5. Of the Sun, the Moon and Singing Sparrows
Káno had not slept much the previous night. Although tired, he had found that he was surprisingly restless so had spent the night watching Falborn sleep, and studying the brig-a-brag upon the chest of drawers; taking a strange delight in finding a book written in some odd dialect of Sindarin similar to that which the Storyteller had occasionally sung in yesterday. But of even greater interest than this book was another. Written in the characters developed by Fëanor the actual language was that which he had noted seemed to be the common tongue of most of those people with which he had met or overheard. A hybrid of the Elvish and Edain languages the book was a joy for any who had once studied languages and made it his duty to master as many of those languages as possible. Stories, tales, poems and parts of chronicles filled the pages. A compendium of writings for use by the Storyteller in his tellings. Notes and comments littered the margins of the pages, extra sheets pushed inside with additional writings only added to the magic that Káno perceived from the book.
The sun had not yet risen but light was still available from the fullness of the moon and it was with this light that he found himself reading. Opening one of the window shutters, the one without the creaky hinge, he settled himself cross-legged upon the floor, his back to the cool wall, and he read.
Poetry appeared to dominate this book, strange little verses seemingly made by the Storyteller, his own musings in verse upon the world at large whether they be of war or of the seasons of the year. They were nothing truly special, at least not by his own standards, but Falborn had clearly enjoyed their creation, his notes and crossings leaving their own history as to each poems construction. Old poetry, some that he recognised, also abounded within the bindings, in some cases two or three versions warred with each other for dominance and then later he would find a rewritten version of the tales with the versions combined to create one whole.
Time had no meaning for him as he read, not that such an idea had been held of worth to him for many a long year, but now when time did hold at least some sort of meaning he found himself lost within his study of the pages. The sun rose gold and magnificent into the blue of the early morning sky but he missed its passing; just as he missed the sparrows alight upon the window ledge above his shoulder, their light singing in his ear not gaining his attention. A soft chuckle of amusement and the weight of eyes upon the side of his head did however conspire to break him from his reverie.
"My books are to your liking I see." Falborn states offhandedly when the Wanderer sitting upon his floor looks up in puzzlement at the sound. Still laying beneath the covers of his bed the man has propped his head upon his forearms studying the curiosity leaning beneath the window.
The Wanderer bowed his head briefly to stare once again at the pages within his hands. "I have read little in a long time." He replied honestly.
"Ah." Falborn nods before sitting up and rubbing tiredly at his eyes. "I drank too much last night." He comments not expecting an answer. "My apologies, I should not have. Still," and now he attempts at a smile. "We should wash up before heading down to break fast I think." And so saying he stands and stretches, walking over to the door he unlocks it moving to step out into the hall.
The Wanderer however did not move from his position beneath the window, his head, still covered by his dark hood, a fact the Storyteller did not miss but declined to comment upon; thinking it only as one of his guests eccentricities. The lack of acknowledgement as to food and a wash however does prompt Falborn to sharp speech. "Whether you have the wash or not, the food you will have."
Moving quickly away, missing Káno raising his head in astonishment at the tone levelled upon him, Falborn exits their shared quarters and walking down the wooden hallway knocks upon one of the other door's requesting a bowl of warm water if it would be at all possible. With that accomplished he makes his way back to his room rubbing tiredly at the dark stubble upon his chin. A shave would perhaps also be a good idea, unless he wanted to frighten any children away by his appearance. Sucking in a deep breath he pushes open the door ready to confront a potential argument instead what he finds makes him grin. Káno, it would seem, after Falborn's abrupt departure and initial shock at being 'told' to do anything, had decided to move. Not far admittedly, but he had stood at least and moved away from his floor space beneath the now fully open casement to sit upon the previously untouched pallet that had been brought up for him to sleep on. His bag, which Falborn had admittedly forgotten about, lay open upon the bed, most of its contents spilling out. Shells, twine, paper, quills, an old tunic, the dried husk of a number of different berries, leaves, even the odd harp string or two lay cast out onto the bed next to their owner who appeared to be carefully sorting through his things under the watchful eye of two small speckled sparrows, their little black eyes watching with interest as he examined each of the objects in turn. What exactly his mysterious friend was doing with the objects Falborn didn't know, and even though his curiosity begged him to at least ask, he stayed silent and simply joined the birds in their watch.
Well aware of the audience he had gathered but uncaring as to what they might be thinking Káno continues to examine each of the objects within his bag. The leather spoilt, cracked and dry in places from its over usage. It had been a gift, as had been most of its collected contents from an old friend who had visited him on occasion to talk; even though the old man had mostly talked to himself. Káno had listened to his words only on occasion and at first he had listened not at all when this strange man had sort him out in his exile. Finally rolling his eyes at the birds he whistles lightly to them, offering them the few berries that he possessed that they had fixed their eyes upon. Exactly when they had arrived he was not certain, certainly not long after Falborn had left the room. But the moment the Storyteller had returned from his small walk down the hall Káno had been well aware of. The steps of a slightly hung over man are much louder than those of two small birds. Refusing to look up when the man had walked in Káno had instead carried on with his task of sorting through his bag. Only when a knock sounds upon the door and Falborn, still too concentrated upon watching him sort through his things, pays no attention to it does he finally act: "someone is at the door." His voice is quiet but it has the necessary effect upon the man. Falborn jumps as the spell he was under is lifted and he stares bemusedly for a moment or two before opening the door and collecting two steaming bowls of water.
Feeling more embarrassed than he'd care to admit towards the other, Falborn mutters a word or two of thanks to Káno before placing the two bowls upon the chest of drawers and proceeding to unabashedly remove his clothes in order to wash himself. Purposefully ignoring anybody else in the room.
Smiling, a small smile that does not quite reach his eyes, because he feels that no smile should, Káno finds himself slightly amused by this reaction. Undaunted by his companions embarrassed silence he proceeds to break the silence himself. "Where did you learn all of these tales?"
Brief silence greets his questions as the storyteller pauses in mid-wash, the cloth that he had collected from atop the drawers dripping water. "Many places." He finally replies. "Some are myths and legends. Stories that adults like to tell children at bedtime. Some are ones my own parents spoke to me when I was but a lad, others I learned from my wife, our friends, and their family. From anyone I can ask. Others I discovered in written manuscripts within the libraries of the great cities. I travel a great deal you see and every tale or poem, ballad or legend that I come across I write down as best I can. In some cases I have tried my hand at penning my own. Not that most should ever be read, but I have tried. Since the coming of the King and Queen it has become easier to gain access to materials what with the friendships Gondor has made with her neighbours and the fact that Gondor and Arnor are once again united." He shrugs. "Once I hear a tale or read a tale I see no reason why I should not tell others." He pauses again and turns to look at Káno quizzically. "Why do you ask?"
The Wanderer does not meet his gaze instead lifting a small conch shell to his ear, how he had fit it into such a small bag Falborn had little idea, while watching the two sparrows fight over who could have the most berries. "I was merely curious. Some of the tales within your books I had thought no-one would think to listen to." He replies distractedly. "I would have thought people would have considered them eccentric."
Falborn looks strange as he pulls on a different pair of trousers, his dark hair dripping water down his back. "A strange comment from a bard."
"It was you who came to that conclusion, not me. I said nought." Comes the quick reply as the Wanderer begins to once again refill his bag.
"Perhaps. But I stand by my word. Who else would carry instrument strings in their bag?" Falborn shot back, running a hand through his knotted hair before grabbing a spare tunic off a nearby chair.
"A mad man." Came the quick response.
Falborn chuckles. "True. But a mad man could not keep a sane conversation going. Now, have a wash if you wish my friend. I'm going to see if I can't find us something to eat." And with that said and leaving Káno to shoot an amused look at his back Falborn walks back outside of their room heading off downstairs on the hunt for someone that could provide them with breakfast.
Still uncertain as to what Falborn might want in return for his hospitality Káno is slow to move away from his pallet. He has no change of his clothes on him other than an old tunic that his unlooked for friend had once provided; and that was hardly clean.
Listening to his companion's footsteps echo down the hall, getting further and further away from their room, Káno finally overcomes his hesitation and pulls his black cloak away from his shoulders. Its weight taken away he straightens and looks at his reflection in the clean water. He barely flinches as he takes in his grubby features, reaching for a cloth Falborn had left out for him to use he dips the material in to the water spoiling the image. Scrubbing away at his face, not bothering to be gentle Káno looks in disgust at the muck on the cloth when he pulls it away. Relishing the feel of the hot water but despising himself as he does so, he pulls quickly at the ties of his tunic. The strings slick with dirt they move easily, it had once been a dark maroon tunic, one of his favourites once upon a time. Now though it was simply a ruin of its prior self. Placing the cloth against his skin, the moisture a welcome relief, he once again begins to scrub at himself, layers of dirt falling away. His arms, chest, back, not clean but certainly not anywhere near as filthy as before are left with a strange red glow from the heat of the water and the roughness used against them.
Pausing briefly to listen for Falborn's return but hearing nothing Káno finally untied the laces of his trousers, stripping out of his mud splattered clothes. Repeating the actions used upon his face and upper body upon his legs, Káno felt a welcome relief, his mood lightening for the first time in years as he feels himself become cleaner. Relishing the feeling of relative cleanliness as the wind coming through the open casements wraps about his form.
Putting his still mud covered trousers back on and tying them awkwardly the Wanderer sighs then looks with curiosity at the two bowls of rapidly cooling water in front of him. That which he had used was brown, almost black from the muck upon his body, he grimaces when he compares it to the barely darkened water that Falborn had used. Letting out a breath of air he pulls his slightly cleaner tunic out of his bag, he had only worn it a few times at the urging of its giver, but that had not stopped it from gaining a well-worn look. Shrugging, he tugs it over his head. The tunic might have been of the same material as the other, although this was a dark green, but it felt lighter, perhaps, he thought in black humour, that it's lighter simply because it has not become quite as dirt covered as its companion. Tying the laces of the tunic with the same difficulty that he found in tying those of his trousers Káno lets out a sigh of frustration staring in annoyance at his bandaged right hand and takes in the dust covering that. Irritated but disliking the idea of attempting to unwrap and then rewrap the hand he looks calculatingly at the under sheets of his pallet. Biting his lip briefly, but only briefly, he listens once again for any footsteps in the hall, hearing none familiar he un-tucks a corner and rips off a strip of the material. Nodding in satisfaction he deftly wraps the strip about his hand, using it to stop the older bandage from coming loose.
Stretching his back, and hearing it pop, he winces and reaches back to rub the offending point. Feeling the tangled mass that was his hair, he winces once more, as he attempts to run his hand through the tattered raven mass. Giving up, not prepared to fight with it today or indeed on any day soon, Káno lets it go. There was no use attempting to win that particular battle with a mass of hair that was all but the same length as his back and so salt encrusted he was lucky that he had even managed to get any fingers between the knots. Finally he reaches for his cloak. The dark material was made of a long lasting fabric and had been another present from his well-meaning old friend one of the last times they had met. He had barely acknowledged his friends presence that time his mind too caught up with the sea, he had sat and listened to his grey friend tell of strange things that reminded him too much of his past. He remembered his old friend sighing though at the lack of response he was getting, finally he had stood and leant upon the Wanderer's shoulder muttering words along the lines of: "you haven't heard a word I've said this time have you?" He had sighed again and patted Káno upon his back, a wince travelling through the old man as he felt the bones beneath his hand. "And you haven't been eating either from the looks of things. Well, this will not help with that problem but still." And then there had been warmth, it had taken a while for this information to get through Káno's befuddled mind and when it had been it hadn't been truly understood. He had looked up then. The old man had turned away from him muttering words along the lines of. "At least you'll be warm; you wandering old fool. Just," and the grey man had paused then turning to look back at Káno from under bushy eyebrows, his eyes registering surprise as his eyes met the grey of the Wanderer's.
"Just look after yourself." Káno had replied then, after a somewhat long delay, his voice unintentionally harsh long after the grey man had begun to walk away. Five simple words: "you just look after yourself." Simple words, very simple words from a man used to using many, but they had caused the old man to turn, his face crinkling into a smile, he tipped his head to Káno and then was gone.
Coming back to himself with a sigh, Káno pulled the cloak close to him before slipping it once again back around his shoulders. Frowning he looked at the hem, noting again its frayed bottom; resigning himself to the thought of patching it before the year was out.
Unnoticed by the quiet man, Falborn slipped back into the room, how he did so silently without his companion noticing not even he would be able to explain, but he did so. Carrying the heavy tray filled with breakfast foods his eyes do not stray from their task of watching the bowls and mugs like a hawk; shutting the door with a bang, Káno's shock at being taken by surprise going unnoticed by his present companion. Quickly he flips the hood of his cloak up covering his head fully; trust can only be taken so far after all, especially after only meeting each other the day before.
"Breakfast!" Falborn says with a smile, finally looking up, rolling his eyes good-naturedly at the Wanderer. "I would have thought it too hot to wear such a thing. Midsummer and you're wearing a black winter cloak." He shakes his head with a smile. "Rather you than me. But still," he offers a bowl and mug towards Káno after placing the tray down on his bed. "Scrambled eggs and weak tea. Not sure about the tea but the eggs I won't complain about." Perching haphazardly on his pallet the hot mug gripped between his knees, the bowl of eggs in his hands he is soon eating like a starved man. Káno however, after taking hold of his own crockery stands for a minute simply watching Falborn, an unseen eyebrow raised. Finally he sat cross-legged upon his own pallet, tea on the floor, bowl upon his lap, knowing well enough that he would not be able to balance the bowl and eat with one of his hands so encumbered.
"Why the tale of Beren and Luthien?" The question is asked suddenly, sharply, not without curiosity but so sharply it causes Falborn to stop chewing for a minute in thought.
"I thought it appropriate. What with it mentioning Sauron, and the joining of an Edain and an Eldar, many people like the story because of the joining of Lord Elessar and the Lady Arwen. Certainly it can be related towards it, even if," he takes a drink of his tea pulling a strange face as he does so. "Even if Sauron is defeated people must remember history. It's the only way they learn."
"I see." A short reply. The Wanderer sighs harshly the response had not been quite what he had hoped for but still; he did not know really what it was he had expected. "And what will you speak of today?" If a hint of bitterness had crept into his voice it had not been intended, but was not missed by his sharp-eared companion.
"The rising of the Sun and Moon of course." The Storyteller replies with a grin, purposefully ignoring the apparent bitterness in the other's voice. "That is what this festival celebrates after all. It will also mean I can answer the question as to why Men and Elves account their days differently. We will not be up by the fountain for long today since the main festival starts so early tomorrow the children must be in bed about sunset. Otherwise they'll be...they'll be...ah what's the word," he trails off then clicks his fingers and adds with a grin. "Upset tomorrow and spoil the day for everyone."
Káno gives a quiet huff in agreement recalling times when many a young child that he knew was upset in the morning after being up too long during the night.
"Ah I see you agree." Falborn laughs. "But come, we ought to be heading up there soon. The children seem to wake earlier every year and dislike being kept waiting by old folk such as me."
The Wanderer nods in understanding and after drinking the last of his tea, stands and picks up his belongings, unwilling to leave them alone. Grinning Falborn tells him to not worry about their crockery; "we'll take it down to the kitchen later." Gently picking up his lyre from where it has been resting wrapped against the wall he cradles it in his arms. With a nod the pair set out.
Unlike yesterday when the Wanderer had walked through the city it is only midmorning and many of its inhabitants have still yet to rise from their beds. Many businesses' still showing the closed sign in their windows. With a look of understanding the Storyteller tells him that because of the festivities the city adopts a much lazier atmosphere. Where but a week before the city streets would have been a beehive of activity, with its inhabitants enjoying the good weather and late evenings the city does not fully open until late morning. Acknowledging this fact barely, the Wanderer slips into his own quiet thoughts as they once again wander up the levels of the city. The much slower pace and lessened numbers on the streets providing him with a perfect opportunity to visually explore the city, to take in its well ordered streets and defences, its unique design. Enthralled as he was, following Falborn up the winding streets instinctively, it was not long before they once again entered the highest level of the city, where stood upon its paved courtyard the fountain and tree, and where below stretched its spectacular view of the white capped mountains and green planes for miles about. Certainly he had been higher in his youth, but that was in the dawn of his years, now approaching as he saw the sunset of his life, it had been many long years since he had been as high. Yesterday had been a day of memories, an assault that he had not relished. Today he knew would be little different and if he kept dwelling upon that time when he had travelled higher he knew that many unwanted thoughts would assail his mind ere any tales could be told to spark his memory.
A number of children had already arrived; laid upon the stone they watched the clouds, seemingly without a care in the world. One, a young dark haired girl, was the very same girl that he had followed the day before in his curiosity and so had arrived here. Dressed still in the same faded blue dress with only a few more grass stains along its hem. Where she had managed to find the grass to stain herself with in this city of stone the Wanderer knew not, but grass stains were they all the same. Smiling he remembers the many times in his youth when he or a kinsman had returned home with grass stains upon their knees from kneeling over long in the early morning grass; still slick with night dew. The tongue-lashing he had received had certainly never discouraged their antics if not it had only added further enticements, to see how far their parents could be pushed.
"Káno!" A glad shout breaks him from his musings and he has only just enough time to look up and register a little body running to him before small arms are clasped about his legs. "I had feared that you would not return!" It was his young friend from the day before, Lothiel. Her scowling guardian walked behind her at a much more sedate pace, his face seeming set in a perpetual scowl; their other companion of the day prior however is not in tow. "I told you he would come Eldarion!" She crows, turning to look at him with a beaming smile. "He said that I should not hope for you to return here, although you did swear to me that you would. He just does not like strangers."
"A wise man," the Wanderer replies softly kneeling before the child. "A wise man is he who does not simply trust all he meets at face value. But I gave you my word that I would most likely return here on the morrow and so I have. But I did not swear that to you, I do not swear oaths to anyone."
Partially ignoring his words Lothiel instead moves her hands to clasp about his neck staring into his hood watching his lips move. "My Naneth says that you should not swear oaths or things like that, although," she frowns slightly. "The guards swear loyalty." Her forehead creases in confusion. "But Naneth is usually right."
Confused himself at first, the child's words making little sense to him but soon realisation hits him, as he understands, somewhat, what the girl was suggesting. "Guards swear oaths of loyalty. Your Naneth talks about oaths of action. They are different."
Not really understanding what the Wanderer is talking about Lothiel utters only an "oh" to his softly spoken explanation. Knowing well enough that it is the correct response to give. "Eldarion still said that you would not come."
Smiling a small tight smile, Káno ducks his head in order to stop the small girl seeing the amusement dancing in his eyes as he recognises the irony in the older lads name; son of the Eldar. The lad, he thought, had probably never met one of the Eldar and though he looked fairer this morn than he did last eve; his face was, to the Wanderer's eye, not so fair as that bright folk.
"Elanna felt sick today so she could not come. Mother said that it would be not right for her to make others ill." The child continues quickly, explaining as to the missing presence. "But she'll be fine tomorrow. Elanna often feels ill, then gets better really quickly. Nobody really understands why. Oh and I told-"
Looking up briefly from his little friend's excited face he meets the broad grin of Falborn who holds a finger briefly to his lips asking for silence. Nodding in understanding Káno brushes his fingertips over the child's lips, stilling them. "Falborn is about to begin." He whispers quietly into her ear, "we shall talk later."
Breathing a little huff, unhappy to be silenced so when wishing to tell her friend what news she brings, Lothiel quickly remembers her manners and stills herself. Perching upon Káno's knee and turning so that she is facing the Storyteller, her back rests against the ever cloaked mans chest. Eldarion, after the barest of hesitations sat across from them, a look of barely concealed mistrust apparent upon his face.
And so, with his audience quiet and still, Falborn begins: "I spoke yesterday children of how the Elves reckon their days; from sunset to sunset. Heralding the rising of the moon as the birth of the new day. I also told you that a story lay behind it. Would then you like to hear it?" He pauses now awaiting their reply. With a unanimous cry of "yea" he continues. "You would it seem? I am glad, for though this tale is both long and old, it is a good tale. And so, I shall begin:
Of old the light in this world that we call home was not given to us by our Sun and our Moon. But still was there light or so it is told. Light came to the world as a gift, a gift from two trees, Laurelin and Telperion. One was golden and the other silver-"
"How can trees give light?" A small boy interrupts to ask, his voice both curious and sceptical.
"I know not, Lad. All I know is what the tales passed down tell us, for the time I speak of is from before our race awoke." Scattered gasps and mutters are heard from amongst the gathered children as Falborn speaks. Smiling to himself, he is pleased at their reactions and so he allows them to talk quietly among themselves for a moment before raising a hand for silence. "It is true my young ones, it is true. They grew in the Far West in the land that we now call the Undying Lands, Valinor. Yavanna, the Lady of the Valar who created all green things, so too created the Trees. One had leaves of dark green that beneath were shining silver, and from each of his countless flowers a dew of silver light was ever falling, and the earth beneath was dappled with the shadows of his fluttering leaves. The other bore leaves of a young green like the new-opened beech; their edges were of glittering gold. Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light. Telperion the first one was called in Valinor, and Silpion, and Ninquelótë, and many other names; but Laurelin the other was, and Malinalda, and Culúrien, and many other names in song beside.
In seven hours the glory of each tree waxed to full and waned again to naught; and each awoke once more to life an hour before the other ceased to shine. Thus in Valinor twice every day there came a gentle hour of softer light when both trees were faint and their gold and silver beams were mingled. Telperion was the elder of the trees and came first to full stature and to bloom; and that first hour in which he shone, the white glimmer of a silver dawn, the Valar reckoned not into the tale of hours, but named it the Opening Hour, and counted from it the ages of their reign in Valinor. Therefore at the sixth hour of the First Day, and of all the joyful days thereafter, until the Darkening of Valinor -of which I shall speak soon-, Telperion ceased his time of flower; and at the twelfth hour Laurelin her blossoming. And each day in Aman contained twelve hours, and ended with the mingling of the lights, in which Laurelin was waning but Telperion was waxing. But the light that was spilled from the trees endured long, ere it was taken up into the airs or sank down into the earth; and the dews of Telperion and the rain that fell from Laurelin Varda hoarded in great vats like shining lakes, that were to all the land of the Valar as wells of water and of light. Thus began the Days of the Bliss of Valinor; and thus began also the Count of Time. Now one day, as I have said, the light of the Two Trees failed. And evil came to those lands, for Morgoth the first Dark Lord brought destruction with him and killed the Two Trees-"
"The Silmarils! He took the Jewels that Beren and Luthien took back from him." The dark haired girl from the day before shouts in understanding.
"Aye, Maris, aye. He took them then and so the War between the Elves and Morgoth began." The Storyteller agrees with her, his eyes glimmering with satisfaction that she could remember. "Now the deaths of the Trees meant that the World was plunged into darkness the only light being that of the Stars. But the Darkness that came was more than simply a loss of light. For in that hour when the Trees' light failed, the Darkness that was created seemed to be a thing of its own: for it was made by malice out of Light, and it had power to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle a person's very will."
Lothiel, listening with the rapt attention of the very young, shivers upon Káno's lap as she hears this gloomy tale. Enchanted she had been by the description of the Blessed Trees but hearing now of their end her enchantment gave way to horror. Her breathing hitched in fright. Feeling the unsettlement of his companion, and feeling himself unsettled, his memories warring to break loose, Káno tentatively at first, wrapped an arm loosely about her small frame in an attempt to calm her and distract him. Appreciative of this action she shuffles herself further into his chest, attempting almost, to shield herself from the evilness of the tale.
"But," Falborn continues, "it was not long as the Elves accounted the days before, when they in their revolt they found themselves being bathed in a new glory. For as those of the Lord Fingolfin's following crossed the Helcaraxë, the dread ice that once stood in the North, a new light ascended into the heavens. For when the Valar learned that the Noldor Elves had passed out of Aman, they arose and began to set forth in deeds those counsels that they had taken in thought for the redress of the evils of Melkor. Then Manwë bade Yavanna and Nienna to put forth all their powers of growth and healing; and they put forth all their powers upon the Trees. But the tears of Nienna availed not to heal their mortal wounds; and for a long while Yavanna sang alone in the shadows. Yet even as hope failed and her song faltered, Telperion bore at last upon a leafless bough one great flower of silver, and Laurelin a single fruit of gold.
These Yavanna took; and then the Trees truly died, and it is said that their lifeless stems stand yet in Valinor, a memorial of vanished joy. But the flower and the fruit Yavanna gave to Aulë, and Manwë hallowed them, and Aulë and his people made vessels to hold them and preserve their radiance. These vessels the Valar gave to Varda, that they might become lamps of heaven, outshining the brightest stars, being nearer to Arda; and she gave them power to traverse the lower regions of Ilmen, and set them to voyage upon appointed courses above the girdle of the Earth from the West unto the East and to return.
These things the Valar did, recalling in the twilight the darkness of the lands of Arda; and they resolved now to illumine Middle-earth and with light to hinder the deeds of Melkor against the children of Iluvatar.
Isil the sheen is the Moon called in the old tongue, flower of Telperion in Valinor; and Anar the Fire-golden, fruit of Laurelin, they named the Sun. But the Noldor named them also Rana, the Wayward, and Vasa, the Heart of Fire, that awakens and consumes. The Moon was the first to sail the heavens above and so was the first the Noldor saw in their exile and so it is because of this they account their days from Sunset to Sunset. But, at the first rising of the Sun the Younger Children of the One awoke in the land of Hildorien in the eastward regions of Middle-earth; but the first sun arose in the West, and the opening eyes of Men were turned towards it, and their feet as they wandered over the Earth for the most part strayed that way. The Atani, were we named by the Eldar, the Second People; but they called us by other names beside; The Hildor, the Followers, Apanonar, the After-born, Engwar, the Sickly, and Firimar, the Mortals. Also, the Usurpers, the Strangers, and the Inscrutable, the Self-cursed, the Heavy-handed, the Night-fearers, the Children of the Sun." Here Falborn pauses once again to look upon his audience, their eyes enchanted and bewildered in turn. "Now why did I tell you that tale?"
"Because you said you would yesterday." One of the lads says petulantly.
"True, true. But another reason."
"Because it is the Gate of Summer tomorrow and so we celebrate the first dawn" One of the girls replies from her place next to the Storyteller
A smile like to the sun radiates from Falborn as he looks at the girl; pleased with her answer. "Indeed it is Ariel. But there is another reason. And this reason you should all know-."
"It is because of the White Tree." A low voice interrupts forcing all of those present to turn to meet it. It is the eldest of all of the children there assembled who speaks; Lothiel's elder brother Eldarion, his voice pitched low as he explains. "Our White Tree is descended from a shoot of Telperion the Silver and so we are linked to the Moon, though this city was once called Minas Arnor, Citadel of the Sun. You speak of the Two Trees and their fruits so that we shall not forget where it is we are come from."
Silence reigns for a few moments as all eyes turn to look where the White Tree stands tall next to them. Its branches so laden with blossoms, a number of its white petals have fallen about upon the ground like snow while others dance upon the wind. While leaves sway and flicker from green to silver to green as the unseen hand teases.
"And why else?" Falborn asks softly once more, his face turned to watch the dancing leaves.
The answer does not come immediately to any there present and when it does, it comes from a source that would not normally have answered but his thoughts had been turned inwards during the telling. His mind mulling over the words there spoken. "Hope."
Lothiel tips her head back to look up to the face of the man she leans against, her mouth parted slightly as she listens. Káno had spoken only quietly, his answer more of a murmur, a voice to his thoughts.
Falborn's warm face crinkles into a slight smile as he recognises the voice.
"For hope indeed." He agrees. "For once again Light comes from Darkness. And that the Valar still look over us, helping us and guiding us in continuing on in the light." Silence surrounds the small group as they think upon his words; a silence that does not last long however for breaking his solemnity Falborn grins suddenly broadly, a laugh bubbling up from the depths. "I also told you that tale because it makes an exciting tale does it not?"
The mood quickly lightening the smallest children giggle in delight, the elders chuckling to themselves, sharing glances of amusement. Káno too chuckles, a sound that only Lothiel, in her unique vantage point hears causing her to giggle all the harder. It is a while before the laughter dies down and quiet chatter replaces it.
Lothiel too joins her peers in talk, her fit of giggles calmed only slightly the small girl launches into quick speech. Spurred on by Káno's own amusement, throwing her head back to look up at him, she returns once again to their earlier conversation as though there had been no story told: "And I told Nana and Ada all about you. Elanna wanted me to be quiet; she wanted to talk about the stories that we'd heard. And Eldarion was just jealous that Nana and Ada were giving me attention and not him. Nana was really curious about you. And Ada said later, before bed, that he wanted to meet you and Nana said that you should break fast with us tomorrow."
With her back resting against her strange friends chest she feels, but pays no heed to the fact that his breath appears to catch in utter bewilderment at this statement. So dazed is the Wanderer that he can utter nothing but stunned silence. "I think Eldarion told them more after dinner. Not that he knows anything." She adds offhandedly as an afterthought. Startled and more than a little uncomfortable by this request Káno shoots a look over towards Falborn who is standing close by talking in quiet tones to the young man lately mentioned. Lothiel however does not seem to notice her strange friends nerves and continues talking, barely pausing for breath. "I think we're going to have treacleberries for breakfast, at least I hope so. They're lovely, really juicy and really sweet too!" She grins looking up with glee. "Eldarion hates them though, he says that they're too sweet, but nothing can ever be too sweet! And he says that they're not real berries at all, they're just sweets. But he doesn't know anything!"
Finally finding his voice, or a little of it at least, the Wanderer murmurs a small "oh" in response to the child his mind turning desperately trying to understand his current situation. Lothiel meanwhile taking his word as a spur for yet further talking carries on regardless of the mental anguish she is causing her 'friend'. "Really he doesn't at all. Although...I guess treacleberries are sort of like sweets because they're sweet but why would Ada let us have sweets to break fast with even if only on special occasions, Nana probably would...but Ada...Ada wouldn't. So they must be berries!" Working through the logic that her father would never allow her or her siblings to break their fast with sweets she grins in sheer delight as she believes that her elder brother is wrong in his assumptions and that she of course, was correct in hers. Bemused by the child upon his lap, Káno offers her a tentative smile that is mostly hidden within the confines of his hood but understanding his meaning her grin, full of gaps where her small baby teeth have begun to fall out to be replaced by their larger adult versions, is full of glee.
Sibling rivalry Káno muses, even after so many years it still exists even amongst the youngest of children. Shaking his head a soft smile upon his lips, whether in bemusement or amusement not even he knows. "So your parents wish to meet me?" He asks quietly attempting to redirect her attention back to the matter at hand.
She nods emphatically, her hair bouncing up and down in time. "Yes! Please say you can come Káno, please!"
Still more than a little uncomfortable by this turn of events the Wanderer does not speak for a few moments. Unwilling to look at the child whose face is so full of hope; instead he turns his gaze to stare about the great courtyard in which they sit. The brilliant White Tree -a scion of a Tree he knew long ago- whose blossoms swayed in the light breeze dominates his view. The fountain beside it, a pale imitation of its beauty as it attempts to masquerade with the White ones reflection, even bejewelled as it is by sweet scented blossoms floating upon its pure waters. Behind this living beauty lay a mighty, strong structure, this city's citadel and high tower. White or grey either colour appeared to be a suitable description of its stonework depending upon the intensity of the light breaking forth from the clouds overhead. Banners fluttering dark and silver in the wind, the breeze not strong enough to blow them taut, but more than powerful enough to let the Sun's rays glisten upon the silver thread glinting brightly. Sighing, as though finding inspiration to speak from his surroundings his words are soft: "we met only a day ago young one, how do you know that I shall not embarrass you in front of your parents?"
Lothiel frowns, twisting a lock of hair about her fingers. "But..." she bites her lip. "But you're Káno.... You're an adult. So... you have to be embarrassing. You're an adult." She nods a little to herself her teeth worrying her lower lip, uncertain as to how to answer.
Káno once again bemused -and not a little amused- by the child's reply falls silent deep in thought. To be trusted so much by one so small was a feeling, an idea that he had thought would never occur again, why should it? He had spent uncounted years of his life avoiding all contact with any of the children of Arda. Certainly he had never searched anyone out, any contact that he had with others, no matter how fleeting was not of his own making.
Lothiel however was not willing to allow Káno time to quietly order his thoughts, annoyed by her 'friends' lack of immediate agreement she stands, hands on hips -the very image of a woman scorned- glaring at him, before finally dashing over to where her brother still stands deep in conversation with Falborn.
Startled by his sister's sudden appearance at his side Eldarion jumps -to her immense delight - as Falborn offers a chuckle. Lothiel meanwhile simply offers him what she hopes is a winning smile.
"Eldarion..."she begins, her voice high and slightly wheedling.
Recognising the tone the response is a less than discrete roll of his eyes heavenwards, an action only halted when the young girl pulls at his arm.
"What?" He finally enquires with a long suffering sigh to which he receives another grin before she frowns, puckering her brow and turning a baleful eye upon the Wanderer.
"Káno won't say that he'll come." She mutters solemnly to her brother.
Clearly not altogether surprised by this turn of conversation Eldarion crouches down to his sister's eye level his voice equally solemn. "I see. Did he say why?"
The little girl shakes her head twice, catching her brother's hand. "He just said that he might be embarrassing, but...but," she worries her lip in thought, wanting to explain her earlier conversation. "But, he's an adult Eldarion, they're always embarrassing so that doesn't matter." Huffing softly she looks pleadingly up at the older boy. "Could you talk to him Eldarion, please?"
Listening to the conversation between the siblings, watching them with an observant eye Káno offers a sad smile of his own before looking up and catching the still standing Storytellers eye and offering a half-hearted shrug to his unasked for friends raised brows. Noticing this Falborn places a hand upon the crouching lads shoulder, "I think it would be a good argument to win and certainly I can make certain he gets to where he needs to be tomorrow, Eldarion."
Huffing quietly to himself Eldarion nods once curtly before standing, leading his sister back towards the lone sitting figure, -most of the other children are playing a game, their raucous shouts echoing across the courtyard- with Falborn following closely behind. Half expecting an altercation, half curious as to what the young man will say to him Káno goes to stand but is halted by the young mans waved gesture and so remains seated upon the stone floor; Eldarion himself being the one to crouch, sitting upon his heels beside the older man. "My sister says that you will not commit to coming and breaking fast with us tomorrow, may I ask why not?"
Internally chuckling the Wanderers reply is as courteous as any Lord as he studies the appearance of the boy before him. "I do not like to commit myself to any action, child. My will is my own and I would not have my word broken if any trouble should arise between now and then. But, if your family would have me break fast with them it would seem I cannot refuse else be thought of as worrisome. Therefore, as my Lady asks." He finishes and this time he does chuckle although it sounds slightly forced, as though the effort of being courteous has taken some strength that would otherwise have not been used. Eldarion however makes no move so as to acknowledge this and merely nods.
"My thanks, Sir. But now," he says, turning back to the Storyteller. "Needs must Falborn so no more stories for us, thought provoking though they are. Time has gone on and we're expected back home." He gestures skywards. "The bells have tolled for third hour already and we were supposed to return before the quarter of the second. I shall see you tomorrow." He says and inclines his head to the Storyteller, offering a curt nod to Káno. Standing he holds a hand out for his sister who stands beside him staring in deep thought at the ever cloaked Wanderer; ignoring her brother once more. "Lothiel?" He calls to her but still she does not answer instead she reaches out and grasps Káno's bandaged hand pulling it gently towards her, hearing him let out a soft pained gasp however she relinquishes her hold and lets him place it upon one raised knee.
"What did you do to your hand, Káno?" She asks in concern reaching out to touch it gently.
For a moment the Wanderer is silent and almost, the young girl repeats herself, but ere she can he replies; his voice low and quiet, nigh inaudible except to those who stand close by. "It is an old burn child, nothing more. I was not always quick in my youth and a torch got the better of me before I could douse its flame. The hot oil splashed my hand."
Upset upon her friend's behalf the child's reaction nonetheless comes as a shock to all as she leans forward and kisses the injured limb. "That's what my mummy does, it makes me feel better and all the hurt stops." She smiles then, a sweet smile and pats him gently on the knee before taking a hold of her brothers proffered hand and leading him away from the gaggle of playing children towards the citadel.
Once again shocked by the girl, Káno sits swallowing convulsively, attempting to clear the now large lump in his throat, his eyes fixed upon his knee where the bandaged hand rests. His mother had not been thought of in many a long year and, that was how he had preferred it, the memory of red hair and bright eyes too painful to be dwelled upon. As a hand rests gently upon his shoulder he starts slightly, turning to stare at the Storyteller who offers a small smile of his own. "You have a good little friend there."
Nodding faintly his throat still tighter than it had been in years Káno can only trust himself to respond with a weak, "I know."
As he turns to watch the children's retreating backs a brief strong gust blows a single blossom in to his sight, attracting his attention away from his distant thoughts and back to the present. He sighs again, shutting his eyes tightly exhaling a long breath. Having regained control over his emotions he looks up at Falborn offering the man a better smile than he feels in his heart and says, to the pleasure of those children still present: "now, what story is next?"
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.