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A Darkness Lies behind Us  by Bodkin

On Sand of Pearls

The onshore breeze prickled Eärwen’s nose.  Scents of …salt winds and distant islands, silver fish and pods of sleek dolphins, bright corals and kelp forests.  You could take the Teler from the sea, but that the ocean remained part of the Teler, despite long centuries in the decorous Tirion, surrounded by trees and the tang of forge-fires.

Olwë’s queen looked at her, smiling slightly as she recognised the transfixed expression.  The song of the sea was like a lullaby to a child in its mother’s arms – and it provided a relief to Eärwen that she was never prepared to admit she needed. 

‘It should do, I think,’ she said briskly.  The extensive house was tucked into the terraced hillside, walkways joining separate clusters of buildings, low trees intercepting the wind and shielding the salt-silvered wood.  Small gardens of hardy plants grew in the lee of the walls, offering the bright gallantry of thrift and sea lavender as well as neat rows of such vegetables and herbs as would grow here in the face of the ocean.  At the head of the quiet valley a stream tumbled headlong over the cliff to pause in a deep pool before continuing more sedately on its way to join the sea.

‘It smells of home,’ her daughter told her.  ‘And yet it is … peaceful and undemanding.’

‘Those who have agreed to staff it are also …’ Vórima smiled, ‘peaceful and undemanding.  Good at listening – and they have learned to withhold judgment.’

Eärwen considered.  ‘Good,’ she said.

‘And now we wait?’ 

She did not answer.  What was there to say?  Eärwen had not felt quite this insecure since the dark skies above her had been lit by Varda’s stars and the only sound to break the shattered silence of the empty streets had been cries of despair.  Not insecure.  Ignorant, she corrected herself fiercely.  She would never again be crushed as she had been in the ruin of the Blessed Realm in the aftermath of Fëanor’s madness.  She had hardened and warded herself – and fought to resume a serene acceptance of the vicissitudes of fate.  An acceptance she had striven to maintain in the face of her sons’ deaths and her husband’s absence in the war against Morgoth – and her daughter’s enduring exile and … her expression lightened … her eldest son’s return.

‘I suppose,’ her mother mused, ‘it is like having children – the first is always the most disconcerting – and has panicked parents attempting to swim unfamiliar currents to learn the skills they need as each problem arises – but each child brings its own peculiarities and needs to be treated differently.’

‘You would be good at caring for the returned,’ Eärwen observed.  ‘You always managed to remain calm, no matter with what challenges my brothers confronted you.  And you always found solutions – or led them to find their own.’

‘My daughter was more difficult, as I recall,’ Vórima said with some humour.  ‘I often found myself obliged to hand her guidance over to her atar – despite the fact that she could twist him round her little finger.’

‘Ammë!’ Eärwen protested, then smiled somewhat wistfully.  ‘I must admit that Nerwen was always more likely to oblige her atar – and nothing made her more determined to have her own way than to demand correct maidenly behaviour of her.  I found myself advising her against actions in the hope that sheer contrariness would push her into doing the exact opposite – but she was by far too sharp to be taken in more than a couple of times.’   She sighed.  And now her strong-willed daughter had stubbornly resisted calls to seek forgiveness and return home – remaining instead in the dangerous lands east of the sea with the husband Finarfin claimed was a good match for her.   ‘And I shall never see any grandchildren put my daughter through the more difficult trials of parenthood.’

‘Perhaps Finrod and Amarië …’ Vórima suggested.

‘Perhaps,’ Eärwen agreed after a moment, resolutely cheerful, putting the constant ache aside where it could not be touched.  ‘And in the meantime …’ she looked with approval at the quietly expectant complex, ‘we are ready for the next challenge.’   


Finrod was not, Finarfin thought, the ellon from whom he had parted on the sharp-edged rocks in a knife-edged wind at the shore of a biting sea.  But then … the Noldor king’s lips tightened in sour acknowledgement – neither was he.  Would this change in them both prove, in the longer term, harder to overcome than his son’s death and return to life here in the Blessed Realm?  Would it be that, once the glory of reunion with his firstborn had faded and the delight had settled into the … ordinariness of everyday living – that they would each find it difficult to endure the person that the other had become?

Perhaps the … the uncertainty of the newly-returned – their need to rebuild their memories of themselves – was intended to smooth their path, to help them fit into a form they had shed, to give families a chance to come to know each other again in the here and now.


Yet he could see, in the ellon before him, the magnetism that had drawn the exiled Noldor to him – like iron to a lodestone – and made him king, just as he could see the honour that had brought him the loyalty of the Secondborn and the gallantry that had led him to take on an opponent beyond even his power.

He had seen repeatedly, as the pair of them had made their way through the forests towards the neat farmlands that made up the patchwork of fields on the fertile river valleys before Tirion, that Finrod made friends as easily as others made … purchases of fruit in the marketplace.  His genuine interest in others woke something in them – gave them a pride in themselves, a belief that they had something to offer, a devotion to whatever cause called them.  It was, Finarfin thought, probably the very reason that Lord Námo had chosen his firstborn to tread this path.  If anyone could reconcile the different factions of the Blessed Realm and encourage them to uncover wounds long-hoarded to let them heal …  Not, he smiled wryly, that he was biased in Finrod’s favour.  Of course not.

Yet this encounter felt … different.  The small group before them exchanged uneasy glances and their expressions were guarded.   Standing shoulder to shoulder, they seemed to feel a need to support each other against the arrival of two wanderers, who just happened to be scions of Finwë’s house and therefore impossible to rebuff. They were not armed – but he would not have been surprised to see hayforks in the farmers’ hands.  And, for the first time since they had left Irmo’s gardens, he did not feel welcome.

Nevertheless, the wave of sheer rage that advanced on them took them both unawares.  The elf who advanced on them from the edge of the trees, clutching his faded blue cloak round him, recognised them both – and he had no intention of surrendering himself to the feeling of harmony that had pervaded the meetings they had experienced so far. 

Finrod tensed, his hand automatically seeking the hilt of a weapon he no longer bore. 

They had not expected it to be easy, Finarfin reminded himself, turning to face the new arrival.  Not everyone would welcome his son’s return – and they would all have to learn to deal with that.

‘How is it that you return to walk beside your father, when my son – who followed his princes loyally into exile – is confined to the shores of the Lonely Isle?’ The elf’s anger oozed from him, swelling around him like a wave.

He watched Finrod’s muscles clench.  ‘I do not know,’ his son said.  Anxiety threatened to drown him and he was struggling to catch his breath when a confident hand clasped his shoulder and drew him back to land.

‘Why do you not ask Lord Námo?’ Finarfin said coolly.  ‘I am sure he would be glad to explain his reasons to you.’

The elf laughed bitterly.  ‘I am not important enough to merit his favour,’ he said.  ‘It is left for people like us to bear the cost of your glory.’

‘There is no glory in doing what you must do,’ Finrod said.  ‘We made our choices and we must live by them.  Your son …’ he paused, a puzzled frown drawing together brows of dark gold as he reached for a memory elusively hovering just beyond his reach.  ‘Your son accepted the terms of his penance.  Why can you not do the same?’

‘Why should your sins be wiped out by death?’ the elf challenged.

‘Perhaps,’ the Noldor king said, his tone biting, ‘you would need to have endured the judgment of the Valar to know that.’

‘As you have not!’  The elf was not prepared to conciliate.  He glared at Finarfin defiantly. 

The group behind him took an involuntary step backwards.  Reluctance to welcome Finarfin’s newly-returned son to their lands was not outright insubordination, but this … Amiable as the king usually was, he knew his authority and wielded it with the confidence that came from centuries of experience. 

‘But I have.’  Finrod’s words chilled.  ‘I have stood before the Valar – and my actions have been weighed and judged.  And I have spent years uncounted in the Halls of Waiting until I was able to bear the pain of them and face restitution.  Who are you to say that it is not enough?’ He smiled, but the grief behind his expression was unfathomable.  ‘All must make amends – one way or another, and it is not only the guilty who suffer.’

‘My wife’s death is your fault,’ the elf hissed.  ‘She could not bear the loss of the son you stole – she never lived to see him return, broken and shamed to a mockery of forgiveness within sight of the home he left.’

‘I do not wish to diminish her suffering,’ Finarfin said bleakly, ‘but she was not the only one called on to endure a division she never thought to see healed.’  He looked at the silent elves observing the debate.  ‘I am sure there are few among you who did not see kin depart in my brothers’ train – and few who do not have some among them residing in Lord Námo’s care.  Should you not be glad that the doors of his halls begin to open?  Happy to learn that there are those whose fëa is healed enough to restore them to our company?  I am.  I am overjoyed to see my son – and determined to ensure that those who follow him will receive the best of all possible care to smooth their paths among us.’

A wary thaw softened the expressions of one or two of the watchers – but no speech, however convincingly-voiced, could penetrate the bitter shell that warded their chief opponent.

‘Have you visited the Lonely Isle?’ Finrod asked him.  ‘Seen your son and asked him to tell you of his experiences?’

The elf’s lips thinned – halfway between sneering and trembling.  ‘Why should I grant him my forgiveness,’ he asked, ‘after what he did to his family?  When even the Valar offer him and his like only limited grace?’

Finrod extended his hand towards the elf invitingly.  ‘Will you come with me?’ he enquired.  ‘Learn more – and grow into understanding.’  He paused, turning over half-conscious thoughts and impressions.  ‘For,’ he said, ‘I think it is forgiveness that is the key.’

Even the rustling corn-stalks stilled, and the day held its breath.  ‘I will come,’ the elf said grudgingly, ‘if only to linger in your sight like a nightmare and make it impossible for you to forget the past.’

Finarfin resisted an exasperated roll of the eyes and kept his face impassive.

‘Believe me,’ Finrod said, soft as summer breeze, ‘my nightmares are far worse than anything you could imagine. You could not begin to match them.’


Amarië remained frozen in place in the shadow of the arching roses as the babbling crowds greeted Finarfin’s return, falling silent briefly as they met the curious gaze of the long-missed Finrod, only to turn to each other in hissed conversation.  Most faces were open – and hopeful – but there were others whose eyes were hooded and shuttered at this evidence that Lord Námo was opening a chink in the solidly-closed doors of his halls.

It was, she supposed, only to be expected.

For all those who had thrown themselves enthusiastically into the officially-blessed project to establish … halfway houses, to accommodate the return of elves to life among their kin, there had been others who had pressed their lips together and turned away and yet more who had treated the move with a wary uncertainty.  She could not blame them – she had spent enough years feeling resentful of those who had departed the darkened lands that she could see why those who had remained obedient to the Valar would begrudge the Exiles a chance to return to their previous lives.  But it was not that simple.  It was never that simple – and to draw absolute lines in the dust of the past only went to show that, perhaps, some of the Noldor had stagnated.

After all, why would the Valar choose to return the Host’s dead before those who had been born east of the sea?  Why should they satisfy the … the taste for revenge that sharpened the tongues of some of those born to safety in Aman?  If Lord Námo were to remain above pleasing the masses and hold to the open-handed justice of the Valar, he was using an entirely different set of considerations to decide who was ready to return to the world.

And her conclusions had nothing at all to do with the fact that Finrod had been chosen.  She felt a joy bubbling up within her as her beloved’s closeness reassured her that his slow progress across the face of Aman had, indeed, brought him closer to a complete integration of fëa and hroa. 

He shone.

Maybe it was to her eyes alone – but it was hard to credit that not everyone would be able to see it.  His beauty was refined, like gold passed through the furnace to remove any impurities, leaving nothing but the untainted metal.   

She felt his eyes on her rather than saw him – and withdrew quietly.  Theirs was not a reunion she wanted acted out in the sight of half Tirion’s court.  She wanted to savour it – and grinned as a quite unexpected yearning surged through her – in as much privacy as they were allowed.  If he were as recovered as she thought, he would know where to find her – and he would not take long to extricate himself from those who wished to gain his attention to seek her out. 

She did not have to wait long – and the Finrod who joined her was much closer to the confident prince of treasured memory, one who had grown and matured and seen things that she would never experience. 

‘My lord,’ she said, the courtesy title insinuating the claim that neither had – yet – spoken for all to hear.

‘My heart,’ he replied.  ‘Endanya …’ 

He could not have grown – not really.  He had returned in the full form of the adult elf he had been in the centuries before the light of the Trees failed.  But he had … enlarged to fill the body that had been provided for him.  Enlarged and matured and gained in confidence.  She could not help but feel that this ellon knew the meaning of the fire that burned between them.

His gaze lingered on her, making the colour rise in her cheeks.  It was most unfair that this newly-returned elf could make her feel gauche with a glance.  Most unfair … and very encouraging.  She smiled, inviting him to advance a little more closely – and, perhaps, explore some of the avenues they had left unwandered while in the tranquil Gardens of Lórien.

His grin recognised her hint, acknowledged it and the eager step he took towards her suggested that he was not averse to taking her up on it, and her breath shortened as his fingers stretched out to touch her face.  Such enthusiasm, she felt, merited encouragement and she stepped into his embrace, running her own hands over his arms and sliding them up to tangle in his hair.

‘I have missed you,’ she murmured.

‘You have been busy,’ he remarked.  Even in this moment of connection, she noted with wry amusement, Finrod could not subdue his natural political instincts … but that was doubtless not a bad thing.  Both because it showed how far he had come since he followed his father from Lórien and because she showed herself to be the partner he needed.  After all, the Noldor King’s son would need a wife worthy of him.

‘I have,’ she agreed.  ‘We all have.  Your mother has only recently returned from Alqualondë – and Lady Indis is still in Valmar.’

He noted her words, but she was pleased, as his mouth sought hers, to see that he had no intention of allowing himself to be distracted just yet.  Not, at least, before he had completed some other very important investigations.


Eärwen blinked.  The water from the fountain in her private garden splashed against the cleverly-situated metal leaves in a pleasing cacophony as she tried to take in the information.  ‘But that is absurd!’ she said. ‘Why all the fuss about training those born here to welcome those who return – why set up a system of houses at all – if elves have been restored to their families before?’

‘It may seem absurd …’  Finarfin drew his wife to sit beside him in a nook over which honeysuckle bloomed and scented the air in pursuit of the attentions of the fat bumblebees that swayed drunkenly through the warm air.  ‘But I have come to think that there is more behind the Valar’s – er – advice than smoothing the path of those newly-come from Lord Námo’s halls.’  He linked his fingers with hers and used his thumb to caress her palm.  He remained silent for a moment, focusing on the link between them, its fragility and its strength, before looking up to fix her with his smile.  ‘Have you ever though, my heart, that we – that is, the living legacy of those ancient days – may be the problem, rather than those who have learned from Lord Námo to … to let go of old grudges?’

She gazed at him.  Still dressed simply in his travelling clothes, with his hair braided away from his face, he looked younger and more relaxed than he had since he returned from the Hither Lands.  ‘You have learned to forgive,’ she said.  ‘You do not even hold your brother’s crimes against him – and you pity his sons for their deeds.’

‘Bitterness and hatred only hurt those who hold them in their heart,’ Finarfin said sadly.  ‘Fëanor – his sons – they must pay the cost of their actions in a higher court than any I will ever judge.  For me to clutch on to grievance, like a greedy child, will do no-one any good.  Ever I have sought reconciliation between the peoples of Aman – I hoped I had found it.  Vanya, Teler, Noldo – we rub along together pretty well.  Even with the Sindar and the returned Exiles of the Lonely Isle we trade – conduct councils – share learning and spread knowledge.  I had thought that … we worked together at more than a superficial level.  That we had harmony.

Eärwen slid closer to her husband, resting her free arm on his back and rubbing her fingers across the skin of his neck.  He was still the gentle ellon she had first loved – an idealist, but one whose ideals were more benevolent than those of his more war-like kin.  ‘Universal harmony is an impossibility,’ she sighed.  ‘It only takes one voice singing out of tune to mar the whole – and there will be far more than one voice sounding out against such an addition to the song.’

‘But we must seek it, Eärwen, if we are to be healed.’ His conviction was softened by the soft mourning tone.

His wife’s touch on the nape of his neck firmed.  ‘Tell me what you found as you and our son made your way home,’ she demanded.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of honeysuckle.  It was good to be in Tirion, but it only reminded him of just how much he had to do, if he was to use what he had learned to its best effect.  ‘There are, it would seem, those who have already emerged from the doors of Lord Námo’s halls,’ he said flatly.  ‘In the forests, mainly, but also in quiet valleys and on the banks of distant lakes, where they can be one with the land and where their kin can support them through the process of … of becoming themselves.’  He sighed.  ‘It would seem that the kin of those to return feel – called.  Drawn to travel towards the gates from which their loved ones emerge and then settle where …’ he grinned wryly, ‘there are no politics to hold back recovery.’

‘Many?’ Eärwen asked.  ‘Do they have anything in common?’  She frowned.  ‘Were they lost to their family at any particular time?  In any particular place?  Do they come from every kindred – or are they mainly of one?’

Finarfin tightened his clasp on her hand.  ‘They do not want to become objects of interest,’ he said firmly.  ‘If we send people to learn about them, they will simply disappear – and, in our desire to make matters better for them, we will drive them from their homes.’

‘If they want to be a … a secret people, why did they show themselves to you?’

‘Finrod,’ Finarfin said simply.  ‘Finrod’s presence brought them to us.’

He glanced at his wife, then concentrated on their twined fingers.  ‘Those we met,’ he said simply, ‘were not those who heard the Doom of the Noldor.  Not those who sailed to fight Morgoth’s hordes, nor those from the Great Journey and before.  They were elves who were born and died here in the Blessed Realm.  Peaceful people – Noldor who died in a range of accidents, a few Teleri who perished in storms and had lost their taste for the sea, a Vanya who had been crushed when a slab of building stone slipped.  All had family who were prepared to give up their customary lives to begin again.’

‘Simple cases.’ Eärwen spoke slowly, then shrugged and Finarfin’s curious glance and elaborated.  ‘It seems to me,’ she said, ‘that those who return need kin – or those who stand in the place of kin – and understanding.  It may be that, for those whose deaths were … hard, we do not need soft-hearted ellyth to guide them back to themselves, but former warriors and veterans of more difficult times.’

Finarfin nodded.  If this were easy, then the Blessed Realm would ring to the delighted cries of those reunited with the lost.  ‘Finrod, I think, is a catalyst,’ he said. ‘The Valar have returned him to see what will happen.  To make us, perhaps, take responsibility for our own and work towards a reconciliation far more complex than the simple return of those lost.’

‘We have been granted the time to find our own healing – and are now being pushed into completing a process we have evaded.’

‘Perhaps.’  Finarfin looked at her.  ‘You may have noticed that we did not return alone.’

‘I noticed half the population of Tirion following you through the gates.’ Eärwen smiled.  ‘And, among them, some faces I had not seen before.’

‘There is a lot of work to do.’ The Noldor’s king sounded resigned.  ‘And much of it will be … difficult.  Trying to negotiate understanding between those who define themselves through long-nursed resentments.’

‘Difficult,’ Eärwen agreed, ‘but essential.  If we want the Blessed Realm to be the haven the Valar offered, we must make it a place where all can dwell in peace, no matter what shadows their past.  Even,’ she said ruefully, ‘if they were kinslayers.’


His mother’s face was as pale as the breaking surf and the final tidying of his hair her way of saying how much she loved him.  Finrod took her hands from his collar and kissed her knuckles before releasing her and stepping back. 

This was something he had to do alone.

This was something he could only do alone.

He turned away from the small party that had accompanied him this far.  His mother, Amarië, a couple of his father’s advisors – both of whom had married Teleri – a few grooms and servants.  None of them bearing weapons.  None of them hooded, none cloaked, none coming out of a lowering darkness towards a city hung with lights, its harbour bristling with the masts of the swan ships; a city that dissolved in fire and slaughter and the theft of innocence.

He was simply dressed, his hair unbound – but his clothing, nonetheless, announced him as his father’s son, as one who had been there that night …  One who had seen the slaughter and done nothing to help, who had continued with the vengeful Noldor and marched into exile.  One who had died on the far side of an unforgiving sea and yet returned while the victims of the Kinslaying remained secluded in Mandos.

The buzz of sound from the sun-bright streets was edged with … anticipation.  Curiosity.  And colouring that attentive hum, flashes of anger, murmurs of resentment, dark echoes of rejection.  

The road surface crunched beneath his boot and white dust stirred to powder the leather.  The spicy scent of drying flowers rose in the warm air to remind him of long distant days when he had run wild across these cliffs over endless summers.  Finrod paused as another door opened onto vivid memories and gave him back another part of himself, but this task was too important to allow him much time for reflection.

People had spilled out of the gates to watch his approach, but none made any move to stop him.  Which was, he supposed, a good thing.  He did not know quite what he would do if Telerin warriors decided to bar him from the city.  Or, come to that, if some long-bereaved mother rushed up to harangue him for his failure to prevent the greatest crime elves had committed against elves in the Blessed Realm. 

It probably helped, he acknowledged to himself, that Olwë was his grandfather – and that his own father had long since earned the forgiveness of the people of Alqualondë.

It was not, most likely, his affiliation with the Noldor that was the cause of the tendrils of resentment that twisted beneath the whispers, but his status as one who had emerged, blinking, to start a second life here, while others remained behind.

From the elves crowding the streets, it would seem that almost the entire population had come to see him – yet, despite the numbers, his path remained clear and none approached him.  He stopped briefly in the market square, suddenly uncertain of his direction in this city that had … begun again, but the shifting people opened a way before him, guiding him towards the entrance to the King’s House.

His grandparents waited on the steps, high enough that all those spectators urging him forward would be able to see exactly how they reacted to his presence.  Finrod looked up.  Olwë seemed very grave, clad formally in silver-embroidered grey, his hair held in place with an elegant circlet of silver and pearls and his hand on the jewel-encrusted hilt of a long sword.  Vórima stood beside him, the train of her gown draped round her to trail down across the steps like an arrow, her long ropes of pearls glinting in the light as she breathed.  The sea breeze blew their hair and stirred the silks of their clothing, but they remained motionless, like figures carved from alabaster, only eyes the grey of a storm-tossed sea burning with life.

The crowd dropped away as he passed through the open gates and he advanced alone across the courtyard. The noise behind him faded, as if all those present were holding their breath to see what would happen.  Finrod’s steps slowed.  He should stop at the base of the steps – but, if he did that, scarcely any of those standing watching would see.  Better to climb high enough for his obeisance to be noted – but not high enough to let anybody interpret his actions as arrogance.  One step before the halfway point, he decided, counting as he climbed to keep himself focused.

He knelt, head bowed.

No sound but the cries of soaring gulls broke the silence.

‘What do you ask of us, Finrod son of Finarfin?’ Olwë asked finally, as some of the watchers began to shift their feet.

‘I do not ask forgiveness,’ Finrod said.  ‘What right have I to demand that of you, like a recalcitrant child?  All I can do is assure you of my sorrow and ask – what can I do to earn your grace?’

Olwë considered his daughter’s firstborn as Finrod’s words were whispered through the spectators.  ‘Nothing,’ he said finally.  He raised a hand as his grandson looked up at him.  ‘What happened was not your fault,’ he said.  ‘There is a difference …’ his voice, although not loud, could be clearly heard by even the most distant observer, ‘between guilt and culpability.  You were not – are not – responsible for the deaths of your kin … and if you had been, then in death and the judgment that follows, all debts are paid.’  He extended his hand imperiously and drew Finrod up the remaining steps to join his grandparents, taking him in an embrace as warm and affectionate as any his grandson remembered.  ‘You are most welcome among us, child,’ he declared.

Yet, in the roar of approbation that greeted their king’s words, Finrod could not help but hear a sour undertone of dissent.


The running wavelets swirled around his feet, sucking the white sand from under his toes and lapping at his ankles like an enthusiastic puppy.

His mother held up her skirts without even glancing down, aware, as he could never be, of the idiosyncrasies of the tide and familiar with its tricks and games.  ‘You see it?’ she asked.

‘It looks as if it has always been there.’ 

Across the wide beach, beyond the dunes, tamarisk bordered the stream, its dusty pink froth of tiny flowers like a maiden’s blush.  Behind the foliage, stumpy birches and white poplar gave way to sturdy oaks as the valley rose to the wide verandahs of the newly-built house.

‘What surprises me,’ Eärwen admitted, ‘is that no sooner was it built than several Teleri emerged from the mists to take their place there.  It is as if they were waiting for us to be ready for them.’

‘They probably were,’ Finrod said, curling his toes over the ridges in the sand and waiting for the sea to come back.  ‘Everything works together,’ he added absently.  ‘Life – death – people – the past and future … everything.  Nothing is …’ He drew his toe across the shifting grains and watched it disappear as the water covered it. ‘Nothing is a straight line.’  He turned his clear gaze on his mother.  ‘They were not victims of the Kinslaying, were they?’ 

‘No.’  Eärwen slipped one hand under her son’s elbow.  ‘Some were sailors whose boats failed to bring them home.  Another fell from the cliffs when little more than a child.  Why do you ask?’

Finrod stopped as the water pushed at his calves to head further up the beach.  ‘There are tasks we need to complete first, I think.  Sometimes we stagnate before we are able to grow and …’ He shrugged.  ‘I am not sure we are all ready to deal with the past, whatever we might say.’

‘Very nicely put,’ Eärwen remarked, ‘from one who has had to deal with everything he has ever experienced – and then cope with the process of realigning fëa and hroa.’

‘We are all in this together.’  Finrod grinned and resumed his paddle along the shoreline, his arm linked with his mother’s.  ‘It is the only way we will overcome the problems that face us.’

‘Will you go and meet those who have returned?’ she asked.  ‘You will, I think, be better able to speak of what faces them than anyone else – and it might do you good.  Your atar told me that there was a … a deeper level of understanding between you and those you encountered on your journey – that you seemed easier in each other’s company.’

‘I will,’ he said, ‘but there is enough division without creating more.  It is tempting to keep apart from the surfeit of impressions that swamp those who are used to silence and reflection, but that is not what is intended for those returned from Mandos.  We are, I think, intended to meld together those who have been too long apart.’

‘A big responsibility.’  Eärwen was not sure she approved.

‘But a great purpose.’  Anar shone in Finrod’s hair and the reflections on the crystal water enhanced the gleam of his pale skin.  ‘And it is only fair that we should be asked to put back what we have received.’  He smiled.  ‘For we have received so much more than we deserved.’


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