The book of lost tales p.., p.14
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       The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, p.14

           J. R. R. Tolkien
 

  No word did he speak nor did he move, but his baleful eye held their gaze until the strength seemed to leave their knees and their minds grew dim. Then did Nienóri drag herself by a might of will from that influence for a while, and “Behold,” she cried, “O serpent of Melko, what wilt thou with us—be swift to say or do, for know that we seek not thee nor thy gold but one Túrin who dwelt here upon a time.” Then said the drake, and the earth quaked at him: “Thou liest—glad had ye been at my death, and glad thy band of cravens who now flee gibbering in the woods might they have despoiled me. Fools and liars, liars and cravens, how shall ye slay or despoil Glorund the Foalókë, who ere his power had waxen slew the hosts of the Rodothlim and Orodreth their lord, devouring all his folk.”

  “Yet perchance,” said Nienóri, “one Túrin got him from that fray and dwells still here beneath thy bonds, an he has not escaped thee and is now far hence,” and this she said at a venture, hoping against hope, but said the evil one: “Lo! the names of all who dwelt here before the taking of the caves of my wisdom I know, and I say to thee that none who named himself Túrin went hence alive.” And even so was Túrin’s boast subtly turned against him, for these beasts love ever to speak thus, doubly playing with cunning words.22

  “Then was Túrin slain in this evil place,” said Mavwin, but the dragon answered: “Here did the name of Túrin fade for ever from the earth—but weep not, woman, for it was the name of a craven that betrayed his friends.” “Foul beast, cease thy evil sayings,” said Mavwin; “slayer of my son, revile not the dead, lest thine own bane come upon thee.” “Less proud must be thy words, O Mavwin, an thou wilt escape torment or thy daughter with thee,” did that drake answer, but Mavwin cried: “O most accursed, lo! I fear thee not. Take me an thou wilt to thy torments and thy bondage, for of a truth I desired thy death, but suffer only Nienóri my daughter to go back to the dwellings of Men: for she came hither constrained by me, and knowing not the purposes of our journey.”

  “Seek not to cajole me, woman,” sneered that evil one. “Liever would I keep thy daughter and slay thee or send thee back to thy hovels, but I have need of neither of you.” With those words he opened full his evil eyes, and a light shone in them, and Mavwin and Nienóri quaked beneath them and a swoon came upon their minds, and them seemed that they groped in endless tunnels of darkness, and there they found not one another ever again, and calling only vain echoes answered and there was no glimmer of light.

  When however after a time that she remembered not the blackness left the mind of Nienóri, behold the river and the withered places of the Foalókë were no more about her, but the deep woodlands, and it was dusk. Now she seemed to herself to awake from dreams of horror nor could she recall them, but their dread hung dark behind her mind, and her memory of all past things was dimmed. So for a long while she strayed lost in the woods, and haply the spell alone kept life in her, for she hungered bitterly and was athirst, and by fortune it was summer, for her garments became torn and her feet unshod and weary, and often she wept, and she went she knew not whither.

  Now on a time in an opening in the wood she descried a campment as it were of Men, and creeping nigh by reason of hunger to espy it she saw that they were creatures of a squat and unlovely stature that dwelt there, and most evil faces had they, and their voices and their laughter was as the clash of stone and metal. Armed they were with curved swords and bows of horn, and she was possessed with fear as she looked upon them, although she knew not that they were Orcs, for never had she seen those evil ones before. Now did she turn and flee, but was espied, and one let fly a shaft at her that quivered suddenly in a tree beside her as she ran, and others seeing that it was a woman young and fair gave chase whooping and calling hideously. Now Nienóri ran as best she might for the density of the wood, but soon was she spent and capture and dread thraldom was very near, when one came crashing through the woods as though in answer to her lamentable cries.

  Wild and black was his hair yet streaked with grey, and his face was pale and marked as with deep sorrows of the past, and in his hand he bare a great sword whereof all but the very edge was black. Therewith he leapt against the following Orcs and hewed them, and they soon fled, being taken aback, and though some shot arrows at random amidst the trees they did little scathe, and five of them were slain.

  Then sat Nienóri upon a stone and for weariness and the lessened strain of fear sobs shook her and she could not speak; but her rescuer stood beside her awhile and marvelled at her fairness and that she wandered thus lonely in the woods, and at length he said: “O sweet maiden of the woods, whence comest thou, and what may be thy name?”

  “Nay, these things I know not,” said she. “Yet methinks I stray very far from my home and folk, and many very evil things have fallen upon me in the way, whereof nought but a cloud hangs upon my memory—nay, whence I am or whither I go I know not”—and she wept afresh, but that man spake, saying: “Then behold, I will call thee Níniel, or little one of tears,” and thereat she raised her face towards his, and it was very sweet though marred with weeping, and she said with a look of wonderment: “Nay, not Níniel, not Níniel.” Yet more might she not remember, and her face filled with distress, so that she cried: “Nay, who art thou, warrior of the woods; why troublest thou me?” “Turambar am I called,” said he, “and no home nor kindred have I nor any past to think on, but I wander for ever,” and again at that name that maiden’s wonder stirred.

  “Now,” said Turambar, “dry thy tears, O Níniel, for thou hast come upon such safety as these woods afford. Lo, one am I now of a small folk of the forest, and a sweet dwelling in a clearing have we far from hence, but today as thy fortune would we fared a-hunting,—aye, and Orc-harrying too, for we are hard put to it to fend those evil ones from our homes.”

  Then did Níniel (for thus Turambar called her ever, and she learnt to call it her name) fare away with him to his comrades, and they asking little got them upon horses, and Turambar set Níniel before him, and thus they fared as swift as they might from the danger of the Orcs.

  Now at the time of the affray of Turambar with the pursuing Orcs was half the day already spent, yet were they already leagues upon their way ere they dismounted once more, and it was then early night. Already at the sunset had it seemed to Níniel that the woods were lighter and less gloomy and the air less evil-laden than behind. Now did they make a camp in a glade and the stars shone clear above where the tree-roof was thin, but Níniel lay a little apart and they gave her many fells to keep her from the night chills, and thus she slept more softly than for many a night and the breezes kissed her face, but Turambar told his comrades of the meeting in the wood and they wondered who she might be or how she came wandering thither as one under a spell of blind forgetfulness.

  Next day again they pressed on and so for many journeys more beside until at length weary and fain for rest they came one noon to a woodland stream, and this they followed for some way until, behold, they came to a place where it might be forded by reason of its shallowness and of the rocks that stood up in its course; but on their right it dived in a great fall and fell into a chasm, and Turambar pointing said: “Now are we nigh to home, for this is the fall of the Silver Bowl,” but Níniel not knowing why was filled with a dread and could not look upon the loveliness of that foaming water. Now soon came they to places of thinner trees and to a slope whereon but few grew save here and there an ancient oak of great girth, and the grass about their feet was soft, for the clearing had been made many years and was very wide. There stood also a cluster of goodly houses of timber, and a tilth was about them and trees of fruit. To one of these houses that was adorned with strange rude carvings, and flowers bloomed bright about it, did Turambar lead now Níniel. “Behold,” said he, “my abode—there an thou listest thou shalt abide for now, but methinks it is a lonely hall, and there be houses of this folk beside where there are maidens and womenfolk, and there wouldst thou liever and better be.” So came it afterward that Nienóri dwelt with the woo
drangers,* and after a while entered the house of Bethos, a stout man who had fought though then but a boy in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Thence did he escape, but his wife was a Noldo-maiden, as the tale telleth, and very fair, and fair also were his sons and daughters save only his eldest son Tamar Lamefoot.

  Now as the days passed Turambar grew to love Níniel very greatly indeed, and all the folk beside loved her for her great loveliness and sweetness, yet was she ever half-sorrowful and often distraught of mind, as one that seeks for something mislaid that soon she must discover, so that folk said: “Would that the Valar would lift the spell that lies upon Níniel.” Nonetheless for the most part she was happy indeed among the folk and in the house of Bethos, and each day she grew ever fairer, and Tamar Lamefoot who was held of little account loved her though in vain.

  Now came days when life once more seemed to contain joy to Turambar, and the bitterness of the past grew dim and far away, and a fresh love was in his heart. Then did he think to put his fate for ever from him and live out his life there in the woodland homes with children about him, and looking upon Níniel he desired to wed her. Then did he often press his suit with her, yet though he was a man of valiance and renown she delayed him, saying nor yea nor no, yet herself she knew not why, for it seemed to her heart that she loved him deeply, fearing for him were he away, and knowing happiness when he was nigh.

  Now it was a custom of that folk to obey a chief, and he was chosen by them from their stoutest men, and that office did he hold until of his own will he laid it down again being sick or gone in years, or were he slain. And at that time Bethos was their chief; but he was slain by evil luck in a foray not long after—for despite his years he still rode abroad—and it fell out that a new captain must be chosen. In the end then did they name Turambar, for his lineage, in that it was known among them that he was son of Úrin, was held in esteem among those stout rebels against Melko, whereas23 he had beside become a very mighty man in all deeds and one of wisdom great beyond his years, by reason of his far wanderings and his dealings with the Elves.

  Seeing therefore the love of their new chief for Níniel and thinking they knew that she loved him also in return, those men began to say how they would lief see their lord wed, and that it was folly to delay for no good cause; but this word came to the ears of Níniel, and at length she consented to be the wife of Turambar, and all were fain thereat. A goodly feast was made and there was song and mirth, and Níniel became lady of the woodland-rangers and dwelt thereafter in Turambar’s house. There great was their happiness, though there lay at times a chill foreboding upon Níniel’s heart, but Turambar was in joy and said in his heart: “’Twas well that I did name myself Turambar, for lo! I have overcome the doom of evil that was woven about my feet.” The past he laid aside and to Níniel he spoke not overmuch of bygone things, save of his father and mother and the sister he had not seen, but always was Níniel troubled at such talk and he knew not why.24 But of his flight from the halls of Tinwelint and the death of Beleg and of his seeking back to Hisilómë he said never a word, and the thought of Failivrin lay locked in his deepest heart wellnigh forgotten.

  Naught ever might Níniel tell him of her days before, and did he ask her distress was written on her face as though he troubled the surface of dark dreams, and he grieved at times thereat, but it weighed not much upon him.

  Now fare the days by and Níniel and Turambar dwell in peace, but Tamar Lamefoot wanders the woods thinking the world an ill and bitter place, and he loved Níniel very greatly nor might he stifle his love. But behold, in those days the Foalókë waxed fat, and having many bands of Noldoli and of Orcs subject to him he thought to extend his dominion far and wide. Indeed in many places in those days these beasts of Melko’s did in like manner, setting up kingdoms of terror of their own that flourished beneath the evil mantle of Melko’s lordship. So it was that the bands of Glorund the drake harried the folk of Tinwelint very grievously, and at length there came some nigh even to those woods and glades that were beloved of Turambar and his folk.

  Now those woodmen fled not but dealt stoutly with their foes, and the wrath of Glorund the worm was very great when tidings were brought to him of a brave folk of Men that dwelt far beyond the river and that his marauders might not subdue them. It is told indeed that despite the cunning of his evil designs he did not yet know where was the dwelling of Turambar or of Nienóri; and of truth in those days it seemed that fortune smiled on Turambar awhile, for his people waxed and they became prosperous, and many escaped even from uttermost Hisilómë and came unto him, and store of wealth and good things he gathered, for all his battles brought him victory and booty. Like a king and queen did Turambar and Níniel become, and there was song and mirth in those glades of their dwelling, and much happiness in their halls. And Níniel conceived.25

  Much of this did spies report to the Foalókë, and his wrath was terrible. Moreover his greed was mightily kindled, so that after pondering much he set a guard that he might trust to watch his dwelling and his treasury, and the captain of these was Mîm the dwarf.26 Then leaving the caves and the places of his sleep he crossed the streams and drew into the woods, and they blazed before his face. Tidings of this came swiftly to Turambar, but he feared not as yet nor indeed heeded the tale much, for it was a very great way from the home of the woodmen to the caverns of the worm. But now sank Níniel’s heart, and though she knew not wherefore a weight of dread and sorrow lay upon her, and seldom after the coming of that word did she smile, so that Turambar wondered and was sad.

  Now draweth the Foalókë during that time through the deep woods and a path of desolation lies behind, and yet in his creeping a very great while passes, until, behold, suddenly a party of the woodmen come upon him unawares sleeping in the woods among the broken trees. Of these several were overcome by the noxious breath of the beast and after were slain; but two making their utmost speed brought tidings to their lord that the tale aforetime had not been vain, and indeed now was the drake crept even within the confines of his realm; and so saying they fell fainting before his feet.

  Now the place where the dragon lay was low-lying and a little hill there was, not far distant, islanded among the trees but itself not much wooded, whence might be espied albeit afar off much of that region now torn by the passage of the drake. A stream there was too that ran through the forest in that part between the drake and the dwellings of the woodmen, but its course ran very nigh to the dragon and it was a narrow stream with banks deep-cloven and o’erhung with trees. Wherefore Turambar purposed now to take his stoutest men to that knoll and watch if they could the dragon’s movements in secret, that perchance they might fall upon him at some disadvantage and contrive to slay him, for in this lay their best hope. This band he suffered not to be very great, and the rest at his bidding took arms and scoured about, fearing that hosts of the Orcs were come with the worm their lord. This indeed was not so, and he came alone trusting in his overwhelming power.

  Now when Turambar made ready to depart then Níniel begged to ride beside him and he consented, for he loved her and it was his thought that if he fell and the drake lived then might none of that people be saved, and he would liever have Níniel by him, hoping perchance to snatch her at the least from the clutches of the worm, by death at his own or one of his liege’s hands.

  So rode forth together Turambar and Níniel, as that folk knew them, and behind were a score of good men. Now the distance to that knoll among the woods they compassed in a day’s journey, and after them though it were against the bidding and counsel of Turambar there stole a great concourse of his folk, even women and children. The lure of a strange dread held them, and some thought to see a great fight, and others went with the rest thinking little, nor did any think to see what in the end their eyes saw; and they followed not far behind, for Turambar’s party went slowly and warily. When first then Turambar suffered her to ride beside him Níniel was blither than for long she had been, and she brightened the foreboding of those men
s hearts; but soon they came to a place not far from the foot of the knoll, and there her heart sank, and indeed a gloom fell upon all.

  Yet very fair was that place, for here flowed that same stream that further down wound past the dragon’s lair in a deep bed cloven deep into the earth; and it came rushing cold from the hills beyond the woodmen’s homes, and it fell over a great fall where the water-worn rock jutted smooth and grey from amid the grass. Now this was the head of that force which the woodmen named the Silver Bowl, and aforetime Turambar and Níniel had passed it by, faring home first from the rescuing of Níniel. The height of that fall was very great and the waters had a loud and musical voice, splashing into a silver foam far below where they had worn a great hollow in the rocks; and this hollow was o’ershadowed by trees and bushes, but the sun gleamed through upon the spray; and about the head of the fall there was an open glade and a green sward where grew a wealth of flowers, and men loved that spot.

  Here did Níniel of a sudden weep, and casting herself upon Turambar begged him tempt not fate but rather fly with her and all his folk, leading them into distant lands. But looking at her he said: “Nay, Níniel mine, nor thou nor I die this day, nor yet tomorrow, by the evil of the dragon or by the foemen’s swords,” but he knew not the fulfilment of his words; and hearing them Níniel quelled her weeping and was very still. Having therefore rested a while here those warriors afterward climbed the hill and Níniel fared with them. Afar off they might see from its summit a wide tract where all the trees were broken and the lands were hurt27 and scorched and the earth black, yet nigh the edge of the trees that were still unharmed, and that was not far from the lip of the deep river-chasm, there arose a thin smoke of great blackness, and men said: “There lieth the worm.”

 

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