Oathbourne

by Lothithil, A DarkElf Adventure


Chapter One: DarkElf Delayed

"Morlothiel!"

She calls to me, running down the path behind me, shouting though she knows that I can hear her perfectly well. "Morlothiel! Wait! Please…"

I turn, and looking back am struck again not so much by her resemblance to her father, but by her startling beauty. Her hair is ravenwing-black, and her face an oval of porcelain, delicate and fine. She runs after me, holding up her skirts so that her long legs flash beneath the fabric, heedless of propriety or grace. I resettle the pack against my back, hoping that she was not going to ask me to stay in the village.

"Don't go," were the first words from her mouth, and I cringed inside hearing them. She saw my face, and the hurt in her eyes pinched my heart. "I know you want to be away. I try to understand, but you do not make it easy…"

I don't make it easy. Well, no, I suppose I don't, but how can I make my purposes clear when I cannot speak? I sigh, setting my heavy pack down and leaning my bow against it. I want her to understand, so I will stay for a little; I can at least make an effort to communicate.

"Thank you. Just hear me and then make your choice."

What choice do I have to make? I shook my head.

Jacinth took my arm and drew me to a seat on a fallen tree that had been carved into a bench. She set next to me and smoothed the fabric of her gown over her knees, hesitating to begin. At last, she began to speak, "I miss you when you go away, Morlothiel. You have spent so little time here that you seem like a stranger to most of the folk, even the ones who dwelt with us in Gondolin. I wish you would stay, a season at least, and spend some time with Idril and I. She misses you, too."

I cross my arms over my aching heart. Jacinth misinterprets the gesture, "I know she reminds you of Glor…" I hold up a hand, touching her lips with a warning finger. Do not say his name.

"Why not? May I not speak of my own father?" She hesitates, frightened a little by my wrath. She can always hear my thoughts if I am angry enough to project them strongly. "I miss him, too," she continued, now twisting the hem of her skirt.

We sat silent while she mourned. I could feel it coming off of her in waves like heat, but chilling and bitter. Carefully, I cleared my mind and thought, This is not why I am leaving. Jacinth did not respond. Maybe she did not hear.

I picked up her small hand. I opened it and with my fingertip I drew a picture there, of a tree. Then I wiped my fingers across her palm and drew a deer with antlers crowning. I pointed at the new homes that had been constructed to house the families still joining our small kingdom. The planted fields needed time to grow, and the sea could not provide all the bounty that our people required. I made a sweeping gesture, as if gathering things to myself, and then offered them to her.

She looked at me with liquid eyes, and nodded her head sadly. "I do understand. Go if you must, but know that I will not be here when you return." She stood and twisted the small silver band that ringed her finger. "Cirlin has spoken for me, and Tuor has given his consent after finding him acceptable."

At my shocked expression, she tosses her head in exasperation. "Well, how are you supposed to learn these things, when you slip into the village at night and out again before the morning is old?" The tears leaking from her eyes detract from the spectacle of her anger. "I would have told you last year, when he first gave me the silver, but you were busy guiding the way to the hardwood grove you located, for Cirdan to find suitable wood for his ship-keels. Cirlin is a good suitor, and a provider. I want to go with him to Belar. I will dwell with his people there. He is a shipbuilder. He must live near the ships. And I must be near him. I know you understand that." She was weeping freely now.

I place my arms around her, feeling awkward. I was never very good at expressing my affection for her. But I had been selfish enough, and she needed to know I loved her. She clung to me and cried for a time. I merely sat and waited. I could not leave now.

Jacinth sat up and sniffed, drawing a sleeve across her face. Even in her distress, she was still lovely. I carefully placed a lock of her hair behind her ear. She smiled and dropped to her knees, holding my hands. "Stay for a week, please? Our joining will occur tomorrow night, and there will be feasting and music! There is plenty of food; Cirdan is coming and Ereinion, too. They will bless our joining. I would like you to be there."

Why? Idril is your mother now. She has been always. I sigh at the sadness that this brings into her face. I am poor at such gatherings. I do not dance or sing, and I cannot play. What would you have me do?

"Just be there for me, and be my mother, just one more time. We will see each other very infrequently when I go to Belar, unless you take to hunting across the waves." Her smile is a teasing thing, for she knows that I cannot abandon her nor ignore her request. To do so would be to deny our relationship. That I could not do. I was hard enough to give her to another to be fostered the day she was born.

My immobility made her laugh with delight, and she grabbed my pack and bow in one hand, and my elbow with the other, and half-drug me back to the dwelling she shared with Idril and Tuor.

As we drew near, a tall figure stepped out of the house and bowed, accepting my things from Jacinth. With his strong arm he embraced me. I wanted to melt when he whispered in my ear, " 'Lothiel, thank you for staying awhile."

Eärendil always could capture my heart. He was a man near grown, now, and I knew he had hopes for the hand of Elwing. She was older than he, and sad, but his beauty and love touched her as it touched all who knew him, and she was his even if she had not yet admitted it to herself. It was obvious to this hunter, who knows the look of the deer who sees the compassion of the predator.

Idril came to me at the door, and pressed her cheek against mine. I returned her embrace. I found that I have missed her, now that I was allowing myself to think about it. She was as regal as ever, her bearing queenly even in the humbleness of their small house. "Tuor is down at the harbour but will be back soon. Come and eat some of this meat you have brought us, which Jacinth has prepared so perfectly. You are skin stretched over bones! Why, I think I could break you like dry bread, if we were to spar as once we did."

I smile broadly in response; it hurts only a little to recall. I shake my head. It would not be as easy as it looks.

Jacinth echoed aloud my thought, and Idril laughed. "Perhaps you are correct! Let us not test the theory at all! Eärendil, would you bring some wine for our guest?"

We spent the day in idleness, Idril and Eärendil speaking of small matters, and Jacinth providing my responses when they could not be easily read on my face. How she could sometimes hear my thoughts and not the thoughts of others, I do not know. When I wanted to ‘speak' to her, she could not hear me unless I was angry or very earnest. Often I believed it a trait of her father's heritage, a prince of the Noldo, with gifts of wisdom and magic from across the Sea.

 Elfdrums

The joining was a sweet affair, attended by all the Elves who had come to dwell here where the mouth of Sirion opened to drink the seawater. Comprised of the survivors of Doriath and Gondolin mostly, with a few refugees that came from the smaller kingdoms as they were one by one destroyed, the folk here were of mixed heritage, and pretense of nobility were left behind with the burning ruins of their former homes.

Also attending the parties were many of Cirdan's folk, who called themselves the Shoreline Pipers. They loved the sea and dwelling near it. They were always hungry for wood for their shipbuilding, but were careful not to over-harvest the woods. Often I had scouted on my long treks for new groves of the strong, light hardwoods that the wrights asked for. Tuor used what I found to strengthen our settlement; he traded with Cirdan's folk for many things; small boats, food, smithwork. The many elfmaidens who had escaped Gondolin attracted the single males who were bedazzled by their beauty and tenacious willpower. Many shattered dreams and broken hearts were mended with the wind-torn sails as we wove our peoples together.

Cirlin was one such Elf. I had seen him, of course, during the brief visits I spent in the village. I knew him to be worthy and attentive, and I knew that he would care for Jacinth. When she accepted his gold and offered her own token in the ceremony that bound them, I could see by the glowing light in their faces that she had found her mate. I was pleased for her and also sad. What pain would she endure, now that her heart she no longer fully owned? I had known no greater torment, before I allowed myself to love.

Felegund, Glorfindel, maybe even Celebrimbor; my trust and love I had offered them, in fealty, passion, and friendship. I had grown tired of death, but such was the nature of the world. Some must die that others should live. Did not my hands slay to bring food to my people? Had I not drunk blood to led speed to my feet, to be the swift, deadly life-ender?

No Elf have I ever slain, nor any orc since Gondolin fell. Far and wide, I ranged in restlessness but never did I venture into the north, where the shadow-creatures ran amuck. It was as if the eyes of Morgoth could not see past the mist of Ulmo's breath, the salt-smell that touched the lands of our new homes and hid us from him.

South I could wander and I did, deeper and wider in curiosity and need. A great forest I had seen on my latest and longest journey. On the bitter ridge of a hump-back butte I saw with straining eyes a carpet of green that spread like the sea before me, covering all the land from the shore of Belagaer to the jagged reaches of a range of mountains that reared like blue clouds across the eastern horizon. I longed to lose myself in that leafy ocean, and maybe find a rest in my heart from the urge to wade into the saltwater and disappear beneath the waves, where the conch horns called an endless decant of invitation. That was where I was bound when Jacinth caught me and garnered my delay.

I stood beside her with Idril, and around her neck I placed the wreath of flowers I had wove. I looped it also around Cirlin and kissed his forehead. Then with a strip of fabric I had long saved, I bound their hands together. Once white and broidered with threads of gold, I had saved this from the scorched cloak of Glorfindel. I knew that one day his daughter would wed and since he would not be there to see, his crest would bless their union in his stead.

I sat back and listened to the music, watching the dancing and the play of lights on their faces. The music was different than the melodies of Gondolin to which I had once danced. I could hear the occasional rift of a measure of grace, played by a mourning heart, but the strong passionate tunes of the Pipers would seize that melody and make it a new, hopeful sound.

Cirlin came to me as I sat apart. He had a small wooden barrel with scraped doe-skin stretched thin and dry across the open head, bound with sinew. He handed me the drum and set another before himself. He applied his hands, strong and rough from the handling of wood and mallets, to the taunt skin, and the booming rhythm licked the dancers into a new beat. As he deftly played he smiled at me, his eyes urging me to accept his gift.

I caressed the leather and smooth wood with my hands. Once this had been two different living things. Even after their lives had ended and their meat or fruit was spent, still they could serve the Folk. I touched the drumhead and began to play my reverence with breathing hands.

I don't remember the other music dying out, nor the small fire flaring into a great blaze. I recall only the beating heart that I held in my hands, played with my hands, and that seemed to speak as I no longer could. Feet stepped in the shadow of my wooden heart, and faces gleamed with sweat and tears as they danced around the fire and celebrated with me my love for life and death.

I stopped playing when my hands began to sting, and the Elves sighed in appreciation and weariness. They had danced for hours seeming, and they bowed to me and drifted to their homes, leaving the cooling coals of the fire smouldering. Tuor took my hands in his and led me back to the house.

I was still entranced by the music that played aloud no longer, except inside my head. Jacinth and Cirlin had long ago departed, to spend their day in contemplation of one another, beginning their life as one heart. A cup of wine was put in my hands and I drank it woodenly, feeling a drowsiness creep over me that was unrefusable. For the first time in many long years, I lay down and slept. No dreams did I recall, but soft warm darkness and peace I had hitherto not known.