I do apologize for the lengthy wait. Real life decided to be nasty an inturrupt, and besides that I have just been ridiculously frustrated with this story, for various reasons. But be assured that I will finish it – to leave y’all with an incomplete story would be heinous! And as always, I don’t own any of it. Alas.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Picking Up Threads
At their return, up the high strand
Begin, and cease, and then begin again
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
—Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach
The first morning that I was strong enough I went for a walk on the beach. Linedhel was still asleep; I’d told him of my intention the night before.
The Sun was just rising, and her light only beginning to reach the Sea. I pulled off my boots – though they were very worn, they’d survived my adventures, thankfully – set them on the sand, and walked barefoot at the waterline. The last flourishes of the waves washed over my feet, leaving the sand firm behind them.
I walked on for a few furlongs, the slight indentations of my tracks washed away behind me. It was a strange feeling, between Sea and sky, leaving no sign at all to follow. And so peaceful; the breeze still night-cool, the sound of quiet lapping water only occasionally broken by a gull’s distant cry. Emeryk had already made acquaintance with a few of them.
I climbed onto a clump of rocks that thrust out from the sand, and sat on the largest one, well above the water. I leaned back against the cool stone, and closed my eyes. I felt calm. I was remote from the rest of my life; all the years I’d skipped and trudged and laughed and cried and ran through, and whatever was to come. It was hard to believe that I’d only been at the Havens a few days.
I’d met more of the Elves; they were all welcoming and kind. I had asked the healer, if she could use an assistant, and she said that yes, once I was wholly well, another pair of hands would be nice. So I would have something to do, and Linedhel had told me that it would be simple to add room for me to the house. He alternately ignored or waved away my thanks and protestations, saying that he just had to keep an eye on his little sister, and could hardly let me go off by myself when I wasn’t even able to make a decent meal.
When I pointed out that I’d managed in the wild, he declared that surviving on waybread and rabbit was one thing, actual food another. That wasn’t quite what I had meant, and he knew it too, but we were both happy with the arrangements and let the matter rest at that.
The Sun was over the horizon, now, and I could begin to feel the warmth of its light. With much mending I’d been able to salvage my black tunic from Doriath, though the other had fallen apart when I washed it. Soon I’d have to find some cloth and make myself some new garments. I couldn’t go on borrowing Linedhel’s spares indefinitely.
With a soft sigh I got up and picked my way back to the shore. It was odd; I was in the middle of picking up the threads of a new life. I’d been given a chance to start over, and everything had changed. The past – my past – seemed far away, and I didn’t think about it often, any more. My thoughts seldom went to Gorthaur, now, or what he’d forced me to do, or my dark memories of Tol-en-Gaurhoth, or even Gondolin’s ruins. The Havens were my home, now, and all of us there had lost the Hidden City. Somehow that forged a kind of bond, knowing that everyone had that pain in common. It didn’t haunt, though not an Elf had escaped without scars. But it was just the past, and this was now. And now there was determination to build again. To build a haven, a place of hope and light.
I’d come so far.
I rolled up my trousers and waded out till the water was halfway to my knees, feeling the sand shift beneath the soles of my feet, washed away in the always-changing currents.
The good memories were still there: Gondolin before the fall, Doriath, Taurion – but the ones that had hurt so terribly felt dulled and old and unimportant.
I laughed out loud with that sudden realization of freedom, and set off, running though the shallow water. I stopped, out of breath and damp, when I spotted my boots where I’d left them on the shore. Wading in I found that the bottom half of my trousers were completely soaked, but I didn’t mind at all.
I picked up my boots and began to walk back to the house, eyeing them thoughtfully. Over time, I’d grown so used to having a knife in one of them that it seemed odd not to. It had either been lost, or taken when the bandits captured me. I missed the feel, a little, but was so wonderful to know that there wasn’t a reason to have it there any longer.
I was mulling this over when Emeryk swooped suddenly down and landed on my shoulder. He cawed his disapproval of my damp state. I smiled and reached up, offending his dignity my ruffling his feathers before smoothing them out again. I’d not seen him much the day before; he’d been off either scavenging or socializing with the local birds.
I minute or two later I reached home – it was home now – after nodding to the few Elves that I passed on the way. It was still early, and Linedhel was asleep. He had never been a morning Elf.
I stirred the fire. Linedhel had shown me how to make porridge, and though I wasn’t at all proficient, I made the result decent.
A little while before breakfast was ready, my brother appeared from his bedroom (which I’d finally convinced him to move back into) and sat down at the table. Knowing that he wasn’t really awake yet I did not attempt conversation beyond “Good morning” until I had handed him a bowl of porridge and a mug of very hot herb tea. He took a sip, blinked, choked slightly, and swallowed. Once it was down he looked considerably more alert.
I watched in amusement, holding my spoon halfway up from my bowl. Linedhel glared at me. “You knew that was hot.”
I swallowed my mouthful. “Yes. Things that steam often are.”
“It didn’t have to be scalding,” he grumbled, taking a bite of food.
“I thought it would wake you up, and it did. Would you rather have ice next time?”
“Be quiet,” he said. “Too early for this type of thing.” And he continued to mutter about the impossibility of little sisters for a minute before finally laughing.
The days went by quickly, and almost before I realized it yavie was passing, and lasse-lanta about to arrive. The sea breeze grew stringer and colder, the nights clear and crisp.
I spent some of my days with Tasare, the healer, in the large airy room full of herbs and bandages and kettles and splints. There were not many injuries to treat, the occasional cut or fractured limb, mostly. We spent a great deal of time drinking tea and talking. Tasare was so kind; she taught me a great deal about herb lore. But more than that she was there, kind and understanding.
I also spent some of my free time sewing. I had learned when I was an Elfling, and though I’d seldom used those skills I could remember then fairly well. I patched and repaired my cloak, just in time for the winter, as well as my tunic. I also made a dark green dress, simply because I wanted too and it was easier to put together than trousers.
Linedhel was gone with the scouting parties some of the time. He’d asked if I wanted to come, but I never really did. I was happy where I was.
Frost had just appeared on the ground when I walked on the beach early one morning. It was a habit; the dawn and growing light on the Sea were never disappointing.
That morning, as I made my way back from the rocks, I saw a small Elfling crouched dejectedly on the sand. The sun was almost all the way above the horizon by then, and as I came closer I realized that he was quite familiar. I knew most of the faces, if not the names, of those at the Havens.
He didn’t look up as I approached, and as I knelt beside him I realized why he was so upset.
A seagull was lying on the sand, its eyes closed and its feet clenched. Though it was dead, it had clearly not been so for long. It was a small, sad body.
“What’s the matter, young one?” I asked softly.
“It just fell,” he answered. “There was no reason for it to die. It wasn’t like…” He stopped, and I understood; young as he was, he’d seen the fall of Gondolin. He had seen life extinguished, but perhaps this was the first time it had just ended.
“Then it was its time,” I said. “Mortal things pass. Maybe this one was old and tired, with nieces and grandchildren, and just waiting to rest.”
“Maybe.” He studied me. “We ought to bury it.”
“You’re right. Under that tree?” I pointed to a bent pine at the edge of the strand.
The Elfling hesitated, then nodded. “All right.”
I carefully picked up the bird, which was just beginning to become stiff, and we made our way over. Digging into the sand with slightly scoop-shaped stones we dug a small, shallow grave. When we filled it in the Elfling pulled off a small pine twig and planted it in the ground. He didn’t say anything, just looked at it for a moment.
I stood, and we started down the path that led back to the havens.
“What’s you name?” the Elfling asked suddenly. I blinked.
He tilted his head. “You must be Linedhel’s sister, then. The one who was sick.”
I smiled – it seemed that every Elf in the Havens knew me one way or another. “Yes.”
“My Ada says – ” he began, then changed his mind and took off running. “Race you home!”
I laughed under my breath, and set off after him. I’d almost caught up when Lady Idril appeared around a bend. I stopped as quickly as I could, almost tripping, but the Elfling careened right into her with a happy shout of “Naneth!”
Oh, sweet heavens, I thought. That’s Earendil.
Lady Idril laughed. “There you are, Earendil. What took you so long?”
“We buried a seagull,” he answered, his expression momentarily dimming. “But we were racing back. This is Indil.”
“We’ve met.” Idril smiled at me. “Good morning, Indil. How have you been faring?”
“Very well, my lady,” I said awkwardly. “Thank you.”
She smiled again, taking her son’s hand. “I hear you have been helping Tasare. Are you a healer?”
I nodded. “I’ve had some training, my lady, but Tasare is teaching me a great deal.”
“Ah.” Idril started back towards the Havens. “I take you are enjoying it?”
“I am. Very much.”
“Learning is boring,” Earendil announced.
“That depends,” I answered. “I like healing, so I’m glad to know more about it.”
“I want to learn about ships, then,” he said. “They’re much more interesting than tengwar.“
Lady Idril laughed. “Ships when you’re older, little one.”
A few moments later Earendil asked about Emeryk – apparently everyone had heard of him, too – and I had barely finished telling about him when we reached my house. I bowed and excused myself. Earendil suddenly asked:
“Will you be on the beach again?”
I smiled. “I will.”
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