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Whether Exodus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Whether Exodus



~~~

Whether Exodus

Barely had the ground cooled from the last assault when the order came to march: double quick, to the hills of Ossiriand, climb as high as you can. You have one season.

Then they all knew that their swords were useless, that the power of Morgoth, as all had come to call him, even in Aman, could not be broken by arms such as slay orcs and other bodily creatures. Then they knew that what they had come to do, they could not accomplish: the land could not be saved.

Beleriand was doomed.

The word went all through Ulmo’s waters, and fell from the skies in torrential rains that carried Nienna’s weeping and warning: flee, flee to the heights! Eärendil took thought then for Sirion and those who remained in the wasted westlands, and so Elwing led a part of the Eagles and birds of Manwë’s court south to cry the news: to shore, to ship!

And who would warn the east? Even armies cannot take all paths, and so Finarfin sent orders to his fleetest to be heralds to any who would listen: those among the host who were Oromë’s Children, and Nessa’s swift-footed dancers. The latest chief of Bëor’s house, a grim-faced boy come too soon to manhood, put his best riders forward, and those of Hador’s House offered guides to find their people and lead the way through Ossiriand, and so the messengers were sent out…

~0~


The river was screaming in its channel. It went in terror of the salt it knew was coming, and in its distress, overflowed its bounds. Elenwë could say nothing to calm it, and so she looked to her own feet and kept above the flood crests. The season was turning, slowly but surely, and the daily hunt ground its way into the soles of her feet, knotted itself up in the stitch in her side, and weighed like the spear in her hand. The trees were bent, their branches lowering, trembling in the rains; the creatures of the land were all in a panic and looked at her with wide and terrified eyes.

And there was nothing she could do, save urge them: Run!

The rain was growing thicker. Her clothes were soaked, and she had still far to go tomorrow if she would reach the hills of this silent land. Ossiriand – land of seven rivers, and empty save for them, it seemed. If ever there were Laiquendi in these woods, they must have fled or hidden themselves away where outsiders would find neither sign nor sight of them. For nothing, then, her run – no one to find, but the speechless creatures, and in their fear and shyness, they did not stay long enough for her to be sure they understood her.

Elenwë slowed and came to a halt, gripped her glaive in both hands and leaned her knuckles on her thighs, panting. Her breath trailed out in clouds of steam, and she was shaking, her heart pounding against her ribs. She closed her eyes. The river gibbered in its bed, a hissing, breathless watery complaint; Elenwë, lacking answers, straightened wearily after a time to look about at the woodlands.

The trees grew closer here than in other places, and she could smell their must, despite the rain. Ancient oaks, with mossy beards and a bevy of mushrooms decking their roots – upon a tomorrow, they would stand no longer, and all the acorns they might give would go to naught.

For this, we shed blood, she thought dully. Muscles ached with the memory of battles fought, of being buffeted by wind and chill rain as much as by foes; memory filled with visions of smoke and plains filled with pale corpses. And all for naught. It was the shape of her life, she thought, studded with beginnings, trailing out swiftly to cut off ends and failures: lukewarm wife, sometime mother, short-lived rebel, now failed liberator. In each case, it seemed her journey had ended almost ere it had begun – like the acorns.

With sudden violence, she kicked one across the little clearing. Beneath the branches sinking under a sky grown suddenly heavy, she listened to it scuttle across leaves in the darkness, and then began to settle for the night. Memory retreated to a resentful corner, and she sighed, began setting camp.

Because she was alone, and had been for more than a month as she sought the elusive Green Elves of Ossiriand, she did not bother to climb a tree, but settled beneath one, by a long-fallen log that had opened a view to the river. Crawling within it, she cut wood from its hollowed trunk – as dry as she would find this evening – and used it to feed a fire. Later she could sleep in the log, and when her dreams were done, continue on to meet up with the hosts.

In the meantime, she took off her shoes and stockings to dry, and turned her damp toes to her campfire for warmth. The earth exhaled a cold air, ill omen for a restful sleep. She should have thought that after the Ice, cold would not trouble her, but Elenwë had found she had instead little patience for it, less than ever before. The memory of that bitter, biting cold that had struck her like a fist to the chest and burned in her eyes and ears and mouth had survived the death of her body and new flesh shrank and shivered at the first brush of cold.

The night deepened, and the rains continued. Huddled before the flames, Elenwë ate her waybread and sipped from her water-skin. Her little campfire held up the edges of darkness, left her eyes filled with its afterglow. Ghostly color shaded across her vision, shaped itself into other ghosts whose ends she knew from Findaráto, and the few other rehoused Noldor: her stranger-daughter and little-known son-in-law, lost to who knew what fate; her husband, confined still in Námo’s halls; Laurefindil; Aikanáro and Angaráto; Irissë.

Irissë. As sisters they had been, even ere Elenwë had married – close as blood, closer even. Irissë had lost all for love of the forests that Ondolindë lacked. A foolish thing, some among the rehoused of that city were wont to say, to leave the safety of Tumladen for a few trees, or for Tyelkormo. Elenwë never answered such mutterings. There was little point, however true the answer. For Irissë was one of Oromë’s Daughters, one of few of that following in Turukáno’s host, and Elenwë’s sometime husband had thought to cage his sister in a rock garden.

The more fool him, she thought, and felt just a little pang. A wise man, her husband, save in the case of those closest to him. There were worse faults. She thought of her wedding night, remembered thinking that it was almost like dancing at the Reaping Festivals with Irissë, and the ache was not entirely from weariness. But all that had been long ago, and brief as Elves measured matters – no time for little trials, or anything to come of them or their failures. Life seemed to move in fits and starts, which never rose above themselves. She had last lain with her husband before the Ice, had last seen Irissë in the moments ere the ice erupted, faceless beneath her furs, save for widening eyes –

– and as swift it followed, in memory as in life: one of Morgoth’s servants come bursting through the leads in a deadly spray of ice and water, maw gaping.

That immense bulk crashing down upon the ice to crack it wide beneath them.

And the ice – the grey ice gone white above her in the dark sea… then red as the cold burst her eyes…


Elenwë blinked. Memory dissolved in a shudder. Long ago, she thought, repeating that like a talisman. Long, long ago, the Ice.

And if she had not survived it, Turukáno had. Idril had. Irissë, and many others, had, and they had come to these shores and made their stand upon them. For what in the end, Elenwë could not now be wholly certain. Perhaps it had been for justice against the Enemy, as they had said in the days when they had followed Fëanor to Araman. Perhaps it had been for justice against Fëanor and his sons, as Fingolfin had said when they had stood betrayed upon the shores of Aman. She had marched for both. But in the end, she thought, they must have stood for something more.

And so because Valinor had as much place for failed rebels as for Feänorians, even if the Valar found her not unworthy of an early release – for pity, perhaps, or because she had failed of the promise of rebellion, dying early as she had, no blood on her hands – Elenwë had come here to see these lands that, to hear the rehoused citizens of Ondolindë tell it, her husband had grown to love so fatally and fiercely. She had come to see the forests that had lured Irissë to her doom, to meet the Aftercomers for whom her daughter had been sundered from her people. And she had come because Morgoth lived and the war of the Valar was her singular chance to strike her blow, not to fail utterly – to see this one thing through that had cut off all others in her life…

Something creaked in the night, like wood bending in a storm. Elenwë frowned, for though the rain was heavy, there was little wind to make a tree groan so. Again it sounded, long and loud, and Elenwë’s frown deepened, for surely if a tree should sound so, it must be falling. And yet there came no sound of a crash, no shiver in the forest eaves to tell of a tree gone down. Her hand strayed toward her glaive, as she stared out into the night, uncomfortably aware of her campfire, blazing like a beacon…

Again, the groan of wood cracking, and this time, something moved in the darkness. Something immense. Valarauka, Elenwë thought, and shut her eyes a moment, but then slipped from her shelter, firmly gripping the haft of her glaive, and she dug her toes into the wet earth as she walked, feeling the ground beneath her on which her life might depend. Nessa move me!

“Show yourself,” she called, in her best Sindarin. And when only silence answered, she offered: “I am Elenwë of the people of Ingwë, and a herald. Show yourself, if you be a friend of the Powers of Aman, for I have word for you!”

At that, a low, strange, sonorous rumbling rent the silence all around, like a dozen angry drums had fallen upon reed pipes. Elenwë raised her glaive…

… and then the ground to her left seemed to explode in a jet of earth! Something splintery knocked the wind from her, raked her side, sent her tumbling. With a gasp, she landed, all the air gone out of her. All about the clearing, the darkness was alive and teeming, the trees swaying as a host of unseen giants moved among them. Impulse moved her, though she felt as a landed fish still: heart pounding, Elenwë scrambled to her feet, clutching her glaive, and she swung it blindly back toward whatever had struck her –

With a hollow, wooden knock, the blade lodged! Outraged reeds screamed, deafening her as the haft was wrenched from her grip.

Only then did she finally recognize her enemy: the tree beneath which she had camped! Dull with shock and still gasping, she watched as the tree reached down a leafy limb and ripped the haft free of the blade embedded in its woody flesh like a child might pull a new weed.

Other woody calls sounded, filling the night with commotion, and Elenwë realized she was surrounded. The trees swayed – not to part for an enemy, but the trees themselves were seeking her blood. Elenwë ducked as a fist of bent branches swept through where her head had been, and, quick-footed, she danced back, then dodged as another tree uprooted itself and began bearing down upon her, calling to its fellows.

The whole forest, she thought, numbly, and somehow, could not finish the thought, could not wrap her mind about it. Nor had she the time to wonder: she had faced Valaraukar and orcs, ice and fire, but with the woods closing against her, she had but one choice. She turned from the trees and, fleeing to the sodden banks, took to the river.

The river closed in dark as the sea had over her head, and memory of that deadly chill spurred limbs numbed by the present cold to life. She clawed at the waters, kicked at the weeds, and surfaced, gasping and choking. The current, roiled with the river’s panic, ran swift and heedless down the channel, dashing itself against rocks and leaping the riverbanks – dragging her downstream like a leaf. Fighting to keep her head above the waters, Elenwë heard the trees calling to each other in fell, strange voices from behind, and to her horror, a thrumming, singing response boomed out ahead. Struggling to turn herself, she saw then, above the water crests, yet more trees wading out into the water, seeking to trap her…

One loomed suddenly over the bank, and a massive root-toed foot plunged into the waters, followed by a great, many-branched hand. The river hurled her straight into its path, and she gasped as the current slammed her against those deadly fingers, and she felt something – bone, perhaps – give within her breast. The woody hand closed about her, caging her in like a rare bird, and she was swept from the river, water streaming from her and from the tree. It turned then, and the world spun dizzily before her eyes, as she heard the tree sound and boom, like horns and drums together – claiming its prize. Certainly, the other trees did not contest it, though they crowded thick about, leaves hissing and rustling, groaning and creaking.

Her captor held her up, and shook her, rattling her in its fist, as it trumpeted and haumed and rumbled at her, in a long sing-song fashion. Half-drowned, trembling fiercely with cold, and unable to breathe, Elenwë could only gasp futilely and stare in horror until the darkness closed in and claimed her.

~0~


She came to upon the ground, in a sodden muddy patch, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Everything hurt. Elenwë sucked in a breath – and the coughing fit that gripped her then left her weak as a chick and tear-blinded for the pain in her chest. She pressed a hand over her ribs – fractured perhaps. Perhaps worse. She felt as one long bruise, and her head ached abominably as she rolled painfully onto her back to blink, bleary and exhausted, at the grey sky.

A soft, low rumble, more felt than heard, reached her, and she froze. A great, leaf-locked face appeared then, bending over her from on high, and two marvelous eyes stared down at her. Green as she had thought only Yavánna’s could be, and shot through with veiny browns, when they blinked, they showed as knots in that strange, woody face.

Harrroooom. Mmmm. You are… hmmmm… awake now?” the creature asked, in the strangest Quenya Elenwë had ever heard. The voice itself seemed to come from as deep within the tree as it stood tall, and the leaves upon its… head… trembled slightly.

“Yes,” Elenwë croaked, and coughed a little. There seemed no point in denying it. If her enemy would kill her, then it would kill her – there was little to be done about that.

“Hmmmm. It is as I thought: you understand this tongue, though you speak as the Grey Ones,” the tree-creature continued. “But you are… haummmm…. not one of them.”

She was likely concussed. She was likely in her last moments in Middle-earth. Somehow, past the splitting headache, all Elenwë felt was a vague disappointment that she had not managed many weeks more in her second venture than in her first. And confusion, because surely one of Morgoth’s servants would care little what tongue she spoke. Doubt stirred vaguely.

“No, I am not,” she managed. The tree rumbled, seeming thoughtful. Elenwë, remembering the cacophony and clamor of the night, licked her lips, and asked: “Where are the others?”

“I have, mmmm, sent them away for a little while, in order to have peace. It is not, haum, every day that a messenger comes to us from the lady, and Huorns are more, hmmm, hasty than is good, especially when they are roused.”

“Huorns?”

“Mmm. Our charges, you might say our ‘flocks,’” the tree replied, and those enormous eyes seemed to brighten as they came to rest upon her more closely. “It has been a very long time since one of your kind came to us, so perhaps you do not know the Huorns. They have grown up, you see, since the lady came and gave us the flowers of the fields and the buds to bloom in the new lights of the world.”

Elenwë shut her eyes a moment, then bit down on her lip as she forced herself to sit up, weathering the brief spell of dizziness this produced, and the pain of it. “The lady… you mean Kementári,” she managed, in a pained and breathless exhalation.

The tree nodded its leafy head. “Kementári, yes. She has many names, our lady – long ones, lovely ones. Worth singing for an Age, her names – I used to spend years upon the hills, singing just one! She comes to us here, from her bright land now and again. Such leaves she wears! She would not wish to see her gifts destroyed.”

Elenwë breathed in deeply at that – or as deeply as she could. “She does not. But the Enemy is… rooted deep,” she said, after a moment’s consideration of the other.

“Yes, that he is, indeed.” A dangerous edge thrummed in the other’s voice, and also a new resolution, as the tree declared: “That is why I am glad that you have come at last.”

Elenwë pressed a hand to her aching head, willing herself to calm, to thought. “At last?” she repeated.

“You said that you are a herald, that the Powers have word,” the tree replied. “That is why I stopped the Huorns, though they would have slain you in their wrath, for the news of the rains and the earth concerning the Powers is not good. What word from them? What word from our lady?”

The eagerness in that tone was unmistakable, and Elenwë felt her heart sink, hearing that hope humming in the tree’s questions, shining in its strange, bright eyes. “What you have heard from the earth and water,” she said, after a moment, “is true.” And to the distressed rumble: “The Enemy has taken too much of this place; he has sunk too deep into this land. The Powers know now: they can put an end to Morgoth in this world, or this land may continue, but they cannot save the land and uproot the Dark Lord. They bid you flee, therefore – seek the eastern mountains and safety there.”

“But our glades and grasses are here! Our trees are here,” the tree protested.

“I know it. There are many peoples in these lands. But save your lives at least,” Elenwë urged. “The Valar would not see all perish.”

“What are our lives, if our lands be destroyed?” the other asked, and dismay was running towards anger, Elenwë could feel it.

“There are new lives to be made over the mountains,” Elenwë insisted, as she painfully climbed to her feet, and stood there, bent over, hands on her knees against dizziness and short breath. But before she could straighten, she staggered, for the tree reached down a hand to scoop her up, and she lay sprawled in its palm, clutching at its fingers, as it lifted her up to meet its eyes.

“My fields cannot walk to a new land. Only my Huorns may, but the lady gave me the flowers of my glades to be my sun-days charges, as she gave us the sleeping trees of the forest. Harrrooom, how could I leave them without shame?” it demanded. Then: “Kementári cannot, hmmmm, have consented to this!”

Feeling her heart hammering in her chest, and her life quite literally in the other’s hands, Elenwë did not immediately answer. But she was a herald, and, she reminded herself, it was not as if she had not died before, though flesh naturally shrank from the endeavor.

“The Queen does not love such necessity; only she hates her brother’s injustice more,” she said. The tree gave a great piping cry.

“Her brother’s injustice is long in this world as the name of justice is long in my tongue,” the tree replied then, and its leaves rustled and stirred, as if a great gale passed among them. “Why do they come now to put an end to it, when they might have done so earlier and spared the land?”

To that, Elenwë could make no response, nor hope to – the question was hardly new to her, and she had never found an answer, beyond that the Valar did not see things as bodily beings did. Somewhere in the forest beyond, she heard answering calls, the sounds of treeish wrath, and bowed her head. She had thought she would see Beleriand drown from the mountains, then board ship with her people for Aman, but it appeared that Middle-earth would once more have done with her ere her own task ended. She looked the tree in the eye, then.

“I would know your name, before you give me to your Huorns,” she said, steadily.

“Give you to my Huorns?” The creature blinked at her, then gave a little trumpeting laugh, harsh as a clarion call. “That would be a, hmmm, a short affair. That would not be justice. No.”

“What, then?” Elenwë asked.

“You came to tell us of the death of our world. It is, hmmm, only fair that you should see what you have announced,” the tree answered. “Yes, that is more just. You shall stay with us here and take the memory to our lady when you go.”

Having passed judgment, the creature began striding deeper into the forest, carrying Elenwë along, heedless of her surprise.

“You know of our fate, when we die?” Elenwë demanded, amazed.

“Of course. The lady told us. She sang to us a long, long while, before she sent the Elves to wake us,” the tree answered. “You will go to dust, and lie there in the earth, and when your spring comes again, crack the crust of the world like a new shoot and rise again. And since you are a messenger of the Powers, you may remember us to our lady, so that she may know that we did not betray our charge – not even come the breaking of our world.”

The creature fell silent then, and Elenwë, weary, chilled, and in pain, and seeing no way out, simply shut her eyes and let the other take her where it would.

~0~


She was not certain how long the other had walked, nor when sleep had claimed her, but when next Elenwë opened her eyes, it was to sunlight streaming down through scattering clouds.

And there were no trees she could see, and no bark at her back, and the air was heavy with a sweet fragrance. Elenwë let her head loll to the left, and felt grass brush her cheek, as she reached out to the pale red flowers swaying upon their stalks. They bowed to her touch, soft against her skin, but sprang back up when, sighing, she let her hand fall.

With an effort, Elenwë rolled onto one side and pressed up, wincing. But she saw then, that though the trees were far off, they lined this field all about. A large glade, it seemed, sloping a little to the south, and she could hear no rush of water – the river, then, was far behind.

Her clothes were nearly dry, though stiff, and the air was cool. Elenwë clutched her injured side and rose unsteadily to her feet. The pain was less sharp than it had been – had she slept so long as to lose days? Time and place had spun away from her, it felt, and left her… here. Only here.

What is this place? she wondered, staring into the distance at the mountains – still standing, promise of shelter, and as unreachable as Aman in her present state, even had she had her freedom…

Something moved upon the edges of her vision, at just that moment, and she turned to look.

A tree was wandering the edges of the glade. For a long while, Elenwë watched as it went from tree to tree, pausing now and again, or stooping over the earth. It did not seem to notice her, and Elenwë, considering her course, did not call out to it. She had, after all, her own duties, which she could not accomplish here. But she did not know how swiftly she could run, injured as she was, and then there was the threat of the forest, which she knew now lived and served her captor…

She was still weighing her chances when the tree seemed at last to remark her, for it left the forest eaves and made straight for her. And in that instant, any thought of escape went the way of water beneath bridges – she could not have outrun it, even had she been able to breath freely. So she waited, until she judged it close enough for conversation, and then said:

“What of the Elves who dwell in these lands? I have given you the message of the Powers, but I was not sent only to you.”

“They would not speak to you,” the tree answered. “They do not like the Westerners, as they call you – making fires and digging in the earth. That is not their way.”

“Even so,” Elenwë said, “I should try to speak with them.”

“You cannot,” replied the tree. “They have fled these lands and gone far to the south. You cannot reach them there.”

Elenwë closed her eyes. Gone south – to what end? She imagined the sea climbing high, falling upon the land, which would break beneath them as they fled – just like the Ice. “They will die there, then.”

“Likely they shall. Better if they had stayed and died upon their own land. But then, you light-footed ones have weak roots,” it said, leaves rustling and bark creaking, and Elenwë had the impression that the tree was bending over to peer at her unshod, rootless feet.

“Our parents’ parents walked all the way from Cuiviénen to the Hither shores once,” she murmured.

“That is the tale that the first Elves told us, when they woke us up,” the tree said. “A strange thing, we thought it.”

Elenwë opened her eyes and looked up at the tree. “What is your name?”

Hauuummm, I cannot tell you that.”

“Why not? We are going to die together,” Elenwë replied, in what she hoped was a persuasive tone. “And I have given you mine.”

“Yes, ‘Elenwë.’ A short name, though it does not sound so ill on you,” the tree answered, with an air of judgment. “But such names do not suit Onodrim, and I do not think we have time for me to tell you my name.”

Onodrim?”

“The Grey Ones call us that. Before that, before the words changed, they would call us something else, but I forget now what it was. It was a short word,” the tree said, as if that explained everything. “The Elves of these woods called us friends, and guardians, but they did not have other names for us.”

“I see.” Elenwë sighed softly, and looked down at the flowers at her feet. Then: “Where are we now?”

“This is one of my fields. The lady showed it to me,” the Onod said. “When the sun first came up, then she came to me on the wind and told me to come here. And I found these waiting in the grass, sleeping then, but they bloomed quickly when the air grew warm. There are other such fields with different flowers in them,” it said, sadly; “I cannot be with them all, though.”

The Onod fell silent then, and Elenwë bit her lip, feeling the other’s grief weigh heavily. And regret it though she might, she found it did not seem unfamiliar. She thought of Turukáno, who could not bear to leave Ondolindë. She thought of Irissë, who had been only too ready to leave it, in need of the forest and eager for revenge upon Morgoth – too eager, perhaps, but if Turukáno had heeded her, had left or joined with the others, perhaps there would be no need of cataclysm. But he had loved his city, as Irissë had loved the forests of the world.

We are not, perhaps, so rootless as trees believe, she thought. Not all of us. And something stirred suddenly fierce in her, then, as she stood gazing down at the red flowers. She was not as Irissë, given to Oromë and the hunt; but she was one of Nessa’s dancers, or she would not have been sent out to bear warning to the world. She was one of Nessa’s, who could be moved, who could move others perhaps.

Her side ached terribly, but she did not care, as she lifted her arms then to the sky, opening her hands and tilting her head back ‘til it hurt as she called to Nessa – Come, my light-foot lady, and move me!

The Song of the Ainur had brought the world into being, as Iluvátar willed it, but those who followed Nessa knew: there was no power in a song that moved no one. While her brothers and sisters had sung, Nessa had proved that power, and danced the world to life.

And so Elenwë would dance, too, to uphold this land, because it should not go uncontested. Late the hour, but perhaps even now, not too late…

There was no one to clap, no one to chant, and she had not the wind for it, but she knew the art: Never move until you are moved. The flowers brushed at her feet, sent her one way, then another, stepping light in their midst, and the grasses swirled about her ankles as she turned. She opened her arms to the sky, and whipped her hair about in a streaming flash of gold.

The dizziness that brought was brutal, but her lady was with her – she did not fall, did not fail. She faltered, but the rhythm had her and would not let her go so easily. Nessa, move me! The Power was with her – she stretched herself out to the world, and the world caught her. She could feel it now, all the earth moving in concert with her, and nearby, the strange, steady pulse of the Onod, unlike an Elf’s and yet so oddly familiar…

Elenwë laughed suddenly. The Onod rumbled back, startled perhaps, and shifted, branches lifting; Elenwë swayed with the tree, bending like a shadow, and she laughed the more fiercely, then, for the pain that bloomed along her side ran off her like water, could not touch her now that Nessa’s dance had her.

Nessa, move me!

Sweat poured freely now from her pores, and her breath was coming swift, the blood pounded in her ears in time with her heart. Everything in that pulse, the uneven rhythm of a world living and dying, and in the midst of that extinguishing beat in the north, she felt the goddess look south, and smile…

And so Elenwë danced defiance for the forest, and for the flowers, for the Onod and all the Huorns. She danced for Turukáno, who had stood like the rock he had loved in the face of all wisdom. She danced for Irissë, who would not surrender her forests or her hopes. She danced for her daughter, who would not be stayed but gave her love to a Man. For Beleriand as it was and had been, and all it might be, she danced, until every limb trembled, ‘til she had poured herself and all her Ages of longing out. She danced ‘til all she could see was red, ‘til she felt herself one great drum, echoing in every fiber with Beleriand’s pulse: Live… live… live…

A shadow fell over her, and she lifted her head to see two great green eyes fixed upon her. Beleriand throbbed in her blood, which sang in her veins like wine…

“I know your name,” she breathed, and smiled…

… and then slowly collapsed.

~0~


The shadow was still there when she came back to herself, though it stretched the other direction. Elenwë squinted through the profusion of flowers at the sun setting in the west and sighed softly.

“How many days?” Elenwë asked her sister Onod.

“The sun rose and set once upon you,” she answered. “I thought it might again.”

“The Great Dances are always thus,” Elenwë murmured, as she carefully sat up. All about her, the flowers were grown tall and thick, forming almost a nest about her, and she smiled a little at them as they bobbed in the breeze.

“The Grey Ones had two among them who danced so,” the Onod told her. “All the trees of Doriath honored her and her mother.”

“Like your lady, my lady goes wandering in the world,” Elenwë said, breathing carefully to test bone and muscle. They hurt – as well she might have expected, but she rose then, a little stiffly, a little unsteadily, and was glad of the branch the Onod offered. “Thank you.”

“They are grown so beautifully,” the Onod rumbled, staring at the flowers. “To think they shall not ever seed a spring!”

Elenwë sighed softly. “No, they shall not. I could not win that from the Powers.”

“But you won my name.”

Elenwë shrugged. “The Great Dances bring knowledge of many things. I know your name – at least a little of it.” She paused. “You were right to think you could not tell it to me.”

“When you come before my lady, though, it is good to think you will be able to give her my name,” the Onod replied. “I would like her to know.”

“She shall.”

“Then the matter is, hmmmm, as well as it can be.”

“I suppose so.” Elenwë licked dry lips, then, and reached for the water-skin still hanging from her belt, and which had survived the river. Unstoppering it, she tilted her head back, and drank down its contents greedily. And when she had done, she let it fall, and ran her hands back through hair wild from the wind of her dance, frowning as she picked out petals and blades of grass, sticky burrs…

… and then it came to her, all in a rush. Such perfect simplicity, and she had not thought of it…! She looked north, where death held sway, and bowed her head. Thank you!

“What is it?” the Onod asked. “You are changed suddenly.”

“Nessa moves us as she will,” Elenwë answered, and smiled brilliantly up at her. “And she wills your glades and groves to live. Listen, I know how we shall do it!”


~0~


In the end, they were nearly too late. Onodrim were not to be swiftly persuaded.

Yet once convinced, they could move swiftly indeed. Thus, though they began their march late, when the new moon arrived, and the lands quaked and shivered, cracking open to let fire and sea rush over them, Elenwë and her sister Onod and the Huorns had begun the climb into the Ered Luin. Then the trees all dug in their roots, and gripped the rock and earth, swaying with the land, shuddering as the stones slid and skipped all about them, chipping bark and roots. Elenwë clutched at her perch, and kept watch over the little patches of earth cupped in the crotches of the Onod’s branches.

When the dust and foam had settled, where once there had been land, there lay only a boiling ocean, red and steaming where the rents in the earth had let the fires spew forth.

Of Beleriand, Elenwë, straining her eyes, could see nothing.

The Huorns rocked and groaned, and the Onod with them, singing, it seemed, in her strange tongue. Elenwë simply stared, feeling the tears wet upon her cheeks. Then came the rains to mourn with them, and the winds howled – Nienna and Manwë singing their laments together.

And so it was the fourth day that they resumed their march into the mountains, and a week ere they came to Eriador upon their eastern side. Then Elenwë helped to scrape the mould and earth from branches and hollows of all the trees, and carefully cupped flowers and seeds against her breast, as she bore them to the earth the Onod and her Huorns were turning.

“It shall be almost like the glades you knew, when they have all grown up,” Elenwë said when the chore was nearly done, wiping at her brow and smearing dirt there. “And here shall rest the earth of Beleriand, so that your flowers shall grow as they ought, in their native soil.”

“Yet it is not the same land,” her sister Onod said sadly.

“Nay, it is not. But here you may continue your charge and grow the fields and forests anew, and there will still be a little of Beleriand above the seas because of you,” Elenwë argued. “Your charge is not wholly destroyed.”

“And what of your charge?” the Onod asked her. “When shall your people come?”

At that, Elenwë shook her head. “I do not know. But,” she said, and drew a deep breath, “it matters not when they shall come. Or if they shall.” The Onod rumbled, curiously. Elenwë turned east, gazing over the rolling hills and the plains and forests rising from them. “I shall not return to Aman.”

Her sister gave a queer piping sound of surprise. Elenwë smiled slightly. “’Tis well past time I left. There is no penalty now upon any who would leave Valinor.” She sighed softly. “And there are few of us who dared the Ice in Valinor who walk free there – what does Aman hold for me?”

“Must you not speak to the Powers?”

“My lady does not know bounds – she shall find me, should she wish to,” Elenwë answered. “Even as yours shall find you, and these, her gifts, just as she remembers them!”

So saying, then, Elenwë bowed to the Onod, who rumbled softly, and lowered her branches. “Where shall you go, then?” the Onod asked.

Where would she go? Elenwë looked out upon the forested plains before her, and smiled a little. “Where shall I not?”

~~~

1. Orome's Children/Daughters: concept borrowed from one of my B2MEM stories, Body Politic. Some Elves devote themselves to different Valar, and Orome's Children are particularly skilled hunters and woodspeople. Nessa's Dancers are another sect.

2. Elenwë, as far as I have been able to find, basically exists in exactly one line of narrative, which Tolkien inserted into the story of the crossing of the Helcaraxe. Most versions of the story do not include her. The most extended account of her life simply has her as Turgon's wife, who died when the ice cracked beneath her and Turgon was only able to save their daughter. As deaths in the Silm go, it's the result of as pure an accident as likely exists, and Elenwe seems fairly clearly to exist just so that we get a sense that the trek across the Ice was really, really bad and dangerous, and to give Turgon a motive to hate the Feanorians with a fiery passion. It might have been a better tactic if I'd ever gotten the sense that Turgon ever thought of his wife or even knew he had one...

In this story, Elenwë's demise is more involved, and owes something to videos of leopard seals.


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