The Pearls - By Gwathy
Her name was Luhnwen.
Her parents left her in the care of Elwë Singollo before departing with the Avari.
She was graceful, tender, and shy.
No Elf child could be her friend without careful and patient coaxing.
As she grew older she was renowned as a beauty.
Her song was as beautiful as that of the nightbird and she was among the greatest of her female kin.
But when Elwë could not be found she opened her heart to the accusation of the Evils that it was her fault. That she was not good enough and had driven him away.
The only father she knew.
This grieved her deeply, but no one could pry from her the secret deep in her heart.
No friend close enough did she have.
She followed them, the Teleri. She followed Olwë. But she was treated as a mystical, odd girl everywhere she went in the camps.
No one opened their arms to her, and she was cut more deeply, believing that she was not good enough for anyone.
In Alqualondë, when it had been built, she kept a home near the Palace, backing the citadel.
She was still Elwë's daughter, Olwë insisted.
She did not speak much, only to buy and sell.
To trade the pearls that she gathered for her livelihood.
And no one remembered the voice that used to rise above the trees like the nightingale's song.
Nor the face that used to grace her father's left side.
And the graceful, tender, shy creature so lived for many years.
Her name was Luhnwen.
His name was Lanthirion.
He was a traveler, come from Taniquetil not long after the wounded one had arrived, hoping for the good fortune of finding him here.
He was strong, witty, unorthodox.
Olwë took an immediate dislike to him.
However the approval of the people could not be ignored.
Luhnwen bought and sold, and watched him in the marketplace.
He was so loud and confident in himself, but he was not vain.
He had a room near the palace, while he waited for his wounded friend to heal.
She watched him from her tiny window, in the second story of her house.
Fascinated by his smile, his air, the very way that he walked to and from his room.
But no closer could she get to him than to anyone.
Why should he be different anyway?
He bought a loaf of bread across the street one morning, as she was out sweeping the sand from her step.
She looked up at him upon heagay his laugh.
He glanced at her, and came nearer.
Suddenly afraid, she resumed sweeping her step with brisk, hard strokes.
"This bread is very fine. So light and sweet, yet not overmuch."
She said nothing, yet still he stood near.
She could feel the eyes of the others in the narrow court, watching them.
He looked down at her skirt, at the street, at her window.
"I have bought a pearl," he said.
She stopped sweeping, but still she did not look at him.
"Look," he said. "See if you have seen this one before."
She took the soft gem that he offered her. It was of marvelous blue hue. She had been paid much for it.
"Aye," she said softly. "I have."
"It is as beautiful as its discoverer. Keep it until I return tomorrow."
He strolled away from her and down the street.
Luhnwen held the pearl in her hand and watched his back as he left.
She did not go out the next day to sweep.
He came to he door and knocked, however.
She let him in, though she colored at the suspicious gazes of the Elves in in street.
When she had shut the door and silently offered him a seat, he did not take it and spoke to her.
"I have bought another pearl."
He held out to her another beauty. Smaller, but tinged with the color of the coral beneath the waves.
"I found that in an oyster that I ate," she volunteered timidly.
"It, too, is as beautiful as its discoverer, whether she found it by knife or by tooth. Keep it until I return tomorrow."
The next day when he knocked on her door, she was waiting for him.
"Have you another pearl?" she asked, though her tongue was unused to questions.
"I do," he said.
He held it out to her, luminous and radiant, a dazzling white.
"I rescued the oyster from a swan that was trying to crack it. I was sorry to sell it," she said in a near-whisper.
"It must be placed with the others. Where do you keep them?"
Luhnwen led him up to her room and opened an ornate, velvet-lined case. Inside sat the two previous pearls. He placed the white one with the other two.
"Tomorrow, bring this box to the room that I am staying in," he said. "Thank you for keeping them for me."
And he was gone.
The next day was not a market day.
Luhnwen put on her cloak and went out of her house, carrying the box.
She cringed under the scrutiny of the few that were about.
But still she continued walking until she came to the door of Lanthirion's rooms.
She looked around before putting out her hand and rapping on the wood.
He came almost immediately, and Luhnwen held the box out to him.
"Won't you stay for a moment?" he said.
She nodded, looking down, and stepped inside.
"Here are your pearls," she said, offering him the box again.
Even still he would not take it.
"Will you walk with me to the shore?" he asked instead.
Luhnwen was afraid. Afraid of the glances and looks of the people.
But she was not afraid of him, and deep in heart, she desparately wanted to.
"I will," she said, her voice crystal clear, not murmured as it usually was.
But still she did not meet his gaze.
He took the box from her and led the way out of the room.
The ocean was calm.
Lanthirion stopped a little way from the city, and she stopped behind him.
"Where do these pearls belong?" he asked of her.
"With he who buys them," she replied.
"No," he said. "With she who discovers them."
He placed the box in her hands.
"A pearl is a wonderful thing," he said. "Outside of an oyster is a hard, rocky shell. When touched the careful oyster seals himself and will not come out without the coaxing of a knife. However, when the Elf with the knife succeeds in her task, she discovers whether or not she has wasted her time."
Luhnwen was silent, and still did not look at him.
"I do not believe I have wasted my time," said Lanthirion. "And inside the shell I have discovered the largest, brightest, most beautiful pearl I have ever known there to be. And I will never sell it to anyone, nor let it be taken from me."
She stared out over the ocean, watching the waves roll in and lap on the shore.
"However, if the pearl is not willing, I will allow it to go back to her warm, dark bed in her hard, rocky shell. Is this a more appealing thing than the caress and the love of her discoverer?"
Luhnwen breathed deeply, choking down her fear and timidity, and looked up into the large blue eyes of this loud, boisterous stranger.
"If I am so beautiful to you, it is not," she said. "You may keep me, for I am willing."
No one in Alqualondë could understand.
Luhnwen and Landthirion walked every day together.
But in time Lanthirion's wounded friend healed and the warrior knew that he must return to Taniquetil.
When he told Luhnwen this she gazed at the floor of her room, silently mourning the day.
"I will return, and not long hence," he said. "The want of my pearl will make my fondness for it grow, but now I must put it away."
Luhnwen nodded, knowing he was right.
He touched her cheek with a large, strong hand, and was gone.
She did not see him again until three hundred years later, for his people in the more extreme north had been ravaged by strange and fearful Evils.
He came to her door, to her great surprise, and asked her if she would walk to the shore with him.
She accepted in a most unusually eager way, so great was her joy.
Lanthirion took her hand and held it as they walked.
They stopped and sat among a flock of swans, watching the waves roll and hearing their dull, incessant roar.
"I have missed the feel of my pearl," he said. "So long have we been apart."
"And I have missed the strength and warmth of my discoverer's hand," said Luhnwen.
Lanthirion kissed the hand he held,then her arm, her neck, her lips.
She could feel his strength pass through her like a cold wind.
The sound of a horn ripped through the evening air.
A warning filled with fear and haste.
The two stood together. Luhnwen looked fearfully northward, seeing the glow of fire in the darkining sky.
"Come, Luhnwen," said Lanthirion. "Let us return to the city."
They retreated to Luhnwen's little house. Lanthirion went out and secured for himself a bow and arrows, in case he would have to fight.
"They are saying it is Fëanor and the Noldor, and that they have come to take your ships."
A loud knock came at the door and an Elf threw it open.
"No one can be spared," he cried. "If this city is to win the night all must fight."
Lanthirion could not consent.
"She will stay here," he said in finality.
"I have been trained with our bows and arrows, Lanthirion," said Luhnwen. "If I am needed I will go."
Lanthirion looked from one to the other.
"You will stay near to me," he said.
Luhnwen did not object to this.
The commotion outside grew in volume and magnitude.
The two of them stayed close to one another, attempting to fight their way to the back of the city where they might retreat into the woods behind and from there into the mountains.
But the Noldor were breaking through.
It soon became too close to use their slim bows and lightweight arrows. Lanthirion took up a sword from a fallen Nolda and gestured for Luhnwen to do the same.
Luhnwen had not been trained in the art of swordfighting, and did the best she could.
She knew that when they broke through and escaped that she would be very greatful to Lanthirion for the many times he blocked a blow that would have killed her.
Finally they broke through the lines of the Noldor. Lanthirion pushed Luhnwen in front of him, toward the line of trees that would provide refuge.
Luhnwen ran as the wind over the water, allowing no rock nor any soft sand to slow her. She could hear the heavy breathing of the Lanthirion behind her, and so ran at breakneck pace, not knowing if there were any pursual or not.
She ran like a gazelle into the trees, but had not time to turn before the thud of a thick, heavy arrow reached her ears.
She spun faster than she had fled.
Lanthirion had also turned, watching an archer on the wall of the city. A Noldorin arrow had pierced his shoulder.
The Nolda sent an arrow flying toward them, but the warrior knocked it out of the air with his blade.
They heard a snarl come from the wall.
Another arrow, and another close behind.
One sword to block one arrow, one arm to protect his heart.
Lanthirion buckled and fell to his knees.
The archer disappeared over the wall.
Luhnwen ran to Lanthirion. She buried her face in his neck and sobbed, holding him as tightly as she dared with his wounds.
"Luhnwen," he gasped.
She stopped her sobbing and looked into his blue eyes, watching the light in them flicker and dim.
"Luhnwen," he whispered softly. "I have bought a pearl."
He took her hand and dropped into it a large pearl. It was black.
Luhnwen gazed at it in the fireglow of the burning city, feeling her heart crack, and her eyes fill, and her shoulders shake with unquenched sobs. Pouring over her soul like thick cream was the darkness, the dispair of being lonely that Lanthirion had dissapated with his notice of her.
But Lanthirion died.
She fled to Taniquetil, where she became an upright, honored Elf.
She could not ever fill the void in her heart left by the departure of Lanthirion.
However, she wedded and raised many children.
She remembered the value that Lanthirion had placed on her.
His veiled admonishment not to let herself be undiscovered.
She did not fear his offence, for she knew that he would have wanted her to be held always.
Though perhaps not always in his arms.
She returned to Alqualondë for the first three pearls.
They were heirlooms of her family for all the ages of Arda, each of her four children receiving one of those cherished gems.
And they never left Valinor.
Luhnwen gave her spirit to Mandos when her husband was slain in battle and was warmly received into the arms of the loud, unorthodox warrior that she had grown to love and had cherished her as her precious gems.
Her last words to her children were these:
"I shut my shell forever. No other hands shall touch, no other eyes see but his."
And her children were amazed, for Luhnwen had never spoken of Lanthirion, but instead left him in her velvet box with her pearls, so that she might eventually have again the pleasure of his touch, made sweeter by his long absence.