Alternate title: Wilwárá Lugni
Series: Prequel to “Innocence” – a young Lindir story. Not part of the actual series, though.
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.
To learn more about my little hero, you will have to read “Innocence”, as at this moment he does not know anything of his own origins, either. Lindir’s dream has been formed after a scene in “Smith of Wootton Major” by Tolkien himself. I postulated for all my stories that some of the Istari reached Middle-earth a lot earlier than commonly assumed.
The old-fashioned names in Common Eldarin are the creation of the very knowledgeable Erunyauve, whom I owe my most sincere gratitude. I am completely useless when it comes to Elven languages – English is hard enough to master. Also, my heartfelt thanks to Larian Elensar for the beta reading.
Dedication: To Ro, whose adorable Lindir sketch inspired this little fic in the first place.
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[The Old Forest, in the year 276 of the Third Age]
The child awoke to the sound of rain; of water streaming down gently onto the thatched roof of the house. He had always loved the gentle sound of falling water. It reminded him of the Sea; of the waves undulating across the surface, slightly at first, then gathering speed and rolling majestically toward the shore. At times he could almost see their crests glimmering white as the pure moonlight before his inner eyes.
Strangely enough, although he had been found by Master Aiwendil on the east side of the Ered Luin’s southern range, which meant that he must have been born somewhere near the coast, he could not remember having ever seen the Sea. Not when he was awake, that is. But he did see it again and again, in a recurring dream – one that filled his young heart with dread.
In these dreams, he stood alone upon a desolate shore, beside a Sea haunted by windless storms, looking above the waves that rolled silently out of Unlight like snow-clad hills to the long strands. Forwards, where, beyond the Sea, the Door of Night was said to be found, at the utmost edge of the Black Marches. He was waiting for the white ships to return from the battles that were fought there… had been fought there, ever since a great enemy was cast out into the Outer Dark.
It seemed to him that he had been there for uncounted Ages, for he looked old in these dreams, even for an Elf: his hair was white like the freshly fallen snow and his eyes were haunted, and there was wisdom and sorrow in them, but no life.
He seemed to have been standing upon these shores forever, waiting for the ships to return – waiting for someone he had missed most, more even than music, to return to him. Yet no peace had come to his heart in all these times, only more sorrow, and the ships had not come, only the waves rolled against the shore, the waters falling back in foam without a sound. Never in this nightmare was there any sound, and it frightened the child more than everything, as music and song had always been the most important things in his young life. He had learned to sing ere he learned to speak, after all.
As always when this particular dream haunted him the child awoke shaking and in tears, frightened out of his mind. He curled up into a little ball, hugging his knees tightly to his chest, listening to the comforting sounds of the rain.
He could not understand why his dreams kept taking him back to that dreary place. Why could he not dream of the flowers and bees and birds and butterflies, of bugs and sunshine, of the friendly chatter of the Windywithe and the old trees – of things he knew and loved so much? He wished Master Aiwendil had not gone away on some errand to the south of the Greenwood – the dreams never came when the wizard was with him.
And where was Síriyen? Where was the daughter of the river and the mistress of the rain, who could sing it down from the clouds? Where had she gone, why had she abandoned him? She had promised to keep him safe, and yet he was left alone in this low, airy room with the sloping roof.
It was a nice room, certainly, with clean stone walls and a flagged floor, strewn with fresh green rushes. And it had windows to both the flower garden and the kitchen garden. But in the darkness of the night it seemed huge and ominous to the frightened eyes of the child, the curtains floating before the windows as if some monstrous creature had tried to get in.
The child hugged his knees even tighter and began to cry.
In his misery, he did not hear the feather-light footsteps approaching swiftly from the main room, nor the soft rush of clothes. The sweet, fresh fragrance of water lilies was the first thing he felt, so familiar and comforting. Then the warm embrace of Síriyen enveloped him like a soft blanket, and a gentle voice murmured, “Lindó, why are you crying? Did my little songbird have a bad dream? Have you been to the silent place again?”
The child could only nod, deep sobs wracking his thin body. Síriyen rocked him gently, murmuring comforting words in the tongues of Elves and Men and even that of the trees, Her heart went out to the poor elfling who had no-one in the world, no parents, no siblings, no other children to play with – just the birds and the beasts of the forest, and a grumpy old wizard who had to go away from time to time, leaving the little one behind.
“Sssssssh,” she murmured soothingly, “cry not, little songbird. You have nothing to fear here, for nothing can pass door and window save moonlight and starlight and the wind off the hill-top, you know that, do you not?"
The child nodded mutely, sniffed and wiped his nose in the sleeve of his nightshirt. Síriyen gave him a stern look, handed him a small white cloth to blow his nose and patted him on the head.
“There, there. Come now, little songbird, let me tuck you in again. If you promise to stay in your bed, I shall sing you an old song to put you to sleep.”
The teary eyes of the child lit up with joy at once. The promise of a song was all one needed to cheer him up, no matter how sad he might have been.
“Which song?” he asked eagerly. He had the sweetest voice Síriyen had ever heard – and she had been there long before this part of Arda took final shape.
“Which one would you like to hear?” she asked.
The child thought about that for a moment. “The one about the fëal letulning as buttelflies,” he then decided. As always when he was upset, he momentarily felt back to his earlier, more childish speech pattern.
“That is fëar,” Síriyen corrected gently, “and butterflies. You know that. All right, I shall sing that song to you. But first you need to whip your face clean, blow your nose and go back to bed.”
The child obeyed eagerly. He would do anything to hear the lay about the butterflies again. Anything at all. He loved butterflies – and deep in his heart he hoped that one day he would recognize the returning fëar of his parents whom he did not remember.
Síriyen urged him to lie down on the deep mattress again that was his bed, tucked the soft white blanket securely around him and kissed one cheek that was still hot and damp from the tears so recently shed. Then she began to sing in a low, gentle voice that mingled with the sound of the rain ‘til it became indistinguishable.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The next day dawned with golden sunshine, a clear blue sky and a freshness in the air that rejuvenated even the rocks and the most ancient trees – the ones that could barely look out from under the moss that covered their grey bark. But that was always the case when Síriyen had the spring rain wash over the hills.
The child awoke early, his young heart now filled with sunshine and song, eager to go exploring. Síriyen and Iarwain never caged him in their home, as no harm could come to him within the borders of their territory. And as he was sensible enough not to leave that territory alone, he was allowed to run free among the trees and hills and waters as he pleased.
Clad in short breeches and a sleeveless shirt, the child raced up the small passage that led to the main room. It was way before breakfast time, but he was not hungry anyway. Not yet. He would come back later for his milk and leafcakes, and then he would help Iarwain with the ponies in the stables as he did every day. Maybe he would even be allowed to help Síriyen in the kitchen garden. That was always nice; he could have all the berries he wanted.
But right now, he had to check the butterflies first.
He had detected the pupas on the great tree some six days ago. He had climbed up three or four times every day, to see if the butterflies were ready to leave their cocoons. So far, nothing had moved. But maybe, just maybe, Síriyen’s song had awakened them last night, and now they would be willing to come out.
The child climbed up the great tree quickly, with practiced ease. He knew every branch and twig of this particular tree, as it had been his favourite hiding place for years. He needed not to build a talan or a tree-house for himself, for he knew a spot, up in the higher branches, where they grew in a peculiar way, which created a perfectly good sitting place for a young elfling like him. He would sit up there often, talking to the birds and the squirrels, or just singing to the wind and the clouds and the leaves.
The cocoons had caught his eye as he had been venturing higher than his usual hiding spot – almost dangerously high, in fact, as the thin branches there were swinging heavily, even under his light weight, and Master Aiwendil would probably have been cross with him for climbing them. But the child knew the tree would never let him fall. They were friends, good friends – and besides, Master Aiwendil had gone away again, leaving him alone. He liked Síriyen and Iarwain, they had always been nice and friendly and funny, but Master Aiwendil was the closest thing he had to a father, and he missed the old wizard badly.
Now, the cocoons were like nothing he had seen before. He had watched many butterflies come forth from their pupa – from the small, simple withe- or yellow-winged ones to the big, bright ones that bore the signs of fairy kings upon their velvety, red-and-dark wings – but none of them had ever had a cocoon that would shimmer like pure silver like these two did.
The child wiggled a little, seeking for a more comfortable sitting position on the branch, and eyed the cocoons closely. Yea, they showed thin, dark lines on their lower side, thinner than a hair’s breadth, but there had been no such lines the last time he had checked. There could be no doubt about it – the cocoons were breaking up. He had no idea how long it would take for the butterflies to be born, but he knew he would not leave until it happened.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The sun was well above the eastern mountains when Iarwain returned from his early morning walk. As it was his wont, he had walked the hills and smelled the winds and talked to the birds and the trees in the forest, and now he was ready to begin his daily work.
He found Síriyen in the flower garden. She was singing to the flowers to make them grow healthy and blossom brightly. But her song was full of melancholy, and her lovely eyes were sad, and seeing her like this saddened Iarwain’s heart, too.
“Síriyen, my sweet lady, clad in green and gold,” he said, “what fills your heart with sorrow. Is something amiss with Lindó?”
For he knew that Síriyen loved that child as if he were her own and dreaded the day Lindó would be taken from her.
“He dreamed of the silent place again,” she replied sadly. “I fear that we cannot give him what he truly needs any longer. He is growing out of childhood, our little songbird – he needs to learn who he is and what he is. He needs the company of his own kind.”
Iarwain thought about that for a while, his deep, brown eyes clouding. He did not want to lose the child either, had grown to like him, and knew he would miss him. But he also knew that Síriyen was right.
“Maybe a visit in the Greenwood would help,” he said. “Master Aiwendil has planned to visit King Thranduil and his people for a long time. Maybe he should take Lindó with him when he goes there.”
“That would be good for a beginning,” said Síriyen, “but not enough. Our little songbird needs to meet Elves and Men and all other people who walk on this Earth. ‘Tis time for Master Aiwendil to return to Brownhay and take the little one with him. For Rhosgobel is his home; and thus that is Lindó’s home as well.”
“You will cry when our little one leaves,” said Iarwain sadly, for he hated to see his lady in distress. Síriyen nodded.
“I will; and so will he, no doubt. But he must learn to let go, and I cannot bind him to me, no matter how empty this house will be without him. We have always known that he belongs somewhere else.”
Iarwain nodded in agreement. “He has been our houseguest, and a welcome one. But he is Aiwendil’s responsibility. And he has all but outgrown our care anyway. ‘Tis time for him to go on. To see new places. To learn new songs.”
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The child on the treetop had no inkling about his future being decided in that very moment. He was watching enraptured as the thin breaches on the cocoons widened gradually, small, black insect-legs gripping the edges from the inside and forcing them apart. Slowly thereafter, the tiny heads slipped through the broken end of the cocoons, thin feelers moving eagerly to greet the light of the day; then the slender bodies pressed themselves free, one hair’s breadth at a time, showing forth with the help of thin but surprisingly strong legs, the wet wings still folded and flattened against their backs.
When they were free from their confining cribs at last, the butterflies rested atop the empty cocoons, now dull grey and bereft of the life hidden inside, swinging gently in the light breeze. Then they unfolded their wings to allow them to dry, and the child’s breath caught in awe, for those wings were blue.
Not simple, ordinary blue like the blossoms of the forget-me-not, but all kinds and shades of blue he had ever seen, from the deep azure of the summers sky to the warm colour of flaxen-flowers and beyond that to the pale shade of frozen water in the times of winter. And tiny, almost invisible golden veins glittered in that many-faceted blueness, like a fragile frame mastered by some great Elven-smith; and when the butterflies finally dried and flattered into the warm spring air for the first time, they looked for the child as if blossoms of exotic flowers were floating around his head in lazy circles.
“Wilwárá lugni,” he whispered in the Old Speech, for no other tongue seemed him appropriate to address these magnificent creatures,” where are you? Where have you come from? Where are you going?”
As if understanding his words, the blue butterflies drew one more circle above his head, then flattered away, westwards. The child slipped from the tree in great hurry, fearing to lose them from sight, but amazingly enough, they waited for him.
They followed him, deep under the trees, out to the open meadow behind Iarwain’s house, as if playing catch with him, and the child ran in circles after them, his delighted laughter echoing from the hills like the sound of silver bells. He ran and ran, red-faced, bright-eyed and breathless, long, pale hair flying behind him, and Síriyen’s heart was breaking as she watched him from the flower garden. For rarely had she seen him so happy, and she wondered if she would see him like this ever again.
Finally, the butterflies had enough from playing and caught up speed, spiralling up high to the treetops again and vanished from the sight of the child. But nothing could spoil his joy in this moment, not even their leaving. He came running to Síriyen, tears of mirth still shimmering in his wide, sea-hued eyes, flushed and tousled.
“Have you seen it?” he asked, excitement raising his voice above its usual level. “They have danced with me!”
Síriyen smiled and kissed a hot, flushed cheek.
“I have seen it, little songbird; it was a beautiful sight. Now, come in and eat your breakfast. Maybe they will come black and play with you again later.”
“Do you think that they might have been the fëar of my parents?” the child asked, following her to the kitchen obediently.
“I know not, little songbird,” Síriyen put his milk and leafcakes onto the kitchen table. “Eat now. But if they were, they cannot stay long.”
“Why not?” came the question, muffled by half a leafcake, stuffed into the child’s mouth.
“Unhoused fëar must go to the West,” Síriyen explained patiently. “That is where all Elves go – the ones who get killed as well as the ones who live. That is the order of things. If they stay here, they will fade eventually and become restless spirits. ‘Tis better for them to go.”
“And when I go to the West, will I meet my parents, as the were?” asked the child hopefully. Síriyen nodded.
“When your time comes, you will hear the call of the Sea, and you will follow it. And on the other side, your parents will be waiting – not as butterflies but as the Elves they used to be. But that will not come for a long time yet, little one. You will have years upon years to climb all the trees you want to climb, to sing to the birds and to dance with the butterflies, before you have to leave.”
The answer satisfied the child. He finished his breakfast, hugged Síriyen tightly and ran out to help Iarwain in the stables.
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Lindó = ‘singing bird’ in Common Eldarin (Lindir is a Sindarin name)
Wilwárá = the Common Eldarin equivalent of ‘wilwarin” (= butterfly)
Lugni = the Common Eldarin version of ‘luin” (= blue)
Síriyen = River-daughter (more or less)
"Nothing can pass door and window save moonlight and starlight and the wind off the hill-top" is a direct quote from FotK, where Tom Bombadil says the same to the hobbits. Not because I was too lazy to think up something else but because I imagine Tom and Goldberry to speak very similarly.