1. Echo Room
Time does not really heal, brother, but nor do I want it to. I have never sought closure, just learned to live with the pain. I have tried to fill the empty space that you left with other loves and friendships and have succeeded, in a way.
But I always look for something of you in others. My relationships are you, spread thin.
I can still take a winding path back through my memories and meet the one you were, your complete self, faults and all. You were not the kind of person to hide anything of yourself; your faults intimately linked to your strengths.
I have never met anybody who would fight harder for the people and places he cared for than you and you could be ruthless in your love.
I was five and you were ten when mother died. When she died something died in our father too. We were always there to remind him of her and he could not bear it. He closed himself off to me and to you, and his memories of our mother.
Some adults are weeping in a large room. I don't. I just cling on to your hand, my only fixed point in a world that is turning liquid, shapeless. The finality of death is hard to comprehend for a child, even if I had seen our mother fading for quite some time.
A month later father walks quietly into our shared quarters. He embraces us; a little stiffly. Then he takes your hands and puts one on my head, the other on my shoulder. He kisses us both and leaves the room.
We are on our own.
That is the last tactile memory I have of father. In my more recent memories he is seen as through glass, from a distance.
He left us in each others care, brother. We sustained each other the best way we could. Despite the age gap it worked both ways, even if it took some time for me to realize.
We shared an echo room...
The Spiral Library
The first four years after mother my mind balanced on a knife edge. On the surface I was an easy child, quiet and studious. Underneath I was somebody else entirely. I lived in a mind world of dark passages and echoes.
The library was one of the wonders of our land, built around an immense spiral stair that went from the bowels of the city and up. It was enormous unfolding form, organic and mathematical, an accumulation of books and papers along the circumference of the spiral. For me it was ageless, indefinable... infinite.
I once found a broken shell on the beach, the outer walls were gone and only the centre spiral was left. The image stuck; in my mind the library became a giant shell, a depository of whispers and echoes.
I learned to know every nook and cranny. It was a source of wonders, but also a place to get lost, in more than one way.
One day, when I was 9 years old somebody else set out after me.
They cornered me in the library, faces blank and eyes shining. One had a knife that was traced lightly across my forehead.
To this day I don't know what their intentions were; to seriously hurt me or just give me a fright. Otherness is deeply unsettling to some people.
Then a hush of a blade and my tormentors scattered, one seriously wounded; stretched out in a slowly spreading sheet of crimson. You were standing there with a knife in your hand, in tears and with a wild look in your eyes.
You grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking.
'Stop going places, brother. I can't bear it...'
I looked at the boys on the floor. The oldest was perhaps your age, the other slightly younger. He sat hunched with his arms over his face and the oldest was lying in a slowly spreading sheet of crimson. Violent death was to become a part of our life, but this was the first time I saw it up close.
Others dealt with the aftermath. No one ever bothered me again, but I knew the incidence caused mixed feelings in the city. In my mind it became the Killing.
Still, no child should kill another.
You were fourteen.
In the days that followed I avoided you for the first time in my life. You withdrew to our rooms and refused to come out.
And then I was called to our father.
I did not know what to expect. He had removed himself so completely from us, left us to ourselves and an army of teachers and instructors.
I entered his rooms and stopped just inside the door, knowing that I would not have been a called unless it was a matter of grave importance.
He was standing at his desk and I remember him like a speck in the wrong end of a telescope. I sensed that he struggled to face me, as he closed the distance between us slowly.
He took my hand, sat me down in a chair and looked at me for a while.
'You must look after your brother', he said.
It seemed an odd thing to say to me, the youngest and seemingly the most vulnerable.
Then he drew breath and said haltingly: 'You two share......It can sustain you as well as drag you down. There are... certain places you can go that your brother cannot.'
If I continue down the dark alleys in my head there will be more bloodshed and while I may still get out, you won't..
I suddenly felt a flood of tenderness and protectiveness towards you, a feeling ad odd with my young age.
I looked father in the eye and nodded.
Our father was a man of insight who most times chose to do nothing. In some ways he let us all down; you, me, the people of the City, but this one time he did act on his understanding of us and tried to change the course of events. He succeeded.
But I never told you.
He took me to the door. As I opened it he gave my arm an awkward pat. I flinched and he let his hand fall, his face stiff with pain for a second.
That physical language was long gone.
As I walked back to our rooms I was feeling strange and lightheaded. It was evening and the sconces were lit. My mind was spinning loose threads together as I walked through the shadows between the lights.
You were lying on the bed with your back turned and did not stir when I walked in and entered the echo room.
'I will try to stop, going places.....', I said to your back.
You still did not stir.
In the end I crawled up behind you. This was when our height difference was greatest, so I curled up like a leaf along thelong branchof your body and put my forehead against the hollow of your neck. I put a hand on your shoulder and stroked your hair with the other. After a while your hand came up to cover mine. Then the dam broke. Your squeezed my hand in your fist and pulled it under your chin as the tears fell. I pressed my face against your jerkin, wetting it. In the end sleep took us both.
At dawn you looked at me with grey eyes over upturned knees.
We knew we needed to talk even if the language of feeling does not come easily to young boys,
You started falteringly.
'You brush up against my mind sometimes. It is like an echo.
When we were younger we used to play in the bowels of the library. Endless rows of rooms filled with books and manuscripts. One was empty. It had an odd shape that distorted our voices and set them spinning. We used to go in there and let our voices soar and be sent back to us in wonderful weird echoes.
'We share an...echo room', I said.
'Yes, you said after a while, 'that makes sense....'
'When you feel like going these dark places, come to me instead; no matter where I am. I can't bear it when you do, Faramir.'
Take care of your brother.
'I will', I said.
Young men think of their lives as infinite. I never really considered what it would mean if one of us ceased to be. But I did learn eventually, brother.
Growing up further
This was a turning point. For a couple of years we were hardly ever apart, and I learned some of the ways of the world.
It was no idyll it has to be said. For all your care and affection you had a somewhat limited idea of what were suitable circumstances for me.
Five years does not mean much between adults, but between a nine year old and a fourteen year old it is like a century.
Our lives were both very structured and very free. After our lessons had ended we were free to roam.
You started bringing me along when you met up with older boys. They never dared making any objections, they simply ignored me.
They played games boys play, with girls and with each other. I saw things I probably shouldn't have seen at the age of nine. I used to watch in silence, forever the observer.
In times of war children do not keep their innocence long, but I probably lost mine earlier than most.
I did manage to make you angry once. You had what must have been one of your first experiences of the flesh, and I had sneaked in to watch. I had a hard time reconciling this awkward physical display with the love poetry I had read.
The girl saw me first and giggled. Your embarrassment was complete. You grabbed my arm and dragged me forcefully outside.
'We share a lot, brother mine', you said through gritted teeth, 'but not this. Do you understand?'
I nodded. You had started to grow into that physical presence most people remarked on, and I felt the force of it. I suddenly understood how frightening you could appear to some.
I also had the inevitable rough first meeting with strong drink.
I remember myself lying on my stomach vomiting on top of the library stair and you standing over me, swearing. The room was spinning and I felt terrible.
But even in this reduces state I saw something was moving between the pillars of the railing on the other side, like a flutter of insect wings. A girl was standing looking at me emptying my innards on the stone floor. Her expression was both intense and remote, without a hint of any awkwardness.
My first glimpse of the Moth.
You lifted med up and carried me to bed and stayed with me to see if I was alright.
The next morning I woke up with you beside me and a hammering headache. Again I curled up along the long elegant curve of your body. The heat from you back eased my aching head.
We continued to seek physical comfort like this at times, even after we were grown men. During the really bad times it was sometimes the only thing that helped.
It had been a battle, your first as a captain, and you had lost many men. You and others were drinking heavily in the drinking dens of Minas. You seemed ok, but I knew otherwise.
I got you back before you broke down. All I could do was to try and hold on to you. I got you down on the bed and stroke your hair the way I had done after the Killing all those years ago. In the end you quietened down and fell asleep. I held on to you all night, feeling your anger and despair from the other side of the echo room.
You did not break down after a battle again, but you never quite learned to bridge the gap between you readiness to kill and the aftermath.
We always used to set out just the two of us at least a few times a year, but that became hard to keep up.
We got the chance one last time. It is like night fire in my memory.
I knew that others tended you perceive you differently than I did; proud, severe. To me you were a source of laughter in the good times, sustenance in the bad and affection during both.
We came to this valley I am sitting now. It was a warm evening in early summer.
We lit a fire and became pleasantly drunk on the ale and wine we had brought. You put your arm around me and pulled me close.
You knew many songs and hummed through several of them while I dozed with my head on your shoulder. At times I joined in, our singing ascending like smoke.
Our shadows joined and stretched a long finger towards the fire. It was a moment of simple, genuine happiness in our increasingly fractured lives. I don't think I have experienced a moment quite like it since.
I look into the fire and see my single shadow stretching before me. But I will fight this sadness creeping up on me. That is not the reason I came here tonight.
I look into the fire. The whole appalling course of events that were to come made it easy for me to turn that thing away when it was mine for the taking.
I remember a night not long before you left. Copious amounts of drink had made my spirits go down rather than up. There was despair and aggression between us, which was rare.
We had started talking about father.
'Sometimes I feel desperately sorry for the bastard', you said, 'stewing in his loneliness, desperate to keep the memories at bay. If something happens to one of us, and that is very possible in these times, he will crack.'
'Will he?' I said, 'do you really think there is enough fire left in him to do even that?'
You looked at me and sighed. 'Yes, I do.'
'Well, I wouldn't actually mind some expression of human emotion, even of that kind. I have seen stone statues livelier than him.'
You glared at me, jaws moving under the skin.
Well, if I don't return maybe you will get the pleasure.'
I jumped up from the chair, and hit you across the face. 'Don't you ever talk like that,' I said, my body shaking.
You slammed me against the wall, hand set to strike, but in the end you let it fall. Violence between us was rare because of the pain the feeling itself caused. It mad our heads ring and bodies shake.
'Let me go instead.'
You took one step back.
'Because...Your place is here.
'You are talking crap. You are the Captain General. Or are you still saying you have reserved the emotional display of father's descent into madness for me? It will more likely be a joint display, and you know it.'
'Faramir stop it, please! '
I did not listen. 'I will know if you die, Boromir, it will invade my mind, invade the echo room. I could not bear it.' I was screaming at you, drunk and frustrated.
Then you grabbed me and pushed me up against the wall with a force I had never known from you. I was too stunned to fight back.
You put your face an inch from mine.
'You think you chances of survival are greater than mine, don't you! You, the cool tactician rather than me, the battle hardened soldier, the killer. You who can go certain places I can't.....'
You stopped. 'Father said that to you once, didn't he?'
I said nothing, silence stretching out between us, and then I nodded.
'And he is right. So think about it, use your brilliant mind. You may have a slightly better chance of survival then me, yes, but not by much, and you know, I don't really believe in the joint descent into madness display. You are not the kind who goes mad, Faramir, as father well knew, but I am. If you should die, there is absolute certainty that I will follow the family tradition and go bonkers.
Then you drew breath and said: 'And then Gondor would have no one.'
It was out, what this really was about. The main difference between us dividing us like nothing had ever done; your concern for Gondor's glory and my utter indifference to it.
I put my head on your shoulder and spoke my heart. 'Fuck Gondor and its glory. Take me with you. I am not willing to sacrifice you for what you see as the greater good.'
You put your big hand in my hair.
'You are the one with a life beyond the two of us. That is the price we pay, Faramir.'
I felt sick with dread and drink and I just made it outside. I knew you were right, but then not.
I did not go back in again, but sat down with my back to the wall and looked up at the sky. After a while you came out and sat down beside me.
'Look," you said. I have no fucking suicide wish. The knowledge of the pain it will cause you insures that I won't pop my clogs needlessly.'
'Likewise,' I murmured, falling asleep with my head against the wall, exhausted. You gave me a shake. 'Hey, I want to talk about something else.'
'Is this really the time to talk a bloody girl?' I said sourly.
'The girl in the library'.
'Tell you some other time.'
'Well, I am...we are...'
I was suddenly awake and looked at you in the half light. Hair everywhere, clothes askew after the fighting, and something that in you were as rare as hen's teeth; awkwardness.
'Are you telling me that you have a thing going on with the Moth?' ('A thing going on' seemed an unsuitable way to describe a relationship with the Moth).
I caught your eyes, I felt both stunned and strangely happy.
'Not your usual girl', I said to help you along.
'I thought you wanted to talk about it'.
Suddenly you put both arms around me and pulled me close.
' I swear I will do everything to come back to both of you, you whispered into my hair.'
I lent against your chest. 'You should stay, for both of us, for Gondor.'
Nothing more was said. I fell asleep with my head in you lap and you with your back against the wall. We woke towards dawn, cold, sore and hung over. We went back to our rooms, still silent.
I had been reading a book on butterflies and moths. When she rushed past me one day soon after it was something about her movements, her speckled grey and brown dress and the black headband that reminded me of one of the illustrations in that book. Her small and thin body and the peculiar direct and intense eyes put me in mind of it too Some people found this girl mildly disconcerting, but she was thought highly of by the heavier users of the library, Mithrandir among them. I knew the place too well to ever having to ask for her assistance, but I had sometimes felt her intense gaze in my back.
It the grey morning when you set out only the two of us were present.
When you turned away to get up on your horse I had an appalling feeling of a thread between us that was unravelling from my head.
You turned abruptly towards me and embraced me hard one last time while you whispered in my ear: 'Remember what I said, don't fuck it up.'
I almost did not keep that promise brother.
Life goes on of course. I spent most of the next month in It with my men; trying to ignore the shadows.
At night when I was alone I sat down and tried to catch your echoes, in a way I had never done. The echoes let themselves be felt if they were needed, so there was usually little point.
This time it was different though.
In the beginning I did not sense much, apart from the odd quiver of unease. Then, about two months after you had left it began; a spinning ring on the inside of my eyelids as I woke up, and echoes reverberating in a strange and twisted way. I knew they came from you, these were no trespassing dreams, but there was something alien there too, a taste of metal and poison.
I feared desperately for you.
And I could do nothing.
My duty to my men was the only thing that kept me going some days.
One night I woke up shivering and feeling intensely sick. I rushed outside and vomited. It felt like I was extruding part of my life force too.
I sat down on the ground with my face on my knees and whimpered. The echoes rang in my ears, but suddenly they receded, like water seeping out of a hole. Towards the end there was a different note for a fraction of a second, like a thin pure silver thread of sound in the gloom. And then it went quiet.
A suffocating loneliness washed over me and all but paralysed me.
Then I knew for certain that you were gone.
The flame flicker and I put more wood to the fire. It is very hard for me to describe what your death felt like in those first few hours. Like if something had cauterized a part of my mind.
And there was nobody on the other side of the echo room.
My brother, my healer, my friend, my drinking companion...
Mablung found me the next morning. He helped me up and back to my chamber and did not ask any questions. I don't know how much he understood, but he kept guard for the next two days when I was ravaged by fever. I go out of bed on the fourth day. I had mastered my grief temporarily. Grief does not care for denial though. It would reclaim me eventually.
When the two small people were brought to me I felt anger at first., even if I knew full well that the feeling was ridiculous. But one look into the haunted eyes of the one who carried it killed the feeling abruptly. I knew then that you were not the only victim.
The ring was mine for the taking. But I had carried it on the inside of my eyelids, tasted its metal and poison and I hated it. Hated what it had done to you and the dream of power and glory that men possess and the ring burrows into. I would not have taken if I had found it in the road.
It had used your love and worry for me and for our city.
It was like the most dangerous bullies. Not the ones that uses their fists, but the ones who will read you accurately, coldly and use what they find against you.
I grew to like and respect these small people before they left. I sensed their strength and perhaps the last remnants of their innocence. I would have ordered my men to kill the miserable creature that was with them had it not been for pleading of the one who carried the ring. A course of events was set in motion that was beyond me - you too for that matter - and it had a role to play, for good or ill.
In the dark ash- days after the fall of Oscillath I went to see her. I found her in the lower region of the library, near the stair. She bowed her head in curtsey and then let her intense gaze rest on me. Her face was pale and stiff. She knew why I had come.
It was hard to find the words at first; she was not one for small talk or soothing speeches. Then she said brusquely: 'I loved your brother.'
'I know,' I said.
'You also need to know that I was not looking to,' she said fiercely. She drew breath and stopped. 'I am sorry', she said. 'I am making it sound like...I am regretting it, but that could not be further from the truth.'
No more words were said for a time, but I leaned into her gaze. It felt oddly comforting.
'I know you and your brother were more than very close', she said. 'He said he carried something of you around with him, always'.
I rarely cried, but that comment made my eyelids burn and I knew then that I was in a bad way.
She took me to a room I realized was her study. It had a desk and two chairs near a fireplace in the corner. We sat down and she lifted her feet up in her chair and grasped her knees:
'Only a very few people know this library as well as or better than me, you being one. I feel safe here. People can confuse me, and I scare most of them anyway,' she said a little sadly. 'My father used to tear his hair out at my forthright manner and lack of social graces. I tried hard to be like most other girls, but never succeeded. After my mother died I started spending most of my time helping my father...and Mithrandir.' Her eyes misted over for a second.
'I could read the maps I didn't know how, I just could. Even better than Mithrandir.'
'One day your brother came and I was assigned to help him. If he was surprised he did not show it.
At first I found his presence a little...overwhelming. I felt like a moth leading a bear when I showed him the map room. It is large and some of the maps are hundreds of years old and have not been looked at for equally long. He looked at them all in dismay first and started pacing up and down the room.
I stood to one side and observed him my usual way and said nothing. His sheer size fascinated me. I never set out to make people uncomfortable, but that is often the result. Your brother was oblivious to it though, he did not seem to care at all.
Then he stopped his pacing and met my gaze, unflinchingly.
'Talk' he said. 'I was assigned you so you must know about this stuff. Show me.'
'I need to know where you are going, my lord.'
'I don't know where the fuck I am going or why', he snapped.
'Imladris', he said after a few moments, but keep that to yourself.'
I knew that Imladris was elven territory and only shown on the very oldest maps. It was strange how whole lands had fallen out of Gondor's memory completely.
I laid the ancient maps out.
He came often and I adapted to him in a way I don't often do with people.'
I began to find his nearness very...pleasing. He never touched me in the beginning, but standing beside him was enough. It was not exactly desire, at first, just comfort, but desire seeped in.
One day I did something I still don't quite understand. I stood in front of him, took my headband off and loosened my hair. Then I stood completely still. He looked at me a long time, his gaze difficult to read. Then he put his hands into my hair and lifted it up and then let it fall. I had no clear conception of what I really wanted or what would come next. In the end drew breath and put my hair up and my headband back. She smiled. 'With great dexterity I have to say.' It was quite strange.
I listened intently.
'The next day he loosened my hair himself. I was fascinated, and I think so was he.' He took me to a room on one of the lower levels. I had never been there before, and I did not think the library had any rooms I had not been in. The room was oddly shaped and sent our voices back at us, even when we whispered. He put his cloak down on the ground and....it was like making love inside a shell, slowly.'
'We used to play in that room when we were boys', I said.
She nodded. 'He never said why he brought me there, but somehow it felt like a great honour.'
'You captivated my brother, Moth. He could be a tender man but by no means to everybody. I feel so very sorry for what you both lost.'
She drew her dress tighter around her knees. 'Maybe you shouldn't,' she said. 'I don't know what future our love would have had beyond the map room, the echoes, the situation he was in. When I read the maps for him I also spurred him away. I opened up landscapes for him, landscapes that had long been buried in Gondor's memory. For me the maps are enough, but not for him. I see signs, random patterns, meaning on parchment that stays in my memory and I can walk them in my head. He smelled the grass, felt the wind and heard the rivers...he wanted to see the real world beyond.'
'You are right,' I said, but he would have returned to your private world if he had lived. Don't underestimate what you meant to him'.
I smiled a little. 'He always found beauty in broken things that had mended themselves in other useable ways; like me, and perhaps you.
'I find it hard to see you that way, my lord.'
'I used to go places, in the city, in the library, in my head. It was comfortable after our mother died. It worried my brother greatly; I just did not understand how much before... the killings. He was my only hold in the world for a while, and I also was his. Once I realized I willed myself to cope in other ways. I did not want to lose him to anger and violence and we would have dragged each other down.
'Do you again want to go places, now that he is gone?' I nodded.
She gave me her long gaze again, that I now was beginning to feel like drowning in. She lifted her hand and caressed the outline of my face, never letting go of my eyes.
'If you come and talk to me when you have time, it would be an honour my lord. Not just as his brother, but as you. He found an echo of you in me, I think, and I don't mind that.'
She put her hand on my forehead.
'We were both moths in a shell, but we don't want to go back.'
I removed her head band like you had done and unclasped her hair, slowly, lingering. But as her hair fell I knew there were no way back to you via her, but I still sought it, and so did she.
We made love quietly and a little desperately, knowing that there was a space we could not fill.
Afterwards something tightly wound inside me snapped. I buried my forehead by her shoulder and cried in way I had only ever done in your presence. She began to sing in a language I had not heard for many years, a language that seemed to originate from the very root of things.
I fell asleep in the end. Weeks of sleeplessness taking their toll.
I have no idea how long we remained in that room. We ended up on the floor with my cloak around us and when I woke up she was asleep. In early light she looked elfin and fragile and there were traces of tears on her face. I felt a rush of gratitude towards this strange creature. It was unexpected to find someone else from my tribe of Others as a grown man. I wrapped her in my cloak, lifted her up and went to find her father.
I found him in one of the upper well furnished chambers in the library and I put her down on one of the benches. He looked at her sadly. He was a remote man, but loved his daughter.
I did not know how much he knew about her and you, but then he said: 'She is the only one left; both her brothers and her mother went long ago...and now he is gone too.'
It was like he suddenly remembered who I was. 'I am sorry for your loss, my lord', he said stiffly. I nodded without saying anything.
He looked down at his daughter again. 'She is very strange, he said, even to me at times, but she has an inner beauty that few see before she has scared them off. But your brother saw it, and for that I will cherish his memory forever.
'My brother did not give his heart lightly,' I said, 'he would not have let her down if he had been allowed to live.'
The librarian pulled his cloak around him. 'All we do is to bury our dead'; he whispered to himself and rubbed his hand across his forehead.
The he stood up and took two cups and a decanter of wine from a cupboard in the corner.
"Can I tell you about her background, my lord?' he asked. 'I meant to tell your brother, but...
I took a sip of wine. 'I would be honoured', I said
'She was only eight when I buried her mother. Her mother was a lot younger than me, and I first met her in the Houses of Healing when I was there to see to my son. She had no visitors and lay badly bruised with a broken arm. She stared at her surroundings like a frightened bird.
She looked like she did not belong in this realm.
I asked about her and they told me she had been found not long from the city gates. Beaten and broken with her clothes torn.
She never gave me the full story about her background, other than that she came from Mirkwood and that her parents were dead. She had left in the end and been badly violated on the way.
I always thought she had some elven blood in her, giving her an otherness many felt unsettling' He nodded towards the Moth, 'it was passed on, but this one is a much fiercer creature.'
'Something drew me to her, and I started visiting her. It took a long time to gain her trust, but in the end she conceded to marry me. Our marriage was happy enough. I guess her decision to marry me was partly that it was her best chance as things stood. But she settled in my house and when our daughter was born she gained a measure of peace I had not thought possible. They were very alike and formed a bond that excluded me in many ways, but I accepted that.
My daughter was an odd one from the beginning. From she was a few months old she could stare at things for ages.' He smiled, 'like she had inherited her sense of time from a race that had endless amounts of it.' I did worry that she was 'simple', but by the time she was eighteen months old I realized this was not the case.
She reacted strongly to be carried or cuddled by people other than the near family, but us she gave endless affection in her strange kind of way. She was happy to sit on my lap and watch me read rather than being read to, even if she loved that too. She really did perceive time differently. Sitting on my lap and watching me read for two hours sound bizarre, but somehow it did not feel like two hours her. She was so small and slight that it did not bother me, and I learnt to let her decide how long she would sit if I could. Her brothers took her with them, carried her on their backs. It was easy given her endless ability to look at things.
'The problem was that she continued...to stare. What is sweet in an infant is not so sweet in a ten year old girl. People who knew her, or who took the bother, and it was not easy, accepted it for what it was, but many others found it down right disconcerting. Her mother would not address it, and when I tried to advice my daughter she did not appear to understand what I meant. She did as she got older, and she tried for a while, but the effort actually made people even more uncomfortable."
I smiled. I remembered her flickering eyes, staring at my face and then looking at the floor only to look up again a few moments later.
'School together with other girls was a disaster. It soon became apparent that her abilities far exceeded them all, but intellectual abilities are not everything. She refused to take to her teacher and could spend whole lessons staring at her. It the end the teacher snapped and demanded her removed, calling her a 'goblin' child.
I put her in class with her youngest brother who was ten years older, and who had a teacher who was not so easily put off. In fact he took to her, like the odd person did. And she rewarded him by being a good student, one of the ways she had to show affection.'
And then it all fell apart.
Her brothers fell in battle, one by one. She took it hard, even if most people would not have known. Then her mother died, and she withdrew even more into herself. I felt powerless; she was not one to let you help her.
She started walking around at night, in the library. At first I was not aware of it, and then I considered locking her door, but decided against it. And then Mithrandir met her one night.
I think he possibly was the only person who knew how to get through to her. She let him, and from then on she was...his. He gave her a purpose, not out of charity to a motherless girl, but because he saw what she could do.
I remembered them. She was walking after him, her patterned grey brown dress in contrast to his dark brown cloak. She was laden with documents and looked past me, into the distance.
She was never really a child in the way of other children. In some ways she never grew up, but in other ways she was always well beyond her years. I had an idea of her playing with other little girls, but Mithrandir realized there was no point in that. She understood little of children's games.
'Mithrandir got the elf out of Mirkwood', I said. 'What my brother liked was the absence of silly games. He used to joke that he could never understand why the sons of two nutters were seen as such desirable marriage material. I don't think the Moth even understands the concept of "desirable marriage material", other than very theoretically.'
The librarian smiled. 'I was always a little worried about that side of things', he said. 'I could not see her as wife material, other than a wife to a younger Mithrandir¸ but they are thin on the ground. That it in the end was your brother who...
He looked at me carefully. 'At first he seemed the most unsuitable man imaginable.'
'My brother was many things,' I said.
'It was difficult. No one knew, apart from me...and Mithrandir, because I asked him advice in the end...And he said to let it be and so I did. At least I knew one thing: Nobody can force my daughter to do anything and she would never do any anything with an anterior motive. She doesn't know how to. And no-one would start a relationship with her on a whim because they wouldn't able to come near her in the first place.
And there she wept, and sigh'd fill sore,
And there I shut her wild, wild eyes
With kisses four.
She was lying on the bed with her shaking back turned towards me. The distance between us grew with every tick from the water clock.
Then the memory of your rigid back on another bed at another defining moment came back. I let the memory wash over me. I had time, and I knew I was prepared to give this woman all the time it took.
I let the gossamer of memory fall between us and crawled up behind her. She turned slightly and I placed two kisses on each tear stained eye. I folded her into the curve of my body and stroked her hair. Eowyn was of ordinary height and I could easily fit her in between my chin and my feet. I let the texture of Eowyn's straw coloured hair merge with the remembered touch of your dark hair against my young fingers so long ago. After a while she stopped shaking and took my hand tentatively. We fell asleep. I dreamed about a moonlit beach. You were standing some distance away from me, staring at the ocean. Then you faded, dissolving into sea spray and wave foam.
People have asked if I have ever felt your presence, but I have not, not in the way I think they mean. As a shadow at the corner of my eye perhaps, gone the moment I turn my head.
When my youngest grandson was a year old I felt something though. It was like seeing an old mirror image. He had your eyes and your smile and was a tangible reminder of the memory carried in blood and tissue. I suddenly felt intensely grateful that I had lived. If I had let the darkness take me all those years ago it would have killed the chance to look into your eyes again through his and denied other people that chance.
I have caught the Moth in the echo room at times. Sometimes I have heard her sing in a low voice, almost a whisper. Incantations? I have never asked her. We both have memories of you that we have never shared. And also for her the only place you now dwell is in her memories, I do suspect.
But I would lie if I said that I didn't dream of some other kind of meeting, brother, as the last grains of sand in the hourglass are about to drop; that maybe I will find you again, beyond the circumference of this realm, at the source of all echoes.