She was Urwen, daughter of Húrin Thalion and Morwen Eledhwen, but called Lalaith for her laughter.
Near to Lalaith, yet unseen by her, for he laid low in the tall grass, was another child, a boy. He was dark and pale, even as she was fair and golden, and he was older and longer than the girl. He did not speak, and appeared very solemn of countenance as his head turned in all directions, not so wildly as to catch the girl's attention, but with the sharp urgency of one who looks with a purpose. Yet at regular intervals he would watch the playing Lalaith, and his dark eyes would glow at last, mirroring the sunlight, and his mouth would soften to a smile of contentment, though it would last but a moment.
He was Túrin, son of Húrin, heir to the House of Hador, and cursed.
It is hard to keep so still, for insects crawl over my arms, and the sun beats on my back, and I grow tired of lying on my stomach, but I cannot move. If I move, Lalaith will see me, and she will want me to play with her. I cannot play with her, for I am on guard and a soldier does not leave his post. Lalaith does not understand that she needs to be protected, but she does not understand anything like I do. She does not know that there are times when no one laughs, when everyone is quiet and Father plays sad songs on his harp and Mother is cold and silent all the time. She does not know, for she is always laughing and when Lalaith is laughing, everyone is happy.
That is why I must protect her, I must keep away the things that would stop her laughter, although I do not know what could ever do that, except perhaps if Mother was displeased, and no one is ever displeased with Lalaith. But I must see every shadow and hear every noise to keep watch for the Great Enemy and his servant Death. When Death takes people, they do not laugh or dance or sing. They cannot see or speak or think. They just lie, as if they are asleep, though sometimes their eyes are open, and they never wake up. Death took Mother's family.
But I will keep Lalaith safe. I will stop Death.
My eyes begin to hurt from looking so hard, and the day grows hot. I have been watching long enough that I may look at Lalaith for a moment and rest. But only for a moment.
Lalaith runs now. She is never still. She is still learning to speak, yet with the words she knows she makes songs, and sings them over and over until I do not know if I will cry from the weariness of it or laugh that she finds such pleasure in them still.
"i-loth malen o aur,
linna meleth na i-menel . . ."
A silly song, if I were to say it, but she makes it sound pretty. Elves do a lot of singing like that, about flowers and the sun, if you believe what people say. I do, because people say that Lalaith is as fair as an Elf-child. I have not seen an Elf-child, though once King Fingon rode by, and all I saw then was a lot of silver and armour and tall horses. But Father likes the Elves-- sometimes I think he likes them more than he likes us-- and he says they are beautiful, beautiful like mother, and brave like the Edain soldiers, and wiser than any man. I think I should like to meet an Elf, for Father says they do not fear Death. But perhaps it is only because they do not have a Lalaith.
I am trying to look away from her again, to focus on the hills, because I am sure that is where the Enemy will come from, but it is getting harder and my eyes sting. Sometimes this morning, I would open my eyes before I even knew they were closed, and little black and blue spots would hop in front of Lalaith, and I would feel tired and hot and cold all at once.
And I am afraid, because I think that perhaps now the Dark Enemy finally comes to take Lalaith, and I do not know how to stop it.
But when I open my eyes, Lalaith still runs and jumps-- she pretends she is a bird-- and the sun shines, and there is not the cloud that I thought caused my eyes to go dark. There is a black and white spot now, but it is only my mother in front of our home, for she too likes to watch Lalaith play. I do not play, so she does not watch me
Something small blows into my eye, and it itches and burns so that I must rub my fists against my eyes, and I do not cry although it hurts, not because I don't want to, but because I cannot cry, not while Lalaith is laughing, for I might upset her and cause her to cry. The itching goes away now, and if I blink hard enough I will be able to see again. But I blink and rub again, because I do not see Lalaith.
But I can see the grass, and the lilies, and the hills and our home far away. It is only Lalaith that is not there, not anywhere that I can see. The Enemy has taken her and I cannot get up, though I try and my knees tremble and I feel cold and sick again. But I call out her name-- "Lalaith!"-- and my voice is high and so quiet, too quiet, no one will hear me. But I am on my knees now, and though breathing hurts and my arms shake I must push to my feet, I must chase the Enemy for if he takes Lalaith away, if he gives her to Death, no one will ever be happy again.
Soft white arms with delicate, pudgy little fingers wind around my neck as though to choke me, and something presses against my back so that I drop back to my knees.
"Túrin," says a voice breathless and ticklish against my ear. "Why do you go? I am here!" And she laughs, she laughs at her game, and at the grass which hid her so that she snuck unseen behind me to jump and clasp my neck.
But I pull her arms off, and turn so that I may see her. I crouch to her level and look at her sternly, my fright beat down by the tiny butterfly wings of her smile. "Lalaith, it is wrong to hide! If Mother cannot see you, she will think you are lost. You must not do that again."
Other children do not like it when I am serious, when I am like Mother, but Lalaith does not mind; she is not frightened.
"Oh, but I was not hiding, Túrin! I was a tiny ant, and you could not see me because I was only this big--" she pinches her fingers together, holds them to my face. "And I crawled on the ground . . ." She crawls now, nosing aside the long grass, giggling.
"We cannot play anymore, Lalaith." I clasp the sash of her dress, use her arms to pull her to her feet. "It is time to eat; Mother waits in the house."
"One more game, Túrin! Only one!"
She catches my hands and begins to spin around me, singing again, laughing when she stumbles. I would like to watch her hair wave in the wind like golden clouds, and her cheeks shine pink with little smile-dents, but the spinning makes me dizzy again, and I feel ill.
"No Lalaith, it is time to go home."
But Lalaith does not hear me, though she drops my hands, for she looks off to the hill and listens to something I cannot hear. And then she cries out, and she runs from me so fast, her white dress sailing behind her. "Father has come home, Túrin! He is home!"
I watch her go, but I do not move for my eyes are going black again, and I feel hot though my shoulders are shivering like in the winter, when it is so cold I must sleep with Lalaith to keep her warm. Suddenly I feel afraid, like before, because I know that it is the Enemy that makes me feel like this, that makes my legs weak and my stomach ill, and Lalaith runs from me! She runs, and the Enemy will catch her!
"No Lalaith!" I shout, and though it is hard, I begin to run after her. "Come back! You must not run from me!"
He will catch her if I do not run fast enough! Father is too far, she will not get to him in time. I must be faster, faster than Death, and brave as an Elf, and I must not fall-- I feel so dizzy-- for I am getting closer to Lalaith, closer, her golden hair flies behind her tiny shoulders, her white feet dance through the grass, and she laughs, she laughs because she does not know what chases her . . .
The field whirls in circles about my eyes, and the grass rushes up to my face as finally my legs give way and all goes black.
" . . . for the Evil Breath came to Dor-lómin, and Túrin took sick, and lay long in a fever and dark dream. And when he was healed, for such was his fate and the strength of life that was in him, he asked for Lalaith. But his nurse answered: 'Speak no more of Lalaith, son of Húrin; but of your sister Urwen you must ask tidings of your mother.'
"And when Morwen came to him, Túrin said to her: 'I am no longer sick, and I wish to see Urwen; but why must I not say Lalaith any more?'
" 'Because Urwen is dead, and laugher is stilled in this house,' she answered. 'But you live, son of Morwen; and so does the Enemy who has done this to us.' " ------- Unfinished Tales, The Tale of the Children of Húrin.
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.