The Swan's Song by kimberleighe

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Story Notes:

This story was originally posted at SWG.  Since then, I have done some minor updates and that is the version being posted here.  I owe a huge thanks to the LC, and I will specify by chapter the Lizards who have kindly helped me!


Author's Chapter Notes:

Summary: In which the tale of Thorondun and Alphiril is begun.


 

Chapter One: Swans & Eagles

Year 1222 of the Second Age

                “Galadriel has written to you.”  Idhreniel swept into Gil-galad’s office, eyes skimming the page as she maneuvered towards his desk.

Ereinion did not acknowledge her words.  His attention was intent on the figures scribbled in the ledger, a finger trailing beside the columns of numbers he studied.  Idhreniel watched him in quiet amusement.  There was a direct correlation between the amount of time he spent focused on the treasury accounts and the darkness of his expression.  She set a sealed envelope (for Galadriel had included one page for Idhreniel and a separate portion for the King) on the ledger page he intently studied.  Ereinion sighed, scowling at her as he picked Galadriel’s letter up and held it out to her.

                “I believe most of the correspondence you read is addressed to me,” he said.

                “Yet, she is clear that these words are meant for your eyes,” Idhreniel replied calmly, meeting his gaze.

The impatience with which he opened the missive indicated his irritation at the interruption.  Idhreniel took a step away from the desk to let him be alone with his frustrations.

                “Wait.  Perhaps you can make sense of these numbers.”  He gently shoved the open book towards her.

Idhreniel picked up the ledger reluctantly, and drifted back through the open door that joined her office to the King’s.  Ereinion had spent hours trying to find a way to finance both the necessary harbor repairs and the construction of new ships.  They had lost some in the last bad storm, and the ship-wrights of Mithlond had raised their prices, again.  Part of her had hoped he would go to Elrond with this dilemma; she hated unraveling their financial crises. 

                It was hours before the evening shadows fell over her desk.  She lit the nearby lamp, ignoring the dinner bells, in favor of her work.  Lately, one of the cooks had been kind enough to set aside a plate for her in the kitchens.  Besides, she had almost secured enough funds to solve their problem.  It would take some convincing for the other advisors to agree.  Again, she would be collecting a few favors. 

                “Sister, what are you still doing here?” Tirnion crossed the space from the hall to her desk quickly. 

The four silver stars stitched vertically down the left breast of his sapphire blue tunic caught the light.  A sense of pride swelled up in Idhreniel at the reminder of her brother’s recent promotion to the rank of First Captain within the King’s Guard.  Tirnion did not wait for her answer, closing the ledger on her desk and beckoning her to stand.

                “I am working, Tirnion.  I have many things to do.”  She rose anyways, knowing a fight was futile.

                “Has Ereinion forbidden you to eat?  You have been absent to dinner all week.”  Tirnion took her hand, leading her out of the office towards the large feasting hall.  “I must have a word with him.”

                “Oh, do tell me how that conversation ends,” Idhreniel laughed.  “How goes the training of the newest guards?”

Tirnion let out a sigh of long-suffering, shaking his head.

                “Please, sister.  Ask me anything but that!  Half of them do not even have the correct uniforms.”

                It was a short walk to the large dining hall.  Many of the long tables were already filled and conversation hummed among the seats occupied by the soldiers, sailors and their families.  Idhreniel, at first, followed her brother towards where his wife, heavily pregnant with their first child, sat with the rest of the King’s Guard and their wives.  Tirnion stopped his sister from sitting.

                “I believe your seat is elsewhere,” he murmured, indicating something behind her.

Ereinion moved steadily towards them, pausing beside some of the tables to converse with lords and advisors. 

                “We shall see.”  Idhreniel kissed his cheek, pausing beside Ivoreth to kiss hers as well.  “How do you feel?”

                “Tired.”  Ivoreth smiled warmly, a hand drifting to her swollen belly.  “He is kicking and moving all the time, so I have no rest.  I think he shall be his father’s son.”

                “Oh dear, Forlond will be laid to waste between them both.”  Idhreniel sent her brother a fond glance. 

Tirnion sent her a mock glare as he sat beside his wife.  He placed a tender arm around Ivoreth’s shoulders, pressing a kiss to her temple.

                “We shall do no such thing!” he replied, frowning at his sister.

                “I am not sure, Captain.  I seem to recall an incident in Eglarest.”  Ereinion’s hands on her shoulders accompanied his voice, alerting her to his presence.

Idhreniel laughed when her brother’s face flushed.  She glanced over her shoulder to Ereinion, sharing his smile.  She remembered the incident in question well.

                “Gil-galad, we both know I was not to blame.”  Tirnion shook his head, pointing a finger back at his sister and the King.  “I believe I had a partner or two in that crime.”

                “A partner?  Idhreniel, do you know what he is referring to?” Ereinion asked, absently smoothing the material of Idhreniel’s shawl under his hands.

                “I haven’t the faintest,” she answered.

Tirnion’s eyes narrowed at his sister in feigned betrayal.  She returned his gaze evenly until Ereinion squeezed her shoulder.  Lady Galheril stood beside him, one of her pale hands gentle on the King’s arm. 

                “…of course Forlond could only profit from my proposal.”  Idhreniel caught the tail end of Galheril’s words.

                “I appreciate your continued advocacy for your project, Lady Galheril, yet this is a conversation for a different time,” Gil-galad began.  “Counselor…”  Idhreniel easily anticipated his request, mentally visualizing his schedule for the next day.  “Please find a time so Lady Galheril and I can further discuss this.”

His hands left her shoulders as he moved on to greet a different lord.  Idhreniel easily arranged a private luncheon for the Lady and the King, catching the brief flicker of satisfaction in Galheril’s eyes.  The lady murmured her thanks before sweeping away towards a table of Forlond’s high-born children.  Idhreniel watched her go, fighting to retain her placid expression.  It seemed Galheril had aspirations beyond her project, dreams of a crown. 

Her annoyance at ambitious courtiers faded as she slowly gravitated towards Gil-galad.  He wore robes of forest green, a rare change from the sapphire color he favored.  The well-tailored fit revealed his strong shoulders and lean body.  Ereinion had always been handsome, even in his youth.  Given the King’s appearance, Idhreniel could not fault Galheril’s satisfaction with a private meeting.  The King’s hand and heart had yet to be claimed, and on those subjects alone, he refused any counsel. 

He must have seen her approach from the corner of his eye because he shifted to accommodate her into the circle of lords.  It was a short conversation, full of high words and subtle manipulations. 

“I look forward to our meeting.”  His words dismissed the lords, and he glanced down at Idhreniel.  “I do not always have the pleasure of your company at dinner.”  He held out his hand to her.

                “Tirnion believes that you have forbidden me to eat.  I had to convince him you allow me my meals.”  Without hesitation, her hand slipped into his, allowing him to lead her towards the front of the room. 

                “Yes, yes, you must make him think I allow you some freedoms.”  He chuckled to himself, leaning his head towards hers, “Ah, and we received guests this afternoon.  Celeborn and Celebrían are here.”

Only he could forget such a detail and it be completely acceptable. 

                “Is that what Galadriel wrote to you about?” Idhreniel responded.

                “No.  That is a conversation for a different time.”  His serious tone contrasted with the smile on his face.

                They approached the dais at the head of the room.  Celeborn and Elrond were already deep in conversation.  Celebrían stood with a smile, spying the King and his advisor.  Idhreniel felt her own lips spreading to match the young lady’s grin.  She met Celebrían with a gentle kiss to each cheek and murmured greeting. 

                “Lady Celebrían, your beauty continues to amaze me.”  Ereinion bowed to her.

Idhreniel moved beyond the two, completely amused at Celebrían’s pink cheeks as the young lady’s conversation with the King continued.  She placed a hand on Celeborn’s shoulder, silently interrupting his response to Elrond. 

                “My lord, it is good to see you returned to the coast,” she said.

Celeborn rose quickly to embrace her.  When he had been lord of Harlond, she had found him a reliable ally.

                “Lady Idhreniel, it is always a pleasure to see you,” he paused, gaze falling behind her briefly as he lowered his voice.  “I hope to speak with you in private later?”

                “My office is always open,” Idhreniel responded with a smile.

                She squeezed Elrond’s shoulder as she passed him.  He half-stood to kiss her cheek.

                “Gil-galad says he gave you the treasury accounts.”  The Peredhil looked sympathetic.

                “That he did.  He seems to forget that you have a way with numbers, not I.”  Idhreniel moved to take her seat beside Elrond.

Ereinion stood behind it, having pulled it out for her.  Idhreniel murmured her thanks and took her seat.

                “Is that a complaint I heard?” he asked.

She picked up the carafe of wine, already beginning to fill his glass and then her own. 

                “You heard nothing of the sort.  It is fact that Elrond has a way of squeezing funds from where none were before,” Idhreniel answered calmly, watching Ereinion as he dished out portions onto both of their plates.

                “Perhaps Elrond could come to Ost-in-Edhil then,” Celeborn noted dryly.

Ereinion laughed.  Eregion had been emptying the treasury since its founding.

                “You cannot steal my advisors, Celeborn.”  Ereinion’s gaze drifted from Idhreniel to Celeborn, a quiet indication that he had heard the lord’s earlier request.

                “Not steal, Gil-galad.  I simply need to borrow the Peredhil for a few centuries.”  Celeborn returned to his plate with a polite smile.

                “I am being treated like property now,” Elrond muttered to Idhreniel.

She laughed softly, leaning her head towards his.

                “It shows their high regard for you,” she replied. 

A brief smile crossed Elrond’s face, breaking the stern lines.  He lifted his glass to her.  Idhreniel clinked hers against it gently. 

                “What are we toasting to?” Celeborn asked.

                “Wisdom,” Elrond responded dryly.

                After dinner, Ereinion suggested a walk beside the sea.  Surprisingly, Elrond offered his arm to Celebrían.  Idhreniel lingered between Celeborn and Ereinion, watching the pair meander towards the doors.

                “I trust the two of you will watch her for me?” Celeborn asked.  “I need to have a word with a few of the other lords.”

                “I think we can manage,” Ereinion replied, his gaze drifting to the lady beside him.  “But, hurry, Celeborn.  I plan to convince Idhreniel to entertain us tonight.”

                They found a place on the quiet beach where they could hear the soft echoes of the singers amid the crash of the waves.  After relieving her feet of her shoes, Celebrían wandered towards the surf, letting the spray wet the edges of her dress.  Idhreniel slipped off her own shoes to join her, leaving the two men to the sand. 

                “It is cold,” Celebrían remarked, lifting her skirts to watch her toes wriggle in the wet sand.

                “I have heard that if you travel only a few miles down the coast past Harlond, the water is warm,” Idhreniel replied.

                “How interesting,” she murmured, tossing her silver hair back.  “I certainly wish we were a few miles south then.”

Idhreniel looked back to their companions with a smile.

                “But then we might not have such good company.”  She linked arms with the younger.  “Come, our lords await.”

Ereinion and Elrond lounged on the sand, talking quietly as the ladies approached them.

                “No swimming then?” Ereinion asked with a smile.

                “How could anyone bear to swim in that ice?” Celebrían answered, taking a seat across from them. 

                “I cannot say,” Ereinion replied.

Idhreniel remained standing, her eyes tracing the white caps of the waves to the streaks of clouds illuminated by Ithil.  They shrouded the sky, allowing only pieces of the star signs to creep through.  She sighed.  Summer would soon give way to autumn.  The fall winds would chase the color from the land and Lindon would be blanketed in fog.  She hated the grey waves that reflected the dreary sky, and the nights of shadow black.  Winter was an annual prison.

                “There is Remmirath.”  Elrond’s soft voice brought her from her thoughts, and her gaze was drawn to the Peredhil.

He pointed out the cluster to Celebrían.  The silver haired lady leaned towards him in her attempt to follow the trajectory of his arm with her gaze.  Elrond did not seem wholly uncomfortable to her closeness.  In fact, it seemed he welcomed it. 

                “Ada told me that each sign has a story attached to it,” Celebrían murmured.

                “He is right,” Elrond replied.  “But I am no master of those tales.  Idhreniel tells them best.”

                “Would you, Idhreniel, tell me a story of the stars?”  Celebrían asked.

                Idhreniel did not answer right away, instead turning her gaze back skywards.  Each story played itself over in her mind until she came to one.  She smiled to herself.  This was her favorite.

                “I will tell you of Thorondun and Alphiril,” she began slowly, taking a seat beside Ereinion.

                “Soronúmë and Alquinya,” Elrond cut in quietly for Celebrían’s benefit, pointing out the great eagle and swan in the sky.

                “Oh, this is a lovely story, of the great eagle as he saves the helpless swan.”  Celebrían leaned forward excitedly.

                “Ah, the Noldor would have you believe that the great eagle of the West is the hero,” Idhreniel smiled sadly.  “But we here on the Eastern shore have never forgotten the valor of his swan-lady.”  She took a deep breath before continuing.  “I have told you before of the magician-king, Dúfaron.  He is the greatest of Belegûr’s servants, commanding the fell beasts and armies of the Dark Lord.  But, Dúfaron was not always so.  Long, long ago, before Belegûr fell through arrogance to contempt, Dúfaron was a talented musician, a harpist in the West.  All of his mighty magic was contained within the notes he would play, and the gods would gather when he sang.  Belegûr saw the deepest desires of the magician’s heart and sought to pervert it to his will.  It has never been revealed to the Elves what temptation lured Dúfaron, but his loyalty to the Dark Lord has never wavered.”

                Idhreniel’s gaze returned to her companions.  Elrond and Celebrían had lain back in the sand, looking up at the stars.  Celebrían must have been whispering something to him because he raised his hand, pointing out something in the sky, his low voice unintelligible.  Ereinion’s attention was focused solely on her, a brow lifting curiously when she did not immediately continue her tale.  Idhreniel spared him a warm smile before returning to her narrative.

                “For the twelve months that Gwilwileth sat captive and mute in the black castle, Dúfaron was not idle.  He sought to cheer her gloom by bringing to her the most beautiful items he could find.  When all his efforts proved futile, he began travelling the land in search of something else that could cause her to smile. 

High in the mountains, nestled between the tallest peak and a great lake that fed all the rivers of Arda, lived the lovers, Thorondun and Alphiril.  Together they had created a home in the rocks below the great eagles.  Thorondun daily climbed up the sheer rock, taking to the skies on the backs of the majestic birds.  As one in the service of Aran Einor, he would at times return to the West.  It was during one of these absences that Dúfaron happened upon Alphiril.  She sat beside the gentle lake, a lyre upon her lap as she sang.  Her tone was sweet, but mixed with the sorrowful and lonely notes of one longing for their mate.  He remembered her from the earliest moments of his existence.  Together, they had once stood, humming the notes of the Music.  He thought to himself: surely her song could return the smile to Gwilwileth’s face.  As Dúfaron went to approach Alphiril, Thorondun returned from one of his trips.  The magician scowled from the shadows.  He would have to devise a way to be rid of Aran Einor’s messenger.”

“Oh, Idhreniel, what did he do?” Celebrían exclaimed, her brow wrinkled with concern. 

“Dúfaron waited until Thorondun took flight again, and then approached Alphiril.  He murmured his greeting and surprised the gentle lady.   ‘Dúfaron?  Why have you come?’ Alphiril questioned, her concern apparent.  She had heard of his fall, and perhaps she saw the shadows that edged his beautiful appearance.  ‘I need your assistance, Alphiril.  Please, would you help me?’ He delivered his plea with such sincerity that she was moved.  ‘I must wait for my husband, Dúfaron.  He would be worried if he returned and I was not here.’  ‘We must go right away,’ Dúfaron replied, taking her arm.  ‘Otherwise, the lady may be lost.’

Again, he convinced her of his goodness and she agreed to travel with him in great haste.  During their journey, Alphiril began to question her judgment in undertaking this task.  She saw the great wolves and balrogs that bowed in deference to Dúfaron.  When they arrived to his black castle in the farthest reaches of the North, she shivered at the coldness.  The tower jutted from the cruel and barren ground; only one road twisted to the huge door.  Alphiril cried aloud when she saw that Dúfaron had captured Gwilwileth.  ‘Set her free!’ the lady exclaimed.  ‘Sing for her,’ Dúfaron ordered.  ‘You must make her smile.’

                ‘It is your captivity that keeps her so forlorn,’ Alphiril refused to sing one note in benefit of Dúfaron’s plan.  Dúfaron’s rage boiled over at her continued denial and he summoned up a terrible song.  He whispered of the futility of her repudiation, and what payment he would exact for her defiance.  A great light flashed where Alphiril had been.  Gwilwileth let out a silent cry, wrestling with her bonds in an attempt to save her friend.  When the brilliance cleared an ordinary white swan occupied the same space Alphiril had once stood.  ‘You shall remain as a songless bird until you obey me,” Dúfaron thundered.  But he forgot to clip her wings.  With a great leap, Alphiril flew out of the castle-”       

                “Idhreniel,” a call interrupted her story.

Her eyes flew to the familiar guard, her expression shifting to concern.

                “What is it?” she asked.

                “Captain Tirnion asked me to fetch you,” he reported.  “He says: his child is impatient to come into this world.”

Idhreniel quickly stood, barely remembering to brush off her skirts before following the guard towards the buildings.  They would need to finish this tale on their own.

 


Chapter End Notes:

 

Characters/Notes:

Idhreniel: chief counselor to Gil-galad; sister of Tirnion; daughter of Ninnethril and Olthir.

Tirnion: First Captain of Gil-galad’s personal guard; brother of Idhreniel; son of Ninnethril and Olthir.

Ivoreth: wife of Tirnion.

Remmirath: (S) “Netted Stars”; corresponds to the constellation of Pleiades (commonly called the Seven Sisters).

Thorondun (S), Soronúmë (Q): “Eagle of the West”, corresponds to Aquila in our night sky.

Alphiril (S), Alquinya (Q): “Swan lady”, corresponds to Cyngus.

Dúfaron (S): A title for Sauron.

Belegûr (S): “He who arises in might”; a name for Morgoth.

Gwilwileth (S): “Butterfly”; she will soon become the constellation that corresponds to our own Cassiopeia.

Aran Einor (S): A name for Manwë.

 



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