Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 15
I am really looking forward to comments!
Disclaimer: All the world of Eä is the wonderful creation of JRR Tolkien and I am only borrowing. I only claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn.
It hurt Aurelin to think of the ruin of Doriath but it had been immensely more so for her parents who had lost their home and those dear to them. It hurt not thinking about it too. The colours before her formed a picture of a garden.
Calen was tending the little garden behind her house at the Havens of Sirion. She had gathered shoots of most of the different flowers she had found wandering around the beaches and lands about their home. She was sitting on a bench, carved and put there by Belegorn who loved to sit there with Calen and watch the Sun set. It was years after the horrible night in Doriath. Calenloth hadn't used the name of her sister since and would speak of Doriath only in the greatest of necessities. At times Elwing asked about her former home and Calen told her stories but she always had had tears in her eyes then and Elwing had stopped asking.
The ragged party had come to Sirion and had followed it's course until they could smell the great sea. Soon their numbers were made greater by the company fleeing from Gondolin as that party was welcomed into the settlement by the Mouths. Horrible stories were told by the people of Gondolin about its fall and by the Doriath Elves who spoke of the Ruin of Menegroth. Calenloth soon befriended Idril, the daughter of Turgon, and her husband Tuor. Elwing had been living in Calen's and Belegorn's house at the time and she quickly began to like Eärendil, the son of Tuor and Idril. With the two of them spending a lot of time together, Calenloth and Belegorn were often in the company of the Gondolin couple.
Calenloth and Belegorn had been wedded by the waters of Sirion some years ago. The festivities had been great and Calen thought that she could never be happier than on that day. Elwing's and Eärendil's marriage had followed in short time. Now Elwing had her two lovely boys, Elrond and Elros, and Calenloth was expecting her first child.
Calen had her lap full of blue, white and pink flowers and she was making a wreath, gazing into the west. The blue flowers looked like six rayed stars with yellow stamens, the white blossoms were large and reminded her of voluminous skirts, the pink flowers were little bells, five on every stem. Her fingers were nimbly working but her thoughts were with the daughter of her sister. Elwing was alone now, waiting for Eärendil, gone to look for his parents who had sailed in Eärrámë to the west. Calen had been sad to hear that they had left and hoped they would meet again.
When Eärendil had already been away at sea, messages had come from the sons of Fëanor, claiming friendship towards the people of the Havens of Sirion but demanding the return of the Silmaril.
Calenloth had felt as though the day the similar message came to Menegroth had turned upon some wheel to be relived again. She had been afraid but like that other day, the return-message to Maedhros and Maglor had been one of refusal. Elwing had said that she would not yield the jewel up to anyone, last of all the sons of Fëanor who had killed her mother, father and brothers, at a time when her lord was away. Calenloth's feelings had been the same and the seed of Elwing's adamant refusal was planted on the day she had fled from Doriath and watered by Calenloth's similar pleas of honouring for what Lúthien and Beren, Dior and Nimloth had died.
The people at Sirion's Mouths felt that the Silmaril was the cause of their newfound happiness and sea-craft. There were messages sent to and from the Isle of Balar and Calen's people. Many Elves had come when the settlement was young yet and had taught the people of Gondolin and Doriath the skill of boat-making. One such had just left, an Elf named Gilgaer but also called Laswing had come, bringing word to Elwing from Círdan and Gil-galad.
Calenloth finished the wreath, bound it with some long grass blades and put it on her silvery hair. She rose and was about to go back to the house when she heard a noise. Her first thought was that Belegorn had come back from hunting and she was about to start towards the house but the sound came from the other side and became quickly the clash of swords and wailing of women. Through Calenloth's head flashed the night when she had been woken up in the Thousand Caves, the horrible feeling of already having experienced this day made her sag onto the bench. The door of her house was smashed while she was telling herself she must be having a nightmare and as quickly as she could, she ran, scattering flowers everywhere, to an old tree that grew in the back corner of the garden. The huge beech had an opening in it that was covered by some hanging branches but was large enough for her to fit in. She climbed into the tree and waited, heart thundering. She crouched down and saw only a tiny portion of the garden-walk through a little hole in the bole. Some six Elves from the sound of it came running into the garden and began to search through it, smashing flowerbeds and pushing over small statues. Calen was holding her breath so as not to make any sound but she was trembling terribly. "This can't be happening again! Oh, Elbereth, please, not again!"
"I can't see anyone, this house is empty!" one of the unseen searchers announced from the opposite side of the opening in the beech.
"Are you sure?" another one asked. "See those flowers everywhere, someone was here. We were told to find everyone and not let them get away."
A dark haired Elf moved to the little part of the path Calen could see and she hid her face. These were Noldor and she had no doubt where their allegiance lay. She was quiet as a mouse and prayed to Elbereth that they would leave.
"We were also told not to waste time. We have to find the Silmaril or at least Elwing the White. The one who scattered all the flowers is probably somewhere in the streets. Come!"
The six Elves marched out of the garden but Calen didn't relax. She waited in case it was some ploy to draw her out but when there had not been any sound for five minutes, she came out.
Her legs were watery, she was all alone and this time she had an unborn baby to protect. She wished that Belegorn would appear beside her this very instant but of course he didn't. Again she was alone with the attackers of her home.
"Elwing!" she whispered and sprinted to her house without thinking. They were going to hurt Elwing, like they had Nimloth. She couldn't stand aside from that. She had failed her sister, how could she abandon her daughter now?
Calen ran to the broken door of her house and peered out cautiously. She couldn't see anyone but already some houses were smouldering, obviously some candles had been knocked over. On the pathways were the remains of doors like hers, smashed statues and slain Elves. Calen recognised them all, her people and Elwing's, the remnant of Doriath and Gondolin, escaped from the slaying to be slain now.
Calen wiped tears from her eyes, raised her skirts to make it easier to run and headed to Elwing's and Eärendil's home. On the way there she evaded some bands of the attackers, once even Maedhros, recognisable by his mutilated right.
She was pressing herself against the stone wall of a house when she rounded a corner and bumped into someone. She whipped her head around and was ready to bolt but her startled eyes found Elwing's looking as frightened.
"Aunt Calen!" Elwing fell into her arms and they embraced. "I worried about you!"
"And I was worried about you. But we are together now."
"The Fëanoreans, they just attacked, we didn't expect it! They have come for the Silmaril." Elwing broke down.
The two Elven-women were surrounded by five of the men of Eärendil's allegiance who were protecting their Lady right now. Their bright swords were out of the sheaths and two had arrows nocked to their bows, gazes flickering from left to right, uneasy to be stopping in this relatively open place.
Elwing managed to pull herself together after some encouraging words from Calen. Calenloth herself felt and knew the terror that lurked inside Elwing's heart but she had to have a clear head for her people and herself to have a chance of survival.
"Belegorn hasn't come back?" she asked Calen looking around.
Elwing bowed her head in grief, thinking he was slain but Calenloth went on. "But he is not dead, the Fëanoreans haven't got him," she spoke with a fire in her eyes, "He is alive, I'd know if he was slain, I would feel. But he is not here either."
"Like Eärendil," Elwing said with a finality, "We have to manage on our own!"
She clasped Calen's hand and at that moment looked so much like her mother, that Calen blinked back tears.
An Elf in the colours of Eärendil ran up to them and still gasping for breath, stood before Elwing, bowed and spoke,
"My Lady. Ereg was slain, he was watching your sons play on the beach. The children are nowhere to be found. I've heard it said that Maedhros or Maglor has them."
Elwing let out a wail and crumpled to the ground. Calen reached down and helped her niece up again, supporting her with one arm.
"My children, we have to get them!"
"We can't!" the head of the guard and Calen spoke at the same time.
"They'll kill them. Like Elúred and Elúrin were. Calen, we can't leave them at the mercy of the cursed sons of Fëanor!"
"Elwing, we will never be able to save them - you, me and six others. We have no chance."
"So, you condemn them to death."
"Their fate is not in our hands anymore. It was a hard lesson to learn but I did just that with your brothers, had to. Against an overwhelming force there is no chance of winning."
The head of Elwing's guard let Calen speak because it was clear that if their lady would listen to anyone, it would be her. So he just stood there, ready to defend the women, silent.
Elwing was crying and so was Calen, the horror of the night in Menegroth gripped her heart and she couldn't bear to look into Elwing's hurt eyes.
"I heard that Maedhros wanted to save your brothers but couldn't find them. If he or Maglor has Elros and Elrond, they may be safer than with us right now. Elwing, listen to me - we have to get you and the Silmaril away! You'll get your sons later, now you have to escape this place."
Her sister's daughter was still reluctant but she was not looking around with wild eyes, ready to rush to find her sons anymore.
"What will we do?" she asked Calen, clutching her hand.
"We run to the sea and then try to double back and escape somewhere inland until the Shipwright comes," Meneluin, the head of Elwing's guard intercepted. "We go now, my ladies!"
Calen didn't let Elwing re-think and still holding onto her followed the lead of Meneluin.
They were successful for some time but at the corner of the last street of the settlement, they heard the drawing of swords from behind their backs. Calen turned around only to see the sons of Fëanor, all four of them, leading a group of Elves and coming their way. There was still some distance between them. Calen swirled around and took both of Elwing's hands in hers.
"My dear, from here our paths go separate ways. We have to distract them, force them to divide themselves up. You run to the right, I'll go to the left. They have to wonder which of us has the Jewel, so they have to split up, they won't risk the little chance that you could have given it to me, however unlikely. We might still escape." She tried to talk as fast as she could and still be understandable.
"Calen!" Elwing didn't try to change her mind, there was no time and she could see the sense in her aunt's plan.
"Take three of my men with you!" she told her but Calen shook her head,
"No, they have to protect you, I'll manage."
"You, alone, expecting a child? No, take my men, it's less suspicious if we divide evenly."
Now Calen didn't argue as Elwing was right.
The Fëanoreans were already close but Calen gave Elwing a quick hug, "Take care! May Elbereth be with you and Lótë's spirit watch over you! Go now!"
She turned around and without looking back, ran away, blinking back tears at this second farewell with her kin, the only difference that Elwing had a chance to survive, Nimloth hadn't.
She sped on and heard the sound of running feet coming closer. They would have been caught but one of Elwing' men stopped and yelled to the others to go on while he held the pursuers back. Calen gave him a last look full of sorrow for his bravery and ran on. The same happened a little later - again one of the Elves stayed behind. Now Calen was running blindly, she didn't know where she was going only that Belegaer was close by, by the sound of the waves. Her feet carried her closer to it and only too late did she realise that she had run into a trap - a high ledge that looked over the beach of the Sea. She slowed, stopped and turned around. The last protector she had saw what she had and also stopped in mid-stride. He faced the pursuers, "Lady Miril (the exiled people from Gondolin had given Calenloth a name in their tongue meaning Shining Jewel and called her usually by that name), maybe there is some way down, I can give you some time to find it." He gently pushed Calen toward the ledge and took two paces in the direction of the Fëanoreans. Calen backed away from him but knew there was no way to escape. Nowhere else to look, she was forced to see the Elf killed even though he managed to slay one and wound another of the Noldor. Then he was beaten down onto one knee, three swords fell and he didn't rise again.
Calenloth was terrified by now. The rush of the escape had prevented her from thinking, but now there was nothing between her and the Fëanoreans.
She took two paces back and stood silhouetted against the blue sky, wind blowing her hair as a silver cloud around her large green frightened eyes.
"My Lady, please, come! We won't do you any harm!" one of the Fëanoreans told her, in whom she thought she recognized Amrod.
"No!" Calen shook her head.
The Noldo took one step forward and she backed away from him.
"Come with us and all will be well. You will be treated with honour." Amrod reached out a hand to her.
"Like you did Dior and Nimloth? Never! Kinslayers! You only know how to fight women and children, to attack secretly, without warning. Your word I will never believe!"
Calen was trembling but kept her resolve and stood firm. The wind was getting stronger and whipped the long sleeves of her dress around.
"You have nowhere to run, it will be easier and the result the same, if you stop fighting us now," another one of the Elves spoke up with the sincerest of faces.
Calen took again two steps back and shook her head,
"I will not! Not for anything!"
She was dangerously close to the edge by now.
"My Lord, we could let her go," one of Amrod's men said, "She is only a woman and with child, she doesn't have what we are looking for."
"No, no one escapes if I can help it." Amrod was getting angry.
Calen felt new hope as even some of the Fëanoreans defended her before their lord. Her eyes were still huge and the Noldor were only two arms-lengths from her but some hope crept into her eyes. But the sons of Fëanor hadn't listened to anyone besides their father and fired by the rebellion among his own, Amrod made a quick move towards Calen, aiming to grab her arm.
Calen had seen him move and jumped back, landing right on the edge of the ledge. Pebbles rolled down. For a moment she teetered on the edge, flailing with her arms, and Amrod reached out,
"I've got you now!" he said triumphantly but Calen lost her footing and fell.
The drop was high and to her it seemed a lifetime before she hit the hard sand. Everything inside her jolted and then she drowned into blackness.
The Fëanoreans on the ledge were horrified. Most had believed that she was not going to be hurt and to see her plunge down and fall like a bird pierced by an arrow unhinged them all.
"She is surely dead," one of them muttered and others echoed him. "She shouldn't be."
Amrod was taken aback too but recovered.
"She did it herself," he told his men loudly and set off to walk away from the ledge. He got a fair distance downhill from there but reaching the level ground found a blue-eyed and forest-stained Elf holding a sword in front of him. It was clear he was not a Noldo.
"Where is she?" the stranger called out loudly but with strained voice.
"And who are you?" Amrod demanded of him, raising his own blade.
"I am Belegorn Aelingil of the Falas and Doriath and Calenloth Dúril Miril of the house of Thingol, the woman you were chasing, is my wife."
"This will take some time. Go, I'll catch up with you!" Amrod commanded his men and walked closer to Belegorn.
Belegorn rushed at him and met his sword with a great clash. The two were both excellent swordsmen and managed to parry each other's blows and counter the moves. The dance of swords was performed with deadly grace. In the end Belegorn was just lucky, his opponent stumbled on a stone and his concentration wavered for a moment. He did fight back but Belegorn had the upper hand now and he didn't waste time. In three quick moves he was behind Amrod and slashed at the back of his neck. Amrod fell face down to the sparse grass, which was instantly covered with the red of his lifeblood. He had died before he hit the ground and Belegorn left him there as he had fallen, all his thoughts were with Calenloth. He picked up her sword he had taken from their ruined house and their bows and ran forward. He had seen the smoke of the burning buildings from afar and had cursed his decision to go hunting that day. He had run to his home and found it ravaged and empty. From some of the fleeing Elves he had heard of Elwing casting herself to the sea and Calen escaping with the Fëanoreans on her heels to the sea as well. He had tracked her and found himself face to face with the Noldor. Amrod was now slain, but where was Calen?
Belegorn dashed to the ledge, calling her name. There was no answer. He came right to the edge and looked down. On the sand lay someone with silvery hair and a red dress.
"Annavír. NO!" he yelled as he recognized his wife. "Hold on!" he cried and began frantically to search for a way to the beach. From behind a little bush he found a slightly less steep part and more fell and rolled down than climbed. He came running to the body laying there and landed on his knees, throwing the weapons away. He scooped Calen into his arms,
"My love, you will be alright! Hold on! What have they done to you? Everything will be alright. Don't die, oh please, don't leave me!"
He felt for her pulse and heart and found it beating faintly. Knowing he was about to lose her, he hugged her tightly and called her name over and over again, talking about his love for her, that he would not live without her and that she couldn't leave him alone. He knelt rocking her, tears falling to her face, trying to call her back to him.
"Calenloth, my love, my life, my Sun and the Moon and the stars, sea-flower, green blossom. My dear gift, Annavír Alphdal, Swanfoot, don't die! I will never leave you alone again. You have to get well, I can't be without you, the love of my life, my strength and joy."
He wept there holding her, summoning her back until he was sure she wouldn't, not after all that time. The Sun had moved from overhead to the west, from midday to afternoon. Just when he was certain he was holding the dead body of his wife, Calen moaned and opened her big green eyes.
"You are alive! Shh, don't speak!" he exclaimed, beaming a smile at her.
"It hurts, everything hurts," Calen whispered, then more loudly, "Lasbelin?"
"Yes, it is I, my love. Don't speak! I will get you to a healer, you will be well and no one will hurt you ever again."
"My child!" Calen jolted up and fell back with a cry of pain into Belegorn's arms. "Our child. He is dead, our child is dead!" she keened and tears burst from her eyes. She moaned from her pain again when Belegorn bent to comfort her and still her weeping.
"Our little son," she said again and fell back limply on the sand, fainting from the agony of her grief and broken body.
Belegorn began to cry anew for his child and he cursed the Fëanoreans for doing this to his wife and son. At the same time he thanked the Valar for saving Calen, if he had lost both of them, he would have died of grief right there. He stood up, belted his sword and Calen's and took both their bows. Then he squatted, wrapped his cloak around Calen and lifted her up. He headed south. She had to have broken bones, no one could fall from that height and not have. He tried to move her as little as possible and step very smoothly so as not to jolt her but she still cried out softly from pain at the every fifth step. There was no way he could make a litter and carry her on it. He didn't really know where the help and healing could be found but he kept walking down the edge of the sea, trusting rather to Ulmo and Uinen. His eyes kept falling to Calen's face, resting against his shoulder but Calen didn't open her eyes. The only sign that she was alive was the hurt sounds she made. Belegorn prayed to Elbereth and the Lord of Waters for Calenloth to survive and a way to get her to safety and healing. When he finished the muttered plea for help, he raised his eyes to the sea and sky and saw something white out on the waters.
"Sails! Calen, there are sails. It must be Círdan," he told the unconscious woman in his arms. "I'll get you to a healer!" He quickened his steps heading to the place where he knew the ships would anchor, thoughts concentrated on Calenloth and bringing her to the ships. Out in the distance a white bird flew to the west. Something very bright was shining among all the white, making the bird look as if it was carrying a star.