck to gaze upon my brother, his dark eyes rapt. But the Elf beside him was shaking his head.
Elwë had changed so much. There was now a new air about him, and a new fire in his eyes. "For you will hear the voices of the exalted ones, like a deep music, older than us, older than the world. Then you will never forget..." The words washed over me, and I started, for strange images were rising before my eyes, almost like memories, yet not so. An agonizing longing. Something incomparably bright in the blackness, and the roar of grey waves, like the waves of the Mere but much, much higher...And as he stood there speaking passionately, only a few yards away, all of a sudden it seemed that my brother was already infinitely distant, lost and gone from me. In the midst of the glory of the light evoked by his words, my heart trembled with a fear that I could not explain.
"The hopeless War of the Jewels continued, and the lands of Beleriand were defiled and became full of horrors, though in the Fenced Kingdom there was still mirth, and songs of peace. But even the girdle of enchantment did not keep out Fate."
"So this ragged wanderer--this Man--dared to come before his throne and ask for the hand of his beloved daughter, who was as beautiful like the dawn in spring. In his pride and wrath the King would hold back doom, and he sent Beren upon a quest for which he would surely die."
"This is impossible,"
My brother stopped abruptly, entire body going tense in an instant.
"It was not impossible for the hosts of Ingwë and Finwë," he replied without turning, still staring up at the heights. "We are not a lesser people."
"We are a more numerous people." To one side of us, I could glimpse the many red fires of the camps like twinkling eyes, dotting the length of the valley below. To the other side the mountain-range rose, layer after layer of stone and snow, peak upon blindingly white peak, into the clouds, blotting out the sky. It stretched away north and south with no break in sight. I took a deep breath. "My brother, it was perhaps hasty of me to call it impossible. But there are more of us, more women and children. Look at it. We cannot cross here, not as we are. Would it not be better to turn and go along the range, at least for a while? To seek a gap, a place that can be passed?"
Suddenly Elwë spun around to face me, eyes smouldering. "We have come this far, and I will not be stopped by the fear of a large pile of earth and rocks--"
"How will you get them over this 'pile', then? Do you propose to throw them wildly at these peaks? Take thought for but a moment, Elwë. Our people have already come through such a long march, so many dangers. They are weary. There are already some who speak of turning south--"
"I will throw them at these peaks if needs be! Fools. They have no idea--they would rather have stayed in the cradle forever. They see nothing of what the journey means, of the future before us!"
"You are right, they have no idea." I could no longer restrain the hotness of my heart, and all the frustrations rose to my head. "They know nothing of the perils and pains on the way, and nothing of what lies at the end, because they are only following you. They left behind so many of their loved ones, and the only home they have ever known, and went into the vast wild world with you, because they believed you! But you have changed, Elwë. Where are you leading them? What is the meaning of the journey, if you know it so well? Is it for the sake of our people? Or merely to satisfy your own pride?"
My brother glared at me, then returned his gaze to the mist and clouds of the summits high above. His shoulders slumped. A long moment passed.
"It is for the good of our people that I lead them into this wilderness," he replied at last, slowly. "But I will still cross these mountains even if I must go all alone, if none will follow me."
"I will follow you." He did not respond, and I walked to his side. My anger had evaporated. "You are my brother and my lord and I will not abandon you. But think of our people. Please."
Elwë sighed. "I suppose you are right after all, little brother," he said after a while. To my surprise, a small smile appeared on his face. "Come, let us return to the camp, and--take thought, as you say..."
"My great-grandfather knelt by Beren, who was mortally wounded, and gave no need to the hound and the maddened wolf, fighting to the death. A change came over him at that grievous moment, for he perceived that Beren was mantled with doom itself, and the love of Lúthien could not be withstood by any power in Arda. And a different kind of love sprang up in his heart also."
The highest peaks were behind us now. Coming to the edge of a rocky precipice on the mountain's western shoulder, just below the snows, we surveyed the new world. Below us, the steep bare walls of stone were already softening to dusky pine-clad foothills. Beyond the hills lay a wide green country, gently rolling for as far as the eye could see. A swift river ran through it, winding westwards like a grey ribbon with flashes of silver.
"It is beautiful," I shouted.
My brother was silent for a while, seemingly lost in thought.
"Thank you," he said suddenly. "For aiding me in my mad quest," he added, in answer to my unspoken question.
I was about to protest, but he lifted a hand and went on speaking quietly, his eyes still fixed upon the horizon.
"I know how much you miss our home, little brother, the whispering forests and the rippling Mere, where we wandered together in such joy, when we were young. I know your misgivings, though you never speak of them, for our people is ever foremost in your mind; you fear for them, worry about what lies ahead of them...All you had were my words--my strange talk of far-away lands and the music of great horns calling, and Trees, and light...How could anyone truly believe such things? At times I could barely believe them myself; at times I almost think perhaps the things that some say are true: that I am a mad fool, that I have uprooted our people from their homes, dragged them through mountains and wilderness and pathless forests, all for some wild dream of mine, for a voice that only I could hear..."
He gave a little laugh, as if coming out of a reverie. "But you came with me. Through such a hard and perilous journey, you have always been alongside of me, helping me. You came with me, little brother--out of love. But there will come a time when you will also hear the voice that never leaves me now, the voice of the Lord of the Deeps, and you will know then, and understand. And all our people, they will also hear it, each one of them, and they will understand, too."
Something was brimming over inside me, and I looked into his warm shining eyes.
"I do not think that I need to understand, Elwë. For I have your words, and I have you--all that I need."
My brother put his hand on my shoulder.
"But you will. You will see for yourself the radiance and the splendour of the Two Trees, silver and gold--believe me that then you will know true joy. We will see them, together. I promise you this."
"Their hearts filled with greed and rage, the Dwarves laid hands on him and slew him, deep in Menegroth. And as he died, my great-grandfather beheld with his final sight the Silmaril, the last bright thing in the deep cave, the last reflection of the radiance and glory of Telperion and Laurelin, which he alone among the forsaken Elves of Middle-earth had seen, many ages ago, when the world was young."
"So came darkness and ruin to Doriath, for Melian departed from Middle-earth, never to return. The Guarded Land lay open to its enemies; death and sorrow befell its people. The woods fell silent and cold, and where laughter and music had been, only an echo remained, an echo of all the songs of bliss and beauty, a memory of all that were lost, a memory of the King."
I stood atop a hill, in Middle-earth, beneath a sky ablaze with stars. Behind me loomed the mountains, endless and majestic, glinting with snow; before me the road stretched away, disappearing into the forest darkness. The wind came, making the trees murmur, and it brought a new sound, the echo of a distant roar beyond the hills, an unknown voice calling. And there was a new scent in the air, a faint smell of salt, and of vast open spaces.
"That is the sea,"
I found my brother; he was standing right next to me.
"What is the sea?" I asked.
"The sea is greater than the eye could encompass, and more beautiful than the heart could imagine. The sea's voice heals all wounds; its song lets loose the soul. Yet I will not see it again, not for many ages to come. And beyond the sea is a land blessed and fair, filled with light, yet I will not see it again, not for many ages to come. So it is up to you now, little brother. Go to the sea. Cross it, for you must lead our people to the light."
Turning where my brother pointed, I saw that on the horizon the hills fell away, and there was a shimmer of silver and blue, bright with the reflections of countless stars. Amid the murmur of the trees, the voice called, then another voice welled up in response within me, and my heart was torn apart.
"Come with me,"
He shook his head sadly.
"No, I will not come. For my doom is different from yours, and we must part now."
"But you were the one who always urged us on!" I cried, my voice catching. "You were the one who always held us to the road..."
"The road had more branches and turns than I could foresee," my brother replied gently. "I am sorry, dear brother."
"Don't leave," I whispered.
"I cannot take care of you anymore, dear little brother, but the sea will." There was a teardrop on his cheek, but his eyes were smiling at me, full of love. "Go now. Be free."
And he was gone.
"I never knew my great-grandfather," said Elwing softly. "But they used to tell me stories of him, of Melian his Queen, and of Lúthien the Fair, their child, my grandmother. I think of them often, and I love them."
I looked up, and saw in her eyes a light like that of stars glimmering over the waters of Cuiviénen. I saw the light of Elwë's eyes. And in that moment, all the barriers within me, all the walls and floodgates were shattered at long last. Grief overwhelmed me, and the tears came.
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.