13. Friendship, Vienna, Europe, 1781
He raised his mug again. He was, once again, sitting in the "Golden Angel". The beer was good – having a taste in good beer was a tradition among the proprietors of this establishment, solicitously kept up since the pub had opened as "Yellow Eagle" sometime in the 15th century.
Not that Elentar frequented the establishment quite that long.
But long enough: he stared into his mug, trying to remember when he had first come to this pub.
It had not been called the "Golden Angel" then, but the "Red Roof". A friendly, clean tavern, offering good beer and fresh food. The perfect place to celebrate his engagement. The perfect day, too. Sunny, and bright with spring, bright with hope. For his Katharina was smiling at him – and her father was smiling at him, too. Her good for nothing brother, of course, cheerful as ever, was grinning widely, too. And his heart had been so wide, so wide with the possibilities of this new world and this new city and a new craft…
Crawling ashore near Le Havre, in the middle of the seventeenth century, Elentar had spent his first ten years in this world on sailing ships. It had been the natural thing to do: he did not know any of the languages of this new and fascinating world, but he did know how to do a sailor's job – even though the ships of this world were much taller than the ones he was used to. And that much experience in life he already had: to make a life, you had to make a living.
He downed another mug and signalled the serving wench for another.
Working as a sailor had been the natural thing to do. But the memory of the oceans of this world still made his skin crawl. It had been more than just his experience as a sailor and the need to earn money that had made him take ship in Le Havre. It had been a desire to keep a connection to his past, however tenuous it might be. The waters of his home world had echoed with the song of creation, the Ainulindalë… that was the real reason for why his first instinct had been to take ship again in this strange new world.
He accepted the new mug and drank deeply.
He put down the beaker with a thump.
Here everything was different. This was not like his home – the place where he was born, he corrected himself quickly. He had been foolish to expect that it would be the same in any way.
For it was not. And it would never be.
Another swallow. The beer was good in this tavern. As good as it had always been.
As good as it had been, when he had come here first, fleeing the ocean and its silence. He had reached this beautiful city in May 1675, ready to make a new start. And when he had met Katharina Augustin… and her brother, the singer Marx… and her father, the merchant… And suddenly, suddenly this strange new world had been full of life and full of opportunities…
And another swallow.
Before Katharina's brother had started drinking and whoring. Before the plague had struck.
Elentar signalled for another refill.
When he had still believed that this world could really become his home. The home of his heart, for his heart had brown hair and laughing eyes, and when she danced with him, in this very tavern, he felt as if he could leap for joy…
The tenth pint, and he knew he could not afford another.
Why did he keep coming here? Did he enjoy the torture of those sweet memories of a distant spring?Her loving smile – her brother's cheerful, drunken song…
"Every day was a fest,
Now we just have the pest!
Now all the corpses rest,
That is the rest."
His throat was tight. His eyes burned.
Her brother… drinking and singing…while she…
While she ---
And there had been nothing he could do.
He put down the empty mug.
Ten pints of ale were not enough to brighten Elentar's outlook on this part of the universe in any way. What he needed was schnapps, and lots of it. To forget where he was just for a few hours. Drugs would be better, but drugs were even more expensive. Checking the contents of his pockets, Elentar arrived miserably at the conclusion that he would probably not even be able to acquire enough hard liquor to make any difference where his state of consciousness was concerned.
He leaned against the rear wall of the pub and allowed himself to sag down to the ground. "Damn!" he muttered. "I should have drowned when I could."
But he had not drowned, not in his own world, nor in this world.
He sat on the icy stones and stared off into the twilight, willing himself not to think and not to remember. It was cold. There was even a hint of frost in the air. Not a good sign for the farmers, he mused. And not a good omen for him, who had planned to work as a farmhand again this year. But in spite of the cold, he did not even bother to pull his threadbare cloak closer around his body. The fabric was so thin by now that it would not make any difference. A passer-by stopped for a moment, frowning at Elentar, then chucked a copper penny at his feet and moved on. Elentar picked up the penny. One penny closer to inebriation and cherished moments of forgetting. Obviously he already looked like a beggar. Maybe he should have a stab at working as a professional mendicant? He knew where to find the chief of Vienna's beggars well enough. But so far something had always kept him from taking this final step towards… towards what? It was not as if he had any status he could lose. "But mother wouldn't approve," he whispered, the sound of his voice a far-away hiss in the darkening twilight.
Suddenly a voice issued from inside the pub. It was a male voice, not blessed with the range of a professional singer, but with a beauty and precision that was well beyond that of any singing voice that Elentar had encountered in this world so far. The singer grated his voice deliberately, but he also slurred the words. That man was drunk. Very drunk. Elentar sighed with envy, before the words registered with him and he flinched as if struck by a whip.
"O, my dear friend Augustin,
O, my dear friend Augustin,
I just can't win!"
Why did this song have to survive, if his Katharina had not? Why did the world remember the drunken song of her good-for-nothing brother, and only he was left to remember her sweet smile? Her gentle demeanour? Her hopes for children and a life… together with him?
The door was thrust open, and a medium sized man with the slender figure of someone who does not have to do bodily labour for a living, stumbled down two of the three stairs. His powdered wig was askew, the laces of his trousers halfway undone. He stared blearily at Elentar for a moment, then he attempted a bow that almost sent him flying down the last stair.
"Monsieur, I am very sorry. But I am drunk. And now, if you will excuse me." The man turned almost gracefully to the other side of the stair and vomited copiously, clinging to the stair rail. Once he was finished, he burped nosily and coughed a little.
"Ah, that's better." He turned to Elentar again and gave him a surprisingly sweet smile. "And now for a little relief of another kind. You will pardon me, monsieur. I know – I am a pig. But I can't help it, I was born that way." He stepped down the last stair and stalked around to the other side of the stair, moving as if he was walking on raw eggs. Elentar watched him, involuntarily fascinated. The man's clothing was made of good, thick fabric, if slightly foppish in style. He wore silk stockings that once must have been white. One of them was coming loose, and wriggling like a little lad's socks around his right leg.
He carefully walked around the mess he'd made. Then he completely undid the laces of his trousers and began to piss against the wall. Elentar stared. There was a perfectly convenient outhouse in the courtyard of the tavern for customers. Taking a leak in the gutter was not at all necessary. While he was pissing, the strange gentleman (for no matter what else he was besides drunk and perhaps crazy, he certainly was a gentleman with this charming and graceful demeanour) began to sing again.
"Money's gone, girlfriend's gone,
I just can't win, Augustin!
O, my dear friend Augustin,
I just can't win!"
Once he was finished, he fumbled at his fly, trying to tie the laces back up. Just for a moment, he stopped singing, humming wordlessly instead, and a completely different tune. A tune that sounded strangely harmonious for a mindless melody accompanying the efforts of a drunkard to get more or less decent again. Finally the man was content with his efforts, or gave up the organization of his laces as a lost cause. Giving the steaming lake created by his pee a wide berth, he returned to where Elentar was sitting.
"Mon ami, you look as if the world's a cruel place. I sympathize. What's more – I agree. Homo proponit, Deus disponit, as my father likes to say. Man proposes, God disposes. What you need to do, is get drunk enough to forget your sorrows." He stopped for a moment and, with a quite distant and otherworldly expression on his face started humming again. This time the melody was even clearer than before, and Elentar felt a curious twinge in his heart. Almost as if he was hearing the language of his home world again, the beloved sounds of Sindarin the way his mother had spoken the language.
The humming broke off, and Elentar found himself under the scrutiny of suddenly surprising sharp and bright eyes.
"You look lonely," the stranger said matter-of-factly. "And if I may be so bold as to guess… you are lacking the funds to seek the relief of your sorrows that I have already enjoyed tonight." The man gave Elentar a wry smile and made to sit down next to him. "May I, monsieur? The view seems to be quite appealing from where you are sitting."
"Of course… monsieur…" Elentar was not yet quite adept at the various forms of politeness of the many languages he had encountered in this world so far.
"Ahh," The man settled down on Elentar's right, affecting a content sigh. "Quite, quite."
For a while they sat side by side, with the man humming and staring into the gloaming as if he was seeing quite another world there than anyone else. Elentar wondered if it was appropriate to inquire for the name of his new companion. Suddenly, the humming stopped again. "Alas, 'tis not as if I had funds to squander on drinking myself, but it's a cheerful way of squandering if squandering is what is one's nature. Forgive me though, monsieur, for I have been terribly impolite. Taking a seat next to you in such a familiar manner without even introducing myself. But that, if nothing else, can be quite easily remedied." The man tried to pat his wig in place (a wasted effort) and inclining his head politely to Elentar.
"I'm Mozart. Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. They call me Amadé. I actually prefer Wolfgang. 'Tis the best name of the lot – for at the moment God does not seem to have great love for me, and my lifestyle is ill suited for the name of saints. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"I am Elentar," Elentar said, just a little overwhelmed.
"Elentar?" Mozart asked. "What does that mean?"
Then he proceeded to drunkenly sing-song, "e-len-taar-ellen-tar-e-leeeen-taaar-el-lellelleenntaar". Elentar frowned and did not reply. This Wolfgangus Mozart was certainly a strange man. Stopping as suddenly with his singing as he had done before with his humming, Mozart repeated his question.
"No surname? You are unfettered by the grisly bounds of familial connections and the burden of keeping a good name unsoiled by your honest opinions? Why, your are a most lucky man, mon ami! But what does it mean, your name? For I am sure it has a meaning: it sounds like music in my ears. Not that this is so surprising, for everything sounds like music in my ears – which is not as bad as it may sound, for I am, indeed, a musician, and it is my profession to have music in my ears. So what does this mean, this 'E – len – tar'?"
"It means…" Elentar blinked. Again, this bright look… the man was not half as drunk as he pretended to be. For some bizarre reason Mozart wanted to talk to him. Maybe an artist's quirky ways? He realized that Mozart was also not one to let go easily of anything that had caught his interest and curiosity.
"It means 'king of the stars'," Elentar said resignedly.
"Oh," sighed the musician, and started humming again. "How does it happen that a king of the stars is a beggar in Vienna?"
Then he grinned at Elentar. "Mon ami, I sense delightful tales and many melodies. Let's get drunk together. Let's be friends. For I tell you, I need a friend right now. Let's waste what funds I have left and get wasted with what I have!"
He got to his feet and extended a hand to Elentar. For a moment Elentar stared at the hand. It had been years since the last time anyone had touched him. But the melodies that seemed to follow this man, this Mozart, wherever he went, touched more than his hand – they touched his heart. The first faint echo of the Ainulindalë he had heard in this world. He reached out and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet.
"I don't get drunk easily," he replied in warning.
"Don't worry," Mozart replied. "I suffer from no such difficulties. And now come with me, I know where there's the best schnapps to be had in all of Vienna."
He put his arm around Elentar and led him off down the street, leaving a pool of stale urine and a heap of vomit behind them. Once they were around the next corner, he started singing again,
"Coat is gone, staff is gone,
Augustin's on his bum.
O, my dear friend Augustin,
I just can't win!"
Elentar flinched again, as if he wanted to duck away from the memories conjured up by words and melody. But he allowed himself to be led away. There was something to this Mozart that was quite irresistible – and he had no other plans for the night anyway.
"He simply said to me 'May he leave, I don't need him!'. He dismissed me with a kick in the seat of my pants." In illustration Mozart rose from his seat and slapped himself firmly on his behind, almost propelling himself into his glass. Only a quick lunge of Elentar saved the precious bottle. The schnapps was strong, but not strong enough. It would not make Elentar drunk enough to forget who he was, what he was, and where he came from. But the company of his new friend – vulgar, charming, noisy – accomplished what this world's weak brews could not.
"Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, PSHAW! A monkey with a title, that's what he is. Named for a saint and translator, and couldn't translate the easiest score into music. And like a monkey he kept me. A kept musician." Mozart laughed, but it was a bitter laugh. "Trained me to do cartwheels for him and to sit and beg whenever His Illustrious Highness pleases… Damn, what a fool I was that I thought I could actually work for His Snobbishness." He downed another glass. "Ah, it may be for the best: for now I am released of his bonds, no longer a bond servant am I, and this city –" he smacked his lips, "– this city, Elentar, it appeals to me. I shall settle down here. And I shall make music here!" A few measures of humming interrupted his speech. "Music! And I shall become famous here! And rich! Ah, my friend, let's drink to the good times that are to come!"
Elentar smiled in spite of himself and raised his glass in return. He should find out where Mozart's lodgings were, so that he could get the musician home safely once he had collapsed. For that was Mozart's declared goal of the night – get as drunk as possible and forget the ignominy of being thrown out of the count's service like a simple servant.
And there was no doubt in Elentar's mind that Mozart would succeed with this plan at least: there was method to the man's madness.
There was less method to Mozart's way of making money with his music.
The summer had turned hot, and the wine had failed almost completely, with the grapes drying to raisins on the vines. Nevertheless it was pleasant to sit on the terrace of this tavern outside of Vienna and enjoy the warm summer evening. The air was thick with the scent of hay and hot earth. And though it was real wine and not young, sprightly Heuriger in their goblets, the wine was good and the night tasted sweet.
"Making you a servant at the estate of His Illustriousness was the best joke I ever played on someone," Mozart elaborated. "So you did as I asked and sang the new song right outside his window?"
Elentar grinned. He had done as Mozart had asked him. And why not? It was a great bawdy tune, and just the kind of song you would expect a stable hand to sing. It did not hurt that it was right below the bedroom window of His Illustrious Highness, Count Hieronymus von Colloredo. Though – being just the kind of song that had (among other things) led to Mozart's dismissal by the count a few months earlier – it could safely be said that it did hurt the count's ears and did nothing for his mood. If Elentar had not been the best groom His Highness had ever had, if His Highness had not had such a soft spot for his beautiful horses, no doubt Elentar would have been dismissed after a few weeks with an even heftier kick in the seats of his pants than the one Mozart had received. But as the count loved his horses, and as Elentar was the best man to take care of those horses that the count had ever had in his service, Elentar stayed – and the count acquired a habit of throwing his windows shut with a bang and a crash each morning.
"I did sing that song," Elentar said. "You know I like it. Though – I don't think my overlord shares my taste in music. His visage was quite given to scowling as he took his horse from me this morning."
Mozart succumbed to a wheezing fit of laughter. A practical joker, he enjoyed nothing so much at the moment as composing bawdy songs and making Elentar sing them within the count's hearing.
"Ah, mon ami," Mozart sighed happily. "How glorious! And your singing voice is so much better than mine! I really have to come up with another little ditty-hitty-titty-tit-tit-titty…" He chuckled at the rhyme.
Suddenly, however, his smile vanished, and the happy sounds of another dirty tune turned into something else. Elentar was used to these mood swings by now. His friend seemed to be filled with music to the brim. Had the aspect of a full goblet of wine and a joke shared with his companion inspired a bawdy song one minute, a glance at the overcast sky, at a flower, or the sound of a bird could provoke the melody of a profound aria, or the soft swaying score of a concert in the next.
"You are still lonely, mon ami," Mozart said abruptly, turning his attention to Elentar from wherever he had been a moment ago. "I can see it in your beautiful grey eyes. There is a great sorrow to you, as great as that mystery you insist keeping from me. No, no – keep it, keep it. Every man has secrets. Some that he wants, some that he doesn't. Ah, loneliness…" He sipped at his wine. "I know the taste of loneliness well. Friends and understanding souls are few and far between. Yet… somehow it is from loneliness, a separateness of the soul, if you will, that I draw my inspiration."
Elentar poured more wine and settled down to listen. There was nothing he could say about this. He was not an artist or a musician, in spite of his clear voice and keen perception of rhythm.
Mozart started humming again, but in a low voice, just under his breath.
"I read a poem the other day… by Johann Timotheus Hermes. About loneliness, that was. Loneliness as a refuge and solace." He raised his glass to Elentar. "It seems to me that it's a poem to fit you, my friend. You find your home in your loneliness. One day, though, you may find that loneliness is not enough in life." Mozart fell silent again, humming almost noiselessly.
Elentar sucked his breath, his shoulders tense. So much attention on his person made him uncomfortable. And besides, what else was there for him in this world?
He had tried the ocean. Back in his own world and in his own time, being a sailor had been closest to being happy that he had ever come, with the rough, taciturn companionship found among the crews of sailing vessels, and the echo of the Ainulindalë singing in the waves… Here, however… Elentar shuddered. There was no song of creation in this world. Or at least, it was not in this world the way it was – had been – in his world. The magic, the very matter of this world was alien to him, and the oceans were only bodies of water with waves and fish and storms, and no song, no song. Leaving seas and ships behind, Elentar had made his way as far inland as he could. He could live without the Ainulindalë. He had to. It had been his choice; and there was no going back on it. But he could not bear listening to the seas, and hearing only waves and wind.
"One day, though, you will need something else!" Mozart interrupted his dark thoughts, by cheerily thumping his goblet on the table. "Elentar, I met a girl."
A light shone in Mozart's eyes. "Nay – forgive me for this blunder! I met a woman, and I tell you, she is the woman of my heart – and my life. Her name is Constanze. You will have to meet her. You will love her!" He broke off, took another swig of wine. "And my father will hate her," he continued morosely.
"I would be delighted to meet the woman who makes your eyes shine like that," Elentar put in, feeling the sting of loneliness a little more acute than before.
"Oh!" Mozart cried, "She does not only make my eyes shine! She makes the world shine! She is – my sunshine!" Again he stopped talking, trilling a few measures of an excited little song. Then the song changed again, to a more measured pace.
"There! We were talking about loneliness. I shall make a song for you, a song to loneliness. And it shall remind you of me forever."
"Why do you want to give me a song?" Elentar was perplexed.
"Because," Mozart said, "you are one of the few people I have encountered in my life, who understand the magic of music and its power. You understand every word I say to you about music, no matter if it's a ditty to annoy His Illustriousness, a song to bring a poem to life, or a symphony. There's music inside you, too. One day, I am sure of it, you will discover its power. The powerful magic of music!" He broke off and rolled his eyes, laughing off the pathos of his words. "And," he added, a warm smile on his face, "because you are a friend, mon ami, and although I cannot heal your loneliness, I can give you a song for it. So that's what I will do."
It was an icy winter, the winter of 1791. The gravediggers had had a hard time of loosening enough soil to be able to cover the new body in the communal grave of the first precinct in the cemetery of St Marx.
"A miserable day for being buried," one of them muttered, throwing another shovel of half-frozen earth down into the grave.
"Indeed," the other gravedigger agreed, "The poor widow, could you see how cold she was? Shivering all over!"
"Might be the grievin', too," the first one suggested. "It gets right bodily to some of them, I knew one widow, burly as they come –"
"Oh, stop it, I know all yer tales," the second one grumbled. "D'ye know who he was? I over'eard how he was given his last blessing in the chapel of St Stephen yester eve, so I don' see no reason for there being such a populace scurrying to a cheap grave on such a cold day."
"Aye," the first man agreed. "What with the cold, I shoulda' thunk they'd be right and content with bidding their farewells in the church, I would. Where there's warmer and the way to the pub's not quite as far."
He scooped up the next shovel of dirt. "But aye, I happen to know who he was. A composer that's what he was, a musician of sorts. Must have been quite famous a few years ago. Of the name of Mozart, Wolfgang Amadé. That's why the crowd and all."
"Not as famous as he used to be then," the second man commented. "Or he's wasted his famous money, getting put into a common grave that way."
"Yep," said the first, surveying the result of their work. Not a bit of the white shroud peeked through the dark heap of earth anymore. "Had he been smart, he'd be laid out in one of those." He jerked his elbow at the mausoleums of the rich and the nobility that lined the "good" side of the graveyard. "But famous doesn' equal smart, obviously."
The other man nodded and shouldered his shovel. "We're done. Let's go."
Without another glance at the grave, they turned around and hurried away, eager to get back into the warmth and share a mug of mulled wine or some spirits to drive the cold out of their bones.
Only when they were safely out of sight, Elentar stepped out of the shadows of a nearby mausoleum and walked to the grave.
There was not much there. A large square hole in the ground, secured by boards and planks, frozen, rugged heaps of old earth covering an indiscernible number of dead bodies, and a new, irregular heap of cold, dark earth in left-hand corner at the front of the grave. It was a communal grave like many others in this year of 1791, as clean and orderly as the communal laws demanded. There should have been a wooden marker somewhere, but somehow it had been forgotten or left off from the start - probably because the earth was too hard with the winter's cold to hammer a marker's post into the ground. And it was only a common grave, so it was not really vital to have a proper marker for it. The surviving loved ones of the dead knew where it was, after all. And once they were dead, what interest could posterity have in where a commoner had been laid to rest? It was the marble tombs of lords and rulers that ensuing ages would be looking for, not the grave of a musician whose fame had already been on the decline.
Elentar stood at the grave and stared at the small, longish heap of earth down below. He did not shiver or bother to pull his threadbare cloak closer around his body. He never did that. Because it would not help.
"So many songs, my friend," he whispered, "remain unsung now that you are gone. I wonder what they'll think of you, three hundred years from now, what they'll remember of you. For that I know – they will remember you. Marker or no marker." He looked around the gravesite searchingly, but there was really nothing available that could be turned even into a makeshift marker. "Will they remember your symphonies and your operas? Or the bawdy hitty-titty-ditties you enjoyed so much, I wonder." Elentar sighed, his breath a cloud of white in the gathering twilight. "Probably the symphonies. Not even your beloved Constanze cared overmuch for your favourite tunes."
He fell silent, staring down at what remained of a life lived and loved in this strange world. A life filled with the song of creation.
Now Elentar did shiver, the grief getting to him after all, just like the gravedigger had put it. He dashed impatiently at his burning eyes and fumbled in his coat pocket. He had stolen the bloom of a white lily from the hothouse of the count.
A bit worse for wear with cold and being carried in a cloak pocket, the lily was already wilting. But it was still an elegant flower, and Elentar knew that humans brought flowers to the graves of their friends and loved ones.
"Whoever created this world, wherever the Timeless Halls are for your people, I hope that you are there now, and that the music is good."
Elentar threw the blossom into the grave and quickly turned away, hurrying down along the path towards the gate of the cemetery.
In his mind echoed a verse of a song, a silly song, a song that marked the first love and the first friendship he had had in this world:
Lay down in your coffin!
O, my dear friend Augustin,
I just can't win!"
Please see my forum for copious A/N about this chapter.
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.