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The Silence  by Aldwen

I sat there until a pale light of morning grew in the eastern sky, and for all this time I heard Makalaurë's voice from within, mostly singing softly, but at whiles speaking reassuring, comforting words, when Nelyafinwë drifted in one of his nightmares. Only when the song fell silent, did I rise and leave quietly, unwilling my eavesdropping to be revealed. I went to the lake and wandered there aimlessly along the stony shore as the day grew brighter and the Day-star climbed slowly over the tree tops. It was a clear and beautiful day, yet I could not find even a tiniest glimmer of joy in my heart. The Sun was already high above my head when I at length summoned enough resolve and turned back towards the camp.

With firm steps I approached the healers' tent, but my mind was in turmoil. What should I say? Will my uncle even listen? Will he be offended? Angered? I knew not. Still, I had to speak with him. I had to. I drew a deep breath and entered.

There was twilight inside; only one of the lamps was burning, and there was none there, save Nelyafinwë. He lay abed, asleep, and my heart clenched at the sight of his pale face and dark shadows lining his eyes. How cruelly I had misjudged him yesterday! I had not recognised the composure and assuredness I had seen in him for the shield they were, the shield to guard his soul after living through the cruel torment, after witnessing the unspeakable horrors. What a fool I had been. What a miserable fool.

"Forgive me. Please, please, forgive me," I whispered, yet I knew that it was not enough. So I quietly sat down in a chair and waited for him to wake.

After a while, he stirred. His breathing grew uneven, his lips moved without sound. Then he uttered a short cry, turned to his side sharply and hid his face, shielding his head with his arm. Dismayed, I looked at the door, hoping for Aldanwë to come, but in vain. As my uncle recovered, the healer kept away more and more often; he probably did not even know about the last night, unless Makalaurë had told him. My gaze turned from the door towards the bed again, and I saw Nelyafinwë's shoulders trembling; he was clearly trapped in some evil dream. Terrified as I was to do even more harm, yet I could not leave him there. Therefore, I knelt beside the bed and lightly laid my hand on his shoulder.

"Awake, uncle. Awake, come back," I quietly said.

And Nelyafinwë awoke. There was a lightning-swift movement, as he sat upright and seized my wrist with his left hand. I met his eyes, wide and glazed, and I realized that he did not recognize me. His grip tightened; he had regained much of his former strength.

"It is me, uncle, me, Tyelperinquar. I regret I startled you." My voice trembled despite my attempts to keep it steady. "Do you not know me?"

Slowly, very slowly his gaze cleared. A long while passed ere he released my arm. I hurriedly drew the sleeve over the bruise around my wrist. He sank back in the pillows.

"I thought… I…"

"You thought I was one of them." Nelyafinwë looked away. I drew a deep breath ere speaking on. "Uncle, I came… I have come to say how much I regret all I said to you yesterday. My words were cruel. I should never have said them. I regret with all my heart."

Long silence fell. His face was unreadable. Slowly I rose to my feet; there was a dull ache in my chest.

"I will leave," I said quietly. "I will leave right away. But ere I go, I ask you this – in time, try to find enough kindness in your heart to forgive Findekáno. He did what seemed the right choice. His heart guided him. He risked much for you."

I went to the writing table and gathered the half-written notes to finish them elsewhere. Stack of papers in hand, I bowed before Nelyafinwë.

"Once again, uncle, - I ask your forgiveness. Not for myself, my haughty and foolish words do not merit any. For our kinsman; for a noble deed he did, though it be a cause of your anguish. He knows and regrets that."

I turned to leave, but ere I had reached the door his soft voice called me back.

"Wait."

I turned and met the intent gaze of his deep, grey eyes.

"Are you leaving because you want to go? Because you are weary of hoping against hope?"

Wordlessly I shook my head. He sighed.

"Stay, Tyelperinquar, if you wish to stay. Finish your work. You did not ask for my forgiveness, yet I give it nonetheless. Besides, not all you said was untrue."

Slowly I went back to the writing table and set down the papers.

"I… I am grateful." My voice trembled. "After the evil things I said…"

"You did not think them so evil yesterday. What made you change your mind?"

I could have given some evasive answer. I could have lied. But, as soon as this thought crossed my mind, it made me sick. Lies were the device of the Enemy; I would not use them against one I love. My uncle had right to know the truth. So I steeled my resolve and looked him right in the eyes.

"Last night when you spoke with Makalaurë… I overheard."

Nelyafinwë drew breath sharply.

"And… how much did you hear?" he asked, his voice tense, his gaze intent on my face.

"Everything. I heard all of it. I sat outside, by the tent wall, for the whole night."

He closed his eyes. Dismayed, I crossed the space between the table and the bed and fell to my knees beside him.

"I am sorry, uncle! I am sorry for this too! I did not leave at once, and afterwards… afterwards I just could not. But maybe that was for the best. For now, now I understand better! I see where I was wrong and how I hurt you in my ignorance! I am sorry," I whispered once more and fell silent.

When Nelyafinwë looked at me again, I froze. I had expected anger. Perhaps reproach. I certainly had not expected the deep sadness I saw in his gaze.

"Brother-son, I would that you had remained ignorant," he softly said. "Loth I am to add this burden to those you already bear."

"No!" I shook my head furiously. "No, do not regret me knowing the truth. I would not have it otherwise! I prefer words to silence! Silence… silence is cold and evil! There is no hope in it!"

"Hope…" he repeated quietly. "Is there any of that left at all?"

"But…" I stammered, "you said yourself that we shall go on, uncle!"

"Indeed, so I said," he replied. "But there was nothing about hope in my words."

I stared at him for a while, but when I spoke, my voice was fierce.

"There is no way we can go on without hope! If we say we have none anymore, we can as well march to Angamando and surrender to the Enemy!"

"I did not say "we", brother-son. I spoke for myself," replied Nelyafinwë. I was about to object, but he raised his hand to silence me. "During all that time in Angamando my only hope was for death. For release from pain. Each day, each hour, each heartbeat. Now I may need time to find something else to hope for. But I did not say I shall never find it."

He smiled faintly and laid his hand on my shoulder. I returned the smile and covered his fingers with my own. His hand trembled slightly, yet he did not withdraw it. But then he frowned suddenly.

"What is this?" He asked, his gaze bent on the red marks on my wrist that had not yet faded.

"Nothing, uncle," I hurriedly replied, silently cursing my carelessness. "Nothing you should think about."

"I… hurt you," he slowly said. "Earlier. Is it not so?"

"It is nothing. I startled you from sleep. You did not recognize me at once, that is all."

He drew back his hand and sighed.

"And you speak to me of hope…"

"Yes, I do! Of what then would you have me speak? We have been without it for so long in this miserable place! When you returned… When the eagle descended in the midst of the camp… that was the hour when the first tiny spark of hope was rekindled in the hearts of many of us since… since…" My voice trailed away, and silence fell.

"I am not the one who can keep this spark alight now," Nelyafinwë said at length with a shake of his head.

"But you already are keeping it alight!" I exclaimed. "You live! You recover, despite… everything! That alone is enough to keep up the hope of the Noldor!"

"From whom I am hiding in this tent," he drily replied. "A rather poor way to sustain hope in others, do you not think so?"

"You need time to heal; everyone understands that!"

To that, he did not reply. Unwilling to quarrel further, I took up the quill and bent my head over the notes I was copying. A good while passed as I worked, the silence in the tent interrupted merely by the soft scratching of the quill on the paper, but then Nelyafinwë spoke again. `

"Talk to me, brother-son," he asked, his voice quiet and weary. "Tell me something."

I raised my eyes towards him. The expression on his face was tense.

"What do you wish to hear, uncle?"

"Anything. Tell me anything. I need to hear your voice. Otherwise… I hear other things."

I nodded and started speaking, striving to keep shadows and memories away from him. I spoke of small and meaningless things, of comings and goings in the camp, of daily works, of his brothers' pursuits.

"Tell me of Endórë," he asked suddenly.

I flinched. What was there to tell?

"I do not like it here," I replied after a while of silence. "Not at all. In truth, I hate this place. So I may not be the best voice for telling of it. You could ask Tyelkormo, he often hunts in the woods. Or Ambarussa, they travel oft, exploring this land and drawing maps. In truth, uncle…"

"They are not here, but you are," he interrupted me. "You wander in the woods and hills frequently, so says your father. Tell me what you find there. Tell me of this place you do not like, brother-son."

"Very well." I shrugged my shoulders. "But I have warned you. If my story bores you, just tell me to stop."

Nelyafinwë smiled and nodded, and I started speaking. I spoke of stony mountain paths, of boulders, overgrown with soft, green moss, of small flowers that blossom in the crevices of the rocks in the spring. I told him of swift streams leaping downhill over the stones towards the lake that glitters in the Sun, mirroring the blue vault of sky and clouds during day and countless stars at night. I told of the white swans swimming in the shallow waters near the coast or flying over the bay, the sound of their wings keen and sharp. I spoke of woodlands of pine and fir, with the thick carpet of last years' needles underfoot and the scent of resin sweet in the air. Many are better with words than I am, but this time, in my attempt to pull my uncle away from the dark thoughts, I was carried away in the telling, and my voice rose and fell with the story, filling the space of the tent. And Nelyafinwë lay and listened, and as he listened, light was slowly rekindled in his eyes.

"You tell beautifully," he quietly said when I had stopped speaking to catch my breath. "And you say that you do not like this land?"

"I do not like it." I stubbornly replied. "It is dull and hostile, and cold, and…"

"All that was not in your story." Confused, I was silent. My uncle too spoke no more. Weariness overtook him, and he drifted to sleep. I finished writing, set in order the completed pages, and tidied the workplace. Then I rose to go to the smithy; I had promised Morifinwë to make new bindings for several of his books. But before leaving I turned back at the door and looked at my uncle once more, as he lay there, deeply asleep, face peaceful, and a vague thought started to take shape in my mind.





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