In the Hidden Valley: 7. The Truth

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7. The Truth

The days flew. Mornings were spent in the library, learning more words and the graceful written letters called tengwar, teaching Wendell the intricacies and oddities of written English, looking through books, pointing at pictures and hearing some of the most amazing stories. Lunch at midday, if weather permitted, was in the garden with Wendell and Lord Celeborn, and inevitably concluded with a lengthy question and answer session regarding the world beyond the ravine.

Meg didn't necessarily enjoy those interrogations; for the questions - indeed the very way the questions were worded - made it difficult for her to state anything but the absolute truth of a matter. More times than not, her answers were slow and apologetic, for Imladris, it seemed, espoused an ideal that most would find unrealistic. What form of power made the vehicles like those she flew in, where was it found? What kings and leaders of Men now ruled, and were their actions honorable towards other leaders as well as the people in their keeping? Were the forests and animals that dwelled there healthy and protected from over-predation?

She finally relented and brought down her computer once, deciding that some of the questions had answers that could be met by showing some of the many photographs she had taken during her time in Great Britain - both when Gene was still alive and this trip. After another lengthy discussion of the relative good or evil of such a contraption, Lord Celeborn and Wendell spent a great deal of time that day looking at images of places very far away from this simple estate and listening to her speak of them and the other things she'd seen there.

Her afternoons were spent watching the craftsmen of the settlement do their work and, at times, attempting to give a basic task a try. She found that, with a little practice, she could sew a straight seam; although Norwen announced through Wendell that her stitches could be more regular in size. She donned her jeans and flannel shirts to help exercise the horses, although her unfamiliarity with riding without tack meant that she spend more time with lunge lines than on horseback. She watched the smith craft new hinges for an interior door to an added room on one of the tenant houses; and watched with bated breath and wide eyes as their glassblower made new goblets to replace some that had evidently broken before she'd arrived.

Evenings were spent in the Hall of Fire, after a meal of whatever meat Norwen was given to work with, some vegetables, bread, watered wine, and fruits and nuts. The fare was simple but filling; and the music and laughter that followed never failed to send her to her bed with snatches of song still ringing in her ears. The dances were like nothing she'd ever seen before: men lifting the women high into the air and swinging around each other with an abandon and glee that was contagious. The first time Wendell swung her up into the air with surprisingly strong arms, she squealed; but quickly learned to enjoy those moments of time suspended with only Wendell in her gaze.

He filled her days and evenings with information, new words and ideas, laughter, and always a sparkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He did not press her for more details about her home or the situation she would be returning to; and nothing that he did made her question his abilities or his sanity. He was charming, he was funny, he was everything that her brother used to be for her and so much more; from time to time, his voice would strive for that lower range, and he would speak softly of possibilities that Meg so wanted to wish for but wasn't ready to believe in.

The day before she had to leave dawned warmer, as if autumn stepped aside and let summer give the world one last pleasant day before the chill would move in for good. Meg rose late that morning, and begged an apple and some water from Norwen by way of a breakfast before heading to the library and her morning with Wendell. Warm though the day was, she was anything but warm on the inside every time the thought of having to leave this place rose in her mind. She still didn't know what she was going to do - or how to explain it to Wendell.

He was waiting for her in the library, as always, but today the table wasn't stacked with papers, books and scrolls. He rose, captured her hand and kissed the back of it, as he had taken to doing, then tucked it into his elbow and walked back with her toward the door. "As this is your last full day with us, I intend to monopolize your time," he announced as he pulled her down a new corridor and then out into a garden Meg had never seen before.

"I don't want to think of that right now," she replied, looking around entranced at the display of flowers still blooming. "This is beautiful!"

"I know you do not want to think of it, but we have very little time left, and I have many things to tell you: things I promised I would tell you before your time with us was up, Things I cannot put off telling you any longer, things that will seem… difficult to believe."

His words chilled her even more than the thought of leaving had, and his voice was anything but bubbly and laughing. "You're beginning to frighten me," she told him truthfully.

"I know. I hope that you have found your time here relaxing and peaceful, perhaps even interesting…"

Meg let him draw her down to a stone bench set back into a vine-covered alcove. "You know I have, Wendell. Imladris is… a very special place." Tears welled that she fought against. "It will be very difficult to leave it."

"I do not wish you to go."

He'd made that very plain before, and his actions the entire week had done nothing but reinforce that desire. "I know, but…"

"Exactly… there is always a 'but.' You need to know some things — the full truth — about Imladris, about Celeborn and his people, and about me. We…" He stopped and coughed. "This isn't going to be as easy as I had thought," he muttered to himself.

"Wendell." Meg chafed his hand between both of hers. "I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the hospitality and the friendship I have found here. After all that has happened, you've given me hope that the world won't be quite as dark a place as I had…"

"Stop! Please!" He pulled his hand loose of hers and pressed fingers to her lips to forestall her from speaking. "I… do not wish to be just a… Meg, do not leave me!"

The urgency in his voice pulled at her heart. "Why?" she asked simply, not really sure what she wanted to hear him say.

"I have told you I have been alone here, in this place, for a very long time - alone but not solitary, remember?"

She nodded. It had been an odd turn of phrase, but she thought she understood it.

"As we have spent our time together these last few days, I have pondered many things. And I think I know why you were allowed to find us." His smile widened with an almost frantic hopefulness. "You came here not only to help soothe your grief and find a way to keep living, but to give me a reason to continue as well. I… we all here… had been on the edge of simply fading away."

Meg's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

Wendell carefully and with great deliberation took her hands in his. "I told you we have been here a long time, did I not?"

"You know you did."

"I didn't mean merely a few years - or even a few decades, Meg." He gazed at her intently. "All of us here are much older than you might think."

She looked at him sideways. "What do you mean?"

"When I spoke of our having been around for Ages, I was telling you the truth."

"What do you mean by 'Ages' then? It's just a generalized term…"

Wendell shook his head. "Not for us. This is the sixth Age, by our reckoning, with each spanning between two to three thousand years. I personally…"

"Are you trying to tell me," Meg began, her voice clearly speaking her skepticism, "that you are thousands…"

"Yes." He nodded slowly and gazed intently into her eyes. "All of us here are…"

She began shaking her head. "It can't be. You all look…"

"Meg." He tugged at her hands to get her attention again. "Looks are deceiving. Celeborn and his people are known as Eldar. Your world still knows them, somewhat, as elves - REAL elves, and not the little ones who play tricks or build toys for holidays. Their very lives are tied to the world - for as long as it prevails, so do they."

"No…" She frowned now. "Now you are lying."

"I swear to you, I do not lie in this. Have you not told me many times over how you wondered about some of the things you saw that spoke of the age of this place?"

"Yes, but…"

"Your observations were correct. Imladris is ancient, by your measure of time: many thousands of years old, to be exact, built by Lord Celeborn's son-in-law as a stronghold and refuge against the darkness. The Eldar have been here continually for its entire life, although Celeborn arrived here a mere four or five thousand ago."

Meg screwed her eyes tight and shook her head. No, she didn't want to hear this craziness. She wanted to hear that the reason he didn't want her to leave was because he loved her as much as she loved him! And that thought was almost enough to make her freeze in her track. What had she done? She was in love with a mad man!

"And I, I am what is known as Istar - a wizard. You asked how I did what I did to make the rangers not see us, did you not, and did I not tell that that is what I do?"

Frightened and provoked beyond her ability to control her temper, she spat, "There are no such things as wizards; every child of ten knows this."

Wendell looked at where their hands meshed for a long and silent moment. "Forgive me, but I see no other way to show you that I tell you the truth." He closed his eyes, and Meg began to blink when he began to… grow. He let go of her and rose, and she stared as his face became beardless, ageless, and his form almost nebulous. Gone was the homespun robe, the dancing brown eyes and well-trimmed beard; in it's place was a being beyond description, with a voice sweeter than any she'd ever heard. "I am Istar, Meg, known on Valinor as Maia. I have known this world since before it took it's final form. I was here when the Creator sang the song that brought the world into being."

Meg stared and slowly pulled her hands in to wrap them around herself. "W…what…" She began to shake as she tried to make sense of what her eyes were telling her. "This isn't real - it isn't happening. It can't be!"

Slowly Wendell shrank in on himself; his garb returned from what it had been to the familiar, rough homespun, his beard returned, and he sat back down next to her again as he had so many times before. "It can be, but only here. Imladris and those who live here are all that is left of a world long gone, Meg, held here only by our love of the world and its many growing things until there was little hope for travel west any longer. I protect this place, because it doesn't belong in this world."

"There is nothing west of here but the Americas,” Meg insisted, despite her real impulse to flee this garden and her friend who had suddenly shown himself to be a great deal more than mere man.

"No, now there isn't. The Valar - you would call them gods or angels, I imagine - removed Valinor from your world long ago, and for a while, a Straight Road remained for the Eldar to follow when they tired of this place. But even that could not last forever, lest Men and their desires for things the Eldar were given by their Creator find them and ruin that place as they have this one."

Meg pressed her hands against her ears. "This is a story - a fairytale."

"This is our history," Wendell countered, very gently prying her ears free again.

Meg withdrew herself from his hold and stood up to back away. "I don't believe you. I don't know what you are… but…" She stared at him, utterly confused and not knowing what to believe. "You're a magician, that's what you are. Magicians do slight of hand and other things to make people believe they are seeing things that…" She swallowed hard. "…aren't really there."

"Is that what you truly think?" he asked her, his eyes sad.

Finally the tears began. "I don't know what to think," she admitted.

"Whatever else you might think - of me, of this place, of Celeborn and his people - know this: I have fallen in love with you, Meg Litten. The Valar, in their mercy, have shown to me what it means to wish to be one part of a greater whole; to seek the happiness and wellbeing of another beyond one's own personal needs. From the little you have told me, I know you have no great love of your world - you have few, if any friends, no real drive to achieve something great. Your family has all stepped outside the circles of the world, and so you are alone. But you need not be solitary either, anymore than I am."

He extended his hand, but Meg retreated another step from him. "Remain here, in Imladris. Your fate will be a mystery, no doubt, to those in the world of Men who think to wonder about you; but here you would have love, and beauty, and companionship. I offer you a life, in exchange for a mere existence."

"I…"

"I love you, Meg; and I have reason to believe that you may have feelings as well…"

"I don't know what I feel… what I think… anymore." Her eyes were wide as she looked at him. He looked so normal, so… familiar… and yet, just moments before… "I have to go… I need time to think…"

"Meg, please…"

"Let me go!" she cried before he could take more than a step closer to her again. "Just… Leave me alone." She turned on her heel and ran back into the house as fast as her feet would carry her.

oOoOo

It wasn't fair! Meg paced back and forth in front of her hearth, glaring out the window at the sunlight. She had wanted to enjoy the day and the company of her wonderful Wendell… She growled and twisted away from the cruelly warm light of the sun, her arms wrapped around herself. Since when had she begun to think of Wendell as hers?

About the time I fell in love with him
, she thought bitterly. And she had - hook, line, and sinker - until he started telling wild and improbable stories about his being thousands of years old and Celeborn, who barely looked to be in his thirty's, being almost as old. But he did… what he did… what did he do?

Try as she would, she could only barely remember the… monster… that had been Wendell. It had to have been an optical illusion - smoke and mirrors - something that I could probably easily understand if I knew the mechanics of it. But what continued to stump her was why he had felt it necessary to try to hoodwink her like that? Until he had started telling her fantasies and expecting her to believe them, she had actually wondered about staying. Now…

Now you're stuck for an entire day by yourself in here, because Wendell is the only one you can actually talk to. No matter that she and Norwen seemed to get along well, and she had greeted Iavas several times when she'd seen her going about her many tasks, she still could only barely say "hello" to them before her knowledge of Sindarin had run dry.

The last thing she either expected or wanted was the knock on the door. If that's Wendell, I'm going to tell him what I really think of his scaring the bejeezus out of me! "I told you to…" she began and jerked the door open, only to have her jaw snap shut at the sight of Lord Celeborn - with no Wendell in attendance for translation. "Um… Goheno nîn, hir Celeborn."

The silver head dipped graciously, and he gestured inward into her room. "I… can?"

Meg stared for a long moment before backing away and gesturing him in. "Of course!" she said, her face slowly folding into confusion. "You speak English now?"

He held up a restraining hand. "Mmmmm… Radagast… tell… I… words some."

She gestured for him to have a seat. "Your English is better than my Sindarin…"

He held up an elegant forefinger this time, and his jaw worked for a long moment. "Mmmmmm… I… come… help. Radagast… tell… I… you… fear… we?"

"Radagast?" The name was familiar, but…

"Mmmm…. You… say… Wen… Aiwendil. Aiwendil… Radagast..." He held out both hands and mimicked a scales coming to an equal balance. His grey eyes gazed hopefully at her.

That was right! Wendell had told her that he had another name in what he had called the "Grey" tongue. Was that Sindarin? She nodded, indicating she understood now.

"Radagast… tell… I… you… fear… we?"

Meg could see he was trying very hard to make himself understood, and to offer his help to her. Was she afraid of him, of Norwen, of Iavas? "No," she answered slowly and shook her head for emphasis. "I don't fear you."

"You… fear… Aiwendil?"

That was an easier question to answer. "Yes." She nodded to add gesture to the word to aid understanding.

Celeborn nodded and held up his finger again while he formulated his thoughts in what Meg knew must have been to him a completely foreign language. "Radagast Maia… Istar. This… you… he tell?"

Her eyebrows rose, both in surprise and consternation. He knew the odd words Wendell had used to describe himself? "Yes," she answered, but pulled the word out to let him know that she wasn't convinced.

"Radagast… love… you. This… you… he tell?"

And now she blinked. Had Wendell discussed his feelings for her with Lord Celeborn, that he would know this? "Yes," she answered again, again elongating the word to show her skepticism.

Celeborn's face folded into frustration. "You… Imladris?" he asked, and then made a quick, downward gesture. "Imladris," he repeated with certainty, again with his quick, forceful movement.

Meg frowned, but couldn't guess at what he was trying to get across. "Goheno nîn," she said sadly, grateful that she knew at least that much Sindarin.

"Mmmmm!" Celeborn hummed his irritation and frowned again, his finger held up for a long moment. Then he brightened and rose to his feet. "You… not come…" and he finished with an equally forceful thrust of the hands outwards, then adding, "you… Imladris?" and he once more repeated his forceful push to the floor, adding a stomp of his foot.

Is he asking me if I'm staying in Imladris? She spread her hands out and shook her head, her eyes wide. "I'm not sure."

"Meg?" The direct address drew her eyes to him like arrows to a target and found his gaze penetrating. "You… love… Radagast?"

That was the question, wasn't it? Did she love him - and if so, did she love him enough to walk away from everything she'd ever known and join him here, in this place that he protected from the rest of the world? Am I starting to believe his nonsense? Still, the question hurt, and drew tears to swim without falling. "I don't know," she answered honestly, shrugging her shoulders and throwing her hands out in despair. "He said you are Eldar, and older than the hills around here."

Celeborn's eyes brightened at the familiar word. "Ma," he answered with a nod. "Im Edhel." With a finger, he lifted his hair away from his head, and Meg saw for the first time the way his ear came to a very delicate point. Her jaw dropped open a little, and Celeborn's mouth worked as he thought again. "Mmmm… You… fear… Eldar?"

Her eyes flitted to his, and Meg knew instantly that he would be able to see that she did, in fact, feel less than secure now. And yet, his face folded into an expression of compassion that, were circumstances different, would have had her running to him for comfort. She hadn't seen that particular look on anyone's face since her father died. "You… tell… Radagast," he said gently. When she indicated she didn't understand, he lifted a hand and worked it like a puppet's mouth. "Tell Radagast."

You need to talk to Wendell, he's telling you. He's right. Nothing was going to be resolved with her hiding in her suite until her time ran out. And if Wendell didn't take her back to the village in the morning, who would? Haldir? Meg shivered at the thought of being in that man's tender care. With a look of reluctance, she nodded her head. "Ma," she agreed in defeat.

"Meg." Celeborn stepped closer to her. "Radagast… love… you." He very gently tapped her forehead with his forefinger. "You. Not… come…?" and again the outward gesture. Don't leave?

She sighed. "Hir Celeborn…"

"Shhh…" he smiled at her. "I… come… you… Radagast. You… tell."

"Ma." She might as well talk to Wendell. It was obvious Celeborn was going to insist on it.

"Mae." The Lord captured her hand, settled it in the crook of his elbow, and pressed his other hand to hold hers in place. "Mae."

We'll see, she thought as he escorted her from her rooms and down the corridor in the direction of the library. We'll just see.

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Aeärwen

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Romance

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/21/09

Original Post: 09/19/09

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