Thou Art the Spring by Zdenka

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Story Notes:

Written for the Innumerable Stars Exchange 2016. The title is from an aria in Wagner's opera Die Walküre.


This time when Finrod Friend-of-Men returns, he is not alone. An Elf-maiden walks beside him, dark-haired as he is golden; she is barefoot and sets her feet down lightly as if the next step might lead her into a joyous dance. She is unquestionably the most beautiful woman Haleth has ever seen.

On the road under the mountains, among the shadows and clinging grey webs and the dagger-sharp thorns eager to draw blood, Haleth has almost forgotten beauty. It seemed something remote, for another place and time. To see this woman now--it is like the sun of Spring coming again, the first sight of fresh young blades of grass after long winter.

“I told my cousin of you, and she wished to see you for herself,” Finrod says. His cousin, then, not his wife--though it should not matter, except for being another morsel of knowledge that may help Haleth find her way here among these Elves and their alliances.

The dark-haired maiden smiles. “I am Lúthien.” She bends in a graceful bow, like a flower before the wind.

Haleth does not bow. She is the leader of her people, for they have chosen her, and the Haladin have never bent their necks to to any. “I am Haleth.”

“I conveyed your words to Thingol,” Finrod says earnestly, “and he is content.”

“As I spoke them?”

Finrod hesitates. “Perhaps not quite.”

Haleth lets him see a glint of humor in her eyes. “If all is as we agreed on, then I am content also.”

Finrod delivers his message in finely turned, elegant phrases, and Haleth suspects he may have softened Thingol’s words to her as well, but the essence is the same: they are free to stay in Brethil without swearing fealty to Doriath’s king or going to war for him beyond their own lands, and they may govern themselves by their own laws as they have always done.

Haleth calls all her people together, and Finrod repeats his message. She feels her tension lighten. She allows herself now to look around at this land, seeing where her people can raise their houses, where they can find good drinking water or wash their clothing. Finrod and Lúthien stay the evening by Haleth’s fire, and then they return to Thingol’s court in Doriath.

Lúthien returns. Haleth was not expecting it, but she turns to find her standing in the midst of their camp, so soft-footed that Haleth did not hear her approach. “I would learn more of your people,” Lúthien says.

“I have much to do,” Haleth warns her. And it is true; they must clear the ground and build shelters for all her people before winter.

“Many of your people are sick or wounded. I have learned healing arts from my mother. Perhaps I can help them.”

It seems kindly meant, but Haleth must be wary of entanglements, for her people’s sake. “I thank you, but we can take care of each other.”

“I have learned something of spiders’ poison from the marchwardens,” Lúthien says softly. “Will you refuse this knowledge for your people?”

“You have heard already that we will not give allegiance to Thingol,” Haleth says carefully. “And we have nothing to give you in return.”

Lúthien shakes her head. “There is no price,” she says. “Only let me stay among you for a little while.”

Haleth gives her assent, and assigns some of her spearwomen to guide Lúthien (as she says), but truly to watch her. She would not let a stranger, even a well-meaning one, go among her people unguarded.

Haleth passes by the tents of the wounded later that day and hears Lúthien singing, a wild wordless melody that flutes and trills like the song of a bird. Perhaps there is Elvish enchantment in it, or perhaps it is only Lúthien herself, but the song brings something with it--not peace, exactly, but a sort of release. Since her father and brother’s deaths, Haleth has had no time to spare for grieving; she has put those thoughts and feelings aside, making her heart like stone. Yet now something stirs in her heart, as if places long frozen have begun to thaw.

She pauses there a moment to listen and then moves on.

Her guards come back to her in the evening and tell her: Lúthien sat beside Arneth, who has been lying unconscious and struggling for life since a spider bit her on their journey, and sang to her until healthy color came back into Arneth’s cheeks and she opened her eyes. Lúthien laid her hand on Sertad’s forehead and he stopped having nightmares. Lúthien went among the wounded and eased their pain. Haleth says nothing, but she listens.

That evening by the fire, Lúthien begs them for their stories; of the journey here, of their people’s life in their old country. She listens, with shining eyes and lips parted.

Haleth does not speak; she watches. Lúthien leaves them when the stars come out and her people retire to rest, and Haleth thinks that now the Elf-maid has satisfied her curiosity. But Lúthien returns. She sits by their fire and shares their meal, and in return she shares with them a strange bread of her mother’s making, wrapped in fresh leaves. Haleth sees it distributed among the children and the elderly, but Lúthien saves a morsel for her in the leaf wrappings. Their fingers brush as Lúthien gives it to her. It is unlike anything Haleth has eaten, golden and tasting of honey.

“Do you not know any stories?” one of Haleth’s people finally asks Lúthien.

“I cannot tell them as they should be told,” Lúthien says, “for I have lived all my life within the borders of Doriath and I know nothing outside it. But I will dance for you.”

She dances like the winds of Spring, when the new leaves rustle and are stirred. Her people are silent, spell-bound. And when Lúthien ends her dance, dropping gracefully at Haleth’s feet like a bird alighting in a tree, it is difficult for Haleth’s thoughts not to go down foolish paths.

Her people are crowded together in what shelter they have. Only Haleth is given a tent to herself, in recognition of her position. It is reasonable, surely, to offer Lúthien a place there for the night.

Haleth kneels to arrange bedding for Lúthien. She silently indicates the vacant place with its pile of blankets. But instead Lúthien leans closer and brushes Haleth’s lips with her own. Lúthien’s mouth is very soft and tastes of honey.

Haleth has never spent time in yearning for what she cannot have. She knows she is not beautiful, and it has long since ceased to trouble her. She feels a moment of sheer surprise, as if some treasure has suddenly tumbled from the trees to land in her lap. But Lúthien is looking at her with bright eyes. Haleth moves over to make room for her. Lúthien is much the taller, even seated, but when Haleth reaches to pull her closer, she bends down to meet Haleth’s mouth again, and her lithe body curls around her. Haleth drifts off to sleep with Lúthien’s arms around her, Lúthien’s voice singing to her softly.

It is written in the chronicles of the Elves that Haleth chieftain of the Haladin never married, and all know the deeds of Beren and Lúthien that shall never be forgotten. Yet there is also a tale passed down among the Haladin from wise-woman to her students, from father to daughter:  that Haleth and Lúthien daughter of Thingol walked the glades of Brethil hand in hand, that Lúthien knew love and loss and joy even before Beren descended the Mountains of Shadow, that when she gave her love to him she loved for the second time, with the wisdom born of sorrow. And when Lúthien passed into the shades of mortality she was not afraid, for one she knew had been there before her, Haleth the beloved.




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