Izilba contrived from her mother’s sling a notch for resting Makmahôd; the babe on her one hip, the sword hilt upon the other, and it was to Zhera’ a thing to laugh at, “Warrior-mother, which weapon,” he asked, “more terrible to man?”
At these days of swift passage upon the sea, as they curved eastward again, she would wield the child and nurse the sword, as a joke no doubt; but to Zhera’ it seemed the sword was a jealous brother, and a lover also. Seldom did he touch it, to move it from their nest, or to lift it from her hip in undressing, and then the dark sword taught him the truth of its title, bringing fears and doubt to his head, but never reaching his heart. The family was fed and thirsted not, and though Zhera’ hoped to come to Elvish lands, and take his rest and build a home until that land was no longer, Silmariel gave to Izilba cause to direct the swans away from the Forbidden West, and to head to Exiled Noldo upon the shores and coasts of Middle Earth, ‘neath the White Mountains then running in a spur east to northwest.
These great towers of stone came upon them in the early day, with the sun rising from the waves with the true color of dawn, and though tireless the flock hauled the light throng swift upon the smooth glass, not until the sun has passed over and came to its descent did they see in detail their new home. A holy fence, hallowed by amber rays, ripening upon the peaks, grown from dark purple roots founded in the deeps of Arda, the White Mountains held up a body of cloud, and the high places could only be guessed at their culmination beyond the crystal blue that gave us true-light, before the Days of Overshadowing Might, and the Ruin of Eressëa’s Fields and Holy Shores.
Few harbors for ships of Westernesse were made along this shore, for the feet of the hills set before the high mountains reached deep into the waters, and they were carved into writhen forms and spirals of arching rock, living, if not for Eru’s children.
The swans harbored their throng in a small hidden cove, unseen from passing boats, and known perhaps only to sea birds, though it bore none of the signs of their frequent visitation, and Zhera’ did look as ever, for signs of creature wanderings. A deep warm violet surrounded the small vessels, from sea to shore stretching in welcome, while the walls of the White Mountains glowed brightest before the shadow of Earth swallowed the lands. One last night in the wains, for the day would see them receiving guidance of the queen-bird, help of Idril and close to her counsel in a far remote tower across the Great Sea, forlorn but never forsaken.
Then the little family, carrying all upon their backs and sidled upon their hips, climbed a narrow road cut into the rock-cliff, and before the sun had begun its climb, they headed east and southward, avoiding the desperate lands opened between rock and sea, where unknown to them, women and young girls were penned captive as sheep, overwatched by wolves.
Zhera’, Izilba, and Dyacôm, “Makmahôd’s twin” his father sometimes called him, before taking the boy with golden hair to sit upon his shoulders, while they walked whither neither knew. Light shelter they needed, for the days were warm, and though cutting through a great hall of high rock, the nights were not less good, and small rock-carven shelters hidden but few, had been placed to mark an easy day’s march, whether climbing or descending; high up to see out to sea through a window of hills of less stature, but greater foreboding to climbers; or deeply in tunnels well cared for, and lit by star and moon to mark the seasons.
After more than a week of rising and then steadily descending, the family perceived in the distance an elf-home, settlement buried nearly by fallen rock, though by cunning craft woven through the strewn boulders. Deep underground the town reached away from ruin, though none of mortal kind were by decree allowed so deep into the way.
The pair halted [^at a distance], while Izilba brought the boy to her breast, bringing him to sleep, and herself as well. They were exhausted, and road-weary, bedraggled it seemed to her, though Zhera’ thought also of the wains. He let her sleep, giving her head [^rest upon] his small pack of nets and finer rope, waiting for the always untimely, inevitable ensnarement by creeping Elda. Indeed, several had news of their coming along for several days, and had overwatched them while they slept, but turned away when right to look not; and they, also revealing later to Zhera’, now waited on the friends, as the sea-birds that pulled the wain named them, to approach the hidden home amid the mountain’s castoffs and the ancient flotsam that recorded a long ago flood amid the War of Wrath; corals, shells strung along finely wrought silk strands, as of a spider; wood broken from ships dashed upon the shore that now stood as a high valley; candles glowed in cups eaten by sea salt, a mariner’s refuge-taken therein, and therefrom, in days before the world was broken.
Hours later, when he’d fallen asleep, it seemed, leaning against a slotted column of granite, Izilba saw into the darkness, and beyond it east, downward into the hills cast upon the shore, and down into the rock halls kept by rude men for hoarding small treasures come upon while they fished or dug for shellfish in the strand, and she perceived a red knife in the dark, glowing out suddenly to reveal pale skin, a scalp, young hair removed [^and singed thereby] and a piercing of the hard of the ears of a young girl, whose screams drove out Izilba’s seeing; she awoke and saw above her only a moon at the quarter, pale yellow and removed among the further stars and dust of destroyed worlds.
“Come Izilba of the House of Fire,” two grey Sindel emerged from the walls of stone, “We have prepared for you and beloved men a safe place, restful to weary friends, and some food and drink, too.”
To himself Zhera’ laughed, and his heart was thankful, as he took Dyacôm and pulled Izilba to her feet. “We thank you, friend- elf, and will follow, if you will lead.”
“Come and be glad.”
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