Carolyn sat lightly on her horse’s back. The early morning sun shown brightly through broken clouds. The last few days had been spent in the cold chill of freezing rain; – no snow yet touched the ground – yet as she rode, the grey shadow of bleariness lifted from the air. The companies spirit rose; and the horses’ slow plod seemed to have more vigor in it. There was no sound in the air save the clip-clop of the horses’ shoes, and the incessant chatter of Vywien.
Carolyn felt a cloak of peace settle on her shoulders. Everything she had left behind in Germany seemed little more than a bad dream. She was free, new of soul and conscience. Light shown through the fog.
“And that, my dear, was my second husband!” Vywien said, smiling at old memories. Carolyn began to listen to the plump elf’s babble. “Now my third was nowhere near so vile! He was the weak sort! You know what I mean, Lady?!” Vywien ignored the young woman’s nod and continued to chatter.
Of course Carolyn knew what it was like to be weak. She had always been a slight girl. Too frail to protest, to do anything against the SS officers that had seized her family. She had seen the feeble die and the strong wither; yet she had never raised her voice in dissent.
But all that was over. Carolyn could begin again. With or without the Music that had left her!
“He was a funny little elf! Always smiling at something,” Vywien pushed on, oblivious to Carolyn. “Poor submissive little one! Always ended up as the jester!”
“I like humour,” said Carolyn suddenly, surprising Vywien into silence. “It’s nice to be able to find irony in any situation. Laughing seems to make things more bearable. Everyone should smile. I had almost forgotten that.”
Vywien blinked at Carolyn’s short speech. For a girl who had rarely spoken for the past week, it seemed quite an achievement. Now Vywien could be sure the young German wasn’t mute. “Right,” Vywien continued, undaunted by surprise. “That sounds just like him! Now my fourth husband . . !”
Some hours later, Eæric stopped the group and alit. “We can stay here for the night,” he said. Eæric acted as the leader of their small company. “May I take your horse, Miss?” he asked, turning to Carolyn.
“No, no thank you,” she answered, much to Eæric’s surprise. “My father had horses, once. I can do it.” So saying, Carolyn dismounted lightly and proceeded to take the mare’s reins in her hands. It was not the custom of the elves to use reins, but Carolyn had quietly insisted. While she had no trouble riding with only a blanket, her skill did not extend to being able to riding without reins.
Eæric motioned for the other elves to begin setting up camp with him. Rindel went to assist Carolyn. “Where shall I tie Dawn?” The young woman asked him. “Over there?”
“That should work,” Rindel answered. “Just make sure the knot’s tight. You look better,” Rindel added, slowly. Carolyn turned to face him; she gazed at the elf with large, dark eyes that seemed less sorrowful now. “If you don’t mind me asking . . .”
“Why I spoke? The sudden change?” Carolyn asked when the elf faltered.
“Well,” Rindel said, “yes. I mean, it has been – what? – eight days since our departure. And you had barely spoken a word! But now you speak normally! Why did you wait so long? Meaning no offense, of course.”
“None taken. But to answer your question, I . . . I don’t really know. I suppose it’s pleasant to be able to speak when you wish. Just like it once was back home.”
“Do you wish to go back?” Rindel asked in surprise, “We could escort you there.”
“No! I mean, I do not believe you could,” said Carolyn, quickly. Her voice was strained, “But no, please don’t bother. I like it here; I do not wish to return.”
Rindel looked at her curiously, “Why not?”
“Oh,” she replied, “everything is so happy here. There is no pain anywhere to be seen! But that doesn’t really matter; I’m not going back.” Carolyn set her lips as to end the conversation. She finished tending to Dawn.
“I think Eæric wants us back.” Rindel said, “Come on.” He smiled brightly, seeming to forget their conversation. Nothing trivial to him stayed in his mind long. He sprang into action, half-running back to camp. Shaking her head in bemusement, Carolyn followed.
“Who wants to make dinner?” Eæric asked brightly, assuming his usual smile. Unlike Rindel, Eæric understood everything that had gone on. More than Elrond, in most cases.
“I’ll do it; it’s my turn.” Rindel said with a wink and smile pointed in Carolyn’s direction. Carolyn looked surprised, but stayed silent. She never did argue with anyone, or embarrass them.
“Lady Carolyn,” Vywien said, just as Eæric was opening his mouth to speak to her. “Come walk with me; I want to talk with you.” Eæric’s jaw clicked shut as Carolyn followed the plump elf a little way into the woods. He wondered what Vywien could possibly have to say after gibbering nonstop for the past week.
Eæric seldom slept at night – or hardly at all for that matter. He often stayed up so late it was early gazing at the stars and listening. It is a rare gift to be able to listen. But Eæric’s skill at listening was so great that at times he could almost hear the Music of the Stars. Almost. In agony did he wait and listen; but always their song was just beyond him.
Despite the smile etched on face, Eæric’s heart was serious and wise. He had always understood people better than anyone else did. Eæric could see the true self behind the mask each person wore. Eæric knew of Rindel’s empty-headed attraction to Carolyn; he knew of the long, black streak that burrowed through Carolyn’s soul. Yet he could also see that she was an infinitely sweet girl.
A short time later, as Eæric was leaning against a tree silently in the shadows, he noticed Carolyn rise slowly and walk a little ways off. Following her like a shade in the night, he watched keenly for danger. There was none. Carolyn began to sing softly to herself in a voice which transfixed Eæric.
“There is hope where none is found,
Dreams where there were none,
When Music is the only sound,
And the Moon’s replaced the Sun.
“Here I am in a never land,
With things that cannot be,
Where the devils evilly grand
Can no longer chase me.
“I am little more than a lost child,
Torn form all she’s known:
A rotten land, and a Camp defiled,
In a country all alone.
“Here I am; I do not know where –
In a place that cannot be:
Without Hitler’s snare,
Is this impossibility?
“Is it just a lying drug,
That’s fooled me into hope,
Am I just a . . . “
Carolyn broke off suddenly, unable to sing anymore. Eæric watched her; his eyes feeling in her sorrow. Suddenly, without knowing why, he answered her.
“Hope is never lost until,
Someone gives it up.
I know you can hold the truth,
For that can be enough.“
Carolyn turned, startled. “Who’s there?” she whispered into the dark trees. “Who are you?”
Eæric hesitated for a moment. What would she do if Carolyn knew it had been he? “A friend,” he answered in a low voice, making his words envelop her, though from no particular direction. “You sing well. Do you come from the Stars?”
“Yes, I suppose. I don’t know. Who are you? Do I know you?”
“I know you Carolyn,” Eæric answered in his true voice. “Keep singing. Be free with Music!”
“How could you know what I can and cannot do? Who are you?!”
“I am . . . I am Music, in a way,” Eæric answered, telling the truth. (Without Music, he was a person, unfulfilled, broken. Very much like Carolyn.) “Sing with me.”
“Music is lost to me! My hands! Oh,” she moaned. “You know, if you are Music. An Angel of Music. I cannot play!”
“No,” the voice answered. He was not Eæric here; he was just the Voice. “But I can. Sing, Carolyn! sing with me!” Carolyn let herself fall back, as if in a dream. Music had returned to her.
“What would you like me to sing?”
“Sing from your heart, Carolyn. Sing what you know. Sing what you are. I can see, inside of you. I know you; I know you very well. Let go of everything but Music – but leave it inside of Music! Not everything has words. How do you feel?”
How did Carolyn feel? Strange, but not confused. There was no emotion, not really. She was a Part of Music again, but more so. Here, finally, was the Angel of Music her father had spoken to her of when she was very young.
“You have a gift Carolyn,” he would say. “And the Angel of Music will always protect you. One day, if you are very lucky, you might meet him. He has a voice more pure and perfect than we can imagine. When you hear him, you will know. Trust the Angel!”
Carolyn told the voice this, and he laughed softly. “That is strange,” said the Voice. “For even the Angel needs an Angel. Sing with me, Angel of Music; we will be each other’s angel.” Then, for a short moment, the Voice sang a short, wordless tune.
“Are you so hopeless?” Carolyn asked after he had stopped.
“You sing, I can feel what you say,” she answered. “There is no hope behind your voice.”
“Carolyn,” he said. “You are my hope. Sing with me.”
During the ensuing days, Eæric and Carolyn were friendly, smiling, and open. During the night, they were creatures of Music. Carolyn sang freely under Eæric’s instruction, though she never learned his identity; for in the daylight, Eæric disguised his voice and mein.
Rindel was taken with Carolyn’s new way; she seemed to have broken free from the past. He spoked freely with her when Vywien wasn’t chattering loudly. (Now my sixth husband was probably the strangest elf I’ve ever met. Pity he died also – I think he was my favorite. He had a way, you know . . .”)
“Carolyn, why were you so cold before?” asked Rindel with a laugh. “You are perfect now. Just biding your time? I don’t mind that.” He rode closer to her, grinning mischievously. “What, just waiting for me?”
The night was cold and dark, but no frost pierced Carolyn’s warm furs. A present from the Voice. He had been singing with her every night now, and playing, also. Once, the Voice even brought a small bell-like set for her to play. “Attend, Carolyn,” he would say, “Listen to yourself. Fill everything you are. Then you will be one with Music! Let it enter you.”
But now Carolyn was singing alone for the Angel’s critique an old song from her land: “Musik ist die Wahrheit in der Nacht, wann alles ist – “
“Beautiful,” said Rindel softly, walking up from behind Carolyn. “I did not know you sang.” Carolyn whirled around quickly, and backed away from the smiling elf. Several days had passed, and in that time, Carolyn had not failed to come out at night and sing. She didn’t know that Eæric’s was the other voice in the woods that had given her hope that first night. Yet she would listen for it. There was comfort in Music. In her Angel of Music.
“You were listening?” she asked Rindel, eyes wide. “I thought I was . . . alone.” The last part came slowly, unsure if the other voice counted.
“Only by chance,” Rindel answered. “You really are a different person when you sing. It’s like you’re open to the world. I’ve never heard you before.” He stepped forward, a strange smile on his face. An expression like that of one who has seen an angel more beautiful and powerful than possible, but still reachable. “Will you continue?”
“No, no,” she said, a little too quickly, “no, thank you, not now.”
“Why not?” Rindel broke off as Carolyn shook her head vigorously, “Later then?”
“Maybe. I do not know. You really should get some more sleep.”
Rindel smiled again brightly. “I just came to bring you the handkerchief you left on the road. I just remembered now.”
Carolyn gave him an unreadable look, “Thank you.” She took it with one thin, white hand which was healed now, as much as it might ever be. “Thank you,” she repeated, beaming slightly in the moonlight. “Good night.”
“Yes, it is,” Rindel agreed softly watching her retreated back. Eæric sighed heavily from within the shadows. A true daughter of the stars was as good as lost now. He had warned her against Rindel! But Eæric could see all too well through Carolyn’s mask of confusion. Rindel had heard her sing! Of all the curses that could have befallen Eæric, this was the most painful.
“Hello?” Carolyn called softly into the trees for the voice she had believe was little more than a shadow. “Are you there?” No, no one was there. Eæric slid back into the trees alone. He slumped down by one staring at the stars until slumber overtook him at last.
Carolyn screamed, and was knocked unconscious. They ravaged the camp with quick brutality. They killed Zachary (the other elf traveling with them) and defiled his body. The travelers were scattered, each one thinking the others were dead.
When Eæric found the remains in the morning he cried in shock, and ran far into the woods.
Carolyn did not wake.
I don’t like Rindel. What do you think?
Sorry this is so Phantom-of-the-Operay. Had to do it.
I don’t like Rindel (remind you of anyone? there are connections between the stories all over)
Sorry it took so long to get out. I was working on my other stories. Like that’s any excuse.