The sun fell into the plains and low hills westward, into a soft yellow curtain behind, while in the east, Miriam dazed in wonder. The Blue Mountains stood under a pale lavender sky, clear and scrubbed by recent rain that upon these mountains was held as snow, bluing against the fading colors turned out of the sky by the sun’s early winter fall. Gathering again, having found great variety of foods good for keeping through winter season, she and Izilba also sought out caverns to shelter in, until time should move them elsewhere.
Izilba had become more quiet in this land, and more gentle; her laughter easier to come by, despite her awareness, it seemed to Miriam, of the turn her life’s path had taken before her, a royal maid of highest courts of men, now rude and rustic, freckled and burned by sun and wind, awaiting a frost – while contriving warmth and stores against the day.
To Miriam these cold seasons were not to be endured, if a way south in safe passage might be contrived instead. Yet Izilba refused to choose one way or another, so she too endured the mornings unkind, but breathtaking, glittering as it were a diamond on earth, turned to vapor by mid-day.
A tight, not shallow cavern Izilba had indeed discovered, evidencing no habitants within recent memory of the space, and for Dyacôm also it seemed a wholesome hole, clean of the wandering miseries that now passed without purpose or compass over the land, through the hills, or sunk and emerged of the soil. Yet it was on this evening, as she [Miriam] climbed one of many designated, convoluted un-trails to their happy hole that she came upon the child, as in a trance, at the ledge of the cavern. He said a Hunter was watching in the far woods west, and that about his being of black blacker than the caves, spirits swirled, some in lust of greed and others in terror, puddling outward across the hill-scape before him.
A song the boy repeated, cometh to his ears over the high airs, brought by a spirit that to him often hummed:
Night is come, Night is come,
From it none may hide, upon us all,
Abandoned by the Sun, fickle and tiring
Is fallen the Truth:
Nothing is, Nothing Thought, sight, breath: old, before
Light, restored again, all-night.
Miriam saw little beheld by the boy, shadows and smoke swirls, swaying forests, bird-forms high overhead, as in flight. But a wanderer far off, southward and nearly buried in composted rot, saw upon her breast a star blue, helluin, against the utter dark rising eastward, and moving as a fog upon the earth from the western hills. All but one eye he buried in the rotting soil, having glimpsed the dwarf-glass, disbelieving it was so; yet unwilling to let his eye be suaded by a mind now easily doubting. Indeed, his other eye had been put out long enough past that he seldom misjudged the distance between himself and what he sought, and keener had his other senses become, without this advantage. Quickly, he mused now, he would have been quarried by the Hunter in the Woods a- watching, whose songs had chased from this realm all other voices that sang.
Brin-sil-Beriand by sight he knew, having as a youth bellowed in their forges, those of Nogrost, being apprenticed as fee from his tutors to kin in payment of a debt many generations delayed. Whose debt, he often wondered, was he payment, or being re-paid, in the ancient stone-halls of furtive folk, staunched in genius-sharing, but kind enough to fellow-feeling men at need.
First his eye was put out its light, for refusing to forge for new unnamed masters of the Mountains Blue, chain and mail of Mithril, knowing this substance-metal to alone suit as armor the spirits of the dead. Indeed, he knew not the secret to so fine a craft as requested, yet rather than fall upon ignorance into blindness wandering, he chose refusal in principle; for no smith of his master’s ancient title would make a thing great and yet not also know for him it was made.
Then he was burned, maimed, removed of fingers deemed non-essential to the smithying-work; tormented by fire, iron, shears, nails, his body was disfigured, yet stronger came resolve to refuse, satisfied in supposing that his craft’s sponsor long ago would have him murdered, were others availing to their master’s purposes. And sent forth under black skies, moonless, wearing only the stench of corpses, the man had been for a year or longer, prey in a game played by changing predators, ever renewing threats and abuses to his soul; when at last it pleased their council to end his life.
Yet hounded and circled though these hunts [regularly] concluded, before baying wolf-kine perfectly obedient to their master, he would [then] be dragged, bound by cords that into flesh burned, to their forges, again to refuse the task demanded.
This night the wolves came not, nor did the Watcher in the Woods arrive, and he slept in the dust, inside a tangle of thorns, that in the night had surrounded him. To him the boy Dyacôm ^(by dawn) was led, and though the stench was great about the place, and portended an evil end to one slain there long ago, misled thither; only the clean scent of snow lofted by breezes falling down the mountains came to the boy’s nose, and to his ears no sound but the rushing waters in the distance, westward crossed days ago, as they faltered somewhat under the mountain’s first frosts, and were by his mother and her sister forded. The dead-seeming man, he could only sense; as breath under earth, so he searched as daily they all did, for food to share and store. This day he (Dyacôm) arose before dawn had spread into the valley, though further west he could see it coming upon the range beside the river, from the cavern higher up in the slate ^foot hills of the Blues.
And secretly he departed, even as in the year earlier, to wander, then; now to find and collect the Breather beneath the earth. Unsettled from sleep by dreams beyond recall, Miriam feigned to herself rest. Thus heard was the boy’s otherwise silent descent, in slightest footfalls, to her curiosity; thus she spied him far off wandering in the graying dawn, disbelieving, and yet fearful of Izilba’s wrath and despair, should he be found again astray her command, or worse, not found. And leaving her infant to the warmth of robes warmed by stonewalls that held the heat of fire through the night, she came out to the ledge and marked his place, and whither he headed.
Then as she scanned further afield, to guess his path, her face was as stone, to look upon a ghastly helm, of teeth and bone burnished, strung upon sinews, upon a rider of a horse, yet no body of flesh did the rider display, and the helm sat as in air, over greaves and boots of blackened silver. To Dyacôm, it was in stealth, coming; hunting the child that in the dust was digging. To cry out would only bring to the scene his mother, to look upon the surely ^spurred to rushing ghost-wraith, as it ran down her only son now to her known.
“Thingol’s Heir to folly, in flesh,” sang the wraith’s mouthless helm,
Come to me, and be carried in honor,
To towers upon thy swamps raiséd
Come to him we all await, being
In flesh incarnate, in Mithril clad, a body
Cannot break, ‘pon spirit thy bones shall dress,
Of thy pure soul forsaked,
Dyacôm son, come, kingly one,
To Fëanor’s lost son.
Then the horse was spurred by boots footless, and upon legless breaches, rose the helm, wrought as a man’s tormented face; and it rode down the slopes over the thinned waters of the rushing, weakened waters, the horse stumbling slightly on the smooth stones, but certain it was to Miriam that the boy would be carried off, and too swiftly for her to intervene, or to call for him to hide; and what would any call do, but alert the monstrous form to her hideabout, and make of those three its prey?
Having crossed the failing waters, the horse and rider climbed the slope south of Miriam’s ledge, and sprinted to the boy beyond. Yet, Gelion’s waters are highly favored by Ulmo Lord of Waters, and buried beneath a scattering of sand and dust, was a deep well, crusted thinly by ice formed that night, and upon this, the boy ^had walked, being watched by the Hunter; who marked his path’s steps, being (it is thought) unable to see his personage of flesh. So on the same path it galloped upon a horse, and came this rider crashing as though the earth itself had opened to swallow horse and rider, the waters frozen divided, and the black wind that trailed horse-and-rider was blown away by a gentle breeze. So loud rang the crack upon the hills, that the boy was awakened ^as from a stupor to stand and abandon his digging, and Miriam cried out, so to the cavern’s arched window flew Izilba, and Samuel wailed in reply.
Only a brief column of steam arose from the broken into well’s freezing waters, though these became murky and unwholesome to look upon, and to touch, greasy, by the time the women had descended and rushed to pick up the boy, still sobbing in fright unrecognized, but present. Scolding while hugging him close, Izilba fled around the stinking pools, and ascended straightaway the cavern’s warmth, revealing to any onlooker both its approach and opening.
Stunned as one seeing both Valar and the Enemy, and more so astonished by the quiet, suddenness of the conflict’s conclusion, Miriam stood a while looking from whence Dyacôm digged, to see whether the boy would’ve seen his hunter riding upon him, or whether in lesser blessing he might’ve been prevented from its on- rushing’s witness. So she sat, pondering the beauty about her, in the mountains, rising in the pale yellow on clouds, as the stars returned the watch to less careful beings of the high airs, and she wept for the weight suddenly removed, how easy the burden is to bear hence beside Izilba and their boy-babes.
In time she could not longer resist the echoing wails of her infant high up in the cavern, and rose, feeling lighter upon her unbending knees, tying her robe at the waist, and pulling her hair into a knot; she was in truth, as Izilba looked upon her from the shadow of the cavern, a child herself; still under the spell of youth whatsoever pains and griefs she’d borne, the spell that life would improve in all good things tomorrow, that wherever she walk, cool glades would unroll underneath, and above her a sun in due season, rain and starlight in correct measure, if only she might long enough endure.
Then Miriam halted and turned around, to face a thicket of thorns, as if listening, silent, on her toes, ear pointed and cocked to the air thither.
“Wait,” a voice pleaded therein, “wait.”
And the girl paused, turning to listen, the sun’s shadow was withdrawn from the land, and shone upon her, grey robed, her long tresses chestnut in the light reflecting golden, and upon her breast shone as a star the Brin-sil-Beriand, giving back the blue-a-glimmer to the blue-iris by grime bespeckled. She suddenly glimpsed behind the thornbush, surrounding, buried under rotting earth, the form of a man, broad, mightier than any she’d know before.
“Wait,” the earth asked one last time, and she opened her robes to be gazed at in fullness of morning’s light, and the earth below gasped at so lovely a sight.
Then covering her beauty, she knelt upon the dust, and cast aside the thornbush, and crawled underneath the tangled branches, to uncover the man, and he was unlovely to look upon, being maimed, and suffering long scars, and wide scars of burning; and his ear was cropped, and his handsome fingers hacked, and his flesh had been pierced by cruel barbs of iron and silver, yet he remained strong; though his skin had been written upon as one owned, no master had he.
Now he consented to be raised out of the earth of his keeping, and to be cleaned by a woman’s tears, and washed of the soil and stench, by loveliness perfumed, for he was awed by wonder, and hoped this was no dream; still feared he to awaken from enchantment.
He was led thus, naked by her hand, through the straightaway to be welcomed by Izilba, and fed, and clothed in a fashion she contrived; and near the small fire was he seated on a stool (too small by far!); crouching to gather the heat that aforetime he wielded in smithying implements of war, and of defense.
Of the few words that morning spoken, while children were fed and washed, and comforted, none was by the other understood, save it be the man’s name. And that he gave as “Zilpharon,” By-Truth-Hunted, a form taken from tongues to these women familiar, which was to them yet another thing this day brought to ponder.