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With Springtime Comes Hope

With Springtime Comes Hope
Title: With Springtime Comes Hope
Author Name: Ignoble Bard
Prompt: Tuilérë
Summary: Elros looks back on a spring day from his childhood with Maglor and Maedhros
Rating: Teen
Warnings: None


I strongly encourage you to read “A Sad Tale is Best for Winter” here: http://b2mem.livejournal.com/261646.html?thread=3574030 before sampling this tale. I also want to express my gratitude to Oshun for not only sharing her impressive and beautiful storyverse with me, but also for betaing this tale. I dedicate this to her and her tragic, always fascinating, but not beyond redemption Maedhros.

Beta: The indefatigable Oshun who not only shaped this story with her beta skills but shaped it with her B2Me entry as well.

Author's Notes: When I heard about the B2Me challenge this year and found out Oshun was writing a winter story I got delusions of grandeur and attempted to write a story that is a mirror image of hers. Her story is the winter and mine is the spring, covering the same timeframe and characters. Whereas she has written from the point of view of Elrond, mine is from that of Elros.


~***~



"Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.

"Here the sun shineth
Most shadily;
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be." – Spring Quiet, Christina Rossetti



Foothills of the Andram Highlands, Eastern Beleriand, First Age 540

The morning sky was a clear, crisp blue. The sun shone for the first time in a fortnight, melting the last stubborn clumps of snow. Spring was finally here. After our Yule celebration the winter had dragged on far too long. The only thing that made it bearable was the change in Maedhros’s mood. The dark circles under his eyes faded a bit, his spirits lifted, sometimes he would even sing along with Maglor. He sang in rich, full tones that were nothing like his usual soft-spoken voice, much to my surprise. I was happy he was better, but distrustful that it would last.

On that beautiful spring day, when the grass was green and the sun was shining, a perfect day to play in the meadow, run around like young colts or explore in the woods, what were Elrond and I doing? We were going through a sword drill with Erestor. It didn’t help that Elrond was making everything so dull with his earnestness and that I was tired of lessons. We had been studying since after breakfast: math, history, penmanship. Then Erestor insisted on sword practice to work off the energy he could see we’d been building up all morning.

Elrond was feeling restless too. I could tell he was thinking of something else as Erestor demonstrated the moves. He always seemed to be thinking of something else in those days. Sometimes he would just stare at Maedhros like there was a puzzle there to solve. I had noticed a subtle shift in Elrond’s mood since our Yule celebration when he and Maedhros had made our lovely spice cakes. He still tended to be quiet, even tentative, around the adults but he was becoming more open. A little bolder. More likely to speak up, especially in Maedhros’s presence. Maedhros had changed too. He smiled more often, was less distracted, even traded barbs with Erestor on occasion.

We took our positions, raising our wooden swords for battle. He lunged at me and I sidestepped, slapping him on the backside with the flat of my sword as his momentum carried him though. I had seen Maglor do the same to Erestor once in their practice and thought it was beyond funny. Erestor thought it less so, as did Elrond now.

He turned on me, his eyes flashing, at the same moment Erestor admonished me for my “buffoonery”. I didn’t point out to Erestor that I’d learned the move, though indirectly, from him, but neither was I stung by his reprimand. It was part of the game as far as I was concerned. Erestor always managed to get his share of attention among the adults so I was determined to get mine between me and Elrond. Most of the time I did.

Elrond raised his sword into the first position, ready to go again. I prepared myself for his attack, which I thought would be sloppy since he was so angry. He didn’t come at me though but rather played me out, feinting until I was batting at his sword like a woodchopper chasing a fly with an axe, while he danced just out of my reach. Then suddenly his sword shot beneath my arm and delivered a solid blow to my ribs. If he had followed through with the thrust I would have been severely bruised but be showed me mercy. Even as a child he was honorable.

More surprised than hurt, I shrieked like I’d been murdered which brought Maglor to the doorway in an instant. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Elrond cringe a little. If I hadn’t felt sorry for him I would have laughed at his mortified expression.

When Maglor saw there was no blood, just me all bent over holding my side. He gave Erestor an exasperated look. “What is going on here? I thought you were teaching them the sword, not the pike.”

“They were getting bored with lessons so I thought a little sparring in the fresh air would do them good. I didn’t know they would try to kill each other.” He frowned at me and I pretended to be sorry.

“It was my fault,” I said. “I was just horsing around a little and I made Elrond mad.” It was one of my tricks to quickly take the blame then just as quickly try to shift it to my brother. Elrond may have been smarter, but I was more devious, although there was no malice behind it.

People believe children to be resilient, and they are to a point, but they are also affected on a deep level, in ways not always visible. This affect is even more profound in younger children who have not developed the maturity to properly express their grief. I had been horrified to see our mother fling herself from a cliff, falling to certain death, leaving us alone for the final time to two wild-looking men with swords. The smell of smoke and the feeling of the cold metal of Maglor’s armor through my thin tunic as he carried me away that terrible day were etched in my memory as clearly as our mother’s fatal leap. Sometimes it bothered me that my strongest memory of her was the final one.

Whereas the shock had made Elrond thoughtful, it made me a handful. I couldn’t have explained why I did the things I did, I only knew it felt good to force a reaction sometimes. Even the powerless can find ways to exert control.

“I wasn’t mad,” Elrond broke in, “you were the one swinging your sword around. You could have knocked my head off.”

Maglor came over and Erestor lifted my shirt to check me out. There was no broken skin, just a little red mark. It didn’t even hurt much. “Well, it looks like you’re none the worse,” Erestor said. “But just to be safe we’ll do practice drills instead of sparring.”

I groaned, and not because of my “injury”. I was hoping we’d be let off the hook for lessons if I acted hurt enough, but Erestor saw through that. I looked over to see Maedhros standing in the doorway. He was the most imposing person I have ever known, and incredibly beautiful, but his moodiness could be extremely disconcerting. Mainly because of how quiet everyone got when he brooded, and how the household seemed to release a collective sigh when he showed any sign of cheer. He could have been a king they said, but gave it up. I thought that was a lie. Nobody would give up being a king. I know I wouldn’t.

He and Elrond were looking at each other when Maedhros gave him a little smile.

“Maybe it’s time for a break from lessons,” he said. “You can start again after lunch.”

I was never more grateful to him than at that moment. Erestor made a half-hearted grunt of assent and waved his hand in dismissal.

“Come on, Elrond!” I shouted, and ran off into the clearing.

Elrond hesitated for only an instant before he shot off after me.

“Stay in the clearing!” Maglor called. “Don’t go into the woods alone.”

I laughed and called to Elrond over my shoulder, “He thinks we’re babies.” I slowed down well short of the treeline though. Elrond did too.

I stood panting, looking into the trees, hoping to see a deer or even a fox. Sometimes in the early morning deer would come out into the clearing. Lohtë, the woman who looked after us sometimes, had promised to teach us archery and I always imagined myself shooting my first deer out here. It would be easy on the open ground.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Elrond looking back at the house. For some reason this irritated me. I grabbed him around the neck and instigated a wrestling match. He hooked a foot behind mine, tripping me. We fell heavily with him on his back on top of me. I tried to roll over so I could get out from under him but he jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow, right where the sword had struck. I let out a little yelp, letting him go. He jumped to his feet and kicked my leg.

“What did you do that for?” he demanded.

It didn’t matter which transgression he was referring to, the answer was always the same. “I don’t know.”

“You got us both muddy. Now we’ll get in trouble and we won’t get to come out again for a week.” Elrond could be dramatic at times.

“It was me who got us out here to begin with,” I said smugly. “You didn’t want to practice either. I could tell. You were somewhere else.”

“I was just thinking.”

“You think too much.”

“And you don’t think enough.”

It was the same argument we always had. I could have crushed him with a few stinging words but this time I was the one to show mercy.

“You’re probably right,” I said. “Let’s go to the stream and see if the frogs have woke up yet.”

As it turned out, Maglor and Erestor only scolded us a little. We took a bath, changed our clothes, finished our lessons, then took Lohtë out to the meadow to show her the profusion of wildflowers just beginning to poke their heads from the ground. She named them for us then translated the names into Quenya. I knew Elrond would remember, he always did, and Erestor would be pleased and praise him.

“Look what I can do,” I shouted, and turned a cartwheel, then another. Lohtë clapped and pulled me into a hug. I grinned from ear to ear.

The evening was cooling rapidly so we all headed for the house. Just before the sun went down, Erestor and Lohtë went into the woods and returned a short time later with several jars of honey. The bees were still torpid from the cold so the gathering was easy, Erestor said. I pouted because they hadn’t asked me and Elrond to go with them.

Elrond tried to cheer me up by saying, “Maybe we could have honey cakes tomorrow. The oven we made is still in the forge.”

“Perhaps,” Maedhros replied. “Have you developed an interest in baking, Elrond?”

Elrond flushed a little. “Yes, sir. It’s fun.”

“Can I help too?” I asked. Maglor opened his mouth to speak but I cut in quickly. “I mean, may I help too, please?”

“Certainly,” Maedhros said. “Every boy should know how to cook.”

Elrond didn’t show it, but I could tell from the way he lowered his head and dropped the subject he was not happy with the suggestion.

~***~


The next morning I thought everyone had forgotten. We had breakfast and lessons as usual. Lohtë came by in the afternoon and told us a story and then Erestor drilled us with the swords again. I took it seriously this time because I was trying to impress Lohtë. Elrond was giving the lessons only half his attention. He had been moody since last night. We did well though; I was improving my parry and Elrond was improving his attack. Our last bout had made him more determined to learn. At least that’s what I thought. Then something over my shoulder caught his eye and distracted him, causing him to lower his sword. I could have won but I didn’t want to take advantage of his inattentiveness. I lowered my sword too.

“I’m tired,” I whined to Erestor. “Can we do something else?”

I turned to see what Elrond was looking at and saw a flash of red hair disappear into the forge.

“As it happens, I was about to suggest the same thing,” he said. “You both worked hard today and have been very good, so Maedhros suggested we cut the lessons short and make those honey cakes Elrond suggested.”

Elrond broke into a shy smile. I shouted “Hurrah!” loud enough to be heard several settlements away.

We ran to the forge to discover that everything was laid out and ready for our big baking project. Elrond and Maedhros had made the spice cakes for Yule but I had never tried anything like this before. I found the whole enterprise very exciting and when I was excited I tended to act impulsively, so what happened next was no surprise.

My job was to crack the eggs into a bowl. Maedhros showed me how to do it and of course he used his one hand. He explained to me that I should use both hands to make sure I didn’t crush the egg or get eggshells in the bowl. I cracked the first one and it went so well I thought I’d try to do it like Maedhros had done. I did all right until the shell opened but then it began to slip. I instinctively squeezed, crushing it and it dropped it into the bowl, eggshells and all. I could see Maedhros was helping Elrond with the honey. Neither of them had noticed, so I was frantically picking the eggshells out of the bowl when Maedhros called out, “How is it going?”

Startled, I whirled around. The bowl crashed to the floor behind me, shattering with the sound of a bolt of lightning. I froze. Maedhros scowled. More in in sympathy than disapproval I’m sure. Then I looked at Elrond and he was practically in tears. I knew then I’d ruined everything. I felt bad because it was at that moment that it sank in why Elrond wanted to bake the honey cakes. He wanted to spend time with Maedhros alone like he had at Yule. Elrond didn’t want me there and, suddenly, I didn’t want to be there either.

“I – I’m sorry,” I stammered, looking at Elrond. “I’m sorry,” repeated, then ran out the door.

I ran past the house and across the clearing, not sure where I was going, blinking back tears. I wouldn’t cry, I wouldn’t! I ran to the stream and kicked at the pebbles on the bank. I found a large, mossy stone and flung it into the water as hard as I could. It created a satisfyingly huge splash, then sank to the bottom. Angry with myself, feeling guilty for messing up, disappointing everyone, I sniffled and sat down on the bank.

The stream now flowed around my stone like it was a small underwater island, continuing by at its slow pace. The spring air was fresh and sweet, the sunlight glinted off the water, a couple of silver fish swam by. A whisper of the sea was in that stream, I could swear it. Erestor had taught us how the streams met up with rivers, how the rivers flowed to the sea. I only vaguely remembered the sea, how it looked, how it smelled, but I thought it the most wonderful place for my Ada had loved it so.

I thought of Ada, sailing his big ship all over the world. A longing welled up in me so strong it seemed to fill my whole body. I wished I was with him right now, on a big ship, on an adventure. A song Nana used to sing me rose to my lips, “Here the sun shineth, most shadily. Here is heard an echo of the far sea, though far off it be. . .” A comforting hand rested on my shoulder and I looked up to see Maglor standing there with a kind smile.

“It’s all right, Elros, no one is mad. Come back, you can still help.”

“I don’t think I want to today, if it’s all the same to Maedhros.”

“He won’t mind,” Maglor said. “He and Elrond are handling things well enough, and you still have time to learn, plenty of time.” He sat down beside me, pulling his long legs up to his chest and ruffling my hair. “Where did you hear that song?”

“Nana used to sing it to me when I was sad.”

“It’s a lovely song, but you might not want to sing it around Maedhros. It can be our song. What do you say?”

I smiled up at him. “I would like that a lot.”

He put his arm around me, like a father might do. I snuggled beneath his arm, warmth spreading outward from my chest. Now I had something of my own, something I didn’t have to share with Elrond. It made me feel for the first time like the worst had passed.

~***~


Armenelos, Númenor – Second Age, 82

Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou liv’st
Live well; how long or short permit to heaven – John Milton, Paradise Lost


Flowers of every color and variety imaginable adorned the garden, even bursting from the ornamental hedges neatly shaped and trimmed according to my wife’s directions. Their perfume filled the air with familiar and exotic scents, some only to be found here and in Aman. Yellow, blue and orange butterflies flitted from blossom to blossom drinking sweet nectar. The place was finally coming into its own after years of planting, tending, and grafting. In fact, this just might be the most beautiful tuilérë I had seen in many a year.

Tables had been set up on the west lawn, their dazzlingly white linen tablecloths gleaming in the bright sunlight festooned with centerpieces of fresh fruit and edible flowers. Plates of blueberry tarts and sweet cream competed for attention with salmon crepes and cold duck canapés. Servers moved among the guests with glasses of sparkling wine and a variety of fruit punches concocted by the kitchen staff. Children squealed and dashed over the lawn, chasing and tumbling about like wild things while their parents chatted and cast watchful eyes upon their exuberant charges.

I deeply inhaled the spring air, redolent with new flowers, memory taking me back to a homely little house on the edge of a wood and a youth happier than it had any right to be under the circumstances. I thought of Elrond and his fascination with Maedhros, a fascination that had grown into something more as we aged.

I never truly understood that part of him, the ability to love so sincerely, so wholeheartedly a man as damaged as the beautiful Fëanorian. There were things we shared, not only life events, for twins have an ability to read each other that appears uncanny to some, but pieces of our souls. Yet there were things we could never share, and Maedhros was one of those.

Neither do I think Elrond ever understood my devotion to the parents who abandoned us, nor do I think he ever fully forgave me for my choice to be counted among the Edain. We discussed these matters a few times, the last before we gave Eonwë our answers, but came no closer to understanding each other’s point of view. I ended up bonding with Maglor and Erestor, even Lohtë, whom I sought to impress far longer than was healthy, but never developed a bond with Maedhros. Maybe it was partially because I knew my brother loved him so and I knew Elrond had to have something of his own, even as I did.

I spotted my lovely wife chatting with our oldest son and strolled across the lawn to hear their conversation. Findëcalien was wearing a nosegay upon her golden hair, looking for all the world like the young maid who had caught my eye on a spring day not unlike this one many years ago.

“Come, have a glass of wine. It won’t hurt you to let loose a little,” she was saying to Vardamir.

“You know I can’t stand alcohol. It clouds judgement and degrades rational thought,” he replied.

His temperance was admirable, but the poor fellow seemed to have no social life aside from other scholars. It saddened me at times that he preferred books to sailing or politics. Still, he was a fine man and I knew he had the seeds of greatness in him.

“Besides,” he continued, “you should look to Manwendil, he is far too reckless.”

A look of worry crossed his mother’s face and she glanced across the lawn to where Vardamir’s younger brother was chatting with a friend. Whereas our oldest was a scholar, our younger son was the adventurous type. He loved to sail and explore, dashing into sometimes dangerous situations without thinking things through. I fretted about him as much as his mother but was proud of his achievements. Vardamir may have had my old habit of turning the tables on his siblings when things got too hot for him but Manwendil was more like me in temperament.

“Don’t change the subject,” Findëcalien began but then music floated over the lawn, a sweet, airy tune. “Very well,” she relented. “Enjoy the day as you like. Your father and I will do the same.”

She stood and took my arm. Vardamir gave her a smile and a little bow as we departed.

We walked across the lawn, greeting guests and chatting with members of the court until we ended up at one of the laden tables. A sprightly tune was playing and people began to dance.

Lindalëion, our court minstrel, was the best in Númenor. He did not have Maglor’s skill with a lute, but then I never found any musician to compare with Maglor. His voice was a light tenor, always pitched to capture the right emotional tone. He was a talented, humble man. There was no instrument he couldn’t play and he wrote the most beautiful love songs. He had written one for our anniversary last year that brought tears to my eyes each time I heard it.

I looked at the offerings on the buffet table and selected a strawberry tart with sweet cream. Then my eyes fell upon the honey cakes, perfectly round and glazed to perfection. I remembered how much I had loved the cakes Elrond and Maedhros had made that day. It was many years after until I tasted the light, sweet pastries again, for although I loved them I had eaten so many I got sick and threw up on Lohtë dress.

I put the tart back and picked up the honey cake instead. The taste was divine. It was Maedhros’s recipe. As it turned out I did get another chance to learn baking, and the honey cakes were always my favorite. Even more than the spice cakes of Yule. I studiously wrote the recipe in one of my notebooks and carried it with me ever after. Clinging to the comforts of home, I suppose. And I thought Elrond the sentimental one.

Findëcalien broke off a piece of the cake, popping the morsel in her mouth with a wink. “You look like you’re thinking hard. Are you concerned about the children?”

“Not this time. In point of fact I was reliving some very old memories.”

“Pleasant ones I hope.”

I smiled and put my arm around her. “Yes, some very pleasant ones indeed.”

I took another bite of the cake and pulled her close to me. Lindalëion began to play a familiar tune on his lute. My song. Our song. Maglor learned the tune, even embellished it with a few extra verses. He had played and sang it countless times, for and with me, always out of earshot of Maedhros. It always made me feel safe and loved.

Lindalëion’s voice rose liltingly on the breeze. “Here dwell in safety, here dwell alone. . . Here is heard an echo of the far off sea. . .”

My heart swelled to hear the words. I had spent my life in love with the idea of the sea, and my first opportunity to sail had been the most exciting of my life. Now, living within the beautiful city I helped create and am blessed to rule, on an island in the vast ocean, I was finally home. Despite our losses, our hardships, we were survivors Elrond and I. He chose to bind himself eternally to the land and people he loved while I chose the freedom of the ephemeral, of the unknowable beyond. Our questing natures may have led us to different fates, but our bond endures.

For what is life but transience and change? Even an Elf can’t stay the march of time, try though they might. It is how we live, what we create, what we teach that is our legacy, finally, and our comfort. I could see them all in my mind’s eye, those I will always hold dear: Maglor with his kind eyes and quiet strength, Erestor, cheeky but with endless patience, sweet-natured Lohtë, even brooding Maedhros and his delicious honey cakes. No matter the distance, the weight of years, the changes forced upon us by time and circumstance, I remain grateful to two gallant, tragic men, preserved forever in fond memory, deathless and indomitable.


tuilérë – spring day (Sindarin)

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
chaotic_binky
Aug. 11th, 2014 05:28 pm (UTC)
A beautiful story. I have read Oshun's “A Sad Tale is Best for Winter” and it is good to see more. I really enjoyed your story and wonder if you were a naughty boy when young, simply because you know so much about how they think.
ignoblebard
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Binky. Oshun's story was so good and inspirational. I'm glad you enjoyed this follow up, it was fun to write naughty Elros.

As for meme, I suppose it depends on who you ask how naughty *I* was. I definitely knew how to get my share of attention. :-)
heartofoshun
Aug. 12th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
I wrote a long note here and LJ ate it. Lovely story and it is an honor to have it linked to mine!
ignoblebard
Aug. 14th, 2014 01:44 pm (UTC)
I've been meaning to post this to my LJ for a while but between one thing and another I didn't. Obviously there would have been no story without your amazing Yule tale. I'm honored you let me play in your universe. Thanks for your comments and friendship.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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