Lily of Gondolin - Chapter Eighteen: Memories, Answers, More Questions
Chapter Eighteen: Memories, Answers, More Questions
But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken
Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew
And after this our exile
--T. S. Eliot, Ash-Wednesday
I was forty again, a sprighly Elfling. Linedhel was quite a bit older, but that did not stop him joining in on a game of tag. We raced a cross the terrace, both breathless from laughing. I was just managing to keep ahead of him when I tripped. I yelped as a stone cut into my knee through the skirt of my light dress A moment later my brother was kneeling beside me. "Are you all right, Indil? I sat up. "Yes. It's just a scrape, Linedhel." "Are you sure?" "I know," he answered lightly. "But I ought to look after you." "Why?" I asked, being a practical Elfling. Linedhel smiled, and tilted my chin up to get a better look at me. "I should have thought it was obvious, Indil. Because you're my little sister, and -" he grinned and ruffled my hair "- I like you."
"Yes," I said, a bit indignantly. "I'm not an infant."
A moment later my brother was kneeling beside me. "Are you all right, Indil?
I sat up. "Yes. It's just a scrape, Linedhel."
"Are you sure?"
"I know," he answered lightly. "But I ought to look after you."
"Why?" I asked, being a practical Elfling.
Linedhel smiled, and tilted my chin up to get a better look at me. "I should have thought it was obvious, Indil. Because you're my little sister, and -" he grinned and ruffled my hair "- I like you."
I was brought back to reality by someone shaking my shoulder gently. I blinked, disoriented for a moment and suprised at being suddenly back in the present, and then looked up to find Taurion looking down at me. He seemed faintly bemused. "There you are. I was wondering what had happened to you."
"I got lost," I answered bluntly.
He frowned. "Really? That's odd. You aren't that far away - " he helped me up and set off down the corridor. However, I still did not recognize any of the passageways. When we reached a stairway leading outside I stopped. "Wait."
Taurion paused. "What is it?"
"This isn't the messangers' wing."
He glanced over his shoulder. "I know. You were only a few halls away from it."
I sighed. "Oh." He continued on. "Where are you - we - going, then?"
"Outside. You look like you need some air."
"I just was. Outside, I mean. In Melian's garden."
"Probably being interrogated. That's not what I meant."
"Oh," I said again. Taurion continued down the steps, and having no real choice I followed. We soon emerged in a small clearing, still on the west side of the Esgalduin. I realized that Emeryk was probably somehwere about, and whistled. There was no response, and Taurion looked at me, brows raised. "Emeryk," I said as an explanation. He nodded, and I realized that I had put him through rather a lot. He hadn't expected to see me again, and I'd simply shown up on the border without an explanation, and then when he did finally learn the reason he felt it was his fault. He probably still did, despite what I'd said to the contrary.
I sighed, and before my general reserve could take over, or common sense interfere, spoke out. "I'm sorry."
He turned in suprise. "What?"
I unconciously winced. I'd said the exact same to him the day before, after he had said something similar as well. I struggled on. "For just appearing, and...and...not..." My desparate flailing for words just beyond my grasp was thankfully and abruptly ended as Emeryk landed with no warning on my shoulder, cawing in alarm. My hand immediately went to my right sleeve before I remembered that I had given the Marchwarden all my weapons, including the knife usually strapped there.
Two Elves appeared on the edge of the clearing. "Cursed bird-" one of them was saying before he and the other stopped, in surprise, I think, at seeing us, particularly Emeryk, who anxiously sidled closer to my ear.
"Were you refering to this bird?" I struggled to keep my tone neutral, and gestured toward my raven, who was, I had absolutely no doubt, the one in question.
The Elf who had not spoken gave me a rather assessing glance. "Yes. And who are you?"
Though I had a feeling he had made a very good guess, I answered politely as I could. "Indil of Gondolin, daughter of Raine, also called Morien." And Shraka, I added irrelevently in my mind as I finished with a half-bow.
He, along with his companion, returned it rather stiffly. "I am Elrant, son of Lanthir. This is Orodil son of Thondur. And if I may ask, what is a Noldo doing in these woods?"
"I am a messanger. And if I may ask-" I turned to Orodil "-has my raven caused any inconvenience?"
"No," he replied. "Seeing that he belongs to someone. But the truth is that his kind, carrion-fowl, are not very welcome here."
I raised my eyebrows and put in rather more icily that was neccessary, "So you merely dislike him for being a scavenger?"
"His kind," Elrant said, watching me, "are seen as heralds of woe. Messengers of death."
I took a deep breath, trying to keep my temper reined in. I felt irrationally, inordinately protective of Emeryk. And I knew he was not all that the Elf was refering to. "But it appears that he has caused no harm, and I hardly think that he will bring about destruction by simply being here."
Elrant nodded. "True. But others might not see it that way, particularly in the light of the tidings that you yourself brought, Indil, daughter of Raine." With that he bowed, turned away, and with Orodil disappeared into the trees.
I looked after them, irrationally upset and angry. I could understand their view, and knew that most Sindar had a justifiable predjudice against the Noldor. But when it came to myself, that hurt. And Emeryk...they had no quarrel with him. He could not help what he was any more than I could.
I turned to Taurion. "Is it customary to be so upset by one raven?"
He sighed. "No."
"Then why?" I asked. "Valar, it's not as if I want to bring ill news."
"It's because... Well, everyone has been worried, particularly since Luthien left. The king and queen haven't been themselves. And since you brought tidings of Gondolin's fall, another outpost against Morgoth even if not an actual ally...And simply being one of the Noldor."
"Melian," I said slowly. "She asked me about Gorthaur. She said...that Luthien's might would be matched against his, and she did not know what would happen...I understand. And my coming...Valar curse it!" I burst out. "I do not want to be just an ill-omen raven myself!"
Taurion didn't answer, and I simply stared out at the trees as Emeryk shifted on my shoulder. My feelings were a mix of frustration and apprehension, with a very small but quite insistant bit of hope.
"Melian told me to find the havens at the Mouth of Sirion," I said at last, abruptly. "She said I might find part of what I am looking for there. I'm not sure what that means, though."
I glanced up at Taurion. "No. Unless it's just someplace that I belong in. Don't know it that's possible, really, but I have to look all the same."
It was not long after I had returned to my room when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and saw an Elf who seemed to be a message runner. He cleared his throat. "The Lady Alatariel requests your presence."
I frowned, startled. "Oh. When?"
He avoided looking at me. "Now. In her apartments."
"All right." I looked back to make sure that the window was open for Emeryk, then closed the door and followed the Elf down the passageway.
Alatariel was standing in a spacious room, looking out a window. She turned as I came in.
I bowed. "My lady."
She studied me gravely for a moment, then smiled and motioned toward the window seat. "Sit down, Indil. There are things you wanted to ask me?"
It was not a question, but I did not bother to wonder how she knew, and hesitantly took a seat. "Yes, my lady."
She also sat on the ledge, across from me. "And they are?"
I looked out the window, gathering my courage and my thoughts, and began. "As you know, the queen told me to follow Sirion to the Sea. That would be straightforward, but I do not know how to...go about it."
Her eyes glinted with faint amusement. "Merely the formalities, that is?"
I swallowed. "Yes. I do not know whether my lord Elwe has further need of me, or if I should depart directly, or something else entirely."
Alatariel tilted her head. "I do not believe that the king would need to question you further. The best thing would be, I think, simply to request leave to depart during audience hours."
I nodded. "Thank you. When do the king and queen see petitioners, milady?"
"Generally in the mornings, in the lesser court." She paused for a moment, and then said, "There is something else on your mind."
Once again, it was not a question. "Yes, my lady," I looked down. "If...when...I reach the mouth of Sirion..."
She sighed. "Indil, I cannot answer that. I do not know what might happen, or what you may find, but even if I did it would not be my place to say. I am only one of the Quendi. But there is this." I looked up, and she met my eyes. "Don't give up, Indil, even when it seems that everything you've ever cared about is gone. Hold on; do not give up your hope. Dawn always comes, eventually. Remember that."
I rose and bowed. "I will, my lady. Thank you."
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