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Dec 04, 2022 7:09 AM
elf!Allegra in the Darkening
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She was just returning home from a quiet ride, when the Darkness came.

At first, all was confusion; her horse was more upset than she was, and took a considerable time to settle nervously on not, in fact, throwing her off. The mare would not move at first, then would nose forwards only cautiously, not even at a walk.

A new thing had happened, and although it hung heavily in the air, she could hear what her mother would say: "Do come in, dear, and let's stay calm, and wait it out. A little darkness won't keep us from practicing your scales, after all! We should sing away the gloom and wait for it to pass."

There was nothing, at that moment, that seemed less appealing than attempting to sing away the gloom, and inevitably be judged for not doing it well enough.

She considered going on into the city, but two things kept her from that path: for one, everyone would simply send her back to her parents; for two, the darkness seemed somehow more oppressive in that direction, the dreadful feeling that everything had not, in fact, changed for the better.

Well, there were other cities. The darkness was impenetrable, but the roads existed.

Her mount clearly did not want to go anywhere, so she took herself down from the saddle and started to lead her instead; this way she could at least feel the ground as to where she was going, and as much as the mare panicked occasionally and tugged, she could dodge being trampled more easily than being thrown.

It was not going to be a swift journey, but there was no reason to believe the change would be followed swiftly by another, and the darkness might make her mother think twice before attempting to chase her down; it seemed to burden the soul with the desire for inaction, but she was already putting one foot in front of the other, already stranded outside in it, which was much easier to continue than it would be to set out into it from a place of relative safety.

 

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They had been ready to go into the dark, to cross the Sea to Middle-Earth.

They hadn't been ready for darkness just yet.

They especially hadn't been ready for a darkness that could be felt, both in the body and the soul, hiding all the stars of Varda.

Or for Melkor coming himself, or for the still-unknown terror with him, or for many other things.  The horrible images kept circling through their minds, almost as if a minstrel were singing of them.  (No one was, yet.  Makalaurë would certainly be making a song, later, but he hadn't breathed a word of it yet.)

For now - they had taken what they could.  What was still there in Formenos.  Everyone had left; no one wanted to stay.  They'd tried to mount their horses, but the horses had reared and cast them to the ground and fled away wild.

So now they walked through the Darkness (the Un-Light, Curufinwë called it, saying it deserved a new name), with mere scattered snatches of song, ever on the alert for some new device of Melkor.

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It is Nelyafinwë who senses her first.  She feels like an Elf to his osanwë - not an Ainu or strange terror, and he didn't think Melkor could fake that.

At a time like this he isn't quite reassured; no other Elves had been abroad in the Un-Light, and who knew what had happened in Tirion or Valimar?  But still, signaling his brothers to be ready, he steps forward.  "Welcome, Stranger," he says aloud.

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The darkness was enervating and disquieting at the same time; she had rather given up on the idea of hearing anything but the occasional anguished cry of a confused animal, and of course her own breathing and the frantic noise of her horse being given to panic every time a bird cried mournfully in the distance.

Her own startlement, of course, startled her horse again, and she takes a few moments to gently hold the leading-rope and mutter reassurance, eventually laying a hand on her mount's neck once she seemed calm enough to do so.

It's only then that she replies, although presumably her greeter also heard her horse.

"Well met, I hope?"

She wonders if she should have actually introduced herself, but the darkness causes her to prefer caution. If she lets the horse go, the noise will probably cover her swift retreat...

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She speaks Quenya with a somewhat Noldorin accent, but it sounds like she's been out of touch with the Tirion Linguistics Guild for an Age or so.  Or else they've made a lot of sound shifts surprisingly quickly amid the Un-Light.

(His father, of course, had arranged messengers to keep up with all the Linguistics Guild's proceedings despite being in Formenos.)

"Hope is scarce these days," he says.  "We come from Formenos; Melkor slew the King and ruined the city.  And you?"

Belatedly, he puts his hand on his sword-hilt just in case.  He might as well train his reflexes.

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"Liritë's estate, outskirts of Formenos," she replies, somewhat automatically. "I... needed to know what was going on."

It sounds rather small and petty, now she says it, amongst news that Formenos is - ruined? And - the King is - dead? None of this makes any sense, but she supposes the darkness doesn't either; maybe the King's death has caused it. She knows the old tales of Melkor, of course, but wasn't he - fixed - when the rest of the Valar let him go?

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Nelyafinwë hasn't heard of Liritë, but then there're a lot of names he hasn't heard of.

She sounds like a very young Elf, barely an adult, maybe fifty years old.  He replies, trying to be encouraging, "Of course you needed to know.  We all need that.  That's why we're going to Valimar."

While he's saying this, he passes back by osanwë to the rest of the company, "She says she's from Liritë's estate - does anyone know about them?"

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Makalaurë replies immediately, "Oh yes, Liritë and Olordo!  I meant to get back to Liritë about her completely incongruous use of pizzicato to represent our fathers' wonder at Cuiviénen, but what would you expect from someone so reclusive..."

A few moments later (he was already nearby), he's approaching with one of their few torches.  Lirtë can now see that both he and Nelyafinwë are stained with soot with tear-stained and work-haggard faces.

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That's... not good. Lirtë is sure she doesn't look as put together as her mother would like, her hair has probably gone everywhere again and there's likely mud up her riding trousers, but nothing like... that.

She also has this awkward feeling that she is absolutely expected to recognise these people and know who their father is.

The horse predictably shies from the light; this time she rather welcomes the distraction of getting her under control again.

"May I travel with you, then? I'm afraid Lópa isn't up to being ridden, but once she's had time to settle she'll walk alongside without too much trouble."

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"Oh, Lirtë!  It's good to see you again; did you bring your flute?  I was wondering what had become of you and when you'd go see the wider world -"

His brief smile vanishes to a frown.  "Not that any of us can see much of it now.  But yes, please, come with us.  We're going to Valimar first, to see Father and give him the news."

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"And see what the Valar are doing," someone else (who looks like them - clearly a relative) adds.

 

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"If they've finally decided to do anything."

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Lirtë absolutely did not bring her flute. Which of her parents' friends was this? She tries to imagine him sat at a dinner table, but it was all a bit incongruous. She vaguely regrets having deliberately not paid attention to anyone her parents tried to introduce her to.

"Yes, I suppose this is a - Valar-scale problem," she replies, for want of anything better to say.

She squints into the dim light, trying to make out how large their party is and what kind of order they were keeping on the road, to work out where she should walk and direct her horse without getting in anyone's way - especially if the torches fail them.

It was so good to see something again, though, even if the light didn't reach as far as it should.

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There're only a few dozen of them; most people from Formenos were already at the festival at Valimar.

"Did you see anything?" Nelyafinwë asks.  "Or - well, sense anything strange aside from the Darkness?  We don't know how many terrors Melkor brought..."

 

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"Nothing significant," replies Lirtë. "Lópa keeps acting like there's something, and there are a lot of distressed animal and bird calls, but I've met nothing else on the road."

It would have been getting kind of tedious, really, if it wasn't for the creeping dread and the constant need to settle her horse from the latest anxious bird call. There was something uninviting about the prospect of listening out too closely, also.

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They all sigh with relief.

"Good," says Makalaurë.  "We were worried that Melkor had overrun the whole land -"

He breaks into a few lines from one of the very oldest songs, hardly ever sung anymore but still recognizable, about the Hunter who would seize any who wandered too far from Cuiviénen.

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As if signaled by the mention of the Hunter, a hound loudly bays from somewhere a little outside the torchlight.

Tyelkormo interrupts.  "But then the Valar came.  We need to find them.  Lirtë, are you missing anything?  Anyone?  Or can we get moving?"

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"This is all I came with," she replies, feeling a little foolish to have set out on her own - with little in the way of supplies.

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Nelyafinwë smiles, still trying to reassure the young Elf.  "Don't worry.  We'd been preparing for darkness for Years, of course - it wasn't enough, but it was something.  Come walk with us; hopefully the horse will be useful soon."

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"You've been preparing - for this?" asks Lirtë, taking up a place in the formation that hopefully won't have anyone tripping over her when the torch goes out.

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Tyelkormo shakes his head.  "Of course not.  We never thought Melkor could attack the Valar here - well, I never thought it."  He glares at Nelyafinwë.  "But Middle-Earth is still dark, so our preparations for that were... well, helpful."

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Lirtë also glances at Nelyafinwë in case he'd like to defend himself against the implied accusation, but all of them look so worn down it's hard to look at them for long, even though the alternative is mostly just darkness.

"Middle-earth?" she asks. "I've heard the histories, of course, but..." she trails off, not sure exactly what she's uncertain about, feeling like she doesn't know enough to ask sensible questions.

Hopefully they'll start moving again and she'll at least not feel like she's wasting their time.

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Only a moment later, Nelyafinwë calls out "Onward!", and they start moving.

A moment after that, Makalaurë blows out the torch, and they're left in the Un-Light.  As if in response, he starts singing a thin song.  It's a Teleri song, about Elves searching for lost Elwë among the beautiful starlit forests of Middle-Earth.

But he breaks it off after a few stanzas, with faintly a ghost of the forests having come to be amid the Un-Light, and says apologetically, "Obviously, our position is different - they're not missing as such - but we have so much more to offer, and we're sure they could use our help.  And - then, of course, Melkor."

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She tries not to startle when the light goes out - she's got to avoid upsetting her horse, after all - but does make a soft unhappy noise which she hides by pretending she's soothing the horse.

Some beautiful starlight would really help around now, although she's not sure she likes the imaginary forest - it's hard enough keeping track of the actual path without ghostly song illusions getting in the way.

"Nobody has really explained the pardon of Melkor to me," she says, "except as 'this happened and we can sing about it'. Weren't there - conditions?"

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"Not enough conditions.  He promised to help mend all the problems he'd caused."

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"Father never trusted he meant it.  Lirtë, I'm almost glad you weren't in Tirion to hear anything he said.  Father never listened to any of his advice, but we all probably took up some of the ideas he'd given other people -"

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