7. Úquétima – What Cannot Be Spoken
"I say to you that this is an idea most ill, in its devising and in its doing! You know we spoke against this business of shutting her away from the start. This is Idril we speak of, Idril, who from her earliest could never remain still, who at Valmar must be back in Tirion, and in Tirion must be at Alqualondë, and at Alqualondë must be upon the shore to race the curlews in the waves! You cannot keep her within, as though she were a tapestry that will fade in too much sunlight — she is a wildflower that will fade in the darkness instead!"
I am trying so hard to remember what it is they are speaking of, but I cannot recall it. I do not want to be caring about it, but Amaurea's mother is so unhappy and afraid that I think that I must.
"You are not the one who must deal with her, Lalwendë!" I do not know why Meleth is so cross with her, for she does not want to let Lalwendë mind me when she asks when I am small, she is jealous of me as of a Silmaril, that Feanor will not let us see and will not answer us children when we ask him why... If she will not have her deal with me in Nevrast, how is it that she is angry that she does not deal with me in Gondolin? —I wish I might play a while with Amaurea-that-shall-be-Lindórië, but I am punished and that too is of my punishment.
No, wait — it is Lindórië that shall be Amaurea, Amaurea who will not remember Lindórië, who grows old as I do not — but still will play with me, though sometimes she frowns when I tell her of the things I remember, and sighs when I make her take off her shoes and climb the apple-trees to the wall and hurry to the window to escape the rain that blows over the valley from beyond the mountains instead of going through the doorway into the hall — but still she follows me and does not wish that I am not Idril, and often I see her wish that I am not mad, but when she thinks of how sad our elders are she wishes then that she too were mad, as I.
Pengolodh is telling them to be quiet, as he is wanting them to have been quiet already for long, and my father takes the hand of the stone girl under the stone fountain, and stares into her eyes, but she is stone and no one stays there, and he kisses her on her carved forehead and stands
"Aranel. Attend." Aranel is not Idril, Not-Idril does not answer, being dust… But he plays a note of music, chime of bell, and Idril hears it and turns to hold it, as air and stone both hold song that runs through the soft and the solid alike, as the ripple runs through the clear water and the coarse sand…and then another, and the two fend her within them like the folding of wings as falcon covers its prey. Before she can flee there is a third, and between the low and the high and the
middle there is no way open—
"Idril." And I must listen, I cannot go away, cannot hide in the walls now that Idril is caught out of her shelter of stone like a little animal in the grass beneath the hawk — "Tell me, who taught you to make these figures of dust and your spirit to fool us?"
And I hear Idril speak, her voice that is mine, but how is it mine if I choose not to speak, and it does not matter?
"I cannot tell you."
How can I tell what I have been forbidden to tell? If they would have me tell then why do they bid me be silent, when I would tell of it, tell of it all, telling me not to tell lies?
Shall I speak of that-which-was-not, which-was-never, only allowed me as dream and a mad one at that, when I would not stay in the prickling shelter of the nest and the heaviness of 'Feiniel's arm upon my chest, and I left and went out into the Ice, into the dark where the light shone down from the lamps, like the fish that swim up to the candles we float on the fishponds at home, eyes shining up from the water, wondering at all these small stars that have come to float on their roof…
Do the guards see my eyes? I wonder, staring up as I wander about the lamps and mirrors. For I can see them, but they do not seem to notice a fish-child under their feet.
I amuse myself long this way, far better than hiding in the dark of the nest from this Dark outside, until I see far off another light, smaller, neither of the lamps nor the people who stand guard, and I must go see what it is. The fish swims through the cold so quickly, she is not cold at all…
But I am so surprised! For it is not a lamp, but a child like me, only she is not like me either. The fish must jump out then into the air — I stand on the hard ground, and my feet are not cold at all, and I stare at her, for I thought that there were no more children on the Ice, only me, who has not gone home. And because she is so strange, and I have never seen anyone like this person at all.
She is so short! I am tall to her, that am tall to no one now, and her eyes are wrong, and her clothes are heavy and coarse, not fine like ours — but they look warm, and more easy for moving than mine, that are not mine but my elders', and she has little boots made of furs and hides, sewn small so that she can run on the Ice, and there are flat boards under her boots, only they are not boards but knives, I think.
"Go away, evil thing!" she whispers to me, and I am amazed.
"I am not evil!" I say to her. "Are you evil? Are you one of the urco my elders warn us against?" For I have never seen one of them yet, only heard of them, heard them roaring, and I do not know if they can look like children.
"Shhh! You must be quiet on the Ice or the Eaters will hear you!" She is so rude, this ugly girl, who whispers at me that I must whisper. "I am no Eater." She is scornful, too, that I say that to her. "You are one of the Dead Ones that lead people away in their dreams to be Eaten."
This is stupid — how can anyone be so foolish, even a child?
"I am not dead." The Trees are dead, that is why there is no >light, but I am not, for if I were, then who could see me? "I do not lead anyone, I am with my parents, and they help lead, but we do not want to be eaten, and we do not walk in our dreams."
I think she would tell me I am wrong, and then we would fight, but there is a piping sound, like a flute, or a bird whistling, but soft and rough like the wind blowing over a stone at the seaside.
"What is that?" I wonder. I do not think she will know, but she does.<
"That is my teacher. He calls me because I am wandering on the Ice and he is afraid I will be lost."
"Are you lost?"
"No," she says, and so I follow her. She goes over the Ice like a bird, and I see that there are knives on her feet, white and sharp, that cut lines in it like silver ink. We come to a place that is like the nest, only it is made of ice! and it is like a little house, with a fire inside, and light shines out of it like a lamp. It is so funny that I laugh, and the ugly girl hits me, with her hand! I would be angry with her, but she would hit me again, and I do not want that. I do not want anyone to hit someone else. We must crawl to go inside, and there is an elder there, so strange looking, like a person carved out of wood with many knots and twists in it, and he looks at me and at the other girl and lifts his hands up in surprise.
"Ah, daughter's daughter, what have you brought home?"
"It would come, Grandfather Teacher," she says, and he shakes his head.
"Why are you here, ghost of the Wandering Ones? Why do you follow Black-Winged-Bird, and not the other way?"
"I wanted to see other people," I answer. "All my friends have gone home, and my parents will not take me home to see them. And I am very lonely now, and I do not like the camp where all are sad and afraid. Who are you?"
The strange man picks up something from his knee and blows upon it, and I hear the whistling notes we heard on the Ice. It is small, and looks like reeds, but white, tied together. Afterwards he looks at me, and says, "Huh," and again, "Huh."
"Why do you do that?" I ask him.
"I thought to send you away, but you do not go. You are not like other ghosts, you with the hair like Summer daylight. What do you want, Summer-ghost-child?"
"I want to play," I tell them. "I want to talk to someone. I am tired of having to be quiet always, and of being alone. I want to know how to go on the Ice as she does." I point to Black-Winged-Bird, who looks smug, that she can do something I cannot do. "Are you a Sage?" I ask her grandfather.
"What is a Sage?" he asks me in return.
"Someone who is wise, someone who knows the songs and stories and what to do, and teaches them to us." He laughs again, that funny short laugh, but Black-Winged-Bird says, "He is the wisest of the wise. He is my Teacher."
"Will you teach me, too?" But before he can tell me yes or no I hear 'Feiniel calling me, and I must wake up soon. "I will have to go to my family in a little while," I tell them. "May I come back soon? Please?" I remember to be polite, even though I am so excited at finding other people on the Ice.
"If you go on the Ice in the Dark, little ghost of Summer, you must know how to fight and how to flee, for there are many, many who would eat you, even a little ghost like you."
And so he shows me how to sing them away, the ones that are not strong, and how make a lure to lead the Eaters, the urco, the things that are out in the dark away from me, that are too big and old to be scared away by songs. It is hard, because I am so forgetful, there are so many things I think of, but at last I can make a not-Idril that is so big as me, and that has enough of me that the urco will follow her far, far away. Until I am safe, and then I can let her go back to ice and ash in the wind and call the part of me that is in her home again.
"How can I find my way here again?" I ask them, and the Sage who lives on the Ice gives me a song, then.
"All ice is one — all water one:
remember this, remember this,
and you will find your way."
And then I go back to Amil and 'Feiniel and we must put everything into itself for carrying again, and someone must carry me, and I am too sleepy and confused to tell them about the people I met on the Ice, and it is so hard when we are going that I wish we had those knives to run with, but then I remember that Black-Winged-Bird said that the Ice was different where she was, over the Sea, which I thought was wrong, but she told me I was wrong, not she. But I am not sure if she is right, and I must ask Grandfather Teacher if that is so.
So many times, then, in the long marching, I leave the camp and I sing the Remembering Song and go to meet my friends, the Ice-Sage and Black-Winged-Bird, and we learn things together. But sometimes Black-Winged-Bird and I play games instead, even though we often argue about how to play them. And I tell them about the Cities where we live, and the flowers, and the beautiful mountain of the King and Queen, and the silver light and the gold light of Yavanna's Trees, and the water that is always warm and clear by the place where the swan-ships sleep, and the fish that have long, long tails that come to eat from my hands, and they laugh and tell me I am a wonderful teller of stories.
And they tell me of Seal-Mother and Whale-Father, and the tricks they play on the Eaters, and the battles that they have with Cold-Maker, and how Cold-Maker once tricked Whale-Father into serving him, but Seal-Mother was even cleverer, and how Cold-Maker always tries to catch them, but he never can. I wonder how they can live on the Ice, then, and I ask the Ice-Sage, who will never say what his name is, because the Eaters might hear it, and no one else will ever say it either, after one becomes a Sage. That is not like us!
I want clothes like Black-Winged-Bird has, that are made for her to run upon the Ice with, because I think that would be more pleasant than to wear my elders' clothing and to be carried, and she asks her grandfather if she can give me her brother's old coat of skins and hide-breeches and boots, but he tells her that because I am a ghost I could not touch them. I think ghost is the word of their people for our people, because they say that they are only called the People, even though I tell them that we are also called the Speakers.
I try to tell my parents about them, and about the clever ways they have, the People, who live on the Ice, and the houses they make from ice and snow, and the knives they use to run with so quickly. But they tell me I am foolish, and that no one can live on the Ice, and that a house of snow would be cold, and when I say that they have fire in it they tell me it would melt, and I must not tell lies about people who are not real.
So I ask Black-Winged-Bird's grandfather if he is lying, when I next go to his house, even though it is a house of ice, and it has fire in it, and I can see it, because I am confused — how could my elders all be so mistaken? And I do not want to be a liar.
But he tells me that the Ice is not always where they are, and sometimes they have Summer too, and then they can find plants and there are birds on the land to catch and they can make music and dance on the grass until the snow comes again. And even when it is Winter the Ice is not like this Ice, either, and there is water under it that can be broken down to, and the fish can be caught from it, and there are places where boats can go down into the water and I want a boat so much, but they cannot give me one either…
My throat is sore from talking. Lalwendë gives me a mouthful of water from a cup that is of green-white glass, like the Ice with the lamplight shining through it, like the ocean with foam on it… I am so tired, so tired, Idril and Idril, the child-Idril and the mad Idril, we only wish to sleep now… But Pengolodh will not stop asking, he is not like the Ice-Sage, who sits quietly and does not ask again when I cannot answer, and always answers me when I ask, even when I am foolish…
"When was the first time you made one of these — lures?"
I will not remember. I will never remember then.
"—Master Pengolodh, you are upsetting her! This is as when she had those wild spells years ago — she is terrified!"
"My lady, please — believe me that we would not employ this if we did not believe it in my daughter's best interest."
"Idril. When did you make these things first?"
I am mad, what does it matter? What I remember is what is not, so you have told me. But you strike the chime with the curl of silver and the silver song of the nella scrolls out of it and circles me and I will not be able to undo its binding, and I will hear the low note and the high note, and I will be bound, to speak, to answer, to remember—
To remember that sound of darkness, not silver, the dark song that sang through my bones, through the bones of Amil into mine, so loud the breath goes out from me, and Amil holds me so tight I cannot breathe again, and she is more afraid than I, and I cannot see what she fears even when she pulls the furs from over me and tears me away from her as ivy from stone—
but each refusal is refused me, and they push me, push me into that darkness, that place into which I am thrown—
from which I am thrown—
So that I fly, like a frightened fledgling, small bird fallen from nest
whose wings are not grown yet, flying before the storm, flying to the haven of Tata's arms — I scream like the sea-mew, curlew, plover with piping cry, no words have I, no more than they —but my cry is the same as my father's:
and once more I flee, flinging myself into the Ice, into the strong deep place that is far from all of them—
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.