Written for Purimgifts 2014.
Rían sits with her back against the rough bark of a tree and watches the river flowing past. She is weary from the day’s journey, and the ceaseless tumble of the water lulls her into a half-dreaming state. It almost seems there is a voice in the river’s splashing, but Rían cannot tell what it says, whether warning or welcome.
A voice speaks her name. She looks up to see her cousin Morwen standing beside her. “I spoke with some of Galdor’s people,” Morwen says. “Once we cross those mountains, we will be in Dor-lómin.” She sits down beside Rían on the riverbank. “Here, I borrowed a comb. Let me rebraid your hair.”
Rían moves away from the tree so Morwen can sit behind her and turns her head to look at the mountains. It suddenly comes to her that once they cross that last barrier, their journey will be over and they will be in the land where they are to dwell. Their new land; but she does not know it as she knows her own. There she knew every stream, every pine, every mountain pass. There are pines and mountains here too, but they are unfamiliar. She does not even know the name of this river. And she will never see Dorthonion again. At the thought, tears begin to spill from her eyes.
“Why are you weeping, foolish one? Soon we will be in safety.” Morwen’s words are stern, but her hands are gentle as she untangles Rían’s hair.
“I do not know the names of the rivers,” Rían tries to explain.
“This one is the Teiglin. The one before that was Sirion, which flows down into the Great Sea.”
Rían cannot imagine the Sea. She has seen lakes and rivers, but the Sea must be a thousand times more vast. “I would like to see it,” she says. “The Great Sea. Do you think we ever will?”
“I do not know,” Morwen says. Her hands with the comb move steadily through Rían’s hair.
Rían lifts her eyes to look at the stars (those, at least, are the same) and asks the question that has been in her heart since they left Dorthonion. “Do you think we will see our fathers again?”
Morwen’s hands grow still. She hesitates, and Rían can tell she wants to give a kind answer. But Morwen has never been able to soften her words when doing so would turn the truth into a lie. “No,” she says at last. “I do not think we will, unless Ilúvatar grants it to us at the end. I am sorry.”
Rían bows her head. “I will not despair,” she says, “as long as you are with me.” She leans into the movements of the comb, letting it soothe her. Beside the fire, one of the other women begins the song of Rivil’s Well and some others of their people join in. It is a song they sang together as children. Rían adds her voice to the others. Morwen does not join in, but Rían can tell she is listening; the strokes of the comb are in time to the music. They can sing the songs of Dorthonion, even in a strange land.
Chapter End Notes:
The two brothers Belegund and Baragund, fathers of Rían and Morwen respectively, stayed behind to fight Morgoth with Barahir (their uncle) when Emeldir led their people to safety.