1. The Waters
Rating: R for both chapters.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
- The Stolen Child, WB Yeats.
Two years had passed since the fourth battle; two years since his father had died in what could only have been described as a blaze of glory. The High King of the Noldor, Fingon Fingolfinion, was travelling through his lands of Hithlum, following a brief council with Círdan, Lord of the Falathrim.
His guards informed him that they were approaching Lake Mithrim and, having spent some days crossing the Mountains of Mithrim, a rest was greatly needed by all. Travelling in Beleriand was not an easy task; everywhere one travelled were unkind eyes, especially when one was the High King.
They reached the shores of the lake and Fingon ordered his men to withdraw, that he might have some time to himself. There was a beach to the south of the lake known to none but himself and he intended to rest there a while. His guards were unwilling to let him out of their sight but they could not disobey his direct order. Having ensured that he was not being followed, he made his way along a winding path to the lakeshore.
When he reached the beach, he dropped to his knees and let the coarse sand sift through his fingers. He took a few deep breaths and looked around at the mists that rolled in off the lake surface. Soon, he was shrouded in tiny droplets of moisture which clung to his cloak and hair, caressing his skin and coating his mail with a wet sheen.
He removed his helmet and kicked off his boots before turning his attention to the gauntlets on his forearms. With a sense of freedom that he knew was only temporary, he took off his mail shirt for the first time in weeks and ungirt his sword although, maintaining some slight sense of caution, he did keep a small dagger in his belt. Then, having peeled off his sweat-sodden undershirt, he walked over to the edge of the lake. He waded in until he was knee-deep in the cold water. Ducking his head, he scooped handfuls of water over his hair and face and shivered as cool rivulets began to run down his neck and torso. Alive; for the first time in months, maybe years, he felt alive, his blood burning beneath his cold skin causing his cheeks to flush and the pallor of exhaustion to leave him. He lowered himself further, so that he was immersed up to the neck. He was about to plunge in entirely when his keen ears heard the sound of a twig snapping, quite some distance away. Swiftly, he moved through the water towards a large tree that stood at the very edge of the lake. Lurking in its shadows, he watched as a cloaked figure stumbled onto the beach, his beach. His eyes narrowed when he realised that it was a woman.
Silently, he crept along the fringe of trees until he was standing mere feet from the woman who was looking around with confusion. She swept her hood back and he saw that she had long black hair, grimy from toil or travel. Her face, though noble in appearance, was smudged with dirt and dust. More obvious than that, however, was the fact that this woman was no Elf; indeed, she seemed very young in the eyes of the High King but then, all mortals did, even those accounted elderly by their kind.
Fingon cleared his throat. “Is it normal practice for a mortal woman to wander unescorted through such lands?”
The woman flinched before freezing as Fingon circled her slowly. She held her head high and cleared her throat, doing her best not to look at the Elven king, who was only half-clad and still damp from his ablutions. “What are these lands, my lord, that you speak of them in such a tone?”
Fingon paused. “This is Mithrim,” he said softly. “It lies to the east of my former home. But you have not answered my question. Why are you here?”
“My kinswoman and I have fled from a darkness that settled upon our home,” she said, looking straight ahead of her. “Do you know what darkness is?”
Fingon chuckled softly. “Ay, I do,” he murmured. “But you do not ask the right questions.”
“And what are the right questions?”
She shivered as Fingon paused behind her. “You should ask me if I know what light is.” He took a step closer, his breath hot on the back of her neck. Happiness.” He stepped away. “Joy.”
“Do you?” she asked, her breath coming in quick gasps.
“Ay,” said Fingon. “I have known them, though it has been o’erlong since I have been acquainted with them.”
“What is your name, my lord?”
Fingon laughed softly. “I believe that you should answer that question first, seeing as you are the interloper. My lady.”
She remained silent but, strangely enough, she did not seem to be afraid of him.
“I assume you have a name,” Fingon continued, “that you are not some figment of my imagination come to taunt me.” He stood in front of her and she was forced to raise her eyes to look into his face. “You have the look of an Elf about you,” he mused. “Eledhwen*.”
Quietly, she whispered, “Morwen, my name is Morwen.”
Fingon nodded with satisfaction and raised a hand to touch her hair. “’Tis a suitable name.”
He took a step back allowing his fingers to slide through the strands of her hair as he did so. “You are not afraid of me.”
“Should I be?” she asked. “My people have never been taught to fear your kind, though you be wiser, fiercer and more beautiful than us.”
“Wiser, perhaps, although I cannot believe that we are fiercer,” said Fingon. “Look at how your cheeks burn. Why, you look as though you could be harbouring some passion far more furious than that which abides within the fëar of the Eldar.” He moved further away. “And in beauty, my lady, I know few Elf-maids who could compete with you.” He smiled. “Ah, your blush grows deeper. Do you wish to contradict me?”
She swallowed hard. “No, my lord. It is not my place to do so.”
“Not your place?” asked Fingon with some surprise. “Pray, tell, what is your place in this world, that you enter my lands with neither ceremony nor invitation?”
“Your lands, my lord?” asked Morwen, her eyes narrowing. “But you said that these were near your former home. You do not need me to contradict you; you do so yourself.”
Fingon smiled. “Are all mortals so shrewd, I wonder? Those I have known have been rather less… sharp-tongued that you, my lady.”
“You have met with mortals before?”
“Ay, and I have met with nothing but deference.”
“Perhaps that is because you are more suitably clad when they speak with you,” she replied tartly, before closing her eyes and inwardly berating herself. At Fingon’s rich laughter, however, she looked at him with curiosity. “You do not take insult, my lord,” she said.
Fingon shook his head. “Nay, my lady.” He gave a short bow, indicating his current state of undress. “As you see, I cannot very well argue with you.” He looked over his shoulder towards the lake. “But I did not expect to be interrupted here.”
“If you wish it, I will leave,” said Morwen.
“No,” said Fingon abruptly. “Stay a while and tell me more about yourself.” He began to walk towards the water again and when he reached the water’s edge, he extended a hand towards her. “Come, Eledhwen,” he said. “Speak to me.”
Scarcely knowing what she was doing, Morwen took a few hesitant steps towards him. Again, he raised his hand to touch her hair, his fingers now lingering on her cheek and lips. He looked at her thoughtfully. “You are of the line of Bëor, are you not? You have not the golden hair of the House of Hador Lorindol.”
“Baragund is my father,” she said. “He is the son of Bregolas, the son of Bregor, direct descendent of Bëor.” Her tones belied the pride in which she held her heritage.
“Ah, the First House of the Edain,” murmured Fingon, his thumb moving lightly over a smudge of dirt on Morwen’s left cheek. “The first of the Elf-friends.”
“Yes, my lord,” said Morwen, trembling slightly, although her eyes flared with some sudden emotion when she met Fingon’s gaze. “Bëor the old was vassal to Felagund.”
“Do you know the story about how Artafindë met with your ancestors?” asked Fingon.
Morwen nodded, vaguely aware that the Elf referred to Finrod by his Quenya name. “He came upon them and charmed them with music played on Bëor’s own harp.”
“Yes,” replied Fingon. “Artafindë has always had such a way with music. It is said that when first he saw them, love for them was stirred in his heart**. I confess that I never fully understood it, even when Nolofinwë welcomed Aradan into his service for a full fourteen years of the sun.”
“What did you not understand, my lord?” asked Morwen curiously.
“The swiftness of the affection and esteem in which Artafindë held your kind. ‘Twas almost an instinctive trust on his part.” Fingon looked at her closely and she shifted slightly under his scrutiny. “It does become a little clearer now,” he added.
“My lord?” she asked.
“Hmmm?” His eyes flickered over her face again. “Something troubles you, my lady Eledhwen.”
“Yes, my lord,” she replied. “It is the way you look at me.”
“The way I look at you?”
“Ay,” she insisted. “I do not believe it is proper.”
To her surprise, Fingon laughed. “No, I suppose it is not proper,” he murmured although he made no attempt to avert his gaze. Indeed, he reached out and twisted a ringlet of her hair around his finger. “Tell me, my lady,” he said and a faint teasing tone entered his voice. “Would kissing you be counted as improper?”
She gasped as he leaned forward and pressed his lips lightly to hers. One heartbeat passed, then two, before she returned the kiss.
He drew back and studied her with fascination. “How your heart pounds, my lady,” he said. “How your breath races. Tell me, are your thoughts hurtling through your mind with little sense or reason?”
She nodded and whispered. “Like swarms of angry bees with neither direction nor purpose beyond a sense of having been wronged in some way.”
“Then we are not so different,” he murmured before smiling slowly.
Morwen looked at him with a querying expression as Fingon took hold of both her hands and drew her towards him. He began to move backwards, into the water, and she had no choice but to follow.
“I cannot swim.”
Again, he laughed and he fastened an arm around her waist. “You are safe with me. Do you trust me to keep you safe?”
She nodded and almost shyly touched his face with her fingertips. He remained still as she explored his features, her caresses as light as the mist that veiled them.
After some time, Fingon smiled. “Do you still find me wise, fierce and beautiful?”
For the first time, she laughed and such a difference came over her features that she seemed at once younger and older. “Ay, my lord, I believe that you are wise although perhaps consorting with a mere mortal might not be counted amongst the wisest deeds of the Eldar.”
“I am consorting with you, am I?” he asked.
“Yes, my lord, you are.” She nodded firmly. Her hand moved down to rest on his bare chest. “And you are fierce, indubitably. There is a great strength within your heart.”
His eyes danced. “Suddenly I understand Artafindë’s fascination with your kind,” he murmured playfully. “Flattery; therein lies your charm.”
Morwen smiled and rested her forehead against his. “And beautiful, my lord.”
He met her gaze. “You think me beautiful, Eledhwen?”
“Ay, I have never seen an Elf so close before,” she said before blushing deeply.
He guessed the direction of her thoughts. “Have you ever seen a male of your own kind so close before?”
She shook her head mutely and, with false chastity, Fingon kissed her brow.
Slowly, he lifted her up higher and she gasped with surprise before wrapping her arms around his neck. “Do not drop me, my lord,” she said warningly.
“I would not dream of it,” he said softly. “I do not so easily relinquish those who place themselves in my care.”
“I did not realise I had done so, my lord,” Morwen whispered.
“You are in my arms, are you not?”
“I am, my lord.”
Fingon chuckled and moved deeper into the lake so that the water came up almost to his shoulders. As Morwen’s grip around his neck tightened, he smiled slightly. “You tell me that you trust me, Eledhwen, yet you seem intent on throttling me.”
She laughed embarrassedly and loosened her hold on him a little. “The frailty of mortals, my lord, is that we fear what we do not know lest it be our undoing.”
He looked at her strangely. “Do you not think that we Eldar experience that same apprehension?” Their eyes met and he touched her lips with damp fingertips. “Nay, my lady. I have known what it is to stand on the edge of the abyss with suffering behind me and unknown dangers in front of me.”
“If you speak the truth, you know how I feel now,” she whispered.
“I am an unknown danger?”
“Ay, my lord.” Morwen tugged lightly on one of his braids. “And I have not gotten the measure of you yet.”
“You see me as I am,” murmured Fingon. “No more and no less. Look into my eyes and tell me if you fear me. Tell me if you wish for me to carry you back to the shore.”
“That is an unfair request,” said Morwen, her bottom lip trembling slightly as she placed a hand on his cheek.
“It is?” he asked with honest surprise.
“Ay, my lord. You make it seem as though I now have a choice in the matter; as though I had not already decided in the moment I first saw you.” She looked at him squarely. “Tell me, my lord, would you carry me ashore if I asked it of you?”
“Ah, so you would turn the tables on me again, Eledhwen?” Fingon asked lightly. “I tell you the truth: I cannot let you go.” He looked at her closely. “What make you of that?”
She smiled slowly and bent her head to kiss his lips softly. Fingon returned the kiss before his lips travelled lower to move lightly over her throat. Holding her close to him with one arm, he used the other hand to pull at the stays of her dress. Sensing his frustration, Morwen laughed. “Have a care, my lord, for this is my only dress.”
With a soft sigh of triumph, Fingon managed to untie the dress and immediately dropped his head to kiss the tops of her breasts. “I would shower you with gifts, my lady,” he murmured against her smooth skin. “Dresses, ay, and jewels and whatever your heart desires.”
Morwen ran her fingers through his black hair, encountering thick braids tied with gold. “My heart,” she moaned, “is beating much too quickly to know what it desires and I care not for dresses or jewels.”
She wrapped her legs around his waist and looked down at him with a strange mix of anxiety and desire. He gazed back at her, tugging at her dress until he managed to pull it off over her head. Carelessly, he tossed it towards the shore before drawing her closer for another kiss, all earlier pretences of chastity speeding away as their lips came together.
Fingon could not prevent a hungry moan escaping his throat and he reached down under the surface of the water to unlace his trousers. Morwen still held fast, one arm wrapped around his neck as she caressed his face with the other hand, her fingers trembling with restrained ardour. Gradually, her hand slid lower and lower, down his chest to his abdomen and, even in the cold water, her touch sent fire coursing through his veins.
“My, how your heart pounds, my lord,” she murmured, hiding her nervousness with a light-hearted tone as she began to stroke him.
Not dignifying her mischievous comment with an answer, Fingon moaned and entwined his fingers with hers before biting softly on her shoulder. She gasped and removed her hand, gripping his shoulder, as they kissed again. Morwen’s cries were stifled against Fingon’s mouth as he entered her smoothly. They drew breath together, in slow and shallow gasps, before Morwen began to rock against him. Soon, they moved in unison, their moans muffled by flesh and mist. Fingon’s hands moved up and down her back, pulling her ever closer, and she tangled her fingers in his hair as they passed from coherence into a cohesive force of heat and passion.
Not even the shrouds of Lake Mithrim could stifle their cries when they reached a perfect peak of such intensity that Fingon’s knees buckled beneath him. Morwen pressed tightly against him, clinging as he was forced to tread water.
With a breathless chuckle, he nuzzled at her cheek and, having regained his balance, he carried her ashore, laying her down on his own outstretched cloak. He lay alongside her and put his arms around her, kissing her eyelids which were now closed with sheer exhaustion. A faint smile crossed her lips and she murmured, “I beg to differ with you on one of your earlier claims, my lord.”
Fingon looked at her with amused surprise and she shifted within his arms, hooking a leg over his waist to draw him closer. “You said that you believed that we mortals harboured a flame of passion stronger than the spirit of the Eldar,” she murmured. “But I believe that your race is every bit as ardent as mine.”
He smiled and said softly. “But we cannot long sustain such a passion. It dwindles in time to a slow-burning fire, like the furnace of a forge, driving us ever on in the face of hopelessness and fear…” She opened her eyes and looked at him as he continued to speak. “But you, Eledhwen, you shine with such a bright light that I fear for you, that you will burn out ere your time.”
She replied in gentle tones. “Do not fear for me, my lord, I know that we do not share the same fate.”
Fingon kissed her softly before he drew back abruptly.
“My lord?” she asked as he jumped to his feet.
“Your dress!” he said. “Put it on! There are people coming!”
He listened carefully, deducing that there was another mortal in the vicinity and two, maybe three, of his own guards. Morwen, rather shaken by his terse orders, fumbled with her dress but managed to fasten it by the time another mortal woman appeared through the trees, accompanied by three Elven soldiers.
“Rían!” she cried.
“What is the meaning of this?” demanded Fingon, his face thunderous with rage as he pulled on his undershirt and began to refasten his mail and gauntlets. “I gave specific orders that I was not to be followed or disturbed.”
The guards quailed beneath his glare but one found the courage to speak up. “I apologise, my king, but we found this woman wandering nearby. She was seeking her kinswoman.”
“Is this she?” asked Fingon of the new arrival.
The woman, slighter than Morwen, though with the same black hair, nodded. “Yes.” She dropped into a curtsey. “My name is Rían, m-my king.”
Morwen stared at the sight before her. “King?” she asked.
Fingon looked at her, his lips curling into a faint sardonic smile. “Ay, my lady. It is as they say. I am Fingon, King of the Noldor.”
Morwen looked at him with something akin to rage before she moved to Rían’s side, putting her arm around her cousin. The two women talked in low tones, every word perfectly audible to the ears of the Elves. After their conversation had reached its whispered conclusion, Morwen turned to Fingon.
“We would appreciate an escort to Dor-Lómin,” she said and a peremptory tone entered her voice. “It seems it is not safe for mortal women to wander unescorted in these lands.”
“Morwen!” hissed Rían. “Do not insult the High King thus!”
Fingon smiled wryly. “Nay, Lady Rían, I have taken no insult.” He looked at one of his guards. “Do as they request, Celebros. Take Calandil and escort them with all care and haste to the lands of Galdor.”
The two named guards bowed. “Yes, sire.”
“But first, grant me a moment with the Lady Morwen,” he said. “Go, and we will meet you at the end of the path, between the split birch and the moss-covered boulder.”
Morwen looked at him with a dark expression as the guards retreated with Rían, who glanced back curiously. “You lied to me, my lord!” she hissed.
“I did no such thing,” said Fingon heatedly, taking a step towards her.
“Ay, you did!” she cried, moving away from him. “You might not have spoken any lies but every honeyed word you spoke concealed the truth. You simply bedded me,” she spat, “with no intention of telling me who you were!”
“I would have told you,” Fingon replied in quiet tones.
“And what good would that have done?” demanded Morwen. “To tell me of your true identity, after the deed? Were you going to discard me, like a broken toy?”
“I had not the chance to…”
Morwen interrupted Fingon’s attempted explanation. “Oh! You had not the chance although you had ample time to coax me into speech, to coax me into the water and…” She broke off, gasping for air.
“Morwen,” said Fingon sternly. “If you learn nothing about the Eldar, know this. We do not lie with people for whom we feel nothing.”
She laughed hysterically. “And, pray tell, what good is that? What would you have done with me? Would you have introduced me to your court as a vassal? A servant? Mayhap a spouse for a season of your life? There is no marriage between your kind and mine***! I was a fool to allow myself be lulled by your words!”
Ay, and I was a fool to allow myself to say them. Fingon remained silent for a long time before speaking. “You will not listen to what I have to say to you, will you?”
“No, my lord,” she said. “Because I do not believe I can trust you.”
“Eledhwen,” he whispered brokenly.
In silence, Fingon accompanied her to where Rían was waiting. In silence, he travelled back to his dwelling in Hithlum. In silence, he contemplated that which had passed and, on many occasions over the following years, he came close to travelling to Dor-Lómin so that he might see her again.
Time passed, weighing heavily on Fingon, and the might of Angband did not rest.
The High King of the Noldor survived a direct attack on his lands and only then because of the aid of Círdan and the ships of the Falathrim. Fingon was weary, though uninjured, and his thoughts were like… he paused as Morwen’s words of years previously entered his mind unbidden… his thoughts were like swarms of angry bees with neither direction nor purpose beyond a sense of having been wronged in some way.
His soldiers had pursued the Orcs even unto Ered Engrin; victory! they had cried, victory when all seemed lost! Fingon was sensible to the debt owed to Círdan and he had bade them farewell with generous gifts that he could ill-afford.
He stood with his people on the shore at the Firth of Drengist, having accompanied the Falathar back to that point. A return to Hithlum awaited; a return to contemplating how to defeat the indefatigable. It did not help that, far in the east, Maedhros’ demands for an all-out war were becoming more difficult to ignore. Fingon raised his head to look out over the sea, the stiff breeze blowing back the few stray strands of hair that had escaped both helm and braids. He closed his eyes and parted his lips slightly, tasting the salt and the sorrow of recent times.
“Sire?” asked one of his guards.
Fingon blinked and looked at him dully. “Yes, Calandil?”
“We must make our way back to Hithlum. It is not safe for you here.”
Fingon looked around briefly before nodding shortly. He glanced once more at the sea before he turned his back on the West, knowing that the West had turned its back on him centuries before.
The progress was slow, for their horses were weary and the King’s bodyguards were fastidious in searching the surrounding area before they would allow him to proceed. Sometimes Fingon wondered whether it would be easier to travel alone. There would certainly be the element of surprise; what Elf would be rash enough to ride abroad in such times? As soon as those thoughts crossed his mind, his lungs tightened. Fingolfin, father, dying alone in the most hostile of lands.
Fingon had always thought he was not so rash as his father, or his youngest brother, Argon, who had fallen years before at Lammoth****, so he suffered his guards’ insistence that he be flanked by them at all times. He even wore the same mail and cloak as they did. There was nothing that identified him as the High King of the Noldor in Exile. It would be all too easy to mistake him for a simple Elf albeit an Elf of high birth. Indeed, it was clear how Morwen had been mistaken in him and he found that he could not forgive himself for his behaviour towards him.
As they neared Hithlum, they were approached by a messenger on horseback.
“My lord,” cried the Elf. “News from the east! Galdor has fallen and Húrin has inherited his lordship. It is said he travels to Hithlum this very week with his wife. They wish for an audience with you.”
“Ay, I will grant it to them,” said Fingon and, unwillingly, he forced his thoughts back to such mundane matters as diplomacy and strategy.
Memories were no help to him now, in this world full of weeping.
*Eledhwen = Elfsheen, as written in The Silmarillion
**Direct Quote from The Silmarillion
***This is prior to Beren and Lúthien’s marriage.
**** Argon/Arakáno, from HoME XII, Fingolfin’s third son.
For those of you alarmed by Morwen’s age, I follow the later claim in the Grey Annals (HoME XI) that she is approximately seventeen/eighteen when this encounter occurs, ie: old enough. Also, before anyone gets too fraught at the absence of any sense of marital/paternal responsibility on Fingon’s part, I draw your attention to this quote from HoME XII: Fingon ‘had no child or wife’. Admittedly it’s in small print, buried in the footnotes, but it’s a truth I choose to cling to for the purpose of this story.
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.