1. Of Dreams and Tree-shadows
"Nauthannem i ned ol reniannen."*
Much have I heard of these Moriquendi, they who have looked not upon the Light of the Blessed Realm.
Yet the most I have heard of these woodland Elves, those who they call the Sindar.
It is said that they are a strange folk - strange and eerie, knowing little of light or loveliness, or of music, save it be dark songs in a tongue foreign to us, or chantings of rugged wonder that fade in the wooded regions or echo in the deep unknown places where they dwell. They are an unnatural and ghostly people, who creep under tree-shadows and by sunless whispering waters, and see not the light of the stars for the ensnaring branches that roof their land. And that land is as mysterious as its inhabitants; for few can pass beyond its border and not become meshed in the webs of sorcery that adorn it.*
Yet fain would I meet with one of these woodland Moriquendi, for I wish to look upon them and judge them against the words of others.
I can see him, sitting a little way down the table. He is placed as a guest of honour, for he is one of only two who came from the Hidden Kingdom bearing greetings from their woodland king.
He does indeed appear strange to me. His skin is white and pale, akin to the marble of Tirion; his hair is long and dark as the shadows which lurk under trees; his eyes I cannot see - he has turned away and is speaking with the one sat next to him.
I do not look at him for long; Nelyafinwë* interrupts me. He turns to face me, happiness lighting up his dark eyes in such a way that I have not seen as of late.
"Brother, is it not a pleasure to be at peace and enjoy such merriment?" he murmurs softly, so that none hear him save me.
He does not wait for an answer; he immediately turns to Findekáno* who sits on the other side of him and continues their conversation. I do not rebuke him. I know that he did not expect an answer, for it was more a comment spoken half to himself than a question.
Yet I know what he talks of. It does indeed lighten the heart to see that, for the moment at least, there is harmony amongst our people. It makes me glad to watch them, feasting and talking together, the enmity that divided us a few years hence just a distant memory.
Such times also lift the burden of war; there is no need to set out defence strategies, to worry about supposed weaknesses, to inspect soldiers and weapons and the many other tasks made necessary by warfare. It is good to just sit here, not to have to do anything; yet best of all is that it helps us to forget what has been, if only for a while.
I sip wine through half-closed lips and let my eyes wander back up the table. Nolofinwë* sits at the head in his place as High King of the Noldor. His sons and close kin, including my brother and I, sit close by. Then come the kings and lords of the Grey and the Green Elves and those from the Havens, among which sits the two messengers from the Hidden Kingdom.
The one who I had been watching before - I know not his name - has turned this way. I can see his eyes, and they are strange. Mayhap it is only the fact that I am used to seeing the bright eyes of those who have beheld the Light, but to me they appear glassy and distant. They truly do remind me of darkling forests and cold starless skies.
The Sun is now setting. She sinks into the West, making the clouds blush pink and staining the sky with red-gold light.
The time for feasting is over; it is now time for the making of music, singing and dancing. We rise, amidst much chatter, and walk over to the pools of Ivrin where the minstrels are already sitting.
I enjoy this the most of all. I like to just sit, letting the sweet melodies of harp and lute flow over me. And even though the minstrels sing in the tongue of the Grey Elves, I care not. Music has a language that all can understand and it does not speak in words.
"Canafinwë?* Will you not sing for us?"
The question comes from Findekáno. I smile.
"What would you have me sing, cousin?"
Nelyafinwë laughs; a sound so rare and beautiful that it carries a music of its own.
"Sing us a song of Valinor, brother; for long has it been since I heard that fair tongue set to music, and you know well that you are accounted the mightiest of singers among the Noldor."
So I sing. I sing an old song, a song that I had learned in my far-off youth. It is a song in praise of Manwë Súlimo, who is lord of the Ainur and sits upon Taniquetil with Varda, his queen.
I know not why I sing it. Manwë will never hear it and would heed it not even if it reached his ears. I am a Kinslayer, a son of Fëanáro and I carry the Curse of Mandos.
Everyone is watching me. I am used to attentive audiences, for Nelyafinwë was correct when he said that I was said to be the mightiest singer of the Noldor, but this is different. All are suddenly quiet; the only sound is the remote noise of Narog flowing in the distance. My voice carries out across Ivrin's waters and rises up to the star-pricked sky.
If it were not for the fact that I know it is only the trembling firelight reflected in their eyes, I would think that all the Noldor gathered here were close to tears.
I stay a while longer, listening to a skilled harper, but then I rise. Although it is night I still find it too hot near the many fires lit about the shore of the lake.
It would be far cooler under trees. There is a grove of them a small distance away from the lake, and I make for it. The trees are mostly oaks and poplars, with dark inviting shadows spread beneath them. They embrace me quickly as I step within, pulling me further.
I lean against the trunk of the nearest tree and close my eyes, though it makes little difference; I cannot see far in the gloom that surrounds me. I prick up my ears, listening to the small sounds of the wood, the rustlings of leaf and grass as unknown creatures pass through on their nightly journeys.
All of a sudden I hear a strange sound. It is music, a beautiful bewitching music, which comes floating through the shadows, embroidering fair patterns in the air, conjuring radiant images that shimmer before my eyes.
I shake my head, dispelling them. I either dream, or surely a Vala walks these woods. Mayhap Manwë heard my song and has come to grant us his pardon?
Nay... I forget all I have ever known. Manwë will not arise from Taniquetil until the End; and, even so, it would not be to forgive a rebellious host of Elves. We are shut out from the West. The Valar will not come.
But if not then a Vala, then what?
I follow the music further into the trees. And I see him. He is sat upon a tree bole, a twisted crown of ferns set upon his ebony hair. In his long hands he holds a flute and this is where the captivating music is coming from. He has not seen me; his eyes are closed, concentrating fully on the music.
I feel the sudden desire to sing. I wish to bind my voice to his music so that they are one; for I am sure that it will be the fairest melody that has ever been made by any child of Ilúvatar.
I sing softly at first, becoming accustomed to the rhythm and tone of the music. I do not wish to scare it away. It is elusive and wraith-like, dancing from me with twinkling steps in the twilit night. The first time that I clumsily try to catch it, it shies away and hides amid the tree- shadows, teasing me with fleeting glances.
I sing yet quieter, lulling it into a false sense of security. And, sure enough, it returns, hovering before me in the trembling air. The lower I sing the closer it draws, until I pounce with a surety born of longing. It is enmeshed within my nets and yields utterly, letting me take it, allowing me to join with it. It is not a carnal feeling; 'tis more sweet and gentle, a joining of souls not of bodies.
It is now that I realise what I am singing. It is a song I have never heard before; indeed, I am sure that it was not a song at all until this moment. It is my most inner thoughts set to music; I sing of the Noldor, of our confused feelings of hope and despair, of swords and blood and fire and red-tipped waves, of our desire to claim what is ours, and how we weep in our exile.
It is beautiful, far more beautiful than I expected, our music. It thrills through me, awakening all my senses, almost breaking my heart, and I sing all the more for it.
Suddenly the music flees, escaping my grasp. He has stopped playing and is staring at me with those pale icy eyes, panting raggedly.
"You wander far from your kinsfolk, Gnome,*" he murmurs softly, almost breathlessly; for we are both worn by the effort of our joining.
"I wearied of the company of others. I came to seek solitude beneath the trees. Besides, I know not that it has ought to do with you, Wood-Elf," I answer, proudly, stung by his tone and penetrating gaze.
He smirks slightly and raises the flute to his lips once more, as if signalling the end of our conversation.
"Tell me, Wood-Elf, what is your name?" I ask, drawing myself up to my full height and stepping closer to him. He looks up disinterestedly with heavy-lidded eyes.
"I am known as Daeron, the minstrel of Doriath."
I laugh derisively, cutting the calm night air in two.
"A strange name you have indeed, Wood-Elf."
"Your name is strange to me also, Canafinwë son of Fëanáro."
I growl angrily, annoyed that he knows of me and mocks me, a Noldo, one who has seen the Light of the Blessed Realm, when he is but a common Wood- Elf who skulks amid shadows and knows naught.
He starts to play again, the eerie melody twisting among the trees on its endless dance. He wants me to sing, I can tell. I will not give him the pleasure of complying.
"Where did a Wood-Elf learn to play like that?" I snarl abruptly, bringing a sudden stop to his playing.
"Where did a Gnome learn to sing like that?"
Suddenly, in a frenzy of rage, I leap at him, pulling him down onto the forest floor. He fights back fiercely, pulling at my hair and clothes and punching me in the face. I am reminded of the childhood fights I used to have with my brothers, full of scratching, tugging, biting and bloody noses.
He is smaller and lighter than I am, and I am far stronger; I pin him beneath me, gasping for breath as he thrashes about in an attempt to escape. His eyes are no longer pale but alight with a furious fire. I see true emotions on his face for the first time; he is angry and afraid. Oh yes, he is frightened of me.
He calms and lies passive and limp underneath me, but still he glares with those fiery eyes. This makes his skin look even more ghostly; so white and flawless it is that it seems to shine in the dark shadows of the trees. I reach out a hand and trail a finger down the side of his jaw. He flinches at the touch.
"You are afraid?" I ask, a sardonic quality stealing into my voice.
"Indeed... For if you joyfully slay your close kin, what unknown pleasure will you find in killing me?" he drawls emotionlessly, the fire in his eyes quenched.
I yank him up by his hair and slam him back down roughly. His lips part and a slight hiss of pain escapes.
"From the Sea you came, Gnome, and to the Sea you shall return, the last of the seven; but she will hold you and never again shall you behold your blessed Light," he spits, his surreal eyes mirroring the Moon as he glances through the skeletal branches above us.
I sneer, bringing my face closer to his.
"You know nothing, Wood-Elf, so do not seek to alarm me with your false prophecies."
He looks at me strangely, making me feel uncomfortable. I let him up and he scrambles to his feet, immediately regaining his dignified bearing.
He draws closer until we stand yet inches apart.
"She will like to hear you sing, son of Fëanáro, but remember that she sings far more mightily than any child of the One. Tears unnumbered you may shed into her, but remember that she is made of salty sorrow and your weeping is but a drop in the ocean. Be sure to drop naught into her, for remember that she is bottomless, and you will not regain what you loose," he whispers.
He leans forwards, brushing his lips against mine in a kiss so delicate that I would think it the mere flutter of a moth's wings were it not that he stood before me.
I reach out a hand to tangle it in his ebony locks and take him more fully, for I would join our bodies as we joined our souls, but he is not there.
He has fled among the tree-shadows, like a dream at day's break, naught but a whisper in the wind betraying the fact that he was ever there at all.
I stare around at the trees, searching for a sight of where he has gone. My eyes alight upon a small wooden flute, half-hidden under a tussock of grey grass. I pick it up and finger it idly, tracing over the ornate carvings, placing my fingers over the holes.
A while later, when I wander back to the fire-lit lakeside to join in the revelries, I still carry it in my clenched hand. No one notices me as I sit on the very edge of the flames, staring at the flute under the red glare of the fire.
I do not feel Nelyafinwë's hand on my shoulder when he stoops down beside me.
I do not answer. I am deep in thought.
Verily, it is true what they say about these woodland Moriquendi. They are a strange secret folk, who creep under tree-shadows and by sunless, whispering waters.
I know not what became of him, for I never saw him again. I hear that he became disgraced as the betrayer of Lúthien the Beloved and wandered far yet found no peace and was lost to his people forever.
I also hear that he was accounted the most gifted of the greatest musicians of the Elves. And it pains me to know that, the one short time when we met and bound our musics, our souls, together as one no one was present but us. No one heard the fairest music that has come from any child of Ilúvatar, save we twain alone.
Yea, it is true what they say about these woodland Moriquendi; yet it is not true what they say about their music. For though it is strange and eerie, it is enchanting and beautiful all the same, akin to straying into a dream.
* Translation of the quote: "Do you remember when we first met?" "I thought I had strayed into a dream." (Arwen and Aragorn – ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' film)
* A lot of this passage is lifted directly from The Book of Lost Tales II.
* Nelyafinwë – Maedhros's father-name
* Findekáno – Fingon's father-name
* Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
* Canafinwë – Maglor's father-name
* Gnomes – the Noldor.
* Makalaurë – Maglor's mother-name
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.