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Many thanks to Fiondil for the beta!
Disclaimer: Playing with Tolkien’s toys and making no money from it.
The crowd cheered delightedly as the last note of the song faded into the appreciative din. Nodding his gratitude, the singer smiled at the innkeeper who responded in kind and held up his right hand, indicating he expected five more songs before the minstrel would receive his meal. The inn had been packed with awestruck patrons every night since the singer started performing there. After a few brief adjustments to the tuning, another melody burst forth, inspiring the listeners to dance.
Could this musician be the one he had searched for all of this time? Every night for the last week he had watched this man perform after years of searching inns and villages for any sign of the one whom he had sought. He did not have much to guide him but stories, songs and descriptions from those who knew him before. For so long he hoped it would be enough.
Dozens, nay, hundreds of inquiries with as many different folk, mortal and elven alike and in as many years finally led him here to this obscure inn in a remote village like so many other villages which dotted the western shore.
How many minstrels, street musicians, and common singers had he pursued always to disappointment? How many times had he looked on these people thinking, hoping, praying or despairing that one of them was he?
This shoddy man seemed at first like all of the others, blessed with a gift for entertainment, yet something seemed different about this unremarkable one. This minstrel’s drab simple clothes did not completely obscure what could be called a noble bearing. The height was correct. The black hair drawn back in a single braid, the piercing eyes full of long-borne sorrow, the broad shoulders and supple form of one who knew how to use the blade strapped at his hip – all suggested so much. Then there were the lithesome hands which moved with such easy grace over the strings, drawing and driving the songs forth.
Could this be the one? Was this doomed to be another week of false promise or could this really be the one whom he had sought for so long?
Eyeing the man critically, he suddenly doubted if he really wanted this to be. The drinkers roared again as the tune ended and the harper set his instrument aside. After greedily draining a mug, the musician cleared his throat and began to intone a composition which calmed the patrons and seduced them into a gentle swaying in time with the oddly syllabic hummed and chanted song.
Swearing softly to himself, the watcher looked down in surprised wonder as he realized his own fingers plucked the air with the melody of the song while using the proper grace notes and embellishments demanded by each of the seemingly meaningless words of the minstrel’s song. But these supposedly nonsense words held great meaning for those who knew!
How could he have known?
No one else in Middle-earth now knew except for…
Only those heavily steeped in the tradition for a yéni or more... Only those trained by the Master himself or one of his students would have known… What Fëanáro had leant to the lore and transcription of the spoken word, this singer had brought to the teaching and presentation of music in Aman.
This had been the one tried and true test in Imladris, the Grey Havens, Lothlorien, Tol Eressea, every elvish or mannish settlement everywhere to prove or disprove the true identity of the singers. And this one, this singer presented it of his own accord!
The knowledge hit with such a force, the ability to draw breath temporarily eluded the watcher. Valar! He had found him! At long last, he had finally found him! Now right before his very eyes stood Macalaurë Fëanárion, beginning another tune on his harp.
But then the deeper realization struck and he felt himself grow numb.
He had found him.
What would he do now? What would he say? Could he approach Macalaurë? Should he? So much time had passed and all of those yéni so obviously weighed heavily upon the son of Fëanáro as a mountain upon a grain of sand.
Then long-harbored anger welled up within.
And why should it not weigh upon this dispossessed prince? Was the ellon not cursed? Had the ellon not caused enough grief, not taken enough lives, not destroyed enough families and kingdoms and homes of his own kind? Did he not deserve to bear that burden forever? Did he not deserve whatever nightmares and scorn and hatred could be leveled upon him?
All of the genius, all of the wondrous gifts of Eru, all of the creations, all of the glory and nobility and honor ever bestowed on Macalaurë were destroyed, negated, made irrelevant by the cruel heartless acts of this horrible ellon!
The watcher closed his eyes and bowed his head, fighting back the brittle tears which threatened to escape his eyes, to break his composure, to expose him before all for what he truly was. Turning his back on the discovery, he nursed his glass of wine until he regained his composure enough to leave.
As he searched his purse for the appropriate payment, a firm hand on his shoulder startled him. Looking up, his surprise turned to dread when he met Macalaurë’s intense gaze.
“Since I first saw you here a week ago, friend, I have wished to speak with you. I have already taken the liberty of ordering food and drinks for us both. The innkeeper will be along presently with them,” Macalaurë said, addressing him in softly spoken Sindarin.
The watcher continued to stare, unable to form coherent words while Macalaurë moved away to sit down. Reaching up unconsciously, he touched the place where Macalaurë’s hand had been, still able to feel the ghost of that pressure there. Those long slender fingers which drew forth blood as easily as they drew forth music…He glanced at his own right hand,briefly drawing comparisons, then quickly covered it with his left.
No! He must not do this to himself! He would not!
“Who were your teachers?”
The watcher shook himself. “Who…wh…? Forgive me. What did you say?”
Macalaurë’s smiled as the innkeeper set food and wine on the table before them. Nodding his gratitude to his most recent patron, he hungrily tucked into his meat as he asked again between mouthfuls, “Who were your teachers?”
“Yes. I have watched you each night. Your fingers know some of my tunes, at least the oldest of them they know, many of them tunes composed and performed in Valinor before I departed. Also, and most surprisingly, you responded to the lambalindalë beautifully with proper hand position and mouthing along on the refrain with the proper words and phrasing. So, I ask again, who were your teachers, friend?”
As there was nothing to be gained by lying, the watcher replied somewhat shyly, switching to Quenya. “Eärsúlimo for singing, Lótiel for harp. Aldawë was the head of the music academy when I studied there and for a time when I later taught there as well.”
Macalaurë’s expression revealed nothing. “I guessed you might be from Valinor. I had wondered who took over leadership of the academy when I left. Those whom you have named are all good musicians, though they were not as accomplished as many of us who left.”
“So I have heard from those at the academy in Vanyamar,” The watcher answered back with a knowing smile in spite of himself. “Valalin was in charge of the Vanyarin academy when I took over as the master of the Noldorin academy and he told me that I was clearly a peer in skill of those who departed.”
“I reserve comment on that until I judge your abilities for myself,” Macalaurë commented, clearly amused. “What would bring one as seemingly accomplished as yourself to Endórë? When did you come here? And more importantly, why?”
Taking a drink of his wine, he looked carefully at Macalaurë, noting the shape of his face, the arch of his brow, the brightness of those tired eyes as he formulated his reply. He would not lie to him, but did he really wish to tell him the truth?
“I came to Endórë in the middle of the Second Age accompanying Lord Glorfindel along with a few others. We travelled here via Númenor. I came here to assist him and to attend to some personal matters.”
Macalaurë did not comment and they finished their meal in silence. After the innkeeper removed the plates and refilled their glasses, Macalaurë commented, “You have not told me your name.”
“I am Lindir.”
Nodding in acknowledgment, he handed Lindir his harp. “Play for me.”
Lindir started in surprise. “Wh…what would you like for me to play?”
Hesitantly, Lindir reached out to take the proffered harp, his fingers trembling slightly has he wrapped them around the smooth dark wood of the delicate instrument. After adjusting the tuning, he plucked a few notes and chords, savoring the strong mellow tones.
Smiling as he connected with the harp, he whispered to it, “You are a fine proud fellow. You are not made for playing indoors for rowdy crowds in an inn, but for the woods beside waterfalls or for the powerful rush of the sea when the breeze plays about the waves. I feel water and wind in your dulcet tones, but most of all the wind. My grandmother often said that Macalaurë ever loved the song of the wind. It is no wonder that his harp would as well. I would call you Súrilindë if you were mine.”
Across the table, Macalaurë quietly chuckled. “His name is Súrilindë.”
“Then I shall play you a song of the wind and the wood,” and Lindir began to play. The melody swirled soft and loud with great rushes countered by steady rises and falls. Suggestions of gentle whispers gradually alighted from the strings as of breezes intertwining with trees, whisping through long hair, tossing about leaves, and mingling cottage curtains. When the tune ended, the entire room erupted in applause.
Lindir looked about, confused for a moment, so engulfed was he in his music he momentarily forgot where he was.
“Good,” Macalaurë commended with an appreciative nod, raising his glass to the harper before him. “Now play for me of the water.”
Smiling confidently, Lindir began a new tune. And so the evening passed with several glasses of wine accompanying tunes and songs of each of the elements, all of the major emotions, all of the festival dances, several love songs, lullabies, and five ballads.
Finally Macalaurë said, “I am satisfied with your claim to the title of Master of the Academy. I have put you through all of the rigors of accomplishment and you have proven yourself most worthy.” With painful resignation in his eyes, he softly added almost to himself, “If I am to be replaced as Master, at least it is by one such as yourself.”
Lindir felt himself fairly glow with a pride he never expected to know. “Why not return and take up the mastery again?”
Macalaurë gave a hollow, self-deprecating laugh. “I would be murdered as I stepped off the ship in Alqualondë.”
“I do not believe anyone there would recognize you anymore. Besides, much has been forgiven. The Noldor have heavily atoned for the deeds of the exiles. The kin of Finwë are not held in scorn,” Lindir encouraged.
Macalaurë shook his head in disbelief. “Not all of the kin of Finwë sinned. But the kin of Fëanáro?” He laughed coldly. “We shall never be forgiven. My amillë was probably ostracized and shunned by all. I would not be surprised if she died alone in the darkness of the grief we caused her. We who followed my atar. We who abandoned her.”
“Then why not come back and see for yourself? You have already given yourself up for dead. Do you really wish to spend your endless days wandering from village to village, singing for your supper and a few small coins with which to buy clothes or lodging for a night?” Giving a long calculating look, Lindir quietly added, “Nerdanel yet lives. She dwells with her atar along with the abandoned kin of the house of Fëanáro.”
“What abandoned kin of the house of Fëanáro? They all came with us including Curufinwë’s son!” Macalaurë snapped angrily.
Lindir regarded him coolly. “What abandoned kin?!” he exclaimed. “How can you ask that? Did Maitimo not have a wife? Did you not? Or have you conveniently forgotten? You took their kin with you, leaving them alone and forsaken!”
“How dare you accuse me of forgetting?” Macalaurë snarled leaning forward, his left hand unconsciously going to the hilt of his dagger. “I think on them, what I left behind, what I have lost…I am reminded every day.” He held up his right hand, exposing the scarred palm burned by the Silmaril. “Every time I see THIS, I am reminded. Say not that I have forgotten, for I remember everyone and everything!” Breathing hard, he sat back in his chair, covering his eyes with his damaged hand. “The last of the kin of my wife and of my brothers’ wives died in the Nirnaith Arnoediad. I am alone now and apparently so are they who are left in Valinor.”
“Then come back and join us…them in Valinor! Then no one need be alone any longer.”
Macalaurë lowered his hand and sighed. “My…My wife was with child when I left her to follow my atar. How could she or my child ever forgive me for that?”
Lindir smiled reassuringly. “Why do you not come back and see for yourself how they could forgive you? And you might like to know that the “child” was actually twins, a girl and a boy.”
“Twins…” Macalaurë gasped, his gaze suddenly far away with wonder. “Twins,” he whispered. Then looking on Lindir once again, he sighed. “I once fostered twins a long time ago. I loved them as my own.”
“I know. Elrond still speaks fondly of you.”
“The Valar would not pardon me for what I have done, nor should they,” Macalaurë said in bitterness.
“Again, you might be surprised by what you find. Please come back with us and find out. Elrond and many of his folk, myself included, will be departing from the Grey Havens in two month’s time, on the full moon.”
Picking up his harp, Macalaurë smoothed his fingers over the wood, tracing the grain, then wrapped his arms around Súrilindë, holding him close to his chest. “Tell me why this matters so much to you. Why do you care? Did Elrond send you here?”
Lindir realized the moment of truth had come and accepted it, knowing there may not be another opportunity. He had been there long enough to hold in his memory forever every feature of the Elfseated before, every detail of the conversation. He would have gained this at least if nothing else. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself and replied, “Elrond did not send me. I came here to bear you greetings and love from the family you left behind. Your grandparents, your wife, and your mother still love you. Your children and grandchildren wish to know you so they can love more than just stories and songs and works of your hand and shared memories. None of your kin bear any grudge against you. I came here to ask you on their behalf to come home again. I came here…” he faltered for a moment, blinking furiously at his failing courage and composure.
“I came here to deliver this from your family and friends who miss you.” He rummaged about in his leather satchel under the table and produced a time-worn wooden box which he set on the table. Opening it, he withdrew a gold pendant bearing the symbols of the Noldorin academy of music, the House of Finwë, and the house of Mahtan.
Macalaurë’s hands trembled as he placed his harp on the table and grasped the chain from which the pendant hung. “My…my grandfather made this. I…I recognize his work.”
“Yes. Yes, he did. Even though you were the most unlike him of all of your mother’s sons, you were the dearest to him. Look at the back of the pendant.”
Carefully, Macalaurë turned the pendant over and cradled it in his damaged palm. Tears sprang from his eyes as he read aloud, “Bear this symbol of our love and memory close to your heart until we can hold you close to ours once again.” Soundlessly moving his lips, he read the words over and over several times. Placing the chain around his neck, he placed his hand over the pendant, pressing it against his heart.
“I…I have not the words.” He smiled amidst the wetness glistening on his face and dripping from his nose. “You came all this way to…” He shook his head in unabashed wonder, suddenly staring intently at Lindir as if seeing him for the first time as if they had not just spent the last several hours together in the now empty common room of an obscure inn in an isolated mortal village on the western coast of Endórë.
“Lindir…” he said softly as if testing the sound on his lips. “The name suits you well. You have Lindórië’s bright laughing eyes and her light brown hair though I do detect some hints of red. But the rest of you…the rest of you is of me. By the Valar, this is a blessing I never hoped…” his voice broke. “I never…I do not deserve this. Oh Eru, why do you do this to me now? I never hoped to know.” Tears flowed anew, staining his worn tunic and shirt.
“If…If I can manage to stand,” he tentatively asked, his voice shaking with uncertainty. “Would you allow me to embrace you, Lindir Macalaurion? Would you allow me, just once, to hold my son?”
In a joyful instant, Lindir was on his feet beside his atar’s chair, helping him to stand. “I thought you would never ask.”
For uncounted minutes the two stood in a tearful embrace, father and son. “I am sorry I left you and your sister – what is her name?”
“Lindessë. She looks just like amillë but with red hair like Mahtan’s. She is older than I by a few minutes and she seldom allows me to forget it,” Lindir chuckled amidst his tears.
“Lindessë…what a lovely name. I never had the chance to name you...” Macalaurë’s voice broke and he took a deep shuddering breath.
“I am sorry I left you two and your mother. I was so consumed by my atar’s words and the spell woven by his speech, that I swore that fateful oath. I did not realize what I had done until afterward when I returned to your amillë. I did not begin to comprehend the implications until she told me she would not leave Tirion, but I knew I had to, constrained by an oath I could not, I dare not,break for fear of what I would call upon myself. I regret all that I have done under the influence of the oath. I have spent two Ages of this land punishing myself in atonement for my inexcusable actions.” Pushing his son away, he held him at arm’s length, looking into his eyes.
“I apologize for the shame I have brought to you and our family. You…you, my son, from what I have seen tonight are all I could ever have wished for, could ever have hoped for in a son, but never deserved. Not after what I did.” He paused a moment, struggling to catch his breath.
“I…I do not ask for your forgiveness for I cannot forgive myself for what I have done. I do ask you to accept the only thing I have to offer you, which is my love. Please know that I have loved you from the moment your amillë and I made you. I briefly forgot you once, but never again! Please tell your sister and your amillë and mine that I love them with all of my heart.”
He dropped his hands and started to turn away, but his son stopped him, turning him back and holding him fast by the shoulders. “Tell them yourself, Atar. Come back and tell them yourself. When I first arrived here in Endórë, I knew stories and memories of you from of old and I knew what those returning from the war would tell me. I wanted the tales of your kinslaying to be a lie, but they were not. I have searched for you for so long, yet I really never knew what I would say to you when I finally found you. I am ashamed of your past, but not all of your deeds were heartless and cruel. You continued to make music, to record the deeds of the Noldor in song. You fostered Elrond and Elros and you relinquished the Silmaril when you finally held it in your hand.”
Releasing one shoulder, he lifted his atar’s right hand, examining the scar. “But now that I see you and I speak with you, Atar, I…” His voice trailed off as he looked away for a moment at the dying fire in the hearth across the room. Looking back, he placed his atar’s hand over his own heart. “You have suffered enough, Atar. It is time for you to come home and heal. We need to heal and we cannot do that without you, without your love. Please come home, Atar. Please come home.”
“Would the Valar allow me to return? Surely I will be brought before them for punishment. I know I could not endure being with you all and then losing you again a second time.” Macalaurë’s voice shook with sorrow and fear.
“When you are brought before them, know that we will stand by you no matter what they say or do to you. But I do not think things will be as bad as you fear. I came here with their blessing, Atar. They asked me to find you and bring you home. You will have to go before them and beg forgiveness for what you have done, but you will find them merciful. Lord Irmo told me that you will not begin to heal until you have done this. If you cannot find it within you to do this for yourself, then do it for us. We love you and we desire nothing more than to be with you.”
Macalaurë bowed his head for a time, eyes closed in silent contemplation. Finally he sighed and looked on his son again. “Very well. I will go… for you.”
Lindir beamed, crushing his atar to him in a fierce hug. “I love you, Atar.”
“And I love you, Lindir, my son. And I am proud to be your atar.”
Note on the harper’s relationship to the harp: Many folk harpers believe that their instruments have a name and a spirit all their own. The harper discerns this after playing the harp for a time and the harper will come to know precisely the harp’s name, gender, and spirit. One interesting aspect of this “coming to know a harp” is that this discernment can happen even without a teacher telling a new student of the harp that this phenomenon and bonding with take place. One harp maker laughingly told me that all of the tiny 16 string practice harps he’s made have been given mighty names like Thor and Titan and he hasn’t yet figured out why.
lambalindalë – (Quenya) Tongue music – I patterned this concept after the canntaireachd of the great highland bagpipe used for teaching piobaireachd – the classical music of the highland pipes. Before the use of written notation, pipers learned a piobaireachd and its proper embellishments by singing the tune using special syllables for the notes and embellishments instead of actual words. William Barrie has made some wonderful CDs of canntaireachd and Simon Frasier University Pipe Band sings some canntaireachd a few of their videos on YouTube (you may have to wade a bit into said videos to get to the singing part). To me it seemed reasonable that elves would have developed such a thing for teaching harp and other instruments.
yéni – a span of 144 years
Súrilindë - (Quenya) Windsong
amillë - mother
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