4. Academy on the Mountain
He slept fitfully, lapsing in and out of dreams of the island. At first he only stood on the shore, listening to the secret voices of the sea, but it soon changed and he found himself on a high, green hill. A strong wind blew, and clouds gathered overhead. Then he paced in a bedroom as hail smashed against the shutters of a window, and finally, he stood in a great hall with white walls and a floor of dark wood. Tarmanaz was with him there. Only Tarmanaz in the dream had pale skin and black, Noldorin hair, and his face held only half a resemblance to his normal self.
But still Sidaizon recognised his son. And he recognised the dynamic of an argument between them, though he could not fully understand or hear the words they spoke. Tarmanaz, playing the perfect Noldorin role, raised his haughty nose and answered back insolently. He was too good to be a Vanyarin son any longer.
After that, Sidaizon dreamed no more scenes of the island. He woke and slept, and woke again and slept again, but dreamed only faint snatches of the previous day's worries, or else nothing at all. When he finally woke to the sight of morning's grey cast before dawn, it was with a sense of dread and an even deeper exhaustion than he had felt the previous night. He rolled over, groaning, and wrapped his arms around his head to block out the light.
"You didn't sleep well?"
Eäzinya lay calmly beside him; she had not shifted position all night, and he had thought she was still sleeping.
"No," he answered. "You?"
He heard the rustle of blankets as she got out of bed, and the familiar sounds of clothing being pulled on and hair being pinned up. A moment later, her voice murmured a morning prayer from the corner of the room. Then her soft footsteps crossed the tiles to the doorway. "You're not coming?" she asked.
"Yes... Give me a moment." As he sat up, he held his head in his hands, shielding his eyes against the dim light and pressing his knuckles against his forehead. The lingering exhaustion made him feel dizzy, and the dizziness made him feel ill. He blinked against his palms and forced a deep breath, trying to swallow the turning sickness. It only made his head heavier.
"Wait. No," he said feebly; "I've thought better. I should stay home and rest today."
"Can you do that?"
Sidaizon yawned and nodded. "Yes. I've been at the Lavazat every morning for over forty days. I can have this one free. I need only send Márathul with a message to Auzëar to take my place today."
"I'll wake him."
"No. No, not yet. It's early still. Wait until sunrise at least." He dropped his hands into his lap and looked at her. "Why are you dressed already? If you didn't sleep well, you should stay a while in bed, too."
She regarded him with a soft smirk. "It's nice you have an assistant Almatar to go to the Lavazat for you, but you have no assistant wife to take my place while I sleep like a lazy mouse. And bread needs to be made."
"If I want to use the courtyard ovens before there's a crowd, yes," she answered. And then added, "Don't look so shocked. I'm not very tired and did rest some. But you go back to sleep, and I'll watch Márathul as I make the dough and send him with your message as soon as he wakes."
She smiled at him, no longer a smirk but a true smile, and he returned the look as best he could. At least her strength of will, however she chose to show it, called up some of the twinned strength in him. "I will be up soon," he told her. "I only need to rest a little while longer."
Eäzinya nodded, and slipped out the door.
With a sigh, he fell back onto the bed. She had already gone. Again, he pressed his hands against his eyes to block out the light. He could see the echoes of the dream more clearly in the dark, and he replayed it as best as he could recall. One detail stood out now that he reviewed it with a more critical eye, something he had not noticed originally: he had been wearing a grand robe of gold in the fourth scene. Black-haired Tarmanaz had worn simple clothes, Noldorin clothes, but he had been dressed as a king. Such a vision made no sense to him. He needed to ask Eäzinya, who concerned herself far more with superstitions and the omens of dreams.
He stayed in bed, running the visions through his head and memorising every detail, until the early morning grey turned to the pink and yellow of sunrise and daytime's noises grew louder in the courtyard and its surrounding homes. By the time he had washed and dressed and found his way to the main room of the house, everyone else was out of bed and awake. Eäzinya had a board of flat loaves already cooling as she prepared more to be baked. Amárië sat by the window with her daily work, while Nautalya sat by her feet, threading needles and sorting beads. Even Tarmanaz had folded his mattress out of the way in the corner of the room, though he sat on it like a stone and leaned against the wall. Dark circles shadowed his bleary eyes. He had dressed in his usual Valadávan clothes, and Sidaizon could see no sign of the bright Yaranénon outfit amid the pile of bedding.
"Has Márathul gone to Auzëar?"
"Yes, and he should be back any moment," said Eäzinya.
"Good. What a good boy he is..." Carefully, Sidaizon let his gaze sweep across the whole perimeter of the room before coming back to rest on Tarmanaz. "And you, young sir? You gave your mother a terrible fright last night."
Tarmanaz grunted. "Sorry, Amma."
"Staying out until the middle of the night at Haru Vidirwë's house with your loud cousins, discussing politics... That was what you were doing, was it not?"
With all his concentration, Sidaizon focused his line of sight, unblinking, on his son. Don't say anything stupid, he spoke within his mind, and prayed that his meaning came across clearly to Tarmanaz. Your mother does not know. She does not need to know. Keep your mouth shut.
"I... uh..." Tarmanaz began, but the confused crease on his forehead quickly settled into understanding. "That's right. We were talking about the new apprenticeship laws. You know they like to argue about everything."
He shone a brilliant smile at Eäzinya, who made a little sound of exasperation behind her teeth. "I don't care if you were giving your money to beggars and washing the feet of the poor," she said. "You were still out too late, and I don't like that."
"He is, Eäzinya," said Sidaizon. "He is sorry. In fact, the other matter he and I discussed last night, which I wanted to wait until morning to tell you, is that our Tarmanaz has an interest in attending the academy of the Holy Path. He will study to be an Almatar, just as you suggested."
Eäzinya nearly dropped the ball of dough she rolled between her hands. "What?"
Amárië looked up in surprise, and Nautalya said, "Tarmanaz?"
Tarmanaz, most bewildered of all, rocked forward in his seat and nearly toppled off the folded mattress. "Wh-" he stuttered, but caught himself before Eäzinya could notice his shock.
"I myself am very surprised," Sidaizon continued in a soft voice. "Never would I have suspected that this is the path our son would choose. But it seems at last that the distress he causes us all has burned a resolution into his conscience, and he has come to realise that his inner peace can be found only in study and devotion"
"Tarmanaz?" whispered Eäzinya. Her face paled and her eyes went wide as she stepped closer to her son. "Is this true? You've chosen to go away to that school?"
Immediately, Tarmanaz's hand shot out to clasp her shoulder. "Oh, Amma! Of course I would never do anything to upset you, so if you don't want me to go, I understand, and I would just as soon stay home to be with you."
"No, no!" Eäzinya said, throwing her arms about his neck. "You must go! My dear, brave, selfless boy! How wonderful! I had hoped for so long that this would be the life you choose, and now..." She kissed his forehead, cheek, and hair, pulling him even closer. "Oh, Tarmanaz! Nothing could make me happier right now! I am so proud of you!"
Mouth hanging open stupidly, Tarmanaz only stood and accepted his mother's adoration while looking to Sidaizon with panic rising in his eyes.
Sidaizon smiled back at him blandly. "I will help you compose your application. Hilu. I'm sure I know a few things that could help you on your way. In fact..." He tapped his fingers against his chin, mocking thoughtfulness. "I have an idea that should set you right. Eäzinya, will you fetch me a knife from the kitchen?"
"A... a knife?" she asked.
"Yes, please. And Tarmanaz, if you turn to face your grandmother..."
Tarmanaz turned his body toward Amárië, but kept his head tilted and his uncertain gaze on Sidaizon. "What are you doing?"
"There are many rules and practices that one must follow at the academy, my boy. But I will do my best to help you on your way." He took the knife, small and sharp, from Eazinya's outstretched hand.
"How, by standing with a knife over my head? Are you trying to teach me to never trust my elders?"
"No, I am trying to teach you that all of one's actions can have unforeseen consequences." Then quickly, before anyone could guess what he planned to do, he grasped Tarmanaz's long plait and sliced it off cleanly, at the base of the neck.
"Attu!" shouted Tarmanaz. He leapt to his feet, clutching the back of his neck and feeling blinding in the empty air where his hair had been. "What in the name of Manwë did you do?!"
"Alla, Hilu. I told you I would help you on your way."
"You cut my... I can't believe... You cut my hair off!"
"I did," Sidaizon said, and he opened his hand to let the severed plait fall. It landed on the floor with a soft swish of a sound. He half expected it to move, to behave as if it were still part of Tarmanaz, but it only lay where it fell like a strange bit of discarded clothing.
"Why did you do that?!"
"They will shave your head anyhow when you reach the academy. Through all your studies, you will never be allowed to let your hair grow past your chin. Once you are an Almatar, it can never be past your shoulders. You should try to accept it now, and take comfort in the fact that no-one will ever mistake you for Yaranénon so long as you wear an Almatar's hairstyle. Your faith is now perfectly visible on your head."
Tarmanaz glared at him, eyes dark and shining with rage. "You can never just let me live my own life, can you?" he spat. "I can't believe you did that. You cut my hair!"
"For your own good," Sidaizon began, but Tarmanaz was already on his way out the back door, angrily kicking aside his shoes as he went.
A dreadful moment of silence followed. Eäzinya had lifted her hands up to her mouth, knuckles pressed to her lips. "Oh, Sidaizon," she said. "I don't think that was wise..."
"Wise or not, it needed to be done."
"But Tarmanaz..." She looked to the back door, glancing about for any sign of her son. "He will hate you, you know. You should have told him. You should have asked him."
"You should have let him make his own decisions," said Amárië. "Now you know he won't stay at that school for even a year, thanks to you. If he wanted to go at all in the first place..."
"Of course he did, Amma. Why wouldn't he?"
A smile flitted across Amárië's lips. "Because he's exactly like you. And you always went out of your way to avoid any guidance or advice from your family. Your grandfather wanted you to stay as his apprentice, and you ran away from him to go up the mountain. Now you want your son to do as you did, and he wants to go make paper with your grandfather. You both take such pride in being contrary."
"At least my contrariness led me somewhere better," Sidaizon said. "His, on the other hand..." He sighed, and let the ribbon of thought fall. It bothered him too much to think that Tarmanaz aspired to a life as nothing more than a common labourer who squandered money on gambling in beer houses.
"But Attu, why does Tarmanaz have to get his hair cut off?"
He looked down at Nautalya, who in turn had her gaze fixed suspiciously on Tarmanaz's fallen plait. "Because," he told her. "That's what the Oraistari do, when new students go up the mountain to the school. They take all the young men and shave off all their hair. Then everyone is completely bald, and they look funny for a long time, until it grows back."
Sidaizon held up his hands and shrugged. "I'm not fully sure. They told us at the time, when it was my turn, that it was done to rid us of our vanity and make us all equal and naked in the eyes of Manwë. But if that were true, all Almatardi would be required to have shaven heads at all times. Which we are not. We must only keep our hair touching our shoulders. So I think the real reason is that the Oraistari need the students' hair to make their fancy wigs."
Nautalya giggled at that. "They wear wigs?"
"Yes," Sidaizon told her. "You see, Oraistari are allowed to grow their hair past shoulder-length and fix it however they like, in very ornate styles with jewels and gold combs to show how important they are. But some of them have such elaborate hair styles that to use their own hair would take hours out of each day, to prepare it in the morning and take it down at night to wash. So they keep their real hair cropped short, and wear styled wigs that they can put on in the morning and take off at night with no fuss at all. One of my teachers had at least thirty different wigs that I counted. All made of the hair of his students. I hate to think of my poor old hair adorning his pompous head."
Nautalya giggled again, protectively clutching her own hair and winding it around her hands. Amárië, though, put on a hard face. "You shouldn't say such things. Not about the Oraistari. You know you can be arrested for speaking ill of them."
"I'm not speaking ill of them, Amma, I am speaking the truth. They do wear wigs made of the hair of their students. Is it so dangerous to state facts?"
"It's dangerous to be disrespectful to those who have the power to make your life miserable," Amárië answered.
"Well, I'm certain they have better things to do with their time than hunt down innocent folk who think that their fashions are silly..." He grinned at Eäzinya, reaching out for reassurance and agreement, but saw only a copy of Amárië's doubt.
"I don't know," she said slowly. "People have been charged with less, and I think it is better to be careful, isn't it?"
Sidaizon only laughed as he glanced between the two. "And you forget that I know the law better than my own history. I promise you, most of the things you hear about prisons and arrests are only stories made up to frighten us all into obedience. I have never known anyone to be punished for joking about an Oraistar or even the King. Please, don't worry."
Amárie frowned at him, thinning her lips and holding her breath as if trying to determine the right thing to say, but never had a chance to say it. The front door swung open, the hard wooden soles of sandals clicked on the tiles, and Marathúl's voice rang shrilly from the front corridor: "Attu? Can you come out here, please? There's somebody... Someone is here!"
"Oh, surely that can't be them to arrest you already?" Eäzinya whispered.
"Don't be absurd," said Sidaizon. He forced a quick and teasing smile despite the sudden lash of fear that cut through him, no matter how ludicrous the idea, nor how improbable Eäzinya's worry was. "It's probably my thick-headed cousin returned to trouble me further. Nothing worse, I am certain."
"No. Just wait here, and I will see who it is."
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.