20. Letters from Home
It was past noon, and a warm sun was shining through the window. The Elf child looked out on the garden behind her house and the wobbly image of the woods: green and glimmer-lit through the uneven glass, as if they were underwater. She did not press her nose to the window but breathed against it so that her breath left a silvery vapor. Drawing back, she watched it slowly disappear.
"I hate this house," she said flatly, her words falling on empty air.
It was not the first time she had said it. She had said it that morning to her sister at breakfast but Nevvy had only raised an eyebrow at her over the porridge.
'Veisiliel, you do not hate our house. You do not hate anything. You are not old enough.'
Veisiliel disagreed. Maybe she wasn't old enough to know as much as Nevhithien or their parents. But she was certainly old enough to know how she felt.
Shuffling back on her knees, she stood up from the windowseat and picked up the lid, looking in as if she might see something different. But no, it was always the same. Folded blankets and a smell of dead flowers. Closing it again, she drifted in the direction of her father's study.
The barest touch of her hand caused the door to swing open silently. She stepped inside, her eyes turning at once to the dark secretary that dominated the room. The chair that stood before it was pushed back but there was no one in it. Books and ledgers lined the upper shelves, and a neat sheaf of papers was stacked near the edge of the little sliding tabletop, almost as they had been on that day weeks before, when she had crept into the study to add to her letter. Now when she went to the secretary she ran her finger over the dark varnished wood and the tip of it came away gray with dust. Her father was not in his study so much now when he was home. He would take what he needed from it and go lock himself up with her mother, where the two of them would speak in quiet, careful voices.
"He does not love you anymore, poor thing," said Veisiliel aloud, patting the wooden secretary. "If he did love you he would write on you and keep you clean. Now look at you. All dirty." She wiped at the front of it with her sleeve, and then she pulled the skirts of her dress around herself and stepped into the corner between the secretary and the wall. Carefully she scooted back, crouching down in the little crevice.
Veisiliel still woke up in this place from time to time, opening her eyes in her father's study uncertain of how she had gotten there. Nevvy had asked before why she did it, but she did not know herself. It did not make her feel better, or safer. Indeed, often the closeness of the space frightened her, as did the darkness of the outer room, encouraging all manner of imaginings. Sometimes she would think she heard something from the foyer beyond her father's study: a creaking sound, like a window being opened or a shifting floorboard. Then she would think of Leni come back, standing in the outer room, and she would want to stand up and call out to her sister. But other times, it wasn't Leni…and then the terror in her would grow and climb, a vicious nailed hand clawing its way up her arm until she nearly shrieked.
Now, though, there was nothing. The stillness was absolute, and it was lonelier and sadder than anything in the whole world. Almost, then, Veisiliel wanted the clawed hand. Even fear was better company than this silence. Closing her eyes, the Elf child leaned sidelong against the secretary, rubbing her cheek disconsolately against the smooth wood.
"Ah!" Nevhithien cried out as the needle slipped. She put her finger in her mouth.
"Did you get any on the material?" asked Thalawen without looking up. She was sitting in the tall-backed chair that stood beside her bed while Nevhithien sat upon the bed itself. The injured elleth had the strength now to sit upright for several hours in this way, and so she spent each afternoon, mending and embroidering, giving Nevhithien instructions and reminders about everything from organizing the larder to when she should bring down the winter clothes for airing, and all the other household concerns that would soon pass into her care.
"That is the first thing you ask?" grumbled Nevhithien around her finger. "Not whether it hurt?"
Thalawen's mouth quirked a little over the garment she was stitching. "Really, daughter. I gathered that much from the noise you made."
The maiden sighed gustily as she rubbed spittle into the stain. "I shall never be able to do this, Mother. My hand is made for the pen, not the needle. My fingers feel like sausages when they hold it, and about as useful."
"Yet master them you must, fingers and needle, if you are to manage when I am gone." She lifted her head, gazing at Nevhithien with an expression of fond resignation. "It is not as I might wish, but it is better than it could be. At least you shall not be weaving. Only hold out till autumn and you will be able to barter with Mendes. Her cloth is always of fine quality, and she loves our elderberries for her cordials."
"Very good! If I can only keep the foolish shrubs alive till then, I promise you that is what I will do…" It was at this moment that Nevhithien's thread tugged free of her needle altogether. She stopped what she was doing, silently counting to ten before putting the ragged end of the thread in her mouth.
I am not made for this, she thought, sucking irritably. I can sit long hours over a book or a ledger, but I cannot do anything practical. Cleaning, sewing…I am better at gardening than either Mother or I put on, but I still stepped on our best bean plant yesterday, and now here I am: gouging holes in myself, and I cannot keep a simple needle threaded! Clumsy, foolish Nevhithien…
"Those Yrch took the wrong sister," she muttered under her breath as she jabbed at the needle's eye.
Silence. Feeling a chill creep over her, she looked up to see her mother's face gone still and pale, eyes fixed upon her. "I did not mean to say that," she whispered.
"Yet it passed your lips so easily," Thalawen murmured, gazing at her. "Do you often think such thoughts, Nevhithien?"
"I…I have thought it before." Hurriedly, trying to explain herself: "It is only that Leni was so much better at these household tasks. I do not have the inclination or the ability…"
"Does the memory lie on you so lightly, that you forget the slain ellith on the road to Rivendell? I promise you, their mothers do not forget them. Do you think that I have forgotten the sight of you pinned beneath your own poor beast while that evil creature toyed with you? Only be glad they did not take you, Nevhithien. They would have ravaged you, riven the soul from your body and driven it in torment to Mandos. It is only Eleluleniel's tender years that spared her that… I pray, at least, they spared her that…"
She had bent her head over her work again, but her hands were trembling and Nevhithien, appalled, saw how the garment jerked in her lap. Dropping her own mending, Nevhithien reached out and caught her mother's hands. "I am sorry," she said, gripping them, searching desperately for the words that would assuage her. "It is so easy for me to speak foolishness. I open my mouth and say the words but I cannot call them back again. Please forgive me, Mother."
Thalawen breathed in deeply, clasping Nevhithien's hands in turn. She did not say anything but she squeezed them tightly. "I am sorry as well," she said finally. "I too speak more than I might wish." Her voice was weary. She straightened her shoulders, tugging her hands away gently, but Nevhithien saw the glister in her mother's eyes that she had learned to recognize as pain.
Her mother had not fully recovered from her injury of weeks before and there were yet bindings on her body, admonitions from the healer not to exert herself. It hurt Nevhithien to see her in pain, though she realized that in some measure it comforted her as well, for that meant her mother remained incapable of travel. The knowledge shamed her. "Do you—do you need to rest?" she asked, thinking to get up if the answer was yes.
Thalawen shook her head. "No. It is better when my hands have something to do, and I am able to think more clearly as well."
"That is what Leni used to say." Nevhithien kept her tone light, but she watched her mother carefully as she spoke. "That is what I meant before, you see. I am not loath to work, but far more do I prefer my studies. There is more satisfaction for me in a book than in embroidery or weeding. But Leni, she enjoyed being productive, as do you. Her mind was fashioned after yours, while mine—"
"You are like your father."
Thalawen smiled ruefully. "My mother—your grandmother—she used to say that I took after my father. 'Children take after their parents,' she said, 'and you are your father's daughter.' But I did not like it when she said that. I thought, 'But I am yours as well, and more than that. I am my own self!' I found it difficult when I was young, to know that I could never be wholly my own person. That I would always be someone's daughter or sister, and later wife and mother. I wondered if I would ever find that pocket of myself that was my self, and mine alone."
"And did you find it?" asked Nevhithien, curious. Her mother did not often speak this way.
"To be honest, I think I am still looking," said Thalawen. "I suppose it is just as well I have not found it yet. Life is long already without knowing such a thing too soon. We are not like the short-lived Dwarves or shorter-lived Men. We have time to discover these things about ourselves."
"Perhaps you will learn it in Aman," Nevhithien said, trying to sound neutral.
But Thalawen's face clouded over, and she shook her head. "Not for long and long."
For a while then the pair of them worked in silence. At first Nevhithien tried to focus only on her father's shirt and the long rip at the shoulder. She wondered how he had come by that tear and thought of him riding through the close boughs of unkindly trees, or pushing through wild and thorny thickets.
Then her thoughts wandered closer to home. She thought instead of their tame little garden and of the exchange that she had had there with her little sister the day before. Spring was giving way to summer now, and the sun had lain warm and heavy on their shoulders as they knelt by the radish bed. Nevhithien had stopped her weeding for a moment, wiping her brow with the back of one arm, when Veisiliel spoke up suddenly:
'Nevvy? Do you still believe that Leni is alive?'
'Of course I do, dear heart. And Father believes as well, remember?'
'But Mama does not. That is why she is going away. How can she believe one thing when Papa believes another?'
Nevhithien, feeling awkward, tried to explain: their parents were different people and people do not always agree. Even parents may sometimes believe differently from one another… But Veisiliel had only shaken her head, and kept on shaking it, stabbing at the earth with her trowel. Disagreements about food she could understand, or a favorite song or color, but a missing sister was something very different. 'They cannot both be right,' she insisted. 'And that means that one of them is wrong…'
"What are you thinking of, daughter?"
Nevhithien felt a little embarrassed, like a child caught in mischief, but she took a breath and answered honestly. "I was thinking of you and Father," she said. "I was thinking of how you can both believe so differently from one another, and make such different choices." She told her mother of Veisiliel's questions the day before and how it had been so hard to know what to say in response. Thalawen listened without a word, no sign of judgment on her face, as Nevhithien finished: "She was right, of course, and knew it, and she would have an answer, no matter how I tried to evade her."
"And what did you tell her, in the end?"
"I said…that I did not know how it was possible to believe so differently. I said that, regardless of who is right and who is wrong, you are both acting out of the same love. It was the best answer I could give her, and the only one I knew to be truthful."
Thalawen looked thoughtful. "It is a good answer, and a wise one. It comforts me to know I leave my littlest in your hands. Long have I watched you with Eleluleniel and now with Veisiliel. I know you are not always confident, but you have always been gentle. Now I see you are learning tenderness." Nevhithien squirmed, embarrassed by this close appraisal, but her mother went on: "And now I will ask a question that, perhaps, you will not wish to answer, knowing that your father and I think differently as we do. Do you believe as he does, Nevhithien? Do you believe Eleluleniel yet lives?"
It was the first time either of her parents had asked this question of her. Certainly her father never had. Fírhador's faith was unshakeable and he spoke always as if the world shared his knowledge, even when it clearly did not. While Thalawen did not speak overmuch of her missing daughter, and when she did there was grief in her voice.
We have used Leni's name more in this hour than in a week of days, thought Nevhithien as she searched for the words to answer her mother's question. "Believe what he believes, I think I can say. As he believes, I am less certain. The quality of my belief is not unmeasured, and I cannot help questioning myself. Perhaps, I think, perhaps I believe only because I wish to believe. Perhaps I believe because it is easier that way. It is easier to think she is alive, to hold out that hope. It is harder to think the other way. I am not sure that, if I believed her dead, I would be strong enough to bear it."
"There are darker fates," said Thalawen grimly, "but it is not for comfort that I think her dead."
"Why do you, then?" asked Nevhithien. "Father does not question himself, and you do not question yourself either. At least, you never seem to. Are you truly undivided in your mind, Mother? Do you never have doubts, as I do? Never ask yourself whether she might live?"
Thalawen shook her head. "No," she said, looking at Nevhithien. "And I will tell you a thing I have not told your father. But you must remember, first, the War, and the dark days before it, when you were younger than Eleluleniel, and our folk murmured of a coming Doom. Many then spoke of journeying to the Havens, and there making the passage West. Your father's mother made that journey, as did my own father and mother, and greatly I desired that we go with them. I did not wish to be sundered from my kin, or for my children not to know their own grandparents. More, I had a foreboding that we would not meet with kindly usage in the Age to come, whoever the victors might be. Yet it was your father's desire that we remain to see what should happen; for himself, also, that he should lend his might in the cause against Mordor, and for his children, that they should have the years to make their own decisions.
"Only our two eldest were yet of an age to make that choice. Alageth chose to remain. But Haenes…
"Fírhador did not press her to change her decision or ask explanation beyond what she gave. 'I feel compelled to make the journey,' she said, and that was enough. After all, she was ever the quiet one, keeping her own counsel. Our wise child, first in years: our beautiful grave sibyl. 'It comforts me,' I told her privately, 'that you should sail with your grandparents, and be some company for them in the far lands of the West.'
"'But it is not for them I go,' said Haenes, and told me what I tell you now. Of the War with the Dark Lord and its destined reckoning she would not speak, for that was hidden from her. 'But my heart misgives me for our little family,' she told me, 'and I fear what yet will come to pass. Father will not come, I know this well. His heart is fixed on staying, and if I tell him now he will only blame himself later. But you, Mother, you will listen to me. If I had words of advice I would give them to you, but all I can say is, Watch over my sisters! When I sleep a voice comes sighing in my dreams, and without change it utters the same refrain. I do not know when the hour will be, only that it shall come indeed:
"'One will go untimely to the Undying Lands, and pain and sorrow will be her companions.
"'The walls of Alqualondë are as real to me as the walls of my childhood home, for I have seen them nightly in my dreams. Long have I desired Valinor, Mother, and known my own path leads there, but I go also to wait for this lost one, this one come untimely, to receive her when she arrives. How she will depart these lands I do not know, but that she will come at last is certain. Her hurt will be great, as will her sadness, and she will need to be comforted—'"
Thalawen had drawn now to a close, her voice trembling a little as she finished. "She was speaking of Leni?" whispered Nevhithien. "Haenes…she knew? She knew what was going to happen?"
"In some small part, that is all I can imagine: the partial, clouded knowing of a seer, that one would go untimely… Now do you see why I must leave, Nevhithien? Eleluleniel, she is far away, and she is suffering. It may be she has been released into Haenes' charge, but it may be that she lingers still in the Halls of Mandos. Surely no evil of her own doing binds her there, my precious child, my innocent! But I fear the evil of the Orcs and how they may have maimed her. It is said that pain and grief can hold the houseless fëa thrall, though blameless it depart Middle-earth. If she died in great terror and torment then she may yet be in the Halls, and I cannot bear to think of her so, alone and frightened without her mother. Or if she has been released, I would not see Haenes left to comfort her little sister by herself.
"Now I bide with you and give you all the guidance that I can, for I do not desire to abandon you and Veisiliel. Nor yet do I want to leave my husband thinking that I blame him, when we are all victims of the same ill fortune, and when I was the one entrusted with warding our children. But my heart is not here on this side of the sea, Nevhithien. It is in Aman seeking lost Eleluleniel, and it will seek and grieve forever until she is found."
Nevhithien pulled the door closed quietly behind her, then leaned back heavily against the frame. Her thoughts were disjointed and scattered in the aftermath of all her mother had said. Almost Nevhithien resented her mother for these confidences, for passing on her innermost anxieties and fears.
But who else does she have to confide in? Father will not listen to what she says, not really. He will stand by her and nod, perhaps, but then he will only debate with her. He will not lend any credence to what she says. It is not what he wants to hear.
It is not what I wanted to hear either.
For a moment she tried to reconcile the two images of Leni now at odds in her mind: the gentle, playful sister of her own memory and the frightened, tortured ghost-child that her mother envisioned. But she could not do it.
I cannot think of Leni that way. My mind, it is not strong enough. And yet, just because I do not want to think a thing, that may not make it any less true.
She laughed then: quiet, bitter laughter. It seemed she did not have much of an imagination after all.
It was mid-afternoon. Thalawen had retired early and now Nevhithien was at loose ends. She wandered through the house, calling for Veisiliel and wondering where her little sister had hidden herself. Not finding her immediately, she was just beginning to grow anxious when she heard a response to her call.
"I am here," the voice came muffled from their father's study, and indeed, the door stood partially ajar.
Why am I not surprised, thought Nevhithien, stepping inside to find her sister in the usual corner between secretary and wall. Less usual was the piece of paper Veisiliel studied, her brow furrowed with great concentration. "Hullo, little sister. Is that something of Father's? He would not be pleased to see you rifling through his documents."
Veisiliel only shook her head. "It is not Papa's," she said simply, and turned the paper so that Nevhithien could see it.
Nevhithien looked and felt an eerie prickle at the back of her neck at the sight of the familiar script. "Where did you find this?" she asked, kneeling down slowly.
"It was under Papa's secretary," said Veisiliel. "I put my hand down, and I felt the corner of it under my finger." She held it out to Nevhithien, who took it and scanned it with astonished eyes. "I said I wanted to write a letter to you," said Veisiliel. "That day when it happened, after you and Mama and Papa had gone. I said that I wanted to write to you and Mama, so we both wrote letters, and then we went out to the garden. But I wanted to add to my letter, so I crept into Papa's study. The papers fell and I did not want Papa to be cross with me. I was trying to gather them up, and then I heard a noise—" She drew a shuddering breath, remembering. "I did not mean to make a mess…"
"Oh Veisiliel." Nevhithien leaned forward impulsively, hugging her little sister. "You saw how our house looked that day. I promise you, the mess those awful Orcs made was far worse than anything you might have done!" She felt the little body relax within her arms and gave a parting squeeze before she drew back, smiling at Veisiliel. "But you see what happened, do you not? Her letter slid under the secretary, and it has been there all this time! Did you read it?"
"Some of it," said Veisiliel. "But it is hard. Her Tengwar is different from what you have been teaching me." She looked at Nevhithien with faint accusation, as if she thought her older sister was shortchanging her.
"It is more ornate," said Nevhithien. "I taught Eleluleniel as I am teaching you now, but she preferred the script she saw in books and taught herself to write that way as well. But see? Beneath all the flourishes and embellishment, they are still the same characters. Now come, sit here beside me and we will both read it together…"
To my dear Mother,
You are not an hour gone as I write this and Veisiliel has insisted that we pen letters to you. She is sitting across from me, hunched and intent, her shoulders taut and bunched like a little cat. She will miss you and Nevhithien these long months that you are gone, and I will miss you both as well. Still, I know that you will be happy in Rivendell, thought I suppose that is not enough to describe Nevhithien, who is doubtless in transports of rapture. I will ask you to stop reading here and pass this note to her...
Nevhithien, write me of the environs of the Last Homely House. Do not leave out a thing! (I am sure you will not.) Tell me of the Library and its weighty tomes, but I hope you also have eyes for the rest of Rivendell. I am sure you have made many interesting observations of the folk who live there, their habits and their fashions. Tell me of Alageth, glittering in their midst. Is she well, and her husband?
I pray you give our brother a kiss from me, and all of my love. I always wanted a brother, and it was too bad of Alageth to finally bring one into our family, only for the two of them to leave our little wood forever. But maybe you and Mother can persuade them both to visit us at last. I should like that, I think, when you return, to see our Alageth and Belmílon in tow. Now, give me back to Mother...
There. It is an hour now since you have left and soon, I know, Father will return without you. Then we will be lonely indeed, but all shall be well. I will do my best in your absence to keep our home as clean and orderly as you do, and take care of Veisiliel and Father also. I know that I cannot hope to do so well as you, Mother, but I will try.
Now Veisiliel is shifting in her chair - I have promised her we shall go out to the garden after we have finished our letters. Please forgive my brevity! It is cruel to keep her sitting long, and there will be more letters.
All of my heart,
Fírhador read the letter through a second time. He swallowed hard and lowered it carefully so as to keep from reading it a third. Thalawen was watching, and he tried to smile at her. "It is strange to read this letter," he said. "Almost as if I hear her saying the words aloud."
"I had a similar feeling when I read it," said Thalawen. Fírhador began to hand it back to her, but she pushed it toward him gently. "No, keep it, my love. It was written to Nevhithien as well, and my heart foretells me it will be of comfort to you."
Gently his fingers brushed the simple rose that bloomed in the margin of the letter. "Thank you for this," he whispered.
She reached forward and cupped the side of his face. "You have been gone many days, husband. If it agrees with you, and you do not immediately wish to change your clothing, perhaps we might go into the garden. This room grows small around me, and I would ask how you and Culas fared during your travels."
They walked together around the garden, and Fírhador was careful to restrain his steps, trying not to exceed her pace. The healer had advised his wife to make these gentle circumnavigations of garden and house, saying that the air and exercise would do her good and help her to mend faster. Fírhador put what that meant out of his mind, focusing instead on the questions Thalawen asked him: the distances that he and Culas rode each day, the weather and terrain. No Orc spoor had they found of late, though reports of Orkish mischief were plenty when they visited the living places of Men and their families.
"The problem is that, five and six days out, it is not easy to tell the deeds of Orcs apart from those of wicked Men. When a wagon is found ransacked and its driver dead beside the road, is that the work of Orcs or bandits? The bones of a house stand blackened and consumed, but who can say what wielded the burning brand? There is much evil in the world, and the tongues of Men are quick to name it 'Orc.' It makes our task much harder," said Fírhador grimly.
"And still you ride?" asked Thalawen.
He shrugged, a wry twist at the corner of his mouth. "And still I ride. Till my thighs are chafed and blistered as those of a callow youth, and my legs are bowed as a horse's shoe. Till my reputation is gone entirely and I have canvassed all of this Middle-earth on my fool's quest, still will I ride, and I will not rest till hope is cold within me. Till hope is cold, or I have found her."
Thalawen shook her head. "Obstinate son of Fimornon! But I love you for your hope, and I would not part from you in bitterness. We both seek our daughter, though we seek her in different lands. If the roads we choose are different, nonetheless, I suppose we are on the same quest."
He looked at her, bemused. "You speak otherwise than you have before," he said carefully.
"My thoughts on the matter have not changed, but perhaps my understanding has grown. It may be I have taken a lesson from our Nevhithien, who spoke to her little sister of choices made in love. All the wisdom of the world is foolishness if it does not spring from that."
"Ahhh… Well. If Nevhithien says it you should listen to her. She takes after me, of course, and you know—"
Thalawen heaved a sigh. "I know, dear husband, I hear it often enough. You are always right."
"I am always right," he repeated. In a strange voice: "And yet still you would leave me." She was silent, and Fírhador himself said nothing as for several minutes they walked in silence. Then: "It will be difficult for you, carrying all of those letters." The comment was out of place with what had gone before, and she looked at him in confusion. "Well!" said Fírhador with a snort, "you cannot think that I would let you go without letters for my parents, do you? Or without regards tendered to your own mother and father? And Haenes, who I have not seen for so long… I wonder how the land of the Valar agrees with our oldest daughter."
"Veisiliel will relish an opportunity to show off her new Tengwar," said Thalawen slowly. "She could not even pen Cirth when her grandparents left. And Nevhithien… Oh. Oh dear…"
"See, you have arrived at my very thought," said Fírhador slyly. "She will write reams, if I know my middle-born. All this effort to heal your poor ribs, only to see you break your back toting all the mail of Middle-earth…"
"Wretch!" she exclaimed, cuffing him. "You need not grin when you say it."
Fírhador rubbed his arm. "I will have my revenge for that. I think I will spend tonight counting those of our friends who have sailed from Mithlond since the Ring War. Already I can think of at least seven. It would be rude of me not to send letters for each of them as well."
She looked at him, the smile fading on her face. Haltingly, as though it pained her to speak, she said, "Fírhador…if you are earnest in this matter of letter-writing, and not wholly in jest, then I ask you…will you also write a letter for Eleluleniel? I know you do not think that I will find her, but I…I would not go to her empty-handed."
They paused on the faint path that their feet had trodden into the grass and he turned toward her, his face briefly vulnerable and naked. Taking her hands, he held them gently in his own. "I will write two letters and place them in an envelope together. One will be for her if you should find her. The other is for you, if you do not."
She let out her breath. "Some elaborate I-told-you-so, I suppose," she said, but he shook his head, holding her with his eyes.
"No, beloved. You will be far away, and in pain, and you will have need of comfort. I will not be with you, but that letter must do in my stead till finally I come to you in Aman. And…keep the letter for Eleluleniel. In truth I do not think that you will find her there, but she may yet come in time. I would have her know her father loves her."
Touched, Thalawen brought his hands to her lips and kissed them tenderly. "You need not fear, dear husband. Eleluleniel knows that well, wherever she is." And they stood like that for some time in the gathering shadows of the garden.
Alqualondë, or "Swanhaven," is a city of the Teleri Elves on the eastern shores of Valinor, the realm of the Valar in Aman.
"It may be she has been released into Haenes' charge, but it may be that she lingers still in the Halls of Mandos … It is said that pain and grief can hold the houseless fëa thrall, though blameless it depart Middle-earth." The Halls of Mandos are where the fëar or souls of Men and Elves await their separate fates. While the fate of Men is unknown, Elves are eventually reembodied and released to dwell in Aman. Some Elves, such as the infamous Fëanor, remain in the Halls indefinitely.
Mithlond is the Elven name for "the Grey Havens," the port from which Elves typically sailed for Aman from Middle-earth.
Leni and Kurbag's tale continues elsewhere, in Orc-brat. Orc-brat takes place later, roughly three months after Leni was taken.