His back pinned against a wall, Zhera’ watched Izilba stand and stare at the magnificence of the treasure, at the craft of ancient smiths Eldarinwa [“Elven”], now in her hands, gleaming in the cavern, green pale, golden blue and white, ever behind the many hues, an utter blackness without depth or surface, it seemed. He watched her walk haltingly from the low dais and swing the sword to cut the air, and the light splintered indeed, scattered as a rainbow broken throughout the hall. “Old Sky Hewer,” Izilba named it most anciently, neither title of high honor given by others, nor the titles less favorable, “Old Sky Hewer, Zhera’, do you see? Where are you love, do not fear, for I wield it and to me it came willingly, doing us service.” Zhera’ answered her, but did not go to her, and said maybe it should rest longer in its hive, protected, until of need. Izilba dove into the channel and lit the green water, and her light passed to the hall’s antechamber, where Zhera’ came upon her.
She held the sword’s blade near to her body, as she lay on her side, more green of flesh than the water alone had colored; and she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand, looking with her eyes to point to a trail of vomit. He took the sword from her, though it stung him to touch it, and setting it aside them, kneeled to her shadow, running his hand over her cheeks, lips, forehead and hair. Eyes closed, she groaned, reached for him, then pushed herself to her knees, and began to vomit again, careful to miss the sword.
Inside this small chamber where the sea’s crashing was heard, the knowledge came to each, with dread and joy, that this was no sickness of spoiled food, but of a quickened womb.
Though it resisted his will and strove with his mind, filling it with hunting shadows, and dreadful creatures come to this forsaken rock, Zhera’ did push it deep into the beeswax, and led his love down the stair, waiting until she was strong enough to hold to him while he swam the length to their now despised throng of sea wains. The swans and their spectre friend they had forgotten, though had they looked, the shade might have been seen at last passing back to the rocky strand, and into the rock, where for time unending to her, Nienor had spread a desperate fear to any mariner passing near, holding the sword by right the bane of Glaurung, awaiting its reckoning by Thurin, who did not come. None had beheld the hall’s pillars, its gems a thousand rays of green and blue. Before the antechamber she waited, wailing a lament, terrifying treasure-seekers, thieves that might take the heirloom of her house and her hope for Turin’s Return.
The swans lifted into the west, and curled northeast low before the darkening sea, though no stormclouds sat upon the horizon. The sun passed into the sea, and again the pair was utterly alone, and the bliss that might have been, came as a weight of greater dread, the urgency of escape now oppressing greater than the shadows and the sea at night before a rock isle that nested no living fowls, nor anything for man to eat.
But eat they did, as fish and crab and pod and weed came ever in due season, and the Days of Unease passed, and she grew strong in the shadow of the rock, nurturing the child-spirit while preparing his habitation of her own.
The sword, it seemed, waited for her, and (its feel) did not wholly leave her hands, nor did its voice her ear. The swans, and at times, falcons and other fowl perhaps driven to sea by the great storms that passed south, refuged there, and were taught by Zhera’ to gather green things. Fruits and foods sufficient returned with the bird friends, until the Time of Bearing came, and in labors and travails somewhat lessened (later it seemed to them) by prayers of Silmariel, and watched over from afar by Nienor, a man-child came forth in the antechamber. Dyacôm he was called by Zhera’, and Assediyarsil by his mother, the Bright Day of Peace.
For over a year the little family, as a new world of three amid the vastness of the Deep, survived storms, and hardship that seemed the more unfair, had the babe been blessed in Westernesse, and crawled on green turf, petal strewn, dandled on the king’s knee, a doting godfather, so at night she imagined in vision. To Zhera’ the days at sea were often met with wonders, and he had not forgotten the Primordial Dark of her homeland, though (he supposed), she knew he had not lived in its glory before the Dark.
Nights there were when Zhera’ would swim to shore, and climb the familiar cliff to lay under the stars, the lone man in all the world, for all he guessed, and his stone revealed little of the Faithful. Exiled or not, living or burned on the altars of Melko. Only the stirring wail of Dyacôm brought him out of wonder amid the stars, before whose glintings black things, some passed, eastward and south.
Nights there were when Izilba strayed also to the rock, leaving man and child at peace, to wrestle the grief of Niniel, turning often, though only for a season, to contentment, if not hope. They spoke never of her life, nor of the world as it was, but instead Izilba gave her all she knew, guessed, and could invent of Westernesse, and the Faithful, saying nothing of the makings that brought a child of noble birth and royal housing to a rude sea wain, drifting against worn teeth. Many nights they sat and looked out to sea and star, silent, listening for ghosts, and the return of stories. Often Izilba would look upon Nienor, and loved her.
“You must draw again the black sword, Mormegil, Old Sky Hewer, daughter of travails,” she counseled under the bright stars and before the stretching canvas of night-sea, white foamed, caressing the rocks of her garden, boneless but not without life. “I will do as you say, Bright One, but not until your swanmaids return, to give you health and lore of the sea.”
“My daughter is kind to not display the end of this hope, three thousand years fed, aborted.” And so on a day that witnessed the swan-flocks’ return, circling as before, as ever, as if looking into the sea cavern, and calling forth Nienor, Izilba silently, with child now slung from a net at her shoulder, drew out again the Black Sword, while Zhera’ waited in the threshold of the antechamber, breathing the sea air. The swans were found surrounding their throng of wains, and though it was a wonder to them, one spake as a queen of great lineage, and offered their wings, and minds, and necks to be harnessed.
So after two years they bade goodbye to their first home, lonely rock isle, house of a great spirit, blessing her and wishing her better guests to receive of her hospitality. West and southward the throng was drawn while the pair wept, and laughed, behind the breeze beat from under the swans’ wide white wings, and Dyacôm slept in his father’s arms (under the day star).
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