Believe me if all those
endearing young charms
which I gaze on so fondly today
were to change by tomorrow
and fleet in my arms,
like fairy gifts fading away
thou would’st still be adored
as this moment thou art
let thy loveliness fade as it will.
And around the dear ruin
each wish of my heart
would entwine itself
Elrohir knelt with bowed head beside Calassë’s bed, his hand covering her mottled, clawed fingers that rested motionless upon the small silver blanket he had pressed into her motionless hands. She was breathing yet, but the slight motion of it barely moved the coverlet.
She was fading. Like a wilting flower, she was fading. He wished to deny it, but he could not, and his heart broke anew every time he lifted his eyes, and studied her face, still Calassë, though the skin had grown mottled and rough. She was still the maiden he loved, her soul as beautiful as it had ever been.
“Calassë, Calassë-,” Elrohir whispered to the darkness as he had countless times in the past hours, his voice weak and void of hope.
But now-, his eyes lifted suddenly as she stirred, and his heart leapt within him as he found her eyes, open, and focused upon him.
Her voice was weak, but he could still hear Calassë’s tones within it, almost music as she spoke his name, and he straightened swiftly, leaning nearer to her, his hand tightening about her own as his other hand touched the dry, ragged hair upon her head. Her eyes-, he swallowed hard as he leaned nearer. Her eyes were unchanged, her innocence as bright and clear within them as ever it had been before.
“Calassë, I am here.”
“I am so weary, Elrohir,” she sighed, her fingers tightening weakly upon the silver cloth.
“You have been wounded, Calassë, but you will recover,” he choked, drawing the silver blanket to her cheek. “You will see.”
“No, no,” she shook her head, glancing away, her eyes brimming with tears as she pressed her cheek to the blanket like a child. “I can feel the power waning within me, even now. The darkness is too strong-, it does not forgive. I remember what happened, now. I have lived as one of them all these ages, Elrohir. It is too deep in me. I cannot-, The shadow is too strong, Elrohir-,” She turned back to him, pleading in her eyes. “This time here, with you-, It was but a brief, sweet dream, and now I am as I was, before-,”
“Living as Sauron’s slave was the dream, the nightmare, Calassë!” Elrohir grated furiously, cutting off her words. “It is over now! Return to who you were born to be! You were born in Gondolin, of noble, goodly parents! You had kin, friends!” He cast his eyes about, seeking wildly for something before he snatched desperately upon a thought. “Lord Glorfindel! You knew him. Have you remembered? Surely he was a dear friend, a trusted mentor to you that you would remember his name after all these years. What of him? I promised you I would take you to him again, when the darkness passed. Do you remember Glorfindel, Calassë? Do you remember why you have never forgotten his name?”
“Glorfindel,” she sighed as tears slipped down her cheeks, streaking silver lines across the roughened skin. “Would that I could remember him as I remember dear little Eärendil-,” she gulped hard.
“My sweet Eärendil is gone away, to where I cannot go.” she murmured in a breathless whisper. “And my promise is broken.”
“Your promise?” he managed to query, though his voice was hardly his own.
“My last words to my dear little one the night that Gondolin was attacked, were words of promise, that I would see him again when the morning dawned bright. I thought it was fulfilled the morning I found you, the light that lived ever in his eyes, I thought I saw in yours, and I thought you were he. But you are not, and my oath is unfulfilled, for they came, and they took me away from him. And now, I remember all the bitterness, all of it.” Her lips trembled softly, a bitter ache in her eyes.
“You were never truly one of them, Calassë,” Elrohir breathed softly. “I know you were not. Your heart never forgot who you were in Gondolin, the brave, noble maiden that you were, that you are, still. You may have appeared as they did, but you were never one of them. You will rise from this shadow. I will help you defeat it.”
“Ai, Elrohir,” her voice was a weak sigh. “I wish I could, for your sake-,” she returned. “The shadow will not let me go. I will bend to it, or I will fade. I will not-,” she gulped weakly, her eyes overbright. “I wish I could stay. I wish I could be beautiful for you.”
“You are beautiful to me, Calassë,” he moaned. “And I will not let you go. I would never be parted from you-,”
“Elrohir,” she soothed, her tone smooth, and gently chiding. “To wish such a thing-, it is as futile as the love Finarfin’s son shared with the mortal maiden to whom he lost his heart-,”
“Lord Aegnor’s love for the Lady Andreth was not futile, Calassë,” he choked brokenly in the darkness.
“But they were torn apart by duty, by war, by a cruel Doom that neither could defeat-,” Calassë mourned weakly. “They were never bound, never knew the sweetness that lovers long for. And now he dwells in the Halls of Mandos, while she has flown beyond the stars. Bereft their souls are, and forever parted. He was an Elf, she a mortal and-,”
“Surely Ilúvatar, whose mercy extends beyond our understanding, would not leave them bereft,” Elrohir gasped softly. “Surely somewhere they will find each other again. Somewhere beyond the End when Arda is remade, and the Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men completed, but not ended, shall dwell together forever, and shall not be sundered again.”
“Beyond the ending of Arda,” Calassë breathed wearily.
“Or before,” Elrohir murmured raggedly. “If Eru wills it.”
“Before?” Calassë pleaded. “Can the All Father change the nature of a mortal’s fëa? Or of an orc’s? Can Eru Himself bring Andreth’s soul back from beyond the stars?” Calassë’s eyes filled with hopeless tears. “Or the tortured shreds of an orc’s soul from the depths of the Abyss?”
Elrohir sighed raggedly at these words. “Your soul will not descend into the Abyss, Calassë, for you are not among those who willfully chose Morgoth’s evil,” he choked softly. His voice was hardly his own, trembling as he spoke. For every fiber of his being pulsed in pain as his heart tore asunder with every beat.
Calassë swallowed softly at this.
“I will come for you, Calassë,” he murmured, his voice soft and broken. “To the very Halls of Mandos I will come, and beg Lord Námo for your release.”
“You would come for me?” she asked, her voice breathless and weak, her eyes overbright.
“I will,” he returned, his voice soft and broken. “And you will return, as Lord Glorfindel did.”
“Glorfindel,” she sighed. “I wish I could remember.”
She studied the vaulted ceiling of plaited branches above her head with a deep sadness in her eyes.
She drew in a deep shuddering breath, and it came out in a sigh. “Elrohir-, ”
She drew in a soft breath.
“Elrohir,” she whispered, “it will not be much longer-, do not leave me-,”
“I will not leave you, Calassë,” he breathed, pleading. “I will stay beside you, my love, until-,”
He could not finish. His voice choked with tears as he curled his arms about her head, buried his face against her cold neck where her pulse beat a slow weakening dirge, and began to weep.
…It is not while beauty
and youth are thine own
and thy cheek
unprofaned by a tear
that the fervor and faith
of a soul can be known
to which time will but
make thee more dear.
No the heart that has truly loved
but as truly loves
on to the close
as the sunflower turns
on her god when he sets
the same look which
she’d turned when he rose.
*Fragments of the story of Aegnor son of Finarfin and Andreth daughter of Boromir of the House of Bëor, can be found in “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” in Morgoth’s Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien.
** The Irish Song “Endearing Young Charms” was written by Thomas Moore in 1808 to a tune written almost two centuries earlier by Matthew Locke.