But as Thingol turned the hilt of Anglachel towards Beleg, Melian looked at the blade; and she said: 'There is malice in this sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it...'
~The Silmarillion, "Of Túrin Turambar"
Darkness lay over Beleriand and the stars of Varda shone with a cold silver light; no moon hung in the sky that night and so the constellations glittered in greater glory. Valacirca, Soronúmë, Menelmacar...the lone traveller could name them all, and did so as he rode across the plains from Nogrod in the Ered Luin, where he had dwelt a month as the guest of the Dwarves.
The horse was fleet of foot and needed no guidance, thus leaving his rider free to scan the heavens. 'Alcarinquë,' the elf murmured, spying his old friend. 'You outshine Ithil...' His voice trailed off and he frowned; there was something strange in the sky. Something he had never yet seen.
With a touch, he brought his horse to a halt and stared upwards.
It gleamed brighter than the other stars and it raced through the heavens, trailing fire. He watched as it dropped lower and lower and finally disappeared. For a moment after he remained still, then speaking to the horse in a low voice he began his journey once more.
He travelled swiftly, wishing to reach the cover of woodland before the break of dawn, having little love for the light of Anor; harsh and bright it seemed to him. In the mansions of the Naugrim and in his own halls, the sunlight did not enter in – but out in the open...
Out in the open...
Glancing up at the sky once more, he saw Carnil, the red star, sparkling brightly. The red star...as red as the blood in his veins...Carnil...Caranthir...
Abruptly he remembered through whose lands he journeyed so stealthily. Little love was lost between him and the son of Fëanor, the cursed Noldo elf, and he did not wish to be discovered by him – especially if the rumours were true that he rode with Celegorm and Curufin.
He quickened his horse's pace and glanced no more at the sky. He would wander when he was safely within Nan Elmoth again. In silence he journeyed on, moving as a shadow passes over the plain.
As Arien guided the sun over the horizon, the elf drew the hood of his cloak over his head and slipped into the safety of the woods that bordered the River Gelion; he would not have another such respite once he left this place. The next day, and all those that followed, he would need to travel in the open, beneath the fiery glare, until he reached the sunless depths of the forest of Nan Elmoth – his own lands, but for a payment owed to Thingol. A payment yet to be stipulated.
He tread softly, making no sound as his soft boots stepped over grass and moss and stone. Coming at last to the shady banks of the river, he tethered his horse to a low branch so he might drink, and sat himself beneath a tree, taking a knife from his belt. Holding out a long, callused hand, he balanced the point of the knife on a finger and watched the river waters reflected across the surface.
It was without flaw: clean, sharp, and perfectly balanced – even the smiths of the Naugrim had been impressed, just as when he showed them the black metal, galvorn, he had made: hard as steel yet thin and supple.
His grey eyes gleamed in satisfaction as he gazed at the blade balanced on the tip of his finger. Then a shadow slipped across the mirror-like surface and his eyes narrowed. He rose slowly, keeping his back to the tree and his eyes on the blade.
'And what business,' came a sneering voice, 'does the Misshapen One have in Thargelion?'
Hiding the knife in his vest, Eöl turned and faced Caranthir, self-styled lord of Thargelion. 'My business is my own,' he replied coldly, 'and none of your concern.'
'When the Dark Elf, friend of the Naugrim, travels uninvited through my lands...it becomes my concern,' he said, walking towards the other. Coming to a halt, he set his foot on a stone and studied the stooped figure. 'You are far from Nan Elmoth, Eöl,' he said softly, 'and the lands are not safe for those who travel alone.'
Eöl shifted slightly, readying himself. 'Then I shall take care.'
Caranthir smiled and it was a thing unpleasant to behold. 'I bear you no love...my companions are further upstream, but they will hear me, should I choose to call them.'
In one swift movement, Eöl drew the dagger and leapt forward, knocking Caranthir to the ground. 'As arrogant as you are foolish,' he hissed, pressing the tip of the blade to Caranthir's throat, his eyes glittering with malice. 'Call to them and it will be the last breath, cursed Noldo elf.'
'I would not dream of giving you that satisfaction.'
Eöl pressed the knife closer, puncturing the skin; a drop of blood, bright and crimson, welled up beneath the metal and trickled down Caranthir's throat. Eöl watched it in fascination, then gave a wolfish smile. 'Then I shall simply take it,' he whispered. 'Farewell, son of Fëanor.'
'You cannot take that which I will not give, Misshapen One.' Caranthir's hands came up and he grabbed Eöl by the neck, throwing him off and knocking the dagger from his hand.
Eöl cursed and dove for the knife, but Caranthir, now on his feet, slammed his foot down over his wrist. 'I could kill you – and rightfully so,' Caranthir mused, kneeling down and drawing his own knife lightly across the arm held prisoner beneath his foot. 'But I choose to be...merciful.' Picking up Eöl's fallen dagger, he tucked it into his belt and surveyed the horse, assuring himself that no weapons remained. Then grabbing Eöl by the neck of his cloak, he jerked him to his feet and forced him up against a tree. 'A parting gift,' he whispered, twisting one of Eöl's arms behind his back. 'Blood for blood.' So saying, he drew the knife blade slowly along the arm; Eöl stiffened but made no sound as his flesh tore open.
'Cross the river here – now,' Caranthir ordered, throwing Eöl towards his horse. 'If ever I see you in my lands again, I will kill you.'
Eöl glared at him, clutching his arm tightly to his chest, and spat on the ground. Then taking the reins of his horse in one hand, he mounted stiffly and waded into the river.
Caranthir watched until Eöl had gained the shore, then he disappeared into the trees.
Eöl rode until he could no longer see the river, driving his horse as hard as he could, cursing Caranthir under his breath. When the sound of rushing water no longer met his ears, he came to a halt and dismounted to bandage his bloody, aching arm. The task attended to, he remounted and dug his heels into his horse's sides, now cursing the sun under which he had been forced to ride.
He rode on when the night fell and when the sun arose once more; he would have raced on and not stopped but for the horse, who simply halted in midafternoon and would go no further. Though Eöl railed and swore, the animal lay down to rest and eat, and it was several hours before he could be bothered to move again.
Eöl drew the hood of his cloak further over his head to keep the sun from his face and sat in the grass, his back to Thargelion, nursing his hatred...and his anger that he had only been able to give Caranthir a mere scratch; Caranthir deserved more...so much more...
When the horse consented to bear him once more, the soft shades of evening now filled the sky and Eöl was suddenly reminded of the falling star he had seen. Judging from its course, it should have landed somewhere in the vicinity of Nan Elmoth – if anything remained of it, at least. Driven as much by curiosity as by the pain in his arm and his dislike of the sun, he spurred his horse ever north and west. The days passed and the plains flew by beneath the horse's hooves, and they rested only when the horse would go no further. When at last he could see his own woods in the distance, he had been riding through the night and dawn was now creeping up behind him.
He would have continued on, but in the first pale gleam of morning he saw the rock, blazing like silver flame though not yet touched by Anor's light. So this, then, is the star, he mused, dismounting and leading the horse over to it. There is much iron in this, he thought, surprised. Kneeling down beside the rock, he peered closely at the iron specks, seeing larger clumps scattered heavily over the surface. This is very good iron...
Rising to his feet, he glanced towards Nan Elmoth; the sentries should be there, somewhere. Hauling himself onto the horse's back again, he set off for the woods. As he neared, a dark and silent elf appeared and bowed.
'There is a rock, back the way I have come, full of iron ore – I want it brought to my smithy,' Eöl said.
The sentry bowed again. 'Yes, hîr nín.' Straightening he turned to leave, but hesitated.
Eöl narrowed his eyes. 'What else have you to say?'
'Three days past, the servants of Thingol came and surveyed the rock; they broke off a piece and took it with them when they departed.' The sentry avoided Eöl's gaze. 'The King may wish it for himself.'
Eöl spat on the ground. 'Then you would do well to remove it before he returns!'
'Yes, my lord.' With a final bow the sentry stepped back and disappeared, leaving Eöl alone.
Eöl scowled darkly at the thought of Thingol claiming what was not his own, and slipped into the forest. The darkness closed in upon him and the horse's hooves made no sound as they tread over soft grass and moss. All around him the trees grew tall and dark, their uppermost branches woven together in a living roof.
Deeper and deeper he rode, breathing in the heavy air to which he was accustomed, and at last he saw the dim light of torches that burned just outside his halls. As he rode up, a grim-faced servant came out to meet him. He took the reins from Eöl and bowed. 'Hîr nín, you have a visitor.'
Eöl paused in the act of dismounting. 'Who?' he asked warily, a sudden suspicion entering his mind.
'A messenger from King Thingol; he would not tell us on what errand he came.'
Eöl's grim features darkened. I believe I know what it is you wish, aran nín. 'Tell him I will be with him shortly – and send Margil to my chamber, for I have need of him.'
The servant nodded once and bowed, then disappeared as silently as he had come, taking the horse with him. Eöl stood for a moment in the shadows, glaring at the ground beneath his feet, then passed through the open door and entered his halls.
His arm properly attended to by Margil, the healer, Eöl walked noiseless through dark and silent passages, passing grim servants who spoke no word, until he reached the great hall. Smoking torches chained to the pillars offered but a dim and flickering light; he preferred it this way and saw with pleasure that it served to make Thingol's envoy uneasy. 'Good morning,' he said softly, sliding out of the shadows.
The pale-haired elf inclined his head. 'King Thingol sends you greetings.'
'I have been riding all night and would now seek the comfort of my chambers – tell me why Thingol has sent you.'
The messenger's face tightened at this sign of disrespect, but he made no remark. 'The King requests his fee, which you are to pay in exchange for leave to dwell here.'
Eöl's eyes narrowed. 'And what does he wish?'
'A star fell from the sky several nights past, and landed near these woods; he asks that you make him a sword of the iron contained therein.'
Eöl's hands clenched at his sides. 'And is the King so certain that there is iron in the rock?'
'Scouts were sent out three days ago and they say it was metal unlike any they had ever seen. This is what King Thingol requests.'
Requests? Nay, he demands it of me. 'Return in a week,' he said bitterly, 'and it shall be done.' And then perhaps you shall trouble me no more!
Hell could be no hotter. Heat waves shimmered in the dimness, and the fires roared, orange tongues leaping and clawing at each other. Sweat poured down his face and naked back, and his long dark hair clung damply to his neck. His bandaged arm moved slowly, muscles tight, and he gritted his teeth to hold back the screams of pain that lurked in his throat.
With his good arm he brought the red-hot metal of the sword blade to rest on the anvil, then raised the other above his head, ignoring the ripping pain, and brought the hammer down with all the strength he could muster.
Caranthir was on his knees begging for mercy.
Blood streamed from a gash in his face.
His arm was slashed open.
He was screaming.
His head was cleaved from his shoulders.
Now for Thingol...
Breathing heavily, Eöl dropped the hammer and slowly dipped the metal into the water barrel; a great cloud of steam arose, obscuring his vision and clinging to his skin. A wolfish smile lit his face as he pulled the blade from the barrel. Grasping the hilt, he raised the sword above his head –
Thingol knelt, begging for mercy...
– and slammed it against the anvil.
The blade passed through, slicing the anvil cleanly in half. For a moment a dark mist hovered over the blade, but then it dissolved, seeming to sink into the gleaming metal.
He felt the pain, now.
The sword fell from his suddenly numb fingers and he fell back against the stone wall, chest heaving, clutching his arm to himself; the white bandage was now stained with the blood of a wound reopened. He clenched his teeth tightly, forcing back the nausea, forcing the world not to fade before his eyes.
At last, he pushed himself away from the wall and stepped towards the fallen sword. Bending down, he gripped the hilt with his good hand and rose, eyeing the blade carefully; not a notch could be seen. Perfect in every way, it gleamed darkly, reflecting back shadowy images of the fire and forge, whispering softly.
His lips pulled back in a snarl.
A gift fit for a king!
Hír nîn --> My lord
Aran nîn --> My king
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.