The Lay of Berúthiel
(Winner of the 2003 Gathering Writing Contest Poetry Award)

Berúthiel Queen, loveless, forlorn,
Swore to love, and was forsworn.
All things fair and bright she loathed,
Bright banners, maidens in fair garments clothed.
Smooth silks, fair towers, e'en flowers gay,
White and red and gold and grey.
All these she hated; nought would she wear
Save black and silver, and in her hair
A hairpin shaped as a cat, wrought of silver.
A witch, men called her,
And they may have been right.
Ten cats she had, nine black, one white,
Prowling, creeping, bringing to light
All that men wished to keep from sight.
Among them the white cat was as a lord,
Spying on them, tormenting when bored.
Men feared these cats and cursed them when seen,
For everywhere the cats had been
And saw, Berúthiel knew
And of all secrets save a few
She learned, and used for harm.
Cold of heart, of malice warm
She was. But seldom do tales tell
Of the evils that befell
Those she curst.
Lomerel, Anorien's lady was first,
Fair sun-land maiden,
Died on a dark night hidden
From the eyes of men.
Ithil itself was veiled in Ilmen,
Dark birds screeched their ill-omened song
Amid the swirling throng
Of bats, flying on the cold north wind
And Lomerel, the maiden kind,
Lay unmoving on the ground
Till  the sun's first rays around
The high towers as a crown shone.
Then she was found, and horns were blown.
But no drop of her blood was spilt,
No deadly poison, no blow of hilt.
She lay as a flower, cut off in bloom,
No blemish, no wound, no sign of doom.
She was the first, and others came,
Deaths linked with Berúthiel's name.
But Berúthiel, the dark lady cold,
Was still malicious, still bold,
And more hurts she caused in
Years to come, e'en to her own kin,
To those who displeased her or her cats.
Sickness came on them; they died like rats,
Or sudden malady strike them blind,
Or ill-fated blow leave them hind.
Her victims to the king appealed
And slowly were her crimes revealed.
And Berúthiel was set on a ship,
And in the dark of night was slip'd
Onto the ocean with her cats.
One on the figure-head, one on the mast,
As under a sickle moon by Umbar they passed.
They were seen no more,
But old wives' lore
Told that Beruthiel's stony heart
Was far too heavy for the ship to cart,
And lost was she,
In the grey-rolling sea.