Before the fighting it was called a battle. During the fighting it was called a battle. In history, it will always be known as a battle. The fifth battle, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, often known as The Nirnaeth, was never meant to sound like a victory. Hardly it could be said to
have accomplished anything at all. But for those who lived through that time, Unnumbered Tears does no justice to the incredible sorrow that followed the loss of thousands upon thousands of great Elves, warriors and leaders alike.
A joy went out with the soldiers that marched out of their respected cities; victory was almost guaranteed for them. The free peoples were strong in numbers and confidant. There were some however, that were not so certain about victory. They knew Morgoth had not yet shown his
full strength, nor had he fully emptied the caverns of his stronghold. Those who voiced this opinion were not strongly heeded.
Before the first sword was drawn, favor was in the hands of Morgoth. A rendezvous between two great hosts of Elves was highly delayed due to Morgoth’s foresight. He had kept the two armies separated until it was too late to join their strength together against him. What soon
followed was a blood shed like no other. Easterlings of the human realm, turned upon their allies and began slewing them from behind. Foul creatures were in abundance and Elves, men and dwarves were cut down like trees. Many valiant deeds could be sung of, if Elves had the heart to sing of them; and if everyone of those heros of those songs were not killed or captured. Very few of the fair Elves that left Gondolin would ever return to the white walls of that place of peaceful beauty. Felindun was one of those killed and maimed upon the battle field; all his honor taken like a wisp of wind.
The last Cistailé saw of her father was of him marching at the head of the vast host of 10,000 Elves, just behind the King Turgon, among many of the Elves leaving the Encircling Mountains for the last time. Felindun’s armor shone in the sun, and his hand rested upon his hilt as he looked back at his wife and daughter. He walked tall and proud not allowing his heart to be heavy like those who were being left behind. Premature war songs burst out in time with the stomping of feet. It was the last host to ever leave in pride, and many walked away knowing the fate that awaited them upon the fields.
Turgon and a handful of others had returned to the city that doomed morning. Weary and defeated, the tale of the bitter loss spread quickly. Even quicker was the discovery of those who never made it back. It had been a long while since her father had departed and Cistailé was anxious to see him again. Yet the reunition was never to be.
The returning soldier’s march through first Tumladen, and then Gondolin was much too short to seem real. Their stunted numbers moved quickly through Gondolin’s carven wooden and stone gates, not wanting to see the ceremony which should have been given to them in victory but ended up being forgotten all together. Some were brave enough in their pride to keep a lifted head as they stormed through Gondolin’s seven gates; most kept a low profile hoping the shame of loss would slide over their metallic armor like rain. Many still bore war wounds, hastily bound on the field or on the retreat back and the light of the Eldar was dimmed from their eyes just as an oil lamp runs out of oil. The soldiers brought with them a storm cloud of remorse, regret, despair- and it spread ahead of their progress into the city quicker then a poisoned rumor.
Without having to even search the returning elves, Cistailé knew her father was not among the survivors. He had not been with her in heart or mind for many weeks but she had thought it only apprehention of the times. She had not wanted to accept the feeling until she knew that it was not lost hope which plagued her. But now Cistailé knew as she forced herself to search each profile as it passed her by; Felinor was not one of the remnant, nor would he ever stumble back into Gondolin’s haven, having been now erased from living existence.
Everyone who had been left behind inside the Mountains lined the streets and the cobble stone passageways of the city, fighting each other to grab a glimpse at the returning ranks. Those who had found the harsh truth fell to crying out in pain and screaming the questions of sudden grief. What had happened during the battle, how did the one they loved die, how would life ever continue without skipping a beat? Or had the beat just been skipped and all but the soldiers missed it? But none of the questions could be answered. The soldiers could not, and would not answer the cries for what they had seen, what had happened or what had become of any of their comrades. And if they ever would speak of such things, only lapsed time would reveal that. For now the still adorned soldiers were as silent as the grave riddled battle field they left behind, concentrating only on keeping their forward motion forward.
Cistailé had been told the tales from wars gone by, and had seen the devastating effects of the deathly conflicts started at the beginning of the world; but had never known war’s after effects as something of her own. But now, as the realization of Felinor’s death dawned as a new realism, the ages old knowledge of loss, washed over her like a thick rain, soaking Cistailé down to the core of her nature, an unnatural alien to her soul. Like so many others around her, she forgot about the living and sought only to weep for the dead in the silence of some sacred place. Any place which was away from the soldiers, for now they were only a horrid living reminder to be avoided until she was able to grasp….that she was now condemned to be without the father whom she had adored since she first saw his face.
Cistailé knew not where she had turned to flee to, so long as it was away. Away from the tears, the talk and rumors and even her friends who reached out to calm her as she passed them in a flurry of drowned color. Her feet carried her past the gloried objects which Gondolin possessed and flaunted, of such comfort in their regularity, that were suddenly seized of their significance and carried no more security in their presence. She wanted away from the living to remember the dead; to be separated from the torment. What Cistailé wanted was a child’s dream. But the grieved torment had already begun to wrench her into a twisted corpse. She could feel it working.
The darkness followed her around every alley, and every building she turned into offered nothing but cold, heartless stone. But she could not be rid of her suffering. It followed her wherever she went, a burr buried deep into an animal’s fur, so she turned to the last place of peace she knew.
Only was it when she was looking out over across the white walls and staring out at the rising sun did Cistailé trust herself to stop running away. It was there on the battlements that Cistailé laid herself to stand in mourning for a full cycle of the sun; most glorious of the two lights in the sky, for it chased the enemy into hiding.
Ever since she had first walked along the outer wall of the city, it had always been a special place for Cistailé as she would often go there to think in the silence it brought with being above the passing of life. There were other elves on the wall as well now, alongside the on duty guards, but no one recognized the presence of another.
Another fulfillment of the Noldorian curse was becoming clearer with every passing minute now. The world would continue its coarse, the moon would still shine and the sun would forever rise again in its never faltering cycle. Griefs untold were befalling the people and Cistailé’s young life was touched by the sting of death for the first time and a hopelessness rested over her which threatened the very life put in her by Illúvatar.
The small glow which unfaltering heralded the sun’s grand entrance began to grow like a flowering bud on top of the spiked mountain peeks, and still Cistailé kept her stand on the walls. The sounds of mournful chanting and weeping continued to echo through her ears, her own
mourning apparent on her features though no tear had dropped to stain her face.
Felindun was one of the best in the army, full of experience and never daunted by even the mightiest of the enemy. He had returned unscathed from the previous battles Gondolin had marched to, what happened during this battle, the Nirnaeth, that would never allow him to
return? Would he be content in the halls of Mandos with all others who were taken away as well? Would he ever return to this life? So the questions began which could not be answered.
As she scanned the sky line for some sign of peace, the beautifully deep, but now glazed over eye of Cistailé caught the brightest star in the fading darkness and she began to speak softly, to herself or the star high above, hoping that one of the two could help her in her dark lament.
“Ai natir essevilwa
Rambakir sinomena minyakal
Im noldo imuva uraen si
Melaniel elye alyenol
Im mel pella ar oio-uva
Nanar noldo anim
Im atar ar oio-uva
Alye uva’u aiya o’alye
Ai natir essevilwa
Anna im ionnon
Hir atar met
Imu aut’atar atanna
Atan u’huene coi’u
Atar si ari”*
Cistailé came to a jarring halt in her mournful cry, sensing someone standing, unceasingly behind her. She spun around and faced a morose Galarian who stood there, his unbound dark hair flicking into the velvety sky. She did not know when he had come, but it agitated her that he did
nothing but watch like a spectator for a time enough. For a long while she stood straight staring at him, not sure whether or not to be mad at his uninvited intrusion upon her lamenting or to welcome his company at a time which none could console her. He too carefully awaited his
judgement. Seeing his expectation of some punishment, Cistailé relented and attempted to suppress her currently wild emotions.
“I was told of….it. I am so sorry.”
“What are you doing here, watching over me like a hawk over meat?” Cistailé demanded.
“The whole earth mourns, not one untouched, you lest of all. Can I not come to comfort a friend?”
“Bring me no comfort for it will not stay and will be a wasted gift.”
“Nothing could be wasted on one as you. I too knew Felindun, you know that. Something great has been taken back from Gondolin, and many weep his going. You were his daughter. I come to not watch you like prey but to mourn with you so you are not alone.” Galarian stepped
closer to Cistailé and his face and eyes were filled with the pity of the Noldrorim. But it was lost to Cistailé who wanted no pity or others sorrow.
“You say `were’ and not `are’. Am I no longer my father’s daughter because he has died? Or do I have to give that honor up as well? Things have not greatly changed when it comes in that light and I will not stop calling myself a daughter of Felindun even if all his memory shall fade, as the darkness does now.”
“I did not mean that.”
“But you said it in any case. It is hard to say what you do not believe Galarian. What are you thinking? We have been fighting a losing war ever since Fëanor ran off from Valinor in vain; Morgoth is greater and soon we will all perish. The same doom that has been following us has
finally found us and is about to waylay, leaving all that we have created in ashes. Many have fallen in quest to fulfill the unachievable aspiration and wait across the sea. What is but one more soul among the already great number waiting in the West?
` Have not enough perished to satisfy the mouth of death? Or do we no longer heed the great and their deeds, and have become so involved in what has been stolen from us, that we can no longer see that we are being stolen from everyday in this on going war? Being stolen is more then just jewels and things, but lives and the very souls which were made to gladden the day before us. Singing, dancing and rejoicing because to do such things was enjoyable. My father never beheld the silmarills yet he fought in this weighted battle, and he knew the joy of singing to the rising sun. He fought for stolen objects, and was he taken in their place.” Cistailé’s voice began to falter and she turned her back on Galarian, not wanting him to see her quail. A gentle
hand gripped Cistailé’s arm and slowly turned her around again. His slow hand lifted her fallen head and lifted it up so her dark eyes met his. Two small tears began to form and drop from her eyes like a river’s dam breaking a small leak.
“Felindun is not among many, but one out of those who have found honor in death. He and his deeds will always be remembered.” There was a pause as his calming words began to take effect, and then Galarian continued. “Look into the sky and pick a star.”
Cistailé gave Galarian a wondering look, yet he encouraged her to do so. He dropped his hand from her face and she looked long into the sky, trying to find any star which had not been drowned out by the rising sun. She found the star, high in the west which had been the one she
had just finished crying out to, not long ago.
“There. That one which has not yet been over taken by the sun.” Cistailé pointed to the paling light.
“Remember that star. In the west your father now dwells, and in the west dwells your father’s star and will always be there for you.”
Having no other direction or sense to follow other then that of her companion, Cistailé gazed long at the star until it could be seen no more under the growing day, not even by her Elven eyes. When at last the star’s light was over powered by the sun, Cistailé turned away from
the pink glowing, but empty air scape. It was like the ending of a book and the last page had just been slammed closed with fury. Cistailé could not withstand the pressure of her eyes’s any longer and began to cry, burring her head into Galarian’s shoulder, letting all the fear, anger, and
apprehension be carried out in sadly sweet watery drops.
Oh watcher in the sky
Here my cry
There is division here this morning
I know where not to turn
My mother, please know
I still love you and always will
But I cannot start to pretend
My father I have always loved you
But you will not see my smile anymore
Nor will I see yours
Watcher in the sky
Give me the chance
Let me take up where my father left off
Honor I cannot do to second his
As he was taken from sorrow less bliss
So has he been taken from me.