(Disclaimer: All of the characters, places, and the main story line are JRR Tolkien’s wonderful creations. All references are from The Silmarillion, or HoME Volumes 1, 3, 10, 11 or 12 Nothing is mine, except the interpretation, and any mistakes.)
“And it is told of Maglor that he could not endure the pain with which the Silmaril tormented him; and he cast it at last into the Sea, and thereafter he wandered ever, upon the shores singing in pain and regret beside the waves.”
(Of the Voyage of Eárendil [I] The Silmarillion[/I] J. R. R. Tolkien. Ed C. Tolkien.)
In the late spring of that year, a light snowfall had shrouded the small settlement on the river Lune, just south of Forochel. In the fading afternoon light, it had lent a near mystical glow to the dwellings that huddled under the rainbow shimmer of the fast appearing northern stars, and the place seemed then to be as of another world. Few were interested in anything mystical! Few appreciated the intrinsic beauty of that scene! [I]Most[/I] were concerned with survival, and with what little comfort they could glean from life. Indeed, few then lived in those parts, few Secondborn, and for centuries, far fewer Firstborn. The hardy inhabitants had therefore been somewhat surprised to see an emaciated Elf drag himself towards the building that served as an Inn in that place. His boots had been near worn through, and his feet appeared to be bleeding from a walk of many leagues. His grey, tattered, cloak had hardly offered any protection from the bitter wind and snow, though, as the snowfall had shrouded the settlement from all but the keenest sight, the cloak had served to render him all but invisible until he was but a few yards from them.
At first glance, they had thought him a Man like themselves. But the walk, the bearing of that creature held a notable difference to anything most of them had ever seen. And to be nigh at the Inn before being noticed spoke of a skill beyond any of [I]their[/I] hunter’s ability. Women had called to their children to come indoors, away from this memory of a bygone age, this apparition of doom. Some of the men folk followed at a discreet distance, once they noticed the gleaming sword that hung so incongruously at the Elf’s side.
Seeming from his slow movements to have hardly enough strength to push open the wooden door, the Elf had entered the Inn, shook the snow out of his long black hair, and brushed it off of his thin shoulders.
“Do you have food? Any bread or fish?” he had asked, in a rasping voice that yet held no tone of begging.
The Innkeeper, a surly and harsh type, long used to arguments with the trappers and hunters that were his main customers, had taken a long, disparaging, look. Surely this miserable excuse for an Elf had nothing to offer in return for food, nothing save the sword. The Innkeeper had rightly assessed that it would take more strength than he had to wrest that object from the creature, half dead though he appeared to be.
“I have bread aplenty,” he had replied cautiously, placing his large and heavy hands on top of the bar. “And a good broth cooking in the kitchen, and warm ale, for those that can pay!”
The Elf had sighed, and drawn himself up to his considerable full height. Looking down on the Innkeeper, it seemed to those others in the room that his grey eyes were lit with flame.
“Lachend!”* A whisper had gone through a group of three drinking companions, who had been playing dice, in one corner of the Inn. “He is of the High Elves, if the stories of old be true.”
Ignoring the comment that had been surely audible to him, the Elf addressed the Innkeeper. “I have no coinage nor treasures to pay you with, honourable barman.” His voice, though still rough, held a tone of bitter irony, and a hint of a promise of something else. “But I have songs and tales to fill your tavern with eager listeners, aye, with any that are hereabout, and fill your pockets with profit.”
A laugh had gone up from the larger group of trappers sitting closest to the roaring fire on the other side of the room.
“You can barely stand, Elf, and you have a voice that sounds like it has had far better days. You ask us to think you are a bard?”
The Elf had turned slightly, and his movement was then most finely controlled. He glanced at them disdainfully. “I have sung in the courts of High Kings and of Elven Lords of the most noble Houses, and if you allow me a jug of ale to moisten my throat, then you shall hear, and know for yourself my worth.”
Pushing back the threadbare cloak, he had taken out from under it a harp of finest silver, engraved with elvish script that none in that room, save he, could read. But they had become interested.
“What’s good enough for Elven Lords is good enough for us!” One who had drunken overmuch laughed in mocking reply.
“Let the Elf sing for his supper!” another, fur clad, man contributed. “What have we to lose? Precious little has brightened our long nights this winter and spring, or any other.”
There had seemed to be a chorus of agreement, although the Innkeeper looked less happy. He had sullenly pushed a jar of ale in the direction of the dark haired Elf. “You get the food if we like what we hear. And in this Inn, [I]I[/I] am High King! Remember that!”
The Elf’s expression had not changed from its measured distain, but he had nodded in agreement, and reached eagerly for the drink. He had drained the jar swiftly, before taking up his harp and playing. And a different creature, in all senses, did he then appear to be. His voice, the richness of the earth and the lightness of the stars combined, was like none other they had ever heard.
A song he then began, of the First Age of Arda, of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, * and the bravery and fall of so many of the noblest Men and Elves. He sang of the hope that lit the heart of Maedhros, Elf Lord in Himring, and of the plans to devise a union to overthrow the stronghold of the Dark Lord, Morgoth. He sang of the Naugrim*, and of the Men of the East; of B?r and of Ulfang; of the Elves, of Fingon the Valiant, High King at that time, and of his brother Turgon, of the hidden city; and of the people of Haleth, of Haldir and of Huor and H?rin.
“Ut?lie’n aur?! Aiya Eldali? ar Atanat?ri, ut?lie’n aur?!”* The dark haired Elf called out, amidst the song.
And the echo of [I]those[/I] words from another age, seemed to light hope in the hearts of many in that room, as they had been intended to light hope ages past. As a forgotten memory, now recalled again in sorrow and in joy, it seemed to those in the Inn. Most had put down their jugs and tankards, and some men smiled then.
But the hope, it had soon seemed to fade, as the Elf had closed his eyes, in contemplation, lost in a memory of his own. And he sang on, of the fall of Azagh?l, Lord of the Naugrim of Belegost under the rage of the dragon, Glaurung: of the fall of Huor and the nobility of H?rin, crying ‘Aur? entuluva!’* seventy times, until he was taken: of the fall of Fingon, to the Lord of Balrogs, to Gothmog, and of how the defeated King was beaten into the dust. At that point the Elf had suddenly put aside his harp and abruptly halted his song. Some in the room saw the tears upon his cheek, and hardened folk though they were, they found they mourned with him over the fall of the noble Fingon. Though it seemed that perhaps, there was another, older, memory of such a death, which brought this creature so low.
“He sings this tale because there is another tale behind it! And [I]that[/I] is the one that he should be singing, though I don’t think to us.” Cold sober now, the elder of the three dice players observed the Elf thoughtfully. “Sing on, Elf!” the man then called aloud. “You take us so far in the tale, but will not give us the ending! What manner of singer are you? Elves may delight in mysteries, but we are a simple folk here. We like a beginning, [I]and[/I] an ending.”
Voices murmured in agreement, for it had seemed to them that a glory that had been upon them, had then departed. They were left feeling more chilled than at the touch of any winter’s breath.
“So be it!”
Music was in the tone of the Elf’s spoken word then, as in his song. With a look of fixed concentration, and a fiercer flame in his eyes, he took up the harp again. He sang of Balrogs and dragons, of orcs beyond number, and, at the last, he sang of the treachery of Men. He sang of the sons of Ulfang, who had turned traitor to the sons of F?anor, coming nigh to the standard of Maedhros himself in their hope of Morgoth’s promised reward of land. And at the end, the song was bitter indeed. For through [I]Men[/I] did Morgoth triumph, and the league of Elves and Men was broken, that little trust remained between the races, save with the three houses of the Edain. The High King was dead; and the sons of F?anor wandered, as late autumn leaves blown before the wind.
When the song had ended, there had been silence for some time. No dry eye had there been in the Inn. All had been moved by the transcendent beauty and sorrow of what they had heard, nay, experienced. All had felt as if they had been in another place and time, as if they had stood shoulder to shoulder with those ancient kin of theirs. They felt as if they had stood alongside the Men of the West, and the honourable tribe of B?r, who, with Maglor, brother of Maedhros, slew many of the traitors.
None there, save one, felt they stood shoulder to shoulder with those accused of betrayal.
“He sings as if he remembers it all.” Another drinker, who had found himself stone cold sober, whispered to his companion.
“Aye! And who knows, maybe he does remember it? These Elves are immortal, after all. No telling how long this one has been around?”
And so, with his song of ‘unnumbered tears’, the dark haired Elf got his food, and he ate it as one who tasted food for the first time in many a day.
But those who had sat closest to him in the Inn had noticed his hands. Those slender hands that had played so skilfully and dexterously were scared beyond measure. The men had seen the effort made by the elf to overcome the stiffness caused by those scars, and had wondered, if this Elf played so well now, how beautiful had his song been when his hands had been whole?
“What has happened to him, that he is so marked?” Tankards were raised again, and the dice-playing speaker continued to chew upon the salt fish on his wooden platter.
It was, one companion whispered to him, as if the Elf had plunged his hands into flame!
The other, older man of the group, had not resumed his eating and drinking, but had continued to watch the elf closely. “Or as if he had taken up in his hands that which was so blessed, so holy, that it burned and tormented him beyond endurance,” he mused.
The cunning old hunter had scratched his chin, already calculating how much more wealth this years ‘trapping’ would bring him, if he could get word through to the tribe of Ulfir in the East, that Maglor F?anorion yet lived.
Lachend = Flame eyes. A term used of those who were born in the light of the Two Trees. A Noldo.
Nirnaeth Arnoediad = The Fifth Battle. The Battle of Unnumbered Tears.
Naugrim = Dwarves
“Ut?lie’n aur?! Aiya Eldali? ar Atanat?ri, ut?lie’n aur?!” = ‘The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!’
Aur? entuluva = Day shall come again!