Out of the west the grey spectre spread in the far distance, unfolding wings and long pinions of storm. Heading southward, these scenes of a sky at battle had become nearly common in Westernesse, though the Red Ones had only begun arriving after the feet of Sauron had walked in the king’s quarters unfettered. Izilba and Zhera’ looked at [each] other nodded, and began to descend in great care down the cliff’s broken face. The[y] waded back to their throng of sea wains, which now drifted further away from the coast, the rising tide and raising winds compelling the pair, yet entangled by a rope, to swim the final gap as the sun fell behind a massive stack of clouds seeming bruised purple and eager for a fight. Even as they pulled closed the tops, and dove into the middle wain, the torrents began whipping their vessels, lashing at the ropes and webbing, the waves burying them time and again. Covered in pitch, and made of cork-like wood, the wains were light and swift behind a breeze, when his sails were loaded. And now, as in times past, he waited in the darkness with Izilba now added to his fears and gladness. Here was safe rest at seas most violent, and the harbor kept the worst wrenchings of Ossë at bay, though the pair had not appetite for food.
In the darkness his stone Anzilpa glowed out, and the sea glass strung on a thong of leather likewise raised a dim amber light and they could, at last, see the other’s face, and speak with their eyes, telling of the first smile she returned of his, in what seemed now the days of youth. Terrors both had since beheld, and yet remained steadfast to the promise of one another, and without concern for the Dark Primordial Spirit that seemed to have spread over the land of her home, and of his joy.
To this spirit of most ancient sickness she had been not blind, but neither found bothersome; perhaps in her strength and eyes she failed to see fully the dangers setting about traps for good prey. For his part, Zhera’ saw the Dark would in time pass, and not by his intervention or overweening pressing against. Accustomed to the discerning of the false and true trails laid down by his living prey, Zhera’ smelled in the Dark nothing that bade him follow or flee, and his heart could not rest far from his love, and her amidmost the Evil nights, where shrieks and brief screams most horrible, wherein was set as if a soul’s torment, howled in the midnight over the dark plains northward of the City of Light.
The old kings, mighty men, await their restoration, some of wisdom whispered in the days after, fearing some worse source and purpose in these haunting terrors of sound, born it seemed out of the Dark itself, and not from any voice of Numenorean strain.
The pair slept in their wain’s cabin, at peace with the sea’s spinning and turning, its cleaning and forgetting. Zhera said nothing of their sleep in the mid-most wain, and room afforded them by a diminished store of food.
For many days the pair, seemingly stranded, waited in the small harbor, near enough to swim back at times to the rocks, but not so close by as to fear the black jaws, so called by Izilba. They discussed rationing provisions, fished in the bay, and tried in the calm of night under the waning moon to row the throng to open seas, and to take [on] their fate once again. But ever they returned near the Tol Morwen, and Zhera’ told what he knew of her tale, and Izilba of her little lore of Turin and Nienor. For in the end days of Westernesse, the old tales were mostly forgotten, held in regard by those with suspect ambitions, and by all others ignored; being of little use, for their lives concerned the getting of gain, and the building of private armies and petty empires. The curse of the Dark Eru, it was said thoughtlessly, by repeating, the curse was long ago lifted, and our enemies were long known, and would by genius and courage of Men, be subdued, all.
The Tol Morwen (as you might call it) had been washed of the filth of Glaurung the worm, and of the deaths of the greatest, in beauty, bravery most fatal, of the Fathers of Men. The sword, Zhera’ suggested, the sword of the Dark Elf had been broken, and cast into the ravine, carried into dust by swift Teiglin. “If ever such a sword was,” he laughed a little, “I might have a word or two with it, concerning Beleg the elf, and badge of my vocation, woodcrafty and by all creatures beloved.”7As recounted in Silmarillion, published later in The Children of Hurin, Glaurung was run through the guts by the sword Gurthang, thrust by Turin as the worm stretched across a ravine. The sword had been brought by Beleg, an elf of Doriath sent by King Thingol to aid the man in his wars against the orcs about that place. Turin’s father was Hurin, a captive in the fortress of Melkor. Morwen was Turin’s mother, bereft of protection and kin during Hurin’s captivity.
“Trust not overwell to doubts, brother,” replied Izilba, “but of all thy heart’s thoughts, doubt most what seemeth the wise answer without a face.” So said Nienor Niniel to Dead-Turin (it seemed), the final counsel of Morwen to her, ere their parting beyond Doriath.
Silmariel the Beloved spoke that night to Izilba, by the sea-glass, and told her all that was or would be known of grey Morwen Elf-sheen, and her envy; of her stately pride out of place, in her days when a slave’s bearing and comportment, a servant’s demeanor was of greater worth. Times are, and shall be again, that the Noble of heart are held worst of all, having no foes nor good folk to lead them against.
Ask me not of the sword Mormegil, Makmahhodya broken in the guts of a worm’s death writhe, Silmariel saw into Izilba’s mind, and of the courses it might be lead upon, brandishing its cold white sheen upon blackened steel, “Old Sky Hewer, I name thee,” Izilba pronounced to the Lower Airs, wherein Silmariel labored as a nurse and healer, “Old Sky Hewer, come out, and to me tell a tale, sing out thy songs of death.”
Silmariel closed the stone, and shadow spread over the wain, and inside its heart the pair laid silent, back to back, and knew the gnawing hunger, for light, and for grown food gathered of it, and they wept.