Magnum Opus: 1. Chapter One

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1. Chapter One

S.A. 3441

A light summer breeze rolled in off the Gulf of Lhûn, pushing back the drowsy heat and bringing relief to the blinding midday of Lindon.

Within the halls of the Otornassë Nyelloréva, all was leisurely. Out in the fountain court, under the shade of the lime trees, the musicians of the house spent their day of rest writing or debating with each other the merits and flaws of their latest compositions.

Lindir typically enjoyed these weekly respites from his duties. The rest of his week was filled with instructing the various students whose families wished their offspring to have formal education in music whether they had talent or not, and then in the evenings with finishing the commissions he took on to supplement his meager teaching income.

Music was his love, for only his hunger for his art could have prompted him to leave the familiar cocoon of Imladris for a distant city in which he knew no one, and where his tutors were so exacting to the point of harshness. His one comfort in those days was the knowledge that he was living in a house where there was always song, where he could learn from the finest musicians of the Eldar. He pinched himself in awe at his good fortune and applied himself ever more diligently to his lessons.

He worked hard to earn his mastery, and then, it seemed, worked even harder once he had it. It was good work, if occasionally repetitive, but he had no reason to complain, for he was much in demand as both teacher and composer. In the last few months, however, he had been restless, even unhappy, his joy in music somewhat diminished, and he knew not why. Master Túrelio noticed, as he saw and heard all things in the guild hall, and sought Lindir out in the courtyard.

“Do you not enjoy teaching the children?” he asked quietly. “You have always had much patience with them, and they are for the most part devoted to you.”

“I have no complaints of my students,” said Lindir, “save only….” He hesitated, continuing only when an expectant look from Túrelio compelled him to go on. “In the last decades I have noticed they are nearly all mortal now. So few Eldar to instruct, and as for the Edain who come here, it seems they are grown old and gone before I have even begun to teach them anything.”

Túrelio nodded. “Aye, this is so. It is a sad time to be an artist or teacher among the Eldar. Since the downfall of Númenor, there have been many more mortals here, and many of our people have also taken the passage West.”

It had been thus for more than a hundred years, and the disparity among his students was not an unfamiliar thing, but Lindir’s agitation was something new, a curious dread that dogged his sleep and followed him even in his waking hours. Tasting it, mulling it over in his mind, he sensed some impending doom, like a dark cloud lingering just beyond his sight. “An Age is passing,” he answered. “I have known that for some time, yet this is different. Grief hangs in the air. Something comes.”

Earlier, he had confided in some of the others, to glean whether or not this was a feeling shared by all, but his fellow musicians had laughed and said it was but a passing fancy. Or perhaps, suggested one, he had eaten something that did not agree with him.

Lindir quelled the laughter with a stern look and walked away. Since then, he kept his misgivings to himself and wandered the terraces of the guild hall, waiting for the feeling to pass.

“Times have been hard,” said Túrelio, “and the news that comes from the battlefields of the south is grim. But I know also that you have been working very hard, and with little respite save on this mandated day of rest.”

“I have many students,” admitted Lindir, “and there are always commissions.”

Túrelio rose from the stone bench on which they had been sitting and urged the younger talagand to walk with him. They strode out of the courtyard and took a leisurely path through the colonnades of the Otornassë Nyelloréva, from whose upper levels they could see the sea.

After a time, Túrelio spoke again. “Tell me, what manner of commissions are you working on? Last week I heard one of Arabeth’s pieces performed at the Rond-i-Tinnu, yet another insipid rendition of the Lay of Leithian. I would hope you are not are inflicting more of the same on us.”

“I have only the one commission at this time,” said Lindir. “It is called Nolofinwë ar Moringotto, a symphony to be performed between two singers, a bass and tenor. But I have not shown or spoken of it to anyone.”

“A rather melancholy piece it must be. I am surprised you would take on such a work, as you are more accustomed to writing concertos and lighter subject matter,” answered Túrelio. “Perhaps the heaviness of your subject matter has affected your mood?”

Lindir did not think his work to be the root of his melancholy, but chose not to say this aloud; it was not wise to gainsay this particular master. “Perhaps,” he answered. “The parts are very intricate, particularly the final movement; it is a duet and requires much more accompaniment than I am accustomed to writing. Morgoth’s motif is quite difficult to compose, and achieving the right harmony between his part and Fingolfin’s is challenging. If I am correct, they may well ask Colindo to sing bass and he will overpower whatever tenor he is paired with.”

“Is that not the effect you are striving for? Morgoth’s presence should be overpowering, no?”

“Aye, but not so overpowering that Fingolfin cannot be heard over him. In the third movement they must be equal, or nearly so, going back and forth in rapid duet. The idea is that they are striving against each other for mastery.”

Túrelio nodded, letting his gaze wander out to sea. “This is an ambitious project,” he said. “You are writing both the music and the lyrics?”

“Only the music,” answered Lindir. “The lyrics are lifted from Erucalimon’s Quentar Hecelmaro. I cannot do better than his verse.”

For a long moment, the chief master of the Otornassë Nyelloréva did not answer. Then, still looking to sea, he said, “Perhaps you should take a hiatus from your students. I observe that you take on more of them than you can instruct, and you have been weary and dispirited of late.”

“I cannot simply walk away from them,” protested Lindir. “Who will instruct them if I do not?”

“There are a number of junior masters who could take on new students. Narnion would surely be willing to take a few, if you asked him. And Laerwen, she does not have nearly the number of students she ought, she might also take some.”

“I would not impose on my friends.”

“Then I will impose upon them instead.” Túrelio turned away from the ocean vista and met Lindir’s gaze. “It is already decided. You will take a respite from teaching and finish this piece.” Seeing Lindir about to protest a second time, he held up his hand for silence. “You work far too hard, you know. You have a great talent, that I will not deny, but you will find little profit in your craft if it is become naught but a chore.”

* * *
Lindir did not know what to do with himself now that he had time to think about it. Ever since coming to Lindon three hundred years before, he had worked hard to prove his worth to his teachers, many of whom did not conceal their disdain for the informal musical education he had received at Imladris. He had never taken a respite from his duties, nor ever asked for one.

His childhood tutors had been lore masters and healers. Whatever Lindir learned of music at Imladris had been gleaned piecemeal from those skilled enough to play the harp or lute in the evenings, but they had not been formally trained in any instrument. Music was leisure to them, not an occupation.

When he came to Lindon, he had not known what perfect pitch was or realize that he had been gifted with it. Over the centuries, he had devised some original compositions upon the few instruments he had, but these were not written down and it was some time before he trusted his teachers enough to share them. One was kindly enough to help him record them in the format used by the Otornassë Nyelloréva; the others critiqued his efforts to the point that he began to doubt the worth of writing them down at all.

Within an hour of arriving in Lindon, he was summoned by the guild masters and informed that his high connections in Imladris were of no consequence and that whatever prior knowledge he had was worthless. Furthermore, he was expected to study hard, produce passable results and not complain.

Lindir soon came to realize that the Otornassë Nyelloréva cultivated a certain professional arrogance in tandem with its musical talents. While the other guilds in Lindon were called by their Sindarin names, the Otornassë Nyelloréva clung to its Valinorean roots and kept its antiquated Quenya name. Many of its members gave themselves airs, but their collective talent and reputation was such that they could get away with such behavior.

Some no longer cared about the quality of their work, and then there were those who lamented that the guild’s labors were not what they had once been. The acquisition of commissions had nothing to do with the creative spirit, but was a political mechanism by which a talagand of the Otornassë Nyelloréva might gain power and prestige in Lindon society. Lindir had not come to Lindon for this purpose, nor was he aware that the arts might be used for political gain until after he arrived. He took whatever work came his way because he loved his music and, in more practical terms, because he needed an income to purchase certain supplies the guild did not provide.

As he labored over his latest piece, he wondered if it had been worth taking on the commission. He could not seem to achieve the right combination of menace, heroism and pathos. How strange that I cannot funnel my own foreboding into Fingolfin’s motif, he thought. Staring at the parchment under the lamp, he nibbled on the end of the stylus and tried to concentrate. If I were not so restless it might come to me.

His clients did not always tell him why they desired a certain piece; the information often came to him through other channels. This particular client, however, was a high-ranking mortal official in Gil-galad’s court who intended to present the soon-to-be victorious High King with the performance of a symphony honoring his grandfather.

This made it all the more difficult for Lindir to concentrate, for he doubted that such a work would be to the High King’s tastes. Ereinion Gil-galad was a self-professed connoisseur of music and regularly patronized the artists of the Otornassë Nyelloréva, although he was quite capable of composing and performing himself. His tastes ran to light, airy compositions in which he might find his ease from the burdens of kingship, but Lindir was astute enough not to point this out to his client.

But if it truly is for the King and he does not like it, he will ask who the composer was that wrote so dreadful a work. I shall be mortified before all. He has done so much for me and this is how I repay it, by reliving his grandfather’s death. Lindir bit down on the stylus, worrying a moist splinter between his teeth. I am not arrogant enough to think he will approve of this.

Others chided him for his inherent lack of ambition, his naïveté, and his rustic upbringing, never mind that the High King’s own cousin and herald had been one of his guardians. He knew it was in his own best interest to vie for commissions and patronage, yet such games, as he thought them, would take time and energy away from his craft, and he could not muster the enthusiasm to pursue it.

“I think it is rather fear of your foster father that keeps you humble,” said Pengolod. The lore master and head of the Lambengolmor was a frequent visitor to the Otornassë Nyelloréva, as both establishments were in the same quarter of the city, and he often visited Lindir as a favor to Elrond. “If word ever reached Imladris that you had begun to take on airs, Glorfindel would personally ride here to shake some sense into you—and into me for allowing you to behave thus.”

Lindir bit back a smile. “I would never think to embarrass him so.”

Pengolod reached across the table to give his hand a fatherly pat. “I always tell your father as much in my letters to Elrond.” With a sideways glance to see who else might be in the drawing room, he leaned forward slightly and dropped his voice. “But in this city a little ambition might become you. Why do you not seek advancement?”

It was not the first time that question had been put to him. “I do not enjoy vying with others for whatever crumbs the nobility might be willing to throw out. It is not in my nature to be competitive. I do not desire fame or fortune or power, and it does not matter to me if I achieve none of these things.”

Pengolod nodded. “Spoken like a true artist, though it is rather misfortunate that you are so determined to starve for your craft, as you have talent and connections enough that you might secure the High King’s personal patronage. Elrond has told me that Gil-galad has taken an interest in you since you were small. Was it not he who recommended you to the guild in the first place?”

“Aye, but I would not abuse such kindness by pressing my ambitions upon him,” answered Lindir.

“There is no ill in ambition, pen-neth. Like all things, however, it must be taken in moderation. You will not advance in life by remaining humbly in the shadows while those of lesser talent step over you. You are among the best the Gwaith-i-Glîrdain has to offer. You should not be ashamed to acknowledge this on occasion.”

Lindir could not help but smile to hear Pengolod use the guild’s Sindarin name; the lore master refused to humor the pretensions of the guild and often made the more arrogant singers wait for hours when they came to see him for access to old texts whose verses they wished to incorporate into their compositions. His distaste for pretension did not, however, extend to himself. As for his own guild, he insisted on maintaining the old Quenya name Lambengolmor rather than the more colloquial and Sindarin Gwaith-i-Phethdain. “Pride is not something I wear well.”

“Nor something I personally would suffer from you,” said Pengolod. “Still, there are ways by which you might advance yourself without seeming to impress your ambitions upon the High King. He has done much for you already, has he not? Return the favor by making him gifts of music in which you may show him your talent. You know what his tastes are, as they are much like your own. He would, I think, be delighted in some of your compositions.”

“I hardly think he would care for the piece I am writing now.” Lindir briefly sketched the progress he had made on Nolofinwë ar Moringotto, revealing the name of his client only when Pengolod anticipated him.

“I know this particular man better than I would like,” said the lore master, “and he has not exactly made a secret of the marvelous gift he means to make the King. Such dreadful taste he has.” Pengolod rolled his eyes. “I doubt Gil-galad would hold you responsible for such an atrocity, though I am certain it will sound far better coming from your quill than it has a right to.”

“If it is ever finished,” admitted Lindir. “It is proving so very a difficult piece to write. I cannot concentrate on the movements. I have been restless of late, filled with foreboding, and I know not why.”

Pengolod promptly gave him his answer. “Eleven years it has been since this war began, eleven years since the King left to join with the hosts of Gondor and Arnor, and tidings of the war have been both scarce and grim. Such gloom and anticipation are commonplace in such times,” he said. “I have lived through far worse. The best you can do is weather the storm and carry on with your life as best you can.”

* * *
Notes:
The city of Lindon is a fan invention. Tolkien is not specific on where exactly Gil-galad had his capital, except that it was near the sea in the region called Forlindon; no city appears on the map of Middle-earth. A note in HoME suggests he and Círdan shared a stronghold at Mithlond, but this is a very obscure reference and nowhere in The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales is this mentioned. Gil-galad is always placed at “Lindon.” I have placed the city directly across the Gulf of Lhûn from Círdan, close enough to Mithlond yet separate.

Otornassë Nyelloréva: (Quenya) Brotherhood of the Singers
talagand: (Sindarin) harper, minstrel
pen-neth: (Sindarin) young one
Nolofinwë ar Moringotto: (Quenya) Fingolfin and Morgoth
Lambengolmor: (Quenya) Loremasters of Tongues, a group founded by Fëanor
Gwaith-i-Glîrdain: (Sindarin) Fellowship/People of the Song-smiths
Gwaith-i-Phethdain: (Sindarin) Fellowship of the Word-smiths
Quentar Hecelmaro: (Quenya) Tales of Beleriand. The document and its author are fictitious.
Rond-i-Tinnu: (Sindarin) Vault[ed hall] of Starry Twilight

Lindir as Glorfindel’s foster son is a fan invention introduced in an earlier story.

Pengolod: According to Tolkien, Pengolod went over the sea to Tol Eressëa around the time of the wars of Eregion. Since the alternate view in this story does not adversely affect any other canon, I have simply decided to exercise some artistic license and move the date of his departure up to the end of the Second Age. For aesthetic reasons, I have also chosen to drop the h from his name.

Credit for the Quenya/Sindarin translations in this chapter and all subsequent chapters goes to Hellga.

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.

Story Information

Author: Zimraphel

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Akallabêth/Last Alliance

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 07/13/04

Original Post: 11/01/03

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