5. The Sky is Like the Sea
There is a little consolation in watching the sky-ferns billow over the beds of the deep ilmen, and the colors that change in hue and luster with infinite variety and even softer motions. I cannot move, I am a crystal laid on the sands of Alqualondë, and all the seas wash over me, all the skies are caught and held in a tiny compass and I cast them back, and yet tiny though I am, that reflection is but the barest thinness of my being . . .
The Sun is hidden and I spring up in sudden alarm and dash along the wall like a small beast from the shadow of a hawk, though it is but a wide cloud, wide as a mountain, that hides her. I hasten onward, as though pursued by the tide, yet there is not the gameful joy of racing the waves, but a cold fear in my heart that spurs me ever on. It has not come upon me sudden: I had merely slept and slipped its tether for a while. At last I come to one of my many alcoves and fling myself into its covert, panting like a hunted hare in its holt. Some are of the nature of the fashioning of walls; others are set by design, by gift, by the builders of the City who have grown used to my roamings and leave treasures for me to find.
I know this one for Ecthelion's hand: it has all the flowing and twists
of water-smoothed stone, and in a fold of the carven moss there is a tiny
frog with crystal eyes. I curl up on the bench and think of the friend
who made it for me, and of others too.
They will not come back
They will come but not all
They will all return in time's fullness
Which of these is true? I have seen them all, and I cannot tell which will be. Perhaps even all are true, as Arda unfolds, but I see them all at once, and all of equal darkness, and it is a confusion to me.
In my room, I sit and carefully clean brushes, I trim the new quills and lave the dried inks from the old, I polish the ink-stones and sand away roughnesses from the soft vellums, and I do not even look at how the barbs of the feathers have branches like unto the trees, and are a pine-forest in winter's ice, though I am doing this for hours. I do not drop them and run to the window when a dove's white wing casts a mirror light into the room; I do not begin to draw stars and ships upon the fresh-made parchments or on my desk or on the floor; I do not sit like a statue of stone in Tirion gazing at the Sun. Meleth is so pleased with me, that I am taking my chastening to heart and that this new firm rule has caught my fleeting senses and held them together into one useful beautiful thing, as the twist and grasp of strands turns a useless fluff of wool or weed into a shining thread. (But the tuft of wool well-lines a nest, and the raw flax binds little twigs together into a hall fit for a king-bird, weather-safe and warm!)
The shade passes from beneath the keel of the Sun and I rise from my shelter like a bird in the morning. But I do not sing, because Not-Idril sings, and no one, not even Pengolodh the Wise, can sing from two spaces of the City in the same instant. So I am not a lark, nor a swallow, but some bird of the deep woods, that I saw as it saw me, silent in shadow, on the journey from Nevrast.
None sees me: I am far on the outer walls, and here all who watch turn outward to the Enemy, not to look for one they know is not. I am invisible, because I am in my chambers, in their minds, in my mind, and the watchmen see no shadow of stone-hued silks and skin on the gold-white stone of Gondolin, nor note another figure passing along the lines of graven dancers that garland the walls and ways.
There is a place where I go now and now to look at the mountains, and perhaps I will see _thorni_ on this now, and I hasten, for the warming sunlight is their dance-floor. But when I come to that place it is not open, but a wall, and I am in a darkness that is lit with many different lights, of lamp and gleam and sheen and all around a deep, dim hue that I have too long known and cannot forget. I lose my balance and drop the thought of Not-Idril altogether, but I cannot know that yet because I am here with no thought of the other.
Instead there is a boy here, no one that I know, or have known — his light is strange to me. He is very tall, though he is but a child, and I am not sure how I will carry him if he will not come, but I know that I must. Then I wonder how it is that I am come to Alqualondë again, and not a child myself helpless to take any from the flames, and how I am within its rooms, and not without, and I know that I am dreaming, but I cannot waken yet. But Alqualondë has no walls like these, and there are many mountains beyond the windows, they are not clouds, though the red light shines up to them as it shone up from the sea to the clouds above. And I am amazed.
I speak to him, this boy in armor like a mighty warrior, shining with clear gems like water-droplets, with words of clarity and stillness woven into them that the work be unseen as water, but he hears me not. He is afraid of the red darkness that encroaches into the room, and he calls for a sword to go with his mail, and I am still more astonished that a child is made warrior of Gondolin, and again I ask, I demand to know his name and lineage and House, and he sees me no more than the guards see me.
"Meleth!" I hear a voice cry in outrage, and it is my own, and I am blind with fury, for none has ever struck me. But in the instant I saw the boy in the house on the walls, the shadow-fëa departed my making and flew home to me like a dove, and the Not-Idril fell down into a hollowing of clothes and dust, and they knew, or so they told me. But I know that truly they do not know, because they keep asking me and asking me about her, and if they knew all that they say, then surely they would not waste such effort in questions that are all the same. I have learned not to ask and ask, where there is no answer, or where the answer is all times the same — how then have they forgotten?
"Idril! Come out from beneath your chair and be seated like a woman, not huddled like a beast of the field in den!"
I dig my claws in, brace my hackles on the hardness of my earth, but to no avail: wiser wits than mine make nothing of my hiding, and lift away the chair from over me. Resigned, I set my chin in my hands and watch the flaking of tiny crystals from the polished floor stone.
"How long have you been doing this, daughter?" His voice is grim and heavy as wet sand full of ashes, where Meleth's is sharp and bright like a knife in a dark room. When I do not answer he asks me — again! — "Why have you done this, Idril?"
"Because the sky is like the sea, Turgon, and, my father, I cannot live without the sea!"
I cannot tell them, and they cannot believe me, that I do not know when first I make a clothes-Idril to sit and smile and speak the words they are begging of her as a mother begs this word and that of a babe. But they can forbid me to make another Not-Idril, and be wroth with me that I am not penitent for having made them. But how can I be sorry? I do as they have wished, which is to be a quiet creature who does not roam the City's heights, but there is too much of Idril to remain within, as if one were to order me to shut within my room the West wind, all of it, entirely, and keep it still there. But they are angry, and afraid beyond their anger, and they bring sages and healers and hold counsel with me and about me and at last they are sure that no wandering thing has taken my fëa, or hides within it like a great fanged fish in a dark pool.
But they are still afraid, and my father will not hear me on the matter of the house on the walls and the fire in the mountains, and Meleth tells me it is a shameful thing to seek to escape my just punishment.
They have sealed me into this place, with words and workings, and the windows are no more to me than painted pictures of a pretty vale, and the towers are like little spindles set in a basket of wool, and the music of the wind comes not to me. All the great house is open to me, all the doors and gardens within, but all are the same. Idril is still, she is Not-Idril, she becomes stone — but no, stone lives, stone moves, so slowly, but hot and fiery it dances in Arda's heart, and Idril — is like the dust of stone blown away from the sculptor's chisel, forgotten, unthought of, shaping nothing, meaningless and lacking all weight.
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.