Birdsong

Dec. 13th, 2009 12:07 pm
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[personal profile] ost_in_edhil
An early birthday fic for [livejournal.com profile] surgicalsteel. This story is heavily inspired by the recent events in Minas Tirith as depicted in the Happy!AU-in-which-Halbarad Lives series now playing on [livejournal.com profile] surgsteelfic, e.g., Penetrating Abdominal Trauma through the most recent chapter Breakdown.

My utmost gratitude goes to Steel for letting me gleefully play in her Tolkienian sandbox, for so richly feeding my Dark Muse (who isn't wholly dark :^)) and for being such a good friend.

~~~~~~~


Galdor's earlier than expected arrival in Imladris surprises Mélamírë. He bears both good and bad news, the latter of which troubles Mélamírë deeply, but the arrival of another guest -- a certain wizard with an affinity for birds and beasts and a hankering for lentil pancakes with spicy potatoes -- offers a way to help her suffering friend.

Warnings for language, a bit of bawdiness on Galdor's part (would you expect any less?), a certain degree of "spoilers" for The Elendilmir and a reference to a very dark time in the Shire that traumatized a young hobbit-boy.




~~~~~~~


“Something is wrong.”

Mélamírë took her eyes off the man leading his horse over the bridge and looked up at her husband.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because by now Galdor should be shouting praises to my arse. He is not.”

She opened her mouth to remark that her husband thought rather well of his posterior, not that he was wrong, but she was too well attuned to his vanity to let it pass. Laurefin’s solemn expression told her that a barbed comment on her part, even if playful, would be ill advised. Instead she returned her gaze to the disheveled man who approached them.

Galdor's subdued demeanor, which became more apparent when he drew closer, was as much as a surprise to her as his early arrival. Mélamírë had contacted Galdor and invited him to the valley to discuss potential trade opportunities, but she had assumed he would appear in summer, not so early in the spring.

“Istyanis, my lord...”

Now she knew something was seriously wrong. This stilted greeting was not one that the Galdor she knew would give, particularly to her husband.

“Welcome, Galdor,” Laurefin said. “Something troubles you. I would have expected you to start singing paeans to my behind as soon as you set foot in the vale.”

“Laurefin!” She flicked the back of her hand against his hip. “I do not think Galdor is in any mood for joking.”

“Please don’t scold him, Istyanis. His arse is a fine as ever. It’s just that I bear news, both good and bad."

Mélamírë’s heart leapt to her throat. “The good news first, I think.”

“Thorongil is betrothed and will be married this summer. In part, that is why I am here earlier than intended: to give you the good news.”

Mélamírë was a bit taken aback at this announcement. She had not been altogether certain that Thorongil was the marrying kind, as the folk in the farmlands to the West were wont to say. He had been here in Imladris recently when he trained with Elrond, and he had said nothing of a sweetheart then. That and he and Haldanar had a dalliance of a sort.

“You are forgetting an important part of the good news,” said Laurefin. “Who is the bride?”

“Oh! Yes, her. A girl from Dol Amroth. Her parents perished in the storm, and she came to Minas Tirith. She’s studying in the Houses of the Healing with Gilraen. That’s where she and Gil met. Mairen’s her name.”

Mairen?” Mélamírë knew her brows twitched at that.

“Yes. An old-fashioned name from Númenor.”

“I’ve heard it before or rather a variation of it. The King has given his blessing to Thorongil marrying a commoner?”

“Yes, the alliance makes sense. It forestalls any nuptials of political convenience with Umbar. And they love one another. That surely counts for something.”

Mélamírë was about ready to agree and ask more about this girl -- this Mairen -- when childish shouts from the porch interrupted them. Her sons came tearing down the steps with a much smaller child hard on their heels. The boys, always inquisitive when new arrivals came into the valley, barreled into their father, who, with quiet but firm words, settled each of his sons on either side of him, but their tiny foster brother hung back. She reached down to pick up the little boy so that he could better see this stranger.

“They’ve grown quite a bit since I last saw them. Fëaril and Culunáro, right?”

That elicited “Yes, sirs!” She was pleased they had remembered their manners.

“How old are you now?”

“Six years old, sir. I’m the oldest,” Fëaril said.

“Not by much! Anyway I'm taller than you.” Culunáro protested.

“Boys...” Mélamírë had little patience for a round of her sons’ competitiveness in front of a guest, but Galdor diverted them.

“I might have a few things in my pack for boys your age. Perhaps something sweet.” Galdor looked at Mélamírë who nodded with silent approval.

Galdor stepped over to the saddlebag on his horse, and pulled out a cloth bag. He dipped into it and produced paper wrapped morsels, dumping a few into the cupped palms of each boy.

“Salt water taffy,” said Galdor. “All the way from Dol Amroth.”

The boys thanked him enthusiastically, but rather than tearing off with their prizes, they waited, looking from Galdor to her and their foster brother in her arms.

“And who is this? Hullo, lad! Would you like some taffy, too?”

The boy, who had tucked his brown curls against her shoulder, now lifted himself and spoke up, his high-pitched voice almost like that of a bird, “I’m Rowan! Yes, please!” and then wiggled in her arms so Mélamírë set him down. Galdor piled pieces of taffy in his hands and then watched the three children run back to the house where they settled on the porch to eat the treats.

“Only two each!" Laurefin called to them. "You must save the rest for later.” The three, all chewing now, nodded. "Not that they'll pay attention to that," he muttered.

Galdor also watched the three boys and then turned back to Mélamírë. “Have you started giving birth to halflings?”

“The periannath call themselves hobbits.”

“Point taken. Who is the hobbit lad then?”

“That is Rowan Maggot. He’s kin through his mother to Master Meriadoc of Buckland. His family was killed during the troubles in the Shire.”

She did not elaborate further: that the hobbit-child, hidden among thick shrubs by his parents when ruffians attacked the little family, had witnessed his mother and older sister raped and murdered, his father forced to watch the horror before his throat was slit.

“Usually the halflings -- hobbits -- take care of their own.”

“They do,” said Laurefin. “But young Rowan was in a very bad way, locked in his own mind where no one could reach him. So Master Brandybuck sent him here. Mélamírë finally broke through the darkness that had consumed him. He only began speaking three months ago, and he is now almost eight years old.”

“The wonders of elven healing at work then.”

“Perhaps,” Mélamírë said, “but I take no credit for the actual healing. I only found what lurked in Rowan’s mind that the healers needed to reach.”

Galdor eyed her shrewdly. “So you say. Thorongil certainly learned something here that caused a stir, but damned if I can pry anything out of Serindë or Sardos.”

I hope you don’t, thought Mélamírë when she considered the threads -- thin as gossamer but strong as spider silk -- that connected her with Thorongil, Meriadoc and Rowan had little to do with elves. Galdor need not know the specifics.

“We are fortunate to have a healer now living here whom Elrond trained,” she replied. “Ah, here comes the groom now to take your horse. Let us get you settled in. Neither Elladan nor Elrohir are here now, so you will have to make do with us.”

“I believe I will manage,” Galdor said, “especially with him about.” He waggled his brows at Laurefin.

“I believe you could use some food and wine to fortify you,” Laurefin said, smiling serenely and unperturbed by Galdor’s irreverence. “We can go straight to the kitchens if you wish.”

“A splendid idea! No, after you, golden boy,” Galdor said when Laurefin waited for their guest to go ahead. “The view is better from behind.”

The return of Galdor’s characteristic flirtatiousness did not allay Mélamírë’s worry. It sounded forced to her, and he still had not broken the bad news to them.

Almost as soon as they entered the kitchens, Haldanar was there, scowling but carrying a tray with a bowl of steaming soup, brown bread and a goblet on it.

“Well, look at the trash the river washed up.”

Mélamírë narrowed her eyes, ready to lash out at Haldanar’s ill manners, but Laurefin put his hand on her shoulder and whispered, “Let them have at it. It’s their form of endearment.”

“Hello there yourself, sweetmeat!" Galdor responded. "What are you going to poison me with today?”

“Food fit for civilized humans, you vulgar mortal peasant!”

“You know you love me.” Galdor grinned. Haldanar attempted to deepen his scowl, but Mélamírë saw the corners of the cook's dark eyes crinkle with amusement.

“Who doesn’t love you?” All turned to look at the dark-haired mortal woman who now entered the kitchen, pushing aside the swinging doors.

“Ivrineth, darlin’!” Galdor rose, striding to Ivrineth and taking her into his arms. He planted a kiss on either of her cheeks.

“Galdor, you old gwilwileth, it’s good to see you.”

“You’re looking fair wonderful. They can take the Old Port girl and put her under the faerie hill but they can’t take the Old Port out of her.”

“No one has tried take the Old Port from me, but thank you all the same. I mean to fix you gumbo and greens while you’re here.” Ivrineth cast a sideways glance at Haldanar who muttered something about “vile stew” under his breath, much to Mélamírë’s amusement as she recalled her own fearsome rows with the master of the kitchens over curry. “But right now, I think there are more important matters. I can tell by your voice. You are not yourself, and we did not expect you here for some time yet.” She walked with Galdor back to the table where she sat beside him.

“Yes, Galdor,” Mélamírë said, sitting down across the table. “You said you have bad news. You had best tell us now.”

“It’s Serindë.” Mélamírë’s stomach clenched when he confirmed her suspicions. “She has lost a child. Miscarried over a month ago. The babe had been moving but then...Talagan said that the cord had knotted and...it was a boy. They named him Veäntur...” Then Galdor -- the flamboyant, outrageous Galdor -- hung his head, his voice breaking.

Ivrineth immediately put her arm around his shoulders. "Oh, Galdor!"

“I am very sorry to hear this,” Mélamírë said, meeting Ivrineth’s eyes with alarm, and she knew that Ivrineth, her trusted friend and midwife both, was thinking the same things that she was.

Mélamírë remembered acutely Serindë and Halbarad telling her and Laurefin of their earlier loss, of Niniel, the little girl who came too soon, buried now beneath a tree to the West. Laurefin had told her of Aragorn bringing Serindë to Imladris when she struggled to survive the loss of so much blood and infection that set in afterward, and that Elrond and Arwen healed her.

Reaching much farther back into her own past, Mélamírë thought of the women of Ost-in-Edhil whom her mother and her healers had treated, women whose pregnancies had failed -- an occurrence more rare among the Firstborn than their mortal brethren but one that brought terrible grief and stigma to the elven parents who bore such losses.

Now Serindë suffered again. Mélamírë better understood now, and it was not an understanding she had ever wanted. Her own miscarriage two years past had been devastating. That had happened much earlier than Serindë’s losses, but nonetheless, she knew that the awful feeling of emptiness, of hope ruined and the gnawing question that perhaps if she had done something different, she might not have lost the pregnancy. Reflexively, she ran her hand over the gentle swell of her belly and was met with a flutter of movement as if the babe that now grew within was trying to reassure her.

The words poured from Galdor when he told them as much as he knew about Serindë’s state of health. ‘I am worried about her. It’s like she’s becoming half-mad with grief. She spends her time in the Soldiers’ Graveyard singing lullabies. When I saw her, she had leaves in her hair. She talks to thin air and is drawn to the Hallows.”

“To the Hallows you say?” Mélamírë sat forward on the bench. She recalled Serindë’s trepidation of the Hallows, which Mélamírë had dismissed as superstitious nonsense, not wishing to further alarm her friend. She silently cursed herself for not investigating these strange occurrences further.

“Yes. And I don’t know if she has gotten better or worse,” Galdor shoved the half-full soup bowl aside and knotted his hands together. “It has been over a month now since I left for Bree. But I wanted to come here and tell you first. I’m not sure why, to tell you the truth. I don’t know that there is anything you can do. I just thought you ought to know, Istyanis.”

“I do not know what I can do to help either, Galdor, but I will try.” She reached across the table and patted his hand, and from behind him, Haldanar’s strong hand gripped his shoulder, offering comfort.

~*~


During the week that Galdor spent in Imladris before departing to Bree, another visitor arrived. Mélamírë had been in her office with Galdor and Thornangor, reviewing the list of goods that Mélamírë wanted Galdor to acquire from the Eastern traders. In fact, that was why she had summoned him here originally.

Imladris’ ancient tapestries and rugs had disintegrated to dust when the One Ring’s destruction rendered Vilya impotent. Talented though Lairiel, the master weaver, might be, her deft hands could not repair the decayed cloth nor were her mortal apprentices -- two young women from the Angle -- yet skilled enough to create new carpets and wall hangings that would echo those of elven weavers from the past.

Mélamírë had recalled the richly dyed wool rugs woven by the mountain people in the north of Bharat and the beautiful silk textiles from the looms in the Lands of Dawn. She took her case to Elladan and Elrohir who agreed that the carpets and tapestries of the East would add beauty to the House. So with their permission, she had written to Galdor. If anyone could find traders who dealt in the goods of the East that Mélamírë sought, he could.

From her treasury, she had taken jewelry and other small but precious items that she and Thornangor had crafted in the forges and gave them to Galdor along with a small bag of gold and silver coins to use in his trade and for his own pre-payment. He had laughed when she explained what the word baksheesh meant.

Baksheesh? Why, I eat, live and breathe it! Once I set foot on the docks of Umbar, I have coin for the officials there. It merely has another name in the Reunited Kingdom. Just ask Lord Orchal! Oh! Did I say that?”

Thornangor coughed, but was not successful in disguising his cynical laugh. Mélamírë knew her left brow had cocked and drew up a corner of her mouth. Her own interactions with Lord Orchal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had been frustrating to put it mildly. “You’re a rake,” she said to Galdor. “But a rake who will bring us profit...and information, too.”

“I would hope so, my lady. Your money is good with me, and it's also in my best interest to see you profit.” He jingled the black bag of coins. "And I will keep my eyes and ears open for information."

Then she had brought out the gifts for Thorongil and Mairen’s wedding: a silver ewer that she had forged last year and from Thornangor, more steel instruments for Thorongil and a set of precisely calibrated measuring vials for Mairen.

“The instruments will no doubt be appreciated, and not many brides can claim a pitcher with the Star of Fëanor on it.”

“That is merely my mark. Nothing more,” Mélamírë dismissed Galdor’s observation. “Thorno has forged more surgical steel for Hador and Yalië, too, if you would be so good to deliver them when you go to Bree. Oh, and this!” She opened a drawer and brought out a tooled leather scabbard, pulling the blade from it and setting it on the top of her desk. “I have been experimenting with alloys lately, and I’m coming close to what I wish to achieve. This is a result of one of my experiments. I thought Tarië might like it.”

Galdor ran his finger along the surface of the blade, examining the swirling patterns in steel. “This looks like the knives and swords of the East.”

“So it should. I’m trying to make damas steel. I learned how to forge it when I lived in Bharat, but it has not been easy duplicating the art here. I am not quite there yet.”

“When you get there or are close, let me know. I am sure you can do a brisk trade with such weapons.”

“I do not wish to make these for trade.” Galdor flinched a little, and she realized she had spoken more harshly than she intended so she smoothed her tone. “My ploughshares and hoes are in demand among the farmers in the western lands. I see that as a sign of peace and prosperity.”

“Do you put the mark of the Star on those, too?”

Mélamírë was about ready to say that of course she did. She took pride in her work, after all, but the rising chorus of birdsong outside distracted her.

“Do you hear that?”

Thorno cocked his head. “Yes! They’re singing up a storm. I believe we have a guest.”

They left the forge and walked out to the cliff’s edge where they looked out over the bridge and the court before the house. Riding on a stout piebald horse was a bearded man robed in brown, and spiraling above him were hundreds of songbirds that had recently returned to Imladris after wintering over in the South.

“Now that is a sight!” said Galdor. “Doesn’t he get shat upon?”

Mélamírë choked back a laugh. “No, somehow he manages to avoid that.”

“Who is he?”

“That,” Mélamírë replied, “is Aiwendil. ‘Radagast’ as he is best known. He is an Istyar. A wizard.”

“Oh. A wizard.” Suspicion hung heavy in Galdor’s voice.

"I understand that your dealings with wizards have been less than pleasant." Mélamírë recalled Serindë telling her of the investigations into Galdor’s involvement with his aunt’s more dubious business ventures.

“Yes. I had a trade arrangement that went sour, very sour in fact, thanks to Saruman.”

“Serindë told me.”

“Did she tell you that his ruffians caught and imprisoned me? That they beat me?”

“No, she did not.”

“Thalguron and Tarië rescued me. Otherwise...” Galdor did not continue the thought. “Let’s just say I am not inclined to be charitable toward wizards and their ilk.”

Wizards and their ilk. Mélamírë managed to keep the sting of Galdor’s remark at bay by concentrating on the birds flocking overhead. If he only knew. But he won’t.

“He’s quite odd,” As are all the Fays, she thought to herself,"but he’s a good sort of odd. Let’s go greet him, and you will see.”

As soon as she set foot on the path that ran alongside the face of the cliff, she felt the wizard’s eyes on her. In turn, she eyed him. He carried an ash wood staff in hand, and "brown" did not begin to describe his clothing which shifted with the colors of a spotted fawn, a russet oak, chestnuts and hazelnuts, and of rich earth. She became aware of a presence circling lazily at the gates of her mind, an uncanny but familiar presence that was whimsical and kind, terrifying and commanding, human and Other all at once. When she reached the courtyard, he waved at the birds overhead.

“Off with you now! I will visit you later.”

The birds swirled once more and then fluttered away. Only the peregrines remained. The falcons circling high above were counted among the guardians of the valley and not likely to be dismissed so easily.

Aiwendil smiled, revealing the white teeth of a man much younger than he appeared, “Hello, child. It is good to see you again.”

“I am no child.” She went to his side and slipped her arm through his. “No more than you are an old man.”

“Humor me, my dear. You are quite young compared to me by any account. You are looking well. When do you expect the babe to arrive?”

“Ivrineth thinks that he or she will arrive in the later part of Narquelië.”

“Motherhood becomes you.” He winked at her. “I do believe you just might rival your great-grandmother.”

“Seven children? Perish the thought!” Mélamírë laughed although secretly, she entertained the hope that she and Laurefin might have a large family. “We are lucky in many ways, not least that we have Ivrineth on hand to help us as well as Férwen and Meril.”

“Ah! The young Gondorin maids. Have they adjusted to life in Imladris?”

“Very well. They are so good with the children, and Ivrineth has become a true friend.” They approached Thorno and Galdor. “Here, you must meet our guest. This is...”

“Galdor Irimonion of Dol Amroth.”

Galdor’s eyes went wide and his jaw dropped when his name rolled off the wizard's tongue. “How did you know?”

“Your reputation has spread up the Anduin. I believe you have traded with the Beornings, no?”

“Yes, and fairly, too.”

“I should think so. They’d gut and flay you and then hang your skin up on the outside of their hall if you did not.”

Galdor’s uneasy expression indicated that he was well aware of that. Mélamírë had never encountered the shape-shifters on the other side of the mountains. She was not sure that she wished to do so either.

“What brings you here, Istyar?” Aiwendil's arrival had not been expected either so Mélamírë knew something was afoot.

“Oh, I had a craving for some of those wonderful lentil and rice pancakes you make. And those spicy potatoes! What is that dish called?”

Masala dosa," she said, savoring the idea of preparing this for the wizard. Aiwendil, who eschewed the flesh of beast, fish and fowl although he would eat cheese and cream, had taken a liking to the meatless recipes of Bharat that Mélamírë had tried to replicate here in the north, less successfully than the damas steel, but the wizard nonetheless enjoyed them. "Very well. I’ll do my best to offend Haldanar by using too many spices and making the kitchen reek. Or so he says.”

Aiwendil patted her hand. “You will make this old man’s belly happy indeed.”

That night, after she had read to the boys and sung to them, and then went to the kitchen to cover the lentils and rice with water to soak, she retreated to the rooms she shared with her husband and children. She looked in again on the boys, all three now fast asleep, before she closed the door and padded down the corridor to the silent parlor. Laurefin had not yet returned.

Likely still in the Hall of Fire reminiscing with Aiwendil, she concluded. The time he had spent in Aman after his reincarnation was a chapter of her husband's life about which she knew little, but it had allowed him a level of comfort with the Fays that few of the Firstborn of Middle-earth achieved. Laurefin often spoke of Olórin, and she knew he missed him. Perhaps Aiwendil was filling that empty niche now.

She stirred the low fire in the hearth, bringing the flames back to life to warm the parlor against the damp spring chill that seeped into the ancient house. She sat down at her desk tucked away in an alcove and brightened the lamp that sat on it, its yellow glow chasing the shadows back into the corners of the room. She pulled out her ledgers, but found that her mind wandered, flying to Minas Tirith, seeking her friend, and finding nothing but grey mists. She pushed the ledgers aside, and from a cubby, pulled out a folded piece of ivory parchment with a blue-black stain of wax clinging to it. She had finished reading the letter a third time when she heard the door open and close.

Laurefin walked silently to stand behind her. He rested his hands on her shoulders.

“You’re tense, meldanya.” He began kneading away the tightness that knotted her muscles.

“I have not been as good a friend to Serindë as I should be,” she said.

“Why do you say that?”

“This letter. The one that she sent after her mother died. She poured her heart out in it -- all the mixed feelings she had about her mother. About both her parents really. All I could do was answer with bland platitudes. I could not write what I truly wished, to tell her the real reasons that I understood her grief and her anger.”

“Putting those reasons to paper would be dangerous. Even if you trusted Serindë with that knowledge, you do not know who else might read such a letter or intercept it.”

“I know you’re right.” Mélamírë leaned back into his strong hands. “I wish I could help her somehow, but I do not know what to do. We cannot travel to Minas Tirith.” She stroked her belly, the child within now quiet.

“No, we cannot. But perhaps there is someone who can. You might take a walk with Aiwendil tomorrow.”

“I see.” That long talk between the wizard and her husband in the Hall of Fire must have amounted to something other than reminiscence. “You are a clever man.” She leaned away from him, putting the folder letter back in the cubby. Then she sat back against the chair, reaching for his hands and placing them on her shoulders again. “Keep doing that.”

Laurefin’s response was to bend over and kiss her neck, tracing the curve of muscle with his lips. “Why don’t you come to bed, and I’ll continue.”

She hummed with pleasure as the tension melted from her shoulders, and delicious warmth spread from where his lips met her skin. “I’ll say it again. You are a clever man.” She reached up to tangle her fingers in his hair and met his lips with hers.

~*~


The next day dawned bright, and the valley glowed with a thousand shades of pale green in the spring sunlight. After breakfast, she suggested to Aiwendil that he join her during her morning walk with her sons.

Fëaril and Culunáro darted ahead on the path with Rowan struggling to keep up. Culunáro turned around to see the tiny boy running behind them and nudged Fëaril. Both boys slowed their pace so that the hobbit-boy could catch up. Then the three trotted off together.

“Don’t go too far ahead,” she called out to them.

“We won’t, Mama!” answered the trio of voices.

“Your fosterling seems to have made a place for himself here. He's good for your sons, I think.”

Mélamírë’s head snapped in surprise at the wizard’s words, not for what he said, but the fact that he had spoken in Valarin.

He must have noticed her reaction for he continued, “I hope you don’t mind if we converse this way. It’s rare that I can speak my mother tongue with anyone.”

“No,” she answered in kind. “I do not mind. Most here do not like the sound of it, so I don’t speak it often myself. I’m not as fluent as I used to be. I’m certain that Father would be appalled at my accent now.”

Aiwendil cast a shrewd glance at her from the corner of his eyes. “Did I just hear a happier memory of him sing a little?”

“No, you did not,” she retorted, the jagged syllables of the words well suited to her annoyance at herself for letting such a remark slip and at the wizard for commenting on it.

“Hmmm...pity then. I had hoped you might have reached some level of forgiveness. Nurturing such anger is never good.”

“You’re as bad as Olórin!” She halted on the path and rounded on him. “You have no idea, truly no idea of what I suffered! There is no forgiveness in my heart. None whatsoever, do you hear me?” The glittering words flew off her tongue like hot sparks in the forge. “Why are you really here, Aiwendil? To hover over me like Olórin did?”

The seemingly unflappable amber eyes blazed for a moment, and Mélamírë caught a glimpse of the power that lay beneath the wizard’s very human form, but then his expression softened.

“No, I do not intend to hover over you. I came because I heard your call.”

“But I did not call you.”

“No, but I heard you searching in vain for Serindë since her brother came and told you of her loss.”

“You are right. I have been so worried about her. Childbirth and the loss of a pregnancy sometimes can throw a woman into deep despair and even into madness. I cannot help but think of...”

“Míriel Serindë.” Aiwendil finished her words with a sigh.

“I do not want my dear friend to follow the dark path that my foremother took.”

“I know you do not. Nor do I.”

“Galdor’s mention of the Hallows troubles me, too. I wonder...”

“What are you thinking?”

“If the palantír has affected the Hallows somehow. It’s merely speculation on my part.”

“Tell me.”

“As I understand it, the palantíri are capable of affecting materials -- the organic and inorganic both. The stones work by principles of harmonics in crystalline lattices and...”

“I needn’t know those details, Istyanis, but go on.”

“Denethor had the palantír in his hands when he immolated himself. I know this because Olórin told me. It’s possible that when he died, the palantír cast his...” she groped for the word, “his resonance into the stone. It’s as if his final thoughts are still present, embedded in the structure itself. If a vulnerable mind encounters such a resonance, the results can be frightening: illusions take on a stronger sense of reality because of the palantír’s echoes. I should not have dismissed Serindë’s trepidation about the Hallows before. I should have done something about it.”

“Perhaps, but if I recall, you had two very young children at the time, and you were working on your great project -- those lights. Plus you were struggling with your own familial difficulties. Would you have had the strength to face what needed to be done in the Hallows?”

“Probably not,” she admitted. “I wish I could do something now.”

“Perhaps I can.”

"You would do this?"

"Yes."

They faced one another. Mélamírë reached out and took his callused hand in hers.

“Thank you, Aiwendil.”

“You are welcome. I am happy to help two friends: a child of Estë and a child of Aulë.”

“I am not a child. Nor is...”

“You are too easy to tease, Istyanis. Now let’s catch up with those boys of yours.”

~*~


The next morning, Aiwendil was nowhere to be found. One of the kitchen maids said she had seen him sipping tea just before daybreak, but he had slipped out of the kitchen before she could bring his favored morning meal of toast, clotted cream and jam to him. After questioning the maid, Mélamírë went outside into the cold morning where new green leaves were tinged pink from the dawn’s light. Then she spied a pile of cloth at the far edge of the court near the wall that bordered the highest terrace above the river. She walked over to it and stared at a discarded robe, its colors of deer, oak, nuts and earth now fading. Then, from high above, she heard birdsong and looked up to see a song thrush perched in an oak tree. With a clear call, the brown bird launched itself into the air, wheeled over her head and flew swiftly to the south, escorted by the pair of falcons riding high on the airs above. She watched them until they became specks against the brightening sky and then disappeared.

“Help is on its way, Broideress,” she whispered. “Help is on its way.”
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December 2015

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