This story some of you might have read before, kind of, at least a story with the same title. It was published in the Reading Room in October and among the comments left my friend from the Legolas and Silmarillion Swooning thread – Donisiliel posted one to what I replied and then we took out discussion to e-mail. Of that my conviction that the story would be better if I rewrote it, grew to a knowledge that it needed to be done. So with Doni’s gracious help with pointers on what could be expanded, I started to write it practically all over, retaining only some key scenes. And after I had finished Donisiliel was even kinder to offer herself to be my proof-reader. As if not enough, writing back and forth, we developed some ideas and discovered some that I had not thought of before that transformed reasons, gave a different tinge to some scenes and so on.
So here it is then! I thank with all my heart Doni, who got me to redo the tale and worked through it with patience and care that amazed me constantly and still does. Thank you! :hug:
Author’s Notes are marked with “*” in the text and given at the end.
Disclaimer: I am only borrowing from Tolkien and making no profit apart from the pleasure of writing.
I hope you’ll all enjoy it! And comments are most welcome!
“So if you’ll but lend me the wings of a swallow,
No more shall I linger bereft and forlorn – I’ll fly on the path that my heart yearns to follow.” ~C. Dart-Thornton, The Battle of Evernight
“Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
brood of Morgoth or bright Vala,
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth,
neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
dread or danger, not Doom itself,
shall defend him from Fëanor, and Fëanor’s kin,
whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,
finding keepeth or afar casteth
a Silmaril. This swear we all:
death we will deal him ere Day’s ending,
woe unto world’s end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness
And our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!” ~JRR Tolkien, Annals of Aman
It was a summer evening and Maedhros the Tall, Fëanor’s firstborn, had been anxious to get out of the citadel upon Mount Himring all day but his duties had to be performed. He sighed and ran his only remaining hand through his coppery hair*.
Almost he had raised his right arm to do that but with a flash of intense grey-blue eyes reprimanded himself for forgetting. It showed how wandering his thoughts were, for by now he usually never faltered in using his left hand for everything, made bereft of the right by his torture and subsequent escape from Thangorodrim.
He shook the memory of it away, and thought back on what had made him sigh in the first place
– oh yes, his
yearning to be out of the council hall!
Though the leaguer had been set upon Morgoth, still his creatures appeared here and there. That particular day had been mainly spent in the council room with one of Caranthir’s chief advisors, discussing another raid of the Orcs that had been sighted and forced to flee upon Lothlann. The meeting had finally ended and the messenger had set back out to Mount Rerir. Maedhros had settled to go over the reports of the state of the weapons in the armoury. After half an hour of almost no progress, he pushed away the scrolls he had been perusing, donned his cloak and sword to take a walk in the open air which that day seemed to call him with bright intensity.
His feet carried him further and further away from the Hill of Himring while he enjoyed the feel of wind on his face and the lack of the need to lay battle plans at the moment. Those days there was always something to worry about and troubles to be solved. No more could he be the somewhat too light-hearted young man he had been under the light of the Two Trees, the man who seemed a stranger to him now. No more.
The Hill of Himring was bare of trees but the lower hills that surrounded the highest of them were sprinkled with pines and the little valleys between the hills more so. The Sun was setting by the time he came out of his deep thoughts of better times and found himself at the foot of a gentle hill, its sides covered with pines, the valley before him stretching to the north-east with Maedhros himself standing in the shadow of the hill. He climbed the softly sloping side through the trees and came upon the hill’s bare summit, that was lit by the setting Sun, and a cloaked figure. Its back was to him and Maedhros was wary. He knew of no orders of his that would have required one of his people to be on this particular hill. Without making a sound he drew his sword and walked closer to the person hidden in the folds of the dark cloak.
“Turn around slowly and show your face!” he ordered in a calmly icy, but therefore more threatening, tone.
The someone raised its the head that had been bowed before and obeyed Maedhros’ command. Eyes the colour of the Sea looked out of a pale face, tears still shining in the corners of them, and when the Elf woman – for such she was – lowered her hood, silvery white hair spilled out in soft waves. She did not look the least bit threatening, so Maedhros walked closer to her and lowered his sword. The woman dropped to one knee.
“My Lord Maedhros!” Her voice was like the singing of water.
“Rise, please!” He frowned. “How do you know me?”
She had a hint of a smile on her lips. “There are not many Elves with that colour of hair and, begging your pardon, no right hand!”
Maedhros raised the stump of his right a little and motioned dismissively. “There is no need to apologise for stating the truth. But my lady, you are at the advantage now, for I know not your name.”
“Tuilind,” she replied and turned back to the richly flower-studded patch of grass she had been bowing to before and wiped her eyes.
“Swallow. A lovely name.” Maedhros took a step forward so he could see her face. “Is something amiss? Why were you crying?”
Over her face came a veil of grief but it was gone the next minute and she answered him calmly. “A childhood friend died here.”
Maedhros bowed his head and said a short lament but he was thinking more of Tuilind than the words. She was so different from the maids of the Noldor with her serenity and calmness and an air of grief and melancholy that he had discovered to his surprise (as the Exiles had more to grieve for) in many of the Sindar. Her hair looked like nothing he had seen before, excepting perhaps the light of Telperion, and her eyes were not the usual colour of either grey or green or blue, but a mix of them all as undescribable as the hue of the sea. She was beautiful; there was no doubt about that, but she acted as if she did not even know it or of the effect that it would have on men.
By the time he had finished the lament and looked up, she had bent her head.
“My Lord, do I have your permission to enter and dwell in your lands awhile?”
Maedhros smiled wryly. “You have already entered them.”
“And what is the punishment of the misdoers in your realm?” Tuilind raised her eyes to his.
“That you tell me more about you! I see that you are not from Doriath or otherwise you probably would not speak to me.”
“The Kinslaying.” Tuilind whispered. “No, I am from Mithrim.” Her face went sad as she looked past Maedhros at the Sun. “My mother’s brother did not stay to search for Thingol, he left for Valinor and his family lived in Alqualondë. I do not know if they do still.”
Her implication was clear, and Maedhros turned a little away from her. It always came down to the Kinslaying when an Exile and a Sinda talked. Tuilind remained silent and so did he. The awkward moment stretched but to his surprise Tuilind broke it, softly resting her fingers on his arm for a moment.
“You can’t change of whose people you are and I can’t change of whose I am. Neither you nor I can change the past or who you are and have done or I.” The Noldo risked a glance at her face and saw only serenity. To take both their minds off the dreadful night in Alqualondë, she started to talk of herself.
Tuilind had come from Mithrim to escape the sadness that was all she had known there. Her family had died in Dagor Aglareb, and she had been left alone. She could not abide in the North any longer and had set out. Where she eventually wished to go, she did not know yet. Her path had taken her down Ard-galen’s southern edge and then past the pass of Aglon to where they were now. When Maedhros inquired where she lived, Tuilind only said that she had a place not far.
By the time she finished, the light had faded and the first stars were coming out in the clear, dark blue sky.
“Will I see you again tomorrow?” Maedhros asked when she started to walk down the hill.
Tuilind looked over her shoulder, smiled, put the hood over her head and disappeared into the shadows.
When Tuilind did walk up the hill the next day, Fëanor’s son was already waiting for her, walking back and forth, trying to still his anticipation.
“Lady, you came!” he said to her as he took her hand to kiss it in greeting.
“I promised I would, my Lord.”
Well, she had not, but Maedhros was relieved and glad that he had interpreted that smile rightly. It seemed this lady did take even promises that were a possibility seriously. But something had gnawed at him after seeing her become one with the shadows the night before.
“Lady Tuilind, my heart would rest easier if you would remove from this lonely place to Himring. These lands are not entirely safe.”
Tuilind shook her head.
“Then I could have a few guards assigned to keep an eye on you and the place you dwell now!” he offered.
“I thank you with all my heart! But I have to decline this gracious offer! I would not be at ease to have guards around me or to live amongst your people. I am not used to courtly life and would be a too-simple maiden amongst high ladies and lords. No, my place is the woods and streams. I leave fine castles and forts to the High Elves.”
“If you would come, you would see it is not so, but your wishes I will honour.” Maedhros shook his head – for all the softness of Tuilind, she could be stubborn and her humility was to someone of the proud people of the Noldor a thing he was unused to.
“Come!” Tuilind suddenly seemed to come to life as her eyes took on a brighter light. “As you were so kind, my lord, to repay you I would show you a place that has become dear to me”. She motioned to him and they walked beside each other down the other side of the hill where Tuilind lead him to a shaded stream. It bent left and right and between the bends there grew flowers of violet and sky blue and pink.
“It reminds me of home,” Tuilind said more to herself than her companion. She walked to one of the loops of the stream and started picking the flowers. The place was beautiful, Maedhros had to accede, but more prominent in his mind at the moment was the entrancing, willowy girl. His eyes just rested on the scene, so when Tuilind had gathered the blossoms and looked over her shoulder at him, he had to quickly look away so as not to appear to have been staring. He took the score of steps that separated them while Tuilind ordered the flowers and began to set them in her hair.
“Let me!” Maedhros offered, and when Tuilind had surrendered her trove of blooming treasure, he twined them around the silver threads of her hair. “Behold a Lady of Forest and Flower!” he joked as he led her to the water so she could see her hair, now flower-studded. She smiled back at him in the water but the next moment she twisted around him and was on one knee again. When Tuilind straightened, she held a sky-blue blossom of six petals. She walked to him, and rising on tiptoes, put it through Maedhros’ cloak-pin, crowning the bejewelled tongues of red flames that formed the brooch with the blue flower. That colour looks good with his hair, Tuilind found herself thinking as he swept her a bow of thanks and helped her sit on a fallen tree as he himself lounged with his back to the bole at her feet. Pine needles covered the earth and the leaves of the occasional beech that grew there floated in the cool summer air, settling in the stream and in their hair.
“I am sorry.” She wiped away her tears as Maedhros was about to ask her what was wrong, having noticed the gleam of a tear running down her cheek. “It is just that my older brother Aewlin used to put flowers into my hair. Now he is slain and cannot do it anymore.” Tuilind’s gaze rested on Maedhros’ right wrist. She brushed away her tears and took a deep breath. “I should not burden you with my sorrows. We all have come to grief in one way or another, and mine is just a drop of water in the Great Sea. You know grief better than I do.” She was still looking at where his hand should be, and that chafed. Maedhros had received his bellyful of looks of that kind when he had come back with Fingon after his torment on Thangorodrim. He had proved to them all that the loss of a hand did not change anything about him, and his left was even better as a swordarm than his right had ever been. But it still nettled him when people saw his right maimed hand before they saw him.
“Lady, I would that you did not look only at my arm and sigh in pity that I have more cause for grief than you or someone else. I am not different or special because of the loss of a hand, and the sorrows of the mind and soul are always far worse than of body anyway. You can escape the hurt to the body but not the sorrows of fëa.”
“I never meant it like that,” Tuilind spoke reproachfully. “My heart hurts to see pain that has been delivered, and if you call it pity, then so be it. I also meant to say that though your griefs have been great, your spirit has fire still, and I admire that. I am certain that I would have died if it had happened to me, and my hand had been taken. I would have fled my body to escape the pain. My heart is too faint, and my spirit is not strong.”
To hear her say that, Maedhros deeply regretted his words. She was again too hard on herself, and he tried to argue with her, but Tuilind sadly shook her head.
“You only know me for a day, my lord. I saw what sorrow did to my mother after her sons and husband were slain and I do not want to experience pain such as that myself. I would not survive.”
Maedhros could say nothing to show her otherwise.
“I am like her of the sorrow-filled heart.” Absently fingering a strand of silvery hair she started softly, her voice gaining strength as she advanced.
A star there shines in the dark sky,
my heart is heavy and filled with grief.
Light of heavens, you have to tell me
what has befallen my beloved, tall and proud,
as he rode out that rainy day
and never did come back to me.
A storm, a hail, thunder and lighting,
swords and spears, bows and fire flashing.
Bright adamant of the sky, you must know
what ever happened to him, where he is.
There are no tidings, no word of him
and all that’s left for me is sorrow.
For my heart tells he will never
ride across the flowery meadow and sweep
me off my feet in joyful greeting.
What was that? Could you have answered?
Oh woe and grief, this can’t be so!
Curse my heart for I did guess it!
Softly you whisper in the dark to me
that he is slain and lies in dreams,
deep slumber born of death, in contemplation,
residing now in the Halls of Mandos.
I dress in a gown of shadows
raven hair veiling my face and grief.
Unadorned save the silver ring he gave me
when betrothed we were and bound in soul.
My feet, they take me to the river,
its wide and deep channel mirrors the Moon.
I look at you, my starry friend,
upon the face of sky once more.
Then my eyes fall on the waters
and I hear their sweet seductive call.
Oh, bear me to the Sea and further,
that I could see the face of him
whom I can’t bear to be parted from
or live without in these grief-filled shadowed lands!
“Who was she?” Maedhros asked when the song ended and her voice faded away.
“A maid of times gone. My father taught the song to me when I was little,” Tuilind explained.
“Do not be that sad, Lady Tuilind, all is not filled with sorrow. The moon and stars still shine and there is still laughter in the world, though there was more.”
He cleared his throat and sang.
The light that fills these lands is blessed,
all weariness will leave whoever sees a glimmer.
Telperion, silver blossom, and fair Laurelin, rain of gold,
they grew out of the mound and bloomed,
first the silver, then the gold.
In Valinor, the blessed.
At the hallowed hour of the mingling lights, the voices fair
of the Eldar come from underneath the shining branches.
Through darkness and deep shadow the Firstborn came here.
To Valinor, the blessed.
Vanyar, Noldor and the swan-winged boats of the Teleri,
three kindreds of the Elves that dwell here,
the Fair, the Skilled and the Singers of the shore.
In Valinor, the blessed.
Tirion and Alqualondë, cities of dreams and wonder,
Ingwë, Finwë, and white-haired Olwë, they are the lords
and happiness in light and knowledge is their peoples’.
In Valinor, the blessed.
But there are the others, the ones left behind in Endorë.
Those who looked for Elwë and would not depart
to come and join their kindred in the West.
What has befallen them, our kin and friends,
will we ever meet again
In Valinor, the blessed?
“And we did.”
“That was beautiful!” Tuilind seemed to have recovered from her sadness and looked more lively and Maedhros knew that he would do anything to keep her like that. He took her hand that rested beside him on the fallen tree and drew her to stand. He started to lead her up the hill ever quicker, so by the time they came to the top, they were running and both laughing. He stopped under the clear, by now dark sky, and started the hymn to Elbereth. She joined in with eyes closed and face raised to the skies.
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
O galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
Maedhros had left Tuilind that night-fall, saying that to his sorrow he would not be able to return to her hill before the third day, for there had arisen a trouble with the trafficking of Dwarves. On the appointed day the Noldo returned in rain, cloak drawn about him and hood on his head. The rain fell steadily all his way to the hill and while he climbed it. Tuilind was waiting for him under a tree with the drops of water that had escaped her hood lying in her hair like dew on a spider web. However, as Maedhros reached the slight cover of the tree, the gates of the skies closed and it rained no more.
“My lady, you should not have stood out in the rain!” he said as a greeting while throwing back his hood and shaking the water out of the cloak’s folds.
Tuilind smiled her enigmatic smile that Maedhros had by now learned to recognise but not to interpret on her face. “It does not rain anymore, does it?” she asked.
“The Lady is right, as always!”
“Not half as many times I would wish! I wonder if I could ask a favour from your lordship?”
Maedhros’ head snapped about to look into her eyes. “If it is in my power, I will grant it!” he said ardently.
Tuilind’s gaze was locked with his for moments before she spoke quietly, casting her eyes down. “It is nothing much to you, I think, but it means a lot to me. I found a young pine growing near the stream I showed you, but the seed has grown to a tree under a slightly older one and it will not live long. I would like to plant it on the grave of my friend so that the tree will have life and the place where he died will not lie unmarked.”
“Lead the way and tell me what you want me to do!” Maedhros offered Tuilind his hand to go down the slope to the stream but she declined by saying she was no court-lady and he need not do that. He did not let himself dwell on why her rejection unhinged him, but Maedhros felt a slight stab. He walked then beside her and carried the tree, which Tuilind had already dug out of the ground, back up the hill, while she brought the soil from the place of the pine’s old home. Not even noticing the still wet grass, Tuilind knelt down and started to dig a new hole at the head of the flower-covered grave. She had no right tools but had found pieces of bark that were just as good as a shovel. Tuilind had started to scoop the earth. Feeling ungracious and silly to stand and look by as she worked, Maedhros took another of the makeshift shovels. Becoming aware of him beside her with the piece of bark in his hand, Tuilind looked up at him, pushed a few stray hairs behind her ears and grinned. Together they planted the pine and like a common gardener, the Noldorin lord went to fetch water for the plant and for washing Tuilind’s hands. He had not dealt with plants in Valinor that much, for other interests of his had been prevalent, but he had seen his mother viewing her little garden with pride shining in her eyes. Tuilind’s face bore quite the same expression. Planting a tree took him further from wars, swords and spears than any other practice he had tried so far. When he brought the water, Tuilind looked at the amount that was left after he poured half over her hands.
“My Lord is gracious and I appreciate that, but I am afraid that the poor pine will be thirsty if we only pour that little on its roots.” Her eyes twinkled as she went to get more. Coming back, she found Maedhros standing by the grave and deep in thought. He said nothing while Tuilind was occupied with the young pine, but when she straightened, he asked the question that had rolled around in his head, sometimes hiding, at others emerging.
“Lady Tuilind, that song you sang of the maiden who had lost her love. Your friend…”
Tuilind frowned for a second and then understood. “You mean…No, no, that song was not of me or similar to my life. I was never betrothed to Daeril, nor to anyone. It might be to the best as I fear he would then have been slain along with my father and brother.” Tuilind was almost sure she had heard a sigh of relief, but she pushed the thought away. “Daeril was my best friend and we were together from childhood, but I would never have wedded him as he was always too mischievous and light-hearted. Endlessly he teased me about being so stern and not going along with his silly pranks. He had come of age and had gone to visit some relatives in Doriath. They went out hunting but came upon a band of Orcs here and Daeril was slain.”
Her eyes of Sea were veiled with sorrow when she turned away from the place where Daeril had fallen. “Would you care to hear a tale he told me once? He said he came up with it himself but I always doubted him and tried to make him tell me who told him that story. Daeril did not seem one for serious tales, but now I think there were quite a few things that I did not understand about him until it was too late.”
There once lived a boy. It was before the Moon had risen so the child was born with the light of the stars as his first memory. He was alone and knew not how it came to be so. He knew how to talk; that must mean that he was stolen or had got lost from his parents when he was a few years old, but for some reason he had no memories of other people or any place besides his home up a tree. He grew and his mind was flooded with questions: Why am I alone? Did I get lost or was I abandoned? Why has my mother not come for me? Does my father not miss me? He was tormented and ventured further than he had gone before and so came to a pool that was rimmed with willows. He knelt by the waters and looked. At him was looking a face that was shadowed but its eyes were blue.
“Who are you?” he asked but there was no answer. Seeing a face of someone that would not answer his question, his grief for never getting any answers flooded him and desperately he started to ask the same questions that he had asked before. Why am I alone? Why does no one search for me? And he got his answers. There was a voice speaking that comforted him and reasoned, giving him the answers he had sought for. After that day whenever he had something on his mind, he went to the pool and talked to the face in there. Only later when indeed other Elves found him, his father among them, he understood that he had been talking to his image and that it had been his heart that had answered him. Before he had not known how to listen to anything but his mind but now he knew better. To listen to one’s own heart and act by it is the way to do right by anyone and everything.
By the time Tuilind finished, they had walked onto another hill crowned with trees. It looked as good a place as any to Maedhros, who by now understood how Tuilind needed the trees and the open air around her to feel her best. He chose a pine and invited Tulind her to sit with back to the bole. She was in thought when she did so and arranged her green skirts. Maedhros settled down beside her so that their shoulders touched.
“I sometimes wonder what would our lives be if the Sindar had never become the Grey Elves at all and had sailed with the other Teleri to Valinor or if your people had never come back.”
Where had that come from? Maedhros wondered. Tuilind’s tone did not betray her own feelings on either count, and it was uncomfortable not to be able to read her.
“I would rather not have had you living in Alqualondë, Lady,” he said quietly. For a moment, dread fell on Maedhros as if something had tried to make itself known to him. Mentally shrugging, he did not voice the stab of fear, but instead continued,
“For we would not have been able to sit here like this and I would have to see hate in your eyes had you seen any of my people…or me.”
He turned his head slightly to look at Tuilind, who seemed disbelieving but charmed to hear him say he would not want to be hated by her, her lips curved unconsciously into a smile.
The silence stretched long as they lengthened the moment. Tuilind had fixed her eyes to look at the patch of purple sky of sunset in the trees and soon Maedhros both felt and saw from her blue-green eyes that Tuilind was dreaming.
“I owe you a story.” Tuilind’s eyes flicked out of the dream as she heard his voice. “No, no, dream on, for this is a story my mother told me when I was a child and she wanted me to sleep but I was reluctant. She used to say,”Maitimo Russandol*, I know how you delight in tales. Just lie still or you will never hear this story!” And I always did as she told me then and let her voice carry me until sleep came.”
In a beautiful white castle there lived a prince. He had everything and was proud of it. His horses were the fastest of all the lands; his looks perfect; and everyone told him that he was the bravest, wisest and handsomest. Until one day when he happened to meet a strange girl with raven hair and eyes of the palest blue. She was the prettiest of maidens he had ever seen and said her name was Dusk. She was a stranger to the country, but the prince immediately asked her to come to live in his castle as a lady of the court. She did come, but to the prince’s astonishment she, who he thought would become the jewel of his court and would most likely wed him after the suitable amount of time, did not flatter him like the others. She criticised when he was too rash when riding or ignored the advice of his wise councillors, and in many other times. The prince resented that and little by little he began to mistreat her. Finally, on the grounds that she had insulted him, he put her in prison and then told the gaoler to break her defiance by any means so that she would become the kind of a future-betrothed he wanted her to be. But when the prince went to see her the next morning the cell was empty and she had disappeared. Where could she be? Now the prince started to feel awful about what he had done to her and understood that he had loved her. Two years went by and he could not forget her. Then one day it was announced that the daughter of a lord of the neighbouring country was to visit his court. All was prepared for the occasion and the woman did come. When she walked to the throne of the prince he recognised Dusk. When he tried to rise and walk to her, she raised her hand and he could not move. Suddenly she shone with a light and talked in a voice that he trembled to hear. “You think that you have everything but that is not so. Your heart is cold as ice. You demand flattery and can accept nothing else. For defying you, you would hurt until what you wanted would be done, felt, and said. You wooed me with words to be your wife and let your jailor torture me; you would do that to anyone. You think you are pure, perfect, more beautiful than anything – so be it!” She lifted her arms before him so that her cloak hid him from the courtiers and when she lowered the cloak, there lay only a jewel on the throne. “Perfect, strongest, and more precious than anything, most beautiful but cold. Cold as ice!” she intoned, turned her back and glided away. And so the first diamond was seen upon the earth, and it is said that if the prince repents utterly, the diamond will melt and that he will be reborn and would find Dusk and win her love and be worthy of it this time. But when that might be, who knows!
“Would you keep vigil with me until dawn comes?” Tuilind whispered to him when the tale ended. At his nod her face beamed and the two kept their watch, dreaming and awake beside each other and only exchanging a few words during all that time.
* coppery hair – “But he […] inherited the rare red-brown hair of Nerdanel’s kin.”
* Maitimo Russandol – Maitimo “well-shaped one” was his mother-name in Quenya, Sindarinised to Maedhros; Russandol “copper-top” was an epessë given by Maedhros’ brothers and other kin.
(source – Peoples of Middle-earth, Shibboleth)
And of course, the Hymn to Elbereth is by Tolkien