2. Ringa - The Coldness
"Where are the stars, Amil?"
The darkness is all around us and in us and we are drowned in its cold, and there are no stars. "Amil, where are the stars?" I ask again, and again my mother, weeping, tells me they are asleep and will waken later to greet me. But the stars do not sleep — I know because the Lady told me, when I asked her if they would ever close like the flowers of Telperion, or fall like the flowers of the mallorn trees, she said, No, they would shine always over Arda. "Where is Lindorië?" I ask, again also, and Elenwë shakes her head and says that my friend has gone home because she was too tired.
"I want to go home then," I tell her, but she only weeps, the tears freezing on her lashes, and does not answer me. "I am tired, Amil!" She stumbles, and my aunt catches us, and does not let go.
"Let me take the child, my sister," she says, but she sounds like Mother speaking to me, not one elder to another. They both hold me, and Elonwe grips me tighter, squeezing me under the fur that is around us both, and I start to cry, but I stop because I do not like the way the ice feels on my skin. Then she lets me go and 'Feiniel slides me under her cloaks, pulling them over my head even though I do not like that.
"'Feiniel, my feet hurt," I tell her, and she says, "Good," and I am angry, and tell her that she is cruel; but she explains that means I am not frozen, and as long as there is hurt there is life, and that is good. "We should have horses," I tell her, and she sighs. "Where is your horse?" I ask her, because 'Feiniel always rides — my father says she would ride in the house if there were not stairs — and she tells me again that he is with her friends who are taking care of him for her.
"On the ships?" I ask, and she says yes. "Did he burn? Did Fanya burn with the ships?"
"No, Idril," she says, and she sounds a little angry. "Don't speak any more, child. It wearies." But she does not say whom it wearies, and I would ask her how speaking could make us tired, and if we do not speak, then who are we — for are we not the Speakers? But there is a sound as of thunder beneath our feet, or like a great door striking suddenly closed, and 'Feiniel stops, and I feel her heart shake of a sudden, and I am frightened too much to speak. I do not want that knocking thing to hear us and come up under us. Not even if it would take me home to Tirion, like Lindorië.
We stop again, even though it is still dark, and we make our camps on the cold white ground. My aunt and our friend Telemnar open the burdens that they carry and begin to put down. I would have been scolded for taking fine gold platters and setting them underfoot at home, but they must do it every time we stop. On them they set a lamp, each one on a gold or silver plate, and the lights shine like stars, blue-white or blue-gold, each one reflected many times in each plate like the stars in rain-pools. All around they go, so that we have stars around us. I sit beside one, looking down, trying to see if I can see Menelvagor watching over us in the deeps, as I used to in the fish-pond at home. But I only see myself, a golden shadow with shadows for eyes. Perhaps that is my fëa: I wave to her, and she waves back to me.
The one they call Tarinya now comes to us, with her shining spear in her hand, snow-bear furs hanging down almost to her heels. Now they do not sound so mocking when they say 'my Queen' to her, though they still sound angry. I do not understand why my elders are so angry with each other. They tell us not to fight with each other, and then they fight themselves. But there are no other children left for me to fight with, or play with now. They have all gone home, but no one will take me home!
"Set those farther apart so that the line will reach to the camp on either side," she says, without ever a please. But my elders are not much polite to each other these days, and they never sing now. The cold air hurts too much to breathe, I think.
"You wanted us to leave them behind," 'Feiniel says, and she sounds smug, like me when Amil tells me to do something that I have already done.
"Indeed you were right, and I have said as much before now," she tells her. But after she has gone to the next camp Finrod's sister mutters, "But do not ask me to believe that you Saw this!" I do not think she noticed me there, for when she sees me looking at my reflection in the metal she chases me into the center of the nest that Amil and Tata are making. I want to help her fasten the ice-spears into the snow about us, but I am too small, and I cannot move my fingers in these mittens that are on my hands, even though my hair itches and my skin itches under all the clothes that I must wear, and it is hard to walk in these heavy boots that are Tata's, with my legs all wrapped in scarves and scarves and scarves so they do not fall off! But my feet would freeze in my sandals and fall right off like a boot, or a broken ice-spear. So says our friend Meleth, and I do not want that to happen to my feet.
I do not want to go into the nest: it is too hot, and I cannot breathe, and if the stars come back how will we see them under a roof of furs? And the ground knocks under us like someone hammering out steel, and screams like seagulls, and things that have no names, and it is worse when you cannot walk away from it. I do not sleep, although I close my eyes so that Tata does not worry. I close my eyes and think of fire, burning merrily in the house-heart, so that I will be warm-bright, not dark-hot.
When I am grown I will be the Lady Galadriel. Or perhaps I will be Ar-Feiniel. I will hunt snowbears and ice-snakes and chase the darkness away like Oromë on a great white horse of my own, and I will lead everyone to a place where there is water and light instead of cold and hard —
"—Where are the stars?" I ask, and Meleth gives a little sob and turns away, even though she holds my hand. But how can we be ourselves, if there are no stars? and I have been in the darkness so long!
But our friend Glorfindel tells me that they are still waiting for us, and soon we shall see them again. He does not get tired of answering me, even though we have been walking for such a long time. I believe him, because he always answers me, and the answers are always true. I wish I could take my shoes off, but the ground is hard and cold underfoot and not soft like the sands of Nevrast or smooth like the pavements of Vinyamar. I do not know why we must leave our home and travel so far and then go into a hole; but I suppose it is something terrible again.
* * *
"Look, Idril," he says, hoping so much I will be pleased, "Look what I have made for you!"
It is not Tirion, it is not my truehome, it is not Valinor — but it is most very fair, and my father has builded it all these long years for me, and he has given to me as gift this city, this little Tirion riding like a ship in a sea of green grass that wavers with the wind and sighs with silver crests against the shores of the rock, and I love him beyond all words that I have to give.
"I will take good care of it, Tata, I promise," and he smiles even though he is crying. I wonder if he is crying for Amil, or because I am mad, or because it is so fair, like a lily in a pool, or a fountain that is made all of stone.
As we walk through the little sea I hear it singing to me like the ripples on my beach where I played with the white gulls in the foam, and I sing back to it, and it answers me. In the tall surf Meleth cannot see my feet. It is silly to be wearing shoes in the water. I slip them off, one foot now, one foot after, and I feel the life swirling around my ankles and tingling beneath my soles, little creatures burrowing down into shelter, and springing over my toes. It stings like salt a little about my legs, and I dance a little, but not so much that anyone will see that I have lost my shoes again.
"Idril! Where are your shoes?"
"In the sea," I tell her.
"Oh you foolish child," she sighs, "there they are, on the chest by your wardrobe. Now come down from that window before an eagle snatches you and carries you off to his nest!"
"Oh! but I wish that he would," I tell her, and I scream like an eagle into the sky, Thorondor! Thorondor! hoping he will hear me, for he took the sons of Hador across the mountains, and across the mountains is Vinyamar by the sea, and across the Sea is Tirion where I was born, and I want to go home again. But then I remember what he told me when he flew away with them, that my home is wherever I am, and I must keep it safe with all my strength, for that is how it is with eagles: their homes are only a pile of sticks on a shelf of stone, and they can make new ones wherever they please.
"You know it is time to welcome the Sun! Why are you not ready to go to the walls? What will she think of you, a barefoot wildling? Let me comb your hair, Idril."
"I could go to the walls over the roofs and be there first of anyone," I remind her, but she only shakes her head and hastens me to my tiring-stand. I do not argue; I do not like having my hair pulled when she braids it. I would cut it off again, but that would make her angry. I can braid it myself, but she thinks it is too ill-done.
Someday I will watch the dawn from the mountains, and see her come sailing up again first of all who watch, and call to her like the thorni, as we called when we first saw her light come over us, on the shores of Arda, and the world woke to life, and I woke from the long sleep of the ice —
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.