As the Sun Fades on a Starless Night: A Tale of Gildor Inglorian

by Mar 11, 2007Stories

In the darkness during the midst of the Third Age, when Eärnil II was King of Gondor and the Witch-king smote terror in the North, many troubles beset the peoples of Middle-earth. Yet despite this strife a few of the strong and wise still stood firm against the shadows that beset them, and not least of these were Elrond and his kinsmen.

Of these nobles, there was among them the young lord Gildor Inglorian, strong in build and wealthy in wisdom. We have it that he was a close friend of many free folk in Middle-earth, among them Elrond Halfelven and both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearers. In the company of these last two he was known especially for his clever wit and shining hospitality; it is said that, despite his high elven nobility, he conducted himself in such amiable manner and welcome that his guests never felt shy or awkward in his presence.

Happy and carefree as he appeared among friends, however, the call of the West was strong upon his soul, and from it he suffered greatly. For deep also was his love for Middle-earth, a land in which he had come to know so much beauty. His life cannot be ranked among the stories of great kings and mightier elves, for overall he would be considered to have had a happy existence. But the strain between his longing for the sea and the love of Middle-earth afforded him much grief, and this is the tale of how it became so.

Quickly and terribly the North-kingdom came to fall in those elder times, and bitter were those days for Gildor. His want for the Undying Lands was heavy then, and nothing seemed to lighten his melancholy. With the lawless and reckless strife that besieged the North then, only further worry and trouble fell upon his shoulders. His people became scattered and it seemed all was amiss and in ruin. Southwards he rode through the Ered Luin, searching for his kin that had gone astray, as he himself had become separated in the confusion of the escape. Shortly after he crossed the Baranduin he came into Eryn Vorn, the Black Woods. Dark and wild was that forest, and in vain Gildor sought his way through the knotted bows of the gloomy trees, and he became lost.

Sad were his thoughts, and weary his limbs. Darkness assailed his heart there in the silent woods, so that he despaired against all beauty in Middle-earth. And deep in his spirit he wept for the West, for shining shores where evil never ventured.

Fatigued and alone, he at last laid himself to rest in a glen of dead and barren trees. But as he drifted to sleep, he spied a creature wandering through the desolate woods.

“What manner of beast may live in these woods?” he asked himself. “Certainly no man dwells here, where even the birds do not sing! Better that I go forth to meet it, than to idly wait for my foe,” he thought, and he withdrew his sword, and carefully followed after the figure.

Yet swiftly ran his quarry, and soon he became even more bewildered to his surroundings. The dark of night engulfed the forest, so that he might hardly see what lay before him along the path. Elves are very nimble and alert even in the blackest of forests, but even still Gildor found himself stumbling over many roots and branches as he blindly rushed through the undergrowth. Then at last he came to an opening in the woods, and the stars afforded him light to see by, and there he saw what he had been chasing in those dark and tangled woods.

A lady robed in simple garb stood before him; her raven hair was loose and softly blowing in the night breeze. Here eyes shone like a cold dagger beneath the stars, and it seemed to Gildor that he had never in his many years seen a lady as beautiful nor as haunting as this maid.

“Fair lady!” he cried, but it was too late, for she had sped from him upon his first sound, and bound into the depths of the woods again.

In wonder Gildor stayed in that open glade, not daring to return back thither into the ghastly woods that night. Yet as he slept, he dreamt of the dark lady; she watched him silently, here eyes were brilliant and as piercing as those of an untamed beast, yet when he woke she was nowhere to be seen, and no trace of her could he find.

That morning he continued through the Black Woods, until at last he came to the edge of the forest along the sea. Great was his joy at escaping that perilous place and upon seeing once more the endless realm of the West. And then he wondered that he had not heard the gulls from within the forest, as it was so close to shore. But as he looked back one last time, he once more saw the lady, there at the edge of the forest under the gnarled trees. She said nothing, but once again stared solemnly at the noble elf lord. He said nothing either this time, but walked slowly towards her; this time she did not flee. Her eyes were still mystifying and fierce as they were the night before, and her face was lovely and proud.

“Why did you chase me in the night?” she asked at last, and her voice was beautiful but stern.

“Why do you follow me now?” said Gildor. “I was lost in the darkness, and took you for a fell beast in pursuit. You do not trust me? Have faith in me, lady, for truly, if I meant you harm, you would not stand before me now.” And she saw the long sword at his side, and knew his words to be true.

“I am of the moriquendi,” she answered, “Dark Elves. We are people of the wild. There are few of us here, and seldom do strangers walk in our woods. Yet you are of elven kin as we, with the likeness as one who has come across from the West.” She turned her eyes towards the sea.

“Yea, lady, and with me many kinsmen have sailed. For I am Gildor Inglorian, and many of my kin now dwell in Imladris, with Elrond son of Eärendil. I have seen your kind in the Greenwood across Anduin, but I knew not that you also dwelt hither so close to the shores of the sea. Tell me, what is your name?”

“I am called Duraeniel, and weary am I of these shadowy woods. I came after you that I might see whither you leave to, and thereby find my way to other elves as well.”

“Come then, for I shall make my way to Imladris if I can, where in all good hope my people may have also strayed, or so I pray. There you will find welcome, with both men and elves, and there shall be protection from the evil that assails us now. I swear unto you a safe journey, and then you may take your own leave as where you wish to go. Though I deem it was a good fate that we might know one another’s company for the time being. For indeed, you are the most beautiful lady I have ever seen, and long would I wander seeing you as I did last night under the stars, but that you have come now to me in daylight.” And yet as he said this, Gildor knew in his heart that he loved the dark maiden, and even still in the day she haunted him.

And so they two departed from the forest, though all the while Duraeniel was silent and would not speak. After several days of traveling, they came at last upon Imladris. There Elrond welcomed both Gildor and Duraeniel, and Gildor met with many of his kin that had been lost. At first the dark maiden seemed amazed by the wisdom and lore of Elrond and his people, but soon she became accustomed to Imladris, and even grew bitter towards it. She rarely wore shoes, but always ran light and barefooted; never did she put her hair back in braids like the other elf-maids, but ever she wore it loose as she had that night Gildor first had seen her. She shunned the indoors, and often walked in the woods and along the river. Gildor would commonly go with her on these walks, but only rarely still would she say anything to him.  After dwelling in Rivendell for a while, at length the shadow of the Witch-king vanished, and the North was once again free from his evil. Gildor prepared to leave again with his folk, but as he made ready, Duraeniel remained inside more, and would not venture out under sun or stars.

One day at last she came to him, and her face was sad and troubled. “Truly, I shall not see joy again, nor walk in the forest or feel the wind blow in my hair, for with you gone my days shall be lonely and cold, as the moon upon a barren night.” And she wept before him at last, tears falling from those eyes that once had shone so fiercely. She spoke to him of how she left Eryn Vorn for him, and how she had never looked upon any lord like himself until that night, so that she knew she could never leave him.

“And was it you, then, that stayed beside me through the night in that glade, though when I woke you were gone?” asked Gildor.

“Yea,” she said. “Though I would not leave you come the morning now.”

“Then you shall not. For did I not say you were more beautiful than any I had ever beheld? So you are, and neither should I wander alone without you.” So they plighted their troth to one another, and within the waning of the next moon were wed.

Elrond said nothing to Gildor during this time, for though he wished his friend happiness, he forbode in his heart that the dark maiden would bring much sorrow to Gildor in the end. So when they were wed, he gave Gildor the warning of Aldarion the Mariner King of Numenor. “You are married now, with a beautiful wife. Know that she alone must hold your love, and nothing else.” And Gildor swore it would be so, and yet worry still clouded Elrond’s heart.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Those first years after Gildor’s marriage to Duraeniel were the happiest the elf lord ever knew. Gladly each day was spent under the open sky, and where Inglorian’s folk wandered none cared, but let the wind decide. Two children also were born to them. A son, Elendor, was their firstborn, and in all ways and manners he seemed to take the likeness of his mother. Dark was his hair, and darker still his eyes, which shone like a fire in the night. A daughter too, was born to them, but she was neither completely like her mother nor her father. Her hair was a fair brown, with weavings of gold and darkness in it like the dying sun upon the Baranduin, and her face was lovely and kind. Here eyes were soft and grey like her father’s. Yet as her mother she too was a daughter of the wilderness, and as a gypsy child she would play in the forests and meadows. So they named her Induleth, or Maiden of the Setting Sun, being both a child of darkness and of light.

But it was not long that this joy was to last. Soon Gildor’s heart once again longed to gaze upon the sea, and he felt a calling of the West within him, and his soul was restless. Imploringly he besought his wife that they should cross over to the Undying lands, and yet she would not consent. For she scorned those elves that had abandoned Middle-earth, as it was her home. The Light of Aman had never shone in her people’s faces, and she mocked they who sought after it.

“Husband,” she would say, “will you sail across the sea, and forsake me and your children? For never shall I walk tame upon the distant shores in the West; rather, I will remain upon these lands forever, even until the last star shall fade away, and all be consumed in darkness. Then still shall I wander through the night, for I am no daughter of light, but Duraniel, to whom you have sworn your love. You must choose then, what fate you shall share: your kinsmen’s, or mine.”

“If ever my heart fails to you, then surely I should die,” Gildor would answer. But in his heart he grew sad and burdened, and he came to speak no more of the West.

One day, when Gildor’s folk chanced to be walking nearby the sea, a gull flew by, crying out his loud call to the travelers. Within him, Gildor felt his soul stir, and he was deeply moved at the bird’s cry.

“Silence, O Western bird!” called back his wife angrily. “Does not the raven better you in song, with his voice so much more strong and beautiful? Why then do you speak of Orome, when it is to the Forest that you should sing? Go now, for we have no care to hear your far off tale!”

And the gull fled, but as he departed, he called out to Gildor, chanting a dismal song, that was both mysterious and prophetic.

“Ele! Ele! You have chosen a starless night!
Your heart weary! Dreary! Before you see light!
Harken! Awaken! Now behold the West shore:
Your soul shall not rest here or there evermore!”

But Duraniel only laughed at the bird’s song, and continued along the path.

It was not long until trouble came once again to the North. The last King of Gondor had perished, and a great war came over that land. It was said that Isildur’s heir should return to claim the throne, yet it was deemed unwise. Gandalf, one of the Istari, had spoken that he foresaw that Isildur’s throne could not be filled again until the curse of his House be destroyed. Many despaired at these words, but the Dunedain continued to guard Arnor and the North nevertheless, and they were valiant men.

Gildor worried that he should take his people to a safer haven, such as Rivendell or Lorien. But Duraniel would not go. She saw nothing dangerous around her, and she felt not the darkness that was creeping in about Middle-earth, for she was of that darkness, and as her ancestors she chose to forsake the light of Aman rather than depart from the black wild she had ever dwelt in. Her son, too, was adamant not to leave, for he had grown to dislike the grand halls of learning and art such as Rivendell’s, and he feared the quiet peace of Lothlorien. And so he implored his father that they not leave, although he was still only a boy. Once again, Gildor swore that he could never abandon his family; he relented to Duraniel, even as Elrond’s warning and the gull’s song came back to his memory.

His people fled to the northern corners of Arnor, near the dwellings of those little people that Men called hobbits. Sometimes the elves would go and spy on the small creatures, and laugh at their strange and crude ways. Most especially they were amused at the halflings’ obsession with pipeweed, and sometimes they played merry tricks on the hobbits who wandered in the woods. Duraniel found the hobbits to be very ridiculous indeed, neither clever nor sightly, and she laughed at them out of mockery. But Gildor found that they had a hidden charm about them, and deemed that in their innocent lifestyle hope for the future rested.

They were not far from the Grey Havens where they were, and sometimes Gildor would walk off alone to look out on the harbor. Once he took his daughter with him, and saw as she danced along the sand in the fading sun. When she finished she took a flower and threw it into the sea.

“Do they have flowers in the West, Ada?” she asked, for she was still very small.

“Yes, flowers as beautiful as the stars and fresher than the morning,” he answered. “But wildflowers like these on Middle-earth have never grown along their shores.”

“Then I will bring them some when I go,” she said. “And then we shall have all kinds of flowers!”

Gildor’s heart sank, and he then realized that he must sail to the West. Duraniel’s dark beauty could never hold him, and he saw that he had lied to himself in thinking otherwise. It was ill that he had ever met her that night in the Dark Woods, and a sorrow that he had loved her. Coldly he went back to camp that night with his daughter, and he said no word to his wife when they went to bed.

Duraniel figured her husband rightly, however. Scorn and disdain rode proudly in her eyes, for she was angry that Gildor should ever forsake her for the West. She would never leave to those shores, and a wild fire burned in her heart.

The next morning Gildor spoke to her, and he too was proud and stern as she had never seen him towards her before.

“I will go West, Duraniel,” he said, “I cannot but do otherwise. Yet I have taken oath never to leave you, and by honor I shall keep my part of the oath. Therefore I ask that you relent and go with me; as you are my wife, you must cling to my calling as yours as well.”

“Nay, this calling is foolish,” she said. “I will not abandon these shores, and as I can speak and reason neither will our children. I have told you that you must choose between my fate and your kindred’s, and if you choose the latter, I am no longer bound to you.”

“You once also told me that you should not leave me come the morning,” replied Gildor. “Will you now leave me when I am once again lost in darkness?”

But Duraniel would not answer. Her heart was cold and barren, and the next day neither she nor Elendil their son could be found anywhere. Long and hard Gildor searched, but he could not find his wife or child, and after long years of hunting for them, he gave them up as lost. Truly then he was a broken lord, and he grieved every night that he could never be at rest, be he in the Undying Lands or in Middle-earth. His only consolation was his daughter Induleth. Duraniel had left her behind as well, for their little girl was still very young when her mother fled. Indeed, she had tried to take the child with her when she fled, but the girl fell to weeping once she saw that they were leaving, and her desperate mother, not willing to risk being caught, left her behind. She was yet very young and small, fragile and beautiful, and Gildor came to treasure her as all that was left of him. Yet the love he felt for her also tormented him, as he saw in Induleth her mother too, and he would fall into sorrow at Duraniel’s memory.

Ever since her mother left her, Induleth had been very timid and quiet. For one so small, she had taken great hurt. And as the shadows thickened about Middle-earth, the father felt great fear lest anything should befall Induleth. And so it came about at last that Gildor sent her to Imladris where she grew under the care of gentle Celebrian; in all things she grew into a young lady second only in beauty and grace to her kinswoman Arwen. But she was a child of two worlds, nevertheless, and often ran barefoot as her mother once had. Elrond’s folk called her the “Wildflower”, and in her face alone Gildor found peace, for he saw both the haunting beauty of Duraniel and yet the light of the West. And as Induleth grew, she was a likeness of both.

For several years he continued to wander upon the shore, keeping a foolish hope in his heart that Duraniel would return to him, but she never did. Then at last his resolve came again, and he made plans to sail west. His heart grew lighter at this thought, and his spirit became more mirthful, as it once had been. It was while he still dwelt on the shores of Middle-earth after this time that he came to know Bilbo Baggins, and later by chance met Frodo and his kin as they were trying to avoid the Black Riders. Within a few years after this fateful meeting, he met Frodo once more among a company of other noble elves, and together, all left at last, departing by ship to the Hither Shores.

As he boarded the gray ship, a peace came over him and calmed the many worries that had been harbored in his heart for many centuries. He turned his face to the horizon, and knew no sorrow. As the winds caught the sails and moved out towards the sinking sun, he looked back only once, compelled for a moment by some strange feeling. Standing on the strand he thought for a moment that he saw a maiden, her hair loose and blowing the evening salt air. Her eyes seemed both sad and fierce all at the same moment, and she stood proudly, as a daughter of the wild. But the fading sun cast a golden breath upon her darkened face. Then all at once a gull cried in the sky, calling aloud: “Ele! Ele!” or “Behold! Behold!” The maid turned her gaze to the sky at the bird, and Gildor looked up at him too. But when his eyes fell upon the shoreline again, the lady was gone. She had vanished, like a shadow, or something from a haunting dream. But she was nothing more.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Induleth wept, watching as a small flower was tossed about in the foamy surf. She too had heard the gull crying in the sky of the West as she stared out to the sunset. As she stood in the woods, she watched the ship sail into the distance until it was lost to her gaze. A deep pain was stabbing at her heart as the sky turned dark into a starless night. She was a daughter of both light and darkness, called the Wildflower by her people. She had chosen to remain behind.


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