A/N: I don’t own Middle Earth, as is obvious. And thanks to my faithful reviewers. I wouldn’t continue this without you! Or wait….maybe I would. But please do keep reviewing!
Chapter Eleven: Hope and Ashes
So hope is mixed with ashes,
In the doings of this world,
Perhaps the night is passing,
And the dawn will be unfurled.
Perhaps it’s like a river,
Time and sorrow both slip by,
Perhaps there’s always starlight,
Though clouds may hide the sky.
I shifted Emeryk on my shoulder and looked around. We were almost at the gates. After finding my raven I had not lingered or returned to where my house had been – what would be the point? It was gone, and nothing was going to change that.
As I looked about a bright glint caught my eye. Pushing a stray strand of hair from my face I found that it was a battered sword, lying on the ground.
I walked over and lifted it carefully. The blade was slightly notched in a few places, but it had been well made, as are all Elven weapons. Someone – dying or wounded or fleeing, perhaps – must have dropped it. I turned it over. Engraved into the steel was a swallow.
I ran my fingers lightly over the image, and down to the words of blessing carved near the hilt. My uncle had been of the House of the Swallow, as had my mother before marrying Atar. We were people of the Fountain, Ecthelion’s folk. But that didn’t matter.
I turned the sword so that I could read the inscription. May you be valiant in battle, may Eru’s blessing follow you, and may you return in safety home.
I closed my eyes, taking a deep, steadying breath. I had returned home, but this was not what the blessing was supposed to to mean.
Taking another breath and holding back the tears I hefted the sword. It was lighter than the orc-work I was used to. The blade was slimmer and the hilt far more graceful, despite the nicks on its surface. It was very much the sword of an Elf.
I shifted Emeryk to my left shoulder, and drew the orc-blade from my sheath. In its place I slid the Elf-sword. It felt odd, at first, to have have it there. But not strange. Oddly familiar, perhaps.
I blinked, dismissing any remaining wetness in my eyes, and stood up. I turned, and walked on,through the gate. I would never come back, I was quite certain.
The sun slowly rose to its zenith as I steadily walked across the plain. Now, in the daylight, I could see completely the valley’s ruin. Here and there were the blackened skeletons of the trees that Morgoth’s vassals had not bothered to fell. But also, in small protected hollows were delicate, tiny green plants struggling up through the layer of ash. Life, however faint, was returning.
I reached the tunnel about two hours after midday. Standing at its mouth I turned to look back, one last time. Closing my eyes I could picture Gondolin as it had been, gleaming in the sunlight. But I shook my head and pushed away the image. That was not the way thingEDIT were.
I looked back at the ruins, and then with Emeryk on my shoulder I turned away into the passage. My raven shifted uneasily as the darkness surrounded us, and I reached up to stroke him. “Hush, titta quen, (little one)” I said softly. “Hush, it’s all right.”
He sidled closer on my shoulder and nibbled my ear. I smiled in spite of myself. He was already a part of me. And despite everything I could not help feeling tentatively hopeful.
I walked on till I reached the end of the tunnel. It was almost sunset. Odd, I thought. I reached Gondolin only a day ago. And I’ve changed since then.
Emeryk lightly pecked my ear again, bringing me back to reality. I realized that I had another being besides myself to look after. Thank Eru for that.
That night I lit a fire as Emeryk watched curiously. He was, wisely, wary of the flames, and stayed well away from them as I chewed another piece of meat for him. He happily swallowed it and a bit of bread before fluttereing his one good wing and looking up at me imploringly. I sighed, carefully picked him up, and just as carefully placed him on one of the lowest branches of a nearby tree. “Just don’t fall off. There isn’t a nest up there like you’re used to.”
He hopped about for a few moments, then found a comfortable roost at the branching of two limbs. I made sure he was secure before sitting down again by the fire, and looking up at the stars, visible between a few whisps of cloud. “What now?” I asked aloud, neither expecting nor receiving an answer. “What shall I do? Where shall I go?” There was no sound except the rustling of the wind in the trees.
“Where?” I asked again, and then voiced the small hope that had, improbably, taken root in my heart. “Did any of them survive? They can’t all have died…….or perhaps they could have.” I stared up at the stars, waiting this time for an answer, but it did not come. I heard Emeryk shift in the tree, and looked back down at the fire. “Where do I go now? Everyone I care about has died, or if not, I still don’t know where they are.”
I continued to stare at the fire. Everyone I cared about was gone, except, I realized, one. Taurion. But he was probably almost back in Doriath by now. And even if I did find him, what would be the point? Just to see a face I knew? And though he obviously wasn’t terribly happy about it, he’d pointed out that Elwe Singollo disliked the Noldor. He would be unlikely to let anyone into his kingdom, and an Elf of my descent even less so. But I didn’t have anywhere elso to go.
I rested my head in my hands. I had to try.
So do you all not hate me now? Do I have hope for being a decent person?