Never and Always: 9. Hearth

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9. Hearth

25th March 1419 S.R. Everything is fire. A flare so bright, so perfectly shaped against the soaring stone, as if born and breathed from a single spark. Sheltered to its own sky, it sways and leaps, alone. A patter of steps runs through the passage – no, nothing but echo, blown about in the draught and the crackle – and from the heart of the mountain swells a welcome. Stand here, rest here, on the hearthstones. But that place has been taken by another. Before the fire waits a rugged Man in the black garb of war, his head unbent. His damp hair falls in limp and clotted strands to his shoulders. Aragorn? Where does this name spring from? Isildur. His dirty hands are clasped to his back, but if they loose, if they should reach and uncurl – Quiet flames lap at his boots. Beside his heavy frame, heat gathers shape in the purest white. Breathed in and out by the fire, he is gone – a wraith (a wraith?) – in a hiss of gold. (Names do not matter, but remember. There was – only this: remember.) There never was this anxious flutter. Never this thought that spills and drains out in shivers, for the very air is glutted with warmth. And there never was a blaze this bright, a glare that weaves as if bending into song. What marvel it is, to breathe with such constant and certain ease. A song, then (upon the hearth the fire is red), carved in cracks across the rock, from thin scratchings to harsh, black strokes. It runs over into the welling hues, for the fire unfurls into colour, but at the centre it is white. It batters and breathes, and its voice is a great wind trapped beneath the rock, muted yet scalding to the soles. Stand here, where no shadow falls (but not yet weary are our feet), and hold the summons to the flame. Hold. The song of fire is captured in gold, round flawless gold embroidered in flame. This, then, is the beginning, the cause, and it weighs – Nothing, for it is made of air, of bent and moulded rays, wrought to the measure of all. Here is rest, here is a gentle fall, soft as a feather, into the lull of flames. Every question has been answered, every call met to the full. Only the scattered sparks lick and teem, and rumour that there is – remember That there is – another Yellow eyes drained of this glory of light. (Pity, why pity?) Drained black to the bones, outside the circle of fire that moulds bright plumes over invisible heat. Mirrored in the gold is a trembling that speaks, searching for the place of its birth, for a storm to roar – I have come. For this light is light as laughter, and in the throat it is dry, dry as sand on the cracked bare stones, the hearthstone – light on my feet – where the colours shift from green to bright copper, and back into white. It is creation, undoing, in seasons of cinder, of bone and ash. But what is creation if not this binding, this blinding circle, undone and reshaped in the light. For through it and in it, we – For in it and through it, we – never end – seething tongues that whisper, housed in the rock (upon the hearth the fire is red), to the roll and lilt of a binding spell. What wonder to breathe so easy (but not yet weary), among the paths and the tongues of flame. Stand here, without need (and take the hidden paths that run), without a fear for the pattering steps in the passage, at the heart of a mountain. Remember. It whispered names, it whispered – Isildur! whispered – Elessar! – but now it says, I – it says I – I am the One. From the hearth, the cradle, its chant spins round and round, and it captures the fire. Here is home. Here I begin. At the centre it is white, a glorious sizzling white that spins out in threads, too bright for the hearth to hold. It says, I have come, but at the centre – nothing, a wisp of dark air – opens the secret (and take the hidden paths that run) for there is – another another another – on the doorstep. A wavering shadow in the heated air. A voice. "Frodo. Master." Turn. Turn inside the hold, in this warmth lies a restless chill, this voice rising against the splendour of light, this tiny quailing voice, singed and startled to be here, to be. Forever is a fire, Sam. Over a vapoured breath, power blooms in the heat, flawless and smooth as its claim, stretched into endless life. It says I, I have come – and the flames leap light as laughter around the golden voice. "I have come. But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed." For the fire is everything. * * * (continued in: Threshold)

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: Cara Loup

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/03/11

Original Post: 05/30/05

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