Disclaimers: Middle-earth and its inhabitants belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate. I intend no infringement of copyright and am making no money from this.
Summary:Elu Thingol reflects on his wife.
Thanks to Nemis for betaing this, and to Lalaith for her wonderful, inspiring Melian.
He knows. He knows that in the long, slow watches of the night, when the Thousand Caves grow silent and still, and blood runs but slowly through Elven veins, then she walks among the great, carven pillars of his dwelling place, among the shadowed halls and the darkened chambers, the guttering candlelight dappling her fair face. He knows she sees not the works of her own hand, nor the beauty revealed within the stone by the gnarled hands of the Naugrim, nor hears the soft bird-calls in the dimness. He knows she goes ever onwards, her gown whispering with her movements, through passageways and stairwells lying in puddles of gloom, until she reaches the great front gate of Menegroth, and the newfound moonlight banishes the fickle, fluttering candlelight.
He cannot but know.
Unseen himself in the shadows, he watches her slender hands, which but an hour before had been warm on his skin, weaving in the folds of her sleeves, blue with an unnatural cold. He had never thought this spirit of the strain divine who had so captivated him in the woods of Nan Elmoth that he would abandon all the fate that lay before him for one word from her, could so be very afraid.
But he cannot doubt it, for he feels her fear within himself. He hears her voice whispering in his mind, but there are no words in any language he can discern, merely a voiced melody of great and terrible power, raised in supplication, in desperation, in fearful pity strong enough to rip the bones from the mountains and scorch the air from the hills.
And when he tries to reach out to touch, to discern, to understand, for he knows that what she is, is held within that melody, and desires to know her all, his fëa recoils in mute dread, his heart still as stone in his chest, yet his blood thundering in his ears like the ruin of the walls of the world. All his thought runs to nothing, and all his hope is falls to dust in that moment, as the chill fingers of death clutch at him like snarled bramble cables.
When he looks down at his hands he sees blood trickling in rivulets between his fingers, where his nails have bitten scarlet crescents into the flesh of his palms, such is the absolute quality of his despair.
He can never touch her entirely. No matter how many shadowed nights she shares his bed and lies within the feeble shelter of his arms, it will never be his to know her as she knows him, for if that were to be, it would as surely be his ending, burnt to nothing more than a shell of dust and ash, as the raging forest fire is the ending of the oak, rising high above the lesser trees in might and majesty.
Aye, mighty he is yet, in limbs and in mind, a king graced with power by the passing of the years. And yet… and yet, although he might guard the thought away behind the walls and gates of deep-seated pride and highborn arrogance, he knows that he is nothing beside her, that his spirit is no match for hers.
She lies not within his compass.
He knows he cannot save her from her own fears. They enfold the world, the furthest passages of the spirit and the lowliest caverns of the earth. And when she smiles unto the night with that particular tender grace, it is not for him she smiles, nor for him her heart fills with a compassion he can taste as the copper of fresh-spilt blood.
He knows a terrible jealousy for this, much though he tries to cage it.
And he wonders that she who had danced so fleet-footed among the stars and the notes of the Music and the wending of worlds should bind herself to such a frail thing as him, to his pride and his sorrows. And he knows the only answer is the only one he could never question.
She smiles at him, hidden in the shadows of the gate, and extends a hand to him, her face alive with joy. He takes it, and leads her back to their chambers, his heart filled with wonder and dread.