4. Chapter 4
- Chapter 4 -
The door creaked as it opened, and Aeve froze under the covers. Slowly, very slowly, she wriggled closer to the edge of the bed and reached out to lift the cover and peek at the intruder. Maybe the elves had finally come to get her? She swallowed the knot that had formed in her throat and looked.
It was Sveyn's voice, and Aeve allowed a sigh of relief to escape her lips – she hadn't realized that she had been holding her breath. She didn't reply, though; she knew he would never believe her, and would not miss the chance to make fun of her for her supposedly foolish fears. Ha! She would like to see his face if he got to see the elves right close to the village!
"Are you… all right?"
Sveyn shifted on his feet, looking uncomfortable. Aeve saw him glance back at the door.
"Your mother told my mother that you would not come out…"
Aeve almost groaned in annoyance. She had tried to pretend that she was feeling unwell, even donning her nightgown and climbing back into bed, but it seemed that her mother was not fooled. And while she had indulged Aeve's little act, she had voiced her true thoughts to Sveyn's mother. And now he was coming to apologize, undoubtedly under the threat of a punishment. Well, he could suffer for all she cared.
Sveyn seemed to wait for an answer; he hesitated, then looked at his feet. "Is that because of me?"
Aeve frowned. He did look miserable now, which could easily be justified by the prospect of a grounding, but was that guilt in his voice? Aeve pulled the covers higher to get a better look of his face, and Sveyn noticed. He crouched, now at eye-level with her, and Aeve's breath caught in her throat.
"Did I scare you, with my stories?" he asked softly.
But from her hiding place under the sheets, Aeve could only stare back. She had noticed earlier that what she saw through that little window made of covers seemed more real, more beautiful and striking than when observed in everyday life; and now, as she watched him, Aeve wondered when Sveyn had become so… different. How did she not notice, while she took great pride in seeing many things other people took for granted, how luminous his grey eyes were, how harmonious the lines of his face?
Aeve shrunk back, refusing to recognize the boy before her as the Sveyn who used to tease her mercilessly and look down on her for her youth. And yet there was no denying it. This was Sveyn, the one and only; and he was handsome.
"Aeve?" Sveyn smiled, and her heart constricted in her chest. "I know you can hear me, you know? Will you not speak to me?"
Now his voice sounded condescending again, like the many times she had objected to what he told as being superstition, and Aeve felt her cheeks heat up with an angry blush. He thought she was a scared little girl hiding under the covers because of those imaginary monsters he had told her about? Well, he was mistaken – and Aeve would show him that.
Anger had given her her wits back. She brutally pushed back the covers, catching him unawares, and sat in her bed.
"I'm not afraid of your stories, Sveyn Innerney," she snapped. "I know they are merely invented to scare me and the others. And you know what?" Aeve lifted her chin. "It isn't working!" She shoved him out of her way – briefly, limiting the contact, since she could not trust herself to not betray her stunning discovery – and jumped to the ground.
Then she realized she was still wearing her nightgown, and felt the blush creep back to her cheeks. Mustering all the dignity she could find, she crossed her arms and glared at him. "Now, if you'll excuse me…"
Sveyn burst out laughing. "I should have known that you were not one to be scared," he said. "I realize my mistake now." He bowed exaggeratedly, glancing up at her with mirth in his eyes. "I'll leave you then, my Lady." And before Aeve could reply he turned around and was gone, leaving her standing in the middle of the small room.
Not for the first time after an altercation with him Aeve felt her hands tremble; but this time it was not in anger. She felt her knees go weak at the memory of his eyes staring into hers, of his voice that, for once, had not been full of mockery. She already knew that his voice could be enchanting as he drew his listeners into his story. But this time he had simply spoken to her, not for her entertainment or in a taunt. Aeve realized that she had seen a side of him no-one ever had, and felt strangely elated.
This was a new mystery to her, one she would take pleasure in studying and solving, though her usually rational mind persisted in showing her images she dared not consider – and that would never be.
Lindir stretched his legs towards the dying fire, feeling the last remains of its heat seeping through his worn boots. Soon, he would need new ones, and winter was approaching. Once it used to be a time of feasts and rejoicing, of family and gift-giving, but not anymore, not since the ending of the previous Age. They would spend yet another cold, silent season in the valley. Lindir remembered how the snow and the atmosphere used to inspire him; now he could hardly recall when he had last touched his harp.
He pushed those melancholy-filled thoughts aside as Elladan stood up and glanced to his brother, seeking reassurance or approval as he faced them all. Lindir sensed that what would be said was important, and resisted the sudden urge to lean forward. He would not hear better if he did, nor would he be able to maintain that façade of careful neutrality any longer. And while it mattered little if he was known as a curious elf, Lindir could not afford to lose the trust of any of those who confided in him, convinced that his apparent indifference masked the adhesion to their exact ideas. He had learned many a thing this way that had served his friends and sons of his Lord well; he would not lose this reputation now, not even when he, too, burned to know at last the reason of their waiting.
For unlike what the others might believe, Lindir longed to sail. He had hoped to do so with the departure of Elrond, but the decision of his friends had prickled his loyalty. There had to be a reason behind it, and he looked forward to finding out. Secrets, quests, acts of bravery and sacrifice, those were the things that inspired him… And glory was what he sought. Not through his skill in battle would he obtain it, though. Lindir still nurtured that dream of writing a ballad that would be remembered forever. Just like Maglor, he longed to remain in the memories as one of the greatest musicians of Arda, and someday he would write the piece that would ensure such glory. But as years went by, all alike in appearance and content, that dream had withered away.
He was the one to blame, really. He really was too curious for his own good, and too proud to admit that the challenge was too big for him to chew, that the weight of countless years of deceived expectations had broken his spirits. He had been younger, then, but not enough to blame his youth for such a miscalculation. And Lindir felt, with the exalted optimism of a poet, that one day he would rise from oblivion, and accomplish what he had desired – be it to find glory, or to return to his family, unknown but loved.
As Elladan started to speak, explaining what he and Elrohir had seen and offering his conclusions about the visions and their connection to the mortal girl, Lindir listened raptly. Once, long ago, he had served Elrond as a mediator and – if necessary – a spy. He engraved each word into his memory, weighed the possibilities and questioned the arguments. This habit he had thought long since gone; but here it was, returning to him with ease. Lindir noticed that Elrohir looked relieved, as though Elladan's story truly offered him the answers he had been waiting for for such a long time. And yet, nothing was certain – and nothing could be.
"Aragorn's heiress?" Urúvion repeated. He seemed skeptical, and Lindir understood it too well. Too many questions remained, too many things were assumed and not proven.
"We are not certain," Elladan replied, glancing towards Lindir. "Maybe there would be a way to verify such heritage?..." he ventured, but Lindir only shook his head.
Since Erestor's departure along with his Lord, he had become the keeper of the little lore still contained in the libraries of the Last Elven House. He had attempted to keep track of the genealogy of the Kings of Gondor, since it was dear to the heart of all those who remembered Estel. That bloodline had been all that still tied them to their past, and as the heirs had disappeared, scattered through a war-torn world, they had truly felt alone.
"I have lost any trace of the royal line after the fall of Gondor," Lindir sighed. "My archives are old, and the little information I have been able to find since is all but trustworthy. Rumours spread by travelling merchants, letters found on the occasional dead messenger…" He shrugged. "It pains me to say I can be of no help."
"The song argues in favour of your theory, my friend," said Glorfindel from his corner. "It has been too long since our language has been uttered by a mortal for this to be a coincidence." He seemed joyful and determined, as though the revelations had given him reason enough to justify his loyalty in the past and ensure it in the future. A brave, loyal heart – such was the Glorfindel that Lindir had come to know and love. But unlike those who assumed there was no more to the golden warrior, Lindir knew that there were depths behind this mask of blind courage better left unexplored.
Reluctantly, he nodded. "That, and the visions. I cannot believe that you would see the possible futures of a stranger. Not unless blood ties you together…" He hesitated. "…or I know nothing of foresight." He hoped that his bait would be taken, and things revealed about this gift, but Elladan only smiled as he went to take his seat.
"No more than we do, my friend," he sighed. "No more than we do."
Disappointed that his curiosity had gone unsatisfied, Lindir nodded. He still had doubts, but none that could be answered by Elladan or Elrohir. He wondered about the time of the attack – that is, if the visions could be trusted. They had lived secluded from the rest of the world too long; they knew nothing about what wars could be coming or were even being fought and would soon reach their lands. How much time did they have to prepare? How large, how organised the enemy that they would be facing? And, above all, was saving this possible heir the best course of action?
"The infant, her son… Have you seen his future?" Lindir asked softly. "For if there is something that our trial must have taught us," he said, "it is that mankind has changed – and not for the best. Have you not heard the echoes of men's wars? Have you not seen the distant halo of the flames, as they set each other's lands afire? You yourself have foreseen that they will not cease."
He saw Glorfindel frown and Urúvion's eyes widen in surprise. And indeed, it was as though the very instant they had found a reason to hold on to, he was pulling it right from their hands. Elladan opened his mouth to speak, but Elrohir raised his hand and motioned his twin to wait.
"Let him finish," he murmured. "He speaks the truth."
Lindir nodded, thankful for Elrohir's intervention. Hearing what he had to say could not be easier than saying it; and say it he must.
"There is good left out there," he said quietly. "I know there is. The men who once were our friends were brave and loyal; and such should be their descendants… But they are scattered. They are few. What could still remain of an ancient bloodline would now be so diluted that all magic and nobility it once possessed would have been irremediably lost. And without training and knowledge, power – if power there still is – can be nothing but a threat." He paused to let the words sink in. "What if the child grows into a tyrant? What if, instead of running dry, men's thirst for blood is fuelled by yet another power-hungry leader? With a head crowned by our hands and a sword forged by an elven master, he will be invincible. Will you, then, have the heart to strike him down, and spill the blood you have once saved?"
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.