In fair Gondolin, days are getting dim. Past blends into present, present kills future in its cradle. Every morn is a vestige of times long gone, every eve is a false promise of a new day to dawn on her.
(The faint echo of Tirion's bustle fills her uneasy dreams, and the shadow of Túna paints a silvery gleam upon the Tower of the King.)
In the sealed kingdom of her brother, old days never end, and new times never come.
~ § ~
Aredhel roams about the library for an hour before settling down behind a desk.
She never thought she would need one. A table she has, but the difference between a table and a desk is crucial.
Somewhere far behind her back, a door opens, then closes softly. Part of her hopes she is still alone, another part doesn't care.
There is something about the silent conglomerate of the library that makes her flinch. Everything smells of books, memories and dust. The only thing she welcomes is the latter. She is a huntress, after all; and those who roam the woodlands speak the ancient language of blood, dirt - and dust.
The top of the desk is cold, alien to the touch. She picks up a quill, then shakes it slightly. One hand prepares to spring into life and word all the anger and sorrow she denies, another hand prepares to break the quill.
Anger and sorrow Aredhel feels – but not fear. The White Lady of the Ñoldor is fearless.
(Yet these days, she also seems to be mute).
Perhaps if she writes down it all, her brother would listen. Or perhaps she would not get so wordless, so utterly disposed… so unlike herself when again, she would demand what is hers by right of birth – freedom.
Turgon has no right – no right to click the latch on her cage again.
~ § ~
The edge of the parchment is being torn away, piece by piece, by trembling fingers. Its surface is getting sinuous and Aredhel's hands are getting cold.
Somewhere, at the pit of her stomach, hot flames and fumes of anger break free. Turgon has clear sight and his mind is sharp; Aredhel feels that he feels it. Yet unmoved he remains as he faces her, as mute and idle as should be one whose heart is still covered in the ice of the Helcaraxë.
Oh how she had hoped to melt it!
~ § ~
"You led our people across the Ice," she says, as she had said a thousand times before, "and that made you our rightful Lord; then you hid us here, in the valley of Tumladen and that made you our King; but I, Aredhel, daughter of Anairë from the House of Fingolfin do not answer to you, nor to anyone else, in any way. I am free to come and go as I like, and I demand you to open the gates for me."
"No one would dare deny the freedom of the White Lady within my walls," Turgon says, his face barred, his eyes distant, "yet she asks me for it; and grant it I shall not. This is a fruitless debate, sister: you cannot grasp my reasons to stay, and I cannot fathom yours to go."
"I have never expected you to understand me," Aredhel's fist clenches. "I only ask you to let me go. Your halls are a diamond prison: a cage of comfort, but a cage nevertheless."
(They are his halls; his, and not theirs).
"What do you want?" Turgon demands, his voice, ever so flat, ever so indifferent now seething with fury. "What could you ever want that I cannot give?"
"Freedom," Aredhel says. "Adventures. The caress of west wind on my face. The horn-call of a fellow hunter across the woods. Dirt on my boots and blood on my hands."
The King, as ever, is deaf to her plea – or pretends to be.
~ § ~
The next parchment is long and smooth; and Aredhel fills it with small, orderly tengwar. Through the words she pours from her heart, rights are recalled, reasons are given, pleas are voiced, requests are made.
She draws a line and rewrites it all. Pleas are crossed off, faint ink-shadows of sorrow and desperation are blacked out, and swearwords simply disappear. The reasoning of her new letter is plain and simple; it is just, it is only just that Turgon should let her leave. No matter how, no matter when. No matter where.
(Once she steps out the Gates, her chains shall be broken; and she shall do what she pleases).
The parchment is hidden between two reports, and is placed carefully upon her brother's desk.
And without a sign, she waits for rejection.
~ § ~
Wind howls among the peaks of the Echoriath: the cold and cruel sort that bends backs, carries snow to one's face and tears torches out of their holders. Yet cross-legged, Aredhel sits at the edge of a cliff; her fingers are playing with small swirls of dust. A kiss of stark evening chill lingers still on her face, but dawn is not far.
Anor peeks out from behind the horizon, and the snowy pikes around her are bathing in a reddish purple glow.
And there they fly, just as they always will and always would, and she watches them: three lean shadows against the white hills, three glorious creatures in the raw morning light.
"You watch them every day," says a voice behind her.
"And you watch me," says she, unsurprised. "Then wonder. You think too much, Ecthelion."
"So you have always told me."
So she has, indeed.
"Seems like we have nothing new to tell each other," Aredhel declares, somewhat sharply. "And why would we? I sit on the same cliff as always, dawn paints the skies in the same artsy manner every day, and the Eagles… the Eagles are always here. I watch them – you watch me. When Vairë weaved the tapestry of our lives, she must have loosened the last string, so to braid it over and over again."
"Yet if only the White Lady of Gondolin had wings…" Ecthelion commences. The languorous expression on his face considerably darkens as his mind goes through some of the possible outcomes.
(Aredhel can almost hear his theories).
"Sometimes you want the Eagles to carry you," she suddenly says, "but you have never asked them."
Ecthelion has the grace to blush.
"Who doesn't? And - who has?"
Aredhel hesitates, "A caged falcon, who is even denied to scratch through the dust like hens do, should never dream of flying."
Ecthelion understands; and effortlessly, he holds her hand.
"Yet flying is within her nature. 'Tis only a matter of course that the falcon should pick the lock and break free. Once that she did, though, she may as well find that the life of a hen is not as outrageously graceless and horrible as she had thought."
"Aye," Aredhel whispers, "that is what I fear."
"I thought the White Lady feared nothing."
~ § ~
"What do you want?" Ecthelion asks, just as her brother did. Questions are becoming unbearable.
"I want to break free. To hunt on my own. To have a look around the lands outside. To visit the Sons of Fëanor in the far East."
To visit Celegorm, she thinks, and that is what Ecthelion understands as well.
(Aredhel wonders why do they waste words on communication if they are entirely unnecessary).
"I miss him," she says aloud.
"You miss a memory, and the past. Stay here with me, Princess. I am no memory."
Neither am I, Aredhel thinks, and she walks away.
(And only in Mandos would she realise that the offer had been there; and in the Halls of Waiting she would mourn what may have happened).
~ § ~
No one would dare deny the freedom of the White Lady within my walls, yet she asks me for it; and grant it I shall not.
Turgon's words echo endlessly in her mind, and one day, Aredhel gives them a new meaning. Careless, fair and dangerous, she emerges from a crowd of guards, a chainmail gleaming silver under her white cloak, and declares her departure. There is no question in her words, nor any kind of plea; it is a fact that she leaves, a foregone truth. Denying it would be not only useless, but folly; and nothing stands further from the King of Gondolin than any kind of ineptitude.
"I am your sister, and not your servant," Aredhel says before the crowd, her eyes sparkling, "and beyond your bounds I will go as seems good to me."*
(And break my promises as I like).
"Do as you wish, Lady," Turgon nods at her. "My heart and good will shall go with you, though not my blessings."
Aredhel doesn't need blessings; or so she thinks. Ecthelion is on her side, and Celegorm is on the other side of the mountains. The Gates are opened before her, and desperately, she rides.
And from an aviary wrought with diamonds, the falcon flies into a cage of coal.
~ § ~ § ~ § ~