8. Chapter 6 Part 2 - Very Much A Family
Chapter 6 – Very Much A Family Part 2
- O -
The peasant farmers who worked the Bramford lands began to spread tales of the ghost who wondered in the nearby forests. Sometimes, as they made their way to the fields, they would see him as he walked shrouded within the early morning fog. However, there seemed to be conflicting descriptions of this ghost. One time it was said that it was Richard Bramford, another time it was his younger brother Geoffrey.
Finally these stories made their way to their mistress, and they broke her heart anew. Why did others see the ghosts of her dead sons? Why did they not come to their mother? But some of the stories also brought concern to the Mistress of Bramford Castle. One or two of the sightings implied that sometimes the ghost was not alone. During these times, the Lady Elizabeth had been seen walking with the ghost.
Today, in the bright sunlight, Margaret recognized the tunic of her eldest son on the body of the stranger. Today, the "ghost" was Richard. She could also guess where he had gotten the clothes. Anger filled her mind; this was a man who had now put her daughter's honor and safety at risk. His attire would not save him or gift any mercy from her.
Maedhros knew it would have been too easy to fight his way through the small group of soldiers, and it would have accomplished nothing. He could see the fear in their eyes as they surrounded him. Even in clothing familiar to them, Maedhros was still an imposing figure. Any sudden move could prove fatal to them. Besides, he would find fighting difficult as Elizabeth now stood in front of him defiantly daring any of the men to try something. He would not put her in harm's way.
The tension was steadily building, Maedhros told Elizabeth to go to her mother, but she declined as she was determined to stay. Lady Margaret watched and listened to the exchange between her daughter and the stranger. The intriguing part of their conversation was they were speaking in a language she had never heard before and did not know her daughter spoke. Many minutes passed and the strain only increased. She finally put a stop to the stalemate, telling the soldiers to stand down. She too, was afraid Elizabeth might be injured if a fight ensued. Reluctantly, they put away their swords and took a few steps back from the duo, but they still rested their hands on the pommels of their weapons.
Lady Margaret approached the stranger. She had originally thought her daughter had been fooled by one of the many beggars wandering the countryside into letting him hide in the goddess cave. But she could see this was no beggar. This was a seasoned warrior fore he still included the group of soldiers in his gaze as he stood silently watching her advance. There was also an unquestionable air of command about him and a nobility in his handsome face. She, however, was definitely no fool, and although he was quite impressive, she did not want to trust him. He could still be a threat.
She glanced down at her daughter. Although Elizabeth was ready to take on the Bramford soldiers to protect Maedhros, her resolve abandoned her as her mother applied a very stern, but familiar look in her direction. Elizabeth quickly stepped out of her mother's way moving to Maedhros' side.
Without her eyes leaving his face, Lady Margaret asked her daughter. "Elizabeth! Tell me, does he speak English?"
"Yes I do, my lady. Your daughter has taught me well." Maedhros answered before the frightened girl could speak.
His impertinent reply brought a smile to her lips. The heavy accent to the well-spoken words only increased her curiosity. "Then you can easily tell me who you are and what you are doing on my lands?"
Maedhros hesitated for a moment as he tried to figure out how much he should say. Chafing slightly under Lady Margaret's powerful gaze, he decided the truth was his only recourse. "I am Maedhros, son of Feanor. I am a Noldorin nobleman seeking refuge in your world and on your lands." Maedhros brought his arm up to his chest, and gave her a slight bow. His face a mask of composed splendor.
"I see." Lady Margaret was skeptical. She knew she needed to quickly regain control of the situation. "I am Lady Bramford, and I will be the one to decide whether you can take refuge on my lands or not." Her dark stare tried to see past the unflinching shining grey of Maedhros' eyes.
Elizabeth tugged at Maedhros' sleeve. He bent slightly giving them the illusion of privacy. Finding her voice, she whispered, "Maedhros, you must show my mother the Shimmer."
Just then, as if on cue, a slight breeze took the opportunity to lift Maedhros' hair briefly. The others were too far away to see, but Lady Bramford was able to observe the mythical curve of his ear. She blinked a few times as she tried to comprehend what she was seeing. It seemed what her daughter told her was true. "I think sir, we need to talk about some of the things my daughter has told me."
With that, she indicated to the soldiers and her maidservant she wanted them to stay outside while Maedhros, Elizabeth, and she went into the passage. When the captain of the soldiers expressed his concern, he got a quick rebuke. "I will hear no argument. Stay here!" The soldier recognized the threat and quickly obeyed. With one swift movement and before the other soldiers could react, Maedhros retrieved his sword from the ground. He offered it, handle first, to the bewildered soldier as a gesture of his honorable intentions. The startled soldier took the sword and watched as the three entered the opening. His eyes continued to watch the blackness within the opening for many minutes. The other soldiers surrounded him as they began to admire the strange blade.
- O -
It became a custom for Maedhros and Ailsa to take walks together after dinner. It seemed quite natural for them to share these walks in all kinds of weather. Ewan was always ready to take over for one of them down in the Archives or watching the Shimmer. His obsession with the Shimmer had little to do with strolls or conversations.
Some evenings they would walk through the estate woodlands other evenings, they made their way again to the outdoor theater. Most times they would walk closer to home and the cliff on the estate. It was hard for Maedhros during the walks near the cliffs. He could no longer bring himself to stare out to sea as easily as he once did. His reality had been turned upside-down, and he was dealing with the new truth of his situation as best he could. Ewan and Ailsa's support was a healing balm. Once again he was allowed helping hands to bring him back into the light. For all his clever plans to keep them at arms length, they were now very much a part of him. He realized he had been foolish to think they would be otherwise.
So they walked and he took pleasure in her company as they talked about many things. Maedhros told her of happier times during his youth and the various individuals that made up his world in Middle-earth. She would tell him about Berkeley, about her friends and the rest of her mother's family. She even told him about Kyle. The term boyfriend, although not foreign to him, still seemed a strange custom.
One evening as they sat on the stone seats of the outdoor theatre, he asked her, "Tell me Ailsa, is this Kyle the one for whom your heart sings?"
Ailsa smiled as she tried listening to her heart, wishing she could truly hear something. She finally admitted awkwardly, "I honestly don't know." She smiled sheepishly. "What's it supposed to sound like?"
Maedhros could feel her discomfort. Ailsa saw that familiar "almost" smile of his creeping into the corners of his mouth. She had seen this look so many times before as she wondered what he was thinking. She still didn't know what it meant, but this time, there was a glint of happiness in his eyes.
- O -
After the mixture of shock and fear had subsided, she was able to stand before the glowing mist without wanting to run away. It took only a few moments for Lady Margaret to understand completely what was happening within the vapor. Strange unholy creatures were driving captives before them. All the prisoners seemed to have ears like the being who stood quietly at her side. Elizabeth said he was a nobleman from an Elvish realm. Were those creatures the reason he was here? Maedhros was silent and did not offer any explanations.
She could feel her courage rising. "Is it true you are an Elf, sir?" She asked the question, but found it hard to concentrate as her own mother's stories raced through her mind.
"My lady, it is true I am an Elf. I come from the world depicted in this Shimmer."
Lady Margaret's attention went back to the strange phenomenon over the pool. The previous scene in the mist seemed to dissolve away and a new vision appeared. An incredibly handsome adult male was patiently teaching a young boy how to use a bow. The male was very tall and slender with long silver blond hair that fell almost to his waist. The boy with his golden mane of long bright hair seemed to be the right age for instruction. Both adult and child were Elves if their ears and strange attire were to be believed. The young Elf listened intently and watched with his bright blue eyes as his instructor taught by example. With a fluid movement of his arm, he nocked his arrow, pulled and released it. The arrow hit the target dead center. When it was the boy's turn, the youngster drew his bow as he had seen the master archer do and let loose the arrow. He was very pleased when his arrow found its mark close to the other arrow.
Margaret smiled wistfully as she remembered her own sons and how excited they had been when they first took up the bow. How proud they were when they successfully scored a hit. Within a heartbeat, her face fell suddenly, and she quickly looked into the pool, unable to keep watching the scene. The deaths of her sons left a dark painful emptiness surrounding heart, but even their loss could not overshadow the death of their father. She could not help wondering at that moment what he would have thought of all this.
Elizabeth decided it was time to show her mother the Silmaril. After cautioning her, she opened the pouch. The air between them exploded in shafts of brilliant light. After Lady Margaret's eyes became accustomed to the display shining from the pouch, she could see the round jewel at the bottom. Her eyes widened at the splendor she saw within it. How could it be that so many colors danced so easily within it? Never in all her life had she ever witnessed such a magical thing. Her eyes quickly moved back to the glowing mist above the pool. Well, it was the second most magical thing she had ever seen. She began to feel a little unsteady. Maedhros came up from behind and gently led her to a chair.
Sitting quietly, she tried to reason out what she was going to do. She could not get over the marvels she had just witnessed, but there was an air of remembrance about them. When she was very young her mother told her stories of how their family had always been blessed by the goddess living in this cave. How men in the far distant past, did great deeds in the goddess' honor as they fought to keep the light in their world. Strange and wonderful beings would help them on these adventures. Always fighting to keep the darkness at bay. The women of the family were the ones who kept these stories alive passing them from mother to daughter. In her turn, she had taught these tales to Elizabeth.
Gazing into the mist and its moving light, all the tales suddenly rang more true than ever before. Her daughter had befriended a being who was most likely taking refuge from the things she had seen in the magic vapors. The "Shimmer" he had called it…and the jewel he had called a Silmaril? Never could she have imagined such treasures.
Elizabeth had told her how Maedhros and his family had fought many battles as they tried to retrieve the great jewels from the murderous thief who stole them. How by doing so, they had made their gods angry and he was banished to their world. She said he struggled to adjust to his new world, but his guilt over the battles for the jewels hung on him at times like a shroud. "So it is true," she murmured.
Whether or not he was a lord from some unknown fairy kingdom, she needed more time to figure out what Maedhros' arrival meant. The one thing she knew was that Maedhros had lived on her lands for several years without any ill will from him. Other than the peasants' ghost stories, he had harmed no one. Her daughter had been safe in his presence, and if he did indeed needed refuge from his world, then she as lady of this land would be less than kind to deny him sanctuary. Maybe the goddess had not abandoned the cave after all.
Maedhros had allowed Elizabeth's mother a moment to consider all she had seen and been told. Children in their innocence of the world could readily accept the mystical, adults needed more time. He looked at Elizabeth as they waited to hear her mother's mind. His only fear was that Lady Margaret would order him off her lands and he would never be able to see Elizabeth again. The possibility made his heart feel suddenly encased in lead.
"I must return to my men," Lady Margaret announced. She looked into her daughter's anxious eyes. "Come Elizabeth, I have seen all I need to see." Elizabeth hesitated as she waited for her mother to say more. When she didn't, Elizabeth's eyes dropped to the floor. In her young mind, Maedhros was doomed.
"Lord Maedhros, would you be kind enough to escort us back through the passage." She smiled at the puzzled Maedhros.
Taking her daughter's hand, Lady Margaret turned into the passage, Maedhros followed behind. The sunlight filled opening beckoned to them. Stopping a few feet from the exit, Lady Margaret turned and faced the Elf. "I know not what your purpose is in our world. Nor what fate your gods have in store for you. I will not be the one to refuse you sanctuary. For now, you may continue to make this cave your home."
Elizabeth's face lit up as she heard her mother's words. Maedhros was not doomed!
Maedhros tried to hide the relief that washed over him. He bowed, "Your generous mercy, my lady, is gratefully accepted." His silver eyes looked up into the face of his new protector.
"But hear me, lord. Should I find your conduct in any way less than what I require, you will find yourself residing in a place quite different. The dungeons of Bramford Castle are not a refuge men in the past have found to their liking."
Maedhros smiled as he bowed to the lady once more. She was formidable enough to take on anyone. He only hoped that one day he would be worthy enough for her to offer him her friendship.
Nearly an hour had passed before those outside the cave began the process of deciding when it would be prudent to check on their mistress. Before it was necessary to choose someone, Lady Bramford came out of the opening with her daughter in tow. The stranger stepped out from the darkness behind them
"Let us go to our horses, we will return to the castle." Lady Margaret commanded.
"But my lady, what about the stranger?" The elder servant asked anxiously.
"Lord Maedhros will be allowed to remain on our lands." Stone faced, she looked at her soldiers. "Unmolested." The soldiers nodded to their lady. She smiled down at her daughter. "Come, it grows late. We must return home."
The soldier holding Maedhros' marvelous sword held it out to him grip first. The strange lord smiled at him as he retrieved his weapon and returned it to its empty scabbard. Standing solemnly on the hilltop, he watched the entire party move toward the woods and their waiting horses. His eyes settled on Elizabeth's figure, and for the first time he noticed that she was almost as tall as her mother. She stopped, turned suddenly and waved her hand to him. Maedhros' own arm came up and he returned the temporary gesture of good-bye. The warmth of her joyous smile filled his Elven eyes and he felt a renewed affection for his little bird.
- O -
Ailsa readily took her turn with the Shimmer. It was so exciting to watch the visions now. A few days ago, the images had suddenly slowed down and lengthened in duration. The fact the segments were growing longer affected each one of the watchers differently. Ailsa was just plain excited, Maedhros knew it was significant, but was unable to reason why so he was unable to feel happy about it. Ewan surmised that the slowing down could be a natural occurrence. Ailsa couldn't suppress a smile when her father used the word "Sunspots." In fact, he had announced at dinner one night that he had calculated that the visions were now averaging 18.6 minutes per sequence.
All Ailsa knew was that since the visions had slowed down, it was much easier to get details of clothing and the action playing out in them. Sometimes, however, Ailsa found herself slightly bored if a sequence seemed to have little going on. There was just so much one could write about an empty meadow.
It was at these times, she would find herself moving to the small chest on the rock shelf. Since the first night she watched the Silmaril as it lay on the table, she found herself wanting to look at it whenever she could. She reasoned that if she was careful, one quick look every now and then couldn't possibly hurt…could it?
She loved to hold the opened pouch and look at the Silmaril as the magical light danced across her face. She never tired of its bright beauty. It made her so happy. There was a sadness though…she was mortal and couldn't hold it in her naked hand. How she longed to feel the hardness of the jewel in her fingers. Although it burned when she touched it, she just knew it would feel cool to the touch in other hands. Sometimes she wondered why her father didn't find it as appealing as she did. When she tried to bring it up, he seemed only mildly interested. Couldn't he see how special it was?
It was during one of these "quick looks" that Maedhros and her father caught her. They had come into the room before she was aware of them and stared at her disapprovingly. She tried to act nonchalantly about being discovered with the Silmaril, but she still put the pouch back in the chest. She didn't know why their disapproval made her feel so guilty, and she resented the fact that they made her feel that way. "I was just looking," she said as she lifted her chin defiantly.
They continued to look at her, but didn't speak. Ailsa decided that she had other things that needed attending to. "I have some things to do up in the library," she said. No one said anything as she left the room. What she didn't know was after he heard her on the stairs, Maedhros turned to her father with a deep frown on his face. "I am concerned that Ailsa is becoming a little too attached to the Silmaril." He told Ewan. "I have seen that look before on other faces."
Ewan also frowned for a moment. "I don't think we have anything to worry about, Maedhros. Ailsa is level headed enough to realize the danger of becoming too possessive. Besides, she'll be going back to Berkeley eventually, and she can't very well take it with her…can she?" He felt confident that his daughter was just fine.
Maedhros couldn't be so sure, but something Ewan said left him feeling as if he had been struck across the face. Ailsa leaving? It was something that he had not considered. He excused himself and left Ewan with the Shimmer.
That afternoon as Ailsa and he walked through the woods behind the manor, Maedhros searched his mind for the words that would help him bring up the subjects of the Silmaril and Ailsa's leaving. He watched Ailsa as she walked ahead of him touching the various tree trunks, and almost dancing around others. His eyes softened, she was such a silent child of the forest, unaware that her dancing and the touching of the trees were in response to their ancient song. Maedhros and his people knew this song and he was glad the soul of one of his children was able to hear it as well. Ailsa turned and smiled at him, the simple beauty of her face reflected the warm glow of the sunlight. He found he could not continue to look at her, he feared their bond might reveal his apprehension. She quickly turned and walked on. He felt a new sadness begin to grow within him. A thought began to echo in his mind. She can not go…not yet.
Ailsa knew something was on Maedhros' mind. He was much too preoccupied, even for him. She had caught him watching her as they walked through the woods, but he averted his gaze when their eyes met. Whatever it was, it was troubling him a great deal. Well, she would find out what it was. There weren't any secrets between them now and she wasn't about to allow any to start.
As always she followed him assuming they were on their way to the cliff. After a bit, however, they made a turn. At first she wondered what their new destination was, but as she looked around a familiar feeling consumed her. Although the forest was filled with the golden light of the late afternoon sun, she couldn't help feeling she had come this way before.
It had been night then, and the glorious full moon enveloped the entire forest in its blue radiance. She almost wished Maedhros would begin to sing as he had that night. She would love to hear him in this light. Just then he turned and looked at her. She could see it in his face; she smiled at him as her eyes narrowed. You know I followed you that night! With a slight smile on his lips, he turned again and resumed his pace. Ailsa knew where they were going.
Maedhros waited for Ailsa to enter the clearing. She stood within the circling trees remembering the way the clearing looked that night. How different it seemed now. As if all the magic she had experienced then only waited for the full moon to rise again.
The cold blue light had made it a mystical place, where an enchanted singer sang out his grief bathed in the white light of the reflecting pool. The surrounding trees were in varied hues of darkest blue-black to silvery grey. The emotion of Maedhros' songs the only warmth within the circle. With that thought, Ailsa stepped into the clearing.
The clearing had now transformed itself into a palette containing the many colors of Fall. The inviting warmth of reds, yellows, and oranges filled the space. Even the pale bench and the large flat stones forming the lip of the pool seemed a warmer shade of that color as it contrasted against the still green grass. The reflecting pool was different also. The cold still glass from that night now had ripples of liquid golden sunlight reflecting off its moving surface. She wanted to lay on the grass arms behind her head, her eyes tracking the various clouds as they sailed by in the ocean blue sky above.
Maedhros walked with her to the bench and sat down. Ailsa let a few minutes pass before she looked at him and asked, "Okay, what's on your mind?" He lowered his eyes, smiling to himself. He was beginning to think she could read his mind after all. He swallowed and looked into her inquiring eyes. "Are you leaving us?" He quietly asked. Ailsa was surprised by his question.
"I hadn't planned on going anywhere." She replied. She couldn't understand what he meant.
"Ewan mentioned that you would eventually want to move back to Berkeley and resume your studies. I know that you have reached your majority and you are just beginning your life. You should enjoy everything that it has to offer." He paused feeling awkward as he searched her face. "I want you to have a full life, Ailsa, but one that would, I hope, include Egla Tir…from time to time."
Suddenly, she understood what he meant and she smiled back at him. "Do you actually think I could leave Egla Tir and forget about it…or you?" She shook her head and slipped her arm through his, "Don't worry Maedhros, I have no immediate plans of leaving, so you're stuck with me."
Feeling very pleased, he patted her arm with his hand. "That is good to hear…for I am glad to be 'stuck' with you." His silver eyes crinkled as he smiled back at her. Relief rushed through him; he knew he had to speak to Ailsa about the Silmaril, but he decided to put it off for now.
- O -
Maedhros began to hope he was wrong about his concern for Ailsa and the Silmaril, but he knew better. He knew better the moment he walked into the cave room the next day and found her holding it in a handkerchief-covered hand. Her face aglow with the light as she watched it with an all consuming stare. "Ailsa, what are you doing?" He asked loudly. Ailsa looked up at him, the spell of the Silmaril temporarily broken. "What?" She asked slowly.
He hesitated taking the Silmaril from her even with the handkerchief. Still remembering the burning agony his bare hand had experienced so long ago, he could not take the chance that the thin cloth would not protect him. "Ailsa, put the Silmaril back into the pouch," he ordered.
The cold command of his voice startled her. "I was just…" She began as she dropped the jewel into the leather pouch.
"I know what you just…" He said flatly and opened the chest. Once the Silmaril was in the pouch, Ailsa seemed more herself. "I wasn't doing anything wrong." She sounded like a child caught with a forbidden treat. "I…I thought I should get a complete description down of the Silmaril for the archives." Maedhros motioned toward the chest, and Ailsa obediently placed the pouch in it. He slammed the lid shut, making Ailsa jump. "Do you have any idea what you are doing?" There was anger in his voice as he spoke. "Do you?"
Ailsa was taken aback. She had never known Maedhros to be so angry before. She didn't understand why he was angry with her. She turned and walked to the table. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean." She picked up a scrap of paper and tried to read it.
"You know our family history and what the Silmaril means to us. It is not just a pretty shiny jewel to us." He was trying very hard to explain without letting his anger and fear take control. She didn't see the danger she was in, and he had to make her see before something terrible happened.
"I don't know what you're so upset about." The angry edge to her voice reflected her resentment of his interference. Why couldn't she touch the Silmaril, it was just as much hers as anyone's. She whirled around and pointed at Maedhros. "You just don't want anyone else to touch it. You want it all for yourself." Maedhros face paled as he heard her words. In an instant his face suddenly grew dark, angry grey eyes flashed at her.
"Do you hear yourself?" He shot the words out like steel arrows, every one hitting her heart. "Do you not know where this path leads? Have you heard nothing I have said?" He turned away from her, his hand clutching the wrist where its mate once belonged. Grasping for his own composure, he let his head drop back, his dark red hair reflecting the lights of the Shimmer.
Closing his eyes to find a measure of calm, he blew out a long stream of air before speaking again. This time his voice was deathly quiet, his face still tilted up to the rock ceiling above them. "And would you wish Everlasting Darkness on yourself if you did not keep it from me, no matter what the cost?" He turned, his eyes no longer angry, but filled with urgent concern.
Suddenly, Ailsa realized what he meant. "Oh my God!" The horror of it made her shudder. Her eyes widened with fear as she glanced at the chest. "Maedhros, what's happening to me?" She felt panicked, and her body began to tremble. "I only felt great joy when I held it." Relief painted itself across his features at her response. Maedhros reached out and took hold of her arm. His eyes softened as he saw the terror in Ailsa's eyes. He wrapped his arms around her.
"All is well, tithen min." His hand softly stroked her hair. "It was never meant to be an object of evil. It wondrous glow fills everyone's heart differently. If you are aware, you can control your attraction to it." His voice was a caress to her jumbled nerves helping Ailsa to calm down. Maedhros released her. "There. Now that you know, you can fight against your desire for it." His face still showed concern; the fear was gone.
The moments passed and she came to comprehend the cold reality of what Maedhros was saying. "I had no idea," she said wistfully.
"Even your father has a weakness for the Silmaril. He is aware of it and works to control it. Perhaps we should find a less conspicuous place to store the chest." Maedhros suggested.
Ailsa brought her body up to her full height and squared her shoulders. "I don't think that will be necessary. As you said, if I'm aware of the attraction, I can control it." She now wanted to prove to Maedhros she could be in the same room as the Silmaril and not touch it. She walked over to the chest and placed her hand on the lid as if making sure it was tightly closed. She looked at Maedhros and asked, "How does my father do it? I've never seen him even open the chest."
Maedhros smiled and brought his fingers to his chin. "Your father has the outward facade of a man preoccupied with…things. But if you look deeper, you will find that he is a man who will always do what is right. He felt the pull of the Silmaril and has kept away from it."
"Well, that's my level headed father for you." She said with affection.
"That is amusing, Ailsa." Maedhros said as he walked to the doorway. "It is what he said of you." Ailsa's cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she followed him out.
To be continued.
tithen aiwe = little bird
tithen min = little one
toron nin = my brother
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.