|Stay With Me
Author: Virodeil PM
Everyone learns, even the Unbegotten; or perhaps, especially them. History and the knowledge of it can distort through space and time, however, including how Elves came about. But one Elf never forgets, one who lived through it all.Rated: Fiction T - English - Spiritual/Supernatural - Círdan & OC - Words: 10,027 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Published: 04-08-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8002704
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Stay With Me
Fifth Birthday Celebration of Silmarillion Writers Guild
Everyone learns, even the Unbegotten Elves; or perhaps, especially them. – Learn how and why the Vanyar are so few in number and so solemn, how some of the unexplained names came about, and what the origin of some Elves we know is… and then some, all through a first-person point of view of someone living through it all.
Rating: PG-15 (T, Teens)
Warnings: Alternate Universe (sort of), (implied) Character Death, Mature Themes, (Implied) Sexual Activities, Nudity (not related to sexual activities) – probably boring prattles, too
Genres: Action/Adventure, Character Study, Drama, Essay, Family, Horror, Hurt/Comfort, Mystery, Supernatural, Spiritual, Tragedy
Beta-readers: Dawn Felagund, Shipwright's Trick, CrackinAndProudOfIt (Thank you so so much, people!)
Timeline: Awakening – the Great Journey
Word Count (in MS Word): 8,573
Story Notes (Additional warnings, perhaps…):
I made this fic originally with discovering names and labelling things for the Unbegotten Elves in mind, so there will be many instances of it that might baffle some. And on that note, I am not a great linguist by any means, and certainly not about the Professor's languages, so I apologise if any of my attempts here grates at your nerves. I beg you to aid me in rectifying it, if that is so.
And if you saw the "Essay" genre there and were wondering about it: No, you did not see wrongly, and I was not mistaken by my own terms. I indeed append an informal (tiny) essay in the End Notes section, and also several even-smaller ones (less developed, too) alongside it. I am not good at long, elaborate explanations, and sometimes I cannot explain something at all for some reason I cannot even explain to myself. (Confused enough, now?) Many people have already been the victims of this weakness of mine; so I thought of this odd way of trying to explain my ideas and arguments away, hopefully without giving too much headache to the readers, therefore creating new victims. I am sorry if it is too odd for you. I just hope you would try it but this once, at least. I would vow that there is not any bit of MST in the story; all notes are contained either here or in the End Notes section, and you may choose not to read them. (I can be quite talkative, as the evidence you are reading currently.) You would not miss anything anyway, save my most likely undesired prattle, since the story contains them already – my interpretation on things pertaining to this timeline.
About the story: it is told in first person limited point of view sometimes, but in other times it is told in first person general point of view – glossed over, as it were. I hope it does not make for a bumpy ride; and again, I would value your opinions and critiques about this greatly.
Stay With Me
I awoke in the place later called the Waters of Awakening.
One of three and the last of the lot, I opened my eyes to the star-strewn sky. The soil and grass underneath my body was soft and springy. The air was cool and wet … and I heard laughter nearby, tempered by chuckling water.
I was not alone.
I sat up and gazed curiously at the two beings before me, who were still laughing – perhaps at me. One was fair while the other dark, but both were equally beautiful – and glowing. They seemed to be of different species, though; I discovered this when my eyes travelled to the junction between their legs. Regarding that, I would claim myself akin to the fair one.
No, not fair. Bright would describe that one better, I decided, as I brought a lock of my own hair to my eyes. Those strands were the colour of the stars. They were muted, compared to his. They were simply fair, while his were bright.
The three of us explored our place of awakening together, but found no other like us. However, we were not idle then. We formed sounds and gestures, driven by the need to communicate our feelings and findings. We learnt to count and differentiate between ourselves, along with several basic needs, and we also found a type of communication through images that we sent directly into each other's minds.
My surroundings were cool and indifferent, but I felt warm inside. I was not alone, and the two others liked me. Although, those two seemed to be quite fond of each other, more than they were of me, never straying and ever touching …
Needing and hoping for more companions to chase away the growing silence, we set out from our place of awakening at length. Water was everywhere, and water was our friend, so we followed the path of the calm little stream running at the side of the small clearing. But it was of course after a fond and melancholy farewell and one more thorough exploration of the place, the memories of which we committed dearly to our minds.
We found not one, but four of our kind, then, sleeping in a small nook ringed by low plants – and it was by a stream more beautiful than we had in our own place of awakening…
The Bright One jumped into the nook with a shout of joy. (It might be the first sound those new ones ever heard.) He then embraced those who had not woken up, laughter in his eyes and a big welcoming smile on his face. (Again, that exuberant visage might be the first that they beheld, heavy sleepers that they were…)
The Dark One trailed the Bright One at a distance, smiling indulgently. I shared her sentiment, although not her smile. The Bright One had found people similar to him in their brightness, so it was indeed quite understandable. But, well, I was more enamoured of the stream, the water… Twinkling droplets leapt when the glinting current met rocks and small boulders strewn along the banks of the sloping little channel, mesmerising my eyes. Its continuous chuckling and bubbling noise, meanwhile, held my ears. I could spend a long, long time in the soothing-but-rejuvenating presence of the stream – if only the Bright and Dark Ones let me be. It was the first time I knew annoyance and all the feelings that entailed, as they pestered me to join them in mingling with the new ones.
But the new lot were as merry as the Bright One, and the Bright One was so, so happy, and the Dark One was happy for him … I could not help melting into so much happiness.
As a group, we went out of the nook – abandoning the stream, to my sadness and regret. We hiked through a tract of rocks and small plants, waded across a creek – then I got to see the Dark One lose her serene demeanour. She threw herself into the ring of rocks we encountered, giggling and clapping her hands. But of course… There were eight Dark Ones sleeping in it. She must have been so happy. She beat the Bright One by half!
But this lot, contrary to the previous one, were more solemn, like the Dark One herself. (Then again, the fact that half of them were startled awake, confused, by her must also be counted.) Still, they welcomed her warmly among them, with the delight of encountering a startling discovery which I – oddly – had not found among the throng of the Bright One. They flocked to her readily like the previous lot to the Bright One. This moment was the loneliest I had felt so far. But I rejoiced for her, like I had done for the Bright One, and in time I felt happy and no longer lonely. It helped that there was a small waterfall giggling and trickling nearby, too. And once more, I found myself entranced by – this time – the rushing-and-tumbling water. So powerful, sinuous, graceful …
The new lot noticed me quicker than the previous one had. And this time the Dark One did not lead them to me, like the Bright One had done with his people. The Dark People, bold but quiet, approached me with curious eyes, and she let them be. (She even blessed their initiative with a proud smile.) So once again, I drifted away from the water.
The Dark People were quite interesting, mysterious and yet warm and as welcoming as the Bright People. And when the two lots merged … I could immerse myself in sweet reverie, watching their interaction with each other. – It was like witnessing the dance of the regal dark sheet and the bright, colourful stars above us, how their appearances and bearings complemented each other. The Dark People seemed to gently contain the Bright People's mirth also, while the Bright People's merriment gave colour to the Dark People's solemnity; it was truly beautiful. They seemed to fit each other perfectly, somehow; like the Bright and Dark Ones did, come to think of it again.
Nevertheless, I only found true contentment when we moved again. We almost stumbled on starlight-haired people sleeping – or… sitting? – amidst nests of plants with soft, springy fronds. There were sixteen of them! And, as I had first noticed, not all of them were still sleeping. Some were even already bathing underneath the waterfalls hugging this cliff-protected nook. And they were singing. Of course, I joined in.
Warm liquid coursed down my cheeks, and acute joy pained my chest. My people. My people at last. And they looked – felt – like water: supple, lithe and free. I could not ask for more. I was truly content. I was not alone anymore. I had people like me to share my joy, my thoughts, my ideas …
I danced and sang and laughed with many of them. When my excess joy was spent, though, I noticed that everyone was awake, and some were already mingling with the Bright and Dark Peoples. So seamless, so unnoticeable, like the calm little stream by my place of awakening…
I knew every person in this lot, my own, in short order, in spite of the random look of my approach. Their welcome was worth everything I had so far, and more. I belonged to a people, at last, and they felt themselves belonging to me. It was a wonderful feeling that I would not forget.
The Fair People, as I called them, were like the mingling between the Bright and Dark Peoples, but with a unique, watery touch to their personalities. Sitting so near a gorgeous body of water, I did not heed it – for once. It was more enjoyable seeing how my people behaved and interacted. Not as quiet as the Dark One and her people, but certainly as bold as they were. But while the Dark People had a sort of purpose to their actions, my people seemed free of any restraints – like the Bright People when amongst themselves.
And amidst my peaceful observation, the Bright One came with another Bright – a female – in tow. It was when we coined the words "sibling" and "sister." He was certainly quite glad about this development, and I would like to have the same, someone I would feel a special bond to, a kinsfolk, to accompany me when the Bright and Dark Ones were once more lost in each other.
I got it – or rather, "him". I waded through my people, seeking for anyone whom I felt a certain pull towards, like in the memory the Bright One shared with me while describing how he got his sister kin. I found him by the big pool where I had first seen him sitting, as if he had been waiting for something or someone. He had hair darker than mine, and eyes as bright and clear as the surface of the pool he had been sitting by. He smiled happily at me when I neared. My little brother.
We embraced each other tightly, and once more the warm liquid coursed down my cheeks, and the acute joy pained my chest. I had a family to go to, to support me. And this was also when we coined names to call each other with, as he asked me what he should call me.
"Nowë," I said. And he called himself Ráwë, to match the roaring of the big waterfall tumbling into the far side of the pool. We were satisfied and happy. Well, I was especially, after Ráwë consented to being introduced to the Bright and Dark Ones.
The Bright One, following our example, chose a name to call himself. It was "Ingwë," or so he informed me, with a beaming smile and sparkling eyes, after I introduced my "brother" to him and the Dark One. It fitted him well, and I told him that. He agreed quite happily. (The name sounded – felt – as radiant as he was.) He then informed his sister about this finding, and she said she named herself "Indis." (A pretty name for a pretty lady, in my opinion.)
The Dark One chose "Anwë" for herself, and it sounded elegant to me, just like she was. But unlike either the Bright One or myself, she did not stop only on that. She insisted to try to coin meanings for our names, something that baffled us greatly for some time. (She also spread this idea to other people, urging them to coin names for themselves; but this we agreed upon enthusiastically.) Since she was perfectly happy working alone, though, we let her be – and let her choose meanings for our names, too. And meanwhile, I just hoped I would not regret what she came up with for my name.
The Dark One, later I found out, had two brothers and a sister – as if making up for the rest of us. And among the three Kindreds – as we called ourselves and our peoples – hers had the most unique features, too. She was really blessed. But I was content with what I had, and I rejoiced for her.
We discovered many more people – and terrains, too – during our collective wandering. It all felt like a long, sweet dream of pleasant findings. Our peoples' number swelled; however, the Bright One's remained the smallest of the three – all the more cherished, I would say. At this time we also devised other definitions of the different Kindreds according to the awakening of the three eldest – Ingwë, Anwë and I – and the finding of our peoples: First for the Bright People, Second for the Dark People, and Third for the Fair People. But those who were enamoured of this other way of naming our Kindreds were mostly the Dark People, for some reason.
Given the size of our peoples now, we abandoned the places of our awakening altogether and gathered along the shore of a very big body of water, finding spots best suited for our respective Kindreds and settling in them. (And of course, I chose a place surrounded by water for myself and my people.) We called ourselves Quendi, Speakers, for we did not find anything or anyone that could speak aside from ourselves, and we were happy with this name that unified our different Kindreds.
During this time and after we were settled in our respective places, some people found their mates also, not only kinfolk; and those were not always within their respective Kindreds. I felt happy for them, although I was yet without a mate. (A lonely and prone-to-envy state to be in, for certain.) Ingwë and Anwë had declared themselves mates to each other by now, also, and I was often left alone as they found secluded nooks to do what only the stars knew.
And after that, we were all gifted by unexpected, shocking marvels: children. It initially looked like a big disaster: how our females felt that there were beings growing inside of them, and how their mates felt that their life forces were also sapped by those beings; and the birthing process, too, were no less messy and horrifying. But then we discovered that the beings nurtured for a period of time by those pairs looked quite like those who had nurtured them, and they could talk – after a fashion! They were no less Quendi than we were, and we welcomed them warmly among us, cherishing and nourishing them just as much as their parents did. They grew and developed slowly but steadily, and we celebrated each achievement they reached. They were like a blend of their parents – and even more! And it was so delightful when their parents were also from different Kindreds, as it made their children even more beautiful in form and demeanour.
And after a time, another wonder visited us. Two of my own people, Olwë and Neniel, had their own children – two at once! The elder child was a female, and the younger was a male. We of the three Kindreds held a long council regarding this anomaly, and at last we coined the word "twins," from the word "two," since it would signify a mother birthing two children at once.
In the end, the two children ended up not only belonging to their parents and the Fair People, but to all Quendi, since everyone wanted to take part in raising these two wonders. Olwë and Neniel named the girl Lindariel and the boy Lindarion, as a result, deviating from the custom that dictated the girl to be named after her mother and the boy after his father.
Watching those two children interact with each other and their peers and elders was truly a joy, and I spent long whiles playing with them also, not wanting to be left out of the merriment. And in such a fashion, I noted that, just like other older siblings, Lindariel was quite protective towards her younger brother by two twelve-counting; but they often did or said something in unison, as if they were two halves of one unity.
And how blessed we were that, just when the twins grew into a pair of young boy and girl loving to run and splash around and climb into trees, another pair of twins were added unto us! The lucky joining was that of Ingwë and Anwë, and they got just as much acclaim from us as Olwë and Neniel earlier. They decided to adhere to the general custom this time, though, naming the elder child (a boy) Ingwion and the younger one (a girl) Anwiel; but regardless, we celebrated this happy occasion, and blessed them and the newborns with much hope. – And indeed, they grew to be another pair of young, healthy, energetic boy and girl that we much loved, admiring the older pair of twins with pure devotion and often seen tailing after them wherever they went. And in fact, we often joked that we had witnessed four children born into a set of parents, instead of two born into two sets of parents. It was truly a wonder…
Sadly, our peace and contented mirth did not last long. Something darker than the twilight and shadows (and Anwë's hair and skin and eyes) came to where we dwelt, slinking like some cowering animal when we were least watchful and blanketing us in a shock of paralising fear; and some of our number began disappearing just then, as they happened to stray from our establishments singly or in pairs. They never came back – not as former people we knew, at any rate. One, two, three – twenty-four… It always came, and our people always went missing then, and at last we learnt to loathe and fear its coming. We named it the Black Hunter for its black shadow, and also for its swooping manner when capturing our kin – like water birds did to their prey fish in the lake. And in later raids, it had also learnt to bring reinforcements: creatures just as grotesque and hideous as it was, but easier to wound or even kill.
The Black Hunter, now that we had more encounters with it than we liked, was identified in our minds as a foul cloud of fear and twisted majesty, darker than the darkness between the stars, creeping towards our settlements; and his minions shared his feel, although in a limited sense. Ingwë and his people noticed its presence and minions first, usually, after the disastrous first few raids, followed by me and my people; and since we noticed them when they were yet afar, we were given a little precious time to defend all the Quendi and our dwellings. Indis, the swiftest runner among us all, would then be dispatched to warn all Quendi of its coming; and then the Dark People would devise some trick to avoid its grasp for us all, and the Fair People would disperse between the settlements to aid in preparations of defence or escape if need be and to act as messengers. But still, we lost a number of Quendi to it in the end and we began to grow accustomed to sounds of terror, pain, anger and lamentation.
And with that also, the darkness between the stars no longer looked so benign, so regal.
In all its raids, however, I noticed that neither the Black Hunter nor its creatures dared come close to the waters, and nor did they dare attack the establishments openly – yet. But still, it was devastating.
And it was made even more devastating when the by-now young Lindariel was taken, just on the junction between the Fair and Bright Peoples' encampments, trying to spare her brother from the same fate – according to the hysterical Indis, who had been watching over them at that time and unable to gather a defence force before it was too late. And to our lasting sorrow, she was not the only child to be taken by that black, foul being. – Half of our first ever set of twins, more of our prized children… Lindarion was never the same again, and neither his parents, nor Ingwion and Anwiel his remaining playmates.
The three Kindreds suffered many losses, still, yet the most lay on the Bright People. And it was not because they strayed out of their cosy plant-covered settlement. (They were faithful to Ingwë, and obeyed his instruction not to go out in small numbers, unlike some of the Dark and Fair Peoples.) They went down and did not breathe again, mostly, trying to defend those whom the Black Hunter sought, or attempting to pursue and regain those it had captured. It was when we learnt how to treat the fleshly shells of our brethren, as we ourselves mourned them most bitterly.
We learnt agony. We learnt sorrow.
We learnt hatred. We learnt bitterness.
The Bright People gradually lost their radiant demeanour, pressed down by the dark emotions we were learning, and we mourned for this loss.
And all throughout the long, haunted while, I turned to the waters surrounding my people's dwelling. I could not turn to my brother, as he was similarly laden with emotions, and he had lost dear friends that – I admitted – I did not know as well as he did. I talked to the ford separating the establishment from the Bright and Dark Peoples' settlements. I wept under the waterfalls flanking our dwelling. I dove far into the lake on which shores the Quendi lived, trying to drown my sorrows. And strangely, in that manner I felt that I was not alone shouldering this burden.
And it was while doing the last that I got the idea to devise a contraption to hold the Quendi on water, to act as a last sanctuary should the Black Hunter overwhelm our settlements. It feared water. Water was our friend. And water would save us.
Anwë and her siblings helped me better the original construction, and her people helped us find the needed materials from our surroundings, guarded by the Bright People and guided by the Fair People. Many attempts we made, and all but one failed.
I had begun to despair, but Ingwë and Anwë urged me onwards, and my brother was a source of silent, stalwart courage and support that I needed. But still, at length I presented my last attempt, ready to accept failure and consequently our defeat.
How surprised I was that I actually succeeded! The contraption, a simple flat plane made of the slender and hollow-bodied stalks of some reed-like trees we found near the Dark People's dwelling bound together by the dried stems of water reeds, was able to hold half of our overall number before it began to sink. It was enough. I could make another one to hold the other half, and several smaller ones to hold our fighters for the purposes of a new trick called "small-group scouting" that the Dark People devised for our war against the Enemy.
In fact, I did just that. It was just in time, too. The Black Hunter, perhaps noticing our increasing effort to evade his grasp, had begun to frequent our settlements more persistently. It often forced us to migrate temporarily to the water contraptions, which Anwë's sister then named "rafts." (Some of us even migrated there permanently, most of whom being mates blessed with children.) This was also when the Dark People discovered a new type of defence called "archery," which we could do while being safely settled on the rafts and which my people excelled at, given their sharper eyesight and thus accuracy. And it bought us some more time…
Then, when the wind had changed blowing direction twelve times over since the development of our new living arrangement, a disaster quite unlike what we had been visited upon struck us. It began with the continuous, vigorous shaking of the land we dwelt upon, followed by the great turbulence of the water. And afar on the north, we saw great lights and heard rumbling noises that scared us. It was the direction from which the Black Hunter usually approached our settlements… What was he concocting that could produce such an effect on the very land and water, and create lights rivalling those of the stars? And what of our fate, who could neither flee to the water nor stay on the land?
Thankfully, if lasting for a rather long time, the anomaly did not hurt us terribly. We were busier shooing the panicked wildlife away from our settlements than tending to the hurts our number got from the event. There were also pauses in all the shaking and churning that we could use to take a rest and prepare for the next ordeal.
And then it simply stopped, with nothing to mark it, nor any indication that it would resume later. We began to tentatively relax our guard; but waiting, still waiting, with greater nervousness each time, wondering how the Black Hunter would execute its next raid after such a long and extensive preparation.
Our vigilant watch came to an end, at length, but unlike what we had expected. A being more brilliant than Ingwë came to us, descending upon our settlements much like the Black Hunter usually did but without the accompanying sense of wrongness. We cowered from it on our newly-mended rafts a distance away from the shores, reluctant to flee and reluctant to strike. It could just be the Black Hunter in disguise, but it could also be a benign being coming to offer us aid…
But it looked just like us, like a Quendo in fact, not huge and grotesque like the glimpses of the Black Hunter that we had ever seen. It waited patiently on the shore at first, gazing with what looked like sadness in its bright, bright eyes. (We knew too much of that emotion by now, to our lasting regret.) And afterwards, it waded into the water.
We held our breaths and readied ourselves to strike if it – he? – came too near to our line of defence.
But he never did, instead busying himself playing in the water as if already forgetting that we were yet there. He behaved just like a child – our ordinary child – let loose by his guardians to play as he wished.
He did not fear water.
I could sense that the water liked him, just as it did the Quendi and especially the children among us. I thought to myself, then, that I could attempt to like this new being. Water had never betrayed me, betrayed us.
Then I raised my eyes from the gently-lapping water created by the new being's far-off great splashing, and our gazes met at a glance.
I inhaled a breath sharply and recoiled, surprised and somehow afraid. Through look only, he confirmed to me that he knew of my friendship with the water; he approved of it, in fact. But how did he know? Would he tell the rest of the Quendi about it? People had already considered me queer regarding my obsession with anything related to water…
He smiled briefly, reassuringly. My hair stood on end. But strangely, this odd and distant form of communication comforted my other fears and concerns, making me lean towards trusting him.
I caught the gazes of my fellow chieftains, signaling for them to meet me on a smaller "scouting" raft, which was already manned by six "archers" who were also equipped with long sharp-ended sticks called "spears." Murmurs started then, reproving my bold decision and protesting the involvement of Ingwë and Anwë in what they no-doubt thought as a mad scheme. But all the same, the said two Quendi came to me, and we departed towards the new, brilliant being at a slow, cautious pace.
We halted as far as the range of the spears, but the newcomer, who had by now been watching us solemnly, did not seek to narrow the gap between us. We talked to him, then, introducing ourselves. And he in turn called himself with something long which did not sound like a name to me and my friends; so Anwë, ever so clever, coined a shorter name for us to call him: Oromë. He sent images into our minds when we permitted him entry, describing a beautiful, radiant land free of the Black Hunter's terror. Through them also he conveyed that he meant to bring us there, to live with him and his kind.
We were leery of the promise, and we did not yet fully trust him anyway. But still, we returned to our peoples and told them the news, agreeing that everyone must make his or her own decision about this matter.
I had to admit that it was not a hard decision to make, for many of us. Ingwë was so, so weary from his losses and ours as a community, and Anwë was always fearful that what had befallen Lindariel and Lindarion would happen to her own pair of twins some time, given chance. And of course, Olwë and Neniel were foremost in their opinions to depart this place, to seek sanctuary from the Black Hunter that had taken their firstborn daughter and torn their family apart in the process.
There were also some that were enamoured by the allure of various beautiful hopes of this promised land, like one of Anwë's brothers, who called himself "Finwë;" they wanted to explore the land Oromë described, and interact with other speakers that were not Quendi. Ironically and not to my expectation, the portion of Quendi belonging to this category was the largest of all those who would like to go.
At length, it was decided that we would dispatch three representatives from the three Kindreds to go with Oromë and inspect what this promised land really was. Many said that the chieftains should be fit for such a role. But Anwë refused to leave her twins in anyone else's care, and I myself was not enthusiastic enough about this idea that I was willing to be in the thick of it. So in the end, we agreed that Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë (one of my own people, who was fast friends with Finwë) would go with Oromë to that land. We chieftains told Oromë just that, while once more perched upon our scouting raft a spearing distance away from him.
It was disconcerting, to me at least, that Oromë was so overjoyed hearing what the Quendi had agreed upon. Was he sincere? Or if he was, what of his kind that he described dwelling in that land together with him? Would they be willing to share their land with the Quendi?
And, as if noticing my hesitation and suspicion, his eyes sought mine again. Images and feelings passed between us when I allowed him entry into my mind, conveying visionss of beautiful, benign beings with warm welcoming faces. He sent us a thought that all of them longed to have us there, to know us, to teach us things they knew. I was tempted…
I fought back defiantly; but it lacked substance, and petered out at length. At last, I bowed my head to him, admitting defeat.
But oddly, he did not seem happy about it. His majestic visage crumpled up into the ordinary look of sorrow and despair that I knew all too well… Was he leading me into a trap? Or had I truly hurt him in some way?
Ingwë and Anwë were looking at me oddly by now, perhaps noticing my silent interaction with Oromë and his subsequent morose look, forcing me to do something about it. I was cornered – but was I, truly? Or was I just too suspicious?
I stared back at them pleadingly, but in that way I could not hide my confusion and indecision also from them. And they gave no quarter for pity in their judgement, as they told me mind-to-mind that I should make peace with myself and our guest. After all, they said, Oromë seemed to be sincerely kind and open to discussion, unlike the Black Hunter. So at last, having no more argument to act as shield against their opinions, I relented and indicated that I would swim ashore towards where Oromë was sitting. (That being had no right to be so dejected, I thought to myself peevishly.)
When I neared the shoreline, Oromë eyed me cautiously. I smiled at him with some irony, but did not back down. When I climbed up on dry land, he was there, crouching so as to be at a level with me, but at an arm's distance away. I greeted him with a stiff nod, and he nodded back at me uncertainly.
But how to begin the apology, when I did not quite feel apologetic about my suspicion towards him? How to prove that he was not what I feared him to be, when we did not speak the same language? Because speaking mind-to-mind could only achieve so much, and we needed time if we would prove his kind intentions.
I sent him a sense of time in relation to his company, at last, trying to convey my hastily-thought-of solution. And to my surprise, he gave me a wide happy grin, looking somehow relieved.
I knew only a moment later, when he answered me with the sense and image of his teaching the Quendi whatever he could teach and whatever we would learn. I sent my doubt to him then, pointing at his earlier statement that we would receive enrichment only in the promised land and under all of his kind – not himself alone. But he was so hopeful, so earnest and sincere… and so broken-hearted, too, on my further evidence of suspicion. Now I began to question what was wrong with myself…
In the end, tired of my self-judgement and stiff vigilance, and fervently hoping that I was not doing an ultimate ill to all Quendi, I gave him my consent to talk to the other two chieftains about this idea, meanwhile giving my own – hollow – approval in advance.
I had never expected what he did next, and therefore unable to avoid it: He pounced on me, embracing me tightly, cradling me warmly in his jubilation as if an older brother to his younger sibling, pouring a sense of strong, pure joy into my being, but also somehow buoying me on the tides of his happiness. I was overwhelmed, but not at all in a bad way, and I was astonished at the warm liquid that mingled with my own on my face. – Such a powerful and majestic being could cry too?
And in hindsight, I had to confess to myself that I did not mind being held by him in this way. It felt nice not to be one of the eldest, for once.
Signalling to the archers not to shoot any of us, I led him to the scouting raft where the other chieftains had been waiting for me. Letting Oromë float a spearing distance away from the raft, I alone approached Ingwë and Anwë, telling them about Oromë's proposal to us all. Somehow I was not surprised when they swiftly and warmly agreed to it, although my bafflement at their ready acceptance remained in the background.
And afterwards, Oromë did fulfil his promise to us – to me. He taught us about many things, from knowledge of ourselves to the arts of creation and perception, and suggested improvements on what we already had or knew. In return, he also learnt our languages and customs and limited lore, quite enthusiastically and with the same sincere earnestness I might add, and won many people's affection in that way. – Those who had been eager to go were even more fervent in their determination now, and some who had scoffed the idea began to have doubts about their decision to stay.
As for myself… I felt likeI was being left behind, a lone rock in a drying stream. Strange, and ironic too, that I prided myself and my people to be the embodied epitome of water while I now felt like a stubborn rock. And I was not alone among my people who leant more towards staying – or outright decided to stay – too, although I did not know how they viewed this proposal. (I did not dare ask for fear of embarrassing myself, although I kept telling myself that I was being nonsensical and should just ask them anyway.)
And soon enough, I felt like a lone rock in a drying stream which was somehow in danger of being cloven into two by a fierce wind. Without saying so outright, different factions of my own people demanded me to choose their respective side and forsake the others. It did not help that Ingwë and Anwë never failed in giving me pleading looks, asking me without words, most persistently, to go with them when – not if! – there came the time to say farewell to this land and lake and follow Oromë west to that promised land.
The pressure of opposite desires kept building instead of letting up the longer Oromë staid with us, and frictions between the factions holding different opinions became more often; and at last Oromë himself admitted that he could not tarry among us any longer lest destruction result from it. He proposed that the representatives should follow him to the promised land as soon as possible, and they – Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë – agreed… So they prepared themselves and said their farewells, and then went; quietly, solemnly, as if they would never come back to us, like those taken by the Black Hunter.
And indeed, given the growing dangers brooding just under the surface of our community, I began to feel as if Oromë was a kinder, nobler, more handsome version of the Black Hunter; all with his innocent earnestness, open kindness, and unwitting chaos-seeding proposal to remove ourselves from this place. Subsequently, I could not decide whether I would rather he had come to us or not. And when he was gone with the three eager Quendi, I retreated more into myself and my usual sanctuaries, seeking solace from the world that seemed to have gone colder in each of my step.
Some turnings of the stars later, as I was gazing listlessly to the west, for the countless time wishing Ingwë and Elwë – if not Finwë also – to come back, the three that I had been brooding about returned unlooked-for; nearly unrecognizable with animal pelts covering their skins, and with Oromë and some others that I perceived were of his kind in tow. (Later, when we had been properly reunited and the three had some breathing space after being welcomed back by all the Quendi present, they said those pelts were used to protect their bodies in the difficult journey.) And they spouted such fantastic stories about lands we had never set foot upon, which they had passed in their journey; and also, most importantly, a very, very tempting recounting of the promised land they had visited. Magnificent beings occupied it already, they said, but they would let us live there with them if we so chose; just like what Oromë had promised us. (Finwë insisted on honouring him and his followers and his kind with high regards. Oh well.) But I had truly fallen in love with this humble dwelling we had built and defended together by now, and I found it hard to abandon it. And yet, their tales… I was very, very curious; I could not help it. And I truly loved the fact that the former radiance returned to Ingwë's countenance and demeanour as he was giving his account of the journey and the visit. I wanted it to last, wanted my old friend back. And if it meant I had to follow him to that faraway land, I would do that, if I were honest with myself.
Besides, I had been falling in love with a maiden of the Bright People also, as she had always been there for me during the long uncertain time of waiting for the three representatives to return, and I knew that she would always follow Ingwë wherever he went, like the rest of the Bright People. My brother had long found a mate of his own, just like most others among my own people, and I would feel quite lonely and bereft without this Bright maiden. I did not want her to fall into harm, and Oromë had promised us safety from such harm concocted by the Black Hunter. I wanted to raise my family in safety. And I was just as tired as Ingwë and Anwë of seeing my people taken one by one by the devouring blackness.
In the end, not without pain and regret, I chose her over my beloved land and the waters that I have grown to know so well.
I followed those who departed our first home, but many of my people chose to stay. But I feared that my heart would be forever torn between here and the new land because of it, just like what I had felt when the representatives had departed the lake.
The only balm to my grief, aside from my brother's coming with me, was that the Bright maiden I had fallen in love with reciprocated my feelings. Despite all the sorrow and gloom, we found some spark of happiness together once in a while. We explored each other's bodies just as eagerly as we did our surrounding lands and waters. And we were not alone in that. Many couples turned to each other for comfort, for some semblance of familiarity and normalcy, while we were traversing the unknown places which were not all wholesome. (Oromë said it was the workings of the Black Hunter, trying to hinder us and falter our steps with indecision. I agreed with him, mostly.)
My mate, who called herself "Ellenuí," birthed a daughter early in the journey. We called her "Míriel," after the prized shiny-and-colourful stones we collected as body and hair accessories. She was certainly dear to us, a great prize amidst all this uncertainty and unfamiliarity. She grew into a lively young maiden, in spite of the often-grim situation and difficulties that we faced.
But she was also prized by another person, and I found myself displeased about the fact. Finwë, the only sibling of Anwë that accompanied her on the journey, was a wily person; charming and warm, yes, but full of tricks. I did not mind it when he used it against our foe, working with Ingwë and others in setting traps around the borders of our former home to scare the Black Hunter and its creatures away, but I did mind it when he used it on Míriel. I could see that he loved her, like I did my mate, yet I could also sense some far-off doom befalling them if they proceeded with their affair, and, by anything and everything within my capabilities, I wanted to spare my cherished daughter from such misery.
Like I feared, though, she did not listen to me, nor did she listen to her mother, apparently, when regarding her beloved Finwë. I could only watch in silent despair as she drifted further and further away from her mother and me, both emotionally and in distance. And indeed, the Bright and Dark Peoples were now rather far ahead of the Fair People, as they were most eager to depart to the land promised by Oromë. I was just glad that my mate decided to stay with me in this journey rather than with her own Kindred.
But then, as if it was not enough, my mate, my Ellenuí, was taken from me by the Black Hunter. Taken, not even killed. It would have been a kinder fate if her soul were torn from her body. But no, he took her. And I could not even defend her at the last moments, protecting her from his foul claws.
She was gathering reeds to patch our bed-matts a little farther from the encampment when it happened. The distance should not have mattered, save that the foliage was more shady than we would prefer, than what the dangerous time demanded us. I supposed she was just too engrossed in her work. I felt likewise then, and bemoaned the collective distraction most bitterly afterwards.
The only warning that something untoward was happening to her was her surprised and frightened shriek, which was quickly stifled by something or someone. By then I and several other men had already raced to where we had heard her scream, spears and darts and knives in our hands.
We arrived just in time to see her be dragged away by two foul-feeling, foul-smelling hunched creatures shaped like us. Her struggles were in vain, even when she renewed grappling with her captors on my dismayed shouts of her name. At that moment, it was as if something was beating in my throat rather than in my chest, and my mind was clouded with utter fear. And the fear made me wild.
I would not have remembered the moments afterwards if not for the later recounting of the people going there with me, told to me when I was calmer. They said I had roared like a scary wild animal we had encountered just recently in our path westward; and then I had brandished my knives and charged towards Ellenuí's captors blindly, with no regard to my own safety and survival. The other men had had no choice but to aid me; and still we had failed. More creatures of the same posture and feel had extracted themselves from their apparent hiding places among the trees and tall grasses and attacked us viciously. When they had been eliminated, Ellenuí and her captors were gone.
What would the Black Hunter do to her – to my sweet, kind mate? Make her into one of those vile creatures bearing some twisted resemblance to ourselves, several of whom we yet recognised as those who had been taken from us – several of whom had captured her just then? It was truly a cruel fate! And now I finally realised how Indis and Olwë and Neniel must have felt when Lindariel had been taken, and also various other Quendi who had lost family members…
I was inconsolable for a while afterwards, and avoided everyone. Only later did I find that Ingwë had been given notice of this horrible event, by my brother no less – who had had to run extra fast to reach the encampment of the Bright and Dark Peoples, or so he claimed. And Ráwë relayed to me even later, with something caught between hidden exasperation and genuine grieving empathy, that Ingwë had been just as wretched, saying that he had also failed to protect Ellenuí. Only then I began to come out of my reclusion somewhat, realising that my mate was from Ingwë's own people, too. But no, she… had been…
But just when I began to come out of my figurative shell, I found out that my daughter had resorted to seek solace from her intended – Finwë – and therefore had departed to the encampment of the Bright and Dark Peoples some time ago, with the escort of a few of the Fair People. I could not truly fault her abandonment, though, realising that, in my grief, I had briefly forgotten her. Without her father available to console her, it would have been just logical that she would turn to the only other person who loved her, whom she loved in return.
I was so tempted to tear out my own soul from my body. – My mate was taken. My daughter was gone. Ingwë and Anwë were too far ahead. My home was too far behind…
My life, which I had carefully built over the time, had fallen apart in such a short moment. I had abandoned half of my people in our former home, and now more than a quarter more of them to the beauty of the wilds along our journey, for my family. But now I had lost them too. What did I still have?
My brother approached me some time after he had brought me the tidings. The remaining Fair People that were still in the journey with us had decided to slow their pace, he said, so that they could enjoy the scenery while still being in the same host. But I knew that they did it really because of me, to give me some more time to mourn my losses, and I was ashamed of it, ashamed for myself – my own fragility. It was why I now tended to sequester myself away from them again, up in trees where only few knew. I did not deserve to be their leader, and yet they – those who still followed me until now – refused to choose another leader for themselves… Why so?
Ráwë would be a perfect choice to lead them, and yet here he was, presently perched on a bough beside where I sat, chattering in low tones about what everyone was doing while I was absent, reporting to me both as a younger brother and a charge.
"Why do you do this?" I whispered during one of the lulls in the monologue. He stared at me like I had gone mad… or perhaps I had?
"Because I do," he said simply, staring right into my eyes, into my tattered being. There was such sorrow in his own being that I was moved to consoling him before I knew it. I found my hand already on his across the short distance separating our perches, squeezing it comfortingly.
He smiled wanly, knowingly, at me, and I looked down. He knew me better than I did.
My hand did not leave his as he resumed talking. And surprisingly, I found comfort in it. And then I realised that it had been quite some time since last I had talked to him like this, just the two of us, undisturbed in a private spot, like the brothers that we were.
"I'm sorry," I murmured. This time he was the one who stared at me uncomprehendingly.
"For neglecting you," I said shortly. Self-loathing began to impinge on my conscience again.
He sighed and shook his head. "All of us have been distracted by one matter or the other, not only you," he said, not unkindly. "At least now we can talk. And I do not want you brooding like this. You look horrible." He made a face at me. A flat chuckle slipped out of my lips without my consent.
He grinned, but quickly sobered again. "Brother, I cannot help you much with this." He stared meaningfully at me, and I nodded heavily to his implied meaning. "But I noticed that you do not commune with the water anymore. Why is that so?"
I stared dumbly at him, as my mind processed what he had just said.
He was right.
I clambered down the tree. Ráwë was close behind me. We stood side by side beneath its numerous boughs and branches, staring out towards the encampment in a companionable silence. But I found my eyes straying further, to where my ears told me to see, to a silver ribbon afar …
"Go, brother," he whispered in my ear. I smiled and turned to him, kissing his brow with gratitude and the brotherly love I had missed. Then I was gone, slipping between the trees towards the stream we had crossed just some time ago. The water seemed to beckon me, enticing me to go nearer by laughing louder and singing more melodiously. And I was lured by it, willingly.
It was waist-deep, between the rocky banks it played mischievously with. And when I lowered myself into it, it embraced me, coiling its steady currents around my form, like welcoming a long-lost friend…
And perhaps I was.
I submerged completely beneath its surface and wept, letting it – again – taste my tears. And again, it did not mind at all. Tendrils of the currents brushed my cheeks and eyelids soothingly, as I imagined an older sibling would if I were the younger brother.
I did not know who said it, myself or the water. But it gave me great comfort just to hear it–
"Stay with me."
I do not quite follow the story of the Awakening of the Eldar in this piece, hence the AU warning. I always feel that, since The Silmarillion and its adjoining books are meant to resemble some people's accounts of events, there is a big chance that the facts have been somewhat distorted, just like what we experience in real life. The account telling us about the Awakening of the Eldar, moreover, looked more like a legend to me when I read it. That put some doubt in me as to what could have happened, so I tried to analyse it deeper. I came up with this, and it is not satisfactory, but I have no time to scrap it and make it anew. (I would never post it online, then.)
That goes similarly, with the names. I noticed that Professor Tolkien gave a rather blurry background of meanings for the names of the three Eldar Kings and some other Elves who were supposedly born during the Great Journey or before that. That made me wonder if he was hinting that those people were named, or named themselves, just because of the feel of the sound of the names – and some, basic features of nature/everyday things. I researched about names some time ago, and many originated just like that: through feeling, or natural features, or something found everyday. So why not these? The Professor was a great European linguistic historian and a linguist himself, so he must have known about that and exploited it just as he made use of other things thrown into his legendarium. I tried to emulate that theory into this piece, to see if it could be true.
And I also decided not to put title distinctions in the story, as might have been expected otherwise, for several reasons.
Firstly, the Quendi did not number quite so many then, even counting those taken by Melkor. So what use is ranking when you number only around 200 persons in total, some of whom are just children free of restrictions anyhow? It would be harder to do your day-to-day living and operation too, with all the teer-custom and bureaucracy.
Secondly and in some relation to the first, the Quendi were newly born, after a sense, and I imagine that they would care more on discovering new things about their surroundings and themselves than putting elaborate ranks to restrict themselves and all. There was indeed the position of chieftain filled in by the three eldest Elves in this piece, and I would imagine that they would be called Eldests sometimes, but that only goes with the logic that they were indeed the eldest Elves, and that they were the discoverers and gatherers of the Kindreds anyway; leaders by default, and subtly too, for the purposes of just uniting their respective Kindreds. The functions the Kindreds took in daily living and defence would be according to their interests and abilities too and done quite naturally, so they would not need strict distinctions on jobs and all.
Thirdly and last, the Quendi, as seen in this piece of my universe at least, were almost always plagued by Melkor's sheer terror and frequent raids, so they would be more often on defence than at leisure to think up something as useless as detailed ranking – that would only bog them down when expediency was vital for survival. The knowledge and general customs they respectively gathered and invented during their life at this stage would in the end culminate or be used as basis for ranking, but I would imagine it would only happen to the Eldar when they were cosily ensconced in Valinor, where they were not threatened by Melkor and his minions. (I am basing this from the hints that the Avari and Nandor seem to be without solid leadership and organisation from all the accounts I have read; they never got the safety and comforts the Eldar had in Valinor, did they not? Even the Sindar did not seem to be quite particular on leadership, in what I read in The Silmarillion, unlike, say, the Ñoldor.)
So, in conclusion, I would say that at this time period (the Awakening to the Great Journey, not beyond it), the Quendi (and Eldar, later) viewed leadership and "official distinctions" in a straightforwardly logical and practical way.
Does it smell like heresy to you? Well, I am sorry, then. Perhaps I am just too naughty. :) But still, I do not mean any slander against the Professor, or those who choose to follow the accounts written by him word for word. I just do this for fun, as I love to explore seldom-trodden paths, and these are my own opinions on the respective matters discussed – the story being the outlet of them.
This story is the foundation of many of my other stories also; my labour of love since two years ago. I intended it to participate in SWG's 5th Birthday Celebration in 2010, but I felt it still inadequate, not quite what I wanted it to be. Now I am generally satisfied with it, and I hope you enjoyed the ride. If not… well, sorry. (And could you please tell me what you did/not like from the story, or what you wished featured in the story, all the same?)
(a self-amused) Rey