Who Was Queen
A forgotten tale of Beleriand, derived from the tale of the Years as translated by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Author's note: This story was mostly born out of the thought that the 'eth' element at the end of 'Orodreth' is more usually found in feminine names, followed by the biting Nuzgul of countless discussions on Silmfics concerning women in the Sil. It might be a big freaking AU, it might be what actually happened and was later erased, you may take your pick.
He took her without her consent, on the very night after her brother had left the city. She remembered, looking after her brother the king riding out the gate, the crown clutched in her tight and convulsing hand, knew her fate was sealed. She remembered that she willed herself not to weep, as a queen, if only till her brother returned. Tried not to bow her head, tried not to shake as he offered her his arm to lead her back to her chambers. He said she needed rest, to prepare for the trials of ruling.
He led her through the dark corridors, on that night, past the firelight and the mourning cries of the frightened people, took her away from it. In her own chambers, she remembered how he stood at the doorway watching as she unbound her hair, how his eyes followed hungrily that waterfall of gold, down to the curve of her back, her slight frame as she shed her robes. The firelight flickered in his dark hair, in his dark eyes, and he smiled slightly. He spoke to her softly, as was his wont, and she tried so hard not to weep.
She was a woman, not strong, not strong enough.
Then he came from behind her and put his arms about her shoulders, caressed her with his hands, with his whispers. He told her truths, that she could not rule on her own, a woman, of the lesser of the Houses, that she was helpless without her brother, needed the support of a man. He told her that he loved her, loved her for years, as his father loved her sister. Loved the gold of her hair, the blue of her eyes, the white of her skin, said he made jewels in her likeliness. He said that it need not be that way, he need not rule by force.
He said she need not be driven out, if only…
She had never known a man before. Her younger sister had many suitors, some of whom turned to her when the proud one turned them down. She had always been the weaker of the two, even though she was older, and perhaps she only stood against them because they did not love her enough. Never had any come to her of their own desire, never had her beauty been praised so. His touch excited even as it frightened her.
She reminded him that they were kin.
He laughed, and asked if it mattered. He spoke of her sister's marriage, was her husband not also kin? And closer kin, even, so close as to even be forbidden by their people. But her sister never cared much for costume, and loved as she will. He said that she could also, as his hands trailed down her back, stroking her arms, as his breath grew hotter on the back of her neck, as if the fire of the hearth was coming closer, growing larger somehow in the shadowed room. He said he would lend her his strength.
She wished not to need his strength, a cursed man, with a cursed seed.
He spoke against her brother earlier that day, and she saw what his words did to their people, her people. His tongue traced the edges of her ear; she let her head fall back, surrendering for a moment into that touch, that oh-so forbidden, delightful touch. She was queen, but was she not also a woman?
He said it could be a fruitful union, for them both.
That she need not be driven out, need not be conquered, need not be slain, should things come to that. That her brother's kingdom could stand yet, and she could be queen, alongside him.
Then she said no, and he turned her around, and he grabbed her wrists, and he stripped her, and he took her, and she tried so hard not to scream.
She did not doubt that he would kill her, a mere frail woman.
She had never been the strong one, always quiet, always in the dark. To her sister a shadow, to her brother a vassal, now a steward, but never queen by her own right. She was the one who nearly turned back to go with their father, the one who nearly perished on the ice, the one who learned last to wield a sword. Her younger brothers were quiet also, but had gone forth into battle, and there they earned a glorious death, while she wept and mourned them so, every night for years. She, a woman, her elder brother sought to defend, sought to calm, seeing her swollen eyes, her pallor, her frail shape. Their sister went to battle alongside her lover, while she remained hidden in those halls of stones.
Unknown, unsung, unloved.
Now she was queen, and he did with her as he will for long hours into the night.
She wanted, so desperately, to depart, to atone, to rest, to die, but from the first moment knew she could not. His power, his hunger to create, overwhelmed her reluctance easily. She hid her swelling belly with great effort, knowing not, daring not to think, what any would do if they discovered, her brothers, and her sister who will not bear child for years. Often she claimed to be sick with grief and worry over her elder brother's departure, and lay abed for days at end, staring upward to the dark stone ceiling of her chamber, while he commanded as he wished about her realm. He sat on her throne, and she cast the crown to the river, and did not know if they remembered they had a queen.
She knew no greater pain than the pain of birth. Her child – her children – wanted nothing of her but to be let out into the free air, and with their weight gone she felt more alone than ever. She was alone when they came, and cleaned them of blood and fluids alone, and cradled them in soft fabric alone, and spent her sleepless nights alone, hushing them always, lest a single sob betray them all.
He had come but once, and he smiled upon the two of them proudly.
He told them to grow strong, and take all they could from their mother. In an affectionate tone he said it, and he stroked her hair as he did, then her cheek, neck, breast. Faint from long nights she asked him to shut the door and let no one see her, but he said it was not needed.
Then he took them, named them war orphans and raised them as his own.
The boy was like him, his father – so tall, so strong, so dark of hair, skilled of hand from his earliest days, skilled with his words also, as smooth honey. The girl was golden-headed, quiet and frail, and to her he gave no name.
Silver-fist, he named his son, not silver-hand.
The year waned, and the children grew. The boy began first to speak, and to call her his queen, while the girl called her Mother. Her brother did not return, nor had his human friend, or any of their companions, not even when winter crept in, and the boy and his father disappeared for long days to the warm forges. She began to let the girl into her chambers, to stroke her lovely, golden hair, to brush it, to braid it, to give her fine clothes and jewelry to wear, to sing to her lullabies. The girl's eyes were wide and blue, and her hands white and very gentle, and she hid when the older girls and boys played with bows and swords.
But the girl had something of her father also, and she did not know if to be grateful or frightened.
Long she suspected that it was the girl who told the boy of the circumstances of their conception and birth, though how the girl found out she never knew. When confronted about it, she wept, and the boy of course forgave her. What else could he do before a poor woman's tears? Soon she heard him shouting at his father behind shut doors, and smiled to herself a smile of perverse vengeance, though he never called her Mother.
It was a cold winter night when he and his brother were driven out, a night very much like the one in which her own brother left the realm to her. In those most silent of hours they rode away, and neither the girl nor the boy were with them. The girl she shut in her room, away from his prying eyes, and announced before the people one and all that she took her now for her own daughter, away from her cursed father and his bloody land adeath. And they for her as queen and mas she held the frail little body close upon her arms, the girl sobbing and asking where her brother was.
The boy was down in the forges, and did not come out.
The realization that her own brother was dead came to her late and gradually, and when she put the crown, newly found, on her head, it may have well not come to her at all. The girl got to her the finest clothes, the best teachers, the most exquisite of pleasures her mother the queen had to give. For herself, she took none, and needed none but her brother's crown.
The boy cursed her for a whore one day and left.
The cause of this all saw in the taint of his father's House. They shook their heads, and muttered and gossiped, saying that it was good that this House had no heirs in the blood, and that surely they must be stopped before they go on to corrupt more good youths. They assured her often that they held her blameless, that she was their queen, and an excellent mother, and that it was a shame how deep a father's influence runs over his male children, be they blood kin or not.
Thinking of how much he looked like his father, she was able not to weep.
The great battle took away the girl's love, and soon she had much work on her hands. There were tears to be dried, questions to be answered, why she could not fight by his side, why she could not die with him, would her children also have only a mother and no father –
She slapped the girl.
She had never been the strong one, never the queenly one. Of her sister, who was their eldest brother's favorite, she heard no more tidings. When no survivors returned from the great battle, only refugees, she fenced and barred her kingdom, closing herself and her people within, and refused all those who sought to go do battle in open. The girl did not like the closed caverns; she grew silent and pale.
Many said it added to her beauty; many more sought her hand.
The girl wanted none of them. And she smiled seeing that, for the girl would also be queen one day, and it would not do for her to fall in such a trap. Not her daughter, never again.
But the girl did recognize her love when at last he returned, bent of back and gray of hair, and with him a mortal Man. At the girl's bidding and his father's name did she allow him to remain in her realm, though she feared him, his dark eyes, his beard and his sword. At the girl's bidding she let him sit in council, and at the girl's bidding she forbade him from going into war.
She thought that he mocked her as he bowed, saying the Lady's will was law, with his dark hair, and his dark eyes, and his sword.
And how he touched the gold of her daughter's head, her cheek, her neck…
But the girl was quicker.
How the girl learned of the circumstances of her conception, her birth, her mother never knew. Perhaps it was her father who hold her, it seemed like him, perhaps she herself told her when the girl was so very little, about the queen who was taken unwilling. Perhaps it was the girl's nature, something in her womanhood that made her know, feel and understand. But she had something of her father in her also, and her words too were as smooth as honey, telling her mother's people of the deeds of their queen with the Kinslayer.
And then they began building a bridge over the river.
Had it been within her strength, she would have put to death that mortal, that man, for whose sake her daughter gave up all – standing, heirloom, honor. But she was queen no longer, nay, he was king now, though none said it. They had a king anew.
And she had never been the strong one.
She died on a summer's eve, when the fair sunset made gold flash in her hair under her high helm, and hurt her blue eyes till she wept. She died holding her brother's sword, in last, terrible defense, spitting in her enemy's face with her dying breath, for naught but this shallow, bloody victory remained for her now. Her daughter's last moments she never saw, nor her son's, nor those of the father of her children. She died there upon the bridge, surrounded by her warriors, lost in the sea of battling men, one flower among the reaped killing field.
When in happier days she was asked what she would like to be sung about her, she had one, the most simple of answers, half in jest, half in the bitterness only her eyes dared speak of. To this the minstrels held, and they told the most simple of stories.
And so history remembered Orodreth as King of Nargothrond.