2. The Waters of Ivrin
Lo! Cool and clear by crystal fountains
She is fed unfailing, from defilement warded
By Ylmir the old, who in ancient days,
Wielder of waters, here worked her beauty.
From outmost ocean yet often comes
His messages hither his magic bearing,
The healing of hearts and hope and valour
For foes of Bauglir.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lay of the Children of Hurin
- Tell the Mormegil that Finduilas is here*-
- Tell him I am here-
- Tell him-
And so life escapes together with thought, leaving only afterimages - bright blood staining shift and mantle, nothing more than tatters after what feels like ages in the wild, life and self so much changed that it is a wonder she still remembers her name. Blood runs into puddles at her feet, seeping away, and she follows it with unseeing eyes.
What is left of Finduilas, king’s daughter, princess of a realm that has vanished in so little time, in no more than a blink of the eye for one of the Eldar, last of Nargothrond’s people, who once – surely that was during another lifetime, vanished, vanished like sunrays behind dark storm clouds – was named Faelivrin, but there is nothing left of that brilliance her lover once saw in her – mocked by the Orcs who captured them and shore her hair which left her weeping, because the gap between self who is and self who was got greater every minute – so it comes to her how important it was to be recognized as Faelivrin, if not as loved as somebody loved her former self once, which then she took for granted, foolishly.
During the bitter northward march it comes to her that her destruction is strangely appropriate, a bitter irony, since she had learned of the polluted and defiled waters of Eithel Ivrin, defiled by the same force which destroyed her city and slayed her people, the greatest weapon of the Great Enemy who wins repeatedly and crushes hope as easily as she might crush a fly. She heard the Orcs laugh and sneer about the ruin of the wells and waterfalls, about the destruction the Dragon has wrecked in waters once sacred by the Lord’s of Water power – and so they are all destroyed and defiled, her perished people and so much more - caught in the gods’ strife and her people’s own doom, wrought before she was born in a land she has never seen –
There was a day, long past, when she rode with her family – she sees them before her, her uncles, her father, her mother, and there was Gwindor, too, together with his family – to Ivrin during the Long Peace, and they were bright as the stars and as unconquerable to her eyes. These were the days when the world seemed to be so wide, so beautiful and bright that she sang in bliss at the clear pools, and he who was destroyed beyond knowledge by their ancient enemy named her anew and described the sunlight in her hair in the same words as the brilliance of the sun on the waters of the well and the waterfalls and she became Faelivrin–
They were running through meadows strewn with flowers for the sheer joy of living, starlight in their eyes when they looked at each other, happiness piercing the heart nigh to bursting. They danced, in harmony with Eä and the Music that created it –
Like the water of the falls, each moment was infinite –
And so time stops, and the moment itself – full of light and the water’s music – is held like a dragonfly in amber in her memory –
(And in Dor-lómin the last warrior of Nargothrond comes to himself, standing between slaughtered foes, awakening from lies and deceit, and more cruel than all punishment and the Dark Lord’s torture could be truth is revealed and the wrecking he has wrought – and hears a well-known voice from afar, crying his name in terror.
His sword, the famous sword, falls out of his hand, he knows that all is lost in oath-breaking, the oath he swore the one who called him friend, even after the recognisation that this friend, one of the Edain, had won his beloved without earning it, and casting it away –
And he hears his dying friend’s words again –
- Haste thee to Nargothrond and save Finduilas. And this I last say to thee: she alone stands between thee and thy doom. If thou fail her, it shall not fail to find thee.*
- knowing that this is the beginning of his end, wondering idly what Gwindor meant, a true seeing of the future or curse, but it matters not. So he leaves the hall and turns South again, one moment hoping and in the next despairing, but set on the trail like a hound during chase, chasing the running hours with the deep knowledge –
- too late-
But at last he claims it as duty, though too late and hopeless, this pursuit to defend those who cannot be defended any longer. He ever sees his friend’s broken eyes during the search, entreating him to slay her, whom he still loves, to spare her from slavery –
And he sees her, too, standing between the other maidens on the terraces at the bridge, the cursed bridge, calling his name, crying, while her city is destroyed and plundered, her folk raped and killed –
The memory of the Dragon and his eyes his mind cannot bear – and his seeking becomes frantic.)
She saw them coming, dark clad men, melting into the shadows of the trees when they came to the river. But, undoubtedly, if she can see them, the Orcs can smell them as well, and though hope rushes through her heart like a fire there is knowledge, too, that they cannot help, that they will not reach the group of elves in time, before Orcs will slay them. They have sworn to their master that no-one from Nargothrond will stay alive outside Angband –
So she watches outwardly impassive as the men of Brethil approach, a little group, too little, attacking too early. And again she is caught in a rough grip and has to witness slaughter, again –
Until she is the last and blood colours water. And how silly one is – during strife between sheerest terror, the wish that it may be over swiftly, and the will to live, to stay - she wonders about the brief lives of Men, coming to help and battle regardless and she cries a name in her mind, of the one who did not rescue her in Nargothrond, under Glaurung’s spell. In wild hope she sees him between those men, but he is not there – of course…
Nevertheless, he is her anchor – she cannot fade from this place, how alluring this may be, because she will never see him again, if she does, and she has not the heart to bear this – and there is fear, she cannot help it, she is afraid to stand before Mandos and to be judged for her faithlessness to Gwindor. She cannot fade, even if others have done so during the march – so easy to slip away during their too short rest - because she is afraid to leave the land of her birth, the land she loves, and so she stays. It is a strange state she is in – to live without hope and to cling to life, regardless. Do the Edain feel this way? Wishing to prolong life at whatever cost?
She wrenches in the Orc’s foul clutch, like a wild thing in a trap, instinct to survive rekindled, and with strength she did not know to possess breaks free und flees towards the trees, but what there is left of Finduilas, whom they named fleet-footed once is not enough, and turning, looking for pursuers when she reached the trees, is caught, pushed against a tree – she hears the spear’s impact, the sickening noise of metal meeting flesh and bone, newly learned to be easily recognized, feels a blow at which the air is driven out of her lungs.
But she looks at the spear through her breast uncomprehendingly, sees blood staining the white shift, feels her heart beating madly, her body trying to restore itself, knowing it futile after split seconds when realisation hits her together with pain. Her vision dims, and looking towards the river she cannot make out whether she sees the sun’s setting on the water or the river running red with her people’s blood. With friends’ blood, blood of women who still did look to her during their captivity and march towards the North. And she could do nothing, could not help, because what of her skills could achieve anything then? Her father’s treasure, his jewel, sheltered in his care like a flower, skilled in making things of beauty, her harp and small arts, doing this and that, with nothing to worry about, because she was loved and protected –
Nothing ever prepared her for this, for such catastrophe, even after the ruin of the Bragollach all of Nargothrond still seemed to think that nothing can happen to them behind their strong doors.
During the march she is even scorned, she has seen the looks of some women who know her aunt and compare her to the one from Valinor who brought some of them to this lands, over the Ice, however unjust that may be –
And she, herself, thinks of the other one, foolish, mad, they called her, imprisoned in Nargothrond, kin from afar, singer, dancer, doer of great deeds, overthrower of Sauron, clinging to her true-love forever, the mortal – and she thinks that Lúthien, too, has walked this way, towards Tol Sirion, to rescue her love. It is so clear to her that she is not Lúthien, how very clear! Hope has abandoned her, and the true will to overcome, to live, regardless -
There is not only grief in this skein of thought, but also guilt – she did not help Lúthien when she was held captive, but condemned her together with all others, not knowing that soon the day would come when she would look upon another mortal and would stumble – and fall, in the end.
He loved her not, she knew that soon, but she could not help that her eyes ever looked for him, and she struggled to be content with the morsels of affection he had for her, looking at her as a mother, a sister or an adorable queen. So they were caught in this triangle – Gwindor, Thurin Adanedhel and Finduilas, who became pale and Faelivrin less and less. And did it not begin then, in truth, this changing, this estrangement from herself, which is completed now?
He would come and talk to her, as if drowning in unspoken words, delighted to answer her questions of the Edain’s life in the Northlands, their thoughts and deeds before the Invasion, their fears and joys and tales and everything she could think of, to fashion her a key to his soul with his own words –
When he spoke of his family, careful not to reveal his true identity, sometimes he would get carried away, and then she knew that he ceased to talk with her, but dwelt in houses long-forsaken and lands long-lost – and ever she was moved at his sorrow and strove to lighten it, with her harp and music, and her whole being, but she strove in vain – or was it not? – for his mood was changed and he was thankful, but she could not move him enough to love her –
Towards the end, when the shadow of open war descended upon the city and she was more and more troubled, then Gwindor spoke to her about the Adanedhel and understood her seemingly, but spoke bitter warnings, which turned out true, because she did indeed enter the doom of Húrin’s House – his voice rings in her ears -
- thy love shall betray you to bitterness and death* -
- and so it happened.
He pitied her then, when she became pale and would sing no longer, and was to her as an older brother would have been, but he detected nothing and she was frightened. How came she to love somebody as darkly secretive as this mortal? For she began to despise his many names, despised his crooked humour to name himself ‘blood-stained’, and despised him for not trusting her with his true-name, so that she had to devise another one for him, and Thurin was not wholeheartedly chosen in kindness!
What was it that drove her ever towards him against her will and made her a traitor in love, dreaming of glorious deeds they would accomplish together even if she knew full well that he was no Beren – she does not know.
Would her cries for him at the bridge have had the power to wake him from the Dragon’s spell if he had loved her? She does not know – she does not want to know, any longer -
When the city was conquered, they were herded towards the North along the river, through land she has known and loved so much, where she often had ridden when her father still held Minas Tirith, and so she knew the way they were going well – as if there was ever doubt of direction!
The plains are burnt now, in the wake of the Dragon, and she mourns the broken country – will whole Beleriand become as the Anfauglith? – and wishes fervently for a gentle hand to wipe away the stains upon the land, for some other with more power than herself, to make flowers appear with each footstep or wells spring up with each tear!
Those who are going to live will end in the Dark Lord’s power, and her mind refused to acknowledge that, shied away from this thought for long. First there was nothing than despair, consuming her – her people destroyed, her father dead, Gwindor dead (later there was hope, nay, the wish that maybe, maybe, Túrin somehow got to Nargothrond quicker than the others and there are some survivors), her city destroyed, everything lost and Túrin under the Dragon’s spell, which was worse than the Dragon himself, even if mind recoiled in horror at the sight of him. And she is alone between all these women, truly alone, because there will be no help in her despair – who could help them now? They are all dead and nobody will come, he will not come.
Winter came early, adding to their misery, and it is not like in former times, when the waters were always beneficent to her. She remembers the stories her father told her about the first snow and ice, and does not know why nature turned against them all – is it their enemy’s influence, the negligence of the Powers, or her own tainted view? Because it is unnatural, days without light, a gloom that lies over the country, nights without stars – Orcs can run the quicker for it, whereas she drowns in it, having not known the times of Twilight and Darkness. But in this mire of hopelessness nothing matters much to her. There are things to cope with – lacking food, and strangely, water, because the smaller rivers are frozen, and much is defiled, revolting to their senses – and there are wounds, and fear, but at the end of the road waits death nonetheless, sooner or later…
She could not help her people, stumbling between them over plains and hills, through snow and rain and storm, could not give them hope, because she had none, thinking after the first despair only about him who failed her, still loving him nevertheless –
So different he is from the other Mortal she has known nearly twenty years ago, marvelling at Lúthien’s folly to bind herself to him – but self-righteousness vanished quickly in the turmoil after Gwindor’s return, presenting a young man elven-fair to her father’s court, the image of himself before the Battle. But still she remembered his eyes and recognized one changed beyond imagining, appearing to be one of the Sickly Ones, changing places with the mortal outlaw who looked like a lord of the Noldor.
Adanedhel they named him in Nargothrond, but mistaking him for another Gwindor – but he was her Secret, her riddle to solve, but she feared the answer she got finally: Túrin Son of Húrin.
(When he turned away from the field of Tumladen with a few companions it was storming, and the wind went through the trees, and the leaves fell to their feet, and so fell the people of Nargothrond, but for them shall come no Spring*, they had said.
The dire winter foretold has come, but during these endless days his mind wanders - while his senses look out for tracks, his memory searches for reasons, explanations, and so he goes back to Doriath, the dwarf’s hill, his fellow-outlaws till he comes to Nargothrond. His thoughts go round and round, till they dig their claws into that which was his least fault – he knew it not! he tries to placate his thoughts unconvincingly, but an evil voice discloses the matter again and hails him:
- Thief of love! Evil has been all your ways.*
- and much more in the same tone.
Is a deed less evil because you did it unknowing? How his guides and counsellors would have loved to discuss such and other things! But he does not need philosophical arguments now.
Thief… evil…usurper… faithless…
But these were the Dragon’s lies!
And a little voice whispers – true, nevertheless…
Because, for a short time, the city was his home, he belonged there, he had friends – and more…
Fool! Fool that he was, not to see, so he betrayed Gwindor in the end, he could never mend what had been torn apart, time goes on mercilessly and cannot be turned back. No, for he has changed, too, again, and will become like Gwindor in the end – a dying warrior on the battlefield. For he took his place, coming to Nargothrond, and they exchanged their lives, or so it seems to him.)
It is a little group of rangers guarding the Crossings, having heard of the band of Orcs herding prisoners northwards. They lie low behind shrubs and bushes, trying to merge in with their surroundings, but this is difficult in late autumn, when first snow has already fallen.
Being Haladin, they fight rather with battle-axe and spear than sword and bow, and so they decide to let the Orcs cross the river first and then to attack, trying to free their prisoners. Waiting still and without sound is hard in the wet and cold, and they wait nearly a whole day. Dusk begins to taint the sky when they hear the harsh voices and the whips, Orcs never being quiet, and when they come into view, herding a group of elf-women and children towards the ford, all their hearts go out to them in pity.
Once they were wary of the bright-eyed warriors and their ladies, but having lived for generations on the borders of Elu Thingol’s lands they are used to them, having fought and lived at times together. They know that they are able to endure much more than they could, and consequently that the cruel fate of these prisoners would have killed any mortal long ago. The women are clothed in rags and tatters, barefoot and reluctant to cross the river, but whips make them go on, stumbling through the water, helping each other, with the empty eyes and resigned air of people who learned very quickly and brutally that things only get worse. They look like the living dead – without any spark of spirit left.
There is one maiden with shorn golden hair, who draws their eyes to her, regardless of her beaten state, clothed in a dark mantle which bears an embroidered device they know, golden flowers upon a white shield, guarded more than others, surrounded by Orcs, lagging behind with weary steps, but still queenly air. For a moment, she hesitates at the bank of the river, and at that, one of her gaolers slaps her face casually, with a businesslike air, and the spikes on his gauntlet rip her skin open. Maybe it is this why they rush forward prematurely, and the rangers recognize with horror that their ambush was expected, and while a little force goes forward to meet them, the rest deals out death to their prisoners, caring not for swift and deadly strokes, but slaughter the group of women like animals – but nobody would do this to wild beasts!
Before it is wholly over and the rangers see that they have brought death to those they wanted to free, the maiden in the dark mantle tries to flee, mobilizing strength they would not have guessed she possessed. But even so, she lacks a warrior’s instincts, and makes a mistake – she slows down when she reaches the woods and, turning to look behind, is caught, shoved against a tree, and casually pinned there with a spear. It is a declaration for them, and shocked they stand motionless, as if the world froze with that sickening noise of the spear, driven through a body.
The last Orcs flee, the river runs red with the blood of the slain – there is only one left alive, but hardly so.
She clings to life far longer than they thought possible, after they have freed her from the tree with a swift axe-stroke that cleaved the spear-shaft between her back and the trunk. There is no healer with them, but even without one they know a fatal wound, having seen a great deal of them during the last years. The spear did not hit her heart, and with sheer willpower she does not let go of the little spark of life sheltered within her.
Some rangers give their thick cloaks so that she does not have to lie on the wet and cold grass in her rags, and for the group of men she is a grievous sight, though they are used to war’s atrocities. A bright, colourful bird, like those the high ladies of the Noldor sometimes have tamed, and then flung out of the warm and cosy bower to meet life’s cruelties beyond imagination – only a memory of Elven-beauty remaining in the gaunt face and blue eyes, and they avert their eyes from the grisly sight of the spear shaft which they did not dare to remove.
Although dying, she still invokes too much awe, this former princess of the largest Elven kingdom, kin to Finrod Felagund whom they revere, than to touch her, till she gestures for water, and one of the rangers gives her little sips from his flask, knowing that this will kill her but the quicker, but what does that matter, now? Truly, she starts to cough, breathing laboriously, and in pity he does what he would have done for a fallen comrade – he gathers her in his arms, so that she rests against his breast, heart racing unsteadily, skipping beats and failing slowly, but surely, trying to speak –
She drinks greedily the water the mortal gives her, knowing full well (even if she did not learn to tend the wounded) that this will send her West more speedily – but needing the water, cool and fresh, not only for quenching her thirst, but for solace and the connection to the Song of Life that flows through all of Middle-earth.
How strange that her life runs to its end in the midst of mortal men, but fitting, too – her whole House connected somehow or other with the fate of the Edain. She is thankful for their comfort, thankful for their rough accent in which they speak their calming words, thankful for every little touch and word and pitying look, she who judged them too severe during her lifetime –
Judged them wrongly, too – she suddenly recognizes that she never saw Túrin, but Adanedhel, the one she wanted to see, her beloved – yes, beloved – returned to her in mortal guise, a mirrored image. She did them both wrong, when she treated him as if he was an unchanged Gwindor, betrothed to her, then letting Gwindor leave her, though she could not have done otherwise - and regret washes over her like a wave. In the past, she judged herself severely for loving two men, but in truth, she loved neither, but an illusion –
So much love wasted, run dry – useless –
So much hurt, sprung from good intentions –
She was convinced that Gwindor was beyond her help, because the love left for him was not enough, but there was the other, the Secret, grey eyes unfathomable, whom she – how strange! – could reach somehow, so maybe she could start anew with him, who brought her a second chance to do better, help as she could not help before, love as she could not before, but they were all caught; all things, all attempts came to nothing, brought them death, slavery, bewitchment. Everything fails – ah, what did the world become?
The mortal ranger carefully wipes the blood from her face with a wet rag, and she sees the sun setting behind him, glittering in the drops of water on his hand, while he murmurs softly, but incomprehensibly to her. It soothes her a bit, even if fear starts to overwhelm her – it is getting so dark and cold, and she cannot see the stars any longer – everything dims, hearing and seeing, panic rises as breathing gets more and more difficult –
And suddenly she is at Ivrin, her mind resting beside the pools of clear water, flowing and sparkling in the sun, rushing downwards over stones –
It calms her, body’s pain and mind’s turmoil left behind – she is there and Faelivrin again, all marring healed, light caught in her hair, the water’s gentle laughter speaks of quiet and rest –
And the waves tell of the Sea…
She trails her hand through the water and is glad - she has found her true self again - and is full of understanding and pity for them all, who were caught in this net of true love and false.
And finally she understands that she has to leave and shed these mortal fears.
Unexpectedly confident she knows that he will come, even if it is too late for her, but her feelings towards him are changed, there is nothing than concern left and all bitterness that he does not return her feelings vanished –
But it is somehow important that he is able to find her, he must be bound to this place, he must stay here (how does she know this?), but he needs help to find her with his dulled mortal senses –
And she hears her own voice, coming from afar –
-Tell the Mormegil that Finduilas is here* -
-Tell him I am here -
-Tell him -
With a last, shuddering breath her fëa leaves this broken shell she dwells in, yearning for the voice of the Sea, and she is called home to a land she does not know, but her true home nevertheless, where all hurts are healed –
And she flies West with that innate sense of a bird of passage, over the sea, drawn by a Light which she knows with her kindred’s instinct. She leaves this land where she was born to, which she loves deeply, and with fleeting regret she recognizes that she looses all connection she has with it, and so she leaves him, the adan, too – forever…
(The one who loses and gains names like layers of skin – the elven-fair, who blended into Nargothrond’s people as if he would belong there, the last warrior of Nargothrond, outlawed again – he seeks a trail that winter wiped out, but he seeks nevertheless, always looking north.
He came to Eithel Ivrin again, in winter, and thinks about life, repeating patterns skilfully and apt: once before he came to this place and was healed of madness. Life seemed to change, then, becoming good once more. Now he feels doomed again, pointless to ask whether enmeshed in the Noldor’s Doom, or his own, wrought by himself under Morgoth’s curse.
He remembers the day he asked Gwindor about his father in Angband – ‘they believe that Morgoth has laid a curse upon him and his kin’*, and his own answer ‘that I do believe’*.
That was at Ivrin, too, and there his sword came to him, after he – no, he cannot think about Beleg’s death, now – another deadly mistake –
He ponders his decisions in Nargothrond and feels no blame, there he has done no wrong, that was war. His fate was always laid out for him like fitting garments. A bit proud he has worn them, ever, the true son of his father and mother. Action was already wrong, choice no real choice. So it seems a tangled web to him, the fate of Hador’s House and that of the Noldor, ever catching innocents – his mother, the sister he has never met, the sister who died and Finduilas – and he failed them all with good intentions. Abandoning Finduilas seemed right when the Dragon spoke to him, and it was a noble deed then, dooming himself – and her… for his mother’s and sister’s sake, but it was just a spell, a spell – and all went awry…
It was an omen, to see Eithel Ivrin again, as it is now – broken, blocked, so that the waters spread out over a wide space of land, turning it into a swamp, but it was frozen, when he saw it, dirty waves of ice. There were stories that the Lord of Water would not let the wells freeze – and now they are frozen. Even the Valar leave them to their hopeless fight, it seems. He cries her name, their names, ever seeking, ever hearing her cries, too –
And whenever he remembers this view, he cannot bear to think about Finduilas, seeing her fate mirrored in the waters – broken and defiled, and still he hears her voice screaming his name, his names, first pleadingly, then in terror. The fear he had for mother, sister – abuse, hunt – he has brought upon her. Truly, he casts a shadow wherever he dwells!)
The one she called for finds her barrow a month later, and stays with the Haladin to aid them with his sword. Then, during a dark and rainy night with storm, thunder and lightning he comes to Haudh-en-elleth, a green mound under the eaves of the forest on the eastern side of the river, after a fight. Enmeshed in a net woven of his own devising, the stage is set for him - he finds the white form of a maiden there, and stricken he thinks that Finduilas is alive, came back to him, but soon sees that it is a mortal woman who lies there in a swoon. He takes her home, and the stranger becomes dear and dearer to his heart. He swears secretly that he will never abandon her, like the others – and so, he is doomed completely.
Time passes. The seasons change. Life goes on – they defend the borders, they have reached a kind of peace, he has married. But, like a thunderstorm at the end of a hot and oppressive day, the Dark gathers again and falls back upon his life.
There comes the final day, a summer day four years later, the point of his life where all roads led to, inevitably, and the top spins ever slower before it falls to the ground - when he returns to the mound and cries a name, desperately, but who is there to hear it than the broad river and the trees?
The wind takes up the sound and blows it away. There is silence.
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.