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The Silence  by Aldwen

It was a slow and uncertain recovery. There was no knowing how much my uncle remembered or, indeed, understood. He seemed to recognize us, and he did not speak to us as to enemies again, but then, he spoke very little at all. After those faint words to Makalaurë he never talked to us first and mostly gave only short replies, a mere yes or no, or even but a barely perceptible nod or shake of his head. But we held fast to these quietly spoken words, to these tiny movements, we were clinging desperately to these small signs of hope, even though in our hearts we were afraid, seeing how weak Nelyafinwë was. He was also in pain, though he made effort to hide it. He suffered Aldanwë and me to treat his injuries, but as we did that, he would close his eyes and keep them shut, and the anguish he felt would be betrayed by occasional sharp intake of breath and a slight tremor that ran through his body. Yet he would accept water and food and, albeit by very small steps, he did grow stronger again, and our hope grew stronger too. Until that morning after the longest night of the year.

Some time ago we had started to mark this day with songs at sunrise. In this gloomy place even a slight brightening of daylight became a matter of song, and so this morning too many voices rose with the rising Sun, recalling the bliss and the beauty of Valinórë. I could not help but to see these songs as a lament of a kind, yet I could not also deny their beauty and the consolation they brought.

This time I was not singing with the others. It was my turn to remain with my uncle, for we dared not leave him alone, so I was in the healers' tent. Nelyafinwë was awake, as he had probably been for most of the night, yet, as always, he lay silent. Now, when the singing started, a spark of curiosity was kindled in his eyes, and when the voices fell silent, he looked at me with unspoken question.

"The days are turning towards the Light again." I explained as well as I could." They are not the same length here. When the Day-star traverses the sky, it is for a part of the year closer to the earth, and for a part – further away. This brings about the change of the seasons, and when the days start to lengthen again, we welcome the return of the Sun with songs."

He frowned, as if confused, and I realized with a sinking heart that very likely my uncle was unaware of Rána and Vása. He had ridden away under the stars; and what light Endórë had was likely not to be found in Moringotto's dungeons.

"There are two new things in the sky now," I said. "One of them is brighter and gives forth golden light, the other – fainter and more wayward. Its light is silver. The first one shines during the day, the other – at night. Vása and Rána we call them."

Nelyafinwë's frown deepened.

"Golden light…?" His voice was uncertain. "Bright against sky of blue, shining on spears and silver banners… There was singing… The gates trembled; the mountain shook. But my voice… my voice was lost in the echoes, carried away by the wind. Then… darkness."

"What are you talking about, uncle?" I asked, in part glad that he was speaking at last, but in part terrified of what he had said.

He looked at me, and his gaze that had been veiled and remote but a while ago was now clear and present.

"No… nothing." He shook his head. "I do not know; it must have been one of the nightmares."

"Yes." I nodded. Yet my heart froze at the thought that it was likely not a nightmare at all. With the first rising of the Day-star Nolofinwë's host had come to the very gates of Angamando. If my uncle had seen them and cried out to them without being heard… I shuddered.

But he said no more of that and retreated back into silence for a long while. Only when Aldanwë came, did he speak again.

"Would you allow me to sit up?" he asked the healer.

Aldanwë regarded him closely, then briefly smiled and nodded, apparently satisfied by what he saw.

"Very well, my lord," he replied, then looked at me. "Help me here, Tyelperinquar."

He then set his arm around Nelyafinwë's shoulders and slowly and cautiously raised him up and then eased him back again gently, so that he now sat resting against the pillows I had piled behind his back. A brief shadow of pain passed his face at the movement, but then it was gone again, and he sat there watching us quietly as we worked preparing remedies. The poisonous fog from the north had crept through the camp again, and several people were sick.

A while later Nelyafinwë asked for water. Aldanwë took the cup and was about to hold it for him, but my uncle shook his head and reached out his left hand.

"Allow me."

Aldanwë again nodded and held the cup firmly until Nelyafinwë's fingers closed about its handle; only then did he release it. My uncle raised it to his lips and drank deeply. Then, instead of handing the cup back to the healer, he reached out to set it on the table beside the bed. But his hand trembled, and he set it down too fast, partly over the side, and the cup lost its balance, fell clattering to the floor and rolled under the bed. Both Aldanwë and I stooped to retrieve it. And then we heard a sound, something between a gasp and a sob.

We sprang to our feet. In attempt to catch the falling cup, my uncle had turned somewhat sharply, and the blanket had slipped exposing his right arm. All colour had drained from his face now as he sat, wide-eyed, staring at the bandaged stump. Aldanwë and I, we looked at each other in dismay. We had not realized that he was unaware of this injury. Then Nelyafinwë closed his eyes, turned away and pressed his face into the pillow. Silence fell.

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