3. Many meetings
Shaking away the old memory he turned hurriedly away from the scion of Galathilion, who in turn had been a scion of Telperion, eldest of trees. He could feel himself shaking from the power of the memory; he could still feel the amount of emotion that the image caused him to feel. But, he could also feel the old fear of that time coursing through his veins, as much later he was forced to watch the Tree's light fail.
Turning swiftly he found himself confronting a wide stone fountain, with crystal clear water that cheerfully bubbled and flowed into the deep pool beneath. But, it was not the fountain that held his gaze but rather the man who sat upon it's edge in front of a small group of children; including the dark haired girl that had led him here. The man who held them all enthralled, to all appearances looked perfectly normal; about middle-aged with dark hair and a beard, closely clipped to prevent it from becoming too unruly. But, it was what he was doing that was fascinating. He was clearly telling a story, and, much to the children's delight, was wildly articulating along with what he was saying.
Another man also sat within the children's midst. He sat, leaning against the stone side of the fountain; his hood drawn back to reveal, two dark grey eyes, that burnt with an intensity rarely seen amongst the Second-born, and, the face of a man caught between child and adult-hood. His hair was so dark as to be nearer black, while clenched between his teeth was a long stemmed straight pipe, which would constantly puff smoke. But, spoiling his rather broody countenance was the company he kept. Two young girls sat with him, the elder of the pair, about eleven years, as mortals count age, sat, nestled into his side, her head laid against his shoulder, while his arm held her gently within his grasp; her eyes, slowly drooping as she listened to the story-teller weave his tale. The younger of the pair meanwhile sat, barely, upon his knees. So excited was she on the man's lap that she lent, closer, and closer, to the story-teller as the story progressed. Her grey eyes shone in the mid-day light, showing the innocence of all young children in the ways of the past; but, a deeper understanding shone in them also, as she listened in rapt attention to the storyteller's narrative. Yet for all her fixation on the storyteller it was she, and not the watchful man with whom she sat, who first noticed the stranger watching their group.
"How now stranger!" She called to him with the over-exuberance of an excited child, which is, what she was.
Hearing this though, the man upon whom she was sat started; and glared up at this new arrival, who did both interrupt and, startle him. The children also did start and the child whom the wanderer had followed looked most abashed at seeing him again. But, the storyteller meanwhile did not glare, nor did he start, nor did he seek to deter the stranger from remaining with them, and he spoke to him quietly in the same tongue as the child earlier had used, but, for the most part the wanderer could not understand what either's words to him had meant. And so, he was forced with great reluctance to read in the minds of the pair what it was that they wished from him; and what the storyteller said came as a bit of a shock to him;
"Hail stranger! It is not oft that others will come to listen, but, if that is what you wish then come, and partake in our merriment; listen to our stories and mayhap tell a few of your own if you wish. For I can see clearly that you are well travelled. So sit friend, and be welcome."
Eyeing the storyteller in curiosity, the wanderer did as he was bidden, and sat, upon the edge of the group so as to not intrude too far. As he sat, and made himself comfortable by wrapping his long dark cloak about his sparse frame making sure his head was covered, although it was an extremely hot day. The storyteller continued with his telling of the Princess in the tree and, of her lover, who for a bride price had to retrieve a jewel for her father; and, as the story continued the wanderer began to get lost within his own memories of that time and, so lost was he, that it took the young girl three tries to finally break him from his thoughts of the past, and back to the present day.
The girl had moved off her guardian's knee when the wanderer had been otherwise occupied, and, had now sat herself in front of him, staring up in unashamed curiosity, and not a little annoyance at the fact that she had been ignored.
Finally though, the wanderer noticed the girl and gently asked; "Aye little one?" quietly so as to not disturb the other children from the story. He only remembered after he spoke, that he had questioned her in Sindarin and not in any of the mannish tongues. Yet, although the girl scowled briefly at him and her brow furrowed in concentration, she responded in a similar form of the language; though it was haltingly, much to the amusement of the elder girl still nestled into the smoking man's side; whose eyes seemed to be attempting to burn a new hole into the wanderers battered cloak.
"I said," she said with some show, "what's your name?"
Smiling gently at the girl the wanderer replied cryptically; "I have many names; and yet, I wonder who you might be fair one?"
Giggling slightly at his small quip, to her guardian's true annoyance, but her curiosity now truly piqued, she answered; "My name is Lothiel. But, what do you mean you have many names? How many names?"
Deciding to have a little fun with the child; he replied, with a twinkle in his eye that had long been missing: "what I do mean fair Lothiel is, that, different people do call me different names." Purposely avoiding her true question with such an accustomed ease, that he appeared born to. Unfortunately, to Lothiel's guardian, the wanderer with whom his charge was speaking was nothing more than an unwelcome annoyance and so, he decided that, it was time to curtail their banter with a question so straight-forward, that it was all but unavoidable not to answer.
"What she means to ask, sir, is, by what name do you most oft go by? Or, failing that, what name were you given by your parents at birth?" An edge had crept into his voice as he spoke and, this was not lost upon the wanderer; although, he chose not to let it affect his answer with again, an ease that he seemed to have adopted numerous times before.
Replying, with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders he began, "well my Lord, I was simply attempting to have a quiet converse with the young Lady here, but," he continued, "if you would know what my parents did call me when I was young then I shall tell you; my father did name me Kano. But, now my Lord and Ladies, I believe these other children are expecting this story to be ended ere they must retire to their homes later this day. So, I believe that it would be best if we did curtail this conversation for now."
Realising that they had indeed been attracting attention from the other children with whom they sat, though few, if any, could understand what was being said; and so the man, who had been revealed by his speech to still be nearer child-hood than adult-hood, nodded his head in acquiesce, before, holding his hands out for the young girl to go back to him. But, shaking her head in the negative she proceeded to plop herself down beside the wanderer, as only a child can; deciding, that he would make for far more interesting company than the man upon whose knee she had been sitting on for most of the afternoon; and, she couldn't have been closer to the truth.
As the day had worn on the child Lothiel had slowly begun to inch closer to him. At first she had simply sat beside him, doing naught but listen to the storyteller as he wove his magic about them. Making them feel as though, they too were with the Lady as she saw her father in his great hall, and were with her during the days of her waiting for her love to return. That they were with her love when he went to another kingdom for aid so that he could fulfil the quest that had been charged upon him; and they were there when treachery came and the King of that land went with the Lady's love with ten companions alone to do the quest, for no others would go with him.
Listening to the tale he remembered when he had first heard of their treachery. That they had sent a Kinsman into death for nothing, for nothing had been gained, yet much had been lost.
The child crept closer to his side as the tale darkened and the dark one, Sauron, captured them and how the King fought against Sauron in songs of power and the teller told them that;
"He chanted a song of wizardry,
Of piercing opening, of treachery,
Revealing, uncovering, betraying.
Then sudden Felagund there swaying
Sang in answer a song of staying,
Resisting, battling against power,
Of secrets kept, strength like a tower,
And trust unbroken, freedom, escape;
Of changing and of shifting shape,
Of snares eluded, broken traps,
The prison opening, the chain that snaps.
Backwards and forwards swayed their song,
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong
The chanting swelled, Felagund fought,
And all the magic and might he brought
Of Elvenesse into his words.
Softly in the gloom they heard the birds
Singing afar in Nargothrond,
The sighing of the sea beyond,
Beyond the Western world, on sand,
On sand of pearls in Elvenland.
Then the gloom gathered, darkness growing
In Valinor, the red blood flowing
Beside the sea, where the Noldor slew
The Foamriders, and stealing drew
Their white ships with their white sails
From lamplit havens. The wind wails,
The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn.
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn-
And Finrod fell beneath the throne..."
It was then, when the storyteller paused after reciting a part of the Lay of that tale and fell into a short respectful silence before continuing on with the tale proper, that the wanderer noticed that a large number of the children had stopped watching the storyteller with his tale, and, had begun to instead stare at him in open curiosity; much to his own puzzlement. It was then that he heard giggling coming from the girl, Lothiel, what was she giggling at?
Raising a questioning eyebrow at her though only made her giggles increase, although after this glance the vast majority of the other children stopped staring, at least, they stopped doing it quite so noticeably. After a short while she eventually managed to get her mirth under control enough to answer his unvoiced question.
"You were humming." Before she succumbed to the giggles once more.
Looking more than a little shocked at this revelation, the wanderer glances around the group, his eyes, passing over each festively dressed child, who feel a tingle run up their spines as his eyes alight upon each in turn. The young man though, still smarting from earlier, glares back at the Wanderer who had hurt his pride; but, the wanderer had long since passed his gaze away from the young man by the time he had finally managed to achieve a satisfactory glower. Finally the Wanderers eyes alighted upon the Storyteller who, not batting an eye-lid nor pausing in his tale, simply smiled a slight grin at the Wanderer causing the former to frown and go deeper into thought concerning the storyteller.
The rest of the afternoon soon wore on and by the time the Wanderer returned from his thoughts Vasa's light was beginning to wane causing the heavens above to break out into extravagant colours. With pink, orange, blue, white and red splashed across the sky like a painters canvas. The tale also was coming to a close with the youngest of the children falling asleep in their elder sibling's arms.
"'So it was," the storyteller finished, "that alone of the Eldalie she has died indeed, and left the world long ago. Yet in her choice the Two kindreds have been joined; and she is the forerunner of many in whom the Eldar see yet, though all the world is changed, the likeness of Luthien the beloved, whom they have lost.'
Now my young friends, sunset is coming and this story is ended. And before you leave for home I shall tell you something of this hour. For the Eldar do not count the passing of days as we do, instead the Eldar count the sunset as days beginning, for they journeyed through darkness under the light of the moon, and he celebrates that kindred but, at sunrise the Second kindred awoke and the elder folk waned, so, they reckon from sunset to sunset; just as we reckon from sunrise to sunrise." He laughed as the children looked at him in suspicion certain that he was lying, and one young boy, with short black hair did tell him so. "Nay my son, I am not lying to you, but, the full-story I will save for another day."
"Please!" The girl with the dark hair and blue dress begged him, her eyes shining. Causing him to laugh yet more and tussle her hair in affection.
"Aye little one, I shall, but, not today."
The Wanderer smiled slightly at the children as they began to depart for home chattering excitedly about the tale they heard tell and they wondered also what this other tale could be about; and what ancient heroes it might star. Some, desperate to find out more from their entertainer went up to him asking questions their tongues not stopping except when waiting for an answer.
He felt movement along his left side and watched as Lothiel wriggled to push herself up and away from where she had cuddled into his arm while his mind had been walking in old memories. As he looked down at her she beamed at him in return.
"I didn't think you would mind..." she trailed off, suddenly embarrassed about her assumption.
"Indeed I did not." He quietly replied, smiling a little to try to set her at ease.
Relief flooded back into her as she stood in front of him allowing her to able to look eye to eye with her new found friend. She opened her mouth to speak but, her guardian appeared behind her carrying the elder girl with whom she had sat before.
"Lothiel we must go ere mother or father becomes worried," grasping her hand he began to lead her away; but, he had only moved her a little way when she pulled her hand sharply away from his and, much to his shock, skipped back to the Wanderer.
"Lothiel!" He called to her in annoyance.
"Nay Eldarion I was talking!" Turning swiftly away from him, she settled her gaze once more upon the Wanderer who had been watching the exchange in much amusement. "Kano," she began, remembering that as the name he had given her earlier to use, "will you be coming again tomorrow?"
The Wanderer, Kano paused slightly before answering softly, "I do not know child, though, it is possible that I shall."
Not really satisfied with his answer, but guessing that it probably meant yes, Lothiel flung her arms around his neck, making him start in shock; before she rushed back to Eldarion who straight away began to scold her for her actions.
The Wanderer meanwhile did not move, and he sat staring in shock at their retreating backs until they left his view and he was left with only the bubbling fountain for company.