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The time set itself in a slow and quiet pace, a pace of waiting. Each day I would for some time work in the forge with my father, and I found him now much kinder to me than before. Then I would go to the healers' tent and help there as I could. Even though he had been unwilling at first, AldanwŽ was now content to have me there to aid him; he said that I kept my wits about me and had light hands. We spoke together much, and so I learned something more about healing too. The healer did not allow my uncles to tend their brother, even though he did not object for them to be around at any time.
And they were there often, all of them. Already on the next day they returned, shame-faced, yet resolute, and from now on at least one of them was always around, sitting by NelyafinwŽ, either talking to him softly or simply holding his hand. And, facing this new sorrow, they knit themselves together even more closely than before. All of them save MakalaurŽ.
MakalaurŽ withdrew from the others. He would still come and see his eldest brother when he could, he would sit beside him, and he would not shun me or AldanwŽ, but he was ever silent, and whenever someone of his younger brothers entered, he would soon rise and quietly leave. It was but a matter of time when they would notice and demand an explanation.
It was an afternoon of another quiet day. Winter was nearly here, the edges of the lake frozen over, and there had been snow in the night that now lay white on the ground, a thin layer, but still it made everything look more cheerful for a while. I had helped my father in the morning; we had been folding steel for the sword he wanted to make for his brother, and he had even marked my precision and skill in that work. Even though this, strictly speaking, was not much of a praise, I had taken it as such, for each kind word from my father warmed my heart greatly. So I left the smithy in high spirits, hoping that perhaps when I shall come to the healers' tent I shall find some change for the better there too.
But there was no change. As in the days and weeks before, my uncle lay still and silent, face pale, eyes closed, and the only thing that gave away the spark of life in him was the slow rise and fall of his chest. AldanwŽ was there, and I aided him again, as I had done every day. Then MakalaurŽ came and sat beside his brother in silence, but I retreated in the corner, to cut and fold the clean bandages. These quiet days had taught me patience I had never before possessed, and I found with no small measure of wonder that I was content to immerse myself in some dull task, and that the slow passing of time did not irritate me anymore. So we sat, and we watched over NelyafinwŽ, and we waited, and the afternoon drew towards the evening.
Then Tyelkormo came. He had been hunting in the woodlands today, and it seemed that it was snowing again outside; he shook the snow from his cloak at the entrance, cast it upon a chair, then looked with question at his brother.
"No change?" he asked.
MakalaurŽ merely shook his head. Tyelkormo sighed, pulled a chair and sat on the other side of the bed. After a while MakalaurŽ quietly rose to retreat. Tyelkormo raised his head sharply.
"Leaving already?" There was a note of irritation in his voice.
"Yes, I mustÖ"
"You were not so hasty when I came in. What message arrived so suddenly that you must flee again, brother?"
His irritation was swiftly turning into anger, and I fervently wished to be somewhere else, yet I could not now leave quietly, and I also had not finished my task, so I remained. MakalaurŽ made for the door in silence.
"Wait!" Tyelkormo did not much raise his voice, but his tone was commanding. "You will reply me, MakalaurŽ, and you will explain this at last! What is the reason for your bearing? You avoid us all like wildfire! And here you always sit in silence, without even a word to him!"
Suddenly MakalaurŽ spun around, his eyes glinted.
"Do you indeed think that my voice could call our brother back from whatever shadows he now wanders? No, Tyelkormo, it can only push him deeper in the abyss of suffering. It is hardly my right even to be here at all. His anguish is of my doing!"
Tyelkormo's eyes narrowed.
"Was it your hand that wielded whips and iron?"
"It was my decision to leave him in the hands of the Enemy!"
Tyelkormo sighed and rose, barring his brother's way to the door.
"I think, MakalaurŽ, you have enough wisdom to understand now, even as then, that your decision was right," he said. "Yes, we all reproached you for that," he added seeing that his elder brother was about to object. "But we were wrong, and we realized that soon enough. Our pride did not allow us to admit that to you. I do so now, and I ask you to forgive me. The others are of like mind, even MorifinwŽ. There was no hope that way, MakalaurŽ. None. And, believe me, Russandol, when he wakes, he will tell you the same. Had you agreed, we would probably all be in the Halls of Mandos now. Or rather worse, in Angamando. Now we have at least some hope."
MakalaurŽ bowed his head.
"FindekŠno did not care about right and wrong choices," he quietly said." He went regardless of all we had done to his people. He went unaware that Russandol stood aside when the ships burned at Losgar. He did not know that, Tyelkormo, and still he went."
"He has certainly humbled us with this deed of his." Tyelkormo smiled sadly. "Yet with that, as with all else, we must live."
"Turning away Moringotto's emissaries was the right thing perhaps," replied MakalaurŽ. "But the other ways we did not even try. FindekŠno went where none of us dared to go."
"Forget not that he had help, brother, help that none of us could expect to receive. Can you imagine ManwŽ Sķlimo sending his eagles to aid any of our father's sons?"
"FindekŠno could not count on that either."
"No," replied Tyelkormo. "He could not." He fell silent and regarded his brother strangely for a while. "None would expect you to go after Russandol, MakalaurŽ," he then slowly said, "with the burden of leadership you had to take, this burden you never wanted, yet have borne with patience and honour. Whereas the choices of the othersÖ" a shadow passed his face, "Öthe choices of the others were their own."
His brother blanched at these words.
"Are you saying that youÖ"
Tyelkormo shook his head.
"I am saying no more, and you shall not ask," he firmly replied. "You shall not ask, neither me, nor any of the others."
"You shall not ask, MakalaurŽ." Tyelkormo repeated, a tone of warning in his voice, and his elder brother nodded and bowed his head.
I never learned what desperate ventures my uncles had undertaken. For I never asked either.
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