THE DYING STONE
Disclaimer: The characters, the context and the main plot belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. I’m only trying to fill in the gaps he so graciously left for us, fanfic writers, to have some fun. If we can speak of fun, concerning the topic discussed here.
The wonderful Quenya poem at the end of the story belongs to Björn Fromén.
Summary: After the Kinslaying in Alqualondë, Olwë mourns over his beautiful city.
This short story was inspired by a discussion on the Silmfics list, about the nature of that Arch of living stone in the harbour of Alqualondë. I am not very good with arguments, but I wanted to express my thoughts – so I have written this story.
The description of Alqualondë follows the Lost Tales, except of the opening quote. I also use the earlier name for the Teleri, calling them the Solosimpi, the pipers of the shores.
Dedication: to Círdan, my fellow writer as a sign of my gratitude for our discussions and the selfless beta-work.
THE DYING STONE
’’… marvelous were the beaches of Elendë in those days. And many pearls they [i.e.: the Teleri] won for themselves from the Sea, and their halls were of pearl, and of pearl were the mansions of Olwë at Alqualondë, the Haven of the Swans, lit with many lamps. For that was their city, and the haven of their ships, and those were made in the likeness of swans, with beaks of gold and eyes of gold and jet. The gate of that harbour was an arch of living rock sea-carved; and it lay upon the confines of Eldamar, north of the Calacirya, where the light of the stars was bright and clear.’’
The Silmarillion – Of Eldamar, pp. 61-62
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In the untroubled days, before the Darkening of Valinor, before the theft of the Silmarilli and before the first blood was shed in the Blessed Realm, Alqualondë had been a most wondrous city, brimming with life, full of music and laughter and the merry voices of the Solosimpi whom the other Elves called the Teleri – or the Lindar, for in their hearts the First Music of the Ainur was rooted deeper than in any other of their fair kin.
Swanhaven she was called, for the white ships of the Sea-Elves, made in the likeness of the great, strong-winged swans of Ossë that had once drawn their ships from the Lonely Island to Eldamar, rested floating at her shining quays, and the wistful sounds of their slender pipes, made of the many-coloured seashells Ossë had created for their delight, could be heard come faintly down the winds.
For Swanhaven was like a basin of quiet waters, save that towards the east and the seas the ring of rocks that enclosed it sank somewhat, and there did the Sea pierced through in its passionate onslaught, so that there was a mighty arch of living stone, open and yielding to the caress of the never-tiring waves. So great was this arch, indeed, that save of the mightiest ships two might have passed through there, one going out mayhap and another seeking inward to the quiet blue waters of the haven, nor would have the mast-tops come nigh to grazing on the rock.
Not much of the light of the Trees came thither aforetime by reason of the wall, wherefore was it lit ever with a ring of lamps of gold, and lanterns there were too of many colours tokening the wharves and landings of the different houses, for truly, very few of the Solosimpi would have chosen to live anywhere else but on the shores, where they could play their pipes and watch the merry groups of the Oarni and the Falmaríni and the long-tressed Wingildi – the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean – dance upon the waves to their music. Also, they still delighted in the starlight that they had loved since the days of the Awakening and had not abandoned even for the radiance of the Trees. Yet through the arch the pale waters of the Shadowy Seas might have distantly been glimpsed, lit faintly with the shining of the Trees, and that was enough for the Sea-Elves.
Very beautiful was that harbour to glimpse upon, what time the white fleets came shimmering home and the troubled waters broke the mirrored radiance of the lamps into rippling lights, weaving strange patterns of many twinkling lines. And the members of the many households would sit on the open balconies of their houses, playing their pipes in wistful allurement and waiting for their great benefactor and mentor, the Lord Ossë, to rise from the weaves and sit on the rim of the Arch to listen to their music, while the younger ones, clad in wide robes that were sewn with pearls, were dancing upon the lamplit quays, and the soft ringing sound of the waves touching the white stone of the Arch was beyond all sounds enchanting.
In those days, not all that long ago, Olwë, King of the Sea-Elves, had often descended from his mansions to the harbour, sitting with Ossë upon the warm, white stone of the Arch, wet from the kisses of the Sea and murmuring gentle, wordless answers to the caressing waves, and they would exchange tidings about Valmar – where Ossë had not been ever since his quarrel with Ulmo about the fate of the Sea-Elves – or about the Great Lands beyond the Shadowy Seas.
For Ossë would not abandon the greater part of the Solosimpi that remained in the lands of their Awakening, and often he would tell Olwë tales about his kinsman, Círdan, who had become the Lord of the westernmost havens and the Falathrim that lived there. And he had tales about Elwë, too, the brother of Olwë, once the King of all Solosimpi and now Lord of the woodland folk. Tales that had found their way from Elwë’s realm to the Falas, despite the darkness that was still shadowing the Great Lands.
Those were days and years of joy, even though permeated with slight melancholy, for like most of his folk, Olwë could not forget his home of old, the starlit mere of Cuiviénen and the times when starlight was the only radiance that he had known. Yet though he had not been among the first ones that had been brought to Valinor, his brother’s heart, who had seen the light of the Trees, was captured by it for ever; and Elwë had sung wondrous songs about that light, and when he was lost, Olwë took the task upon himself to bring their people here. And here he had been living, on the border of the starlit Seas and the far-away radiance of the Trees, and he was happy and content, even though his heart yearned to see his old home at times.
Aye, those had been good years, years full of wonder. But now the graceful swanships were gone, and a deep gloom was settled on the harbour at the fading of the Trees. And the flawless flesh of the living stone that had grown for countless Ages before even the coming of the Valar, was stained with the spilt blood of the innocent; the golden lamps of the Arch were broken and their shimmering light quenched; and the white decks of the swanships, taken by force by those that had slain their mariners with hard iron and cruel hands, were soaked in blood; and they were gone. The wharves and landings and darkened quays were littered with broken bodies – empty shells of all the fëar separated from their housings by the treacherous hands of their own kin.
And so now that the Kinslayers were gone and with them the once-white ships that had been the pride and joy of the Sea-Elves, their King slowly descended from the clifftops that gazed down upon Swanhaven, where he had chased some of their attackers up the rock, driving them out northwards where the way was very rugged and evil and leaving them to the mercy of the Valar or whoever wanted to take pity on them.
With slow and weary steps Olwë came down from the clifftops wherefrom the Solosimpi of old cut winding stairs in the rock leading down to the harbour’s edge. His pearl-sewn white robes were shredded and stained with blood – with the blood of his own people whom he had tried to help in vain; but also with the blood of those whom he had slain himself, in order to protect those that were his responsibility. His long hair had come loose from the braids during the bitter fight and was now shadowing his grim face like a silver veil of mourning, and he was distraught with sorrows and wildered in mind; for though he had fought the evil creatures of darkness in his youth, he had never raised his hand against his own kin before, and from this dark day on, his innocence was lost, forever.
Down he came the winding steps to the harbour, til he reached the Arch, and he saw that the Sea was roaring with the wrath of Ossë and swollen with the tears of Ónen, the Lady of the Seas, so that the waters were spraying up high upon the flat steps of the quays. And the uproar of the foaming waves clashed against the great Arch, not with the usual loving caress that had shaped the stone since the shaping of Arda itself, but with a brutal force, as if the Sea itself were lashing out in its wrath and grief.
So terrifying it was to see the rage of the darkened waters that Olwë – fearing for the first time that he had loved in his entire life – reached out to the Arch to find some support. But when his trembling fingers touched the stone, it felt cold and lifeless, lacking the barely recognizable vibrations of life he had been used to. At that Olwë threw back his head and gave a long, keening wail of grief, but for the first time, his ringing voice echoed not back from the Arch, for it was cold and deaf now.
And as if in answer to his wordless mourning, the upheaval of the Shadowy Seas reached its peak beyond the now unresponsive Arch, and a single wave rose from the stormy waters, towering over all the others, huge as the very hills themselves; and nearing the shore it parted and gave way to the blue-grey form of the enraged Ossë. Horrible was the darkened face of the Maia to look upon, his bottomless eyes burning with grief and hatred; and he raised a watery fist and slammed down at the Arch that was no longer answering to the soft murmurs of the Sea – for the spilt blood of the Solosimpi, shed by greedy hands and cruel weapons, poisoned the very flesh of the stone and it could not be healed again.
Olwë retreated in hurry back up to the landings of his own, abandoned mansions, watching as the stone broke and fell to pieces under the deadly strike of Ossë; and the beautiful Arch, shaped by the loving caresses of the winds and the wet kisses of the waves in long, patient labour during the uncounted Ages before the Awakening, crumbled into the foaming waters as if it wished to be cleansed. And Olwë, knowing that there would be no more wistful piping echoed by the soft vibrations of living stone any more, mayhap not even after the End of Days when Arda would be re-made, bent his brow to his pulled-up knees and wept.
Further away, on the other side of the town, the mourning voices of the survivors rose to invoke an old song. Once it had been a song of love and joy, but from now on it had become and remained forever a song of deep sorrow.
Túcin' earenna, a tyare ni tár,
aran or laire, or lóme!
Níte ná i litse, milmenya ve nár,
írimo nése ve laure.
Hostaine nísier i fá lungatar,
a mare earenna nin
mennai i lóme ontuv' aure!
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(The poem above is the chorus of "Ta mig till havet," a song by the popular Swedish singer Peter Lundblad. Translated into Quenya by Findegil / Björn Fromén. Found on the Mellonath Daeron website, i.e.: not mine!)
Translation (not by me, obviously):
'[After having] taken [me] to [the] sea, make me king, lord over [the] summer, over [the] night! Moist is the sand, my yearning like fire, [the] fair one's youth like golden light. Gathered fragrances make the air heavy; stay by the sea with me until the night begets [a new] day!'