The Return of the Shadow: 1. Song of Prayer

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1. Song of Prayer

It was November. It was a grey and rainy day in November, in Berlin. Berlin is a city that is only beautiful in the summer. If the weather is cold, the wind cuts like a knife. There are no hills around Berlin, to ward off the weather. The business-towers and apartment-blocks serve only to channel the strength of the wind, they offer no shelter.

It was raining, too. Everything was wet, cold, grey and faintly grubby, if not down-right dirty.

The trains and buses were packed with bad-tempered people. The air was bad with the crowded bodies and the damp smell of clothes, not all of them clean or well kept. There are many poor and unemployed in Berlin. Flotsam of all countries, they had somehow ended up in the capital of Germany, just the same as it is in all great cities of our world.

The woman in the black business suit slumped tiredly on her seat of the S-Bahn, as the rapid transit trains are called in Berlin. She pulled a small black suitcase closer to her feet as a Polish worker spat something unintelligible at her. It was somewhere on the main passage straight through the city, passing from the West to the East. Even fourteen years after the reunification those directions were the important ones in Berlin. Although now, after spending millions of Deutsche Mark, Euros and Dollars on rebuilding the city, sometimes the old western quarters were more run down than the eastern parts of the city.

At the neckline of the woman's blazer a forgotten name tag blinked where a brooch would have been more adequately placed. "Wilhelmina Elbenstern, Tolkien Society, Germany", the sign read, but nobody noticed her. Perhaps she was just too hunched from the exhaustion of travelling for people to notice her. She was neither fat nor ugly. She had black, shoulder-length hair, bound at the back of her neck into a neat pony-tail. At her temples two or three streaks of her hair had turned already silver, although she could not be much older than thirty. Her face was thin and bony, her nose slightly hooked, but her lips were wide and sensuous, and she had a slight dimple in her chin.

Mina had just returned from a conference in Milwaukee, and the jet lag had hit her hard. And on Monday she had to return to her main job, teaching Old and Middle English to students studying to become English teachers at the Free University of Berlin. Students, who were as rule, less than enthusiastic about linguistics. She sighed. Sometimes she was not very enthusiastic about her day job, either.

She would really have preferred to live for her passion.

Her passion was the elvish languages J.R.R. Tolkien had developed. In her opinion, these languages were the most beautiful languages in the world, and Tolkien was the greatest linguistic genius, who had ever lived. She dreamed of translating "The Lords of the Rings" into Sindarin. As it was, she could count herself lucky to get paid at least for a few hours of all the work she did for the Tolkien Society in Germany.

It was a hard life, to work on two demanding jobs at once, neither of which was well paid.
It was a tight-rope walk.
It was a precarious balance between living her dream and paying the rent.

A balance, which did not leave much room for anything else. A solitary life, she told herself, ill-suited for a normal relationship. Whatever the reason, she was thirty-three and still alone. The odd mixture of being a linguist and a Tolkien fanatic had put quite a number of young lawyers or managers off the slender, dark-haired woman in the end. Most of the time she did not even notice that she was lonely. But tonight, tired from the long flight and the exhausting week at the annual conference of Tolkien scholars, she would have loved to have someone meet her at the airport, take her home and put her to bed with a few kind words.

Her temples were throbbing with exhaustion as she rose from her seat and walked to the doors of the train. She had to get off at the next stop. Another five minutes of walking through the cold November drizzle and she'd be home in her small apartment. It was a small apartment, in an old, but well restored building in the East of Berlin, on the fifth floor of an apartment house. It looked to the back and the only thing of luxury about it was a small balcony with potted herbs and lavender during the summer.

Leaving the train she almost collided with a young tramp. There seemed to be more and more beggars and vagabonds on the streets with the economy ever declining. She had a fleeting impression of incredibly sad silver-grey eyes and a mass of dirty, tangled dreadlocks reaching down to too thin shoulders. He carried a guitar, and as the train left the station, he started singing and playing, to ask for some money in exchange for his music – to buy a drink, some food or drugs.

Most of the time, these down-on-their-luck street musicians could barely hold their tune. But this one was different. His dark voice rose clear and firm, echoing through the station, ringing in tune with the soft, expert strumming of his guitar.

But what made her gasp and turn on her heels was not the melody or the beauty of his voice.
It was the song he was singing.
She knew the words by heart.
But she had never heard them to this melody. And she had never heard them pronounced this way.

A Gilthoniel Elbereth!
o menel plan-diriel,
le nallon sí di'nguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos.

It was an elvish hymn. A Sindarin song Tolkien had used several times in "The Lord of the Rings". It was a prayer to one of the Valar, Varda, the goddess of stars.

But even as Mina turned to get back on the train to ask the tramp where he had learned this song, the doors were closing, and the train was gone. Only when a fat woman bumped into her and told her in no uncertain terms that she was blocking the traffic and should get the hell away from here, Mina shook herself out of her daze.

As she walked to her apartment through the cold November evening, hurrying to escape the rain and the wind, the song of the young tramp echoed in her mind. The melody had been so beautiful and so sad; she had never heard that hymn with a melody, which really seemed to fit. Some versions almost touched the soul of this song, but it remained always an 'almost' in her opinion. But even more than the haunting melody, the words repeated themselves over and over again in her mind. The clear and unusual pronunciation of the words. This lilting pronunciation, which sounded slightly-off the true, because it was different from the way she was used to hear Sindarin pronounced. It had almost sounded, as if the tramp had been born to the language. But, of course that was not possible.

And yet, as she walked, she could get neither the words nor the melody out of her mind.

Somehow, Mina reflected, unconsciously humming the tune she had heard, somehow this tramp had sung this hymn as if he had meant every word of it. And that was really impossible. The translation of this particular song was not in the books. There simply could not exist a tramp, who was enough of a Tolkien fan to have come across the translation of this song. And yet, the young man had sung this song as if he had meant every word of it. As if it really was a plea uttered in despair, as if he really hoped that somewhere there was a Queen of Stars to hear his prayer and help him.

Finally Mina reached her apartment. She locked the door behind her carefully. Berlin was a dangerous city, and she owned no weapon. She made herself some soup and vanilla tea and then went to bed, falling asleep at once and with no dreams at all.

Out on the streets the cold November rain kept falling, blown in icy drifts by an eastern wind.

Homeless and beggars huddled together or fled to the shelters run by the city council to aid the poor and the homeless. Some of them continued their business in the train stations, begging in strategically placed positions, which were won in bitter fights on a daily basis. The street musicians moved from the squares to the trains.

Living out in the streets had always been rough. But in times when people started thinking twice about buying carousel rides for their children at a fair, it was even harder to get by in the streets. If winter kept the promise made by this dreary November, quite a number of homeless people would never see the spring.

A song of prayer drifted to the sky from somewhere in the streets. But it was directed at a goddess far away from this earth, and apparently remained unnoticed.

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Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this chapter.


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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