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No Traveler Returns

Title: No Traveler Returns
Characters: Namo and a nameless Elf
Rating: PG
Genre: General, drama

Now you can hear this story as a podcast on the Silmarillion Writer's Guild here: http://www.silmarillionwritersguild.org/news/newsletter.php#podfic Read beautifully by Tanis. Check it out.





At first I was not sure he would answer the call, torn by his ties to the land and his people. His spirit came to my Halls wounded, aggrieved, but intact. War took a greater toll on the spirit, but in war death was expected, in some situations even welcomed. We regarded each other for a moment before he spoke.

“So it is true,” he said.

The simplicity of it, along with the distrust in his eyes, almost made me smile. Why does doubt linger when faced with reality? I have never understood this. It is the same among Elves and Men.

“Yes, it is true. Did you doubt it?”

He seemed taken aback. “Well, one reads the histories, hears the legends, but no one ever leaves and returns to confirm it. . .”

He seemed about to say more but broke off, shifting uncomfortably as though still in his body. He could not say the word, not yet.

An Elf of moderate height, strong arms, an archer. He had been a hunter. Long dark hair and unusual, but not without precedent, deep brown eyes. They always came to me clothed in the image in which they had envisioned themselves in life. His form was not as perfect as he had been but neither was he overly flawed. I was impressed with his honesty, with his sense of who he was, or rather had been.

“No. No one who comes within my halls ever returns to Middle-earth. The way was closed by decree long ago.”

I could feel his distress at my words but was not moved to pity by it. It was the way of things. As a hunter, he knew this.

“Then I should not have answered your call. I was afraid to answer but thought I must try. I have a wife and daughter. They will have no meat; the winter has been so harsh."

There would have been tears but that was impossible now.

“Their grief will stay their hunger for a time, and afterward. . . Do not fear, they shall survive.”

“Without me,” he said flatly.

“Yes, without you.”

This was the most difficult realization, one I had seen countless times. His image before me faded a little. Within my Halls all memory of his past would be forgotten until nothing remained but the small, yet timeless, flame of his spirit. It happened sooner for some than others.

His image suddenly solidified, along with his anger. “I want to go back,” he said suddenly, challengingly. “The Valar can do as they will. Send me back!”

“We can only do what Eru has empowered us to do. But even were I able to grant your request, I would not. Death is a transforming experience. You must face your past before you are ready for life again.”

His jaw was set stubbornly. “I have no life apart from my family. They are everything to me. You will judge my deeds mercilessly only to keep me here, to keep me from finding a way to return.”

“Here, it is not my judgement that matters. It is you who shall determine the length of your stay.”

“You speak in riddles. What must I do to get my life back?”

“You must first consider your deeds, each triumph, each flaw, each emotion. You must understand your life with perfect clarity. Then you must forget.”

For a moment I thought he had faded again but he had only gone pale from fear. A strong self image indeed.

“Forget? Forget my family, my friends, my people? Everything?”

“Yes, renewal begins only by letting go.”

I could see him ponder this. What would it mean? How would this square with his concept of his life, of himself?

His eyes grew dull, his hair lost its luster, his strong muscles sagged and weakened. This image was an ill fit and I hoped he would soon realize it.

I stood and placed a hand on his shoulder, escorting him to his room. It was empty, the walls slick and of the purest white. There were no reference points here, nothing to serve as a reminder. It was not home. It was not anywhere this Elf had been.

He looked up at me desperately. “Can you see the future? Will I ever see them again?” His voice was plaintive, like a child who seeks comfort when he is certain none will come.

“I cannot see the path of every life, for there are many factors working for good and ill in the world, but my feeling is that you will.”

He nodded and his spirit grasped that hope, clutched it tight to his bosom. He would forget, his wounds would heal, his sorrow would cease, but his hope would never fade. It was part of him now.

In the days to come he would walk the empty halls, wander the gardens, and his grief would be as a live thing, threatening to devour him from inside. Yet he was strong and would not allow his grief to do to his spirit what the avalanche of rock had done to his body, destroy it.

He looked at the white oblivion in front of him with trepidation.

“What do I do here?”

“Cast off your garments and sleep," I said. “You led an honorable life. Your dreams will be pleasant, I promise.”

It was a promise I made to every Elf, every Man, who came unto me. It was a promise I would always keep.

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
chaotic_binky
Oct. 21st, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
I liked the uncertainty of the spirit and how you wrote his different emotions as he faced loss and then hope at the end.

Off to read it again.

Hugs Binky xxxx
ignoblebard
Oct. 21st, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Binky. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-) Love your spider avatar there.
chaotic_binky
Oct. 21st, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Aglarien1 made it for me.

hugs binky xxx
heartofoshun
Oct. 21st, 2008 06:24 am (UTC)
Hey, you almost slipped this one in while I wasn't looking! Well, I already told you that I really like. Hey, you should post it on the SWG as well--Namo and the Halls of Mandos are Silmarillion canon for sure.

My favorite part is his doubting and surprise:

“So it is true,” he said.

The simplicity of it, along with the distrust in his eyes, almost made me smile. Why does doubt linger when faced with reality? I have never understood this. It is the same among Elves and Men.

“Yes, it is true. Did you doubt it?”

He seemed taken aback. “Well, one reads the histories, hears the legends, but no one ever leaves and returns to confirm it. . .”


I think the guy is intended be Sindar or Silvan. Right?

ignoblebard
Oct. 21st, 2008 09:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comments and your help with this one. I'm going to post it at SWG tonight. You're right, I thought of it as being an Elf of Mirkwood. You know how I love the Mirkwood Elves.
heartofoshun
Oct. 21st, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
Hey! I just put up your bithday story!
ignoblebard
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
It's wonderful! Everyone head over to Oshun's LJ and read it. NOW!
lethe_lloyd
Oct. 21st, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
Oh wonderful, Bard. What a beautiful piece, and how poignant! Thank you for sharing it!
ignoblebard
Oct. 21st, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
I thought this would make a nice story for the upcoming holiday, you know the one. *grin* I'm glad you like this. How's your story coming along?
lethe_lloyd
Oct. 22nd, 2008 06:11 am (UTC)
Lol, I know the one.
Mine's stalled at the moment, I may not make it, but I * will * finish it.
ignoblebard
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Any chance of maybe seeing what you've got so far?
lethe_lloyd
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:43 pm (UTC)
I am tearing it to bits and reworking it at the moment, Bard, I decided to this afternoon. :| When it looks sensible, or even readable, of course, if you have time. :)

Edited at 2008-10-22 05:43 pm (UTC)
ignoblebard
Oct. 23rd, 2008 12:34 am (UTC)
You know I do! Especially for Halloween themed stories. :-)
lissas_elves
Oct. 21st, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
It's beautiful. I've read it three times now, and it's still beautiful. :-)

You've used such wonderful descriptions: >>shifting uncomfortably as though still in his body<< and >>His eyes grew dull, his hair lost its luster, his strong muscles sagged and weakened. This image was an ill fit and I hoped he would soon realize it.<<

It really shows how the Elf's body is now merely an illusion he maintains through an effort of will. I never thought much about this aspect of dying before; but it's a logical assumption that it would take the newly dead quite a while getting used to being a bodiless soul. Your Elf is perfect, still tied to his life, resisting having to leave his family - he's a wonderfully stubborn one!

And I like how Namo is so matter-of-fact about the whole process, but still shows compassion towards the newly arrived soul. He is firm with the distraught Elf, but never cruel and leaves him with a glimmer of hope.

Lovely work!
ignoblebard
Oct. 21st, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
This story was actually inspired by the one you wrote about the Elf refusing the call of Mandos, so I'm very glad you like it. I liked your Elf's stubbornness but I wondered what it would be like for an Elf who answered but then wished he hadn't. The whole business is kind of a Hobson's choice, IMO. But I also thought the Elf would probably get to see his family again at one point or another. They might sail someday, right?
lissas_elves
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:38 am (UTC)
This story was actually inspired by the one you wrote about the Elf refusing the call of Mandos

It was? I'm incredibly flattered. :-)

About the Elf's family sailing, they certainly have an incentive to do so now. I hope they find each other again, there seemed to be much love in that family.

Namo promised to give the Elf pleasant dreams so let's hope the worst part is over for him now, poor guy.
ignoblebard
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
"It was? I'm incredibly flattered."

Oh, yes. I loved that story of yours, it was so well written and I liked that the Elf was not famous. That really added to the poignancy. I thought perhaps the Elf's family would sail and they would be reunited eventually. I can never picture my characters as being sad forever. I'm just not built that way.
lissas_elves
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the kind words about my story. I'll have to try and come up with another one sometime. :-)

I can never picture my characters as being sad forever.

No, forever is a terribly long time to be unhappy... It's really nice that there's a ray of hope for them.

The thought that the Elves don't know what will become of them after 'the end of the world' is rather unsettling (was reading a bit about that the other day); so IMO they deserve some happiness in Valinor first.

And may I say again that your story is incredibly lovely - everything comes together so well. :-)
ignoblebard
Oct. 23rd, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
I guess the end of the world is the end of the Elves too. But after all they've lived through, why would they want to live past the end of the world?
lissas_elves
Oct. 23rd, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
why would they want to live past the end of the world?

True. A post the other day made me think along the same lines: Who wants to live forever?

The burden would become incredibly heavy - isn't that why the Elves in the third age mainly looked back? They'd lost so many of their loved ones, exhausted themselves in battle after battle that did not even provide the final victory.

No wonder many of them grew weary.

Still, I'd like to think that one day, when Arda is remade, there'd be a place for the Elves, too, and a clean slate, so they could be happy.
nierielraina
Oct. 22nd, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)
Oh what a sad but well written tale. I enjoyed this immensely, Bard! Well done!
ignoblebard
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Niri! I haven't seen you around for awhile. I'm glad you like this one.
jay_of_lasgalen
Nov. 3rd, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
I really liked this, especially the dead elf's grief for the family he has left behind - very poignant.
ignoblebard
Nov. 4th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it, Jay. Thanks for your comments and for adding me to your f-list.
lissea
May. 15th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
I admire this story. I cannot say it was a joy. It was thought provoking.


The elves do not know what will happen to them at the end of the world. Do any of us? I like to think there is a happy ending, and a more joyous and vivid life ahead for those who have lived honorably, not just pleasant dreams.

I respectfully disagree with forgetting one's former life. It is my opinion that life is a learning process. If we forget it, it had no lasting purpose. If we cannot take the lessons and the love with us, life is for naught. But I see on reading this again, you some how want your Elf to fully examine his life in order to understand it. Then forget it? This is not a criticism. I'm struggling to understand, just like your Elf.
ignoblebard
May. 19th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comments Lissea. I like to think there is a happy ending for the Elves too, but it's always interesting for me to explore the Elven afterlife and being reembodied.

My idea with the Elf forgetting his past is that letting go of his past is necessary for him to be able to move on. So first he forgets and then when he is able to handle the memories they will return to him and he will be able to hold onto the happiness without the deep sorrow of loss. I see it as part of the grieving process.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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