The Return of the Shadow: 14. Another Story

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14. Another Story

"O, my dear friend Augustin," Mina repeated, her voice hoarse. She looked from the curling bit of old newspaper to the pale face of…

…the pale face of…

She swallowed, but the lump in her throat stayed where it was, as her brain refused to process the story she had just been told.

…Elentar Elrohirion.
Elentar, king of the stars, son of Elrohir.
Peredhel.
Half-elven.

Travelling across time and space…

"I know this is hard to believe," he said. There was a hint of darkness in his eyes that told her he was already regretting his spontaneous confession.

And what a confession! She had expected some kind of explanation for his reaction to that newspaper clipping. She had not expected him to tell her the story of his whole life. And no one could have expected that story.

She felt dazed.

"But I swear, Mina, it's the truth! Every word I said. It's true. It's my story. My life."

He sounded as if he himself sometimes had doubts about that. About his very existence. There was a touch of panic to his voice, a hint of shaking: am I real? Am I?

"Look, I can prove it," he said, a little too quickly, a little too painfully. He turned his head to the left and lowered it slightly, with his right hand he grabbed his hair, the dark mess of sheltering dread locks, and swept it back and upwards, revealing a smooth, sculpted neck, almost chiselled muscles and veins... and a beautifully pointed ear.

This was definitely the wrong moment for her heart to speed up and her insides to liquefy with a wash of desire. She cleared her throat.

"I – uh – I saw your ear this morning," she replied at last, her mind not really registering what she was saying. Sudden heat suffused her cheeks.

"The towel," she stammered, feeling like an idiot, "it had, it was – it did not cover the ear."

He frowned at her. It was obviously not the reaction he had expected. Mina sucked her lips into her mouth and bit down on them. It was not the kind of reaction he deserved. He had, without a moment's notice, revealed the story of his life to her. And all she did was stare at his ear. She blinked, once more trying to make sense of what he told her, rubbing her forehead in an effort to clear her head.

"You don't believe me." He drew back. Instinctively she reached out for him. Her fingertips touched the smooth pliable tissue of the ear. Elentar flinched as if she had struck him, even as she pulled back.

"I'm sorry," she said, flustered.

He got to his feet. "I think I'd better go now."

He turned around without looking at her.

"No! No! You misunderstood!" She jumped to her feet. "Elentar, wait! I do believe you! Really, I do! This, this – your story, it's just, it's –" She grabbed for his arm and turned him around so that he faced her. Could an arm feel spicy to the touch? But whatever it was, the sensation was enough to make her skin tingle.

"– it's just that's a bit much to wrap my mind around. Especially… so, well, it's not the kind of story I expected to hear," she concluded lamely. He did not relax under her touch, but he also did not try to pull away.

"I do believe you," she repeated.

He stared at her, a dubious, wary expression in his face. "Why?"

Mina looked back at him, her heart racing, as her mind put together the pieces of quite another puzzle.

"It's a long story," she said at last. "And I think you should read it yourself."

"A story?" He frowned.

She rolled her eyes at him in exaggerated exasperation. Somehow that helped; the tension in her body lessened just a little, enough to let her breathe more deeply.

"Yes," she repeated. "A story."

She led the way to the living room and went to the antique chest of drawers to the left of the front window. She knelt down in front of it, hesitating with her hands on the silver handles of the bottom drawer.

"My uncle – the brother of my father – is a lawyer in Bavaria, in Erlangen. A university town near Nürnberg."

Mina turned to the side, so she could glance at Elentar. He had followed her, but kept a distance. His confession seemed to have overwhelmed him as much as it had her. It was strange, but now that she knew his story, the distance between them was even wider than before. It's always a delicate balance with him, she mused. Now I have to share a secret with him, so we get back on even footing. Good thing that I have such a secret.

Her stomach did a weird flip. Before Elentar had told her his story, the secret had not been much of a secret; more like an oddity better kept hidden in the bottom-most drawer of the cupboard and not thought about much. She exhaled shakily.

"He married a single mother. A very… eccentric woman. He met her working on a case. She was a client. She wanted to name her daughter 'Lothíriel', but German law is kind of unimaginative where names are concerned."

It was obvious that Elentar had no idea what she was talking about.

"It's a name from 'The Lord of the Rings'," Mina explained. Somehow this situation felt more than just slightly surreal. "She married Éomer – the king of Rohan – at the beginning of the Third Age."

Elentar frowned at her. As if he still did not really believe that the Middle-earth of that book and those movies was his Arda.

"My uncle won the law-suit about the name," Mina went on. "The child was called 'Lothíriel', and he married her mother." Now the tricky part. "Lothíriel grew up and studied law. We used to visit them once a year. Then… in the summer two years ago… she vanished. She told everyone she went on a hiking holiday or something, right before the exams. But she never came back."

"And what has that to do with…?"

"With you? Nothing. At least not at first glance." Mina turned around completely now, facing Elentar. "I believed that maybe she ran away, or was the victim of a crime. They never found out what happened to her. Then… last summer… her mother called me. She said she was in Berlin, and she had to meet me. She needed me to translate some Sindarin."

Mina had not believed a word of what her uncle's wife had told her. Maybe because she would have liked to believe it so very much. She shook her head and briskly opened the drawer. What she pulled out of it, was a heavy package of neatly copied pages.

"Here," Mina said and held the package out to Elentar. "Read that. My aunt told me that she got a package in the mail one day. In the regular German mail. A wooden chest that contained a leather-bound book, a diary, among other things. Lothíriel's diary. She…" Mina stared at Elentar. Somewhere underneath those dreadlocks pointy ears were hidden… Somewhere behind those dark eyes, that young face… possibly, possibly a life of many hundred years lay hidden.

"She claims that she travelled to Middle-earth."

Elentar's eyebrows shot up, disbelief plainly visible on his face.

The absurdity of the scene did not escape her; after telling her that he hailed from another world and that the native language of his father was Sindarin, he could not believe that someone from this world had ended up in his world.

Mina gave Elentar a wry smile. "I did not believe the story either. I thought it was some elaborate fantasy, something my aunt had made up, so she had something to cling to, when she really thought that her daughter was dead."

"But?"

"The mistakes in the Sindarin." Mina felt her cheeks flush with heat again, remembering how Elentar had tried to improve her accent. "There are some pages that look like exercises in Sindarin. The mistakes… they feel very real."

He just stared at her. Mina shook her head at him. She would not argue with him about this story. She simply shoved the package into his hands.

"Read it. I'll go and make another pot of tea. I need some."

And a bottle of hard liquor…she wanted to add, but did not – it was not precisely true, and she had the feeling that it would not help anyway with whatever she was getting involved in here.

oooOooo

"I am a freak. I have to admit it. I just am.
Perhaps I could not help myself.
After all, it's in my name.

My name is Lothíriel.

It's a name from a book, and not just any book. It's from "The Lord of the Rings". Somewhere in its various appendices and additional volumes, there is a Lothíriel in there. She is supposed to be a ranger, a female Dúnadan and daughter of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, who married King Éomer of Rohan in 3020 of the Third Age…"

Elentar stared at the page. It was a photocopied page, but it looked as if it was the copy of a piece of parchment, not the thin, even wood-pulp paper that was used here and now, but something thicker, smoother. And whoever had written this had used a quill – and had not been familiar with using one. The writing was unsteady, and there were lots of ink spots and smudges.

From the kitchen he heard the sound of the electric kettle and Mina's steps, pacing nervously back and forth, in an unsteady, unsettled rhythm.

"But?"

"The mistakes in her Sindarin..."

The look on Mina's face! He did not have to be a mind reader to know what she had been thinking. What about her own mistakes in Sindarin? He tried to shake off the feeling of warmth that was creeping over him at the thought. It had been much too good to hear his father's tongue again. And Mina's careful, halting, sometimes stilted pronunciation had something very endearing.

Much too endearing.

He looked back at the page in front of him.

"Read it. I'll go and make another pot of tea. I need some."

"I was sure that finally I would live up to my name: Lothíriel, ranger, Dúnadan; finally free! Finally on the road to her destiny!
If only I had known…"

oooOooo

Mina paced back and forth in the kitchen while the water heated up in the electric kettle. She got the teapot ready. She put out mugs. Sugar. Milk. Honey. Who used honey with Darjeeling? She put the honey away again.

"O, my dear friend Augustin."

What if everything he said was true? She stopped in her tracks, her thoughts going to the neat package of copied pages. What if everything she said was true, too?

She started pacing again. But he was born in the Fourth Age. He had given the year of his birth with 325 of the Fourth Age. She put down her hands on the sideboard to steady herself.

If he had been born in 325 – and this woman, this Jarro McCourt – the one who had died here – and Lothíriel – she would have been dead for a long time when Elentar had been born – yet, if everything was true, if this was indeed her story, if this package had reached Lothíriel's mother 2004 – 2004, when Elentar and his mother had been alive in the same world…

The kettle clicked noisily. Mina jumped, her heart racing. How she needed some tea right now! Her hand was shaking as she poured the water into the pot.

"I'm going crazy, running around in circles in my mind – and in my kitchen," she muttered to herself and sat down, only to jump up again at once to remove the sieve with the tea-leaves from the pot, to get out a package of biscuits and to circle her small kitchen once more. She forced herself to sit down again and poured herself a cup of tea.

A tiny crumb of tealeaf floated in circles in her cup.

That's exactly how she felt, Mina reflected, a tiny crumb of something, caught up in something else, something huge and hot and unfathomable. Hot… she frowned at her tea. She should be having a screaming fit or perhaps be plotting how to get this homeless tramp and elf back where he belonged. She should not be thinking about how smoothly sculpted his neck looked, and the perfect angle of his jawbones… or the delicious point of his ear.

She blinked at her tea. And of course, she should not believe him. It was without doubt, the perfect cover story to exploit a woman who was living alone, obviously into fantasy and in need of male company. She took an experimental sip of tea. Tea always steadied her nerves, for some reason. It was a ridiculous story, of course. An elf. From Arda.

From Arda…

She frowned. She had said "Middle-earth". He had said "Arda". And "Arda" was not mentioned in "The Lord of the Rings" at all, her scholar's brain amended at once. It was a word from "The Silmarillion", from "Unfinished Tales". Elentar had described Esgaroth, Pelargir and Umbar so vividly that she had felt she could see those places with her own eyes: the white villa of his parents in Esgaroth, the dirty docks and the noisy fish market in Pelargir, the scent of spices and dust in Umbar. Places she associated more with "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", maybe the appendices of "The Lord of the Rings". And yet, when she had mentioned the name 'Lothíriel', it had not meant anything to him. Just as the randomly dropped name of a queen from the 16th century did not mean much to her. In fact, Elentar did not really seem to know "The Lord of the Rings" at all, she realized. Yet he knew names and places that only someone with a deep and intimate knowledge of Tolkien's works would know. Or someone who was one hundred percent certifiable.

But even that did not explain the Sindarin.

His, or, Mina contemplated, hers. Those pages with what looked like language exercises. Very much like the exercises her students were doing… Exercises in a language that did not really exist at all. But of course, there were others in this world who played around with Sindarin; many others. Lothíriel could be sitting comfortably somewhere in America, trying to keep her mother and father from looking for her by making up this crazy story.

But wouldn't a law student come up with a more believable story?

And that did not explain the thing with Elentar's accent.

Mina refilled her cup.

He could lie. She could lie. She herself could be hallucinating and all of this was nothing but a dream. Or… she put down the cup again, pondering a last alternative.

Or all of this could be true.

Her scholar's mind was devious. Assuming for a moment, her thoughts went, just for the argument's sake, that all of this was true, both Lothíriel's story and Elentar's story.

What did that mean?

Mina sucked her lips into her mouth thoughtfully. For one thing, she thought, it meant that the careful theories of some avant-garde physicists about parallel worlds or dimensions were not exactly theories. And – she vaguely remembered something about Einstein she had learned many years ago at school – it meant that time was indeed relative, though relative in a way that Einstein had probably not foreseen. Mina reached for the pad she used for making shopping lists.

Earth, she wrote. 2003. Lothíriel vanishes. 2004. Jarro McCourt dies. Package reaches Lothíriel's mother. Around 1650. Elentar washed ashore near Le Havre.

Middle-earth. Third Age. Lothíriel reaches Middle-earth. Fourth Age. Jarro McCourt reaches Middle-earth. 325. Elentar is born. 397 – Elentar leaves Middle-earth.

"And where did Tolkien come from?" Mina muttered, drawing lines around the names and connecting them with arrows. Then she looked up and stared at the window. Outside, it was a dreary day in February, cold, rainy and wet. Dismal.

"Shit," Mina told the window, her eyes following the raindrops running down the windowpane, without really seeing them at all.

"Shit," she repeated softly. "I'm really starting to believe this."

oooOooo

"And then I was in her arms, and she was in my arms, and Mel and Númendil were there, too, and the four of us were embracing each other and kissing each other and laughing and crying all at the same time.

It was over.
It was really, truly over.

I whispered meaningless endearments. I cried, and I smiled.

All at the same time. It was over. My world was saved."

Elentar stared at the page. He was a quick reader, and much to his surprise he had found himself drawn easily into this strange story. It read like a fairy tale, and yet… He thumbed back to the pages with Sindarin. Those pages looked as if they had been filled at a later date. The writing was much clearer, as if the writer was more at ease using a quill when those exercises had been written. It looked almost as if the pages had been left blank by mistake initially, and had been used for a different purpose than the rest of this – journal? – later on, as if the owner had wanted to save the space. Because good parchment was expensive?

In an eerie flashback he felt as if he heard the voice of his father, coming back to him through time and space. For once it was not a memory about him being chided by his father for yet another mistake or mischief. This memory was about his father admonishing his students, the sons of prosperous merchants and influential politicians to be careful with their parchment. "Waste not, want not."

Elentar stared at the Sindarin, tidily filling about five pages with grammar and spelling exercises. He read them again. And again. They looked very much like the language exercises his father had made him do. Growing up, Elentar had spoken mostly Westron. Although they had spoken Sindarin at home, there had been times when Elentar had had to work on the language. And his father had made sure that he did. Elentar stared at the pages before him. For some reason he felt as if he could hear not just any teacher's voice whispering to him across a maybe immeasurable distance of time and space. It felt as if it was his father's voice that was speaking in those exercises. Elentar shuddered and carefully stacked the pages together again.

What if it was true?
What if all of this unbelievable story was true?

After all, his story was true. His mother's story was true.

He clenched his hands into fists. He had never realized before from just how far away she might have come. Although she had told him when he had asked about visiting his grandparents as a small child.

"I come from far away, honey. As far away as Aman. You can't travel there. That is why we cannot visit your grandparents. It is too far away."

Why had he never suspected before that it was this world she had been talking about? "As far away as Aman" – a place that was not in Arda at all! He should have realized! He could have found his mother! He could have talked to her!

And then what? asked the saner part of his mind. He wanted to pick up the scrap of newspaper again and look at the face that was so painfully familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time. She had been so young when she had died here. More than ten years younger than Mina was, he guessed. A young woman, barely an adult. What could he have told her?

"I am your son, your son from the future, and another world, a son who will bring you nothing but sorrow."

He winced.

No. There was nothing he could have told her. And now it was too late anyway. Somehow everything in his life seemed to happen either too soon or too late, but never at the right time.

And now what?

He sat and stared at the pile of photocopied pages. For the first time since he had come to this world, he had told someone the truth about himself.

No, he corrected himself mentally. For the first time since he had left Esgaroth he had told someone the truth about himself.

He slowly rose from his chair and walked towards the door. He reached the door and found himself standing right in front of Mina. Her face was strangely calm, but there was a fire in her eyes that had not been there before.

He felt strangely weak-kneed. There was an unspoken question hanging in the air between them.

He swallowed dryly.

And just as she started to speak, so did he:

"I believe you," they said in unison.

They broke off and stared at each other.

"And now what?" Mina asked.


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: JunoMagic

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: General

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 08/08/07

Original Post: 03/05/06

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