I hear the song of the wind in my bones, night after noon, dusk after dawn. The sharp sickle of the eagle's cry shivers through my flowing hair. Flowers adorn me, blossom and fragrance — crystal enlaces me, clear, light-flashing. The valley, sun-warm, moon-cool, hums like the sweet honey-hive all around me; I lie in the midst of her fruitful embrace. But most of all things the mountains I long for, cloud-veiled their tallness and wisdom and age, bone of my bone whence I came at my birth. To such I aspire, silken at crown, sturdy at root: I shall not be swayed where I stand. Name me then if you can!
—I am the Stone-song, the Rock of the Waters, Lily of the Vale, the
Hidden One. I hold the hearts of my people in mine: I shelter and nourish,
body and spirit, with garden and fountain, spacious, serene; with wide-garnered
gain outspread in my squares, arches and architraves encircling, gracious;
shining my pavements below, my banners and spires above. I am a wall and
my breasts watchtowers — my necklace the shield-row, spears my adornment!
I am the one they call celebrindal, the King's mad daughter, 'shod
in silver,' she-who-remembers-that-which-was-not, Elenwë's child,
Idril by name — by nature, I know not what . . .
Ringa — The Coldness
"Where are the stars, Amil?"
The darkness is all around us and in us and we are drowned in its cold, and there are no stars. "Amil, where are the stars?" I ask again, and again my mother, weeping, tells me they are asleep and will waken later to greet me. But the stars do not sleep — I know because the Lady told me, when I asked her if they would ever close like the flowers of Telperion, or fall like the flowers of the mallorn trees, she said, No, they would shine always over Arda. "Where is Lindorië?" I ask, again also, and Elenwë shakes her head and says that my friend has gone home because she was too tired.
"I want to go home then," I tell her, but she only weeps, the tears freezing on her lashes, and does not answer me. "I am tired, Amil!" She stumbles, and my aunt catches us, and does not let go.
"Let me take the child, my sister," she says, but she sounds like Mother speaking to me, not one elder to another. They both hold me, and Elonwe grips me tighter, squeezing me under the fur that is around us both, and I start to cry, but I stop because I do not like the way the ice feels on my skin. Then she lets me go and 'Feiniel slides me under her cloaks, pulling them over my head even though I do not like that.
"'Feiniel, my feet hurt," I tell her, and she says, "Good," and I am angry, and tell her that she is cruel; but she explains that means I am not frozen, and as long as there is hurt there is life, and that is good. "We should have horses," I tell her, and she sighs. "Where is your horse?" I ask her, because 'Feiniel always rides — my father says she would ride in the house if there were not stairs — and she tells me again that he is with her friends who are taking care of him for her.
"On the ships?" I ask, and she says yes. "Did he burn? Did Fanya burn with the ships?"
"No, Idril," she says, and she sounds a little angry. "Don't speak any more, child. It wearies." But she does not say whom it wearies, and I would ask her how speaking could make us tired, and if we do not speak, then who are we — for are we not the Speakers? But there is a sound as of thunder beneath our feet, or like a great door striking suddenly closed, and 'Feiniel stops, and I feel her heart shake of a sudden, and I am frightened too much to speak. I do not want that knocking thing to hear us and come up under us. Not even if it would take me home to Tirion, like Lindorië.
We stop again, even though it is still dark, and we make our camps on the cold white ground. My aunt and our friend Telemnar open the burdens that they carry and begin to put down. I would have been scolded for taking fine gold platters and setting them underfoot at home, but they must do it every time we stop. On them they set a lamp, each one on a gold or silver plate, and the lights shine like stars, blue-white or blue-gold, each one reflected many times in each plate like the stars in rain-pools. All around they go, so that we have stars around us. I sit beside one, looking down, trying to see if I can see Menelvagor watching over us in the deeps, as I used to in the fish-pond at home. But I only see myself, a golden shadow with shadows for eyes. Perhaps that is my fëa: I wave to her, and she waves back to me.
The one they call Tarinya now comes to us, with her shining spear in her hand, snow-bear furs hanging down almost to her heels. Now they do not sound so mocking when they say 'my Queen' to her, though they still sound angry. I do not understand why my elders are so angry with each other. They tell us not to fight with each other, and then they fight themselves. But there are no other children left for me to fight with, or play with now. They have all gone home, but no one will take me home!
"Set those farther apart so that the line will reach to the camp on either side," she says, without ever a please. But my elders are not much polite to each other these days, and they never sing now. The cold air hurts too much to breathe, I think.
"You wanted us to leave them behind," 'Feiniel says, and she sounds smug, like me when Amil tells me to do something that I have already done.
"Indeed you were right, and I have said as much before now," she tells her. But after she has gone to the next camp Finrod's sister mutters, "But do not ask me to believe that you Saw this!" I do not think she noticed me there, for when she sees me looking at my reflection in the metal she chases me into the center of the nest that Amil and Tata are making. I want to help her fasten the ice-spears into the snow about us, but I am too small, and I cannot move my fingers in these mittens that are on my hands, even though my hair itches and my skin itches under all the clothes that I must wear, and it is hard to walk in these heavy boots that are Tata's, with my legs all wrapped in scarves and scarves and scarves so they do not fall off! But my feet would freeze in my sandals and fall right off like a boot, or a broken ice-spear. So says our friend Meleth, and I do not want that to happen to my feet.
I do not want to go into the nest: it is too hot, and I cannot breathe, and if the stars come back how will we see them under a roof of furs? And the ground knocks under us like someone hammering out steel, and screams like seagulls, and things that have no names, and it is worse when you cannot walk away from it. I do not sleep, although I close my eyes so that Tata does not worry. I close my eyes and think of fire, burning merrily in the house-heart, so that I will be warm-bright, not dark-hot.
When I am grown I will be the Lady Galadriel. Or perhaps I will be Ar-Feiniel. I will hunt snowbears and ice-snakes and chase the darkness away like Oromë on a great white horse of my own, and I will lead everyone to a place where there is water and light instead of cold and hard —
"—Where are the stars?" I ask, and Meleth gives a little sob and turns away, even though she holds my hand. But how can we be ourselves, if there are no stars? and I have been in the darkness so long!
But our friend Glorfindel tells me that they are still waiting for us, and soon we shall see them again. He does not get tired of answering me, even though we have been walking for such a long time. I believe him, because he always answers me, and the answers are always true. I wish I could take my shoes off, but the ground is hard and cold underfoot and not soft like the sands of Nevrast or smooth like the pavements of Vinyamar. I do not know why we must leave our home and travel so far and then go into a hole; but I suppose it is something terrible again.
* * *
"Look, Idril," he says, hoping so much I will be pleased, "Look what I have made for you!"
It is not Tirion, it is not my truehome, it is not Valinor — but it is most very fair, and my father has builded it all these long years for me, and he has given to me as gift this city, this little Tirion riding like a ship in a sea of green grass that wavers with the wind and sighs with silver crests against the shores of the rock, and I love him beyond all words that I have to give.
"I will take good care of it, Tata, I promise," and he smiles even though he is crying. I wonder if he is crying for Amil, or because I am mad, or because it is so fair, like a lily in a pool, or a fountain that is made all of stone.
As we walk through the little sea I hear it singing to me like the ripples on my beach where I played with the white gulls in the foam, and I sing back to it, and it answers me. In the tall surf Meleth cannot see my feet. It is silly to be wearing shoes in the water. I slip them off, one foot now, one foot after, and I feel the life swirling around my ankles and tingling beneath my soles, little creatures burrowing down into shelter, and springing over my toes. It stings like salt a little about my legs, and I dance a little, but not so much that anyone will see that I have lost my shoes again.
"Idril! Where are your shoes?"
"In the sea," I tell her.
"Oh you foolish child," she sighs, "there they are, on the chest by your wardrobe. Now come down from that window before an eagle snatches you and carries you off to his nest!"
"Oh! but I wish that he would," I tell her, and I scream like an eagle into the sky, Thorondor! Thorondor! hoping he will hear me, for he took the sons of Hador across the mountains, and across the mountains is Vinyamar by the sea, and across the Sea is Tirion where I was born, and I want to go home again. But then I remember what he told me when he flew away with them, that my home is wherever I am, and I must keep it safe with all my strength, for that is how it is with eagles: their homes are only a pile of sticks on a shelf of stone, and they can make new ones wherever they please.
"You know it is time to welcome the Sun! Why are you not ready to go to the walls? What will she think of you, a barefoot wildling? Let me comb your hair, Idril."
"I could go to the walls over the roofs and be there first of anyone," I remind her, but she only shakes her head and hastens me to my tiring-stand. I do not argue; I do not like having my hair pulled when she braids it. I would cut it off again, but that would make her angry. I can braid it myself, but she thinks it is too ill-done.
Someday I will watch the dawn from the mountains, and see her come sailing
up again first of all who watch, and call to her like the thorni, as
we called when we first saw her light come over us, on the shores of Arda,
and the world woke to life, and I woke from the long sleep of the ice —
Únyárima - A Tale Beyond Telling
I stand on a high pinnacle of the City, looking out over the woven ways, the arches and angles, braiding over and under through each other in lines and arcs like color in the heart of a crystal, where the clear air is solid and the visible lines a mere image, like smoke on the wind. The weight of the tower above me anchors me in place, as I hold it steady from below. To either side of me my companions stand, perfect in their stillness and unyielding in their strength, where I grow weary of this task. They look only West, being uninterested in the walls and walks below, or the cloudswept peaks to all sides, and their blind eyes never blink, their smiles never downturn into frown or word.
I have not their patience: I look here and there, though I stand as still as they, my arms uplifted to clasp the pediment behind my head. Away on the side of the mountain a woman climbs a rocky path; she is wearing mail and holds a sword, and I think at first she is 'Feiniel, but her hair is golden in the wind. Perhaps she is the Lady Galadriel, but it is too far for me to see. Snow falls from the sky, soft and light like petals of lairelossë, nothing like the needlepoints of the Ice in the dark wind. Snow becomes rain, and rain becomes petals, swept on the changing breeze; I do not want it to become rain again yet, and I look away.
The sculptor taps a small piece from the stone, teasing it out to leave the shadow of a leaf. I grow tired of waiting. He does not see it yet, frowning, tracing a wrong curve with his finger and then with his clay. Before he strikes it with the punch he hesitates again, and brushes away the ochre line, and frowns again and sketches veins and vines in the wrong place again. He has been at this almost since firstlight and I am impatient. It will be so much easier to climb up here when the ivy is finished, if he will only do it properly.
He has done it already, down on the earth, but it is not right when he sets it in place yesterday, and yestere'en he takes a new block and lays it in unworked. I thought to find it here at dawn when I climbed up here, but it was not done: only a soft tracing, and a drawn branch will not hold a foot. So I came up as I shall not tomorrow, I think, by the notches where stone meets stone, the borders set with roundels like beads on a string. I thought to wait for him to finish, so that I can climb down by it, at least, but he rubbed out the first sketch, and the second, and only half of one leaf is cut yet.
"You know how it must go — why do you tarry?" I demand at last, when the shadow fades out under the rising sun and the sculptor does not move, and I begin to grow hungry. He is startled and looks up from the scaffold, and the point would drop down to earth like a thunderbolt were it not leashed to his wrist. Even though he is looking at me plain he does not seem to see me here at first.
"Idril?" He sounds surprised, as though he does not know I have been here all these hours. "What are you doing here, aranel?"
"I am trying to see West, as the Watchers do," I answer. He does not move, not even to reclaim his fallen chisel, scarcely to breathe, and he seems afraid, and that is most strange, for not even Orcs frighten my lord Glorfindel, not even their wolves, and I have only seen him once in fear, once of all my life, and that was not for the Ice or the Beasts or the Darkness but in the hour that I ran away to find Amil and would not come back until Arien summoned me.
I slide down from the pediment, leaving my stone-sisters to keep holding the pinnacle aloft, since they do not need me, and sit beside him on the lashed frame. It sings in the breeze and I am a bird in a bough, but I become Idril at once again because people worry when I change, and wave their hands before me, or shake me, which I do not much like. I take the stone-point and set it in his fingers as a hint to begin working, but he does not understand me.
"And can you indeed see so far?" he asks me. There is a vein of crystal in the stone of the tower before us: I follow it with my toe as far as I can, and crane over the scaffold to see if it continues below us. Ah — there it is, in a different block: it becomes fire in the sunlight, and then a thread of white fire in a sea of red-hot, for an instant, but now it is cold again.
"Not now. It is too early, I think. When the Sun reaches almost to the beyond-sea, then I can see it in her light. —Why do you hold your breath so? Hurry: I want to climb on them today."
"Are you a squirrel, child, to care nothing for up nor down?"
"No, I am a fish on a reef, and the sky is like the sea. Hear how it sings! Why have you taken away your shaping, and taken away too your shadow-shape? It is beautiful, and the leaves very round and light. And yet still you do not shape it forth!"
He stops from asking me if I do not fear to fall, because he is not blind, and instead answers me.
"I fear it is not right, and the loops will look amiss, like specks of dirt, from below."
"But that is how you will have done it," I say. "When the snow is on it, the tops are white, but it is still good for climbing because the hollows are dry and the vines are open to the hand." I take the clay from the scaffold-boards and put the lines back as they were, as I see them, as they will be, darkening between where the undercuts go. His breath hisses as he watches what I am finishing.
"That is how I had thought to shape it at first, but how should you know that?"
"I saw it, before you swept it off again," I answer.
"But were you here even then? Or have you truly the apacen?"
"Yes," I say, pleased that he understands; but he only frowns a little. I catch a glimpse of one of the sky-fish and wrap a bit of cloud around it so that Glorfindel can see it too; it does not mind, they never notice. I send my fish to nip at the stone, impatiently, and he laughs a little, and fans it aside so that he can take up the stick of ochre and redraw, firmly, over the lines I have redrawn already. Then he pauses, taking point and weight in hands and hefting them, and begins to work anew, swiftly now, clearing away all the stone-dirt that covers up the vines-to-come.
It is wondrous to see, but I am here long already, and I open his pack to find bread and fruit within, and a flask of pure water.
"Will you be eating this, my friend?" I ask for courtesy, though I already know the answer, and I hear the smile in his voice as he replies, "Not all, aranel."
When my hunger and thirst are abated I watch until the closeness between what is and what-is-to-come starts to confuse me, and I must roam about the sky-edge once more. In time he leaves off stopping each time I go from his sight, and the carving goes much faster.
"Why do you build new towers?" I ask. "Is not the City full-built when we come to it?"
"The Lily of the Vale lives as truly as any flower of the earth, and so it grows and sets forth new blossoms rising from the Rock, for so long as we have new songs to sing," he answers, the steel of the point ringing like a little bell on the white stone between his words.
"But the marsh-lilies of Nevrast do not blossom without cease: they open and they open, and then they fade and fall, and new flowers open, and then the leaves die away, and the next spring they grow again, and blossom — but the same flowers do not come again!"
Much more stone is washed away from the vine-leaves by the sharp-pointed rain before the sun begins to return to her home and the sculptor sets down his steel.
"Is it well?" I come down from beside the Watchers and make trial of the work.
"It is well. Do not polish it overmuch: it will be too smooth, and it sparkles so now! Was I not right, as I told you?"
"But is it so because I have done as you asked, or because it was Fated so?" I do not answer him, because the question does not make sense. "Why do you wish to be a Watcher? What do you see in the clouds, aranel?"
"Tirion betimes, and Elenwë in our gardens." Lord Glorfindel sighs, and bows his head.
"You should have been told the truth at once, child, not sooth to comfort you. Our people died on the Grinding Ice, and we can never return home to Tirion. But I think you will always be forgetting that, for having been told otherwise at the first."
"But it is true," I tell him. "I have seen them, except for the ones who have come back, like Lindórië." He grows still more troubled, and looks at me with sorrow.
"But the Ways are forbidden to us now, forever, and the newborn daughter of Artaher and Lalwendë is Amaurea, not your friend-that-was."
"She does not wish to be Lindórië again, that is all," I say, shrugging, and I pivot on the scaffold-bars like the tiller of a ship. But this stone-vessel does not move, though the skies rush past us overhead; I cannot change her direction.
"But you heard the Words that were spoken, and I know you remember them as do we all. Only the Halls of Mandos are open to us now, and there we must abide. Your mother cannot return to Tirion, Idril."
"It is Tirion-for-her," I try to explain. "It is 'our Tirion', and we are there within her, and it is always warm there in our gardens, that she shapes as you shape these gardens of stone. But perhaps she will look out and see me, if I am looking to her, and come to this Tirion that Tata has made for her. It is not as fine as Tirion in Valinor, but it is wider than her Tirion."
Lord Glorfindel puts out a hand, and I let him stop me in my spinning, and he moves the tangles of my hair from before my eyes.
"You cannot see it," I assure him. "The healers say it is like water, my madness, that cannot be seen and ebbs and flows like the tide." But all say he has the tercen, so perhaps he can see it after all.
"It is not madness that I look for, friend. —Who is Idril?" he asks me, and I answer, "Celebrindal," for that is what they call me. But he shakes his head, and asks again, "Who is Idril?"
"Elenwë's daughter, Turgon's dear one." But that is not the true answer yet.
"Who is Idril?"
"Princess of Gondolin?" I offer, for that is also what all name me. Again he shakes his head.
"Who is Idril?"
I search for understanding, but I cannot think what other answer to make, for Idril is Tirion and Helcaraxë and Vinyamar too, who has held speech with Varda and Nessa and Uinen, enemy of urco and friend of alqua, who has known the water-falma and the ice-falma, who cannot speak what she sees, and cannot see what others speak . . .
"Unyárima," I say, for it is a word that I love to hear, and to write its weft of all-that-is, the tale that cannot be told for its vastness. Again he frowns, and then he laughs and says, "Aye, that's truth indeed. Shall we go down to your father's halls, that Meleth raises no hue-and-cry?"
"She will not," I promise, and I take the pouch of tools and useful things over my shoulders. "I cannot carry you as you carried me over the tall ice, but I can bear a burden now on the tall stones." He dares not to try to take it from me, though he asks, but I laugh and tell him that I shall still reach the streets before him.
But then I grow distracted, for there are some small flowers now growing
and taking root in the spaces between the stones of the third level, and
I did not think that they would grow in such a place, but then I remember
that Yavanna loves Aulë for all their arguing, and she fills his mountains
with her blossoms. So I am not first to the ground, and I must bring his
gear to him when we gather for the evening meal. But he has told Meleth
where I am, and so she does not search after me, and I am right in that,
Rúkin - 'I fear it'
"Turgon, when will you remember that I am your sister, and not your subject?" Their words, their angers rise like the flames of a burning city, and I cower behind the carven swans that surmount the pediments, lest the sparks of it fall on me and take hold of me. It is too late. The spark smoulders in my heart, unseen, to flare at her next words, though her voice is gentler when she speaks again: "If I must stay here any longer, I shall end madder than Idril, my brother."
"He cares nothing for you, Aredhel." My father's voice is even softer now, like rain on the ashes of the burning ships. They have been fighting forever, the battle goes on for hours, while the rain courses down from a sky too dark for seeing. I would go to the heights of the City but I would fall, and so I hide behind a white swan's wings in the shadows, hide from their burning anger. Yet the swans were helpless at Alqualondë, and the stone wings can but hide me from my elders' gaze, not from their fiery words.
"I go to visit my friends, whether that is something you can even understand, or no! I do not blame them for what their father did without their consent or will and which they could not prevent — no more than Idril is blameful for Elenwë's death or her own maiming!"
The heat of wrath in the air is so great that I dare not breathe, lest it sear me from within, but the spark of fury stabs through me and I cannot escape its pangs. Then it cools, falls away to ash, and my father leans against the wall like a falling pillar, his face dimmed in shadow as of smoke.
"Take a strong escort with you when you go, that is all I ask," he whispers. "And do not stay away too long. Ondolindë will be too quiet without your presence."
"I would not deprive you of your best warriors," 'Feiniel says, and
her voice mocks him. I almost think she would have him try harder to hold
her, though she strikes at him like a hawk to the hand. "I know how great
your concern is for your City's
"We are safer far here than you shall be, faring abroad in the Wilds." I hear his fëa crumbling beneath the words, like the mortar of walls burnt dry by fire, but 'Feiniel hears it not.
"Ah, and the set shield is so much harder to hit than the flying arrow, of course — ! I can go and be back ere your men have donned their armor."
"Aredhel, please -- go with Ecthelion and whomsoever he deems best, if — if you must go, and do nothing of needless risk. I — beg you, my sister."
"Very well, Turgon. I will do as you — ask. But I leave tomorrow at dawn: whosoever will ride with me had best be ahorse by then!"
The flames die down, the waters of darkness reflect only broken light. I cannot see them through the rains that blind me. My anger is quenched, washed away, drowned all in overwhelming fear.
* * *
"Do not go!"
"Please, Idril! You are too old for such infant fancies! Recollect yourself, daughter!" But I cling to my aunt's saddlebow and to her steed's foreleg and to his mane, wrapping my arms and ankles about like the green growing vine, so that neither my father's hands nor 'Finiel's nor the horse's unhappiness can shake me.
"If you go, you will not come back, 'Feiniel. And who will ride with me then, and race the swallows, and teach me the sword and the bow and the spear? I will have no one left to play with, and I shall be alone here!"
"Oh, Idril." She shakes her head, her long braid snapping like a black banner behind her. "I will be gone not above a year or two, child. I have told you this many times: I only go to Himlad, where my friend Celegorm dwells, and then I will return. We will see the Sun arise and sing her home together from the walls next summer, or the next."
"No, 'Feiniel, you will be lost in the dark like Amil and you will never come back to us. You would go hunting, but you are the hunted instead!"
Ar-Feiniel does not answer me, but her lips are as taut as the string of her bow and she pries my fingers up with her own so hard that it hurts me. I clutch at her leggings and try to pull her down, and I am pulled away hard myself, so that I stagger away across the courtyard. The cloak-wings of her escort flap wildly in the morning breeze where they wait, silent and watching, three dark ravens against the brightening sky. I keen and tear my hair in dread.
"Idril! Go to thy chamber!" My father is wroth as never I shall see him towards me, his gaze a lightening-storm upon the mountains, but I am too afraid to fear him.
"But you know it is the truth! Why do you stop me, when it is in your heart as well?"
I scream back at him, at them, in wordless misery, and the horses of the cavalcade rear and return my cry in their alarm. It is useless — I cannot hold back the wind, I cannot hold back the night, and I cannot hold back my own kinswoman from her tangling doom. Perhaps it is that my own anger has left my heart and risen up like a terrible flame to strike her. I cannot say or see. For the first time I know, then, that the terrible promise is truth: none shall believe me, until it is past all hope of changing. The White Falcon of the North flies from safety, and I am kept penned in little room, forbidden to scale the maddening heights of the City until I shall learn to govern myself as befits a woman grown, and my wits fling themselves against the prisons of my dread so that I cannot see night or day —
The Sky is Like the Sea
There is a little consolation in watching the sky-ferns billow over the beds of the deep ilmen, and the colors that change in hue and luster with infinite variety and even softer motions. I cannot move, I am a crystal laid on the sands of Alqualondë, and all the seas wash over me, all the skies are caught and held in a tiny compass and I cast them back, and yet tiny though I am, that reflection is but the barest thinness of my being . . .
The Sun is hidden and I spring up in sudden alarm and dash along the wall like a small beast from the shadow of a hawk, though it is but a wide cloud, wide as a mountain, that hides her. I hasten onward, as though pursued by the tide, yet there is not the gameful joy of racing the waves, but a cold fear in my heart that spurs me ever on. It has not come upon me sudden: I had merely slept and slipped its tether for a while. At last I come to one of my many alcoves and fling myself into its covert, panting like a hunted hare in its holt. Some are of the nature of the fashioning of walls; others are set by design, by gift, by the builders of the City who have grown used to my roamings and leave treasures for me to find.
I know this one for Ecthelion's hand: it has all the flowing and twists
of water-smoothed stone, and in a fold of the carven moss there is a tiny
frog with crystal eyes. I curl up on the bench and think of the friend
who made it for me, and of others too.
They will not come back
They will come but not all
They will all return in time's fullness
Which of these is true? I have seen them all, and I cannot tell which will be. Perhaps even all are true, as Arda unfolds, but I see them all at once, and all of equal darkness, and it is a confusion to me.
In my room, I sit and carefully clean brushes, I trim the new quills and lave the dried inks from the old, I polish the ink-stones and sand away roughnesses from the soft vellums, and I do not even look at how the barbs of the feathers have branches like unto the trees, and are a pine-forest in winter's ice, though I am doing this for hours. I do not drop them and run to the window when a dove's white wing casts a mirror light into the room; I do not begin to draw stars and ships upon the fresh-made parchments or on my desk or on the floor; I do not sit like a statue of stone in Tirion gazing at the Sun. Meleth is so pleased with me, that I am taking my chastening to heart and that this new firm rule has caught my fleeting senses and held them together into one useful beautiful thing, as the twist and grasp of strands turns a useless fluff of wool or weed into a shining thread. (But the tuft of wool well-lines a nest, and the raw flax binds little twigs together into a hall fit for a king-bird, weather-safe and warm!)
The shade passes from beneath the keel of the Sun and I rise from my shelter like a bird in the morning. But I do not sing, because Not-Idril sings, and no one, not even Pengolodh the Wise, can sing from two spaces of the City in the same instant. So I am not a lark, nor a swallow, but some bird of the deep woods, that I saw as it saw me, silent in shadow, on the journey from Nevrast.
None sees me: I am far on the outer walls, and here all who watch turn outward to the Enemy, not to look for one they know is not. I am invisible, because I am in my chambers, in their minds, in my mind, and the watchmen see no shadow of stone-hued silks and skin on the gold-white stone of Gondolin, nor note another figure passing along the lines of graven dancers that garland the walls and ways.
There is a place where I go now and now to look at the mountains, and perhaps I will see _thorni_ on this now, and I hasten, for the warming sunlight is their dance-floor. But when I come to that place it is not open, but a wall, and I am in a darkness that is lit with many different lights, of lamp and gleam and sheen and all around a deep, dim hue that I have too long known and cannot forget. I lose my balance and drop the thought of Not-Idril altogether, but I cannot know that yet because I am here with no thought of the other.
Instead there is a boy here, no one that I know, or have known — his light is strange to me. He is very tall, though he is but a child, and I am not sure how I will carry him if he will not come, but I know that I must. Then I wonder how it is that I am come to Alqualondë again, and not a child myself helpless to take any from the flames, and how I am within its rooms, and not without, and I know that I am dreaming, but I cannot waken yet. But Alqualondë has no walls like these, and there are many mountains beyond the windows, they are not clouds, though the red light shines up to them as it shone up from the sea to the clouds above. And I am amazed.
I speak to him, this boy in armor like a mighty warrior, shining with clear gems like water-droplets, with words of clarity and stillness woven into them that the work be unseen as water, but he hears me not. He is afraid of the red darkness that encroaches into the room, and he calls for a sword to go with his mail, and I am still more astonished that a child is made warrior of Gondolin, and again I ask, I demand to know his name and lineage and House, and he sees me no more than the guards see me.
"Meleth!" I hear a voice cry in outrage, and it is my own, and I am blind with fury, for none has ever struck me. But in the instant I saw the boy in the house on the walls, the shadow-fëa departed my making and flew home to me like a dove, and the Not-Idril fell down into a hollowing of clothes and dust, and they knew, or so they told me. But I know that truly they do not know, because they keep asking me and asking me about her, and if they knew all that they say, then surely they would not waste such effort in questions that are all the same. I have learned not to ask and ask, where there is no answer, or where the answer is all times the same — how then have they forgotten?
"Idril! Come out from beneath your chair and be seated like a woman, not huddled like a beast of the field in den!"
I dig my claws in, brace my hackles on the hardness of my earth, but to no avail: wiser wits than mine make nothing of my hiding, and lift away the chair from over me. Resigned, I set my chin in my hands and watch the flaking of tiny crystals from the polished floor stone.
"How long have you been doing this, daughter?" His voice is grim and heavy as wet sand full of ashes, where Meleth's is sharp and bright like a knife in a dark room. When I do not answer he asks me — again! — "Why have you done this, Idril?"
"Because the sky is like the sea, Turgon, and, my father, I cannot live without the sea!"
I cannot tell them, and they cannot believe me, that I do not know when first I make a clothes-Idril to sit and smile and speak the words they are begging of her as a mother begs this word and that of a babe. But they can forbid me to make another Not-Idril, and be wroth with me that I am not penitent for having made them. But how can I be sorry? I do as they have wished, which is to be a quiet creature who does not roam the City's heights, but there is too much of Idril to remain within, as if one were to order me to shut within my room the West wind, all of it, entirely, and keep it still there. But they are angry, and afraid beyond their anger, and they bring sages and healers and hold counsel with me and about me and at last they are sure that no wandering thing has taken my fëa, or hides within it like a great fanged fish in a dark pool.
But they are still afraid, and my father will not hear me on the matter of the house on the walls and the fire in the mountains, and Meleth tells me it is a shameful thing to seek to escape my just punishment.
They have sealed me into this place, with words and workings, and the
windows are no more to me than painted pictures of a pretty vale, and the
towers are like little spindles set in a basket of wool, and the music
of the wind comes not to me. All the great house is open to me, all the
doors and gardens within, but all are the same. Idril is still, she
is Not-Idril, she becomes stone — but no, stone lives, stone moves,
so slowly, but hot and fiery it dances in Arda's heart, and Idril — is
like the dust of stone blown away from the sculptor's chisel, forgotten,
unthought of, shaping nothing, meaningless and lacking all weight.