Magnum Opus: 2. Chapter Two

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2. Chapter Two

Leaves, burnished autumnal red and gold, skittered in the wind outside. It was cold day, where the fog sluggishly clung to the docks of distant Mithlond across the gulf and did not lift. It was a day for being indoors, curled up with a favorite book beside a roaring fire. Instead, Lindir stoked the embers in the grate and went back to his desk to work on his composition.

Earlier, Narnion had come to invite him to come down to the drawing room to participate in a friendly chess tournament. “Aerlinn is wagering his finest lute that he can best Sadorn. ‘Tis the one with the mother-of-pearl inlay. I should be sorry to see anyone lose such a prize, yet if Aerlinn does it would serve him right for his folly. Sadorn is a master player.”

“I should very much like to see that,” said Lindir, for he was not overly fond of Aerlinn, “but I cannot. This commission wants finishing and it gives me much trouble.”

Narnion leaned into the doorjamb with a frown. “Even when Túrelio orders you to take your rest, you do not,” he complained. “A day or two away from your labors might help ease your thoughts.”

“Perhaps, but I doubt my client would see it so.” Already he had taken more time than promised and his client was beginning to grow restive. He could not afford to tarry any longer. “When I am finished I will join you.”

He had just begun the fourth movement, the aftermath of the confrontation between Fingolfin and Morgoth. It was a lament for the fallen High King, the stillness after the storm. Lindir had found the violence of the duet in the third movement particularly difficult to write, for fire and thunder had never been in his nature, but at last it was finished to his satisfaction. Now, in the final movement, the tenor would step outside the role of the dead Fingolfin and give voice to the dread and loss encapsulated in his death.

I lumbor mornar hostanë,
i Ráno ant’ aháldië.
I lúmë nwalc’ atácië,
aranya né mácina.

Erucalimon’s verse flowed onto the page, the meter already well-suited to musical adaptation. Lindir made his notations above the lyrics, hearing in his mind the mode of accompaniment. He wanted a sound to evoke the rush of air as the great Eagle Thorondor lifted Fingolfin’s body up and bore it away to its final resting place.

Various instruments lay on the edge of the work table and across a nearby chair, waiting for him to test notes upon them as he worked. His mandolin and lute he dismissed, as well as the small handheld drum and lap harp. This movement required neither strings nor percussion, but a woodwind. The two flutes laid out before him, however, were metal. One of them would, when paired with a fiddle called a hardinger, serve for Thorondor’s motif, but their sound was too sharp and refined for Fingolfin, whose music in this movement was to be simultaneously sorrowful and nostalgic. He would have to blend woodwinds to achieve the overall effect he sought. The clay ocarina lying almost forgotten at the edge of the table might do, or a wooden flute.

He tried a few notes on the ocarina before deciding it was not quite what he wanted. Rising from his chair, he went to the clothespress, opened it and drew out a long wooden box. Inside, on a bed of crimson velvet, was a flute, given to him seventeen centuries ago by Gil-galad himself; it was the first instrument he had ever owned. No one in the guild had ever seen it, or knew that he had had such a gift from the High King. At first, it was because he feared it would be taken away from him, but then because he feared it would make him the object of teasing.

Although it was old, the wooden flute had been well cared for, kept wrapped in oiled cloth to prevent it from becoming brittle. Lindir tried a few notes upon it; the sound it made was no longer the clear, high sound of new wood, but something aged and mellow.

Lifting it to his lips again, Lindir played a few chords of Fingolfin’s motif and decided the sound was satisfactory. He took the instrument back to his work table and worked out Erucalimon’s meter in musical notation, indicating the accompaniment in this section was to be played solely upon a seasoned wood flute.

Composers of the Otornassë Nyelloréva customarily placed their scores before and after the sung lyrics, as it had always been done; the idea of having music as accompaniment to a soloist was a novel one, and not always well received. On more than one occasion, Lindir had received complaints from singers who did not like to have to compete with the instruments.

He drew a pause, then piped the notes aranya né mácina… His breath was wrong and the sound did not flow quite as he wished. After another try, he realized the meter was incorrectly noted on the page; such mistakes were becoming more prevalent the longer he worked on the piece, and he knew he was tired. I almost have it, he thought. I cannot stop to rest now. Picking up the stylus, he adjusted the notation, set it down and tried again.

As he played, the fire in the grate seemed to leap out at him. He started, for the room was suddenly filled with noise and the choking stench of sulfur and burning metal. He was on his feet, running down a hill, though he could not recall having stood up. The flute—no, it had become a gleaming spear—was clutched in a gloved hand spattered with blood. He thrust it forward as he charged, into a hand that came out of nowhere, and a wheel of fire burned upon one of its fingers. Burning him with its heat, it grasped him by the throat, and he felt his armor begin to smolder. His hair ignited, his flesh blistered, and in a blinding moment of pain it was over.

Once again in his own body, Lindir stared mutely at the grate, trying to form words with a jaw too frozen in terror and disbelief to move. He blinked, trying to shake himself free from the vision, but dread welled up cold in his breast and shuddered through him until his entire body was trembling violently. At last, he gave a little cry like the mewling of a wounded animal and surrendered to the darkness.

* * *
Pengolod gave up trying to retrieve the wooden flute; even senseless, Lindir maintained his viselike grip upon it. Instead, the lore master tucked the coverlet around the sleeping figure and his prize, then quietly withdrew to the sitting room where Lindir’s belongings had been hastily deposited. A sheaf of papers crammed into a set of leather-bound folios caught his attention and he flipped through them as, behind him, the healer made his preparations to leave.

It was a musical score, an unfinished one by the look of it. Pengolod could not read music, but the lyrics were familiar to him as an excerpt from Erucalimon’s Quentar Hecelmaro. Seeing that the pages were piled in reverse order, with the most recently finished on top, he thumbed his way to the bottom of the sheaf where the title was printed in a neat hand across the top of the first page. It was Nolofinwë ar Moringotto, as he suspected. “He has been working far too hard on this piece,” he murmured to no one in particular.

Peering over his shoulder, the healer gave the score a disinterested look. “Even so,” he said, “such exhaustion is not commonly found in the Eldar. In mortals, aye, they work themselves into illness, but our kind is not prone to such weakness.”

“Since you have been unable to diagnose what is wrong with him,” Pengolod answered tartly, closing the folio, “I may make whatever conjecture I wish.”

With a gesture to his steward to pay the healer, Pengolod excused himself. He could not truly fault Elindirn, a member of the esteemed Gwaith-i-Nestyn who had spent more than the requisite amount of time probing and puzzling over his latest patient’s condition without success. Other than his listlessness and occasional delirium, there was nothing physically wrong with Lindir, nothing that should have caused his ailment.

The only remark Elindirn made came at the end, as he put his instruments away. “You may tell me otherwise, but he seems to me like one who is fading.”

Pengolod reined in his tongue, for Elindirn had enough cheek to reciprocate. “That is nonsense,” he said. “He has no reason to fade. Neither tragedy nor injury have befallen him.”

“You asked for my diagnosis, and I have given it to you.”

It was mere coincidence that brought Lindir under Pengolod’s care. Earlier that day, the lore master had gone to the Otornassë Nyelloréva to consult with one of the senior masters over the use of his verse in a future symphony. Such favors did not come without negotiation, for Pengolod guarded his works and would not permit merely anyone to make use of them.

Beyond the foyer, in the hall just outside the drawing room, he had heard a commotion in which Lindir’s name was mentioned several times. Curiosity led him to the small chamber where the young Elf lay prone upon the floor, covered by a thin blanket and attended by a pair of anxious singers who obviously had no idea what they were about. Nor did anyone else, it seemed, for half a dozen or more crowded into the corridor just outside the room, nervously whispering among themselves. Pengolod, who thoroughly detested such scenes, bullied his way through them until he found whoever was most likely to give him a succinct answer.

Unfortunately, this particular singer happened to be the very one with whom he had an appointment, and who, upon seeing the lore master, at once assumed he had come to inquire why he was so late for their meeting. Sadorn dismissed him with a glance and gesture. “I will be with you presently, Master Pengolod, if you would be so kind as to—”

Pengolod’s reply was blistering and drew the attention of everyone in the corridor. “I am never that kind, as you should well know. But since you seem to know what you are about, perhaps you will tell me what is amiss with the young singer.”

Sadorn’s reply was cut short by Túrelio, whose raised eyebrow inquired why the lore master was taking an interest in matters that clearly had nothing to do with the Lambengolmor. Pengolod knew very well that Túrelio had every right to question his presence, even to dismiss him, but his formidable reputation was such that he could impinge upon those conventions at will. He ignored the questioning gaze and drew the master aside, speaking to him as the head of one guild to another.

“You may think my curiosity a trivial matter,” he said, “but I am a friend to both Lindir’s guardian and foster father. They will think it ill of me if I did not inquire.”

Túrelio looked skeptical. “I was under the impression that you and Elrond were rivals.”

“Strange are the ways of friendship, as you well know, though I would not have you bandy it about the city that I am actually fond of the peredhel,” answered Pengolod. “Now tell me, what is amiss with the child?”

He received the tale piecemeal, for it was clear that no one in the guild hall understood what had happened either. Narnion had gone to inquire if Lindir wished to come down to the afternoon meal, but found his friend lying sprawled on the floor in front of the grate, his eyes wide open and a wooden flute clutched in his right hand. He drifted in and out of consciousness, his gaze unfocused and his words unintelligible.

“He does not appear injured in any way, but I have already sent one of the servants for a healer,” said Túrelio. “We will put him to bed and let him rest.”

At that moment, seeing the papers and instruments spread across Lindir’s work table, Pengolod knew very well what was wrong with the younger Elf. He made a decision. “I doubt he will have any rest if he remains here. Once he wakes, he will return straightaway to work. I know the dedication he has to his craft, as I have seen it among my own people. He will not keep to his bed, no matter how he is cajoled, threatened or restrained. Now I have a house in the city where he can rest—”

“Your concern is appreciated,” Túrelio said stiffly, “but we are quite capable of caring for our own.”

“I did not give you leave to interrupt me. And I doubt very much that Lindir’s guardians would care for your tone, if they heard.”

Túrelio raised an eyebrow. The exchange was beginning to draw the notice of others in the corridor. “I was not aware he was a child requiring the constant supervision of his guardians. He is an adult who has willingly placed himself under the protection of the Otornassë Nyelloréva. And as for those guardians, Elrond and Glorfindel are in the south with the High King’s host; they have far more pressing matters to attend to at this time.”

Pengolod bristled, yet he knew that Túrelio cared for Lindir after a fashion and did not see that losing his temper would serve his purpose. “I know Glorfindel’s devotion to his foster child and I would not wish to be you if he should hear you speak thus. Still,” he said lightly, “we are speaking of hypothetical matters, though I am concerned that the regent of Imladris will become overly concerned when Lindir does not write him as has been his wont. I do not know if you have ever been introduced to Erestor. He is rather sharp-tongued and not apt to mince his words.”

“No doubt he must be one of your students, if he has such acid on his tongue,” Túrelio answered.

The acerbic smile Pengolod gave him indicated that Erestor was, indeed, a scribe of his making. “Of course, you know I have little interest in the politics of your guild, save when some composition requires one of your people to ask me for access to some rare text or other. Now that I mention it, I seem to recall a certain master asking me to translate the chorus of a certain symphony into Khuzdul.”

Túrelio cleared his throat, his eyes anxiously darting past Pengolod to see who else might have heard. “I am aware I owe you several favors,” he mumbled. “I have not forgotten.”

“Ah, but of course this is hardly the time to remind you of such things,” Pengolod said quickly. “It may be Lindir needs only a bit of rest, or perhaps much rest, as I know he does not give himself any respite from his work. I would be pleased to have him as my guest, if you will, at no expense to yourself. I will lock away his instruments and scores and leave him no excuse to exert himself.”

Pengolod had his way in the end. Lindir and his meager possessions were moved to the lore master’s house in the northern quarter of the city. A representative of the Otornassë Nyelloréva remained while Elindirn examined the patient, but did not look pleased at the lack of news he was obliged to take back to Túrelio.

Later that day, as Pengolod mulled over a volume of Nandorin verse in his study, news came to him of a curious malaise that had begun to appear in certain quarters of the city.

“The air in the Great Market is unusually grim,” reported his steward. “It is as if a cloud dark and drear has descended upon everyone.”

Pengolod rolled his eyes. Handir had literary pretensions, which his master had done his best to discourage. “My dear,” Pengolod replied lightly, “how many times have I told you not to give up your current employment to take up poetry? Surely you are exaggerating things.”

“Nay, sir, there is a certain sad air in the market, as if something has happened. I asked Idhren in the cloth market what was amiss, but she could tell me naught.”

“Perhaps it was something she ate. These mortals, they are so susceptible to such things.” Yet underneath the sharp-tongued banter, Pengolod was wary. Looking back on the events of that day, he recalled a certain sobriety among his colleagues that he had not thought noteworthy until now, and his sources close to the royal household told him that the High King’s servants were behaving strangely. “Did you ask any Eldar what they thought?”

“Aye,” answered Handir, “but they did not seem to know what was wrong either, only that they were suddenly taken by inexplicable fits of sorrow.”

Dismissing the steward with a lighthearted caution not to compose anymore insipid verse over the event, Pengolod stirred the embers in the grate and mulled over the information he had been given. His scholar’s mind told him it all fit together in some way, though he could not quite see how.

After breakfast the following morning, he looked in on his guest. Lindir was still asleep, the flute still firmly clasped in his hand. Elindirn had said that such sleep was the habit of those stricken by grief or poison; many who faded lay thus before their fëar departed. Pengolod continued to dismiss the diagnosis as nonsense, for the young singer had not been wounded and had absolutely no reason to fade.

“But I would be reassured,” he said to the silent figure in the bed, “if you would open your eyes and give me some indication as to what is amiss.” The reports he had had from Túrelio and Narnion offered no clue.

In his few lucid moments, Lindir kept chanting in a broken voice a phrase Pengolod recognized as a quote from his unfinished commission. I lúmë nwalc’atácië, aranya né mácina. The words were sometimes garbled, the phrase incorrectly uttered. Atarinya né mácina, mácina. Clearly it was the utterance of someone who had labored too long and hard on a difficult work.

Pengolod gathered up the sheaves of paper, took them into his study and shoved them into a locked cabinet. Pocketing the key, he returned to the bedchamber and picked up the mandolin that had been left in the corner with Lindir’s other things. An idea came to him. “Now,” he said, “they say music is very soothing to those in travail. Let us see how well I can play.”

His fingers plucked the strings with little art. Wincing at the twang he produced, he knew why he had never pursued music. “Ai, that is not very good, is it?”

“It…is…dreadful,” whispered a voice from the pillows. Lindir, pale and drawn, gazed at him with drooping eyes. He did not smile, and as he tried to lift his hand he saw he was holding his flute. Slowly, with much effort, he uncurled his fingers from around the instrument and let it slide onto the coverlet. Pengolod saw the imprint of the carved wood deeply graven into his flesh.

“I thought my awful tuning might wake you.” Pengolod laid the instrument aside and sat down at the edge of the bed. “Before you ask, you are in a guest room of my house. You have been working far too much.”

“My…composition?” His voice was soft, very weak, as though he had been ill for many days or weeks. “Where…is it?”

“If you are speaking of that depressing atrocity you are working on, I have taken the liberty of putting it away. And no, I shall not tell you where or give it to you until a healer tells me you are well enough to resume your work,” answered Pengolod.

“But I-I cannot stay here.” Lindir’s eyes were wide with alarm. “My client…he wants it soon….”

Pengolod was unmoved, and with a gesture commanded Lindir to lie still. “As his intended audience is not likely to return home for some time yet, he may wait. If it comes to it, and if Túrelio does not anticipate me, I will speak to him about the matter. It is clear this thing has taken a far greater hold upon you than it ought, for you have been crying out verses in your sleep.”

Lindir’s gaze darkened, his bottom lip trembling with dread. “Something terrible has happened,” he whispered. He looked down at his hand, contemplating the red imprint left by the flute. “In the fire I saw it, pain and ruin…and death.

“What have you seen?” asked Pengolod. In that last whispered word--death--was such conviction he had no doubt Lindir believed it true. “Tell me, pen-neth, for this brooding is not like you.”

“I-I cannot—” Lindir clutched the coverlet to his chest and squeezed his eyes shut against whatever horror he had seen.

* * *
Lindir’s Quenya composition is taken with permission from Hellga’s “Death of Fingolfin” at: With some alterations in punctuation, the translation of the poem’s third stanza is as follows:

The dark clouds thickened,
the moon has hid.
The cruel time has quickened,
my king was slain.

aranya né mácina: my king was slain
Atarinya: (Quenya) my father
Gwaith-i-Nestyn: (Sindarin) People/Fellowship of the Healers

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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