Lily of Gondolin - Chapter Twenty-seven: And Shadows In Between
A/N: I'm somewhat on time, for once...Huzzah...Anyway, I don't own Middle Earth. Never have, and, alas, never will. I hope you all enjoy this chapter; it's a long-ish one.
Chapter Twenty-seven: And Shadows In Between
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.
I stood in the doorway of the house, staring numbly out at the crowd of Elves, not noticing the rain. Doriath...
Doriath had fallen.
I clenched my hands together, willing myself to be calm. No...please...
I scanned the faces of the crowd, hoping against all chance that I would see him. And then...there he was.
He was alive.
I stepped out from the doorway, and quickly, determinedly, trying not to cry, wove my way over. Several Elves looked at me in tired puzzlement as I ducked past them. Finally, finally I was through.
He turned, disbelief on his face for a moment. "Indil?"
"You're alive," I said, and threw my arms around him. He made an odd sound, a mix of surprise and laughter and held-back tears, then hugged me back.
After a moment I pulled back, wiping my eyes - oblivious to the fact that my tunic sleeve was completely rain-soaked. It'd been so long since I'd last seen him, in Doriath, by Esgalduin. "You're alive," I said again.
"Barely," he replied, a strained smile flitting across his face. "I'd hoped that I would find you here, but I didn't really know..."
I studied him for a moment. He looked worn, travel-stained, anxious, and nearly exhausted. But he was here. "What happened?"
"I...I know. I'm sorry, Taurion."
He nodded. "I expect Princess Elwing will tell your lord and lady the full tale, though. It is a long one."
"We only have a lord," I said. "No lady. Tuor and Idril sailed West long ago. But how - and why - did you come to the Havens?"
He shrugged. "It's one of the last places left, and far from the Enemy. And...others. We are to few to found a settlement that would last, in these times. Some of your people came across us, and brought us the last part of the way."
"I see." I was quiet for a moment, looking up toward the meeting hall. Earendil was speaking to the Elf-maiden whom I had seen before, who must be the lady Elwing. But the last we had heard, Thingol still ruled Doriath - and Luthien was his only child. I decided to ask about all this later, though; Taurion looked far too tired.
"My mother and sister - Mothwen, so you remember her? - are here as well." He straightened slightly, pushing wet hair back from his face. "We're here, but have you an idea of what is to come next?"
"I think Earendil will first want to organize shelter and food for everyone. It'll be a bit of a stretch, but we can manage it well enough. This is a haven, after all. The old enmities don't matter. All of us here have been refugees once."
It was just a moment later that the crowd hushed, and I could hear Earendil beginning to speak. Almost all the Elves of the Havens had come out by then, or were standing in their doorways to avoid the rain.
"Our kin from Doriath come seeking our aid, and we will grant it willingly. We all know what it is like to lose a homeland. I ask each household to take in as many of these good Elves as it can. The storehouse will be open to all who must acquire more food to do this."
It was quiet for a few instants after he finished. Then, almost cautiously, the mostly-Noldorin residents of the Havens came forward and tentatively offered the remnants of Doriath a place at their hearths. They were met, almost entirely, with acceptance and thanks, cautious at first, but then heartfelt.
I watched the beginnings of this, then caught hold of Taurion's arm. "Where are your mother and sister? The three of you can stay with me and Linedhel, if you like. It will be close quarters, but we'll all fit."
"Who -" he began, but was cut off.
"Indil!" I turned to see my brother, ducking towards us through the rain and crowd. "There you are, I - " he stopped, rather abruptly, catching sight of Taurion. "Who is this?"
"Taurion of Doriath." He bowed slightly, then looked at me.
"This is my brother," I said, reaching over and taking his hand. "Linedhel."
They studied each other for a moment, then almost simultaneously smiled. "I am honored," Taurion said.
"Come, we can observe all the formalities once we're indoors. But we must find Mothwen and your mother first, Taurion. We are all soaked, and both of you look in much need of rest." I turned to my brother, still holding his hand. "I'm very, very glad you're back, Linedhel."
He kissed the top of my head, then gave me a brief, teasing smile that lit his tired face for an instant. "All that will have to wait too, little sister."
It was not long before we had Taurion, Mothwen, and Eleniel, their mother, settled before the fire and beginning to thaw. Linedhel was in slightly better shape, but I made him change clothes and go warm up, as well. Taurion had to borrow a spare set from him, and I lent my two dresses to Eleniel and Mothwen. They had little besides what they were wearing, and all of it, regardless, was quite wet.
Once everyone was dry we had the proper round of introductions, rather than a name given and a hurried nod. Eleniel was tall, fair-haired, and quiet; I realized that Taurion resembled her closely. Mothwen, however, was very different. Though she looked a bit like her brother, and was strikingly beautiful, even for an Elf, she still had the humor and energy that I remembered from that one encounter in Doriath.
Taurion himself was much the same, except for the slight lines of strain ad sorrow on his face. But they were all worn; the journey - flight - from their home had been very difficult, long, and dangerous. I had covered that distance alone, and could imagine how hard it would be with a large and unprepared group.
With some aid from Linedhel, who still did not consider me a competent cook, I put together a meal. Eleniel offered to help, but I refused. I was the only not close to exhaustion.
Linedhel pulled up of few extra chairs - which thankfully we had enough of - and I dished out the stew. It did not contain any fish; I recollected my own first experience there, with that dish, and did not want to inflict it any unsuspecting Elves, least of all those in their condition.
It was quiet during dinner, the sounds consisting mainly of the light clinking of wooden spoons and bowls. All of them were weary. Mothwen looked as if she were trying not to fall asleep.
Once everyone was done, I collected the dishes and put them to soak, once again refusing offers of help. When that was done I gently shooed Mothwen into my room, which she and her mother were to share. Eleniel followed soon after. but before going through the doorway she turned back to me. "Thank you, Indil. We did not know what was to happen when - if - we found this place. You have been very kind."
"I've only done what should be expected of any Elda in this situation. And I am very glad to have you here." I glanced back toward Linedhel and Taurion, who were having a quiet conversation by the fire. "This - it's no more than your son has done for me, or you would do in the same circumstances."
She thoughtfully followed my gaze. "Perhaps. But in any case, I am happy to have finally met you." She gave me a slight smile, and clasped my hand briefly. "Good night."
Linedhel and I sleplt by the hearth that night, in comfortable nests of blankets. The light, coming in through the windows woke me very early, though.
I stretched, and rose carefully as not to disturb my brother. I studied him for a moment, smiling. He always looked younger when he was asleep, reminding me of when we were small. I tugged the blanket up over his face; knowing him, he wouldn't want to wake up for a bit. Then I put on my over-tunic, pulled my hair back from my face, and slipped out the door. I hadn't walked on the shore in the morning for a few days, and I wanted time to sort out my thoughts.
The eastern half of the sky was light, the western horizon still dark and star-speckled. I let out a long breath.
When I looked down from the sky I saw that Taurion was sitting at the base of a willow a little ways away, watching me with a faintly bemused expression. I walked over and sat next to him. "Good morning."
He nodded. "Good morning."
I leaned back against the tree trunk. "I didn't hear you come out. And why so early? I wouldn't have thought you'd be awake yet, considering recent events."
He smiled slightly. "I couldn't fall asleep again."
I smiled back. "Very well. I was going to walk along the shore - would you like to come with me? Of course, it's always beautiful...I like this time best, though."
"Delighted." He stood and gave me a hand up, and we went down the path that led to the water. The breeze was still quite cool.
Taurion stopped, abruptly, when the Sea came into view.
I looked out, studying the scene as well. The Sea and stars - there's nothing that can really describe it.
"It's a bit staggering, isn't it?" I asked quietly.
He nodded. "It is," he said, voice soft.
After a few moments I tugged him on, down to where the sand began. "You ought to take off your boots here. The sand can get into anything."
Taurion sat down to do so. I hadn't bothered with any footwear, and so just stood and watched the first stirring gulls. He finished, I pulled him up, and we set out again.
When we reached the tide-line I rolled up my trousers and waded out ankle deep. Taurion joined me, and for a time we just walked on through the water in companionable silence. Finally he let out a long, soft breath. "I am glad to be here."
"I'm glad you're here too," I said. "That is, not that Doriath - "
"I know what you mean," he put in wryly.
"Taurion..." I paused. "I was wondering...how was Morgoth able to surmount Melian's Girdle?"
He glanced down at me, and there was a tired sadness in his eyes. "He wouldn't have had to. But...he didn't."
"But..." We'd reached the rocks. I pulled myself up to sit on one. "What do you mean?"
He sat next to me, looking out to Sea. "Firstly, Melian had already departed. Secondly, it was not Morgoth who laid waste to Doriath."
"Then - " I stopped. I hoped that I didn't know what was coming.
"The bride-price of Luthien," Taurion said softly, "was a Silmaril. Lady Elwing still has it."
I had the answer, now. And I wished that it had been anything else.
"The sons of Feanor attacked Doriath, destroyed Menegroth, and killed the King, Dior, his wife, and their two sons. Only the princess Elwing escaped. Ada was on the borders. All of them were decimated." He finished quietly, still gazing at the sea but not, I think, seeing it.
"Oh...oh no," I whispered. "I am so sorry, Taurion...I am so sorry. Not just your home, but that my kindred...I am sorry. But...But that won't do any good."
He looked at me, and tried to smile. "I - I know, Indil. It's all right."
I gave him a quick, fierce one-armed hug. "No, it isn't. I know what it's like to lose a home, but to see it destroyed...I can't believe that you can just make your peace with it like that. Not at the hands of another Elf. That...It will take a long, long time. For everyone. But - I am sorry."
I realized abruptly that he was trying not to cry.
"I'm sorry," I said again, softly, and wrapped my arms around him. He was still for a moment, then held on to me tightly, until both of us were able to blink back our tears.
We drew apart, and I climbed to my feet, giving Taurion a hand up. "Well - we should go back. The others may be wondering where you are."
We waded back to the shore. "But not you?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Linedhel knows that I walk here most mornings. He's rarely awake when I leave, though, and doesn't often come himself. And I don't mind coming here alone."
Taurion raised an eyebrow. "Oh? I do hope I'm not intruding."
I laughed. "No. Of course not. You I have not seen in decades. I live in the same house as Linedhel. There is a difference."
"I suppose so."
We talked a bit on the way home, not about anything in particular. Not about Doriath. I told him about how Linedhel had unexpectedly found me.
"I did tell you to be careful," he said, when I described the bandits and their ambush.
"I was," I protested. "I didn't know the land. Though I suppose I could've been paying more attention."
He glanced down at me, a flicker of amusement showing in his eyes. "True." The amusement disappeared as he spoke seriously again. "I was worried about you, you know."
I looked up, startled and touched. "You were?"
He looked faintly surprised. "Of course. Though you do seem able to look after yourself. Most of the time."
I blinked, taking this in, and nodded. "Oh. I see."
There was a pause, and then he smiled, the slight amusement coming back. "You've changed, Indil."
I frowned. "Have I? I'm not surprised, really."
"You seem...well, much happier."
I stopped. "I think...it'd be hard not to be happier than I was then. Considering the circumstances."
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