First Sorrow: 1. First Sorrow

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1. First Sorrow

You were five years old when you first knew sorrow.

Your mother cried and your father was silent but you did not know why. The house was quiet and the servants spoke with low voices. Outside a single bird was singing "chirp, chirp" in the great oak tree that you used to play in. It was warm, and the sun shone for the first time in many days. Even into the hall of your father the smell of the damp, sun-warmed earth found its way.

"Where is my sister?" you asked. "Can Lalaith not come and play?"

"Say not that name," your mother said, and her eyes were hard. In that mood you dared not ask her the question on your tongue. You turned towards your father, but he stared right past you, never seeing your face.

"Father? Father, please!"

He never heard. One bright drop of salty tear swelled in his eye. You watched it growing, clinging to his lashes as if the world would fall with it. You fled before your world did. Running from the horror of your father's eye, running from the sorrow in his face; you saw not the walls and doorways in your father's house as they flashed by. You fled, heedless of the path your feet would choose until, at last, your strength ran out.

It was a grassy hill on which you lay. The oak stood tall above you. A bird chirruped in the sky, alone; undaunted. The sun drove the chill from your bones. Slowly your body stilled. Damp earth clung to your cheek, cool against your skin. A blade of grass tickled the nape of your neck where the collar of your shirt had been pulled down. The red dark of the sun behind your eyelids was all you saw. Your heartbeat slowed until you heard the silence of the wind whisper thought the grass. The green smell of growing things mixed with the raw, sunny-wet earth; that smell would ever after soothe your mind as in this moment when your fear stilled and your heart had not yet learned grief.

Sador, the old servant – your friend – found you there, almost asleep. His hand upon your shoulder stirred you and you blinked; his face to you a stranger's and your mind was blank.

"Ah, there you are, young lord. Old Labadal found you in the end."

He brushed away the earth stuck to your face and with his voice the memory of the day came back.

"Why is my father silent and my mother stern? Why is the house so quiet and so dark? Why may I not say Lalaith anymore? Where…" but at that last question a tear swelled in your friend's eye and you fell silent, turned away and ran.

His arms caught and held you close before you could escape again. He rocked you like a mother rocks a new-born babe; more for his own comfort than to still your fears. At any other time you would resent it, but today you let it happen.

"Ah, child," he sighed, "laughter is no more."

Late that day he brought you home. Your mother waited at the door. She took your hand to lead you off to bed.

"Mother?" you asked. She stopped and turn towards you.

"Where is my sister?"

"Urwen is dead," she said. Dry-eyed she looked at you. "She is dead, but you are not; you live. You live, son of Morwen, as does he who took her. "

No more she said. She led you through the house towards your room. You passed the hall where your father sat. He held a harp; tears fell freely from his eyes but he found no words, no tune to voice his grief. You saw him lift the harp and break it on the floor.

Again you fled, tearing you hand from your mother's grip. You ran and did not stop until you could curl up in your bed. All night you lay there; bitter tears you shed. In your ears your father's words, carried on the night-wind through the window in your room, rang while the stars turned.

"Marrer of the world, dark foe! Cowardly you hide behind your walls; had I but one wish no walls would stand between us. Could I but once meet you, face to face, I would not waste my breath on curses! No vain words, I would mar you! I would lift my hands against you and strike with all my might. Be you kin to the Powers, be you mighty in this world; as long as you have body you can hurt! Do you hear me, Morgoth, in your fortress of stone?"

When morning came, you rose and standing by the window you looked towards the rising sun. "I will not fear," you told her. "My father does not fear anything; I too will not fear."

She did not answer and she rose, her path uninterrupted, above the land. You saw the servants and the household-men walking across the yard, each to their tasks. Among them one proud, unbending back caught your eye. Head held tall on slender neck her hair fell like shadows down her shoulder-blades; your mother had not bound it yet this day or hidden it behind a wife's veil.

"Or if I should fear," you told the empty room, "I will be like my mother and not show it."

The house was quiet when you came out from your bower. The sun had dried up all damp from the day before and all the smells you smelled was from kitchen and stable; the everyday smell of smoke and bread, horses and sheep. Your mother was silent and her eyes were dry. You father sang, hoarse throated, a song in which you could not understand the words. A slow beat, the haunting tune; it burned your heart. Your father did not see you where you stood half-hidden by the door.

He cried.

You stayed, faithful to your oath, and watched the tears trickle down his face. You saw his shoulders shake and heard him sob as he paused his song. It lasted but a moment. Then his song again wound it way towards the open windows, travelled across the floor and round the pillars of the hall before it escaped out into the sun.

How you longed to run and join it! Dutifully you stood, bound by what you thought was right. Your mother had not seen you and your father could not yet see beyond his grief, but you saw. You watched your mother's jaw stiffen, her face as still as stone, at your father's loud grief. She turned from him, left the hall and walked towards the kitchen. Calling for the servants to prepare the morning-meal her voice never broke as had you father's song.

The servants came and spread cloth upon the tables and arrayed it richly for the break of fast with plates set for all the household; high cups of metal for those of highest worth, finely fashioned earthenware for those that sat lower at the table. Bread and butter, cheese and milk and vine; all was placed upon the table and the men and household called in to the meal. And through the hustle and the bustle of the household stir, the lord sat in his chair.

Naked tears fell unchecked down his cheeks; his song continued though the drowning noise. You stood unheeded in the shadow through it all and watched him until the servants settled and the lament once more uninterrupted travelled under the pillared roof. It was near the end when your mother re-entered the hall. She took his plate and filled it, and then she put it down before your father's face.

"Túrin! Child, come sit at your father's side as is fitting."

She called you from your shadowed hideaway beside the door. You came, your eyes as dry as hers, and sat beside your father's chair. Food came; you ate as all the household did. You eyed your father though the meal to see if he too did eat.

He did. He did not seem to taste the saltiness of the bread. He ate as if asleep, not noticing the food chosen by your mother. And so through the meal he sat in silence, the quick wit and easy speech that always had bewildered you gone this morning.

Suddenly he turned towards you and looked upon your face, seeing you for the first time since the silent morning.

"Fair as an Elf-child she was," your father said, "but briefer. Ai! Briefer indeed, and so dearer." He paused and you saw again how tears gathered in his eyes. You were close to running then, your morning-oath forgotten, when he gently caught your chin and with that light touch stayed your flight. "Heir of the House of Hador, fear not, lest Darkness claim you. Fear not the Fate of Men, be is soon or late, nor fear to grieve those lost."

You saw fresh tears tickle down your father's face, but his eyes were once more clear as if he again could see the world. You nodded as if you understood his words. He smiled and stoked your face before he turned back to his meal. You picked at your food until you could leave the table and escape outside.

You found the oak. It stood with strong branches lifted to the sky, inviting you to climb it as you had done before the rain had come. You laughed and made to grab the lowest branch to start the climb.

Laughter is no more.

You snatched your hand back, Labadal's words still ringing in your head. Laughter is no more; Lalaith is gone from this house. The oak stood there empty, branches reaching as before but you could no longer climb it. Instead you sat down by its roots; at you back the wide girth of the trunk was a solid wall for you to rest your head against. You could feel the pattern of the bark mark your shoulders even through the fabric of your shirt, the hours only felt in the path of the sun shining on your face.

It was Sador, the old servant, who found you there again. You could hear his hobbling footsteps as he came and stood before you. You did not show that you had heard him coming, did not open your eyes or say a word to him in greeting.

He stood a while as if pondering a riddle none had ever solved. You could not see him shake his head when no solution came, you only heard him as he sat down beside you on the ground, his back to the oak-tree mirroring your pose. He never spoke when you wanted silence; you never wondered how he knew.

You both sat in silence for a time while the sun climbed to her highest peak and began her slow descent towards the West. You risked a peek out of the corner of your eye to see if Labadal had fallen into sleep. But when you saw him stir, you closed your eyes again. You felt more than heard him stretch his limbs and fumble for something hidden in his clothes. More movement, then he stilled again but not for long. Soon you heard the familiar sound of his carving-knife working on a piece of wood. You head him mutter "No, not so" and"Yes, that is right" as the carving took form in his hands.

At last you could not stand it any longer; you had to know what figure he was working on. You turned to look.

There, in his hand, a dragon curled to strike against a warrior – small beside its might – who raised his sword against the worm.

"Why did you carve that?"

You heard the question as if another spoke. He looked at you, smiling softly as he always did. The question hung unanswered between you while he turned his eyes back to the carving and cut the last splinters from the wood. He held the finished figure a moment before his eyes.

"It was what lay hidden in the wood."

You took the offered gift and fingered it. A small breeze blew the hair from your eyes and you sat still as it caressed your face. It was the first touch since your father held your chin.

"Labadal," you asked, "what did my father mean? Was Lalaith like an Elf-child like he said? What did he mean that she was briefer?"

"Like indeed," Sador answered. "In our first youth we are alike, as like as close kin, both Children of the One. But Man's children grow faster and our youth is soon gone. It is the fate of men that we grow old."

"Fate," you said. "What does that mean; what is fate?"

Your friend sighed. "Wiser men than Labadal know more of fate than I and you must ask them of the Fate of Men. All Labadal knows is that men grow old and die from weariness, or even sooner by ill chance. Elves do not die from weariness and age, and even if their bodies are hurt too much to live, yet they may return. Or so some say. We do not return when we are gone."

You frowned. Gone, Lalaith is gone. Again the words echoed in your thoughts. "Will Lalaith not come back?" you asked. He shook his head. "Then where has she gone?"

"I do not know," old Sador said. "I do not know."

You fell silent then. The dragon in your hands was hard and full of edges yet you held it with such strength as your small hands could wield. You looked at it, its face full of victory and scorn towards the small man before him that was doomed to lose the battle against this foe.

"I wish… Labadal, I wish…"and with those words something in you broke. Your breath hitched; you could not speak. You clutched the figure in your hand until the skin broke and you threw it on the ground. The warrior broke away; his sword gone, his arm shattered on a hidden stone.

Lalaith is gone.

Old Sador sat beside you, his hand upon your back trying to sooth your heaving breath. You blinked against the burning in your eyes; the tears streaming down your father's face still vivid in your mind. The proud, unbending back of your mother walking across the yard overwhelmed it.

"Perhaps," you said, stilling your breath. "Perhaps it is better not to tell of what you wish. Better, if you can not have it." You looked at Sador with dry eyes, but your voice trembled - just a bit. "Still I wish, Labadal, that I was not a Man; I wish I was one of the Eldar. Then Lalaith could come back, and I would be here when she came, even if she were away for long."

You said no more. He rocked you in his arms and you let him. His was the tears that were dried by the soft wind that heralded the evening. When he let you go, you stood and picked the pieces of the dragon-fighter up.

You carried them back. Head held high, with proud, unbending back you walked and never showed what was in you heart.

You were five years old and you knew sorrow.


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: Ragnelle

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/22/13

Original Post: 06/11/12

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