For a long time I thought on what I was supposed to do in my life. Yes, I was supposed to be a mother, a care-taker of the house, a wife for a husband who would toil all day to put bread on the table. But I didn’t quite understand life then. I learned the lessons my mother taught me, what society wanted me to do.
Something else called me. Something else wanted to teach me lessons, to show me the ways of the world that were not dictated by Man, but by something more elusive and beautiful. The light that lies beneath shadow it was, that hidden thing that one can only glimpse and interpret in her own way.
They called to me, they wanted freedom. They wanted to be seen in the world; they wanted someone to watch them grow.
I was called by stone.
Born in Minas Tirith, I was surrounded by stone from the first moment of breathing. I walked white streets, looking at buildings instead of the sky. I was fascinated by their structure. Why did they stay upright, not falling, not even shaking? I was mesmerized.
But I saw stone crumble when Mordor rose up to rid the world of my people. We hid, terrified, underneath the white slabs of rock. I was frightened, only a girl of maybe fifteen or so. Even so, Men were not silenced, not evicted from their tranquil white home. Days later, the king was crowned and we were. . .united. That’s what my father called it, anyway, and the next day he died. He wanted to see the return of the king, to see that his children would be strong in the future. That was all he was living for, as he had gotten mortally injured when the battle on the Fields of Pelennor took place.
My brother, Laeron and I bowed our heads to our father’s passing and tried to comfort Mother as she cried. But Father was dead, and obviously not coming back. It was then my mother became sullen and silent. She hardly talked. Laeron had dreams of becoming a soldier, and he told her so the day he turned seventeen. Mother only looked at him bleakly. I could see the pain in her eyes, that constant fear of losing yet another loved one to the terrible throes of war. I bit my lip and looked on as Laeron left our house for knight-training. I did not fear for him, not in the least. My brother was as brave as they come, but I was envious. To meet such people in one’s lifetime, to have such great adventure! I was, myself, to be a great monolith of stone. I would never move, never journey to another place, only wear down because of rain and wind, until there was nothing left of me, or so I feared.
I was sixteen when my brother left us. I watched him walk away, and my dreams, supported by stone columns, crumbled and walked away with him. Perhaps that is the way of things, I wondered, but isn’t the entire reason of Men’s living today because of changing the way things were?
I asked my closest friend for advice about this dilemna. She was my age, perhaps a few months younger. She looked at me with graven eyes, and for a moment I was frightened.
“…To change the ways of things is madness…” she began, and I thought I knew the final blow: I could not change my own fate, “But follow whatever way you think has been given to you.”
I looked at her, and she gave me a brief smile.
“What else can I say to you, my friend?’
I saw the great, snow-colored towers of my city, and closed my eyes.
For the next few years, when I was not doing the things normally required of me, such as cooking and cleaning for my dear mother who seemed to have given up on life, and would not speak or move from her bed, I tinkered.
I tinkered with stone. Blocks, slivers, chunks, remains, large, small, whatever I could get. A hammer, a file, and a long pick that looked as though it was needle, only magnified a thousand times larger.
I chipped and shaved away at my square of stone. I’d lost count of how many I’d done and messed up on. The sky outside was dim and it looked as though to rain. I was finishing it, and I began filing away at the lower middle section.
It was a simple carving of my mother’s face, shoulders, and breast, a bust, if you will. But I had reasons for this carving, reasons that only I knew as I worked at the block. My mother was dying, I could see it in her eyes. She hadn’t wanted to live since my father died, even with the hope of us all being united and there being no more fear and destruction.
I was working at her face, the general outline of the stone carving already done. With this carving I took special care, for it was my mother. A few other little carvings lay about the room, the tiny, small ones I did with the miniscule scraps I got or if I found a particularly nice rock lying about.
The outline of my mother’s face…so beautiful she once was. But not anymore. Just a thin, wiry ghost of a person long deprived of life’s joy. She took sick, and suffered there, in that bed, and there was nothing I could do for her. She coughed up blood; I cleaned her lips. She cried out for my father; I held her hand. It took me four months to finish the little sculpture.
It took her only one to die.
I was stone again. Rooted, unfeeling, not needing anything but myself. They took the house. I didn't have the money to pay rent for it. I wrapped up my mother's sculpture in an old scarf, took a small bag filled with a few things, and left. And it was not soon after that when I got the idea to sell the little piece. I tried every pawn broker, every peddler on the tiers---no one would buy, though they said it was nice, and I blushed. But, one man told me to offer it to the royal library, for they loved such things. I did; and they took it for a few coins. They set it on a shelf. The head librarian came to me and said that it was beautiful. She gave me a book.
"You should see this place once," she said. "If you truly love sculptures."
The kings on the Anduin, the Argonath. A stone heaven, she said. Its much safer now...maybe...you could go. I doubted. I took the book, found a place to live with the coins, and laid down on its stone floor, feeling wonderful and sturdy for the first time since my mother had died. I got a job in a bakery; I managed to filch small pieces of stone from a masonry on the last tier once a week. I worked. My fingers began hard and accustomed to the smooth rock. I made a bird, a hand, a tree...I loved them. I placed them on the mantle, caressing them with loving fingers when I was done. Men attempted to court me...and then they called me cold and listless. They said talking to me was like talking to a stone wall.
Which it was, no doubt. I was unable to move with myself. I watched my friend marry happily, then have a baby...then get beaten at night by her drunken husband. It didn't matter. She was his, she was stone too.
It was nearly four years later when I got up the courage to go; a fool's errand, the map maker said to me, you have no skill in any kind of living beyond the city. I was tired of caring. I went anyway. I needed to leave. I was twenty-four years in age.
I left with a caravan, leaving as soon as I thought I could find the way. It took two weeks. And then I found it.
I watched it, the Argonath, for an entire day. It was so sleek, so huge...and...chipped...and...wonderful.
It beckoned, asking me to touch it, to admire it, to have faith in all the kings to come.
I tried to scale it.
It failed, the first seven times. I fell down, hurt my legs, cut my face. I didn't care. I was a woman possessed, a woman haunted by stone and its feeling beneath my fingers.
I did it. Barely. It was a miracle, an act of the Valar's mercy. I climbed down the arm, over the wrist into the outstretched fingers, where I crouched, crying, desperate, realizing I would not be able to get down. I turned and lay back in Isildur's fingers. I saw stars, oh, the statue was offering me to the stars, a girl for a freedom, a woman with a soul of stone.
And I lay there as it gave me up to the sky in its gentle hand, lost to the stars, to the tiny breezes and the midnight air. I was lost. Lost in a hand of stone, in the palm of a king. Giving me up. Quietly, I let myself be passed into the fingers of a starry night. I might stay here forever, for this statue knew me...it stood still, motionless, totally sturdy in its life.
I was the Argonath's wife. We would both stand there forever, unchanging , destined to never move.