Author's note : Eldarion is Aragorn and Arwen's son. Yes, that's true. And, err, he's not king yet in this. I guess just gone on some exploration of lands yet undiscovered. I just borrowed Edrahil's name from the Silmarillion, he's not actually the same person. Actually, the real Edrahil's been dead for long. Same thing for Thengel.
Hey, I've jumped over millenaries, haven't I ? This is set some years after the beginning of the Fourth Age of the Sun. Unfortunately this author is not able to speak Doriathrin, and so wasn't able to translate the conversation.
Some historical questions in the footnotes.
Disclaimer : I own only Thengel and Edrahil, and then not even their names.
By Le Chat Noir
Chapter six : Neldoreth lives
The horse stamped, but Eldarion made it slow its pace down, though his own heart was as impatient as how he sensed the animal's was. The land stretched out in front of his eyes, untrodden on yet by human feet, or any kind of feet, he was sure. Neither mountains nor rivers for miles and miles, as far as he could see. Behind him came a small company of his men, exactly seven of them, all mounted. And at his left, rode his best friend, Edrahil, an elf of Ithilien.
The land was peculiar. Though their horses were tall and themselves no less, the thick dry grass danced under the wind's breath at more than shoulder height. The youngest of the guards, Thengel, had not completely reached his full height yet, and of him could only be seen the top of his head, and his eyes. For more than a week had they wandered in that type of vegetation, never changing, and all were quickly tiring of its monotony. But Eldarion made them go on, towards the East, for his heart told him that there was something to be found there. Maybe a new land that could prove useful, for his father's people was beginning to grow out of place. However, one could never be too careful, and if there weren't many Orcs left to torment the peoples, one never knew …
Suddenly Edrahil pulled his horse to a halt, motioning with his arm for the others to do the same, and seemed to listen intently to something the Men could not hear.
Some seconds passed, as they were all frozen, their eyes riveted to the elf's face, which showed signs of intense concentration. Then, as nothing seemed to happen, except that Eldarion was getting curious, the young prince attempted a question.
"What is the matter, my friend?"
But Edrahil's horse advanced a little further East ahead of them, slowly, and he moved his hand to his right ear, in order to hear better in the silence.
"Shhh … hear you not the music?"
Eldarion tried to listen closer, but despite his half-elven ancestry, he had not inherited his mother's hearing, and heard nothing but the wind moaning in loneliness.
"Ah, Edrahil, what a pity we do not have more of your fair race with us! But the ears of Men are not as sharp … "
His sentence died on his lips, for when he was about only halfway through it the horse his friend mounted had darted forwards like an arrow of fire, as if answering a call from a voice that was heard only by himself.
Without thinking, Eldarion rode after him, as fast as he could, after only a mere second, assuming his men would follow. But a mere second was enough for an elven horse of the bests there were, and soon he lost sight of his friend and followed him only by the track of battered grass he left.
Some minutes later, the land began to change. He could not tell in what, but the air was different. The yellow grass was still as tall and breakable, but the ground his horse's hooves hit began to moister and grow a little more humid and soft. After some times, some small blades of timid green grass began to show. However he did not have much time to notice it all, for eventually they came out of the field of dry wheat.
The sudden change of landscape nearly blinded him. There, on the edge, Edrahil's horse was waiting, quietly grazing. The grass was as green as could be, sown with shy blossoming heads of white niphredil. The guards, depending on their speed, arrived one by one and halted behind him, all as dumbfounded and bewildered by the richness of colours and fresh odours which suddenly assaulted them. Some ten meters farther, the land abruptly went down. Below, he could see the sunlight reflecting on clear water surface, sending thousands of piercing gleams to the eye. A river flowed in a valley that no other eyes had yet beheld. But it was not it which caught his sight first.
Edrahil stood at the edge of the ravine, near a big rock. On the rock, facing East, sat an elf.
At first Eldarion didn't believe his own eyes. From the beginning, he had thought, he had known that he was the first to have laid his gaze on these wild lands. And there, at weeks journey from any little village known to him, was that elf, sitting as comfortably as if he had been at home. It was one of the skinniest he had ever seen, too, but still conserving a bit of what in his kindred could be called grace or slenderness. Apart from the rough impossibility of his presence in those parts of eastern Middle-Earth, it looked like he was part of the landscape, as if if he would go missing the picture wouldn't have been complete, as if everything in him, his nonchalant pose, his archaic yet simple clothing, his long raven-hair took part in making him the forgotten character of a fairy tale in a fairy landscape, come right out of a book.
Edrahil talked softly to him, but seemed to have some problems in communicating. The other elf looked at him, his handsome profile outlined in shadows against the radiant light. He spoke too, softly, and his musical voice was pleasant to hear, but even Eldarion, who for a Man was versed in the knowledge of elven tongue, could not understand a word of what he said. Patently, neither could his friend. However the stranger -but who was actually the stranger in these parts? - kept absolutely calm, his voice stayed even, and always the same sentence came out of his mouth. Always the same suit of words in a language they knew not.
Finally, in desperation, Edrahil walked back to the Men.
"I'm sorry. I heard the music, you know, and it was just so beautiful I had to find out who could be playing it in these lands. I found him there, playing the flute. He must have heard me, though I made as silent as possible, ceased the song, and turned to me, and said something I couldn't understand. I guess it was a question, but of all the languages I know there is none which pattern can fit to that of his. Since then he's done nothing but repeating the same thing over and over again, and I still can't understand …"
Edrahil brought a hand to his forehead in confusion and helplessness, and all the other Men looked at the queer elf. He had resumed his earlier position, facing east, and did as if nothing had happened, playing with his flute, a simple wood carved instrument, in his hand.
After a while, Thengel, the youngest, stepped shyly forwards.
"I think", he said with his small voice, "I think he asked "What news from the War?" But I can be mistaken. It's all not very clear. It seems like a very ancient language."
All the heads turned to him in astonishment, and his face turned faintly red. All of a sudden, Eldarion burst into laughter.
"Ah, Thengel, I had almost forgotten you were my former tutor's son! A very wise man, was he, and you sound like you are a better student than I was."
This time the young guard was red to the tips of his ears.
"I can try to speak to him if my Lord wants it." He proposed.
"Very well. Try if you will."
Thengel strode quickly up to the dark-haired elf. Edrahil and the others laid down on the fresh grass, resting from their long trip, and looked on. The youth sat himself at the rock's foot, and began talking in the unknown language, with difficulty at first, then gaining more and more assurance. He kept his voice low and calm as if shooting a child. Eldarion wondered at the sound of it speaking the foreign words of another sort of beauty. He had never known Thengel's voice could be so clear and flute-like, speak so softly and yet be heard of all. From the other party, the answers came in the same way, in a silvery and quiet tone, almost casual, as if unaware of the absurdity of the situation.
They spoke long. At moments, one could have believed that they were two elves talking together, the fair child and the mysterious stranger. Though they never let their tone grow louder than needed to be heard by each other, as time went by more than often eagerness was all that could be detected in Thengel's voice. About half an hour later, Eldarion wondered if his youngest and cleverest guard had not forgotten them entirely. Looking at him, he looked just like a little boy waiting to listen to his favourite story, the evening by the fireplace. As for the elf, he was smiling in a delighted and yet painful way, speaking in that bewitching voice which made all listen and drink his words even if they understood him not, and they saw not time pass by.
After another long while, Thengel finally stood up and walked back to them. His eyes shone like those of one who has found something he had been looking for all his life without knowing it, a secret garden of ones own, the song of a lone bird in winter, or an old book full of legends and poems not one told of anymore. Swiftly, he sat himself down, and all could see the change that was on his face. It was as if all his childish shyness had been at last swept out of him, as if a new hope and joy had entered his heart, and when he spoke it was with the convincing tone of one who was convinced himself … convinced to the last particle of his soul.
"Do you know what that language was ? It was Doriathrin. It is very little known, for the Hidden Kingdom didn't nourish that much relations with their neighbours, and then they preferred using the more common Sindarin. But it has survived, somehow, even after the Submersion. That elf there, he is really something. Like an antique, you know, and yet I should be saying something that disrespectful. He must be millenaries old." And he made fiercely expressive gestures with his hands. "He says he is come from the shadows, but he speaks Doriathrin to the perfection and has all the knowledge of all the ancient lore that has been lost over the years. I know he speaks true. It is all written in my father's books."
The Heir to the Crown smiled wryly and pleasantly teased him.
"And of course Thengel, Knight of the City, finds nothing better to do than learn his father's books by heart."
The young man paid no heed, but Edrahil shook his head.
"It is impossible. You must know that Doriath fell at the end of the First Age, and that now it lays under the depths of the Ocean. It cannot be."
However Thengel only looked at him with a triumphant smile on his lips.
"Wait! You have not heard all! I've already mentioned he said he was 'come from the shadows'. Doesn't that ring a bell ?"
For an instant there was utter silence and everyone asked themselves if the youth had not gone mad. Then, suddenly, Edrahil startled with a harsh gesture, stood up, and firmly shook his head in disagreement.
"No. That's totally ridiculous. There's strictly no way that can be ! He would be, what, ten thousand years old ?"
"You have heard the music. You have heard his voice, too. Can a voice like that be the voice of lies ?"
Edrahil's lips remained half-parted, and he remained half-standing, for a second frozen in his movement. Then, with a sigh, he fell back sitting in the circle.
"But that doesn't make it anymore possible ! The fact still remains that Doriath had fallen even before the end of the First Age!"
Eldarion nodded in approval.
"He's right. Did you try telling him?"
Thengel looked even more miserable.
"I didn't, my Lord. I didn't have the heart to. You know, when you save a little child from the sack of a kingdom. In the confusion, do you scream at it that his parents are dead and that he is forever alone in the world ?"
But Eldarion was inexorable, for in his heart still dwelt the certitude that those lands had never been inhabited by any people, and the thought tortured his curious nature.
"You must try. We must know the truth of this story."
So Thengel, dragging his feet, went back to the rock again. He looked at the elf's face. It was fair, fair and horrible in the fact that at the deepest of the bright blue eyes laid something, a disturbing sense that could only have been wrought by years of tears flowing through them and the witnessing and feeling of many grieves and pain. And now, now he did not know that his native land had fallen and had been dead with its glory and splendour forgotten by many. And he was the bringer of ill news, while that character from ancient legends still waited, and had been waiting for Eru knew how long for news, news from the war against Morgoth. Drawing his breath sharply, he began.
"We are at the beginning of the Fourth Age of the Sun."
There seemed to be no reaction, except that the elf turned to face him. So he went on.
"The War of the Ring has just come to an end. But of course you would not know about the Rings." There was no change in his interlocutor's expression, and Thengel was beginning to feel his own face grow red and he started to blurt everything out, getting confused with his own thoughts. It looked like all his new-found fire had gone in his heart. His voice went back to what it was before, the tenuous, shy voice of a child.
"It's been more than six millenaries since Morgoth's been vanquished. The War was mountain-shattering. Literally. Beleriand's entirely been submerged by the Ocean. But Doriath had fallen before that. It was the dwarves' fault. And the Sons' of Fëanor." He felt like he was back in his father's house, under his parents' severe glare, reciting a lesson he hadn't learnt well.
"Menegroth's in ruins. It exists no more. It has been forgotten by most. Few of those who have seen its glory remain to tell of it. For a time there was Thingol's sword in Numenor, but then that was submerged too. And …"
And then he trailed off pathetically, finding nothing more to say. The strange elf still looked at him, and for a second, Thengel thought that he shouldn't have said all that, even if his Lord had ordered him too. But, an instant later, it was a gentle smile which came upon the elf's lips.
"And what of Neldoreth?" he asked softly.
Thengel almost blinked incredulously, but caught himself just in time.
"What of Neldoreth?" the elf repeated.
The young man stared at him. He didn't seem that much upset by the news that the entire world he had believed in for their first conversation was utterly shattered and lost. He hadn't even cringed. His complexion showed not the slightest sign of surprise, nor emotion.
"It is the same for Neldoreth. Of those who have once passed under its foliage there is left only one in Middle-Earth, and he dwells in sorrow in the fair Imladris. Neldoreth is dead on Arda, and dead in the memory of those who have once loved it."
The elf did not stop smiling, but it was a smile which wrenched Thengel's heart and made him want to fall to his knees and weep.
"Did you say that Neldoreth too is now dead for forgotten ?"
Thengel nodded shortly in grievous approval, and looked down. The thin blades of grass danced no more in the windless air. Farther, the others waited, still and holding their breath. But smoothly, a kindly hand came to rest on his head, and then three slender fingers moved to under his chin, making him look up into the still smiling pale face and light blue eyes.
"In that case, then Neldoreth lives."
And before Thengel had the time to wonder what the elf meant, a sweet melody rose into the air. The fingers left their place from under his chin and he fell to his knees into the grass, like a puppet left without strings. Intonations that sounded like words meshed themselves in the melody, but this time, as hard as he tried to, there was no telling what they meant. Mildly, pleasantly, it infiltrated his head, deafened his ears to all others sounds. He felt an irrepressible desire to laugh, but a certain uneasiness came with the sensation of utmost delight. The music was enchanting. Simple and innocent and yet full of richness and insinuating power. Slowly darkness veiled the land which only moments ago was bathed in sunlight. The song carried on, and it enveloped him in a shroud of oblivion. From the flowing river there rose a forest of tall and ancient oaks. Stars blinked their sleepy eyes in the sky, roused early from their sleep, and the moon smiled her crescent smile upon the waking world. The music weaved itself of her light and the wind rustled the translucent leaves.
And there, between the finely wrought trunks of the majestic trees, a silver shadow danced, gilding on the grass of eternal mead.
Author's note : I'm finished. My God I can't believe I'm finished with this story. But now, I've got some questions to ask.
Firstly, and no one answered me last time, does anyone know what the first battle before Dagor-nuin-Giliath called?
Secondly, when Galadriel left the Grey Havens at the end of the third Age, does Celeborn remain on Middle-Earth ? I remember reading something about him staying in Imladris in the annals, but I can't be really sure. So if someone tells me, I'd be glad.
Thirdly, I need a beta-reader. English's not my first language, and I apparently still have some major problems with grammar. So can someone with a good knowledge of both English and Middle-Earth history (to answer some of the questions I sometimes have) contact me if they can do that for me, please? Thanks a lot.
Probably, next story up will be called "A candle in daylight", about the friendship between Maedhros and Fingon. But I really don't know. Just too much plot-bunnies running around in my head, you know ?
And don't forget to review. I got none for last chapter; it's depressing.