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13
Unlight Arising

Disclaimer: see in the Foreword.

Author’s Notes:
This is simply a continuation of Chapter 12. Unlike in my other stories, I wanted to keep the chapters of this one short, mostly because they are so heavily loaded with older stuff.


~~~

13. Unlight Arising

After the midday meal Gilfanon asked Legolas to be allowed to use the Hall of Tales, which proved to be some sort of pavilion, open to all sides but one – practically naught but a roof, held by artfully-carved wooden pillars. Before the only wall a low armchair stood, and this, said Vainóni, was the place of the storyteller, while those who were listening sat in circles along the pillars, each circle smaller than the one before.

Samírien was celebrated differently in Tol Eressëa where the Valar rarely visited. Instead of Manwë’s speech, ‘twas up to the minstrels and storytellers to remind the Eldar of the Elder Days; and for this purpose exactly had the Hall of Tales been built.

Hearing which tale Gilfanon was about to tell, many Elves came to listen to it. A great number of them had witnessed those fateful events back in the Elder Days, and they hoped that reliving them would help to lessen their grief that they still felt over their losses.

Others, younger ones, born after the Veiling of Valinor, simply wanted to learn more about the deeds of their ancestors. What ever might have moved them, there were some hundred Elves and more in the pavilion when Gilfanon finally took the seat of the storyteller, Legolas and Meril among them. The minstrels, however, were no-where to see.

“Today I shall tell you a long and sorrowful tale,” Gilfanon began; “a tale of bitter losses and desperate bravery; a tale of righteous anger and horrible sins. ‘Tis proper to tell it on this very day; for on the third day of Samírien it happened that Melko came to Tirion, passing on his way the dark halls of Makar’s abode, where some of his followers had been hiding already. At that day, however, the halls stood empty, for even that wild Vala and his fierce sister Meássë had gone to Valmar to honour the time, and indeed all of the Valar went there saving Fui and Mandos only, and Ossë was even there, dissembling for those seven days his feud and jealousy with Ulmo…”

Celebrían felt her mind drift a little. Though it surprised her somewhat that there would be squabbles among the Powers of the West, she had little interest in these matters. Thus, while listening with half an ear to the well-known parts of the tale, her thoughts were more on Meril than on the story itself. For the Queen of Tol Eressëa seemed strongly touched by the tale – though ‘touched’ might not be the right word for it. It seemed as if the reliving of those events had angered her somehow, and as if the slaying of the High King of the Noldoli awakened more bitterness in her heart than true grief.

“And so it came that everyone was gathered together upon the slopes of Taniquetil,” Gilfanon was saying, “all three kindreds of the Elves, the Maiar, and even the Valar were arrayed in their majesty and beauty, and all were ready to hear the Words of the Beginning from Manwë’s mouth once again. Thus the streets of Valmar were empty, and the stairs of Tirion were silent; and all the land lay sleeping in peace. Only Nólemë was absent from the Feast, and some of his people, for he wished not to meet with his kin as long as the ban lasted upon his firstborn.

“Meanwhile Melko, after Fëanáro had seen through his evil designs for the first time, had fled through the Calacirya, and everyone thought that he had turned northward, trying to escape to his old strongholds in the Outer Lands, for the Solosimpi in Alqaluntë(1) had seen his shadow going by their haven towards Araman.

“Thus the watch was doubled along the northern fences of Aman yet it all was in vain for Melko had already poisoned the minds of many who were entrusted with that very duty, Makar and Meássë and their people among others. Besides, he was yet as one of the Valar, and could change his form or walk unclad; yet this was soon to change, as soon as he bound himself permanently to the flesh of Arda and thus poisoned it with his evil forever.

“Therefore ‘twas easy for him to come unseen to the dark region of Avathar south of the Bay of Eldamar, beneath the eastern feet of the Pelóri – for he intended to seek out the help of an old ally. And while the great Feast was going on upon Taniquetil still, the Dark One wandered the shadowy plains of that land between the sheer wall of the mountains and the cold, dark Sea; and further south than anyone had yet treated, he found a region of deepest gloom.”

Celebrían suppressed a shiver. Ever since her captivity, descriptions of darkness awakened unpleasant memories in her heart; for a whole year before embarking on this last journey of hers, she had slept with candles and lamps burning brightly in her bedchamber. She secretly wished that Gilfanon would get over this part of the story, yet it seemed that the ancient Elf only began to draw out the gloomy details.

“There he sought ‘til he found a dark cavern in the hills, and webs of darkness lay about it, so that the black air could be felt heavy and choking about one’s face and hands,” Gilfanon continued. “Very deep and winding were those ways, and under the earth they secretly led straight to the Sea; for here dwelt an ancient and evil spirit, Móru, whom even the Valar know not whence or when she came, and the people of the Outer Lands gave her many names…”

Here Gilfanon paused to cast a questioning look at his audience.

“Ungoliantë,” someone said, a little uncertainly, from the middle of the enthralled crowd, and the ancient Elf nodded.

“So our legends call her indeed, though she had had many other names during the Ages.”

“And there is truly no-one who would know where she came from?” asked someone else. Celebrían could not see who it was, either, but from the voice she suspected one of the younger Elves.

“Some say she was bred of mists and darkness of the Shadowy Seas, in that utter dark that came between the overthrow of the Lamps and the kindling of the Trees,” replied Gilfanon, “but more likely she had always been. She it was who loved to dwell in that black place, spinning a clinging gossamer of gloom that caught in its mesh stars and moons and all bright things that sail the airs. Even some of the air spirits who got lost and were never seen again most likely ended up in her webs. Indeed it was because of her labours that so little of that overflowing light of the Two Trees flowed ever into the Outer Lands, for she sucked light, greedily, and it fed her, but she brought forth only that darkness that denies all light. Ungwë Lianti – the great spider that enmeshes – did the Eldar call her, naming her also Wirilómë or Gloomweaver. Whence still our people speak of her as Ungoliantë the Spider or as Gwerlum the Black.”(2)

“Was there between Melko and Ungoliantë friendship from the first?” someone asked, but Gilfanon shook his head.

“Gloomweaver had no friends, for she cared only for herself and a-hungered for light. She only wished to devour every light and turn it to darkness. And it was this unquenchable hunger of hers that Melko counted on, for promising her to give her all light she wanted, he finally succeeded in luring her out of her deep hiding places – thus setting his lure for the lesser thief, for never truly did he intend to give her what he lusted for most: the Jewels of Fëanáro.”

“Those cursed Jewels that brought more grief over our people than the Dark One himself,” Meril whispered barely audible, though Celebrían could have sworn that Gilfanon did hear it. Still, the ancient Elf did not sway from the path of his tale.

“Knowing that the best time to strike would be while all Valinor was attending Samírien, Melko and Wirilómë crept into Valmar and lay hidden in a valley of the foothills, ‘til Silpion came to full bloom, its fair silver light filling the silent city of Valmar with a soft radiance.(3) But all the while was Gloomweaver spinning her most lightless webs and ill-enchanted shades ‘til a dim uncertain darkness crept unto the roots of the Trees, and only faint lights wavered in it.”

“How come that neither the Valar nor the Elves would notice the rising of Unlight?” asked the same voice as before, and Celebrían secretly agreed.

“Oh, they did notice,” replied Gilfanon; “yet they did not suspect the hand of Melko in this, and they knew naught as yet of Ungoliantë. Thus they believed rather it was some work of Ossë’s who at times with his storms caused great mists and darkness to be wafted off the Shadowy Seas, encroaching even the bright airs of Valinor; though in this he met the anger both of Ulmo and Manwë.”

“Did you not say that Ossë was attending to the Feast himself?” the voice from earlier insisted. Gilfanon nodded.

“That I did and so it was. But the members of his court, the Oarni and Falmaríni and the long-tressed Wingildi(4) never left the waves, and they were known as playful and mischievous beings back then. Therefore Manwë did only as was his wont, sending forth a sweet westerly breath to blow all ill sea-humours back eastward over the waters.”

“Much could such gentle breathing have availed against the woven night, heavy and clinging that Wirilómë had spread far abroad,” muttered Legolas darkly. Not being an Elf of Valinor, he had no direct memories of those dire events, but the outcome was well-known anyway.

“Not much indeed,” Gilfanon sighed sadly, “and thus under the black cloak of invisibility Melko and the Spider of Night reached the root of Laurelin unnoticed. And Melko, summoning all his might, thrust his black spear into the beauteous stock of the Golden Tree, and the fiery radiance that spouted forth assuredly had consumed him even as it did his spear, had not Gloomweaver cast herself down and lapped it thirstily, hacking her black beak into the wound in the tree’s bark and sucking away its life and strength. For she alone, who was Unlight incorporate, could swallow and quench the living fire that pulsated through the Two Trees.”

“And still no-one noticed the darkening of Laurelin?” asked someone unbelievingly.

“Nay,” said Gilfanon, “for by ill fortune it also was the time of Laurelin’s accustomed deepest repose; and it would never wake to glory any more. But from that great draught of light suddenly pride surged in the black heart of Gloomweaver, and she heeded not Melko’s warnings but set to sate herself now nigh to the roots of Silpion, spouting forth evil fumes of blight that flowed like rivers of blackness even to the gates of Valmar.”

Gilfanon paused again and sighed deeply.

“Did I say no-one noticed? I was wrong. For there was one among the Noldoli, a member of Nólemë’s household called Daurin wandering from Formenos in great boding of ill, and he reached Ezellohar just as Melko was about to injure the bole of Silpion – and with a great cry he made for Wirilómë where in the likeness of a spider she sprawled upon the ground. And with his slender blade that came from the forge of Aulë himself, Daurin clove one of her great legs, staining the blade with her black gore – a poison to all things whose life is light.”

Once more Gilfanon paused, looking at the tense faces of his audience. In the innermost circle a young Elf raised a pale hand.

“What happened to this valiant Noldo?” she asked. “For he could not save the Silver Tree, as we know.”

“Nay, he would not,” replied Gilfanon sadly; “for Wirilómë, writhing, threw a thread about him, and he was unable to get free; and Melko ruthlessly stabbed him to death. Then wrestling that bright slender blade from his dying grasp, the Dark One thrust it deep into Silpion’s trunk, and the poison of Gloomweaver was still black upon it, drying the very sap and essence of the three, and its light died suddenly to a dismal glow lost in impenetrable dusk. Gloomweaver, angered about the loss of more food and still not sated, turned to the Wells of Varda and drank them dry also. And she belched forth black vapours while she drank and swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that even Melko was afraid.”

~~~

End notes:

(1) Earlier name of Alqualondë.

(2) Direct quote. See: “The Book of Lost Tales 1”, pp167-168.

(3) In the Silmarillion, the assault on the Trees happened at the time of the mingling of the lights.

(4) The spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean.


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