Old Hope, The: 1. The Old Hope

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1. The Old Hope

When dusk fell over the land, Elrond climbed the long, winding stairs
of the white tower of Ingwë, as he had for years beyond count. And, as
ever, he was not alone. Few came to gaze eastward into Middle-earth, to
the cradlelands of the Elf-folk, but always a few.

Truth be told, there was little to be seen. No Elves lingered still in
Middle-earth, unless one believed the grim whispers of wandering fëar
in the dark lands of the utter east. The Dwarves had faded away,
becoming one with the stone they so loved, and the Hobbits were a
dying folk, lingering only in the deepest woods of the twilight isles.

And Men...

Elrond sighed. Men had fallen far and hard since he had departed the
shores of Middle-earth. The Kingdom, built on such shining foundations
by his son, had collapsed all too soon. Corrupted, divided, broken and
finally washed away by the wrath of Ilúvatar. Nothing, not even a
single stone, remained of its glory. The kingdoms of Men were petty
things, brutal and short-lived, much like Men themselves.

He forced himself not to dwell on such matters. The fate of Men was no
longer his concern. There were brighter things to think about.

Celebrian, his beloved, was ever at his side, and tonight was no
exception. Her passing from Middle-earth had been one of grief, but
time had eased those pains and now she joined her husband in looking
back at the land of their birth.

On this night, to Elrond's surprise, a large host had assembled. The
great marble flet was nearly full, each of the tribes of Elves well
represented: Noldor, Vanyar, Teleri, and even a few Dark Elves -
Thranduil's son, for one.

The moon rose over the Sea and all fell silent for a moment, paying
honor to the white pearl of the heavens and to the one who guided it
upon its way.

Then Elrond frowned and looked more closely at the stars. A murmur
began to run through the crowd, telling him his sight was not somehow
broken.

The stars were dim.

"What can this mean?" a voice cried out. It was Elelome, one of the
younger maidens of the House of Fëanor and also distantly akin
to him - or more precisely his son Elrohir - by ties of marriage.
"Lord Elrond, what do you make of this wonder?" she asked, spotting
him in the throng. He was the eldest of them all, Elrond realized with
some amusement. That was a rare thing here in the Undying Lands.

He looked up at the faded stars for a long moment, seeking to unravel
the mystery. But no foresight came upon him, only a great feeling of
anticipation. Something was coming.

"I cannot say," he finally told the young Noldo, smiling sadly, both
for his failure to understand and for ancient grief over another
dark-haired Elf much nearer to his heart.

"It as if something is sapping the very radiance of the heavens,"
Legolas murmured, perhaps remembering another darkness long-ago. But no
- Sauron was well and truly gone, and his master utterly lacked the
might to do such a thing even in his greatest glory.

And, deep in his heart, Elrond was comforted by this. "Sapped, perhaps,
or perhaps they give their light to some greater need," he suggested.
"I cannot see which is the right. We must seek wiser minds, or clearer
eyes, I think."

"There are few wiser than Lord Elrond, and few with keener sight."

All turned.

"Olórin!" Elrond exclaimed with a smile. It had been many months since
he had seen his old friend. "One who is wiser and keener than I. Can
you tell us anything of this?" he asked, raising one hand to the starry
sky.

The Maiar nodded slowly. "I could... but I will say only this. Watch.
Watch and wait. Soon you will see."

Elrond stared at Olórin for a moment, puzzled by the cryptic answer.
Why the mystery?

"How soon?" Legolas asked.

"Not this night, I think," Elrond guessed, some trickle of foresight
finally entering his mind. Olórin nodded, confirming it. "How long,
then?" Elrond asked.

The ancient Maiar bowed his head for a moment, lost in thought. Then
he looked upon the assembled Elves and smiled. "Four enquier, I should
think."

Four enquier... nearly a month as reckoned by the moon. A few of the
younger Elves, Elelome chief among them, murmured their disappointment.
Elrond glanced at them, amused by their rare display of impatience.
They would leave such things behind after two or three more millenia,
poor children...

Elrond carefully masked his own impatience.

"So be it."

Olórin clasped his shoulder for a moment. "The long defeat is nearly
at an end," he whispered, then turned and swiftly vanished down the
staircase.

Elrond stared, struck speechless for the first time in countless years.
The long defeat at an end? The words had sent a jolt down his spine.
What could Olórin possibly have meant? He turned back to the faded
stars, wishing he could decipher their portent.

But they had no answers for them. After a moment, Elrond gave up and
decided to trust Olórin, always a wise course.

He and Celebrian lingered a while longer, but as the moon began to
sink down into the West, they slowly began the journey back to their
home in the city below.

The next days passed swiftly. The news of the dwindling stars spread
throughout Aman, carried by birds and in the water and in stranger,
swifter ways. The fair city of Tirion-on-Túna was filled with visitors
from all corners of the Undying Lands, including many Teleri from
Alqualondë and a whole company of Wood Elves who sailed forth from
Eressëa.

There were many happy reunions of Elves in those days, for few of
the Firstborn often left their homes, and although a century was little
time to them, it was still long enough to make meetings joyous after
such a space.

So it was with Elrond and Celebrian, and their dear kin Galadriel and
Celeborn, who had long ago removed to dwell in the garden of Melian
in the center of the land. It had been many years since they had been
together, and they spent many hours speaking of the things they had
seen and done since then, but more speculating about the omen of the
stars. None among them, not even Galadriel, could say what it meant.

Those who might know, the Maiar who dwelt among the Elves, kept their
own counsel, repeating only what Olórin had told Elrond. "Watch and
wait" were perhaps the words most spoken in those weeks, to the point
where it became a joke among the few children of the city.

Soon enough, then, the day came. On that night, it seemed that all the
people of Tirion-on-Túna, and nearly as many visitors, made their way
to Ingwë's great tower. More were now present than had ever been, even
on the dawn of the Downfall of Barad-Dûr, all those long years ago.

Not just Elves, either. Hundreds of Maiar, followers of each of the
great Valar. Olórin, Elrond noticed, had been joined by his brothers
in the Istari - Aiwendil, Morinehtar and Rómestámo. Even the Eagles
had gathered, all of them, leaving their mountain eyries and gathering
upon the steep slopes of Taniquetil. Eonwë was there as well, and
Melian, and many, many others.

Elrond and Celebrian and their party, which numbered many once
accounted Wise in the Third Age, ascended the stairs and reached the
flet ere the sun set. Ingwë was there already, to the surprise of no
one, and his wife and children, and many others of that house. There
also, to Elrond's great surprise, were three of the sons of Fëanor, who
seldom came to the city of the Vanyar even so long after their release
from the Halls of Waiting.

But soon other things occupied his attention, and he had no time to
wonder at it.

There was a sound like the ringing of bells in the air and all the
Elves turned to the great arch over the last step. As one, they sank
to their knees when they saw who stood there.

Two beings, a man and a woman, taller and fairer than any Elf. The man
looked eastward with eyes as bright as the noon sun, and the woman,
clad in soft grey robes, stood silent at as his side. They walked
through the sundered crowd and came to a stop at the very edge of the
flet, where the view of the East was clearest.

Before any of the Elves could speak, though, even to greet their
guardians and lords, two more rose up the steps. Again, a man (stern
faced and wearing shining armor under his robes) and a woman
(resplendent in a glittering cloak of many colors that she herself had
woven).

Next was a tall titan of a man, ruddy-faced, his wild mane of golden
hair held back by a mithril circlet. With him was his lady, little
less tall, but lithesome and graceful. They joined their fellows at
the railing, again without saying a word. All were moving as if under
a spell, or listening to words no others could hear.

The next arrival was a woman, alone. Elrond felt his confusion growing.
Nienna's usual sorrowful garb, blacks and greys and pale whites, had
been cast aside in favor of a cloak of a deep violet hue. A gold veil
covered her face.

Then came Oromë, horn in hand, and fair Vána, her dress the color of
pale emeralds like those set in her silver necklace. With them were
Aulë and his spouse, Yavanna, who was clad in a green robe, dark as
Vána's was pale. The four stood together, leaving little space left.

Little was needed. Far below, there was a rumble from the waters, and
all could sense the majesty of Ulmo stirring in the deeps.

And finally, as the moon was reaching its peak, the last and greatest
came. Eagles, racing east from the cloudpiercing summits of Taniquetil,
raised their voices in song to herald the coming of Manwë and Varda his
lady.

When Elrond and the others finally rose from their knees, they waited
for word from the assembled Valar. Never before - not since the great
council before the Revolt of the Noldor - had all fourteen of the
Valar come together. And never before, not in all the ages of the
world, had they come here, to the flet that looked east over the Sea.

What could it mean?

The stillness in the air grew even deeper as the minutes wore on, and
none of the Valar said a word - at least aloud. Who could say what
private speech passed between their minds? All looked out across
the Sea, waiting, waiting under the stars they could barely see.

It was Círdan who saw it first. The bearded Elf suddenly let out a cry
and pointed up at the heavens. A single star shone, bright and clear,
amidst the darkness of the Void. All bowed their heads in honor of
bright Eärendil, their morning and evening star, but now the only true
light in the heavens.

A murmur ran through the crowd. "Eärendil! Eärendil! What can it mean?"
many voices asked.

At last, Manwë stirred but did not speak. Instead, he rose his arms in
the air, as the Eagles swooped down, in such numbers as to darken the
sky, and a great noise issued forth from the very earth - as if it was
releasing a sigh long held. Then there was a wonder.

From all around, angelic voices burst into song. Elrond turned this
way and that, but the singers were not to be seen. After a moment, he
gasped in realization. Ainur from the Halls of Ilúvatar! He and many
others wept - none had imagined this night would be so glorious. Not
since before the beginning of time had those holy ones who had not
come forth into Arda sung to those who had.

Then the hidden chorus reached a crescendo, a long pure note that
warmed the cool night air and all was silent again. But only for a
moment. The great crowd strained their ears in anticipation, none
daring to speak or barely even to breathe.

And then... faintly, far off... the wailing of a newborn babe.

****

"What then was this hope, if you know?" Finrod asked.

"They say," answered Andreth: "they say that the One will himself enter
into Arda, and heal Men and all the Marring from the beginning to the
end. This they say also, or they feign, is a rumour that has come down
through years uncounted, even from the days of our undoing."

Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth
(HoME X: Morgoth's Ring)

****

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.

Story Information

Author: Bookman

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/10/03

Original Post: 12/20/02

Go to Old Hope, The overview

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