Song of the Waters
A shout that did not make it past the tightness in his throat sent him bolting upwards, to stare into the darkness. The only sounds were the too-rapid ragged breaths, his, and the rain, drumming on the roof.
Ecthelion closed his eyes, and passed a hand over his face. The dream again. Of fire, and smoke, destruction...and water. For years he'd had this dream, but it was beginning to last longer, the details far more intricate.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he stood and padded to the table. Pouring water from a pitcher to a basin, he bent and splashed his face and neck, washing away the sweat. The images lingered. They would haunt him as they had for weeks.
Sightless eyes staring up, throats slit, abdomens ripped open by balrogs and orcs. Corpses blackened by fire. Screams of women and children, of comrades and friends.
Silenced, in the end, by the steady sound of water.
Grabbing his leggings, Ecthelion pulled them on, shoved his feet in boots and yanked a tunic over his head before opening the door and running lightly down the stairs. He should have known better. Shouldn't have been stubborn and told them he would be fine. Salgant had sang that blasted song, had he known what night it was? Probably not. That long ago had been a night of a death, not a feast and they all knew Salgant remembered what he wanted.
And what was profitable to him.
Outside, in the courtyard, the song of the fountains met Ecthelion, and he slowed, lulled as always by the murmur of the water. The rain had stopped, leaving the air fresh with the scent of growing things. Did the others in this city realise he used the fountains to drown out the sounds of the city? A courtyard of dancing waters, beautiful to be sure, but practical as well. It was preferable to him, and to the people of his House, to hear the splashing play of water rather than voices, even those of elves, raised in business about the city. It was also always a bit cooler here, even when the rest of the city was hot.
A patch of darkness moved, came forward, and Ecthelion nodded a greeting. "Maeglin. It's unusual to see you in the courtyard."
"I am welcome, am I not?" That sharp glance settled on Ecthelion and Maeglin shrugged. "It was warm today. This is a quiet, cool place to rest.
Reminding Ecthelion that though Maeglin's mother was Noldor, his father had been of those who heard the sea call. He wondered if the waters called to Maeglin, louder even than the metals he forged into things bright, beautiful and sharp.
Wearied in spirit, Ecthelion bowed his head, turning to look at the water rather than the elf who was the city's prince. "All are welcome here, milord."
"Ah yes...always fair, Ecthelion." Maeglin's dark eyes glittered in the torch-light, a faint smile curling his lips upward. "Even to the human. How can you abide the thought that he has wed our princess?"
Jaw tightening, he sat on the fountain's edge, dipping his fingers into the cool water and let it cool his reply. "That Idril is happy, and Eärendil proof of that, is enough for me. Tuor has done much for the city, my lord. He no longer urges us to leave and has quieted some of the bickering that seems to permeate the very stone of this city."
A grunt and Maeglin crossed his arms, walking around the fountain slowly. His footsteps were a counter rhythm to the falling drops of water, and Ecthelion tracked him without looking up, listening to the boot heels on the stone. "The people," Maeglin said softly, so near he was almost touching Ecthelion, "weary of being trapped in the city and long to see the wonders beyond her walls."
A shake of his head and loose hair fell in a cascade that echoed that of the falls, ends trailing in the fountain. "We cannot leave. They know this is not debatable."
"It does not stop them from wishing it was not so." Walking around to Ecthelion's other side, Maeglin stopped where he had started and turned to face the fountain lord. "Even my uncle cannot stop them from longing to go beyond the Echoriath. To once again see the sea, and the forests that were home." Arching one dark eyebrow, he tilted his head. "Do you not long for the sea, Ecthelion? Does the water not call to you?"
Call? It roared, crashed and thundered in his dreams, waves and the dappled depths seen when one dived down beneath the surface. Always he had heard the sea, but upon Tuor's arrival it had become so strong he awoke at times, senses full of the scent of seaweed and the tang of the water. He'd expected to find sand in his bedding it was so real.
Shaking the water from his fingers, Ecthelion stood and turned. "Always, Maeglin, always. You have the blood of the sea folk as well. Does it never call to you?"
A shake of his head, and Maeglin took the place where Ecthelion had been sitting. "The rocks sing for me." He gestured to the mountains surrounding the city. "They sing as I imagine your fountains must to you."
It was rare to see this side of Maeglin. Not the proud prince of the city with seven names, not the smith showing the others secrets only he seemed to know in working wonders with metal. This was not the youth struggling to be seen by his uncle as a worthy heir and not just his restless sister's son. Ecthelion smiled and bowed his head slightly. "Then I think you more fortunate, for you can visit the place you love whereas I must do with what my hands can create."
"He should let you go if it sings so loudly to you." Maeglin raised his chin. "We are not birds to be kept in this gilded cage."
Bowing his head, Ecthelion did not answer. He had made his decision long before the ice, long before leaving Vinyamar. Where was there to go where the curse could not find him? Voice low, he looked up and met the dark gaze. "The King made his decision, my prince. If we are loyal we too must bide by it and do all we can to ease our people's worries."
"But not blindly, Lord of the Fountain. Did not even that human warn my uncle, warn us all, to leave?"
Shaking his head, Maeglin would never forgive Tuor for taking the one he saw as his from him, Ecthelion spread his arms. "And that debate will keep us, both in councils and in market places, busy until the city falls to rubble around us."
Maeglin frowned, though he looked more troubled than angry. "Let us hope you are wrong."
"It is my dearest hope." Softly said, Ecthelion bowed. "Enjoy the fountains, my prince. My feet are restless this night and long to wander."
And with a nod from Maeglin he left the courtyard, walking swiftly out into the streets, letting his feet take whatever path they might.
Of course the people wanted to be free. Turgon wanted them safe, wanted the city kept secret. Their beautiful city of seven names had become their prison. And don't we deserve this for rebelling in the first place? Ecthelion headed up the street, for the southern walls of the city where the winds swept in from the plains far below. Doomed, Námo said. When had the Valar ever pronounced such a fate upon a people?
Snorting for his gloomy mood, Ecthelion climbed up on the wall and lifted his head to the breeze. It caught at clothing and hair, spinning his hair into a black banner. A sound caught his ear and he turned, a smile curling his lips.
Hope. Yes, there was yet hope. The babe's cry rose in a wail to rival the wind, and Ecthelion followed, knowing already what he would see.
Tuor stood in the furthest point of the courtyard behind his house, bouncing a restless baby in his arms, shushing it in vain hopes of soothing the child. "Eärendil, shhhh... Let your naneth sleep a bit, my son." He brought the boy to his shoulder where he clung and wailed even louder into Tuor's shoulder.
"Your son has singer's lungs, my friend." Dropping soundlessly into the courtyard, Ecthelion smiled for the sight of his friend; it was not often that one saw Tuor looking so harried. "What ails him so?"
"Teeth." Tuor grimaced as he shifted Eärendil, a long line of drool following from the child's mouth to his shoulder which was soaked. "Another tooth is coming in and the pain seems to ease only with Idril, but she finally went to get some rest and so I brought him out here hoping he'd calm down but --"
"Tuor," Ecthelion laughed, reaching out to grip the man's shoulder, and wrinkled his nose as he felt the soggy cloth. "Shall I see if a song soothes the babe?" And indeed Eärendil did look as miserable as his father, cheeks flushed scarlet, eyes clouded in pain. The golden curls were damp with sweat, and Ecthelion was not sure who was in worse shape; father or son. "May I?"
Pride be damned; Tuor handed his son over without a word. Elves had a definite advantage in soothing his child. For all Eärendil loved him and reached out to him to be held, there were times Tuor wished for but a small measure of the magic of his wife and friends.
"Eärendil," Ecthelion soothed, cradling the child to his chest. "Those teeth are fearsome things coming in, are they not?" One finger stroked gently across the fevered cheeks, and Ecthelion sang as he walked up and down the courtyard. At first he sang too quietly to be heard over the baby's wails, but eventually Eärendil began to calm and the soft song could be heard.
Tuor shook his head, somewhat disgruntled. He'd been out here almost a candlemark, trying to calm his son and Ecthelion, who did not even have children, made it look so easy! The song filled his ears and soothed his abraded senses and the man sat to listen. Sleep had become a precious, rare commodity since the birth of his son. Even with a nurse to help, he and Idril preferred to tend to their child. He was growing so fast; far faster than a child of pure elven blood would. Their time with him was precious, even when it was exhausting.
Song quieting as Eärendil quieted, Ecthelion did what he could to ease the babe's discomfort, wrapping the song around him as one might a soft blanket and lulling him to sleep. It was easier to do with an infant for their needs were simpler. Easing the pain and soothing the feä though was harder for Tuor to do and Ecthelion truly ached for his friend's frustration. Tuor was as Elven as any Man would ever be, yet he was still a mortal Man.
Smiling as the babe's eyes fell half-closed, glazed in sleep, Ecthelion gazed in wonder at the beautiful boy. This was their hope. The hope Huor had spoken of all those years ago. This child, with the mingled blood of Man and Elf, would somehow bring them all out of the darkness in which they had mired themselves.
A huge task for such a small boy.
Bending to kiss the babe's brow, Ecthelion walked over to Tuor, and bent to place his son back in his arms. "You are blessed, Tuor. Don't fret over difficulties like this." Sitting across from the man, the elf smiled. "It makes me feel useful."
"To soothe my son?" Tuor smiled and shook his head. Sometimes he despaired of ever fully understanding the beings he lived with.
Nodding slowly, Ecthelion met the man's gaze. "Our people chafe and grumble at being held here, in the city, and each day the darkness outside these walls grows." Looking at the child, he again felt a sense of hope. "For all that Eärendil means to you and to Idril, he is beloved to many of us as well." A wry smile and Ecthelion added, "You have given us joy and hope with him, my friend."
Touched by the sincere words, Tuor let them sink into his heart and nodded. Still his friend seemed too melancholy of late and needed to smile. A tease was most definitely in order. "The next time the nurse is not available and Idril and I are at our wits end..." He offered a sly smile. "We will bring him to you, Ecthelion."
"Ah." Eyebrows arching upwards, Ecthelion laughed. "Both of you, and your son, will always be welcome, my lord." Standing, the elf offered a low bow and smiled. "For now I suggest you seek your bed whilst the child is asleep, for we all know that does not last long."
"Indeed." Rising carefully to his feet to keep from jostling his son, Tuor nodded. "Thank you for the song."
"Any time, my friend." Turning, Ecthelion leaped lightly back up atop the wall, to walk back towards his own House, softly singing. His heart was lighter than before, the feeling of foreboding not gone entire, but not weighing so heavily upon his heart.
The courtyard of fountains was empty when he returned, an unusual occurrence, for nearly always someone was about. Wandering from fountain to fountain, Ecthelion finally settled at one in a far corner, his back against the wall as he gazed at the stars.
In the waters dancing, in the play of the splashes he heard the ocean, and Ulmo's song. Varda's stars lit the night sky, and Ithil sailed over, brilliant and silver. Perhaps they were not as forsaken as it sometimes seemed. Ecthelion let his mind slip onto the dream paths, soothed and comforted by the music of the fountains.
A/N: Inspired by the song Lullaby of the Leaves and the Silmarillion. Not beta'd (I know...ugh), so all mistakes are most definitely mine. I'd love to know what you think, good or bad. Thanks for reading and peace.
Levade Feb. 5, 2006