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The moon waned as the month progressed until it became the new moon and began to wax again. Glorfindel seemed to lose more time, his memory playing him false, as the days went by seemingly in fits and starts. One moment he would swear it was midmorning on Monday and then he would turn around and it would be sunset on Thursday, and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the gaps that he suffered. Some were longer than others. Most of the time it seemed as if he were working on the Song of Power with Finrod, Gwyn and Gareth with only middling success, and only occasionally did he experience anything else.
At one point he clearly remembered joining Amroth and Nimrodel as they took the triplets to Santa’s Workshop for the day, riding the little train around the park, visiting the reindeer and helping one of the elflings to feed Dancer, standing before the ‘North Pole’, a solid block of ice even in the height of summer, while Amroth took his picture. But, for the most part, it was as if he were standing still while everything around him whirled about, reminding him of the scenes from the old Time Machine movie where the machine itself never moved but time itself went past with the time traveler stopping the machine every once in a while to take in the view.
Elladan and Elrohir came by once in a while when their duties at the hospital permitted, each complaining that they weren’t able to help with the ‘heist’, as Derek was wont to call it, though Gareth countered him with, “We are merely retrieving what is ours, not robbing a bank!”. Derek just grinned and said nothing. Glorfindel assured the Twins that they were doing important work in their own way.
“We don’t need more people getting involved in this project,” he told them. “Besides, I’m sure you’ll be more involved with things once we retrieve the talisman and decide what to do with it.”
And in all that time, as they waited for the full moon, no news came from any of their friends and family who had scattered after the attack on Edhellond. This worried more than one person, but no one was willing to speak of their fears out loud as they concentrated on their individual tasks, until, at one point, Daeron broached the subject.
“Laurendil should have been here by now, along with your son, Finrod,” he said to Glorfindel and Finrod when the three happened to be together, walking down the road toward Wilmington, though Glorfindel could not remember having left Amroth’s house nor did he know why the three of them were walking or where they were planning to go. He happened to glance idly around and saw that they were passing St. Margaret’s, the tiny Catholic Church, and were almost at the Candy Man Home-Made Adirondack Chocolates and Gift Shop that stood on the corner where Routes 86, 19 and 431 came together. Whiteface Mountain loomed before them, wreathed in clouds though the day was otherwise bright with blue skies and sun.
“Perhaps they were delayed,” Finrod replied with a shrug.
“Even if that were true,” Daeron countered, “they would have at least called or texted to let us know.”
“I haven’t received any text messages from anyone since we got here,” Glorfindel stated and now that he thought about it, it did seem odd that he had not heard from anyone. It was troubling, but there was precious little they could do about it. For safety’s sake, they had agreed that Glorfindel would not attempt to contact anyone unless absolutely necessary and even the few phone calls and text messages he had received as they crossed the continent had been brief to the point of being almost cryptic, merely letting him know that people were still alive and well. “Do you think I should try contacting people?” he asked somewhat doubtfully.
Finrod shook his head. “You will not be able to get through,” he said categorically.
Glorfindel stopped, feeling perplexed. “How can you know that?” he demanded.
Finrod and Daeron halted, both of them giving him strange looks. “How can we know what?” Daeron asked.
“Finrod. How can Finrod know that if I try to contact the others I won’t get through? I haven’t even tried.”
Finrod and Daeron exchanged puzzled looks before Finrod responded to Glorfindel’s question. “Gwador, I have said no such thing.”
“Look!” Daeron suddenly said, pointing to the sky. “It’s going to rain soon. We’d better get back to Amroth’s before we get soaked.”
Glorfindel looked to where the ellon was pointing, realizing that the bright sun had gone almost instantly, and now the sky was dark with thunderclouds. Without a word, Finrod and Daeron began retracing their steps. Glorfindel stood there for a moment gaping at the sky, wondering how the clouds had appeared so suddenly. “Almost as if on cue,” he said out loud, but he wasn’t sure what he meant by that, and turned to follow his friends back to Amroth’s.
He never remembered returning, though he thought he remembered being soaked long before they reached the turn-off to Owls Fly Way. His next memory was staring at his phone reading the words of a text sent to him by Gilvegil letting him know that Barahir and Cennanion had been killed in a freak car accident. Tears ran down his face unheeded as he read the words out loud to those gathered together. There was soft weeping from the ellith and muttered curses from the ellyn. The three Mortals in their midst had expressions bordering on bleak and Alex held Felicity close to him.
“Freak car accident?” Valandur hissed in anger. “Or the Enemy?”
“Does it matter?” Elrond asked, his expression one of pain. “The end result is the same.”
“What about Alfa and Daisy?” Nielluin asked from the comfort of Gareth’s arms.
“They are fine,” Glorfindel answered even as he sent his own text message to Gilvegil that consisted of a single word: Come.
“Eru! I can’t believe it!” Amroth exclaimed angrily. “They survive through all these ages only to die on some street in Chicago in a senseless accident? That is beyond ironic.”
“In the end, though, they may be the lucky ones,” Finrod said softly and Glorfindel could only nod in agreement.
A pall settled over them for some time and for a while, no one bothered with their preparations to retrieve the talisman; all were understandably subdued. The Mortals seemed to take it harder than the Elves and finally Alex decided they needed to get away for a few days, and so, he, Felicity and Derek rode off to Lake Placid, promising to be back by the weekend. Glorfindel watched them drive off, filled with foreboding, wondering if he would ever see them again. Even as he thought that, a police car was driving up and stopping before the house and a few minutes later Glorfindel stood in shock as the officer described the boating accident on Mirror Lake that had claimed the lives of their three Mortal friends.
“A Doctor Roy Ronaldson identified them,” the Man said, checking his notebook.
And such was Glorfindel’s shock and grief that he never questioned how it was that Elrohir had been called to identify the remains when no one knew who they were. He heard Daeron speak to Amroth about contacting Alex’s, Felicity’s and Derek’s respective parents but he ignored them. Instead, he started walking down the road needing to get away, needing to be alone, and then he was somehow standing before the doors of the Catholic Church, a tiny clapboard building that could perhaps fit about fifty people if none of them breathed too deeply. The door was open and he walked in and stood before the tiny altar, the stained glass windows on either side of it filtering the afternoon sun so he was standing in a rainbow of light.
“Why?” he whispered, the tears rolling unheeded down his cheeks. “Why now?”
Silence greeted him.
Then a great anger rose within him, hot and terrible and he itched for a sword, wanting nothing more than to lash out at something or someone. He fell to his knees and wept instead and it was some time before he came to himself. He wiped the tears from his face with the back of his hand and stood up, meaning to leave, but stopped when he noticed a Man sitting quietly in a pew to his right, close to the altar. He was elderly, dressed in the black cassock of a priest, quietly reading his breviary, never looking up.
Glorfindel stared at him in disbelief. “Charles?”
Father Charles Waverly looked up and gave him a gentle smile. “Hello, Loren.”
“But… no, this is impossible! You… you… Charles, what are you doing here? You’re dead! You died from a heart attack last year.”
Charles Waverly continued to smile, patting the spot next to him. “Come and sit, Loren,” he said gently. “It’s all right. Come. Sit.”
Glorfindel hesitated for a long moment, trying to understand what was happening, but finally he moved to sit beside the old priest. He appeared solid enough, though Glorfindel forbore to test that assumption by poking a finger at him. Charles’ smile widened, as if he knew what the Elf was thinking.
“I’m quite real, Loren, or as real as anything in this place,” the Man said.
“Why are you here?” Loren countered. “How are you here? Charles, I went to your funeral.”
“I hear it was well attended,” Charles said with a nod, apparently not at all upset by Glorfindel’s words.
After that, the two fell into silence with Glorfindel trying to understand what was happening and failing. This was beyond him. He stared up at the altar and tears started flowing again. “Why?” he cried. “It makes no sense.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Charles agreed. “Not yet, at any rate.” He flipped the pages of the breviary, finding what he was looking for and handing the book to Glorfindel.
“What’s this?” the ellon asked in confusion.
“Here. Read this,” Charles replied, pointing to a particular paragraph. “It’s from a sermon by Saint Anastasius of Antioch. This is the second reading for the Office of the Dead.”
Glorfindel stared at the page for a moment and then began reading out loud. “‘But God is not God of the dead, but of the living. That is why the dead, now under the dominion of one who has risen to life, are no longer dead but alive. Therefore life has dominion over them, just as Christ, having been raised from the dead will never die again, so too they will live and never fear death again.’”
He handed the breviary back to the priest. “And so?”
“They’re alive, Loren,” Charles said, and there was an undertone of something akin to Power in the old Man’s voice. “You have to believe that. They are only alive if you believe they are alive.”
“But they’re not,” Glorfindel retorted and he stood to leave.
Charles held out a hand, not quite touching him. “Loren, wait. Sit, please,” he pleaded and after a second or so Glorfindel complied. The Mortal rifled through the pages of his book and, finding what he was looking for, began to read aloud, “‘In you, Lord, is our hope. We will never hope in vain. We will dance and rejoice in your mercy. We will never hope in vain.’” He looked up at the Elf. “Don’t you see, Loren? You are losing hope, estel, as you call it, but there’s no reason to. Alex, Felicity and Derek are alive if you believe it to be true. Regain your hope, child. Without it, all is lost.”
And then, Charles and the church seemed to fade away and Glorfindel’s next conscious thought was standing on the porch of Amroth’s house, staring westward where the sun was setting as he sipped on a bottle of beer.
Daeron came out and stood beside him, not looking at him. “A lovely funeral,” he said. “Your eulogy was quite moving.”
Glorfindel just nodded as he took another pull of his beer, never looking away from the mountains and the sun setting.
“Anne and Andy have left and Felicity’s parents as well,” Daeron continued speaking and it seemed to Glorfindel that as his friend spoke, the reality of his words manifested themselves. Until Daeron mentioned the funeral, Glorfindel had no memory of it or his part in it. “They’re saying that the hurricane that came up the coast has caused major flooding and Route 87 has been closed, so our friends are not going to be able to reach us too soon.”
“They can always work their way up through the Park from Utica,” Glorfindel said, curious to know what Daeron would say. “You know they can take Route 28 up.”
“Except there’s that toxic spill when the train carrying the toxins crashed just outside of Utica that’s pretty much closed down the whole area. Don’t you remember seeing it on the news last night?”
Glorfindel nodded. “Yes.” And he did, but only at that moment, the memory of watching the news of the train wreck coming to his mind. He finally turned to stare at the ellon beside him. “Who are you?”
Daeron blinked and stared back, clearly puzzled. “What do you mean, Loren? You know who I am.”
“No. Not anymore.” And with that he turned away and went back inside the house, and as he did so, the sun was rising in the east and the triplets were sitting in highchairs eating cereal while Amroth and Nimrodel kept wary eyes on them as they bustled about the kitchen. There was no sign of any of the others.
“Morning,” Amroth greeted him with a smile. “Coffee’s on if you want any.”
“I’m fine, thanks. So, what are our plans for today?”
“What they always are.”
Glorfindel turned to see Finrod standing there. “If you don’t wish for coffee, let us go into the woods and practice the Song of Power with Gwyn and Gareth.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Yes, of course.” And he dutifully followed his gwador outside where he saw the ap Hywel brothers waiting for them. There was no sign of Daeron.
They walked behind the house, heading deep into the woods until they were far enough away that it was unlikely they would be disturbed by Mortals. There was a slight clearing where the trees opened up just enough to show blue skies, but it was barely wide enough to fit the four of them and the two brothers leaned against a couple of firs while Glorfindel and Finrod stood in the middle facing one another. Without preamble they began Singing and as they did, they faded from view.
“Can’t see you,” Gwyn called out and the Singing stopped after a few more notes. The two younger ellyn did not move or speak. Gwyn continued staring unblinkingly at the spot where Glorfindel and Finrod had been while Gareth kept an eye on a stopwatch. “Now,” Gwyn said and Gareth stopped the watch.
“That lasted a bit longer,” Gareth said as Glorfindel and Finrod became visible again. “Two minutes and forty seconds.”
“If we can just make it a full three minutes that should be plenty of time,” Gwyn said.
“Have we decided to go this route?” Glorfindel asked. “Hasn’t Amroth been able to figure out how to dismantle the alarms yet?”
“I really don’t fancy having to spend the night in the Gorge,” Gwyn added.
“There’s no help for it,” Finrod retorted. “Amroth has decided that he doesn’t trust the schematics to show him everything he needs to know to silence the alarms without tripping one of them. And with Alex gone, he just doesn’t have the heart to continue with that project. We’ll have to go in and remain through the night. It’s our only option now.”
“I still think it would be safer if only one of us goes in,” Gareth said.
Finrod shook his head. “You and Gwyn, either separately or together, just don’t have the ability to maintain a shield for any length of time and neither Glorfindel nor I can do so for a full three minutes alone. You’ll need us both there if we are to succeed.”
The two younger ellyn nodded. “Well, we’ll find out soon enough,” Gareth said. “Tomorrow is the twenty-eighth. I just hope the weather holds long enough. Come on. I’m feeling hungry. It must be almost time for dinner.” With that, he started to walk away with Gwyn beside him, leaving Glorfindel alone with Finrod.
“So, tomorrow is the day,” Glorfindel said, wondering how nearly a week had managed to slip past him without him being aware of it.
Finrod nodded. “Yes, tomorrow is the day.” He started back to the house, but stopped to look at Glorfindel, lifting an eyebrow. “Are you not coming? It will be dark soon.”
“You go on,” Glorfindel said. “I just want a couple of minutes alone.”
“Are you okay?” Finrod asked, looking concerned.
“Yes, I’m fine, gwador,” Glorfindel said, forcing a smile he didn’t feel.
Finrod hesitated for a moment and then shrugged before slipping through the trees without another word, disappearing into the gloaming. For a long moment, Glorfindel just stood there, staring at the spot where his gwador had been, going over in his mind all that had happened since they had come to the Adirondacks, trying to piece together the sequence of events. Something did not add up, but he was at a loss to decide what that might be. Everything had progressed logically from one event to the next but it was as if he were being handed a script and he only knew his lines at the very last minute.
“In you, Lord, is our hope. We will never hope in vain. We will dance and rejoice in your mercy. We will never hope in vain,” he whispered to himself, recalling the words Charles had quoted to him.
And then, he heard the sound of a flute, dark and haunting, coming from nowhere and everywhere, the melody filling him with longing and without volition he began to dance, letting the music take him where it wished to go. How long he danced, he never knew, but a time came when the music faded away into morning birdsong and he stood there, tears streaming down his cheeks, yet feeling oddly at peace. He looked around and saw Finrod standing there, smiling at him.
“Come, gwador,” he said. “It’s nearly time to put our plan into action.”
Glorfindel nodded, willing to follow his heart-brother back to Amroth’s, willing to play the game however it would unfold, wondering where it would all lead to in the end.
Note: Charles quotes the Responsory from the Office of the Dead: Evening Prayers for relatives, friends and benefactors.
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