Once Upon a Blizzard by Fiondil|
Summary: As a blizzard rages, a tale is told.
Beleriand, F.A. 552, seven years since the beginning of the War of Wrath:
The battles had ceased for a time with the sudden onslaught of a blizzard that blanketed the Taleth Dirnen before what had once been the fair kingdom of Nargothrond. The campfires of the Elves and Edain flickered fitfully as the wind swept down from the northwest.
“A bitter night,” Gil-galad muttered as he sat in his tent with his captains, calmly cleaning his sword.
“A good night for story-telling, though,” Beregond son of Bregolas said. He was the only Adan among them. “I remember how on such a night we would all huddle around the fire while Grandfer would regale us with one marvelous tale after another.” There was a wistful look in his eyes and the Elves hid amused smiles at the youngest among them.
“What sort of tales?” Gil-galad asked with obvious interest.
Beregond turned red and stammered something so low not even elven ears could hear.
“What was that?” Gil-galad insisted with a slight smile and a quirk of an eyebrow.
Beregond blushed even further but spoke more loudly. “I said they were just tales of no real interest to the Firstborn.”
“Why don’t you let us be the judge of that,” Oropher of Doriath said not unkindly, giving the young Adan a friendly smile. Beregond, for all his youth, was a canny warrior and strategist and highly respected by Gil-galad and his other captains. Some of the Elves from Aman had sneered at the thought of allowing any of the Edain leadership roles in the army. However, the Beleriandic Elves, Sindar and Noldor alike, had made it a point to include the lords of the Edain, few though they were, in all deliberations.
“They have as much a stake in this war as we,” Lord Círdan had said when some of the Amanians voiced their objections. “More so,” Círdan had continued, “for, unlike us, they have nowhere else to go; this is their only home. If they lose this, they lose all, whereas we Firstborn can always retreat to the West, for I think even the Noldor will be forgiven in the end.”
When Eönwë, as Captain of the Host of Valinor, agreed with Círdan, the objections ceased, though not all were happy with the inclusion of the Secondborn in the councils of the Elves and Maiar. Some of the Amanian troops refused flat out to fight alongside the Edain. Indeed, they were rather dismissive of the Beleriandic Elves as well. It escaped no one’s notice that the all-Amanian companies who fought early on in the war tended to end up becoming decimated while the mixed companies tended to survive almost whole. Afterwards, Eönwë ordered all companies to be inclusive and soon the worth of the Edain was recognized by all.
Gil-galad nodded at Oropher’s words. “Come, Beregond,” he commanded, “let us hear a tale of the Edain.”
“What do you wish to hear?” the young Man acquiesced reluctantly.
“What was your favorite tale as a child?” Lindir asked. He was the youngest of the Elves there, having been born about a century after the first Rising of Ithil.
For a moment Beregond did not speak. Instead, he stared down at his hands, his expression pensive. Finally, without looking up, he said, “I was always asking Grandfer for the story of how Lord Finrod found the first of the Edain.”
“Bëor’s people,” Gil-galad muttered.
Beregond nodded. “And mine.”
Several of the Elves stared at the Adan with curiosity, one or two of them remembering those times quite well.
“Well, let us hear this tale, youngling,” Oropher said, “and we can compare notes. I am curious to see how different your tale will be from the truth.”
Beregond stared at the Elf with affront. “My Grandfer would not lie....”
“Peace, child,” Gil-galad said, raising a hand to stem the tide of angry words. He sheathed his sword. “Oropher is not implying anything of the sort. However, even I who am young by the account of my people have heard tales told by Mortals that have no bearing on the true events they purport to relate. None here will berate or ridicule you for your telling. We are just curious to know what details have been omitted or added along the way.” He paused and smiled fondly at his youngest captain. “Also, I think I can speak for all here that this will be the first time we have ever heard this tale from the point of view of the Edain.”
There were several nods and words of affirmation. Beregond seemed appeased by the sincerity of the Elves’ interest in his story and he was at last persuaded to tell it. Lindir refilled his goblet with the heady mulled wine they were all drinking and after a sip or two Beregond began, his voice taking on the cadence of a natural story-teller and some there listening assumed (rightly) that he was unconsciously imitating his beloved Grandfer. “In a time of little hope, Balan, lord of our house, urged his people to flee ever westward from the darkness that was behind them, seeking ever for the land of Light rumored to be somewhere before them....”
“From what were they fleeing?” Voronwë, an Exilic Noldo who had once been of doomed Gondolin, asked.
Beregond’s expression became suddenly wary and closed, which surprised the Elves.
“Finrod never did discover what happened,” Oropher said with a shrug. “He said that none of the Edain would speak of it.”
“He left a record of a conversation with one Andreth, a Wise-woman of the Edain,” Gil-galad said. “There was some hint in it that at one time the fathers of the Edain worshiped Morgoth.”
“That’s a lie!” Beregond fairly screamed as he leapt up, his hands balled into fists. “We never served the Dark Lord, never!” He was nearly in tears and was halfway out of the tent before anyone could respond.
Gil-galad stood up and grabbed him, pulling him back in. “Hush, Beregond,” he said softly yet with great command when Beregond started to protest and the young Man subsided, allowing himself to be drawn back inside. The other Elves sat in astonished shock, for that was not the reaction they had been expecting.
“But, it is well known among us,” Nambaurato, an Amanian Elf, said, looking bemused, “that Men have ever been a grief to Lord Manwë, for we deem that of all the Powers Men resemble Morgoth the most, in spirit at least, though it is true that he has ever feared and hated you from what I have heard since arriving on these benighted shores.”
Beregond went white, his lips thinning. “Tell that to Beren or Húrin, Elf!” he snarled through gritted teeth and Nambaurato had the grace to blush.
“Peace,” Gil-galad demanded, still holding onto the Adan. “We are all friends here and the enemy of the Enemy who has ever striven to drive our two peoples apart. I apologize for anything said here that offended you, Beregond, it was not mine or anyone’s intent.”
There were nods all around. Then Lindir placed his hand on Beregond’s arm and gave him a warm smile. “I’m still interested in hearing this tale of yours. I remember Bëor. I remember when Finrod brought him to Nargothrond and we heard from his own lips how he found the Edain, so now I would hear this tale from the other side, as it were.”
Beregond said nothing at first but when each of the Elves added their apologies to Gil-galad’s he was mollified and agreed to resume the tale. “I beg forgiveness for my outburst, my lords....”
“Now none of that,” Gil-galad said with a mock glare. “If you call me ‘my lord’ one more time, young Beregond, I’ll have to be very angry with you and come up with a suitable punishment.”
There were chuckles all around, for Gil-galad was known far and wide for his inventiveness. Even Beregond smiled, having been a victim of Gil-galad’s creative punishments on more than one occasion.
“That’s better. Now, the night grows old. Let us hear this tale of yours.”
Beregond nodded and resumed his narrative. “They were weary and heart-sore, for another range of mountains was before them and they despaired. But Lord Balan rallied them and urged them ever onward, though the going was grim and many were lost in the treacherous crossing. Finally, they found a way into a new land that stretched before them and many hoped and prayed that they had reached their final destination. In the east winter held sway over all but here summer ruled and....”
“Summer!” exclaimed Oropher. “I think not. Finrod never hunted in the summer, only in the autumn. He was with his cousins hunting when he decided to travel south into Ossiriand.”
“Grandfer said it was summer...” Beregond retorted, though there was a hint of doubt in his tone.
“Definitely autumn,” Oropher insisted. “In fact, nearly at the doorsteps of winter, as I recall. Your grandfather got that part right at least, for Beleriand has the same seasons as Eriador I deem, though I am told the climate here is somewhat milder.”
“Maybe after all that these people suffered before reaching Beleriand,” Lindir suggested mildly, “this place seemed like a paradise to them and everyone knows that no paradise is touched by winter’s frost.”
Nambaurato snorted. “Tell that to the Belain, my friend. Aman is as paradisaical as you will ever find in this world, but Lord Manwë does like his snow — lots of it.” There were several raised eyebrows at that.
“Well, we’re getting far afield from the tale,” Gil-galad replied with a smile as he looked at Beregond sitting there, waiting patiently for the discussion to cease. “Summer or winter, it matters not. Please continue.”
Beregond nodded and picked up the tale where he had been interrupted. “The weary travelers came upon a spring and there they encamped for a time. Lord Balan called for a celebration, and many of the men went forth to hunt, returning with succulent game and a great feast was made. After a time, though, the people slept and as they slept it seemed that in their dreams they heard beautiful music and a voice that sang in an unknown tongue, yet it was clear that this was no dream, for each saw that his fellow was awake as well.”
“Finrod was ever known for his harping skills,” Lindir interrupted. Beregond resisted a sigh, though his expression was less than amused. “I had the pleasure of hearing him once. It’s why I studied to become a harpist myself.”
“And you are a very good harpist,” Gil-galad said with a smile. “Perhaps when Beregond finishes his tale you will grace us with a sample of your skill.” The implied reprimand was not lost on any of them and Lindir had the grace to offer his apology to Beregond for interrupting him. Beregond accepted the apology gracefully, adding that he looked forward to hearing Lindir play as well.
Gil-galad, satisfied with his two youngest captains, addressed Beregond again. “So what was the reaction of the Edain when they first set eyes on mine uncle?”
The young Man blushed. “They thought he was one of the Powers,” he admitted.
There was gentle laughter all around. “Finrod was many things, but one of the Belain he wasn’t,” Nambaurato said with a shake of his head.
“Did you know him?” Beregond asked shyly. He would never admit it to these Elves, but Finrod, king of Nargothrond, was his hero and he regretted that he would never meet him.
Nambaurato nodded. “A long time ago when he resided in Aman,” he said. “Our families were not close, but my parents were members of King Finwë’s government and continue to be under King Finarfin. I remember Findaráto, as he was called then. He was rather quiet and unassuming, allowing his older cousins to take the lead in their play.” He let out a brief laugh. “That is not to say he was not loath to coming up with some of their more outlandish schemes.”
There were knowing smiles among the Elves. Gil-galad turned to Beregond. “So the Edain all thought Finrod one of the Powers, did they?”
Beregond nodded. “My people had encountered other Elves in their travels, of course, and had learned somewhat from them, but never had they seen anyone so... so magnificent!” The Elves hid smiles at the obvious hero-worship they saw in the Adan’s eyes. “Bëor called him Lord Nóm,” Beregond continued, “and that is how he was known among my people. He taught us much in the time he spent with us and we loved him.”
“And still do, apparently,” Lindir whispered in a voice low enough that Beregond did not hear though all the other Elves did.
“Hmph,” Nambaurato said in obvious disbelief. “I do not understand this awe you Edain have for Finrod. He was the least of the House of Finwë and most did not think he would amount to anything much. Indeed, I can honestly say that when we of Aman learned that he had actually been hailed as a king we were highly amused.”
“He was a king, the greatest of them all,” Beregond said hotly.
“Well, one of the greatest, to be sure,” Gil-galad said with a deprecating smile and Beregond blushed, realizing he may have insulted the High King, indeed the only king of Beleriand still living.
Nambaurato, however, was not convinced. “He may have been a king, as you say, but he could not have been a good ruler, considering what he did.”
“What did he do?” Beregond demanded, heedless in his anger.
“He got himself killed for an Adan,” Nambaurato retorted with a dismissive sneer. “He got himself killed for no good reason when we....”
He got no further, for Beregond was on him, hitting him and fairly screaming, “Take it back! You take it back! He didn’t die for nothing, he....”
Gil-galad grabbed him, pulling him off the hapless Elf, then lifted the Mortal into his arms and casually threw him out of the tent into a nearby snowbank. The young Man yelled as he landed and then the freezing cold and wet sobered him as nothing else could. He huddled into a ball and started crying in shame, his tears freezing on his cheeks.
Gil-galad sighed and turned to Lindir. “Bring him back in before he freezes to death,” he commanded, then went to check on Nambaurato, who was unharmed except for his pride.
“He should be punished,” the Elf demanded.
“He will be,” Gil-galad promised, “but you will apologize to him for your remarks. You will apologize to us all.” The Amanian Elf started to protest but Gil-galad stilled him with a gesture. “Beregond is correct about one thing: Finrod was the greatest of us all and few could have done what he did. You insult not only my House, for Finrod was its lord, you insult Beregond’s House, as well, for the First House of the Edain has ever been loyal to the House of Finarfin.”
Nambaurato paled at that and mumbled a half-hearted apology even as Lindir was bringing in an embarrassed and obviously freezing Beregond. A couple of the Elves grabbed blankets and bundled the Mortal into them, rubbing his arms and legs until he ceased his trembling. Lindir pushed a goblet of wine into his shaking hands and bade him to drink. Soon, he was feeling less frozen, but no less ashamed and he refused to look at any of them. Gil-galad knelt before him, giving him a sad smile. “Better?” he asked and Beregond nodded slightly, still not raising his eyes. “Your tale was well told,” the High King said softly. “I am glad the memory of Finrod remains strong among the Edain. You do him great honor.”
“H-he loved us,” Beregond whispered, tears beginning to form once again.
Gil-galad reached up and wiped the tears from the young Man’s cheeks. “Yes, he did,” he said softly. “Of all the Firstborn, he saw the worth of the Edain and rejoiced, for you were more than any had expected and we who have fought the long defeat honor the sacrifices your people have suffered for our sake.”
“Gil-galad speaks truly,” Oropher said. “Though my kinsman, Thingol, initially dismissed Beren’s worth, he came to respect him after. We all did.”
There were nods all around, save from Nambaurato, who had never met any Mortal before coming to Beleriand.
Gil-galad rose gracefully from his kneeling position, lifting Beregond’s chin and forcing him to look at the High King. “Thou art a scion of the First House of the Edain, Beregond,” he said solemnly. “That is a high lineage of which thou hast no need to be ashamed. Thou hast been faithful to thine oaths to me and I name thee Elf-friend before all.” He gave a pointed look at Nambaurato as he said this and the Amanian Elf nodded. Then he turned back to Beregond, his mien less formal. “Thank you for your tale. It was quite... illuminating.” He gave the Adan a small smile, which Beregond returned somewhat hesitantly.
“I am sorry for my outburst,” Beregond whispered.
“I know you are,” the High King said, “and we will discuss it at a later time, but for now, let us be friends.” Then he turned to Lindir. “You were going to give us a taste of your harp playing.”
Lindir nodded, already reaching for the precious lap-harp that never left his side even in battle. He tuned it quickly to a minor mode and as the blizzard raged around them he began to sing. It surprised no one that he chose to sing part of the ‘Lay of Leithian’ describing Beren coming to Nargothrond to reclaim an oath from its king....
o - o - o - o
“What happened to Beregond, Ada?” young Legolas asked as he huddled next to his father. They were in a cave, sitting by a cheerfully blazing fire. They had been hunting earlier with Legolas’ older brothers when a sudden snow storm had forced them to seek shelter, separating the two of them from the rest of their party.
“He went to Númenor with Elros and became a lord of the realm,” Thranduil answered with a smile. “His descendants were among the Faithful who fought beside Elendil and Isildur before the Black Gates.”
“That was a good story, Ada,” Legolas said after a moment.
“I’m glad you liked it, iôn nîn,” Thranduil replied, gazing fondly at his youngest child.
“Tell me another?” the young elf pleaded.
Thranduil sighed. This was the third story he had told his son, but Legolas looked no sleepier now than when he had finished telling his first tale. He glanced out into the storm and mentally shrugged. It wasn’t as if either of them had anywhere else to go. He stared back down at Legolas, whose expression was hopeful, and nodded.
“Let me tell you about when your daerada first met your daernana....”
Legolas grinned and snuggled even closer to the King of the Woodland realm, happy to have his beloved Ada all to himself for a change. As he listened to Thranduil spin yet another tale he fervently hoped the blizzard would go on for a very long time.