Now Lost, Lost to Those From the East, Is Valimar!
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 11, Part 221
A Different Kind of Storm
August 4, 1452
Frodo dressed for the day’s work–which had, once again, become work for the daylight hours most hospitable to men and their close relations. The rains had slowly eroded the heat of summer down to a bearable level, where laborers need not faint beneath the sun’s rays. Not that many of such rays leaked through at the moment, for a thunderstorm had not quite spent itself on the village yet. Rain pelted the new glass windows, and faint light flashed outside , followed by a distant rumbling.
Mattie’s sleepy voice said, “Tell me you are not going out into that.”
“I am not. Even now it heads off to the ocean. We should have clear skies in no time.”
“You be careful today, you hear? You’re still limping.”
“I’ve noticed. I do feel fit for work, however.” He smiled over at her; his heart warmed to see her there, curled up within the gauzy bed with her hair all mussy.
“How’s the foot?” she asked him.
“It feels like a man-sized horse stepped on it, but I can walk on it, nonetheless.”
“Any shortness of breath? Twitching? Eyes rolling in your head?”
“Don’t blame me; Eowyn told me to watch for those things.”
“And what about yourself?” Frodo asked. “What do you plan to do today?”
Mattie sat up, yawned, and stretched, then pushed the curtain aside to reach for her comb. “Pearl has some ideas about opening up a tea-shop next to the bakery. She asked if I might want to help her out with it for pay, when I have no other engagements, you know, keep an eye on things, provide music, maybe help pour tea. She envisions a wholesome sort of place, where...”
“...where people like me could just...”
“Like us, you mean to say.”
“...could just relax, socialize...”
“Feel almost normal. In a make-believe pub.”
“Frodo, you are taking this too personally!”
“And you do not?”
Mattie laid down her comb to stare at him. “Yes, I take it personally. I know precisely what I am, and what I have been, and where I would still be if I did not daily ask for the Valar and the Maiar to send me strength. And Frodo, my gratitude knows no end.” The thunder made her voice seem small. But he heard her clear enough.
Frodo stared out the window, to a view so blurred by rain that he did not at first recognize what he saw. “Did Pearl say she would meet you here?”
“Because she’s coming straight to our door. Through the storm. Running.”
Mattie quickly pulled on skirt and tunic. “If lightning flashed all around me, I’d run, too.”
Frodo leaped down the stairs before the pounding on the door began, and unbarred it while Pearl drew back her fist to pound some more. “Come in, dry yourself! We have spare towels...”
“Frodo, ‘tis Lanethil! He needs help.” Without even stepping out of the rain she shouted over his head, “Elenaril! Fishenchips! Lady Eowyn! Gwaithendil! I needs all the leeches I can get!” Her teeth chattered between shouts as though an icy rainstorm of the north had drenched her, not the weather of the south. Voices collided upstairs as the whole household awoke, and men and women hurried down the spiral, still tugging clothing into place and combing hair as they went, blear-eyed and puzzled. Nibs called down, “Go on ahead, good folks–I shall come by with breakfast for you all as soon as I can manage it.” Buttoning his shirt, he headed straight for the kitchen while the rest grabbed hats and scarves or pulled on boots.
“I’ll watch Spring,” Mattie volunteered.
Elenaril reached out until she felt Pearl’s soft shoulder. “What seems to be the matter?”
“Blamed if I know, ma’am, but he’s in a bad way, me man is. Oh, I fear for me life coming to bring ye all, but he can blast me all he wants, blast me to death in his delirium if he cannot help it, but I will not see him die!”
Now they all hurried out the door, the storm notwithstanding, Frodo hobbling as fast as he could to keep up. “Where is he?” Frodo asked, despite the blast of weather in his face. “Your place? The smithy?”
“Neither,” she said breathlessly, starting to run. “The old glassworks.”
Elenaril took Pearl’s arm so as to run with her, her cane gripped in her hand. “What did you mean,” she asked, “When you spoke of him ‘blasting’ you?”
“Some sort o’ powerful sumpin’ as can come out o’ him betimes, like lightnin’, or like a gale, or a burst o’ dark feelin’s burnin’ straight through ye, or I dunno what. Things shatter when his feelin’s get worked up.” Lightning flashed over her words. “Things burst inter flame, or crumple up, or hurl about the room, or do all sorts o’ things as go against their natures. That crown he pried from th’skull has given him strange powers.”
Eowyn exclaimed, “The crown dug up in the field! That accursed thing? He has it? What folly is this?”
“The folly o’ pity for ye yerself, beggin’ yer pardon, milady. The mayor gave it him, just wanted him t’find a safe way to strip the gold offen the base metal beneath, and that he did, soon enough, yet the power remained in the crown without th’gildin’, as it were. He knew that if he put it on but once, he could gain some understandin’ o’ the evil done to ye, even wrench his way inter it t’twist it inside out, enough t’fix ye, so he did that, and took off th’crown agin right after.”
They veered around the corner, splashing through puddles so that Frodo’s feet felt strangely icy in the morning heat, and the cloth of his tunic slapped wet around his legs as he ran. “See, annerbody wearin’ that thing can unnerstand the heart o’evil, to the bone.” The cold eased Frodo’s swollen foot, yet still he fell more and more behind with every limp. “Lani told me about that–how Sauron made it fer a woman who had said he didn’t love her unless he gave her full unnerstandin’ o’ his heart, such as it was, and a wee taste of his power. So he granted her wish, yet hated her fer wantin’ to know him rather than believe his lies. And so she died o’ the thing that she desired.” The rain had started to fade back, but now suddenly it dropped down on them harder than ever. And the thunder crashed.
Through drenched and windblown locks Eowyn shouted over the storm, “Yet Lanethil healed me weeks ago. Why has he sickened of this so late?”
“Because it weren’t the last time. He kept wantin’ to fix everthin’ in sight, all at’s wrong with Seaside, kept puttin’ it on and puttin’ it on, t’see the roots o’ various evils and to wrench ‘em up. But after awhile he couldn’t tell where those bad things left off and he began.”
They ran some ways before she went on. “He got cranky, Lani did, and then he got mean, and then he...hurt me.” Frodo could not help but gasp, though the wind whipped the small sound away. None could tell whether rain or tears ran down the baker’s cheeks. “At first I took it,” she admitted, “figgerin’, ‘Well, he ain’t so different from other men after all, but he’s still better’n some I might’ve had. But it did seem strange t’me, him not bein’ him at all, if ye take me meaning. And then, after awhile, neither could the crown tell where it left off and Lanethil began, and things got out o’ hand.”
“What do you mean?” Elenaril insisted.
“That thing don’t budge. It latched onto him over time, latched on good. He hasn’t pried it off for quite some while, now. He don’t sleep. He wrestles with hisself, tryin’ not to blast out harm. He wants no one t’come near him lest he do them mischief, yet he cannot bear t’part with me entire, and I cannot bear to leave him in this state.” Lightning flashed in her eyes as she gave Eowyn a pleading look. “This morning I woke to see blood tricklin’ down his brow and I just couldn’t take no more of it. I just had t’break his rule and fetch him help.”
As they ran ahead of him, Frodo called out to Pearl, “Has Lanethil ever told you what he really is?”
“What he...what d’ye mean, Frodo?” They all stopped while he hobbled up to where he could speak to them more clearly, his stung foot throbbing.
“Elenaril,” Frodo said, clasping the blind woman’s free arm. “I am no healer, nor have I ever taken the vows of one, so you will have to forgive me for breaking confidence and telling a patient’s medical secrets, but Lanethil is an elf.” Many gasps surrounded him, yet Eldarion only nodded. “One of the Moriquendi, and a former slave of Sauron’s, though never broken to his will.”
He could barely hear Fishenchips’ quiet voice through the thunder and the pounding rain. “Nobody ever taught me annerthing t’do with healin’ elves, mate.”
“Let us hurry,” Eldarion insisted, and they ran again. “We have no time to lose.” Frodo began to fall behind once more, but then Eldarion went back and scooped him up, muddy feet and all. “Stay with us, Frodo–for my heart tells me that you have a role as important as any healer in this strait.” Louder, the prince declared, “Heed me, everyone. Whatever befalls the land befalls Lanethil, and whatever should hap to Lanethil shall soon befall the land. Or have you not seen that the storm that should have passed by now has grown stronger and more violent instead?” And indeed a flash of lightning illuminated his meaning all too clearly.
Ahead, in the old glassworks, lightning–or its seeming-cousin–of a different sort flashed ahead of them, in a sickly, greenish hue, now flickering, now blazing, through the cracks in the boards across the windows.