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A venerated Lizard's comment in response to a bit in How the East Was Won prompted this brain worm that demanded to be exorcised. I don't know what exactly I'm going to do with this (and it is not complete if that is not apparent), and I am being cryptic as to whom the narrator might be recounting the short tale and when he might be recounting it. The events he describes take place before the Valar enter Arda, that is, our Solar System according to JRRT in HoMe X.

Be forewarned that it's pretty far out on the edge of my alternate universe/history in which neither the Valar nor the Maiar are divine/angelic beings although with their unusual characteristics and immense powers, they appear to be so to the Children of Iluvátar. Also to be considered is that the Ainulindalë is a creation myth and thus highly subject to interpretation. Please see Chosen and Ulmo's Wife for other stories deriving from this era of the Pandë!verse.

Many thanks to my pals on the Lizard Council for comments, critique and encouragement.

As a backdrop, here is the excerpt from How the East Was Won that prompted Lizardly curiosity:

Nothing was more important to him than control. In a remote time and place, he had been safe and loved, but that security had been shattered into fragments. He had witnessed the horrific deaths of those he had loved and who had loved him in turn, but he had survived because of an innate talent, one that the Valar had noticed, they who had been indirectly responsible for breaking his life into shards. The Guardians had taken him – young, confused and reeling from his loss – into their fosterage and made him into what he was. But the vision of that split second when the order of his world disintegrated had never left him. Nightmares of the horrible scene haunted him, and even since then, he struggled to gain control over his life and the world around him. He glanced at the pile of cushions again -- none of them out of place -- and imagined a life of servitude in Aman where every moment of his existence would under the exacting control and surveillance of others. He could not bear the thought.




~~~~~~


I thought they were beautiful at first, the lights that came over the mountains. I had been chasing my little sister across the grass when I saw the first one, brilliant white but tinged with green like the jewels my father cut. Then another and another followed -- red, purple, yellow, blue -- all gleaming at the edge of the sky like a rainbow. The lights flowed like bright water over and down the slopes, lights of many colors that rushed toward our valley, but where water might darken earth and stone, these lights set the land ablaze. They sang with harmonies that both grated and soared and made my bones vibrate.

I stared, frozen in place and mesmerized by the lights that incinerated fields, groves and villages. Black smoke already furled high into the sky from the upper reaches of the vale. My sister’s hand slipped into mine, but still I watched the lights. I was only pulled out of my fascination when Mother screamed at us from her gardens where she toiled:

“Run!” she cried. “Hide!”

The lights streaked toward our home, impossibly fast, leaving white fire in their wake. Father burst from his workshop; he, too, screamed at us to run. He tore across the rows of the garden, trampling Mother’s carefully tended plants, his black hair streaming behind him as he ran to Mother. He had just grasped her arm, pulling her along with him when a stream of light broke off from the fiery rainbow-river and poured over them, consuming my parents with silver and gold flames.

My sister and I watched our parents die before our eyes, charred into horrible writhing shapes while their bodies tried to Change in their last moments. Then I moved. I yanked my sister’s hand and ran into our house. My eyes swept through the rooms. Hide, Mother had said. But where and how? My thoughts raced in panic, but something snapped inside me so that all became ordered and still.

“Breathe deep,” I said. “Remember how we practiced the Changing with Papa? Now think of a rock. That is all you should think about. A rock that nothing can hurt. Can you do that?”

She nodded yes, closed her eyes, and squeezed my hand.

~*~


I do not know how long we remained hidden. I perceived them rather than saw them. I felt their light, blazing and terrible, when they came into our house.

I did not know which ones they were. Father had told me of the enemies who had come from Outside, those who wished to destroy our homeland, but that there were other Outsiders -- the Guardians -- who defended us. Father said that a great war between the Outsiders raged, and that it had spilled onto our homeland, coming close enough that Father said that we could no longer go to the river to fish because of the attacks. I was disappointed because I loved the times I went fishing with my father, just the two of us, when he talked to me about everything: about when he was a boy, about the substances of our world, about the workings of life around us, about our people and about the stars. He said that I was a big boy now, and old enough to understand why we could no longer go to the river.

That was around the time that he made my sister and me practice Changing more often, much more often than children of our age usually did. It hurt us to practice so much, but he explained that Changing, a gift to our people in the most ancient of days, would protect us if we were ever in danger so we must learn this. When we cried from the pain, he said that we must remember that Changing might save our lives one day. My father and mother were both very good at Changing, becoming all sorts of creatures and things, some marvelous, some frightening, but they had years of practice. It had not saved them.

These Outsiders who now glided through our home could be either friend or foe. So I remained still, silent, cold, and so did my sister. The lights moved about, searching for something. I heard their strange ringing sounds that blended into a beautiful song. I felt his light, the brightest of all. A song of bells and running water filled the room where we hid. Then I heard footsteps and a soft deep voice that spoke my language.

“I see you, boy. Come out now. No one will hurt you.”

Still I did not Change and neither did my sister. But it was becoming harder to hold on to my form because I had to hold fast to my sister’s, too.

“You are safe,” he said. “We will protect you.”

I could hold our forms no longer, and I collapsed back to my true self: save for a few things, I looked much like a child of Middle-earth. I had a boy’s thin body that was all legs and arms and a head covered with a thick shock of hair, dark like my father’s. Then I saw the Guardian who reached out to me: a tall being who had the familiar shape of my people with his sharp-boned brows, golden eyes slit by long black pupils, and high-set round ears, but he was greater, brighter, and of almost unbearable beauty. I took his extended hand, and he led us away from the ruins of what had been our life.

These Guardians, our protectors who had let the enemies slip through the defenses to burn up our world, found other children. They gathered us together, these other orphans who had survived like my sister and I had: by Changing.

My sister broke our silence before I did. She spoke to the other children and to the Guardians. She wanted someone to trust. But I did not speak for a very long time. Everything around me was chaos: wailing children, burnt fields and forests, poisoned waters. I smelled the stench of charred flesh everywhere. Time and time again in my dreams, I saw my parents’ bodies burning up like greasy wood. Not talking was the only thing I could control.

The beautiful one who had found us was their leader, and he was kind to us. He told us his name, but I did not understand it with its many colored sounds. He said it meant, “He who arises in might” and that we would learn how to speak his language in time. He told me that I was most excellent at Changing. He called me most admirable for saving my sister, and he expressed sorrow at the death of my parents. He said that he and his companions would take my sister and me and the other children to a place far away on the Outside where we would be safe and where he and his kind would teach us.

Finally I spoke to him, but I never told him my name.

~*~


They took us to the sea before they tore us away from everything we knew and everything we were. There a camp of many tents had been set up on the shores for all the orphans that the Guardians had gathered. We saw no mothers and fathers, no aunts and uncles, no grandparents, but only the Guardians who had taken the forms of men and women of our kind.

“Why is the sea so sad and brown?” my sister asked when we stood together at the surf’s edge. I had seen the ocean before but she had not. “Mama said it is the color of dark wine. You said so, too.”

I told her that I did not know why the sea looked so sad. I did not know why we could not see the sun in the daytime nor the moons and the stars at night. Instead, the sky was always grey, just darker or lighter depending on whether it was day or night.

Other children lived in the same tent that we did. One tall boy was brash and bright. He acted like he was our leader, ordering us around and acting braver than he really was, but he stank of fear and sorrow. Another boy smelled of curiosity. He pounded shells between rocks to break them and pulled out the writhing slime that lived within. A tiny child whose odor was that of damp earth and green things tried to stop him, tears running down his face when he grabbed the other’s arms. The older boy slapped the smaller one, knocking him onto his back. But a boy whose scent was that of kindness and pity helped the little one up, drying his tears.

My sister cried every night, and I rocked her in my arms, singing the lullaby of the wine-dark sea and the stars in a violet sky our mother so often sang to us. The boy with the scent of kindness and pity sat by me when my sister could not stop weeping. He rested his thin arm over my shoulders and held her hand. He sang the lullaby, too. Then another child joined the song and another and another until all of us sang while our world died.

To be continued.
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