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Warning: This chapter contains mild violence.
He stood at the entrance to the driveway, looking toward the house. The once neat flower borders were overgrown; leaves lay piled on the front porch; the windows were grimed. He felt a great sense of desolation, both because of what he saw, and also because of what he didn't—any sign or explanation for what had happened to his friends. They had no children or other family, so that the state would be auctioning off their property within a few days. He had come several times, after phone calls, emails, and even letters went unanswered.
After standing motionless for a while, he turned away and started up the path which circled the house and wound its way to a field of tall grass. The birch at its center was in full leaf, and he waded through the grass to stand in its light shade. Around him, the air was full of the chirping of crickets and sweet with the scent of wildflowers. This place had been Michael's outdoor art studio and Beth's place for music composition. They had visited it even in the depths of winter.
Beleg and the other portal guards watched the young Adan. They could see from his stance and the posture of his body that he was grieving. The Maiar among them also saw that one of Yavanna's students had come at last. She had told them to be watchful for him. She had also told them that he was one of those Eldandili whose affinity was only potential; he had little knowledge of the Histories.
Beleg deliberately stepped on dry leaves to alert the Adan to his presence, and Kevin Hanson looked toward the sound. The man who stood at the edge of the trees was tall—nearly seven feet if Kevin was any judge. He looked as if he was a medieval re-enactor—from the forest-green tunic and leggings and the supple leather boots to the long dark hair. Kevin stepped forward, indignant at the trespass—and froze. To say that the intruder was handsome was utterly inadequate. He was, quite honestly, the most beautiful person Kevin had ever seen. His skin fairly glowed with vitality; his eyes seemed filled with light. There was nothing effeminate in this beauty; it was virility incarnate, and looking into those deep eyes, as he did for an instant, Kevin Hanson was suddenly and primally afraid, as if one of the Norse gods or an angel was confronting him.
Beleg halted a few paces away and raised both hands palm outwards in a gesture of peace. "Hello, Kevin. I am no enemy, I assure you."
Kevin stammered, "Wh—who in the world are you—and h—how do you know my name?"
"I am glad it is you and that I got your name right. Michael told me about you."
"Michael? You know where he is? Please—tell me!"
"I can do better than that. I can take you to him if you like."
"Well, that is a bit hard to explain I am afraid, but he and Elizabeth and others are safe and well. They have not been abducted or harmed, nor will you be if you choose to come."
"You haven't said where, nor have you answered my question. Who are you—or maybe I should say—no, sorry."
"What am I? Well, I am an Elda, or as your people translate it, an Elf."
"One of the people in the Histories, Kevin Hanson."
Kevin gave a short, bitter laugh. "Right. Sure you are. And I'm Goldilocks. Little Red Riding Hood lives just the other side of the hill. What do you take me for—an idiot?"
Beleg answered mildly, "No, simply unlearned, which will make it a bit hard for you if you decide to come with me, but anyone can learn if he sets his mind to it."
"Fairy tales? Look, I don't believe in such things, so knock it off. Where have you taken my friends?"
Calmly, Beleg replied, "To Faëry, Kevin, despite your disbelief. Do you wish to go to them?"
"No way! You are trespassing here, and I guess I'd better…"
Beleg said quietly, "No, Michael gave us leave to build the portal here, but if you do not believe I am what I say I am, do you think the authorities will? I am who and what I say…"
"You haven't said who, just what!"
"Ah, forgive me. I am called Beleg Cúthalion."
"Right. And you want me to go with you to fairyland? I don't think so, buster! I'm not that gullible!"
Beleg laughed heartily. "Michael said you probably would not believe me, so he asked me to ask you if you have found the keys yet?"
"Keys? What keys?"
"He did not say—just keys. Something about a '47 Ford?"
Kevin's eyes widened, and he said, almost in a whisper," I'll be damned! But how did you know about that? You're not reading my…"
"I thought you did not believe me, Kevin Hanson. No, I am not engaging you in ósanwë, as that would be the height of discourtesy, since you do not know me well. I am simply relaying what my dear friend Michael asked me to ask you. I have no idea what he means by the question, but evidently you do."
Kevin stood still, gazing at the…no, he would not believe that this person was some kind of supernatural being.
After a moment, Beleg said, "Kevin, I have known Michael since he was a boy of ten years of age, for I lived in
Astonished, Kevin said, "But you're no more than twenty yourself!"
Beleg laughed again. "A great deal older than that, my friend. Do you know about the cliff—the broken spine—all that?"
"I—I—know that Mike had an accident when he was fourteen. I know he almost broke his back in a fall and that a friend of the family—rescued him. Are you saying…?"
"I am. He was too frightened to let me finish the healing. He could not lie quietly, as he sensed the flow of power. I did not wish to terrify him—any more than I wish to frighten you."
"Flow of power? Look, Mr. Cu—uh—"
"Beleg. The other is a title rather than a surname."
"Okay, B—Beleg, are you saying you tried to heal Mike when he was fourteen."
"How do I know you aren't scamming me?"
"You do not. The only proof I can give you is with Michael and Elizabeth and the other Eldandili."
"Elf-friends, you would say."
"I'd say nothing of the sort! This is crazy!" His eyes flashing with anger, Kevin stepped toward his companion, who moved lightly aside and let him pass. As Kevin started down the hill, Beleg spoke from behind him, "I will be here at this time tomorrow, Kevin, but if you come with others, you will not find me."
Kevin turned and said over his shoulder, "Can make yourself invisible, can you, Elfie? You bet I'll bring the police."
"Inconspicuous, not invisible, and Michael spoke of you as a courteous man. It seems he was mistaken."
Kevin turned around to face the so-called elf, his face suffused with anger. "Look you! You trespass on Mike's land and have the gall to tell me that you have taken him off somewhere, and you expect politeness?"
Beleg responded equably, "You can easily solve this, Kevin. The portal is there."
Kevin grimaced and said in a sneering voice, "Yeh, right!"
He turned and strode down the hill. Beleg watched him go, then turned and resumed his duties.
Later that afternoon, Kevin led Sheriff McAllister and his deputy to the meadow. They did not find Kevin's "trespasser"—not a broken branch or signs of a camp anywhere in the surrounding woods. As darkness approached, the sheriff said, "Well, Mr. Hanson, I'm not saying I disbelieve you, but this guy must be some kind of survivalist if he can hide from us so well. Maybe I should bring the canine unit."
With a frustrated sigh, Kevin responded, "Good idea, sir."
The dogs found nothing—except rabbit sign and deer sign.
The third day, Kevin returned alone to the meadow. Once again, he stood by the tree—and waited. Sunset came, followed by a clear warm night, and he sat down with his back to the tree. ; As the sky lightened, Kevin found Beleg sitting quietly beside him. He scrambled to his feet, terrified. Beleg also stood up and laid a hand briefly on the man's shoulder. "Easy, Kevin. I am sorry. I had gone for the night, as I had not rested for several days, but others were here to guard you."
"From aught of harm. I see that you are not aware of power usage as our friend Michael is, or you would have sensed the opening and closing of the portal. I did not materialize out of the air, my friend. So, will you believe me now, or at least consider it?"
"I—I don't—know. How can you expect me to believe you?"
"As I said, the question is easily answered. It is not a philosophical argument, Kevin. Michael and Elizabeth and others are beyond the portal, and I am sure any one of them will help. There is also a very wise friend of mine, another—Elda—who is skilled at introducing our people to the Edain—to humans."
"And if I go with you, I just disappear like Mike and Beth? No fear! I'm not going anywhere near this portal of yours."
"As you wish, Kevin. We will need to build anew somewhere else in any case, as the land is to be sold."
"And did you tell Mike and Beth that they wouldn't have a home when they get back, or are you planning to keep them for hundreds of years—like Sleeping Beauty or something?"
Beleg answered sadly, "Unfortunately, the Enemy's servant attacked the portal as they went through. We thought at first it was to kill the travelers, but we know now that it was to cause a time distortion. They have been in Faëry longer than we intended."
Kevin snorted contemptuously. "Sounds like a lot of hooey to me. Well, nice meetin' you, I guess. I—"
Three things happened at once. Wood chips sprayed off the tree above Kevin's head, the crack of the distant rifle was heard, and Beleg flung himself to the ground, dragging Kevin down, with a fierce whisper of "Be still!"
After a moment, the Elda raised his head cautiously, peering into the trees. Finally, he said in a low voice, "Two of them—with distance weapons. My fellows are fanning out to surround them, though they are concealed. We have time to go through the portal while they deal with the attackers."
"If you think—"
"Do you wish to die? I will leave you if I must, but I would not do so, despite your insolence."
"Insolence! Why you—"
Beleg clamped his hand over Kevin's mouth. "Be silent!"
At that moment, there was a shriek, cut short, from the direction of the woods. Beleg said, "One down. The other is coming this way! Decide now, Kevin Hanson!"
"I—my God, I—"
Beleg leaped up, lifted Kevin into his arms, and raced across the field toward the opposite woods.
Kevin struggled wildly, trying to grasp a handful of Beleg's hair, but the Elda simply tightened his grip, pinioning his arms securely at his sides, saying, "I am not your enemy, Kevin Hanson—he is!"
Kevin saw the man with the rifle coming out of the trees—and then he saw the other—Elda leap out, draw and loose an arrow. The gunman staggered and fell, an arrow protruding from his neck. Kevin closed his eyes, bile rising in his throat. Beleg said gently, "There is no time to still you, Kevin. I am sorry, but the discomfort will be brief."
Then he said something in a flowing language, and the world went away in a rush of light and sound. Kevin screamed, and went on screaming, as they seemed to plunge into a blaze of heatless fire. His consciousness fled.
"Kev. It's me, Kev. Come on, wake up. There you go, Kev. It's all right. Here's the basin. No one's going to hurt you. That's it. Here, drink some water; that's all it is. Good. Do you know me, Kev? It's Mike."
The room came slowly into focus, though there seemed to be wisps of fire around its edges. Kevin stared at his friend. He looked healthy and robust, though concerned. "Mike. Where?"
"One thing at a time, Kev. You're safe now, though I hear you had a narrow shave. Oh, here's Hír Finrod."
Kevin turned his head, and closed his eyes with a deep groan of "No! Not another one!"
Michael laughed. "Oh, he's on our side."
"What side is that? The lunatics?"
"Not likely. Sire, I see you brought your harp."
"It is one way to teach, Michael, and the least stressful."
Kevin opened his eyes to look at this—person again. The—Elda? Elf? smiled at him. He held the small harp in his hands—a lovely thing of wood and golden inlay. He sat down in a chair by the door, still smiling. "Do not fear me, Kevin. I know that all of this is—unexpected, but I assure you, you are among friends."
"Friends! Oh yeh! Friends who steal people away for years and years. Did you know they're selling your house at auction, Mike? Your house and everything in it, because you've been gone for three years! Three years! At first, we thought the two of you had been kidnapped, which wasn't far from the truth, was it, Mr. Elf? Kidnapped! Then we thought you'd been murdered, which, in a way, you have. Who knows how much longer you—"
Finrod spoke quietly, "It is as I told you, Michael. I am sorry for it."
Michael, shaken, replied, "I—understand, sire. You saved our lives, so—what's a house and—" He stopped, and put his head in his hands. Finrod placed the harp carefully on the floor, and went to him, laying a hand softly on his shoulder. Michael said thickly, "It is a war, sire. Things get lost in war, and people. It's going to be hard on Beth, though."
"I know, meldonya. I can promise nothing at this point, but—"
"I don't blame you, sire. I blame the Enemy! Well, shall I stay?"
"Yes. If he has any questions afterward, who better to explain things in plain terms?"
Michael sat down in the room's only other chair. Finrod resumed his, picked up the harp and began to play softly. Kevin looked at Michael, and saw tears on his face, but he had a still, determined look. He turned back toward Finrod, while the music flowed through the room like sunlight, warm and golden. He felt odd, as though things were beginning to unfocus again. With a loud shout, he flung himself off the bed on which he was lying. "No! You are not going to hypnotize me! No way!"
Michael spoke soothingly. "Kev, calm down. It isn't that at all. You felt something, did you?"
"Look, Mike. I don't know who these people are but—"
"If you listen, Kev, you will. It's all in the song. It isn't hypnotism; you're not going to be entranced. Just listen—and watch."
Setting the harp aside again, Finrod spoke reasonably, "Very well, though it is quicker than reading The Histories. We do have an extensive library, Kevin. You are welcome to use it. I will go and let the two of you talk."
Michael said, "He is an Eldandil, sire?"
"Definitely. That he reacted to the olos so proves it, Michael. I will see you at the evening meal."
When the Elda had gone, Kevin sat down on the bed, shaking. Michael spoke quietly. "I felt like that when Beleg tried to heal me. I didn't understand what he was doing, nor what I was feeling. It wasn't painful—anything but, just weird, very weird! An olos is a work of art, like a painting or a sculpture, only the color and the shape and the texture are projected into the hearer's mind, Kev. I wish I could paint like that."
"You don't look crazy to me, Mike, and maybe that scares me more than if you did. You're wholly under the spell, or the illusion, or whatever it is. You think that guy and the other one are people out of mythology."
After a silence, Michael asked, "Kevin, has it really been three years?"
"Three years, four months and six days."
"And no trace of us was found?"
"None. It was like you left your house, expecting to come back the next day, and didn't."
"Which is exactly what happened. We were told that we need not worry about time, but evidently, the Enemy twisted things. His people nearly killed us when we came through—us, and Hír Finrod, who was working the portal."
"Why on earth do you believe him?"
"Because he has shown himself to be trustworthy time and time again, Kev. He won't force you to do anything; he respects us. It is considered unthinkable to do so; it is, as we say, Morgothian."
"It's all there, Kev. All in the Histories. When you've rested, I'll take you to the library. It will take time, though, several weeks or even months."
"You're trying to persuade me to—"
"No, I just want to experience it again. It's like a multidimensional moving picture, with sound and smell and touch and even taste. Ah well. I think I'd better go talk to Beth."
When Michael had gone, Kevin rose and went to the window. Outside, he could see what looked like an herb garden, and beyond the hedge which surrounded it—a forest. It was not the second growth conifer woods of
He was struck first by the stillness. Except for birds and the soft rush of wind, there was no sound. The air smelled of leaves and earth and the tang of herbs. He walked along a terrace. There were no guards, no signs of imprisonment—just what looked to be miles and miles of woodland. And what woods! All of the trees that he could see looked to be hundreds of years old, with branches starting at least fifty feet from the ground. They were in full leaf, so it must be high summer here.
Kevin walked forward, descending three broad stone steps onto the short grass of the garden. The beds of herbs fairly glowed with health in the sunlight. He followed a winding path which led, as he found, to a wooden seat beneath an arbor. A tall green-clad woman sat there. As Kevin came up, she rose and smiled at him—and he felt a jolt of—what? Delight? Awe? He did not know, but once again, he wanted to run. She did not move toward him, but her expression was one of welcoming warmth. Kevin stepped back, and assiduously avoided looking directly at the calm, beautiful face.
The woman said, in a low musical voice, "So we meet at last. I hear they won a prize. Well done."
"What? I'm—sorry. I don't—"
"The roses—at—what is it called? A fair? I hear you are a master gardener, which is not at all surprising, Kevin."
"I seem to be asking this a lot, but who—what—"
"And many seem to be telling you this. I am no enemy. The Eldar call me Yavanna."
Kevin shook his head, not so much in negation as in utter bewilderment. "I don't get it. I'm a logical person; I hate sci-fi and fantasy stuff, and I don't take drugs. I don't get it."
Smiling, Yavanna said, "Will you sit? Or may I walk with you?"
"No one is going to coerce you, Kevin Hanson, nor attempt to alter your mind in your despite. Ah, here is Calimë."
Kevin turned and saw a child of about ten years of age, with long blond hair and the same gray eyes as the other—Eldas? He had seen. She held a basket which was full of long green leaves. When she saw the woman, her face broke into a delighted smile. "Aiya Heri Yavanna! So your student has come?"
"He has, dear one. This is Kevin. Kevin, this is Hír Finrod's daughter, Calimë."
The girl set her basket down and came to him, holding out a somewhat grubby hand. Kevin looked at the hand, and the child laughed. "I am sorry. I have been gathering Athelas for Heri Estë."
Was that supposed to mean something? After a moment, seeing his utter confusion, Calimë laughed again, a warm laugh, totally without mockery. "I see. I am sorry. You have no idea what I meant. Have you met my father?"
"I—think so, if he's the one with the harp."
"Oh, did he play for you? Good. So you understand where you are?"
"I—I'm afraid not. I stopped him when I—that is—I felt…"
"Oh. But there is nothing to fear in an olos. You can not be held in it against your will. Well, I must bring these to the still room. Farewell, Heri Yavanna."
"For now, little one."
When the child had gone, Yavanna resumed her seat, patting the bench beside her. "I will not harm you, Kevin Hanson. Please sit down."
Kevin slowly walked forward and sat. Yavanna smiled at him, and folded her hands in her lap. After a moment, she asked, "So what do you think about climbing roses?"
Yavanna indicated the arbor with a graceful gesture of her head. Kevin looked up, and his eyes widened in delight. "They're lovely! I've never seen that particular genus."
"They need just the right amount of sun, and they are a bit temperamental as far as feeding goes. I can give you cuttings when you return home. They would probably do well along the south wall."
"You know my yard?"
"I have been there with you many times, my friend. The roses are especially fine."
"But I've never seen you!"
Yavanna smiled at him warmly. "I would have been surprised if you had, for I was not in hröa."
At Kevin's puzzled look, she laughed, and like Calimë's laughter, it held no mockery. "I recommend that you allow Hír Finrod to continue his teaching olos. It will save time. As Calimë said, you can not be held in it without your willingness, and all here will gladly explain what it does not."
"I—I just don't know."
"Not all things need be quantified, Kevin. You love roses, do you not, and not just for their symmetry or color."
"They give you pleasure, as music or poetry does to others."
"So then, is that not an intangible experience of beauty?"
"I suppose, but it is a natural one. There's nothing mythical about a rose. You can touch it, smell it, get stuck by its thorns."
"And it is beautiful, whether you express that beauty as a poet or as a scientist, Kevin."
"Forgive me, ma'm, but what are you driving at?"
"That you need not fear what you do not understand at present, Kevin. I for glad you are wary, for it will make it harder for the Enemy to deceive you, but do not let caution become intransigence."
"Enemy? Who is this enemy?"
"To give you a name will mean nothing now, but be assured that the Enemy is no figment of the imagination, any more than I am. So then, will you allow the olos?"
"I don't know, but I will go look at the library."
"Good. Shall I show you, then?"
The room was large and sunny, with bookshelves lining two sides, several comfortable chairs, and a table in the center. As Kevin and Yavanna entered, he saw a gray-haired woman sitting at the table, a large silver-gray dog stretched out on the floor beside her. The woman's hands moved over what looked like braille in front of her. At the sound of their entrance, she turned toward the door. Her eyes were half-closed and whitish in appearance, but her smile was full of delight.
"Aiya," she said.
Yavanna replied, "Aiya Sérmë."
The woman rose and inclined her head. "Heri Yavanna! How lovely! Is someone with you?"
Yavanna "Yes. This is Kevin Hanson, Michael's friend."
"Oh, he found him! Wonderful! I'm Ruth Farris, or Sérmë as my friend Calimë calls me. Welcome."
Before he could answer, Yavanna said, "Will you show Kevin the library, Sérmë? He is unacquainted with the Histories."
"Really? That was brave of you."
"What was?" Kevin asked.
"Coming without knowing where you were going."
"I didn't come voluntarily. I was brought, kicking and screaming I'm afraid. Some idiots with guns were after me—us."
"Guns? Was anyone hurt?"
Kevin answered grimly, "They were. I saw one shot—no, I'm sorry."
"But you're all right?"
"I haven't the faintest idea."
"Have you met Hír Finrod?"
"Yes. And no, I didn't let him finish the—olos."
"I hear you. The first time he sent to me, it terrified the heck out of me, despite the subject."
"What did he send you, Sérmë?"
"I Aldu, Heri Yavanna."
"Well, you must admit, that's a pretty strong image. I'm just glad he didn't send the Song, or I might have fainted dead away. As it was, I shook for ten minutes."
Kevin said, "And you guys want me to submit myself to his playing?"
"Oh, it wasn't frightening in a bad way. Not at all. It was—like being in a cathedral, with a virtuoso organist playing with all the stops out and a full choir singing some choral masterpiece—that kind of fear."
"I—see—I think. What's I Aldu?"
Ruth laughed. "That will take a while to answer, but if you really want to know, the lady with you knows—indeed she does."
Yavanna said quietly, "No, I think I will let him come to that knowledge in a more roundabout way, Sérmë, especially as he is of a Noldorin temperament."
With a grin, Ruth responded, "What? I would have thought, as he is your student, that he is more Sindarin or even Nandorin."
Kevin scowled. "I wish you guys wouldn't talk as if I'm not here."
"Sorry. When you get to know us better, you'll see we weren't insulting you," said Ruth.
Touching Ruth's shoulder briefly, Yavanna said, "I shall go now, Sérmë. Kevin, when you grow easier with all this, we will talk again."
The lady went out, and Ruth said, "So, Kevin, along the wall by the door are the English texts, starting with The Redbook and ending with some commentaries over by the doors to the terrace. The other wall has the texts in—other languages. The braille section is in the next room, and there is a third room with the—well, where we have conferences. Any questions?"
"That's a lovely dog."
"He is, isn't he? His name's Isil, because of his color, and because his fur feels like what I imagine moonlight is like."
"Does he guide you?"
"He does. Well, if you will excuse me, I have to finish my homework. This herbal is not very well written, but I have to memorize the names of the vermifuges before I meet with my teacher later, so make yourself at home."
"You are studying herbology?"
"Among other things. Healing is my gift, just as growing things is yours, as I understand. Well, to work."
"This is ridiculous! Utterly unscientific! Insane! And the writing style is like something—nineteenth century, or worse!"
"What are you reading, Kevin?" asked Ruth, her hands stilling on the page of braille before her.
"The Music of the Something-or-other."
"Whatever. This is ludicrous! There isn't any DARK LORD. The world didn't come out of a song! That's stupid!"
"Well, no one said it was like any music we have now."
"But you guys believe this twaddle? I mean, come on!"
"May I ask you something?"
"Sure, why not?"
"When you met the Lady Yavanna a bit ago, what was your reaction?"
"Your reaction. What was it?"
"She's lovely! Gorgeous! Ravishingly beautiful—except I didn't feel attracted to her in that way."
"How did you feel drawn?"
"I felt—I don't know. Why do you ask?"
"Because, she is one of the Valar."
"Oh, please! She is too substantial to be some kind of—spirit sitting on a cloud playing a harp."
Ruth grinned. "I think her voice is her instrument, not the harp."
"Oh, come off it. She is a real person, not some kind of goddess out of myth."
"Exactly. When I met my teacher, Lady Estë, I felt as if I had known her all my life, which I have."
"No! I will not believe that gods and goddesses are wandering around in the real world. They are creations of primitive peoples who have not had the advantage of an enlightened education."
"Not gods, Kevin. Their power is derivative."
"Okay, but I don't believe it."
"How do you explain that you're in a different place than you were several hours ago?"
"I don't. It's a hallucination or something, a fabrication of my mind. Maybe the gunman shot me in the head and I'm in a coma."
"I'm not, and I hear your voice and smell supper cooking. I also feel this page in front of me, and know that I have to tell my teacher the names and properties of these herbs."
"I just don't believe it."
"But you do believe that Heri Yavanna is a 'real person'?"
"I—she seems so; in fact, she is the realest thing I've seen here, including you, I'm sorry to say."
Ruth laughed. "Well, that's a relief!"
"At least something seems real to you. So, if she is real, why not the rest of them? Why not the whole story?"
"Because scientific evidence shows that the world came out of an explosion of hydrogen gas and other elements billions and billions of years ago!"
"Well, as someone said, to say the stars are made of hydrogen just tells what they are made of, not what they are."
"Oh, you're hopelessly deluded!"
"No, I have hope, but it isn't based on what I can sense, Kevin, nor on 'scientific evidence'."
"On what, then?"
"Another kind of evidence, Kevin, about which it is very difficult to explain without sounding strange. I have felt—quite literally—the Marring. I have seen—with eyes and being—the Light of the Two Trees, or I Aldu as they are called in one of the Eldarin languages."
"All this doesn't prove anything. You could still be an illusion."
"Hmm. Well, when and if you start working with Heri Yavanna, I think you'll understand what I'm driving at. Speaking of which, I must go talk to my teacher. Come on, vanima Isil."
When Ruth had gone, accompanied by the dog, Kevin sat staring at the book in front of him for some time. Finally, with a grunt of disgust, he slammed it closed, replaced it on its shelf and walked out of the library's doors onto the terrace. He stood, looking at the woods, then, with a determined shake of the head, went down the stairs, across a space of short grass, and into the trees, following a path edged with stones. If there were roads in this place, he would follow them. Surely, one would lead him out of this lunatic asylum.
The afternoon light slanted through the branches, the air was cool and soft, and if he had been attentive, it would have been a more than pleasant walk; but he was not; he was angry-furious! These people were trying to trick him or brainwash him, and he would not succumb. He stormed along the quiet path, eyes straight ahead.
Beleg spoke quietly to one of those on guard with him, "Let Hír Finrod know. I will follow him."
After a mile or so, the path wound its way up a small hill and out into a meadow, much like the field behind Mike's house. Was it the same field? No, there was no birch tree, only grass and summer wildflowers. He saw no trace of another path, had seen no other paths on his walk. He stood, still fuming, then stepped forward, a little more cautiously, into the nearly waist-high grass. He could hear water flowing among the trees on his right. Well, streams usually led somewhere. At least it would be something to follow. When he found it, the stream was broad and shallow. On this side, the bank was tree-grown, but on the other, there was a strip of sand along its edge. Carefully, he went downstream, looking for a place to cross and finally came to a small ford with rocks protruding from the water. He sat down and removed his socks and shoes, stuffing the socks in his pockets and tying his shoes around his neck. And then, he noticed the light. At first, he thought it was a reflection of the sun, but when he looked up, he saw that it had dipped below the trees. Looking down, he saw that the water itself was shining with a soft silvery glow like moonlight. He jerked his eyes away with renewed anger. "No, Kevin," he told himself firmly. "don't let yourself be fooled again. It is an illusion, nothing more."
He stood up, walked to the stream's edge and stepping gingerly from stone to stone, crossed the softly shimmering water. When he had reached the far bank, he sat down on the sand and looked back.
The sound was so faint that he was not sure he had heard, but as he listened more attentively, he was aware of—singing! A deep rich voice was singing just at the threshold of hearing. Kevin sprang up and ran to the edge of the trees. There, he could perceive only the faintest murmur, but it was still there. His heart raced, and he had an unreasonable sense of pursuit. "Stop it, Kevin! You are a rational person! Stop it!"
He put on his socks and shoes, and, keeping the stream in sight, he went on into the deepening twilight.
Beleg crossed the stream farther up, bowing slightly in acknowledgement of the Lord of Waters on the other side, then turned to follow his quarry. The man was heedless of Hír Ulmo's call, or choosing to ignore it. He blundered along at the forest's edge, the set of his body fairly shouting to the following Elf of his fear, held back but palpable.
The evening drew on, and Kevin saw that, ahead of him, the trees came down to the water's edge. Half-reluctantly, he went that way, his body fairly tingling with apprehension. He came out onto a stretch of sand at a bend in the stream. Looking across, he saw that the woods on the other bank were just as dense, and that there was no beach. Downstream, it was the same. He must either go back or go into the trees. He looked up—and froze. Seldom had he seen a night sky without the glow of city lights. It stretched above him—deep blue and filled with stars. There was no moon as yet, but the light from the water at his feet made it possible for him to see.
"Kevin Hanson, listen to me."
The voice was so deep he seemed to feel it in his chest and belly. For a moment, Kevin did not move, then, terror overwhelming him, he turned and plunged into the trees, almost immediately crashing full tilt into one of them. He hissed with the pain of it, but went on as fast as he dared, until the inability to see his way stopped him. He leaned against a tree, breath coming in gasps, whispering, "Insane. I'm insane. Now I'm hearing voices in rivers! Pretty soon, I'll start believing in leprechauns! Calm down, idiot! Calm down! What's that?"
Beleg spoke softly just behind him. "Kevin, do not be alarmed, but do not move. You are right at the edge of the Fence."
Fence? A way out? Kevin leaped forward—and the world dissolved into light and sound. Beleg threw up his hands in exasperation as the Adan disappeared. Was the Man mad? Could he not listen to his fëa?
Beleg turned and ran swiftly back to the Border Stream. "Hír Ulmo, will you tell her?"
"I will, Beleg Cúthalion. Stay near the place at which he entered, for perhaps he will come out inadvertently."
Beleg bowed, and returned to watch.
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