Now Lost, Lost to Those From the East, Is Valimar!
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 12, Part 222
Lanethil in Trouble
August 5, 1452
They reached the old glassworks, still boarded up, still locked. Yet strange green lights flashed through the cracks between the boards over the windows and about the edges of the door, and they thought that they could hear a sort of choked-up chanting within. While the others caught their breath, Eldarion set Frodo down and took the lock in hand. “I am principally human,” he admitted in a murmur for Frodo’s ears alone, “and I do not know if I can make my mother’s arts work for us here. But I will do my best.” He closed his eyes, still holding the lock, murmuring words of command in an ancient tongue. Rain poured off of him like sweat, drenching his long, black hair, and still he stood, his brow furrowed with concentration. A spark finally crackled through the lock, yet when he yanked at it nothing happened. “I cannot,” he murmured, and stumbled back with glassy eyes. “I cannot.”
Even as the prince blinked and came back to himself, they all heard the chant take on an agonizing tone. “Let’s try sumpin’ else, mates,” Fishenchips suggested. “Everbody stand back, now.” He stepped back, himself, a considerable distance, then went running towards the door, shouting, “Arrrrrrrrgh!” like a madman as he took a flying leap and kicked the old door down with a loud crash. The lock remained fast to the lintel, but the rest of the door parted company with it in a splintery heap.
“Old wood,” he said, brushing himself off. “Full o’ termites. Ya can see so much termite dust below that the threshold’s buried in it.”
The chanting did not falter for an instant. As they squeezed through the splinters to come in out of the rain, wood-dust settling only slowly around them, a great, rusting bin of sand blocked their view of most of the warehouse, yet to either side they could see hectic green lights fluttering around in the dimness. Afraid of what they might discover, they came around the bin and found Lanethil himself.
The smith now wore the iron crown, stripped of its gilding, its emeralds gleaming like the eyes of evil things and casting off a sickly glow, making still more ghastly, for all its elvish beauty, the gauntness of his face. In that light the stripes of blood that streamed down his brow, over his cheeks and eyes, looked black from where it issued from beneath the crown’s tight rim. In a shaking hand Lanethil held a giant crystal, maybe white, pointed to his own heart, and his chant grew hoarser and more desperate.
With a shock Frodo gripped the lens about his neck–he knew that chant! Changed the words might be, into the oldest of elvish dialects, yet he had heard it before in the dwarvish tongue at the healing of Legolas. Lighting burst overhead and Lanethil cried out in pain as though stricken through the roof, but then resumed his chant, now stamping his feet in time. The crystal held a tiny spark of light within its depths, but it flickered on the verge of going out. Another bolt of lightning made the elf scream, and the spark went out completely, but came back when he resumed his chant, weaker than before, so faint that Frodo doubted anyone could see that glimmer save for him.
“Pearl,” Frodo whispered, “Run–run as fast as you can and bring everyone who loves Lanethil here. Once you gather them, have them form a circle around Lanethil and concentrate on every good thing that he means for them. Tell them to hold hands–it’s a matter of life and death that they not let go!”
“Until I...no, until Gwaithendil says when. He will know, if anything happens to me.” For it came to Frodo that this would not go as easily as the cleansing on the eaves of Treegarth.
It seemed to Frodo to take forever for Pearl to get everyone together, yet Pearl moved more swiftly than anyone would have expected of the chubby woman, and those she told ran for others, and the village was not all that large. Even so, he did not wait for her return to begin what he must do. As soon as he understood which words to repeat, he took up the chant, singing it louder and more forecefully than Lanethil could do. His hand went by instinct to the Lens of May. He found himself holding it up, focusing a light that he doubted anyone else could see, condensed into a pinpoint of heat, onto the crystal that Lanethil held. By the time the friends of Lanethil had arrived they found Frodo not only singing but also stamping to the beat (now that Lanethil’s legs could barely twitch to the rhythm) as he held up a glimmering lens in his brown hobbit hand.
Nibs and Mattie hastened to either side of Frodo and gripped his shoulders, while linking with the rest around the smith. Frodo did not look up to see who else might have come; he only felt it when enough had gathered to complete the round. Then a surge passed through him and sustained itself, a thrumming, living energy converging on his heart and merging into a single filament of power, which passed through his arm and hand out into the lens that focused it, straight into the core of Lanethil’s crystal pointed at the dark elf’s heart. New light welled up from the stone, driving back some of the greener glow. Lanethil’s fair face lost its monstrous cast, yet it still looked pale, far too pale for a desert-dweller, and now the streaks shone red.
It hurt, what Frodo had to do. With every stamp the pain lanced up from his poisoned foot like blasts of lightning mirroring the storm outside. Yet somehow his suffering mingled with and strengthened what he did, in jolts of reckless love. Briefly his thoughts went back to the courage of an elder dwarf, beating out this rhythm with arthritic joints...and then he blanked from his mind everything except for Lanethil. The elf’s full story replayed throughout his thoughts, now dwelling on this and now on that: his pity for his almost-brother orcs, his devotion to every wife that he had ever had, his defense of the oppressed, his stubborn love of beauty, and his dedication to the human race.
Frodo could not describe what happened next. Others told him that he stamped and chanted for hours, till blood marked the floor where the swollen flesh had finally split the skin, but it did not seem so long to him. He had entered a timeless state, driven by pain out of his body, where nothing existed save for the love-lightning that burned up through him till he knew that finally everyone in the room must see the pure, white beam which linked his lens to Lanethil’s crystal.
You cannot do it. I have woven this spell too tightly, to embrace and still more dearly embrace, to merge, to become one, with my darling, faithless lover.
Lanethil. Frodo dragged his focus back to Lanethil.
Oh, do not imagine that I failed to guard her carefully. Her body only ever belonged to me. But her mind? How else to keep that safe, except to bind it close in iron gilded with my love? Whence came these doubts, to wonder over what I might conceal? Did they not reveal some impurity of trust?
Lanethil. Now of all times he must not think of Sauron!
I never lied to her, Frodo. Even when she made me promise to grant her wish, I kept my word. I stayed faithful. The deceitful Valar claim that I do nothing good, yet I kept faith with her. Utterly. Perfectly. And I demanded perfection in return. She owed that to me, Frodo. I deserved her perfect trust.
Frodo thought of Lanethil and every frail, imperfect bride that he had ever cherished from their youth until their death, without asking any of them to try and become anything near approaching an elf, just be themselves, so that he treasured every final wrinkle, kissed the withered eyelids closed when time stole them one by one away. Lanethil knew love–and deserved it in return, deserved it from all of them, for heaven knew how much worse Mordor might have become without him, impervious maybe even to Yavanna’s help if not for one last, faithful voice to whisper hymns in praise of all things holy. One last heart, full of love indeed and no mere gilding over of possession, rich and tender love like a pocket of good soil in a rocky waste, where a far-blown seed of grace might fall.
Sauron’s voice faded away, softer and softer, until Frodo forgot that he had ever heard it. Only the chant went on, and all the love it carried. And Lanethil. Lanethil. Lanethil.
Frodo could not think in words, his mind entirely filled with the chant, yet some part of him knew beyond language that Lanethil did not passively await his own healing. Rather, Frodo could feel through the link between them how, with their help, Lanethil fought to regain control, to smash the influences not his own and be himself again. Actively the elf broke down the elements within the crown itself, struggling with all his ancient might to restore them to a harmless form so that they might go back into the earth again. To Frodo it seemed that, together, they poured the collected love of the gathering into tendrils of elvish will, which closed upon the ensorceled iron like invisible roots upon a clod.
A ruddy flush spread over the crown, and dulled its shine to matte. As they watched, the iron rusted before their eyes. The elf’s strained face grew tauter still, and the metal began to tremble. At the same time everyone now could see the mote of darkness deep within the plainly glowing crystal that he held. Frodo’s voice grew stronger, commanding, and the hand that held the lens refused to waver for any pain. All eyes fixed on Lanethil and concentrated harder than ever on their love for him.
Somewhere the storm blasted down a window’s wood, so that rain and wind whipped around them all. Not a one let go. Another window went down, in the opposite wall. Old machinery groaned in rusty voices at the push of violent air. The weather stripped the hat right off of Frodo’s head; he felt his clothes fan out in the gale and the temperature drop in the room till everyone shivered, and he felt their shivers quiver through him, and still he held the lens, and still they held each other, and still they bent their love towards Lanethil.
The light in the heart of the stone grew brighter and brighter, warring with the speck of darkness it contained, till suddenly not only did the crystal burst but so did the crown, shattering into an orange dust that the storm-driven drafts soon blew away. Lanethil cried out one loud, long wail that must have rung throughout the entire village, before he collapsed before them.
Frodo himself fell to his knees as the others let go on Eldarion’s command, surprised at his own exhaustion and the agony which throbbed clear up his leg and spine. His hand released the lens to drop back to his breast. All went dim in the warehouse again, yet still he could make out Pearl as a glow in the dark revealed to elflike sight, swabbing the blood from Lanethil’s face with her apron’s hem, making soft little sounds of concern over him, even as Frodo himself sagged into Mattie’s arms. The smith lay unconscious, his eyes blinking so slowly that they almost stayed closed entire, yet a smile played upon the lips, and Frodo saw that his chest rose and fell with a regularity of breath.
The rain softened to a patter on the roof above, and then left off entire. Frodo heard birds resume their songs, out in the sun-washed world. The pain seemed distant even as it overpowered him. Somebody gasped, “Garn, will ya look at his foot!” but he hardly cared. With his last strength Frodo told the others, “Send out word that none must plow the fields today, nor dig post-hole nor well, nor scoop up clay, nor disturb the earth in any way, until Lanethil wakes again.” Then he lost consciousness, himself.