1. The Coming of Twilight
The Eldar wedded only once in life, and for love... Even when in after days, as the histories reveal, many of the Eldar in Middle-earth became corrupted, and their hearts darkened by the shadow that lies upon Arda, seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them. (Laws and Customs among the Eldar)
She had been walking in the woods when the contractions began. He had asked her not to wander by herself, as the woods were not within the protective enclosure of the Girdle and he feared for her safety and his unborn child's, but on that morning she had slipped away to visit a nearby glade where the morning sun would lift her heart. She, who had gloried in the lithe grace of her body, had grown increasingly resentful of the changes this undesired pregnancy had imposed upon it; on her infrequent clandestine visits to the small clearing, she would gaze up at the sky and remember how she used to dance light of foot beneath the stars, before her form had become so swollen and clumsy. How did this happen to me, she wondered, how did I let myself be bound so, I who have always insisted on my freedom? The pregnancy would soon be over, she knew, but she would only be trading one encumbrance for another - the demands of a baby, who would soon claim her breasts and her arms and her time the way it now claimed a place in her body. You may make your demands of my body, child, she had thought as she stroked the tense curve of her belly with her hand, but not of my heart. That I will keep for myself, always. I did not yield it to your father, and I will not yield it to you. It had been at that moment when she felt the muscles beneath her hand tense suddenly and painfully and realized that her labor had begun.
Now she lay panting and shivering in her bed, trying to catch her breath before the next wave of pain began. When each contraction hit, she felt her self-control give way to an irresistible desire to push, totally at the mercy of her body's efforts to expel the child. She groaned as the next contraction set in, and squeezed her lover's hand; and before she began to push again, she looked up into his stormy eyes and remembered the time, nearly a year earlier, when her current misery had been conceived.
She had been walking for hours, and still was no closer to finding her way out of the dank woods. How could I have gotten so confused, she wondered, for her sense of direction was usually excellent. But despite her best attempts, she had been unable to retrace her path back to the track she had ridden in on, where her horse was standing tied, completely lame from having thrown a shoe. She had ridden far south of her cousin Celegorm's holding in Himlad this time, traveling alone and unarmed as she always did, for she resented any restrictions on her freedom; when her horse went lame, she had had no choice but to set out on foot, in hopes of finding a settlement where she could have the animal reshod. But she had found no signs of habitation in her search, and now it was nearly dark, and she was lost. She heard a heavy rustling in the undergrowth nearby, and tensed. What if it was a hunting beast, or worse, an orc?
But when the bushes parted, she saw to her relief that it was no orc, but a man. He was dressed in a long dark cloak and heavy boots, and underneath it wore mail fashioned from a strange lustrous black metal. He was but a little shorter than her brother Turgon, with the same shining black hair, and though his face was not as fair to look upon as those of the Noldor men who had courted her unsuccessfully, his eyes were arresting - dark grey like the sea during a storm, and filled with a piercing light. He stepped out before her, and bowed low, the straightened up again and looked her full in the eye, and when he spoke, his voice was deep and smooth, filled with a dark music she had never heard before.
"My lady, these woods are lonely and dangerous, and night will soon be setting in. I do not know how you came to be wandering them alone, but perhaps you will accept my assistance. I am Eöl, a kinsman of Thingol of Doriath."
"My name is Aredhel. I would indeed be grateful for your assistance. My horse has cast a shoe, and is in need of a farrier. I set out to find help, but have somehow lost my way amidst the trees."
"You have succeeded in your quest, my lady Aredhel," he laughed, 'for I am a smith, though it has been many long years since I've shod a horse - in these dark times, armaments and items of war are what most demand of my hands. You stand not far from my house - come with me there, and I will send a servant to find your steed. There is meat and drink to be had there, and a warm fire, and I will gladly provide you with a comfortable place to pass the night, for it grows too late to continue your journey in any case. In the morning, I will shoe your horse, and you may continue on your way."
"I am most appreciative of your kindness, Eöl, and gratefully accept your hospitality," Aredhel replied.
"Then follow me, and soon we will be at the doors of my hall," said Eöl, and he turned and began to lead her through the thick undergrowth. After a few yards they came out onto a small path, and following it eventually reached Eöl's dwelling. He opened the massive wooden doors and, bowing slightly, gestured for her to enter, saying "Be welcome in my home, lady Aredhel", and after the slightest moment of hesitation, she stepped inside.
The hall was dimly lit, but the furnishings, though spare, were well crafted. Eöl lead her to a bedchamber, showing her the small attached bathing area. "These chambers are yours to use for the evening, my lady; perhaps after you wearying you would care to refresh yourself before dinner is served?" "Yes, I'd like that very much," Aredhel replied. "One of my servants will knock when the evening meal is ready; do not feel rushed, for it will be more than an hour. I will see you then," said Eöl, and turned to leave; as he closed the door, she heard him call to one of his servants, "Dírhaval, send someone out to fetch the lady's horse."
Dinner was excellent, and Aredhel found Eöl an attentive host. He told her tales of life in Doriath before the coming of her people to Beleriand, and many strange stories of the Naugrim, which he had learned, he said, on his many visits to Nograd and Belegrost. As the evening progressed, she found herself staring ever more intently into his strange eyes, fascinated by the light she saw there, so different from the light of the Trees that shone in her own, and yet so alluring. And his rich dark voice sent a subtle thrill through her whenever he spoke. She had consumed several glasses of an excellent wine with her meal, and the potent vintage combined with the effects of her host's physical presence was having on her sent her head spinning pleasantly.
"It is growing late. Would you care to retire for the night, my lady Aredhel, or would you perhaps prefer a brief walk under the stars first?" Eöl asked.
"A walk would be lovely," Aredhel replied, swaying ever so slightly as she stood up. Eöl reached out and gently took her arm, and together they set out into the warm evening air.
They walked together under the trees, talking and laughing, and eventually they arrived at a small clearing where they could look up and see the stars. As they walked into the clearing, Aredhel suddenly felt Eöl's grip on her arm tighten; as she turned towards him, startled, he grasped her about the waist with his other arm and drew her tightly against himself.
"What are you doing!" she demanded, slightly shocked by the sudden change in his behavior. Eöl had changed his clothes before dinner, shedding his mail for a lightweight tunic and leggings; as she pressed against his body, Aredhel could feel his arousal.
"This," he replied, and began to kiss her passionately. To her surprise, Aredhel began to feel a strong longing rising up in her own body. When he broke off, Eöl looked into her eyes and stated, "Do not tell me that you do not feel it also, the force drawing us together. I would have you, Aredhel, willing or no, for I have desired you since my first sight of your fair face, but willing I think you are, for we are meant for this."
Aredhel looked into his stormy eyes, considering the passion she saw there and the rising heat she felt in her own body in response to his. I do not love him, she realized, our fëar are not mates, but I do indeed feel lust for him. She thought of her brother Turgon and the happiness he had had during his brief marriage with Elenwë, then of how much pain her death had brought to him, now doomed to spend all his days in Beleriand alone because of the vow he had sworn in his love. She thought of the many men she had already met, none of whom had ever aroused even a slight spark of desire in her body; she had come to doubt that one ever would. Do I even wish to be bound by love, assuming I should one day find it? No, she decided, I will never be so tethered. I choose instead to satisfy my passion now, with Eöl, for I would have my body experience desire fulfilled at least once, but I shall remain free of love's constraints, for the price it demands is too high. And she looked into Eöl's eyes and answered steadily, "You shall indeed have me, for I also desire you, Eöl," and then she reached up to place her arms around his head and pull it down for another passionate kiss.
They made love there in the glade, under the stars, and when Eöl entered her at last Aredhel cried out with the pleasure of it. Afterwards, she smiled realizing that in their eagerness neither had thought to recite the blessings, or invoke the Name. We may have coupled, she thought in satisfaction as she gently stroked the hair of her sleeping lover, but you did not bind me to you. I will stay for a time, for my body's pleasure, but in the end, when I tire of you at last, I shall go.
They made love three more times that week, each time under the stars, each time just as pleasurable as the first. Three weeks later, when her flow did not come, Aredhel realized that she had conceived her lover's child. Her body's desires had betrayed her in the end, for in her pride she would not now return to Himlad or Gondolin pregnant by a man she had not been properly joined to; she was bound to the forest of Nan Elmoth and her lover Eöl indeed.
Her contractions were coming close together now, and her entire awareness had shrunk into an overwhelming desire to push. With a final supreme effort, she bore down with all her strength, and felt the body of the child slowly slip out of her, then collapsed exhausted back onto the bed. She was barely aware of the infant's first feeble cry, and watched listlessly as Eöl tied and cut the cord still binding it to her, then scooped it up and wrapped it into a blanket.
"We have a son," he said, a look of joy on his normally grim face. "May he be the first of many children for us!"
He will be your only child, Eöl, Aredhel thought, for you shall never touch me in the act of love again. My body will be my own from now on; I will not share it with another baby, and therefore I will not share it again with you, though loving you is a pleasure I will greatly miss.
When Eöl brought their son to her, she forced herself to take the infant into her arms. His eyes were still unfocused, but she thought they were going to be light grey, and not the stormy-sea color of his father, and when she saw his black hair, she thought to herself, it's Noldor dark. When he began to fuss, she placed him against her breast; his suckling did feel faintly pleasurable, but she did not feel the immediate sense of love for the child she had been told came naturally to a new mother when she first held her babe. Indeed, I sense that I will never feel any great love for you, she thought as she looked down on him while he nursed. "Have you thought of a father-name?" she asked, more out of a sense of obligation than any real interest.
"Not yet; 'Son' will do for now. I would know him better before I gift him with something as important as a name," Eöl replied. "And you? Will our son bear a mother-name?"
"No, for mother-names are supposed to be prophetic, and I have no sense of his future," Aredhel replied. But to herself she thought, I will call you Lómion, Son of the Twilight, for in twilight you were conceived, binding me here to this place and this man against my will, and your presence in my life casts a shadow on my heart. A shadow you are, and in twilight I foresee you will always dwell, wherever you go. "Let him make his own destiny; perhaps he will follow in your footsteps, as sons should follow their fathers," she replied to Eöl, and together they watched as their newborn son fell asleep in Aredhel's arms.
Elf gestation: Pregnancy for Elves lasts 12 months, with the birth occurring very near the time of conception (see "Laws and Customs among the Eldar," Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10), p. 212). Since Elves only die of grief or violence I wouldn't think they'd suffer serious childbirth complications, so there'd be no need for specially trained midwives, but I still can't imagine that the birthing process would be completely painless (since they share the same basic bodily plan as we humans).
Elf marriage customs (including the blessing and recitation of the Name): There are two essential parts to Eldarin marriage; first, the couple recites a blessing, at which time they invoke the name of Eru and ask Him to approve of their union. The marriage is then completed by the first act of sexual intercourse, which acts to bond of the souls (fëar) of the two Elves together in some way. (see "Laws and Customs among the Eldar," Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth, volume 10), pp. 210-213.) Although Aredhel and Eöl did not recite the blessings or the Name, their souls are probably still bound in some fashion (despite what Aredhel believes) as a result of their physical union; but I'd expect that the bond would be weaker than normal.
Eöl's calling Maeglin 'Son': According to Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, ("Of Maeglin"), Eöl did not give his son a name until he was 12 years old.
Lómion, and why Aredhel kept it secret: Thingol is a Teleri (the brother of Olwë), and when he learned of the Kinslaying, he forbade the speaking of Quenya in Doriath by any of his subjects (which Eöl is). Eöl would also share Thingol's views about the Noldor, and would not permit his son to bear a Quenya mother-name. See Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, ("Of Maeglin").
The timing of Maeglin's birth after Eöl's and Aredhel's marriage: An exact date for Maeglin's birth is not given. The Silmarillion simply states that he was born; but in the chapter "Maeglin" in The War of the Jewels ( History of Middle Earth, volume 11; see pp. 322-323), Tolkien writes that his birth happened several years after Aredhel and Eöl's union. I've chosen to ignore History of Middle Earth in this case, for the sake of drama; in any event, Maeglin's arrival would seem to give Aredhel a reason to stick around in Nan Elmoth for a while, as Elf couples typically remain together during their children's early years (according to "Laws and Customs among the Eldar").
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