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The Sun was long up when I rose next morning. After returning to my room I had nearly at once fallen asleep, and I had slept long and peacefully, without any dreams to trouble me. It was a beautiful day with clear sky, warm air and gentle breeze playing in the grass, and standing by the window and looking outside I thought that I shall make a good speed today on my way home. Home… I felt a stab of sadness. Was Eglarest my home? Yes, there were my people, and there was Calanwë, one as close as a brother to me. But there was also the Sea, the endless voice of memory and regret.
“Will I blame the Sea now?” I whispered. “The dreams, the memories, these follow me everywhere. The Sea has nothing to do with them.”
I sighed. Maybe I did not have home at all anymore. Maybe Valinor had been the only one, and that was now lost forever… But I had never loved Valinor as keenly and fiercely as I loved Middle-earth. Perhaps all of Endor was my home? This was a more cheerful thought.
Outside by the door on the floor I found a covered tray with breakfast; everyone else had most likely eaten already long ago. I carried the tray inside and uncovered it. Good, simple food there was: freshly baked bread, and butter, and soft cheese, a few summer apples. And a small jar with wild strawberry jam, a dainty I had once favoured. This morning someone had remembered that. Half-annoyed, half-moved, I shook my head.
After breakfast I left the room and went in search of my kinsmen. Strangely, I had never been to Himring before, despite the closeness with my eldest uncle. He had been the one to visit his brothers, and my own travels had always been to the east, to the Blue Mountains, at least while I still dwelt in Nargothrond. While… No, I firmly cut myself short. I will not think of Nargothrond.
I went along the hallways without any clear sense where I was going. Yesterday I had followed Maglor to my room in confusion of mind, oblivious of the surroundings, and my nightly wanderings had been altogether aimless, so I had paid little heed to anything around me. But now I noticed many things.
Firstly, Himring was very large, though in these times sparsely populated. It must have been very different before the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, but now maybe entire wings of the great building were empty and shut; some hallways led to a dead-end, to a closed door. I met but few guards on my way, and, as before, they paid little heed to me and merely greeted me in silence, as I passed by.
I also noted that the fortress was beautiful, beautiful in a solemn, sad way. The stonework was fair, the walls were adorned with tapestries, and their scenes were woven with great skill, but the colours were not bright; they were muted, subdued, and the absence of vibrant blues, greens, yellows and reds tended to invoke rather thoughtful reflection than joy. Still, I decided that I rather liked them. There were sculptures too, set in the niches here and there, and their mood was different from the tapestries, much more cheerful. It seemed to me that I recognized the hand that had carved the stone. I looked closer, and then I was certain. It was the same hand that had once adorned the light-flooded halls of Nargothrond with figures of beasts and birds so lifelike that merely the white stone distinguished them from their living kin in the woods and fields. King Finrod had travelled much, to Himring he had come often, and it was even as if with the skill of his hands he had attempted to dispel the sadness that reigned within the walls of his cousin’s dwelling. I felt a sudden stab of grief when I thought of King Felagund. He had been like that, kind and compassionate, yet strong-willed and valiant too, the one most worthy of the house of Finwë maybe, the one who was ready to give away everything to aid someone in distress and need, ready to give away his very life… And some had cruelly misused that; my own father… No, I shook my head fiercely, no, I had resolved I will not think of that!
I rounded a turn of the hallway and heard voices coming from a half-open door some twenty paces ahead. One was a child’s voice, and the child was clearly sulking.
“But, uncle Maedhros, I do not understand why…”
I recognized Elros.
“Your handwriting reflects not only your mastery of the quill but also the state of your mind, Elros,” my uncle interrupted him, his voice calm and patient, yet unyielding. “Besides, you promised to finish this yesterday.”
“I forgot.” The sulkiness was even more apparent.
“Well, it may happen, therefore I remind you now. But it cannot remain like this; you need to start over.”
“Enough, Elros.” His voice was still calm, but there was an undercurrent of steel now. “You will write it once more. If you start now, you will finish long before noontime.” There was a long sigh, but it did not seem to convince Maedhros. “I know you can do it. Moreover, I know you can do it very well.”
“May I stay?” Elrond’s voice now rang out hopefully.
“No, your presence will only distract your brother. Come, Maglor may need your help.”
Another heart-breaking sigh, then the sound of feet and of door opening and closing; the room apparently had two entrances. Driven by curiosity and hiding a smile, I approached the door and stepped over the threshold.
I had entered a library, a large room with many shelves, stacked with books, yet, unlike many libraries I had seen, this one had plenty of daylight, and the rays of the Sun were falling through the large windows in shafts of gold. My little kinsman sat by a writing desk, gloomily staring at a page in front of him, but when he saw me entering, his face brightened.
“Good morning, Elros,” I said. “Even though one might object and say that the morning is long gone. I see you have been up early and are busy with some important work.”
“No, I am not.” His smile faded, and he shook his head. “This is but a writing task I had to finish yesterday, but I forgot. I started early this morning, and tried to do it quickly, but uncle Maedhros said that it is not good and that I have to start from the beginning. Well, he was right. It is not good. Not at all.”
He sighed despondently and pushed towards me a sheet of paper, covered with tengwar. I came to the desk, looked closer and turned towards the boy in surprise.
“Do you read and write Quenya?”
“We read, write and speak both Sindarin and Quenya,” Elros proudly replied. “I like speaking the old language, it sounds so… solemn and wonderful. I do not so much like reading it; the book I once tried to read was boring, all stories of places – rivers, mountains, woodlands, cities with strange names, and no adventures at all! And the writing…” He sighed again and shuffled his feet under the table.
I looked again at his exercise. The first line of the poem Elros had copied was in truth well-written, the bows and stems of the tengwar neatly drawn, but then it grew much worse.
“The beginning is good,” I said. “Maybe you should but try more slowly.”
The boy frowned and shook his head.
“If I do it slowly, I will never ever finish it,” he replied stubbornly.
I thought for a while. This sounded familiar.
“Do you know, sometimes you finish work much faster if you do it slowly,” I then said.
His frown deepened, as he looked at me with clear disbelief.
“I discovered this a long time ago,” I went on. “I started to learn metalwork when I was still very young. And even though I liked it a lot I liked other things too, and sometimes I would have wanted to run and play with my friends instead of being confined to the heat of the forge. But so it was – there was time for play and there was time for learning, and in the latter I was expected to be in the smithy and to do the assigned work. I was taught the craft by my father, and he was a stern teacher.” I fell silent for a while. Elros was looking at me curiously now, apparently waiting for me to continue, and so I did, pushing back the sudden sting of pain and anger I felt in my heart when I mentioned my father. “I was learning to enamel, to create colourful pictures on a base of precious metal with a powder of coloured glass. This work delighted me, and I swiftly mastered the beginnings. One day my father gave me a task more complicated than before, even though nothing I had not done earlier. But this time there were more colours in the picture I had to make, and the forms were more intricate. My father said that as soon as I have finished it and shown it to him I may be free for the rest of the day, and I was glad of that, for the voices of my friends were ringing from outside.
I set to my task. I worked swiftly, and the enamelled picture was soon ready. But in haste to finish it I had blurred two of the colours together a little. My father cast but one glance at it and shook his head. “It is not good enough. Start over!” he said. Irritated, I did so, but this time the piece turned out even worse, and I had to begin anew again. I remade it eight times, but still it was not good enough. At length, my father lost his patience. “You will remain here and do it again, until your work will be worthy of your skill,” he said and left, but I remained at the workbench, feeling miserable.
Then my grandfather came. He looked at me as I sat there fighting tears, took the enamelled piece I was clutching in my hand and looked at it closely. Then he cleaned off the layer of enamel and handed it back to me. “Try again,” he said. “But do everything slowly this time. Very, very slowly.” And he sat beside me and watched me as I laid the layers of enamel, and whenever my impatience threatened to take hold of me again, he reminded me to take time.”
I fell silent, remembering. This had been the only time when my grandfather had in any way interfered with father’s teaching. It had also been one of the very few times when I had seen him this composed and patient.
“What happened in the end?” Elros asked.
“In the end my work turned out well. When my grandfather saw that there were no flaws this time, he smiled and quietly left. My father came back soon after. He was well pleased with what I had done and allowed me to go, but it was already late, and my friends had gone home. I had spent most of the day making and remaking my task, fighting against time. But when I took heed of what my grandfather said, I finished everything in less than two hours.”
Elros regarded me for a while in silence. Then, determined, he took a blank sheet of paper and set it on the desk in front of him. He seized the quill, as if it were a sword he was about to put to use against a dragon or some other evil beast. Then he looked at me again.
“Cousin Celebrimbor, will you, please, stay here and remind me not to hurry?” he asked quietly.
I smiled, nodded in consent and sat beside him and watched as the sheet was filled with lines of nearly flawless writing. I did not have to say anything; it seemed that my presence alone was enough of a reminder.
“I did that!” my little kinsman triumphantly said not too long time later. “Thank you! Now I understand and I will always do it like this!”
And somehow I was certain that he will indeed do as he had decided.
“Indeed, you did that, Elros!” I replied with a smile. “And it was not so hard, was it? You can write very well; why do you dislike it so?”
The boy frowned, thinking, then shrugged his shoulders.
“I do not understand why my writing should be fair,” he then replied. “When I shall grow up, I will be a warrior. Like uncle Maedhros, not some boring scholar!”
His words brought a smile to my face. Elros glared at me suspiciously.
“Did I say something funny?”
“Indeed, yes, you did,” I replied. “But you could not know that.”
“Know what?” His eyes narrowed; my little kinsman certainly had a temper.
“Before he became a warrior, uncle Maedhros was a scholar.”
The boy’s eyes widened in astonished surprise.
“This cannot be true!”
“Many things may be said about me, but not that I ever tell anything untrue.”
Realizing the insult he had given me, Elros blushed crimson.
“I… forgive me; I did not mean to say that…”
“I know you did not,” I replied reassuringly.
“It is… It is just hard to believe,” the boy said quietly. “What I want to say is… I never thought of him doing anything else than what he is doing now. But then, of course…” His expression grew thoughtful. “… uncle Maedhros is very wise. He teaches us many things, and he knows so much! When we have questions, he has answers, for most of them.” After a while of silence he turned to me again curiously. “What did he do as a scholar, cousin Celebrimbor? Did he read many books?”
“Mostly, he wrote them,” I replied.
His eyes widened again.
“Oh, that must be difficult! What did he write about?”
I fell silent in thought. Indeed, what did he write about, in his attempt to capture the elusive memory of people about times and dangers long past and best forgotten, even as he was met with incomprehension why the shadows of the starlit twilight should be remembered, when they could be cast into forgetfulness, dissolved in the glow of gold and silver Light?
“He wrote… well, perhaps it may be said that he wrote about adventures,” I slowly replied. “He travelled a lot and gathered stories of what had happened a very long time ago. Then he set them in writing, as people had told them. It was a strange thing to do, then.”
“Why?” Elros looked at me inquiringly, curiosity in his grey eyes. How to explain? But I tried.
“You see, it was a time of peace, and people were often loth to remember the terrors of the past. When it is daylight, you do not want to recall darkness and fear of the night.”
He nodded; I saw that he understood that well enough.
“Were there… terrible things? … In these stories?” he then asked, half-scared, half-excited.
“There were terrible things,” I nodded. “But there were fair things too.”
There had been wild and dangerous beasts. There had been the Dark Hunter who snatched away the unwary. But there had also been starlight, shimmering upon the waters of Cuiviénen, and twilit woods with fragrant night flowers. There had been wonder of those for whom everything is new. There had been innocence now lost forever. There was so much worthy of remembrance in these tales many of my people wished to forget. There was so much beauty there, and my uncle had seen and valued that.
As a child I had oft accompanied him in his travels and watched how he spoke with those who had crossed the Great Sea, and oft I had seen how his smile and his voice made cracks in the shield of their silence, how memories dawned in their eyes like the starlit skies of the Hither Lands, and how their lips were unlocked at last as they told of things they had perhaps never spoken of since coming to the Blessed Realm. And sometimes they wept, remembering some loss or evil, but sometimes they wept also recalling beauty they had seen there, beauty of a different kind, and oft, moved by the story, my uncle wept along with them.
The eldest son of Fëanor had known how to call forth these tales and how to listen to them. And, unlike many of the Eldar who saw memory as a safe place for songs and tales, he had seen the value of written records. When I had once asked him about his habit to write everything down, he had long been silent, as if he had not thought of that himself before. “Memory is well and good in the blessed Light of Valinórë,” he had then slowly replied, “and mayhap even enough. But shall we remain here forever?” Startled, I had looked at him. “Would you then wish to leave, uncle?” I had asked uneasily, seeing that his gaze was veiled with some deep thought. As if startled from dream, he had shaken his head. “Nay, there is enough of what holds me here, for now,” he had replied. “And yet… one day I wish to look upon the Hither Lands, where running waters mirror the stars and strange flowers blossom in shadowy glades.” And, as he had spoken, I had felt sudden longing stirring in my heart as well. “I wish to see them too. Take me with you when you go,” I had whispered. “I will, little one, if your desire holds,” he had replied with a smile, taken my hand, and we had turned towards Tirion.
“I would like to read a book like that,” Elros said quietly. “About adventures. About fair and terrible things.” He seemed to have perceived my mood.
I smiled, attempting to drive away the sadness that had flooded me. We had had our wish and come to the Hither Shore. But the streams had been running red, and the flowers in the starlit glades were trampled by the iron-shod feet of the enemies. So many dreams had withered, so many hopes were burned to ashes. But this child needed not know that. Not yet. Perhaps not ever.
“Yes, I too think that you would like those stories,” I replied. But I had not heard of anybody in Endor possessing a copy of any of his books. Who would have carried a volume of old tales along on a journey as desperate as we undertook? And his notes maybe still gathered dust in my grandfather’s house in Tirion. Or in Formenos. Or perhaps my grandmother had taken them, and maybe she even opened them from time to time, and maybe her sorrowful gaze passed over the lines her eldest son had once written in his swift and graceful hand…
My little cousin sat at the desk very still, thoughtfully looking at the poem he had copied. Then he raised his head and looked at me.
“Do you know, I just changed my mind about writing,” he then said firmly. “Before, I thought that only boring people like such things – you know, people who do not have to fight the Orcs and protect others all the time. Those who are not… who are not very brave. But uncle Maedhros certainly is not boring and he is very, very brave! I want to be like him when I grow up. If he could write beautifully, so can I!”
“I think it is a very wise decision, Elros,” I said, hiding a smile. “You should tell him that. And show your work. Besides, you could accompany me to him, otherwise I shall get lost in the hallways again.”
“Very well!” He returned my smile and jumped to his feet. “But, cousin Celebrimbor…” A note of unease crept into his voice. “You are not going back home just yet, are you?”
I did not reply at once. In truth, that was exactly what I had been about to do – to find my uncles and take my leave. The boys were in good hands, perhaps even… (and I wondered at myself at the thought) … yes, perhaps even in the best hands they could be in. My heart was at peace for them now. And yet my heart was also weary, and lonely, and sad. These children who filled the sombre walls of Himring with the sound of their running steps and their laughter… I suddenly wished for a while to be around someone who could still laugh like that. And, I admitted to myself, I wished to be around my uncles too. I loved them. Despite everything, I loved them. They were the last remains of the family I had once had.
“No, cousin Elros,” I turned towards him with a smile. “I am not going back home just yet. I came here to visit you and your brother, after all, and I have not yet seen very much of you.” And, saying this, I was not sorry about my little deception.
With a cry of excitement he embraced me. Then he seized my hand and, snatching the finished writing from the desk, dragged me out of the room and along the hallway.
“Let us go, cousin Celebrimbor! Elrond will be so glad! And our uncles too!”
Somehow, I believed him.
I followed my little kinsman along the labyrinthine hallways, certain that without his guidance I would have lost my way swiftly. On our way Elros opened several doors and peered inside, apparently looking for his brother and uncles. But the rooms we passed were all empty. Seemingly at a loss for a while, the boy halted, furrowing his brow in thought. But then we heard soft sounds of harp.
“The music room!” Elros exclaimed and pulled me further along.
We turned, ascended a flight of stairs, turned again and entered a spacious light-filled chamber with a balcony. There were all those whom we were looking for, Elrond sitting on a stool by the harp, practicing, Maglor beside him, Maedhros upon a couch by the window with a book in his hand.
“Cousin Celebrimbor is staying for some time!” Elros announced loudly, rushing inside, still holding fast my hand. Everyone turned towards him, his brother in disbelief, his uncles in expectant silence.
“Oh!” My little kinsman released my fingers. “I am sorry! I should have knocked on the door, and I should not have shouted, and maybe I should not have dragged cousin Celebrimbor along like this. But… I forgot that I should not do all that, and he asked me to lead him to you anyway!”
Still in silence, my uncles looked at one another. Then Maedhros spoke.
“We are glad of the news you bring, Elros,” he said. “Even though the message could have been delivered differently, as you yourself are aware. But what of your task for this morning?”
“I finished it!” Elros ran to him and handed the sheet of paper. “And I have decided that from today I like writing!”
“These are certainly good news as well,” my eldest uncle replied gravely as he looked over the boy’s writing and pointed at few places where the stems of the tengwar could have been straighter. “What made you change your mind?”
Elros thought for a while, then turned towards him with a solemn face.
“That is a secret, uncle,” he replied. “For now. But I can tell you how I finished it so swiftly!”
“Very well.” Maedhros nodded.
“Sometimes, when you do things slowly, you can finish them faster!” Elros declared. “Did you know that, Elrond?” His brother shook his head. “Well, now you do! You all know that now!” He added, looking around triumphantly. And then our eldest uncle laughed. And if there was still some doubt in my heart whether I should indeed stay, it was now swept away. I remained there for nearly two months. And during the time I spent in Himring I was reminded of some things I had forgotten, and I learned some things I had never known.
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