He couldn’t remember what his name had been before the swirling music had enveloped him; names only existed in the before. He had spent eons in the music, the time passing as quickly as fleeting seconds and stretching out to eternity beyond him. There were others here, flowing through each other with every pulse of the ancient song that they experienced together. There were no words – words had no meaning – but still the song spoke to them; of newborn stars, of crashing waves, of mythic quests – all images, feelings in the music.
The song swelled to a climax as it sometimes did, the only indication to him – to all of them – that something important was happening there, in the before. This one called to him particularly strongly; he felt its pull as it surrounded and penetrated him, pulling on the fibers of his being. Then the shattering pain of ripping, tearing – a vague memory forced to the front, the agony of it sending him into the dark of nothingness.
Beleg opened his eyes. With the movement, the realization that he, in fact, had eyes hit him, and he blinked them several times, acclimating himself to the movement. The trees above him swam in and out of focus as he trained his eyes first on the closest leaves and then tested his distance vision, straining to see the very top of the tallest branches.
He sat up and tried to jump to his feet, his warrior instinct returning quickly, but his movements were clumsy as they never had been before. He awkwardly staggered over to the nearest tree and leaned against it, not trusting his legs to continue supporting him for much longer.
He watched his hand as he pressed middle finger to thumb, reveling in the sensation of feeling. Everything was so acute, not like he remembered it. He took a deep breath, feeling the crisp air pull into his lungs, and tried to get his bearings.
His memories were dull, vague, of music, peace, and healing warmth, and a more disturbing whisper of a thought of pain, ripping and tearing through his being, so awful that he was glad it was no more than a faint memory.
Slowly, as if he were seeing flashes of another person’s life, other things came back to him; hunting a wolf, running from Orcs, fighting with a mighty bow. Images of forests and caves, of passages and rivers flashed through his mind and then disappeared. The name of a place – Doriath, his home – came to him, bringing with it an onslaught of new images.
He had left Doriath, he remembered, but couldn’t quite recall why, and settled in other mountain halls. But where was he now?
The trees around him were unfamiliar and their song was muted, as if he were listening through water or from a long distance. Even with his hand against the trunk of one, its voice did not come clearer to him and he was frightened.
Fear. A vivid memory of lightning flashes across the sky hit him and he staggered. He had experienced fear before, but then it was different, first fear for someone else and then fear for his own life. The fear he felt now was diluted compared to that, like the music of the trees around him.
Someone was approaching. He sensed their presence behind him and he spun to face this new threat, his movements more closely resembling his former agility than they had earlier.
Before him stood a warrior, he was sure, for there was no mistaking the stance or the intensity of his gaze, but his light melodious voice surprised Beleg.
“Greetings,” he said. “This is truly remarkable, for you possess the light of Valinor and are clearly newly woken.”
Beleg frowned and opened his mouth, attempting to return the greeting and ask what the elf’s strange words meant, but all that came out was air.
The elf laughed gently. “I recall my first day after I was reborn. I imagine I struggled much as you are.” He held his fist to his chest. “I am Glorfindel, formerly of the Golden Flower and more recently of Rivendell.”
Glorfindel … Rivendell … the language was familiar to Beleg but the names were meaningless.
“Glorfindel,” he managed to whisper. “I am Beleg Cúthalion, March-warden of Doriath.
Beleg perceived recognition in Glorfindel’s eyes and wondered at it.
“Beleg,” Glorfindel addressed him with awe in his voice, “it has been a great while since you last walked amongst the forests of this world.”
“I do not remember …” Beleg said, disturbed by Glorfindel’s words.
Glorfindel smiled and clasped Beleg’s shoulder. “Do not worry. Your memories of your past life will return in time, though they will always remain hazy.” He furrowed his brows in thought. “It is fortunate that I found you, for although the Enemy has been destroyed, the remnants of shadow have not been completely routed from our borders. I shall have to reflect on what your reappearance might mean at this time.”
Beleg’s heart leapt. “Morgoth is vanquished?” His voice rang clearly in his excitement.
Glorfindel laughed again, more exuberantly this time. ““Morgoth has long been no more than a myth to the people of these times. It was his servant, Sauron, of whom I spoke. Come” Glorfindel motioned for Beleg to follow him. “Once you are clothed and fed there will be much time to discuss all that has come to pass these past few ages.”
Rivendell was a strange sight to Beleg’s eyes. It seemed to be a part of the mountains surrounding it, but in a way that was completely different than he was accustomed. Menegroth had been carved into the mountains, had lived within the surrounding stone, whereas Rivendell seemed to grow from the valley, to spring forth from the peaks that flanked it.
He was pleased to realize that some of his memories were returning. There were still great blanks in his mind, voids where there should be names for the faces he envisioned, or context for the images that would suddenly appear in his head, but ever so slowly a name would accompany what he saw, filling the gaps. Menegroth had been one of these and Beleg had practically leapt up into the trees he had been so joyful that he remembered the name of the place he had spend a good part of his life – his former life.
Glorfindel had assured him repeatedly that the memory loss was normal or, at least, that the same thing had happened to him when he was first re-housed. As Beleg walked through the valley, listening to the rustle of the wind as it blew the autumn leaves from the trees and danced them through the air, he considered this, being re-housed, and stepped more swiftly along his path towards his destination.
Elrond, the Lord of Rivendell, would have answers for him, Glorfindel had assured him, or if not, would gladly converse with him about all aspects of his new life and all the possibilities of meaning his return carried with it. Elrond was a great lore master and took much pleasure in discussing such matters, Glorfindel said; they were of great interest to him.
Beleg thought Elrond sounded very much like a Noldo, but when he asked Glorfindel if he was, the other elf laughed and said, ‘not exactly.’
Another gust of wind came up behind Beleg and some leaves skittered across his path, drawing his attention away from his thoughts about his earlier encounter and back to his surroundings. Their vivid hues of orange, yellow and red contrasted the muted tone of the rest of the valley. Although the colors were bold, the song was all but gone.
Saddened by a sudden overwhelming feeling of loss, Beleg quickened his pace to a run, and soon arrived at Elrond’s House, easily spotted as the only building with smoke curling up from the chimney. He walked through the halls following the sound of murmured voices. Was everything in this valley quietly faded?
He stopped at a great wooden doorway, easily distinguishing three distinct voices within and recognizing one as Glorfindel’s. He raised his hand to knock but pulled up short when he realized that they spoke about him.
“Galadriel will wish to know of this,” one of the voices said thoughtfully. It had the unmistakable timbre of a voice of one of the Firstborn, but sounded so old and tired that Beleg doubted his judgment. Elven voices did not betray weariness as those of men did.
Glorfindel’s easy laugh was in deep contrast to the other voice. “Galadriel wishes to know of everything.”
The third speaker, his voice deeper than Glorfindel’s but more weightless and fluid than the first, chuckled, a subtle harmony to Glorfindel’s twinkling laugh.
“Perhaps she has seen it already,” he said, his voice still reflecting laughter.
The name Galadriel had ignited a spark of a memory in Beleg and he tried to place it within the context he remembered of his old life. She was not of Doriath, of that he was sure, though her name was Sindarin. Perhaps she was from the Falas? But why would his appearance interest someone of whom he had no relation?
He knocked on the door and it opened before him revealing a large room, its walls lined with bookshelves except for the far wall where a fire burned brightly in a grand fireplace, casting flickering shadows across the faces of the three elves who sat in front of it.
“Beleg!” Glorfindel greeted him warmly, standing and crossing the distance to join him by the doorway. “Won’t you come join us? We were discussing your rather surprising appearance.”
Beleg left the Hall of Fire – for that is what the room in which he met Elrond and Erestor was called – with more questions than answers after long hours of intense conversation. Elrond would have happily continued to answer anything Beleg could have thought to ask, of that he was sure, but after the first rays of the sun had glinted off the metal shutters on the room’s eastern windows, Beleg was certain his newly wakened mind could process no more new information.
Why would he be re-housed here, when all of the Firstborn were soon leaving these shores to sail West to Valinor? Why now, when peace had finally been won? Wouldn’t his skills as a warrior, as a particularly talented bowman, have proven useful in this past age, when there was so much war and uncertainty? It was almost cruel, this timing, an insult to him, to have been re-born too late.
Immediately, Beleg felt remorse for his heretical thoughts. Who was he to question the Powers, the One, when he had been gifted with life not once but twice? He squinted at the sky to see the path of the sun and determine the direction he was traveling. Facing West, he knelt down to offer thanks for his gifts and to ask for guidance from the Valar.
His thoughts traveled back, over eons and death, to his first Awakening, long ago. The memories were hazy, but clearer than some of his others, dominated by pinpricks of light against a darkened sky. There was much confusion and doubt, those first days, and many had been lost to Shadow. Then the Summons had come, and hope blossomed as promise of a peaceful and safe life in the Blessed Realm was offered to all of the Firstborn children.
Was this his answer? Had the Valar spoken to him through his vision? He had obeyed the original Summons as part of the host of Elwë but had remained loyally with his King when the King had tarried in the forests of this world. Now that he was no longer bound by love or fealty, was he being granted the chance to make the journey and live the life that had been offered him so long ago?
He looked at the valley with fresh eyes; from the beauty of the trees and the grandeur of the mountains surrounding them to the elegance of the structures built ages ago by his kin. It must have been truly breathtaking at the height of its power. But it was fading now; there was no denying that, as would he, should he remain here after Elrond passed into the West.
So perhaps this life was a gift, a second chance to undo the suffering he had endured because of Arda Marred. He whispered a song of thanks again as his feet lightly skimmed the path back to Elrond’s home. Hopefully the offer the Lord of Imladris had made last night still held true, and the white ship docked at the harbor might bear him home as well.