Author's Chapter Notes:
Written for the 2017 lotr_community@LJ, for Linaewen, whose request was "I would like a story featuring Tuor (Silmarillion). It can be set in his youth with the Grey-elves, during his time as a thrall or an outlaw, or in Gondolin -- let the author decide!"
Many thanks to Dreamflower for the beta!
Androth, F.A. 488
Sixteen. I am already taller than Enwil and he’s eighteen. I feel a light down on my lip when I run my tongue over it. Annael jokes about how big my hands and feet are. He is good to me, has been the only father I have ever had, but sometimes I know I am ungrateful when I try to show him that I am not a child anymore. He has patience when I do not, and softly laughs away my surges for independence with a simple, “You have time.”
I don’t have time. I may feel like an elf, but my body keeps reminding me that I am a man. Although Annael, in many ways acknowledges it, I am not sure he fully understands how different I am.
Then, we don’t have time. For how long will we hide? I know that Annael does not lack courage and his doing his best to keep his people hidden and safe. We are so few... but I think we could, and we should be more aggressive. Why should we let them have the land that was ours, that is ours by right? Why should we submit to oppression? But Annael insists that we do not have the numbers, the weapons, the infrastructure. I say we have the stealth, the skill, the will.
Deep within the caves, there is this spot I like to go to, to think, when I can’t stay quiet anymore, or after a fight. To reach this nook within a pouch, within an alcove, I have to walk for a long time through the twisting corridors, going deeper and deeper into the caves until I am there and I have time to think. It has a tiny opening on the ceiling that lets in a sliver of greenish light. Sometimes when I am out in the copse, hunting or gathering wood, I try to find it. I’d like to drop a pebble or a flower as a gift to myself or to anyone else who finds refuge in it. But I think I am the only one. I go there often but I do not understand this urge to be alone that often overwhelms me. I long for something but I cannot name it.
Annael tries to teach me. The Grey Elves, the Noldor, the Doriathrim, the people of Ossiriand. He also talks about my people and my family. The battles, the realms, the landscape, the Valar, the stars, the plants, edible or venomous, the game and its tracks, the fish in the river. He tries to fill my head with all the things he thinks I need to know.
When he talks about the past and the ruin, the loss and the terror, I do not hear so much the things he says about what was lost, but rather that outside these sheltering walls of rock there is a world rich and wide and perilous waiting for me.
He talks about the ominous fates of heroes. I listen, knowing that Annael, too, is a hero, but one who survived to lead his people into what safety he could find. People such as Annael are not sung in long lays by the fireplace but he is strong and courageous and I hope to become like him in a way. I do wish we would act instead of hiding; fight, for once.
He also teaches me other things. At night he and the elders recite poetry, play and teach music to the few young. I feel clumsy plucking the strings and my fingers often hit the wrong notes; but Annael insists, saying that it is a skill I will need when the time to court someone comes. To court someone...would ever an Elven maiden accept a mortal, a man who would last no longer than a blink in her life? Will I have to leave my people, the only family I have now, to find a girl of the Edain? Annael has never talked about this part of my future and I have yet to find the courage to ask.
Annael often says ‘Be careful what you wish for...”, admonishing fate and wishes in the same ominously unfinished sentence. I suppose that he is right, because when change finally comes it is not what I expected, not by far. We are running again.
I am coming from my refuge when I hear him speaking with the elders. “They are coming closer and closer and any day we will be found. We must try for the Annon-in-Gelydh. After that, we can reach the Mouth of the Sirion. We have all heard the tales of the good soil, the warmer climate, the safety. We have lingered far too long here. This is no longer our land!”
Some cheer. A few weep silently. I seethe in rage because I cannot agree with Annael at all. This is our land and we should stay and fight the Usurpers. Yet, if I spoke now, none would heed my words. I am just a child to them. A child of the Edain who by speaking up against his foster father shames himself and his house. I grit my teeth and listen on, as they discuss the plans for the evasion.
As angry as I am, I have to confess to myself that I am intrigued to see the Annon-in-Gelydh, the Gates of the Noldor. My Sindar family might not have much love for the Noldor, but they do speak highly of their skill. If one is to run away from home through a subterranean river, might it at least have an imposing doorway into it!
Annael looks in my direction, as I listen, lurking in the shadows. “Friends, I know many of you regret leaving the land of our birth, where we build and lost our homes, our families. But remember the words of a great man, ‘Aurë entuluva’!"
I nod grudgingly. Day shall come again. No matter how far south, how well hidden, I will come again to this land and fight for it, for my ancestors. This thought soothes me for a moment, and, for all my indignation, seductive thoughts of the wonders of the world, that Annael has told me so much about, creep into my mind: the craft of the Noldor, the resounding languages, foods and spices, music of Beleriand, tales of dwarves and green Elves. I do long to see it all, and especially the sea. These caves will never be my home again. I imagine it boundless, shimmering under the sun, beckoning me.
That night I pack my few belongings, hone my blades, restring my bow and fletch more arrows. I cannot sleep because I am burning with unspoken desire for nothing but the shadow of clouds and trees above my head, and at night, the stars. We are travelling away, to freedom, and it is not the freedom I wanted but it is, nevertheless, exhilarating, promising, terrifying.
Who knows what the road will bring tomorrow?
Chapter End Notes:
Soon after the moment in time where this fic is set, Tuor is enthralled by the Easterlings.