Nargothrond, First Age 495
Túrin was running. He was exhausted beyond anything he had ever known, but still he ran; on, and on, and on. Gwindor had just died in his arms, and his last words echoed in beat with Túrin's weary footsteps: Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas.
A chill, wintery wind whipped his face but the ground was still hot. The burned grass under his feet and clouds of cinders whirling up showed where the dragon had passed, and everywhere around him small pyres glowed like stars on the open expanse of the Guarded Plain. The few remaining trees had turned into black pillars that raised their naked branches to the sky almost accusingly.
Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas. Gwindor had said she stood between Túrin and his doom, but with every painful step, Túrin feared he would come too late. That the dragon had burned Finduilas too, setting her golden tresses on fire and scorching her beautiful face. Perhaps she had become like the trees; a crispy, black skeleton.
Guilt welled up within Túrin, nearly choking him. This disaster was his own fault. He had counseled the king to go to war, thinking the army of Nargothrond was strong enough to match the Dark Lord Morgoth’s host, but the enemy had beaten them swiftly today. And thanks to the massive bridge spanning the river – another ill counsel of Túrin’s – the dragon would have easy access into the underground city. To Finduilas.
He forced the bleak thought away. Perhaps there was still hope; perhaps he could reach the city in time and rescue her. He had to.
Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas.
Finduilas loved him, though she was betrothed to Gwindor, but Túrin had pushed her away. Not only because he respected his friend’s claim; he had just not been interested. If the Valar allowed him to save Finduilas now, he would change. He would take her to his wife, and perhaps in caring for her, he might atone for his many sins.
Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas. Save Finduilas.
His breathing was labored and every inch of his body hurt, but finally he saw the entrance to Nargothrond. He had no elf’s vision, so he couldn’t discern what was happening there, only that tiny figures were walking around outside. He fervently hoped it was elf warriors – surely some had survived besides him?
Mustering his last ounce of energy, Túrin started up the hill and reached the bridge. Soon he realized it wasn’t warriors he had seen, but elf-women. They had been captured, bound and gathered on a terrass like a flock of sheep, and among them he recognized the one he must save; Finduilas, golden-haired daughter of the late king Orodreth. A crowd of disgusting orcs surrounded her.
Seeing Finduilas still alive ignited new strength into Túrin’s weary limbs. More orcs guarded the bridge over the river Narog, and raising his black sword, he charged them with furious might. He yelled something incoherently, too angry to even think of a battle-cry.
The first orcs tried to resist, but against an enraged man nearly twice their height they couldn’t do much. Those he didn’t kill in the first onslaught retreated and fled before his wrath.
“Finduilas!” He headed towards the group of females.
A deep, sonorous voice sounded nearby. “Hail, son of Húrin. Well met!” Something impossibly large emerged through the broken city gates – Glaurung, father of dragons. The reptile was taller than a war horse, with a scaly body and long, cruel claws on his feet.
Túrin instantly swiveled to meet the new threat, aiming to take out its skillet-sized eyes.
The eyes opened, and looked straight at Túrin.
He paused. Glaurung had beautiful eyes; amber and glowing like embers. Flecks of a darker shade of orange gave them depth and life, and the narrow slits of the pupils drew him in.
There was something he had been about to do; something important, but he couldn’t quite recall what it was. Perhaps it wasn’t all that important then.
The dragon spoke again, and Túrin listened. He had such an amazing voice! Strong and authoritative, yet mellow. It was so low in pitch it made his entrails vibrate with every word, but he didn’t mind that at all.
Glaurung was calling him out for what he was: evil… thankless… slayer of thy friend… thief of love… usurper… foolhardy. Túrin could not move his limbs, or he would have nodded his head in agreement with each epithet. They were all true, and the dragon in his endless wisdom had recognized it. Túrin was pathetic and loathsome, he understood that now, and even death was too good for him.
The dragon was talking of his family now; his sister Niënor, whom Túrin had never met, and his mother Morwen. Glaurung said that because Túrin had abandoned them when he fled to the elves as a child, they now lived as miserable thralls in Dor-lómin while he was well-fed and well-dressed – but obviously Túrin didn’t care about them. Wouldn’t Húrin be glad when he found out what an excuse for a son he had?
Túrin wanted to shake his paralyzed head, and his legs felt weak with such profound guilt he had never known before. He was supposed to save his father, not shame him! Before Túrin parted from his mother, he had promised he would free Húrin – those had been the last words he said to her. Then on the long and weary road across the mountains and through the forest, he had honed his plan, making it his goal above all others. He would grow up to become a warrior whose equal none had seen, and he would rescue Húrin right from under the Dark Lord’s nose. Everyone would be impressed by his bravery and skill; Túrin, a legendary hero just like his relative Beren son of Barahir. All across Middle-earth the tale of his deed would be sung.
Now his name was known as well, but for all the wrong reasons. Evil… thankless… slayer of thy friend… thief of love… usurper… foolhardy.
It had begun so well. When Túrin arrived in Doriath, just a small boy at the time, the finest elvish warriors in the world had recognized his promising bravery and strength. They took him under their wing and trained him, Mablung with the sword, and Beleg with the bow. Even the Elvenking himself had loved Túrin, and made him his foster-son.
But Túrin had grown up, and one elf had hated him and there was a quarrel which somehow ended with the death of said elf – an accident, and none of it Túrin’s fault, but he had fled Doriath anyway and joined the Outlaws. When Beleg came after him with a pardon from the king, begging him to return, Túrin had refused. Who would go back under such humiliating circumstances?
He didn’t want to think about Beleg Strongbow, but images welled up unbidden, prompted by the dragon’s words. Slayer of thy friend. He saw Beleg lying with clear and unseeing eyes, his lifeblood pouring out of him with every last beat of his dying heart. The heart that Túrin’s sword had pierced. Beleg had saved Túrin’s life, coming to his rescue when orcs had captured him one time, but Túrin had been so hurt and confused that he killed his own savior. For that, he would never forgive himself.
“Túrin! Help us!” Finduilas' voice sounded distant though she passed quite close to him, roughly driven forward by a sturdy orc.
He tried to frown at her; she mustn’t scream like that. The dragon might have important things left to say. But thankfully she was soon far away, and the sharp cracks of the orcs’ whips and the joint cries from the elf-maids faded at last. Good.
Just then Glaurung looked away, and Túrin’s mobility immediately returned. Shaking his head to clear his mind, he lifted his sword again. What had he been doing? He couldn’t waste time standing here, wallowing in guilt! He still had a task, given to him by a dying elf: to save Finduilas!
“Die, you pathetic lizard!” he yelled and charged Glaurung a second time, paying no attention to the dragon’s foul voice as he again homed in on the dead reptile eyes and tried to slash them.
The dragon easily evaded the blade and rose on his hind legs, out of Túrin’s reach. Again their gazes locked.
“Nay!” roared Glaurung, and then added thoughtfully: “At least thou art valiant; beyond all whom I have met.” The dragon’s voice was as beautiful as before when he declared that because Túrin was so brave his life would be spared, and thus he could aid his poor mother and sister.
Túrin basked in the praise, proud and honored that such a noble creature would recognize his bravery.
“Go to thy kin, if thou canst,” Glaurung continued. Túrin must take this chance or everyone would scorn his choice. If he chose to save Finduilas he would never see his family again, and they would curse him.
Túrin tried to nod again. Of course he wouldn’t run after an elf-maid when Morwen and Niënor were in such great need!
Then he felt his limbs loosen and he could move. The instant he was freed, he turned north and started to run. Down the hill and out on the scorched plain he went, and in beat with his footsteps echoed the dragon’s words: Go to thy kin. Go to thy kin. Go to thy kin.
"In the Wake of Glaurung” by Zomburai, https://twitter.com/Zomburai
Túrin was running. His feet hurt, and his legs, and his lungs. Nearly everything hurt. But where was he? Then he recognized a peculiarly shaped hillock despite its black, burned state, and knew that he had come to the northern part of the Guarded Plain. He could not remember how he got there, but it didn’t matter. He was on the right track, headed straight towards Dor-lómin, and that was the only important thing.
Looking around, he remembered happier days when he had chased orcs here. With the Outlaws – and Beleg.
As usual, the name gave rise to a spear of pain and a gush of guilt, but he repressed them with some effort, and turned his mind back to his task. Go to thy kin. Go to thy kin. He could still hear Glaurung’s deep, resonant voice in his head.
Yes, yes, he wanted to reply. I’m on my way.
He heard other voices too; his dying friend Gwindor’s gurgling sigh, and Finduilas’ desperate plea, both telling him to rescue her. Save Finduilas. But he couldn’t linger, not when his mother and sister were in such danger.
Even now, orcs might be burning down the estate where Túrin grew up; the proud house his grandfather had once erected when he became the first Lord of Dor-Lómin, and the fertile farmlands surrounding it. The mental images made Túrin seethe with helpless frustration.
After ruining Túrin’s birthright, the orcs would drive his mother and sister away and give them to the Easterlings; a rough and cruel race of men who were in liaison with Morgoth, and who had received Túrin’s homeland as spoils of war. By now, the Easterlings had probably made thralls of almost everyone in Dor-lómin.
Thralls. The very word sent shivers through his tired body. Even as a small child he had known what that implied, after having pried the information out of Sador Hopafoot, a crippled servant who had been his only friend back then. Being a thrall meant hard work under an even harder master, who would drive you to exhaustion with his cruel whip. This was the danger Túrin had fled, the future his mother had tried to save him from by sending him to the elves in Doriath. But she had stayed behind, too heavy with child to make the dangerous journey, and so she had doomed herself and the then unborn Niënor to another plight. For, as Túrin had also known since childhood, the most attractive women would serve the Easterlings in another way. As wives.
Morwen was beyond beautiful, and he didn’t doubt his sister Niënor was too. In his family they were all handsome. Had not the elves said he looked like one of them? Yes, Niënor would be beautiful, and still young. The Easterling men would fight over her.
He knew what happened in the marital bed, despite being brought up by the elves who never mentioned such matters. When he escaped Doriath to be with the Outlaws many years ago, those men had talked all the more of it. Before he joined them they often took farmer girls to pleasure themselves with, which was one of the reasons they had had such a bad reputation back then. According to the Outlaws the girls enjoyed it, but Túrin highly doubted that. Maybe if they were willing – but neither his mother, nor his sister would ever voluntarily wed an Easterling, that much was certain.
The mere thought of an Easterling bedding Túrin’s mother by force made his blood boil, and a rage so strong he couldn’t think clearly filled him. Together with Glaurung’s voice it spurred him on.
Go to thy kin. Go to thy kin. Go to thy kin.
He had made his choice, the only one he could make. Finduilas would have to save herself.