Strange Encounters: 1. Chapter One

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1. Chapter One

Originally posted on on 07/05/2013. Sequel to 'Fissure'. Rated T for profanity.

Disclaimer: I don't own The Silmarillion.

Strange Encounters

I have been walking for an hour, and my sandals are starting to get soggy with the drizzle that falls persistently from the overcast sky. The streets of Tirion are broad and sturdy, made of partially eroded white slate that is currently painted a dirty grey; patches of the road glimmer yellow from the lamplight that glows softly from houses' latticed windows. There are few people who walk along the streets, and their hoods are cast over their heads to protect them from the light rain. I cannot see their faces clearly.

Truly, I have no reason to complain. The past fortnight has included much cheer, from star-gazing with my wife to an extravagant banquet in King Finarfin's halls. The orchards that border Tirion are full with large, sticky apples, and Yavanna's wheat stands tall and ripe; the air carries a sweet fragrance that is easy to miss if your mind is elsewhere, but that soothes the limbs when you are aware of it. Even in the bustle of the city – presently calmer due to the weather – the gentle wind of the green fields sweeps in and heightens the spirits.

Yet I have grown moody as an adolescent since my encounter with Eärendil, and my conversations with those of my house have been somewhat strained. A few nights ago I nearly lost my patience with one of the attendants, who had dropped Celebrían's antique china in the atrium, and, though I said nothing, my expression must have frightened Erestor when I found he had, in rare negligence, not entirely kept up with my house's accounts. After each of these encounters I felt guilty and apologised, but my heart still sagged down like a wet tissue.

Sighing hard enough for my chest to ache, I pinch the bridge of my nose and rub my face, ridding it of raindrops, only to have fresh ones patter back down on it again. Ridiculously, I am reminded of a lullaby that I heard when I was a boy; I cannot recall who sang it to me. It might have been Mother, or perhaps Maglor. Maybe it was one of the nurses at Sirion. Either way, it went like this: 'pitt-er-patt-er-pitt-er-patt-er-like-a...'

To my slight annoyance, I find I have forgotten the rest, but I remember the tune, and go over it in my head a few times as I stroll aimlessly down the street. Finding that the melody distracts me from my gloomy and unwanted thoughts, I rewind it with gusto so that it blinds me to where I walk. It is only when I trip on a crack in the pavement and stumble that I realise the rain has gotten much heavier; it hammers down with enough force to bounce up an inch or two from the road. All the grime on the streets and on my bare arms is being washed away with great rapidity.

Shielding my eyes with my hand, I begin to run, scanning the vicinity for some sort of shelter. My ears perceive soft, lilting sounds that appear to be music and...singing? Yes, there is someone singing in a rich, soulful voice from behind that corner over there. He probably isn't singing in the rain, so there must be some sort of canopy under which he sits – unless he bawls at his window like a love-sick lad. This seems unlikely; his voice is too refined for him to be quite that young.

I scuttle towards the music, trying to keep my balance on the slippery ground. The rain has soaked through my short-sleeved tunic and my trousers, and my sandals are disgustingly wet and make squishing sounds against my feet. When I reach my desired location, I find that the person who has been singing is a tall, slender Vanya, seated languidly in a wicker-chair. He is part of a group of four Elves sitting in a circle under the awning of a small music shop. Two of them – Noldor – are strumming lutes, and one of them is nodding her head beneath her deep hood – I think it is a woman; the figure is quite slim – and tapping her feet to the melody.

They stop their music and look up at me inquiringly. I say, not shy in the slightest, "Do you have room for one more?"

They titter cheekily – for some reason, I feel very at home due to this; the folk in Rivendell were quite as insolent – and drag another chair from beside the broad window, setting it by the thin elf. "Sit!" says one of them, and I plump down and wipe my cheek with my sleeve.

"Handkerchief?" says the person with the hood, and now I know it is a woman. She holds out a checkered cloth. I thank her and dry my face, and return it.

"You are sitting with us. So now, sing with us," commands the Vanya, leaning forward in his seat and tilting his head to one side. I find I have already taken a liking to him, as strange as this sounds. I do not know if it is the friendly, unpretentious glimmer in his bright blue eyes or the powerful seduction in his voice.

I reply, "I would, if I knew what you were singing."

"You have an accent," he returns, smiling. "You're new here? Do you speak Quenya?"

"Yes, I am new here," I say, not specifying who I am, "and you are in luck, for I happen to be a scholar in Quenya."

They laugh and coo in mock admiration. "Then," says the fair one, "you will listen to my song, and sing it later!"

"Glad to," I say. I find that my shoulders and my chest have relaxed despite the slight chill. The Noldorin boys draw together and address me: "We're students at the music department at the university," says one. The other says, "This is my mother's shop, by the way."

"And I," says the Vanya, "am Elemmírë, a tutor in the said department."

Surprised, I say, "Elemmírë of the Vanyar? The renowned poet?"

"I am flattered that you have heard of my humble doings."

"Humble? Hogwash!" I return, still quite shocked. They laugh at my expression. I had only heard stories – some that seemed rather like myths in their incredibility – of Elemmírë's skill.

The Noldor begin to strum their lutes softly, till a recognisable melody grows, and the music waxes louder and Elemmírë begins to sing, rhythmically flexing his ankle, which is perched on his right knee. Now that I am closer to him, I can make out the subtleties in his voice. He does not sing in high notes, as do most Elves, but in low, earthy tones that remind me of the rain that lashes down on the city and that kicks up a musky, pleasant smell. For a time I am so impressed by his voice that I forget to hear the words. He is singing with his eyes closed, a furrow of pleasure between his brows, head bowed, describing the dream-filled gaze of a young lover.

He stops, and the Noldorin lads take over, singing in higher notes, perfectly in synch. I shift my head to look at a young mulberry tree that grows on the sidewalk opposite the road, and its leaves seem to sway happily to the boys' voices. From the corner of my eye I catch the woman scrutinising my face, but I think nothing of this, brushing the gesture off as mere curiosity.

When the song stops, and ebbs slowly away like a low tide, I chuckle and say without thinking, "I am loath to admit this, but Lindir in Imladris had not half the skill you do, Elemmírë of the Vanyar."

All attention is fixed heavily on me, and I recoil slightly against the back of my chair. What a fool I am! Elemmírë says with an arched eyebrow, "You hail from Imladris, then? What might be your name?" By the look on his face, he already knows. The woman sits up straight, throws back her hood and cries, "Elrond?"

I gape. "Mother?"

There is a very uncomfortable silence. The students are stiff, and exchange glances, and Elemmírë looks like he wants to pinch the bride of his nose and sigh. Eventually one of the boys gets up and says, "I'll get some water. I'm parched. Come with me?" he asks the other, and they scamper inside quickly. The door shuts with a little tinkle of a bell. Elemmírë makes no move to get up, gazing at us with thinly veiled, though not intrusive, interest. There is a little frown on his face, and his eyes, which were dazed with pleasure, are hard and brooding.

"I – I meant to give your book back today," stammers Mother. I stare, confused. Then I remember. "The one I left at – at Father's?" I say carefully. I had earlier decided to call him by his name, but that would not be appropriate in public, least of all before my mother.

She nods. "I was going to come to your house today, but...I feel ashamed, really, but I felt afraid to see you after so long. I had no idea if – if you would hate me or not for what happened earlier, so when I saw Elemmírë – he's a friend; I met him many years ago at Ingwë's court – I sat down and..." She had been talking very fast, but now she stops abruptly and takes a shuddering breath. Her hands – frail, white things, like fading lilies – tremble. Elemmírë averts his eyes. His mouth is set in a grim line. I think he wants to say something.

"It is all right," I say quickly, not wanting to upset Mother. "I understand."

She gives me a brittle, watery smile. "Elrond..." She reaches out hesitantly, then clutches my wrist and rubs it slowly with the pad of her thumb. Her pale grey eyes are laced with the weight of past ages. She leans forward, smiling absently, a faraway look in her eyes.

Elemmírë reluctantly breaks the moment. "Elrond," he says gruffly.

I turn to him. "Yes?"

"Forgive me for being callous, but you lived with Makalaurë for a while, did you not?"

Mother's expression changes, becomes cold and hard. She withdraws her hand from my arm. Uncomfortably, I say, "Uh, yes. And with Maed – I mean, Maitimo." Despite my studies in history, I am not entirely used to using those names. 'Makalaurë' has always seemed to me a different person to Maglor. Every time I read of Makalaurë, he seemed to be connected to the lesser lord of Amon Ereb by a thin string stretched too far to hold much longer.

"That Makalaurë," says Elemmírë sharply, and I am surprised at his tone, "did he ever speak of me?"

I purse my lips. I had not expected that question. Tilting my head to one side, I dig around my memory, back to Sirion, back to the fort of Amon Ereb. There are several things I remember Maglor talking about. Tirion, King Finwë, the kinslaying...ah, yes, Elemmírë.

"He said if there was anyone whose voice he could listen to all day and not tire of, it would be you," I say at length, truthfully.

Elemmírë turns his head towards the road and curses under his breath. I'm not sure, but I think he said, "That bastard." His eyes are glassy. Abruptly, he rises to his feet and inclines his head in a brisk bow. "Forgive me. I will leave you to your reunion." His voice drops at the last word, and he slips into the shop.

The rain, I notice, has lightened once again to a drizzle, and the clouds are giving way to a pale, grey-blue sky. My hands are on my lap, quite still. I feel as if any movement would crack the moment, and while I want to talk with Mother, I am loath to open my mouth.

She raises her hand and scratches her cheek, leaving a vague pink mark. It complements her dark, wavy hair, which is held up in a loose bun. How did she wear her hair in Sirion? It was...often tied back, sometimes held in place with a plaid kerchief. She always worked hard with accounts and with housework, her face sticky with perspiration and her clothes rather plain. In the evenings she would bathe with scented bath salts and change into fine, muslin dresses, and sit with Elros and me on the carpeted floor by a warm, lit hearth.

The sudden burst of memories is overwhelming, and I find I do not want to stop reminiscing. It is too comfortable, too interesting. Mother, too, is quiet. Her lashes are lowered, her lips pursed. I wonder what she thinks of, and am suddenly gripped by fear. What if her mind is similar to that of Eärendil? Will she also ask a string of questions that will end with both of us striding in different directions, our feelings wounded? I chew my lower lip; I do not want to lose her.

"Something ails you?" she asks. I draw a breath and turn my gaze to her, and though my mouth is open I cannot speak, so I shut it again tightly.

She says steadily, "I heard of your encounter with your father."

I blink, not trusting myself to talk.

"I am certain he left out some details, but...I understand you."

My expression must speak for itself, for she says sadly, "It was my fault, after all, that you had to suffer so. Don't say it is not; you know it's true. I have come to terms with the fact." She adjusts her position, leaning back more casually, tilting her chin towards the awning that drips with gleaming dew. Her eyes are dry, and I see steel and storm and profound bitterness behind them. "And so," she continues, "even if you do not wish to forgive me, I would still like to spend time with you."

"I...would dearly love that," I say quietly.

"Then," she returns, "you can start by telling me of what happened after Sirion. I have read copious amounts of history, but history seldom recounts passions."

I avert my eyes, but she turns my face back to her with a finger. "Do not look so anxious," she says gently. "Come, tell me! I lost myself for a moment when Elemmírë spoke, but that will not happen again."

I find I cannot refuse her, and rub my chin and begin. I speak of my capture, of Amon Ereb and its tall grey walls and yawning hearths, of the pitiless wind and of the hailstorms that would smash windows and tackle trees; of the soldiers that sang on the broad parapets and of the gossip and the muttering among attendants; of dark ivy straggling thick, eroding towers.

"And the Fëanorians?" she presses. "What of them?"

So I speak, a bit reluctantly, of Maedhros' iron will, of his sheer stubbornness, of his commanding presence; the Great Hall would fall silent and the horses cease their whinnying at his mere footfall. I speak, as frivolous as it sounds, of how I found his wine-coloured hair so unusual and yet so fitting for him, and I speak of his bare little room where he did all his accounts. He did not need a crown to lead his people.

"And Maglor?" There is a trace of envy in Mother's voice, but I recount my times with him, anyway. I tell of his bravery in battle, of his calmness that would sometimes turn to frightening anger, of his pity and his gentleness. I speak of his voice, supple, low, and mysterious as the dusk, and of his incomparable skill with the harp; his talent would soften hard hearts and lend courage to weaker ones, and comforted my own on more than occasion.

"It was difficult to hate him," I conclude softly. I find I have a strong yearning to go back to the Fëanorians' stronghold...but Beleriand itself is lost. The mainland lies deep under the dark waves of the eastern sea.

I raise my eyes to the street. The rain has stopped, and the birds have begun to sing. On my left hand, behind a hill, I can see the Mindon and its great square. The heavens are yellowing with the first signs of sundown. I can't help but wonder: will this, too, disappear one day? Tirion and its rose-gardens and its spires of bright gold?

Mother says, "I...forgive me, Elrond; words of any significance seem to stick in my throat right now. But I am glad, so glad, that you have spoken with me." She smiles, and for a moment is glorious as the dipping sun. I take her hand in mine and curve my lips upwards.

We start when the door to the shop opens with a bang and Elemmírë comes out. "I don't mean to intrude," he says awkwardly, "but we are having a late afternoon tea now. The owners are not present, but I do not think they will mind if we take a couple more guests." He looks at us warily, as if we might be annoyed with him.

"We can finish our talk later," Mother says to me, picking up a leather satchel at her feet. "In any case, I am sure it will take a day and a half without meals or sleep to complete it. Thank you, Elemmírë."

The three of us saunter inside, and I barely have a moment to admire the finely made instruments hanging on the walls before we go through another door and enter what appears to be a small, well-lit sitting room. I am a bit cold, and my stomach is quite empty, so I am happy to see that there is a table set with two pots of steaming tea, a full carrot cake, and a plateful of scones with jam and clotted cream. The students are placing the last pieces of cutlery on the willow-pattern table-cloth. They grin when they see us and say, "What a day this is! We have not one, not two, but three guests of renown sitting with us for tea!"

It is a merry gathering, though Mother and I are quiet, with much chattering and scolding and clinking of cutlery. I eat two scones with my tea, though Mother struggles to finish a thin slice of cake. At length, when the stories are told and the food mostly gone, one of the students falls asleep on a couch, while the other takes up a lute and begins to strum softly, surprisingly sober after all the wagging of his mouth. Elemmírë stubbornly refuses to look at him, but there is an odd, paternal pride in his steady gaze.

By the time Mother and I leave, it is beginning to turn dark, and the air is cool; the street lamps have been lit. The others see us off with simpers and shakes of the hand, and we are given a small pouch of salted almonds. This is probably more of a consolation gift than anything else – they likely feel sorry for us – but I am grateful all the same. "We hope to see you again!" The door shuts, and I feel strangely lonely, yet also content with my mother by my side.

We pocket our pouches and walk aimlessly, in companionable silence, along the road. The shops have all been closed, and there isn't a sound save the occasional bird-call. The moon paints the streets in silver.

At length Mother turns to me, her skin nearly translucent in the faint light, and says, "I hope you will visit your father and me some time, Elrond."

I frown slightly. "I will think about it, though I will certainly see you soon. Won't you come meet Celebrían tonight?"

"Nay, not tonight. I am tired, as much as I wish to see her."

"I understand."

She fishes into her satchel and hands me my book. "I hope you are not angry."

"Rather the contrary," I say, as I smile and retrieve my volume. It is a bit damp, but for once I don't care. Mother hesitates, then steps forwards and embraces me, and her soft hair brushes my neck. She is warm.

I put my arms around her and close my eyes.

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: Makalaure

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/16/14

Original Post: 03/16/14

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