Into the Light

By Arien-(Valar)
October 3, 2017


It was a sorry group that fled from the battlefield that day. Things had gone ill from the very beginning. Aranwë Gidarion had stood with thousands of others in the host beneath Turgon’s banner on the dread plain of Anfauglith before Thangorodrim and waited patiently for the signal of his commander to begin the impossible assault. Well, maybe not impossible - they had allies that were supposed to attack from all sides and take the enemy host from two sides with another allied host approaching from the south. It was for word from the last mentioned that they waited, and waited. But the signal had never come. Maglos, their ally, as full of fire and vengeance as his father, had given the signal to charge nonetheless and they had descended on their enemy like the Wrath of the Valar themselves. Aranwë smiled grimly at the memory – it had felt glorious in that moment. The fire of battle had burned in his veins as hot as in any other on the field that day. But soon they found out that what seemed a surprisingly small army was but a fragment of what Morgoth had hidden and they found themselves outnumbered a hundredfold. All seemed lost, their host reduced to Turgon with maybe three dozen of his personal guard including himself when a breach was ripped through their foes – like a storm, Húrin and Huor raged with their soldiers amongst them until, in a second of respite, they met Turgon on the field and they advised Turgon and his forces to retreat while able to do so. They would defend them and prevent Morgoth’s soldiers from following them as well as they could. The two men knew that it likely meant their and their men’s deaths, but they were willing to pay the price for they said that in Turgon “lived the last Hope of the Eldar, and while Gondolin stands, Morgoth still shall know fear in his heart”. And so, in the midst of battle, the small group passed like shadows unhindered towards the Fen of Erech and finally back to Gondolin.

But Aranwë found no peace within the great city. The Noldo roamed restlessly through the forest of Neldoreth, haunted by memories of the battle, and finally found his way to the Havens where Círdan the Shipwright ruled. That was now less than a year ago and for a short while the Havens knew a semblance of peace.
Then news had come to Círdan of a massive Orc host approaching with foul machines and siege weapons and in haste he sent seven ships out into the west to request the aid of the Valar … but no help had come from there. Merely the announced force arrived with death and fire and despite desperate defense and valorous deeds not many had escaped, although rumour said that amongst those who did was Círdan and Ereinion Gil-Galad, Orodreth’s son. Aranwë himself, like hundreds of others, had been captured and enslaved, now toiling under in the Orcish mines.

A cruel tug on his chain recalled Aranwë to where he was and, flinching under the whip lashes of the task master, he was driven to one of the mine shafts that while wide enough to move in didn’t allow for much air circulation, especially with up to twenty labourers every one and a half metres with a cloud of dust and debris around them. He praised the Valar that he was a Noldo who had first wandered to Valinor from Cuiviénen and then survived the Crossing of the Helcaraxë, so hardship, suffering and physical labour were no stranger to him. Were it not for the constant whipping, the scarce food and the taunting of the Orcs it wouldn’t even have had much effect on his spirits. But – different from many others who had been born in Middle-earth - he held the memory of the light of Valinor and the words of courage that Húrin spoke there on that fateful battlefield. They gave him hope and inner strength and never the light in his eyes grew dimmer. And so, when he saw the light fade in the eyes of his fellow slaves, Aranwë told them in quiet whispers about Valinor, the Two Trees, the courage displayed in battle and thus upheld his fellows. That had to happen in secret of course – had their captors known about this, Aranwë was sure, he would have been “selected" as “Guest of Honor” for one of the sacrificial rites in honour of Morgoth. That happened now and again; always the weakest and most desperate slaves were selected for those and that fuelled the righteous fury of the Noldo.
After uncounted weeks and months Aranwë knew he had to do something about their situation. He could see his people suffer no longer and started to devise a plan, with cunning he didn’t know he possessed.  He learned, through shrewd and hidden observation, where the taskmaster kept the black powder, when and who were brought into the mines to open new tunnels. With a few other like-minded prisoners in which the fire still burned or had been re-awakened by himself, Aranwë managed to accumulate a not small storage of the vile stuff. Then, one day, the time seemed perfect. Since most of the guards normally present at the slave encampment were away on a raid in one of Morgoth’s wars and only a small group of orcs went with them into the mines, Aranwë himself gave the thumbs up and set off an explosion. Carefully planned, he let himself be buried under a few rocks feigning injury and his fellow conspirators alarmed the guards. The moment they were in the tunnel, the captured Elves were upon them and used the rocks piled on Aranwë as weapons, who in no time was back on his feet and joined in the fray. The Orcs, completely surprised and unprepared for the events, were sent to the Long Halls of Waiting faster than they expected. Their armour was taken and their weapons found new owners. Now four of the conspirators donned the armour and took the guards’ places. Aranwë jumped back into his role as “injured but re-usable" slave and was half dragged, half carried back to the hovels that served as quarters. Because of his weight and his stumbling gait their path led zig zag through the camp during which they gathered more weapons and bits of armour. The remaining guards of the camp didn’t suspect anything – they thought their “colleagues” were just “having a bit fun” with an uppity slave. They were soon to learn how wrong they were. Once weapons and armour were distributed among the Noldor, they outnumbered the guards by far and managed to overwhelm them easily enough. Inwardly jubilant and burning with their newly regained freedom, the Noldor (about 300 of them) blocked the two main tunnels of the mines so that the Orcs would have to clear away the rubble if they ever would hope to use them again and fled south.

The first fire of freedom and heat of battle passed quickly enough and despair wanted to take hold of the refugees, but again it was Aranwë who held up their spirits. Where it was necessary, he took the hand of individuals that seemed to need comfort the most while he spoke to them. Eventually he started to reach into himself without thinking much about it and pour warmth into the mind of his opposite who, soon afterwards, felt renewed and with new courage, plodded on over the dread waste of Nan Dungortheb. They reached a swiftly flowing river that was identified by one of them as the river Nindab, which they took as guide. Endless miles they marched through the wild forest of Brethil and the Marshes of Sirion. No-one can say what the survivors of the slave mines suffered on that long march. Eventually they followed the secret narrow path that led down past the falls of Sirion and in a last effort came into the green forest of Nan-tathren and the wide river delta that formed the mouth of Sirion. But as they finally reached the shores of Avernien near the Bay of Balar, the ragged party was spotted by a scout of Master Círdan, Lord of the Isle of Balar, who signalled to send a ship with supplies and saw them to the safety of that blessed spot.

As the leader and initiator of the daring journey it fell to Aranwë to report to Lord Círdan and Prince Gil-Galad. At the end of the report Gil-Galad looked long into Aranwë’s eyes. “Something is different about you, my friend; the fire that burned hot in you once grew into a warming light. Am I not right, Aranwë Gildarion?”.

"Yes, Sire, how do you know?” Aranwë looked in surprise at Gil-Galad.

The Elven Prince smiled at him knowingly. “I can sense it, Aranwë. I can sense it because I have felt it before. What changed it if I may ask?”

"Words of courage, Sire, words I heard spoken upon the field of Anfauglith spoken by Húrin of Dor-Lomin to your kinsman Turgon - that and the memory of Valinor in the first days that I saw there. That kept me going, and kindled the flame in others.”  Aranwë smiled humbly at Gil-Galad, the exhaustion showing in his face.

The Elven prince’s face lit up. “My heart warms at your words, my friend. I can see a future for you in this and your gift will be direly needed in the time to come. Rest now, my friend, but this I promise to you – this was but the start of your career”

The End

Sources used:
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien , chapter “Of the fifth battle”, English paperback edition 1999 published by Harper Colins
Map of Beleriand in the back of the German Hardback Edition “Das Silmarillion, Hobbit-Presse/ Klett-Cotta Verlag, 9. Auflage, 1989
Characters: Ereinion Gil-Galad, Aranwë Gildarion