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This silence now, this silence was evil. In that first one there had been uncertainty, but also some faintly flickering hope. In this one there was merely dark, disconsolate despair. That first silence I had endured, and it had tempered my patience. This one now terrified me, and I fled from it wherever I could – to the forge to aid my father, to whatever work I could help my uncles or, indeed, anyone in the camp, with. But my escape never lasted long. Within a few hours I was back in the healers' tent. I could not forsake Aldanwë who had come to trust me and to rely on my help. I could not forsake the one who lay still and silent again.
Nelyafinwë spoke to us no more, not even in reply when spoken to. He seemed not to care about anything. He would accept no food and very little water. Whatever strength he had regained, faded again swiftly away, and even on those rare occasions when his eyes were open, their gaze was void. Aldanwë's stern face grew more and more grim with each new day, yet I dared not ask him anything. Others, however, had more courage.
The year now had firmly turned towards the spring. It was still cold, but not freezing, and during the days the air grew milder, and the snow seemed to shrink in the Sun, even though it was not thawing yet. The nights remained frosty, but in the evenings daylight lingered, and the twilight lasted longer.
It was already past the hour of the twilight. I was helping Aldanwë to carry the blankets and sheets, and as we neared the healers' tent, its flaps flew open and Morifinwë stepped outside. At the sight of us he halted abruptly at first, but then strode towards us with determined steps, his face twisted in anger. When he had reached us, he seized the healer by the shoulder.
"What ails my brother?" His voice was low and menacing, nearly a growl.
Aldanwë's eyes glinted.
"Are you not aware of that, my lord?" he asked, and his voice was cold as ice. "If I recall rightly, you too were present when his injuries were revealed to us."
Abashed, my uncle released the healer's shoulder, took a step back and stood awhile in silence.
"I… regret." He then bowed his head. Anger in his voice had already turned to grief. "Forgive me. I should not have spoken to you so. I merely… I want my brother back. And I do not understand! His wounds are healing well, even… even his hand… Why is he not better?"
Aldanwë's face softened.
"There are wounds that go deeper than body, my lord," he said in a kinder tone. "There are memories too evil to overcome, to live with."
Morifinwë swiftly raised his head, his face was pale, his eyes – bright with tears.
"Will he… die?" he whispered. "Will my brother die?"
Now Aldanwë turned away for a while, but when he looked at my uncle again, his face was grave and sad.
"I will not hide from you what I know or guess, lord Morifinwë," he said slowly. "For I think that it is your right to be aware of that. What has been done to your brother should have killed him long ago. The Eldar are strong, yes, but what he has been through for years, that goes beyond any boundaries of endurance. There is something else that holds him to life, something that binds his fëa to his body, regardless of the anguish it takes. And this I guess also – it would be the same with any of the sons of Fëanáro. So no, I do not think your brother will die now, even though death would perhaps be a kinder fate."
Realization, mingled with horror, dawned in Morifinwë's eyes.
"The Oath…" he whispered in a broken voice. Then he turned and with a strangled sob disappeared amid the tents.
Aldanwë looked after him for a while, then turned again towards me who stood there frozen, terrified by his words. He looked at me closely, then sighed.
"I regret, Tyelperinquar," he quietly said. "I know you love your uncle, and I wish I had some hope to give you. But I have none, and I do not even know whether there is any hope to be found at all any more for this. It seems to me now that it were better if his cousin had fulfilled Nelyafinwë's request. If he had released that arrow as Nelyafinwë asked him." Seeing the expression on my face, he frowned. "You did not know that."
Soundlessly I shook my head. All words had forsaken me suddenly. I could not stay there. I could not go to that tent now. I shoved all blankets in Aldanwë's hands, turned and fled. Perhaps he called something after me. Perhaps. I do not know. I heard him not. All I heard was my own footsteps and the sound of my heartbeat. All else was silence, deep and cold and heavy; it was closing around me, threatening to crush me. To escape that silence I ran away from the camp, over the vast fields on the lakeside, where my feet made no imprint in the snow. I was far amid the lakeside plains when I halted at length, weary and breathless. I stood awhile, struggling for air, then looked up.
The sky was clear that night, and myriads of stars glittered overhead. Very bright they were, so bright that in their light the solitary trees that grew on the lakeside cast dim shadows upon the snow. And suddenly it seemed to me that silence was laced with a song, faint and far-away, but very fair, the sounds mingling, entwining, falling like shimmering dust upon the quiet land. And that starlight and that song, whether it was true or imagined, unleashed something in me. I fell to my knees and called upon Varda, the Valië my father had scorned, but my mother – revered.
"Please, Lady Starkindler…! Please…!"
I do not recall my words. I do not know what I pleaded for, tears streaming over my face, my voice broken by violent sobs. But whatever it was, it was heard. The starry night embraced me and held me, it wrapped me in gentle compassion, and suddenly, after so many long years, I did not feel so utterly and hopelessly forsaken anymore. Long I knelt there. When I at last rose and looked at the sky, I saw that it was past midnight, Valacirca was already far westward. Ere returning to the camp, I laid my hand over my heart, turned towards the West and bowed low before the starlit sky.
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