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Old 05-24-2021, 03:19 PM   #3
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,089
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
The Fairy Wife, Chapters 4 - 6

Chapter 4: Settling

Above the Ettenmoors

Lorien hummed as she carried armloads of evergreen brush from the woods to the hillside. The hobbits were working on the south side of the hill, scooping out earth from beside a large boulder that Doldo had decided would give them additional protection from the North wind. Mallie was weaving mats of evergreens for a windbreak, and the father and sons were cutting larger poles and binding them together with rawhide thongs cut from the buckskin. The north side of the hill was covered with tall grass which they would use for thatching. The west, south, and east sides had heather and broom. They were clearing an area for a garden as they harvested the heather for bedding.

Sindo smiled at her, but Lorien waited for Noldo's attention, holding her evergreens. "Put them over there, " Noldo pointed, and she smiled at him, and set them down, and returned for more. Sindo averted his eyes, jealous of her smile. Noldo sighed. She was less annoying now that she was learning more words and humming nicer tunes, but still, she grated on him.

Noldo watched her out of the corner of his eye. Mother fretted that she was not eating well. Noldo resented her finicky attitude. She was not the same as when they had found her. She seemed wearied, or weakened, perhaps. But she was as cheerful as ever, or nearly so.

She seemed to learn best from Sindo. He was as endlessly patient as Noldo was short tempered. They played the staring game by the hour. As much as she annoyed him, she enchanted Sindo. Whenever Sindo backed a word with emotion, she learned the word, and she caught on the quickest when Sindo was exasperated or angry with Noldo. The largest part of her vocabulary seemed to be the insults Sindo threw at Noldo when he offended Lorien. Stupid, clumsy, stuck-up, impatient, bullheaded, knucklehead, and silly arrogant fool, had been one day's enlightening new vocabulary. Doldo had had words with Sindo after that.

Still, Lorien doted, smiling and humming, on Noldo. He frowned. Why she refused to dote on Sindo instead, Noldo could not discern, but he heartily wished she would.

The sun was sinking in the west. They had a hollow dug into the hillside, a frame in front of it with a thatched roof up, and all that was left for the most comfortable evening yet, was to thatch the floor. This they did leisurely, bringing in the heather for the beds last, and Doldo declared they were done for the day.

Lorien wandered off into the woods, and Noldo and Sindo watched her go, too tired to deal with it. Doldo noticed too, but the elf-child was wary and wood-wise, and he let her go. Mallie smiled, thinking the child would probably sit out under the stars, and just be an elf for the evening. When would her people come for her?

They built a fire in the newly cleared garden area, scorching the heather roots beneath; they would move the fire daily, until the garden area was as large as needed. Potatoes and venison and dried fruits, thought Noldo, and the dried fruits won't hold out much longer, and the potatoes will run out after that. It would be a long winter. He wondered whether Mother could succeed, over the winter, in growing anything green in this new garden of theirs. He doubted it; this place seemed colder even than home. He suspected that their first green leaves would not come ‘til March or perhaps April. She had already set aside some sprouting potatoes to be planted as soon as the garden was thoroughly burned off.

So they would settle here indefinitely? Noldo thought. He sighed again, glancing over at the pleasant stream, the woods not too far away, the moors stretching northward, eastward, and westward. There was the barest hint of a mountain range to the far north. And southeast to southwest, stretched a long range of hills and ridges, covered with brush, scraggly trees, and occasional thickets.

Noldo did not know its name. That long range of hills and ridges was called The Ettenmoors. It was not considered a hospitable place, and wanderers did not travel there; it was the haunt of trolls and wild things. Nevertheless, Doldo's family had been unmolested. Such quietness in the Ettenmoors would have been taken as an ill omen by anyone familiar with those lands; what kind of enemy would drive cave trolls into hiding?

Doldo and his family remained blissfully ignorant of this, and freely enjoyed the Ettenmoors, hunting there and wandering in the woods. Once in a while they came upon old charred bones and evidence of fire, but the evidence was always old and grown over by fresh new growth. They did not worry unduly about such discoveries, having more immediate concerns.

Noldo was not looking southward, but west, north, and east, all across the moors. As the stars came out and the venison/potato/fruit stew bubbled, he again stood and scanned the horizon as he had the previous evenings, looking for twinkling lights. Bonfires. Fires. Candles. Anything. Any sign that this place was not as barren and lifeless as it looked. His heart sank. Again, as the previous several evenings, all of the horizon was black.

How he longed for civilization. And how settled his father had suddenly become, satisfied with this empty, vacant, barren moor. His mother was being brave, Sindo was too starry-eyed over Lorien to care. But Noldo wanted hobbits. He missed his friends, especially Ned, and he had been thinking about Lily more than usual. He ached for the past summer to return just as it was. He wanted beer, laughter, song, and most of all, he wanted a wife.

If only the elves would come and claim their confounded nuisance of a girl.

Mother had only packed four bowls, so somebody usually had to wait their turn. Tonight Lorien's absence made dinner rather pleasant, like old times, and the only person to really miss Lorien was Sindo; not that he mentioned it, but his glance strayed often towards the woods.

Suddenly Sindo set his bowl aside and struggled to his feet, mouth open, eyes glowing. The others listened, straining, but heard nothing for a few moments. Then they heard it too. They listened for a while, glowing. The gentle breeze was bringing a song their way.

"Why, " Mallie whispered, "That's the Lay of Nimrodel!" It had been her father's favorite lullaby, and childhood memories mingled with the ethereal sweetness of the breeze-borne song. Tears trickled down her face.

Doldo leaped to his feet. "They've come for her, and she's not here! We've got to find her. Mallie, you stay here, and if they find you, keep them here! We'll bring her back! Come on, lads. No time to waste. Noldo, you find the elves, we'll find the girl!"

The thought of getting rid of Lorien gave Noldo new strength, and he ran towards the singer with joyous abandon. It was quite far away, he thought, three minutes into a sprint, and he slowed to a steadier pace. He jogged for a while longer, as the song got louder, and clearer. And then suddenly it began to fade.

He skidded to a halt, desperately hoping that these elves wanted to be found. He looked up but saw nothing in the trees. He stopped, listening; the song was behind him. He turned and tracked the sound until he was underneath it. He looked up, but saw nothing. He called.

The song only continued, lovely and wandering and sweet and peircing, but his urgency did not let him enjoy it. He called again. And then he heard a giggle.

"Silly Noldo."

His heart sank. "Lorien??"

"Stupid Noldo." More giggles. She came climbing swiftly down, and sat on a branch, dangling her feet over his head and laughing at him. "Bullheaded Noldo..."

"That's enough!"

She lapsed into her infuriating chant, only this time, stringing all his insults together. He jumped for the branches and climbed up beside her, livid.

"Do you mean to tell me, you can sing songs like-- like that, and you've been mocking us, annoying us instead? You've been singing these absurd prattling tunes instead of talking-- like that?? You've been able to talk all along!!" His rage, suddenly in her face, frightened her, and that only made her more obstinate.

"You talk stupid, " she said, climbing away from him. "You word stupid. No learn stupid talk."

She climbed higher, singing something else now. Something lovely, lilting, elvish, and grammatically much more refined that what she had just mangled in the common tongue.

So, she didn't want to be bothered with learning the hobbits' speech. Excuse us, the stupid hobbits' speech. Well, fine.

He detested her. And the sooner he got out of this tree the better. He jumped down, jogging away, but the wind brought her song to him, so he cut across the wind until he lost the sound. And then he stopped, hating her even for her songs, and not wanting to go back to his father and tell him that it was Lorien singing and there was no relief in sight. But there was nothing for it. He found his father and broke the news, and together they found Sindo. Sindo looked decidedly relieved.

They went home. No, Noldo thought, not home; to the little hut in the hillside. It wasn't home. Mallie was crushed by the news, but amazed that Lorien had done the singing. Mallie, Doldo, and Sindo sat for a while discussing the songs. Noldo re-warmed his venison stew, ate it, and went to bed, but lay awake, fuming.

Lorien came home late that night, and when she entered the little hut, he left it, and slept out by the ponies in the long grass.

The next day dawned cold and dewy, and Noldo sneezed himself awake, startling the ponies. He struggled to his feet, shaking out his blanket and cloak, and stumbled to the hut. The rest of the family was asleep. He rekindled the fire.

The crackling cheered him, and he drew a pan of water, and wandered about hoping to find something to make a tea out of. Eventually he found a patch of sorrel and picked some. Lorien emerged from the hut, followed by Sindo.

"Good morning, Sindo, " Noldo said pointedly, ignoring Lorien, and Sindo privately thought his smile resembled bared fangs. He wondered what had happened. His brother was usually polite. Lorien approached Noldo smiling and humming, and he shoved her away roughly. Sindo gaped as he dodged forward to help her, and glared at his brother.

"You want her, you worry about her. I'm done with her, " growled Noldo. He busied himself heating the water for tea. Lorien, however, spotted the green sorrel leaves and stepping daintily behind him, collected them before he could pour the hot water. He looked up and saw her taste them, savoring them, chewing appreciatively, and smiling a mischievous thank-you.

Sindo bristled as his brother slowly boiled into a rage, but Noldo only took her by the wrist and dragged her away from the fire towards the sorrel patch. Sindo followed angrily. Arriving at the sorrel patch, Noldo picked another handful for his tea, and then shoved her towards it. "Eat all you want! Only leave me alone!"

Sindo stood by her as Noldo stalked back to his fire, sat down with his back to the sorrel patch, and made his tea, this time uninterrupted. But he didn't enjoy it at all. Eventually he turned, and saw Sindo holding Lorien protectively and tenderly. That was the good news. The bad news was that Lorien was leaning her head on Sindo's shoulder, but gazing soulfully at Noldo. Sindo's face was a tangle of emotions, jealousy not the least.

He looked from Lorien to Sindo, and looked away, wondering if he should also hate the girl for being cruel to his brother. It was tempting.

Doldo emerged from the hut, yawning and stretching, but as soon as he saw his younger son, he called him. Sindo released Lorien with a gentle kiss to the forehead, and ever so reluctantly obeyed. It seemed to take forever to cross the hillside. Doldo's hand finally fell on his son's shoulder, and Sindo received the gentlest lecture he'd ever heard his father give. He listened as well as he could.

"I know she's enchanting, I know she's vulnerable and more beautiful than anything you've ever seen. But she must go home to her people. She cannot belong to a mortal. It's not to be. Don't think about her that way, lad."

Sindo nodded numbly, leaning against his father's hand, drawing strength from him as best he could. His father's lecture finished too soon, Sindo thought with some surprise, wishing his father could somehow talk him out of his heartache.

Doldo wished the elves would hurry up and come and get her, and he began to worry about his sons.

They turned, and saw Lorien approaching Noldo, who was sitting, trying to enjoy his tea. They both started forward.

Bending, she climbed into his lap. Exasperated as to why a nearly grown elf would do such a thing, he set the tea down and began to push her away. Doldo growled something at Noldo and he stopped, loathing the girl, and not terribly fond of his father at the moment.

She focused those annoying blue eyes on him, and began to plead. "Sorry. Want learn."

He glared at his father.

"Sorry. Learn talk, " she persisted, in his face, invading closer and closer. He finally just stood up out from underneath her, dropping her in an awkward tangle of limbs, and tried to walk away. She sprang to her feet and dodged in front of him. "Lorien want learn."

Noldo, exasperated, turned to his father, pleading for refuge. "Will you please get her away from me?"

"I think, " said Doldo wryly, "she's trying to apologize." He folded his arms, trying not to smile.

"Will you forgive her!?" Sindo exploded.

On cue, Lorien seized Sindo's latest word. "Forgive. Forgive? Forgive! Sorry, forgive?"

"Oh, get away from me, for heaven's sake! Leave me alone!" The dance continued.

Mallie emerged from the hut, took in the situation for a few moments, and suddenly called, "Lorien, come here."

"No. Noldo forgive Lorien."

"Lorien," snapped Doldo. "Obey your Mother."

"No Mother. Mallie," Lorien replied primly. "Noldo forgive."

Doldo was stumped for a second, but she was correct. "Obey Mallie." Doldo glared at her.

Lorien, for the first time, stood still and struggled with laying aside her own will. To Noldo it seemed like minutes before she turned, the picture of reluctance, and inched towards Mallie, casting numerous glances over her shoulder.

Noldo exhaled, smoldering, and ran his hands through his hair, and distantly surveyed his father and brother. "I've lost you both to that girl, haven't I?" he said flatly, and turned and walked towards the woods.

Sindo looked at his father, angry and baffled.

Doldo returned his hand to Sindo's shoulder. "Tell him I said, No, he hasn't lost me. I love him still. And they'll come and get the girl, and we'll move on then. Tell him that for me," Doldo gave his son a gentle push towards the disappearing Noldo, and turned toward the fire and his wife and the frustrating elvish girl.

Sindo dragged himself towards his fuming brother as Noldo disappeared into the woods. He didn't want to have to track him. He started jogging.

Too late. Noldo had sprinted ahead, and it became a chase. Cresting ridge after ridge, Sindo caught occasional fleeting glimpses of Noldo. He ran on in dogged pursuit, burning lungs and aching legs notwithstanding. Noldo was stronger than he, but he was running on temper and Sindo was running on orders. Sindo hoped that as he slowed Noldo would slow too, and that Noldo would run out of temper soon.

Forty-five minutes later, he did. Sindo found him on his stomach drinking face-first from a stream. He had no idea how far they'd come. He struggled the last dozen yards, gulping air, and sat exhausted by his brother, who looked up, and half angry, half playful, gave him a backwards shove. Sindo fell slowly backwards, and Noldo scooped some cold water his way.

"Are you done being mad yet?"

"I don't know."

"Well when you are, could you please let me know?"

Noldo chuckled sardonically. "Maybe."

"Well, I suppose I can figure it out."

"How?"

"By chanting your name. If you kill me, you're still mad."

Noldo let out a mock growl, seized his brother, and soused his head in the stream.

"Right. You're still mad, " Sindo spluttered, "I understand." He shook the water out of his hair, a little, and sat up. His brother was staring at the stream, so he did likewise. It bubbled along, oblivious, and they watched it for a while.

"Look," Noldo said suddenly. "I miss you. I don't know why I should have to miss you, and Dad too, when you're both beside me all day and all night."

That was fast. "Dad gave me a message for you," Sindo began.

"Do I have to bribe you to hear it?" Noldo prompted.

"He says, No, you haven't lost him. He still loves you. And when they come and get Lorien, and take her home, then we'll move on."

Noldo thought it over. "He told you to tell me that?"

Sindo nodded.

"Do you think he's right?" Noldo asked.

"You mean, about them coming to get her?"

Noldo nodded.

Sindo looked back at the stream, and didn't answer.

"Well?"

He's still mad, remember, Sindo thought. He took a deep breath. "Well, I... well... no. No, I don't, really."

"You don't think that they will come and get her. Or do you mean, you hope that they won't come and get her?"

"Yes, and yes."

"Why ever wouldn't they come and get her?"

Sindo procrastinated, and then hedged. "I don't know. I just don't think so."

Noldo glowered. "You know something we don't. Out with it. It's that staring game, isn't it? You learn things too."

"I... maybe it's just a feeling."

"Well, then tell me what this 'just a feeling' is."

Sindo turned toward his brother, and pleaded with him. "First can you promise me that we'll still be friends? And stop hating me? And not be mad at me anymore?"

Noldo nodded. "I'm sorry. It's not really you. I mean, not all the time, not... I don't want to be mad at you."

Sindo nodded. "Okay, I'll take that." He sighed. "I don't want to be mad at you either." He took another deep breath, and met Noldo's eyes. "I don't think the elves are going to come for her, because I don't think she wants them to."

Noldo waited.

"I think she has her little elvish heart set on you, and that's all there is to it, " Sindo said, trying to say it neutrally, but he couldn't hide the disappointment in his voice.

Noldo studied his brother. "You're... you're just saying that, because of how she acts."

"No, " Sindo replied. "I know it. I've known it for a couple of weeks now. "

"But she's a child, " Noldo replied.

"Not for much longer, " Sindo said, awkwardly.

"How do you know that?"

"She's kind of playacting. And she's frightened, and lonely. And I can't be angry about it," said Sindo. "That whole scene with the apple, where Dad was trying to learn her name... she was really frightened. I mean, she really has those childish moments. But it's because she was so scared, not because she's young."

"You've lost me."

"The fire, " Sindo said. "It frightened her half out of her wits. It changed her inside. She's gone back, in some ways, to being a little girl. And in some ways we reward her for it. I know I do. Because...."

Noldo waited.

"...because I can be her uncle, or her big brother, even if I can't ever... marry her."

Noldo thought this through, and then objected again. "But why can't you just win her heart and marry her then?"

"Because it's too late for that," Sindo said. "She's chosen you. And that's that."

"You know this."

"Yes, " Sindo said numbly. "I know this. That's why I don't think the elves will come. She's not about to call to them. She's happy with you."

"Maybe she'll call to them now, " Noldo reflected on his earlier behavior over the leaves of sorrel.

"No, " replied Sindo, "she won't."

"Stubborn."

"Yes, she is."

"Well, we knew that."

"Yes, we did."

"Are you all right?"

"No."

"Sindo, I'm sorry." Noldo studied him. "I really am."

"Thanks."

"I mean it."

"I know."

They sat watching the stream bubble past for quite some time before Noldo broke the murmuring stillness.

"You know what we each need, " Noldo said, thinking of Lily, and her brother Ned Fairbanks.

"What."

"A nice, pleasant, gentle, brown-haired, brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked hobbit-girl. We each get married, settle down, raise families, live regular lives. We could live within a stone's throw of each other. Tell jokes and sing songs at the inn. Go hunting together." Noldo clapped his brother's shoulder. "Get past all this stuff, and be happy. Like Mother and Dad. Really, truly happy."

Sindo nodded, but didn't reply.

They sat and watched the stream for hours, shifting occasionally, until Noldo got really, really hungry.

"I'm hungry."

"Let's go then."

"Right. Venison for breakfast."

"Ah, yes, right."

*******

Chapter 5: Calling

Above the Ettenmoors

Lorien was quite subdued when the two hobbits returned. After the venison breakfast, Noldo went around the north side of the hill to check on the ponies, and then returned.

Lorien approached him timidly. He took a deep breath, and met her eyes. "Lorien, come here, please."

She gladly came forward, and he took both her hands, and then he sat down. She climbed right into his lap.

"That wasn't what I had in mind, " he objected.

"Noldo forgive Lorien?"

"All right. Yes. I forgive you."

She snuggled against him happily.

He looked over to his father, and saw that Doldo was frowning and thoughtful. He rose and approached Noldo and Lorien.

"Let me repeat what I told your brother, " Doldo said very softly. "She's got to go back to her own people. You understand, don't you."

"Of course, Dad." Noldo gently disengaged Lorien, and sat her facing him, and took both her hands again. "Look at me, Lorien."

She looked at Sindo instead. He had been watching, and now he stood and joined them.

He stared hard at her, and focused on her eyes, with all of his strength and will. She flinched.

Sindo watched as Noldo concentrated harder, pushing at her, and then Sindo spoke. "You're trying way too hard."

Noldo scowled. "What do you mean?"

"Relax. Just let go."

Noldo nodded, and forced himself to relax. Distress crossed Lorien's face.

"No, no," Sindo laughed. "Just let your mind soften."

"Are you insulting me?"

"Idiot."

Lorien chimed in. "Idiot... idiot..."

Sindo tried hard not to laugh. "Lorien, no, " he smirked. She was offended, and turned aside and pouted.

"Look, Noldo. You don't have to do anything. "

"I'm not used to that."

"It's worse than that; you're just not like that. You'll have to go against your nature to do this."

Noldo only grew more determined. "Tell me what to do, " he insisted.

Sindo sighed, and thought. "It's like a book, lying on a table, open to a page. The book doesn't do anything. It's just open. Waiting. The reader does all the reading. The book's only concern is to remain open on the table." Lorien was watching them again.

Noldo thought this over for many long minutes, and then took a deep breath and touched Lorien's shoulder. Their eyes met.

There, thought Sindo. Now he's got it. He waited.

Noldo closed his eyes. Sindo was about to object, but Lorien smiled, so he waited. Apparently closed eyes were all right too.

Noldo sensed something, sensed a thought on the edge of his thoughts. He chose to let her closer, chose to let her look, read, see. He could sense her delight as she looked around.

A little closer. He waited. She drew closer still.

Lorien, he thought, trying to think gently; Lorien, call your people. Tell them to find you.

She smiled in his mind.

He tried again. Call your people. Tell them to come and find you.

Now her thoughts sounded clearly in his head: Come find me.

Yes, he thought. That's right. Call them. Good girl. Call your people.

Come find me.

Keep calling your people, Lorien. Call them until they come. Call them every day.

Come find me. He could hear her laughing in his mind.

He smiled. Keep calling them, Lorien. Call your people every day. Don't give up.

She was laughing like a spring rain, like a cheerful brook inside his mind. It was incredibly musical. Come find me, come find me. She laughed and laughed.

Good girl, Lorien. Call them. Good girl.

He gently closed his mind to her and opened his eyes, and looked up at Sindo.

"She's calling, " said Sindo, trying hard to hide his disappointment. "You did it. It worked."

"Splendid!" Doldo crowed, and pummeled Noldo's shoulder. "Good thinking, my boy. Splendid, splendid!" He looked very relieved.

Noldo smiled at him, and then at Sindo, but seeing Sindo's brave nod, Noldo's smile faded then. Doldo turned, and headed back towards Mallie and the fire. Noldo looked back at Sindo, and saw his face was strained. Noldo felt guilty, but Dad was right, and Sindo had to see that.

"My, People, " Lorien started.

"Don't start chanting!" Noldo snapped, but softened immediately. "Sing something nice. Something pretty."

She smiled, and a lovely tune began. But still, the words "my people" bubbled to the surface every so often, and sometimes they heard "Noldo," and sometimes "Sinda". She sang and sang, but she kept it pretty. Noldo reminded himself to be patient.

"She's still calling, " Sindo said softly. "Can you hear it?"

"Not listening, " Noldo said. "Wait. Let me try." As soon as he quieted a little, there it was. Come find me.

He nodded, satisfied.

Late that evening, Lorien was out in the woods alone. Doldo and Mallie had retired, and Noldo was heading into the hut himself. Sindo stopped him.

"Listen."

Noldo closed his eyes. (Come find me.) He smiled, and then chuckled. Good girl, he thought. I'm proud of you. Don't give up.

(Come now!)

Noldo withdrew, and opened his eyes, and clapped Sindo's shoulder. "It'll be all right, " he promised him. "Everything is going to be all right. We'll be just fine."

Midwinter

The stars glittered cold in the black sky. The low fire was now by the doorway of their hut; it warmed the large boulder next to the hollow, and the rock stayed fairly warm even when the fire burned low. Venison was hard to find in these moors, but rabbits were plentiful. Their main concern was making new arrows; they lost too many in the long grass hunting the rabbits.

They were glad of the rabbit fur, for Lorien's sake. She ate little, enjoying stewed rabbit no more than venison, especially since the Sorrel patch had gone dormant for the winter. She was usually cold. They had made her a cloak of rabbit pelts, and they wrapped her in every rabbit-fur they had, and still she shivered. She spent more and more time by the fire.

Except at night, when she went out into the nearby woods, and climbed a tree. She did this at least an hour every night, and came back cold. And while she was away, Sindo was distracted, restless, listening to her call. Sometimes he would leap to his feet, as if to answer the summons himself; sometimes he gave in to the impulse, and ran into the woods, searching ‘til he found the tree she was in; then he would sit down at the foot of it, and she would sing to him. But still she called as she sang.

Doldo fretted over his younger son. He seemed always distracted. He began to think that the staring game no longer involved staring, that Sindo and Lorien conversed more and more, at longer distances, for more reasons. It worried him.

Still, Sindo ate well, and tried to be cheerful, and persisted in obedience and respect. Ever since the boys' long chase in the woods, the quibbling over Lorien had stopped, and Sindo had much less "rescuing" to do. He gave Lorien a reasonable amount of respect and courtesy, treating her more like an adult. Doldo couldn't fault the boy.

Noldo kept an eye on Sindo. At first he listened, periodically, to make sure that Lorien was still calling. But after a while, he knew by Sindo's behavior, and did not have to listen for himself.

Early Spring

Three evenings in a row, Lorien did not go out to the woods. Noldo finally noticed that something was amiss, and asked his brother about it. Sindo shrugged and looked away.

"She stopped calling, didn't she."

Sindo didn't answer.

Noldo got up and went to Lorien, and sat down with her. "Lorien, did you stop calling your people?"

She nodded.

"Why?"

"You never came."

Noldo laughed. "You weren't calling me. You were calling your people. Keep calling them. They will come."

For an answer, she reached up and took his face in her hands, and met his eyes. He sighed. Her speech was better now; he had hoped this would not be necessary. But he took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.

Longing washed around the doorway to his mind. He welcomed her steadily, and the longing grew.

You miss your people, he thought. I'm sorry.

My people are Sindar and Noldor, she thought. Sinda and Noldo, my people.

They will come for you. Don't give up. Keep calling them.

Only Sinda comes. You don't come. You don't listen.

Noldo took a deep breath. He sensed a trap closing in on him. ...So if I come, sometimes, like Sinda does, will you keep calling?

Come find me.

Keep calling, he thought. Keep calling. Don't give up.

She released his hands, and stood, and went out into the dark. He sighed, not in the mood for hide and seek, but he knew this was a test. He kept his mind open, and she kept calling.

He listened. Tell me when to come looking for you.

When he found her, she sang for him. He listened for a while, and when he turned towards home, she came down and walked home with him.

Late Spring

When the garden produced fresh leaves and roots, Lorien's color returned, and the spring came back into her step. The change was dramatic enough that the whole family commented on it. Mallie was immensely relieved. Sindo laughed and joked with her, albeit without words. Sometimes Noldo grew so curious he eavesdropped, and whenever he did, he could sense welcome and delight in Lorien, and a hint of jealousy in Sindo, quickly controlled and overcome.

The nights grew warmer, and they stayed out later under the stars. Doldo, concerned, followed them both one night, as Noldo and Sindo both headed out into the woods looking for Lorien. He sat under the tree with them as they listened to her sing. It seemed harmless enough. Perhaps he worried too much.

Some nights she did not come home until dawn. Mother soothed their worries, saying that healthy elves did not always need sleep, and that if Lorien was tired she would take care of herself. And indeed it seemed to do her no harm.

One night Noldo woke from sleep haunted by longing and a deep sadness. He rolled over to check on Sindo, and found his blankets empty. Mother and Dad were fine, breathing softly. He stood and left the hut.

Sindo was not on the hill. He closed his eyes, listening, and in the midst of Lorien's call-- Come find me-- Noldo thought he sensed Sindo just inside the woods; the sadness was his. Noldo sought him out.

He was standing and weeping, with Lorien's call pulsing inside his thoughts. He heard Noldo approaching, and turned slightly.

"Are you all right?" Noldo asked, knowing he wasn't.

"Six months, " Sindo said. "She's been calling them for six months. And they haven't come."

Startled, Noldo realized that Sindo was as angry as he was sad. He put his arm across his brother's shoulders, but could find nothing to say.

Sindo drew his sleeve across his face, but the tears started fresh when he was done. "They have hearts of stone."

"Come on, " said Noldo. "Let's go find her. Perhaps she'll sing."

They did, and she did. But afterwards, she came down from the tree, and they sat at the foot of it, and thought together about the stars, and the warmth of the night, and the pleasures of summer. Only then did they wander home.

*******

Chapter 6: What Noldo Wanted

The Hill, late summer

Noldo finished weeding the row of kale seedlings his mother had planted for the winter, straightened wearily, and reflected that hunting was infinitely preferable to gardening. He couldn't argue that the roots and leaves had brought Lorien back to a healthy glow, but she had only become more attentive and more annoying. Sindo argued that mealtimes had become much more interesting with the garden in full swing, and that was true.

He had to keep after Lorien; she had grown weary of calling to the elves, and lapsed into periods of silence. Sindo, seeing no reason for her to leave anyway, never informed him, so he had taken to listening every night. Sometimes he rewarded her by finding her, and fussing over her, praising her, listening to her sing. It was getting old.

His father had gone to the stream to wash the dirt off his hands, and Noldo joined him. Doldo sensed something pensive about his son, and waited. It was not long coming.

"Do you know what I miss, Dad?"

"What, son?"

Noldo struggled a little. "Do you remember Lily?"

"The Fairbanks youngster? Waterlily?" Doldo sat back on his heels, studying Noldo, who nodded. Doldo was completely surprised. "I never knew."

"There was nothing said. I mean, I had never spoken to her, in, in that way. We just ran into each other sometimes. Well, often. And her parents were kind to me. You know I was friends with Ned."

"And you were fond of her."

"She had a cheerful, catching laugh, and such a sweet smile. She was hardworking, helpful, and pretty; so pretty. And she admired and respected her brother until I almost got jealous of him. I miss her more and more. I miss them all. " Noldo fell silent, and it was a while before Doldo spoke.

"I'm sorry, Noldo." Something about his father's voice made Noldo look up, and he did not like the haunted look in his father's eyes.

"What, dad?" But he knew.

Doldo's heart battered him mercilessly as he watched his son react. "Oh, son, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"How do you know?"

"The whole valley..." Doldo shook his head.

"You saw it?"

Doldo nodded. "That night, while we were waiting for sunset. I climbed up to where I could see the valley." His face was grey with the memory.

"But she could have gotten away, like we did. She could have escaped. They all could have. All the Fairbanks could have."

"I hope so, " said Doldo. But Noldo could see that he didn't believe it.

"Oh, dad, " Noldo sat back, numb. Doldo sat beside him in silence.

They had heard no footsteps-- they never did, but there she was, behind Doldo. "Noldo, are you sad? Poor Noldo."

"Not now, Lorien."

"I am sorry that you are sad, " she tenderly persisted. Doldo was about to interfere, to send her away, when Sindo appeared. Doldo glared at him. He did not want Noldo's grief turned into a brawl but he could feel it coming.

Noldo growled, "Leave me alone."

"Poor Noldo. Lorien is sad too," she coaxed, drawing closer, really being quite gentle.

Doldo held up a hand. "Lorien, not now."

"Very sad, " she persisted, pleading with them both.

Noldo stood, and his words were swift and ruthless. "Leave me alone! I don't your sympathy or your company! Go away!"

"Lorien, leave Noldo alone!" Doldo snapped. "Sindo, take her away."

But Noldo stalked off, and Sindo caught Lorien's hand and glared at his father. "Why? All she wanted was to comfort him."

"Bad timing, " was all Doldo could growl, and he began to follow his son. Mallie appeared, and he reached for her hand, and they followed him together around the hill. But he had caught Hunter, mounted him holding a handful of mane, turned him with his heels, and galloped off westwards into the moors.

Mallie turned to Doldo. "What happened?" Doldo echoed it all, and they held each other, watching him crest hill after hill. He was gone all night. Sindo seethed with annoyance, both with his father and Noldo. Lorien went off into the woods as usual, and Sindo disappeared immediately afterwards.

"I don't like that, " Doldo frowned. "This girl has him much too enchanted. I don't like the moonshine in his eyes."

Mallie held him tighter. The little hut seemed cavernously empty that night.

Sindo sat at the bottom of the tree, and Lorien sat halfway up, calling halfheartedly. She gave up and climbed down towards Sindo, and the thoughts flew between them.

Sindo asked her, Are you hurt?

He doesn't love me.

I know. I'm sorry.

He loves another girl. I saw her today. She lives by a big river.

Does he really love Lily?

He must. He weeps for her.

Even now?

Yes.

I've wept for you. Often.

I know. You love me, don't you. Someday he will love me, like you do.

You know I love you, he replied. Why won't you have me?

I already chose him. I know I will be his.

It's not that simple. He has to love you too.

He will.

You've been trying to win him for six months now. He is as stubborn as they come.

He will love me.

What about me? I love you now. Can't you choose me?

No.

Sindo leaned his head back against the tree, closed his mind to her, and let the tears roll, unheeded in the darkness. She briefly wondered why he had closed his mind, but shrugged, and climbed back up the tree. With a new determination, she called out to Noldo again, and again, and again.

Come find me.

The next morning Noldo rode up to the north side of the hill, and left Hunter grazing, and sought out Sindo. "Walk with me a bit," Noldo said.

"Why?"

Noldo raised his eyebrow. "I want to talk with you. "

"I don't care what you want."

"Come with me, Sindo. Look, if I hurt her feelings, I'm sorry."

"You'll do it again, and again. I don't see why you bother to apologize."

"Let's go and have a talk. It sounds like you need it."

"Why should you suddenly be worried about what I need? All you think about is what you want."

"Sindo, at least hear what I've got to say, " Noldo replied, trying not to be exasperated.

Sindo wavered, and finally his curiosity got the better of him. "I hope it's worth hearing."

"Maybe, " said Noldo, leading him westward towards the next hilltop.

"Why here?"

"So nobody comes looking for us."

"So, have your say, then." They sat down.

"All right. I don't think that the elves are ever going to come for her. She's called and called, and where are they?"

Sindo waited.

"I don't want her. And I know you do."

"How do you know that you don't want her?"

"Because I want a normal life " Noldo replied earnestly. "I want to live in a hobbit hole in a hobbit village and spend time with hobbit friends. I have no interest in being badgered by her for the rest of my life."

"Badgered!"

Noldo snorted. "All last night, do you know what I heard?"

"No, " Sindo lied.

"I think you do, " Noldo eyed him. "'Come find me', all night long. I'd block it out, and then drift off to sleep, and there it was in my dreams again. I don't know how many times I heard her. I can't live like that," he shifted, "knowing I'm at the beck and call of a bossy, selfish, self-centered, stuck-up little girl."

Sindo bristled.

"No, listen to me. She doesn't care what I want, either. She wants me for herself, and whether I like the idea or not, she doesn't care. And I don't like the way she treats you. She strings you along, lets you care for her, protect her, watch over her, and all the time bossing me around, 'choosing' me instead of you. I don't like that."

"She loves you!"

"She has no idea who I am or what I want. And she doesn't care. I don't know what she loves, but she doesn't love me."

"Yes. She does."

"Well, fine. But I'm tired of it, and I wish she'd quit. I want her to quit. And so here's what I'm asking."

"You? You're asking?"

Noldo leaned forward earnestly. "Yes. Please. I'll beg if I have to. I want you to win her, Sindo. I want you to woo her, capture her imagination, take her attention off of me once and for all. Teach her how to fall in love with you. Win her and marry her. Make her your wife."

"How? You make it sound so simple. Do you think I haven't tried?"

"Try harder." Noldo leaned further forward. "Do whatever you need to do. Romance, woo, win, conquer, capture her heart. Whatever it takes."

Sindo studied his brother, and impulsively tested his mind. Noldo's eyebrows went up, but after a moment's hesitation, he closed his eyes, and welcomed his brother into his mind, and asked him what he wanted.

Sindo had already found what he was looking for. Noldo really wanted to be free from her. Sindo looked again, and again to be sure, but it was true.

Hope gave him joy, and joy gave him color and humor. For a while he was his old self again. Mallie and Doldo wondered why, but thought it best not to ask, crediting it to Noldo's mysterious talk with him that morning on the west hilltop. They hoped the boys had come to some sort of understanding.

Early autumn

Mallie was asleep beside Doldo in the newly dug room, with Noldo snoring soundly out by the doorway. Sindo hesitantly approached her. "Mother."

She stirred.

"Ssshhh. Mother? "

She sat up. "What is it, dear?"

"I think you should come talk to Lorien."

Her eyebrows shot up. "Is something wrong?"

"I don't think so, " Sindo said, "But she's afraid, a little, and confused."

Mallie's curiosity was piqued, and with a quick glance at her husband, she rose swiftly and left the hut. "Take me to her."

She was on the edge of the woods, with her arms crossed over her abdomen. Mallie thought she could guess. "You go to bed, dear, unless I call you, " she told Sindo.

The next several days, Mallie and Lorien were never far from each other. "She's not a little girl anymore, " was all Mallie would say. Lorien was much quieter than usual.

Doldo took the opportunity to go hunting with his boys. Noldo was delighted, and felt as if old times had returned at last. He wished Lorien would remain this quiet indefinitely. But within a week she was her old self again, almost. But not quite. Mallie understood the difference. Doldo was afraid of it. Sindo sensed it, and it grieved and enchanted him at the same time. But Noldo simply saw it, and tried unsuccessfully not to think about it.

Mid-Autumn

Sindo and Noldo knelt side by side, stringing the rabbits to carry them back home. There were plenty. The hillsides had been positively teeming with small game since late summer, and there was no lack. The afternoon was fine and hot, and neither of them relished the long walk back to the ponies under the large collections of warm furry corpses, so they dallied. Noldo studied his brother.

"Sindo, how are you?"

Silence.

"You seemed so happy for a while. What has happened?"

Sindo looked away, angry and sullen.

"Come on. Tell me." Noldo waited, and time went by, and Sindo showed no signs of opening up. Noldo set the rabbits aside and sat by his brother and waited.

Sindo let him wait. Noldo stirred a few times, but resettled.

After a while Sindo gave a little laugh. "You must really want to know."

"Yes, I do," Noldo replied.

"All right, " Sindo said, his face suddenly twisting with grief. "All right. I've tried, and tried, and tried to win her. But I can't. The more I express my love for her, the more she expresses her love for you. Every time I touch her mind now, she shows me yet one more clear and tangible reason why she loves you. And it's always something the opposite of what I am, that I could never be or do. I can't stand it anymore. I can hardly make myself try." He gave in to despair and wept.

Noldo slumped, and then dropped backwards onto the grass, and stared at the sky. He had honestly wanted his younger brother to be happy, to have what he wanted. It had seemed so simple. He hated the pain coursing through his younger brother, and wanted to stop it, but had no idea how. His powerlessness over the girl made him angry and so did his own powerlessness to change anything, or to protect his brother; he was angry at Lorien for hurting Sindo, at his brother for failing to win Lorien, at his father for keeping them out here in this God-forsaken moor, and furious at the elves for not coming to find her. But all the anger had nowhere to go. He felt weak, and defeated, and weary, and he turned the anger inward and raged at himself until he was numb inside.

Sindo was numb all over. His brother's failure to express compassion did not go unnoticed by him. He quietly took up his catch of rabbits, shouldered them, and shaking slightly, began walking back to the ponies.

If the other two ponies followed Sindo home, Noldo would have a very long walk. Noldo dragged himself upright, picking up the rabbits, and followed Sindo through what had become, despite the sunshine, a very bleak world.

*******
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Beleriand, Beleriand,
the borders of the Elven-land.
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