Author's note: A first, shorter birthday-story for Cirdan, because I am really stuck on the writing of the first one, and do not know if it will even ever be written at all. So, Happy Birthday Cirdan! –the author. Though I guess that she will be happy if we celebrate her beloved elf-lord's birthday at the same time, hm?-
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters and the settings mentioned. Though I don't think I have actually mentioned any in the story. They all would belong to the Tolkien Estate.
They say it is a tale of love; of a love that never was. A fondness between mother and son that was cut short before the bud: a love that grew alone towards the frozen hands of the earth, claiming back the life they gave.
They say there is a tree, standing on a grave.
It is not believed that anyone has ever set eyes upon it; anyone but he whose hands have lovingly shaped, wrought, chiselled the ancient sculpture, in a time so far gone that none can tell of even his name. None remember him, his face, neither his skills nor his hands: the hands that gave life without knowing, gave life while they gave to death. They say no elf other than he ever has created life out of stone, made being out of stones, hard as they have tried; none has accomplished that feat but the artist without a name, without a face, the boy –it is said– who worked alone not knowing who he was nor who he was to be.
Yet those who can, those who know, they are believed to shun the words, shy of the question, or maybe the answer; and who knows? Old among the old, wise beyond even the understanding of other elves: such they are, those who are said to know, to keep silent a secret which is the secret of a grave, of a tree running its roots deep into the earth, among the fragile branches of the weeping willows.
They say it was a tree, tall and proud, slick and slender, small and youthful, bright and terrible tree sprung live from cold marble, transparent ice maybe; green leaves come from finely carved emeralds, unbelievably slight, so thin the most delicate touch would have broken them to shards; white jewels hidden among the precious foliage that shone with a blinding gleam.
They say it was a tree of stone, millennia after millennia, and season after season the boy than the man came to the garden, in that sheltered place all had forgotten, on that forlorn grave where no one mourned anymore. Season after season, from passing spring to rich summer, joyous autumn to silent winter, he came to his tree with his tools and his skills, and his gifted hands, and under these hands the tree changed, from blossoming to fruit-bearing, and each flower was one of the purest diamond, and each fruit was made of ruby; from the green, young leaves of March to the fiery colours of autumn, and from these to the bare form of a dead winter.
And it is told of a shadow sitting under the branches, and sighs lost to the breeze; it is told of strange whispers murmured to the silence and a kind of cold fire could not warm.
Now the boy is gone; and the tree is dead, withered of branch and rotten of root. It stands still on the grave, but none lies beneath it, and the pale willows nod their wisdom in the wind.
They say, they say, but none of them ever know. They tell of things they have heard, of things that are told. No one truly wants to know. It is but a legend among others, a faint rumour that sometimes dies and sometimes lives; as the people forget and remember in turns the story of the stone tree in the garden. It is important, they feel; a slightly disturbing tale that could have changed the world, maybe still could. Its underlying power makes itself felt sometimes, sometimes not. The people leave it alone. It is not a favourite of the many story-tellers that live on the island. There are other stories, other tales of love and hope to be told or sung; many indeed. The old tree of stone needs not be unrested from the depths of its waste. The sleeping in the grave needs not be awakened.
But now the children want a fairy-tale too many, and now the old wives sit around the hearth; now a young girl learning to read flips a thick book open, and slowly spells out every syllable of the fable following the words with her finger.
And then the legend lives.
For it is but a legend after all.