24. Another Deal
The Elf slowed down much sooner than Mina had expected.
"Should we slow down already?"
Celebrían raised her eyebrows in exasperation. "We can't keep running like that. It's not good for you and for the life you carry within you.
"And besides," she added in a very soft voice. "Running from them won't help. Elves can run long and hard without sleep or nourishment if need be. But they are not alive. They need no sleep and no food. Their speed is not from this world. Not even the swiftest of my kindred can outrun them."
Mina nodded and slowed down some more. She was gasping for air and holding her sides, panic had impaired her breathing, so she had never found a comfortable rhythm. She winced at the pain in her sides. Elentar was at Mina's side again and she could feel, if not see, the worry and apprehension in his gaze. For her and the baby, she realized. And not because they were in a strange world that was being overtaken by the forces of Evil. Evil with a very big "E". But just because he loved her and his daughter. He would have worried even if they were still taking a comfortable stroll in the Cotswolds. She felt her heart lift at her husband's courage and almost smiled.
"Mina, what is it?"
She shook her head, then forced herself to reply. "It's nothing. Just stitches in my side."
Celebrían frowned. "Let me."
Mina did not like to be touched by the Elf-woman, but she forced herself to submit to the touch. Celebrían's hands were light and brittle, like bird-feet. As she stroked down Mina's sides, heat radiated from her palms, and the pain subsided.
I thought Elrond had been the healer in the family, Mina wondered. But she was wise enough not even to think that thought very loud.
"Will he be able to turn them away?"
Celebrían straightened and shrugged. "I have no idea. He should not exist. Yet he is here. Who am I to guess what he can or can not do?"
"Do you think that Morgoth is able to control him?"
Her eyes darkened. "At the moment I think that this ... spectre said the truth as best he might: Fëanor thinks that Morgoth thinks that he does control Fëanor."
Mina felt the corners of her mouth curl up. Somewhere beneath the bitterness lurked a very dry humour. Something she had not expected to find in an Elf.
Elentar warily looked around. The wood was beautiful, sunny, and absolutely silent. Dead. Just as dead as everything else they had seen of Aman so far. Then he sighed and shook his head, turning back to Celebrían and Mina. "Judging from the stories my father told me when I was a child, I think with Fëanor Morgoth has bitten off more than he can chew."
Celebrían only rolled her eyes. Obviously she was not as impressed with the ghost of the most notorious of all the Noldor. Mina pressed her hand on her heart. Even the Valar had not been able to withstand the returned Morgoth. How could the houseless fëa of an ancient Elf hope to prevail against the Black Foe of the World?
"What do we do now?" asked Mina.
"I will take you to Alqualondë. I will find a ship and put you on board. I will -" Celebrían broke off, her face freezing. Mina looked quickly away. Had Celebrían been about to say 'kiss you goodbye'? Or 'wish you well'? But in a situation when your enemies could reduce you to atoms and molecules with a touch that was probably not quite appropriate.
Mina pressed her lips, trying not to succumb to the cold feeling of panic that was cramping her stomach tightly. "Which way?"
Celebrían bent down and picked up Mina's pack. "I think it's better if I carry that from now on." Then she gave her a tiny smile. "Follow me."
Mina picked up the guitar and glared at Elentar, when he moved to take it from her hands. She ignored his reproachfully raised eyebrows and followed the Elf-woman. Elentar wordlessly brought up the rear again. They were walking at a fast pace, but not running now. After a while Mina had found her rhythm, and with only the guitar to carry, she felt almost comfortable. Her breath came free and easy now, and her sides did not pain her anymore.
"Do you think we'll see him again?" she asked.
"That evil ghost?"
She could hear Elentar's frown.
"Why do you want to see him again?" he asked.
Mina stopped. "I - I don't - my impression was not that he - that he is - evil. I - I do know his story, of course, but - he -"
"You are talking about me," came a sudden hiss, and a pale wavering shadow was suddenly at Mina's side.
She jumped, and her heart jumped with her. Gasping, she pressed her hand to her chest once more. "Do you have to appear out of nowhere like that?"
Without noticing it, she had spoken in German. Fëanor tilted his head and looked at her full of curiosity. Elentar repeated her words in Quenya. The ghost affected a snort.
Mina shook her head. "He understood what I said, Elentar." She turned to Fëanor again. "I thought you could only speak Quenya?"
Another thought occurred to her. "Do you understand Sindarin as well, after all?" Had the ghost been listening to everything that had been said so far?
"Well," Fëanor said with an airy gesture. "It appears I do after all." He paused. "At least - I was learning how to speak it before I - And as for 'Do you have to appear out of nowhere like that?'" - He mimicked the German sounds perfectly. Then gestured at his ghostly, flickering form. "I most certainly do. As you should be able to see at one glance."
"Did you -"
"Kill them? Not necessary, they were already dead. Send them off? Yes. Or do you see any black eyed husks that once were Elves closing in on you?"
Celebrían was not in the mood for small talk. "Why have you come back?" she cut in, her voice icy once more.
"Because I wanted to? Or because Morgoth sent me? That is what you are thinking, isn't it?" mocked Fëanor.
For a fleeting moment Mina had the impression that the ghost - the barely substantial fëa - or whatever he was, simply enjoyed hearing his voice again. Hearing other voices again. But he had left out an alternative that seemed most obvious to her.
"Or because you want something from us?" Mina put in.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught Elentar's expression, the merest hint of an appreciatively raised eyebrow.
Fëanor whirled around to face her. Fire flickered in the blackness of his robes, or underneath the mirage of robes he kept conjuring up in order to keep up the appearance of a body, a semblance of life. He stared into her eyes. His gaze was penetrating in a painful way. Between fire and darkness she caught glimpses of the sky, and sometimes of something more solid, but infinitely hazier, almost like the image of a memory barely recalled: very bright grey eyes.
He did not breathe, so he could not sigh, but he grew smaller in what amounted to a reasonable equivalent of a sigh. A slight deflation of his strange, surreal form.
"Yes," he whispered at last. "How perceptive. Because I want something from you." But then he turned to Celebrían as if Mina and Elentar were nothing but air, or less than air, considering how he himself was barely more than air. Albeit very fiery and temperamental air, Mina mused.
"You were talking about Alqualondë earlier, and about a ship."
"I assume you cannot give me any assurance that what was said and what will be said will never reach the Enemy?" Celebrían's voice was cool and practical.
A hint of grey flickered where his eyes would have been. "There are no promises left to me in death. And as I am sure you are aware of, the promises I gave in life were fraught with pain and suffering for all who heard them. Millennia spent without sight, sound or substance should have taught me at least some lessons, do you not agree?"
Celebrían's eyes narrowed and a shadow passed over her face. "Maybe. Maybe not. So you want ... something from us, but you cannot give us anything in return?"
"Nay," he exclaimed. "Woman, are you trying to drive me to distraction? I did not say that there is naught that I can give you in return. I said that it is vows, curses or promises that I am loathe to offer you. But if you were ... to undertake a small ... venture for me, I would at least try to do something of equal value for you."
Elentar had had enough. His voice terse, he interrupted: "Cut that beating around the bush. What do you want? And what can you do for us?"
"I would ask you to go to Tol Eressëa, to look for Nerdanel, and if you were to find her, to take her with you, across the sea, to the distant shores of Arda, to - there is no safety anymore, but I should still wish her away from here, as far as possible, where mayhap a way might still be found to change the darkest of fates for all of Eä."
For a short while the silence was complete. Then Elentar spoke again, "You wish for us to find your wife and take her with us, away from Aman."
Fëanor nodded. "That is my wish. I - or what is left of me - is bound to this place, to -" His form wavered, his face a grimace of pain and disgust. "To him."
The ghost stilled, contours clearer. "Though not quite in the way he thinks," he hissed. "Just almost ..."
Celebrían's calm voice cut in, "And what can you offer my grandson and his family in return?"
"I feel his cold servants before you do, and it is within my power to sway their advance. Not to destroy them, I said that before, but at the very least to distract them. I could provide you with the time you need to escape. The precious moments of a successful flight."
Fëanor fell silent again, waiting for them to reply.
Mina caught Elentar's eyes. I don't trust him, she thought at her husband. But ... He gave her an imperceptible nod as he finished her thought, it may be the best chance we get.
"We have a deal then," Elentar said and held out his hand. "I promise to sail to Tol Eressëa and to search for Nerdanel. If she is alive and willing, she shall sail with us to Middle-earth. If not to safety, at least to a peaceful death. In return, you will do everything within your power to protect us while we are in Aman."
"Agreed," whispered the ghost, and reached for Elentar's hand. "So mote it be." Elentar did not move or cringe, but Mina could see how the tiny hairs on his arms stood up and a shiver ran over his body.
That evening Mina was simply too tired to be scared. She fell asleep in Elentar's arms while Celebrían watched them dispassionately, her eyes alert and dark, her thin body tense like that of a wild cat. Fëanor had disappeared at nightfall. She supposed she ought to feel disturbed at yet another unexplained disappearance, but for some reason she did not doubt the sincerity of his vow. And it did make sense. Everything she had read about this most famous of all Noldor indicated that he had - in spite of everything - truly loved his wife.
In the morning, the sullen Elvish ghost was back and ready to lead them towards Alqualondë on secret paths that circumvented the patrols of the Dark Lord's minions.
They walked all day and rested only for short periods. Mina felt increasingly uncomfortable. The others were watching her.
She knew, of course, why Elentar was following her every movement. He was sick with worry about her and their child. But the baby rested safely within her womb. She was aware of her daughter's presence, quietly growing within her.
Mina suspected that Celebrían's reasons for keeping her eyes on her were similar, if not the same. After all the Elf had been through, it had to affect her to be so suddenly confronted not only with family, but with the proof that life did go on, in spite of everything.
She was not sure she wanted to know why Fëanor seemed to watch her every breath, why he appeared to drink in every inch of her body. The ghost was also observing the others, but not quite as ... obsessively. Maybe because it had been so long since he had seen living beings? Maybe because he had never had a chance to look at a human female for a longer period of time? Maybe just because he could? Whatever the reason, the constant awareness of being watched made her feel uncomfortable and on edge.
She was almost glad when exhaustion dragged her down into a dreamless, heavy slumber that night. And the following night. And the night after that.
Celebrían was also watching Fëanor - when he was visible. It was obvious that she did not trust him. An attitude that was altogether understandable, considering Elvish history. But for some reason, Mina had no doubts about Fëanor's honesty concerning the conditions of his vow. On the other hand, she was not at all certain if it was truly within his power to fulfil it. She shivered. Even thinking of dead Elves filled with the destructive power of the Void made her steps falter, and her stomach clench with fear for their lives. But the long, slow days of walking went by without another close encounter with the enemy.
At last they reached the shadows of the Pelóri.
"There is only one way across the Pelóri," Celebrían said.
Mina swallowed hard. She had been wondering about that. "The pass of Tirion, below the Taniquetil," she murmured.
"The pass will be heavily guarded for sure," Elentar surmised.
Fëanor only nodded, a curious gesture for a ghost, much like wind blowing back a translucent banner. "Of course," he hissed. "But I will lead you there coming up from the dark side of Avathar. If we keep way above the pass, we should be able to sneak around the balrogs and the walking dead who have taken up residence in Tirion. They will not expect anyone to come that way, because who should?"
The vicious glare that Celebrían aimed at Fëanor made Mina wonder if that had been one of the plans of the small group of Elvish rebels that were hiding in the empty Halls of Mandos now, trying to resist the Black Foe of the World before all Elves had perished. Mina shuddered. She must not allow her thoughts to stray to such possibilities; no matter how likely it was that such dread would come to pass. It was enough to think of the next step, the next day, the few minutes at night when she rested next to her husband, his palm warm on her gently rounded stomach.
That night, in the depth of a valley cutting deep into the flanks of the Pelóri, they risked a fire. A very small fire, but its warmth and light did much to lift Mina's spirits. Even Celebrían did not look quite as haggard and drawn.
For once Fëanor had stayed with them, visible as a silvery shadow beyond the reach of the wavering light of the flames.
After a while of sitting quietly in the warmth, Celebrían suddenly turned to Elentar. "If you could find it in your heart -" she hesitated, "- I should like to hear more about your life, and that other world, beyond the Void, where you -" another pause, "- met your wife."
Elentar's frown said clearer than words that he did not feel like reminiscing about his life on earth. But Mina laid a soothing hand on his arm. "Maybe a song," she suggested. Turning to where the ghost was hovering at the fringe of their circle, she asked, "If it is safe?"
"The night is dead and quiet for many miles around," Fëanor replied. "No one but us will hear, if you play softly."
Something in the way he held himself as he answered betrayed a hint of curiosity, though Mina couldn't have pinpointed just what gave her this inkling of interested attention.
Elentar uttered a small groan, but relented, picking up the guitar and removing the cover with quick movements. It gave Mina a start to see the guitar. The instrument looked just the way she had first seen it in Berlin. Staring at her husband, his instrument, illuminated by the flickering flames of the fire, she marvelled at how all of this was possible. Meeting an Elf in Berlin, falling in love with him, becoming pregnant, finding a way back to his world ... She forced her thoughts to still, not to move on to terror and darkest danger.
Elentar bent over the guitar, gently plucking the strings, turning the tuning pegs to the perfect harmony that still resonated within his soul. Then he started playing, and Mina snorted with suppressed laughter. There could be no tune that was farther removed from this place, this world, this situation ... But Elentar gave her a small, wicked grin and continued to play and sing softly: "Here Comes the Sun", the old Beatles song.
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.