10. Chapter Nine: Rain (or, Turmoil, Third Part: Aredhel.)
Disclaimer: The characters are Tolkien´s. If I kill someone I will pay for him.
Chapter Nine: Rain
Turmoil, Third Part: Aredhel.
"Come on, Mother, wake up!"
Great masses of stormy clouds were swiftly covering the sky, smothering the first timid sunrays of the morning. Aredhel shivered, and opened her eyes carefully to see a dim figure bent over her.
"It´s going to rain soon." she stated in a sleepy voice. She could check from her lying position that Maeglin had already prepared everything for another hard day of walking , as was routine since he left his own horse behind and only took Faerroch with them to carry their scarce food through the Dry River in the very last stage of their flight.
Soon, they would be there.
"We must go at once. If what you say is true, we are still at some hours of walk from the entrance of that pass, and I do not feel comfortable here."
Slowly, Aredhel nodded and sat down, wrapping her trembling body in her cloak. In spite of his present worries, Maeglin could not help staring at the way her face was lit with the ghostly faint glow that preceded the storm, giving her an outwordly appearance that matched her shivers and her damp and disordered hair. She looked like a wraith, a vision of the true Aredhel he did not quite know.
But, just as the true Aredhel had done for the last days since the Encircling Mountains came into view, that vision pulled back when he leaned forward to kiss her.
"Please, don´t do that." she said in a hoarse tone. Refusing to look at him, she struggled to her feet and began walking towards Faerroch. "You are right, we should go."
"Yes, of course." Maeglin suppressed a wince. "I am sorry."
It was too painful even to try arguing with her again. He could not bear to see her striving to hide some unknown emotion she did not allow him to share, to be unable to ease her torment like that other day he had not forgotten.
Maeglin had awakened at the hour just before dawn, when the dying embers of the campfire were about to give way to that first light which heralded the presence of Vása. Startled, the first thing he realised was that Aredhel was not there.
"Mother?" he asked, not shouting for fear of being heard by a less friendly creature. But only Faerroch heard him, and whinned in response.
"Mother? Are you out there?"
His worry increased as he got up and began peering at the shadows without being able to see the familiar figure of his beloved anywhere. It was all quiet, maybe dangerously so, and the imposing rocky masses that hung above his head filled him with a sinister feeling.
Where could she have gone? She seemed to have vanished, but that was not possible. Perhaps... could she be in some sort of danger? Perhaps his father had found her? Maeglin could not forego such gloomy musings while he sought and sought, and the soft gleam in the distance became the first golden ray, then the second, and the light of Vása covered the world. He called for her, but she did not answer.
Suddenly, he saw a small white figure in the distance.
"Mother!" he cried, sighing with relief as well as a little angry. She was sitting on the edge of a cliff, her white dress shining softly with the new light, and her feverish eyes were fixed on the green immensity stretched under her feet. When she saw he was coming, she did not move.
"What are you doing here?" he asked harshly. His annoyance, however, subsided as he became aware of the strange expression on her face.
"I was thinking..." Aredhel said with a calm voice that was not quite her own. "Never mind, we shall return now."
"What´s the matter?" he insisted.
"I told you, I was thinking." she repeated, showing a twinge of impatience. "The Hidden City lies behind these mountains, my son."
"Yes, Mother, it does. And, with it, our freedom."
As he said that, Maeglin tried to kiss her in the ear, but Aredhel eluded him and turned her gaze away. It was the first time she did so since that night of the warg attack, and it shocked him.
Before he could stop him, Maeglin walked to her other side to look into her eyes again, sharply, demandingly with concern. He did not know why she was suffering, but she looked frail, and her forehead showed strange wrinkles that made her look old and aged; unlike the lady who had delighted days ago in riding at his side under the light of the sun.
"Please, leave me be for now. I love you."
"I know." he said, "but, why...?"
"Would you like to marry me?"
Utterly stunned, the son of Eöl drew back. Now, it was he who avoided her gaze, unable to utter any word. Marry her?
"You said once that the Noldor did not marry family. "he answered at last, and his answer seemed to arrive unexpected for her. "Do you remember?"
Aredhel sighed. "I had forgotten. But, what if you could?"
Thinking for a moment, Maeglin embraced her from behind.
"Why, I do not think you would allow me. "he said." I would never hurt you, Mother. I love you too, you know, more than anything else in my life."
Rape. Love taken forcefully and given without consent, subservience, imprisonment. Darkness. That was what marriage had come to be for him after all those years. And, who was to blame?
"Maeglin, you know what will happen in Gondolin, right?"
"Mother, you are shaking. Be calm."
Suddenly, the White Lady of the Noldor arched back and fled his embrace, and began to walk at a great speed down the slope. Maeglin followed her, running to her side.
"Do not kiss me." she kept saying with a raised voice. "Do not touch me. I love you!"
"I know. I know!" he assured her. "And I love you too. What will happen in Gondolin?"
"Marriage.." Aredhel thought for a moment, then changed her phrase. "The joining of two fëar is not...Oh, leave me be! Do not touch me unless I ask it of you. I do not want to be touched until..."
She could not finish the sentence, even as she was aware that her son was looking at her with deep puzzlement and pain. Maeglin had no clue. He did not know what they had done, and that Gondolin was going to be for him another Nan Elmoth where his desire would be denied cruelly by the binding laws of the Noldor, as it had been before by the tyranny of his father.
The terrible truth was that she had not even thought about that. Intent, obsessed in having her will and her revenge, she had not expected nor wished to start living again when she had obtained them at last. When her illusions of being free and happy again and seeing her kin had waned in time, and far crueller and bitter plans had crept silently inside her mind, she had doomed herself, and now she knew that she had doomed her son with her.
Curse the sun. Curse the green grass, curse the flowers of spring. She had thought she was alive; she was not. And, where was now the motherly wish of freeing her son so he could become the greatest among the Noldor? How was he going to live, to survive the wreck?
Leaning desperately on Maeglin´s body, Aredhel covered her face and wept for the last time.
"Well, are we leaving, or not? We are near, but Eöl could still catch us before we get to the entrance of the pass."
"Come on." Aredhel draped the cloak over her head, and walked behind her horse. The first drops of rain were beginning to fall with a soft rhythmic noise, wetting the rocky ground under their feet and cleaning gently the surface of the earth, as well as their travel-stained clothes. She thought it was the first time she was going to get wet since she entered Nan Elmoth, and smiled sadly.
(To Be Continued)
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