The White Tower: 5. Chapter 5

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5. Chapter 5

Another evening, and another company was gathered in the gardens of the Tower, for another purpose. Elwing followed the custom of Doriath and kept her High Seat outdoors, except in winter or rough weather. Halfway up the gardens was a quiet space, carpeted with thrift and squill and clover. Her throne stood there, shaded by apple trees. When the Tower was raised, Finrod Felagund himself had come North and shaped a seat for her out of a great boulder of jade, thrown up upon the beach by the waves. It was a lovely thing, its translucent whiteness delicately carved to hint at waves, and clouds and wings. It was, by design, of no particular comfort.

Nierninwa was there, and the other officers of her household, and the present members of the Council of the City. Nólanis had a place of honour at the Lady's left hand, with Captain Lalezel and others from Arwen's company. Eärendil stood at Elwing's right, his face impassive. There was no light but the common red of Sunset, for the Mariner had gone out to his ship and taken the Silmaril from where it shone at the prow. It was the dark of the Moon and high clouds occluded the opening stars. The night to come would be very dark.

A bell chimed, and several figures came walking up through the gardens; the Kinslayers, escorted by Gilfaril and her foresters, all armed. They came into the shade of the trees, where the Lady and her people waited. She did not rise to greet them, for they were not guests. She sat now in judgement.

Gilfaril and her people joined the throng among the trees, leaving the Kinslayers to come forward alone. They bowed to her and to the Mariner; both acknowledged Nólanis with courteous nods. Amras smiled at her and Elwing offered a wary smile in return.

Amrod said, "Lady, we are come at your summons, for the purpose of which we have spoken."

There was a little stir among the watching elves; all knew what was toward, but Elwing had not told anyone of what her decision might be.

She said, "You desire the Jewel still."

He too smiled, very faintly. "No, Lady, we do not desire it. Not at all. We surrendered life and honour and all peace forever for its sake. How should we still desire it? We make no claim, for the Valar have judged that we have none. But we ask it of you nevertheless, as we must, as a boon of your mercy."

Someone shouted from among the trees, "We will not give up the Jewel!"

There was a rumble of agreement from the company. Elwing raised her hand, and slowly quiet fell.

"We will not give up the Jewel," she said. And before any other could speak, added, "It is no longer ours to keep or give."

This time the outcry was louder, and lasted longer. She let it run for a while, then nodded to Nierninwa. The Captain waved a hand at one of the guards, who picked up the hammer and struck the bell beside him, full force. The crash of sound rolled over the company. In the silence that was left in its wake, Nierninwa cleared his throat.

"Pray, quiet for the Lady."

Elwing looked around her. All of them had known the Kinslayers' purpose beforehand. Nonetheless her household and council were in disarray, the peace of Ages overthrown in an instant or so it seemed. No. This time, matters would fall differently, one way or the other. She lifted her hand where she sat, and her husband clasped it in his briefly before she withdrew it.

She said to the Kinslayers and to her people, "Long ago I yielded up the Silmaril, freely and of my own will. You must ask your boon of him who holds it now."

Eärendil stepped forward to stand before her throne. Into the silence, Elwing said, "As I was given the choice long ago, so I give it back freely. Choose thou, my love and I will abide thy will, as thou didst abide mine."

The Mariner reached within his coat, and brought out a small round case of black metal, with the image of apple-blossom embossed upon it. It was of galvorn, a long-ago gift from Eöl in token of the difficult reconciliation between their Houses. A gift as enigmatic as its giver, for the Dark Elf had no interest in the Silmarils; the stars had always been light enough for him. But perhaps the clear sight that he had learned in the Halls of the Dead had shown him that one day the Mariner would have need for it.

Eärendil opened the case, and the rosy light of evening brightened with gold and silver, as the Silmaril added its glory to the Sunset. A little sigh came from those who watched, but the Kinslayers turned their faces away.

"Sons of Fëanor," the Mariner said, "Kinsmen. You have asked for the Silmaril, for the fulfilment of your Oath. Tell me now and truly, before us all, what you will do if I deny you, as is my duty and my right."

Amrod said quietly, his gaze fixed on Eärendil's face, "We will do as we have sworn to the Lady, Mariner. We will go and never return."

"Foresworn, as you deem it. Into darkness everlasting."

"Yes. It is no matter. It is the choice that we should have made at the first. We will make it now gladly."

Elwing shuddered inwardly, and saw her horror echoed in the faces of her people. This was an obscenity, to speak so easily of obliteration. Eärendil continued, apparently unmoved, "And if I grant your boon? What will you?"

Amrod blinked. For the first time, the fixity of his purpose seemed to waver, as if he had never considered this possibility. Amras remained unmoving at his side and Amrod said, "In truth, we do not know. We stand now at the fork in the path, the modulation of the melody, and we do not know the end."

"So." Eärendil tipped the Jewel from the case onto his bare palm, as casually as a Noldorin gem-smith handling a diamond. It shone in his hand, deadly and beautiful, and those who were gathered there crowded closer, unthinking, until Nierninwa signalled to the guards to step gently between. Even Elwing leaned forward a little where she sat, until she remembered herself.

There was a waiting silence.

The Mariner inclined his head and held out his hand.

"Take it, freely. It is yours, if you desire it."

Amrod took a step forward. And was neatly outflanked by his brother, who slipped around him with hunter's speed and lifted the Silmaril in one smooth snatch of his fingers. There was a collective gasp; Nólanis cried out and there was open fear in Amrod's face as he turned, reaching too slowly to prevent his brother from taking the danger upon himself. Amras stood still, his face without expression, the Jewel-light bright through his fist. He turned his hand upwards and opened his fingers and the Silmaril glowed quietly on his unmarked palm.

This time, neither Elwing nor Nierninwa tried to quiet the minor uproar that followed, though no one ventured to approach the Jewel. The tears were running openly down Nólanis' face, and even the Vanyar seemed astonished.

Elwing looked, not at the Kinslayers, but at her husband. He was...changed, in some subtle but definite fashion. Not that he stood less tall or straight, but there was a lightness in his face that she only now realised had been missing for a very long time.

"So," Amrod said softly. "It is done. Thank you, Lady, and you, Mariner."

He held out his hand to his brother. Amras dropped the Silmaril into it without hesitation, and Amrod in his turn stood still for a long time before the miracle of his father's Jewel. But there was something in his face besides wonder as he looked into its endless depths of light, shining in the cup of his palm. When he looked up at last, his voice was soft, but in the tense hush all heard it. "It is a great weight. Too great for us to hold. We would bear it in your stead if we could, but we cannot. Our House no longer has the heart for it. I am sorry, cousin."

And he held out the merciless light, for the Mariner to take up again.

There was a subdued cheer from some of the councillors, but not around the throne. Elwing felt Nólanis shift beside her, a sudden movement as suddenly suppressed. Eärendil sighed and took the Silmaril back, with the same matter-of-fact ease with which he had given it away. He put it back into the case and closed the lid, releasing them from the power of its presence. The quiet twilight flowed back among the trees. The clouds had thinned, and the first few stars could be seen through the veils across the sky, now that the light of the Jewel was gone.

The Mariner nodded gravely to the Kinslayers. "Where do you go, cousins, now that you are truly free?"

Amrod answered, "We will find a home by the shore in Eldamar, or in Tol Eressëa, if Gil-galad permits it."

Like Eärendil but a moment past, both he and his brother stood, not more straight, but more easily, as if they had been freed from an invisible chain. At Earendil's enquiring glance, he added, " Our brother Maglor is still lost, far away in the Great Lands, and someone must keep watch, against the day that he shall come home."

There was a little silence, perhaps as the company pondered the likelihood of this. Elwing said on an impulse, "For tonight, you may stay here, as guests of my House. But on the the south, on the northern shore of the Bay of Eldamar, a tower was built for me when first I came into the West. It has stood empty since my people and I removed here, but it is still mine. Dwell there as my kinsmen if it pleases you, with my good will."

Amrod glanced at Amras, who nodded, the briefest inclination of his head. It was the first time that she had seen any gesture of communication between them; she caught Amras' eye, and realised that it had been a deliberate courtesy to her, a subtle easing of the distance between them. Both of them bowed again, twice.

Amrod said, " Thank you, Lady. Cousin. We accept your gift of hospitality gladly, and will repay it as we can, in the days to come."

There was expectancy in the air again, though of a different kind from earlier. Everyone was waiting for their dismissal and the chance to discuss, exclaim over and spread the news of this momentous evening. Instead, Elwing asked the question that had followed her down all the years.

"If we... if I had given you the Jewel at Sirion, would you have left us in peace then?"

Amrod looked faintly surprised.

"Yes, Lady. Of course." His gaze met hers, too bright for her to see what might hide behind.

"And in time the Jewel would have returned to Angband, when Morgoth's armies overran us, and you, and Gil-Galad on Balar. And there it would still be, with its fellows in the crown of the Master of Middle-earth. For without the Silmaril there would have been no voyage into the West and no emissary to the Valar and no great fleet coming up out of the Sunset for the succour of the world."

Elwing looked around and saw the unsurprised dismay on her husband's face, and the utter lack of expression on Nierninwa's. Nólanis simply looked grim; but she too had clearly heard such thoughts spoken before.

"It is done with," she said heavily, before anyone else could speak. "It does no good to chew over might-have-beens like old bones. The Song is Marred and all the world with it. The gods too are bound, but they play no games with us. However the music resolved, they would have found a way. The preparation for war began when our people departed and continued throughout the years that they were gone. The Valar would have found a way, Silmaril or no Silmaril."

"Perhaps, Grandmother," Amrod said. "And perhaps not. But you are right that it no longer matters. Some discords can never be made sweet again, sing as we will. Silence is the most that we hope for now."

"But someday, perhaps," Eärendil said. "There will be new songs to sing." He held the occluded Silmaril in his hand again, invisibly but quite clearly braced against the weight of its presence.

Amrod did not answer at once. At last he said only, "Perhaps."

Elwing rose and went to her husband and clasped her fingers carefully about his, sharing the burden.

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.

Story Information

Author: Anna Wing

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/16/07

Original Post: 05/15/07

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