"So the great darkness fell upon Valinor. Of the deeds of that day much is told in the Aldudénië, that Elemmírë of the Vanyar made and is known to all the Eldar. Yet no song or tale could contain all the grief and terror that then befell." - Of the Darkening of Valinor
Written for the Legendarium Ladies April prompt: If They Were Women
Though to be honest I've headcanoned Elemmírë as a woman for so long, I often forget it isn't explicitly canon.
1. Chapter 1 by StarSpray
"In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times."
- Bartlet Brecht
"So the great darkness fell upon Valinor. Of the deeds of that day much is told in the Aldudénië, that Elemmírë of the Vanyar made and is known to all the Eldar. Yet no song or tale could contain all the grief and terror that then befell. The Light failed; but the Darkness that followed was more than loss of light. In that hour was made a Darkness that seemed not lack but a thing with being of its own: for it was indeed made by malice out of Light, and it had power to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will."
- The Silmarillion, "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
This year, the Feast of First Fruits seemed less vibrant than other years, less wholly joyful. Elemmírë knew it was the absence of many of the Noldor, especially boisterous King Finwë, and the vibrant sons of Fëanáro. Their absence was felt, but most of the Vanyar refused to dwell upon it. Let the Noldor feud—it would be resolved soon enough, if the Elder King's wisdom prevailed. Elemmírë paid it little heed, instead taking her flute to the fields nearest the Trees for the music and the dancing. Her brother Alassindo joined her with his drums, and they struck up a lively tune, with much leaping and spinning across the grass. The onlookers clapped and laughed and stamped their feet in time with the drumming, as the Laurelin began to wane and Telperion to wax.
But as the Trees reached the blessed time of Mingling, a sudden darkness fell, and all music and laughter faltered. Someone screamed, and everyone turned to see a great tower of something—darkness made solid, or worse—covering the trees. Elemmírë's flute fell from trembling fingers as hideous laughter reached them, with some sort of awful hissing, and gurgling.
And then darkness spewed forth, roiling clouds of it, thick and greasy, foul smelling and bitter-tasting. Alassindo grabbed Elemmírë and they ran, together, back toward the city. But the darkness—no, the Unlight—overtook them all, plunging the whole world into utter darkness.
Elemmírë had thought she knew what darkness was. She had gone exploring in the Pelori, had entered caves where you could not see your own hand an inch from your face until someone lit a torch, or brought forth one of the Noldor's crystal lamps, illuminating glittering caverns of crystal and damp stone, shimmering stone, and pools flat as mirrors until a single drop fell from the ceiling to send perfectly round ripples across the surface. And then the lamp was doused or the torch extinguished, and night returned. It was a delicious thrill, for young Elves who had never known anything but Light.
This was different. No lamp or flame could banish this darkness, and it shivered and echoed around them with Melkor's triumphant laughter, a cacophony of discordant notes, like someone had dropped an entire orchestra's worth of instruments on hard ground. Elemmírë cried out, clamping her hands over her ears as she fell to her knees on the grass, which seemed to dry and shrivel beneath her knees.
Chaos reigned. People stumbled around, unseeing, trying to find friends and loved ones by touch, though almost silently—if anyone did cry aloud, the darkness swallowed it up, as it seemed to swallow the entire world. Alassindo wrapped his arms around Elemmírë; she pressed her face into his shoulder. The wind picked up, howling across the land and carrying with it the sound of distant wailing. Then a great cry went up, and the hunting horns of Oromë sounded, and the earth shook. Nahar's hooves struck great sparks on the ground, that caught and lit the dying grass. The Vanyar cried out around Elemmírë in relief and gratitude for even the smallest bit of light.
The wind changed, then, as Oromë and Tulkas led the chase away northward, a westerly breeze that brought warmth and rain instead of a chill off the eastern seas. The Unlight was not so easily cleaned away, but it was enough to chase it from the skies, so that the stars of Elentári shone down again upon them.
Thus it was by starlight and by firelight that they beheld the true horror of what Melkor had achieved: where Telperion and Laurelin had stood in radiance now hunched only blackened, dead husks. Where the wells of Varda had all-but spilled over with light was nothing but shadow.
"Elemmírë," Alassindo said, taking her hand. "Come away, let's go—" Many had turned away already, unable to look on the destruction of the beauty that had called them here to Valinor in the first place. And from elsewhere other cries had gone up; other terrible things had happened, were happening.
"No," Elemmírë said. The Valar were coming, Nienna already lifting her voice in a song of mourning, her tears flowing down to water the earth as she knelt beneath the trees, Yavanna at her side. "No, I will stay."
"It may not be safe," Alassindo insisted. "If Melkor returns—"
"Someone must bear witness," Elemmírë insisted. She pulled her hand free. Was it not her task, as a lore master and a writer of songs, to watch and to listen and to record? In the bliss of Valinor it had never been a burden; her songs had all been of light and beauty and peace, had been songs of praise to Elentári and Kementári for the beauty of the skies and the bounty of the earth. But how could she call herself a singer if she hid from darkness and despair?
Alassindo remained with her, as events unfolded that would change the course of the lives of all the Eldalië, though no one knew it. Elemmírë watched, and she remembered.
It was Elemmírë who first took up her harp in the long night after the Darkening, and she who first lifted her voice again in song beneath the stars, while the Vanyar mourned in silent Valmar, and the Noldor gathered by angry torchlight in Tirion, and the Teleri waited anxiously by their ships in waved-washed Alqualondë. Her song was the Aldudénië, though it was a poor rendering into words of the grief they all felt at the deaths of silver Telperion and golden Laurelin, the most blessed of trees.
As she played and sang, it rained again, gently, each drop as soft as a kiss on their cheeks and on the earth, and the last of Ungoliant's cursed Unlight was washed away.
And away in Aulë's mansions, work was begun on two great chariots—one of shimmering silver, the other of glittering gold.
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