The Walls of Fate

A tale of Ondolinde of the Last Hope, as derived from the Annals of Beleriand, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Author's note: The title is taken from Ulmo's words to Tuor in the Book of Unfinished Tales.

The prophet's mantle, ere his flight began,
Dropt on the world--a sacred gift to man.

- -Thomas Campbell, Pleasures of Hope

I would tell you something ere we both die: I can see the future.

I have seen this day for fourteen years. Draw your sword and face me. I am no longer afraid.

You strike good and fast, and I respond in turn, for I know where your sword would be even as it cuts the air, and I move aside so that you stumble, while my footing today is safe.

For fourteen years I have loved this city, seeing its death every day. So strike now, please do, strike quickly with all your hate, you know not how long I have been waiting.

We are dancers upon the high walls and the flames dance beneath us as they have in my dreams, and in the dance of the water years ago in Neverast. I saw us there in the rising sea and the words put into my mouth, fighting here atop the walls in this day. And every day since, be it in the fountains, be it in the rain, be it in the glitter of metal, I have seen, and never believed it.

Come now, then, your sword to my flesh, we both had such high hopes.

Those were no idle words I spoke before the king, though we both thought it at the time. Do you recall, perhaps, what I have said? I never did.

I warned, they tell me, of this day, that I have seen coming, and seen coming, and seen coming.

Come now, surely you can do better. I know where your sword-stroke would land, do not forget that, I have spent long painful years perfecting the image.

White walls crumbling.

Screams from high windows.

Gold and silver melting together in the fire.

Singing water made steam. Friends and family made smoke.

And details, and precise moments, and echoes of words. Fourteen years. Strike harder! Surprise me, once in this lifetime!

In every look. Strike harder, strike better, thrust, block, parry, return. In every morning. Shift, step, flash and blow. In every word. The pain of your blade grazing my arm. The pain. No matter where it is I look and upon whom. I have seen. I can see. Harder, curse you!

Did your father not die upon these very walls? Saying that you would find that very death?

Your people have a concept that I do not comprehend of eternal love. You say until the end of Arda, yet I do not think you mean it. Nay, you mean forever. Say it. You mean forever.

Eternal love. I never knew, for I am not eternal. But I was told the city is.

I could love that which is immortal. I love that which is immortal. I am loved by that which is immortal. I am loved by her. Harder! Faster! End it!

And the city.

And Ondolinde. Our Ondolinde.

What is forever, do you know? I know. It is where the horizon would have been if death was not blocking my sight.

The sword is light in your hands, and your feet are unstable. And now you would stumble an inch too close to the abyss, and fear would flicker in your eyes, in but few moments, when you would learn that you can die.

I did not learn that of the city. I have seen. You have showed me.

But such are things for Men, I suppose.

Do you know if you can win this? Suppose… I would give you the answer?

No, I could not make their decisions for them, all I could do was warn, all I could do was tell, foretell, and hope, but we know about hope, us two.

You do not deserve hope, and I am mortal.

There was never any hope to speak of. Be silent. There was no hope. I'll kill you, be silent! I did all I could. What hope was I to have, when I have seen?

And I have seen, every day, you cannot know. What hope, save that one hope, of seeing your body crushed against the rocks?

No, I do not waver, have no thought of it! Strike harder, give me this pleasure, this one last bitter joy. Down to the rocks with you, destroyer of hope, of all the hope I had to tell. Of hope, you spoke to him! And I have spoken of fate…

Not my words, and always my mission, to bring hope here to this city that is hope, and have hope that they would choose it. Stars! What lies have I told them??

Look not to her. She can also see.

And down to the rocks now, and down to the fire. Aye, now, in but few moments, have you yet any doubt that I speak truth?

The both of us? Perhaps. Do you wish to try?

Yes, I speak to you of futility, of yearning. Yes, I have such a right. Of torment! Of that also would I speak. What do you know of torment?

Down to the fire. Down to the rocks. Down to your father's bones. It is fate.

You cannot deny fate… you know that, surely.

I would tell you something ere we both die: I can see the future.

Fare thee well, and curse you for not piercing both my eyes.