From what Paradisal
Too costly for cost
Who hammered you, wrought you,
From argentine vapor?
"To A Snowflake" by Francis Thompson
Haldir stood in a snowy meadow beyond the fences of Lothlůrien taking in the winter landscape with an approving eye. While some Elves, like Men, preferred shutting themselves away from winter in the balmy breezes of Caras Galadhon or lounging before roaring fires in halls of wood or stone, Haldir had always found the cold agreeable, and so it was now as he waited, a sharp gust of wind tugging at his hair and cloak. In the open meadow there was little protection from the cold wind but even if there had been Haldir would remain, steadfast, giving the frigid temperatures little heed.
Anor struggled to rise as though reluctant to leave her warm bed. Haldir squatted on his heels and idly gathered a bit of snow in one hand, his sharp eyes discerning the fascinating individuality of each minute flake, the way each caught and reflected the thin sunlight. ‘Ulmo’s magic,’ he thought, watching the tiny crystals melt. He wiped his hand on his pants and resumed his watch, his eyes scanning to the West. He felt the vibrations beneath his feet before he heard or saw the reason for his vigil. Standing, he waited impassively and soon the rider came into view.
Haldir’s stance did not change but his heart leapt in his chest at the sight that greeted him. The rider was astride a large bay, the horse’s hooves kicking up a mist of silver-white as it charged across the meadow. Dressed entirely in black, with silver buckles glinting upon his tunic and boots, the rider’s red-lined cloak streamed from his shoulders as though racing the banner of unbound black hair that whipped behind him. His haste was so great he did not rein in his mount but kept to a gallop until he was almost upon Haldir, bringing the horse to a halt only a foot or so from his chest. Yet Haldir never moved such was his trust in the rider and his skill.
The man dismounted in a flurry of motion as elegant as it was swift. They gazed upon each other for a long moment, their eyes full of unspoken emotion.
“One day?” Haldir said at last.
Haldir nodded curtly, his only outward sign of disappointment. He lived for the day it would be more, and would wait unfailingly until such time, if it ever came, arrived.
The man pulled the bridle off of the steaming, snorting horse and gave it a pat on the neck.
“Tomorrow,” he said, and the horse appeared to nod and trotted off to forage in the snowy meadow.
Haldir led the way into the trees beyond and they stopped before a large oak with a ladder disguised in the Elven fashion by the bark. The two climbed up to an enclosed talan and both removed their cloaks and hung them, and the horse’s bridle, from a branch that made up one of the roof beams. The space was spare, with only a rough bed and cook stove, but it had served its inhabitants well for many long years. Haldir would have left the talan open in the Galadren way but he had built it with his guest’s comfort in mind and none knew of its existence save him.
Without preamble they fell into each other’s arms, kissing and caressing through their clothes, reacquainting themselves with the simple intimacy of closeness. Then with movements purposefully slow they tugged at laces and buckles, revealing tantalizing glimpses of smooth, creamy flesh which they set about exploring with a passion long denied. Haldir brushed the nape of the man’s neck with his bow-callused fingers and nibbled at his earlobe while the man’s deft hands remapped the familiar terrain of Haldir’s strong back and buttocks.
With a sigh of pleasure Haldir breathed the man’s name, “FŽanŠro”, relishing the shudder of desire the word elicited.
“Haldir,” the man replied in his deep baritone, turning the word to gold as it sang from his lips.
The day ran its frosty course but the talan warmed with the activities of the two Elves as they made love, dozed briefly, touched, shared endearments and made love again. Finally both were driven from the haven of their bed with other physical needs, which they met quickly before falling into a tangle once more.
Afterward they lay in each other’s arms for a long while in sated, blissful silence. Haldir propped himself up on one elbow and looked into FŽanor’s eyes, toying with a strand of his ebony hair. He seemed on the verge of speaking several times before he finally asked his question.
“Have you thought about it this past year? Have you considered a compromise?” His tone carried tinge of hope.
FŽanor’s granite-grey eyes grew stony. “Certainly not! Should I change who I am, become that which is abhorrent to my nature to please those who proved me right a thousand times over? I vowed I would never again bow to the will of the Valar. The part of me lost with the Silmarilli can never be regained.”
“That part of you was corrupted by later events, as you well know,” Haldir reasoned.
“It was still mine!” FŽanor exclaimed. “Would you have your soul sundered and forgive those who sundered it?”
“I suppose not,” Haldir said uncertainly.
FŽanor’s look softened. “I too wish things were different, Haldir, but I will not give into ManwŽ’s ultimatum. You knew this from the beginning.”
“The Valar are lenient to grant you the one day at the turning of the year. Can you not see this as their compromise? Can you not meet them halfway at least?”
FŽanor gave a most uncharacteristic snort. “It is not by the will of the Valar I am here but by the persuasion of one Vala, AulŽ, who spoke for me before the council. What of you, then? You could have sailed years ago, followed the mandate of the Valar to come to Aman and live under their protection and rule. Why do you remain here under the lesser power of Galadriel?”
Haldir averted his eyes. “I swore an oath to serve Lord Celeborn as long as he remains on these shores. I cannot sail until he decides it is time.”
FŽanor smiled ruefully. “Did you learn nothing of the swearing of oaths from your days acting as our guide when first we came to Ennor?”
“I wish I could have been there to hear you speak. I wish I had known you then.” Haldir’s eyes sparked with passion, but pain clouded FŽanor’s features at the memory.
“It was a dark and terrible time, Haldir. If you had been there you would have followed me and perhaps have become a kinslayer. The Valar do not forgive, not even those to whom they grant a second chance. It heartens me to picture you here instead, under the starlight, among your beloved trees, exploring the beauty of Ennor in your innocence.”
Haldir laughed sardonically. “Many lands were under the sway of the black enemy in those times. Elves were slaughtered in the wars of the Valar even then, or fared worse as captives of Morgoth. Middle-earth was never a place of innocence, not as long as I have dwelt here at least.”
“Corruption could only ever have been the intent of Eru, despite what the empty-headed Valar may suppose,” FŽanor said bitterly.
Haldir looked around quickly, as though fearful FŽanor might be heard by some unseen presence. “Do not speak so,” he whispered. “It is folly.”
FŽanor smiled gently. “They do not have the power to read our thoughts or hear our speech from Aman. We are free in this at least.”
Haldir looked doubtful. “If the corruption of the world was Illķvatar’s will then Morgoth was instrumental in seeing it done, at the cost of many lives and much pain. I do not believe it is what Illķvatar envisioned.”
“What is one life to the Valar, or to Eru? We were created to fade, Haldir. The Valar see us as blessed children but they cannot understand the burdens we must bear. There has never been a choice for us.”
“You cannot believe that,” Haldir exclaimed. “We may follow our own paths. You choose to come to me each year and are not impeded in that choice. I am grateful to the Valar for that. It sustains me even as war closes in upon our borders.”
“Have you thought about what will happen if you do not survive it? Have you thought about Mandos?”
“I will answer the call if that is what you mean. . .”
“I was thinking of what you must answer for.”
Haldir fell silent for a long moment, considering. At last he said, “I do not dwell on it. I will do what I will and face the consequences when the time comes.”
“You do not know what you are agreeing to but you are, as you say, free to choose, for the time being at any rate. Let us speak no more on it. Our time grows short.”
“Indeed. I sense Vingilot far above, heralding the coming dawn.”
“It is beautiful, is it not?” FŽanor said wistfully. “The light, so pure. . .”
FŽanor’s eyes took on a faraway look that made Haldir melancholy with longing. He had never seen a Silmaril, never touched one, though he could feel it within his very being when Ešrendil made his way across the sky each night carrying upon his brow the unassailable piece of FŽanor’s soul. Its beauty, its unquenchable fire, lived within the man still.
He nodded in mute agreement, too overcome to speak.
With a subdued air both rose and dressed. FŽanor stole one last kiss, stroking Haldir’s cheek before putting on his riding gloves and taking up the horse’s bridle. They left the talan and strode through the meadow where the bay awaited them, his breath puffing visibly in the chill morning air.
Before he mounted, FŽanor reached into a pocket and brought forth a glittering object which he presented to Haldir. A single crystalline silver-white snowflake the size of a robin’s egg, in all its lacy, fragile splendor threaded upon a fine mithril chain. It glistened in the sunlight with such realistic perfection that Haldir feared it would melt at his touch. FŽanor placed it around his neck and Haldir lifted it gingerly and gazed upon it, captivated.
“The light within it is reflected light with no true fire of its own,” FŽanor said apologetically, “but it carries a bit of warmth that I hope will sustain you until next we meet.”
He mounted his horse and Haldir took his hand, still holding the snowflake in the other.
“I will be waiting, as always.”
“And I will return, as always.”
They gazed upon each other for a long moment, reluctant to let go. Then Haldir pulled his hand away and let the snowflake fall upon his chest, watching as the horse went into a gallop and was swallowed up by the trees beyond the meadow, watching as FŽanor disappeared for another year. The jewel felt warm against his chest and he gazed up at Vingilot growing dimmer in the lightening sky. Yet the feeling of closeness to FŽanor did not fade as it usually did when the Silmaril passed by. Instead, he felt a growing warmth spread from his chest outward and he looked down at the jeweled snowflake in amazement. So FŽanor had managed to do it after all. Under the very nose of NŠmo he had captured light and a tiny sliver of his own faer and crafted it into an object of unparalleled magnificence. Haldir marveled at his boldness even as he feared NŠmo’s wrath upon his unrepentant love.
He placed his hand over his heart, upon the jewel, and vowed he would remain true to the spirit of FŽanor he carried with him, within Mandos or without.
Written for Olorime, Christmas 2010
MEFA 2011 Nominee
MEFA 2011 Nominee
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