Every story is made of strokes: of the pen in ink crossing over itself upon the sheet of paper; of the sound of a telling in the air, carving up where before was still plainness, inaction, inert unvibrating air, as water frozen, flat, waveless; Every story is made of strokes swung by a character’s hands, and arms; leaps, landing in a battle attack, as two lionesses suddenly become a single whirlwind of anger, reborn for a brief time to cut across some still land; strokes of a knife into flesh, inert made, or rendered suit for meat at meal to eat; strokes of flashes of lightning cut into the black page of night, or of stars into that arena come, a sky hewing; so may iron of a star’s fall cut, and of its material, be forged a sword, for cutting, and if broken, in time, of shards may be written, upon plates of brass, by that same iron’s instrumentation, now in pen held to cut by strokes a tale, whose telling will strike the fateful blow, of an enemy not by meteor, nor sword, nor brave assault, ever at last felled.
So Ifariel came into ownership of a pen – of sorts inkless, but not dried out, nor wasted upon paper, scribbles; a device to cut into metal sheets, what she learned of Zhera’; and her people’s lore before possessed; what was guessed by those remaining, worthy to keep preserved, and what to disclose no longer, but to darkness commit; and her own misery in upbringing, a child of man, but no respecter of him; whose parents folded their love for kindred, wrapped in torturous tales, traditions of little sense making, made as if solely to burden her mind and soil her ears in their telling; So hearing, and made to recite, as in acts of devotion to kindred long dispersed, and dispensed by Powers astray her own world, the brunt by weight kept her always near doubt, should she caring enough to consider, would easily find her way to unrest, there; but doubt neither belief came to her, concerning these stories, ancient tales, traditions wholesome, and irrelevant in her day, to withstand the darkness gathering, and surrounding it seemed by evil purpose, her clansmen upon Kiliath.
Instead, all life was as a game, of putting on masks, and trading one for another, to see through, and for demonstrating to other players, how well may a mask give to its wearing face’s actor, a soul; how little to rely upon a tradition, where a mask better held forth sure ways, to laughter, loving fealty, wise decision;
Emmer was as goodly, kind uncle: rich in material to laugh upon, caring more for the laugher, than her laughter’s appearance; but in time, [Ifariel] growing into powers beyond any to wrestle against, in her little island of stacked rock, by dark wave crashed against, her stature arose beyond those wearing-masks, and all beheld her, a promise of unmasking, and a fear of what lay behind there; servile, sycophantic would be seducers, all came in an endless train, to take off her mask, and know her; yet none did so, and when come upon Zhera’, newly released by a superstitious coastal clan, she had that night indeed fled a ceremony, wicked and basest contrived where men comported as beasts, and gave one to another, theirselves, and without lust, but in play, as to settle the question: Who would stop at nothing – or cease their own will’s understanding – to establish the Queen Ifariel’s will, to reign over their person, and thus overruled, send her will upon others, nothing stopping? How else a queen decided, save in these dark oaths, games of one-ups-manship, swearing to take her chain, and be to her, a beast, underneath? Evil were these ceremonies, and Ifariel fled, though why, in second consideration, she understood not.
A game? How evil, if only play? Yet now had play turned game into designation of queenship, and thence, to her swallowing up by their dark chants, worship, a divine one come, by them consumed;
Yet in Zhera’ she foresaw liberation, of her house, its shackles to ridiculous notions, and those Kiliadrin, their lascivious devotion to flesh, newly taken up; and herself, to wondering, how to rule, when haughty disregard, contempt for her subjects, be over all she’d decide, and do, and will to undertake? From afar she had spied his transactions, there on the coast, being enamored of his game; and those seawains, too, she admired, as a troupe of actors, juggling along the coast, in defiance of true magic, by mere play; in costume, freeing of custom; and in his bearing, effortlessly noble in a manner foreign to her own games, and playing men, one who would remove that mask, and make her whole; so in her contempt for a people overruled by lust, and foolish gaming, she came to one dreading the waste of play, without purpose; for had not his own son by dilly-dallying away his day, alongside some Elda by age enamored in play enchantment, been taken, and thus reft of heart, also Izilba, paddling off to drown herself in grief? One thing he had left, before setting his own feet there, in that valley of sorrow to lay before all Arda, his match to any other’s tale of woe, and that delivery of his beloved daughters, rescued from a hole where likely his own beloved was betrayed, and came to cruel slaughter, her own come, or conducted;
Yet in the heart’s malice, new ways unfold, and so in its striking out to allay or forestall her supposed tale’s captured kinsmen, and thus maybe to win the admiration of one truly admirable, in person, at first seeing, and more so beguiling in her hearing – for her voice was very fair, and in her bearing was undeniable regal mien; and maybe also to add to his list of good works, a people’s whole liberation, by only his cunning, and his daughters’ training, to bear weapons in defense, or to free a shackled host, thus to contrast against how ill his own treatment by Fates, unkindly, ruthless in exercise, and never to fair redemption, of deed for reward;
And Ifariel saw in Zhera’ all his despising of rude people’s ways, and yet also his contempt for high ways, that bore evil out to lesser men; and love sat in his heart, unmoved, for those whosoever came under his glance, and was revealed thereby; only the Shadow, he despised wholly, and in a mask, he met with challenge, to pierce the eye, and reveal one’s true persona, that by one’s soul borne out in our flesh, despite much else forgotten, and even forsaken, to spirit-realm;
And more so she engraved, by a pen of iron, into folded sheets of ore thin yet her engraving, holding; her pen she had taken, as a gift, from Old Man Joseph after death, shaken loose by his corpse’s dragging, upon that sled, as if asleeping; Why he carried it, she could not guess, for plain it was, of forged steel, as a weapon finely crafted, as maybe elf of her parents’ lore may undertake, and complete in fashioning; yet too fine for defending any blow thrown there against, too slight for stabbing foes – save like an assassin, to one sleeping, finding, her throat, sticking – so she herself claimed the item, as a bauble perhaps desirable to Rugus, or useful against;
Yet she did not strike his bared nape with the pen’s iron, to draw forth red ink of soul’s body, warm pouring on the sand- tile floor; bitter to strike, and also to leave him unvanquished, who so many wanton ravished;
More so being unviolate, to no man committing her body’s pleasure, neither any daring to take, unrightly, without for her acquiescence obtaining, by oath of fealty, faith one to another giving; Moreso was she eager to displace his neck of its throb, and by a pin’s prick, judging that fate of his life’s end, best suiting; her hand she stayed, in his chamber, while he in stupor on floor lain, naked, wretched, probably – she deemed – awake sufficient to feign sleeping, in hope of her, him disposing; pity arose in her, as once before, in seeing Doral of Zheradin- throng – yet now lacking the love also in her seeing, that was borne; in pity, she departed Rugus-Hall, though no love to him did this pity bear. And her new weapon, a bride’s assassin, as on a night of coupled deflowering, she sheathed, having not drawn forth blood of her betrothed;
So to healing wounds, turned she this instrument long ago parted from a tool forged singly purposed, to draw forth blood; and in writing, fond she at last a once forsaken healing, of wounds long festering, and penance delayed in the taking; For in Izilba had she become, as daughter to mother, yet too late opening, her heart sickened in envy, Zhera’ being right to love the mother, though nearly fallen to her preying. All this and more revealed she by that iron pen on sheets of folded brass, thin hammered ornaments of some baubles, out of Rugus-Hall taken;
And Ket-Tha in this time’s wearing, delivered herself a child (of Rugus, though none saying), from whose father’s parting she now repented, turning herself in mind often to his halls, now re- dressed in finery, and single pleasure, love abundant fruiting, and in her imagining, her body sickened; so was sought in haste, a nursemaid, of the land surrounding, and thus came to Ifariel’s little shack-land by a stream without name, a petty dwarf, as of the people of Mîm (accursed accursing, in Turin’s Tale); Learned in witch-magic for healing flesh of sickness by thought’s poisoning, by her administrations, Ket-Tha was raised whole, and looked no more withsoever her fancy misled, knowing she was to Rugus, as if dead, and maybe he likewise, and not to her only;
Yet also his child was to her heart estranged, and she too separated, not displeased to hand the boy for another nursing to suckle; nor to leave him asleep, upon the breast of Ifariel;
And no momma became she to he, named by mothercraft, Maunsh – as if pulled from the reeds; “a catch,” but instead to bewitchment of dwarf-maid, fell she, who in healing of Rugus’s enchanting, fell astonishingly, to her healer’s blandishments; So wed they in secret, mockery, of ancient ceremony, dwarf and man-maiden, unnatural, and to Ifariel – when news of the union was come – displeasing, having aforetime herself seen similarly conducted – though more so in mockery, and less bewitching – Mankind to other, married;
This dwarf-maid (if maid it be!) she named in her writing, Stunt (though the pun works more clearly in your word, stent: that which being “short,” also professes to open the heart to blood, obstructed). And Stunt was cruel thereafter, turning Ket-Tha against her own son, and despising any who loved the boy, hating his father, as if he was the man’s memory, and evil likewise again would come, to one Stunt truly loved (if dwarfs indeed love other than the craft of their hands).
So seeing in Stunt, and Ket-Tha’s heart’s turning thus, her little shack-town’s division, Ifariel set her mind to reconciliation, and if in this failing to achieve, to her own departure;
Often on moonless night, she would to Joseph-shade come, and learn of him, much lore, and healing wisdom, and he, delight in her companionship, for she was as a memory of one almost beyond full recall, wife-Asenath, of her beauty, and will, very resonant;
So being spied upon, who once herself set many spying, Ifariel was considered by Stunt, who worried that the shack- Lady was seeking by trade, flesh for aid, and would her own people betray, being enamored of power, moreso than any other human;
And to Ket-Tha were many harkening, that others them surrounding, ought fear their stealth, rather than discern a people hiding in fear; So some in stealth went forth, as to please her designs, and in return brought they slaves, to work at farm, or weapons forge; and thus by stealth, hoped she to allay and forestall those surrounding, from gathering into one, and upon these shacks, come conquering; also, rumors Stunt whispered, as she wandered, to heal where hurt wanted nursing, among far- flung houses, saying that in elsewhere, she’d seen, one not long taken, and perhaps still among captors resident; always her targets in thus whispering, were chosen as to set the stronger houses gathered in arms and vengeance seeking, against those weaker, in defense, and often, in wisdom;
So Stunt wove into a woeful tapestry, some ancient grudge by her-his people, long carried; yet halting the entire plan’s unfolding, was strange affection for Ket-Tha, as though in enchanting, bewitchment returned to the bewitching, and her enchanter, was herself bewitched;
There perhaps may be discerned, in love-strange burgeoning, delay sufficient to spring forth of Rugus’s loins, a promised one; and thus sprung, his own springing forth, out of a realm condemned, and in so springing, bringing our tale to conclusion;
For learning of Ifariel’s forays upon nights moonless, to woods surrounding, Ket-Tha her own trap, sprung; and that queenly one was dragged, as a beast herself, by men she’d labored to preserve, and was herself by them of plant-lore instructed; thus by ropes tied, ankle and wrist, on a dirt floor thrust was Thingol’s Melian, who in flesh had come, mortal-born, returned to dust; and Ifariel she was truly, daughter-fallen Melian, divine queen of Doriath ruined, to Varda-Luthien mother; alone she was in the night moonless, starlight prohibited by a rude shack’s reed-thatch, in a hut nowhere named, having lost all, twice over, and no happiness come; And dust she tasted, and there her friends who before would incline to devotion, even idol-worship, now upon her rained spittle, ejaculen, and piss-urine, in madness of their situation, hopeless to restoration, knowing Kiliath was taken, and now, it seemed, all their losses’ retribution, took they of Ifariel, downcast, at last, who once in Kiliath, even a god had seemingly bowed.
—Grovel, Worm! And by daybreak, ye shall back to Rugus- Hall, lead us. And all cheered Ket-Tha, saying this, save one: Stunt, who now reckoned, the weakness of her heart’s medicine; and she-he offered to drag the worm-queen, as snake at last become, to the water’s edge, and there to enchant her, so even against her own queenly will, assurance would come, that to Rugus-Hall, she would lead them;
And in hauling Ifariel-Melian in the soiled dust, there to the marshy mud, to drown a worm so that never to Rugus would Ket-Tha come; Stunt bid none overwatch, lest the magic work be undone.
Then in her minute of greatest need, did Joseph-shade as his daughters seven before had come, darkness snaring, and Eldarinwa music blaring, and his golden light shed there a multitude of shadows, to terrify Stunt, who dreading all shades, fell, aswoon, in that mud; by writhen there also, in mud, Ifariel was of her bonds, loosened; and come to their liberation, she stood, and pressed down her foot on Stunt’s head, to drown her victim, and not in play, but earnest;
Yet in Joseph’s fading glow, she beheld the tormented flesh, and broken places of Stunt’s person, and there relented, her vengeance untaken; while the glowing shade hummed a dwarfy chanting, thus to warn away Ket-Tha’s “soldiery”; so Ifariel herself from muck twice arisen, ran to baby Maunsh’s shed, and he not crying, but in her muck comforted, was carried therefrom, and upon a raft of reeds sometimes by the queenly one, paddled in measure of her strength and the stream’s opposition, as in preparation for her people’s fleeing to freedom, alone with a babe she waded, pushing that reed craft, silent, while Joseph-shade purloined that shack-town’s hoped-for freedom, in Ifariel’s cruel inquisition, instead sang her, her liberation who was, in age previous, mother to his mother;
Yet she halted her out-wading, recalling one thing alone, she’d forgotten; those metal pages, and her iron pen, for them engraving; Having run back, to their acquisition, even with a babe to her clinging, she leaped into the current, even as the sun’s beams over the horizon, sending forth a glint of golden rays, to summon the other, shade-less-golden, he her daughter’s son, Dior who afterward to Asenath wed was, flitted while howling, all his grief of two lost kingdoms; and upon her breast rested, babe by mother forsaken, lore by iron pen engraved, and a spirit, golden, whose throne next to Asenath, he has yet to take up;
Ifariel on those three, herself rested [curled over], concealing them under her hroa, and thus lain breastdown, that reed raft, downstream, to the sea, was directed;