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Lightly Sings the Wind
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Lightly Sings the Wind

Many thanks to Julie my beta.

Characters: Arafinwë (Finarfin), Eärwen, Eärwen’s mother, Olwë (Eärwen’s father)

Author’s Note: I used Sindarin terms because the language of the Teleri is very similar to Sindarin and I don’t have a clue as to where to find a Telerin dictionary.

Terms: ellon – male elf; elleth – female elf; naneth – mother; Aman – the continent where Valinor resides; Endor – the continent where Middle-earth resides; Alqualondë – the capital city of the Teleri; Tirion – the capital city of the Noldor

Disclaimer: Much of this is the property of Tolkien. I make no money from this.

This story won second place in the 2006 Winter Challenge at HaldirLovers.


~~~

A full month has passed since my husband returned home from the war. So much has changed in that brief time. For one who is thousands of years old, a single month should not have mattered so much. But this one has. My hopes have been taken away. The hope that has sustained me for hundreds of years, since my children left in their foolishness following the quest of the cursed Fëanor has diminished to naught. Even my husband’s return has brought me no joy.

I sit by myself on the rocks near the Place of Shells, watching the rolling waves, remembering, recalling in my heart what I want so desperately to forget.

I watched the great white ship, flying the standard of the House of Arafinwë: the royal symbol of the King of the Noldor, dock in the harbor. The usual breeze from the sea had stilled in expectation or perhaps it had frozen in dread. Many weary, changed faces disembarked from that ship before I saw my love’s golden head and glittering crown amidst those remaining on the ship. I waited, hands clasped to my heart, watching him move like a shining light among the dark-headed Noldor. At last he saw me and made his way off the ship. However, the ellon who left that ship in the guise of my husband bore a countenance so full of care, worn by sorrow and grief that I could hardly believe it was my Arafinwë. His radiance was dimmed: the light of the Trees still reflected in his beautiful eyes reduced to a mere shadow of the glow I once knew. His steps were slow as if some unseen force restrained him, striving to keep him from returning to the Blessed Lands, from returning to me.

I threw my arms around him as soon as he came within reach. He hugged me close, my face buried in his neck and shoulder, his breath warm in my ear. At last he pushed away, his hands cupping my face as he looked down into my eyes.

Shaking his head, he quietly said, “Eärwen . . . Eärwen, I am so sorry.” A tear slipped from his eye. “I have failed you, my love. I could not bring our children home.” His rich melodious voice shook as his trembling hands slipped to my shoulders and down to desperately grip my upper arms. “Artanis still has her foolish dreams of power and dominion and a silver-haired husband to support her. She refused to come home with me.”

I grasped his arms, looking into his tired eyes, looking for what he had not yet said.

No! It could not be! I shook my head at him, willing him not to tell me what I knew in my heart and saw in his that he was about to say.

“I arrived many decades too late. Our sons are dead, Eärwen.” His tears freely flowed as his control shattered. “Our beloved sons are dead.”

My hands squeezed his well-muscled arms, trying to convince myself that he was truly standing there telling me this. My lips formed the words several times before they found my voice.

“No,” I whispered, still shaking my head.

“No,” I said louder, closing my eyes, willing my husband’s words to be other than they were. His hands gripped me tighter.

I opened my eyes and he was still there before me, his broken spirit reflecting in his face.

“NO!” I screamed to the overly bright sky. Not my sons!

“NO!” I screamed to the selfish sea. Not my beautiful sons!

“NO!” I screamed to the dispassionate air. Not my precious little ones!

My precious, beloved sons …

My legs no longer supported me. Clinging to my husband, I crumbled to my knees as he fell to his, and I cried as I have not since I watched my brother die when the Noldor slew my people hundreds of years ago.

Now the cursed Noldor have slain my sons. They took them from my home, from my arms, and led them to their deaths.

My sons …

My precious beloved sons …

My sons are gone.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I do not know how long I clung to my husband, lost in my grief as he was lost in his. When I became aware of myself again, my husband was sitting on the ground, holding me to his heart, slowly rocking me. My hair was damp with his tears as his was sodden with mine. My father and mother were sitting on either side of me, rubbing my back, their faces wet with their sorrow.

No crowd pressed close to gawk at the King and Queen of the Noldor sunken to the ground in their grief. My husband’s advisors and my father’s servants had made a ring around us, their backs to us, shielding us from onlookers even if they could not protect us from our pain. In the respectful silence surrounding us, I heard occasional voices from passersby speaking words of empathy and sorrow or offering soft-spoken prayers to Nienna entreating her to ease our suffering. They had all lost someone in the attack on Alqualondë. They all understood how we felt.

I have no memory of the walk back to my father’s house except that my husband carried me in strong arms made all the more powerful by his years of fighting in Endor. My parents walked on either side of him, each with a hand on his shoulder lending him support and strength.

For the next several days, I lay in a soft bed in my husband’s arms sometimes sleeping, sometimes weeping. Sometimes, we spoke, yet always I grieved. For a week he stayed there with me. Occasionally he coaxed me to eat or drink, taking me back into his protective arms again afterward.

After that week had passed, he called for a warm scented bath and lovingly tried to cleanse me of the physical evidence of my grief. When he finished, he held me close to him in the comforting embrace of the water and softly sang to me until the water grew cool.

Patiently dried and dressed by his hand, he braided our hair and led me out of my father’s house and into the daylight. Immediately, I winced at the clawing of Anor’s bright rays upon my face, shielding my eyes in pain. How could Anor still shine without my sons to see it? Why must it glare so upon Arda, upon me, mocking my pain?

I threw my arms around my husband, clutching his waist, burying my face in his shoulder. He put his arm around me, holding me close, but continued to guide me away from the protective solitude of the house.

“Arafinwë, where are you taking me? I do not wish to be outside,” I protested.

“Eärwen,” he replied gently almost as if talking to a child. “You need to be outside. You need the balm of the wind and sea.”

“I no longer care for the wind and sea! I want my children back,” I defiantly said.

“I want our children back too, my love, but that is something we cannot have right now. We must be patient. They will return to us one day,” he reassured.

His words sounded practiced to my ears. Had he spent the entire week saying them until he deceived himself in believing them?

What did he know of patience?

The first chance he had, he fled from Aman to Endor to chase after his brothers and our children.

What did he know of waiting?

I was the one who was left here all alone with the burdens of queenship. I was the one abandoned to the loneliness of no husband or children while he wallowed in Endor for all of those years. What could he possibly know of my pain, of my loss?

I brooded in silence staring at the ground as my reluctant steps followed his off the streets and into the sand. I refused to listen to the quiet lull of the waves. I ignored the tentative touches of the wind. What did they know of how I felt?

At last Arafinwë stopped. He seated me on a rock facing the water, then sat behind me; his legs on either side of me, his arms wrapping around, pulling me against him. I crossed my arms in front of my chest, determinedly staring at the rock in front of me. Hard and silent it sat there unmoving, battered for millennia by the relentless sea, assaulted by the wind, yet ever hard and silent. Perhaps it knew of my pain, for it has known naught but torment.

But I am not a rock.

I used to know joy. I used to know pleasure. I had a grand house bustling with activity and my family with beautiful children and grandchildren to fill it. But they are all gone and my empty house is silent. Now I am bereft of my reasons for joy. I have no desire for pleasure.

I may as well be a rock.

“Even rocks remember, Eärwen,” Arafinwë suddenly said, having read the brooding in my heart. “We need to cherish the memories and take pleasure in them – even when those with whom we made the memories cannot be with us.”

“How can you survive on memories, Arafinwë? I require more than that to sustain me,” I said bitterly.

“Sometimes memories are all we have, my love. Memories are all that I had to sustain me, to see me through the decades spent fighting the war,” he answered, his voice soft and far away. “I saw so much misery and loss. I watched my warriors fight, losing fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, sister-husbands, friends. After each battle we lamented the losses, buried our dead, and cherished the memories to sustain us for the next encounter with the enemy. I could empathize with all of the survivors, having suffered the first loss myself when Morgoth murdered my father. Since that loss, I have lost my brothers, one of your brothers, my sons, countless friends, and all of my nephews except one. I have realized just how precious my memories are.”

I bowed my head, feeling ashamed for my selfishness. I had forgotten about his father. Too caught up in my own grief, I had not noticed the absence of his brothers and their kin. So, Eärendil had told the truth about their deaths.

Turning in my husband’s embrace, I looked into his bright eyes so full of memories and pain. Lovingly, I smoothed his hair with my hands and briefly pressed my lips to his.

“Arafinwë, I am so sorry,” I whispered against his mouth, wishing I could ease his sorrow. “I am so sorry.”

He kissed my lips again, then tucked my face against his neck and rested his cheek on my head.

“I really needed you there with me when I learned the manner of the deaths of my kin,” he said quietly. “But I had to face it alone and cope with it on my own for years while repeatedly sending others to face the same pain I felt. Such is the burden of leadership in time of war.

“But I am home now. I know you miss the children and I do not want you to face this alone. Please do not close your heart to me, Eärwen. I want to help you through your time of grief and I will help you. But I am still the king, and though I have laid that burden aside for the week to be with you, I have duties to which I must attend starting tomorrow. I will spend time with you when I can, but there is much that I need to do now that I have returned. So much is going to change and I need to discuss it with Olwë and Ingwë. There is much we need to do to prepare.”

I did not care what the changes were going to be. I hate change. Despite my husband’s words, I still wanted more than memories. I still wanted my children back. I did not want to have to share him with his people. The Noldor had taken my children from me and now, once again, they were taking my husband.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The next day and several days afterward were filled with meetings between my father and his closest advisors and my husband and his. I joined my husband and parents at meal times during the day, but Arafinwë and I dined alone in our room at night. This arrangement satisfied me until King Ingwë of the Vanyar arrived in Alqualondë.

I was in no mood for pageantry and pleasantries, but this was the first time in many hundreds of years that the kings of the Teleri, the Noldor, and the Vanyar were assembled together for counsel. As Queen of the Noldor and a princess of the Teleri, my presence was required. Drawing on the last dregs of my inner strength, I braided my hair, pinched my cheeks to recall some semblance of color, and donned my embroidered blue and silver gown whose detailing matched the elaborate patterns on my beloved’s blue and gold robes.

It was so very difficult to look on the mingled gold, silver, and dark-tressed crowd, richly garbed, laughing gaily, chattering in delight and not feel disgust. How could they be so blissfully ignorant? Did they not realize the Noldorin king was bereft of his heirs? Did they not know that my sons were dead? Did they not care that in a hall full of people I was so very very alone?

Many times that night, I felt the eyes of my parents and brothers and of Ingwë and his wife and children upon me. Time and again I caught the covert looks of pity cast upon me before etiquette smoothly wiped them away with a glance in another direction.

Throughout dinner and afterward, my husband stayed by my side, holding my hand whenever he could. In my head I heard his continual encouragement.

Eat a little bit more, my love. One more bite. One more sip.

I am with you now. Everything will be all right.

You are not alone in this.

Just one more hour and we can leave.

I love you, Eärwen.

Come. Let us retire to our rooms for the night.

On our bedroom’s balcony overlooking the sea, Arafinwë stood behind me, his arms wrapped securely around me, holding me close. For a long time we watched the moonlight glint off the water, listening to the rolling waves and the music of distant songs.

I remember when those waves shone silver, delighting my lover and me when we walked along the beach at night. I remember the golden sparkle of the sun reflected off the water as my children played in the sand. I remember when those waves washed red with the blood of my kin and his. I remember the countless hours I spent watching those empty waters for some sign of my husband and children returned from Endor, from exile, from war. I remember…

Gently my husband turned me in his arms. “Eärwen,” he desperately pleaded as I reluctantly met his silvery grey gaze. “Eärwen, you must stop! … Eärwen, you need to accept…”

He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. Slowly exhaling, he opened his eyes again and placed his hand on my cheek. “Eärwen,” he softly began again. “Many bad things have happened and we have suffered great loss. But, life continues around us. We must continue. There is so much that needs to be done now that I have returned.”

“Arafinwë, my children are gone!” I raged, pushing against his chest trying to get away, but he would not release me. “Do you not understand how empty and alone I am? Everywhere I look I see reminders of what used to be and cannot be again. Every place I go, I feel empty. I feel lost.”

He lifted my chin with his hand to keep me from looking away. “Eärwen,” he calmly soothed. “I do understand, more than you realize. Only time will take that pain away. Only time will heal you of the emptiness and ache. Time was what it took to heal me.”

Sensing the deep abiding echoes of his sorrow across our bond and feeling ashamed for my selfishness, I relaxed against him, once again. Resting my head on his shoulder, I wrapped my arms around his waist. He slipped his other arm around me, holding me close. We stood thus for a time, secure in the comfort of each other’s presence. But when he finally spoke again, I despised what I heard.

“Eärwen, I will continue doing all I can for you, but my people need me, too. Tomorrow I begin meeting with Ingwë as well to discuss what must take place to prepare for what is to come. So much is going to change, my love. So very much will change in a very short amount of time. It is imperative that we begin preparations now. Please be patient during this time, and soon I will be able to devote myself more completely to you.

“I do love you, Eärwen. I do love you.”

Despite his words that he would continue to spend time with me, his nights soon became filled with meetings with his advisors and private discussions with my father and Ingwë. I did not care that thousands of displaced elves were building ships to sail to Aman. I did not care that the kings would need to have a plan for how and where to place them and help them start new lives. I did not care that the returning exiles would need help resuming their former lives. All I saw was that my husband who said he cared for me and wanted to help, no longer had time for me. He asked me not to close my heart to him, but what had he done to me? Not only had I lost my children, now I may as well have been a widow, too.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

For many days, I stayed in my bedroom, taking my meals alone. At night, I retreated to my favorite places of solitude within my father’s house, the places of quiet I knew from my childhood. I doubt Arafinwë even noticed my absence from his bed. He had his papers and plans to keep him company while he slept. I had my memories, my loneliness, and my anger to occupy my time.

One night as I sat by the fire in my favorite refuge, my thoughts of my dead children were interrupted by a touch on my shoulder. I looked up from my seat on the hearth to meet the worried, compassionate gaze of my naneth.

Her soft sea green dress swished against the hearthstones, brushing my feet as she took my hand and sat down facing me.

“Eärwen, my child, why do persist in this grief? My heart aches for the pain I see in you. Why do you choose to face this alone when your family is in the same house wanting to help you?”

“Naneth, how can you understand what I feel?” I asked, angry at the intrusion and that my solitude had been broken simply for this. “How can you understand my pain?”

“You think I do not understand?” she asked, surprised. “I loved those whom you loved. I have lost them just as you have. I share your pain and your adar and brothers do, too.”

I jerked my hand away from hers as my fury erupted. “All of my sons and grandchildren are in Mandos’ halls and my daughter refuses to come back to me! How could you presume to understand how that feels?”

My mother put her hands on her hips, glaring at me, her voice matching mine in anger. “I have one son in Mandos’ halls and I saw the blow that sent him there. I have lost grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Now I am watching my stubborn daughter turn away from those who love her. If you truly grieve for your dead sons and for your surviving child who has shunned her parents’ love, then why are doing this to your parents? What of your husband and what your neglect is doing to him? Do you not care about the pain you are causing him?”

I had no answer for my mother about my behavior toward her and my father, for I knew she was correct. But as for my so-called husband …

“Arafinwë spends all of his time in councils and with his papers. He has no time for me.” I felt hot tears come to my eyes, but I blinked them away and gestured with a clenched fist. “I am his wife! He brought me this horrible news and then he abandoned me! Why should I care if he thinks I am neglecting him? He is the one who is neglecting me!”

Naneth clasped her hands in her lap, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She slowly let it out as the firelight cast dancing shadows upon her face. Opening her eyes, she looked directly into mine with such a power that I could not turn away.

“Eärwen, Arafinwë is your husband and he loves you dearly, but he is also a king. He has duties and responsibilities toward you as your husband, but he has duties and responsibilities toward his people as well. He is so honorable and so noble that he could not and would not willingly abandon either you or his folk. You have never before tried to divide him between his obligations as king and his duties as husband; do not start now. You neither understand nor care to try to understand the magnitude of what will soon happen in Aman. The coming changes will affect everyone. He has to give his attention to this right now. You two will be returning to Tirion in two days. Once he has this situation under control, he will be able to turn his attentions upon you once again.”

She embraced me and reluctantly, I hugged her, too. Surprisingly, I relaxed and let her hold me for a long while for it suddenly felt good to be held like a child in my naneth’s arms once again.

When she pulled back, she kissed my forehead and rose to her feet. Placing her hand on my shoulder, she said, “Stop being so selfish and give him the time he needs, Daughter. Remember, you are not the only one to have suffered loss.”

I stayed by the fire for the rest of the night, not yet ready to face my husband again.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The next morning, I packed a basket with food and drink from the kitchen and went for a walk. Eventually, I found myself here at the rocks by the Place of Shells. I ate a bit and drank some wine, stowing the basket in the hidden alcove which rests back from the water though still within calling distance of the waves.

For hours I have watched mothers and their young children hunt for shells. I used to do this with my children. I listen to the shrieks of delight as little ones find treasures from the sea, recalling the pleasure my children took in this endeavor.

But now my children are gone. The voices of the chattering young ones suddenly sound hollow on the dull wind. When will I ever hear my children’s voices again?

What is an elleth when her children are gone? Is she still a naneth when there is no one to call her by that name? Am I still one?

How can my husband still want me, still claim to love me when the most precious gifts I have given him have been taken from us?

Unable to look upon the painful reminders of my loss any longer, I move my eyes to the restless waves and my ears to the tuneless breeze. Something gently brushes my arm and I turn to see a hand reaching out to clasp mine. I look up to meet my husband’s questioning gaze.

I nod and he takes my hand, sitting down beside me. He is beautiful, resplendent in forest green dress robes embroidered in gold and his hair braided for duties in court. His eyes meeting mine, he whispers, “I have failed you, Eärwen. I told you I would support you and I have not. I told you that you would not face this sorrow alone, and then I allowed myself to become so caught up in my duties that I abandoned you. I am sorry. I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

I bow my head in shame. “It is I who should ask for your forgiveness. You asked me not to close my heart to you and that is what I did. This just hurts so much. I do not know what to do.” I look back toward the waves cleansing the shore.

“I understand. I have had years to try to master my feelings. You have only had one month. I had many distractions to divert my attention and still do. But I fear all you have had is solitude. Our people were not meant to know such pain, such loss here in Aman. Eärwen, I am sorry.”

I do not answer him. I feel so deeply ashamed for how I have treated him. Yet, I hurt so much that I do not know that I wish to go on with this emptiness inside of me.

“I return to Tirion tomorrow,” he quietly continues, a slight tremor entering his voice as he speaks his next words. “Will you accompany me or do you wish to remain with your parents a while longer?”

“I…I do not know what I will do.” Still not looking at him, I clench my fist in frustration, shaking it at the sea. “When I married you, I married the youngest son of a second wife. You never wanted the throne and never should have had to take it. You are all that is left to me. I hate sharing you with your people.” I pause a moment, fighting back the emotion that cracks my voice as I speak. “You are all I have left.”

He squeezes my hand still resting in his as he softly says, “I know. And you are all that is left to me. No one regrets my being king more than I do. But sometimes we have to do things we do not want to do and accept things we do not wish to accept.”

I think about his words, wondering if they are intended as a lesson for me or a reminder to him.

“I do not want to return to our empty house,” I bitterly admit. “The memories of what we have lost are too strong there.”

“Our children will come back to us one day, Eärwen,” he says reassuringly. “And we can make new memories while we wait.”

Shaking my head, I reply in defeat. “I do not know if I can, Arafinwë. I just do not know if I can.”

We sit in silence, holding hands, watching the rising tide and the sky darken with the setting sun. The mothers and children depart as Eärendil aboard Vingilot takes flight, climbing up to the heavens, and the first stars appear. Suddenly the silence is rudely broken by the protests of our stomachs, reminding us it is past time for dinner.

Laughing quietly at the absurdity of being hungry, we rise and I lead him to the alcove. He builds a fire with some driftwood and we sit in the sand, sharing the meager contents of the basket.

When we finish, he gives me a deep lingering kiss. Rising, he removes his robes and lays them on the sand like a blanket. Drawing me to my feet, he brushes the sand from my dress and then from himself. Directing me to be seated on his robes, he sits, facing me again. With my finger, I trace the leaf patterns I embroidered on his pale green shirt many years ago.

His fingers brush up and down my cheek as he softly says, “Eärwen, I am sorry for our loss. Nothing but time will ease the pain we feel. But perhaps…” He sighs, giving me a small hopeful smile. “Perhaps if we had something else to think about, to be a focus for our attention, we could find some joy again.” He leans closer, smoothing his hand over my hair. “You are so beautiful. My silver lady. My queen.” His lips briefly touch mine, then continue across my jaw to my ear, sending pleasant shivers down my spine. He pulls back slightly, his hand cupping my chin, and looks deeply into my eyes, his breath on my lips. “You are such a wonderful naneth. I would love to hear a little voice call you by that name again.”

I stare at him, speechless with surprise.

A child?

But we have moved past the years of children.

But another child…

It would fill my empty arms, bring delightful noise to my silent house. We could sing joyful songs and hunt for shells by the sea. I could tell it stories, so many stories of my children who came before.

But …

“Arafinwë, another child would not replace what we have lost,” I whisper sadly.

He smiles warmly. “I know, my love. But we would have someone with whom to make new memories while we wait for the other children to return to us.” Suddenly he chuckles, the laughter lilting on his voice as he continues. “Besides nothing would shock them more than to come home to us after so many years and be greeted by a younger sibling they did not know they had.”

I laugh at the image his words conjure in my mind. Pondering only a few moments more what could be mine, if I but say yes, I make my decision.

I deftly remove the ties in his hair, smoothing my fingers through the silkiness, unfastening his braids. Satisfied with my work, my hands expertly undo the fastenings on his shirt. He smiles at me roguishly, the heady hood of passion sliding over his beautiful grey eyes which literally shine with an intensity he reserves only for me.

Sliding his hands into my hair, his lips capture mine again and I willingly surrender to him.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

The first rays of light grace my eyes, bringing me to awareness. Gloriously, Anor in her radiance welcomes me to the day. I turn my head and see my husband still deep in slumber, his hand protectively resting over my abdomen. Playfully the music of the sea croons just out of sight in delighted splashes of sound. My husband’s heart beats beneath my ear, keeping time while a new heart beats beneath his hand. Lightly sings the wind across my body as I lay entwined in my husband’s arms, humming to the new life within me. And it is a song of joy.

Soon we will leave for Tirion. My husband and I are going home.

[Index]

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