Continuation of this post.
Borasvar closed the pamphlet and sat back. Just that, then fell into silence.
“Adar?” Sidbron prodded.
“These new presses can be sabotaged.”
Sidbron’s brows climbed his forehead. “I’m sorry. I was talking to Adar, not Naneth.”
“Perhaps not all of your Naneth’s ideas are completely without meri…”
Sidbron interrupted firmly, “You’re angry and you can’t hit anyone.”
The older elf lifted his eyes finally from the lackluster etching that graced the pamphlet’s cover. “This will become ugly quickly if someone doesn’t stop it. I will speak to the printer. Perhaps a committee can be raised and…” he trailed off and picked it up again. It was short and hastily pressed, but the author had kindly numbered the pages. Celeveren was on the sixth. His fea flared again, too hot and too quickly for him to manage. “You read it. She’ll come home to a mob crying ‘kinslayer!'”
Sidbron took the leaflet away, muttering, “My other parents aren’t nearly as difficult.”
Borasvar just sat back and fumed. Sidbron could see the rage coming off him in smoking plumes. Not see, but perceive. Quietly, he said, “Welcome back, Adar.”
Borasvar rose and turned to the door. Already the Vingliot had cast off into the velvety sky and the moon was showing its pale crescent through clouds. “I have always been here,” he said, distracted.
“There is a difference between existing and engaging.”
Quietly, Borasvar replied, “All they say about her is true. That is what we face. Truth, in its most brutal phrasing. She already sees herself like this, you know.”
Sidbron nodded and didn’t question the use of tense or the source of his foster-father’s knowledge. “It is some truth.”
“I must walk a while. I must… think.” He strode off, barefoot and clad only in light trousers. Wind and surf-salt pulled at his hair and he went to wait with his feet washed by the sundering sea.
She never came predictably, and that was when she came at all. But of late, he had learned to find the thin moonlit strand that led to her stretching ahead into the purple blank darkness. Sometimes he felt its brief presence during the day as a cobweb’s brush of cool presence, gone as soon as he looked for it. At night, it held firmer. Stronger. Tonight, he didn’t wait for her attention to drift near. Tonight he turned to the moon and said low, “Meren-nin?”
For a time there was no tangible response. A few night gulls glided past and the tide inched in. It was up to his knees when he felt her cool glow, heard her words spoken faintly from the sandy shore behind him. Dreamily, slowly, with the habit of familiarity returning now as if they’d only just parted in friendship she said, “What does a Nando do half buried in sea? Come out of there. I think a rip tide forms.”
He didn’t turn immediately. It was best to keep slow, keep dream-like, or she could flit away as easily as she came. The anger still glowed bright in him, and bitter now when he thought how the words he had read would sound to her. She would shatter. She would break so badly, even Mandos would have trouble repairing her shards. So he said, “Should such a tide form, it would do it further North where the sand bar has accumulated.”
“So you may think,” she said, “But why risk it? Unless you study tides now.”
He turned then, and saw her, half real, half shade, more solid where his attention fell and blurring at the edges. She wore her hair loose, and a light linen shift of strange make drifted in a breeze that didn’t quite conform to the shore gusts that blew his hair into disarray. It was at odds with her severe features and upright stance; dignity and vulnerability and danger. And a smile tilted her features into something rather whimsical before she said, “I am not a statue. Will you stop analyzing my stance and come out of the tide?”
It caught him into a smile, despite the weight on him. She let him catch her eyes as he waded from the salt, and came easily to his offered hand. He had to believe it was a hand, or it would slide through his grip. He believed. He held the memory of her slender fingers in his own and let her see through his eyes and into his fea‘s heart.
Her expression stilled, and there was a new tenderness in the way she said, “You burn so brightly. So hot, so…” she hesitated, and he felt her dismay.
Quickly, he said, “Not at you, Meren.”
“But it has to do with me.” He let her look. Before, he would evade this part of her, this invasion of his shadows and privacy. Now, he had age to anchor him against her alarming talents. Now, he was strong enough to accept the whole of her. When she looked away before he did, he felt it as a loss. She began to walk, as was their way, under a moon that shone oddly, as if seen from two places, and a shore that was not the shore outside his hut, but a shadow of it. At last she said, “So. You are enraged on my behalf. And you don’t wish me to see over what, so it is likely something I did.”
It was easier to say than he’d thought. “Some bored youngster wrote the sort of self-righteous things the young write when the mood takes them.”
“Ah yes. Sidbron was fond of that kind of thing.” She smiled, and he felt his rage loosen a little.
“Only this youngster has a friend with… it’s a new thing here. You take little tiles with letters, then ink them…”
“Oh! Yes, the dwarves have come up with something like that in Dale. It’s remarkable.”
He blinked, paused, and stared at her. Her smile turned up a little at the corner. “Dwarf. Dwarf, dwarf, dwarf. Dwarves with inventions! Dwarves with ink!” And they both laughed, in mutual surprise. She said then, “So. Where is your press, Borasvar?”
“Your press. Surely you’ve found ways to improve the design?”
He let his jaw drift back from where it had dropped. Why hadn’t he thought to study the thing?
“Make a better one, then use it to represent your own case. I somehow think you can be more convincing than a third-ager.” Her head tilted a little and she mused, “This is a very strange dream.”
His heart sank a little as she turned insubstantial under his hands. But she would see what she wished to, and perhaps it was better if she didn’t have to believe this was reality. Yet. He traced his fingers along her sharply formed jaw and brought her close, whispering into the peak of her ear, “But it is a good dream.”
Her image rippled and firmed, warming now under his fingers. Her eyes were alight, bright and piercing and hers. She said, almost sweetly, “It is. Perhaps this is what absolution feels like. Or healing. Or wholeness. Or…”
He bent to press his lips to hers, relieved and longing and alive again. Engaged. Joined… yes, all of that. Her hands tugged at his hair and he tasted apples on her breath. Real. So Real. It was no memory that felt along his back, and no imagination that produced the myriad changes in her since their last embrace on Arda. She had grown light as feathers, and there was a new yielding in the way she moved in counterpoint to his touch. It was real. He was sure it was real but…
Sidbron watched from the hut through the long night. His father stood a long while in the misting dark of the surf. The moon set and stars wheeled, and darkness made it hard to see the slender figure standing alone. Sometimes, he seemed gone entirely. Then, in the graying foredawn light, he saw a whispy figure made of foam and starlight at his father’s side. She was there, and not, and Sidbron’s eyes misted at the familiarity of the way she tilted her head. He’d forgotten she did that. He’d forgotten how bright she was and how…
Dawn broke, and his father stood alone. Sidbron couldn’t help but stare some as he returned, resolved now rather than irate. “Adar, what… how?”
Borasvar’s brows lifted. “You could see her?”
“That was her? I… only a glimpse. A shadow of memories. A trick of the light.”
His father shook his head a little. “What is real? Perhaps the dream is real, and these so-called realities of time and space are but illusions.”
“But you are not… Adar, did you wed without telling me?”
His smile saddened and he replied, “No.” He then said, more seriously, “Come. Today, we go to have a look at this press. I have a plan.”
Sidbron nodded slowly, his gaze lingering on his father’s eyes. Dimly, but… there. Deep, subtle, and mithril-strong. Naneth. They went to see about the press.