10. Chapter 7, Part 2 - A Distant Song
Ailsa patiently watched Maedhros standing wordlessly as he faced the passage doorway. She assumed he was lost within a particular memory. She gave him a few moments more and then decided to prompt him. "What happened after her birthday," she asked.
Maedhros cleared his throat, "We found that our feelings went far beyond friendship and we married at the end of summer." He abruptly stopped his narration there. Turning his head, he found Ailsa had moved from her seat and was sitting on the edge of the desk. There was an amused look on her face.
"Well, that was a short but lovely ending." She smiled as she realized Maedhros would keep the details to himself and that was fine with her. She heard the emotion in his voice as he talked about Elizabeth. Ailsa didn't need to know anymore. "I'm so glad you shared her with me. She sounds very special."
"And irreplaceable." Maedhros added as he walked over to the desk and looked down at the book.
"Indeed," Ailsa answered with one of his favorite words.
Suppressing a smile, Maedhros closed the book and lifted it effortlessly. "Allow me to put this back and then we can have some tea."
"That sounds like a plan. I'll check to see if dad is ready for a cup." She said and rushed down the passage.
As he placed the book back on the shelf, Maedhros listened to Ailsa's echoing footsteps in the passage. After a moment, he exhaled a long sigh. How familiar they sounded.
- O -
Down in the Archives after breakfast the next morning, Ailsa busied herself on the computer as Maedhros proofed some pages she had just printed out. It was a description of the making of the Silmarilli.
Ailsa examined the three dimensional drawing of the Silmaril using the lasted graphic software she downloaded. She had just added illumination to the jewel and the screen was filled with its pulsating light. Resting her hands on the keyboard, she scrutinized her work. Although it only represented a mere copy of the beautiful original, it was still fascinating to watch. She couldn't help touching the screen with her fingertips. Seems the Silmarilli would always be attractive to everyone except one. "I've noticed you don't handle the Sil…" Ailsa began, but stopped when Maedhros turned abruptly and looked at her with a well arched eyebrow. "The Sil," he asked imperiously.
"Well, Silmaril is quite a mouthful. Besides, we Americans tend to like nicknames." She shrugged her shoulders as if she couldn't help herself.
"Indeed." He replied with a small smile and returned to his reading.
"But seriously, why don't you touch the Sil…even with a cloth or anything? It can't be because you're afraid of the family weakness. You have more control than anyone I've ever known."
Without raising his eyes from the pages in his hand, he answered. "No, that is not it. I do not hold the Silmaril because it will burn my flesh faster than it would your hand even with protection. The unforgiven suffer the burning more…because of our unworthiness." He said flatly.
Ailsa thought for a moment. "When was the last time you actually held it?"
Maedhros let out a heavy sigh. "I last touched the Silmaril with a piece of soft leather when I put it into the pouch Elizabeth gave me. Even then my fingers were blistered by it. I have only touched the strings of the pouch since." His voice was beginning to sound impatient.
"There you see?" She announced.
"See what?" Ailsa had his full attention now.
"Listen Maedhros, since dad figured out the truth about the relationship between our worlds, I've been thinking. Maybe there's a reason you've been given this information…at this particular time." She watched Maedhros' face and recognized the disbelief in his eyes. "Maybe this is a sign. Besides, what better way to find out how things stand with the Valar and you."
"I can not believe what you are saying," he said. "Yes, it is a sign. It is a sign that my punishment is far from being over and no amount of holding the Silmaril is going to change that. Ailsa, I do not want to talk about this anymore."
She opened her mouth to continue, but Maedhros raised his hand, gesturing her to stop. He walked over to the stairwell and began to climb up to the library. Ailsa, however, was determined to finish their conversation, she followed him.
"You just assume that's what it means." She called after him. "How can you ever find peace if you continue to keep yourself in limbo?"
Maedhros reached the top and spun around to face her. "I only know that if I was to be given a sign….it would have come long ago."
"But what if you've ignored the signs?" Ailsa tried to reason.
As he stood listening to Ailsa; he dared not even consider what Ailsa was saying. She is wrong! Without another word, he abruptly turned and left the library as Ailsa reached the top of the stairs. She could only stand in the doorway of the open bookcase watching him exit into the hall.
"What was all that about?" The question came from above. Ailsa immediately looked up to find her father sitting on the top step of the moveable spiral staircase, an open book in his hands and a quizzical look on his face as he peered over his glasses.
"Elves can be so damn frustrating." Ailsa spoke loudly in the hope Maedhros would hear her in the hall. "And they're obstinate too."
Ewan chuckled. "Are you just finding that out?"
"He's suffered for so long, I just want to help him." The irritation in Ailsa's face began to slowly change into a wry smile. "If he'd only listen."
"To what, my sweet daughter?" Ewan began to carefully make his way down the steps.
Ailsa had walked over to the windows and stood with her face toward the sunlight. "To the possibility that he could finally find some peace. That he could start forgiving himself."
"Oh and are you the one to enlighten him as to how this is to occur?" Ewan asked as he took the final step onto the library floor.
"Well, no. I mean…" She bowed her head and looked at the cushions in front of her. "I just wanted him to entertain the idea that when you figured out the truth about Middle-earth, it was meant to happen. Now, he's refusing to even consider trying to touch the Silmaril."
Ewan began to stroke his chin. "Let me get this straight. He's to handle the one thing that still tries to consume him and can easily burn his hand to a cinder. You want him to ignore these things just to prove you're right?" Although he spoke sarcastically, there was an underlining feel of chastisement in his words.
Ailsa slowly faced her father. "Well, when you put it that way…" There was a sheepish look on her face. "I really was just thinking of him."
"I know you mean well, sweetie. But you're never going to convince Maedhros about the Silmaril. There is no way he'll ever touch it."
"You're probably right." Ailsa reluctantly admitted. Their conversation was over; she folded her arms across her chest and returned her attention to the view outside the window. Ewan shook his head and with book in hand, walked toward the open bookcase and down the stairs to the Archives. The library quickly fell silent except for the light tapping of Ailsa's foot on the hardwood floor. "Absolutely right."
- O -
Maedhros quietly joined Ailsa and Ewan for dinner that night. Ailsa acted as if nothing had happened. She talked with Ewan about a particularly interesting document he had found in the Archives that contained some wonderful information about surrounding land grants. Maedhros concentrated on the half-eaten dinner before him. Through the thick haze of his thoughts, he became aware of Ailsa's asking him something. "I am sorry Ailsa. Did you say something?"
Ailsa smiled at him indulgently. "I was saying that I hoped you felt up to a walk after dinner. I was hoping that we'd continue walking even though the evenings are getting colder."
Maedhros smiled back. "Of course we will. I look forward to our walks." He was glad Ailsa had decided to forget their earlier conversation.
"Good, I'll meet you in the hall in fifteen minutes." She quickly got up and left the room.
Ewan chuckled. "Ah youth…" Maedhros couldn't help but smile at the irony of Ewan's statement.
True to her word, Maedhros found Ailsa walking into the hall from the library precisely fifteen minutes later. She was ready for the colder weather wearing a warm jacket, a long woolen scarf, and leather gloves. When she saw Maedhros, she stopped. "Don't you even want gloves or something?" She asked after seeing that he wore his usual suit and nothing resembling a coat or scarf. She offered him her long neck scarf.
He smiled at her offer. "No thank you, Ailsa, I will be fine. Elves are not subject to the same laws of heat and cold as mortals. But I appreciate your concern." He ushered her out the door into the chilly air. Once outside, he asked, "Where should we walk tonight?"
"Let's go down the cliff to the beach." There was excitement in her eyes as she spoke.
As they walked, they made small talk. They discussed the next section of work they would start working on, they talked about finding a stable for Ailsa to start riding again, and they even talked about taking little trips to various historical sights in the spring. Maedhros smiled while Ailsa chattered away, her hands tucked deep into the pockets of her warm jacket. But with all the talking, he still felt she had something else on her mind. Maedhros couldn't put his finger on it, but he knew she would get around to it eventually…she always did.
From the cliff they could see the tide was out and how much bigger the beach seemed to be. Ailsa rushed down the path to the soft white sand. As she waited for Maedhros to join her, she noticed even the roar of the surf seemed muffled. Farther out in the water, the great rock arches stood like giants stepping out of the sea on their way to the waiting shore. Great waves of sea water exploded around their "legs."
Ailsa and Maedhros stood silently watching the sun slowly slide behind the curve of the world. Gusts of wind came from inland and blew through their hair and whipped around their bodies. The wind suddenly shifted and began blowing off the water. It felt good against their faces.
Maedhros depended on these times with Ailsa. Sharing the sunset with her had become a ritual and something he looked forward to each evening. Any reservations about his feelings for Ewan and Ailsa were long gone. They filled him with a contentment that could very well be the beginning of the peace they talked about. He knew they were a family and though they may disagree from time to time like any family, their affection was unconditional. He also knew they were dearer to him than his own life.
He breathed in the salty air and it calmed him even more. He was happy and as he looked at Ailsa, knew she was happy too. With the changing of the tide, they decided it was time to climb back up to the cliff top. Ailsa was always astonished how well Maedhros could see in the dim light. She knew she could safely follow him as he made his way unerringly up the path. Once at the top, they watched the stars blink in the sky. Without city lights to obscure them, the night sky was cluttered with stars: far more stars than she had ever seen in the California night. But even this couldn't keep her from what she needed to do. She bit her lip trying to summon up her courage. "Maedhros?"
"Yes." His head was tilted back looking at the various clusters of stars, his long hair trailing down his back. His eyes rested on one particularly star. Even in the great ocean of the sky, the Star of Earendil shone brighter than the rest.
"We didn't really finish our conversation this afternoon." There. She waited for his reaction.
"I did not think we had any more to say." Maedhros said absently.
"I think you were missing an important point." She tried to steady the tremble in her voice. This could go very wrong if she didn't say it just right. She purposely moved slowly toward the entrance into the woods. Thankfully, Maedhros followed her.
"How do you know for sure that you're not forgiven?" She asked knowing she was treading on dangerous ground.
Maedhros stared at her, incredulous. How could she make him go through this again? With infinitely controlled patience, he would say it one more time so they could put it behind them…forever. "I am banished; I can no longer hold the Silmaril. I am doomed to watch visions of my world through the Shimmer." There was a cold edge to his voice. He slowly breathed in and let out an audible sigh. "There has been no indication of anyone, anywhere acknowledging my existence."
"I think that you're looking at this on too big a scale. You're probably expecting a great thundering biblical voice to make the skies open and bathe you in a golden light of some kind. Many times, signs are very subtle. Messages can be whispered." She turned and walked away from him.
"What do you mean?" He asked impatiently as he watched her walk away, her hands still in her pockets. Ailsa was obviously nervous and couldn't stand still.
Suddenly, Ailsa whirled around and shouted, "Hey Maedhros! Catch!" and threw something with all her might at his face. His hand instinctively came up and caught the object Ailsa threw. His eyes grew wide in horror as he recognized the Silmaril in his hand. Its brilliant pulsating light lit the cliff top. "Aaaaah!" He yelled and automatically dropped it on the ground.
"Oh no!" Ailsa cried and ran over to him quickly grabbing his hand to access the damage. Bathed in the light of the Silmaril, two pairs of eyes locked. Maedhros couldn't make sense of what he was seeing. His palm was untouched, not even a little red. He had felt no burning, but thought it was the shock of having the Silmaril in his hand once more. He looked at his hand again…it was unharmed!
Slowly a voice began to sing in his head. Pure and clear as the starlight above him, unearthly in its beauty. He knew it like his own voice. It sang a harmony so old, it was almost at the edge of his memory. Too painful to remember, he had simply made himself forget. His eyes began to glaze over as he strained to listen to the voice. Ailsa, oblivious to his distraction, still held his hand. "Oh my God, Maedhros. Do you know what this means?" She said excitedly. She looked at his face and froze. Maedhros stood there, his eyes half closed. "Maedhros, can you hear me?"
- O -
At that moment, on a deserted beach on the Isle of Man, a tall lean figure stood on top of the rock he had been sitting on. Brushing a wind swept strand of long dark hair from his face, he scanned the horizon straining to listen above the roar of the incoming tide. Bending down he seized the canvas bag of shells he gathered earlier and swung it around his head several times. With an ancient cry of joy, he threw it far out into the sea. As the bag sank below the waves, he slowly closed his bright grey eyes. The smallest hint of a smile appeared on his lips as he began to sing.
- O -
Ailsa began to feel panicked. "Maedhros?" She grabbed his arm with both her hands and gently shook him. "Maedhros can you hear me?" She called. Quickly stripping her gloves off, she took his face in her hands forcing him to look at her. She hoped her touch would help bring him out of whatever stupor he was experiencing. His eyes stared vacantly at her; his rapid breathing frightened her. "Maedhros, forgive me. I didn't know…Maedhros?"
His eyes regained their focus, and his breathing began to slow down. He awkwardly stepped back, out of her hands. He looked startled, as if just realizing where he was. "Are you all right?" Ailsa asked, watching his every move.
"I hear a harmony that was silenced to me long ago."
"What harmony…whose harmony," she asked.
Maedhros face reflected wondrous light. "I am almost afraid to say."
His eyes locked onto the Silmaril as it lay shining in the scruffy dune grass. He bent down and began to pick it up. "NO!" Ailsa yelled as he closed his fingers around it. He slowly straightened and opened his hand. "There is no pain." He said as he stared at it with a blend of fear and awe. He quickly closed his fingers around it again and looked at Ailsa. "It does not burn," he laughed.
Ailsa's concern and fear fell away and was replaced with hope. "Do you know what this means?" She asked.
"I do not." He truthfully answered. He tilted his head back and locking his eyes on a particular bright star, started to murmur a prayer. Ailsa watched as tears fell down the sides of his face. "By the will of the Valar, please, let this be the sign I have longed for." He quietly prayed as his voice faded to a hushed stillness.
Time seemed to stand still as Ailsa looked around expecting some event to take place. After a long while, her expectation was replaced with disappointment. She reluctantly had to admit that nothing was going to happen.
Maedhros stood with his head now bowed, his arms crossed on his chest, the Silmaril still held tightly in his hand. He seemed to be in deep reflection. She gently touched his arm. "Maedhros." It was a confirmation more than a question. He looked at her and slowly shook his head, his face a contradiction of expectation and doubt. He opened his mouth to say something, but instead turned silently and walked quickly into the woods.
Ailsa stood there for a moment trying to figure out just what had happened. She was happy he could hold the Silmaril again. But did it mean he was forgiven, or had her folly added to his punishment? She didn't know if the night had suddenly gotten colder or if her feeling of failure was the reason for the chill around her heart. "I am so stupid." She chided herself. What did she think was going to happen? She sighed as she stooped to pick up her gloves and quickly put them on. She looked around one more time, and finally re-entered the woods. She was desolate as she walked through the woods. How much more pain had she added to Maedhros' already full plate?
Her legs seemed heavy as she walked along trying to figure out how she was ever going to get him to forgive her foolishness. The air grew colder and she wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck. Suddenly, she became aware of a faint sound stirring among the trees. Ailsa stopped and listened. It echoed deep within the thick woods. It was Maedhros…he was singing. His extraordinary voice cut the cold night air with its simplicity. She could just make out some of the words as they floated on the night breeze. He was singing a song to the Valar, something about hope and grief. Ailsa groaned at the thought of Maedhros sitting alone in the clearing trying to sing some comfort for himself after her boneheaded attempt to help. The least she could do was leave him alone. She walked into the garden with Maedhros' voice still echoing behind her.
- O -
For the next several days Ailsa hardly saw Maedhros. When she did, it was only in passing. She'd catch a glimpse of him on his balcony or leaving the library. He didn't join them at mealtime nor did he join her for their evening walks. In fact, he now walked alone at odd times of the day and night. When she tried to talk to him, he was courteous, but distant. He would quickly change the subject when she tried to talk about what happened that night and she finally realized that he was purposely pulling back from her. The sudden gulf between them only fed her guilt.
She felt somehow it was her duty to set things right, make amends. She was beginning her shift with the shimmer one night and walked in on him as he was replacing the Silmaril in the chest. She knew this would be her best chance to talk to him. "I hope I didn't startle you." She confessed.
"I heard you long before you entered the room, Ailsa." Maedhros didn't turn as he spoke. He voice was very controlled, and the matter of fact quality of it made her feel empty.
"Listen, I'm sorry about the other night. I didn't mean to add to your suffering…I only wanted to help." She couldn't keep the sadness from her voice.
Maedhros finally turned and met her gaze. Ailsa searched for any sign that he didn't hate her for what she did. His cool grey eyes, although they were looking at her, were far away…unreadable. Finally, his face softened. "You did help tithen min. I now have reason to hope." His mouth held the suggestion of a smile.
"Really?" Her whole body sighed with relief. "I thought you were mad at me…," she said. "You have every right to be….I mean, what a dumbass thing for me to do." She felt better letting him know how badly she felt.
Maedhros took the two steps that separated them and raised his hand to her face. "Your actions may have been a little rash, but your intentions were honorable." He assured her.
"I just knew that I'd added to your suffering and that's why you've been keeping to yourself lately."
His hand lowered to her shoulder and held it firmly, his face looked troubled. "No…no, I have been dealing with this new sensation. Being able to hold the Silmaril once more and hearing what was once lost to me, has rekindled hope in my heart." He looked away for a moment, as if trying to control some emotion. "My only fear is that it may be a false hope. And you can not help me with that."
Ailsa reached up and covered his hand with her own. "Okay…" She smiled weakly.
Maedhros squeezed her shoulder and walked out of the room leaving Ailsa to her work. As he walked down the passageway, his thoughts were a swirling storm in his head. How could he explain to Ailsa what he could not explain to himself? The Song of Ilúvatar that sang in every Elf's soul had been diminished to a whisper of a memory since he had been cast into this world. With the touch of the Silmaril, it was now strong, but another song had joined it. Mingling and weaving in and out of its melody, this new voice caressed his soul with its familiarity. Could it truly have been the lone voice of his brother Maglor's Fea? Was Maglor alive? Did Maglor know of his true fate?
Question upon question, Maedhros' mind worked endlessly over these questions. His frustration grew as they continually circled back to nothing: no information, no solutions, and no answers forthcoming, no matter how he analyzed it. Even Ailsa's willingness to help could not afford him any answers. How could he make her understand that when he held the Silmaril once more, he was filled with such hope that he dared not let go of it? The sense of expectation that had filled his heart in those first moments had slowly faded into disappointment. Nothing had happened in these many days since the night on the cliff. What if he had wasted all this time believing he could not touch it? "Everything I have based my whole existence on could be wrong." He anguished over the next question. "What do I do now?"
Ailsa knew that during the day, Maedhros roamed aimlessly around the house and grounds like a ghost. Nights he spent staring, unblinking, into the Western horizon. The cool night air would often carry the soft words of his songs to her room. Once and a while he would half-heartedly work with her or her father on one of the histories. Whatever he was trying to figure out, it was always at the forefront of all his thoughts. It was clear that the staff had noticed his odd behavior. Mrs. Whitehall sought a word with Ailsa one afternoon while she was working in the library.
They set up a laptop computer in the library so Ailsa and Ewan wouldn't have to wait for each other to use the one computer in the Archives. She had put a network connection on her laptop to access various websites that were needed for their research. She also found it was easier to send emails than try to reach Kyle or her mother by phone.
Mrs. Whitehall stood in the doorway lightly tapping on the big door of the library, trying to get Ailsa's attention. Ailsa looked up from her typing and smiled. "Hi." She said, happy to see the housekeeper.
"I'm sorry to interrupt you Miss Ailsa, but I really need to speak with you." Mrs. Whitehall's face held little of the pleasant humor that was normally present. There was real concern in her eyes. Ailsa noticed for the first time how intensely blue Mrs. Whitehall's eyes were.
"Sure…" Ailsa stood up and walked over to the overstuffed leather sofa and offered Mrs. Whitehall a seat. "What is it?" She asked as she deposited herself at one end of the sofa, tossing a throw pillow out of the way.
The older woman sat down, folded her hands on her lap, and let out a sigh. She obviously was having difficulty putting something into words. Finally, she looked at Ailsa and spoke. "I'm concerned about Maedhros. There seems to be something wrong with him…" She let the words trail off, hoping Ailsa would jump in with a confirmation of her fears.
"Yes?" Ailsa tried to act as if this was something she didn't know.
"I know it's not part of my job, but I do worry about him. He's not been himself for several days now. He wanders the halls at the oddest times, moving about like a shadow. The mister says he walked off in the middle of a conversation today. Sometimes I see him just standing on his balcony. In the kitchen I can hear him singing and all up there. It's lovely, but… he's not eating either. Not a bite, not even my berry cobbler. And not to be bragging, but you know how much he likes my cobbler! He barely even takes his tea!" She took a gulp of breath and continued, "And I know he's not sleeping either. Why do you know his bed has not been slept in at all these many days?" Ailsa watched Mrs. Whitehall's face as she spoke, and wondered if Maedhros really knew how much people cared about him.
"I know that he's had to deal with some personal problems lately." She decided she should try to reassure her. "I'll have a talk with him. He can't be neglecting his health and worrying people around him."
"Thank you Miss, I thought you'd be the right person to talk to." Ailsa could see that the older woman was quite relieved. "I mean your father is almost as bad. Oh, he's a good eater when he finally comes to the table, but he works much too hard down there with those books. What he really needs is some fresh air, if you ask me." Shaking her head at the foolishness of males, Mrs. Whitehall got up, her mission accomplished. At least the girl had some good sense. "I'll leave you to your work now, Miss." And she walked to the door. Ailsa suddenly had an idea and called after her. "Mrs. Whitehall?"
"Have your ever had Mexican food?" She asked.
"No, but I hear it is quite…lovely." Mrs. Whitehall looked skeptical.
"I've got a great idea." She said as she got up and walked to the housekeeper. "I can't compare to your cooking, but I make killer chicken Fajitas. I even make homemade tortillas. You won't have to do a thing. I'll even clean up. I'll tell Maedhros and my father that I'm making a special dinner and they have to attend." She smiled, loving the conspiracy of it all.
Mrs. Whitehall's eyes lit up. "Something different to entice him. That sounds like just the thing."
Ailsa began to think about all the things she would need. "I'll have to enlist your help getting the ingredients I'll need." She smiled to herself as she wondered if cilantro and jalapenos were readily available in the village.
"Count on me. Just give me a list and a couple of days." The twinkle was back in her china-blue eyes.
"Great. I'll make up the list and give it to you right away." Ailsa returned to the desk and pulled out a pad of paper and hurriedly listed everything she would need. She figured that since it was Tuesday, she could plan on the dinner for Friday. A perfect beginning for the weekend. In the meantime, she would see if she could make sure the men in her family ate a little better between now and then. And of course, she would have to get some Tequila…what was a Mexican dinner without Margaritas?
She gave the list to Mrs. Whitehall and was glad when the housekeeper indicated that she could get everything on it. Ailsa decided to let Maedhros and her father know about the dinner right away. She found them in the Archives; both of them bent over a scroll in deep discussion. They both looked up when they heard Ailsa bound down the stairs. She cleared her throat and announced, "Don't make any plans for Friday night. I'm inviting you to a homemade chicken Fajita dinner made by yours truly." She curtseyed slightly to both men. She then pointed directly at Maedhros and declared, "And you…you will learn to make the perfect Margarita."
"I will?" Maedhros asked as one eyebrow rose.
"Yes, you will." Ailsa stated adamantly.
Her father nudged Maedhros' arm. "Go with it Maedhros." He said eyeing him intently. "It's easier than arguing."
Ailsa didn't wait for a reply. She returned to the library and resumed her search on the web. She did smile to herself occasionally throughout the afternoon. A real family dinner party sounded great.
About mid-afternoon she heard her father call her excitedly from the Archives. "Ailsa, come down….hurry. You've got to see this," he shouted up the stairwell. She knew it wasn't anything they found in the Archives; it had to be the Shimmer. She rushed down the stairs and through the passageway. She found Maedhros standing on one side of the Shimmer. He watched it intently, arms folded across his chest, a hand on his chin. Her father was on the other side of the pool talking quickly into the recorder in his hand. She walked to the pool, her eyes glued to the dark scene in the mist.
It was night; the sounds of battle roared in the darkness. There was a great flash of lightening and suddenly a fortress built at the base a mountain appeared. Another flash and the gorge located below great snow-capped mountains filled with a black wave of twisted creatures armed with swords and spears rushing towards the fortress. Growling thunder rolled far above the battle, but even that great noise did little to silence the foul calls and screams of rage from the dark skinned creatures and their wild looking human companions as they moved ever forward with their attack. There were short gnarled things carrying long ladders and crude wooden catapults were being pushed along with the frenzied army. Rain began to fall in long heavy drops. Each flash of lightening illuminated some new horror.
Ailsa tried to look away. The deafening sounds of battle were frightening. What frightened her most was her ability to hear it all so very loud and clear from the Shimmer. Looking at her father, she asked. "How long has this been going on?"
Ewan turned, his face was full of excitement. "Isn't this great? It's the longest sequence yet. Seems to be some huge battle between men in the fortress and these things." He said absently pointing to the Shimmer. "Maedhros says the smaller ones are called Orcs."
"The increased sound began with this sequence." She heard Maedhros clear voice over her shoulder. He knew what she had meant.
Ewan drew their attention back to the Shimmer. "Look, there he is again." Ailsa turned to see what he was talking about.
Through the lightening flashes, they could see the black forces swarming closer to the walls. There was a broad stairway climbing from the floor of the gorge to the top of the battlements and the gate leading into the fortress. There was a man standing at the bottom of the stairs, a long sword in his hand urging soldiers up the stairway to the slowly closing gates. At the top of the stairs, an Elf knelt ready with his bow and nocked arrow. Ailsa tried to see through the rain and the flashes of lightening, but he seemed to be the only Elf participating in the battle. Another flash and the determined Elf's face was visible. Even in the pouring rain, his face battle smudged and wet, Ailsa recognized him. It was her Elf.
She could tell by the way he aimed his bow, he was protecting the man at the bottom of the staircase. She began to worry as she realized his quiver was empty and he had only the one arrow. The Elf called to the man, but his words were obscured by a blast of thunder. Then she heard him yell, "Telo!" The man must have been exhausted from the fighting because he turned and ran up the stairs only to stumble half way up. The Orcs ran after him, trying to reach him before he got up. One of the ugly things reached out to grab the man's leg only to fall back with the Elf's arrow in his throat. The other Orcs just jumped over the dead body of their comrade, bent on getting to the man. Before the Orcs could reach the top of the stairway, a giant boulder was dropped from the wall and smashed into them sending them back down to the floor of the gorge. The man and Elf made it to the nearly closed gates and safety.
"My God, this is good." Ewan said admiringly.
Ailsa tried to remember to breathe again. When she saw the creatures climbing up the steps after the man, she thought her heart would stop when she realized the Elf had only one arrow. Had she seen other weapons on him, she couldn't remember. Even with a sword or dagger, there were far too many of those foul things to be of any use.
The vision abruptly faded and moved on to a rather peaceful scene of grain harvesting. "No…" Ailsa said under her breath. She needed to know what happened. Which side won? She was still mystified as to why she cared. She noticed that her father was also disappointed when the scene changed. "Damn!" Ewan said and turned. "Just when it was getting exciting," He muttered as he left the room. Ailsa chuckled at her father's boyish response. Then there was Maedhros. She glanced over at the silent Elf.
His ears were still filled with the echoes of the battle they'd just witnessed. A battle not unlike many he himself had fought. It was not the exciting adventure it seemed to Ewan. It was life and death at their most raw, most desperate, and he found no joy in witnessing it.
She watched him as his attention was still fixed on the Shimmer. Evidently the harvesting of wheat was a special interest of his, or was he thinking of something else? "Interesting stuff, eh?" She asked half jokingly.
"Yes, I find the fact that I can hear their conversations from here to be most interesting." His voice was laced with sarcasm. Ailsa turned her attention back to the Shimmer and the harvesting. It was surprising to hear the gossipy conversations of the men and women in the sea of yellow wheat. She could also hear the wind as it made the heavy heads of the wheat shafts sway back and forth. Normally, this would be a pleasant thing to watch and hear, but considering where she was and what she was watching; it took on a strangeness that made her feel uncomfortable. "Why is the Shimmer changing like this?" She finally asked.
"It has never done this before. Never." Maedhros said intensely, more to himself than to Ailsa.
"The really scary part of all this is the way the sound keeps getting louder. Why?" She pondered.
"It gives an impression that it is building up to something." Maedhros gestured with his hand.
"Well, whatever it's up to, I wish it would get on with it." Ailsa sighed. "This 'a little of this' and 'a little of that' is frankly becoming just a little boring."
Maedhros gave her a sidelong glance. "I think you need to realize that something has been put into motion that could be affecting these visions." His brows came together in a frown. "And it may not be a good thing."
"Or the glass could be half full?" Ailsa smiled trying to lighten the mood. "Really, Maedhros, it could be a wonderful thing that we can hear their voices in the visions now, it'll make our work so much easier. We'll be able to find out the names of places and the identity of all the people we've been watching."
Sighing heavily, Maedhros closed his eyes and gently shook his head from side to side. He then raised his hand in submission. "I surrender. I can not fight your reasoning today. My mind is too full of other things to even try."
"Well then, since it's still light out, I'd like to ask you to join me for a very short walk." She asked, hoping he would consent. "And then we can sit down and have a nice dinner." That was the only way she would be sure he would eat something. She'd make sure her father was there as well.
"Why not." Maedhros consented, resigned to his fate.
Ailsa was very proud of the way she had maneuvered the two males in her family into joining her for dinner that night. Mrs. Whitehall made a hearty soup, including a wonderful fall salad with walnuts and apples mixed in with the various local greens and even some of her father's favorite whole-wheat rolls fresh from the oven. There was also an apple pie for dessert.
After dinner, they sat in the dining hall with their coffee and tea talking about…nothing really. Just little stories told by Ailsa and Ewan to embarrass each other in front of Maedhros. He even chuckled once or twice at some silly thing either Ailsa or her father had done. It turned out to be a typical night at the dinner table of the world's most unusual family.
Finally, Ewan yawned behind his hand. "Well, I'm going to make it an early night for once." Wiping his mouth with his napkin, he stood up and pushed his chair back. Putting his arm across his chest as he had seen Maedhros do as a salute, he bowed and wished them both, "Good night all. Ir abarad."
"Post vaer Ewan" Maedhros bowed his head in reply.
"'Night Dad," Ailsa smiled.
Ailsa finished her coffee and started to think of bed herself. Maedhros was finishing his tea, but a moment later he instantly froze. He dropped the cup on the saucer breaking them both and startling Ailsa. He stood, his eyes frantically searching the room as if he was expecting to see someone.
"Maedhros? What is it?" She quickly asked.
"Can you not hear it?" Maedhros replied. "It fills the room."
Ailsa looked around the room straining to hear what had caused him to react so. Maedhros rushed out of the room. "Where are you going?" She called after him. Deciding to follow him, she grabbed her jacket and ran through the kitchen to the back of the house hoping to catch up with him. As she reached the garden, she caught only a glimpse of his back as he entered the woods.
Half way down the stairs she suddenly heard singing and stopped. Such a voice! Not even Maedhros could come close to the utter holiness of it. It was all magic and beauty, filling her very soul with its sound. She had to find out who belonged to that voice. Sprinting down the rest of the stairs, she leaped over the last two steps, and ran into the woods. Ailsa raced breathlessly through the trees praying she wouldn't trip with only the waning moon as her guide. Maedhros was too far ahead to be seen, but she knew he was on his way to the cliff. There was no doubt; it was there she would also find the singer.
Finally breaking through the trees, she stood in the pale moonlight and glanced up and down the empty coastline. The singing abruptly stopped. There was only one other place the voice could have come from. She walked to the edge of the cliff and saw Maedhros rushing down the path to the beach. On the beach, a boat had been pulled up on the dry sand and a tall man stood watching Maedhros' descent.
Maedhros couldn't run fast enough. When he first heard the singing in the dining room, he thought the madness had come back to him. But then he realized the song did not resonate in his mind alone, but in his ears as well. Ailsa apparently had not heard, but to him its sound was as clear as the purest notes of a silver flute, beckoning him to follow its call.
He nearly soared from the cliff top when he saw the figure dragging the boat onto the beach. He had not called out, still afraid he was wrong and that it was some tormenting waking dream he was forced to endure. The singing stopped and the singer stood expectantly as Maedhros made his way down the path. Maedhros jumped the last few feet onto the beach and stood there for a moment.
He still looked the way Maedhros remembered him. Tall and slender, with eyes the identical shade of grey as his own. Maedhros could not see much more as tears of joy obscured his vision. He felt his heart was going to burst, but found the breath to call out, "Maglor!"
"Maedhros!" Maglor called back as he ran to his brother.
To be continued.
Ir abarad = Until tomorrow.
Post vaer = Sleep well.
Tithen min = Little one.
Melethen = My love.
Tithen aiwe = Little bird.
Telo = Come!
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.