The End of Glass
“You are not going?” Gil-Lómë asked, “But, Jaéomen, the Elvenking’s feast under the beeches, while the moon is full and shining through the leaves is not something to be missed. The venison is from the whitest deer and the fruits are large and juicy. The singing is strong and beautiful, it mingles with the winds in the leaves and echoes in the rippling of the stream.” he sighed, ” I am hoping to have a dance with Nimrodel under the stars. You should come.”
Jaéomen sat with hunched shoulders and his back against the tree trunk. He looked up at his friend with soft blue eyes, ” But I am not good at dancing, and remember last year! I tripped over a log, fell on the cook, and the roast was knocked into the fire and charred. No one will want me there, and I am not going back.”
Autumn leaves fluttered down beside the two elves who sat upon a wooden platform high up in a tree. It was Jaéomen’s secret hideaway, that only he and Gil-Lómë knew about. They came up here to look at the stars and to speak of whatever laid heavily on their minds.
The elves lay back on pallets of fur and whispered as they tried to decipher Wilwarin the butterfly among the stars shining through the bare branches. There was a breath of silence.
“I think I shall ropewalk across the Enchanted River.” Jaéomen suddenly declared.
Beside him Gil-Lómë’s lips pressed into a frown, “Why do you want to run across a rope when you could ride in your boat? What are you going to do on the other side of the Enchanted River?”
“It is not that I need to cross the river,” Jaéomen confessed, “But I enjoy running across the ropes, when I don’t fall from them, that is. It makes me feel like I am walking on air and nothing is going to knock me down. I am flying free over the world.”
“I understand, friend. But the Enchanted River is dangerous. After all it is enchanted and if you fall, you go under the sleepspell as quick as any trespasser.”
“I know, still, to ropewalk across that stream will prove I am as elvish as any one else, even if my mother was a mortal woman. Then, everyone will stop teasing about being a clumsy elf.”
“Not everyone teases you.”
“Well some do.” he groaned mournfully, then his voice sunk to a whisper, “Sometimes, I think I hear the great spiders deep in the forest laughing at me.”
“You imagine it,” Gil-Lómë assured him, “But other elves are trying to be friendly. They know not how sensitive you are, and occasionally you over react. You like to ropewalk? Then go ahead, maybe you will get better. You need to do no dangerous feat, because we have already accepted you as one of us despite your weakness. You have to learn to accept yourself.”
Gil-Lómë reached into his satchel and pulled out a small wooden box. He set it on Jaéomen’s lap. The half-elf lent over to look at it. The box was carved all over with images of trees. Carefully, he removed the lid to reveal a beautifully wrought pendent of elven-glass in the likeness of great elven-lords clasping one another in friendship. The milky white surface gathered all light around it in the darkness of night.
“O, Gil-Lómë, is this your craftsmanship? It is more wondrous then all else I have seen you make.”
“Yes, it is my work. It is not my skill that has improved but my choice of material. This glass is from my kin in the Golden Woods and not of the dwarves who often sell metals for my works.” Gil-Lómë said with dark eyes twinkling with pride, “It is for you as a token of our friendship, just as the friendship between the Lords Finwë and Elwë whose image I wrought.”
Jaéomen hung the jewel around his neck delighted, then he paused as if considering, “Why is it that you can accept and befriend me? ” he asked.
“You’re smart, fun and you’re not that much different from me. I’m the only one for leagues and leagues that likes to cut and shape jewels. So people think I am strange and call me dwarf. It does not really matter to me. In the end they still buy my gems and treasure them. So what if you are graceless.”
Jaéomen sighed. He trusted Gil-Lómë’s counsel after all he was three century older. However, knowing he was all right in Gil-Lómë’s eyes, did not make him feel any better about himself, a half-elf with a cruel trick of fate. He thought of his mother, he had no memories of his own, but people said she was elegant and gracefully. He held no grudge against her only regret that she had died after his birth and he would never know her.
The Forest River was wide and foamed violent about the rocks and tree roots extended in its path. Jaéomen walked a mile up stream until he found a place where the current was slow and the water deep. Here the river curved slightly and the tall oaks grew close together, only beams of sunlight came though their twisted branches even in the winter. There was little light now for the sun was riding low in the east. Jaéomen stepped gently on the carpet of leaves and drew close to one the oaks, humming a tune as he began to tie a slender grey rope about the trunk. It was early morning and except for the birds singing above, he was alone, because he did not want anyone to stop him. He had decided against using the Enchanted River because it was too far away and more risky if he tried alone.
He had told his father he was going to make a rope bridge, and old Talesgal had not hindered him, since often Jaéomen made rope bridges close to the ground and not over rivers.
He tightly knotted the rope around the girth of tree. Once he had the line secured on farther shore, he would return home and call the others down to the river to watch him in action.
With flick of his wrist Jaéomen flung the rope across the river and it hooked loosely in the over hanging branches. He had not brought his boat, because it was too much trouble to haul by himself. He wandered down the river looking for a place to across. He found a path of stones strung out cross the water. Jaéomen’s long legs easily carried him from stone to stone. He was nearly across when he saw no way to reach the next stone without jumping. Determinedly he sprang from his stone perch and fell.
Cold churning water enveloped him. He had a brief second to gulp a breath before he was dragged under. Jaéomen tried to fight against the rush of water but it overpowered him and bore him passed unfamiliar shores. The trees became more hunched over and darker.
Jaéomen resisted the urged to struggle, and floated down the river with his face to sky, until he was able to steer himself toward the riverbank. He crawled to shore amidst the old rotting logs covered with green moss and white fungus. The stench assailed him and he veered away, collapsing in a pile of dank leaves. The shadowy height of the trees encircled him like cage. Leaves rustled disquietingly in the stagnate air. Jaéomen gripped his friendship pendent and found it unharmed a relief in his growing fear. The leaves rustled again, closer now and Jaéomen turned to meet many cold glowing eyes. His excitement and anxiousness of this morning fled and left him wrapped in terror.
The eyes belonged to the giant evil spiders that lived in the deep, dark centre of the forest. They would kill or imprison him in their foul webs and drag him away for eating. This Jaéomen knew, as he stood weaponless before them and stiff as a tree in his fright. Yet, among his feelings of doom, a young and fragile notion began to grow and mature within in his heart. As he thought back to the people he may never see again, the ones who had loved him despite his handicap. Talesgal and Gil-Lómë and countless others that had shown kindness when he had been shamed. He now saw the value of his life and the great gift of just being alive whether you an elf, or half-elf or spider in the woods, and he yearn for second chance to live.
A light flashed like a blinding white fire. The pendant was glowing, kindled by Jaéomen’s cry for help. The spiders hissed and reeled fearing the light. They dropped back into the shadows but remained in a ring around the half-elf. The light glinted dimly off the silken threads of the webs they were weaving.
But they recoiled at the light and their circle wavered as Jaéomen flew toward it. Claws pricked him and thin threads clung in his hair but he cleared the ring of spiders and darted toward the river. He could see its dark water before him. His running feet were entangled in a tree root and he was thrown to the ground. His whole body screamed in pain and broken glass nicked his cheek. The pendant shattered on a rocky protrusion. As Jaéomen lay weeping, a bold spider leaped towards its hapless victim poison dripping from its fangs.
A bowstring snapped with a twang and the spider dropped an arrow in its throat. Suddenly, an elven knife was lying beside Jaéomen and he held it forth cutting wide. He severed both spider legs and tree twigs, but the monstrous creatures shrunk away from Jaéomen, for he was mad with rage. The archer let none escape.
At last the deep shadows were silent except for the voice of the river. Jaéomen looked upon his rescuer and saw it was Gil-Lómë.
“Your father told me where you had gone and I tracked you from there.”
“Alas! Your gift.” Jaéomen cried, “It would be a much happier reunion if it had not shattered. The magic of that gem was wondrous and powerful, now it is lost.”
The Elves saw the glowing fragments of glass grow cold and vanish into the dark. There they would rest forever with the mud and leaves. Jaéomen cringed. Gil-Lómë, prideful of his works, had often been enraged when lesser works had been marred. But his face was only distraught with a hint of wisdom, “I will remake your gift, Jaéomen, but this time I shall use a stone as strong as adamant and it will not break.”
Then, they departed from the shadowy forest, and rowed upstream in the boat Gil-Lómë rode down in during his search.
Talesgal stood before his son with hands clasped and his face solemn. Yet, a hint of a smile flicked at his lip when he saw Jaéomen’s back was straight and tall, as he stood with down cast eyes, regretful of his actions but no longer ashamed of himself.
“Your encounter with the spider seems ample reward for not telling the whole truth of what you were doing.” Talesgal said, “But, I shall still give you some punishment of my own.”
Jaéomen shifted from right to left, but did not speak.
” The Elvenking, is having a feast to honour the two brave elven warriors who slay the giant spiders. You, therefore, must go and are not allowed to worry about making a spectacle of yourself.”
Jaéomen’s eyes raised, “I will go, father.” He said his face was beaming. He could not content his mirth, even though he was uneasy about appearing before the Elvenking. He wanted to go whether he would fall on his face or not.
Jaéomen and Gil-Lómë were clothed in green and silver. The gems on their belts glittered with the fire of the feast as they stood before the Elvenking. Harps sang softly behind them and then fell silent when the king spoke.
“Gil-Lómë, for your valour in coming to the aid of Jaéomen and battling the spiders, I name you Mirdan the jewelwright. May the stars shine in your gems.” A crown of leaves with white berries was place in Gil-Lómë’s golden hair.
“Jaéomen son of Talesgal, you have shown incredible courage and bravery, alone and unarmed midst a ring of spiders. I name you Telheled, the end of glass.”
Cries of praise arose about them as a crown of leaves was placed on Telheled’s head. “Telheled” he whispered “At last I have my elvish name!” And so he is called in all the songs and tales that remember him.