5. Recurring Theme
Sabaoth Molan was on a roll.
He hurried down the cramped hallway filled with reporters begging him to please answer just one more question, one more—! But he answered no one, closing the door of his office in their faceless faces. Then, and only then, did he allow himself a smile.
It was not a pleasant smile. Anything pleasing about his perfect features fled in the face of a shadow that was unnatural and frightening; he became a monster for that moment. But the smile faded, and the terror of his appearance with it, until he was again just Sabaoth Molan, top advisor to the President of the United States.
He sat at his desk for a moment and considered what would almost certainly be the next day's headlines, which would be, in fact, the result of his own heavy influence: President signs order allowing use of Nuclear Weapons in response to chemical or biological attack. Such fear those words instigated! He could nearly smell it on the breath and bodies of the reporters that had swarmed him only minutes before. Fear had ruled them! Something to be proud of, that …
The phone rang. It was not his office phone; rather, it was his private cell phone. Bah, ruining his daydream! He dug into his breast-pocket for the small black annoyance and snapped it open. "What!?"
The voice at the other end was thin and strangely pitched, and it spoke in a language unknown, but whatever it said, it made Sabaoth smile broadly. And he responded in turn, and in the same speech, and the room was filled with a fell dread at the sound, and the very light seemed to dim.
His laugh as he snapped the phone shut, just as ugly and frightening as his smile, was almost a relief after the speech; but what events he had set in motion none could guess save one, and he did not yet even have a whiff of the treachery in the air.
* * *
Elrond recovered himself fully a short time before Legolas; when Celebrían saw they were ready again to carry on, she squeezed their hands, so carefully taken before, and left silently, without inquiry or even a curious look; she had some part of her mother's gift to perceive their minds, and saw it was not a matter to question.
"I had known," Legolas said slowly as Celebrían shut the door behind her, "that there was battle between the Valar and a terrible evil; how could anyone not? But I did not know its significance … indeed, I think it a miracle that so much of the world survived i Breithan."
"As do I," Elrond agreed softly. "But Ilúvatar's Song continues."
"For better or worse," Legolas sighed bitterly.
"Do not speak ill of Eru's works," Elrond admonished Legolas, but the words held no anger, and for a while longer they sat in sorrowful silence.
"I am afraid that I have lost my appetite," Legolas finally broke the silence as he gazed at the tea Celebrían had so kindly sent.
Elrond smiled at Legolas sadly. "Celebrían will forgive you, Legolas. It is not a memory easily awakened."
The Silvan Elf nodded slowly and absently before he lifted his gaze to Elrond again, a new resolve in his grey eyes as he put his grief behind him yet again. "This cannot be all that you wished to speak of."
"No indeed, it is not," The half-Elf shook his head slightly and held Legolas' gaze. "What I have told you is naught but despair, but there is still hope. Just as the influence of Evil does not fail in its entirety with the death of its master, neither does the influence of Good evaporate when its keepers … depart.
"Legolas … the line of Beren, of my brother Elros, of Isildur … of Aragorn … has not yet failed."
It was as if time itself stopped breathing for a moment, Legolas was so baffled and caught unawares by the statement. "Yet … how can that be, Lord Elrond? It has been fourteen millennia since Aragorn passed beyond the realm of Ea, and eleven thousand years since the fall of his line from power in Gondor! Not even Elladan and Elrohir could find his faithful descendants," Legolas heard himself protesting. "And then so many perished, even in Arda …"
"I do not know how this is," Elrond replied patiently as Legolas fell silent again. "It is only by lucky chance that we have wind of this. Lady Galadriel has seen it in the Mirror."
The Mirror! Of course. He was not certain why, but hearing the source of the news of this impossibility filled Legolas with a numb relief. "I do not know what to think," he murmured. "What do we make of this? That it is some sort of relic of the Valar's influence? It is a miracle to be sure." He broke off. "Do we know more, by the power of Lady Galadriel's Mirror or some other source?"
"There was much that Lady Galadriel saw that neither she nor I could make heads or tails of when she spoke of it," Elrond replied, his brow somewhat furrowed in thought and severity. "And what little we do know is almost upsettingly tantalizing, nothing more. What Lady Galadriel saw specifically regarding Aragorn's line is a man. A Professor, to be more specific, of medical science, although she did not know where he taught. His family name she knew, although she did not explain to me by what means; Evanston." Elrond smiled again, but the smile was enigmatic; sad, amused, and ironic all at once. "An amusing perversion, is it not? It is nearly the English equivalent of the Westernesse for Undómiel."
It was Legolas' turn to be patient while the half-Elf swallowed his undimmed grief for the loss of his daughter to the mortal fate, but it did not take long for Elrond to recover; it seemed he had become used to accepting the pain when it was pushed to the forefront. Legolas too mourned her loss, but not to the great extent that her father did. "But that is trivial," Elrond continued with a soft sigh. "What has intrigued the Lady Galadriel (beyond the knowledge that the line of Aragorn continues, even) is the strong resemblance in spirit to Estel that she sensed." His gaze sharpened, and Legolas met it. "It is, to use her words, 'a variation on the Song's theme'."
Legolas was tensing again, and it was as much from anticipation as it was from apprehension. Although Legolas had always had limited contact with Men, it was Aragorn's people, the Dunedaín – and even more so, Aragorn himself – who had brought Legolas to have a certain fascination with the lives of the Second-born, and a hesitant admiration for their spirit and desire to change the world, so different from the preserving efforts of the Elves. Aragorn was the first mortal that Legolas could truly have called a friend, and while this friendship did not reach the level of closeness he had shared with Gimli, it had nonetheless been precious to the Elf in a way beyond words. It was the death of Aragorn that had driven Legolas into the waiting arms of the Sea; only Gimli, had he been unwilling to accompany Legolas, could have held him back. The passing of King Elessar had sapped the last joys of remaining in Middle-Earth while the Sea called.
This suggestion that Aragorn was returned in some form or another was almost too much for him, who had borne the loss of so many of closest friends to mortality, and others still to more tragic ends. It was not the first time Legolas had heard of Lady Galadriel suggesting these 'variations' in the theme of the Second-born, a race doomed to travel beyond the circles of Eä after their appointed time in Illúvatar's world. It was not, she insisted, that she was suggesting that humans reincarnated; rather, similar patterns were spun out as the Song continued to be sung, and thus similar fates were assigned, and similar personalities assumed … but to Legolas, it was the same. "Then the Lady Galadriel is suggesting that this Professor Evanston is somehow possessed of Aragorn's spirit?"
"Or one very similar to it, yes," Elrond nodded, but his face was stern. "I feared this would happen. Listen well, Legolas! Professor Evanston and Aragorn son of Arathorn are not the same person. Do not confuse them in your mind before you even meet him."
An important point, Legolas thought soberly even as another part of him cried with joy, I am to meet him, and whether he has Aragorn's spirit or not, he is of the same line! And another more rational thought occurred to him: How can I meet him if we do not even know where he is? Suddenly Legolas felt as if the conversation were moving beyond his ability to grasp, and he took a moment to assemble his thoughts before replying. "I understand," he said slowly, calmly, "And I shall take care I do not confuse the two. But why do you say 'before you even meet him'? Am I going to meet him?"
Elrond leveled his gaze at Legolas. "I had hoped you would find him, Legolas Thranduilion," he replied evenly.
And then Legolas understood. "This is why you have asked me to come?" he asked.
"Yes," Elrond nodded once, curtly. "Will you take on this task? It is no small matter, although I have done some preliminary searching; there are many Evanston's in the world, beyond my own imagining! But there are fewer teaching, and fewer yet in the study of medical science."
Again Legolas felt the questions weigh upon him. "Why do you ask this of me? And why do we seek him out? He is no lost King sung about in our tales."
"It cannot be a mere coincidence that a man with a spirit so similar to that of the Elfstone has been born in a time such as this," Elrond responded as if he had anticipated the question. "It cannot be mere coincidence that the line of Aragorn has again been revealed by the Mirror at this late hour. Mayhap he has some part to play in this old threat made new. And your part in the last war with the Dark Lord is nothing to scoff at; nor is your friendship with Estel in his time of greatest need something easily forgotten. I do not doubt you could again be such a support." He paused. "If you do not wish to take on this task, I can send my sons to it."
"Nay," Legolas replied quickly. "Nay, I will do it, although the task is vastly beyond me, I think; it is too large for any individual. There is so much to look for, and so many to sift through … but I am just overwhelmed at the moment, and I hope you will forgive me. It is not every day that one is informed that a Dark Lord has risen and the kin of a friend carries on after fifteen thousand years."
"I would not ask you to do this if I did not think you capable," Elrond said gently. "Please, do not rush into this, and do not feel pressured. And do not speak of Aragorn's line beyond this home! Long has Sauron hated the Elves, but ever since Isildur has he feared the Faithful line of Numenor; he must not hear of this."
"I will not speak of it," Legolas swore, "and I feel no obligation, Lord Elrond, save to my conscience; only amazement and horror and grief in equal parts. But what of these variations, Lord Elrond? Does only the shadow of Aragorn's spirit walk this Earth, or do others 'return' in this dark time? And Olórin: where is he? Surely he knows of this threat."
But at these questions, Elrond's face became grim, and he looked out of the windows as the Sun finally slipped below the horizon. "To both of these questions I am afraid I must answer that I do not know." He lowered his gaze to his hands, neatly folded in his lap. "Nothing was seen in the Mirror of other souls, and there has been no sign of Olórin for just over a decade; even Glorfindel, who has been seeking him for the past year, has found nothing but rumors and whispers."
Legolas' heart sank. "Grim news," he responded more to the latter half of Elrond's pronouncement than the former. "It cannot bode well."
"Not to my mind, and perhaps not to yours, but mayhap he has some Maian business that our attempts to seek him out only hinder," Elrond suggested, a ghost of a smile crossing his face. "Never underestimate Gandalf; he has the most uncanny way of surprising those who do."
Legolas smiled suddenly as well, and his smile was more genuine. "You tell this to one who knows it better than any other. But I hope you are right, Lord Elrond," he continued, unknowingly speaking Glorfindel's hidden thoughts across the world. "I cannot bear to think anything else."
* * *
Olórin was, at the moment, not in any immediate danger; his body, that of a fifty-year-old man with a short, silvery beard, neatly clipped hair, and perhaps a slightly overlarge nose, was dozing in his seat in a Boeing 747 as it flew across the Atlantic, but his mind drifted and did not rest.
The threat was growing, and quickly now; on the world stage things grew more grim, and Sauron claimed his hold upon the Middle East more firmly even as he began to stretch his hand out over the United States … and now Britain followed closely behind, drawn in by the terror of what had come to pass and what now drew near. He desires nothing less than complete domination; he cannot have it entirely by force, nor entirely by guile, and so he shall have it by fear. The very thought made the Maia burn with a slow but heartfelt anger.
He flew to Washington, D.C., the very den of the lion; the window of time in which he could act before the lion fully awoke was limited. He would have to be careful; he would have to be fast.
* * *
Glorfindel awoke in his hotel in Bangladesh to the sound of someone knocking twice on his door and then walking away down the hall. Instantly fully conscious, he sprang to his feet nimbly and quickly struggled into a white t-shirt. He opened the door to his room to a thin FedEx envelope. He slowly and curiously picked the item up, examining it for a return address as he pushed the door shut behind him with his shoulders; there was none.
Now suspicious, he slowly slit the thin envelope open and shook out the single sheet of paper within. On it a message was handwritten in the beautiful and flowing script of Tengwar; the symbols were formed neatly but distinctly in a somewhat spidery hand.
I know you have been searching for me for some time now, and I regret that I have been forced so long to put off our meeting. Indeed, I had intended it be tonight. However, unexpected business has come up, and I am forced again to postpone our reunion.
Do not fear for me, but rather look to yourself and all your kind; the one whom we all fight against does not look kindly upon you, as you have had a hand in his defeat twice now. I leave you now with this advice: Look not to the East, for that is what Evil wishes you to do.
I shall come among you again within the week, if all goes well.
With best wishes,
Glorfindel read the message. And then he read it again.
Olórin was returning.
* * *
In his dark dreams he saw the object of his eternal affections, the item he had craved above all else, as it fell into the Sea, lost forever. He did not remember the countless years of pacing the beaches, wasting away until finally some primal part of him drove him to eat; he did not remember aught but the Silmaril and its beauty.
In his red dreams he remembered the flames, the destruction … a second destroying of the Trees, the light blotted out above him, the Valar again returned; the sensation numbing, his wraithlike mind shaken of total fixation as his starved rational mind begged him to survive, survive, survive, desert the Sea and the treasure it held and flee again to the trees, the safety of the trees … but it was safe nowhere, and the destruction raged all about him.
It was that sense of evil and the pure hatred that it conjured that finally drove him from his jewel-crazed shell; the very sense of Morgoth's touch upon Arda made him cling again to sensation and senses, and when he looked upon himself with new eyes, even he did not know how he could have survived, or indeed if he merely deluded himself, and was in fact a Feä without a body that only thought he had a body.
The world was changed beyond recognition. He was lost; he was hurt by loss. He fled the changes and the world at large; he hid in the trees. He slept. He awoke and saw the world had changed again, and again he slumbered.
But when he awoke again, it was to a new thrum, a new danger; and an old terror.
He did not return to his bed in the trees.
This time, he would do something worthy of a son of Feänor.
* * *
Author's Notes: I'm rather proud of the Mirror bit. I just had to mention that.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.