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“Are you telling us that the jewel in the knife cured the girl of bubonic plague?” Glorfindel demanded in disbelief.
Others looked equally skeptical, including Alex and Derek. Finrod and those originally from Valinor looked puzzled. “What exactly is this plague of which you speak?”
“It was called the Black Death,” Glorfindel explained. “It swept through Europe over a period of less than ten years. The death toll was tremendous, destroying the medieval way of life and giving rise to the Renaissance, which in turn led to the misnamed Age of Enlightenment and the rise of science.”
“So that was a good thing?” Findalaurë asked somewhat hesitantly.
Glorfindel shrugged. “If you think the death of millions a good thing, then, yes.”
“Yet, people survived it,” Finrod insisted.
“Sure. Some people have a natural immunity to such things, while others survive having it. It’s how the human race has continued, Finrod. Those who survive carry stronger genes that are resistant to such things as plague. It’s still around. People still come down with it, but these days it’s usually no longer fatal if caught quickly enough. And there are other types of plagues or possible plagues in existence. Ebola, for instance. But never mind that, what I want to know is, did that jewel actually cure the child?”
“As far as we know, it did,” Gwyn answered. “How? I haven’t a clue. It simply did. When we left Shrewsbury, Gareth and I headed north to Holywell near the estuary of the River Dee, so named because of the holy well located there that is dedicated to St. Winifred, for it marks the site of her original martyrdom. There is a chapel built around it and it’s considered one of the seven wonders of Wales. It is still a site of pilgrimage even now and has been since the middle of the seventh century.” He paused for a moment to take a sip of wine.
“Naturally, in the midst of the plague, the pilgrims flocked to the Well and Gareth and I joined them and were able to secrete the knife within the Well itself and that was no mean trick, let me tell you. Later, we heard stories of strange lights appearing and miraculous cures from people who visited the Well, but we rarely visited the place ourselves, maybe once every century. After we hid the knife we returned to Shrewsbury and sought out Richard Beringar. We found him with Isobel, alive and well. Beringar had lost his wife to the plague and then Isobel, his only child, contracted it. That is when he sought to bring her before St. Winifred.”
“Was it not dangerous to return to Shrewsbury so soon, though?” Finrod asked.
“It was dangerous whatever we did,” Gwyn said with a shrug. “Once we were satisfied as to the health of the girl, we continued on to Caerdyf where we found our parents and I vowed then that we would never be separated from one another.”
“A vow that you did not keep, though,” Glorfindel said.
Gwyn shrugged. “I kept it for as long as necessary. We stayed together through the centuries until the lure of adventure called to Gareth and me and we came to the New World early in the eighteenth century.”
“And we brought the knife with us when we did,” Gareth added.
“So you were able to retrieve the knife after it sat inside the Well for over three hundred years,” Barahir commented skeptically. “Surely it was rusted after all that time.”
“If it were an ordinary knife, yes, I agree,” Gwyn said, “but this is no ordinary knife and when we brought it forth, the leather from the scabbard was as fresh and supple as the day we placed it in the water and the knife had not a speck of rust on it. I cannot explain it even now and back then I didn’t care. We came to Holywell and retrieved the knife and then continued to Liverpool where we took ship to Canada and came down into what is now New York State and became farmers.”
“From Remsen,” Glorfindel said.
Both Gwyn and Gareth gave him surprised looks. “Well, yes, but how—?”
“In my dream, you told me something about how you came to America and and how you had a farm near Remsen on the outskirts of the Adirondacks.”
“So did you really hide the knife in High Falls Gorge like in Loren’s dream?” Alex asked.
“No we didn’t,” Gwyn answered.
“But why then did I dream that you did?” Glorfindel demanded. “Why did I dream of you singing a Song of Power to reveal its hiding place?”
“We had no reason to hide it in the Adirondacks,” Gwyn insisted, “as we’ve never been there.”
“Then where’s the knife?” Glorfindel asked.
“You have to understand.” Gwyn said. “Even when we came here we knew the knife was too dangerous to keep around. We hid it, first on our farm, much the way we had done so when we lived with Cenred Beringar. Later, when we felt the urge to travel west, we knew we couldn’t risk taking it with us, nor would we leave it lying about where anyone could stumble upon it, so we did what anyone would do who wished to hide a keepsake away. We traveled to Utica, the nearest city, and placed the knife in a bank safety deposit box.”
“The knife is in a safety deposit box?” Glorfindel gave them a disbelieving look. “And this safety deposit box is located in which bank?”
“Well, it was originally the Utica Savings and Loan, but that was bought out by another bank, the Adirondack Bank, and we actually transferred the knife to the branch in Syracuse about seven years ago. So you see, the knife is in the Adirondack, just not where you think it is. And as for Songs of Power, well, I suppose needing to provide a signature in order to have access to the box is the closest thing to it these days.”
“Why did you not bring it to Fairbanks and place it in one of the banks there, though?” Gilvegil asked. “Surely that would be more convenient.”
“Can’t really say. We’ve been living in Fairbanks for only the past ten years or so. I went back East to collect other things we had put into the bank for safekeeping when we learned that it had been bought out. Gareth and I decided we didn’t trust leaving stuff there. I retrieved the knife and other items and returned to Syracuse where I planned to fly out, yet I knew I could not bring it with me. I was actually wandering about the downtown area because I still had a day to wait for my flight when I came upon a branch of the Adirondack bank and I had this sudden urge to walk in and set up an account for a safety deposit box. Then I went back to my hotel and returned to the bank with the knife and it’s been there ever since.”
“So we need to have you go back to Syracuse and retrieve the knife,” Glorfindel said.
“And how do you propose getting it here?” Gareth asked. “You can’t bring it aboard an airplane, not these days. Driving would take too long and taking the train or a bus would take even longer. Gwyn certainly can’t be away from his job for the length of time it would take to retrieve the knife.”
“There may be a way,” Alex said suddenly.
All eyes turned to him. “And what way is that?” Vorondur asked.
“I still have contacts, connections, even the odd friend, okay, maybe not a friend, but he’ll be glad to help.”
“What are you babbling on about, gwador?” Derek asked somewhat irritably.
“Oh, ah, there’s a guy I know with his own plane. He owes me a favor. Actually he owes me his life and I think I’m going to collect on it.”
“And if he refuses?” Vorondur asked, narrowing his eyes, for he noticed the tightening of Alex’s mouth and the hardness around his eyes when he spoke and he had to wonder just what hold he had over this man with a plane.
“Oh, he won’t refuse, trust me,” Alex said with a slight quirk of his lips. “Rufus Moynihan will thank me for the privilege and will consider himself getting off cheaply. I’ve been holding this threat over him for ten years now. He knows payday is coming.”
“So you’re proposing we or rather you get ahold of this Rufus Moynihan and he’ll fly Gwyn to Syracuse to retrieve the knife and then fly him back to Fairbanks and no questions asked?” Glorfindel enquired.
“Rufus knows better than to ask questions and he only has to know that I need him to fly Gwyn to Syracuse and back, not why I need him to fly Gwyn there.”
“So where is he? Can he be reached quickly enough?” Glorfindel demanded.
“Ah, well, there’s a slight problem with that,” Alex said, looking somewhat embarrassed all of a sudden.
Glorfindel closed his eyes. “I know I’m going to hate myself in the morning for asking this, but what slight problem is that?”
“He’s presently serving time in a minimum security prison outside Vancouver, Washington for smuggling.”
For a long moment, they all just gaped at the Mortal sitting there looking sheepish. Then Gareth shrugged. “Breaking someone out of prison,” he said musingly. “Sounds like fun.” Gwyn actually snorted, giving his brother a fond smile.
“Oh for the love of the Valar,” Glorfindel muttered.
“Amen,” Vorondur said, shaking his head. He watched with amusement as Gwyn, Gareth and Alex, with the occasional snide comment from Derek, actually started discussing the logistics of entering a minimum security prison with the intent of breaking someone out just so he could fly them to Syracuse and back.
Later, after Alex and Derek had succumbed to sleep and the rest of the household was scattered about on business of their own with Gwyn and Gareth enjoying the day with Mithrellas and Nielluin, Glorfindel, Finrod, Daeron, Valandur and Vorondur were sitting around the dining room table drinking coffee after an early morning breakfast.
“So, what do you think of Gwyn and Gareth’s story?” Glorfindel asked at one point in their conversation.
“Sounds typical,” Daeron answered before anyone else.
“Typical, how?” Finrod asked. “I must confess I was fascinated as I listened to their story. They little realize just how mortal in their thinking they are compared to any of the rest of you who remained in Middle-earth.”
“Perhaps,” Daeron said judiciously, “but I was speaking of the fact that we’ve all lived that way to some degree or another as we attempted to blend into whatever mortal society we found ourselves in, adopting the outer trappings of the culture.”
“There is one difference though, which Finrod has touched upon,” Vorondur said.
“And what is that?” Glorfindel asked.
“While it is true that you and I and the others aped the Mortals around us in terms of outward signs of piety, attending religious services and spouting whatever religious beliefs were in vogue at the time, I think Gwyn and Gareth actually did believe in it all. Whatever they may say to the contrary, they were and perhaps still are believers.”
“And is that a problem?” Valandur asked.
Vorondur shook his head. “No. It shouldn’t be, but it is something to keep in mind when dealing with them, for they will most likely respond to things in a similar fashion as the Mortals who call themselves Christians. Until only a few months ago, the only world they’ve ever known is the mortal one. Yes, they acted like chameleons in their efforts to blend in with the Mortals, but that is where they differ from the rest of us. We remember what it was like living in an elven society,” and he pointed to Glorfindel and Daeron as well as to himself as he spoke. “That is one advantage we have over them because we can divorce ourselves from the mortal society around us and remember we are Elves and how it was for us. All they’ve ever known is this world and the Mortals. You were right, Finrod, when you coined the phrase ‘mortal born’ for them. Their thinking is very mortal and there is where the danger lies.”
“How do you mean, Ron?” Glorfindel asked.
“For all that Gwyn and Gareth are Elves, they appear more at home with the Mortals. All their friends are Mortals. They have lived and worked beside Mortals to a degree that none of the rest of us have achieved.”
“And yet, Gareth is bonded to Nielluin and it appears that Gwyn and Mithrellas may someday declare their love for one another,” Finrod pointed out. “Those unions can only draw them closer to us, can it not?”
“To some degree, yes,” Vorondur replied, “but the opposite may happen. Gareth, I know, is determined not to move here to Wiseman after he marries Nell. He has every intention of bringing her to live with him in Fairbanks and I have no doubt Gwyn would want to do the same if ever he and Misty were to wed.”
“I still don’t follow,” Glorfindel said. “Why would that be a bad thing?”
Vorondur sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “They may, unconsciously, mind you, seek to isolate Nell and Misty from the rest of us, to force them to cleave to the Mortal world because that is all they’ve ever known and on some level, they fear us.”
“Fear us!” Finrod exclaimed and the others were equally nonplused by Vorondur’s words. “Why would they fear us?”
Vorondur shrugged. “Because we possibly threaten the very core of their beliefs by our presence, beliefs that they may not realize they’ve accepted for themselves. Perhaps I am over-reacting, but as I listened to their story, I could hear both the contempt and the love they held for the Mortals of their acquaintance. Their actions during the plague tell me this. You or I, Loren, in a similar situation, would probably not have revealed ourselves so blatantly.”
“Maybe yes, maybe no,” Glorfindel said with a shrug of his own. “I confess, I was surprised at what they did and how they did it. I doubt their parents would’ve approved if they knew about it.” He gave them a knowing smirk and they all chuckled.
“Still, it is something we need to keep in mind when dealing with them,” Valandur said. “Like Finrod, I was fascinated with this glimpse of their lives, knowing that you and the others who remained behind must have had similar experiences.”
“Except none of us ever had a possible Silmaril in our possession warning us of danger or curing people of plague,” Daeron said with a quirk of his lips.
“So do you think Alex will be able to pull this off, get this Rufus Moynihan released from prison just so he can fly Gwyn to retrieve the knife?” Finrod asked, changing the subject slightly.
“It’s Alex,” Glorfindel said with a smile and the others all nodded, knowing what he meant.
Vorondur drained his mug. “Well, I’d better get on home. I want to write up a synopsis of the brothers’ story for the record and I promised Amroth I would help him with converting the attic into bedrooms. With the triplets on the way and Dar and Cani living with us for now, we’ll need the extra rooms.”
“I thought you were going to wait on that until later?” Glorfindel asked.
“Amroth feels it should be done now because he doesn’t know how he’s going to feel after the babies are born. Right now, he’s doing well and is able to function fine, but once the children are born, he’s going to be too busy in diapers to bother with anything else. His words, by the way.”
The others chuckled. “Well, good luck with it,” Glorfindel said, “and if you need any help, just call us.”
“Thanks. I’ll catch you all later.” Vorondur waved at them as he exited the room. Shortly after, they heard the front door open and close.
“Well, let’s clean up and get on with the business of the day,” Glorfindel suggested and in moments they were clearing the breakfast dishes from the table and putting the kitchen to rights.
From the sealed files of Dr. Ron Brightman:
Name: Gareth ap Hywel
Personality Profile: ISTP: Pragmatist
Charm: Tall, not-so-dark and handsome
Planning ability: Strategic
Survival preparations: Knows how to blend into whatever environment he finds himself
Weapons skill: Lethal
Warm fuzzies: Cold, but getting warmer now that he has bonded with Nielluin
Leadership skills: Would rather work alone but has learned to at least be a team player
Analysis: Gareth and Alex Grant share the same personality type, but whereas Alex has never learned to play nicely with others, Gareth, perforce, has had to allow others onto his team, even if that team consisted only of one other member: his brother, Gwyn. Their shared experiences, their utter reliance on one another down the centuries, have forged a bond between them that is as strong as any bond between two people. They are more than siblings; they are gwedyr, two halves of a whole. And while Gareth is perfectly willing to play second fiddle to his brother, he is quite capable of holding his own and does not suffer from an inferiority complex. His fighting skills are lethal and his planning and survival abilities are high, which makes sense given his history. And now that he has begun to bond with Nielluin, his personality is beginning to warm up and he is not as aloof as he used to be, which can only be a good thing. Perhaps Gareth will be able to show his fellow ISTP that working with others does have its benefits. One can only hope.
Name: Gwyn ap Hywel
Personality Profile: ENTJ: Warlord
Planning ability: Grand schemer
Survival preparations: Diligent
Weapons skill: Lethal
Warm fuzzies: Antarctic
Leadership skills: Imperial
Analysis: Gwyn is a masterful tactician who knows how to lead others and inspire in them loyalty and a need not to disappoint him. Not that he would treat anyone who failed to live up to his own high standards with anything other than respect and even compassion, still, he invokes in others the need to do their best, not for their own sakes but for his. In some, this type of adulation could lead to tyranny on the part of an ENTJ personality, but Gwyn has the added benefit of having his brother Gareth by his side, keeping him grounded in present realities. Gwyn is somewhat aloof in his manner, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, as it appears to be a trait that is common with most leader-types where one’s emotions cannot interfere with the hard decisions those in command must make. Gwyn sees life as a never-ending game of chess and he is the master chess player. At the same time, he is not afraid to delegate when he deems it necessary. In that respect, he is a far healthier ENTJ than most, but then, unlike his mortal counterparts, whether in the military or business, Gwyn has had plenty of time to learn to make accommodations and to delegate authority to others without feeling that his own power and position are being threatened, yet there is never a doubt in his or anyone else’s mind who is ultimately in charge.
Addendum to the files:
Learning something of the brothers’ history recently has been an eye-opener. Any of us who have lived among Mortals can tell similar stories, but Gwyn and Gareth have lived solely in the Mortal world with no memory of the Elven enclaves of earlier ages and, whether they realize it or not, they have adopted much of the worldview of the Mortals around them, something the rest of us have never done completely. Neither is entirely comfortable being around other Elves. They can relate better to people like Alex and Derek than they can to Glorfindel and Finrod, heroes from their childhood, or even those of us who are not legends. I suspect that these two may be the true bridge between Mortals and Eldar. I think that was the intent of the Valar all along.
And the knife, the talisman! Can there truly be a Silmaril embedded in it? Legends say that the two Silmarils that were lost would be found again ere the end. Perhaps this is the first sign that the Dagor Dagorath is truly upon us. Of course we won’t know for sure until the knife is retrieved from where Gwyn placed it in the bank vault and Finrod confirms that it is indeed a Silmaril, for, of all of us, only he has ever laid eyes upon them. And if it is one of the Silmarils, what then? From what Gwyn and Gareth have described, it sounds as if there is more to it than any of us knew. It may well be a weapon that can be used against the Enemy. Let us hope we can figure out in what way before it is too late.
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