Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 14
Author's notes: The previous chapter can be found here.
Please review! *insert puppy-eyes*
Disclaimer: All the world of Eä is the wonderful creation of JRR Tolkien and I am only borrowing. I only would claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn.
"Nimloth, are you listening to me?"
Calenloth was in her sister's sitting room, seated on a padded chair with beautiful carvings, now throwing the blue cape she was embroidering down to her lap.
"I am, you know that." Nimloth was sitting across from her in another comfortable chair, doing beadwork on a new dress of grey silk.
"It does not look like you are!" Calen told her, clutching the cape, as if to throw that at her older sister. "I was talking about the demands of the sons of Fëanor."
"And I have already said that I don't want to discuss it."
"But we have to! They sent word that Dior should relinquish the Silmaril to them."
"No one has the right to demand anything of him!" Nimloth said defensively in an angry tone.
"My dear sister, I know you love him but you have to try to see it like I do. Dior should...."
"And he is King to you, not Dior!" Nimloth was almost shouting.
"DIOR should send some kind of word back to them or at least prepare. He may be king but he is also the husband of my sister and amongst ourselves I'll call him what I wish!"
Calen was trying to remain calm but her temper was getting the better of her. Fortunately Nimloth had always been the one to regain her good mood quickly and even now she was looking at her little sister with apology in her eyes,
"I am sorry, I shouldn't have said that. But you know how he feels about the jewel. He will never give it up willingly, her mother and father died because of it, not once but twice."
"And I understand that perfectly, I didn't mean that he'd have to give the Silmaril to the sons of Fëanor." Calenloth took up her embroidery again. "All I wanted to tell you, is that we should prepare."
"Prepare for what?" Nimloth glanced up from her work.
"I don't know."
"Battle? War? Don't be ridiculous, with Morgoth's strength growing each day, do you think Fëanoreans will attack us, Elves?"
"They have vowed to."
"I'll never believe that they'd attack Menegroth."
"But I fear just that or at least something of that kind and the important thing is - does Dior feel the same?" Calen was getting tired of arguing with her sister. She had had a strange feeling ever since word came of the Fëanoreans' demands. She didn't quite believe that an attack would come, despite her words she couldn't believe that. What they had found when they had come back to Menegroth after the slaying of Thingol and the battle in the Thousand Caves had been horrible but these had been Dwarves. To think that Elves would do the same was unthinkable but as was known, the like had happened, despite the monstrosity of it, so many years ago in Alqualondë.
"He has been closeted with his advisors for long evenings, he may share your fears." Nimloth finally gave up. "But I can't think like that. If what you fear comes true, what of my children, they are so young and..." her voice broke and there were tears in her eyes.
Calen rose from her chair to comfort Nimloth.
"I didn't want to frighten you, everything will be alright!"
Just then the door opened and three little heads peeked in from the opening. While Nimloth was composing herself behind her, Calen turned and called out,
"And who can those be? Come in then, Elwing and bring your brothers!"
"Mother! Aunt Calen!" the three yelled and came running to tackle her. She hugged them all at once and Nimloth stood up from her chair to join the embrace. Over the heads of the children Nimloth gave Calen a worried and forced smile.
"Alert, everyone! They are coming! They are breaking through!"
Calenloth thought that she was dreaming at first but then the calls came louder. Confusedly she sat up, and threw back her covers. Springing from her bed, she put on a light cloak and ran to the door of her room. An Elf with a drawn sword was just passing her door when she threw it open. The Elf turned to her and she recognised him.
"Gwathvor, what is happening?"
"My Lady, we are under attack."
Calen's heart skipped a beat.
"The sons of Fëanor are at the gates, or they were some time ago, they may have broken through already. This is the safest place now, we have told all the women and children to come to this part of the Thousand Caves."
"Thank you for telling me! May Elbereth go with you!"
Calen closed her door and started to dress rapidly. She put on dove-grey pants and a jerkin, a cloak of dark green and boots. She belted on her sword and hurried out of her door. The sword - Merillach, Rose of Flame - had been a gift of Dior and Belegorn. Belegorn had taught her to use it but until now it had been mainly a decoration of her rooms. Now she feared it may see use. She dashed out to see if she could help the women and children to retreat to the relatively safe parts of Menegroth.
Belegorn ducked and swirled to the left. His opponent was unprepared for that but still managed to parry Belegorn's thrust and turn it away. He and Belegorn exchanged some more blows but then the Fëanorean decided to end the fight with a mighty swing of his blade. Belegorn anticipated it and jumped a step back, so now as the enemy was unbalanced by the force of his swing, Belegorn thrust his blade into the opponent's leg, drew it out and when the enemy stumbled, slashed at his neck. He stood for a little while and looked around him, seeing that battles much like his, were fought all around him. They were in a side corridor near the gate, trying to hold off the attackers but obviously failing. Dior and part of his warriors had been forced down this sideway, while other Elves of Doriath retreated down others. Belegorn had been with Dior. Battle raged all over the underground palace and the Fëanoreans kept coming, while the Doriath Elves retreated.
Dior had just killed another of the Noldor when he stepped out of the line of the defenders of the tunnel and grabbed Belegorn's arm. The surge of attackers was stilled but only for a little while.
"My Lord, are you alright?" Belegorn asked as he looked into Dior's eyes.
"I am, but we can't hold for much longer. They have us. But I will not let them win what they have come for!" Dior's eyes were ablaze. "Belegorn, go now, I relieve you from the duty to fight for me and Menegroth. Go, take Calenloth, my wife and children and escape! Take the Silmaril with you! No son of Fëanor will hold what Lúthien Tinúviel and Beren Erchamion won or whom their son loves."
"I can't leave you - my king and my duty like that!"
"I command you to go and save my family!" Dior was gripping Belegorn's arms. "I ask you!"
Belegorn would have tried to argue with him but the look on Dior's face told him that it would be of no use. Even though the women had been taken to the part of Menegroth furthest from the gates, the Fëanoreans could have broken through to there already. He was worried about Calen but at the same time his heart ached when he thought of leaving his duty and right to fight for his king. Torn between the two, Dior helped him to decide. He was still grasping his upper arms and Belegorn now raised his hands and gripped his in turn,
"I will find them and get the Silmaril!"
From behind their backs came the sound of running feet and another group of the attackers came into view from behind the bend of the corridor.
Dior let go of Belegorn, threw a last look (full of determination, sadness and what was the worst - farewell) at him and drawing his sword lunged with his men at the Fëanoreans while Belegorn sprinted down the tunnel with drawn sword and heavy heart.
Calen was wielding her sword and had found out that practice with Belegorn was nothing like a real battle. She had been with Nimloth when they heard sounds of fighting very close, coming from the direction where Nimloth's children's rooms were. The two had rushed in the direction of the noise and found with horror the floor of the corridor they had turned to covered with slain Elves.
"The Fëanoreans have broken through!" Calen yelled as she ran to the fallen Elves. For a moment she looked down into the face of a beautiful Elven maiden in a rose-pink dress, now soiled with blood. She felt pure fury.
"My children!" Nimloth cried out behind Calen as realisation of what it meant or might mean dawned on her, ran to a slain Elf whose sword was lying next to him and picked it up. "Let's go!" she dashed off with Calen in tow. Calen knew that Nimloth hadn't had a sword-lesson in her life and she feared for her safety but facing a threat to her children, Nimloth was unstoppable. Calen caught up with her and went to the lead. After some twists and turns, both skidded to a halt when they came face to face with a group of the Noldor. Nimloth's eyes were maddened by fear and protectiveness towards her children and she stood firmly in the middle of the corridor, raising her sword threateningly. Calen tried to tell her to run back the way they had come but the Fëanoreans had already seen them and with Nimloth standing there and challenging them with the sword, the two had no hope of getting away. The leader of the small group sent most of his men to other corridors and came to face the Elven women with one other. Calen stepped in front of her sister and engaged the leader. Nimloth was left with the other Elf.
Calen did the best she could but she was clearly weaker of the two. From the corner of her eye she saw Nimloth bravely defending herself but her attention was quickly back with her own fight. She mostly parried and defended, getting very few opportunities to attack and even then the Noldorin Elf drove her back. This went on for a little while but then she made a mistake and the Noldor saw that his opponent was tiring. He backhanded Calen in her face, causing her to fall to the floor, still holding her sword. The Elf now lowered his blade for the final thrust but he had to bend a little and Calen in an effort to fight him off, kicked him in his knees. The tall Elf lost his balance and fell onto the sword Calenloth had happened to hold upwards. He crashed down, leaving Calen under him. It took some effort to fight clear of him and stand up. She was drawing her sword from her opponent's body when a soft sigh like wind in the leaves of a birch tree reached Calen's ears and she whipped her head around to see what had happened in the fight between her sister and the other Noldor.
Nimloth was standing with her back to Calen and when Calen turned around she could see for a moment Nimloth still upright but then she slowly folded onto the floor. Calen cried "Nimloth!" at the top of her lungs and rushed to her sister's side or at least tried to. She could clearly see the stain of blood forming on the bodice of Nimloth's dress, every fiber of the cloth as clear as different shades of leaves on a bright summer day. Her only thought was to get to her sister. Tears falling freely to her cheeks and her remarkable green eyes glowing with fury, grief and utter sadness, she whimpered "Lótë!" and lunged at the Noldor standing between her sister and her. All the clear calculation and calm was ripped out of her and she wasn't concentrated on the fight. More chopping wildly than aiming her slashes she started to fight the Elf who was surprised at her attack but quickly he began to get the upper hand.
To this scene did Belegorn run into as he came rushing down the corridor - Calen was madly slashing at the Elf and leaving too many openings to last for long. He had his bow with him and just before the Elf was about use the opening Calen had left once more, he fitted an arrow to the bowstring and shot, all in one smooth motion. Not breaking stride, he ran to his love.
Calen was whispering her sister's name over and over again and when Belegorn sprang over the dead Noldor, Calen almost took his head off. He looked into her eyes and saw them blinded with tears. In her state she didn't see or recognise him and lunged at who she thought of just another enemy. Belegorn quickly dropped his bow and brought up his sword, Daegrist, to knock hers away. Still holding his, he threw his arms around the suddenly immobile Calen.
He tried to sooth her but now her tears were running down her cheeks even more freely and she kept still whispering "Lótë".
"Calen, I'm here now. Annavír, it's alright, my dear." Belegorn ran his hands up and down her arms trying to comfort her but she still hadn't said anything to him. He glanced at the fallen Nimloth but turned his gaze quickly away. He had failed his king in saving his wife, failed the love of his life by not being able to protect her sister from being slain. Now there were the children to think of. It tore his heart to see Calen in the state she was in and Nimloth dead but he knew they had to go quickly before others of the Noldor came. Clearly they had reached the sections of Menegroth where the women and children had been sent. He tried talking to Calenloth again but she was still empty-eyed and now staring at her sister, not blinking her eyes.
"Annavír, love, listen to me!" he saw no other way to get her back than to shake her. Not before he had done it till her teeth rattled and begged her to come back to him while doing so did she look up from Nimloth into his blue eyes, hers now alive and seeing, although filled with tears.
"Lasbelin," she breathed as she threw herself into his arms starting to weep loudly. She called him Leaf-fall because it had been autumn when he said he loved her for the first time.
"We have no time, we've got to go!" Belegorn told her, urging her to move.
"But we can't leave her!" Calen protested, "You can't leave her on the floor like that!"
She wanted to kneel beside her sister but Belegorn drew her up.
"The children - Dior told me to save them and the Silmaril. There is no time. Listen, I hear people coming! Calen, come!"
The situation was urgent as Belegorn knew he couldn't win a fight against numerous enemies and Calen to worry about. He grabbed hold of her hand and tried to drag her away. She in turn fought back and managed to get her hand free and kneel beside her sister. She kissed her forehead, whispered something and stood. Her eyes were still locked on her sister's body but she allowed Belegorn to take her hand again and draw her away. Seeing that Calen was not fighting him anymore, Belegorn gathered speed and ran down the corridor that led towards Nimloth's children's rooms. Calen kept looking over her shoulder until a bend hid Nimloth from her.
They dashed down three corridors until they came to the door they were looking for. It was askew on its hinges and Calen gasped as she saw the remains of the door. She looked up at Belegorn with fresh fear in her eyes and saw resolve waver in his. But he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and they walked to the room of Elúred and Elúrin, connected to Elwing's, which had a door opening to the corridor as well. The boys' room was in shambles - toys were thrown all over the room, bed-clothes lying on the floor, vases shattered, chairs overturned or smashed. Calen didn't know what to do and despair welled up in her anew but again Belegorn's presence made her gather herself and she started to whisper the children's names. Belegorn did the same and for a while they walked from one corner of the room to another, searching for the little ones, hoping against hope that maybe they had been missed and were hiding somewhere. Calen stepped over a doll when she heard a soft "Aunt Calen?" come from a closet. She called Belegorn over and they threw the doors open, revealing a shivering Elwing hiding behind some clothes.
"Elwing!" Calen drew the girl out of the closet, the little one clutching her hands.
"They came and made much noise behind this door, I was sleeping in my room and woke up. I was so afraid. I heard them in my brother's rooms and then they burst here but they had forgotten about the door to the corridor in my room and so I got away. They chased me but I know the ways of Menegroth and hid in one room while they thought I had ran on. They lost me and after a while it went quiet. I had to find out what happened to Elúred and Elúrin and I sneaked back here but they were gone. There was no one here but suddenly there were footsteps coming nearer and I ran to the closet to hide," she told, barely breathing during the tirade, eyes large with fear and shaking. "I hid and was afraid and then they went past and all went quiet again."
"Calm now, Elwing, we won't let anyone hurt you!" Belegorn told Elwing and Calen assured the little girl, saying the same.
"Where are your brothers?" she asked.
"The evil Elves took them. When I had got into the closet I heard them speaking outside about delivering the children to their Lords. Where are Mother and Father?"
Calen shot a look over Elwing's head at Belegorn. He shook his head slightly, fearing how this next sorrow would affect her but though her eyes betrayed her sadness, she managed to conjure up a small smile for Elwing. She knew that they would never be able to save the boys now.
"We are going to escape the evil ones now. Agreed!"
"Yes, please. Don't leave me anymore, Aunt Calen and Belegorn!"
"We won't. But you have to be quiet now and do everything just as we tell you. Let's go now!"
Elwing's question about her parents Calen had decided to ignore right now, fortunately her relief of seeing her aunt and Belegorn had wiped this from Elwing's mind for the time being. Calen took one hand of the girl, Belegorn the other and they made their way down another side-corridor, walking as quietly as possible and only whispering amongst themselves. Calen was trying to cheer Elwing but it was hard with her own feelings seething with grief inside her. Belegorn in turn was doing his best to keep Calen's spirits up.
He had told her that Dior had wanted them to take the Silmaril away with them and she had at once agreed that they should do that for the deaths of Nimloth and all the people of Doriath. Calen had proposed to use the back entrance to the treasury that Belegorn and she had used to slip in there while Thingol lived and sorrow had not come to Doriath. It was a miracle they managed to escape the little bands of Fëanoreans but they did encounter some Elves of Doriath whom they told to flee if they could and gather in a clearing some distance from the Caves.
At last they came to the small tunnel leading to the treasury and the three went in. Belegorn helped Elwing over the stone because of which he had stumbled all those years ago and they emerged into the treasure hall. From behind its strong doors came the shouting of the defenders and attackers and Calen with Belegorn began to search through the riches of Doriath, diminished by the robbery of the Dwarves now. They found the Silmaril right away and Calen handed it to Elwing saying it was hers now as the little girl took it with reverence. The two Elves found some bags and put the most beautiful things inside to take away if they could, including the Ring of Barahir. They both had the stone and brooch, Thingol's gifts, with them. The doors began to shake as the Noldor had clearly defeated the Sindar and were trying to break open the doors. When they had almost succeeded, Elwing, Calenloth and Belegorn ducked back to the hidden tunnel and fled. They heard behind them the sound of wood breaking and the Noldor coming into the treasury and Calen thought with grim satisfaction that the sons of Fëanor would never find what the had come for from there.
They used side tunnels and corridors, fleeing from every sound of fighting but managed to gather people along the way, so when they came to a back door out of Menegroth, they were quite a large group. From some of the Elves they heard that Dior had fallen and Calen cried hearing of that and comforted Elwing. Coming out of the Thousand Caves they went with the quickest of speeds they were able to muster.
Before Menegroth disappeared from view, Calen turned around, Elwing still holding on to her and looked at the famed Thousand Caves. Belegorn noticed that she had lagged behind and came softly up to her. He drew her into his embrace and hugged her tightly. Both still hadn't realised how close to loosing each other they had come.
"Menegroth, the palace of the King of Doriath, Thingol Greycloak and his Queen Melian the Maia, the dwelling place of Lúthien their daughter, of Thingol's Heir, Dior the Beautiful and his wife Nimloth. All gone, all the glory and happiness, leaving only sorrow and grief," Calen said softly, resting her head against Belegorn.
"And hope, you forgot hope."
"Yes, hope, but for what? Menegroth is gone, Dorath is ruined, if Morgoth won't destroy us all, the sons of Fëanor will."
"Always there is hope. Annavír, remember this and Elwing you too. I'll never believe that Beleriand will be overrun by Morgoth and all the Elves slain, with nothing giving us some glimmer of hope."
"I never want to see the place again, Menegroth and Doriath," Calen told Belegorn with tears in her eyes. "Doriath is ruined," she whispered in a tone full of regret and pain of loosing something most dear to her.
"You don't have to. We must go, we have to catch up with the others!" Belegorn looked over his shoulder.
"Where, where do we go?" Calen questioned him.
"Somewhere where there are no evil Elves and Orcs," Elwing offered from her other side.
"She is right," Belegorn smiled at the little girl, "To the Mouths of Sirion or Taur-im-Duinath."
With one arm around Calen, he drew her away from the sad last sight of Menegroth they would ever have and the three - the sister and daughter of Nimloth and Belegorn set out south-west towards what would be safety, new life and the rebirth of hope.
Tears trickled from Aurelin's eyes. Laswing took these to be caused by her wound and partly he was right. Dusk had fallen and the first stars were coming out in the darkening sky. "A day! It has been one day!" rattled through Laswing's mind and he was still one day away from Imladris. What he was most afraid of was Aurelin dieing somewhere on the road in his arms and the feeling of despair, because he could do nothing to stop it, aside from trying to convince her not to give up, was making him frantic.
"The Last Bridge is only a few hours away, Aurelin, dearest. Elthoron, fly!"