2. A Little Help from My Friends
Thanks to IgnobleBard, Moreth, Pandemonium, Darth Fingon and all the gang at Lizard Council for help and corrections. (The credit for the chapter title goes to IgnobleBard.)
The glen had a wild and wondrous beauty, away from the torch-lit clearing still crowded with merrymakers. Raucous laughter, relentless drumming, and the smell of roasted meat, caused Findekáno's head to throb and his stomach to roil. He had not consumed an excessive amount of alcohol, but the little he had drunk left him inexplicably unsteady on his feet and hypersensitive.
"How are you feeling now?" Maitimo said, considerate but not worried in tone.
"I think I'm feeling a little better."
The surrounding trees, full of summer sounds and scents, and their distance from the festivities helped Findekáno to breathe somewhat easier and quelled the worst of his discomfort. Despite the thick trees, the full moon hanging above them lit the forest path. The pools and their feeder streams, overhung by a network of slender trunks and branches of small alders, glittered with a silvery light.
Findekáno was reminded of Telperion's diminished radiance during long summer nights in Formenos and, by association, of Maitimo's eyes. The moon reflecting upon the pool directly ahead of them seemed to fracture and splinter into shards of brighter light. He rubbed his eyes and inhaled deeply, feeling lightheaded again. He swallowed to relieve a burning sourness at the back of his throat. His improvement had been slight and temporary.
Maitimo reached out to take his arm as though aware of his discomfort. "We'll just stop by my tent and pick up a couple of towels. There is that smaller pool near here warmed by an underground hot spring."
"The one that smells like rotten eggs? No, thank you. I'd rather be cold."
"I hate it when you feel ill. You have no patience at all."
"I am sorry, but you have no idea how bad I feel right now."
"We also have fresh drinking water in the tent. If you drink a lot of water and soak for a while that should help."
Findekáno wrinkled his nose at the thought that Maitimo was not going to let go of the idea of the sulfurous pool that easily.
The sides of the tent coming into view glowed soft amber, puzzling Findekáno in his impaired state. "Look. There is a light inside the tent. Stop. Listen. Do you hear that?"
Maitimo laughed. "Yes. I do. That certainly is Macalaurë. But it sounds as though someone were killing him. It's about time. I cannot imagine how he has abstained this long. Can't picture who he might have in there though."
"Do you think we sound like that?"
"No. Not at all. You are a great deal louder and coarser in your choice of language."
"Ha, ha," Findekáno sighed. "Aren't you clever."
Maitimo kissed him on the neck and ran a firm, comforting hand up and down his back. "Let's just stop here and wait a moment. From the sound of him, he won't be long."
Findekáno snorted and chuckled. "Now that sounded like something I might say."
After sinking down onto a log not more than ten strides away from the tent, Maitimo pulled Findekáno onto his lap and rested his chin on Findekáno's shoulder.
"Still feeling sick?"
Findekáno nodded and then realized that Maitimo couldn't see the nod. "I feel dizzy. A little nauseous. Fuck, Maitimo. I'm not just drunk. I think I've been poisoned."
The light of the moon filtering through the trees above the tent burst into another cascade of lights.
"You are dramatic." Maitimo's voice, warm and tender against his ear, was not unsympathetic, but neither did he give the impression that he realized Findekáno might be dying.
"Tulkas' hairy bollocks, Maitimo. I am going to be sick."
"It's all right. Stand up. Lean forward." He pushed Findekáno to his feet and pulled his braids back away from his face.
"Yes, you can. I've got you." Maitimo twisted Findekáno's braids around his hand and wrapped his other arm around his waist. "Go ahead. It will make you feel better."
Findekáno coughed and retched, but nothing came up. "See. I told you I couldn't."
"Fine," Maitimo said, he at last sounded appropriately anxious. "I don't care if Macalaurë is finished or not. We have to go into the tent. I know there is some water there and something that will settle your stomach."
"This is so disgusting. I feel so nauseous." Findekáno squeezed his eyes open and closed, trying to get rid of the exploding lights in front of his face. "It got quiet."
"Come on then. Let's go." Maitimo held him firmly around the waist with one arm and guided him toward the tent.
Walking somehow momentarily dispelled Findekáno's queasiness.
"Macalaurë," Maitimo called out.
"Nelyo? What?" Macalaurë sounded alert and less annoyed at the interruption than resigned.
"I'm really sorry. Káno is sick. I need to come in and get a couple of things, please."
"Come in. I didn't tie the flap." From within the tent, a murmur sounding distinctly masculine followed a softer one from Macalaurë.
"It's not a woman. It's a man," whispered Findekáno as they shuffled toward the tent.
When Maitimo pushed the flap aside, the light from the lamp assaulted Findekáno's eyes, appearing far brighter than it should have. He closed his eyes again for a moment and grasped Maitimo's arm. Along with the swift return of his nausea, the strangeness of his sensations called forth a sense of mild panic.
Then the mattress in the corner of the tent, which served as a bed, caught Findekáno's eye. Macalaurë and a man he did not know sat side-by-side. Macalaurë looked distinctly put out, the man with him less so, but not pleased either.
Two tousled manes of bitter chocolate and silver hair tangled together against their touching shoulders. They had pulled the bed covering halfway up their bare chests. Their cheeks were crimson and lips kiss-swollen. Distracted by the sight despite his misery, Findekáno thought he had rarely seen anything more beautiful.
"What is it now?" Macalaurë said, his irritation transparent. "He looks fine to me."
"Hullo, Macalaurë," Findekáno said. "The two of you look like a set of bookends, contrasting but a perfect pair. Who is your friend?"
Maitimo shook his head. "Ai, Káno. You speak far too freely. Please try to remember that you are inebriated." Nodding in the direction of the blond man in the bed, he said, "I'm Maitimo, Macalaurë's brother, and this is Findekáno."
"I am happy to make your acquaintance. Please excuse me for not standing up." Both Maitimo and the stranger chuckled. "I'm Daeron. Macalaurë tells me you are a loremaster and a scientist."
"Your reputation precedes you as well." Maitimo had secured a mug, filled it with water, and held it out to Findekáno. "Drink this." Findekáno took the mug as Maitimo turned away looking back to Daeron. "I'd like to ask you some questions about your runes. Well, not now, obviously." Maitimo grinned at Macalaurë.
"Thank Eru for small blessings," Macalaurë said.
Findekáno swallowed a big gulp of water. "Daeron the singer. Elwë's chief minstrel? Have you heard Macalaurë sing yet? If you haven't already fallen in love with him, you will when you hear him sing."
Maitimo frowned and shook his head impatiently at Findekáno again, but he deliberately ignored him. "Is that lamp especially bright or does it only seem that way to me? Can I lie down here on the foot of your bed?" Findekáno curled up on the end of mattress.
"This is a nightmare," Macalaurë sighed. Daeron and Maitimo laughed, loud enough to hurt Findekáno's head. Macalaurë pulled to free his foot, partially trapped under Findekáno, and gave him a little shove.
"Careful," Findekáno said.
"I'm really sorry," Maitimo said. "I'll get him out of here in just a moment. I've never seen him like this before."
Macalaurë crossed his arms over his chest and stuck out his lower lip in an exaggerated pout. Findekáno thought Macalaurë wouldn't be nearly as cranky if he knew how bad he felt.
"I do feel really sick."
Macalaurë began to speak, "Next thing he will do is ask . . ."
Registering too late that Macalaurë was already speaking, Findekáno interrupted, "How was your first time, Macalaurë? Did you like it? You look like you did."
"These two are generally the most sane among my brothers and cousins," Macalaurë said to Daeron.
Daeron's face suddenly lit up with ill-suppressed hilarity, before he gained control and solemnly addressed himself to Maitimo, "What exactly are his symptoms besides sensitivity to light?"
"Oh, I am so sick at my stomach," Findekáno groaned. "Don't worry. I won't throw up on your bed."
"Apparently, complete lack of control over his mouth," Macalaurë added, his pale skin flushed that time not with pleasure but exasperation. Findekáno tried to smile at him in sympathy. Macalaurë looked away. Even in his less than perfectly lucid state, Findekáno was aware of the absurdity of the entire situation. His felt his mind worked properly, but he could not make his speech and behavior conform.
"I saw him drink very little. We had a couple of mugs of ale, then I was talking with his father and some of my cousins. I found him a few minutes later discussing music and the ritual dance with some of the Nandor from Ossiriand. We left almost immediately and came straight here. He started complaining about feeling unwell while we walked."
The sound of Maitimo's words pulsed fainter and louder in Findekáno's ears in the strangest way, ending in a faint reverberating echo, before Daeron's voice forced him to focus.
"Findekáno. Findekáno? Did the wood-elves offer you anything to drink?"
"Did you take a drink from any of the Nandor?" Daeron asked.
"Yes. They gave me just a sip of something. Wasn't very good, but they were being extremely friendly. Said it would make me understand the mystery of life and see my inner self or something like that."
Daeron kept pressing. "What did it taste like?"
"Not good. Burned. Had a faint woody aftertaste."
"I think he ingested a compound, distilled from root vegetables, to which is added a tincture of hallucinogenic mushrooms. The principles of the Deer Dance probably drank it before the ceremony began. If he was asking about the ritual, they may have decided to share." Daeron laughed. "He should consider it an honor."
"Could it harm him?" Maitimo asked, sounding genuinely anxious. "He has been sick for nearly an hour now. Ought I try to find a healer?"
Daeron shook his head. "No. The nausea should be subsiding already. Make sure he drinks plenty of water. You are in for a long night. He will not be able to sleep until the effect wears off. I would not leave him alone if I were you."
"I certainly do not intend to do that," Maitimo said.
Fascinated, Findekáno sat up a bit too quickly, but immediately regained his sense of balance. "What? I am going to hallucinate? Am I going to see balrogs chasing me or imagine a group of lascivious wood-elves trying to have their way with me?"
"Unlikely it will be anything quite so spectacular. Might be only patterns overlaying ordinary things or strange plays of light. I think you were experiencing some of that already. I drank some once in Ossiriand. I do not think I would do it again, although it was far from unpleasant. The idea of losing huge blocks of time does not appeal to me. I spent half of the night mesmerized by a candle flame and the other half agreeably distracted by one lascivious wood-elf. It does often act as an aphrodisiac."
"As though he ever needed that," Macalaurë groused.
"Fuck you, Macalaurë," Findekáno said, collapsing back onto the bed in a fit of cackling. "You are hardly in a position to be self-righteous."
"Drink some more water," Maitimo said, pulling Findekáno back up into a seated position and shoving the mug under his nose. Maitimo looked heart-clenchingly beautiful, his eyes wide with concern and lips parted.
"You are so beautiful," Findekáno said. "Kiss me."
Maitimo stood up and pulled Findekáno up with him. "I think it would be best if we got you back to your tent now."
Findekáno threw his arms around Maitimo's neck. "Just one kiss."
Maitimo released a long-suffering sigh and gave him the quickest, most unsatisfactory little peck. "Please, Káno. Later."
"Do you need me to help you get him back to the tent?" Macalaurë asked, sounding like he just volunteered for a month of latrine duty in a military encampment.
"Absolutely not," Findekáno said. "I am perfectly capable of walking by myself. As far as I am aware, and I doubt I would have missed hearing about it, this is first time you have slept with anyone except your wife. I am certainly not going to tear you out of bed now."
Daeron suppressed a surprised, unhappy look, but not quickly enough for Findekáno to have missed it.
"Whoops," Findekáno said.
Macalaurë took a hold of Daeron's hand and said in a barely audible voice. "I would have told you later tonight. She left me."
"Eru! I'm really sorry," said Findekáno. "I wasn't thinking. Actually though, she didn't really leave you. More like you left her. I mean I know you begged her to come and she refused, but you were the one who left Aman. And now none of us can ever go back, no matter what we . . ."
"Káno, shut up now," Maitimo said in a stern voice, sounding exactly like Fëanáro in a snit. Findekáno remembered that he ought not laugh in time to catch himself.
"Do not speak unless someone directly asks you a question. You are completely incapacitated."
"Not completely," Káno said, grabbing Maitimo's backside and squeezing.
"Yes. Well, then. We are leaving. Thank you, Macalaurë, for offering, but I can handle him on my own. I hope to see you soon, Daeron, under better circumstances. Thank you very much for the information and advice. Out now," Maitimo said, guiding Findekáno through the flap of the tent.
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.