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Tales of the Eldandili  by Alassiel

Kevin's Tale: Part 2

No sky. No ground. Nothing but swirling, pulsing waves of color. He did not know if he was standing or lying down. He did not even know if he was moving or still. His body tingled, every hair erected, as if lightning was near. A deep soft chord of music went on and on, as if a huge orchestra or a pipe organ was playing a sustained note. He closed his eyes, and there was no difference in the light, as though it was inside him as well as outside. He knew he was breathing, for he could smell—the ocean, but other than that, he did not know what his bodily state was. The panic in him crested, then slowly diminished, lulled by the sound. He found himself watching the colors—sapphire, emerald, gold, silver, burgundy, flowing in seemingly random patterns through the background of white light. He began to drift into a kind of reverie—recalling all that had occurred in the last few days. If this was another manifestation of mental instability, at least it didn't seem to be chasing him. No, it was drawing him toward passivity! Instantly, he started speaking aloud. "My name is Kevin Hanson. I live at 3147 Palm Lane, Los Angeles, California. I am 36 years old. I am a cartographer, and I am a thoroughly logical being. This is a mental aberration, a state of delirium, nothing more. There are no Elves, no Valar, nothing that can not be measured and weighed. I will not give in to this—this fever-dream, or whatever it is."

Then he began setting himself mental math problems, starting with simple arithmetic and going on to algebraic equations, geometric proofs, problems in trigonometry and calculus. After that, it was maps—picturing and drawing them in his mind. After that, he named and catalogued all the genera and phyla of roses he could remember. He had not eaten for—a long time, but he welcomed the increasing pangs as a sign that he was alive. The growing thirst, though, became a torment, made worse by the smell of the sea. He tried to sing, but his throat was so parched that he could only croak. All the time, the colors swirled around and past him—and into him, rich and soft and deadly.

Yavanna stood at the edge of the Fence. With a sigh, she said, "His sáma is completely closed, I can not touch it at all."

Ruth, who stood beside her, asked, " How long can he live, Lady?"

"Weeks without food, but not so long without water."

"Oh, this is dreadful! I had no idea he would go!"

Yavanna laid a hand on Ruth's shoulder. "Be calm, Sérmë. I shall endeavor to send to him again. Do you and the other Atani speak to Ilúvatar on his behalf."

Some of the things he saw were simply meaningless, shapes like blobs of light, squiggles of color. Some were grotesque, nightmarish, including long-armed, bow-legged forms which leered at him out of the palpable air around him. Some were lovely, softly scintillating pillars of flame, flower-like swirls, and once, briefly, two magnificent trees, tower-tall, one shining silver and the other gleaming gold,. He knew he cried, though his eyes were so dry that it was only the ugly, tearing sobs that let him know it.

Then came a  time when he knew that he would surrender to the madness. Were Ruth and the others he had met right? Had he indeed entered into an altered state, another kind of reality? All his scientific training and his innate skepticism said no, but the continuous, quiet sound, like a prolonged tranquil chord at the end of a symphony began to work on him, lulling him away from fear. He resisted at first, refusing to go tamely into this—whatever it was, but there were long periods when he simply rested, still aware of his thirst, his cracked and bleeding lips, and his weariness, but only as a tale told about someone else. It was in one of these quiet periods when he felt the touch, like a hand laid softly on his right shoulder. He could not tell if he turned toward it, but it came again, more definite, more "real". No, it wasn't an external thing at all. It seemed to arise from some part of himself. He could barely respond, barely acknowledge the contact, but he did. There came a rustle, like wind in leaves, a fresh green scent, and then, he was lying on grass, beneath tall trees, his head in the lap of his—his teacher. He strove to speak, and she said, "Hush, beloved. Not yet. There is time for talking later. Here is Estë. She is a healer; do not fear her."

He saw a tall woman in silver-gray, who knelt beside him, and reaching out, laid one long slender hand on his cheek. He felt something like—cool mist flow into him, sweet and clean and infinitely tender, a whisper rather than a command, and slowly, he drifted into sleep.

They laid him in the Border Stream, and Estë roused him just enough so that he could accept water, a little at a time, without choking. When they judged that he could be moved without leaving his hröa, Beleg, who had watched for the time he was within the Fence, wrapped him in his cloak and carried him back to the house.

Dreaming, he was at home in his garden, his place of sanctuary. Roses scented the air, sunlight spilled like warm honey over the scene, and the resident mockingbird sat on the top of one of the palm trees that gave the street its name, singing lustily. A quiet, utterly ordinary happiness filled him. He set to work removing dead blossoms from one of the bushes, whistling Dvorak's Humoresque. Glancing toward the house, he saw—the Lady, standing like a sapling against the brick wall, smiling at him.

Calimë spoke softly from beside him. "He is awake, sellinya."

Ruth, who was standing on the other side of the bed on which he lay said, "Hi, Kevin."

Kevin whispered, "How long?"

Ruth replied, "Nearly a week. If you hadn't opened the Door, you would have died of thirst in there."

"Opened what door?"

Ruth smiled gently. "We'll talk about that later. Right now, just lie quietly while my healing partner and I examine you. Don't worry, we know what we're doing, though, to be honest, you're the first person other than each other we've had the chance to practice on."

Kevin said, "Is that supposed to reassure me?"

 With a laugh, Ruth replied, "Well, Calimë doesn't get sick, so she's had more practice than I, but my gift is one of hearing the hröa's song, so I've gotten to know how it should sound."

"What Song?"

"Poor guy! All this mumbo-jumbo thrown at you. I promise, all shall be revealed. Okay?"

"I don't have a choice, do I?"

"Sure you do. The Lady Estë, our teacher, is right outside."

"We've met, I think."

"That's right, you have. So, shall we continue? It isn't painful, I promise."

"Oh sure. I've been everything else in the last few days—mad, thirsty, starving, why not a guinea pig?"

"Sounds reasonable. Calimë, are you ready?"

Calimë patted Kevin's cheek softly. "I am, sellinya."

They each took one of Kevin's hands, and were quiet, for almost twenty minutes. He nearly fell asleep again. Finally, they released him, and Ruth said, "Broth, for a couple more days, then soft grains, but nothing spicy or rich."

Calimë  replied, "I agree, but I think he should have a little more of the cordial."

"Yes. I'll get it."

When Ruth had gone, Kevin asked, "Is it like pulse diagnosis, what you did?"

"Partially, but, as Sérmë said, she has the ability to hear the body's song. My gift is to see the state of the fëa, at least as it relates to health."

At his baffled look, Calimë laughed warmly. "I am sorry, Kevin. All this must seem utterly strange to you, but you will have help in understanding things, if you will accept it. Here is Sérmë with your medicine."

Ruth came in, carrying a small covered cup, filled with a clear liquid, which she handed to Calimë. Then, sitting down beside Kevin, she slipped an arm beneath his shoulders and helped him to sit up, while Calimë uncovered the cup and held it to his lips. "Drink it all, Kevin."

The cordial had no taste, not even that of water and did not react with coolness or warmth on his tongue, but he felt gentle warmth beginning to move through him almost at once.

Placing the empty cup on a nearby table, Calimë said, "Very good. Now you may rest again."

He did, without dreaming this time, and when he woke, they fed him broth, a little at a time, helped him to relieve himself and left him to sleep again.

By the third day, he was able to sit up on his own, and Michael was allowed to visit him. When he came, Kevin said simply, "Tell me, Mike. I really don't get it."

Michael sat with him for more than an hour, telling him of his friendship with Beleg, the accident, Beleg's disclosure, and all that had followed. Kevin made no comment, and Michael said, giving him a compassionate look, "It's hard when foundations are shaken, Kev, I know. The world is wider than you thought, and deeper and higher too. It is also more dangerous, as there are real forces of evil in it, not just abstract ones or the misbehavings of people. There are also forces of good, and beyond all, the One. It's both scarier and more wonderful to realize that."

"But what does this have to do with me?"

"You have the potential to be an Elf-friend, Kev, and what that means is that the part of you which does not die, what the Eldar call the fëa, is drawn to the Firstborn, who were here in Arda a long time before we were."

Kevin shook his head, with a look almost of despair. "This is so hard!"

Michael laid a hand sympathetically on his shoulder. "I bet it is. You're a scientist, not a poet or an artist, but look on it as an interesting anthropological investigation. If you do join us, you will be able to speak to other Eldandili—Elf-friends of a skeptical nature. We need skeptics as well as poets and artists, Kev. Oh, here is Hír Finrod."

Smiling from the doorway, Finrod asked, "May I come in, Kevin?"

"Of course, sir. I guess I owe you an apology. I was very rude."

Finrod came and sat down on the bed. "With reason, Kevin. So, is Michael fleshing out the details?"

"Starting to, but I know there's a lot to learn and I—think—maybe—I should—"

He shivered deeply, but then looked directly at the Elda, "…listen to your song, sir."

Finrod smiled warmly. "Only if you wish, Kevin. Now that I know a little more of you, I think I was mistaken to send to you as quickly as I did, but now that you have experienced power, albeit in a rather unpleasant form, I think you might be more willing."

Michael broke in enthusiastically, "Kev, another anthropological, or as Ruth says, Eldarological case."

Standing up, Finrod said, "Excuse me for a moment."

Soon he returned with his harp, while Michael was making Kevin comfortable on the bed. "You might drift off, Kev. I wouldn't want you falling out of the chair."

Kevin looked warily at his friend. "So it is hypnotism after all."

"No, not really, more like a lucid dream. Here they all are." Kevin turned his head and saw Ruth, Calimë, Elizabeth and another man whom he had not yet met, each carrying a chair.

Ruth said, "Wouldn't miss Hír Finrod's olos, Kevin. It's better than TV!"

Everyone laughed, including Finrod. Then he said quietly to Kevin, "You are as tense as a drawn bow. Would you rather I did not do this?"

"Yes, but do it anyway. I've got to get over this. As you said, I experienced power while in the—whatever it was, and now that I know it wasn't delirium, I'd better deal with it as best I can."

Finrod nodded. After a moment, he began to play softly, a mere whisper of delicate notes, a flickering of melody. Kevin shivered, feeling the sense of unfocused perception, of things half-seen. He glanced at the others faces, and saw the delight in them, the anticipation. Finrod sang, and a soft darkness flowed into the room, in which fear had no part at all. He heard crickets and smelled sweet grass and rich moist earth. He sensed the nearness of a body of water, wind stirring it into wavelets. Then, the sky above him filled with softly twinkling stars, and he saw, lying on the grass which covered the lakeside, beautiful forms of men and women, asleep, with smiles upon their dreaming faces. One of them stirred and opened his eyes, looking around him with wonder, then up at the sky. Sitting up, and raising his hands in delight, he shouted, "Elë!" And the other Eldar, for surely that is who they were, opened their eyes, saw the stars and cried aloud in joy.

It was like no dream he had ever had, for the images which flowed through his mind were crystalline, not blurred or random. He saw the coming of Oromë, the Great Journey, the Trees which he had seen while in the Borderland. When, at last, Finrod ceased, sunset light suffused the sky beyond the window of the room. Kevin looked at the tear-wet faces of the other Eldandili, and was not ashamed of his own weeping. After several minutes, he said, with difficulty, "Thank you, sir. Thank you."

Finrod laid the harp down and came to him. Kevin sat up, and they looked at one another. "There is much of grief, as well as of joy in the tale of my people, Kevin, but as you are a man of learning, I deem it wise for you to study it in our lore, even—"he added with a twinkle in his gray eyes—"if the style of writing is worse than nineteenth century."

Kevin laughed a bit shakily, then took the Elda's proffered hand. "I will, sir, but I hope you won't mind a raft of questions."

"I welcome them. Come, my friends. I need to eat, and I imagine you do as well."

0-0-0

Lamplight spilled softly onto the polished wood of the table. All else was in shadow, as it was two hours after . Kevin looked across at Finrod, his face set almost in an expression of pain.

"But I can't just throw reason away, sir. If there is a creator, as you say, don't you think he would have given us intelligence? Surely we're not just supposed to accept all this unquestioningly?"

"No indeed, meldonya; but let me ask you something. If you are scaling a sheer precipice, would you not desire a sound rope to anchor you to the rocks?"

"I would."

"How many times has medical theory changed in the past two centuries, Kevin? Your physicians used to believe that blood-letting relieved the body of dangerous humors. They disregarded the need for cleanliness in treating wounds, so that many died of the poison of infections. Now, they are convinced that tiny creatures called bacteria and viruses are the cause of disease, but this too may seem absurd in years to come. The ropes have been changed in mid-climb again and again."

"Well, sir, that seems to negate your argument that this being exists, as the same might be said about our understanding of the universe. As we gain more knowledge, old things seem ludicrous."

Finrod smiled. "That would be true, Kevin, if evidence of another kind were not available to us."

Kevin sighed explosively. "Well, we humans don't have your advantage of being able to converse with the angels, sir."

"I am not speaking of the Valar, Kevin, though, save for one, we have found them to be eminently truthful."

"Okay, I'll bite. What evidence?"

"Even your scientists do not discount the role of intuition or, as you call them, hunches in their investigations. Did not one of them come to an understanding of molecular structure through a dream?"

"The benzene ring. Yeh, but that could just have been an unconscious leap of knowledge."

Again Finrod smiled, and nodded.

"But—but—oh God!"

Kevin laid his head on the table. "So now you're saying that he sends dreams, I suppose."

"Yes, directly or through His servant Irmo."

Kevin lifted his head and brought his fist down on the table. "No! We're going in a circle!"

He sprang up and went to the window beside the outer door, staring out into the darkness. From behind him, Finrod asked quietly, "Do you wish me to take you back through the portal, meldonya?"

Kevin whirled, drawing a breath to answer hotly. Then, seeing the compassion on his companion's face, he stopped, his shoulders slumped and he came back to his chair and sat. "No, sir. It wouldn't help. I would just think it was all a dream. I don't know what to do. You all have been so kind to me and have not pressed me. When I asked to talk with you, I had it all worked out—all the arguments, but now I'm as much at a loss as I was before we started."

"I am listening, meldonya."

"Sir, the—Histories say that there was a long period of time without either sun or moon. That's impossible. The earth would freeze. They say that until the Downfall of Númenor, the earth was like a disk. Gravitational observation shows that can't happen; the forces would tear the planet to bits! Your lore says the sun and moon were originally a blossom and a fruit of—the Trees! Spectrographic analysis shows that the sun is a ball of burning gas and the moon simply reflects its light!"

Kevin had risen again and was pacing the room, "And now, you want me to just throw all that out and accept these myths? I can't, sir! I simply can't!"

Finrod said calmly, "What is a myth, Kevin?"

"A tale, a story made up by pre-scientific people to explain why things are."

"That is partially correct."

"So?"

"A myth is also a way of bringing into the world of actual experience those things which are beyond explanation—of any kind, Kevin. In the case of the Histories, meldonya, whether verified by scientific experimentation or not, they are true. Wait, let me finish. I myself was there, in Aman, when the Trees were in flower. It is not a tale to me, but a clear memory."

Kevin had come to the table, the edge of which he gripped in white-knuckled hands. After a moment, he sank down into his chair and gazed at Finrod with a look almost of despair. The Elda regarded him quietly. After a while, Kevin said, "How can I do this? I don't know how to do this."

"No one has asked you to disregard knowledge gained through observation, Kevin. You have a clear and orderly mind. Yet some of your greatest scientists can hold both the light of the fëa and the understanding of the hröa, both the glory of the Trees and the fire of Anar. For these lore-masters of the Atani, there is no contradiction, for they see in the orderly circling of the spheres the love and splendor of Ilúvatar, and they rejoice. I believe that you are one of these. Do not let Shadow cloud your vision. The Enemy ever desires to sow discord among the Children of Ilúvatar, and he makes knowledge something to be desired above all things, to the exclusion of estel. This my people have learned to our sorrow."

"Estel?"

"Trust in the One."

Kevin groaned and rubbed his temples. "I feel like I'm caught in the Fence again."

Finrod smiled. "Then ask your teacher to release you."

Kevin laughed shakily. "I've been avoiding her, and now I haven't seen her for weeks. She's probably furious with me."

"No, just giving you breathing space. Now, if I might counsel you, I would talk to her, for her experience is even more immediate than mine."

"No doubt, but I have no idea how to—uh—call."

"Ah, we have not spoken of ósanwë, have we? Well, I will request her to come. In the meanwhile, please go and rest. Both my daughter and Sérmë are gravely concerned that you will fall ill again."

Kevin nodded. "I'm sorry, sir. I've kept you up all night."

"No matter. I do not require much sleep."

Kevin, interested in spite of himself, asked, "Really? How much do you sleep?"

"For us, it is a choice, Kevin, unless we have labored long. So then, shall I speak to Heri Yavanna?"

"Sure. Thank you, sir."

"It is well."

After lying for nearly three hours in the dark, his mind in turmoil, Kevin rose and went out onto the terrace outside his room. The air was cool and soft, and the sky to the east was lightening. He sat down on a bench and gazed upward, trying to calm his racing thoughts. Finally, he looked down—and found the Lady sitting quietly beside him. There was no doubt that it was she, for a soft glow surrounded her.

"Greetings, Kevin. I hear you wish to speak with me."

"I—I'm sorry. I've just not known what to say to you—other than thank you. I am in way over my head."

"No matter. Will you walk with me?"

Kevin nodded, and they rose and went down the steps, across the grass and into the woods. They followed the path to the hilltop meadow, but did not stop there. They went on down the hill, and into the woods on the other side. After a while, they came out of the beech woods which surrounded the house and into a forest of tall, straight trees of a kind which Kevin did not know. In the growing light, he saw that their bark was gray, almost silver in appearance, and the path was carpeted with leaves of a fallow gold. They came to an open glade of smaller trees of the same kind and stopped.

Yavanna turned to him and asked, "Do you know this species of trees, Kevin?"

"I would say that they're a kind of beech, but—"

"Like, but not the same. Observe the trunks—not divided. Observe the leaves, larger than the beech."

She lifted one of the leaves from the ground and handed it to him. He noticed that it was supple, as if it had only recently fallen, though by every other indication, it was still summer here.

"Observe the blossoms."

She plucked one from a young tree and laid it in his hand. It was like the blossom of the cherry, but it almost seemed to glow with golden light in his fingers. Kevin turned slowly and looked up at the Lady, who smiled gently.

"The Eldar call it Malinornë. It is native to Aman, but I planted it in Númenor, and Tar-Aldarion took seeds to Gil-galad in Lindon. It did not flourish there, but the Eldarin king gave seeds to Galadriel, who planted them in Lothlórien, where, under her power, they throve."

Kevin closed his eyes briefly, his expression anguished.

"What troubles you, Kevin? Do you think that I would deceive you?"

"No!"

He was surprised at his own vehemence—surprised at his certainty of her veracity.

Yavanna smiled again, and laid a hand softly on his shoulder. "Your fëa and your hröa are at war, my friend, but this need not be so. Can you not leave room for wonder, for mystery? How dull the world would be if all things were fully known! Though we Ainur were kindled before time, and though we sang the themes of Ilúvatar, we do not know the end of the symphony, Kevin, and it is a delight to us. So let it be with you. Observe, investigate, but do not seek knowledge for its own sake. Let the Design enfold you and unfold in you."

Kevin answered in a low voice, "It's hard, my Lady. I'm the skeptical type."

"So you are, but you also contain the seeds of trust, my friend, or you and I would not be in affinity. When you plant and nurture, there are times when you are lost in delight, are there not?"

"Y—yes."

"And hours when you lose count of time for wonder and admiration?"

"That's true."

"Though you may not have thought of those times as contemplation, they were, Kevin. You would not call them worship, but they were; yet what you worshipped was the orderliness or the symmetry, not the Giver of them. And yet, walking with you in your garden, I perceived the shoots of true adoration in you. Let them rise, Kevin, and let them turn toward the Light."

"How?"

"Not through your own efforts, nor mine. I am not your ruler, Kevin. That office belongs to Ilúvatar. Let Him show you the path."

"But I don't even know if He exists!"

"Did you not assert a moment ago that I would not deceive you?"

"I did!"

"Eru ëa. The One is."

Her voice was neither louder nor deeper, but the note of authority in it brought Kevin's eyes to her face. It was calm, and the eyes which looked at him were tranquil. After a moment, she smiled. "I will leave you now, Kevin. No one, not even He, will force you, my friend. Be at peace."

Then, to his astonishment, she bent and gently kissed his forehead, and was gone. For a moment, Kevin stared at the place where she had been. Bending, he touched it, and, though the ground was in shadow, it was warm. With a shake of the head, he walked on through the young trees, until he came to the edge of another, slightly larger glade, lit by the newly risen sun. Instead of grass or wildflowers, the glade was planted with wheat in ordered rows. Something about it tugged at his memory, so that he did not go forward. Over the past several months, though with difficulty and even loathing, he had read most of the Histories with care. After a few minutes, standing gazing at the young grain, he suddenly said, "Lembas! I thought only women were—but then, if they're right, I'm a Yavannildo too, aren't I?"

The path skirted the edge of the small field, and he followed it onward into another wood of malinornë trees, up a hill, and out into an ordinary meadow. There, at its edge, he lay down in the shade. After a few hours, he woke, with an aching head and a sore throat. He sat up and sneezed violently. "Right. Well, at least I know I'm not in the Undying Lands. People don't get sick there."

He sneezed again, got to his feet and made his way back to the house.

When he came to the door, Calimë opened it and smiled at him. "Here he is. Silly Kevin, come in."

Kevin rasped, "You sure?"

Ruth, who was coming down the hall said, "Uh-oh. Willow bark?"

Looking at Kevin solicitously, Calimë, answered, "And horehound. Kevin, to bed with you. We had better make up a lot of cough syrup, Sérmë, just in case the other Atani catch it."

Kevin said, "Sorry."

"Who's blaming you?" Ruth replied. "Come on, Kev."

He went, and a few minutes later, Calimë brought him a steaming cup of willow bark tea mingled with strong mint and sweetened with honey. He drank it, when it had cooled sufficiently, then lay down and slept.

It was not a serious illness, and, after the first day, he felt well enough to sit up and read. When he asked, Calimë brought him There and Back Again, which he had avoided, thinking a children's tale would be poorly written and silly. As Elizabeth, Michael's wife, came with his lunch, she heard Kevin laughing. She knocked and entered, seeing him grinning. "Like it, Kevin?"

"It's delightful! Poor Bilbo!"

"Yeh. Talk about house guests from hell. Hír Finrod made this. It's lovely soup!"

"I bet. Thank you. Has anyone else caught this crud?"

"Ruth has, so she gets to practice unlicensed medicine on herself. Enjoy your lunch. I'll be back in a bit."

After lunch, Kevin continued to read, and, near the end of the tale, he came to this passage:

            "Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!" said Bilbo.

            "Of course!" said Gandalf. "And why should not they prove true? Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!"

Kevin stared at the page for several minutes. Then, laying the book aside he said, "Okay, but you're going to have to help me; I have no idea how to walk this path—Ilúvatar."

With that, he lay down calmly and slept.

0-0-0

The first thing he noticed on waking was that he was content—not euphoric, not drunk with delight, just at ease. He lay looking at leaf shadows on the ceiling until he had to sit up to sneeze, which made him laugh. There had been no visions, no revelations in the night watches, just quiet sleep and a quiet waking. He rose, dressed and went to put There and Back Again in its place in the library. There he met Master Pengolodh, the resident scribe. He was sitting at the table, using a frame of metal grids and a punching stylus to write in braille.

"Good morning to you, Kevin. You are feeling better, then?"

"Much better, sir. Are we the only two up?"

"Well, you are the only Atan up."

"Figures. I'm a lark, sir, a morning person."

Pengolodh gave him a mischievous smile. "You do not look much like a lirulin, Kevin, but if you say so."

"Lirulin, eh. Another word for my memory bank. I'm afraid I'm not very good at languages; numbers, yes, words no."

"Ah well, we all have our skills. Did you enjoy the book?"

"I did, much to my surprise. Let's see. Which one of these tomes haven't I read? No. No. Hmm. Oh, here's some light reading; Morgoth's Ring. Didn't know he had one."

"Ahem."

"Sorry. Will I disturb your work if I sit here?"

"Not at all."

Kevin seated himself and began scanning the table of contents. "Laws and Customs Among the Eldar? Hmm. Sounds interesting."

"Yes, my student AElfwine composed that."

"AElfwine? As in Eriol?"

"The same."

"Well I'll be. No, I've already read the Silmarillion, and I don't think I can take any Annals this morning. What is Athra—uh?".

"A conversation."

"Oh, I think I can manage that. Okay, I'll shut up now."

For a while, the only sounds were the tap of Pengolodh's stylus and the occasional rustle of turning pages. Then the rustling stopped, and Pengolodh glanced up to see Kevin staring out the window with a bemused expression. "Are you well, Kevin?"

Kevin turned to him. "Yes, I'm fine . What a sad tale! That must have been a dreadful time in which to live."

"It was."

"You were there?"

"I lived in Gondolin, Kevin."

Kevin whistled softly. "Maybe I should just talk to you and dispense with all this."

"I would be glad to answer your questions, my friend."

"Being the persistent type, I'll finish these and then, if I really don't understand something--."

"Surely."

Kevin went back to reading and after a few minutes, he burst out laughing. "Well, why didn't he say so?"

"Why didn't who say what?"

"Hír Finrod."

He pushed the book across the table, pointing to a passage:

Arda, or 'The Kingdom of Arda' (as being directly under the kingship of Eru's vice-gerent Manwë) is not easy to translate, since neither 'earth' nor 'world' are entirely suitable. Physically Arda was what we should call the Solar System. Presumably the Eldar could have had as much and as accurate information concerning this, its structure, origin, and its relation to the rest of Ea (the Universe) as they could comprehend. Probably those who were interested did acquire this knowledge. Not all the Eldar were interested in everything; most of them concentrated their attention on (or as they said 'were in love with') the Earth.

 The traditions here referred to have come down from the Eldar of the First Age, through Elves who never were directly acquainted with the Valar, and through Men who received 'lore' from the Elves, but who had myths and cosmogonic legends, and astronomical guesses, of their own. There is, however, nothing in them that seriously conflicts with present human notions of the Solar System, and its size and position relative to the Universe. It must be remembered, however, that it does not necessarily follow that 'True Information' concerning Arda (such as the ancient Eldar might have received from the Valar) must agree with Men's present theories. Also, the Eldar (and the Valar) were not overwhelmed or even principally impressed by notions of size and distance. Their interest, certainly the interest of the Silmarillion and all related matter, may be termed 'dramatic'. Places or worlds were interesting or important because of what happened in them.

After reading the indicated passage, Pengolodh raised one eyebrow questioningly.

Kevin said, "It doesn't matter about the sun and moon and all that, according to this. It's what we do that matters."

"Surely, Kevin, unless you, my friend, are in control of celestial bodies."

Kevin laughed . "No, and I'm glad I'm not. So I should just—read these histories and not try to reconcile them with scientific theories?"

"Yes, but that does not mean unreason. It means reason and--."

"Estel."

"Yes."

Kevin sighed. "I'm willing, sir, though I haven't the vaguest idea how to cultivate estel."

"By desiring it."

"Easier said than done."

"Of course. Ah, I think there are others stirring. Shall we go and break our fast? Thought needs nourishment as well as flesh."

"I'm game, sir. Then I think I'll read about those laws and customs."

He did, and about many other things as well over the next few days. He also began to talk with the others in the house, a little awkwardly at first, about Ilúvatar. They were all quite forthcoming, each in his or her way. At last, one evening, as he sat with Michael and Elizabeth, he asked, "What do I do, guys?"

Michael responded quietly, "Believe that He exists and trust Him, Kevin."

Kevin said softly, "Eru ëa. That's what the lady said—and I felt the words in my bones."

For several minutes, he sat still, gazing at the fire. Finally, quietly, he said, "Yes—yes. There are still things that baffle me--."

Elizabeth said, "Naturally. Why did He allow the Marring, for example, and all that flowed from it? You don't suppose we know the answer to that, do you? But that's what 'the freedom of Eru' means. I, for one, would rather trust that there is goodness beyond and above all evil than to live in despair. You're not a puppet—none of us are. We are, as the Eldar say, the Eruhini, the Children of the One, and He hasn't abandoned us. It's one reason we're all here together."

Kevin nodded, his face thoughtful. "Well, this Child of Ilúvatar has a lot to learn, and I hope you will help me."

Michael said, "Of course—all of us will; but be open to Him, Kevin. He will guide you far better than we can."

Kevin smiled a little wryly. "I trust so. Good night."

With a smile, Michael replied, "Rest well, Kev."

0-0-0

Author's Note: Excerpts are from _the Hobbit_ and the notes to Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth in _Morgoth's Ring_.

All words are Quenya, unless otherwise stated.

Atan/Atani; human/humans.

Adan/Edain, the same in Sindarin.

Eldandil/Eldandili; Elf-friend/Elf-friends.

Elda/Eldar; Elf/Elves.

Ósanwë; interchange of thought, telepathy.

Heru; lord.

Hír; The same in Sindarin.

Meldonya; my friend.

Olos; dream, fair vision.

Aiya; hail, a formal greeting.

Heri; lady.

Hröa; body.

I Aldu; The Two Trees.

Vanima; beautiful, fair.

Isil; The Moon.

Fëa; spirit, soul.

Sáma; mind.

Sellinya; my sister.

Estel; hope, trust.

Malinornë; Mallorn.

Aman; the Blessed Realm.

Yavannildo; follower, or in this case, a student, of Yavanna.

Lirulin; skylark.

Anar; the Sun.

The End.

 





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