Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 21
Disclaimer: I am only borrowing from JRR Tolkien's wonderful work and making no money . I do claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn, though.
The Thousand Caves are full of laughter
Lúthien is dancing to every heart's wonder.
The leaves are green and water sparkling,
Menegroth, my home, is calling..."
Aurelin snapped out of her revelry of watching the sunlight play on the waters of Bruinen to turn to the speaker. She had finished her re-writing of the collected scraps of the histories of Menegroth earlier than she had expected and therefore had longer to wait for Laswing whom she was supposed to meet on this invigoratingly cool spring day on the bridge arching over the Bruinen.
She had to crane her neck, for upon turning, her eyes only saw a black tunic with Telperion wrought on it. An Elf was standing before her, clearly a Noldo, dressed all in black with eyes and hair to match. He looked somewhat forbidding (perhaps it was that he was so dark compared to the bright and cheery surroundings of fresh green leaves and sun-sparkling river) and Aurelin did not know what was expected of her. She conjured up a polite smile and curtsied in greeting to what the Noldo answered with a bow. Straightening his black cloak (sunlight catching the beautiful swans and towers and starlit waters on it) the Noldo looked her up and down.
"I could not help but overhear your song, lady. Are you from Menegroth? Though you do not look the proper age..."
Aurelin had expected something entirely different because of the light that had suddenly flickered in his black eyes. Relieved, she laughed.
"Oh, no. My mother and my father were."
He clearly waited for more but Aurelin was not going to divulge more to a stranger. The Noldo understood that and there was a slight smile on his lips, transforming the stern face to something women would fall for, Aurelin mused, if you liked them all tall, proud, fiery-eyed, somewhat arrogant... well all Noldor!
"Forgive me for not offering my name!" he took her hand to kiss it. "Your caution does you credit. I am Herendil Elenvor of house Lightstorm."
"Gwingloth Andúwen, but I am mostly called Aurelin, of house Greenmere."
Again that fire lit in the dark depths. "Greenmere. Are you not the kin of Elmo, Thingol's brother?"
Aurelin nodded. Herendil seemed to consider it and her. It was as if he was fighting something, by the look on his face something he knew he should not feel or think. Taking a step closer and towering over her, he took her hand and started to lead her towards Elrond's House. Aurelin meant to say that she was supposed to wait where she was but somehow it seemed that opposing this Elf would not be wisest, even if in a matter as minor as this.
"I thought I saw something I recognised. Of someone I knew..." he murmured, looking at the trees just ahead. Inquisitively Aurelin glanced at him quickly but he did not expand on what he had said.
"And whence do you travel, my lord?" she inquired.
"Lothlórien and Mirkwood. I come in search of someone I need to see." The way he gripped her fingers spelled that he felt very strongly about that. "The one I seek is....Oh, your cloak, let me!"
The white cloak Aurelin had carelessly thrown over her shoulders had slipped and landed on the road. She would have managed herself but she guessed gallantry towards ladies was something the Elves of the times before the Sun and the Moon would never impart with, not even in the face of a maid's wishful self-efficiency. Herendil bent to pick the folds of the woven cloak from the ground, shook it of the dust and bits of bark and stood before Aurelin to lay it on her shoulders.
"I am seeking Gilgaer Lindil, I did not know whether he is here or in Mithlond."
"Thank you!" Aurelin inclined her head. "Laswing is in Imladris," she added with a smile blooming on her lips, "He never has spoken of you, though." Seeing the question is his eyes: "Oh, Gilgaer and I are betrothed."
Herendil's one hand was on her shoulder and the other was over her throat, as he had been trying to help her find the ties, when he froze at her declaration. At the same moment an all too familiar voice called out to her in a tone she had never heard before.
She half turned to see around the tall Noldo and found a very white-faced Laswing standing about ten paces away, just where the copse of elms and beeches that curved around the House began. His brown eyes looked unnaturally dark in his face as his gaze roamed over the Noldo and his hands on Aurelin's throat and shoulder. The exclamation of "here he is!" died on her lips. For a moment Aurelin thought he was thinking she was doing something untoward with the Noldo but the look with which his eyes locked with hers was devoid of any jealousy.
"Aurelin, come here!" he called anxiously, extending his hand to her. Aurelin hesitated for a second. Laswing took a step towards them and commanded her, "Gwingoth, come to me!"
Aurelin did not understand a thing. She gathered the folds of her skirt up to help her walk faster, emphasising on purpose that she was following his order. Only when she had left the Noldo's side did Gilgaer look up into the face of Herendil and Aurelin flinched to see the hate lash out in her betrothed's otherwise so laughing eyes. When she had closed the distance separating them, Laswing without any ceremony drew her close to him and with and arm that was slightly trembling around her shoulders, spoke his first words to the Noldo who had a expression of so many things on his face that Aurelin got lost: shock, relief, shame, dread, reproach and whatnot. Laswing's was an icy mask of resentment.
"Why have you come here, Noldo?"
"Gilgaer Lindil, the time for us to speak has come!"
"What new have you to tell me? Do I not know all?"
Both were in the hold of deep and strong feelings and Aurelin suddenly wanted to be far away. Longingly her gaze found four maidens that were bright dots down by the Bruinen, getting water to tend to the drier parts of the gardens.
Herendil lowered his gaze in remembrance but when his head lifted a flame had been lit once more in him. "No, you do not!"
Laswing's head twitched as the battle inside him raged but finally reason won. Tightening his hold on Aurelin, he half-turned to walk away and spoke coldly without looking at Herendil.
"I will hear you at dusk."
Aurelin tried to see how Herendil took that but she was held firmly and marched away from the black-clad stranger (to her, clearly not to Gilgaer).
"Who was that?" She tried to gain some answers but Laswing's eyes were fixed to a spot in front of him and Aurelin doubted he could hear her. "What is it?" The desperate hold he had on her was starting to get painful and neither realised that they had to present a very strange sight to those they passed. "Why..."
By the time they reached her door, Aurelin had had enough. She grabbed the arm holding her and drew Laswing into her rooms and away from the door. Planting herself before it, she demanded:
"What was that about? Who is he and why are you acting like that?"
Slowly Gilgaer turned to her and now for the first time after she had left Herendil Elenvor's side, did he look at her. Haunted eyes and hollow voice faced Aurelin.
"My love, the time for me has come to face my hatred. Remember when I said I would. Now it has come, he has." Suddenly his eyes lit. "Did he do something to you? I saw his hands upon you. Did he harm you? What did he say to you?"
Frightened by what she saw on his face, Aurelin hurried to wrap her arms around him.
"He did nothing. Why would he hurt me? Why would you think it? He heard me sing and then said his name, I gave him mine and he asked if I was the kin of Elmo and Thingol."
"And what did he say to you when he knew? If he insulted you or your family I will make him regret every syllable of it!"
The heat with what it was said confused Aurelin even more.
"What are you talking about? I do not understand anything. He said nothing that I consider an insult, he spoke courteously and lifted up my cloak when it had fallen and put it on my shoulders again, that is all. Why are you looking at me like that? Why did you look at him as you did? Please, I want to understand!" she pleaded.
"He did not do anything?" Laswing could not believe what Aurelin told him, although he was immensely relieved. He let go of her and while her eyes were boring into his back, he took a few steps towards the window to look out for a moment into the east and the fir and pine clad climbing mountains that cradled Imladris. When he had gathered himself, he turned with a grim face.
"Herendil Elenvor is notorious of hating everyone of Doriath and especially the kin of Thingol Greycloak (as well as all the Fëanoreans). And for showing what he feels no matter whether you are a seasoned warrior or a gentle maid. When I saw him with your throat at his grasp, I just.... He would not, but I thought he was going to.... I was mortified to see you at his reach!"
Aurelin's hand had flown to her mouth. Why would Laswing suspect anyone of something like that? But she had seen the fear he had for her in her face and knew he had really thought she was going to be harmed.
"Eriant, tell me what is wrong? It was not only fear for me I saw. You hate that Noldo with all you heart!"
"By Elbereth, I do!" Hands in fists, Laswing would have nothing better than to wipe it all from his mind but Aurelin's searching gaze made him give up. He had to talk to her of it one day and, cursed be Herendil, he needed to do that today! Sighing, he looked out of the window again to gain a sliver of time before starting to speak.
"I told you I hated someone, not a Fëanorean and not for something done to me in Middle-earth. Herendil of house Lightstorm is the one I spoke of."
"But you never went to Valinor, how could he have wronged you not in Ennor..."
"Írimë." The name was barely a whisper when it slid over Laswing's lips.
"Your sister Eithelwen Írimë? You have only mentioned her once or twice."
"Yes, indeed my "Lovely" sister. You have to understand that I heard all of it later from the Exiles and some from Herendil himself. I did not know I had siblings before they came. A sister I have, Eithelwen, and a brother there was - Alphros. It all began with the wedding of Finarfin, son of Finwë, and Eärwen, daughter of Olwë. My family was living in Alqualondë but when the lady Eärwen went to dwell in Tirion, my sister, being her handmaid, went with her mistress. And on the day of the entry of the new high lady into the city of the Noldor, my beautiful raven-haired and blue-eyed sister met a young Noldo. No one can know the particulars but they but I guess it was a love at first sight. He, Herendil, named her Írimë. In those times he was different that he is now - instead of being filled with hate and arrogant, he was, as people tell me, though proud, kind and gentle, especially of course with Eithelwen. They had a chance to spend a lot of time together in Tirion but the life in the glorious house and light of Tirion was not for Írimë, she found. Longing for the starlit waters of Swanhaven, she begged leave of Eärwen to return to her home and was granted her wish. After that Herendil was constantly coming and going between Tirion and Alqualondë. They were betrothed and he lavished her with gifts. Among these was a beautiful sword, Silithril, though my sister must have seen that as a strange present. My little brother, Alphros became very fond of the Noldo and became to see him as an older brother. Alphros was also fascinated by the newly forged weapons and armour the Noldor had begun to craft and had brought a helm to Swanhaven, keeping it in his room and polishing it every other day. But then the Trees were slain and the Noldor rebelled and went to Swanhaven to request the ships of their friends, the Teleri. As a retainer of Fingolfin, Herendil was in the forefront of the followers of Fingolfin, right behind the host of Fëanor, intent on asking Írimë to accompany him to Middle-earth. You know what happened, Aurelin - Fëanor started the battle and Fingolfin's people joined in unknowing of the whyfors. Hearing the sounds of battle, Alphros took his helm and the sword gifted to Írimë and hurried to defend the ships, barely having come to age but eager to fight. My sister, trying to stop him, ran after him. And so the scene was set. A swanship. Alphros with Írimë in tow had climbed abroad to defend it and the Noldor came to take it. Herendil among them. Both wearing helms, they did not recognise each other before Herendil had dealt Alphros the death-stroke and Alphros' helm fell from his head as he collapsed on the deck. Írimë had seen all, and when Herendil took off his helm, she recognised him and was horrified."
Aurelin had unknowingly sat down on the edge of her bed, wholly gripped by the tale. Poor Írimë! Laswing's eyes were filled with tears as he fought to remain in control of his voice, trying his best to pretent he was talking of some stranger, not his family. He forced himself to go on.
"Írimë lifted up Alphros' body and the sword Silithril and carried him down from the ship, none of the Noldor dared to stay her, seeing her grief. Herendil was stunned and did not go to her, frozen he was until the ship cast off and glided out of the harbour, Írimë's eyes following him. Of what happened next I know little. I had heard it said he turned back, after hearing the Doom of Mandos and coming out of the shock of slaying his betrothed's brother. Doubtless hoping to beg her forgiveness, he went back, but seeing as he arrived along in a boat in Eglarest, apart from all the others and later than they, Írimë must have not forgiven him. So he came to Middle-earth, carrying the sword, named anew Nuinor, that Alphros had wielded against him."
Though she had never expected to feel this, as she had thought every tragedy that had befallen those of the Noldor who had taken part in the First Kinslaying was well deserved, Aurelin pitied the Noldo. To live with the knowledge of slaying your love's brother! She looked up at Gilgaer to see if she there was a flicker of the same pity in him and for a second it did appear in his eyes but as quickly as that it disappeared. Aurelin rose from the striped coverlet of the bed and walked to comfort the shaken Laswing but he sat her down on the bench in front of the window and knelt before her.
"That is not all, my love. I have spoken of his guilt but not of mine."
Laswing sighed as he took both her hands in his. "At first of course as you might know, none of us, the Sindar, knew exactly why and under what circumstances the Noldor had come back. But then after years had gone by, little by little the truth began to come clear. I still remember the day when I heard the tale of Eithelwen, Alphros and Herendil. Furious and not thinking, I rushed to Nevrast (for Herendil was dwelling then with Turgon's people) to seek him out and act my revenge. That was exactly what I knew I had to do - make him pay for what he did as the only and oldest member of my family on these shores. I was determined to deal him the same fate he had dealt my brother."
Ashamed, Laswing lowered his head. He did not need to see the shock on Aurelin's face. She always believed him to be so prefect and wise, never putting a foot wrong, and she was not one to take disappointments easily. He was afraid of what she would say now or what would shine from her eyes.
"I know you are stunned. I am too, thinking back on it. To slay an Elf is an abomination for another Elf, the worst what you can do in Eru's eyes (since the Eldar would never turn from the Light completely). But I did not dwell on that, intent only on revenge."
Laswing recalled it as if it had been yesterday.