Author's note: Arda and its universe belong to Tolkien; Helyanwë is an OFC (Fëanor's granddaughter) who belongs to Erulisse (one L), who kindly permitted me to put her in my story. Thanks! :) And I thank her for beta-reading, too. *hugs*
Helyanwë is a glass artist/master, and I am an astronomer. When you put those two together, there can be only one outcome...
Helyanwë observed the two small pieces of glass she held in her hands, feeling amazed. Of course, their nature was not unknown to her. Long ago, she had learned what lenses were and how they were used; she used them as magnifiers and did that many times when she had to create some very small details and decorations on the items she had produced. But today she had discovered something completely new, something unexpected. And it had happened by pure chance.
She observed them with wonder and astonishment, slowly realizing what she had discovered. And she thought that the day had begun badly and that absolutely nothing had gone right. At first, she hadn't been able to achieve the fire of the desired intensity; all the time, it had been either too cool or too hot. Then, while preparing for work, she had broken one of her tools. And in the end, when both the equipment and the fire had finally been as they should be, she had realized that she hadn't prepared the mixtures for the glass colors properly, just as if she had been some beginner. She had frowned in anger and frustration; then she had decided to start all over again. So what if things hadn't gone well till that moment? Some might have been discouraged by a bad day, but she was determined and never gave up. And while she had waited for the furnace to heat to the right temperature again, she had been tidying up a little. Among other things, she had taken two of her lenses and cleaned them. Then, holding one in each hand, she had turned towards the window and carefully looked through each lens to be sure that they had been perfectly cleaned.
She had always imagined that the discoveries were solely the result of the careful planning and constant experimenting. But now she discovered that it didn't always have to be like that; she realized that it could often be quite the contrary – that the great role in major discoveries could be played by chance... and luck.
She smiled. Yes, while observing through the lenses, it had been pure luck that she had looked through both of them simultaneously just out of curiosity. And it had been luck that while slowly moving the lenses, that the image of faraway tower, so far that it had been no more than a tiny shape in the distance, had suddenly become perfectly clear, and it had looked both enlarged and closer. She had almost dropped the lenses in surprise. At first she couldn't believe what she had seen, thinking that it had been just an illusion. So she had raised the lenses again, quite skeptically, half expecting that nothing would happen, that the scene from before wouldn't repeat. But the image of the distant tower had been in front of her again, full of details that she couldn't discern with the naked eye. She had immediately realized that it wasn't all the same depending on the distance apart the lenses were placed from each other. And after that, everything had been really simple. With a smile on her lips, she had gone out and turned around, watching now here, now there... In front of her had emerged the shapes of remote houses, faraway mountains and even the trees on their slopes – with all the details that had been hidden to the unaided eyes.
And all of that thanks to these two small pieces of glass that lay in her hands. And thanks to chance and luck.
Exhilaration took her. Her heart grew in her chest. She jumped merrily and wished to run and tell the whole world about her discovery. And she set off, but then stopped. No, she couldn't show it, not just yet, not as it was now. She had to perfect it first and make it appropriate for exhibiting; after all, she had always strived for perfection, hadn't she? Anything less than that was never good enough for her work.
So she returned to her studio. But now, all earlier plans were forgotten. She sat, put the lenses on the table in front of her, and took up her paper and pencil. Working at a frenzied pace, she examined different possibilities, while her hand was flying above the paper, creating numerous sketches. A trestle? Or more than one? No, it would be clumsy. She quickly crossed through one drawing and started another, her face totally focused. Some kind of holders... hmm, no... And then the idea came to her, while her face brightened up. Yes, that will be it!
The fire in her furnace had died out, now unattended and completely irrelevant. Helyanwë searched each corner of her workshop and soon found what she had looked for: thin and flexible metal sheet. The first attempt was unsuccessful, and as well as imprecise, just like the second. The lenses fell out of their holders more than once, and it wasn't easy to ascertain the exact distance between them. But that didn't dishearten her, she diligently kept on working. In the world outside her workshop the hours passed; the sun sailed on in the sky and lowered towards the western horizon, while she relentlessly worked on, incited by her inner fire. She didn't even stop for refreshment, for she was so immersed into the work that she hadn't felt hunger. And when the sky changed its color from light to dark blue, and the stars started to shine, she finally sat down and looked at the device in front of her with satisfaction, while a smile lit up her face. Yes, everything was just perfect now.
The bigger lens was fixed into one end of the metal tube, while the smaller one was put into another end, at a precise distance from the first, because it was the only way to get the sharp image. Everything was specifically set and tightened. Her invention was ready to be used. She felt the well-known excitement that appeared each time she completed some work successfully; but this was so much more than just work – this was a great discovery of something completely new, of something no one had ever dreamed of.
As her heart was beating in delight, she jumped on her feet and rushed out, ready to share her finding with everyone. Smiling all the time, she just couldn't wait to show this to her family and the whole world. But when she found herself in the courtyard, she stopped in disappointment. Night had fallen and she couldn't see the distant tower any more, nor the houses, nor anything else that could serve as an object for observing. It was dark, and she ruefully thought that she'd be able to show her invention in its full glory only the next day.
Only tomorrow! In her excitement and impatience, it sounded like eternity. She sighed woefully, and looked around her one more time. Was there really nothing that she could try to look upon? No, everything was hidden by night darkness. All that she could see were lamps between houses and stars on the sky.
A moment of musing, then of curiosity. She quickly pointed her device towards the sky... and lost her breath. In front of her eyes emerged a whole new world. Stars transformed from tiny dots into dazzling, bright gems. Lustrous rays danced around them, twinkling and glittering. Some stars were red and gold, and others were blue and white, just like mithril; all enchanted her with their beauty and brilliance. She swiftly moved her gaze from one to another, feeling more and more delighted each moment. When she looked at Remmirath, an exclamation of admiration came from her lips. Is this possible?, she wondered, spellbound. With her own eyes, she could see only seven stars; and now, through her device, dozens of dazzling stars shone in front of her. Each was surrounded with faint, gossamer nebula that softly glowed blue. The smile on her face grew bigger and bigger, her heart was flickering in excitement.
She didn't feel the evening's chill, and she forgot her earlier thrill about the discovery and its presentation. She only rapturously absorbed the beauty of the skies above her. Wherever she looked, she saw myriads of stars and colorful nebulae. She had never dreamed that there were so many, or that they were so gorgeous. And in those moments, she suddenly felt so tiny beneath the magnificent universe surrounding her. She smiled, filled with awe and realization; much more important than her invention was what was visible through it. For stars really were the most beautiful gems ever created.
If the stars were visible from only one place on Earth, rather than always shining above our heads, people would never stop travelling there, to watch the skies and marvel at the wonders of heavens. (Seneca)
Remmirath – elvish name for the star cluster that we know as Pleiades.
"Two Small Pieces of Glass" is the name of the documentary film about telescopes, made for showing in planetariums all around the world, in occasion of International Year of Astronomy (2009), which was proclaimed in honor of Galileo Galilei, the man who, exactly 400 years earlier, made the first telescope of two lenses and pointed it towards the sky. The film was shown in Astronomy Centre of Rijeka for a while, too. It felt appropriate to take the title of the film for the title of this story.