Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 16
I am really 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.
As Elthoron thundered over the Last Bridge, Gilgaer looked up at the star-studded cloudless night-sky and the Moon. It cast a beam of shining light on the road, through which the equally silvery horse ran with Alagos as a black shadow behind. The Elf made the girl more comfortable in his arms and tenderly wrapped her cloak more closely around her.
"My Foamflower! You can't leave me like that! Oh, please, don't die! Why did I let you come with me? I should have resisted you, but when you looked at me with those green eyes of yours, I couldn't refuse you. It is all my fault! I should not have left your side in the battle."
But Aurelin didn't hear Laswing's pleas. If only she had known how much Laswing's frantic race mirrored her own father's.
Aurelin sat on the bright woven rug at her mother's feet in their small but very cosy rooms in Thranduil's halls, while her father was beside the fireplace, checking the new arrows he had just acquired. The little family was living comfortably (though Belegorn thought the ladies had cluttered the place up too much) in their three connected rooms that were furnished moderately but with a casual elegance. Calenloth's current interest were tapestries, and that accounted for the abundance of them hung in the rooms (Aurelin's favourite was one that depicted the haven of Eglarest with its towers and quays - Belegorn had, at her request, put it on the wall opposite Aurelin's bed, so that she could fall asleep with the haven and her made-up stories taking place there before her eyes. It was no exception that it had been once more a hard task to get hold of the girl to spend an evening between the family because she was like quicksilver both in temper and actions and as her mother liked to point out - doing more mischief than she herself ever did, although she had been thought of as one of the most harder Elflings to tame in Doriath.
This wintry evening of icy wind outside and warm fire like the blessing of Eru, her mother was about to tell one of her stories of the past Ages. Aurelin loved those evenings when the whole family was gathered in their rooms or in some beautiful place in the forest and her parents told her of their life. It was just that you had to get delay her long enough to let her know that one of those evenings was going to be held.
"Aurelin have you ever wondered why you don't have a sister or brother, despite the fact that we have been wedded with your father for a long time?" her mother asked her suddenly.
Aurelin nodded, her long coppery hair rippling on her back, eyes expectant and hungry for knowledge.
"It all happened after the fall of Doriath and before the First Age ended," her father spoke up from the fireside, his voice almost a whisper as he raised his eyes for a moment to look at his daughter.
"Yes, the sons of Fëanor knew that the Silmaril was where we were living at the time and after a some years of peace they let us have they came to get it." Her mother's eyes looked at the far tapestry-covered wall, seeing the past. "I was helping Elwing, your cousin, escape when I was chased by the Fëanoreans to the sea. I was expecting a child, I knew it to be a son." Calenloth's eyes were filling with tears as she thought back at the day and the pain of loss made it impossible for her to go on. She drew a ragged breath and gripped the beechen chair-arm so that her knuckles were white.
Aurelin's father continued softly, "Because of them your mother fell from a cliff and your little brother died. It was almost too late for your mother too but, thank Elbereth, I found her in time and got her to a ship bound for the isle of Balar."
Aurelin's gaze flickered from her father to her mother, she saw their grief and began to understand. Afraid to ask more and cause more pain by it, she lowered her eyes to study the floor. But her mother put a finger under her chin and lifted Aurelin's face to hers.
"So you see, little one, because of what happened we couldn't even think of having another child for more than an Age."
Calenloth slid out of the armchair and kneeled to hug her daughter, "But then you were born. We are so lucky to have you, my star of dawn, more precious than the Silmarils."
Belegorn had watched the two women he loved more than anything from the side, unwilling to interfere but then he realised that he was wrong - it could never be interfering, not for him. He put down the arrows he had absently fingered till now, and came to his wife and child, both with remarkable green eyes, Aurelin's even greener than Calenloth's, and sat cross-legged beside them, one arm reassuringly hugging her wife who he knew would need it after talking of their unborn son.
"Adar, but what happened to you after that?" Aurelin asked and unwittingly in her eagerness for knowledge took her parents minds from the more sorrowful episodes in their long lives. As her father began to tell her of king Gil-galad, her mother reminding him of details he forgot, Aurelin thought with half a mind how it would have been to have had an older brother and felt great sadness and also anger that the chance of finding out was taken from her by the terrible oath of Fëanor and his sons.
Aurelin had arrived to the time after her birth in her memories. Her wish to go to her parents grew stronger when she saw herself in their company. But increasingly more her thoughts and visions were interrupted by the pain. She tried to escape from it, bolt away, but the fire found her more and more easily.
As Aurelin began to whimper in pain, Laswing's tears could not be stayed. She was slightly shivering but the air was not cold. With every hoof-beat closer to healing, she got worse.
"Celebrendhae, dearest Silvershadow! Stay with me!"
Calenloth was sitting under a great oak on the edge of a little clearing not far from Thranduil's Halls with the last rays of the setting Sun glinting high up on the far peaks of the Hithaeglir, hidden mostly by the tall trees, but piercing here and there through the thick canopy of Mirkwood. Aurelin was running and dancing under the blue-pink sky, blowing the seeds of dandelions into a cloud around her. Belegorn Díndal stood next to his wife, leaning against the bole of the tree and enjoying the smells of spring and song of birds.
"Aurelin, could you come here!" her father called out and she did, blue dress and the dandelion seeds streaming after her as she ran.
"There is something I want you to have, my little flower. Gwingloth, your mother and I decided that it was time to give you this." Belegorn handed her daughter a little wooden box that had carved on the lid the device of their family.
"What is it?"
"Open and then you will see." Her mother rose to stand beside her husband, brushing some fallen leaves from her pale pink flower-embroidered gown.
Aurelin unclasped the lid and lifted it.
"It is so beautiful!" she exclaimed breathlessly. On the soft green silk lay a moonstone that caught the last rays of the evening sun.
"It is old, older than we," Calenloth explained, gazing lovingly at Aurelin who for once had nothing to say. "It came from the treasuries of Thingol Greycloak and was given to your father as a gift for valuable services." Aurelin glanced up from the stone at her mother whose last words that had been uttered with the sound of laughter echoing in her voice and found that she was winking at her father. What had been so amusing about rendering a service?
Belegorn put his hand around Calenloth's opal-girdled waist. "We brought it out of the ruin of Doriath. Your mother and I, together."
Her parents looked at each other with love blazing forth from their eyes, the same glances that made Aurelin constantly wonder whether she would ever experience something so wonderful. Calen and Belegorn turned with the love still shining on their faces to their daughter to hug and kiss her. The setting sun lighted Aurelin's hair to resemble a little fire before it continued its journey on the other side of the Misty Mountains. Aurelin wriggled her bare and dirt-smudged toes in the spring-green grass and laughed with sheer delight into the beautiful dusk as she stood still for the moonstone to be set in her hair.
The noon sun was overhead when Gilgaer climbed wearily on top Algos. The horses were beginning to grow tired as well as he. Aurelin was getting weaker and even her dream-talk was lessening with the life force leaving her body. Laswing was not really thinking clearly anymore, he just kept the goal of Imladris before him and further he dared not ponder. The world had shrunk into a ribbon of road and the horse under him.
Aurelin was resting on the eastern bank of the river Bruinen, feet in the water, singing softly a part of the Lay of Leithian. They had been gathering beautiful little stones with some maidens to line some flowerbeds in the gardens of Imladris and while all the others had wanted to go back, she had thought otherwise, having had just slipped her feet into the water, and so had remained behind to enjoy the bubbling of the river and the coolness of its waters. The pines behind her back and before her, on the other side of the river, provided a shade and the smell of the trees reached her nostrils whenever she moved on the needle-strewn ground.
Her thoughts were away with Lúthien and Beren in the woods of Doriath when she heard the hoof-beats of a horse coming nearer. At first she thought it was Curufin and Celegorm as she had just been singing that part of the lay. But it was not so - a rider in deep-blue, grey cloak streaming behind, crossed the bridge spanning the river, to which Aurelin had been splashing close to, and sped on. It was obviously an Elf but why was he in such a hurry? A sense that she had to follow him came over Aurelin and the bright-eyed maiden rose, dripping drops of water onto the sparse grass and pine needles, and set out after the rider.
It took awhile, so when she ran up to the doors to the stables to ask where the rider had gone and got the answer that the Elf had asked after Elrond, she concluded that the urgent message (what else could it be) must have been delivered by now.
The same feeling that had told her to return, urged her now to find Lord Elrond. Within minutes she was behind the leaf-carved door to his rooms and quite not knowing what to do next, she sat on the balustrade of the balcony that ringed the House.
She didn't have to wait for a long time - Elrond came out very soon. Aurelin bounced from the ledge to run to him but her steps faltered as she saw his face. Before that moment she had seen Elrond happy, smiling and joking with his wife and children or with her parents; stern, when she had done some mischief; knowing, compassionate and more besides. But she had never seen such sorrow and pain in his eyes as she did now. It looked as if a part of him had died or had been wounded deeply.
He hadn't noticed Aurelin until then but as she was studying his face with a concerned and worried look, he raised his eyes to her.
"Aurelin. Foamflower, how did you get here?"
"What has happened?" Aurelin asked, afraid even to move because she had seen how Elrond's expression had become even sadder at the sight of her.
"Come!" With this one word Elrond started walking and Aurelin followed. At first she had no idea where they were heading and she didn't dare to ask. The few Elves and a Dwarf with two Men they passed let them do so without any questions, perhaps detecting in the stance of Elrond something that warned against it. And then they stopped before the doors to her family's set of rooms and Aurelin's heart fell to the pit of her stomach. The woodpecker who was pecking a pine nearby might as well have been tapping a hole into her head, for all it felt like to her. Elrond knocked and Aurelin's mother came to the door.
"My Lord, Aurelin. Come in!"
Calenloth Dúril stepped back to let them in. She was holding a blue blossom in her right hand and wore a little smile, surprised to see either of the two behind her door (as Aurelin had sent a message with her friends that she was going to return not before nightfall).
"Lady Calen, I have news," Elrond turned to her great-aunt and settled to stand with his back to the door. In one glance he took in the flower-filled vases on the three windowsills and a big one beside a large armchair that was in the corner of the wall that was entirely devoted to a large bookshelf. All those flowers! Calenloth must be missing Belegorn! he thought with a stab of pain. Aurelin went to stand by the little table in the middle of the room that was covered with an assortment of books. Her mother returned to the west-looking window where she had been arranging flowers in another vase.
"What kind of news?" Calenloth asked softly because she also had seen Elrond's eyes and dreaded the answer.
"I just received tidings from an Elf who was in the entourage of Celebrían. Caranbor is his name. The party was attacked by Orcs." At that Elrond's voice broke.
"My cousin, what happened to her? Is she slain?" Calenloth burst out in one breath as she whirled around, knowing that something had to have befallen her, otherwise Elrond would not be as shaken as he was. Aurelin's eyes were becoming huge with horror. She didn't have a voice to say anything and instead, unknowingly lifted a book to grip against her heart.
"I do not know!" Elrond's eyes filled with tears. "She was seen carried away by the filthy things but about whether she is alive or dead now, there are no tidings."
"What does your heart tell you?" Calenloth asked, striving to remain calm as she half turned to the window.
"She hasn't died," Elrond said haltingly, then with certainty, "No she is not, I know it! But that is not all."
Calenloth turned from watching out the window to Elrond, the vase in her suddenly shaky hands. She stood like someone waiting for the death-sentence to be declared. Aurelin was still unable to utter a word.
"Belegorn Aelingil. He tried to free my wife from the Orcs but they were too many. She was taken and he was surrounded by a host of the Orcs with others of the entourage. The enemies were just too numerous. He was able to slay more than two dozen before..."
"Before what?" Aurelin croaked.
"Before he fell, slain by their crude weapons."
Clash The vase fell from Calenloth's fingers and broke, shards of glass and water flying everywhere, flowers falling to the wood floor. A young maiden that had just passed the window jumped nervously at the sound, seeking the reason and source, but what came next made her leave that place as fast as she could. This was no place for outsiders to the affairs and grief of a family.
"No!" Calenloth wailed, "It can't be!" The depths of her eyes were filled with a pain as if she had just been dealt a death-stroke and that from behind.
Aurelin's legs buckled and she dropped onto the floor like a snapped blossom, clutching the book against her stomach. She felt like she was going to be sick.
"I'm afraid it is," Elrond looked from one of the shocked women to the other.
"Adar," Aurelin whispered, tears running down her cheeks and spreading stains on her silk dress.
"I cannot put into words how sorry I am! He was a friend and he defended the one I love until his last breath." Elrond didn't know how to ease the suffering of Calen and Aurelin, in truth there was no way for it. He grieved for their loss and for the unknown fate of his wife as did they. The pain in their heart would not be stilled with words, that he knew, for words did not help him with his torment either.
Calen still couldn't believe what she had heard, she could not let herself.
"I did not feel it! Why?" she asked desperately, "Maybe he is still alive? Why did I not know?"
Elrond's face put out the hope that had lifted its head in her. Belegorn was gone.
"Why him, why now?" Calen cried.
Aurelin was sobbing, head buried in her hands, bowed down to the floor, the book ("Memories of the Trees") now somewhere in the folds of the long skirt.
"He promised that nothing would happen to him or me, he did, when he found me almost dead beside the waters of Belegaer. And now..." The first tears fell from Calenloth's eyes becoming a stream and she turned her deathly white face to the window that looked to the west, the West and the Halls of Mandos.
"My love, my life. How can we manage without you, Lasbelin? Why did you leave us? My heart, when will we meet again -how much time will have to pass before this family is reunited once more? Annavír you called me, your gift of jewels, but you and our daughter were the real gifts, the best I have ever got. When will I feel your arms around me again?... Your Swanfoot will miss you, always and forever, until we meet again, Díndal."
Calen felt hollow, there was a blinding darkness in her heart and mind. She glanced at her distraught daughter and willed the feeling of being drowned to recede, some inkling of reason and thought returned to her. Calen put her hand over her heart and bowed her head in grief, reverence and love beyond measure to the West.
"Lasbelin, I love you and so does your little Foamflower! Elbereth give me strength to bear it all! Goodbye, my love, until we see each other again!"
Saying goodbye nearly broke her but she tried to draw herself together for her Aurelin.
"My dear!" Calenloth said quietly and walked slowly from the window to her daughter. "Foamflower your father called you, Gwingloth, after the ship that Eärendil built and which took your cousin Elwing with him to the West and sailed even beyond. But I named you Andhúwen, Maiden of the Long Night. The night has come! Will your sun ever arise for the song to be heard again, Aurelin?" Calenloth Annavír kneeled beside her grieving daughter and gathered her into her arms. She stroked Aurelin's hair and whispered how her father would go to Mandos' Halls and return to life among the Elves in Valinor soon, how he loved them and would think of them always as they would. Both were weeping and Calenloth felt that a great part of her had died, she would never be the same again. Belegorn had been always with her, helped her deal with all the sorrows of loosing her sister and Doriath, then her child and their new home at the Havens of Sirion. Now her strength and resolve was leeched away - how could she help her daughter to recover from the grief when she was as stricken down by it as Aurelin or worse?
And Aurelin, or Andhúwen now, kept seeing her father's face before her eyes, smiling, blue eyes glinting with amusement, becoming covered with blood that dripped from his dark lashes, over and over again.
"Gwingloth, you cannot give in! You have to fight and not leave me alone on these shores for then I would lay down my life because of the grief and longing for you, my love! If ever there was a way to turn back the time, I would use the chance now. It was me! I should have been punished for breaking my promise of staying beside her, not her, never her. Oh, Elbereth help me and Mandos, do not take Aurelin from me!"