1. High Places
Thanks: To Falstaff, whose incredible talent jumpstarted my own reluctant muse out of sheer jealousy, and to Ari who betaread on the spur of the moment even though I'd just hung up on her to write it. ;)
PS: I know "uncle" is the wrong term, but hey -- the kid is only seven, and it's easier!
He is safe. He knows he is safe, because his uncle told him so.
Thus he clings fast with small hands and pudgy knees, face buried against his uncle's collar. His eyes burn with smoke and somewhere people are screaming, but he cannot see anything because his world is shrouded amidst encircling arms and long loose black hair. Uncle's hair is almost as long as Mama's, but it smells different -- of smoke, yes, but a different kind of smoke. Uncle smells like his smithy, whereas Mama--
"Where's Mama?" he asks suddenly, and he tries to wriggle around to see where they are going but his nose bangs against the adult's jaw. It hurts but he knows his uncle has to run very fast now, so he won't cry, he won't, and yet suddenly he really wants her here too.
"We are going to find her, right now," his uncle replies. One strong hand rubs the child's back soothingly. "We will fetch your mama and then we shall leave. We will go far away where nobody will ever find us. Perhaps we shall live in the forest, as I did when I was growing up. Would you like that?"
The child nods, small fingers clenching tight as something ROARS in the distance. Flakes of stone pepper their intermingled hair and the floor shudders under them. He almost screams as his uncle's feet skid wildly on the shifting marble, but then they are past and safe. Safe. Uncle would never let anything happen to him. Never.
"What about Dada?"
Powerful arms lock around him, holding him tight, holding him close. "Your father is...very brave. He is fighting so you can get away, you and your mama. He wants you safe. Do not worry about him. He would not wish you to worry about him."
True. Dada is the strongest and bravest man in the city, and it wouldn't be right to worry about him like a baby. Still... He pushes aside some of his uncle's hair and tries to peer back, tries to see, but by now they are far away. Far within. Here it is almost quiet. Here one can almost pretend that nothing is happening...
The tapestries are familiar, and suddenly he knows where they are. His heart leaps -- this is where they will find Mama! He squirms, eager to face front and see her, but he cannot, so he can only beam with relief when he hears her voice, feels her hand on his back--
"Maeglin! You found him, oh, you found him, I was so worried..."
"Worried enough to take up a sword, my dearest cousin?"
"A mother may defend her child any way she sees fit," she replies hotly, "and I know which end of a blade to hold. Give me my son and perhaps then I shall allow you to defend us both."
The child feels his uncle's arms tighten around him again, and he leans trustingly against the strong shoulder. "Your son is no baby," he is pleased to hear, that tenor voice vibrating between their chests, "and he is no longer light enough for you to carry with ease. I have him. Leave the blade behind. I bear my own, and we have far to travel."
"You would have us flee while our home, my father, my husband is in danger?! I would never--"
"Your home is lost, and your father and your husband charged me with your safety," Maeglin says softly. "There are dragons at the gate. We must leave. For the sake of your son. Would you deprive him of his mother, too?"
The child hears his mother gasp, and he does not understand why. He wonders if it is because of the dragons. He wishes he could see a dragon. "You...you are saying..."
Masonry crashes in the distance, not so far away now. The air has begun to curl and thicken with smoke. Maeglin is tense, tendons quivering under the boy's trusting cheek, but his words are unshaken. "I am saying nothing until we are safely away and your son sleeps. Idril, we have no time! Come with me now or I will carry Eärendil away myself and you will never see him again -- I swear this!"
"I can walk," Eärendil protests crankily, tired of being spoken of as if he were not there. His complaint goes unheeded, however, and soon they are running again. Only now his Mama is here too, which is good, but she is crying as she reaches out to pet his fine dark hair. He wants to ask why she is sad when they are going to go far far away and be safe, but now they are outside and the sunlight makes him blink.
Then there are many steps and he is glad his uncle is carrying him after all. "Safe" must be very far away indeed, and he does not think he could run there by himself. That's what his Uncle is for. To protect him. As long as he can remember his uncle has been watching over him...watching him...always ready with a cuddle or a story, though his stories are scary sometimes. The cuddles are never scary, though, and someday he wants to be a smith just like his uncle.
He'd said so once. That he wanted to be a smith so he could make pretty things for Mama. His uncle had laughed, but it hadn't been a mean laugh; in fact, he'd ruffled his hair and given him a mallet and a few scraps to hammer.
"If you were my son, you would be a smith already," his uncle had teased him, but his eyes did not tease. They'd been dark and sad and...something more, but Eärendil didn't have a word for it then and he still didn't, even though he saw that look more and more lately. It was kinda scary, but kinda neat too. Like, just for that moment, nothing else in the world mattered but him.
"If you'd been my son..." his uncle had said again, softly, that strange flickering fire in his steady gaze. "You should have been my son.
"You should have been mine."
They are above the smoke now, above the city. Very high. He looks back over Maeglin's shoulder, and he does not quite understand what he sees, but it looks very bad. The city should not be burning...the buildings should not be falling down...he does not understand any of it, but he does understand that he is safe. That his uncle has saved him and Mama.
The forest sounds nice. Dada will join them later, and Grandpapa too, and maybe Captain Glorfindel and Captain 'Thelion, and when they get tired of sleeping in trees (like the Green-Elves in the stories) they'll all go back to their real home and life will all go back to normal again.
He cranes his neck, trying to get one last glimpse, hoping to see dragons...and then he sees something far better. Running after them, up the endless stone steps, running and running with a naked sword in his hand...
He crows with joy, clapping his hands in delight. "Tuor!" his mother cries, and then he cannot see her nor his father as Maeglin whirls around but he knows Mama is not crying, not anymore, because they are all back together and everything will be all right now--
And what happens next is worse than anything he saw in the dying city of Gondolin below.
"...and then you fell."
"I did not fall, I leaped. There is a difference."
"Not much." He shuddered, pulling his wife into his arms, holding her fast as if to never let her go again. "I should not have left you, I should have been there..."
"To do what? To die at the hands of those Feanorean butchers, to be chopped down where you stood...like they murdered my father in his own hall?" She shook her head, dark tresses tumbling across his chest. "You are a brave man, but you are a man of the sea. Your strength lies in wrestling ropes and heaving a tiller...not in the wielding of a sword. What happened is over, and I am here."
"Only thanks to a miracle."
Elwing laughed merrily, and his heart eased somewhat. "Aye, Eärendil my love, a miracle, and I suggest you cease questioning it before your lack of gratitude attracts unwanted attentions from the very sea that sent me to you!"
"I am sorry. I just..." He swallowed hard. "There were stones beneath that tower window, were there not? Jagged stones?"
"The breakwater, yes... Why is this so important to you? I did not strike those rocks. I was saved, and I lived. I am here! And I love you. I shall never leave you."
Eärendil was quiet at that. Very quiet. Then, softly, as if to himself, he murmured, "I saw someone fall, once...a long time ago...
"Someone I loved."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.