3. Únyárima - A Tale Beyond Telling
I stand on a high pinnacle of the City, looking out over the woven ways, the arches and angles, braiding over and under through each other in lines and arcs like color in the heart of a crystal, where the clear air is solid and the visible lines a mere image, like smoke on the wind. The weight of the tower above me anchors me in place, as I hold it steady from below. To either side of me my companions stand, perfect in their stillness and unyielding in their strength, where I grow weary of this task. They look only West, being uninterested in the walls and walks below, or the cloudswept peaks to all sides, and their blind eyes never blink, their smiles never downturn into frown or word.
I have not their patience: I look here and there, though I stand as still as they, my arms uplifted to clasp the pediment behind my head. Away on the side of the mountain a woman climbs a rocky path; she is wearing mail and holds a sword, and I think at first she is 'Feiniel, but her hair is golden in the wind. Perhaps she is the Lady Galadriel, but it is too far for me to see. Snow falls from the sky, soft and light like petals of lairelossë, nothing like the needlepoints of the Ice in the dark wind. Snow becomes rain, and rain becomes petals, swept on the changing breeze; I do not want it to become rain again yet, and I look away.
The sculptor taps a small piece from the stone, teasing it out to leave the shadow of a leaf. I grow tired of waiting. He does not see it yet, frowning, tracing a wrong curve with his finger and then with his clay. Before he strikes it with the punch he hesitates again, and brushes away the ochre line, and frowns again and sketches veins and vines in the wrong place again. He has been at this almost since firstlight and I am impatient. It will be so much easier to climb up here when the ivy is finished, if he will only do it properly.
He has done it already, down on the earth, but it is not right when he sets it in place yesterday, and yestere'en he takes a new block and lays it in unworked. I thought to find it here at dawn when I climbed up here, but it was not done: only a soft tracing, and a drawn branch will not hold a foot. So I came up as I shall not tomorrow, I think, by the notches where stone meets stone, the borders set with roundels like beads on a string. I thought to wait for him to finish, so that I can climb down by it, at least, but he rubbed out the first sketch, and the second, and only half of one leaf is cut yet.
"You know how it must go — why do you tarry?" I demand at last, when the shadow fades out under the rising sun and the sculptor does not move, and I begin to grow hungry. He is startled and looks up from the scaffold, and the point would drop down to earth like a thunderbolt were it not leashed to his wrist. Even though he is looking at me plain he does not seem to see me here at first.
"Idril?" He sounds surprised, as though he does not know I have been here all these hours. "What are you doing here, aranel?"
"I am trying to see West, as the Watchers do," I answer. He does not move, not even to reclaim his fallen chisel, scarcely to breathe, and he seems afraid, and that is most strange, for not even Orcs frighten my lord Glorfindel, not even their wolves, and I have only seen him once in fear, once of all my life, and that was not for the Ice or the Beasts or the Darkness but in the hour that I ran away to find Amil and would not come back until Arien summoned me.
I slide down from the pediment, leaving my stone-sisters to keep holding the pinnacle aloft, since they do not need me, and sit beside him on the lashed frame. It sings in the breeze and I am a bird in a bough, but I become Idril at once again because people worry when I change, and wave their hands before me, or shake me, which I do not much like. I take the stone-point and set it in his fingers as a hint to begin working, but he does not understand me.
"And can you indeed see so far?" he asks me. There is a vein of crystal in the stone of the tower before us: I follow it with my toe as far as I can, and crane over the scaffold to see if it continues below us. Ah — there it is, in a different block: it becomes fire in the sunlight, and then a thread of white fire in a sea of red-hot, for an instant, but now it is cold again.
"Not now. It is too early, I think. When the Sun reaches almost to the beyond-sea, then I can see it in her light. —Why do you hold your breath so? Hurry: I want to climb on them today."
"Are you a squirrel, child, to care nothing for up nor down?"
"No, I am a fish on a reef, and the sky is like the sea. Hear how it sings! Why have you taken away your shaping, and taken away too your shadow-shape? It is beautiful, and the leaves very round and light. And yet still you do not shape it forth!"
He stops from asking me if I do not fear to fall, because he is not blind, and instead answers me.
"I fear it is not right, and the loops will look amiss, like specks of dirt, from below."
"But that is how you will have done it," I say. "When the snow is on it, the tops are white, but it is still good for climbing because the hollows are dry and the vines are open to the hand." I take the clay from the scaffold-boards and put the lines back as they were, as I see them, as they will be, darkening between where the undercuts go. His breath hisses as he watches what I am finishing.
"That is how I had thought to shape it at first, but how should you know that?"
"I saw it, before you swept it off again," I answer.
"But were you here even then? Or have you truly the apacen?"
"Yes," I say, pleased that he understands; but he only frowns a little. I catch a glimpse of one of the sky-fish and wrap a bit of cloud around it so that Glorfindel can see it too; it does not mind, they never notice. I send my fish to nip at the stone, impatiently, and he laughs a little, and fans it aside so that he can take up the stick of ochre and redraw, firmly, over the lines I have redrawn already. Then he pauses, taking point and weight in hands and hefting them, and begins to work anew, swiftly now, clearing away all the stone-dirt that covers up the vines-to-come.
It is wondrous to see, but I am here long already, and I open his pack to find bread and fruit within, and a flask of pure water.
"Will you be eating this, my friend?" I ask for courtesy, though I already know the answer, and I hear the smile in his voice as he replies, "Not all, aranel."
When my hunger and thirst are abated I watch until the closeness between what is and what-is-to-come starts to confuse me, and I must roam about the sky-edge once more. In time he leaves off stopping each time I go from his sight, and the carving goes much faster.
"Why do you build new towers?" I ask. "Is not the City full-built when we come to it?"
"The Lily of the Vale lives as truly as any flower of the earth, and so it grows and sets forth new blossoms rising from the Rock, for so long as we have new songs to sing," he answers, the steel of the point ringing like a little bell on the white stone between his words.
"But the marsh-lilies of Nevrast do not blossom without cease: they open and they open, and then they fade and fall, and new flowers open, and then the leaves die away, and the next spring they grow again, and blossom — but the same flowers do not come again!"
Much more stone is washed away from the vine-leaves by the sharp-pointed rain before the sun begins to return to her home and the sculptor sets down his steel.
"Is it well?" I come down from beside the Watchers and make trial of the work.
"It is well. Do not polish it overmuch: it will be too smooth, and it sparkles so now! Was I not right, as I told you?"
"But is it so because I have done as you asked, or because it was Fated so?" I do not answer him, because the question does not make sense. "Why do you wish to be a Watcher? What do you see in the clouds, aranel?"
"Tirion betimes, and Elenwë in our gardens." Lord Glorfindel sighs, and bows his head.
"You should have been told the truth at once, child, not sooth to comfort you. Our people died on the Grinding Ice, and we can never return home to Tirion. But I think you will always be forgetting that, for having been told otherwise at the first."
"But it is true," I tell him. "I have seen them, except for the ones who have come back, like Lindórië." He grows still more troubled, and looks at me with sorrow.
"But the Ways are forbidden to us now, forever, and the newborn daughter of Artaher and Lalwendë is Amaurea, not your friend-that-was."
"She does not wish to be Lindórië again, that is all," I say, shrugging, and I pivot on the scaffold-bars like the tiller of a ship. But this stone-vessel does not move, though the skies rush past us overhead; I cannot change her direction.
"But you heard the Words that were spoken, and I know you remember them as do we all. Only the Halls of Mandos are open to us now, and there we must abide. Your mother cannot return to Tirion, Idril."
"It is Tirion-for-her," I try to explain. "It is 'our Tirion', and we are there within her, and it is always warm there in our gardens, that she shapes as you shape these gardens of stone. But perhaps she will look out and see me, if I am looking to her, and come to this Tirion that Tata has made for her. It is not as fine as Tirion in Valinor, but it is wider than her Tirion."
Lord Glorfindel puts out a hand, and I let him stop me in my spinning, and he moves the tangles of my hair from before my eyes.
"You cannot see it," I assure him. "The healers say it is like water, my madness, that cannot be seen and ebbs and flows like the tide." But all say he has the tercen, so perhaps he can see it after all.
"It is not madness that I look for, friend. —Who is Idril?" he asks me, and I answer, "Celebrindal," for that is what they call me. But he shakes his head, and asks again, "Who is Idril?"
"Elenwë's daughter, Turgon's dear one." But that is not the true answer yet.
"Who is Idril?"
"Princess of Gondolin?" I offer, for that is also what all name me. Again he shakes his head.
"Who is Idril?"
I search for understanding, but I cannot think what other answer to make, for Idril is Tirion and Helcaraxë and Vinyamar too, who has held speech with Varda and Nessa and Uinen, enemy of urco and friend of alqua, who has known the water-falma and the ice-falma, who cannot speak what she sees, and cannot see what others speak . . .
"Unyárima," I say, for it is a word that I love to hear, and to write its weft of all-that-is, the tale that cannot be told for its vastness. Again he frowns, and then he laughs and says, "Aye, that's truth indeed. Shall we go down to your father's halls, that Meleth raises no hue-and-cry?"
"She will not," I promise, and I take the pouch of tools and useful things over my shoulders. "I cannot carry you as you carried me over the tall ice, but I can bear a burden now on the tall stones." He dares not to try to take it from me, though he asks, but I laugh and tell him that I shall still reach the streets before him.
But then I grow distracted, for there are some small flowers now growing and taking root in the spaces between the stones of the third level, and I did not think that they would grow in such a place, but then I remember that Yavanna loves Aulë for all their arguing, and she fills his mountains with her blossoms. So I am not first to the ground, and I must bring his gear to him when we gather for the evening meal. But he has told Meleth where I am, and so she does not search after me, and I am right in that, at least.
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.