A Tale of the Fourth Age: Chapter One - The Coming of Peace, or, The Maiden's Redemption
Long ago, towards the end of the First Age of the Sun and Moon; when the realms of the Eldar were still standing strong, Morgoth was vanquished, and the realms of Men had begun to grow; there came about a very strange union between the elves and the dwarves.
In the ancient city of Nogrod, high in the Ered Luin; or the Blue Mountains; there lived a dwarf called Orin. He was akin to the Lord of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, but only in name. In truth he was one of the greatest in delving and creating the most beautiful jewels; and in skill he was only surpassed by the Noldor. But he learned much from these masters of jewellery, and befriended many of them; for this reason he was shunned for the most part by his people, and they did not acknowledge his lordship.
Now the elves that lived closest to the Ered Luin were the wood elves of Ossiriand. They did not have much dealing with anyone, but some of the more remote elves who lived nearer the River Thalos would have a little trade and converse with the dwarves traveling to the regions of Doriath, where there was much trade between elves and dwarves.
A certain small village of elves which was called Sérenómë traded regularly with the dwarves of Nogrod, and they had much dealing with Orin. For this reason also was he shunned, for unlike all dwarves he was very much intrigued by the elves and their way of life. He wished to be among them all the time, and the times he would travel to Sérenómë for business he would find any excuse to stay a while longer.
Now the Master of Sérenómë was akin, through marriage, to Denethor, King of Ossiriand. His name was Belegon, and he was not very like-minded of the wood elves. He was of Noldorin descent, and had married a wood elf. He loved to craft things of metal and stone, and had many fine jewels and magnificent pieces of armour and swords fit for kings. These were his treasure, though he gave freely and did not hoard it all for himself. But he would pour his whole being into making these things, so they were very dear to his heart. Another thing that was most dear to his heart was his only child and daughter, Arien Tindómiel. She was his greatest treasure of all, for he had lost his wife in an orc-raid. Now he spent all of his time with his daughter and his craftwork.
* * * * *
One day, close to the first day of spring, Orin went with his men to trade with the elves of Serenome. He was excited, for he knew that the elves would be preparing for the spring feast, or the Tuilérë. They would be decorating the whole village, and it would be absolutely beautiful.
As Orin entered the village, he was amazed at the beautiful sight. There were flowers everywhere. The elves were setting up the different pavilions in which the Tuilérë would be celebrated, and they were very beautiful. The pavilions were all about the same size, but decorated differently. Each one had a different kind of flower arrangement on its frame; each one more beautiful than the last. There were flowers of all colors; blue, pink, gold, purple, white, and orange. But the Master's Pavilion was decorated with small red and silver flowers. When Orin reached the Master's Pavilion, he stopped. It was like a palace to him. He craned his neck to see the top, but could barely catch a glimpse of it. As he looked in awe his gaze met with that of an elf-maiden who was decorating the pavilion. He turned quickly to go, so as not to disturb her, but she called out to him.
"Master Dwarf, may I speak with you a moment?"
Orin was caught off guard by the sound of her clear voice, and suddenly felt as if time itself had stopped. "M-mm-my lady, are you speaking to me?" he finally asked in disbelief.
"Yes, I am. Are you one of the traders here on business to my father?" She came over to him, and as she did he bowed in the stately dwarf-fashion. "Yes, my lady. I am Orin son of Norin, at your service--" he then realized what she had said. "Your father--Lord Belegon? I did not know he had a daughter; and most fair." The words came out of his mouth before he had time to think. "Forgive me; I had no right, lady--I mean--you are beautiful, but I--"
She looked at him and smiled. "It is quite all right, Master Orin. I admire someone who will speak his mind. You were in no way disrespectful. And never before have I met such an eloquent dwarf. My name is Arien."
Now Orin looked on her fully. She was tall and slender, with long, braided golden hair that had small red flowers in it. She was clothed in green and girt with a belt of mithril. She was also barefoot. Her eyes were as green as the sunlit grass, and Orin felt as if they could pierce into the innermost thoughts of his mind. He thought she was the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen.
She spoke again. "Come, I will take you to my father. He will be most pleased to find that you have arrived."
The two of them walked up the pathway to the Master's Hall. It was halfway up the first hill that gave way to the lofty Ered Luin. Orin could begin to make out the large hall, for it was built around a very tall tree. The Hall had many large windows that faced to the West, and two, very tall double doors for the entrance. They were made from some sort of dark wood that Orin did not know, with very ornate and intricate carvings. The tree stood high in the middle, and smaller buildings were perched on many of its thick branches. Orin thought that he had never seen something so amazing as that Hall. And he had been invited in! This was a wondrous thing to him, for he had always met with Belegon in the center of the village to trade, and not once had he been asked to go up the Master's Hall.
Now they were at the doors. There were two tall elves dressed in muted greens and browns armed with long bows and quivers full of long feathered arrows strapped to their backs. They were faithfully guarding those doors, and started when Arien and her guest approached.
"My lady, you are letting him enter your father's Hall? Pardon me for speaking, but it is a little peculiar." The guard stayed where he was.
Arien looked at Orin. He was about four feet and some few inches above the ground. He was clad in the normal dwarf-mail and had a magnificent axe that he always carried no matter what he was doing or where he was going. He had a splendidly braided red beard, and deep, black eyes that were strange to see in a dwarf. She suddenly felt drawn to him, though she did not know why. She stepped up to the guard. "You needn't worry about Master Orin. He is on business to my father." She stood in front of the guard, looking defiant. He turned to open the doors.
The doors swung open on silent hinges, and the hall slowly came into view. It was wide and bright, with sunlight streaming through the Westward facing windows. At the very end of the Hall past the massive trunk of the tree was a dais upon which sat two chairs. One was very ornate and had many emeralds and adamant jewels adorning the arms and legs. The other chair was smaller, and was wrought entirely of mithril. This had been a gift of the dwarves to Belegon's wife, Elenna. Now it was where Arien sat when she was with her father.
Orin now noticed that Master Belegon was sitting in the larger of the two chairs and he seemed to be deep in thought. He came out of his thoughts as he heard Arien and her guest approaching the dais. He stood up to greet them.
"Arien, my beloved daughter! What brings thee away from thy preparations for the Tuilere? And is this not Master Orin of Nogrod? I had almost forgotten of our business arrangements today. But there are so many things I must attend to..." he trailed off, lost in thought again. But then he looked at them. "Well, let us go down to the Pavilion Square, and we shall take care of our monthly trading." He stepped down from the dais and joined Arien and Orin as they turned to leave the Hall.
As they approached the Pavilion Square Orin excused himself and went on ahead to unload the carts for the trade. Arien and her father continued down the path towards the Square. Belegon turned to his daughter. "Arien, my daughter, thou seemest to have much in thy mind. Tell me, is something troubling thee?"
"No, my father. I am just wondering: Orin is not like the other dwarves. I have heard tell that he is shunned by his people because he has befriended us. Why is that? He has a great mind and an appreciation for that which is outside of his way of life a traditions. He does not seem so common, like them;" she pointed to the other dwarves. "He seems of noble blood, I think." She had a faraway look in her eyes, and it aroused her father's concern. "My child, I think thou needest not bother thyself with such things. They do not concern thee, so think no more of them."
Arien did not know why her father suddenly became so interested in what she thought of certain things. She was no child; indeed, she was 1,935 years of age. She knew that in the eyes of her father she was still young, but he never treated her so. She did not know how to reply, so she kept silent. She continued to watch Orin as she and her father approached the dwarves.
* * * * *
Orin looked up. Belegon was standing over him, waiting for him to finish unloading. He set the last thing down and turned to the Master of Serenome. "Ah! My lord, we have much to talk about. Come, see what we have brought for you today."
Belegon and Orin went down the path and began to discuss business. Arien walked over to the Master's Pavilion and sat down among the flowers. She looked very much the wood-maiden in her green dress amid the red and silver flowers. She picked one up and looked at it. It was small and simple. It had six petals; each of them deep red. The stem and leaves were a deep green. But the strange thing about the flower was that the inside middle was almost completely silver-white. Out in the wild, the flowers grow in little bunches close to the ground. During the day they are partially closed so only the red part of the petals is showing. When night falls and the moonlight comes over them they open up completely, and their middles seem to glow with a silvery light; thus the flowers are named isilótë, or the moon flower.
Now as Arien gazed at the flower it seemed to fade. She suddenly felt tired; of what or why she did not know. She had not spent enough time in Middle Earth to feel the weight of the Ages on her mind; nor did she know the joy of living in the Undying Lands under the light of the Trees, as her father did, for she was born in Middle Earth.
The deep blast of a horn startled her out of her reverie. She looked up and saw that the dwarves were preparing to leave. She stood and began to walk quickly toward her father, who was finalizing the trade with Orin.
* * * * *
Orin was finding it hard to concentrate. He was showing an ornately wrought scabbard (one he had made himself) to Belegon, who was praising his handiwork. His thoughts were scattered by the realization that the wood-lord was talking to him.
"This is truly magnificent work, Master Orin. I have never seen such detail in a piece of weaponry. What shall I give you for it?"
Orin looked up and saw Arien walking toward them. He suddenly felt drawn to her in a way that he had never felt before. He turned back to Belegon. "It is worth too much to me, lord. You do not have anything like it to match its worth, so I will not accept any payment." He held the scabbard up to Belegon. "May it be a gift to you from me," he said.
Belegon was taken by surprise. He was attempting to find the words to express his gratitude when Arien reached them.
"My dearest father, have you finished trading so soon?"
He turned to reply, but found that she was looking at Orin. "Master Orin has just shown me a splendid piece of metalwork. Would this not be a gift worthy of your husband?"
At this, both Arien and Orin looked up at Belegon, surprised. Arien looked intently at her father. "Father, what is the meaning of this? I have no husband. I do not even have a suitor. You have never even expressed your opinions or given thought to my getting married. Why do you say such things now?"
"I was speaking of the future, my dear. For your husband will be a warrior worthy of such things"
Arien was very perplexed by her father's words. He had never spoken of such things to her, let alone in front of another; and one who was not of their kind! Again she did not know how to reply so she kept silent. She looked back at Orin, who looked rather uncomfortable. He did not say anything either, but kept his eyes on his stuff.
Presently Belegon broke the silence. "Well, Master Orin, is this all you have for me this month?"
Orin looked up nervously, which was odd for a dwarf. He knew this and did not like it. He looked back to where the other dwarves were loading up the carts. "I have just remembered something that I left on the cart," he said. "I shall return with it in one moment."
He almost ran back to the cart in his haste, and began to search the cart frantically. Then he saw it. Ah, he thought to himself. This will be perfect for her.
* * * * *
As Orin was searching for the gift, Belegon searched his daughter's eyes. He was very concerned by the way she spoke of the dwarf; and the way she looked at him made him worried. He had never thought the day would come when her attention would turn from him to another, and for it to be to someone other than of their kind was absolutely unheard of. For the first time in his 4,000 years he did not know what to do. He turned to Arien. "Arien," he said.
"I love you." He could not find any other words.
"I love you too, father." For the first time Arien wondered at those words. She knew her father loved her, but rarely did he say it just so. She opened her mouth to say more, but at that moment Orin ran up holding a glittering something in his hand.
"What is this last trifle, Master Orin?" Belegon asked.
"Another gift, my lord." Orin held up a necklace to Arien. It was a pendant hung on a chain of mithril. The pendant itself was a deep red jewel, polished smooth and round, set in a delicately woven braid also made of mithril. Orin gently held it so that the jewel caught the light of the sun. "For you, my lady," Orin said softly. "It is the pendant of the sun-maiden; for whom you are named."
Arien took it and clasped it around her neck. It fit perfectly. The jewel shone like a red star, and graced her neck beautifully.
"Its beauty is perfected only by yours, lady." Again Orin spoke before thinking. He looked down embarrassed, and began to study the shaft of his axe. He was dreading the reaction of Belegon and Arien, but nothing came. He was very surprised to find himself embraced by the Lady of the Morning Star; and more surprised when she kissed him on the forehead.
"Thank you, Orin," she said. "It is very beautiful."
Belegon looked at Orin in surprise. "I did not know that dwarves could be so eloquent. You have spoken well of my daughter's beauty."
Orin bowed low. "Thank you, lord." He could not find anything more eloquent to say.
The horn sounded again, signaling the dwarves' departure. Orin bowed low again and said, "May you have a blessed Tuilérë feast. I will return next month. Farewell." He turned and headed down the pathway to the gate of the village.
Arien kept watching Orin as he waked toward the gate. She turned back to her father only to find that he had returned to the Pavilion Square. She turned round and ran down the path to Orin. He saw her and stopped at the gate.
"My lord! Please, I must speak with you!" Arien almost surprised herself with her own words, and Orin was perplexed as well. "How do you know of such things, lady? I have told no one of my past or my relations to those of noble blood."
Arien knelt down and looked Orin in the eyes. "I wish to see you again. Soon."
"My lady? I do not know what to say, I--"
"Say that you will meet me in one week's time. I am going to honour my mother's grave and shall be alone. It is about one league north of here, just under the eaves of the Ered Luin."
Orin considered all that Arien said. He could not imagine that one of the Firstborn would ever love him; and one of such high blood. His nobility could not compare to that of an elf; he was only a dwarf, and an outcast of his people.
But he knew in the deepest part of his heart that he loved her. With that thought in his mind, he spoke. "What is this place called, and what does it look like, so that I may find you?"
"It is called Haudh-en-Elenna; for my mother; and it is in a small clearing surrounded by silver birch. The mound itself is covered in the red and silver isilótë," Arien had a sad, faraway look in her eyes. "I do not remember much about my mother except that she was very beautiful. My father says I look very much like her."
"Then she must have been very beautiful indeed." Orin turned to leave. "I will see you again, lady," he took her hand and gently kissed it. "Farewell, my love."
He closed the gate and was gone.
* * * * *