Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 22
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.
Recap: Herendil Elenvor has come to Imladris, a Noldo with a notorious reputation who loved Laswing's sister but slew his brother in the First Kinslaying. Laswing is about to tell of his first meeting with Herendil to Aurelin.
It was eight years after the Siege of Angband had begun and the truth of the deeds of the Noldor in Alqualondë had become known among the Sindar. Herendil Elenvor, who had appeared in Beleriand apart from all the other Exiles, was already known to be of dark mood and difficult to deal with. His valour with a sword was reknowned but also rumours that were told about him among the Noldor were numerous and the hate he bore the Fëanoreans and the kin of Thingol had been demonstrated on many accounts (though the reasons for especially the latter were a mystery). He was living in Nevrast with Turgon, whom he valued most of the Fingolfin's House and avoided the Havens, for a reason he had not revealed to anyone.
Laswing had sped as fast as his steed made it possible to Nevrast to confront the Noldor in his fury but had found him on an errand to the sons of Fëanor. While he was riding up the coastal road, the gloomy Noldo was returning in a foul mood, almost having had come to blows with the sons of Fëanor.
Gilgaer's horse was galloping hard as he saw a gold-flecked horse slowly approach on the road. The black-clad rider nudged his horse to stand in Gilgaer's path and demanded in a loud voice from the cloaked and hooded Laswing:
"Halt, who goes there?"
Gilgaer reigned in when he saw that the other rider was not going to let him pass.
"Stand aside! I will not have you delay me." His voice was polite but there was anger under the civility. Gilgaer did not properly glance at his detain-er, eager to go wherever he was headed. "Vengeance does not wait, I won't let it!"
In an angry motion of his head, Gilgaer's hood fell back. His blonde hair blew in a salty gust to veil his anger-sparkling brown eyes.
The rider on the golden horse breathed raggedly and said:
"You are her brother."
Laswing narrowed his eyes looking at the Noldo's face and sparks of hate flew from his eyes.
"You are Herendil Elenvor."
Herendil had seen that this Elf must be the older brother of Írimë whom she had not seen herself (for she had been born in Valinor) and who had stayed with Círdan when his parents left as the Teleri were taken to the West. He looked a lot like Írimë despite him having blonde hair and brown eyes when she had raven locks and eyes of sapphire. The younger brother Alphros had had his older's hair.
"Gilgaer Lindil," he said with a deadly calm.
Gilgaer slid from his horse and Herendil followed suit.
"You slew my brother!" Gilgaer accused hotly as he drew his sword and pointed it at the Noldo. "I came looking for you and, by Elbereth and Manwë, you walked right onto my path."
"It is my curse," Herendil whispered.
Gilgaer circled him with drawn blade measuring the other's stature and skill.
"Draw your sword and defend yourself! One of us will not leave this place alive!" It was forbidden for the Elves to slay another for vengeance but all that had flown from Gilgaer's head when he first heard of this Noldor who had claimed to love his sister had killed his brother.
"Then it is I, for I will not touch my blade," Herendil told hollowly. It had always been the other way around: his temper had been one to fire easily and though he did not know it - Gilgaer was ever the composed one.
"I said - draw it!" Gilgaer's face became as insistent in rage as Írimë's had been when she had thrown the sword he carried at his feet. That broke Herendil's calm and what he had never thought would happen after he had left Írimë happened - he lost his control over his grief and he felt his eyes become blurred by tears.
"Nuinor will not be drawn at any of the kin of Mistelen and Nieninqe, your mother and father! Do you now know - this is the blade that your brother wielded when he fought me. So if you wish to kill me, do it, but I will not touch the sword."
Laswing halted and looked at the Noldo, astonished - he had expected Herendil to fight and deny what he had done. Gilgaer's sword-hand began to fall lower.
"Do it! Slay me for I do not deserve to live!" Herendil cried in anguish and fell to his knees right on the sands of the sea-side before Laswing's feet, hiding his face in his hands. All his grief that had been shut in his heart for years came out. Laswing looked down on him and though there was still anger and hate in his eyes, a hint of pity was creeping in.
"I loved your sister more than anything else in Arda. Írimë was the loveliest of maidens I had seen and so graceful and sweet and wise. My thoughts were with her every moment we were apart. I adored her." He gave a bitter laugh, "I wanted to give her gifts, adorn her with the gems of the Noldor and dress her in the most magical of cloths. My doom it was, for I gave her a sword once." Herendil's eyes were burning feverishly as he gazed past Gilgaer at the murky green waters of Belegaer. He did not even notice when Laswing quietly sheathed his blade.
The Noldo continued in bitterness and tears, "Silithril she named it and she kept teasing me of why I would give her a sword. The time came sooner than we knew. I wanted to ask her to come with me to Middle-earth but the fighting had already begun in the fair Alqualondë and I only saw my people being slain."
Laswing asked in a gentle tone (surprising himself), "What happened?"
"You must share your mood with your brother. He took Silithril that had been just another piece of beautiful craftmanship on the wall of Írimë's room and rushed to defend the ships of the Teleri. The sword was his downfall because there were few of those among the Shore-dwellers and those who carried one were the first to be engaged. He had donned his helm, one that he liked so much when he visited Tirion that my father had let him have it. We never knew we were fighting each other before I had slain him and Írimë cried out as if she had been killed herself. I can still hear her scream in my dreams. She had followed her brother and on the swanship's deck my future was ended. The helm fallen from my head, she recognized me. Her eyes, those deep blue ones, full of accusation, grief and hurt of betrayal were on me as she carried Alphros down from the ship along with the sword and when the ships were cast off and sailed north."
Herendil looked up at Gilgaer with tear-filled eyes and a horrible expression of guilt, lament and most vividly - hatred of himself.
"I returned with Finarfin's folk to Valinor, hoping to explain to Írimë that it had been a mistake and that I loved her more than my life. But she..." His voice broke, that part he would not put into words even for Írimë's brother. "This sword she gave me, the same your brother crossed with mine, and told me to begone. Lament, Nuinor, I named it anew." There would be no more to say to the brother of the young one he slew. Herendil stood and drew together all the pride he could muster to face the blade or curses of Gilgaer.
"I cannot slay you," Gilgaer spoke, not believing the words coming out of his mouth himself. "I admit, what I heard before was not in perfect concord with what you told me and I believe your words to be the truth of the matter at least on your side. I do not know my sister and did not know my brother, but I grieve for them still. I grieve for you."
Herendil shook his head in disbelief.
"There is too much hurt between us at the present. I have to think on what you have told me, I need time, perhaps I will want to see your face but not now. I can't bear it all. And as for forgiveness, for that is what you must be hoping for,..."
Herendil interrupted him, "There is no forgiveness. Írimë will not forgive me, she said her love for me died on that cursed day."
Laswing's eyes reflected his pity. There was nothing more he could tell the Noldo. He whistled his horse to him and mounted.
"Farewell, Herendil Elenvor of the Noldor! May Elbereth help us both to bear our hurts!" he said before he galloped away, leaving Herendil to look after him with a face that showed all his torn feelings.
Laswing came out of the memories to find Aurelin looking at him not with distain, as he had dreaded, but with compassion that welled over the green depths and warmed his chilled and shame-filled heart.
"I did feel pity for him then but later as time went by, I started to feel the hate rise in me whenever I recalled my sister and brother. I had yielded to his confession but word came to me of how hatefully he treated most Sindar, deeming them unworthy of him, calling them with the most horrendous insulting names (especially using those when talking of any of Thingol's kin), all for no reason I could see, and moreover, he was known to have had drawn his sword on the Sindar and Fëanoreans. Thank Elbereth we did not meet after that first time for long, he went to live in Gondolin and I never saw him before the Second Age. The third time I met him in Lothlórien. I had been trying to avoid him but the circumstances decided differently. I felt anger at him still and not the forgiveness he was seeking (though he never let himself understand what it was). And to this day I have not been able to find pardon for what he did. Tell me, my love, could I ever? Is there forgiveness for something like that? I have tried to make you do the same with your hate for the Fëanoreans but I am as guilty as you. And now he is here, telling me he has something to speak to me of, and of what else could it be? All I can think of is the hurt he has caused and my own shame for what I almost did, but there is no glimmer of forgiveness."
Aurelin did not know what to tell Laswing. They were two of the same kind like he had said - she was as guilty in her hate as he was. She slid out of the chair and together they knelt on the floor, holding each other tightly, heads bent to rest on the other's shoulder, trying to find answers.
When the appointed hour came and the last rays of the Sun had disappeared behind the mountains, there came a knock on the door. With the help of Aurelin's presence and her words, Laswing had composed himself enough to go to the door with a calm face, not about to show his emotions to Herendil, and open it to allow the tall Noldo to enter.
"My Lady, Gilgaer Lindil." Herendil bowed to both formally and remained standing in the middle of the room.
He had meant to spend the afternoon alone, but had ran into Glorfindel on his way to take his horse to the stables. The two knew each other from the days when the Lily of the Valley was blooming and pleased to see someone that did not look at him with barely hidden curiosity, slight fear and disliking, Herendil had been happy enough to accept Glorfindel's invitation to accompany him to the archery-range down by the river. Stories of Turgon and Gondolin and exercise had been a welcome distraction from replaying the scene into what he had just walked into over and over again inside his head.
The tension in the dim room was making Aurelin's skin tingle and there was an uncomfortable air, for all three were not sure what to do next. Aurelin recovered first.
"I think I shall leave you two, we were going to plan where to plant the crocuses from Lindon with Elanor." She rose and passed Herendil but Laswing, standing by the door, caught her arm. Herendil looked questioningly at Gilgaer but defiantly he drew himself up and spoke deliberately to the Noldo, not to Aurelin.
"Aurelin is my betrothed and I have told her everything. I see no reason why she should leave as it concerns her future family and sister-in-law. Please, stay!" he gave Aurelin a perfunctory smile, mind elsewhere. Yielding, she softly went about the room to light a few candles and settled on the chair by the window looking east, the furthest point from the two, intent on acting the silent bystander she was.
Gilgaer had been looking at a Aurelin's dress' train until she moved but now he faced Herendil and curtly demanded:
"My lord asked the opportunity to speak to me. Do so then, if you have to!"
Herendil inclined his head and started slowly. He had thought of that to say for long but coming to it in actuality made him still very much unprepared.
"I think I will have to start with days long gone to explain all. I spoke to you, Gilgaer, that I went back to Valinor, but nothing more of how I came to Middle-earth."
He paused, taking a deep breath for this was going to be hard.
"I....I have not spoken of it to anyone and would not even to you, Gilgaer Lindil, but I cannot explain why I have come without that. When myself and Finarfin and his people returned to Valinor, we went back to Tirion and begged for forgiveness from the Valar, who advised that more importantly we should seek pardon in Swanhaven for the greatest hurt was done there. Finarfin went and I among others asked to accompany him. Finwë's son begged Olwë's pardon, saying that none of his people slew anyone. But I had and Írimë, who had been keeping to the shadows until that, spoke up in a loud voice, stepping defiantly before the throne of her lord and looking at me called out loudly that "there is one here whose blade is red from the blood of the Shoresingers!""
Another moment of silence followed while Herendil turned slightly away from Gilgaer's burning eyes - he could still see in his nightmares Írimë's face as she looked at him, wan and tortured by grief but glowing with hate when her sapphire eyes alighted on him.
"Olwë, gracious as always, granted his pardon, even to me, but that was nothing to me because of what lay in my heart and your sister's. She fled the hall hearing the words of forgiveness and I went after her. To the little cove, where the boat that had been built for her was moored, she ran. Once there, she, knowing that I had followed, spoke her mind to me. I still hear her" Aurelin heard him whisper as he paced like a caged animal.
"What did she say?" Laswing's voice was hollow.
"In short, she demanded the reason for my return for, she said, there was nothing there for me in Valinor and I should have followed my people. Írimë said she hated me and that all she felt for me had been slain along with Alphros." (Aurelin could swear there were tears in Herendil's lowered coal-eyes). Though I knew there was nothing I could say, I tried to explain myself to her but she cried that she never wanted to see me again or live with the knowledge that I was in Valinor, the slayer of her brother. Írimë told me to go away, to take her ship and sail after my people, the kinslayers, for I had no place in Valinor. My sword I had thrown into the waters of the Great Sea when I realised what I had done, so she cast at my feet Silithril. "Take it and go, or finish me with it, if you choose to stay, so I will not have to see you!" She told me that she loved another, one who had been there for her to help her accept that she had loved a murderer and that her brother was dead, an Elf of the kin of Elwë and Olwë. She stood on the glittering shore of Eldamar while I obeyed her last command and sailed away."
Laswing, having sunk down onto the chaise at the foot of Aurelin's bed, was pressing his temples with both hands. "And why are you telling me all this?" in a muffled voice he asked.
Herendil whirled around to face Gilgaer.
"For now I have come to ask for your forgiveness for my deeds!"
Gilgaer's hands fell to his lap as he stared at the Noldo. "You tell me what you just did and ask for me to pardon you?! What are you thinking of?"
"I know I would never have allowed myself to forgive myself, I probably never will. I understand that I have behaved in a manner that was unfounded and uncalled for towards many because of my blindness and unwillingness to face the truths."
"Based on that you want me to pat your back and say "Poor Herendil Elenvor, but he has seen the error of his ways!" What of my brother? My sister!" Laswing raised his voice in angry astonishment at the gall of Herendil.
"No, I ask you to try and find forgiveness in your heart because they have."
What? Aurelin, startled, blurted, Gilgaer looked as surprised by the statement.
"What was that supposed to mean?" he voiced their confusion.
Herendil's eyes had lit with what Aurelin interpreted as light of bliss, long bereft from those dark depths.
"Írimë and Alphros have forgiven me."
"What gives you reason to guess that?"
"Not guess, know. That is another long story." Laswing was staring to feel the fire of his anger dampen. Could his sister indeed have forgiven Herendil? And if she had, who was he to keep pardon from his heart. Herendil noticed that Gilgaer was listening with rapt attention and he went on, though again hesitantly. "There was a maiden, Miraelin. You met her, Gilgaer Mistelenion."
"Miraelin!" Aurelin spoke the name involuntarily. That was a name of a legend, a story told to her as she was a child. A tale of a maiden fair and sad, a girl who in one teller's mouth was a Maia, in other's some lesser spirit of wood and water and air, in a few a child of an Eldar and Istari, impossible as it seemed. Miraelin, the maid of fairy-tale Aurelin had always thought her, a lady who had saved the people of Mirkwood from a great evil bred by Sauron but with a terrible cost to herself.
Herendil turned to her. "You have heard of her?" There was a veil of deep grief on his face. Aurelin nodded. "I thought she was someone out of a tale." Herendil shook his head sadly. "She was not. I can attest to that as well as Gilgaer Lindil."
Laswing nodded as well, eyes afar as searching for something in his memory. "The girl that got lost in Lothlórien when you were on your quest. I found her, distraught and eyes brimming with tears. I felt she was strange in some way and there was something troubling her. I led her back to Elereg Esgaldin and you. Later I heard some tales of what had become of her."
"I will not speak of that now!"
He had loved this Miraelin, Aurelin suddenly knew, Herendil had had to feel very strongly about her because the grief with which he said those words echoed how he had spoken of Írimë. "Before she.... Before she did what she had to do, she came to me. As Írimë's brother you have to know that I thought I loved her, hoped that she would love me back and consent to be my companion when I had been denied Írimë's. But she showed me that I had been wrong, that I only loved her because of the way she reminded me of your sister. I loved Írimë still, and not Miraelin herself but the glimmer of Írimë I thought I saw in Miraelin. She gave me a gift that day, a farewell gift: she had somehow the power to show me Írimë. I had believed that she indeed loved another but Miraelin showed me my error. Through her eyes I saw Írimë looking after me as I sailed away, and then sobbing on her knees that she had had to lie to me that she did not love me anymore for she would not have bared to face me and had needed for me to leave Valinor to make it possible for her to live on and take the next breath. I knew then that I had wasted all my hate of Thingol and his kin and people for no reason, there had been no need for jealously. And then Miraelin let me see something else - Alphros was talking with Írimë. Being young and innocent there would have not been much for him to dwell on in Mandos' Halls and he had been reborn. He was comforting his sister, telling her that he had forgiven me, asking her to do the same, at what Írimë replied that she had done so long ago but feared that she would never have a chance to say that to me."
Laswing was shock-still, eyes wide and unbelieving. "How could Miraelin have done that? Shown you all of it?"
"She was special." Herendil said simply before squaring his shoulders. "I have spent all this while to atone for my misdeeds on these shores, now I am ready to sail back, to Írimë, hoping she will have me back. I had to tell you that your brother had been reborn and I had to ask if I would gain your forgiveness before I leave."
Aurelin glanced from Herendil to Laswing, her hands were trembling, anxious to hear what Gilgaer would answer and that could have been nothing compared to what those two felt. The silence stretched and stretched as Herendil stood before Gilgaer, waiting for his decision while Laswing studied him. Finally, very slowly, Gilgaer rose and extended his hand. Hesitantly Herendil raised his and held his breath, releasing it only when Gilgaer grasped his arm and he returned the gesture.
Laswing's eyes were shining. "Sail from these shores in peace and may you find what you seek, the love you desire!"
The first real smile wormed its way onto the Noldo's otherwise stern face and his demeanour was changed from the gloom to what he had to have been like as Írimë fell in love with him (though tinged inevitably now by the griefs of his life). About to walk out of the room, Laswing stopped him.
"And when you reach Swanhaven, tell my parents that I am well, and about Aurelin. Treat Alphros like your brother, act in my place while I am away. And give all my love to Eithelwen Írimë and my blessing and a kiss."
There was a definite mischievous glint in his eyes as he said the last and Aurelin took a relieved breath, for better sign than anything - if her lover's eyes were laughing again, he truly had forgiven. She rose from her seat and hesitantly approached the two as they said their good-byes, but Herendil noticed her and suddenly, surprising Aurelin (and showing how very more passionate about everything the Noldor were), he scooped her up and gave her a huge brotherly hug, dropped her onto her feet, pushed her into Laswing's arms and bestowed a kiss on her forehead. "May you two be blessed forever! Until we meet again in Eldamar." With a whirl of his velvet cloak he was out the door and strode into the darkness, while Gilgaer and Aurelin followed him out the door into the sweet-smelling night-air and hand in hand witnessed in farewell the Noldo's progress to the stables and over the Bruinen to his yearned-for West.