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11
The Gifts of the Valar

12. Falls of Sirion: reaction to Nature
Dwarves of Belegost, Finrod, a Man of Beleriand, Elves of Minas Tirith


~~~

The Gifts of the Valar


Olcharin, Lord of Belegost, and Finrod of Minas Tirith, followed by those who’d chosen to come with them, carefully picked their way up the half ruinous path their guide followed toward the southern cliffs of the Andram. “I thought,” Finrod confided to the Dwarf, “that of all I know, you would best appreciate this place and the wondrous care that went into its making. It was here that Turgon and I came together, and here that Lord Ulmo spoke to us, encouraging us to hide our realms and peoples for their safety. This would not prove a good place to found the city that I purpose to see built; but it helped to spark my imagination, and better fitted me to appreciate the site on the Narog where I would see my new halls opened.”

Olcharin saved his breath for climbing, giving only a brief nod to his companion as they approached what appeared a rocky defile. Off to the east he could hear the roar of the River Sirion as it poured through its canyon at the bottom of the cliffs.

Their guide was a Man, and so far he’d not uttered a word within the hearing of the Dwarves. What he must think of this mixed company that had hired his services for the day Olcharin could not guess. But he must find it strange to see those of the Khazad and Elves side by side! He was quite tall, although nowhere as tall as the Elf by Olcharin’s side. Nor was he as finely wrought as were the Elves Olcharin had met so far. But he was apparently tireless as they climbed the rise, and his pace did not slacken as he stepped carefully over fallen stones upon the way.

It was good land here, with solid stone beneath him that the Dwarf could appreciate. The Man appeared merely indifferent to Mahal’s crafting, while the Elf who flanked Olcharin and Finrod to the left was peering upwards to follow the cries of the two birds circling overhead. Olcharin paused briefly to crane his head, trying to identify what kind of birds they might be, and Finrod followed suit. “Red hawks,” he said. “A mated pair.”

“How can you tell that?” demanded the Dwarf.

“There are signs for those with eyes to see them.”

Olcharin snorted, and hurried forward as their guide turned to follow the path around a standing stone up to the right. Almost he caught up with the Man when he realized that they had arrived at the entrance to the cavern they had come so far to see. “We keep a store of torches just inside,” the Man said at last, gesturing to the left. “Would you have me accompany you further?”

“If you will,” Finrod answered him, giving him his devastating smile. Even this taciturn soul was not proof against that! The Man’s expression softened slightly, and he went forward to bring out an armful of torches from just within the entrance, beginning to hand them to whoever pushed forward to receive one. Olcharin wished he dared to take one also, but refrained. Duvri seemed to take it as a personal insult if his Lord took any burden, no matter how reasonable, before any who were not of their people. However, it was but a small thing in which to humor his chamberlain, he supposed.

Half of the torches were soon lit with the rest saved for the return journey, and they began filing through the entrance and were soon out of sight of the daylight. Some of the Elves appeared uncomfortable with the darkness, but Olcharin’s Dwarves were quickly commenting on indications of veins of ore; and they held up the progress of the company when a flash of violet indicated a cluster of fine amethyst crystals.

Then the passageway they followed came even with the river itself, which ran through a wide channel half a fathom below them. The rushing of the water over the stone was loud as they walked along their ledge, following its course further and further into the depths of the mountains.

It was some time (and two stops for rest and refreshment for the Dwarves) before they became aware of a great echoing boom of water, and now no conversations were possible. The sound grew more overpowering, and they began to notice a fine spray of dampness on their faces. The way became slick in places, and the Dwarves found they, like the Man, had to watch where they placed their feet, although the Elves did not appear even to slow down appreciably.

“Light!” How he heard this exclamation from one of the Elves, Olcharin could not say. But the observation was correct. A distant grey glitter could be discerned, which grew increasingly brighter as they continued forward. There was a last twist to the right----

“Mahal’s Forge!” breathed the Lord of Belegost as he looked for the first time on the glory of the Falls of Sirion. He looked up at the wall that loomed up hundreds of feet above them, and saw the masses of water that poured down it, overlit by daylight that appeared to be carried into the great cavern by the water itself. Here there was but a veil of mist, while to the left was a steady pour, and to the right a series of stairsteps that twisted this way and that. Over there the flow was interrupted intermittently by randomly placed spurs of rock jutting out of the wall behind; and off to one side it sluiced down in angled troughs, now and then allowing some to spill over the sides.

Their guide now began to lead them further to the left, and still water poured down the wall opposite them, churning the surface of a great but relatively narrow underground lake below them that emptied out in the channel they’d followed to this site. On and on they went, and still the water fell from the great heights above to the lake they skirted, and the light strengthened. In places the mists were the color of steel, and in other a molten gold; but most wondrous were those places where rainbows seemed to blossom on every side, as if one had a choice of colorful paths that might lead anywhere, were they only substantial enough to support the weight of any of them.

The path now led back into a great chamber, further and further away from the flow. All finally gathered as far back from the falls as the chamber allowed, and they found they could now speak. Duvri was huddling close to Olcharin, his eyes wide with wonder and awe. “Never,” he said emphatically, “have I seen such a thing! How Mahal has wrought the inner garments of the earth itself into the basis for such a wonder I could not begin to tell—but I praise him for it!”

One of Finrod’s followers, who had walked with his lips parted in reverence for quite some time, turned and responded, “Lord Aulë did not create this display all by himself—nay, for Lord Ulmo has obviously had a hand in the crafting as well. See—his waters play about the stone in delight at such a variety of ways to fall!” And his fellows all indicated their agreement, their shining eyes even brighter in their appreciation for the works of the Creators.

Another Elf who had come from the Sindar laughed. “And think you that Lady Elbereth had no part in this? Does not her light play off of both water and stone?”

As for the Man, he shook his head emphatically. “Nay—it is the power that it all represents that is the greatest thing about it. Yea—there is both power and majesty here. Surely Lord Sulimo delights to visit here from time to time!”

And who was to say which was most right?

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