7. Chapter 7: Call
We do not remember the years of happiness; but we can easily recollect the moments of content. As strange and misshapen as that content may come, living in the dark, tearing light away in morsels from the looming night. The double life I had led for two years became threefold; sometimes at night, rarely at first, more often as the time went by, I would meet the son of the Steward in the woods. He stole hours of his sleep, waking in the starlit black, exchanging words and tales; many a time he fell asleep as the dawn drew near, and I watched him dream, his features softening, his sadness like a cloak draped around his abandoned frame.
My people knew of our friendship soon; nor did I care to hide it. They said nothing of it, only recalling in absent voices ages vanished and gone and bonds of Elves and Men that had been matter of song before the blighting of the World. They saw me leave our dwellings late, and come back in the morning. Countless days I walked sleeping, after the fashion of my kind.
Sometimes Faramir would leave for days and weeks, returning to the city of stone of his fathers to receive orders, and make reports. Of his family he talked strangely: often of his brother, a great captain of Men, whom he loved dearly; seldom of his mother, dead too soon and too far from the Sea to which she had belonged. Then his sadness lit with the remembrance of the days before she left, and I recognized in the fading light of his words the root of the sadness that had made him noble. Of his father he never spoke; and if he received summons from him, he would simply say that Minas Tirith had called.
Our talks were the antidote to the poison of my days, as the sand on which our lives were built slid and the time I had thought infinite flew, the stars chasing each other in circles ever tighter. Curiosity had brought us together at first, a fascination for creatures unknown but for whispers and tales, and much of our early talking concerned chiefly our peoples, and the strange ways through which we had crossed the ages of Arda to this day. Slowly, as the sea shall wash a rock clear of sand, beneath the thirst of knowledge something else emerged, a likeness of spirit unexpected and unsought for, perhaps only guessed in silence during our first encounter, long before. Man, Elf; from the river of our kinds, two drops fallen on the same ground.
Time passed, and insensibly I learnt to live the life of Men, valuing each day, knowing the days I still had to spend here and thus were counted. Faramir and Ithilien, my friend and my land melted into one, green cloak, green earth, blue of eye and sky. The two years of our friendship were slow and fast, hours spent in song and word, and sometimes a silence that tasted kind on the tongue, clear water from springs untainted after so many foul sips.
To my far love, to Legolas the prince of a realm of golden and green, I returned in thought as to the memory of brightness, and peace. In the fear and turmoil the surrounded me in Ithilien Faramir was a rock to sustain me, but Legolas remained in my mind, like the shores behind the shipwrecked, where he longs to return. And yet I forgot the future, I never reflected upon it. Again, my spirit was split; and the part that resided in Mirkwood never changed, never faltered. But the part that was in my land, with my friend, grieved and fought and found content, and in between these two I cared not what was becoming of me.
Often I have asked myself how time, more or less of it, could have changed my tale. To this day I have no answer. Exile had brought me longing, but also love; and coming home a different grief, and a different joy. Our stories are woven into tapestry in the Halls of Nàmo, the Doomsman, and none that have seen them have come back to recount what there is told. In the tapestry I am but a thread; but in that moment upon me a darkness fell that was deeper and different from the simple absence of light. For in my darkness I would know happiness, however desperate, however fleeting; and I would learn how in times past the Eldar could burn. Since that night under the hill I had hung on a thread, unaware; now the conscience would come to me, and the thread would break.
I came home soon that night. The fires were warm, their flames high. I sat in silence, accepting the bowl of food that was offered me. Acharn came to sit beside me, and his face was that of one who brings ill news.
"A messenger of Thranduil has been here."
I had waited for this moment, I had known it would come. Now I heard the words, and felt nothing. My heart was missing, and my blood did not move.
"He left an hour before you came back. The king had bidden him to return immediately with the answer."
"What did the Lord Gelmir say?"
"That we would leave before a week had passed."
A lake of darkness was is in me, its waters quiet. I knew not what lay at the bottom. I rose, the blank eyes of Acharn on me as I went in search of our lord. The night had a different colour.
"My lord Gelmir."
"Mìriel. I have been waiting for you. Sit with me."
"I was told of the messenger."
A shadow fell on his face.
"The time has come,"
The silence grew deep before I spoke again.
"I do not wish to leave."
For a long time it seemed he would never answer, but eventually his words came, and they were laden with a black mood.
"This is my land. Here I have dwelt for endless time among my people, countless springs I have witnessed the leaves renewed. You are young still, Mìriel, and asking you to understand is hard. Yet I wish you could listen, and see. The time we have had here was not ours to take; we shall pay for it with much pain. Still we could not stay away, not unless we denied our nature, and tore our spirit apart. But now even grievous choices are beyond us. We cannot weather this storm."
"We could fight."
"No. We are too few. What this beloved earth will come to see is far more than mere bands of Orcs. Smell the air, Mìriel; it tastes of fear. Soon the Riders shall leave Morgul Vale, and a War will begin such as was not seen for many a year. We will stand in the North, where we are strong and many; as we promised Lord Thranduil, with our kinsmen we shall fight and perish."
"We are not alone in Ithilien, my lord. The Men of Gondor – "
His eyes commanded my silence, and cold was their glance. They bared my spirit, crushing it in power.
"Your affection for the Captain of the Rangers has made you blind. The time of our alliance with Men is past, their strength is fading. No power is left in them, and their cities are dying."
"And yet they shall linger, while we fly! Out of love for this country – "
"Out of which love would you remain, Mìriel?"
Words are blades. We may lie to ourselves, we may believe our own deceit; yet one day words will come to bite, and sting. The blood of our wounds shall then be a cold thing, and a cruel one; as truth forever shall be. I bowed my head. Gently, Lord Gelmir spoke again.
"It is ill-advised for the Firstborn to bind their hearts in love, whatever its form, to those who are fated to die. A cruel parting would always be the end, and we cannot follow them, not until the breaking of the world, and after."
He took my hand, closing it around a cool, delicate shape.
"Legolas, son of the king, sends you this."
On my palm silver and emerald gleamed. A small, a perfect green leaf.
"You had found happiness in the green shade of Mirkwood the Great; and your happiness has not gone. The prince calls you back, and your duty lies with your people. Say farewell, if so you wish, but do not look back. He is lost to you, as he was since the day he was born to sustain mortal doom."
The jewel clasped in my hand, my eyes downcast, I left our abodes walking as if in a dream. Only when I was far did I start running.
Ithilien under my feet was but the shadow of a prophecy unfulfilled. Earth and sky and star, and leaf and stream and rock; farewell, a thousand times farewell, my land, my flesh, my mother. Finding it again to lose it anew, mending my spirit to break it again. My feet ran, my hurried steps sought the right way; and yet of the final farewell I could not think. Wind and flower and tree; and friend, and love unnamed, unknown. The peak of Henneth Annûn black in the night was upon me when I finally slowed down. My hand cupped to my mouth, I called in the secret call of the Rangers so many times I had heard. The shadows of the guards emerged from the bushes.
"This way you cannot come, my lady, and you know it well."
"Long before Man was born and City was built my people inhabited this region, soldier, and you are but a passing cloud upon her face. Bring me to your captain."
They stood doubtful and silent for a moment, uncertain; and yet they knew of my friendship for their captain, whom they loved, and I felt in my voice, upon my face the power of the Eldar. A power Men unused to it would always fear.
Up they led me till the chamber that looks upon the West, the chamber that Elven hands dug before, in days long past, they gave it to the king to guard his realm. Faramir was called, and upon seeing me he frowned. Never had I come looking for him, and he understood that sad were the tidings I brought. He dismissed his men, and walked with me in silence down the stairs hewn into the rock, to the glittering mere beneath their chamber.
"Dark is even the light of the stars in your eyes tonight, my lady, and I wish I could share your burden, to make it lesser on your shoulders."
"There is nothing you can do, and nothing can I. The war draws nearer, the times grow perilous. The king of the Wood calls my people North, to stand and fall together before the end."
Elves do not lie. In my eyes was written the truth of my words, the grief the evenness of my voice strained to conceal. I kept them on the water that shone motionless at our feet, the reflection of the stars upon it like the scar of a brilliant wound.
Silence was his answer, silence thick and light, a seal upon my lips. There were many words one could have uttered, words gracious and meaningless of long affection given and returned, words to make haste, leave behind the fleeting beauty of the spirit I had come to know. Many words were to be found; I spoke none. Without raising my eyes I walked away, my feet seeking a path, my heart light because empty. In the folds of my tunic the jewel was heavy.
Many times he had called my name, in greeting and parting, in sorrow and in his rare jest. Yet now he pronounced it, and it was a call I could not disobey. I stopped.
"Look at me."
Then I should have gone, running light without looking back, then I should have run and perhaps one day the pain of that moment would fade, and be forgotten. But I did not go, as I had not gone in that day, two years before, in a night too dark to belong to this Earth. I lingered, and he came close to me. My eyes upon his face, the face whose changes I had observed day after day; the face now dear to me, dearer than I had ever guessed or wanted in the long months spent in erasing the future, deceiving myself.
No more. Many words were to be found; but he uttered none. He looked at me, every colour drained from his skin, from his eyes by the dull light of the moon, his shape drawn in shadow in the night. Stay. Ithilien all around us stood still. Farewell, no more.
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.