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The Silence  by Aldwen

The winter had come, and still the silence lasted. The lake was frozen over, snow lay thick on the ground, and all sounds were muted, subdued. The whiteness that had seemed cheerful at first now resembled a shroud, tightly wrapping in its cold embrace everything that was once green and growing. There were no birds; they had all left south, and the swans had been the last to depart, but a day before the first heavy snowfall started, a great phalanx, white shapes against the grey clouds that carried snow, and the sound of their wings and their keen cries long rang in my ears, even after the great birds had long disappeared beyond the mountain ridge. All was quiet now. And we were entwined in this silence and waiting, we were held fast by them, and we were not ready for the day when the silence was at last shattered.

The snow that had been falling steadily for more than two days had at last abated, the clouds had cleared away, and low winter Sun shone over the lake and the camp, drawing sharp the edges of shadows and turning the whiteness to a dazzling glitter. It was freezing; my breath hung in the air like a cloud, as I hurried to the healers' tent. We feel cold little but stepping outside from the heat of the forge had been like taking a plunge in icy water.

I entered the tent that was warmed by braziers, took off and set aside my coat and turned towards Aldanwë to hear what help he expected from me today. But the healer did not turn to greet me. He sat on the edge of a chair beside my uncle, leaning forward, watching him with intent face, listening closely. And then I too heard it, a sharp and ragged intake of breath and a soft moan. Nelyafinwë's eyes were still closed, but it seemed to me that his lashes trembled slightly, and his lips too. There was a sheen of sweat on his brow.

"Tyelperinquar, go and ask lord Makalaurë to come here!" Aldanwë said without turning. His voice was tense. "Only him. At once."

"Yes!" I hastily donned my coat again and hurried in search of my uncle.

It did not take long to find him. He was in the stables, another building of stone we had raised in this sad place to house our steeds. My uncle loved horses, and the horses loved him and obeyed him on a spoken word. Now he was brushing the dapple mare he usually rode, speaking softly to her, and the animal regarded him with large, clever eyes and snorted occasionally, as if in reply. Makalaurë finished brushing and briefly rested his head against the horse's neck. Suddenly he looked very weary. But then he heard me approach and turned, and the weariness was gone, and before me again stood the one whose quiet determination had held us together during these unhappy years.

"Are you looking for me, Tyelperinquar?" he asked and smiled his kind smile, but then he looked more intently at my face, and his smile faded. "What is it, brother-son?"

"Uncle, Aldanwë asked you to come at once. Nelyafinwë… he is waking."

He paled slightly, then nodded and turned towards the door.

"Let us go."

Suddenly there were swift footsteps behind, a grey shadow of the wolfhound passed by, and then there was Tyelkormo, keeping in step with us.

"I heard it. I am coming too."

"Aldanwë said, uncle Makalaurë only," I said with little hope that my words will be heeded. I was right.

"Try to stop me!" Tyelkormo's eyes glinted. I shook my head and sighed.

Little had changed when we entered. Aldanwë still sat in the same place; he cast a quick glance at us, frowning at the sight of two my uncles, yet he said naught, but turned towards the bed again. We stood awhile uncertain, awaiting. The silence in the tent was again broken by a shuddering sigh.

Tyelkormo stepped forward. Aldanwë raised his hand to restrain him, but my uncle, heedless of the healer's warning, knelt beside his brother and took his hand.

"Russandol…!"

The eldest son of Fëanáro opened his eyes. And then the silence that had already been unraveled was stabbed with words. The voice that uttered them was weak and broken, but the words themselves were angry and proud, words that are spoken in the uttermost end of defiance, the last weapon turned against the enemy when all else has failed. These words were not meant for us. The eyes of my uncle were wide open, yet they were glazed and sightless; he was looking through us, past us. Terror appeared on Tyelkormo's face.

"He… he does not know us! He thinks we are…" His voice trailed away in a strangled sob. He looked up; his face was pale, his eyes – full of tears.

Aldanwë pulled him away from Nelyafinwë, gently yet firmly.

"Do not touch him, lord," he said, not unkindly. "For years, the only touch your brother has known has been the one to cause him pain. Leave him be for a while."

"Yes…" Tyelkormo sank on the ground some steps away and covered his face.

The words had fallen silent, but my uncle's gaze was still glassy and remote; it was clear that he neither saw, nor recognized us.

"What shall we do?" Makalaurë's whispered question rang loud in the sudden silence. "In his mind, he is still… there."

Aldanwë nodded. Keeping a little distance from the bed, he started speaking in a quiet and calm voice, calling my uncle by name, reassuring. To no avail. The words did not return, but neither did understanding dawn in Nelyafinwë's eyes; he remained far away, trapped in some terrible place. I remembered my nightmares on that first night after Findekáno had brought him back and shuddered. Tyelkormo still sat with his face buried in his hands. Nelyafinwë's sharp and painful breath tore the silence into shreds, and healer's voice had no power to mend it.

But Makalaurë's song had that power. Quietly it started, a song of gold and silver Light that welled over the land in gentle waves, Light that embraced each leaf and each flower, and each blade of grass; and that song brought peace to everyone in the tent, and to his brother too. Nelyafinwë's eyes slid shut, and he slept, not in the senseless oblivion, but in true sleep, his breath neither swift and ragged, nor shallow like before, but deep and even. Slowly Makalaurë pulled a chair to the bedside and sat down, still singing; outside the day turned towards afternoon and afternoon towards evening, and the daylight faded, but inside the tent song followed song, and one fair vision before our eyes was exchanged for another. Evening passed on to the night, and still he sang, firmly setting his voice as a shield between his brother and memories of horror. Only when the night grew old and the dawn was not far off did he fall silent, as his voice failed him at last. Then he merely sat and watched over the one who was sleeping, and silent tears slid slowly over his face.

"Brother…" Suddenly silence was interrupted again, by whispered words, hardly louder than breath. "No, brother… do not weep… Not… not your fault…None of this… is your fault." Nelyafinwë's eyes were wide open, and his gaze was clear, and we were readily led to believe that he will now recover swiftly. We did not see or refused to see the anguish in his eyes. We refused to see that there was little else.





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