A story of Eärendil and Elwing.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Growing wings

By Le Chat Noir

She had watched the young boy seat by the seashore, on the edge of the cliff, with his legs dangling in the void. He had come there one night, cradled tight in the arms of his golden-haired father, nearly dying, with a remnant of haggard and famished people. The Elves of the Havens had done what they could to help them, but for some it was already too late, and several fell down with their last sigh just as the tide reached them, and would not be roused by their friends' ragged cries. The boy's parents were their Lord and Lady, if Lord and Lady there were, and soon the rumour spread that these wretched ghosts of a people were in truth the last survivors of Gondolin, the Great Gondolin,  Hidden City of the Eldalië. The Doriathrim offered them shelter under their roofs, food and drink as plenty as they could give without starving themselves, but never did the Elves of Menegroth mingle with them Gondolodhrim; and if the children burst out at dawn to play together on the sand, always in the evening would they go back to their homes, each on a different side of the growing town, and behind the smiles and kindly words of their parents they clearly saw the ever-broadening breech that separated them from the others.

The young girl did not like to play with the children. Their games were rough, harsh with the innocent cruelty of childhood, and their laughter was great and defiant against they knew not what. They seemed to play not because they were amused by the games, but only to spend their time, but only to get away from the heavy atmosphere that fell on the wooden city with daylight, to escape from other things they did not want to think of; and so they threw themselves in the hardness of their selfish games, playing at war just to forget what war really was like. She watched them from her high window. For her there was no loving voice to call her in at dinner time, no mother to come and drag her inside if she was reluctant to leave her games, no father to admonish her if she went too far in her plays. For a time there had been Uncle Celeborn, kind and gentle, and the Lady Galadriel, a little haughty, but so very beautiful; but now they too were gone, riding away one morning, she knew not where to.

The boy's parents too had gone, on a great big silver boat sailing into the rising sun at dawn, or so it had seemed to her awed eyes. It was two months ago, and they had bid their farewell to their assembled people on the beach, taking but few trusted sailors with them. They left their little son on the shore, standing lone after everyone had departed, but if she had seen abundant tears flow from the eyes of the tall Man and the slender Elf-Lady, it seemed like the boy didn't weep, or maybe he did, after he was left alone, unseen by all.

When first they came, these strange elves whose heads were crowned in gold for some, and dark as night for other, she did not see much of the boy. His parents would wander about the City, helping some, exhorting others with their broken cheerful voices, trying to reinstall a certain feeling of peace among the wary hearts, but if he sometimes followed them, silent and brooding, mostly did he stay is his room and not come out. When the young girl had asked her uncle why it was so, Celeborn had been uneasy, but had replied with a smile that did she not, too, stay back from the other children of the Havens? She would have asked more, but the silver-haired Lord had softly pushed her away from his desk, whispering that he had much work to do, and that the young son of the Lady Idril probably preferred to be by himself. But now, since his parents were gone, every morning as she thrust a glance towards the seashore -and it had gradually become an habit, the first thing she did when she woke up-, he was there, with his back to her, sitting on the cliff. She often wondered whenever he ate or slept, as on any time of the day when she looked at that place he would be there, sitting, or taking small steps along the edge. His eyes were always fixated on the West, where the last of his parents' ship was seen, West, where they were headed to. She remembered that once, Celeborn had told her that her own parents were gone to the West, too, far far away in Valinor to a place where none but the dead could ever go back to. But it was different for the golden-headed Lord and Lady who sailed away from the Mouths of Sirion. They weren't dead, but seeking a path, a way to oblivion and happiness at last. The little girl had thought it very unkind of them to leave their forlorn child behind to look for their own happiness, and oblivion of the woes of Endor when their people suffered still under the permanent threat of the Shadow, yet when that ship sailed away into the waves, so great was it in beauty and grace, and its sails like silver wings, that all thoughts of ill departed from her mind, and she stood only in awe of the tall masts and the long oars, until she saw the boy's shadow lengthen on the white sand at dusk, when he had stayed fixed there all day, unmoving like a statue, with only his long hair and loose clothing ruffled by the marine wind.

For two months she had watched him from her window, but at twilight that day she pulled the panels shut firmly, and turned away from it, rather pushing the heavy door of her room open, and walking down the stairs, then afterwards all the way down to the cliff, where he was sat. The streets were all nearly deserted by that time of the day, for the Lothlim liked to rise with the Sun, so as she walked through them alone she almost felt as if she could hear the echoes of the own light steps tapping on the half-paved roads.

The boy was there that evening, playing with something in his hand that at first she did not comprehend. Then, as she approached, she saw that he had beside him a small leather bag, filled with something that looked akin to very white flour, tainted with cold gleams, but as he plunged his hand into the bag and drew a fistful of powder out, she saw that it stuck to his skin, and glistened with hundreds of blinding blazes, and that the dying sunlight reflected on its tiny mirrors in pale rays of bluish tint. Gem-dust! she thought to herself. It was a rare thing to be found in Beleriand, and one of rare beauty. The Noldor made their jewels whole, perfect and needing no improvement, and never was a smith willing to crush his own work to pieces, once he had laid eyes on its beauty and fairness.

The boy opened his fist, and the wind took charge of the thousands particles of radiance, playfully inventing for them a magic dance, carrying them away to be confounded with the light on the Sea. He put his hand into the bag again, not heeding her presence in any way.

Silently, a little intimidated, she sat herself at his side, and watched in amazement as the gem-dust was thrown away by large handfuls, whisked away by the wind, shining like a swarm of microscopic white fireflies.

After a while, she eventually broke the silence, as the last fragments of brightness fled from his hand, and was left only those that clung to his pale skin.

"Are you the one they call the 'Half-Elven'?"

The boy looked not away from the bloodstained horizon, and answered in a soft, low murmur.

"Eärendil Peredhil."

His voice almost made her start, and then she realised that she had never her him speak before. It was richer, more profound than elven, and yet far too light and clear for any mortal man's. Intently she stared at the empty bag, which still glittered with splinters of diamonds. The boy must have felt her gaze on it, for his eyes never moved, and yet he said

"My uncle Maeglin made them for me as a gift when I turned five. Mother Idril says that he had an evil mind, and a black heart; but he used to make me toys like no other in Gondolin could make. Father slew him at the end when he tried to take Mother and me captive. He fell off the wall."

Shocked by his neutral tone, she looked away, guiltily, and found nothing to answer but

"Oh."

"And you would be Elwing of Doriath." The fair boy snickered slightly. "Of course the dust's light would look pale in comparison to that of your Silmaril."

And he nearly spit out the last word. Now officially baffled and bewildered, she chose to defend the Gem for which her father, great-grandfather had been slain, her Kingdom overthrown, her people fallen, and hesitantly articulated

"The Silmaril is a Gem of great power. Uncle Celeborn always said that when Father Dior wore it, he was as the fairest of the Children of Iluvàtar that ever was to walk on Arda, just as Grandmother Lùthien had been."

The boy was serious again.

"Yet the Lord Dior died for his Silmaril."

"He did not die in vain."

"Maybe he did not."

An awkward silence fell, and the boy stayed still, gazing at the stars. She examined his profile, but was taken aback at seeing his eye grow vague with the starlight in them, and a big, translucent tear roll onto his cheek.

"Why are you crying?"

"Because the stars are too beautiful. Have you never dreamt of being a star, a Child of the Lady Varda, flying there free from all bounds, fair above all the things of Eä?" He stood, and threw his arms up towards the cloudless sky, now dark with a velvet blue. "Have you never wished, just wished that you could just be there, watching over all those you love, seeing all parts of Earth that no one has yet seen? Elwing, Star-Spray, tell me that you have never gazed upon a starry dusk, and wished, wished with all your heart, that you could be the one up there, smiling down on the Blessed and the Wretched alike, giving them hope for their hungry hearts!"

He took one step forwards, minding not the fact that he had nearly stepped into the void, and stood there with cheeks streaked with a constant flow of tears, wavering back and forth as if the wind would carry his thin frame away any moment. She inhaled deeply, and half-dropped her eyelids.

"But stars are lonely to stay there always in their cold and pathless voids. If I should spring high into the sky, I would grow wings, and fly no higher than the gulls of the Ocean do; I would travel with the winds and sing for the soul of my loved ones, and I would settle down, too, sometimes, to rest my weary wings, and cuddle into the arms of the lonely wanderer, seeking their warmth and giving them warmth, and I would be free, more free than all the stars of Elbereth, for I would go as I wish under the sky, above the earth, just between the bourns of life and eternity. I would grow wings, and fly."

For the first time, he turned around, and looked at her. His eyes were grey, the boundless, sea-grey of the Noldor, sown with fragments of the Light of the Trees, the beauty of which the young girl had only heard distant and vague rumours. With a stern face, he extended a hand to her, a hand that was still covered with the brilliant gem-dust he had given to the sunset.

"You will. I shall be the star in Heaven, and you shall be the bird, and beyond the dawning Sun you will fly to me when I return from the weary journey in my pathless void, and you'll seek warmth in me, and I'll seek warmth in you, and together we will look down from the skies to those we love."

Slowly, she raised her hand to meet his, and as she took it, suddenly his face broke into a warm smile, then a wide grin, then he burst into a silver, joyful laugh under the starlight.

The two children spent that night laughing, dancing together, skipping, flying into the darkness, on the edge of the cliff.

~

The Elf-Lady clasped a thin, nervous hand to her breast, where the Jewel was strung around her graceful neck.

"Never."

She leant backwards, through the open window, into the void, and it was all the soldier could do to cry out in dismay and nearly throw himself out after her, as she saw the tower suddenly disappear under her feet, and the world went upside down, and everything around her was flying upwards, while she stayed hanging still in the air. She saw the water rushing up to meet her, and she knew it was the end. In a last hopeless gesture, she spread out her arms, remembering in a flash her childhood's dream of flight, and for a short instant she felt like a bird, as the wind blasted into her face, choking her, forbidding her to breathe, and then she felt the water gently licking her face.

Eärendil! Never will I now live grow wings and fly with you, never will I now live to see your rise into Heaven, brightest of all of Varda's stars!

Suddenly, she felt the water flow right through her, filling every part of her body, and then she was being turned inside out, and her body evaporated, and she thought, if this is Death, then maybe it isn't so bad after all…

Under the bewitched stares of hundreds swordsmen, the wave shattered into thousands little bits of white foam, and lifted up into the air a gull, of sparkling feathers, bearing the Gem of Light upon its breast.

~

Elwing's last word 'Never.' as addressed to Maglor is borrowed from Deborah's story 'As Little Might Be Thought', a true gem of a tale.

I don't know if the italics will work out in that kind of posting; actually the 'he' in 'Maybe he did not.' Is in italics, and also the phrase 'Eärendil! […] brightest of all of Varda's stars.'.