"NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE-EARTH"
by Hansi Kürsch
based upon The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

THE GNOM

As darkness came it brought along silence. Yet silence also bears madness. Silence surrounds me - a deathly silence. Caught in the dungeon of my darkest thoughts all the gates that lead back to the world of light are closed to me. All hope for release lies behind me, and before me stretches the mere infinite eternity of Arda. Separated from my Own I wander the world an outcast. An immortal unrecognized amongst mortals, drifting aimlessly like a leaf in the wind. And indeed only the wind truly knows my plaint and only the sea truly understands my pain. But they as well have turned away and do not reveal themselves to me any longer. Tired I am and old, alone I cannot die. On inside of me lives the Curse which has long survived the Oath. Yonder the sea buried lies my hope. Like so often in my life of suffering proved to be the end of a streak of coincidences. But is it not, that coincidences are the harbingers of fate? All is predestination, and though I am but a piece in the turmoil of history I will have to suffer eternally for the things gone by. Yet I merely followed the will of the One. I put an end to hope for one and all. The ragged creature that stands before you like a beggar was once a nobleman. What you see is a warrior turned into an immortal graybeard. Wisdom gave way to madness. The voice I once called my own was more gentle than a mild wind, more refreshing than the clearest of spring waters. Worn out by the grief and sorrow the sound of it has altered to thin and hoarse. Soon, the better it will be to fall silent forever. There is left to me but nothing. The power of the word once was mine. But I remain silent when I should have spoken, and spoke when I should have remained silent. Fatal words slipped my mouth, and even then, I realized the finality of my failure, the unavoidable damnation it would lead to! On the arch of the night sky familiar constellations begin to fade. Even the blue heavens seem weary. But the end, the final deliverance I long for is still far ahead in the future.

DISASTER

Dreadfully and merciless the days of exile ended. Fear pierced our hearts and brought icy cold. It was night and no star broke through the cloak of terror. Unbounded shadows were all around us. Endless grief was followed by wretched laments from the nearby coasts. But consolation was out of sight. The once majestic trees stood weak and dead, extinct forever. The search for the wrongdoers was lost in the sand. This was the birth of despair, and with it came suspicion and hatred. In the end it was my kin who were to complete the triumph of the unholy alliance. I never was to find out what was spoken in the Council of the Ring during the hour of disaster, but I believed and trusted in the words of my father. Truly great he was, in all things. Nobody else was granted such tremendous skills. But too hard did he love what he created. Hard enough that, in the end he would betray himself, his sons and the light of the world. Far too strong was the fire that blazed in his heart with no cease. So powerful it ate the body and soul within. Never before had I known fear. This was to change when the almost impenetrable cloud of pure evil invaded our fortress. So strong was the panic that gripped me and my brothers that escape was the last way out. For one brief moment I was granted a glimpse at that sinister, almost unfathomable mass. What I saw took my breath and taught me fear. Never I will forget the cold, insatiable gaze of the spider woman, filled with evil emptiness, who greedily set her opaque, dead eyes upon all the life around her and its desperate attempt to make a getaway. Aghast I stared at the tremendous, hopeless void as it turned everything into rigid, ugly insignificance. Her hairy body had already taken on gigantic shape. Next to her even the Dark Ruler seemed small and weak. Afar from our fortress we dwelt in deep despair, deprived of all possessions. Many of us cried bitterly for the great king who had lost his life. The immortal land had just encountered death, and the gems were lost. And with the gems went our hope. The Black Enemy of the World, as my father called him, returned home with booty of great value and had himself proclaimed King of the World.

THE OATH

A veil of oblivion lies over many things, but clearly do I recall the day of the Oath. Still my father's words echo in my mind. So full of glory, wild desire and skillfully declared they were, they made us raise our swords and swear the Oath. Now I would, this had never happened. In a fatal way we conjured up doom. Awaken by his flaming words the desire for new lands and cruel revenge befell our hearts with might. In motionless pride I stood when the messenger of the Master of the Skies bowed farewell to my father. Nothing, it seemed could hold us back. Even the greatest amongst the higher spirits shivered with reverence.

THE DEPARTURE

Doomed already we set forth to suffer agony from the day on. The yearning for deliverance already stirred, while disaster still lay afar in the distance. Grief we had just left behind us, but no good would the dark day bring either. Uncertainty was with every step, but our pride made us go on. Excited we were and our hearts still filled with the words of a lonely man whose soul was all ablaze. Never had it been easy to look into the deep and ugly abyss of a dear friend's or kinsman's soul, just so one would realize its devastating consequences. Yet that abyss undeniably exists in every one of us. No burden weights heavier than the awareness that nothing and nobody is without fail. Then, I could not understand those who followed my father's halfbrother. Oh, how I hated those among my kin! At last the major part of our folk gathered under the Banner of Stars, when only a seemingly small group followed the banner of the righteous king. Little love I shared for my, oh so noble kinsmen, even when the sympathy of our people had been theirs. Never did I understand why they went along. My eldest brother though, seemed full of despair over the ongoing dispute in our family. Yet it was us who went off in first line. Our path was to lead into regions unknown to us, sinister and inhospitable. It would also lead us finally, into downfall and disaster. But a few of the deeds witnessed fame and glory, when the lot are telling tales of sadness and sacrifice.

THE MURDER OF KIN

Red - I close my eyes and see a river of blood streaming down into the ocean, mingling the clear waters with innocent red. I open my eyes and look down on hands covered with blood: the claws of a beast these are! Hideous, clenched up, murderous. In my dreams again and again I walk, amongst my Own, heading for the home of the sea elves. And though I strongly feel that our next steps will be fatal, I am unable to alter the course of things. My entire soul is captured by screaming rebellion, but I hold back and follow unquestioningly... Riders of the white crest. Dreamers. Harmless, modest, peaceful. Nobody loves freedom more than they do. Their chanting delights the dwellers of the oceans as the music of the oceans is to the delight of the sea elves. Beyond the walls though a storm is brewing. There the harbour lies in darkness, still unstained by the stigma of blood. Our pleas to answer to my father's claims go unheard. Armed and determined we take by force what is given to us freely. In full armour we go for the boats, but dancingly the seafaring folk throws us into the cold waters. As high as our spirits had soared at first, in the end came devastating downfall. The shock of the cold waters brushes our anger, hate seethes. The agony of shame must be revenged - thousandfold. Swords are swiftly drawn. The battle begins - by no means an ordinary battle but the murder of brotherhood. Brave, but innocent men face us defenselessly. From their bodies, their faces still entangled in the smiles of welcome, flows blood. Their laughter turns to surprise, surprise turns to fear, their fear brings awareness at last. Their mourning can be heard already. The voice of one is followed by many more. The sea joins their cruelly beautiful lament. This sound is to haunt us until the end of time. Nothing, no word, deed or prayer - can ever make good the burden that we take upon us in this very hour. Our greed for the boats and the fulfillment of our dreams erases our morals. Cries for help, cries of agony, cries of death - a scene of bloody shambles! Noone hurries along to come to the aid of the children of the sea. For bound by the given word are the High Spirits. The sea is weeping as the Master of the Winds reminds them of the old promise. With burning fury and driven to tears by the injustice done to the dearest of friends, they dwell hidden in the depths of the oceans, yearning for revenge. Never has there been a deed this hard to bear.

THE CURSE

Shadowy memories gather menacingly. I pass through the mists of the past yet again to live through all this once more. The lonely figure frozenly standing, awaiting me and my Own seem like real to me. It is the messenger's powerful voice which announces our disastrous fate. Sadness and confusion befall us as we silently listen to Father's wild retorts. Then, as if in a trance, we slowly move on. Not once do I turn, though I know that many embark on their way home, ruefully and humiliated. On and on we wander along the icy coast. With ice towering, our path becomes more inhospitable. Under deep black skies, unfriendly winds all around us, we yearn for the fulfillment of our dreams. These thoughts guide us, they nourish and warm us. There still a ray of hope to alter the course of fate. But soon we were to nip the last bud; silently we are stealing away from brother and sister. The boats offer little room, thus the passage will be possible for but a few of us. The Curse awakens.

BURNING SWANS

Maybe my brother realizes the shame, but he too, remains silent. Our boats dock and we light-footedly leap into the shallow waters. For the first time we set foot on what would be our new land. The swans, pride of a whole nation, are already afire. Blood-red skies paint the picture of our dawning ruin. Only the stars light up silvery and look down, unmoved by all the doings of their people. Now I can see the pain in my brother's eyes. But my laughter joins that of the others, when my heart is crying bitterly. I begin to understand. On the other side of the ocean, our betrayal is discovered. Those we left behind embark on a long and arduous journey, driven by only one desire: Revenge! The Curse takes its course.

HIGHEST GLORY AND DEEPEST SORROW

For the very first time we were to face the enemy. Remnants of our once glorious and merciful reign still put their strength in us, thus we easily scattered the meager troops. Yet, our greatest victory ever was to come with the Battle Under The Stars. But even in our moment of triumph lay disaster. Yet again the words of the messenger came true. In the barren mountains, Father lay down, his body burnt and broken. One last time his eyes wandered over to the mighty towers. Symbols of the enemy, they ominously loomed in the distance. Still I marvel what my father felt when recognition dawned on him this hour. Could horror and deep understanding mirrored in his last glance. Why did he make us renew our oath? One last time did he sacrifice us! Just when we had sworn the Oath, his fiery spirit left his broken body. Nothing but ashes was left of the greatest amongst our people. The howling winds carried them away. My father returned to the House of Souls, before the nightmare had even begun.

AGONY, HOPE, AGONY

The ruse we did well realize, alone we were uncapable to escape the evil intentions of our enemy. My brother was taken prisoner. Far out of reach he was chained to a rock in the altitude of the high mountains. Desperate and exhausted he awaited his salvation which would long fail to come. The moon rose and suddenly those appeared we had left behind in the icy deserts. They had met unspeakable pain, and their march told of a thousand great and unselfish deeds. Proud and fearless their numerous throng walked overland. As their leader gave order to hoist his blue banner, the morning sun rose and painted the early morning sky a fiery red. Asight the enemy gates they blew the horns and their mighty sounds shook the fearful towers of the fortress. As soon as that the Dark Ruler recognized his enemy, but in this moment of surprise the enemy moved away unscathed. Thither on we lived separated from our Own, too much weighted the guilt. With the sun the mortals or second-born appeared in the east. The children of the sun slowly wandered towards the light and thus towards our realm.

TIMES OF GLORY

Brief was the time which brought some soothing to the wounded hearts of our folk. It would be my cousin who, with one courageous, noble effort was to free my brother from his miserable captivity. But how high the price! Accursed we were, yet we had a home. The Banner of Stars now was the symbol of our domination. Those days it well seemed to us that sad times were finally past and gone. Deep friendship tied us with our kinsmen, those who had never seen the light of the Blessed Realm. The common enemy we had and for reasons of trade we had bonded with the dwarves. The skillful folk never revealed much of themselves, thus they always remained strangers to me. So we peacefully lived on in the false belief of being superior to the dark enemy. And how did we deceit ourselves! Full of confidence we held control over the land and kept the enemy under siege. My brothers and I proudly reigned and defended our new lands. With no worry, we expected the attack of the Dark Ruler. Easily we would defeat those creatures so full of fear and hate. The curse seemed forgotten. None of us would still believe in it. After all, we ruled the land! It dawned on but a few of us that the storm was likely to return, more terrifying and cruel than ever before. Thus two of our high-born princes secretly saw for the building of places meant for shelter. They never trusted in this peace. Hope, they felt was something to lie hidden. Their foresight should prove them wise. One last time we were to decide a thundering attack of the Dark Ruler gloriously and in our favor. The Glorious Battle was to strengthen our belief that we could stand up to the Black Enemy.

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

The siege continued, and still we believed in our own strength. So we disregarded the signs. The golden Father of Dragons, still young and far from his later power, had risen from the depths of the enemy's fortress. Molded in cruel forges he now met his first humiliation. Again the heir of the High King made glorious history. Even I shivered in admiration. It was him who stood by us in friendship and who had altogether forgiven the past. And like no other would he be caught in our curse. Like no other would he suffer from the past.

RUMOURS AND PAINFUL TRUTH

What we had held hidden for so long broke free with no warning. Again my brothers and I would be condemned. Suspicion and hate stroke our house, yet it did not disturb us at first. Driven by cold arrogance the urge to win back our stolen treasures roamed our minds impatiently, making everything else insignificant. The growing dismay we met all around us we answered with weary smiles. Yet, the lot of it we didn't even notice. Enchanting voices died whenever I willed to join in with the merry doings of the forest elves, my voice steady and harmonious. Apparently unmoved, yet caught in an inner turmoil I went on singing, all by myself. To me it seemed as if they listened to me in awe for but a short while and then, secretly stole away into the safety of the woods. I had no trouble to guess their thoughts. My voice they certainly loved. The body and soul it lived in though, they deeply loathed. In this part of the world our noble language was only spoken secretly. The language of the murderers of kin.

CHANGES

It was about the same time when, in the faraway woods we called the Dark Forest, the Son Of Disaster was born. Never we spoke to one another. Yet we shared the same fate - the fate of traitors. His every inside longed for light and love, yet he was to bring nothing but mischief to both. Under the surface of his noble appearance lay undetected and well protected the seed of evil, slowly growing. Human folk appeared, sudden and unexpected. We welcomed our younger brothers, though we were full of distrust. Too different to ours, seemed the ways of those, who had joined us this late. We loved the moon, they worshipped the sun. But soon we realized that they too, were haunted by dark shadows. Disregarding, we soon allied. Disaster went its course.

CHAOS

Panic clutches at me when I recall the walls of fire, brought over us by bloodthirsty troups! Soon the land was ravaged and unbound beauty forever gone. Death made good haul these days. The souls of the mortals embarked on a journey with a destination unknown. Broken and burned the bodies of elves lay scattered over the charred wastelands. Many returned to the House of Souls, to dwell there bodiless until the end of time. We had lost our home. Endless was our grief and endless seemed the war. The fires should not die before the Cycle Of Awakening brought an end to the deathly winter. Barren and devastated lay the land. The stench of debauch was to last throughout the year. Then our last hope was taken away by the message of the bitter end of the High King. Far late we had learned of his glorious battle and of the wounds he had inflicted upon our chief enemy. To his existence our people and even I had tied our hopes for a better future. It now clearly came to us how hopeless our situation had become. In each and every one of us lived a growing desire for our home lands. Yet all the ways back were denied to us. Our glory waned with our grief. The colours of nature faded and with them went our youth. Hither on we seemed but weary and tired. Only a few deeds of glory to survive the centuries, were accomplished in those days. The friends of the elves though, made it to great glory, one of them even achieved immortal love.

IMMORTAL LOVE - ETERNAL CURSE

The inner yearning for our righteous possessions lived on. Never it went to sleep and thus turned to poisenous greed. The pain which we ceaselessly carried into the world worried us none. As if driven by madness we strove for the light, only it seemed out of our reach. But suddenly strange tales of beauty and wonders came and seemed to promise a turn: "All is predestination, but pure love even may alter the root of things! High is the price for the most beautiful child in all the world. Easily the sage utters disastrous words. But with the slip of a tongue a many things cannot be made undone. A mortal who reaches for the stars shall pay with the loss of his hands. But in the end the dance shall be crowned with success. Horror lies in heavy dreams, but those who are pure may touch pureness. Thus the bride may be redeemed, and even death shall never part the two. Uncertainty shall cease immortality. Never shall you think little of the power of love." Yes, my brothers too, had their share in this story. Them as well had to feel the pain asight of the power of love. Finally, the Blessed Realm had turned against us. Our lives were forfeit. Reverence and fear were in us, alone the Oath was stronger. One of the gems we had long lost, we learned was not far away from where we stayed. Again arose our desire to have it back. Needless to say, again disaster came from it.

HOMELESS, POOR AND BETRAYED

Not one among me and my brothers was granted the achievement of truly heroic deeds, even though attempts there had been a many. All of them should fail miserably. One last time we willed to be ahead of the enemy and moved against him. Our troops were powerful, but betrayal saw for our final defeat and divided the two races. Our defeat was truly devastating. If it was not for the Masked Ones and their courage we would never have lived through it. Bravely they helped me and my brothers to escape. Courageously the dwarves stood against the dragon's breed. Waving their big battle axes they even drove the Golden One from the battle-field. They were to pay bitterly with the loss of their king's life. My cousin, the High King, died in the hopeless battle as well, and with him went his banner. Also the three Houses made glorious story, though many lives were lost in the shamble. My brothers and I were with the survivors. And so has the Curse...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hansi Kürsch, a profound admirer of Tolkien's works, is vocalist, bassist, and main composer of German heavy metal band Blind Guardian.