A/N: Thanks to all the lovely reviews, as well as my mom for inserting commas and requesting clarification. And This Is Not My World.
I hold it true, what e’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson
I woke the next morning from my almost mortal sleep of sorrow and exhaustion curled against the half-fallen wall of what had been my room. I knew that all my dreams of going home were lost beyond recovery. It was not just returning to Gondolin that I had wished for, but to go back to the days before my capture. That was impossible. And now even a pretence of returning to it was completely gone. But somehow I felt that was better. Better to start anew and go on than to pretend.
Taurion had told me to accept the changes. Yesterday I had not been able to, but somehow now I could. Everything else had changes – my home was destroyed, my family gone, my half-formed dreams shattered – everything else had changed, and so I could not be the same either. I wasn’t the same maid who left Gondolin so long ago, but I was not the child of darkness either.
I got up, slightly cramped from the hard stones and the cold. My cloak was not very warm.
I looked around at the ruins of my home. There was nothing to be salvaged. I’d hoped to find something of home, to remember. And then I saw it, lying on the ground, charred and shattered.
I walked over to where the pieces of my harp lay by the far wall; I had not seen them in the night. My family must have kept it all the years after my capture. A memorial to one they thought slain.
I gently lifted it, but despite my care the barely connected fragments fell apart. It had been mostly held together by the curling, scorched strings – somehow they had survived. I picked up a small piece of wooden frame, and found that a carved leaf could still be seen on it, part of the engraved vine that had twined around the instrument.
I tucked the fragment of wood into my pack, down in a small pocket where it would be safe. It was a bit of my past life, and though I knew I had to let it go and let the past be gone, at least I would have something to remember it by.
I took a deep breath as I closed the pack, holding back the tears that were fighting to surface. I had done my weeping. It would do nothing. I had to go on, I could bear it. I would live.
It was as I knelt and set down the pack that I heard a sound. Not water, not a crumbled wall falling. It was the faint cry of something alive and in pain. Not an Elf, but alive. That was all that mattered.
I stood and then remained still, listening intently. Whatever made the sound was toward the center of the citadel. I slung my pack and sword over my shoulder, and waiting for each soft sound I set out.
It was not far, but with all the tumbled stones lying in the road progress was difficult. As I scrambled over them the quiet, croaking cries grew louder. And at last I found what I was looking for.
It was a young raven, barely more than half grown. His wing was bleeding and he held it at an odd angle. He was hopping about hopelessly before a wall with a jaggedly broken window, in which some glass remained. He must have tried to fly through it and struck his wing against one of the sharp, hard edges.
I knelt down, and the raven moved away from me warily. I slowly ripped a strip of fabric from the hem of my ragged tunic, and then, moving suddenly, slipped it over his eyes. He abruptly went still, his feathered body tense with fear.
I carefully looked over his injuries. The bleeding was not bad, but several of the smaller, more delicate bones had been broken. I set them as best I could, keeping the damaged wing in line with the other. I tore a larger piece from my cloak, not really thinking about furthering its already tattered state, and bound the wing firmy to his side, in its proper place. All the time the raven remained rigid, blind and unable to retaliate upon whoever was was handling him.
When I at last removed the blindfold he took an ungainly hop away from me. “You are wise, little raven,” I said softly. “But I will not harm you.”
He looked at me intently, seeming to apprehend the meaning of my words but remaining wary. As a gesture of good faith I took a small piece of travel bread from my pack, and, moving slowly to keep from alarming him, crumbled it and tossed the fragments before him. Ravens are scavengers; they will eat anything. The bird before me cautiously pecked up a bit of of the bread, and taking it, backed away several paces. Once finished with that he tentatively came back, and when I made no move, began to eat ravenously, though he kept one watchful eye on me.
I watched the young raven as he ate. He was small and scrawny; probably the runt of a nest. He was not a particularly pretty bird – many would find his sharp beak and slightly draggled black feathers ugly – but he was another living thing, and that was all that was important.
He finished the crumbs and looked up expectantly, seeming to have overcome his fear of me. It was clear that he could eat a great deal more.
I took a small piece of hard dried meat from my pack, and chewed it for a minute to soften it. The raven watched inquisitively as I took it from my mouth and offered it to him. I still held it in my hand, and he hesitated. “It’s all right, little one,” I said softly. “You need me, and I need you. Trust me.”
He cocked his head, not seeming to understand, but slowly hopped forward and took the morsel from my hand. As he swallowed it I tentatively reached out and touched his feathered head. “Your name is Emeryk, I think,” I said. “Somehow it suits you.”
He stood still as I gently stroked him, and my heart almost broke. I was trusted, needed again. I was healing again, binding his wing without thinking. And I myself was healing. I had not aided another being in that way for such a very, very long time.
Emeryk pecked my hand lightly, asking for more food. I dug out another bit of meat, and chewed it quickly. Again he took it from my hand, and again I carefully stroked him. “We have a long way to go together, Emeryk,” I said softly. “A long way, and I don’t know where. But together.”
He rubbed his beak gently against my hand.
All right, are you all feeling happier now? Her life isn’t COMPLETELY horrible, see?