Author's Note: This is meant as a companion piece to "Redemption," in which the third meeting is mentioned, but it can also stand on its own. Inspired by The Bookbinder's Daughter. Reviews will be fed to my starving, orphaned Elwing-muse.
Disclaimer: Tolkien owns the characters. The interspersed poem is "My Spirit's Complement" by Henrietta Cordelia Ray.
On Some Fair Isle
Our first meeting is unexpected, and strange, and sweet.
I sit alone, apart from my playmates, dreaming in the glade. I am still young, and the world still holds much magic. I wonder at the way the trees dance with the wind, bending, swaying, to and fro. He comes up behind me, and I wonder that I do not hear his footsteps approach. I am, after all, very young.
He sits beside me. I do not know him. I look away and am shy. He shows me how the wind makes the grass sing. He laughs. The sound is one with the music of the wind and I am shy no longer. I show him the place under the spring where the little frogs laugh at the moon. He tells me how the moon draws the sea.
I ask his name. I have none, he says; I am the wind. I laugh. No, I say; the wind dances with the trees and here you are with me. Then I am the sea, he says. His eyes are bright. My name is Wandering, he says.
He asks mine. I have none, I say, coy. He smiles. How does your mother call you home? he says. I have none, I say.
We are alike, he says; for I have no father.
His eyes are sad. I take his hand. We are still for a very long time.
Presently he smiles again, and tells me of the land where he was born. He tells me of the marvelous trees, and the sea, and of his brothers. He has five. I wish I had a brother, just one, I say. I wish I had a sister, he says. I wish my mother had a daughter. I wish I had a mother, I say.
Wishes never come true, he says. His eyes are far away.
We part at dusk. I run home to my father. That night I watch the stars dance with the wind. When I sleep, I dream of a land with marvelous trees that touch the sky and the sea, and a mother with open arms to catch me. I dream and smile.
Thy life hath touched the edges of my life,
All glistening and moist with sunlit dew.
They touched, they paused- then drifted wide apart,
Each gleaming with a rare prismatic hue.
Years pass. I become a woman. My thoughts are drawn to the earth now, not the wind. I feel the warmth of the sun soaking into the rich soil. I feel the rhythms of the plants, their growth and flowering. I know the call of the Earth-mother to each female being. I am wise.
I never forget him. The child I was is shadow in my mind, but our meeting is a bright day, clearer than water. When I return to the glade, then, to find him there, I fall back. Once again I am shy. Once again I am young.
He turns and smiles. Look, he says, the wind is dancing with the trees. I look. And listen, he says, listen to the grass sing! I listen. I remember.
It has been a long time, I say, clumsy with words, and surprised for it. Yes, he says; a very long time. A long time I have been wandering.
Wandering, I say, and find my courage; which is not your name, I think.
He laughs, that musical sound. My name is forbidden here, he says; I cannot speak it.
How shall I call you, then, I ask. You forget, he says: I am the sea. I need no name.
The moon has a name, I say, and so must the sea.
His eyes are bright. Come closer, then, he says, and I shall whisper it into your ear, forbidden or no. I come. My soul leaps from my body for his nearness. I feel the deep thrumming of the earth beneath me, feel the taut harpstrings within me thrum in response.
He is tall. He must bend to reach my ear. My mother called me Karnistir, he whispers. The word is magic. The language is alien, akin to our own and different, too. I want to hear him speak it again. And your brothers, I say, breathless, how are they called?
He smiles. He whispers to me their names, one by one. Five he names, and pauses. And the lost one, he says, the lost one we do not name. His eyes are echoes of long-ago fire.
Presently he says, I have told you my name, but I do not know yours.
I have none, I say, coy. He laughs. Then I must name you, he says. His eyes are darkling. Nimloth, he says. It is the wind dancing with a silver tree. Say it in the tongue of your home, I ask. I want to be called magic in his voice.
He is still a moment, and thinks. Ninquëlót, he breathes. You are Ninquëlót. His lips barely brush my ear. I tremble. He takes my hand. I blush. He smiles. I pull away.
I must go, I say, clumsy again. No, stay, he says; your husband shall not miss you until dusk. His eyes are deeper than the sea. I stay.
He speaks of his mother, waiting still in his home for her sons to return. I speak of my mother, waiting for me in the Halls of Night. He speaks of his father, killed long ago. I am silent.
We speak of other things: inconsequential. I make him laugh and wonder that I can. He calls me Ninquëlót. I call him Karnistir. The heady richness of the warm earth makes me reckless. I tell him of my husband. He turns away from me. I touch his shoulder. I am bold.
Years ago, I say, you came to me here. I had not forgotten, he says. His eyes are veiled. But you left, I say, and you never came back. I did come back, he says. Too long you stayed away, I say, and you return too late.
I would have come back, he says, I would have. His eyes are bright. My decision had been different, I say, if you had come but a year earlier. Yes, he says.
Wishes never come true, I say. I leave him then. Dusk is falling.
'Twas but a touch! the edges of a life
Alone encolored with the rose, yet lo!
Each fibre started into strange unrest,
And then was stilled, lulled to a rhythmic flow.
Years pass. I try to forget.
Today I wake to darkness. I go to my husband. They are coming, I tell him, coming to take the jewel. Give them the jewel, I ask. No, he says. He will not.
Then send the children away, I beg. They shall not suffer for their father's pride. He strikes me. I fall.
I go to my daughter. She is named for him, for the sea and the dancing stars, though her father knows it not. Take the jewel, I tell her, take it when they come. Bear it far away. Bear it to the sea. He will know to look for you there. She is frightened. Yes, she says, I shall, mother; but she does not understand.
They come tonight. I sit silent with my husband, waiting. I know they are coming, and from the knowledge my husband takes arrogance. No force can pass our borders, he says. He is wrong.
I hide the little ones away, my sons. They cry out, frightened of dark and demons. Hush, I tell them, you must sit quiet now. Make no sound. They are brave. They shall not see me again. I weep.
They are upon us now. The noise of battle echoes in the darkness of the thousand caves. My sword cuts air and flesh.
The invaders are everywhere, slipping through shadow. Near us a torch flares. My husband cries out. He falls.
A blood-drenched sword is drawn from his body. I turn. I take my husband's murderer from behind. He falls without a sound.
A hoarse cry behind me, and a sharp pain that quickly fades to nothing. My murderer embraces the murderer of my husband. Karnistir, he cries. Numb, disbelieving, I fall.
In death his eyes are deep as the sea, and no more. It is right that we should fall together. Yes, I think, it is right. Together we shall take the last straight road. Together we shall dance as the wind in the stars.
Perchance our spirits clasp on some fair isle,
Bright with the sheen of reveries divine;
Or list'ning to such strains as chant the stars,
In purest harmony their tendrils twine.