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Just before noon, Glorfindel, Finrod and Daeron showed up at the house on Evergreen to be greeted by Vorondur, who led them into the kitchen where they found Amroth standing at the stove checking the cream of spinach soup and removing what turned out to be a salmon loaf from the oven. They could see fresh-baked honey wheat bread and a bowl of salad greens on the kitchen table waiting to be taken to the dining room which was set for five.
“The ellith are out shopping,” Vorondur explained, “and plan to have lunch at the café and my sons are at Bronwen’s working.”
“How are they doing?” Glorfindel asked. “Daeron said they were feeling antsy. So, did you make them run around the lake a few times to get it out of their system?”
Vorondur and Amroth both laughed. “No,” Vorondur said when he calmed down, “I just had them swim laps. The lake is cold even for us and their… um… ardor cooled off rather quickly. I pretty much wore them out. Now they’re both suitably subdued and willing to listen to what we have to say, including what any Mortal has to say.”
“Ah,” Glorfindel said, understanding what the ellon was saying.
“Shall we?” Amroth said and soon they were sitting down to their meal.
For a time they spoke in generalities, enjoying each other’s company and the food, but eventually, as they were clearing the table and Amroth was putting together some tea for them, Vorondur said, “So what do you want to tell us about Denali?”
“We had a… um… close encounter of the weird kind while we were there,” Glorfindel replied.
Both Vorondur and Amroth raised eyebrows at that as they resettled themselves at the dining table with the tea and homemade peanut butter and white chocolate cookies.
“So tell us,” Amroth said as he poured the tea for everyone.
“By rights, Liam should be here to tell his side of it, but he had to return to work,” Glorfindel began. “Later, if you wish to speak with him about what happened, he said to tell you that he will make himself available at your convenience.”
Vorondur nodded. “Then tell us your side of it and if I or Amroth feel we need to hear Liam’s story then we will.”
“Okay, well, to begin with, everything was going pretty well. The youngsters enjoyed Fairbanks and we had a lovely visit with Gwyn and Gareth and even met up with Alex, who’s doing just fine, by the way. He said to tell you that so far he’s been way too busy with his course to get into any kind of trouble.”
Vorondur and Amroth chuckled at that and Glorfindel continued. “So, we got to Denali and ended up camping at the Three Lakes unit.” He took a moment to explain the park’s geography so that Vorondur and Amroth had an understanding of where they were and then he continued, describing how they had made their way into the Riley Creek unit when they went trekking the next day.
“I have to confess that it’s probably the most relaxed I’d been feeling for a very long time,” Glorfindel said with a sigh, “and then Liam said the trees were concerned and we needed to be somewhere.”
“Where?” Amroth asked.
“It turned out to be a cirque and there was a small tarn there. It took us nearly four hours to reach it,” Glorfindel replied, and then described what they had found there and what happened with the bear. “And that was freaky enough, but then there was another earth tremor, more violent than the others, probably well over six on the Richter scale.”
“There’s been no report of an earthquake of that magnitude hitting Denali,” Amroth protested.
“And no one at the park appeared to notice,” Glorfindel averred with a nod, “but I’m getting ahead of myself.” He described what happened next with the Watcher and the Maiar and both Vorondur and Amroth exclaimed in shock.
“Is what he’s saying true?” Vorondur demanded of Finrod.
Finrod’s eyes narrowed in disapproval. “Do you think my gwador would lie about something like this, child?”
Vorondur had the grace to blush, and Glorfindel suspected it was as much from being addressed by Finrod as ‘child’ as it was from the reprimand itself.
“Forgive me,” the ellon said sincerely, “I was out of line.”
“Hey, I don’t blame you for doubting me, Ron,” Glorfindel said. “Frankly, if I hadn’t been there myself, I’m not sure I would believe me either.”
“Still, I should not have doubted you that way and I apologize,” Vorondur rejoined, “though admittedly, it does sound fantastic, like something out of a sci-fi horror flick.” He gave Glorfindel a searching look. “There’s something about this that you haven’t told us, though, something that has made you change your mind about being regressed.”
Glorfindel nodded, grimacing slightly. “I froze, Ron. I did the one thing I never should have and because of that, I almost died… again, and Finrod almost died… again and Liam and the youngsters and those benighted Mortal children would have died. It was only because of the Maiar that we’re alive to tell you about it.”
No one spoke for a time after that. Glorfindel watched as Vorondur and Amroth exchanged looks that were hard to interpret. Finally, Vorondur leaned forward, his elbows on the table with his hands interlaced and his thumbs under his chin. “Loren, there is no shame in that and what could you have done anyway? You had no weapons.”
“No, gwador,” Finrod interjected. “Vorondur is correct. You said yourself that it was the shock of seeing a part of your dream come true that made you freeze as you did. That’s understandable and anyone, and I mean anyone, would have reacted similarly.”
“Well, I’m not just anyone, am I?” Glorfindel countered with some heat. “I’m the great balrog-slayer who jumps in where even the Maiar fear to tread. I’m the great protector. That’s my job, my only job, according to some. And what happens? Children, mortal children do what I could not, what I should have done, but I was too damn busy freaking out over some stupid dream and getting myself and you killed.” He stood up abruptly, breathing hard. Amroth, closer to him than Vorondur, rose as well and went to him, taking him into his embrace.
“Hush now,” he murmured as he rubbed Glorfindel’s back. “Stay calm. All is well.”
But it wasn’t and to his everlasting shame, Glorfindel started weeping and Amroth held him tighter. It did not last long but he felt drained after that. Amroth released him, giving him a sympathetic smile. “Sit and have some more tea,” he suggested softly and Glorfindel complied. Amroth poured more tea into Glorfindel’s cup and then sat. Glorfindel took a few sips and put the cup down.
“I think I could use something stronger,” he muttered.
“We all could,” Vorondur said. “Why don’t we remove ourselves to the living room? It’s more comfortable there. I’ve got sherry or if you prefer some wine…”
“Sherry is fine,” Glorfindel said, giving him the ghost of a smile. “Val swears by it.”
Vorondur laughed and the others grinned as they stood up and made their way to the living room, leaving the tea paraphernalia behind with Amroth insisting he would clean things up later. Vorondur excused himself for a moment to get the sherry and Glorfindel went into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. By the time he came out, Vorondur was pouring the sherry for them all. Glorfindel accepted his glass gratefully, taking an appreciative sip and allowing the liqueur to warm him.
“Almost as good as miruvor,” he said and the others nodded in agreement.
“So this Watcher was in your dream as well,” Vorondur said, making it more a statement than a question.
Glorfindel nodded. “That’s why I’ve agreed to the regression. I realized later that part of the reason I froze was because when the Watcher appeared, I was suddenly reminded of my dream and it was the shock of that, rather than the sight of the monster itself, that I think caused me to freeze as I did. Maybe if I’d already been aware of what happened in my dream, it wouldn’t have been so great a shock and I might not have put everyone in danger because of it.”
“And there you go again blaming yourself for what could not have been helped or prevented,” Daeron said, speaking for the first time. “Loren, I, more than anyone here, except possibly Finrod, know what you are capable of. I have seen your power and your might in ways others have not and I’m here to tell you that as powerful as you are, as brave as you are, as insanely impulsive as you are—”
“Hey! I resemble that remark!” Glorfindel protested and the others chuckled at his levity.
Daeron grinned. “What I’m trying to say is that, in the end, you’re just a guy, like the rest of us. You are not a Maia or a Vala. You’re allowed to just be… human, in the broadest sense of that word.”
“Mirroanwë,” Finrod offered, “an incarnate with all our flaws and strengths. You are being too hard on yourself, hanno. No one expects you to have it all together all the time. That’s just impossible.”
“Not to mention arrogant to the extreme,” Vorondur added.
“Yeah, I guess,” Glorfindel said, clearly not convinced by their arguments.
“Your trouble, my friend, is that you’ve come to believe your own press, as they say,” Amroth said with a gentle smile, “and that’s a hazard we who have had lays sung about us face every day. You, me, Finrod, even Daeron to some extent. Ron, here, is the only one of us who has done deeds about which no one knows or cares.”
“And I want to keep it that way,” Vorondur said with a smile and the others chuckled. “So, are you willing to be regressed, Loren?” he asked, giving Glorfindel a considering look. “Do not feel you are being pressured into doing so. I want you to be completely comfortable with the idea or it won’t really work.”
“I can’t go on this way, Ron,” Glorfindel said. “I can’t not know because, what happens the next time, if there is a next time?”
Vorondur nodded. “I agree. I cleared my schedule for this afternoon so if you want to do it, now’s the time.”
Glorfindel nodded. “So where do you—”
“That’s up to you, Loren,” Vorondur said. “We can do it in my office, or even here in the living room which might be more comfortable for you. We can even go over to Edhellond and do it there if you want and you can have whomever you wish to be there with you, assuming they are available, of course.”
“Here is fine,” Glorfindel said. “I have the feeling if we waited until we got back to Edhellond I might chicken out.”
“I doubt that, but okay. You want to do it here in the living room?”
“Yeah, this is fine.”
“Maybe I should leave you then,” Amroth suggested, standing. “You certainly don’t need an audience.”
“No, that’s not a problem, Amroth,” Glorfindel assured him. “I have the feeling you’re going to need to know eventually anyway. That’s why I asked you to join us for lunch.”
“Then, finish your sherry,” Vorondur said. “It should help you relax. Finrod, Darren, let Loren have the couch. He’ll be more comfortable there than in the chair.”
Glorfindel drained the last of the sherry in his glass and removed his shoes as Finrod and Daeron got up from the couch and soon he was lying down with the others standing over him. He looked up at them and grinned. “I feel like I should be holding a candle while you all eulogize me.”
They all chuckled. “Just relax, Loren,” Vorondur said as he drew up a hardback chair and sat beside him, shooing the others to step away a bit, which they did. “Close your eyes and take a few centering breaths…That’s it… Just listen to my voice and nothing else. Keep breathing… in… and out… and in… you’re doing fine, Loren… now I’m going to start counting back from twenty and as I do, you’re going to sink further into relaxation, letting all your worries float away. You will remain aware of everything that is happening and you won’t fall asleep, do you understand?”
Glorfindel just nodded. “Okay, here we go… twenty… nineteen… eighteen…”
The others watched as Vorondur counted down, a hand on Glorfindel’s right wrist, checking the ellon’s pulse. They could see the slow rise and fall of Glorfindel’s chest, his whole body relaxing more and more.
“… ten… I want you to start going back to your dream, Loren. No… there’s nothing to fear… stay calm… you’re safe and nothing can harm you… that’s it… as I continue counting down, you’re going to allow the dream to surface. Imagine yourself sitting in a movie theatre and the movie is about to begin… nine… eight… keep breathing... in… and out… seven…six… five… the lights are dimming and the movie is about to begin… four… three… two… one… where are you, Loren? What do you see?”
For a moment or two, Glorfindel did not respond and the others remained still.
“We’re having a Father’s Day picnic,” Glorfindel suddenly said, speaking just above a whisper.
“That’s good, Loren. Who’s there? Can you describe it?”
“Edhellond… Fionwë… he’s in full armor… he’s warning us to flee for the Enemy is upon us… Gwyn… Gwyn has a plan… Edhellond… it’s in flames but we all got out in time….”
The others listened in rapt horror as the dream unfolded. Glorfindel became upset when describing the deaths of Alex, Felicity and Derek and it took Vorondur a few minutes to calm him down before he continued to tell his dream. At the end, though, as he described the scene with Farrell and then racing across the bridge only to have the Watcher in the Water reach up and drag him down did he become so agitated that Vorondur was forced to bring him out of his suggestive state sooner than he would have liked.
“It’s okay, Loren,” he said soothingly. “I’m going to count up to twenty and as I do, you will let the dream go. It no longer has any power over you. You will remember every detail but it will no longer haunt you… one… two… three….”
Glorfindel ceased to thrash and calmed down as Vorondur continued counting. “…fifteen… you will awaken feeling refreshed and no longer burdened… sixteen… seventeen… start waking up now, Loren… eighteen… nineteen… all the way… and twenty.”
Glorfindel sighed slightly and blinked open his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. Vorondur continued to monitor his pulse and the others remained where they were, waiting for Glorfindel to react.
“Well, crap,” he finally said.
Finrod sniggered and the others grinned. “I’ll go make some coffee,” Amroth suggested. “I’m sure Loren could use a cup. I know I can.”
“How are you feeling?” Vorondur asked as he helped Glorfindel to sit up.
“Well, I guess I’m okay,” Glorfindel responded. “I can’t believe Lord Irmo would send me such a dream, though. What gives with that?”
“I don’t know,” Vorondur said, “except that I got a visit from, not only Lord Námo, but his brother and the Elder King the night after our first session. Lord Irmo admitted that he sent you the dreams for a reason but he did not say why, only that for some reason the dreams were being hijacked — his word — for the purpose of sending you deeper into despair.”
“Well, failing in a quest and letting the enemy get away with stealing the treasure and then getting yourself killed by the monster would do it, I suppose,” Glorfindel retorted. He swung his legs onto the floor and Vorondur got up and moved out of his way so he could stand. “Excuse me for a moment,” he said and headed for the bathroom. He came out several minutes later to find everyone now nursing mugs of coffee. Amroth handed him his own mug, which he accepted with thanks.
“So, what now?” he asked.
“That depends on you, Loren,” Vorondur said. “It was your dream. It’s for you to call the shots.”
“Do you think that knife is what Lord Irmo wanted you to see?” Daeron asked.
“I’m assuming so, since the whole point of the dream seemed to be retrieving a talisman that would help defeat the Enemy,” Glorfindel averred, “but still… it just seems rather a convoluted way of going about it.”
“Perhaps it is the only way the Valar could go about it, gwador,” Finrod said. “Anything more direct might have been noticed.”
“Well, this apparently was noticed, because, according to Ron, the dream was hijacked. I’m wondering now what parts of it weren’t in the original… story, so to speak.”
“I think that’s rather obvious,” Vorondur said and when they all gave him enquiring looks he raised an amused eyebrow. “Children, were you not paying attention? There were two places where the dream apparently went wrong. The ending, of course, but also when Alex, Felicity and Derek died.”
“How can you be sure, though?” Glorfindel asked.
“Because I think Lord Irmo tried to correct it with the appearance of Charles Waverly.”
They contemplated that for a bit. Glorfindel replayed that part of the dream in his mind and nodded. “Yeah, I can see that, but in the end, where does this leave us? I’m no wiser about what I’m supposed to do next than before.”
“Perhaps our next step, or rather your next step, is to speak to Gwyn and Gareth,” Finrod stated. “The dream centers around retrieving the talisman. Whether it truly is a Silmaril embedded in the hilt of the knife or not, it appears to be important enough for Lord Irmo to keep sending you the dream in spite of it being constantly interfered with by the Enemy. We need to find out what those two know.”
Glorfindel scowled. “Damn! And if I’d not been such a jackass about all this, I might have already known about the talisman and I could have asked them when we saw them last week.”
“We can just Skype them,” Amroth suggested.
Glorfindel gave him a jaundiced look. “Except it’s rather hard to knock someone up against a wall and threaten them with mayhem if they don’t come clean via a computer linkup.”
“And do you think you would need to resort to such a thing to get information out of them?” Vorondur asked in amusement.
“With those two? You bet,” Glorfindel shot back.
“They’re planning to come up for the Fourth,” Finrod said. “We can wait until then and ask them.”
“Except time might be of the essence,” Daeron said.
“Probably not,” Amroth countered. “In the dream it was both Father’s Day, which is always the third Sunday of June, and the summer solstice, and if I’m not mistaken, the next time they happen to coincide won’t be for another three years. The next time after that isn’t until twenty-twenty, I believe.”
“And you know this, how?” Glorfindel asked.
Amroth shrugged. “Just one of those things, I guess. The point is, that if Loren’s dream is in any way prophetic, we have at least three years to prepare for it.”
“Yet, can it truly be prophetic if Lord Irmo sent it?” Daeron asked. “Do not all prophecies come from Eru rather than from the Valar?”
“I don’t think I want to get into that kind of theological debate at the moment,” Glorfindel said. “Okay, we’ll wait until they come up for the Fourth. I really think it will be better if I ask them about the talisman in person.”
“And in the meantime? Amroth asked.
“In the meantime, I think we stay calm and keep this to ourselves,” Glorfindel answered. “Ron, I appreciate your help. I’m sorry I waited this long to deal with this.”
“That you’re dealing with it now is all that matters,” Vorondur said. “Do you wish to continue meeting?”
“Yeah, sure. Do I still have to attend the anger management classes though if I do?”
“No, I think we can dispense with them. In fact, I was going to suggest that they are no longer needed, but if anyone wanted to continue meeting either as a group or on a private basis either with me, Max or Sunny, then that would be fine. We’ll wait until those who are still with the rangers get back and I’ll hold a group meeting and let everyone know.”
“Good. Well, I guess we’d better get out of here,” Glorfindel said. “The ellith should be returning soon and I really don’t want to have to deal with awkward questions.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Vorondur said with a smile. “That’s my job. Yes, by all means, go if you feel you must. With Alex gone, I have Fridays at four opened if you want to continue meeting with me, Loren, otherwise, I will sign you off and let Judge Harrison know since, technically speaking, you were attending the anger management classes under a court order, even if not formally so.”
“Thanks,” Glorfindel said, “and thanks for everything, truly.” He stuck out his hand and Vorondur shook it. “Okay. We’re out of here. Thanks for lunch. We’ll see you all later, okay?”
Vorondur and Amroth saw the other three ellyn to the door and waved as they drove off with Finrod at the wheel. Vorondur closed the door and stared at Amroth contemplatively. The ellon stared back.
“Well, that was interesting,” Vorondur finally said.
Amroth smiled. “Go write it up before you forget all the juicy details while I go clean up the kitchen and start dinner. Della and Holly should be home soon and your sons are due back in the next half hour. You have that much time before they are here demanding your attention.”
Vorondur snorted in agreement and without another word, headed for his office, already mentally organizing his thoughts while Amroth, whistling a tune, made for the kitchen, picking up discarded sherry glasses and coffee mugs along the way.
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