5. Chapter Four: Turmoil, Second Part: Eöl.
Disclaimer: Tolkien´s characters.
Note: The events in last chapter happen about a year before those in this one.
Chapter Four: Turmoil, Second Part: Eöl.
"I´m lost in the depth of his eyes
I can´t flee
Inner pain caused insanity
It´s deep within."
("Thorn", by Blind Guardian, from "Nightfall in Middle Earth.")
Before Angband, he did not remember much. Only some echoes that he had desperately tried to recollect when he was freed from his thraldom could tell him that he had lived somewhere in the forest, with a man and a woman who were not his true parents, and his sister, who wasn´t his true sister. They had been Avari, he thought. Yes, Avari who lived apart from their kind, and had the friendship of the Dwarves. He remembered having learned the crafting of weaponry from them, together with his sister.
But he could not recall her name.
Since he was a little child, he had possessed strange powers, which frightened all of them a little. For instance, he could hear voices whispering in his ear words without meaning and, when he repeated them, things would happen. Inherited abilities, they said. But, who had he inherited them from?
Sometimes, not very often, his parents went to visit Menegroth with their daughter. They always made him stay behind, and he wondered why, until the day when their minds changed surprisingly and they brought him to the Thousand Caves for his first time.
Too much brightness, he remembered. This, and a very tall man with silver hair and a crown, touching his face and speaking to him, but nothing more. Perhaps, he could have stayed there; but then, perhaps he did not want to.
Perhaps, he had escaped.
The fact was that, when the horror began, he was sure he had been back at the house of his former parents. Orcs came in large numbers, killed the man and the woman he had lived with, and took him and their daughter alive, for they knew how to forge weapons and therefore were useful. Eöl did not mourn the dead at the time, his only thoughts being about how to escape and run away from those monsters, taking his sister with him. Until the moment they reached Angband, and saw the Thangorodrim, they attempted several escapades, but then everything changed its course without any possible return. He could recall how they despaired, his sister and he, when they arrived to that land of shadow, for they suddenly knew that hope was lost in such a place.
Angband, a place far too horrible even for memories. Angband...
There, Elves were imprisoned in black pits, where the stars could not be seen, and a foul odour suffocated them. There they had to work without rest, under the vigilance of fearful Balrogs with their whips of fire.
And there she had died, his sister, of weakness and grief, and looking as old as a Dwarf when his life span wanes. But he, he had stayed alive.
One day, long after he had definitely lost count of the time, they took him, and brought his numb helpless body to the dark halls of the Evil One, where He looked at him in the eyes and said he was to be set free. Eöl recalled this very well. The terrible depths in his gaze, those eyes he would never forget! Once freed, the first thing he did was to run, trying to get away from them, until he knew it was no use because he would see them in his mind forever. Then, he lost part of his energies, and walked hesitantly the road that was to take him again to the world of the living, without feeling any joy. He had ceased to feel anything, and only some remembrances of his past life kept him going on.
At last, aware of how tired he was, he fell to the ground, and closed his eyes.
Maybe all could have ended there. Wouldn´t it have been better, to fade away in the darkness where he had suffered for so long? But no, suddenly, he felt something burning his flesh, like the Balrog´s whip, and when he opened his eyes forgetting that he was free, a searing pain shot through and made him cry out.
Madly, he ran away, looking for the shelter of a cave. As he lay there, he learned the truth about the hateful fire; that it was a glimmering thing that came from the East, crossed slowly the sky and disappeared by the West, to appear some hours later by the East again. This again and again, he guessed.
And then he discovered something else; that he was feeling something strongly once more, and it was hatred. The hate he had felt in the earlier days of his imprisonment for Angband had been bestowed now upon that strange burning eye at the sky that dared to peer at him, and from a nearly insignifiant sensation it turned into something great and fearful. Soon, he hated it so much that he only could manage to travel at night, under the light of the stars.
But, where could he go? He did not even know where his steps were leading him in this changed world, nor did he care at first about it. As he kept going on and on, he stumbled upon new realms of strange Elves with black hair and grey eyes, heavier in build than the ones he knew from before. They all shunned him because of his torn body and ragged clothes, and even more as they took notice of his whitish hair and unsettling glance. They seemed to know very well who he was, no matter how he tried to conceal his true identity and where he came from. The Noldor, thus was how those people called themselves, one of the Elven races who went to live with the Lords of the West, but were now back to wage war on the Dark Lord they called Morgoth. And he was banned from all their cities without exception, for they mistrusted Morgoth´s freed thralls as much as the Vala himself.
Once, when some tried to kill him, he found those ancient words whispering again at his ear. They sounded stronger and more powerful than ever now, as powerful as the urge to destroy them.
He had to flee after that.
How many nights could he have been wandering when at last he stumbled upon the Girdle of Melian? Who could remember something so pointless. He only remembered walking through a wood, and then, something absolutely new barred him the way. It did not allow him to go to Menegroth, and even his powers were not enough to break the barrier and enter.
Did everyone despise him so, only because he had been a thrall of Morgoth?
Eventually, march wardens of Thingol arrived and found him there, standing in front of them. While at first they were absolutely reluctant to let him in, Eöl managed to lure them so they consented.
Too much brightness.
This time, he remembered Thingol much better, sitting in a throne under a great oak with his queen and his beautiful daughter. He looked disgusted,; nonetheless, he let him stay in his realm if he wished, provided that he kept apart from him and the people in his palace. Eöl consented for a while, for, where could he have been more sheltered from the sun´s rays than in the Thousand Caves? The king´s bidding was not hard for him to carry to the word, and during his stay, Eöl became even more of a hermit than he had been before. It was really trying, to see such beauty and happiness after what he had suffered, and to think that they had been dancing and singing all the time while he was in Angband was even more than what he could bear. To ease his pain, he found no other choice than to return to the forge, and his works found some kind of renown. Soon, he even had followers, who loved smithcraft and silence nearly as much as himself.
One day, after a century of living in Doriath, life in that kind of Blessed Realm became such a burden that he finally decided to left. He went with his followers to settle in a dark forest outside the Girdle of Melian, where the trees were taller than in any other place in Middle- Earth, and the foliage denser, -so Arien would be at pains to continue bothering him-, and he convinced all living beings in the forest to yield to his increasingly powerful sorcery. There was no need to tell how relieved were Thingol and Melian the day he asked them for leave to go away. Thingol was never at ease when he was near him, while the Maia mistrusted him too, and they were not the only ones, but he hated them all. He hated nearly everybody, and he liked to see how this feeling grew and grew again after the long numbness of spirit he had suffered in the Darkest Place. Hatred was good, and it meant that he did not fear them. He only feared one being in Arda, and that was the Evil One, or, more accurately, the eyes of the Evil One; however, that could hardly be helped.
And thus began Eöl´s new life as Lord of Nan Elmoth. In his forest, he lived in darkness and silence, working at his forge with a strange black metal he alone knew the secret of, and friendly only to the Dwarves, who loved the same things as he. The day he forged his twin swords, full of black magic and treacherous to all except to their maker, he sent one of them to King Thingol, the one whom he had named Anglachel. He wondered if he would have accepted the gift or if Melian by chance had advised him against it.
But the more powerful of the two, the eldest by birthright, he kept to himself.
He felt less pain in his new state, for life was less suffocating to him in the forgiving darkness. In it, he even found some kind of comfort; and yet, it was not too long before he began to feel numb again. He had his hate, but he found that he needed something more if he wanted to stay alive. The dreams about his dark-haired sister assailed him, and shortly afterwards, he found himself wishing for her presence to be in the forge at his side. Why did she have to die, and leave him in thraldom, alone? He almost raged, for even love was like hate for him now.
Love. Companionship. Lust. Hate. Aredhel, the White Lady of the Noldor.
He was lover of the woman, hater of her kin, violator...and that was enough for him.
"So what can we do in our lives
When it all begins?"
("Thorn", Blind Guardian, from "Nightfall in Middle Earth".)
It was morning. He felt it, he knew it by the faint warmth in his hands, and by the unpleasant sensation he had that Arien was trying to pierce his magic to intrude in his life and home and mock him again. Already she had chased the stars away, those same stars that saw his birth but were not as strong as him to resist the hated brightness.
Aredhel was there. She was lying by his side, and her back was turned to him, for he was aware of her long hair tickling his chin. If he woke her up now, however, she would have to make great efforts to appear gentle and willing, because at daytime she liked to be left alone.
So let her sleep, he said to himself. At night, it almost seemed as if she loved him, but who could know what went on inside her mind?
Thoughtfully, Eöl got up and headed towards the kitchen. There, Maeglin had prepared something for breakfast that he ate in silence, not minding the occasionary looks his son darted at him from behind his back.
Did Maeglin really think that he could not see it?
When he was finished, Eöl left the mess at the table for Aredhel to clear up. She could at least do this, he thought, but, as he was about to go, he saw Maeglin beginning to take the dishes away.
"Leave that alone! You have much work to do." he growled, cursing wordlessly to himself.
At the forge, Eöl worked furiously and without pause. At noon he relented somewhat, and allowed a small rest to Maeglin and the others, but soon afterwards he found himself in his working place again, for it was impossible for him to find pleasure anywhere else than near to that white-red fire that warmed his soul without shining brightly and cruelly over him. He did not feel well outside his forge, even now that working with galvorn had become a blessing mixed with bitterness, for the black and malleable metal reminded him of his son, and of what he was never going to be.
Eöl watched as the metal under his hands lovingly took the shape of the most beautiful blade he had crafted in a long time, the sword for the King of Nogrod, and bit his lips. Nobody dared to come near him when he was in this mood, not even Maeglin, who learned very long ago to keep the safe distance. And it was good that he did. For, if fear was the only thing he could inspire, at least it was better than hatred, and real hatred was not possible until the fear died away, as he knew very well.
Eöl had feared much in his long life. He had hated, too. And now, he was beginning to fear again.
Did it show? Could his son notice his anxiety with his piercing dark eyes? Was it as obvious for him as Maeglin´s own feelings were for his father?
Sharp Glance you are, yes, that is the name I gave to you, Eöl thought grimly. But the sharpest look in Nan Elmoth is not yours, and it were better if you remembered who you inherited it from. Born in darkness? Do not make me laugh! Your father had to see in the pits of Angband!
The lord of Nan Elmoth could not help wincing. He had his memories, buried very deep inside him, and not until the present time were they beginning to stir again. A warning?
"Keep working until I return." Eöl ordered before leaving the forge and a dozen of stunned smiths behind.
"What is the matter, Father?"
The voice was soft, but hard at the same time. In its tone, love and care were not implied, just curiosity and the overwhelming desire to attack him at his moments of weakness.
"We are waiting for you." that treacherous voice insisted. Eöl did not move. Sitting there in the damp ground, he could see the stars beginning to twinkle in the dark of the night, far away.
"That is what I told you to do."
"You are worried." it was a statement. With a graceful move, his son installed himself at his side, and the sharp-eye contest began once again.
"Do not pretend you care for my worries."
"Why not?" his son asked innocently.
"She poisoned you. Long ago."
This time, a flash of anger did appear in Maeglin´s placid countenance.
"Do not speak evil of my mother!"
"I will speak evil of whoever I want." Eöl replied, his voice cold as ice. "And it seems you are beginning to forget how to keep your true place, son."
That ended their intercourse for a very long while, but more would have been needed to send Maeglin away. Like a silent panther lurking in the shadows and waiting for its chance, he remained there, his hands toying with the weeds that grew under them, and for a moment Eöl thought he saw his mother in him, the day she arrived and tried to resist his attack.
Yes, it was no use denying he had grown up.
"Where does my kin live?" the question came at last, in a voice so soft it nearly broke Eöl´s nerves.
"Your kin lives here. I am your kin." he answered, a little too loud, maybe.
"I mean my mother´s kin."
"Hers?" In just a second, Eöl was on his feet, pacing to and fro. " They were murderers, kinslayers. They killed our people, and a great and terrible curse weighs upon them until the end of days. Do not speak about them in my presence!
Maeglin watched the floor idly during his father´s rant. When it was over, it seemed he was about to make a reply, but he thought better in time.
"Some of them live not far from here." His tone was casual now, maybe in an attempt to calm Eöl down, or, more likely, to show him who was the upset one of the two. "I would wish to visit them. Only to know whether the horrible things everyone says about them are true or not."
"Only to know? Only to know what "everyone" says? Who ever told you anything about them except your mother, you, you illgotten brat! "Eöl shouted, slapping him hard across the face. Maeglin fell to the ground again, holding his injured cheek with his hand, but he did not cower, and kept looking at him in that indescribable way.
That fixed stare Eöl had come to secretly fear so much.
"You are of the House of Eöl, Maeglin my son, and not of the Golodhrim. "he said firmly, to cover that fear. "All this land is the land of the Teleri, and I will not deal nor have my son deal with the slayers of our kin, the invaders and usurpers of our homes. And in this you shall obey me, or I shall put you in bonds."(1)
Now, his own sinister red eyes stared at his son in turn, with all the anger and strength he was capable of gathering, and it was a pleasant feeling to see Maeglin flinch at last.
(To be continued.)
(1) Quoting Tolkien in "Silm 16: Of Maeglin".
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